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ZooBorns: The Newest, Cutest Animals from the World’s Zoos and Aquariums

zooborns: the newest cutest baby animals from the world's zoos and aquariumszooborns: the newest cutest baby animals from the world's zoos and aquariums
Title: ZooBorns: The Newest, Cutest Animals from the World’s Zoos and AquariumsZooBorns: The Newest, Cutest Animals from the World's Zoos and Aquariums
Authors: Andrew Bleiman, Chris Eastland
Genre: Non-Fiction Picture Books
Age Category: 6 to 9 years

Non-Fiction Picture Book Summary

ZooBornsZooBorns: The Newest, Cutest Animals from the World's Zoos and Aquariums is a non-fiction picture book portrait gallery of roughly 100 baby animals born in zoos and aquariums around the world.  Each “zooborn” is featured with several photos, and basic biographical information—name (if the baby has one), species, location of the zoo or aquarium where it lives, date of birth, and the conservation status of its species (e.g., extinct in the wild, endangered, critically endangered, threatened, etc.).

Along with the basic data, the book provides information and anecdotes about each animal, sometimes including part of the story of the particular baby animal in the photos (e.g., if it was rescued, what its personality is like, what it likes to do, etc.), and interesting facts about the species.  In particular, the book highlights connections between zoo breeding programs and efforts to conserve threatened or endangered animal populations. Continue reading →

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Kidlitosphere Interview: Blogger and Author Colleen Mondor, Chasing Ray

book-loving stingray image from Chasing Ray about page

A book-loving stingray

Here’s another in my series of kidlitosphere blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Colleen Mondor (abbreviated “CM” below), who blogs at Chasing Ray. Don’t miss her hilarious anecdotes about flying small charter planes in Alaska! The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent blogs in the kidlitosphere. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Colleen’s blog (link above), as well as the other children’s books resources she mentions in the interview. Thanks Colleen!

Q: How and when did you become interested in thinking/writing about children’s books?

CM: I never left my affection for children’s books behind – probably because several of them (esp Little WomenLittle Women and A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time were so significant to me. I worked in an indy bookstore in the mid 90s and we were very involved in reading contests at the local schools (this was basically the only bookstore in Fairbanks, AK) so I kept up on new children’s and YA [Young Adult] titles as part of my job. And then my son was born in 2001 and that started me back on picture books again for obvious reasons. As a reviewer at Bookslut when I saw there was no one doing a YA column there I pitched the idea to Jessa [Bookslut editor-in-chief] and she thought it was great. And I’ve been professionally reviewing kid and YA books there ever since. Continue reading →

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1: A Reader’s Comments

harry potter and the deathly hallowsAs I’ve said before, I’m a Harry Potter fanatic.  I just saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the movie), Part 1 two nights ago, and I couldn’t help reflecting a bit on how the movie compares to the book. This is not really a movie review, per se, but it is definitely more movie review than book review.

If you are interested in my thoughts on the book (i.e., Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)), or the Harry Potter books in general, see my review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and my three-article series entitled, “Harry Potter: Christian Allegory or Occultist Children’s Books,” where I explore the Christian controversy over the books and movies.

Finally, be forewarned that I will divulge elements of the plot that you may not want to spoil if you have not yet read the book or seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the movie), Part 1, and plan to do so.

Regrets of the Cutting Room Floor

I fear that this discussion is going to end up pretty negative—mostly a list of things about the movie that bugged me—so I feel like I should start by mentioning that my love of Harry and company is strong enough to bear even these impertinences (yes, I know, you were worried…), and that I did, in fact, like the movie.  The cinematography was wonderful, the landscapes incredible, and I have grown so attached to the characters (of the book and the movie, to the extent that they are different) that seeing them on the screen is just plain comforting (do I need to get some help for this fanaticism?  I’m not usually like this…really).  With that said, here is my list. Continue reading →

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Interview: Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Library

kira kira by cynthia kadohatakira kira by cynthia kadohata
Here’s another in my series of children’s books blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Charlotte Taylor (abbreviated “CT” below), who blogs at Charlotte’s Library.  As you will see from the interview, Charlotte’s blog focuses on fantasy and science fiction children’s books (especially for middle-schoolers and teens).  The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Charlotte’s blog, and the excellent resources for fantasy and science fiction children’s books it provides. Thanks Charlotte!

Q: How and when did you start your children’s books blog?

CT: It all started in September of 2006 with a hardcover first edition of Kira-Kirakira kira by cynthia kadohata I picked up at a library booksale for fifty cents. My sister saw it lying around my house, and let me know it was worth something. Indeed, it was—more than enough to cover that pesky sewer bill. Knowing that next September would bring a fresh sewer bill, it occurred to me later that fall that it might be useful to buy another first edition Newbery winner, so I went online to find out if anyone had predictions. And this led me to this post on Linda Sue Park’s blog—the very first blog post I remember reading.

I was in a bad patch, bookwise, constantly running out of things to read. I would wander into book stores, not know what I wanted to buy, and leave again empty handed….very sad. Linda Sue Park’s list of recommended books seemed like manna from heaven—not just these specific titles, but the realization that there were people out there who could help me. Continue reading →

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Interview: Terry Doherty, The Reading Tub

The Reading Tub logo
Here is another in my series of interviews with kids books bloggers. Today I report on my interview with Terry Doherty (abbreviated “TD” below), who blogs at Children’s Literacy: Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub Blog. Terry’s blog reflects her passion for children’s reading and literacy. The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on kids’ books, including children’s reading and literacy resources. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Terry’s blog (link above), as well as the other excellent resources she points to in the interview.  Thanks Terry!

Q: How and when did you become interested in children’s reading and literacy?

TD: I have always loved reading. I was one of those flashlight-under-the-covers kids. The literacy light bulb turned on when First Lady Barbara Bush started talking about the importance of reading.

I was a young bureaucrat at that point, steeped in my career, so the spark just sat quietly and waited. Fast forward 12 years … I am a full-time mom and I want to share my love of reading with our new baby girl. As she grows as a reader, so do I. I volunteer in her school, and I have learned so much by watching her and her peers. Even in your (cough) 40s (cough) you can learn a lot from Kindergartners! Continue reading →

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Interview: Carol Rasco, Reading is Fundamental

Reading is Fundamental logoHere is another in my series of interviews with kids books bloggers. Today I report on my interview with Carol Rasco (abbreviated “CR” below), who blogs at Rasco From RIF.   Carol is a prominent children’s reading and literacy advocate in the United States and is currently CEO of Reading is Fundamental (RIF).  In her blog she shares reviews and reflections on the world of children’s books.  The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on kids’ books, including children’s reading and literacy resources.  RIF’s website has some particularly good resources that can help children learn to read.  So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Carol’s blog (link above), as well as the excellent resources on the RIF website. I also encourage you to consider making a donation to RIF.  Thanks Carol!

Q: How and when did you become interested in children’s reading and literacy?

CR: I was an avid reader from an early age, always wanted to have plenty of books in case I finished one book, ready to start the next.  And I found studying authors great fun, loved many genres early on but in particular biographies, poetry, and travel books in addition to the more traditional novels.  My undergraduate degree was in elementary education and I then taught sixth grade until going into elementary / early childhood counseling when I used bibliotherapy in many situations.  While I then took a pause from the “paid workforce” as my two children were born, I re-entered that workforce in the policy field for the next 20 years.  When that period came to a close I chose RIF as the place I wanted to be, back to the children’s books! Continue reading →

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Catching Fire: Summary and Review

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins cover artCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins cover art
Title: Catching FireCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Young Adult Fiction (Books for Teens)
Age Category: 16 to 19 years +

Today, in honor of Teen Read Week, I review the second book in the Hunger Games TrilogyHunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.  As it turns out, teen readers across the country recently chose Catching Fire as their favorite book of 2010.  I will not spoil any important plot twists in this Catching Fire summary and review.  For a review of the first book in the trilogy, The Hunger Games, click here.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins: Quick Review

I highly recommend Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins. First, the book is bursting with subjective appeal. The plot has the many exciting twists we’ve come to expect from The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the deepening characters make us care about what happens next, and the tastefully developed love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale is enough to pique the interest of any teen beginning to think about love. Second, Collins’s thoughtful examination of ethical issues—particularly those related to war, and moral psychology—stimulates productive thought and emotion, giving the book developmental value. My one caution is that the book, like The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, is quite violent (though, I think, in a productive and justified way), and so sensitive readers should be forewarned. Keep reading for an in-depth review. Continue reading →

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Plato on Developmental Value in Children’s Stories

Raphael's Plato pointing to the heavens: stories children values
I couldn’t resist posting this quote I came across recently in Plato’s Republic about stories, children, values, etc.:

“Socrates: You know, don’t you, that the beginning of any process is most important, especially for anything young and tender?  It’s at that time that it is most malleable and takes on any pattern one wishes to impress on it.

Adeimantus: Exactly.

Socrates: Then shall we carelessly allow the children to hear any old stories, told by just anyone, and to take beliefs into their souls that are for the most part opposite to the ones we think they should hold when they are grown up?” (The Republic 377a-b)

Continue reading →

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Interview: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan, Bookends

Bookends Blog - A Booklist Online Blog, bannerHere is another in my series of children’s books blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan (abbreviated “CD” and “LR” below), who blog together at Bookends – A Booklist Online Blog.  Their “Bookends” blog is one of several hosted at the Booklist Online website.  Cindy and Lynn take a refreshing tag-team approach to their children’s book reviews. They are also both middle-school librarians, as you will see from the interview, so they have special insight on teen and tween readers. The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Cindy and Lynn’s “Bookends” blog (link above), as well as the other excellent resources they mention in the interview. Thanks Cindy and Lynn!

Q: How and when did you become interested in young adult and children’s books?

CD: In the fourth grade I was a library helper and soon decided that I wanted to become an author of books for children. I decided that a career in library science would be a good back up and would put me in touch with the market. Then I had a YA Literature class in college and was hooked. Now I just need to write that first book…

LR: I have always loved children’s books – I probably just have never really grown up.  Early in my library career I fell in love with that wonderful magic of connecting kids with good books.  My own children were big readers, which just reinforced my love of youth books.  As much as I love adult books, I think my heart has always been with youth books. Continue reading →

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The Hunger Games: Summary and Review

The Hunger Games: summary and review, cover artThe Hunger Games: summary and review
Title: The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games: summary and review
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Age Category: 16 to 19 years +

Well, I’m late to the “game” on this one.  Nevertheless, having just read the first in Suzanne Collins’s young adult fiction trilogy—in the wake of the buzz around the just-released third book of the trilogy, MockingjayMockingjay by Suzanne Collins—I feel that I must write something about it.  My reaction to The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games: summary and review can be summed up in three words: Blown.  A.  Way. For those who have not yet read it but plan to, my Hunger Games summary and review will not spoil any crucial plot twists.

The Hunger Games: Summary

The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games: summary and review portrays a dystopian vision of the future of North America, now the nation of Panem.  In Panem, a powerful and technologically advanced city—The Capitol—rules mercilessly over 12 outlying districts, each named simply for their number. Every year, The Capitol requires that each district select two teenagers by lottery—one boy and one girl—to represent the district at the annual Hunger Games, as “tributes”.

The Hunger Games are a cross between the reality show Survivor and the Roman Colosseum: the 24 teens fight to the death on live national television in a huge outdoor arena (we’re talking many square miles here), which encompasses a range of natural geography that varies from year to year. Continue reading →

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Illustrator Interview: Don Tate, The Brown Bookshelf

the brown bookshelf african american children's books blog bannerHere is another in my series of children’s books blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Don Tate (abbreviated “DT” below), who blogs at The Brown Bookshelf, a multicultural children’s books blog focused on the work of African-American artists and authors.   At The Brown Bookshelf Don posts children’s book reviews and news that fit with the focus of the blog.  As you will see from the interview, Don is primarily an illustrator of multicultural children’s books.  He has illustrated (beautifully!) many books, some of which are sprinkled throughout this post, and he maintains a website (Don Tate – Children’s Literature Illustration) focused on his illustration work.   The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books.  I am particularly excited to introduce my readers to Don Tate and The Brown Bookshelf, as they inject an important African-American voice into the discussion.  So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out The Brown Bookshelf, as well as the many excellent multicultural children’s books resources he mentions in the interview. And why not buy one of his books while you’re at it?  Thanks Don!

Q: I understand that you are primarily an illustrator.  How and when did you begin being interested in illustration?

DT: Well, I’ve always been an artist. I was the “best drawer in class” throughout grade school, and I never considered anything else beyond art. I went to a vocational-technical high school. My core area was commercial and advertising art, so I’ve always operated within the commercial art realm—art with a commercial purpose. Following college, I started getting freelance illustration projects from a local educational publishing company. I loved children’s publishing, and have pretty much stuck with it. Continue reading →

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The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau: Summary and Review

the fantastic undersea life of jacques cousteau by dan yaccarino cover artthe fantastic undersea life of jacques cousteau by dan yaccarino
Title: The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteauthe fantastic undersea life of jacques cousteau by dan yaccarino
Author: Dan Yaccarino
Genre: Picture Books for Children (Nonfiction)
Age Category: 6 to 8 years

non-fiction Monday badge
Today, in honor of Nonfiction Monday, I’m reviewing Dan Yaccarino’s The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau.  I must say, this picture book made me nostalgic: I grew up fascinated by Cousteau’s television programs.  That history made me especially excited to weigh in on Yaccarino’s book.

Picture Books for Children: Summary

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteauthe fantastic undersea life of jacques cousteau by dan yaccarino is a delightful picture book biography of the revolutionary underwater explorer, filmmaker, and scientist, Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

The picture book begins with Cousteau’s boyhood, in which he overcame difficult health conditions by swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.  Yaccarino points to Cousteau’s fiercely determined and innovative spirit, even as a boy.  The picture book also brings out the fact that Cousteau loved to tinker as a boy; Yaccarino describes one occasion on which Cousteau bought a movie camera with his own money and then promptly took it apart to see how it worked.

The turning point in the picture book comes when Continue reading →

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Blogger Interview: Elizabeth Bird, A Fuse #8 Production

Children's Literature Gems: Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career cover art, by elizabeth bird a fuse #8 production
Here is another in my series of children’s books blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Elizabeth Bird (abbreviated “EB” below), who blogs at A Fuse #8 Production.  Her blog is one of several hosted at the School Library Journal websiteElizabeth Bird is perhaps the most prominent and prolific blogger in the kidlitosphere (kidlit celebrity?).  She posts children’s book reviews, along with news, videos, and funny stuff related to kids’ books.  She is also a public librarian in New York City, as you will see from the interview. The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out A Fuse #8 Production (link above), as well as the many other excellent resources she mentions in the interview. Thanks Elizabeth!

Q: How and when did you become interested in thinking/writing about children’s books?

EB: Excellent question.  Basically, I stumbled into it.  After I determined that I wanted to become a librarian I was a little vague on what kind of librarian I could be.  I took a course on children’s literature to fill a credit while getting my MLIS (Masters in Library and Information Science).  Honestly, I probably just saw it as an easy “A”.  But then as I started to get into the class, I discovered my calling.  I’d been reading books like Harry PotterHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and His Dark MaterialsHis Dark Materials for years for fun.  It never occurred to me to make a whole occupation out of it. After that, I was a clear goner. Writing about children’s literature just seemed a natural next step after studying them all the time. Continue reading →

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Interview: Melissa Fox, Book Nut

melissa fox book nut photo children's books
Here’s the next installment in my series of children’s books blogger interviews. Today I report on my interview with Melissa Fox (pictured to the right, abbreviated “MF” below), who blogs at Book Nut. Melissa’s blog focuses on children’s book reviews, though she reviews some adult books too.  She is also an active member of the online children’s literature community (the “kidlitosphere”), as you will see from the interview. The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books. So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Melissa’s blog (link above), and the other kidlit resources she points to. Thanks Melissa!

Q: How and when did you become interested in thinking/writing about children’s books?

MF: Back in about 1995, a friend of mine was appalled that I had never read BeautyBeauty, by Robin McKinley by Robin McKinley. She insisted that I read it, and I was hooked: I loved the story, I loved the writing, I loved the idea that, as an adult, I could experience books that I’d missed as a kid. But then, over time, I realized that there was just so much more good writing and story telling going on for children, more so than for adults, and that’s what appeals to me most. So, that’s what I read. Continue reading →

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Interview: Jen Robinson, Jen Robinson’s Book Page

jen robinson's book page logo baby book worm image
Here’s another post in my series of children’s books blogger interviews.  Today I report on my interview with Jen Robinson (abbreviated “JR” below), who blogs at Jen Robinson’s Book Page.  Along with excellent children’s book reviews, Jen’s blog has a particular focus on child literacy.  She is also a leader in the online children’s literature community (the “kidlitosphere” as it is sometimes called), as you will see from the interview.  The point of these interviews, of course, is to help connect readers of Children’s Books and Reviews to some of the many other excellent websites focused on children’s books.  So, after reading the interview, I encourage you to check out Jen’s blog (link above), as well as the many excellent resources she mentions in the interview.  Thanks Jen!

Q: How and when did you become interested in thinking/writing about children’s books?

JR: I never stopped reading children’s books, just because I enjoyed them so much. I was also always an advocate of people helping kids to grow up to love books. I think that the whole growing bookworms concept [AMM: hence the bookworm graphic above] resonated with me because I loved books SO SO much as a child. And my love of books enriched my life, both subjectively (countless hours of pleasure) and objectively (high SAT scores, admission to my dream college, etc.). I was a grassroots advocate for literacy for years, long before there were blogs, but I always wished that I could do more. Blogging gave me a platform to work in an area that I was already passionate about. Continue reading →

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