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Posts from November 2014

Elmer: David McKee

Book: Elmer
Author: David McKee
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6 (board book)

Harper Collins has issued a new 25th anniversary board book edition of David McKee's Elmer. This is a slightly over-sized board book, with a bright patchwork cover, and my four-year-old (meeting Elmer for the first time) was unable to resist it.

For those who have not made his acquaintance, Elmer is the story of a patchwork elephant who stands out from among the other elephants in his herd. Elmer stands out not just because of how he looks, but because of his happy-go-lucky nature. He makes the others laugh. However, fearing that the other elephants are laughing at him, rather than with him, Elmer decides to disguise himself. But not to worry - Elmer's true nature, and eventually his true colors, shine through in the end. 

There's a subtle message here about being yourself, of course. But I think that i has been around for 25 years because David McKee doesn't hit kids over the head with this message. Instead, he celebrates the delightful absurdity of a patchwork elephant, and the joy that all of the elephants have in witnessing a good joke. Elmer is also wonderfully bright and appealing for the youngest readers. At the end of the book, the elephants elephants decide to color themselves one day a year, in celebration of Elmer. The final spread is a riot of color and patterns. I challenge anyone to see it and not smile.

This new board book edition of Elmer would make pretty much a perfect holoiday gift for a toddler in your life, especially if accompanied by a stuffed Elmer. There's a reason that classics like this are still around. Elmer is a fun, bouncy sort of book, one with heart.  

Publisher: HarperFestival (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: August 26, 2014 (this board book reprint edition)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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


A Good Home for Max: Junzo Terada

Book: A Good Home for Max
Author: Junzo Terada
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-5 

A Good Home for Max by Junzo Terada was originally published in Japan in 2005, and was brought to the US this year by Chronicle. It's the story of a mouse named Tabi who lives in "a little shop in a little town". Every night Tabi comes out of hiding to clean and re-stock the shop, paying special attention to the stuff animals. Tabi tries to help a particular animal friend, a stuffed dog named Max, to become enticing enough to be purchased. But every night, Max is still there, and the friendship between Tabi and Max grows closer. When Max isn't there one morning, Tabi has to leave the safety of the shop to make sure that Max is safe. 

Terada's text is mainly straight-up narrative, without particularly advanced vocabulary or rhyming, and just a bit of dialog (only Tabi actually speaks). Here's a snippet:

"Tabi decorates Max with an inner tube
in summer, because he'd be a good 
dog to play with at the beach ...

and a festive hat in winter, because
he would be a good dog to play with
in the snow."

Really, though, it's the illustrations that make this book special (Teresa is a designer and artist). Terada uses a muted color scheme and mixed media illustration style that makes the book look old, in a good way. Like the colors have faded a bit. There are repeated design elements, like patterns of cherries and identical ducklings, and patterned backgrounds, that add a certain cheerfulness. Tabi is the only character who really seems active, but we do see a change in Max's expression between the beginning and end of the book, suggesting that the stuffed animals are at least somewhat animate. It’s a distinctive style, different from most of the picture books that cross my desk, and one that catches the attention. 

One tidit that I also liked was the presence of various signs and labels in French. For those who don't know French, it's reasonably clear from context what these things say. And for those who do know a bit of French, it's nice for practice. 

A Good Home for Max is a celebration of the power of friendship, with an international flair, and an unconventional and appealing illustration style. It would make a lovely bedtime book for preschoolers, sure to have them dreaming of toys that come to life, and little mouse tidying up a shop overnight. 

Publisher: Chronicle Books ((@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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

 


Waiting Is Not Easy! (An Elephant and Piggie Book): Mo Willems

Book: Waiting Is Not Easy!
Author: Mo Willems
Pages: 64
Age Range: 5-7

Waiting Is Not Easy! is the newest title in Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie early reader series. In this installment, Piggie tells Gerald that she has a surprise for him. Gerald spends most of the book trying to figure out what the surprise might be, and then lamenting how long he has to wait. Of course in the end, the surprise is worth waiting for.

Willems perfectly captures the attitudes of young children. The very idea of a surprise is delightful. But actually waiting for something nice, particularly when you don't know exactly what it is, is not so easy. 

The funniest parts of Waiting Is Not Easy! are several instances in which Gerald, impatient, lets out a loud "GROAN". Willems shows each groan as huge, black letter in a text bubble that flat-out knocks over Piggie ("OOF!"). This is the kind of playfulness that pleases young readers. My four year old laughed out loud, particularly enjoying the acceleration of the groans ("This time he REALLY knocked her over.").

As in the other Elephant & Piggie books, the appeal of the book stems largely from the way that Willems captures the feelings of Elephant and Piggie. The illustrations are minimal, but the expressions on their faces (particularly on Elephant's face) run the spectrum from delight to misery. My favorite illustration is one in which Elephant throws his arms joyfully into the air, saying "I CAN'T WAIT." Piggie leans in, smiling, but then points out "You will have to." We see Elephant's face go blank, even as his arms are still raised. 

Waiting Is Not Easy! is sure to please fans of the Elephant & Piggie series. The minimal text, complete with visual cues, as well as the universal themes, makes this a fine choice for brand-new readers. But I am perfectly happy to share this one as a read-aloud to my daughter, too, because it is funny from cover to cover, and includes a gorgeous surprise, too. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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


Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin Trilogy): Robin LaFevers

Book: Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin Trilogy, Book 3)
Author: Robin LaFevers
Pages: 464
Age Range: 13 and up

Mortal Heart is the final book in Robin LaFevers' fabulous His Fair Assassin trilogy. This installment is told from the viewpoint of Annith, fellow handmaiden to Death with prior protagonists Ismae and Sybella. As Mortal Hearts begins, Annith, who has spent her whole life preparing to serve the god Mortain, chafes at being kept at the convent, instead of being sent out on a mission as an assassin. When she learns that the Abbess intends to keep her at the convent forever, trained to be the Seeress who sends others out on missions, Annith rebels and escapes (though she still seeks to serve Mortain). Various adventures and revelations follow, as LaFevers brings the series to a conclusion.  

I found Mortal Heart to have a nice balance of action and introspection. Annith is insecure in many ways, consumed with understanding her own place in the world, but she's also strong and capable. Like this:

"Keeping the knife clenched in my hand, I look up at her and allow every bit of anger and frustration I am feeling to show in my eyes. She blinks and leans imperceptibly back. Good, I think, then smile, a movement so brittle it is a wonder my cheeks do not shatter." (Page 57)

"And there it is. The threat I have lived with my entire life. I I am not good enough, kind enough, thoughtful enough, obedient enough, I will be cast from my home like a stunted fish from a fisherman's net." (Page 61)

"It is a terrifying thing to cross the sea at night, but I tell myself it is exhilarating. There is nothing but the glimmer of moonlight to steer by, and the sharp salt-scented breeze from the sea whistles past my ears, bringing a faint spray to my face." (Page 83)

I was pulled slightly out of the story by a reference that Annith makes to being asked to "run interference", which seems to me to be a more modern term than would have been used in 1489.But aside from this minor quibble, I thought that LaFevers continued her excellent job overlaying a real historical world and characters with a fantasy involving gods and special powers. 

Mortal Heart has strong characters, a suspenseful, secret-filled plot, and an intriguing setting and premise. I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to a top-notch series. I highly recommend Mortal Heart for fans of the series. And, since the series is now complete, this would be a great time for new readers to immerse themselves in LaFevers' tale. 

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHBooks
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: November 21

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book lists (many!), the National Book Awards, the Cybils Awards, diversity, growing bookworms, National Readathon Day, KidLit TV, parenting, schools, libraries, and time management. 

Books, Book Lists and Awards

Jacqueline Woodson’s ‘Brown Girl Dreaming’ Wins 2014 National Book Award for Young People's Literature| @sljournal https://ow.ly/ECWg4

The 2014 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize Winner is The Dark Wild by Piers Torday https://ow.ly/EitZ1 via @tashrow #kidlit

Visiting grandparents: three picture books to share (ages 3-8) from @MaryAnnScheuer https://ow.ly/ED01b #kidlit

Favorite Board Books for Babies and Toddlers from @ThisReadingMom https://ow.ly/EuYz2 #kidlit

Favorite Picture Books for Pre-K/K selected by @ThisReadingMom https://ow.ly/EyoFE #kidlit @The_Pigeon

Favorite Picture Books for K-2nd grade from @ThisReadingMom (includes TIKKI TIKKI TEMBO) https://ow.ly/ED2fd #kidlit

At Stacked: 9 "recently-published titles that should appeal to teen dragon fans (three of which are #Cybils nominees) https://ow.ly/Eypaq

NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for K-12 students in 2014, winners shared by @tashrow https://ow.ly/EynPo

9 Picture Books About Parades selected by @mrskatiefitz https://ow.ly/EuYkT #kidlit

The Best Children’s Books and Picture-Books of 2014 according to @brainpicker https://ow.ly/EuY0M via @bkshelvesofdoom

My daughter is dying for Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood, reviewed here by @tashrow https://ow.ly/EuWAY @penguinkids

Book List from @growingbbb | Talking to Children About Death of a Sibling https://ow.ly/Eqryi #kidlit

Favorite #Nonfiction Series Books {for K-5th grades} from @ThisReadingMom https://ow.ly/EqrhF #kidlit

Booklist from @bkshelvesofdoom | Seven YA books featuring graffiti artists https://ow.ly/EqqYh #yalit

Top Ten High School Favorites from Former Students by @shkrajewski and some former students @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/EmkxR

Recommended Reads For Teens Who Need a Laugh from Jean Little Library https://ow.ly/Emjf1 #YAlit #kidlit

Beyond the Bestsellers: Books for fans of Robin LaFevers's "His Fair Assassin" Trilogy from @catagator @bookriot https://ow.ly/EivkM

12 Picture Books 4 to 8 Year Olds Should Read from Laurie Levy at Still Advocating https://ow.ly/EiqUn via @tashrow

Cybils

ArmchairCybilsIt's time for the Armchair #Cybils November check-in @Everead https://ow.ly/ED0w0 #kidlit

This is wonderful! Wit and Wisdom from (Mostly) #Cybils Nominees 2014 | @semicolonblog https://ow.ly/Eypso

Today's Featured #Cybils Review is the #BookApp for Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan, reviewed by @pwbalto https://ow.ly/Eynl9

Today's Featured #Cybils Review is Greenglass House by Kate Milford, reviewed by @semicolonblog https://ow.ly/Eqmru

This month's Featured Bloggers at #Cybils are Guinevere and Libertad Tomas @dos_twinjas https://ow.ly/Emj6W

Guess who got to be The Cybils' November Featured Bloggers of the Month =) @dos_twinjas https://ow.ly/Eqsd4 #Cybils

Today's Featured #Cybils Review: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty reviewed by @Book_Nut https://ow.ly/Eipzx

Diversity (including Book Lists Focused on Diversity)

WNDBLogoSqaureGreat news! #WeNeedDiverseBooks has met the $100,000 fundraising goal! At $102,744 this morning per @CynLeitichSmith https://ow.ly/EitH9

Interesting thoughts from @RogerReads @HornBook about whether or when to mention race in a book review https://ow.ly/EipMe

LGBTQ Fiction, Reimagined Fairy Tales, & Horror | What’s Hot in #YAlit | SShelley Diaz @sljournal https://ow.ly/ECWGN

Big News in #Diversity: Big Hero 6 Tops Box Office w/ diverse cast reports @LEEandLOW https://ow.ly/EymzO via @bkshelvesofdoom

Latinas For Latino Lit share 'Remarkable' Children's Books of 2014 at NBC New.com https://ow.ly/Evg3k @PWKidsBookshelf

Black and White and Read All Over: #Diversity and Inequity in Children’s Publishing, by Cheryl Klein @scholastic https://ow.ly/EymiM

Infographic: Gender Bias in popular films across 11 countries, shared at @bkshelvesofdoom https://ow.ly/EvgFk

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Announces Publishing Internship Project @sljournal #WNDB https://ow.ly/EuNwa

Native American Heritage Month: 10 Children’s Books By Native Writers @LEEandLOW https://ow.ly/EisGl via @CynLeitichSmith

Quentin Blake: We need more disabled children in picture books @BBCNews https://ow.ly/Eiray via @tashrow

Events, Programs and Research

NationalReadathonDayThumb2Make #timetoread for National Readathon Day, says @LibraryJournal https://ow.ly/EuNHP #literacy

What Kids Are Reading: A Renaissance Learning Report, highlights shared @PublishersWkly #literacy https://ow.ly/EvfK1

Announcing #Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month for 2015 @kidlitwhm https://ow.ly/Emjnn

Growing Bookworms

Using imaginative storytelling with young children, tips from @TrevorHCairney https://ow.ly/ECZDX #literacy

Guest post @RIFWEB from @SamRVamos about The Reading Bond that parents can nurture https://ow.ly/EqqCb #literacy

Coping with Children’s Changing Tastes and Attitudes in reading: "be flexible and not judgmental" @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/EiuLM

Kidlitosphere

New York Media Works Launches Children’s Literature Portal #KidLit TV hosted by @roccoa https://ow.ly/Ef6HQ via @PWKidsBookshelf

Online friends – real or imaginary? | On taking the risk to meet online friends in person by @NorahColvin https://ow.ly/Eiuqd

Miscellaneous

Good advice from @abbylibrarian in: I Didn't Check My Email (on vacation) (and Lived to Tell the Tale) https://ow.ly/ECYQP

Food for thought in: The Disease of Being Busy by @OSTADJAAN https://ow.ly/EuXB9 via @StaceyLoscalzo

Twitter Announces a Searchable Archive of Every Tweet is Now Accessible to All Users | @infodocket https://ow.ly/ECX42

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Is There Also A Good Reading Fairy? asks @gail_gauthier musing also on whether teens should read classics or wait https://ow.ly/Emkjr

How Do We Feel About Writers Writing For Free? Is There Something To Be Gained For The Individual... @gail_gauthier https://ow.ly/Er13k

Tips for hosting a successful author event at a bookstore from Hicklebee's Books event reported by @darshanakhiani https://ow.ly/EmjIG

Who are the best quirky heroines in children's books? | @GdnchildrensBks https://ow.ly/EirA9 via @tashrow #kidlit

Parenting

Four Ways to Encourage Kids in the Spirit of Giving @FirstBook https://ow.ly/EuWkD

Top Ten Bookish Christmas Gift Ideas from @BooksBabiesBows https://ow.ly/EivB3

Schools and Libraries

It Just Takes One, a reminder from @katsok for teachers about why it's worth the effort to help find the right book https://ow.ly/ED2AY

Mommy Librarian's Story Time Secret #6: Board Books Are (Usually) Too Small For Story Time! from @mrskatiefitz https://ow.ly/ECZfZ

Dinner Before Dessert? (or, Should We Really Be Pushing for More Nonfiction Reading?) | @ReadByExample https://ow.ly/ED3b1

At The Uncommon Corps, Marc Aronson ponders whether libraries should be developing programming for dad caregivers https://ow.ly/Eiqlw

© 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.


Pirate, Viking & Scientist: Jared Chapman

Book: Pirate, Viking & Scientist
Author: Jared Chapman
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

Pirate, Viking & Scientist, by Jared Chapman, is a lively picture book about a boy (Scientist) who is friends with both a pirate and a viking. Scientist has a great time launching cannons with Pirate and dancing with Viking. However, to Scientist's regret, Viking and Pirate are NOT friends. Their rivalry casts a shadow over the boy's birthday celebration, leaving the boy "uncomfortable." Being a scientist, however, he attempts to solve the problem. Will BIRTHDAY CAKE be the answer, or will this thorny problem take further analysis? 

I quite adore Scientist. He's this tiny boy in a lab coat and glasses. His discomfort when his two friends are fighting is obvious. His determination to fix the problem is clear - tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth in concentration. And when he gets out a chalkboard and draws his hypothesis (two unhappy friends + birthday cake = 2 happy friends), my inner geek cheers. Scientist doesn't give up, even when he is spattered with frosting, and his cake is ruined. He keeps trying new things, until he cracks the code. 

Chapman's text is minimal. He uses short, punchy sentences, and leaves his vivid illustrations to fill in the details. So we have, across one page spread:

"Viking was boiling. Pirate was bloated.
Scientist was irritated (and covered in cake).

Scientist studied his results.
He didn't get the outcome
he'd wanted, but he wasn't
giving up.

Maybe PARTY GAMES could help turn these foes into friends."

The party games can be seen in small sketches on the hypothesis chalkboard. The cake can be seen, well, everywhere. Viking is exaggeratedly broad-shouldered, with bushy facial hair and a Viking helmet. Pirate is skinny and ragged, with a bandana, a Pirate hat, and questionable teeth. The illustrations focus on the three characters, with a few props, and no real backgrounds. Instead, each page is shown with a faint graph paper background, perhaps a hint that a boy is drawing his own story. The end of the book, when the three now-friends all take to some "pillaging and plundering" is five-year-old boy heaven, with chaos everywhere. 

Pirate, Viking & Scientist is a fun romp that includes a positive nod towards taking a scientific approach to problem-solving, set against larger-than-life, inherently cool characters behaving badly. The combination works, and should please both preschoolers and early elementary school children, especially boys. Libraries will definitely want to pick this one up. Teachers could even use it to introduce, in a very fun way, the concept of a hypothesis. Recommended!

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids) 
Publication Date: November 11, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: November 19

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 the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have eight book reviews (picture book through young adult), two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently, and one post with a recent literacy milestone for my daughter. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I completed one middle grade and three adult titles. I read/listened to:

I'm reading the second Lockwood & Co. book, The Whispering Skull, by Jonathan Stroud, and listening to Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen. The books that we're been reading to my daughter can be found here. We have been reading quite a few Cybils nominees, but she continues to ask for books featuring her favorite characters. She has been particularly fascinated with The Berenstain Bears Slumber Party, which we're been reading every day while she eats breakfast. We've actually used this book to launch some interesting discussions, including what you might do if you were at a party and things got out of hand.

We also had a fun book-influenced moment this weekend. My daughter was decorating a gingerbread house (we had an early Christmas celebration with friends). She starting piling up the white icing in front of the house, explaining: "It's the Blizzard of '78. They had to climb out of the windows because the snow was so high in front of the door." (Chortling.) This she learned from John Rocco's Blizzard, though her interest in the book was increased when she learned that her father and I both remembered the Blizzard of '78. Bringing real life into books, and books into real life -- that's what I like to see. 

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


Literacy Milestone: Recognizing Illustrators

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day my daughter picked up a book from my stack of recent Cybils arrivals (I'm a Round1 judge in Fiction Picture Books) and asked me to read it to her. The book was Out of the Blue by Alison Jay. I read her the title and the name of the author, as I usually do, but then I asked: "Do you think we've read any other books illustrated by this author?".

She did not hesitate. "Sure. The book about the boy buying a present for his mommy (A Gift for Mama, by Linda Lodding). And the one about weaving in the sky (The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool)." She added "I can tell because of these cracks in the sand (pointing)."

Sure enough, Alison Jay has a distinctive illustration style that features a muted pattern of cracks in the background of the pictures, as if they were old paintings. This makes Jay's work easy to recognize, even for a four-year-old. But I still thought it was a fun milestone - the first time she was able to call out other books by the same illustrator, without any help from me. 

© 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. This site is an Amazon affiliate.


The Iron Trial (Book One of Magisterium): Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Book: The Iron Trial (Book One of Magisterium)
Authors: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Pages: 304
Age Range: 8-12

I moved The Iron Trial up on my to be read list after Tanita read it and loved it, having in turn been inspired by Charlotte. Tanita even said "that this series has the potential to be the American Harry Potter". So ok, clearly it was worth a look (and it was already right there on what I'll call my "to actually be read shelf", in contrast to the larger set of shelves which are more like "to be read if time somehow becomes infinite."). 

Anyway, The Iron Trial is the first book in the new Magisterium series, the first collaboration between friends Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. I adored (though somehow did not review) Black's Newbury Honor-winning Doll Bones, and have also enjoyed Clare's Mortal Instruments books (of which I've read several but not all). 

The Iron Trial is about a boy named Callum (called Call). When Call was an infant, his mother, along with a slew of others from the magical community, was killed as part of a war with a powerful mage called The Enemy. Call was the lone survivor of the massacre, left with a badly damaged leg and a father who no longer wanted anything to do with magic. When Call turns 12, however, his father is required to take him to the Iron Trial, a test to see if Call will be admitted to The Magisterium, a school where young mages are trained. Despite Call's best efforts to fail, he is admitted to the school. There he makes friends, and learns things about both magic and himself. 

The Iron Trial is a book that keeps the reader guessing, as most things are not what they initially seem. The plotting is strong and suspenseful, and the ending is ... fabulous. Which is all I'll say about that. The tone is atmospheric without being overly gloomy. The Magisterium is set in a series of mysterious caves, filled with delightful details, such as food that looks like lichen and moss but tastes wonderful. There are boats that navigate underwater rivers, and dangerous creatures called elementals. It's a unique and interesting setting. I can already picture the movie (a little bit). The magic itself has logical rules, and requires hard (and sometimes tedious) work. 

Call is a sympathetic character, one who grew up lonely and picked on, at least in part because of his disability (his leg). He is a bit of a troublemaker: 

"Callum Hunt was a legend in his little North Carolina town, but not in a good way. Famous for driving off substitute teachers with sarcastic remarks, he also specialized in annoying principals, hall monitors, and lunch ladies. Guidance counselors, who always started out wanting to help him (the poor boy's mother had died, after all) wound up hoping he'd never darken the doors of their offices again." (Page 6)

Call's relationship with his two team members (the only three students from their year with a particular teacher) develops slowly and reasonably plausibly (downright prickly at first). There is some diversity among the students, though this is not a major focus. Call's limitations from the problem with his leg are addressed, and not glossed over. The authors do include some humor, too. For instance, when Call finally receives his clothes from home (he didn't expect to be admitted, so hadn't brought them), we have:

"After so long with only the two uniforms, it was awesome to have a bunch of clothes to choose from. Part of him wanted to put them all on at once and waddle through the Magisterium like a penguin." (Page 132)

Suspenseful plot, brooding atmosphere, unique setting, intermittent humor, and sympathetic characters. The Iron Trial has it all. This is an excellent choice for middle grade fans of fantasy, or anyone else who enjoys well-written, original reads. Highly recommended. I look forward to future books. 

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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


Mr. Tweed's Good Deeds: Jim Stoten

Book: Mr. Tweed's Good Deeds
Author: Jim Stoten
Pages: 48
Age Range: 3-7

Mr. Tweed's Good Deeds is a combination seek-and-find and counting book by Jim Stoten. Mr. Tweed, as he is strolling about his town, keeps running into people who have lost items that are important to them. Seeking to help, Mr. Tweed assists each person. First there is one lost kite, which readers are asked to help look for in a busy park scene, then there are two lost kittens in a garden, and so on. All the way up until the last search, in which the neighbors give Mr. Tweed a party to thank him, and the reader searches for ten presents.

For me, the message in this book (about helping people) is a tiny bit heavy-handed (particularly when the whole town turns out for a party to celebrate Mr. Tweed's good deeds). 

Here's an example of the text:

"It feels good to help people," Mr. Tweed thought to himself, as he left the park.
He was passing by some cottages when a voice stopped him in his tracks.

"Tibbles? Timkins? Where are you both?"

Oh no, Mrs. Fluffycuddle's kittens have escaped and are hiding somewhere in the garden?
Can you help Mr Tweed and Mrs Fluffycuddle find 2 kittens over the page?"

We continue hearing about how Mr. Tweed feels "very happy to have helped so many people already", etc., as the book progresses. But I suspect that for parents who wish to use fiction to encourage their kids to help others, Mr. Tweed's Good Deeds will be well-received. It's certainly not a bad message. 

Anyway, what I do like about Mr. Tweed's Good Deeds is the combination of counting book and seek--and-find. Stoten's stylized illustrations are quite busy, and the book is challenging as a seek-and-find. The images seem to me to get slightly more difficult as the book progresses, too, even as kids are also being challenged by having to find more items.

Stolen's illustrations aren't quite as madcap and silly as those of, say, Brian Biggs or Richard Scarry. But they are populated by a combination of people and (frequently clothed) animals, and are chock full of realistic details (the booths at a farmer's market, a swimming pool full of rafts and floats, etc.). I can see these images providing hours of seek-and-find entertainment, along with a bit of humor, and a bit of counting practice. 

To those looking for a new seek-and-find book, as well as some practice in counting objects, Mr. Tweed's Good Deeds fits the bill. And if you want a book that shows your kids how great it is to do things for other people (and how you may eventually be recognized and appreciated for this), it works for that purpose, too. It's a nice, solid, sturdy book, too, with raised letters on the cover, and a certain charming quirkiness to the pictures. Definitely worth a look!

Publisher: Flying Eye Books (@FlyingEyeBooks) 
Publication Date: November 11, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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


Blizzard: John Rocco

Book: Blizzard
Author: John Rocco
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-5

John Rocco's Blizzard is the story of New England's Blizzard of 1978, from the author's remembered childhood perspective. It is simply wonderful. Of course, the fact that I, too, remember the Blizzard of '78 may be coloring my experience of the book. But I am pretty sure that it would still be delightful, even if you had not experienced a week off from school, and 15 foot snowdrifts, personally. 

Like the author, I remember digging snow forts, and struggling to get across the deep snow. I also remember walking down the middle of the street, when cars were not allowed but some minimal amount of plowing must have been done, to get to my dad's hardware store. I remember jumping off the wall behind our house, down into the drifts in the much lower property behind us (where there could have been anything beneath the snow, but we didn't think about that at the time). In my memory, it was paradise.

But you're here to hear about John Rocco's Blizzard, not mine. Blizzard is a day-by-day tale of the Blizzard of '78 from the perspective of a Rhode Island boy. The text is direct and authentic to the viewpoint of a 10-year-old. Like this:

"The wind whipped up
and school
closed early.

By the time my sister and I got home,
the snow was already over our boots."

and:

"By day four, the plows still hadn't come.
I wondered if we'd ever see grass again."

When the family runs out of milk, it's a problem because hot chocolate made with water just isn't satisfying. 

Rocco includes lovely visual touches. The passing days of the week are picked out in the snow, with animal footprints. On a page where the boy wonders if the snow will ever stop, we see a STOP sign, with snow drifted up to cover the bottom of the letters. In various illustrations, observant readers will see that the boy is reading a book on "Arctic Survival." The family's house is cozy and warm, in contrast to the cold, white outside. The tunnels and igloos that the kids build are appealing enough to make any child wish for a huge snowstorm. 

Best of all, the boy gets to be a hero, strapping on tennis racket snowshoes and journeying (rather indirectly) to the local store. A fold-out map shows his shoe-prints, with annotations like "MADE AN ANGEL." It's an epic journey in a safe landscape. The safety is reinforced when we note that one of the store workers is on the phone saying: "Yes, he's on his way back now." 

There is a nostalgia to Blizzard, not just because this particular blizzard took place more than 35 years ago. The boy stops to see if his neighbors need anything from the store. The family gives hot chocolate to the (eventual) snow plow drivers. The boy's sled is red metal and wood, not slick plastic. Rocco reinforces this nostalgia through the use of sepia-toned colors in some of the indoor scenes.

But I still think that modern kids will appreciate Blizzard. Building snow igloos and jumping off of snowdrifts is timeless, after all. As, I hope, is the idea that a 10 year old can be a brave explorer. Blizzard gets my highest recommendation. I can't wait to share it with my daughter. 

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 
Publication Date: October 30, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: November 14

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. This week there are tons of book lists (it's that time of year), in addition to posts about the Cybils awards, diversity, growing bookworms, reading research, introversion, reading levels, and parenting. 

Book Lists

"YA and middle grade books - recent and not so recent - that feature riddles (or similar puzzles)" at Stacked https://ow.ly/EaYn1 #kidlit

Books featuring "Kids having strange and wacky adventures with their friends" selected @HornBook https://ow.ly/E8tTw #kidlit

Oh how I love this list! 14 Kids' Novels Illustrated by Beth & Joe Krush from @mrskatiefitz https://ow.ly/E8v2y #kidlit

Travis always finds interesting #kidlit | See 10 to Note: Winter Preview 2015 — @100scopenotes https://ow.ly/E8u6b

Four new picture book "gems" about friendship from Katrina Hedeen @HornBook https://ow.ly/E8tJ5 #kidlit

Books that "allow independent readers to spend time with characters from all over the globe" @HornBook https://ow.ly/E8twX #kidlit

Old Friends, Fresh Stories: New Middle Grade Fantasy highlights, by Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla @sljournal https://ow.ly/E8r7L #kidlit

Breakdown: The National Book Award/Newbery Overlap — @100scopenotes https://ow.ly/E4FJo #kidlit

10 Picture Books for 6 Year Olds (and up!) from @momandkiddo https://ow.ly/E4FvY #kidlit

Travis @100scopenotes has spotted a new trend in #kidlit | A Splash of Red: Adding Full Color Where There Was None https://ow.ly/DZdgR

5 YA Books That Will Keep You On The Edge Of Your Seat | Ryan Graudin @HuffPostBooks https://ow.ly/DZbEP via @tashrow

Top 10 STEM Gifts with Books to Match from @momandkiddo https://ow.ly/Eezyd #kidlit

Library Lions in Books for Kids — @fuseeighthttps://ow.ly/EezI2 #kidlit

A Tuesday Ten for Veterans Day from @TesseractViews | Science Fiction and Fantasy Militaries https://ow.ly/EeA1O #kidlit

Cybils

2014 Publisher’s Weekly Best-of Lists that were nominated for the #Cybils awards https://ow.ly/E2hKt @Book_Nut #kidlit

Today's #Cybils Review: The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy, reviewed by @randomlyreading https://ow.ly/EaWjF

Today's featured #Cybils review is early chapter book Fly Away by Patricia MacLachlan, reviewed by @kagmoran https://ow.ly/E4EqK #kidlit

Today's #Cybils featured review is Viva Frida by @yuyimorales reviewed by Ellen @ontheshelf4kids https://ow.ly/DZe0p

TODAY on the #Cybils blog: Exclusive Cover Reveal for The Temple of Doubt by Cybils founder @zaftigbabe https://ow.ly/DZ7aT #YALit

Diversity

Nice list of YA Reads with POC-Centric Romances at Ciel Rouge, via @catagator https://ow.ly/E2iwg #yalit

Some thoughts about Native American Month and Thanksgiving from Debbie Reese at AICL https://ow.ly/DZc0O via @CynLeitichSmith #kidlit

Bay Area mother of Down syndrome toddler petitioning @Disney to include the disabled in Princess movies @MercuryNews https://ow.ly/E4AgL

Calling bloggers + authors @PragmaticMom + @ValarieBudayr are hosting Multicultural Children's Book Day 1/27/15 https://ow.ly/Eez5g 

Marketing #Diverse Children's Books: A CBC Panel, detailed writeup by Matia Burnett @PublishersWkly https://ow.ly/Ef6wp 

Events, Programs and Research

UK IoE study shows reading for pleasure boosts vocabulary | @TheBookseller https://ow.ly/E91vj via @PWKidsBookshelf

Fun! How Puppets Power #Literacy at Nashville Public Library by Liz Atack @sljournal https://ow.ly/E8qKM

Out of the Midwest: Books for Africa and Little Free Library Promote #Literacy by Claire Kirch @PublishersWkly https://ow.ly/Ef6pD 

Growing Bookworms

Reading Levels: Using them to help kids get hooked on reading from @MaryAnnScheuer https://ow.ly/E8vhq #literacy

6 Amazing Resources for Raising Readers at Planet Smarty Pants, includes @growingbbb @ImaginationSoup @momandkiddo https://ow.ly/E4EIC

Reasons Why Reading With Your Child Is a Habit Worth Keeping | Adriana & George Sifakis @HuffingtonPost https://ow.ly/DZaeE via @tashrow

Top 10 Ways to Get a Middle School Student to Want to Read by Meredith Daniels @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/E2icy

Miscellaneous

Accurate, I thought: 10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently With The World by Alena Hall @HealthyLiving in HuffPost https://ow.ly/DZb5A

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Thoughts from @RogerReads on basis for @HornBook suggested reading levels + new @EW #kidlit list https://ow.ly/EaWFO

Original Content: The Suck Fairy--You'll Recognize Her by @gail_gauthier (concept by Jo Walton) https://ow.ly/E2imu

The best children's books are also the saddest says @HWallop in The Telegraph https://ow.ly/DZ9t1 via @tashrow

Today's publishing news: @Amazon and Hachette Resolve Dispute - @NYTimes https://ow.ly/EesfY  via @bkshelvesofdoom

Scholastic Principal Challenge: On the Hunt for a Good Book @ReadByExample https://ow.ly/EeAhz #literacy

Parenting

I found this post by @haleshannon powerful: her older kids read about depression in her teen journal + they talked https://ow.ly/E4DKv

© 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.