As another year comes to a close, we’re celebrating another list of incredible books for every reader! Check out this year’s best books to find beautifully illustrated picture books and must-read middle grade and YA stories for readers of all ages looking to finish December with this year’s star-studded titles.

Stanley’s Lunch Box and Stanley’s Toy Box
by William Bee

★ “With a cheerful, observant voice, Bee models different social interactions, like apologizing, for children to imitate. Simple, clear-cut characters and detailed objects are easily identifiable in their bold, unfiltered colors.” School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Bird Show

Bird Show
by Susan Stockdale

★ “Stunning… Although cataloged in the natural sciences, Stockdale’s mellifluous prose deserves to be classified as literature and her vibrant acrylic illustrations are art…. Wonderful for reading aloud and sharing; recommended for every ­library to introduce art, poetry, and glorious birds to young readers and lucky listeners.” School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

No Said Rabbit

No! Said Rabbit
by Marjoke Henrichs

★ “Henrichs uses spare, repetitive language and perfectly coordinated, simply rendered cartoon illustrations to highlight Rabbit’s initial reluctance to comply followed by joy in the activities…. A thoroughly delightful, warmhearted bedtime story.” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Boo Stew

Boo Stew
by Donna Washington
illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler

“Washington clearly knows how to write for children. . . . Her words are complemented by Ebbeler’s spectacular illustrations, reminiscent of the works of David Catrow and Hayao Miyazaki.” —New York Times

Evanston Public Library Great Books for Kids 2021

The Littlest Yak
by Lu Fraser
illustrated by Kate Hindley

★ The jolly, fast-paced, rhyming verse propels readers through diminutive Gertie’s harrowing, wind-swept rescue mission and matches the upbeat mood of her quest for “bigness.”. . . Whimsical scenes of hairy, wide-eyed, comical yaks of assorted shapes and sizes sporting amusing cold-weather headgear will trigger chuckles and reinforce the message of individuality. A real little winner.”—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Shelter for Sadness

A Shelter for Sadness
by Anne Booth
illustrated by David Litchfield

★ “Inspired by the writings of a Holocaust survivor, Booth’s graceful, understated text is open to interpretation according to the listener’s experiences, but the fundamental theme of accepting one’s sadness can resonate at any age. . . A beautiful, moving picture book.” —Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

The Smile Shop
by Satoshi Kitamura

★ “Told in the first person, the boy’s narrative features evocative language that conveys his experiences as he takes in the sights, smells, and temptations of the shops…. Simple illustrations brimming with eye-catching details are stylistically reminiscent of Uri Shulevitz with a dash of Tomie dePaola. The classic, subdued palette perfectly complements the boy’s journey… A satisfyingly—and deceptively—simple tale about sincere pleasures in hectic times.” Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Books of 2021

Thingity Jig

The Thingity-Jig
by Kathleen Doherty
illustrated by Kristyna Litten

★ “Doherty’s joyous, inventive, action-packed language begs to be shouted out loud. The moonlit night sparkles in town and city as Litten’s fanciful illustrations fill in the details of the tale and showcase Bear’s inventiveness. Little readers might want to create their own Thingity-Jigs. A delightful, rollicking, joyous romp.” Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

★ “[An] intricately illustrated picture book that rejoices in creative play—and in imaginative takes on ordinary objects.” Foreword Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Mars Is

Mars Is
Stark Slopes, Silvery Snow, and Startling Surprises

by Suzanne Slade

★ “Breathtaking…unique.” —Booklist, STARRED REVIEW


A Clutter of Short Verse on Eight Legs

by Leslie Bulion
illustrated by Robert Meganck

★ “Cheerfully illustrated… As always, Bulion uses both evocative vocabulary and a variety of poetic forms; these are chosen with care and defined in the backmatter… Engaging and information rich, this is wonderfully well woven.” Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Rosie Loves Jack

Rosie Loves Jack
by Mel Darbon

★ “The author stays out of Rosie’s way, successfully depicting her protagonist as a person, not a puppet or a platform. The other characters populating the book are realistic, with a striking range of personality traits. The plot is so engrossing that the book is almost impossible to put down. Yes, Rosie loves Jack, and readers are going to love Rosie.” Booklist, STARRED REVIEW