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.
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.
One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.
THIS BOOK!!! WOW!!! I mean, what can I even say?, it won every award there is pretty much, and deserved it. It’s just so fabulous.
I have noticed since I started book blogging that many (dare I say most?) book bloggers read and enjoy young adult novels. Just because a book is written for teens doesn’t mean adults can’t enjoy it, we say! These books tend to have quick pacing and cool concepts that nab our attention, and the writing is rarely too dense and literary. Just because they’re YA doesn’t mean they don’t have great themes and metaphor and the ability to say something about what it means to be human. And so we uplift these books as equally worthy of anyone’s time as “adult” books.
Yet, fewer bloggers do this for middle grade books.
Why? Many of the same arguments can be made for them. Just because a book is written for kids doesn’t mean adults can’t enjoy them! They tend to have quick pacing and cool concepts that grab your attention, and the writing is never too dense and literary. Just because they’re MG doesn’t mean they don’t have great themes and metaphor and the ability to say something about what it means to be human. So why do so few book bloggers read them?
One thing I’ve heard lately is “I would if I knew about those books, but nobody talks about them.” So it sounds like people rely on other bloggers to tell them about books, and since bloggers aren’t talking about MG books nobody reads them. I don’t really believe that, if I’m being honest with you all. I think the truth, if you took the time to self-reflect and examine, is that bloggers are less interested in middle grade books.