With a few of our anchors moonlighting as picture book authors, it's no secret TODAY has a soft spot for children's books.
In 2020, we caught up with some of our favorite stars-turned-children's authors, including Natalie Portman for “Natalie Portman’s Fables,” Joanna Gaines for “The World Needs Who You Were Meant to Be,” Alyssa Milano for “Project Class President,” Misty Copeland for “Bunheads,” Neil Patrick Harris for “The Magic Misfits” and Gabrielle Union for “Welcome to the Party."
Judy Blume also caught up with Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager for the 50th anniversary of “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret,” and "Baby-Sitters Club" author Ann M. Martin told Jenna where she thought her characters would be now, after the success of the new Netflix series.
There were so many more children's books we loved in 2020, at a time when parents and kids were unable to browse in bookstores. Here are 25 of our favorite children’s books of 2020.
To quickly jump to the category you're looking for, click on the links below or keep scrolling to see them all.
Don’t forget to check out Shop TODAY’s 2020 Gift Guide to find the perfect present for everyone on your list!
Best Picture Books
Sophie Blackall takes in the full scope of our planet in this lyrical introduction to Earth for an alien (or your learning little one). Its beautifully rendered details invite close study.
There’s no better time to let children know they matter, even if they’re lost, or everyone is too busy to help. This simple text can reach the youngest of readers, while also creating a low-key way to start important conversations.
In this delightful picture book, Captain Swashby lives alone by the sea and likes it that way. When a little girl disrupts his peace, Swashby tries to get rid of her by leaving grumpy messages in the sand. But the sea has other ideas. Fun wordplay and lush illustrations make this an inspired read.
It all starts with a little gum in your hair. Then come the scissors, the butter and some other ill-advised solutions dreamed up in this hilarious, cumulative story.
Two little girls are new friends, and maybe best friends, in this celebration of a childlike discovery of the magic of friendship.
This graceful love letter to a child braces them for times when they might question their place in the universe. It is a bear hug of a book that also confronts the full weight of tragedies they will witness.
A red balloon comes to bear from the sky. When his claws get the better of it, he thinks he's a bad bear, but learns not to blame himself.
What would happen if a crow that could fly got together with a crab that could pinch noses? Well, they'd be unstoppable. This hilarious take on teamwork will keep kids and their parents giggling.
This beautiful picture book from the creators of Newbery and Caldecott Honor-winner "Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut" highlights the wonderful ways to celebrate a child's humanity.
A boy who stutters struggles to express himself in this beautiful book that will inspire empathy.
This fantasy from the duo behind “Drawn Together” introduces us to Iris, a young girl with a love of pushing elevator buttons. When her little brother usurps her button-pushing duty, she embarks on a new adventure that takes her to unexpected heights.
Best Graphic Novels
In this follow up to "New Kid," the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal, Jordan's friend Drew struggles to fit in with his privileged classmates.
These twins have always been built-in bffs, until middle school starts to set them on different paths.
This new "Dog Man" spinoff is a gentle lesson in harnessing creativity, silencing your inner critic and giving art a try.
If "Are You There God" had a 2020 granddaughter, this graphic novel would be it. It confronts issues of period shame and inequity with good humor.
From the creator of “American Born Chinese” comes this gripping graphic novel following a high school championship basketball team, with forays into the history of basketball and the writer’s own journey to create the book.
Best Middle-Grade Books
This “remix” of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning “Stamped From the Beginning” explains racism to younger readers by exploring the origin of racist ideas and explaining how to stamp them out in their own lives.
A lot is changing for Bea — her parents are divorcing and her dad is marrying another man. But with that new stepfather comes a chance for a new sister, and an exploration of the meaning of family.
A charming tale of a child who yearns to fly with her pigeon friends but must brave the human world to save them.
This mash-up combines poetry and prose, biography and novel into a knockout book for young readers.
Best Young Adult Books
This novel in verse builds on the experience of Yusef Salaam, one of the exonerated Central Park Five, to examine the harsh reality of the school to prison pipeline.
It's the year's No. 1 best-selling children's or YA book on Today.com. For sheer fun, this "Hunger Games" prequel shows that sometimes the best escape is to dystopia.
A novel in verse from the National Book Award–winning author of “The Poet X” explores the lives of two girls after a tragic plane crash that brings them together.
This summer-friendly binge about a camp for queer teens has already been optioned by HBO Max for their new streaming service.
Part immigrant story, part tour through Persian history, all mesmerizing.
Still looking for the perfect gift? Be sure to check out Shop TODAY’s 2020 Gift Guide to shop for everyone on your list, including:
- The best gifts for kids by age, according to our 2020 gift guide
- 20 classic children’s books every parent needs in their nursery
- 36 thoughtful teacher gifts that are A+
- The ultimate gift guide for kids at every age — from babies to teens
- 25 gifts all new moms and dads will appreciate