Welcome to Publishers Weekly’s 10th Children’s Starred Reviews Annual! In these pages, you’ll find nearly 400 reviews of books for children and teens published in 2022 that received a star from PW, indicating that they are titles of exceptional merit. We’ve arranged these reviews into five categories— Picture Books, Early Readers & Chapter Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Comics—making it easy to find your new favorite read.
Our issue also includes interviews with some of today’s top authors and illustrators, and a list of our 50 best books of 2022. Happy reading!
About Our Cover Artist
Born in Rome, Felicita Sala grew up in Perth and studied philosophy at the University of Western Australia before moving back to her native city in 2007. There, she met several picture book artists who “introduced me to this world,” she says. “I knew I really wanted to do this.” She immersed herself in works by European illustrators, which she felt were less commercial and more eye-catching than the Australian children’s books she’d encountered.
A visit to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair around that time “solidified my desire to be an illustrator.” At first, she says, “it was daunting to see the quantity of work and talent out there. I didn’t know how to go about it. But I was determined to figure it out, and I did.”
Sala is self-taught, working by hand mainly in colored pencils and watercolor and gouache. She refers to the “childlike quality” in how she uses the materials: “There’s a lot of scribbling and layering in pencils. It brings out my inner child, working in that way. It’s also fairly flat and kind of iconographic.”
The recipient of the 2020 Premio Andersen, given each year to Italy’s best illustrator, Sala has collaborated on several picture books, including She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton (Knopf), a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2018. She’s also teamed up with authors such as Maria Gianferrari, Michael Morpurgo, and Dianne White. In a starred review, PW called Sala and White’s latest pairing, 2022’s Dark on Light, a “quiet celebration of chiaroscuro in the natural world.”
Sala is currently working on her third solo book, her first self-authored title coming directly to the U.S.: an illustrated recipe book due out from Abrams in a year or so. She’s also illustrating a book about rocks by Mary Lyn Ray, which will be published by Chronicle.
Branching out into a different medium, Sala partnered with her husband, Gianluca Maruotti, on various paper-cutout animations, including a music video. Describing the process, she says, “I illustrated all the characters and elements, and he animated them. It was fun to see the objects come alive.” It wasn’t all fun, though. “He’s a bossy kind of boss!” she says with a laugh. “He’s very precise and has extremely high standards, whereas I have a more instinctive, sketchy approach. But we made it work.”
In terms of her influences, Sala cites Roald Dahl, Astrid Lindgren (a favorite readaloud with her daughter), and Joo-Hee Yoon. She also draws inspiration from her two homes. The “claustrophobic, clustery feeling” of the buildings in Rome comes through in her Klee-like cityscapes, she says. While she’s in Australia, on the other hand, she channels the natural and open spaces and tends to daw more trees and animals. “I try to see the beauty around me.” —E.K.