Previous month:
March 2010
Next month:
May 2010

Posts from April 2010

Baby News and Blog Hiatus

It was only a month ago that I announced that Mheir and I were growing our own little bookworm. My news today is that our daughter was born last Monday, April 5th. She's doing well, but she arrived about 10 weeks early, so she'll be in the hospital for at least the next few weeks.

I'm spending as much time at the hospital with her as I can, and am thus taking a bit of a leave of absence from the blog. I won't be posting or accepting any offers of books for review. Terry will be continuing the Children's Literacy Roundups as she can, but I won't be contributing right now. I'm putting all of my energy into my little girl.

For those who might be interested, the first book that we read to her was One Night at the Zoo by Judith Kerr (reviewed here - last week's reviews were previously written and set up as delayed posts). We're starting to order books from the wish list that I set up last month, and appreciate the suggestions that many of you made. We can't wait to get our little one home from the hospital, and to read to her in a more cozy environment.

I will be sending out one issue of my Growing Bookworms email newsletter this week, so that subscribers know what I'm up to. My apologies to the many people who just signed up for the newsletter (subscribers flooded in after a recommendation from Donalyn Miller). I'm sorry about the timing - but I hope that you'll stick with me, as I'll be back to posting, and sending the newsletter, as soon as I can. Thanks for your patience!

One Night in the Zoo: Judith Kerr

Book: One Night in the Zoo
Author: Judith Kerr
Pages: 32
Age Range: 2-5 

NightzooOne Night in the Zoo is a bedtime story about the activities that take place in a zoo one night, when no humans are around to witness them. We have everything from a flying elephant to a bunch of lions doing card tricks. Kids will enjoy the whimsy, I think. 

Judith Kerr uses soothing, rhythmic text. It's the kind of text that gets into your head as a reader (especially the refrain, "but nobody knew"), but isn't irritating. It's a book that begs to be read aloud. For example:

"Seven tigers sneezed: Atchoo! Atchoo!
Atchoo! Atchoo! Atchoo! Atchoo!
ATCHOO! And their seven sneezes below
The feathers off a cockatoo.

Eight monkeys stuck them back with glue.
But nobody knew."

Kerr pairs this text with delicate pencil illustrations, in soft colors, against a swirling, multicolored night sky. My favorite is a picture of six rabbits climbing up a giraffe's back, and then using parasols to float back to the crowd. Each rabbit has a different pattern, and each parasol does, too. The giraffe looks a bit uncertain about the whole thing, and the night sky in the background is dotted with stars. Lovely!

One Night in the Zoo is a counting book that doesn't feel like a counting book - the story would be fun on it's own, even if we didn't have, in sequence, three lions, four bears, etc. Still, parents will want to spend time on the ending page spread, which shows all of the sets of animals, in order, providing an excellent recap of both numbers and types of animals.

This is one that I liked even better on the second reading than the first. We'll definitely be keeping it around, to read to our daughter in her jungle kids-themed room, when the time comes. Recommended!

Publisher: Kane Miller
US Publication Date: March 2010 (originally published in the UK in 2009)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

The Web of Titan: Dom Testa

Book: The Web of Titan: A Galahad Book (sequel to The Comet's Curse)
Author: Dom Testa
Pages: 272
Age Range: 12 and up 

Weboftitan The Web of Titan is the second book in Dom Testa's Galahad series (after The Comet's Curse, which I reviewed in January). The Galahad books are about a group of teens who are sent off on the spaceship Galahad to populate a distant planet (a five year journey away). Their flight is a response to a fatal virus that is attacking all of the adults on earth (and thus no adults can accompany them on the ship, for fear of infecting the teens as they get older).

As The Web of Titan begins, the 251 teens are well on their way into space, nearing the edge of Earth's solar system. They've been asked to do a special project on their way, picking up a small pod that's orbiting Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. The pod was put into place by a group of adult researchers, all of whom have stopped communicating with Earth. As the teens on the ship attempt to capture the pod, and learn the fate of the scientists, they're faced with a mysterious illness that strikes various crew members. These developments put considerable pressure on the council of five who govern the Galahad. Things are further complicated by various romantic entanglements among the kids on the flight.

As Paige Y. noted in her review, this is definitely a series book. It doesn't stand on its own, particularly in regard to the evolving relationships between the characters. But I actually liked it better than the first book (which had to convey a lot of background about the virus and the building of the ship, and used adult characters to do so). The characters are culturally diverse, yet all bright and ambitious (reflecting their selection as the most promising from various gene pools). Ship's commander Triana is plausibly conflicted by the various pressures surrounding her. The mysteries about the pod and the cause of the illnesses are intriguing, and the ending is quite suspenseful.

My favorite character remains Roc, the Galahad's intelligent on-board computer. He seems to have the best sense of humor on the ship. For example, he jokes about wanting a meeting to be held later, because he is "useless before noon." Um, he's a computer. Funny! Or there's this:

"A great philosopher once noted that people will rise to the level they expect of themselves, not to any artificial level imparted by outside forces. Meaning that a group of people can expect good or bad performances from someone, but those expectations account for nothing compared to the person's own self-image and beliefs.

Very heavy.

I have my own philosophy. Whoever suggested we swing by Saturn on our trip should be strapped to the front of the ship like a hood ornament." (Chapter 27)

I think I like Roc best because I find the human characters in the Galahad books a bit too perfect (all of them are both attractive and multi-talented). I also still find it implausible (as I mentioned in my review of the first book) that a group of unsupervised teens would, apparently, display no discernible interest in sex. But that does keep the books accessible to younger readers. It also keeps the focus on the science fiction plot, rather than turning this into a space sudser. So those are good things.

Overall, I think that there's a real need for straight-up science fiction for teens, and I'm glad that this series is out there. It has a bit of an old-school sci-fi feel to it, like books by Ben Bova that I enjoyed as a teen. I'll be looking forward to future installments in the series. Recommended for science fiction fans, boys or girls, middle school and up.

Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: June 29, 2010
Source of Book: Advanced review copy from the author. Quotes are from the ARC, and should be checked against the final printed book.
Other Blog Reviews: Reading and Breathing

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

The Best Family in the World: Susana Lopez

Book: The Best Family in the World
Author: Susana Lopez
Illustrator: Ulises Wensell
Pages: 28
Age Range: 4-8 

BestFamily The Best Family in the World is a picture book about a little girl named Carlota. When Carlota learns that she's going to be adopted, she makes a wish to herself. She wishes for "the best family in the world." And then she spends time dreaming about what the best family in the world might be like. How about a family of pastry chefs? Or pirates? Or astronauts? Her daydream sequences are gorgeous windows into the things that small children find exciting, from cakes to tigers to buried treasure. But, in a satisfying conclusion, Carlota finds that her more conventional family is still "the best family in the world".

Somehow, Susana Lopez manages to make The Best Family in the World heart-warming but not sappy. I think that this is due to the imaginative details in Carlota's visions ("She'd take a Bengal tiger to school, and she'd be the most popular girl at recess"). Of course, Ulises Wensell's illustrations help, too. They're a nice mix of dreamy landscapes and festive, fun-filled details. And Carlota, as conveyed in the pictures, is bright-eyed and optimistic - the reader wants her to be happy, and is glad, at the end, when she is.

The Best Family in the World would be an excellent addition to the bookshelves of any family, adoptive or otherwise. Recommended. 

Publisher: Kane Miller
US Publication Date: March 2010 (originally published in Spain in 2008
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Linger: Maggie Stiefvater

Book: Linger (sequel to Shiver)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Pages: 368
Age Range: 13 and up 

Linger Linger is the much-anticipated sequel to Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver. Due out in July, Linger continues Stiefvater's mesmerizing tale of the wolves of Mercy Falls, MN. Linger is the love story of "a boy who used to be a wolf and a girl who was becoming one" (Page 1). Linger picks up a few months after the end of Shiver, as spring approaches. For the first winter in many years, Sam has NOT turned into a wolf. He is safely human, and spending as much time as he can with his girlfriend Grace. Grace, however, is exhibiting some disturbing symptoms of her own. Meanwhile, a new member of the wolfpack, Cole, is causing worry for Sam and temptation for Sam and Grace's friend Isabel. Linger is told through the alternating first-person viewpoints of these four teens.

I sometimes have trouble with keeping the narrators straight in multiple viewpoint stories, so I was a bit worried about this one initially. But I must say that Maggie Stiefvater pulls it off, even shifting viewpoints mid-chapter in some cases. I think that the multiple narrators work well for Linger because the four characters are so complex and so different from one another. The multiple viewpoints work particularly well in letting the reader see each character's different attributes (e.g. we hear what Sam thinks, but we also see him as Cole, Isabel, and Grace see him, which gives a full picture).

I must admit to a particular fondness for Isabel. She's rich and spoiled and not particularly nice to other people, but I like her wry humor. For example:

""Touche," Isabel said, taking my drink as if it has always been hers. She slouched elegantly on her stool. I hunched like a vulture on mine." (Chapter 1, Sam)

"But finally I had to make my way home. Delightfully, both of my parents' cars were in the driveway. I was beside myself with joy. I sat in my SUV in the driveway, opened the Shakespeare I was supposed to be reading, and turned up my music loud enough that I could see the bass vibrating in the rearview mirror." (Chapter 9, Isabel)

In addition to flawless characterization, Stiefvater gives Linger a strong sense of place. The reader can practically smell the woods behind Grace's house, and practically see Sam and Grace's home, and the bookstore where Sam works. She writes the kind of prose that makes you want to stop and reread passages, lyrical and descriptive, without being overly flowery. Like this:

"Outside, the last bit of sun glazed the corners of the parked cars with blinding amber and filled the puddles in the street with liquid gold. Inside, the store was already out of the reach of the dying day, dim and empty and half-asleep. (Chapter 13, Sam)

Stiefvater is also very good at conveying the feeling of being in love. Not lust or longing so much in Linger (though there's some of that, too), but the feeling that comes after the love is solidly in place, yet still ever-important. For example:

"But instead of answering, Sam stood and went to the kitchen. I swiveled to watch him put on the teakettle. He brought down two mugs from the cabinet over the stove; for some reason, the familiarity of this easy movement filled me with affection. I fought the urge to go stand behind him and wrap my arms around his chest." (Chapter 4, Grace)

"And then Sam there, hauling an industrial vacuum cleaner into the room. He'd only been gone two seconds, but the room got brighter when they were together, as if they were two elements that became brilliant in proximity. At Sam's clumsy efforts to carry the vacuum, Grace smiled a smile that I thought only he ever got, and he shot her a withering look full of the sort of subtext you could only get from a lot of conversations whispered after dark." (Chapter 38, Cole)

So, we have beautiful writing, an intriguing premise, and multi-dimensional characters. I did find the pace of Linger to be a bit slow at times. It's perhaps hard to keep up momentum when the story continually shifts from character to character. And of course, the title of the book suggests that this is more a book that one should savor than a book to be gobbled up in one sitting. It's a book to linger over. It takes time to convey four complex personalities, and their interactions, in addition to the plot. 

All I know is that, lingering aside, I will be eagerly awaiting Forever, the conclusion to the Mercy Falls trilogy, when it's available next summer. Highly recommended - a must-read title for fans of Shiver, and for anyone who enjoys paranormal romance (but do read Shiver first).   

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: July 20, 2010
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Quotes are from the ARC, and may differ from the final book.
Other Blog Reviews: The Tales Compendium, Eve's Fan Garden

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Hey Rabbit: Sergio Ruzzier: Picture Book Review

Book: Hey, Rabbit!
Author: Sergio Ruzzier
Pages: 32
Age Range: 1-4 

RabbitIn honor of Easter today, I've saved this book review about a bunny. Hey, Rabbit! by Sergio Ruzzier is a quirky picture book, but one that I think toddlers will enjoy reading. Hey, Rabbit! features a white rabbit carrying a big blue suitcase. On every other page spread, Rabbit encounters one of his animal friends. Each animal says "Hey, Rabbit! Is there anything for me in your suitcase?" And then the animal asks for something specific to his own interests (a bone for the dog, a pillow for the sleepy bear, etc.).

Then the next page spread shows a colorful dream image, a fleshed out world that reflects and expands upon the thing that the animal asked for. For example, the toucan hopes for "a leaf to remind me of home". What spills out of the suitcase is a whole rainforest, full of plants and animals. A mouse seeking a bit of cheese sees a whole city made of cheese. And so on. Despite the fancy trappings, at the heart of each image, we see the animal with the smaller item that he's requested (e.g. the toucan with a leaf in his beak).

It took me a couple of readings to figure out what I think is going on with this book. I think that the animals are finding the specific items that they wish for, and that the scenes that they're seeing are expressions of the way that the item speaks to the animal's imagination, and real desire. Or something like that. It's a bit unclear. But the illustrations are a lot of fun, filled with details that kids will enjoy (look, the bear has a glass of honey next to his bed!).

I think that Hey, Rabbit! has a nice mix of comforting repetition and visual variety. Many of the animals share similar human-looking blue eyes, lending a certain continuity to the text. And, of course, all of the text is basically the same request, with small variations. I can imagine kids shouting out "Hey, Rabbit!" themselves by about the third one. And guessing what it is that the animal would like to see in the suitcase. I love how the words "Hey, Rabbit!" are in large-sized, multi-colored text at each repetition (like on the cover), positively encouraging the words to be shouted aloud.

[Oh, and just for blogging readers: one extra-fun thing about this book is that the back cover has a blurb for the author's previous book from "School Library Journal, FUSE #8 blog". Very cool!]

All in all, I think that Hey, Rabbit! should be a fun read-aloud for the preschool crowd. It's definitely worth a look!

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: February 16, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the author
Other Blog Reviews: Not a review, but Sergio Ruzzier was featured recently on the 7-Imp Seven Kicks.

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Saturday Afternoon Visits: April 3

It's been another eventful week around the Kidlitosphere. Here are some links, for your perusal:

NPM_LOGO_2008_final April is National Poetry Month. There are a host of activities going on around the Kidlitosphere in celebration. Happily, Laura Evans of All Things Poetry has compiled a list (which I in turn copied from Finding Wonderland - you can find more details there):

Beautifulbloggeraward1 Lovely_award This week I was honored to receive not one but two blog awards from Dawn Little of Literacy Toolbox. Like my co-honoree Terry Doherty, I'm not one to pass along awards like this - I don't like picking sub-sets of my favorite blogs, according to anyone else's criteria. But I am delighted to be in such wonderful company with the other names on Dawn's list.

I was also happy to have my blog listed as a resource recently on the Education and Social Sciences Library (ESSL) Children's Literature Blog. Katelyn Edds chose a selection of blogs based on "how often the blogs were updated, their layout and content, and how often the blogs were cited by others as being authoritative." I'm in excellent company there, too, with blogs like Fuse #8, Readergirlz, and Guys Lit Wire, to name a few.

Speaking of Terry Doherty, her writer's prompt at Booklights this month is a fun one - Mad Libs. Oh, how I loved Mad Libs when I was in middle school. She talks about some different versions of the Mad Libs idea, shares some memories, and discusses why Mad Libs and related word games are an excellent literacy tool. Fun stuff! Ann also talks about writing prompts for kids in her monthly Booklights post. Great minds thinking alike, I guess.

Liz B responds at Tea Cozy to a recent New York Times article by Julie Just about problem parents in young adult literature. I agree 100% with Liz's conclusion: "Just as parents need to get out of the way for their teenagers to mature into adults, so should we adults who read and review young adult books get out of the way of the intended audience -- the teens. Yes, we can read and enjoy those books; but let's not ask for those books to be written to reflect our reality of adults and parents." But do read the whole post. Monica Edinger chimes in on the Times piece, too, though more briefly.

At the Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller continues her series on resources to help teachers discover books for kids. This time, she discusses Twitter (where you can find her at @DonalynBooks). She gives tons of great examples of the fun that is following the kidlit twitterverse.  

MACLogo The NCBLA blog reports on the start of the Exquisite Corpse Adventure Mystery Author Contest. The idea is for school classes to "Play Twenty Questions with other Exquisite Corpse Adventure readers around the country to help identify The Mystery Author! Every class that solves the mystery and emails in the correct guess will be entered into a drawing to win a collection of books valued at over $500 for their classroom or library, plus a phone conversation with The Mystery Author!"

Quick Hits:

  • I haven't mentioned it in a while, and thought that I would draw your attention to the latest installment of Sherry Early's Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Every week, Sherry asks contributors to link to their reviews from the week - resulting in links to dozens of book reviews.
  • Mitali Perkins shares an inspiring plea from 8th grader Anisha N. on behalf of her school library. 
  • Lenore's International Book Blogger Mentor program is up and running. She shares some of the featured bloggers at Presenting Lenore.
  • At the Tidy Books blog, Ian Newbold is wondering whether or not children's books should come with warnings (e.g. if a character dies).
  • Doret wraps up her fun 9 Authors - 12 Baseball Questions series at TheHappyNappyBookseller.
  • If you need more kidlitosphere news, check out the latest FuseNews from Betsy Bird at A Fuse #8 Production. There are also some interesting news links in Joanne Meier's Food for Thought post at Reading Rockets this week.
  • And finally, Kate Coombs has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Book Aunt.

Redsoxlogo I'll be away from the computer tomorrow, celebrating Easter as well as baseball's Opening Day (finally!). Wishing you all a Happy Easter or Passover, or anything else that you might celebrate, and a happy spring.

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Being Nikki: Meg Cabot

Book: Being Nikki (Airhead series, book 2)
Author: Meg Cabot (blog)
Pages: 352
Age Range: 13 and up

BeingnikkiBeing Nikki is the sequel to Meg Cabot's Airhead, which I reviewed last month. This review will contain spoilers for Airhead, but not for Being Nikki. So, if you haven't read Airhead yet, I recommend that you stop here. 

These books are fun, frothy young adult fiction, a cross between mystery, science fiction, and beautiful people/fashion novels. Being Nikki picks up shortly after Airhead leaves off. After being mortally injured by a falling flatscreen monitor, teenager Emerson (Em) has had her brain transplanted into the body of fashion model Nikki, the Face of mega-company Stark Enterprises. To protect her parents from financial ruin and possible jail time, Em is forced to live Nikki's life and honor her modeling commitments. All Em really wants to do is let her former best friend and erstwhile crush Christopher know that she's still alive, and find a way to win his heart. As Being Nikki begins, however, she finds herself caught up in the mystery of Nikki's missing mother.

I found Being Nikki to be compulsively readable. The are plenty of plot twists to keep the reader guessing. The premise is thought-provoking, too. I especially liked Cabot's various references to Em's mind/body interactions. Although she has her own brain and memories and attachments, she finds herself changed by Nikki's physical response to things, too. She can't eat foods that she used to like, etc. I think that the question of "are you your mind or are you your body" is endlessly fascinating (though treated in a much lighter manner here than in books like Skinned and The Adoration of Jenna Fox).

I like Em's voice, too. She's breezy and sarcastic, with a tendency towards hyperbole. She feels real (you know, for a girl who has had a brain transplant, and is now living as a top-tier supermodel). Here are a couple of examples:

"That was when I remembered. Why I was so depressed, I mean.

That was also when I let go of the cliff face.

It was just that, suddenly, being eaten by sharks seemed preferable to hearing the rest of Brandon's story." (Page 7)

"Okay, just calm down and smile at the nice sailor and go, "Okay, fine then. So I'll start calling private eyes first thing in the morning." Seriously. This was my life now? Well, why not? I'd already had a brain transplant and had to wear mascara every single day. Why not this?" (Page 67)

Being Nikki features several engaging supporting characters, too. They are quirky enough to be interesting, but still for the most part plausible. (With one possible exception, but to say who would be a spoiler).

All in all, Being Nikki is a fun read, perfect for teenage girls. I would consider this series a must-buy for middle school libraries, and a must-read for anyone who enjoyed Cabot's other teen series (Mediator and 1-800-Where-R-U). I'm looking forward to reading the third book in the series, Runaway, due out later this month.

Publisher: Point (Scholastic)
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
Source of Book: Library copy
Other Blog Reviews: OMS Book Blog, Ms. Yingling Reads, The Book Muncher

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Books Read in March

This is a list of all of the books that I read in March, broken up into Picture Books, Middle Grade Books, Young Adult Books, and Adult Fiction. As you can see, I've been reading lots of picture books!

Picture Books

  1. Betsy Snyder: Sweet Dreams Lullaby. Random House. Completed March 6, 2010.
  2. Cynthia Lord (il. Derek Anderson): Hot Rod Hamster. Scholastic. Completed March 6, 2010. My review.
  3. Aaron Zenz. The Hiccupotamus. Marshall Cavendish. Completed March 6, 2010. My review.
  4. Boni Ashburn (ill. Kelly Murphy): Over at the Castle. Abrams. Completed March 6, 2010. My review.
  5. Charise Mericle Harper: Pink Me Up. Knopf. Completed March 6, 2010. My review.
  6. Diane Muldrow (ill. David Walker): How Do Lions Say I Love You? Golden Books. Completed March 6, 2010.
  7. Selma Mandine: Kiss Kiss. Golden Books. Completed March 6, 2010.
  8. Kat Yeh (ill. Sue Anderson): You're Lovable to Me. Random House. Completed March 6, 2010.
  9. Major Brian Dennis, Kibry Larson, Mary Nethery: Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle. Little, Brown. Completed March 6, 2010. My review.
  10. Ellen Weiss (ill. Jerry Smath): The Taming of Lola: A Shrew Story. Abrams. Completed March 6, 2010. My review.
  11. Bruce Degen: Jamberry (board book). HarperFestival. March 12, 2010. A gift from Colleen.
  12. Bob Boyle: Hugo and the Really, Really, Really Long String. Random House. Completed March 12, 2010.
  13. Joan Yolleck (ill. Marjorie Priceman): Paris in the Spring with Picasso. Schwartz & Wade. Completed March 14, 2010.
  14. Sergio Ruzzier: Amandina. Roaring Brook Press. Completed March 16, 2010.
  15. Sergio Ruzzier: Hey, Rabbit. Roaring Brook Press. Completed March 16, 2010.
  16. Stephen Huneck: Sally's Great Balloon Adventure. Abrams. Completed March 29, 2010.
  17. Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans (ill. Lynn Munsinger): The Jellybeans and the Big Book Bonanza. Abrams. Completed March 29, 2010.
  18. Judith Kerr: One Night in the Zoo. Kane/Miller Book Publishers. Completed March 30, 2010.
  19. Susana Lopez (ill. Ulises Wensell): The Best Family in the World. Kane/Miller Book Publishers. Completed March 30, 2010.
Middle Grade Books
  1. Marilyn Kaye: Gifted: Better Late than Never. Kingfisher. Completed March 1, 2010. My review.
  2. Marilyn Kaye: Gifted: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow. Kingfisher. Completed March 1, 2010. My review.
  3. Ridley Pearson: Steel Trapp: The Academy. Hyperion. Completed March 9, 2010. My review.

Young Adult Books

  1. Carrie Ryan: The Dead-Tossed Waves. Delacorte Press. Completed March 6, 2010. My review.
  2. Julie Halpern: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder. Feiwel & Friends. Completed March 14, 2010. My review.
  3. Meg Cabot: Airhead. Point. Completed March 18, 2010. My review.
  4. Lauren Henderson: Kiss Me, Kill Me (Scarlett Wakefield series). Delecorte Books for Young Readers. Completed March 22, 2010. My review.
  5. Maggie Stiefvater: Linger. Scholastic. Completed March 25, 2010.
  6. Meg Cabot: Being Nikki. Point. Completed March 27, 2010.

Adult Fiction

  1. Steve Hamilton: The Lock Artist. Minotaur Books. Completed March 12, 2010.
  2. Charlaine Harris: Dead and Gone. Ace. Completed March 15, 2010, on MP3.

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

The Taming of Lola: A Shrew Story: Ellen Weiss

Book: The Taming of Lola: A Shew Story
Author: Ellen Weiss
Illustrator: Jerry Smath
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8 

Lola The Taming of Lola: A Shew Story is a picture book in five acts, written by Ellen Weiss and illustrated by Jerry Smath. It's about a young shrew who is used to getting her way. She throws such dramatic tantrums that her parents have simply given in, and let her do whatever she wants. One day, however, Lola meets her match in her equally stubborn and spoiled cousin Lester. After a series of over-the-top, explosive arguments, Lola and Lester concede that there might, possibly, be a better way to interact.

Normally, anything that remotely suggests a "message" (like, say, that there are more important things than getting your own way) is enough to turn me off from a picture book. But The Taming of Lola worked for me. I think it's because the "message" is thoroughly insulated by a combination of humorous, slightly sarcastic text and busy, entertaining illustrations. And because Lola has well-meaning, but decidedly imperfect, parents. What she learns, she learns on her own.

The "story in five acts" is framed by a bossy, argumentative grandmother telling the story to her granddaughter. The grandmother and granddaughter crop up in little insets throughout the story, as we see the grandmother editorializing, and keeping the story honest. For example, she notes: "Screaming is relaxing. You should try it sometime." It probably won't come as a surprise to young readers when "Granny" is revealed at the end to be "Granny Lola". These insets never failed to make me smile, as I was reading the book.

I also like that Ellen Weiss isn't afraid to sprinkle the text with advanced vocabulary words. Here's an early passage:

"Although she was very, very tiny, Lola had a big temper. Shrews are not known for being nice, but Lola really took the cake.

She was so stubborn and bad-tempered that all her brothers and sisters stayed away from her as often as possible.

If Lola was given mayflies for breakfast when she wanted slugs, she had conniptions.

If she was asked to wear her red socks when she wanted to wear her blue ones, she threw herself on the floor and had a tantrum.

She was famous all over the West Meadow for her temper."

"Conniptions". What a great word! Weiss also throws in a few puns here and there, to please young readers ("Hambuger" or "Fleanut Butter and Jelly" anyone?). Lester shows up in a "Chicago Grubs" t-shirt (ok, that one pleased me - young readers might not notice).

The detail of Jerry Smath's watercolor illustrations (with pen-and-ink accents) is breathtaking, and completely in keeping with the story. Shrews, we learn, have very large families. And thus many of the illustrations are filled with tiny vignettes of different shrews, and the insects with which they surround themselves, engaging in their day-to-day activities. We often see insects (and family members) watching Lola with disapproval. This disapproval is expressed, even in tiny sketches, through eyes and posture. And there's a delightful variety of insects shown, too.

Because of the combination of large amounts of text and highly detailed illustrations, I would recommend saving this book to read to slightly older children, in the four to eight range. But it's worth saving. The Taming of Lola: A Shrew Story is just a fun read. Recommended!

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 1, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Books Now Available: this world we live in

Thisworld Back in December I reviewed this world we live in, the third book in Susan Beth Pfeffer's dystopian series (after Life As We Knew It and the dead & the gone). I said:

Like the other two books in this series, this world we live in is a book that made me appreciate the things that I have. Right after finishing the book, I sat down and ate some cut-up fresh fruit and leftover macaroni & cheese. And I thought "oh, how Miranda would go crazy for this." this world we live in is also a book that made me think. I found myself lying in bed last night musing, "OK, but what's going to happen next? What will happen when society completely runs out of food from before the change in the moon? If you can't grow any food, because you have no sunlight, how can humanity continue at all?"

That's what makes this world we live in such a powerful book. The issues are compelling enough to evoke questions, while the characters are real enough to make the story resonate on a personal level. Of course, these attributes make it an excellent book for young  adult readers, too.

this world we live in is scheduled for publication today. Great news for dystopia fans! Don't miss it!