Diamond Willow by Helen Frost


Today marks Alaska’s statehood day, when in 1959 Alaska became the forty-ninth state in the Union. Of the myriad books for children that have been set in Alaska, my favorite, Diamond Willow by Helen Frost, appeared recently in 2008. Frost lived and taught for three years in a small Athabascan community in interior Alaska. Many […]

Adventure, Animals, Dogs, Multicultural, Native American, Religion/Spirituality, Survival
Featured on January 3

Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey

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Today is set aside to “Run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes.” The concept behind the day, and the phrase, is to get people to try out a new idea. But often for children, these sayings take on literal meanings, such as in Jerry Spinelli’s Who Ran My Underwear Up a Flagpole. […]

Adventure, Humor, Imagination, School
Featured on January 2

The Suburb Beyond the Stars by M. T. Anderson

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As I sit writing, a storm rages outside my window. Some branches scrape against the house. This creepy setting mirrors the one found in our book of the day, M. T. Anderson’s The Suburb Beyond the Stars. In December we celebrate Read a New Book Month. Of all the new books this year, I had […]

Featured on December 27

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg


In 1985 a book appeared by Caldecott-winning artist Chris Van Allsburg that would immediately become a bestseller and over the years establish itself as a picture book ritually read and enjoyed by families during the Christmas season: The Polar Express. Chris came to his career as a children’s book writer through his work as a […]

Adventure, Christmas, Holidays, Magic, Trains, Transportation
Featured on December 25

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs


When this time of year comes around, I always think of one of my favorite books first published in 1978, which truly captures the joy of playing in the snow. Although comic-book format picture books and graphic novels rule today, when Raymond Briggs used the wordless, comic-book format in The Snowman, he broke with the […]

Adventure, Christmas, Holidays, Imagination, Magic, Seasons, Winter
Featured on December 23

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

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Today we celebrate the winter solstice. On the solstice, one of the most appealing characters in classic children’s fantasy celebrates his eleventh birthday. The seventh son of a seventh son, he will be in for some pretty big surprises this holiday season. He learns that he is the last of the Old Ones, the Sign […]

Adventure, Magic, Other Worlds
Featured on December 21

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois


On December 14, 1782, the Montgolfier brothers’ first balloon lifted off on its first test flight. Later they would conduct public demonstrations, taking a thirty-three-foot diameter balloon aloft for about ten minutes. From this humble beginning, humans sailing the skies in a hot-air balloons became a possibility. William Waterman Sherman, the protagonist of the Newbery […]

Adventure, Award Winning, Humor, Newbery, Technology
Featured on December 14

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
Illustrated by Ernest H. Shephard

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Often, with classic children’s books, we remember both the writer and the illustrator. So Lewis Carroll brings to mind the illustrations of Sir John Tenniel. Contemporary readers appreciate Tenniel more than Lewis Carroll ever did—he was basically disappointed with the art for Alice in Wonderland. Fortunately, our birthday celebrant, Ernest H. Shepard, born 132 years […]

Adventure, Animals
Featured on December 10

The Giver by Lois Lowry

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“It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.” With these words Lois Lowry opens the best novel for children of the 1990s and one of the greatest science fiction works of all time—The Giver. In the early ’90s Lowry found herself a frequent visitor at a nursing home. There her mother, going […]

Adventure, Award Winning, Dystopia, Newbery
Featured on December 3

Margot Zemach by Margot Zemach


We’ll end the month of November with another birthday celebration, this time of one of the finest book illustrators of the twentieth century, Margot Zemach, born in 1931. Strangely, and I have never figured out why, male illustrators for children outnumber and generally outrank, in terms of accolades, their female counterparts. But Margot Zemach could […]

Adventure, Award Winning, Caldecott
Featured on November 30

C. S. Lewis by C. S. Lewis

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We are going to end the month with two birthday celebrations—one a writer, the other an illustrator. C. S. Lewis, today’s celebrant, was born on this day in 1898 in Belfast, Ireland. But he would live and write in Oxford, England, where he taught on the English faculty with his good friend and fellow author, […]

Adventure, Animals, Magic, Other Worlds
Featured on November 29

Moonshot by Brian Floca

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Today for National Aviation Month, let’s look at a perfect book for four- to eight-year-olds that explains the Apollo 11 mission. In 1969 families and friends gathered around small television sets in households across America to watch Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin attempt to land on the moon. In Moonshot: The Flight of […]

Adventure, Award Winning, History, Sibert, Space
Featured on November 28

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Illustrated by John Tenniel

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On November 26, 1865, a children’s book was published by Macmillan in England that has remained in print ever since: the longest standing and best-known of our classics, Lewis Carroll’s quirky and unforgettable Alice in Wonderland. Although it was clearly written and intended for children, its richness and complexity also make it appealing to adults. […]

Adventure, Other Worlds
Featured on November 26

Savvy by Ingrid Law

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We all have at least one talent. November 24, Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day, allows all of us to acknowledge our own individual abilities. Whatever you do best, take some time today to recognize that talent. What if you knew that on a certain birthday, your thirteenth, you would be given a special talent or […]

Adventure, Award Winning, Family, Magic, Newbery
Featured on November 24

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Illustrated by Keith Thompson

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The genre of science fiction has always provided endless opportunities for writers—as well as endless memories for the young people who read their work. Today marks the first interracial kiss on TV, between Captain James Kirk and Lt. Uhura of Star Trek. Tomorrow in 1963 the BBC broadcast the first episode of Doctor Who, the […]

Adventure, Technology
Featured on November 22

Elizabeth George Speare by Elizabeth George Speare

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On November 21, 1908, Elizabeth George Speare was born in Melrose, Massachusetts. After finishing degrees from Boston University, she taught in the Massachusetts schools, then married and moved to Connecticut. When her children entered junior high school, she began writing articles and eventually books for children. One thing that distinguishes Speare from other writers is […]

Adventure, Award Winning, History, Newbery, Pioneer, Survival
Featured on November 21

The (Mostly) True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

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On the third Saturday in November, the town of Gettysburg celebrates Remembrance Day with a parade of Civil War groups and organizations. One of the most dramatic events of the battle at Gettysburg occurred on the second day when Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Bowdoin College professor who commanded the 20th Maine, was sent to defend Little […]

Adventure, Award Winning, Civil War, History, Newbery
Featured on November 20

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren


Born on November 14, 1907, Astrid Lindgren grew up on a farm just outside Vimmerby, Sweden. Pippi Longstocking, the book for which she became world-renowned, published in the United States sixty years ago, arose from stories she told her seven-year-old daughter. Sick in bed with pneumonia, the young girl asked for a story about Pippi […]

Adventure, Animals, Humor
Featured on November 14

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers


On November 13, 1926, a short story appeared in a New Zealand newspaper, the Christchurch Sun, by a young writer, who had emigrated to England from Australia. It recounted the saga of an “underneath nurse” age seventeen, and her charges Jane, Michael, Barbara, and John. On a day out, she puts on gloves, tucks a […]

Adventure, Humor, Magic
Featured on November 13

Masterpiece by Elise Broach
Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

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Today I’m focusing on another book for National Young Reader’s Week, one of the relatively new titles I think is destined to become a classic. A mystery and suspense novel, it also presents the work of Albrecht Durer, painter and printmaker, to young readers in grades three through six. Precocious as a child because of […]

Adventure, Animals, Art, Insects
Featured on November 12

Hachet by Gary Paulsen

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The second week of November we celebrate National Young Readers Week, an event created in 1989 by the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress to help schools recognize the joys and benefits of reading. To go along with the activities this year, I recommend two books, one a classic and the other […]

Adventure, Award Winning, Nature, Newbery, Survival
Featured on November 8

Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.

Discover the stories behind the children’s book classics . . .

The new books on their way to becoming classics . . .

And events from the world of children’s books—and the world at large.