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Posts from November 2015

Literacy Milestone: Listening to Audiobooks on Her Own

LiteracyMilestoneALast week I ran across a guest post that Amy from Sunlit Pages wrote for Erica at the blog What Do We Do All Day? Both of these blogs are on my regular reading list, full of practical tips for encouraging young readers, plus book suggestions. This particular post was about helping kids learn to love audiobooks. A couple of things about the post caught my eye:

  1. Amy noted that listening to audiobooks can be especially good for kids who are introverted, because "he will probably welcome some alone time where he can relax and listen to a story." I had a feeling that this might apply to my daughter, too. 
  2. She mentioned that listening to audiobooks that he had heard before was helping one of her sons to fall asleep on his own, and that it was generally a good way for kids to fill time when they had nothing else to do. 

And then she got into tips for how to introduce audiobooks (what types of books to choose, what sorts of device to use, etc.), and ended with some suggested titles. 

Well, I myself am an avid listener of audiobooks. I listen when I am exercising, when I am in the car by myself, and when I'm doing mundane chores around the house (folding laundry, etc.). At all of these times, audiobooks turn what might otherwise be boring or tedious into something enjoyable. I've been known to exercise longer because I don't want to stop listening, or to continue tidying the house beyond what is strictly necessary. (I have only once missed my highway exit because of an audiobook.)

So I'm quite familiar with the joys of audiobooks. And I had dabbled a bit with listening with my daughter. We started listening to The Wizard of Oz when were are in the car together. But the truth is that I'm not in the car alone with her very often, for more than extremely short trips, and so our opportunities for listening together were slim. 

After reading Amy's article, though, I thought it might be worth trying to l find a device that would work for us to listen a bit around the house. I did a bit of research, and was pleased to learn that my old Kindle (not the PaperWhite that I currently use) supports audiobooks. And as Audible (where I've had a membership for about 12 years now) is now part of Amazon, this support is actually quite seamless. So I dug out the old Kindle (maybe 3 years old), charged it, and gave it a try. 

I took Amy's advice to start with a book that we had already read together. Well, sort of. I decided to start with the Ramona series. The whole set of 8 books is available for a single Audible credit, narrated by Stockard Channing. My daughter and I had only actually read the first couple of chapters of Beezus and Ramona aloud together, but she has also seen the movie. This makes Ramona and Beezus familiar to her. 

So while we were doing some coloring Saturday afternoon, I asked if she would like to listen for a bit. She said sure. I stayed with her to make sure she was able to follow the story, and she was. Eventually she stopped coloring and curled up on the couch to listen instead. That's when I knew she was hooked. She also asked to take the device with her on one of our very short car rides that evening.

The next day my husband and I had some chores to do, and she asked if she could listen to Ramona while she waited for us to finish. This time she just took the Kindle and wandered off to another part of the house. She kind of alternated between just listening and listening while working on other projects. And we got over an hour of work done. That evening my husband wanted to read to her himself, so he asked her where she was in the audiobook, so that he could pick up with the paper copy. She knew exactly what she had listened to and what she hadn't, so I do think that she's taking the story in. 

And so my daughter is now an audiobook listener. I expect to continue reading aloud to her just as much as ever, of course. But if she can listen on her own sometimes, to keep herself both occupied and immersed in the world of books, well, I think that's a great thing. I do happen to already own audio versions of a number of my childhood favorites...

One final point: It's also possible to listen to audiobooks on the Kindle Fire tablet. We do have one of those that my daughter uses. However, she is not aware, and is not going to be aware if I can help it, that she can use that device to listen to audiobooks. I fear that the distraction of knowing that videos are just a click away would be too much. The old Kindle (I don't even think this version is available any more) is gray and boring and all she can do is listen to the book. And really, isn't that all she needs?

I don't expect to be blogging much for the rest of this week. Wishing you all a peaceful Thanksgiving, and plenty of time for books. 

© 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. There are some affiliate links in this post. 

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: November 20

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book lists, book awards, National Book Awards, Thanksgiving books, book-themed gift guides, nonfiction, diverse books, literacy programs, Shakespeare, reading aloud, libraries, Little Free Libraries, and growth mindset. 


Neal Shusterman Takes National Book Award for “Challenger Deep” | +

Great annual resource from 2015 Best Children's Books of the Year: A List of Lists + Awards  

Book Lists

Sharing family time this Thanksgiving: four to share (ages 3-8) chosen by

20 that "capture the essence of childhood" per (Yay for BLIZZARD from )

Early Chapter Books to Match Every Child's Interest (Gift Guide) e.g. Books that Feature Strong Girls 

Holiday High Notes 2015: Annual selection of new holiday books, w/ reviews by staff 

Something to Read for the Whole Family Gift Guide, new + classic books by age range (inc parents), from 

Going Viral: Books About Infectious Diseases, from historical overviews to fiction | Ragan O’Malley 

A Tuesday Ten | Books to help in Growing a young Star Wars Fan  

Best New for kids for the School Year! per Esme Raji Codell

Ten Books that Imagine the Unimaginable: Genocide (for middle schoolers + up) by


WNDBLogoSqaurePress Release Fun: Picture Book Summit Raises Over $7000 for

Libraries Reach Out to Young Black Men | Linda Jacobson | Finding hooks + building bridges to

On Making and Using Book Lists - Considering A Recent Mighty Girl Book List by

Nominations are now being accepted for the 9th annual campaign, a literary showcase  

Events + Programs

Reachoutandreadbwlogo#Literacy oriented charities to consider for year-end giving from +more 

: the invisible crisis that we can no longer ignore via w/ UN Petition

Taylor Swift (partnering w/ ) Donates 25000 Books to New York City Schools

It's very easy to donate a book! Update on the Book Fair for Ballou!!!! (now ) from  [I donated Fake ID by Lamar Giles]

On why "we cannot continue to accept or perpetuate inequities limiting children’s open access to books 

What is An Illiterate Life Like? | 1 in 5 adults struggle to read. Here's what is doing to help: 

Fun Ideas For Kids: A Book Club Podcast from Details in 

Growing Bookworms

Introducing Young Children (as young as 7-8) to Shakespeare, how and why from  

How—and WHY—to Book Talk with Your Child by

Learning to Love Audiobooks: ways to cultivate a listening interest in kids by visiting

"How many of the children we teach know in their core that they are readers?" How can we help them? 


Various items in today's Fusenews incl. co's adaption of top 100 list w/ image descriptions  

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Conspiracy Theories: Is There a Second Murder in 's I Want My Hat Back? |

Essay by Kate DiCamillo: ‘Reading aloud binds us together in unanticipated ways.’ via  

Declining Sales Hit Home in publisher bottom lines via

Schools and Libraries

Growth Mindset: Clearing up Some Common Confusions, adding nuance to the framework | Eduardo Briceño

I was wrong: How learned that taking away recess is not a good way to motivate student behavior  

Great photos: The Public Collection Installs Artistic in Indianapolis via 

© 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

It's an Orange Aardvark!: Michael Hall

Book: It's an Orange Aardvark!
Author: Michael Hall
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

It's an Orange Aardvark! by Michael Hall is about a group of five carpenter ants who live inside a hollow stump. One day a bold, yellow-helmeted ant decides to drill a hole in the stump, so that they "can see what's outside." Another ant, one with an orange helmet, worries that the hole maybe a problem because:

"What if there's an aardvark out there?
Aardvarks are gray and sneaky ...

and they have long tongues
that are perfect for eating carpenter ants"

When the ants glimpse something orange through the hole, a new dispute arises about whether or not aardvarks can be orange. Other holes drilled in the stump reveal other colors, but the fears about the aardvark continue and build upon one another (It's an orange aardvark "wearing blue pajamas!", etc.). Eventually, the brave, yellow-helmeted ant ventures outside, and finds a pleasant surprise (though his most fearful companion is never convinced). 

It's an Orange Aardvark is an entertaining celebration of colors as well as fears. There are holes in the pages, through which readers can glimpse the same colors that the ants do. Hall colors concentric circles around the inside of each hole, showing the color glowing right through the holes and into the darkness of the hollow stump. The colors of the helmets are used to illustrate the personalities of the ants: the yellow one is adventurous, the blue ones are easily led, and the reddish orange one is downright paranoid. 

I like It's an Orange Aardvark because it celebrates the ridiculous, both in the premise as a whole, and in the ways that the orange-helmeted ant works the various colors into his warnings ("gecko-guiding, dozer driving", etc.). Sure, one could infer a message about not jumping to conclusions in the presence of insufficient information, but this isn't necessary to enjoy the book. The peeking through holes bit lends additional visual interest to the book, and makes it, in my opinon, more a book for preschoolers than for older kids. It would make a fun storytime read-aloud. 

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
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).

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: November 18

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 usually send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (all picture books). I also have two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently, and one post with my daughter's latest literacy milestone (natural spelling). Finally, I have a post about how I've been using Kindle samples to screen my reading material

Reading Update: In the past two weeks, after abandoning a few titles, I finished one young adult title and one adult title. I read/listened to:

  • Jennifer Donnelly: These Shallow Graves. Delacorte Press. Young Adult Fiction. Completed November 10,2015, on MP3. The historical details (including realistic constraints surrounding young women in the 1890s) were very well done. But the plot was quite predictable, with nary a revelation that I didn't see coming.
  • Stefanie Pintoff: Hostage Taker. Bantam. Adult Mystery/Thriller. Completed November 15, 2015, on Kindle.

I'm listening to A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George and reading Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living by Jason Gay. As you can tell by my low number of books read, I'm still in something of a reading funk, and really struggling to stay awake to read anything. Thank goodness for audiobooks! And Kindle samples. 

The books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter can be found here. Her latest obsession has been having us read Babymouse books aloud, which is always fun. She also sometimes wants us to read things that she has written herself (see this issue's Literacy Milestone), which is a new phase in our breakfast read-alouds. She is constantly scribbling away: from lists, stories, and rules to plans for what she wants to eat for breakfast every day (today was waffle day, complete with a little drawing of a waffle). This, of course, gives me great joy. 

Last night instead of having me read to her, she wanted to read The Princess in Black to herself. She couldn't really read all of it, but because she was familiar with the story, she was able to puzzle out words like "Frimplepants" and "princess" and "monsters". Quite a leap from the Bob books! (Though not at all a complete leap - she needs a lot  more practice with early readers to gain fluency.) But it goes to show that when a child is motivated to read a particular book, she can make surprising progress. 

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

Brimsby's Hats: Andrew Prahin

Book: Brimsby's Hats
Author: Andrew Prahin
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Brimsby's Hats by Andrew Prahin is about a little green guy (some sort of unidentifiable animal character) who makes beautiful hats. HIs best friend helps him by making "the most wonderful tea" and assisting in packing up the hats for shipping. But most importantly, the two friends have "the most wonderful conversations." When Brimsby's friend decides to move away, to fulfill a lifelong desire to be a sea captain, Brimsby is very lonely. Eventually, however, Brimsby uses his hat-making skills to help him to make some new friends. The book concludes on a happy note, with Brimsby and his new friends visiting the old sea captain friend, and all of them talking about "hats and shovels and ships and how wonderful it was that they had all been lucky enough to meet one another."

OK, when I read my own description of this book, it sounds a bit saccharine. But it doesn't read that way. I think this is because of Prahin's matter-of-fact tone. Like this:

"The hat maker worked for many quiet days after that, and had many quiet cups of tea.
(They weren't nearly as wonderful as the tea his friend used to make.)
It was quiet.
Very quiet.
Too quiet.
One day the hat maker realized he had become awfully lonely."

The above text is spread out across a series of panels, each showing Brimsby by himself at a table for two, making his lonely hats and drinking his lonely tea, as the seasons change outside his window, and winter comes. 

Prahin's Adobe Illustrator-generated pictures use the pure white backdrop of the snow to accentuate Brimsby's loneliness. But there's humor, too. Brimsby encounters a group of birds, all nesting in a tree, keeping warm with little stoves as they sweep the snow out of their nests. There's a graphic artist feel to the illustrations - they are a bit stylized - and I think this helps keep the book from feeling too sentimental, too. There's an early sequence in which Brimsby and his friend are talking, and the author shows the things that they talk about as images in text bubbles: the two friends dressed as pirates, fighting dragons and a giant purple octopus. 

Brimsby's Hats is a book that makes me happy when I read it. I think that young readers will enjoy it, too. Although it is technically about the importance of finding friends, Prahin steers well away from the didactic by focusing on the efforts and experiences of one quirky little hat maker. Recommended for home or library use. 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@SimonKids)
Publication Date: December 31, 2013
Source of Book: Library copy

© 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: November 13

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book awards, picture books, Thanksgiving books, Christmas books, gift guides, historical fiction, diverse books, folktales, reading aloud, reading choice, Elephant & Piggie, social media, parenting, and libraries. 


The 2015 Irish Book Award Shortlists in youth categories from  

2015 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books | @tashrow #kidlit #nonfiction 

. Best Books of the Year for Young Adults | Their pick for best is AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by sabaatahir

See also Best Books of the Year for Kids | Top pick is by

Book Lists + Gift Guides

10 Great Picture Books About Art by Elizabeth Dillow

Happy Veterans' Day + a Picture Book List to help explain today to your kids, from @rosemondcates 

A Generous Helping of Thanksgiving Day Books for kids from at Adventures in Land

New Favorite Christmas Books for Kids from including Gingerbread Man + Doreen Cronin's Duck

It’s Not a Hobby, It’s a Postapocalyptic Life Skill: Arts & Activities | Series Nonfiction | @pwbalto @sljournal 

Find the Perfect Chapter Book for Every Child: A Gift Guide from w/ lots of series + boxed sets  

Holiday Shopping Ideas that encourage kids + teen to unplug (no batteries required) from

Exploring America’s Past: "Superbly written" Historical Fiction for Middle Grade Readers Joy Fleishhacker

Early Chapter Books with Fierce Female Characters | @denabooks @ReadBrightly 


The Life and Death of the African Folktale in American Publishing w/ of titles from recent yrs

Publishers, Editors, Everyone: Keep Your Courage and Keep Up the Good Work! | on  

Inviting all our readers into stories: Reflections on talk at Author Banquet 

Events + Programs

Connecting the World Through Books: Tips from the Global Read Aloud by  

Our own is in the news | Charlottesville Nonprofit Developing App to Help Illiterate Parents

The Return of the Book Fair for Ballou High School Library! (now on ) from 

NYCReads365, a new multi-year citywide #literacy effort to promote reading every day, in/out of schools @BklynEagle 

The NCBLA just launched Great Reads initiative, author + illustrator recommendations to connect kids w/ great books 

Growing Bookworms

I tend to agree: Kids Should Read Whatever They Want, Whenever They Want by via  

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Delightful post from | Everything I need to know, I learned from Elephant and Piggie |  

Calde-Snacks — Favorite snacks from most of the 2015 Caldecott honorees

Food for thought on The Downfall of Social Media (when it puts up walls instead of enabling discussions) 

"why picture books don’t come with batteries ... they’re powered by mind melding with their audience" 


The Lost Art of Saying Thank You: concrete ways to actually cultivate gratitude in our kids from  

Schools and Libraries

SchoolLibrariesWorkWhen school librarian staffing is reduced, achievement in ELA suffers @MrSchuReads @Scholastic School Libraries Work 

Three Phoenix Public Library Branches Now Offer Treadmill Workstations for patrons | Gary Price  

How to Provide Kids With Screen Time That Supports Learning | @dfkris @MindShiftKQED  #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

Toys Meet Snow: Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky

Book: Toys Meet Snow: Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-loving Rubber Ball 
Author: Emily Jenkins
Illustrator: Paul O. Zelinsky
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

Toys Meet Snow brings the world of Toys Go Out and sequels (chapter books by Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky) to picture book format. The result is a treat for picture book readers of all ages. In this simple celebration of winter, three toys are left at home while Little Girl is away on vacation. Curious about the snow they see outside the window, Lumphy, StingRay, and Plastic venture out of doors. They make a snowman and snow angels and have a fun-filled day, before heading inside at sunset. 

It is not necessary to have read the Toys Go Out books to appreciate Toys Meet Snow. The personalities of the three toys are crystal clear, without any previous context. Lumphy (a stuffed buffalo) is the one asking questions like "Why does it decide to snow." StingRay (a plush stingray) "is more poetic than factual", coming up with answers like "Because the clouds are sad and happy at the same time". Plastic (a round rubber ball, inaccurately named) stays focused on the facts (most of the time).  

The events of the story strike a nice balance between being toy-specific and being universal to child readers. The snow angels that they make reflect their unique shapes (Plastic's is especially humorous, a grouping of circles where she has bounced around). And the page in which the three toys have to work together to open the outside door, shown in a series of panels, is hilarious. 

The details of the story are also well-balanced, between factual ("it's what rain becomes when the temperature is freezing" and poetic (sunset is "strawberry syrup pouring over the world to make it sweet before nightfall." In the end, the more poetic side wins out, and even pragmatic Plastic is taken by the strawberry syrup sunset. 

Zelinsky's digitally rendered illustrations draw the reader completely into the story, somehow managing to give us a toy's sense of perspective on the big, snowy world. The sunset images are particularly lovely and warm. Jenkins' text is spare, leaving the pictures to convey much of the story. It could have been a tricky transition, from the more text-dense chapter book format to a picture book, but she handles it beautifully. 

Toys Meet Snow is the perfect book with which to curl up with a child on a cold winter's night. It's also a nice introduction for younger readers to this kid-friendly series. Highly recommended. This book was my nomination for the 2015 Cybils Awards in Fiction Picture Books.  

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: September 22, 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 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).

Literacy Milestone: Phonetic Spelling

LiteracyMilestoneAUntil recently, if my daughter wanted to write something, she would ask us how to spell it. We would carefully pronounce the word, sound by sound, and make her guess the letters, helping out in the many cases where English just doesn't make sense. This was a slow process. 

In the last couple of days, however, she's become too impatient for that. She has so much that she wants to write down that she has started just making up her own mind about how each word is probably spelled. The results are much more prolific, if sometimes a bit difficult to puzzle out.

This afternoon she presented me with a series of animal facts that she had written down. Here are a couple of the more readily-decipherable ones:

  • "Lisrs have babees" 
  • "Sum frogs er bloo" 

Some of the others, well, I'm still not exactly sure what she's trying to get at. I've suggested that she add illustrations. I suspect that this coming time period will parallel that time when she had just started talking, but couldn't pronounce all of her letters, and we had to work to understand what she was saying. Kind of a sub-local dialect. 

But I am thrilled to see her so excited about the written word. Now that she's getting the hang of it, there will be no stopping her.  

© 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

On the Use of Kindle Samples for Screening Books

Since my daughter was born 5 1/2 years ago, I've become a very picky reader. My reading time is much more limited than it used to be, and I am much more tired than I used to be. If a book is not working for me, I will fall asleep while reading it (regardless of the time of day), thus cutting into my reading time even further. If I do not abandon such books, I know that I'll never get any reading done. [Occasionally I switch to audio format for a book that I do really want to read - I generally listen while exercising, and so the falling asleep thing is not much of a risk.]

One thing that has helped me to manage my reading recently has been the use of Kindle samples. For those not familiar, these are free samples that are available for most (all?) books sold on Amazon in Kindle format. They include some small percentage of the book, perhaps a chapter or two, depending on the book. I've found that the samples are long enough to give me a pretty good idea of whether or not a book will hold my interest.

So here's what I do. When I read about a book on a blog or in a magazine, if it's already published, then instead of adding the book to a wish list, I just send myself the sample. I usually have half dozen or so samples on my Kindle PaperWhite, and when I get a spare few minutes (e.g. while I'm blowdrying my hair) I'll look through them. If I get to the end of the sample wanting to continue, then I know that I want to read the full book. If not, it is (usually) off the list. 

At that point I may purchase the book from Amazon (as I did last with Jason Gay's Little Victories), download it from Audible, add it to a wish list, or, in some cases, accept a review copy from someone who has offered it. This practice has kept me from buying books that were not likely to work for me anyway, and helped (slightly) in cutting down on unread review titles. Of course this is only helpful for books that have been published. I still maintain a wish list for others. And I do also accept some review titles on NetGalley and send those to the Kindle. In that instance, I like that a publisher hasn't incurred the cost of sending me a physical book - it's easy for me to dip in and see if the book catches my interest or not. 

I still do sit down sometimes with a big stack of physical review copies, reading the first couple of chapters to decide which books to read next. But the electronic sampling has been helpful in allowing me to dip into books that catch my eye on the idlest of whims. I've had a lot of travel recently, and my PaperWhite has been an essential companion. I don't have the latest generation, but I still adore it. It's light enough to take everywhere, holds as many books as I could possibly want, allows me to change the font size easily, and is backlit. [On a recent trip, I used it as a gentle nightlight to avoid waking my husband and daughter when I rose early.] And I can sample many books, quickly and easily, allowing my picky reading self to become even pickier.  

Of course this Kindle sample method of triaging books is not for everyone. It does result in me purchasing more digital books that I would otherwise (and yes, of course that is the point - Amazon is a business). But for me, the benefits outweigh the costs.

© 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 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). 

Paul Meets Bernadette: Rosy Lamb

Book: Paul Meets Bernadette
Author: Rosy Lamb
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb is one of those books that I didn't fully appreciate until I read it with my child. Paul is a goldfish who spends his time swimming around in circles. He doesn't have anything else to do. One day, Bernadette is dropped into his bowl, however, and changes his whole world. Instead of just swimming around the goldfish bowl, Bernadette takes note of the things she can see outside of the bowl. She identifies these things to Paul, though her knowledge proves to be somewhat lacking. Still, Paul is utterly charmed, and by the end of the book, he's not going around in circles, he's going around Bernadette, the new center of his world. 

The part that my daughter loves about this book is the way that Bernadette mis-identifies things. She sees a banana and thinks that it's a boat. She sees a pair of glasses and declares it "a lunetta butterfly". A teapot becomes an elephant. And so on. These mix-ups make my daughter peal with laughter. Identifying the objects correctly makes her feel smart. All in all, these things make this a very interactive picture book. 

What my daughter doesn't really notice, at four, is the way that Bernadette's misconceptions always expand the world in which she and Paul live. She doesn't see two fried eggs, she sees "the sun and the moon." She doesn't see milk and orange juice containers, she sees the city of "Milkwaukee." (A joke that will be over the head of most kids, but pleased me.) Bernadette takes what could be a dull, circumscribed existence and makes it ever-interesting. Paul gets this. After she identifies the sun and the moon he thinks: "And you, Bernadette, are my star." 

Lamb's use of oil paints for the illustrations is a good choice. She's able to use swirls of colors to show the movement of the goldfish in the water, and to lend a textured appearance to everything that the fish see. 

As with the objects on Paul and Bernadette's table, there's more to Paul Meets Bernadette than initially meets the eye. Paul Meets Bernadette is entertaining for kids, and gorgeous to look at, but also has a subtle, integral message about how people can make, and break free of, their own prisons. A standout picture book, recommended for home or library purchase. 

Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick)
Publication Date: December 10, 2013
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: November 6

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book awards, "best of" book lists, Mock Newbery, Mock Caldecott, book lists, the Cybils Awards, diverse books, #Readukah, #GNCelebration, graphic novels, growing bookworms, schools, banned books, #KidLitCon, picture books, and over-scheduled kids. 

Awards and Best Of Lists

Books on Civil Rights + Social Justice Honored at Annual @janeaddamspeace Awards Celebration @roccoa @sljournal 

2016 Children’s Book Award Shortlist (formerly Red House Award) via @tashrow #kidlit 

The 2015 @NYTimes Best Illustrated Children's Books, judges @medinger @MarjorieIngall + @VIVAandCO @PublishersWkly 

PW's Best Children's Books of 2015 in #PictureBooks, Middle Grade + #YA  @PublishersWkly #kidlit 

Emerson School's 2016 Mock Newbery Nominations from @MaryAnnScheuer w/ links to other Mock lists  #kidlit

2016 Mock Caldecott, 22 #PictureBooks assessed by @MrSchuReads college students + @colbysharp 's 3rd graders 

If the Public Picked the Newbery… — @100scopenotes shares mock-Newbery results from Goodreads  #kidlit

Best Children's Books of 2015 per @ParentsMagazine | 1 each in 12 categories from board book up via @100scopenotes 

Book Lists

Fun Monday Early Chapter Book Battle: Piper Green and the Fairy Tree #2 vs. Junie B. Jones #2 by @MrBenjiMartin 

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers, Oct. 2015 (w/ huge influx of #Cybils panelist reviews) @mrskatiefitz 

16 Holiday Read Aloud Chapter Books, old + new (that the whole family will enjoy) from @momandkiddo 

On The Radar: 9 #YA Books to watch for November by @catagator at Stacked  

Numbers Are Nifty: 7 Books That Help Make Math Fun (picture books + middle grade) | @dcorneal @ReadBrightly 

From Hamster Princess to Cakes in Space: 2015’s Funny Fantastic books for kids from @TesseractViews 


On the #Cybils blog: @ABABook Indie Next Revisit & Rediscover initiative + the Cybils lists @Book_Nut 

A #Cybils Spider chart from @kimberlymarief tracking connections between her Round 1 Cybils #YA SFF reads  


.@LEEandLOW Partners with Simmons College Center for Study of Children's Lit to Create #Diversity Scholarship  

WNDBLogoSqaureWNDB Announces Inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant Recipients #WeNeedDiverseBooks @PublishersWkly 

.@Scholastic Reading Club + @DiverseBooks teaming up on flyer w/ >75 diverse books for kids  #WEHAVEDIVERSEBOOKS

Black Girls Matter: A #YA Reading List from @catagator at Stacked #WeNeedDiverseBooks 

"I don’t think much will be accomplished by sprinkling #diversity into stories" like rainbow sprinkles @RogerReads 

Emily Jenkins Apologizes for A Fine Dessert, intends to donate writing fee to @DiverseBooks says @Llauren @sljournal  

A Slightly Different Take on A FINE DESSERT from @varianjohnson for whom the book works as a gateway to conversation 

On #Diversity: "we can't nod our heads dumbly without exploring the nuances" of each situation" @MitaliPerkins 

Can We Talk of Solutions? Regarding Diversifying Children’s Literature | @fairrosa via @100scopenotes 

A Bibliography of recent discussions on A Fine Dessert from @100scopenotes  [the above few links + more]

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Congratulations to @FirstBook Honored with# Literacy Award by Library of Congress + now serves >200,000 educators 

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PictureBookMonthSudipta Bardan-Quallen: "Picture books are conversations, which later become relationships"  #PictureBookMonth

Why Picture Books Are Important, "a critical entrée to reading" by @MatthewGollub for #PictureBookMonth

This is excellent. Project to build laundromats in poor areas + use time to teach reading to kids @libromathub @NPR 

Growing Bookworms

Why #GraphicNovels Are Storytelling Quicksand for Reluctant Readers | @JuddWinick @ReadBrightly 

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An apt post on #RaisingReaders @SunlitPages | The Quiet Security of Books |"Books give the family a shared language" 

7 Ways to Grow a Reader on a Neighborhood Walk from @growingbbb (e.g. play I Spy) 


The Five Best Things About #KidLitCon from Community to Enthusiasm to #Cybils | @LizB sums it up for @sljournal 


Just for fun: Adult Coloring Books that are Perfect for Gift Giving! from @rosemondcates 

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Even More Unexpected Jolts of Children’s Literature in Very Adult Places — @fuseeight  #kidlit

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

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.@Amazon opening first real bookstore in Seattle | All books will be face out + feature review or rating from web 

I’m a Girl, and I’m a Huge Fan of Comic Books — Here’s Why You Should Be Too @TeenVogue  via @tashrow

Drop the guilt: Laws of Reading you can freely break, like "You can enjoy not reading" by @catagator @bookriot 

Useful tips: How to Find Time to Read (for yourself) When You Have Young Kids | @ReadBrightly 

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Schools and Libraries

Support from L. Frank Baum explaining which skills + attributes @BooksBabiesBows wants for her kids from elem school 

We’re destroying our kids — for nothing: Too much homework, too many tests, too much... pressure @VickiAbeles @salon  

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This is encouraging: Tech Tools That Have Transformed Learning With Dyslexia | @HKorbey @MindShiftKQED 

© 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

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream: Kristy Dempsey & Floyd Cooper

Book: A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream
Author: Kristy Dempsey
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream, by Kristy Dempsey and Floyd Cooper, is about a little African American girl in the 1950's who hardly dares to dream of being a ballerina. Her mother works as a seamstress for a Harlem ballet school, where the Ballet Master allows the little girl "to join lessons each day from the back of the room, even though (she) can't perform onstage with white girls." But when her mother takes her to see "Miss Janet Collins ... first colored prima ballerina" to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House, the girl feels hope that her own dream might one day come true. 

A Dance Like Starlight is a moving story that gives modern children a window into the segregation of African American children in the 1950s. The girl wonders "Could a colored girl like me ever become a prima ballerina?" This seems, until she learns of Miss Collins, more like a wish than something with any reasonable hope of occurring.

This book is fairly text-heavy, and more suited to older children than preschoolers. Here's a snippet (all from one page):

"It takes
to get where we're going.
I keep checking Mama's watch
and straining my neck to see how far we've gone.
But in this crowded bus from our place in the back
all I can see are sidewalks and storefronts.
It makes it hard to see the tops of high-rises,
landmarks that would let me know we're close,
ones I would recognize
from wishing on a skyline every single night."

Cooper's mixed media illustrations have a sepia tone that reflects both the dark skin of the main characters and what may be a nod to old-fashioned photos from 60+ years ago. The people and settings are depicted realistically. One image, of the girl's anguished face in the hands of the Ballet Master, makes her so real that I felt like I knew her. 

A Dance Like Starlight is not going to be for everyone - there's a lot of text, and the illustrations, while lovely, have a serious feel. But for kids who love dance, or who scarcely dare to dream that they can become something big, A Dance Like Starlight will really hit home. And it's of course nice to see a picture book on the new books shelf that shows a brown-skinned girl lost in the joy of dance. Recommended, especially for library purchase. 

Publisher: Philomel Books (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: January 2, 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).