Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 1: Accelerated Learning, #Reading + #SchoolLibraries

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. It's been a fairly quiet week on the blogs, but I do have posts on #BookLists, #PictureBooks, Amazon, Feminist Books, Lois Duncan, Pernille Ripp, playgrounds, reading, Rick Riordan, school libraries, teaching, accelerated learning. 

Book Lists

LouiseAndAndie10 Encouraging Books About Making Friends from @growingbbb  http://ow.ly/1dsL301GyN0  #BookList #PictureBooks

Shape Books that Think Outside the Box #PictureBook Edition @housefullbkwrms  http://ow.ly/JLmi301JboZ  #BookList

On the #Cybils blog: #BooList Fun: #Diverse Cybils #PictureBook Finalists, list by Katie @thelogonauts http://ow.ly/AJaV301OHVb 

The Ultimate #SummerReading List for 6- to 8-Year-Olds (w/ nice #diversity) by @olugbemisola  @ReadBrightly http://ow.ly/2Au2301OhmO  #kidlit

TheodosiaRoundup of the @camphalfblood series + read-alikes from Jennifer Wharton http://ow.ly/JlGR301Gyhx  #kidlit #mythology #fantasy

11 Books Every Feminist Read Growing Up http://ow.ly/PrZ8301C4IQ  @bustle via @tashrow #StrongGirls #Matilda #PippiLongstocking

Top Ten Titles That Promote Summer Fun by @jdsniadecki @nerdybookclub  http://ow.ly/RlII301GzgH  #kidlit #nonfiction #poetry

This #BookList @sljournal  caught my eye: 11 #YA #Thrillers That Would Make Lois Duncan Proud http://ow.ly/wJNB301JG63 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

BeaverIsLostBeautiful! An Illustrated Guide to the Best Places to Read w/ Children, Elisha Cooper @ReadBrightly http://ow.ly/CLwP301OONe  @PWKidsBookshelf

Fun! Braking for Books: @HMHKids Kicks Off Curious World Tour to encourage #SummerReading + #Play http://ow.ly/QkDq301OO3A  @PublishersWkly

Love it! How Being A Book Nerd As A Child Turned Me Into A Better Adult, Averi Clements @bustle http://ow.ly/P1Kb301OOw9  via @PWKidsBookshelf

"Reading is NOT answering questions at end of a passage" + lots more in: What #reading is not by @profesornana  http://ow.ly/oLRA301M4NY 

A plan for giving books that time they deserve: READ, REFLECT, REACT by @Kateywrites  @nerdybookclub  http://ow.ly/v6Is301JaNd  #Reading

Play

Redefining playgrounds: "Play should be imaginative, it should have some element of controlled danger" http://ow.ly/EFMZ301Ogjn  @BostonGlobe

Schools and Libraries

PassionateLearners"What if every decision we made (as teachers) was centered on what is best for students" asks @pernilleripp https://t.co/eUVECmn9bi

.@amazon Unveils Online #Education Service (marketplace w/ free lesson plans, etc) for #Teachers @nytimes https://t.co/Pw5y1Nsk3q

Trend Alert: More #SchoolLibraries Staying Open all Summer, sometimes giving books away  @sljournal  http://ow.ly/DwvB301JFAG 

Why Don't #Schools Accelerate More Students? @PeterMDeWitt @educationweek  http://ow.ly/MQtF301LLhd  via @drdouggreen

Will homework disappear in the age of blended learning? 3 examples from @cliffcmaxwell @ChristensenInst http://ow.ly/LvFM301OJFw  @drdouggreen

© 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


A Tiny Parenting Win re: Reading

The other day my daughter was on her device for the duration of a 1 1/2 hour drive home from Monterey. When she got home, she wanted to keep using the device, particularly because I had agreed to let her download a new app. When my husband and I said no, that she had reached her limit for the day and then some, she was, shall we say, none too happy. She proceeded to mope about, with much whining, complaining, etc. My husband and I ignored this as best we could, and left her alone. 

DinosaursBeforeDarkTen minutes later I popped back into the kitchen and spotted her sitting on the couch in the family room, reading a Magic Treehouse book. I immediately slipped away again, thinking: "Now there is a win for parenting." She can't comfortably read the Magic Treehouse books on her own - there are too many words that she needs help with - and she only ended up reading a couple of pages. But still -- when her device was taken away, after a relatively short period of sulking, she turned to a book.

I think that if a book that was more at her reading level had happened to be handy at that moment, she probably would have continued reading longer. As it was, she ended up going into the playroom and writing me, as the fictional Emily, a note about how she would not be able to attend my upcoming birthday party because she, as the fictional Sara, had a science camp reunion that day. There is no Emily. Her name is not Sara. She's never attended science camp. I do not know where these things come from. But I did send a response.

What I do know is that if my daughter had been on her device, she would not have been trying to read a Magic Treehouse book, nor would she have been practicing writing and storytelling. And so, a small win for parenting. 

None of this is to say that I will never give her device time, or that there aren't educational benefits to some of the things she does on her tablet. But this small incident still reinforced to me the upside of setting limits on screen time. Even if one has to endure some sulking. 

© 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


Serafina and the Twisted Staff: Robert Beatty

Book: Serafina and the Twisted Staff
Author: Robert Beatty
Pages: 384
Age Range: 9-12

Serafina and the Twisted Staff is the sequel to Serafina and the Black Clock (which I listened to on audio last year and enjoyed but did not review). If you have not read the first Serafina book, please beware. There will be spoilers here for that book. My recommendation is that if you like reading about mysterious, supernatural creatures and dangerous situations, and you are intrigued by the idea of a girl growing up hidden in the basements of the vast Biltmore Estates around the turn of the 20th century, then you should stop reading this review, and just go out and get both books.

If you have read the first Serafina book, then you will not find Serafina and the Twisted Staff disappointing. This sequel takes place three weeks after Serafina and her friends have defeated the Man in the Black Cloak. Though Serafina's presence at the Biltmore Estate is now generally known, and her friendship with Braeden Vanderbilt accepted by his aunt and uncle, Serafina remains uncertain about her place in the world. She feels torn between the adoptive father who raised her in secret and the catamount mother who she has just met. Unlike her mother, and despite her odd physical traits, Serafina is unable to change into a mountain lion. 

As the story begins, Serafina again encounters a mysterious danger in the woods. When this danger extends into the Biltmore Estate, Serafina doesn't know where to turn, or how to help her family and friends. In Serafina and the Twisted Staff, Serafina must confront both her enemies and her insecurities. As in the first book, these quests are set against the fascinating backdrop of the secret-passage-studded Biltmore Estate and the treacherous forest that surrounds it. Real-life landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead also plays a role in the story. 

I read Serafina and the Twisted Staff in a single sitting, only hesitating to continue at one point near the middle, when it felt like too many circumstances were conspiring against Serafina. But I'm glad that I persisted, because Serafina is a heroine to be reckoned with, and rooted for. Here is Serafina:

"She jumped gullies and climbed hills. She took shortcuts, taking advantage of the road's meandering path. Her chest began to heave as she pulled in great gupls of air. Despite the trepidation she had felt moments before, the challenge of keeping up with the horses made her smile and then made her laugh, which made it all the more difficult to breathe when she was trying to run. Leaping and darting, she loved the thrill of the chase." (Chapter 2, ARC). 

And here's her pa:

"Look," her pa said, taking her by the shoulders and looking into her eyes. "You're alive, ain't ya? So toughen up. Bless the Lord and get on with things. In your entire life, has the master of the house ever demanded your presence upstairs? No, he has not. So, yes, ma'am, if the master wants you there, you're gonna be there. Will bells on."

"Bells?" she asked in horror. "Why do I have to wear bells?"" (Chapter 9)

And here's a description of Mr. George Vanderbilt, which I suspect is based on historical descriptions of this real-life figure:

"Mr. Vanderbilt had welcomed all sorts of guest to entertain themselves in the magnificent mansion he had built for that purpose, but he himself had a tendency to withdraw from revelry. He often sat in a quiet room by himself and read rather than imbibe with others. He was a man of his own spirit." (Chapter 13)

I'm pretty sure I would have liked this fellow introvert. I know that I would have liked his house.

Serafina and the Twisted Staff is a book that I would have found impossible to resist as a 10-year-old, and that I found difficult to resist even now, as an adult. It's a nice combination of creepy supernatural mystery and coming of age story, with bravery and battles set against musings on what makes up friendship and family. Fans of Serafina and the Black Cloak will certainly not want to miss this sequel. And I look forward to reading about Serafina and Braeden's future adventures. Recommended!

Publisher:  Disney-Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion) 
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the author's publicist

© 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: June 29: Summer Learning, #PictureBook Reviews + Finding Winnie

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 issue I have four book reviews (three picture books and one middle grade) and one post about my daughter's latest literacy milestone (anticipating a sequel). I also have a post about my (play-based) plans for my daughter's summer learning. I close with two posts with links that I shared on Twitter and two more with quotes from and responses to articles about to the joy of learning. As you can see, I've been slowing getting my reviewing groove back. I have two reviews per week scheduled out for the next couple of months, which is a nice feeling. 

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read/listened to two chapter books, two middle grade titles, and five adult titles. I also abandoned one middle grade title about one third of the way through because I kept falling asleep. I remain in an odd YA funk, where nothing I look at or begin catches my attention enough to get me through it. Anyway, I read:

  • SeaPonyEllen Potter (Ill. Qin Leng): Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Illustrated Early Chapter Book. Completed June 15, 2016, print ARC. Review to come.
  • Kirk Scroggs: Snoop Troop: It Came from Beneath the Playground. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Chapter Book/Graphic Novel. Completed June 16, 2016. Review to come.
  • Aimee Carter: Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Middle Grade/Middle School. Completed June 21, 2016, print ARC. Review to come.
  • EdgeOfExtinctionLaura Martin: The Ark Plan: Edge of Extinction, Book 1. HarperCollins Children's Books. Middle Grade. Completed June 25, 2016. Review to come.
  • C. J. Box: Nowhere to Run (Joe Pickett, Book 10). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed June 18, 2016, on MP3. This was a particularly bleak installment to the series, but nevertheless left me wanting to listen to the next one right away. 
  • Sara Paretsky: Indemnity Only (V. I. Warshawski #1). Dell Books. Adult Mystery. Completed June 19, 2016, on both MP3 and Kindle (Whispersync). I enjoyed the experience of switching back and forth between the digital and audio versions of this modern classic, and will be moving on to try Book 2. 
  • C. J. Box: Cold Wind (Joe Pickett, Book 11). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed June 23, 2016, on MP3. This had a nice, twisty plot, and kept me thinking. 
  • Laura Lippman: Wilde Lake. William Morrow. Adult Mystery. Completed June 26, 2016, on Kindle. This standalone by Lippman has an unusual narrative structure, but very deep characterization. I found it quite compelling, and am still thinking about it.
  • Paul Doiron: The Precipice (Mike Bowditch #6). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed June 28, 2016, on MP3. I'm enjoying reading these books close together, and basically watching Mike Bowditch grow up (albeit with some backsliding). 

FindingWinnieI'm currently listening to the second V. I. Warshawski novel by Sara Paretsky, Deadlock, and reading the fifth Ruth Galloway novel by Elly Griffiths, A Dying FallThe books my husband and I and our babysitter have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. My daughter's and my newest favorite title, far and away, is this year's Caldecott winner, Finding Winnie, by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall. Finding Winnie is one of those books that makes you say: "Oh my goodness, why didn't anyone tell me this book was so wonderful!"

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. I also enjoy looking at other people's #BookADay selections. 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


The Eureka Key: Secrets of the Seven: Sarah L. Thomson

Book: The Eureka Key: Secrets of the Seven, Book 1
Author: Sarah L. Thomson
Pages: 240
Age Range: 8-12

The Eureka Key is the first of a new quest-driven series by Sarah L. Thomson. It's reminiscent of Kate Messner's Capture the Flag and sequels (see my reviews of Book 1 and Book 2). Both series feature descendants from historical figures uniting to uncover and protect certain secret artifacts. I like Messner's books, but I think I like The Eureka Key, with its strong focus on puzzles and Indiana Jones feel, a bit better. 

The Eureka Key begins with bright troublemaker Sam Solomon pulling off a minor but carefully timed criminal act at school (in service of a wronged friend). He reminded me a bit of Varian Johnson's Jackson Greene in this caper, but is more of a lone wolf. Later that day, Sam receives word that he's won a complex puzzle contest that he entered previously. The prize is a journey of discovery to follow clues around the United Sates over the summer. While it's rather implausible that parents would actually allow a 12 year old (at most) to go by himself on such a quest, this sets up the story nicely.

When he arrives in Las Vegas for a flight to Death Valley, Sam meets his fellow team members, the geeky, history-obsessed Martina and the strong and silent Theo. The action quickly takes off from there, and includes a near-death flight experience, a kidnapping, and the following of clues hidden by none other than Ben Franklin. This activity is not all strictly realistic, perhaps, but it is a lot of fun. 

I also enjoyed the personal dynamics between the three very different kids. Sam is a bit of a wise-ass, and flies by the seat of his pants, though he is extremely good at puzzles. He and the well-prepared, uptight Marty begin bickering almost immediately. Theo's dry sense of humor is more gradually revealed, as is his background. I think Theo is going to be my favorite, actually, though Sam is the primary viewpoint character. The adults in the story are considerably less developed as characters, but this is as it should be.

The Eureka Key offers a fine mix of adventure, history, and puzzles, as well as three distinctive (but not too quirky) and likable protagonists. This is a book that I would have adored as a nine-year-old, and read in a single sitting as an adult. I look forward to future books in the Secrets of the Seven series. Recommended for mystery and adventure loving kids, and the libraries who serve them. 

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BloomsburyKids)
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
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).