We wanted to find the best books for kids in 2013, but over 1350 books are published every week! It’s easy to miss a story your kids would love. So we’ve rounded up 15 of the best round-ups on the internet from all kinds of writers, editors and bloggers, of this year’s best books especially for children. May you find the perfect kids’ books to gift wrap under the tree.
1. 13 Best Children’s, Illustrated, and Picture Books via Brain Pickings
The Mighty LaLouche by Matthew Olshan and Sophie Blackall
You know this list from the wonderful site Brain Pickings is going to open your eyes to stories that are beautiful, thoughtful, and deep. All the selections have a heart… and a brain; there’s an educational edge to all the choices that’s masterfully subtle. My First Kafka, anyone? And every illustration is simply spectacular.
2. 20 Best Picture Books for Kids from the Overflow Stack via GeekDad
Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, Dan Satat
The GeekDad columnists at Wired receive a ton of books to review, and these are their favorites culled from a tall stack of picture books. We also have a copy of Carnivores in our own Cool Mom Picks overflow stack, and I hear my little dude will love it, as he’s obsessed with which animal is the most powerful.
3. Women Make Picture Books Too, via Laurel Snyder
How to be a Cat, by Nikki McClure
In response to the GeekDad list, children’s author Laurel Snyder was determined to put books written and illustrated by women in the spotlight. (Although in fairness, the books in the GeekDad “pile” probably tend to be more boy-oriented since some publicists still presume that only boys care about science and so-called geeky pursuits.) Her ever-expanding list comes from her own experience in the industry and from reader submissions–so it’s not the most curated list (and there are no links), but there are tons of good options. We love Flora the Flamingo and Little Red Writing, too; and Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales looks fantastic. Note that women don’t just illustrate girlie books.
4. Cybils Award Nominee Favorites via Library Consultant PinkMe
Hello, Mr. Hulot by David Merveille
Blogger PinkMe is a judge for the Cybils Awards for children’s literature, so she knows her stuff. After reading 35 picture books in 24 hours, she’s composed a list of a few of her favorites. She also did a cheery round-up of stand out children’s books from summer 2013.
5. Best Picture Books of 2013 via Publisher’s Weekly
This is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration, by Jacqueline Woodson, James Ransome
If anyone has gone through a ton of books for kids, it’s Publisher’s Weekly. 11 picture books of great variety make the list, all of them terrific. Also check out their best fiction for children, and best non-fiction lists. Hint: choose to View by List. Unfortunately, they’re not very clear on applicable age groups for the fiction category, so be sure to check before buying; Eleanor & Park and Winger are two of my favorites for the year, but I definitely wouldn’t give them to a 10-year-old.
6. 10 Books that Inspire Kids to Write by Maria Bruehl of Playful Learning
The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter, Giselle Potter
As writers ourselves, we love this list of books that get kids excited to pick up a pen–until they’re ready for Anne Lamott. It’s really thoughtfully curated and there’s a great variety for all ages. Even parents.
This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
By most accounts this is the gold standard for children’s illustration and the list never disappoints. It’s been culled down to a winner and just 5 honors, so huge congrats to Jon Klassen. Our editor’s 6 year-old daughter squealed “I know that book! I love that book!” when she saw his This is Not My Hat make the list, so clearly the winner is a winner.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Like the Caldecott only for writing, once again the impressive roster of Newbery judges were somehow able to pick a single winner along with just four honors. They’re all wonderful. Check them all out, and especially the top pick, The One and Only Ivan, for a gorilla’s view of the world that’s ideal for 8-12 year-olds.
Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling, Daniel Minter
To honor the life and work of Dr. King and his wife Coretta, this award was designed to award African-American authors and illustrators who create children’s books that reflect their cultural experiences. Fortunately, more and more of these books are appearing on other lists as well, which makes perfect sense. Good stories are good stories, and kids of all racial backgrounds will get a lot of enjoyment from these picks.
10. The Best Picture Books of 2013 via Huffington Post
No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora
HuffPo’s Early Childhood Policy Analyst, Minh Lee, rounded up the year’s best picture books in categories like Best Escape, Most Fun, Most Powerful, and Best Metafiction. (Now I need to grab Battle Bunny for my kids, which also made the Publisher’s Weekly list.) We love his acknowledgement of how important 2013 was in children’s publishing, as the first full year after the death of Maurice Sendak as well as the 50th anniversary of Where the Wild Things Are. Will there ever be another Maurice Sendak out there? Time will tell.
11. Best Science Picture Books of 2013 via Slate
Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming, Boris Kulikov
This is a short list that gets specific with picture books about everything from meteorites to trains (though whether that counts as science is up to you). l do like that there’s one that finally explains that babies do not grow in mommy’s tummy; they grow in her uterus. Plus… hello, mechanical fish!
12. Maverick List of Graphic Novels via Texas Library Association
Amelia Cole and the Unknown World by Adam Knave, DJ Kirkbride, Nick Brokenshire, Rachel Deering
As kids move into that age range where reading might not be cool and thick books can discourage less advanced readers, graphic novels can reinvigorate the story lover hiding in the dark bedroom. This list of graphic novels for grades 6 through young adult is broken down by age range to make sure you get just the right fit without anything too gratuitous.
13. Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Young Adult Fiction via Goodreads
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
The Goodreads Choice Awards are based on reader ratings and votes, so you know these books are much beloved by the actual reading public. Most of the nominees for Best Young Adult Fiction are contemporary stories or historicals about romance and issues this year. There are also lists for Best Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction and Middle Grade Fiction, but since Goodreads isn’t really for younger kids, the winners might not be as true-to-audience as some other. The other caveat is that most of these books are wildly popular, as you’d might expect from a “popular vote” list, so if your kid devours everything, the other lists might be more their speed.
14. Morris Award for Best Debut for Teens, from the Young Adult Library Services Association
Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
This award honors impressive new voices in literature for Young Adults, which means… no Twilight. This list is intriguing and if you’ve got older kids, it’s guaranteed to make them think and feel. Which is just what you want in a teen book, if you hope to keep them reading forever.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, K.G. Campbell
Bluebird by Bob Staake
Of course no list of book lists would be complete without seeing what the editors of the NY Times Book Review have chosen for the year. 25 selections are sorted by picture books, middle grade, and young adult–where you’ll find Eleanor & Park once again. (Consensus!) It’s nice to be able to click over from nearly all their books for a full review. And the variety here will have your kids reading until their 2014 list is out. –Delilah, with Liz
These books are all available through our Amazon affiliate, at your local independent bookshop, and of course, your local library which can always use your support.
For more great ideas, including board books for babies, visit our Books for Kids category.