Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed
Best Alphabet Book
Alphablock by Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Sturdy die-cut letters cover part of corresponding illustrations, so kids can guess that "N is for nest" before they turn the page to reveal the full image. "After I read it twice to my 16-month-old, he knew that 'doggy' starts with 'd,'" says one mom tester.
Ages 1 to 4
Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company
Best Board Book
Pinwheel by Salina Yoon
Almost every kid tester wanted to spin the four pinwheels inside this book to watch carousel horses pop up, fireworks explode, and sunflowers change shape. Catchy rhyming text like "Music pulsing, horses chasing. Round and round, our hearts are racing!" makes this title even more engaging.
Courtesy of Hyperion Books
Best Fictional Picture Book
Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea
Jealousy transforms into friendship in this clever tale about a unicorn and a goat. "My 4-year-old had only seen unicorns in romanticized, syrupy-sweet princess stories," says one mom reviewer. "We prefer this approach."
Ages 2 to 8
Courtesy of Henry Holt and Company
Best Nonfiction Picture Book
Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone and Marjorie Priceman
More librarians voted for this biography of the first female doctor in America than any other book. "Most kids don't realize that there was a time when a woman couldn't be a doctor," says Amy Sears, head of youth services at Teaneck Public Library, in New Jersey.
Ages 5 to 10
Courtesy of Candlewick Press
Best Pop-Up Book
Animal Opposites: A Pop-Up Book by Petr Horacek
A still sloth and a bouncy kangaroo, a white goose and a colorful peacock, a smooth frog and a spiky porcupine--they're among the ten opposite pairs in this sturdy book with both pop-ups and flaps. "My 3-year-old thought it was particularly cool because the pop-ups mimic the animal's movement in real life," says a mom reviewer.
Ages 3 to 7
Courtesy of Candlewick Press
Best Early Reader
The Big Wet Balloon (a Toon Book) by Liniers
This adorable comic-like tale of two sisters who spend a rainy day playing outside wooed our kid reviewers because it didn't look like a typical early reader. The level is discreetly displayed on the back. "The story was much more substantial than other early readers, yet it used enough recognizable words for my 5-year-old to get through it on her own," says one mom.
Ages 4 to 6
Courtesy of Scholastic
Best New Series
Starring Jules by Beth Ain
Move over, Judy Moody. Seven-year-old Jules is asked out of the blue to audition for a mouthwash commercial. What happens with her acting career (especially in the second book, Starring Jules In Drama-Rama) had our kid testers squealing with delight. Sorry, no spoilers!
Ages 7 to 10
Courtesy of HarperCollins
Best Younger-Kid Chapter Book
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
Librarians and kid reviewers gushed about how much they could relate to Billy Miller's sibling squabbles, diorama projects, and friendships in the second grade. "Billy--both gutsy and fearful--is bound to be a classic children's literary character for decades to come," says Elizabeth Bird, a youth-materials specialist for the New York City Public Library.
Ages 6 to 9
Courtesy of Random House Kids
Best Older-Kid Chapter Book
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Night at the Museum in this suspenseful story about students who have to solve complex puzzles to find an exit out of a locked library. References to Pseudonymous Bosch (the anonymous author of the Secret Series), Harry Potter, and Dr. Seuss pull in budding bookworms. "I loved every word of it," raves one 11-year-old reviewer. "It wasn't like any other book I've ever read."
Courtesy of Hachette Book Group
Best Enhanced E-Book
Awesome Dawson by Chris Gall
In print form, it's a fun picture book about a boy who uses recycled parts to build inventions that will help him do his chores. But with digital animation and sound effects, his creations--such as the Vacu-Manic robot and speedboat car--come to life. The e-book also offers a "read aloud" option (reviewers preferred this) and tappable labels for many of the parts--like radiator and wrench--that will help kids build vocabulary.
Ages 4 to 8