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Culture Children's Books

A sea of faces

Children’s Books

A sea of faces

Four recent children’s biographies

Through the Wardrobe by Lina Maslo: This book acquaints a new generation with C.S. Lewis and the experiences that shaped his beloved Narnian world. Lewis’ childhood imagination—fueled by books and heroic characters—influenced how he handled loss, hardship, wartime horrors, and career highs and lows. Maslo helps readers see parallels between Lewis’ own journey and Narnia’s “battles between good and evil, where one learns things like courage and love and forgiveness” and where a person’s worst moments shape his future. Endnotes highlight Lewis’ family, education, faith, marriage, career, and involvement in the wars and with the Inklings. (Ages 4-8)

The Strange Birds of Flannery O’Connor by Amy Alznauer: Alznauer paints a portrait of a girl whose fascination with strange birds influenced her life and stories. As a child, O’Connor wore special shoes for pigeon feet and always felt a bit like an odd bird herself. Early in her life, she lost her father. Then, at age 25, she learned she had lupus. Strange and dazzling birds colored O’Connor’s quiet and short-lived adulthood, shaping her writing and understanding of people’s attraction to oddities. Illustrator Ping Zhu’s first children’s book radiates with color and outsize people, objects, and fowl, spotlighting the “brightest, oddest bird you ever did see.” (Ages 4-8) 

John Bunyan by Simonetta Carr: This latest installment of Christian Biographies for Young Readers introduces kids to John Bunyan, a simple tinker with little education who brings the gospel to common people. Bunyan penned most of his writings, including The Pilgrim’s Progress, during his more than 12 years of imprisonment for preaching independently of the Church of England. Children will gain an appreciation for God’s grace in Bunyan’s life and for the experiences that shaped his understanding of sin and the glory of Christ’s death and resurrection. (Ages 7-12)

Prairie Boy by Barb Rosenstock: Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural style reflected his childhood years spent soaking up spacious Wisconsin prairie landscapes and his attraction to shapes, angles, and grids. As a budding architect, Wright appreciated natural light; long, cozy hearths; rectangular lines; and uncluttered spaces. He veered from European-style houses, turning “the shapes he loved into America’s home,” and experimented with new ideas, even venturing into furniture and clothing. Illustrator Christopher Silas Neal adds visual appeal with shape-filled pages. The author’s note and pictures of some of Wright’s most famous works give readers a taste of his creativity. (Ages 7-10) 


In Saving Lady Liberty (Calkins Creek, 2020), ­Claudia Friddell tells the story of Joseph Pulitzer, a poor Jewish immigrant who became a crusader for the magnificent monument in New York’s harbor. Pulitzer used the power of the press to rally ordinary Americans to fund the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. The book includes original quotes, editorial excerpts, and ­letters from children who donated, as well as interesting facts about Pulitzer and the statue.

In The Next President (Chronicle Books, 2020), Kate Messner takes readers on a tour of U.S. presidents, emphasizing what they did before they reached the highest-ranking public office. When George Washington became president in 1789, the next nine presidents were alive. Abraham Lincoln sold groceries and worked on a farm before his stint in the White House. Filled with snapshots and amusing facts, this book invites children to consider: What are future presidents doing right now? Note: The book diverges at the end to include a portrait of Hillary Clinton as the first female presidential nominee by a major party. —M.J.