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
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.