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Posts from January 2014

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 31

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

Book Lists

Updated list of African American speculative fiction for kids from Zetta Elliott https://ow.ly/t86wa #kidlit via @FuseEight

POLL from @NerdyBookClub : What 2014 Books Are You Most Looking Forward to Reading? | #kidlit https://ow.ly/t86im

The 2014 Rainbow List, best GLBTQ books for kids and teens | Waking Brain Cells @tashrow https://ow.ly/t85FA #kidlit

Picture Book Biographies about African-American Women (Chapter Books, too) @momandkiddo https://ow.ly/t0eTz #kidlit

Some suggestions from @bkshelvesofdoom @KirkusReviews for books to help Survive the Polar Vortex https://ow.ly/t85ng

Picture books featuring penguins and polar bears from @bookblogmomma https://ow.ly/t3ljc #kidlit

I Would NOT Want To Be In These Books: A Top Ten Tuesday from @scharle4 https://ow.ly/t3l3U #yalit

In Bed With Books: 9 Books to Get in a Winter Olympics Mood! (Skating Shoes!) https://ow.ly/t0fCH #kidlit

ALA Award Responses

Candid thoughts on not winning the Newbery from someone who has been involved in the selection process @medinger https://ow.ly/t8616

People do feel strongly about this year's ALA awards. See comments on this @HornBook post: https://ow.ly/t859m #kidlit

Words of understanding and appreciation from @lochwouters Post ALAYMA https://ow.ly/t0wXb #kidlit

The ALA Youth Media Awards are announced: Predictions and Reactions — @fuseeight https://ow.ly/t0eld #kidlit #yalit

10 recent Newbery winners that were fantasy / SF titles from Views From the Tesseract https://ow.ly/t3kVT #kidlit

Common Core

As crises ebb, educators adjust to new #CommonCore curriculums | Chalkbeat https://ow.ly/t83cO via @PWKidsBookshelf

Political Rivals Find Common Ground Over Common Core @NPR https://ow.ly/t3lAq via @PWKidsBookshelf

Cybils

Exciting! The #Cybils winners will be announced 2 weeks from today, on 2/14. Stay tuned! #kidlit https://ow.ly/tarai

Diversity

28_days_laterShining the Spotlight: 28 Days Later 2014 Honorees for Black History Month at The Brown Bookshelf https://ow.ly/t0eBt

Lots of great posts today around Multicultural Children's Book Day, hosted by @ValarieBudayr and @PragmaticMom https://ow.ly/t0dRt #kidlit

Growing Bookworms

Reissue of a useful guide on how kids Learn How to Spell by @TrevorHCairney https://ow.ly/t84Qn #literacy

Kidlitosphere

The @AboutKidsBooks latest Children's Book Newsletter is up, including 2 interviews w/ Kate DiCamillo https://ow.ly/t9SI4

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

If All Adults Reread 'The Berenstain Bears,' The World Would Be A Much Better Place @HuffPostBooks https://ow.ly/t9WfV via @tashrow

Food for thought | The Value of Young Reading Experiences by @catagator @bookriot https://ow.ly/t0hy2

Books, Introversion, and Giving Yourself Permission by @Emily_YA @jennadoesbooks https://ow.ly/t0hc2 via @catagator

Jane Kise @NerdyBookClub | "A life filled with books is still full, even if many other things go missing" https://ow.ly/t0frK

Bookaday_270"recommending an exciting title and connecting with readers every day adds to the beauty of the world" @anitasilvey https://ow.ly/t0gpb

Programs, Events, and Research

Sigh! Report: 250 million school age kids worldwide can't read @AppealDemocrat: https://ow.ly/t9WM5 via @tashrow

A Special @WWEmoms Twitter Event! The WrestleMania Reading Challenge on 2/6, encouraging kids to read https://ow.ly/t9RTB via @ginaruiz

Summary of results of Early Reading Proficiency Report from Annie E. Casey Fdn @tashrow | Poor overall + disparities https://ow.ly/t5izN

Let's Celebrate Digital Learning Day on Feb 5th, 2014, says @BookChook https://ow.ly/t0fWz #literacy

Schools and Libraries

Middle School Readers, Keeping the Passion Alive! teacher Sue Johnson @KirbyLarson blog https://ow.ly/t85Tl #literacy

SnicketPrizeLemony Snicket Sponsors Prize for Librarians Facing Adversity | @sljournal via @PWKidsBookshelf https://ow.ly/t832s

© 2014 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.


The Path of Names: Ari Goelman

Book: The Path of Names
Author: Ari Goelman
Pages: 352
Age Range: 10-14

The Path of Names by Ari Goelman is about a girl named Dahlia Sherman who loves magic tricks, does NOT want to go to Jewish summer camp, and ends up unraveling a 78-year-old mystery involving a Yiddish rabbinical student and the ghosts of two young girls. There are camp skits, mazes, and (minor) sibling rivalries. There's a creepy camp handyman, a posse of mean girls, and a boy with the potential to be a friend (and the inclination to be more). In short, The Path of Names has a little something for everyone.  

Dahlia is a strong character, a girl who doesn't care that much that the popular girls think she's weird, who likes math, and who just wants to understand things. She's at that age where she's resisting the boy-girl stuff, even as it swirls around her. She is delightfully furious when she finds out that her friend Rafe is letting people believe they are dating. I like that she uses her brain and tenacity to solve the mystery, despite making mistakes along the way.

Most of the book is told from Dahlia's limited third person viewpoint, but intermittent chapters are from the viewpoint of David Schank, a 17-year-old yeshiva student in 1940's New York City. A few sections are also told from the viewpoint of Dahlia's older brother, Tom, a counselor at the camp. Dahlia is the one that readers will relate to most of the three, through David's story is the more suspenseful one. Shifting the viewpoint between Dahlia and David will keep readers turning the pages, driven like Dahlia to understand what happened to the young student. 

The camp setting and details seemed authentic to me, though I never went to sleepaway camp (Jewish or otherwise). It is certainly not an idealized portrayal - there are details that strongly indicate the author's personal experience in a camp setting. Like this:

"Dahlia went up the stairs to the cabin. It smelled familiar from visiting Tom all these years: the musty scent of old wood, mingled with the smells of clean laundry and dirty shoes and nylon sleeping bags. She had sort of liked the smell when they visited Tom, but the girls' bunk smelled different, more girly. Had someone really brought perfume to summer camp?" (Page 9)

There is also quite a lot of information in The Path of Names about Jewish history and culture, kabbala, Hebrew words, etc. All of these things are central to the book's storyline. I found the details fascinating, and I think kids will too. Goelman does a nice job of broadening the reader's perspective, while still keeping his focus on plot and character.  

I do think that The Path of Names is more a book for middle schoolers than for elementary school kids. This is partly due to content (there is a small amount of drinking by the older kids, and there are deaths), but mostly due to the mystical themes, and the relatively grown-up perspective of David. Certainly, despite having a girl as the primary protagonist, The Path of Names is also boy-friendly (ghosts, mazes, magic tricks, pranks). Recommended for mystery and adventure fans, or anyone who likes the idea of seeing ghosts at summer camp. 

Publisher:  Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: April 30, 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).

© 2014 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


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 29

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a 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. I currently send out the newsletter once every two weeks.

Awards Update: In case you missed it, the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced on Monday morning. You can find the complete list of 2014 winners here. A few highlights:

  • Newbery: Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo & K. G. Campbell
  • Caldecott: Locomotive by Brian Floca
  • Printz: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick
  • ... and lots more. Congratulations to all of the authors and publishers honored this year. There seems to be fairly widespread satisfaction with this year's selections. 

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book through middle grade / middle school). I also have a post about a recent experience that I had that validates the importance of keeping books nearby, and one with a few recent highlights from my daughter's read-aloud journey. I have two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently, both chock full of book lists and literacy links. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read 3 middle grade, 3 YA, and 2 adult titles. I read:

  • Matthew Kirby: The Quantum League #1: Spell Robbers. Scholastic Press. Middle Grade/Middle School. Completed January 17, 2014. My review.
  • Laurel Snyder: Bigger than a Bread Box. Yearling. Middle Grade. Completed January 18, 2014. My review.
  • Ari Goelman: The Path of Names. Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic). Middle Grade/Middle School. Completed January 23, 2014. Review to come.
  • Marie Lu: Champion (A Legend Novel). Putnam Juvenile. Young Adult Fiction. Completed January 15, 2014, on Kindle. I found this a satisfying conclusion to the series, but I don't feel compelled to review it. 
  • Hollis Gillespie: Unaccompanied Minor. Merit Press. Young Adult Fiction. Completed January 22, 2014, on Kindle. I read this after reading a recommendation from Leila at Bookshelves of Doom. She said that she was too sick to read, but this book held her interest. I read it while exercising, and it kept my interest, too. The writing style took a bit of getting used to (the story is told in the form of a debrief between the main character and the authorities after an incident involving a plane hijacking and a bomb), and there's a bit more detail about the things that can go wrong on board airplanes than I personally needed. It's also relatively violent, with several deaths. Despite all that, it worked for me as escapist fare.
  • Rohan GavinKnightley & Son. Bloomsbury USA. Middle School. Completed January 27, 2014. Review to come.
  • Michael Connelly: The Gods of Guilt. Little, Brown and Company. Adult Mystery. Completed January 19, 2014, on MP3. Like all of Connelley's books, this one was well-done. But I've concluded that I really don't enjoy courtroom dramas, and this one has more court time than I personally prefer (especially in an audio, where one can't skim). 
  • Salman Kahn: The One World Schoolhouse. Twelve. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 20, 2014. I found this book about "the flipped classroom" by the founder of the Kahn Academy fascinating (though I have no plans for changing my daughter's educational experience.) Have any of you read this one?

I'm currently reading Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton (a Kindle library book for while I'm exercising), and Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee. I'm listening to the fourth book in Maryrose Wood's Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, The Interrupted Tale. I think that the Incorrigible Children books are pure genius. 

Baby Bookworm has been snagging reading time whenever she can lately. While she's eating, while she's brushing her teeth, etc. You can check out the complete list of books we've read to her so far this year on my blog. Her taste doesn't always agree with mine, but it is a lot of fun to watch her developing her own personal preferences. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 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


Recent Highlights in Our Read-Aloud Journey

We haven't had anything that I would quite call a milestone of late in my three-year-old daughter's journey towards literacy. But we have had some fun moments:

Last night my daughter asked me why she doesn't have a bubble over her head when she thinks. I must attribute this to seeing bubbles over people's heads in picture books. She's also still working to understand why she can see the people in books and movies, but they can't see her. 

This weekend my husband was reading to her in bed. I was down in the kitchen. I could just hear the murmur of his voice. Every couple of minutes I would hear my daughter, much louder, chime in with "there was the mouse!". Yes, they were reading A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker & Kady MacDonald Denton. When I reviewed this book back in 2008, I enthused about it's read-aloud potential, and the fact that "I (couldn't) read the book without saying that phrase out loud." To have my initial reaction validated six years later by my own delighted three-year-old is ... satisfying, to say the least. This book remains one of my favorite read-alouds.

She was admittedly in a silly mood last night, but she was positively hysterical with laughter over The Chicken Problem by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson (review here). Also, to a slightly lesser extent, Jeff Mack's Ah Ha! While these may not, in retrospect, have been good choices for bedtime books, I love it when she gets the humor in books. 

We also read Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen last night (and this morning). I've always respected what Barnett was trying to do with this book, and I do love Klassen's illustrations. But I never loved Extra Yarn for some reason (though many people, including last year's Caldecott committee, do). But I have to say that my daughter was rapt, and asked again for "the yarn book" first thing this morning. She loved the magic of the yarn box that never emptied, and she liked predicting what would qualify for a new sweater next. She noticed things in the illustrations that I had missed (or not remembered, anyway). I still don't adore this book myself, but I love that my three-year-old has her own opinions. 

That's all for now. What moments have you been enjoying on your family's read-aloud journey?

© 2014 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


Dog Loves Books, Drawing AND Counting: Louise Yates

Books: Dog Loves Books, Dog Loves Drawing, Dog Loves Counting 
Author: Louise Yates
Pages: 32 (each)
Age Range:3-6

We just discovered the Dog Loves ... series, and my 3 1/2 year old daughter and I are both hooked. We actually started with the third book, then realized that we had the second one hiding out on our shelves, and naturally had to purchase the first. To be fair, I was vaguely aware of having read the second book when it came out, and I liked it enough to keep it, but I didn't appreciate it until I had actually read it with my daughter. Because it is the interactivity that is beautiful about the Dog books. 

These books are of the genre that I would classify as "sneakily educational", and which can totally work if done well. Because let's face it, preschoolers are little sponges, looking to soak up learning wherever they can find it. Give them a cute dog with a vivid imagination and an appreciation for books to help them along the way, and they are all set. 

Dog Loves Books is the first of the series. You can't really go wrong with a book that starts out: "Dog loved books. He loved the smell of them, and he loved the feel of them. He loved everything about them...", accompanied by a series of illustrations of Dog glorying in his books.

In this installment (the least educational of the three, but the one that introduces readers to Dog's personality and preferences), Dog decides to open up a bookstore. Sadly, no customers come. But once he gets over the initial disappointment, Dog realizes that he's perfectly happy to sit in his bookstore, reading books. A lovely series of pages shows Dog surrounded by dragons and giraffes and spaceships, as he dwells inside of his books. And in the end, all of his experience reading books turns out to be useful, when he finally gets a chance to make recommendations. 

In Dog Loves Drawing, Dog still has his bookstore. He is initially surprised when his Aunt Dora sends him a book with blank pages. A note from his aunt tells him that it's a sketchbook. Once again demonstrating his ability to immerse himself in a story, Dog draws several friends, and then travels with them through a series of adventures. Throughout these adventures, Dog and his friends are shown drawing the next steps, coloring things in on their own, etc. At the end, the reader sees Dog with his filled sketchbook, and only then is it confirmed that the adventures were all in Dog's imagination.

My daughter had a bit of trouble grasping the concept here - that the friends weren't real, and the adventures weren't actually happening. But I think it will become more clear on future readings. And she still enjoyed it. She also learned things like what doodling is, and how to make scenery look like it's going by "FAST!". This one is a good companion book to I'll Save You, Bobo! by Eileen & Marc Rosenthal, in which Willy draws similar stories.  

Dog Loves Counting is the most overtly educational of the three. But still totally fun. Dog is having trouble getting to sleep, and counting sheep doesn't seem to work. So he decides to count creatures that he meets in his books, like a dodo and three-toed sloth. He marches merrily along, collecting creature after creature.

In addition to there being a running total of the creatures, each creature also has an attribute that Dog can count, like the bands on the nine-banded armadillo. The illustrations show small numbers about each band, encouraging young readers to both recognize the numbers and practice counting. And once the numbers are all counted up to 10, the animals go off for a bit, and Dog has a chance to count backwards, too. We end with: 

"When Dog woke up the next morning and looked at his books, he knew that friends and adventures were never far away--that was something he could count on." 

The thing about these books, particularly the last two, is that they simply beg for interaction between the reader and the child listener. My babysitter used the first one to teach my daughter how to spell Dog. I used the third one to practice counting to 10 forward and backward with her. I let her count things on each page. She counted things that weren't directly part of the story, like the number of leaves on the ferns shown on one page, etc. Her only disappointment was that the book didn't continue to 11, 12, etc. 

Yates' watercolor illustrations are perfect for these stories. Dog is rendered mostly in outline, a white dog against a white background, as counterpoint to the vividness of the animals and settings that he imagines. You can tell from his perky ears and big smile that he's friendly. His eyes are often closed (probably because he is busy imagining things).

The animals with which Dog surrounds himself are colorful and big-eyed. They're not realistic, exactly (how often do you see a dodo anyway?), but they welcome Dog, and the reader, to their fanciful world. The pictures in Dog Loves Drawing are particularly fun, including a big green monster, furry with sharp teeth and four feet clad in red sneakers. It looks exactly (and in the best possible way) like something that a six-year-old would draw. 

So we have a series of books that celebrate reading and the imagination, and incorporate concepts like drawing and counting without being even the least bit dull. All with warm, surprise-filled illustrations. No wonder these are a hit with my daughter and with me. I wonder what Dog will love next? We'll be waiting! 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: July 2010, August 2012, September 2013
Source of Book: Review copies from the publisher (2/3) and purchase

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).

© 2014 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


Further Evidence that Keeping Books Nearby Increases Reading Time

We are usually in a bit of a rush on the mornings that my daughter goes to preschool. While she is eating breakfast, I am running around getting her schoolbag ready, putting things in the dishwasher, etc. But this morning, I happened to have a stack of picture books on the kitchen table. I've been logging the books that we read aloud since the beginning of the year, and I hadn't had a chance to enter last night's stack yet (I enter them into a sidebar list using my phone, and then copy them over periodically into a regular page).

Thus, a stack of five books was sitting on the table. My eagle-eyed daughter spotted them, and asked me to read to her while she was eating breakfast. I said: "Just one. I have to get dressed." She picked the most text-dense one (A Baby Elephant in the Wild by Caitlin O'Connell & Timothy Rodwell, upcoming from @HMHBooks). 

After we finished that one, she managed to finagle two more books out of me: Where's Walrus by Stephen Savage and A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead. We ended up being about 15 minutes later for school than I might have hoped.

But, being the aspiring mother of a young bookworm, I thought to myself, "Hmmm, guess I should keep a bigger stack on the table for days when we don't have to rush off to school." It's not like I haven't seen this recommendation in lots of places ("keep books in the kitchen"). It's not like I've never read to my daughter during meals. We just haven't made it a habit. (Truth: I am addicted to reading the paper.)

But this morning's performance really drove this point home for me. Breakfast is an opportunity for squeezing in some extra reading time. It's a chance to listen again to the book that she fell asleep to last night. It feels like a special treat.

As a side benefit, my daughter ate a better breakfast than she usually does, because she was trying to show me that she wasn't finished eating, so I would keep reading. 

All in all, further evidence that if you keep books handy, everywhere, you are bound to end up reading more. 

© 2014 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. 


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 24

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

Book Lists and Awards

Stacked: A Couple of #YAlit Mini-Trends: Downton Abbey Clones + The Wizard of Oz reimagined https://ow.ly/sVmsS

Mock Newbery, Caldecott + Printz Lists – The Ultimate Round-Up — @fuseeight https://ow.ly/sVmh4 #kidlit

25 YA Novels Everyone — Even Adults — Should Read – @Flavorwire https://ow.ly/sTBQn via @PWKidsBookshelf

RT @pragmaticmom: 10 Perfect Read Aloud Books for 3rd Grade https://bit.ly/1fXujC6 #3rdGrade #KBN @ColbySharp #KidLit

CCBlogC: The 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award Goes to Lemony Snicket https://ow.ly/sQR6M #kidlit

The Fairytales and Folktales of 2013: An Accounting — @fuseeight https://ow.ly/sOfVU #kidlit

Great book ideas | Emily’s Library ( @PhilNel 's 3/yo niece) Part 7: 31 Good Books for Small Humans https://ow.ly/sM8Fa #kidlit

Congratulations to @LaurelSnyder + other winners of 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Awards https://ow.ly/sOdXR @JewishLibraries

10 (Really Good) Books That Didn't Make Our #Cybils Shortlist from @Book_Nut https://ow.ly/sM6Iz #kidlit #sff

Always a worthy goal | Titles That Have Legs by @katsok + @donalynbooks @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/sM7rv #kidlit

The 2014 Edgar Award Nominees (best mysteries by category, inc. #kidlit and #yalit ) https://ow.ly/sFnuW via @bkshelvesofdoom

Diversity

Mitali Perkins’ Students Debate Whether or Not Faces Belong on Book Covers | @CBCBook https://ow.ly/sVenT @MitaliPerkins

2014 Releases: LGBTQ Young Adult Literature | @molly_wetta at wrapped up in books https://ow.ly/sLZS6 #yalit

A Tuesday Ten: African American Characters in Fantasy and SF | Views From the Tesseract https://ow.ly/sQSrT #kidlit

MCBookDay-21-300x234Multicultural Children’s Book Day is Coming Jan 27th! – by @PragmaticMom @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/sHil7 #kidlit

Growing Bookworms

Can you make kids love books? asks @salon https://ow.ly/sTBLx via @PWKidsBookshelf

RT @katsok: THIS is why reading aloud to children (yours & your students) is magical & important. https://sharpread.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/a-crooked-kind-of-perfect-reading-moment/ … Thanks for sharing, @colbysharp

Lovely! On reading picture books to my 10/yo son - a sentimental post about why it's been a nice thing @charlotteslib https://ow.ly/sM8i2

Fancy Nancy-like Books "For Boys" (and girls) from @abbylibrarian https://ow.ly/sHhVv #vocabulary and love of words

Seven Things You Should Be Doing as You’re Reading to Your Child - I Can Teach My Child! https://ow.ly/sHh4I via @tashrow #literacy

Kidlitosphere

Introducing the First Ever, Absolutely Fantastic, SLJ Pre-Game and Post-Game Show!!! — @fuseeight https://ow.ly/sM5kF #kidlit

Regarding Independent Booksellers, @gail_gauthier asks: Why Can't I Shop In Both Places? https://ow.ly/sM2KK

First installment of a very cool new #YAlit Roundup @tordotcom https://ow.ly/sM8ws (via Tanita Davis)

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

RT @RIFWEB: Well said @CharlesMBlow! THANK YOU for sharing your story about the power of books and reading. #bookpeopleunite https://goo.gl/MVJup7

KidlitCon2013Tip for authors from #KidLitCon | How Do You Know Which Blogs To Tell About Your Book? @leewind @scbwi @MotherReader https://ow.ly/sQjNr

Very nice! Top 10 Things Picture Books Taught Me by @BethShaum @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/sM5Hg #kidlit

Fascinating Numbers About Children's Book Sales + a decline in teens reading for fun @leewind @scbwi https://ow.ly/sFn4Z via @FuseEight

Parenting

Why Is Narcissism Increasing Among Young Americans? asks Peter Gray in Psychology Today https://ow.ly/sFmPl

Picture book suggestions for Beating the Monsters from @ReadingWithBean https://ow.ly/sM5f1 #kidlit

Programs and Research

Sigh! RT @FirstBook: 61% of low-income families have no age appropriate books at home. https://bit.ly/1c8EGKU @cliforg

eReading Is Rising, But It’s Not Replacing Print: Pew Research @GalleyCat https://ow.ly/sHhqi #literacy via @tashrow

Schools and Libraries

What is the Best Starting Age for Schooling, some guidelines from @TrevorHCairney https://ow.ly/sQSOs #parenting

How The Common Core Became Education's Biggest Bogeyman @HuffingtonPost https://ow.ly/sM7PD via Wendie Old

Library Programming for Preschoolers: Take a Tip from Preschool Centers | @hiMissJulie https://ow.ly/sM3tD #libraries

It DOES Make a Difference. @lochwouters seconds @hiMissJulie on boosting your youth librarian colleagues https://ow.ly/sFmCY

Social Media and Devices

True! Why patting the bunny is better than swiping the screen @OnParenting via @PWKidsBookshelf https://ow.ly/sTBsP

Words of reason from @katsok about Social Media and Our Students (applies to our kids, too) https://ow.ly/sM5QL

Everything I Need to Know About Twitter I Learned in Kindergarten by @StaceyLoscalzo https://ow.ly/sQS6Q

The Book Chook: 2013 iPad App Reviews at @bookchook https://ow.ly/sM7AR #literacy #kidlit

© 2014 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.


The Quantum League #1: Spell Robbers: Matthew J. Kirby

Book: The Quantum League #1: Spell Robbers
Author: Matthew J. Kirby
Pages: 272
Age Range: 8 - 12

Spell Robbers is the first book in a new series by Matthew J. Kirby, The Quantum League. The premise of the book is that there are people, called Actuators, who can take advantage of quantum mechanics to bring about events with their thoughts. These events include everything from conjuring up fireballs and storm clouds to manipulating locks.

When 12-year-old Ben moves with his grad student mother to a new university, he's invited to join an after-school Science Camp in which a professor is training young Actuators. But when their professor, Dr. Hughes, invents a portable device that makes Actuators much more powerful, the camp is attacked. Dr. Hughes is kidnapped, and Ben and another boy are rescued, and co-opted, by The Quantum League. High-stakes adventures follow.

Kirby does a good job of keeping the plot moving, and adding sufficient twists to keep the reader guessing. I was able to anticipate some, but not all, of the twists. 

I also liked the fact that the capabilities described in Spell Robbers are based on science, rather than magic, even though there's not a huge difference in the end result. [Is "boy, plucked from obscurity, turns out to have strong powers as an Actuator" really all that different from "boy, plucked from obscurity, turns out to have the ability to do magic"?]. Here are a couple of snippets:

"At the atomic level," Dr. Hughes said, "reality is dependent on our observation of it. As the Nobel-winning physicist Eugene Wigner put it, reality is created when our consciousness 'reaches out.' When you actuate, you are reading out to create a potential reality. (Page 36)

"Non-Actuators," Agent Taggart said, "N-A's. Most people who cannot actuate don't really perceive it. It is a part of reality they are blind to, just like you're blind to infrared light. They see the aftermath of actuation, but they attribute it to other things. Freak storms. Freak accidents. Spontaneous combustion. That kind of thing." (Page 62)

I did find a bit disturbing the device that Kirby uses to separate Ben from his mother. I understand that some sort of device was necessary in order to free Ben up to have his high-stakes adventures. But, without giving away any plot points, I didn't like this one. There's also a whole "only kids can actuate because adult brains don't think that it's possible" element to the story that I could see as a necessary plot point (otherwise why would The Quantum League recruit 12-year-olds?), but that I found a bit ... tired. 

Still, I think that middle grade and middle school kids who enjoy over-the-top adventures will like Spell Robbers. There's a superhero vibe to the quantum battles that take place. There are also some scenes that take place in a creepy abandoned amusement park, a highly kid-friendly setting. Ben is smart and loyal. There are various unanswered questions left at the end of Spell Robbers, leaving plenty of room for future titles in the series. 

All in all, while perhaps not quite as original as I might have hoped, The Quantum League offers kid-friendly science fiction with three-dimensional characters (including a 16-year-old girl who helps train Ben) and a fast-moving plot. Definitely worth a look for elementary and middle school libraries, or as a gift for adventure-hungry readers. 

Publisher: Scholastic Press (@Scholastic
Publication Date: January 28, 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).

© 2014 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


Bigger than a Bread Box: Laurel Snyder

Book: Bigger than a Bread Box
Author: Laurel Snyder
Pages: 240
Age Range: 8-12

I love Laurel Snyder's writing. Good night, laila tov is one of my family's favorite bedtime stories, and I've reviewed both Any Which Wall and Penny Dreadful. I've been meaning to read Laurel's Bigger than a Bread Box for ages, having purchased a copy when it came out in paperback. But when the companion novel, Seven Stories Up, arrived on my doorstep, I finally brought Bigger than a Bread Box to the top of the pile. [Full disclosure, I'm Facebook friends with Laurel, and spent time with her at Kidlitcon a few years back, but I am certain that I would enjoy her books just as much without this connection.]

Bigger than a Bread Box is told from the viewpoint of 12-year-old Rebecca Shapiro. Rebecca lives in Baltimore with her parents and her two-year-old brother, Lew. Until, that is, her mother packs up Rebecca and Lew and moves to Atlanta, leaving their unemployed father behind. Bigger than a Bread Box is about Rebecca's fury at her mother for breaking up their family, her adjustment to a new middle school, and her gradual realization of her brother's importance to her. There's also a magical bread box that has unexpected consequences.

Despite the presence of the magical bread box, Bigger than a Bread Box has a much more realistic feel than Snyder's previous novels. The family dynamics are the point - the magic is more of a device. An afterword explains that Snyder mined her own experience as a child of divorce in writing Bigger than a Bread Box. I think this genuine emotion comes through successfully, and than any child experiencing parental separation will find something to relate to in Rebecca's experience. Like this scene, in which Rebecca is trying to remind Lew about their father:

"Lew started humming, and I wondered if any of this mattered. None of that would add up to Dad for Lew, if he'd already started to forget. Dad would just sound like some guy, some noisy, short, skinny guy who liked fishy pizza. That wasn't Dad any more than home was just boarded-up row houses and seagulls and snowball stands." (Page 101, paperback)

I must admit that I almost wanted to stop reading about half-way through the book, when the price that Rebecca was going to have to pay for the magic became clear. The middle school dynamics, while not the central point of the book, are still authentic enough to resonate painfully. Kids who have sacrificed their authenticity on the altar of "cool" may be able to relate to this, too. 

Rebecca isn't perfect. She makes mistakes, is materialistic about certain things, and is pretty harsh to her mother. But she has redeeming qualities, of course, like an appreciation for poetry. My favorite thing about Rebecca, hands down, is her affection for her brother, and her gradual recognition of him as a person in his own right. There's a point in which she thinks about trying to go back to Baltimore on her own, but realizes that she could never leave Lew behind, and I liked her for that. (Interesting contrast to Eleanor of Eleanor and Park, though the two girls are in very different situations.)

Snyder touches on Rebecca's half-Jewish identity with a light touch. She also includes various nods to people who love books, as Rebecca does. She brings a slightly heavier hand to the topic of the lack of appreciation that mothers can feel. Like this quote from Rebecca's mother:

"I am juggling so much and I am overworked and I just want a little time to think things out for myself. Everyone seems to need something from me or want something, and I don't even know what feels right or wrong anymore, and there are so many people to think about." (Page 145, paperback) 

As a mother myself, I found a scene in which Rebecca is trying to think of a birthday present for her mother, and she realizes that she has no idea what her mother's interests are, sad.

Bigger than a Bread Box is a must-purchase title for elementary and middle school libraries (especially in Baltimore and Atlanta). This nuanced look at divorce and family, as well as middle school social structures, offers something for everyone. The magical element helps to keep things light, while also adding some insights about accountability. Recommended!

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: September 2011
Source of Book: Bought it

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).

© 2014 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: January 17

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

Book Lists

Anne Ursu’s OVER/UNDER of 2013: The Overlooked, Underappreciated Middle Grade Reader at BOOKYURT via @catagator https://ow.ly/svrMS

Top 13 YA Books for Talking to Teens About Tough Stuff, selected by @halseanderson https://ow.ly/sFhGu #yalit

A Tuesday Ten from Views From the Tesseract, science fiction stories in which a sister plays a key role as a sister https://ow.ly/sCuHq

And the 2014 Contenders for @SLJsBoB = SLJ's Battle of the Books are ... https://ow.ly/sCtGb via @bkshelvesofdoom

Stacked: Reality TV and Documentaries: A YA Book List https://ow.ly/sAu6L #yalit @catagator

2013 “Best of” Lists – The Numbers | The Hub @yalsa https://ow.ly/syfSB #yalit via @CBCBook

New #kidlit book list from @momandkiddo | Chinese Folktales for Kids https://ow.ly/sxI1J

Just wow | 2014 YA Fiction Preview: 60 #yalit Titles for Your January – June Radar | @catagator @bookriot https://ow.ly/svrXl

Cybils

Cybils2013SmallInteresting reading for anyone who judges books: A Few Thoughts on Being a #Cybils Judge from @aquafortis https://ow.ly/sFnDY

At Stacked: A Cybils Retrospective from SFF judge Kimberly https://ow.ly/sCutK #yalit

January Armchair #Cybils Round-Up from @alibrarymama https://ow.ly/sCtvz

Growing Bookworms

Using Music and Songs to Improve #Literacy from @TrevorHCairney https://ow.ly/sAtXD

A Worthy Goal: 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten | First Steps | @sljournal https://ow.ly/sFicL #GrowingBookworms #literacy

Ten Ways to Raise Writers by @JulieFalatko @nerdybookclub https://ow.ly/svrcb #literacy

#Kidlit that promotes Fun with Words - Reading with Kids @readingtub https://ow.ly/svqgO #literacy

What it's really like: The Art of Reading with Exuberant Toddlers | For Poops and Giggles via Becky Levine https://ow.ly/stpQi

Saying Yes to letting kids read what they want to read by Jenny Rich @jdrich219 @NerdyBookClub https://ow.ly/ssZww

Tips for helping your child to become a successful reader from The Bottom Shelf blog https://ow.ly/sFiR0 via @librareanne #literacy

Kidlitosphere

Nice resource: There's a new Weekly Round-Up of #KidLit Reviews + Posts at @MDBookReviews https://ow.ly/svqB5 via @charlotteslib

Books and Authors

Local Bay Area author Tim Myers interviewed by Susan Davis on "The Better Part" about what makes #kidlit powerful https://ow.ly/sFlak

Book review + argument for why boys can + should read @haleshannon 's Princess Academy from @SproutsBkshelf https://ow.ly/sxJnf

I loved Children of Morrow, and enjoyed this look at science fiction by H.M. Hoover at Views From the Tesseract https://ow.ly/svsbH

Parenting

I am just speechless. Smart PJs that use iPhone to read bedtime stoires – A Dumb Idea | @tashrow Waking Brain Cells https://ow.ly/str0q

Programs and Research

Engaging with Ebooks Can Aid Children’s #Literacy, Study Finds, reports @ShiftTheDigital https://ow.ly/sFhXe @sljournal

Tablets Make It Nearly Impossible for Kids to Get Lost in a Story - Asi Sharabi - @TheAtlantic https://ow.ly/st1Cr via @LaurelSnyder

Schools and Libraries

Thoughts on egotism vs self worth, and why youth librarians should support one another, from @himissjulie https://ow.ly/sCuZd

ComicBookDaySome options for Libraries that want to hand out comics for Free Comic Book Day (May 3), shared @bkshelvesofdoom https://ow.ly/sFmk0

Makes sense to me: The Most Critical Skill for Being an Effective Educator is empathy | @ReadByExample https://ow.ly/st01U

"Would my students still read if I didn’t do this? Some, but not nearly as many" says Lisa Kanute, guest @KirbyLarson https://ow.ly/sFmtT

© 2014 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.


The Winter of the Robots: Kurtis Scaletta

Book: The Winter of the Robots
Author: Kurtis Scaletta
Pages: 272
Age Range: 10 and up

The Winter of the Robots by Kurtis Scaletta is a fun, science-themed mystery, perfect for middle schoolers. First-person narrator Jim lives in a slightly run-down neighborhood in North Minneapolis. He and his best friend Oliver are science geeks. But when Jim chooses a girl named Rocky as his partner for a science project, instead of working with Oliver, he sets a series of unexpected events in motion. Joined by Oliver's replacement partner Dmitri, the four young teens discover a mysterious junkyard, and the suggestion of robots living in the wild. 

There's a lot to like about The Winter of the Robots. The chilly Minneapolis winter setting feels authentic, as do the friend and sibling relationships. Jim's little sister, Penny, is a strong character, as is Rocky, a girl who wants to get her hands dirty. Penny is a bit of a pest, but smart, too. Jim's dad is realistically flawed, with a barely controlled temper. There's a nice scene in which Jim starts to see his dad clearly, something that is certainly part of growing up. All in all, I thought Scaletta did a nice job of allowing freedom for Jim and his friends to accomplish something meaningful, while still having concerned parents. 

Here's Rocky to Jim, after he sees her work a snowblower:

"My dad has taught me how to do everything. He says women get cheated out of learning stuff. I've changed the oil on a car. I've run an electric drill and a power saw. I even welded once." (Page 32)

And here's Oliver. 

"That's what scientists do. They revise an idea, evolve it, and make it better." Both of Oliver's parents were scientists, so he would know. He was a mad scientist in training. He already had the brilliant mind, the wild hair, and the thick glasses. All he needed was a hunchbacked assistant." (Page 4)

Scaletta also manages to include some diversity among the characters. Dmitri has a minor disability, and spends time helping his autistic younger brother. Several adults from the neighborhood play a role in the kids' adventures, and not all of them are upstanding citizens.

As you would expect from a book called The Winter of the Robots, there is a ton of information here about how to build robots. The technical parts are well-integrated into the text, such that the book doesn't feel informational (Jim is learning as he builds things). It may even inspire young readers to become involved in building robots themselves. Some of the technical details dragged a little bit for me as an adult reader (who isn't particularly interested in building robots), but I liked the positive portrayal of kids who are smart and passionate about science.

Apart from that, I though that the plot has a nice pace, and a good use of red herrings and innuendo. There are a fair number of characters to keep track of, and one of them does come to a bad end (offstage). While perhaps a bit difficult for 8 or 9 year olds, I think The Winter of the Robots will be a nice addition to the reading options for mystery- and/or tech-loving middle schoolers. While clearly aimed at boys, the presence of two strong female characters (Rocky and Penny) keeps it girl-friendly, too. There's a smidgen of boy-girl relationship dynamics, but nothing for anyone to worry about. Recommended for readers age 10 and up. 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: October 8, 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).

© 2014 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


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 15

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a 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. I currently send out the newsletter once every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have three middle grade and young adult book reviews. I also have a list of the books my family received for Christmas, another little literacy milestone from my daughter, and a post about the upcoming International Book Giving Day. I have two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently. Not included in the newsletter this time around I published:

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read seven early reader to middle grade titles and two young adult titles. (I'm including early readers here that I read by myself for potential review, but not every early reader that I read to my daughter.) I was on a bit of a middle grade graphic novel binge. I read:

  • Cynthia Lord: Half A Chance. Scholastic. Middle Grade. Completed January 4, 2013. Review to come. 
  • Charise Mericle Harper: Bean Dog and Nugget: The Ball and Bean Dog and Nugget: The Cookie. Early Reader Graphic Novels. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Completed January 10, 2014. I found these vaguely reminiscent of the Elephant and Piggie books (two friends interacting, sparse backgrounds, aimed at new readers), but I just didn't warm to the characters in the same way. My daughter seems rather luke-warm on these, too. 
  • Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm: Babymouse #1: Queen of the World. Middle Grade Graphic Novel. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Completed January 10, 2014. This was a re-read of the first title in the Babymouse series. Though I enjoyed it (I love Babymouse), it also struck me how much the series has improved over 17 books. The newer titles are just ... sharper. More witty. But I will still look forward to sharing this title with my daughter in a few years. 
  • Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm: Squish #5: Game On! Middle Grade Graphic Novel. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Completed January 10, 2014. This installment of the very fun Squish! series deals with video game addiction. I liked the Squish! figured out his problem on his own, and faced consequences. And I loved that he and his dad went to a comics show at the end, where they were able to meet the Babymouse creators. I love inside jokes like that. 
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle (#10). Middle Grade Graphic Novel. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Completed January 12, 2014. It makes me so sad that this is the final installment of the Lunch Lady series. But I thought that Krosoczka did a great job of wrapping things up, bringing back in several former foes of the Breakfast Bunch, giving the kids a chance to emerge as leaders, and even giving Lunch Lady a potential love interest (with one of my favorite series characters). This one will be released on January 28th. 
  • Kurtis Scaletta: Winter of the Robots. Middle Grade Fiction. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Completed January 13, 2014. Review to come.
  • A. S. King: Reality Boy. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Young Adult. Completed January 7, 2014. My review.
  • Rainbow Rowell: Eleanor and Park. St. Martin's Griffin (Macmillan). Young Adult Fiction. Completed January 8, 2014. Not reviewed, because this book has already received so very much positive attention. But I did enjoy it, and highly recommend it to fans of YA romance, especially those who were in high school in the 80s. 

I'm currently reading Champion, the final book in Marie Lu's Legend series, and Spell Robbers, the first book in Matthew J. Kirby's Quantum League series. I'm listening to The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly.

Baby Bookworm was in a bit of a reading slump until I took her to the library last Saturday. We brought home 33 books (all for her, most picked out by her), and read nearly all of them that day. This seems to have rekindled her general interest in reading, too, because we read quite a number of non-library books the next day. You can check out the complete list of books we've read to her so far this year on my blog.

Baby Bookworm's favorite standalone title right now is Arlene Mosel's Tikki Tikki Tembo. I'm proud to report that she can recite Tikki Tikki Tembo's full name, and delights in shouting it out. She still loves series books about Mercer Mayer's Little Critter, Marc Brown's Arthur, and Rosemary Wells' Max and Ruby. I'm also introducing her to Frog and Toad and Little Bear. I will report back. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 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