A Boy Named Isamu

Yang, James. A Boy Named Isamu. New York, New York: Viking, 2021.
Do you enjoy observing the world around you? Do you like wondering about what you see? Are you ever alone but not lonely because you are busy thinking? Isamu is a boy whose imagination can fill an entire day in this elegant picture book inspired by the life of the artist Isamu Noguchi. Photographs and an author’s note at the end tell more about the Japanese American sculptor and landscape designer born in 1904. Recommended for children who are full of their own questions about the world.

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I’d Like to Be the Window for a Wise Old Dog

Stead, Philip. I’d Like to be the Window for a Wise Old Dog. New York: Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2022.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be someone else? Be something else?  What would it be like to bring joy to someone else? Bring safety to someone else? Not for fame but simply out of love. This wonderfully imaginative picture book is an extraordinary example of other-centredness. You can find endless lesson plans on empathy. Instead, read this book aloud. Then start a conversation.

What makes a picture book outstanding? Learn about critiquing a book HERE.

Read more outstanding picture books!

Everything by Philip Stead is lovely: encouraging, hopeful, and life-affirming. Read these books, too…

Etty Darwin and the Four Pebble Problem

Soloy, Lauren. Etty Darwin and the Four Pebble Problem. Toronto: Tundra, 2021.
Where do you like to go when you want to think about big questions? Do you have a favourite place where your imagination can fly and your mind can ponder? Etty and her father, Charles Darwin, like to take a daily walk in their garden. They observe plants and animals and talk about big questions. Like this one: Do fairies exist? Etty’s father prefers proof before believing something is real, but Etty reminds him that he can’t disprove the existence of fairies. The two of them decide to keep an open mind.
This imaginative picture book – with an afterward explaining a bit about the real life of Charles Darwin – is highly recommended for readers 6 to 11 years old who have their own curious questions about life. 

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Biographies of Charles Darwin

Lizzy and the Clouds

Fan Brothers. Lizzy and the Cloud. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022.

Another wonderfully imaginative picture book by Terry and Eric Fan. Lizzy spends a Saturday at the park, where she purchases a cloud. Not a fancy cloud – not a rabbit or a fish or a parrot – but an ordinary cloud that comes with a list of six instructions, and the first is “Name your cloud.” Lizzy carefully cares for Milo, who grows and grows until it is time to follow the last instruction: “Never confine a cloud to a small space.”
Younger readers will enjoy the whimsical creativity and laugh. Older readers can read this story as a metaphor for life. Highly recommended for all ages! 

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The Year We Learned to Fly

Woodson, Jacqueline. The Year We Learned to Fly. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2022.
What do you do in spring when it’s raining outside and you have to stay inside? What do you do in summer when you have to do chores and can’t stop quarrelling with your brother? What do you in autumn when it’s dark outside and you’re stuck inside? What do you do in winter when you move somewhere new and you don’t know anyone at all? Well, use your imagination, of course! Remember the strong people who came before you. Lift up your arms, close your eyes, and let your mind fly! This joyous and inspiring picture book – illustrated by Rafael López – is highly recommended for readers of all ages.

P.S. Any book published by Nancy Paulsen Books is worth picking up. Sometimes you might not be ready for a particular story, but the quality of the writing will always be superb.

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One Time

Creech, Sharon. One Time. New York: Joanna Cotler Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2020.
Gina’s mind is always racing. Always observing the world around her, noticing details other people miss. But she often feels alone. Until Antonio moves next door and Miss Lightstone becomes her new homeroom teacher
“Who are you?”
“What could you be?”
Those are the questions asked in this easy-to-read novel highly recommended for readers 10 to 13 years old. (Also recommended for teachers who enjoy being inspired by new ideas.)

Of course, all novels by Sharon Creech are recommended for readers who wonder about life’s mysteries.  Find more here!

Read Allen Say’s stories, too.

And if you like words, also read…

Knight, Mary. Saving Wonder. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.
Twelve-year-old Curley Hines lives in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. Most of his relatives have died, his father in a coal mining accident and his mother and younger brother in a mud slide caused by the mine. So now he lives with his grandfather who – every week – gives him a new word to learn: 26 letters x 2 = 52 weeks and 52 new words every year.

Right from the first sentence, this debut novel is full of the joy of life: love, hope, and determination. And the power of words! Which is exactly what Curley needs to use when the mine announces their plans to blow the top of Red Hawk Mountain. Coal is needed and a new mine manager is resolute in his decision to expand operations. Curley and his best friend Jules – with the help with her new boyfriend, the mine manager’s son –  get together to oppose the destruction of their beloved home.
Each chapter in the story emphasizes one of Curley’s words and ends with a definition. The humour in the format is delightful and never feels overbearing or didactic, probably because of Curley’s spunk and his grandfather’s loving wisdom. This novel is highly recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old. [Appalachian Region; Coal mines and mining; Environmentalism; Friendship; Grandfathers; Kentucky; Orphans]   

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Exuberant life…

Cuevas, Michelle. Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2017.
Smoot’s tiresome life of being a shadow ends when he decides to leave his boy and strike out on his own. Running, dancing, singing, he embraces all the excitement of his new life. Other shadows watch him and bravely follow suit. What will happen? Smoot looks around and has an idea. Maybe all of them – all of the shadows – could go back where they came from and still live with excitement. Will it work? Can life hold joy even in ordinary circumstances? This marvellously designed picture book – illustrated by Canadian Sydney Smith – will appeal to readers of all ages of appreciate fables. 

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“Freedom lies in being bold.” Robert Frost

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