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2021 Children’s Lit: The Year in Miscellanea

It’s time to take a look back at the year that was in children’s lit miscellanea.

Read previous Year in Miscellanea Posts:

2020, 201920182017201620152014201320122011201020092008

Nightmare Fuel of the Year (Runner Up): The Clifford movie stand-in puppet

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 02: Crew members on location for ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ in Washington Heights on July 2, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)

How do you have actors respond to a giant red dog that will be added in post production? Have two dudes wear this contraption to film each scene.

Nightmare Fuel of the Year (Winner): Flying fish with diarrhea

This is from the book It Could Be Worse, and yeah, this would be worse.

Best Sushi: Hungry Caterpillar sushi in Northampton, MA

Author Video of the Year: Minh Lê blooper reels

I’m a sucker for blooper reels. They make me laugh every time. This one, from author Minh Lê is one of my favorite things from 2021. Wait for the cushion turn.

Tattoo of the Year: Beekle

Beekle inspired the 2015 Caldecott committee to get tattoos, and it’s still inspiring ink today.

Wrapping Paper of the Year: Hedgehog and friends wrapping paper by Lauren Castillo

A classy way to show your children’s literature love.

Miscommunication of the Year: Guy who entered a library contest meant for kids

I laugh every time.

Book Cover Spoof of the Year: Becoming in Dog Man: Mothering Heights

Departure of the Year: Mo Willems with Opposites Abstract

I can’t think of any book creator that made a book less like their previous books this year.

Book Title that Immediately Cues Up a Song in Your Head (Runner Up): What is Love? by Mac Barnett and Carson Ellis

Book Title that Immediately Cues Up a Song in Your Head (Winner): Pony by R.J. Palacio

Collaboration of the Year: Christian Robinson and Target

Illustrator Christian Robinson designed a bunch of products for Target this year. Just like you, I wanted them all.

The Kramer Award (in honor of his famous Coffee Table Book that could be turned into a little coffee table): What’s Up, Construction Truck?

A truck book that turns into a friggin’ truck, people. Amazing.

Plant of the Year: Trees

2021: The Year of the Tree

Stationary of the Year: Drawings of Things card set by Jon Klassen

Do you like things? Do you like postcards? This is the set for you.

Flex of the Year: No type on the cover of A House by Kevin Henkes

The Henk (Kevin Henkes) asserts his utter dominance once again by going no title and no author name on the cover. It’s like Adele going no type on the cover of her latest album.

And what is Keven Henkes if not the Adele of children’s literature?

Twist of the Year: Physically twisting the book Mel Fell by Corey Tabor

Not only does the book read from bottom to top (a la Tops and Bottoms), but the orientation turns 180 degrees at the climax (see how in the video above). Viva physical picture books!

Rough Draft of the Year: The case cover for Strollercoaster by Matt Ringler and Raúl the Third

Remove the jacket and the cover is drawn out in pencil. Such a cool surprise.

Deception of the Year: Jarrett J. Krosoczka and the ice cream truck:

Sometimes you do what you have to do.

Title of the Year (YA Category): Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy

Great title, great book.

Title of the Year (Runner Up) (Picture Book Category): I Eat Poop. by Mark Pett

Standout title work from one of my favorite picture book makers. And don’t overlook the importance of that period.

Title of the Year (Winner) (Picture Book Category): Chez Bob by Bob Shea

This book should win best title every year forever.

Farewell of the Year: Horn Book Editor Roger Sutton retires

He called ’em like he saw ’em, and I’m going to miss his very tall and bowtied presence at the helm of The Horn Book.

Existential Crisis of the Year: Colby Sharp stuck in a reading rut

Colby breaks out the acting chops for his best youtube channel title card of the year.

Title Change of the Year: George by Alex Gino becomes Melissa

Gino’s wanted the title change for a while, and this year the change was made.

Barcode Placement of the Year: No Pants!

One of the most surprising reveals of 2021.

Doppelgänger of the Year (Runner Up): Author/illustrator Peter Brown and Italian soccer star Leonardo Bonucci:

Scoring goals in last summer’s European Championships, writing and illustrating books – what can’t this guy do?

For reference, here’s the real Peter Brown:

Doppelgänger of the Year (Winner): Author Daniel Nayeri and the guy in the Ritz Cracker Instagram ads

The hat, the beard, the scarf, the VIBE – I was genuinely so confused when I first saw this ad. And I’m actually still not sure that the guy in the ad ISN’T Printz winner Danial Nayeri.

Free Little Library of the Year: Carved from a block of ice

If Ben Wyatt’s Ice Town had a Free Little Library, this would be it. Parks and Recreation fans know.

#bookfacefriday of the Year: The Rabbit hOle

The headstand puts this one over the top.

Best Term Limit Extension: Jason Reynolds as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

As his recent Colbert show appearance confirms, he’s the right person for the job.

Best Impression of an Picture Book Import: The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear and Gracey Zhang

A picture book published in the U.S. that has *gasp* nudity? A rare thing indeed and a great book to boot.

Best (Failed) Cryptocurrency with a Vague Children’s Lit Connection: J.R.R. Token

It didn’t last long. Also, this whole award hinges on whether you consider The Hobbit a children’s book.

Two-Page Spread of the Year: Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin

From an Ohio corn field to China, all in one seamless image.

Return of the Year: Amos McGee

I didn’t expect to see him again, and I glad he’s back.

Terrible Trend of the Year (Tie): Book censorship by school districts

Here’s hoping Central York is not a sign of things to come.

Terrible Trend of the Year (Tie): Children’s literature greats passing away

Jerry Pinkney, Lois Ehlert, Norton Juster, Eric Carle, Gary Paulsen, Floyd Cooper, Beverly Cleary, and the list (sadly) goes on and on.

Tweet of the Year: Caesar to Caesar salad Animorphs Cover

Well done, Ben Javert.

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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. Three things: 1) This is always my favorite post of the year. 2) Haddaway hadn’t even OCCURRED to me, because when I see that book, I start humming Howard Jones’s tune with the same title. (I’m old.) and 3) Miscommunication of the Year: I CANNOT STOP LAUGHING.

    • Travis Jonker says

      Hey, Jules! Thanks for your kind words. Happy to hear you enjoyed it – I have a lot of fun putting this one together.

  2. This is an amazing post! Thanks for taking the time to curate the list and serve it up so well for us. Like an early Xmas gift! Happy Holidays to you.

  3. Several times this past year, I had the vague sense that there were … A LOT of new picture books out about trees. Seeing them gathered here was affirming. And hilarious. Thank you.

  4. Sharon Verbeten says

    This post was amazing! And I too, like Jules, thought of the Howard Jones song! Also, I concur on Chez Bob!

  5. Mary Van Akin says

    What a gift this post is. Thank you, Travis!!