By Miranda Rosbach of Brightly
This year’s list has it all! Magical stories, love stories, family sagas, tales of home and school, gothic mysteries, and Victorian noirs. It has demon swarms, witches-in-training, forbidden forests, time-stealing monsters, very hungry trolls, lizard people, questing rabbits, and two different picture books featuring big-hearted owls. And more. Lots more.
With topics like race and culture, gender identity and sexuality, disability, friendship and family, with themes ranging from hope and resilience to finding community to finding your true self, here come our favorite kids’ and young adult books of 2022! We hope you can see just why these books make us just a little, just a tiny, just a miniscule bit EXCITED — and we hope they’ll be favorites for you too.
This wonderfully immersive book celebrates liberation and Black joy. A grandmother encourages her grandchildren (who are stuck inside) to close their eyes and breathe. They enter their imaginations and soar over the city abloom with flowers. Throughout moments of boredom, the children’s grandmother instructs them to free their minds, lift their arms, and understand the freedom of mindset.
A young boy awakes on Monday morning, his mother already up and ready for the day. When he remembers the weekend is over and his mother has to work, he is crestfallen. With a repeated mantra, his mother tells him to look for traces of her during the day. Throughout the week, the mother and boy notice small things that remind them of each other. It’s a refreshing look at the work/life balance experienced by many modern families.
Shu Lin is new at school and doesn’t speak English well, making it difficult to make friends. One day, Shu Lin’s grandfather comes to school and shares his intricate drawings with the class. Afterward, the children create a massive portrait as Shu Lin shows them how to hold a brush and make dragon scales. With an inclusive message and Asian-inspired illustrations, this picture book is truly a work of art.
Two sisters prepare for Día de los Muertos. They gather bright marigolds and sugar skulls and begin cooking for the festive celebration. One girl plays the accordion that belonged to her great-grandfather. The smell of almond cookies will lure a departed uncle’s spirit. Throughout the day, the family prepares for more relatives (both living and dead) to arrive. When Abuelita comes, the children pepper her with questions, relishing the bits and pieces of their family history. This is a vibrant tale of keeping ancestors alive through memories, food, and tradition.
Rabbit is on a quest to find the perfect gift for his Nana. With directions from a crow, Rabbit sets off on his journey. He meets many helpful animals and landmarks who each have gift ideas for Nana. At last, Rabbit locates the perfect gift (a joyfully predictable carrot), which Nana loves because it came from him. This tender tale makes a thoughtful gift for a beloved grandparent.
A young girl looks out the window and greets her elderly neighbor. She smiles at a dog and bows as a street vendor hands her a delicious drink. Namaste is not only a yoga pose; it is a continued practice, a leaning into silencing one’s mind and finding peace. Namaste notices joy in the world and knows that love exists even in difficult moments. Mostly, Namaste allows us to recognize and honor the divine in ourselves and others.
Betty is a girl who runs a mile a minute! In this story, she tries to bathe her smelly dog but makes a big mess instead. Kids and adults will love this spirited picture book from Reese Witherspoon that embraces hyperactive kids.
Two boys grow up in different parts of the world. Each one longs for a friend, wondering if they’ll always be sad and lonely. But in the stillness and quiet, the boys notice small wonders — a colorful bird flitting by or the touch of morning sunlight tingling toes. This affirming book is an ode to manifesting joy, illustrated with jubilant images and a touch of magic on every page.
What is a community? A bustling urban city center shows families getting up in the morning. Some head off to work, while others stay home. Young and old walk down the street, each with a friendly face to greet. Faces of all colors and bodies of all abilities appear in this sequel to All Are Welcome. While light on text, this inclusive rhyming tale delivers an impactful message.
A young child sets out on a well-worn path of those who have gone before. At first, the smooth trail winds through beautiful scenery. But when the path becomes rugged and splits in two, what is a young traveler to do? A story of choice and perseverance, this book is an excellent example of why we can never resist a book by Bob Staake.
A baby is born with an extraordinary dose of superhuman powers. The power to scream loudly, take up space, and freeze time. From learning to walk to playing the piano, moments pass, and years fly by. Perhaps the best visual representation of the oft-repeated phrase, “It goes by so fast,” this book will tug on your heartstrings. It makes a beautiful graduation gift for new adults.
An enslaved individual in shackles raises petitions for mercy and grace. A preacher stands at the pulpit, a scar down his face, offering prayers. Men and women who helped with Emancipation and the Great Migration of Black people stand in need. Each offering prayers and pleading for their needs. With two pages of references expounding on historical individuals, you won’t forget this powerful retelling of the classic spiritual.
Shaggy Blue Bison needs a trim. But his barber shop is closed. So are the supermarket and taco stand. In fact, everything is closed. Undeterred, Blue Bison pays his barber a visit at his house, hoping to strike a bargain, which doesn’t work out as planned. Even though his younger sister offers to cut his hair, Blue Bison declines. That is, until she secretly cuts his hair in his sleep. With laugh-out-loud moments, this book quickly became a favorite.
Margot and Grandpa awake one morning with a hankering for pancakes. However, they are out of eggs, milk, and flour. Together, they set off in their mighty vessel, Beluga Blue, and traverse the sea, going to various islands to gather supplies. When a storm dampens their pancake mission, they drop anchor and wait out the weather. This tasty read is perfect for a lazy weekend brunch and includes a recipe at the back of the book.
It’s the color of the sky and ocean, but one that can’t be contained. How did blue come into being? For centuries, people prized it for its rarity. Legends say the color connects humans to gods and wards off evil spirits. But extracting blue from rocks, snails, and leaves was arduous work. So how did blue become so universally beloved, and how does one color evoke so much emotion? This nonfiction picture book is ideal for grade schoolers.
A horse-drawn cart rolls in as the midnight moon rises high. Nocturnal creatures shuffle on the scene while Owl clangs pots and spoons. A hot mince pie for Fox and a sandwich for Badger. Butter and biscuits for raccoon and skunk and pudding for little possums. And at the end, a shuddering mouse. What’s an owl chef to do? This lovely book from one of the famed Fan brothers brims with magic.
Worry, worry, go away! There’s no time for you today! Hattie Harmony is the unsung hero of Wildwood Elementary. Hattie helps her classmates deal with everyday worries using her tool belt of handy supplies.
With the question, “Who will you help today?” Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor inspires readers to actively support their community. Her story provides a snapshot of the life of a young girl who, along with her friends, demonstrates various ways to make a positive impact.
Emboldening text encourages children to follow their dreams in this uplifting new story from celebrity popstar Ciara and pro quarterback Russell Wilson. With its inclusive illustrations and affirming words, little readers will be ready to conquer any obstacle that comes their way.