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


Vashti Harrison (Little, Brown)

Harrison’s empowering ode to self-love begins with a smiling baby who has a “big laugh and a big heart/ and very big dreams.” Through a series of emotionally driven digital images set against dreamy pastel-hued backdrops, the happy, bouncing infant grows into a girl who, when faced with cruelty about her size, reminds herself that “she was good.” Throughout, deceptively simple text emphasizes the self-affirming message that it’s okay to take up space.


Elena Rides

Juana Medina (Candlewick)

Elena, the enthusiastic purple elephant star of this on-the-move early reader, strives to polish her cycling skills. Rhythmic couplets and plenty of action verbs reveal with verve what happens as Elena takes off, tongue sticking out—and meets the first of several disasters. Across boldly rendered scenes of action, drama, and eventually victory, Medina captures substantial emotional highs and lows, making for an inspiring tale of persistence that’s just right for anyone tackling a learning curve.


Oh No, the Aunts Are Here

Adam Rex, illus. by Lian Cho (Chronicle)

Via a quartet of unconditionally, relentlessly loving aunts, Rex and Cho breathe new life into a staple of kid humor: the oblivious-to-personal-space older relative. Exasperatedly observed second-person text and kinetic art show the aunts swarming their beloved nibling, kitted out with fanny packs, lip balm, and sun visors. As their visit turns fantastical, they prove that they’re good people to have on one’s side in this high-spirited, high-comedy portrait of intrusive, effusive loved ones.


Summer Is for Cousins

Rajani LaRocca, illus. by Abhi Alwar (Abrams)

Three generations of family gather in a water-adjacent home to enjoy summer in this lively portrait of intergenerational companionship, love, and connection that's vividly told by LaRocca. Alwar’s expressive, uniquely rendered character designs skillfully portray the expansive brood, while spreads crammed with activity (cousins pile out of cars and descend upon a local ice cream stand) convey the warmth and coziness of a bustling family vacation.


The Truth About Max

Alice and Martin Provensen (Enchanted Lion)

This jewel of a story, a never-before-published picture book by the late, Caldecott-winning Provensens, follows a rambunctious, “always hungry” tabby cat named Max, who previously appeared in Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm. Via an informal, sketchbook-like narrative and thin-lined ink drawings lightly washed in watercolor, Max’s life unfolds in vignettes that depict the maturing protagonist, detail his fraught interactions and “important tail,” and hint at his “real life”: heading solo into a moonlit night.


When You Can Swim

Jack Wong (Orchard)

Spanning numerous locales—including a local pool, a sandy beach, and a winding river—this immersive telling by Wong showcases myriad children encountering the joys of swimming. Each body of water is generously detailed in pastel and watercolor, while sinuous prose offers up emotive ambiance, for example describing a lake “pitch-dark from tree bark.” These scenes, and a final suspenseful sequence, personify the way that swimming can offer feelings of autonomy, connection, and freedom.


© PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.