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Posts from December 2013

The Cybils Shortlists Are Nigh!

Cybils2013SmallTonight at midnight (Arizona time), the Cybils shortlists will be announced in all 11 categories (plus some sub-categories). Stay tuned at for the finalists. 

I truly believe that the Cybils shortlists are one of the finest resources that the Kidlitosphere has to offer. They are the result of > 50 round 1 bloggers (teachers, librarians, parents, authors, and more), who have read their way through more than 1300 nominated titles across the various categories. These tireless readers have winnowed each category down to a list of five to seven titles that believe are the most kid-friendly and well-written of the bunch. 

The Cybils shortlists are available by age range and genre (poetry, graphic novels, non-fiction, fiction, speculative fiction, book apps). Each list offers a wonderful starting place for anyone who is looking for great new books for a particular child. You can browse past shortlist by going to and following the links in the upper right-hand corner. For this year's lists, as I said, stay tuned. They are coming in just a few short hours. And they are fabulous! 

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Rosie Revere, Engineer: Andrea Beaty & David Roberts

Book: Rosie Revere, Engineer
Author: Andrea Beaty
Illustrator: David Roberts
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 and up

How on earth did I miss the publication of Rosie Revere, Engineer, a companion picture book to Andrea Beaty and David Roberts' Iggy Peck, Architect? I received Iggy Peck around the time my daughter was born, and I regret that I never reviewed it. But it is one of our favorites. We also adore Doctor Ted (reviewed here), and aspire to own the two sequels. So when I spotted Rosie Revere, Engineer in Books, Inc. last night, I snatched it down from the shelf, and purchased it, unread. I didn't need to read it to know that THIS was a book that I wanted for my daughter. 

Rosie Revere is a classmate to young Iggy Peck (an architecture-obsessed boy who eventually uses his architecture skills to save his class, and win over his building-phobic teacher). Unlike Iggy, Rosie likes inventing objects; gadgets, gizmos, and machines. Rosie does all of her tinkering in secret, hiding her projects away under her bed, emotionally scarred by an uncle who laughed at one of her inventions years earlier. But when her great-great aunt Rose (an homage to the fictional Rosie the Riveter of WW II) comes for a visit, Rosie is inspired to try something bold.

The lesson of trying again if you don't succeed is overt:

"She handed a notebook to Rosie Revere,
who smiled at her aunt as it all became clear.
Life might have its failures, but this was not it.
The only true failure can come if you quit."

But I like how with only a bit of encouragement from a caring adult, Rosie figures out this lesson on her own, and then spreads it to her classroom. And I LOVE the more subtle message, that girls can be engineers, may even find engineering a calling. 

I also like Andrea Beaty's bouncy, rhyming, non-singsongy text. Like this:

"But questions are tricky, and some hold on tight,
and this one kept Rosie awake through the night.
So when dawn approached and red streaks lit the sky,
young Rosie knew just how to make her aunt fly."

David Roberts' watercolor, pen and ink, and graph paper illustrations are perfect for this story. The second page spread shows Rosie, working away in her jammies, surrounded by hundreds or brightly colored gears and objects. A tinkerer could spend ages on this page alone. And adult readers will not miss the tiny image of Rosie the Riveter mixed in with all of the paraphernalia. The graph paper and some sections that include drawings of airplanes also remind me of the illustrations in Mini Grey's Egg Drop (reviewed here). There's a lovely spread that includes pencil drawings and hand-written notes about various achievements by women in aerospace. I also love the joy that jumps from the final page spread, in which Rosie and Iggy's classmates (a diverse collection overall) each celebrate their own inventions. 

Rosie Revere, Engineer is a must-purchase for parents who would like their daughters to dream big dreams, and persevere in the face of adversity (and what parent doesn't?). I would expect this book to appeal to boys, too, of course, many of whom will relate to a love of gizmos and gadgets. I can't believe that I nearly missed this book. Score one for the face-out display at an independent bookstore. In addition to purchasing this for my daughter, I'm also sending a copy to an adult friend (a woman engineer) who I know will appreciate it. Highly recommended!

Publisher:  Harry N. Abrams (@abramskids)
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Source of Book: Bought it for my daughter for Christmas

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Roomies: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Book: Roomies
Authors: Sara Zarr (@SaraZarr) and Tara Altebrando (@TaraAltebrando)
Pages: 288
Age Range: 13 and up

Roomies is the story of the summer before college, told from the alternating perspective of two future roommates. Elizabeth, or EB, lives in New Jersey with her single mother, and looks forward to traveling across the country to UC Berkeley at the end of August. Lauren, or Lo, lives in San Francisco, and worries about how her parents will cope with her five much younger siblings once she has moved across the Bay. The two young women get to know one another slowly, with fits and starts, via email throughout the summer. The entire book is not told in email, though - details about the girls' lives are filled in via alternating first-person chapters. 

Although both Lauren and Elizabeth have summer relationships with boys, I liked that the core relationship that Roomies is exploring is that of the two future roommates. The romances are both nice (one inter-racial, one inter-socioeconomic-status), but neither demonstrates much conflict. Authors Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando reserve that for EB and Lo's relationship. The alternating viewpoints allow the reader to glimpse each girl from the outside, and their voices are quite distinct. The digital version that I read also used a much larger font for one of the viewpoints, which helped, too. I never had that problem of wondering which character I was reading about (something I frequently notice in first-person multiple-narrator stories). 

I also liked the authors' choice to set this book during the summer before college. This is a such a pivotal time for teens - preparing to leave family and high school friends, uncertain about the future - or at least it was for me. I'm thrilled to find another novel that takes this on. (Roomies could paid well with Justina Chen's Return to Me). 

Another aspect of Roomies that I appreciated was that the authors weren't afraid to take on discussions about race and sexual preference. Elizabeth's long-absent father is gay, while Lauren's simmering relationship is with a boy who is black (as she is not). More to the point, Lauren and Elizabeth discuss these things - Elizabeth's awkward feelings about having a gay dad, and the uncertainty that Lauren feels in dating someone black (Keyon), because this is new for her. Here's a quote:

"Race. It's so tricky, even though we're all supposedly enlightened and color-blind. I don't want it to be a Thing. But it kind of is a Thing, isn't it?" (Lauren, describing her first visit to Keyon's house)

Both Lauren's and Keyon's parents are well-meaning but also awkward. All in all, I found this refreshing. 

I did find some of the text (mostly from Lauren) a little ... deliberately profound. Like this:

"As much as I love to imagine being alone in an orderly lab, I also know you can't stay in there forever and expect to do good work. Life is one of those experiments meant to be conducted in a stimulating, messy environment."

But that's a minor quibble from an adult reader. The style of writing will probably work well for actual teens who are thinking about heading off to college, and all of the change that this implies.

Roommates getting to know one another over the summer before college is the perfect vehicle for teen self-exploration. Roomies is a relatively light take on relationships with friends, boyfriends, and, of course, roommates. There is some adult behavior discussed (including sex), though nothing described in detail. This is still YA, not new adult, in other words, but I don't see it having much interest for kids who aren't yet in high school. For kids (mainly girls) approaching the end of high school, though, Roomies would make a great gift. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: December 24, 2013
Source of Book: Advance digital review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Erased (Altered): Jennifer Rush

Book: Erased (Altered #2)
Author: Jennifer Rush (@Jenn_Rush)
Pages: 288
Age Range: 12 and up

Erased is the sequel to Altered (reviewed here) by Jennifer Rush. Altered introduces Anna, who lives above a secret lab holding four genetically altered boys. A shadowy organization called the Branch has enhanced the boys' capabilities, wiped their memories, and used them as weapons / assassins. In the first book, Anna learns that she has been part of the experiment all along, too. 

Erased finds Anna in hiding from the Branch, with Sam, Nick, and Cas. Although their lives are perilous, there's a certain stability to the surrogate family that Anna and "the boys" form, and to Anna's relationship with Sam. This stability is threatened when it appears that Anna's sister, Dani, whom they all thought was dead, may be looking for them. Various dangers, flashbacks, and investigations into all of their pasts, follow.  

Erased is that rare sequel that, I think, is better than the first book. There's more action, and less figuring out of what's going on along the way. There's still suspense, but as a reader, you have a better idea of what's going on from the start. Rush also does a nice job of recapping the situation from the first book, without going into excessive detail. Also, and this was important for me, Anna is a much stronger character in the second book, not putting herself down so much for not being as physically capable as the boys. She's learned self-defense, and pushed her (not artificially strengthened) body to improve her stamina. 

There is still a little of the "oh, they're so much better than me". Like this:

"Like all the boys, Nick, even at his worst, was gorgeous. It drove me crazy. I didn't consider myself unattractive, but next to them, I was painfully average. They didn't know the meaning of a bad hair day." (Chapter 1)

But this doesn't stop her from being mainly secure in her place with them. 

I did like this:

"In the months since Sam, Nick, and Cas had escaped the Branch's lab, and I'd gone with them, I'd learned that nothing was permanent, not even my memories. Now I took every opportunity to savor what I had, just in case. (Chapter 1)

There are some useful practical tips for anyone on the run from a powerful organization, like the fact that you should use your money to buy weapons, because weapons are a lot harder to steal than food. And how to tell if a house is probably a vacation home, and thus safe to break into to squat for a little while in mid-winter. Fun stuff for thriller fans. 

In terms of content advisory, I do think that this is more a high school book than a middle school book. The language is fine, and there's no overt sex. But Anna is clearly sharing a bedroom with Sam, and there are descriptions of their closeness ("It was like my nerve endings weren't truly functioning unless they were beneath Sam's fingers.") More significant, to me, is the fact that the teens, including Anna, kill quite a number of people. Enemies who are out to get them, mainly, but some adult gatekeepers may find that this aspect of the books makes it less desirable for middle schoolers.

Personally, though, I found Erased to be fast-paced and interesting, with enough clues revealed along the way to make me feel smart as I figured out what was going on. Teens looking for thrillers with a bit of science fiction (brain wipes, genetic modification), and plenty of chases and shootouts, will want to give this series a look. Erased (due out in early January) seems to wrap up the series, but there is a short story prequel being released this week. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids) 
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 20

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage.

Book Lists and Awards

Road Trip! 10 (Classic) Audio Book Suggestions for the Whole Family | Redeemed Reader

Reviews on a Theme: Time Travel #YAlit from @lenoreva

A list of SFF #kidlit where SNOW is an important part of setting at Views From the Tesseract

Plenty of great ideas here (categorized by age + genre) | 100 Magnificent Children’s Books 2013 — @fuseeight #kidlit

RT @90SecondNewbery: @anitasilvey's predictions about the books from 2013 that we are unlikely to forget any time soon.

Armchair #Cybils Picture Book Round-up 2 | alibrarymama  #kidlit

Sport-themed Books Not for Sporty Kids only #Kidlit #Cybils from Jennifer @5M4B

The 2013 Nerdy Award Ballot is up @NerdyBookClub (voting open to end of day 12/21) #kidlit

New Book Read Alike Recommendations by @heisereads NerdyBookClub #kidlit #yalit

14 Children's Books about Trying New Things from @momandkiddo | Includes my fave THE PINK REFRIGERATOR #kidlit

Green Light YA Reads: A Flowchart (books ok for 11-12 year olds) | @catagator @bookriot #yalit

Book list: African-American Interest Young Readers' Titles 2013–2014 via @CBCBook #kidlit

Best Books of 2013 from @NPRBooks via @tashrow #kidlit #yalit

Stacked: Looking Ahead to Science Fiction and Fantasy in 2014: Part One  #yalit

Gender and Diversity

No Girls Allowed — @lizb on a truly dreadful revelation, how superhero cartoon execs seek to portray girls as lesser

Sigh RT @tashrow Of the 124 Authors Who Made the ‘Times’ Top 10 Bestseller Lists in 2012, Only 3 Were People of Color

BooaholicGrowing Bookworms

A good early #literacy activity from @NoVALibraryMom | Santa Letters

RT @FirstBook: Great articles @washingtonpost on inspiring #reluctant #readers! So many books from our dear friend @The_Pigeon!

Good tips for Encouraging Your Child to Read Over Winter Break from Raising Great Readers with Great Books #literacy

Encouraging kids with the "luxury" of extra reading time over the holidays, by @frankisibberson @ChoiceLiteracy

Holiday Gift Guides

It's beginning to look a lot like BOOKSHELF - Great pairs of book to give kids 2013 from Paula at Pink Me

A holiday #kidlit book-giving guide with reccommendations based on emerging #literacy levels from @ReadingWithBean


Always entertaining | 2013 Children’s Lit: The Year in Miscellanea — @100scopenotes #kidlit

On Reading and Writing

Here's What Your Favorite Children's Book Series Says About You, @HuffPostBooks via @PWKidsBookshelf

Lots of great titles: Children's Publishers Choose Their 2013 Favorites in @PublishersWkly #kidlit

What’s New About New Adult? by @catagator @sophiebiblio + @LizB in @HornBook #yalit

RT @BookPatrol: "the results are clear and consistent" - Readers are not nerds! Studies show adult readers "active and social"

Lumos! How Harry Potter Switched the Light On My Reading Life by @AnnieWhitlock @NerdyBookClub


Popcorn Surprise is the latest Random Act of Kindness for Kids from @CoffeeandCrayon

10 Ways to Get Your Children Writing in the Holidays from @TrevorHCairney  #literacy

Programs and Research

BookOnBedbanner180Ask Amy makes her annual pitch for the Book on Every Bed movement (with Family Reading Partnership) [Image credit to Family Reading Partnership]

U.S. Math Education Still in the Doldrums, @Freakonomics blog on PISA results and poverty not being the explanation

Heartwarming | The Wonderful Joy of Ballou HS & Their New Books! Guys Lit Wire and @chasingray #yalit

Schools and Libraries

Tweet, Tweet: Using Twitter to Promote A Culture of #Literacy by teacher @thereadingzone @NerdyBookClub

What One Resource Would You Refer to for Teaching and Learning? asks @ReadByExample | Replies here:

How to teach… reading for pleasure | @Guardian Teacher Network via @librareanne

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

Superworm: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

Book: Superworm
Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-8

Superworm is an upcoming picture book from the UK-based team that created The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Superworm is a large worm who is much loved for his flexibility and his willingness to help other creatures. When Superworm is kidnapped by Wizard Lizard, his friends set out to save him. 

Superworm is relatively text heavy for a picture book. All of the text is in rhyming couplets, like this:

"Superworm is super-long,
Superworm is super-strong.
Watch him wiggle! See him squirm!
Hip, hip hooray for SUPERWORM!"

The above sequence is repeated a couple of times throughout the book, giving kids a chance to chime in. There's some less-common vocabulary, like "chant", "mope", and "lair" (each of which ends up working well with the appropriate rhyme). Personally, I found it a bit too much rhyming, across the whole of the book. But I suspect it's one of those books that grows on you through multiple read-alouds. Once I have the final printed version in hand, I will try it with my daughter. 

I do quite like the creativity modeled throughout the book. The other animals and insects find creative uses for Superworm, treating him as a swing, a slide, and even a hula hoop. And when the other creatures set out to rescue Superworm, they each take advantage of their own strengths (the spider weaving a web, etc.). The villain has a satisfying comeuppance. Here's a snippet:

"The web is strong. The web is tough.
The web is plenty big enough.
The wizard wakes. "This isn't funny!
I'm wrapped in leaves and stuck with honey!"

Pretty sure kids WILL find that funny. 

Scheffler's insect-scaled illustrations are colorful and eye-catching, with oversized flowers, and big-eyed, cartoon-like creatures. Superworm is pink and wrinkled, and usually has a smile on his face. While not quite realistic in their depiction, the garden creatures are impossible not to like. Young readers may never look at worms and other small creatures the same way again.

I recommend Superworm for home or library use. The U.S. edition is due out in late January, and is sure to be a hit. 

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Merry Grinch-mas!

My husband and I watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas (original Boris Karloff animated version) with our three year old daughter last week. She was utterly enchanted. Of course I made sure to tell her that the story was originally from a book by Dr. Seuss. But for some reason, we didn't have a copy of the book. I made a mental note to rectify the situation, but then it slipped through the cracks.

Imagine my pleasure, then, when a copy of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the book, showed up on my doorstep yesterday, sent by the folks at Random House. As soon as my daughter saw it, she insisted that I put aside my work to read it to her (despite a babysitter also being present). I was, naturally, unable to resist.

This was my first read-aloud of the book ... perhaps ever. But the lines trip off the tongue, familiar after more years than I care to admit of watching the TV/video/DVD version. And in truth, they would trip off the tongue anyway, because How the Grinch Stole Christmas is Dr. Seuss at his best. The movie isn't 100% true to book, but close enough. Sitting, reading this book to my daughter for the first time is destined to be one of my favorite memories from the 2013 holiday season. 

I can't imagine that Random House is looking for reviews of a 56 year old classic. But they are trying to spread the word about a new campaign to "extend the Grinch's heartwarming message into an annual tradition of good-deed-doing and giving back to the community with 25 Days of Grinch-mas." Here's a bit from the website:

"Grinch-mas is a new holiday tradition inspired by Dr. Seuss’s classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas! that encourages readers to “grow your heart three sizes” through the celebration of family reading, giving from the heart and community spirit. National Grinch Day, on December 1, will kick start the 25 Days of Grinch-mas. During this time, bookstores and local retailers all over the country will be hosting Grinch-mas events that will incorporate holiday story times for families and opportunities for kids to win special prizes for giving back to their communities by doing good deeds throughout the month of December."

The website features kid-accessible Daily Good Deed suggestions, like: "Make someone laugh." There are also printables and activities and the like, If you have kids who are fans of the book or the movie, it certainly couldn't hurt to use 25 Days of Grinch-mas as a springboard for fun and the spreading of good cheer. 

I think it's safe to say that I'll be reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas quite a lot in the coming days. 

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate. 

Reflections on 8 Years of Blogging

JRBPlogo-smallToday marks the 8 year anniversary of the day that I started my blog. Here's what I said in my very first post:

"Hi! I'm Jen Robinson. Here are three things that you should know about me.

  1. I love stories, especially in book form, and most especially mysteries, thrillers, and children's books. To that end, I would like to offer support to the people who produce stories (writers and publishes), and offer ideas to the people who love stories.
  2. I strongly believe that all children should be given the opportunity to learn to love books and reading for pleasure. I'll be on the lookout for suggestions for parents to help raise children who read, inspirational success stories, and literacy news and resources.
  3. I think that many adults could benefit from reading children's books, too. I think that if more adults read children's books they would a) find them enjoyable, b) help to support the children's book industry (thus bolstering item 1 above), and c) offer tremendous validation to children (thus supporting item 2 above).

I'm saddened by the declining rate of reading for pleasure in the our adult population in the U.S. I'm even more saddened when I hear of children growing up illiterate, or literate, but too busy to take time to read. I've started this blog as a tiny step to do something about that. Thanks for reading! More to follow..."

And more has followed. This is post #2697 at Jen Robinson's Book Page. Typepad says that I have >800,000 page views and >10,000 comments (including my own responses to other people's comments). I now have my own snazzy logo, designed by the talented Sarah Stevenson.

Cybils2013SmallI'm involved with the Cybils, Kidlitosphere Central, KidLitCon, and the Children's Book Review Wiki. I've participated in dozens of Carnivals of Children's Literature. Pretty good, for someone who's not much of a joiner. I've participated in these things because in the Kidlitosphere, I've found my people, and I love interacting with them. The community of children's and young adult book bloggers has become something of an extended family for me, and this makes me very happy. 

I'm still reviewing children's and young adult books, and sharing literacy news and tips. In many ways, my blog hasn't changed much over the years. I think the two biggest changes are:

  1. LiteracyMilestoneANow that I have a child, my literacy tips and musings, as well as some of my reviews, include a more personal component. I've been sharing my daughter's literacy milestone, for example, and the books that she loves (even when I don't love them myself). This may make the blog a bit less "professional" (if it ever was), but I think it adds something, too. 
  2. When I run across blog posts or news articles about literacy, I no longer post about them directly on my blog. These days I share those things out on Twitter (and, to a lesser extent, Facebook) right away. Then I round up the links once a week in a single blog post, without any commentary. I'm not sure whether this is a good change. I don't discuss these stories as much as I would like these days. On the other hand, I'm able to share more of them, and with a broader audience. So there are pros and cons. But really, it doesn't matter whether it's good or not, because this is what I can manage right now. And if there's one thing I've learned in 8 years of blogging, it's that you have to do what you can, and not let the things that you can't do stress you out. 

As I said in my first post, I am a person who loves books, and who believes strongly that kids should have the chance to love them, too. But I'm also a person who chose to go into engineering and start a software firm (from which I make my living). Even though I chose a different career path, this blog allows me to do something constructive with my love for books and literacy. For that, I am very grateful. And I expect that I'll be here blogging for a long time. Whether you've been with me for the whole 8 years, or are just popping in today for the first time, or anywhere in between, thanks so much for reading. 

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate. 

Literacy Milestone: Child "Reading" A Book Aloud to Me

LiteracyMilestoneAYesterday my daughter eagerly called to me to tell me that she had just read a book by herself, not just looking at the pictures but reading the words. And she wanted to read it to me. We were running late for a holiday party, but I was naturally unable to resist saying "OK, read the book to me."

She had a little pile of books from the Little Critter Phonics Fun Set, which I received from HarperCollins, and which she adores. These books are much-simplied versions of existing Little Critter titles, each focusing on a particular series of sounds. They are tiny square paperbacks, ~5" in size, and easy to hold. She shuffled through the stack until she came to the one she wanted, and then she began:

"Going to the Sea Park. By Mercer Mayer." 

Then she "read" the book to me. She didn't actually look at the text at all, so I know that she wasn't technically reading. And she wasn't letter-perfect - this wasn't a book that she had memorized, word for word. But she knew it well enough to come up with the gist for each page. 

Then, even though we were getting later and later for the party, I let her read me another (A Green, Green Garden). I especially loved that she shared the title and author before opening each book, as I do when I read to her. She's learned that this is the proper way to read a book to someone. 

I suggested that she read me more of the books on our way to the party, but she wanted me to be able to see the pictures, so we had to stop. But I was happy that even in the midst of a weekend of holiday craziness, we made time for another little literacy milestone. (And don't tell Baby Bookworm, but she's receiving the Ramona boxed set from her godparents for Christmas. Looking forward to giving those a try as a read-aloud.) Wishing you all quiet moments for books over the holiday season. 

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate. 

Going Rogue (Also Known As): Robin Benway

Book: Going Rogue (Also Known As)
Author: Robin Benway (@RobinBenway)
Pages: 320
Age Range: 12 and up

Going Rogue is the sequel to Robin Benway's Also Known As (reviewed here). Set nearly a year after the events of the first book, teen spy Maggie Silver has been living a near-normal life in New York, spending time with best friend Roux and boyfriend Jesse. However, when her family's longtime employer, the shadowy "Collective" threatens Maggie's parents, the Silvers must "go rogue" to defend themselves. This causes some interpersonal difficulties for Maggie, who is hiding things from her loved ones to protect them. Eventually, everyone is in danger anyway, and on the run from a deceptively ordinary-looking villain. Hiding out in Paris and meeting up with other teen spies, does have its upside, however, especially for the reader.

Going Rogue maintains Maggie's engaging voice, and ramps up the action from the first book. There are some fun scenes that take place in the tunnels beneath Paris (reminiscent of the latest Kiki Strike book). I also appreciated seeing Maggie's relationship with her parents evolve a bit, as she gets older (now 17). Here are a few quotes that I enjoyed:

"How he wasn't melting in the heat, I had no idea, but that's Angelo for you. He's a perfect spy because he's like a mirage, like he exists outside of the world while still living in it. Sometimes it's hard to believe he's even real." (Chapter 2)

"I was trying to make him laugh, but all I got was a muscle spasm that was either a repressed smile or a minor stroke. It's hard to tell with parents sometimes." (Chapter 5)

""Maggie, you have a plan for everything. You always have your MetroCard ready to go so you don't hold everyone up at the subway turnstiles. You carry your keys poking out of your fist so that you can stab someone if you have to. You do homework every day at the same time--from four to six every afternoon, don't even try to deny it. You keep rain boots in your locker in case it rains. Trust me," Roux concluded. "You have a plan."

I think that last quote sums up Maggie quite well. Roux's character is similarly fleshed out more in this installment, though I still find Jesse a little bit of an enigma. 

As far as content goes, there is occasional profanity, but a lot less drinking than in the first book (Roux is trying to clean up her act). There is a fair bit of kissing, and teenage couples do sleep in the same bed at times, but there's not overt indication of any actual sex taking place. There are attempted shootings and explosions and the like, along with other typical thriller devices, but the violence is more implied than overt. It's more a fun romp than a scary thriller. I can readily imagine it as a movie. 

Going Rogue sets the stage nicely for a third Also Known As novel. It's not that there are loose ends, but there are new characters that we'd like to see again. I hope that's the plan, anyway, because I'll be reading. Recommended for fans of the Kiki Strike books, or anyone who would enjoy a forthy mix of teen interpersonal drama and international adventure. But do read the first book, Also Known As, first. 

Publisher: Walker Children's (@BWKids)
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

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This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 13

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. As in last week's roundup, there are lots and lots of book lists, as well as several links to holiday gift guides. I will certainly be giving lots of books this year, especially to the kids in my life. Can't think of any of the kids who aren't getting at least one book, actually... Happy reading and gift-procuring!


Literacy, families and learning: Great Science Apps for Kids Aged 6-12 Years from @TrevorHCairney

Author Musings

Author Jeff Kinney: I’ve realised childhood is a universal condition | @MetroUK via @PWKidsBookshelf

Dolls in Literature: An Author Panel @PublishersWkly #kidlit

Susan Cooper: libraries are the frontline in the war for the imagination | @GuardianBooks via @PWKidsBookshelf

Book Lists and Awards

Some different choices from other lists in the Parents Magazine Best Children’s Books of 2013 | @tashrow #kidlit

Stacked: "Best of 2013" YA List Breakdown, Part 2 @catagator #yalit

Can't argue with most of these: 10 Young Adult Novels That Adults Should Read from @airshipdaily #yalit

Latino Children's Literature That Should Top Lists from @NPRBooks via @PWKidsBookshelf

Responding to last week's @WSJ article, @StaceyLoscalzo shares recommended Children’s Books for Grown-Ups #kidlit

2013-0829_frca-logo_for-webInto the Wardrobe: The Winners of the 2013 Filipino Readers' Choice Awards @TarieS #kidlit

The best children's literature of 2013 according to @GuardianBooks via @bkshelvesofdoom #kidlit

The Cath in the Hat: A Year-End Round-Up of favorite #kidlit. Like me, Cath adores SOPHIE'S SQUASH and PENNY

12 Days of Mysteries: Day 1 at Sleuths, Spies, Aliblis with fine #kidlit mystery picks from @KKittscher

16 Winter-themed Chapter Books for Kids recommended by @momandkiddo (I love BREADCRUMBS) #kidlit

Guy Friday- Foul Trouble review plus list of basketball-themed books for middle schoolers from @msyingling #kidlit

It's Here! NYPL's Children's Books for Reading + Sharing 2013 | @NYPL via @bkshelvesofdoom @FuseEight #kidlit


Quite a solid response from @Jonathanhliu @GeekDads to questions about his male-author dominated picture book list

Nice! Raising sci fi/fantasy loving kids to be the decent fans of tomorrow, w/ diverse SFF for kids @charlotteslib

Gift Ideas and Guides

A message to those without children about buying gifts for kids from the mom at I Gave Up By Noon via @fuseeight

Matchmaking with Books | How Becky Levine helps find books as gifts for kids #kidlit

Making a list? Check these twice! | Suggestion lists for finding holiday gifts for kids from Joanne @ReadingRockets

Looking for the just-right children's book this holiday season? @Scholastic Give the Gift of Reading Guide can help:

Growing Bookworms

I do love the idea of book advent calendar. I'm going to try it next year. Meanwhile, read about one at Sunlit Pages

Boys Read: Want a Boy to Read? Listen First. Guest article from Jake Ball @Booksforchildrn on helping boys find books

Matching Books to Readers: @growingbbb reviews + likes @ZoobeanForKids book subscription service

The 5Rs: Encouraging Early #Literacy Skills while reading with toddlers + preschoolers, from @readingwithbean


Very nice! @100scopenotes + @mrschureads are giving away The 2013 Notable Children's Books from @NYTimes list

Infographic | Homes of Classic Literature w/ floor plans. Incl. The Secret Garden @terrysfabrics via @bkshelvesofdoom

On Reading, Writing, Publishing

Stacked: "Best of 2013" and "Best of 2012" YA Lists Compared & What We Should Talk About @catagator #yalit

A Writer Can Be... a Super-Sneaky #Cybils Student: A Guest Post By @LauraPSalas @scbwi via @leewind

Remember when books looked like this? "Who decided that only baby books should have pictures?" asks @LaurelSnyder

Cynsations: Guest Post: @gregpincus on Writing & Marketing with Serious Lead Time @CynLeitichSmith

Down-to-earth advice for writers on the publication process from @camphalfblood Rick Riordan

Love this! Waterstones spoofs Amazon drones with owls @TelegraphBooks via @tashrow

RT @tashrow Kent University ‘penitent’ after belittling children’s books | Books #kidlit

Well-done piece by Alexandra Alter in @wsj on adults reading + driving up sales for #kidlit #ChooseKind


Words on parenting to live by in this post sharing thoughts from Erma Bombeck @staceyloscalzo 's blog

Picture Book News

Mr-Tiger-Activity-Kit-cover-231x300Mr. Tiger Goes Wild fans, you can now download a printable activity kit from @itspeterbrown website via @blueslipper

Via @100scopenotes the next @The_Pigeon Pigeon book will be THE PIGEON NEEDS A BATH (4/1/14) #kidlit

Programs and Research

Good to hear at Guys Lit Wire: Many Thanks for a MOST Successful Holiday Book Fair for Ballou! @chasingray

Have You Registered for World Read Aloud Day? How will you celebrate? asks @frankisibberson @litworldsays

Schools and Libraries

Depressing! Los Angeles School Libraries Losing Materials as They Lose Librarians | School Library Journal @sljournal

Pew's Internet Study: How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities. via @bkshelvesofdoom

Top Ten Ways to Encourage Children to Read Over Winter Break by @katsok @nerdybookclub #literacy

A very nice success story on creating a reading culture in a high school by @djolleywrites @nerdybookclub

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

Dot.: Randi Zuckerberg & Joe Berger

Book: Dot.
Author: Randi Zuckerberg (@randizuckerberg)
Illustrator: Joe Berger
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

Full disclosure. Yes, Dot. is one of those picture books written by a celebrity (business maven Randi Zuckerberg) to convey a particular lesson. I am not generally a fan of such books. This one is even kind of a spin-off of an adult title by the same author (Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives), with the same release date. And yet, Dot. worked for me. 

Dot. is a simple story. We learn that a little girl named Dot is quite skilled in the use of digital devices. "She knows how to tap ... to touch ... to tweet ... and to tag." And she talks and talks on phones and devices and webcams. But when Dot's brain becomes a bit fried from too much device-time, her mother sends the zombie-like child outside to "reboot." Outside, among friends, Dot learns different meanings of tap (tap dancing), touch (touching a sunflower), tweet (like a bird), and tag (you can guess that one). And at the end, she and her friends embrace both the outdoors and real togetherness AND devices. 

I think that ending is a big part of what made the book work for me. If the story had ended with Dot realizing the error of her device-prone ways, and spending all of her time playing outside, well, it just wouldn't have been realistic. But it IS realistic to think that a child could get caught up sitting around inside, tapping away on the computer, only to be reminded that playing outside is fun also. Only to be reminded that it's more fun to do whatever you're doing with other kids than to do it alone. 

By keeping the focus entirely on Dot, and finding a solution to her specific problem of tech burnout, Zuckerberg avoids making Dot. feel didactic. It helps, I think that Mom is only shown as a pair of hands shooing Dot outside. Otherwise, there are only kids, dogs, and butterflies.

I also quite liked the parallelism that Zuckerberg uses, between actions we do on devices, like "surfing", and actions that can be done in real life, like "surfing." Some of the examples work better than others ("swiping" paint seems a bit of a reach), but the idea of focusing on these dual meanings works. 

Joe Berger's illustrations help, too. When Dot, in dotted dress, is "surfing" on the computer, she lies across the back of the couch with one leg up, reaching down to the computer. This is a nice visual clue to what is to follow later. The indoor illustrations are fun, but all set against plain backgrounds, white walls, etc. This provides a nice contrast when Dot goes outside, and is surrounded by birds, flowers, trees, and so on. I'm not quite sure why Dot has gray hair, but she also has an impish smile, a swirly skirt, and a cute dog.

I think that kids will like her. And if they like Dot, hopefully they won't feel dictated to by the point that this book is making. And let's face it. There are an awful lot of kids out there who could benefit from spending a few hours outside, where the only screen is the screen door. Mary Lee from A Year of Reading liked it, too, calling Dot."the perfect antidote to BYOD" (bring your own device). 

I suspect this one will work better with five to seven year olds, kids who spend a bit of time using keyboards, and talking on the phone to friends or family members. My three year old was unimpressed. I think you'll find that Dot. is worth a look, particularly for libraries and classrooms. Perhaps one could pair it under the Christmas tree with a jumprope and some sneakers. 

Publisher:  HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook