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It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk: Josh Funk and Edwardian Taylor

Book: It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

ItsNotJackIt's Not Jack and the Beanstalk, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Edwardian Taylor, is a meta retelling of the classic story, in which young Jack rebels against the narrator. He doesn't want to sell the cow, who he loves. He wants to eat the beans instead of throwing them out of the window. He questions the rhyming choices of the giant. And by the end of the book, well, let's just say that things don't turn out quite the way the narrator was expecting. But it's all good fun, and everyone is happy in the end. 

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is told with a mix of dialog bubbles and narration. The narrator basically interacts directly with Jack, as well as with the giant. The narrator's words are shown in a gothic font, while the dialog bubbles use different colors, to help identify the respective speakers. This is quite clear visually, but does require the use of voices (or other attribution) when reading aloud. Here's a snippet, where I've added attributions:

"(Narrator:) When Jack arrived at the
top of the beanstalk, he
found himself in front of
a humongous house.

(Jack:) "I'll bet a giant lives there."

(Narrator:) Jack entered the house.

(Jack:) "Are you sure about that?"

(Narrator:) Yes! Jack definitely entered the house.

(Narrator:) Everything inside the house 
was tremendously large.

(Jack:) "Spoiler alert: 
A giant lives
here. Can I 
go home
now?"

(Narrator:) Suddenly, Jack heard a booming voice--

(Giant:) "FEE-FI-FO-FUM,
I SMELL THE 
BLOOD OF AN 
ENGLISHMAN."

(Jack:) "Umm, that 
doesn't even
rhyme. How about:
Fee-fi-fo-fum,
I can see the 
giant's bum?""

You get the idea. As the book progresses, Jack and the giant become less and less cooperative, and the narrator becomes more and more cranky. This is shown using bold, oversize text, with plenty of exclamation marks. I especially enjoyed when Jack pointed out an inconsistency in the narrator's instructions. How can he use his ax to chop down the beanstalk when we're already established that Jack has no possessions. There are also notes of modern humor, like the fact that the giant is a vegan (and thus unlikely to eat Jack). There's even a cameo appearance from Cinderella. 

Edwardian Taylor's digitally rendered illustrations feature a wide-eyed, expressive-faced Jack and a gold-toothed giant with an epic beard. The ending includes a delightful range of fairy tale characters, including an unhappy Pinocchio and a cheerful Goldilocks eating dinner with three three bears. A note on the back cover urges kids to look for the gingerbread man, the three blind mice and other fairy tale friends hidden throughout the book, suggesting good cause for a re-read. 

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is an introduction for early elementary school kids to both meta-fiction and fractured fairy tales, all in a disarming and engaging package. The narrator's over-the-top responses are especially fun to read aloud. It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is a joyful story, and would be a fun addition to any library or classroom serving preschoolers. We will certainly be reading it again in my house. Recommended!

Publisher: Two Lions (@AmazonPub)
Publication Date: September 19, 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).


On Required Reading Time

My daughter just started second grade. The second grade teachers at her school don't have reading homework per se. They just ask that kids read whatever they like for 20 minutes each night, and that parents check a box to indicate that this has been done. This I find greatly preferable to last year's worksheet-driven reading homework. 

PiratesPastNoonSo, the first night this was assigned, I asked my daughter to read for 20 minutes for homework. Can you guess what happened? She picked up a Magic Tree House book, rather than one of her usually preferred graphic novels, and started reading. After exactly 20 minutes she asked if she could stop. Told yes, she dropped the book (never to be picked up again, as far as I can tell) and went to do something else.

This scared me a little bit. I don't want reading to be some chore that she does because she must and drops as soon as she is allowed. Later the same night she begged to be allowed to read in bed before going to sleep. With an inward sigh of relief, I said yes.

The fortunate truth is that my daughter pretty much always gets more than 20 minutes of reading time a day. On school days, I read to her for 20-30 minutes in the morning while she eats breakfast. She reads in the car as we drive between her various activities. This is good for at least 15 minutes a day. If the book is interesting to her, she will stay in the car when we get home so that she can continue reading. Most nights she reads in bed. Either she reads to my husband or he reads to her, and often she reads to herself also.

Every time I see her choose to read, it makes me happy. Thus the idea that forcing her to read as homework might make reading less desirable is disturbing. So, here's what I decided to do. I told her that as long as I do see her reading as she goes about her day, I'm going to just check off that "read for 20 minutes" box every day. We are not actually going to time anything. 

This is what I believe makes sense for us (and I'm more than happy to share this plan with her teacher). Other kids will be of course different in their responses. I do think that in general assigning 20 minutes of free reading time as homework is vastly preferable to having to read little curriculum-dictated stories and answer questions about them. And I think for kids who don't read, and/or who need the extra reading practice time, a parent being able to say "Hey, you have to read for 20 minutes now for your homework" is probably a good thing. The message that the teachers think that reading is important is also good. And the fact that they give the kids free choice about what to read is excellent. 

If I hadn't had this experience with my daughter, of her pushing to ONLY read for 20 minutes on the very first day that reading was made into homework, I don't think I would have questioned the policy at all. I would have been too busy cheering the fact that there were no worksheets or reading logs or quizzes. But even this. Even a very light touch, hands-off version of reading homework felt to me like, if I enforced it, it would diminish my child's joy of reading. So I stopped doing that. Very quickly.

The bottom line is that as a parent who wants to raise a child who loves to read, I'm going to have my work cut out for me. I will need to vigilant, and listen to the signals that come from my daughter. But it's something that I know for certain is worthwhile. 

What do all of you say? Do you enforce a dedicated time for reading as homework, if it is assigned? Or do you take a more organic approach? 

© 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


Bizzy Mizz Lizzie: David Shannon

Book: Bizzy Mizz Lizzie
Author: David Shannon
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

BizzyMizzLizzieBizzy Mizz Lizzie is about a little bee who tries to do everything: music lessons, art lessons, dance lessons, Honey Scouts, and so on. Lizzie's goal is to be so successful that she is able to meet the Queen Bee, and to tell the Queen that she is "the best bee I can be." Lizzie naturally doesn't listen to her best friend, Lazy Mizz Daizy. Daizy spends most of her time lying around in the garden, reading and dreaming, and listening to the stories of "a very nice old lady." When Lizzie has a chance to meet the Queen by participating in a spelling contest, she pushes herself too hard, and finally learns "to stop and smell the flowers." 

The resolution of Bizzy Mizz Lizzie is, of course, completely predictable, and the message is overt. These things are normally a turn-off for me, but I liked Bizzy Mizz Lizzie anyway. David Shannon fills it with lots of fun, bee-centric details, and uses lots of "z's" in the text. This makes it a fun book to read-aloud. Like this:

"The next day the entire colony was at the Spelling Contest. Everyone buzzed as loud as they could when the Queen arrived. Newzy Suzie, Zach, Zack Pat-on-the-Back, and Lizzie battled through round after round. But then Suzie forgot a "z" in "razzmatazz," and "Zach Zack was fooled by "bamboozle." All Lizzie had to do was spell "quizzical" and she would win!"

And although I'm not a big fan of the illustrations in Shannon's David books, I did quite enjoy the images in Bizzie Mizz Lizzie. His illustration style is somehow suited to bees. Lizzie has bouncy ponytails, while Daizy is shown contented and a bit scruffy. There are lots of fun details, like Lizzie carrying a stack of "Junior Honey Scout" treats, towering high above her head, with names like "Honey Pies" and "Swarms". I also had a fair bit of sympathy for Lizzie's tired mother, who car-pools various groups of young bees around on her large back, with a less-than-contented expression. 

The bottom line is that the message about cutting back a bit on structured activities, and taking time to enjoy life, is one that many kids today could benefit from hearing. The fact that it is delivered in a buzzy, humorous, read-aloud-friendly package makes Bizzy Mizz Lizzie a winner. Recommended, and an excellent pick for early elementary school classrooms and libraries. 

Publisher: Blue Sky Press (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Source of Book: Advance 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).


#JoyOfLearning Links from @TechNinjaTodd + @LarryFerlazzo: #Teachers as #Reading Role Models

JoyOFLearningLogoYesterday I came across two different articles, both of which discussed the importance of teachers being reading role models for their students. Todd Nesloney talks about reading programs that don't work, and shares tips for educators to both enhance their own reading lives and inspire students. Larry Ferlazzo interviews Pernille Ripp, who is promoting her new book on raising Passionate Readers. Their discussion ranges from the importance of an inclusive classroom library to "do's" and "don't's" for teachers looking to inspire young readers. Both articles are well worth your time. 

KidsDeserveItMust-read for educators: When Adults Don't Read, Kids Lose | https://t.co/j8EZW5ZoMv

Todd Nesloney: "And yet, in schools across America, students are being subjected to prescribed reading programs that we know don’t work. (Krashen 2003) These programs often require students to select books based on computer generated levels. Further, they reduce reading to a task that only matters if it’s accompanied by an assessment. What’s more, they allow teachers to assign texts to students without having a knowledge of children’s or young adult literature and, most crucially, without ever having a conversation about books and reading with their students...

Here are a few tips to help all educators unlock the reader inside them that’s just waiting to get out! ... (click through to read Todd's tips)

A good rule of thumb is this: if you wouldn’t do it as a real reader, you shouldn’t ask your students to do it. OR if you must employ some scaffolding to help students develop the skills they need to grow authentic reading lives, remember, scaffolding is meant to come down.

The bottom line is this: your students need and deserve for you to be their independent reading champion. Reading changes lives. Not only is reading the fundamental skill that underpins all learning, but it’s also a crucial component in the development in a curious mind, a gentle spirit and a loving and empathetic heart."

Me: This is an excellent piece, from the references documenting why it's important for kids to read for pleasure to a series of detailed tips for educators to support their own personal reading lives (and hence model and inspire reading for pleasure in kids). 


PassionateReadersAuthor Interview: speaks w/ 'Passionate Readers' author on + https://t.co/NQOuuP4B0P

Pernille Ripp: "Yet research now shows just how important it is to be reading role models for our students (Loh 2009) and how valuing independent reading time in class changes the reading experience itself. So we must look inward before we start to mold our classrooms. We must see how our own reading experiences shape the very experience we create for students; how what we value becomes what we make time for; how what we read becomes what we book talk...

Do be a role model of what a "real" reader looks like; share your great habits and the bad ones. Too often our kids who are not established readers think that strong readers have it all figured out; when to read, what to read, and how to understand the text, and yet this is not true.  I consider myself a strong reader and I often fall out of my reading habits, I have to plan for my reading, and I sometimes cannot find a great book to read. So share in order to have them share what their reading lives look like. And step aside, their reading journey is theirs to explore, not to be a copy of your own...

While there are many things I could list under don'ts, especially things like AR, reading logs, and neverending reading tasks to keep kids accountable, my biggest don't is: Don't be the teacher that kills the love of reading for a child. Question your practices, educate yourself, keep the conversation going with your students and then continue to push yourself to become a better teacher of reading. "

Me: I've been a huge fan of Pernille Ripp's work since discovering her blog a couple of years ago. I was pleased to see this Education Week Teacher interview highlighting Pernille's new book. The interview also covers the importance of students developing a personal reading identity, and suggestions for cultivating a culturally representative classroom library.

But the paragraph that resonated most with me personally was the last one that I quoted above, about the things that teachers sometimes do, presumably without realizing this, that kill the love of reading for kids. My daughter is just starting second grade. At her school, second graders start using the Accelerated Reader (AR) program, just to familiarize themselves with it. In third grade they are apparently expected to use it, and to earn a certain number of points. This makes me quite apprehensive. How sad is the fact that I am worried about the school killing my daughter's love of reading, rather than expecting the school to support it? I'll be addressing this topic more in future posts. For now, go read the interview

© 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 post may contain affiliate links. 


Book or Bell: Chris Barton and Ashley Spires

Book: Book or Bell
Author: Chris Barton
Illustrator: Ashley Spires
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

BookOrBellBook or Bell has a premise that teachers and librarian will be unable to resist. Written by Chris Barton (The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch) and illustrated by Ashley Spires (The Most Magnificent Thing), Book or Bell is about a boy named Henry who finds "the most awesome book about a bike." Henry is so enthralled in his new book that he starts ignoring the bell at school, staying put at his desk reading instead of going to recess, lunch, etc. This rebellion causes much consternation for his teacher, the school principal, the mayor, the governor, and a visiting senator. The authority figures propose a succession of bigger, louder bells. But in the end, it's Henry's teacher who finds a compromise solution. 

I of course appreciated the premise of this book. Who doesn't like a kid who can't put his book down, and doesn't particularly care what's happening around him? With bonus points for the kid being a brown-skinned boy. Chris Barton's text is over-the-top and read-aloud-friendly. Like this:

"The school was not prepared for anyone to just stay put.
By not springing up with the ringing of the bell, Henry set of a 
chain reaction unlike anything they'd ever seen.

There was an empty space where Henry's tray would have been.

The food that would have gone on Henry's tray went--
SPLOT! -- onto the floor.

The shoe that stepped on Henry's
food went SCHWOOP!"

The various bells also have loud sound effects, and dramatic impacts on the other students, and are sure to make kids laugh. 

I have to confess, though, that I didn't really understand the ending. The teacher basically lures Henry out of his house on Saturday with the gentle "DING! DING!" of a bicycle bell, and the kids and adults all end up playing outside, with Henry reading under a tree. My seven-year-old took the ending in stride, but I didn't quite get the point. But maybe this is just a deficiency of understanding on my part.

It's a cheerful ending, with kids and grownups engaged in a mix of reading and more active pastimes. I certainly like that the book celebrates both a child reading and a child sticking to his guns to do what he wants to do. I like that his teacher seemed to have sympathy for him, even as the other adults were striving for control. I also like the cheerfulness of Spires' illustrations, particularly a madcap scene in which basketballs bounce all over the street, making "a little extra work for the crossing guard." 

Book or Bell is an over-the-top portrayal of the way that a book can make a person want to escape from the rest of the world, and they way that the rest of the world may object, loudly. It's fun to read aloud, with humorous names and plenty of sound effects, and has joyful, multicultural illustrations. I think that librarians and teachers will find it impossible to resist. 

Publisher: Bloomsbury (@BloomsburyKids)
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Source of Book: Advance 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: September 8: Learning Styles, School Start Times + #Cybils Judges

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include: #BookLists, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #EdTech, #LibraryCardMonth, #ReadAloud, #STEM, devices, empathy, learning styles, libraries, reading logs, schools, teaching, and testing. Happy reading!

Book Lists

Women-in-science-book Like : 20 Books and Toys About Programming

Newish Books That Have Fun With Words, from

Children's Books w/ Latino + Hispanic Characters, from  

Making & Keeping Friends: 50 Mighty Girl Books About for various ages from  https://t.co/pEggVQfxWl

Ghosts100 Best Middle Grade Fantasy Books of the Last 10 Years, according to

Events + Programs

Note : September is National Card Sign-Up Month  

Book Relief: + Partners Respond to - | + Barbara Bush Houston Fdn

+ Community Joins in Relief Efforts, roundup by

On 9/14, Australians will celebrate , setting aside one hour for | has the scoop https://t.co/A51llFikqV

Growing Bookworms

This post is delightful: You Realize You're Raising a Book-Lover |  https://t.co/C8wUHuEDib

How one teacher let go of logs, talked about book, + learned to trust students  https://t.co/3Drjwb7fKI 

Kidlitosphere / #Cybils

Cybils-Logo-2017-Web-SmChildren's + book bloggers / reviewers, have you considered applying to be a judge? It's very cool!  

Apply to Be a Judge, says | bloggers, vloggers, Goodreads reviews, all who love/review

The Only Constant is Change… | announces new category organizers +

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

CorduroyAn Ode to Reading Kids' Books Out Loud, w/ of great , from Sarah Ullery via  

Animals or People — Which Make Kids More Giving? | skeptical on recent study re: moral lessons in  https://t.co/pbzGTscrPG

Who knew? Gunning for Your Children: When Classics Pack Heat —

After a Member’s Ouster from Newbery Medal Committee, a Closer Look at Social Media Rules | recaps issue

Parenting 

Yes, Are Destroying a Generation, But Not of Kids | via  

STEM

Be-an-engineer-smallFree "Read Question Think" Posters for Kids featuring + friends from  https://t.co/t719axHRDE

Our Favorite Simple for Kids from | | Chemical reactions + more

BBC series: 9 things you didn't know were invented by women (kevlar!) via

Schools and Libraries

How many people believe theories are right? And why?  

SiliconValley Companies Court Brand-Name, High-Profile , Raising Ethics Issues

Letting teens sleep in would save the country roughly $9 billion a year -

Interesting post from | once you know something, it's hard to think like someone who doesn't, + to teach it

A reminder from that an Encouraging Word Can Last a Lifetime, particularly coming from an  

5 Ways to Step Up your Adovcacy Game from | harness social media, send newsletter + more 

Food for thought: Have Accommodations Gone Too Far? asks Miriam Kurtzig Freedman in

© 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


Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy: Laurel Snyder + Emily Hughes

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

CharlieMouseGrumpyCharlie & Mouse & Grumpy is the sequel to Charlie & Mouse, written by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Emily Hughes. Both books are full-color illustrated early readers consisting of four chapters. There is a fair bit of text on each page, but the text is wide-spaced and dialog-heavy, keeping it accessible to younger readers. 

Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy is a fun, kid-friendly read. In this installment, brothers Charlie and Mouse are excited to welcome houseguest Grumpy (apparently their grandfather). Their adventures with Grumpy are quite ordinary. He checks in on how they are, and how they are growing. They "pounce" on him when he's napping. He babysits one evening, and they eat pizza and build a blanket fort together. And when he leaves at the end of his visit, there are sad goodbyes (though lightened with humor). 

When Grumpy first arrives, he pronounces older brother Charlie "big", to which Charlie agrees. Younger brother Mouse, however, declares himself to be getting "medium." I especially liked this bit:

"When you are medium," said Mouse,
"you can read some books. But also, people
read books to you."
"What else?" asked Grumpy.
Mouse thought again.
"When you are medium, you can swim.
But your mom sits on the steps and watches.
Just in case."
"Ahh," said Grumpy. "It sounds very nice
to be medium."
"It is," said Mouse. 

There's a little picture of Mouse swimming, with Mom in the background, feet in the water, book on her lap, waving. There's also a picture of Dad reading to Mouse, while Charlie looks over Mouse's shoulder. Which pleased me, because I would have thought that people would still read to Charlie, even if he can read on his own. The blanket fort scenes also feature delightful illustrations. Charlie and Mouse have spiky hair and big eyes and happy smiles in the presence of Grumpy. 

Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy captures the affection between grandparent and grandchildren, and the excitement of having a houseguest. The differences between bigger and smaller brother are there (with Mouse falling asleep in the fort), as is everyone's sadness on saying goodbye. I think that this book hits perfectly on the interests of five year olds. Highly recommended, and a lovely addition to any early reader collection. 

Publisher:  Chronicle Kids (@ChronicleKids)
Publication Date: October 3, 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: September 6: Picture Books, Grit, and Graphic Novels

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 brief issue I have four picture book reviews. I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter and one post with more detail about four joy of learning-related articles that I came across recently concerning academic pressure on kids, reading aloud, and grit. 

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

  • Ellen Oh: Spirit Hunters. HarperCollins. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed August 25, 2017, library copy. This is an extremely well-done ghost story, with a nice mix of supernatural elements, diversity, and family drama. Recommended, especially for fans of Mary Downing Hahn. 
  • Holly Black and Cassandra Clare: The Silver Mask (Magisterium, Book 4). Scholastic. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed September 1, 2017, review copy. Review to come. 
  • Craig Falconer: Not Alone. Amazon. Adult Science Fiction. Completed August 26, 2017, on MP3. This near-future science fiction novel contemplates the exposure of a long-term conspiracy to hide the fact of a visit from aliens. I liked the story, which focuses extensively on the power and manipulations of the media, but found the plotting to be a bit slow-paced for an audiobook. It might have benefitted from tighter editing. But I did enjoy it. 
  • Eileen Cook: The Hanging Girl. HMH Books for Young Readers. YA Fiction. Completed September 4, 2017. Review to come. 
  • Sue Grafton: Y is for Yesterday. Marion Wood Books/Putnam. Adult Mystery. Completed September 4, 2017, on MP3. Hard to believe that this is the penultimate book in the Kinsey Milhone series. It marries an extortion attempt connected to a ten-year-old murder with the stalking of Kinsey by a serial killer from a previous case. The storyline is a bit complex, with scenes shared from the viewpoint of other characters, including scenes depicting the 10 year old murder. But I thought that Grafton juggled these aspects well, and I had no difficulty following it. I was sorry when the book ended. 

InOtherLandsI'm currently reading In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan and listening to Glass Houses by Louise Penny. My daughter and I are still nominally reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire together, but we've been interrupting that for more picture books in our breakfast table reading. For her own reading, she's now read Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier twice since we checked it out of the library a couple of weeks ago, and is on her second reading of Drama. She asked for her own copies of both as part of this month's Scholastic order. Given her propensity for re-reading, and her deep attachment to Raina Telgemeier's work, I think this will be a worthwhile investment. You can find my daughter's 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


Pigeon P.I.: Meg McLaren

Book: Pigeon P.I.
Author: Meg McLaren
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-7

PigeonPIPigeon P.I. by Meg McLaren is a hardboiled picture book mystery in which the characters are all birds. Private Investigator Murray MacMurray, a pigeon, is taking things easy following the departure of his partner. But then a little yellow canary shows up, trying to get Murray interested in the disappearance of a number of birds (and the canary's own near-capture). The jaded Murray rebuffs "the kid", but when he later learns that the canary is missing, he is on the case. 

Pigeon P.I. is filled with old time P.I. novel tropes, from Murray's fedora to his gruff attitude to the thief's hideout being "the Red Herring Bar and Grill." There are phrases like "it looked like my wings were clipped for good" and "sticking your beak where it doesn't belong" that extend the noir style to the bird community. All of this offers tremendous fun for me, a long-time fan of P.I. stories.

But I think that the Pigeon P.I. will work for young kids, too, even if they are less versed in noir. The end pages feature a handy "Beginner's Guide to Private Investigation", from different types of detecting hats to a ranking of different snacks for stakeouts to a series of general tips. These are illustrated with humorous images of the little canary asking things like "Am I a clue?" The interior illustrations are also full of detail to reward close reading, from old newspaper articles on the wall of Murray's hideout to descriptions of missing birds on milk cartons. There's a fun bit in which the police are on a big case that seems to involve nothing more than eating donuts (which are quite large relative to the birds, adding to the visual humor). 

There are little jokes. Like this:

"Have you seen this canary? We suspect she has been bird-napped by a cream ring." (says an officious police bird)

"A crime ring, Sarge." (adds a smaller assistant police bird)

In short, Pigeon P.I. is total kid-friendly (and adult-friendly) fun, and a perfect introduction to the old-style private eye genre. This would be a great book for kids to read prior to launching into the various chapter book mystery series (A to Z Mysteries, etc.). Highly recommended, and sure to become a family favorite in my house. 

Publisher: Clarion Books (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: October 3, 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: Labor Day Weekend Edition: #Cybils, #KidLitCon, #ReadingLevels, #KidLitCares

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. There is a ton of great stuff this week. I think people are back from the summer and focusing on books and literacy (plus the #Cybils Awards and #KidLitCon are moving forward). Other topics this week include #BookLists, #ComputerScience, #GrowingBookworms, #KidLitCares, #nonfiction, #STEM, #SummerReading, friendship, parenting, reading levels, rewards, and schools.

Book Lists + Awards

Cybils-Logo-2017-Web-SmHey there, + book reviewers / bloggers, the 2017 Call for Judges is Now Open | Apply by 9/11

25 of the Most Exciting of Fall 2017 | + more

Events

How to celebrate , coming 9/13/17, ideas from website like dressing as your fave character

Growing Bookworms

PassionateReadersWhen we make a child into a level we aren't helping the child in the long run says  https://t.co/ydJzLKDVlE

How to get kids to look away from their screens + take pleasure in books |  https://t.co/41xYWKTop5 

Why labeling books by disempowers young

Beyond : Choosing for Developing Readers | + in  https://t.co/GIphsA1Dpz

Kidlitosphere

KidlitconLogo2017-SquareWithHeaderBig news for bloggers, authors, publishers + fans: Announcing the Program for '17

Conf that's even fun for introverts shares why, w/ testimonials from +  #KidLitCon 

Kicking off : Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort, | peeps can donate visits, books etc 

In today's Fusenews we find bookish leggings, Elisha Cooper, book banning + more tidbits

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

StillLifeKeep the serendipitous choices of Alive All Year says in | "Instant summer, year round" 

Parenting 

Having a stronger, closer friendship as a teenager predicts less depression as a young adult via  https://t.co/OWKRjLkjlE 

Tips to Help Kids w/ Anxiety | | listen, be specific, do dry run + more

Schools and Libraries

Nice piece about focusing on students' strengths: What Are Your Superpowers?  

How Ending Behavior Helped School Focus on Student Motivation and Character

In wars, both sides are wrong says | She argues for "good homework" + time 4 learning

STEM

Girls set AP record…skyrocketing growth outpaces boys | Minorities also up 

Ideas and ways to engage young kids in play from around the blogosphere

© 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


Big Sister, Little Monster: Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum & Edwin Fotheringham

Book: Big Sister, Little Monster
Author: Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum
Illustrator: Edwin Fotheringham
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

BigSisterLittleMonsterBig Sister, Little Monster, written by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham is the latest in a long line of picture books about rivalries and loyalties between siblings, especially sisters. In this instance, big sister Lucy considers her messy, pesky, attention-seeking little sister Mia to be a monster. But when Mia makes herself scarce, Lucy eventually misses her. She finds her sister playing merrily in a hidden world behind a strange door, a world populated by colorful monsters. The monsters have no interest in relinquishing kindred spirit Mia, until big sister Lucy puts her foot down. And then the loyal sisters play together happily ever after. 

I have to say that for me, the introduction of actual monsters, with a "Where the Wild Things Are" dynamic, made Big Sister, Little Monster rise above the ordinary. Sure, the ending is a little sappy, but before that we have this:

"Sister? Shmister!" growled a grimy monster. "You're not like Mia!"
"Mia prances in puddles," snorted a scaly monster.
"She paints with pudding," sang a fangy monster.
"She's rule-free and ready to romp," bellowed a furry monster.
"Monster Mia is our queen!" they hollered. 
"We're keeping her forever!"

FOREVER?"

I like the alliteration, as well as the sheer joy in Mia's antics. I also like Lucy, when she gets "VERY MAD" at the monsters, finding her own "INNER MONSTER". Her determined expression, hands on hips, hair flying, is a joy to behold. 

Fotheringham's illustrations render the items in the day to day background of the girls' lives in muted colors, while the monsters are brightly colored, set against a dramatic black background. This contrast visually echoes the change in the entire dynamic between the girls, as Mia goes from supplicant to treasured sister, in one fell swoop. 

Big Sister, Little Monster is a fun yet empowering take on the pesky little sister / annoyed yet protective older sister dynamic. It is fun to read aloud, with monster voices and plenty of drama, as well as being visually pleasing. I think libraries will want to give this one a look for their picture book collections. Recommended!  

Publisher: Scholastic  (@Scholastic
Publication Date: September 12, 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).


When a Wolf is Hungry: Christine Naumann-Villemin & Kris Di Giacomo

Book: When a Wolf is Hungry
Author: Christine Naumann-Villemin
Illustrator: Kris Di Giacomo
Pages:  34
Age Range: 4-8

WhenAWolfIsHungryWhen a Wolf is Hungry was originally published in France, and maintains a certain French tone, I think. Written by Christine Naumann-Villemin and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo, it's the story of lone wolf Edmond Bigsnout, who leaves his home in the wood because he has "a hankering for some rabbit." Specifically, a city bunny. He finds an apartment building in which dwells such a rabbit. However, when he accidentally leaves his knife in the elevator, another resident borrows it. After that, the wolf keeps going home for different implements with which to kill or cook the bunny, but he keeps running into building residents who borrow them. By the end of the book, Edmond is very hungry, but won over by the kindness of the residents who, we just know, are gong to become his neighbors. 

Naumann-Villemin's text is humorous, with a dark slant. Like this:

"In no time at all, Edmond was back.

Ding!

The bear from the fourth floor!

"Good day, sir! Are you our new neighbor?"

"No ... uh ... I mean ... yes ..." said the wolf, lying through is teeth.

"Welcome to the building! My, that's a nice chainsaw you have there. What did you need it for?"

"To slice a rab ... uh ... to trim my ..."

"Would you mind terribly if I borrowed it until this evening? I have a hedge to trim on the roof."

"Not at all..."

Argh."

Di Giacomo's illustrations are also dark in tone, but again with flashes of humor, as when "Miss Eyestopper" bats her eyes at the stammering Edmond. It's not completely clear whether the other animals are actually onto Edmond's scheme, and are deflecting him, or whether they are just rather pushy neighbors, assembling a fun rooftop party. 

When a Wolf is Hungry is an entertaining take on the thwarting of the big, bad wolf. Here he's stymied by friendly but presumptuous neighbors, and his own reflexive politeness. This book reminded me in theme of A Well-Mannered Young Wolf by Jean Leroy and Matthieu Maudet, though with a different feel. This book won't be for everyone, but it worked for me, and I think that anyone who likes fractured fairy tales will want to give it a look. Recommended!

Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (@ebyrbooks)
Publication Date: August 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).