Illustrated Chapter Books & Adventure – Bookmarks for November

Welcome to Bookmarks, our monthly shortlist of mini book reviews. This is going to be a combo November / December edition (i.e., the last one for 2012.

The holidays are nearly upon us, which means reading time is harder to come by, Cybils discussions are heating up, AND I have a pile of about 40 books that are patiently waiting to be reviewed.

For new followers: Each Bookmark has basic info and an original blurb / overview. We’ll introduce the key players; add our reader reaction, and ask the author and/or illustrator a question or two. [Maybe someday they’ll answer them in a comment!]

Please note that all opinions about the Cybils nominated titles are my own. They don’t reflect the Cybils’ panel.

Noteworthy November / December Bookmarks

Christmas picture bookThe Donkey’s First Christmas
written and illustrated by Susanne Tillitson Schroder
Tilli Publishing, 2011
category: fiction picture book, Christmas, Christianity

To hear the donkey tell it, he was a very wise animal. He had mastered getting out of work, yet he was hurt when his master told the man “just take him.” He was determined not to help … until the pregnant woman gave him a pear and offered kind words. He was too tired to take another step … until the woman said the baby was coming. Then the donkey kept going to the town with the nearest inn. That is when he discovered a miracle.

Who are the Key Players?
Although you would think that Mary and Joseph are the key players, it is actually the donkey who is the character readers connect with.

A Reader’s Thoughts
Adorable! The hand-drawn text and simple images really make the story a lovely, lovely read. The rhyming works perfectly without one hiccup. This would be a nice read aloud with toddlers through early elementary students. Second graders could read this independently.

Questions for Susanne Schroder

  • What inspired you to write the story from the donkey’s perspective?
  • How did you create the donkey’s personality?
Where did you get this book? The author donated it to the Reading TUb.

Ivy and Bean seriesIvy and Bean Make the Rules (Ivy + Bean, Book 9)
by Annie Barrows; illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Chronicle Books, 2012
category: illustrated chapter book, friendship, camp, series
Cybils nomination: Early Chapter Books 

Bean’s older sister Nancy is going to Girl Power Camp for spring break. Bean COULD go to puppet camp, but that’s for “babies.” So she and Ivy set up their own camp in Monkey Park. The activities are ironically “just like” the ones in Nancy’s camp, but somehow they don’t turn out the same.

Who are the Key Players?
Bean and Nancy are the plot makers for this one. Bean gets help from Ivy creating Camp Flaming Arrow, but Ivy really is almost a cameo in this story.

A Reader’s Thoughts
This is a book for the nonconformist conformists. The kids who, as a class, rebel against the dress code and all wear black! The story is funny, with laugh-out-loud moments, but also poignant. I loved the part at the end with Nancy visiting Camp Flaming Arrow. [No, I’m not giving away the ending!]

Question for Annie Barrows (even though I’m sure she’s been asked everything before!)

  • “Camp Flaming Arrow” is such an apropos camp name for Bean and Ivy … plenty of visual, plenty of irony. Is that irony part of your “other” self or something that comes out when you’re writing?
  • When I opened the book and saw that Ivy and Bean were still seven … do you envision them ever growing up?
  • I saw on your Amazon.com bio that you never went to camp. Would you have liked either Camp Flaming Arrow or Girl Power 4-Ever?

Where did you get this book? It is in my personal library.

Penelope Crumb
by Shawn K. Stout
Philomel Books, 2012
category: illustrated chapter book, family, growing up, series
Cybils nomination: Early Chapter Books

Fourth grader Penelope Crumb loves to draw. She is an artist. Imagine her shock when her best friend drew a picture of her … with a really big nose. Where did it come from? Penelope’s Mom says none of her living relatives has a big nose. When Penelope learns that her paternal grandfather IS a living relative, she is bent and determined to find him, meet him, and get to the truth!

Who are the Key Players?
Penelope is the narrator for our story and she takes the lead role. She has a vibrant personality and is quite persistent … all good qualities in a character. Her mom and brother are part of the story, but I found the plot line about the grandfather and their relationship very poignant. It draws Penelope’s deceased father into the story.

A Reader’s Thoughts
I love Penelope and am anxious to grab the next books in the series. I want to be part of Penelope’s journey as she builds (or doesn’t) a relationship with her grandfather. This is not a “girl book.” This is a book for all readers … young readers of all stripes can relate to the family dynamics that Penelope shares with us.

Question for Shawn Stout

  • I know I can’t ask what’s next for Penelope, so I’ll ask this … how did you meet her? Was she a character first and then a story or the other way around?

Where did you get this book? I borrowed it from the library.

What We’re Reading

pirate series for kidsThe Ship of Lost Souls, #1
by Rachelle Delaney; illustrated by Gerald Guerlais
Grosset & Dunlap, an Imprint of Penguin Books, 2009
category: adventure, youth pirates, orphans, series

This is a treasure hunt adventure. Everyone – the King’s Men, pirates, merchants – is searching for King Aberhard’s treasure (though no one knows exactly what that is). When Scarlet witnesses a young boy and his uncle being kidnapped, she decides to save him. That’s where I am … starting chapter two.

Initial Thoughts: Scarlet McCray (12) won my heart by page three. She is everything you want in a hero pirate: feisty, smart, and a fearless leader. It took all I had to turn off the light and go to sleep the other night. I just wanted to keep reading.

PS – I am just now reading the ARC of book 1, so I know more adventures lie ahead if I like this at the end.

Click here to see other Reading Tub book reviews, including chapter books, this month. Use these links to take you to your favorite children’s and young adult book categories.

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