Give the Gift of Reading 2020
2020 has certainly been quite the memorable year! From the pandemic to Black Lives Matter protests, from the loss of legends to our daily search for silver linings, we’ve got something for everyone on your list, from those just born into this wild world to those encountering a final year of high school, not to mention an election, unlike any other. You can find more literary gift suggestions for young readers in our previous gift guides from 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015. And, for book lovers of all ages, check out these recommendations.
If the children on your list live in New York City, we urge you to consider giving their families a membership to the NYSL, where they will find all of these books as well as engaging programs from our Children’s Library throughout the year.
Fiction and Graphic Novel Recommendations
Antiracist Baby | Kendi, Ibram Recommended for ages 0-3
Illustrations and rhyming text present nine steps Antiracist Baby can take to improve equity, such as opening our eyes to all skin colors and celebrating all our differences. Available in both board and picture book formats.
Mama Baby | Raschka, Chris Recommended for ages 0-4
Mama and Baby clap and play hide-and-seek and pat-a-cake in a series of simple, bold illustrations. Their playtime will appeal to mamas and babies everywhere, and older siblings, too!
A Big Bed for Little Snow | Lin, Grace Recommended for ages 3-6
When winter comes, his mother makes a soft bed for Little Snow to sleep on, but each night he cannot resist jumping on the bed, causing tiny feathers to fly down.
Bodega Cat | Chin, Louie Recommended for ages 3-7
Told from the perspective of a bodega-dwelling cat, we learn about the ins and outs of a bustling neighborhood market filled with interesting friends, great food, hard work, and lots of fun.
Andy and Sandy and the First Snow | de Paola, Tomie Recommended for ages 3-7
We lost a legendary author-illustrator when the great de Paola passed away in March. In his final years, he launched this new young reader series. In this installment, when the first big snow of winter hits, Sandy drags an initially reluctant Andy along in wintertime activities.
Cats Are a Liquid | Donnelly, Rebecca Recommended for ages 3-7
Illustrations and simple, rhyming text pay tribute to cats and their resemblance to a liquid. Though fiction, it includes facts about states of matter and directions for making oobleck.
A Year with Mama Earth | Grabill, Rebecca Recommended for ages 3-7
With enchanting text and radiant artwork, this beautiful book offers a joyous celebration of nature’s beauty and the changing seasons.
Saturday | Mora, Oge Recommended for ages 3-7
When all of their special Saturday plans go awry, Ava and her mother still find a way to appreciate one another and their time together. A lovely story about #brightsiding!
Who Wet My Pants? | Shea, Bob Recommended for ages 3-7
This isn't a potty-training book. It's a witty and wise story about embarrassment and anger, empathy and acceptance, and ultimately...forgiveness. Oh, and it also features donuts.
River | Cooper, Elisha Recommended for ages 3-8
A woman in a canoe takes the reader on a journey down the Hudson River, from its source in the mountains to the point where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean in NYC.
Robobaby | Wiesner, David Recommended for ages 4-7
Excited by the arrival of a new baby, a family of robots is nearly undone by technical difficulties until big sister steps in and repairs the situation.
Wintercake | Perkins, Lynne Rae Recommended for ages 4-8
This is a book about holiday traditions and why they matter. It’s also a story about making mistakes and how mistakes can sometimes lead to wonderful things. Can you find the hidden recipe?
¡Vamos! Let's Go Eat | Raul the Third Recommended for ages 4-10
Little Lobo and his dog take readers on a tour of food trucks that sell his favorite foods, like quesadillas with red peppers and Mexican-Korean tacos.
Beneath the Bed and Shadow in the Woods | Brallier, Max Recommended for ages 5-8
Have a young reader on your list who enjoys being spooked? Look no further than these tales from the Mister Shivers spine-tingling collection.
Let the Children March | Clark-Robinson, Monica Recommended for ages 5-8
A poetic fictional tribute to the 1963 children’s march for civil rights made with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children use their voices to change the world.
Houndsley and Catina at the Library | Howe, James Recommended for ages 5-8
The charming dog-and-cat pals return with a love letter to the library, good friends, the joy of learning, and self-reinvention. Be sure to check out the whole series!
The Shortest Day | Cooper, Susan Recommended for ages 5-9
In this celebration of the winter solstice and the Yuletide season, we learn of the early people who would gather to prepare for the long night ahead as the sun set on the shortest day.
The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Madre de Aguas of Cuba | Gidwitz, Adam and Otheguy, Emma Recommended for ages 7-10
In the latest installment of this fun, multicultural series, a legendary sea serpent is missing. Can the Unicorn Rescue Society find it ... and end Cuba's terrible drought?
AstroNuts Mission #1: The Plant Planet! | Scieszka, Jon Recommended for ages 7-10
Four animal astronauts are trying to find other planets for humans to live on as Earth has been ruined. First, they rocket to the Plant Planet! Can it support human life? Find out in this new silly (but scientific) series.
Ways to Make Sunshine | Watson, Renee Recommended for ages 8-10
The Hart family of Portland, Oregon, faces many setbacks after Ryan's father loses his job, but no matter what, Ryan tries to bring sunshine to her loved ones. Another #brightsider!
The Guggenheim Mystery | Stevens, Robin Recommended for ages 9-11
In this sequel to The London Eye Mystery, Ted and Kat investigate the theft of a famous painting from the Guggenheim Museum while visiting their cousin Salim in NYC.
This Was Our Pact | Andrews, Ryan Recommended for ages 9-12
Ben and his friends are determined to find out where the paper lanterns of the annual Autumn Equinox Festival go, so they follow the river and ultimately have many mystical adventures.
The Willoughbys Return | Lowry, Lois Recommended for ages 9-12
In this sequel to the original tale, thirty years after their disappearance, the previously frozen Willoughbys have thawed out and returned from the Alps, to the consternation of their children and grandchildren.
Prairie Lotus | Park, Linda Sue Recommended for ages 9-13
In Dakota Territory in the 1880s, half-Chinese Hanna and her white father face racism and resistance to change as they try to make a home for themselves.
The Time of Green Magic | McKay, Hilary Recommended for ages 10-12
When Abi moves with her father and new stepfamily into an eerie old house, something magical makes her books more real and brings a not-so-imaginary friend to stepbrother Louis.
Alone in the Woods | Behrens, Rebecca Recommended for ages 10-12
A thrilling survival story about two former best friends who must work together to stay alive after getting lost in a remote national forest.
Superman Smashes the Klan | Yang, Gene Luen Recommended for ages 12+
When the Lee family relocates to Metropolis, they encounter the burgeoning power of the KKK. Superman helps the family fight the Klan's terror, while exposing those in power who support them.
Yes No Maybe So | Albertalli, Becky & Saee, Aisha Recommended for ages 12+
Jamie, who chokes when speaking to strangers, and Maya, who is having the worst Ramadan ever, are paired to knock on doors and ask for votes for the local state senate candidate.
Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed | Halse Anderson, Laurie Recommended for ages 13+
Thrill the Wonder Woman fan on your list with this graphic novel that focuses upon Diana’s origins in a timely story about the refugee experience, teenage activism, and finding the love and strength to create change.
Punching the Air | Zoboi, Ibi with Salaam, Yusef Recommended for ages 13+
With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam, of the Exonerated Five, tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.
The Grace Year | Liggett, Kim Recommended for ages 14+
Tierney James, sixteen, struggles to endure the year in which she and other young women are banished to the wild until, purified, the survivors are allowed to return home and marry.
Non-fiction and Biography Recommendations
When Sue Found Sue | Buzzeo, Toni Recommended for ages 4-9
Learn about Sue Hendrickson who discovered the largest and most complete T. rex skeleton ever unearthed, which was named after her and permanently displayed at the Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History.
Gross as a Snot Otter | Keating, Jess Recommended for ages 5-9
It's the latest installment in the World of Weird Animals series, featuring seventeen of the most revolting animals on earth. The surprise is learning that sometimes it's the very things that make us gag that allow these animals to survive in the wild.
If You Want a Friend in Washington | McGill, Erin Recommended for ages 5-8
A clever, funny, and informative look at the wild variety of pets--from Calvin Coolidge's wallaby to Teddy Roosevelt's flying squirrels--that have passed through the White House gates.
Just Like Rube Goldberg | Aronson, Sara Recommended for ages 5-11
Discover how Goldberg followed his dreams to become an award-winning cartoonist, inventor, and even an adjective in the dictionary in this inspiring and funny biographical picture book.
Lost Cities | Laroche, Giles Recommended for ages 6-10
Travel back to the lost cities of Babylon, Karnak, Herculaneum, Mesa Verde, Angkor Wat, Great Zimbabwe, Easter Island, Tenochtitlan, Machu Picchu, Fatehpur Sikri, Jamestown, Caughnawaga, and Akrotiri in this lushly illustrated volume. See why these civilizations were lost--and how they were found!
Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code | Bruchac, Joseph Recommended for ages 6-10
As a boy, Chester Nez was taught his native language and culture were useless, but he was later called on to use his Navajo language to help create an unbreakable military code during WWII.
Nose Knows: Wild Ways Animals Smell the World | Figueras, Emmanuelle Recommended for ages 7-11
Lift the flaps to find out how rabbits, giraffes, snails, clown fish, lions, dogs, bees, and more use scent to find family or food, to leave messages for friends, and to warn away rivals.
Ruth Objects | Rappaport, Doreen Recommended for ages 7-9
As a student, teacher, lawyer, and judge, Ruth often experienced unfair treatment. But she persisted, becoming a cultural icon, championing equality in pay and opportunity. Celebrate her legacy!
The Real Poop on Pigeons | McCloskey, Kevin Recommended for ages 7-10
Children dressed in pigeon costumes present facts about pigeons to a park visitor who expresses his dislike for the birds in this comic-style informational book.
A Green Place to Be: The Creation of Central Park | Yazdani, Ashley B. Recommended for ages 7-10
How did the infamous Central Park become a vibrant gem in the heart of New York City? Follow the visionaries behind the plan as it springs to green life.
Machines That Think! | Brown, Don Recommended for ages 8-13
Become fascinated with the world's earliest calculators, the birth of computer programming, and the arrival of smartphones in this exploration of the machines through the ages.
Mammoth Science | Macaulay, David Recommended for ages 8-12
David Macaulay's troupe of curious mammoths lead you through the basics of physics, biology, and chemistry in this unconventional and highly original guide to science.
The Undefeated | Alexander, Kwame Recommended for ages 8+
Beautiful paintings by Kadir Nelson accompany this poem that is a love letter to Black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes.
Finish the Fight! | Chambers, Veronica Recommended for ages 9-14
Who was at the forefront of women's right to vote? On the hundredth anniversary of the historic win for women's rights, it's time to celebrate the names and stories of the women whose stories have yet to be told.
We the People: The United States Constitution Explored and Explained | Lewis, Aura Recommended for ages 9-13
See the U.S. Constitution in a new light with this bold, modern and accessible illustrated guide to the document that helped define democracy.
Born to Fly | Sheinkin, Steve Recommended for ages 10-14
This is the untold tale of fearless women who dared to fly from the legendary Amelia Earhart to lesser-known trailblazers, who inspired awe with their revolutionary bravery.
Big Book of Monsters | Johnson, Hal Recommended for ages 10+
Literature is extra fun when it's spooky! This illustrated compendium of 25 of the spookiest and most nefarious monsters from classic literature—from Dracula to the Jabberwocky!
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You | Reynolds, Jason Recommended for ages 12+
A history of racist and antiracist ideas in America, from their roots in Europe until today, adapted from the National Book Award winner Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram Kendi.
March: Volumes One, Two, Three | Lewis, John Recommended for ages 14+
In this award-winning graphic memoir trilogy, learn about the incredible life of congressman John Lewis from his start on an Alabama farm to his tireless work for civil rights in the 1960s to over 30 years championing the rights of the forsaken in the halls of Congress.