Super Happy Magic Forest by Matty Long

Book: Super Happy Magic Forest
Author: Matty Long
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

SuperHappyMagicSuper Happy Magic Forest is a super-fun picture book by Matty Long, about an epic quest by a brave band of five explorers to Goblin Tower to recover The Mystical Crystals of Life. It's basically an affectionate spoof on epic quest stories. The heroes include a mushroom named Trevor, who can't climb things because he has no arms, and a naive fairy with purple wings. They show varying degrees of courage and creativity as they make their way through frozen lands and a "Super Creepy Haunted Forest" to Goblin Tower. What they find there is somewhat unexpected, but they do, in the end, save the day. 

Super Happy Magic Forest would make a perfect gift to any child of Lord-of-the-Rings-loving parents. It's also a nice introduction to the idea of the epic quest for young readers. There are dangers along the way, but these are lashed with enough humor to keep the book from ever feeling scary. 

This is definitely a book to read aloud with dramatic intonations. Like this:

"But the forces of evil were at work. One day,
the Mystical Crystals of Life were
STOLEN"

(Here STOLEN is rendered in large, bold letters)

and:

"They adventured through
frozen lands and faced scary
and terrible creatures."

Long's illustrations are busy, chock-full of entertaining details, particularly the captions. The Super Happy Magic Forest (where the heroes live, and from where the crystals are stolen includes Rainbow Falls, Happy Bunnies, a Cotton Candy Cave, and lots more. There are ghosts and witches and colorful butterflies. It's like a cross between a gloomy quest and an LSD-enhanced trip through Wonderland, sprinkled with mild humor ("With barely enough time to pack a lunch, the heroes began their epic quest.").

Super Happy Magic Forest is a book that we've had for a few months now, and have appreciated a bit more each time we read it. While it's a bit complex (and perhaps scary) for the youngest listeners, it's a great choice for early elementary schools kids. Especially if they like butterflies, rainbow unicorns, goblins, or ghosts. Highly recommended and pure fun!

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: February 23, 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).


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: August 24: Reading, Reading, Reading

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 has refocused recently, and now contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, including bookworms, mathematicians, and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this relatively brief issue issue I have four book reviews (picture book through early chapter book), two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, and two more posts with more in-depth highlights from articles about the joy of learning

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read/listened to one early chapter book, two middle grade books, two young adult books, and two adult titles. I read:

  • J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Arthur A. Levine Books. Middle Grade. Completed August 12, 2016. I found this interesting, but didn't love it the way I did the original books. 
  • Holly Black and Cassandra Clare: The Bronze Key (Magisterium, Book 3). Scholastic Press. Middle Grade. Completed August 16, 2016. Review to come. 
  • Kara LaReau (ill. Matt Myers): The Infamous Ratsos. Candlewick Press. Early Chapter Book. Completed August 23, 2016.
  • Jennifer Lynn Barnes: The Long Game (The Fixer, Book 2). Bloomsbury USA. Young Adult. Completed August 20, 2016, on MP3. While not particularly plausible, I enjoy this series, and look forward to future books. 
  • Charlie Higson: The End (The Enemy, Book 7). Disney Hyperion. Young Adult. Completed August 21, 2016. This was the conclusion to a seven book series. While I don't believe I've reviewed these books, I do recommend the series for fans of YA post-apocalypse stories, especially those of the zombie apocalypse variety. They are not for the faint of heart, however. There's a lot of gore, and many, many characters die. I liked the mix of survival story and Lord of the Flies-type kid-on-kid political machinations. This series was strong enough to hold my interest across seven books (spread out over time), and for me to keep reasonable track of what was going on. I was satisfied with the ending. 
  • C. J. Box: Off the Grid (Joe Pickett, Book 16). G.P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed August 15, 2016, on MP3. 
  • C. J. Box: Badlands (Cassie Dewell). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed August 24, 2016, on MP3.

I'm currently  listening to Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and reading Small Data: The Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends  (nonfiction) by Martin Lindstrom on my Kindle. I have a number of recently arrived middle grade and YA titles on my short stack, to which I will be turning my attention soon. 

The books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. Now that school is back in session, we're back to a regular routine, and thus reading more books together. I generally read her at least a couple of books at breakfast, and my husband or I will read her several more at bedtime. I've also noticed that she's becoming more likely to pick up a book to read or look at by herself, when she has some quiet time. I'll often find an open book on her bed or on the playroom floor. I do not comment on this - I want her to turn to books because she wants to, not because she thinks that I prefer it (though of course she knows that I do).

Her most recent favorite title is Ninja Bunny: Sister vs. Brother by Jennifer Gray Olson. She likes for me to read most of the text aloud, while she chimes in with the little sister's dialog (helpfully shown in red). 

 I'm continuing to share all of my longer reads, as well as highlights from my picture book reads with my daughter, via the #BookADay hashtag on Twitter. Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. Wishing you all plenty of time for summer reading.

© 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


Pirasaurs!: Josh Funk & Michael Slack

Book: Pirasaurs!
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Michael Slack
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

PirasaursWhat if the dinosaurs had been, or still were, pirates? You'd have Pirasaurs! Josh Funk's band of dinosaur pirates is on a quest to find buried treasure. They'll have to overcome a mutiny, a damaged map, and a trap first, however. The protagonist is a small, scaly orange cabin boy, uncertain of his place with the rowdy crew. The crew is headed by the female Captain Rex, assisted by Bronto Beard the lookout and Triceracook (a triceratops cook with a hook, covering many bases). 

Josh Funk's rhyming text is fun to read aloud, and sprinkled with strong vocabulary words. Like this:

"With handy hook, Tricercook
Prepares Jurassic feasts!

I love to slurp and belch and burp
With buccaneering beasts!"

and:

"Velocimate can navigate
From reef to coastal bay.

I use my smarts to map the charts.
But still we're led astray."

Bonus points later in the book for use of the words "blurt" and "scallywags".

Michael Slack brings the pirates to colorful life, with special attention to our sometimes hopeful and sometimes discouraged young narrator. A battle between rival pirate gangs is especially dynamic, full of scowling faces and a mix of swords and dinosaur horns. 

Pirasaurs! is full of interesting characters, engaging wordplay, and dramatic (but not scary) action. It is perfect for preschoolers, and recommended for libraries, homes, and classrooms, or anywhere that a pirate- and/or dinosaur-loving child might lurk. 

Publisher: Orchard Books (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: August 30, 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).


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @AlisonGopnik + @JKarabinas + @AshleyLambS | #Play + #Reading

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three articles that address the joy of learning, and the things that take that joy away. The first article looks at the cognitive benefits of play for young kids. The second explores better ways of tracking reading than chore-like reading logs. The third piece laments the stress that many American high school kids experience, and proposes a more playful, kindergarten-like atmosphere. All three articles are worth your time. 

GardenerAndCarpenterUnstructured #Play Results in Cognitive Benefits, as well as sheer pleasure @AlisonGopnik http://ow.ly/quta303g6C2  @TheAtlantic

Alison Gopnik: "Just as we should give children the resources and space to play, and do so without insisting that play will have immediate payoffs, we should do the same for scientists and artists and all the others who explore human possibilities.

There is good reason to think that play helps us learn. But another part of the evolutionary story is that play is a satisfying good in itself—a source of joy for parents as well as children. Caring for children is hard work, getting the chance to play again is one compensation. If it had no other rationale, the sheer pleasure of play would be justification enough."

Me: This piece offers a strong defense of play, looking at both the science behind the cognitive benefits and the lighter side, too. I've been pleased to see this article getting a lot of exposure, and I hope it influences parents and teachers everywhere. Pieces like this give me hope that the pendulum is starting to swing back in the direction of play. 

If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Mistaking Compliance For #Learning re #ReadingLogs http://ow.ly/zKKP303ihry  @JKarabinas @HeinemannPD

Jaclyn Karabinas: "(On parent-signed reading logs:Was a signature really the most authentic way for students to share their reading life with me? Did it provide me with the information I needed to help them grow as readers? No! In fact, it sent one message and one message only: I can only be sure you are reading if you write it down and someone signs it. I conveyed that message of distrust in the name of “efficiency.”

...I was able to build an accurate picture of what my students felt was truly valuable for tracking their reading lives. And you know what? They wanted the same things I wanted: to celebrate a growing list of titles, make recommendations to peers, respond in writing to share their thinking, and look for patterns on the types of books they devoured or detested."

Me: The quote in the previous paragraph exactly mirrors my own thoughts on tracking reading (especially for my daughter). We want to keep track of what titles we've read, and it can be fun to look at how many titles that's been, or to see if there are patterns. But any tracking that crosses the line from "this is fun" to "this is a chore" runs the risk of turning reading itself into a chore. And that is a travesty. 

My daughter is just starting first grade, and I am waiting to see what sort of reading log her teacher uses. I am prepared to push back if necessary. My primary job in this area, as far as I'm concerned, is to maintain my daughter's love of reading. Full stop. 

What if High School was more like Kindergarten asks @AshleyLambS in @TheAtlantic http://ow.ly/rSpr303mzlp  via @drdouggreen #JoyOfLearning

Ashley Lamb-Sinclair: "Lauri Jarvilehto is a former employee of Rovio (of Angry Birds fame) who has created a company called Lighneer, which is focused on educational games. Lauri believes—and I agree—that “education is important, but learning matters more.”

Too often, I see high-school students break down in tears over grades or pile on advanced and AP classes because “that’s what colleges want to see.” ...

How can America’s students feel hope for the future when they are so stressed from trying to achieve future success that they break down in tears?"

Me: This piece includes a concise summary of various survey results that capture the academic stress facing American high schoolers today, with comparisons to the situation in Finland (a much of #JoyOfLearning focused country). With my own daughter starting first grade, I worry already about how I can possibly keep the pressure cooker that is high school in the US (and especially in Silicon Valley - see this piece) from crushing her joy of learning. Articles like this one do give me some hope... 

© 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 post may contain affiliate links. 


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 19: #BackToSchool Edition

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics during this relatively light week have shifted from last week's plethora of #BookLists to a focus on schools and libraries. Other topics include: #KidLitCon, classroom libraries, college, Cybils Awards, dollhouses, early readers, ebooks, literacy, playful learning, read aloud, and Sir Ken Robinson.

Book Lists

10 (Non-Preachy) Life Lessons Found in the Pages of Middle-Grade Fiction by @MelissaRoske @nerdybookclub http://ow.ly/GOSk303mD6v  #kidlit

A Stranger Things-Inspired #BookList | Eerie, Creepy Books for Kids — @FuseEight   #kidlit http://ow.ly/3RGI303mDBn 

 Cybils
PeasAndCarrots#Cybils
+ #KidLitCon stalwarts @tanita_s_davis + @MsYingling talk Tanita's coming-of-age/tween novels @sljournal  http://ow.ly/c4Nx303kNWp 

A Head's Up that The 2016 #Cybils Awards are coming soon!   #kidlit #BookAwards #PureFun http://ow.ly/o2Nb303glBg 

Events + Programs

#BooksWithBarbers program encourages #reading (esp for African-American boys) in barbershops @thestate via @tashrow https://t.co/KVQHJ4yMLE

Growing Bookworms

Some thoughts on Classic Beginning Readers and whether they are still useful or relevant at Guessing Geisel http://ow.ly/YjQN303go16  #kidlit

Why we need to #ReadAloud to struggling #readers by @measuredmom  http://ow.ly/jrns303bTyz  | "It shows them that the struggle is worth it"

Early #Literacy Around the House: The Kitchen (recipes, cooking shows, etc) by @mrskatiefitz  http://ow.ly/s1s9303bTn6 

Tough times out there? Here’s why #reading with your kids is more important than ever by @amyjoyce_berg  http://ow.ly/w3h3303bSIC  @tashrow

The Hurdles and Joys of #RaisingReaders by @LisaYee1 @ReadBrightly  http://ow.ly/6m1Q303ngJX  #FlashlightReading

Kidlitosphere

ThisIsMyDollhouseMy favorite thing in today's Fusenews @fuseeight is photos inspired by THIS IS MY DOLLHOUSE http://ow.ly/Fmk7303gn8v 

Just a note that the program for #KidLitCon is shaping up nicely + will be posted soon. It's going to be great! https://t.co/Ov8wHZz3ty

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Thoughts on #Reading Analog (esp. for deeper reading) in a Digital World by @ReadByExample @nerdybookclub https://t.co/pobF9LqHC4 

The Three Robbers by @TomiUngerer + #moral-free children's books http://ow.ly/Z5zp303ik1K  by Mark O'Connell @Slate #kidlit

5 Ways To Keep #Books Relevant in a world full of online distraction by @Mylifeonawhim @HuffingtonPost http://ow.ly/fHfR303mxvJ  via @tashrow

Parenting + Play (or Lack Thereof)

 10 Ways to Motivate Your Kid to Learn w/ focus on joy of discovery, unstructured #play, #learning styles http://ow.ly/Z6aP303g8WO  @Scholastic

Wondering why adults don't spend more time physically, creatively #playing http://ow.ly/NgA5303bUca  Ruth Hatfield @AwfullyBigBlog

Depressing: The dark side of Silicon Valley, according to a teen who grew up there @businessinsider @Quora  #RatRace

Schools and Libraries

How to Create a Culture For Valuable #Learning rather than conformity + compliance http://ow.ly/TsDG303fZVF  @SirKenRobinson @MindShiftKQED

On using a "gradual release" policy for a 1st grade #classroom #library by Bitsy Parks @ChoiceLiteracy http://ow.ly/S6pB303d0yz 

The importance of curating / weeding your #classroom #library by @katsok http://ow.ly/uQBg303d0oS  @ChoiceLiteracy

How to create a positive (not incentive-based) #reading culture in your #school by Waheeda Simjee @tes http://ow.ly/xO3w303cZJa 

OpEd: America desperately needs to redefine ‘college and career ready’ - @dintersmith via @drdouggreen  http://ow.ly/kOZi303bT5r  #education

Who would have though? Finland’s Hot New #Karaoke Bar Is a Public #Library | @SmithsonianMag via @tashrow https://t.co/rHb6zrRShG

© 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