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The New York Times Best Illustrated List

The New York Times List of the 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2013 was released today, and here it is:


Journey, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker (Candlewick)

Ballad, written and illustrated by Blexbolex, translated by Claudia Z. Bedrick (Enchanted Lion)

Jane, The Fox and Me, written by Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou (Groundwood/House of Anansi)

Holland, written and illustrated by Charlotte Dematons (Lemniscaat)

Locomotive, written and illustrated by Brian Floca (Jackson/Atheneum)

Nelson Mandela, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Tegen/HarperCollins)


My Brother’s Book, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak (di Capua/HarperCollins)

The Dark, written by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Little, Brown)

Jemmy Button, written and illustrated by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali (Templar/Candlewick)

Fog Island, written and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer (Phaidon)

Here is a link to the official press release, which identifies the panel of judges and describes the award’s purpose: the judges select books “on the basis of artistic merit.” The implication, to me, is that this award is for the art itself and not necessarily for how the art works within the picture book. Which, I’m (finally) beginning to understand, is more the focus of the Caldecott. (Caveat caveat caveat: I’m an outsider here. All mistakes and misconstructions are my own.) Note too that there is no nationality/residency requirement for the NYT list: it has a distinctly international flavor. Kudos to the judges for that.

Nevertheless, there is some overlap with the list of books we put together to discuss this fall on Calling Caldecott. We’ve already posted on Locomotive; Robin will post on Journey tomorrow, and The Dark is coming soon to a corner of the basement near you.




Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.



  1. Martha V. Parravano Martha V. Parravano says:

    FYI Harold Underdown is hosting a lively conversation about the NYT list on facebook,, including the whole gender disparity issue (three women on the list versus eight men).

  2. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    I have spoken to friends who have juried this award and others where just the art is looked at and it’s hard for me to see how they do it. But, they do. I wonder how many books were submitted to the committee and if they have the books ahead of time. I know that some illustration awards involve the jury seeing a few pieces of art on the day of the judging only. WIth just three on the committee (which is the number on the Boston Globe/Horn Book Committee, too), it’s a much different process than having 15 folks.

    I seem to remember Roger Sutton being on this jury before and would love to see how it compares to his time on the Caldecott Committee.
    Currently, I am reading for the Outstanding International Book Committee of USBBY (books published in another country and now published in the USA) and I am thrilled to see some international books on this short list.
    Also, it’s nice to see some small publishers represented. I guess I will be buying some of these titles right away.

    But, how to evaluate the art without thinking about the story is a mystery to me. Not that I am not game to learn if the NYTimes ever rings me up as a juror!

  3. Thanks for the facebook link. I’d missed this. I haven’t seen most of these books, but will attempt to track them down.
    BTW, I’ve just spent some time with Mordicai Gerstein’s THE FIRST DRAWING. And even though he’s another man, I LOVE THIS BOOK! (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Gerstein book I don’t love, however.)

  4. Sam Bloom says:

    I feel like I’m going to open up a gigantic can of worms here, but I can’t help myself. What do you guys make of My Brother’s Book? Is it a children’s book? I’m not trying to play devil’s advocate… I’m not coming to this as a critic of the book, nor as a huge fan. Maybe this is where the fact(? Rumor?) that the jury only looks at the art and doesn’t really the consider the story helps make this more of a book for young folks. I’m usually a huge supporter of books on the higher end of the 0-14 spectrum on the Newbery side, so I don’t know why I shouldn’t be the same with picture books. Could it fall into the 0-14 age range of the Caldecott? I guess so. I just don’t know how to get my mind around this one.

    Aside from that, this is definitely a solid list. Of the Caldecott-eligible, I am most appreciative of Locomotive and Nelson Mandela – I’m in the “everything Kadir publishes should received a shiny medal of some kind” camp – and I also dig Journey and The Dark. The other picture books that I’ve seen (Fog Island and Holland) are stunning, and I LOVE the inclusion of a graphic novel. Robin, when you figure out how to get on this committee, can you put in a good word for me?

  5. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    I have taken a pinky swear with myself not to criticize any committee’s work, but I have not considered Sendak’s last book to be a children’s book. But, while I THOUGHT I read SOMETHING SOMEWHERE about how the NYTimes comes up with their list, I can find nothing online. I have a bad feeling that I am confusing all the book juries right now.

    While the Caldecott process is befuddling to a lot of people, at least I can read the criteria and figure out which books are eligible. So, in this case, I just don’t know how the list gets put together. I like a lot of the books on the list, but I have not seen many of them. Yet.

    Back to listening to Tomi Ungerer on NPR. I love him. Right now he is talking about his book about The Kama Sutra of Frogs. HAHAHAHA!

  6. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    The Horn Book reviewed MY BROTHER’S BOOK as being “of interest to adults.” (Although i do remember scolding then-editor Anita Silvey for making the same call for Sendak and Opie’s I SAW ESAU.)

  7. Oh, and I think the Sendak is an illustrated book for adults.

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