As I started my career as an elementary school librarian, I had access to almost any middle grade book I could wish to read, as well as a good reason to prioritize middle grade literature. And y’all, I’m so glad I did. I’ve fallen in love with MG books all over again, and I like them SO MUCH MORE than I ever liked YA. Which is saying something, because I read and enjoy plenty of YA.
I can’t begin to express to you how poorly this list represents some of the AMAZING MG books I’ve read this year. Narrowing it down to ten was easy in June, when I started this list, but as I went through the year and watched book after book get knocked off, I fully appreciated just how wonderful the MG literature being written right now really is.
So for those of you with kids or who want to dive back in to MG literature, here are my Top 10 of 2020.
Please note that this is books I personally read in 2020, NOT books published in 2020.
1. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
The writing is so lovely, the characters fully realized, and the story so full of hope. Maybe my favorite MG book ever.
Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?
One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.
But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.
The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?
When Aru Shah was announced three years ago I was *so* excited. I love that Rick Riordan used his influence to find and promote diverse voices to create a wealth of mythological modern-fantasy that he could never have created on his own. I was so excited to hear a new take, a new set of myths that I wasn’t already familiar with, a female perspective. And then I just … never read it? I’m so glad I finally did!