My Favourite Books of 2022
Inspired by all the yearly round-ups, I decided to make a list of my own personal favourites from 2022.
The Boy with Flowers in His Hair by Jarvis
To be honest, the title alone would probably have earned this a place on my list. The cover + title certainly would have. But even better, there is a beautiful story inside. A quirky, magical premise leads to a simple but powerful tale with a poignant and down-to-earth message about kindness, friendship and inclusion. Deftly written with gorgeous illustrations. Perfection!
Out of a Jar by Deborah Marcero
In a Jar has been one of my go-to mentor texts for a while, and this follow-up is every bit as good. Stunning illustrations, an adorable main character (Llewellyn the rabbit), and subtle, delicate social-emotional learning.
Love, love, love!
A Costume for Charly by C.K. Malone, illustrated by Alejandra Barajas
This is a simple but very powerful story with a big message. Charly must overcome pressure to conform but needs to find a Halloween costume that expresses all the parts of their identity - masculine and feminine. And when they do, the result is pure joy. What an affirmation, and what an important book for people of all ages who might see their own struggles reflected here. Plus, of course, essential reading for everyone else who needs to learn about those struggles.
Beatrice Likes the Dark
by April Genevieve Tucholke, illustrated by Khoa Le
I only discovered this gem earlier this week thanks to this Kidlit Creators 2022 Picture Book Picks post by Anitra Rowe Schulte, but I had to add it to my list because it's simply stunning. The lyrical language is like nothing else I've read before, and the story is a beautiful coming together of two polar opposite sisters. The juxtaposition of spooky, quiet, dark-loving Beatrice and her bright, loud, daylight-loving sister Roo is so skillfully rendered, it will only fail to pull at your heartstrings if you have no heart. The illustrations are glorious, fascinating and magical - beautifully elevating an already wonderful tale into something truly special.
Eyes That Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dong Ho
Just like Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, this companion title contains some of the most gorgeous lyrical prose you are ever likely to find in a picture book. A heartwarming story of an Asian boy, conscious of his 'different' eyes, learning with the help of his father how special his eyes are - how they rise to the skies and speak to the stars, shine like sunlit rays, and glimpse trails of light from those who came before. Simply stunning.
The Creature of Habit by Jennifer E. Smith, illustrated by Leo Espinosa
I'm cheating a little with this one as it was published in 2021, but towards the tail end and I didn't read it till this year (so it still counts?). This is one of my all-time favourite picture books. Beautiful, bold, bright illustrations and a story that's at once funny, heartwarming and so relatable - about getting stuck in a rut and the wonder that awaits those brave enough to climb out. An absolute corker!
The Mapmakers by Tamzin Merchant
I loved The Hatmakers, but this second-in-series is even better! Beautifully written, the author has created an incredible world of magic and a loveable cast of characters wrapped up in the best kind of exciting adventure. Everything a middle grade book should be!
Witchlings by Claribel Ortega
This is absolutley adorable - so full of heart. Fast paced and super-inclusive with impeccable world-building and magic system. Themes of friendship and belonging are threaded seamlessly with heavier messages about prejudice and oppression, which add to the richness but take nothing away from the pure joy.
The Depths by Nicole Lesperance
This book has so many things I love: a mysterious island, diving, water that bewitches and heals, colour-changing flowers and, of course, ghosts. A haunting, gripping and tightly paced story with fully realized and relatable characters. The island setting is beautifully imagined and described.
Unique and spellbinding.
(And that cover...!)
Confession: I'm behind on my YA reading! There are just so many great books I can't keep up, and most of the ones I've read this year were published in 2021. So here's some special mentions for my favourites among those:
The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He
Her Majesty's Secret Coven
by Juno Dawson
I thoroughly enjoyed this witchy delight, which managed to be light and serious, dark and funny all at once. It tackles some very big issues but without being preachy. The stakes were world-endingly huge but there were also plenty of intimate family life scenes and interactions. Wonderful, diverse characters and a truly unique vision of the world. Looking forward to the sequel, The Shadow Cabinet, out next year.
Sea of Tranquility
by Emily St John Mandel
A masterpiece of a book, beautifully written, cleverly intertwining the fabrics of lives past, present and future. Impossible to encapsulate the wistful, romantic and slightly sad atmosphere of the story in a few lines, but in my opinion an insightful exploration of the human condition, incorporating time travel, pandemic survival, art, love, mortality and hope.