A Chapter Books Fall Festival – Bookmarks October

Welcome to the October edition of Bookmarks, our shortlist of mini book reviews. I really should call this the (Almost) All Cybils / Short, Illustrated Chapter Books  edition.

We’ve been reading lots of books, and these are the highlights. All month long we update our 2012 Books We’ve Read Page. I don’t have book reviews for this months titles on the Reading Tub website yet. Once I get through the nominees I’ll be tackling that.

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.

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

Noteworthy October Bookmarks

The Attack of the Vampire Weenies;
And Other Warped and Creepy Tales …

by David Lubar
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 2011
category: chapter books, fantasy – humor

Humor and horror combine in this collection of frightful short stories for readers who love to be scared … or just love vampires. Not all stories have vampires, but many do. The stories ARE quite dark and may not be for all readers.

Who are the Key Players?
Because this is a set of short stories, the characters change. Something bad always happens.

A Reader’s Thoughts
You know who – who bought the book at her school’s book fair – devoured this in two nights. When she read me the opening story, I was a bit surprised at just how dark it was … and fully expected to be warding off nightmares later that night.

Questions for David Lubar

  • Have you ever had a young reader recommend a story idea that ultimately became a “Weenie story”?
  • When writing the stories, which comes first the funny or the macabre?
Where did you get this book? It is our personal copy.

Jasper John Dooley Star of the Week
by Caroline Adderson; illustrated by Ben Clanton
Kids Can Press, 2012
category: illustrated chapter book, illustrated fiction
Cybils nomination: Early Chapter Books 

Jasper John Dooley has waited a long time to be Star of the Week … so long in fact that he has planned out every detail. But things aren’t going like their supposed to all because his friend Ori has a new baby sister. They laughed at his prize lint collection; he didn’t have enough people in his family for a family tree; and he ended up in the principal’s office. That’s not the way its supposed to work.

Who are the Key Players?
Jasper is sort of an “every kid.” Only children will relate to his life and their friends with siblings will relate to Ori. Ori plays the straight man and could easily be mistaken for the sleep-deprived parent.

A Reader’s Thoughts
The story starts out cute and ends very sweetly. It is a book that kids can read independently, but it is definitely more enjoyable reading it together as a family.

Question for Caroline Adderson

  • Do you see yourself as Jasper John Dooley or Ori?
  • Is it hard to write from the perspective of a young boy?

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

My Brave Year of Firsts: Tries, Sighs and High Fives
by Jamie Lee Curtis; illustrated by Laura Cornell
HarperCollins, 2012
category: fiction picture book

The world is so big and there are so many things yet to do. From riding a bike the first time to going into first grade, life can be scary. But that’s also what makes it fun.

Who are the Key Players?
The reader. The story is a narration of the firsts in all of our childhoods.

A Reader’s Thoughts
Catherine (nearly 11) picked this book from a pile on my desk. We shared plenty of laughs and memories about “those days when I was little.” I answered lots of questions, which made it fun and special to read. Catherine didn’t understand how this could be a book for 5 and 6 year olds but with words they couldn’t read themselves. My, how their perspectives change!

Question for Jamie Lee Curtis

  • If you could add five more firsts to the book, what would they be? and why (of course!)?

Where did you get this book? The publisher donated a copy for review.?

The Year of the Book
by Andrea Cheng; illustrated by Abigail Halpin
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012
category: illustrated chapter book, illustrated fiction
Cybils nomination: Early Chapter Books

Anna loves books – they are her comfort, her eyes to the world, her refuge from the unknown. e chores that all farm girls do. Today is a bit different, though. When she goes to get the potatoes mother wants, she sees an eye staring back at her from the pile of cornstalks. What should she do? For days, she takes food out to the shed only to return to an empty napkin. Then one day, the napkin has been transformed into a doll.

Who are the key players?
This is the story of Anna Wang’s life as a fourth grader. With evolving friendships, challenges at school and home, and self esteem issues that pepper the life of a preteen.

A Reader’s Thoughts
I loved this book for lots of reasons. First, Anna’s is a wonderfully told story and is one the I can remember myself: looking for answers in beloved books. The other reason is that I remembered so many of the books that Anna is reading and Andrea Cheng deftly blends the story’s plot and a purpose in Anna’s life.

Readers who loved Word after Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan will love this one, too.

Questions for Andrea Cheng

  • In selecting relevant details from the books Anna is reading, did you have to revisit some of these books yourself?
  • What were the stories that resonated most with you when you were in fourth grade?
  • What questions do you want kids to ask about the story?

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

What We’re Reading

Penelope Crumb
by Shawn K. Stout
Philomel Books, 2012
Cybils nomination: Early Chapter Books

Fourth grader Penelope Crumb is an artist – its her favorite thing in school and at home, too. When everyone laughs at her best friend’s drawing of her, Penelope is crushed. There isn’t anyone with a big nose in her family! At least not anyone who’s alive (according to Mom).

Initial Thoughts: This is a stream-of-consciousness book from Penelope’s perspective. It has lots of asides and humor. I loved the scene about Terrance, her brother whom she calls “Terrible.” Penelope collects facts to prove that he is an alien so she can report him to NASA some day.

Libby of High Hopes
written and illustrated by Elise Primavera
A Paula Wiseman Book, 2012
Cybils nomination: Early Chapter Books 

Just started … too soon to say much else than Libby Thump is horse crazy and her best friend is her dog Margaret.

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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