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2020 Children’s Lit: The Year in Miscellanea

It’s time to take a look back at the year that was in children’s lit miscellanea.

Read previous Year in Miscellanea Posts:

2019, 20182017201620152014201320122011201020092008

Self-Portrait of the Year: Jerry Pinkney

All the staying at home during 2020 did lead to a few good things, like this self-portrait by one of the greats (which he shared on Instagram).

Best Dedication (Picture Book): Bad Brows by Jason Carter Eaton

You have to appreciate an on-theme dedication.

Best Children’s Lit Response to Quarantine Times: Frog and Toad Tentatively Go Outside After Months in Self-Quarantine

“Toad changed into his work pajamas.”

Best Knitting Pattern: Frog and Toad

Speaking of the famous amphibian duo, why not recreate them in yarn?

Best Rewrite: Love You Forever by Topher Payne

On his Instagram account, Payne made some adjustments to Rainbow Fish, The Giving Tree, and Love You Forever. The change we all need.

Best Music Video: Together by Jarvis and Penny Neville Lee

Elevating sticky notes to an art form.

Halloween Costume of the Year: Pigeon Ice Cream from Should I Share My Ice Cream? (via Karen W.)

No, not The Pigeon from one of the many Pigeon books – no, this is the Pigeon ice cream cone from the endpapers of Should I Share My Ice Cream? You gotta respect this deep-cut children’s literature costume.

Board Book I Rolled My Eyes At, Until I Read It: Mama Needs a Minute by Nicole Sloan

I thought this would be a “Ha-ha stop bugging me, kid” sort of affair, but in actuality it’s a rather heartfelt and sweet book about how there are times to be together and times to have space.

Best Real Estate Investment Opportunity: Shel Silverstein’s Houseboat

Is it wrong to hope it’s haunted?

Best Calling In of a Promise: Chris Scott, Beverly Cleary, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

We’re waiting, Ms. Cleary.

Author Bio of the Year: Christopher Swiedler in In the Red

The guy does not want to get a big head.

Best Pink Floyd Homage: We Will Rock Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

On the much-awaited sequel to We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Higgins used the case cover for a Dark Side of the Moon tribute (see the original album cover below).

Best Appearance by a Children’s Book Creator on a Podcast: Abby Hanlon on Without Fail

It was a cool surprise to see one of my favorite children’s book creators (Dory Fantasmagory, anyone?) pop up on a show that I already know and listen to.

Best Credit NOT Taken: Jason Reynolds NOT taking credit for The Hate U Give (by Angie Thomas)

All it takes is hard work, dedication, and someone else writing a great book.

Phone Call of the Year: Kobe Calls Jason Reynolds

The Rolls Royce Award (For Luxurious Book Design): Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang.

It’s pebbled. It’s spot-varnished. It’s foiled. And then you take OFF the jacket and the gold keeps on coming. Appropriate for one of the best books of 2020.

Best John Ford Homage: Jack Goes West, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

What better way to close Jack’s western adventures than with a nod to the iconic director and his masterpiece.

Most Meta Moment: The hairline sequence in Dragon Hoops

Now this is something I’ve never seen before: a character in a book asks to be drawn differently, and then in the next panel, the change is made.

Best Double Gatefold: The tart in Nice Try, Charlie! by Matt James

Unquestionably the best tart reveal in picture book history.

Children’s Lit Satire of the Year: Pretentious Third-Grader Only Reading Children’s Books That Won Newbery Medal

“I’m hoping that when she gets a little older she’ll realize that art is subjective and its quality isn’t determined by some anonymous, smoke-filled room full of library administrators.”

The Talking Heads Award: You Might Find Yourself by Tai Snaith

I can’t read the title without busting into “Letting the days go by . . .”

Zoom Miscommunication of the Year: Jacqueline Woodson

Tik Tok: More interesting to kids than a TED Talk.

Real Life Imitating Children’s Lit: Make Way for Ducklings in An Unlikely Story

Robert McCloskey would be pretty pleased with the scene at Jeff Kinney’s Unlikely Story book shop a few months back.

Trend With No End In Sight: Song lyrics turned into picture books

We’re not gonna take it, anymore.

Best Potential Author Photo: Kwame Mbalia

I think I speak for everyone when I say, go for it, Kwame.

Two-Page Spread of the Year: Swashby diving from Swashby and the Sea, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

A dare you to name a more dramatic, perfectly-timed, beautifully grungy (check that wiry leg hair) spread in 2020.

Pickle of the Year: Jillian Tamaki in My Best Friend

Best Video Series of 2020: The Inside Story of El Deafo with Cece Bell

Bell breaks down her Newbery Honor winning graphic novel memoir with humor, honesty, and countless behind-the-scenes details that fans of the book will love.

Best Three Robbers Homage: The Bookstore Cat by Cylin Busby, illustrated by Charles Santoso

Definitely getting an Ungerer vibe here.

The “Less Is More” Award: A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Shawn Harris

Working some magic with white paper and a few marks here and there.

Best Feeling Book of 2019, and by “Best Feeling” I Don’t Mean the Book That Makes You Feel the Best, But the Book That Literally Just Feels Really Cool in a Tactile Way: Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

It feels like fancy wallpaper in the best possible way.

New Tactile Cover Trend of 2020: Sandpaper Feel

I don’t know the technical term, but I felt a bunch of book covers this year that featured sandpaper-y rough patches. Get your hands on these.

Best Under the Jacket Surprise of 2020: The Bad Chair by Dasha Tolstikova

This stamp from The Bad Chair wasn’t officially submitted for The Undies Case Cover Awards, and it’s a shame, because it’s my favorite of 2020.

Book Cover of the Year (Middle Grade): Muffled by Jennifer Gennari

The combo of illustration and three-dimensional object made this one stand out to me all year long. Cover artist Javier Perez, cover design Krista Vossen.

Title Trend: Totally Crossed Out

Characters were messing with titles right and left in 2020.

Tote Bag of the Year: Toad Bag

Issued in honor of the 50th anniversary of Frog and Toad Are Friends.

Commemorative Plate of the Year: Oliver Jeffers 2020 plate 

It’s so perfect, yet I want to break it so badly. Too bad it’s sold out.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Thank you for featuring MUFFLED! The cover artist is Javier Perez! See his work at https://javierperez.ws/

  2. LOVE everything in this post! Thanks!

  3. Laura Harrison says

    What a terrific post! I love it! P.s I scored the Frog & Toad tote bag. It’s phenomenal!