One of the great perks of being in a masters program for children’s literature (Did I mention that I started a master’s program for children’s literature?) is that you HAVE to read lots and lots and lots of children’s books. In fact, we’re holding a mock Caldecott Committee to select the most noteworthy book of the year.
But I could never pick just one. So, just in time for the holiday season, in case you’re planning to shower the younger ones in your life with great literature or need a great picture book to snuggle up with yourself, I present my favorite 20 children’s books published this year (alphabetical by author, because I can’t even bring myself to rank them…).
Note: although I read lots and lots, there are even more I did NOT read… please share them with me!
On a Magical Do-Nothing Day
Written and Illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna
Lovely colors and textures illustrate a girl’s exploration in the rain after she drops her technology in the pond. Totally recommend to Luddites like myself.
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets
Written by Kwame Alexander, Chris Corderly, and Marjory Wentworth; Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
A compilation of poems that celebrate the lives and writing styles of various poets, with brilliantly collaged illustrations. This one would be a lot of fun to teach with.
The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse
Written by Mac Barnett; Illustrated by Jon Klassen
This picture book is pretty weird. But I happen to like picture books that are pretty weird, and I know a lot of kids that do, too.
Written and Illustrated by Fanny Britt
This graphic novel touches on the tough topic of an alcoholic parent in what feels like a very authentic way, with equally heartfelt pictures.
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet
Written by Carmen Agra Deedy; Illustrated by Eugene Yelchen
This colorful tale of a Bolivian rooster who will stop at nothing to sing endearingly captures the spirit of fighting for freedom of expression.
Her Right Foot
Written by Dave Eggers; Illustrated by Shawn Harris
This unique book combines a wide, interesting history about the Statue of Liberty with inspiring commentary on immigration.
When’s My Birthday?
Written by Julie Fogliano; Illustrated by Christian Robinson
This bouncy, rhythmic read manages to capture the unbearable anticipation kids feel about their birthdays. And Robinson’s illustrations are the icing on the cake!
Written by Shannon Hale; Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
This graphic novel manages to capture the complexities of girl friendship and social grouping, based on the author’s own childhood.
Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth
Written and Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Jeffers combines insight with playfulness in this guide for human experience of life on this planet. Written for newcomers to Earth, Here We Are provides a useful perspective for humans of all ages.
A Greyhound, A Groundhog
Written by Emily Jenkins; Illustrated by Chris Appelhans
These joyful, watery pictures match the language, the words tumbling around on your tongue as the greyhound and groundhog spin and romp through the pages.
The Book of Mistakes
Written and Illustrated by Corinna Luyken
I’m a sucker for books about making mistakes, and I love Luyken’s original take on the theme. The evolving artwork makes up the story as the artist makes mistakes and creatively resolves them. The twist at the end is endearing (and kind of meta…).
Written by Kyo Maclear; Illustrated by Kenard Pak
I will confess that I haven’t actually been able to get my hands on a copy of this book. But from what I’ve read and seen, I love it already. A bird-watching girl and a people-watching bird meet under the worst circumstances for such observant specimens – in a heavy fog.
Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters
Written by Michael Mahin; Illustrated by Evan Turk
These illustrations are my favorite of the year, reflecting the vibrancy and textures of Muddy’s life. It’s the story of a man and a guitar and of fighting against a current of racism to rise to the top. Mahin’s blog on this is worth checking out.
Blue Sky White Stars
Written by Sarvinder Naberhaus; Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This book places some awe-inspiring wordplay alongside Nelson’s beautiful portrayal of the diversity of people that make America the country it is.
Written by Adam Rex; Illustrated by Scott Campbell
OK, this book might not stand up to critical analysis of gender norms or healthy relationships, but taken with a light humor, this series of love letters between an ox and a gazelle are really cute. And in a clever move by ox, it shows how loving someone for their flaws is greater than placing them on a pedestal.
After the Fall
Written and Illustrated by Dan Santat
Scieszka set a high bar for fractured fairy tales when I was a kid, and so I was skeptical of this one. But Santat pulls off a fresh spin on the story, full of humor and a surprising end.
Town is by the Sea
Written by Joanne Schwartz; Illustrated by Sydney Smith
This story follows a boy who lives by the sea for a day. Life seems simple for him, but his father is under the sea digging for coal, and the boy knows that someday, he will be too. In a time when children are told that they can be anything, this perspective reminds them that not all children have had that privilege.
What Does Baby Want?
Written and Illustrated by Tupera Tupera (Japanese design team)
The innovative shape of this board book is perfect for introducing an essential part of many baby’s lives that I’ve never seen represented in a children’s book before – breast feeding.
And So It Goes
Written and Illustrated by Valvdivia Paloma; Translated by Susan Ouriou
This seemingly simple book grapples with some of life’s big questions, like why we come into this world and what happens when we leave it behind. Lovely illustrations to boot.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality
Written by Jonah Winter; Illustrated by Stacy Innerst
Another awesome biography with illustrations that show both strength and humanity. Winter addresses the people of the jury as he makes the case for the importance of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s influence on the progress toward gender equality.