Stephanie, Associate Editor

Adults often wish they could revisit their own childhoods, but I find myself envying kids today when I survey all the great children’s books being published this year. These 15 titles are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wonders that will fill young readers’ shelves  in 2022.

Sing, Aretha, Sing! by Hanif Abdurraqib, illustrated by Ashley Evans
FSG | February 1

Hanif Abdurraqib is an acclaimed writer of poetry and cultural criticism for adults. He received a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2021, and his 2019 book, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest, was long-listed for the National Book Award. Plus, his 2021 book, A Little Devil in America, was BookPage’s best nonfiction book of the year.

Picture books require a deep attention to language that’s similar to poetry, so it’s always exciting when writers with backgrounds in poetry branch out into writing picture books. Abdurraqib is well-versed in music and cultural history, so I can’t wait to read this picture book that will explore Aretha Franklin’s connections to the civil rights movement.

Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Disney-Hyperion | February 1

Every new book from Newbery Honor author Pam Muñoz Ryan is cause for excitement, but the ambitious premise of Solimar offers more reason than usual. Set in a fictional fantasy kingdom, the story offers an irresistible royal heroine and a fascinating depiction of magic, told in Ryan’s signature lush and lyrical prose.

Out of a Jar by Deborah Marcero
Putnam | February 8

In BookPage’s review of author-illustrator Deborah Marcero’s previous picture book, In a Jar, reviewer Jill Lorenzini wrote that it “does what all the best picture books do: It captivates, entertains and leaves you with a reminder of magic still shimmering around the edges.” In a Jar’s ending didn’t seem to hint at a sequel, so it’s delightfully surprising that Marcero has created another story about Llewellyn the bunny and the things he tries to keep bottled up.

Mina by Matthew Forsythe
Paula Wiseman | February 15

Matthew Forsythe’s picture book Pokko and the Drum was one of 2019’s most singularly charming and acclaimed titles. Readers who loved it will want to line up outside their library or bookstore so they can be the first to discover his next book, Mina. Fans of Pokko’s dry humor and intricate colored pencil illustrations will find Mina a worthy successor.

John’s Turn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kate Berube
Candlewick | March 1

Author Mac Barnett is one of the funniest, smartest and most prolific writers working in children’s literature today, and just about everything he publishes is worth a reader’s time. For John’s Turn, he’s paired with Kate Berube, an illustrator I love for her deceptively simple lines and masterful ability to convey complex emotions through facial expressions. It’s worth noting that Barnett is publishing two additional books this spring: a picture book illustrated by Marla Frazee called The Great Zapfino, out April 5 from Beach Lane, and a graphic novel adaptation of the “live cartoon” he developed during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown with illustrator Shawn Harris called The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza, out May 10 from Katherine Tegen.

The Aquanaut by Dan Santat
Graphix | March 1

Dan Santat is best known as the Caldecott Medal-winning author-illustrator of 2014’s The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, as well as many other beloved picture books. However, I first became familiar with him as a graphic novelist via his hilarious, action-packed 2011 graphic novel, Sidekicks, the tale of a group of pets who belong to a superhero named Captain Amazing and who are, secretly, also superheroes. Santat packs so much imagination and heart into all of his books that I can’t wait to discover the story he’ll tell in this standalone graphic novel.

The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin | March 8

Kelly Barnhill’s Newbery Medal-winning The Girl Who Drank the Moon is an exquisite fantasy tale—and she hasn’t published anything for young readers in the five long years since it came out! She’s kept busy in the meantime, releasing a book of short stories for adults in 2018 and putting the finishing touches on The Ogress and the Orphans. Whether you’ve been counting the months, weeks and days or are brand-new to Barnhill’s sharp, word-perfect prose and classical yet fresh storytelling, you’re going to love this standalone fantasy.

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Nina LaCour, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
Candlewick | March 29

Nina LaCour is an acclaimed and beloved young adult author whose 2018 novel, We Are Okay, won the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Medal for excellence in young adult literature—the YA equivalent of the Newbery Medal. There are very few picture books that depict families with two moms, so this book is notable for two reasons: It contributes sorely needed representation, and it’s LaCour’s first picture book! I’m also looking forward to the illustrations by talented up-and-comer Kaylani Juanita, whose work I’ve admired in picture books such as When Aidan Became a Brother and Magnificent Homespun Brown.

Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima
Simon & Schuster | March 29

Every so often, an author-illustrator makes their debut with a book so fully formed that you read it and think, “Surely, this cannot be their first book!” So it was with Jessie Sima’s Not Quite Narwhal, which was published on Valentine’s Day in 2017 and has gone on to sell more than 250,000 copies. Sima has since published five more picture books, and this spring, they’ll publish this companion to their debut. Read enough picture books and you’ll realize how masterfully Sima walks the line between treacly and genuinely sweet. I can’t wait to read Perfectly Pegasus and let out an “awwwwww!” in spite of myself. 

A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser
Clarion | April 5

Readers who love middle grade stories featuring big families have wholeheartedly embraced Karina Yan Glaser’s Vanderbeekers, who hit shelves in the fall of 2017 and have since starred in five heartwarming tales. I’m always intrigued when an author finds initial success with a series and then launches into either a standalone tale or a new series, because it gives them an opportunity to reveal new dimensions to their writing and storytelling. A Duet for Home is a standalone novel that seems poised to explore similar themes as in Glaser’s bestselling series, like family and what it means to find a home, but from a totally different lens.

I’d Like to Be the Window for a Wise Old Dog by Philip C. Stead
Doubleday | April 5

Speaking of remarkable debuts: Husband and wife team Philip C. and Erin E. Stead won the Caldecott Medal for their very first picture book, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. The Steads are picture book creators whose every release is noteworthy, but I find the title and cover of this one to be irresistibly enticing. Fans as well as dog lovers should know that this is Philip’s first of two canine-themed books in 2022: June will see the publication of Every Dog in the Neighborhood, illustrated by fellow Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell. It’s enough to make you bark with joy.      

Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone by Tae Keller
Random House | April 26

Middle grade author Tae Keller won the 2021 Newbery Medal for her second novel, How to Trap a Tiger. Winning an award as prestigious and influential as the Newbery or the Caldecott can change the entire trajectory of a creator’s career, and I’m endlessly fascinated to see what authors and illustrators choose to publish after winning such an award. Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone will blend contemporary middle school dynamics with a central mystery and a hint of science fiction.

The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton
Holt | May 3

It is such a good time to be a middle grade reader who loves tales of magic and adventure. Case in point: YA author Dhonielle Clayton is making her middle grade debut with The Marvellers, a fantasy novel that will blow the concept of the magical school sky-high—literally. The Arcanum Training Institute for Marvelous and Uncanny Endeavors is an academy in the clouds that attracts magically gifted students from all over the world, and it’s the enchanting setting for what’s sure to be the summer’s must-read middle grade fantasy.   

The World Belonged to Us by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Leo Espinosa
Nancy Paulsen | May 10

Jacqueline Woodson is one of the most beloved and acclaimed writers working today, and her reach knows no bounds. She has written books for readers of every age, from picture books to novels for adults, and has served as our National Ambassador for Children’s Literature. In her picture books, Woodson’s prose is often paired with artwork by exciting, talented illustrators, from Rafael López to James Ransome to E.B. Lewis. Here, she’s working with Colombian illustrator Leo Espinosa, who received a Pura Belpré Honor for his work on Junot Diaz’s picture book, Islandborn. The World Belonged to Us promises to be a nostalgic ode to summer in New York City as only these two talented creators could tell it.

Small Town Pride by Phil Stamper
HarperCollins | May 31

Phil Stamper has published three acclaimed, character-driven YA novels that offer complex depictions of LGBTQ+ teens. It’s thrilling to see him branch out into middle grade, particularly since middle grade books centering the experiences of LGBTQ+ kids are desperately needed. I also love that this book is going to be set in a small rural town. As YA author Preston Norton said in a recent Q&A with BookPage about his new book, Hopepunk, which takes place in rural Wyoming, “Queer stories are needed everywhere because queer people are everywhere.”

Check out our most anticipated titles of 2022 in every genre!

Take a glimpse at the wonders that will fill young readers' shelves in 2022.

Whether you love sprawling fantasies, gothic fables, jubilant rom-coms or page-turning mysteries, 2022 is guaranteed to be a YA lover’s best reading year ever.

This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi
HarperCollins | February 1

Tahereh Mafi has written a bestselling six-volume dystopian series as well as middle grade fantasies and two devastating realistic novels set in the early 2000s. Her fans love her imaginative, emotional storytelling and razor-sharp prose. In 2022, she’ll publish her first work of high fantasy for teen readers, a sprawling yet intimate tale with Persian and Muslim influences. If your ideal reading experience is being transported into an epic and magical story, you’ll want to put This Woven Kingdom at the top of your TBR. 

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
Philomel | February 1

The thing I love most about historical fiction master Ruta Sepetys is how unwilling she seems to be to simply rest on her laurels. At this point in her writing career, Sepetys could forge a comfortable path retreading familiar territory, but instead, she follows her unique instincts for sniffing out compelling stories amid locales and historical moments little-known to most of her American readers, from war-torn northern Europe during the final days of World War II to Barcelona at the height of the Franco regime. In I Must Betray You, she turns those instincts to 1989 Romania, and the result is a can’t-miss read for fans of historical fiction and thrillers alike.

Mirror Girls by Kelly McWilliams
Little, Brown | February 8

Kelly McWilliams is the daughter of acclaimed children’s author Jewell Parker Rhodes, and her 2020 debut, Agnes at the End of the World, proved that she’s a talented storyteller in her own right. Mirror Girls is an ambitious step forward for McWilliams. A historical horror novel that reads like The Vanishing Half meets “Lovecraft Country,” it’s the story of biracial twin sisters who are separated at birth and reunite under mysterious circumstances in the small Georgia town where they were born.

Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi
Knopf | February 15

Akwaeke Emezi is one of the most exciting and visionary writers working today, and I’m thrilled that they’re returning to YA shelves with this prequel to their 2019 National Book Award finalist, Pet. Bitter will reveal the story of Pet’s mother, the eponymous Bitter, and add new dimensions to the world Emezi created in Pet.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
Razorbill | March 1

It’s hard to think of a more successful or more influential YA fantasy series of the past decade than Sabaa Tahir’s Ember in the Ashes quartet, which ended in December 2020 with A Sky Beyond the Storm. All My Rage explores vastly different territory: It’s a work of contemporary realism about two teens coming of age in a small town in the Mojave Desert. Like the novel’s protagonists, Tahir grew up at her family’s 18-room motel in the Mojave Desert, and All My Rage draws inspiration from her personal experiences. Changing genres and creating such a personal story is an ambitious move, but Tahir is a storyteller I’d follow just about anywhere. 

The Rumor Game by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra
Disney-Hyperion | March 1

In December 2020, Netflix released the first season of “Tiny Pretty Things,” adapted from Clayton and Charaipotra’s 2015 YA novel of the same name. It was an addicting mix of a high-pressure environment (a ballet school) and a twisting, shocking plot that kept me up past bedtime on more than one occasion. Clayton and Charaipotra have both released books individually since publishing Shiny Broken Things, the sequel to Tiny Pretty Things, in 2016, but they’re reuniting in 2022 for a brand-new standalone thriller about rumors, secrets and lies set at an exclusive prep school. It’s got the makings of a late-night read written all over it.

Gallant by V. E. Schwab
Greenwillow | March 1

I’m going to throw some words and phrases at you right now: Fog. Gloom. Mysterious. Crumbling old house. Ghostly. Candlelight. A door to the unknown. Secrets. Haunting. Enchanting. If those are vibes you find yourself inexplicably drawn to, bestselling author V. E. Schwab has written a book especially for you. The less I say here about Schwab’s return to the YA category, the better, because as with all tales of mystery and magic, half the pleasure’s in the discovery itself.

Great or Nothing by Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood
Delacorte | March 8

How many reimaginings and adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel Little Women is too many for me? To quote an iconic scene from the 2004 teen comedy Mean Girls, the limit does not exist. I regularly sing along to the soundtrack of the 2005 Broadway show while driving to work. I inhaled Bethany C. Morrow’s 2021 remix, So Many Beginnings, set in 1863 in a Virginia colony of newly emancipated people. Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation was the last movie I saw in a theater before the pandemic. (I loved it, obviously.) So I truly cannot wait to see what this reimagining will hold. The details are already tantalizing: It’s set in 1942, with each March sister’s perspective written by a different YA author. Jo builds planes! Laurie is an army pilot! Amy is a Red Cross volunteer in London! Beth’s point of view will be in verse! I look forward to swooning, sighing and ugly-crying all over again when it hits shelves in March.

Right Where I Left You by Julian Winters
Viking | March 15

Julian Winters has published three of the most beloved LGBTQ+ realistic fiction YA novels in recent memory through a small, independent publisher called Interlude Press. This spring, Winters will release his first book from one of the so-called Big Five publishers, a move that’s sure to make his rising star shine even brighter. Right Where I Left You has all the ingredients that readers loved in Winters’ previous books, including authentic teen characters and heartfelt depictions of friendship, romance and the search to figure out who you are and what you really want.  

Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram
Dial | March 22

Adib Khorram’s first two novels told the quiet but deeply powerful story of queer biracial teen Darius Kellner. Darius the Great Is Not Okay and its sequel, Darius the Great Deserves Better are master classes in creating a unique and authentic narrative voice. In his third book, Khorram seems to be interested in turning up the volume—literally. The protagonist of Kiss & Tell is the only gay member of a newly successful boy band, but he’s struggling with his heart and with the pressures of the spotlight. Readers who enjoyed the showbiz romance of Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich’s If This Gets Out or the music-loving heart of Leah Johnson’s Rise to the Sun won’t want to miss it. 

This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke
Knopf | April 5

Although they’ve published two YA novels and two picture books (including What Are Your Words, which is the most accessible introduction to personal pronouns I’ve ever read) and edited two anthologies, Katherine Locke isn’t a household name—yet. This Rebel Heart could very well be the book to change that. Set in the midst of the 1956 revolution in communist Budapest, the story promises an intriguing juxtaposition of history and magic that fans of Julie Berry, Naomi Novik, Gavriel Savit and Ruta Sepetys will love.

Nothing Burns as Bright as You by Ashley Woodfolk
Versify | April 5

While we’re on the subject of authors who should be household names, allow me to get out my megaphone and sandwich board and stand out on the sidewalk to sing the praises of Ashley Woodfolk. Woodfolk’s first two novels are two of the best works of YA contemporary realistic fiction of the past decade, and she was one of six contributors to Blackout, the collaborative YA romance hit of summer 2021. To read a Woodfolk novel is to lose all sense of time and be swept away in her character-driven storytelling and effortless prose, and Nothing Burns as Bright as You looks to be her most explosive novel yet. 

An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan
Little, Brown | April 12

Emily X.R. Pan’s 2018 debut novel, The Astonishing Color of After, was a New York Times bestseller and received a number of awards, including a Walter Honor and a YA Honor from ALA’s Asian/Pacific American Awards. It was the uncommon debut novel whose ambition was matched by its creator’s skill, so while Pan’s second book looks even more ambitious, I’m so excited to watch her pull it off. Like Pan’s debut, An Arrow to the Moon will blend romance, emotional storytelling, Chinese mythology and fantastical elements for an unforgettable combination.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
Wednesday | May 3

Casey McQuiston burst onto bookshelves in 2019 with her adult romance debut, Red, White & Royal Blue, a book that reads like “The West Wing” meets “The Crown” but with much more kissing, and then didn’t let their foot off the gas one bit in their second book, One Last Stop. So when, in the summer of 2021, McQuiston announced that she would be publishing her first YA novel, to say that it was exciting would be an understatement. I Kissed Shara Wheeler is set at a conservative school in Alabama and, like One Last Stop, will incorporate elements of both mystery and romance. 

Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert
Flatiron | June 28

The Hazel Wood, Melissa Albert’s first YA novel, spent more than half of 2018 on the New York Times bestseller list. Since then, Albert’s fans have devoured a sequel, The Night Country, as well as a companion set of short stories, Tales From the Hinterland. Our Crooked Hearts will capture the same intoxicating potion of dark magic and sharp prose that readers loved in Albert’s previous books, but since it’s a wholly original story unconnected to the Hinterland world, it’s also a perfect entry point to Albert’s work for new readers.

Check out our most anticipated titles of 2022 in every genre!

2022 is poised to become YA fans' best reading year ever.

As readers who enjoy young adult books look back on 2021, they’ll see that it was a year packed with truly amazing new books. Here are the 15 titles BookPage readers loved most.

15. The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim

This novel’s easy charm, strong mother-daughter relationship and romantic elements recall the best moments of “Gilmore Girls” or “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

14. The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

Joan He’s eco-science fiction romance asks, if we are the cause of humanity’s problems, how can we possibly be the solution?

13. The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

The Electric Kingdom is a mind-blowing blend of post-apocalyptic fantasy, science fiction and time-travel saga.

12. Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee

Stacey Lee’s latest novel was prompted by a little-known fact: Of the eight Chinese passengers aboard the Titanic, six survived.

11. The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin

In Rachel Griffin’s debut YA novel, witches have become key players in the global fight against climate change.

10. Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche by Nancy Springer

Longtime Enola Holmes fans as well as those who met Sherlock’s irrepressible younger sister via the hit film adaptation will devour this brisk, stylish mystery.

9. A Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia

A Sitting in St. James is a mesmerizing multigenerational saga that brilliantly depicts Southern plantation life and systemic rot.

8. The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros

This murder mystery set against the Gilded Age’s grand ambitions and gory underbelly is a gorgeous, visceral and mystical experience.

7. Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

When townsfolk go missing and Amity Falls starts to crumble, Ellerie must uncover what’s really haunting her home in Erin A. Craig’s haunting second novel.

6. The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

Not since “Veronica Mars” have hardscrabble swagger, enormous grief and teenage noir been combined into such a satisfying piece of storytelling.

5. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Though it both shocks and thrills, in the end, what leaves you breathless is Firekeeper’s Daughter’s blazing heart.

4. Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

Princess Shiori must rely on her wit and determination to save her brothers and break her stepmother’s curse in this classical yet fresh fantasy.

3. Switch by A.S. King

Readers should settle into Switch‘s bizarre, provocative premise—a world where time has stopped—and follow A.S. King where she leads them.

2. Lore by Alexandra Bracken

Readers who love complex, mythology-based fantasies will quickly find in Lore a worthy new obsession.

1. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

This beautiful, brave work of historical fiction is as meticulously researched as it is full of raw, authentic emotion.

This list was compiled based on analytics from between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1, 2021.

2021 was packed with great new YA books. Here are the 15 titles BookPage readers loved most.

It can be tempting to consume picture books quickly, flipping through their pages and lingering no longer than necessary to get a sense of the illustrator’s style and the gist of the story. “Wasn’t that nice?” we say to ourselves, then open another book. Far be it for me to dictate to anyone what to read or how (although it could be argued that is literally my job here at BookPage), but should you wish to pick up one of the 10 best picture books of 2019 listed and linked below, I’d encourage you to slow down a little.

Sit with the book awhile. Feel the paper under your fingers. Look under the dust jacket; did the illustrator hide a surprise for you under there? Consider the endpapers, a paper curtain you’ll pull back yourself to unveil the stage of the title page. Try thinking of the book like a 32-course tasting meal, each spread of a dish prepared meticulously for your nourishment and delight. Ask yourself about the line breaks, the typography, why the author chose this word and not that word, why the illustrator chose a green coat, a pink dress, watercolors instead of acrylics, a sequence of images here but a two-page spread there.

A picture book is a symphony of artistic choices that rewards deep engagement. It’s not quite a poem with images, not quite a sequential visual narrative with explanatory text. It’s something else, and its magic is singular and life-changing.

These are 10 of the year’s best enchantments. Let yourself fall under the spells they cast.


10. My Heart by Corinna Luyken

Author-illustrator Corinna Luyken’s atmospheric and sensitive My Heart explores the fears, joys and emotional vulnerabilities of children through spare rhymes and softly rendered illustrations.


9. Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler

Eliza Wheeler’s lush and detailed picture book, based on her own grandmother’s personal experiences, follows a Depression-era family who make the most of having little.


8. The Bell Rang by James E. Ransome

Author-illustrator James E. Ransome explores a week in the life of a young girl who is a slave in this strikingly illustrated story that centers on the endurance and humanity of enslaved people.


7. Home Is a Window by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard, illustrated by Chris Sasaki

In simple yet lyrical prose full of understated perceptiveness, Stephanie Parsley Ledyard reflects on what, exactly, it is that turns a house into a home as a young girl prepares to move.


6. Saturday by Oge Mora

Caldecott Honor illustrator Oge Mora’s Saturday is a bighearted ode to parent-child bonding, accompanied by Mora’s signature collage illustrations.


5. Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Small in the City is a parable as hushed as falling winter snow, offering hope and reassurance in the face of uncertainty and fear.


4. Another by Christian Robinson

Caldecott Honor illustrator Christian Robinson makes his authorial debut with this wordless tale of a multilayered, mind-blowing and truly out-of-this-world adventure.


3. What Is Given From the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by April Harrison

Patricia C. McKissack’s contributions to children’s literature cannot be understated, and her final picture book shines with the generosity of spirit that defined her as a writer.


2. The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby

This picture book biography of Goodnight Moon author Margaret Wise Brown captures the respect Brown had for her young readers as well as the essence of her legacy, and is full of refreshing and important truths.


1. Music for Mister Moon by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

The award-winning team of Philip C. and Erin E. Stead triumph again in this understatedly surreal tale of unexpected friendship, imagination and courage.

A picture book is a symphony of artistic choices that rewards deep engagement. It’s not quite a poem with images, not quite a sequential visual narrative with explanatory text. It’s something else, and its magic is singular and life-changing. These are 10 of the year’s best enchantments. Let yourself fall under the spells they cast.

Newbery Medalist Madeline L'Engle once wrote, “Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” Each one of these books does exactly that, in its own way.


10. Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu

Eventown is a haunting and lyrical fable about what happens when a family tries to literally leave their most painful memories behind.


9. All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker

Laura Tucker’s debut novel is a beguiling and well-structured mystery set against the backdrop of the New York City art scene.


8. The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake

Ashley Herring Blake explores the intense emotional landscape of early adolescence with sensitivity, humor and authenticity.


7. The Line Tender by Kate Allen

Kate Allen’s debut novel is a beautiful and big-hearted story about friendship, grief and healing.


6. Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson

Some Places More Than Others is Renée Watson’s love letter to New York City and an appealing celebration of family and community.


5. Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo

In prose that feels both beautifully spare and deeply rich, Beverly, Right Here is a reminder of the enduring power of kindness, hope and storytelling.


4. Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

Full of Gary D. Schmidt’s signature humor and complex characters who find themselves tested by life-changing situations, Pay Attention, Carter Jones is hilarious and heart-wrenching.


3. Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace by Ashley Bryan

Infinite Hope is the extraordinary memoir of a hugely beloved figure in children’s literature, who tells his inspiring story here for the first time.


2. Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Despite simple-seeming prose, Jason Reynolds’ language sparkles in these ten stories that demonstrate his range of superb storytelling.


1. Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

Erin Entrada Kelly’s triumphant entry into the fantasy genre is an exquisite reminder that although strength and skill may not always be able to defeat darkness and restore light, kindness, integrity and steadfast love always will.

Newbery Medalist Madeline L'Engle once wrote, “Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” Each one of these books does exactly that, in its own way. 10. Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu Eventown is a haunting and lyrical fable about what happens when a family tries to literally leave their most painful memories […]

The best young adult books of 2019 may seem a disparate bunch, but they’re united by their fundamental belief in possibility: the possibility of the fantastical, the terrifying, the romantic and, above all, the possibility of hope.


10. The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Julia Drake’s enthralling debut explores themes of identity, mental health, romance and family with grace and gravitas.


9. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Bestselling author Margaret Rogerson presents a unique twist on a magical fantasy plot in this chillingly good gothic-inspired read.


8. Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Debut novelist David Yoon grapples with questions of race, identity, family and romance in relatable, courageous and clever ways.


7. Internment by Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed channeled fears and concerns about the contemporary political climate into a terrifying work of speculative fiction set “15 seconds in the future.”


6. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

The Downstairs Girl is rich in historical detail and anchored by Stacey Lee’s buoyant prose and a heroine whose voice leaps off the page.


5. We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra

Sarah Henstra’s young adult debut is a heartbreakingly gorgeous story of how love and poetry are sometimes enough to carry the day.


4. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Mariko Tamaki’s emotionally swirling story is perfectly paired with Rosemary Valero-O’Connell’s lithe illustrations in this graphic novel about a girl who learns to put her own emotional oxygen mask on first.


3. Lovely War by Julie Berry

Julie Berry’s superb research and attention to detail are perfectly suited to the layers of this moving, unflinching and, yes, romantic story of love in wartime.


2. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Awkaeke Emezi conceptualizes social ills such as sexual violence, physical abuse and drug use as literal monsters in this bold and surreal young adult debut.


1. Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby

Capturing the struggles, heartaches, and joys of two girls—one alive, one a ghost—during the early 1940s, Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All is a beautiful and lyrical read that pushes against the boundaries of what we often believe a young adult novel can contain.

The best young adult books of 2019 may seem a disparate bunch, but they’re united by their fundamental belief in possibility: the possibility of the fantastical, the terrifying, the romantic and, above all, the possibility of hope.

We can’t get enough of blockbuster adaptations including Love Simon, “His Dark Materials” and Let It Snow. They’re incredible narrative experiences that have put some of the best YA stories on all readers’ radars. But why stop there? Here are 12 more YA books readers 18 or 80 will love.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

If you love: Anne Rice, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and anything that goes bump in the night.

Rich in imagery and told in Black’s standout, signature prose, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a memorable literary feast with fangs.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

If you love: Harry Potter, Comic-Con and all things fannish.

Rowell creates an incredibly relatable protagonist in Cath, a college freshman with tremendous inner strength who comes to the aid of her family without a second thought and who finds her confidence with a pen in her hand.

How to Love by Katie Cotugno 

If you love: Lady Bird, the New York Times “Modern Love” column and the way Jordan Catalano leaned against his locker that one time.

Cotugno’s novel is a story of first love, true love and the quick decisions that can change lives forever. Readers will find themselves taken back to their own first loves and wondering what might have been.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

If you love: Kurt Vonnegut, the films of Jordan Peele, “Stranger Things” and any other media in which corn fields wave menacingly.

The end of the world is coming, and it will start in the small town of Ealing, Iowa, thanks to the muck-up of two best friends. Revealing any more details about the plot twists of this edgy, darkly funny work of magical realism would spoil the fun.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

If you love: The Night Circus, Now You See Me and would definitely choose The Phantom over Raoul any day.

Caraval is full of sensory delights, from glittering castles to carousels made of rose petals to edible silver bells, but darkness lurks beneath its shimmery surface.

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

If you love: “Dickinson," The Favourite, anything described as a “romp.”

On a grand tour across the Continent that becomes an unexpected journey of self-discovery, Henry "Monty" Montague, his best friend Percy and his sister Felicity all get far more than they bargained for. 

 Conversion by Katherine Howe

If you love: “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” Megan Abbott’s The Fever, all things dark and witchy.

A mysterious illness is striking girls at a prestigious prep school in this suspenseful tale with more than a glimmer of magic.

 I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

If you love: Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, The Flaming Lips, opening books of poetry to random pages and reading whatever you land on.

Twins who were as close as siblings could possibly be are driven apart after only one of them is accepted to a prestigious school. As the stories of “before” and “after” their rupture intertwine, the reader is drawn into the complex drama of the sibling relationship.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

If you love: The film Black Swan, Sarah Polley's “Alias Grace” adaptation, knowing you’re alone in a dark room but not exactly feeling like you’re alone.

Unexplained phenomena, dark back stories, bloody flashbacks, creepy characters and a shocking denouement are enough to keep the sinister suspense going in this story of two girls who find their lives inextricably linked through the common denominator of Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center.

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

If you love: Memento, Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels, Vanity Fair (the novel, not the magazine).

Lockhart’s deftly plotted and fast-paced narrative told in reverse-chronological order lacks clear-cut heroines and antagonists and follows a chilling trajectory.

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

If you love: All the Light We Cannot See, Ken Burns’ “The War, ”all things World War II.

At the beginning of the German invasion of Poland during World War II, a young girl survives through an unexpected friendship with a man who can speak to birds. Gavit’s debut novel doesn’t avoid the hard topics as it lays bare the devastating effects of war.

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

If you love: Longform investigative journalism, NPR’s “Serial,” Just Mercy.

No simple morality tale and far more than a legal thriller, The 57 Bus is a genre-bending book that reveals the tangled complexities of gender, race, crime and justice in modern-day America.

Blockbuster adaptations have put some of the best YA stories on all readers’ radars. But why stop there? Here are 12 more YA books readers 18 or 80 will love.

The winter holidays are a time when traditions feel especially significant. The days, short and cold, keep us indoors. We’re surrounded by people we may not see other times during the year. As another year winds to a close, our thoughts turn to reflections on the past and hopes for the future.

Although my family has its share of holiday traditions, the one I appreciate most now that I’m an adult is one that didn’t last very long. My little sister is five years younger than me, so my mom had a golden window of just a few years when she could read aloud to us both. Each winter, we’d go to the library and check out a big stack of holiday books, and she would read one each night before we went to bed. I suspect some of the appeal to kid-Stephanie was the postponement of bedtime, but now that I’m grown, I look back on those nightly occasions and feel all the things literacy experts say reading together with children should instill: Pleasure in the act of discovering a story together, affirmation that time spent together was valued, and a love of books and reading.

But also? A belief that there is something deeply powerful about gathering together on the shortest, coldest, darkest nights of the year to share stories.

There’s no time like the present to start a new tradition in your family. Below I’ve gathered some of my favorite winter holiday picture books, with input from my fellow editors on their treasured titles.

The Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie dePaola

This tender tale provides a bird’s-eye view of the Nativity tale with a distinct sense of quiet drama, accompanied by dePaola’s rich illustrations.


The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow, illustrated by James E. Ransome

An inspired reenvisioning of E.T.A. Hoffman’s beloved story, The Nutcracker in Harlem is illustrated by James E. Ransome in vibrant watercolors that brim with the mystery of Christmas.


Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera

My mother had an entire box of Christmas picture books, and I remembered exactly none of them until I saw the jacket of Auntie Claus recently and had a full-on Proustian moment. I loved this book as a child, even while being faintly frightened by it, most likely because of how impossibly fabulous the title character is. The mysterious Auntie Claus, who disappears on a “business trip” every year from Halloween to Valentine’s Day, is old Hollywood glam by way of Dr. Seuss. Sophie, her little brat of a niece, doesn’t know how good she has it—which is, of course, the point of this cheeky, whimsically illustrated tale. —Savanna, Assistant Editor

Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares

This story of two cardinals who live together in a evergreen tree until they are suddenly separated is illustrated with detailed, epic spreads that convey the scope of their quest to be reunited.


Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel

Oskar, a refugee from Nazi Germany, must walk nearly the length of Manhattan to get to his aunt’s house but is helped on his way by eight acts of kindness from strangers in this gorgeous and moving historical tale.


The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia Scarry, illustrated by J.P. Miller

My favorite part of Christmas is bringing out all the cherished keepsakes I haven’t seen since the previous year—the mug with a ceramic teddy bear hiding inside, whose head pokes out once you drink enough hot chocolate; the glass kitten ornament my Grandma gave me. But my favorite keepsake of all is The Sweet Smell of Christmas, about a young bear taking in the season’s sights and smells on Christmas Eve. As Little Bear inhales the aroma of his mother’s apple pie, their crisp pine tree, the bright orange in his stocking, I scratch and sniff each treat with him—a ritual I performed as a child until the stickers were scraped and faded. Luckily, you can order replacements for these beloved scented stickers, and as an adult I have—twice. —Christy, Associate Editor

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Jarvis

In buoyant rhyming stanzas, Toht recounts one family’s tree’s journey from selection at the tree farm to being crowned with a star. Jarvis’ bright illustrations capture the merriment of the occasion.


Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter by Eugenie Doyle, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

Imagine Donald Hall’s classic Ox-Cart Man crossed with the ritualized refrain of Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon and you’ll come close to the quiet appeal of this tale of a farm family preparing for winter.


Who Built the Stable? by Ashley Bryan

Ashley Bryan’s lushly illustrated poem explores its titular question in simple text that will encourage young readers to imagine some of the unseen players in the nativity story.


Hanukkah Hamster by Michelle Markel, illustrated by André Ceolin

When a cab driver discovers a little hamster left behind in his cab, he tries to find its owner but, in the meantime, begins his no-longer-solitary Hanukkah celebrations in this heartwarming tale of unexpected friendship. Did I mention he names the hamster Chickpea?


The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

There is a reason Chris Van Allsburg’s wintry tale is widely considered a classic: It’s absolutely perfect, from its large-scale, expressive images to its gently nostalgic narrative voice. It is the only book on this list to have won a Caldecott Medal, and you'll see why when you read it.

The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett

This list could very easily be composed of about 50% Jan Brett titles, but I’m limiting myself to just one, because it was far and away my favorite as a child. The Wild Christmas Reindeer is the story of a girl who has one of the most enviable jobs ever: She gets to take care of Santa’s reindeer. But none of her preparations for the big night are going the way she planned, and her frustration only seems to make everything worse. This fable about slowing down and listening to what’s really important is accompanied by Brett’s characteristically detailed illustrations. I never did get a pet reindeer for Christmas, but this book was the next-best thing.

The Christmas Eve Tree by Delia Huddy, illustrated by Emily Sutton

This distinctive story of a homeless boy who rescues a forlorn little fir tree fated for the trash is a testament to the way Christmas can create a sense of community.


Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

This masterful fable of compassion and, yes, joy from Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo features exquisite and luminous illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline that capture both the chill of snowy nights and the warmth we find when we open our hearts to others.


Last Stop on the Reindeer Express by Maudie Powell-Tuck, illustrated by Karl James Mountford

Featuring dazzling illustrations, interactive elements and a plucky heroine, this story of a girl determined to deliver a special card to her grandfather in time for Christmas is a thrilling holiday adventure.


Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington, illustrated by Shane W. Evans

This touching story is a warm and wonderful introduction to the Nguzo Saba (the seven principles of Kwanzaa). Readers join Li’l Rabbit on his quest to find a special treat for Granna Rabbit so she can celebrate the Karamu feast.


Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

This contemplative, evocative poem is illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Beth Krommes with spellbinding images full of texture and pattern. It’s a sweet but never saccharine tale of family and the wish for snow.


A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Sophie’s neighbor, Mrs. Goldman, is always knitting hats for others and never keeps any for herself, so Sophie sets out to knit her a hat all by herself in this charming story that will delight anyone who has ever tried to make something special for a friend.


Christmas Is Here by Lauren Castillo

This warm and artful story follows a young family as they walk through a live nativity and imagine the story for themselves. Lauren Castillo’s ink and watercolor illustrations are fresh, simple and accessible, making this a wonderful introduction to the nativity narrative.


The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen

This jolly tale delivers a sleighful of Christmas charm as little Ollie goes for a ride on the back of a reindeer through a sky full of stars. Nicola Killen’s illustrations feature fun cutouts that give readers a peek of what’s on the next page.


All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

Based on Sydney Taylor’s classic tales of Jewish life on the Lower East Side, this heartfelt family story features illustrations by Caldecott-winning illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky and brims with old-fashioned warmth.


The Story of Holly & Ivy by Rumer Godden, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

A few years ago, The Atlantic published an article about illustrator Barbara Cooney, and I think it was shared with me by close to 10 people. “Have you seen this?” they’d say, or, “I just read the most interesting thing about a picture book illustrator.” To all of them I wanted to say, “Welcome to the Barbara Cooney Fan Club. I’m Steph, and I’ll be your membership liason.” During her long career, Cooney won two Caldecott Medals (for Chanticleer and the Fox and Ox-Cart Man) and a National Book Award (for Miss Rumphius), and her deceptively simple and painterly illustrations have been among my favorites since my elementary school librarian, Mrs. Arnold, read Ox-Cart Man to my kindergarten class during storytime. The Story of Holly and Ivy is too long to read aloud in one sitting, so you’ll want to spread it out over a couple of nights, depending on attention spans and your own vocal endurance. Don’t blame me, though, if you don’t want to stop reading this classic story of unforeseen gifts once you start.

Start a new tradition with suggestions for picture books to read aloud with your family during the holiday season.

I love anticipating things. I am, generally speaking, a person who likes having things to look forward to in life—always have been. As a kid, when the homeroom teacher would pass out our homework planners on the first day of school, I loved going home and writing in all the holidays and school closures; once May rolled around, I’d also usually add a little countdown to the last day of school. As an adult, I like to add the premiere dates of streaming shows and opening dates of movies, dates that friends or family will be coming to visit, and, of course, lists of books I want to read, along with their publication dates. I’ve kept “want to read” lists going back to high school, when they featured mostly poetry and Anne Rice novels.

Why the enthusiasm? It’s simple really: A book I haven’t read is a book I might love. Sure, we’ve all experienced the bittersweet feeling of looking forward to a book, only to have the experience of actually reading it be a letdown in some way. But we’ve also—I hope—all experienced an anticipated book that’s even better than we could have imagined, a book we finish and immediately want to read again, a book we know we’ll make all our friends read so we can all breathlessly and ineloquently exclaim about how much we love it and how brilliant it is. Any book I haven’t read holds that possibility within its pages, and like pie and puppies, I just can’t get enough. I've limited myself to 25 titles here, but don’t miss my lists of 2020’s YA debuts and sequels/series titles too!

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera
HarperTeen | January 14

I have a couple of pretty individual reader quirks, some likes and dislikes that over the years I’ve come to acknowledge as both highly personal and deeply irrational. I love a fantasy book with a map. I’m not a fan of picture books in which all of the text is nothing but speech bubbles. I rarely mind, in a mystery, if I figure out the solution before the characters do. And I’m always interested when a writer shakes things up: when a poet writes a novel, when a mystery writer turns to history, when a YA novelist starts a series of chapter books, when a sci-fi novelist writes a rom-com, and so on.

So when Adam Silvera’s first fantasy novel, Infinity Son, was announced, I was doubly interested: First, because here was the author of one of my favorite contemporary realistic-ish YA books of the past decade (2015’s More Happy Than Not) trying fantasy on for size, and second, because anyone who’s read his books or follows Silvera on social media knows he’s a huge fantasy nerd. Following twin brothers in an alternate New York City populated with magical creatures, Infinity Son kicks off a planned series I’m looking forward to getting lost in.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
Feiwel & Friends | January 14

Anna-Marie McLemore gets better with every book, and with Dark and Deepest Red, adds something new: historical fiction elements. Honestly, though, McLemore’s prose is so incredible I would read a car repair manual or a book about inorganic chemistry with their name on the cover. Happily for me, Dark and Deepest Red is neither of those things; instead, it’s a queer, feminist reimagining of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, “The Red Shoes.” I look forward to pausing every few sentences, looking up from its pages and sighing wistfully at its beauty and insight.

Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles
HarperTeen | January 21

Remember what I said about being interested when writers shake things up? Not So Pure and Simple is critically acclaimed mystery writer Lamar Giles’ first dive into a non-mystery narrative—and, even more enticingly, into an exploration of toxic masculinity, teen sexuality and purity culture via a male protagonist. “What does it mean to be a ‘real man?’” asks the description on the back of my advance copy. I’m excited to discover how Giles will answer this question.

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed
Balzer + Bray | February 4

I’m calling it right now: 2020 is going to be the year of the YA rom-com, and I am here. For. It. First on my list is this team-up between Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’s Becky Albertalli and Written in the Stars author Aisha Saeed. Albertalli proved herself a deft collaborator with 2018’s What If It’s Us? (a joint effort with Infinity Son’s Adam Silvera), so I’m looking forward to seeing where she and Saeed take their story. Also, the premise—two teens fall in love while canvassing in a local election—seems like such a perfect note on which to open the 2020 election year.

The Blossom and the Firefly by Sherri L. Smith
Putnam | February 18

I love historical fiction, whether it takes place during a time and in a place I think I know or in a setting totally new to me. I love discovering the past through fiction, and I love fiction that challenges my understanding of history. Sherri L. Smith’s The Blossom and the Firefly, the story of two teens in 1945, Japan, promises to do a bit of both. Smith demonstrated her historical fiction prowess with 2009’s Flygirl, but has spent the years since writing in other genres. I’m looking forward to seeing her return to the past.

Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold
Balzer + Bray | February 25

That sound you heard one Thursday afternoon in October was me opening the envelope that contained an advance copy of Printz Honor author Elana K. Arnold’s Red Hood, a feminist reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood, and screaming with excitement. Arnold’s Printz Honor book, Damsel, was one of my favorite books of 2018, and coming after 2017’s National Book Award finalist, What Girls Are Made Of, cemented her place on my personal list of Authors Whose Writing Is So Good I Would Read Their Grocery Lists. Arnold writes with vision and viscera about the complicated experience of girlhood, and I’m so hungry to gobble up her latest.

Wicked as You Wish by Rin Chupeco
Sourcebooks Fire | March 3

Although I love what you might call urban or alternate fantasy—that is, fantasy that imposes magical elements onto our world—I’m also often left unsatisfied by it, because I want more than the author is willing or able to provide by way of world building. I want a magical story that also explores the question, “How would the world we know be transformed by introducing this magical element into it?” Holly Black’s Curse Workers trilogy does this masterfully, for example, while Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On achieves it with both wit and whimsy. Rin Chupeco’s Wicked as You Wish, which features exiles from a magical kingdom hiding out in a dead-end town in Arizona where their magic doesn’t work, has my hopes up. In addition to that enticing premise, it also has witty chapter titles such as, “In which fighting ogres is a popular team-building activity” and “In which there is a very good reason why someone’s head is on fire.”

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Putnam | March 3

Two years ago, when I was the director of the children’s department at Parnassus Books, we were invited to host blockbuster YA author Marie Lu on a book tour to promote her latest book. In a lovely twist of fate, Lu was interviewed onstage by Cat Acree, who’s now my colleague here at BookPage. Cat ended their interview by asking if Lu wanted to share anything about what she was currently writing, and Lu explained that she was working on something that was a bit of a departure for her. It was a book about Mozart’s older sister, Nannerl, who, as they travelled all over Austria, used to make up stories about a magical kingdom to pass the time. Lu explained that the jumping-off point for her book was, “What if that magical kingdom was real?” A shiver went down my spine when she said it; I still remember the feeling of the hairs on my arms standing up, despite the packed bookstore’s uncomfortable warmth. I’ve wanted to read the book ever since.

The June Boys by Court Stevens
Thomas Nelson | March 3

Here’s another author switcheroo: Critically acclaimed contemporary realistic fiction author Court(ney) Stevens pens her first mystery with The June Boys, the story of a girl who begins to suspect her father may be the serial kidnapper known as the Gemini Thief. Stevens has a knack for telling tough stories grounded in emotional realism, so I’m eager to see her bring those gifts to bear on a high-stakes thriller.

The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron
Scholastic | March 3

And here’s yet another: Sharon Cameron has made her name writing genre fiction, from her steampunk debut to Rook, her sci-fi homage to The Scarlet Pimpernel, to The Knowing and The Forgetting, her terrifyingly thought-provoking duology. In The Light in Hidden Places, she turns to historical fiction to tell the story of Stefania Podgorska, a real Polish teenager who was hiding thirteen Jewish people in the attic of her house when it was requisitioned by the Nazi army. Cameron first encountered Podgorska’s story in the early 1990s via an oral history interview on her local PBS station, but has waited until this moment in her career to write it. Having watched as Cameron tackled increasingly ambitious and weighty themes with skill that grew from book to book, I’m looking forward to seeing what she does here.

The Fire Never Goes Out by Noelle Stevenson
March 3 | HarperTeen

Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona established her as one of the brightest comics artists of her generation. She returns with this “memoir in pictures” that will cover the past decade of her creative and personal life. I love a good creative memoir, and Stevenson’s voice and perspective are so singular, this one seems bound to be excellent.

Mermaid Moon by Susann Cokal
Candlewick | March 3

I love YA books that push against the boundaries of what we think YA, as a publishing category, can contain. Susann Cokal’s last book, 2013’s Printz Honor recipient The Kingdom of Little Wounds, was one such book. On Cokal’s website, she reveals that when she writing that book and people would ask what she was working on, she would tell them, “A fairy tale about syphilis.” It was ambitious, sprawling, meticulously researched, insightful, unapologetically feminist and one of the best YA books of the decade. Cokal returns at long last with Mermaid Moon, the tale of a “half seavish” mermaid girl who comes ashore in search of her mother and the secret of her identity.

Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Simon Pulse | March 10

Do you love quietly moving contemporary realistic stories, written in gorgeous prose, that slowly and slyly reconstruct your heart when you’re not looking? I sure do, and that’s why I loved both of Akemi Dawn Bowman’s first two books, 2017’s Morris Award finalist Starfish and 2018’s Summer Bird Blue. Her latest promises to be just as emotionally devastating but—I may have shrieked a little with excitement when I first read this in the catalog—set against the backdrop of the world of circuses and trapeze artistry.

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
First Second | March 17

Gene Luen Yang is literally a genius. No, seriously, in 2016 he became one of only three graphic novelists to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, often referred to as a “Genius Grant.” His YA graphic novels are among the most extraordinary examples of what graphic novels, as a storytelling form, can do, and YA readers have had a long time to wait since 2013’s mind-blowingly brilliant Boxers/Saints duology. But the wait is finally over, and Dragon Hoops, a sports memoir from a writer who, on the book’s first page, confesses he’s “just not a sports kind of guy,” looks like it will more than reward our patience.

Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry
Algonquin | March 24

Samantha Mabry’s sophomore novel, 2017’s All the Wind in the World, was like nothing else I read that year, and I couldn’t put it down. I read it in one delirious sitting and spent weeks afterward reeling from its heady blend of magical realism, neo-Western environmental dystopia and emotional ruthlessness. Mabry’s newest, the stunningly and enigmatically titled Tigers, Not Daughters, features one of 2020’s most striking covers. Its marketing copy speaks of three sisters haunted, figuratively and perhaps also literally, by the loss of their oldest sister, and of a story that is “one part family drama, one part ghost story and one part love story.” I am—all parts—on board for wherever Mabry’s storytelling muse wants to take me next.

We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian
Simon & Schuster | March 31

I was late to the Siobhan Vivian party. I missed her critically acclaimed contemporary realistic books of the late ‘00s and early ‘10s, including 2010’s Not That Kind of Girl, 2012’s The List, and her Burn for Burn trilogy co-authored with friend and fellow New School MFA grad Jenny Han (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before). My first Siobhan Vivian book was 2016’s The Last Boy and Girl in the World. As I read, I was struck by the depth of Vivian’s storytelling, but even moreso by her commitment to her truly complex and fully human characters. Her latest, We Are the Wildcats, appears to be an ambitious leap forward: It features six different perspectives (all members of a varsity field hockey squad) and unspools over the course of just 24 hours.

The Dark Matter of Mona Starr by Laura Lee Gulledge
Amulet | April 7

If you love graphic novels and you haven’t read Laura Lee Gulledge’s first two books, 2011’s Page by Paige and 2013’s Will & Whit, you should fix that, like, right now. Go ahead. Go find your library card and use your local library’s website to put them on hold for yourself. I’ll wait. Yes, I'm serious. All set? Okay. Gulledge’s graphic novels feel like they expand the walls of my heart in the absolute best—if sometimes a little painful—way every time I read them, and The Dark Matter of Mona Starr is set to be her triumphant return to shelves. The story of a teen girl living with depression and finding solace in creativity, therapy and friendship, it may tread similar themes as Gulledge’s previous work, but in the hands of a writer and artist as talented as Gulledge, I have no doubt it will feel like a revelation.

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed
SohoTeen | April 7

A small part of me is still sitting on my living room sofa, reeling from the experience of reading Samira Ahmed’s debut novel, Love, Hate & Other Filters, realizing that in the first month of 2018, I’ve just read one of the best books I’ll read all year. Any new offering from Ahmed is to be highly anticipated, but in Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, Ahmed adds historical fiction to her bag of tricks to tell the intertwined stories of two girls living 200 years apart in Paris, France. To say that I’m highly anticipating it is the understatement of the year.

Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova
Disney-Hyperion | April 28

I’m going to be totally honest right now: I looked at the cover of this book, saw the author’s name, flipped it over, saw that the back cover description began with, “Set in a lushly drawn world inspired by Inquisition Spain,” thought, “Yep,” and stopped reading. Tom Cruise had Renee Zellwegger at hello, and Incendiary had me at Brooklyn Brujas author Zoraida Cordova writing a fantasy world inspired by Inquisition Spain. Sometimes, I’m just not that hard to please.

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
Candlewick | May 5

Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s debut picture book, Also an Octopus, was one of the most endearingly oddball and charming picture books of 2016, so when I found out she had written a YA novel, I was intrigued, and when I found out her YA novel featured a girl disguised as a boy (one of my favorite tropes, thanks to Tamora Pierce imprinting on me at a young and impressionable age), pirates and the titular mermaid and witch, I was—please forgive me for this pun, I’ve tried and I just can’t resist its siren song—all aboard.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
HarperTeen | May 5

Sound the alarm, ring the bells, cancel all your plans: Elizabeth Acevedo has a new novel coming this year. I repeat, Elizabeth Acevedo has a new novel coming this year. This is not a drill, people! Do I have your attention now? Excellent. In Clap When You Land, multi-award-winning Acevedo returns to the novel-in-verse form that garnered her debut, The Poet X, so much acclaim. Here, Acevedo will trace the stories of two half-sisters, one who lives in the Dominican Republic, one who lives in New York City, who are brought together by their father’s untimely death in a plane crash.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
Flatiron | May 12

Melissa Bashardoust’s first novel, Girls Made of Snow and Glass, was one of the sharpest and most self-assured debut novels I read in 2017, so I am thrilled to see her return with Girl, Serpent, Thorn, the story of a princess under a curse that makes her touch poisonous. I’m not usually one for judging books by their covers, but I must confess I find Sasha Vinogradova’s jacket design to be both enticing and unsettling in a way that only deepens my intrigue about what it could mean every time I look at it. Here’s to finding out in May!

House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess
Random House | May 12

Every now and then, all I really want is an ambitious, sprawling fantasy novel long enough that when I’m done reading it, I could use it as a doorstop. It’s the Narnia impulse: Sometimes when you go through the back of the wardrobe, you don’t want to return, and if the book is long enough, you don’t have to. I found Jessica Cluess’ first trilogy (beginning with 2016’s A Shadow Bright and Burning) to be quietly wonderful, full of satisfying world building and deft prose and anchored in a heroine I rooted for almost immediately. Consequently, I’d be looking forward to her next book regardless, but the advance copy of House of Dragons sitting on my desk clocks in at just over 500 pages, so if anyone needs me, I’ll be in the coat closet.

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein
Disney-Hyperion | May 26

Any list of the best YA books of the last decade would be incomplete without Elizabeth Wein’s 2012 Printz Honor novel, Code Name Verity, which contains one of the most perfect sentences ever written in a YA novel: “It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.” Wein returns to the World War II time period for The Enigma Game, which will explore code breaking and the Enigma machine and will feature new characters as well as a few familiar faces. Rarely do I look forward to the heady mix of literary mastery and almost certain emotional devastation as much as I do when settling down with a new book from Elizabeth Wein. Cheers!

The Mall by Megan McCafferty
Wednesday | June 9

The thing about growing up in New Jersey is that you know everyone in the country feels a certain way about your home state, and that way is Not Positive. I was a sophomore in high school when I picked up Megan McCafferty’s debut novel, Sloppy Firsts, off the shelf at the little used bookstore on the other side of the Shop Rite from Scarborough Video, where I was working my first job as a clerk. I loved it from the first page, in a way I think you can maybe only love something when you are 15 and discovering for the first time what loving a book can feel like. A big part of what I loved was how well McCafferty understood and captured the experience of being a teenager in a place the rest of the country called “the armpit.” McCafferty returns to both YA and to New Jersey with The Mall, which will, according to her publisher’s description, take place entirely within a fictional New Jersey mall in 1991. I haven’t lived in New Jersey for more than a decade now, but I can’t wait for The Mall to take me back.

The 25 YA books we're looking forward to reading in 2020.

In the spring of 2014, I attended a book tour event in which Ann Patchett interviewed her friend and fellow critically acclaimed writer Elizabeth McCracken. (If Ann Patchett ever tires of writing books and championing independent bookstores, I would be the first person to subscribe to her longform interview podcast, by the way. She’s a brilliant interviewer, warm and witty and full of insight.) I don’t recall the question posed by the audience member, but I’ll never forget part of McCracken’s response.

She said that a writer spends their entire life writing their first book, and unless they take an exceptionally long time to write their second, they’ll never have that much time to spend on a single manuscript ever again. It’s that build-up, that special kind of anticipation, that lends debut novels their unique shine. A debut novel is truly something new, from a voice we’ve never heard before, a gift someone has spent years crafting just for us. Here are 15 YA debuts I can’t wait to unwrap in 2020.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Wednesday | January 21

When I worked at Mike’s Movies, the last independent video store in downtown Boston, my favorite movie to play on the big wall of TV screens on a Saturday morning was You’ve Got Mail. It has a great soundtrack (important for when you can’t really watch the movie because you’re helping customers), wonderful dialogue (not to mention Tom Hanks’ Godfather impersonations) and features one of the best (if extremely rose-tinted) representations of working retail ever committed to film. So when I came across Emma Lord’s Tweet Cute and realized it was a YA homage to You’ve Got Mail (which, yes, sticklers, I know is itself a remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 The Shop Around the Corner; I worked in a video store, remember?), I promptly added it to my TBR.

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace
Imprint | February 4

It’s been hard to miss the buzz around All the Stars and Teeth. From its jaw-dropping cover to its endorsements from some of the biggest names in YA fantasy, Adalyn Grace’s swashbuckling debut novel has been everywhere. Promising a flawed but ambitious heroine, dark magic, mysterious pirates and a unique seafaring setting, only time will tell if All the Stars and Teeth will become one of the biggest books of the year—but if the buzz surrounding it gets any louder, it’ll be deafening.

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
Bloomsbury | February 4

Okay, full disclosure: I’ve already read this one, and I think it’s one of the best books I’m going to read all year, and I’m putting it on this list because I want you to anticipate it and I hope that you’ll agree with my opinion when you read it. Phil Stamper’s The Gravity of Us is everything I want from a contemporary realistic YA novel. Stamper tells a complex, unpredictable story with a unique hook (Cal’s dad gets picked to join the first manned mission to Mars, but the astronauts and their families have to agree to be part of a reality show that NASA relies on to garner public support and funding for the mission); populates the book with a cast of characters all as nuanced and flawed as the protagonist; adds a romance that feels emotionally grounded but also totally swoon-worthy; and tells the whole thing through an authentic and memorable first-person narrative voice. It was quietly, un-ostentatiously wonderful, and I catch myself smiling every time I think about it.

Can’t get enough YA? Check out our lists of the most anticipated YA releases of 2020, as well as our guide to all the YA sequels and series titles coming in 2020.

If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley
Katherine Tegen | March 3

I love a good metaphor-made-literal. See: Rory Power’s Wilder Girls, which takes the concept of the physical changes we all undergo during adolescence to terrifying new extremes. See also: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the central conceit of which is, “What if high school were actually hell?” Promising to take a similar approach, Kyrie McCauley’s If These Wings Could Fly tells the story of a girl dealing with domestic violence while her small Pennsylvania town is invaded by thousands of crows.

Witches of Ash & Ruin by E. Latimer
Freeform | March 3

From “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” to Lily Anderson’s Undead Girl Gang to Amy Rose Capetta’s The Lost Coast, not to mention younger millennials and Gen Z’s rediscovery of Hocus Pocus, it’s safe to say that witches are back—if they ever really went anywhere. E. Latimer’s Witches of Ash & Ruin is an enticing new addition to the YA witch canon with an Irish setting, magic informed by Celtic mythology and a cover that’s giving me distinctly 1980s-era Stephen King vibes.

Anna K by Jenny Lee
Flatiron | March 3

Since it launched in the spring of 2016 with Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl, Flatiron has quickly made a name for itself by publishing some of the best and most boundary-pushing YA around, from fantasy blockbusters including Caraval and The Hazel Wood to achingly authentic contemporary novels like Aftercare Instructions and I’m Not Missing, all shepherded to shelves under the steady and savvy hand of editor Sarah Barley. With Jenny Lee’s Anna K, Flatiron is trying something new: A sprawling, dishy YA retelling of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, set in the glittering world of Manhattan’s wealthy elite. I’ve gotten an early peek at this one, and I have to tell you: What I read was utterly delicious.

Elysium Girls by Kate Pentecost
Disney-Hyperion | April 14

The reason we like genre, the prevailing wisdom goes, is that what we actually want from a story is predictability. We like—we even crave—formula and stability from our narratives, and genre conventions provide this. That’s all well and good, but sometimes what I actually want is something like Elysium Girls. Is it a Western? There’s a horse on the cover, but it’s made of metal, so is it science fiction, maybe steampunk? Possibly, but the description on the back of my advance copy mentions goddesses and magic (fantasy?), Oklahoma and the Dust Bowl (Western again? maybe dystopia?). Regardless of genre, I’m fascinated by an author who would combine all of these seemingly disparate elements in one book, and eager to discover how they all come together.

The Silence of Bones by June Hur
Feiwel & Friends | April 21

I love historical fiction that makes me rethink moments in history I think I know well—World War II, for example—but I also love historical fiction set in times and places about which I know very little that leaves me hungry to learn even more. Ruta Sepetys’s most recent book, The Fountains of Silence, set during the reign of Franco in Spain, was a book like this, and June Hur’s The Silence of Bones promises to be another. Set in Korea in 1800, it’s the story of a teen girl who’s been indentured to the police department, who gets caught up in the investigation into the murder of a noblewoman when the inspector she assists is accused of having committed the crime. Historical fiction and a twisty mystery? Sign me up.

Don’t Call the Wolf by Aleksandra Ross
HarperTeen | April 28

Do you ever think about what books you would read again for the first time if you could wipe them from your memory, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-style? High on my list would be Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, a book I inhaled four years ago on the beach and have spent years hoping other books might live up to. Hope springs eternal, and Aleksandra Ross’s Eastern European-inspired Don’t Call the Wolf (the title comes from the Polish expression, “don’t call the wolf out of the woods”—a version of the English “let sleeping dogs lie”) looks promising. It’s the story of a shapeshifting forest queen who teams up with a washed-up dragon slayer to save her kingdom from an evil horde, and a number of early reviews have commented on Ross’ exquisite prose.

The Life and Medieval Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton
Page Street | May 5

A heroine who works at a Medieval Times-esque themed restaurant in which only men are allowed to be knights (and of course knights are paid more), so she swaps roles with her brother, hides her gender, performs in the show, reveals herself at the end of the show, goes unanticipatedly viral and Trouble Ensues? This is everything I didn’t know I wanted from a contemporary YA novel in 2020, full stop.

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
Page Street | May 12

Two girls enter an entrepreneurship contest; both start henna businesses and the competition is fierce—until the sparks between them turn to romance. Adiba Jaigirdar’s The Henna Wars was apparently pitched as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets When Dimple Met Rishi, and tells its story through the intersectional lens of a lesbian Muslim protagonist. Is it May yet?

I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch
Imprint | May 26

Rhodes and Iliana are competing against each other for a scholarship at their exclusive prep school, unaware that online, they’re collaborators on a popular fan fiction graphic novel—and they’re beginning to fall for each other. You’ve Got Mail meets Fangirl? Yes, a thousand times, yes.

Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith
HarperTeen | May 26

Confession: I’ve never read The Outsiders or seen the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film adaptation. But even I know that the phrase “stay gold” is an allusion to the book widely considered to be among the earliest and most influential YA novels ever written. Titling your YA novel Stay Gold is akin to titling your comedy of manners A Truth Universally Acknowledged or your picture book The Wild Rumpus: It’s making a very big promise to the reader on which your book needs to deliver to succeed. I, for one, admire that kind of nerve, and look forward to discovering whether Stay Gold measures up.

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles
Wednesday | June 2

You need to know three things in order to understand why Where Dreams Descend appears on this list. First, you need to know that it was pitched to publishing editors as The Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge. Second, you need to know that I know every single word of every single song in both of those musicals. Third, you need to know that I am not even a little bit sorry about the space that knowledge takes up in my brain, space that perhaps might be more usefully occupied with knowledge of, say, how to parallel park, how to make a roux without burning it or where I put my keys (the phantom of the opera is, indeed, there inside my mind). If you, like me, enjoy singing along with silly love songs and the music of the night regardless of actual musical ability, Janella Angeles’ Where Dreams Descend looks like it’s going to be exactly our kind of book.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
Tor Teen | June 2

Sirens might be my favorite underutilized mythological entity in YA, but Bethany C. Morrow’s A Song Below Water looks like it’s going make big strides in remedying that. Set in an alternate Portland, Oregon, where sirens are real, the book’s heroine is a siren who struggles to keep her identity a secret amid rising tensions between sirens and humans following a high-profile siren murder trial. I can’t wait to dive in (pun intended).

In the spring of 2014, I attended a book tour event in which Ann Patchett interviewed her friend and fellow critically acclaimed writer Elizabeth McCracken. (If Ann Patchett ever tires of writing books and championing independent bookstores, I would be the first person to subscribe to her longform interview podcast, by the way. She’s a […]

There is no happiness quite like going to the bookstore or library and picking up the sequel to a book you love. Your favorite YA stories continue in these 20 YA books hitting the shelves in 2020, so use this guide to mark your calendar!

All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor
Viking | January 7

There are not enough adjectives to convey the full magnitude of the conclusion of Mildred D. Taylor’s Logan family saga, but here are a few: Groundbreaking, award-winning, bestselling, decades in the making. Taylor began chronicling the Logan family’s story 45 years ago; 10 books later, the story comes to an end with All the Days Past, All the Days to Come, which will follow heroine Cassie Logan all the way up to the 21st century.

Shadowshaper Legacy by Daniel José Older
Arthur A. Levine | January 7

Sierra’s adventures conclude in the final book of Daniel José Older’s gripping Shadowshaper Cypher trilogy.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
Bloomsbury | January 7

Brigid Kemmerer’s Beauty and the Beast-inspired A Curse So Dark and Lonely was one of the most deliciously romantic fantasy novels of 2019. She returns to the world of Emberfall in the sequel, A Heart So Fierce and Broken.

The Night Country by Melissa Albert
Flatiron | January 7

Readers have been eager to return to the dark and magical world of The Hazel Wood, and The Night Country will reveal the next chapter in the lives of Alice Proserpine and Ellery Finch.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: The most anticipated YA books of 2020.

The Map From Here to There by Emery Lord
Bloomsbury | January 7

It’s been a wait of four long years for this sequel to Emery Lord’s quietly wonderful The Start of Me and You. Lord is one of the best chroniclers of contemporary teen life writing today, so I have no doubt this book will be more than worth the wait.

One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus
Delacorte | January 7

Karen M. McManus returns to the scene of the crime with this follow-up to her page-turning bestselling thriller, One of Us Is Lying.

The Conference of the Birds by Ransom Riggs
Dutton | January 14

Ransom Riggs continues his bestselling Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series with this fifth title, which will continue to explore the story of Jacob Portman and the world of the peculiars in America.

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson
Katherine Tegen | January 21

Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious trilogy comes to its page-turning finale with The Hand on the Wall. You’ll laugh. You’ll gasp. But will you solve the mystery before Stevie? There’s only one way to find out!

The Storm of Life by Amy Rose Capetta
Viking | January 28

This sequel to The Brilliant Death returns readers to the kingdom of Vinalia, inspired by medieval Italy, and the adventures of Teo and Cielo as they attempt to take down the cruel and cunning Capo.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: The most anticipated YA debuts of 2020.

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland
Balzer + Bray | February 4

Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation featured one of the most irresistible premises of 2018: What if, after the Battle of Gettysburg, the dead didn’t stay dead? Jane and Katherine’s struggle to survive in their brave new world continues in this sequel.

The King of Crows by Libba Bray
Little, Brown | February 4

It’s been eight long years since Printz Medalist Libba Bray published The Diviners, which to this day is the only book that’s ever creeped me out so much that I couldn’t read it after dark. She brings the four-book series to a thrilling and epic conclusion with The King of Crows, in which the future of the world itself may be at stake.

We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Katherine Tegen | February 25

Tehlor Kay Mejia’s We Set the Dark on Fire was one of 2019’s most gripping and accomplished debut novels, so Mejia has set a high bar for this sequel. I have every confidence she’ll soar over it.

Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
Margaret K. McElderry | March 3

Blockbuster author Cassandra Clare welcomes her legions of readers back to the world of Shadowhunters with Chain of Gold, the first book in a brand-new series called The Last Hours.

Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan
Wednesday | April 7

I’m sure that I’ve encountered cliffhanger endings as brutal as the one in Emily A. Duncan’s debut novel, Wicked Saints, but none are coming to mind right now. I’m on the edge of my seat to find out what will happen to Nadya, Serefin and Malachiasz in this sequel—and hoping Duncan doesn’t leave me hanging again until the third and final book in the trilogy.

The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman
Disney-Hyperion | April 21

Fans of spooky supernatural tales ate up Christine Lynn Herman’s 2019 debut, The Devouring Gray. Herman returns to the small town of Four Paths with this sequel.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic | May 19

It’s hard not to overstate the impact that Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy had on YA and popular culture writ large. A decade after concluding the story of Katniss Everdeen, Collins will return readers to the world of Panem on the morning of the reaping ceremony for the 10th Hunger Games. Collins’ publisher, Scholastic, is keeping further details about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes tightly under wraps, but it seems fair to say that it’s sure to be one of the most discussed books of the year.

Igniting Darkness by Robin LaFevers
HMH | June 2

Raise your hand if you enjoy any of the following in a book: little-known periods of history, kick-butt assassins filled with righteous vengeance, heart-stopping romances (sometimes literally), complicated imperfect girls who look out for each other. If you raised your hand and you haven’t read Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin trilogy and its companion duology, Courting Darkness, boy do you ever have a treat waiting for you! Catch up on your reading to get ready for Igniting Darkness before it is published in June.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon
Simon Pulse | June 30

We are living in a new golden age of YA romantic comedies, and When Dimple Met Rishi author Sandhya Menon is among its very best voices. Menon returns to Dimple and Rishi’s group of friends for 10 Things I Hate About Pinky, which employs one of my favorite rom-com tropes ever: fake dating.

The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks by Mackenzi Lee
Katherine Tegen | August 18

Mackenzi Lee revisits the Montague family, whose elder siblings’ stories she chronicled in A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, for this third but hopefully not final volume, which will follow Monty and Felicity’s younger brother, Adrian.

Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Greenwillow | October 6

In my experience, there are two kinds of YA fantasy readers: those who have not read Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series, which began with 1996’s Newbery Honor book The Thief and continued in five more glorious volumes, and those who firmly assert that they’re among the best fantasy novels ever written. I’m in the latter group, which is why the thought that Return of the Thief will bring the story of Eugenides to a close fills me with a bittersweet longing comparable to the way I felt the night before the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or the release of the final episode of “Game of Thrones.” I’m desperate to know how the story will end, but also desperate for it to not be over.

The 20 YA sequels and series entries we're looking forward to reading in 2020.

A new year means 365 new days to spend reading—and in 2020, we even get an extra day because it’s a Leap Year! We could read a new book every day and still not read all of the wonderful books for young readers that will be published this year, but we’ve managed to narrow down this list to the 20 titles we’re the most excited for.

The Old Truck by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey
Norton | January 7

W.W. Norton launched its first books for young readers just last year, entering the arena with thoughtful offerings such as Rex Ogle’s Free Lunch and a picture book from No, David! author/illustrator David Shannon. Now they’re starting 2020 with a bold, distinctive debut picture book from the sibling duo of Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey. I have to say, if The Old Truck is a herald of what awaits picture book readers this year, it’s going to be a very good year indeed.

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
Crown | January 7

Blockbuster YA author Nic Stone (Dear Martin, Jackpot) makes her pitch-perfect middle grade debut with Clean Getaway, and it’s a road trip story! Eleven-year-old Scoob and his grandmother travel through the South in G’ma’s new RV and uncover lost pieces of the past.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by Oge Mora
Schwartz & Wade | January 7

The pairing of critically acclaimed children’s biographer Rita Lorraine Hubbard (Hammering for Freedom) and Caldecott Honor illustrator Oge Mora (Thank You, Omu! and Saturday) is a match made in picture book heaven, and the resulting book is simply divine. As imagined by Hubbard, the life of Mary Walker—born into slavery and lived through more than 20 presidencies—is a testament to the human spirit and the power of the written word.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
Katherine Tegen | January 14

A family story wrapped up in a mystery, Janae Marks’ first book kicks off a year that promises to be full of great debuts. Zoe Washington’s dad has been incarcerated for her whole life, but on her 12th birthday, she receives a letter from him in which he asserts his innocence—and asks her to help prove it.

Story Boat by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh
Tundra | February 4

There’s a kind of picture book where the text reads a bit like a poem, and the illustrations create a new narrative that’s more than just a literal interpretation of the words on the page. I love books like this, because they remind me of the tremendous potential of the picture book as an artistic form. Kyo Maclear’s gorgeous, meditative text, paired with Rashin Kheiriyeh’s deceptively simple illustrations does exactly this in The Story Boat, and the result is not to be missed.

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callendar
Scholastic | February 4

Kacen Callendar’s 2018 debut novel, Hurricane Child, was one of the most exquisitely crafted middle grade novels I’ve ever read. Sensitive, lyrical and fearless in its exploration of emotional authenticity, it left me eager for Callendar’s next book. King and the Dragonflies will tell the story of 12-year-old Kingston, who is convinced that his brother, Khalid, isn’t dead but has instead turned into a dragonfly.

Chirp by Kate Messner
Bloomsbury | February 4

At this point, I’ve lost count of the number of bookseller and librarian friends who’ve told me I cannot miss Kate Messner’s latest middle grade novel, Chirp. The story of 12-year-old Mia, who’s trying to help save her grandmother’s cricket farm while grappling with the aftermath of a secret she’d rather forget, Chirp is a timely and nuanced depiction of a girl finding her voice over the course of one life-changing summer.

Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker
Balzer + Bray | February 4

I’m not often left speechless by a book, but four years after reading it, I still find articulating my love for Sara Pennypacker’s Pax difficult. Regardless, I’ve been eagerly waiting to see what Pennypacker would write next, and with the February publication of Here in the Real World, my wait is finally over. The book follows two misfits who find friendship in an abandoned lot and then must fight to save it.

The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee, illustrated by Pascal Campion
Random House | February 18

A little boy joins his parents at their job as the night janitors in an empty office building, and their imagination transforms the mundane into a magnificent and magical adventure. Thanks to debut author Helene Ku Rhee’s masterful characterizations, brought to life by illustrator Pascal Campion, The Paper Kingdom shines with the power of creativity—but also with the love shared between parents and their child.

A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner
FSG | February 25

I love novels that interweave the past and the present, and Phil Bildner’s latest looks downright excellent. Sixth grader Silas is doing a report on Glenn Burke, who was the first major league baseball player to publicly acknowledge being gay, and is struggling to keep his own truth a secret from his teammates. Bildner’s Rip and Red series has established him as a master of kid-friendly heart and humor, so I’m looking forward to seeing him dive into deeper waters in A High Five for Glenn Burke.

My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Francesca Sanna
Chronicle | February 25

We’re going to see a lot of children’s books addressing global climate change and themes of environmentalism this year, from biographies of figures working to address the issue to encyclopedias of endangered wildlife to guides for young people about steps within their power to enact change. One of the most enticing offerings is My Friend Earth, from Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan and illustrator Francesca Sanna, who has quickly made a name for herself with exquisite and distinctive titles including The Journey and Me and My Fear. A celebration of Earth and all the ways she supports the lives of the plants, animals and people who call her home, My Friend Earth features kid-friendly production elements like die-cuts that are sure to make it a storytime hit.

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Little, Brown | March 3

Jewell Parker Rhodes is one of the most vital voices writing for young readers today, period. She returns to shelves this spring with Black Brother, Black Brother, her first novel since 2018’s devastating masterpiece, Ghost Boys. The book will explore the relationship between two brothers, one who presents as black, the other as white, as they navigate the complex world of a private prep school.

My Best Friend by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Atheneum | March 3

I think most readers have authors (and illustrators, if they’re into picture books or graphic novels) whose name on the spine of a new book is all it takes for them to pick up the book off the shelf at the bookstore or library. In the realm of picture books, Julie Fogliano is one of those writers for me, and has been since her 2012 debut, And Then It’s Spring. She’s been on an absolute roll of late, including 2018’s wistful A House That Once Was and two titles in 2019, If I Was the Sunshine and Just in Case You Want to Fly, that both exemplified the dizzying heights of her abilities. She continues her streak into a new year with the sweet, playful My Best Friend, an ode to the marvel and wonder of a child’s first friendship, with pitch-perfect illustrations by Caldecott Honor illustrator Jillian Tamaki. I’m grinning just thinking about it.

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
Clarion | March 3

The day that the bookstore I worked at hosted Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park for school visits and a public author event in the evening is one of my most treasured memories from the nearly six years I spent there. Listening to her explain her creative process to auditoriums full of middle school students who hung on her every word filled me with such respect for the challenging, invigorating work of writing for children. Park’s latest finds her in a kind of conversation with one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time, Laura Ingalls Wilder, pushing back against the racism in her books and writing characters who Wilder either ignored or misrepresented back into the story of the American frontier. It’s an ambitious project, but in Park’s skillful hands, it soars.

How to Be a Pirate by Isaac Fitzgerald, illustrated by Brigette Barrager
Bloomsbury | March 3

I’ll be honest: I was surprised when I saw that Buzzfeed Books founding editor Isaac Fitzgerald was making his literary debut by writing a picture book. And then my phone started to buzz: Kidlit friends (booksellers, librarians and plain old enthusiasts) all over the country were reaching out to ask, “Have you seen How to Be a Pirate yet? I LOVED IT.” And then my advance copy came in the mail, and suddenly, I understood. Charming, spirited and with a heart even bigger than the giant red heart on its cover, How to Be a Pirate is a picture book kid-me would have begged to read over and over.

Coo by Kaela Noel
Greenwillow | March 3

Here’s a middle grade debut with a premise I find utterly irresistible: A human baby is raised by a flock of pigeons. As she grows up, her flock is threatened, and she must enter the human world in order to save them. Erin Entrada Kelly, the Newbery Medalist who wrote my favorite middle grade novel of 2019 (Lalani of the Distant Sea), wrote in her blurb that Coo “made my spirit soar.” I can’t wait to take flight with this quirky debut novel.

Two Little Trains by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
HarperCollins | March 3

I’m fascinated by picture book re-illustrations for the same reason that I’m fascinated by song covers and movie remakes: I’m always curious to see how distinctive creative personalities will make me see something familiar in a new light. HarperCollins’ recent project of re-illustrating well-known picture books by children’s literature titan Margaret Wise Brown has been fruitful indeed, from Christian Robinson’s take on The Dead Bird to Loren Long’s version of Good Day, Good Night. When I was a youth services librarian, I once built an entire storytime around the Leo and Diane Dillon-illustrated edition of Two Little Trains, so it should come as no surprise that I’m eager to see what Greg Pizzoli brings to the table. Puff puff puff, chug chug chug!

Rick by Alex Gino
Scholastic | April 21

It’s hard to think of a recent debut middle grade novel more groundbreaking or influential than Alex Gino’s George—and hard to believe it’s been half a decade since it was published! At long last, the wait for Gino’s next book comes to an end with the publication of Rick. Middle schooler Rick is struggling to figure out what he believes and who he wants to be, in the face of pressure from family and friends, including his best friend, who Rick has noticed can sometimes be a real jerk. But how do you find your own voice when you can’t hear it over the voices of others?

The Big Book of Blooms by Yuval Zommer
Thames & Hudson | May 5

I’m not quite sure when Yuval Zommer’s illustrations first caught my eye, but I now firmly consider myself a fan. Oversized catalog-style books for young readers are having quite a moment right now, but the combination of Zommer’s exuberant art and the floral focus of The Big Book of Blooms is sure to set this one apart. I look forward to exclaiming, “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” with each turn of the page.

Hello Neighbor! The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers by Matthew Cordell
Neal Porter | May 5

Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell (Wolf in the Snow) turns to nonfiction with a biography of Mister Rogers. The question isn’t, “Will this book make me cry?” but rather, “How hard will this book make me cry?” I’ll make sure to have tissues nearby in May.

The 20 children's books we're looking forward to in 2020.

Bestselling author and Caldecott Honor illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi returns at long last to the magical world of his 2012 novel, Kenny & the Dragon! Kenny & the Book of Beasts is a lushly illustrated sequel, full of wit and charm, that features the fantastical creatures and enchanting landscapes that have become DiTerlizzi’s calling card.

In Kenny & the Book of Beasts, a lot has changed for Kenny Rabbit. He’s got a dozen new sisters, his friends are at different schools and Sir George is off adventuring. It feels like the only thing Kenny can count on is Grahame, his dragon pal—that is, until Dante, the legendary manticore, arrives. Dante is also an old friend of Grahame’s, and they spend a lot of time catching up . . . without Kenny. But there’s a witch to defeat, a friend to rescue and a mysterious book to unlock, and those are quests for best friends, not old friends. Right?

Kenny & the Book of Beasts hits shelves at bookstores and libraries everywhere on September 22, 2020, but you can see the cover reveal and read an exclusive excerpt right now. Just scroll down!

Bestselling author and Caldecott Honor illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi returns at long last to the magical world of his 2012 novel, Kenny & the Dragon! Kenny & the Book of Beasts is a lushly illustrated sequel, full of wit and charm, that features the fantastical creatures and enchanting landscapes that have become DiTerlizzi’s calling card. In […]

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