Previous month:
November 2014
Next month:
January 2015

Posts from December 2014

Wishing You All A Happy and Book-Filled New Year

I'm just taking a break from the holiday festivities to wish all of you a happy and book-filled 2015, and to share a bit about my plans for the blog in the coming year.

Cybils-Logo-2014-Web-ButtonIf you need reading suggestions, the Cybils Finalists will be announced tomorrow, New Year's Day, at 7:00 am Pacific Time on the Cybils blog. I've seen a preview and let me just tell you that there are fabulous lists of kid-friendly, well-written titles in eleven categories, from picture books to nonfiction to graphics to poetry. Stay tuned!

As for my own reading, I had an informal goal of reading 50 middle grade, 50 YA, and 50 adult titles this year. I ended up finishing with 55 middle grade, 38 young adult, and 48 adult (on top of hundreds of picture books). Reasonably close. You can see the complete list here. I struggled the most with reading YA this year, and had to abandon several titles unfinished. It's not that there weren't plenty of amazing young adult books published this year. It's just that I spent much of the year rising very early to exercise, and found that the shorter length and lighter density of middle grade titles worked better for me for bedtime reading. Most of the adult titles that I read were ones that I listend to while walking in the mornings, so staying awake wasn't a problem there. It just turned out that my overall goal to "read more, sleep more, exercise more" had some internal conflict that I hadn't anticipated. 

I also logged 1763 books read aloud to my daughter by my husband and myself. That one is a lower bound, as it doesn't necessarily count books that we read when we were traveling, or that her babysitter read to her. Still, that's nearly 5 per day on average, which isn't bad. I'm guessing that the overall tally will be lower next year, as we invest more time in reading chapter books vs. picture books. But hopefully we'll spend just as much time, or more. She's breathtakingly close to really reading on her own, I think, and we continue to enjoy the journey. 

In that light, I would like to point all of you to a fabulous post from Ami at Bunkers Down on The Best New Year's Resolution You Can Make. This, according to Ami (and I agree with her) is: "Read to your kids." Ami outlines several of the reasons why reading to your kids is the best thing that you can prioritize for 2015. Like this:

"Children who read frequently develop stronger reading skills.  Did you know that students who do more reading at home are better readers and have higher reading AND math scores?  However, as our kids get older it is easier and easier for them to stop reading for fun.  Increased activities, more access to technology, and developmental pitfalls all take a toll on reading for pleasure.  Sadly, studies show that when our children stop reading then the benefits that come from the printed word stop as well.  Reading to our children,regardless of their age, is one of the best ways to prevent our offspring from losing out."

This is a personal essay. Ami doesn't cite sources for her various arguments, but they are all things that I've seen over the years, and believe to be true. And they come together well in this heartfelt plea for parents to read aloud to their kids, regardless of how young or how old they are. I agree 100%. Go read it!

I also would like to wish a particularly Happy New Year to the reader of my newsletter, a librarian and mom who took the time to email me on Christmas Day to tell me what she finds most useful about my blog. Somehow, to my great regret, in the course of my travels over Christmas (and fight against the deluge of spam), I deleted this email from my phone, and have not been able to respond. (Please write me again!)

But this woman's kind and useful words have stayed with me all week, and I continue to ponder the direction of my blog for 2015. This reader told me that what she finds most useful about my blog is the curated content, my gathering and categorizing of the links that I've shared on Twitter each week. And I've realized that this curating of resources shared by so many of you, like Ami's post above, is what I enjoy most about blogging these days. It doesn't feel like work, in the way that book reviews sometimes do of late. So I'll be thinking about ways to expand on that a bit (perhaps breaking out more of the "growing bookworms" links and blurbing those, for example), as we head into 2015. Feedback welcome!

My thanks to anyone who has read this far, and been with me on my blog's journey. I wish you all a safe, peaceful, and Happy New Year!

© 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 Is a Moose: Richard T. Morris & Tom Lichtenheld

Book: This Is a Moose
Author: Richard T. Morris
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
Pages: 48
Age Range: 3-6

What is it about moose in picture books? They are always causing trouble. First it was the moose in Kelly Bingham and Paul Zelinsky's Z is for Moose (and sequel). Now we have a moose who wants to be an astronaut in This Is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld. 

An increasingly frustrated director named Billy Waddler (unseen until the end of the book) is trying to film a documentary about a moose. But the moose, by professing to want to be an astronaut, does not meet the director's expectations. And when the moose's lacrosse-playing grandma shows up, followed by a giraffe who wants to be a doctor (and doesn't even belong in the film's forest setting), things get out of hand. 

This Is a Moose is pure fun. There are some actual details about filming, and a glossary is included at the end, but one knows from the earliest pages that This Is a Moose is a book that doesn't take itself too seriously. Here's a snippet, to give you a feel for Morris' text:

""Cut! Cut! CUT!!
Listen to Me! All animals
are going to play their proper
roles from NoW ON!! Understood?

This is a moose--
Take Five!"

"But we can't
Take Five."

"The moose is in outer space!""

What I can't convey here is the look of the above text, rendered (with at least some hand-lettering) in a mix of capital and lower case letters, in various sizes and colors, with underlining and multi-colored exclamation points for emphasis. One would have to be a robot to read this book aloud without using dramatic voices. The director is like a cartoon character having a temper tantrum. 

Lichtenheld perfectly captures the nobility of the moose who wants to be an astronaut. He has an initially proud stance, but when his dream is stepped on by the director, his dejection shows in features and posture. He is unquestionably heroic. The grandmother comes across as sillier, with pink lipstick, a helmet, and pearls, while the other animals are somewhere in between.

Lichtenehld is excellent at capturing action, particularly the "SPROING!!" when the moose (spoiler alert) is launched into outer space. All of this is set against a soothing forest background with pine trees and a lake - anyone would know that the film is being made in Maine. 

This Is a Moose gives young readers a character to root for, while teaching them a little bit about film production. The dramatic, exclamation-mark filled text is fun to read aloud, and has a satisfying ending. The illustrations add to the book's humor. There is a subtle message to be inferred from the book, to the effect that one doesn't have to follow in the footsteps of one's parents. But this message is deeply covered in over-the-top, kid-friendly goofiness. This Is a Moose would make a wonderful title for group storytime in the library or the classroom. Recommended!

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Source of Book: Bought it

© 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).

Imani's Moon: JaNay Brown-Wood & Hazel Mitchell

Book: Imani's Moon
Author: JaNay Brown-Wood
Illustrator: Hazel Mitchell
Pages: 32
Age Range: 6-9

Imani's Moon is a new picture book by JaNay Brown-Wood and Hazel Mitchell about a little girl from the African Maasai tribe who is determined, after hearing stories from her mother, to touch the moon. Imani is the smallest child in her village, and is ridiculed by the larger children ("She's no higher than a lion cub's knee", etc). Every night, her mother "lift(s) her spirits with stories". The story of Olapa, goddess of the moon, in particular catches Imani's fancy. She tries various ways to get to the moon (climbing a tree, building wings, etc.). Eventually, after being inspired by seeing young warriors of the village perform a dance jumping dance of celebration, Imani tries jumping (and jumping, and jumping), and meets with success. 

Imani's Moon is magical realism in picture book form. Imani's interactions with her mother, and the village children, are realistic. But, in addition to visiting the moon, she also talks with a snake and an owl (who both talk back). Some scenes are portrayed in the book as dream sequences, but the visit to the moon is shown straight-up. Imani jumps all day, higher and higher, against creatures who doubt her and taunt her, until, on her final jump, she "soar(s) through the night sky." 

Of course Imani's Moon is also a demonstration of multiculturalism, giving young readers a window into life in a Maasai village. The unfamiliar setting, as well as Brown-Wood's detailed text, make Imani's Moon more a book for elementary school children than for preschoolers. Here's a snippet:

"That night Mama told Imani about Anansi, the small spider who captured a snake to gain a name for himself.

"Mama, do you really believe that a spider, so small and weak, could really capture a snake, so long and quick?" Imani asked.

"I do," answered Mama.

"Even if no one else believes it?" Imani asked.

"A challenge is only impossible until someone accomplished it," Mama said. "Imani, it only you who must believe."

Imani drifted to sleep and dreamed that she climbed to the top of the highest tree in her village, captured a snake, and made a name for herself."

As you can see, this passage (as with most of the book) has the timeless feel of a folktale. As with most folktales, there is strongly implied advice (e.g. taking on challenges). But by keeping the book focused entirely on Imani's story, the author avoids any feel of lecturing. 

Mitchell's illustrations ("created with watercolor and graphite then over-painted digitally") are luminous and eye-catching. Imani is small and mild-featured. Her determination is quiet and gentle. Her expression as she jumps upward is quizzical, and ready for anything. The backgrounds in the pictures, particularly the night sky, convey a sense of wide space. 

Imani's Moon is a book that answers the ever-louder call for diverse books. Though most kids reading this book in the US will not be able to relate directly to Imani's African village, many will welcome seeing a brave heroine with brown skin.  And all kids will be able to relate to this tale of a tiny person who, by repeatedly trying, is able to accomplish and outside goal. Recommended, particularly for libraries. 

Publisher: Mackinac Island Press (@Charlesbridge)
Publication Date: October 14, 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).

I'm A Dirty Dinosaur: Janeen Brian & Ann James

Book: I'm A Dirty Dinosaur
Author: Janeen Brian
Illustrator: Ann James
Pages: 22
Age Range: 2-4

I'm A Dirty Dinosaur is a picture book by Janeen Brian and Ann James, imported from Australia by Kane Miller. It's a short book aimed at the youngest of listeners. The very simple plot involves a dinosaur who gets progressively more dirty from page to page, and finally take a bath in a swamp at the end of the book. What lifts this book above the ordinary is that after each new progression of dirtiness there is a page with bouncy sounds to which kids can learn to sing along. For example:

"I'm a dirty dinosaur
with a dirty snout.

I never wipe it clean
I just sniff and snuff about."

The above is shown as regular text across a single page spread, with illustrations of the dirty-faced dinosaur on each page. Then on the next page, in big, multi-colored letters that encourage singing or shouting, we have:


It's pretty obvious as the book moves along, and the dinosaur gets dirtier, that he's going to eventually end up clean. Too obvious for older kids, I think. But toddlers will get a real kick out of the dirty dinosaur, and especially the energetic and colorful refrains. 

James' illustrations are minimalist, with the dinosaur merely outlined, and a few splashed of brown paint added for dirt. These are the kinds of illustrations that feel accessible to young kids, as though they could draw a dinosaur and add dirt paint to him, too. 

In terms of format, I'm A Dirty Dinosaur is a 10 by 10 book with thick pages, not quite as stiff as a board book, but more robust than regular paper. The story starts right on the inside cover, like in a board book. Apart from the brown of the dirt and the white of the background, the colors are bright, mostly primary colors. The cover looks as though it was finger-painted. All in all, quite friendly for the youngest of readers. 

I'm A Dirty Dinosaur is a fun book for toddlers that encourages them to memorize and sing along with certain sounds. Young kids will identify with the way it celebrates being dirty, and appreciate the bright colors. Recommended for home or early preschool use.  

Publisher: Kane Miller Book Publishers 
Publication Date: September 1, 2014 (US 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).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 19

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. It's a bit of a light installment this week, but does include the usual array of book lists. I also have a few links on the Cybils awards, diversity, growing bookworms, gift ideas, and the Kidlitosphere. Thanks for reading! I'll be taking next weekend off for Christmas, but expect to be back with a new link roundup soon afterwards.

Book Lists

Top 20 Books of 2014: 20-16 according to @100scopenotes + @MrSchuReads #kidlit

Top 20 Books of 2014: 15-11 from @100scopenotes + @MrSchuReads #kidlit

Top 20 Books of 2014: 10-6 from @100scopenotes + @MrSchuReads #kidlit

Sure to be a great resource! Announcing @NYPL 2014 100 Books for Reading Sharing List! — @fuseeight

Sharks ahoy: fun with sharks for 1st & 2nd graders -- giving books & toys for lasting fun (ages 5-8) @MaryAnnScheuer

12 Book Lists from 2014 that caught the eye of @semicolonblog (various age ranges/genres)

SLJ’s Top 10 #GraphicNovels 2014 | @sljournal  #kidlit

SLJ’s Top 10 Latino Books of 2014 @sljournal #kidlit #YAlit

Always a good read: Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition from @fuseeight #kidlit

List of recent Chanukah-themed picture books, selected by Elissa Gershowitz @HornBook #kidlit

Top 10 Chapter Book Lists for Kids from @momandkiddo (as selected by her readers) #kidlit

The Ultimate Construction Vehicle #BookList from @growingbbb #kidlit

10 Books for 10 year old girls selected by @rosemondcates  #kidlit

More Best Book Lists in #kidlit collected by @tashrow at Waking Brain Cells


Today's Featured #Cybils Review: Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by @Jon_Scieszka reviewed by @MsYingling

Today's Featured #Cybils Review is Forest Has a Song by @amylvpoemfarm reviewed at TeacherDance #poetry

This month's #Cybils Featured Blogger is Elizabeth O. @Dulemba, nominated by @valvearshecter #kidlit


Guest post by @catagator for @dos_twinjas 2nd Annual #Diversity Month Day 13: fatness + diversity in #YALit

25 #Diversity Authors & Illustrators Highlighted! @PragmaticMom #kidlit #yalit

The Answer to Implicit Racism Might Be in Children's Literature @PacificStand via @CynLeitichSmith #Diversity

Gift Ideas

Great Educational Toys for Children: Ideas & Guidelines from @TrevorHCairney

Growing Bookworms

On giving kids gift of reading + whether to give "better" vs. wanted books @brucefeiler @nytimes via @PWKidsBookshelf

Early #Literacy in Everyday Places: The Movie Theater by @mrskatiefitz


For 12 Blogs of 2014 series, @TLT16 features A Chair, A Fireplace, & A Tea Cozy from @LizB #YALit

On Reading

Trends in book reviews that annoy @kimberlymarief at Stacked #YALit

JK Rowling opens further windows on Harry Potter’s world for Advent | @GuardianBooks @PWKidsBookshelf

© 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.

Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? Eve Bunting & Sergio Ruzzier

Book: Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?
Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator: Sergio Ruzzier
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-7

Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? is a highly read-aloudable picture book by Eve Bunting and Sergio Ruzzier. It's the story of a little green duck who, as the title would suggest, is unable to find a new pair of blue socks. He knows that he put them somewhere nearby, but can't remember where. He asks various friends for help, but no one knows. Until a helpful peacock finally spots a glimpse of a blue sock. 

The beauty of this book is that way that Bunting channels Dr. Seuss in her rhyming text, while still giving Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? a fresh, original feel. Like this:

"Peacocks? Have you seen my socks?
I did not put them in my box.
I asked my good friend Mr. Fox.
I asked my good friend Mr. Ox.
Peacocks? Have you seen my socks?
They are such a pretty blue!
I just got them. They are new."

Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? is a pure joy to read aloud, pretty much impossible to stop once one has started. And really, who can't relate to the frustrating of losing a beloved item, especially a beloved item that is new?

[My four year old daughter, on her first reading of the book, guessed where the socks were on the second page. Then later she was excited to point out her first glimpse of the socks (exactly where she had thought that they would be). This in no way diminished her enjoyment of the book - I think it enhanced it by making her feel clever and/or observant.] 

Ruzzier's pen and ink and watercolor illustrations convey clearly the disgruntlement of the little duck, and the concern on the part of his friends. The concerned blue peacocks, tails quiet, are particularly appealing. The color scheme is relatively muted. Ruzzier includes absurd details here and there, like the fact that Mr. Ox is painting a watercolor of a twisted tree, sitting on a little footstool. 

Between the rhyming text and the gentle illustrations, not to mention the universal theme, Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? is a perfect read-aloud for preschoolers. It would make a nice, soothing bedtime book, at least on subsequent reads, once the suspense of the location of the socks has been satisfied. Highly recommended (and long overdue for this review)!

Publisher: Clarion Books (@HMHBooks)
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
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: December 17

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 seven book reviews (mostly picture books, plus a couple of early middle grade novels), a post about my daughter's latest literacy milestone, and two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently. I also have an infographic from Scholastic sharing survey results on what kids enjoy reading, and a post about my blog's 9 year anniversary (today!). 

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

  • Lisa Graff: Absolutely Almost. Philomel Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed December 9, 2014, library copy. This book is wonderful! I love that it's about a boy who is not smart. Not disabled, not "special", just a kid who has to struggle academically. So refreshing!
  • Holly Goldberg Sloan: Counting by 7's. Dial Books for Young Readers. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed December 16, 2014, personal copy. This book is in many ways the opposite of Absolutely Almost, about a girl who is gifted. She has quite a unique, quirky viewpoint. 
  • Rhys Bowen: Her Royal Spyness: Naughty in Nice. Berkley Press. Adult Mystery. Completed December 5, 2014, on MP3. This series is still fun, kind of a dessert/guilty pleasure of a series. 
  • Sophia Dembling: The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World. Perigee Trade. Adult Nonfiction. Completed December 8, 2014, on Kindle. I enjoyed this book very much, and read it compulsively, but I did feel that it read more like a series of essays than like a book with an overall structure. 
  • Tana French: Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #3). Viking. Adult Mystery. Completed December 13, 2014, on MP3. This was one of those books that had me spending extra time exercising, because I was so immersed in the book's world. 

I'm currently reading Noggin by John Corey Whaley and listening to Broken Harbor, the next Tana French book from the Dublin Murder Squad series. The books that we're been reading to my daughter can be found here

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

9 Years of Blogging at Jen Robinson's Book Page

JRBPlogo-smallDifficult as it is to believe, today marks my 9 year anniversary of blogging at Jen Robinson's Book Page. Over the past nine years I have shared approximately 2950 posts, including 1043 reviews. Which sounds like a lot, but it works out to about 6.3 posts/week, of which 2.2 were reviews. The rest of the posts have been some mix of literacy links and news releases, milestones regarding my daughter's pathway to literacy, and general tips for growing bookworms. [I've also shared some 15,500 tweets in the 5.5 years that I've been on Twitter, which is rather frightening.]   

Cybils-Logo-2014-Web-Lg-300x193 (1)Clearly, my blog has been a significant part of my life. Throughout these 9 years I've become involved with the Cybils Awards and Kidlitosphere Central. I've attended all but one of the Kidlitosphere Conferences, and organized the most recent one. I've met various authors and illustrators and blogging librarians, parents, teachers, and more. And that's the part that really matters, of course. My blog has enabled me to become part of a community. A community of wonderful people who value children's and young adult books, and who share my conviction that it is essential to get these books into the hands of young readers. 

Anniversaries can make bloggers introspective (see Jennie's recent post at Biblio File on her 10 year blog birthday). I've been feeling a bit of burnout of late, particularly in regards to writing book reviews. I've been asking myself questions about who I'm blogging for, and how much time I should be putting into it. 

But then I thought of a message that I received recently from a friend who lives on the East Coast. She wanted to let me know that her son had been placed in an advanced reading class at school, and that she felt like I had played a part in that success. This message made my day. Not that I can take much of the credit -- that goes to the parents who have been reading to him, taking him to the library, and so on. But I do feel like I played a tiny part, by buying this child books from the time that he was born, and by talking, talking, talking, whenever anyone would listen, about how important I think it is for kids to grow up with positive associations for books. 

In the bigger picture, that's why I'm here, still blogging after 9 years. For whatever reason -- some combination of my upbringing and my introvert nature and the cumulative sum of all the books that I've read over my lifetime -- books are very, very important to me. More than that, it's fundamentally important to me that as many children as possible grow with at least the chance to fall in love with books. Blogging is a way that I can support that goal, at least indirectly.  

In the coming year, I may look for ways that I can support my "growing bookworms" goal with fewer book reviews, and more tips and discussions about raising readers. But whatever changes in the mix of content may occur, I think it's safe to say that a year from now you'll find me here, talking about the love of children's books, for my 10th blogging anniversary. Thanks for reading!

© 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

Iggy Loomis, A Hagfish Called Shirley: Jennifer Allison

Book: Iggy Loomis, A Hagfish Called Shirley
Author: Jennifer Allison
Illustrator: Michael Moran
Pages: 202
Age Range: 7-9

I enjoyed Jennifer Allison's first book about Iggy Loomis, and was happy to accept a copy of the second book in this entertaining illustrated chapter book series. This review will contain spoilers for the first book. 

The Iggy Loomis books are narrated by an elementary school age-boy named Daniel Loomis. At the start of this second book, Daniel has a best friend named Alistair who is an alien in disguise. An incident in the first book led to Daniel's preschool-age brother Iggy developing super bug powers. When happy or stressed or just tickled the right way, Iggy does things like sprout wings or extra legs. Daniel has managed to keep this situation a secret from their parents, but Iggy's twin, Dottie, is happily in the loop. The kids are mostly left to their own devices, but are occasionally beamed up to an alien spaceship for help and/or discipline. 

As Iggy Loomis, A Hagfish Called Shirley begins, Alistair has adopted a fairly disgusting pet, the titular hagfish named Shirley. Hagfish are slime-producing eels that normally live in the ocean. Alistair is hiding one from his parents, who don't believe that Blaronites should have pets. Due to a misconception on Iggy's part about what happens to things that are flushed down the toilet, Shirley is, alas, lost. What follows is a mix of realistic "loss of a pet" response and, well, madcap adventures involving an alien and a hybrid bug-boy.

There are more than sufficient references to slime and "poo-poo" to please seven year old readers. Parents should be forewarned, however, that there is an attempt to use a fishing pole to retrieve Shirley from the toilet. Here is Iggy's response:

"Iggy didn't care; he was jittery with excitement. "Dis so awesome, Dano!" Iggy grabbed my arm. "WE FISHING IN DA TOILET!"

I suddenly realized that "fishing in the toilet" was probably the worst example we could set for Iggy, who already seems to think of toilets as some kind of playground. "Don't ever this this at home, Iggy," I warned.

"Okay, Iggy said, "I only going potty fishing a COUPLE WHILES." (Page 51)

The above excerpt highlights my personal favorite thing about the Iggy Loomis books: Iggy's preschool boy voice. Every time Iggy says something like "a couple whiles" I actually hear the voice of a young friend of my daughter's (even though said boy has moved past Iggy in his language development). Iggy's voice, and Dottie's as well, though she's a more minor character, is just dead on. Pitch perfect and hilariously funny. Iggy also has a dead caterpillar in a jar, but tells everyone that it is "napping." 

Iggy would be perfect even if he didn't grow "insect parts, like wings, antennae, stingers, and even little bug fangs or claws." The insect parts, of course, add immense kid-appeal, particularly when Iggy is able to use his special skills to save the day. 

Iggy Loomis, A Hagfish Named Shirley is chock-full of black and white sketches of Iggy transforming, together with cartoon-like pictures of the other characters acting up and acting out. These illustrations augment (but don't replace) the text, helping to keep the book accessible to relatively new readers. There are 33 short chapters across the book's 200 pages, and plenty of dialog, complete with upper case and italics throughout for emphasis. 

Bottom line: Iggy Loomis, A Hagfish Named Shirley is absurdly over-the-top, kid-friendly fun that will, I think, appeal especially to kids who have pesky but lovable preschool-age siblings. For what it's worth, my four-year-old was intrigued by the cover of this book (showing Iggy, Shirley, and the toilet), and asked me to start reading it to her. But when there were no color illustrations inside, she decided to wait until she is five or so. But I think if you had a seven-year-old new reader, one with a tolerance for madcap science fiction, Iggy Loomis, A Hagfish Named Shirley would be the perfect gift. Best to read the books in order, though, so look for Iggy Loomis, Superkid in Training first. This series would be a great pick for an elementary school library, too. Recommended!

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: October 9, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the author

© 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 Chick 'n' Pug Christmas: Jennifer Sattler

Book: A Chick 'n' Pug Christmas
Author: Jennifer Sattler
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6

A Chick 'n' Pug Christmas is the latest installment in Jennifer Sattler's Chick 'n' Pug series. Pug is somewhat reluctantly dressed up as Santa Claus, and finds himself teaching the more enthusiastic Chick about the holiday. At Chick's instigation, the two friends set out to spread some Christmas cheer, running into friends, and one nemesis, from prior books. In the end, Chick comes up with the perfect holiday gift for his nap-loving companion, and even finds something that can substitute as a sleigh. 

A Chick 'n' Pug Christmas doesn't quite stand alone as a holiday book - it's more about holiday traditions tacked on to a continued exploration of the personalities of Chick and Pug. That is to say, for fans of Chick and Pug, A Chick 'n' Pug Christmas is a lot of fun, and will be hard to resist. But it's more about the characters than the holiday, if that makes any sense. 

A Chick 'n' Pug Christas IS funny. For example, when they run across their enemy, Mr. Snuggles (a mean cat), Chick is pleased to see that Mr. Snuggles is dressed as a reindeer and wearing a collar of bells. The text says:

""Pug, are you thinking
what I'm thinking?"

"I doubt it," mumbled Pug.

"Now everyone will know
where you are! Merry Christmas, 
Mr. Snuggles!" shouted Chick."

The sneer on the face of Mr. Snuggles is priceless.

I like Sattler's acrylic and colored pencil illustrations. Chick's sprightly posture and wide-eyed enthusiasm are irresistible, and a perfect counterpoint to Pug's droopy sleepiness. Even the snow is colorful in Sattler's world, swirled with a hint of various shades against the blue/purple background of the sky. The textured backgrounds make the sharp characters stand out more, particularly the yellow Chick, bright agains the snow. 

In summary, if you are a fan of Sattler's distinctive illustrations in general, or of Chick 'n' Pug specifically, you'll definitely want to check out A Chick 'n' Pug Christmas. If you aren't familiar with Sattler's work, perhaps start with Chick 'n' Pug, and then come back for this one. I also like Sattler's Sylvie as well as Pig Kahnuna

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BWkids) 
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).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 12

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. In this week's relatively short post I have links about individual books, book lists, the Cybils awards, diversity, gift-giving recommendations, reading, and publishing.


Could Goodnight Moon Be Published Today? (and would it have been given time to find an audience?) asks @fuseeight

A read-aloud review of one of my favorite books @SunlitPages | The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright

Wouldn't The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher Make A Neat Little Sitcom? asks @gail_gauthier #kidlit

2 children's books that adults should read too - Brown Girl Dreaming and El Deafo - says @pwbalto #kidlit

Book Lists

Some great titles in: 7 Picture Books I Loved (But Didn’t Review) in 2014 @100scopenotes #kidlit

Some fun titles in @momandkiddo 's family's Best Books of the Year (Part 3) #kidlit

A Tuesday Ten @TesseractViews | the kind of amazing flight / flying done by people + creatures who usually don’t fly

The latest Stacked: Get Genrefied list features Christian Fiction in #YALit

Stacked: 2015 Contemporary YA Fiction For Your Radar @catagator #yalit


Today's Featured #Cybils Review is Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon, reviewed by @ImaginationSoup #kidlit

Today's Featured #Cybils Review is Dare the Wind by Tracey Fern, reviewed by @Sonderbooks #nonfiction


Characters in children’s books are almost always white, and it’s a big problem by Domino Renee Perez @washingtonpost

Stacked: Let's Move Beyond the Gender Binary: Guest Post by I. W. Gregorio @catagator #yalit

#WeNeedDiverseBooks bc of Ferguson: Randy Ribay @HornBook | Reading fiction shows the world through others' eyes

2nd Annual #Diversity Month Day 6 @dos_twinjas | Blogger Interview with @charlotteslib #kidlit

Day Al-Mohamed: #Diversity in Single Serving Slices (why it is represented as either/or) @DisabilityInLit #kidlit

Sherman Alexie and Jacqueline Woodson to Speak at BookCon 2015 | @sljournal #WeNeedDiverseBooks

From #STEM to STEAM, Latino-Style by Margarita Engle @LatinosInKidLit  #kidlit #diversity


IBGDposterLARGE-580x410Love the poster! International Book Giving Day Feb 14th! @PragmaticMom  #kidlit #literacy (poster shown to the right drawn by Chris Haughton)

Neat! A kids/YA bookswap hosted by @playbythebook to celebrate International Book Giving Day 2015 

The 2015 National Spokesperson for School Library Month is... Julianne Moore reports @MrSchuReads 

Growing Bookworms

Early #Literacy Around the House: The Christmas Tree from @mrskatiefitz 

Gift-Giving Recommendations

It's time for @MotherReader 's 150 Ways to Give a Book, a great resource #kidlit #literacy

Ten (or so) Great 2014 Kid Books for Gift-giving for a range of ages from @medinger #kidlit

Give Books as Gifts? Yes, You Can! says @StaceyLoscalzo | Tips on why and how you should #kidlit

'Tis the Season: Please Include Reading in Your Annual Giving says @ReadingShanahan #literacy


Happy 10th Blog Birthday to Jennie at Biblio File! #kidlit

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Time Management Tuesday: Are Writers Ahead Of The Curve In Integrating Work And Life? asks @gail_gauthier

Funny and interesting: Children’s Literature 2014: The Year in Miscellanea — @100scopenotes # #kidlit

Always thought-provoking: Stacked: "Best of 2014" in YA Fiction List Break Down #YALit @catagator

Stacked: "Best of YA" Lists By the Numbers: 2011 - 2014 Stats, Comparisons, and Thoughts from @catagator  #yalit

Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Still Read Fiction: more empathy, reports @MicNews via @tashrow

© 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 Terrible Two: Mac Barnett, Jory John, and Kevin Cornell

Book: The Terrible Two
Authors: Mac Barnett and Jory John
Illustrator: Kevin Cornell 
Pages: 224
Age Range: 8-12

The Terrible Two is a new prank and joke-filled illustrated chapter book by Mac Barnett, Jory John, and Kevin Cornell. While not a notebook novel, it is clearly aimed straight at the audience of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books (and from the same publisher). Based on my reading The Terrible Two, I think that it's going to be a success. It is funny from cover to cover. 

The primary protagonist in The Terrible Two is Miles, new student at the Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy in the cow-filled small town of Yawnee Valley. Miles was known as the school prankster at his old school. But his hopes of taking on this role at his new school are dashed when he arrives on the first day to find a car blocking the school's front door. The identity of the Yawnee Valley prankster is unknown to Miles, at least for a while, though clever readers will spot a clue on the book's cover. 

The Terrible Two is written with a strong slant towards humor. Everything is either wryly tongue-in-cheek or overtly funny. Despite this (and here is why I think that the book will be a success), there is also a fairly strong, linear plot. There is a pair of father and son antagonists, who get a satisfactory comeuppance. The central relationship of the book is between Miles and his pranking counterpart. Other relationships, including those between the boys and their respective parents, are minimal, but this is ok. The focus stays on The Terrible Two. 

Here are some snippets, to give you a feel for the book's tone:

"This is Miles Murphy. He's on his way to Yawnee Valley. Let's take a closer look at his face.

Notice the scowl. Notice the gloom. Notice the way his face is pressed against the window and he looks like he's trying to escape." (Chapter 2)

"He ate breakfast: oatmeal on toast, a dish his great-grandfather had invented and deemed "The Breakfast of Barkins." This gave him exactly six minutes to reread his favorite chapter of his favorite book, The 7 Principles of Principal Power." (He being the school principal, of course. Chapter 5)

"Miles had never even heard of before-school detention. Technically, that wasn't even detention. You had to be at school already to be detained. What would you call it? Prevention. Apprehension. Incarceration." (Chapter 27)

There are also assorted facts about cows included at intervals throughout the book, one of which does become a key plot point. 

Although heavily illustrated, the length, complexity of the plot and relatively advanced vocabulary ("deemed", "despondently") make this feel more like middle grade than an early chapter book. But the illustrations, as well as various lists, letters, etc., make The Terrible Two accessible for relatively reluctant readers (not to mention the prank-filled plot, of course). 

Cornell's cartoon-like illustrations are well-suited to the book. They are highly dynamic, spread in various locations across the pages, and frequently featuring movement by and emotions of the characters. Readers will see Principal Barkins at a bad guy from his very first appearance on the page. The acerbic facial expression of a long-suffering teacher also made me laugh, and added to my understanding of this relatively minor character. There are maps, plans, and dioramas, and, of course, cows. 

All in all, I think that The Terrible Two is going to be a huge hit with third grade readers or so, especially (though not limited to) boys. It is also funny without being crude, which will likely please adults, too. Part of the Prankster's Oath, helpfully spelled out, involves disrupting but not destroying. The Terrible Two stays on the right side of mischievous. I hope to see additional books about The Terrible Two. Highly recommended! 

Publisher: Amulet Books (@AbramsKids)
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
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).