The Ten Best Children’s Books of 2020

These top titles deliver history lessons, wordplay and a musical romp through the animal kingdom

Our favorite books this year are ones with messages that help kids understand the world around them. (Illustration by Shaylyn Esposito)
smithsonianmag.com

My two young daughters, ages 3 and 6, are big pretenders. From sunup to sundown, they act out different scenarios: eating at a restaurant, visiting a doctor’s office, browsing in a pet shop. Lately, I’ve noticed Covid-19 precautions creep into their dramatic play. The checkout line at their store has a Plexiglas shield. When you call their restaurant, they ask if you’ll be picking up curbside, and their doctor’s office administers nasal swabs. 2020 has turned their world, real and imaginary, upside down.

Explaining all that’s going on around them—a global pandemic, the struggle against systemic racism, protests, a volatile presidential election—at a level that they can understand, and in a way that teaches and moves them, without inducing anxiety has been challenging. As a parent, I always turn to children’s books to guide me, and this year, some of my favorite new books that have come out are pathways to conversations and teachable moments, while others provide a needed laugh, a lighter note or a breath of fresh air.

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