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Posts from December 2011

I MUST Have Bobo: Eileen Rosenthal & Marc Rosenthal

Book: I MUST Have Bobo!
Author: Eileen Rosenthal
Illustrator: Marc Rosenthal
Pages: 40
Age Range: 2-6

174737_147802425274487_2301088_nI MUST Have Bobo!, by Eileen Rosenthal, is a humorous testimonial to the affection that preschoolers have for their favorite stuffed animals. Young Willy wakes up to find his stuffed monkey, Bobo, missing. He panics. He cries (in bold lettering):

"I NEED Bobo!"

He recalls several of the ways in which Bobo helps him to get through the day, like holding Willy's hand when they walk past "that big dog". And then he finds his cat, Earl, curled up under a blanket with Bobo. But Bobo's rescue doesn't last for long, and the rest of the book features a battle of wills between Willy and Earl over the possession of Bobo. 

The thing that I love about this book is that it rings true. Willy's search for Bobo, and interaction with Bobo, reads just like the games that I play with my own toddler. Like when Willy checks the kitchen cabinet, and the dishwasher, and under the rug, looking for Bobo, going "Earl, do you have Bobo in there?" or "Maybe he was stolen by pirates!". And the way Willy reacts when he finds Bobo at the end of the book, with the simple statement "Here's my Bobo", and a big, security-inducing, hug.

Any child who has ever had a beloved blanket or stuffed animal will be able to relate to that search all around the house, looking for the lost security talisman. The fact that Bobo is lost because of the interference of the cat lends humor, and gives the book a plot.

Marc Rosenthal's illustrations are simple, with a comic strip feel. They suit the tone of the book. Willy's panic when he declares "I NEED Bobo!" comes through clearly, as does his anger at Earl (Willy's mouth and eyebrows, dark lines, indicate his displeasure). Preschoolers will laugh at the various locations in the book in which Earl can be seen making off with Bobo, even as Willy is oblivious.

Willy's activities are all preschooler-friendly, as he draws, plays with blocks, and picks the raisins out of his cereal. I MUST Have Bobo! is a book that I think preschoolers, and their parents, will enjoy. Although the actual battle between Willy and Earl over Bobo might not be exactly realistic, Willy's day-to-day activities and his reactions have a core authenticity to them. They feel true. Plus, "Bobo" is fun to say.

I MUST Have Bobo! would make a good companion book to Jez Alborough's Hug, which also features a monkey named Bobo. I MUST Have Bobo! would be a great addition to any preschooler's book collection and a fun read-aloud for storytime. Highly recommended, and destined to be a family favorite.

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (@SimonKidsYA)
Publication Date: January 25, 2011
Source of Book: Bought it, after reading a library copy for the Cybils
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Kara Schaff Dean
Also reviewed for Cybils by: debnance | morninglightmama | rebeccareid

© 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).

Foxy and Egg: Alex T. Smith

Book: Foxy and Egg
Author: Alex T. Smith (@Alex_T_Smith)
Pages: 24
Age Range: 4-8

61QBf4gVbFL._SL500_AA300_Foxy and Egg by Alex T. Smith is an entertaining picture book about confounded expectations. When a pretty little pink egg shows up on Foxy DuBois' doorstep, she invites him for a "BITE" to eat. But, in classic storybook fashion, she decides that before eating him she'll fatten him up a bit. Foxy invites Egg to spend the night, but she's in for a HUGE surprise in the morning. I must admit that (although I didn't imagine that Foxy would succeed in eating Egg), the ending surprised me. I think that young kids will find it hilarious.

The whole book is written in a melodramatic, tongue-in-cheek manner. The text begins:

"Of all the suspicious-looking houses in all the deserted woods in the all the world, he had to roll up to hers..."

I also enjoyed:

"Foxy wanted the biggest, most delicious egg to eat, so she put part one of her conniving plan into action: she would fatten Egg up!

When dinner was served, it was a very splendid affair. Egg wobbled with excitement."

It's not often that one can write about a character "wobbling" with excitement, and have it make sense.

Smith's illustrations are a nice mix of bold and ornate, and filled with absurd details. Foxy and Egg is definitely a book that benefits from having the author as illustrator. We get things like Egg remarking on Foxy's "interesting paintings", where the paintings are of chickens, and eggs. We see Foxy holding a cookbook, full of ways to cook eggs. And, of course, there's the general absurdity of having an egg as a guest. Because Foxy wants "a fit egg", she engages Egg in a series of games. The image of a bow-tie-wearing Egg and a fox in heels playing musical chairs will be difficult to forget. There's also a very cute image of nightcap-wearing Egg bouncing up the stairs behind Foxy (who wears little chick slippers).

Foxy and Egg is funny throughout, both in text and pictures, and offers up a surprise at the end. What more can one ask of a picture book? Recommended for individual or group read-aloud.

Publisher: Holiday House (@HolidayHouseBks)
Publication Date: April 1, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Shirley Duke

© 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).

Charlie the Ranch Dog: Ree Drummond

Book: Charlie the Ranch Dog
Author: Ree Drummond
Illustrator: Diane deGroat
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Newcharliejacketsidebar-213x213Charlie the Ranch Dog was written by Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman, a self-declared desperate housewife and mother of four, who lives on a working ranch). Charlie the Ranch Dog is told from the perspective of hard-working, dangly-eared ranch dog Charlie. Charlie pretty much spends the whole book telling the reader about his superiority over the younger, non-dangly-eared ranch dog Suzie. The illustrations (and reading between the lines of Charlie's tale), however, make it clear to the reader that Suzie is the real work horse. Charlie tends to spend a lot of time napping. But he does have a chance at the end to save the day. Or at least to save the vegetable patch.

The text reads like this:

"The next thing I have to do is chase Daisy the cow out of the yard.

Daisy knows she's not supposed to be in the yard. Some cows never listen.

Well ... I guess I'll let Suzie go ahead and do it this time.

I like to give her a chance to shine every now and then. That's the kind of dog I am."

The pictures make it clear that Charlie never leaves the house, while Suzie is on the job, chasing Daisy out of the yard. And similarly with chasing away squirrels, helping Mama in the vegetable garden, rounding up cattle, and so on. Charlie, on more than one occasion, dozes off, to awaken later with a "Huh? What'd I miss? Oh, I must have accidentally closed my eyes for a few seconds."

Charlie the Ranch Dog is a series of day-to-day ranch encounters, linked by the running joke of Charlie's laziness vs. Suzie's industry. One has a sense of Charlie as being an old, much-loved dog resting on his laurels, while the new kid pays her dues. There's not a lot of advanced vocabulary or wordplay in this book - it's pretty much straight-up narrative from a ranch dog's perspective. But I think that kids will find it entertaining (especially kids who are dog fans, or interested in life on a farm). The details about ranch life are clearly authentic (fixing fences and rounding up cattle). Drummond also adds a recipe for lasagna at the end of the book, a nice, unusual touch.

Diane deGroat's vivid illustrations add warmth and humor, bringing the droopy-eyed Charlie and energetic Suzie to life. A tiny chipmunk who appears in all of the pictures, following Charlie around, is an entertaining touch (shades of the mouse in Goodnight Gorilla, but even more quirky). The chipmunk even sleeps curled up with Charlie, scampering away as the ranch dog wakes up. [You can also see DeGroat's work in my review of Dogs Don't Brush Their Teeth. She clearly enjoys dogs.]

While there may not be enough story in Charlie the Ranch Dog to stand up to repeat readings (I just read Anita Silvey's article about recent picture books and lack of story), it's a very likeable picture book. Charlie's laziness is sure to delight young dog fans, and DeGroat's illustrations will particularly make them smile. It's also a nice change to see a picture book set in the country, on a working ranch. There seem to be a lot of suburban and urban books, and some set on generic, unrealistic farms, but this one sneaks in a real world backdrop. All in all, it's a fun book!

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: April 26, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Christie

© 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 Princess and the Pig: Jonathan Emmett & Poly Bernatene

Book: The Princess and the Pig
Author: Jonathan Emmett
Illustrator: Poly Bernatene
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

51KwiVRAEWL._SL500_AA300_The Princess and the Pig is a picture book for older readers that pokes good-natured fun at classic fairy tales. A kindly farmer is heading home from the market with a tiny pink piglet in his cart. Via a chance mishap (and some maternal neglect on the part of the queen), the piglet ends up trading places with a newly born princess.

Both the farmer and his wife and the king and queen decide that magic must be afoot, because "It's the sort of thing that happens all the time in books." So the little princess is raised in the farmer's cottage, as Pigmella, while the pig is raised as Princess Priscilla. Humor ensues. The ending is not the sort of ending that happens all the time in books. But it is perfect for the story, and sure to please young readers. 

There's a lot to like about The Princess and the Pig. The references to "things that happen all the time in books" are accompanied by images of said books (e.g. "Puss in Boots"), setting up lots of family reads of classic tales. There is plenty of story, and plenty of text, making this a satisfying (if not necessarily quick) read for early elementary school kids. Some pages have four or five sentences of text, accompanied by multiple, smaller illustrations. The vocabulary is rich without being too advanced, with words like "discover" and "ridiculous" sprinkled throughout.

Here are a couple of examples of the text:

"A moment later, a wet, squelching noise came from the baby's diaper, closely followed by an awful smell.

"YUCK!" shrieked the queen, dropping the baby and running off to find the royal nannies."


"As Pigmella grew older,
she grew smarter,
and beautiful,
and was admired by everyone she met.

As Priscilla grew older,
she grew not so smart,
and not so beautiful,
and was avoided by everyone she met."

Funny, yes? I enjoyed the parallelism.

Poly Bernatene's vibrant illustrations bring the story to life. The sweetness of Pigmella, the down-to-earth niceness of the farmer and his wife, and the snootiness of the queen are all there for the reader to enjoy. Pigmella the girl is shown in one picture surrounded by birds and butterflies - a classic fairy tale princess in disguise, while Priscilla the pig is shown unhappy and overdressed, sitting on an ornate pillow. Even the color tones of the images convey the happiness of Pigmella's rural life relative to the unhappiness of the situation in the castle.

The Princess and the Pig has it all, a fully-featured story, chock full of references to classic tales, a likeable protagonist, and glowing illustrations. It might be a bit long for library storytimes, but would be a great classroom read for second graders, and a delightful bedtime read, too. Even though it's about a princess, I think that boys would enjoy this one, too (if you can get them past the title). Highly recommended.

Publisher: Walker Children's (@BWKids)
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher, for Cybils
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Becky
Also reviewed for Cybils by: debnance | morninglightmama | Natalia | rebeccareid

© 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).

Perfect Soup: Lisa Moser & Ben Mantle

Book: Perfect Soup
Author: Lisa Moser
Illustrator: Ben Mantle
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-8

PerfectsoupcoverIn Perfect Soup, written by Lisa Moser and illustrated by Ben Mantle, Murray the mouse decides to make "Perfect Soup" on a cold winter day. However, the recipe for Perfect Soup includes a carrot. And Murray, alas, doesn't have a carrot. His neighbor, Farmer, has a carrot, but wants some logs hauled in return. As a mouse, Murray isn't able to haul the logs himself, so this sets him off on a whole string of barters. Meanwhile, the snowman outside of Murray's house makes ever-more-overt attempts to be friends with Murray. But Murray doesn't have time, because he's so busy with his quest for that carrot. In the end, of course, the two storylines come together, and Murray learns what "perfect soup", and friendship, really mean.

Although there is a bit of a lesson learned at the end of this book, Perfect Soup doesn't feel didactic. Murray is just this busy little guy, doing his best to make things perfect. And Snowman remains outgoing and friendly, despite Murray's initial neglect. The other people in the book, they want to help (mostly), but you know, life is tough. They can't give away something for nothing. Perfect Soup is as much about working for what you want as it is about taking time for your friends.

Moser does a nice job using words that are descriptive, without being overly intimidating, making this a nice read-aloud for preschoolers. Like this:

"Murray plodded down the road.
Snowman called out, "Stay and play!"

Murray shook his head. He didn't have time to play. He needed things to be perfect. Murray was in a hurry."

Later on, Snowman "plopped the snow into Murray's lap", and Murray plops that snow right into some overly-hot cocoa. Plodded and plopped both strike me as excellent read-aloud words. The shopkeeper has "spectacles", instead of glasses.

Mantle's illustrations are perfect for this book, too. He uses warm, vivid colors wherever possible, a nice contrast with the white of the snow-covered landscape. Murray's kitchen is delightful, with a round window, a cookie jar, and cabinets full of bright vegetables. Murray himself is small and intrepid, in his green-striped hat and scarf, and big smile. Snowman has rosy cheeks, a top-hat, and a red scarf that stands out against the snow. Mrs. Wooley's house is shaped like a teapot with a hat over it. Every page has a friendly feel, even those pages in which Murray suffers a setback and almost gives up.

Perfect Soup is an excellent choice for a mid-winter read, full of snow, cocoa, jingle bells, firewood, and evergreen trees. And, of course, hot, delicious soup. It's a book that will leave readers with a warm glow. Recommended for preschoolers and up, for home use or library/classroom read-aloud.

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: October 26, 2010
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: JoAnn Early Macken

© 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).

ZooZical: Judy Sierra and Marc Brown

Book: ZooZical
Author: Judy Sierra
Illustrator: Marc Brown
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-8

ZooZical_webjacket-330-expZooZical, written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown, is pure fun. The zoo animals are bored and surly as winter weather keeps visitors away. But when a young hippo proposes that they work together to put on a ZooZical, well, the whole tone of the zoo (and the book) changes. There are cleverly altered versions of classic tunes ("If you're hoppy and you know it...", "for he's a jolly gorilla", etc.). There are "posters and costumes and scenery galore." There are seals on a bus, going round and round. And, of course, the whole thing brings the crowds rushing back for a "magical, musical ZooZical night."

Sierra uses rhyming couplets and triplets (is that the right word?) throughout, adding variation in line lengths to keep things from being sing-songy. She uses plenty of active verbs, and doesn't shy from the occasional advanced vocabulary word. Like this:

"It was simply amazing what two friends could do
When they tapped, and they rapped, and they twirled on their feet.
All the animals rocked to the hip-aroo beat,
And slowly, the doldrums began to retreat."

Can't you just imagine turning on some music, and telling your three-year-old that you want "the doldrums to retreat"? The actual performances of the animals are a nice mix of expected and unexpected. Like this:

"Bears walked the tightrope with elegant ease,
Flamingos whizzed by on the flying trapeze,
Raccoons danced in pairs, baboons danced in troops,
And snakes joined the dances as live hula hoops."

Marc Brown's illustrations were created using gouache on "gessoed wood", which apparently gives the surface more texture. All of the pictures look like they are on a faintly cross-hatched background. Brown uses a wide palette of colors, and offers up an assortment of busy, smiling animals on virtually every page. One wouldn't quite call the animals realistically rendered (the elephants have blue and purple striped ears and trunks, for instance, and the baboons look an awful lot like people). But they'll be recognizable to young kids (for the most part), and they exude joy. The young hippo who starts the whole things off is particularly charming.

ZooZical is upbeat and witty, a fun read-aloud for the preschool and early elementary school crowd. It would be a particularly good choice to read right before the class play. Recommended for ages 3 to 8.

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: August 9, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Maria Ciccone
Also reviewed by: rebeccareid

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

Little Women and Me: Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Book: Little Women and Me
Author: Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Pages: 320
Age Range: 12 and up

ImagesI found the premise of Lauren Baratz-Logsted's Little Women and Me compelling. A modern-day teenager named Emily March is given a school assignment to write about what she would change from a favorite book. As Emily is pondering which of the two travesties of her childhood favorite, Little Women, to write about, she is suddenly sucked into the book. It's Christmas Eve in the March home, and Emily finds that she is now the "Middle March", a fifth sister falling between Beth and Jo. She has no way to pull herself back out of the story, and finds herself with a sort of "story amnesia" that only allows her to predict some of the expected events.

Emily has to adjust to a life that isn't hers, about which she has only limited information, while also adjusting to the deprivations life in the 1800s (No Twitter! Unshaved legs!). She sets out to right one of the "wrongs" of the original books (keeping an eye out for Beth). But instead of working to help Jo end up with Laurie, Emily competes with Jo for Laurie's attention. I mean, who could resist?

I enjoyed this premise, and I thought that Emily was a strong, intriguing character. I like that although she had always admired Jo as a reader of Little Women, the two rub up against one another as sisters. I also thought that the ending was ingenious and appropriate.

I did, however, find Little Women and Me a bit slow-paced. This is probably a necessary evil for a book that's written to closely follow another, highly episodic book. But it took me quite a while to get through it. I'm not sure whether I would have enjoyed the book more if I had read Little Women more recently (it's been many years), or less (because there would have been more events in the plot that I would have seen coming). I am pretty sure that only fans of the original Little Women will be able to truly enjoy Little Women and Me (especially those who found certain plot elements frustrating).

Little Women and Me is an unusual mix as a novel. Part speculative fiction (as Emily tries to figure out how she can and can't influence the story, etc.), part historical fiction / time travel novel, part homage to a beloved classic, and part realistic story about sibling rivalries. I think that Baratz-Logsted does a good job of balancing these elements. She applies a relatively light touch to the "modern girl stuck in a prior time, with fewer creature comforts" aspect of the story, not letting that dominate. She provides a nuanced view of Jo, perhaps more so than the original book permits (no one sees your flaws like a competitive younger sister, after all). And she keeps the "how does this all work exactly" elements a lively thread throughout the book, but one that doesn't dominate the focus on the March family.

Little Women and Me is not going to be for everyone - it's a bit too quirky and episodic for that. But for fans of Little Women (particularly if they also enjoy modern YA fiction) for whom the idea of entering into (and possibly changing) the world of the March sisters sounds appealing, Little Women and Me is well worth a look. Highly memorable, too. I'll never look at Little Women (and one March sister in particular) quite the same way again.

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BWKids)
Publication Date: November 8, 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).

Press Here: Herve Tullet

Book: Press Here
Author: Herve Tullet
Pages: 56
Age Range: 3 and up

41fpHOdPs0L._SL500_AA300_Press Here by Herve Tullet is, quite simply, brilliant. It's an interactive picture book, despite having no flaps, tabs, or electronic elements. Instead, Tullet asks kids to suspend belief, and participate by pressing on dots, shaking the book, blowing on the book, etc. Each page includes a simple command, like:

"Press here and turn the page."


"Try shaking the book...just a little bit."

When the reader turns the page, his "actions" have caused something to happen (such as a previously ordered set of colored dots now being disordered, sprinkled about the page).

Although the text is brief, Tullet uses a friendly, conversational tone, preceding many of the instructions with "Well done!" or "Great!". I think that this friendly tone goes a long way towards explaining the appeal of this book. And let me tell you, the appeal is undeniable. Press Here is a great book for preschoolers, or older kids, or even adults. It beguiles readers of all ages into participating. I read this for the first time without a child around, but I still blew on the dots where instructed, and so on.

The illustrations in Press Here are quite simple. Each page has one or more colored dots, most about the size of a quarter, ever so slightly varied in shape and texture, just like real swirls of paint. The dots reminded me of the ones in Leo Lionni's Little Blue and Little Yellow, though Tullet's dots are not personified. Tullet sticks mostly to primary colors, and uses plenty of white space, giving Press Here a cheerful tone. There's no dust jacket, and the glossy pages are a bit thicker than those of most picture books, reinforcing the notion that this is a book to be played with, not passively read.

Press Here is inventive and engaging. It's a bit of a throwback, in the sense that it doesn't require any app-like gadgets, or flaps, or textures. But I think that's what makes it so lovely. Press Here encourages kids (and adults) to have fun with books, and to use their imaginations. What more can one ask of a picture book? Press Here would make a wonderful last-minute Christmas (or other holiday) gift for any household with kids over the age of 3. Highly recommended.

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleBooks)
Publication Date: March 30, 2011
Source of Book: Bought it
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Deb Marshall
Also reviewed by: morninglightmama | Natalia | rebeccareid | scope notes

© 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).

I Had a Favorite Dress: Boni Ashburn & Julia Denos

Book: I Had a Favorite Dress
Author: Boni Ashburn
Illustrator: Julia Denos
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 - 8

Dress[1]Boni Ashburn's two previous books, Over at the Castle and Hush, Little Dragon, are among my favorite read-alouds. Her newest book, I Had a Favorite Dress, is very different in tone and target audience. But it's a book that I appreciate a little bit more each time I read it, and one that I think will become a household favorite once Baby Bookworm is old enough to appreciate it.

I Had a Favorite Dress is about an elementary school age girl who has a favorite dress that she wears every Tuesday. When, as inevitably happens, her dress becomes too short, her mother challenges her to "Make molehills out of mountains", instead of complaining about the situation. While she doesn't exactly understand the analogy, this advice inspires the girl to ask her mother to turn the dress into a "new ruffly shirt". Which she wears every Wednesday, until ... the pattern repeats, until the precious dress is nothing more than a mere scrap of fabric.

The thing that I love most about this book is the rich vocabulary and internal rhyming that Ashburn uses. Like this:

"So I moaned and I groaned, I complained, distraught..."

"You're overwrought, dear, it's clear," Mama said.


"At first I felt tears till I shook my head clear
and showed my new problem to Mama dear."


"Because on Sundays, we go to Grandma's house with the white-on-white wall-to-wall carpet, and Grandma's eyebrows silently invite us to remove our shoes.

Until a Sunday, in the morn, when I found one sock, forlorn. Uh-oh!"

Anyone who can rhyme morn and forlorn in a children's picture book, and have it completely not feel contrived, is doing something right. This is a book that readers won't grow tired of. They'll find new connections in the text each time they read I Had A Favorite Dress.

It's also nice to see a book with a strong mother-daughter relationship, a book that encourages problem-solving, and a book that features, completely matter-of-factly, a non-white main character.

Julia Denos' illustrations "were made using watercolor, graphite, colored pencil, needle and thread, digital collage, and a bit of Photoshop here and there." It's an unusual mix, but one well-suited to a book about stitching things together. The dress is pretty and distinct, in all its forms, and the girl is stylish without being overly ornate or prissy (as is her mother, for that matter). The collage elements are intermittent, just enough to lend a certain three-dimensionality to the pictures.

I Had a Favorite Dress would be a perfect gift from mother to daughter (or daughter to mother, for that matter). It is clearly more of a girl book than a boy book (the very cover features an assortment of dresses). Because of this, it strikes me more as a book for one-on-one reads than for large group read-aloud, but I could be wrong about that (and would be interested to hear feedback from anyone who has read it in a group). In any event, I do think I Had a Favorite Dress would be wonderful to read aloud (as are Ashburn's other books), with the zippy language and selective use of rhyme. Recommended for readers in elementary school, and their parents.

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 1, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Maggie Lehrman
Also reviewed by: debnance | Natalia

© 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: December 19

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 1461 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: I decided in light of people being busy around the holidays to make this a brief issue. I have just one book review, of a YA title. I also have one children's literacy roundup, a post about my six year blog anniversary (this past Saturday), and a movie announcement for Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I also posted seven reviews of Cybils-nominated picture books in the past two weeks. I have NOT included the full reviews in the newsletter, because I thought that they would collectively make the newsletter a bit too long. However, here are the links to the Cybils reviews (with more to come over the next month):

Reading Update: Since the last newsletter, I must sadly admit that I didn't finish any books (quite possibly for the first time since starting this newsletter). I stopped reading one book that wasn't working for me, and started another, but much of my reading time was taken up with the final push to read Cybils picture books. I did, of course, continue to read picture books and board books aloud to Baby Bookworm. See those: here, here, here, and here. And I hope to get more reading time in over the holidays.

I'm still listening to Rick Riordan's Son of Neptune on my MP3 player, and to Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright in the car with Baby Bookworm. I'm currently reading Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted.

51R43F56SBL._SL500_AA300_Baby Bookworm's current favorites are:

  • David Carter: One Red Dot: A Pop-Up Book for Children of All Ages. This absolutely gorgeous book came to us as a gift from RIF - BB loves it, but I had to put it away, because it's a bit too fragile for her right now.
  • DK Publishing: Bathtime (Baby Touch & Feel). This was a gift that we received as a favor at a birthday party. We "read" it over and over again.
  • Susan B. Katz (ill. Alicia Padron): ABC Baby Me

How about you? What have you and your kids been reading and enjoying? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. I wish you all a wonderful holiday! The Growing Bookworms Newsletter will be back after New Year's.

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

Are You Awake?: Sophie Blackall

Book: Are You Awake?
Author: Sophie Blackall
Pages: 40
Age Range: 2-5

5109kBsDR0L._SL500_AA300_Sophie Blackall's Are You Awake? is an amusing little picture book that captures life with a rambunctious, newly verbal toddler/early preschooler. As a mother attempts to sleep, her son Edward climbs up into her bed at 4 am, lifts one of her eyelids, and asks "Mom, are you awake?" This leads to a long series of questions and answers, as the hollow-eyed mom gradually wakes up, and Edward gradually gets sleepy.

Mom's text is in shown blue caps, Edward's in black sentence case, making it easy to discern the speaker in this book of 100% dialog. In some cases, dialog bubbles are used instead, and these are of course clear, too. There is humor for parents and children in Are You Awake? Like this:



Is Daddy awake?


Why do you hope so?


The discussions between mom and Edward start out a bit circular, as Mom attempts to close down conversation as quickly as possible, so that she can go back to sleep. Like this:

"Why is it still nighttime?


Why hasn't the sun come up yet?


Why is the moon still out?



Eventually, as mom wakes up, conversation shifts to a listing of yellow things, just in time for the sun to come up, and the previously gray-tinged room to turn a warm yellow. Blackall's ink and watercolor illustrations gradually get brighter as the book progresses, but they always convey a certain warm coziness, as mother and son (and stuffed animal) snuggle up in bed. I love the contrast in the early pages of Edward's big, bright eyes and the mom's sleepy face, eyes determinedly closed. There's one illustration in which Edward is bent over, hands on bed, looking back through is legs at mom, who has her head buried in the pillow. What parent can't relate to that?

There's also a picture of Edward's stuffed animal (breed uncertain) in the lower left-hand corner of each page spread. Flipping through the pages quickly lets the reader watch the animal cavort, and eventually fall asleep (mirroring Edward's own trajectory). This is a fun addition to the book, a bonus for readers clever enough to figure it out.

Are You Awake? is a quick, engaging read that will feel authentic to both parents and small children. Personally, I'm not sure if I want to give my daughter the idea that extended conversations at 4 am are ok. But I have no doubt that this book will make 3 and 4 year olds giggle. Recommended for home use (probably less of a fit for storytimes). 

Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (@MacKidsBooks)
Publication Date: May 24, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Mary Ann Scheuer

© 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).

6 Years (and Counting)

JRBPlogo-smallTomorrow (December 17th) is the six-year anniversary of the day that I started Jen Robinson's Book Page. I remember the day I started the blog quite clearly, although I had no idea then of how big a role it would come to play in my life. I recall sitting on the couch with my laptop on my lap, selecting a fun snowman theme, and writing my first post. I'm not sure how it was that I had time to launch a new project a few days before heading to Boston for Christmas, but I also remember borrowing Internet access at my best friend's house over that holiday week, so that I could scour the web for any new literacy stories. And thus it's clear to me that this project had a strong hold on me, right from the start. (Special thanks to my friends Miles and Patrick, who both suggested blogging to me, and to Keith Ferrazzi, whose book Never Eat Alone helped inspire me to pull the trigger.)

In the ensuing six years I have:

But there's no question that for me, the best thing about starting this blog has been the friends that I've made. Friends who I would never have had a chance to meet otherwise, who live in places like Australia and Germany, or Kansas and Arizona. People who share my love of classics from Elizabeth Enright and D.E. Stevenson, and people who share my addiction to dystopias. People who, like me, are equally passionate about children's literature and the Red Sox (or at least baseball in general), and people who, like me, care greatly that their children grow up to be bookworms. It's been such a joy to be able to attend KidLitCon and other conferences, and meet some of these friends in person. Others I have yet to have a chance to meet face to face. But they are still my friends.

These friends have shown me that I'm not alone in being an adult who loves to read children's books, and not alone in being a person who (regardless of profession) wants to grow bookworms. When I gave birth to my own Baby Bookworm last year, many of these friends sent wonderful books. Even more sent good wishes and encouragement and understanding. Even if I for some reason stopped blogging, I can't imagine not finding a way to keep these friends in my life. But of course I plan to keep blogging for as long as I possibly can.

Thanks for six great years! Here's to many more!

This post is (c) 2011 by Jennifer Robinson. All rights reserved.