Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Clara and Davie: The true story of young Clara Barton, Founder of the American R

Clara and Davie: The true story of young Clara Barton, Founder of the American R

Patricia Polacco
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Scholastic, 2014   ISBN: 978-0545354776

Clara came into the world on Christmas Day in 1821. Her mother was fragile after the birth of her fifth baby, and it was not long before Clara’s big sister, Dolly, took on the job of caring for her siblings. Though Dolly was in charge, Clara’s big brother Davie was the one who really took care of Clara. He “adored” his little sister, and in turn she “worshipped him.” They were always together, and Davie taught Clara how to ride a horse, how to climb trees, and how to take care of the farm animals. It soon became clear that Clara had “a special way with critters and found joy in the beauty that sprang from the soil.” She learned about animals by watching them carefully, and she had a gift for helping the animals who were sick or injured.

   Unfortunately Clara has a lisp when she spoke, and she did not want to go to school. She knew that the kids would make fun of her, and when she finally did go to school this is exactly what happened. When Clara begged Davie not to make her go back to school, her brother spoke to their father about Clara’s problem and persuaded him to allow Clara to study at home. Clara’s siblings helped her learn how to read and how to do math, and she and Davie borrowed all kinds of books from the local public library.

    One day Clara went skating and sledding with some boys when one of them fell and hurt his ankle. Clara knew exactly what to do and was able to reassure the boy that no bones were broken. Clara had “healing hands” and soon people living in the neighborhood were asking her to help them with their sick animals. Clara began to read medical books so that she could learn more about how to treat sick animals and humans. She had begun a journey that would, one day, lead her to battlefields, where she tended the wounded.

   The author and illustrator of this book has a special connection to Clara and Davie. They were her relations and the pride that she has for them comes through in her warm and sensitive description of Clara’s early years. Readers will find out more about Clara, Davie and their family in an author’s note at the back of the book. 

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