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Posts from April 2011

Ashes, Ashes: Jo Treggiari

Book: Ashes, Ashes
Author: Jo Terggiari (@JoTreggiari)
Pages: 352
Age Range: 12 and up

Ashes-Ashes_smcover Jo Treggiari's Ashes, Ashes is a near-future post-apocalyptic young adult novel (one of many published in the past year or so, but one that I found appealing). Society has been decimated by global weather changes (flooding and droughts), followed by a smallpox epidemic that "reduced the global population to less than 1 percent of what it had been within three short months." 30 to 60-year olds were particularly hard hit, such that most of the survivors of the epidemic are either kids or the elderly.

Sixteen-year-old Lucy is living on her own in a primitive shelter in what was once Central Park. Although she doesn't want to have anything to do with people, she meets a boy named Aidan, and can't help being intrigued by him. When her shelter is threatened, she is forced to join Aidan's small community. But even that safety is fleeting, as Sweepers (armed soldiers in white hazmat suits) invade the community, and start stealing people away. Lucy fears for her personal safety and her autonomy, and she fears the return of the plague.

Treggiari's New York setting is compelling - dramatically different from the New York of today, but bearing reminders of what once was (like the Alice in Wonderland status in Central Park). For example:

"The road was flat for a few hundred yards. Beyond that it dropped off again, but she couldn't tell how far. She walked, watching out for loose rubble. In places the mangled tarmac was marked with a broken white line, but it was no longer straight. It deviated from the middle and twisted suddenly and disappeared. She estimated that she was around Second Avenue and 92nd Street, although acres of road and earth had been shifted in the big quake,the landscape completely reconfigured. Sometimes she thought it looked as if a toddler had built a city out of blocks and then knocked them all down in a rage." (Page 81, ARC).

Occasional flashbacks fill in the details of how the world became so bleak, and how Lucy in particular lost her family. The timing of the book, within a year of drastic events, lends an immediate interest, as opposed to books set long after world-changing events, and will, I think, resonate with today's teens. 

Lucy is a well-rounded character - suspicious and scarred by her experiences, but with a core stubbornness that sees her through. I like that her interest in Aidan is reluctant and intermingled with periods of annoyance. Like this (at their first meeting):

"He was looking amused again, and her hand itched to slap him. A little snort of laughter escaped from his mouth. She carefully swiveled her torso so that she was facing away from him ... and she did her best to ignore him." (Page 33, ARC)

I like Aidan, too. And I like that the romantic pull between these characters is a relatively small part of this action-driven story.

The device of having most of the adults killed off so that the teens could be in charge, struck me as a tiny bit contrived (though less so than in many YA books of this genre), and not really necessary. I mean, most everyone was killed off anyway - I think that Lucy and Aiden could have had leadership roles regardless. Still, that's a minor point.

Overall, I enjoyed Treggiari's world-building, plotting, and characterization in Ashes, Ashes. I'd be interested to see another book set in the same world. Recommended, especially for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction (and especially for fans of Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It series).

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: June 1, 2011
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Quotes are from the ARC, and should be checked against the final book.

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

New Logo for Jen Robinson's Book Page

After 5 1/2 years using a logo that I had licensed, but didn't own exclusive rights to, I decided that it was time to procure my own, unique logo. I have no graphical design skills myself. However, I am fortunate to know someone who does. I commissioned the talented Sarah J. Stevenson with my logo design, keeping to a "growing bookworms" theme, and I'm quite pleased with the result. What do you all think?

My thanks to Sarah for her patience with me, and for her professionalism during the design process. I'll be working on new bookmarks and business cards soon!

April Carnival of Children's Literature Now Available

Maypole1 The April Carnival of Children's Literature is now available at Rasco from RIF. I hope that you'll take a few minutes [or hours ;-) ] to check it out. Carol Rasco has anchored the carnival with a lovely photo of a maypole, and taken the time to include images throughout the carnival. [Image credit: Rasco from RIF]

Not sure how I let this one go by without submitting an entry, but I'm happy to have this opportunity to catch up on other people's posts for the month. I was especially taken by Aaron Mead's comprehensive post on Finding the Best Children's Books: Reviews, Lists, and Blogs.

RIFF_logo In light of Carol's efforts on this carnival, and all of her support of the Kidlitosphere in recent years, it's been especially nice to hear about the upcoming KidLit drink nights organized in New York and Nashville in support of RIF. As Jules explains at 7-Imp, "Since a bill was recently signed that eliminated funding for RIF, the nation’s largest organization providing free books and literacy resources for children, this cut means that they need folks’ support now more than ever."


Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup: End of April Edition

JkrROUNDUP The end of April Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, and Rasco from RIF, is now available at Rasco from RIF. Over the month of April, Carol Rasco, Terry Doherty, and I have collected content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms.

Postcard_swap2011_450px1 In this installment, Carol shares news about a new South Asian Book Award, Playing By the Book's second annual International Postcard Swap for Families, and a host of literacy programs and tips. I was especially interested to learn about an Alabama school district that will be making up for two of the year's snow days with "E-Days" in which kids work from home (or libraries, for the 2% of students that don't have computers at home). See also Carol's look ahead to events coming in May, June, and July.

One event that Carol didn't mention in the roundup is a new Macy's Thank a Mom promotion through which participants can support RIF (along with other Mom-approved charities). The promotion works by sending e-cards via Facebook. Macy's will donate up to $400,000 to RIF, which the organization can certain use, given recent federal funding elimination. You can find details in this RIF post.

Two other Kidlitosphere events that I wanted to mention:

  • The April I Can Read Carnival is now up at the Jean Little Library blog. Jennifer shares 10 links to reviews and posts specific to new readers.
  • The April Carnival of Children's Literature will be posted at Rasco from RIF on Thursday (April 28th). Stay tuned...

Please do check out the full roundup at Rasco from RIF. I'll be back next week with more children's literacy and reading news. Thanks for reading, and for caring about children's literacy!


Tips for Growing Bookworms: #2 Read the Books Your Children Read: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on November 16, 2009.

Tips for Growing Bookworms: #2 Read the Books Your Children Read

This is Part 2 of a continuing series on encouraging young readers. These ideas were originally captured in a post that I did on my blog in 2007, 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms. Here at Booklights I'll be expanding upon and updating each idea, and adding links for more information where I have them. You can find Tip #1: Read Aloud here.

AdultReading.jpgTip #2: Read the books that your children read, even after you are no longer reading aloud with them (or along with books you're reading together). Talk to them about these books. Let them recommend books to you. By reading the books your children read, you show them that you value them, and the books, and you open up untold avenues for important discussions. I personally think that if more parents and other adults did this, there would be less of a drop-off in reading for pleasure as kids get older (though I have no formal data to back this up). I wrote about this in more detail in a very early post on my blog. But here are three good reasons to read the books your children read:

A. Reading the books that your kids are reading will give you a much better idea of what they like, and what their reading level is. This will make it easier to help them pick out other books, to buy books for them as gifts, etc. Some parents take this approach a step further, and read certain books before their children do, so that they can help decide when the child is ready for the book. The more you know first-hand what your kids are reading, the more you can help.

B. If you and your child are reading the same books, you'll open up all sorts of doors for discussion. This is especially true for parents of teens and tweens. Today's YA titles cover a wide range of issues, and sometimes it's easier to talk in hypotheticals than in actuals. As in "hmmm, I wonder what you would do in that situation." It's a thought, anyway. I do know parents who have found this to work well.

C. Reading the books that your children are reading sends a strong message to your kids that reading in general, and specifically what they are reading, is important to you. This tells them a) that they are important to you, and b) that you value books and reading. And I can't emphasize enough how important this last point is. There are all sorts of reasons why many kids' interest in reading for pleasure drops off as they get older. All of the distractions of television and computers. All of their activities at school. A perception that reading isn't "cool" in some cases. And so on. But if you are as excited as they are about the release of the new Rick Riordan series featuring Egyptian mythology - surely that has to help.

AnotherAdultReading.jpgI'll also add a side benefit of reading the books that your kids are reading - it's a tremendous amount of fun. I know lots of people who got back into reading children's and young adult literature because of their children, and then simply never stopped, because the books were so good.

One thing I'm not sure of with this whole "read the books your children read" idea is what you do when you are flat out not interested in the type of books that your child is reading. The most common example is mothers who enjoy fiction, confronted with sons who want to read about planes, trains, and war. Any parents out there have suggestions for handling this one? All I can say is that even a little bit of effort probably goes a long way here.

Of course I'm not suggesting that you try to read everything that your kids are reading in any case. If your child is a real bookworm, this will be impossible. And some teens might resist the idea that their parents want to read all of the books that they're reading. But I'll say this: if your son or daughter (or niece or nephew or grandchild) has a favorite series, it's worth checking out an installment or two. If "everybody" in your child's class is reading Twilight, then perhaps you should, too. I think that you'll find the experience rewarding. You may help keep your older child interested in reading. And perhaps you'll find yourself hooked on children's literature, too.

This post was originally published at Booklights on November 16, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: April 15

Jpg_book007Today I will be sending out the new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. There are 1378 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have five book review posts (mostly picture books and board books, plus one YA title) and one children's literacy roundup (published in detail at The Reading Tub). I also have a Booklights reissue post with the first in my Tips for Growing Bookworms series. The only post from the past two weeks that I didn't include in the newsletter was Happy Birthday, Baby Bookworm, celebrating my daughter's first year of life and books.

Reading Update: Since the last newsletter, I only finished one book (besides various picture books and board books, see those here and here):

  • Louise Penny: Bury Your Dead (A Chief Inspector Gamache novel). Macmillan Audio. Completed April 10, on MP3. This series just keeps getting better. This is an unconventional mystery novel, in that it reevaluates the conclusions of a prior book in the series. I enjoyed it.

I'm currently listening to A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (A Maisie Dobbs mystery), reading The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, and reading D.E. Stevenson's Celia's House aloud to Baby Bookworm. As always, I wish that I had more time to read for myself. But I'm working on it...

How about you? What have you been reading and enjoying? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms.

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup: Mid-April Edition

JkrROUNDUP The mid-April edition of the children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, and Rasco from RIF is now available at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub. Over the past couple of weeks Terry Doherty, Carol Rasco, and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events, programs, and research (with some extra help from Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook). See especially Terry's notes on a news release from Reach Out and Read about Joining Forces, an initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the Vice President.

“Joining Forces aims to educate, challenge, and spark action from all sectors of our society — citizens, communities, businesses, non-profits, faith-based institutions, philanthropic organizations, and government — to ensure military families have the support they have earned.”

Reach Out and Read, an official partner of the initiative, will expand to 100 military bases, serving more than 200,000 children and families. It is great to see literacy as a cornerstone piece of this project.

Another regular roundup contributor, Jenny Schwartzberg, sent me one more story this morning. CBS Philly has a report about Dr. Jessica Kahn, who collects and donates books to fill empty school libraries in Philadelphia. Here's my favorite part:

""Every school should have a library. It’s a crime that they don’t,” Kahn said. “Children who read, succeed.” Kahn, who is volunteering her time, found it’s pretty easy to get books. “The thing is, when children are done with books, they’re done with them. And nobody throws away a book,” she said."

Also just in, via @PWKidsBookshelf, UK grocery chain Asda is working with Puffin to put excerpts from Roald Dahl stories on the back of millions of cereal boxes. "The extracts are only a couple of hundreds of words long, but Francesca Dow, the managing director of Penguin's children books, which owns Puffin, said she hoped many would be intrigued enough to track down the whole book after reading the boxes: "The great thing about a cereal box, is that it potentially is reaching millions of households that just don't read any literature outside of school."" See more in this Telegraph article by Harry Wallop.

Terry has tons of other interesting news in the full roundup. Carol Rasco will be back later this month with some reflections for these past 30-odd days and a look forward to next month, and I'll be sharing some more news in early May. Thanks for reading, and for caring about children's literacy.

The Dark and Hollow Places: Carrie Ryan

Book: The Dark and Hollow Places
Author: Carrie Ryan
Pages: 384
Age Range: 13 and up

Cover The Dark and Hollow Places is the final book in Carrie Ryan's riveting Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy (see my reviews of The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves). It is as suspenseful as the first two books. And that's saying something. This post-apocalyptic series is set in a world overrun by zombies, in which only a few scattered communities of uninfected humans remain. Faced with constant danger, Carrie Ryan's characters fight for to survive and to retain their humanity.

The Dark and Hollow Places is narrated by Annah, the long-lost twin sister of Gabry from The Dead-Tossed Waves. Annah lives in what was once New York City (now called Dark City), where the Unconsecrated are not the only peril. The Recruiters, a group of military men who once protected the people from the zombies, have degenerated into power-hungry bullies, to be avoided at all costs.

Annah is scarred, physically and emotionally, from the events of her childhood, particularly her own long-ago abandonment of her sister, and Annah's more recent abandonment by the man she loved, Elias. Her loneliness is crushing. And when the opportunity arises to care about people again, she has a difficult time opening herself up. Annah is a great character - strong, vulnerable, complex, bright, and determined. The reader aches for her, fears for her, and cheers for her.

I particularly liked Carrie Ryan's use of different narrators for the three books in this series. It's interesting to see the characters from different perspectives, particularly Annah's view of the twin sister who grew up so differently than she did.

The Dark and Hollow Places is quite bleak - hordes of zombies are overrunning the last safe havens for the living. There's a real possibility that humanity will be completely wiped out. Even the safe places are not very safe. Annah is so hard-edged that she makes Mary and Gabry, the protagonists of the first two books in the series, seem soft by comparison. (Though I liked her the best of the three).

And yet, The Dark and Hollow Places is not too bleak to read (though this series won't be for everyone). The book's fast pace doesn't leave time to focus on the bleakness of the setting - the reader is too busy trying to find out what will happen next. There's a compelling love story between two broken characters. And, as with the best post-apocalyptic fiction, there are essential questions about what it means to survive when others don't, and how to choose to live your life when you know that you might have very limited time.

Here are a couple of quotes, to give you a feel for the book:

"Everything explodes inside me with the need to survive and escape and the terror-fueled realization that I might not be able to." (Page 33)

"The walls were covered with photographs: shiny bulletlike machines that sped through the tunnels called subways, sloping parks with families picnicking while kids clutched balloons. Buildings that stood tall, the glare of light bouncing off them so bright that even from the dingy picture I wondered how people back then didn't go blind." (Page 93)

"I glance at the Dark City across the river, a few buildings still flickering with light as the handful of survivors huddle behind thin curtains slung across broken windows. All of them tiny little stars in their own constellations waiting to fall to infection and become ghosts of what they used to be." (Page 248)

I found The Dark and Hollow Places to be a worthy end to a compelling series. The Dark and Hollow Places is a must-read for fans of this series. And the series is a must-read for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction and paranormal love stories. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a series that I think that I'll re-read one day. Given all of the books on my to read stack, that is a strong endorsement.

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Tips for Growing Bookworms: #1 Read Aloud: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on November 2, 2009. It was the first of a 10-post series on Tips for Growing Bookworms. Each of the Booklights posts was actually an extended discussion of a tip originally proposed here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page. Thus I am especially happy to be bringing these detailed tips home by republishing them here.

Jpg_book007 Tips for Growing Bookworms: #1 Read Aloud

Back in 2007 I wrote a post on my own blog called 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms. This has remained a popular post, and people have suggested several other tips in the comments there. I've decided to expand upon each of these tips, and create a new Tips for Growing Bookworms series here at Booklights. Of course other Booklights contributors talk about tips for encouraging young readers here, too, as in Terry's Bedtime from Afar post from last week. But I say, we can't focus on this important topic too much. So, without further ado:

MomReading.jpgTip #1: Read aloud to your children from (or even before) birth, as often as possible, and keep reading aloud to them even after they can read on their own. Reading aloud has been shown to have a huge impact in raising readers, and is the number one thing that parents and other concerned adults can do to help grow bookworms. By reading to kids in a comfortable, safe environment, you help them to think of reading as a pleasurable activity. You also increase their vocabularies and attention spans, and show them that you think that books are important. And with all of the many wonderful books out there, reading together should be enjoyable for you and the kids.

DadSonReading.jpgIt's especially helpful when Dads or other male caregivers can participate in at least some of the read aloud activity. This shows boys that reading isn't just something that girls do, but rather something that's fun for everyone. A recent survey by UK charity Booktrust found that "some 67% of mothers of four to five-year-olds claim to be the principal reader, compared with 17% of fathers, although many more fathers were said to be reading than in last year's survey." The Booktrust study (as reported by BBC News) found that 96% of children surveyed reported enjoying reading, but also reported that only one in three families read with their children every day. I would personally love to see that last statistic increase.

ReadingOlderKids.jpgIt is, of course, tempting to think that once your child can read on his or her own, you can stop reading aloud. However, if you can find the time and the motivation to continue reading aloud with your older children, your whole family will reap rewards. You'll be able to read books that they aren't ready to read on their own, and share the experience of discovery. You'll be able to introduce your kids first-hand to the books that you loved as a child, and talk about why you loved them. You'll be able to discuss all sorts of topics that are raised in books, allowing you and your kids to learn from and about each other. Andrea Ross from Just One More Book! wrote a wonderful article for Canwest Newspapers last month about the benefits to parents of reading aloud with their children.

Of course sometimes it's hard to find the time for read-aloud. But I promise that if you do, you and your children will find the time well-spent. For parents who aren't comfortable reading aloud, you can listen to audiobooks together (libraries have audiobooks you can check out), or turn the pages of a picture book and make up your own stories. Children, young children especially, are a forgiving audience. They'll find the attention and the closeness and your time much more important than your particular pronunciation of a word, or the fact that you aren't skilled at giving the different characters distinct voices. The more you try, the easier it will get, too. See also Susan Kusel's post at Booklights about the ups and downs of reading aloud.

Reading aloud together. It's enjoyable time for parents and kids. It helps kids to do better in school, and builds family closeness. And it's free (all you need is a library card). It is well worth a try. Do any of you have success stories or tips that you'd like to share about reading aloud with your kids?

This post was originally published at Booklights on November 2, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.

Moomin's Little Books of Words/Numbers

Book: Moomin's Little Book of Words and Moomin's Little Book of Numbers
Author: Tove Jansson (adapted from Jansson's work)
Pages: ~14 each
Age Range: 1-3

MoominThis month, FSG is publishing board book editions of two books for babies based on Tove Jansson's beloved Moomin series. These books have apparently been previously available in the UK, but will now be available in the US. I hope that this signals a surge of renewed interest in the Moomin books. While I must confess that I haven't read them myself, I know many people who adore these stories. So I'll be glad to have another chance to check them out.

Anyway, Moomin's Little Book of Words and Moomin's Little Book of Numbers are small, bright board books, sure to catch the eye of toddlers everywhere. The Little Book of Words features just seven page spreads, each showing a single noun, with a small picture of the item on one side, and a Moomin enjoying the item on the other. Each page spread is a different color, but with a similar tone.

The words are not alphabetical (which may bother some Type-A parents, but is unlikely to phase your average one-year-old). They are kid-friendly words like "flower", "cup", and (yay!) "book". But what will make you want to pick up the book again is the sheer joy that the Moomins demonstrate in simple tasks like collecting sea shells and painting a room.

Cover Moomin's Little Book of Numbers is similar. One one page spread we see "one moomin" and "two trees". Another has "three umbrellas" and "four clouds". The items to be counted are spread across both pages, intermixed (like the umbrellas and the clouds). And of course the Moomins are there on every spread, quietly enjoying life. I liked 
"nine fish", where we see a Moomin fishing, with a fish across his forehead, looking a little sheepish. The book ends with "LOTS and LOTS of stars" and two cuddling Moomins. I say, you have to like a number book that includes "lots and lots" in with the regular numbers.

Moomin's Little Book of Numbers and Moomin's Little Book of Words will be must-buy titles for new parents who are fans of the Moomin books. And even for those, like me, who haven't read the other books, their quirky charm stands out amidst the plethora of board books. Definitely worth a look!

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Publication Date: April 12, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Happy Birthday, Big Bad Wolf: Frank Asch

Book: Happy Birthday, Big Bad Wolf
Author: Frank Asch
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

Cover I enjoyed Frank Asch's two Cardboard Genius books for early middle grade readers (Star Jumper and Gravity Buster). So I was pleased when Happy Birthday, Big Bad Wolf arrived, especially when it arrived right in time for Baby Bookworm's Birthday Week celebration.

Happy Birthday, Big Bad Wolf is based very loosely on the story of the three little pigs. The only real similarity is that there are three pigs, and there is a big bad wolf who tries to eat them. In Frank Asch's version, however, Big Bad Wolf isn't so much stymied by the cleverness of the pigs. Rather, he's won over by kindness.

When the Big Bad Wolf shows up on their doorstep, Momma Pig and Poppa Pig quickly tell their son, Little Pig, to hide. Reminded of his grandfather's surprise party, Little Pig naturally enough assumes that it's Big Bad Wolf's birthday, and pops out to say "Surprise!!!". Figuring that some birthday cake could be a nice way to wash down a meal of little piggies, Big Bad Wolf goes along with the whole birthday thing. But it turns out to be rather difficult to go ahead and eat people who have just celebrated your birthday with you.

There's a tongue-in-cheek, subversive quality to Happy Birthday, Big Bad Wolf. As I read, I was half expecting a black humor-ish ending, in which the wolf is NOT reformed after all. I think this is because part of the story is told from the wolf's viewpoint. So we get passages like:

"Now we EAT!" declared the Big Bad Wolf.

"Wait!" cried Little Pig. "First you have to  make a secret wish and blow out your candles!"

"Right," said the Big Bad Wolf, and he wished the Pig family hadn't been so nice to him.

Then he huffed and he puffed and he not only blew out the candles, he blew the candles right off the cake!"

Older picture book readers will snicker at the notion that the wolf still wants to eat the Pig family, even as he's getting ready to eat cake.

Asch's illustrations, rendered in Photoshop, have a bit of a cartoon quality, with bold lines and pure, untextured backgrounds. Little Pig is relentlessly cheerful, while his parents sometimes betray their nervousness through furrowed brows. Big Bad Wolf slinks around in a white t-shirt and blue vest, and looks quite comical when he opens his birthday gift, and tries to EAT a snuggle toy.

Happy Birthday, Big Bad Wolf is a fun read for preschoolers and early elementary school kids (a bit over the head of toddlers). We'll be keeping it to read on birthdays, and to read with The Three Little Tamales and Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf (on my TBR pile).

Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: February 1, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Scaredy Squirrel Has A Birthday Party: Melanie Watt

Book: Scaredy Squirrel Has A Birthday Party
Author: Melanie Watt
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 to 8

Cover Scaredy Squirrel is one of my favorite children's book characters. I reviewed Scaredy Squirrel and Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, have given the Scaredy books many times as gifts, and even interviewed Melanie Watt about Scaredy once. I was extra-thrilled to be able to celebrate Scaredy's birthday in conjunction with Baby Bookworm's.

Scaredy Squirrel Has A Birthday Party is the fifth book in the Scaredy Squirrel series. It is just as fun as its predecessors. As the book begins, Scaredy is planning for his own birthday party. He feels that the safest thing will be celebrate alone in his tree, away from the potential dangers of Bigfoot, confetti, clownfish, ants, ponies, and porcupines. But when Scaredy's friend Buddy gives him a thoughtful card, plans for the party have to change.

The two things that I love most about these books are here in full force. First off, Scaredy is adorable. As I've said before, you just want to pick him up and hug him. He's got this nervous, hopeful smile that stretches across his face. He looks like a little doll in his baby picture, and dressed up in a blue tuxedo and ruffled shirt for the party, well, he's quite dapper.

Second, the books are filled with small, entertaining details. For example, among the "exhibits" compiled in support of Scaredy's "Birthday Party Checklist" are a Nutty Cake Recipe (complete with instruction to "verify expiration dates on all ingredients") and Scaredy's Birth Certificate. His middle name is Orville (S.O.S., get it?). Boxes are checked for "Cute: yes", "Teeth: no" and "Fleas: no". What a relief! Scaredy's plan for ensuring the success and safety of his party is quite ingenious (if a bit overly ambitious, as it turns out).

Scaredy Squirrel Has A Birthday Party is not so much a book to be read aloud as it is a book to be pored over with a small child, reviewing the many fun details. Melanie Watt trained as a graphic artist, and the book is full of icons and charts and time-tables. There are bold lines and colors, and a mix of large and small panels on the various pages.

In short, Scaredy Squirrel Has A Birthday Party is irrepressible fun. Although this is the fifth book in the series, it feels as fresh as the first. Children and adults are sure to empathize with Scaredy's worries (What are safe topics for small talk? What if something gets spilled?), and smile sympathetically when things don't turn out quite as he plans. Highly recommended, and the perfect birthday gift for any four-year-old of your acquaintance.  

Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: February 1, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).