The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2014, with sample artwork from each.

Since 1952, the Book Review has convened an independent panel of judges to select picture books on the basis of artistic merit. Each year, judges choose from among thousands of picture books for what is the only annual award of its kind.

DRAW! Written and illustrated by Raúl Colón 

A wordless picture book celebrates the power of art and imagination. A little boy reads about Africa and then creates his own adventures with his pencils and paints. Wordless books require readers to slow down and read the pictures, and careful children will see beyond the main storyline by looking at the whole illustration. Why is the boy in bed and not outside? The inhaler and bottle of medicine on the side table are hints. But binoculars and an umbrella on the other side of the table tell them that he is not always bedridden. As he draws, he falls deeply into the rich world of his imaginary Africa. First he draws an elephant, and then he rides away on it. He paints zebras, has a sandwich for lunch, records a giraffe stampede and shares one of his many other sandwiches with the gorillas. After a hair-raising encounter with an aggressive rhino, the little artist shares his pencils and food with other primates, who return the favor and sketch him. Colón’s signature scratched-watercolor technique adds richness and emotion to this warm story, but it’s the framing scenes at beginning and end that really sparkle here. Simple line-and-color washes put the young man at the center of the story and help readers identify with him. Young artists, reach for your sketchbooks

1ShackJourney-pg

SHACKLETON’S JOURNEY Written and illustrated by William Grill

Shackleton’s Journey is a unique visual re-telling Ernest Shackleton’s landmark expedition crossing the Antarctic from one pole to the other. William Grill’s impeccably researched and informative illustrations celebrate the 100th anniversary since the historic exploration by Shackelton and his crew on Endurance . Children will love exploring Grill’s exploded diagrams and the fascinating details of this landmark voyage

41p1rKSyn3L

HAITI, MY COUNTRY Poems by Haitian Schoolchildren lllustrated by Roge.

For several months, Quebec illustrator Roge prepared a series of portraits of Haitian children. Students of Camp Perrin wrote that accompanying poems, which create, with flowing consistency, Haiti My Country. These teenaged poets use the Haitian landscape as their easel. The nature that envelops them is quite clearly their main subject. While misery often storms through Haiti in the form of earthquakes, cyclones, or floods, these young men and women see their surrounding nature as assurance for a joyful, confident future.

1Harlem Hellfighters4

HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS Written by J. Patrick Lewis. Illustrated by Gary Kelley

They went by many names, but the world came to know them best as the Harlem Hellfighters. Two thousand strong, these black Americans from New York picked up brass instruments—under the leadership of famed bandleader and lieutenant James Reese Europe—to take the musical sound of Harlem into the heart of war. From the creators of the 2012 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Honor Book, And the Soldiers Sang, this remarkable narrative nonfiction rendering of WWI — and American — history uses free-verse poetry and captivating art to tell century-old story of hellish combat, racist times, rare courage, and inspired music.

8-9_1

TIME FOR BED, FRED Written and illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail.

It’s time for bed. But will Fred go to bed? You bet he won’t! From hiding up trees, and splashing in muddy puddles, to hiding in the kitchen sink and disappearing behind bookshelves, Fred will do ANYTHING to avoid bedtime. He would even prefer to have a bath. But what’s this? All that running around couldn’t possibly have made Fred sleepy . . . could it? A delightful bedtime book, destined to become a classic.

14823969

HERE IS THE BABY Written by Polly Kanevsky. Illustrated by Taeeyun Yoo

Parents and their little ones will enjoy seeing themselves in the simple, straightforward observations of the routines of a baby, including Baby’s first shaky steps, Baby’s much needed nap, the comfort of Baby’s bottle, a steamy bath, and a bedtime story.

Like Mem Fox’s Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, this charming and joyful picture book by Polly Kanevsky and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo, the recipient of a previous New York Times Best Illustrated Award and an Ezra Jack Keats Award, will surely appeal to families with young children.

9780375844232_21ccd-500x447

WHERE’S MOMMY? Written by Beverly Donofrio. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock

In this companion to the acclaimed picture book Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary, Maria (Mary’s daughter) and Mouse Mouse (Mouse’s daughter) are looking for their mothers. They’re not in their bedrooms, their car and cart are still in the driveway, and they are not in the gazebo or under the mushroom! Where could they be? Well, turns out Mary and the Mouse are great friends—just like Maria and Mouse Mouse—and soon the new generation is in on the old generation’s secret, and vice versa.

Sparingly told and beautifully illustrated, this book is every bit as charming as its predecessor. Kids will pore over the minute details of a mouse’s parallel world.

9780763666330.int.1large

THE PROMISE Written by Nicola Davies. Illustrated by Laura Carlin

On a mean street in a mean city, a thief tries to snatch an old woman’s bag. But she finds she can’t have it without promising something in return – to «plant them all». When it turns out the bag is full of acorns, the young thief embarks on a journey that changes her own life and the lives of others for generations to come. Inspired by the belief that a relationship with nature is essential to every human being, and that now, more than ever, we need to renew that relationship, The Promise is the story of a magical discovery that will touch the heart and imagination of every reader, young and old. With poignant simplicity, honesty and lyricism, Nicola Davies evokes a powerful vision of a world where people and nature live in harmony. And Laura Carlin’s delicate illustrations capture a young girl’s journey from a harsh, urban reality to the beauty and vitality of a changed world.

8Babiesv1

THE BABY TREE Written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

Cleverly revealing the basics of reproduction in an age-appropriate way, award-winning Sophie Blackall has created a beautiful picture book full of playful details to amuse and engage readers.

Sooner or later, every child will ask, Where do babies come from? Answering this question has never been this easy or entertaining! Join a curious little boy who asks everyone from his babysitter to the mailman, getting all sorts of funny answers along the way, before his parents gently set him straight.

1pilotlittleprince_sis1

THE PILOT AND THE LITTLE PRINCE Written and illustrated by Peter Sis.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was born in France in 1900, when airplanes were just being invented. Antoine dreamed of flying and grew up to be a pilot—and that was when his adventures began. He found a job delivering mail by plane, which had never been done before. He and his fellow pilots traveled to faraway places and discovered new ways of getting from one place to the next. Antoine flew over mountains and deserts. He battled winds and storms. He tried to break aviation records, and sometimes he even crashed. From his plane, Antoine looked down on the earth and was inspired to write about his life and his pilot-hero friends in memoirs and in fiction. Peter Sís’s remarkable biography celebrates the author of The Little Prince, one of the most beloved books in the world.

A Frances Foster Book