Of all the great children's novels and chapter books published this year, I've selected ten stellar choices to be my best read aloud children's novels of 2022
Whenever I read a new children's books I always ask myself if it would be an especially good choice for read aloud time. It's hard for me to pinpoint the exact quality a book needs because sometimes they can be quiet and slow, other times they are fast paced and hilarious. They usually have a host of extra-colorful characters and maybe something particularly quirky in the plot or structure. Boiled down, it's simply je ne sais quoi.
I purposefully chose books with illustrations for this list. Of course some of the books have more than others, but periodic drawings give young eyes something to look at while they absorb the story.
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OSKAR AND THE THINGS by Andrus Kivirähk, illustrated by Anne Pikkov; translated from Estonian by Adam Cullen
I adored this book, and while it may be hard to find at libraries and bookstores in the US, it is absolutely worth hunting down a copy. When his parents go out of town, Oskar stays with his grandmother in the countryside. When he realizes he has forgotten to bring his phone with him he thinks there will be nothing to keep him entertained. However, when he picks up a wooden block and pretends it is a phone, he discovers that he can have conversations with inanimate objects like teacups and shovels. The objects begin to ask Oskar for help solving their problems. This book is full of joy and imagination. Your whole family will love it.
THE LEGEND OF THE DREAM GIANTS by Dustin Hansen
This dream of a book has the lyrical appeal of a folktale and the timeless draw of a coming of age story. Berg the boy giant is lonely in a world where humans fear him and believe him to be the legendary giant, Ünhold. He wants nothing more than to find friendship, be part of a community and feel safe. In one city, he meets Anya, a girl who is surprisingly unafraid of him, bringing Berg feelings of joy. The town enlists Berg to guard the city walls at night, but Berg's trust may be misplaced and he must figure out who is offering true friendship. Interwoven with Berg's story are illustrations which bring to life his dreams of bears, wolves and fallen stars. This story tugs at the heartstrings; readers and listeners will want to discuss Berg's eye-opening path to self-acceptance. Remarkable.
THE SHEEP, THE ROOSTER AND THE DUCK by Matt Phelan
Young children will love this quirky historical fantasy that includes anthropomorphized animals alongside recognizable figures like Benjamin Franklin and Marie Antoinette. The action is set in 1783 after the launching of the first hot air balloon and the three animals who flew in the balloon continue their careers as spies. The story is great fun, with lots of adventure and humor. Some of the action is conveyed through Phelan's trademark graphite cartoon panels and the novel is short enough to please everyone.
WINDSWEPT by Margi Preus, illustrated by Armando Veve
I have never met a Margi Preus book I didn't love. Of all the titles on this list of my favorite read aloud books of 2022, Windswept is the one best suited to older tweens and even teens if they are interested. Preus draws upon Norse folklore and other fairy tales to create a wholly original story. In Tag's village, adults require that "youngers" stay indoors until they are 15-years-old, lest they disappear in the mysterious snow squalls that appear without warning. After Tag's three older sisters are "windswept," she is determined to venture outside and find them. She and a small group of other youngers set out to the mountains to find the lost children. Along the way, and with the help of the eccentric people she meets, Tag discovers strength she did not know she had. Marvelous.
A DRAGON USED TO LIVE HERE by Annette LeBlanc Cate
This is a great book for kids who love fairy tales, knights and dragons and for grown-ups who enjoy witty writing and metafictional banter. One day, while at archery practice, Thomas and Emily wander into a castle basement, where they meet a cranky scribe named Meg. Meg is supervising the production of party invitations and quickly puts the two noble siblings to work. While Thomas and Emily write, Meg regales them with maybe-true stories of their mother and her encounters with dragons and other creatures. Lots of clever fun.
OUR FRIEND HEDGEHOG: A PLACE TO CALL HOME (series) by Lauren Castillo
This is the second book in Castillo's chapter book series about a group of charming woodland friends, and it will give you all the Hundred Acre Wood vibes you could ever want. With its full color illustrations, short chapters and gentle plot, A Place to Call Home, is a great choice for preschool listeners. Hedgehog, who always carries around her favorite stuffed dog, is on her way to Owl's house when she meets someone who looks just like her! With the help of her other animal friends, Hedgehog learns that hedgehogs actually hibernate and she wonders if she should, too! Completely adorable.
OH, SAL (series) by Keven Henkes
We first met Sal in Henkes' previous books about her older brother, Billy Miller. Like those earlier books, Oh, Sal is a good choice for advanced young readers. However, Sal is 4-years-old and such a young protagonist may not appeal to 7 year old independent readers as much as a character closer to their own age. That said, Oh, Sal is a great read aloud pick for very young listeners because of that very reason! The action takes place during the holiday season. Sal had a new baby sister who still needs a name, her Uncle Jake is visiting, and Sal is trying to find her missing gift. A sweet story with some gentle laughs.
VIOLET AND JOBIE IN THE WILD by Lynne Rae Perkins
Although there are many wonderful children's novels featuring anthropomorphized mice (Avi's Poppy series comes to mind), you can always make room for one more. Violet and Jobie are house mice. They love the comfort of dry shelter and all the yummy human food. They also love to play SNAP! the cheese game in which they poke a platform, cause it to jump, and then feast on cheese. Their love of this game gets them trapped and transported to wilds where they must learn new survival skills. But nature, even with its dangers, turns out to be less scary and more exciting than they thought.
SQUIRREL ON STAGE (series) by Vivian Vande Velde, illustrated by Steve Björkman
Years ago, in one of my earliest book lists, I recommended Velde's delightful, 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos. It remains to this day one of the most hilarious books I ever read aloud to the boys and at the time I never thought there would be a sequel. As it turns out, Squirrel on Stage is the fourth in the Twitch the Squirrel series! If you haven't read the first book, start with that one and then go on to read all about Twitch's adventures in the auditorium with his friend Sweetie, the library rat. You'll laugh yourselves silly.
THE REAL DADA MOTHER GOOSE by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Julia Rothman
These are not your mother's–or your toddler's–nursery rhymes. The avant-garde Dadaists embraced irrationality and rejected logic, and so do Scieszka and Rothman. The author-artist team deconstruct six familiar nursery rhymes six different ways. The whole book is a masterful visual and literary experiment that results in a delightfully coherent and hilarious chaos. Don't miss it.