The Third Mushroom: Jennifer L. Holm

Book: The Third Mushroom
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Pages: 240
Age Range: 8-12

ThirdMushroomThe Third Mushroom is a sequel to Jennifer Holm's The Fourteenth Goldfish (which I read at some point but apparently did not review). Both books feature a girl named Ellie and her scientist grandfather, Melvin. As The Third Mushroom begins Ellie is navigating middle school reasonably well. She's become best friends with kindred spirit Raj, and has reached a cordial state with her childhood best friend, Brianna.

Then Melvin shows up for a visit. Melvin, as the result of a previous science experiment, is an older, highly educated man who now has the body of a fourteen-year-old. Together, Melvin and Ellie undertake a project for the science fair, even as Ellie and Raj set out to understand the line between friendship and dating. The Third Mushroom is about family relationships, scientific experimentation, and trying new things, all with Jennifer Holm's pitch-perfect eye for what it's like to be in middle school. I especially admire her ability to share profound observations in a light-hearted way. 

Here is one of my favorite passages: 

"I'm heading to my first period when I run into Brianna. She's my old best friend from elementary school. We drifted apart when we started middle school. But it's strangely okay now. These days we're move like cousins who see each other at family reunions. We only remember the good times." (Page 27)

I found that passage utterly apt to my own experience. Here are a couple of middle school tidbits:

"By the time lunch rolls around, it's cold and windy. I'm tempted to go fish something out of the Lost and Found box. But then I remember my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Bennett, and how she used to call it the Lice and Found box, and I think better of it." (Page 52)


"Back in elementary school, gym was fun. We played handball and foursquare. They let us use Hula-Hoops. But gym in middle school is terrible. The teachers are mean and the uniforms stink. Literally. No one takes them home to get washed. 

Most of all, I hate running laps. They're boring, and I'm always one of the last kids to finish." (Page 99)

Yup. I also like Holm's casual, accepting take on Ellie's blended family (divorced parents, new step-dad, Melvin). And I LOVE her positive take regarding scientific experimentation. She slips in various tidbits about actual scientific discoveries (e.g. penicillin), and the benefits of making mistakes, without The Third Mushroom ever feeling didactic. Well, actually Melvin comes across as didactic sometimes, but this is ok, because he's an old man in a young, hormone-laden body, and it's funny. 

Readers will want to read The Fourteen Goldfish prior to reading The Third Mushroom. Even having read the first book several years ago, it took me a little while to orient myself to the story. But once I got settled in, I enjoyed every word, and read the rest of The Third Mushroom in a single sitting. Highly recommended and a must-purchase for libraries serving fifth to eighth graders. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 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).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 21: #Nonfiction, #IndependentReading, ARC-Sharing + #Overscheduled Kids

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this busy week include: #AchievementGap, #ARCs, #BookLists, #ClassPresentations, #Cybils, #EdReform, #GenderDifferences, #Giftedness, #GrowthMindset, #HigherEd, #IndependentReading, #LearningDifferences, #Nonfiction, #Play, #poetry, #ReadAloud, #reading, #ScienceFiction, #STEM, #ViewpointDiversity, #WorldLiteracyDay, book awards, parenting, and schools.

Top Tweet of the Week

TeachingReadingInMiddleSchoolIndependent in : Necessity or Luxury? says it's important for building lifelong , and offers tips for creating a culture that values [Link to Laura Robb's book on Amazon]

Book Lists + Awards

This morning announced the 2018 judges in categories ranging from to to to . Congratulations to all the bloggers, librarians, authors, parents, vloggers + others selected  

11 with Twist Endings Kids Won’t See Coming | from Janssen Bradshaw

BrilliantDeepLonglist for 2019 Children's Award Announced  [Link to The Brilliant Deep on Amazon]

Over the next few days, will be posting Category Descriptions to help decide which books to nominate for these | Today, learn about what they are seeking in

Newbery/Caldecott 2019: Fall Prediction Edition from |

Best for Kids, another | , fantastical , creatures and with a mind of its own.

WinnieA Review of "the 37 Best Narrative Books for Kids" |Adele Jeunette at WeHaveKids | | via [Link to Winnie on Amazon]

Books for Kids that Are Out of This World. This has books that "feature action that somehow deal(s) with and , and/or fantastical in a realistic setting"

25 Adventurous Books Like 's Jackson series via |

Diversity + Gender

MindsOfGirlsAnswering Those Who Believe Boys and Girls Do Not Learn Differently - | | "while there is wonderful overlap in and behavioral styles, boys and girls do learn differently" [Link to The Minds of Girls on Amazon]

Events, Programs + Research

This seems like it could be fun. narrator + actor is launching a video show where he (w/ his dog) + encourages families to + visit the | Look for Hello Storytime on YouTube starting this weekend

was 9/8/18: Now What? looks at flat scores + shares her Rx for giving all US kids a fair chance at . e.g. "Plan for lots of time for fun reading + take the fear out of "

+ Companion Text Sets from |

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has given away $308 million for education in 3 years. Here's who got the donations | via |

RaisingKidsWhoReadShould Listen to While They Read? One analysis says no, but suggests taking of kids' responses into account when deciding for individual kids  [Link to Daniel's book, Raising Kids Who Read]

UK study finds children with difficulties (SLDM/dyscalculia) far less likely to receive an official diagnosis than their peers with

RT @DTWillingham: New 3 yr longitudinal study: self affirmation reduces growth of achievement gap by 50% across high school transition--effectiveness moderated by school context & student engagement ($)

Growth Mindset, Resilience + Personal Growth

Should Students Be Forced To Make ? Some Say It's Too -Producing. Others say kids can gain confidence from learning . Discussion in comments

MindsetHaving a Makes It Easier to Develop New Interests + reach across disciplines | Paul A. O’Keefe, Carol Dweck + Greg Walton via  [Link to Mindset on Amazon]

Asking to Help People Find Better Answers Themselves, vs. just telling people what you think they should do or change |


DeVos, Sessions warn of deepening crisis on campuses |

Have Too Many | "students are less likely to get a good + faculty members are likely to learn less from one another, if there is a prevailing political orthodoxy" |

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

RevengeOfEnginerdsARCs and ARC-Sharing Groups = collections of mostly and (though there are also some involved!) who, after obtaining an , pass it around from one member to the next and discuss online |  [Link to Jarrett's upcoming book on Amazon]

This is encouraging: Study finds by young people 18-24 has doubled since 2012 + other adults are reading it more too via

Parenting + Play

We’ve so our kids (+ emphasized only purposeful activities) that doctors are now prescribing - |

Lawnmower (who mow down obstacles facing their kids) Are the New Helicopter Parents says post | "If we eliminate all struggle in children’s younger years, they will not arrive at adulthood magically equipped to deal with ."

Schools and Libraries

Advice for from for Creating Flexible Yet Significant Opportunities | "Rely on room parents" + lots more

MissionToSpaceHow is incorporating more in her , minilessons + more |

English + Journalism has learned over 17 years that "We Teach People," not just | listening, , connection |

Both sides lobbying California governor on bill to delay start time for teens | | I say sign it - kids will learn more if they are better rested

To Achieve a More "Scholastic" Atmosphere, at this London Must Be Silent in Hallways, reports | I say that's their right, but I wouldn't want my daughter to go there

TeacherWarsRethinking What Means, and Whom It Should Serve | Addressing "underrepresentation of black, Hispanic and low-income children in selective academic settings" [Link to Dana's book on Amazon]

Serious policy decisions are being driven by . The problem is, it’s not always accurate

Exactly How Came to Be So Underpaid (relative to other comparably educated professionals) in America | | "To many teachers, these trends are a result of a decades-long and bipartisan war on "

New nationwide poll: Most people support teachers’ right to strike, but less than half believe unions improve the quality of | via

Testing + Grades

in by | Study found "grade inflation was more severe in schools attended by affluent students than in those attended by lower-income pupils" |

Finding the Sweet Spot Between Defeatism and Utopianism When Setting -

© 2018 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.

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: September 19: #Library Visits, Self-Made Newspapers, and the Power of Twos

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is usually sent out every three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have two book reviews (one middle grade and one adult), three literacy milestones (writing a newspaper, making regular library visits, and not passing on a graphic novel addiction), and one mathematical milestone (reveling in the power of twos). I also have three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, full of reading- and education-related news. 

Reading Update:  In the last three weeks I finished one young adult and eight adult titles. I read/listened to: 

  • LittleWhiteLiesJennifer Lynn Barnes: Little White Lies (Debutantes, No. 1). Free Form Books (Disney). Young Adult Fiction. Completed September 1, 2018, print ARC. Review to come. 
  • Justin Lee: Talking Across the Divide: How to Communicate with People You Disagree with and Maybe Even Change the World. Tarcher/Perigee. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 29, 2018, on Kindle. This was interesting, but I'm not actually determined enough to change anyone else's mind for it to be completely useful. 
  • William Kent Krueger: Heaven's Keep (Cork O'Connor). Atria Books. Adult Mystery. Completed August 29, 2018, on MP3. 
  • KJ Dell'Antonia: How to be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute. Avery. Adult Nonfiction. Competed September 2, 2018, on Kindle. My review.
  • HowToFailScott Adams: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Portfolio. Adult Nonfiction. Completed September 5, 2018, on MP3. This one I really enjoyed, and definitely found a few useful take-home messages about things like exercise and happiness. 
  • Kim Brooks: Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear. Flatiron Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed September 10, 2018, on MP3. A friend on Facebook recommended this book to me. It was written by a woman whose life was changed forever when she got into legal trouble for leaving her four year old alone in a car for a few minutes. She ended up on something of a personal quest to understand how and why parenting has changed (to a cult of overprotection) in recent years. I am also concerned with this, and appreciated some of the insights from experts that Brooks talked to (including Lenore Skenazy). However, I found the author's tone rather whiny and anxious for my taste (compounded by her self-reading of the audiobook). Not a keeper for me. 
  • Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. Penguin Press. Adult Nonfiction. Completed September 13, 2018, on Kindle. This book was fabulous. I think everyone (especially college administrators) should read it. It's about how well-intentioned parents have over-protected kids to the extent that they have trouble facing any dissent or anxiety. Then consumer-driven college administrators have compounded the problem by allowing students to conflate the need for physical safety with the need to be protected from any idea that they don't like. The authors show how damaging this all is psychologically to the kids of GenZ (or i-Gen, or whatever you want to call them), and propose steps that they think schools and parents should take to improve the situation. Important stuff, if you ask me. 
  • IgnoreItCatherine Pearlman: Ignore It!: How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction. TarcherPerigee. Adult Nonfiction. Completed September 13, 2018, on Kindle. This was a quick little read, written by a family counselor who advises that parents studiously ignore all behaviors that they don't want to reinforce (whining, negotiating, etc.). The idea is to find positive ways for kids to get what they want, and not reward them with attention for the negative behaviors. Which all certainly makes sense. 
  • Craig Johnson: Depth of Winter: A Longmire Mystery. Viking. Adult Mystery. Completed 9/14/18, on MP3. This is a bit of an odd installment to the series, one in which Walt is on his own in Mexico without his usual backup team (though with support from some new characters), searching for his kidnapped daughter. I enjoyed it, though. 

I'm currently dipping my way between several nonfiction titles at once on my Kindle, and have a couple of new middle grade books calling to me from my nightstand. I'm listening to The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. I've also been dabbling in listening to podcasts. I'm enjoying the immediacy of that (e.g. listening to people talking about current events), but it is cutting into my ability to listen to actual books. I'll have to see where that goes. My daughter has been on my case to do more reading of physical books, instead of reading on my Kindle. I think she saw something about it in one of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. And she's not convinced that the Kindle (Paperwhite) is any better than any other screen. I'll have to see where that goes, too. I have picked up a few nonfiction titles in print instead of on my Kindle, but I find it a bit less convenient to read them (I just take the Kindle everywhere).  

EdwardGetsMessyMy daughter and I are continuing to read picture books together while she eats breakfast. We've been checking out a few each week from the library (more details about our library visits here). We mix these in with books from our "keep" shelf. We are starting to have a bit of trouble getting her ready for school on time because we both want to keep reading. 

LosersClubOn her own she's been tearing through the Treehouse series by Andy Griffiths. She's also dipped a toe into chapter books, finally reading one of the titles for the Battle of the Books, and reading Andrew Clements' The Losers Club. She started that one probably a year ago, before she was ready, and I was pleased to see recently that she had pulled it from the book bin in the car and was about halfway through. She also finished the second Harry Potter book, switching back and forth between a copy from home and a school library copy. She alternates reading these books with heavy doses of her regular favorite graphic and notebook novels. Cosmic Commandos by Christopher Eliopoulos has been in heavy rotation as have the Babymouse books.

HarryPotterBook1Third grade is going well for her so far. I'd been a bit concerned because this is the first year that she will have a requirement for a certain number of AR points (sigh). However, so far it's been ok. Her teacher doesn't seem particularly focused on this - she cares more about generating enthusiasm for reading and writing. And my daughter was able to knock out this month's requirement by taking the test for the first Harry Potter book. I've let her know that there is no need for her to be competing to get a high number of points, so I'm pretty confident that we'll get through this year unscathed. But I am already seeing some of her friends struggle (weekly tests limiting kids to reading shorter books so that they can finish in time, etc.). I'm sure I'll be writing about that more as time goes on. But for now, so far so good. She loves her teacher and continues to read and write whenever she can. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! 

© 2018 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

Literacy Milestone: Wanting NOT to Pass On Her Addiction to #GraphicNovels

LiteracyMilestoneAI had a surprising conversation with my daughter last night. My nephew just started kindergarten. For his birthday, following a suggestion from his mother, I decided to pick out first or representative books from several series that I thought he might enjoy. Then he could continue on his own with the ones that he likes. Naturally enough, I selected from series that my daughter had liked. Before finalizing my purchase, I ran the list of candidate books by her, to see if I had missed anything. 

LunchLadyBook1To my astonishment, she shook her head over my selection of the first books from the Lunch Lady, Babymouse, and Squish series. These are three of her all-time favorite series. She's been reading and re-reading the books for years now. We have given them many times as gifts to people. She adores them. She just about knows the Lunch Lady books by heart. When I asked why she was rejecting them she explained that she didn't think it was a good idea to get her cousin reading graphic novels when he is so young, because they are so good that he would get addicted to them and "not have an open mind to reading other kinds of books." 

DorkDiaries1I didn't even know how to respond. It's true that this happened to my daughter, to some extent. Her immersion in graphic novels has without question delayed her adoption of other types of books, whether these be chapter books or nonfiction or poetry. But my view has been that as long as she enjoys what she's reading, she will keep reading, and will get better at it. I've believed that she'll eventually branch out, if for no other reason than that she's read all of the notebook and graphic novels that she can find. I've been seeing signs lately, especially since she started third grade, that this is happening. In the meantime, I have been thrilled to see her pulling swaths of Dork Diaries, Amulet, and Babymouse books off the library shelves. My goal is for her to love books, and it's graphic and notebook novels that have gotten her there. I will be forever grateful. 

I had NO IDEA that she had the self-awareness to realize that she had been ... boxing herself in a bit in terms of her reading choices. Or that she would want something different for her cousin. I don't actually agree with her (though I think Karen Yingling might - see her post from today that touches on this topic). I think that whatever book gets a child "addicted" to reading is a good thing, and that we can worry about expanding the genre range later. 

MoldylocksHowever, I did defer to her judgement. I (with a little sigh) dropped Babymouse and Squish from the birthday gift, keeping only Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett Krosoczka. But then I snuck in the first Princess Pink book, Moldylocks and the Three Beards by Noah Z. Jones. Because whether my daughter remembers this or not, this was the very first graphic novel that held her attention (we read it aloud to her sometime around kindergarten, over and over again). I thought that her cousin might get a kick out of it. 

I guess the moral of the story is that kids can surprise you. As for my nephew, I'll be interested to see what kinds of books he ends up enjoying as he gets older. 

What do all of you think? Is there a risk of getting kids "addicted" to graphic novels early, and having it be hard for them to branch out later? Or is all reading and good and happy thing? 

© 2018 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: September 14: #GrowthMindset, #KidLitCon Keynotes + Overprotective #Parenting

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this relatively light week include #GenderBias, #GiftOfFailure, #GrowthMindset, #KidLitCon, #nonfiction, #parenting, #PictureBooks, #play, #reading, #schools, #SocialMedia, #SpecialEducation, #teaching, #testing, and #writing. I was traveling this week so didn't do as deep a search for articles as I usually do. More next week. Happy reading!

Top Tweet of the Week

ElasticBrainSome that may help foster a in kids, encouraging them to overcome challenges, a from

Book Lists + Awards

Kids Will Request Over and Over |  

A Book for Every Kind of Kid | A from | for "the ultimate " + more

HeyKiddoThe 2018 National Book Award Longlist is out | has the list | Special congrats to , one of my daughter's + my all time favorite authors [Link to Hey, Kiddo!]

Diversity + Gender

An updated reminder from that Women Make too... | She highlights some of her favorites for consideration + asks for yours

Events, Programs + Research

Note-taking in the (during lectures + other work): A Research Roundup from | Useful resource for +

IGenTeen Use Is Skyrocketing (vs. 2012). But Don't Panic, New Research Says - [I wonder what Jean Twenge will have to say about these results?]

Related to previous: Most Teens Prefer to Chat Online, Rather Than in Person -

Are (like ) actually harmful? Perhaps not. Award-winning believe in nearly as many of them as trainees –

Growing Bookworms

Should students be required to for 20 minutes a day? And if not, what alternatives can we use to encourage kids to spend time at home? | Important stuff from |


RealFriendsExciting news! The KEYNOTES will be LeUyen Pham and !!! – will be in Providence, RI March 22-23

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Why aren't kids being taught to read in a research-tested way? "We are not born wired to read" says

Mississippi district says these four strategies are helping their , as reflected in higher scores | extra instruction time every day for kids w/ disabilities, + more |

New Study Finds Learning Outcomes Are Better Print Than Reading Digitally | | Makes me wonder about the way that many libraries are getting rid of printed books...

MerciSuarezHow a Reads| on how she has learned to embrace her habits, including every day |


offers common sense advice to on making their level of effort sustainable over the year | e.g. don't be afraid to opt out + focus on kids to do things themselves (agency)

To raise independent kids, treat like a dress rehearsal for life. Don't intervene, focus on effort vs. outcomes + more | |

Why parents should try to be happy, even when their child isn’t - | "When we board our children’s emotional roller coasters, we make things more difficult for them" |

CoddlingAt interviews Coddling of the American Mind co-author on consequences of Overprotective | I am reading this book now and wish that everyone would. It is excellent! [Link to the book on Amazon]

Schools and Libraries

Ten Questions for to Chew On + that should ask to understand culture via | I like: "What’s the best thing my child is going to read this year?"

: Instead of asking kids "what did you do last summer", find ways to ask about small moments | Better for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds + for getting to know |

Has of Students with Disabilities in Regular Gone Too Far? Weighing its effects on SWDs, their peers, and - [See counterpoint from Laura A. Schifter and Thomas Hehir here and response by Allison Gilmour here]

How to Create Opportunities For Kids on the Bus |


Our Children Towards Mediocrity | is talking about Australia, but this happens everywhere. He does offer some suggestions for improvement to better help grow

© 2018 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.