How to Swallow a Pig: Step by Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page is an animal guide in a spot-on deadpan tone that gives tons of information while managing to be a page-turner. Unexpected animals, such as the western grebe and the reticulated python do amazing things in their daily lives, and now with this handy manual, we humans can too.
ABC: The Alphabet from the Sky by Benedikt Gross and Joey Lee is a fascinating look at found letters from an aerial view. Find one letter per page (though sometimes there are bonuses) and in the bottom right corner, the geographical coordinates and a dot on a US map mark the spots these letters are found. I suppose you could hop in your helicopter and search them out, however, this book is just as much fun on land, and it serves for a template to play your own ABC game on your next flight.
The gentle rhyming text of A Bear’s Year takes us from slumbering winter to newborn spring, summer foraging and autumn’s den. I love a book that takes us through all of the seasons in a year, and this one’s beautiful illustrations do each season justice.
Written by Kathy Duval and illustrated by Gerry Turley.
Cat is perfectly happy with his friend, Yarn. But Girl wanted to play with yarn, too. “When Yarn returned, he wasn’t his usual bouncy self.” That’s because Yarn morphed into a
sweater. Cat does not like Yarn anymore and goes outside in the snow to pout.
This book may be very helpful if your little ones don’t want to wear those bulky, itchy winter clothes. Then again, Jacob Grant‘s Cat Knit might just be a fun, well-told story, which is best of all.
This sweetly simple picture book goes through the types of smiles while the flip side of the book explores the times one might cry: “An ice-cream plopping down cry. A jump out of the shadows cry”. And the two sides meet in the center two page spread which is topsy-turvy and a illustrated in a circular way which makes turning the book around a delight.
Written by Tania McCartney and illustrated by Jess Racklyeft.
I Am a Story by Dan Yaccarino is a poetic history of storytelling, from the beginnings of oral tellings to picture tellings on walls, clay tablets and papyrus. Tapestries and theatre are
lauded, as well as books and libraries and the many places people share books (including a pictoral reference to a Little Free Library). The book highlights the pleasures we get from stories and the not so pleasurable censorship, banning and burnings.
“I can go with you everywhere and will live forever. I am a story.”
The Secret Subway is an interesting look at New York City in the 1860s, when the streets were clogged with horses, animals, people and dirt. Transportation was a big problem, and an inventor named Alfred Ely Beach had an idea. He built a secret pneumatic train, underground.
This book reads much more like a story than most nonfiction books, and gives a great picture of the city above and below ground, and what it took to build the subway. Though Beach’s underground train was initially a success, politics and eventual lack of interest led Beach to eventually abandon his invention. Many years later (around 1900) when the current New York subway system was being built, tunnelers found Beach’s tunnel and train.
Written by Shana Corey and illustrated by Red Nose Studio (Chris Sickels).
Narrated by a dog who can understand humans and be understood by poets and children, The Poet’s Dog is a beautifully written story about love, loss and understanding. The dog finds a boy and a girl during a snow storm and takes them to his house that he shared with the poet. As the story unfolds, we find out what happened to the poet, and why the girl and the boy were in the snow. The narrative voice is what drew me in, as it tells a classic story in a gentle, poetic way.
written by Patricia MacLachlan
Everything about this historical middle grade works, beginning with the title. Such an intriguing title it is, and the theme of how a war can save someone weaves delicately and truly through the novel. Never bogged down in historical detail, yet brought to life beautifully, The War that Saved My Life has a cast of lovable, grumpy characters.
Ten-year-old Ada was born with a club foot, and her mother (Mam) keeps her hidden away in their filthy London flat, emotionally and physically abusing her. When Ada teaches herself to walk, she escapes to Kent with her little brother among the children sent out of the city. The evacuees end up in various households around the village. Ada and Jamie end up with Susan, a woman who is in the midst of grieving the death of Becky, a friend (and partner, the text implies). Ada, who has never been outside before, learns the world and the words for it in an entirely interesting way. She’s sure she’s unlovable, and her words and thoughts show this so well. As the three, Ada, Jamie and Susan, make a family together, they all grow and learn to see the world differently. As for Mam, the story line is tied up there too. All I’ll say is that the war saves them all, though some are saved better than others.
written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley