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New York Times Best Illustrated list announced

Here it is!

Usually this list matches up pretty well with our Calling Caldecott list with one or two big surprises. This year I am finding more surprises than matches. But you can be sure we will be locating the books that weren’t so much on our radar and will weigh in as we get our hands on them.

This list always seems to be a bit idiosyncratic. The team of three judges is comprised of one critic and two illustrators. This year they were Jennifer Brown (Bank Street College, Shelf Awareness), Brian Floca, and Jerry Pinkney. When Roger was on this committee, he said that rather than discussing the books together, each member added their favorites to the list, pretty much split evenly. I don’t know if this is how it always works, but the result is always an interesting list.  [See Roger’s comment below: in fact they DID discuss titles together, but just from the lists that each judge sent to the NYT editor. So it was pretty much the same as other award committees. I guess what makes the NYT list so different from others must be that two judges are artists.]

Please let us know in the comments which of these you love (or don’t) and why. Now I have to go look for some books…

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. Looks like maybe 6 out of 10 of these are also Caldecott-eligible, though I could be way off. More may be U.S. citizens than I think.

    Love the international flavor here. And I’m particularly happy about a few of these, including Harlem Hellfighters and Haiti, My Country. Both poetry collections, too.

  2. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Lolly, that must have been dream-Roger talking, as it never worked that way when I was a judge. Each time, we told the editor in advance what books we knew we wanted to discuss, so she could make sure to have them on hand for the judges’ meeting. But we would together look at those and dozens of others before making a joint decision about our top ten.

  3. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    Oops, I guess I got it pretty much all wrong then. I’ll edit the post accordingly.

  4. Martha V. Parravano Martha V. Parravano says:

    What the NYT List always does for me is point up the difference between it and the Caldecott. Because even though the Caldecott Award is for the illustrations and goes to the illustrator, it is still an award For the Whole Book. For the book as picture book. Clearly, the NYT is for the art only — art that could just as well hang on a gallery wall, for instance. So I am never surprised that the NYT List and Caldecott populations are so different. And I never really kick myself as a HB editor for not reviewing the books on the NYT List that don’t work that well as complete picture books. I’m happy to have such a list! I just don’t feel that as a reviewer or picture book evaluator I necessarily use the same criteria.

    Dream-Roger, please correct me if my assumptions about NYT List criteria are wrong.

  5. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    The times I did it, there were always one artist and two others, generally a critic and a librarian. There was always debate about the pictures-as-art and the book-as-a-whole. Sometimes one won, sometimes the other. Of the three judges, the artist had generally not seen many of the books before the discussion, so his or her evaluations tended to rely more on the quality of the art rather than the book as a picture- or illustrated book.

    I haven’t even heard of many of the choices–did we reject them for review or did we not receive them?

  6. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    I looked them all up in our database and there’s only one that we seem never to have received. There’s also one we received recently that has been assigned to a reviewer. The other 8 were reviewed, most in the Guide and a few in the Magazine.

  7. Martha V. Parravano Martha V. Parravano says:

    I count six we’ve reviewed so far in The Horn Book Magazine: DRAW!; THE BABY TREE; THE PILOT AND THE LITTLE PRINCE; WHERE’S MOMMY?; THE PROMISE; and HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS. We reviewed one in the Guide, and two were not listed in our database.

  8. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    Oh goodness. It looks as if I am eating my words right and left today. Boy, do I feel full (of it).

    I really did look all of these up yesterday but my notes are sitting in front of my work computer while I am logging in from home today. If I could just crane my neck and see around the monitor to what is on my desk…

    I do know that one book on the list has been assigned to ERG, so there might even end up being 6 reviewed in the Magazine when we’re done. So that’s kind of interesting given the very different way we look at the these books.

    Meanwhile, I just got an interesting email from Brian Floca about all this and I’m hoping he’ll make it public.

  9. Martha V. Parravano Martha V. Parravano says:

    I hope Brian Floca does share his thoughts with us! I’d really like to be enlightened as to the inner workings of the NYT Best Illustrated process. Every time I make any comment at all about the List, I know I’m making tons of assumptions — and we all know what happens when we assume things….

  10. What Martha said. I’ve never juried for the NYTimes award, but it does seem to celebrate illustration. I can’t say for sure, since I’ve never done it, but the book of poetry from the children of Haiti, for example, is definitely an illustrated book. The Society of Illustrators and the Bologna Ragazzi Awards, for which I have juried, are this way. You are looking at illustration, not the text — and certainly not how art and text play together to tell a story. (In Bologna, I certainly could *not* look at text, given there were books all over the place in many languages I couldn’t read — same for my fellow jury member.)

    The thing that is great about this is that there’s a little something for everyone. I don’t mean to be all hey-look-at-what-I-wrote, but I pondered this when I got back from jurying in Bologna two years ago: I love that there’s something for everyone, AND that experience in Italy (+ SOI) made me appreciate the Caldecott even more than I already did — in that the Caldecott really IS looking at how art and text play together, and those committee members also get a year to look at everything. (SOI was one day, and Bologna was two days.) It also seems Caldecott members get to see EVERYthing, whereas for both SOI and Bologna, it was whatever publishers submitted.

    So, again, I’ve never juried for the NYTimes, but all of this is to say: It’s lovely, oh-so lovely, that the Caldecott looks at the picture book (I should choose the alternate spelling of “picturebook” here for this very reason) as the art form it is — that is, stories that seamlessly merge both text and art.

  11. And when I say “illustrated book” in reference to the Haiti book, I mean poems + one illustration on each page — meaning, it’s definitely not art and text playing off of each other.

  12. Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes made a very interesting chart showing the overlap between the NYT Best Illustrated and the Caldecott.

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