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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Stars Above Us by Geoffrey Norman, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
The night sky shines brightly for a father and his young daughter—even when distances created by his deployment separate them. A touching narrative for any child who has awaited a parent’s return.

Yellowstone Moran: Painting the American West by Lita Judge
In 1871, a young artist joined an expedition of scientists setting out to explore the West. The monumental canvasses based on his travels would become iconic images that are now part of our nation’s heritage.

In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage by Alan Schroeder, illustrated by JaeMe Bereal
With only her dreams and her genius to guide her, a young girl set out from Florida in the 1890s for New York City. There, she would become a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

In the Belly of an Ox: The Unexpected Photographic Adventures of Richard and Cherry Kearton by Rebecca Bond
In the 19th century, two venturesome brothers in the grip of a magnificent obsession—documenting British birds and their nests—carved out a pioneering niche in wildlife photography.

Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life: A Story of Sustainable Farming written and photographed by Jan Reynolds
On the Edenic island of Bali, farmers have grown rice in harmony with their land for 1,000 years—practices that show promise for rice cultivation worldwide. Reynolds sends us on a compelling odyssey to one of the world’s great intact cultures.

Wildlife Gardening by Martyn Cox
How to do everything from attracting bees to creating an owl’s nest from an old boot: creating a refuge in your own backyard amounts to the ultimate in hands-on family fun.

Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson by Sharon Robinson, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
A daughter pays tribute to her father’s undaunted courage—on and off the playing field—in this quietly moving vignette from her childhood.

Whaling Season: A Year in the life of an Arctic Whale Scientist, written and photographed by Peter Lourie; Extreme Scientists: Exploring Nature’s Mysteries from Perilous Places, written and photographed by Donna M. Jackson
Both these titles, the latest in a series exploring the work of field scientists, vividly convey the thrill of research conducted everywhere from the edge of the ice to the top of great redwoods.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
David. Joseph. Franklin. Ezell—college students who changed history when they took seats at the whites-only lunch counter in North Carolina on February 1, 1960. Poetic story telling and energetic illustrations illuminate a transformative moment in America.

Erika-San by Allen Say
When a young Japanese-American woman goes in search of her grandparents’ traditions, she locates her future on a Japanese island where the old ways continue to hold sway.


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