Smithsonian Notable Books for Children 2009

Our annual list of children's books highlights the most fascinating titles published in the past year

Smithsonian magazine's 2009 Notable Books for Children. (Candlewick Press / Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / Lee & Low Books, Inc. / Holiday House, Inc.)

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Breakfast in the Rainforest written and photographed by Richard Sobol
The world-class photographer trekked into wilds of Uganda to document the lives of a band of critically endangered mountain gorillas and the rangers committed to protecting them.

Miss Little’s Gift by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Jim Burke
In a second-grade classroom in 1950s Iowa—decades before a condition we now know as ADHD was recognized—a perceptive teacher saw that one child needed individual tutoring before he could learn to read. The author’s recollection of his own childhood experience is a tribute to teachers everywhere.

The Anne Frank Case by Susan Goldman Rubin, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth
In 1958, Simon Wiesenthal, the renowned Nazi hunter, learned that Neo-Nazis were perpetrating the idea that the Anne Frank story was a hoax. Thus began his five-year search for the Gestapo officer who arrested the Frank family, testifying to Wiesenthal’s determination to honor a young girl’s memory.

Stories from the Billabong retold by James Vance Marshall, illustrated by Frances Firebrace
From Australia, how the great Mother Snake created the world and the Kangaroo got his pouch: Aboriginal legends, memorably recast.

First Come the Zebra by Lynne Barasch
Against the backdrop of the annual migration of wildlife to Kenya, and recent violence in that country, a Maasai boy and a Kikuyu child bridge the differences that cast a shadow over both their lives.

Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage by Kaye Umansky, illustrated by Johanna Wright
Open the creaky gate to a disheveled homestead, where a slightly obstreperous witch is badly in need of rescue from a resourceful girl who arrives to put things right. Umansky’s delightful novel, shot through with magic potions and featuring a heroic cat, is this year’s most transporting creation for middle readers.

Muktar and the Camels by Janet Graber, illustrated by Scott Mack
In a Kenyan orphanage on the border with Somalia, a  boy encounters a traveling librarian who delivers books by camel train—and suddenly, a life of possibility emerges.

Three outstanding titles mark Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday:
Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure by A. J. Wood and Clint Twist
A sumptuously illustrated introduction to the scientific imagination, based on Darwin’s diaries and later works.

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Trueman
Transfixed by the mysteries of the natural world, Darwin set off aboard the Beagle in 1831. This account offers a page-turning survey of the voyage that instigated an intellectual revolution.

What Mr. Darwin Saw by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom
Whimsical and accessible, the writer-illustrator team presents complex ideas with their characteristic verve.

Mission to the Moon by Alan Dyer
Information-packed text and more than 200 photographs from NASA archives relay the race into space with immediacy and depth.

Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie by Robbin Gourley
This picture-biography surveys the contributions of Edna Lewis, the pioneering chef, who celebrated regional American cooking well before it was fashionable. Includes recipes.


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