2022 Best Books for Young Readers

Click here for a Google Doc of the list!

Tomorrow morning at the crack ‘o dawn is the Youth Media Awards (aka the Newbery and Caldecott awards, plus a pack of other fabulous awards with shiny stickers for book covers) and I am scooting in at the last minute with my list of my personal favorite books for young readers from 2022!

Alas — this list is a little shorter than previous years — my youngest, Katie, is in MIDDLE SCHOOL now, and she isn’t as interested in reading picture books with me anymore. (Sigh.) But I still managed to fall in love with a few gems in my usual book categories.


This list isn’t comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination (ha — see above statement on the brevity of said list); if there’s a book you love that I didn’t include, it’s either because I didn’t have time to get around to it, or I didn’t like it (gasp!) – do you really want to know in which category your darling lies? 

Conversely: not every title on this list is for you. I guarantee it. I have broader tastes than most; if you’d like a personalized recommendation, feel free to reach out, I love to play matchmaker!

Lastly: books that contain sensitive topics for littles are marked with asterisks (**). You might want to take a close gander before handing them over to the young’un in your life.


In Which It Is Proven That Cats Are Inherently Better Than Dogs: Bathe the Cat by Alice B. McGinty, illus. David Roberts

In Which It Is Proven That Dogs Are Inherently Better Than Cats: Hot Dog by Doug Salati

Funniest Read-Aloud: My Parents Won’t Stop Talking! by Tillie Walden and Emma Hunsinger

Most Luscious Food Book (and Family Book): Berry Song by Michaela Goade

As Limitless and Expansive as the Best Childhood Days: Emile and the Field by Kevin Young, illus. Chioma Ebinama

Best Nostalgia for a Lost Time: The World Belonged to Us by Jaqueline Woodson, illus. Leo Espinosa

OH MY GOODNESS THE EPIC CUTENESS: Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

Elegiac, Touching Tribute to the Passage of Time: Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall

GRAPHIC NOVELS (Chosen with help from Katie!)

Heartwarming, Wistful Story of Long-Distance Grandparent-Love: The Flamingo by Guojing

Best Immigration Story: Isla to Island by Alexis Castellanos

Middle School is HARD and Even More So When You’re A Sports Underdog: Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas

Post-Apocalyptic Environmental SciFi?!?!?! AWESOME: Little Monarchs by Jonathan Case

Mad Scientist Mystery Caper-O-Rama: The Prisoner of Shiverstone by Linette Moore


Most Stunning Book of Children’s Poetry to Come Out YEARS: Marshmallow Clouds: Two Poets At Play among Figures of Speech by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek, illus. Richard Jones

One of My Favorite Nonfiction Authors Blows My Mind: Action! How Movies Began by Meghan McCarthy

Most Beautiful Illustrations of 2022 (and also a fascinating history of the color blue): Blue by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, illus. Daniel Minter

In Which Stellar Nonfiction Writing Elevates a Mundane Subject: Concrete: From the Ground Up by Larissa Theule, illus. Steve Light

A TALKING CHICKEN TEACHES YOU ABOUT UNDERWEAR no you are not dreaming: A History of Underwear With Professor Chicken by Hannah Holt, illus. Korwin Briggs

One of My Favorite Artists FINALLY Gets a Children’s Book and It’s Drop-Dead Gorgeous: Out of the Shadows: How Lotte Reiniger Made the First Animated Fairytale Movie by Fiona Robinson

I Didn’t Think I’d Learn Anything New but HOLY COW Was I Wrong: Pizza! a Slice of History by Greg Pizzoli

Probably the Perfect Polar Bear Book? (and there are a LOT of polar bear books): Polar Bear by Candace Fleming, illus. Eric Rohmann


Best Sendoff From an Legendary Author: Northwind by Gary Paulsen

Best Read-Aloud Old-Fashioned Adventure: Violet & Jobie in the Wild by Lynne Rae Perkins

Fascinating Look into the world of Orthodox Jewish communities (also, Middle School is HARD): Aviva and the Dybbuk by Mari Lowe

Probably the Best Children’s Novel About Bullying, Ever: Jennifer Chan is Not Alone by Tae Keller

Most Necessary Reading of the Current Era: Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King

A Rags-to-Riches Tale that feels like classic Frances Hodgson Burnett . . . if it were set in contemporary Ghana: The Kaya Girl by Mamle Wolo (Pro Tip: listen to the audiobook, it’s AMAZING)

Best Fantasy-Adventure Tale (set in a legendary Turkic Jewish empire? Yes, please): Black Bird, Blue Road by Sofiya Pasternack

Best Kids’ Historical Fiction (this author absolutely NAILS the voices and feel of the Depression) : Three Strike Summer


Best Novel-in-Verse / Artist’s Sketchbook (also possibly best book about the COVID-19 pandemic?): Ain’t Burned all the Bright by Jason Reynolds

Who Said You Can’t Give The Iliad a Happy Ending (also — Cassandra redemption arc!!): Sparrows in the Wind by Gail Carson Levine

It’s Historical Fiction? It’s Historical Fantasy? It’s the best book about female authority & power I’ve read in a long time (also Best Swoony Romance Subplot): Healer & Witch by Nancy Werlin

**Best YA Historical Fiction (a twisty, tense story of life under one of the worst Communist regimes of the 1980s): I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

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