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Posts from November 2012

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs: Mo Willems

Book: Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
Author: Mo Willems (@The_Pigeon)
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4 and up 

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, by Mo Willems, is a fractured version of the traditional Goldilocks story. The three dinosaurs ("Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway") set out three big bowls of delicous chocolate pudding and then leave the house, "definitely not hiding in the woods waiting for an unsuspecting kid to come by" and become a "delicious chocolate-filled-little-girl-bonbon". A "poorly supervised little girl named Goldilocks" falls right into their trap. Will she escape, or be eaten by dinosaurs? Given the level of black humor here, it seems that the story could go either way.

The illustrations in Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs are more detailed than the Elephant & Piggie or Pigeon books, but still rendered with a deceptively childlike simplicity. Willems throws in little details for the alert reader, though, like a calendar page showing "NORWAY "Gateway to Sweden"", and a glimpse of the Pigeon trapped in a cookie jar. The images of Trixie, I mean Goldilocks, delving into the bowls of chocolate pudding are priceless.

I think that Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is hilarious overall. It is vintage Mo Willems, featuring joke after joke, and a little girl who looks remarkably like Trixie from Knuffle Bunny. One wonders, almost, if this is a book for children at all. Because this is a book that any adult would find entertaining. I laughed aloud on page after page.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is completely over the head of 2 1/2 year old Baby Bookworm. She (though a huge fan of the Kuffle Bunny and Pigeon books) dismissed it completely. But I would love to try it on a five year old with a well-developed sense of humor. I mean, the laughs are everywhere. Like this:

"Either way, Goldilocks was not the type of little girl who listened to anyone or anything. 

For example, Goldilocks never listened to warnings about the dangers of barging into strange, enormous homes."

The welcome mat of the "strange, enormous home" says "WELCOME (Tee-Hee!)".

I could go on. But really, you should read Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs yourself. It is the funniest thing I've read in ages, and receives my highest recommendation. We are certainly keeping our copy on reserve for when Baby Bookworm is old enough to appreciate it. And yes, this book has been nominated for the 2012 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books. 

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens)
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). 

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: November 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 1622 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every three weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have seven book reviews (two picture books, one easy reader, and three YA), one children's literacy roundup, and one post with quick hit news items. Because there are so many reviews, I am not including my three Twitter links posts in the newsletter. You can find them herehere, and here. (Do people want me to include them in the newsletter even when it's a bit long? Please let me know if you have a preference.)

Reading Update: In the past 3 weeks, I finished three books for young adults, and one for adults: 

  • Gina Linko: Flutter. Random House. Young Adult. Completed October 17, 2012. My review.
  • Laini Taylor: Days of Blood and Starlight. Little, Brown. Young Adult. Completed November 1, 2012, digital ARC. My review.
  • Michael Northrop: Trapped. Scholastic. Young Adult. Completed November 4, 2012. Review to come.
  • Lee Child: A Wanted Man. Delacorte Press. Adult. Completed October 23, 2012, on MP3 from Audible.

I also continued to read picture books, board books, and easy readers aloud to Baby Bookworm, though I've lost track of our count for the year. I'm going to start counting again in 2013. I can tell you that recent favorites include Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes and Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems. And no, I'm not rushing her into easy readers at 2 1/2 because I'm trying to teach her to read. She picked both of those out because of familiarity with the characters, I believe, after reading each author's picture books. She is delighted on every read to find a Pigeon ice cream cone on the end page of Should I Share My Ice Cream?

We've also been reading Knuffle Bunny Free incessantly since our last plane trip. Two new picture book titles that are current favorites are Charlie and the Christmas Kitty by Ree Drummond and Diane deGroat (in part because we know a dog named Charlie) and Small Bunny's Blue Blanket by Tatyana Feeney (reviews to come). 

One thing that I'm really enjoying as Baby Bookworm gets older is the way that we can reference books in our daily life. Yesterday I was putting on her shirt and I said "Over your head!". She replied, giggling, "Not over the dam", a reference to Jamberry (which Colleen gave us). And which I was thinking of, too, when I said "Over your head." We play airplane, and buckle our seatbelts like Trixie. And when we went out trick-or-treating last week, she had to clarify "No skeleton at the door" in reference to Just Say Boo!. It's very fun.

As for me, I'm reading The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens and listening to The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan. On my Kindle I'm reading How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. 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.

Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone): Laini Taylor

Book: Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone)
Author: Laini Taylor (@LainiTaylor)
Pages: 528
Age Range: 13 and up 

Days of Blood & Starlight is the second book in Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. I reviewed the first book here. This review contains spoilers for the first book. 

Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou, a chimaera girl in human skin, living in the desert, working for Thiago, the White Wolf (who had had her beheaded in another life), as a resurrectionist. Karou is isolated from everyone that she cares about. Her chimaera family is dead, killed because of the actions of her one-time seraphim lover, Akiva. She can't even bear to think of Akiva. Her best friend Zuzana is out of reach.

The story shifts between the viewpoints of Karou, Akiva, Zuzana, and a young chimera soldier named Ziri. Karou and Akiva are on opposite sides of a war, each holding on to a dream of a better world, but mired in too much death to even begin to achieve that dream. Zuzana just wants to find Karou, and know that she is safe. Ziri pretty much just wants to be near Karou.

Laini Taylor is simply fabulous at world-building. I've known that ever since reading her first novel, Blackbringer. The seraphim / chimaera world of Eretz is unique and fully realized. The desert community that the chimera set up in our own world is so real that one can practically smell it (not that smelling this particular camp it would be a good thing in reality). The characters are three-dimensional, too, particularly Karou and Zuzana.

The plotting in Days of Blood & Starlight is multi-threaded, with viewpoint shifts creating an endless series of cliffhangers (particularly toward the end of the book). This is a thinking person's paranormal romance / thriller. One has to pay attention to everything, with surprises around every corner. And the overarching theme of the book centers on the big-picture question of how (or if two) races that have fought to destroy one another for centuries could ever achieve peace. 

Taylor's prose is as lush as ever in Days of Blood & Starlight, too. Like this:

"The portal was a gash in the air. The wind bled through it in both directions, hissing like breath through teeth, and where the edges shifted, one world's sky revealed another's. Akiva watched the interplay of stars along the cut, preparing himself to cross through." (Chapter 2: Ash and Angels)

"Mercy, she had discovered, made mad alchemy: a drop of it could dilute a lake of hate. Because of what had happened in the gully, seraphim were more than slavers and faceless winged killers to her." (Chapter 41: Mad Alchemy)

"It doesn't matter what happens to me, she told herself. I am one of billions. I am stardust gathered fleetingly into form. I will be ungathered. The stardust will go on to be other things some day and I will be free. As Brimstone is free." (Chapter 75: It Was Near and It Was Wings)

Yes, Days of Blood & Starlight has everything going for it. I think that it's brilliant. I think that it's going to be a success (and doubtless a movie one day). And yet, I have to admit that the imagery in the book is a bit too bleak and brutal for me. There are fighters killing women and children, and concubines having their children taken away. There is a brutal sexual assault (and many other implied assaults). There are bodies in a fly-filled pit. And the whole quest for peace just seems hopeless. Like this:

"Live obscure, kill who you're told, and die unsung. That could have been the Misbegotten's creed, but it wasn't. It was Blood is strength." (Chapter 34: Celebration)

Of course I rarely find that the second book in a trilogy is my favorite (does anyone?). The worlds are already set up (and therefore not as fascinating), and we're necessarily marking time before the climax can occur. In the case of Days of Blood & Starlight, Karou is separated from Akiva and Zuzana for most of the book, essentially orphaned by the loss of Brimstone and his team. Light moments are few and far between (mostly offered by Zuzana and her boyfriend, Mik. Thank goodness for them). In a way, the problem is that Taylor is such a good writer. Her characters feel real. Their situations feel real. And when those situations are painful, well, they're a bit too real for me to fully enjoy. 

My husband enjoyed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, but found it to have a little too much romance for him. I think that he'll probably love Days of Blood & Starlight, which has all of the action of the first book (and more), but with quite a bit less of romantic elements. For sure Days of Blood & Starlight is male reader friendly, filled with battles and big and small displays of heroism. And for sure, I will be tuning in to the final book in the series when it comes, hoping desperately for a happy ending for Karou. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: November 6, 2012
Source of Book: Digital advance 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).

End of October Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup

JkrROUNDUPThe end of October Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup is now available at Quietly, Carol Rasco's blog. The roundups are brought to you twice monthly by Carol Rasco from RIF, Terry Doherty from The Family Bookshelf, and me. This time around, Carol notes a slew of literacy and reading-related events, plus some literacy and reading research news, and a couple of suggestions for growing bookworms. I hope that you'll head over to check out the whole thing, but in the meantime, here are a few highlights:

"A first assignment for each of us on “What can I do to help in the aftermath of Sandy?” is to check outKidLit Cares organized by Kate Messner. And what is Kid Lit Cares? Check the webpage, all the details for this auction are there for you to study."

"First Book to give 100 millionth book in November! Check out their TEN BOOKS EVERY CHILD SHOULD OWN and vote for YOUR favorite.  This voting will help First Book choose just what that 100 millionth book will be!" (Jenny Schwartzberg also sent me this one.)

"Books about Books” was a recent post by Amy at Literacy Launchpad where she gives us all a good “reminder” of the great books available to help us learn more about books for children whether we are studying as a parent and/or a teacher!" 

And here are a few additional tidbits from me:

WhyIVote2012-2A neat cross-blog event is taking place today, organized by Greg Pincus, Lee Wind, and Colleen Mondor. It's called Why I Vote, and it's a non-partisan event centered around encouraging people to vote (whatever their politics are). Participants are sharing their own personal reasons for voting, ranging from "It's a bit like putting your money where your mouth is" from Greg to "because I'd feel ashamed if I didn't" from Charlotte. As for me, I vote because otherwise I would feel like a hypocrite if it ever came to lamenting outcomes that I didn't like. You can find the roundup of Why I Vote posts at Chasing Ray, or search for #WhyIVote on Twitter. (Logo design by Colleen Mondor and Sarah Stevenson.) And while this might seem not directly related to literacy, well, if you can't read, you can't be an informed voter, can you?

2012-pmbbadge-ambassadorYesterday (November 1st) marked the start of Picture Book Month. Founder Dianne de Las Casas reported via email that yesterday the website had "nearly 3,000 visitors and 250+ registrations (people pledging to celebrate Picture Book Month). One school in Budapest, Hungary is making a goal to read more than 5,000 picture books this month! WOW! One U.S. school district is featuring a picture book a day in all of their school's staff lounges. Another school is creating a Picture Book Month wall and public libraries across the U.S. are creating Picture Book Month displays." Pretty cool! As for me, I'm using Picture Book Month as an incentive to get through my entire stack of To Be Reviewed picture books. Because of course I'm reading picture books with Baby Bookworm every day, no matter what month it is.

NcflYesterday the National Center for Family Literacy celebrated Family Literacy Day (and November as Family Literacy Month) by announcing developments in four programsToyota Teacher of the Year, Litera-Seeds, Cultivating Readers (Cultivando el hábito de la lectura), and Wonderopolis. Click through for details.

It's also National Year of Reading in Australia. Terry found a piece in the Herald Sun by Jane Howard about Mem Fox's efforts to spread the word about the importance of reading aloud to children. I appreciate this part: ""There are educators in positions of influence today who believe that reading aloud to children is a waste of time," she says. "Such a belief is not only foolish, it's frightening and dangerous."" Indeed! Do check out the whole article

According to a report in, "Greenville County’s United Way is providing a one-time $150,000 grant so that 22,000 low income kids will have books in their homes, a spokesman said. Mike Posey, a United Way vice president, said that grant will sponsor the “Reach Out and Read” program, which focuses on early literacy and school readiness." Via Jenny Schwartzberg. 

KBF12headerIf you happen to be in Ithaca, the Family Reading Partnership is holding their 15th annual Kids' Book Fest on Saturday, November 10th. This year's theme is "Count on Books". The Family Reading Partnership's ultimate goal as an organization (per their recent newsletter) is "that 100% of babies in our community are read to -- early, often, and with pleasure." One very easy way to support this important goal is to buy their 2013 Read to Me Calendar. We have the 2012 version up, and the 2013 version waiting in the wings. Baby Bookworm and I both love them. 

Speaking of Baby Bookworm (age 2 1/2), I had a "Mommy Bookworm" success last night. After dinner, she announced her intention to go upstairs by herself and read in her "little corner" (a reading nook that I put together for her a couple of months back). Admittedly, she only lasted about 3 minutes. But I still count it as a success. I also count it as a success every time she laughs over a picture book, every time she references a book in general conversation, and every time she requests a particular book. All steps along the pathway towards becoming a reader. 

We’ll be back soon with a mid-November Roundup. And in the meantime, we’ll be sharing reading-related news on Twitter @CHRasco, @TheReadingTub, and @JensBookPage. Thanks for reading, and for caring about children's literacy.

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

Links I Shared on Twitter This Week: November 2

Here are some highlights from the literacy and children's literature-related links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage.

At Growing Book by Book, nice #Literacy Guest Spotlight Q & A (+ tips) w/ 2nd grade teacher Sarah Yates

Picture books are for everyone - sharing and celebrating with all readers by @MaryAnnScheuer #picturebookmonth

NCFL celebrates National Family #Literacy Day® with four exciting developments  #litrdup

Sue and Elaine, a lovely story about the gift of #literacy @RIFWEB Blog  #kidlit #bookpeopleunite

Libraries Respond to Hurricane Sandy, Offering Refuge, WiFi, and Services to Needy Communities via @sljournal

Kid-Lit Cares: Superstorm Sandy Relief Effort = online talent auction hosted by @KateMessner to benefit #RedCross

Today is the start of #PictureBookMonth. Celebrate by reading picturebooks all month long!

RT @bookchook: Why School Libraries Matter (Its Not Just About the Books) #literacy @CHRasco @JensBookPage @readingtub

This is neat. 'Island of the Blue Dolphins' woman's cave believed found - @latimes via Sharon Levin

Morning Notes: Trick or Treat with Anakin Edition | a variety of interesting tidbits from @100scopenotes

Finding Wonderland: No Party Politics, just share your thoughts this Friday on why you vote  #whyivote

Just discovered this Eastern Iowa Gazette story that references my blog: Adults can learn from kids’ books too

This is cool! Stephen King Surprises Canadian Students with pre-Halloween School Visit | @sljournal

This looks interesting. Thoughts on WHY SCHOOL by Will Richardson from @frankisibberson

Penguin, Random House Merger Is On reports @LibraryJournal

Nice choices! Four Favorite Spooky Middle Grade Reads from @kidlitmysteries  #kidlit

Don't miss the October Carnival of Children's Literature 2012 at @iambrimful  #kidlit #yalit #halloween

Top Ten Girl Power Books: YA/Teen by @kelleemoye, @mentortexts, + @mselke01 on @NerdyBookClub  #yalit

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

Penny and Her Doll: Kevin Henkes

Book: Penny and Her Doll
Author: Kevin Henkes
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 and up 

Penny and Her Doll is the second book in a new easy reader series from Kevin Henkes (after Penny and Her Song). I missed the first book, but I was happy when the second one turned up on our doorstep, because we LOVE Henkes' "mouse books" in my house. While the most famous of these is Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, my 2 1/2 year old favors the titles from A Box of Treats, little holiday treats featuring Lilly and several of her friends. We know them all by heart.

Anyway, Penny and Her Doll is about young mouse Penny, big sister to a pair of twin babies, who receives a beautiful new doll in the mail from Gram. Penny is thrilled with the doll, but finds coming up with an appropriate name for this new family member a bit of a challenge. Not to worry, though, she finds the perfect name in the end. 

Although this story is aimed at new readers, I have to say that Baby Bookworm adores it. As do I. I think that this speaks to Henkes' considerable skill. Many easy readers are so pared down that they aren't interesting to anyone, and are instead a vehicle for a child striving to decode words. Not so for Penny and Her Doll. While certainly not complex, the three-chapter story is entertaining in a gentle way, as when gardening Mama dryly observes "I do not have a favorite weed", and when Penny rejects her parents' lame naming suggestions with "No. No. No. Nothing was right." Or this:

""Beautiful," said Mama.
"Wonderful," said Papa.
The babies made baby noises.
Penny smiled." 

I smiled. 

Of course Penny and Her Doll does work as an easy reader. Henkes uses very short sentences, and plenty of repetition, to guide the reader. Like this:

"Penny unwrapped the doll.
The doll had pink cheeks.
The doll had a pink bow.
The doll had a pink dress with big buttons."

Later Papa praises the pink cheeks, pink bow, and pink dress with big buttons. And Papa and Mama try to use these attributes to help in naming the doll. Any new reader would certainly be well-versed in the word "pink" by the end of the book. Everything in the story is pre-schooler-friendly, from Penny's mother's garden to the tour of the house that she gives the new doll. 

Henkes' warm illustrations help to make the book accessible to new readers, too. Fans of the other mouse books will be made right at home by Penny's smiling face. Henkes also fills the book with interesting and welcoming backgrounds, colored tiles in the bathroom, floral wallpaper in the babies' room, stripes in the kitchen, and so on. 

In short, this is going on our keep shelf (ok, shelves), to be enjoyed now and used later on, when Baby Bookworm is ready to start reading books for herself. I plan on picking up a copy of the earlier book, too. This is a top-notch early reader (though a bit more girl-friendly than boy-friendly, given the subject matter and the pinkish flowery cover). Highly recommended. And yes, both Penny books are on the 2012 Cybils nomination list for Easy Readers

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: August 21, 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).