Predictions! New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books 2022
I’ve been in my New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books bunker, carefully building my 2022 predictions list. It’s dark and cold in there. A lot of red yarn connecting pushpins on a giant cork board. Black and white glossies of hundreds of book covers strewn about.
As I’ve mentioned before, Best Illustrated is a tough list to guess. If you can get more than three I’ll buy you a Blizzard. Last year I correctly predicted two out of ten, and I was pretty pleased with that.
I’ve emerged from the bunker with the books I think will end up on the list this year.
Bedtime for Bo illustrated by Mari Kanstad Johnsen, written by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold, translated by Kari Dickson
Books published by Enchanted Lion end up on this list all the time. There’s a reason – they publish some of the best illustrated books, often by non American artists. So the question is: Which Enchanted Lion book or books will make the cut? I’m predicting Norweigen import Bedtime for Bo will be the one.
Forever Truffle, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, written by Fanny Britt, and translated by Susan Ouriou
Isabelle Arsenault is no stranger to the NYT Best Illustrated list. In Forever Truffle, all her skills of illustration and design are on display. The book is more heavily illustrated chapter book than picture book, giving the artwork even more pages to shine.
Nigel and the Moon illustrated by Gracey Zhang, written by Antwan Eady
For me it’s not a question of if Gracey Zhang will end up on this list, but when. I thought she’d get a Best Illustrated nod for her books Lala’s Words or The Big Bath House but no such luck. I’m thinking her inky style will wow the judges in 2022.
Paradise Sands by Levi Pinfold
Credit where credit is due: shout-out to librarian Eric Carpenter for showing me this book. I hadn’t seen it, but now that I have, I must agree with E.C. – it’s just the sort of book that makes it onto the Best Illustrated list. Sporting a surreal, Van Allsburg-esque style, I think it has a great chance.
Still This Love Goes On illustrated by Julie Flett, written by Buffy Sainte-Marie
Julie Flett has won all sorts of Canadian illustration awards, but has yet to be a Best Illustrated recipient. I’m predicting that changes with Still This Love Goes On, which is brimming with Flett’s bold yet understated art.
What Do You See When You Look at a Tree? by Emma Carlisle
This list isn’t afraid of dreamy. And UK artist (and Kate Greenaway nominee) Emma Carlisle makes some of the best dreamy artwork out there. This book, about exploring the natural world, seems like a good bet for Best Illustrated recognition.
Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall
What’s the saying? Art mimicks life? That statement has never been more true than with this book. Sophie Blackall made a picture book about the old farmhouse she bought and refurbished. She even incorporated elements from the old farmhouse into the collage and paint art. It feels pretty undeniable.
It’s So Difficult by Guridi, translated by Lawrence Schimel
Spoiler alert: this book might also pop up on my annual Astonishingly Unconventional list (coming soon). This book about anxiety pushes illustration boundaries on every page.
Sweet Justice illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, written by Mara Rockcliff
This book (about the Montgomery Bus Boycott) sports one of my favorite covers of the year – and things just get better on the inside. Christie is no stranger to this list (two previous Best Illustrated awards) and 2022 might be the year to make it three.
The Sun Is Late and So Is the Farmer illustrated by Erin Stead, written by Philip Stead
The Steads are back with (no surprise) one of the most beautiful books of the year. Visually, this story unfolds horizontally, playing with the idea of imagination vs. reality. Dang it’s lovely.
And, just to frustrate Colby Sharp, who voiced outrage about my inclusion of additional books to “keep an eye on” for my 2021 list), here are a few more books that I could absolutely see making this list:
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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