The Best Picture Books of 2023

The best picture books of 2023 took us swimming, shopping, dreaming, sailing, dancing and more. Whether through pages filled by a crowd of rowdy aunts, or a joyful dancer, or two guardians of light, these tales delighted with their lush illustrations and captivating prose.

A Cloud in the Jar has everything: clever narration, a straightforward message about bravery and determination, and brilliant artwork.

This wondrous, sparkling story conveys how Rabbit and Opossum became “Guardians of Light,” providing the moon with its glow and the sun its fire.


In one of the year’s most exceptional picture books, author-illustrator Vashti Harrison considers the shifting connotations of the word big in a girl’s life.

By Jyoti Rajan Gopal, Illustrated by Svabhu Kohli

Desert Queen is a fearlessly triumphant depiction of the wonder, magic and sparkle of dance.

Every Dreaming Creature is an eye-catching succession of nighttime visions that promotes a sense of empathy and admiration for the world’s many creatures.

Sweet and cozy—much like the cream puffs Mole makes—Mole Is Not Alone lends itself well to both storytime read-alouds and quiet snuggles before bed.

By Adam Rex, Illustrated by Lian Cho

Oh No, the Aunts Are Here is a spirited gem of a book that courses with energy and enthusiasm as it explores what it’s like to have a quiet life temporarily transformed into a very different sort of existence.

A grocery-shopping trip and a shared meal provide moments of comfort and connection in this touching portrait of a family’s love for one another.

A writing lesson in Scroll blossoms into a magical adventure with ancient Chinese characters in one of the most unique stories of the year—one that is as educational as it is entertaining.

The text and illustrations of When You Can Swim merge seamlessly to illuminate the ways in which swimming animates all one’s senses.

Previous Best Picture Book lists

Recent starred picture books

Book jacket image for We Are Definitely Human by X. Fang

We Are Definitely Human

A new laugh-out-loud book can be added to the read-aloud rotation: X. Fang’s We Are Definitely Human is a delightful, humorous romp about human kindness