This is my favorite recurring post every year on Cool Mom Picks, in which we collect all the best children’s books of 2017 lists from all over the internet — from big publications like the New York Times to our favorite indie bloggers with great taste in literature.
It always helps me discover new titles, and this year I’m already itching to dig into so many of these fantastic books!
If your kids like to read like ours do — or if you’re trying to get them to like it a little more — I suggest you start an Amazon wish list or even a Pinterest board filled with your own must-read children’s books from this list of lists. You can shop from it whenever you’re at the library or bookstore, because there are too many good children’s books from 2017 to check them out all at once.
CMP is an Amazon affiliate; or find these books at your local indie bookstore or library.
The biggest awards in children’s books every year come from the American Library Association, which may be best known as the Newbery, Caldecott and Coretta Scott King awards, among others.
The winners were announced back in January, but it never fails that there are some books here that our kids still haven’t read. In addition to their iconic Newbery and Caldecott awards, you’ll find cool books that focus on inclusivity featuring African-American and Hispanic authors, books with LGBTQ themes, and books expressing the disability experience.
The Newbery Medal: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, a great read for fans of fairy tales. It weaves together fearful villagers, an evil witch (who isn’t actually what she seems), and a child with magical powers.
The Caldecott Medal: This award for outstanding illustration went to Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe in the style of the artist’s iconic collage artwork that became famous in the 1980s.
The Pura Belpre Award: Juana Medina received this award for outstanding Hispanic author for her sweet book Juana & Lucas (which is on a lot of other lists this year, too). Raúl Gonzalez won the illustrator award for the second volume of the quirky graphic novel Lowriders to the Center of the Earth written by Cathy Camper.
The Coretta Scott King Awards: This year the African-American author award went to John Lewis and Andrew Aydin for their book March: Book Three, which also won the Sibert medal. The illustrator award went to Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child, whose illustrations also won the Caldecott medal.
The Stonewall Book Awards: There are just over a dozen books about the LGBT experience honored by the Stonewall Book Awards this year, but we’re taking note of When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore and Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community by Robin Stevenson
The 2017 National Book Award
The National Book Award is given to a literary book for young readers, meaning it’s typically a book suited for our teens or older. Or, for us. Because we love reading YA too.
This year’s winner: Robin Benway’s Far from the Tree. It’s about three teenagers who couldn’t be less alike, yet they’re related by blood. If your kids are binging This is Us with you, they’ll enjoy this one.
But be sure to check out the award winners in other categories, along with all the other finalists in the YA category. I have I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez on my to-read list too.
In the New York Times list of notable children’s books of 2017, we tend to find the kinds of children’s books we enjoy reading as much as our kids do. They’re literary, artistic and thoughtful without being pretentious, but they’re not so obscure that you can’t find them at your local bookstore or library.
From the illustrated list, I’d start with After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat (a Caldecott medalist and one of my very favorite children’s book authors), which appears on so many best-of lists this year.
Town is By the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith is described as “quietly devastating” but stunningly beautiful as it explores life in a coal mining town from the view of a child who is destined to join the adults in the mine as an adult.
My own kids’ favorite this year was quirky and clever The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, in which being eaten by a wolf may not be as bad as you’d think.
My children have read Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl a dozen times, so from the NYT middle grade list we’re definitely planning to buy All’s Faire in Middle School, her delightful 2017 graphic novel about a middle school girl whose family works at a Renaissance fair.
I’m captivated by The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore. In it, a broken-hearted Harlem boy (his brother had just died) finds refuge from area gangs in a competitive LEGO team.
From their YA list, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, has received a lot of attention this year for good reason. The story focused on race and police brutality is a tough one, which is what makes it an important read for older kids.
I am also interested in American Street by Ibi Zoboi, a coming-of-age story that centers on a Haitian teen attempting to get her mother out of an immigration detention facility. Timely and profound.
Publisher’s Weekly: Best Children’s Books of 2017
Publisher’s Weekly probably isn’t a magazine that shows up in your mailbox each week, but it’s a standard in the publishing and bookselling industry because of its careful reviews of all books, including children’s lit. If a book gets a starred review, it’s a very good book. If it makes their best-of list, you’ll want it on your shelves at home.
We’re excited to see so many diverse picture books here this year, including Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James, which celebrates barbershop culture and the power of a fresh haircut.
There is a quiet beauty in A Different Pond by Bao Phi and Thi Bui. It’s the story of a father and son who grow close, despite the struggle the immigrant parents go through to make ends meet for their family.
I love the thoughtfulness in Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, Sean Qualls, and Selina Alko, which helps kids think about the fact that they really could have been born anyone, anywhere.
One of our own team’s very favorites this year was Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, which describes the Statue of Liberty in the most engaging way ever. Read Liz’s review of it from earlier this year to see just why it’s so timely, clever and terrific.
And we can’t skip a mention of the hilarious board book What Does Baby Want by Tupera Tupera, which I think would win best gift at any baby shower.
From their middle reader list, we’re itching to pick up Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. The story is narrated by a tree in the center of town and inspires kindness toward strangers. If you liked Wonder, add this one to your list.
Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd) by Julie Bowe wraps some of the hard issues kids deal with, including divorce and friendships that fall apart, all in an a entertaining story about middle school that keeps it from getting too heavy.
If you want a fun, light read you’ll want to grab a copy of I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo. It’s about a Korean-American girl who tries to nab a boyfriend using tactics she learned from watching K-dramas.
For a more somber read for fans of history, get The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe, which is absolutely outstanding. It’s based on the true story of Dita Kraus who secretly protected a collection of forbidden books while a prisoner in Auschwitz.
Amazon Editors: Best Children’s Books of 2017
On Amazon’s Best Children’s Books of the Year list, we always find a smattering of bestsellers (that, ahem, kids will probably like more than their parents) alongside books that receive rave reviews from critics.
I most appreciate that they sort their books by very small age brackets, helping us find perfect gifts for those younger nieces and nephews who are in developmental stages we’ve already forgotten about as parents ourselves.
Some highlights from their list — the ones we’re loving as much as our kids are — include the beautifully illustrated The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater and Terry Fan (for ages 6-8), which is all about friendship and adventure.
It’s no secret that we’re massive fans of R. J. Palacio’s Wonder and its timeless theme of kindness and friendship. So we were excited to see Amazon feature We’re All Wonders, which brings the same message to kids too young for the chapter book.
When we first heard about the never-before-published Mark Twain book The Purloining Prince of Oleomargarine (with writing and illustration by our faves, Philip and Erin Stead), we totally geeked out. And it made us even happier to see that it was good enough to make Amazon’s top-20 list.
But be sure to check out Amazon’s best children’s nonfiction books of 2017 as well. Some of our favorite books of the year are here.; Matt Lamothe’s This Is How We Do It is one I’ve read over and over to my kids, who love the lessons about empathy in a celebration of diversity.
I tend to find my own favorite books each year through NPR book reviews, so it’s no surprise that their children’s book recommendations tend to align with our tastes here at Cool Mom Picks HQ as well.
This year, the NPR list of best kids books of 2017 include some that we’ve already featured on our site, like A Greyhound, a Groundhog by Emily Jenkins and Chris Appelhans and Triangle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (which we’re not seeing on many other lists, where’s the love for this favorite of ours?).
Some of our other top choices from their list include Oliver Jeffers’s thoughtful book about our place in the world: Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth. The celebration of diversity and inclusivity is inspiring.
I’m planning to pick up The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez for my daughter. I love the “be yourself” message that the punk music-loving heroine embodies.
Another favorite in my house this year was Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. The illustrations are stunning in their simplicity, and the message that it’s okay to be scared is sometimes exactly what my kids need to hear. Me too, in fact.
Now by Antoinette Portis is a lovely (yet, subtle) picture of mindfulness for kids. If yours are anything like mine, and drawn toward tech 24/7, then this is a must-read in your house.
I’m ordering Hello, Universe by Erin Estrada Kelly (illustrated by Isabel Roxas) right now, based on Lisa Yee’s review. The story of three kids united by a bully in middle school sounds inspiring and hopeful.
Brainpickings: The 7 Loveliest Children’s Books of 2017
We always find the most absolutely gorgeous, thoughtful books at Brainpickings. Most are from indie publishers that you might not see in the huge display thanks to a fat marketing budget. But we’ve found they’re always books we cherish for years — and always align with a lot of the books we choose to cover here, too.
Take the time to read through Maria Popova’s post on the 7 loveliest children’s books of 2017. Not only does she feature the most gorgeous photos of the books, but she also tells fascinating stories of how the books came to be. It’s well worth your time.
Although I plan to pick up every one of her choices, just like I do every year (really!), I’m particularly excited about On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Italian writer-artist Béatrice Alemagna, because a day at home with my kids with nothing on the schedule really is my favorite kind of day.
I always find something new and inspiring when I visit the Children’s Literature and Reading Special Interest Group, which focuses on diverse books. Their choices always aim to educate or enlighten kids about different cultures or experiences around the globe.
Some highlights from their list this year include The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon, about a boy born in a refugee detention center and his bold, life-saving imagination, and Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse, a powerful coming-of-age story set during WWII.
Younger kids will also enjoy the clever Look Up! by Jung Jin-Ho. A girl on a wheelchair calls out to the people passing below her balcony, “Look up!” The last page is a delightful surprise for kids.
Brightly: Best Children’s and YA books of 2017
Since we love turning to books for help with issues our kids face, Brightly is a great resource thanks to their really specific lists. This year, they shared the best children’s books of 2017, according to kids and the best YA books of 2017, according to teens. As in, the people who are actually reading them. Smart, right?
(Also, be sure to check out their best audio books for kids and families recommendations, for those of you who love listening to books more than reading them.)
Our kids who can’t get enough of Hamilton are excited to pick up Alex and Eliza: A Love Story by Melissa de la Cruz, a fictional love story based on the true story of, you guessed it, Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler.
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli is a teen love story with depth. There are body image issues, LGBT themes, and a Tolkien-superfan with season tickets to the local Renaissance Faire. Cheeky and fun.
Since my tween son flies through everything Kwame Alexander writes, I’ve got his newest book Solo on my list. Written in poetry, like his other books, this story is about the child of a washed-up rock star.
We are so glad to see Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger’s She Persisted on this list since it was one of our favorites this year. And not just ours — it became a best-seller in a single day!
We’ve seen the graphic novel 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior by Mark and Alexis Siegel on a handful of lists this year, and it’s described here as Star Wars meets Avatar. It’s a read-it-again-and-again type book for 8-10 year olds.
If your kid hates going to the dentist — or brushing their teeth — then you’ll want to grab Baabwaa & Wooliam by David Elliott and Melissa Sweet. It’s about friendship, knitting, books, and dental hygiene. Obviously. It sounds bizarre, but it’s been on several best-of lists this year, and my own kids found it funny too.
A Mighty Girl: Best Books of 2017
This is the first year A Mighty Girl has published a best books of the year list, and we love that their focus is specifically on books that star girls or women, for readers of all ages. (Because, hey, we moms can use that girl-power inspiration in our lives, too!)
We’re spotting many of the big award-winners here, as well as dozens of books that are unique to their list. Be sure to click through — there are lots of options here.
From the Little Feminist board book set for babies, to any of the dozens of short biographies of real women (like Shark Lady by Jess Keating) for older readers, there are tons of true stories to inspire girls here. We’re particularly excited to see Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, which was noticeably missing from many lists this year — though it did land a spot on our own top 10 editors picks of 2017. It’s required reading for all kids, not just girls.
I’d buy How to Make Friends with a Ghost by Rebecca Green for the gorgeous illustrations alone, but if kids embrace its message of kindness and friendliness, they’ll make our world a better place.
Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls by Beth McMullen is a fun, action-packed story for preteens with a girl who (gasp) saves the day — and her MIA mother — in the end.
For kids with an interest in history and social justice, Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is a powerful book, although I don’t think it’s too dark for tweens. It’s about a Ukrainian girl who hatches a plan to sabotage the bombs she’s making for the German military while she’s imprisoned in a war camp. Heavy, but ultimately inspiring.
The new graphics-novel series Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer is a thrilling story about an android assassin who falls for the guard for the man she’s trying to hunt down. If your kids liked The Lunar Chronicles by Meyer, they’ll love that this series features some of those characters too.
Audible’s Best Audiobooks of 2017
Because our kids have gotten hooked on audio books at bedtime and drive time this year, we thought we’d include Audible’s best audio books of the year here too. It’s something we see parents asking for recommendations for on social media, and Audible is the expert.
Interestingly, Audible’s award for best book overall went to a YA book: The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas and performed by Bahni Turpin. And we all love seeing this booming genre — and especially such a fantastic book — get the acknowledgement it deserves.
However, Audible’s best YA audiobook of 2017 award went to Long Way Down a searing story that takes place over the course of 60 seconds, all written and performed by Jason Reynolds. (It’s always a treat hearing authors read their own words.)
Their best kids book of 2017 award went to Katherine Applegate’s Wishtree read by Nancy Linari, which was also cited as one of Publisher’s Weekly picks. However it’s an honorable mention that really excites my own kids: Max Brooks’s Minecraft, the Island read by Jack Black. How can that not be awesome?