Selecting just 50 titles from the thousands of books published for children and teens in a given year is always a painful undertaking, and this year was no different. With that said, it’s also one of our favorite end-of-year challenges as we try to determine which stories rose to the top of a field crowded with singular ideas, hilarious writing, and unforgettable characters.

We think our 2013 selections reflect both the variety of writers and artists creating books for young readers—from beloved creators like Jerry Pinkney, Susan Cooper, and Maurice Sendak to debut talents like Carrie Mesrobian, Tim Federle, and Tony Cliff—and the diversity of the stories themselves. From painful accounts of war and assassination to the “reality” of reality TV, from historical fiction to innovative visions of the future, it goes without saying that readers of all ages were treated to some outstanding books this year—but we’ll go ahead and say so anyway. Read on for our picks of the year’s best picture books, middle-grade and YA fiction, and nonfiction.

Best Picture Books Best Fiction Best Nonfiction

Picture Books