Saturday, January 8, 2011

Welcome to the Reading Pit!

Most people start the new year with a resolution. I didn't make one this year. After a few decades of not ever keeping a single resolution, I gave it up. This year, I brought in the new year with a challenge. Find the best new picture books for my library. After five years in a high school, I am now the teacher-librarian at a K-5 school. I want the best books to inspire children's imaginations and spark conversation. I love seeing them excited as they learn something new, make a connection, or just simply enjoy and love a story!
Mirror by Jeannie Baker
*A Most Highly Recommended Title
I was wandering through the bookstore looking at children's books and I was drawn to a book called Mirror by Jeannie Baker. It wasn't really the cover of the book, although it's a lovely cover; it was the sticker that said "Two Cultures, Two Stories." I'm always interested in books that tell stories about different cultures. I think it is so important to learn about many cultures and the lives of people in other parts of the world. I am always fascinated by the traditions and customs of others!

Mirror is a unique book. It is two stories told side-by-side in a wordless picture book. One family lives in a city in Australia and one lives in Morocco, North Africa. The book is designed to have the pages on each side turned simultaneously, so readers can look at the lives of two families; lives that seem so very different. Yet as you look at the illustrations (more about them in a bit), you can also see many similarities between the two families as well!

Part of the reason Mirror is so engaging is the design of the book, but the illustrations are the other reason. The illustrations begin as drawings, but are built into collages using all kinds of materials: sand, fabric, tin, paper and lots of other things. I found that I was looking at the illustrations to see the story, but then I kept staring to see what the collages were made of. They are so beautiful.

This is a book that can foster so much discussion. Talking to children about the similarities and differences of the lives of the two boys and about how they intertwine should make for interesting conversation. I haven't read this to students yet, as I just picked it up, but I am certain they will really be thrilled discovering the story. And I know without a doubt that there will be a lot of excitement as they explore the illustrations too.

Although there are no words, Mirror speaks volumes.

Curriculum Connections:
  • Grade 2 English Language Arts - Social, Cultural and Historical
  • Grade 3 Social Studies - Community Connections
Best Lists:
  • New York Public Library Children's Books (2010)
  • Horn Book Fanfare (2010)

Starred Reviews
  • Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2010)
  • Publisher's Weekly (October 25, 2010)


  1. Hi Tracy,
    Thanks for the post, I now have another book to add to my two libraries. I know that this will work especially well with one school where I have a great deal of diversity. If you liked Jeannie Baker's Mirror you may also wish to read Window, again the illustrations are spectacular.

  2. Tracy,
    What a wonderful book to begin your blog with!
    The Horn Book's January newsletter (
    also featured Mirror. The collage artwork and unique format combine to create a stellar wordless book.