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2018 Best illustrated children’s books

Since 1952, New York Times have convened a rotating annual panel of three expert judges, who consider every illustrated children’s book published that year in the United States. They select the winners purely on the basis of artistic merit. The judges this time were Leonard Marcus, a children’s literature historian and critic; Jenny Rosenoff, a children’s librarian at the New York Public Library; and Bryan Collier, the author and illustrator of many acclaimed picture books and a past winner of the award.

Below you’ll find images from each winning book, with commentary from the judges.


Written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Morales’s colorful collages create a wonderful dreamlike effect in this powerful story of a mother and child leaving Mexico on an unexpected journey in search of a new life. — B.C.

Neal Porter Books/Holiday House, 32 pp., $18.99.


Written and illustrated by Anna Walker

Anna Walker’s earth-toned, claustrophobic cityscapes are overtaken by lush greenery, giving glorious visual representation to the increasing hopefulness of a little girl settling into her new urban landscape. — J.R.

Clarion Books, 32 pp., $16.99.


Written by Pilar Lopez Avila

Illustrated by Mar Azabal

In this beautiful gem about a girl who wants to learn to read, letters burst forth from imagery done in cut-paper collage and a rainbow of color, each page telling its own story with a quiet, understated voice. — B.C.

Cuento de Luz Books, 32 pp., $16.95.


Illustrated by Violeta Lopiz and Valerio Vidali

Like a fairy-tale walk in the woods, “The Forest” is a thrilling visual excursion into uncharted territory featuring elaborate die-cuts, gatefolds and embossed images created by two artists from Italy and Spain. — L.M.

Enchanted Lion Books, 72 pp., $24.95.


Illustrated by Lane Smith

In this tale of children who discover an abandoned house, Lane Smith’s deftly layered and lyrical pictorial world shimmers with a whirr of woodland color and line work that caroms from wispy to razor-sharp. — L.M.

Roaring Brook Press, 48 pp., $18.99.


Illustrated by Jan Bajtlik

Less is way more in the Polish artist Jan Bajtlik’s exhilarating, toy-bright ode to vehicles that don’t just go, they positively grip the road. — L.M.

Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, 32 pp., $16.99.


Illustrated by Felicita Sala

Felicita Sala’s archly horror-struck portraits and faux-eerie settings open a magnificent, cobwebbed window into the English novelist Mary Shelley’s wild and fiery imagination. — L.M.

Knopf, 40 pp., $17.99.

Written and illustrated by Matt James

Matt James’s colorful acrylics and playful collage lend a youthful exuberance to a normally dreary subject, giving poignant insight into a child’s understanding of the adult world. — J.R.

Groundwood Books, 40 pp., $18.95.


Written and illustrated by David Covell

Running at top speed and with reckless abandon, Covell’s watercolors and handwritten text take us on a madcap, carefree adventure through nature’s wide-open spaces. — J.R.

Viking, 40 pp., $17.99.

Written and illustrated by Antje Damm

In Antje Damm’s remarkable “The Visitor,” a boy rushes into a lonely woman’s black-and-white 3-D collage world, bringing an explosion of color, light and life. — B.C.

Gecko Press, 32 pp., $17.99.



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