Picture Books, ages 7 to 10
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker , Robbie Robertson (Abrams) Based on his childhood memories of a revered elder’s storytelling, Robbie Robertson (best known for his work in the seminal group The Band) recalls the Iroquois legend of Hiawatha, a warrior grief-stricken by the destruction of his family by an evil chief. Hiawatha seeks an end his own anger and to bring peace into his world. David Shannon’s paintings are as dynamic as the story.
The Most Wonderful Thing in the World, Vivian French (Candlewick) French revives the classic fairy tale structure of the suitor who wins the princess’s hand. She makes conflict clear with her characterizations of the overprotective parents and their daughter, who aches to experience the world. Angela Barrett’s illustrations add intricate Edwardian costuming and a rich Venetian setting.
My Two Blankets, Irena Kobald (HMH) Spare, lyrical, symbolic language is completed by Freya Blackwood’s captivating illustrations. The artistry of both will be better understood by sophisticated readers. “My aunt used to call me Cartwheel. Then came the war. Auntie didn’t call me Cartwheel anymore,” begins the narration of a young girl trying to right herself after moving from her war-torn world to a foreign land.
Tucky Jo and Little Heart , Patricia Polacco (Simon and Schuster) With a strong country tone full of imagery, Polacco tells the story of Johnnie Wallen. Wallen lied about his age to enlist as a soldier in World War II. Very quickly he learns how much humanity matters amid the horrors of war.
Vasilisa The Beautiful: A Russian Folktale, Anthea Bell (Mini edition) Bell’s retelling is classical as she recounts the Russian fairy tale heroine who conquers the terrifying Baba Yaga with the help of her magical doll. Anna Morgunova’s illustrations strengthen the story with image, symbolism and mood.
Picture Book biographies
Talkin’ Guitar: A Story of Young Doc Watson , Robbin Gourley (Clarion, ages 5-8) The author-artist uses similes, verbs, sensory images and colloquial tone to give a sense of the mountain home and growing up of Doc Watson, who has a “heart full of melody and head full of song.”
Trombone Shorty, Troy Andrews (Abrams, ages 5-8) This picture book represents the musician, his Treme neighborhood, and New Orleans with vivacity of language and energetic illustrations by Bryan Collier.
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees, Franck Prevot (Charlesbridge, ages 5-8) Present tense, image-rich writing brings vividness to the story of a woman whose mother taught her “a tree is worth more than its wood.” Aurelia Fronty’s dramatic, colorful art matches words and deeds of the environmental activist who fought sexism and developers in Kenya.