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Posts from March 2014

A Gift for Mama: Linda Ravin Lodding and Alison Jay

Book: A Gift for Mama
Author: Linda Ravin Lodding
Illustrator: Alison Jay
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 to 8

When A Gift for Mama arrived, my daughter took one look at the cover and said: "We have another book about that boy." She wasn't strictly correct, but she did recognize that the boy on the cover of this book looks a lot like the boy from The Cloud Spinner, by Michael Catchpool. Both books are illustrated by Alison Jay, and she has a very distinctive illustration style. This works well, because of the tone of the two stories is similar.

In A Gift for Mama, a young boy in old-time Vienna buys a gorgeous yellow rose as a gift for his mother's birthday. Oskar thinks that the flower is "the perfect present" until an artist offers to trade a paint brush for the flower. Oskar decides that if he paints a picture for his Mama, that will be "the perfect present." But then a conductor needs the paintbrush as a temporary baton, and offers Oskar something else in return. And so on. Oskar's mood fluctuates as these trade keep occurring, some without his consent at all, but his innate optimism keeps him thinking that each thing is "the perfect present." 

An author's note at the end of the book gives brief historical context to the Viennese figures that Oskar has encountered, including the Empress Sisi and the artist Gustav Klimt. Understanding who these figures are transforms Oskar's story into a tour of Vienna in 1894. This information isn't really necessary to appreciate the book, but it does add another layer. 

In truth, my almost four year old was a bit baffled by this book, asking "Why does everyone keep taking the boy's things?". But this didn't stop her from wanting to read it again. Oskar is an appealing character, with his up and down moods, and his clear love for his mother. There's a scene in which Oskar experiences a particular disappointment, and my daughter could absolutely relate to his hunched posture (exactly the same way she hunches over sometimes when things don't go her way). 

Lodding's text is full of exclamations and drama, and uses relatively advanced vocabulary. Like this:

"With a tug on the reins, the carriage lurched to a roll.
"Mama's book!" cried Oskar. "It's ruined."

But as Oskar looked up, there was the Empress herself!
She held out a box. "Candied violets," she said kindly. "To say sorry for your book.""

Oskar bower. "Thank you Your Highness!"
The dainty, delicious sweets were the perfect gift for Mama!"

Here Oskar's words as he declares the book ruined, as well as "the perfect gift for Mama" are in slightly larger text, encouraging the adult reader to emphasize those sections. I like books that give cues like this for read-aloud. 

But what I love are Jay's sepia-toned illustrations. They have faint jigsaw lines across each image, like one would see on a very old painting. The people are a bit rounded, wide in their waists, and the use of perspective emphasizes Oskar's powerlessness as the large (and famous) adults manipulate him. 

A Gift for Mama is going on our "keep" shelf. Next to The Cloud Spinner, of course. The conbination of story and pictures leaves readers with a warm feeling. And the fact that there is a bit of historical knowledge hidden in the book adds a special bonus. Recommended for ages four and up for home or library use. 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: March 28

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage.

Authors and Illustrators

2 of our faves | Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast » Featuring Kady MacDonald Denton and Rosemary Wells https://ow.ly/v8NkW

This is cool! Pippi Longstocking Author Astrid Lindgren Gets a Spot on Sweden’s 20 Krona Note @GalleyCat via @tashrow https://ow.ly/v8Lal

Happy Birthday, Kate DiCamillo! from @kidlitwhm https://ow.ly/uXeXd #kidlit

Barbro Lindgren Wins 2014 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award https://ow.ly/uXBLh #kidlit via @PWKidsBookshelf

Book Lists

Recommended Superhero Comics for Kids by @delightchildbks https://ow.ly/v5jez #kidlit

10 Counting Books set in the Garden from @growingbbb https://ow.ly/v5jjD #kidlit

Stacked: Crossing the Line: Adult-Teen Relationships in YA Fiction and Beyond by @catagator https://ow.ly/uXfr5 #yalit

10 Books With Female Leads and No (or Little) Romance, recommended by @Book_Nut https://ow.ly/uUPCa #kidlit #yalit

Nice #booklist from @ReadingRockets about Being Brave https://ow.ly/uR8QU via @ChoiceLiteracy

List NSTA: Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12: 2014 https://ow.ly/uQ3Ak via @FuseEight #commoncore

Diversity + Gender

A thorough and excellent response from @LaurelSnyder to someone who objected to seeing gay parents in Penny Dreadful https://ow.ly/v5iBw

Emerson's Museum of Amazing Women, Part 3, by @MaryAnnScheuer (featuring @jenniholm and Alex Morgan) https://ow.ly/v5kHC

Check out yesterday's KQED Roundtable: People of Color Underrepresented in Children's Books. https://ow.ly/uXeJp via @bkshelvesofdoom

10 Diverse YA Historicals About Girls In honor of Women's History Month https://ow.ly/uUQ81 @diversityinya via @catagator

10 Diverse Poetry Books for Kids from @momandkiddo https://ow.ly/uUOlj #kidlit

Stacked: Wrapping Up the "About the Girls" series https://ow.ly/uUPJo #yalit

Events

A #Poetry Challenge for Kids for April (Poetry Month) from @momandkiddo https://ow.ly/v8Mbd #kidlit

2014 3030 logo1GottaBook: Announcing the 2014 Redux-Edition of 30 Poets/30 Days! from @gregpincus https://ow.ly/v8KCi

Press Release Fun: Voting Now Open for the 7th Annual Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards! — @fuseeight @CBCBook https://ow.ly/uXflh

Growing Bookworms

Zoobean Debuts A Recommendation Service For Children’s Apps And Books | @TechCrunch https://ow.ly/v5qn2 via @PWKidsBookshelf

“That was intense!”: Getting Boys Excited About Books by @erniec + @mhorateach @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/v8MC2 

"Never underestimate the power of a book, espec (in)... the hands of the child that needs to hear what it has to say" https://ow.ly/uUP0J

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

A new phenomenon: The $300/hr Book Group Facilitator | @medinger https://ow.ly/v5kZH

Top-selling children's and YA books for 2013 - Divergent trilogy led the pack (combined) https://ow.ly/v5jYH via @100scopenotes #kidlit

"No story stole my heart like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" Natalie Lloyd @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/uXfcp #kidlit

How Sweet It Is: The 50th Anniversary of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' https://ow.ly/uXBSU @PWKidsBookshelf #kidlit

Programs and Research

iPad Use and Babies: A Pediatrician throws a wrench in the works and @fuseeight has some good quesitons https://ow.ly/v8MYI

Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success - includes #RedSox #literacy analogy https://ow.ly/v5dqF via @librareanne

Interesting ... People Who Use E-Readers Dive Far Deeper Into Books | @TheUnderwire via @tashrow https://ow.ly/uQ2dY

Schools and Libraries

Great News! Santa Clara City Council approves plan to get Northside Library back on track! https://ow.ly/uZujI @SantaClaraLib

Helping Young Readers Become Independent, a @ChoiceLiteracy post by Katie DiCesare https://ow.ly/uR8Lk

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


Hot Rod Hamster: Monster Truck Mania!: Cynthia Lord and Derek Anderson

Book: Hot Rod Hamster: Monster Truck Mania
Author: Cynthia Lord
Illustrator: Derek Anderson
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Cynthia Lord and Derek Anderson's lovable Hot Rod Hamster is back for a new adventure in Hot Rod Hamster: Monster Truck Mania!. When Hamster and his friend Dog attend the Monster Truck Rally and carnival, the speed-loving Hamster wants to try everything. His goal is figure out which is the BEST attraction. The one that turns out to be the winner is a surprise for everyone, especially Dog. 

As with the other books in the series, the beauty of this book lies in Hamster's enthusiasm. On the very first page spread, when Dog says that they have a bit of time, and asks Hamster what he wants to do, Hamster cries: "RIDES!". The big letters, the bold font, and the image of Hamster leaping up from the ground, arms in the air, all combine to show young readers how Hamster feels. When Hamster has a choice of boats on one ride, we already KNOW that he's going to want the pirate boat. And if the bumper cars include a race car option, well... He's like an excited preschooler, but round and furry. 

Dog, meanwhile is the perfect sensible counterpart, and the character that parents will relate to. He weaves coming off of the teacups, and keeps track of how much time is left. He heads into the stadium early, to make sure they get good seats, and then laments when he thinks that his friend is missing the show. The mice make an appearance also, and, as in the other books, play a silent but pivotal helper role. 

Cynthia Lord's bouncy, rhyming text makes for a fun read-aloud:

"Truck day, treat day, cotton-candy sweet day.
Fun day, fair day, music in the air day."

and

"Sports car, race car, fun in outer space car.
Cop car, mail car, make the siren wail car.
Which would you choose?"

Interspersed between the rhymes are bursts of punchy dialog, with Hamster's words dramatized by color and fonts. Derek Anderson's illustrations are colorful and chaotic, and capture the feel of a fair perfectly. The actual monster truck scenes are vibrant enough to almost make this adult reader a tiny bit motion sick. 

My daughter and I both greeted the arrival of this book like an old friend had come to visit. Monster Truck Mania did not disappoint. A must-read for Hamster fans, and a sure winner with carnival and/or car-loving kids. I hope that we'll see Hamster back in the future for many more adventures. Vroom! Vroom!

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 25

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a 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. I currently send out the newsletter once every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this relatively brief issue I have four book reviews (board book through young adult) and two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently. I had a particularly hectic couple of weeks at work, and wasn't able to post as much as I might have liked. But I have some Baby Bookworm tidbits at the end of this post. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read one early reader, one middle grade book, and two adult titles:

  • Noah Z. Jones: Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe #1: Moldylocks and the Three Beards. Scholastic. Early Reader. Completed March 17, 2014 (and read it many more times to my daughter, who adores this book). Review to come. 
  • Megan Frazer Blakemore: The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill. Bloomsbury. Middle Grade. Completed March 18, 2014 (ARC). Review to come. 
  • Maeve Binchy: A Week in Winter. Knopf. Adult Fiction. Completed March 19, 2014, on MP3. Simply delightful. 
  • Brigid Schulte: Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Sarah Crichton Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed March 23, 2014, on Kindle. I enjoyed parts of this book, and found a few useful take-aways. But I also found parts of it repetitive. There was a bit more about what the author thinks that the government and corporate America should be doing about the issue of overwhlemed parents than I was personally interested in. I was more looking for strategies for myself. But it was worth the time overall. 

I must admit that I stopped reading Insignia by S. J. Kincaid about halfway through. I had been enjoying it, but then I couldn't get on board with a major plot development, and found that I didn't want to finish. Fortunately it was a library book, rather than one that I had purchased. Right now I'm reading Dangerous by Shannon Hale on my Kindle and Eddie Red Undercover by Marcia Wells by in print. Not having quite gotten over my Maeve Binchy phase yet, I'm listening to her Whitethorn Woods

I've been reading on my Kindle while I ride my exercise boke, and listening to audiobooks while I go for walks, which means that most of the books I'm reading now are either digital or audiobooks. I'm so tired by the time I get to my bedtime reading that I haven't been making very good process with my print books, and they are stacking up a bit. I need a 48-hour book challenge, I guess. 

Baby Bookworm has started talking about how much she LOVES books, because we read her so many of them, and that's what she is used to. Not sure if she is trying to butter me up ahead of her upcoming fourth birthday, but it's nice to hear in any case. You can check out the complete list of books we've read to her this year. She is currently obsessed with the first book in a new series by Noah Z. Jones about Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe: Moldylocks and the Three Beards. She also loves A Gift for Mama by Linda Ravin Lodding and Alison Jay, a much more traditional tale.

At the library, she's still picking out TV tie-in books like Olivia, Arthur, and Charlie and Lola, though she doesn't actually watch the associated television shows. She can spot a Max and Ruby book by Rosemary Wells from across the room, and always brings home at least one of those, too. Any Fancy Nancy book that she hasn't already read is a surefire pick, too. We sat for over an hour in the library on Saturday, just reading whatever she picked up off of the shelves. Then we brought those books all home (and more). 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


The Mark of the Dragonfly: Jaleigh Johnson

Book: The Mark of the Dragonfly
Author: Jaleigh Johnson
Pages: 400
Age Range: 10 and up

I quite enjoyed The Mark of the Dragonfly a brand-new middle grade/middle school fantasy novel by Jaleigh Johnson. The Mark of the Dragonfly is set on another world, one that bears a resemblance to ours, but also includes non-human races and humans with unusual gifts. Piper lives on her own in the bleak Scrap Town 16, eking out a living as a scrapper and a machinist. Scrappers salvage items from other worlds that arrive in certain areas via meteor storms (an example is a book: "Embossed on the front cover was a picture of a girl and small dog. Next to her stood a grinning scarecrow, a lion, and man who looked like he was made entirely of metal.") 

Piper has a gift for machinery, and is good at refurbishing some of the recovered items. But she longs for more. Her life changes forever when she finds a mysterious, fragile girl in the scrap fields. Piper ends up on a quest to help Anna find her home, though the two girls are pursued by a powerful and dangerous man.  

The adult quibbler in me questions how Piper's world can be similar to ours in many ways, despite being on an apparently separate planet. But this wasn't enough to dampen my appreciation for the book. I liked Johnson's inclusion of other intelligent races, coexisting with humans in the world. 

But the real reason that I enjoyed the book is that the characters in The Mark of the Dragonfly are quite strong. Piper is angry about her father's death, and determined to make a better life for herself. She struggles plausibly with doing the right thing. Anna is a bit more of an enigma, by design, but she is fascinating, too. She has only fragmented memories of her life, but she is drawn to books, and can spout various arcane bits of knowledge. There are some nice supporting characters, too, including a potential love interest for Piper (all quite PG, still suitable for upper elementary and middle school kids).

The plotting in The Mark of the Dragonfly moves along quickly, with several dangerous encounters that will keep readers turning the pages. The ongoing puzzle regarding who Anna is, and why she is being pursued, lends a more over-arcing suspense. 

The Mark of the Dragonfly wraps the initial story up nicely. No cliffhangers here. But given the depth of the world that Johnson has created, I do hope that there are future installments. Recommended for fans of middle grade fantasy with strong characters and unusual worlds. This one is going to stick in my memory, I'm sure. 

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Source of Book: Advanced review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: March 21

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage.

Book Lists and Awards

2014 Indies Choice, E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards Finalists Announced | via @PWKidsBookshelf https://ow.ly/uNU2V #kidlit

10 New Picture Books that Will Challenge, Amuse and Teach, recommended by @TrevorHCairney https://ow.ly/uNT9e #kidlit

The 2014 Carnegie Medal shortlist has been released https://ow.ly/uLPFn #kidlit @bkshelvesofdoom

2014 Shortlist for The Hans Christian Andersen Award | @tashrow https://ow.ly/uLPhn #kidlit

Guest Post @abbylibrarian | Kelly Jensen @catagator for 2016 Printz https://ow.ly/uJc9B #yalit

Common Core

A Crash Course On #CommonCore @NPR https://ow.ly/uNUAy via @PWKidsBookshelf #literacy

Diversity

A Response to “Where Are The People of Color in Children’s Books” from @StaceyLoscalzo https://ow.ly/uGtNm #kidlit

“The Boundaries of Imagination”; or, the All-White World of Children’s Books, 2014 @PhilNel https://ow.ly/uGscv #kidlit

Gender (including Women's History Month)

The Independent on Sunday will no longer be reviewing books that are "marketed to exclude either sex https://ow.ly/uGsYh @bkshelvesofdoom

Campaign to end gender-specific children's books gathers high-profile support | @GuardianBooks https://ow.ly/uJaUj @PWKidsBookshelf

Is it really true that "Gender specific books demean all children" asks @chasingray | Some counterexamples https://ow.ly/uNTq7 #kidlit

Responses to reactions to Independent on Sunday decision not to feature books aimed at boys OR girls https://ow.ly/uQ4Et @playbythebook

Stacked: Challenging the Expectation of #YAlit Characters as "Role Models" for Girls: Guest Post by @SarahOckler https://ow.ly/uQ3dS

Girls in #yalit have a right to be angry sometimes | Guest Post at Stacked by @EScottWrites https://ow.ly/uNTFL

Hey, Girlfriend — @lizb shares her picks for #yalit where positive girl friendships are front and center https://ow.ly/uJclU

Girls (in #kidlit + #yalit ) Kicking A** With Their Brains: Guest Post by @aquafortis at Stacked https://ow.ly/uJcxK

Women's History: Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell, by @TanyaLeeStone @MaryAnnScheuer https://ow.ly/uNSXy

Growing Bookworms

Michaels Read | A dad is happy to have his son "not follow directions" as long as reading in bed is the result https://ow.ly/uGsud

Lovely! To My Dear Little Duckie Quotes From Children's Books for When Things Are Not Going Your Way @BooksBabiesBows https://ow.ly/uJcNG

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Maine publisher makes way for Robert McCloskey artwork in posters / note cards . Article mentions @FuseEight https://ow.ly/uNUY7

Young people aren’t buying e-readers. Only 5% expect to by one next year | @NYDailyNews via @PWKidsBookshelf https://ow.ly/uJb4f

Promo Friday @gail_gauthier asks: Would You Buy A Book A Blogger Recommended? https://ow.ly/uGvE1 Well, yes, all the time for me

Programs, Events and Research

Celebrating the 3rd year of the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program @lochwouters library. So great! https://ow.ly/uNSaK

An Estimated Million—from Italy to North Carolina—Participated in World Read Aloud Day | @sljournal https://ow.ly/uJa7t @roccoa

I can see this | @PBSKIDS Survey Says School Readiness More Important to Parents than Letters + Numbers @sljournal https://ow.ly/uNWfP

Levels of key brain chemicals predict children's reading ability, @medical_xpress via @tashrow https://ow.ly/uGwqx

Schools and Libraries

Malorie Blackman: asks: Why are libraries mandatory in prisons but not schools? The Telegraph https://ow.ly/uGwdw via @tashrow

Miami library cuts are forcing tough decisions + huge cuts in purchases of children’s books i https://ow.ly/uNUo0 via @PWKidsBookshelf

This is nice to see | St. Paul to Create 15 New School Library Positions (more than double current amt) https://ow.ly/uJada @sljournal

Five Compliments for Reading Teachers by @JustinStygles @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/uLQ12 #literacy

"Our aim should be to foster a love of reading" vs. focusing on tests, says @amyrass @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/uGwT6

New Report: Pew Internet Releases a Typology of U.S. Public Library Engagement | LJ @INFOdocket https://ow.ly/uJan2

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


Kissing in Italian: Lauren Henderson

Book: Kissing in Italian
Author: Lauren Henderson
Pages: 272
Age Range: 12 and up

Kissing in Italian is the sequel and conclusion to Lauren Henderson's Flirting in Italian. Both books feature a British girl named Violet Routledge who is doing a summer study program at a villa in Italy. Violet was actually drawn to the program after seeing a painting of a girl who looked remarkably like herself, and was from a castle located close to the villa. In the first book, Violet learned that she did indeed bear a strong family resemblance to the family from the castle, leading her to suspect that she might be the illegitimate daughter of the principe. This is a problem, because Violet is strongly attracted to the principe's son Luca.

Kissing in Italian follows Violet's continuing efforts to uncover the secrets of her heritage, while also attempting to resist the dashingly attractive Luca. There is also relationship drama in the lives of the other three girls in the program, one of whom becomes involved with an older, married man. (I found this icky, but so did Violet - the relationship never comes across as acceptable). 

In truth, the mystery is pretty tame in this installment. Violet's parents are alive (though divorced and not physically with her in Italy). It's just a matter of her getting them to explain to her why she looks nothing like them, but does freakishly resemble some family in Italy. The real suspense lies in whether things will resolve in such a way that Violet and Luca can ever be together. There are other potential love interests for both Violet and Luca, too (since they are trying hard to stay away from one another, just in case). Here's Violet trying to become interested in another boy:

"Why does it feel so special when someone uses your name? Didn't some ancient society have a custom that you had a secret name that only the people you really trusted knew, because using it gave people power over you?

If that's true, and not just something I read i a novel, I really understand it now. There's something so nice about a boy saying your name. As if he likes you for yourself, what's inside as well as outside. Not just your boobs and face, but your brain, too.

Deliberately, I make myself smile back at him." (Page 36)

Despite being a bit less suspenseful than Henderson's other books (she also wrote the Kiss Me, Kill Me series), Kissing in Italian is still an enjoyable young adult romance. Settings include Siena, Florence, and Venice. There are villas, dance clubs, and late night swims with hot Italian boys. There's a hint of class-consciousness, and there are universal questions about whether one owes loyalty or protection to one's friends.

I like the multi-cultural mix of the book. Violet and Kelly's English background comes through, in contrast to Paige and Kendra's US-inspired tendencies. These are all set against the Italian backdrop, full of just enough Italian words to lend a multi-cultural feel, without making the book inaccessible. Like this:

"That's Italy for you. If you kissed passionately in public in London, people would judge you as attention-seekers and deliberately ignore you: In Italy, they practically applaud." (Page 223)

I also quite liked the way that Violet started to discover herself as an artist throughout the novel. Like this:

"I've discovered over the past few weeks that drawing or painting is the only thing in the world that can completely absorb me. It distracts me from any outside worries. When the art studio door closes, when I'm inside with paint or pastels or charcoal and a subject to focus on, I'm vacuum-sealed. The world beyond disappears. 

I feel beyond lucky to have discovered this." (Page 67)

Violet goes on to muse about whether her friends have something like this. I think that this section will make readers thing about what makes the rest of the world disappear for them, too. And that's something that teens probably should be thinking about. 

Kissing in Italian is clearly not intended to stand alone. If you haven't read Flirting in Italian, you should certainly read that first. If you have read Flirting in Italian, I'm sure that, like me, you'll want to find out how things turn out for Violet and Luca. And on that front, Kissing in Italian does not disappoint. I recommend this quick, two-book series for anyone who enjoys YA romance with an international flair. 

Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


The Geography of You and Me: Jennifer E. Smith

Book: The Geography of You and Me
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Pages: 352
Age Range: 12 and up

I loved Jennifer E. Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, and also enjoyed This Is What Happy Looks Like. Like those two books, The Geography of You and Me is a young adult romance, heavy on character development and light on sappiness. Which is how I like them. Two teens meet in an elevator during a power outage in New York (they've seen each other before, but never spoken). Despite coming from very different backgrounds, they discover a connection over the course of a long, electricity-free evening. Geography is against them, however, as Lucy's family moves almost immediately to Scotland, while Owen ends up driving west with his father. Can such a tenuous connection, nurtured mainly by "Wish you were here" postcards, turn into something real? 

I thought that this book was very well done. The socioeconomic differences between Lucy and Owen are there, and cause occasional awkwardness, but are incidental to their sense of connection. Lucy feels isolated from her largely absent parents, while Owen misses his recently deceased mother. Both teens are isolated from other kids, even as they attend school. Lucy is a self-professed "geeky bookworm", constantly on the lookout for a good place to read. Owen is quietly brilliant on the science and math side, but is also computer shy, and not very keen on books or email. They joke about the idea of Herman Melville's Bartleby, a character who responds to everything with "I would prefer not to." Owen eventually names a pet turtle Bartleby.

Although there's a hint of intellectualism to The Geography of You and Me, it's far from over the top. While Lucy's family is clearly well off (leaving their New York apartment vacant for months, in case they want to go back for a visit), Owen is from a blue collar background. His father spends most of the book looking for work, and the two even end up briefly sleeping in their car. I think that Lucy and Owen could hold their own with John Green's characters, but they are less consciously witty. 

As for the romance, it felt real to me. Both Owen and Lucy meet other people (the book wouldn't be interesting if it was too easy), but they can't let go of that sense of connection with each other. There's a nice section with short chapters that show them thinking about each other, in parallel, despite being 5000 miles apart. Here are a couple of snippets:

"She wondered if there was a word for loneliness that wasn't quite so general. Because that wasn't it, exactly; it wasn't that she was feeling lonesome or empty or forlorn. It was more particular than that, like the blanket on the root this morning: Here in the kitchen, there was an Owen-shaped indent." (Chapter 5)

"But he couldn't find the words. And so instead, they just stood there, regarding each other silently, the room suddenly as quiet as the elevator had been, as comfortable as the kitchen floor, as remote as the roof. Because that's what happened when you were with someone like that: the world shrank to just the right size. It molded itself to fit only the two of you, and nothing more." (Chapter 8)

Given that the two main characters actually spend most of the book geographically separated, its good that The Geography of You and Me is about more than just the relationship between the two protagonists. Lucy reconnects a bit with her parents, and experiences the travel that she's always longed for. A scene in which she finally visits a city that she has longed to see gave me immense satisfaction as a reader. Owen and his father, meanwhile, are figuring out what their life means without Owen's mother, and what they mean to one another. Parents on both sides are more attuned to what's going on in their teens' lives than said teens realize. It's refreshing to have a book take a good look at parent/teen relationships, without melodrama, rather than focusing on friendships with other kids. 

I highly recommend The Geography of You and Me to fans of Jennifer E. Smith's previous novels, and to anyone who enjoys young adult romance (with nothing more PG than a few kisses) and realistic fiction. Because half of the book is told from Owen's perspective, I actually could imagine boys liking this book, though one might have trouble getting them to pick up a book with kissing on the cover. But for teenage girls and adult women, The Geography of You and Me should be an excellent fit. 

Publisher: Poppy (@LBKids)
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Source of Book: Advanced digital review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: March 14

CTwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Tons of links around gender this week, as you would expect right in the middle of Women's History Month. 

Book Lists and Awards

Start your voting engines! Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards voting will open March 25: https://bit.ly/1gf3ZPr ! @cbcbook #CCBA14

5 Comic Strip Anthologies for Kids recommended by @delightchildbks https://ow.ly/uz6pn #kidlit

2014 is The Year of the Whale, declares @100scopenotes + he has books to prove it https://ow.ly/uz6AE #kidlit

Suggestions for a dinosaur-themed storytime from @lochwouters https://ow.ly/uz6Gv #kidlit #commoncore

Booklist: A Tuesday Ten: Citizens of Fairyland | Views From the Tesseract https://ow.ly/uvWuA #kidlit #sff

Read Aloud Chapter Books for 4 and 5 (and 6) Year Olds @momandkiddo https://ow.ly/uqQTc #kidlit

Kid-tested list | The Top Ten Favorite Picture Books So Far in @SagesHoots class | @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/uoxS5 #kidlit

Stacked's latest Get Genrefied zooms in on Fairy Tale Re-tellings (there are MANY) https://ow.ly/ujWtW #yalit

Congratulations to @medinger ! Africa is My Home is a 2014 Children’s Africana Book Award Winner https://ow.ly/umFMw #kidlit

The 2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalists have been announced. See list at @bkshelvesofdoom https://ow.ly/umF6c #yalit

NAACP Outstanding Literary Work Awards via @tashrow + @FuseEight https://ow.ly/ujWHh #kidlit #yalit

Diversity and Gender

Is your default character white and male? asks @haleshannon | I, too, have noticed this with my child's toys (male) https://ow.ly/uqPqB

Stacked: I love "unlikable," I write "unlikable," and I am "unlikable" @tehawesomersace on "Unlikable" Girls https://ow.ly/uz6wt #yalit

Guest Post @cynleitichsmith : Ellen Oh on The Ongoing Problem with Sexism https://ow.ly/uvVpb

Stacked: @CherylRainfield , A Hero for Girls: Guest Post by Jennifer Brown https://ow.ly/uvWBk #yalit

Stacked: Positive Girl Friendships in YA: Guest Post by Jessica Spotswood https://ow.ly/utOpx #yalit

Stacked: The Unlikable Female Protagonist: A Field Guide to Identification in the Wild -- Guest Post by Sarah McCarry https://ow.ly/uqTt5

One example of why we should care about the Campaign: Let Books Be Books via @bkshelvesofdoom https://ow.ly/umxd4 #LetBooksBeBooks

Gender-specific children’s books are easier to sell, insists children's book publisher| Independent https://ow.ly/uudlA @PWKidsBookshelf

Parents push to end gender division of boys' and girls' books | @GuardianBooks via @PWKidsBookshelf https://ow.ly/uuddj #letbooksbebooks

Food for thought! Sheryl Sandberg and Anna Maria Chávez on 'Bossy,' the Other B-word - @WSJ https://ow.ly/uoyuS

Further thoughts on the “She’s Being Bossy” @WSJ piece from @StaceyLoscalzo https://ow.ly/uqS5F

Events

Laurel Snyder on the joy for authors in participating in World Read Aloud Day https://ow.ly/ujWnk @LaurelSnyder #kidlit

An invitation! @LizB is Revisiting Harriet The Spy, and she's looking for company https://ow.ly/uz6k3 #kidlit

#Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month: Two Eminent Victorians: Emily Carr and Lillian Gilbreth (an ind engineer!) https://ow.ly/uvVK5

Yesterday was International Women's Day. @MaryAnnScheuer is celebrating women who have won a Nobel Prize (ages 10-14) https://ow.ly/uoxPE

Great Kid Books: Time for Kids: Online resources to celebrate Women's History Month (ages 7-10) @MaryAnnScheuer https://ow.ly/utNyF

On the #cybils blog: @Cybils Judges and Authors on Women's History at Stacked https://ow.ly/uriGg @aquafortis

Growing Bookworms

Igniting a Passion for Reading: A Retro Review to Reignite the Flame by @leaderandreader @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/uz68d #literacy

Share the Love (of books), Grasshopper by Michael Guevara | @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/utNVH #literacy

"Reading and discussing these books with my kids has to be the best single thing I can do to encourage reading." https://ow.ly/uqRJQ

Useful! Suggestions to encourage unique, out-of-the-box readers by @NancyTandon @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/ujVGp #literacy

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Makes sense to me! What Most Successful People Do Before Bed: READ | @tashrow @businessinsider https://ow.ly/uvUQw

Study finds: "people who read regularly tend to be more satisfied with life in general" says @tashrow https://ow.ly/utNry

It's not only adults who need comfort reading | Alison Flood @GuardianBooks https://ow.ly/umFg9 via @tashrow #kidlit

Schools and Libraries

Philip Pullman: 'every school should have a good library' | @TheBookseller https://ow.ly/ukaVF via @PWKidsBookshelf

A Pre-Kindergarten Teacher's Perspective on Reading Aloud at @BooksBabiesBows for @ReadAloud_org Read Aloud month https://ow.ly/utOFg

On Taking Vacation Time to Read Aloud at her kids' school, by @BooksBabiesBows https://ow.ly/uoy5F

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


Peek-a-Zoo!: Nina Laden

Book: Peek-a-Zoo!
Author: Nina Laden
Pages: 22 (Board Book)
Age Range: 2-5

Nina Laden's Peek-a-Who? was one of my daughter's favorite books when she was about two. We've given it many times as a gift since then. So I was naturally interested when the new sequel, Peek-a-Zoo! landed on my doorstep. Like the first book, Peek-a-Zoo! is a board book featuring cut-outs that gives clues, and invites young children to guess what's coming next. In this example, all of the mysteries involve animals one might find at the zoo. The selections are driven by maintaining a motif of words that rhyme with "zoo." So we have "Peek a MEW!", showing a tiger cub playing with a ball, and "Peek a BAMBOO!", with a panda bear chewing on some bamboo. 

Because of the narrower focus, I found the answers much more difficult to guess from the tiny hint shown in the cutout than in the first book. "Peek a COCKATOO!" was particularly challenging, with its display of a fan of green feathers. But level of difficulty isn't really a problem with a book like this, because the child is going to read it dozens or hundreds of times, and he or she will have a chance to learn what all of the pictures mean. Like the first book, an embedded mirror at the end gives the child a chance to participate in the story. 

In truth, I don't know whether or not Peek-a-Zoo! will have the same appeal for toddlers that Peek-a-Who? does. I don't have a toddler nearby to test it out on. To me, the examples seem a bit more contrived (as necessitated by the book's tighter focus). But the illustrations are eye-catching without being too busy. And books about animals are always popular with the pre-preschool set. So I will  add Peek-a-Zoo! to my go-to gift list for new babies, as a companion book to Peek-a-Who? And if any of you have tried out both books with your toddlers, I would love to hear about their reactions. 

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 12

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a 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. I currently send out the newsletter once every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book through young adult), as well as post about my daughter's latest literacy milestone, and one about why I think she loves Mo Willems' books so much. I have two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read one middle grade book, three young adult books, and one adult title:

I'm currently reading Insignia by S. J. Kincaid on my Kindle and The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer in print. I am very much enjoying my current audiobook, A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy. It is the perfect antidote to stress, and I wish it would never end. 

We're also still reading to Baby Bookworm these days, of course. You can check out the complete list of books we've read to her this year if you are interested. We also read the first two chapters of Winnie-the-Pooh last night. 

She turns four in a few weeks, and I can tell you that we're really seeing the impact of all the books that we've read. She can spell a few words now (her name, Mom, Dad, no, moo, Mo, so), and she'll notice those words if she sees them ("Why does that sign say 'No'?). She's asking how to spell things like "I love you" when she makes us cards. She enjoys the Reading Raven app. I can't remember who recommended that one, but thank you! We are careful not to push her, but she's like a little sponge these days, soaking up new words all around her. My goal is just to keep it fun!

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


All the Mo Willems Books

MoWillemsBooksMy daughter decided last night that before falling asleep, she wanted to read "all the Mo Willems books." She headed over to the bookshelf (well, one of many bookshelves, but this is the one where most of Mo's books live in our house), and started pulling them down. It took her a couple of trips, fully laden, to get them over to the bed. And then she commanded: "Read!"

We ended up reading three Elephant & Piggie books and two Pigeon books. We didn't get to the three Knuffle Bunny books last night, but they were in the stack, and are much-loved, too. We also have a couple of stand alone titles (That is NOT a Good Idea and Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs), but these don't register for her so much as having been written by Mo. What she LOVES is looking for the Pigeon on the inside back cover of the Elephant & Piggie books. She has a stuffed Pigeon, too. She sees these books as a whole universe of fun.  

The other night she was getting cranky around bedtime, as she is wont to do. She protested: "I'm NOT tired." Then, before I could anything she added "And I am NOT the Pigeon." This is because usually when she claims to not be tired we say: "OK, Pigeon." Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late hits the nail on the head better than any other book I can think of.  

I guess all of this is a long-winded way for me to say that if you have a preschooler or early elementary schooler in your house, and you have somehow not discovered the works of Mo Willems, you simply MUST remedy this. Your local library should have plenty of Mo's books, and that's a great place to start. Scholastic also has packages sometimes in the Reading Club, giving you access to less expensive paperback versions. But whatever you do, get your hands on some of these fabulous books.

I think the key to the success of all of Willems' various series and standalones lies in his keen understanding of universal child (and parent) behaviors. My daughter nods her head when Elephant and Piggie are crying over Piggie's broken toy, and says: "She's crying because of her toy. He's crying because of her." She just gets the interactions and expressions of the characters instinctively. She clutches her own beloved blanket a little when Trixie loses Knuffle Bunny. She giggles when the Pigeon says "I never get to do ANYTHING" because she knows that she has said something similar mere moments before. 

Of course it helps that the books are fun, too! What say you, readers? Do your kids ask for "all of the Mo Willems books", too? 

____

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook