Twenty-Twenty Class Favorites

 It's been a year. I think it's safe to say that if you published a book, especially your debut novel, in 2020, your book deserves to be on all the lists. For this list, I'm including the MG books published in 2020 that have been the most widely read in our sixth grade classroom. Hopefully, you'll find a few books that slipped under your radar this year. May the new year bring you joy, peace, and books!


Flight of the Puffin Review


One small act of kindness ripples out to connect four kids in this stirring novel by the author of the beloved The Benefits of Being an Octopus.

Libby comes from a long line of bullies. She wants to be different, but sometimes that doesn’t work out. Now she's suspended again.

On the opposite side of the country lives Vincent, a kid who loves the mathematician Katherine Johnson and being a non-conformist, who’s trying hard not to get stuffed into lockers at his new school. But that’s not working out too well either.  

Nearby is T, who couldn’t take living at home anymore and is determined to survive on a rainy sidewalk.

And then there’s Jack, a big-hearted kid so engaged in the fight to keep his small rural school open that he’s lost focus on the ones who need him most.

Four kids. Four different lives. And then… one card with a message of hope takes flight and starts a chain reaction, helping each kid summon the thing they need, whether it’s bravery, empathy, or understanding. But best of all, it makes each one realize they matter -- and that they're not flying solo anymore.


Libby is navigating a life where her family has expectations that she is far from meeting. After quitting softball, no one in her family has really given her the attention and/or the affection she desires; especially when it comes to her love for the arts. Libby is invisible to her family for who she really is. As girls in Libby’s school are constantly judging her based off past actions, or her family’s actions, Libby decides to take matters into her own hands - with a stack of colorful post cards she leaves like one sentence reminders to those who might need it. “My parents might see themselves as strong and sturdy like concrete. Too bad I’m that dandelion sprouting through the cracks.”

Jack is from small town, country side, Vermont where he goes to a one room school house still. After losing his little brother Alex a year prior - there are a lot of things that are constantly reminding him of Alex even when he doesn’t necessarily want them to. Jack has taken on as a mentor to a young boy named Joey who reminds him a lot of his little brother. When a lady from the state of education comes in to try and take their school house away, Jack is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure their school doesn’t shut down. 

Vincent is a boy in his own world, and he likes it there, until it gets very lonely. Vincent is constantly being bullied for how different he enjoys being, and doesn’t sway from staying true to himself, but sadly that started to come with consequences - staying strong all day only works until you absolutely can’t strong anymore. “Except that once you figure out who you are, can you really forget about that? And how long can you last trying to pretend you’re someone you’re not? But how long can anyone take being lonely?” THEN Vincent receives Libby’s postcard. 

T is the part in verse in the story. T is such a mystery for quite some time. We are introduced to T in a variety of small poems where we can infer that T feels invisible. Later on realizing that T has left everything behind and is on their own. T is connected to Vincent by handing Vincent a shirt during a bullying incident. Then Vincent repays the act of kindness by bringing T and Peko food. 

As the story continues and the postcards keep getting left around town, Libby talks with a lady at the store who brings in Vincent’s story of being bullied and almost as if he is bringing it upon himself. Libby has a hard time biting her lip in regards to this lady “defending the bullies” like - let’s just go with the flow of everything so you don’t get bullied. This ignites Libby’s fire even more to continue with the postcards, even asking the lady for the address to send one to Vincent in Seattle. T is connected to Vincent by handing Vincent a shirt during a bullying incident. Then Vincent repays the act of kindness by bringing T and Peko food. Vincent sees Jack on the news during the school board meeting and decides to return the act of kindness by sending him a postcard letting him know he is not alone.  4 separate kids all across the country experiencing life in different ways, yet so similar. Feeling all alone. Feeling like they’re invisible. Nobody seeing them for who they truly are, and appreciating that. Then started just random acts of kindness in hopes that someone, somewhere, will listen. 

This is a story to be read aloud. To be discussed. To be truly digested by kids everywhere. In times where we are unsure of what to believe, sometimes who we are, what we are, what we stand for - this story reminds us to have hope and believe; and to understand you are never truly alone in your struggles. 

“I always knew you were brave, but I’m so glad you’re this kind of brave.”

Out in May - Preorder now by clicking here: 
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Sophie Washington - Middle Grade Short Series

 Sophie Washington Book Series

By: Tonya Duncan Ellis

Tonya Duncan Ellis loves to travel and has visited 49 American states, 20 countries, and three continents, but some of her best journeys have been between the pages of a novel. As a girl she could always be found with a book in her hand, and reading is still one of her favorite hobbies. When she's not reading or writing, the author likes to ride her bike, swim, and spend time with her husband and three children. She lives in Houston, TX.


Find out more at

Sophie Washington is a book series all about Sophie and the things she goes through as a typical 5th grade student. Sophie Washington My BFF is the 10th installment in this wonderful series. 

*Click the image to purchase. Affiliate link from Amazon. 

An entertaining series that celebrates friendship, diversity, and anti-racism, these engaging, illustrated, middle grade chapter books are a great addition to classroom and homeschool libraries and delight fans of Ramona Quimby, Ivy and Bean, Jada Jones, Judy Moody, and Junie B. Jones.


"The story covers some important moral subjects such as honesty, kindness, and self-confidence. I thought the story also tackled the subject of isolating others and the hugely important topic of social media bullying very well." - Readers' Favorite

Other Sophie Washington titles include Queen of the BeeThe SnitchThings You Didn’t Know About SophieThe GamerHurricaneMission Costa RicaSecret SantaCode One, and Mismatch.

Tonya's response in writing My BFF: How far should you go to keep a friendship? 

I asked myself this question for weeks before sitting down to write SOPHIE WASHINGTON: MY BFF. Throughout my Sophie Washington chapter book series for kids ages 8-12, main character, Sophie, and her longtime friend, Chloe, have been extremely close. What could happen to change that? 

Making and keeping friends is very important to kids during the tween years. Throw in social media and cyberbullying, and things get much more complicated than they were for prior generations.

I had a great time exploring these and other issues in SOPHIE WASHINGTON: MY BFF. I hope that the book both entertains and offers talking points for readers and their parents. 

Teacher Review: 

I get asked often what would be great series for readers who are reading above level in 3rd/4th as well as in 5th. Sophie Washington is the best friend protagonist we all need in our life. Every single thing that Sophie experiences are relatable to students in these middle grade classrooms. These stories would also be AMAZING read alouds for 1st-3rd grade! It prepares children to deal with the world and how cruel others could be. This particular book in the series helps kids to understand how hard friendships can truly be, and how sometimes if it's too much work to keep the friend, they may not have been your friend at all. Or if they are your friend, they're going to be worth fighting for. A lot of it is up for discussion with students and how they handle those situations. 

I highly recommend this series to elementary teachers! Head to the links to buy the whole series. 

Here is book 1: 
Click on the image to purchase! 


The ABCs of Black History - Review and Recommendation



An impressive array of names, events, and concepts from Black history are introduced in this alphabet book for early-elementary readers . . . Readers will feel pride and admiration for the resilience and achievements of Black people and a call to participate in the ‘unfinished . . . American tale.’”

-Kirkus starred review


"Be prepared to learn more than 26 nuggets of information from this rendition of the alphabet...The layers of history are plentiful and complex....A useful mentor text for writing projects, a springboard for research, and an essential addition to classroom libraries."


Written by Pushcart-nominated-poetRio Cortez and illustrated by newcomer Lauren Semmer, THE ABCs of BLACK HISTORY uses the alphabet as a frame to introduce Black history. Beginning with Anthem—an introduction to James Weldon Johnson’s Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing—and ending with Zenith, a tribute to the mountaintop Dr. King spoke about before his death, readers will travel across continents and centuries, navigate triumph and heartbreak, and celebrate creativity and joy.  


The poetic text introduces big ideas to engage curious minds. Every letter has a rhyming verse, and every spread is a visual feast. F explores the concepts of farming and foodG is for Go! and the Great Migration from the rural South to the urban North. Then the reader lands in Harlem, New York, where they meet Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. Contemporary moments are included too. M is for march and message, which explores the culmination of movements that have changed the course of history, from the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965 to the Black Lives Matter movement today. And Q is for queens, acquainting readers with powerful women like Leontyne PriceQueen NandiToni MorrisonMichelle Obama, and many more. 


The book also includes robust back matter that offers more information on the events, places, and people mentioned in the poem, from Fannie Lou Hamer to DJ Kool Herc, the Little Rock Nine to Sam Cooke


A necessary addition to every child’s bookshelf, THE ABCs of BLACK HISTORY is an exuberant celebration of history, culture, race, and justice. 


Rio Cortez is a writer and Pushcart Prize–nominated poet who has received fellowships from Poet’s House, Cave Canem, and CantoMundo foundations. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of BooksThe Miami Rail, and Mother magazine, among others. Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Rio writes and lives in Harlem, New York. Her daughter was the inspiration for this book.  



Lauren Semmer is an artist, children’s book illustrator, and designer. She studied drawing at St. Paul College of Visual Arts and art history at New York University. Lauren’s bright and charming work is featured on everything from kid’s wall art to children’s apparel. She lives in Manhattan, New York, with her family.  


Get it before Christmas!

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