Guest Blogger

The Underdogs 2020: Ten Picture Books You May Have Missed

I have been assembling the “underdogs” list for several years now, and this one was particularly difficult. Between the library being closed in the Spring, and then adjusting to modified services upon reopening, I haven’t had a lot of access to new picture books, much less time to leisurely  browse them.

In spite of these challenges, I’m excited to share these 10 lesser-known titles with you! I hope you sneak in a few minutes to peruse them. Between their unique storylines and evocative illustrations, you might find a little nugget of beauty to make you smile!

It’s difficult to reinvent the bedtime story and Nikki Grimes tackles the challenge head on. Her protagonist is a bold and energetic child who makes his way to bed with an entire troupe of whimsical animals. The action verbs and short sentences lend themselves well to interaction.

Cover image of Bedtime for Sweet Creatures
Bedtime for Sweet Creatures by Nikki Grimes
Teatime Around the World by Denyse Waissbluth and illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrn

Gathering around tea is a universal and unifying experience! Waissbluth and O’Byrne take the reader around the world to see all of the different ways this beverage is prepared, consumed and shared.

Emily Neilson uses the most adorable illustrations and concepts to teach young readers about consent. A young boy in the sea learns that not every animal wants a “squish,” and he diligently asks them how they would like to receive thanks and recognition.

Can I Give You a Squish? by Emily Neilson

Il Sung Na is known for his gentle baby books, with soft illustrations. “That’s My Carrot” is a bit different: it’s highly interactive, plot-driven, and features two very possessive and determined rabbits. When a giant carrot grows in their shared plot of land, they launch a race to see who can claim it first!

I love books that introduce children to scientific concepts in a clear and simple way.  “Seeds” does just that! With just a few sentences on each page, Carme Lemniscates explains how seeds spread throughout the land, and help all of our flowers and vegetables grow!

Seeds by Carme Lemniscates
While We Can’t Hug by Eoin McLaughlin and illustrated by Polly Dunbar

Tessa Allen explains with simple words and powerful illustrations how marching is an effective tool to stand up for yourself and others. A wonderful chronology is included at the beginning, detailing important marches from the Newsies Strike to present day Climate Change protests. 

Many children’s books about social distancing were cranked out in record time this year. Unfortunately, some of these titles compromised quality for the sake of urgency. That’s why I was so delighted to find “While We Can’t Hug.” McLaughlin does a beautiful job outlying how kids can show affection to each other while staying apart.

Sometimes People March by Tessa Alle
Library Babies by Puck, art by Violet Lemay

This book, in addition to being cute and well-written, is the perfect library marketing tool you didn’t know you needed. Puck describes everything the library can do for a baby and his/her caregiver. This would make a great giveaway title for library outreach events!

A young girl is frustrated that her teacher can’t pronounce her name. Her mother shows her a simple trick, and she returns to school the next day ready to teach her class its correct pronunciation. This book encourages children to be proud of their names and it is also great for educators and caregivers, showing just how important it is to get names right.

Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Th0mpkins-Bigelow
Won’t You Be My Neighbor by Fred Rogers, pictures by Luke Flowers

This simple and bright board book will appeal to grownups who have delighted in Fred Rogers’ recent revival in collective memory. It will also appeal to young children who know and love the theme song to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. The delightful illustrations by Luke Flowers perfectly modernize the beloved neighborhood while maintaining its distinctive attributes.

What books did YOU love which were published last year?

Our guest blogger today is Katherine Hickey. Katherine is a Children’s Librarian in Oklahoma City.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

One comment

  1. Kelly Doolittle

    Thank you for this Katherine! I’ve seen and enjoyed a couple of these as we got our budget for new books settled, and I can’t wait to dig into the rest as I get my Family style storytimes up and running for the year!

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