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Posts from November 2011

Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat: Philip C. Stead

Book: Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat
Author: Philip C. Stead
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3 - 8

61eBxVah4cL._SL500_AA300_Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat, by 2011 Caldecott Medal Winner Philip C. Stead, is a delight from start to finish. It's a tongue-in-cheek, straight-up adventure, with no moral, and gorgeous illustrations. Young Jonathan is fascinated with a big, blue boat that lies abandoned in the harbor. When Jonathan loses his best friend, a stuffed bear named Frederick, he takes the big, blue boat, and sets out an a round the world quest. Along the way, he takes on an assorted crew, including a circus elephant, and has a variety of adventures. He never does go home. His adventures are never revealed to be a dream. It's just a fun, over-the-top story.

My favorite part, though I had to read it twice to be sure of what I was seeing, is on the second page.

"One afternoon Jonathan's parents announced, "You're getting too old for a stuffed animal. So we traded your bear for a toaster."
"Oh, no!" cried Jonathan. Frederick was his best friend.
"Toasters really are useful," they added.

I love that "toasters really are useful". (Side note: perhaps this book should be paired with Mary Had a Little Lamp by Jack Lechner).

Stead also uses a nice cumulative repeating refrain, between Jonathan's adventures. Like this:

"And that is how Jonathan and a mountain goat came to sail the sea on a Big Blue Boat."

and later

"And that is how Jonathan, a mountain goat, and a circus elephant came to sail the sea on a Big Blue Boat."

I generally find it tedious when an entire book is like that, but Stead uses this device just enough to lend reassuring predictability, but not so much that kids will tire of it.

Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat is fun to read aloud, with a descriptive vocabulary, and fun sounds. There's a passage that describes the sounds that the goat and elephant make while sleeping. Words like "ooooOHaaaah" use graded fonts, to rise up in the middle, as the text should be read. It's hard to capture in a text-based review, but sure to please kids during bedtime read-aloud sessions. The pages alternate between relatively text-heavy recountings of incidents (like an encounter with pirates) and the brief refrains about traveling on the boat. I like this variation, and think that it keeps the book interesting for kids and adults.

Stead's illustrations are unique and eye-catching, a mix of detailed collage, pen and ink, and acrylic paints. His collages use a mix of documents, like old maps, stamps, postcards, navigation logs, encyclopedia entries, news articles, and even hand-written vocabulary sheets. A curious reader could spend quite a lot of time examining these, though they are just background, not needed to follow the story. They all fit in well with the theme of world travel, however, and with a certain old-fashioned feel to the story.

The drawings of Jonathan and his friends, and the big blue boat, are not incredibly detailed (which works, because they have to fit in with a quite complex background). But Jonathan is quite scrappy, and the elephant is particularly appealing. There's an adventurous tone to the pictures, My favorite is one of Jonathan and the goat riding the elephant away from the circus.

Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat is a delightful romp, with eye-catching illustrations, and enough detail to stand up to repeat study. That the text also flows well for read-aloud is a bonus. Highly recommended for home or library use.

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (@MacKidsBooks)
Publication Date: June 7, 2010
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Susan Thomsen

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

First Day on Earth: Cecil Castellucci

Book: First Day on Earth
Author: Cecil Castellucci
Pages: 160
Age Range: 13 and up

10699692First Day on Earth is Cecil Castellucci's latest young adult novel (see my reviews of Beige and Boy Proof). The story is narrated by Mal,a teenage loner. Mal lives in Southern California with his helpless alcoholic mother, six years after the two of them were abandoned by Mal's dad. Mal's bitterness towards his dad, and the damage that this abandonment did to his self-esteem, permeates the book. As does the question of whether or not Mal was abducted by aliens shortly after his dad left. Mal believes that it happened. He disappeared for several days in the desert, and has vague memories of experiments.

Castellucci keeps the reader guessing about what really happened. Is this science fiction? Or is Mal crazy? And what about the others that Mal meets in his alien abduction support group? One of them, Hooper, is awfully convincing...

Mal's voice is strong and plausible. I'm not sure how a grown woman is so able to inhabit a brooding, damaged teenage boy, but Castellucci nails It. Like this:

"You think that you're something. You think that your dumb teen problems are so big and important. you think that that who's popular in school and who wears and says the right thing is important.

It's not.

You're ignorant. Asleep.

I've been to outer space and back again. I've been caged. I've been probed and spliced and diced and I am being tracked. They are going to take me again one day. I know it because I heard them say it in my brain. They are out there and they are watching us. And just move like a sleepwalker from class to class whenever the bell rings.

I think you are sheep" (Page 2)


"As soon as I see the windmills, I pull over and climb out of the car and stumble up toward them. The air is crazy. All swoooshing and electric. I feel as though I'm a piece of machinery that has been suddenly set to full throttle. And there's a noise. Not a noise that sounds like anything else you've ever heard. It is a whirring whisper with a purr. It is steady and magnificent, the windmills capturing energy right from the sky." (Page 6)

I love "whirring whisper with a purr." And I like that Mal is not one of the popular kids. He's "the kid slumped in his chair in the back row, with greasy hair, wearing all black." Throughout the book, other aspects of Mal's character reveal themselves, and render him likeable (though always bitter, and not always kind). I could actually see teens, after reading this book, perhaps giving some of the invisible kids in their classes a closer look. Realizing that they might be real people.

There are several other strong characters in the book, too, including Hooper, Posey, and Darwyn. Posey is a popular girl who demonstrates surprising compassion towards Mal. Darwyn is a wanna-be. A boy who doesn't quite know how to connect socially, and is willing to accept being taken advantage of as a substitute for popularity. I'll bet that there are plenty of kids out there like Darwyn in reality, though one rarely runs across them in novels.

The number of scenes in which Darwyn and Posey crop up suggest that Mal's high school is very small, though I don't think that this spelled out. There are also a few coincidences tying the book's threads together at the end. I'm normally not a fan of this sort of thing, but with First Day on Earth, it feels more like some larger force is at work than like the author couldn't tie things together any other way.

First Day on Earth is a quick read - only 160 pages, with short chapters. It's not a verse novel, but it has the spare feel of a verse novel. There's one entire chapter that's just a list of words that start with "Mal" (all negative). The latter part of the book is a bit of a road trip novel, and the ending is quite suspenseful. Due to some language and drinking, I do think that this more a high school book than a middle school book.

First Day on Earth is a great choice for reluctant readers, kids who wonder whether or not there might be life on other planets, and/or anyone who has ever felt alienated in high school. Highly recommended for boys and girls, particularly for fans of Castellucci's other novels, John Green's work, and How To Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford.

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: November 1, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Blackout: John Rocco

Book: Blackout
Author: John Rocco
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

51V4vIKcfoL._SL500_AA300_John Rocco's Blackout catches the eye from the very first page, and completely pulls the reader into the story. It's a simple story. A young boy is sad because all of his family members are too busy to play with him. Then the power goes out, and suddenly everyone has time. Time to look at the stars, socialize with the neighbors, and just sit on the front step eating ice cream. When the power goes back on, things go back to normal. But it turns out that "not everyone likes normal."

The family lives in an apartment in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, and is matter-of-factly stereotype-bending. The dad cooks, while the mom works on the computer. The dad is white, the mom is darker skinned, and the boy has unconventionally long hair (I thought he was a girl at first, actually). The sister is the most typical, a pre-teen girl attached to her phone, yelling at her pesky brother to go away.

Blackout has a graphic novel feel, with many of the pages shown as multiple panels, and the spare text alternating between dialog and narrative bubbles. Sentences are frequently drawn out over multiple panels, like: "Everyone was busy. Much too busy." This simple text spreads across two pages and some eight panels.

And really, the illustrations make this book. Rocco has a background that includes creating illustrations for animated movies, and this shows from the first page. The city lights (before the blackout) glow from nearly every window. The lights on the bridge shine fuzzily, like the stars in a later page spread. The colors throughout, though not bright (especially during the blackout), still seem warm throughout the book. And the contrast between light and dark (even the dark pages usually feature a flashlight or starlight) is everywhere. One simply dives into the illustrations.

Blackout is a book that delivers a comforting message about the simple joys of family and neighborhood without ever being heavy-handed. The reader, far from feeling like the recipient of a message, feels like someone watching a small yet compelling drama. Personally, I didn't want the blackout, or the book, to end. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children (@HyperionVoice)
Publication Date: May 24, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Jennifer Donovan

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: November 7

JRBPlogo-smallToday 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 1444 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have six book reviews (three picture books, one middle grade, and two YA). I also have one children's literacy roundup (with additional detail available at Rasco from RIF), and a post about the New York Times Book Review's recent list of 10 best illustrated books of 2011. All of my posts for the past two weeks are included in the newsletter.

Reading Update: Since the last newsletter, I finished four books, one middle grade and three YA (as well as various picture books read for the Cybils, and picture books and board books read aloud to Baby Bookworm, here, here, here, and here):

  • Sarah Weeks: Pie. Scholastic. Completed November 5, 2011. Review to come.
  • e. lockhart: Real Live Boyfriends (Yes. Boyfriends, plural. If my life weren't complicated, I wouldn't be Ruby Oliver), Ruby Oliver #4. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. Completed October 26, 2011. My review.
  • Loretta Ellsworth: Unforgettable. Walker Books for Young Readers. Completed November 2, 2011. My review.
  • Cecil Castellucci: First Day On Earth. Scholastic. Completed November 4, 2011. Review to come.

I'm still listening to Lee Child's latest Reacher novel, The Affair, on my MP3 player, and am nearly finished with Gabrielle Zevin's All These Things I've Done on CD. I'm currently reading N. D. Wilson's The Dragon's Tooth: Ashtown Burials #1.

Cybils2011I'm doing well with my Cybils reading. I've read 121 fiction picture books so far, which is approaching half of the 264 nominated titles. I've been reviewing as many as I can manage (and where I have something particular to say about the book). However, I am spreading the reviews out, to avoid overwhelming my blog with picture books. Right now I have reviews lined up into mid-January, which is kind of a nice feeling. And I have discovered lots of great books that I'll want to read with Baby Bookworm when she's just a little bit older.

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.

People: Blexbolex

Book: People
Author: Blexbolex
Pages: 208
Age Range: 7-10

41CQx-UEtiL._SL500_AA300_People was originally published in French, the work of French artist Blexbolex. It was translated by Claudia Bedrick, and published this summer in the US by Enchanted Lion Books. It's a bit of a difficult book to classify. It reads like a picture book, with a picture of a type of person on every page, each captioned by a one to two word description. However, it's 208 pages long. Much of the book is nonfiction, as the pictures illustrate people of different occupations. However, some of the people featured are mythological (like vampires), landing the book squarely in fictional territory. And hence People is a nominee for the Cybils in fiction picture books.

The age range is also a bit tricky to classify with this book. One the one hand, it's a perfect book for preschoolers, filled with pictures like "chef", "puppet", and "balloon pilot". On the other hand, some of the concepts conveyed are a bit mature for most preschoolers, including as "corpse" and "nudist". I've listed it about as being suitable for 7-10 year olds, but really, I think that parents should look through this one and decide based on their child's maturity level (as is true with all books, but especially with this one).

It is a neat book, though, however you classify it. Blexbolex's illustrations are art, each capturing the essence of some type of person. They are rendered in muted tones, many featuring silhouettes, encompassing everything from "girl" to "cave explorer." The pairings on each facing page after carefully selected, and often amusing, like "conductor" and "tyrant", both shown holding pointers, and "blind" and "distracted" (with the distracted person about to walk into something). There's even "woodcutter" and "executioner". OK, the more I list these examples, the more I think that this is more a coffee table book for adults than a picture book for young children. And yet... I think kids will find it interesting, filled as it is with firemen and emperors, mermaids and window shoppers.

I'm not sure quite where People is going to land in people's homes (though my library has it in Fiction Picture Books). But it's well worth a look. The more time you spend with People, the more food for thought you'll find, and the more you'll appreciate the artwork of Blexbolex. Recommended for library purchase, homeschool reference, and for anyone else intrigued by the presentation of "secretary", "yeti", and "oddball" in the same book.

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books
Publication Date: August 23, 2011 (US edition)
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Colleen Mondor

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Unforgettable: Loretta Ellsworth

Book: Unforgettable
Author: Loretta Ellsworth
Pages: 272
Age Range: 12 and up

Bk_unfor_120I really liked Unforgettable, a new young adult title by Loretta Ellsworth. It's about a boy named Baxter Green who, after an early childhood fall, ends up with perfect memory. This, in and of itself, is fascinating (it's not as positive a thing as one might think). But Ellsworth uses Baxter's struggles with his unusual gift as background for a suspenseful story about running away from a recently released convicted felon, reinventing oneself, fitting in at a small high school, and even environmental activism. It's a surprisingly compelling mix. Had my schedule permitted, I think that I would have read Unforgettable in a single sitting.

Baxter is an intriguing and likeable character, despite making some poor decisions. Reading this book, I found myself really wondering "what would it be like to never forget anything?" There would certainly be upsides (schoolwork would be easier, you'd never run into someone and forget their name, etc.). But Unforgettable makes it clear that living with every bit of your past accessible to you, even the things that you'd rather forget, isn't always a fun thing. Here's Baxter on his first day at a new high school (after 3 years of being homeschooled):

"I'm not used to this place, to the swarm of bodies and books in the hallways. My head swirls and I try to stay focused and in the present. It's hard wit the memories pressing in, triggered by random thoughts and smells and sounds. There's a constant battle in my head over past and present. Too often, the past wins.

For most people, memory is like sand. It shifts and settles over the open spaces of the mind, piling memory on top of memory until what's left is a fragile sand castle in the brain, one that will crack and leak out all the old memories when the flood of new ones pours in. But my memory is like stone. It's hard and permanent, and most of all, it's always present, a living monument to my own history." (Page 6)

Imagine being able to remember every fall (or slap in the face by your mother's irate boyfriend). Imagine being the 12-year-old tool of an unscrupulous thief, using you to memorize credit card numbers. Imagine still missing your best friend from kindergarten, and remembering every single thing that you ever did together. Imagine zoning out in school, as the stream of memories overwhelms you. Imagine the teasing when you spout out random facts like an encyclopedia. Well, you get the idea.

Baxter's mom is a little bit of a stereotype (single mom taken in by ne'er-do-well boyfriend), but there's a wonderful scene in which she reassures Baxter that his memory really is a gift. Like Baxter, she is imperfect but ultimately likeable. Several other characters, particularly the girl that Baxter has a crush on, are crisp and multi-dimensional, too, though I found a few of the secondary characters a bit fuzzy.

Ellsworth's portrayal of a small mining town in Minnesota feels dead-on, too (though I've never actually visited such a town, and can't say for sure). The environmental conflict, health risks to miners in a town where the mine offers the only jobs, is realistic, and no easy, shortcut solutions are provided.

Unforgettable features a premise that draws the reader in, an intriguing and suspenseful plot, a unique narrator, and a solid setting. Ellsworth so solidly inhabits Baxter's voice that it's hard to even comment on the writing style - it's just Baxter. With passages like this:

"On the way to school I sit in my usual spot on the bus, fifth seat from the front on the left-hand side. We're halfway to school when a green car passes us going the opposite direction. For a moment, I think it's a Camaro. A metallic, fern green Camaro. But I'm not sure because I only get a glimpse and it's gone now.

I lean my head against the window and clutch my stomach. I have an acid taste in my throat. I look at my watch but the memories spill out like a waking dream and I'm stuck back with him again." (Page 88)

Although Unforgettable is young adult fiction (Baxter is 15 and in high school), I think this would be an ok read for middle schoolers. There's some kissing, but no other "mature behavior." And Baxter's quirky talent renders him a bit less mature for his age, in many ways. So, worth a look for strong younger readers.

All in all, Unforgettable is a strong and memorable book, one that I would recommend to anyone looking for good realistic YA fiction (ok, the photographic memory isn't common, but it's still more realistic than vampires or dystopias).

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers (@BWKids)
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

NY Times Book Review 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2011

In light of my current focus on picture books (I'm a round one judge for the Cybils for Fiction Picture Books, and it's Picture Book Month), I thought that I would share this news release (received from Goodman Media). I've only read three of the ten books, but I consider all three to be exceptional.

The New York Times Book Review Announces Annual List Of the 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books

Special Children's Books Section Featured in November 13 Issue

NEW YORK, November 3, 2011 – The New York Times Book Review has announced its list of the 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2011. The annual special Children's Book section will run in the November 13 Sunday Times Book Review and will feature the 10 books, which a panel of judges selected from among the several thousand children's books published this year. Lists of past winners of the Best Illustrated Children's Book Award can be found on, along with a slide show of this year’s winners.  

The Book Review's 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books for 2011 are:

  • Along a Long Road,” written and illustrated by Frank Viva (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
  • A Ball for Daisy,” written and illustrated by Chris Raschka (Schwartz & Wade)
  • Brother Sun, Sister Moon: Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures,” written by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton (Chronicle Books)
  • Grandpa Green,” written and illustrated by Lane Smith (Roaring Brook Press)
  • Ice,” written and illustrated by Arthur Geisert (Enchanted Lion Books)
  • I Want My Hat Back,” written and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press)
  • Me … Jane,” written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
  • Migrant,” written by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (Groundwood Books)
  • A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis,” written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Dial)
  • A New Year’s Reunion,” written by Yu Li-Qiong, illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang (Candlewick Press)

The children's books editor for The New York Times Book Review is Pamela Paul.  The judges this year were Jeanne Lamb, coordinator, Youth Collections at The New York Public Library; Lucy Calkins, Richard Robinson Professor of Children's Literature at Teachers College, Columbia University; and Sophie Blackall, an author and artist who has illustrated 24 books for children, including one of last year’s Best Illustrated winners, “Big Red Lollipop,” as well as, “Are You Awake?”  “The Crows of Pearblossom” and “Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children,” all published this year.

The New York Times Best Illustrated awards will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year.

Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup: End of October Edition

JkrROUNDUPThe end of October Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup is now available at Rasco from RIF. Over the month of October, Carol Rasco, Terry Doherty, and I (along with friends noted on Carol's post) have collected content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms. How Carol managed to find time to pull it all together between responding to the recently released NAEP results and planning for RIF's 45th Birthday Party tomorrow, I have no idea. But she's assembled a lovely set of resources!

Particular favorites of mine out of the roundup:

Speaking of bookmobiles, the Levi’s brand issued an online call to action this week for people around the world to support Jennifer Frances, creator of “Bess the Book Bus,” a mobile literacy outreach program that delivers free books to families in need across the U.S. Levi’s Facebook fans can help Jennifer keep “Bess the Book Bus” rolling and bring 50,000 free books to families in need, by adding “miles” on her bus journey through Facebook pledges.

CliflogoAnother literacy effort is also using Facebook this month. For each new Facebook fan received in November, @chooseadventure (publishers of the Choose Your Own Adventure series) will donate a book to a child in need via The Children's Literacy Foundation (CliF). A pretty easy way to give a child a book, I'd say... As of this morning, the number of books to be given was over 200. Choose Your Own Adventure hopes (so they told me on Twitter) to see it reach thousands.

PBMLOGO-COLOR_WEBRESSpeaking of Picture Book Month, do check out Anita Silvey's article for School Library Journal on what she thinks is the reason that many people (particularly parents and librarians) are passing up new picture books. She posits that current norms in favor of less and less text in picture books are hindering the publication of great stories that people want to read over and over again. Speaking as someone who read more than 100 brand-new picture books in October (for the Cybils), I think that Anita's idea has merit. It will be interesting to see whether the pendulum starts to swing the other way. But do read the whole article, and see Anita's evidence for this conclusion.

Bookworm-cupcakesIn closing, let me remind you again that RIF's 45th birthday celebration is TOMORROW (November 3rd). [I am sharing a batch of the same bookworm cupcakes that Carol shared with me on my birthday.] Yes, even though RIF is no longer receiving government funding (sigh!), the organization is still alive and well and putting as many books into kids' hands as possible. If you have a minute, do check out the real-time, online celebration tomorrow at 1:30 pm EST. Here's a snippet from RIF's website:

"Author/illustrator Kevin Henkes’ lovable character Lilly will be making a special appearance along with Adventure Theatre, the longest-running children’s theater in Washington, D.C. Together, they will bring the story of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse to life. Viewers will have the unique opportunity to ask Lilly questions. To submit a question during the webcast, email Lauren Donovan at"

The rest of the roundup is here. We'll be back with more children's literacy and reading news mid-month. Thanks for reading, and for caring about children's literacy!

A Pet for Petunia: Paul Schmid

Book: A Pet for Petunia
Author: Paul Schmid
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

51kGZh4bg4L._SL500_AA300_A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid (illustrator of The Wonder Book, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal) is, quite simply, a joy to read aloud. It's about a girl named Petunia who loves stripes, and has decided that she MUST have a skunk for a pet. ("They have cute little noses. They have big black eyes. They're black and white and they have STRIPES!") Petunia has a stuffed skunk, but she considers her parents' insistence that a real skunk isn't a good idea to be completely unfair. She, in fact, launches into a classic tirade that questions her parents' love for her, insists that "Katie's parents would get HER a skunk", and so on.

Of course, in the end, Petunia learns first-hand why she does not, in fact, want a real skunk for a pet. But even there, Schmid manages to maintain such a humorous, melodramatic tone that A Pet for Petunia completely escapes feeling like a "lesson learned" book.

There is, of course, a strong thematic resemblance between A Pet for Petunia and The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems. Similarly unreasonable request, similar ranting and railing against the fates, and even a similar response at the end once the pet proves unattainable. However, A Pet for Petunia has such unbridled enthusiasm (Petunia turning cartwheels over how much she LOVES skunks, and jumping up and down begging her parents), and such a fabulous vocabulary, that it stands out despite these similarities. My favorite page:

"With such disappointing lunkheads for parents,
naturally Petunia must leave home."

I mean, how often to you hear "lunkheads" in picture books? There's also "a humongous stink" once Petunia actually encounters a skunk. Schmid's text is full of exclamation points and bold, capital letters for emphasis. Petunia's rant takes up a whole page, in ever decreasing fonts. As I said above, this book is fun to read aloud. Even my 18 month old, though too young to understand the book, knew when she was supposed to laugh, as I was reading aloud.

The illustrations are simple and clean, perfect for younger readers. Schmid uses primarily black, white, and purple, with just a dash of yellow for variety, and plenty of white space. Petunia's purple and white dress, her toy skunk, and her huge smile are a joy to behold.

After reading A Pet for Petunia, you'll never look at skunks the same way again. Highly recommended for home or library purchase.

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: January 25, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: John Schumacher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).