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The Best Picture Books of 2022

by Miranda Rosbach

best-picture-books-2022
Photography by Seana Williamson

What will you remember about 2022? Did you move or have a baby? Maybe it was the year all your kids started school. For us, it was the year my husband finally built us a home library. And we’ve since spent many wonderful hours reading and playing games in that space.

The older I get, the more I see days meld into months, and in the blink of an eye, an entire year passes by. One thing I hope my children remember once they’ve grown up and left the house is the time we spent snuggling together on the couch or in bed, reading. Building a culture of reading in our home may be one of the most important gifts I can give my girls.

And, while I look forward to compiling “Best Of” book lists every year, it never becomes an easier task. At best, I can narrow it down to about 50 titles published in any given year — and that’s being fairly selective. Which is to say this list of the best picture books of 2022 is a bookish delight. It’s filled with stories and pages to return to again and again. Now, get reading!

  • The Year We Learned to Fly

    by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

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    This wonderfully immersive book celebrates liberation and Black joy. A grandmother encourages her grandchildren (who are stuck inside) to close their eyes and breathe. They enter their imaginations and soar over the city abloom with flowers. Throughout moments of boredom, the children’s grandmother instructs them to free their minds, lift their arms, and understand the freedom of mindset.

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  • Always with You, Always with Me

    by Kelly Rowland and Jessica McKay, illustrated by Fanny Liem

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    A young boy awakes on Monday morning, his mother already up and ready for the day. When he remembers the weekend is over and his mother has to work, he is crestfallen. With a repeated mantra, his mother tells him to look for traces of her during the day. Throughout the week, the mother and boy notice small things that remind them of each other. It’s a refreshing look at the work/life balance experienced by many modern families.

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  • This Story Is Not About a Kitten

    by Randall de Sève, illustrated by Carson Ellis

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    A woman walking her dog doesn’t hear a kitten, scared and alone. But the dog does. And neighbors also notice. Some offer food, others provide shelter, and suddenly, a community is involved in caring for one creature, the kitten — whom the story is not about. This cumulative tale leads to a heartfelt end, rendered more meaningful by Ellis’s empathic illustrations.

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  • Lost

    by Sam Usher

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    A boy and his granddad have a few errands to run. First, the optometrist, followed by a visit to the library and hardware store. Back home, they plot and measure, and after a long while, the result is a perfectly fashioned sled. Outside, the two slosh through snow and spot a sign for a lost dog. They search for her but must seek cover from a storm, only to discover that a pack of wild wolves rescued her. It’s another charming story from one of our favorite author/illustrators.

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  • Shu Lin’s Grandpa

    by Matt Goodfellow, illustrated by Yu Rong

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    Shu Lin is new at school and doesn’t speak English well, making it difficult to make friends. One day, Shu Lin’s grandfather comes to school and shares his intricate drawings with the class. Afterward, the children create a massive portrait as Shu Lin shows them how to hold a brush and make dragon scales. With an inclusive message and Asian-inspired illustrations, this picture book is truly a work of art.

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  • Our Day of the Dead Celebration

    by Ana Aranda

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    Two sisters prepare for Día de los Muertos. They gather bright marigolds and sugar skulls and begin cooking for the festive celebration. One girl plays the accordion that belonged to her great-grandfather. The smell of almond cookies will lure a departed uncle’s spirit. Throughout the day, the family prepares for more relatives (both living and dead) to arrive. When Abuelita comes, the children pepper her with questions, relishing the bits and pieces of their family history. This is a vibrant tale of keeping ancestors alive through memories, food, and tradition.

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  • Come On In

    by Jamie Michalak, illustrated by Sabine Timm

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    The narrator invites Lemon into a house filled with assorted objects. Will they find the party inside? What kind of party will it be? There are cats wearing boots, fruits dressed in suits, pigeons named Fred, and a loaf of good bread. The real joy in this rhyming tale is searching out all the hidden objects scattered throughout the book. Plus, it will get your creative crafting juices flowing.

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  • Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf

    by Davide Cali, illustrated by Marianna Balducci

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    What starts as a familiar story ends within seconds. The unsatisfied reader begs for more, and the story begins again — with one additional pig. However, the impatient narrator (perhaps the wolf?) only wants to eat the pigs and isn’t interested in elaborating on details or a plot. With the number of pigs rising on each page, this off-the-wall counting book uses varying text colors and bright artwork to captivate readers.

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  • That’s Not My Name!

    by Anoosha Syed

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    Mirha (MIR-ha) is eager to start school, but when she introduces herself to the class, none of her fellow students can pronounce her name. Even teachers say it wrong. Too shy to speak up, Mirha goes home disappointed. She asks her mother about changing her name to something easier, but gets reminded of what her name means and how proud she should be to have it. For anyone who has ever felt different, this book reminds readers to lean into the power of being yourself.

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  • A Gift for Nana

    by Lane Smith

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    Rabbit is on a quest to find the perfect gift for his Nana. With directions from a crow, Rabbit sets off on his journey. He meets many helpful animals and landmarks who each have gift ideas for Nana. At last, Rabbit locates the perfect gift (a joyfully predictable carrot), which Nana loves because it came from him. This tender tale makes a thoughtful gift for a beloved grandparent.

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  • Namaste Is a Greeting

    by Suma Subramaniam, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat

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    A young girl looks out the window and greets her elderly neighbor. She smiles at a dog and bows as a street vendor hands her a delicious drink. Namaste is not only a yoga pose; it is a continued practice, a leaning into silencing one’s mind and finding peace. Namaste notices joy in the world and knows that love exists even in difficult moments. Mostly, Namaste allows us to recognize and honor the divine in ourselves and others.

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  • Busy Betty

    by Reese Witherspoon, illustrated by Xindi Yan

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    Betty is a girl who runs a mile a minute! In this story, she tries to bathe her smelly dog but makes a big mess instead. Kids and adults will love this spirited picture book from Reese Witherspoon that embraces hyperactive kids.

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  • The Little Book of Joy

    by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, illustrated by Rafael López

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    Two boys grow up in different parts of the world. Each one longs for a friend, wondering if they’ll always be sad and lonely. But in the stillness and quiet, the boys notice small wonders — a colorful bird flitting by or the touch of morning sunlight tingling toes. This affirming book is an ode to manifesting joy, illustrated with jubilant images and a touch of magic on every page.

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  • All Are Neighbors

    by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

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    What is a community? A bustling urban city center shows families getting up in the morning. Some head off to work, while others stay home. Young and old walk down the street, each with a friendly face to greet. Faces of all colors and bodies of all abilities appear in this sequel to All Are Welcome. While light on text, this inclusive rhyming tale delivers an impactful message.

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  • The Path

    by Bob Staake

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    A young child sets out on a well-worn path of those who have gone before. At first, the smooth trail winds through beautiful scenery. But when the path becomes rugged and splits in two, what is a young traveler to do? A story of choice and perseverance, this book is an excellent example of why we can never resist a book by Bob Staake.

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  • The Blur

    by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

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    A baby is born with an extraordinary dose of superhuman powers. The power to scream loudly, take up space, and freeze time. From learning to walk to playing the piano, moments pass, and years fly by. Perhaps the best visual representation of the oft-repeated phrase, “It goes by so fast,” this book will tug on your heartstrings. It makes a beautiful graduation gift for new adults.

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  • Standing in the Need of Prayer

    by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison

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    An enslaved individual in shackles raises petitions for mercy and grace. A preacher stands at the pulpit, a scar down his face, offering prayers. Men and women who helped with Emancipation and the Great Migration of Black people stand in need. Each offering prayers and pleading for their needs. With two pages of references expounding on historical individuals, you won’t forget this powerful retelling of the classic spiritual.

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  • Blue Bison Needs a Haircut

    by Scott Rothman, illustrated by Pete Oswald

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    Shaggy Blue Bison needs a trim. But his barber shop is closed. So are the supermarket and taco stand. In fact, everything is closed. Undeterred, Blue Bison pays his barber a visit at his house, hoping to strike a bargain, which doesn’t work out as planned. Even though his younger sister offers to cut his hair, Blue Bison declines. That is, until she secretly cuts his hair in his sleep. With laugh-out-loud moments, this book quickly became a favorite.

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  • Set Sail for Pancakes

    by Tim Kleyn

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    Margot and Grandpa awake one morning with a hankering for pancakes. However, they are out of eggs, milk, and flour. Together, they set off in their mighty vessel, Beluga Blue, and traverse the sea, going to various islands to gather supplies. When a storm dampens their pancake mission, they drop anchor and wait out the weather. This tasty read is perfect for a lazy weekend brunch and includes a recipe at the back of the book.

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  • Blue

    by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, illustrated by Daniel Minter

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    It’s the color of the sky and ocean, but one that can’t be contained. How did blue come into being? For centuries, people prized it for its rarity. Legends say the color connects humans to gods and wards off evil spirits. But extracting blue from rocks, snails, and leaves was arduous work. So how did blue become so universally beloved, and how does one color evoke so much emotion? This nonfiction picture book is ideal for grade schoolers.

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  • Night Lunch

    by Eric Fan, illustrated by Dena Seiferling

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    A horse-drawn cart rolls in as the midnight moon rises high. Nocturnal creatures shuffle on the scene while Owl clangs pots and spoons. A hot mince pie for Fox and a sandwich for Badger. Butter and biscuits for raccoon and skunk and pudding for little possums. And at the end, a shuddering mouse. What’s an owl chef to do? This lovely book from one of the famed Fan brothers brims with magic.

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  • Hattie Harmony: Worry Detective

    by Elizabeth Olsen and Robbie Arnett, illustrated by Marissa Valdez

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    Worry, worry, go away! There’s no time for you today! Hattie Harmony is the unsung hero of Wildwood Elementary. Hattie helps her classmates deal with everyday worries using her tool belt of handy supplies.

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  • Just Help!

    by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Angela Dominguez

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    With the question, “Who will you help today?” Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor inspires readers to actively support their community. Her story provides a snapshot of the life of a young girl who, along with her friends, demonstrates various ways to make a positive impact.

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  • Why Not You?

    by Ciara and Russell Wilson with JaNay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Jessica Gibson

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    Emboldening text encourages children to follow their dreams in this uplifting new story from celebrity popstar Ciara and pro quarterback Russell Wilson. With its inclusive illustrations and affirming words, little readers will be ready to conquer any obstacle that comes their way.

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