It’s hard to find a new angle on topics that have been written about before. Over. And. Over. But Selbert does so charmingly:

Rufus’ best friend, Winston Churchill, is a busy man, but most days Rufus and Winston share a walk.

From this auspicious beginning, we watch Churchill save the Western world from the perspective of his poodle. Selbert never, however, slips into cloying cuteness. This is carefully-crafted nonfiction, and she sticks to the facts. Most pages include a quotation from Churchill. Rather than incorporating the quotes into the text, they are worked into the art, appearing as card tacked onto bulletin boards.

An inspiring look at a great man.

War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus by Kathryn Selbert. Charlesbridge: 2013

“There was a time when jolly old England was not so jolly. Children worked in factories. Queen Victoria frowned. Everything was grim. Everything was dark—except…in the make-believe kingdom of Topsy-Turvydom.”

Gilbert and Sullivan’s hilarious operas can just seem strange if you don’t understand the class-bound, rule-conscious Victorian world they came from. In The Fabulous Feud of Gilbert & Sullivan, Jonah Winter depicts that Victorian world and celebrates the unabashed silliness of Gilbert & Sullivan while telling the story of how The Mikado came to be written. Although the focus is on The Mikado, this book is a great introduction to any Gilbert & Sullivan show–our kids loved reading it before we saw HMS Pinafore..

Reading about Gilbert and Sullivan’s fight also might prompt discussion about friendship and the hard feelings that can come between friends.

I miss some of the research features that are becoming more common in non-fiction picture books. The dialogue in the book is apparently invented, but there is no acknowledgment or discussion of that craft choice. I also wished there had been a bibliography so I could see where Winter found the story.

Richard Egielski’s pictures are the perfect accompaniment to Winter’s rollicking text.

The Fabulous Feud of Gilbert and Sullivan by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Richard Egielski. Arthur A. Levine: 2009.