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Predictions! 2017 NYT Best Illustrated Books

I was on a roll. Things were going just great. I correctly predicted a few books that appeared on the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book list in 2014 and again in 2015.

And then 2016 came around.

Last year I correctly picked . . . zero books. Zero! But did that knock me out of the Best Illustrated predictin’ game? NO. I’m back with a vengeance to (most likely incorrectly) name the books I think will appear on what never fails to be the most interesting picture book list of the year.

Related . . .

Who Has Published the Most NYT Best Illustrated Books in the Last Decade?

Breakdown: The NYT Best Illustrated/Caldecott Overlap

Here goes. Let me know what I missed in the comments . . .

River 1

River 2

Along the River by Vanina Starkoff

This almost never happens, but the moment I saw the cover of this book I thought “Best Illustrated”. The interior only provided more support. The bright colors and distinctive style are as eye-catching as they come.

Crown 1

Crown 2

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

Oh yeah. There’s usually a book or two on the list from small publishers that aren’t widely known – this is my pick.

Town 1

Town 2

Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith

Smith has won two Best Illustrated awards and this book is maybe his most beautiful yet (and that’s saying something).

Goliath 1

Goliath 2

Waiting for Goliath by Antje Damm

Unique techniques tend to stand out, and I’m thinking these cut paper and three dimensional illustrations will impress the committee.

Canyon 1

Canyon 2

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

The best illustrated list will occasionally recognize a nonfiction book, and there is no more impressively illustrated nonfiction in 2016 than Jason Chin’s latest.

Silent Days

Silent Days 1

Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say

I will not call this book a lock, I will not call this book a lock, I will not call this book a lock. Allen Say took his artwork to new places for this bio of artist James Castle. I think this one has a good shot.

Five Forms 1

Five Forms 2

The Five Forms by Barbara McClintock

McClintock is such a master I feel like any time she has a new book out it should be considered for this list. This one is bold, expressive, and actually reminds me a lot of Maurice Sendak, in books like Mommy? and We’re All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy. Good company.


Lines 2

Lines by Suzy Lee

Lee is a Best Illustrated veteran. In this latest book she again plays with the idea of perception, creating a wholly unique experience for the reader.

Accident 1

Accident 2

Accident! by Andrea Tsurumi

A wonderful mix of straightforward and inventive. From the title page (where the letters of the title are made three-dimensional and play into the story), to the anteater who says “yikes” not with a word bubble, but spells the letter with her long tongue, this book is completely nuts and completely charming.

Muddy 1

Muddy 2

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters by Michael Mahin, illustrated by Evan Turk

Turk brings fine art to picture books in ways few others do. This book is no exception.


And just to hedge my bets, here are a group of books that I could also very well see taking home an award:


About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Psst . . . . Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell!!!

    • Eric Carpenter says:

      Wolf in the Snow by Cordell, Now by Portis, After the Fall by Santat, and Claymates by Petty & Eldridge

    • Travis Jonker says:

      Oh man – I would love to see that. I’d add it in, but I don’t want to jinx it now

  2. Hi Travis, looking forward to Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut.. Thanks!