Predictions! New York Times Best Illustrated Books 2023
One of my favorite “Best of” lists every year is the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of the Year list. I like it so much, that I try to guess which books will be chosen. Last year I called a couple. How will I fare this year? The official list should be out later this month.
Here are the books I think will be on that list.
At the Drop of a Cat illustrated by Violeta Lópiz, written by Élise Fontenaille
The publisher of this book, Enchanted Lion, consistently puts out visually stunning books from around the globe. This book, about the grandparent/grandchild bond, is one that I think will grab the judges attention.
The Shade Tree by Suzy Lee
One thing I always do when making this predictions list is check for new books from past winners. Suzy Lee’s books have been on the NYT list before, and The Shade Tree is Lee at her inventive best.
Do You Remember? by Sydney Smith
Here’s how this works: Sydney Smith makes book, book is gorgeous, book ends up on the NYT Best Illustrated list. This book, about a mother and son trading memories, is perhaps his finest artwork to date (which is saying something).
The Red Fruit by Lee Gee Eun
The New York Times Best Illustrated list isn’t afraid of black and white. They aren’t afraid of spare. The Red Fruit artwork is both of these things and grabbed my attention instantly.
Just a Worm by Marie Boyd
The Best Illustrated list has often spotted new talent, and here’s predicting that the committee will notice debut picturebook maker Marie Boyd’s remarkable quilled artwork for this book.
The Tree and the River by Aaron Becker
Aaron Becker made a bold choice with this wordless book that focuses on one location, and the changes that occur there over time. Visually stunning and grand in scope, this is a book that rewards repeat readings.
Rosie Runs by Marika Maijala, translated by Mia Spangenberg
There aren’t a whole lot of illustration awards that celebrate childlike art. Rosie Runs is childlike at its best, standing out in the crowded 2023 field.
In the Dark illustrated by Corinna Luyken, written by Kate Hoefler
Playing with light and dark and sporting vertical pageturns, In the Dark is one of those brilliantly illustrated books I don’t think the committee will miss.
I Wish I Could Tell You illustrated by Chiaki Okada, written by Jean-François Sénéchal
This one gives me strong Sendak Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present vibes – quiet and lush. A book about the loss of a loved one, it’s the sort of book that could use a champion to help it get the sort of recognition it deserves.
A Walk in the Woods illustrated by Jerry Pinkney and Brian Pinkney, written by Niki Grimes
A great book with a truly unique illustration story – the art was begun by the late Jerry Pinkney and finished by his son Brian. The melding of styles and the family connection make this a special book.
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 (okay a ton 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 email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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