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Posts from January 2015

Ninja Red Riding Hood: Corey Rosen Schwartz & Dan Santat

Book: Ninja Red Riding Hood
Author: Corey Rosen Schwartz
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-5

Ninja Red Riding Hood, written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat, is a version of Little Red Riding Hood in which the wolf, after getting picked on for a while, sneaks into o ninja school to be trained. He figures that with his new skills, Little Red Riding Hood will be an easy target. However (as any astute reader will be expecting from the title and cover), it turns out that Red also has ninja training. Even Gran turns out to know tai chi, and the wolf is utterly defeated. 

I had mixed feeling about Ninja Red Riding Hood. It's nice to see a Red Riding Hood who can defend herself, and a little old granny who can defend herself. And I can see the various details about martial arts being of interest to kids (and perhaps even driving interest in martial arts). It's a nicely multicultural book, too, with what appears to be an Asian setting (Japanese, perhaps?). But the end of the book, in which the wolf is forced to give up red meat, and enrolls in a mediation retreat, felt like a bit ... much. Is the author trying to get an anti-red meat message out there, or is it just meant to be a lesson for the carnivorous wolf? 

That said, it's a fun read-aloud, with some advanced vocabulary, and a bouncy (but not rigid) rhyme scheme:

"Drooling with anticipation,
he set off in search of some meat.
While deep in the wood,
he met Riding Hood.

"I'm bringing my 
grandma a treat."

The wolf licked his chops when he saw her
and hastily thought up a plan.

"There are blossoms that way!
You can pick a bouquet!
to give to your little old gran.""

Here the second paragraph is in a text bubble from Riding Hood, and the last is in a text bubble from the wolf. This format takes a tiny bit of getting used to - the rhymes carrying across narrative text and dialog - but it worked fine for us. 

Santat's illustrations ("done with Sumi brush work on rice paper and completed in Adobe Photoshop"), are action-filled, with a moderately cartoon-like aspect. The disguised wolf in his ninja school clothing and glasses is quite funny. The forest in which the wolf finds Red features trees of bamboo, adding to the Asian feel of the story. When dressed as Gran, the wolf holds a painted fan, and her house looks Japanese. Red, once she loses her cape, is feisty and pig-tailed, while Gran looks downright tough. 

Ninja Red Riding Hood is a modern, diverse twist on an old story, with read-aloud-friendly text and dynamic illustrations. 

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: July 10, 2014
Source of Book: Library copy, checked out for Round 1 Cybils consideration in Fiction Picture Books. All opinions are my own. 

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon and iBooks affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 9

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. I have the usual smattering of book lists, along with links to stories about diversity, growing bookworms, literacy programs, reading, publishing, schools, libraries, parenting, and the kidlitosphere. As there were many links related to the Cybils awards this week, I published those separately yesterday

Book Lists + Awards

Four picture books to get your kid reading, selected by @JGCanada http://ow.ly/GPebf #KidLit #BookList

The SSHEL Library shares a #BookList to brighten January: Funny Fairy Tales http://ow.ly/H18aH #kidlit

30 Books to Share with Kids and Teens on Valentine’s Day from @mrskatiefitz http://ow.ly/GTaHt #kidlit #YALit

New Thematic #BookList for kids from @missrumphius on Water and the Water Cycle http://ow.ly/GXSOM #kidlit

Tissue Box Novels for Middle Graders | JLG’s Booktalks to Go | @sljournal http://ow.ly/GTThv #kidlit

Stacked: On The Radar: 12 #YAlit Books to keep an eye on for January, selected by @catagator http://ow.ly/GQdAk

The latest Stacked: Get Genrefied post features #YALit Memoirs http://ow.ly/H1cg9 @catagator @kimberlymarief #nonfiction

New Stacked #BookList from @kimberlymarief : Ancient Historical YA Fiction http://ow.ly/GXSE8 #YALit

2014 Nerdy Awards for Young Adult Fiction Announced by @donalynbooks + @NerdyBookClub Part One http://ow.ly/GIEVY #YALit

2014 Nerdy Awards for Young Adult Fiction Announced by @donalynbooks + @NerdyBookClub Part Two http://ow.ly/GPiaN #YALit

Here's the @Time list of 100 Best Children's Books of All Time http://ow.ly/H1Mhe  via @PWKidsBookshelf #kidlit

Cybils

Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd1Good for a laugh. Several Huh? Moments in Middle Grade Speculative Fiction from @semicolonblog http://ow.ly/H19v3 #Cybils

The rest of the Cybils-related links were shared separately this week.

Diversity and Diverse Book Lists

2015 New Releases in LGBTQ Young Adult Fiction rounded up by @molly_wetta http://ow.ly/H19HF #YALit

On finding Multicultural Books for Beginning Readers by Shari Frost @ChoiceLiteracy http://ow.ly/GPcDL #kidlit

Guest post at Brown Bookshelf: This Black History Month, Let’s Support (Kids') Reading Achievement, Fitness, Health http://ow.ly/GPbHh

Events, Programs and Research

Missouri: St. Louis County Library’s New “Born to Read” Will Give Free Books to Newborns and Parents | @infodocket http://ow.ly/GTSWg

Nonprofit @FirstBook Fights Illiteracy By Getting Books To Kids Who Need Them @NPR http://ow.ly/H1M3m  #literacy

Happy Meals Books return at McDonald's (+ they are real books this time!) http://ow.ly/H1MC9  @suntimes @RIFWEB @harperchildrens

Growing Bookworms

How to Turn Kids into Readers: "it’s all about joy" says Josie Leavitt @PublishersWkly http://ow.ly/GU51C #literacy

The Most Popular New Year's Resolutions Parents Have For Their Kids? Reading reports @HuffingtonPost http://ow.ly/GU42Z  @PWKidsBookshelf

Terry kicks off new her #Literacy + Life series @ReadingTub w/ Books + (easy) literacy activites about Snow http://ow.ly/GPiUs 

#RaisingReaders Monday: Family Reading Round-Up @kateywrites has lots of great resource links, including #Cybils http://ow.ly/GQh4Z

Picture Books vs Beginning Reader Books as used with young learners at Home Grown Books http://ow.ly/GPdxu via @ChoiceLiteracy

Study @Scholastic Finds Reading to Children of All Ages Grooms Them to Read More on Their Own, reports @NYTimes http://ow.ly/H1LO1 

Kidlitosphere

Lots of great tidbits in Morning Notes: Secret Town Edition @100scopenotes including #cybils + @goraina http://ow.ly/GXTln

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Giving Kids Their Future: Why We Need Science Fiction (beyond dystopias) For Kids @TesseractViews http://ow.ly/GPh9I #kidlit

What’s Trending? Hot Themes in $kidlit and what we want to see @FuseEight for @sljournal http://ow.ly/GTSH7 #WeStillNeedDiverseBooks

Useful stuff for authors and bloggers, too | Social Media Marketing 101 for Authors from @PragmaticMom http://ow.ly/GQdjD

Is It Possible to Read "Too Many Books?" @Miss_Fictional thinks so, and offers advice for avoiding reading burnout http://ow.ly/GPf5B

The New Wave of #GraphicNovels, incl. expansion to include more women and younger readers @WSJ http://ow.ly/GPaVO

Along with her 2014 Reading Stats, @catagator shares copy of a Google doc she's using to track reading-related data http://ow.ly/GIEs8

Great tips from guest @SunlitPages at @momandkiddo | How to Find Time to Read (Without Neglecting Your Children) http://ow.ly/H1aqA

Kudos from @FuseEight to those who Try Something New in the 21st Century Children’s Publishing Market http://ow.ly/H1bSB #kidlit

Parenting

Useful post from @BookChook | Helping Preschool Kids Get Ready for Big School http://ow.ly/H17Zj #parenting

Ways to encourage your kids to be "geeks" w/ interest in “hard” subjects of STEM at http://PlanetSmarty.com http://ow.ly/H1d6Y

Schools and Libraries

Lots of tips! On author school visits....a school librarian's perspective from Dawn Finch @AwfullyBigBlog http://ow.ly/GXSt6

Six Education Stories To Watch in 2015 | @NPR_ED via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/GU4pB #CommonCore #Testing #Teaching

Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play: How #Libraries Reach Kids Before They Can Read @NPR via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/GU3OP #literacy

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report, Fifth Edition

ScholasticReportfifth-editionThe Fifth Edition of the Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report was published today. There is a lot of great content available on the Scholastic website, from downloads of the full report to infographics outlining key findings.

Here are some of the findings from the report that stood out for me (see full set of Key Findings here), with some of my thoughts on them:

On The State of Kids and Reading:

  • Key Finding: "Both parents of children ages 6–17 (71%) and kids (54%) rank strong reading skills as the most important skill a child should have. Yet while 86% of parents say reading books for fun is extremely or very important, only 46% of kids say the same."
  • My take: It seems clear that many parents understand the importance of reading, but parents are apparently not doing a very good job of conveying this to kids. I wonder if this has to do with wanting kids to LOVE reading, and hesitating to make the case that reading is important and valuable. Is there a fear that if we tell our kids that it's important for them to read, this will take away some of the joy? How can we balance this, I wonder...  

On What Makes Frequent Readers:

  • Key Finding: "There are several predictors that children ages 6–17 will be frequent readers. Three dynamics among the most powerful predictors are:
    • being more likely to rate themselves as “really enjoying reading”
    • a strong belief that reading for fun is important and
    • having parents who are frequent readers."
  • My take: Again, I wonder about the innate tension in "reading for fun is important." Does knowing that it's important imply that it's not fun? Like eating your vegetables? I do know that in my household, I am modeling reading every single day to my daughter. That much I am sure of. In thinking about this all more, I believe that the message I want to convey to my daughter is: "Reading for pleasure is very important to me. I need it like I need breathing. And I truly believe that all of the books that I have read for pleasure have helped to make me who I am." 

On Reading Aloud at Home:

  • Key Findings:
    • "More than half of children ages 0–5 (54%) are read aloud to at home 5–7 days a week. This declines to only one in three kids ages 6–8 (34%) and to one in six kids ages 9–11 (17%); four in 10 children ages 6–11 who were read books aloud at home (40%) say they wished their parents had continued reading aloud to them.
    • When it comes to being read aloud to at home, more than eight in 10 children (83%) across age groups say they love(d) or like(d) it a lot—the main reason being it was a special time with parents."
  • My take: There needs to be better communication of this message to parents - that we should continue reading aloud to our kids long after they can read on their own. It's beneficial to the kids, and enjoyable to both parties. Personally, I intend to read aloud to my daughter (and/or have my husband do so) for as long as she will allow it. 

On Income Differences:

  • Key Finding: "Six in 10 parents with children ages 0–5 (60%) have received advice that children should be read aloud to from birth; however, just under half of parents in the lowest-income households (47%) received this advice vs. 74% in the highest-income households."
  • My take: Clearly, work needs to be done here. There are some other findings in the report that show that schools do make up some of the slack for lower income children. 

On What Kids Want in Books:

  • Key Findings:
    • "Ninety-one percent of children ages 6–17 say “my favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.”
    • The majority of kids ages 6–17 (70%) say they want books that “make me laugh.” Kids also want books that “let me use my imagination” (54%), “tell a made-up story” (48%), “have characters I wish I could be like because they’re smart, strong or brave” (43%), “teach me something new” (43%) and “have a mystery or a problem to solve” (41%)."
  • My take: Nothing new here on choice. When kids are reading for fun, for goodness sake let them read what they want to read. If that happens to be books that are funny, great. Find them more books that are funny. I always recommend that parents check out the Cybils shortlists, because the Cybils finalists are selected on the basis of being well-written and kid-friendly (which often = funny, especially in the books for younger kids). 

And here are the two infographics (both (c) Scholastic):

ScholasticWMFR_info-2

ScholasticReadAloud_info-2

Please do go and check out the resources on the Scholastic website. This is important research that I hope will be widely disseminated, and used to help raise coming generations of readers. 

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


The Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Book 1: Clover's Luck: Kallie George

Book: The Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Book 1: Clover's Luck
Author: Kallie George
Illustrator: Alexander Boiger
Pages: 128
Age Range: 7-10

Clover's Luck is the first book in the new Magical Animal Adoption Agency early chapter book series by Kallie George, with illustrations by Alexandra Boiger. Clover's Luck is about a little girl named Clover who has always been (or at least perceived herself to be) terribly unlucky. One day, when Clover has her pet canary out of its cage, a baseball comes through her window, and the canary escapes (bad luck indeed).

Clover follows the canary into The Woods, a mysterious forest into which people from her town never venture. There, Clover finds an ad seeking volunteers for the Magical Animal Adoption Agency (MAAA). At loose ends for the summer, Clover decides to volunteer. At the MAAA, Clover learns that magic is real. The MAAA is home to unicorns, a color-changing enchanted frog, and even a small dragon, all of which need to find good homes. When the proprietor of the MAAA goes out of town unexpectedly, leaving Clover in charge, she encounters a witch, and has a series of adventures. 

Clover's Luck is perfect fare for young readers who are charmed by magic, and who enjoy animals. There are black and white pencil illustrations every few pages, mostly small, but some full-page, bringing the magical animals and the determined Clover to life. At ten chapters and 128 pages, Clover's Luck is a couple of steps beyond easy readers, but still short enough to be unintimidating for relatively new readers. Here are a couple of quotes, to give a feel for the difficulty level of the text:

"She was so distracted thinking about magical animals that she dropped and broke not just her glass but also her plate when she was doing the dishes. And at bedtime, her toothbrush slipped in into the soap dish, and no matter how much she rinsed it, it still tasted like soap." (Page 21, ARC)

"A dark and far-off look came over Mr. Jams. He turned to Clover. "Many people want magical animals, but not all of them for the right reasons. Our creatures are meant for those who truly deserve them, those with good hearts. The animals at our Agency aren't possessions to be shown off, but companions, pets to be loved and cared for." (Page 40)

Clover is a delightful protagonist, somewhat lacking in self-confidence, but determined to do the right thing. She has conveniently neglectful parents, and is thrust into a position of responsibility beyond her years, but while she worries, she never shirks her new responsibilities. She grows emotionally over the course of the book, too (no mean feat for such a brief story).

George does come down quite directly on questions of right and wrong and looking on the bright side in this book, but for me, she stays on the right side of lesson-y. Things become clear to the reader as they become clear to Clover. 

In short, Clover's Luck is a delightful addition to the ranks of early chapter books. I look forward to future titles in the series, and hope that they are available in time for my almost five-year-old to appreciate them. 

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon and iBooks affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Cybils Links Shared during the Past Week

Cybils-Logo-2014-Round-SmThere has been plenty of buzz around the Kidlitosphere since the Cybils shortlists were announced last week. Here are the links that I've shared on Twitter (and, in many case, the Cybils Facebook page).

On the Cybils Blog:

On the #Cybils blog: 2014 Finalists: Links to posts about "The Ones that Got Away" http://ow.ly/GQebt #kidlit #yalit

On the #Cybils blog: The 2014 Finalists: What’s Being Said http://ow.ly/GPeuw @Book_Nut #kidlit

On the @Cybils blog: 2014 #Cybils Finalists: By The Numbers. Only 1 book out of 1333 that was not read at all! http://ow.ly/GIEGT

Today's Featured #Cybils Review: Early Chapter Book Finalist The Chicken Squad by Doreen Cronin + Kevin Cornell http://ow.ly/GXPcT

Announcements and Observations:

2014 #Cybils Award Finalists Announced reports Dodie Ownes @sljournal http://ow.ly/GXVYz #kidlit #yalit

Poetry Friday: #CYBILS #Poetry Finalists Announced, the scoop from @JoneMac53 http://ow.ly/GIFyn

Round 1 #poetry panelist @KellyFineman also shares the #CYBILS poetry finalists http://ow.ly/GIFKR #kidlit

#Cybils Awards 2014 Finalists in MG and YA Speculative Fiction, shared by @SheilaRuth http://ow.ly/GPc9r

Middle Grade Speculative Fiction: What’s In, What’s Out, observations from Round 1 #Cybils panelist @semicolonblog http://ow.ly/GQ9F0

Semicolon Speculative Fiction Awards 2014 from Round 1 panelist @semicolonblog http://ow.ly/GIFmL #kidlit

The Ones that Got Away:

Stacked: #Cybils Wrap-Up: Stats and the Ones That Got Away from Round 1 #YALit Spec Fiction panelist @kimberlymarief http://ow.ly/GTbbv

Don't overlook these books that didn't quite make the #Cybils YA Speculative Fiction shortlist, says @SheilaRuth http://ow.ly/GQ9m4

Sad that "we could only have seven books on our #Cybils shortlist", @charlotteslib shares some other #kidlit SF faves http://ow.ly/GIFU7

Some titles that didn't make the #Cybils #YALit speculative fiction shortlist that panelist @ixtumea also loved http://ow.ly/GIDOc

#Cybils Shortlists + The Ones That Got Away, from Round 1 #kidlit Speculative Fiction panelist @brandymuses http://ow.ly/GIEYd

Many thanks to everyone who has posted about and been excited about this year's Cybils shortlists. Our blog editor, Melissa Fox from Book Nut, will continue to feature review of Cybils titles on the blog in the coming weeks. The winners in each category will be announced on Valentine's Day! Stay tuned!

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 7

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a 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. I currently send the newsletter out every two weeks (three weeks this time, because of the holidays).

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have six book reviews (picture books and early readers), a post about my daughter's latest literacy milestone (noticing letters everywhere), and two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently. I also shared some thoughts (and the announcement of the Cybils shortlist) for the New Year, including further details on the direction in which I plan to take this blog going forward. 

Reading Update: In the last three weeks I completed one middle grade, two young adult, and two adult titles. I read/listened to:

  • Kate Milford: The Greenglass House. Clarion Books. Middle Grade. Completed January 4, 2015, on Kindle. This book is delightful, but as it has been widely reviewed elsewhere, I'll just say that I enjoyed it very much. A cozy old house (an inn), a locked room mystery, maps, pirates, and adoption all play a role. 
  • J.C. Carleson: The Tyrant's Daughter. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Young Adult. Completed December 26, 2014, Kindle library copy. This was a fast, interesting read about an unusual character (the daughter of a dictator from an unspecified apparently Middle Eastern nation). I didn't love it, but I certainly had to know how it ended.
  • Lamar Giles: Fake ID. Amistad. Young Adult. Completed December 27, 2014, Kindle library copy. I liked this fast-paced novel about a teen whose family is in the witness protection program, and the violence that ends up surrounding him. Bonus points for him being African American, but the book not being about that (though he uses his skin color to his advantage in one clever scene). 
  • Tana French: Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad, #4). Viking. Adult Mystery. Completed December 31, 2014, on MP3). Intriguing but depressing. I think I'm done with this series for a while. 
  • Rhys Bowen: Her Royal Spyness: The Twelve Clues of Christmas. Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed January 5, 2015, on MP3. Cozy Christmas fun if utterly implausible. I am enjoying the slow but steady pace with which Bowen advances the main character's romance. 

Even though a lot of people liked it (it was even shortlisted for the Cybils), and it seemed right up my alley, I abandoned Noggin by John Corey Whaley halfway through. I found I just didn't care about the characters. I'm currently reading the first book in the new Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series: The Case of the Missing Moonstore, by Jordan Stratford. I'm listening to the second book in Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co. series: The Whispering Skull.

I'm also, following a December in which my introverted nature was stretched to pretty near the breaking point, giving Susan Cain's Quiet another look. I don't really need to know how to use my introversion in business (I have a handle on that), but I would love to know how to get through the holidays without feeling like I was run over by a truck. 

We didn't read to my daughter as much as I would have liked over the holidays (a combination of travel and generalized busy-ness). But we closed out the year having read a pretty good selection of books. I'm anticipating that this year our reading list will include a higher percentage of chapter books. But there's no rush. She is certainly still loving picture books. 

Yesterday she wasn't feeling well (just a cold). She came home from school asking for soup. Not actual soup, mind you. She NEEDED the book Soup Day by Melissa Iwai. All of the bookshelves had to be scoured to find it. I also spent quite a bit of time the other night looking for Bob Staake's The Donut Chef. I believe that some organization of our picture book shelves may be in order this year. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Literacy Milestone: Letters, Letters Everywhere

LiteracyMilestoneALately I've noticed that my daughter, now 4 and 3/4, is obsessed with letters. She notices them everywhere. She's still not quite reading, but she is very aware of letters. After I shared a recent anecdote on Facebook, a friend, the mother of four children, said that I should treasure this phase, this excitement with learning about words and letters. So I thought that I would share a few recent examples with you all here (and thus save them for myself, too):

  • I was wearing a zip-front sweatshirt, zipped half-way up. She pointed and said: "Mommy, your shirt makes a Y." 
  • She remarked, out of nowhere: "Mommy, D-O-G spells dog. Did you know?" As a matter of fact I did know, but I appreciated the refresher.
  • She came running into the kitchen with two long, narrow balloons twisted together. "Look, Mommy, it's a T." Then she proposed that I pretend to drink it, like it was "tea the drink." 
  • We were watching a movie, and she was very quick to spell out "U-N-I-V-E-R-S-A-L." The logo left the screen too quickly for her to sound out the word, but she got all of the letters right. 
  • Lately, when she wants to say "yes", or (more commonly) "no", she traces the shape of the letters in the air, instead of saying them aloud. One has to pay close attention. 

I suppose this isn't really a clear milestone, but I find each of these incidents to be tiny footsteps on my daughter's pathway to literacy. I am attempting to cherish each and every one. [She remains, incidentally, beyond pleased with herself that she noticed the characters from I'm Bored making a cameo in Naked!, something that I missed completely.]  

How is the pathway to literacy and the lifelong love of books going in your homes? Wishing you all a letter-filled, book-filled 2015. 

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend: Dan Santat

Book: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
Author: Dan Santat
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

The premise of Dan Santat's The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend is that there exists an island where imaginary friends of all shapes and sizes live until they are called into service by a child. One particular little guy - he looks rather like a marshmallow with limbs - gets tired of waiting and sets out on a journey to find his human friend. He is at first taken aback by the oddities of the real world. However, he finds himself drawn to a kid-filled playground, where he eventually meets Alice, and is named Beekle. I found Beekle, book and character, to be both creative and charming. 

The Adventures of Beekle essentially posits that imaginary friends are real, though not everyone can see them. My six-year-old self would have loved this idea. (Though as an adult I find that the notion that my daughter's imaginary imaginary little brother might be real is a bit disturbing.) Dan Santat uses relatively minimal text, allowing the pictures to tell much of the story. Like this:

"His mind filled with thoughts of all the amazing things that were keeping his friend from imaging him.

So rather than waiting... (page turn)

... he did the unimaginable."

Here the first page spread shows a night sky filled with images of a boy reading books, holding up a soccer trophy, playing a guitar, etc. The next page shows Beekle, tiny but determined, in a little boat, crossing sea-monster-filled orange and yellow waves. Santat is able to convey Beekle's loneliness and bewilderment throughout his journey. But the best page shows a series of vignettes of Beekle and Alice's first interactions: their awkwardness and uncertainty and, in time, their joy. Only then do we see Beekle smile. I personally was quite happy for Beekle at that point. If there was a soft, squishy Beekle stuffed animal, I would probably buy it. 

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend is delight from start to finish. Recommended for library or home use for kids age three to six. 

Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Source of Book: Library copy, checked out for Round 1 Cybils consideration in Fiction Picture Books. All opinions are my own. 

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon and iBooks affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Hot Rod Hamster and the Awesome ATV Adventure!: Cynthia Lord

Book: Hot Rod Hamster and the Awesome ATV Adventure!
Author: Cynthia Lord
Illustrators: Derek Anderson (cover) and Greg Paprocki (interior, based on Anderson's style) 
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-7 (early reader, Scholastic Level 2)

My daughter and I have both enjoyed the Hot Rod Hamster picture books, by Cynthia Lord and Derek Anderson (see reviews here of the first book and of Hot Rod Hamster: Monster Truck Mania).  Now that my daughter is in the very earliest stages of learning to read, it's wonderful to learn that Hot Rod Hamster has launched an early reader series. The first book, which we read from a library copy, was Hot Rod Hamster and the Wacky Whatever Race! The second book, the one I am discussing here, is Hot Rod Hamster and the Awesome ATV Adventure!

The Awesome ATV Adventure! begins as Hamster and his friends set out one sunny day, looking for adventure. They soon encounter a sign for "Al's Awesome ATV Adventures", promising "Bumps! Jumps! Down and dirty fun!". Having lots of experience with Hamster's personality, my daughter and I knew immediately that he would be on board for some ATV riding. 

As in the picture books, the text in The Awesome ATV Adventure! includes a mix of dialog and narration, where the narration is in the form of asking the reader to choose between Hamster's next set of options. Like this:

"Three-wheeler.
Four-wheeler.
Track wheeler.
More wheeler.

Which would you choose?'

My four year old enjoys both predicting what Hamster will choose and discussing what she would choose (often not the same thing). For example, when Hamster is given a choice of courses for his ATV ride, it's pretty clear that he is NOT going to take the safe little path through the woods, even if the very safety of this option is what appeals to my real-world child. 

This question structure works well in the early reader format. There's a fair bit of repetition (as in "wheeler" above), and there are also little pictures that go along with each choice, providing visual cues. The Awesome ATV Adventure! is still moderately challenging as early readers go, with words like "delighted" and "zooms". 

The Hot Rod Hamster readers are written by Cynthia Lord, but the books are "based on the art of Derek Anderson", rather than being fully illustrated by him. In this smaller, paperback format, I really don't think that I would have noticed any difference had I not been looking for it. If I look closely at The Awesome ATV Adventure!, I do note what may be a more limited range of facial expressions on Hamster vs in the picture books (here, he smiles throughout). But this seems reasonable to me, given the format, and given the dynamic nature of the book as a whole. 

Hot Rod Hamster and the Awesome ATV Adventure! is bright, engaging early reader that features a picture book character beloved by many preschoolers. Hamster in this new adventure retains his trademark enthusiasm for everything (especially speed), with only modest tweaks required to make the book work in an early reader format. Highly recommended for fans of the series, and a must-purchase for libraries and classrooms serving new readers. 

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon and iBooks affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 2

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. There are a LOT of links this time, because I was traveling over Christmas, and stored everything up for when I returned. Topics this week include book lists (many!), book awards, the Cybils awards (many links there, too!), diversity, growing bookworms, events, programs, research, schools, libraries, reading, publishing, and the kidlitosphere.

First up, just for fun (no link): My four year old daughter has started saying "YEZZZ!" instead of "Yes", in homage to the Fly Guy books @Scholastic

Book Lists and Awards

#BookList: 100 Magnificent Children’s Books 2014, nicely categorized, from @fuseeight http://ow.ly/GFHHF #kidlit

Little Miss Muffet's Favorites: Great Books for 0-12 Month Olds from mom + former librarian @mrskatiefitz http://ow.ly/GBKwQ #kidlit

#BookList | A Tuesday Ten from @TesseractViews | #kidlit featuring significant gifts of speculative nature http://ow.ly/GzhAy

#BookList | 10 Picture Books About the Calendar from @mrskatiefitz http://ow.ly/GzbNk #kidlit

#BookList from @NonfictionDetec | The Best #Nonfiction Books for kids of 2014 http://ow.ly/Gz83E via @tashrow

#BookList |12 Favorite Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Books of 2014 from @semicolonblog http://ow.ly/GzhaT #kidlit

#BookList | Favorite Picture Books for Kids from the Picture Book of the Day Team @growingbbb http://ow.ly/Gz9PC #kidlit

Rounding out the Top 20 Books of 2014: 5-1 from @100scopenotes + @MrSchuReads http://ow.ly/Gz6ry #kidlit

Top Picture Books Lists of the Year (lists that received the most visits) from @momandkiddo http://ow.ly/Gz9X9 #kidlit

2014 Nerdy Awards for #Poetry + Novels in Verse Announced by @MaryLeeHahn @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/GE6rv #kidlit

2014 Nerdy Awards for #GraphicNovels, shared by @katsok @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/GBKI9 #kidlit

2014 Nerdy Awards for Early Readers and Chapter Books Announced by @alybee930 @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/Gzhs7 #kidlit

2014 Nerdy Awards for MG/YA #Nonfiction Announced by @donalynbooks @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/Gzh6Q #kidlit

2014 Nerdy Awards for #Nonfiction Picture Books, announced by @CBethM @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/GzdBZ #kidlit

2014 Nerdy Awards for Fiction Picture Books, announced by #Cybils judge @ProfessorNana @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/GzcrG #kidlit

Cybils

The #cybils Shortlists are LIVE! Happy New Year! http://www.cybils.com/2015/01/the-2014-finalists.html …

Jean Little Library: #Cybils Awards; or, Putting my money where my mouth is (for library purchases), edition 2014 http://ow.ly/GFHlR

The 2014 #Cybils Finalists have been announced! @bkshelvesofdoom throws confetti + shares the #YAlit finalists http://ow.ly/GFHaE

The #Cybils Shortlists + how to get involved next time for bloggers from @charlotteslib http://ow.ly/GFH2n #kidlit

Story Time Secrets: #Cybils Finalists and Panelists: Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books from @mrskatiefitz http://ow.ly/GFGXH @Cybils

Starting the year off with a wee bit of squee! #Cybils Easy Reader finalist @melissawiley on this year's @Cybils http://ow.ly/GFGq9

They're Here! Some Observations on the 2014 #Cybils Awards from @aquafortis http://ow.ly/GFRkV  #diversity #kidlit

 

Yay! My #Cybils nominee for YA Speculative Fiction, The Living by @mattdelapena was shortlisted! http://www.cybils.com/2014-finalists-speculative-fiction-for-young-adults … @cybils

#Cybils Statistics on Fiction Picture Book Nominees from Round 1 Judge Jennifer at Jean Little Library http://ow.ly/Gzhne #diversity

Thoughts on being a Round 1 #Cybils panelist in Middle Grade Fiction from @ea12l http://ow.ly/GFRXs  #kidlit

Today's featured #Cybils Review: Don’t Even Think About It by @SarahMlynowski reviewed at In Bed With Books http://ow.ly/GBINy

Yesterday's Featured #Cybils Review: Blood of My Blood by @BarryLyga reviewed by @Polking at Guys Lit Wire http://ow.ly/GzeWY #YALit

Another belated #Cybils Featured Review: A Piece of Cake by LeUyen Pham, reviewed by @RemenarReads http://ow.ly/GzbH7

A belated Featured #Cybils Review: Bird & Squirrel on Ice, reviewed by Nicola at It's All Comic to Me: http://ow.ly/Gza7D

#Cybils Wrap-Up and Round 1 YASF Statistics from panelist @mosylu http://ow.ly/GCoxc #YALit

Round 2 easy reader/early chapter book judge @PragmaticMom shares her excitement on #Cybils judging http://ow.ly/Gz9vp

An Interview with Maureen @mosylu Librarian and KitLit Blogger, mentions #cybils http://ow.ly/GemiF #kidlit

Diversity

DiversityMonthIconWorth reading! Why we host a month full of #diversity from @dos_twinjas http://ow.ly/GFHNZ #WeNeedDiverseBooks #kidlit

Representing #Diversity on 2014 YA Book Covers by @malindalo @diversityinya http://ow.ly/Gzgck via @CynLeitichSmith

2014 Overview from @TesseractViews | #Diversity in #kidlit Speculative Fiction for the Year http://ow.ly/GzeuI

Editorial from @RogerReads @HornBook on Why #WNDB and a diversity of #diverse books, too (not all prize-winners) http://ow.ly/GzfWI

3 On A #YAlit Theme: Characters With Disabilities from @catagator @bookriot http://ow.ly/Gz6UK #WeNeedDiverseBooks

A nice resource: African-American Interest Young Readers Titles, 2014–2015 from @PublishersWkly http://ow.ly/GzcgV via @FuseEight

Events, Programs and Research

Hpa-logoRead good books, do good deeds | Sara Danver @HornBook on @TheHPAlliance http://ow.ly/GzfsM #activism

January 27 Designated Multicultural Children's Book Day, reports @PublishersWkly http://ow.ly/Gz7hO via @CynLeitichSmith #diversity

It's not too late! Make books + spreading the joy of reading part of your family traditions urges Carol Rasco @RIFWEB http://ow.ly/Gz7Cs

Growing Bookworms

Favorite #Literacy Ideas Posts of 2014 @growingbbb http://ow.ly/Gzhg3

10 Favorite #Literacy Ideas for Preschool (selected from posts during the year) @growingbbb http://ow.ly/GzbsX

#RaisingReaders Monday: Using e-readers with newly independent readers | @kateywrites http://ow.ly/Gzb57 #literacy

Delightful post from @momandkiddo | Learn to Read with Jokes: Laughter and #Literacy Go Together http://ow.ly/Gz75W

20 Great Travel or Holiday Games recommended by @TrevorHCairney http://ow.ly/Gzbg3 #literacy

Introversion

I found #10 timely: 10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently W/ The World| Alena Hall @HuffingtonPost http://ow.ly/GBHHF via @SheilaRuth

Kidlitosphere

KidlitCon2014_cubeSome great #KidLitCon photos in @dos_twinjas Year in Review roundup post http://ow.ly/GBJkw #DiverseBooks

In the midst of the #Cybils excitement, a #KidlitCon Announcement / Intermission from @Book_Nut http://ow.ly/Gz9IT

A Year of Reading Turns NINE! Happy Blog Birthday to @MaryLeeHahn + @frankisibberson http://ow.ly/GFHAy #kidlitosphere

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Perfect for holiday time, some nice excerpts showing Families in Books @medinger (inspired by @GuardianBooks ) http://ow.ly/GE6BL

Teens prefer the printed page to ebooks reports @GdnChildrensBks http://ow.ly/Gz8mj via @tashrow #GdnTeenMembers

"Where Are All The Boy Books?" You're Buying Them | @catagator @bookriot analyzes top @Amazon #kidlit sellers http://ow.ly/Gz6MY

Schools and Libraries

Food for thought for educators in this post by @cathymere | Teaching and Learning in an Idea Economy http://ow.ly/GBK6b

Seeing It For Myself – Top 10 Things I Have Observed as Young Readers Are Given Choice by @jamibookmom @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/Gz9dl

Salt Lake City Public Library Proposes 24/7 Operations, reports @LibraryJournal http://ow.ly/Gz89x via @tashrow

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.