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The Best Illustrated  Children’s Books of 2017

The Best Illustrated
Children’s Books of 2017

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award — and the first year of the Times’ partnership with the New York Public Library on the honor. We’re unveiling a new name: The New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award. The Times and NYPL share a mission: to recognize the best in children’s literature and bring great books to young readers.

As always, the winners were selected by a panel of three judges, who based their decision purely on artistic merit. The 2017 judges are Steven Guarnaccia, an associate professor of illustration at Parsons The New School for Design and the author and illustrator of numerous books; Marjorie Priceman, the author and illustrator of many children’s books and the winner of two Caldecott Honors and two New York Times Best Illustrated Books Awards; and Louise Lareau, the head librarian of the New York Public Library Children’s Center.

From “Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters.”


Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters

By Michael Mahin. Illustrated by Evan Turk.

Born McKinley Morganfield, the great bluesman Muddy Waters went from a poor Mississippi Delta childhood to the center of the Chicago music scene. Shifting his color palette for each setting of Muddy’s life, Turk captures the legendary musician’s proud originality with his own dazzling virtuosity on the page, incorporating materials including old newspaper clippings, printer’s ink and paint.

48 pp. Atheneum. $17.99.

From “Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos.”

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos

Written by Monica Brown. Illustrated by John Parra.

The many animals in Frida Kahlo’s life — among them a fawn, a cat and two spider monkeys — were an important part of her art, and this book traces her relationships with her menagerie over the course of her life. With their folk-art sensibility, Parra’s elegant acrylic paintings evoke Kahlo’s style, her palette and her Mexican environment, but he creates a mood of harmony with the natural world and a lively, cheerful abundance all his own.

40 pp. NorthSouth. $17.95.

From “On a Magical Do-Nothing Day.”

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

Written and illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna.

On a rainy weekend in the countryside — with no electronic devices allowed — a young girl feels irritated until she steps outside and into the deep satisfactions of time spent in nature. Alemagna’s dense and textured illustrations feature exuberant pops of color, capturing the natural world’s immensity and creating a multilayered mood that allows for both introspection and wild flights of joy.

48 pp. HarperCollins. $17.99.

From “Plume.”


Written and illustrated by Isabelle Simler.

A cat named Plume stalks this compendium of birds, each page a careful study of one species and the details of its feathers. Elegant and playful, Simler’s meticulous digital renderings of birds and their plumage invite close inspection, offering as well a chance to figure out where the cat is lurking within the clever composition of each page.

42 pp. Eerdmans. $18.00.

From “Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality

Written by Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Stacy Innerst.

The life of the Supreme Court justice is a story of a girl who overcame the overt and covert sexism of her time to follow her drive to fight for equality. Innerst uses paint, ink and collaged elements like notebook paper to create a playful yet magisterial documentary effect, bringing subtle emotion to carefully composed scenes that resonate with the humane, controlled power of R.B.G. herself.

48 pp. Abrams. $18.95.

From “The Way Home in the Night.”

The Way Home in the Night

Written and illustrated by Akiko Miyakoshi.

A sleepy little bunny is carried home through the city by her parents, ending up safe in her own bed. With their cinematic feel and charmingly anthropomorphic animals, Miyakoshi’s pencil and charcoal drawings capture the ever-changing delights of nighttime city life while evoking almost physical feelings of comfort, support and family love.

32 pp. KidsCan. $16.95.

From “Town Is By the Sea.”

Town Is By the Sea

Written by Joanne Schwartz. Illustrated by Sydney Smith.

A young boy watches his father leave for the mines each day, knowing that one day he too will leave the pleasures of his seaside home to toil in the darkness. In brown, gray and black leavened by soft yellows and blues, Smith’s ardent paintings capture the brilliance of the sun on the sea and the smudgy darkness of a mine with equal intensity, creating an exquisitely personal feeling of the movement of time and history.

52 pp. Groundwood. $19.95.

From “A River.”

A River

Written and illustrated by Marc Martin.

Gazing out her window, a girl imagines being swept away on the river she sees, into a series of interesting and adventurous landscapes. As they recreate an imaginative journey, Martin’s immersive gouache and watercolor paintings find complex and beautiful patterns everywhere, documenting the meandering splendor of a river as well as the striking variety of environments humans have created.

44 pp. Chronicle. $17.99.

From “King of the Sky.”

King of the Sky

Written by Nicola Davies. Illustrated by Laura Carlin.

Starting life in a new country much colder and darker than his homeland, an Italian boy is forlorn until he meets an older man who keeps and races pigeons, helping him bridge his old and new worlds. With soft and smudgy yet deliberate mixed-media art that seems at once modern and timeless, Carlin’s warm, nostalgic images find a surprising visual connection between a northern mining region and a sunny southern land.

48 pp. Candlewick. $17.99.

From “Feather.”


Written and illustrated by Rémi Courgeon.

A girl named Paulina takes up boxing so she can beat her older brothers at arm wrestling and free herself of the household chores they assign her when she loses. With its bold colors and vivacious lines, Courgeon’s stylish, poster-like art is full of small, exquisite details that reveal poignant aspects of Paulina’s story, creating a deep emotional connection with a heroine who’s a fighter in more than one sense.

36 pp. Enchanted Lion. $17.95.

Getting to know each other

The INNOVA Early Years Centre “Meet the Teacher” was held on Tuesday 29 August at Zhaolin Plaza. It was an opportunity for our parents to meet the team for the Early Years Centre as well as the INNOVA Academy Pre-operational team.

The parents and prospective parents for the EYC were excited to meet and chat with their child’s teachers as well as the other administration and support staff. After a presentation from Executive Director, John McBryde, the parents mixed and mingled with the teaching staff and leadership from both the EYC and the INNOVA Academy pre-operational team. This event was the ideal introduction to the EYC Parent-Teacher Pre-Conferences that will be held later in the week.  It was also important for our EYC parents to know that INNOVA Academy has a team already in place and are currently working on an August 2018 start-up.

The INNOVA teams have been working since the beginning of August in two locations, and last Monday 28 August was the designated date for an ‘official’ start to the new school year with a Team Building Day. INNOVA Academy Head of School, Karen O’Connell,  and Associate Director, Deidre Fischer, planned a fun-filled day that aligned with understanding organisational culture, developing relationships and building trust.

There was a positive feel to the whole day while we explored the five (5) facets of trust, and our own personal working styles. Games were used as the vehicle to generate ideas and questions for discussion, we worked in a blended language environment between Chinese and English as we made connections to what we were learning and doing to our goals for the year. We learned a lot more about each other as well as started the conversations about our organisational culture as we worked towards shared understandings in both English and Chinese.

Feedback from our staff revealed that ‘trust is the heart of any organisation and it needs a whole team effort’, ‘it was great to realise that even though we all come from different cultures how much in common we had’ and the ‘importance in addressing issues and not assuming everyone is on the same page’.


As a group, we created a word cloud that reflected our organisational culture, in both Chinese and English, which highlighted the following key words:






At Innova we recognize the importance of establishing a strong team that shares a positive organizational culture based on the ideals of a collaborative learning community which is critical to the success of realizing a shared vision for our school. As we commence operations in the Early Years Centre, and the pre-operational work for INNOVA Academy this was a very positive start to building relationships amongst the team members and the realization of our goals.

The Nature of Children and Learning – A Reggio-inspired Approach

How would you describe the qualities of your child? Is it a short list or a long list? Which things are more important to you as you think about how you see your child and what you value. What are the things that you would like to see them develop in?

The Innova Early Years Center (EYC) team is currently spending 3 weeks planning for the soft opening of hte EYC on the 4 September and reflecting on questions like this. Last week the team worked together in groups and brainstormed and discussed what qualities we believe all children bring to school. In the process we developed a collective view of our ‘Image of a Child’ which was then put into a ‘word-cloud’ producing the image below. As you can see the words that were shared the most were – ‘inquirers, curious, capable, creative and intelligent’.

This reflects a quote by Louise Boyd Cadwell about Reggio Emilia centres where she says, ‘each child is viewed as infinitely capable, creative, and intelligent. The job of the teacher is to support these qualities and to challenge students in appropriate ways.”

One of the key principles of the Reggio approach is that children are put at the centre of the learning and that teachers put alot of emphasis on really listening to the children, giving them time and space to express themselves and encouraging them to be active researchers.

In the words of Loris Malaguzzi, renowned educator and founder of the Reggio philosophy, “Our image of the child is rich in potential, strong, powerful, competent and, most of all, connected to adults and children.”

Want to know more – read the article ‘Why Reggio Emilia Works’ @

One Hundred Languages of Learning

Today the EYC team attended a Reggio Exhibition in Beijing 798 District that focused on the ‘Wonder of Learning’.  This included the concept of  ‘ The One Hundred Languages of Children ’ which is a metaphor for children having many different ways of thinking, of expressing themselves and doing things. The idea is captured in Loris Malaguzzi’s poem below.


Planning for our Children’s Futures

Planning for our Children’s Futures

Applying the Global Goals for Sustainable Development

Recently, a group of ORIGINS educators attended a presentation by Mr. Yong Zhao, author of Paradigm Shift: Why and How. Mr. Zhao purports that we must educate our children to be more human, creative, and entrepreneurial if we want them to be participants in a future world.

Connecting the Global Goals

Intrinsic to ORIGINS Education are the 17 Global Goals for sustainable development. Yes, we require our students and teachers to be more human, creative, and entrepreneurial, however, we also want them to be caring, open minded, principled and thinkers too. Inquiry-based learning encourages people to question themselves and others. Students using their creative, entrepreneurial and human skills must ask themselves how can they make a difference in this world. What can we do to ensure clean water for all? How can we help to alleviate hunger? How can we pass on our skills and knowledge and improve education for others? What can we do to support gender equality? How can we ensure good health for all? These questions address the first 6 Global Goals for sustainable development.

Making a difference gives peoples’ life meaning and purpose. Innova International Academy aims for their students and teachers to be better people in a world where change needs to happen and to use their knowledge and skills to have an impact on people and their planet.

Innova Academy: First Look

Innova Academy: First Look

ORIGINS Education is excited to announce Innova Academy: a new K-12 “school for the future” for both Chinese and foreign students, set to open in 2018 in Beijing’s Yizhuang Special Economic Area.

Come and Meet Us!

Join us for a first look: The Innova Academy team will be at the Beijing International Schools Expo at the Crown Plaza Beijing Chaoyang U-Town on Saturday and Sunday, February 18-19 from 10:00am-4:00pm. Visit our booth to learn more about our programmes and speak to our Leadership Team and teachers.

Contact Innova

Good Read: Comparing an IB Education

Good Read: Comparing an IB Education

A Student’s Perspective

In this edition of “ORIGINS Good Reads” we recommend an article for parents looking at international schools, which should help better understand the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. In the form of an interview, we hear from Devon Hsiao, a student with experience studying in Taiwan, the United States, and Beijing, now an undergraduate student in the US at the University of Texas at Austin. In her interview, Devon shares her experience in the three different educational models and also her insights and understanding of different learning styles.

This article is shared from the official “We only talk about K12” WeChat account, founded  by two well-known and respected international school teachers, with experience as IB DP / MYP Examiners, School Certification Officers, Teacher Trainers, as well as serving as certification officers for CIS (Council of International Schools), WASC  (Western Association of Schools and Colleges, NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges), NCCT (National Center for School Curriculum and Textbook Development). As international school parents, their experience is valuable for those considering international schools.



The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers

ORIGINS Video Inspiration: Adam Grant

In this edition of the ORIGINS Video Inspiration series we hear from organizational psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant, author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. In his TED talk, Grant exposes the results of his research into creativity and the roles of procrastination, confidence, initiative and determination.

“The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most”
– Adam Grant Introduction:
How do creative people come up with great ideas? Organizational psychologist Adam Grant studies “originals”: thinkers who dream up new ideas and take action to put them into the world. In this talk, learn three unexpected habits of originals — including embracing failure. “The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most,” Grant says. “You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.”

Innova First Look Video

ORIGINS Education is excited to announce Innova Academy: a new K-12 “school for the future” for both Chinese and foreign students, set to open in September 2017 in Beijing’s Yizhuang Special Economic Area.

In our core considerations, an Innova education highlights the learner, using a student-centered approach to lifelong learning, the person, by fostering character, leadership, service and action, and the future, by developing the skills needed to both be successful and affect positive change. Our approach to education is based on 6 pillars: Vision and Leadership, Programmes and Action, Community and Environment. With an emphasis on Chinese and English language, Innova’s mission is to “develop responsible learners ready for the future,” learners who, through our approach to education are inspired to wonder, challenged to explore, supported to create and empowered to connect.

Is Your Child’s English Development on Track?


Is Your Child’s English Development on Track?

Determining your family’s “right language-fit”

English language schools have grown considerably over the past 10 years with the increasing demand for English in China, and world-wide. Since English is the preferred language for employment in aviation, media, computer programming, diplomacy and tourism, parents are looking to provide their children with advantages needed for future employment. Likewise, parents are beginning to understand that 21st Century job skills will require the workforce to be able to read, write and speak in English in order to gain employment with multinational companies, both within China and abroad.

What are the Options?

English language centers are the go-to choice for parents  because they are readily available and can cater to both the child’s and the parent’s specific needs. Schools too have identified the need for English and are offering more English language learning time within their curriculum. Private and International schools, many of which identify as bilingual, have hired foreign teachers to teach English as an isolated subject.

For learning basic social English this method of teaching English has been successful, but progress is slow. With such a base, students will be able to hold a reasonable  conversation but never progress to the higher levels of academic English required for most jobs in the future. The question remains: “How does one get to the academic language level?”


Achieving Academic Language Proficiency in Two Languages

In recent years, bilingual schools have gained greater prominence in China and worldwide. These schools teach in their mother tongue language and then gradually transition to English as a second language. As students transition to English they gain more academic English vocabulary, as classes are typically all taught in English by the time students reach middle school. Unfortunately, the mother tongue is often not reinforced, and students fall behind in academic language development in their first language. Accordingly, this language model does prepare students for study at western universities but does not support academic language development in their mother tongue.

Planning for the Future

Having social and academic language skills elevates job prospects for learners graduating into a workforce where  communication, creativity, innovation and critical thinking skills are crucial. As parents, we need to decide on the quality of English language learning our children require and look for options that best prepare them for future entrepreneurship. While there are many language centers and private schools in China that are providing English language learning, we as parents need to be asking the right questions as to the quality of English language learning we want for our children!


Connecting a Love of Books and Play-Based Learning


Connecting a Love of Books to Play-Based Learning

Helping Spark Children’s Inspiration

Research shows that reading for pleasure promotes imagination, creativity, relaxation, improved self-esteem, intellectual pleasure, enhanced general knowledge, emotional intelligence and mental health benefits. In addition, reading for pleasure has been found to enhance social interaction and personal relationships; empower children to become active citizens, to improve a sense of connectedness with the wider community and to further tolerance and understanding of other cultures.

The connection between reading and play-based learning is perhaps less obvious. Indeed, some find it hard to imagine that play is one of the most important methods of learning for young children. We know, however, that through play, children learn to make sense of the world around them. Rich experiences of play provide ever-expanding opportunities for children to think critically, develop problem-solving skills and express thoughts and feelings. But did you know that play is also important in the development of language and literacy skills that will help children as they learn to read?


Making the Connection

When we provide stimulating books that children explore independently (with limited or no adult intervention), play-based learning experiences can be enhanced. Thought-provoking books can help guide and support a child’s wonder. Examples include illustrated cookbooks for “kitchen play”,  picture books for “home play” and visually-appealing nonfiction and fiction books that build on a child’s natural curiosities.


Ready to spark your child’s life-long love affair with books?

Take the first step: Provide a world of wonder for your child in your home. Surrounding your child with provocations that inspire them to wonder (and later explore, create and connect), is the first step to setting them on a path of natural and engaged learning.

Need to find more books to support your child’s interests? Libraries open up new worlds, spark imagination, encourage reading, help develop critical thinking and prepare and support children in school and life. Parent groups are another great way to share resources and find opportunities for engaging literacy-supporting activities.

Need more ideas or support? Be sure to follow our social media accounts for future articles or contact us at at any time to get more great ideas.