10 of the Best Picture Books of 2021 So Far

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Summer Loomis


Summer Loomis has been writing for Book Riot since 2019. She obsessively curates her library holds and somehow still manages to borrow too many books at once. She appreciates a good deadline and likes knowing if 164 other people are waiting for the same title. It's good peer pressure! She doesn't have a podcast but if she did, she hopes it would sound like Buddhability. The world could always use more people creating value with their lives everyday.

There are a lot of reasons to look for some of the best children’s picture books from 2021 so far. Even if you don’t have a huge budget, it’s nice to look over some options for adding to your collection. Here are some of the best picture books for anyone looking to read to or with some kiddos in 2021 and beyond.

My Monster and Me cover

My Monster and Me by Nadiya Hussain and Ella Bailey

This is a great book for introducing kids to anxiety and worry, and how to understand them before you can really name them. Hussain is one of the winners of The Great British Baking Show and went on to become her own food show star writing Time to Eat: Delicious Meals for Busy lives and Nadiya’s Kitchen among other cookbooks. She has also written a young adult novel called The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters (book 1 of a series). As for My Monster and Me, I hope this won’t be her last children’s title. If you like this, you might want to check out her memoir Finding My Voice, which is also being published in 2021.

Can Bears Ski? cover

Can Bears Ski? by Raymond Antrobus and Polly Dunbar

One of the best children’s picture books of 2021, this is an #OwnVoices title that you should check out. It recently became an Honoree Ezra Jack Keats Award winner. In it, Antrobus and Dunbar introduce children to a bear who has limited hearing. Throughout his day which includes a visit to an audiologist, little readers will see how this bear experiences life. Hopefully this will start and add to conversations about what it is like in what Antrobus has called a very “hearing-centric world.”

Tomatoes for Neela cover

Tomatoes for Neela by Padma Lakshmi and Juana Martinez-Neal

This is by Padma Lakshmi of Top Chef and Taste the Nation fame, and Juana Martinez-Neal, who is an award winning Peruvian American illustrator. If you like this, you may want to check out Martinez-Neal’s other work like Alma and How She Got Her Name, Zonia’s Rainforest (both also available in Spanish) or Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story. Fry Bread is also #OwnVoices and written by Kevin Noble Maillard.

Watch me cover

Watch Me: A Story of Immigration and Inspiration by Doyin Richards and Joe Cepeda

This book is based on the author’s father, Joe, and his immigration from Sierra Leone where he grew up to the United States. Despite his family and friends’ worries, Joe decided to study there and overcame obstacles to make his dream a reality. The story is also beautifully illustrated by Joe Cepeda.

Fatima's great outdoors cover

Fatima’s Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq and Stevie Lewis

This is by Ambreen Tariq, founder of Brown People Camping and an activist for the outdoors, and illustrated by Stevie Lewis. The story opens at school with Fatima and her older sister waiting for their parents to pick them up and take them on a camping trip. Her family has moved from India to the U.S. and this is their first trip together to the great outdoors. If you like the art in this one, you may want to check out Prince & Knight: Tale of the Shadow King, which is also a new 2021 publication.

Big Feelings cover

Big Feelings by Alexander Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

This is a book focused on expressing different feelings, whether positive or negative. This one rhymes and has an inclusive cast of diverse kids in the illustrations. If you like this title, you can also try Penfold and Kaufman’s previous book All Are Welcome.

Amira's Picture Day cover

Amira’s Picture Day by Reem Faruqi and Fahmida Azim

This is an endearing book about Amira and her family’s Eid celebration. It just so happens that this year’s holiday coincides with school picture day and Amira is torn. She loves celebrating with her family at the mosque, but she was also really looking forward to being part of her class picture. To find out what happens to Amira, you have to read this book!

How to Wear a Sari cover

How to Wear a Sari by Darshana Khiani and Joanna Lew-Vriethoff

This is a lovely picture book about a kid who wants to prove she’s big enough to do a lot of things by herself — including wearing a sari. Hopefully this debut will be one of many books for Darshana Khiana.

Little People Big Dreams Prince cover

Little People, Big Dreams: Prince by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and CacheteJack

If you have somehow missed it, this is part of a series called Little People, BIG DREAMS, which teaches young readers about famous figures like Prince. If you like this one, you can get other titles like David Bowie, Malala Yousafzai, and Stevie Wonder to name a few examples.

Birds of a Feather cover

Birds of a Feather by Sita Singh and Stephanie Fizer Coleman

This book follows a peacock, Mo, who finds he doesn’t look like all his other fine feathered friends. No matter how his friends try to encourage him, Mo feels and sees himself as different from those around him and not in a good way. The night of the annual dance in the rain, Mo finally realizes that his difference is an asset.

That’s it for my list of awesome children’s picture books coming out in 2021. If you’re still looking for more, try this list of 25 must-read picture books also out in 2021.