Previous month:
January 2011
Next month:
March 2011

Posts from February 2011

Celebrate World Read Aloud Day on March 9th

Litworldwrad2011banner On March 9th, Global Literacy Organization LitWorld is putting on an event called World Read Aloud Day to promote the importance of literacy and education. They're asking people to participate by reading aloud on March 9th. Here's the announcement from LitWorld:

LitWorld Presents: World Read Aloud Day, March 9, 2011

What would you miss most if you could not read or write? Imagine your world without words.

Let's join together and read aloud for a collective 774 million minutes in support of the 774 million people worldwide who cannot read or write.

With this global rally we show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people and we lend all our voices to the Global Literacy Movement.

Let the children of the world know we believe in the power of words and stories to change their lives.

“I know the day is coming when global literacy isn’t fiction. I don’t know how long it will take, but I know that day will come.”
- 10 year-old World Read Aloud Day Participant

Visit litworld.org to participate in World Read Aloud Day and to "Read it Forward" and donate to LitWorld's mission to change the world with the power of words.

We are rallying our worldwide participants to link back to our social media sites (Facebook and Twitter) and our website during the actual day so we can connect everyone to a common hub, and here are ideas on how to participate virtually.

Personally, I try to read aloud to Baby Bookworm every day. So it's pretty likely that I'll be reading aloud on March 9th. But I do love the idea of millions of people joining together around the world to read aloud, and show support for literacy. I'll remind you about this again on March 9th, here and on Twitter/Facebook.


The Cybils Winners are Coming!

Cybils2010small This coming Monday is Valentine's Day. Bit of a greeting-card-company-and-florist contrived holiday, if you ask me. I don't need an excuse to eat chocolate, nor does my husband need a holiday to remind him to buy it for me when he has the chance. But that's neither here nor there. The important thing is that Valentine's Day is also Cybils Announcement Day!

That's right, the winners in some dozen Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literacy Awards (Cybils) categories (including sub-categories by age) will be announced on Monday. A couple of these winners have already been decided (though I can't tell you what they are). Other panels are sure to go right down to the wire. I mean, have you seen the short lists? There are so many wonderful titles. I don't know how the panelists are going to pick. This is the first year I haven't been a round 2 panelist myself, and I do miss being part of that process. But fortunately, we can all share in the outcome.

So, stay tuned for the announcement of the Cybils winners on Monday. Children's and young adult titles in genres ranging from poetry to fiction to nonfiction to graphic novels, all guaranteed to be kid-friendly and well-written. You really can't go wrong.

And if you want to show your love for the Cybils, consider buying copies of the winners in your favorite categories. Seeing a bit of a sales bump after the Cybils winners are announced will be a lovely reward for the authors who worked so hard to write these amazing books and the publishers who supported us with review copies. I think it would be a validation for the Cybils panelists, too, to see that people are taking advantage of their efforts. Plus, you know, a book is a much more long-lasting gift than a greeting card or a vase of flowers.

[If you really want to show your support for the Cybils, consider clicking through any of the Amazon links on the Cybils blog. We get a small commission on any purchases that you make (including items other than books), and that money goes toward prizes for the winners.]


Chalk: Bill Thomson

Book: Chalk
Author: Bill Thomson
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Chalk Background: I had Bill Thomson's Chalk on my shelf, but hadn't gotten to it yet. Two things raised it up in my queue. First, I saw a tweet from Donalyn Miller in which she mentioned taking this book to the paint store, so that she and her husband could match a paint to the color of the cover. The spine was peeking out at me, and I thought "It is a gorgeous color". Then Chalk was short-listed for the Cybils in Fiction Picture Books, out of some ridiculously large list of nominated titles. And at that point I took it down from the shelf to read it. I'm glad I did!

Review: Chalk is one of the most gorgeous picture books I've ever seen. The illustrations look like they must be computer-generated, perhaps with the use of photos. However, a note at the end of the book explains that Bill Thomson "meticulously painted each illustration by hand, using acrylic paint and colored pencils." They are works of art, three-dimensional, with interesting perspectives and insets, and gorgeous colors. The wordless story is fun, too.

One rainy day, three children find a bag of chalks at a playground. To their astonishment, the things that they draw become real. This occasions much joy, until the lone boy of the trio is unable to resist drawing a dinosaur. Danger follows! The story reminds me a bit of Jumanji and a bit of Mary Poppins, but with a more modern feel.

One nice thing about Chalk is that the three kids are of different races. Because it's a wordless book, no particular attention is drawn to this. But I think it's good that a relatively broad range of kids will be able to see themselves reflected in the book.

Still, it's the illustrations that really stood out for me. The ecstasy of the two girls when the butterflies that they draw come to life. The incredibly detailed, downright menacing raindrops on one page late in the book (yes, raindrops can, in fact, be menacing. Learn something every day!). The range of colors and viewing angles. All I can say is that Chalk is well worth a look. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
Publication Date: March 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 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).


Favorite Series Titles: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 31, 2009. Because the birth of Baby Bookworm kept me from reading many new books in 2010, it's still a fairly accurate reflection of my favorite children's and YA titles.

Favorite Series Titles (Children's and Young Adult)

I enjoyed Susan's recent post about reading by number. Judging by the comments, lots of people have a strong preference for series books. Personally, I am compulsive about reading series books in order, because I hate having any surprises spoiled. When I read adult titles, I enjoy mystery series. Even though each book might wrap up an individual puzzle, I don't like the character development to be spoiled for me, so I'll rarely read those out of order. And of course for a series like the Harry Potter books that follows a dramatic arc across all of the books, I think that it's critical to read in order. I tend to prefer the original order in which a series is published over any arbitrary changes to follow chronological order - I'm happy to take in the information in the order that the author intended.

Susan's post got me to thinking about my favorite series reads. For the sake of simplifying the discussion, I'm going to define a series as having more than three books (trilogies are a topic for another day). After mulling this over, I came up with a few simple rules for identifying a series as a favorite. I just ask myself, did I eagerly read through all of the books (either during a short time, if the series was finished when I came across it, or as the books became available, for series that were in progress)? Did I rush out to the store to get any new installments? Did I, if applicable, buy the books in hardcover, or go to the trouble to reserve them from the library? Do I ever re-read the books? If so, then this was (or is) a favorite series.

Trixie.jpgUsing this as a guideline, my favorite series as a child were:

  • The Five books by Enid Blyton
  • The Trixie Belden series by Julie Campbell/Kathryn Kenny
  • The Melendy Family books by Elizabeth Enright (see reviews of the first two books here and here)
  • The Maida books by Inez Haynes Irwin
  • The Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
  • The Anne of Green Gables books by L. M. Montgomery
  • The Borrowers books by Mary Norton
  • The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

gregor.jpgOf more recently published series for children and young adults, I've enjoyed and eagerly read all of the books of:

  • The Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins (reviews here, here, and here)
  • The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane (review here)
  • The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Tomorrow series by John Marsden (series review here)
  • The Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer (reviews here, here, here, here)
  • The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan (see reviews here and here)
  • The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

I may not consider all of these books great literature, though some are. A few of the childhood favorites, in particular, haven't held up for me as an adult [along with one newer series that hasn't held up well]. But all of these books met my stated criteria above for favorite series at the time that I read them. I distinctly remember grabbing up multiple Trixie Belden books from the bookstore as a kid. I still have all of my copies of the Maida books. And I'm certain that 40 years from now, I'll still have all of my Harry Potters. Other series are on target for inclusion in future favorites lists, but don't yet have more than three books published. (The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins came to mind in 2009, for example, but ended up with only 3 titles. Clementine is on track for remaining a favorite.) See also the books in my series books featuring adventurous girls post. I'm expecting great things from Theodosia Throckmorton.

In case any of you are interested, I've posted a list of some of my favorite adult mystery series on my personal blog. I can think of several other series (for both adults and children) for which I went through three or five or ten books, but have let the last few books sit, unread. I'm not listing those here.

But that made me wonder: what is it that keeps a series from losing my interest? Obviously, I have to care about the characters. No matter how good the plotting is, no matter how interesting the setting, I'm not going to follow characters that I don't care about through more than 2 or 3 books. And the books have to keep surprising me in some way. Humor helps, too, though it's not 100% necessary. But I think that what it really boils down to is that the author has to have captured a world that I want to visit. This world can be anything from an old-fashioned house in the country to a camp for half-blood Olympians. But if it feels authentic, and feels like a place where I want to spend time, and is populated with people I care about, then I'll come back. There's a whole other discussion to be had about series books that have a dramatic arc, and are planned to end after five or seven books, vs. ongoing series that have no particular end in site. That, too, is a topic for another day.

What about you all? What are your favorite series titles? What makes you come back to a particular series time and time again?

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 31, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.


Growing Bookworms Newsetter: February 8

Jpg_book007Today I will be sending out the new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. There are 1348 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have five book review posts (two young adult novels and three picture books), along with two children's literacy roundups (one here, and one at Rasco from RIF). I also have a reissue of a post that I did at Booklights about the joy of revisiting favorite books. Not included in the newsletter this week, I also shared a quick post with ideas for Family Literacy Day.

Reading Update: Since the last newsletter, I finished two books:

Soldier I'm currently reading One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming (the lastest from the Clare Fergusson / Russ Van Alstyne mystery series). I'm still listening to The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer and reading Clementine, Friend of the Week by Sara Pennypacker to Baby Bookworm. Our progress has been slow with Clementine because BB keeps trying to eat it ;-)

How about you? What have you been reading and enjoying? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms.

© 2011 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).


Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup: Early February Edition

JkrROUNDUP The early February children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book PageScrub-a-Dub-Tub, and Rasco from RIF is now available here. Over the past couple of weeks Terry Doherty, Carol Rasco and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms.

We've got a wide range of topics for you in this edition, from multiple articles about the importance of play to studies about the positive effect of libraries (expected) and texting (unexpected) on children's literacy. I was also happy to see Choice Literacy featuring an article about a topic near and dear to my heart: not pushing kids to read advanced books just because they can (see my own piece on this topic: Reading and Grade Levels: Keeping it FUN). I hope that you'll find something that strikes a chord with you in these stories.

Events

Terry found this one, but she knew that I wouldn't be able to resist it. The Commonwealth Hotel in Boston is holding their second annual Bedtime Stories Pajama Party on February 25th, to help raise money for ReadBoston, a nonprofit children’s literacy organization founded by Mayor Thomas Menino back in 1995. Here's a description from a blog post at Spilling the Beans: "Bedtime Stories Pajama Party is truly a magical night for kids, with professional storytellers and performers all night long. Afterwards, kids enjoy a make-your-own hot chocolate bar with various types of hot cocoa and tons of toppings, while parents shop a library of ReadBoston children’s books from local authors." So fun! Hope that the weather cooperates.

AARI_Logo All through the month of February, the NCTE is encouraging people to celebrate the 22nd National African American Read-In. From the event page: "Schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, community and professional organizations, and interested citizens are urged to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month by hosting and coordinating Read-Ins in their communities. Hosting a Read-In can be as simple as bringing together friends to share a book, or as elaborate as arranging public readings and media presentations that feature professional African American writers."

Bookaday_270 And if you're looking for more children's book-related events, I can think of no better place to look than Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac. Here's the site summary: "Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey. Discover the stories behind the children’s book classics ... The new books on their way to becoming classics ... And events from the world of children’s books—and the world at large." I've started checking this site out every day. Without this site, I might have missed Winnie-the-Pooh Day on January 18th, or Bubble Gum Day on February 4th. Next year, the Book-A-Day almanac is going to be a book, published by Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan.

Literacy Programs and Research

Mel of Mel's Desk shares a really excellent Caldecott program that she's run with inmates at the county jail. This is a unique way to inspire excitement about books! (via Abby the Librarian's Around the Interwebs)

There was an interesting study presented last week (I learned about it via @PWKidsBookshelf) about what children's book purchasers are looking for. Some good news, too. According to Publisher's Weekly, "books ranked number one over all other media for the youngest ages. Even for teens, books outweigh other media by 57% when it comes to having fun." Also interesting: "bookstores and libraries continue to play a significant role in helping younger children discover books, with 75% of children's books being purchased in a physical store. Bookstores are the primary place that parents of children 0–6 turn to in order to find out about particular titles, followed by "the child tells me" and public libraries."

Bubbles We've talked in other recent roundups about the defense of playtime. Last week Dr. Michele Borba shared 11 Surprising Benefits of Play (via @ImaginationSoup, who wonders why this is surprising). Personally, I'm already on board with making more time for play. But I'm hoping that this article reaches a large audience. Because in addition to all of the benefits outlined by Dr. Borba (boosts physical health, creates joyful memories, etc.), I just think kids deserve to play. Don't you? In a related vein, see this Parenting article with 10 Reasons Play Makes Babies Smarter (via @ReachOutAndRead). It's quite a nice piece, explaining in non-judgmental terms the many ways why playtime is good for kids, much better than TV or educational DVDs. Or, as my friend Jenny says, "Play is a child's work." (Image from hotblack at Morguefile)

According to a recent news release, "Children who use their local library are twice as likely to be above average readers, research has suggested. The study reveals a strong link between library use and a pupil's reading achievement and enjoyment. The National Literacy Trust report, based on a survey of more than 17,000 eight to 16-year-olds, reveals that almost two-thirds (64.5%) of those who use the library are reading above the expected level for their age. For non-library users, this figure is just 35.5%." (See also a BBC News story on the same study)

Meanwhile, another UK study found that texting improves children's literacy. The Daily Mail reports that: "The ten-year study, funded by the British Academy, examined the effect of the use of text messages on eight to 12-year-olds. Researchers found children as young as five who used mobile phones are better at understanding rhymes and syllables in speech. ... (The study found) that text use was actually driving the development of phonological awareness and reading skills in children. The study also showed that children were subconsciously practising their spelling by regularly sending text messages."

Suggestions for Growing Bookworms

We love Choice Literacy's weekly e-Newsletter, The Big Fresh. On January 22nd, Brenda Power shared a variety of resources for helping kids to choose appropriate books. I especially enjoyed a piece by Shari Frost from the Choice Literacy archives: Just Because They Can Doesn't Mean They Should: Choosing Age-Appropriate Books for Literature Circles. Although this article is about choosing books for in-class reading groups, I think that it applies well to individual reading, too. Shari discusses the importance of choosing books that kids are ready for emotionally, not moving first graders up to young adult novels just because they "can" read them. An excellent reminder on an important topic. See also this post from 11-year-old Melina at Reading Vacation on how she decides what books are appropriate for her.

There's a nice piece in the Seattle Times Books section in defense of letting elementary school kids continue to read picture books. Heidi Stevens has quotes from parents and experts on the subject. I especially liked this quote from parent Dawn Lantero "Developing a love of reading is the ultimate goal. Picture books, comic books, e-books, anything with the printed word exposes your child to new vocabulary words and reinforces grammar and syntax knowledge." See also, from the Sydney Morning Herald, tips to make your child an avid reader. (both articles via @ReadAloudDad)

Also via ReadAloudDad, a piece by Carly Price in the East Valley Tribune (Arizona) emphasized the importance of talking to preschoolers. "Dr. Jill Rosenzweig, a longtime academic who received her doctorate in education from University of Arizona, emphasized the need for extensive parental involvement in her presentation Tuesday in Chandler. "Read, read, read; talk, talk, talk; play music, do everything in your ability to develop language, doesn't matter what language," Rosenzweig said on the topic of language development in the home. "If a child is proficient in their own language when they come to school, they'll learn English so quickly.""

Dawn Little's Links to Literacy newsletter has a nice piece about telling stories around the house. Dawn explains: "Storytelling can incorporate all components of literacy (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) and is therefore extremely beneficial.  According to the National Storytelling Network, “Listening to stories is essential to the development of human imagination, creativity, and abstract thought processes.” " She suggests "a few ways you can use items around your home to guide your children to create stories, both orally or written: " (via @RileyCarney)

Unwrapping Literacy

Our thanks to Wendie Old (Wendie's Wanderings) for the link to Why Read Aloud, author Rick Walton's new blog.  Rick's goal is to collect stories about how being read to by your teacher affected you, or about how you reading to students has made an impact on them was to set up a blog and to let people write these stories in the comment section.

Salon has an interesting piece about how font choice (they call them hideous fonts) can affect reader interest (and by extension reading/literacy). Terry has dubbed it "TypeFace the Facts" because of the convergence of research, analysis, and e-Readers. [via the Snowed-in edition of Fusenews at a Fuse #8 Production]

According to a recent announcement on Mashable, "Kids in the U.S. now have a chance to design Google’s famous homepage logo and win a scholarship, as well as a technology grant for their school. Google announced today that it’s launching the fourth annual Doodle 4 Google contest with the theme “What I’d like to do someday…” The contest is open to K-12 students in the U.S. The winning Doodle will be displayed on Google’s homepage; its creator will receive a $15,000 scholarship, and his or her school will receive a $25,000 technology grant."

Carol found (via an announcement in from AASL Hotlinks Feb. 2011) a link to a new PBS documentary that examines digital media in learning. According to Twin Cities Public Television: "Targeted at parents, teachers and anyone concerned with education in America, this one-hour documentary takes viewers to the front lines of an education revolution. Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century examines how mobile devices and digital media practices can empower young people to direct their own learning.  Documenting five success stories both inside and out of the classroom, the program demonstrates how digital media, games, smart phones and the Internet are fundamentally transforming the way young people communicate, collaborate, participate and learn in the 21st Century. Featuring leading experts, thinkers, and practitioners in the field, Digital Media is a startling preview of a 21st Century education."

Nonfictionmonday Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Wild About Nature. And for some additional literacy tidbits, see this post at The Reading Tub, or one to come later today at Rasco from RIF.

Thanks for reading the roundup, and for your interest in Children's Literacy! Terry will be back mid-month with the next roundup.


Please Ignore Vera Dietz: A. S. King

Book: Please Ignore Vera Dietz
Author: A. S. King
Pages: 336
Age Range: 14 and up

Vera

Please Ignore Vera Dietz was recently named a 2011 Printz Honor title and Edgar Award nominee, among other accolades. I would have read it anyway, because I was very impressed with A. S. King's previous novel, The Dust of 100 Dogs (reviewed here).

Like Dust of 100 Dogs, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a complex, unconventional novel. It requires a certain degree of effort on the part of the reader, and rewards that effort handsomely. Please Ignore Vera Dietz is part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age novel (with a few other parts thrown in that are more difficult to classify).

The primary narrator is (as you might guess), Vera Dietz, a girl whose only goal is to make it through high school with her head down, receiving as little notice as possible. Intermittent chapters are narrated by: 1) Vera's dad, Ken; 2) her dead ex-best friend Charlie; and 3) "the enormous, glowing, gaudy pagoda that watches over" Vera's small town. Yes, a building (or "monstrosity", depending on who you ask) is one of the narrators. Yes, a dead kid is another narrator. If you can't get over these things, this book is not for you. But I, for one, found the narration by a tourist attraction hilarious.

The main story takes place during Vera's senior year, as she's coming to terms with Charlie's recent death. Numerous flashbacks are interwoven through the book, gradually illuminating Vera's all-consuming and eventually broken relationship with Charlie, and the mystery around Charlie's death. Vera's relationships with her dad, her missing mother, a cool older guy from work, and, well, alcohol, are also explored.

There are also (in Ken Dietz's chapters) occasional (clever and funny) flow charts. I love a novel that includes flow charts!

A. S. King's writing is a deft mix of funny and dark. Some of Vera and Charlie's experiences are tragic, but they both retain a certain degree of wry humor. King's characterization, especially of Vera, is spot-on. I feel like I could pick her out of a crowd (not that she would like that!). And here's a couple of sentences that sum up Charlie beautifully:

"Because with Charlie, nothing was ever easy. Everything was windswept and octagonal and finger-combed. Everything was difficult and odd, and the theme songs all had minor chords." (Page 98)

And here's Vera's dad:

"He rested his chin on his hand. I could see the guilty thoughts tumbling down his wrinkled forehead." (Page 165)

The shifting viewpoints make it possible to see the characters as they see themselves, and as others see them. Including Charlie's perspective also adds to the mystery, as clues to his downfall are sprinkled carefully through the book.

I don't know what more to say. I think that Please Ignore Vera Dietz is brilliant. Often when I review a book I like to close by recommending other titles to read with it. But Please Ignore Vera Dietz is in a class by itself. Highly recommended for older teens and adults.

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@randomhousekids)
Publication Date: October 12, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 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 Curious Garden: Peter Brown

Book: The Curious Garden
Author: Peter Brown (facebook)
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Curious Peter Brown's The Curious Garden is a delight from start to finish. It's a relatively long picture book (at 40 pages), perfect for the early elementary school crowd. Adults will, I think, enjoy it, too.

The Curious Garden is about a boy named Liam who lives in a bleak, colorless city. When his curiosity leads him to find a tiny bit of garden on an abandoned railroad track, a magical journey begins for the boy, the garden, and the city. An author's note explains that the idea for The Curious Garden came from actual garden on a disused railway in Manhattan. The author's curiosity about "what would happen if an entire city decided to truly cooperate with nature?" took the story from there. It's like a reverse Dystopia (which I don't think is quite the same thing as a Utopia).

The Curious Garden is lavishly illustrated (acrylic and gouache on board), with the colors becoming brighter and brighter, and the city's edges becoming softer and softer, as the story progresses. The people in the pictures, even Liam, are secondary to the garden. Brown displays a clear affection for nature, as well as a sense of whimsy. My favorite page spread is one where "A few plants popped up where they didn't belong. Others mysteriously popped up all at once." We see Liam, in an overcoat and dark glasses, stealthily sliding a ready-made garden onto the sidewalk. Pure fun!

The Curious Garden won the 2010 E.B. White Read-Aloud Award for Picture Books, and I think that it was an excellent choice (how does the Association of Booksellers for Children get it right, year after year?). It's the sort of book that one wants to read aloud, with passages like:

"It was on one such morning that Liam made several surprising discoveries. He was wandering around the old railway, as he did from time to time, when he stumbled upon a dark stairwell leading up to the tracks.

The railway has stopped working ages ago.
And since Liam had always wanted to explore the tracks, there was only one thing for the curious boy to do."

There's no word-play. It's straight-up narrative text, written with a relatively advanced vocabulary, but the innate suspense of the story propels the reader forward. What will the curious boy find? Who wouldn't want to check out a dark stairwell, on a rainy day?

I like Liam a lot. He's quietly, cheerfully determined. When the snow comes, "Rather than waste his winter worrying about the garden, Liam spent it preparing for spring." (We see him reading books and collecting gardening tools). Executed differently, The Curious Garden could have come across as preachy. But it doesn't at all - it comes across as joyful and genuine.

The Curious Garden has my highest recommendation. Parents should beware, though. It's likely to make kids want to start a garden. (Oh, how my next-door-neighbor growing up would have enjoyed this one). As for me, I'll be looking for Peter Brown's other books (like Children Make Terrible Pets).

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@lbschool)
Publication Date: April 1, 2009
Source of Book: A gift for Baby Bookworm from her cousins in New York

© 2011 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).


Nini Lost and Found: Anita Lobel

Book: Nini Lost and Found
Author/Illustrator: Anita Lobel
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-8

Nini Nini Lost and Found, written and illustrated by Anita Lobel, is the story of an indoor cat who succumbs to the urge to sneak outside one day. While fully aware of the comforts of her home, Nini can't resist the lure of "grasses teasing her nose" and "flowers smelling so good". But it turns out that the outside world is a pretty scary place, once nighttime comes. Fortunately (as astute readers will expect from the title), Nini finds her way home again.

Nini Lost and Found explores timeless themes of the joy of discovery vs. the safety of home. A final page suggestion of more mischief keeps the happy ending from being maudlin (as do Nini's cat-like expressions).

Lobel uses very short sentences, which feel appropriate to a cat's perspective. This book could almost work as an early reader - the language is quite accessible and easy to follow. It works very well as a read-aloud, too. 

Lobel's gouache and watercolor illustrations are warm and full of texture. Nini Lost and Found would be an excellent gift for cat lovers of all ages (as Anita Lobel clearly is). I'm not a cat person, but even I found Lobel's paintings of Nini appealing. It's a bit hard to see in the small image here, but she's giving this shyly mischievous sideways look on the cover that's hard to resist. The nighttime scenes are dark and scary, and might frighten very young readers, but the brave reader will be rewarded by a safe and cozy finish.

Nini Lost and Found is going in our library (despite my fear that it will make Baby Bookworm more likely to want a cat someday). Highly recommended.

Nini Lost and Found was a Horn Book Fanfare title for 2010.

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 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).