2020 Favorites

2020 has been challenging. We’ve had to accept changes in plans, fear of the unknown, losses of all sorts and, separation. This year has also revealed blessings…we’ve slowed down, discovered the tenderness of family,and reconnected with gardens, leafy trails and bird song. Books have marked my year; they have been my greatest companions and my saving grace. I am grateful for a home filled with shelves of beloved novels, picture books, and poetry, and, for sunny spots and cozy corners that invite me to cuddle up with the written word and a cup of tea.

The picture books below have been my 2020 favorite friends:

Hike, Pete Oswald

There is so much to love about Hike…a child-father relationship, experience in nature, POC as protagonists, family traditions, story telling through pictures.


In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive — and closer than ever — as they document their hike and take their place in family history. In detail-rich panels and textured panoramas, Pete Oswald perfectly paces this nearly wordless adventure, allowing readers to pause for subtle wonders and marvel at the views. A touching tribute to the bond between father and child, with resonant themes for Earth Day, Hike is a breath of fresh air.

Check out Hike connection activities designed by Maureen Schlosser of Library Lessons with Books here.


Layla’s Happiness, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie

Layla’s Happiness had me smiling from start to finish.


Seven-year-old Layla loves life! So she keeps a happiness book. What is happiness for her? For you?

Spirited and observant, Layla’s a child who’s been given room to grow, making happiness both thoughtful and intimate. It’s her dad talking about growing-up in South Carolina; her mom reading poetry; her best friend Juan, the community garden, and so much more. Written by poet Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin, this is a story of flourishing within family and community.

Visit story-time at The Carle with literacy educator David Feinstein reading Layla’s Happiness here.


The Boy and the Gorilla, Jackie Azua Kramer

The Boy and the Gorilla is a gorgeous book in both illustrations and text.


A quietly thoughtful story of a young boy struggling with grief, and the imaginary gorilla who helps him find a path to healing.

Find educational resources connected to The Boy and the Gorilla here.


Here and Now, Julia Denos

A book that accompanied me throughout the year, reminding me of the importance of staying present.


A stunning celebration of mindfulness, meditation, and enjoying each moment. This lush picture book is a fantastic tool for engaging children 3-7 who are schooling from home who are eager to feel connected to their world while managing new anxieties.

Enjoy these Here and Now related activities!


Outside In, Deborah Underwood

A treasure of a book that lead me outside even when I felt like hiding inside.

Description:Outside is waiting, the most patient playmate of all. The most generous friend. The most miraculous inventor. This thought-provoking picture book poetically underscores our powerful and enduring connection with nature, not so easily obscured by lives spent indoors.
Rhythmic, powerful language shows us how our world is made and the many ways Outside comes in to help and heal us, and reminds us that we are all part of a much greater universe. Emotive illustrations evoke the beauty, simplicity, and wonder that await us all . . . outside.

Meet Deborah Underwood and Cindy Derby (illustrator of Outside In) in a short interview here.

Tell me, what books have been your favorite companions in 2020?

Here’s to a bright and booky New Year!

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