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A List of Lists! 52 Best Children’s Book Lists for 2021

It’s that time of year again on The Classroom Bookshelf: time for the list of the Best Children’s Books Lists of 2021! For school librarians and teachers building their collections, for families looking for just the right book for a special child – these lists are for you. 

Whether you’re at the library or the bookstore, or shopping online from the comfort of your own home, pull up The Classroom Bookshelf to peruse these lists, or our entries from throughout the year, to find some of the best children’s books of 2021.

We’ve tried to categorize these lists in ways that may be most helpful to you. The first set are lists that include all genres and age levels. From there we curate by format and age range (picture books, beginner reader, transitional reader, graphic books, middle grade) and a few by genre (poetry, nonfiction & biography).

We know that educators everywhere are weary from all that you have been carrying. Thank you for all that you do all year long for young people. Rest up this holiday season. We’ll be back in January to share the titles that seem ripe for classroom explorations in 2022. 

Best of 2021

Please click on each title for a link to the full list.

General Best Children’s Book Lists of 2021

A Fuse #8 31 Days of 31 Lists  

100 Scope Notes – Best 20 Books of 2021 

NCTE’s Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children 2022

The Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Books 2021

American Indians in Children’s Literature Best Books 2021

The Horn Book Fanfare 2021

School Library Journal Top Ten Audio Books 2021

NPR Best Kids’ Books of 2021

Goodreads Choice Awards: Best Middle Grade and Children’s Books 2021

The Washington Post Best Children’s Books of 2021

The New York Times 25 Best Children’s Books of 2021

New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2021

The Boston Globe Best Books for Children 2021

Picture Books for Babies and Toddlers

Kirkus Reviews: Best Bedtime Books of 2021

Kirkus Reviews: Best Board Books of 2021

Chicago Public Library Best Board Books 2021

Picture Books

Kirkus Reviews: Funniest Picture Books of 2021 

Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Books of 2021 that Celebrate Family

Kirkus Reviews: Best Picture Books of 2021 Celebrating Community 

Kirkus Reviews: Most Joyous Picture Books of 2021 

Kirkus Reviews: Best Picture Books of 2021 About Crossing Borders

Kirkus Reviews: Best Picture Books of 2021 for Starting Conversations

Kirkus Reviews: Most Affirming Picture Books of 2021 

Kirkus Reviews: Best Wordless Picture Books of 2021

School Library Journal: Best Picture Books of 2021 (requires login)

Publisher’s Weekly: Best Picture Books of 2021

Chicago Public Library Best Picture Books 2021

Beginner Readers

Kirkus Reviews: Best Books for Beginning Readers 2021

Transitional Readers

School Library Journal: Best Chapter Books of 2021 (requires login)

Chicago Public Library Best Fiction for Younger Readers 2021 

Graphic Books 

Kirkus Reviews: Best Middle Grade Graphic Fiction 2021

School Library Journal: Best Graphic Books of 2021 (requires login)

Nonfiction & Biography

NCTE’s Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, 2022

School Library Journal: Best Nonfiction of 2021 (requires login)

Kirkus Reviews: Best Informational Picture Books of 2021 

Kirkus Reviews: Best Picture Book Biographies of 2021

Kirkus Reviews: Best Middle Grade Nonfiction 2021 

Kirkus Reviews: Best Middle Grade History 2021 

Chicago Public Library: Best Informational Books for Younger Children 2021

Chicago Public Library: Best Informational Books for Older Children 2021

Poetry

NCTE’s Notable Poetry Books and Verse Novels, 2022 

School Library Journal: Best Poetry Books 2021

Kirkus Reviews: Best Middle Grade Poetry 2021 

Middle Grade Books  

Kirkus Reviews: Best Middle Grade Fiction 2021

Kirkus Reviews: Best Middle Grade SF and Fantasy 2021 

Kirkus Reviews: Best Middle Grade Novels About Growing Up 2021

Kirkus Reviews: Best Middle Grade Historical Fiction 2021 

Kirkus Reviews: Best Middle Grade Anthologies 2021

Kirkus Reviews: Best Middle Grade Nature Books 2021 

School Library Journal: Best Middle Grade Books of 2021 (requires login)

Publisher’s Weekly: Best Middle Grade Books of 2021

Chicago Public Library Fiction for Older Readers 2021

Mary Ann Cappiello About Mary Ann Cappiello

Mary Ann is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former public school language arts and humanities teacher, she is a passionate advocate for and commentator on children’s books. Mary Ann is the co-author of Teaching with Text Sets (2013) and Teaching to Complexity (2015) and Text Sets in Action: Pathways Through Content Area Literacy (Stenhouse, 2021). She has been a guest on public radio and a consultant to public television. From 2015-2018, Mary Ann was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English's Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction (K-8) Committee, serving two years as chair.