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Posts from June 2009

The Magic Thief: Lost: Sarah Prineas

Book: The Magic Thief: Lost (Book 2)
Author: Sarah Prineas
Illustrator: Antonio Javier Caparo
Pages: 400
Age Range: 9-12 

Magic Thief LostI read and reviewed The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas just a couple of weeks ago. I found it highly satisfying, and immediately requested the second book in the series from my library. I read The Magic Thief: Lost in an afternoon. I had some other things going on, but whenever I had five minutes to spare, I found myself sneaking the book open. And often the five minutes would expand a bit... The second Magic Thief book is as engaging as the first.

The Magic Thief: Lost picks up a few months after the conclusion of the first book. (If you haven't read the first one, don't read this review now -- go and read The Magic Thief instead). Young wizard's apprentice Conn is attempting to recover from the destruction of his locus magicalus. He is not permitted to go back to school, allegedly because he has no locus magicalus. Really, however, it's because the magisters are afraid of his radical idea that the magic that powers their city is actually a sentient being. Conn is desperate to be able to communicate with the magic, and believes, in the absence of his own talisman, that he has to use pyrotechnics (controlled explosions) to do it. Naturally enough, his experiments with fireworks get him into trouble with Nevery, the magisters, and the Duchess of Wellmet. And yet, Conn perseveres, and endures great suffering in his quest to help his city's magic. The magic that has always protected him.  

I don't have a whole lot new to say about this book, having just reviewed The Magic Thief. I liked everything in Lost that I liked about the first book: the setting, the language, the characters, and the plotting. In general, I enjoyed the immersion into Conn's world. The Magic Thief: Lost is a bit darker than the first book, which seems to be the pattern for middle grade fantasy series. I was shocked and saddened by one turn of events, but I think that my strong reaction is a mark of Sarah Prineas' success at three-dimensional world-building. There are a couple of new characters in Lost, and we get to know some of the previous characters to greater depth (though I did wish to see more of Benet). Passages from Rowan's journal are included - giving her an occasional first-person viewpoint.

As in the previous book, what I like best about The Magic Thief: Lost is Conn's voice - a blend of quirky eloquence and cocky humor. Here are a few passages that caught my eye (selected from many possible choices):

"Then I'd told the magisters that the magic was a living being that protected the city. It had been like a pyrotechnic experiment. Take a room full of old croakety-croak magisters, add a new idea, and it was just like combining slowsilver and tourmalifine. They exploded, saying I was an ignorant gutterboy who didn't know any better."  (Page 22)

"I lay in my bed with tiredness covering me like a pricky blanket and looked up at the sloped ceiling, the cracked white-gray plaster, the spiderwebs in the corners. The air smelled of the ashes left in the hearth; from outside I heard the faint sounds of Benet in the courtyard chopping wood, and the rushrushrush of the river." (Page 98-99)

"He (Nevery) frowned across the table at me. "I don't suppose there's any point in ordering you to stay home.'"

I didn't see much point in it, no." (Page 122)

This is a book that would make a great family or classroom read-aloud. I love the multi-sensory descriptions. I also like the way that Conn never loses sight of his gutterboy background. He sees locks as waiting to be picked, and notes that a public event is likely to draw out pickpockets. Prineas also manages to slip in the occasional advanced vocabulary word (e.g. "recalcitrant apprentice"), always in an authentic manner. In short, I think that The Magic Thief: Lost lives up to the promise of the first book, and I look forward to Conn's next adventure.

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: May 12, 2009
Source of Book: Library copy
Other Blog Reviews: Eva's Book Addiction, Charlotte's Library, Lauren the Bookworm
Author Interviews: A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy, A Year of Reading

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

Children's Literacy Round-Up: June 29

Jpg_book008 This week’s children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, is now available here. This week Terry Doherty and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; raising readers; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; grants, sponsorships & donations; and other new resources. We hope that you'll find some tidbits of interest.

Pbby_logo PaperTigers shares announcements from the Philippines Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) about two upcoming children's book-related events in the Philippines: The Second National Conference on Children's Literature (July 16-17) and the 26th National Children's Book Day (third week of July).

Ncblasmall-logo The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance has some additional details about the upcoming National Book Festival (which we announced a couple of weeks back). For example, "The Pavilion of the States will represent reading- and library-promotion programs and literary events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. trusts and territories. The popular Let’s Read America pavilion will offer reading activities that are fun for the whole family." Also via the NCBLA, a defense of libraries from Ray Bradbury.

Following up on the United We Serve campaign that Terry talked about last week, I was extra-pleased to see this little news item, about the first family stuffing backpacks for the children of military personnel. They included two of my favorite books in the backpacks: The Penderwicks and The Lightning Thief. I found this link via Rick Riordan's blog. The Obamas have also called upon libraries to promote United We Serve, as described in this School Library Journal article.

In related news, from Lori Calabrese Writes!, "U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently kicked off the Department's summer reading campaign--"Read to the Top!" --with the children's classic books "Clifford the Big Red Dog" and "Where the Wild Things Are." The Secretary read to young children, including his own, on the plaza of the Department's Lyndon Baines Johnson headquarters building. The initiative is in response to President Obama's "United We Serve" national volunteer campaign that calls for all Americans to serve in their communities over the summer."

Raising Readers

In her post In Defense of Summer Reading, Kate Messner offers her thoughts as a parent and teacher: keep the fun in summer reading. Her progressive model: "Ask parents to commit to a daily reading time at home. Teach kids how to request the newest YA titles through inter-library loan. And if you really like lists, what about letting kids make their own, based on your suggestions and recommendations from classmates?" See also a followup post at Kate's, with links to responses on some other blogs. I'm going to share some other responses to Kate's post from around the Kidlitosphere over at Booklights next week.

New Hampshire's statewide summer reading theme is "Summertime . . . and the reading is easy. I enjoyed this article by Sarah M. Earle in the Concord Monitor about summer reading, especially because of Earle's irreverent tone. For example: "Try nonfiction or the new genres like graphic novels, which are good for reluctant readers and kids who are visually oriented. (That's right parents, graphic novels are okay, but feel free to keep telling your kids they're off limits if you're into reverse psychology.)"

At Oh! Just One More Thing, Mel is inviting visitors to name Books that Belong in the Treehouse. She is looking for our favorite childhood/tween/teen books of summer to share with her students. She says: "Who knows, your idea just might be THE book that hooks that reluctant reader."

Pbskids No FCC problems here. We are pretty transparent about our love of PBS Kids and its literacy programming. The Mom behind LA Story has a great post about Super WHY and a recent PBS-Kids-sponsored meet-and-greet for LA Mom bloggers. Daycare was provided, so Moms could bring their kids! Participants got to learn about the program's philosophy and offer feedback. They also got a 5-day project to try at home to put the program to work with their preschooler. Terry adds: "What I found most fascinating was that Super WHY creator Angela C. Santomero found a curriculum first, then built the show around it."

At the Book Chook, Susan Stephenson shares a literacy activity for young writers suggested by Dee White, the author of an upcoming YA novel about Leonardo da Vinci. Basically, White suggests that kids look at a photo of someone they don't know, and then use a combination of questions and letters to write a story. Speaking of kids and writing, author Barbara Shoup has an insightful post about her recent experience leading a writing workshop for a group of teens.

Joyce Grant at Getting Kids Reading shares an energetic recommendation for creating smart readers. She says "Want to create a smart reader? Get your child on a trampoline. According to brain researcher Bernadette Tynan, trampolines are so good for the brain, "even NASA astronauts use it to boost their brain power."" Joyce also has the more disheartening news that a well-known rapper recently announced publicly that he doesn't like reading (this despite the fact that he's published a book). Just, sad.

In other dispiriting news, Farida Dowler at Saints and Spinners links to a sad article from the Seattle Times about school librarians being reassigned to classrooms in Bellevue, WA. There are a slew of outraged comments, both on the Times piece and at Farida's. I know that my elementary school librarian made a huge difference in my life - I can't even imagine those years without her there in the library, guiding me towards the right books.

INK_Logo_box_colorrightsize On a brighter note, Gretchen Woelfle has a must-read post over at Interesting Nonfiction for Kids (I.N.K.). Gretchen says: "I’ve invited Guest Blogger Deb Hanson, Media Specialist, to describe the Guys Read program at Veterans Park Academy for the Arts, Lehigh Acres, Florida.... Deb’s report made me contemplate, once again, the special place in heaven reserved for hard-working innovative teachers and librarians." And really, Deb's report, about a mentoring program that successfully turned a group of reluctant middle school boys into readers, is well worth your time.

Trevor Cairney from Literacy, families, and learning has a new post in his Key Themes in Children's Books series: Conquering Fears. He says: "While many children will express freely their feelings about such fears, some do not. Books can offer a means to expose some of these fears and allow parents and teachers to discuss them openly. In this post I will review some of the books that address the conquering of fears. I will do this by also considering some of the sub-themes that are evident in books of this type for children".

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

Literacy and Reading News reports that "
Neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center have found that an area known to be important for reading in the left visual cortex contains neurons that are specialized to process written words as whole word units... The findings from this study lead to better insight into the normal reading process, providing a framework that in a next step can be applied to examine disordered reading, eventually leading to better detection, diagnosis, and treatment of reading disabilities."

Also from Literacy and Reading News, "A study conducted by Jimmy Kim at Harvard's Center for Evaluation found that reading four or five books over the summer months had an impact on fall reading achievement comparable to attending summer school." "Another study concluded that, "children who read more than a half an hour per day during the summer had significantly higher reading comprehension gains by the fall compared with children who did not." Encouraging stuff! Do click through to read the whole thing.

In an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Robert Tietze and Richard Chevrefils propose that the upcoming boom in the number of retired people offers a solution to the problem of elevated school dropout rates. They note that "These potential tutors will be the most well-educated, financially well-off, healthiest, and most engaged generation of retirees in history." The article is admittedly biased (the authors are seeking government funding for a particular program that uses retirees for tutoring), but it is an interesting idea.

According to an article in the Birmingham Post (UK), Education Secretary Ed Balls has pledged 10 Million Pounds (British) to help students with dyslexia and other literacy difficulties. The money will go to developing courses so that teachers have the necessary expertise and to placing specialists in schools. Mr. Balls said: "Responses to overcoming dyslexia and other literacy difficulties must be robust and part of a continued drive to develop literacy in all children, especially in primary schools."

At Unwrapping the Gifted, Tamara Fisher shares "a handful of gems of advice" for gifted students. She adds: "I’m calling it “strange” advice because I like to look at things from unusual angles and this advice comes from perspectives others may not consider." This is a friendly, detailed post that I really think could help gifted kids.

Education World published an article for teachers about the benefits of reading aloud in the classroom, from a discussion with Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook. It's actually an old article (from 2001), but still has some useful gems. We found this via @momsinspire. [See also my notes from a talk that Jim Trelease gave in Santa Clara two years ago.]

At, Robin Hansen shares real life tips for boosting reading skills, with emphasis on tips and suggestions for kids who have reading disorders. For example, she strongly recommends, if watching television, turning on closed captioning or subtitles (Jim Trelease recommends this, too, I recall).

CNN recently published a feature about the Book for Africa program, a nonprofit group that ships donated books to Africa. "Is there a moral obligation to feed poor children's minds as well as their bodies? Books for Africa's leaders think so. The group says it shipped 2.7 million books to 24 African countries last year to combat what it calls a "book famine."" The article also discusses the high value that recipient children place on their books, protecting them "like gold." Link via @KristyMyers.

Catch Up, a UK nonprofit gives foster care-givers literacy training. A recent study by the group (in concert with the Norfolk County Council) shows that the effort is paying off for foster kids. One study looked at trend data in a school environment; a second study looked at trend data in a home environment. The leaps were greater at school, but half of the students whose caregivers had Catch Up training also showed improvement as a result of reading at home. via @everybodywins

Mary Ann Zehr has an article about an education bill pending in Congress in the current edition of Education Week. The U.S. Senate has drafted a bill it hopes to introduce this summer. The proposal would replace three federal reading programs, including Reading First, and authorize nearly a fivefold increase in the amount of money the federal government provides for literacy in grades 4-12.

21st Century Literacies

Twitter_logo_header has an interesting article about how libraries are using Twitter as a means of engaging their communities. Although the article focuses on the United Kingdom, the phenomenon and the potential uses are universal. In related news, the Washington Post has an article by Michael Birnbaum about Fairfax county school systems using Twitter to get word out to parents and staff. But the article notes that the system is not currently interactive (no inbound messages monitored). Story via @linkstoliteracy.

A recently published study by the Joan Gantz Cooney Center (the Sesame Workshop think tank) concludes that video games offer learning benefits. From the executive summary: "Despite their reputation as promoters of violence and mayhem, digital games have in fact been shown to help children gain content and vital foundational and 21st-century skills. From digital games children can learn: Content (from rich vocabulary to science to history); Skills (from literacy to math to complex problem-solving); Creation of artifacts (from videos to software code); Systems thinking (how changing one element affects relationships as a whole)." The study also adds that parental involvement is a key factor in the process. Thanks to Nerd Dads for the link.

Denise Johnson at The Joy of Children's Literature recently tracked down a two-part video by Kelly Andrus on YouTube EDU about the importance of quality children's literature. Denise explains: "In part one, Kelly discusses the importance of visuals in enhancing reading skills (7.15 mins). In Part 2, she discusses the importance of multicultural children's literature in the classroom (5.54 mins.)." Click through for the videos.

Kathleen Kennedy Manzo has an interesting article that looks at how U.S. students compare with their international peers in understanding technological resources, i.e., 21st century literacies. “Developing countries, such as India and others, are beginning to make significant financial commitments and investments in teaching technology skills in their schools,” says Ruwan Salgado, the director of World Links, a Washington-based organization set up by the World Bank to promote technology education in the developing world. (Education Week)

Elizabeth O. Dulemba recently wrote about her love of audiobooks. She recently learned about a new campaign in Florida to get people listening. She explains: "Random House is embracing audiobooks too with a new campaign called Listen Up Florida! They're working with the state to advertise audiobooks on billboards, radio, etc. They're also working with bookstores across the state to promote audiobooks and make them available." I agree with Elizabeth - this is a great program!!

Grants and Donations

"Every year in early May, comic book stores across the nation go all out for kids during Free Comic Book Day. Children who visit their local, participating comic shop receive a free, age-appropriate comic book. It is an innovative way to keep the spirit of comic book artistry alive for future generations and to encourage kids to read, write and draw." From Kids Need to Read.

A June 22nd news release reported that "the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy's Maine Family Literacy Initiative (MEFLI) has awarded $445,000 supporting family literacy programs in 21 Maine communities... Programs receiving support provide family literacy services including adult and early childhood instruction, and time for parents and children to read together. An additional four planning grants of $5,000 each will help communities develop the partnerships and resources needed to implement a family literacy program in 2010."

In Louisville, Half Price Books and the National Center for Family Literacy donated 3000 new and gently read books to kids for summer reading. "The books will be distributed to children across the Louisville area through youth service organizations, child development centers and churches." More details at

New Resources

Picturing Books Timeline Susan Stephenson (Book Chook) is becoming our intrepid field reporter. She found Mary Lee's post about picture books and sent us the link to this website. At the site you'll find lots of neat stuff, including this fascinating look at the history of picture books.

In Raising Readers, Amida from Blissfully Domestic blog offers a list of online resources with early literacy tools. She's navigated the site for you, so she has lots of links and she tells you what the site can offer (activities, checklists, etc.). "children start learning how to read the day they are born, with the right support we can make it easier and more fun for them to do it. We don't have to push or force them , we just need to be there to support them!"

Flocabulary is a teaching tool, that helps teachers integrate hip hop and rap music to ELA, social studies. math and science lessons. Thanks Literacy is Priceless for the link to this classroom literacy tool.

And that's all the literacy news for today. Terry and I are going to take next weekend off, in honor of the July 4th holiday in the U.S. We'll be back with the next literacy and reading news roundup here on July 13th. Wishing you all a relaxing and book-filled holiday!

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom: Eric Wight

Book: Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom
Author: Eric Wight
Pages: 96
Age Range: 7-10 

Frankie PickleFrankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom is a real find - perfect book for that emergent/reluctant boy reader (which is pretty much what Natasha Maw said just yesterday). It's a graphic novel / chapter book hybrid aimed at early readers - I'd recommend it for a slightly younger crowd than the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books or the Dodger and Me series. The book, written by a comic book artist, moves seamlessly between narrative text about Frankie and his family and comic book panels depicting Frankie's Indiana Jones-like imaginary adventures. Both text and illustrations are giggle-inducing and kid-friendly.

In this first book of a planned series, Frankie resists cleaning his room. His mother finally tells him that he doesn't have to clean his room anymore. But she warns him that whatever happens, he'll have to deal with the consequences. And, as you might imagine, there are consequences, from towering piles of laundry to purple and green furred food to a truly scary "closet of doom". The message is fairly straightforward (and in fact, parallels a plot line from the most recent Wimpy Kid book), but Wight delivers with humor and imagination. It helps, of course, that resisting cleaning one's room is an experience to which most kids can relate.

There are lots of nice touches, too. Frankie's best friend doesn't talk - he says everything that he has to say through music (e.g. Wah-wah wah-waaaaaah" in response to bad news). Frankie's older sister is the family athlete, and his dad is the one who cooks for the family (though mom is still the one doing laundry). As for Frankie, he's priceless. Just look at that picture on the cover, and tell me if that doesn't make you want to know him better. A pint-sized Indiana Jones, with comically prominent eyebrows, and a slick hat. His expressions range from cynical to confident to fearful, all convincing. My favorite sketch from inside the book is one of Frankie dressed in the dregs of his clean clothing, complete with sombrero and cowboy boots, looking a bit sheepish. And, for kids who like to draw, Wight has included a quick tutorial on how to draw Frankie and his dog, Argyle, at the end of the book.

Here are a couple of quotes from the text, to give you a feel for the book:

"Blocking his path to the front door was a laundry basket with legs.

"Not so fast, Franklin Lorenzo Piccolini," said the basket.

Not the Middle Name! Frankie froze in his tracks.

Mom set down the basket. "You're not going anywhere until you CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM," she said.

Frankie gulped. Lava monsters didn't seem so scary compared to Mom." (Chapter 2)


"In a shoebox Frankie collected garbage bags, cleaning supplies, and a chisel. He also grabbed cookies and juice box for nourishment. (Chapter 13) [For some reason, I found the chisel hilarious]


"Now that the mold monster had been defeated, there was only one challenge left to tackle: the Closet. He turned the knob every so slowly, trying not to think about the danger that awaited them on the other side.

The closet burst open, erupting like a volcano. Comics, toys, games, and more spilled out all over the floor. Argyle yelped as he jumped out of the way." (Chapter 14)

As you can see, Wight uses short sentences and plenty of dialog, taking a comic book feel right into the text portions of the book. I would expect this approach to work especially well for newer readers. The comics will pull them right in to the text, and then the text will send them right back to the comics. Perfect! Librarians, this one is a must-get for the early elementary school set. And so cute. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
Source of Book: Review copy
Other Blog Reviews: Maw Books, MotherReader, Critique de Mr. Chompchomp, A Year of Reading (I believe that this was the review that made me want the book)
Author Interviews: Newsarama

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

Dodger for President: Jordan Sonnenblick

Book: Dodger for President
Author: Jordan Sonnenblick
Pages: 176
Age Range: 8-12 

Dodger for PresidentI enjoyed Jordan Sonnenblick's first Dodger book, Dodger and Me (and, for that matter, his Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie and Notes from the Midnight Driver, both for older readers). I've said it before, and I'll say it again here: Sonnenblick has a gift for writing authentic, humorous, juvenile male voices. I think it's quite safe to say (and I mean this in the best possible way) that he hasn't left his inner boy behind. Anyway, his latest title is Dodger for President, continuing the adventures of fifth-grader Willie Ryan and his two best friends: a geeky British girl named Lizzie and an oversized, invisible (to most) blue chimp named Dodger.

In Dodger for President, Willie finds himself a reluctant candidate for class president, with Lizzie as his running mate, and Dodger as a less-than-conventional campaign manager. They're two self-confessed dorks running against a popular kid who has been class president since kindergarten and a thug sidekick who people are afraid not to vote for. The situation seems hopeless. Dodger, however, is an irrepressible optimist, one not afraid to throw a bit of magic into the mix. Add a magic carpet and a Sherlock Holmes-obsessed younger sister, and hilarious hijinks ensue.

I really like these books. I think that they fill a niche for humorous, boy-friendly titles for less advanced readers. The books offer a nice combination of over-the-top magic and realistic boy-humor (a photo contrived to look like Willie is picking his nose, etc.), in a readily accessible package. The Dodger books are perfect next books to give to kids who like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and are ready to give less-graphical books a try. Lizzie is a strong enough character that I think girls will enjoy the books, too.

Dodger for President lives up to the promise of the first book. The growing friendship between Willie and Lizzie is nice to see. And Willie's younger sister, Amy, steals pretty much every scene that she's in (especially when she's kicking the shins of Willie's opponent). There are lessons in the book about doing the right thing and trying new things, but these are coated so thoroughly with humor that they go down quite smoothly. What I think will make kids love the book, though, is the laugh-out-loud funny voices of both Willie and Dodger. Here are a few examples.

"Dodger: Like, there was this science quiz. It was totally hard. There were all these, um, questions and stuff. And you had to fill in these little bubbles with letters next to them, but I really didn't see what the letters had to do with the questions. The question would be all What type of rock is made when a volcano erupts and then the lava cools? But the answers would be all like A. Or B. Or C. Or even D. Dude, I don't know a whole lot about rocks, but even a chimp knows that there's no kind of rock called "A Rock." 'Cause that would be just completely confusing." (Chapter 1)

"Lizzie practically turned green, so I knew that, whatever was going on, hearing about it wasn't going to send me to my happy place. As she gathered herself to speak, I noticed that Dodger was trying to crawl under my bed to hide. I guess he hadn't ever noticed how much stuff I shove down there so my mom will think my room is clean." (Chapter 2)

"Little sisters. You never know whether to hate them or give them a medal." (Chapter 6)

"His fur was sticking up in all directions. If you've never seen a chimpanzee with bed-head, it's really quite a spectacle." (Chapter 8)

Read those passages aloud to your eight-year-old son. I'll bet he wants to hear more. I do recommend reading Dodger and Me first, however, since that book makes it clear how Dodger, Willie, and Lizzie came to be companions. I'll be keeping an eye out for future books in the series. And I'm pretty sure that there will be more, because Dodger for President leaves a couple of major plot points unresolved. [Fair warning, if your kids don't like unresolved endings - you might want to wait until more books in the series are available.] Recommended summer reading for the elementary school crowd.

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: June 23, 2009
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Quotes are from the advance copy, and should be checked against the final book.
Other Blog Reviews: Not a review, exactly, but this book is profiled on the Eva Perry Mock Newbery blog, with very positive feedback in the comments. I was also thrilled to learn from Jordan's blog that he has a sequel to Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie coming out in February. That's one I'll be watching for.
Author Interviews: Little Willow, Writing and Ruminating, and here (all three from the 2007 Summer Blog Blast Tour).

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

Thursday Afternoon Visits: June 25

Kidlitosphere_button Here are a few things from around the Kidlitosphere that caught my eye this week.

Booklights We have a new regular blogger over at Booklights. Ann will be posting once a month, offering "an end-of-the-month summary, reaction, and (sharing of) the ideas" that Pam, Susan, and I have raised. You can find Ann's first post here. She has her top 10 picture books list, and responses to some of the ongoing discussion at Booklights about social reading, summer reading, and the importance of picture books. It's an honor to have her participation!

Also at Booklights this week: Susan has an informative post about how to find information on series books and sequels, while Pam highlights three extra-cute picture books. And speaking of cute picture books (though not at Booklights, Abby (the) Librarian shares titles from a chicken storytime.

Elaine Magliaro shares Book Lists for Summer Reading 2009 at Wild Rose Reader. In addition to links to various book lists, she also links to two articles from Reading Rockets about getting the most out of summer reading. And for some summer reading suggestions directly from sixth graders, check out "You HAVE to Read This" from Sarah Mulhern's students at the Reading Zone. "Each student chose one book that they feel all 6th graders must read." One thing that I love about the list is the range of reading levels of the books included.

Brbc+button Book Dads hosts the 20th Edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival (and the first time I've run across this carnival, I think). There are quite a few reviews in honor of Father's Day.

Colleen Mondor has a new installment of her fabulous What a Girl Wants series. This week, she talks with a variety of authors about the allure of the "girl detective" in literature. She asks: "does the girl detective genre matter to teen readers today? Do we need her around and if so, what does she bring to the table? Are we missing out on a chance of future female justices by not having mysteries with teen girl protagonists? In a nutshell, should we care at all about the girl detective?" In addition to the contributions by various authors in the body of the post, there's a great discussion in the comments, too.

Colleen also links to a post that I neglected to mention before from TheHappyNappyBookseller, about the treatment of an African-American character in the final Percy Jackson book. Doret says: "this final book left a bad taste in my mouth", and explains why. Jennie from Biblio File expands on the topic of race in the Percy Jackson books with a complaint about the narrator's treatment of Asian-American characters in the audiobooks.  

CybilsLogoSmall At the Cybils blog, Sarah Stevenson links to several upcoming and recently released titles written by Cybils panelists. She includes two titles that I recently reviewed (Mare's War by Tanita Davis and Silksinger by Laini Taylor). Click through to see the others.

At Charlotte's Library, Charlotte shares a list of fantasy titles compiled for a nine-year-old girl who likes "a bit of scary stuff". This post is part one of the list, featuring older titles that Charlotte loved at that age. A followup post with more current titles will be forthcoming. There are a bunch of other suggestions from the 1970's in the comments.

MotherReader shares some suggestions for preventing, and recovering from, the current round of blog angst flu. Here's a snippet: "Look to the things that make you feel good, or at least feel better. Tap into strong relationships. Find things that make you smile. A sense of humor can be a saving grace. A well-developed sense of irony is better than a good night’s sleep." She is very wise, that MotherReader.

Lemonadestandaward Last, but not least, I received two lovely blog awards this week. First Tif from Tif Talks Books gave me a Lemonade Award, for "blogs that show great attitude or gratitude." I certainly am grateful to be a member of the Kidlitosphere, so this award means a lot. Thanks, Tif! Susan Stephenson, who was also on Tif's list, named me a June 2009 Book Chook Hero, with Terry Doherty, for our efforts in putting together the weekly children's literacy round-ups. We do spend quite a lot of time on those, and it's extra-nice to have that recognized. A great week all around! Susan also has a lovely post about books and food (reading and eating at the same time) at the Book Chook.

And now, my reader is nearly free of starred items (with the exception of a couple of reviews that I'm saving). It's time to set aside the computer in favor of dinner. Happy reading, all!

Front and Center: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Book: Front and Center (the third book about D.J. Schwenk)
Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Pages: 272
Age Range: 12 and up 

Front and CenterOh, how I love D.J. Schwenk. I love her family, too, but I especially love D.J. Front and Center is Catherine Gilbert Murdock's third and final book about D.J. And it is wonderful! Fans of Dairy Queen and The Off Season will not be disappointed. If you haven't read the first two books about D.J., I suggest that you go right now and request them from your library or your bookseller of choice. Because the third book will be out in October, and you'll want to read all three in order. The D.J. books are realistic young adult fiction, set in the small town of Red Bend, Wisconsin. D.J. is the third of four children, and the only girl, of a struggling dairy farmer. She's not much of a student, but she's a gifted athlete, and her basketball skill gives her hope of receiving an athletic scholarship. All three books about D.J. are funny and touching. What makes them stand out in particular is the depth of the characters - every single character positively breathes from the page. I find it difficult, in fact, to remember that the Schwenk family is fictional - I prefer to think of them, out there on their farm in Wisconsin, plugging along. (Stop reading here, if you haven't read books 1 and 2!)

In Dairy Queen, D.J. created a national sensation by trying out for the school football team. She was also involved in a clandestine relationship with the rival high school's quarterback, Brian Nelson. Brian, quite clearly (to the reader), didn't deserve her. In The Off Season, D.J. had to stop playing football because of a shoulder injury. She then took a leave of absence to help care for her older brother, Win, who broke his spine while playing football. She also had her heart broken by Brian, but grew up a little in realizing that she deserved better treatment.

As Front and Center begins, D.J. is headed back to school after a month-long absence. With the excitement of being on the football team past, her relationship with Brian over, and things settling down with her family, D.J. is looking forward to fading into the background, and being an ordinary student. However, she soon learns three things: 1) her hopes of a scholarship require her to overcome her paralyzing shyness, and become a leader on the basketball court (not to mention reaching out to coaches at colleges); 2) her outgoing friend Beaner wants her to be his girlfriend; and 3) her feelings for Brian, and his for her, aren't quite so easily turned off. Before she knows it, she finds herself front and center in school, and facing big decisions about college and her personal life.

Front and Center is a quieter book than The Off Season. The suspense isn't about who will or won't live, or even who will win the big game. Instead, the suspense is about D.J.'s personal growth, and whether she'll be able to overcome her own insecurities. And yet, I couldn't put the book down. I cared so much about D.J. that I had to see her through her challenges. As in the two earlier books, I love D.J.'s voice. She is quiet and self-deprecating, someone who doesn't even expect her family to go out of their way for her (though they do). Her introversion is palpable. Calling a college coach, even one she has met before, makes her break out into a sweat. But she has these little insights, about herself and other people, that are priceless. I could seriously quote a dozen passages, every one of them amazing. But I don't want to spoil the book for anyone. So I'll limit myself to three favorites:

"No more feeling like I was some fluttery girl who doesn't have anything better to do all day long than think about her boyfriend. Because I did have better things to think about, thank you very much, because I am not the kind of girl who has boyfriends; I'm the kind who's just friends with boys, which is totally different and which I'm actually kind of good at. I'd pulled the plug on that Brian Nelson cable station for good." (Chapter 1)

"I didn't say too much -- big surprise there -- but my mind was going about a million miles an hour, checking all the time to make sure I wasn't doing anything embarrassing, and then checking the other tables to see if anyone was looking at me funny, and then whenever someone asked me a question being extra careful to make my answer acceptable, you know, before I opened my mouth. Which put a brake, an even bigger brake, on my talking. (Chapter 7)

""Where have I heard that before?" I said. Well, actually I didn't say it. Actually I thought it up the next day. But I would have said it if I'd thought of it fast enough. Instead I just said something brilliant like "Oh, yeah?" Something you'd hear on a grade school playground." (Chapter 12)

Front and Center is a perfect coming of age story and a completely satisfying conclusion to the three-book series. It's a book that you'll finish with a deep sigh and a few tears, and then immediately want to get a copy of for the 12-to-15-year-old girls in your life. I can see the D.J. books being a tough sell, on the surface, to girls who aren't into sports or interested in knowing anything about small-town life (and thank goodness the publisher changed the cover of Dairy Queen for the paperback edition). But if you can get them to read even the first few pages, I believe that girls everywhere will find things to relate to in D.J. Her humor, her inability to see herself as others see her, her struggle between the safe relationship and the one that makes her heart race -- these are the things that make D.J. someone everyone should have the chance to know. It couldn't hurt to try the series on boys, too - they'll find some good tips on leadership and dating. As for me, even though I thought that the author wrapped the series up beautifully, I'm still a bit sad that there won't be any other books about D.J.

I apologize for reviewing this book so early (publication is in October). And I will remind you about the book again when it's published. But I just feel so strongly that people should get these books into kids hands, starting with Dairy Queen, that I didn't want to wait to talk about Front and Center. These books, Front and Center especially, have my very highest recommendation.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: October 19, 2009
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Quotes should be checked against the final book. Cover image courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
Other Blog Reviews: None for book 3 yet that I could find. Here are my reviews of Dairy Queen and The Off Season. Updated to add: Abby (the) Librarian review/love letter to DJ
Author Interviews: Cynsations, Shelf Elf

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

Hunger: A Gone Novel: Michael Grant

Book: Hunger: A Gone Novel
Author: Michael Grant
Pages: 608
Age Range: 13 and up 

GoneBackground: Last summer I reviewed Gone, the first book in a projected six-book series by Michael Grant. This week I read book 2 in the series, Hunger. This review may contain spoilers for Gone, though I will, as always, keep plot reveals about Hunger to a minimum.

Review: The premise of the Gone series is that in the small town of Perdido Beach, CA, everyone over the age of fourteen disappears in an instant. The remaining children and teens find themselves encased in an impenetrable bubble 20 miles in diameter, centered around a nuclear power plant. They don't know what's happening in the outside world, or even if the outside world exists. On their fifteen birthdays, kids have the opportunity to disappear, too, though there is way that they can avoid this. Meanwhile, inside the Fallout Alley Youth Zone (the FAYZ, as the kids have dubbed their bubble), some of the kids have developed various superpowers, such as invisibility, hyper-speed, and super-strength. There are two rival groups of kids, one living in Perdido Beach, and the other in an exclusive boarding school, Coates Academy, outside of town. There's also an evil force hidden deep within an old mineshaft, a dark shadow that reaches into the minds and influences the behavior of some of the kids from both communities.

Hunger begins three months after the events of Gone. Things are falling apart inside the FAYZ. Food is running out, bizarre mutated creatures are appearing. Even within their two communities, kids are starting to turn on one another. Sam, the elected leader of the Perdido Beach group, is worn out with the constant litany of problems facing his people. He's effectively parenting 300+ kids, but hardly any of them are willing to listen to him about what needs to be done. Sam's girlfriend, Astrid, is worried about him, and about her super-powerful, autistic young brother, Little Pete, who develops some new quirks. Mary, the head of the town daycare center, is in the throes of an eating disorder. Everyone, everywhere, is hungry. But these day-to-day problems are quickly overshadowed by the triple threat of a human/superhuman rift within Perdido Beach, a challenge from the Coates rivals (led by Sam's brother, Caine), and a plan by the hidden creature in the mine. The story begins 106 hours and 29 minutes before a climax (with the countdown visible at the start of each chapter).

So what we have, in summary, is a battle between kids with superpowers and a mysterious evil force, set against a backdrop of social unrest after a natural disaster. Dystopia fans will find this series hard to resist. Fair warning, though. Hunger is very bleak. In some ways, I found it more bleak than Life As We Knew It and the Dead and the Gone (two of my favorites, by Susan Beth Pfeffer). Poor Sam faces an unrelenting stream of problems - the boy gets scarcely a bright moment in the entire book. But I found the social dynamics of the book fascinating. There's a whole sub-plot centered around Albert, the boy in charge of the food, who is pushing for the re-introduction of money. He feels strongly that the only way to get kids to work is to give them some individual incentive. I found that whole thread well-done, without being at all message-y. I also liked the bits about kids adjusting to a dystopia set in a modern society - they miss Facebook and MySpace, and they want to keep their GameBoys charged, and so on. I think that this aspect of the book will add relevance for teens. Details like "He would trade his life for an In-N-Out Double-Double" (Chapter 33) add relatability, too.

The action and issues in Hunger are ratcheted up a level from Gone, making it a better read overall. Hunger would make an excellent movie or television series. Michael Grant is exceptionally skilled at parceling out conflict and amping up tension. The superpowers and the setting provide plenty of opportunity for dramatic special effects. The powers displayed by the kids, and the ways that they are used, and used against them, are quite inventive. Careful readers may also note some parallels between the superpowers and the needs or personalities of the kids who manifest them. For example, Bug is the kid who can pretty much make himself invisible. Here's a passage about Bug's background:

"At the worst of times, when his father had been out drinking with his girlfriend and they'd had a fight, Bug had learned to hide. His favorite place was in the attic because it was stuffed with boxes, and behind the boxes there was a spot where Bug could crawl under the eaves and lie flat on the insulation between cross-beams. His father had never found him there." (Chapter 7)

My only real quibble about the book is that, despite my musings on the superpowers, I found the characterization a bit flat. Hunger is filled with interesting characters. They are well constructed, in a technical sense, with strengths and weaknesses and motivations. The frequent viewpoint shifts allow the reader to see different sides of the characters. However, even when a character was a viewpoint character, I just couldn't get inside. I felt like I was always observing the characters, but never quite internalizing their issues. I'm sure this is at least in part because there are so many characters, but I also think it goes along with my feeling that this would make a great movie, that you observe, more so than a book that you live inside.

Still, I think that kids will enjoy the series. Just tell them it's Heroes meets Lord of the Flies, and see what happens. I recommend the Gone series for teens or adults, though not for younger kids. There is some disturbing content, and, as I said before, the tone is rather bleak. But fans of young adult dystopian fiction won't want to miss this installment of an intriguing series. It's better than the first book. I'm happy to know that there are four more titles planned.

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 26, 2009
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher (note that quotes should be checked against the final book)
Other Blog Reviews: Bunny Review, Sharon Loves Books and Cats, Steph Su Reads, Best Book I Have Not Read (this last one was the review that made me want the book)

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

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: June 23

Jpg_book007Tonight I will be sending out the 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 children's books and raising readers. There are currently 804 subscribers. 

Newsletter Update: In this issue, I have two book reviews, two posts with Kidlitosphere news, two children's literacy round-ups (one here and one at The Reading Tub). I also have an installment of my recurring Reviews that Made Me Want the Book feature, and two announcements about books previously reviewed that are now available. And finally, I have two related posts about kids reading ahead of their grade levels (with another post on this topic over at Booklights). Not included in the newsletter, I have:

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read:

  • Sarah Prineas: The Magic Thief. HarperCollins. Completed June 18, 2009.
  • Tanita S. Davis: Mare's War. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Completed June 10, 2009.
  • Stephen King: The Stand. Signet. Completed June 17, 2009. (A re-read of an old favorite.)
  • I also read more than 40 picture books, some of which I'll be reviewing on the blog in the coming weeks.

I'm currently reading Hunger by Michael Grant (the sequel to Gone). Several other titles have made it into my house lately that I'm simply dying to read. Which I think is going to work out, because I've done something unfortunate to my wrist, and I think I need to take it a bit easy on the computer this week. How about you? What have you been reading and enjoying? Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

Children's Literacy Round-Up: June 22

Terry_readingtubfinal_1 This week’s children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, is now available at the Reading Tub. This week Terry Doherty and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; raising readers; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; grants, sponsorships & donations; and other new resources. Between Father's Day, summer reading news, and the United We Serve program, there is a lot of activity going on around raising readers. Here are just a couple of highlights:

"If you’re on Facebook, consider joining Reading is Revolutionary. To join, you must pledge to read one book to a child on July 25, 2009. Anthony Pischke, the organizer, also promises to try to get a book to a child who has none. Here’s the tagline “Indeed it is fun to read.”"

"In her quest to help raise life-long readers, Amy from Literacy Launchpad is thinking about what she can do to have more of an impact on the reading future of her preschool-aged students. She proposes some potential changes in our school systems that she thinks would help with raising future readers, and asks: “Are there ways you’re working for a change? Ways you’re helping children stay readers for life? Or maybe you just have some ideas of things we can all do to help make a change.” Do head on over and share your thoughts!"

Booklights And speaking of raising future readers, I have a post up today at Booklights about The Power of Social Reading. My article was inspired by a recent post from Sarah Mulhern at The Reading Zone. Social Reading, as Sarah coined it, involves "Students reading, recommending, and talking about books", and the positive energy that stems from that. I'm looking for input on whether or not people have observed this, and if anyone has good ideas for harnessing the power of social reading in the classroom. I hope that you'll join in the conversation.

Terry has plenty of other food for thought at The Reading Tub this morning, too. So if you'd like some literacy and reading news with your morning tea, head on over!

The Magic Thief: Sarah Prineas

Book: The Magic Thief
Author: Sarah Prineas (blog)
Pages: 448
Age Range: 9-12 

The Magic ThiefI've been meaning to read Sarah Prineas' The Magic Thief since my friend's son recommended it to me last summer. But the upside of having waited is that now the second book in the series is already waiting for me. I've hastened to request the sequel from the library, because The Magic Thief is delightful. I read it in one sitting, and closed the book with a sigh of satisfaction.

The Magic Thief is a middle grade fantasy title, perfect for readers at the slightly younger end of the spectrum (say, 8-10 year olds), though with plenty to make older readers smile, too. Young Conn (he could be anywhere in age from 12 to 14 - he's not really sure) lives on the streets in the scruffy Twilight region of the city of Wellmet, making a living as a thief. Conn's life changes forever the night that he picks the pocket of a grouchy wizard named Nevery, and ends up becoming a Wizards's Apprentice. Nevery has returned to Wellmet, after 20 years of exile, to help stem an alarming decline in the magic that powers the city. Conn has the opportunity to rise above the disadvantages of his own background, and help save the city from ruin.

There is much to like about this book. Conn is an excellent character, plucky and resourceful, but decidedly rough around the edges. He lacks even basic knowledge of conventions, though he's a fast learner. It's a joy to watch him gradually win over the gruff Nevery, not to mention Nevery's taciturn bodyguard, Benet (who I adore). The book includes occasional excerpts from Nevery's journal, allowing the reader to see the different perspectives of Nevery and Conn on the same events. [In fact, Nevery doesn't even consider Conn to be his apprentice for quite a while - he sees him as a sort of underservant.] 

The plotting in The Magic Thief is well done, with extensive use of cliffhangers to draw the reader forward. Prineas uses just the right amount of foreshadowing and clues, and ratchets up the tension for the book's dramatic climax. The setting is fully realized, filled with crumbling mansions, dark twisty streets, a powerful duchess, and scary minions. There are small pen and ink illustrations marking the start of each chapter, and enhancing the atmosphere of the book. There are even some secret messages, written in the Wellmet runic alphabet. The Magic Thief is a nice mix of suspense and fun.

But what really made The Magic Thief stand out for me was Sarah Prineas' use of language. I found myself wanting to read this book aloud (and was pleased to see that The Magic Thief was an honor title for the 2008 E.B. White Read-Aloud Award). Conn's voice is unusual -- irreverent, descriptive and poetic. Here are a couple of examples:

"It was a late night in the Twilight, black-dark as the inside of a burglar's bag. The streets were deserted. A sooty fog crept up from the river, and the alleyways echoed with shadows. Around me I felt the city, echoing and empty, desolate and dead." (Page 1-2)

"The wizard seemed to be looking ahead to the chophouse on the corner, but I caught a glimpse of his keen-gleam eyes, watching me from under the brim of his hat." (Page 5)

"Hmph," Nevery grunted. "We'll try it then. You may go, Benet." The muscle left the room, giving me an extra serving of glare before he went." (Page 75)

I would recommend The Magic Thief to any middle grade reader, but especially to fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society and Angie Sage's Magyk series. It would be an excellent choice for a family read-aloud, too. Highly recommended.

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: June 3, 2008
Source of Book: Library copy

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

Thursday Afternoon Visits: June 18

Kidlitosphere_button All of this blogging and social networking is a lot of fun. But now, when I see an interesting blog post, I have really to stop to think about where to put it. Do I put it in the draft for the next children's literacy round-up (alternating between my blog and The Reading Tub)? Do I share it immediately at Twitter or Facebook or my own blog? Or do I save it for a Kidlitosphere visits post? Or for my weekly post at Booklights? So many platforms, each with overlapping, but distinct, audiences. What is a blogger to do? Ah well, I'll figure it out. Meanwhile, here is some news from around the Kidlitosphere that I've been saving up for the past week.

I've seen a couple of other new posts continuing the discussion about kids and reading levels. Carlie Webber at Librarilly Blonde calls the problem "Trickle-Down Readonomics", by which "Popular books trickle down in age." GreenBeanTeenQueen writes, "Honestly I hate it when parents come into the library and brag about how their 3rd or 4th grader is reading at a higher reading level, and they want to read YA and adult books... but not with any YA or adult themes". And Christine M from The Simple and the Ordinary draws a parallel between the problem of kids being pushed to read grown-up books too soon and pressure that kids have to stop playing with particular toys. Clearly, this whole topic has resonated with people. There are also lots of insightful comments from parents and librarians on my other posts here and here, and especially on the post at Booklights.

There's been a lot of interesting discussion at Read Roger about bloggers and publishers, and buzz vs. recommendations vs. reviews. Today's post, for example, has an extensive discussion about what publishers expect from bloggers and the presence or absence of negative reviews. Earlier posts in the discussion chain are here and here. I especially liked Maggie Stiefvater's comments in today's post (hat-tip to @TrishHeyLady for sending me back to look for this). Maggie said: "A negative review is as good as a positive review for business... The posts that weren't useful? The ones that just said, in two lines: "OMG I LOVED THIS BOOK SO BAD EVERYONE GO BUY IT."" But really, there are tons of other interesting comments, too. Do check it out.

I also liked the discussion on a recent post by Daphne Grab at The Longstockings about the popularity of sequels. Daphne asks: "are you a fan of more than one novel in the same world? If not, why, if so, why and what are your favorites?" For me, the answer is yes, yes, yes if it's a world that I want to spend more time in, but no otherwise. And yes, I'm looking forward to the upcoming third book about DJ (Front and Center) by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. And the second book in Kristin Cashore's world from Graceling. And ... you get the idea. 

There's a fun discussion going on at Angieville about the joys of rereading. Angie says, of the collection of books that she re-reads regularly, "They're not what I should read, necessarily, but what I have to read. They're the books that last, that remind me everything's going to be okay, that there are entire worlds on the other side of a wardrobe door, that Lizzie and Darcy will forgive each other, that Huw's valley was once so very green." Poetic and true, wouldn't you say? I have books that call to me from the shelf sometimes (including Pride and Prejudice), and I'm pretty much compelled to obey their summons.

Kate Coombs has a fabulous Scary YA Book Extravaganza at Book Aunt. She explains: " I've saved up the most recent batch of teen paranormal books I've read in an attempt to look at some of the kinds of things people are doing. Happily, writers are branching out: only two of these books contain vampires, and they're barely mentioned in one of the two." She talks about many current titles.

Mrs. V from Mrs. V's Reviews announced last week that she's "out about reading YA". She says: "I do not feel like I ever did an official announcement about being a YA reader, other than this blog and that my family members and students frequently see me reading YA. Either way, I am proud to say that I love YA and I would gladly announce to my peers that I frequently read it and support the merits of YA." I can only offer my support and encouragement.

Abby (the) Librarian wrapped up her Help Me Help You series, in which she discussed ways that librarians can help people to get the most out of the library. These are great, nuts and bolts posts, worth a read from everyone. The final post has links to the previous four, so start there.

At the Escape Adulthood blog, Kim Kotecki shares 17 simple & free ways to have fun today. Like " Carry an umbrella even though it’s not raining." and "serve a purple dinner."

Nerdsheartya Speaking of fun, I learned from Natasha's Maw Books Blog about the ongoing Nerds Heart YA book tournament, "that highlights sixteen young adult books published in 2008 that might not have garnered the attention of their counterparts." It's the brainchild of Renay from YA Fabulous. I was pleased with the outcome of Round 1, judged by Valentina from Valentina's Room, in which one of my favorite 2008 titles was selected.

Blogiesta And speaking of Natasha, she's organizing a new blogging event called Bloggiesta, taking place this weekend. Don't you just love the logo? Natasha explains: "The Bloggiesta will focus on blog content, improving/cleaning up your blog or working on your social network profiles. I’m pretty open on what you can do during the bloggiesta but reading actually won’t count!  I know, I know. The point is to catch up instead of adding another book to the “to be reviewed” pile. Actual blog content is what I’m really aiming for with some technical/housekeeping bloggy stuff mixed in for good measure." The idea is to spend as much time as you can out of a 48-hour time period this weekend. As someone (I'm sorry, I forget who it was) wrote on her blog, this pretty much describes all of my weekends anyway. I'm going to sit this one out, though, because I'm feeling spread a bit thin at the moment, and even tracking my time feels like an extra thing. But I'm pleased to report that there are already some 75 participants signed up. I think it's going to be great!

Map_southeast_asia In other event news, Colleen Mondor recently announced another One Shot World Tour, this one focusing on Southeast Asia. The event will be held August 12th. Colleen explains "For those of you not familiar with the One Shot idea, a group of bloggers (and its open to everybody with a blog) all agree to read a book by an author from a certain region or a book set in that region and then blog about it on a specified day. You can also interview an author from there if you prefer." You can find more details at Chasing Ray.

And now, I'm pleased to report that my Google Reader is, for the moment, empty of starred items. I do believe it's time to go read an actual book. Here's an early wish to you all for a relaxing weekend.

United We Serve and Summer Reading

Riflogo I was too tired when I learned about this last night to do anything more than re-tweet (see how I'm coming up the Twitter learning curve). But this deserves a full post of its own. Carol Rasco wrote last night about President Obama's UNITED WE SERVE, "a summer initiative encouraging all Americans to create meaningful change in their communities by engaging in service." You can watch the video announcement at Rasco from RIF. Carol explains:

"Reading with children is part of this initiative due to the serious loss in reading skills experienced by many children over the summer months.

United We Serve will kick off officially on June 22 at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service and will run through the new National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11. All the tools for participating in this initiative can be found on The Corporation for National and Community Service’s website,

As a first step, you can show your commitment by reading with a child and logging your minutes at the ongoing 2009 Read with Kids Challenge. This Challenge continues through June 30 and the minutes logged June 22 through the 30th will be reported as part of the United We Serve campaign."

So there you have it. The President is calling upon you to read with children this summer. Are you up for the challenge? 

There's a whole Read with Kids Toolkit at the United We Serve website, "designed to either help you organize a group and be a positive addition to a community-based organization, or, if such an organization does not exist, to be a well-organized independently-run group that fills a needed gap in the community." At The Reading Tub, Terry Doherty suggests some ways to participate, from finding volunteer opportunities at the United We Serve website to registering for the Read with Kids Challenge to creating "an instant book club" or having a "reading playdate". Or you could:

  • Check out your library's summer reading program and storytimes.
  • Make sure there's a bookshelf up in the treehouse.
  • Suggest that the kids get together with friends and put on a play, based on a book. And read books like Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright, in which kids put on shows.
  • Have the kids run a lemonade stand or a carwash, and donate the proceeds to an organization like RIF or First Book or Reach Out and Read that puts books into the hands of children.

The opportunities are limitless! Happy reading, and happy summer!