There were a ton of great children’s books this year to choose from — more than what we could fit here. But here are 10 of our favorites (or those of our kids), in no particular order, ranging from preschool picture books to chapter books for middle-schoolers.

Small in the City by Sydney Smith | Neal Porter Books/Holiday House | Ages 4–8

This delicately wrought tale about a child’s search for a missing “friend” through the snowy city is a masterpiece of art and storytelling. But just who is the narrator? The city is seen in evocative glimpses and atmospheric impressions, and the story’s narrative takes a surprising and poignant turn that will leave you rereading the whole thing with tears in your eyes. Read our full review here.

 Mosi Musa: A True Tale About a Baby Monkey Raised by His Grandma by Georgeanne Irvine | San Diego Zoo Global Press/Blue Sneaker Press | Ages 6–10

The fourth book in the San Diego Zoo’s Hope and Inspiration Collection, Mosi Musa is the true story of a baby vervet monkey whose start in life was a complicated birth and a mother who showed no interest in caring for him. Although his human caretakers need to bottle feed him, Mosi’s Grandma Thelma steps in to cuddle, groom and protect him. Together, Mosi and Grandma Thelma show how special—and important—grandmas truly are. Read our full review here.

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day | HarperCollins Publishers | Ages 8–12

Inspired by the author’s personal family history, this powerful children’s book is about a mixed-race 12-year-old Native American girl searching for the truth behind her family’s complicated legacy and a connection to the culture from which she has been raised apart. Read our full review of this Charlotte Huck Award Honor Book here or learn which books earned honorable mentions for the Charlotte Huck Award here.

Ida Finds Her Voice by Kate Anderson Foley Ph.D. and Jenifer Anderson-Smith (Authors), Dawn Griffin (Illustrator) | Print Ninja | Ages 8–10

Billed as “a book to help children and parents talk about hard topics like prejudice and intolerance,” this story follows Ida through a week of difficult and varied social situations that give her “a strange feeling in her stomach.” Eventually, with the help of mom and dad, she identifies this feeling as her gut instinct that someone in the situation is being treated unfairly, and then learns what she can do about it. As an important book about maintaining empathy in hostile environments, a portion of the sales proceeds are donated to organizations that address issues of inequity.

Trevor Lee and the Big Uh-Oh by Wiley Blevins (Author), Marta Kissi (Illustrator) | Red Chair Press | Ages 8–10

This cute, clever and funny children’s book is about a mischievous third-grader doing all he can to avoid reading in front of a large audience on his school’s Parents Night, driven by the insecurity that he is not a great reader. To make matters worse, he is soon assigned an additional passage when another student falls ill. Beneath the quirky “kid’s eye” view of the world lies the message that learning to read is a process that takes persistence. Read our full review here.

The Farmer by Ximo Abadia | Holiday House | Ages 3–6

Along with Small in the City, this story won a place in the New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Book of the Year. It’s the simple tale of a farmer, Paul, hard at work planting and tending his crops, when a drought comes along and threatens to destroy everything he’s worked so hard to nurture. The boldly colored illustrations are charming and full of whimsy, with little “easter egg” surprises here and there that will delight children in their discovery.

Drop the Puck: Hockey Every Day, Every Way by Jayne J. Jones Beehler (Author), Katrina G. Dohm (Illustrator) | Wise Ink Creative Publishing | Ages 8–10

If you’ve got a third or fourth grader who’s crazy for hockey, this fifth installment of The Official Adventures series, along with previous volumes, is sure to please. The series’ trademark inclusiveness of kids with disabilities focuses on the attributes of ability and attitude through the lenses of teamwork and friendship. The stories are fast-paced and the dialogue is full of fun and funny character interactions. A word of advice: Getting to know the Hockeytown, USA, crew is best done in sequence since each book references events and characters from earlier ones.

Citlali and the Day of the Dead | Citlali y el Dia de Muertos by Berta De Llano (Author), Jamie Rivera Contreras (Illustrator) | Brighter Child/Carson Dellosa | Ages 4–9

If you are a member of a bilingual Spanish-speaking family or simply want to introduce your youngster to Spanish vocabulary, the Keepsake Stories Collection offers several engaging stories in dual-language format. Many of the titles retell traditional Latin American folktales, but Citlali and the Day of the Dead is an original story that follows Citlali as she and her community prepare for Día de Muertos. Along the way, Citlali searches for the perfect offering to represent her grandmother on her school’s ofrenda — the traditional holiday’s “altar” to deceased loved ones. A great way to get children familiar with the festivities and traditions of this major holiday in Mexico and beyond.

Room on Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple (Authors), Terri Rose Baynton (Illustrator) | Kane Miller Books | Ages 4–7

Named winner of the 2020 Charlotte Huck Award, this clever book is actually two in one — it can be read forward and backward. In the “forward” story, an adult and child seal must find another rock to live on when theirs is overtaken by water, but the seals on the rock they approach don’t want to make room. Read the pages backward, though, and the same collection of phrases and sentences tell another story: We see your plight and welcome you to our rock, where we have plenty of room. A great conversation-starter with children about differing attitudes toward refugees and a teaching moment for empathy and sharing. 

When Pencil Met Eraser by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos Jr. (Authors), German Blanco (Illustrator) | Imprint | Ages 3–6

This hilariously illustrated book about a pencil who “likes to work alone” and an eraser who has all sorts of ideas for improvement for pencil’s drawings. At first, pencil is annoyed by eraser’s changes but by the end of the book, he recognizes that the white space, blending effects and mistake correction that eraser offers makes his drawings better. Chosen by Parents magazine as one of the best kids books of the year. Learn what other books made the grade here.