Book Review: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK – Written by Neil Gaiman and Illustrated by Dave McKean


Gaiman, Neil. 2008. Ill Dave McKean. THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. NY: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0060530921


THE GRAVEYARD BOOK opens with the tragic story of a small toddler whose parents were murdered in their bed by a man named Jack.  This child (later named Nobody or “Bod”) escapes from the murderer by climbing out of his crib, crawling out of his house, and into the neighborhood graveyard. The kind-hearted ghosts who reside in the graveyard shelter him from the murderer and take him into their “home”.  This award-winning tale “follows Bod’s progress as he grows from baby to teen, learning life’s lessons amid a cadre of the long-dead, ghouls, witches, intermittent human interlopers” (Broadhead n.d.).


Stories that revolve around “ghosts…and the supernatural are…very popular with young readers” (Vardell 2008, 210).  However, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is not an ordinary ghost story.  The initial frightening opening scene of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is soon replaced by a wonderfully tender cast of ghostly characters including “teachers, workers, wealthy prigs, romantics, pragmatists and even a few children” (Edinger 2009).  The story’s tone rapidly shifts “elegantly from horror to suspense to domesticity” (Edinger 2009).  This makes THE GRAVEYARD BOOK appropriate for younger tweens as well as teens.


As the book skips through Nobody’s childhood, he makes multiple mistakes and encounters numerous adventures rendering him an appealing and charming character.  Gaiman paints a vivid picture of the graveyard residents as their introduction is tied in with charming antidotal stories of their former life. This book would make a positive addition to any library whose readers are ages 8 and up.


Enrichment Activities:

There are many teacher extension activities that can be found online for this Newberry Award winning novel.  For instance, Scholastic has a THE GRAVEYARD BOOK teacher’s guide that includes writing prompts, discussion questions, vocabulary, and alternate extension activities.  For a fun extension activity, there are several GRAVEYARD BOOK themed games on Neil Gaiman’s website for young readers called Mouse Circus (


Book Trailer:


Reviews: (taken from Neil Gaiman’s website at


  • “Gaiman has a true gift for narrative and a delightfully light touch, and there are humorous details along with spine-chilling ones. YAs will race through this fine tale and enjoy every magical, creepy moment.”
    — KLIATT (Starred Review)
  • “Wistful, witty, wise—and creepy. This needs to be read by anyone who is or has ever been a child.”
    — Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)
  • “Gaiman writes with charm and humor, and again he has a real winner.”
    — Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (Starred Review)
  • “An utterly captivating tale…this is a rich story with broad appeal and is highly recommended for teens of all ages.”
    — Booklist (Starred Review)

Awards:(taken from Neil Gaiman’s website at

  • Newbery Medal
  • Carnegie Medal
  • Hugo Award
  • Locus Award
  • Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book
  • Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book
  • Audiobook of the Year
  • ALA Notable Children’s Book
  • ALA Best Book for Young Adults
  • ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice
  • Horn Book Fanfare
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book
  • Time Magazine Top Ten Fiction
  • Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice
  • New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • New York Public Library Stuff for the Teen Age
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award (Vermont)


What to Read to Next:

Gaiman, Neil. 2002. CORALINE. NY: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0380977789


Hahn, Mary Downing. 2010. THE GHOST OF CRUTCHFIELD HALL. Boston, MA: Clarion Books. ISBN 9780547385600



Broadhead, Hedi. “Editorial Review: Amazon.” Amazon. n.d. (accessed April 24, 2014).

Edinger, Monica. “Children’s Books: Raised by Ghosts.” New York Times. Febuary 13, 2009. (accessed April 24, 2014).

Vardell, Sylvia M. Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2008.



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Book Review: BABYMOUSE: CUPCAKE TYCOON – written by Jennifer & Mathew Holm


Holm, Jennifer & Matthew Holm. 2010. BABYMOUSE: CUPCAKE TYCOON. NY: Random House. ISBN 978-0375965739.


BABYMOUSE: CUPCAKE TYCOON is the thirteenth graphic novel in the award winning BABYMOUSE series. The BABYMOUSE series chronicles imaginative Babymouse’s adventures in hilarious dialog and black, white, and pink illustrations. In CUPCAKE TYCOON, Babymouse’s school library is having a cupcake selling fund-raiser thanks to the library sprinkler accident caused by her overactive imagination. Babymouse is determined to outsell all the other students and win the “special” prize, however, she is “thwarted at every turn by a more aggressive classmate who mounts a massive advertising campaign” (Alverson 2012). Will she win the contest? Or, will she “remember why she is selling cupcakes in the first place—because she loves books” (Alverson 2012)?

The artwork in BABYMOUSE: CUPCAKE TYCOON is drawn in bold black lines with splashes of pink throughout. The total composition (graphic artwork and text) “unifies all the elements” of this novel (Vardell 2008, 54). The illustrations “walk a line between making Babymouse’s world seem realistic and bringing her vivid imagination to life” (Wildsmith 2011).

Graphic Novels for kids are a “fun connection between fantasy fiction and graphic interpretation” (Vardell 2008, 228). The BABYMOUSE series is a fun combination of a relatable and realistic setting (a school) and imaginative fantasies. Anyone who has ever lost themselves in an imaginary daydream will relate to Babymouse’s humorous escapades and mishaps. The plot and dialog in BABYMOUSE: CUPCAKE TYCOON is fairly simple. However, a younger reader or inexperienced reader could be confused by the “shifts back and forth between fantasy and reality” (Alverson 2012).


BABYMOUSE Book Trailer:


Reviews: (from Amazon

  •  The Chicago Sun-Times: “Move over, Superman, here comes Babymouse!”
  • Starred Review, The Horn Book: “Nobody puts Babymouse in the corner!”
  • Booklist: “Cute, smart, sassy Babymouse is fun and funny, and this book, like its predecessors, will draw reluctant readers as well as Babymouse fans.”
  • The Bulletin: “An almost absurdly likeable heroine.”


Enrichment Activities:

(from the Random House website –
Random House has many BABYMOUSE enrichment activities on their website such as crossword puzzles and coloring pages. The Random House website also has a BABYMOUSE tycoon cupcake recipe that parents can make with their children.


Moreover, this site has downloadable BABYMOUSE comic fill-in worksheets so children can create their own BABYMOUSE graphic novel.


BABYMOUSE Series Awards: (from Jennifer Holm’s website
• WINNER 2006 – Gryphon Award
• WINNER 2006 – ALA Notable Children’s Book
• WINNER 2006 – New York Book Show Awards




What to Read to Next:

  • Harper, Charise Mericle. 2005. FASHION KITTY. NY: Hyperion. ISBN 978-0786851348
  • Holm, Jennifer & Matthew Holm. 2005. BABYMOUSE: OUR HERO. NY: Random House. ISBN 978-0375932304.



  • Vardell, Sylvia M. Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2008.




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Book Review: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS – written by John Green


Green, John. 2012. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. NY: Dutton Books. ISBN 978-0525478812.


THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is the heartbreaking and unexpected love story of two teens from contemporary Indianapolis. Hazel Lancaster, a stage IV cancer patient, reluctantly attends a support group for children with cancer at the urging of her parents and doctor.  Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor in remission, attends one of the sessions to support their mutual friend named Isaac as he loses his eyes to cancer. That meeting begins a beautiful and bittersweet friendship between Hazel and Augustus.  Their “relationship flourish[s] even as they both face death” (Syme 2012). THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is a “smartly crafted intellectual explosion of a romance” (Kirkus Reviews 2012).  Tragic, yet still “brimming with joy”, people of all ages will love this well-crafted young-adult novel (Syme 2012).

Contemporary-realistic-fiction books, written for young people, are a unique genre.  In comparison to plot, the character’s “internal journey and emotional growth are far more significant” (Vardell 2008, 158).  The plot of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is true to life and relatable to the reader. However, it is the metamorphosis of Hazel and Augustus generated by the catalyst of their budding relationship that truly makes this book great. Their search for independence and identity, while experience a blossoming romance and crippling illness, has a “personal resonance for the child reader that is meaningful and worthwhile” (Vardell 2008, 159).  Hazel’s believable, strong, and independent voice  “validates [readers] own search and honors their questions” about love in the face of adversity and death (Vardell 2008, 161).


Reviews: (from John Green’s website:

  • “Green’s best and most ambitious novel to date. In its every aspect, The Fault in Our Stars is a triumph.” –Booklist, starred review
  • “Luminous.” –Entertainment Weekly
  • “A smartly crafted intellectual explosion of a romance.” –Kirkus, starred review
  • A blend of melancholy, sweet, philosophical, and funny. Green shows us true love…and it is far more romantic than any sunset on the beach.” –New York Times Book Review
  • “One doesn’t like to throw around phrases like “instant classic” lightly, but I can see The Fault in Our Stars taking its place alongside Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in the young-adult canon. Green’s book is also a good example of why so many adult readers are turning to young-adult literature for the pleasures and consolations they used to get from conventional literary fiction.” –Time
  • “Green writes books for young adults, but his voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization. The Fault in Our Stars proves that the hype surrounding Green is not overblown.” –NPR
  • “A pitch-perfect, elegiac comedy…it will linger long and hard in the minds of teens and former teens.” –USA Today
  • “An achingly beautiful story.” –SLJ, starred review
  • “John Green deftly mixes the profound and the quotidian in this tough, touching valentine to the human spirit.” –Washington Post


Enrichment Activities:

John Green is a guest blogger on (  This site includes a “Meet the Author” audio book reading of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS that could enhance reader’s experience of this moving story. Moreover, the Teaching Books website has supplemental lesson plans and reading guides.  THE FAULT IN OUR STARS could also be used to raise awareness of childhood cancer.  I have personally run a successful book club featuring this book.  The club members constructed tied fleece blankets to donate to hospitalized children through Project Linus (


Image from: (


Awards: (from John Green’s website:

  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller
  • #9 The Bookseller (UK) bestseller
  • #1 Indiebound bestseller
  • New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
  • Starred reviews from Booklist, SLJ, Publisher’s Weekly, Horn Book, and Kirkus


Book 2 Movie Trailer:


What to Read to Next:

Chbosky, Stephen. 2012. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.  NY: MTV Books. ISBN 978-1451696196


Green, John. 2006. LOOKING FOR ALASKA. NY: Speak. ISBN 978-0142402511



Kirkus Reviews. 2012. “Book Review: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.” January 10. Accessed April 20, 2014.

Syme, Rachel. 2012. “‘The Fault In Our Stars’: Love In A Time Of Cancer.” NPR. January 17. Accessed April 20, 2014.

Vardell, Sylvia M. 2008. Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.


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Yep Laurence. 2008. THE EARTH DRAGON AWAKES: THE SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE OF 1906. NY: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0060008468.


THE EARTH DRAGON AWAKES is a fictional historical account of the devastating 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.  Readers experience this tragedy through the eyes of two boys named Henry Travises and Chin. Henry and Chin are friends growing up in San Francisco at the beginning of the twenty century.  Chin, whose family works for the Travises family, is separated from Henry in the aftermath of this terrible disaster.

Laurence Yep masterfully chronicles the hardships the boys and their families undergo while they attempt to rebuild their lives. THE EARTH DRAGON AWAKES is riddled through with historical facts while still painting a believable set of characters and setting. This book “will appeal to readers who enjoy action-packed survival stories” (Prekins n.d.).

THE EARTH DRAGON AWAKES is an entertaining and engrossing story that sneaks in a three-fold educational punch.  First, the book has well research and in-depth historical facts about the Earthquake of 1906.  Laurence Yep also “weaves snippets of information on plate tectonics and more very neatly around his prose” (Threadgill n.d.).  Lastly, THE EARTH DRAGON AWAKES gives children, ages 8-12, an inside view of Chinese-American immigrant culture in the early 1900s.  This book is sure to be a favorable choice of children, parents, and teachers.


Main Characters:

Henry – An 8 year old boy who lives in a wealthy banking household in 1906 San Francisco.  He is best friends with Chin.

Chin – He is a nine-year-old Chinese immigrant whose father is a house servant to a wealthy family in San Francisco. He is friends with Henry.


Enrichment Activities:

Laurence Yep beautifully brings to life the impact the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 had on the Chinese-American people in THE EARTH DRAGON AWAKES. This book could lead to a discussion of a multitude of subjects with children.  For instance, the story  highlights the history of San Francisco, Chinese immigrant culture, earthquakes, and so on.  Pairing this book with non-fictional texts on this subject would enhance the educational aspects of this tale.



Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee


Book Trailer:


What to Read to Next:

Osborne, Mary Pope. 2001. Ill. Sal Murdocca MAGIC TREEHOUSE: EARTHQUAKES IN THE EARLY MORNING.  NY: Random House.  ISBN 978-0679890706


Tarshis, Lauren. 2012. I SURVIVED #6: I SURVIVED THE SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE, 1906. NY: Scholastic. ISBN 978-0545206990



Prekins, Linda. n.d. “Editorial Review: Booklist.” Amazon. Accessed April 2014, 9.

Threadgill, Catherine. n.d. “Editorial Review: School Library Journal.” Amazon. Accessed April 9, 2014.



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Book Review: THE GREEN GLASS SEA – written by Ellen Klages


Klages, Ellen. 2006. THE GREEN GLASS SEA. New York, NY: Viking Juvenile. ISBN 978-0670061341.


THE GREEN GLASS SEA is a historical fiction novel and coming-of-age story set during World War II in Los Alamos, New Mexico. In 1943, Dewey (10) and Suze (11) were both transplanted to a top-secret and remote military base in Los Alamos.  Ellen Klages tells the story of the struggles that Dewey, Suze, and their scientist families endured during the years leading up to the development of the atomic bomb.


The Good:

Good historical fiction “tells fictional stories while weaving in historical faces, people, and places” (Vardell 2008, 178). Dewey and Suze’s friendship and dialog is “compelling” and appealing to girls aged 10-15 (Engelfried n.d.).  The relationship between the main characters in this tale is a “celebration of intelligence and nonconformity” that children will sure to love (The Historical Novel Society n.d.).


The Bad:

The book touches on many accurate historical details such as “cigarette brands and radio models, as well as the names of the famous scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project” (Kirkus Reviews 2010).  Unfortunately, these well researched and abundant historical antidotes distract from the fictional tale and it “fails to come to life, making [the story] unconvincing and uninteresting” (Kirkus Reviews 2010).


Main Characters:

  • Dewey – Friend of Suze. 10 year old girl sent to live in Los Alamos with his scientist father after her grandmother has a stroke.
  • Suze – Friend of Dewey. 11 year old girl who has a hard time adjusting to life in Los Alamos.


Enrichment Activities:

This book could be a jumping off point to initiate a discussion on the history of World War II and the atomic bomb.  The award winning non-fiction book BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD AND STEAL THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON would be a wonderful book to pair with the THE GREEN GLASS SEA.  Scholastic also has an excellent teacher extension activity on their website:


Awards: (from author’s website:

  • Winner, 2007 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction
  • Winner, 2007 Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children’s Literature
  • Winner, 2007 New Mexico State Book Award (YA)
  • Finalist, 2007 Quill Awards (Young Adult)
  • Finalist, Northern California Book Awards, 2007 (Children’s)
  • Finalist, Locus Awards, 2007 (Best First Novel)
  • Book Sense #1 Children’s Pick – Winter 2006/2007
  • One Book, One Nebraska for Kids – 2009
  • 2009 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award Master List, (Illinois)
  • 2008 NeNe Award List (Hawaii)
  • 2008 Bluegrass Award Master List (Kentucky)
  • 2007-08 Maine Student Book Award List
  • 2007-08 Isinglass Teen Read List (New Hampshire)
  • 2009 Rhode Island Teen Book Award List
  • 2008-09 South Carolina Junior Book Award List


Ellen Klages Reads from the Final Pages of THE GREEN GLASS SEA:


What to Read to Next:

Sheinkin, Steve. 2012. BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD AND STEAL THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON. New York, NY: Flash Point. ISBN 978-1596434875


Klages, Ellen. 2010. WHITE SANDS, RED MENACE. New York, NY: Puffin. ISBN 978-0142415184



Engelfried, Steven. n.d. “School Library Journal: Editorial Reviews.” Amazon. Accessed April 6, 2014.

Kirkus Reviews. 2010. “Kirkus Reviews.” THE GREEN GLASS SEA. May 10. Accessed April 6, 2014.

The Historical Novel Society. n.d. “THE GREEN SEA OF GLASS.” Accessed April 9, 2014.

Vardell, Sylvia M. 2008. Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.


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Audio Book Review: MOON OVER MANIFEST – written by Claire Vanderpool & narrated by Justine Eyre Cassandra Campbell, & Kirby Heyborne


Vanderpool, Claire. 2011. Narr. Justine Eyre, Cassandra Campbell, & Kirby Heyborne. MOON OVER MANIFEST. Weaverville, NC: Listening Library. ISBN 978-0-307-94193-0.


MOON OVER MANIFEST is a Newberry Award winning historical middle-grade novel set in the small town of Manifest, Kansas. In 1936, 12-year-old Abilene Tucker is sent by her father to live with an old friend named Shady.  Missing her father, Abilene seeks to feel closer to him by unearthing information about his past life in Manifest.  When Abilene discovers an old cigar box buried under the floorboards with letters and a map dating back to 1918, it ignites her imagination.  In researching the contents of the cigar box, Abilene uncovers the rich historical tapestry of the many people living in this small mining town.


MOON OVER MANIFEST is an intricate network of richly historical and engrossing stories within stories. The history of Manifest, Kansas is cleverly told through narration by 12 year old Abilene & Miss Sadie, “newspaper columns from 1917 to 1918, … while letters home from a soldier fighting in WWI add yet another narrative layer” (Isaacs n.d.).  These different methods of developing this historical novel are cleverly set apart in the audiobook by three different readers speaking the parts.


Claire Vanderpool “draws in [young] readers without overwhelming us with historical details and long descriptions” (Vardell 2008, 190).  This story is a perfect blend of relatable fictional characters and historical facts while still staying true to the dialog, setting, “attitudes, values, and morals of the times” (Vardell 2008, 190-191).  Children in grade 5-8 will connect with this “thoroughly enjoyable, unique page-turner” (Stienberg 2010).


Main Characters:

  • Abilene Tucker12 year old protagonist sent by her father to live in Manifest, Kansas
  • Miss Sadie – tells Abilene stories about the past
  • Gideon Tucker — Abilene’s father
  • Pastor Shady Howard – Abilene’s caretaker in Manifest


Enrichment Activities:

Children who read historical fiction “’often will want to learn more about the facts behind the story” (Vardell 2008, 188).  This book would be perfect to pair with many non-fiction informational history books.  Moreover, Random House has a freely accessible MOON OVER MANIFEST online lesson plan for teachers:



  • 2011 Newbery Medal
  • Spur Award – Best western juvenile fiction
  • Kansas Notable Book


Meet-the-Author Book Reading:


What to Listen to Next:

Vanderpool, Claire. 2013. Narr. Cassandra Campbell. NAVIGATING EARLY. Weaverville, NC: Listening Library. ISBN 978-0385361040.


Philbrick, Rodman. 2013. Narr. William Durfis. THE MOSTLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF HOMER P. FIGG. Weaverville, NC: Listening Library. ISBN 978-0739372326.



Isaacs, Kathleen. n.d. “Booklist: Editorial Reviews.” Amazon. Accessed April 4, 2014.

Stienberg, Renee. 2010. “School Library Journal: Editorial Reviews.” Amazon. Accessed April 5, 2014.

Vardell, Sylvia M. 2008. Children’s Literatue in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. Westport, CT: Libraies Unlimited.


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Book Review: KAKAPO RESCUE: SAVING THE WORLD’S STRANGEST PARROT – written by Sy Montgomery & Illustrated by Nic Bishop

Montgomery, Sy. 2010. Ill. Nic Bishop. KAKAPO RESCUE: SAVING THE WORLD’S STRANGEST PARROT. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. ISBN 978-0618494170.


Codfish Island is a nature preserve located off the coast of New Zealand.  On this island,  resides the remaining members of the nearly extinct Kakapo Parrot species.  Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop embark on a ten day adventure to Codfish Island to view, first-hand, the Kakapo conservation effort. Their book, KAKAPO RESCUE: SAVING THE WORLD’S STRANGEST PARROT, records their trip and documents the moving story of the scientific rescue group fighting to save the Kakapo’s dwindling population.

KAKAPO RESCUE: SAVING THE WORLD’S STRANGEST PARROT chronicles every aspect of the Kakapo Parrot’s existence including their environment, diet, and growth. The story is well organized and follows a predictable pattern with a comprehensive index at the back of the book. However, this book is a far cry from a dry reciting of un-embellished facts.  Sy and Nic’s pictorial and textual representations of their excursion to Codfish Island add a sense of excitement and adventure to this factual account that will keep children engaged and entertained.  The vibrant and picturesque photographs “support and enhance the text” and add personality and life to the parrots and their would-be saviors (Kirkus Reviews 2010).  The School Library Journal declares that children will “gobble up this tribute to ecological science in action” (Manning n.d.).

Enrichment Activities:

Sy and Nic’s documentary includes a excerpt containing the contact information for the Kakapo Recovery Program. Teachers and parents could ignite children’s desire to help these creatures by having them organize a fundraiser to send to the rescue group.  Moreover, children could be guided in further reading and research on this species of parrot.  A selected bibliography can be found at the back of the book.  Also, the BBC did an in depth documentary of the Kakapo’s struggle titled “Last Chance to See”.  Copies of this documentary can be found here:


From Junior Library Guild

  • 2011 Sibert Award
  • 2011 ALA Notable Children’s Books, Middle Readers
  • 2011 NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended
  • 2011 Top 10 Books for Youth, Environment
  • Booklist 2010 Editor’s Choice, Books for Youth, Nonfiction, Middle Readers
  • Booklist Lasting Connections of 2010, Science
  • Booklist 2010 Top 10 Books for Youth, Sci-Tech
  • Horn Book, Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12: 2011
  • Fanfare, Best Books of 2010, Nonfiction
  • Kirkus Reviews 2010 Best Children’s Books
  • BCCB Blue Ribbon 2010, Nonfiction

What to Read Next:

Turner, Pamela S. 2011. THE FROG SCIENTIST. . Ill. Andy Comins. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. ISBN 978-0547576985

Turner, Pamela S. 2013. THE DOLPHINS OF SHARK BAY. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. ISBN 978-0547716381


Kirkus Reviews. 2010. “KAKAPO RESCUE.” April. Accessed March 22, 2014.

Manning, Patricia. n.d. “Editorial Review: School Library Journal .” Amazon. Accessed March 22, 2014.

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Book Review: TIME TO EAT– written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Jenkins, Steve & Robin Page. 2011. TIME TO EAT. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. ISBN 978-0-547-25232-8


TIME TO EAT is an easy non-fiction concept book written for young children ages 4-8 years old.  Concept books are a well-liked and abundant form of factual literature that “distills to its most basic terms” information for very young readers (Vardell 2008, 239). Jenkins and Page will ignite children’s imagination and thirst for facts about the natural world in TIME TO EAT. This book provides children with lively pictorial illustrations of individual animals coupled with simple and succinct paragraphs outlining their dietary habits.

This fact filled book is well organized with animated illustrations paired with factual information. An appendix is included at the back of the book with illustrations and more in-depth biological facts about the showcased animals.  The illustrations of animals in the act of eating compliment the text and are “expertly colored, detailed, and expressive” (Rochman n.d.).


(This book-page picture is from the author’s website at

Steve Jenkins has written many critically acclaimed science books for young readers. According to the School Library Journal, the works of Steve Jenkins and  Robin Page “can be found in most classrooms and libraries” (Auerbach 2012).  For instance, the following titles (showcased on Jenkin’s website — are a few of the many informational books he has published:


The reader can only assume that Caldecott Honor winning authors presents accurate factual information in all their works. However, there are no notes, sources, or references listed in TIME TO EAT that would “reinforce our appreciation of the accuracy of the work” (Vardell 2008, 254).

Enrichment Activities:

In the last lines of this book, the authors ask the reader “What would you like for your next meal?”.  Parents could use this line as a jumping off point to explore why we eat the foods that we do.  This informational book could open a dialog between young children and caregivers about favorite foods, healthy food, “junk” food, and other social/cultural aspects of eating.


According to Steve Jenkins website ( TIME TO EAT has won the following awards:

  • The Eureka! Non-Fiction Children’s Book Award 2011
  • Chicago Public Library’s 2012 Best of the Best

What to Read Next:

Jenkins, Steve. 2001.WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN SOMETHING WANTS TO EAT YOU?. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. ISBN 978-0618152438

Jenkins, Steve & Robin Page. 2011. TIME TO SLEEP. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. ISBN 978-0547250403


Auerbach, Barbara. 2012. “The Wild World of Steve Jenkins: An Author Study.” School Library Journal. October 2. Accessed March 22, 2014.

Rochman, Hazel. n.d. “Editorial Review: Booklist.” Amazon. Accessed March 22, 2014.

Vardell, Sylvia M. 2008. Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

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Book Review: THE EXTRAORDINARY MARK TWAIN (ACCORDING TO SUSY) – written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Kerley, Barbara. 2010. Ill. Edwin Fotheringham. THE EXTRAORDINARY MARK TWAIN (ACCORDING TO SUSY). New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN 978-0-545-12508-6


This insightful and charming picture book biography about Samuel Langhorne Clemens is narrated by his 13 year old daughter, Susy.  In the first lines of this humorous and touching book, Susy tells the reader that what they know about Mark Twain is “just plain wrong” (Kerley 2010).  This book details Susy’s version of her father’s story (handwritten in her journal) so that she may set the record straight.  From Twain’s early life to his writing career, readers will be brought on a whimsical journey chronicling the “details of his character, intimate life, and work routine during his most prolific years” (Paulson-Yarovoy n.d.).

This non-fiction biographical narrative is excellently organized into a story with an added summary of facts and sources. Kerley holds a child’s interest while simultaneously allowing them to extrapolate the facts of Mark Twain’s literary accomplishments.  An accurate and helpful timeline along with “line-by-line sources of quotes … and an author’s note on both Papa and Susy” are included in the last pages of this book (Paulson-Yarovoy n.d.). This story (along with the appended factual timeline and personal accounts) outline Twain’s important milestones, momentous life events, and literary works in a simple and easy to read format.

Illustrators of children’s picture book biographies often strive to “personalize the subject” and “enhance the authenticity of the time and place of the setting” (Vardell 2008, 245).  Edwin Fotheringham provides “digitally enhanced illustrations, colored with a Victorian palette and including dynamic, inventive perspectives” (Paulson-Yarovoy n.d.).  This artful design will draw children’s interest and bring Susy and her father’s story to life.  Susy’s journal is nestled between the pages creating a story within a story.  Her admiring account of her father, written in scrawling and childlike misspelled script, is “tipped into the gutters of this large-format picture book’s double-page spreads” (Phelan n.d.).


Enrichment Activities:

THE EXTRAORDINARY MARK TWAIN (ACCORDING TO SUSY) includes a back page excerpt titled “Writing an Extraordinary Biography”.  This excerpt gives children a detailed plan to write their own biography.  Moreover, Barbara Kerley’s website ( includes a wonderfully detailed guide for teachers about how to add this biographical picture book in a lesson plan.


According to Barbara Kerley’s website (, THE EXTRAORDINARY MARK TWAIN (ACCORDING TO SUSY) has won the following awards:

  • 2010 CYBILS Nonfiction Picture Book Award
  • Best Children’s Books 2010 — Publishers Weekly
  • Best Books 2010 — School Library Journal
  • Best Books for Children and Teens 2010 — Kirkus Reviews
  • Best of 2010: Books for Young Readers — Washington Post
  • A Junior Library Guild selection
  • 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing — New York Public Library
  • Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Books Gold Award, California Reading Association
  • Winner of the Oregon Spirit Book Award for Nonfiction — OCTE
  • Oregon Book Award Finalist
  • NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended Book
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
  • Notable Children’s Book in the English Language Arts
  • CCBC Choices 2011
  • Best Children’s Books of the Year — Bank Street College of Education
  • California Book Award 2011 nominee
  • Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee
  • Utah Beehive Book Award nominee
  • Keystone to Reading Book Award nominee
  • Children’s Crown Award nominee

What to Read Next:

Kerley, Barbara. 2008. Ill. Edwin Fotheringham. WHAT TO DO ABOUT ALICE?: HOW ALICE ROOSEVELT BROKE THE RULES, CHARMED THE WORLD, AND DROVE HER FATHER TEDDY CRAZY!. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN 978-0439922319

Burleigh, Robert.  2011. THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN BY HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Ill. Barry Blitt. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 978-0689830419


Kerley, Barbara. 2010. THE EXTRAORDINARY MARK TWAIN (ACCORDING TO SUZY). New York: Scholastic Press.

Paulson-Yarovoy, Sarah. n.d. “Editorial Reviews: School Library Journal.” Amazon. Accessed March 22, 2014.

Phelan, Carolyn. n.d. “Editorial Reviews: Booklist.” Amazon . Accessed March 22, 2014.

Vardell, Sylvia M. 2008. Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

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