Best Picture Books 2022 | SLJ Best Books

Impeccable art and lyrical and child-friendly text set these 27 titles apart from everything else we read this year.




Behar, Ruth. Tía Fortuna’s New Home: A Jewish Cuban Journey. illus. by Devon Holzwarth. Knopf. ISBN  ‎9780593172414.
K-Gr 3–This powerful intergenerational story about heritage and hope is enhanced by stunning art; a must for all libraries, and remarkable in every way.

Blackall, Sophie. Farmhouse. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316528948.
PreS-Gr 2–Blackall worked in mixed-media collage using items from a 19th-century farmhouse to recreate her vision of the true lives of its large family; it’s a one-of-a-kind, exquisite glimpse of land once held by Indigenous people, then by immigrants, and then toppled and very nearly returned to nature itself.

Burningham, John & Bill Salaman. Air Miles. illus. by Helen Oxenbury. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536223347.
PreS-Gr 2–Adults notice that the text never uses the word “death.” Very young children notice that Miles, an old dog, is about to lean into his very best adventure. Slightly older children grasp all of it. Heartbreaking and breathtaking, this is the very best book for the late Burningham to leave in his wake.

Eady, Antwan. Nigel and the Moon. illus. by Gracey Zhang. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780063056282.
PreS-Gr 3–There is a high contrast in most children’s lives between the jobs they see others performing and the aspirations they have for themselves. Eady infuses an entire person with this wistfulness: Nigel, whose nights are full of mighty dreams and whose days are more prosaic. Zhang’s exceptional images and reassurances from parents cast away anxiety and ostracism.

Goade, Michaela. Berry Song. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316494175.
PreS-Gr 2–A botanical guide to bright berries, an intergenerational journey in a wintry setting, an invitation to explore Tlingit values, or simply a beautiful picture book—there are so many reasons to sing this berry song while uncovering the lyrical elements of the natural landscape.


Gopal, Jyoti Rajan. My Paati’s Saris. illus. by Art Twink. Penguin/Kokila. ISBN 9780593324608.
K-Gr 3–While a grandmother pulls sari after sari from an elaborate wardrobe, glorious fabrics unwind, one more gorgeous than the last; also unwinding is a boy’s dreams of wrapping himself in the sari and allowing himself to express himself in whatever way he wishes. Text and art create a fever dream of color, pattern, and texture as the child’s dream comes true.

Hare, John. Field Trip to Volcano Island. Holiday House/Margaret Ferguson. ISBN 9780823450428.
K-Gr 4–The latest of Hare’s wordless tales follows a winning formula for a grand adventure that tucks in some SEL and aliens, too. The ingenious compositions demand repeat viewings; book-phobics turn into book-lovers with details that level the literacy playing field. Comedic timing? Perfect. Jokes? Guaranteed giggles. Universal, even interstellar, appeal.

Kim, Erica. Kimchi, Kimchi Every Day. Soaring Kite. ISBN 9781953859273.
PreS-Gr 3–The Korean snack, side dish, and condiment gets its own book as a young narrator explains in a crescendo of excitement why she loves it, needs it, craves it; and Kim convinces readers in no time to join in. Suggestions on how to add kimchi to hamburgers and French fries further delight.

Kim, Jihyun. The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky. Floris. ISBN 9781782507420.
PreS-Gr 1–In an era of screens and scrolling, this wordless picture book pays homage to the wonder beyond, in nature. It’s a call to pause, slow down, and enjoy time. The author-illustrator uses writing ink to draw and paint, and each spread is a masterpiece, occasionally resembling photographs more than illustration. Leisurely and lovely—a break from regular programming.

Lại, Thanhhà. Hundred Years of Happiness. illus. by Nguyên Quang & Kim Liên. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780063026926.
K-Gr 3–At once a lifelong love story between husband and wife, a tribute to the sweetness of multigenerational connections, and a celebration of Vietnamese cultural traditions and cuisine, this title should find a home in every collection.


Macleod, Mrs. & Mr. How to Eat a Book. Union Square & Co. ISBN 9781454945444.
K-Gr 3–The MacLeods have a distinct view on reading, and they are not afraid to tear up some tropes to put it across. This delightful book will have children staging their own versions of what it takes to know a book inside out, once cousins Sheila, Gerald, and Geraldine Grunion have shown them the way. Inventive fun.

Mancillas, Mónica. Mariana and Her Familia. illus. by Erika Meza. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062962461.
K-Gr 2–For every child who has ever had the jitters from facing family, a new environment, a new language, or all of those, Mancillas creates the most loving gathering ever. The challenges of families that are culturally and geographically distant are nothing compared to love. Meza’s festive illustrations invite everyone in for a closer look.

Marcero, Deborah. Out of a Jar. Putnam. ISBN 9780593326374.
PreS-Gr 2–The sequel to In a Jar finds the hero with more emotional extremes than he knows what to do with, and his solution—to shove every one of them into jars—is creating an arsenal of small bombs. Marcero offers a new spin on exploring one’s emotions, not locking them away, and promotes the importance of sharing them instead.

Moore, David Barclay. Carrimebac, the Town That Walked. illus. by John Holyfield. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536213690.
Gr 2-5–Merging history and magic, this reads like a unique folktale. The KKK tries to intimidate them, but the residents won’t have it, and the town just—leaves. A text that resonates, and scenes that seem to rumble, this book is one for the ages.



Pumphrey, Jarrett & Jerome Pumphrey. Somewhere in the Bayou. Norton. ISBN 9781324015932.
K-Gr 2–Four swamp creatures, beset with curiosity, consider the best route around an enormous tail—possibly attached to a mouth with large teeth—in front of them. Eccentric charm, a bold graphic style, and a side-splitting punch line, the Pumphreys know how to tickle a child’s funny bone. A tale to reread and repeat.

Raúl the Third. My Party, Mi Fiesta: A Coco Rocho Book. illus. by Raúl the Third & Elaine Bay. HarperCollins/Versify. ISBN 9780358394723.
Baby-Toddler–When a board book busts out of its format and becomes a party, Raúl the Third’s in town, reinventing the game. Coco Rocho welcomes readers and lets them know that this fiesta is as much for them as it is for him. Bilingual, funny, and 100 percent refreshing.

Savage, Stephen. Moonlight. Holiday House/Neal Porter. ISBN 9780 823450848.
PreS-Gr 1–“Something is on the move” are the potent opening words of this story, which begins with a bit of mystery; offering one red herring after another, Savage’s linocuts render a moody nightscape where almost anything can happen—most nights. Splendid and tranquil.

Sirdeshpande, Rashmi. Dadaji’s Paintbrush. illus. by Ruchi Mhasane. Levine Querido. ISBN 9781646141722.
K-Gr 3–Subtle and poetic in its treatment of death, this book stands out for the depth of its wise messages and its gentle, evocative art. The story of a boy taking on his dadaji’s artistry is subtle; no one has been replaced as much as a continuation has been achieved.



Snyder, Laurel. Endlessly Ever After: Pick YOUR Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings! illus. by Dan Santat. Chronicle. ISBN 9781452144825.
PreS-Gr 3–Fairy tales can be defined by the fact that children know how they end—but not with this book! Snyder directs one plot after another, leaving choices in the hands of adventurous readers. Santat runs amok with the concept, gleefully providing humorous illustrations on every page.

Sorell, Traci. Powwow Day. illus. by Madelyn Goodnight. Charlesbridge. ISBN 9781580899482.
PreS-Gr 3–With a light touch, Sorell lets readers know that her heroine has been through an illness and she is still weak. But in this tender and inspiring view of Indigenous traditions, there is healing and redemption for all. A deeply affecting story that will resonate.

Stead, Philip C. Every Dog in the Neighborhood. illus. by Matthew Cordell. Holiday House/Neal Porter. ISBN 9780823444274.
K-Gr 3–This winsome book features Louis and his grandmother; he wants to make the case for dog ownership and she has her eyes on an empty lot. Stead and Cordell, separate masters, are co-conspirators on a secret civics lesson on how to get stuff done. We almost filed it under nonfiction. A great addition to any shelf.

Tarnowska, Wafa’. Nour’s Secret Library. illus. by Vali Mintzi. Barefoot. ISBN 9781646862917.
Gr 1-4–Damascus, once a city of blooming roses, cherries, and apricots, becomes destroyed by war in this beautiful and poignant coming-of-age book. Children taking shelter with their families find hope and resilience that shines through even the worst of situations.

Tokuda-Hall, Maggie. Love in the Library. illus. by Yas Imamura. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536204308.
Gr 1-4–Love is a miracle that can grow in the most unlikely of places. Based on true events, this is a gentle story about finding love and a future during bleak internment in a Japanese camp; though the main characters are older, the draw of this book is for all ages.



Voss, Jonathan D. The Wishing Balloons. Holt. ISBN 9781250317377.
Gr 1-5–For the SEL shelves, a lesson on communication, or a story on empathy, this book breaks new ground. Just as its painterly illustrative style demands that readers squint, pay attention, and peer at the pages to see better, Dot has to think anew about friendship when a boy, Albert, moves in next door. The book’s rewards grow with rereadings.

Williams, Alicia D. The Talk. illus. by Briana Mukodiri Uchendu. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534495296.
K-Gr 2–To keep a child safe, do parents have to end childhood innocence? Williams confronts this topic head on, exploring the pain of having the “talk” with young Black boys to help them navigate the existing evils of racism. Heartfelt and heartbreaking, a necessary book.

Wong-kalu, Hinaleimoana & others. Kapaemahu. illus. by Daniel Sousa. Penguin/Kokila. ISBN 9780593530061.
Gr 2-5–A Hawaiian legend about the four healing stones found on Waikiki Beach and their significance in Pacific Islander lore. Sousa’s paintings seem carved from light and granite, giving the story a beautiful heft and worth from its opening pages.

Woodson, Jacqueline. The World Belonged to Us. illus. by Leo Espinosa. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. ISBN 9780399545498.
Gr 2-6–A special book for sharing, parent and child, with a gorgeous depiction of summer in a Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1970s. Woodson and Espinosa remember everything and make it look like an amusement park, when it’s really “just” an urban cityscape from a simpler time.

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