The best children's books of the year, chosen by authors and illustrators

Published on: 14 December 2022

We asked authors and illustrators, including Waterstones Children's Laureate Joseph Coelho, BookTrust President Michael Morpurgo, BookTrust’s Writer-Illustrator in Residence Nick Sharratt and others including Dapo Adeola, Patrice Lawrence, Cressida Cowell, Anne Fine and Lauren Child the impossible question: pick just one favourite children's book published in 2022...

The Girl Who Planted Trees By Caryl Hart and Anastasia Suvorova

Chosen by Joe Coelho, author and poet, and our current Waterstones Children’s Laureate.

A beautiful story that highlights the power we all have to make a difference in our local environments by planting trees. 

Glowrushes by Roberto Piumini

Chosen by Michael Morpurgo, BookTrust President

You see it, feel it, live it as you read. Lyrical, magical, tender and true, and deeply mysterious.

The Horse that Jumped by Thomas Docherty 

Chosen by Nick Sharratt, BookTrust Writer-Illustrator in Residence

'The Horse that Jumped' by Thomas Docherty is a lovely bedtime book for little ones. With a short, easy-to-read text and friendly illustrations to enjoy, it's the simple but satisfying tale of a girl and horse taking a magical ride together. Sharing this gentle book would be a soothing experience.

The Horse That Jumped by Thomas DochertyThe Horse That Jumped by Thomas Docherty

Grimwood: Let the Fur Fly! by Nadia Shireen

Chosen by Smriti Halls, author

A book that made me giggle this year was Grimwood: Let The Fur Fly! This is Nadia Shireen at her MOST Nadia Shireen – ie bonkers, brilliant and bursting with fun that’s always just a bit… bananas! It’s packed with quirky characters, a dastardly plot to foil and more tree-bonking (soon to be a professional sport, surely) than you can shake a stick at. I really enjoyed it!

Twin Crowns by Katherine Webber and Catherine Doyle

Chosen by Cerrie Burnell, author

I adored Twin Crowns by Katherine Webber and Catherine Doyle. It’s a super fun, enchanting and heartwarming adventure full of nostalgia and joy. The story of of two sisters separated at birth. Two princesses no less, who must find themselves and each other. Highly addictive and gorgeous storytelling. 

Alcatoe and the Turnip Child by Isaac Lenkiewicz 

Chosen by Dapo Adeola, illustrator of BookTrust’s Time To Read book We’re Going to Find the Monster

I’m going for graphic novel Alcatoe and the Turnip Child by Isaac Lenkiewicz. I’m super surprised more people don’t know about - I love it.

Illustration from Alcatoe and the Turnip ChildIllustration from Alcatoe and the Turnip Child

Journey Back To Freedom: The Olaudah Equiano Story by Catherine Johnson

Chosen by SF Said, author

Catherine Johnson is one of the UK's greatest historical writers, and with Journey Back To Freedom, she's produced an absolute masterpiece. It's based on the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, which was originally published in 1814. It tells the story of how Equiano was enslaved as a child, brutally transported from Africa to America, Britain and the Caribbean, but then resourcefully worked his way to freedom. In a miracle of concision, Johnson captures the essence of his story in 100 swift and hugely readable pages. This is a vitally important book with a story that everyone should know, adults and children alike. It should be in every school, library and home in the country.

Just Sayin' by Malorie Blackman

Chosen by Frank Cottrell Boyce, author

Not a children’s book but a book that anyone interested in children’s books should read - Just Sayin’ by Malorie Blackman.  We all know that Malorie is a ground breaking pioneer and the book serves as a sharp reminder that ground-breaking is exhausting work and pioneering is lonely.  Because she carries it all with such grace it’s sometimes forgotten just what a slog it was for Malorie to brighten our lives.  But the book - especially in the chapters where it bursts into poetry - is the opposite of a slog.  It’s inspiring,  funny and precise.

Leila and the Blue Fox by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and illustrated by Tom de Freston

Chosen by Cressida Cowell, author-illustrator and former Waterstones Children’s Laureate

Beautiful, lyrical writing by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, stunning artwork by Tom de Freston and outstanding book design by Alison Padley. A gorgeous book, wise and full of wonder at the glory of the natural world.

Illustration from Leila and the Blue Fox

You, Me and Our Whole Wide World by Bridget Marzo 

Chosen by Candy Gourlay, author

You Me and the Whole Wide World by Bridget Marzo is a tonic for a generation bewildered and unsettled by the isolation and disruption of our pandemic years, telling every child we are all in this together, you, me and the whole wide beautiful world. Bridget Marzo builds a kind, all embracing world with every stroke of her brush, shining a bright light filled with hope. This is a book to treasure.

My Dog Hen by David Mackintosh 

Chosen by Lauren Child, illustrator, author and former Waterstones Children's Laureate

A beautifully illustrated picture book with a touchingly funny text about a rescue dog called Hen. It’s a lovely gift because it’s so exquisitely designed and the story feels perfect for now.

Welcome to the World by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury 

Chosen by Sally Symes, illustrator

Written and illustrated by two magicians from the world of children’s books, this is an effortlessly beautiful, read-aloud storybook to share with a very small person. Julia’s text is spun with warmth and humour, and Helen’s illustrations are unbelievably moving… she never fails to melt my heart. Welcome to the World is just a perfect introduction to all things baby.

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tọlá Okogwu

Chosen by Janelle McCurdy, author

My book of the year is definitely Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tọlá Okogwu. It's a fantastic, fast paced, fantasy adventure set in a magic school and tells the tale of the brilliant Onyeka and her wonderful hair. It's a beautiful story that revolves around empowerment and self love. An amazing children's book.

Illustration from Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun

Ghost Orchid by Fiona Lumbers 

Sav Akyuz, illustrator of BookTrust Great Books Guide 2022

It’ll have to be the stunning Ghost Orchid by Fiona Lumbers for being absolutely GORGEOUS!

Grandpa Frank's Great Big Bucket List by Jenny Pearson

Chosen by Sarah Hagger Holt, author and winner of Little Rebels Prize 2022 with Proud of Me

When reading this aloud with my daughter, I had to keep stopping, either because I was laughing or crying too much to be able to continue. Frank and his grandpa's adventures are ridiculous, but completely believable because the characters are so relatable and the affection between them is so strong. I loved it.

The Elemental Detectives by Patrice Lawrence 

Chosen by Jasbinder Bilan, author

I love the way The Elemental Detectives takes the reader back in time to a familiar but entirely fantastical  London; a London ablaze with magic, excitement and danger. We meet brave heroes Marisee and Robert and alongside them get to solve this thrilling mystery of spirits and incredible creatures. I can’t wait for the next in this new series by one of my favourite authors.

Illustration from The Elemental DetectivesIllustration from The Elemental Detectives

The Wilderness by Steve McCarthy

Paddy Donnelly, author/illustrator

My favourite picture book of this year has to be The Wilderness by Steve McCarthy. The illustrations are simply stunning, and both children and adults will be blown away when they see what Oktober discovers when he ventures out into the wild. It's a beautiful tale about finding the beauty outside of your comfort zone. I love it.

The Silver Chain by Jion Sheibani  

Chosen by Sue Cheung, author

This is the first book I've ever read in verse and what a brave, beautiful piece of work it is. Those universal experiences of being an immigrant kid dealing with identity and belonging issues made me smile and broke my heart. I love how it reminded me that our parents are only human too and a lot of the time, make their struggles invisible to us to save us all from pain. The references to music, composers and poets throughout were an education for me and touches of the author's own artwork make the story all the more exquisite. A very unique debut.

ACHOO! by Simon Philip and Nathan Reed

Chosen by Paul Howard, author

Little Sid discovers the unexpected consequences of not covering his nose when sneezing in Simon Philips’s hilarious, riotous romp of a read, with Nathan Reed’s bright, colourful illustrations perfectly showcasing all that explosive energy.

Illustration from Achoo!Illustration from Achoo!

Wished by Lissa Evans 

Chosen by Katya Balen, author and winner of Yoto Carnegie Medal 22 with Oktober, Oktober 

Wished by Lissa Evans is a modern classic. It combines heart and humour seamlessly, and features the pithiest talking cat I've ever encountered in a book. It's the kind of book that somehow feels fresh and original, whilst also reminding you of all the books that built your childhood.

Always, Clementine by Carlie Sorosiak 

Chosen by Hannah Gold, author, winner of Blue Peter Best Story award with The Last Bear

A charming book about a runaway mouse who also happens to be a genius chess-player. Heartwarming and fun whilst also raising awareness of serious topics. It's a winner for me.

The Greatest Show on Earth: The 4.6 Billion Year Story of Life on our Planet by Mini Grey

Anne Fine, author and former Waterstones Children's Laureate

What an innovative way to learn all about the key points of development on life on earth - as seen through an imaginative stage show put on by Rod the Roach and his troupe in the shoebox theatre!

This meticulously researched and detailed book is a  wonder. Told in a highly accessible way, with wide reach, it makes even complex ideas easy to understand.  A show-stopper of a book which combines illustration, theatricality and information and is far more than the sum of its parts.

Chosen by Allen Fatimaharan, illustrator

I’m also going for The Greatest Show on Earth by Mini Grey - it’s a brilliant picture book about the history of the planet earth drawn with plenty of wit and wonder. A perfect introduction to natural history!

Dogs in Disguise by Peter Bently and John Bond

Chosen by Charlotte and Adam Guillain, authors of our Baby Book One Banana, Two Bananas which is in BookTrust Storyteller Packs

For us it’s got to be ‘Dogs in Disguise’ by Peter Bently and John Bond because it’s so gloriously and joyously silly! Just imagining the thought process that led to this picture book gives us hope for humanity!

Illustration from Dogs in DisguiseIllustration from Dogs in Disguise

The Golden Mole by Katherine Rundell

Chosen by Ed Vere, illustrator and former BookTrust illustrator in residence

A beautifully lyrical book, vigorously passionate about the wonders of a natural world which is disappearing before our eyes.We are eloquently invited to be awestruck by nature (a swift flies two million kilometres in its lifetime) in the hope that we may feel moved enough it save it. Stunningly illustrated by Tanya Baldwin. This is a book to be enjoyed by all ages!

Lizzie and Belle Mysteries: Drama and Danger by J T Williams

Chosen by Patrice Lawrence, author

I loved adventure mysteries from childhood. Real life Black characters plus Georgian London -  yes! This is the book that I would have longed for when I was a child if I could have ever imagined that books with characters that looked like me existed.

Tyger by S F Said 

Chosen by Piers Torday, author

I have waited nine years for S F Said’s Tyger, and it outperfomed every expectation - a masterly, shimmering thrill of a read.

Illustration from Tyger Illustration from Tyger 

The Good Turn by Sharna Jackson

Chosen by Katherine Rundell, author

I loved Sharna Jackson’s The Good Turn: the story of a mystery that unfolds when the hero, Josephine, starts her own scout troupe called the Copseys. Sharna Jackson writes such funny, clever, generously joyful books, full of adventure: I loved it.

Puddling! by Emma Perry and Claire Alexander

Chosen by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, author

Poetic text, stunning art, and a big splash of JOY. A true future classic.

A Duck Called Brian by Al Murphy

Nadia Shireen, illustrator and author of Barbara Throws a Wobbler in BookTrust Storyteller Pack

This year I particularly enjoyed “A Duck Called Brian” by Al Murphy. I knew nothing about it before picking it up, but was immediately taken by its unusual sense of humour, brilliant cover and bold illustrations. In fact I liked it so much it made me feel envious and I started quietly growling, which all the best picture books make me do.

Illustration from A Duck Called BrianIllustration from A Duck Called Brian

The Spell Tailors by James Nicol

Chosen by Maz Evans, author

I absolutely loved THE SPELL TAILORS by James Nicol, who has woven another enchanting tale.

Ajay and the Mumbai Sun by Varsha Shah

Chosen by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author

This was the winner of the Times Chicken House Competition - I read this as a judge and it already stood out for its combination of high-stakes adventure and enormous heart. The finished thing is something very special, a story about the power of truth and the strength of small things (and people) in creating big change.

Frankie Best Hates Quests by Chris Smith

Chosen by Anna James, author

A big-hearted, charming and funny adventure full of playful riffs on the fantasy genre.

Dadaji's Paintbrush by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane

Chosen by James Mayhew, illustrator

My book of the year is Dadaji's Paintbrush. Such a tender and touching story, with the most ravishingly beautiful, loving illustrations, capturing all the warmth and light of India, and all the emotions of the story. Utterly stunning.

Illustration from Dadaji's PaintbrushIllustration from Dadaji's Paintbrush

Sister Clawdetta: Murder at the Monastery by Tor Freeman

Chosen by Sarah McIntyre, illustrator

Tor Freeman's comics always make me laugh, the way she knows how to go totally deadpan and then suddenly break into an outrageous flight of fancy. This murder mystery is beautifully drawn and observed, the menacing tone at odds with the ridiculousness of the all-animal cast, with delightful bits of dialogue and drama.

Bunny Vs. Monkey: Rise of the Maniacal Badger by Jamie Smart

Chosen by Huw Aaron, illustrator

I’m going with the latest in Jamie Smart’s Bunny vs Monkey series, the subtly titled Rise of the Maniacal Badger, is a blaze of blissful technicolour silliness. Woodland creatures blasting each other in the bum with lasers then sharing jelly and cake and philosophical asides will never get old. Joy and wonder fizz from every page, and I love it.

 What are your favourite books of 2022? Let us know on Twitter!

Topics: Features