Adults often wish they could revisit their own childhoods, but I find myself envying kids today when I survey all the great children’s books being published this year. These 15 titles are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wonders that will fill young readers’ shelves in 2022.
Sing, Aretha, Sing! by Hanif Abdurraqib, illustrated by Ashley Evans
FSG | February 1
Hanif Abdurraqib is an acclaimed writer of poetry and cultural criticism for adults. He received a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2021, and his 2019 book, Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest, was long-listed for the National Book Award. Plus, his 2021 book, A Little Devil in America, was BookPage's best nonfiction book of the year.
Picture books require a deep attention to language that’s similar to poetry, so it’s always exciting when writers with backgrounds in poetry branch out into writing picture books. Abdurraqib is well-versed in music and cultural history, so I can’t wait to read this picture book that will explore Aretha Franklin’s connections to the civil rights movement.
Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Disney-Hyperion | February 1
Every new book from Newbery Honor author Pam Muñoz Ryan is cause for excitement, but the ambitious premise of Solimar offers more reason than usual. Set in a fictional fantasy kingdom, the story offers an irresistible royal heroine and a fascinating depiction of magic, told in Ryan’s signature lush and lyrical prose.
Out of a Jar by Deborah Marcero
Putnam | February 8
In BookPage's review of author-illustrator Deborah Marcero’s previous picture book, In a Jar, reviewer Jill Lorenzini wrote that it “does what all the best picture books do: It captivates, entertains and leaves you with a reminder of magic still shimmering around the edges.” In a Jar’s ending didn’t seem to hint at a sequel, so it’s delightfully surprising that Marcero has created another story about Llewellyn the bunny and the things he tries to keep bottled up.
Mina by Matthew Forsythe
Paula Wiseman | February 15
Matthew Forsythe’s picture book Pokko and the Drum was one of 2019’s most singularly charming and acclaimed titles. Readers who loved it will want to line up outside their library or bookstore so they can be the first to discover his next book, Mina. Fans of Pokko’s dry humor and intricate colored pencil illustrations will find Mina a worthy successor.
John’s Turn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kate Berube
Candlewick | March 1
Author Mac Barnett is one of the funniest, smartest and most prolific writers working in children’s literature today, and just about everything he publishes is worth a reader’s time. For John’s Turn, he’s paired with Kate Berube, an illustrator I love for her deceptively simple lines and masterful ability to convey complex emotions through facial expressions. It’s worth noting that Barnett is publishing two additional books this spring: a picture book illustrated by Marla Frazee called The Great Zapfino, out April 5 from Beach Lane, and a graphic novel adaptation of the “live cartoon” he developed during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown with illustrator Shawn Harris called The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza, out May 10 from Katherine Tegen.
The Aquanaut by Dan Santat
Graphix | March 1
Dan Santat is best known as the Caldecott Medal-winning author-illustrator of 2014’s The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, as well as many other beloved picture books. However, I first became familiar with him as a graphic novelist via his hilarious, action-packed 2011 graphic novel, Sidekicks, the tale of a group of pets who belong to a superhero named Captain Amazing and who are, secretly, also superheroes. Santat packs so much imagination and heart into all of his books that I can’t wait to discover the story he’ll tell in this standalone graphic novel.
The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin | March 8
Kelly Barnhill’s Newbery Medal-winning The Girl Who Drank the Moon is an exquisite fantasy tale—and she hasn’t published anything for young readers in the five long years since it came out! She’s kept busy in the meantime, releasing a book of short stories for adults in 2018 and putting the finishing touches on The Ogress and the Orphans. Whether you’ve been counting the months, weeks and days or are brand-new to Barnhill’s sharp, word-perfect prose and classical yet fresh storytelling, you’re going to love this standalone fantasy.
Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Nina LaCour, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
Candlewick | March 29
Nina LaCour is an acclaimed and beloved young adult author whose 2018 novel, We Are Okay, won the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Medal for excellence in young adult literature—the YA equivalent of the Newbery Medal. There are very few picture books that depict families with two moms, so this book is notable for two reasons: It contributes sorely needed representation, and it’s LaCour’s first picture book! I’m also looking forward to the illustrations by talented up-and-comer Kaylani Juanita, whose work I’ve admired in picture books such as When Aidan Became a Brother and Magnificent Homespun Brown.
Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima
Simon & Schuster | March 29
Every so often, an author-illustrator makes their debut with a book so fully formed that you read it and think, “Surely, this cannot be their first book!” So it was with Jessie Sima’s Not Quite Narwhal, which was published on Valentine’s Day in 2017 and has gone on to sell more than 250,000 copies. Sima has since published five more picture books, and this spring, they’ll publish this companion to their debut. Read enough picture books and you’ll realize how masterfully Sima walks the line between treacly and genuinely sweet. I can’t wait to read Perfectly Pegasus and let out an “awwwwww!” in spite of myself.
A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser
Clarion | April 5
Readers who love middle grade stories featuring big families have wholeheartedly embraced Karina Yan Glaser’s Vanderbeekers, who hit shelves in the fall of 2017 and have since starred in five heartwarming tales. I’m always intrigued when an author finds initial success with a series and then launches into either a standalone tale or a new series, because it gives them an opportunity to reveal new dimensions to their writing and storytelling. A Duet for Home is a standalone novel that seems poised to explore similar themes as in Glaser’s bestselling series, like family and what it means to find a home, but from a totally different lens.
I’d Like to Be the Window for a Wise Old Dog by Philip C. Stead
Doubleday | April 5
Speaking of remarkable debuts: Husband and wife team Philip C. and Erin E. Stead won the Caldecott Medal for their very first picture book, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. The Steads are picture book creators whose every release is noteworthy, but I find the title and cover of this one to be irresistibly enticing. Fans as well as dog lovers should know that this is Philip’s first of two canine-themed books in 2022: June will see the publication of Every Dog in the Neighborhood, illustrated by fellow Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell. It’s enough to make you bark with joy.
Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone by Tae Keller
Random House | April 26
Middle grade author Tae Keller won the 2021 Newbery Medal for her second novel, How to Trap a Tiger. Winning an award as prestigious and influential as the Newbery or the Caldecott can change the entire trajectory of a creator’s career, and I’m endlessly fascinated to see what authors and illustrators choose to publish after winning such an award. Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone will blend contemporary middle school dynamics with a central mystery and a hint of science fiction.
The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton
Holt | May 3
It is such a good time to be a middle grade reader who loves tales of magic and adventure. Case in point: YA author Dhonielle Clayton is making her middle grade debut with The Marvellers, a fantasy novel that will blow the concept of the magical school sky-high—literally. The Arcanum Training Institute for Marvelous and Uncanny Endeavors is an academy in the clouds that attracts magically gifted students from all over the world, and it’s the enchanting setting for what’s sure to be the summer’s must-read middle grade fantasy.
The World Belonged to Us by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Leo Espinosa
Nancy Paulsen | May 10
Jacqueline Woodson is one of the most beloved and acclaimed writers working today, and her reach knows no bounds. She has written books for readers of every age, from picture books to novels for adults, and has served as our National Ambassador for Children’s Literature. In her picture books, Woodson’s prose is often paired with artwork by exciting, talented illustrators, from Rafael López to James Ransome to E.B. Lewis. Here, she’s working with Colombian illustrator Leo Espinosa, who received a Pura Belpré Honor for his work on Junot Diaz’s picture book, Islandborn. The World Belonged to Us promises to be a nostalgic ode to summer in New York City as only these two talented creators could tell it.
Small Town Pride by Phil Stamper
HarperCollins | May 31
Phil Stamper has published three acclaimed, character-driven YA novels that offer complex depictions of LGBTQ+ teens. It’s thrilling to see him branch out into middle grade, particularly since middle grade books centering the experiences of LGBTQ+ kids are desperately needed. I also love that this book is going to be set in a small rural town. As YA author Preston Norton said in a recent Q&A with BookPage about his new book, Hopepunk, which takes place in rural Wyoming, “Queer stories are needed everywhere because queer people are everywhere.”