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Review: Tell Me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb

Tell Me the Day Backwards
By Albert Lamb
Illustrated by David McPhail

Candlewick Press

ISBN: 9780763650551
Grades PreK-1
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*Best New Book*

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Q: How many children’s books revolve around hibernation?

A: How many children’s books contain bears?

Yes, the topic of hibernation is a children’ lit classic. There’s something about the natural world’s reaction to the changing seasons that holds a fundamental appeal. Just in the past few years, Old Bear by Kevin Henkes and Leaves David Ezra Stein have tackled the topic with exceptional results. Tell Me the Day Backwards is a similar success. Lamb and McPhail take this familiar topic and add an interesting twist.

It’s bedtime, and Timmy Bear requests a game of “Tell Me the Day Backwards” before lights out. His mother obliges and the two relive a day, full of quiet moments (taking in a sunset) and dangerous excitement (a close call with a hive of bees). When they get all the way to the beginning of the day, we learn that it’s the bears first day in a while – they just awoke from their winter slumber.

McPhail’s scribbly watercolor and sepia ink illustrations contain the same quiet beauty of the text. But this isn’t you’re average somber cuteness – there’s a lot of substance in display here. I’m particularly fond of artwork when the action picks up:

A bedtime book with a healthy dose of timelessness, Tell Me the Day Backwards will likely have some staying power. I think every collection can use some of that.

Review copy from the library.

Also reviewed by Books4yourkids, Waking Brain Cells, Sal’s Fiction Addiction, Beautiful Books, Shop Talk, Book Reviews for Mums, A Picture Book a Day, Kiss the Book.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I’ll place a hold for it. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. My library needs a copy of this. Thanks for drawing my attention to it!