While 2020 seems to be intensely engaged in an active round of “Up Your Game,” there is some relatively good news coming out of the book publishing industry (Cue the bullhorns! Good news!). Namely, gatekeepers at publishing houses and those who are writing book reviews are starting to step aside and give voice to those traditionally marginalized. It’s a messy business, because change in power structures is messy. However, readers, educators and librarians have much more access to authentic cultural perspectives from around the globe.

It is, in fact, hard to narrow down my favorite new books featuring #own voices authors and illustrators. That’s a good thing. In the past two years I’ve tasked myself with not only reading non-white authors whenever possible, but following non-white writers and influencers on social media, and sourcing goods for home and work from BIPOC- (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) owned businesses, too. For educators on Instagram, there are several influencers worth following for information and reviews of new books, namely: @thetututeacher, @diversereads, and @theconsciouskid. Penguin Random House has also recently launched The Conversation— a new website to support readers, families, educators, communities, and businesses who are working to combat racism and to end racial inequities. This site brings together a curated array of resources and programming for readers, including discussion guides, title lists, and special content for all age groups.

It’s amazing what a consistently different lens does for one’s own Great Learning and Unlearning. Now let’s get to the exciting part– the BOOKS!

Here is a sample of the best new picture books published in 2020:

Our Favorite Day of the Year by A.E. Ali

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

Our Class Is a Family by Shannon Olsen

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Tompkins-Bigelow

You Matter by Christian Robinson

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes

Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy

Anti Racist Baby by Ibram X Kendi

If Dominican Were a Color by Sili Recio

Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall

Julian at the Wedding by Jessica Love

All the Way To the Top by Annette Bay Pimentel

Papa, Daddy and Riley by Seamus Kirst

And a sample of new books for ages 6-16:


Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid by Mikaila Ulmer

Finish the Fight! The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought For the Right To Vote by Veronica Chambers

Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson & Kwame Alexander

Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi

When Stars Are Scattered by Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson


Lupe Wong Won’t Dance by Donna Barba Higuera

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Shuri by Nic Stone

Elatsoe by Darci Little Badger

Stand Up, Yumi Ching! By Jessica Kim

Class Act by Jerry Craft

The Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar

BenBee and the Teacher Griefer by K A Holt

Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly J Baptist

About the author: Jane Knight is the Children’s Room Manager at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, VT and a member of CLiF’s Board of Advisors.

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