The best children’s books of 2022 cover a plethora of topics for kids of all ages. This year’s titles included everything from debuts to posthumous publications. I had to update my Amazon wishlist so often while I worked on this post that the algorithm probably thinks I run a childcare center or something. Be forewarned, gentle reader: danger lies ahead for your wallet.
Traditional publishing professionals seem cautiously optimistic that the industry is on the road to recovery after the pandemic hit sales hard. Unfortunately, labor shortages and supply chain issues with printers and shipping companies mean that the challenges aren’t over. This, however, seems to have a silver lining: we see which books still sell during an unprecedented time in human development. Thus, industry professionals can focus on getting books that truly matter into children’s hands. This means more diverse books focused on personal experiences kids can relate to, as well as books that address complex emotions.
Of course, people have still been reading throughout the pandemic. The explosion of BookTok (TikTok content dedicated to books) has skyrocketed several books in this post to the top of the best seller list. As a matter of fact, YA sales have continued to be robust throughout the pandemic, seemingly thanks at least in part to BookTok.
So, what are the best children’s books of 2022 so far? Read on for some great titles for kids and teens (and the adults like me who devour children’s lit).
Best Children’s Picture Books of 2022
Eyes that Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho, Illustrated by Dung Ho
The author-illustrator team behind the award-winning Eyes that Kiss at the Corners is back with another lesson in self-love. When a boy’s friend draws a hurtful portrayal of him, he starts reflecting on the difference between his schoolmates’ eyes and his own. Soon, he realizes his own beauty and worth.
Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima
A story of friendship and acceptance, Perfectly Pegasus follows Nimbus the pegasus on a quest to find friends. As the only pegasus, Nimbus is lonely and yearns to find others like herself. While she might not find others exactly like her, she learns that friends comes in many forms.
Uncle John’s City Garden by Bernette Ford, Illustrated by Frank Morrison
Ford’s final picture book, published posthumously, is an autobiographical celebration of family and food. L’il Sissy and her siblings learn to make things grow. Additionally, through her fascination with measurement and estimation, L’il Sissy introduces young readers to important STEM concepts.
Powwow Day by Traci Sorell, Illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight
In this gorgeous picture book, Traci Sorell (author of We Are Grateful) gifts us another amazing contemporary Native story. Emphasizing the power and importance of community, one little girl learns to connect with her people in a different way when an illness prevents her from dancing in the annual powwow.
The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson, Illustrated by Rafael López
Obviously, Jacqueline Woodson books need no introduction. Woodson has giving us gem after gem across genres. I would happily read her grocery list. Of course, this lovely picture book is better than a grocery list. Follow a pair of siblings on an imaginative journey to worlds far from the confines of their apartment in this whimsical tale.
Pretty Perfect Kitty-Corn by Shannon Hale, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
For the little perfectionist in your life, Unicorn’s adventure provides a great message. You see, Unicorn is determined to be absolutely perfect and to be exactly what everyone expects him to be. Luckily for him, his best friend Kitty teaches him that it’s okay to have flaws.
I Color Myself Different by Colin Kaepernick, Illustrated by Eric Wilkerson
Based on Colin Kaepernick’s own experiences as a biracial child, this is a story of self-acceptance. It all starts when Colin’s teacher asks him to draw his family. What happens next is a journey of self-discovery and a lesson for us all.
Best Middle Grades and Early Chapter Books of 2022
The Secret Sunshine Project by Benjamin Dean
This heartwarming tale follows Bea and her incredibly happy family through a challenging transition. After Bea’s dad dies, Riley — Bea’s older sister — has a really tough time adjusting. It doesn’t help that they consequently have to move to the countryside with Gran. Still, Bea loves Riley so much and is determined to cheer her up. Thus, the secret sunshine project is born!
Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman
In this middle grade debut novel, Steadman takes readers into a magical world of mythical proportions. The novel’s protagonist, Skandar Smith, has spent his life waiting for his 13th birthday. Unfortunately, instead of passing his hatchery exam and being chosen as a unicorn rider, things go horribly wrong. Skandar thinks his hopes are dashed forever…until a mysterious stranger arrives on his doorstep at midnight.
Freddie vs. The Family Curse by Tracy Badua
One of the best children’s books of 2022, this hilarious middle grades debut introduces us to a family plagued by a generational curse. Freddie tries to break the curse when he finds an ancient amulet. Supposedly, it grants good fortune. Unfortunately, the amulet doesn’t work as planned. Soon, Freddie is in a mess that he can only escape with the help of the spirit of his cranky great grand-uncle. This supernatural fantasy is full of history and Filipino mythology.
A Taste of Magic by J. Elle (August 30)
This delightful magical tale follows a young witch trying to save her magical school from closing. The first witch is her family for generations, Kyana has a lot on her shoulders. Between nonmagical friends and regular school and the crisis at Park Row Magic Academy, Kyana has her work cut out for her. The only way to avoid the choice between an expensive school across town or losing her magic is for Kyana to win the money the academy needs in a baking competition.
A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser
I am so here for children’s books that normalize the diversity of the human experience. Thus, I was instantly hooked when I read the blurb for this book. Our main protagonists in this story are a couple of biracial 6th-graders who live in a homeless shelter. The two bond over a mutual love of classical music. When a new policy threatens to force them out of the shelter, the kids band together to stand up to the government. It’s a great story with an empowering message.
Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega
Fantasy fans will love this tale of 12-year-old Seven Salazar, a witchling on the verge of gaining her full powers. Unfortunately, she isn’t selected into one of the five covens and is deemed a Spare. Worse still, when Seven and the other Spares try to seal their coven, the spell doesn’t work! The only way to avoid losing their powers forever is to work together to complete an impossible task. Too bad the penalty for failing at the impossible task is being turned into a toad.
Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl by Julie Kagawa
As someone who loves the power of fandoms, I am fascinated by the origin of this middle grade adventure. Apparently, the Society of Explorers and Adventurers is a secret fictional society that connects across various Disney theme parks and attractions. Shinji Takahashi turns to the society for help when his body is taken over by a magical guardian. It’s a race against time as the guardian drains Shinji’s life force and a nefarious corporation pursues him in hopes of capturing the guardian.
Best YA Books of 2022
Love Times Infinity by Lane Clarke (July 26)
Clarke’s debut novel is a coming-of-age tale about high schoolers Michie and Derek. Michie struggles with defining herself in her college admissions essays. She knows that scholarships are crucial to her first generation college student hopes. However, thanks to her mother’s absence, Michie feels unsure of where she’s from and, consequently, who she is. Plus, she recently met new kid and basketball star, Derek. With application deadlines looming, a surprise visit from her estranged mother, and a budding romance to explore, Michie begins to realize who she wants to be.
The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson
Armed with a collection of Agatha Christie novels, teenagers Alice and Iris set out to solve the mystery of missing classmate Brooke Donovan. Alice’s ex-boyfriend Steve is the police’s main suspect because he was dating Brooke when she disappeared. However, Alice and Iris are convinced Steve is innocent. Together, they work to clear Steve’s name and claim the reward Brooke’s grandmother is offering.
We Made It All Up by Margot Harrison (July 12)
This twisty YA thriller is bound to be one of the best children’s books of 2022. Focusing on the relationship between a new student, Celeste, and the town’s resident pariah, Vivvy, the story explores themes of acceptance and the tenuous line between fiction and reality. When the girls try to turn their fan fiction into reality, Celeste ends up kissing the most popular boy in school. Unfortunately, the boy ends up dead and Celeste can’t remember her role in his death.
Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho
There’s no way a book with this premise can be anything but an absolute feel-good romp. Elena Soo seems to be the only one among her close family and friends who doesn’t have life all figured out. Elena stays in the shadows until international K-pop superstar Robbie Choi asks her to prom. Of course, she absolutely does not plan to go to prom and she absolutely cannot fall for her former best friend turned rockstar. Right?
Loveless by Alice Oseman
Georgia feels like an outsider in high school. While her friends are getting crushes and making out, Georgia has no desire to do any of that. Luckily, when Georgia gets to college she discovers that asexual and aromantic identities exist within the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Through friendship and a lot of drama, Georgia eventually finds her place.
Family of Liars by E. Lockhart
We Were Liars took TikTok by storm and rocketed to the top of The New York Times Best Seller List. Now, Lockhart is back with a prequel that sheds light on the history of lies in the Sinclair family. Rich and privileged, the Sinclairs live on an idyllic island. However, their lives are far less peaceful than surface appearances indicate. Love, betrayal, family secrets, and tragedy culminate in an engrossing story that will leave readers devastated.
Vinyl Moon by Mahogany L. Browne
In her usual gut wrenching style, Brown introduces us to Angel. After tensions between Angel and her mother rise and her relationship with her boyfriend turns violent, Angel moves to Brooklyn. There, her Uncle Spence is the caring adult she needs. At school, she finds comfort and inspiration in a group where she studies the words of Black poets, authors, and activists. Together with her group mates, Angel begins to heal and grow.
Sometime in Summer by Katrina Leno (June 28)
Katrina Leno’s new YA novel is a perfect summer read. Protagonist Anna has the worst luck. Her best friend has stopped speaking to her, her parents are getting a divorce, and her mother has to sell their beloved bookshop. Thus, when Anna finds out that she’ll be spending the summer in a seaside New England town, she expects it to be terrible. Luckily, she’s wrong. Readers will enjoy this uplifting tale of friendship and magic.
A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin
After Ning accidentally brews a poison tea that kills her mother and sickens her sister, she’s determined to save her sister no matter what it takes. Soon, she enters a world of deadly competition as she enters a contest to gain the princess’s favor. With no other way to save her sister’s life, can Ning survive this cutthroat world and emerge victorious?
She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick
Once again, YA romance has given us our favorite tropes. We have the chaotic, charismatic Alex teaming up to help quiet, awkward Molly catch her crush’s attention. Alex is a top notch flirt, but that tendency resulted in her girlfriend dumping her. Determined to prove that she’s not selfish and can handle commitment, Alex volunteers to help Molly. Naturally, Molly is hesitant to trust Alex. But, you guessed it, Alex and Molly soon start to realize they may be better off with…each other.
The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna
This sequel to the popular The Gilded Ones continues the dark feminist story of Deka and her growing powers. In a world that denies membership to those with gold blood like Deka’s, she dares to resist her fate and fight back. In book two, Deka and the army of other near-immortals like her face a dark power that is growing and threatening life as they know it. If you’ve read or watched Black Panther and wanted to be a Dora Milaje, this is the book for you.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
I am so here for this year’s twisty romantic YA mysteries! Chloe Green finds herself in such a mystery when her biggest rival, Shara Wheeler, kisses her and then promptly disappears. Strangely enough, Shara also kissed two other classmates before leaving a cryptic note and vanishing. Now, Chloe is in a race against the clock to find Shara before graduation so she can defeat her in their tight competition for valedictorian.
The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes
As one of the only Mexican kids at her wealthy Catholic school, Yamilet is relieved that nobody at school knows she is also gay. Unfortunately, the only out queer girl is school happens to be perfect in every way, making it difficult for Yami to play straight. With a hilarious and touching voice, Yami will endear readers as she fights to make her mother proud, while avoiding falling in love.
Obviously, there are more awesome 2022 children’s books than I have space to include. So, if you’re looking for more suggestions, check out these other great posts: