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.)

This year’s titles range across cultures, into the past and toward the future. Their creators have relied on humor to touch our hearts; documentary accounts to bring history alive; biography to convey the true meaning of courage; poetic language to demonstrate the power of the written word—and the artist’s brush or camera to create ravishing illustrations.

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The age categories listed below are, of necessity, arbitrary. Adjust any choices to the interests and reading level of the individual child. For example, a book that may prove too demanding for a youngster to read on her or his own may constitute a perfect read-aloud.

For the Youngest Readers
(Ages 1-6)

It’s a Secret! by John Burningham
Britain’s acclaimed author-illustrator casts a new and irresistible spell as he answers the age-old question: “Where do cats go at night?” All children deserve an entire shelf full of Burningham’s brilliant creations. Enthralling for all ages.

Mommy, Where Are You? by Leonid Gore
An enchantingly original variation on the lift-the-flap book melds simple yet vivid text and a reassuring denouement.

The Snow Day by Komako Sakai
The Japanese illustrator’s evocation of the hushed and swirling moment when the flakes begin to fall is atmospheric and compressed as a verse by Basho.

Thunder-Boomer! by Shutta Crum, illustrated by Carol Thompson
On a hot day on the farm, clouds are gathering. A spirited tale, rooted in a sense of togetherness, that fairly begs for many a re-reading. A marvelous addition for every family bookshelf.

Red Ted and the Lost Thieves by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Joel Stewart
A bear, a crocodile and a cat set out across town to find their way back to the place where journeys under a lucky star will lead: home.

Budgie & Boo by David McPhail
The distinguished author has created a paean to friendship and its constancy, morning, noon and night.

Piglet and Granny by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Stephen Michael King
What’s a piglet to do when long-awaited Granny hasn’t yet swung open the squeaky garden gate? A picture-perfect portrayal of a bond between generations.


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