The 25 Best Children’s Books of 2019

Picture Book

ANOTHER, by Christian Robinson. (Atheneum, $17.99.) Robinson’s first book as both author and illustrator is a wordless story about a girl and her cat who discover a portal into another world, where children and pets encounter mirror versions of themselves.

GOOD BOY, by Sergio Ruzzier. (Atheneum, $17.99.) With just one or two words per page and art that turns surreal, this story features a boy and his dog who practice canine training commands like “Sit” and “Jump,” then feats like “Cook,” until the pair blasts off for an outer-space adventure.

HOLD HANDS, by Sara Varon. (First Second, $17.99.) Varon’s goggle-eyed creatures, identifiable as rabbits, elephants, ducks and other creatures, wear clothes, ride the bus, go on play dates and to day care, all while demonstrating the many uses of hand-holding.

I MISS MY GRANDPA, by Jin Xiaojing. (Little, Brown, $17.99.) The narrator of this debut explores her feelings about a grandparent she never got to meet but who, she learns, had a nose like one of her uncles’, and told stories using many voices, from a lion’s to a cloud’s.

MY PAPI HAS A MOTORCYCLE, by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Pena. (Kokila, $17.99.) A girl takes a joyful spin on the back of her carpenter papi’s motorcycle, greeting friends and relatives, noting historical murals and stopping at his work site.

[ Our editor recommends more great books for younger readers. ]

RIVER, by Elisha Cooper. (Scholastic/Orchard, $18.99.) A fictional account of a woman’s solo canoe trip down the Hudson over several days, with facts about the river, the landscape and the logistics of such a journey woven into the story.

SMALL IN THE CITY, by Sydney Smith. (Neal Porter/Holiday House, $17.99.) The child who narrates Smith’s first book as both author and illustrator travels around a city neighborhood by bus and on foot, looking for someone, but who it is, we don’t know until the very end.

TRUMAN, by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins. (Atheneum, $17.99.) When a girl named Sarah leaves for her first day of kindergarten, her pet turtle, whose tank is perched on a windowsill, decides to make a daredevil break and find her.

THE UNDEFEATED, by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. (Versify, $17.99.) A poetic tribute to African-American resilience, proclaiming joy and pride in the accomplishments of artists, athletes, leaders and thinkers, along with a sober acknowledgment of the suffering of a people.

YOU ARE NEW, by Lucy Knisley. (Chronicle, $17.99.) “When you’re new,” asks this debut children’s book from the comics artist Knisley, “what can you do?” The answers explain babies’ world to them.

Middle Grade

ALL THE GREYS ON GREENE STREET, by Laura Tucker. (Viking, $17.99.) The artistic 12-year-old at the center of this debut, set in 1981 New York City, learns to live with her father’s departure and her mother’s clinical depression.

GUTS, by Raina Telgemeier. (Graphix, $24.99.) In Telgemeier’s third graphic memoir, Raina, already struggling with the challenges of navigating fourth grade, develops a full-blown anxiety disorder, which begins to take over her life until a kind therapist helps.

LOOK BOTH WAYS, by Jason Reynolds. (Atheneum, $17.99.) The interconnected stories in this National Book Award finalist by Reynolds each correspond to a different block where the students of a middle school go on their after-school adventures.

MY JASPER JUNE, by Laurel Snyder. (Walden Pond, $16.99.) A girl who has lost her brother in a drowning accident wanders into the woods and meets an unusual girl who may be magical, though the reality is more heartbreaking.

NEW KID, by Jerry Craft. (HarperCollins, $12.99.) The protagonist of this graphic novel is an art-loving seventh grader who is starting at a fancy private school, where he is one of the few African-American students.

QUEEN OF THE SEA, by Dylan Meconis. (Walker, $24.99.) This graphic novel set on a remote island in a world that is, and is not, 16th-century England, takes inspiration from the real-life rivalry between Mary Tudor and her sister Elizabeth.

SOME PLACES MORE THAN OTHERS, by Renee Watson. (Bloomsbury, $16.99.) An 11-year-old African-American girl from Portland, Ore., takes a trip to Harlem and confronts family secrets and cultural history.

SWEEPING UP THE HEART, by Kevin Henkes. (Greenwillow, $16.99.) The lonely 12-year-old protagonist of this novel has lost her mother to cancer, but over spring break she befriends an independent-minded boy who changes everything.

THIS WAS OUR PACT, by Ryan Andrews. (First Second, $14.99.) In this graphic novel, six boys vow to find out the truth about a legend that the paper lanterns released onto the river during an annual town festival become actual stars.

TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY, by Kwame Mbalia. (Rick Riordan Presents/Hyperion, $17.99.) In this debut, a 13-year-old up-and-coming boxer finds himself in a magical land peopled by West African deities and characters from African-American folklore.

Young Adult

THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE, by Ruta Sepetys. (Philomel, $18.99.) The protagonist of this novel set in Franco-era Spain is a hotel chambermaid who risks her life to gather evidence against her country’s fascist regime.

FRANKLY IN LOVE, by David Yoon. (Putnam, $18.99.) In this coming-of-age love story, a Korean-American boy secretly dates a white girl despite the disapproval of his parents.

PET, by Akwaeke Emezi. (Make Me a World, $17.99.) In Emezi’s Y.A. debut, a National Book Award finalist, a 15-year-old trans girl living in a utopian society must convince her community that monsters are among them.

SPIES: The Secret Showdown Between America and Russia, by Marc Favreau. (Little, Brown, $19.99.) A nonfiction account of the silent war of Soviet-American espionage from the 1940s to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

THIRTEEN DOORWAYS, WOLVES BEHIND THEM ALL, by Laura Ruby. (Balzer & Bray, $17.99.) In this National Book Award finalist, a teenager living in a Catholic orphanage in Chicago during World War II shares space with the ghosts that haunt the place.

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