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
When Sachiko was six years old, an atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki, killing Sachiko’s little brother and most of her playmates. While her family traveled to a relatively safer place, her brothers suffered and died from the effects of radiation. Radiation also caused many problems for her family (as it did for many others who survived the bomb), notably cancers of the liver, blood and thyroid.
Sachiko survived, and drew strength from reading and learning about Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and after seeing Helen Keller, she too, wanted to make a difference. For a long time she kept silent, working and studying. Now, as an adult, she spreads a message of peace.
Caren Stelson intersperses Sachiko’s story with informative pages on historical events, such as the dropping of the atomic bombs, MLK’s march on Washington, and the study of the effects of radiation in Japan. Sachiko is a well-written, well-researched and important book.
How This Book Was Made is first and foremost a fictionalized funny story of how picture books are made. From battling with a tiger to word battles with an editor, there is much more about the author’s process than the illustrator’s process, but most of all the book points out that what really makes a book a book is its reader.
Written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex.
There is a lot to look forward to in Autumn: the chill in the air, the leaves falling, the colours. Kenard Pak‘s Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn follows a girl on her walk through the transition between summer and autumn. She notices and calls out to the trees and they respond with how their sway has changed; to the beavers and chipmunks and they reply that they have no time to play because they need to look for food. Quiet and lovely, this book inspires nature walks to notice the world around for ourselves.
Blue On Blue is a lyrical look at one day on a farm, from the bright sunny morning to the stormy afternoon and the clearing-up night. Dianne White‘s language is beautifully subtle and Beth Krommes‘ illustrations are vivid.
When the rain comes, the children rush indoors. For a comparison read, try Worm Weather where the children rush out into the rain.
I know my kids aren’t the only ones who loved a big cardboard box to play in when they were little. The possibilities a box posed–it could be a fort, a house, a car. Imagination and crayons ran wild. What to Do With a Box explores that love for a cozy nook and the ever-changing possibilities. Jane Yolen‘s poetic text is matched perfectly with Chris Sheban‘s inspired illustrations.
Follow up your reading with cardboard box playtime; then read more books about imagination.
David Barrow‘s delightful picture book, Have You Seen Elephant?, is all about turning preconceived ideas upside down. One might think huge elephants would have a difficult time hiding, but everywhere Elephant hides, the boy can’t find him (the reader sees him, though). When, by the end of the book, Elephant has successfully hid in multiple spots, it’s not so hard to believe the turtle who says she is very good at playing tag.
Discuss opposites and elephant books with kids after reading.
Julia Child was extraordinary in many ways. Even so, this biography shows how highly relatable Julia Child was, from her nonchalance about making cooking mistakes on TV to her dedication to keep trying until a recipe became perfect.
Julia’s unique personality and voice shine through, and the pacing of the story kept me turning pages. Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures is a great nonfiction read by Erin Hagar with pages of art by Joanna Gotham in between chapters.
A twist on the bedtime story and parental I love you story, Tell Me a Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler uses a father’s tattoos as the story starters. Told entirely in the voice of the father, we hear about each tattoo: when he was a little boy, when he met his wife, his time as a soldier and the birth of his child. Sweet and honest, this is a lovely read for all ages.
Read here for a behind-the-scenes look at the illustrations.