Maurice Sendak once described those he wrote for as "Children who are never satisfied with condescending material. Children who understand real emotion and true feeling. Children who are not afraid of emotional truth." This year, those very children lost some literary giants in Sendak and numerous others, including Jean Craighead George, Leo Dillon, Remy Charlip, Else Holmelund Minarik, and Margaret Mahy. What better way to celebrate those writers' unique gifts than to celebrate the latest creations being offered to children, from pint-size readers to tweens. There are more than 20 debut writers or illustrators in this year's list, making it clear that today's children have been left in very capable hands.
There is plenty to satisfy those who love to feel a chill run down their spine, or enjoy mind-boggling twists and turns, or just want something to tickle their funny bone. Along the way, readers will find words of wisdom from both fictional characters such as Boo Nanny in Crow, who advises, "Don't crow till you get out de woods. There might be a bear behind the last tree," or from peers such as Larissa Ross, who asserts "It takes courage to keep going" in Walking on Earth & Touching the Sky. Readers will be inspired as they learn of people who have faced complex challenges and struggled to triumph over great adversity. Or, they might wish to ponder a scientific conundrum as they dig into A Black Hole Is Not a Hole. Indeed, readers can be assured that there's no shortage of creativity in the world of storytelling. The New York Public Library's librarians invite you to peruse these offerings and find just the right stories to put in the hands of your favorite children—complete with a strong dose of imagination and a dash of whimsy.
Committee: Jenny Berggren, Ryan Donovan, Sandra Farag, Louise Lareau, Robyn Mutnick, Theresa Panza, Kristy Raffensberger, Jill Rothstein, Peggy Salwen, Amy Schaub, Robyn Shtadtlender, Stephanie Whelan, Sue Yee. Elizabeth Bird and Jeanne Lamb, chairs.
© The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, 2012
Browse the list:
Picture Books >>
Folk and Fairy Tales >>
Poetry and Song >>
Stories for Younger Readers >>
Stories for Older Readers >>
Graphic Books >>
You can also download the PDF list or browse the selections in BiblioCommons.
And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. Roaring Brook Press
Waiting is never easy. In this sweet tale, patience and perseverance pay off as a boy and his dog make the transition from a brown landscape to a green one.
Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff. Beach Lane Books
It's a colorful world. Baby Bear and Mama explore the tones and hues of nature in this cozy preschool read-aloud tale.
Beach Feet by Kiyomi Konagaya. Illustrated by Masamitsu Saito. Enchanted Lion Books
You can almost feel the sand between your toes in this sensory-filled frolic at the seashore.
Boot & Shoe by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane Books
Two young dogs' comfy routines are shattered by one pesky squirrel.
Boy & Bot by Ame Dyckman. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. Alfred A. Knopf
A robot thinks a sleeping boy is broken in this sweet tale of unlikely friends.
Cat Tale by Michael Hall. Greenwillow Books
Join Lillian, Tilly, and William J as they twist and turn and rearrange words in this playful kitty adventure.
Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Peter Brown. Simon & Schuster
In this dark and funny story, Jasper the bunny suffers sleepless nights as he imagines that the carrots he loves to consume are stalking him.
Dog in Charge by K. L. Going. Illustrated by Dan Santat. Dial Books for Young Readers
"Dog can sit. He can stay. He can even dance. But can he keep the cats in line?"
Eggs 1 2 3 by Janet Halfmann. Illustrated by Betsy Thompson. Blue Apple Books
What hatches from eggs? Discover the answer in this counting book, riddle book, and natural-history book all in one.
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. Balzer & Bray
Annabelle's never-ending supply of yarn is threatened by an evil archduke with greedy designs.
Ganesha's Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes. Chronicle Books
Epic myth meets the Super Jumbo Jaw Breaker in this eye-popping, candy-colored recreation of a classic Hindu tale.
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Roaring Brook Press
For anyone who thinks there is just one "green" (or just one of any other color), Seeger offers a visual symphony of shades from "sea" to "lime" and "slow" to "wacky."
Happy Like Soccer by Maribeth Boelts. Illustrated by Lauren Castillo. Candlewick Press
Sierra loves playing soccer more than anything, but all too often her aunt has to work on the days of her games. The solution? An empty lot, smart planning, and a whole lot of love.
H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination by Christopher Myers. Egmont USA
"Hey, want to play a game of H.O.R.S.E.?" Bring your brags, boasts, and other tall tales to the basketball court!
The Insomniacs by Karina Wolf. Illustrated by Ben and Sean Hilts. G. P. Putnam's Sons
When a family moves 12 time zones away, they find that sometimes the best time of day is the middle of the night.
It's a Tiger! by David LaRochelle. Illustrated by Jeremy Tankard. Chronicle Books
A pleasant ramble through the jungle turns into a mad scramble driven by repeated encounters with a tiger!
Jimmy the Greatest! by Jairo Buitrago. Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. Groundwood Books
Jimmy may not have shoes, but he has books and boxing. And sometimes it's possible to make your dreams come true right in your own backyard.
King Arthur's Very Great Grandson by Kenneth Kraegel. Candlewick Press
How can you be a heroic knight when the monsters just won't cooperate?
Me and Momma and Big John by Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by William Low. Candlewick Press
It takes all kinds of people to build something as magnificent as a cathedral. John's momma is a part of such an endeavor in this uniquely New York tale.
The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart. Illustrated by David Small. Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Writing to her Auntie Lupita back in Mexico, young Isabel practices her English and describes some strange and wonderful experiences in her new home in America.
Step Gently Out by Helen Frost. Photographs by Rick Lieder. Candlewick Press
Who shares your world? "Be still, look closely" and get a bug's-eye view through dramatic photographs of our most fascinating neighbors!
Up, Tall and High by Ethan Long. G. P. Putnam's Sons
A flock of fine feathered friends illustrate the title's and similar concepts with humor in this lift-the-flap book.
Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. Greenwillow Books
Z is for Zany when overly enthusiastic Moose hijacks the alphabet despite Zebra's best-laid plans.
Folk and Fairytales
The Elephant's Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India. Retold by Marcia Williams. Candlewick Press
In lighthearted vividly colored cartoons, Williams recounts eight traditional tales featuring greedy and clever animals alike.
The Goldilocks Variations by Allan Ahlberg. Illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg. Candlewick Press
Goldilocks meets three bears... then 33 bears... then a family of space aliens and more in this imaginative story, which includes flaps and pop-ups.
The Great Race: An Indonesian Trickster Tale. Retold by Nathan Kumar Scott. Illustrated by Jagdish Chitara. Tara Books
How can a tiny snail beat mouse deer in a race? This classic tale of confrontation between speed and cleverness features dynamic illustrations using traditional Waghari figures and colors.
Hans My Hedgehog: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm. Adapted by Kate Coombs. Originally written by Brothers Grimm. Illustrated by John Nickle. Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Richly detailed and lushly colored illustrations brighten up this magical retelling of a lonely but gifted fiddler born half boy, half animal.
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure by Matt Luckhurst. Abrams Books for Young Readers
Paul and Babe's oversize love of pancakes lead them to build the Rocky Mountains, dig the Grand Canyon, and reform their eating habits in this supremely silly tall tale.
Robin Hood. Retold by David Calcutt. Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith. Barefoot Books
A new and dramatic account of the legendary exploits of Robin, Maid Marian, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and other favorite characters, based on historical sources.
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse: An Aesop Fable. Retold by Helen Ward. Templar Books
A sumptuously illustrated retelling of the classic fable set in 1930s era New York City at Christmastime.
The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan. Adapted by Ann Redisch Stampler. Illustrated by Carol Liddiment. Albert Whitman & Company
What is happiness? In this Afghani, story a rich Shah finds an answer after testing the simple faith of a humble craftsman.
Poetry and Song
Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine. Illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Harper
Unrepentant narrators from familiar stories and rhymes insincerely regret their deeds in this hilarious offering.
I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery by Cynthia Grady. Illustrated by Michele Wood. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Poems, historical notes, and richly colored folk art offer inspiring glimpses of triumph, tragedy, and human resilience.
I've Lost My Hippopotamus by Jack Prelutsky. Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic. Greenwillow Books
More funny, silly, and gross verse from our first Children's Poet Laureate. Quirky line drawings add to the fun.
Leave Your Sleep: A Collection of Classic Children's Poetry. Adapted to music by Natalie Merchant. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. Farrar Straus Giroux
Finely detailed illustrations add elegant visual notes to this selection of beloved poems, both old and new. An accompanying CD, featuring vocalist Merchant, includes 19 songs, one for each poem.
National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. Edited by J. Patrick Lewis. National Geographic
Stunning photographs and 200 poems "squeak, soar and roar" in this bountiful bestiary that's a delight for eyes and ears alike.
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies. Illustrated by Mark Hearld. Candlewick Press
Vibrant collage illustrations and playful verse conjure common sights and changes in the natural world Season by season.
Shiver Me Timbers!: Pirate Poems & Paintings by Douglas Florian. Illustrated by Robert Neubecker. Beach Lane Books
Ar-r-r! This rollicking round of rhymes and high-seas hijinks offers everything you wanted to know about being a pirate.
Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School. Edited by Timothy P. McLaughlin. Illustrated by S. D. Nelson. Abrams Books for Young Readers
Lakota children write of their lives, hopes, and dreams in powerful free verse. This is a dramatically illustrated collection not to be missed.
Stories for Younger Readers
The Adventures of Sir Balin the Ill-Fated by Gerald Morris. Illustrated by Aaron Renier. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
A knight's quest to alter a soothsayer's prediction takes several odd twists in this lighthearted Arthurian adventure.
Duck for a Day by Meg McKinlay. Illustrated by Leila Rudge. Candlewick.
Abby and her weird new neighbor vie to be the first to take home the class duck, but wacky Mrs. Melvino has a big list of "duck demands" they have to meet first.
The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case by Alexander McCall Smith. Illustrated by Iain McIntosh. Anchor Books
Young Precious discovers a talent for detective work when she solves a mystery involving naughty monkeys and sticky cakes.
Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell. Candlewick Press.
Rabbit's carefully organized sleepover goes awry thanks to his fun-loving mechanical pal. This is a treat for emergent readers.
Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett. Illustrated by Ann James. Candlewick Press.
Hannah's hands seem to have minds of their own. They get her in all sorts of trouble!
Summer in the City by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel. Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay. Groundwood Books.
Charlie and his family are stuck at home for the summer. Boring? Not when they're dealing with invading skunks, disappearing brothers, a search for lost pets, and getting caught in the storm of the century!
Toppling by Sally Murphy. Illustrated by Rhian Nest James. Candlewick Press.
Like the dominoes he loves, John's world is in danger of tumbling down when his best friend is diagnosed with cancer. This tale of hope is told in verse.
Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Poetic writing and evocative illustrations capture a family's warm memories of skating in Maine.
Stories for Older Readers
A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton. David Fickling Books
A bear rows a boy on an unorthodox nautical journey. Expect hungry sea monsters and a lurking Last Sandwich.
Buddy by M. H. Herlong. Viking
This heartwarming tale of a boy and his beloved dog separated in the wake of Hurricane Katrina includes an unexpected twist.
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand. Illustrated by Sarah Watts. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Twelve-year-old Victoria discovers that a local orphanage is something far more sinister when she sets out to investigate a series of disappearances. This is a terrifying tale laced with chilling secrets and stunning revelations.
Chickadee by Louise Erdrich. Harper
Kidnapped by twin bullies and taken to a strange new land, a young Ojibwe boy draws upon the strength of his feathered namesake in this new volume of the Birchbark House series.
Crow by Barbara Wright. Random House
Parsing the wisdom of his grandmother Boo Nanny's folk ways and his father's unwavering belief in the basic goodness of humanity, Moses comes to terms with a frightening world in this Reconstruction-era tale.
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic Press
Four orphan boys must compete against one another to best impersonate the king's long lost son. The winner will become the prince. The losers will be silenced—permanently.
Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi. Charlesbridge
Cultures clash when Skye, born and raised in America, meets her cousin Hiroshi, who has just arrived from Japan with their ailing grandfather.
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. Illustrated by Todd Harris. Walden Pond Press
Only by working together can four imperfect Prince Charmings take down an evil witch in this lighthearted fantasy escapade.
In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz. Dutton Children's Books
Jack, Jill, and a three-legged frog escape giants, goblins, and mermaids only to arrive at a final confrontation with child killers in a vault of bones.
Katerina's Wish by Jeannie Mobley. Margaret K. McElderry Books
Folktales and rich cultural details enliven the story of an immigrant girl and her family's struggle to leave their mining camp and get a farm of their own.
The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. G. P. Putnam's Sons
Two girls bring danger to their families when their friendship crosses the color line in 1958 Arkansas.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Illustrated by Patricia Castelao. Harper
A gorilla in a roadside attraction describes his past, his present, and how he finds new homes for himself and a newly captured baby elephant.
Pickle: The formerly Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School by Kim Baker. Illustrated by Tim Probert. Roaring Brook Press
Ben Diaz conspires with schoolmates to form a club dedicated to pranking. But trouble looms after one practical joke just goes too far.
Plunked by Michael Northrop. Scholastic Press
Jack Mogens thinks he has a lock on a starting position on a Little League team until the day he's hit in the head with a pitch.
Return to the Willows by Jacqueline Kelly. Illustrated by Clint Young. Henry Holt and Company
In this lyrically written and hilariously illustrated sequel to the classic The Wind in the Willows, Toad, Badger, Ratty, and Mole return for further adventures.
Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani. Candlewick Press
River, a Kentucky miner's son, and Meena, an Indian immigrant girl from New York City, become pen pals and find common ground as they share pieces of their lives with each other.
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz. Candlewick Press
This deliciously lurid Dickensian melodrama features two orphans, a disappearing girl, and an evil puppet master.
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin. Little, Brown and Company
Rendi, a sullen young runaway stranded in a remote Chinese village, discovers secrets, stories, and the location of the missing moon.
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker. Balzer & Bray
After their caregiver's death, two parentless girls struggle to fend for themselves.
Three Times Lucky by Shelia Turnage. Dial Books for Young Readers
When Jesse Tatum turns up dead in the small town of Tupelo Landing, everyone's a suspect. Now it's up to Moses and her best friend, Dale, to form their own detective agency and get to the bottom of this mystery and other unanswered questions.
The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds. Viking
A French lad with a mysterious past is captured by pirates and sold into slavery in Tunisia in this thrilling 15th-century adventure.
The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey. Illustrated by Brett Helquist. Harper
A family of con artists counterfeits a prophetic tapestry only to find the dire events they "predicted" are suddenly coming true.
The White Zone by Carolyn Marsden. Carolrhoda Books
Religious differences separate two Muslim cousins in a searing but ultimately hopeful tale set in strife-torn Baghdad.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Alfred A. Knopf
It's a tumultuous time for homeschooled fifth grader August, his friends, and family as this unusual boy faces his first year in school. An emotional eye-opener.
Cardboard by Doug TenNapel. Graphix
How do you fight a cardboard monster? Think outside the box!
Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Graphix
What's harder – making a working cannon for a middle school musical or being friends with boys?
Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian by Michael Rex. G. P. Putnam's Sons
A young warrior from another dimension recruits the kids of class 3G to help him protect the legendary Big Toe of Drool.
The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan by Maxwell Eaton III. Alfred A. Knopf
When clueless penguins plot to create a frozen "World of Wonder," it's up to furry surfer dudes Ace and Bub to stop the cold-hearted scheme.
Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre. Illustrated by Rafael Rosado. First Second
What Claudette lacks in height she more than makes up for in courage. In the company of her brother Gaston, and friend Marie, she sets off on a monstrous adventure.
Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. First Second
Zita's back and now she's famous! So famous, in fact, she has to cope with a robotic twin who is out to steal her identity.
Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez. Graphic Universe
These eight beautifully drawn glimpses of tradition and change in China are based on the author's own early memories growing up in the city of Wuhan.
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale Amulet Books
Warning, contains: "blockade-runners, privateers, burning shipyards . . ." The year 1861 was never so much fun.
The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra. Toon Books
When Leah and Alan wake up in a strange, contrary world that defies the laws of nature, they attempt to find their way back home.
A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano. Illustrated by Michael Carroll. Charlesbridge
Dive in to this lively and engaging exploration of one of our universe's most mysterious and misunderstood marvels.
Chuck Close: Face Book by Chuck Close. Abrams Books for Young Readers
This innovative, large-scale portrait artist answers kids' questions about his life, his art, and other challenges he's faced.
Citizen Scientists: Be Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns. Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz. Henry Holt and Company
Kids are scientists too! A year's worth of experiments and activities, including Fall Butterflying, Winter Birding, Spring Frogging, and Summer Ladybugging.
Creep and Flutter: The Secret World of Insects and Spiders by Jim Arnosky. Sterling Children's Books
Think you know bugs? Think again! Get all the facts about everything from mayfly nymphs to praying mantises in this lyrically written and gorgeously illustrated book.
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel. Illustrated by Amanda Hall. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
A toll collector achieves his dream of being an artist by painting a world he imagines. With illustrations that echo the self-taught master's style.
The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919 by Deborah Kops. Charlesbridge
What do you get when 13,000 tons of molasses meet the streets of Boston? A sticky situation.
The Human Body Factory by Dan Green. Illustrated by Edmond Davis. Kingfisher
Making a body work is a team effort, so get an inside peek into the mechanics of you!
Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank. Clarion Books
A frightening look into the history of a disease that still infects people today.
It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Lee & Low Books Inc.
Why did 85-year-old Billy Traylor suddenly pick up a pencil one day and start to draw? As the book says, it just happened.
Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Young Josephine Baker "grew up singing nothin' but the blues" and went onstage to become the toast of Paris and the world. A jazzy "fairy tale" with vibrant, high-steppin', high energy art.
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola. Farrar Straus Giroux
Follow a modern day explorer who has spent more than 7,000 hours underwater. Includes engaging illustrations.
The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Take a trip with the ultimate explorers to the red planet. A place where no human foot has ever stepped.
Monkey Colors by Darrin Lunde. Illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne. Charlesbridge
Did you know that the mandrill with the most colorful face is the leader of the pack? Learn this and other fun facts in this book for young children.
Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey by Gary Golio. Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez. Clarion Books
The highs and lows of a legendary jazz artist explored through dynamic, vivid art.
Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean. Photographs by K. C. Bailey and Steve Kazmierski. Scholastic Press
Sometimes a dog and a person find each other at just the right moment. Ten troubled shelter dogs find a loving home and a new life in the circus.
Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
This biography tells the story of an extraordinary scientist who used her autistic experiences to design humane animal-processing facilities.
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson. Scholastic Press
You only think you know the full story, but just wait until you read this gripping account in the words of the survivors of history's most infamous shipwreck.
Those Rebels, John & Tom by Barbara Kerley. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. Scholastic Press
Here are twin portraits of founding fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – one short, stout and blustery and the other tall, thin and quiet. How this odd couple played a pivotal role in shaping the history of the United States of America.
We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Y. Levinson. Peachtree Publishers
Would you go to jail to fight for your rights? These kids did!
Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson. Millbrook Press
For anyone who thinks that zombies aren't real, here is a "no-brainer" introduction to some worms, germs, molds and other parasites that control the minds of their hosts!