100 Scope Notes
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Predictions! 2015 NYT 10 Best Illustrated Books

I’m a big fan of the annual 10 Best Illustrated Books list from the New York Times. What is it? From the source:

Every year since 1952, the Book Review has convened an independent panel of judges to select picture books on the basis of artistic merit. The winning books are chosen from among thousands for what is the only annual award of its kind.

It’s announced around the end of October. It’s extra fun because it’s not limited to just American illustrators. Why not try to predict the winners?

Last year (the first I engaged in this exercise in self-amusement) I managed to name three of the winning books (click here for the winners). So, here are my predictions for this year…

Tiger Who Would Be King

The Tiger Who Would Be King, illustrated by Joohee Yoon; written by James Thurber

An unflinching look at the desire for power, this is about as artistically brave and bold as a modern picture book gets – which is interesting, since the text copyright is 1927. Brave and bold seem to be a NYT Best Illustrated theme.

Some Things I've Lost

Some Things I’ve Lost by Cybele Young

This is probably the closest thing to a lock there is among my predictions (although my “lock” last year, The River, didn’t make the list – place bets accordingly). I just don’t see how anyone can lay eyes on the meticulous paper sculptures in this book and not put it on the list.


Home by Carson Ellis

The best book the Provensens never made, this one has a ton of wonderful folk-y appeal. It also comes from Carson Ellis – I’m gonna go ahead and call her “an artist’s artist” – which certainly doesn’t hurt. *Update* Over at American Indians in Children’s Literature, Debbie Reese shares issues seen in Home.


Lenny & Lucy, illustrated by Erin E. Stead; written by Philip C. Stead

Caldecott Medalist Erin Stead’s charcoal transfer technique perfectly matches the hushed (and slightly eerie) tone of a family moving to a new house on the edge of the woods.


The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have, illustrated by Anton Van Hertbruggen; written by Edward Van De Vendel

Have you seen this book yet? You gotta see it. Had I crossed paths with it sooner, it would have been a part of my Wildest Children’s Books of 2015 list. The story is about a boy with an imaginary dog, and what happens when he gets a real one. The illustrations are as striking as any I’ve seen this year.

Sidewalk Flowers

Sidewalk Flowers, illustrated by Sydney Smith; written by JonArno Lawson

A graphic novel meets a wordless picture book based on a real journey across town, and the result is one of the best books of the year.

A Fine Dessert

A Fine Dessert, illustrated by Sophie Blackall; written by Emily Jenkins

If nothing else, this book can be credited with making a lot of dinner times much more delicious (as folks make the blackberry fool of the book). But I think it has a good chance to end up here as well.


Float by Daniel Miyares

Puddles are for splashing – and for setting sail to paper boats. But what when the rain stops falling? A wordless book that captures the tone of a rainy day, and the sun that eventually shines.

My Pen

My Pen by Christopher Myers

This book about creativity sports some pretty creative illustrations itself. From ink-splattered case cover to the playful interior art, My Pen is as Technicolor as black and white gets.

Moon is Going to Addy's House

The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House by Ida Pearle

Not much to say here – just some of the most memorable artwork of 2015

And, just for kicks, here are a few more that I think could very well be in the mix:

The Only Child, by Guojing

Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson; written by Matt De La Peña

Wait, by Antoinette Portis

The Tea Party in the Woods, by Akiko Miyakoshi

By Trolly Past Thimbledon Bridge, illustrated by Marvin Bileck; written by Ashley Bryan

Pool by JiHyeon Lee

The Little Gardener, by Emily Hughes

Marvels, by Brian Selznick

The Night World, by Mordecai Gerstein

This is Sadie, illustrated by Julie Morstad; written by Sara O’Leary

Do you have any to add?

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. I miss having the opportunity to see everything published! Lucky you. Have only seen a couple of these.
    What about VOICE OF FREEDOM, by Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes?

    • Travis Jonker says

      I definitely have missed lots of stuff too – so I appreciate your suggestion! I haven’t laid eyes on VOICE yet, but from what I see online, the illustrations look beautiful. Thanks for adding to the discussion here

  2. Not surprised to see Ellis’s HOME on the list, but do think it is indicative of the lack of awareness regarding diversity amongst those who put the list together.

    My review:

  3. Jonathan Hunt says

    A nice picture book diversion while we’re waiting for Calling Caldecott to start back up. My faves–



  4. Eric Carpenter says

    What about Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova? Julie Morstad’s illustrations sure seem list worthy to me.

  5. I’m no expert on art/illustration, but a few of my favs this year, art-wise, have been:
    P. Zonka Lays an Egg, Welcome Home, Bear: A Book of Animal Habitats,
    Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, Flowers Are Calling,
    Ellie, The Princess Who Had No Kingdom, and Wherever You Go

  6. You just made me hungry for blackberry fool. (I made it twice after reading A Fine Dessert. I think it’s time for another batch.) I’m pulling for that book for the Caldecott — and Blackberry Fool at the banquet!

  7. *chants* Moletown! Moletown! Moletown! Moletown!

    He wuz robbed with Lindbergh. He shall not be robbed again!!!

    • Thanks for the Moletown chant! That book was just accepted into the Society of Illustrators exhibition – I’m hoping it’s a good sign of things to come!

  8. Alyson Whatcott says

    Love it–are you going to post some Mock Caldecott choices? I love when you do!

    • Travis Jonker says

      Hi Alyson! We’re going to get into our Mock Caldecott toward the end of November, so I’ll post more then

  9. Would love to see a pinterest button on your page! Thanks for all your great work. I come here often.