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Posts from October 2011

Follow Me: Tricia Tusa

Book: Follow Me
Author: Tricia Tusa
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

51D+KRg-B+L._SL500_AA300_Tricia Tusa clearly loves color. She illustrated the oh-so-soothing In A Blue Room, written by Jim Averbeck (and given to us as a baby gift by Becky Levine). Her latest picture book is Follow Me, a celebration of color, adventure, and being able to entertain oneself.

On the surface, Follow Me is a very simple book, with just a phrase or two on each page. The action follows a girl as she swings on a swing, jumps to the ground, and heads home. And yet, there's so much more to the book than that. Each page spread focuses on one or more colors, beginning with the gorgeous "I wander through pink." Every swing, jump, or dive that the girl undertakes is limitless in scope. We see her leaning backwards, arching through the air on the swing, against a soft yellow backdrop. We see her flying forward, arms outstretched "lost in small, green happy music." We get text like:

"I reach up,
way out,
over and beyond,

across that easy sway of blue."

The formatting of the text helps to visualize the action, too, as when a single page shows just "until" in the middle of a blue sky. The warm colors and swirling backgrounds convey mood, and the endless potential of imagination. A page spread near the end is the very picture of joy, as, braid flying, feet dancing:

"Arms out, head back,
I twirl.

I twirl and I twirl and I twirl"

I challenge you to read it without wanting to twirl, too. Follow Me is a book that you appreciate a little bit more every time you read it. It's a book that makes the reader want to go and climb a tree, or swing on a swing, or jump in a big pile of leaves. It's a book that will make adults feel like children again, and will make children feel like they can do anything. All that in a simple little book about a girl jumping off a swing. That, my friends, is the beauty of a well-executed picture book.

Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books (@hmhbooks)
Publication Date: April 18, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Amy @ Hope Is the Word

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Real Live Boyfriends: e. lockhart

Book: Real Live Boyfriends (yes, boyfriends, plural. if my life weren't complicated--I wouldn't be Ruby Oliver.)
Author: e. lockhart
Pages: 240
Age Range: 12 and up

BoyfrieindsReal Live Boyfriends is the final book in e. lockhart's Ruby Oliver quartet. See my other reviews of The Boyfriend List (15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver) (Book 1) and The Boy Book and The Treasure Map of Boys (Books 2 and 3 reviewed together). I must admit that I put off reading this one, because I liked the idea of having one more Ruby Oliver book to read. I was sorry to see the series end. But I think that e. lockhart left Ruby in a good place, and that Real Live Boyfriends is a satisfying end to the series.

Real Live Boyfriends begins with Ruby happy with her "real live boyfriend" Noel. A "real live boyfriend", as outlined in an early list in the book, is one who calls you, and talks to you, and kisses you, and sits with you at lunch. One might think that such things would be obvious, but in Ruby's life, no relationship is simple and straightforward. And soon, alas, things with Noel fall apart, too. Which is particularly sad, given that Ruby torpedoed her relationship with her friend Nora in order to date Noel. When Ruby's grandmother dies, and her father retreats into depression, and her mother outright runs away from the family drama, and her friend Hutch goes to study abroad for a semester, Ruby's life looks pretty bleak. But she wouldn't be Ruby Oliver if she didn't find a way to bounce back (and even find a possible new boyfriend, as hinted at by the subtitle).

Real Live Boyfriends features Ruby's entertaining and engaging voice, matured somewhat since the first book (she's a high school senior now), but still the same in essence. Here are a couple of classic quotes (they are easy to find - I could pretty much pick something from any page in the book):

... (Meghan) somehow knows how to connect with boys. Not like they're Neanderthals or wildebeests or aliens or pod-robots, but like they're normal human beings.
Which obviously they are.
Only, it is extremely hard to tell sometimes." (Page 6)

Mom was lying on the floor with her head on Polka-dot, our dog. I was standing at the fridge feeling a wave of ennui because of the severe lack of deliciousness therein." (Page 9)

I mean, who doesn't love a narrator who uses "ennui" and "deliciousness" in the same sentence? Real Live Boyfriends is also full of witty footnotes, like the other books in the series. Like this:

""Keep On Loving You": Retro power ballad by REO Speedwagon. Dad is obsessed with retro metal. I think it makes him feel like he's still seventeen. Though why anyone would want to feel like they're seventeen I have no idea." (Page 13)

Real Live Boyfriends is overflowing with angst and emotional scenes (between Ruby and Noel, Ruby and her Mom, etc.), albeit laced with humor. But you'll also find flashes of genuine insight, as when Meghan says, during a video interview with Ruby about popularity, "Get over it, Roo. If you have friends who actually like you, you're popular enough." I mean, I would like to think that I knew that in high school. I would like my daughter to know it, at any rate. Meghan is my favorite supporting character in this series - she feels completely real, flaws and all.

I didn't particularly like seeing Ruby in conflict with Noel in this book. But I still enjoyed the book. I thought that Ruby had a very nice arc of character development over the series (highlighted by regular scenes with her therapist), significant but completely plausible. I think that the Ruby Oliver quartet would be wonderful to read all together, really looking at that personal development over time. Perhaps I'll read these with my daughter in 10 years or so.

In the meantime, I wholeheartedly recommend Real Live Boyfriends to fans of the Ruby Oliver series. If you're not already a fan, don't start with this book. Go back and start with The Boyfriend List. The Ruby Oliver books are delightful realistic young adult fiction, perfect for 12-year-old girls interested in popularity, dating, and growing up (though probably not a good fit for most boys).

Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: December 28, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Tuesdays at the Castle: Jessica Day George

Book: Tuesdays at the Castle
Author: Jessica Day George
Pages: 240
Age Range: 9-12

51HYT2xhJzL._SL500_AA300_Tuesdays at the Castle, the first of a planned series by Jessica Day George, has a premise that I was unable to resist. Princess Celie lives with her family in Castle Glower. Castle Glower is essentially alive, growing new rooms every Tuesday (and at other times, as needed by the family). Celie loves, and is loved by, the Castle. She spends her spare time working on an atlas of the ever-changing structure, and the Castle rewards her loyalty by helping her during trying times. When Celie's parents and oldest brother are attacked by bandits on a trip, reported missing and presumed dead, Celia, together with her two remaining siblings, must protect the Castle, and the crown, from threats inside and out.

Everything about the Castle is neat. It enlarges the rooms of people it likes, and turns the rooms of others into tiny cells. It creates a tower where Celia and her sister can hide safely, opening up special passages so that they can spy on the traitors within the Castle walls. When Celie is in a hurry, it turns a long twisty stairway into a slide for her.

But there is more to this book than an inventive setting. Celie and her siblings are surrounded by intrigue. It's not clear who they should trust, or what they should do to protect the Castle. The plot twists as much as the passageways of the Castle, and danger and adventure lie around every turn. Celie is a strong protagonist, loyal and determined, but also mischievous and fun-loving. A number of other characters are likeable and/or intriguing (particularly a rival Prince whose motives are unclear), if a bit over-the-top in some cases. You can picture this book more as an animated movie than as a live-action film, if that makes sense.

Here's a snippet or two of Jessica Day George's writing, to give you more of a feel for the book:

"Celie truly loved Castle Glower. She never minded being late for lessons because the corridor outside her room had become twice as long, and she certainly didn't mind the new room in the south wing that had a bouncy floor. Even if you could only get to it by climbing through the fireplace of the winter dining hall." (Page 2)

"The Castle didn't seem to care if you were descended from a royal line, or if you were brave and intelligent. No, Castle Glower picked kings based on some other criteria all its own. Celie's father, Glower the Seventy-ninth, was the tenth in their family to bear that name, a matter of tremendous pride throughout the land. His great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather had become king when Glower the Sixty-ninth's only heir had turned out to be a nincompoop. Legend had it that the Castle had repeatedly steered the old king's barber to the throne room via a changing series of corridors for days until the Royal Council had him declared the next king..." (Page 3)

You have to love a book that uses the word "nincompoop", I think.

Tuesdays at the Castle is tremendously kid-friendly, with a fun setting, engaging (if not fully realistic) characters, and an action-packed plot. Recommended for middle grade readers, boys and girls, and for anyone, like me, who can't resist the idea of a living, growing Castle. I look forward to other books in this series (though this book does not end on any kind of a cliffhanger, and can definitely be read alone).

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@bwkids)
Publication Date: October 25, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: October 25

JRBPlogo-smallToday 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 1478 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have six book reviews (two board books, three picture books, and one YA). I also have one children's literacy roundup (with full detail), and a post about a Publisher's Weekly article on the influence of moms who blog about children's books.

I will be reviewing more picture books than usual in the coming weeks, as I am a first round judge for the Cybils in Fiction Picture Books (see our list of 264 nominated titles here). I won't be able to review all of the titles, but I am trying to highlight the ones that particularly catch my eye. (Please note that my selection of which titles to review reflects my own personal impressions, and is not any indication of the overall Cybils judging process.)

Reading Update: Since the last newsletter, I finished only two books, one middle grade and one YA (as well as various picture books and board books read aloud to Baby Bookworm, here, here, here, and here):

Crop_ShineCover[1] I'm still listening to Lee Child's latest Reacher novel, The Affair, on my MP3 player, and also listening to Gabrielle Zevin's All These Things I've Done on CD in my car. I'm currently reading E. Lockhart's Real Live Boyfriends (a Ruby Oliver book) in print, and Lauren Myracle's Shine on my iPad.

51gGtTTd9HL._SL500_AA300_Baby Bookworm is taking more interest in picture books these days, but is still primarily interested in books that have something tactile about them (touch and feel, flaps, cutouts, etc.). She is currently obsessed with The Grasshopper Hopped! by Elizabeth Alexander (in which the reader can pull flaps to make the grasshopper hop in and out of things), and One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Salina Yoon (in which there are cut-outs, and also a picture that includes balloons). Sandra Boynton's Fuzzy Fuzzy also remains a favorite.

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.

Publisher's Weekly Article on Moms Who Blog Children's Books

I'm mentioned in a Publisher's Weekly article by Karen Springen that came out today, and wanted to share the news here. The article is about "The Mightly Mom Bloggers" who blog about children's books, and the recognition that these bloggers are receiving from publishers. Here's a snippet:

"Meet the new word-of-mouth publishing powerhouses: mom bloggers who share their online personal journals about motherhood. They post their thoughts and help sell books. And publishers are enthusiastically reaching out to them."

My mention is about 2/3 of the way down (look for a link to "Growing Bookworms"), in the context of most mom bloggers having other day jobs, and also of reaching out to readers via Twitter, etc. Betsy Bird from A Fuse #8 Production is also quoted in the same section of the article, talking about people who consider themselves mom bloggers first vs. people who consider themselves book bloggers first. Since, like Betsy, I started blogging about books long before I became a mom, the latter is where I fall on that classification.

But anyway, the nice thing about the article is that Springen quotes people at various publishers, like Tracy van Straaten from Scholastic, talking about the increasing influence of moms (and dads and aunts and so on) who use blogs to spread the word about books. Here's Springen's conclusion (but do go and read the whole article):

"NPR and New York Times stories will never lose their luster—but they’re no longer the only show in town. For advice, moms turn to their peers. After all, mother knows best."

A nice way to start the week!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Laini Taylor

Book: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Pages: 432
Age Range: 12 and up

DSB_final_6_1small I've been a fan of Laini Taylor's work for several years now (and have enjoyed spending time with her at Kidlitosphere conferences), so you may take that as full disclosure as I review her work. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is Laini's latest book, a paranormal young adult novel featuring an ongoing battle between angels and chimaera, and a star-crossed romance between a human girl and an angel. Like all of Laini's books, it is full of fantastical elements, intricate language, and memorable characters.

Karou is a human teenager. She lives in Prague, attends art school, and laments her poor choice of ex-boyfriend. Karou also has blue hair (down to the roots) and odd tattoos, knows how to fight with knives, and hopes to one day be able to fly. She was raised by, and still runs mysterious errands for, Brimstone, part-man, part-ram, part- ... dragon? Brimstone lives with three other chimaera in a hidden lab, collecting and stringing together teeth for some unknown purpose, and making magic. Karou runs errands for him, passing through the portal of his lab into other parts of the human world. On one such errand, she encounters the beautiful, tortured seraphim Akiva. The two are immediately drawn to one another, despite their differences.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is full of magical moments, some lovely and some macabre. There is considerable suspense, as Karou tries to understand who she is, what Brimstone is doing, and why she feels so connected to Akiva. But me, I read Laini's books as much for the lyrical, insightful writing as the story. I read for passages like these:

"The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze." (Page 1)

"For the way loneliness is worse when you return to it after a reprieve--like the soul's version of putting on a wet bathing suit, clammy and miserable." (Page 21)

"It was a remarkable sight, the sky beginning to flush pale at the roots, all the towers bathed in a soft glow, the streets of the city still shadowed and aglitter with fireflies of lamplight and the weaving, winking beams of headlights." (Page 217)

Despite the threads of magic, war, and the Prague art scene, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is at heart an unabashed love story. A well-written love story, in which both parties are fighters, but still a love story. With multiple descriptions of how gorgeous Karou and Akiva are, and how being in love feels. Like this:

"He took her face in his hands and a sunburst went off in Karou's chest. She held herself quiet, her motionlessness belying the rushing within her. No one had ever looked at her like Akiva was right now, his eyes held wide as if he wanted take more of her into himself, like light through a window." (Page 248, as published with an apparent very small typo).

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first book in a new series, and ends on something of a cliffhanger. Although I don't love Karou quite the same way that I love Magpie Windwitch, heroine of Laini's Dreamdark books, I am certainly looking forward to the next book.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is highly recommended for fans of young adult fantasy, or anyone who would like to be immersed in an epic love story. There are plenty of other paranormal romance novels out there, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone stands apart, with glowing prose, unusual characters, and three-dimensional world-building.

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

The Babies on the Bus: Karen Katz

Book: The Babies on the Bus
Author: Karen Katz
Pages: 32
Age Range: 2-5

Cover We've acquired several Karen Katz books over the past year, with their trademark multicultural round-headed babies. Baby Bookworm is particularly fond of Princess Baby on the Go, a lift-the-flap book (or should I call it a rip-the-flap book?) much loved = much taped.I actually reviewed the original Princess Baby picture back in 2008 (and really wish I had had the forethought to keep the book and especially the wand that came with it). Anyway, I like Katz's work. And I think that The Babies on the Bus is perfect toddler-friendly fare.

The Babies on the Bus features a handful of Katz's big-headed babies (including Princess Baby, wand in hand) on a school bus. The text is a minor variant of the well-known song "The Wheels on the Bus." In Katz's embodiment, along with the traditional wheels, doors, and wipers, etc., we have:

"The babies on the bus sing,

The babies on the bus sing,
all through the town.


"The babies on the bus fall
fast asleep,
fast asleep,
fast asleep.

The babies on the bus fall
fast asleep,
all through the town."

It's already a kid-friendly song, of course, and Katz hasn't changed it a whole lot. Just enough to make it more specific to a bus full of babies.

The text on the cover is subtly sparkly. All of the illustrations include dashed lines to indicate the direction of movement (doors opening and closing, etc.). Each page features bright colors and, in the children's clothing, lively patterns. The babies all close their eyes and wave their arms when they sing, and they bounce all over the place (harmlessly, of course) when the bus goes "bumpity bump." They are, except when sleeping, a vibrant and cheerful bunch. And although Katz's round-headed, tiny-featured babies aren't realistically drawn, there is realism in the way the kids react to things (pointing at the windshield wipers, and so on).

So what we have is a book featuring cute babies, including the well-known Princess Baby, that also features the fun song "The Wheels on the Bus". A book that you can't actually read. You have to sing it aloud. What more could any preschooler (or librarian looking for books for storytime) want? The Babies on the Bus isn't ground-breaking literature. But it is kid-friendly fun for preschoolers. Recommended for home and library use.

[And can I just add on a personal note: Baby Bookworm was thrilled to recognize a character, Princess Baby, who she already knew from another book. That gave me a warm feeling about this book.]

Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (@MacKidsBooks)
Publication Date: July 19, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Dogs Don't Eat Jam and Other Things Big Kids Know: Sarah Tsiang

Book: Dogs Don't Eat Jam and Other Things Big Kids Know
Author: Sarah Tsiang
Illustrator: Qin Leng
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 to 8

51vAvIKVYEL._SL500_AA300_ Dogs Don't Eat Jam and Other Things Big Kids Know is a picture book by Sarah Tsiang written in the form of advice from a big sister to her new little brother. She tells him about the many skills that she's mastered in her five years or so (including training the parents), and offers him a look forward from lifting his head to walking and talking to heading off to kindergarten.

The text is simple and direct, from one sibling to another, and (together with the illustrations) is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. Like this:

"You'll spend hours learning
how much cups can hold.
And how much they can't."

This text is accompanied by a picture of a small child determinedly pouring from a big container of water into a much smaller cup. Astute readers will know what's going to happen next.

Qin Leng's illustrations are cartoon-like (in a good way), with bright colors and plenty of kid-friendly details. For example, when the baby learns about "broccoli and cheese and yams", the floor is covered with spilled food, his face if gleefully dirty, and the dog is determinedly licking up a puddle. I also liked that the family has books everywhere, even when books aren't directly being discussed.

All in all, I found this to be a warm and likeable book. My only slight concern about it is in regards to the target audience. Although the story is written as though to a baby, this isn't a book for babies themselves. It's intended, of course, to be kind of an in-joke for the older siblings. However, on some level it's more a book that parents will enjoy than one for their children (even those older siblings). Certainly there were parts that I, as the parent of an 18 month old, could identify with (like the picture of a determinedly screaming baby waking sleep-fuddled parents). However, I do think that it will make a nice gift book for preschoolers and early elementary school kids who are expecting a new sibling. Dogs Don't Eat Jam is a funny, disarmingly true look at the early life of a young child. It's well worth a look.

Publisher: Annick Press (@AnnickPress)
Publication Date: June 2, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Medea

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Where's Walrus: Stephen Savage

Book: Where's Walrus
Author: Stephen Savage
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-8

9780439700498_xlg Where's Walrus? is a wordless picture book by Stephen Savage (who also illustrated Polar Bear Night). It's about a walrus who escapes from the zoo. The walrus repeatedly hides in plain sight, disguising himself as everything from a bricklayer to a chorus line dancer. A determined zookeeper pursues him until the two find a mutually satisfying resolution.

Savage's Adobe illustrator-created illustrations are bold and spare, with plenty of white space, and will elicit giggles on nearly every page. In some cases, the walrus fits in reasonably well with his surroundings (as when he hides in a fountain). In other cases, his disguise is more of a stretch (and hence more amusing). My personal favorite picture is on in which the walrus hides in a store window, sporting a stylish red hat, next to two mannequins in red dresses. He also makes a charming bricklayer. In most cases, he hides with multiple identical people, making this a nice book for preschoolers practicing their counting.

Where's Walrus is sure to entertain preschoolers and early elementary school kids. It's a quick, wordless read with a smile at the end. Recommended for readers age 3 to 8.

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: Feburary 1, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Bigfoot

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

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

JkrROUNDUPWelcome to the mid-October Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page, The Family Bookshelf, and Rasco from RIF. Over the month of October so far, Terry Doherty, Carol Rasco, and I have collected content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms.

Literacy & Reading-Related Events

Cybils2011First up and most time-sensitive, Cybils nominations close tomorrow (October 15th)!  Don't miss your chance to nominate your favorite children's and young adult books, in categories ranging from picture books to early readers to poetry and graphic novels. Anyone can nominate titles (one per person per category). The resulting nominations will be judged by teams of bloggers in various categories, winnowing through the hundreds of nominated titles to generate high-quality shortlists. So, if there's a book that you thought was well-written AND kid-friendly, and it hasn't been nominated yet, nominate it here. More information is available at the Cybils blog, where you can find eligibility rules, category descriptions, and links to lists of great, not-yet-nominated titles.

ImagesOctober 6th was Jumpstart's Read for the Record day, as millions of people joined Jumpstart in reading Llama, Llama Red Pajamas aloud to kids. The Huffington Post's Michael Yarborough published a nice, short piece about the event, and about Jumpstart's larger goals ("working toward the day every child in America enters school prepared to succeed").

The finalists for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature were announced this week. I was especially happy to see Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now on the list, since I declared it award-worthy a couple of months. Link via @PWKidsBookshelf.

Literacy Programs and Research

In an open letter to Sixth graders, Jim Vanides encourages students to think about their learning in the context of a global society. He calls it global fluency. Although his focus is technology (this is a post on the HP blog), his points really help codify the communication needs of our children.

And now for an uplifting tidbit of international literacy news, I was pleased to see this AP article by Kirsten Grieshaber about how "take a book, leave a book" public bookshelves are spreading across Germany. "In these free-for-all libraries, people can grab whatever they want to read, and leave behind anything they want for others. There's no need to register, no due date, and you can take or give as many as you want." Link via @IrisBlasi.

The OC Register had a lovely feel-good story a couple of weeks ago about a 13-year-old who has collected more than 17,000 children's books and delivered them to needy children, schools, and hospitals. Here's a snippet: "Megan (Mettler) got the idea last year while volunteering in the soup kitchen at the temple her family attends in Santa Ana. There, her eyes wandered to two homeless children. "I thought, 'They need books,'" Megan recalled. "I love books. I can't remember a time when I didn't have a book in my hand."" And so she took action. An inspiration to us all! Link via Jenny Schwartzberg.

The Washington Post recently shared an article by Valerie Strauss about the ways in which early childhood education is currently in the spotlight, and some of the issues being debated regarding how to improve it. Link via @ReachOutAndRead. Personally, I'm becoming a bit concerned about the second issue discussed: "Is there too much focus on academics in early childhood education today?" (at the expense of play). But I certainly agree that "quality early childhood education is vital to the academic success of most children — especially those who live in poverty". I know that Carol and Terry do, too.

Ror.redSpeaking of Reach Out and Read, they just shared this tidbit with me: "Reach Out and Read was featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams! On October 11, our Military Initiative was highlighted as part of the network's "Making A Difference on the Homefront" series, "an effort to shine a light on veterans, military families and the issues affecting them across the country." The segment was filmed last month at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. Watch the clip here!"

In Detroit, the Free Press and several other organizations have launched a new adult literacy program called Reading Works. The Press' Stephen Henderson talks about how this program will directly lead to improved children's literacy in the future, saying: "Adult literacy is inextricably tied to child literacy. Parents who can't read don't read to their children, don't fill their houses with books, and can't be that all-important first teacher who not only builds young literacy skills but submerges kids in a world of words and sentences, bindings and pages."

Carol found a fascinating piece by Dr. Perri Klass in the New York Times Health section about the way that babies, particularly bilingual babies, process language. What I found especially interesting was this bit: "Dr. (Patricia) Kuhl calls bilingual babies "more cognitively flexible" than monolingual infants...Previous research by her group showed that exposing English-language infants in Seattle to someone speaking to them in Mandarin helped those babies preserve the ability to discriminate Chinese language sounds, but when the same "dose" of Mandarin was delivered by a television program or an audiotape, the babies learned nothing."

Suggestions for Growing Bookworms

The Book Chook shares suggestions for developing children's literacy with fingerplays, in a post aimed at parents and caregivers of babies and toddlers. She says "Not only will you find that a little one loves to have your undivided, loving attention, but you'll know that you're laying a foundation for reading, writing and communication skills when he's older."

Front_of_box1_5g5iAnd speaking of literacy-based play, I received an email this week from the developers of Little Librarian, "the first personal library kit made just for kids!" Here's the product description for this library-based game: "Little Librarian provides book lovers with everything they need to transform their book collection into a library. Kids can practice the important skills of organizing, sharing, borrowing, and returning. Book pockets, check out cards, library cards, and bookmarks are just like the ones from the real library. Little Librarians will issue overdue notices and awards. Favorite books can be stored in the reading journal and shared with friends." We haven't actually seen this game, but "Disney Family Fun Magazine selected Little Librarian as a finalist for the Toy of the Year Awards for 2010". If the idea of playing home library with your child sparks your enthusiasm, this game is probably worth a look.

This list is a couple of years old, but it's the first time I've seen it. Maya Frost at Converge shares, from a teacher's perspective, 10 Wishes for Student Success. The wishes are things that she wishes parents would do for/with their kids at different ages, to help ensure success in school. I, of course, liked #1: "I wish that parents of preschoolers would cancel one of those weekly must-do activities (swimming, gymnastics, soccer) and take their kids to the local library instead." Link via @AnIowaTeacher.

Terry recently came across this list of Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children at the NEA website. The list was compiled from an online survey in 2007, and, while heavy on the classics, does include relatively recent titles like Inkheart and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. The list mixes picture books and middle grade, but it's still a nice reference for parents looking for read-aloud or gift ideas.

Speaking of useful lists, ALSC just released a Children's Graphic Novels Core Collection, organized by age range. ALA News explains: "In recognition of the importance of these books for children, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) directed its Quicklists Consulting Committee to create a list of titles for public librarians serving elementary school-age children (kindergarten through 8th grade). The result is the Children’s Graphic Novel Core Collection from ALSC." Carol found this link.

IMG_1950-6-squarepreviewWhile looking at io9's list of 10 Amazing Science Books that Reveal the Wonders of the Universe, Terry found a fun list of Geeky Gifts for Kids. I especially liked this: "Mad Scientist alphabet blocks. Mwah-ha-ha! (io9 takes no responsibility for your child growing up to be an evil overlord.)" (Via StumbleUpon)

I found this column by KJ Dellantonia at the NY Times Motherlode blog thought-provoking: Putting Down the iPad So My Kids Can See Me Read. The author explains that although she loved her iPad Kindle app, her kids didn't perceive her as reading when she was reading on the iPad. In the interest of having her kids unquestionably see her reading books, she dropped the app, and made a trip to the bricks and mortar bookstore. Kinda made me want to reassess my use of iPad and smartphone when in the presence of Baby Bookworm. Link via @PWKidsBookshelf.

Myra Garces Bacsal shared a related story with me in response to the above (which I had posted on Google+). A father living in Paris took a video of a toddler who "seems totally flummoxed at how to manipulate the paper page" of a magazine, wanting it to work like an iPad. Now, if you ask me that's a toddler who hasn't been read to enough, rather than a sign that "the future of print media is in trouble." But there is certainly no doubt that kids find touchscreens very, very intuitive. 

Thanks for reading, and for caring about children's literacy. Carol will be back at the end of October at Rasco from RIF with the next roundup, but I'm sure that Terry will have tidbits for you in the meantime at The Family Bookshelf. You can also find us all talking literacy on Twitter and Google+. Have a great weekend!

Star Bright Photoflaps Books: Cheryl Christian

Books: Where Does It Go?, Where's the Baby?, and How Many?
Author: Cheryl Christian (with photos in Where's the Baby by Laura Dwight)
Pages: 12 per book
Age Range: 0 to 3

Star Bright Books sent me three board books from their Photoflaps series (Where Does It Go?, Where's the Baby?, and How Many? ). These books have been around for a while, but I just discovered them. In my mind, these are perfect for toddlers. They have photos of children, ordinary objects, and animals. And they have easy to lift flaps on every page-spread.

B0157Where Does It Go? shows a baby and an object (diaper, shoe, etc.) on each page, and asks repeatedly "Where does it go?" The photo below the flap shows the answer (e.g. baby wearing diaper). The babies are all rather white-skinned in this one (which is not typical of Star Bright's books), but I like that one of the babies shown appears to be developmentally disabled. I like the quiet inclusion of this, without comment.

B0146Where's the Baby? shows an item (toy, etc) and a location (high chair, playpen, etc.) on each page spread. Each pair is introduced ("Here's the baby's apple. Here's the high chair.") and then we have the common refrain, familiar to parents everywhere: "Where's the baby?" Below the flap, of course, we see the baby in the high chair holding the apple, and so on. This one is a bit more multi-ethnic than Where Does It Go, and certainly features universal themes.

B0126How Many? is the most of fun, and the most educational, of the three, featuring both animals and counting. On each page we have some number of animals, plus, on the facing page, one more of the same animal. The text asks the child how many there are total. Then below the flap we see the animals together, and the number (e.g. "3 Three puppies!") The animals are all charming and kid-friendly (rabbits, ducks, kittens). Baby Bookworm turned again and again to the page with four bunnies, plus one more bunny. She especially seemed to like that some of the rabbits were white and some dark-colored.

There's not a lot of text to these books. You're not going to read them aloud to lull your child to sleep. But they are nice for interactive, educational play for toddlers. They have photos. They have babies, toys, and animals. And they have flaps. What more could anyone ask? Well, ok, I could maybe ask for the pages to be a bit thicker. The flaps are not as sturdy as, say, those in the DK Peekaboo series, and I foresee the need for scotch tape. But that's in part because I see this series getting a lot of use around our house. The Photoflaps books would make a great first or second birthday gift. Recommended.

Note: versions of these books are also available in other languages (Chinese, Russian, Haitian Creole, etc.)

Publisher: Star Bright Books
Publication Date: 2001
Source of Book: Review copies from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Oh David!: A Pocket Library: David Shannon

Book: Oh David!: A Pocket Library (3 Diaper David books)
Author: David Shannon
Pages: 3 12-page board books
Age Range: 0 to 3

51h-AJwNMjL._SL500_AA300_ David Shannon's No David!, a celebration of a young boy's naughtiness, won a Caldecott honor in 1998. Since then, various David follow-ups have been published, including the "Diaper David" board book series. This recently released "Pocket Library" contains: David Smells!, Oh, David!, and Oops!, each featuring a proudly diaper-wearing (and often stinky) toddler-sized David. 

I can't say that I personally warm to Shannon's illustrations of David, with his pig-like nose and, let's face it, creepy eyes. I can see why this illustration style works with 3-5 year-olds. David looks like someone they might draw (a style which I know is difficult to pull off). I'm not sure how well this style translates to babies (my 18-month-old seems to prefer photographs and realistic illustrations, at least right now). But I will say that Shannon's content is spot on regarding toddler-hood. Each of the three books dwells mainly on the troublesome attributes of toddlers (touching things they shouldn't touch, eating things they shouldn't eat, and so). But each book also finishes up with a warmer, cozier moment.

For example, David Smells! introduces the five senses. The first four are not so pleasant (baby David banging too loudly on a drum, about to taste a truly repulsive bug-covered lollipop, etc). But on the last page, for "see", David plays peekaboo with all the charm of any toddler.

For me, the funniest moment of the three books comes in the middle of Oh, David!. The text just says "Hold still!". The picture shows David's mother wrestling him into pajamas, was he gleefully tries to escape. What parent hasn't been there?

The truth is, these three books feel more like they were published to entertain tired parents than to actually engage babies, and they certainly work on that level. I think they would also work for older kids who enjoy the picture book version of David, and want to see what he was like as a toddler. I'll be interested to see if Baby Bookworm warms to them when she is a bit older. For now, I think her primary interest in them is going to involve taking them out of the slipcase, and trying (without much success) to put them back in. These board books are definitely worth a look for fans of the David books, but probably won't be your first choice for actually catching the attention of babies.

Publisher: The Blue Sky Press (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: September 1, 2011 (this collection)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.