Not only do I read books, but I love books (especially children’s books), and I bet you do, too!

Pink Me Up

Posted: April 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Picture Books | 242,253 Comments »

Fellow library school student Jennifer K. pointed out Pink Me Up by Charise Mericle Harper to me, and I’m so glad she did.

Cover of Pink Me Up!

I’ll start off by saying that I’m tired of all the princess, fairy, diva, and generally “pink” clap-trap marketed to young girls today, but this picture book is really about the special relationship between a girl and her father.  Although our protagonist loves pink, she is not timid, demure, or delicate.

As the book opens, Violet is excited for her “special Mama-and-me day” at the Pink Girls Pink-nic.  But when Mama wakes up with spots on her face, too sick to take her daughter to the big event, Violet throws herself on the floor and proclaims, “Today is the worst day EVER!”

Daddy steps in and offers to take her, but Violet shares some important information with her father – “Boys are NOT pink!”  But Daddy is not discouraged, and gets dressed for the occasion in a pink necktie.  Then Violet helps pink him up.

“We draw polka dots on Daddy’s shirt.  We tape stripes to Daddy’s pants.  We wrap paper on Daddy’s shoes.  We put stickers on Daddy’s jacket.”

And despite his daughter’s preconceptions about gender and color, Daddy is the hit of the pink-nic!  The mothers ooh-and-aah over him, and Violet finds that “now all the girls want to PINK UP their daddies, just like me.”

I found this to be a touching story about the love of a father for his daughter (maybe because even though I know he loves me, I’m quite sure my own father would never have let me pink him up – sorry, Dad!).


Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel

Posted: April 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Chapter Books | 322,120 Comments »

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, caught my eye in the “Beginning Chapter Books” section at the library.

Cover of Make Way for Dyamonde DanielThird-grader Dyamonde Daniel has been in her new school for 3 weeks and still doesn’t have a best friend.  When her parents got divorced, she had to move to a new neighborhood with her mom and leave her old best friend behind.  Luckily, an even newer kid has just joined her class…and even though he’s grumpy and unfriendly, Dyamonde decides to follow her teacher’s advice and ask Free why he’s so mad all the time.

When she sits with him at lunch, the other kids stare, but that doesn’t stop Dyamonde.

“Wow,” said Free.  “You’re amazing.”
“What?”
“You really don’t care what people think.”
“About what?”
“About sitting with me.  About anything.”
“Why should I?” asked Dyamonde.  “I know what I think, and that’s enough” (55).

The dialogue is believable and the urban setting is laid down in a central but unobtrusive manner; almost any child will be able to identify with Dyamonde’s story.  Christie’s blocky, contemporary illustrations reflect the setting well.

Dyamonde gives Free a lot to think about, and by the end of the book he’s much less grouchy and even decides to read out loud at school, something he’s never wanted to do before – and surprises everyone when he turns out to be one of the best readers in the class!

Although I haven’t extensively read in this genre, there don’t seem to be many early chapter books about African-Americans, so I think this book fills an important need – I believe that everyone should be able to find characters like themselves in the books they read.  It was a quick but thought-provoking read, and since it’s supposed to be the first book in a series, I look forward to the next!


My Favorite YA Novel

Posted: April 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: YA | 232,380 Comments »

My favorite young adult (YA) novel is The Divorce Express by Paula Danziger.

Cover of The Divorce Express I enjoyed Paula Danziger’s earlier YA books, too – The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice?, The Pistachio Prescription, and especially There’s a Bat in Bunk Five (I had a real thing for summer camp books when I was younger), but The Divorce Express was published closer to the time of my own adolescence, so it was easier for me to relate to the characters.

It’s the story of 9th-grader Phoebe, whose parents are divorced.  At the beginning of the story, her father has just moved away from New York City to rural Woodstock, New York.  As the new school year starts, Phoebe lives with her dad during the week and goes to the city on the weekends to stay with her mother, “riding the Divorce Express” (the nickname of the bus that runs between New York City and Woodstock, ridden weekly by a crowd of kids with divorced parents).

In The Divorce Express, Phoebe adjusts to a new school, makes friends with the kids in Woodstock (so different from her friends back in the city), and makes a new best friend, Rosie, on the Divorce Express.  She also gets dumped by her long-distance boyfriend, meets a new guy, dabbles in civil disobedience at school (helping organize a school cafeteria boycott to convince the school to serve healthier lunches), and deals with her parents’ own romantic relationships.

When Paula Danziger visited Jenny talking with Paula Danzigermy Midwestern high school during my sophomore year in 1988, only the 9th graders were scheduled to go to the assembly.  Somehow I was able to convince the head of the English department (whom I had never met and seemed a little scary) that since Paula Danziger was my favorite author, I should go, too.  I’m still thankful that she made the arrangements for me to miss class and attend the assembly.

It didn’t take me long to decide which book to bring along for Paula to autograph – it had to be The Divorce Express. I was lucky enough to speak with her briefly after the assembly, and I told her about my desire to become an author.  Somehow I mentioned S.E. Hinton, whose book The Outsiders waPaula's Autographs published when she was only 16.  Maybe I felt like I was on a deadline to become an author; I don’t really remember.  But I’ll never forget what Paula told me – “Oh, honey, Susie was a fluke.”  It doesn’t seem like much now, but the warmth with which she said it filled me with encouragement.

Even though there’s nothing groundbreaking or earth-shattering about The Divorce Express, in it Paula Danziger creates a complex, meaningful, and realistic world that I yearned to be a part of.  I love the language and tone of the writing, and as a suburbanite I always thought it would be so much fun to live in Woodstock, “Colony of the Arts,” and be a neo-hippie like Phoebe and her friends.

The New York Times Book Review called The Divorce Express “a pleasure,” and The Horn Book said, “The author has a sympathetic eye for the ups and downs of her characters and a quick ear for adolescent conversation.”  I couldn’t agree more – as both a teenager and an adult!


Welcome to Jenny Reads Books

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 254,119 Comments »

Hey, you found me!  But I’m not quite ready for you yet.  Check back soon!