My youngest squirt was perusing the books in the library the other day when my oldest squirt suggested she read, Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck.  The oldest’s third grade teacher had read to the class Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and she had thoroughly enjoyed it.  Seeing that his books are novels comprised of words and pictures, I asked how the teacher was able to show a class of 20+ eight and nine-year-olds numerous pictures interspersed with words and maintain control.  She replied, “My teacher used the PolyVision Board.”  Gotta love technology especially when used to enhance literacy . . .


When my youngest cracked open Wonderstruck, great belly laughs could be heard from the backseat on our way home from the library as she watched the wolves approach closer and closer with every turn of the page.

Seeing the novel had heft at over 600 pages, I was concerned it may have been too much for my seven-year-old until I flipped through the pages and saw the plethora of intricate drawings filled with much emotion.  I figured it was worth a try.

That evening I discovered my youngest in her bed, headband light on her head, reading intently, and repeatedly yelling, “Guess what page I’m on now?!”  Needless to say, my oldest squirt hit it out of the ballpark with her recommendation.  The tough part now was asking little sissy to part with Wonderstruck in order to sleep.

Less than a week later, my youngest had finished Wonderstruck and sent me to the library for Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  The pride she exhibited at having read a novel with such girth prompted me to read Wonderstruck, too.  A cross between a picture book, a graphic novel, and historical fiction, I, too, was hooked with those wolves quickly approaching from page one and intrigued by pictures which did not match the storyline being revealed.  Thus, the pictures represent a story in and of itself separate from the written word until the two join towards the end of the novel.  Complex, mysterious, and informative, Selznick has created a new genre of writing, the graphic novel on steroids, which, I think, will engage even the most reluctant readers.

Oliver and Jumpy: Stories 7-9

Werner Stejskal’s Oliver and Jumpy is a picture book series geared towards preschool and primary readers.  For this review, I read Stories 7-9.

Oliver, the main character, is a cat who lives in Sillandia, where one “can never be sure of anything!”  (Loc 8 of 41).  Illustrated by Marvin Alonso in Stories 7 and 8 and by Mayeee Ann Reyes in  Story 9, Oliver brings to mind Tom of Tom and Jerry, only with a more agreeable personality.

His friend Jumpy, a kangaroo, appears only in Story 7, and aids Oliver in the building of a snowman on an unusual day in Sillandia when it snows.

The vivid colors used in the illustrations is pleasing as well as the plot in Story 7.  My problem was with the question asked of the young reader, “Are you jealous?” (Loc 20 of 41) by the narrator Oliver at the end of Story 7.  With the negative connotation associated with the term “jealous,” I think the question would have been better served eliminated entirely for in the next sentence, “I hope you will soon be able to race down a slope too and feel the cold” (Loc 21 of 41), the positive tone of the picture book reappears and concludes the reading.

Again, in Story 8, perhaps the term “chasing” would have been a better choice versus “stalking” as in Loc 23 of 41 considering the reader target audience of preschoolers and primary children.

The lessons Oliver learns from his Mum in Story 8 are essential as in looking both ways before crossing and educational as in watching the sky for eagles as a small animal.

In Story 8, the English teacher within cringed at the grammatical error, “Do you ever getting muddy?” (Loc 30 of 41).

As for Story 9:  Egging, I think the moral of the story was intended to support the idea of loving one another unconditionally regardless of appearance as Oliver ends up hatching a dinosaur, but I think this message is lost in the concluding sentence of the story, “Maybe you will get lucky and get a weird creature too!”  (Loc 40 of 41).

At the conclusion of the three stories, Mr. Stejskal invites story suggestions from readers along with an e-mail address which would be an authentic way to further encourage a child’s imagination and love of reading.