How best to bring a six-year-old reader up to date on the happenings in this country in the past 30 years or so? Well, based on last month’s experiences, the emphasis will be on storytelling rather than anything obviously nonfiction-y.

  • From DyAnne DiSalvo, we’ll have A Castle on Viola Street and Grandpa’s Corner Store. I haven’t read any of her books before, but her focus on contemporary social issues — achieving home ownership through a Habitat-like organization and the struggles of neighborhood shops in the face of Mega Lo Marts, respectively — are intriguing.
  • A couple of books seem like timely fits after what happened in New Orleans: River Friendly, River Wild, by Jane Kurtz and Neil Brennan, cover the flooding, while Smoky Night, by Eve Bunting and David Diaz, address the sort of chaos that children experienced during the long wait for evacuation.
  • Then there are the 9/11-related books: The Man Who Walked Between The Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein, Maira Kalman’s Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey, and September Roses, by Jeanette Winter. We’ve already read the first two — my wife recently found S reading Fireboat to his pet bunny — and I’m eager to read Winter’s angle. Another recent book of hers, The Librarian of Basra, is contemporary Iraqi history that goes hand-in-hand with contemporary U.S. history, and we’ve read that one recently, too.
  • The Train of States, by Peter Si­s, looks appealing. His books are always interesting to look at, and S is a big train fan, so this might be a good way to bring him up to speed on the 49 states he hasn’t lived in. My 89-year-old grandfather still talks about what an expert he was on the various states back when he was about S’s age, so we’ll see if that knack or interest got passed along to his great-grandson.

I plucked several of these from a list of picture books recommended by Cynthia Leitich Smith, whose own Jingle Dancer (illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu) we’ll be reading as well, for its take on modern Native culture.

As always, I’d love to hear your suggestions of other books we ought to take a gander at — for this period, or for next month, when we jump back several hundred years.