The best picture books of 2021 demonstrate how impactful the form can be. They’re master classes in the interplay of text, image and the magic of the page turn, tiny treasures to savor and return to again and again.
10. Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris
This surreal book’s joy, color and hopefulness will ignite the imagination of anyone lucky enough to experience its magic.
9. Little Witch Hazel by Phoebe Wahl
As you read this enchanting ode to the calm and peaceful magic of nature, you’ll feel as though you have journeyed deep into Mosswood Forest alongside Hazel and her friends.
8. Shy Willow by Cat Min
This gentle, moving story reminds us that shyness and courage can coexist. Min’s sweet characters and luminous artwork underscore her book’s hopeful nature and quiet, supportive heart.
7. Keep Your Head Up by Aliya King Neil, illustrated by Charly Palmer
Neil’s touching portrait of a child doing his best to manage a difficult day is expertly enhanced by Palmer’s powerful, impressionistic illustrations.
6. When Lola Visits by Michelle Sterling, illustrated by Aaron Asis
Like all the best childhood memories of loved ones, When Lola Visits feels familiar, friendly and faded to perfection. It’s a little hazy with age, and a little more shimmery for the haze.
5. I Can Make a Train Noise by Michael Emberley and Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
This immersive and fully choreographed journey creatively sweeps readers along on an adventure that bursts with rhythm and energy.
4. Mr. Watson’s Chickens by Jarrett Dapier, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi
This tender, spunky tale of a couple whose house is overrun by 456 chickens is the year’s most bighearted picture book.
3. Watercress by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin
Wang’s childhood memory of picking watercress by the side of the road serves as the inspiration for this emotional powerhouse of a picture book.
2. Unspeakable by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
This extraordinary account of the Tulsa Race Massacre is a reminder of “the responsibility we all have to reject hatred and violence and to instead choose hope.”
1. Wishes, by Mượn Thị Văn, illustrated by Victo Ngai
This powerful picture book illuminates the closely held wishes of refugees the world over. Its spare, lyrical text and cinematic illustrations are simply unforgettable.