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Posts from July 2012

J.K. Rowling to Give Webcast to Launch New Harry Potter Reading Club

I don't share news releases all that often, but this one caught my attention. Scholastic is launching a Harry Potter Reading Club, which I think is cool in and of itself. J.K. Rowling will be answering questions from kids live for the first time since 2007. And Donalyn Miller (aka The Book Whisperer) is an advisor to Scholastic on the new reading club, and quoted in the press release. So, worth sharing all around. 


Educators Can Sign Up Starting Today to Join October 11 Webcast Live from Edinburgh, Scotland

New York, NY  July 31, 2012 -- Scholastic (NASDAQ: SCHL), the global children's publishing, education and media company, today announces a live webcast with worldwide bestselling author J.K. Rowling on October 11, 2012 and the launch of the Harry Potter Reading Club, an online destination created to share the magical world of Harry Potter with a generation of new readers. The live webcast is presented by the new Harry Potter Reading Club from Scholastic at

At 12:00 noon ET (9:00am PT / 5:00pm GMT) on Thursday, October 11, J.K. Rowling will participate in a live virtual author visit to classrooms across America to discuss the world of Harry Potter including Pottermore (, an exciting, free online experience that offers Harry Potter fans the chance to explore and discover exclusive new writing by J.K. Rowling as well as immerse themselves in other interactive content and community activities.

The October 11 webcast will be broadcast live from J.K. Rowling’s hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland, and is the first time she has had the opportunity to answer questions from kids live since 2007.  Educators can sign up to join the webcast beginning today at  

The new Harry Potter Reading Club website provides educators, librarians, after school program coordinators and parents who want to organize a book club with access to all the tools they need to host a Harry Potter Reading Club and celebrate the joy of reading.  The first 10,000 registrants for the Club will receive a welcome kit including bookmarks, stickers and nametags.  Printable versions of these items will also be available for download from the website.

“Scholastic has been in conversation with educators, librarians, and other book lovers about ideas for bringing the Harry Potter books to new readers in exciting and different ways,” said Ellie Berger, President, Scholastic Trade. “The Harry Potter Reading Club is a direct response to that feedback and provides an entry point through which the thrill of these books can be shared with new generations of Harry Potter fans both within and beyond the classroom.” 

The Harry Potter Reading Club website includes a comprehensive discussion guide for each of the seven Harry Potter novels. The guides provide questions to help club members start an insightful conversation about the themes and events in the books and, in certain instances, how the books may relate to readers’ own lives and the world today. Each month Scholastic will add new themed activities to complement the Reading Club discussions that will often relate to experiences on the Pottermore website.

"I have run my own Harry Potter Reading Club with my students for two years and seen them grow into better readers while having a great shared reading experience,” said Donalyn Miller, sixth grade teacher, Trinity Meadows Intermediate School in Kellor, TX.   “I am delighted to be an advisor for Scholastic on the new Reading Club so that many more children will discover and become deeply engaged in the series in their own clubs all across the country."

The Harry Potter Reading Club will also feature a live feed at Twitter #hpREADS providing a community for club leaders as well as “Teacher Tips” from educators already running Harry Potter Reading Clubs. The site will also include a series overview, a glossary of terms and a pronunciation guide as well as information about author J.K. Rowling and illustrator Mary GrandPré. Harry Potter Reading Club members can also expect invitations to additional special events and contests.

Baby Says "Moo!": JoAnn Early Macken

Book: Baby Says "Moo!"
Author: JoAnn Early Macken 
Illustrator: David Walker
Pages: 32
Age Range: 1-4 

BabySaysMooBaby Says "Moo!" is a picture book that didn't wow me on the first read, but has really grown on me with repeat readings. And there have been many repeat readings, because this is a current Baby Bookworm favorite (she is 2 1/4). We read it at least once every day, usually before bed. 

The premise in Baby Says "Moo!" is that as a family goes through their day, the mother and father keep asking the baby what various animals that they encounter say. No matter the animal, the baby (clinging tightly to her little stuffed cow) always says "Moo!". The parents laugh and say things like:

"People say moo?
That can't be so.
Everybody knows that
people say hello.

A cow says moo,
sure as you're my bunny.
Where'd you ever find
an idea so funny? 

Eventually the family runs across a real cow, and baby has a chance to say "Moo!" correctly. Not a complex plot, certainly. But there is a lot to like about this quiet little book:

  • The text is cumulative, each time reviewing what all of the previously encountered animals say. This repetition is soothing for read-aloud, without being so lengthy as to become tedious. 
  • The text is also filled with little endearments between parents and child, like "sure as you're my lovey-dove, and I'm yours, too." Sappy, yes, but let's face it. This is how parents talk to their babies. Might as well capture it accurately.
  • There's a bit of advanced vocabulary, such as the description of the baby being "tuckered out", instead of just "tired".  
  • The animal sounds are in a different color (pink vs. blue), and each time an animal sound is described in the text, a little icon of the animal is shown next to the text. Nice for teaching purposes.  
  • The baby passes through various real-life scenarios, to the happy identification of the toddler-age reader. "Look, the baby is sitting in a shopping cart". "Look, the baby is in a car seat." "Look, the baby is going on a picnic." And so on. 
  • David Walker's illustrations are warm and friendly. The whole book is basically an idealized view of life from a toddler's viewpoint, with friendly people waving in the grocery store, and a cheerful yellow bird singing as the family's car drives by. 

Baby Says "Moo!" is a child-friendly read-aloud with enough rhyme to encourage repeat readings, but not enough to grate on the reader's nerves. The illustrations are cozy and welcoming, with soft colors and smiling characters. I'm grateful to Baby Bookworm for bringing this one into our regular reading rotation. Recommended for babies and toddlers. 

Publisher: Disney Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion)
Publication Date: March 1, 2011
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: July 27

Here are some of the links that I shared on Twitter this week. There are quite a few, because I did some catching up on my Google Reader earlier in the week.

RT @rifweb: So many reading lists, so little time. 10 great #SummerReading lists for kids and adults #BookPeopleUnite

RT @tashrow: "Mom, I Hate Reading!" – Tips (+ Book List) for Reluctant Readers #reading #kidlit

Stacked: Only you can educate yourself (on books beyond ones with big marketing budgets) @catagator

On the @Cybils blog: #Cybils App Organizer @MaryAnnScheuer Interviews Author William Joyce #kidlit

Best-Ever Teen Novels? Vote For Your 10 Favorites from @NPRBooks list of 235 finalists #yalit #kidlit

Very cool! Oregon District Keeps School Libraries Open to Prevent Summer Slide via @sljournal

Scary stuff! Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog - Roni Loren, Romance Author

Start a Preschool Book Club suggests Amy @LiteracyLaunch #literacy

NCBLA: Two-Day Schedule for National Book Festival Announced #kidlit #literacy

Real Authors Writing Real Letters to Real Kids | educating alice @medinger #kidlit

Stuffed letters are great for #literacy says Joyce Grant at Getting Kids Reading

Literacy, families and learning: Great New Children's Books for 5-18 year-olds (July 2012) from @TrevorHCairney #kidlit

Noblemania: Authors/illustrators dressed as superheroes via @FuseEight #kidlit

Encourage Children's #Literacy by Word Collecting suggests @bookchook

Announcing the summer YA scavenger hunt authors, from (+ including) @Gwenda #yalit

Reading Out Loud: 55 Favorite Read-Aloud Books from the @semicolonblog Homeschool | #kidlit

On the @cybils blog: Rest in Peace Margaret Mahy #kidlit

RT @tashrow: 10 of the Greatest YA Series of All Time #yalit

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

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling: Maryrose Wood

Book: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling
Author: Maryrose Wood (@Maryrose_Wood)
Narrator: Katherine Kellgren (@KatyKellgren)
Pages: 272
Age Range: 9-12

HowlingI do not, alas, recall who it was that recommended the audio versions of Maryrose Wood's Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. But I am grateful to whichever blogger it was, because I quite enjoyed the first book, The Mysterious Howling, and have already started the second. These are excellent audiobooks. The narrator, Katherine Kellgren, is fabulous. And the audio production (involving more than one scene with howling noises) is top-notch. The book itself is hilarious (though I always find it difficult to review books that I only have on audio, as I can't flag passages, and flip back through the book).

The Mysterious Howling begins as 15-year-old Penelope Lumley heads to Ashton Place for her first ever interview to be a governess. Her parents lost, Penelope has been raised at the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. She is a capable, resourceful, and animal-loving young female, all traits that stand her in good stead at the highly unconventional Ashton Place.

The book is set in some unspecified historical time period in rural England. The narrator often speaks directly to the reader, explaining how things were different back then (and, in some cases, how they aren't so different). The narrator also sometimes defines unfamiliar words, etc., shades of the Lemony Snicket books. I sometimes find this writing style entertaining, while in other cases I find it annoying. Maryrose Wood stays solidly on the side of entertaining. Although I can't share any quotes, unfortunately, I know that I laughed out loud on a number of occasions. This omniscient narrator approach also enables the reader to sometimes notice things that Penelope herself misses (thus making the reader feel smart). 

Katherine Kellgren is especially good at showcasing the personalities of the secondary characters in the book, including the housekeeper and Lord and Lady Ashton. The children, well, I suspect that their personalities will be developed more in later books (to say more would be a spoiler). As for Penelope, she is a delight from start to finish. 

The Mysterious Howling doesn't really stand alone. It leaves a number of mysteries unsolved, positively begging the reader to start the next book immediately. In fact, as soon as I started Book 2, I made sure to order Book 3. I've learned from Penelope the benefits of being well prepared. 

I should note that although the heroine is 15, The Mysterious Howling is solidly middle grade (albeit with sparks of humor to appeal to adults). Penelope is quite innocent for her age, and her adventures with the Incorrigibles are fully kid-friendly. I highly recommend The Mysterious Howling, particularly in the audio version, for anyone who enjoys middle grade fiction presented with a droll wit, and more than a dash of mystery.

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@BalzerAndBray)
Publication Date: February 23, 2010
Source of Book: Purchased from Audible on MP3

© 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).


Call for Papers for KidLitCon

It's that time of year again. The time for children's and young adult book bloggers to think about KidLitCon. This year the 6th annual Kidlitosphere Conference (aka KidLitCon) will be held in New York City on September 28th and 29th. This year's host, the tireless Betsy Bird, just posted the call for papers at A Fuse #8 Production. Betsy says:

That’s right, folks!  We are now accepting proposals for presentations at KidLitCon 2012!

We are looking for 50 minute presentations, panels, and keynotes that will appeal to and edify Kidlitosphere bloggers. Our goal is to provide a balanced selection for a wide range of interests and include, but are not limited to, topics of diversity, reviewing critically, evaluating illustrations, social media, marketing, and technology, and industry relationships.

Proposals are due by August 15, 2012, so be sure to get your ideas in soon!

We’ll only be accepting proposals submitted in the form found here."

Conference registration opens Monday, July 30th.

The conference changes location each year, to make it easier for a range of people to attend, moving Central to West to East. Past conferences have been held in Chicago; Portland, Oregon; Washington, DC; Minneapolis; and Seattle. For those of you on the East Coast, this is your chance to attend a relatively local KidLitCon. Of course I always think that KidLitCon is worth traveling for, wherever it's held. Stay tuned for more details! But now is the time to start thinking of session proposals ... 

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: July 23

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 1586 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every three weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (two picture books, one middle grade, and one YA), one children's literacy roundup, and an announcement about the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Winners.

I also recently started a new feature on my blog in which I share my recent Twitter links each week. I'm going to go ahead and include the three recent posts at the end of this newsletter, since several people have expressed interest in seeing them. If I find that they are cluttering the newsletter up, I will pull them back out in the future (feedback welcome). 

Reading Update: In the past 3 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. 

  • Jennifer A. Nielsen: The False Prince (Book 1, Ascendence Trilogy). Scholastic. Middle Grade. Completed July 6, 2012. My review.
  • Charlie Higson: The Fear (Enemy #3). Hyperion. Young Adult. Completed July 1, 2012. I haven't had a chance to review this third book of the Enemy series, but I read it with compulsive speed, and enjoyed the way the timing of The Fear interlaced with the previous two titles. I look forward to future books in the series. 
  • Lauren Henderson: Flirting in Italian. Delacorte Press. Young Adult. Completed July 11, 2012. My review.
  • Beth Revis: A Million Suns (an Across the Universe novel). Razorbill. Young Adult. Completed July 12, 2012, on MP3. I enjoyed this one, particularly with the dual narrators in the audio version. However, since it ends in a cliffhanger, I'm going to wait until book 3 comes out in January and review the trilogy as a whole. 
  • Jenn McKinlay: Books Can Be Deceiving. Berkley Prime Crime. Adult. Completed July 22, 2012. This is the first of a new cozy mystery series for adults, featuring the director of a small library (and her best friend, the children's librarian, who is also an aspiring picture book author). A tad predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless. I've purchased the second book already. 

Clearly, I need to get back into my groove in terms of reviewing. Anyway, I also continued to read picture books and board books aloud to Baby Bookworm. We're currently at 2069 books read aloud for 2012 (including repeats). Current favorites include You Are My Little Cupcake by Amy Sklansky, Basil's Birds by Lynn Rowe Reed, and Boni Ashburn and Kelly Murphy's two dragon books (especially Over at the Castle). Oh, and Pink Me Up by Charise Mericle Harper.  

I'm currently listening to The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book 1by Maryrose Wood on MP3, and reading the latest Walt Longmire novel by Craig Johnson, As the Crow Flies, on my Kindle. I'm also enjoying the new A&E television series Longmire. Highly recommended for mystery/drama fans. 

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.

Links I Shared on Twitter This Week: July 20

Here are some links that I shared on Twitter this week (a short list because I've taken some vacation time this week, and had minimal time on Twitter):

Very Pinteresting!: The hot social network is taking educators by storm — The Digital Shift by @KateMessner

Book list at Reading, Teaching, Learning blog: Death and Loss in Middle Grade Novels #kidlit

EyeCare About Reading Book Drive via Cynthia Lord's blog #literacy

On the off chance that anyone is interested, I've just updated my blog's Review Policy #kidlit

RT @CBCBook: Can books serve as mirrors? @SimonKids editor Namrata Tripathi on 'The View from Saturday.'

Interesting stuff! RT @catagator: On the blog, links of note

RT @MrSchuReads: "Join other bookaholics through the hashtag #bookaday " - @debramarshall

RT @PlayByTheBook: Why I want to give a book to every child born in Ireland … < by Irish children's laureate @sharkeytweets

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

Flirting in Italian: Lauren Henderson

Book: Flirting in Italian
Author: Lauren Henderson
Pages: 336
Age Range: 12 and up 

Flirting in Italian is Flirtingcoverthe start of a new series by UK author Lauren Henderson. Henderson also wrote the Scarlett Wakefield series, which I reviewed here and here. Though set in a different country (Italy vs. England), Flirting in Italian has a very similar feel to the Scarlett Wakefield books. So similar that I am certain that had I started Flirting in Italian without knowing the author, I would easily have been able to name her. This is not a criticism - I enjoyed the Scarlett Wakefield books thoroughly, and found Flirting in Italian equally pleasing. But the strength of Henderson's voice makes it a bit difficult to distinguish between Scarlett and Violet (note similarity of names), despite differences in the two girls' situations. 

Anyway, Flirting in Italian is about Violet Routledge, a teen from London who signs up for an eight week summer program at the Villa Barbiano in Tuscany. Though the program is ostensibly to help Violet with her University applications, Violet's real reason for choosing this particular program is the Villa Barbiano's proximity to the Castello di Vesperi. The Castello di Vesperi is linked to a late 18th century painting of a woman who looks remarkably like Violet (who has no resemblance to either of her parents). Violet wants to learn about the unknown woman in the portrait, and find out whether she shares some secret connection to Violet. The fact that Violet will be able to flirt with handsome Italian guys while she's there (including the young scion of the Castello di Vesperi), well, that's an added bonus. 

Flirting in Italian is part mystery (as Violet finds her life in danger) and part teen romance, with the faintest hints of the supernatural. It does take a while for the plot to really get going - there's quite a bit of description of the villa and the other girls sharing Violet's course, etc. There are digressions regarding "the Swimsuit Beauty Parade" (and body image insecurities to which many teen girls will relate), and the different flirting styles of Italian vs. British and American males. But I still found the book to move along quickly, thanks to Henderson's breezy style, a mix of dramatic teen intensity and apt description. For example:

"I bite my lip. I don't know anything about the portrait. I can't even buy a postcard of it. So how am I ever going to find out who the girl in the paining is? I have to discover why on earth a girl who lived in the late eighteenth century -- in Italy! -- looks so like me she could be my twin sister." (Page 4)

"I fumble in my bag for my sunglasses, holding up the people behind me. Warm, humid air wraps itself around me insistently, demanding that I unzip my jacket, pull off my cotton sweater, bare my arms and neck to the blazing mid-afternoon sunshine. By the time I'm down the wobbly metal stairs, by the time my feet touch Italian soil, I've wrestled off the outer layers I was wearing in the air-conditioned plane. Everyone else is going the same, wriggling and writhing as they cross the tarmac, shrugging off jackets, stuffing them into carry-on cases, older English men and women put on on the straw Panama hats and ribboned raffia boaters they've brought to protect their white skin from the scorching Mediterranean sun." (Page 31-32)

The present tense viewpoint helps keep things moving quickly, too, with various chapter-ending cliffhangers. 

I recommend Flirting in Italian for teenage girls and adult women who enjoy a mix of mystery and romance (there is a fair bit of kissing, and some drinking). Because of the way the romantic and interpersonal elements (rivalries between the girls, etc.) dominate the mystery, I do think that this is more of a book for girls than for boys. It would make a nice next book following the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books, with slightly more mature content. 

One warning - as with the Scarlett Wakefield books, part of the plot wraps up in this book, but other threads are left for the not-yet-released sequel,Kissing in Italian. Those who demand instant gratification would be best served by waiting until the next book comes out (and perhaps the one after that - I don't know). But as for me, I'll enjoy looking forward to Kissing in Italian. The book, that is.

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: June 12, 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: July 13

Here are some links that I shared on Twitter this week that I thought might be of interest:

How the iPad Can Transform Classroom Learning @Edutopia via NCLE SmartBrief #literacy

The Care and Feeding of Middle Grade Readers | educating alice  @medinger #kidlit

Good stuff! Stimulating the imagination of the gifted child by @TrevorHCairney

News Bites @sljournal: Love Your Librarian? Then Show It by nominating her/him for this award:

A story to please book-lovers (+ their inner 10 year olds) everywhere by @jenniholm on @NerdyBookClub

Cybils blog: @Cybils Staff Publishing News! Yay for our own @ginaruiz !

RT @tashrow: Great escapes (some quite literal!) for middle-grade summer reading — The Horn Book #kidlit

RT @playbythebook: Charlie Higson: 'Let's not revive this dead debate about reading ages on books' …

E-Readers and how they can help readers with Dyslexia: (via @readingrockets) #literacy

Simple Yet Powerful Things to Do While Reading Aloud: (via @readingrockets) #literacy

Teaching Kids Vocabulary: Five Common Misconceptions via @readingrockets #literacy

RT @amygaerlan: A closer look at RIF (Reading is Fundamental).#BookPeopleUnite  @RIFWEB

Disturbing stuff: Why Are American Kids So Spoiled? @NewYorker via @semicolonblog

The @NerdyBookClub shares their Top Ten Girl Power Books: Middle Grade:  #kidlit

RT @Hokuboku: How an Abandoned Walmart Became an Award-Winning Public Library:

Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results from @FuseEight, all in one handy list. A great #summerreading list!

#Cybils blog: Download and Print Your 2011 @Cybils Flyer! Complete with all the finalists + winners  @aquafortis

Brilliant! Brazilian prisoners given novel way to reduce their sentences: read books via @catagator

I hope that people find these posts useful. For me, it's encouraging to see how many tweet-worthy links crop up in a week. Thanks for checking in!

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

2012 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Finalists and Winner Announced

WaldenAwardLogoThe Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is pleased and proud to announce the finalists for the 2012 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award for Young Adult Fiction.  Established in 2008 to honor the wishes of young adult author Amelia Elizabeth Walden, the award allows for the sum of $5,000 to be presented annually to the author of a young adult title selected by the ALAN Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Committee as demonstrating a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit. 

Updated July 23rd to add:

The winner of the 2012 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award is:

ShineShine by Lauren Myracle (Amulet Books)

The other 2012 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award finalists are:

ImagesThe Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow (HarperCollins)

Images (2)Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Philomel Books). This book was also a 2011 Cybils Award finalist in Young Adult Fiction.

Images (3)Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Margaret K. McElderry Books). This book was also the 2011 Cybils Award winner for Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Images (4)Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Lee & Low Books)

All Walden Award titles will be identified by an award sticker—gold for the winner and silver for the four finalists. The winning title and finalists will be honored on Monday, November 19th at the 2012 ALAN Workshop in Las Vegas, Nevada, and will be invited to participate in a panel discussion.

The 2012 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee would like to thank: the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Foundation, the ALAN Executive Council, the ALAN Board of Directors, NCTE, and the thirty publishers who submitted titles for consideration.

The 2012 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee considered nearly 300 young adult titles throughout the process.  The committee was comprised of eleven members representing the university, K-12 school, and library communities.  They are:

Ricki Ginsberg, Committee Chair
Classroom Teacher, Rockville High School, Vernon, CT

Wendy Glenn, Past Chair
Associate Professor, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

Carolyn Angus
Director, George G. Stone Center for Children’s Books, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA

Jonatha Basye
Librarian, Ralston High School, Ralston, NE

Lois Buckman
Librarian, Caney Creek High School, Conroe, TX

Jeff Harr
Classroom Teacher, Theodore Roosevelt High School, Kent, OH

Jeff Kaplan
Associate Professor, College of Education, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL

Kellee Moye
Classroom Teacher, Hunter’s Creek Middle School, Orlando, FL

Mindi Rench
Classroom Teacher, Northbrook Junior High School, Northbrook, IL

Lois Stover
Professor, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, St Mary’s City, MD

Diane Tuccillo
Teen Services Librarian, Poudre River Public Library District, Fort Collins, CO

For more information on the award, please visit ALAN Online: The Official Site of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Book: The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen (@NielsenWriter)
Pages: 352
Age Range: 9 and up

TheFalsePrinceThe False Prince is the first book in Jennifer A. Nielsen's Ascendance Trilogy. 14-year-old orphan Sage is one of four boys purchased from orphanages around the kingdom of Carthya. Their buyer, Conner, is one of the king's regents. Aware of the secret news that the king and queen, together with their eldest son, are dead, Conner has a bold plan to bring one of the boys forward as the king's long-lost younger son, Prince Jaron. The boys find themselves in a high-stakes competition. The winner will become King of Carthya. The losers will almost surely be killed. Conner's plan is treason, and the ruthless noble will do anything to protect his secret. The False Prince is an enjoyable start to a promising new series. 

Sage is a strong protagonist. He's a liar and a thief. He's rough around the edges and ridiculously stubborn, but oh-so-clever. And (for a lying thief), quite moral, too. He stands up to Conner, even at a cost of great suffering. He also stands up for a mute serving girl, Imogen, who is apparently being mistreated. He is the bane of his captors' existence, and their greatest hope. 

I quite like Sage's voice, too. He's a bit cocky, of course, but with a delightfully dry sense of humor. Like this:

"The butcher gave me a final kick in the side, then leaned low toward me. "If you ever come into my shop again, I'll cut you up and sell you as meat at the market. Got it?"

The message was straightforward. I nodded." (Page 2-3)

and this:

"You have an clever tongue and an arrogant tilt to your head. I'm surprised Mrs. Turbeldy hasn't beaten it out of you."

"You mustn't blame her. She beat me the best she could." (Page 28)

(where Mrs. Turbeldy is the woman who ran the orphanage where Sage lived.)

I read a lot of books, and Sage stands out as a memorable hero. The other characters are all quite well-developed, too. Even the thugs have a bit of backstory. 

Plotwise, The False Prince is fast-paced and filled with twists and turns. It's the kind of book that will make kids want to stay up late, reading one more chapter. I did personally spot the biggest twist quite early on, but this didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book - I just felt "in the know". And Nielsen covered things up enough that I couldn't be absolutely sure, with a nice attention to detail. 

I didn't find the world in The False Prince quite as fully realizes as some, but I thought that the strong characters made up for this. 

Anyone who enjoys books about castles, swordfights, and plucky orphans should look no further than The False Prince. This is a great summer read for anyone really, age 9 and up. I look forward to the remaining books in the trilogy.  

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: April 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: July 6

Here are some links that I shared on Twitter this week (and that weren't already highlighted in my Children's Literacy Roundup post):

Sherry @semicolonblog shares: 55 Favorite First Lines from Favorite Books. How many do you recognize?

On a positive note: @abbylibrarian is collecting posts on great things teachers are doing with ARCs:

Here is @FuseEight's Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results, the complete list: #kidlit #picturebooks

OK, this one resonated: RT @tashrow: The Busy Trap: @NYTimes

Disturbing! RT @tashrow: Your E-Book Is Reading You: via @WSJ

RT @rifweb: Join the #BeBookSmart Twitter party Wed 7/11 @ 6-8 PM EST. Win 1 of 10 $25 @Macys giftcards. RSVP here: …

RT @mrschureads: "Dialogue is key to cultivating a love of books and reading in all children" -Pam Allyn Best Books for Boys

Publisher's Weekly: Conference Decorum: Where ARC Thou? via @PWKidsBookshelf #arcgate @catagator

CLiF Stocks Little Free Libraries in Bolton, VT, via @cliforg blog: #literacy

RT @DonalynBooks: Scientists discover that through experience taking books can change you. The Atlantic:

So neat. Girl receives The Places You Will Go, signed by 13 years of teachers, from dad for graduation @HuffingtonPost

"How can the provision of a library service be compulsory in prisons but not in schools?" - #literacy

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

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