It was another awesome year for children’s literature, and these are our favorite kids’ books of 2022. Check out our list below!
The Best Kids Books of 2022
It was another fabulous year for children’s literature!
Once again, phenomenal stories graced our home and my school library in 2022.
These incredible books were here when we needed an escape, a laugh, or a spring point for meaningful discussion. They also helped us discuss complex social issues and current events that we could relate back to the stories we read. With my boys getting bigger and older, our reading life at home is becoming more nuanced and intriguing… and I love it!
As always, narrowing down everything we read this year to a list of favorites has been extremely challenging. Thus, each year when I share this list, I share it with a caveat: remember that book reviews and recommendations are subjective!
A book I love may be uninspiring to another blogger. What resonates with my family and what we find magical and meaningful may not spark the same magic with another.
The books on this list are the ones that wowed my family and my students — the ones that moved us, spoke to our hearts, reflected on important issues, or inspired us to think bigger and deeper. These are the books we have turned to again and again – the ones we haven’t stopped thinking about.
We hope you enjoy this list of our favorite kids’ books from 2022!
Frequently Asked Questions
Our favorite books of the year are those that we turn back to again and again. They are the books that provided us an escape when we needed to feel joyful, beauty when the world felt cold, and a spring point for important conversations. These are the books that, simply put, stole our hearts in 2022!
Any of the stories on our list of favorite books from 2022 can and should be at the top of your list for 2023, especially if you haven’t yet read them! We cannot rave about these awesome stories enough.
Absolutely! Many of the stories on this list were selections for The Dawn Society, our virtual kids’ book club for readers in grades 3 through 7. The Dawn Society brings young readers together from around the world, offering them the community and connection they crave. We have virtual meetings each month, a vibrant private discussion forum allowing our readers to connect between meetings, and we even bring in amazing authors for exclusive webinars! The books The Dawn Society has read together are noted below. If you have an avid young reader in your home, we hope you’ll join us! Why read alone when we can read together?
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Our Favorite Picture Books of 2022
This fantastic story takes readers on a young girl’s journey as she moves through her day. The child loves the world she lives in, but she also finds ways to self-soothe when surroundings are different and feelings are unfamiliar. Sometimes the things we need to feel safe – from strength to self-confidence to inner peace – are right inside us, and we simply need to discover how to find them in times of need. While we all hope our kids grow up surrounded by great support systems and love from family and friends, teaching them to trust themselves and that they possess all the tools they need to succeed is of vital significance. This beautiful new book speaks to these principles in a simple manner that is easy for children to grasp and profound enough that it will resonate with any grownup reading it to the child snuggling next to them. It’s a powerful ode to self-reliance, and it’s a true gift for each and every one of our children.
When my mom saw this book on my dining room table, she read through it once, cracked up, and then proceeded to read it to my kids and all of my nieces and nephews. She couldn’t stop laughing, even on the fourth read-through! If that doesn’t tell you how adorable this book is, I don’t know what will! In this picture book romp, it’s family chores day! Yet the family cat will do absolutely anything to avoid getting a bath, and so it chooses to scramble the letters in the chore chart. Rather than vacuuming the rug and feeding the fishes, the family is bathing the rug and mopping the fishes! Little ones and their grownups will laugh out loud as they try to anticipate the silly rhymes and family shenanigans. This is a delight! Bonus points for the depiction of a fun and loving LGBTQ family!
I like this book. I LIKE LIKE this book. I really LIKE the way this fabulous story talks about how despite our differences, humans are so much more alike than we are different. It is a delightful read that connects humanity in such a clever and entertaining way, charming readers as it also tackles a pretty complex concept. The approach – comparing and contrasting humans to offbeat and hilarious things – works like a charm to show how despite our superficial differences, we humans truly have a lot in common. Absolutely fabulous!
It is not easy to lose a friend to someone else. Especially a best friend. It can feel overwhelmingly sad and unbearably painful, even when a friendship ends with a slow burn and not an explosive fire. Yet there is always a way forward. This fabulous book conveys the importance of self-reliance and letting ourselves feel painful emotions. At the same time, it helps children recognize that when one door closes, another opens. Even if one friend is not as forever as we had hoped, another one may be waiting just around the corner. This is such an important book for kids of all ages, validating sadness at losing someone close while simultaneously offering them hope for a bright tomorrow. I’m head over heels in love with this beautiful book about friendship lost and found!
What’s better than one rock-star creator working on a book? Three! Oh. My. Gosh. This book is simply remarkable in every way. Fogliano’s prose is, as always, pitch-perfect, authentic, and ideal for reading aloud. Combine that with illustrations by Caldecott Honorees Idle and Martinez-Neal and you basically have the most gorgeous friendship picture book ever. We simply adore how this story conveys to children that minor differences can strengthen bonds and friendships. Small things may set us apart, but big, beautiful things bring us together. These two unlikely friends will weave their way into your hearts, and your kids will beg for this one at storytime for a long time to come. An absolute gem!
I am so in love with this story, and it is hands down a new favorite children’s transportation book! Based on actual events, one big truck is off to deliver some special cargo to a small island. There’s just one problem: the big truck gets stuck on a narrow road, and all the traffic comes to a halt on either side of the truck. How can the kids in the cars on either side of the truck get to the important places they need to be? With some creative thinking and ingenuity, the kids may save the day- and the town fair, too!
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It’s Sharing Gifts day at school, and it’s John’s turn to take the stage. He’s a bit nervous, though, because his gift is different than the other boys. In the beginning page spreads, readers can feel John’s nerves — as he waits, as he prepares, and as he takes the stage. But from the moment he begins sharing his special gift – ballet dancing – the change in his demeanor is palpable. Not only does John beam as he performs, but the audience is mesmerized too – and their show of enthusiasm at the end is simply magical. I adore this story in so many ways, but especially for the way in which it combats gender norms. A gem, and on our list of books we love for 5-year olds.
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Beatrice likes the dark. In fact, the darker, the better. Things she loves: the night sky (and all its stars!), dark clothes, spiders, and graveyards. Things Beatrice doesn’t understand? Well, one big thing, in particular. Her sister, Roo. Roo loves everything BRIGHT and everything LIGHT, from the hottest, brightest days to picking strawberries to watching butterflies. How can two sisters get along when they are so very different? This book is a bit spooky, a lot glorious, and positively enchanting! For our full review of Beatrice Likes the Dark, click here!
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I love stories about community, and this charming book makes me smile to no end. Rabbi Ruben loves his synagogue, but it’s falling apart. The floorboards creak, the sink leaks and the windows are so drafty! He tries to fix it all himself, but he should have known that challah dough wouldn’t be the best fix for drippy faucets. When the rabbi’s repairs go awry, his congregation comes together to help the old synagogue feel like a happy home. I love the joy this book conveys! It’s a testament to teamwork, community spirit, and problem-solving. And the diverse cast of Jewish community members? Now that’s what I call true representation.
This fractured fairy tale is everything a good book should be. It puts unique spins on classic fairy tales and lets readers pick their own perfect endings. When Little Red (aka “Rosie”) wakes up in the morning and heads out to Grandma’s, which coat will she grab? When she travels down the path in fur, she notices a house she’s have never seen before, and it’s not grandma’s. Should she knock on the door? Snyder and Santat offer readers a chance to change their favorite stories again and again, with creative plot twists, new characters, and most importantly, autonomy! We love how this book offers readers the power of choice, an essential concept for children. Even better? It’s a great tool to illustrate how stories are actually told and progress from the beginning, middle to end. This one is not to be missed, friends!
It’s the last day of school, and the temperature is hot! With the final words from their teachers being “have a good summer,” the neighborhood kids intend to do just that. They kick off their shoes, dance through the water spraying from fire hydrants, and jump rope through the streets. While running and playing, the kids know the endless, glorious days ahead belong to them. Summer, after all, is for believing anything is possible, a time for children of all ages to unite as one community. And that community shines through on every page, as readers see kids caring for one another no matter their backgrounds, races, or languages. I love the exuberance of this story, the illustrations, and the way in which the excitement of each and every child for the joyful days of summer is palpable on every page.
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When Nigel looks up at the big, bright moon, his imagination takes flight. He imagines himself as an astronaut, a superhero, even a dancer! His dreams are safe with the moon, and he is proud of all the things he wants and hopes to be. But when Career Week arrives at school, Nigel knows he isn’t ready for the whole world to discover his dreams. After all, he can’t find what he wants to be when he grows up in a book, and no one’s parents have careers like the ones he dreams for himself. Will he find the courage to share his goals with his classmates when he already feels so different from them? Or will he continue to pack his dreams away with the moon? With tenderness and sensitivity, this book reminds us all to dream big and believe in ourselves, even if our families and our own desires seem different than others. It is an ode to parents’ love and a meditation on self-acceptance.
Sophie Blackall is an absolute gift to children’s literature, and this story, written as a long-form poem, is so stunning you will come back to it again and again. Based on a real family and a real farmhouse, readers will pore over the details of what it’s like to live on a farm over time. Though seasons, people, and places may change, the stories and history that take place within the walls of a farmhouse live on forever. With rhythmic prose and exquisite detail in the lush illustrations, this book is a spring point for learning and conversation that will grow with your readers as they age. An absolute masterpiece and hands down my favorite children’s book about farms!
This stunner is the story of a girl and her grandmother who gather gifts from the earth on the edge of the wild sea. They get salmon and herring eggs from the sea, then they journey to the forest where they get buckets and buckets of wild berries. Throughout the year, the land gives to them and they give to the land. The cycle is continuous and unwavering: they love and nourish the land, and the land loves and nourishes them in return. This is a gorgeous celebration of the earth and our deep and unwavering connection to nature, and the exquisite illustrations are as beautiful as the prose. This is a stunner, and it is on our list of beautiful Native American picture books!
This beautiful new story celebrates identity and self-discovery. Some people believe who we are – and who we are destined to be – can be determined at birth. Yet, for each and every one of us, the possibilities are actually endless. The dancer becomes a coder. The star athlete becomes a poet. The class clown? An inspiring teacher. De la Pena’s lyrical prose always reads like music. When paired with Luyken’s exquisite art, the result is a masterful ode to self-discovery and complexity. Every single one of us is a story that continues to be written. On some days we feel stagnant, on others we grow and learn and grow some more. This growth adds complexity and nuance to our character, empowering each of us to take chances, try new things, and explore our limitless potential. None of us is just one thing, written in indelible ink the day we arrive. Instead, we are “mismatched scraps accumulated over time/ and stitched together/ into a kind of patchwork.” This is an absolute beauty!!
Chapter books we loved in 2022
Written in short chapters with a diverse cast of characters and adorable illustrations on nearly every page, Marisol Rainey is the perfect series for young readers! We love the second installment in this series, in which Marisol has a Terrible Thursday. Why? Because she hears the five worst words in the world from her PE coach. “Next week, we start kickball!” Marisol has never played kickball before, but she already knows she won’t be good at it. She’s no good at team sports, after all, because if you mess up, you mess things up for everyone. And Marisol does not like being in the spotlight. There are so many things that can go wrong. Will Marisol find a way to make things go right? We love Marisol’s spunk, innocence, and authenticity! For a full review of the Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey series, click the link!
Tim, a peasant, has big dreams. He is determined to be more than his father, a woodsman. But the only way to be successful in the kingdom of Wyld is to be born a prince. Until that is, Princess Grace has been abducted by the evil Stinx, and Prince Ruprecht needs help from a group of knights to rescue her. Is this Tim’s lucky break? I laughed out loud so many times reading this hilarious book, and I am so thrilled to have a new awesome story to give to my students. This is such a great book for 2nd graders!
Our favorite middle-grade novels for tweens in 2022
Every once in a while, you come across a powerful, authentic, and moving book, one you keep thinking about long after you put it down. For me, this was that book. I read Those Kids From Fawn Creek in one hungry gulp, completely captivated by the ensemble cast, the new girl in town who throws off the rhythm of the seventh-grade classroom, and the relatable story. It is a fabulous story for tweens! With themes of authenticity, self-awareness, rumors, and identity, there is something for everyone here. From deception to dreams, bullying to bravery, this story set in a small town in Louisiana is one that every tween will relate to, devour, and think about long after the story has ended. We loved it so much, in fact, that this novel was a monthly selection for The Dawn Society’s virtual book club for tweens!
After music-loving June and her family lose their home, she moves into Huey House with her mom and little sister. Life in a homeless shelter isn’t easy, but June quickly bonds with Tyrell, another tween who shows June all the good Huey House can offer, including a classical musician living next door. As their friendship grows, however, a new government policy puts the families at Huey House in danger. Can June and Tyrell work together to oppose this harmful government policy before it’s too late? June’s story – losing her father, losing her home, moving to Huey House, and acting as a caregiver for both her mother and younger sister – is filled with pain and challenge. But it is also filled with music, new friendship, and hope. This was a selection for The Dawn Society virtual book club!
Oh my goodness, this phenomenal story did not let me go! Loosely based on the history of maroon communities in the South, this remarkable, unputdownable novel is the story of two enslaved children who have escaped from plantations in search of freedom. They flee through tangled vines and secret doors and sky bridges, eventually discovering a community called Freewater deep in the swamp. Here, Homer and his little sister Ada learn what it means to live a life of freedom, with a new community and friends. But when Freewater is threatened, will Homer be courageous enough to help the place he now calls home? And just as important, will he be able to get his mother off the plantation and save her, too? This novel astounded me from start to finish. It was captivating, unique, and without doubt one of the best middle-grade novels I’ve read in recent years. This will be a 2023 selection for The Dawn Society.
I love Dan Gemeinhart’s work, and his newest story was just as fabulous as his other novels! In the middle of the night, Ravani Foster happens to look out his bedroom window when he sees them: seven mysterious kids with suitcases who disappear into the abandoned home across the street. Who are they, where have they come from, and where are the adults? And most importantly, what are they doing in the town of Slaughterville? Ravani, a loner, is determined to find out what secrets they may be hiding. As he uncovers the mystery of these seven kids, he may also discover the kinship and connection he has always longed for. This is a phenomenal story of friendship and loyalty, and it is our January 2023 selection for The Dawn Society’s virtual book club for tweens. We will also have an exclusive webinar with the author!
If you loved Amari and the Night Brothers as much as I did, you will love the second book in the trilogy! In another book that will keep you reading ’til dawn, Amari is off for her first summer as a junior agent. But things don’t go quite as she anticipated, and her summer kicks off with a rocky start. The new Head Minister is on a strict no-magic agenda, and Amari pays the price. When the League of Magicians gives her the opportunity to stand up for all of magiciankind, Amari politely declines – until she learns someone else is dying to step forward. Someone exceedingly dangerous. Thus begins a challenge called the Great Game, which will determine who will become the evil Night Brothers’ successor – and determine the fate of magicians everywhere. Are you ready to play? SO GOOD!
When Maizy Chen travels with her mom to Last Chance, Minnesota to help her ailing grandfather, she makes a lot of discoveries about the town where her mom grew up. The biggest one? The Golden Palace, the restaurant that has been in her family for generations, has a lot of secrets. Who are the people in the photos on the wall? And who would steal a beloved family treasure? Maizy quickly realizes that racism lurks in the small town, and it is up to her to find some answers. Readers will absolutely fall in love with this National Book Award finalist. Maizy is full of heart and determination, and this story of food, family, history, and community will stick with them long after the final page has turned! This was a selection for The Dawn Society virtual book club!
How far would you go to save the person you love most? In this spellbinding novel, Ziva wants nothing more than to save the life of her twin brother, Pesah, even if it means sacrificing her own. Believed to have only weeks to live, Ziva takes matters into her own hands to get him to the city of Luz, where the Angel of Death cannot enter. But what happens if they get there and can then never leave? What happens if they don’t get there at all? This captivating story hooked me from the first sentence. I was mesmerized by the Jewish magic, the family loyalties, the strong female character, and the notion of the demon boy, Almas. Can Ziva trust someone she has been taught to fear? There is so much to discuss, which is why this novel was a fantastic book selection for The Dawn Society’s virtual book club for tweens! Many of our members called this “the best book [they] ever read.”
There was an accident. There is a grieving mother who can’t bear to get out of bed and a daughter, Aviva, who feels abandoned. There’s a community that wants to help but doesn’t know how. And there’s a dybbuk – a ghost – that wreaks havoc everywhere, and only Aviva can see his spirit. Why is she always blamed for the dybbuk’s actions? When an antisemitic hate crime raises tensions at school and in her community, the dybbuk’s actions grow worse. Is Aviva in danger? I absolutely loved this portrayal of the Orthodox Jewish community, the unique story, and the suspense that kept me turning pages feverishly. Fabulous!
Katherine Applegate does it again! In this tender novel in verse, Odder’s life takes a scary turn when she faces a great white shark head-on. Odder is rescued by humans and brought to the Monterey Bay Aquarium where she struggles to adapt to her new life. Inspired by a true story in which orphaned otter pups were paired with “surrogate” mothers, this beautiful story speaks to trauma and recovery, family and healing, with Applegate’s trademark sensitivity and wit. This is such a beautiful book, and readers young and old will fall in love with Odder and her endearing story. This fantastic novel in verse will be our January selection for The Dawn Society’s junior members!