As we end another year we start to see various people and organizations come out with their favorite books of the year. Once again, I’ve read tons of children’s books this year and created a lot of book lists for children. It’s so hard to narrow down my favorites but, I’m up for the challenge.
So many of these titles could fall into multiple categories. I’ve took some liberties to max out this list and get in all my favorites!
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Favorite Books for Children of 2021
Most Beautiful Illustrations
Watercress by Andrea Wing, illustrations by the amazing Jason Chin is the story of a young girl and her family who travel through Ohio when they spot watercress alongside the road. The family piles out of the car and collects as much as they can. Af first, the young girl is a bit embarrassed to be collecting food from alongside the road, but her mother shares a story from her childhood in China, that puts the experience in perspective. The young girl gains a new appreciation for foraging for food. The story was inspired by the author’s own childhood. I loved it! Don’t forget to peek under the dust cover at the book undies.
Honorable Mentions: It Fell From the Sky by the Fans and Have You Ever Seen a Flower by Shawn Harris
Favorite Board Book
Learn all about opposites with spider webs. Yes, you heard that right. Grab a copy of Web Opposites by Rob Hodgson.
Honorable Mentions: Monster Food by Daisy Hirst and Comparrotives (a Grammar Zoo Book) by Janik Coat
Best Book That Will Spark a Conversation
My Two Border Towns by David Bowles is the story of a father and son who travel to the other side. It’s a city super close to their city in the USA. It’s just across the Rio Grande on US-Mexico border. They are free to travel between the two countries because they have a passport. They visit family, share food, play, and make purchases.
On their way back, we learn about a stop they make on the bridge. It’s a spot filled with refugees stuck between the two countries. The boy and his father share basic necessities with one of the families and the boy dreams of a time when the people will no longer be stuck and free to come into the USA.
Such a moving story to discuss immigration, refugees, families, hardships, and love with students.
Honorable Mentions: Unspeakable: The Tulsa Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford and What Happened to You by James Catchpole
Favorite Book That Will Give You All the Feels and Shed a Tear
So, the books in the above category could definitely fit in this category too. But, I’m taking my creative liberties to share all the great books of the year with you.
The Elephants Come Home: A True Story of Seven Elephants, Two People, and One Extraordinary Friendship by Kim Tomsic is a touching story based on a true story about the connection between animals and humans.
Honoarable Mentions: Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by Jeff Gottesfeld and Survivor Tree by Marcie Colleen
Best Book to Promote Body Positivity
Bodies are Cool by Tyler Feder celebrates bodies of all shapes, sizes, colors, and features. We are all unique and we are all COOL.
This book deserves a spot on every bookshelf in homes, counselor offices, doctor’s offices, and classrooms.
Honorable Mentions: Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Johanna Ho and Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand
Super Cleverly Done Book
Every now and then you come across a book and think, “Wow, that is so clever.” I pretty much think that with every Brendan Wenzel book I pick up including the 2021, Inside Cat.
Honorable Mention: I Am the Subway by Kim Hyo-eun
Best Book We Didn’t Know We Would Need
Who knew we would need books to help us processs a global pandemic. Thank goodness for talented and authors and illustrators to help us through.
Keeping the City Going by Brian Floca is a beautiful book about all the heroes who kept things going when everything shut down during Covid-19. It’s a look at the postal workers, grocery store clerks, deliver food people, truck drivers, sanitation workers, police, fire, paramedics, hospital personnel, and countless others that risked their safety to keep our cities going.
This would make a great book for a unit on community helpers, to help children process the past 2 years, or just for a feel-good read-aloud that there is good in the world.
Honorable Mention:Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham
Best Silly/Funny Read-Aloud
Imagine a vampire going to the zoo. And, keep that imagination going as you head to the penguin exhibit. Now, get ready for a switcheroo. Grab Vampenguin by Lucy Ruth Cummins is a super-fun read-aloud. I love picture books where the pictures play an equal role to the words and that is done successfully here.
Honorable Mentions: Chez Bob by Bob Shea, Interrupting Chicken Cookies for Breakfast by David Ezra Stein and Off-Limits by Helen Yoon
Best Whole Group Read-Aloud Story Time Book
These books are full of rhythm and rhyme making them great for a whole-group read aloud session. Whole group read-alouds have to have that “thing” that makes them worthy to hold the attention of a group of wiggly little ones. And, these fit the bill.
Everybody in the Red Brick Building by Anne Wynter starts with everyone asleep in the red brick building until…the baby howls, “Waaaaaah!” which wakes someone…and before you know it everyone is awake.
But just as quickly as the sounds wake everyone up, different sounds lull everyone back to sleep.
So many learning extension ideas with this book from this book from sequencing and onomatopoeia.
Honorable Mention: Room for Everyone by Naaz Khan and Looking for a Jumbie by Tracey Baptiste
Best Book You Can Sing
You know what else makes a good whole-group read-aloud boo pick? A book you can sing.
Croc o’Clock by Huw Lewis Jones may leave you a bit winded because it’s to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” However, it’s a whole lot of fun.
Honorable Mention: Blue Ridge Babies 1,2,3
Best Bedtime Read
Time for Bed Old House by Janet Costa Bates is the story of a child and grandfather who prepare for bed amongst all the nightime sounds of an old house.
Honorable Mention: The Night Walk by Marie Dorléans
Favorite Book With a Recipe(s)
I get pretty giddy about books with recipes included. Maybe it’s because I love to extend read-aloud experiences so much and cooking is a great way to do that.
Soul Food Sunday by Winsome Bingham is a love song to the foods that bring families together each Sunday. There is so much to love in this book from the mouth-watering foods of mac-n-cheese, greens, ribs & sausage, and sweet tea to the vibrant moving images to o the cadence of the words. It’s all a win. Oh, and there is a mac ‘n’ cheese recipe in the back of the book that you must try.
And, don’t forget to look at the book’s undies. You’ll be in for another delectable treat.
Honorable Mentions:Dumpling Dayby Meera Sriram and Tomatoes for Neela by Padma Lakshmi
For more books with recipes, check out my whole list.—>Books That Inspire You to Cook
How to Find a Fox by Kate Gardner and with amazing photographs by Ossi Saarinen is stunning. How can you spot a fox? Well, look in different landscapes, look at different times of the day and year, look for tracks. Get all the how-tos while delighting in the fact that you get to see some beautiful foxes right in this book.
Honorable Mention: The Me I Choose to Be by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and illustrated by Regis and Kahran Bethencourt
Best Book That Transports You Straight to Summer
Bubbles…Up! by Jacqueline Davies is the story of fun and play at the pool until the thunder arrives. But, after a brief interruption, pool time continues. Let the bubbly play resume.
Honorable Mention: Paletero Man by Lucky Diaz
Informational Science Book
Whale Fall Café by Jacquie Sewell is a fascinating look at what happens to a whale carcass as it falls to the bottom of the dark ocean. It’s a page turner full of animals you’ve never heard of probably an idea you never thought about before.
Honorable Mention: My Book of Butterflies by Geraldo Valério and 13 Ways to Eat a Fly by Sue Heavenrich
Change Sings brings the beautiful words of Amanda Gorman into the laps of children. When we join together, anything is possible. Children will feel empowered to make small and big changes in their lives and the world after be uplifted with this anthem.
Honorable Mention: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright selected by Fiona Waters and illustrated by the amazing Britta Teckentrup
Mel Fell by Corey Tabor is the story of a young kingfisher who is determined that today is the day that she will learn to fly. The thing is that we don’t have always have immediate success when we try something new. That is okay. In fact, it is perfectly normal for there to be bumps along the way. Keep the confidence and don’t give up.
Honorable Mentions: Shy Willowby Cat Min and I Am a Peaceful Goldfish by Shoshana Chaim
Speaking of social-emotinal learning…The 2022 Family Dinner Book Club theme for the year are SEL books. See the book line-up and join us in the new year.—>2022 Family Dinner Book Club
Favorite Wordless Book
In a recent Publisher’s Weekly article, author Patrica J. Murphy said “To some, wordless picture books are the avocado toast of the children’s book world. Many can’t get enough, some won’t even take a bite, and still others either don’t quite understand their appeal or don’t know what to do with them.”
Well, I can’t get enough of them. In fact, I have a whole post dedicated to my favorites over the years.—>Wordless Books
And, here is my favorite of 2021.
Every Little Kindness by Marta Bartolj is the a look at the chain reaction one small act of kindness can have on the world.
Honorable Mention: The Midnight Fair by Gideon Sterer
Best Book for a Math Lesson
One-Osaurus, Two-Osaurus by Kim Norman is a fun one. You’ve got rhythm and rhyme. You’ve got counting forwards and backward, and there are dinosaurs. Yep, a triple hit.
It’s a hit for a circle time read-aloud and has lots of extension opportunities.
-students can join in on some of the phrases
-playing hide and seek
Honorable Mention: Ten in a Hurry by Lo Cole
Best Graphic Novel
Unsolved Case Files: Escape at 10,000 Feet : D.B. Cooper and the Missing Money by Tom Sullivan is the story of the only unsolved plane hijacking in the USA.
In Part 1 we meet the hijacker and get some basic background information about the case. Part 2 gets into the hijacker’s demands. Part 3 explores the escape which is pretty crazy. Part 4 explores the aftermath and part 5 gets into the discovery. And, finally, part 6 examines who D.B. Cooper was.
The book is filled with colorful illustrations, educational sidebars, real photos from the files, source information, and so much more.
Other Best Lists to Check Out
I always love to check out the books that other organizations or individuals share. Here are a few more to enjoy.
Want to see the books I loved in 2020?—>20 Favorite Books for Kids of 2020
So, what were your favorite books of 2021. Leave a comment below and let me know.
Which books will be favorites of 2022. I’ve already started my looking-forward-to list.—>Check it Out Here
Cindy Rovai says
Thank you sü much for these lists of the most beaut and engaging books. I am a retired edu who is ALWAYS looking for books for my grandchildren aging from 3-13. in addition to them I tutor a struggling reader who is 12. i would be very interested in books for middle gRades/ 7th and 8th graders and historical fiction. Thank you for your website. Cindy Rovai
Jodie Rodriguez says
Hi Cindy, I focus on books for children ages 0-8. But, my friends at What Do We Do All Day? and Imagination Soup both share book lists for older students. Best, Jodie