The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Children’s Books of 2022
Here’s to keeping it interesting. Pushing the envelope. Pushing boundaries. Pushing buttons. Here’s to children’s books that expand our assumptions of what a children’s book can be.
Interested in owning the books below? I created a list of all the books mentioned in this post in Bookshop – an online shop that supports brick-and-mortar independent bookstores. I apparently might get a few cents as well, but that’s not why I’m doing it – I just figured it might be helpful to share a good place to purchase them.
Previously . . .
Typo and Skim by Tomáš Koncinský, Barbora Klárová, Daniel Špacek, and Petr Štepán
Val de Grace | October 11
Why it’s unconventional: Oh, I don’t know, because it’s a children’s book on the topic of entropy? Because it features a bold design mixing surrealist miniature where’s Waldo illustrations with innovative uses of type? This Czech Republic award winner is coming to America – are you ready for it?
Boobies by Nancy Vo
Groundwood | August 30
Why it’s unconventional: When I first saw this book, I thought, “Oh, ha, ha, I get it – a book called Boobies, but it’s really about the blue-footed boobie.” Then I opened it up. Dang, it’s really a book about boobies boobies. It’s informative. It’s well-illustrated. It’s funny. An unexpectedly wonderful book about the human body.
The Real Dada Mother Goose by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Julia Rothman
Candlewick Press | October 11
Why it’s unconventional: How fitting that Jon Scieszka, creator of one of the most Astonishingly Unconventional books in children’s literature history (The Stinky Cheese Man), has a book on the 2022 list. What do you get when you take a dadaist approach to the traditional Mother Goose rhymes? This insanely creative (and also, insane) book.
My Uncle Is Coming Tomorrow by Sebastián Santana Camargo
Greystone Kids | August 30
Why it’s unconventional: And I thought Typo and Skim hit on a unique topic. My Uncle Is Coming Tomorrow discusses the idea of forced disappearances, as the main character waits for an uncle who never arrives. Already an award winner in Argentina, the book is coming to American shores via Greystone Kids.
Endlessly Ever After by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Dan Santat
Chronicle Books | April 19
Why it’s unconventional: A fairytale pick your path picture book (say that five times fast), where the reader decides how the story will go. But will you be able to reach the happy ending?
Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Tony Ross
Candlewick Press | November 8
Why it’s unconventional: A few reasons. Firstly, there have been many picture book about the pandemic, but none get as real as this story about author Michael Rosen’s harrowing bout with the virus. Secondly, it’s the rare illustrated book that would work for just about any age. And, oh, thirdly – it has the best (and weirdest) title of the year.
I Want to Be a Vase by Julio Torres, illustrated by Julian Glander
Atheneum (Simon & Schuster) | June 7
Why it’s unconventional: While the story about household objects who want to break free of their predestined roles caught my attention, it’s the artwork that puts this book on the list. Julian Glander’s soft digital household scenes are like nothing I’ve seen before in a picture book.
Hooves or Hands? by Rosie Haine
Tate | April 19
Why it’s unconventional: Make it two years in a row on this list for Rosie Haine! She follows It Isn’t Rude to Be Nude with this book that pairs intriguing horse-related questions with some off the wall visuals.
I’d Like to Be the Window for a Wise Old Dog by Philip C. Stead
Doubleday (Random House) | April 5
Why it’s unconventional: A book that reads like a song, filled with gorgeous and unexpected page turns.
Swimmers by María José Ferrada, illustrated by Mariana Alcántara
Tapioca Stories | July 5
Why it’s unconventional: Every species has a recurring dream. Fish? Their dream is to be Olympic swimmers. This book explores that surreal idea through straightforward text and beautiful illustrations (keep an eye on this book for the NYT Best Illustrated Children’s Books list).
One and Everything by Sam Winston
Candlewick Studio | November 1
Why it’s unconventional: Sam Winston is known for his fine art work, but he sometimes forays in children’s books as well (he co-created A Child of Books with Oliver Jeffers). In One and Everything Winston uses scripts from around the world to illustrate this tale of a story that threatens to swallow up all others.
Come On In! There’s a Party in This Book! by Jamie Michalak, illustrated by Sabine Timm
Hippo Park | September 20
Why It’s Unconventional: Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Walter Wick and Joost Elfers had a book baby? I think Come On In! would be the result. I Spy-esque found object artwork mixed with expressive food characters set the silly tone.
The Pack by Amanda Cley, illustrated by Cecilia Ferri
Eerdmans | March 22
Why it’s unconventional: How do you know a picture book was first published in a different country? No one is smiling on the cover. This book about being true to yourself, even if it separates you from the pack, wouldn’t be unconventional in Italy, where it was first published in 2021. But in the U.S.? Oh yeah – it’s on the list.
Supposing . . . by Alastair Reid, illustrated by JooHee Yoon
Enchanted Lion | August 2
Why it’s unconventional:
Supposing I collected hair from a barber shop and sent it in parcels to people I didn’t like . . .
A book filled with unexpected what-ifs (originally written in 1960), perfectly paired with JooHee Yoon’s brand-new vibrant artwork.
Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf by Davide Cali, illustrated by Marianna Balducci
Tundra Books | September 27
Why it’s unconventional: The Three Little Pigs + an abacus = this book, which give the familiar tale a counting twist.
I put the entire list up at Bookshop:
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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 email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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