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Predictions! NYT Best Illustrated Children’s Books 2019

Here’s how it usually goes when I try to predict the 10 titles that will be named New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s books.

I begin with maybe one or two books that seem likely. Then I survey the landscape and realize there are a ton of books that could end up on the list. I add them all into a document. Then I start thinking about the past. The sorts of books that have won before. Tendencies I’ve seen. Ones I think will wow the judges. And I start paring down the list.

Since it’s an award that isn’t limited to just books by American citizens/residents, the pool is much bigger than for the Caldecott. How accurate am I? Last year I went 2 for 10. The year before that? 2 for 10 again. The If I can get any, I’m a happy guy.

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. The list is usually announced in late October or early November. Let me know what I missed in the comments.

Seraphin by Philippe Fix

Kicking things off with a French import created by a Hans Christian Anderson award winner. This book is about as epic as they come, telling the story of a character who fills Paris with thingamabobs of all types. It’s an impressive book that I think the judges will notice.

Up Down Inside Out by JooHee Yoon

Yoon’s bold printmaking style is instantly recognizable. A previous winner, Yoon’s art is on full display in this book, filled with flaps and die cuts

Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island by Jennifer Thermes

Evidence has shown that this award can occasionally look favorably on books set in or about New York City. This one is a stunner that left me with the thought of “How long did it take to MAKE this?” Usually a good sign when it comes to illustration awards.

Another by Christian Robinson

Christian Robinson is no stranger to the Best Illustrated list, and Another, his author/illustrator debut, makes a strong case for another award. The art carries this unique story about an inter-dimensional meeting.

Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World by David Macaulay

As we’ve seen in the past, this award loves a legend. This book is another astonishing entry into a body of work that the judges will know very well.

A Good Day illustrated by Miren Asain Lora, written by Daniel Nesquens

The Best Illustrated list isn’t afraid of delicate, and this Spanish import is just that. It’s about a tiger escaping the confines of a zoo told through a unique illustration style – more sky than land.

Saturday by Oge Mora

You know what’s a beautiful thing to behold? When an artist follows up something great (in Mora’s case, the fantastic Caldecott Honor-winning Thank You, Omu!) with something that might be even better. Saturday has what might be my favorite spread of the year (see above). Cut paper illustration at its best.

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Lock of the year, the decade, the century. If all I get is one, this will be it (currently knocking on wood so I don’t jinx things). That sound you hear is the Caldecott committee desperately wishing they could magically make Sydney Smith a US citizen/resident so they could give this book a Caldecott Medal AND an Honor. Six starred reviews and universal acclaim for this book that does all sorts of beautiful and unique things in the illustrations.

Albert’s Quiet Quest by Isabelle Arsenault

A two-time Best Illustrated recipient, Arsenault’s latest is all about a kid trying to find some quiet space for reading. As always, her art has the sort of quiet beauty that award judges love.

Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley

Beautifully mixing modern with retro, this gender expectations bucking story about Mary Edwards Walker has some of the most eye-catching illustrations of 2019.

Those were my 10 predictions, but I would not be the least bit surprised to see any of these books also on the list:

Stormy: A Story About Finding a Forever Home by Guojing

Music for Mister Moon illustrated by Erin Stead, written by Philip Stead

Yugen by Ed Young

You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks by Evan Turk

River by Elisha Cooper

My Heart by Corinna Luyken

The Fate of Fausto by Oliver Jeffers

The Seekers by Hari and Deepti

I Miss My Grandpa by Jin Xiaojing

The Frog Book by Steve Jenkins

The Happiest Tree by Hyeon-Ju Lee

A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

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 always enjoy reading your list/ predictions posts, Travis. I’ve missed a few of these titles, so will check them out now. I’m particularly intrigued by the art you share here for A GOOD DAY– thanks for sharing it!

  2. Absolutely agree on Small in the City and A Good Day.

    I would put in a plug for The Full House and the Empty House by LK James as well: http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2019/01/31/review-of-the-day-the-full-house-and-the-empty-house-by-lk-james/

  3. Thanks, Travis, for shining a light on these titles. I love these lists, they always make me think more about some titles.