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Predictions! New York Times Best Illustrated 2018

When it comes to predicting New York Times Best Illustrated winners, I’ve had my up years – who can forget 2014 when I went three for ten (wait, you forgot? Well, I remember)? I’ve also had my down years (let’s never speak of 2016 again).

But what about this year? Time to get predicting.

Related . . .

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

Breakdown: The NYT Best Illustrated/Caldecott Overlap

Here are ten books I think will go on to Best Illustrated glory. Let me know what I missed in the comments.


Vacation 1

Vacation by Blexbolex

Usually this list is dominated by picture books, but when a former Best Illustrated winner produces a graphic novel this inventive and illustration-focused, I see it making the list.

Patchwork Bike

Patchwork Bike 1

The Patchwork Bike illustrated by Van ThanhRudd, written by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Bold, beautiful acrylic paintings atop recycled cardboard. This is the sort of book that wows you from the front cover on.


Turtle 1

The Town of Turtle illustrated by Cátia Chien, written by Michelle Cuevas

Chien has been drawing attention since A Boy and a Jaguar. The illustrations in this book expand the text in more playful, unique, and beautiful ways than I can list.


Visitor 1

The Visitor by Antje Damm

Three-dimensional artwork is something rarely seen in picture books. Even rarer is when three-dimensional artwork captures the mood of a story so effectively.


Dreamers 1

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

An absolute pro firing on all cylinders in a book that is as timely as it is powerful. It’d be a surprise if it was left off the list.

Blue Rider

Blue Rider 1

Blue Rider by Geraldo Valério

A wordless story with pen, pencil, acrylic, and cut-paper collage artwork that devolves into a technicolor dream before coming back to reality. It’s really stunning.


Animals 1

All the Animals Where I Live by Philip C. Stead

Wow is this book gorgeous. Incorporating mono printing, found object printing, china marker, calligraphy brushes and sumi ink, every single pageturn reveals visual surprises.


Seven 1

Seven Pablos illustrated by Chiara Carrer

A book that isn’t afraid to get a little grungy in the service of setting the tone, Carrer does arresting things with color and graphite pencil.


Dreamer 1

The Dreamer by Il Sung Na

Is there room on the list for two Dreamer books? Given that this might be Il Sung Na’s most beautiful picture book yet, I say yes.


Blue 1

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki

This book has already gotten love from the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and the artwork is just too striking for it to not receive NYT attention too.


And just to hedge my bets, here are a few more books that I wouldn’t be surprised to see on the New York Times Best Illustrated list:


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. Good choices! I’m very fond of the art in Barbara McClintock’s NOTHING STOPPED SOPHIE and Brian Lies’ THE ROUGH PATCH.

  2. I’m so happy to see The Town of Turtle on this list. Catia Chien is such a talented young artist. I was fortunate to have her illustrate my first book.

  3. How I love this list. Thank you for celebrating books I love and books I have yet to discover.

  4. Sam Juliano says:

    Just came upon this prediction list and am furiously scribbling down the titles, wanting badly to get a better grasp of this year’s international scene soon to be also examined at the Horn Book by Thom Barthelmess. I’m like a kid in a sandbox. Ha! I have seen just about all the American releases and just a few days ago was ravished by my first look at ADRIAN SIMCOX DOES NOT HAVE A HORSE, which blew me away but several other masterpieces. Thank you so much for this!