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Posts from February 2006

Last Day for Escape Adulthood Discount

One last reminder. If you are interested in purchasing the book Escape Adulthood by Jason Kotecki, which I reviewed back at the beginning of February, time is running out to receive the special Jen Robinson's Book Page discount. Tuesday, February 28th is the last day to get free shipping on any order from the Kim & Jason Lemonade Stand (Jason Kotecki's website) as long as your order includes one or more copies of Escape Adulthood. Just enter the code JKRBOOKS when prompted for a discount code during your checkout process.

Children's Literacy Round-Up: Feb. 24

This week's children's literacy round-up highlights recent news articles about community efforts for children's literacy and love of books.

  • In a February 19th article, the Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) profiles Nancy Pitt and Libby Hoffman, two friends who established the First Page Literacy Fund to help launch children on the path to success. The two friends, and avid readers, were motivated "to start First Page in 1999 after reading A Hope in the Unseen : An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League by Ron Suskind." Since 1999, their fund "has provided more than $170,000 to 94 literacy projects, including support for family literacy nights; books for students, preschools, schools and libraries; and money for tutors and reading instruction." You can read more in the Arizona Daily Star article.
  • The Observer (UK) has a February 19th article about young reading and writing prodigy Adora Svitak. Adora is a prolific reader and writer, with a 296-page book published, and hundreds of stories and poems written. She is on a personal mission to encourage other children to read and love books. According to the article, she hopes to visit Britain to "convince children ... of the joy of reading." Some questions are raised in the article as to whether Adora will be as well-received in the UK as she is in American schools. You can decide for yourself by reading the article, or you can visit Adora's website.
  • In a February 22nd article, the Washington File describes Dolly Parton's Imagination Library literacy program, which gives books to young children in Tennessee. "240,000 children under age 5 throughout the United States ... received 1.9 million books in 2005" through this program, founded in 1996. "Parton started the literacy program when she realized how few families have books in their homes to read to their children." Ms. Parton was also apparently inspired by the fact that her own father was unable to read or write. More information is available at the Imagination Library website.
  • On Wednesday, February 22nd the Palatka (Florida) Daily News ran an article about the new Children's Reading Center Charter School in Palatka. This is a school focused on teaching children to be better readers. It sounds great to me!
  • And finally, in a February 22nd article, the Bay Area's Daily Review describes Oakland A's co-owner Lew Wolff's visit to a Fremont school. "Wolff and his daughter Kari read baseball-themed children's books to nearly 130 first- and second-graders while taking part in the team's pro-literacy Home Run Readers Program at Pioneer Elementary School... "All learning programs are important, but reading is the key," Wolff said. "You're lost without it."' I couldn't agree more! Personally, I'd like to see the A's move down to San Jose. But that's another story.

Interesting Article About Maisie Dobbs

As I just wrote the other day about the third Maisie Dobbs book, my attention was caught by this post on the Read Roger site. Roger takes exception to the "Readers Guide" appended to the edition that he read, as well as to the blurb on the back. He does seem to like the book overall, however, and I hope that he'll stick with the series for the other two books. I loved the third one! -- Jen

"The Writer Speaks" Series: Franz Wisner

The Santa Clara City Library, in Santa Clara, California presents, as part of their "The Writer Speaks" series, Honeymoon with My Brother : A Memoir, a memoir by Franz Wisner. The talk will be held this Wednesday, February 22nd, at 7:00 p.m. in the library's Redwood Room. Here is the text from the library's flier about this talk: "Jilted by his fiancee a few days before the wedding, Franz took his brother Kurt on his honeymoon instead. Enjoying the vagabond life, they decided to quit their jobs and sell their homes. Hear about the brothers' adventures and the interesting characters they met during their two years traveling around the world. The Wisners appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in September and December 2005. Please call the library Reference Desk at (408) 615-2900 to sign up for this free author event."

Two Upcoming Days Dedicated to Reading

Two different celebrations of reading are scheduled for the next couple of months.

I learned from a Target newspaper insert this week about the National Educational Association's upcoming Read Across America Day. "NEA's Read Across America is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on or around Dr. Seuss's birthday" (March 2nd). Hundreds of local events are planned as part of Read Across America Day. You can look for events in your local community here. Target is promoting the event as part of the Target Ready. Sit. Read! online book club. So, read books on March 2nd, in honor of Read Across America and Dr. Seuss's birthday.

I learned from the Kid's Lit blog about National Drop Everything And Read (D.E.A.R.) day. "National D.E.A.R. Day is a special reading celebration to remind and encourage families to make reading together on a daily basis a family priority." This event will be celebrated on April 12th, Beverly Cleary's 90th birthday. The "spokesperson" for the event is Ramona Quimby. In a letter on the D.E.A.R. website, Ramona says: "Because I know so much about it librarians (The Association for Library Service to Children), teachers (the National Education Association), a bunch of parents (National PTA), and some people who make books (HarperCollins Children’s Books) have asked me —Ramona Geraldine Quimby — to be in charge of telling everyone about National Drop Everything and Read Day on April 12." So, read books on April 12th, too, in honor of D.E.A.R, Ramona Quimby, and Beverly Cleary.

So many excuses to read! So many celebrations of books! Happy Reading! -- Jen

Second Carnival of Children's Literature

After the success of the First Carnival of Children's Literature, hosted by Melissa Wiley at Here in the Bonny Glen, Susan from Chicken Spaghetti has generously offered to host the second carnival. The Second Carnival of Children's Literature will be held on March 6th, with Carnival submissions requested by March 3rd.

Susan is requesting "links: blog entries from readers, writers, artists, illustrators, teachers, playwrights, academics, poets, home-schoolers, book reviewers, school-schoolers, editors, moms, dads, agents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, librarians, scientists, all  fans and/or critics of kids' books. One submission per person is grand." You can find more detail and the email address and requested format for submissions here.

So, if you write about children's books, be sure to send in your submission by March 3rd. And if you like to read about children's books, be sure to visit Chicken Spaghetti on March 6th. The first Carnival was a lot of fun, and I'm sure that this one will be, too. Happy Reading! -- Jen

Recommendation: Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

I have an adult novel to recommend today. This weekend I finished reading Jacqueline Winspear's third Maisie Dobbs mystery, Pardonable Lies (following Maisie Dobbs and Birds of a Feather). To call these books mysteries is almost a misnomer. Not that they aren't puzzling and suspenseful - they are - but they offer much more. These books include in-depth studies of character and motivation. They are historical novels that make the reader ache with sadness over the losses of World War I. They are about a woman struggling to maintain her own business, in a time when this was quite unexpected. They are about rising above a poor background to become educated and respected, and then straddling the line between two worlds.

I think that Pardonable Lies is the best of the series so far. Maisie, with the help of her reliable assistant Billy, investigates three different cases, all of which stir echoes from Maisie's past. Two of the cases require her to re-visit painful memories of the war (she was a battlefield nurse in France), while in the third she identifies with a vicitimized child. In the course of investigating these cases, she finds her life threatened by unseen enemies. The relentless pressure from the demons of the past and of the present push Maisie hard. I found myself indentifying so closely with Maisie while reading this book that I felt a bit vulnerable myself. I love a book that pulls me in so deeply.

I hesitate to say more, because I don't want to spoil the book. But if you like mysteries about strong female characters, or you like historical fiction, especially World-War-I era stories, you should absolutely read this series. Be sure to start with Maisie Dobbs, the first book in the series, so that you'll know Maisie's full background.

You can also visit Jacqueline Winspear's website. I found it particularly interesting to read that "Jacqueline’s grandfather was severely wounded and shell-shocked at The Battle of the Somme in 1916, and it was as she understood the extent of his suffering that, even in childhood, Jacqueline became deeply interested in the "war to end all wars" and its aftereffects." Perhaps this is why Maisie's grief, and the grief of those around her, feels so true to life in these books.

Pardonable Lies was a gift from my wonderful friend Liz, with whom I've shared many book discussions over the years. I hope that you enjoy it, too! -- Jen

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Reminder: Discount for Escape Adulthood is Running Out

Just a quick reminder. If you are interested in purchasing the book Escape Adulthood by Jason Kotecki, which I reviewed back at the beginning of February, time is running out to receive the special Jen Robinson's Book Page discount. From now until the end of February, you can get free shipping on any order from the Kim & Jason Lemonade Stand (Jason Kotecki's website) as long as your order includes one or more copies of Escape Adulthood. Just enter the code JKRBOOKS when prompted for a discount code during your checkout process. I really think that if you are interested in staying young at heart, or if you are starting to feel a bit jaded and want to know how to feel happier with your life, you should read this book. I know that I enjoyed it! -- Jen

Recommendation: ... Libby Died by Jack Simon, Age 5

I just wrote about Mocking Birdies, by Annette Simon. I also read an older book, published in 2000, written by Annette's son Jack, age 5 (and illustrated by Annette). The rather lengthy title of the book is This Book Is for All Kids, but Especially My Sister Libby. Libby Died.. The book chronicles Jack's comments and questions to his mother after the death of his younger sister from a rare disorder. Despite the sad topic, the book is surprisingly upbeat and filled with humor, though it brought tears to my eyes, too.

Even more so than in Mocking Birdies, the fonts and colors and illustrations make the book really stand out. Some words are in a huge font, like shouting, while others whisper from a tiny font at the bottom of the page. Clever touches abound, like the question mark that has a picture of the Earth for the period beneath it (on a page with oversized text asking "In heaven, are you as big as you were on Earth?").

Jack's questions and observations range from the mundane ("And when you die, you don't even have food"), to the humorous, to the profound ("And when you die, you're set free"). Overall, the book is uplifting and positive. The Amazon reviews are all highly enthusiastic, too.

I think that this book could help any child to understand and deal with loss. Though the book is focused on the loss of a sibling, I think that it speaks to anyonewho has lost a parent or grandparent or other loved one. And I think that the simplicity and faith of Jack's responses will help adults, too. Which is a pretty remarkable achievement for a 5-year-old.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Recommendation: Mocking Birdies by Annette Simon

Today I read Mocking Birdies, a picture book by Annette Simon. This is a fun and colorful book, published in November, 2005 by Simply Read Books. It's a simple story about two birds who keep copying each other, in a ridiculous and circular argument. One bird is red, and the other bird is blue, and the text of each bird's words is also in red or blue. Eventually, the two birds decide to sing together, instead of fighting with one another, and the text of their combined words is colored purple (get it? Red and blue together make purple). There is a nice page where the red and blue words are shown gradually overlapping one another, to make this very clear.

What sets this book apart, to me, is not the story of the birds copying each other, and learning to get along (though I think that kids, especially bickering siblings, will find it funny). No, what sets this book apart are the boldly colored illustrations of the birds, and a big yellow sun. I especially love one page that shows the oversized faces of the two birds, challenging one another beak to beak, with no words at all. Ms. Simon's ability to capture the personalities of these two birds, in simple, geometric illustrations, is amazing to me.

I also think that the colored fonts, especially when they merge to make purple, make this an excellent book for children just learning to read. The words themselves are a vibrant part of the story. And isn't fun with words what it's all about? I think that this book would make an excellent addition to any child's library. And if you have twins, well, then you should certainly buy it.

Incidentally, the mockingbird is the state bird of both Texas and Florida, the two states that Annette Simon and her family have lived in most recently. Maybe that's where the big yellow sun in the books comes from, too.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Children's Literacy Round-Up: Feb. 17

This week's children's literacy round-up highlights several recent news articles about community efforts for children's literacy and love of books.

  • A February 13th press release announced that "children's author Patrick Carman, and Agros International, a Seattle-based, non-profit organization that works with poor, rural families to help them escape poverty, are teaming up with Scholastic to bring libraries to 25 communities in Central America and Mexico. Carman, best-known for his highly successful " Land of Elyon" book series, has made a commitment to put books into the hands of children in Central America and Mexico, many of whom have never experienced the pleasure of owning their own book." Spanish-language books will be purchased from Scholastic.
  • As described in the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson celebrated Love of Reading week this week. "The annual literacy program puts literate adults — business and government representatives, retirees, and parents and grandparents — in local classrooms with books in hand. This patchwork group reads to children and shares its love of literature and the pure joy of the experience." The program has been in existence since 1987. The Star had 76 staff members volunteer to visit schools to read to children this year. The article describes how uplifting this experience is for the adults who read, and how wonderful it is for kids.
  • A February 16th article in the Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard describes an innovative program for fostering literacy. The program is called Reading Education Assistance Dogs. READ's mission is to improve children's literacy skills by having the children read to a dog. The idea is to give children practice at reading, while also associating reading with a pleasurable activity. The article says that "during interactions with therapy animals, children are inclined to forget about their limitations. Children find reading to a dog less intimidating. A dreaded reading experience can be transformed into something positive, rewarding and fun." I'm all in favor of anything that makes reading fun for kids.
  • In a February 17th press release, Toyota announced the launch of a literacy program for Hispanic and other immigrant families in Detroit. This is an expansion of the Toyota Family Literacy Program (TFLP), and will be coordinated by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL).

I hope that you find these community literacy efforts encouraging and inspiring! Have a great weekend! -- Jen

Another Children's Literature Reference on Lost

Last night I noticed another children's literature reference on my favorite TV show, Lost (see my previous post about literature references in Lost here). In last night's episode (this is not much of a spoiler if you haven't watched yet), the ever-abrasive Sawyer calls the less-than-svelte Hurley "Babar". Surely this is a reference to the beloved children's classic Babar Books by Jean de Brunhoff.

Babar, for those of you who don't remember him, is a young elephant. Not the kindest children's book reference to choose in describing Hurley, but in keeping with Sawyer's character. Personally, I think Hurley is more like Paddington Bear, but with a more wry sense of humor. Though actually, now that I think about it, Babar is pretty lovable, too.