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Jen Robinson's Book Page - 5 new articles

 

 

The Way to the Zoo: John Burningham

Book: The Way to the Zoo
Author: John Burningham
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

The Way to the Zoo by John Burningham is a picture book about a little girl named Sylvie who discovers a secret doorway in her bedroom that leads to a zoo. The animals are friendly, and sometimes Sylvie brings some of them back into her house. The small bear is cozy to sleep with, but the penguins make a splashy mess in the bathroom. And when Sylvie forgets to close the door to the zoo one day, chaos ensues. 

The Way to the Zoo reminded me a bit of Barbara Lehman's Rainstorm, and a bit of Philip and Erin Stead's A Sick Day for Amos McGee. All three books feature implausible events related in a completely matter-of-fact manner. My four year old daughter thought that The Way to the Zoo was hilarious, and asked immediately that I read it again. 

Burningham takes his time with the story. Instead of jumping in to where the girl finds and opens the door, she first glimpses the door from her bed, decides to wait to check it out in the morning, and then forgets, and doesn't look inside until after school the next day. He uses a relatively basic vocabulary, and explains what's happening in detail. I think that The Way to the Zoo could function as an early reader for some kids. Here's an example (all on one page spread):

"It was getting late. Sylvie had to get back 
to her room and go to sleep because she
had school again in the morning.

Sylvie asked a little bear to come back
with her. He did and slept in her bed

She made sure the bear was back in the
zoo and the door in the wall was closed
before she left for school."

This passage is, of course, also good for teaching young readers about foreshadowing. 

Burningham's illustrations are in pen, pencil pastel, and watercolor. The are minimalist, with only the faintest suggestion of backgrounds, lots of white space, and the details left to the reader's imagination. This isn't my personal favorite style of illustration - I couldn't always tell what kind of animal was being represented, for instance. But the pictures made my daughter laugh, particularly one involving birds in the living room, and another in which a rhino lies on the floor covered up in towels for the night. 

The Way to the Zoo has a timeless feel, support in particular by the apparent freedom that Sylvie has from parental oversight. It would make a nice school or library read-aloud for K-2nd graders. Recommended for home or library use! 

Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick) 
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 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

      

 

KidLitCon Update!

2014KidLitConLogoThe 8th Annual Kidlitosphere Conference is rapidly approaching. KidLitCon is an annual gathering of children's and young adult book bloggers. It is incredibly fun, educational, and rewarding. This year, KidLitCon will be held in Sacramento, CA, at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, on October 10th and 11th. The theme is Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next? As one of the organizers of this year's conference, I wanted to give you all a quick update of what's been going on with the KidLitCon planning. 

My friend and KidLitCon14 co-chair (with Sarah Stevenson), Tanita Davis from Finding Wonderland, has an excellent new post up at the Kidlitosphere Central blog: What Do We Mean When We Talk About "Diversity" and How Can YOU Contribute to the Conversation? 

Tanita discusses the general buzz around diversity these days, and acknowledges that it can be difficult to even define what we mean by seeking more diversity in books and blogging. There are, after all, many types of diversity. She makes a few suggestions for both diversity-themed and more general session topics that might be submitted for KidLitCon. She concludes:

"We blog, because blogging gives us a voice. We blog about diversity, because we’ve all got different voices. Use yours.Sign up to join a panel or a session or to pitch an idea for this year’s KidLitCon. You can be a part of a game-changing conversation."

So how about it? Do you, in all your uniqueness, have something to contribute to this year's Kidlitosphere Conference? Session proposals will be accepted for one more week, through August 1st. Program Coordinator Charlotte Taylor from Charlotte's Library is standing by for your submissions. If you have an idea but wish to discuss it more informally, you can always email her

We also shared a post recently by this year's Author Coordinators, Melissa Fox from Book Nut and Reshama Deshmukh from Stacking Books, about ways that authors and publishers can get more involved with KidLitCon. Here is their enthusiastic conclusion:

"KidLitCon does have the best of everything: Good books, good conversation and amazing KidLit bloggers under one roof!! We hope you can join us and we look forward to seeing you there!"

Even if you aren't interested in making a presentation, or being actively involved as an author or publisher, you are still more than welcome and encouraged to come to KidLitCon and observe (or participate from the audience). We're expecting librarians, authors, teachers, parents, booksellers, publishers, and readers. Registration Coordinator Maureen Kearney from Confessions of a BIbliovore is ready to accept your KidLitCon14 registration form at any time. Registration closes September 19th.

 

I've submitted my registration form, and can't wait for KidLitCon. October. Sacramento, CA. Kindred spirits talking about ways to get books into people's hands. Don't miss it!

© 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.  

      

 

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 25

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. This week's topics include book lists, diverse books, ebooks, growing bookworms, events, KidLitCon, literacy programs, literacy research, schools, libraries, and summer reading.

Book Lists and Awards

Fun new #BookList from Stacked: Teenage Criminals http://ow.ly/zydPR #yalit

A Tuesday Ten: Magical Time Travel in #kidlit | Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/zvU6C

A Tuesday Ten: Speculative #kidlit in which MAPS play a major role | Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/zpXU3

2014 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Finalists Announced | @sljournal http://ow.ly/zt0Oq #yalit

In honor of Apollo XI moon landing anniversary, @FirstBook shares favorite space-inspired books http://ow.ly/zsTGS

Our Top Ten Favorite Picture Book Friendships by @heisereads + @fins025 @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zpXKp #kidlit

Nice list of 10 family-tested "Great Audiobooks" from @Book_Nut http://ow.ly/zpSN7

First Day of School Books, old and new, recommended @growingbbb http://ow.ly/zpPOa #kidlit

Diverse Books

The 10 LGBT YA Books You Need to Read This Year | Kelly Gallucci @BookishHQ http://ow.ly/zvMAz

An big, categorized LGBTQ TBR List For Any Occasion by Alison Peters @bookriot http://ow.ly/zpTkZ via @catagator

eBooks and Apps

A look at Amazon's new Kindle Unlimited from All Sides — @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/zvTi3 #eBooks

Forbes Says Close The Libraries And Buy Everyone An Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription http://buff.ly/1mrHHvf #libraries #ebooks

What Young Adult Publishers and Authors Can Do to Fight E-Book Piracy | Karen Springen @PublishersWkly http://ow.ly/zyG5I

Are Today’s Kids All Thumbs? Touch Matters. Researchers Bring Tactile Learning into Digital Realm @ShiftTheDigital http://ow.ly/zt0I3

Events, Programs, and Research

FirstBookSummer_ReadingNo Kid Hungry: Summer Feeding and Summer Fun @FirstBook blog http://ow.ly/zkiSg #literacy

Press Release Fun @FuseEight | Announcing the Ninth Annual Carle Honors on Sept. 18th http://ow.ly/zydAj

Hillary Clinton launches campaign that recommends reading aloud to children from birth @MercuryNews http://ow.ly/zyeel #literacy

Study finds children who have strong reading skills 'are more intelligent by their mid-teens' | http://ow.ly/zyd10 via @librareanne

Growing Bookworms

Important post! You’ve got them reading–now, how do you keep them that way? | Kathy Higgs-Coulthard @wendy_lawrence http://ow.ly/zpUJU

Grownups: You Can Read YA, and Why Not Read It With Your Kids? | @lori_day @HuffingtonPost via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/zsWPw

Teaching My Daughters to Read -- Part IV, Success by @ReadingShahahan http://ow.ly/zpSZN #literacy

"Wimpy Kid" Author's 6 Tips to Hook Reluctant Readers | @CommonSense via @librareanne http://ow.ly/zpDXV

Kidlitosphere

Fusenews: Full of ever-interesting tidbits from @FuseEight, like The Snow Queen – There Can Be Only One http://ow.ly/zpYrR

KidlitCon2014_cubeDon't miss: A Note for Authors and Publishers About #KidLitCon14 from @Book_Nut + @StackingBks http://ow.ly/zpZCU

Still more from Tanita Davis at Finding Wonderland on why you should attend #KidLitCon14 (even/especially introverts) http://ow.ly/zpYNa

"One of the best ways to deepen commitment to #kidlit is meeting other people who share that passion" @MitaliPerkins http://ow.ly/zkiZ8

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Why YA needs heroines beyond Katniss Everdeen http://ow.ly/zsWnj @TelegraphBooks via @PWKidsBookshelf #yalit

Thanks for the laugh, @SevenImp + @FuseEight | Celebrity Picture Books: The Gift That Keeps On Giving (laughter) http://ow.ly/zsUi8

The Precocious Ones, overachievers who kick-started their career at eye-poppingly young ages? @SevenImp @FuseEight http://ow.ly/zpR6A

Stacked: A Short Update on a YALSA Policy Change from @catagator http://ow.ly/zpX4g

Things that cause readers to "hit pause" on some books, by @donalynbooks @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zpTRe

Lovely Infographic: (Canadian) Readers Save the World, shared @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/zkke7 #literacy @CBCBooks

Schools and Libraries

Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing (costly textbooks) - Meredith Broussard @TheAtlantic http://ow.ly/zsVR1

Why Do Americans Stink at Math?: NYT article recommended by Jeff Barger http://ow.ly/zyFTZ

Great tips for Supporting Readers During Workshops: The First Few Weeks, by Katie DiCesare @ChoiceLiteracy http://ow.ly/zpE8m

How I Addressed Gender Bias in My Book Club by NC teacher librarian @sedley1 @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zkjJu

How The Public Library Turned Me Into A Reader by Claire Fallon @HuffPostBooks http://ow.ly/zyGiDvia @PWKidsBookshelf

Summer Reading

#SummerReading Tip31 @aliposner | Make some time for playing board games this summer — they can promote #literacy http://ow.ly/zvUo7

#SummerReading Tip27 @aliposner | Encourage summer writing by authoring books (journals) this summer http://ow.ly/zkk2A

#SummerReading Tip29 @aliposner | Use summer as an opportunity to build your child’s vocabulary! http://ow.ly/zpWFG

I'm tempted by #SummerReading Tip30 @aliposner | have “ice cream only day” with your kids (+ tie in #literacy )! http://ow.ly/zsUGe

© 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.

      

 

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature: Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, Peter Sieruta

Book: Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature
Authors: Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta
Pages: 288
Age Range: Adult Nonfiction

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature is an insider's guide to the world of children's books and their creators, written by three well-known children's book bloggers. In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have known Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson since my earliest days of blogging. While we've only met face to face a few times, I've read their blogs for years, and been on shared mailing lists and the like. I also read the late Peter Sieruta's blog, though I don't believe I ever had any direct contact with him. So you should consider my discussion of Wild Things! more along the lines of a recommendation than a critical review. I very much enjoyed the book. 

Wild Things! reveals the authors' deep affection for and knowledge of the field of children's literature. They discuss everything from the history of subversive children's literature to book banning to the ways that the Harry Potter books have affected the industry. This is the first book I've seen that openly discusses gay and lesbian authors of children's books, and how the outsider status of some of these authors may have affected their work. Like this:

"Unique perspectives yield unique books. It is difficult to be gay and not see the world in a way that is slightly different from that of your straight peers." (Page 54, ARC)

I especially enjoyed chapters on "scandalous mysteries and mysterious scandals" and "some hidden delights of children's literature." There's also an interesting discussion of the books critics love vs. the books that kids love. 

Despite covering a lot of ground, Wild Things! is a quick, engaging read. Though there are extensive end-notes citing sources, and it's clear that much research has been done, the book itself reads like a series of chatty essays written by friends. Wild Things! is full of interesting tidbits, like the extra pupil shown on one page of Madeline, and a rather disturbing claim by Laura that Pa Ingalls may have once encountered a serial killer. There are some resources that may help those new to thinking about children's books, such as a list of publications that review children's books. But for the most part, Wild Things! is a book that's going to appeal most to people who already have a reasonably solid grasp of the industry, and at least a passing familiarity with the key players. 

Wild Things! is not, however, insider-y in terms of the book blogging world. Because I've read so many posts by Betsy and Jules, there were certainly places where I could hear their distinct voices coming through. There are some fun sidebars in which all three authors briefly take on some question or author. But there is scant mention in the book of the authors' blogs themselves. The authors do muse a bit in the final chapter about the impact of cozy relationships between bloggers and authors, but for the most part they keep their emphasis on books and authors, and other people who have been instrumental in the evolution of the larger children's book world (like Ursula Nordstrom). They do include snippets of interviews with many authors and publishers, frequently backing up their own opinions with remarks from leaders in the field. 

Wild Things! is strong on the defense of the importance of children's literature (and fairly strong against message-driven celebrity books). Like this:

"And with every doctor, librarian, and early childhood educator telling us that childhood's importance is without parallel, it is baffling to see their literature condescended to, romanticized, and generally misunderstood." (Page 5 of the ARC)

"Childhood is not a phase to be disregarded; the same should be said of the books children read. They deserve well-crafted tales from the people who have the talent to write and illustrate them and who take their craft seriously. Do they need heavy-handed sermons from the latest celebrity "It" girl's newest children's book? Not so much." (Page 6)

I also loved this quote from A. A. Milne:

"Whatever fears one has, one need not fear that one is writing too well for a child, any more than one need fear that one is becoming almost too lovable." (Page 192)

Wild Things! is a book about the joy and quirkiness that is the field of children's literature. It is a celebration of books and their authors, and a defense of the importance of putting the very best possible books into children's hands. Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta accomplish all of this by sharing stories and opinions, theirs and those of others, with the reader. Fans of children's books, be they authors, bloggers, teachers, librarians, parents, or just people who appreciate a good book, are sure to enjoy Wild Things! Recommended for adults and older teens (there is definitely content that is not for kids), and a must-purchase for libraries. Wild Things! is a keeper!

Publisher: Candlewick 
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 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

      

 

In the After: Demitria Lunetta

Book: In the After
Author: Demitria Lunetta
Pages: 464
Age Range: 13 and up

In the After is the first of a two-book series by Demitria Lunetta (the second book was just released, though I haven't read it yet). In the After is set in the wake of a world-wide apocalypse caused by an invasion of predatory, man-eating creatures. 17-year-old Amy has lived for three years in hiding, alone except for the company of Baby, a young girl she rescued from a grocery store. Amy and Baby live in silence, for fear of drawing Them. They use sign language to speak, and have never even heard one another's voices.

They actually have things pretty good, all things considered. Amy's mother held an important government position, and their house is surrounded by an electric fence that keeps the monsters out. Her dad was an environmentalist who kept their home as off the grid as possible. Amy and Baby have electricity and water. But they do have to venture out among the creatures to scavenge for food. An encounter with other survivors on one of their trips starts a process that changes Amy and Baby's lives forever. 

In the After is a compelling read, one that will keep the reader guessing. The first part of the book takes place in and around Amy and Baby's home in Chicago. Without giving too much away, I'll say that the second part of the book takes place elsewhere, among other people. This is where Lunetta's storytelling really starts making the reader think. In brief, italicized scenes, Amy is in a mental ward. The rest of the story is told in intermittent flashbacks, as a mentally foggy Amy tries to pieces together how she got there. Because of Amy's fragile state, the reader isn't always sure how to interpret the flashbacks, which makes the story even more thought-provoking. 

The characters apart from Amy are distinct, though not always highly nuanced. Basically, we get to know Amy very well, and the other characters not so well. But Amy is great. Here are a few snippets, to give you a feel for her voice:

"I only go out at night.

I walk along the empty street and pause, my muscles tense and ready. The breeze rustles the overgrown grass and I tilt my head slightly. I'm listening for them." (Page 1)

"So much of who I used to be was about being good in school and having friends who were also good in school. We were, to put it simply, arrogant little know-it-alls. But I miss that." (Page 78)

"The arts were probably pointless now that everyone was focused on survival. I thought back to all my time alone, reading, as the world crumbled around me. It was the only thing that gave me solace and hope." (Page 191)

In addition to keeping the reader wondering about plot points, Lunetta is good at creating atmosphere. She makes the reader feel the creepiness of walking down a dark street where silent monsters might be a only few feet, and the helplessness of being trapped in a mental ward. 

In the After grabs the reader from the first page, and doesn't let go. Recommend for fans of YA dystopias, particularly of the alien invasion variety. Particularly recommended for those who enjoyed Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave. Readers who have read many dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories will notice certain universal themes, but I don't think this takes away enjoyment of the story. I think that In the After is a book that will especially appeal to adult readers, actually, though I would expect teens to enjoy it, too. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: HarperTeen (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 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