We suggest: Best of 2020 kids & picture books

Introducing Oak Park’s Best of 2020, a librarian-curated selection of titles, featuring some of the titles most requested and checked out by Oak Parkers! See our kids and picture books favorites on this page or browse more using the links below.

Adult fiction | Adult nonfiction | Teen fiction | Kids books | Picture books
TV shows, movies & music

Kids books

The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung

Why you should try it: “This is one of the best friendship stories I've read. Plus, marching band and comics! Really fun and heartfelt.”—Jenna, Collection Management Librarian

Description: Best friends Matt and Eric are hatching a plan for one big final adventure together before Eric moves away. During the marching band competition, they will sneak away to a nearby comics convention and meet their idol—a famous comic creator.

Stream & download with: Hoopla (ebook, digital audiobook) & Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

Why you should try it: “Families are complicated because people are complicated, and this is such a beautiful look at a tween boy learning about who his grandmother and father are, how right and wrong can change based on your perspective, and how he fits in.”—Shelley, Children's Services Librarian

Description: An 11-year-old boy confronts the realities of race relations past and present and the mysterious agenda of his unconventional grandmother during an unplanned spring break road trip through the once-segregated American South.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Every Body Book by Rachel E. Simon

Why you should try it: “I love this book because it gives clear, kid friendly explanations of traditionally heavily gendered concepts using gender neutral and queer-friendly language!”—Andy, Children's Services Library Assistant

Description: An illustrated LGBTQ+ inclusive kid's guide to sex, gender, and relationships education that includes children and families of all genders and sexual orientations, covering puberty, hormones, consent, sex, pregnancy, and safety.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

Our Friend Hedgehog by Linda Castillo

Why you should try it: “I love a sweet animal story, and this has a very Winnie the Pooh feel to it which is delightful.”—Jenna, Collection Management Librarian

Description: Living on a tiny island with only a stuffed animal for company, a lonely Hedgehog embarks on a quest in the aftermath of a storm and makes new friends who help her discover the power of courage and teamwork. 

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

King & the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

Why you should try it: “I could not stop crying while reading this book (and I rarely cry). It's beautiful how King and his family begin to process grief and work together to be understanding and accepting.”—Beronica, Children's Services Librarian

Description: A 12-year-old boy spends days in the mystical Louisiana bayou to come to terms with a sibling’s sudden death, his grief-stricken family, and the disappearance of his former best friend amid whispers about the latter’s sexual orientation.

Stream & download with: Hoopla (digital audiobook) & Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Why you should try it: “I grew up reading the Little House books, as did the author—she wrote this as a Chinese American wondering if she could have been friends with Laura. This is a darker, more realistic version of Little Town on the Prairie, with real and flawed and wonderful characters who try their best—if that's enough.”—Shelley, Children's Services Librarian

Description: A young half-Asian girl arriving in 1880s America struggles to adjust to new surroundings while navigating the almost unanimous prejudice of the townspeople in her heartland community. 

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

Sauerkraut by Kelly Jones

Why you should try it: “This is a delightfully funny ghost story about the importance of family, dreams, and makers of all types. I especially love how HD's family was protective of his time and energy against his Oma's dreams of sauerkraut victory.”—Shelley, Children's Services Librarian

Description: To earn money to build his own computer, HD has agreed to clean out his uncle's basement. There, he discovers the ghost of his great-great-grandmother. And she has a grand plan, too. She wants HD to make her famous recipe for sauerkraut and enter it in the county fair so that she can be declared pickle queen. 

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

Why you should try it: “My favorite kind of historical fiction is the kind that shows you a pocket of history you never knew existed, and Show Me A Sign does exactly that with a story of deafness on Martha's Vineyard during colonial times.”—Andy, Children's Services Library Assistant

Description: The deaf librarian and author of T4 draws on the true history of a thriving 19th-century deaf community on Martha’s Vineyard in the story of a girl whose proud lineage is threatened by land disputes with the Wampanoag and a ruthlessly ambitious scientist.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley

Why you should try it: “Lucy Knisley is a master of the graphic memoir. This story of being uprooted is based in her own childhood experience and reflects so much of the frustration kids feel when their life feels beyond their own control.”—Genevieve, Children's Services Librarian

Description: Reluctantly joining a newly blended family involving a stepfather and stepsisters on a farm far from her city home, Jen practices new skills and navigates private insecurities before finding acceptance in unexpected places. 

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

Twins by Varian Johnson

Why you should try it: “Bright and appealing drawings will attract Smile fans. The perfect book for exploring feelings and being a sibling. Two things many kids identify with, but particularly right now.”—Anne, Remote Learning Coordinator

Description: A series debut by the Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author of The Parker Inheritance finds twins Maureen and Francine distinguishing themselves for the first time by pursing separate interests at the beginning of the 6th grade.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

Picture books

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick D. Barnes

Why you should try it: "This book is perfection."—Jenny, Community Engagement Specialist

Description: Proud of everything that makes him who he is, a young Black narrator celebrates the creativity, adventurous spirit, humor, and loyalty that shape his undeterred spirit and confident goals, even when people who do not understand try to limit his potential.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

In a Jar by Deborah Marcero

Why you should try it: “This sweet picture book filled with colorful, whimsical art, captures the beauty and wonder of the natural world, explores the lasting power of memories, and the warmth and comfort that friendship provides.”—Eileen, Children's Services Digital Learning Librarian

Description: A charming story about the power of memory and the magic of friendship finds little rabbit Llewellyn, who loves to collect things in jars, and best friend Evelyn trying to find a way to continue their very special friendship when Evelyn’s family moves away.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker

Why you should try it: “This is a beautiful story that pays homage to the Ashanti people and features Adinkra symbols and meanings.”—Nora, Community Engagement Coordinator

Description: An evocative celebration of cultural diversity finds young Zura participating in Grandparents Day at her elementary school by introducing her classmates to her West African grandmother, who explains to the students why her traditional facial tattoos are special.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

A Normal Pig by K-Fai Steele

Why you should try it: “I had to buy this picture book after the first time I read it. The illustrations are so vibrant and the text really speaks to you. Interracial families are cool! Also, the author is super hip!"—Beronica, Children's Services Librarian

Description: When a new pig comes to school and starts to point out all the ways Pip is different, she worries that her appearance, tastes, and all the things she loves are not what normal pigs do.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

On Account of the Gum by Adam Rex

Why you should try it: “Adam Rex does it again with a book that is like no other. Its over-the-top nature is what will keep you reading and keep kids engaged in droves.”—Anne, Remote Learning Coordinator 

Description: In a tale of wordplay and humor, a family resorts to increasingly wacky measures to get a wad of gum unstuck from a kid’s hair, causing everything from butter and scissors to the vacuum and a pet cat to become impossibly, hilariously entangled.

Stream & download with: Hoopla (ebook)

Tomorrow I'll Be Kind by Jessica Hische

Why you should try it: “This book seems very appropriate right now. The illustrations are beautiful, and it was an easy way to introduce important values to my children.”—Lauren, Neighborhood Services Library Assistant

Description: Combines inspirational text and endearing artwork in an uplifting story that encourages kids to use the opportunities of a new day to spread compassion, hope, and positivity.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook, digital audiobook)

While We Can't Hug by Eoin McLaughlin

Why you should try it: "We can't hug—and that can be hard for some. But there are so many ways to show friends and family that we love them even when we're apart.”—Jenny, Community Engagement Specialist

Description: Hedgehog and Tortoise were the best of friends. So the two friends wave to each other, blow kisses, sing songs, dance around, and write letters. And even though they can't hug and they can't touch, they both know that they are loved. 

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Why you should try it: “The gorgeous, colorful illustrations were the initial attraction, but the empowering, celebratory story on honoring the beauty and history of names and cultural identity won me over entirely.”—Sarah, Community Engagement Manager

Description: Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. The girl's mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city.

Stream & download with: Hoopla (ebook)

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

Why you should read it: “A seriously insightful story!”—Megha, Children's Services Library Assistant

Description: When a black snake threatens to destroy the earth, one young water protector takes a stand to defend the planet's water, in a tale inspired by the many indigenous-led conservation movements across North America.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)

You Matter by Christian Robinson

Why you should try it: “A story about who and what matters. (Spoiler alert: Everyone matters—even if you're gassy.)”—Jenny, Community Engagement Specialist

Description: The Caldecott Honor- and Coretta Scott King Honor-winning illustrator of Last Stop on Market Street shares empathetic depictions of people from different world regions to highlight the importance of understanding other viewpoints.

Stream & download with: Media on Demand/Libby (ebook)