Looking for "Best" Children's Books?

  • Hello everyone!

    After spending the weekend starting to come to terms with the fact that I really need to go back to basics to help me improve, one of the things I want to do more regularly is look at current/contemporary children's books that have been successful (not necessarily just financially successful, but that are well done and respected, if that makes sense). I found the NY Times list of children's books for 2020, but I was wondering if there are any other places are good resources to look as well (or if anyone has any personal recommendations). I want to begin saturating myself in illustrators of today, more than I normally do. I tend to gravitate towards artists that aren't as contemporary (Patricia Polacco, Roald Dahl, Arthur Rackham, Hilary Knight/Kay Thompson, etc.) While I definitely can still be inspired by the old masters, I realized my knowledge of current illustrators is embarrassingly lacking.


  • The Horn Book (which is a magazine) is a great resource, but expensive. Right now they've released the March/April digital edition for free. You can also request it through your public library.

  • That's a great resource, thank you! I'm planning on making a library run soon (I think ours is finally starting to reopen), I'll add that to my list!

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    A good place to start would be to go through the Caldecott medal and honor books for the last couple of years.

    Along with that for the current year there are mock Caldecott events (usually through a school or library, but picture book blogs as well) and the books that and are being considered in those are posted.

    Here's one that came up for book that were published in 2020 (considered for the 2021 Caldecott): https://everyday-reading.com/2021-mock-caldecott/

    And of course don't overlook your local librarian. Seriously, these people are the best! They spend all day thinking about this stuff.

  • @davidhohn Thank you so much! After I posted this question, I made a list of the illustrators I admire...most of them retired before 1980! So any resources I can get for contemporary illustrators and children's books will be so helpful!

  • Seconding what @davidhohn said: Caldecott winners and librarians are a great resource! (If you want to check out Caldecott winners, the ALA website has a downloadable PDF of all Caldecott winning books here.)

    The ALSC spring conference is all about illustration and current trends and is going to be held Friday, May 14, 2021. There is a cost to attend. But if you're interested, you can find out about it here.

    Another resource I've found valuable in keeping up with contemporary illustrators and illustration trends is following book publishers, librarians, and bloggers/book reviewers on social media. Many of the reviewers are moms of small kids and share their kiddos' reactions to books and how they engage with the illustrations. You get a lot of good book recommendations too!

  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 I didn't think about following publishers! That's a great idea!

  • @lpetiti thanks! It's one of the things that helps me stay current with new releases and illustration trends. 😊

  • @lpetiti, the most efficient way for me to stay on top of the best children's books is to print out the American Library Association's (ALA) list of Notable Books for each year. It comes out some time in the first few months: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/notalists/ncb

    I read all the books for the Younger Readers, and I scan the Middle & Older books to see if any are picture books, graphic novels, or otherwise illustrated. I doubt that all the NYT bestsellers make it on this list, so doing both ALA for critical success & NYT for big sellers would net you all the top books. I've also been working back in time & reading the books from earlier years as well. There are some gems there, but the further back in time you go, it gets somewhat less interesting.

    I look at EVERYTHING -- fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, etc.

    I also look at all the other awards, including the Batchelder, Belpré, Caldecott, Children's Literature Legacy, Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media, Geisel, Newbery, Odyssey and Sibert awards. They are all here, so it's easy: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia

    Most of them are also on the Notable list, but I look at them anyway. I like knowing what's so hot it got more than one recognition. This will give you a huge haul of books, but they're mostly picture books, so they're usually a really fast read. I love having a huge bag of library books at home to keep me off the internet! (except for SVS, of course!)

  • A good place to inquire is your local library. Inquire with the library staff which are the more popular children's books that are checked out and circulated. The librarians and other library technicians stay up to date on the more popular books.

  • Thank you all for all of this great information! Our library is officially reopening g this week and I’m about to send my next book back to my client, so soon there will be plenty of time to get an attack plan for this together!

  • @lpetiti I love Dan Santat’s work specifically After the Fall. And I adore Axel schefflers books.

  • Moderator

    I know people say to look at current books for trends, but trends change. I dunno, I just look at what I personally like.

    I used to rent them in bulk at the library, before the pandemic hit. now I've been buying some here and there at the thrift store, just picked up "Moustache baby". Actually @Braden-Hallett you would probably love that book, I thought of you when looking it over.

    Picked up a reallllly weird one recently, The 300 pound cat. Kinda 70's underground art vibes, I like weird stuff though.

  • @CLCanadyArts said in Looking for "Best" Children's Books?:

    Actually @Braden-Hallett you would probably love that book, I thought of you when looking it over.

    That looks totally up my alley!

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