Counting Down My Favorite Picture Books of 2022!

As we get ready to welcome in the new year tomorrow, I welcome the opportunity to count down my favorite picture books of the past year. There are SO many amazing ones to choose from – it was hard to narrow it down to just ten (or 11 if you are counting!) Note – if you are a GearPicksPack subscriber, you will recognize many of these titles! I have included a few runner-up titles at the end.

Stand-out themes this year?   Intergenerational stories (grandparent and granchild) and books about supporting and supportive communities.    

Here we go….

10. Knight Owl – Christopher Denise

High on the cuteness scale, #10 on my list is the story of a small, brave, and totally adorable owl who dreams of becoming a knight. When knights begin disappearing and a call goes out to recruit more, his dream comes true.  Owl becomes a knight and is assigned to the “Knight Night Watch”. Heart-warming story, detailed illustrations and the bonus is the humorous wordplay!  This book was included in this year’s GearPicksPack Fall subscription box.

9.  Lizzy and the Cloud – Fan Brothers

A “best books of the year” list would not be complete without a contribution from the amazing Fan Brothers.  Coming in at #9 is Lizzy and the Cloud (also included in the fall GearPicksPack!) It tells the quirky, whimsical story of Lizzy and her pet cloud, Milo.  When Milo grows too big to manage, Lizzy has to make the difficult decision to let go.  This gorgeous book is perfect for inferring and could be used to talk about so many tough subjects.  Message is gentle, respectful, and positive.  Another gift from the extraordinarily gifted Fan Brothers. 

8. Big Truck Little Island – Chris Van Dusen

When a huge tractor trailer with a “wide load” fails to make a corner on a twisty island road, four kids come up with an ingenious solution.  Based on a true event, #8 on this year’s list is a clever story about problem-solving, community, and sharing. Kids come up with an ingenious solution. Rhyming wordplay, whimsical illustrations and plenty of cars and trucks for transportation-loving readers.

7. Witch Hazel – Molly Idle 

A gorgeous, quiet book, literally filled with love and magic takes the #7 spot. This book speaks to so many of the things in my heart that I love in a picture book.  It is a gentle story that celebrates the connection between grandparent and grandchild, the importance of passing on family stories, and the gift of making new memories together.  I would also recommend this gentle book for inferring – lots of room for interpretation. 

7. Luli and the Language of Tea – Andrea Wang

Luli’s teapot was empty, but her heart was full. Parents attending English as a Second Language classes drop their kids off in the childcare room next door. None of the children speak the same language so everyone plays by themselves until Luli has a wonderful idea: serve tea, a drink that everyone in the room recognizes. #7 on my list is such a wonderful story and a great anchor book for discussing cultural food (drink) and traditions. 

6. This is a School – Jon Schu 

One of my favorites from the fall GearPicksPack subscription, this book is a perfect “back to school” read-aloud in a classroom or opening assembly.  Number 6 on my list is a celebration of all that a school signifies – work, play, creativity, a supportive community.  A joyful book – for your eyes, ears, and heart! 

5. Gibberish –  Young Vo

From the Spring 2022 GearPicksPack, #5 depicts the experience many immigrant children feel when starting school, surrounded by a language they can’t understand.  Young Dat is in a new school where everyone around him speaks gibberish.  This leaves him feeling very alone, until Julie comes along.  The illustrations beautifully carry the parts of the story that are hard to communicate in words.  This is the perfect picture book to read at the beginning of a new school year, especially if you have new language speakers in your class. 

4. Walter Had a Best Friend – Deborah Underwood

Oh my… I discovered this book only recently and I LOVE it!  It is gentle, kind and beautiful…and SO important!  It tells the story of Walter who had a very best friend until, over time, they just stopped being best friends.  Such an important book that addresses the concept of gaining and losing friends in a way that is both hard and hopeful. Many connections will be made and the story and a perfect one for discussing friendships.  I will definitely be adding it to my Powerful Understanding booklist! 

3.  Can Sophie Change the World? – Nancy Wallace

This inspiring book in the #3 spot is about paying it forward and being kind from a Jewish perspective is a perfect anchor book for a class kindness project.  When Sophie asks her Grandfather what he would like for his birthday, he says he would like her to “change the world”.  He teaches her about “mitzvahs” – small, kind deeds and soon, Sophie is weaving kindness into her daily life.  LOVE! Click HERE for a free template you can use with this book.

2.  Love in the Library – Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Another pick from last spring’s GearPickPack, this moving story in the second spot is based on the true story of the author’s grandparents who fell in love while living in a Japanese-American internment camp during the second world war.  It is heartbreaking and hopeful and makes me teary just thinking about it.  There are very few books that focus on this subject and this one is a gem. 

And now…my favorite picture book of 2022 is…. DRUM ROLL please….

1. Berry Song – Michaela Goade

It wasn’t hard to decide which book took the Number 1 spot this year. This book is a gorgeous story about a girl and her grandmother (oh, how I love grandparent and grandchild stories!), who find all kinds of gifts from the land during the different seasons.  Who knew so many berries existed? Lush watercolors and lyrical text depict the respect and wealth of the land by the indigenous peoples.  Author note explains more of her native heritage.  This might be the most beautiful picture book I’ve ever read (and I’ve read A LOT!).

Runners Up

Farmhouse – Sophie Blackall

Opening this beautiful book is literally like walking back in time and stepping inside an old farmhouse – a farmhouse the author bought in upstate New York.  Blackall carefully catalogues everything she finds in the house and, through the objects, fictionally reconstructs the lives of the Swantak family and their 12 children who had lived there. There are actual pieces of the old farmhouse included in the illustrations!  I especially loved the last two-page spread with the farmhouse laid open like a dollhouse. I can understand why there is a lot of Caldecott buzz about this book. 

A Spoonful of Frogs – Casey Lyall

If you are looking for a laugh-out-loud read-aloud – look no further!  A witch with a cooking show is preparing her favorite frog soup. All the other ingredients are mixed and ready, so it’s time to add the key one. Just put the frog on the spoon and . . .oops!  This book will have you and your students in stiches as the chaos and frustration mounts!  So clever and SO FUNNY!

This Story Is Not about a Kitten – Randall de Sève

No, it’s not about a kitten – it is about a community who comes together to save a kitten.  So clever!  This would be a great book practice inferring theme:  “If this book isn’t about a kitten, what is it about? What is the author’s message? How did the author convey that message?”  Could also be used as a writing anchor to prompt students to write their own stories “not about a —-“ to convey a theme of their choice.

I Hope / nipakosêyimon – Monique Gray Smith

Touching message about loving, nurturing and wishing the best for our children. It showcases multicultural groups of children from different parts of the world and includes stunning illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard.  This dual-language book (English and Plains Cree) would make a lovely grad gift and will no doubt resonate with all parents, grandparents and caregivers.

Every Dog in the Neighborhood – Philip C. Stead

I love Philip C. Stead (A Sick Day for Amos McGee)  I love dogs.  I love this book.  When a boy wonders how many dogs live in the neighborhood, his grandmother encourages him to find out. This leads him to knock on doors and meet all of the neighborhood dogs. Adorable! While Louis is doing this, his grandmother is also up to something but it might take re-reading to find out what that is!  (HINT:  making a difference in your community!)

And there you have it! My favorite picture books of 2022.

What books are on your list? What books will you be adding?

Can’t wait to start sharing some of the great new titles we can all look forward to reading and sharing in 2023.

Happy New Year and happy reading, everyone!


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