Stephanie, Associate Editor

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 […]

Banish the I’m-Bored Blues from your house with this smorgasbord of activities drawn directly from the pages of some of BookPage’s favorite picture books!

Every month, experienced teacher and children’s librarian Emmie Stuart offers Tips for Teachers, a column of book recommendations accompanied by guides for classroom teachers. Now that homes have become classrooms, BookPage children’s and YA editor Stephanie Appell has selected the most at-home-friendly suggestions from the Tips for Teachers archive to help parent-teachers organize educational, boredom-busting activities with supplies readily available around the house.

A Ride to Remember
written by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Sharon Langley tells the story of her first ride on a carousel in a park that she and her family helped to desegregate. The Gwynne Oak Amusement Park carousel, renamed the Carousel on the Mall, was installed on Washington’s National Mall in 1981. Using Google Earth, show children the carousel. Ask, “Why is this carousel so important that it is deserves a place along the National Mall?” Guide them to the idea that historical objects are valuable and special because of what they symbolize. The carousel itself is just painted wooden horses, but it serves as a reminder of the our Civil Rights journey. It is a tangible representation of the idea that equality means “nobody first and nobody last, everyone equal, having fun together.” Show children other historical objects that are significant for what they represent. Using the Smithsonian’s online collection, we looked at the Greensboro lunch counter and a broken bus window and discussed what these objects represented in the fight for Civil Rights.

It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
written by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad

Children’s book author-illustrator Gyo Fujikawa faced many challenges. In school, Gyo Fujikawa often felt invisible; when her family was sent to an internment camp, her heart was broken. At first, she was so sad that she could not draw, but eventually she began to take comfort in color. Color lifted her spirit, and she wondered, “Could art comfort and lift others too?” Allow time for children to think and journal about a time when they felt invisible, worried, anxious or sad. Come back together and discuss strategies for working through these hard feelings. Ask another question: “What comforts and lifts you when the world feels gray?” For many children (and adults), expressing feelings through a creative project can be a comforting and healthy way of processing emotions. Provide art supplies and let children get lost in a creative project.

Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist
written by Julie Leung, illustrated by Chris Sasaki

Tyrus Wong immigrated from China as a young boy and grew up to become an artist who worked at Walt Disney Studios. Wong attended art school in Los Angeles and studied artwork from China’s Song dynasty. Combining Western and Eastern styles and influences in his painting allowed him to offer a unique artistic perspective to Bambi. Enlarge a few landscape paintings from the Song Dynasty. Give children time to study them and write down or orally share their observations. Then compare the paintings with stills from Walt Disney’s Bambi, or screen the film together as a family. Invite children to share how they think the Song Dynasty paintings influenced Wong’s work in Bambi.

Hi, I’m Norman: The Story of American Illustrator Norman Rockwell
written by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor

Hi, I’m Norman is a solid introduction to one of America’s most recognized and beloved illustrators. In the book, Rockwell explains, “Doing covers is doubly hard because a cover has to tell the whole story in just one picture.” Give children time to share or journal about a humorous or meaningful small moment from their life. Can they tell this story through a single illustration? After they have had time to experiment, brainstorm and doodle, provide blank white paper or a Saturday Evening Post template and let them illustrate their story.

The Hike
by Alison Farrell

Best friends Wren, El and Hattie hike together and learn that the joy really is in the journey. As author-illustrator Alison Farrell mentioned in this interview, at the heart of her book are some lines from a Mary Oliver poem, “Sometimes.”

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

Write these lines on a big sheet of paper and let children share their interpretations. Ask, “Do you do this?” and “What does Mary Oliver mean when she says, ‘Pay attention?’’ When we did this in the classroom, I showed my students this Norman Rockwell painting and this photograph; the two images prompted a cacophony of indignant and incredulous responses! Give children time to copy the lines (goodness, children still need handwriting and fine motor skills!) onto an index card. Their assignment is to “Pay attention,” “be astonished” and decide how they will “tell about it.” This exercise gave me new insights into each child’s individual personality, not only because of what astonished them but also through the way they chose to tell about it. Song lyrics, watercolor paintings, digital presentations and Lego creations are just a sampling of the ways my students communicated their astonishments.

Tiny, Perfect Things
written by M.H. Clark, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

A young girl and her grandfather walk around their neighborhood and notice the small splendors that surround them. Read the book once through, then read it again and record each of the tiny, perfect things that the little girl noticed on her walk. In the classroom, I wrote each item on an index card and used magnets to stick them on the white board, but you could stick your notes on a refrigerator or bulletin board. Let children determine categories, then divide the items into the appropriate categories. Animals/nature/people was the first (and most obvious) category, but with encouragement, children will expand their thinking. My students recategorized items into living/nonliving, singular/plural, and red/not red; what categories will you create?

My Papi Has a Motorcycle
written by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña

Daisy cherishes her motorcycle rides with Papa. Ask children to reflect on a ritual or tradition they share with a special person. Invite them to write a narrative explaining the tradition. Walk them through a sensory writing exercise and encourage them to address all five senses in their writing. What are the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and textures of their special memory? After they have crafted their narrative, let them use various art supplies to illustrate their memory.

This is My Eye: A New York Story
by Neela Vaswani

Neela Vaswani’s story of a young girl living in New York City is told with photographs “taken” from the girl’s perspective. Write the phrase, “It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see” on a big piece of paper. Give children time to think about the meaning and then read the book again. Go on a walk around your house, and let children use the camera app on your phone (or a camera, if you have one). Their mission is to take 10 photographs while keeping the phrase “it’s what you see” in mind. When you’re finished, give them time to write sentences to go along with their photographs. When you’re able, you can extend this project by asking children to take photographs in the local community.

by Yuyi Morales

When author and illustrator Yuyi Morales and her infant son migrate to the United States, the library becomes like a second home for them. My students loved identifying the familiar picture books that Morales includes in her illustrations. In the back of the book, she includes a list of “Books That Inspired Me (and Still Do).” Gather some books that have influenced your life. Hold each one up and explain why and how it influenced/es your life. Challenge children to make a similar list. Give them a few days to think about their books. My students and I created life timelines, drawing and labeling our books at the specific points when they first influenced us.

Zola’s Elephant
by Randall de Séve, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

A new girl named Zola moves in next door, and the narrator is convinced that inside her big box is an elephant. At the end of the book, one of my nonfiction-loving students inquired, “How big of a box do you need to move a real elephant?” I didn’t have an immediate answer, but I was delighted to discover this article by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. It covers all the fascinating transportation details that were required to move an elephant from the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, D.C., to the Calgary Zoo in Calgary, Alberta. We looked at photographs of the journey and even did a few math equations with the details provided. Afterward, we watched a video of an elephant being transported from a conservatory to a wildlife compound.

Banish the I’m-Bored Blues from your house with this smorgasbord of activities drawn directly from the pages of some of BookPage’s favorite picture books! Every month, experienced teacher and children’s librarian Emmie Stuart offers Tips for Teachers, a column of book recommendations accompanied by guides for classroom teachers. Now that homes have become classrooms, BookPage […]

Young detective Myrtle Hardcastle is on the case once more in Elizabeth C. Bunce’s How to Get Away With Myrtle, the next book about the intrepid sleuth after Premeditated Myrtle, which BookPage called “a book young readers will love and adults may well sneak out of backpacks and off of nightstands for their own enjoyment” in a starred review.

How to Get Away With Myrtle finds Myrtle reluctantly joining her Aunt Helena on a trip to the English seaside, though Myrtle would much rather be at home, where she can keep tabs on More Important Things like local criminals and murder trials. But since she has no say in the matter, Myrtle finds herself shipped off on an admittedly fabulous private train coach, along with her faithful governess and her cat, Peony.

Once on board, Myrtle is excited to discover that one of her fellow passengers is Mrs. Bloom, an insurance investigator tasked with protecting a priceless tiara. But when both Mrs. Bloom and the tiara vanish, and Myrtle discovers a dead body in the baggage car, the trip is quickly derailed. Surrounded by the ineptitude of the local police force and stranded in a backwater carnival town, Myrtle has no choice but to follow the evidence to uncover which of her fellow passengers is a thief and a murderer.

How to Get Away With Myrtle will hit shelves at bookstores and libraries everywhere on Oct. 6, 2020—the same day as Premeditated Myrtle!—but you can see the gorgeous cover, illustrated by Bret Helquist, and read an exclusive excerpt right now. Just scroll down!

Chapter 1: Extradition

“Just as no scientific or military expedition would set off without adequate supplies, equipment, and reconnaissance, the same is no less important for leisure travel.”—Hardcastle’s Practical Travel Companion: A Compendium of Useful Advice & Select Destinations of Note for the Modern Tourist, Vol. I, 1893

“Think of it as an academic exercise.” Miss Judson, my governess, dropped another armload of chemisettes onto the bed. Peony let out a mew of protest and sought refuge in the trunk.

“In what discipline?” I surreptitiously withdrew two petticoats from my luggage, replacing them with the latest edition of English Law Reports and three volumes of my encyclopædia. Taking the whole set seemed excessive, but I could not be sure Fairhaven would have a bookshop or a lending library. The Brochure had not specified.

“Put that middy* back,” Miss Judson said. “Aunt Helena will expect to see you in it. And discipline is exactly right. You and I shall be practicing our Exceptional Forbearance.”

“I thought we were going to frolic on sunny beaches and partake of Family Amusements.” The Brochure had likewise not specified what, precisely, a “Family Amusement” entailed, but I suspected nothing good. “Besides, that dress is ridiculous! I’m not a naval recruit.”

I felt like one, though, press-ganged into a Seaside Holiday by ruthless schemers who were entirely unsympathetic to my objections.

Miss Judson retrieved the garment and folded it anew. “We have been over this. Your aunt wants to take you on holiday—”

“No, she doesn’t.”

Myrtle. You have exhausted your appeals. Accept your sentence gracefully.” As soon as she said that, I could tell she wanted to take the words back.

“My sentence?” I cried. “I am being punished.” I threw down the heap of petticoats.

“Of course you’re not,” said Miss Judson. “Stop getting carried away.”

“What happened this summer wasn’t my fault! Father told me that himself.” Arms crossed, I willed Miss Judson to prove me wrong.

“He meant it. This holiday is to get away from all of that—”

“Father went all the way to Paris to get away from me.”

Miss Judson turned me to face her. “You may not believe this, but your father just wants you to have a good time—”

“I’d have a good time in Paris. With him.”

“—doing something that does not involve murder.”

I glowered at her. “An ordinary holiday. Like an ordinary girl.”

“Exactly. I’m sure you can manage that. Rumor has it you’re clever and resourceful.”

She plucked the Ballingall Excursions brochure from my hands and slipped it into my valise. “Finish packing. We’re going to miss the train. Be downstairs in fifteen minutes, and if that hat is not on your head when you appear, I shall make you sit next to Aunt Helena for the entire trip.”

She would, too. Peony offered a little warble of sympathy.

Defeated, I beheld the sea of garments before me. My great aunt Helena had been sending shipments of new clothes for weeks. My Holiday Wardrobe was now three times the size of my regular wardrobe, and included the aforementioned sailor suit (for yachting), a Promenade Ensemble (for walking), a Walking Dress (for . . . ?), and a perfectly horrifying bathing costume, of which no further mention shall be made, for the protection of the Reader’s delicate sensibilities.

“Exceptional Forbearance, indeed,” I said to Peony. “Assuming I don’t die of boredom.” I hadn’t yet seen a case that could reliably cite Tedium as a cause of death—but if I had to be the first case study, at least the holiday wouldn’t be a complete waste of time.

“Mrrow,” Peony agreed.

“It’s all very well for you,” I said. “You’ll be here with your sunbeams and your fish heads and Cook.” With a final wretched sigh, I picked up The Hat—the crowning humiliation, quite literally, of this ordeal. With its enormous puce bow, tiny velvet pumpkins, and sprig of dried wheat, it looked like a rotting autumnal meadow. All it lacked was a couple of flesh-eating beetles.

Peony hissed and swatted at the ribbon.

I beheld Peony. I beheld the hat. I beheld my trunk crammed full of holiday clothes and not nearly enough books. Peony beheld them as well.

No,” she said, firmly.

“If I have to do this, so do you.” I scooped her up and dropped her unceremoniously into the hatbox, along with a nice flannel petticoat and a leftover biscuit. Before closing the trunk, I defiantly tossed in my magnifying lens, slingshot, and a sturdy pair of Wellies that may or may not still have been wet from earlier. The hat, like a martyr, I wore.

* a garment inexplicably fashioned after a midshipman’s uniform; id est, a sailor suit

† named for the French word for flea, the flattering hue of digested blood

Lest you fear for her safety, she had been sleeping in that hatbox for the better part of the week, and it was quite the latest in hatbox engineering, sturdy pasteboard and mesh, so there was perfectly adequate oxygen.

This excerpt is reprinted courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers.

Young detective Myrtle Hardcastle is on the case once more in Elizabeth C. Bunce’s How to Get Away With Myrtle, the next book about the intrepid sleuth after Premeditated Myrtle, which BookPage called “a book young readers will love and adults may well sneak out of backpacks and off of nightstands for their own enjoyment” […]

In Stay With Me, Jessica Cunsolo continues the dramatic, romantic story begun in her gripping debut novel, She’s With Me.

Amelia Collins has finally found happiness and acceptance with Aiden Parker, but leaving their pasts behind may not be so easy, as new threats emerge. When Aidan is wrongfully accused of a terrible crime, putting his entire family at risk, Amelia is faced with a battle of her own: telling Aiden she needs to leave. Amelia and her friends escape the chaos and uncertainty of their lives in King City and flee to a beach house, hoping to delay the inevitability of what awaits them for just a little longer. But it’s only a matter of time before secrets are revealed and Aiden discovers the horrible truth about the man pursuing Amelia.

Amelia knows she can’t escape her past, her painful memories or the killer’s fixation with her. Every day she tries is another day that puts her friends in harm’s way, and that's not a price she’s willing to pay. Overwhelmed by love but haunted by fear, Amelia is faced with an impossible choice. Is staying with the man she loves worth risking his life?

Stay With Me will hit shelves at bookstores and libraries everywhere on Dec. 1, 2020 (preorder your copy by clicking here). Scroll down to see the swoonworthy cover and read an exclusive excerpt.


Sometimes life likes to laugh at you.

I guess things get boring to watch every once in a while, so life goes, “Hey, why don’t we mess around with her a bit? Don’t you think that’ll be funny?”

And then life’s friends, drama, pain, uncertainty and unfortunate events, go: “Yeah, dude! We got your back. Watch the shitstorm we can cause.”

And then they all get to work, inserting themselves into your life, stirring up the pot, and then they sit around with a cold beer clutched in their hands and some boxes of pizza shared between them and they laugh and laugh and laugh at you.

At least, that’s how I think it happens, because sometimes it seems like my life is just one long episode of let’s see how we can screw with Amelia today.

There’s a man out there intent on murdering me. This man has hurt and killed other people in the name of getting revenge on me. And I have the world’s biggest crush on someone I know I can never be with, who just discovered that he was being lied to and deceived from the start, and who was just arrested.

Aiden was just arrested.

The police said he murdered his stepfather, Greg.

But Aiden is not a murderer; he’s not capable of doing something like that. 

Or is he?

He’s a fierce protector of those he loves, and he’s been worried about Greg harming his brothers ever since he learned Greg was being released from prison. I know he would do anything to protect his brothers. . . . but murder?

Aiden hates Greg with a burning passion—I’m pretty sure he did abuse Aiden as a child, after all—but I can’t see Aiden taking his life then coming over to my house to watch movies like it was just any other day.

Why would the police think Aiden did it? He was at my house all night, and he was with Mason before that. . . . wasn’t he? When did Greg die anyway? He’s been out of prison for a couple of weeks; wouldn’t he want to spend some time with his son, Ryan, and not bother with Aiden?


I wonder if Aiden’s stepbrother has heard about the death of his father. I wonder if he’s heard Aiden was just arrested for Greg’s murder. Ryan already hates Aiden just for being Aiden; I don’t even want to know what he’ll do if he thinks Aiden is responsible for the death of his father.

We haven’t been told anything, as the only interaction between us and the officers has been them occasionally glaring at us for taking up practically the entire waiting area at the police station.

After Aiden was arrested, Julian, Mason and Annalisa picked up the twins from their friend’s house like Aiden asked and took them to Julian’s house for his mom to watch. Everyone else went to the police station, and Julian showed up a bit later with Annalisa and his father, Vince.

Julian practically grew up with Aiden, so it makes sense that Julian would go to his dad—who’s probably known Aiden since he was a kid—for help. Plus, it’s not like Aiden really has any other adult to turn to.

Vince is tall like Julian, with broad shoulders and a stern face, and there’s a commanding presence about him that gives him an air of authority.

A bit after Vince showed up, Mason arrived with his dad, Brian. The adults went to talk to the police about Aiden while the rest of us sat worriedly in the tiny reception area.

Brian has dark hair and tanned olive skin like his son, but is a bit shorter than Mason. I can tell where Mason gets his looks from, but Brian’s dark eyes lack that certain spark of mischief that Mason’s often hold—but then again, perhaps this isn’t quite the right situation for him to be happy about.

As Brian and Vince talk to the officers, I can tell Brian is getting frustrated by the way he runs his hand through his hair like I’ve noticed Mason does, the gold wedding band sparkling brightly in comparison to his dark hair. I just hope they can work out whatever’s going on and get Aiden out of here as soon as possible.

After a while, Vince is led by some officers to the back, and Brian comes to sit with us.

“Dad, what’s going on?” Mason asks impatiently.

“They have Aiden in holding right now. He’s still a few weeks shy of 18 so they can’t question him without the presence of an appropriate adult, which I guess would be either Vince or me,” Brian explains, pulling out his phone and going through some contacts.

“But they can’t question him without a lawyer! Shouldn’t we be getting him a lawyer?!” Annalisa exclaims, more agitated than she usually is.

“He doesn’t need a lawyer because he didn’t do anything!” Noah defends Aiden. “He has, like, seven witnesses! Eight if you count the guy working the counter at the pizza place!”

Brian ignores Noah and stands up. “I’m calling a lawyer now. Hopefully he’ll be here soon.”

And with that, Brian walks away to find a quiet place to make his phone call, leaving the rest of us to our unproductive worrying.

A half hour later, a professional-looking man in a pressed suit enters the police station, and Brian gets up to shake his hand. They talk to some officers, who hustle the man I’m assuming is Aiden’s lawyer into the back room.

Charlotte is sitting beside Chase, and they’re talking in hushed tones between themselves. Annalisa is looking around the police station, glaring everyone down and looking like she’s trying very hard not to punch anyone who looks at her the wrong way.

Julian’s sitting beside her, talking to Mason and Brian about what could possibly happen to Aiden and what’s going on back there.

Noah’s beside me, his foot rapidly and incessantly tapping the floor in an anxious manner, the sound slowly driving me crazy.

I’m just sitting in the uncomfortable chair, incapable of doing anything except try really hard to ignore the pit of anxiety and worry building up in my stomach.

After a while, my irritability and stress come to a breaking point and I instinctively slap my hand on Noah’s thigh, effectively stopping the incessant tapping.

“NOAH,” I snap.

Noah glances at my hand still on his thigh, preventing him from continuing the repetitive anxious tapping. “I know I’m irresistible, Amelia, but now is not the time or place to get frisky.”

I remove my hand and roll my eyes at him, in no mood for his Noah-ness at this highly stressful moment.

I just don’t know what’s taking so long. Aiden didn’t do anything, so this all should’ve been sorted out already. Right?

After a while, Charlotte’s strict parents start calling, so her older brother comes to pick her and Chase up, who has his own worried parents to get home to. We promise we’ll keep them both updated.

It must have been an hour or two later when the lawyer and Vince come back out, unfortunately without Aiden.

Brian goes over to talk to the other men, and we all sit up more attentively, straining to hear what they’re saying. They talk for a while with some other officers, and then the lawyer and Brian leave with two other police officers, leaving us all staring after them, confused.

Vince heads over to us, looking tired but less frustrated, which I hope is a good thing. We all stand up as he approaches, ready to question him about what’s going on.

Excerpt reprinted courtesy of Wattpad Books.

Stay With Me will hit shelves at bookstores and libraries everywhere on Dec. 1, 2020. See the swoonworthy cover and read an exclusive excerpt.

With each changing season, one truth remains: No matter the weather, it’s always a good day for a book. Autumn’s chill is the perfect companion to a hot cuppa—and a book. Howling winter winds hustle us inside to bundle ourselves in nests of blankets—next to a big old stack of books. Spring brings picnics, and what’s better than sprawling in the sun with—of course—a book?

But for a bookworm, there’s nothing quite like summer’s long, lazy days for hours of reading. Here are the YA books we’re most looking forward to discovering this summer.

Shop our full list of summer’s most anticipated YA books here. Every purchase made through benefits independent bookstores.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Balzer + Bray | May 5

There are books published during the summer, and then there are summer books, and Felix Ever After is the quintessential summer book. I recommend setting aside an afternoon on a slightly too-warm sunny day; it’ll be perfect under the shade of your favorite tree. Felix captured my heart from the first page, and though I’m not often a reader left wanting more by novels designed to stand alone, I’d read more book about Felix and his friends in a heartbeat.

Last Girls by Demetra Brodsky
TorTeen | May 5

Feeling a desire to lean into this summer’s uncertainty and upheaval? Pick up Demetra Brodsky's taut debut novel, Last Girls, the story of sisters who live together on a survivalist compound who discover that the danger they’ve been preparing for might be right in their backyard.

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Knopf | May 5

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff have written some of the most rip-roaring, page-turning science fiction in YA over the past few years, first with their Illuminae trilogy, each volume of which kept yours truly up WAY past her bedtime, and now with the Aurora Cycle. This second entry, Aurora Burning, sees the squad return to battle new evils, discover new powers and maybe even save the galaxy. I trust these two master storytellers to take me to the edge of the universe—they’re just that good.

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass
HarperTeen | May 5

Kiera Cass fans have waited four long years for a new book, but the wait ends this summer with the release of The Betrothed, the first in a brand-new duology about a young king who thought he’d never settle down and the girl who catches his eye and captures his heart.

Forged in Fire and Stars by Andrea Robertson
Philomel | May 5

A decade ago, Andrea Robertson (then publishing under the name Andrea Cremer) wrote some of the most successful and enjoyable books during the paranormal fiction craze sparked by Twilight, beginning with 2010’s Nightshade. Thankfully, Robertson will make her long-awaited return to shelves—and tackle a new genre, high fantasy—with Forged in Fire and Stars, a thrilling tale about a girl struggling with the fate she’s inherited in a world she thought she knew.

By the Book by Amanda Sellet
HMH | May 12

OK, bookworms, listen up. I know your TBR is already taller than your head, but I need you to add a title to the top of the stack. Amanda Sellet’s debut may just be the most charming thing you’ll read all summer. I guarantee that while reading it, you will pause at least once and think, “Did Amanda Sellet write this book specifically for me?” This fish-out-of-water story about a girl who diagnoses her friends’ romantic woes using lessons learned from classic literature had me cackling out loud within 30 pages. If that doesn’t sound like a good time to my fellow bibliophiles, then maybe you need to check to see whether your library card has expired.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Amanda Sellet assists literature’s worst boyfriends in telling their sides of the story.

The Fascinators by Andrew Eliopulos
Quill Tree | May 12

Andrew Eliopulos is, by day, a senior editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, and it shows in the economy of his prose, the efficiency of his pacing and the effortlessness of his characters. But his new book, which is also his first YA novel, isn’t on this list for any of those reasons. It’s on here because I can’t think of another YA book like it, and I read hundreds of YA books every year. If you added the contemporary-setting-but-magic-is-real of Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On to Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle’s rural mysticism, then tossed in some of Becky Albertalli’s heartfelt teenage friend-group dynamics, you’d get close to The Fascinators. That little something extra is all Eliopulos, and if he comes up with something this good on his first try, I can’t wait to see where he goes next.

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez
Philomel | May 19

Seasoned novelist Jenny Torres Sanchez, the author of five previous YA books, turns her attention to a story of three teens who must flee Guatemala and make their way north. We Are Not From Here took my breath away for two reasons: first, because of the gut-wrenching story Sanchez tells, and second, because her writing is so beautiful as to be almost blinding. In the novel's opening scene, one of the characters reflects on her mother telling her she has an artist’s heart. Sanchez has a poet’s heart, and it shows on every page.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Jenny Torres Sanchez explains why the stakes of We Are Not From Here are personal.

Camp by L.C. Rosen
Little, Brown | May 26

Whether you’re sleeping in your camp cabin bunk, a tent in the woods or your bed at home, you’ll want to keep a copy of this hilarious and heartwarming book close by. Set at a camp for queer teens, it’s the story of Randy, who’s had a crush on Hudson for years. He decides that this will be the year he reinvents himself and finally catches Hudson’s eye. Can you really fall for someone if you’re pretending to be someone else? Camp explores big, messy questions about identity, sexuality and love, and Randy quickly earned a standing ovation from me.

The Paper Girl of Paris by Jordyn Taylor
HarperTeen | May 26

Escape to Paris this summer with Jordyn Taylor’s debut novel, which unspools in two timelines. In the first, Alice spends the summer going through an apartment left behind by her recently deceased grandmother—an apartment no one in Alice’s family knew existed. In the second, Alice’s grandmother, Adalyn, is swept up with the Resistance when the Nazis occupy her beloved Paris. Inspired by true events, The Paper Girl of Paris is a lush and romantic work of historical fiction that’s totally transporting.

Parachutes by Kelly Yang
Katherine Tegen | May 26

Kelly Yang’s first book, the middle grade novel Front Desk, made waves when it was published two years ago, hitting bestseller lists and receiving numerous awards and accolades, including the Asian/Pacific American Award for children’s literature. Yang will publish a sequel to Front Desk later this fall, but summer sees her try her hand at YA—and maintain her perfect batting average. Parachutes gets its title from a slang term for wealthy Chinese teenagers who attend American high schools in the hopes of earning admission to an American college and, ultimately, a brighter future. It follows the parallel stories of one such girl and the American girl whose family hosts her.

Out Now: Queer We Go Again! edited by Saundra Mitchell
Inkyard | May 26

On hot summer afternoons, sometimes a novel is just too much; you find yourself wanting your fiction bite-size, in a picnic-basket portion. Saundra Mitchell’s latest anthology, Out Now, is perfect for this scenario. A follow-up to 2018’s must-read All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages, Out Now shifts its focus to stories set in the present but keeps All Out’s track record of a contributor list that reads like a who’s who of the best writers working in YA today, including Fox Benwell, Katherine Locke, Mark Oshiro, Tara Sim and more.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Celebrate all the ways love keeps winning with a Pride parade for your bookshelf!

Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha, translated by Larissa Helena
Push | June 2

The American young adult book market is remarkably, well, American. Unlike other segments of the market (notably, picture books, where you’re far more likely to find imported or translated books and publishers dedicated to bringing them to American shelves, as well as authors and illustrators who live and work outside the United States), YA tends to stay close to home. Here’s hoping 2020 is the year that changes and that Brazilian author Lucas Rocha’s Where We Go From Here, the story of three friends whose lives are changed forever by HIV, is the spark that ignites the flame.

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
Knopf | June 2

If you’ve ever read, watched or listened to Les Miserables and thought, “This is great, but what this story really needs is MAGIC,” well, debut author Kester Grant has a book for you. Actually, The Court of Miracles is the first in a planned trilogy, so you won’t have to dream your dream on your own anymore.

Again Again by E. Lockhart
Delacorte | June 2

E. Lockhart won my reader’s heart more than a decade ago with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, her award-winning book that I can only describe as the funniest feminist novel I’ve ever read. Not one of Lockhart’s books is ever quite like another. Her prose and storytelling ability are unparalleled in YA; she guides readers through her narratives like a masterful, seasoned director guides the viewer’s eye in a film. At this point, I want to read every story she decides to tell.

The State of Us by Shaun David Hutchinson
HarperTeen | June 2

Readers who loved Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue and Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed’s Yes No Maybe So won’t want to miss The State of Us, in which the sons of rival presidential candidates fall in love as their parents campaign against each other. Shaun David Hutchinson: giving YA readers everywhere the book they didn’t know they always wanted.

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
Balzer + Bray | June 2

Confession time: If reading books weren’t my job, I would read almost entirely fantasy (for all ages, from middle grade to adult). I discovered the uniquely transporting magic of Narnia and Tortall at a formative age, and that was that; I was like a baby bird who imprinted on Tamora Pierce, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander and more. So when I tell you that Roseanne A. Brown’s A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is one of the strongest debut YA fantasy books I’ve read all year, you know that I understand what a magical thing a good fantasy novel can be. Frankly, if you put this book in my hands and told me it was Brown’s 20th novel, I would believe you—that’s how utterly absorbing it is.

Burn by Patrick Ness
Quill Tree | June 2

By this point, I think Patrick Ness is an author whose books you either know and love, or whose books you just haven’t read yet. Longtime fans and newcomers alike won’t want to miss Burn, which, aside from being a characteristically rollicking good book, features maybe the best opening sentence I’ve read all year.

Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams
Little, Brown | June 9

Author Kelly McWilliams received a mentorship from We Need Diverse Books in support of her debut novel, Agnes at the End of the World, and you’ll only need to read a few pages to quickly see why: It’s one of summer's most self-assured debuts. Readers looking for escapist fare may want to look elsewhere, as McWilliams seems positively prescient with this story of a strictly controlled society threatened by a mysterious virus plaguing the world outside their walls . . . and creeping ever closer to their borders.

You Say It First by Katie Cotugno
Balzer + Bray | June 16

Katie Cotugno’s fans know that she ranks among the best writers of grounded, authentic YA romance and are baffled that she isn’t a household name on par with Morgan Matson, Jenny Han or the O.G. herself, Sarah Dessen. You Say It First could be the book that changes all that, marrying (pun intended) Cotugno’s signature complex and movingly flawed characters with a concept I find irresistible: Two teens fall for each other over the phone after one calls the other from the voter registration center where she works.

Rebel Spy by Veronica Rossi
Delacorte | June 23

If you still psych yourself up every morning with “My Shot,” can’t listen to “Quiet Uptown” without ugly crying and need something to tide you over until Hamilton hits streaming on July 3, may I suggest Rebel Spy, bestselling author Veronica Rossi’s first foray into historical fiction? It’s Rossi’s imagined take on the backstory of the real-life spy known as Agent 355. The world never learned her name—her identity has never been determined—but her intelligence helped expose the treason of Benedict Arnold during the Revolutionary War.

Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena
FSG | June 23

Author Tanaz Bhathena has given readers two acclaimed works of realistic fiction, A Girl Like That and The Beauty of the Moment. She makes an effortless shift to fantasy in Hunted by the Sky, the first book in a planned duology about two teens caught up by tides of rebellion and vengeance in a magical world inspired by medieval India.

Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti
Simon Pulse | June 23

Deb Caletti’s last book, A Heart in a Body in the World, won a Printz Honor, one of the most prestigious awards for young adult literature. It was also my favorite book of 2018, a powerful story of healing in the aftermath of unspeakable trauma. Caletti returns with a very different book: Girl, Unframed, a twisty, thrilling page-turner. But Caletti’s prose, for which the term “masterful” seems to have been invented to describe, and her sharp attention to social expectations of young women underpin both. I’m calling it now: Girl, Unframed will be one of the best books of the summer.

Love, Creekwood by Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray | June 30

The impact of Becky Albertalli’s 2016 debut novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, on the American YA publishing landscape can’t really be overstated. Watching YA publishers embrace a wider, deeper range of queer stories and queer authors in the years since Simon has been a joy and a delight. Albertalli returns to the sprawling social web of Simon and his friends one more time in this novella-length epilogue, which checks in on the crew in their first year of college. Sniffle. I suppose even YA characters have to grow up eventually.

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
Margaret K. McElderry | June 30

For readers so inclined, summer is an ideal time for staying up into the wee hours, turning the pages of a mystery. There’s no homework to feel guilty about, and no bus to catch the next morning at an hour no human ought to be awake. If your past obsessions have included such titles as We Were Liars and Sadie, you’ll want to put Kit Frick’s I Killed Zoe Spanos at the top of your TBR for this summer. It’s the intoxicating and engrossing story of a girl arrested for murder and the podcast host determined to exonerate her, and it all unfolds against the delicious backdrop of the divide between the haves and the have-nots in a small town in the Hamptons.

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
Disney-Hyperion | July 7

For some readers, just seeing Brandy Colbert’s name on the spine is all they need in order to pull a book off the shelf. Readers less familiar with Colbert’s consistently excellent ouevre should find all the convincing they need when they discover the premise of her latest book, The Voting Booth: Over the course of a single day, two teens meet, connect and start to fall for each other when, after standing in line to vote in their first election, one is turned away from the polls and the other is determined to help him exercise his rights. Read it—and then devour everything else Colbert has written.

The Damned by Renée Ahdieh
Putnam | July 7

Have you heard? Vampires are SO back! As someone who got to be a teen during one of the best waves of pop culture vampires (all hail, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), I welcome the new wave of bloodsucking YA fiction with open arms. Renée Ahdieh proved herself ahead of the curve with last year’s The Beautiful, a lush, romantic tale set in the most vampire-friendly city in the U.S., New Orleans. The Beautiful ended on one of the most gut-wrenching cliffhangers in recent memory, so readers will be desperate to quench their thirst when its story continues in The Damned.

A Peculiar Peril by Jeff Vandermeer
FSG | July 7

Jeff Vandermeer is one of the biggest names in contemporary speculative fiction, thanks to the success of his Southern Reach trilogy, which formed the basis for the movie Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman. He makes his first foray into young adult with A Peculiar Peril, the opener to a duology called The Misadventures of Jonathan Lambshead. Readers looking to get lost in a sprawling, epic and singular vision should look no further; A Peculiar Peril clocks in at well over 600 pages, every one of them ambitious and uniquely magical.

The Princess Will Save You by Sarah Henning
TorTeen | July 7

Readers, I have four words for you: Gender-swapped A Princess Bride. I rest my case.

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power
Delacorte | July 7

Rory Power’s first novel, Wilder Girls, was one of the strongest debut novels of 2019. Burn Our Bodies Down is a very different book—trust me when I tell you that the less you know about it before you read it, the better—but it’s immediately apparent that Power is the Arachne at the center of its web.

Mayhem by Estelle Laure
Wednesday | July 14

Estelle Laure’s first novel, This Raging Light, was one of the most accomplished YA debuts of the 2010s. Laure followed it with a sequel of sorts, 2017’s But Then I Came Back. Since then, it’s been three long years of waiting for Laure’s third book, and Mayhem promises to be well worth the wait. It’s a complex tale of family, feminism and magic, filtered through the hazy lens of a 1980s California beach town. Laure’s publisher describes Mayhem as The Lost Boys meets Wilder Girls. I’d describe it as fantastic.

Now & When by Sara Bennett Wealer
Delacorte | July 14

My friend Catherine’s mom always used to tell her daughter, “Make good choices!” This is something adults say to teens because, with the benefit of hindsight, they know the choices teens make today can sometimes echo far into the future. But what if you could see the impact of your choices on your future—now? That’s the premise of Sara Bennett Wealer’s high-concept debut, in which Skyler starts receiving update notifications from a website that appears to host photos of her at her 10-year high school reunion. The catch? She appears to be married to her arch-nemesis, Truman.

The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune
TorTeen | July 14

Author TJ Klune made waves earlier this year with the publication of his well-received adult fantasy novel, The House in the Cerulean Sea. Klune’s superpowered YA book, The Extraordinaries, will be just what teens who devour the CW’s DC shows and Marvel’s cinematic universe films need to tide them over as they await new seasons of superhero television and the release of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon
Simon Pulse | July 21

Folks, we are living in a golden age of YA rom-coms, and its light shows no sign of waning. Sandhya Menon established herself as one of its brightest stars with 2017’s When Dimple Met Rishi. 10 Things I Hate About Pinky sees her tackle another beloved rom-com trope, fake dating, with her usual swoonworthy aplomb. Talk about summer loving!

This Is My America by Kim Johnson
Random House | July 28

Readers who love authors like Nic Stone, Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers won’t want to miss Kim Johnson’s searing debut, This Is My America. Inspired by the work of The Innocence Project, Johnson’s book centers on a girl trying to save her father from being executed for a crime he didn’t commit.

The Faithless Hawk by Margaret Owen
Holt | July 28

There’s no way to avoid the fact that Margaret Owen’s ambitious debut fantasy novel, The Merciful Crow, set against a backdrop of a plague-ravaged kingdom, reads a little differently this summer than it did last summer. But stories about slaying dragons show us that dragons can be slain, and I can’t wait to see where Owen takes her story in its sequel, The Faithless Hawk.

Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu
Simon Pulse | July 28

There are a handful of YA authors who, in recent years, have taken fairy tales—separate and distinct from the broader genre of fantasy—and, for lack of a better way to describe it, pushed at it. These heirs to the likes of Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler and Robin McKinley have spun stories of princesses and spells, castles and curses, that read with more contemporary urgency than many works of realistic fiction. Corey Ann Haydu joins the ranks of Elana K. Arnold, Margo Lanagan and Susann Cokal with Ever Cursed, a tale about a witch, a terrible spell and the kingdom, caught in its thrall, in which nothing is as it appears.

A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong
First Second | August 4

2020 has been a good year for sports stories that aren’t really about sports. Here’s hoping Sloane Leong’s dreamy-looking graphic novel, A Map to the Sun, about a ragtag group of girls who all join their school’s basketball team, continues the streak.

Some Kind of Animal by Maria Romasco-Moore
Delacorte | August 4

A rural Appalachian setting: check. Prose so gorgeous it’s almost vicious: check. Sisters who protect each other, possibly at all costs: check. The real enemy was the patriarchy we destroyed along the way: check. A cover I find somehow strangely unsettling and yet cannot stop looking at: check. It’s not like I keep an actual checklist of elements I love in books, but if I did, Maria Romasco-Moore’s Some Kind of Animal sure would check a lot of boxes.

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman
Razorbill | August 4

Jill’s best friend, Shaila, was murdered by her boyfriend, Graham, during their freshman year at Gold Coast Prep, and Shaila’s shadow has hung over Jill and her friends ever since. But now they’re seniors, and they’ve all been accepted into Gold Coast’s elite secret society, the Players. It’s time to lay Shaila’s ghost to rest and have the best year ever, but new evidence emerges that calls Graham’s guilt into question and threatens to reveal long-held secrets. Jessica Goodman’s debut mystery is a true page-turner, but it’s her exploration of Gold Coast's high-achieving, socioeconomically stratified culture that sets They Wish They Were Us apart on the shelf.

Prelude for Lost Souls by Helene Dunbar
Sourcebooks Fire | August 4

Here’s an approximate recipe for Helene Dunbar’s Prelude for Lost Souls: Start with one cup of 300 Fox Way, the house of psychics from Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, sifted, and add three tablespoons of Stars Hollow, the quirky small-town setting of “Gilmore Girls.” Gently fold in the should-I-stay-or-should-I-go dilemma that faces many of the young men in the later seasons of “Friday Night Lights.” In a separate bowl, combine one stick of the musical prodigy protagonist of Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution, melted and cooled, with one teaspoon of the way you feel after you finish listening to Ludovico Einaudi’s solo piano masterpiece “Oltremare.” Stir until smooth; add a pinch of the first chill in the autumn air at night, to taste. Bake at 375 F in a greased 9- by 13-inch pan for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let cool before slicing, and try to resist reading the whole thing in one sitting.

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Rachel Vasquez Gilliland
Simon Pulse | August 11

I’ve become somewhat desensitized to the “X meets Y” elevator pitch for books, but I sat up a little straighter when I read a description of Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s debut novel that called it Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets Roswell by way of Laurie Halse Anderson. Having gotten a sneak peek at the book itself, here’s all I want to tell you, because I really want you to discover it for yourself: This book is like nothing I have ever read and everything I hoped it would be, in the absolute best way possible.

Shop our full list of summer’s most anticipated YA books here. Every purchase made through benefits independent bookstores.


For a bookworm, there’s nothing quite like summer’s long, lazy days for hours of reading. Here are the YA books we’re most looking forward to discovering this summer.

In Furia, the new YA novel by Yamile Saied Méndez, Camila must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to achieve her dream of becoming a professional soccer player.

On the soccer field in Argentina, Camila is La Furia, a talented player with a chance to earn an athletic scholarship. But Camila’s parents don’t know about her passion—and wouldn’t approve if they found out. Camila’s life becomes even more complicated when Diego, the boy she once loved, returns to town after achieving international fame playing for an acclaimed Italian soccer team. As the secrets Camila must keep pile up and her ambition grows, Camila must confront a world with no place for her dreams and find a way to make her life her own.

Furia will hit shelves at bookstores and libraries everywhere on Sept. 29, 2020, but you can see the stunning cover, which was illustrated by Rachelle Baker and designed by Laura Williams, and read an exclusive excerpt right now. Just scroll down!

Lies have short legs. I learned this proverb before I could speak. I never knew exactly where it came from. Maybe the saying followed my family across the Atlantic, all the way to Rosario, the second-largest city in Argentina, at the end of the world.

My Russian great-grandmother, Isabel, embroidered it on a pillow after her first love broke her heart and married her sister. My Palestinian grandfather, Ahmed, whispered it to me every time my mom found his hidden stash of wine bottles. My Andalusian grandmother, Elena, repeated it like a mantra until her memories and regrets called her to the next life. Maybe it came from Matilde, the woman who chased freedom to Las Pampas all the way from Brazil, but of her, this Black woman whose blood roared in my veins, we hardly ever spoke. Her last name got lost, but my grandma’s grandma still showed up so many generations later in the way my brown hair curled, the shape of my nose and my stubbornness—ay, Dios mío, my stubbornness. Like her, if family folklore was to be trusted, I had never learned to shut up or do as I was told.

But perhaps the words sprouted from this land that the conquistadores thought was encrusted with silver, the only inheritance I’d ever receive from the indigenous branch of my family tree. In any case, when my mom said them to me as I was getting ready to leave the house that afternoon, I brushed her off.

“I’m not lying,” I insisted, fighting with the tangled laces of my sneakers—real Nikes that Pablo, my brother, had given me for Christmas after he got his first footballer paycheck. “I told you, I’ll be at Roxana’s.”

My mom put down her sewing—a sequined skirt for a quinceañera—and stared at me. “Be back by seven. The whole family will be over to celebrate the season opener.”

The whole family.

As if.

For all their talk of family unity, my parents weren’t on speaking terms with any of their siblings or cousins. But my dad’s friends and Pablo’s girlfriend would be here eating and gossiping and laughing until who knew when. “You know Pablo, Ma. I’m sure he has plans with the team.”

“He specifically asked me to make pizzas,” she said with a smirk. “Now, you be on time, and don’t do anything stupid.”

“Stupid like what?” My words came out too harsh, but I had stellar grades. I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t sleep around. Hell, I was 17 and not pregnant, unlike every other woman in my family. You would’ve thought she’d give me some credit, be on my side, but no. Nothing I did was enough. I was not enough. “It’s not like I can go to El Gigante. I don’t have money for a ticket.”

She flung the fabric aside. “Mirá, Camila, how many times have I told you that a fútbol stadium’s no place for a decent señorita? That girl who turned up in a ditch? If she hadn’t been hanging out with the wrong crowd, she’d still be alive.”

There was a little bit of truth in what she said. But just a little. That girl, Gimena Márquez, had gone missing after a game last year, but she had been killed by her boyfriend, el Paco. He and Pope Francisco shared a name, but el Paco was no saint.

Everyone knew that, just as everyone knew he used every woman in his life as a punching bag, starting with his mother. If I pointed this out, though, my mom would start ranting about how the Ni Una Menos movement was all feminist propaganda, and I’d miss my bus. My championship game, the one my mom couldn’t know about, was at four, the same time as Central’s league opener. At least they were at opposite ends of the city.

“Vieja,” I said, instantly regretting calling her old. She wasn’t even 40 yet. “We live in the 21st century in a free-ish country. If I wanted to go to the stadium, I could. You could, too, Mami. Pablo would want to see you there. You know that, right?”

Her face hardened. The last time she’d been to the stadium, Central had lost, and my dad had joked that she’d been la yeta, bad luck. My mom was a never-forgive, never-forget kind of person and would remember his words until her last breath. Because what if he was right? What if she had been the reason Pablo’s team had lost?

Throwing my last card, I let just enough of the truth spill out (I was going to Roxana’s after my game) to quench her fears. “At Roxana’s I can hear what happens in the stadium, Mama. Just give me this, please. What am I supposed to do here all day?”

She tugged at a stubborn thread. “It’s Mamá, Camila— don’t talk like a country girl. If my sister Graciela heard you speak like this . . .” Her eyes swept over me, up and down. “And why are you wearing those baggy pants, hija? If you’d let me make you a few dresses . . .”

I almost laughed. If she was picking on how I talked and how I dressed, I’d won this battle. But then she said, “You’re hiding something, and it worries me.”

My heart softened.

I’d been hiding that something for an entire year, since Coach Alicia had discovered Roxana and me playing in a night league and recruited us to her team.

Pobre Mamá.


This excerpt is reprinted courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers.

In Furia, the new YA novel by Yamile Saied Méndez, Camila must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to achieve her dream of becoming a professional soccer player. On the soccer field in Argentina, Camila is La Furia, a talented player with a chance to earn an athletic scholarship. But Camila’s parents don’t […]

Summer is a-comin’ in, which means it’s the perfect time to look back at the first half of 2020 and all the incredible YA books it brought us. We’ve listed your top 15 favorites so far below.

Shop the full list of BookPage readers’ favorite YA books of 2020 here. Every purchase made through benefits independent bookstores.

1. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

More than merely a young reader’s adaptation of Kendi’s landmark work, Stamped does a remarkable job of tying together disparate threads while briskly moving through its historical narrative,” writes BookPage reviewer Autumn Allen. BookPage also spoke with Reynolds and with Kendi about their extraordinary book that we declared “the new required reading.”

2. This Book Is Anti-Racist
by Tiffany Jewell, illustrated by Aurélia Durand

BookPage reviewer Autumn Allen highlighted author Tiffany Jewell’s intentionally inclusive language and illustrator Aurélia Durand’s colorful images that depict diverse groups of young people among the many strengths of This Book Is Anti-Racist, a handbook that will provide “a safe and inviting way for teen readers to reflect on the world’s issues and their place in solving them.”

3. They Went Left
by Monica Hesse

Although all three of Monica Hesse’s YA novels take place during World War II, Hesse narrowed in on the often overlooked period of uncertainty and instability that followed the war’s conclusion in They Went Left. The result, BookPage reviewer Kevin Delecki wrote, was a “heartbreaking yet hopeful story of what it takes to survive after trauma” that blended romance, mystery and, of course, history. Hesse shared why she keeps returning to World War II stories and how she finds light in stories about humanity’s darkest moments.

4. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
by Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins’ announcement that she had written a prequel to her blockbuster Hunger Games trilogy set the YA landscape ablaze. BookPage was thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with Collins’ longtime editor, David Levithan (an acclaimed YA writer in his own right!) about what it was like to work with Collins on The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and why Collins probably thinks he’s Team Gale.

5. The Kingdom of Back
by Marie Lu

Bestselling author Marie Lu’s first foray into historical fantasy explores the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sister, Nannerl, who is rumored to have had a hand in some of her brother’s compositions. In a feature of three YA fantasy novels with decidedly feminist perspectives, BookPage reviewer Jessica Wakeman praised Lu’s “light touch” in illustrating “how the gifts of talented, ambitious young women like Nannerl were overlooked and unappreciated.”

6. Yes No Maybe So
by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

Critically acclaimed, bestselling YA authors—and IRL friends!—Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed made us swoon and ignited our sense of activism in their first collaboration, Yes No Maybe So, the story of two teens who fall for each other while canvassing for a state senate race. BookPage contributor Linda M. Castellito singled out the book’s “compassionate exploration of what’s worth fighting for” and “messages of hope, loving support and the empowerment that comes from pushing for change and taking action.”

7. Kent State
by Deborah Wiles

In her starred review, BookPage writer Alice Cary hailed two-time National Book Award finalist Deborah Wiles’ Kent State as “a powerful work of art that serves as both as a historical record of a national tragedy and a call to action for every American.” We ended our interview with Wiles by asking what gives her hope, and readers, I’ll admit that I cried the first time I read her response.

8. Anna K.
by Jenny Lee

We fell head over heels with Jenny Lee’s reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and it seems BookPage readers did too! If you’ve been loving the irreverence and empowerment of “The Great” or “Dickinson,” you’ll devour Anna K. “Wonderfully observed,” “immersive,” “effortless,” “glittering” and “addictive” are just a few of the adjectives BookPage writer Annie Metcalf used to describe the foibles of Anna, Vronsky and their friends.

9. Not So Pure and Simple
by Lamar Giles

Lamar Giles, best known for his mysteries for both middle grade and YA readers, embarked on his first non-mystery narrative in Not So Pure and Simple, a thoughtful exploration of gender politics and toxic masculinity. BookPage reviewer Jill Ratzan raved about the way “Giles successfully integrates social justice themes into [the] story while maintaining a genuinely engaging and often hilarious tone” in her starred review. Giles took us deeper into the themes he explored in a wide-ranging interview that included the reveal of an Easter egg shared across all his books!

10. Dark and Deepest Red
by Anna-Marie McLemore

In her starred review, BookPage writer Alice Cary called McLemore’s latest a “provocative, insightful collision of fairy tale and history” and “a powerful demonstration of McLemore’s immense talent.” Dark and Deepest Red was McLemore’s first entry into historical fiction, but, as they observed in their interview with BookPage, “Our identities and our history are constantly evolving. We all have histories that we’re writing every day.”

11. By the Book
by Amanda Sellet

It’s hard to imagine a book more perfect for bibliophiles than Amanda Sellet’s debut novel, By the Book, the story of a teen girl named Mary who diagnoses the romantic woes of her friends through lessons gleaned from works of classic literature. In a feature of three literary-minded YA romances, BookPage’s Norah Piehl called Mary “charmingly old-fashioned in her speech and outlook but more than capable of meeting the challenges and rewards of modern life.” And in what will surely be the most hilarious Behind the Book essay of the year, Sellet created a taxonomy of toxic literary boyfriends; we do not recommend enjoying it with a nice cuppa, unless you like laughing so hard that you snort tea or coffee up your nose.

12. Parachutes
by Kelly Yang

BookPage writer Jessica Wakeman heaped praise on Front Desk author Kelly Yang’s first YA novel in her starred review. The book, she wrote, “goes much deeper than a predictable story of rich girl versus poor girl,” “incorporates issues of sexual assault and abuse, discrimination, parental infidelity and emotional neglect into an elaborate and twisting narrative” and “has an impressive buoyancy despite these weighty subjects.” Parachutes, Wakeman concluded, “is sure to establish Yang as one of YA’s most thoughtful and vital new voices.”

13. The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea
by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Picture book author Maggie Tokuda-Hall made a splash in YA with The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, a swashbuckling tale of romance and adventure on the high seas of fantasy. BookPage reviewer Annie Metcalf called her effort “strikingly original and accomplished,” highlighting the way “queer and gender nonconforming characters are everywhere, and their normalization within the world of the book is remarkable and praiseworthy.”

14. The Light in Hidden Places
by Sharon Cameron

Although she wrote her starred review in March, BookPage writer Alice Cary declared The Light in Hidden Places “destined for my list of the best books of 2020.” Based on the true story of Holocaust heroine Stefania Podgórska, a 16-year-old girl who hid 13 Jewish people in the attic of her tiny apartment while two German nurses and their SS boyfriends moved in downstairs, Cary called it “a tense and gripping novel, full of urgency, in which death seems to wait around every corner.”

15. What I Like About You
by Marisa Kanter

Halle Levitt, the heroine of Marisa Kanter’s debut novel, What I Like About You, is a book reviewer who bakes and photographs cupcakes to accompany her online book reviews; it’s little wonder BookPage readers took a shine to her! Kanter’s book is “a charming, witty story about authenticity in the social media age, told with a wink and a string of heart-eyes emojis,” raved BookPage reviewer Kimberly Giarratano.

Shop the full list of BookPage readers’ favorite YA books of 2020 here. Every purchase made through benefits independent bookstores.

Summer is a-comin’ in, which means it’s the perfect time to look back at the first half of 2020 and all the incredible YA books it brought us. We’ve listed your top 15 favorites so far below. Shop the full list of BookPage readers’ favorite YA books of 2020 here. Every purchase made through […]

No young person’s bookcase is complete without books by Black authors and illustrators. In the 24 titles below, you’ll find recent books for readers of every age, from the littlest of littles to teens and YA readers, full of mystery, laughter, music, romance and more.

Shop our full list of books for young readers by brilliant Black creators here. Every purchase made through benefits independent bookstores.

Picture Books

The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

The start of school is an event of regal import in The King of Kindergarten, as a young boy washes his face “with a cloth bearing the family crest,” puts on “handpicked garments from the far-off villages of Osh and Kosh,” downs a pancake breakfast and gets on the bus—“a big yellow carriage.” Barnes’ story is a fun reminder to readers that they have what it takes to succeed, accompanied by Brantley-Newton’s irresistible depictions of kindergarten life.

Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Shane W. Evans

When a young grandson expresses first-day-of-school nerves, he becomes a passenger in Big Papa’s vintage car on a journey through the past. Author Daniel Bernstrom writes dialogue between the pair that’s honest and full of wisdom. Without veering into didactic or overly saccharine territory, Big Papa shows his grandson that courage is not the absence of fear, but the choice to carry on through it.

I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Ashley Bryan

Nikki Giovanni and Ashley Bryan first collaborated in 1996 with The Sun Is So Quiet, and they joined creative forces once again to bring a new gift to readers with I Am Loved. Complementing Giovanni’s luminous poetry, Bryan’s ever-gorgeous tempera-and-watercolor art is a jeweled treasure—a stained glass and patchwork-quilt vision of love.

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

It seems both fitting and bittersweet that the last picture book written by Patricia C. McKissack, a towering figure in children’s literature, should be the first picture book illustrated by a talent as extraordinary as April Harrison, who would go on to win the Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award for New Talent for her work on it. The book itself is a poignant exploration of what it means to truly give of oneself, and readers should take solace in the many wonderful books created for them by McKissack, and hope in the many wonderful books Harrison is sure to create in the future—all of them gifts from the heart.

Saturday by Oge Mora

Saturday is Ava and her mother’s special day to spend together, but nothing seems to be going as planned today! Oge Mora’s picture book is a big-hearted ode to parent-child bonding as well as a reminder of what makes time truly well spent.

I Can Write the World by Joshunda Sanders, illustrated by Charly Palmer

Living in South Bronx, Ava wonders why news images and stories depicting her neighborhood don’t reflect or match her feelings and experiences, so she sets out to become a journalist who will report the stories that accurately reflect her vibrant, creative and loving neighborhood. Ava’s gentle first-person perspective provides a child’s insight into a New York City neighborhood and demonstrates to readers that that they, too, hold the power to seek out and tell stories.

The Old Truck by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey

The picture book canon of books about “things that go” gets a stunning new update in Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey’s instant classic, The Old Truck, the story of a beloved farm truck that falls into disrepair until it’s rediscovered and restored to its former glory by an enterprising young farmer.

Another by Christian Robinson

As a girl sleeps in her bedroom, a mysterious portal to another plane of existence appears in the darkness. Illustrator Christian Robinson makes his authorial debut in this wordless tale made for twisting and turning in little hands. Robinson uses simple shapes—the oval of the portal, the triangle of the girl’s dress, the small squares of the stairs—to tell a multilayered, mind-blowing and truly out-of-this-world adventure.

Middle Grade

Infinite Hope by Ashley Bryan

At the age of 96, Ashley Bryan, a hugely beloved figure in children’s literature, finally published a memoir in which he discussed his military service in World War II. Infinite Hope relates Bryan’s journey as a stevedore in the 502nd Port Battalion through mixed media, with large photographs interspersed with sketches, paintings and excerpts from his diary and letters. The result is both an intimate portrait of Bryan himself and a rare insight into the African American experience of World War II and the invasion of Normandy.

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

Kacen Callender brings their lyrical style to this story of a boy who believes his older brother isn’t dead but has instead been transformed into a dragonfly. Callender writes with honesty and kindness, and strikes the difficult but necessary balance between the two perfectly.

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

Critically acclaimed YA author Brandy Colbert made her middle grade debut in this story of two girls who uncover a stack of journals in an attic. Equal parts mystery, coming-of-age narrative and coastal California travelogue, The Only Black Girls in Town is an affectionate tribute to friends, both new and old, and the ways they enrich our lives.

The Parker Inheritence by Varian Johnson

Two friends uncover a clue to a treasure hunt left unsolved for generations in Varian Johnson’s page-turning The Parker Inheritance. With a nod to The Westing Game, Johnson pens a smart mystery that deftly explores modern-day discrimination, the history of segregation in the South, friendship, love and bullying.

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

Kekla Magoon’s tale of summer adventure begins as 10-year-old Caleb and his 11-year-old brother, Bobby Gene, trade their toddler sister, Susie, for a large bag of fireworks. Their summer really ignites when the brothers meet the titular Styx Malone, an older teen who hatches a plan to help the boys repeatedly “trade up”—with the goal of eventually buying a moped—in what he calls a “Great Escalator Trade.” Magoon’s thoughtful novel is a classic coming-of-age story about the pleasures and constraints of friendship, family, trust and betrayal.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

On her 12th birthday, Zoe discovers that her mother has been intercepting her father’s letters to her from prison and decides to write him back. When her father reveals the existence of an alibi that will exonerate him, Zoe sets out to track it down. Marks’ crisp writing and Zoe’s appealing first-person narration make for page-turning reading.

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

In each of the 10 short stories that compose Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, the reader follows a different student to see what they get up to on their way home from school. Despite seemingly simple prose, Reynolds’ language sparkles.

Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson

Some Places More Than Others is Oregon-born Watson’s love letter to her adopted home of New York City. In this story of a girl’s first visit to her grandfather’s Harlem home, Watson expertly balances her heroine’s outward adventures with her inner exploration of identity, family heritage, Black history and independence.

Young Adult

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

The stories of the lives lost on board Flight 587 and those of the families left behind, as well as author Elizabeth Acevedo’s own memories of trips to visit relatives in the Dominican Republic, inspired Clap When You Land. The book gets its title from the Dominican tradition of applauding when a plane touches down safely at its destination. By the story’s end, readers will be ready to give its two heroines and Acevedo herself a standing ovation.

When the Stars Lead to You by Ronni Davis

Through Devon’s struggle to recognize the importance of valuing herself within her romantic relationship, debut author Ronni Davis deftly illustrates one of the primary challenges of young love. Deeply moving and thought-provoking, When the Stars Lead to You takes readers on a journey through first love, heartbreak and the indispensable lessons they can bring.

Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

Two-time Edgar Award finalist Lamar Giles tells two stories at once in Not So Pure and Simple. One is a comedy of errors, as Del’s attempts to spend time alone with the object of his affection go increasingly awry. The other is a thoughtful exploration of gender roles and toxic masculinity told with empathy and humor.

Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

When Quadir and Jarrell hear the music Steph had been recording before he died, they have an idea. Shouldn’t the world get to hear their friend’s lyrical genius? Readers will feel connected to these teens’ love of hip-hop, their loyalty to each other and their love for their community—even when they disagree over how to protect it. Let Me Hear a Rhyme is an engaging ode to ’90s hip-hop and to love in many forms. 

Slay by Brittany Morris

Tired of playing video games in which the only characters of color are villains or dwarves, and weary of encountering racial slurs hurled at her by other players’ avatars, Kiera developed SLAY to create a place where Black gamers could play safely online. But when a Black teenager is shot to death over a SLAY-related dispute, Kiera begins to question everything. Readers will cheer for Kiera as she slays her own demons, and they’ll desperately wish SLAY were more than the product of Morris’ imagination.

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

Debut author Ben Philippe’s The Field Guide to the North American Teenager mirrors his own experience and paints an authentic portrait of what it’s like to feel like a fish out of water—not only for his protagonist but also for a richly developed cast of supporting characters whose Breakfast Club-style stereotypes fall away to reveal teens who are just trying to find their places in the world.

Jackpot by Nic Stone

When a customer at the gas station where she works buys what might be a winning lottery ticket, it sets a whole new life in motion for Rico. But is a Jackpot really the answer to all her problems? Nic Stone structures Jackpot like a romance with a twist of mystery—Rico enlists rich kid Zan to help her track down the ticket holder, and their shared quest leads to mutual attraction—but there is so much more going on underneath its surface.

When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

Ashley Woodfolk’s second novel is a powerful close-up view of what it means to lose a best friend and to feel like you’re facing the world alone. In effortless prose, Woodfolk illustrates the depth of Cleo and Layla’s friendship, the chaos of its unraveling and the devastation of its aftermath as Cleo tries to pick up the pieces and find a way forward without her other half.

Shop our full list of books for young readers by brilliant Black creators here. Every purchase made through benefits independent bookstores.

No young person’s bookcase is complete without books by Black authors and illustrators. In the 24 titles below, you’ll find recent books for readers of every age, from the littlest of littles to teens and YA readers, full of mystery, laughter, music, romance and more.

Best known for her young adult novels Daughter of the Burning City and the Shadow Game series, author Amanda Foody will make her middle grade debut in the spring of 2021 with the whimsical fantasy-adventure The Accidental Apprentice, the first book in the Wilderlore series.

Here’s how Foody’s publisher describes the tale:

The adventure begins when Barclay Thorne, an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer, accidentally bonds with a magical Beast. Determined to break his bond and return home, Barclay must journey to find the mysterious town of Lore Keepers, people who have also bonded with Beasts and share their powers. But after making new friends, entering a dangerous apprenticeship exam and even facing the legendary Beast of the Woods, Barclay must make a difficult choice: Return to the home and rules he’s always known, or embrace the adventure awaiting him.

The Accidental Apprentice hits shelves at libraries and bookstores everywhere on March 30, 2021, but BookPage is thrilled to reveal its breathtaking cover below! The cover illustration is by Petur Antonsson, with cover design by Karyn Lee and art direction from Sonia Chaghatzbanian. Be sure to check out our Q&A with Foody and an exclusive excerpt after the reveal.

The Accidental Apprentice is your first middle grade novel, though you've published several YA novels. What drew you to creating a story for younger readers? 
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, so even though middle grade is not where I got my start professionally, it feels like where I got my start creatively. I was the sort of child who often fantasized myself into the worlds of my favorite stories; I eagerly anticipated my Pokemon adventure when I turned 10 and my Hogwarts letter when I was 11. After writing a few dark and gritty YA worlds, I was eager to try my hand at something just as vast and magical but a touch more lighthearted, and it was so rewarding. It felt like coming home.   

What was most challenging about making the leap from YA to middle grade? What was the most enjoyable? 
My greatest challenge was overcoming the feelings of intimidation that I’d developed about middle grade. It’s been over a decade since I was actively reaching for middle grade books, and when I began drafting this book, I didn’t feel tapped into the current market the way I feel with YA. Truthfully, I still often feel that way. But that reading and learning process has also been the greatest joy! I have discovered many new favorites, such as the Percy Jackson and Nevermoor series.  

Like some of the most beloved works of children's literature, The Accidental Apprentice is a fantasy-adventure story. What kinds of books did you love to read as a kid? What do you hope kids will love about The Accidental Apprentice
I was an avid reader as a kid, though I read more broadly than I do now. I loved fantasy series like Septimus Heap, Pendragon, A Series of Unfortunate Events and Harry Potter, but I was also a huge fan of Agatha Christie, Clique and Warriors. I’ve grown more wholly devoted to fantasy as an adult, now that magic so often feels in shorter supply.  

What I personally hope kids will love about The Accidental Apprentice is the world. Between all the magical places to visit and Beasts to bond with, the story is full of imagination fodder, and I would love nothing more than for kids to imagine themselves bonding with their own beastly companions, choosing their own magical apprenticeships and setting off on their own adventures exploring the many sights that the natural world has to offer.  

Barclay, the hero of The Accidental Apprentice, accidentally bonds with a magical Beast. Do you have any pets who may have inspiredor wish they could inspireany of the Beasts in the book? If they could have a magical power, what do you think it would be? 
I do! I have an orange tabby named Jelly Bean, who is a very rambunctious and friendly kitty. Of the Beasts in the novel, he actually inspired the antics of Mitzi, the baby dragon of Barclay’s closest friend. Mitzi delights in tipping over glasses and nipping at her owner’s ears.  

If Jelly Bean had a magical power, it would be teleportation. Truthfully, I’m not convinced that he doesn’t already have this ability. I feel as though I’m constantly leaving him behind in one part of my apartment only to find him awaiting me in the next room.

Chapter One

Barclay Thorne knew almost all there was to know about mushrooms, and there was a lot to know.

He knew the poisonous ones never grew on trees. He knew the red ones with white spots made warts bubble up between toes, but the white ones with red spots cured warts, welts and pustules of all kinds. He knew which ones made you drowsy or loopy, or could even knock you right dead, if you weren’t careful.

“You’re supposed to be taking notes,” Barclay hissed at Selby. Both boys were apprentices to their town’s highly esteemed mushroom farmer, but because Barclay was older and smarter, he was the one in charge. And he took his position very seriously.

“I c-can’t write and walk at the same time,” Selby blubbered, clutching his quill with his whole fist. Selby was a very pink boy. He had a pink nose and pink cheeks, like a plucked chicken, a resemblance made all the worse by his buzzed blond hair and stocky frame.

In nearly all ways, Barclay was the opposite. Though three years older, he was so short and skinny that Selby would likely outgrow him before next spring. His dark eyes looked like ink smudges on his papery white skin, and his shoulder-length black hair was combed harshly to both sides, slick with oil to make it lie flat.

He didn’t see what was so hard about writing and walking. He doubted it was harder than reading and walking, and Barclay rarely walked anywhere without an open book in his hand.

The two apprentices had been assigned an extremely important mission to find a rare mushroom called the Mourningtide Morel, and for this, they had ventured to the edge of the Woods.

The Woods was no average wood. It was so large that no map could fit all of it, so dangerous that no adventurer dared explore it. It loomed to the west of their town like a great shadow.

The trees along the edge were gray and spooky, their trunks twisted like they’d been wrung out, and their branches reached up like claws toward the overcast sky. It was quiet except for the rustle of decayed leaves and the snaps and cracks of brittle twigs beneath boots. This was the only time to find the Mourningtide Morel: that bleak in-between part of the year after the leaves had all fallen but before the first snow.

Selby stumbled over a tree root and bumped into Barclay’s back.

“It would be easier to write and walk if you weren’t always looking over your shoulder,” Barclay grumbled.

“But we’re so close! You know what Master Pilzmann says about—”

“We haven’t gone in. And the town is right there.” Barclay pointed behind them to Dullshire. Their small town crouched on a knobby hill, encircled by a stone wall covered in spears, like a giant thorn bush. The people were about as friendly as thorn bushes as well. They didn’t like laziness—naps were expressly forbidden. They hated visitors—visitors could mean tax collectors, circus performers, or worse, Lore Keepers.

The only things the people of Dullshire loved were rules. But they only had one rule about the Woods.

Never ever, ever stray inside.

Because the Woods would trick you if you let it, leading you too deep within to find your way out.

And deeper in the Woods lurked the Beasts.

But Barclay, being a dutiful apprentice, would never dream of breaking Dullshire’s most important rule—especially because of how often he got in trouble for accidentally breaking so many little ones. He would do exactly what he’d come here to do, and that was to find the Mourningtide Morel. With or without Selby’s help.

Barclay didn’t understand why Master Pilzmann had insisted Selby come along, or why he’d even taken on a second apprentice in the first place. Dullshire didn’t need two mushroom farmers. And when Master Pilzmann retired, it would be Barclay—not Selby—who took over for him.

After all, Barclay made sure he was the perfect apprentice. He took detailed notes in neat cursive handwriting. He had memorized every mushroom species in The Filosopher’s Field Guide to Finding Fungi volumes one through nine. Even Master Pilzmann himself had claimed that Barclay was the hardest-working boy Dullshire had ever seen.

Which was why Barclay refused to leave the mission empty-handed. He needed to prove to Master Pilzmann that he only needed one apprentice.

“I’m not leaving. Not yet,” Barclay declared, and he continued marching along the tree line.

Selby followed but whimpered as they walked.

As the older apprentice, it was Barclay’s responsibility to comfort Selby—not just to teach him. Selby had never been near the Woods before, and even Barclay, as experienced as he was, still thought the twisted trees looked a bit frightening.

But Barclay found it very hard to be nice to Selby. At home, Selby had many brothers and sisters who cared about him. Parents who looked after him. A room of his own. Barclay had none of those things. He’d had the last one, at least, until Master Pilzmann had let Selby move in.

There was no orphanage in Dullshire. If you wanted supper and a bed for the night, then you had to work for it. So Barclay had grown up working many jobs. He’d stacked books in the library, recorded new rules for the lawmakers, and delivered more spears to the sentries. But even though Barclay had tried to be exceptional at everything, when it came time to choose his apprenticeship, no one in Dullshire had offered him a spot. They were too worried about the futures of their own children to care about a scrappy rule-breaking orphan too.

And so Barclay had knocked on old Master Pilzmann’s door and begged for this apprenticeship, a job no one else wanted. Master Pilzmann had refused, and refused, and refused. But Barclay kept trying until he agreed.

And it had been fine for two years, all until the day that Selby showed up. He still cried and fled back home every chance he got, but Master Pilzmann hadn’t refused him. Not once.

“It’ll be dark soon,” Selby whined to Barclay.

“Not for hours,” Barclay told him.

“It’s freezing.”

“It’s winter. What did you expect?”

“I’m hungry.”

“Didn’t you eat lunch?”

“I fed it to Gustav.”

Gustav was Master Pilzmann’s pet pig, who sniffed out valuable truffles hidden in the ground. Normally, Gustav would join the boys on quests such as these, but Gustav had mysteriously gained weight these past few months, so much weight that waddling exhausted him. He spent all day napping by the fire.

You’ve been feeding Gustav?” Barclay buried his face in his hands. The mystery of the pig fattening was solved, and once again all of Barclay’s problems proved to be Selby’s fault.

“I don’t like mushrooms!” Selby complained. “They’re slimy, and they taste like dirt!”

Barclay could hardly believe what he was hearing. “Then why are you here?” he shouted. It was the very question that had bothered him for months. He also felt personally offended—he liked mushrooms very much.

Selby’s pink face flushed several shades pinker, and he burst into tears. “My mom said it was a good future for me.”

This seemed to be a lot of pressure to put on an 8-year-old, and for a moment, Barclay did feel rather bad.

But Barclay couldn’t get distracted. If he wanted to keep his apprenticeship, he didn’t have time to feel sorry for anyone but himself. This job was the only thing that ensured Barclay really fit into Dullshire, and Dullshire, however small and rural and rule-obsessed, was Barclay’s home. He would never leave it.

When Barclay had been very small, before his parents had died, he used to dream of adventure. He spent hours imagining the world that existed beyond Dullshire’s prickly walls, other towns and cities and kingdoms in far-flung realms beyond the Woods.

But his parents had loved Dullshire—they wouldn’t want such a life of uncertainty and danger for their only child. And so Barclay refused to disrespect their wishes. He tried to forget about the call of adventure, concentrating instead on how to stay. To belong.

Barclay focused back on the mission, and for the next several minutes, the only sounds were Selby’s teeth chattering, his nose sniffling or his stomach rumbling.

As Barclay knelt to examine a promising fungus, Selby tapped him on the shoulder. “Look. Look.”

Barclay swatted him away and pulled out his forager’s notebook, to compare the sketch to the subject before him. He frowned. He needed a scarlet dome, but this one was clearly crimson. Mushroom foraging was a very precise science.

He dug it out anyway and added it to his basket.

I’ve done it again, Barclay scolded himself, inspecting the dirt underneath his fingernails. Master Pilzmann hated how dirty Barclay got himself, and how his hair looked wild only hours after combing it. Repeat after me, Master Pilzmann would always say when he quoted Dullshire’s lawbook. Filth is prohibited—no dirt, no odor, no potty mouths. Cleanliness is orderliness.

“Barclay!” Selby squeaked, and Barclay finally stood up and turned around.

The grass between them and Dullshire was alive, with dozens—no, hundreds—of tiny, glowing white eyes peering at them between the weeds.

The piles of leaves beneath the boys’ boots shuddered and shook as small figures dashed within them. Selby hopped back and forth as though he stood barefoot on hot coals.

“Barclayyyyyyyy,” he wailed.

But Barclay was frozen, his gaze fixed on a single creature perched on a rock. It looked like a mouse, except without a tail and with six curled spikes protruding from its back.

Barclay had seen Beasts before. Sometimes, on breezy autumn days, strong gusts of wind carried glowing insects from the Woods to his town, whose stingers turned your skin swollen and green. He’d spotted Beasts flying in V shapes across the sky, seeking out warmer places for the winter and leaving trails of glittery smoke behind them. Occasionally, more vicious Beasts snuck out from the Woods to break into chicken coops and goat pens for nighttime feasts.

When Barclay was 4 years old, the Legendary Beast who lurked in the Woods, named Gravaldor, had destroyed Dullshire on Midsummer’s Day. Though Barclay had never glimpsed Gravaldor’s face, he remembered how the town walls had crumbled from the force of his roar. Gravaldor had torn roofs off homes with his jaws, sinking fangs into stones as though they were butter. His magic had caused the earth to rupture, making whatever remained of their once flat town now stand on a tilt.

It was thanks to Gravaldor that Barclay was an orphan.

Knowledge of Beasts had since been forbidden in Dullshire. Travelers who spoke of them were turned away from inns, in case they could be Lore Keepers, wretched people who bonded with Beasts and shared their magic. Children who played too close to the Woods were punished. Even the Beast-related books in the library were burned, making the entire subject a mystery.

“I thought the B-beasts stayed in the Woods,” Selby moaned.

“They usually do.”

Barclay had foraged along the edge of the Woods before without ever spotting a Beast.

But Midwinter was only a few weeks away, and like Midsummer, the holiday was known to make Beasts behave strangely.

Barclay took a careful step away from the mouselike creature. He considered reaching into his pocket for the charm he kept to ward off Beasts. But it was already too late for that.

“Don’t panic,” he told Selby. “They’re blocking our way back to town. But if we just think of . . .”

Except Selby didn’t listen. Dropping his notebook and quill behind him, he turned around and shot off.

Into the Woods.

The hundreds of eyes in the grass seemed to blink all at once. Barclay glanced at Dullshire in the distance, his whole body trembling. Selby was gone. Into the Woods. If Barclay could get around the terrible creatures, he could alert the sentries, who protected Dullshire from the Beasts. Selby had parents and a family, after all. The townspeople would grab their pitchforks and go after him.

But before Barclay could take off, one of the mice leaped out of the leaves and landed on Barclay’s boot.

It squeaked.

Barclay screamed.

He shook it off and sprinted after Selby. As soon as Barclay crossed into the trees, the daylight dimmed, swallowed by the knotted branches overhead. The already cold weather went colder, a fine, icy mist prickling against his skin.

Barclay was small for an 11-year-old, which made him an easy target for older kids looking for trouble. They tore pages out of his library books or stole the coins he saved for apple pastries.

If they could catch him.

Because when Barclay ran, even the sheepdogs struggled to keep up. And so he barreled down the forest hills and soon caught up to Selby, who ducked between the gray trees.

The wind blew, and leaves tumbled farther into the Woods, as if dragged by a riptide. The trees bent low, as though pointing Selby deeper, deeper.

“Selby!” Barclay screamed.

His long hair whipped across his face as he ran, quickly growing wild and tangled. The wind seemed to push him forward, like it was trying to carry him off as well.

“Selby, stop!”

Behind him, Barclay had lost sight of the edge. There were only trees and mist in every direction.

We’ve broken the rules, and now we’re going to die, Barclay thought with panic. Even if they escaped the Woods without being eaten by a Beast, what would they tell everyone? Selby and Barclay were both terrible liars.

Then Selby suddenly stopped running. Barclay skidded to a halt and slammed into him, knocking both boys down a thorn-covered hill. They rolled in a tangle of leaves and legs and branches, mushrooms spilling out of their baskets and bouncing down after them. They each screamed until they collided with the base of a fallen tree.

“What were you thinking?” Barclay shouted, shoving Selby off him. “We could’ve broken our necks! And—”

Selby let out a strangled sound and scampered back up the hill.

“What . . . ?” Barclay turned around to see what had scared Selby off, and froze.

On the fallen trunk of a massive tree, there stood a girl.

And on her shoulder, there sat a dragon.

Author photo by Diane Brophy Photography.

Best known for her young adult novels Daughter of the Burning City and the Shadow Game series, author Amanda Foody will make her middle grade debut in the spring of 2021 with the whimsical fantasy-adventure The Accidental Apprentice, the first book in the Wilderlore series. Here’s how Foody’s publisher describes the tale: The adventure begins […]

Ready for the dog days of summer to be over? Get a glimpse of a wintery wonderland as we reveal the cover of A Sled for Gabo, which will be simultaneously published in a Spanish edition, Un trineo para Gabo, translated by Alexis Romay, on Jan. 5, 2021. Author Emma Otheguy’s charming tale of a boy experiencing snow for the first time features illustrations by Ana Ramírez González.

Here’s how the book’s publisher, Atheneum, describes the story:

On the day it snows, Gabo sees kids tugging sleds up the hill, then coasting down, whooping all the while. Gabo wishes he could join them, but his hat is too small and he doesn’t have boots or a sled. But he does have warm and welcoming neighbors in his new town who help him solve the problem in the sweetest way possible! The Snowy Day meets Last Stop on Market Street in this heartwarming classic in the making about a young Latinx boy who is new in town and doesn’t have much, but with the help of a loving community discovers the joys of his first snowy day.

See the beautiful covers for both A Sled for Gabo and Un trineo para Gabo and read an exclusive excerpt below!

Images from A Sled for Gabo reproduced courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Ready for the dog days of summer to be over? Get a glimpse of a wintery wonderland as we reveal the cover of A Sled for Gabo, which will be simultaneously published in a Spanish edition, Un trineo para Gabo, translated by Alexis Romay, on Jan. 5, 2021. Author Emma Otheguy’s charming tale of a […]

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres every Tuesday.

Trending Features