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Triumph against the odds

CHILDREN’S BOOKS | Four new or recent books for young readers

Triumph against the odds
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The Miracle Seed

Martin Lemelman
(Eerdmans 2023)

Thousands of years ago during the fall of Jerusalem, Emperor Titus ordered the Romans to decimate everything precious to the Jewish people—their villages, the Temple, and even groves of Judean date palm trees that were prized for their supposed medicinal value. With the Jewish people dispersed, no one cared for the surviving trees, and over time even the wild date trees disappeared into extinction. But then archaeologists at Masada uncovered seeds from the trees, and scientists began to wonder if they could bring the 2,000-year-old seeds back to life. This graphic-novel-style book reveals how scientists achieved what at first seemed impossible, and how the research continues today. Ages 8-13

Make Way

Angela Burke Kunkel
(Random House Studio 2023)

This picture book biography explores the story behind the famous Make Way for Ducklings statues at Boston Public Garden. In 1987, sculptor Nancy Schön brought Robert McCloskey’s beloved children’s book to life with the installation of the famous bronze figures depicting a mother duck and her ducklings walking through the park. The book highlights how much time, hard work, and even rejection were involved in both the writing and sculpting process. Families will enjoy Claire Keane’s nostalgic illustrations, but they may want to consider skipping the author’s note because it includes a photograph and comment about how the statues are sometimes dressed up to make political statements, such as in support of LGBTQ “Pride.” Ages 4-8

Cher Ami

Mélisande Potter
(Christy Ottaviano Books 2022)

Potter blends truth with legend to tell the story of Cher Ami, a messenger pigeon that served the Allies during World War I. The text imagines what life would have been like for the special pigeon corps, as the birds traversed smoky, bullet-riddled battle zones to relay secret messages across enemy lines. Cher Ami’s story emerges when American soldiers, trapped by the enemy and suffering under friendly fire, send the pigeon with an urgent message for help. The little bird succeeds in its mission, but suffers injury in the process. Endnotes fill in more details, including where families can go to see the taxidermically ­preserved Cher Ami. Ages 6-9


Mónica Montañés
(Eerdmans 2022)

In this extended picture book, Montañés provides a window into ­history through the ­fictional account of two siblings caught in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. As the children of an exiled Republican, Paco and Socorro struggle with hunger and unfair treatment, and they long for a time when being ­“different” will no ­longer be dangerous. The story serves as a gentle introduction to the harsh realities of Spain’s turbulent past while also providing young readers a detailed historical overview in the concluding endnotes. In addition to sparking interest about this period, the book can also provide families with an opportunity to discuss with empathy the plight of modern-­day refugees. Ages 9-13

Kristin Chapman

Kristin is the children's book page editor and an editorial assistant for WORLD Magazine. She graduated from two World Journalism Institutes, including one in Asheville and one in Austin. Kristin resides with her husband, Jarrett, and their three children in New Castle, Pa.


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