Previous month:
August 2012
Next month:
October 2012

Posts from September 2012

Links I Shared on Twitter This Week: September 14

Here are some links that I shared on Twitter this week that I thought might be of interest. There are also a few that, instead of sharing here, I'll be including in the upcoming Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup, due up later today.

55% of YA Books Purchased by Adults @tashrow shares thoughts on a @PWKidsBookshelf -reported story http://ow.ly/dHoah

The Book Chook: How Important is Reading Fiction? Guest Post by Sarah E. Anderson http://ow.ly/dHgH7 #literacy #kidlit

RT @sheilaruth: Great explanation of #Cybils from Easy Reader Chair @ReadingTub: CYBILS Award | Big Universe Learning http://bit.ly/QDzDeT

RT @cbcbook: .@andrewkarre on editing in the "YA Boom" era & why "new adult" is a "preposterous" label http://bit.ly/QJZXGs @MitaliPerkins

RT @100ScopeNotes: This is so cool. @MrSchuReads makes a cameo in the just-released Lunch Lady 8. I'm not kidding. pic.twitter.com/88UrICMN

RT @imaginationsoup: What Parents Need to Know about Reading on an iPad (or Nook or Kindle) http://imaginationsoup.net/2012/09/what-parents-need-to-know-about-reading-on-an-ipad-or-nook-or-kindle/ …

RT @reachoutandread: Great blog post about @ReachOutandRead! The power of reading: http://bit.ly/PmEaiz #literacy #Oregon

This post Everyday Reading on authenticity + doing what you love made me nod my head. Well worth a read http://ow.ly/dFFJD

RT @scbwi: Are you a #kidlit blogger? Going to KidLitCon 2012? Read all about it on the @scbwi blog: http://scbwi.blogspot.com/2012/09/kidlitcon-2012.html …

UK Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson Embarks on Six-Week Library Tour to Protest Closures | @sljournal http://ow.ly/dDEci

Important message for teachers in: The Late Bloomer’s Path to Becoming a Reader by Gigi McAllister @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/dDcD4

This is kind of cool. For some books you can switch back + forth between listening @audible + reading on @amazonkindle http://ow.ly/dDj5b

Thoughts from @lizb on whether trusted reviews still matter (in an era of paid online reviews) http://ow.ly/dBUSB #kidlit

Neat! New weekly carnival @momandkiddo unites #parenting + #kidlit bloggers http://ow.ly/dBFOV

"I want to issue a challenge for the boys across America--read a book with a female protagonist" @StudioJJK http://ow.ly/dBEyH

Things Get Mean When Everyone's a Critic @TheAtlanticWire -http://ow.ly/dzQX5 via @catagator

Interested in reader's advisory? Check out #ReadAdv chat Thursdays 8 pm EST, by @lizb, @catagator + @sophiebiblio http://ow.ly/dzO3h

What the Kardashians Taught Me About Reading Instruction (No, For Real) - @iChrisLehman) guest post @donalynbooks http://ow.ly/dzNXt

Barbara Shoup: Why Reading Matters http://ow.ly/dyexM "reading good novels makes you curious about the human condition"

Did you know that there was a #PoetryFriday anthology? @JoneMac53 has the scoop http://ow.ly/dydeD #kidlit #poetry

And finally, not a link, but this was my favorite tweet of the week:

If you sit on the couch next to a big pile of picturebooks, chances are your 2 year old will climb into your lap and ask you to read them.

Find me @JensBookPage for links throughout the week!

This post © 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.


RIF's New STEAM Initiative

RIF_Primary_VerticalThis news release went out yesterday. I'm a bit late with it, but still wanted to share the news, on behalf of Reading is Fundamental. As regular readers know, I am a strong support of RIF's activities. I think that the positive impact of RIF's book distribution actions alone is immeasurable. I have also worked for several years now with Carol Rasco, RIF's President and CEO, on the bi-monthly children's literacy roundups (also with Terry Doherty from The Reading Tub). Anyway, here is the scoop on RIF's fabulous new STEAM initiative:

RIF Releases STEAM Multicultural Book Collection Connecting STEM, the Arts and Early Learning

Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is launching a multi-year early childhood literacy campaign to inspire the next-generation of innovators through an approach integrating the arts with STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and math). The campaign is anchored by today’s release of RIF’s 2012-2013 Multicultural Book Collection, comprised of 40 children’s books and related activities using STEAM-themes.

“The next Mark Zuckerberg may be that 8-year-old child RIF serves whose only books are the ones we provide,” said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF. “The skills today’s students need to succeed as tomorrow’s pioneers should start at the earliest possible opportunity with an approach that builds on their natural curiosity. As a country, we’re missing the mark with few resources explicitly aimed at STEAM education for our youngest students.”

Rasco added, “This initiative is about inspiring the innovators of tomorrow early with engaging books and resources that connect the dots between science, technology and the arts from broad-ranging cultural perspectives. From DaVinci to Madame C.J. Walker to Steve Jobs, our greatest innovators are those who are as creative as they are precise, as imaginative as they are methodical. STEAM-based learning aims to nurture every facet of innovation.”

This year’s collection will be accompanied by a set of free downloadable activities for parents and educators to engage children in literacy development, based on the Common Core Standards adopted by 45 states in the nation.

“Out of 30 developed countries, our students in the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science literacy and 25th in math literacy. There are stark gaps here at home with low-income students scoring lowest and white and Asian students outpacing African-American, Hispanic and American-Indian students,” said Rasco, detailing results from the most recent Program for International Student Assessment and the National Assessment of Education Progress reports. “Our focus on STEAM literacy ultimately supports a national priority to ensure all American students receive the skills and knowledge required for success in the 21st century workplace.”

Each book in the collection was carefully reviewed and selected by RIF's Literacy Services team with guidelines provided by RIF's Literature Advisory Board and Multicultural Advisory Committee, national panels of educators and experts in books for children.

“What makes this collection unique is our insistence that each book present diverse characters and stories," Dr. Judy Cheatham, RIF’s vice president of literacy services. “When children see themselves in the books they read at a young age, they are motivated to read more books and read more often. Books are powerful mirrors and windows for all of us."

RIF has distributed the collection to RIF programs across the country since 2007 as part of its Multicultural Literacy Campaign, a multi-year initiative to promote and support early childhood literacy in African-American, Hispanic and American-Indian communities.

A full list of the new collection's selected titles is available on RIF's website along with accompanying activities. This year's list includes celebrated and award-winning titles such as:

  • Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
  • Z is for Moose  by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
  • How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
  • City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon J. Muth
  • Grandpa’s Garden by Stella Fry, illustrated by Sheila Moxley
  • 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World  by Melanie Walsh
  • Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein

Throughout the year, RIF will be distributing 650 collections to local RIF programs across the country. The donation of these book collections is made possible through generous contributions from Macy's.

“RIF is investing in this vital initiative to provide educators with the resources they need to put our youngest students on the path to becoming tomorrow’s innovators,” added Rasco. “To be clear, this serves far beyond the classroom. It fosters the kind of creativity, drive and determination that will ultimately create a pipeline of American workers poised to not simply compete in a global economy, but to lead.”

Additional components of RIF’s STEAM initiative include:

  • National Art Contest sponsored by Nestlé 
  • Professional Development for Early Childhood Educators and Care Providers
  • Family Literacy Celebrations with Free Books for Participating Kids
  • Early Childhood STEAM Learning Advocacy

Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin: Tad Hills

Book: Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin
Author: Tad Hills (@TadHills)
Pages: 22
Age Range: 2 and up 

We love Tad Hills' Duck and Goose in our house (I even recommended this series as a "new classic" for Parenting Magazine"). Baby Bookworm and I were both delighted when the lovely oversized board book Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin appeared on our doorstep. 

The Duck and Goose books are suitable for the youngest of lap readers, with minimal text and a sprinkling of familiar characters. In Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin, the two friends are envious when their companion Thistle walks by carrying a pumpkin. They decide to get one of their own. Not being the brightest birds in the nest, they look in all sorts of ridiculous places, like the top of a tree stump or below the surface of the water in a marsh. They are dumbfounded, but pleased, when they learn that is such a thing as a pumpkin patch. And everything ends happily. 

Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin is a celebration of fall and the outdoors. There are pumpkins and leaf piles and apple trees. Hills uses glowing fall colors and a cool light blue sky to add to the book's crisp fall feeling. The characters themselves are rendered as usual, of course, a fun-loving, not-so -sharp twosome. 

The funniest page, the one that makes 2-year-old Baby Bookworm laugh out loud, is near the end. Thistle says "Have you tried the pumpkin patch?". Duck and Goose look at each other, wide-eyed, and ask "The what?". The illustration in which they look for their pumpkin under the water is also pretty entertaining. 

The text of Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin is well-suited to reading aloud with a toddler. There are a whole series of page spreads in which, on the left hand side of the page, one of the friends asks something like: "Is our pumpkin in the log, Goose?". Then the other looks, and answers "No." Baby Bookworm, naturally, likes to chime in with the "No" text herself. I think it makes her feel smart, knowing what to say next. 

Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin is further proof that Tad Hills understands kids. A perfect fall read for toddlers!  

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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


Clementine and the Family Meeting: Sara Pennypacker

Book: Clementine and the Family Meeting
Author: Sara Pennypacker (@sarapennypacker)
Illustrator: Marla Frazee
Pages: 176
Age Range: 7-10 

I've said it before, and I'm sure that I'll say it again. I LOVE Clementine. The Clementine books, written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee, are hands down my favorite series for early elementary school kids. They are perfect for second or third graders, either for a classroom read-aloud or for independent reading. 

In Clementine and the Family Meeting, Clementine and her brother learn (this is not much of a spoiler - the reveal happens in chapter two) that their mother is going to have another baby. Brussell Sprout doesn't know how to react to this news, but Clementine does. And she is N-O-T NOT happy. Will the best efforts of Clementine's Dad, her school principal, and her understanding teacher be enough to help Clementine to accept the coming change? Fans will just have to see.

Here are some reasons why I loved Clementine and the Family Meeting:

  • The father-daughter relationship is pitch-perfect.
  • Clementine feels real, from her itchy skin to have bruised legs. 
  • Clementine is determinedly herself at all times. When her best friend Margaret starts to act older (wearing makeup and such), Clementine feels sad, but has absolutely no interest in making such changes herself.
  • Marla Frazee's illustrations capture Clementine, and her developing young brother, perfectly. 
  • Clementine loves science, and spends a lot of time thinking about her school science project (and worrying about her lost experiment rat). 
  • While Clementine does start to warm up to the idea of her new sibling, she does this slowly and believably. There's no magic switch turned. And no preachiness. 

Really, as with all of the other books in the series, it comes down to Clementine's voice. Here are a few of the many quotes that I flagged:

"Whenever Margaret talks about makeup, I feel exactly the way I felt when we took my grandparents to the airport so they could move to Florida: lonely. Even though Margaret isn't going anywhere, when she talks about makeup, I feel like I'm back at the airport again and she's getting on a plane for a long trip to somewhere without me." (Page 4-5)

""What's on the agenda?" I asked. Agenda is Latin for "list of stuff to talk about," so when you say it, you're saving your mouth a lot of work. Plus, you sound smart." (Page 21)

"I heaved such a deep sigh into my mug that my hot chocolate sloshed. Waiting is my hardest thing." (Page 22)

I could go on, but you get the idea. The Clementine books in general are must-read titles for new-to-chapter-book readers. Clementine and the Family Meeting lives up to its predecessors, and would be a particularly good fit for any child facing a change in their family structure. Fans of the series will not want to miss it. And if you haven't gotten to know Clementine yet, all I can say is: what are you waiting for? Highly recommended for all readers, age 7 and up (also suitable for read-aloud to younger children - I can't wait until Baby Bookworm is old enough). 

Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children (@DisneyHyperion)
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Source of Book: Bought it with a birthday gift card

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


Links I Shared on Twitter This Week: September 7

Here are some links that I shared on Twitter this week that readers might find of interest:

Kids' Reading Rates Falling, @tashrow on National #Literacy Trust survey http://ow.ly/dydw2 "We need to make reading irresistible" #litrdup

Fun stuff from @HuffingtonPost | Foods From Children's Books: Turkish Delight, Butterbeer And More http://ow.ly/dwKlm via @PWKidsBookshelf

The Fall Preview of Cross-Under Reads for Adults reading #yalit http://ow.ly/dwK4q @TheAtlanticWire via @PWKidsBookshelf

Perfect! Actual child's giggles as video-endorsement for PRESS HERE, via @NoVALibraryMom @ChronicleKids

Sigh! Funding cuts to @RIFWEB decrease access to books for 21,217 Minnesota children http://ow.ly/dwKHd | Twin Cities Daily Planet

Join Candlewick’s ‘We Believe in Picture Books’ Campaign says @sljournal http://ow.ly/dvUk6 @Candlewick #kidlit

What a good idea! My own little celebration: 30 days, 30 Picture Books @Shelf_Elf http://ow.ly/duUaK #kidlit

Books ahoy! Resources from ESSL blog for Talk Like a Pirate Day (9/19) http://ow.ly/duTii #kidlit #litrdup

Interesting thoughts on expectation and reward in blogging, from @catagator at Stacked http://ow.ly/duT5a #kidlit #yalit

New post at #Literacy, families and learning: 8 Ways Reading Helps Writing http://ow.ly/duPoM @TrevorHCairney #litrdup

Some interesting stats from @haleshannon | Boys leading the best seller lists http://ow.ly/duOzD #kidlit

Hey look, Travis from @100scopenotes is on the cover of the September issue of @sljournal http://ow.ly/duNwp #kidlit

Julie Danielson of 7-Imp shares her love of #picturebooks (on video) for @candlewick celebration http://ow.ly/duMtL

RT @lizb: going to KidLitCon 2012? Here's a graphic you can use!#teacozy http://bit.ly/NGv3hG (by @aquafortis)

To my fellow D.E.Stevenson fans, the wonderful Miss Buncle's Book was just reissued by @sbkslandmark http://ow.ly/dpBZf

I like Irene's attitude on this | Pay it Forward: When Your Children Aren’t Avid Readers by Irene Latham @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/dpByl

Simple tips for starting strong by reading at home | @RIFWEB http://ow.ly/dnvkZ #literacy #kidlit #litrdup

Lovely piece in the Vancouver Sun: Books remind us we are not alone http://ow.ly/dmk1V via @PWKidsBookshelf #litrdup #parenting

That's all for this week. You can find other links and tidbits all week long @JensBookPage.

This post © 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.


Return of the Library Dragon: Carmen Agra Deedy and Michael P. White

Book: Return of the Library Dragon
Author: Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrator: Michael P. White
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8 

Return of the Library Dragon is the sequel to Carmen Agra Deedy and Michael P. White's The Library Dragon. I somehow missed the first book, but I enjoyed this second one. The premise is that Miss Lotty, long-time librarian of Sunrise Elementary, is part dragon. Most of the time she looks pretty normal (except for a green tail that sticks out the back of her dress). But when she gets riled up ... watch out! Return of the Library Dragon begins as Miss Lotty has decided to retire. But when the school immediately makes plans to replace all of the books in the library with technology, the fire-breathing dragon returns.

Return of the Library Dragon is an homage to librarians from start to finish. The book opens with an article from School Library Times about the retiring Miss Lotty. Here's a snippet:

"Students had hoped that she would shelve plans for retirement, but Miss Lotty says her departure is long overdue... When asked to recall her fondest memory as a librarian, she replied, Dewey-eyed..."

When the story itself begins, we find Miss Lotty in bed, "counting children's books instead of sheep." Miss Lotty's nemesis in the book, the man who takes all of the books out of the library as soon as her back is turned, is named Mike Krochip. C'mon, you want to laugh. I know you do.

Return of the Library Dragon is a staunch and unabashed defense of books. Real, printed books. When Mike Krochip suggests than an all-digital library with 10,000 books would be better than their library of books that "stain and tear and take up room", the children offer up a variety of reasons why they prefer real books. But when the children's heads are turned by the coolness of Krochip's technology, the Library Dragon takes a stand.

I love the end pages of this book, which are papered with quotes about books, reading, and librarians. Like "To me, nothing can be more important than giving children books" -- Fran Lebowitz. I almost didn't want to turn past the end pages to even read the book. But I'm glad that I did.

Return of the Library Dragon is a picture book for early school age kids, with plenty of text on each page, and a fairly advanced vocabulary ("stampeding", "wisp", "gloat"). The text is mainly dialog, with short, declarative sentences, and an endless array of puns. 

White's illustrations are airbrush on cotton watercolor paper. They aren't strictly realistic (there being a dragon and all). The characters have oddly elongated faces and wavy, wrinkled outlines. But something in White's use of color and shadow makes the characters step, three-dimensional, from the page. The humor continues in the titles of the books shown throughout the text, from "Where the Wild Pigs Are" to "Furious George".

While Return of the Library Dragon certainly has a message to convey, Deedy's story transcends the message, and offers a fun-filled romp for young readers. White's lively illustrations add to the entertainment, and make Return of the Library Dragon a keeper (and a must for school library purchase). This would probably also make a good read-aloud for a first or second grade classroom. (Has anyone tried it?) Recommended.

Publisher: Peachtree (@PeachtreePub)
Publication Date: September 1, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: September 5

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 1609 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every three weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have six book reviews (one picture book, three middle grade, and two YA), one children's literacy roundup, and three posts wrapping up links that I shared on Twitter. I also shared a Baby Bookworm reading anecdote that I thought readers might enjoy.

Cybils2012I only had one post that I am not including in the newsletter, an announcement about applying to be a Cybils judge (the deadline for that is past now). I should tell you, however, that there is lots of activity on the Cybils blog again. Nominations for the children's and young adult book bloggers' literary awards open October 1st. 

Speaking of Kidlitosphere-wide events, in case you missed it, the schedule for the sixth annual conference of children's and young adult book bloggers (aka KidLitCon) was announced recently. It's going to be a fabulous event, and anyone who is involved in writing or reviewing children's books should consider attending (especially if you are based in or near New York). I am not, alas, going to be able to attend this year. But I shall expect my friends to live-tweet the presentations, and I will certainly be there in spirit.  

Reading Update: In the past 3 weeks, I finished four middle grade books, one for young adults, and one for adults. I also abandoned a couple of books that weren't working for me for one reason or another. 

I also continued to read picture books and board books aloud to Baby Bookworm. I haven't been able to add new titles to our web-based reading list, due to some technical difficulties that I'm experiencing with my blog host, TypePad. But I am tracking them in a text file for now.

Current Baby Bookworm favorites include When A Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore, Not A Box by Antoinette Portis, and the two Bailey books by Harry Bliss. I'm currently listening to Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz and reading The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny on Kindle. 

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

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.


Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup: August in Review

JkrROUNDUPThe end of August children's literacy and reading news roundup is now available at Carol Rasco's blog, Quietly. The roundups are twice-monthly collections of links, curated by Terry Doherty from the Reading Tub, Carol Rasco from RIF, and myself. In this installment, Carol actually shares some leftover tidbits from July, as well as a host of new stories. Some highlights:

  • "Listen to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s address at the Children’s Defense Fund National Conference in Cincinnati Ohio. In his own words “early childhood programs are a good investment with inflation-adjusted annual rates of return on the funds dedicated to these programs, estimated to reach 10 percent or higher. Very few alternative investments can promise that kind of return.”"
  • George"A Cash Mob? I must admit I had no idea what a “cash mob” is until I read this story from Publishers Weekly regarding the World’s Only Curious George Store in Harvard Square.  I must say, it sounds fun to me; I mean, I love to shop in bookstores, only place I do like to shop! Have you been to a “cash mob”?"
  • Nook"A special place to read in the house…yes! We tend to talk more as school starts about special places in the house to read when it is important year round…but given the days in some areas start becoming much cooler after school and looking ahead to winter, it is natural I assume to think now: Do the children have a good place to make reading special? Over a year ago a friend sent me the column from the Thrifty Decor Chick sharing how to make the neatest reading nook I have seen without serious expense. And as the Chick found, she could fit, she loved it too." 

This last article, together with some other photos posted by @novalibrarymom last week, actually inspired me to create a formal reading nook for Baby Bookworm. It is still in progress, but I will share pictures when it's ready. 

Normally this is where I would share some additional links that have caught my eye this week. However, I've been having computer problems, and am quite behind on my web-based reading. Hopefully I'll be caught up by Friday, and will have some Twitter links to share with you. But not to worry in the meantime, Carol has many more great links in the full roundup

Thanks for reading, and for caring about children's literacy! We'll be back mid-month with some additional reading-related stories. In the meantime, we'll be sharing the news as we find it @CHRasco, @ReadingTub, and @JensBookPage


Malcolm at Midnight: W. H. Beck & Brian Lies

Book: Malcolm at Midnight
Author: W. H. Beck (@whbeck)
Illustrator: Brian Lies
Pages: 272
Age Range: 9-12 

I sat down to read a few pages of Malcolm at Midnight, and found myself completely drawn in. I finished it the same day. Malcolm at Midnight is a very fun middle grade fantasy novel written by first-time author W. H. Beck. It is extensively illustrated (at least a couple of half-page sketches per chapter) by "Bat Books" author Brian Lies. 

Malcolm at Midnight is the tale of an undersized rat who becomes the fifth grade class pet at McKenna School. Exploring on his first night in residence, Malcolm discovers a secret society of class pets that looks after the interests of the school. Malcolm is eager to contribute to the Midnight Academy, but has to overcome the considerable stigma of being, well, a rat. And when Academy head Aggy, an iguana, is apparently kidnapped, Malcolm strives to prove his innocence and rescue Aggy before she gets too cold. 

Malcolm is a charming character, a bit insecure (the whole rat thing), but also brave, and determined to do the right thing. His friendship with Amelia, a girl from Mr. Binney's class, is (in the context of the book) plausible and inspiring. Malcolm's underdog status will make kids open their hearts to him, while his hair-raising adventures will keep them turning the pages to make sure that everything works out ok.  

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:

"It began with a rat. There was also a glasses-wearing elderly iguana, a grumpy fish who could spell, a ghost in the clock tower, a secret message in the library, and a twisted evil that lived on the fourth floor of our school. But those'll come later. First, there was a rat: Malcolm." (Page 1)

If that's not an opening passage to draw kids in, I don't know what is.

"Malcolm felt like the conversation was going too fast, like when Jenna reads aloud in class and it sounds like allthewordsaretypedtogetherwithoutanyspaces. Malcolm was still a few sentences back." (Page 31)

"Have you ever known a person like that, Mr. Binney? Someone who just listens? Someone who doesn't interrupt or pipe in with their opinion or wince at your dumb mistakes? Anyway, it's one of the most wonderful and satisfying things to have." (Page 100)

Insightful, yes? Beck also makes extensive use of footnotes (72 in all). Many of them are for the purpose of defining advanced vocabulary words, while others are to explain some background information to Mr. Binney. I found the footnotes entertaining, if occasionally distracting. Here's one funny one:

"44 Don't feel too bad that you didn't smell and notice what Malcolm and Tank could. Human noses are about as sensitive as a bunch of boys around a crying girl." (Page 121)

I did have a minor problem with the narrative device that W. H. Beck employed for Malcolm at Midnight. The story is directed towards fifth grade teacher Mr. Binney, written by an unnamed kid or kids from the class. I found that the occasional "and then you did xyz" passages took me out of the story a bit. I had to stop and think about who we were talking to. Directing the story to Mr. Binney also adds a level of remove between the reader and book. But this device does allow the author to give readers a peek at the kids in the class, even though the main story concerns Malcolm. And there is an appealing quirkiness to it that I think will work for kids. 

The choice of Brian Lies as illustrator for Malcolm at Midnight was flat-out inspired. Using the same attention to detail that he gives to the bats in his picture book series, Lies brings Malcolm and the other animals to life. I especially loved Tank the Turtle. The illustrations are well-integrated with the text. In one section, where a pipe goes down from one level to the next, the picture starts at the top of one page and finishes along the bottom of the next, with plenty of room in between for the words. While strictly speaking one could read the story without the pictures, Malcolm at Midnight would be a far less engaging book. 

Malcolm at Midnight would make a great companion book to Elise Broach's Masterpiece (the story of an unlikely friendship between a young beetle named Marvin and an eleven-year-old boy). It would also be a nice classroom read-aloud for the upper elementary school grades (though a good idea to have extra copies floating around so that kids could look at the pictures). All in all, Malcolm at Midnight is a highly entertaining and kid-friendly book, a story that gives rats a good name. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (@hmhkids)
Publication Date: September 4, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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


Life Imitates Art, or The Joy of Finding Knuffle Bunny

Baby Bookworm (at nearly 2 1/2) has four categories of books:

  1. Books she is not interested in at all (refuses them completely when offered);
  2. Books we have read once that she didn't like. When offered them again, even weeks or months later, she'll say "Already read that one";
  3. Books she says yes to pretty much every time they are offered (subject to the occasional mood for something else); and
  4. Books that she actually requests. 

The fourth is the smallest category (see some examples on my Pinterest board "Baby Bookworm's Favorites"), and tends to be temporary (she'll have a passion for a particular book for a week or a month, and then it will fade).

Two books that have remainded in category 4 for probably a year now are Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too, by Mo Willems. These books were a baby gift from my friend MotherReader (who is quite possibly Mo's #1 fan), and remain a huge hit with all of us. (And yes, we have Knuffle Bunny Free, but Baby Bookworm doesn't totally understand that one yet, and so doesn't tend to request it).

So now, after a long-winded introduction, I come to today's story. Knuffle Bunny (referred to as "Launrdymat book" in Baby Bookworm speak) was lost for several weeks. Until this morning, we were always too busy when the request came in to do a thorough search. But today, being a long weekend, after yet another request for "Trixie Laundrymat book", we did some exhaustive searching.

And oh, I wish you all could have seen Baby Bookworm jump for joy when Knuffle Bunny was discovered (unharmed) underneath the couch. Her joy was akin to Trixie's joy in the book when the lost Knuffle Bunny is discovered at the laundromat. We immediately sat down to read Knuffle Bunny, and then Knuffle Bunny Too. And life was good again.

Pretty neat, I thought, life imitating art like that. I also love that Baby Bookworm already has particular books that she loves, and seeks out, and misses when they aren't there. 

Parents, if you do not have the Knuffle Bunny books in your home, well, this is the highest endorsement that I can think of. They are kid- and parent-friendly, funny yet touching, and don't lose their charm even after hundreds of reads. Trixie ages throughout the series, so if you have kids anywhere from 1 to 8, at least one of the books will probably be a hit. 

I suspect we'll be reading Knuffle Bunny quite a lot over the next few days. I couldn't be happier. 

This post © 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.