Best Books: 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010
Summer Reads: 2024 | 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012

Bedtime for Sweet Creatures

Nikki Grimes, illus. by Elizabeth Zunon (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

“No! No! No!” begins Grimes’s rhythmic, playful romp through a restless child’s bedtime routine. As the toddler resists sleep, a mother patiently creates an imaginary animal menagerie—“Your eyes swell, wide as owls”—transforming a bedroom into a forest full of friendly creatures, shown in Zunon’s expressive, heavily textured collage. A loving, effective lullaby.


Being Frog

April Pulley Sayre (Beach Lane)

Focused on frogs’ essential frog-ness rather than anthropomorphized interpretations of amphibian life, Sayre uses rich photographs and evocative language to explore how frogs might understand and experience their environments. Sayre’s gentle argument—“for me a made-up frog cannot match the beauty of a real frog—a creature so alive in its pond world”—persuades.


The Blue House

Phoebe Wahl (Knopf)

“Leo lived with his dad in an old blue house next to a tall fir tree” in a neighborhood that’s being redeveloped. When they find out that their house is going to be torn down, the supportive, honest father helps his son ride a wave of emotions and land safely on the other side. Wahl makes both characters distinctive and sympathetic, and devotes loving attention to every spread.


Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away

Meg Medina, illus. by Sonia Sánchez (Candlewick)

As movers pack Evelyn’s family’s belongings, Daniela tells readers about her: “my mejor amiga, my número uno best friend.” Digital artwork by Sánchez radiates warmth and specificity as Daniela and Evelyn revel in their last moments as neighbors, adding poignancy to their vibrant connection in Medina’s portrait of two girls of color and their strong, resilient friendship.


Every Color of Light

Hiroshi Osada, trans. from the Japanese by David Boyd, illus. by Ryōji Arai (Enchanted Lion)

In a story that sharpens the senses and quiets the soul, the creators capture the ephemerality and magic of a summer rainstorm—wind whips, leaves fly, rain slashes sideways. By employing landscapes in lieu of human or animal characters, Osada and Arai ask readers to look—really look—at the rain, the way the changing weather transforms the visible spectrum, and the magnificence of the night sky.


Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

Candace Fleming, illus. by Eric Rohmann (Holiday House/Porter)

The brief but complex life of an Apis mellifera—a worker honeybee—is explored with depth in this richly detailed picture book. Fleming uses lyrical language to describe Apis’s jam-packed short life, while Rohmann’s realistic oil-on-paper illustrations artfully capture close-up details, such as the glisten of transparent wings and the fine hairs covering a bee’s body.


How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion

Ashima Shiraishi, illus. by Yao Xiao (Make Me a World)

Teen author and climber Shiraishi doesn’t just scale rocks—she solves problems. A spread shows a boulder covered with images, visual mnemonics to help her as she climbs and falls. When problem-solving is a necessary part of any process—one that informs and aids in resilience—the specter of failure disappears. Xiao’s cleanly outlined forms show Shiraishi honing analytical skills whose power reaches beyond the climbing wall.


I Am Every Good Thing

Derrick Barnes, illus. by Gordon C. James (Penguin/Paulsen)

The creators of Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut craft an empowering ode to Black boy joy. In metaphor-driven verse, Barnes moves from the interpersonally specific to the iconic, and from the naturalistic to the historical. James paints Black boys of varying skin tones and ages engaging in work and play, solo and in community. Together, the two powerfully convey the idea that all Black boys are “worthy/ to be loved.”


If You Come to Earth

Sophie Blackall (Chronicle)

Meeting children from around the world gave Caldecott Medalist Blackall a vision of a book “that would bring us together.” This exquisite catalog of human experience is the result. Featuring encyclopedic paintings rendered in painstaking detail, it is a volume that can be shared with strangers, visitors, friends old and new—a work in which differences build to reveal an inclusive human family on a single, precious planet.


In the Half Room

Carson Ellis (Candlewick)

In rhymes and nighttime interiors that recall Goodnight Moon, Caldecott Honoree Ellis imagines a space in which everything is neatly divided down the middle: half pieces of furniture appear eclectically antique as “the light of the half moon/ shines down on the half room.” By centering the fragmentary, Ellis offers a strange, thrilling logic, inviting readers to engage with a concept fundamental to children’s experience: liminality.


I Talk Like a River

Jordan Scott, illus. by Sydney Smith (Holiday House/Porter)

In this autobiographical story by Canadian poet Scott, a boy who stutters is given a new way to think about his speech: “See how that water moves? That’s how you speak.” Smith’s art renders the internal change a light-filled moment, an account of the child experiencing himself and his individuality as part of the great forces of the natural world.


Julián at the Wedding

Jessica Love (Candlewick)

Julián is back! He is going to be in a wedding, arriving in a sharp lavender suit and magenta shoes. There he meets flower girl Marisol, who attends in a ball cap. The specificity of Love’s characterizations—the brides’ enthusiasm, the children’s expansive gender expressions—offers vibrancy and immediacy, and under their community’s watchful eyes, Julián and Marisol find affection, acceptance, and room to grow.


A New Green Day

Antoinette Portis (Holiday House/Porter)

Giving voice to wonders great and small, Portis crafts short riddles about things and events encountered over the course of a summer day, answered through the turn of a page. The surprise of each allows readers to engage in familiar moments with awakened senses, offering nothing less than a new world filled with fresh experiences.


The Old Truck

Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey (Norton Young Readers)

In the Pumphrey brothers’ debut, featuring illustrations created from more than 250 stamps, an old truck’s maturation on a family farm mirrors a brown-skinned girl’s growth into adulthood. A celebration of diligence and grit, the quiet text conjures a cyclical, Giving Tree–reminiscent relationship, but with a healthier, deeply loving dynamic.


Our Little Kitchen

Jillian Tamaki (Abrams)

“Tie on your apron!/ Roll up your sleeves!” Every Wednesday, an inclusive team of volunteers gathers to prepare a weekly meal for their neighbors. Making the collaborative meal preparation visually brilliant, Tamaki injects energy into this life-giving celebration. The cooks can’t save the world alone, but together they convey the power of thrift, collective action, and community building.


Outside In

Deborah Underwood, illus. by Cindy Derby (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

“Once/ we were part of Outside/ and Outside was part of us,” begins Underwood in plainspoken lines. Derby’s pictures follow a small child and family, visualizing moments, indoors and out, when “outside reminds us” of its abiding presence. A moving reminder that nature’s beckoning need not go unrequited.


Out the Door

Christy Hale (Holiday House/Porter)

Intricate, textural cut-paper collage distinguishes Hale's directional tale, which follows a brown-skinned child sporting a red jacket through a weekday commute via the New York City subway—from a Brooklyn brownstone to school and back. A charming, detailed primer for easing children into new routines and spatial phrases.


We Are Water Protectors

Carole Lindstrom, illus. by Michaela Goade (Roaring Brook)

In this passionate call for environmental stewardship that honors those protecting the Earth’s fresh water, a girl tells of the arrival of an oil pipeline, the “black snake.” Observation is not enough, Metis/Ojibwe author Lindstrom communicates—action is necessary. And the girl doesn’t just participate, she stands at the front of a protest portrayed by Tlingit and Haida artist Goade: “We are water protectors. WE STAND!”


You Matter

Christian Robinson (Atheneum)

Under Robinson’s broad gaze, everything in the cosmos has a part to play. Simple and heartfelt, the refrain of the Caldecott Honoree’s poem speaks directly to readers: “You matter.” By seeing all life as intertwined—ancient and new, minuscule and gargantuan—Robinson represents life as both interconnected and precious. It’s a profound thought expressed with singular focus and eloquence.


© PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.