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Books as Bright Spots in 2020

It’s been a hard year. Really hard. But today, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere of this big blue ball we call Earth celebrate the Winter Solstice! Today is the shortest day. Tomorrow, the sun will linger a little longer. And a little longer after that. We turn back toward brightness. 

This morning, holly berries hidden in the snow fed robins. It took all summer for them to grow. Come spring, new berries will emerge. 

This morning, these blueberries, picked in the July sun, enlivened pancakes  and nourished humans. More berries are bottled in jars lined up in the freezer. Come spring, new berries will emerge.

Little berries, as good as gemstones in the faint morning light of the winter solstice.  

Books have also served as bright spots – gemstones – during this hard year. We felt the lack of them when our libraries closed. We adjusted to other modalities, like ebooks and audio books. When we couldn’t travel, books took us to faraway places, to the past, to imaginary lands.  The characters in novels and the subjects of biographies became companions as we read in isolation in our apartments and houses, in our yards and on balconies. Books allowed us to better understand the science evolving by the hour. Books also served as portals into deeper understanding of the historic roots of the systematic racism that threatens too many Americans. 

We don’t know what next year holds. We don’t know where books will take us. But as we do each year, we’ve curated “best of” lists from a range of publications and organizations that review children’s and middle grade books. We hope you find these lists useful for winter holiday hibernation reads, for gift-giving, for your classroom or school library.

We’re going to be taking a few weeks away from the blog, returning on Monday, January 4th with a regular post. Until then, we hope that you have as peaceful a close as is possible to this turbulent year. 

We wish you health, safety, and new beginnings as we turn the tattered pages of 2020, and enter 2021. 

Thank you for all that you do to support children’s literacy. 

Fondly,

Mary Ann, Denise, Erika, Grace, and Katie 

Best of 2020

Please click on each title for a link to the full list.

A Fuse #8 31 Days of 31 Lists  (12/21/20 post)

100 Scope Notes – Best 20 Books of 2020 

NCTE’s Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, 2021

NCTE’s Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children 2021

NCTE’s Notable Poetry Books and Verse Novels, 2021 

The Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Books 2020

American Indians in Children’s Literature Best Books of 2020

The Horn Book Fanfare 2020

Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Books of 2020 that Celebrate Family

Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Books of 2020 for Sheer Fun

Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Books of 2020 About Small People in a Big World

Kirkus Reviews: Best Middle Grade Books of 2020

Kirkus Reviews: Best Picture Books of 2020

School Library Journal: Best Picture Books of 2020

School Library Journal: Best Chapter Books of 2020

School Library Journal: Best Middle Grade Books of 2020

School Library Journal: Best Nonfiction of 2020

School Library Journal: Best Graphic Books of 2020

School Library Journal Top Ten Audio Books 2020

NPR Best Kids’ Books of 2020

Publisher’s Weekly: Best Picture Books of 2020

Publisher’s Weekly: Best Middle Grade Books of 2020

Goodreads Choice Awards: Best Picture Books 2020

Goodreads Choice Awards: Best Middle Grade and Children’s Books 2020

The Washington Post Best Children’s Books of 2020

The New York Times 25 Best Children’s Books of 2020

New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2020

Mary Ann Cappiello About Mary Ann Cappiello

Mary Ann is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former public school language arts and humanities teacher, she is a passionate advocate for and commentator on children’s books. Mary Ann is the co-author of Teaching with Text Sets (2013) and Teaching to Complexity (2015) and Text Sets in Action: Pathways Through Content Area Literacy (Stenhouse, 2021). She has been a guest on public radio and a consultant to public television. From 2015-2018, Mary Ann was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English's Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction (K-8) Committee, serving two years as chair.