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Posts from June 2008

ALA Update

I don't have much time, and I forgot to bring the cable that will let me transfer photos from my camera to my computer, so I can't share any pictures with you all yet, but I wanted to tell you that ALA is quite impressive. A little overwhelming - so much going on, so many people, so many BOOKS - but in a good way. I've scored some amazing ARCs (The Diamond of Darkhold - the final City of Ember book - and Inkdeath - the final Inkheart book, to name two high profile titles from this afternoon). And just by wandering around I lucked into some fabulous signed books (Looking for Alaska, Beige, A Brief Chapter in my Impossible life, and The Hunger Games, to again name just a few). My trunk is pretty much full - I think I'm going to have to put my suitcase in the back seat for the drive back up to San Jose. I'm not even joking - I really feel for the people who are flying back.

The publishers have been incredibly generous, especially Feiwel and Friends, who hosted a lovely gathering for the children's book bloggers yesterday, and Kane/Miller, who hosted Betsy Bird and I for dinner the other night. And it's been tremendously fun to meet some of the authors, too (especially the fun-loving LosLAYAs from LA and the authors I met at the YALSA coffee klatch). Some, like Mary Pearson, Jay Asher and Lisa Yee, I felt like I had known for years, from reading their blogs.

And of course, hanging out with other Kidlitosphere members is always a treat. It made me really look forward to the conference in Portland in September. You all have to come - it's such a joy to talk about books and reading with true kindred spirits.

OK, I have to go get ready for the Newbery/Caldecott banquet, where I'm meeting Susan from Wizards Wireless. I'll be back, with photos and more detail, when I get home. But you can see one picture of me from the conference at Fuse #8.

Gail Gauthier's Blog Tour: Next Week

I'll be participating in Gail Gauthier's upcoming early reader-focused blog tour, in celebration of her second Hannah and Brandon Stories book, A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers. Here's the full schedule:

I hope you'll stop by. My review of Three Robbers is here

Thursday Afternoon Visits: Pre-ALA Version

I'm off to ALA tomorrow, which means that blog posts will be pretty sparse for the next few days. But I leave you with a few tidbits:

  • Trevor Cairney has a nice post at Literacy, Families and Learning about The Importance of Play. It's actually the third part of a series, but it stands alone just fine. He includes "Some thoughts on playing creatively with young children (in particular with toys)". In a perfect world, we wouldn't need help figuring out how to play creatively with kids, but I'll bet a lot of people find this post useful.
  • Cheryl Rainfield shares a "fun, creative way to get your child interested in a book". It involves anonymously sending the child books in the mail. I have to admit that I have mixed feelings - it seems a bit deceitful - but we did at one time mail books to our nieces, and that was a hit.
  • Susan Taylor Brown recently published the June Carnival of Children's Literature at Susan Writes. The theme is fathers in children's literature, and these is some great material there. If you only check out one thing, check out that post.
  • Sherry Early is trying something new at Semicolon: author celebrations. She was already taking note of author birthdays, but she recently asked herself: "why not have blogosphere-wide celebration for certain of my favorite authors on their birthdays? I pick an author with an upcoming birthday, let folks know about the celebration, and if you enjoy that author too, you can post about his/her books: reviews, the time you met Author X, or whatever is related to that particular author, maybe a list of read-alikes for other adoring fans." The first author celebrated is Charlotte Zolotow.
  • I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) is having a book blast giveaway. They say: "To support the children's nonfiction community, our fifteen published authors have each agreed to DONATE A SIGNED COPY OF ONE OF THEIR BOOKS. That's FIFTEEN books all to ONE LUCKY WINNER." Check out this post for the quite reasonable rules.
  • Big news for author Rick Riordan. He recently announced: "It's a big day for 39 Clues. Scholastic announced today that DreamWorks has purchased the film rights to the series. Deborah Forte and Steven Spielberg will produce, and Steven Spielberg is considering directing the project." Way cool! The first book in the 39 Clues series, Maze of Bones, will be published September 9th.
  • I'm way behind on my literacy round-up news (and won't get to it now until next week sometime, though I'm saving links). Meanwhile, Terry has you covered at The Reading Tub blog with her June 23rd Reading Round-Up.
  • Colleen Mondor's recent post about "whether or not boys are emasculated by YA literature that does not allow them to be the hero" has sparked quite a bit of discussion. See her followup post here (with links to the original, and to some of the controversy). Kiera also has some links on the topic at Library Voice. The whole thing is fascinating, though depressing in many ways.
  • For another interesting discussion, check out this post at Chicken Spaghetti. Susan asks some tough questions, in light of the even increasing number of KidLit blogs, like "Is it hard for a general non-kid-lit-affiliated person to know where to start reading? Are we bloggers reaching our target audience, and, if not, how do we do so?" Do check out the discussion in the comments.

And that's it for today. Happy reading!

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: June 25, 2008

Jpg_book009Today I will be sending out the new issue of the Growing Bookworms weekly 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 children's books and raising readers. There are currently more than 290 subscribers.

This week I have two reviews (one for early elementary school kids, and one for later elementary school readers), a Kidlitosphere round-up with links to useful posts from the past week, and a list of Futuristic, Speculative, Science Fiction and Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults. I also have an announcement about the new issue of the online journal The Edge of the Forest, and an announcement about another book give-away contest (for Alec Flint: Super Sleuth, from Scholastic). The latter contest is first-come, first-served, so act fast if you're interested. Recent posts not included in the newsletter include:

This is a relatively short issue, because I was away for four days this past weekend without my computer, and I'm still catching up from that. I have been storing up some literacy news, though, and hope to get that posted soon. Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

New Contest: Alec Flint, Super Sleuth

Alec Flint, Super SleuthScholastic is running an Alec Flint, Super Sleuth contest. The first three people to e-mail with their mailing address, saying that they read this message on Jen Robinson's Book Page and correctly cracking the coded message below will receive a free, autographed copy of The Nina, The Pinta and the Vanishing Treasure. (Hint: The key to Alec and Gina's code is over on

Here's the coded message that needs to be cracked: RM ULFIGVVM SFMWIVW MRMVGB GDL, XLOFNYFH HZROVW GSV LXVZM YOFV.

Enticing? Here's a bit more about the book, from Scholastic's press release:

"Alec Flint is practicing to be a super-sleuth. He's got a pair of super-sleuth pants with lots of hiding pockets, a sleuthing side-kick, and now a major robbery to investigate.

In the first book in an exciting new series, Alec's dad, a local police officer, discovers the Christopher Columbus exhibit has gone missing from the town museum, and Alec is on the case!

With help from his side-kick, Gina, and his fourth grade history class, Alec is determine to uncover the truth. Santopolo's debut book will have middle grade readers racing to solve this clever crime."

Doesn't that sound fun? I'm always on the lookout for good books for early elementary school kids (this one is aimed at kids age 7 to 10), and especially for mysteries, so this one caught my eye. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but it's nearing the top of my list. Enter the contest above, and find out about the book for yourself.

Futuristic, Speculative, Science Fiction and Dystopian Fiction for Young Adults

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

UPDATED to add: An amended version of this list is now available here. Please click through to see the updated list. 

Last week, I had a contest by which people could win a copy of Mary Pearson's latest book, The Adoration of Jenna Fox (reviewed here). I asked people, as kind of a bonus question, to "recommend another futuristic, speculative, science fiction or dystopian fiction title aimed at young adults." And the suggestions poured in. Here is a summary (alphabetical by author), with many thanks to everyone who commented. Note that a few are crossover titles, published for adults but with teen appeal.

I'm going to add (in addition to the many excellent titles above):

Any other suggestions? Please note that this list is not comprehensive - it merely represents some suggested titles in this genre by readers of the blog. But I am happy to continue adding to it. See also Little Willow's Dystopia Booklist and (found via LW) the Dystopian Literature Wikipedia page.

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

Winners: The Adoration of Jenna Fox

The Adoration of Jenna FoxThere were 53 unique entries in my contest to win one of five copies of Mary Pearson's fabulous YA novel The Adoration of Jenna Fox (all copies were generously contributed by publisher Henry Holt). A few people entered more than once, I'm sure inadvertently (I have my blog set up to only display 25 comments per page, and you have to click a little arrow to see the rest), and I removed the duplicate entries. One person entered by commenting on the reminder post, instead of the main post, and I did count that entry. One person entered past the deadline, and I did not count that one. Sorry!

I listed all of the resulting entrants in a column in a spreadsheet, so that each had a row number, and then I used Excel's random number generator to generate five integers between 1 and 53. (I'm a bit of a math geek - this is much more natural to me than actually putting numbers into a hat). One number came up twice, and I regenerated one of those. Then I compared with the list of winners of Amanda's giveaway at A Patchwork of Books, and there was one duplicate, so I struck that person and re-generated. The result is a list of five unique winners, who as far as I know have not already won a copy this week. Congratulations to:

  • Tessa, who recommended as other dystopian/science fiction/futuristic reads the Uglies series, The City of Ember, and The Wee Free Men.
  • Mrs. Hill, who recommended Found (The Missing) and Ender's Game (and sequels).
  • Emily from whimsy.
  • Cuileann, who also recommended the Uglies series.
  • Sue Sirgany, who recommended Never Let Me Go.

Congratulations!! I'll be emailing each of you to ask for your mailing address. I'm also working on a combined list of everyone's recommended titles, which I should have up in the next day or so. Many thanks to all who contributed suggestions!

Stay Tuned...

Just a quick note to say that I'm back from four days away from my computer, after a very long and late travel day yesterday. I've had some urgent things come up, and it's taking me a bit longer than expected to get back up to speed. But I wanted to let you know that the contest for copies of The Adoration of Jenna Fox is now closed. I will announce the winners of the contest by tomorrow night. And I have a new contest coming up for you, too, this one courtesy of Scholastic. So, stay tuned...  Thanks for your patience!

Last Call for Jenna Fox Contest!

Just a reminder that the contest that I'm hosting to win a copy of Mary E. Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox ends tomorrow (Tuesday the 24th) at 9:00 am PST. Up until then, you can enter by commenting on this post. There are currently about 40 entries, and five copies available (with thanks to the publisher, Henry Holt). So you still have a good sporting chance.

I've also been collecting a great list of suggested science fiction/dystopian fiction/speculative fiction titles in the comments. I'll be pulling those into a post and putting that list up later this week. Thanks to everyone who has participated!!

June Issue of The Edge of the Forest

Just a quick note to let you all know that the June issue of the online children's literature journal The Edge of the Forest is now available. I haven't had a chance to look at it in detail yet, but it looks amazing. Here's the scoop on the contents from editor Kelly Herold:

The Edge of the Forest will return the first week of August with the July-August issue and a technical redesign.

Don't miss it!

Found (The Missing, Book 1): Margaret Peterson Haddix

Book: Found (The Missing, Book 1)
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Pages: 320
Age Range: 9-12

FoundBackground: I first heard from The Reading Zone that Margaret Peterson Haddix had started a new series. As I'm a fan of Haddix's Shadow Children series, and have enjoyed those of her standalone titles that I've read, that might have been enough for me to give it a look. But the premise of this series, which involves babies that appear out of nowhere on an airplane, caught my attention, too. So I added it to my wish list, and procured it shortly thereafter.

Review: Found (The Missing, Book 1) begins with a mysterious event. An airplane arrives at a terminal out of nowhere. When the gate agent peeks in from the jetbridge, she finds no adults - just 36 babies, traveling alone. The action then fast-forwards 13 years, to a boy named Jonah, who knows that he's adopted, but doesn't know any details about his birth parents.

One day, Jonah receives a mysterious letter that just says "YOU ARE ONE OF THE MISSING." Even more mysterious is the fact that Jonah's new friend Chip receives the same letter, and learns that he was adopted, too. Jonah and Chip, along with Jonah's sister Katherine, do a bit of investigating, and find themselves plunged into a series of mysterious events.

In truth, I found this book a bit slow. There's a lot of sitting around looking things up on the computer, and sitting around receiving mysterious letters. Most of the action happens in the last third of book. And even then, what happens is really the setting up of the future books in the series. Which I can't tell you about without spoiling the suspense of this book.

Found is suspenseful, even if not action-packed. You wonder what happened with those 36 babies, what makes them special, and why someone would be looking for them now. The truth is layered on gradually, as Jonah and Chip begin to understand who they really are. And by the end of the book, you're ready for the exciting adventures that are sure to follow in the future books of the series (seems like there could be dozens). The truth about who they are is clever and surprising, and I'm looking forward to the other books.

I do recommend Found, because it's the gateway into what promises to be an intriguing and compelling series. But if I were you, I might wait until Book 2 comes out, and then read the books together. This first book is necessary to set up the premise, but it doesn't really stand alone. I can't say more, or quote from the interesting parts of the book, without spoiling the suspense, so I'll stop here.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication Date: April 2008
Source of Book: Bought it
Other Blog Reviews: Mrs. Hill's Book Blog, BooksForKidsBlog, Semicolon, The Reading Zone, Children's Literature Book Club, Book Obsession, Provo City Library Children's Book Blog, Brighton Book Bloggers, Middle and Intermediate Book Talks (Note: some of these reviews contain spoilers. Tread carefully.)
Author Interviews: Cynsations

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

Wednesday Afternoon Visits: Sydney Taylor, Tasha Tudor, and Frank Cottrell Boyce

There is so much going on around the Kidlitosphere this week that I hardly know where to begin. But here you go:

  • The 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards were just announced. You can find the details here, at Read Roger. Also, the Association of Jewish Libraries has just named the 2008 Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award winner. The press release is here. And, for a different type of award, the Queen's Birthday Honours List in in England includes people who received honors for services to Children's Literature and Children's Literacy. The Old Coot has the details.
  • Never one to shy away from expressing opinions, Betsy has posted her early 2009 Newbery and Caldecott predictions at A Fuse #8 Production. There is much discussion in the comments.
  • Colleen Mondor has a must-read post over at Guys Lit Wire in response to a discussion between Ted Bell and Glenn Beck about whether or not books that feature strong female protagonists are emasculating for boys. Colleen says things like this (in response to the notion that the boy needs to save the girl in fiction): "I'm sure the sociologists would have a field day over all this but I can't believe that anyone in the 21st century would believe that such antiquated notions of what it means to be a hero have any place in a worthwhile discussion. Save the world - yes! Save the animals, save the environment, save whatever needs saving in your books. But the girl MUST be saved by the boy for the boy to feel powerful? How do these gentlemen think it makes the girl feel to have to wait to be saved? Have they ever thought about that at all?" Click through for more details. It's well worth your time.
  • Did you notice how I just quoted Colleen above? If Colleen wrote for the AP, however, I could have been in big trouble for quoting her so entensively. It seems that the AP is going to try to start charging bloggers if they quote more than four words, and possibly even if they link to AP articles. I first heard about this from Kelly Herold at Big A little A, where Kelly linked to the story at Boing Boing. Melissa Wiley then linked to Michael Arrington's response at the Washington Post's TechCrunch blog. It seems pretty clear to me that they're trying to overstep the bounds of Fair Use, but the whole thing is pretty scary.
  • Another controversy around the blogs was started by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who recently made some very negative comments about YA as a genre. He said (as quoted on Tea Cozy): "We have already ghettoised teenagers' tastes in music, in clothes and - God forgive us - in food. Can't we at least let them share our reading? Is there anything more depressing than the sight of a "young adult" bookshelf in the corner of the shop. It's the literary equivalent of the "kids' menu" - something that says "please don't bother the grown-ups". If To Kill a Mockingbird were published today, that's where it would be placed, among the chicken nuggets." Needless to stay, this has stirred up a host of responses, at Read Alert and Bookwitch, for example. But start with Liz B's remarks in defense of YA reading. I'm with her. 
  • A Year of Reading has a nice interview by Franki of Shelley Harwayne, author of the upcoming professional book Look Who's Learning to Read. I don't normally highlight reviews, but this was has lots of great information about raising readers, including suggestions like: "Children need choice. They love to be part of making decisions" and "Children deserve the finest literature. We need to be fussy about the books we borrow or buy for them."
  • And at Lessons from the Tortoise, Libby links to another interview that talks about raising readers. She says "In Literary Mama this month, Lisa Harper interviews Lewis Buzbee about his writing and his parenting. It's a fabulous interview." I agree with Libby. It's a great interview. Buzbee (a middle grade author) says things like "What I enjoy so much about middle readers is not merely the complexity of vocabulary or complexity of ideas, but also the complexity of emotions." He talks about why he writes for this age range, and the importance of letting kids read the books that they're interested in.
  • Over at Bookshelves of Doom, Leila is collecting suggestions of classics that are likely to please a voracious teen reader. There are tons of suggestions in the comments.
  • The First Book Blog has a guest post by Dale Brown from LDOnline about "encouraging reading this summer with some particular emphasis on supporting children who have a hard time in the classroom during the school year" (e.g. kids with dyslexia and other learning disabilities).
  • Also along the lines of summer reading, Anna M. Lewis at I.N.K. recommends some of her favorite nonfiction titles "to help keep kids happy this summer".
  • In the interest of "practicing what (they) publish", staff members from Charlesbridge spent Friday picking up trash along the Charles River.
  • Over at the Tiger's Bookshelf at PaperTigers, Janet shares book recommendations from two British boys (aged nine and a half and seven and a half).
  • And speaking of books that boys like, Charlotte shares some thoughts at Charlotte's Library about boys and reading. Specifically, she talks about the difficulty that she sometimes has as a parent purchasing books for her sons that aren't the sort of thing that she would ever want to read, saying "it is hard, sometimes, for me to put the books my boys want into their outstretched and eager hands. It is much easier to buy books that appeal to me, than books that really truly don't." I actually think this dilemma is a major issue for a lot of people in getting boys reading - often the books that boys want to read just aren't the ones that inspire the people who are guiding their reading choices.
  • There's a bit of a mixer going on right now between Readergirlz and Guys Lit Wire. Via Guys Lit Wire, I learned that Readergirlz Diva Justina Chen Headley has invited "the readergirlz to list YA novels they wish all guys would read to understand girls". Little Willow has asked on GLW for readers to head over to the Readergirlz MySpace forum and make the discussion a two-way street. She says: "Tell us what YA novels you wish girls would read to understand guys, and vice-versa! Also tell us what YA novels "get" BOTH sides of the story.
  • At Pixie Stix Kids Pix, Kristen McLean has a series of tips for success in the children's book industry. She has links to tons of great resources about writing and publishing children's books.
  • And finally, sadly, I learned via Sharon Levin that author/illustrator Tasha Tudor passed away today. I'll never forget her for as long as I have the editions of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess that she illustrated (well, that copy of The Secret Garden was lost, but I just ordered another one). She leaves a truly magical legacy.

That's all for today. I think I'm going to go look through my copy of A Little Princess now.