Mutually Inclusive’s Top 22 Picture Books of 2022

It’s time for one of my favorite (and most difficult) posts of the year! Today, I am sharing my favorite picture books of 2022 with you all. I’ve read SO MANY books this year and I’ve loved most of them, so it’s always hard to narrow down the list. This year it took me almost two weeks to decide on the tops, so if your book is not included, please know it was probably one I anguished over removing from the three-foot-tall stack of picture books in my office. So here they are in no particular order, my top 22 picture books of 2022!

As always, these titles will have inclusive characters (think racial and cultural diversity, LGBTQ+ representation, diverse family structures, disability representation, and more), and fall into a range of genres in both fiction and nonfiction categories.

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission from purchases made, at no additional cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you.

The Hair Book by Latonya Yvette, Illustrated by Amanda Jane Jones

With bold, colorful graphics and poetic rhyme, this is a stunning tribute to every kind of hair, perfect for fans of Hair Love.

Covered hair,
Bun Hair,
Party Hair…
No matter your hair—YOU are welcome anywhere!

Author and lifestyle blogger, LaTonya Yvette makes her children’s book debut with a must-have gift purchase for any occasion alongside art from award-winning illustrator Amanda Jane Jones.

If You Were a City by Kyo Maclear, Illustrated by Sanna Francesca

A colorful celebration of cities and the people living in them.

Just like people, there are so many ways a city can be. And this lively picture book explores all of them. From quiet and dreamy to bright and buzzing, the magnificent diversity of our world is celebrated by connecting the uniqueness of its places with the people who live in them. Wild, gritty, bookish, or sheltering—if you were a city, how would YOU be?

You Are Here by Zach Manbeck

You are here, and from here there are so many places you can go. But how will you know how to get there? In this warm and wise debut, Zach Manbeck gives readers a poetic roadmap to help us find our way in the world, while also reminding us all that right now, we are here—exactly where we are meant to be.

Both sweet and uplifting, this is a perfect book for a new baby, a new graduate, or anyone who could use a reminder that “all who wander are not lost.”

The Mother of a Movement: Jeanne Manford–Ally, Activist, and Founder of PFLAG by Rob Sanders, Illustrated by Sam Kalda

The Mother of a Movement is a true story of parental support and unconditional love. 

The Mother of a Movement tells the story of Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). When her son Morty was beaten by New York City officials for handing out pro-gay leaflets, Manford wrote a powerful letter to the New York Post to complain about how Morty was treated. In the letter she came out as the mother of a gay son. The letter was published. Morty invited his mother to march with him in the June 1972 Christopher Street Parade. While marching, she had the idea to form a group to help parents and families of LGBTQ+ people. That was the beginning of PFLAG.

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy, Illustrated by Janelle Washington

A picture book biography of the mother of Emmett Till, and how she channeled grief over her son’s death into a call to action for the civil rights movement.

Mamie Till-Mobley is the mother of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy who was brutally murdered while visiting the South in 1955. His death became a rallying point for the civil rights movement, but few know that it was his mother who was the catalyst for bringing his name to the forefront of history.

In Choosing Brave, Angela Joy and Janelle Washington offer a testament to the power of love, the bond of motherhood, and one woman’s unwavering advocacy for justice. It is a poised, moving work about a woman who refocused her unimaginable grief into action for the greater good. Mamie fearlessly refused to allow America to turn away from what happened to her only child. She turned pain into change that ensured her son’s life mattered.

Love, Violet by Charlotte Sullivan Wild, Illustrated by Charlene Chua

Perfect for Valentine’s Day, Love, Violet by Charlotte Sullivan Wild and Charlene Chua is a touching picture book about friendship and the courage it takes to share your feelings.

Of all the kids in Violet’s class, only one leaves her speechless: Mira, the girl with the cheery laugh who races like the wind. If only they could adventure together! But every time Violet tries to tell Mira how she feels, Violet goes shy. As Valentine’s Day approaches, Violet is determined to tell Mira just how special she is.

Leila, the Perfect Witch by Flavia Z. Drago

Leila Wayward is a little witch who excels at everything she does. She’s the fastest flier, the most cunning conjuror, and the most superb shape-shifter. She has won trophies for potions, herbology, and alchemy—and now she dreams of winning the Magnificent Witchy Cake-off! As the youngest in a long line of masters of the Dark Arts of Patisserie, Leila wants her entry to be perfect. But even with the most bewitching of recipes, she realizes a terrible truth: she’s a disaster in the kitchen. Luckily, Leila has three magical sisters who are happy to share their culinary secrets with her. What’s more, Leila discovers that baking with them is fun! Win or lose, she has already tasted the sweetest thing of all: acceptance—with a pinch of nightshade and a bit of mandrake. Filled with expressive and fancifully offbeat illustrations, Flavia Z. Drago’s enchanting story of trying your hardest despite your imperfections is sure to delight little witches and novice bakers alike.

Be a Good Ancestor by Leona Prince and Gabrielle Prince, Illustrated by Carla Joseph

Rooted in Indigenous teachings, this stunning picture book encourages readers of all ages to consider the ways in which they live in connection to the world around them and to think deeply about their behaviors.

Addressing environmental issues, animal welfare, self-esteem and self-respect, and the importance of community, the authors deliver a poignant and universal message in an accessible way: Be a good ancestor to the world around you. Thought-provoking stanzas offer a call to action for each one of us to consider how we affect future generations. Every decision we make ripples out, and we can affect the world around us by thinking deeply about those decisions.

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Nina LaCour, Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

For one little girl, there’s no place she’d rather be than sitting between Mama and Mommy. So when Mommy goes away on a work trip, it’s tricky to find a good place at the table. As the days go by, Mama brings her to the library, they watch movies, and all of them talk on the phone, but she still misses Mommy as deep as the ocean and as high as an astronaut up in the stars. As they pass by a beautiful garden, the girl gets an idea . . . but when Mommy finally comes home, it takes a minute to shake off the empty feeling she felt all week before leaning in for a kiss. Michael L. Printz Award winner Nina LaCour thoughtfully renders a familiar, touching story of a child who misses a parent, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, whose distinctive style brings charm and playfulness to this delightful family of three.

Yes We Will: Asian Americans Who Shaped This Country by Kelly Yang, Illustrated by Nabi H. Ali, Fahmida Azim, Marcos Chin, Sally Deng, Shereya Gupta, Julia Kuo, Julie Kwon, Nhung Le, Kitkat Pecson, Dow Phumiruk, Sujean Rim, Dan Santat, Yuko Shimizu, Yuewei She, and Yao Xiao

From creating beautiful music like Yo-Yo Ma to flying to outer space like Franklin Chang-Díaz; from standing up to injustice like Fred Korematsu to becoming the first Asian American, Black and female vice president of the United States like Kamala Harris, this book illuminates the power of Asian Americans all over the country, in all sorts of fields.

Each spread is illustrated by a different renowned Asian American or Asian artist. Alongside the poetic main text, Yes We Will includes one-line biographies of the person or historical moment featured on the page, with extended biographies at the end. Readers of different ages and needs can use the book in different ways, from classroom discussions to bedtime readalouds and more.

Good Night, Little Bookstore by Amy Cherrix, Illustrated by E. B. Goodale

Part lullaby, part love song, this perfectly pitched bedtime book gives a nod to its classic predecessors as it champions the vibrant independent spirit of local bookstores.

Join the Little Bookstore’s friendly staff as they draw the curtain on another busy day of browsing and matchmaking. Choose a bedtime story, say your good nights, and pet the shop’s feline mascot on your way out. Snuggle up to a loved one for a read-aloud, then drift off to sweet dreams of adventure and enchantment to come.

Kind Like Marsha: Learning from LGBTQ+ Leaders by Sarah Prager, Illustrated by Cheryl Thuesday

For fans of Little Leaders and Pride comes a nonfiction picture book celebrating 14 incredible LGBTQ+ change makers and forward thinkers throughout history.

Kind Like Marsha celebrates 14 amazing and inspirational LGBTQ+ people throughout history. Fan favorites like Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, and Audre Lorde are joined by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Frida Kahlo, and more in this striking collection. With a focus on a positive personality attribute of each of the historical figures, readers will be encouraged to be brave like the Ugandan activist fighting for LGBTQ+ rights against all odds and to be kind like Marsha P. Johnson who took care of her trans community on the New York City streets.

Over and Under the Waves by Kate Messner, Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Explore the wonders and beauties of the ocean’s kelp forests in this latest addition to the acclaimed Over and Under series.

Award-winning duo Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal return in this latest addition to the Over
Over the waves, the sea lions bark and seagulls wheel and call. The bay is smooth and bright in the sun. But under the waves, there’s a whole hidden forest, full of whales and wolf eels, sardines and sea bass, leopard sharks and luminous jellies, as well as the waving kelp that shelters them all. Discover the magical depths of the kelp forest, and all the fascinating creatures living just a paddle’s length away—over and under the waves.

The Big Book of Pride Flags by Jessica Kingsley, Illustrated by Jem Milton

Celebrate and learn about the LGBTQIA+ community with this colourful book of Pride flags!

Featuring all the colours of the rainbow, this book teaches children about LGBTQIA+ identities through 17 different Pride flags. With fun facts, simple explanations and a short history of each flag accompanying beautiful illustrations, children will uncover the history of Pride and be introduced to different genders and sexual orientations. There’s also a blank Pride flag design at the back of the book so that children can create their very own Pride flag!

A Life of Service: The Story of Senator Tammy Duckworth by Christina Soontornvat, Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

Thai American creators portray the inspirational and barrier-breaking life of Senator Tammy Duckworth in a picture-book tribute to an extraordinary woman.

Senator Tammy Duckworth has logged a long list of “firsts” during her tenure as the first Thai American woman elected to Congress, including being the first woman with a disability to serve in the House and Senate. But while she dreamed of serving her country from a young age, Tammy’s path was not without its challenges. In this dramatic account, award-winning creators Christina Soontornvat and Dow Phumiruk chronicle Tammy’s journey. From her childhood fight to keep her family from homelessness, to her service in the US Army, to her recovery from grievous injuries sustained in the line of duty, Tammy never lost her determination to keep going against staggering odds.

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, Illustrated by Nikkolas Smith

The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renée Watson.

A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders.
But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived.

I Love You Like Yellow by Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Love comes in many forms. It can feel tart as lemonade, or sweet as sugar cookies. Slow as a lazy morning, or fast as a relay race. Love is there through it all: the large and small moments, the good times and bad. And at the end of the day, love settles us down to bed with a hug and kiss goodnight.

With charming, rhyming text from bestselling author Andrea Beaty and lush, heartwarming illustrations by bestselling illustrator Vashti Harrison, I Love You Like Yellow celebrates the unconditional love that pulses through life’s profound and everyday moments—and the people who make them so special.

Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Illustrated by Yas Imamura

Set in an incarceration camp where the United States cruelly detained Japanese Americans during WWII and based on true events, this moving love story finds hope in heartbreak.

To fall in love is already a gift. But to fall in love in a place like Minidoka, a place built to make people feel like they weren’t human—that was miraculous.

 Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s beautifully illustrated, elegant love story features a photo of the real Tama and George—the author’s grandparents—along with an afterword and other back matter for readers to learn more about a time in our history that continues to resonate.

All from a Walnut by Ammi-Joan Paquette, Illustrated by Felicita Sala

A moving, multigenerational story about love, family roots, and the cycle of life

When Emilia finds a walnut one morning, Grandpa tells her the story behind it: of his journey across the ocean to a new home, with only one small bag and a nut in his pocket.

Step by step, Grandpa teaches Emilia how to cultivate her own seed. But as her little nut grows, Grandpa begins to slow down—until one sad day, Emilia has to say goodbye. Emilia’s sapling looks as droopy as she feels . . . but she knows just what to do.

Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Illustrated by Loveis Wise

Celebrate the life-changing power of art in this inspiring and stunningly illustrated picture book biography of American artist Alma Thomas.

Meet an incredible woman who broke down barriers throughout her whole life and is now known as one of the most preeminent painters of the 20th century. Told from the point of view of young Alma Thomas, readers can follow along as she grows into her discovery of the life-changing power of art.

Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers by Uma Mishra-Newbery and Lina Al-Hathloul, Illustrated by Rebecca Green

Loujain watches her beloved baba attach his feather wings and fly each morning, but her own dreams of flying face a big obstacle: only boys, not girls, are allowed to fly in her country. Yet despite the taunts of her classmates, she is determined to do it—especially because Loujain loves colors, and only by flying can she see the color-filled field of sunflowers her baba has told her about. Eventually, he agrees to teach her, and Loujain’s impossible dream becomes reality—and soon other girls dare to learn to fly.

Based on the experiences of co-author Lina AlHathloul’s sister, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Loujain AlHathloul, who led the successful campaign to lift Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving, this moving and gorgeously illustrated story reminds us to strive for the changes we want to see—and to never take for granted women’s and girls’ freedoms.

I’ll Go and Come Back by Rajani LaRocca, Illustrated by Sara Palacios

A tender, beautifully illustrated story about a girl in America and her grandmother in India, whose love stretches between languages and cultures—and across the world.

When Jyoti visits her grandmother halfway around the world, she is overwhelmed by the differences between India and home. At first she feels lonely and out of place, but soon, despite a language barrier, she and Sita Pati are able to understand each other. They form a bond—looking at books together, making designs with colored sand, shopping at the market, playing games, eating chapatis, and sipping warm milk with saffron to bring sweet dreams. When it’s time to part, Jyoti doesn’t want to leave, but then she remembers that in Tamil, people don’t say goodbye, they say “I’ll go and come back.” Sure enough, the two reunite the next summer when Pati visits Jyoti in America, and it’s Jyoti’s turn to make her grandmother feel welcome. Can they create some special memories that will last until the next time they see each other?

Despite its many challenges, 2022 was a great year for Mutually Inclusive and myself. I want to thank every single one of you; from readers and educators to publishers and my fellow reviewers and authors for making this year so amazing. This continues to be my favorite corner of the internet and it wouldn’t be the same without you all.

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