28 posts categorized "Graphic Novels" Feed

Literacy Milestone: Real-World Interest Sparked from a Book

LiteracyMilestoneA

Recently my daughter asked for a book from which she could study sign language. Does she have a friend who is hard of hearing? No. Well, not a friend she's ever met, anyway. No, she wants to learn sign language out of loyalty to Cece Bell, because she adores El Deafo that much. She's been scheduling weekly sessions (my daughter, not Cece Bell) in which she works with my husband and I on our lip-reading and sign language. After trying to learn sign language from El Deafo itself, she realized that she needed a better resource. 

ElDeafoI bought her Signing for Kids, Expanded Edition. Because we all know that I'm a sucker for any request for a book. In truth, her interest had already faded by the time the book arrived. But I think it quite likely that she'll want it someday. [This is why I have such a ridiculously large number of books in my house. Because we might need them. Someday.]

You couldn't make this stuff up. We also made blackberry fool after reading A Fine Dessert awhile back, so I suppose this isn't our first experience with this dynamic. But it is the first one for which a reference book was required. 

Have your kids had real-world interests sparked by books?

© 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


Yes, #GraphicNovels Are Real Books

I've had a couple of parents approach me recently with questions akin to: "How do I get my child to read something else besides graphic novel? I want him to read real chapter books." To which I say: "Why do you need to do this?" If your child is reading graphic novels, then he is reading. Graphic novels are real books. If your child is reading graphic novels avidly, then my suggestion is not to try to push him to chapter books. My suggestion is to find him more graphic novels.

RealFriendsNow, I will concede one issue that I've run into due to my daughter's devotion to graphic novels. There just aren't as many graphic novels as there are chapter books. This means that we can actually run out of books for her to read that are even remotely age appropriate (and believe me, I have stretched this upwards). She doesn't help matters by having only passing interest in fantasy - she wants thick, realistic graphic novels only. And she pretty much has all of the ones I can find that she can understand. She simply reads those over and over again. I'm fairly sure she must know Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham's Real Friends by heart. 

Because of this shortage I have tried introducing some notebook novels into the mix. These still have plenty of illustrations, but also have more text. My daughter is having none of it. This means that unless I can find new graphic novels that she likes, she ends up reading less. Which is certainly not the goal. But I personally think it would be worse to push her to read books that she's not interested in. So I don't. 

Graphic novels, by their nature, provide more scaffolding to new readers. They can often figure out what's going on by looking at the pictures, even when the vocabulary might be above their heads. My daughter told me that she finds graphic novels easier to read because "you don't have to read all that 'he said' 'she said' stuff." To her, it's more intuitive to just SEE who is saying what. 

Graphic novels are also generally fast reads - our eyes can scan pictures faster than we can read words. My daughter is currently whipping her way through the Amulet series (here we have branched out a bit from the realistic fiction, though she doesn't expect to have an interest in re-reading these). Because they can be thick, but still a fast read, graphic novels give new readers a sense of accomplishment. 

SunnySideUpAnd just like chapter books, graphic novels can cover serious issues. In Sunny Side Up, by Jenni Holm and Matt Holm, young Sunny's summer is overshadowed by her worries about her older brother, whose drug problem has led to erratic behavior. This is shown via flashbacks, and the graphic format allows the authors to imply the drug use without speaking of it directly. This means that it's not overwhelming for my daughter (I think it mostly went over her head), but it's there for older readers to process. 

For more on benefits of graphic novels, see this digital document created by the Comic Book Legal Defense Club: Raising a Reader! How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read!, a resource for parents & educators about the learning benefits of comics. This is a great resource for parents covering things that graphic novels offer kids, tips for parents for navigating graphic novels, ideas for creating reading dialogs with graphic novels, booklists, and more.

So why are some parents (and many librarians, for that matter), so determined to push kids out of graphic novels and into chapter books? Here are three possible reasons:

  1. Parents don't like to see kids re-reading the same books over and over again when they could perhaps benefit from exposure to a broader array of titles.
  2. Graphic novels are different from the books that we grew up with, and we aren't as comfortable reading them. I personally don't much like reading graphic novels. I prefer the linearity of straight-up text. I find it distracting to have to look at the whole picture in each panel, and figure out what comes first. This bias on my own part makes it more challenging for me to support my daughter's graphic novel passion. But I do it anyway.
  3. The more academically-focused parents probably want their children reading more words, instead of looking at pictures, so that they are on a path to better test scores, etc. 

WrinkleInTimeGraphicTo reason one I say: try to find more graphic novels, if you can. Perhaps look to graphic novelizations of traditional chapter books. Did you know that there's a graphic novel version of A Wrinkle In Time? Ask librarians for help. And then maybe very gently offer things that stretch the child's reading zone. There are some nonfiction graphic novel-style books coming out - maybe these will lead into actual nonfiction on the same topics. For my realistic graphic novel-obsessed daughter I'm quietly mixing in some fantasy. I don't push, but I grab things from the library and offer them. If they are rejected I can return them easily enough. 

To reason two I say: try to get over your own feelings about graphic novels. Your child does not have to like the same books that you liked. I think it's ok to explain to your kids that you aren't as much of a fan as they are, as long as you respect their reasons for liking graphic novels. You can also learn more about graphic novels via resources like the CBLDF booklet linked above. Some extremely fine authors are producing simply fabulous books in this area. It's ok to take graphic novels seriously. They are much more than the old Archie comics from when we were kids.  

ReadAloudHandbookTo reason three I say this: our goal as parents should be to help our children learn to LOVE books. If we are successful at this, then they will read books. As they read more books, they will get better at reading, and they will want to read even more. We'll have a virtuous cycle in which their reading skill enhances their enjoyment, and vice versa. (See Jim Trelease's The Read Aloud Handbook for more about this).

I believe that if you have a child who loves books, she will eventually want to read MORE books, and she'll more than likely branch out from graphic novels. Maybe she'll move to notebook novels like Dork Diaries. Maybe she'll move to series books like the Rainbow Fairies. Maybe she'll go straight to the non-graphic version of A Wrinkle in Time, if she's old enough. Because that's what real readers do. As an adult, I like to read mysteries. If there's nothing new by any of my favorite mystery authors, perhaps I'll pick up some nonfiction, or science fiction, or re-read a classic. Readers find a way to read. Our goal should be to nurture readers. 

Shawna Coppola writes about this topic in "But they only read graphic novels". She links to some background on "the myriad of benefits that reading comics and graphic novels offer readers of all ages" but concedes that there can be a valid interest in teaching kids to have a more balanced reading diet. She suggests that we mine this food analogy to encourage kids to read different things, with different benefits. She also suggests for teachers "Perhaps we ought to simply let our students read what they want to during independent reading time–including as many graphic novels as their charming little brains can handle, for Pete’s sake–and be incredibly mindful about offering multiple opportunities for them to read and engage with other kinds of texts throughout the remainder of our time with them."

LunchLadyFieldTripMy personal belief is that this is what we should be doing at home - letting kids read what they want to read, to nurture their love of reading. What I also do is read aloud a more challenging work with my daughter, and talk her through the details, as a way to expose her to more complex plots and substantive vocabulary words. I feel like if she is listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, she's more than welcome to read the Lunch Lady books 10 times over on her own.

I've never personally been a big reader of graphic novels. But I will defend to all comers my daughter's right to prefer them. First, because there are many benefits to graphic novels, and second because I truly believe that one of the most important things we can do to nurture young readers is to give them choice in their reading. 

© 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


Lights, Camera, Middle School: Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Book: Lights, Camera, Middle School! (Babymouse: Tales from the Locker, Book 1)
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Illustrator: Matthew Holm
Pages: 208
Age Range: 8-12

BabymouseLockerLights, Camera, Middle School! is the first title of a new novel / notebook novel / graphic novel hybrid series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm featuring Babymouse, now in middle school. Although Babymouse is in middle school, I think that readers of this series will begin in elementary school. My seven-year-old, who is out of town with my husband, asked me to read it to her over the phone. I declined. But I'm certain she'll read it when she can. 

Anyway, Lights, Camera, Middle School! begins as Babymouse is acclimating to middle school. She has a few friends (especially BFF Wilson) from elementary school, but she's struggling to adjust to things like the cafeteria, and the quest for popularity. She wants fame, but she also wants to be herself and to be appreciated. She still has issues with monsters in her locker, and being on time for class. When it comes time to sign up for some sort of Club, Babymouse decides on film club. She ends up the director of the student film (an epic saga), and finds the experience to be challenging but ultimately character-building. 

Here are a couple of snippets:

"If this was a monster movie, Felicia would be a Zombie. At middle school, Zombies traveled in packs and dressed the same. Instead of hunting brains, they wanted stuff: whatever was cool and "in." It could be wedge sandals or ruffled scarves or sparkly lip gloss. They just had to have it." (Page 5)

This is accompanied by a sketch of four zombies in wedge sandals moaning "STUUUFFFFFFF!!!!" and the like. 

Also:

"Chapter 2: Laws of the Jungle Cafeteria

The hardest subject in middle school wasn't science or social studies or literature. 

It was friendship.

And there was no textbook or helpful study guide. In elementary school, if kids didn't like you, they were just flat-out mean. But here, figuring out who your friends were was harder than a quadratic equation.

And I had a failing grade."

Graphic elements in the book range from full-page, multi-panel comic to full-page illustrations to small cartoon-like images included with the text (like a muffin with a face crying "ButI'm so lovable!" after the movie's star rejects muffins in favor of fresh croissants. The characters from the Babymouse graphic novels have grow up ever-so-slightly. Babymouse is taller and thinner, but otherwise looks (and acts) pretty much the way kids will expect. 

The text has plenty of dialog, short paragraphs, and bolding, along with the occasional French phrase, making it a nice transition book for kids who are not excited about reading something too text-dense. There’s a cute product placement for the Holm siblings’ Squish series (which Babymouse’s little brother Squeak enjoys). Fans of the Squish books will get a kick out of it. Although there's no interior color, there are cute heart and star symbols providing within-chapter section breaks. There are also occasional lists and other written supporting materials, in notebook novel style.

In short, you have the familiar and lovable characters from the long-running Babymouse early graphic novel series experiencing slightly more grown-up problems now that they are in middle school, and with the addition of some narrative and notebook novel-style text. If this isn't the perfect, seamless next step for fans who are ready to progress from the quick graphic novel reads, then I don't know what is.Highly recommended, and a must-purchase for libraries serving middle grade and younger middle school readers.

I wonder if we'll ever progress to reading about Babymouse in high school...  

Publisher: Random House (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: July 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).


Literacy Milestone: Having Her Own Genre Preferences

LiteracyMilestoneAI've always tried to give my daughter choice in what we read, of course. And she's always had preferences for particular books, and, eventually, particular authors and illustrators. When she was younger, I would let her pick whatever she liked from the library, even if that meant a whole stack of TV tie-in paperbacks. But recently, for the first time, she identified herself as a fan of a particular genre. Someone asked her what she likes to read and she said: "I'm really into graphic novels." To me, this is a milestone because she's defining herself as a person who likes to read a particular type of book. She's starting to understand her own preferences, and seek out the things that work for her. 

This incident also stood out for me because, well, I'm not particularly into graphic novels. I enjoy some of the ones for younger readers, particularly Babymouse and Lunch Lady. But I'm not a very visually-oriented person, and for longer, more complex stories I prefer text. Shifting my focus between the words and the pictures in a graphic novel is a distraction for me. 

KnightsOfLunchTable1But my daughter! She adores graphic novels. I've written before of her love for Lunch Lady by Jarrett Krosoczka, and for Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham. She's also reading the Knights of the Lunch Table series and the Babysitters' Club full color graphic novel editions. She loves them all. She stays up late reading them, reads them in the car, and talks about them with whoever will listen. At this point, she prefer realistic graphic novels to fantasy [Zita the Spacegirl didn't work for her, for example], but I can imagine that changing in the future. We'll have to wait and see. Right now, I'm just celebrating that she knows what she likes, and seeks it out.

The other night I left a new graphic novel on her bed. I said: "I think you'll like this one." She said: "Is there a graphic novel in this book? Then, YES, I will like it." (Awkward phrasing, but she was trying to quote the scene in Elf where he says he likes sugar.) 

Me, I like mysteries and post-apocalyptic stories. My daughter's preferences will likely evolve as she gets older. But right now she is doing what readers do, figuring out what she enjoys, and then asking for more. 

© 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


Literacy Milestone: Obsession with a Series: #LunchLady

LiteracyMilestoneA My daughter is planning to be a combination architect and ninja spy when she is an adult (if not sooner). We sent her to spy camp for a week last summer. We frequently find her sneaking around the house. Until she lost it, she used to leave her camera stealthily recording us while we were talking. (Once you are a parent of an elementary school kid, privacy becomes an illusion.) She is especially obsessed with spy gadgets. She makes them herself out of things like q-tips and paper towel rolls. 

LunchLadyBook1Recently I introduced my daughter to Jarrett J. Krosoczka's series of graphic novels about Lunch Lady. For those of you who are unfamiliar with her, Lunch Lady is an elementary school lunch lady who has a secret identity as a crime-fighter. She knows various ninja moves and has an assistant, Betty, who creates various food-themed gadgets for her (spork phone, fish stick nunchucks, etc.). I have reviewed various Lunch Lady titles over the years, and had kept copies of most of the books. [See Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta, Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown and Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit, Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes, and Lunch Lady and the Video Game Villain.] 

I am here to report that my daughter became immediately obsessed with the Lunch Lady books. She's not quite ready to read them on her own, so she had my husband and I reading them to her. For the past week, this is pretty much ALL we've read aloud to her. At breakfast, after school, before bed. You name it. We got through the 10 books in the series in just a few days. She would use a charade-like ninja move to tell us what she wanted. I had to order the one book that I didn't have, so that we could read it as soon as possible. 

When we finished Book 10 on a Sunday afternoon my daughter groaned aloud, with the lament familiar to book lovers everywhere. "There aren't any MORE!?!" Alas, no. Monday morning she was ready to start re-reading the books. To her credit, she was aware that since my husband had read her some of the books, these were books that I hadn't read to her yet myself. So we started with those. But I'm sure we'll be re-reading all of them before we are through. She likes picking up on details that she might have missed the first time around. 

And yes, for anyone wondering, she is in first grade, and probably would be ready to read the books herself soon. But I say, why make her wait? What if her obsession with gadgets wanes in the meantime? It's simply not worth the risk. And she can read them again on her own whenever she likes. In the meantime, we've been having a fun time enjoying Lunch Lady's antics as a family. 

It's not that this is the first series she's been interested in. We've read her Elephant & Piggie, and the Magic Tree House books, and quite a number of Arthur Chapter Books. And she adores the Princess in Black books. But this is the first time she's devoured a whole series in a week, and then mourned the inevitable end. This made me feel like I'm doing my part here - I'm growing a reader. 

Do you remember the first obsession-inducing series for your kids? 

© 2016 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


Snoop Troop: It Came from Beneath the Playground: Kirk Scroggs

Book: Snoop Troop: It Came from Beneath the Playground
Author: Kirk Scroggs
Pages: 176
Age Range: 7-10

SnoopTroop1It Came from Beneath the Playground is the first book in the Snoop Troop series of mysteries for early elementary school kids. I found it to be highly entertaining, with kid-friendly humor and a non-obvious mystery. When sources of fun (including a local merry-go-round and the school playground) start disappearing, a mystery-obsessed girl named Logan Lang races to help. In the face of inept adult investigators, Logan reluctantly joins forces with a police-obsessed boy named Gustavo Muchomacho (previously her "arch-nuisance"). The two each bring complementary mystery-solving skills to the table, and their differences lend humor along the way. 

It Came from Beneath the Playground is a heavily illustrated  chapter book, with multiple pictures on every page, much of the information conveyed in text bubbles, and seek-and-find type activities throughout. There are also bonus puzzles and visual games included at the end of the book. It reads like a graphic novel, but does include some narrative text, too. The narrator talks directly to Logan from time to time, and readers are directly encouraged to find clues along the way.

Despite the many illustrations, I would place It Came from Beneath the Playground as more a book for second graders and up than for first graders. It's relatively long, and many of the illustrations are small and detailed. Readers hoping to solve the mystery will need to keep track of hints from different parts of the book. There are also some strong vocabulary words, as well as puns that I don't think the newest readers will get. (e.g. an amusement park owner named "Izzy Hurling"). And there are ransom notes in the form of word jumbles. 

But for kids who are ready for it, It Came from Beneath the Playground is a lot of fun. I laughed out loud several times while reading it. Like this:

Narrator: "That's fourth-grader Logan Lang sitting in the dark, dank library, just like she does every day after school, surrounded by her friends...

And when I say "friends," I mean mystery books, crime novels, and twisted tales of suspense...

They're all she has in this cold, lonely world." 

Logan (via text bubble): "Okay, I think they get it. I'm a little too into mystery books."

and:

Police detective (via text bubble, at the amusement park crime scene): "You again? I've warned you about trespassing on crime scenes. This place is crawling with stuffed animals, candy, and arcade games--it's no place for a kid!" 

and:

Narrator: "Gustavo jumps onto one end of the seesaw to save Bobby Bing, but for some reason, Bobby goes sailing into the air without even saying good-bye."

Gustavo (via text bubble): "Wait! Don't go. I'm trying to rescue you!"

Gustavo is not too bright, but he does mean well. He has a bunch of gadget-enhanced mustaches, which are pretty funny. Logan has a combination police scanner/lunchbox. Her office is a retired ice cream truck. 

Snoop Scoop: It Came from Beneath the Playground is perfect for kids who enjoy the Lunch Lady series and are ready for something a little bit more challenging. It's highly interactive and dynamic, and a great introduction to how to solve mysteries. Recommended for library or home purchase, with a slight plus for home purchase because kids may want to write in the puzzle and game section at the end. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the author (via my friend Miles)

© 2016 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: Reading Babymouse

LiteracyMilestoneAOne of my favorite possessions is a stuffed Babymouse doll that was a gift years ago from Babymouse's author, Jenni Holm. I keep it on a moderately high bookshelf in my office. For a few months now, my daughter has delighted in climbing up to said shelf (there's a counter that she can stand on - it's not as dangerous as it sounds), and rearranging Babymouse (along with some other books and stuffed animals that also reside there). 

FullSizeRenderToday, she proudly showed me how Babymouse was sitting on a stuffed elephant's trunk. (The elephant is also a cherished possession.) I asked: "Did you know that there's a book series about Babymouse?" She had not known, and we immediately (never mind that I was still trying to work) had to go downstairs to get the first book, and start reading it.

This is my daughter's first graphic novel. It seems fitting to me that her first listen of a graphic novel should be to Babymouse: Queen of the World, because I adore Babymouse. I've given the early Babymouse books as gifts to a number of seven-year-old girls over the years, and would certainly have pointed them out to my daughter eventually (she has just turned five, and reading them on her own would be beyond her at this point).

In truth, I think that this book is a tiny bit beyond her comprehension level. There's a whole riff in which Babymouse is imagining herself as a hard-boiled private investigator that was completely over my own Baby Bookworm's head. But she's enjoying Babymouse: Queen of the World anyway. She immediately grasped the idea that some scenes (the pink scenes) are Babymouse's imagination. And she had no problem at all understanding the concept of Queen Felicia as a representative of "mean girls."  

So, I've promised to continue reading Babymouse: Queen of the World tonight at bedtime. I have a feeling I'd better start early, because she's likely to want to keep reading until we finish. I'm torn on the other books, though, as I would prefer to have her wait until she can read them herself. Decisions, decisions... [Updated to add: yes, we did finish the book as that evening's bedtime reading. I suggested that she wait until she could read the others herself. She responded: "Why?" Indeed. There will be no shortage of books for her to read on her own when the time comes.]

In our house, reading one's first Babymouse book is definitely a literacy milestone. 

© 2015 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


Comics Squad: Recess!: Jennifer L. Holm and others

Book: Comics Squad: Recess!
Authors: Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Jarrett Krosoczka, Raina Telgemeier & Dave Roman, Dan Santat, Dav Pilkey, Ursula Vernon, Eric Wight, and Gene Luen Yang
Pages: 144
Age Range: 7-10

Comics Squad: Recess! is a new collaborative book produced by a team of today's top cartoonists/illustrators/graphic novelists. It features eight stories, all told in comic strip format. The stories are set in an elementary school environment, and are relevant to the concerns of younger elementary schoo kids. Oh, and they are funny, of course. 

Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, creators of the Babymouse and Squish series, and Jarrett Krosoczka, creator of the Lunch Lady series, are the editors. Babymouse and Lunch Lady make a few cameo appearances before and between the other stories - I guess you could say that they are the informal hosts to the book. Babymouse also appears in one of the stories, repeatedly thwarted in her "Quest for Recess" ("Typical!". Lunch Lady is actually out sick, but Betty is on the job (and stocked up with new inventions) in "Betty and the Perilous Pizza Day".

As I've personally read most of the Babymouse and Lunch Lady books already, I was interested to see what the other authors would come up with. It's quite a varied lot. I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor of Gene Yang's "The Super-Secret Ninja Club", and the frankly adorable cupcake in Eric Wight's "Jiminy Sprinkles in "Freeze Tag"". Ursula Vernon's "The Magic Acorn" features squirrels meeting up with a tiny alien in an acorn-shaped spaceship. "The Rainy Day Monitor" by Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier celebrates the joys of pretending (with some pretty funny, mostly fake celebrity cameos). Dan Santat, on the other hand, mocks the idea of writing a 300 word essay on The Giving Tree, while giving the teeny-tiniest hint of a middle grade romance. 

My favorite story was Dav Pilkey's "Book 'Em, Dog Man". Pilkey writes this as if it were the work of a pair of comic-obsessed young boys. The story is introduced with a letter written by the disapproving teacher of the boys, like this: "As you will see, this comic book contains multiple scenes of stealing, violence, and unlawfulness... and don't get me started on the spelling and grammar!" Personally, I thought that the second-grade-appropriate spelling was hilarious ("desidid", "excape", etc.). 

But it's all fun. Though the tone and style of the eight stories varies, a common orange and black color palette across the book lends a certain visual consistency. 

Comics Squad: Recess! is dedicated to The Nerdy Book Club, which I thought was a particularly appropriate touch. The Nerdy Book Club members, like the authors of Comics Squad, dedicate their working lives to ensuring the kids find reading fun. 

Comics Squad: Recess! is an excellent introduction for younger kids to graphic novels. Including a range of authors ensures that each reader is bound to find at least one story that resonates. This is a book that all elementary school libraries will want to carry (probably in multiple copies). Just be prepared for requests for more of Comics Squad! Fortunately, the authors have other titles available. Comics Squad: Recess! is the absolute epitome of "kid-friendly". Highly recommended. I'll be keeping my copy for when my daughter is a tiny bit older. 

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

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

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


Friday, May 3 is School Lunch Superhero Day

Slshd_logo_high_resI don't believe that I've ever mentioned this before, but my grandmother worked as a school lunch lady when my father and my uncles were young. She was always quite proud of that fact. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why I enjoy Jarrett Krosoczka's Lunch Lady series so much (see my reviews here, here, here, here, and here). Certainly this is one of the reasons why I am pleased by the idea of dedicating a day to honor school lunch ladies. Yes, that's right. Jarrett Krosoczka, Random House, and the School Nutrition Association are celebrating School Lunch Superhero Day this Friday, May 3rd. 

Here are some quick tidbits about the event (from Random House):

  • INPSIRATION: Jarrett’s very own School Lunch Superhero, Jean Cariglia, inspired his Lunch Lady series. When Jarrett visited his school after the first book was published, he was astounded to see how much this recognition meant to Jean. This, and other acts of kindness he has seen while touring for the series, planted the seed for School Lunch Superhero Day.
  • WAYS TO CELEBRATE: The SchoolLunchSuperheroDay.com website has all kinds of activities to help schools celebrate – games, activities, valentines, you name it!
  • TEDx: Besides creating a really innovative take on superheroes, Jarrett is also a really amazing individual. Last Fall, he was invited to present a TEDx talk. His talk has over 500,000 combined views and is really inspirational. See the video here.
  • THAT'S A LOT OF FOOD: School nutrition professionals feed 31 million students every day.
  • NEW LUNCH LADY: LUNCH LADY AND THE VIDEO GAME VILLAIN is on sale now. This is an action-packed graphic novel series with fun food-related gadgets. The series is great for beginning readers.

Check out the SchoolLunchSuperheroDay website, as well as Jarrett's recent post on the subject at The Nerdy Book Club. And, this Friday, consider toasting my grandma with some cafeteria-style tater tots (if they still serve those). 


Lunch Lady and the Video Game Villain: Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Book: Lunch Lady and the Video Game Villain: Lunch Lady #9
Author: Jarrett J. Krosoczka (@studiojjk)
Pages: 96
Age Range: 7-10 

Lunch Lady and the Video Game Villain is the ninth in Jarrett J. Krosoczka's Lunch Lady series of graphic novels. There is a lot going on in this installment. The main plotline involves Lunch Lady and Betty investigating a rash of technology thefts from around the school (including Hector's X-Station Mobile). This is set against Hector's battle with bully Milmoe in the election for class president. Milmoe has mysteriously deep-pocketed support, and his friends discover that an enemy from a previous book may be involved. Meanwhile, Principal Hernandez is concerned about an upcoming tour of the school by the new, reform-minded superintendent, a tour which turns out not to bode well for our heroic Lunch Lady. The book ends on a cliffhanger regarding Lunch Lady's future. 

In Lunch Lady and the Video Game Villain, Krosoczka spends a bit more time on plot, and a bit less time on cafeteria-themed inventions than the previous books in the series. Or so it seemed to me. There is a "Crazy-Straw Earpiece", but the spork phone is missing in action. There are also, instead, various other, more traditional, forms of technology mentioned (many of them missing), like "the latest ePad" and a "stepometer." 

However, the book still has the same feel that young readers will expect. Milmoe is still a bully, surrounded by sycophants. He says things like:

"HA! That twerp? The only thing he can beat is the latest video game of "Nofriendo"!"

There's a funny scene in which Lunch Lady and Betty set up a sting operation, and tumble out of a locker. There is byplay with the grouchy janitor, and a battle with a villain near the end of the book. It's all vintage Lunch Lady, albeit with slightly fewer gadgets, and slightly more continuing plotlines. I think that young fans will enjoy it. I know I did. Recommended!

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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© 2013 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


Diary of a Wimpy Kid #7: The Third Wheel: Jeff Kinney

Book: Diary of a Wimpy Kid #7: The Third Wheel
Author: Jeff Kinney
Pages: 224
Age Range: 8 and up 

The seventh Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, The Third Wheel, made me laugh aloud several times. Like the other books in the series, The Third Wheel doesn't follow a particularly linear plotline. The "third wheel" aspect of the book (involving a Valentine's Day Dance, a girl, and Greg's best friend) only directly comes into play quite late in the book. But it doesn't matter. Time spent peeking into Greg Heffley's diary is always entertaining. Some highlights that struck me from this installment included:

  • Greg's memories from back before he was born (already capable of being embarrassed by his mother).
  • The fact that Greg spent the first few months of his life sleeping in a dresser drawer ("which I'm pretty sure isn't even legal"). 
  • The location that baby Greg found to hide the batteries for the TV remote ("when you're a baby, you can't really get around a lot, so there was only one place I could hide the batteries.")
  • When Greg drove his father so crazy during Bring Your Child to Work Day that he was sent off to sit somewhere else, and ended up forgotten and left at work.
  • A "pantsing" epidemic among the boys at the middle school. 
  • A bizarre "bring your own toilet paper" fad at the middle school.

I think the reason that these books work so well is that although the incidents are over-the-top, there's an underpinning of universal behavior that comes through. The Wimpy Kid books will always be among my favorites, because I've known kids who were turned on to reading for the first time by Greg's exploits. I also think that there's a fair amount of humor in these books for adults, making these fun read-together books (or read in parallel, anyway) for the whole family.

The sketch-filled diary format has become fairly widespread in children's books, of course, but Jeff Kinney launched the craze, and remains a master at it. I found Diary of a Wimpy Kid #7: The Third Wheel to be a worthy installment of the series, a laugh-out-loud read for kids and adults. Recommended! (And no particular need to read the books in order, I don't think). 

Publisher: Amulet Books (@AbramsKids)
Publication Date: November 13,2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 


Babymouse #17: Extreme Babymouse: Jennifer L. Holm & Matt Holm

Book: Babymouse #17: Extreme Babymouse
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Illustrator: Matt Holm
Pages: 96
Age Range: 7 and up 

What more is there to be said about Babymouse than what I have said already (Babymouse: Cupcake TycoonBabymouse: Puppy LoveBabymouse: HeartbreakerBabymouse: DragonslayerBabymouse: Beach Babe)? Each of these graphic novels for younger kids is a delight from start to finish. Babymouse #17: Extreme Babymouse is no exception. In this installment, the intrepid Babymouse turns her hand to snowboarding. Well, ok, technically she is driven to try snowboarding after all of her classmates become board obsessed, and she feels left out. But whatever. That's a technicality. She brings her patented blend of imagination and frustration to the slopes. 

Some highlights for me in Extreme Babymouse included:

As always, I love the narrator's deadpan insertions. In this book, I giggled over "I think we need some duct tape over here" after a humpty-dumpty-like wipeout. I was also delighted to see the sun and a cloud chiming in with their observations on the fall. 

Not to risk getting spoiler-y, but I really liked the ending of this one. While maintaining a light touch, and staying true to character, the authors give Babymouse the chance to grow a little bit. And that, as they say, is extreme. Highly recommended for fans of the series, and for anyone who could use a good laugh. You don't need to read the Babymouse books in order (although certain jokes do recur, rewarding loyal readers). I can't wait until Baby Bookworm is old enough to enjoy these. 

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).