Welcome to Publishers Weekly’s 11th Children’s Starred Reviews Annual! In these pages, you’ll find nearly 400 reviews of books for children and teens published in 2023 that received a star from PW, indicating that they are titles of exceptional merit. We’ve arranged these reviews into four categories—Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Comics—making it easy for you 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 2023.
About Our Cover Artist
Across all of her work as a children’s book creator, Vashti Harrison says she always wants to approach each one differently. “I feel like I’m really trying to lean into the world of that book to make it feel unique,” she explains.
This year, Harrison released two projects: Hair Love ABCs, written by Matthew A. Cherry, a spin-off of his 2019 picture book Hair Love, and Big, a solo endeavor that was named a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Big was “always a very personal story,” she says, “coming from a very personal place.” Though the protagonist isn’t Harrison herself, they both share complex feelings around body perceptions, stemming from Harrison’s childhood. “It was cathartic, making something internal external,” she adds.
Ahead of the approaching National Book Awards ceremony, Harrison says she “feels like I’ve already won,” noting that the moment proves what an “amazing time it is to be working in this field where so much diversity in the workplace is getting celebrated.” In its starred review, PW described Big as offering “the self-affirming beliefs that kids are kids in any body, and that it’s okay to take up space.”
A two-time recipient of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Children, Harrison has established herself both as a distinguished solo creator and collaborator. Her several series for young readers include Little Leaders, Little Dreamers, and Little Legends, and she’s partnered on picture books with Andrea Beaty, Lupita Nyong’o, and Kabir and Surishtha Sehgal.
Describing herself as a multimedia artist and holding an MFA in film and video from CalArts, Harrison says her approach is shaped by her understanding of different artistic media and ability to utilize those perspectives in her work. “I’ve always felt grateful for my background in experimental film, because it really pushed me to consider the form and the function of film as a medium for communicating ideas,” she adds. “I think it’s more interesting to use a picture book, and the frame, and the trim size, to help push the narrative.”
Looking toward the future, the multimedia artist hopes to expand into new artistic territory. “The next project may not be a book. It could be a film. It could be a toy. It could be arts and crafts,” Harrison says. “I really love pushing myself to try to learn new tools and techniques to tell stories.” —I.J.