2023 Starred Reviews Round-Up

Does your collection include this year’s critically acclaimed books? See what Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus, Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, and more, say about the top reviewed books of 2023 for kids and teens!

Click the tabs below to view more books in each age category.

Picture BooksMiddle Grade BooksYoung Adult BooksAdult Books Crossover

Evergreen by Matthew Cordell
On Sale February 7th, 2023

★FOUR STARRED REVIEWS!★

A picture book by Caldecott medal winner Matt Cordell about a timid squirrel who makes a brave journey to help a relative who is ill.

“The interior pages start out looking like a chapter book, but the text is broken with exciting spreads, graphic novel–style ­layouts, and playfully illustrated text. These design decisions make this book feel new and familiar—a classic readers will be ­talking about in the future.” School Library Journal, starred review

“The contrast between Evergreen’s own self-doubt and the way she shines under pressure is conveyed with humor and skill in this adventuresome allegory about confronting the world outside as well as one’s own very real fears.” Publishers Weeklystarred review

A spellbinding tale that will never brown or fade with time.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Drawn, shaded, and occasionally crosshatched with black Micron pen and tinted with watercolors in yellow, tan, brown, rose, and pale blue hues, the beautifully composed illustrations give this picture book a handcrafted look that suits the timeless story. —Booklist, starred review


We Go Way Back: A Book About Life on Earth and How it All Began by Idan Ben-Barak; illustrated by Philip Bunting
On Sale February 14th, 2023

From the author of kid-favorite Do Not Lick This Book comes an innovative, hilarious, and expansive picture book about the biggest question of all: What is life?

★TWO STARRED REVIEWS!★

“Punchy, sign-like images take on visual complexity as the story rolls forward. An engaging, lucidly written volume.”  —Publishers Weeklystarred review

“In a concise yet pithy, playful, and deeply insightful storyline, Ben-Barak and Bunting begin by pointing out that despite diverse looks and likes, we all have one thing in common: life. And what is that? Sneakily cerebral for all its apparent simplicity.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review


Quiet Time with My Seeya by Dinalie Dabarera
On Sale March 7th, 2023

A lush and endearing picture book about the special days a child spends with her Sinhalese grandfather, her Seeya, despite their language barrier..

A visually and textually gorgeous story about love in a multilingual family.” —Kirkus Reviewsstarred review


Dream Big, Laugh Often: And More Great Advice from the Bible by Hanoch Piven and Shira Hecht-Koller; illustrated by Hanoch Piven

On Sale March 21st, 2023

This clever, informative, and artful picture book from Hanoch Piven and Shira Hecht-Koller imagines what advice 14 Biblical figures would have given.

“Every tale is a bit of earnest fancy with an incredible variety of highly detailed worlds… An amazing, joyous achievement.”—Kirkus Reviewsstarred review


Hush, Little Rocket by Mo O’Hara; illustrated by Alexandra Cook

On Sale March 21st, 2023

Bedtime goes out of this world with Hush, Little Rocket, a new picture book by New York Times-bestselling author Mo O’Hara!

A stellar twist on an old lullaby. “—Kirkus Reviewsstarred review


Big Tune: Rise of the Dancehall Prince by Alliah L. Agostini; illustrated by Shamar Knight-Justice
On Sale March 28th, 2023

An exuberant picture book written by Alliah L. Agostini and illustrated by Shamar Knight-Justice is about a Black boy with big dancing dreams who learns the meaning of courage and community.

“Grounded in a tightknit Jamaican American community, the story deftly incorporates visual and textual references to dance styles, food, and other cultural touchstones. The lush collages reinforce the text. Themes of joy, solidarity, and artistic expression are effortlessly woven throughout the words and images. (This book was digitally reviewed.) An exuberant celebration of community that leaps off the page.”—Kirkus Reviewsstarred review


Bomb (Graphic Novel): The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; illustrated by Nick Bertozzi
On Sale January 24th, 2023

A riveting graphic novel adaptation of the award-winning nonfiction book, Bomb—the fascinating and frightening true story of the creation behind the most destructive force that birthed the arms race and the Cold War.

★ FOUR STARRED REVIEWS! ★

“Sheinkin and Bertozzi take the story of one of the most significant events in recent world history and make it accessible to all readers, regardless of background knowledge. Recommended for purchase in all libraries where graphic works are popular.School Library Journalstarred review

Sheinkin’s work of award-winning narrative nonfiction is here sharpened by the author’s own graphic adaptation—and portrayed through Bertozzi’s skillful cartooning.”Horn Bookstarred review

“[T]he author expertly juggles multiple plotlines to tell a coherent tale at breakneck speed… A heady whirl of science and spycraft made even more immediate (and frightening) by strong visuals.” —Kirkusstarred review

In this haunting, dramatic graphic novel, the original Sheinkin book about the Manhattan Project is seamlessly transformed into a new format.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Booksstarred review


Bea Wolf by Zach Weinersmith; illustrated by Boulet
On Sale March 21st, 2023

A modern middle-grade graphic novel retelling of Beowulf, featuring a gang of troublemaking kids who must defend their tree house from a fun-hating adult who can instantly turn children into grown-ups.

★ THREE STARRED REVIEWS! ★

Readers will wish they could pledge their plastic swords to defending Treeheart and the sanctity of wild childhoods everywhere.”School Library Journalstarred review

“Weinersmith’s richly evocative turns of phrase run the gamut from hilarious to heart-rending and maintain the flavor of the original without bogging the pace down amid the kennings. Boulet’s illustrations imbue the shenanigans with gleeful energy and a touch of dark absurdity that children, seeing their own fears and triumphs reflected, will delight in.” —Kirkusstarred review

This is true bardic glory, a wild embrace of absurdity and wit with exaggerated language used for maximum impact…Boulet’s illustrations are no less epic than the story, and the finely lined black and white drawings invite careful examination, with the payoff being clever visual side jokes.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Booksstarred review


A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat
On Sale February 28th, 2023

A middle grade graphic memoir based on bestselling author and Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat’s awkward middle school years and the trip to Europe that changed his life.

★ TWO STARRED REVIEWS! ★

A thoughtful memoir with lots of humor and heart. Hand this to fans of Real Friends and the “Berrybrook Middle School” series. Recommended for all.” —School Library Journalstarred review

[A] relatable story of self-discovery… the perfect balance of humor and poignancy.” —Kirkusstarred review


Mr. Lincoln Sits for His Portrait: The Story of a Photograph That Became an American Icon by Leonard S. Marcus
On Sale January 3rd, 2023

Mr. Lincoln Sits for His Portrait is a unique middle-grade depiction of America’s sixteenth president, through the story of one famous photograph, written by award-winning author Leonard S. Marcus.

“A provocative study of Abraham Lincoln as a masterly media manipulator . . . Marcus presents Lincoln as an early adopter of new technology, being one of the first public figures to understand the power of photography . . . A fresh angle offering yet another reason to regard Lincoln as our presidential G.O.A.T.” —Kirkus ReviewsStarred Review


They Set the Fire by Daniel Kraus; illustrated by Rovina Cai
On Sale January 10th, 2023

At once darkly suspenseful and heartfelt with stunning spot art from illustrator Rovina Cai, this trilogy finale of New York Times-bestselling author Daniel Kraus’s action-packed The Teddies Saga is perfect for fans of Victoria Schwab, Katherine Arden, and Holly Black.

A fitting, heartfelt conclusion to this thought-provoking, nuanced fantasy series.” —Kirkus ReviewsStarred Review


The Lost Year: A Survival Story of the Ukrainian Famine by Katherine Marsh
On Sale January 17th, 2023

From the author of Nowhere Boy – called “a resistance novel for our times” by The New York Times – comes a brilliant middle-grade survival story that traces a harrowing family secret back to the Holodomor, a terrible famine that devastated Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s.

“A natural selection for fans of Alan Gratz and a stepping stone to the work of Ruta Sepetys, this sobering and important story will be an excellent addition to classroom and library collections.” – BooklistStarred Review


The Talent Thief by Mike Thayer
On Sale February 7th, 2023

A girl with the ability to borrow other people’s talents must use her powers to find her own spotlight in The Talent Thief, a wish-fulfilling middle-grade novel from Mike Thayer, the author of The Double Life of Danny Day.

Readers will laugh out loud and be moved to tears as Tiffany proves to be the Shining Star Mimi always said she was. A fresh, heartwarming take on self-acceptance and true friends. Huzzah!” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review


We Need to Talk About Vaginas: An IMPORTANT Book About Vulvas, Periods, Puberty, and Sex! by Dr. Allison K. Rodgers; illustrated by Annika Le Large
On Sale February 28th, 2023

Do you know the difference between a vagina and a vulva? If you’re not sure, We Need to Talk About Vaginas by TikToker Dr. Allison K. Rodgers could be for you!

“An educational and empowering book that normalizes change and difference. With inviting sections that reflect genuine questions… Rodgers’ body-positive tone and Le Large’s inclusive illustrations make for a fun, accessible book that offers readers from any gender an entry point to understanding vaginas, their function, and their care… visual inclusivity underscores Rodgers’ resounding message: Everyone is different, and we can be proud of our unique selves.” –Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review


Total Garbage: A Messy Dive into Trash, Waste, and Our World by Rebecca Donnelly; illustrations by John Hendrix

On Sale March 7th, 2023

Total Garbage by Rebecca Donnelly dives into the messy truth about trash, garbage, waste, and our world—it’s a fact-filled and fascinating illustrated middle grade environmental read!

Whimsical, informative, detailed teal-tone line drawings add to a captivating and important book. A fact-filled and fascinating dumpster dive of a book.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review


Science Comics: The Periodic Table of Elements: Understanding the Building Blocks of Everything by Jon Chad
On Sale March 14th, 2023

Step out of your element with Science Comics: The Periodic Table of Elements, the latest volume of First Second’s nonfiction graphic novel series! 

Solid gold.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review


Doggo and Pupper Search for Cozy by Katherine Applegate; illustrated by Charlie Alder

On Sale March 28th, 2023

In Doggo and Pupper Search for Cozy — the conclusion to the Doggo and Pupper early readers trilogy by New York Times-bestselling author Katherine Applegate with a brightly colored palette from Charlie Alder — the canines help Cat adjust to a big change: A new bed!

“Sentences are simple with easy and repeating word choice, so Applegate’s ability to make this piece so funny is all the more impressive. VERDICT A winner and a first purchase.” —School Library Journal, starred review


We Are All So Good at Smiling by Amber McBride
On Sale January 10th, 2023

They Both Die at the End meets The Bell Jar in this haunting, beautiful young adult novel-in-verse about clinical depression and healing from trauma, from National Book Award Finalist Amber McBride.

★ FOUR STARRED REVIEWS ! ★

“The choice of verse to tell this absorbing story is a strong one; readers are drawn along by the intense and vivid imagery, and the depictions of clinical depression, guilt, and grief are visceral. McBride explores the impact of the intersection between Blackness and mental illness … and the difficulties of two unusual young people finding refuge through friendship from the pressures the world exerts on them. Whimsy’s practice of Hoodoo and the empowerment she receives from the magic inside and around her help her contend with her depression and unravel her grief without negating a brutal, yet ultimately hopeful, reality. ..Important messages uniquely delivered.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

McBride makes exceptional use of the verse novel format, with some poems reading almost as detailed and descriptive prose, while other entries are just a few judiciously chosen lines that make readers slow down and work a bit to parse out full meaning.” —Bulletin of the Center of Children’s BooksStarred Review

This phenomenal novel-in-verse transports readers into an impassioned tale of heartache and hope that belongs on every bookshelf serving teens.” —School Library JournalStarred Review

“Readers will revel in the depth of Whimsy and Faerry’s relationship, all the while finding solace and relief in the calculated messiness of their search for wholeness. This is a spitfire sophomore offering from McBride, one that refuses to be rushed, mishandled, or misinterpreted.” —BooklistStarred Review


Promise Boys by Nick Brooks
On Sale January 31st, 2023

The Hate U Give meets One of Us Is Lying in Nick Brooks’s Promise Boys, a trailblazing, blockbuster YA mystery about three teen boys of color who must investigate their principal’s murder to clear their own names—for fans of Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas, and Karen McManus.

★ THREE STARRED REVIEWS! ★

Breathtakingly complex and intriguing.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“But make no mistake, this story is also a top-notch page-turner and deep character study. The three protagonists and slow convergence of their investigations will grip readers, who won’t want to stop reading until the culprit is revealed.” —Booklist, Starred Review

“Brooks excels in creating protagonists worthy of applause and truly foul villains, whose presences linger long after this atmospheric read ends.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review


And Other Mistakes by Erika Turner
On Sale February 14th, 2023

A teenage girl deals with insecurities, a stressful family life, tension with friends, and being on the cross-country team, in And Other Mistakes—a debut Young Adult coming-of-age novel by Erika Turner about accepting one’s self

★ TWO STARRED REVIEWS ! ★

“…standout novel… By employing impeccable emotional tension that superbly renders themes of abuse, friendship, and identity, Turner delivers a genuine and honest read.” —Publisher’s WeeklyStarred Review

Turner’s characters are the life of this novel, each feeling real even when they have minor roles… [Aaliyah’s] story is an ode to the messiness of young queer teenagedom on par with Malinda Lo’s A Scatter of Light. … The intentional discrepancy between Aaliyah’s interpretation of her mistakes and the reader’s view of them is impeccable, making her an incredibly sympathetic character with realistic flaws. Give this book to the teen who needs to be told that imperfection is okay.” —Bulletin of the Center of Children’s BooksStarred Review


The Minus-One Club by Kekla Magoon
On Sale January 24th, 2023

From the Coretta Scott King and Printz Honor-winning author of How It Went DownLight It Up, and Revolution In Our Time comes a moving contemporary YA novel about the bonds between a group of teens whose lives have been upended by tragedy.

This timely and thoughtful novel makes room for the increasing depth and complexity of navigating adolescence alongside grief, religious dissent, and healing.” —Booklist, Starred Review


The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan
On Sale January 24th, 2023

A contemporary fantasy YA debut from Rochelle Hassan about monsters, magic, and wicked fae, perfect for fans of The Darkest Part of the Forest and The Hazel Wood.

“With gorgeous prose and rich worldbuilding, this gripping dark fantasy slowly unfolds its tale of broken hearts, family secrets, and self-empowerment as it follows its three appealing, well-rounded narrators and a variety of interesting secondary characters. This is one for fans of Holly Black, Anna-Marie McLemore, and romantic fantasy that has a bittersweet bite. A wonderful start to a new trilogy.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review


Saints of the Household by Ari Tison
On Sale March 28th, 2023

Saints of the Household is a haunting contemporary YA about an act of violence in a small-town–beautifully told by a debut Indigenous Costa Rican-American writer–that will take your breath away.

“The author peels apart each brother’s bruised psyche by ingeniously rotating among Jay’s tense vignettes, Max’s wistful verses, and Bribri cultural elements to underscore their anguished journey to reconciliation. Remarkably compelling.” –—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review


Now Let Me Fly: A Portrait of Eugene Bullard by Ronald Wimberly; illustrated by Brahm Revel
On Sale January 3rd, 2023

From author Ronald Wimberly, creator of the viral comic Lighten Up, comes a soaring graphic biography that casts new light on the first African-American fighter pilot.

“Wimberly’s script navigates haunting scenes of racism and ultimate optimism and triumph. Revel (Guerillas) draws emotive faces and propulsive action, as fluidly rendering a boxing ring as a battlefield… [Now Let Me Fly] carries off the lift of a pulp adventure, while memorializing Bullard’s warrior spirit.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review