A Bear’s Year


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.

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Clara: The (Mostly) True Story of the Rhinocerous Who Dazzled Kings, Inspired Artists, and Won the Hearts of Everyone…While She Ate Her Way Up and Down a Continent!

There aren’t nearly enough books about rhinoceroses. Clara, a pet rhino in India, went with a Dutch sea captain on his travels around the world. Captain Van der Meer thought heclara_jacket could make money showing off Clara all across Europe, but Clara ate so much (gaining 20 pounds a day!) even the crowds who paid to see her didn’t help the captain make enough money. Still, he considered her his friend and refused to sell her, even to the king of France.

Emily Arnold McCully‘s author’s note explains the history and the parts she fictionalized in the picture book. Clara is a fascinating look at a historical rhino, and the relationship between man and beast.

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Cat Knit

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

236b95a593bee5f5fba20730ae379b6a-w204@1x.jpgsweater. 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.

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Smile Cry


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.

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I Am a Story

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 i-am-a-story
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.”

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The Secret Subway

The Secret Subway is an interesting look at New York City in the 1860s, when the streets ss_cover_final_loreswere 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).

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The Poet’s Dog

9780062292629.jpgNarrated 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

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The War That Saved My Life

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 warthatsavedmylifetruly 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

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Sachiko, A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story

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, 9781467789035blood 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.

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How This Book Was Made

How This Book Was Made is first and foremost a fictionalized funny story of how picture 9781423152200.jpgbooks 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.

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