People were often stuck at home in 2020 as the pandemic forced adults to work from home and children to do virtual online learning. With few places to go, books became an important way to escape for a little while.
Of course, libraries track which books in their collections are the most popular. Locally, the top 10 books for children and teens were a mix of classics, popular series and ordinary books that appealed to people.
At the Liberty Lake Library, the No. 1 picture book checked out in 2020 was “Clifford the Big Red Dog” by Norman Bridwell. Other top titles included “How to Catch a Unicorn” by Adam Wallace, “The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything” by Linda Williams and “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Drew Daywalt.
“I think a lot of them are perennial favorites,” said children’s Librarian Jandy Humble.
Mo Williams is a popular children’s author, and his newest book, “The Pigeon Has to Go to School,” made the top 10. “The Day the Crayons Quit” has been on the New York Times bestseller lists for picture books for years,” Humble said.
She remembers her mother reading her “The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything” when she was a little girl.
At the Spokane County Library District, which includes branches in Spokane Valley, Airway Heights, Cheney and Fairfield, the No. 1 book checked out in the picture book category was “I see, I see” by Robert Henderson.
Youth Collection Development Librarian Sheri Boggs said she knows Henderson’s book. “It’s an interactive book that’s designed to be read right side up and upside down at the same time,” she said. “It’s perfect for parents to share with kids, and it’s a great introduction to the concept of perspective.”
Other top picture books in the district included “Pete the Cat and the Itsy Bitsy Spider” by James Dean, “A Big Mooncake for Little Star” by Grace Lin and “How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read?” by Jane Yolen.
Boggs said she was pleased to see “Llama Destroys the World” by Jonathan Stutzman on the top 10 list, calling it “completely bonkers fun” to read aloud.
“It’s about a disco dancing llama who eats so much his pants split open and create a black hole that threatens to destroy the world,” she said. “Storytime gold for older preschoolers-early elementary.”
Several of the top 10 books in the teen category at the Liberty Lake Library are also long-term favorites. Several of them have been made into movies, including “The Hunger Games,” “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” and “Divergent.”
The No. 1 book for teens in 2020 was “The Red Pyramid” by Rick Riordan, who is always a popular author, followed by “The Selection” by Kiera Cass and “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak.
“One of the things that surprised me is that ‘Twilight’ came back on the list,” Humble said.
She thinks the once hugely popular book by Stephanie Meyer made an appearance last year because Meyer released a new book in the series, “Midnight Sun,” that may have prompted people to reread the original series.
In the Spokane County Library District, Meyer’s “Midnight Sun” came in at No. 3 on the 2020 top 10 list for teens. Oddly enough, the No. 1 book in 2020 was “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London. Boggs said she suspects the book was required reading in one of the large school districts in the area.
“I would put down money that’s what’s going on there,” she said.
Other top favorites included “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” by Suzanne Collins, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and “The Tyrant’s Tomb (Trials of Apollo)” by Rick Riordan. “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas, about a teenage girl who witnesses a fatal police shooting, was listed at No. 8.
“Some of it is word of mouth,” Boggs said. “I think that’s the case with ‘The Hate You Give.’ Kids talking about it gets other kids interested.”
The Liberty Lake Library is currently offering curbside pickup and people can ask for book bundles. For a book bundle, people can specify a genre or topic they are interested in and the librarian will select several books.
“We’re just trying to find new and creative ways to reach our kids since they can’t come in right now,” Humble said.
Still, circulation was down last year because the library was closed for several months and then only open for curbside pickup. The number of books checked out last month was about half of what was checked out in January 2020. And curbside pickup doesn’t allow people to go in and browse the shelves to see what looks interesting.
“We’re definitely a browsing library,” Humble said. “That’s something we try to do with our book bundles.”
The library district is in the same position, offering curbside pickup to patrons. People have also been turning to their computers and iPads to read books, Boggs said.
“Our digital is way up,” she said. “Physical was down a little bit, but it rallied by the end of the year.”
Nina Culver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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