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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Long Shot: Never Too Small to Dream Big by Chris Paul, illustrated by Frank Morrison
The NBA superstar offers an empowering remembrance of his childhood, when he was told: “You’re too small to play basketball.” He was, however, far too busy working toward his dream to listen to the naysayers. For every child who has faced seemingly insuperable obstacles.

My Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Catherine Stock
When an eight-year-old boy arrives with his mother and sister in the United States from a refugee camp in Sudan, life seems dauntingly unmoored—until he devises an ingenious solution for connecting with his classmates and making his way toward friendship.

Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron
As she is about to turn 11, a girl called Lucky hopes that life will become more interesting in the small town that she calls home—Hard Pan. But diversion isn’t always as simple as it seems, in this appealing sequel to the Newbery-winning novel The Higher Power of Lucky.

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix
A little-known story of resistance pays homage to those who risked all to create a secret sanctuary in wartime Paris.

Wild Times at the Bed & Biscuit by Joan Carris, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
The next installment in the quiet exploits of the best fictional vet around. Grampa Bender rescues wild creatures from a cranky muskrat to a wounded Canada goose, nursing them back to health at his animal boardinghouse. A clever chapter book for elementary-school ages or an admirable read-aloud for pre-school children.

January’s Sparrow by Patricia Polacco
Polacco’s extraordinary evocation of a little-known chapter in American history, the tale of a daring rescue on the Underground Railroad, speaks to heroism at its most profound.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by John Lawrence
The celebrated British illustrator has created an heirloom edition of one of the greatest adventure sagas ever told.

Raspberries! by Jay O’Callahan, illustrated by Will Moses
Kindness has its own reward, as Simon learns after his bakery is forced to close down. A large-hearted stand-out, accompanied by a CD of the story, recorded by the author.

The Dragons of Ordinary Farm by Tad Williams and Deborah Beale, pictures by Greg Swearingen
Two siblings believe that a summer spent on their elderly uncle’s farm is going to be dull as all get-out—until they spot the dragon in the barn. A yarn invested with a great deal of charm from two master storytellers.

Nasreen’s Secret School: a True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter
At this moment, teachers in that war-torn land are placing their lives in the balance to give girls a future. Winter’s account affirms the transformative power of education and the healing strength of a grandmother’s love.

Dinosaur, text by Stephanie Stansbie; illustrated by Robert Nicholls and James Robins
For dino-obsessed children on your list, an interactive excursion to the giants of prehistory.


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