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100 Magnificent Children’s Books of 2012

Happy 2013, everybody!


And that officially marks the end of all my 2012 reviews.  I’ll have an appropriate regret-filled post on the matter tomorrow, but for now let’s celebrate the year!  Everyone has their own little lists, and I am no exception.  In case you’re curious, I did similar ones for 2010 and 2011.  Now just because I don’t mention your favorite book here, that doesn’t mean I don’t adore it on some level.  I just had to limit these titles to 100, which is bloody difficult.  Similarities to the 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing list from NYPL are acknowledged, but there are some definitely differences, you betcha.  For one thing, I could only include the books I’d actually read on this list.

So without further ado . . . here we go!!

Picture Books

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. Roaring Brook Press

Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff. Beach Lane Books

Beach Feet by Kiyomi Konagaya. Illustrated by Masamitsu Saito. Enchanted Lion Books

Boot & Shoe by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane Books

Cat Tale by Michael Hall. Greenwillow Books

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Adam Rex. Hyperion Books

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Peter Brown. Simon & Schuster

Duck Sock Hop by Jane Kohuth. Illustrated by Jane Porter. Dial Books for Young Readers

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. Balzer & Bray

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Roaring Brook Press

Happy Like Soccer by Maribeth Boelts. Illustrated by Lauren Castillo. Candlewick Press

H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination by Christopher Myers. Egmont USA

It’s a Tiger! by David LaRochelle. Illustrated by Jeremy Tankard. Chronicle Books

Jimmy the Greatest! by Jairo Buitrago. Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. Groundwood Books

John Jensen Feels Different by Henrik Hovland. Illustrated by Torill Kove. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Jonathan & Martha by Petr Horacek. Phaidon

Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters by K.G. Campbell. Kids Can Press

Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas. Beach Lane Books

Me and Momma and Big John by Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by William Low. Candlewick Press

My Dad Is Big and Strong, But . . . by Coralie Saudo. Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo. Enchanted Lion Books

The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart. Illustrated by David Small. Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost. Photographs by Rick Lieder. Candlewick Press

The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson. Illustrated by Julie Morstad. Simply Read Books

Trains Go by Steve Light. Chronicle Books

Up, Tall and High by Ethan Long. G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Folk and Fairytales

The Goldilocks Variations by Allan Ahlberg. Illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg. Candlewick Press

The Great Race: An Indonesian Trickster Tale. Retold by Nathan Kumar Scott. Illustrated by Jagdish Chitara. Tara Books

Hans My Hedgehog: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm. Adapted by Kate Coombs. Originally written by Brothers Grimm. Illustrated by John Nickle. Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Robin Hood. Retold by David Calcutt. Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith. Barefoot Books

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse: An Aesop Fable. Retold by Helen Ward. Templar Books


Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine. Illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Harper

Leave Your Sleep: A Collection of Classic Children’s Poetry. Adapted to music by Natalie Merchant. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. Farrar Straus Giroux

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. Edited by J. Patrick Lewis. National Geographic

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies. Illustrated by Mark Hearld. Candlewick Press

Shiver Me Timbers!: Pirate Poems & Paintings by Douglas Florian. Illustrated by Robert Neubecker. Beach Lane Books

Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School. Edited by Timothy P. McLaughlin. Illustrated by S. D. Nelson. Abrams Books for Young Readers

Early Chapter Books

The Adventures of Sir Balin the Ill-Fated by Gerald Morris. Illustrated by Aaron Renier. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Duck for a Day by Meg McKinlay. Illustrated by Leila Rudge. Candlewick.

The No. 1 Car Spotter and the Firebird by Atinuke. Illustrated by Warwick Caldwell Johnson. Walker & Company.

Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell. Candlewick Press.

Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett. Illustrated by Ann James. Candlewick Press.

Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Older Chapter Books

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton. David Fickling Books

Buddy by M. H. Herlong. Viking

The Case of the Deadly Desperadoes by Caroline Lawrence. Orion Children’s Books

Chickadee by Louise Erdrich. Harper

Crow by Barbara Wright. Random House

Deadweather and Sunrise by Geoff Rodkey. Putnam Juvenile

Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski. Scholastic

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic Press

Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lucile Clifton. Holiday House

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander. Margaret K. McElderry Books

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. Illustrated by Todd Harris. Walden Pond Press

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz. Dutton Children’s Books

The Kairos Mechanism by Kate Milford. The Clockwork Foundry

Katerina’s Wish by Jeannie Mobley. Margaret K. McElderry Books

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. Random House

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. G. P. Putnam’s Sons

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Illustrated by Patricia Castelao. Harper

Pickle: The Formerly Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School by Kim Baker. Illustrated by Tim Probert. Roaring Brook Press

Plunked by Michael Northrop. Scholastic Press

The Prince Who Fell From the Sky by John Claude Bemis. Random House

Return to the Willows by Jacqueline Kelly. Illustrated by Clint Young. Henry Holt and Company

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz. Candlewick Press

The Star Shard by Frederick S. Durbin. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin. Little, Brown and Company

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker. Balzer & Bray

Three Times Lucky by Shelia Turnage. Dial Books for Young Readers

The Traveling Restaurant by Barbara Else. Gecko Press

The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds. Viking

The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey. Illustrated by Brett Helquist. Harper

Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket. Illustrated by Seth. Little, Brown & Co.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Alfred A. Knopf

Graphic Novels

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel. Graphix

Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Graphix

Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian by Michael Rex. G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre. Illustrated by Rafael Rosado. First Second

Hades: Lord of the Dead by George O’Connor. First Second

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez. Graphic Universe

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale Amulet Books

The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra. Toon Books

Nonfiction Picture Books

Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why by Lita Judge. Flash Point

Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman by Marc Tyler Nobleman. Illustrated by Ty Templeton. Charlesbridge Publishing

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel. Illustrated by Amanda Hall. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti. Illustrated by Yancy Labat. Chronicle Books

It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Lee & Low Books Inc.

Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey by Gary Golio. Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez. Clarion Books

Nonfiction Chapter Books

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano. Illustrated by Michael Carroll. Charlesbridge

Buried Alive! How 33 Miners Survived 69 Days Deep Under the Chilean Desert by Elaine Scott. Clarion Books

Chuck Close: Face Book by Chuck Close. Abrams Books for Young Readers

The Fairy Ring by Mary Losure. Candlewick Press

The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919 by Deborah Kops. Charlesbridge

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America, by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Hyperion

The Human Body Factory by Dan Green. Illustrated by Edmond Davis. Kingfisher

Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank. Clarion Books

The Skull in the Rock: How a Scientist, a Boy and Google Earth Opened a New Window on Human Origins by Marc Aronson and Lee Berger. National Geographic Books for Children

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson. Scholastic Press

Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature’s Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson. Millbrook Press

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Elizabeth,

    As an aspiring children’s book writer, this year my goal is to go to the library and read more children’s books. This list is a great place for me to start as we start to polish our manuscript and illustrations and search for more inspiration.

    Thank you and happy new year!


  2. Glad to see that Plunked made your list. That one flew a bit under the radar this year, but I enjoyed it and each time I booktalk it, it gets checked out.


  3. Bird: Where is OCTOBER MOURNING by Leslea Newman? Simply among the magnificent.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Oh, absolutely! Magnificent indeed, but very young adult. Not so much for the 0-12 crowd, methinks. But were I to do a similar YA list it would be right on there.

  4. This list rocks. I’m familiar with the fiction picture books….but not so much the nonfiction. I think I know where my head is! Definitely a keeper, thanks for compiling.

  5. Yay! So glad to see The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart, illus by David Small on your list. Lovely, lovely book. It’s fun for kids to spot the teddy bear on each page. May be my 2nd favorite book by them. It’ll take a lot to knock The Library from my No. 1 spot.

    Also glad that No. 1 Car Spotter and The Star Shard also were mentioned. Great books that aren’t getting the buzz they deserve.

    Lots of books on the list that I still need to read.

  6. Thank you for this annual list!


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