2021 Outstanding International Books List

Beginning in 2006, USBBY has selected an honor list of international books for young people. The USBBY Outstanding International Books List is published each year in the February issue of School Library Journal and as a bookmark.

The Outstanding International Books (OIB) committee is charged with selecting international books that are deemed most outstanding of those published during the calendar year. For the purposes of this honor list, the term “international book” is used to describe a book published or distributed in the United States that originated or was first published in a country other than the U.S.

2021 Outstanding International Books List (Canadian)

See the full list here.

Weekend Dad
written by Naseem Hrab
illustrated by Frank Viva

Weekend Dad tells the story of a boy whose parents separate and his process of adapting to this new opaque reality. Here, the underrepresented topic of parental separation is handled with sensitivity and grace — sophisticated illustrations and simple, poignant text make for an insightful read.


written by Kyo Maclear
illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh

As a family flees through strange terrain and inhospitable seas, two children use familiar objects, such as a cup and blanket, to spin their reality into a hopeful future. This creative story provides readers with a glimpse of the inner life of young refugee children.


The Lady With the Books
written by Kathy Stinson
illustrated by Marie Lafrance
Kids Can Press

Anneliese and Pete, brother and sister in war-ravaged Munich, are out searching for food when they happen upon Jella Lepman’s 1946 international children’s book exhibit. Lepman’s groundbreaking collection, including perennial touchstones of children’s literature, gives them the imaginative and intellectual impetus to rebuild.


Crossing the Farak River
written by Michelle Aung Thin
Annick Press
​(Australia/set in Myanmar)

Through Hasina’s eyes, readers learn about the Rohingya humanitarian crisis. When soldiers attack, she escapes into the forest with her younger brother and cousin. They return to a devastated village, missing parents, and limited resources. This fast-paced novel includes an author’s note, timeline, and glossary.


The Paper Boat
written and illustrated by Thao Lam
Owlkids Books
​(Canada/ Vietnam)

Lam draws parallel stories in this wordless book. A Vietnamese family follows a colony of ants through tall grass, past terrifying soldiers, to their rescue boat. The ants, too, survive their perilous paper boat journey. The muted palette depicts a journey of courage and survival.


Music for Tigers
written by Michelle Kadarusman
Pajama Press
​(Canada/set in Australia)

Louisa is a musician, not a biologist like her nature-obsessed family. Weeks at Uncle Ruff’s remote Tasmanian camp changes everything. Colin, a boy who has autism spectrum disorder, and an elusive Tasmanian tiger awaken Louisa to history and conservation, and rekindle her love of music.


The Barren Grounds
written by David A. Robertson
illustrated by Natasha Donovan
Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers/Puffin

In a reimagination of the classic portal fantasy, Robertson (himself an award-winning #OwnVoices writer) weaves indigenous Cree culture and language together with exciting adventure and sensitive portrayals of two indigenous children in the Canadian foster care system.


Hunted by the Sky
written by Tanaz BhathenaMacmillan/Farrar Straus Giroux

A prophecy of uprising underpins palace intrigue, political machination, and shifting alliances in a lush world replete with middle Eastern and east Asian touchstones. As Gul grapples with her power, magic and fantasy cloak everything and escalating action catapults the tale to a thrilling close.