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Posts from January 2011

Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup: End of January Edition

JkrROUNDUP The end of January children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book PageScrub-a-Dub-Tub, and Rasco from RIF is now available at Rasco from RIF. Over the past couple of weeks Carol Rasco, Terry Doherty,  and I have collected content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms.

What's especially useful in Carol's end of month roundups, I think, is her Looking Ahead section, in which she highlights upcoming events of interest to proponents of children's books and literacy. This month, she has everything from Black History Month to Bubble Gum Day. Do click through to see! She's also found a very fun Chalk Board Tee.

A couple of other piece of news came in a little too late to make the roundup:

1. The January Carnival of Children's Literature is now available at the Challenging the Bookworm Blog. There are a ton of interesting links this month - definitely not to be missed for fans of children's literature.

2. One of the longest-running blogs of the Kidlitosphere now has a new name and a new home. Tasha Saecker of Kids Lit is moving to a new library system. Her blog will now be called Waking Brain Cells. Safe to say that she'll continue to provide a wide range of children's book reviews, along with other KidLit news (award announcements, etc.). Please do take a moment to update your blogrolls to replace Kids Lit with Waking Brain Cells. Tasha is one of the most knowledgeable, consistent, generous bloggers around, and she is well worth following to her new home.

3. Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

I'll have the early February roundup available first thing next week. Thanks for reading!

Revisiting Old Friends: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 17, 2009. It is one of my very favorite posts from Booklights, about the joys of revisiting books that have become, through repeat reads, old friends.

Revisiting Old Friends

21WXW4GJCQL._SL500_AA140_.jpgLast week Susan wrote about the gift of reading a wonderful book for the first time. She asked readers: "What book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?". This post inspired a host of thoughtful and (sometimes) nostalgic responses. The next day, Pam wrote about three of her favorite summer books and asked readers to share their favorites. These posts, in part (along with a post by Charlotte from Charlotte's Library), inspired me to re-read one of my own favorite books, one that is for me the very essence of summer: Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright. I previously listed Return to Gone-Away as one of my favorite children's books, and just reviewed it here. Re-reading Return to Gone-Away last week made me think about something that is, in a way, a mirror image Susan's post. It made me think about the joy that comes from re-reading an old favorite, one in which each character and scene are already familiar.

ForgottenDoor.jpgI was only a few pages in to my re-read of Return to Gone-Away when it literally brought tears to my eyes. It wasn't the content of the book that made me weepy-eyed. It's that I was so happy to be back reading this particular book that my emotions just bubbled over. I can only think of a few books that evoke tears from me, just from being themselves. Return to Gone-Away is one of them. Two others are The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key and Listening Valley by D. E. Stevenson (my all-time favorite book, published for adults). (You can read about some of my other favorite re-reads here.)

I love everything about these cherished books. I love the language, especially when I read particular sentences that I remember verbatim. I love the characters, and the way that they remind me anew of the things that make them special. I love re-visiting my younger self, remembering earlier reads of the same book. I literally give these books a little pat on the cover when I see them on my bedside table - I'm unable to rein in my affection. And why should I? These are the books that made me who I am.

When I read new books, I generally require a considerable amount of plot. The more complex and suspenseful, the better. But I'm reminded by Return to Gone-Away that the books I already love, the books that I read over and over again, don't need suspense at all. The re-reading experience, for me, is all about revisiting beloved characters and settings. It's about visiting old friends. It's about a personal connection between me and the particular book. I don't want the opportunity to read these particular books again as if it was the first time (as Susan discussed). Part of what makes these particular books special for me is the incremental appreciation I've built up over dozens of readings.

I like smiling when Mrs. Blake says, on page 1 of Return to Gone-Away "We'll have to think of a new name for that house right away", because I already know the outcome. I like already knowing whether or not Julian will find the missing safe, and whether or not the rope in the old dumbwaiter will break. I like shaking my head on page 9, because Foster's behavior is just so typically Foster.

This affection for particular books is more than just taking comfort in familiarity (though that's part of it). I don't think that you can just pick any old random book off the shelf, and re-read it once a year for 20 years, and have the book become meaningful to you (though that would be an interesting experiment). I think that there has to be something already in the book that makes you want to re-read it every year. Something that connects you to the book. For those books, the ones that you love enough to revisit throughout your lifetime, the connection just gets stronger every year.

This isn't to say that I disagree with Susan about the wonders of reading a great book for the first time. I envy every single person who hasn't read The Hunger Games yet, because they still have it ahead of them. And I know that sometimes childhood favorites don't hold up at all. But I also think (and I'll bet that Susan will agree) that there's something very special about re-reading a favorite book, one that is loved, in part, because it's so familiar.

HarryPotter1.jpgI'd like to believe that everyone has books like these, books that they can turn to for comfort reading on bleak days. Books that remind them of where they came from, and what mattered to them when they were younger. Parents, what books will bring tears to your children's eyes when they're 40, because they're so happy to be back reading the books again? Will it be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? The Penderwicks? The Lord of the Rings? Clementine? Will the teens who have read Twilight seven times already re-read it as they get older? Will reading Twilight when they are 60 help them to recapture that feeling of falling in love with a book at 12? I hope so. Because me, I feel blessed to have my favorite books as part of my life. What do all of you say?

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 17, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.

Brain Jack: Brian Falkner

Book: Brain Jack
Author: Brian Falkner
Pages: 368
Age Range: 12 and up

Brain Brian Faulkner's Brain Jack is a near-future science fiction story that explores what could happen to a society reliant upon neuro-technology (through which, in the book, people can operate computers using only their brains, while wearing special headsets). Seventeen-year-old Sam is a talented hacker. So talented that the first sentence of Chapter 1 is "On Friday, on his way to school, Sam Wilson brought the United States of America to its knees." Hard to resist that start, isn't it? When Sam's exploits bring him to the attention of a secret government agency, then the fun really begins.

Brain Jack is a quick, compelling read. The scenes in which Sam is delving into computer networks are portrayed as action sequences. For example:

"Sam crept carefully into the network of the UPS supplier and slid slowly down the wire to the UPS device itself.

It wasn't enough to load Cross Fire onto the server, though; it had to be run. The program had to be executed and he couldn't do that through a serial connection.

He encased Cross Fire in a self-executing shell and renamed it to that of a common internal Windows program..." (Page 51)

Other scenes are written in which Sam acts as a wingman, with full battle imagery, as he makes his way through various computer networks. There are also real-world action sequences, chase scenes and the like. Brain Jack would make a fantastic movie.

What I like about this book is that there's a fair bit of technology, but it's explained quite seamlessly as part of the plot. It never feels didactic. I thought that the author did a nice job of explaining things for a non-technical audience, in a way that won't bore more technical readers. Faulkner present a clever look forward at the potential impact of our reliance on technology, but keeps the emphasis solidly on action, rather than reflection. Brain Jack is actually a perfect Cybils shortlist title - a smart, well-written page-turner. (Brain Jack is a 2010 Cybils shortlist title in Fantasy & Science Fiction for Young Adults.)

One side thing that I personally liked about the book is that a big chunk of it is set in San Jose. So we have scenes like:

"Vienna spun out onto San Carlos Street, just about collecting a trio of middle-aged women in a BMW sedan. There were thuds and crashes from underneath as she bounced the vehicle over the light-rail tracks in the center of the road, and the van leaned -- surely on two wheels, Sam thoughts -- as they twisted left onto the roadway heading east." (Page 207)

Again a nice balance. Enough details to set the scene, but not enough to slow down the action.

Brain Jack has, as you might expect from a book about hackers, pleasantly quirky characters. There isn't really time for in-depth character analysis, in the midst of all the action, but I could picture and identify with most of the main players.

With its strong focus on technology and computer networks, Brain Jack is not for all readers. But I think it's an excellent choice for kids who have grown up comfortable with advanced technology. Hackers and gamers, especially, won't want to miss it. Brain Jack's pacing should work well for reluctant and avid teen readers, male and female. Highly recommended.

Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: September 28, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

For Family Literacy Day: Partnership to Support Books for Kids in Haiti


(January 27, 2011 – Toronto, Canada) – To mark Family Literacy Day in Canada, Corus Entertainment’s Kids Can Press announced an initiative designed to inform children about the world and to help the children in one devastated part of it — Haiti.

KCPthischildlarge Kids Can Press will donate 50% of its profits from the sales of This Child, Every Child: A Book About the World’s Children in North America to ONEXONE, a nonprofit foundation committed to improving the lives of children. The donation will be used to deliver books to children in Haiti and will be distributed in a variety of ways, including donations to libraries at two new schools: L’École Nouvelle Zoranje and L’École Nouvelle Royal Caribbean.

This Child, Every Child, shows kids what life is really like for children across the globe. Using the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as a template to compare and contrast kid’s experiences and opportunities, author David J. Smith introduces young readers to the world beyond their own borders and reveals the challenges children face in obtaining adequate food, clean water, health care, education, and more. 

Village Smith, a leader in international education and author of the bestselling book If the World Were a Village, felt compelled to share with young readers the dramatic and sobering facts about children around the world.  “These issues are not light or easy, but they affect millions of children,” says Smith. 

“David’s books are emblematic of what we’re committed to do with the CitizenKid collection in terms of providing a foundation for children and families to learn about the world, explains Lisa Lyons, President, Kids Can Press. “The book is also a call to action, encouraging kids and families to make a difference since change can happen one kid at a time. What’s more, our company wanted to affect change by using this important book to help us to deliver books to children in Haiti.” As ONEXONE has sent two teams of medical personnel and delivered over 7 million dollars worth of supplies to Haiti in the last 12 months, we knew they would be excellent partners.” 

Joey Adler, ONEXONE found and President & CEO of Diesel Canada, said: “We thank and applaud Kids Can Press for joining us in helping the children of Haiti with the fundamental tool of literacy – books. More than 45% of Haiti’s population is comprised of children and education is an important aspect of rebuilding the country.” 

In addition to donating part of the profits from the sale of This Child, Every Child, Corus Entertainment’s flagship kids network YTV will be supporting the initiative in Canada by donating advertising time on-air as well as online at

(Above release from Raab Associates)

Dirtball Pete: Eileen Brennan

Book: Dirtball Pete
Author: Eileen Brennan
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-856058915

Dirtball Pete, written and illustrated by Eileen Brennan, is a lot of fun. Pete is a young boy who tends to be very, very dirty. When the time comes for him to participate in THE FIFTY STATES AND WHY THEY'RE GREAT! day at school, his mother undertakes a Herculean effort to clean him up. However, a ferret, a muddy dog, and an errant piece of paper all threaten Pete's success. In the end, Pete stays true to himself, and teaches his mother a tiny lesson about appearances not being everything.

Pete is a little charmer. While he is clearly filthy (for most of the book), he has bright eyes, a crooked smile, and a jaunty stance. I found him wholly likable. Kids will, too. Just look at that cover image. Can you resist him?

Eileen Brennan's style is irreverent and breezy (and keeps the book from feeling at all message-y, though there is a message for parents). The book begins:

"Dirtball Pete looked like something the cat dragged in.
It was a fact."

Several other "facts" come to light throughout the story. I also liked the scene in which Jack's dog unwittingly threatens Pete's pristine state:

"Jack loved his buddy Dirtball Pete. But somehow, every time he tried to show him that, something broke."

(Here something broke is printed in crooked, broken letters)

In what is perhaps a nod to Charlie Brown, Pete's mother and Aunt Marion are frequently shown from the back, or from the waist down. They are visually out of the picture, even when they are driving the action. This is Pete's story. And it's a good one.

In short, Dirtball Pete is going on my "keep" shelf, to re-read with Baby Bookworm as she gets older. It's also going on my mental list of gift books for young boys. Recommended, especially for boys in early elementary school.

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 25

Jpg_book007Today 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 and young adult books and raising readers. There are 1349 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once a month.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have five book review posts (one young adult novel, the rest picture books and board books), along with a children's literacy roundup and a post about the recently announced ALA and Sydney Taylor book awards. I also have a post reissued from Booklights about series books featuring adventurous girls, and a quick link to a new post derived from my 5-year-old post on why adults should read children's books.

Not included in the newsletter this week, I also shared a quick post with two tidbits of Kidlitosphere news.

Reading Update: Since the last newsletter, I finished four books:

  • Jeanne Birdsall: The Penderwicks. Yearling. Read-aloud to Baby Bookworm. Completed January 7, 2011. This was a re-read for me, originally reviewed here. It held up very well as a read-aloud. I continue to think of this book as a new classic, to be shelved with my cherished Elizabeth Enright titles.
  • Sarah Jamila Stevenson: The Latte Rebellion. Flux. Completed January 13, 2011. Reviewed here.
  • Georgette Heyer: Frederica. Sourcebooks. Completed January 15, on MP3. This is one of my favorite Heyer novels, and I enjoyed listening to it on audio. I frequently found myself laughing aloud.
  • Victoria Thompson: Murder on Lexington Avenue. Berkeley. Completed January 25, 2010, on MP3. This is the latest in the Gaslight Mystery series, which I always enjoy. I found the structure of this one, in which Sarah Brandt and Detective Malloy uncover much of the same information via separate interviews, a little repetitive. But a twist at the end surprised me, and I love the chemistry between the two characters.

I'm currently reading Brain Jack by Brian Faulkner (Cybils shortlist title) and Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King (Printz Honor title). I'm listening to The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer.

Clementine Baby Bookworm and I are reading Clementine, Friend of the Week by Sara Pennypacker, along with various picture books. My New Year's resolution was to read more books to BB, and to keep better track of them. You can see the books we've been reading most recently in the left-hand sidebar of my blog. I'm also periodically archiving the list here (I'll likely have to break this list into multiple pages soon - we're already at 150 books). I have several more picture book reviews planned and/or scheduled to post in the coming weeks.

How about you? What have you been reading and enjoying? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms.

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

The Latte Rebellion: Sarah Jamila Stevenson

Book: The Latte Rebellion
Author: Sarah Jamila Stevenson (blog)
Pages: 336
Age Range: 12 and up

LatteCoverMed Background: Sarah Jamila Stevenson and I are friends. We met through our blogs (she blogs with Tanita Davis at Finding Wonderland), and have worked together on the Cybils, and spent time together at the Kidlitosphere Conferences. She's been to my house. I was excited for her when I heard that her book was going to be published. I know her well enough that I could occasionally hear her voice coming through (as distinct from the protagonist's voice) as I was reading her book. Thus I can't say that I'm objective in assessing The Latte Rebellion. But I did very much enjoy it!

Review: The Latte Rebellion is the story of high school senior Asha and her quests to a) make enough money to go on a fun trip after graduation; b) promote awareness and acceptance of "latte-colored" individuals like herself; c) hang onto her drifting best friend Carey; d) satisfy her achievement-focused parents; and e) feel like she's making a difference in the world. Unfortunately, these various goals may not be mutually achievable. But Asha is a pleasure to spend time with while she figures things out.

The story begins when Asha and Carey decide to sell t-shirts promoting "The Latte Rebellion", the idea that mixed-race students have a right to be respected for themselves, rather than being forced into tidy ethnic categories. The whole thing is a bit of a lark - the real goal is to raise enough money to go on a fun post-graduation trip (and the more hidden goal for Asha is just to do something fun with Carey, who has been awfully focused on her studies of late). However, to Asha and Carey's surprise, their Latte Rebellion manifesto strikes a real chord with people. Soon, events overtake them, and they find themselves astonishingly well-known, and facing disciplinary action. Occasional excerpts flash forward to Asha's hearing with the school board, her potential expulsion racheting up the story's suspense.

This is an excellent book for teen readers. I would expect it to inspire a flurry of Cafe Press t-shirt projects. I kind of wanted to start promoting some sort of cause myself now. And I can imagine my teenage self becoming quite inspired. The actual cause of the Latte Rebellion, the focus on pride in mixed-ethnicity, is sure to resonate with teens, too. And sure to resonate in a non-message-y sort of way, because the author keeps the focus squarely on Asha. 

Asha's voice is just right. She sounds like what she is, a bright, highly educated teenager. I think that it must be difficult, as an adult, to write like you would have written as a teen (expressive, descriptive, enthusiastic, etc.), and Sarah pulls this off flawlessly. Her are a couple of examples:

"Sure, it would be nice if we managed to raise a little awareness of mixed-ethnicity people, but basically, we were selling t-shirts. A community health clinic made the Latte Rebellion seem like small potatoes. Small, selfish potatoes." (Page 46)

"With both grandmothers fighting for control of the kitchen prior to our annual mid-December dual-family blowout, there were clashing aromas competing for dominance, flour was everywhere, and there was a constant tug-of-war over the spice rack." (Page 118)

I also like Asha's unconventional descriptions and vocabulary:

"A handful of other seniors started to drift over from around the patio like melodrama-sniffing dogs, eager for a scene." (Page 3)

"I bolted to my feet, the controversy-inspiring towel falling to the ground, innocuous and stripey." (Page 3)

I just love "stripey". There's also a description of a boy that Asha likes which my teen self would have found irresistible, but I'll make you read the book for that one.

I think that many teens will also relate to the pressure that Asha and Carey's parents put on them over getting into a good college. I kind of want to re-read this myself when Baby Bookworm is a junior in high school, as sort of a primer on what not to do to your kid. Making this exactly the sort of book that can open up valuable discussions between parents and teens. [Side note: I gave a copy of this book for Christmas to a 16-year-old friend who won't even talk about colleges if her mother is in the room.]

The Latte Rebellion would pair especially well with Monsoon Summer, by Mitali Perkins (another coming of age story that looks at questions of ethnic identify and social conscience, and has a memorable, 3-dimensional heroine). Highly recommended for teen and adult readers, especially those who have ever been forced to check "other" on a box identifying their ethnicity. I hope that The Latte Rebellion catches on, and inspires many readers.

Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: January 8, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Babies Everywhere Board Books

Books: Families and Carry Me, both from the Babies Everywhere series 
Author: Star Bright Books
Pages: ~20 pages each
Age Range: 0-3

Star Bright Books recently sent me two board books from their Babies Everywhere series. Baby Bookworm and I both quite like them. They are small (about 5" square) and slim, which makes them easy for the baby to pick up and chew (she's quite irked by thick, blocky board books these days, because they don't fit easily into her mouth). More importantly, both books feature bright, photo illustrations that have BB reaching out to touch, smiling. And, from my perspective, they each offer a little bit of learning that's a a few steps away from the well-worn path of either "Yes there are baby faces" or "Yes these are animals. These are the sounds that they make".

B0097 Families uses each page spread to show the similarities between human and animal families. So we have "All families give kisses", with a mother human kissing her baby on one side, and a mama giraffe kissing her baby on the other side. We see human and animal pairs of each laughing at jokes, walking, swimming, etc. The photos, especially the ones of the animals, are bright and engaging. I might have liked to see a page at the end that shows a mini photo of each type of animal and labels it (clown fish, rhinocerous, etc.). But it's still a fun read.

B0075 Even better is Carry Me. Each page spread shows two different examples of a way that a parent might carry a child. So we have two photos of dads each carrying a child in a pack, two photos of moms each carrying a baby in a sling, etc. The photos are from all over the world, and a compact index at the end of the book shows the country in which each photo was taken. This makes it nice book now for baby bookworm for drooling over the colorful photos. Later, perhaps we can try to remember which country each photo is from, and talk about them (China, Kenya, Scotland, etc.).

In short, these two books are an excellent addition to our library of board books. They would also be a great addition to, say, a basket of books delivered to a new baby. Recommended.

Side note: If you're participating in the Needle and ThREAD: Stitching for Literacy New Blogger Puzzle Contest here's line 2:

Q S A M     Y W     V L M     A S X W Y W B,

This contest is open to everyone so if this is the first you're hearing of it, go take a look.

Publisher: Star Bright Books
Publication Date: May 2009
Source of Books: Review copies from the publisher 

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup Mid-January 2011 (part 2)

JkrROUNDUP Welcome to the mid-January children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, and Rasco from RIF. Because there was so much going on at the beginning of the month, we waited to publish our first roundup of the year until now. But not to worry, Terry Doherty, Carol Rasco, and I collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related news. In fact, because we ended up with so much news to share, we had to divide the roundup into two parts. Terry shared part 1 at The Reading Tub yesterday, with information about literacy-related events, some literacy program news, and Unwrapping Literacy. Part 2 is now available here, with more news about literacy and reading programs and research, as well as various suggestions for growing bookworms.

Literacy Programs and Research

Jenny Schwartzberg sent us the link to an article by Denise Smith Amos about a nice home-grown program: a Cincinnati-area girl collects children's books from her friends, and shares them with kids who need them. I liked this bit: ""I was surprised at how excited the children were when they were receiving a single book," McKenna said. "Normally I just go to a bookstore when I want a new book. It looked like I gave them a million dollars by just giving them a single book."" This one made me feel a tiny bit guilty about Baby Bookworm's positively bountiful library...

Chess_4964 Sarah @TheReadingZone brought to our attention a opinion piece about the benefits of play-based over skills-based learning for kids of all ages. Erika Christakis and Nicholas Christakis say: "we wonder why play is not encouraged in educational periods later in the developmental life of young people -- giving kids more practice as they get closer to the ages of our students. Why do this? One of the best predictors of school success is the ability to control impulses. Children who can control their impulse to be the center of the universe, and -- relatedly -- who can assume the perspective of another person, are better equipped to learn." They give several examples of how play-based learning helps with this. And apparently the question of play is a hot topic right now, because the New York Times just ran a piece proclaiming that the movement to restore children's playtime is gaining momentum. (via @ReachOutAndReadNY) [Image credit: manicmorff from MorgueFile] Via @ReachOutAndRead we found a fascinating article about a new study on infant language development. When brand new babies heard the same brief sound spoken by their mothers and by a nurse, their brains reacted in completely different ways. "The work, published this week in the journal Cerebral Cortex, adds to growing understanding of how infants start to learn language from the minute they are born." How cool is that?

Here's one with a tangential relationship to literacy: Parentella references a recent NPR report and includes a transcript of a #PTCHAT about the impact of texting on our children's social skills. Literacy is a bit part of communication and the links to this CNN article about texting and teen/adult disconnect and related topics may be of interest.

Ncfl Know a great literacy teacher? It's not to late to nominate him or her for the Toyota Family Literacy Teacher of the Year Award, via the National Center for Family Literacy (deadline January 31st, the person's program director has to actually fill out the form). Thanks to @CuedSpeech for the link.

Suggestions for Growing Bookworms

Read Aloud Dad has only been blogging for about 4 months now, but he's already one of our go-to sites. And clearly a kindred spirit. In a mid-December post he shared The Three Most Important Words when Reading Aloud, with some spot-on advice. There's also a nice comment from @TessasDad about creating and stocking a reading nook. We also liked The Secret To How To Become A Read-Aloud Ninja.

Thumb160x_61-JxB5cyGL This one is a bit of a stretch as literacy news, but I liked it so much that I had to include it. At The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller responds to a recent New York Times piece about the current passion for dystopian literature by many young adults. Donalyn offers her thoughts, derived from years of experience in talking with kids about books, saying: "My students love these books because they love good stories. Action-packed battles between good and evil forces, strange, futuristic worlds, protagonists who fight for what's right when the adults in their lives can't or won't--it's great storytelling stuff. Reading dystopian books brings excitement and adventure into my students' boring, routine lives." And really, isn't that what it's all about? Finding great storytelling, in whatever genre, that makes kids excited about reading. [Image is of recent Printz winner Ship Breaker, by Paulo Bacigalupi]

While some of us may be looking ahead to having an iPad, others are using iPods in wonderful, unexpected ways! In the Canby (Oregon) school district, several classes of fourth- and fifth- graders are using them to help with reading aloud. District Says iPods Fire Up Kids for Reading (The World) opens with a wonderful example of an iPod and reader at work. [We'd love to include quotes, but the prohibitions are pretty strict!] [Via @Bob_Books and @HawaiiBookBlog]

Maria Burel has a nice article with five quick suggestions on how to be a literacy mentor at home. I like the little "hooks" that Maria uses before each of her suggestions. Click through to see what she means by "Just Keep Swimming" and "Sing a Song of Sixpence".

Aaron Mead recently interviewed Elizabeth Kennedy, who runs's children's book blog, about children's books and literacy. I especially liked Elizabeth's answer to Aaron's closing question. "Q: If you were standing on a soapbox full of children’s books, what would you say to your audience? EK: Read to your child every day. It’s a gift that will last a lifetime. Get a library card and use it weekly. Support public libraries. Be a reader yourself and discuss what you are reading and what your children are reading with them." Straight up and to the point, everything you need to know!

Terry is bemoaning the fact that she didn't see Betsy Bird's wonderful article Planet App: Kids' Books Apps are Everywhere before asking the question Does Everything Have to Have a Screen? Leave it to the librarians. Huzzah! [Thanks to the January 8, 2011 edition of the Big Fresh for the link]

And that's all the literacy news for today. Carol will be back towards the end of the month with more children's literacy and reading news and a look forward to February. Happy reading!

Why Adults Should Read Children's Books

Book-illustration-150x150 Today at Getting Kids Reading Joyce Grant has an article that summarizes and expands upon ideas from one of my very earliest blog topics: Why You Should Read Children's Books as an Adult (Joyce's post, my original post). I hope that you'll take a few minutes to check out the new post and admire Joyce's snazzy new look for her blog. Here's a snippet from her post:

"When kids see adults reading they’re more likely to read, themselves. It isn’t just a theory, there’s been research done on this. When a kid sees an adult reading a children’s book, he’s even more likely to read."

I think it's true (not to mention all of the other excellent reasons to read children's books). What say all of you? Have you found that by reading children's books, you've helped to encourage your students and/or your children to read themselves?

Terry_readingtubfinal_1 For more on ways to encourage kids to read, check out part 1 of the January Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup at The Reading Tub. Among other interesting news tidbits, Terry links to a podcast interview between Franki Sibberson and Donalyn Miller at Choice Literacy on Modeling Literate Lives. Two of my favorite literacy champions, talking about how to let kids know that reading is worthwhile. Don't miss it!

I'll be back tomorrow with Part 2 of the January Literacy Roundup. Thanks for reading!

Three Very Different Fairy Tale/Fable Retellings: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 3, 2009. It includes mini-reviews of three books, two of which I've already read to Baby Bookworm on multiple occasions.

Three Very Different Fairy Tale/Fable Retellings

I've decided to take a page from Pam's Thursday Three posts, and share with you three new picture books that illustrate the wide range available in fairy tale and fable retellings. The first is a straight up reissue of a classic story, made special by the gorgeous illustrations. The second is a multicultural reimagining of a well-known fairy tale, with added humor. And the third is a modern picture book that bears only the kernal of the original fable.

goldilocks.jpgGennady Spirin's new edition of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a faithful rendion of the well-known story, from "Once up a time, there were three bears" to Goldilocks leaping up and running out of the house (though the bears are surprisingly cheerful at the end). But what makes this book worth a look are Spirin's lavish watercolor and colored pencil illustrations. The bears are dressed in fancy, gold-braided clothing. Their clothes match, in tone, detailed gilt headers and footers on each page, and the bears' fancy carved furnishings. Everything is conveyed with fine texture, from the bears' fur to their clothes to the grass outside. And after breakfast (most days), the bears site, and Mama Bear and Little Bear each read books (while Papa naps). As for Goldilocks - she looks like something out of an old painting, with shining hair, rosy cheeks, and an ornate hat with a feather. In short, this is one that I'm keeping for my own bookshelves. I will pair it with Eugene W. Field and Giselle Potter's Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

tamales.jpgThe Three Little Tamales is a retelling of The Three Little Pigs, written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Valeria Docampo. In Kimmel's version, three little tamales, two sisters and a brother, run away from a Texas taqueria before they can be eaten. One builds a house of sagebrush, and another of cornstalks, but the third builds her casita out of cactus. And eventually, Senor Lobo, the Big Bad Wolf, comes around looking for some lunch. You all know, pretty much, how the story goes from there. I like that this book is a celebration of Texas, and Mexican foods, complete with a short glossary of terms. And, ok, I like that the smartest of the three tamales is a girl, and that this is handled in a completely matter-of-fact manner. Docampo's oil on paper illustrations are beautiful, with appropriate colors for prairie, cornfield, and desert. The winds that the wolf huffs and puffs are enchanting swirls of colors and textures. The tamales are adorable, especially the smart one with her big glasses, and the brother with his dramatic eyebrows and mustache (you have to see it to appreciate it). I can really see this one becoming a family favorite. See also Kimmel's book, with Stephen Gilpin The Three Cabritos, a Billy Goat Gruff retelling.

dumptruck.jpgThe Grumpy Dump Truck by Brie Spangler is quite different from the other two. It's a modern-day story about a dump truck named Bertrand who is good at his job, but constantly grumpy with his co-workers. He is "rude to the backhoe" and "a real pain to the crane", and constantly grumbles about his "itchy axle" and "sore tires". Until... a little hedgehog worker named Tilly sticks him (accidentally) with one of her quills. Plucking out the quill, she discovers all sorts of other uncomfortable things stuck in Bertrand's tire, weighing him down. Once Tilly relieves him of these things, he's a new dump truck altogether. Much like a certain lion and mouse that you might recall. This one is a bit overlay sweet at the end ("I want to do something NICE!" "Horray!"), but I think that the inherent humor of a grumpy dump truck, and a bunch of animal construction workers, outweighs this. And Spangler's digitally created illustrations are bold and eye-catching, almost like cartoons. I think that preschool boys, in particular, will find this one tough to resist.

How about you? What are your favorite fairy tale retellings and reimaginings?

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 3, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.

Each Peach Pear Plum: Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Book: Each Peach Pear Plum
Author: Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-8

Peach Each Peach Pear Plum was a recent gift to Baby Bookworm. She mainly wants to eat it, but I'm quite enjoying it. It's a deceptively simple book with a subversive slant. Each page spread has a rhyming couplet on one side, and a detailed picture on the other. The couplets all end with "I spy ...", and the idea is to spy the named character in the picture. So we have:

"Cinderella on the stairs
I spy the Three Bears"

And the Three Bears can be seen peeking in through a window, as Cinderella dusts.

The humor comes partly in the language:

"Mother Hubbard down the cellar
I spy Cinderella"

[That one cracks me up for some reason.]

But most of the humor is in the illustrations. When Jack and Jill are spied, all we see are their legs waving in the air, half-way down the hill. And then we find them in a ditch on the next page. If that doesn't make preschoolers giggle, I don't know what will. I did have a moment of fear when the Three Bears, out hunting, find the lost and helpless Baby Bunting. [Just how far will the black humor go?] But it all turns out ok.

Seriously, though, this is a very fun book to read with preschoolers. Although it's a board book with limited text, it's a bit above the interest level of babies. You'll want to share this with kids who are old enough to enjoy scouring the pictures, to find Tom Thumb and the rest. This is an excellent addition to any collection. The illustrations are wonderful, too.

Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: 1978 (original date), 1999 (this edition)
Source of Book: A gift for Baby Bookworm from the Chang family

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).