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Posts from June 2012

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: June 29

JRBPlogo-smallToday 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 1566 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every three weeks (this issue is a tiny bit early).

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (one picture book, one early middle grade, one later middle grade/middle school, and one YA), and one children's literacy roundup.

I also started a new weekly feature on my blog in which I share highlights from links that I posted on Twitter over the week. These are primarily literacy and book-related stories, with a sprinkling of other things that I have found of interest. You can find the first two posts here and here. If anyone would like me to start including those posts in the newsletter (or would prefer that I NOT do so), please let me know. 

Reading Update: In the past 2 1/2 weeks, I finished one middle grade, one young adult, and two adult titles. A bit of a lame showing overall, but one of the adult titles was very long. 

  • R. J. Palacio: Wonder. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Middle grade/middle school. Completed June 16, 2012. My review.
  • Dan Wells: Partials. Balzer + Bray. Young adult. Completed June 11, 2012. My review.
  • D. E. Stevenson: The Two Mrs. Abbotts. ISIS Audiobooks. Adult. Completed June 13, 2012, on MP3. This is the third and final book about Miss Buncle. I enjoyed it less than the first, but more than the second.
  • Elizabeth George: Believing the Lie (Inspector Lynley #17). Dutton. Adult. Completed June 24, 2012. Library copy. This book was quite long, and a bit repetitive (the same information conveyed over again as the viewpoint shifted between characters). But I found it compelling anyway, and squeezed in time to read it whenever I could. This series has flagged a bit over the past few books, but George may be getting her groove back. 

ImagesI also, of course, continue to read picture books and board books aloud to Baby Bookworm. We're currently at ~1850 books read aloud for 2012 (including repeats). Current favorites include Sylvie by Jennifer Sattler, Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems, Bailey by Harry Bliss, and Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett

I'm currently listening to A Million Suns by Beth Revis on MP3. I just started reading Delirium by Lauren Oliver on the Kindle. I'm reading The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson in print, but finding it slow going. I just ordered a copy of the third Enemy book by Charlie Higson, The Fear, and I may drop everything for that one when it arrives. 

How about you? What have you and your kids been reading and enjoying? I hope that everyone finds lots of time for reading and relaxing over July 4th week. Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms.

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

At the Boardwalk: Kelly Ramsdell Fineman & Monica Armino

Book: At the Boardwalk
Author: Kelly Ramsdell Fineman
Illustrator: Monica Armino
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

61UvNQkNkoL._SL500_AA300_Kelly Fineman's At the Boardwalk, illustrated by Monica Armino, is a lyrical celebration of a summer's day spent at the boardwalk. Each page spread features four rhyming lines of poetry, each focused on a different aspect of the day (and progressing through the day in chronological order). So we start out (second spread):

At the boardwalk in the fog
Grab the stroller, bring the dog
Families take a morning jog
At the boardwalk in the fog

and finish up with:

At the boardwalk day is done
Sleepy after evening fun
Strolling home - no need to run
At the boardwalk day is done

I'm not sure what the formal name is for poems like these, with the starting and ending line the same, but I know that this format is perfect for reading aloud. My favorite rhyme sequence in the book is "rains", "weather vanes", and "complains". In general, Kelly Fineman makes writing with rhyme and rhythm seem easy. The words flow readily off the reader's tongue.

Monica Armino's illustrations are rendered in deep, sun-kissed colors, against a textured background. The sunrise and sunset sequences are particularly lovely, with reds and golds. The people in the book encompass a wide range of ages and ethnicities, though the emphasis is of course on kids. My favorite illustration shows several children jumping gleefully in a puddle during a sudden rainstorm. 

Parents should be warned that a read of At the Boardwalk is likely to result in kids clamoring to visit an actual boardwalk, where they can ride the carousel, eat taffy, and play in the sand. Recommended for anyone looking for a taste of summer. 

Publisher: Tiger Tales
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Links I Shared on Twitter This Week: June 28

Welcome to the second installment of this new feature, in which I highlight some of the links that I shared on Twitter over the past week:

Kids' Imaginations More Active Despite Less Play Time, Study Shows via @EducationWeek

HS English teacher proposes: Blogging Is the New Persuasive Essay

A suggestion from @cybils: Be Book Smart and Help @RIFWEB #BookPeopleUnite @CHRasco

Thursday Three: Reading Games, good + easy ideas for building early #literacy from @MotherReader

Oh, I agree! Sleuths, Spies, + Alibis: Criminal Writing Offenses In #KidLit: The Important Life Lesson

NCBLA: Ideas to Keep Your Kids Reading + Writing this Summer, reading tip texts from @ReadingRockets

Interesting thoughts on Early Learning and Technology from @sonderbooks on @alscblog #literacy

It's Real and Serious: Summer Learning Loss (via @adlit) #literacy

Reading lists: the IT thing on social media for summer! A list of lists from @StorySnoops #kidlit

The Danger of Modern Productivity and How Will You Measure Your Life | Escape Adulthood @kimandjason

Don't you hate it when life gets in the way of reading books? Fun post @NerdyBookClub

Seriously? Denver Neighborhood Bans Children’s Sidewalk Drawings via @kimandjason

Great Kid Book: Popular fiction series with kids ages 7 - 11 @MaryAnnScheuer #kidlit

Where are the stay-at-home dads in children’s books? The Globe and Mail #kidlit via @PWKidsBookshelf

squeetus: Self-publishing, part 2; or why my blog needs an editor @haleshannon

Betsy Bird is now into the top 5 (of 100) #picturebooks + children's novels @FuseEight Don't miss it! (#1 will be announced tomorrow)

Top Ten Summer Reading Lists « Sommer Reading #SummerReading

That's all for this week. I hope readers find this type of post useful. You can find me on Twitter @JensBookPage.

Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes: Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Book: Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes
Author: Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Pages: 96
Age Range: 7-10 

LL7~~element69Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes is the 7th book in Jarrett J. Krosoczka's Lunch Lady series of graphic novels for younger readers. I reviewed several of the earlier books in the series (see here for a review of Books 5 and 6, for example). I find myself without much new to say about Book 7, so I shall be brief.

In this installment, the Breakfast Bunch (Hector, Terrence, and Dee) are punished for a previous infraction (skipping out on a museum tour, see Book 6) by being forced to join the school Mathletes team. Though initially resistant ("Who would voluntarily choose to do math after school? You'd have to be insane."), the trio soon rises to the challenge (inspired by the nastiness of a cut-throat team from a nearby private school). Their success turns into danger, however, when their competitors turn out to be ... mutant mathletes.

Although it's been a while since I read the other books in the series, this one struck me as a tiny bit more lesson-y than the others, with text like "Like it or not, math is everywhere you go", and page after page of (kid-friendly) examples of math questions in the competitions. 

Still, Krosoczka maintains his trademark humor. When Dee answers her first competition question correctly, she says: "It's seventy... Not like I care." The janitor is still grouchy (even as he saves the day). The cafeteria food is still sometimes questionable (powdered eggs, gravy for fish sticks). And Lunch Lady and her sidekick Betty still have tons of food-themed spy inventions. Like the "Pineapple Mace", the "Mustard Grappling Hook", and a "Licorice Rope". 

I also have to say that as someone who was briefly on the math team (in 7th grade), it is nice to see the Mathletes emerge as the heroes of the school. The Lunch Lady books tend to put a positive spin on geek-dom (with the school bully a not-so-bright football player), but Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes goes a step further, making the math team downright cool.

Fans of the series won't want to miss Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes. If you haven't read the previous books, I do recommend going back to the beginning. Not that you won't be able to figure out what's going on in Book 7, but you'll miss out on a lot of fun. Recommended for younger readers, ages 7 and up. 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: March 27, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Age Range: 
Publication Date:
Source of Book:
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Links I Shared on Twitter This Week

I've noticed that these days there are a lot of links that I share on Twitter (and sometimes Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest, depending on what the link is). Most of these are things that don't make it into the full children's literacy roundups that Terry Doherty, Carol Rasco and I put together twice a month. So, inspired by some posts like this that I've noticed at Tasha Saecker's blog, Waking Brain Cells, I'm going to experiment with just a quick and easy sharing of links from Twitter:

Summary of #SummerReading incentive programs | Sound It Out by Joanne Meier @ReadingRockets

Very cool! Tech-Based Dollhouse Inspires Future Girl Scientists @The_MarySue via @RoominateToy

Congratulations to @Scholastic + @PBSKIDS for WordGirl's Daytime Entertainment Emmy Award for writing

Kindle for iPad Now Supports Children’s Books, Graphic Novels @ShiftTheDigital

Pinterest as a Readers'-Advisory Tool, by Lynnanne Pearson via @ALA_Booklist

Top Picks for Summer Reading: Graphic Novels with African American Characters via @sljournal #kidlit

Lebron James on the importance of #reading , video shared by @StaceyLoscalzo #literacy

Ebook Sales Surpass Hardcover for the first time in the U.S. via @mashable

How to Really Survive Anything: The Best of the Girl-Power Books from @TheAtlanticWire (references @interactiver)

The Best Young Adult Novels? You Tell NPR …

On boys and reading RT @MsYingling: Lovely article; nothing NEW: …

RT @reachoutandread: Infants, toddlers booked in summer reading club! #Ohio #literacy

The self-publishing paradox; or, why I love my editor by @haleshannon sums up the issue well, I think

Building Up Your Book Muscle. Great advice from @donalynbooks@edweekteacher #BookADay

Fun list of YA Beach Reads, with mini-reviews, from Book Aunt #yalit

RT @rifweb: Get caught up w/ RIF’s past & present. Check out RIF PSAs from the 70s, 80s, 90s, + today: #BookPeopleUnite

Readers, what say you? Is this type of post useful for anyone?

This post © 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Wonder: R. J. Palacio

Book: Wonder
Author: R. J. Palacio
Pages: 320
Age Range: 8 and up

ImagesR. J. Palacio's Wonder is a miracle of a book. It's a middle grade title that makes you think, and makes you want to be a better person. But it doesn't feel lesson-y. It's an enjoyable read, filled with three-dimensional characters, and a fair degree of suspense. I honestly have no idea how Palacio pulled it off. 

10-year-old August Pullman has never had a normal life. Because of a tremendously unlucky combination of genetic factors, he suffers from severe facial deformities. He spent most of his childhood having a variety of surgeries, and was home-schooled. Now, as Auggie starts fifth grade, his parents suggest that he try middle school. Auggie starts at Beechwood, a small private school near his home. Wonder is a chronicle of Auggie's fifth grade year. But it's not just Auggie's story. The book is divided into sections, some (including the first) from Auggie's viewpoint, the others from the viewpoint of kids whose lives intersect Auggie's (his older sister, sister's boyfriend, kids from school, etc.). 

The shifting perspectives in Wonder help the reader to see each character, inside and out. Palacio pulls the different viewpoints off flawlessly. I never once had trouble remembering who was talking. I think that I could open the book back up to a random page, read a few words, and know which character narrated that section. Impressive.

Wonder inspired me to flag page after page. I understand now why my friend Mary Ann Scheuer, who wanted me to read Wonder, bought me my own copy, instead of loaning me hers. Because I want to keep my post-its in place, for sure. Here are a couple of the many passages that I flagged:

"Okay, so I admit that the first day of school I was so nervous that the butterflies in my stomach were more like pigeons flying around my insides." (Page 35, August)

"I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks." (Page 73, August)

"I've seen August after his surgeries: his little face bandaged up and swollen, his tiny body full of IVs and tubes to keep him alive. After you've seen someone else going through that, it feels kind of crazy to complain over not getting the toy you had asked for, or your mom missing a school play. I knew this even when I was six years old. No one ever told it to me. I just knew it." (Page 82, August's sister Via)



That last quote is from a "precept" that one of August's teachers, Mr. Browne, presented to his class. It summarizes the whole point of Wonder, the idea that if you just think about what you're doing, it's possible to decide to be kind to people. Even (or especially) people who look different from you. Even people who you find outright scary or repulsive on first glance.

Random House has launched an anti-bullying campaign, inspired by #TheWonderOfWonder, at the Choose Kind website. People can share their own experiences with bullying, and pledge not to bully anyone themselves. The Choose Kind website is well worth a look, and Wonder would be a GREAT choice for a middle school classroom read. 

But it's funny. I didn't think of Wonder as a book about bullying as I was reading it. It's not that the lessons in Wonder aren't fairly overt. They are. Mr. Browne's Precepts, for example, are clearly a device for conveying moral messages. And yet... Wonder doesn't feel like a "message book." I spent some time trying to figure out why that is. And what I came up with was that the shifting viewpoints in Wonder help a lot, showing the reader different perspectives on the same situation. Auggie's sense of humor helps, too. The middle school scenes and interactions are also quite true to life.

But the key to the success of Wonder? I think it's Palacio's unflinching look at Auggie's situation, and other people's reactions to it. Auggie's life is hard. It's always going to be hard. But he still has to get up every morning and go through his day. His sister, Via, is amazing and loving, but still displays the occasional cowardly human reaction. Same for Auggie's eventual best friend. There's no sugar coating on Wonder (as I had suspected / feared that there would be, when I heard the premise). Instead, Wonder is a realistic story, filled with the day-to-day suspense of middle school. And it's also a story full of heart that inspires readers to "Choose Kind". And that's a wonderful thing. Highly recommended for kids and adults, male and female, ages 8 and up. 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: February 14, 2012
Source of Book: A gift from @MaryAnnScheuer

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup: Mid-June

JkrROUNDUPWelcome to the mid-June edition of the Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book PageThe Family Bookshelf, and Quietly. We focus this week in our events section on Summer Reading. We also have a couple of tidbits about literacy and reading programs and research. No specific suggestions for growing bookworms this time around - we figured that the focus on Summer Reading should be sufficient. Thanks for tuning in!

Literacy & Reading-Related Events

Red_logoSummer Reading: A reader of my Growing Bookworms newsletter asked me the other day if I had any suggestions for summer reading programs for her 5-8 year old kids. She was looking for something where they would track what they read, and possibly get prizes, with the general idea being to help keep the kids excited about reading over the summer. I suggested that she check out her local library (which turned out to have a neat program in place), and also try the Scholastic Summer Challenge. I brought the question to my networks on Twitter and Facebook, and received several other suggestions (I'm only listing national programs here - there are of course many local programs, too):

  • Barnes and Noble offers kids a free book if they read 8 books and document them in a reading journal. I would have been all over this program as a kid.
  • Showcase Cinemas is hosting Bookworm Wednesdays. At select screenings of children's movies on Wednesdays, kids can get in free if they bring a book report. "Accompanying parents or guardians and children under six years of age receive free admission and do not need to submit a book report." While I have mixed feelings about kids getting prizes for reading* (because for me reading has always been its own reward), I do like the phrase "Bookworm Wednesdays". Do they show movies made from books, I wonder? Because that would be cool.
  • Though not technically a summer reading program, the new kid-focused online book sharing site BiblioNasium gives kids age 6-12 a place to track what they've read, and share with their peers. They also offer some awards and gift certificates for reading. I knew about BiblioNasium, but @LibrarianDee suggested it in this context. Teachers can sign up their classes, and parents can sign up their kids individually. Also for teachers, the We Are Teachers site has links to a variety of articles to help teachers help keep their students reading and learning over the summer (via @BriteEyes49).

I also ran across a neat Summer Reading initiative for teens via Bookshelves of DoomSYNC, a collaborative effort, is providing 2 free audiobooks for teens during each week of the summer. They are pairing new young adult books with classic fiction. This week, for example, listeners can download  The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Some of the other pairings are quite entertaining.

RR Start with a Book BoatAnother great site for summer reading ideas is the new Reading Rockets Start with a Book site, where parents can find books recommended according to 24 kid-friendly themes. The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance has a nice overview of the new site.

*For more on the question of whether or not to include prizes in summer reading programs, see Stephen Krashen's thoughts at the Schools Matter blog. Krashen says: "Research consistently shows that rewarding people for activities that are inherently pleasurable can result in less interest in doing the activity. Rewards send the message that the activity is not pleasurable and nobody would do it without a bribe." I found this post via Tiny Tips for Library Fun, where librarian Marge Loch-Wouters muses on the use of prizes at her library.

In other reading-related events:

  • Images (3)RIF's Be Book Smart campaign will run from June 22nd to July 31st. Anyone who donates $3 to RIF will receive $10 off of a $50 purchase at Macy's. This campaign should hopefully have a big impact on helping RIF to reach their goal of giving a million books to kids.
  • Speaking of contributions to RIF, participants in MotherReader's 2012 48 Hour Book Challenge pledged a total of $1220 to RIF. Now that's Book People Uniting to make a difference!
  • The Summer Blog Blast Tour took place this week. The SBBT is an organized, cross-blog series of author interviews. Unlike other blog tours, which tend to end up providing the same information in a bunch of places, the SBBT features different bloggers interviewing different authors. You can find the master schedule for the 2012 SBBT at Colleen Mondor's blog, Chasing Ray.
  • Just in time for summer, Zoe at Playing by the Book has been collecting recommendations/reviews from a variety of bloggers for books about the seaside. She has a lovely collection of titles ranging from picture books on up. It's not too late to submit your reviews. Next month's topic will be books about space.
  • Are you going to ALA in Anaheim later this month? Mary Ann Scheuer asked me to help spread the word about the Middle Grade Meet-Up that the folks from Walden Pond Press are hosting. Mary Ann has all of the details at her blog, Great Kid Books. Also from Mary Ann, some great lists of recommended summer reads, by grade, in handy printable PDF format.
  • For the 100th episode of her podcast interview show, Brain Burps About Books, Katie Davis interviewed all 3 National Ambassadors of Young People's Literature. Current Ambassador Walter Dean Myers spoke about the motivation behind his "Reading is not optional" platform. You can find the show here.
  • Monica Edinger reports on Maurice Sendak's memorial service at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Literacy Programs and Research

I enjoyed this piece by Justin Minkel in Education Week Teacher about "The 1000 Books Project" that Minkel undertook with his second and third class. He says: " Each of the 25 children in my class received 40 books over the course of 2nd and 3rd grade, for a total of 1,000 new books in their homes. The project was simple to launch. Scholastic donated 20 books per child, and I purchased the other 20 through a combination of my own funds, support from individuals and local organizations, and bonus points." Then he talks about the impact that these home libraries had on his students, and the larger implications for our educational system. Minkel concludes with a simple truth: "To help kids develop a love of reading, put great books in their hands. Then watch in amazement as their worlds change."

Via Tasha Saecker at Waking Brain Cells. "The Guardian has news of a British survey by ICM and the Fatherhood Institute on behalf of Booktrust (a UK charity gives free books to children).  The study was done with more than 500 parents of infants participating. They found that 64% of parents were not reading to their babies at 7 months old and that 57% did not own a single book." Sigh! The happier part of the story is that the families who received books from Booktrust did start reading with their kids. Further evidence, should anyone need it, that a) book distribution programs are necessary; and b) book distribution programs work.

That's all for today. Carol will be back at the beginning of July with more children's literacy and reading news. And, of course, we'll be sharing literacy links on Twitter in the meantime @CHRasco@readingtub, and @JensBookPage. Thanks for reading, and for caring about children's literacy!

Partials: Dan Wells

Book: Partials
Author: Dan Wells (@TheDanWells)
Pages: 480
Age Range: 14 and up 

ImagesPartials is a new YA post-apocalypse dystopia novel by Dan Wells. The story takes place in a near-term future world in which genetically engineered "Partials" have been created by humans. The Partials are virtually indistinguishable from humans, except for being stronger, faster, better fighters, etc. 11 years earlier, the Partials rebelled, and released a virus that killed nearly the entire human population. About 40,000 immune human survivors have made their way to Long Island, where they live barricaded away, out of sight of the Partials. This society is doing ok in some ways. They have plenty of food, entertainment, clothing, homes, etc. The problem is that their babies are not immune to the virus. All of the babies born over the 11 years have died. Kira, a 16-year-old medic, desperately wants to find a cure. When Kira comes to believe that the only cure lies with the dangerous Partials, she sets out on a dangerous quest. 

As you can see, the premise of Partials is pretty complex. I couldn't do it justice in a couple of sentences. As is sometimes the case in first books of dystopian series, a fair bit of the book is taken up with setting the stage, and building this world for the reader. But I can't say that I minded. I think that the world-building in Partials is excellent. I could really picture Wells' kudzu-covered, decaying Long Island. I could understand the conflicts facing a society desperate for an immune baby to be born. (Do you coerce women into having babies that they know will probably die? As a woman, is it your responsibility to try?) 

Even the Partials themselves are solidly constructed (in a story sense). Wells understands their physiology, as well as the makeup of their society. There are a number of questions about them that remain at the end of the book (as their should be, if there are going to be future books), but they are far from being one-note villains. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the characterization of Kira's Partial potential love interest is quite a bit stronger than the characterization of Kira's actual human boyfriend. Here's a quote that I liked:

"A human face. A human mouth and nose. Human eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. A young man, handsome, with short, dark-brown hair and the beginning of a bruise on its jaw. The greatest enemy mankind had ever faced, the vicious monster that had ended the world." (Page 174)

In general, I found the characterization in Partials a little thin. Kira is a bit too consciously (on the author's part) channeling Katniss from The Hunger Games (there's actually a quote in which someone calls Kira a "firebrand"). Many of Kira's actions are motivated by her affection for her friend who is practically a sister, Madison. But I didn't really get a fix on Madison as a character, or feel their friendship. Similarly, I didn't even understand what Kira was doing with Marcus in the first place, even though he seemed to have a good sense of humor.

I did find Kira's willingness to risk her life to cure the virus and keep babies from dying moving. And I liked how much conflict their was among the characters. Even between friends, and certainly between different interest groups on the island. Wells pretty much left no stone unturned in building conflict. He wraps Partials up well, but leaves plenty of scope for future books. 

I also liked how much science there is in Partials. Kira does research to try to cure the virus. She uses lab equipment, and studies viral structures. There's not enough science to be offputting, but there is enough to, perhaps, make a few teens think "hmm, medical research could be cool." And that's a wonderful thing. There's also a quote comparing the movement of a rioting crown to "fierce Brownian motion", which I liked a lot. 

I expect teens to like Partials quite a bit. It's got a similar feel to Veronica Roth's Divergent and Insurgent, and would make a great next book for fans of that series. Personally, even though I'd like a bit more depth to the characters, I'm dying for the next book in the series. Recommended for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction, age 14 and up.  

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@balzerandbray)
Publication Date: February 28, 2012
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: June 11

JRBPlogo-smallToday 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 1559 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every three weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (three picture books and one young adult title), and one children's literacy roundup (published in more detail at Carol Rasco's new blog). 

48hbc_newI also participated this past weekend in MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge, in which participants spend as much time reading and reviewing as they can over a 48 hour period. I spent 29.5 hours reading, reviewing, and connecting with other participants over the course of my 48 hours. I read and reviewed 10 books (mostly middle grade fiction). Rather than overwhelm this newsletter by including them all, I am instead including the list of titles, with links, below. Please click through if you would like to read more about any of these books. 

I also donated $150 to RIF's Book People Unite campaign as part of the 48 Hour Book Challenge ($5/hour, rounding up to 30 hours). 

Reading Update: In addition to the 10 titles above, I read 1 middle grade, 2 young adult and 2 adult novels. 

  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Completed June 6, 2012. Review to come.
  • Beth Revis: Across the Universe. Razorbill. Completed May 30, 2012. Library copy. I was intrigued by this book, a science fiction / romance / mystery novel set on a spaceship. However, it took me a long time to get through it for some reason. I'm going to hold off on a formal review and see what I think after I read the second book. 
  • Annabel Monaghan: A Girl Named Digit. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. Completed June 4, 2012. My review.
  • Thomas Perry: Poison Flower: A Jane Whitefield Novel. Mysterious Press. Completed June 1, 2012, on Kindle. A compelling new installment in the Jane Whitefield series, though a bit darker than the earlier books. 
  • D. E. Stevenson: Miss Buncle Married. ISIS Audiobooks. Completed June 2, 2012, on MP3. I love Miss Buncle, whether married or not, although I don't think that Miss Buncle Married is as strong a book as Miss Buncle's Book

ImagesI also, of course, continue to read picture books and board books aloud to Baby Bookworm. We're currently at 1700 books read aloud for 2012 (including repeats). Current favorites include Good night laila tov by Laurel Snyder (which we're now reading twice a day, before naptime and bedtime), The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, and Zoe Gets Ready by Bethanie Murguia.

Baby Bookworm (now 2 years old) has been showing ever-increasing interest in picture books (vs. board books), though we still read more board books overall (they are so much more durable, and we have so many favorites in board book format). She's also started actively seeking out new books (after a period of resisting anything that wasn't familiar). Today she pulled the 7th Trixie Belden book off the shelf and brought it to me to read to her, saying "New one!". (We put it aside for later, though I did show her the opening picture of Trixie and Honey.)

ImagesI'm currently listening to The Two Mrs. Abbotts by D. E. Stevenson on MP3 and reading Partials by Dan Wells. 

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

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

48 Hour Book Challenge: Finish Line

48hbc_newI am just about at the end of my 48 Hour Book Challenge, finishing at 29 hours and 30 minutes of reading, blogging, and connecting over the past 48 hours. Had I known I would end up so close, I might have tried to stay up later last night, to make it to 30 hours. But really, I'm just thrilled that I was able to spend as much time as I did (and with thanks to a herioc spouse). 

I read and reviewed 10 books (9 in print, one on Kindle), listened to about half of an audiobook, and read about 1/3 of another book on my Kindle. Out of the 29+ hours I spent 2 hours networking (commenting on other blogs, responding to comments on my own blog, and chatting with people on Twitter). I spent 5 hours and 25 minutes writing reviews (and this post), 3 hours and 20 minutes listening to audiobooks (and eating, flossing, etc.), which leaves, if my math is correct, 18 hours and 45 minutes reading print and Kindle books. 

My general pattern was: read (~2 hours), review (~30 minutes), network (~15 minutes), with breaks for eating while listening to audiobooks.

All in all, it was a great and recharging experience. I wouldn't want to do it every weekend, but it is quite a treat to do this once a year. I am grateful to my supportive spouse and reasonably patient child for the opportunity, and to MotherReader for creating and maintaining the 48 Hour Book Challenge in the first place. Now, I am off to shower!

RIF_Primary_VerticalI almost forgot the most important part. I had decided to donate $5 to RIF for every hour that I spent on the challeng. So, rounding up slightly, that's $150 that I just donated to RIF, in honor of Pam. Book People Uniting!!

Summer of the Gypsy Moths: Sara Pennypacker

Book: Summer of the Gypsy Moths
Author: Sara Pennypacker (@SaraPennypacker)
Pages: 288
Age Range: 9 and up 

ImagesSummer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker was my 10th book read for the 2012 48 Hour Book Challenge, and my favorite. I just finished reading it, and am still teary-eyed over the rightness of the ending. I adore Sara Pennypacker's Clementine series, written for younger elementary school kids. Summer of the Gypsy Moths is more grown up, more serious and complex, but equally wonderful. 

After social services takes her away from her flighty mother, Stella is sent to live on Cape Cod with her Great-Aunt Louise. Louise also takes in Angel, a prickly orphan, as a foster child. But just as the summer begins (and just as the book begins), Louise dies suddenly, at home, of a heart attack. And Stella and Angel, each believing that by the end of the summer they'll have a family member who can take of them, decide to hide Louise's death. They bury her in the garden, and take on her responsibilities running the adjacent set of summer cottages. Only gradually do the two girls actually become friends.

I flagged about 20 passages in this book, and could have flagged more. As a reader, you know that you're in good hands when you read the very first paragraph:

"The earth spins at a thousand miles and hour. Sometimes when I remember this, it's all I can do to stay upright -- the urge to flatten myself to the ground and clutch hold is that strong. Because, gravity? Oh, gravity is no match for a force that equals ten simultaneous hurricanes. No, if we aren't all flung off the earth like so many water droplets off a cartoon dog's back, it must be because people are connected somehow. I like to imagine the ties between us as strands of spider silk: practically invisible maybe, but strong as steel. I figure the trick is to spin out enough of them to weave ourselves into a net." (Page 1)

Honestly, do you need to hear anything more about this book? A main character with a strong, unique voice? Check. Insightful prose? Check. (See also page 15: "Disgust waves practically spoked off her.") A compelling premise? Check. 

But we also have strong development of secondary characters, and growth of all the characters throughout the book. (See page 31: "His hair was a little shaggy, as if he was the kind of person who liked it short, and he kept meaning to go to the barber, but it just hadn't happened for a while.") We have a distinctive setting that the reader can easily visualize (and smell and taste). We have solid plotting that doesn't rely on coincidences or tricks. And an ending that will make the reader cry, in the best possible way.

I could say a lot more. But really? Just go out and get Summer of the Gypsy Moths. I don't see how anyone could be disappointed. Recommended in particular for fans of The Penderwicks series, and books by Cynthia Lord and Jennifer Holm. That is to say, recommended for anyone who enjoys realistic middle grade fiction that is well-written, entertaining, and meaningful. Summer of the Gypsy Moths has my highest recommendation. 

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Source of Book: Bought it (in hardcover, because I knew I would want to keep it)

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Children of Morrow: H. M. Hoover

Book: Children of Morrow
Author: H. M. Hoover
Pages: 240
Age Range: 10 and up 

ImagesMy 9th book read for the 2012 48 Hour Book Challenge was Children of Morrow by H. M. Hoover. Children of Morrow is post-apocalyptic science fiction novel for kids, published in 1973. I suspect that this book was one of the first post-apocalyptic novels that I read when I was a kid. It doubtless contributed to my life-long fascination with the genre. I've been meaning to re-read it for several years, ever since my childhood copy turned up, and decided that this was the perfect opportunity. 

Children of Morrow is about 12-year-old Tia and 9-year-old Rabbit, who live in a struggling, patriarchal society, many generations after global disasters have nearly destroyed the world. As far as they know, their village is all that remains of mankind. Tia and Rabbit are both outcasts in the village, and they both dream of people from a technologically advanced civilization called Morrow. When a crime puts Tia and Rabbit in imminent danger, they learn (through telepathy) that the people of Morrow are real, and want them. They set out on a dangerous journey, pursued by men from their village, hoping to find a new home.

Most of the story is told from Tia's viewpoint. However, interspersed chapters show the people of Morrow, and fill in details about how Tia and Rabbit came to be, and what happened to civilization. 

Children of Morrow is fast-paced and suspenseful. The details of the old world that Tia and Rabbit run across (including a crumbling city) are interesting. Tia and Rabbit are sympathetic characters (unlike just about everyone else from their village). I enjoyed revisiting Tia and Rabbit's world, and I'm curious to re-read the sequel (though I don't believe that I have a copy). 

That said, I don't actually think that Children of Morrow holds up compared to modern-day dystopian science fiction. Hoover isn't consistent in her viewpoints. At one point Tia and Rabbit are discovering that an odd green fruit is edible, though they don't know what it is. A chapter or two later, they are eating avocados. When they discover the crumbling buildings, they see a series of balconies. But people raised in their primitive village would hardly have a word for balcony. I understand that using the proper words for things is easier, but this sort of thing took me out of the story. There's also not much emotion or character development to the story - Tia and Rabbit's trials seem to be more physical then emotional. I think that was the style of the day. 

I'm glad I took the time to re-read Children of Morrow, because I've been wondering about it, and only vaguely remembering it, for years. I know that it fascinated me as a 10-year-old. Fans of 1970s science fiction, or those interested in checking out older post-apocalyptic novels should certainly give it a look (though it's out of print and probably hard to find). But I'm not going to clamor for Children of Morrow to be brought back to print. The conventions of the genre have expanded since 1973, and I think that there are better, more recent novels to read instead. (But I'm still going to keep an eye out for the sequel, as a gift for my childhood self.)

Publisher: Penguin (@ThePenguinPeeps)
Publication Date: 1973
Source of Book: Bought it, used

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).