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Posts from September 2014

Everything Goes: By Sea by Brian Biggs

Book: Everything Goes: By Sea
Author/Illustrator: Brian Biggs
Pages: 56
Age Range: 4-8

Everything Goes: By Sea is the latest picture book in this very fun series by Brian Biggs (following Everything Goes: By Land and Everything Goes: In the Air plus various board books and early readers). As in the previous two books, Everything Goes: By Sea follows a young boy and his parents as they head out on a trip. In this instance, the family is taking their distinctive purple car aboard a ferry, to travel to an island for summer vacation. Along the way, the boy asks lots of questions, and learns from his parents about various types of boats, what makes boats float, etc. Considerable information is conveyed about boats and other water conveyances, but Biggs maintains a light, humorous touch. 

For my four-year-old daughter, as for myself, it's the humor that makes these books work. This humor is conveyed mainly through Bigg's colorful, detailed illustrations, as well as comic-like text bubbles, which generally reward close study. For example, as the family sets off on a ferry, a woman asks the man beside her: "How long do you think the trip will take?". The man replies: "About fifty-six pages." OK, this one is more for the parents than for the kids.

When I asked my daughter what we should highlight as funny in the book, she immediately turned to a page showing a variety of quirky houseboats (including "country cabin boat" and "home sweet home boat"). One of the boats is populated by a frazzled mom and her escaping toddler quintuplets. These Houdini-like tots were also featured in Everything Goes: In the Air, and my daughter ADORES them. The mother is saying "Oh no, not again!", and I like how the author includes this nod to readers of the previous book. I also found the "outhouse boat" pretty funny, though my daughter didn't get that one at all. 

There's a seek-and-find aspect to Everything Goes: By Sea. This is not overt - there's no list of things to look for, but these detailed, annotated pages are perfect for poring over. This is not one of my favorite bedtime books, as it takes us forever to get through it. I think that the idea target audience would be kids who can read it for themselves, and take as much time as they like picking up on all the informative and humorous details. 

I hope that there will be other titles in this Everything Goes series. They are surefire hits in my house, and an excellent choice for libraries. 

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: October 22, 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

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 26

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Note that links related to KidLitCon were shared yesterday. Today's link topics include book lists, the cybils awards, diversity, banned books week, growing bookworms, reading, publishing, schools, and libraries. 

Book Lists

10 Great New Picture Books for Younger Readers (published in Australia), selected by @TrevorHCairney

A Tuesday Ten: Challenged and Banned Books! | @TesseractViews #BookList

8 Banned Books Your Kids Should Read selected by @momandkiddo #kidlit #BookList

Books About Fire Trucks @growingbbb #BookList #kidlit

10 Perfect Read Alouds for Fourth Grade @PragmaticMom #BookList #kidlit

7 Excellent YA Sci-Fi Romance Series (all available in paperback) selected by @catagator @bookriot

The Stuff of Stars | New Picture Book Biographies | @sljournal #kidlit #nonfiction

Spine-Tingling Stories for Older Readers | @sljournal #kidlit #BookList


Cybils-Logo-2014-Round-SmPoetry Friday: Announcing the #CYBILS Poetry Panelists and Judges | @JoneMac53

On the #Cybils blog: Middle Grade Fiction – Category Description from category chair @MsYingling

On the #Cybils blog: Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction – Category Description from @charlotteslib #kidlit

On the #Cybils blog: Elementary/Middle Grade Non-fiction – Category Description from Jennifer Wharton

Library Chicken: #Cybils 2013 Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Finalists via @charlotteslib

Hooray for #Cybils Speculative Fiction (Middle Grade) from Round1 judge @semicolonblog #kidlit

At the #Cybils blog: Fiction Picture Books – Category Description from @MotherReader #kidlit

#Cybils Excitement! from @TesseractViews, newly appointed Round2 judge in MG Spec Fiction #kidlit

On the #Cybils blog: Book Apps – Category Description from @cppotter


Tanita Davis muses on eliminating the “only” (e.g. the one gay character) in writing #diversity

Enhancing Children’s ABCs and Vocabulary Through 9 "diverse and useful" Alphabet Books Sujei Lugo @LatinosInKidLit

We Need #Diverse Books Announces Incorporation as a Non-Profit & Inaugural Advisory Board @CynLeitichSmith

#Diversity 101: Gay in YA | Adam Silvera at CBC Diversity via @CynLeitichSmith @CBCBook

RT @tashrow James Dawson says ‘there are too many white faces’ in kids’ books #kidlit #diversity

An Informal Study by @malindalo | Do Book Challenges Suppress #Diversity? | Banned Books Week | @sljournal 

Events, Programs and Research (including Banned Books Week)

Some stats on children's #literacy in the UK from Save the Children (gap wide between boys and girls) via Jenny S.

Jill Leibowitz describes The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter exhibit @NYPL in @HornBook

Most-Dangerous-Man-Image-2-800Libraries champion our freedom! Helping our students understand their freedom to read from @MaryAnnScheuer

Banned Books By The Numbers (INFOGRAPHICS) @HuffPostBooks via @PWKidsBookshelf

He always makes me think | Is ALA's approach to Banned Books Week Cause to celebrate? asks Roger Sutton @HornBook

For Banned Books Week, the top ten most challenged books of 2013 @HornBook

For Banned Books Week 2014, some favorite quotes selected by @randomlyreading

Study Ties College Success to Students' Exposure to a High School Librarian @ShiftTheDigital

Growing Bookworms

I love this post from @mrskatiefitz | Early #Literacy in Everyday Places: The Elevator

Some good tips in: How to Raise a Reader by Sharlene Johnson in @ParentsMagazine via @librareanne

The "single most important activity ... required to eventual success in reading is reading aloud to kids" @sljournal

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Surprise! It’s Racist! Unwanted Children’s Book Surprises — @fuseeight #kidlit

‘What Does This Say?’ The Cursive Conundrum in Picture Books — @100scopenotes

Thoughts on: What is a Graphic Novel? from Alyssa @Everead

Schools and Libraries

Building Read Aloud Routine in a 3rd Grade Classroom by teacher @frankisibberson

The kid-friendly, kid-maintainable classroom library, how teacher Nicole Hewes maintains hers @HornBook

© 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 Last Day to Register for KidLitCon is Tomorrow

KidlitCon2014_cubeTomorrow, Setpember 26th, is the last day to register for the 8th annual Kidlitosphere Conference (KidLitCon). KidLitCon is an annual gathering of people who blog about, and care about, children's and young adult books. We are teachers, librarians, parents, authors, publishers, and reviewers. We get together once a year, in person, because there's nothing that can replace being surrounded, in real space, by kindred spirits.

You can blog and tweet and Facebook all year round, but chances to share a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and have a face-to-face discussions about your passion for children's books are rare. Those discussions this year will focus on Blogging Diversity in Children's and Young Adult Literature

KidLitCon is being held in Sacramento this year, on October 10-11. Next year, KLC is scheduled to return to the East Coast, and then to the Central US the following year. Personally, I try to go every year. I missed only the one in New York two years ago. I know that there are others who, once they attend once, find that they are willing to travel for future KidLitCons, unable to resist the chance that it offers to recharge one's energy for blogging, while spending time with one-time virtual friends who have become real. 

Below are tweets that I've shared over the past week that will lead you to further details (registration, program, attendees lists, etc.). But the most important thing you need to know is that the deadline to register is tomorrow. I hope you'll join us. 

KidLitCon Links:

GottaBook: #Kidlitcon ! You! Go!!!! @gregpincus on why YOU should attend this year's KidLitCon 

Tanita Davis reports: #KIDLITCON: REGISTRATION EXTENDED! Hotel room block also extended (call hotel) 

TOMORROW is the last day to register for this year's #KidLitCon, Sacramento, CA, Oct. 10-11. Theme = #diversity 

Will you be joining #Cybils organizers and panelists at this year's #KidLitCon? A chance to talk books + #diversity 

These amazing bloggers + authors will be attending #KidLitCon in Sacramento, Oct 10-11. There's still time to sign up 

New updates to the Twitter list of #KidLitCon attendees. Doesn't this make you want to come? Register by FRIDAY! 

Have you seen the fabulous #KidLitCon Program, centered around blogging #diversity in children's literature? 

Wendie's Wanderings: Reasons Why You Should Attend #KidLitCon 

© 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.  

Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen: Garth Nix

Book: Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen
Author: Garth Nix
Pages: 400
Age Range: 13 and up

Clariel is the long-awaited fourth book (a prequel to the others) in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom/Abhorsen series (following Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen). I read the previous books back before I started my bog, and my memory is more of tone than of details at this point. However, I still enjoyed returning to Nix's world of Abhorsen, Clayr, and Royal bloodlines, and the Charter Magic that links them all. And I very much liked Clariel, possibly the most unabashedly introverted heroine I have ever run across. 

Clariel begins as 17-year-old Clariel moves with her parents from the small town of Estwael, located in the Great Forest, to the capital city of Belisaere. Clariel's mother has been invited to join the High Guild of Goldsmiths, an important position in the city. Clariel's entreaties to remain in the forest with her aunt have been ignored. In the city, Clariel finds a host of unaccustomed expectations, from the wearing of elaborate clothes and makeup to the need to be accompanied everywhere by guards. But her chafing against these requirements is nothing compared to her horror at the notion that she should marry the arrogant son of the power-hungry Governor. Clariel, relative to both the Abhorsen and the King, finds herself a pawn in various schemes. It's only when she starts to understand her own nature, however, that she is able to take matters into her own hands. 

Clariel is a strong heroine, one who knows her own mind (even when the reader can see that she may be making a mistake). She has no interest in romance or marriage. Her deepest wish is to join the people who patrol the Great Forest, and live on her own in a little house. She finds the forest soul-affirming, and the stone-filled city depleting. Personally, I found her a breath of fresh air. She also has an interesting ability / disability (it's a bit of a mixed bag), but I will leave readers to learn about that on their own.

The plot in Clariel is full of twists and battles. There is a fair bit of violence, and of magic. An author's note at the end places Clariel in the context of the later books. With one notable exception, the link, in terms of characters, is rather remote (unless I am missing something in my poor memory of the earlier books), but the world-building and magic that Nix has created carry through (including the nature of the Abhorsen, who can visit the world of death). 

Nix's writing, as usual, is eloquent and vivid in detail. Like this:

"The next morning dawned bright and clear, and even more detestable to Clariel than ever. The sunlight seemed to penetrate everywhere, accompanied by the dull,ever-present noise of the city, and there was no quiet, cool place to hide, no forest glad to shelter in." (Chapter Four)

"You thought that we limit the choices of our students?" asked Ader. "We do not, but it is a sad fact that the great majority limit themselves. You might find it best to keep your ambition secret, Lady Clariel. Many here would consider it too small, a thing to be made fun of. However, all I am concerned with is that we equip you both for the possibility of other futures, and for the one you yourself envisage." (Chapter Five) 

Fans of the Abhorsen trilogy will definitely enjoy the opportunity that Clariel offers to re-visit the Old Kingdom. Personally, I think I would have gotten more out of Clariel had I read it closer in time to the earlier books. I am envious of younger readers who can dive into them all now for the first time, back to back. Clariel is a must-purchase for high school libraries, and for adult fans of the series. To me, it feels more suitable for high school than middle school (violence, a reference to Clariel having had sex, and a generally dark tone), though I'm sure that some younger readers may be unable to resist. All in all, I highly recommend Clariel - it is a welcome return to a compelling world, with an intriguing and relatable protagonist. 

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperTeen)
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

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

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: September 23

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 the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this fairly brief issue I have four book reviews (picture book to young adult) and two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently.

KidlitCon2014_cubeI also shared two posts on my blog about the Cybils book awards and the upcoming Kidlitosphere Conference (aka KidLitCon). I'm going to be a Round 1 Judge in Fiction Picture Books for the Cybils this year, which means that I'll be reading lots and lots of recent picture books. And I encourage those of you who are interested in children's and young adult literature to consider attending KidLitCon. This year's theme is Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?. The conference will be held in Sacramento, CA on October 10-11 (you can attend either or both days). The deadline for KidLitCon registration is this coming Friday. Attending KidLitCon is a wonderful experience, and a chance to be surrounded by kindred spirits. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I completed two books, one young adult novel and one adult mystery. I read:

I also read about half of Love Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson, but decided not finish it. It was slowing me down too much -- I found the narrative confusing and the story slow-paced. I'm currently reading H20 by Virginia Bergin on Kindle (ARC) and Sky Jumpers Book 2: The Forbidden Flats by Peggy Eddleman in print. I'm still listening to the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by (of course) J.K. Rowling

As always, you can see the list of books that we've been reading to Baby Bookworm here. While she still mainly requests picture books, she listened to her first Magic Tree House book last week: Magic Tree House #3 Mummies in the Morning (Full-Color Edition) by Mary Pope Osborne. Last night, my husband started reading her Magic Tree House #52: Soccer on Sunday. And yes, I know that these are books that she's meant to read by herself when she's a little bit older, but I try to go with where her interests lie. She went to the library last week and came home with a whole stack of Arthur, Caillou, and Berenstain Bears books, which we've been reading, too. We just received our first Scholastic Reading Club flier of the school year, so we'll be making some selections from there, too. 

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

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle: George Hagen

Book: Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle (iBooks link)
Author: George Hagen
Illustrator: Scott Bakal
Pages: 384
Age Range: 9-12

Something about Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Revenge called to me from the pile of books arriving on my shelf. And I'm glad that it did. Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Revenge is an engrossing new, riddle-filled middle grade fantasy, apparently the first book of a series (two significant matters are left unresolved, though the book does not end on a cliffhanger). 

Gabriel lives with his aunt in a somewhat mysterious old house. His mother disappeared when he was very young (he doesn't remember her), and his father disappeared three years earlier. Gabriel's aunt won't tell him very much, but he knows that she never reported his father as a missing person. When Gabriel turns 12, however, his aunt gives him a key that his father left for him, which leads in turn to a diary. The plot from there involves people who can merge with ravens, a powerful ancient artifact, and a quest to find a lost city located far beneath Gabriel's home of Brooklyn, NY. Other characters include a callous bad guy (Gabriel's uncle), a greedy rival who also seeks the artifact, a team of kids who befriend (some more quickly than others) Gabriel, and various intelligent birds. 

Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Revenge is chock-full of riddles and puns. Some are there just as background, as Gabriel practices, but eventually the riddles become a key aspect of the book's plot. It seems that ravens greet one another with riddles, and use riddles as a litmus test for potential human companions, and more. Kids who enjoy riddles and puns will not be able to resist this book, which offers ample opportunity for readers to guess the outcome of each before reading it. I only very occasionally found that stopping to think about the riddles slowed the book's narrative flow for me. Here's an example:

"From hour to hour I wander,
As night and day go by,
Yet always anchored to my home.
Can you guess the reason why?"

Despite the seeming light-heartedness of a story based in part on riddles, Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Revenge is a fairly meaty fantasy novel, with plenty of twists and turns and sub-plots. There are some sections in which Gabriel reads from his father's diary to which I had to pay close attention to keep Gabriel separate in my head from his dad. But these passed. Gabriel's regular world, in which he attends school and eats Chinese take-out, never quite feels ordinary, perhaps because all of the characters around him are quirky in some way.

There is some character development in the secondary characters (Gabriel is a pretty well-adjusted kid to start with). I especially enjoyed Gabriel's new next-door neighbor, Abby, a girl who wears non-matching shoes every day, so that she won't look like everyone else. Here's Abby:

"This is so exciting! I always get into trouble for trying to make things more exciting at home. The other day I painted the toilet with glow-in-the-dark paint, my sister woke everyone up screaming when she went to pee in the middle of the night." (Page 101) 

I found Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Revenge to be a suspenseful, inventive middle grade fantasy novel, with a unique feel. I do wish that the cover image of Gabriel merging with his raven did not look quite so much like a girl, as I would hate to see boys pass this one buy because of that (for many reasons). Then again, the cover caught my attention, so it does work. Anyway, librarians for middle grade and middle school readers will want to give Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Curse a look, as it offers something new for fantasy lovers (and others who enjoy testing their wits). Recommended for middle grade readers and up, boys and girls. 

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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

KidLitCon Registration Deadline Extended by One Week

KidlitCon2014_cubeReposted from the Kidlitosphere Central blog:

We have a fabulous program and an exciting list of attendees for this year’s KidLitCon (being held October 10th and 11th at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria in Sacramento, CA). The original registration deadline was today. However, we have room for a few more people, and we would love to have YOU among them. Therefore, we have extended the registration deadline by one week, to next Friday, September 26th. Now is your chance! The KidLitCon registration form is here

KidLitCon offers a wonderful opportunity to spend time with kindred spirits, other people who care about children’s books (and in particular this year about increasing diversity in children’s books) the way you do. KidLitCon is a chance to recharge your blogging batteries, and pick up concrete tips for making the most of your children’s and young adult book blogging experience.

Participating in the Cybils this year? Come to KidLitCon and share your excitement? New to blogging? Come to KidLitCon and meet some of the bloggers you’re been following face-to-face. KidLitCon rotates around the country each year. For those of you on the West Coast, this is your chance to attend a (relatively, at least) loval event. Don’t miss it! We hope to see you there! Register here. And any help you can give in spreading the word about KidLitConwould be much appreciated. 

See also: The Cybils Goes to KidLitCon.


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 19

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Not included here are the many Cybils-related links, particularly when I was live-tweeting the Cybils panelist announcements. I do have links related to books, book lists, national book awards, diversity, growing bookworms, kidlitcon, reading, writing, parenting, literacy programs, literacy research, schools, and libraries. 

Books, Book Lists, and Awards

A Tuesday Ten: Inventors and Scientists Wanted | @TesseractViews #BookList

TUT: The Story of My Immortal Life by @pj_hoover released today. I reviewed it here #kidlit

E is for Esoteric: 2014 Alphabet Books Get Creative — @fuseeight #kidlit

Jean Little Library: RA RA READ: Girls with REAL Powers (mostly psychic) #BookList

Literature on Civil Rights for Younger Readers from @TrevorHCairney #kidlit #BookList

Always interesting; The Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition — @fuseeight #kidlit

10 Funny Books to Read Aloud with kids from @momandkiddo #kidlit

The @nationalbook 2014 Longlist for Young People’s Literature has been announced. @tashrow post: #kidlit

18 Picture Book Biographies About Black Women Who Made History, @ForHarriet via @PWKidsBookshelf


Hispanic American Books for Kids: Link Round Up : @pragmaticmom #diversity #kidlit

we need #diverse (picture) books | a call from Martha V. Parravano @HornBook #kidlit

Chris Barton on A New & #Diversity Bookselling Strategy: @BookPeople Modern First Library | @CynLeitichSmith

Guest post from Garrett Carter @PragmaticMom | A Call for Diverse Children’s Literature #WeNeedDiverseBooks #kidlit

Women Make Picture Books Too: the 2014 edition. @LaurelSnyder is compiling great 2014 PBs illus by women #kidlit

Growing Bookworms

What Should I Read to My Baby? Solid suggestions from @mrskatiefitz at @LibraryAdvent #kidlit

Mommy Librarian's Story Time Secret #4 @mrskatiefitz : Build Up Your Baby Story Time Collection

8 Ways to Use #Poetry to Calm Your Kids and Bring Joy to Your Daily Life @momandkiddo #literacy

Gateway Books -- 6 y/o Benjamin reviews the Magic Tree House series @Everead #GrowingBookworms


KidlitCon2014_cubeColor Me Excited--It's Cybils (+ #kidlitcon ) Season Again! says @aquafortis #kidlit

Hey there, #KidLitCon14 attendees, are you all following each other on Twitter? Here's the list:

Just added names to list of Registered Attendees for #KidLitCon14 | Registration deadline is Friday! Don't miss it!

Why you'd like to come to #Kidlitcon 2014 if you're a fan of MG/YA speculative fiction from @charlotteslib #kidlit

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

On the Power of the Reread @abbylibrarian | "The reread allows you to pick up on the many layers of a story..."

Read slowly (+ read more) to benefit your brain and cut stress. Slow reading movement profiled in @WSJ

The problem with the neutral love interest. On not needing to be able to "fall in love" as a reader from @haleshannon

In Defense of “Real” Realism in #Kidlit (w/ mention of Ramona Quimby) by Emma Barnes @AwfullyBigBlog @CynLeitichSmith

Kids Actually Read the Books That Movies Are Based On reports @TheAtlantic via @PWKidsBookshelf 


Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent | @NYTimes piece on techie parents limiting kids' gadget time via @ReadByExample

Discussing the Power of Play at the @CBCBook Annual Meeting, report in @PublishersWkly 

Events, Programs and Research

ReadAloudWebBadgeA National Effort to Read to Kids 15 Minutes a Day Needs Our Support | Lisa G. Kropp in @sljournal @ReadAloud_org

Why Everyone Should Read Harry Potter (improved empathy for other social groups) @SciAm via @charlotteslib

Today is International Dot Day. See what @MrSchuReads is doing to celebrate: #kidlit

A Picture Book Review for National #Library Card Month @SproutsBkshelf | Books Always Everywhere by Jane Blatt

Schools and Libraries

"instead of automatically turning to the canon ... let’s ... find stories that will speak to our children." @HornBook

Have You Tried Making #CommonCore Lemonade? | Teacher Amber Chandler discusses pros + cons @middleweb @ReadByExample

Harold O. Levy in @WSJ : Big Data analysis provides insight into school performance, esp. re. truancy

Literate Lives: Thoughts on providing Choice in students' #SummerReading fro @karenterlecky

Press Release Fun from @FuseEight | A $5,000 Award for School #Libraries

© 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 Case of the Stolen Sixpence (Maisie Hitchins): Holly Webb & Marion Lindsay

Book: The Case of the Stolen Sixpence (Maisie Hitchins, Book 1) (iBooks link)
Author: Holly Webb
Illustrator: Marion Lindsay
Pages: 176
Age Range: 7-10

The Case of the Stolen Sixpence is the first book in a fun new mystery series by Holly Webb, author of the Rose series. The Maisie Hitchins series is aimed at readers who are past early readers, but not quite ready for middle grade novels. The lines are widely spaced, the chapters are fairly short, and there are black and white illustrations by Marion Lindsay every few pages. I believe that this title would fall happily into the Early Chapter Books category for the Cybils awards.

Maisie Hitchins is an engaging protagonist. She lives in Victorian London with her Gran, who runs a highly respectable boarding house. Maisie helps out by running errands. But her passion is solving crimes. She is fascinated by "the famous detective Gilbert Carrington", and imagines herself "following footprints, spotting clues, trailing culprits..." Soon enough, by paying close attention to everything around her, she finds herself with a couple of mysteries to solve. She seeks to learn who tried to drown a poor puppy by tying it up in a bag, and, more importantly, to clear the name of a delivery boy who was (she believes) falsely accused of theft. 

Maisie is assisted in her efforts by a friend from the neighborhood (a bit of a stealth friend, as Alice is of a higher social class), her new puppy, and a couple of the lodgers in the boarding house (one of whom is in the theater, and can help with disguises). Her Gran is harried and stern but kind underneath, and the delivery boy is realistically prickly.

Despite the design of The Case of the Stolen Sixpence, there is some relatively advanced vocabulary. Like this:

"Maisie had to make sure she wasn't around when Miss Sidebotham came to collect Alice, though. She wouldn't have thought that landlady's granddaughter was a suitable friend for her dear little Alice. Plus Maisie couldn't help sniggering whenever the governess's name was mentioned. It sounded exactly like Sidebottom, and Miss Sidebotham's rear end was rather enormous." (Page 21)

I wouldn't expect the average 8 year old to recognize "sniggered", but I think it's a great word to learn!

Marion Lindsay's illustrations feature wide-eyed, round-headed characters in old-fashioned clothing. The people aren't quite realistic (with a hint of the cartoon to them), but they are friendly, and make the book more accessible. For kids new to reading about Victorian England, they quietly introduce cobblestones, and the appearance of horse-drawn carriages. 

Book 2 of this series, The Case of the Vanishing Emerald, will be out in 2015. This is a series that libraries will definitely want to stock - perfect bridge books for kids between The Magic Treehouse series and Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes books. And although the main character is a girl (shown in a purple dress on the cover), there is no reason at all why boys couldn't enjoy the amusing adventures of Maisie Hitchins. 

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHBooks)
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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

Zac and Mia: A J. Betts

Book: Zac and Mia (iBooks link)
Author: A. J. Betts
Pages: 292
Age Range: 12 and up 

Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts is, yes, another young adult novel about two kids with cancer who become involved with one another. But it's quite distinct from The Fault in Our Stars, from characters to setting (Australia). Zac and Mia begins with a first-person section from Zac's viewpoint. Zac is in isolation in a hospital in Perth recovering from a bone marrow transplant. Zac is 17 and is in an adult ward. As the story begins he is feeling pretty good, and is getting bored. He is intrigued when he glimpses and hears a new patient in the room next door, a girl of about his age. Mia is in and out, having chemotherapy for a cancer in her leg. The two teens connect by tapping on their shared hospital wall, and eventually on Facebook. In later sections of the book, the reader also gets to hear Mia's first-person viewpoint. 

Zac and Mia are kids who would never have met under ordinary circumstances. Zac lives on an olive farm five hours out of the city. Until becoming ill, he played sports, and helped out on the farm. He is close to his family, particularly his pregnant older sister, Bec. Mia, on the other hand, lives in Perth with her young single mother. She was, until her illness, a popular party girl, attending beauty school part time. She is not at all adjusted to having cancer. She hides her cancer from her friends, and fights bitterly with her mother and boyfriend. Despite their differences, the thing that Mia and Zac having in common, cancer, ties them together.

I thought that Betts did a fine job of developing both Zac and Mia's characters. Their different strengths allow them to help one another in ways that are not immediately obvious. They both change over the course of the book, too, in response to both each other and their clinical diagnoses. Zac is more likable, I think. He's a teen boy, with a thing for Emma Watson, and keen sense of observation. He maintains a sense of humor about his situation. Here are a couple of snippets.

"Mum's not a four-wall kind of woman. As long as I can remember, she's always had a straw hate and a sheen of sweat. She's hazel eyes and sun spots. She's greens and browns and oranges. She's a pair of pruning shears in hand hand. She's soil and pumpkins. She'd rather be picking pears or fertilizing olive trees than stuck in this room, with its pink reclining chair. More than anything, she's my dad's soul mate, though she won't go home when I ask her--even when I beg her." (Page 20)

"The marrow's German--the doctors were allowed to tell me that much. I've had German marrow for fourteen days, and though I'm not yet craving pretzels or beer or lederhosen, it doesn't mean I'm not changed in other ways... " (Page 29)

"According to the bathroom mirror, I have no neck. Is it possible my German donor was, in fact, Augustus Gloop? Or has all the ice cream I've been eating gone straight to my chin?" (Page 32)

Then there's a lovely passage in which he says that he's not brave, which I think says everything that needs to be said about him. But you can read the book to find it. I didn't flag as many passages from Mia, but she did grow on me as the story progressed. 

The Australian setting is different enough to pique the interest of US readers, without really feeling all that different at all. The hospital scenes are fairly universal, but Zac's family farm is full of "roos" and alpaca. There are some different food brands mentioned, but communication still takes place via text and Facebook, just as it does (or did until recently, anyway) here. 

All in all, I found Zac and Mia to be an engaging relationship drama about two strong characters. Their cancer drives the plot, but Zac and Mia is about much more than illness. There is some language and sexual references, making this more of a high school book than a middle school book, I think. Recommended for library purchase, or for anyone who enjoys realistic young adult fiction.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (@HMHBooks)
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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

Cybils and KidLitCon Updates

It's time once again for an update on what's going with the 2014 Cybils Awards and the 8th Annual KidLitCon


The Cybils organizers are all in place. You can see links to their profiles below. You can follow the Cybils organizers on Twitter via this handy list

The application period to be a judge for the 2014 Cybils Awards has closed. The panelist announcements will be coming soon, after a slight delay due to circumstances beyond our control. If you applied to be a Cybils judge and are waiting to here, please be patient. We'll share the panels just as soon as we possibly can. 

Nominations will still be opening on October 1st. It is definitely not too early to start thinking about what you feel are the most well-written, kid-friendly titles in each of the various categories. To see lists of finalists from previous years, visit the Cybils website, and follow the links in the upper right-hand sidebar. 

Here are our recent Twitter links: 

Meet the #Cybils Organizers: Stephanie Charlefour @scharle4 | Young Adult #Nonfiction | 

Meet the #Cybils Organizers: Jackie Parker @interactiver | Young Adult Fiction | #yalit 

Meet the #Cybils Organizers: Karen Yingling @MsYingling | Middle Grade Fiction |  #kidlit

Meet the #Cybils Organizers: Liz Jones @LizJonesBooks | Graphics  #kidlit

Meet the #Cybils Organizers: Pam Coughlan @MotherReader | Fiction Picture Books  #kidlit

Meet the #Cybils Organizers: Charlotte Taylor @charlotteslib | Elementary + Middle Grade Speculative Fiction  #kidlit

Meet the #Cybils Organizers: Jennifer Wharton, Elementary/Middle Grade #Nonfiction  #kidlit

Meet the #Cybils Organizers Katie Fitzgerald @mrskatiefitz | Easy Readers/Beginning Chapter books  #kidlit

Meet the #Cybils Organizers: Cathy Potter @cppotter | Chairing Book Apps  #BookApps


The Kidlitosphere Conference starts four weeks from today (October 10-11 in Sacramento, CA). Have you registered? You can find a partial list of registered KidLitCon attendees on the Kidlitosphere blog, and you can also follow the KidLitCon14 Twitter list. The KidLitCon Program has been updated slightly, and is looking great. 

Here are a couple of KidLitCon-related tweets from the past week: 

Do you guys realize that #KidLitCon14 is one month from today? Get those registrations in soon!  #kidlit #diversity

The Official @SCBWI Blog: #KidLitCon 2014 Focuses On #Diversity, writes @leewind 

And that's the scoop. I hope to see you at KidLitCon, and I hope that you'll considering nominating books for the Cybils. Not one but two chances to participate in the larger children's book blogging community! Have a great weekend, everyone!


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 12

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. There is a TON of great stuff this week, so I have moved Cybils and KidLitCon links to a separate post. In this post we have tweets on book lists, common core, diversity, growing bookworms, reading, writing, publishing, schools, libraries, summer reading, parenting, literacy programs, and research.

Book Lists

Scenes from the Multiverse ( #kidlit set in 3 or more worlds), #BookList from Views From the Tesseract

At Stacked: Reality Television Redux (additions to prior list of #yalit featuring reality TV)

18 Perfect Read Alouds for First Grade, a diverse, multicultural list from @pragmaticmom #kidlit

Making Handmade Journals + List of Books about Writing for Kids from @momandkiddo l #kidlit

Bibliophile’s Delight: Books that Celebrate Creative Writing, Book Lovers, + Libraries | Joy Fleishhacker @sljournal

Stacked: The Big Male YA Narrator Round-up @catagator #yalit

Real-life Heroes, Unspeakable Tragedies—and Kittens | Hi-Interest Nonfiction for Kids + Teens | @pwbalto @sljournal

Abhorsen read-alikes recommended by @HornBook #yalit #GarthNix

Celebrating Grandparents - 7 Multicultural Picks from @SproutsBkshelf #kidlit #booklist

24 Best Baby Books of All Time, @ParentsMagazine list, w/ contributions from @FuseEight + others #kidlit

12+ Books for Kids Not Ready for Harry Potter from @momandkiddo #kidlit

Common Core

Cut to the Core: Low Support for #CommonCore After First Year, reports @PublishersWkly

William J. Bennett makes The Conservative Case for #CommonCore @WSJ | Misleading rumors harm effort started in states


Must read | Forgive Me My Bluntness: I’m a Writer of Color and I’m Right Here In Front of You @ReneSaldanaJr

Growing Bookworms

SLJ Reviews LEGO StoryStarter: Using the classic brick, plus software, to foster narrative skills @ShiftTheDigital

Why kids should choose their own books to read in school | @ValerieStrauss in Washington Post via @PWKidsBookshelf

Story Time Secrets: 20 #Literacy Activities for Little Leaguers from @mrskatiefitz #kidlit

On how reading aloud can help you "catch" young readers, w/ rewards for all by Natalie Rogers @NerdyBookClub

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

A strong defense of reading fiction for pleasure (by kids + adults), not b/c it is "useful" @LizB

Why To Read: 10 Reasons Why Reading Books Will Save Your Life via @librareanne (opposite to @LizB 's earlier post)

Nice list of high-level benefits for kids (+adults) from reading more books, reported by @tashrow

Almost All the Books People Said (in Facebook meme) Influenced Them Were Written for Children | @MotherJones

The Hachette/Amazon War: One Writer’s Perspective shared anonymously @fuseeight #eBooks

Invented Dialogue and the Conundrum of the Picture Book Biography — @fuseeight #nonfiction #kidlit

Lovely! Go Forth and Re-Read Your Favorite Books From Childhood: A Dare from Syreeta Barlow @bookriot

How dark is too dark in children's books? | Rebecca Westcott starts discussion in @GuardianBooks

News for writers, @catagator is Opening Up a New Shop: Critique Services #yalit

Great stuff! Why Older Kids & Adults Need Picture Books & Graphic Novels, by @TrevorHCairney

Beinecke Library at Yale Acquires the Papers of @The_Pigeon Mo Author/Illustrator Willems #kidlit @PWKidsBookshelf


I believe in this | Developing a growth/learning mindset: Why I'll Never Tell My Son He's Smart | @KhanAcademy

Encouraging Our Kids to Tinker | Planet Smarty Pants #parenting #engineering

Playing with Children: Should You, and If So, How? | Peter Gray in Psychology Today #parenting #play

Pretty cool. Parental attentiveness to infant babbling 'speeds up language development' - via @PWKidsBookshelf

Events, Programs and Research

Usher to Host @Scholastic Event That Promotes Reading @GalleyCat via @PWKidsBookshelf #literacy

Literacy-incarcerated-teens-logo2Profile of the #Literacy for Incarcerated Teens program by Sandy Chung in @sljournal

Neat post about how @medinger is donating YA ARCs to Books for Incarcerated Teens #yalit

For Wendy Moore's birthday, her friends set up a virtual book drive. She gave books to 420 kids via @FirstBook

Bess_the_book_bus_logoWhat books meant to her during childhood and why she supports BESS THE BOOK BUS by @DGephartWrites @NerdyBookClub

A fun and worthy cause! Bess the Book Bus Online Book Drive, Featuring @DGephartWrites | Books & Books #literacy

Open a World of Possible -- A Wonderful Gift from @Scholastic says @frankisibberson (who contributed to this eBook)

Schools and Libraries

New @PewResearch Report Explores Young Americans' #Library Habits, @PublishersWkly has details

Young Americans and Public #Libraries – Highlights from A @PewResearch Study shared by @tashrow

Millennials Are Actually MORE Likely To Read Books, Study Says | @HuffingtonPost via @somers_library

Interesting. English words that represent numbers are confusing, lead to weaker math skills (vs., say, China) @WSJ

Elementary School Homework and Reading in Math and Science: read, play, + puzzle says @missrumphius

"Our children must spend more time reading than they spend completing reading-related activities" @donalynbooks

Sigh. What kind of person takes all the children's books out of a Little Free Library? @MLive via @PWKidsBookshelf

Summer Reading

SummerReading-LOGOKids Set a New World Record – Reading 304,749,681 Minutes in the @Scholastic #SummerReading Challenge

Literate Lives: Reflections from @karenterlecky on #SummerReading (and the joy of choosing what to read)

© 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.