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Jen Robinson's Book Page - 5 new articles



A Perfectly Messed-Up Story: Patrick McDonnell

Book: A Perfectly Messed-Up Story
Author: Patrick McDonnell
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell is the latest entry into the growing category of picture books in which what happens to the book is part of the story (This book just ate my dog! comes to mind). What happens in A Perfectly Messed-Up Story is that a guy named "little Louie" is "skipping merrily along" in a sunny landscape, beginning to tell his story, when he suddenly encounters a blob of jelly. Louie is horrified that someone would eat a sandwich while reading his book.  And then things s get worse.

There is peanut butter plopping onto the page, followed by fingerprints, and orange juice, and then ... deliberate disrespect ... coloring. Louie throws a tantrum because, after all, "books are important". He makes an attempt to withdraw himself from the story altogether. But in the end, he realizes that, well, the book has actually turned out fine. 

The illustrations in A Perfectly Messed-Up Story feature a big-eyed character that looks like the little monsters in McDonnell's The Monsters' Monster. He has a toddler-like appearance, even wearing a one-piece romper. His posture and exaggerated facial expressions clearly indicate his displeasure when things go wrong. But the real beauty of the illustrations is the way McDonnell makes it look like there is actually a blob of jelly stuck the page. The various things that defile the book stand out clearly from the rather muted backgrounds, with strong visual cues for young readers about exactly what is going on. 

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story is a fun book for preschoolers, though the one-joke storyline may not hold the attention of older kids. There's a subtle lesson about learning to roll with the punches, but the action in the book is so contrary to expectations that kids will be laughing too hard to realize that they have absorbed any message. Recommended for younger readers, and for fans of McDonnell's distinct illustration style. A Perfectly Messed-Up Story would make a fun group read-aloud for library or preschool, too.  

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids) 
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher, received for consideration for the Cybils awards. 

© 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: March 27

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter over the past couple of weeks @JensBookPage. (I was on vacation last week and did not post). Topics this week include book awards, book lists, diversity, gender, the Cybils Awards, growing bookworms, book-related events, literacy programs, national poetry month, Pi Day, play, reading, publishing, and schools.


2015 Waterstone’s Book Prize Winners via @tashrow #kidlit #YALit

Voting Opens for 2015 Indies Choice/E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards Finalists | @ABABook via @PWKidsBookshelf #kidlit

Author @KwameAlexander Named Inaugural Bank Street Writer in Residence reports @PublishersWkly @bankstreetedu

Newbery / Caldecott 2016: Spring Prediction Edition from @FuseEight #kidlit

Book Lists

#BookList from @frankisibberson | Four Must-Have New Picture Books! #kidlit

Picture Books About Balloons, a @growingbbb #BookList #kidlit

The Rite of Spring: Top Ten Books for the Season by @bryansbooklove @NerdyBookClub #BookList

RA RA Read: Chapter books for Reading Aloud to Young Children from Jennifer Wharton

Fun! Your Official 2015 Children’s Literature Ninja Buying Guide — @100scopenotes #kidlit


On the #Cybils blog: #BookList Fun: Fun and Funny Fantasy Read Alouds for the Whole Family by @brandymuses

Tuesday on the #Cybils blog: An Interview with @CeceBellBooks by @book_nut #kidlit

On the #Cybils blog: We Need YOUR Help, calling for contributors to write themed #BookLists for the blog #kidlit

Last week on the #Cybils blog: List Fun: Kid-Friendly Biographies, #BookList by @ontheshelf4kids #kidlit

Diversity + Gender

ACL 2015, #diversity and the #kidlit community, updates from Finding Wonderland @aquafortis @zaftigbabe

Why Do #WeNeedDiverseBooks in Non-Diverse Schools? Increased academic performance + more, Taun M. Wright @LEEandLOW

More 2015 New Releases in LGBTQ Young Adult Fiction, #BookList from @molly_wetta #YALit #DiverseBooks

Some stats on #Diversity in #Kidlit Book Awards, 2005-2015 @read4keeps #WeNeedDiverseBooks

"The stories of strong women ... need to be heard ... by both our daughters and our sons." @MaryPearson at Stacked

"I don’t think our daughters need guardians of innocence. I think what they need is power" @ElanaKArnold at Stacked

Stacked: Why Friendship Books Are Essential: Guest Post w/ #BookList by Stacey Lee @catagator #YALit

10 Feminist Books for Kids and Teens, a @Book_Nut #BookList #kidlit

24 Thoughts on Sexism, Feminism, YA, Reading, and The Publishing Industry from @catagator #yalit

Events + Programs

NationalPoetryMonth5 Week Poetry Challenge for National #Poetry Month from @momandkiddo

Great ideas for Celebrating Pi Day! 3.14152653 tomorrow from A Field Trip Life

Police, bookstore team up to create a new children’s library in SF - @Mdbarba @SFExaminer via @PWKidsBookshelf

10 Awesome Book Charities That Help Kids All Over The World @HuffPostParents #literacy

Growing Bookworms

#RaisingReaders Monday @kateywrites | On the joy of vacationing with kids who can read independently

Family #Literacy: How to Memorize #Poetry with Kids, guest post from @SunlitPages on @momandkiddo blog

Eight ways early writing reinforces reading (like offering rich experience of story) from @TrevorHCairney #literacy

What Not to Worry About in Teaching Young Children to Read | @KJDellAntonia interviews Raising Kids Who Read author

Audiobooks Equal Seriously FUN Reading say @Jon_Scieszka + Brian Biggs w/ @RandomHouseKids #literacy

Early #Literacy in Everyday Places: The Mud from @mrskatiefitz

Board Books: "reading w/ babies creates a world where it is normal for them to read" Samantha Cleaver @NerdyBookClub

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

My daughter will be thrilled! Disney Jr to Adapt Fancy Nancy as Animated Movie, TV Series @Variety @HarperChildrens

Is There More Science in Fantasy than Real Life? Thinking About Science in Children’s Books by @EmmaBarnesWrite

Gallery: The Art of the Picture Book Barcode from @100scopenotes #kidlit


The Overprotected Kid (+ a new kind of playground to counteract) by Hanna Rosin in @TheAtlantic via @escapeadulthood

Schools and Libraries

We should always play in the classroom by @KevinCordi @NerdyBookClub (Play is an imaginative + deliberative practice)

Virtual Preschool? Believe It or not, It’s a Thing | @lisagkropp @sljournal

Why Kids Need to Move, Touch and Experience to Learn | Katrina Schwartz @MindShiftKQED

What will happen When the Computer Takes Over for the Teacher? asks @TheMrGodsey @TheAtlantic

© 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.



Naked! Michael Ian Black & Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Book: Naked!
Author: Michael Ian Black
Illustrator: Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-5

Naked! by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi is, as you might expect, a celebration of the joys (for preschoolers, anyway) of running around naked. A little boy escapes his weary mother after his bath and runs joyfully all around the house. He enjoys being naked so much that he imagines going to school or the playground naked. He eventually adds a cape to his (lack of) ensemble, and this seems for a time to be the perfect compromise. However, by bedtime, the cold drives him into giving some clothing a try (though the cape stays on, too). And warm and cozy, he falls asleep, slung over mom's shoulder. 

[Parenting note: this mom deserved what she got. What was she thinking, letting her kid eat three large chocolate chip cookies between bath time and bedtime? Of course he was running around the house like a crazy person.]

Seriously, though, Naked! simply radiates joie de vivre. Black's minimal text perfectly channels the stream of consciousness thought process of a three year old. Like this:

"Running around naked!

Sliding down the stairs naked!

Eating a cookie totally and completely naked!"

Like the boy, the text bounces around all over the place, with the words "sliding down the stairs" shown stair-stepping down the page, and the words "totally and completely" shown on separate lines and angled in alternating directions. 

Ohi's digitally created illustrations match the the tone of the book perfectly. The boy is shown cartoon-like, with a huge grin and a yarn-like mop of hair. She does a fine job of making it clear that the boy is naked, while using positioning and props to avoid revealing anything that would get the censors into a snit. The funniest page, I think, is when he does "the Hokey Pokey naked", as shown from above (spinning mop of hair with hands or feet sticking out). 

Naked! is book that will delight preschoolers of a certain age, while evoking knowing smiles from experienced parents. There's no special message or story, just a refreshingly straightforward, infectious celebration of being oneself. A must-purchase for libraries serving preschool populations. 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (@SimonKids) 
Publication Date: April 29, 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).



Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 25

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, but this time it's been three weeks, because I have been on vacation.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have six children's book reviews (picture book through young adult), one installment of my new #KidLitFaves series, and two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently. I also have a review a of book for parents by Nancy Newman on Raising Passionate Readers

Reading Update: In the last three weeks I completed three middle grade, three young adult, and three adult titles. Very balanced reading indeed! I read/listened to:

I'm listening to Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card, and reading The Shining by Stephen King (another book I had not read in decades). The books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter can be found here (though the list is not quite up-to-date).

Our vacation was to Disney World, and my daughter spent considerable time prior to the trip, at her own initiative, catching up on Disney-themed books. Once we were there, I can't say we had as much time to read with her as I might have liked, but of course real life experiences are important, too. Her favorite book these days is Mitchell Goes Bowling by Hallie Durand and Tony Fucile. She was also quite thrilled when we went through today's many packages to find new Pinkalicious and Fancy Nancy paperbacks waiting.

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



The Shadow Cabinet (The Shades of London): Maureen Johnson

Book: The Shadow Cabinet (The Shades of London series, Book 3)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Pages: 384
Age Range: 12 and up

For some reason, I thought that The Shadow Cabinet was the conclusion to Maureen Johnson's Shade of London series. Just so you know, it's not. Which is great in that there will be at least one more book in this intriguing, atmospheric series. There will be spoilers in this review for books 1 and 2. If you haven't read them, I'll just tell you that they are ghost stories with some historical references set in modern-day London, and featuring a teenage girl from Louisiana who becomes involves with an unusual investigative squad. They are both fun, suspenseful, and in parts, seriously creepy. 

Apart from a brief flashback scene, The Shadow Cabinet begins immediately following the events of Book 2, The Madness Underneath. Rory and the rest of the squad are searching for the ghost of Stephen, who died from injuries sustained rescuing Rory from a crazy woman named Jane. A fellow student of Rory's, Charlotte, is still missing, presumably in Jane's company. Rory is in hiding, guilty about and grieving for Stephen, but determined to help make things better. Adventures, with mortals and ghosts, follow. 

A new character is introduced in The Shadow Cabinet, a geeky girl named Freddie who loves to do research, and a past character, Rory's ex-boyfriend Jerome, makes a reappearance. The world building that Johnson demonstrates re: Rory's ghost-filled London is quite strong. The supernatural aspects are conveyed in almost a matter-of-fact way, such that one might almost believe that The Shades of London are real. But my favorite aspect of this series remains Rory's voice. She can be humorous, like this:

"England is strange in many ways, and one of those ways is that they leave things like Stonehenge sitting at the side of the road. I think I expected something more like Disneyland, with all kinds of buildings nearby, and maybe a waterslide called Druid Dunk! or something. Maybe I thought it would be larger, or behind a wall. No. It was just there, in the field." (Page 193)

But also raw and honest, like this:

"W wave hit me--an agony so profound it was exquisite. It stopped my heart and took my air and made the floor feel like it was falling away. Nope. Nope, nope, nope. Feelings denied. I had to be fine for him, and therefore I would be fine. This was an order." (Page 55)

Even the various little chatty bits in which Rory tells quirky stories about her Louisiana hometown didn't bother me, despite interrupting the flow of the plot a bit, because I just like hearing her talk. I listened to Book 2, actually, which helped me in "hearing" Book 3 in my head.

I hesitate to say more, because you should go into this without too much knowledge about the plot. I'll just say that fans of the series will definitely not want to miss The Shadow Cabinet. Though larger plot (and relationship) questions are left for the next book, enough things are resolved in this book to satisfy readers. But oh, how I am curious about what will happen next! Recommended for anyone who enjoys ghost stories, particularly if they like them with just a splash of humor. But read Books 1 and 2 first. 

Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons (@PenguinTeen) 
Publication Date: February 10, 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).