Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 9: Multicultural Children's Book Day + Computer Science Education Week

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #ELL, #Homework, #math, #poetry, #STEM, coding, gift guides, libraries, Multicultural Children's Book Day, picture books, PISA, re-reading, schools, and testing. 

Book Lists

HowToBeAHero51 (Unconventional + #Diverse ) #PictureBooks You Must Read to Your Kids, 3 age ranges  @momandkiddo #BookList

7 New #PictureBooks That Celebrate Winter | #BookList from @rebeccazdunn 

Our 2016 Favorites List: Libros Latinxs | #BookList from @LatinosInKidLit  #PictureBooks to #YA

Events + Programs

Multicultural Children's Book Day in January 27th - Meet the Co-Hosts  @RandomlyReading @Scholastic #DiverseBooks

Gift Guides

TheyAllSawACatGive Your Kids Books for Christmas (Recommendations Plus Free Printable Bookplates) @housefullbkwrms  #kidlit 

Some fun stuff in this guide to #Literary-ish Stocking Stuffers from @chasingray 

List of Holiday Gifts that Support Creative #Play from @LauraBarrEd  #DressUp #Pretend #Building

Growing Bookworms

WimpyKidCabinFeverIn defense of Repeat Readers by @KirchnerJulie @nerdybookclub  | Does it hurt if a child re-reads a book?


#Kidlit Bloggers: Don't Miss the Call for Roundup Hosts for #PoetryFriday  @MaryLeeHahn @frankisibberson #poetry

2016’s Most Memorable Moments in Children’s and #YA Literature | @dcorneal @ReadBrightly  #kidlit

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

When We Want to Believe So Badly that we accept (and pass along) results that are not credible  @ShawnaCoppola

Schools and Libraries

UpTheSlideFounding a Better Kindergarten - wanting more #JoyOfLearning these parents started their own school  @HeatherShumaker

Love it! Would You Believe: A Real Life #HomeworkStrike in Spain  @gregpincus has the scoop! 

What America Can Learn About Smart Schools in Other Countries from models predicting #PISA results  @UpshotNYT #math

Four Youth #Librarians Among 2016 “I Love My Librarian” Winners | @RoccoA @sljournal 

Copying Singapore’s #Math Homework - @WSJ OpEd suggests countries should learn from each other's educational systems


SecretCodersCelebrate #ComputerScience Education Week with Gene Yang and the Secret Coders @alybee930  @secret_coders #STEM

Infographic: Breaking Barriers to #Math Success for English Language Learners  #ELL @MIND_Research #STEM

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

The Homework Strike: Greg Pincus

Book: The Homework Strike
Author: Greg Pincus
Pages: 272
Age Range: 8-12

HomeworkStrikeThe Homework Strike by Greg Pincus is a sequel to The 14 Fibs of Gregory K (reviewed here), though it's not necessary to have read the first book. Gregory K., math-impaired middle child of a math-loving family, is now in seventh grade. He loves writing, especially poetry, but he finds himself with little time to write, because he spends 3 hours or more each day doing homework. Gregory is struggling, burned out, and, eventually, angry that homework is taking away time for the other pursuits that he and his friends enjoy. And so, with some subtle encouragement from his history teacher, Gregory goes on strike. It's when he's on strike that Gregory finds himself working harder and learning more than he would have ever imagined. 

The Homework Strike is a timely take on an issue that is getting attention around the country. While I don't know of any actual student-directed strikes (yet), there are certainly schools that are experimenting with reducing or eliminating homework. And there are plenty of news stories and even entire books about how homework is leading to burn-out among students, especially those in middle school and high school. Regular readers know that reducing homework levels is an issue near and dear to my own heart. The Homework Strike is a book that would have caught my attention on this front alone. The fact that it's written by a friend and features characters that I enjoyed in a previous book makes it, for me, that much more irresistible. But I shall endeavor to be objective. 

The Homework Strike is something of a primer for social activism via strikes, without feeling like a primer. What keeps the book from feeling didactic in this regard is Gregory's strong first-person voice. Gregory is figuring everything out as he goes along, with some support from his teacher and his parents. Some references are mentioned, and Gregory does read them and refer to them, but this is all in the context of Gregory's journey. References to Click, Clack, Moo and Yertle the Turtle are a bonus (as is a quote from The Princess Bride movie). Gregory's parents are realistically concerned, and impose grounding at one point over grades, but are ultimately awesomely supportive.

The author uses The Homework Strike to make what I find to be valid points about the negatives of homework, while defending the efforts and intentions of teachers themselves (a potentially fine line). Only the heavy-handed school principal really comes off as a bad guy (and someone had to be the bad guy). Particular attention is paid to the difficulty of homework for kids who have learning challenges (one character is revealed to by dyslexic, for example, and requires extra time), and to the many creative interests that kids might have outside of school (writing, painting, making videos, etc.). While I might personally have liked to see Gregory dig up some of the research that has questioned the value of homework, I can see that this could have bogged down the story for middle grade readers. 

Here's one of Gregory's friends on the impact of homework:

"I have a theory that they removed two hours from the day this summer while we weren't looking," Benny chimed in. "That would explain why I no longer have time for reading for pleasure, watching TV, or practicing violin." (Page 23, ARC)

And here's Gregory:

"Gregory knew his friends were probably right about, well, about everything. But school was hard for him -- he left a day of it exhausted and drained -- and homework was harder. He even kind liked school, really, or at least the best classes were enough to make the other classes tolerable. But it just all seemed off to him somehow. Like there was so much attention focused on knowledge he'd never need and skills he wouldn't use, and no time to develop the ones he felt would be important where his life would take him." (Page 42, ARC)

I love Gregory's group of friends, kids who don't fit in to any of the traditional groups (jocks, popular kids, stoners, etc.), but who are ok because they have each other. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses, academically and otherwise. And I like that these friends support Gregory but don't blindly follow him into going on strike. I also enjoyed a running theme through the book about whether or not something would make Gregory's calf hurt. You see, his best friend Kelly moved away after the first book. Kelly would always kick him in the calf when she though he was doing something stupid. Even with her living far away, Gregory still gets phantom pains when he knows that she would have kicked him for something. She's like his (painful) conscience. 

There is some risk that The Homework Strike will make elementary school kids worry about the homework burden that is to come with middle school, but I'm pretty sure that they'll be hearing about this in the real world anyway. [My daughter is in first grade and I already have a sense of which teachers give a lot of homework in the upper grade of her elementary school.] The Homework Strike just might give them some ideas for coping, together with positive messages about standing up for yourself and being loyal to your friends and family members. It's really more about larger issues like the relative power of kids vs. adults. 

I think that The Homework Strike is a book that belongs in school libraries everywhere, not just for the messages regarding homework and control, but because Gregory is such an engaging and realistic character, with a strong family. There are fun poems at the start of every chapter, too. This is a book that will particularly speak to kids who feel like outsiders at school (and isn't that most middle schoolers?), and to anyone who has ever felt powerless. Highly recommended for kids age 8 and up, and for their parents, too. [My six-year-old noticed what I was reading and had me read a chunk of this book aloud to her, too.]

Publisher:  (@Scholastic
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

A Well-Mannered Young Wolf: Jean Leroy + Matthieu Maudet

Book: A Well-Mannered Young Wolf
Author: Jean Leroy
Illustrator: Matthieu Maudet
Pages: 30
Age Range: 4-8

Well-ManneredWolfA Well-Mannered Young Wolf, written by Jean Leroy and illustrated by Matthieu Maudet, is a darkly humorous tale with an ending that Jon Klassen fans should appreciate. While technically it is a book about the benefits that can come from using proper manners, the deadpan delivery makes it far more entertaining than didactic. The story begins:

"A young wolf, whose parents had taught him good manners, went hunting alone in the forest for the first time."

The wolf catches a rabbit, but is polite enough to offer the rabbit a last request. When the rabbit's request requires the wolf to leave for a time, the rabbit promises to stay put in order to be eaten later. But, of course, when the wolf returns, the rabbit is gone. The frustrated, but still polite, young wolf goes through a similar process with a chicken. But when a young boy is polite enough to keep his word to the wolf, the wolf finds that he wants to reward the boy. In the end, characters get what they deserve (in the sense that polite = deserving). 

Leroy's narration is pitch-perfect for the story. Like this: "Furious, the hunter resumed his search for more prey to devour" and "At the idea of having to return home a third time, the young hunter exploded with rage." 

There's also quite a bit of dialog. And in that dialog are direct references to what is and isn't polite, as taught by the parents of the various characters. A Well-Mannered Young Wolf is a fun text to read aloud. 

Maudet's illustrations have a spare, cartoon-like feel, with a limited color palette. They display a sly sense of humor. For example, the wolf captures the chicken by throwing a book at it. There's a little thundercloud over the wolf's head when he is angry, and we can also tell a lot about what he's feeling from the appearance of his teeth and eyebrows. 

This book was originally published in France, and to me there does seem to be a French sensibility to it, though I'm hard-pressed to express what makes me say that. What I can say is that the ending made me laugh. A Well-Mannered Young Wolf is a quiet title, but one that I think kids with a relatively sophisticated sense of humor will enjoy. Recommended!

Publisher:  Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (@eerdmansbooks)
Publication Date: October 3, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Literacy Milestone: Reading in Bed (on her own)

LiteracyMilestoneALast night I was busy tidying up, and I asked my daughter to go get into her pajamas, and said that I'd be in shortly to read with her. Things took me a bit more time than I expected. When I arrived in my daughter's room I found her propped up in her bed, reading All-Time Favorite Classics, a thick collection of stories based on Disney animated movies. She was quietly reading 101 Dalmatians, and told me that she wanted to finish reading that herself, and then have me come and read Peter Pan to her. I, of course, backed slowly away, and left her to her reading. When I did return I took my own book with me, and climbed in next to her, so that I would be there when she was ready.

While I am more than happy to continue reading aloud to my daughter before bed for as long as she will let me, I also celebrate this milestone of her being able to read on her own in bed. Reading in bed is one of my favorite activities. It's how I relax and prepare for sleep. Many days, it is the only time I am able to spend reading for pleasure. I want this respite for my daughter, too. It warmed my heart to walk into her room and see her reading away. 

A note on her book choice may also be in order. I have literally dozens, perhaps hundreds (if we push the reading level a bit), of other chapter books that she could be reading. Most, one could argue, of higher literary quality than these movie-recap versions of classic stories. But she was interested enough in this book to dig it out from the bottom of a stack of other books.

101DalmatiansShe was specifically interested in 101 Dalmatians because this was the school play at her school last semester, and her friend played Cruella. This version of the story is text-dense, featuring words like "suspicious", and I doubt she could read every word. But there are large color illustrations on every page, and the story is familiar and safe. Most importantly, she was had a personal interest, and had chosen the book to read on her own. 

That's what it comes down to, for me. Choice. If you give kids choice in what they want to read, and you keep a variety of books strategically located in your home, you will sometimes be rewarded by walking in on your child, lost to the world, reading in bed. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 2: Gift Guides, Long-Distance Reading, and Homework-Free Holidays

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. It's been a bit of a light week for links, as people ease their way back in after the Thanksgiving holiday. But I do have some links for you about #BookLists, #PictureBooks, book awards, book drive, diversity, e-books, gift guides, gifted-and-talented programs, growing bookworms, homework, Native American Heritage Month, reading aloud, and reading levels. Happy reading!


The very first Undies: Case Cover Awards have been selected | @100scopenoteshas the scoop  #PictureBooks #YA

Book Lists

NewYearMulticultural Winter Holiday #PictureBooks, a new #BookList from @momandkiddo  #DiverseBooks

Kicking off 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day One – 2016 Great #BoardBooks@fuseeight  #Kidlit #BookLists

A #PictureBook Roundup for Native American Heritage Month from @RandomlyReading  #kidlit #BookList

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers (#EasyReaders + #ChapterBooks), November 2016 from @mrskatiefitz 

The Best Transgender Kidlit for Everyone | @ehbluemle @PublishersWkly  #DiverseBooks #BookList

Events and Programs

A Bronx Librarian @nypl Keen on Teaching Homeless Children a Lasting #LoveOfBooks @nytimes  @PWKidsBookshelf

Guys Lit Wire: Do something good! Buy a book for Ballou SR High School on Cyber Monday!  @chasingray @BallouLibrary

Gift Guides + Tips

Some great, kid-tested stuff on the "I Would Buy That Again" Gift Guide from @sunlitpages 

Tips on Selecting Special Gift Books for Kids Who Already Have a Lot of Books from @mrskatiefitz  #RaisingReaders

Growing Bookworms

DinoDanceNice! Tips from a distant aunt for #reading together w/ kids across the miles | Cynthia K. Ritter @HornBook 

Tips for Navigating the Challenging World of #ReadingLevels from librarian @DanielleBookery at Guessing Geisel 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Do 'Digital Natives' Prefer Paper Books to #E-Books? Not so far, reports @kate_stoltzfus @educationweek  #reading

Schools and Libraries

Brooklyn School Works to Diversify Gifted-and-Talented Programs (racially + economically) @TheAtlantic

Liberate the Turkey and #Homework on Holiday Weekends - some ideas for what to suggest instead from @mssackstein 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook