Clara and Davie


From bestselling author Patricia Polacco's family tree -- the true story of young Clara Barton.

Animals and flowers were Clara's best friends. She had a special way with critters and found joy in the beauty that sprang from the soil. But whenever Clara talked, her words didn't come out right. As hard as she tried, she could not get over her lisp.

Clara's older brother Davie understood that his sister was gifted. When folks made fun of Clara's ...

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From bestselling author Patricia Polacco's family tree -- the true story of young Clara Barton.

Animals and flowers were Clara's best friends. She had a special way with critters and found joy in the beauty that sprang from the soil. But whenever Clara talked, her words didn't come out right. As hard as she tried, she could not get over her lisp.

Clara's older brother Davie understood that his sister was gifted. When folks made fun of Clara's stilted words, Davie was always at her side reminding her that she had a talent for healing creatures.

Davie told his sister, "Some day you are going to be a very great lady." And that's exactly what happened. Clara Barton became one of the most famous medical practitioners of all time, and founded the American Red Cross.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Sarah Harrison Smith
An artful storyteller, Polacco invents lifelike details and vernacular dialogue to bring interest to this tale of the little girl who became "the Angel of the Battlefield."
Publishers Weekly
Writing with unguarded emotion, Polacco offers a porthole into Clara Barton’s early childhood. Plagued by a speech impediment, Barton sought refuge outdoors, caring for animals, and relied on her nurturing older brother Davie. Polacco’s mixed-media artwork portrays an upbringing filled with insecurity, with moments of both darkness (Clara is sent to the basement by her older sister: “She doesn’t want to talk right. She’s lazy! She refuses to pronounce words properly!”) and joy, as Clara discovers her talent for healing. The author focuses on Barton’s formative experiences, ending the story before Barton enters adulthood, as if to suggest that children of unusual sensitivity can blossom into adults of profound influence. An author’s note explains Barton’s later contributions to society, as well as Polacco’s family connection to the founder of the American Red Cross. Ages 3–5. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Born on Christmas day in 1821 to a mother in failing health, Clara Barton was raised by older siblings. Especially adored was the next youngest child in the family, Davie, who became Clara’s champion. Ten years older than Clara, he was her constant companion, introducing her to the animals and natural surroundings of their farm. When Clara was put in the basement by her older sister for not talking correctly—she struggled with a lisp—Davie rescued her. When schoolmates tormented her for this same speech defect, Davie persuaded the family to school her at home. It was obvious to Davie, and eventually to everyone else, that Clara had a natural gift for healing. Neighbors called on her to treat their choleric hogs; her garden was the best in town. Her healing abilities, initially self-taught, were forced to extend to humans when Davie fell from the highest point of the barn and broke both legs. Through more than two years of recovery, she stayed by his side, and exerted not-so-gentle emotional coercion to finally make him walk again. In the “Author’s Note” following the text, we learn that Barton was related to Polacco by marriage and she had heard family tales of Clara while growing up. Barton went on to become a battlefield nurse during the Civil War and, in 1881, she founded the Red Cross, becoming world famous. This story could serve as an impetus to spur research and writing projects about a child’s own family members. Certainly, the tale of transcending her speech impediment to make such an enormous mark on the world is inspirational as well. This book is beautifully produced with full-color end papers, plus color illustrations that convey action and emotion. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.; Ages 5 to 10.
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Drawing once again on her family history, Polacco shares the story of a distant relative. The very shy Clara was especially close to her brother, Davie. While their older sister thought that Clara was too lazy to speak correctly, Davie understood that she had a severe lisp. The siblings became inseparable, Clara a willing student to Davie's lessons in horseback riding and other outdoor endeavors. Clara spent time with the barn animals, studying their habits and needs. She seemed "to have healing in her hands." After classmates teased her about her speech, Clara, an excellent student, was taught at home. She and Davie visited the library and borrowed books about nature. Soon, Clara was borrowing medical books as well. Word of her ability spread and she began treating the neighbors' livestock. When Davie was severely injured in an accident, she immediately took over his care. After his long recovery, Davie proclaimed, "You do have the gift of healing, Clara….Thank you for my life." The author's endnote details Barton's adult accomplishments in the medical field and her founding of the American Red Cross. Polacco's characteristic mixed-media illustrations are lively and evocative, and the winter scenes are especially appealing. This heartwarming story of sibling devotion and overcoming obstacles will whet readers' interest and lead them to further study.—Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, NY
Kirkus Reviews
From her apparently inexhaustible font of family stories, Polacco chooses one about Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross and a distant relative by marriage. Clara is born on Christmas Day 1821 and mostly raised by her siblings, though aside from mentioning that her mother was ill, no real reason is given for this. Her intense shyness is attributed to a severe lisp, which leads to her education at home. Young Clara loves to study and to work with animals and flowers, displaying a gift for healing early on. When her brother Davie, who took her everywhere and taught her everything, falls from a barn beam and breaks both legs, Clara sets the bones and cares for him for two years. It is that care and healing that Polacco centers this story on. The pictures are done in Polacco's vivid, vibrant pencil, marker and acrylics, with exaggerated gestures and abundant details. The dialogue is occasionally a bit over-the-top: "Davie, I know you can walk. You have always told me that I have a gift of healing. Unless you try to walk, I'll never believe that again." An author's note outlines Barton's founding of the American Red Cross and her work with soldiers during the Civil War. The abundance of dialogue and absence of specific sources makes this book problematic for use as nonfiction. Not up to Polacco's usual standard. (Picture book. 7-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545354776
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/2014
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 103,460
  • Age range: 3 - 6 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.70 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Polacco

Patricia Polacco is the bestselling and widely acclaimed author and illustrator of nearly one hundred picture books for children, including such classics as THE KEEPING QUILT, PINK AND SAY, and THANK YOU, MISTER FALKER. Many of her books are based on real-life events and narrative histories from her childhood. CLARA AND DAVIE began just this way. As a young girl, Patricia, who is related to Clara Barton, heard many stories about this great lady. Patricia lives on a farm in Union City, Michigan. Visit
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