New York Times list of the Best Children’s Books
Children can never have enough books, right? Right! I never mind investing in quality literature for my family because I know that it will be used and loved over and over again. I also love picking up new titles at the library to see what resonates and appeals to the kids.
It’s that time of year when all I really want to do is cuddle up on the couch under a cozy blanket and read wonderful stories with my kids. And I have to be honest, I know they love repetition, but there are only so many times I can read “Little Blue Truck” in one sitting.
So why not change things up a bit and either purchase or see if your library has any of the books listed below!
*All links will bring you to bookshop.org; purchases benefit an independent bookstore.
New York Times list of Best Children’s Books 2021!
The most notable picture, middle grade and young adult books of the year, selected by The Times’s children’s books editor. Full post can be found here.
New York Times List Picture Books
- BLANCAFLOR, THE HERO WITH SECRET POWERS A Folktale From Latin America by Nadja Spiegelman and illustrated by Sergio García Sánchez. The magically powered Blancaflor is clever and brave. Her prince a delightful idiot. A gorgeously illustrated comics version of the familiar “girl as helper” tale.
- BRIGHT STAR written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales. Morales dares us to look away as a fawn blocked by a menacing wall is replaced by a young girl staring soulfully into our eyes.
- DREAM STREET written by Tricia Elam Walker and illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Walker’s poetic text and Holmes’s striking collaged art paint a joyous portrait of a single avenue’s dynamic Black community.
- THE HAPPINESS OF A DOG WITH A BALL IN ITS MOUTH written by Bruce Handy and illustrated by Hyewon Yum. By turns wistful and whimsical, this antidote to Charles Schulz’s “Happiness Is a Warm Puppy” is as much about the buildup to its title as it is about its payoff.
- THE LONGEST STORM written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. This plain-spoken, visually emotive book about the grind of being housebound. The book ends with a door opening onto an outside world that is both exhilarating and humbling.
- MILO IMAGINES THE WORLD written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. At his subway stop, a boy who’s been drawing assumptions about other riders’ lives rethinks his sketches. Is the kid he put in a castle visiting his mother in prison, too?
- NICKY & VERA: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued written and illustrated by Peter Sís. This child’s-eye tribute explores the fates that led Nicholas Winton to cross paths with a young girl he saved from the Nazis.
- THE ROCK FROM THE SKY written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Hilariously dark, this beautiful, spare, deadpan book featuring three hat-wearing animals recalls “Waiting for Godot.”
- SOUL FOOD SUNDAY written by Winsome Bingham and illustrated by C.G. Esperanza. Bingham’s richly real conversational poetry and Esperanza’s vibrant, kinetic oil-paint illustrations bring a sprawling, high-energy extended family gathering to life.
- UNSPEAKABLE: The Tulsa Race Massacre written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. This elegy to a flourishing African American enclave in Tulsa, Okla., where the late Cooper was raised. This book offers a haunting peek behind the Jim Crow curtain.
- WATERCRESS written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin. Combining gut-wrenching realism with dreamlike panoramas, Chin’s art perfectly illustrates Wang’s movingly dichotomous tale of Chinese American identity.
- WE ALL PLAY written and illustrated by Julie Flett. The Cree-Métis Flett pairs rhythmic alliterative verse about animals at play with repeating silhouettes of frolicking children to celebrate our interconnectedness.
New York Times List Middle Grade
- THE BEATRYCE PROPHECY written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. DiCamillo’s novel, about a young girl hunted by a medieval king because of a prophecy that she will unseat him. This book eloquently champions the power to love and be loved.
- FRANKIE & BUG written by Gayle Forman. Bug (short for Beatrice) and the visiting trans nephew of an upstairs neighbor bond over their fascination with a serial murder case.
- THE GENIUS UNDER THE TABLE: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. In Yelchin’s poignant memoir of his Soviet boyhood, young Yevgeny steals the family pencil every night and covers the underside of the dining table with secret drawings. His escape from an unfriendly world.
- GONE TO THE WOODS: Surviving a Lost Childhood By Gary Paulsen. The late Paulsen’s memoir is so rife with trauma he calls himself “the boy”. But thanks to relatives in Minnesota’s North Woods with whom he briefly took refuge, it’s a survival tale.
- KALEIDOSCOPE written and illustrated by Brian Selznick. Each of these weirdly wondrous stories gets two pieces of stunning art: an image of shapes broken into crystalline forms plus the scene that’s being refracted.
- LONG ROAD TO THE CIRCUS written by Betsy Bird and illustrated by David Small. A 1920s farm girl sets her sights on ostrich-riding as her ticket out of small-town U.S.A. in this charming, wacky novel.
- THE MANY MEANINGS OF MEILAN written by Andrea Wang. When the principal calls her Melanie, Wang’s heroine adopts three of her Mandarin name’s homophones. Mist, who can be invisible; Basket, carrier of her parents’ dreams; and Blue, her truest self.
- NEVERFORGOTTEN written by Alejandra Algorta and illustrated by Iván Rickenmann. Translated by Aida Salazar. This novella, about a Colombian boy with a near-mythical cycling talent who one day forgets how to pedal, is transformative.
New York Times List Young Adult
- GILDED By Marissa Meyer. Meyer recasts the fairy tale “Rumpelstiltskin” as a dark fantasy in which “the miller’s daughter” finally gets a name and the power that comes with it.
- HIMAWARI HOUSE By Harmony Becker. Becker blends intricate illustrations and playful sketches in this warmhearted graphic novel about three young women studying abroad together in Japan.
- IN THE WILD LIGHT By Jeff Zentner. A girl science star and a boy poet leave fraught home lives in Tennessee for a Connecticut prep school. The novel is of friendship, loss, kind strangers and blind love.
- RUN: Book One written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by L. Fury with Nate Powell. This timely, arresting graphic memoir series, mostly completed before the congressman and civil rights leader’s death, picks up where the trilogy “March” left off.
- THE TRUE STORY OF A MOUSE WHO NEVER ASKED FOR IT written by Ana Cristina Herreros and illustrated by Violeta Lópiz. Translated by Chloe Garcia Roberts. With spare prose and evocative illustrations, a traditional Spanish folk tale about the marriage of a mouse to a kitten who becomes a monstrous cat. The cat is transformed into a powerful parable of domestic abuse.
Shop your local bookstore
Quabog Book Shop
An independent book shop selling used, rare and out of print books. They have a children’s section.
80 W Main St (Route 9) West Brookfield
Tatnuck Bookseller Gift Gallery & Cafe
The largest independent bookstore in New England. All books discounted every day, and they also have a great gift shop and cafe. Open 7 days a week. Plenty of free parking.
18 Lyman St, Westborough
Annie’s Book Stop
A friendly neighborhood bookstore, stocking new & pre-read books. They also stock toys, gifts, magazines, greeting cards, audio titles, and much more!
65 James St., Worcester
Root and Press
Root and Press boasts a wonderful space that is both restaurant/bakery and bookstore. This store has a beautifully curated children’s section with gorgeous books and some gift items too.
623 Chandler Street, Worcester
Tidepool Bookshop LLC
Tidepool Bookshop encourages young readers with an expansive children’s section with gifts and books for all ages. Children are welcomed into the children’s section with a special “castle gate” entrance.
372 Chandler Street, Worcester
What are some of your new favorite children’s books? Let us know in the comments below!