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Jen Robinson's Book Page - 5 new articles

 

 

Elmer: David McKee

Book: Elmer
Author: David McKee
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6 (board book)

Harper Collins has issued a new 25th anniversary board book edition of David McKee's Elmer. This is a slightly over-sized board book, with a bright patchwork cover, and my four-year-old (meeting Elmer for the first time) was unable to resist it.

For those who have not made his acquaintance, Elmer is the story of a patchwork elephant who stands out from among the other elephants in his herd. Elmer stands out not just because of how he looks, but because of his happy-go-lucky nature. He makes the others laugh. However, fearing that the other elephants are laughing at him, rather than with him, Elmer decides to disguise himself. But not to worry - Elmer's true nature, and eventually his true colors, shine through in the end. 

There's a subtle message here about being yourself, of course. But I think that i has been around for 25 years because David McKee doesn't hit kids over the head with this message. Instead, he celebrates the delightful absurdity of a patchwork elephant, and the joy that all of the elephants have in witnessing a good joke. Elmer is also wonderfully bright and appealing for the youngest readers. At the end of the book, the elephants elephants decide to color themselves one day a year, in celebration of Elmer. The final spread is a riot of color and patterns. I challenge anyone to see it and not smile.

This new board book edition of Elmer would make pretty much a perfect holoiday gift for a toddler in your life, especially if accompanied by a stuffed Elmer. There's a reason that classics like this are still around. Elmer is a fun, bouncy sort of book, one with heart.  

Publisher: HarperFestival (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: August 26, 2014 (this board book reprint edition)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2014 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).

      

 

A Good Home for Max: Junzo Terada

Book: A Good Home for Max
Author: Junzo Terada
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-5 

A Good Home for Max by Junzo Terada was originally published in Japan in 2005, and was brought to the US this year by Chronicle. It's the story of a mouse named Tabi who lives in "a little shop in a little town". Every night Tabi comes out of hiding to clean and re-stock the shop, paying special attention to the stuff animals. Tabi tries to help a particular animal friend, a stuffed dog named Max, to become enticing enough to be purchased. But every night, Max is still there, and the friendship between Tabi and Max grows closer. When Max isn't there one morning, Tabi has to leave the safety of the shop to make sure that Max is safe. 

Terada's text is mainly straight-up narrative, without particularly advanced vocabulary or rhyming, and just a bit of dialog (only Tabi actually speaks). Here's a snippet:

"Tabi decorates Max with an inner tube
in summer, because he'd be a good 
dog to play with at the beach ...

and a festive hat in winter, because
he would be a good dog to play with
in the snow."

Really, though, it's the illustrations that make this book special (Teresa is a designer and artist). Terada uses a muted color scheme and mixed media illustration style that makes the book look old, in a good way. Like the colors have faded a bit. There are repeated design elements, like patterns of cherries and identical ducklings, and patterned backgrounds, that add a certain cheerfulness. Tabi is the only character who really seems active, but we do see a change in Max's expression between the beginning and end of the book, suggesting that the stuffed animals are at least somewhat animate. It’s a distinctive style, different from most of the picture books that cross my desk, and one that catches the attention. 

One tidit that I also liked was the presence of various signs and labels in French. For those who don't know French, it's reasonably clear from context what these things say. And for those who do know a bit of French, it's nice for practice. 

A Good Home for Max is a celebration of the power of friendship, with an international flair, and an unconventional and appealing illustration style. It would make a lovely bedtime book for preschoolers, sure to have them dreaming of toys that come to life, and little mouse tidying up a shop overnight. 

Publisher: Chronicle Books ((@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2014 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).

 

      

 

Waiting Is Not Easy! (An Elephant and Piggie Book): Mo Willems

Book: Waiting Is Not Easy!
Author: Mo Willems
Pages: 64
Age Range: 5-7

Waiting Is Not Easy! is the newest title in Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie early reader series. In this installment, Piggie tells Gerald that she has a surprise for him. Gerald spends most of the book trying to figure out what the surprise might be, and then lamenting how long he has to wait. Of course in the end, the surprise is worth waiting for.

Willems perfectly captures the attitudes of young children. The very idea of a surprise is delightful. But actually waiting for something nice, particularly when you don't know exactly what it is, is not so easy. 

The funniest parts of Waiting Is Not Easy! are several instances in which Gerald, impatient, lets out a loud "GROAN". Willems shows each groan as huge, black letter in a text bubble that flat-out knocks over Piggie ("OOF!"). This is the kind of playfulness that pleases young readers. My four year old laughed out loud, particularly enjoying the acceleration of the groans ("This time he REALLY knocked her over.").

As in the other Elephant & Piggie books, the appeal of the book stems largely from the way that Willems captures the feelings of Elephant and Piggie. The illustrations are minimal, but the expressions on their faces (particularly on Elephant's face) run the spectrum from delight to misery. My favorite illustration is one in which Elephant throws his arms joyfully into the air, saying "I CAN'T WAIT." Piggie leans in, smiling, but then points out "You will have to." We see Elephant's face go blank, even as his arms are still raised. 

Waiting Is Not Easy! is sure to please fans of the Elephant & Piggie series. The minimal text, complete with visual cues, as well as the universal themes, makes this a fine choice for brand-new readers. But I am perfectly happy to share this one as a read-aloud to my daughter, too, because it is funny from cover to cover, and includes a gorgeous surprise, too. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2014 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).

      

 

Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin Trilogy): Robin LaFevers

Book: Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin Trilogy, Book 3)
Author: Robin LaFevers
Pages: 464
Age Range: 13 and up

Mortal Heart is the final book in Robin LaFevers' fabulous His Fair Assassin trilogy. This installment is told from the viewpoint of Annith, fellow handmaiden to Death with prior protagonists Ismae and Sybella. As Mortal Hearts begins, Annith, who has spent her whole life preparing to serve the god Mortain, chafes at being kept at the convent, instead of being sent out on a mission as an assassin. When she learns that the Abbess intends to keep her at the convent forever, trained to be the Seeress who sends others out on missions, Annith rebels and escapes (though she still seeks to serve Mortain). Various adventures and revelations follow, as LaFevers brings the series to a conclusion.  

I found Mortal Heart to have a nice balance of action and introspection. Annith is insecure in many ways, consumed with understanding her own place in the world, but she's also strong and capable. Like this:

"Keeping the knife clenched in my hand, I look up at her and allow every bit of anger and frustration I am feeling to show in my eyes. She blinks and leans imperceptibly back. Good, I think, then smile, a movement so brittle it is a wonder my cheeks do not shatter." (Page 57)

"And there it is. The threat I have lived with my entire life. I I am not good enough, kind enough, thoughtful enough, obedient enough, I will be cast from my home like a stunted fish from a fisherman's net." (Page 61)

"It is a terrifying thing to cross the sea at night, but I tell myself it is exhilarating. There is nothing but the glimmer of moonlight to steer by, and the sharp salt-scented breeze from the sea whistles past my ears, bringing a faint spray to my face." (Page 83)

I was pulled slightly out of the story by a reference that Annith makes to being asked to "run interference", which seems to me to be a more modern term than would have been used in 1489.But aside from this minor quibble, I thought that LaFevers continued her excellent job overlaying a real historical world and characters with a fantasy involving gods and special powers. 

Mortal Heart has strong characters, a suspenseful, secret-filled plot, and an intriguing setting and premise. I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to a top-notch series. I highly recommend Mortal Heart for fans of the series. And, since the series is now complete, this would be a great time for new readers to immerse themselves in LaFevers' tale. 

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHBooks
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2014 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 21

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book lists (many!), the National Book Awards, the Cybils Awards, diversity, growing bookworms, National Readathon Day, KidLit TV, parenting, schools, libraries, and time management. 

Books, Book Lists and Awards

Jacqueline Woodson’s ‘Brown Girl Dreaming’ Wins 2014 National Book Award for Young People's Literature| @sljournal http://ow.ly/ECWg4

The 2014 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize Winner is The Dark Wild by Piers Torday http://ow.ly/EitZ1 via @tashrow #kidlit

Visiting grandparents: three picture books to share (ages 3-8) from @MaryAnnScheuer http://ow.ly/ED01b #kidlit

Favorite Board Books for Babies and Toddlers from @ThisReadingMom http://ow.ly/EuYz2 #kidlit

Favorite Picture Books for Pre-K/K selected by @ThisReadingMom http://ow.ly/EyoFE #kidlit @The_Pigeon

Favorite Picture Books for K-2nd grade from @ThisReadingMom (includes TIKKI TIKKI TEMBO) http://ow.ly/ED2fd #kidlit

At Stacked: 9 "recently-published titles that should appeal to teen dragon fans (three of which are #Cybils nominees) http://ow.ly/Eypaq

NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for K-12 students in 2014, winners shared by @tashrow http://ow.ly/EynPo

9 Picture Books About Parades selected by @mrskatiefitz http://ow.ly/EuYkT #kidlit

The Best Children’s Books and Picture-Books of 2014 according to @brainpicker http://ow.ly/EuY0M via @bkshelvesofdoom

My daughter is dying for Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood, reviewed here by @tashrow http://ow.ly/EuWAY @penguinkids

Book List from @growingbbb | Talking to Children About Death of a Sibling http://ow.ly/Eqryi #kidlit

Favorite #Nonfiction Series Books {for K-5th grades} from @ThisReadingMom http://ow.ly/EqrhF #kidlit

Booklist from @bkshelvesofdoom | Seven YA books featuring graffiti artists http://ow.ly/EqqYh #yalit

Top Ten High School Favorites from Former Students by @shkrajewski and some former students @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/EmkxR

Recommended Reads For Teens Who Need a Laugh from Jean Little Library http://ow.ly/Emjf1 #YAlit #kidlit

Beyond the Bestsellers: Books for fans of Robin LaFevers's "His Fair Assassin" Trilogy from @catagator @bookriot http://ow.ly/EivkM

12 Picture Books 4 to 8 Year Olds Should Read from Laurie Levy at Still Advocating http://ow.ly/EiqUn via @tashrow

Cybils

ArmchairCybilsIt's time for the Armchair #Cybils November check-in @Everead http://ow.ly/ED0w0 #kidlit

This is wonderful! Wit and Wisdom from (Mostly) #Cybils Nominees 2014 | @semicolonblog http://ow.ly/Eypso

Today's Featured #Cybils Review is the #BookApp for Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan, reviewed by @pwbalto http://ow.ly/Eynl9

Today's Featured #Cybils Review is Greenglass House by Kate Milford, reviewed by @semicolonblog http://ow.ly/Eqmru

This month's Featured Bloggers at #Cybils are Guinevere and Libertad Tomas @dos_twinjas http://ow.ly/Emj6W

Guess who got to be The Cybils' November Featured Bloggers of the Month =) @dos_twinjas http://ow.ly/Eqsd4 #Cybils

Today's Featured #Cybils Review: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty reviewed by @Book_Nut http://ow.ly/Eipzx

Diversity (including Book Lists Focused on Diversity)

WNDBLogoSqaureGreat news! #WeNeedDiverseBooks has met the $100,000 fundraising goal! At $102,744 this morning per @CynLeitichSmith http://ow.ly/EitH9

Interesting thoughts from @RogerReads @HornBook about whether or when to mention race in a book review http://ow.ly/EipMe

LGBTQ Fiction, Reimagined Fairy Tales, & Horror | What’s Hot in #YAlit | SShelley Diaz @sljournal http://ow.ly/ECWGN

Big News in #Diversity: Big Hero 6 Tops Box Office w/ diverse cast reports @LEEandLOW http://ow.ly/EymzO via @bkshelvesofdoom

Latinas For Latino Lit share 'Remarkable' Children's Books of 2014 at NBC New.com http://ow.ly/Evg3k @PWKidsBookshelf

Black and White and Read All Over: #Diversity and Inequity in Children’s Publishing, by Cheryl Klein @scholastic http://ow.ly/EymiM

Infographic: Gender Bias in popular films across 11 countries, shared at @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/EvgFk

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Announces Publishing Internship Project @sljournal #WNDB http://ow.ly/EuNwa

Native American Heritage Month: 10 Children’s Books By Native Writers @LEEandLOW http://ow.ly/EisGl via @CynLeitichSmith

Quentin Blake: We need more disabled children in picture books @BBCNews http://ow.ly/Eiray via @tashrow

Events, Programs and Research

NationalReadathonDayThumb2Make #timetoread for National Readathon Day, says @LibraryJournal http://ow.ly/EuNHP #literacy

What Kids Are Reading: A Renaissance Learning Report, highlights shared @PublishersWkly #literacy http://ow.ly/EvfK1

Announcing #Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month for 2015 @kidlitwhm http://ow.ly/Emjnn

Growing Bookworms

Using imaginative storytelling with young children, tips from @TrevorHCairney http://ow.ly/ECZDX #literacy

Guest post @RIFWEB from @SamRVamos about The Reading Bond that parents can nurture http://ow.ly/EqqCb #literacy

Coping with Children’s Changing Tastes and Attitudes in reading: "be flexible and not judgmental" @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/EiuLM

Kidlitosphere

New York Media Works Launches Children’s Literature Portal #KidLit TV hosted by @roccoa http://ow.ly/Ef6HQ via @PWKidsBookshelf

Online friends – real or imaginary? | On taking the risk to meet online friends in person by @NorahColvin http://ow.ly/Eiuqd

Miscellaneous

Good advice from @abbylibrarian in: I Didn't Check My Email (on vacation) (and Lived to Tell the Tale) http://ow.ly/ECYQP

Food for thought in: The Disease of Being Busy by @OSTADJAAN http://ow.ly/EuXB9 via @StaceyLoscalzo

Twitter Announces a Searchable Archive of Every Tweet is Now Accessible to All Users | @infodocket http://ow.ly/ECX42

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Is There Also A Good Reading Fairy? asks @gail_gauthier musing also on whether teens should read classics or wait http://ow.ly/Emkjr

How Do We Feel About Writers Writing For Free? Is There Something To Be Gained For The Individual... @gail_gauthier http://ow.ly/Er13k

Tips for hosting a successful author event at a bookstore from Hicklebee's Books event reported by @darshanakhiani http://ow.ly/EmjIG

Who are the best quirky heroines in children's books? | @GdnchildrensBks http://ow.ly/EirA9 via @tashrow #kidlit

Parenting

Four Ways to Encourage Kids in the Spirit of Giving @FirstBook http://ow.ly/EuWkD

Top Ten Bookish Christmas Gift Ideas from @BooksBabiesBows http://ow.ly/EivB3

Schools and Libraries

It Just Takes One, a reminder from @katsok for teachers about why it's worth the effort to help find the right book http://ow.ly/ED2AY

Mommy Librarian's Story Time Secret #6: Board Books Are (Usually) Too Small For Story Time! from @mrskatiefitz http://ow.ly/ECZfZ

Dinner Before Dessert? (or, Should We Really Be Pushing for More Nonfiction Reading?) | @ReadByExample http://ow.ly/ED3b1

At The Uncommon Corps, Marc Aronson ponders whether libraries should be developing programming for dad caregivers http://ow.ly/Eiqlw

© 2014 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.