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March 2017

Posts from April 2017

Charlie & Mouse: Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes

Book: Charlie & Mouse
Author: Laurel Snyder
Illustrator: Emily Hughes
Pages: 48
Age Range: 4-8

CharlieAndMouseCharlie & Mouse kicks off a new early reader series by Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes. It's the story of a day in the life of two small brothers, told in four chapters. In the first, Charlie waves up the lump who shares his bed, otherwise known as Mouse, and the boys proceed to wake their parents, too. In the second chapter, the two brothers eagerly tell their parents that this is the day of the neighborhood party. The family trundles off to the park, gathering an array of children along the way. When they arrive, they find no one else there, but by that point "It was the best party ever!". In the third chapter, the boys decide to sell rocks as a way to make money. Things don't work out quite as expected, but there is enough money for ice cream. The last chapter, coming full circle, has Charlie and Mouse going to sleep. But not without a bit of mischief, and a plan for more in the morning. 

The text in Charlie & Mouse is fairly brief, with short paragraphs and straightforward text. I noticed that the author refrains from using contractions, despite the extensive dialog. Here's a snippet:

"HURRAH! Today is the party!"
shouted Charlie.

"Today is the neighborhood party!"
shouted Mouse.

"Everyone will be there!" shouted Charlie.

They danced around the kitchen.

There's an innocent impishness to the boys that feels real (and the author notes in her biography that she is the mother of two sons). There's also an old-fashioned feel to the story. There are kids just playing outside by themselves, able to follow Charlie and Mouse to the park without a word to anyone. Charlie and Mouse go door to door with their wagon, offering to sell rocks the neighbors. There are also hints that the family, while clearly stable, may not be exactly well off (the boys sharing a bed, and needing to sell rocks in order to afford ice cream). 

While the text gives no particular information as to the book's location (beyond being clearly suburban), illustrator Emily Hughes (who is from Hawaii) drops some hints of Hawaii, particularly a sign offering "Shave Ice" outside the ice cream store. These aren't strong enough to feel foreign for mainland kids, but they add some extra visual interest. 

As for the Charlie and Mouse, they are adorable, wide-eyed, mess-haired, and freckled. They are full of joy, as is the book overall. Charlie and Mouse is an early reader / very early chapter book that is both kid- and parent-friendly. I look forward to future books in the series, and certainly recommend that libraries give this one a look. 

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids)
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Literacy Milestone: Screening Books for Mom's Blog

LiteracyMilestoneAWhile this is not a typical milestone on the path to literacy, I've noticed a new behavior on my daughter's part that I thought my readers might appreciate. When new picture books for potential review come to the house, I normally place them on the kitchen table so that I can read them with my daughter. She's become gradually aware that I write about some of the books, but not all of the books, and she has started giving specific feedback.

Yesterday I was a bit busy, so she sat herself down, read through a stack of five books, and sorted them according to whether or not she though I should blog about them. She calls the ones that make the cut "write books", meaning that I should write about them. Of the five books in yesterday's stack she pronounced three "write books" and one "meh, you don't need to write about this one." The fifth book she was uncertain about, and said that I would have to read it myself to decide. It was like she had taken on the responsibility of doing the first pass screening as her job (for which she is amply paid in books). 

VampirinaBeachI should clarify that I will read all of the books and will decide myself which ones call for a review. She's a bit harsh these days on books for younger kids, for example. But I do find her input helpful. When she loves a book, chances are good that I will appreciate it, too. We've been reading together for seven years, after all. She also checks back sometimes to make sure I've written about the books that she particularly likes. As I picked up Vampirina at the Beach (which we had read previously) from the floor of her room this morning she said: "You did write about Vampirina, didn't you, Mommy?" [Yes, I did.]

What say you, blogging parents? Do you ever use the opinions of your kids on your blog? Am I ruining my child by making her a critic at such a young age? I don't really think so. I think it's useful to learn that there are books we like more than others, books we think are better-written, or better illustrated, or that other people would like to know about. So I guess we can call this one a milestone on the path the literacy for children of book reviewers. 

© 2017 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


Rain: Sam Usher

Book: Rain
Author: Sam Usher
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

RainUsherRain by Sam Usher is one of those picture books that one appreciates a little bit more in each reading. It's a lovely little story of a boy and his grandfather on a rainy day. The boy wakes up and desperately wants to go outside to play in the rain. But Granddad asks him to wait for the rain to stop. The boy spends the interminable waiting time reading, looking out the window, and asking Granddad again and again. Granddad, however, is distracted by his apparent attempts to respond to a love letter (hand-written, in this timeless story). And then, at last, the rain stops, just in time for Granddad to mail his letter. Just in time for an adventure involving "acrobats and carnivals and musical boatmen." 

Rain's mix of reality and fantasy may be a bit confusing to the youngest readers, but observant older readers will spot the elements of the fantasy adventure inside the boy's home, as toys and models and book illustrations. Only observant readers (and perhaps only adult readers) will pick up on the reason for Granddad's distraction. But all readers will simply love the cozy scene at the end of the books, as the two damp companions sit in the kitchen "with warm socks and hot chocolate." 

Usher's text is relatively minimal. This is a tale told more in pictures than in words. Usher's ink and watercolor illustrations perfectly capture the wavy colors of the rain, the kindness of Granddad, and the eagerness of the red-headed narrator. The reflections of various people and objects in the rain puddles, upside-down and blurred, will make any young reader long for the next rainy day. 

It's nice to see a picture book reflecting an unconventional family structure in which a small boy apparently lives alone with his grandfather. The bond between the two stands out. As does the rain. The rain practically leaps from the pages. In fact, the jacketless cover of Rain features raised raindrops, a tactile experience invites the reader in. Rain celebrates family, adventure, and a cozy home. It is simply lovely, and belongs in homes and libraries everywhere. Especially here in California, where we've learned to really appreciate the rain. Highly recommended, and one of my recent favorites. 

Publisher:  Templar (@Candlewick) 
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Vampirina at the Beach: Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham

Book: Vampirina at the Beach
Author: Anne Marie Pace
Pages: LeUyen Pham
Age Range: 4-8

VampirinaBeachVampirina at the Beach is the third book in the Vampirina series, written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Vampirina is a joyful young vampire with fangs and pale skin. In this entertaining picture book, Vampirina and her parents, along with a host of ghoulish friends, go to spend a full moon-lit evening at the beach. Pace's text doesn't directly address the fact that the various people in the story are non-human. She just shares things that are fun about visiting the beach, together with practical safety tips, leaving Pham to provide the visual, and unconventional, details.

For instance, we have this text over a couple of page spreads:

"When the waves are breaking, just right,
give surfing a whirl.

Practice your best ballet posture:
catch a wave,
demi-plie,
and ride,
ride,
RIDE!"

This spread is accompanied by vignettes that show Vampirina dragging a new, apparently human, friend out onto a gravestone-like surfboard. As the kids are trailed by a green octopus, the moon comes out from behind the clouds, and the friend is revealed to be not-so-human after all. Other spreads show sunken ships, pirate ghosts, and treasure maps, as well as supernatural creatures of all sorts doing relatively ordinary things, like playing beach volleyball and building sand castles. Turns out that being able to turn into a bat is useful in adding decorations to the tippy top of a castle. A fold-out spread in the middle of the book ramps up the action with a dance party. 

Vampirina at the Beach is full of entertaining monster details that will reward multiple inspections. These are set against a comforting backdrop of family fun and friendship. The closing image, of Vampirina and her friend sitting back-to-back eating roasted marshmallows beneath a full moon will make any kid smile. Pham manages to make the various monsters a mix of grotesque and cute, with Vampirina herself falling on the cute side, of course. 

Because so much of the fun of Vampirina at the Beach is visual, mainly in the form of multiple small illustrations per page, I think this is a better book for reading alone, or with a parent, rather than for a larger storytime. I think that first and second graders might be more receptive to the humor than preschoolers will, too, which also supports the read-alone, pore over it time and time again, hypothesis. Fans of the earlier two books will certainly want to give Vampirina at the Beach a look. It stands alone just fine, however (I have not read the other two books), and is a fun choice for celebrating the start of summer and beach season. Recommended! 

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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, 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: April 14: Book Deserts, Judy Blume, Harry Potter, and #STEM

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics inclue #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #Makerspace, #Math, #PictureBooks, #STEM, children's literacy, creativity, Harry Potter, Judy Blume, Kidlitosphere, poetry, raising readers, schools, science fiction, summer reading, and teaching. 

Awards and Book Lists

SuperfudgeJudy Blume to receive lifetime achievement award from American Academy of Arts + Letters

Passover , a   

Diversity

The Power of Representation: finding yourself in by

Growing Bookworms

Yes! Reasons not to assign required titles + what to do instead to encourage

A highlight from Pernille Ripp's post: "Why not create reading experiences that actually entices further reading, rather than further dictation of what kids are expected to read?  Perhaps now would be a good time to examine our summer reading practices before the damage is potentially done."

The best way to improve kids' reading test scores? Provide access to books, encourage free choice...

A bit more from the Donalyn Miller's post: "Even in middle-income communities, we create book deserts for too many children through misguided efforts that level, limit, control, and define when and where and what children will read. We test and test kids while providing few opportunities to improve their reading skills in the only way that works—lots of successful, engaging reading experiences. This man-made desertification ensures that fewer children will read well or become engaged readers each year." (There's lots more: do go and read the whole post!

OwlAndPussycatBedtime : The One Thing Your Child Will Remember Forever by https://t.co/Z8ML9RrRg3

My recent post on Drawing inferences: Why it's a key skill is up as a guest article 's blog https://t.co/qU2JRbPzoV

Donating Character-Developing, Idea-Generating, World-Building Books: The Beginning by  https://t.co/n6KHeHRRXi

Kidlitosphere

Extra-good week for round-up of middle grade fantasy + science fiction from around the blogs  

The 2017 Progressive Poem -- Line #8 from

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

BabymouseLockerThis makes me feel so old: Babymouse is heading to ... MIDDLE SCHOOL!?!?!?!

Inspiring story of writer Bob Greene who tracked down + thanked the first grade teacher who taught him to read

New DNA Study Finds Genes May Significantly Impact Ability | Traci Pedersen via  

Schools and Libraries

Homework: Helpful, Harmful, or Otherwise? asks | Is it more important than , , family? https://t.co/LMi2w6xuSb

HarryPotterBook1I love this: 10 Teachable Moments From and the Sorcerer's Stone - https://t.co/tUGmLNSuPs  (Good for parents, too!)

How Kills And How To Fix It -

STEM

3 Games Kids Love | guest post  

Inspiring With A Simple Home , Plus Airplane Activities for Kids https://t.co/NUqtAhD4HU

© 2017 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


Mosquitoes Can't Bite Ninjas: Jordan P. Novak

Book: Mosquitoes Can't Bite Ninjas
Author: Jordan P. Novak
Pages: 32
Age Range: 2-5

MosquitoesCantBiteNinjasMosquitoes Can't Bite Ninjas, by Jordan P. Novak, is just what it sounds like, a picture book that celebrates the triumph of a young ninja over a garden variety mosquito. Novak first recaps the categories of people that mosquitos do bite (swimmers, etc.). Then he shows that, despite being sneaky, quick, and persistent, mosquitoes are no match for the stealth, speed, and creativity of the ninja. He even introduces a baby ninja-in-training who has skills of his (?) own. The ending, in which the ninja ends up accidentally eating the mosquito, is a little bit disgusting, but definitely kid-appealing. It adds a nice twist to a story that might otherwise have been a bit too straightforward. 

This is a picture book for younger listeners. The text is minimal, and the digitally colored illustrations are bold and simple. I like the fact that the little we can see of the skin of the ninja siblings is brownish in color - not terribly dark, but at least dark enough to give some ambiguity. I also like how Novak can convey the ninja's attitude through his stance, when all we can really see of his face is his round eyes. 

Even though, at seven, she's a bit older than the target age range for this book, my ninja-obsessed daughter loved this book. What budding ninja wouldn't want to read:

"Mosquitoes try...
and try...
and try...

but a mosquito is no match

for a ninja."

Mosquitoes are universal. Ninjas are universally cool. Mosquitoes Can't Bite Ninja's belongs in libraries serving preschoolers. It would make an excellent start-of-summer storytime book. But parents should beware. It may awaken in their children the desire to become ninjas. In my experience, there are worst things. Recommended!

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BloomsburyKids)
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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, 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: April 12: Baby Bookworm's 7th Birthday Edition

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 growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this relatively brief issue I have four book reviews (picture book and middle grade) and one post with my daughter's latest literacy milestone (making inferences). I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter. I've had a bit less time for blogging than usual because I've been busy helping my daughter celebrate her 7th birthday. I'll also be taking some time off for her upcoming spring break, and expect to be back with another newsletter in three weeks. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I finished two young adult novels, two adult novels, and one adult nonfiction title. I read/listened to: 

  • Chris Weitz: The New Order (The Young World, Book 2). Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. YA Science Fiction. Completed March 31, 2017, on Kindle.
  • TheRevivalChris Weitz: The Revival (The Young World, Book 3). Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. YA Science Fiction. Completed April 3, 2017, on Kindle. I had read the first book in this post-apocalyptic trilogy a couple of years ago, but somehow never went back and read the other two books. These were just what I needed during a quiet weekend in Lake Tahoe. While I don't plan a formal review, I do recommend this series to fans of YA dystopia. It's set in a post-plague New York City, after the plague has left only teens alive, but with a ticking clock for each of them. There are warring tribes of kids, grim battles, and scientific efforts to find a cure. The cast is nicely diverse, too, with shifting first person viewpoints between a number of distinct characters. 
  • Angela Duckworth: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Scribner. Adult Nonfiction. Completed March 29, 2017, on Kindle. I've been familiar with the concept of grit for a while. My takeaway from reading the full book was the importance of the passion element - I think we tend to think of grit as just endless persistence. But it's really persistence towards something that is personally important. Grit held my interest, and I do continue to think about it now, a couple of weeks after finishing it. 
  • C. J. Box: Vicious Circle (Joe Pickett series). G.P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed April 3, 2017, on MP3. Although I've been hooked on this series for a while, the bleakness of it is starting to wear on me a bit. I don't think that the next one (presumably due out next year) will be an automatic purchase, but I think it will depend on my mood when the time comes. 
  • Charlaine Harris: All the Little Liars (Aurora Teagarden, No. 9). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed April 7, 2017, on MP3. I am also now caught up with this series, which I enjoyed. It's the only one I've read by Harris that doesn't include supernatural occurrences, and I quite like the librarian main character. In the books, about 8 years pass for the main character between books 1 and 9. In real time, something like 26 years have passed. Harris handles this by merely referencing the most current technology in each book, and not getting too hung up on the details, which does pretty much work. I've been reading other series that started quite some time ago, and I just find it interesting to note how authors manage this (e.g. Sue Grafton, who has basically stayed in the 80's with her character).  

SquishCaptainI'm currently listening to Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger (first book in the Cork O'Connor series). I'm reading This Is Just a Test by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang in print and reading Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris on my Kindle. I'm still reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling to my daughter. We are about 3/4 of the way through, and it's been a great reading experience. I think we're going to take a break after this, though, before moving on to even longer and darker books in the series.

VampirinaBeachMy daughter has also continued to enjoy the Squish series by Jenni Holm and Matt Holm. The other day, instead of opening some recently arrived birthday presents, she elected to go upstairs and read Squish: Captain Disaster in my bed. Needless to say, I did not object. She's also reading the Fantastic Frame series by Lin Oliver (a recommendation from a friend). Her newest picture book recommendation is Vampirina at the Beach by Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham, which she liked very much and suggested that I review (and I will). You can find her 2017 reading list here

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2017 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


Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night: Kallie George & Oriol Vidal

Book: Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night
Author: Kallie George
Illustrator: Oriol Vidal
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

DuckDinosaurNoiseNightDuck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night is the sequel to Duck, Duck, Dinosaur by Kallie George and Oriol Vidal. Both books feature a family with three siblings: two little ducks, Flap and Feather, and a much bigger dinosaur, Spike. In this installment, Mama Duck tells the siblings that it's time for them to "sleep all by themselves in their very own nest." They are initially proud and "only a little scared." Until a big, scary noise wakes them up, that is. They try hiding from the noise, and running away from the noise, and even scaring the noise. But the noise keeps following them. Sleep is impossible until they figure out just what the noise is.

My favorite part? At the very end of the book, we see that Mama Duck has been keeping watch all along, leaving it to the kids to solve their own problem. 

This is a text that calls out for reading aloud. The noise is rendered in huge block letters, to show how loud it is. There are calls from Spike to "HIDE!" and sound effects when their knees knock and teeth chatter. There is some repetition to the text which my six-year-old eventually had me skip over, but which I think will work well for preschoolers. Like this:

"They shared a story. They shared a snuggle. They sang a song. They counted the stars.

Then, at least, they fell asleep." 

This bedtime ritual repeats throughout the story. 

Vidal's digitally created illustrations are eye-catching and slightly stylized (particularly the backgrounds). He captures the coziness of the snuggling, and the utter exhaustion of the siblings as their night keeps being interrupted. The round eyes of all three after each scare made me laugh, and the fond smile of Mama Duck at the end made me smile, too. 

The source of the noise will be readily apparent to adult readers, but I don't think that kids will catch on. Duck, Duck, Dinosaur and the Noise at Night is a book that has an age-appropriate hint of scary for preschoolers, but ultimately will leave young listeners with a warm, safe feeling. It is fun to read aloud, and kids will enjoy poring over the illustrations. Fans of the first book will certainly want to take a look at this one, and librarians will find it well worth a look for preschool storytime. 

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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, 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: April 7: #ReadingWithoutWalls, #AutismAwareness, #GrowthMindset + More

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #GrowingBookworms, #GrowthMindset, #play, #poetry, #RaisingReaders, #ReadingWithoutWalls, #STEM, autism, economic diversity, games, homework, National Poetry Month, publishing, reading, screens, teaching, and translation. 

Book Lists

TheWildRobot10 Books to Inspire Inventors, Engineers, Tinkerers + Those Who Wish We Were! by https://t.co/VKxKlH2xZA 

50+ about Mixed Race Families now updated to 70+ books via

Diversity

 Economics, Money + Class in 2017 Today — | Including poverty in

Events + Programs

ReadingWithoutWallsTake the Challenge this April + add to your https://t.co/pkPD6eL241

Here’s How You Make a Book Spine Poem with Your Students/Patrons —

World Week and Autism Acceptance/Awareness Month - resources + w/ mini-reviews  

Growing Bookworms

BravoEngle How Margarita Engle's books helped a mother + daughter to re-engage in discussion over books

How to Get Your Kids to Read a higher ratio of good stuff vs. "junk books" from + more 

How to Make Fun: 25 Ideas Kids Will Love | Jean Reagan etc. https://t.co/c2DkjtXbCA

Growth Mindset

Four Moves That Promote A In All |

Is Not Enough | on other character-based skills should help build https://t.co/Q6RBip7Yrb

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

WizardOfOz"the thing about as a child. You don’t just read a book: you enter it."

Even More Outlandish: Further Thoughts (vs her piece) on the Role of Translation +  

Play 

Lamenting a 2nd grade classroom "party" to which kids could bring tablets but not toys by

Schools and Libraries

RaisingKidsWhoReadNew studies show the cost of student laptop use for notetaking in lecture classes -

It Takes a Suburb: Lexington MA (where I went to HS) Struggles to Ease Stress | Kyle Spencer https://t.co/G7WmJqP5vC

We should not assume how parents will react to changes like eliminating says  

Bookmobiles and Beyond: new services on wheels serve newborns through teens |

STEM

The Big List of Board Games that Inspire Mathematical Thinking, sorted by age range, from  

© 2017 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


Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue: Calista Brill and Tad Carpenter

Book: Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue
Author: Calista Brill
Illustrator: Tad Carpenter
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

TugboatBillTugboat Bill and the River Rescue by Calista Brill and Tad Carpenter is about a small tugboat named Bill and a rather beat-up barge named Mabel who work in the Hudson River. Bill and Mabel are friends, but they are essentially bullied by larger, newer ships. When the opportunity comes to rescue a kitten, however, it's the small, beat-up boats who really shine. 

Calista Brill's writing is read-aloud friendly, with short sentences but strong vocabulary words. Like this:

"The river is home to other ships, too.
They are big
     and graceful.
They are fit
     and prime.
They are haughty
     and vain
almost all of the time.

(They think they are so great.)"

and:

"Mabel
squares her shoulders
braces her hull
and pretends she doesn't hear.

But she does.
And so does Bill."

She uses sound effects, too, like "BLURB!" and "KERPLUNK". 

Tad Carpenter's illustrations are bright and friendly, with a graphic design feel. Both Bill and Mabel are engaging and distinctive, while the mean big boats are delightfully nasty. The crowd on the shore is multicultural, if you count blue and green people mixed in with the yellow ones (which I do). 

My only complain about Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue is that the ending, in which the big boats are regretful and hordes of people cheer for Bill and Mabel, is a bit ... easy. Sure, any reader will expect that the nice Mabel and Bill will do the right thing, and will be glad that they get a happy ending. But just because one gets public credit for doing the right thing doesn't mean that one's bullies will immediately come around. Still, just because my adult sensibilities had a hard time accepting this doesn't mean that it's not going to please preschoolers. And I do like that this is a subtle portrayal of bullying, masked as it is by the personification of the boats. And I think it's good to show kids characters who don't hesitate or waffle, but just go ahead and do the right thing without even thinking about it. 

Between the fun of the word choices and sound effects, the accessibility of the pictures, and the inherent coolness of tugboats, I think that young listeners will be captivated by Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue. It would make a great library read-aloud for preschoolers, and is a must for any kid who is obsessed with boats and/or rescues. Recommended!

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Mrs. White Rabbit: Gilles Bachelet

Book: Mrs. White Rabbit
Author: Gilles Bachelet
Pages: 32
Age Range: 6-10

MrsWhiteRabbitMrs. White Rabbit by Gilles Bachelet is the picture book diary of the decidedly grumpy wife of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. Mrs. White Rabbit shares her concerns about her children (including a daughter who wants to be a supermodel), unwanted visitors, neighborhood gossip, and a husband who does not pay her enough attention. 

This is definitely a picture book for older children, with dense text and relatively mature themes. I didn't want to explain to my six-year-old daughter why someone wanting to be a supermodel would spend all of her time on a scale and essentially stop eating, for example. I feel like she has plenty of time to learn about such body image issues as she gets older. There's also a toddler who "seems to be quite advanced for his age" and is seen peeking under the skirts of a pretty doll. Sigh. And, of course, a major theme is the relationship between an unappreciated wife and her neglectful husband, hardly a preschool-appropriate concept. 

There is certainly humor to the book, as when the aforementioned toddler wants to wear a bunny costume for Halloween. As an adult and a mother, I could relate to certain aspects of Mrs. White Rabbit's sardonic attitude. And, of course, there are Alice in Wonderland references, including an invisible cat from Cheshire that the family adopts, and a young girl who turns up who has "an unpleasant tendency to change size at the drop of a hat." I think that Mrs. White Rabbit would be wasted on readers lacking at least some familiarity with Alice in Wonderland. My six year old, who has seen the Disney animated movie once, and never read the book, recognized enough detail to find this book interesting. 

Bachelet's illustrations are full of whimsical details that harken to traditional stories but add a modern edge, such as Humpty Dumpty sitting on a wall all in one piece holding what looks like a beer bottle. Mrs. White Rabbit is shown shell-shocked and frequently angry, but she does get a moment of happiness in the end. My daughter and I were both a bit grossed out, though, when the impish twins are shown holding and playing with rabbit poop because they are "interested in everything" and able to "have fun with almost anything."

Mrs. White Rabbit is a creative and unusual picture book that demonstrates a mature sense of humor and adds hitherto unknown depth to the character of Alice in Wonderland's white rabbit. While I will admit that this book isn't quite my own personal cup of tea, my six year old found it hilarious and interesting. And I think that fans of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland will be quite pleased to visit the White Rabbit's home though this book. 

Publisher:Eerdmans Books for Young Readers 
Publication Date: February 6, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Literacy Milestone: Making Inferences

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day I read a post by Daniel Willingham about the importance of teaching kids to make inferences when they read. Making inferences is something I'm quite experienced at myself (to a fault, and to the tune of many a ruined surprise ending of book or movie). It so happened that a family read aloud session later that day suggested that my daughter is doing just fine in developing this critical reading skill. 

I was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to my husband and daughter, all of us snuggled together in her bed. We finished Chapter 10, and I pointed out that the title of the next chapter was The Firebolt. My daughter sat up and clapped her hands and said: "Oh! I wonder who is going to give Harry the Firebolt." My husband said something like: "How do you know that's what the title means?" and she scoffed. "Daddy! Of course that's what it means." And she proceeded to think about who would be most likely to give Harry a Firebolt. 

Here she was drawing an inference from two incidents earlier in the book. The first was when Harry saw and fell in love with the new Firebolt brooms, but decided that he could not justify buying one. The second was when Harry's trusty Nimbus 2000 was destroyed in a conflict. Putting these two things together with a chapter titled The Firebolt, my daughter had no doubt whatsoever. And, of course, she was correct (though her guesses about who might have delivered the Firebolt were understandably incorrect). 

I thought: "Yes, that's my girl." 

Thinking about this more, I do think that we as adults can draw a couple of inferences from this incident. The first is that if you read frequently to a child, and you model making inferences yourself along the way, your child may very well pick up this skill naturally, through observation.

The second is just a reminder that the benefits of reading aloud to your children are considerable. We only read a few pages a day of Harry Potter (usually in the mornings, to avoid any scary dreams). This means that my daughter has to hold details in her head over an extended period. But we stop frequently and talk about the book, and we talk about the book at other times too. She's learning about drawing inferences. She's learning about plot and characterization. She is certainly expanding her vocabulary. And the beauty of it all is that we are having an amazing time. 

One more tiny incident from the same night. As my daughter requested (demanded?) a family reading session of Harry Potter, I mildly pointed out: "Some families don't read together, you know." She stopped in her tracks and shouted: "WHAT!!!??? WHAT???!!" The mere idea was shocking. It was kind of funny. But as I look at the many benefits that my daughter has accrued from being read to, and the enjoyment that my husband and I have had from the process, I wish I could whisper in the ears of those families to encourage them give it a try. 

© 2017 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