I love beautifully illustrated children’s books. I’m often retreating into their pages for moments of peace, thinking who I’d recommend them for, and making lists of my favourites.
Throughout the year so far, I’ve been keeping track of the best children’s books of 2023, including the most beautiful picture books for young readers and memorable stories for older readers.
This post is a collection of my favourites – as you browse the books, I hope it’ll provide some welcome bookish inspiration for the young readers in your life, or offer ideas for book gifts for children in 2023.
Read on for the most beautifully illustrated picture books and other best children’s books of 2023 that young readers (and grown readers) will love. Happy reading!
The most beautiful new children’s books of 2023
The Eyes and the Impossible by Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris
Who will love reading The Eyes & the Impossible? Readers aged 8-12 (or grade 3-7) who love picture books about nature, animals, and unexpected heroes.
You might have heard of Dave Eggers’ award-winning novel, The Every. But did you know he also writes excellent children’s books? The Eyes and the Impossible is a real delight, accompanied by stunning illustrations from Shawn Harris (known for the beloved picture book Her Right Foot).
This wonderful book is the story of Johannes, a free dog who lives in an urban park by the sea. His job is to be the Eyes of the park – to see everything and report back to the park’s elders, three ancient bison.
But as more humans, including Trouble Travelers, arrive in the park, Johannes’s view of the world changes. This beautiful new picture book about friendship, liberation, and running really fast will make readers of all ages see the world in a new way.
Noticing by Kobi Yamada and Elise Hurst
Who will love reading Noticing? Readers aged 4-8 (or grade 1-2) who love heartwarming stories about noticing the little things, the grand big things, the imaginary, and sometimes, hidden things.
While researching the best books for fans of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse, I came across this beautiful new children’s book that combines gentle words from bestselling author Kobi Yamada and wonderful illustrations by Elise Hurst.
Told through the tale of a young girl and an accomplished painter as they learn to observe the beauty and magic in each day, Noticing is a much-needed call to slow down, breathe deeply, and open our hearts and imaginations.
Giant Island by Jane Yolen and Doug Keith
Who will love reading Giant Island? Readers aged 5-7 who adore spellbinding stories of adventure.
In this captivating picture book from 2022, bestselling children’s storyteller Jane Yolen (Owl Moon) and illustrator Doug Keith (What If?) combine their unique talents to create a truly special children’s book.
Under the watchful eye of Grandpa, two children and a dog explore the coves and caves of a tiny island which, they’re delighted to find, is so much more than it seems.
Evoking age-old magic and paying tribute to wonder, curiosity, and friendship, this unique book invites young and grown readers to discover the secrets and adventures of Giant Island themselves.
The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination by Brad Montague and Kristi Montague
Who will love reading The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination? Readers aged 6+ who love imaginative books that kindle their creativity, ideas, and courage.
One of the best new children’s books for 2023, Brad Montague has created a top-secret, behind-the-scenes peek at the official agency that keeps the world’s creativity flowing with The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination.
However, when the Cave of Untold Stories overflows and threatens to topple the whole bureau, it turns out too many people have been holding in their big ideas.
Now, it’s up to special figment agent Sparky to recruit more agents to share their dreams, songs, and stories with the world. This new children’s book is a delight for creative minds of all ages.
Welcome to the World by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury
Who will love reading Welcome to the World? Readers aged 4-8 (and younger listeners) will enjoy this wholesome celebration of welcoming a baby to the world. It’s also one of the best book gifts for baby showers and new parents.
From renowned children’s book creators Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo) and Helen Oxenbury (We’re Going on a Bear Hunt), this heartwarming picture book is a tender celebration of a baby’s first experiences.
With lyrical rhyming and beautiful illustrations, it’s also a delightful gift for new and expectant parents to enjoy themselves and look forward to sharing with their new family member.
Leila and the Blue Fox by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Tom de Freston
Who will love reading Leila and the Blue Fox? Readers aged 9+ will love this stunning story of an Arctic fox’s journey by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (The Mercies) with glacial blue-toned illustrations by Tom de Freston.
Look at that cover! Based on the true story of an Arctic fox who walked 2,000 miles from Norway to Canada in seventy-six days, this compelling, emotional, and beautifully illustrated story is one of the best book gifts for children in 2023.
The Lost Whale by Hannah Gold and Levi Pinfold
Who will love reading The Lost Whale? Readers aged 8-12 (or grades 3-7) will fall in love with this awe-inspiring story about adventure, recovery, and love from Hannah Gold, the celebrated author of The Last Bear.
After being sent to California to live with a grandmother he barely knows, Rio feels completely alone. But when he meets a girl called Marina on the beach, he finds friendship and a new understanding of the majestic creatures that migrate nearby which his mother loved: grey whales.
As Rio grows to love the whales, he wonders: if he can find a way to connect his mother with these gentle giants, perhaps she will get better and join him in California.
What follows is an honest view of the struggles of grey whales from climate change, pollution, and over-fishing, but also a fierce celebration of friendship and hope.
Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall
Who will love reading Farmhouse? Readers aged 3+ (and many adults) will love this wholesome picture book with cottagecore vibes to imagine a simpler, slower way of living in the countryside.
“Over a hill, at the end of a road, by a glittering stream that twists and turns stands a farmhouse…”
This stunning picture book from 2022 is one of the most beautiful children’s book gifts to treasure by Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall.
Readers young and grown can step inside the dollhouse-like interior of Farmhouse and savour the joyful daily life of the family that lives there, rendered in impeccable, cozy detail in this beautifully illustrated children’s book.
Paper Boat, Paper Bird by David Almond and Kirsti Beautyman
Who will love reading Paper Boat, Paper Bird? Readers aged 9-11 will race through the pages of this story about the magic in the everyday.
One of the best new children’s books of 2022 from renowned author David Almond (Skellig, My Name is Mina), Paper Boat, Paper Bird is an entrancing piece of imagination, adventure, and magical realism.
As Mina journeys to Kyoto, Japan, she discovers another reality that is visible to all of us, if you just look closely enough. Immersed in an entirely new and different cultural landscape, a woman on the bus gives her an origami paper boat and tells her to “Take it” and then, “Float it.”
Accompanied by stunning illustrations from Kirsti Beautyman, this new children’s book is a celebration of the creativity innate in all of us.
Remember by Joy Harjo and Michaela Goade
Who will love reading Remember? Readers aged 4-8 (or preschool to grade 3) will fall under the spell of this vividly illustrated book full of inspiring, engaging, and emboldening words by Joy Harjo.
“Remember the sky you were born under,/Know each of the star’s stories...” As one of the most beautiful children’s books to give as gifts in 2023, Remember is a book to treasure for readers of any age.
This special book is the gorgeous merging of U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s iconic poem “Remember” with illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Michaela Goade, inviting young and grown readers to pause and reflect on the wonder of the world.
Ning and the Night Spirits by Adriena Fong
Who will love reading Ning and the Night Spirits? Readers aged 3-7 (or preschool to grade 2) who love magical stories about confronting fears and finding your voice.
In this spellbinding bedtime adventure, Ning helps his parents to light bright orange lanterns each evening to keep away the night spirits that used to haunt their village.
Although he’s too shy to ask anyone, Ning secretly wonders if they’re really as bad as everyone says. However, when Ning finds himself in the forest after nightfall, he meets a creature who introduces him to the spirits’ secret world and what really lurks in the dark.
This is a wonderfully open-hearted and spellbinding story about confronting your fears and finding your courage.
Slow Down and Be Here Now by Laura Brand and Freya Hartas
Who will love reading Slow Down and Be Here Now? Readers aged 8-12 (or grades 3-7) can savour this beautiful invitation to enjoy the present moment through the miracles of nature.
The illustrated Slow Down books offer such gentle, calming encouragement for readers of all ages to take a breath and experience mindful moments in nature. This latest addition for young readers absolutely delivers, too.
Through twenty grounding stories of moments to treasure in nature – each one complete with gorgeous full-color illustrations – young readers and their grown-ups can enjoy a slower way of being as they notice the marvels of the world around them.
From the delight of a pea shoot appearing to a hummingbird drinking nectar, this is a perfect book for young nature lovers to retreat into in 2023.
Hot Dog by Doug Salati
Who will love reading Hot Dog? Readers aged 0-6 will adore this playful story of a pup in summer that recently won the 2023 Caldecott Medal.
In this new picture book for 2023 that’s destined to become a children’s classic, award-winning author Doug Salati has blended glowing art with lyrical text for a sun-kissed, joy-filled treasure of a book.
Featuring an overheated pup who finds his calm with some sea, sand, and fresh air, the book also shows us how to find calm and carry it with us day-to-day.
Yellowstone by Catherine Ard and Bianca Austria
Who will love reading Yellowstone? Readers aged 7-11 (or grades 2-6) will love this captivating introduction to Yellowstone National Park, the world’s oldest national park and one of the most intact ecosystems on our planet.
For beautiful picture books that celebrate the natural world, you can’t go wrong with the Earth’s Incredible Places collection by Flying Eye Books.
With an accessible fact-filled narrative by Cath Ard and wonderfully vibrant illustrations by Bianca Austria, Yellowstone is one of the best children’s books about nature for 2023 to inspire wonder and appreciation.
The Fairy Atlas: Fairy Folk of the World by Anna Claybourne and Miren Asiain Lora
Who will love reading The Fairy Atlas? Readers aged 6-10 (or grade 1-5) will be entranced by this celebration of fairies, from Cornish pixies and Spanish goblins to the forest gnomes of the Congo.
In this bewitching compendium of the secrets of fairy folk, author Anna Claybourne and illustrator Miren Asiain Lora have created a delightful mix of fairy facts, short retellings of some of the most magical fairy tales, and captivating illustrations.
Looking for more of the best children’s books to give as gifts in 2023? Complement these recommendations with my other favourite collections of beautiful children’s books:
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