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.