Top 10 Books Picture Books for 2021

I just finished reading several hundred picture books for my Cybils Award judging. Here are ten of my very favorites–perfect for gift giving and reading and re-reading! 

Swashby and the Sea, by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

This book is beautiful and filled alliteration, wordplay with the sea washing away letters, and an unlikely friendship between the sea and Swashby. 


I am the Storm by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell

This book is Lovely and lyrical and powerfully moving. Every time I read it, it makes me cry.  I love the changeable refrain, how it evokes discussion in a bibliotherapeutic way and how the art is absolutely stunning.

Yours in Books by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo

The epistolary format of this book makes the readd aloud so much fun!  And who can resist a grumpy owl, and a squirrel librarian who befriends him?

Are You a Cheeseburger? By Monica Arnaldo

This hilarious and heartwarming friendship story will make you laugh as the characters ask the question:  Can a seed grow a cheeseburger? 

How to Wear a Sari,  by Darshana Khiuani and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

This playful story follows the journey of a little girl who wants to show she’s grown up by wearing a sari correctly.  Bright cheerful illustrations make the a fun story for all ages.

A Walk in the Words, by Hudson Talbott

 Filled with words, imagination and stories, this book skillfully shows kids that it’s okay to read slowly or to learn differently. 

Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham

This book beautifully written and illustrated book is about the pandemic and the people who helped communities come together in such an isolated time.

Too Crowded by Lena Podesta

This book was unexpected.  And it made me laugh.  Expressive illustrations and humor and a theme of friendship makes this a delightful read aloud. 

Except Antarctica by Todd Turgell

This book breaks the 4th wall in a way that will make you eager to turn the page. A helpless narrator and bold characters make this story one you’ll turn to over and over again.

What’s your favorite 2021 picture book ?


  1. I love getting a curated list of picture book recommendations, and that it is coming from you is a bonus, Kirsti. I have read a few of these, but many I have not yet.


  2. Thanks for the list. I just ordered several of these from my local library. A couple of my favorites this year are Wind May Blow by Sasha Quinton and Can I Sit With You? by Sara Jacoby. Have a wonderful holiday season.


  3. “The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess” was one of my 2021 favorites!
    So many wonderful books this year!


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