The competition in this category was fierce, and I struggled to narrow the list to these five.
Too Small Tola by Atinuke
Published by Candlewick
Three charming stories about Tola, the youngest in a family living in Lagos, Nigeria, who works hard to prove that she can keep up with her older siblings.
Billy Miller Makes a Wish by Kevin Henkes
Published by Greenwillow
Billy makes a birthday wish that something exciting will happen, then feels guilty when his wish comes true in unexpected ways. It’s just the sort of thing that might happen when you’re eight. I liked this sequel even better than the Newbery Honor original, The Year of Billy Miller.
Make New Friends, But Keep the Old (Twig and Turtle, book 4) by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, illustrated by Paula Franco
Published by Pixel +Ink
I missed this series’ 2020 debut, but I’m glad I discovered Twig and Turtle this year and vicariously enjoyed their family’s experiences with tiny house living.
Harry Versus the First 100 Days of School by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Pete Oswald
Published by Anne Schwartz Books
I like to think of a parent somewhere turning off the computer, putting aside the newspaper, and reading another chapter of this book to their seven-year-old so they can find out how Harry deals with his fear of guinea pigs, his worries about making friends, and the other everyday problems of first grade.
Ways to Grow Love by Renée Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The first book about Ryan Hart, Ways to Make Sunshine, appeared on my end-of-the-year early chapter books list last year, and this one was every bit as good, with stories about Ryan’s summer between fourth and fifth grades. Her family faces some tough times, but good friends and a close-knit community help make it a happy summer for Ryan.