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Posts from April 2015

Rappy the Raptor: Dan Gutman and Tim Bowers

Book: Rappy the Raptor
Author: Dan Gutman
Illustrator: Tim Bowers
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

I first read Rappy the Raptor, written by Dan Gutman and illustrated by Tim Bowers, silently to myself. And I must confess that it didn't quite grab me. But I went ahead and read it aloud to my daughter (age five) at bedtime. I found that Rappy the Raptor is one of those books that shines when read with a child. It's not just that my daughter loved it (which she did, giggling throughout), but that I appreciated the punchy, rhyming text much more when reading it aloud. 

Rappy the Raptor is the story of a young dinosaur (a raptor, of course) who tries to fly immediately after hatching, and lands on his head. After that, Rappy is observed to only speak in rap. His worried parents take him to the hospital, where he suffers a bevy of tests. But in the end, to everyone's relief, the doctor concludes that he was just born that way. 

So we have rhyme (lots of rhyme), various examples of the types of tests kid might go through at the hospital, parental love and concern, and a tidbit or two about dinosaurs. These diverse aspects work together because Rappy is an engaging, relatable (as far as a raptor can be) protagonist. 

Here's a sample:

"I'm Rappy the Raptor
and I'd like to say,
I may not talk in the usual way.

I'm rhymin' and rappin'
all of the time.
I'm talkin' when I'm walking
and I'm rhymin' when I climb."

The first paragraph of the above excerpt is repeated several times throughout the book, with variations in the second paragraph, like:

"I'm rappin' in the morning.
I'm rappin' at noon.
I'm rappin' in October
and I'm rappin' in June."

And more... It is catchy, though there were a couple of places that the text didn't seem to scan quite right for me. Some of the passages will definitely appeal to the preschool crowd, like this:

"The doctors looked me in the eye
and looked me in the ear.
And I'm not ashamed to say
they even looked me in the rear."

(giggles from five-year-old)

Tim Bowers' acrylic illustrations bring the happy-go-lucky Rappy to life. Even when he has a big bandage wrapped around his head, he remains mostly cheerful, with rounded, non-threatening teeth. His sharper-toothed parents look more worried, as any child would expect. Rappy also has a stuffed mouse, but one with raptor teeth, which renders him even more accessible to the preschool crown.  

Also, though I can't promise that this will happen with every young reader, this book set my daughter onto a rhyming tear. She raced out of the room to where my husband was, calling: "Daddy! Daddy! Listen to this. I'm Rappy the Raptor and I'd like to say..." followed by a deluge of rhyming gibberish. Your mileage may vary. 

All in all, Rappy the Raptor is a fun book, particularly well-suited to three to six-year-old who are learning about rhyme. Having the protagonist be a dinosaur will, I think broaden the book's appeal. This would make a great school or library storytime read (though be prepared for kids to fight over who gets to bring Rappy home). Recommended. 

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 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, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Literacy Milestone: Reading Babymouse

LiteracyMilestoneAOne of my favorite possessions is a stuffed Babymouse doll that was a gift years ago from Babymouse's author, Jenni Holm. I keep it on a moderately high bookshelf in my office. For a few months now, my daughter has delighted in climbing up to said shelf (there's a counter that she can stand on - it's not as dangerous as it sounds), and rearranging Babymouse (along with some other books and stuffed animals that also reside there). 

FullSizeRenderToday, she proudly showed me how Babymouse was sitting on a stuffed elephant's trunk. (The elephant is also a cherished possession.) I asked: "Did you know that there's a book series about Babymouse?" She had not known, and we immediately (never mind that I was still trying to work) had to go downstairs to get the first book, and start reading it.

This is my daughter's first graphic novel. It seems fitting to me that her first listen of a graphic novel should be to Babymouse: Queen of the World, because I adore Babymouse. I've given the early Babymouse books as gifts to a number of seven-year-old girls over the years, and would certainly have pointed them out to my daughter eventually (she has just turned five, and reading them on her own would be beyond her at this point).

In truth, I think that this book is a tiny bit beyond her comprehension level. There's a whole riff in which Babymouse is imagining herself as a hard-boiled private investigator that was completely over my own Baby Bookworm's head. But she's enjoying Babymouse: Queen of the World anyway. She immediately grasped the idea that some scenes (the pink scenes) are Babymouse's imagination. And she had no problem at all understanding the concept of Queen Felicia as a representative of "mean girls."  

So, I've promised to continue reading Babymouse: Queen of the World tonight at bedtime. I have a feeling I'd better start early, because she's likely to want to keep reading until we finish. I'm torn on the other books, though, as I would prefer to have her wait until she can read them herself. Decisions, decisions... [Updated to add: yes, we did finish the book as that evening's bedtime reading. I suggested that she wait until she could read the others herself. She responded: "Why?" Indeed. There will be no shortage of books for her to read on her own when the time comes.]

In our house, reading one's first Babymouse book is definitely a literacy milestone. 

© 2015 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 Friendship Riddle: Megan Frazer Blakemore

Book: The Friendship Riddle
Author: Megan Frazer Blakemore
Pages: 368
Age Range: 9-12

The Friendship Riddle is the newest book by Megan Frazer Blakemore (see my review of The Spycatchers of Maple Hill). The Friendship Riddle focuses on Ruth, the only girl with two moms in her small town on the coast of Maine. Ruth has been abandoned by her long-time best friend, Charlotte, after Charlotte went the popular route at the start of middle school. Ruth tends to immerse herself in fantasy novels, and views herself as a lone wolf.

One day Ruth finds a clue in a dusty library book that sends her on a riddle-solving quest. Her quest is set against a backdrop of middle school drama (friendships as well as very preliminary boy-girl "like" interactions), and some mild tension at home (centering around one Mom's extensive travel). So it's like Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library or The Mysterious Benedict Society crossed with a realistic "starting middle school" drama like Shug or No Cream Puffs, but with more diversity. And there's a spelling bee, so there are plenty of interesting vocabulary words.

This is a lot of ground to cover. Blakemore pulls it off, for the most part, though I did feel that a couple of plot threads weren't wrapped up a bit abruptly. Things I liked:

  • Blakemore's treatment of diversity is well-done. Ruth's two moms are an integral part of the story. And they are individuals, with faults, not cardboard cut-outs so that the author could check a box regarding diversity. Ruth's initial friendship with Charlotte evolved because Charlotte's gay dads are friends with Ruth's gay moms, which I found realistic. Charlotte was adopted from China, and this comes up periodically in the way she interacts at school, too, and in who she is. 
  • Ruth is a delightful character. She goes her own way, and is not to be pushed into middle school girl stuff. She refuses to wear a bra that she doesn't need, for example, even though the other girls in her class do. She has to be dragged into new friendships, but she does eventually follow.
  • Many key scenes of the book are set in the library, and/or center around books.
  • There are nods to other books, including a reclusive author whose last name is Wexler (surely an homage to The Westing Game).
  • The Friendship Riddle is an unabashed tribute to geekdom, from the quest to the spelling bee. The popular girl is mean and scheming, and the odd boy (apparently on the autism spectrum) turns out to be a good friend. But they aren't stereotypes, either. Charlotte, in particular, is a complex character, as is Ruth's new friend Lena.
  • The small town Maine setting is perfect for this story. Various town locations play a part in the quest, and the small-town (and small school) give everything a cozy, safe feel.  

The Friendship Riddle is not going to be for everyone - the kids looking for puzzles and riddles may not be as interested in the relationship dynamics, for example. I personally got impatient when the riddle quest went on hold for a while early in the book, even though books about adjusting to middle school are a particular interest for me. I think it's just a bit tricky to balance both types of story. 

But I also think that 11 year old Jen would have adored The Friendship Riddle, and would have longed to live in Ruth's small town. It's a perfect read for slightly geeky, word and puzzle-loving kids, especially girls. Recommended, especially for library purchase. 

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BWKids)
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 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, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: April 24

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics in this relatively brief issue include book awards, book lists, the Mathical Book Prizes, the Cybils Awards, growing bookworms, Madeleine L'Engle, schools, picture books, educational technology, banned books week, and libraries.


ABA Announces 2015 Indies Choice and E.B. White Award Winners | @ABABook Kudos to @hollyblack for YA book of the year

The Mathical Book Prizes, for books that “foster a love and curiosity for math” have been awarded via @tashrow

Leila rounds up various other recent YA books awards (Oregon, the Angus, and more!) @bkshelvesofdoom

The 2015 Eisner Award Nominations in comics + graphic novels have been announced, w/ 3 #kidlit categories @tashrow

Book Lists

Superhero Chapter Books for Kids age 6-10, from Zapato Power to the Princess in Black, from @momandkiddo #BookList

Every Hero Has a Story: Middle Grade Reading List w/ superheroes, an Army lieutenant, a spy +more from @mrskatiefitz

Children's Books with a Clear Problem and Solution, chosen by @ThisReadingMama #kidlit #BookList

Fun! Rachel Hamilton's top 10 explosions in children's books @GdnChildrensBks via @tashrow #kidlit

Top ten school-age (K-4th) read-alouds for this school year from @abbylibrarian #kidlit


On the #Cybils blog: Interview with author of Elem/MG Speculative Fiction winner The Luck Uglies, @pauldurhambooks

At Finding Wonderland, @aquafortis rounds up the recent Themed #Cybils Reading Lists! #kidlit

List Fun: I Like a Few Facts With My Poetry, a #Cybils #BookList from judge Carol Wilcox @carwilc 


We Need More International Picture Books, #KidLit Experts (incl. @FuseEight ) Say, reports @DibblyFresh @sljournal  

Events + Programs

BBW-logo2015 #BannedBooksWeek (9/27-10/3) to Focus on + Celebrate #YALit | @sdiaz101 in @sljournal 

The @CBCBook Partners w/ unPrison Project to Build Prison-Nursery Libraries for Incarcerated Mothers + Their Babies

This Saturday, April 25th, is apparently World Penguin Day. @BookChook has the scoop (+activities for kids) 

Harry Potter Alliance launches Accio Books! campaign to donate 60k books to communities in need  @ew @PWKidsBookshelf

Growing Bookworms

"The only sure shot way of encouraging a reader is to surround him with books he loves" - older kids + PBs @RivoKids

Reading Nook Ideas: Cardboard Castle from @growingbbb #GrowingBookworms

20 #SummerReading Ideas + Activities, from reading scavenger hunts to visiting the library, compiled by @growingbbb

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Check out deleted 3 page section from L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time on need for security as cause for conformity @WSJ

This is madness! Quebec girl told to stop reading books by school bus driver - @CBCNews 

Books--are they green? and how can I be a greener reader? Plus this year's Green Book Awards winners @charlotteslib 

I think this is promising: DC Debuts Line of Super Hero Graphic Novels, Merchandise for Girls  @PublishersWkly

Schools and Libraries

"Readers aren't made by mandates and fear; readers are made on laps, in libraries, in classrooms .." +more @cathymere

10 reasons why @katsok 's 5th grade students believe picture books belong in the classroom (+ more) @NerdyBookClub

Everything I Needed to Know (about teaching) I Learned in Kindergarten (while teaching) @mrazkristine @TheEdCollab

Turning the School Library into a Community Hub: Here’s How by Liz Phipps-Soeiro in @sljournal

Top 100 Most Social K-12 Tech Leaders on Twitter 2015 | @ValaAfshar @HuffPostTech

A lovely ode to libraries today (for National Library Week) @TesseractViews

How to Make Going to the Library EVEN MORE Fun, Summer Library Challenge from @momandkiddo + @bethanyntt 

Cool to see @FuseEight in: 17 Librarians, Past and Present, Who Made "Unlimited Possibilities..." Possible | @Bustle

© 2015 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.

I Am Otter: Sam Garton

Book: I Am Otter
Author: Sam Garton
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-7

I Am Otter by Sam Garton is the story of Otter, who lives with a young man he calls "Otter Keeper". When Otter Keeper goes to work, Otter, despite having his favorite teddy bear, and many toys, to keep him company, gets bored. One day, Otter decides to open a restaurant in the house. When things don't go well, Otter blames Teddy. But when Teddy disappears, he learns a valuable lesson about appreciating one's friends. 

It's all delightfully silly. The messes that Otter makes are truly epic, and will be appreciated by kids. The patience with which Otter Keeper stays up all night to find the lost teddy, and the exhaustion with which he faces the next day, will be appreciated by parents. 

Garton's text is colloquial, making the book accessible to preschoolers. Like this:

"Hi! I am Otter.
No one really knows where I came
from. Otter Keeper says that he found
me in a box on his doorstep one day."

Actually, Otter bears a certain resemblance to Paddington Bear: both are talking animals that live with humans that get into preschooler-type mischief, yet spend large chunks of time without any supervision. Except that Otter's toys, shown in vivid, digitally rendered illustrations, are much more modern. Garton uses a mixture of small vignettes and full page illustrations to capture Otter's antics. The illustrations reward attention to detail, as when we see Otter trying to keep Otter Keeper from leaving for work by hiding the alarm clock in the fish bowl (to the visible annoyance of the fish.

There's also what may be a nod to Winnie-the-Pooh in the illustrations, as Otter hangs ill-spelled signs around the house. When the restaurant doesn't work out, a sign says: "CLOSD: Ples go home now." 

I've learned that I Am Otter started out as a UK-based blog, which is still active. I believe that Otter has quite a fan base. But of course the book I Am Otter has to stand on its own - the four-year-old reader hearing the story in bed will not be consulting the blog for context. And I think that it does. Otter's story is straightforward silliness, with just the tiniest hint of sentiment (the finding of and renewed appreciation of the lost Teddy). The illustrations are kid-friendly (my daughter sought out the book as soon as she saw the cover), and sure to make any reader smile. I recommend I Am Otter for home or library use. 

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: April 29, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 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: April 22

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 usually send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four children's book reviews (early chapter book through young adult) and two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently. I also have one post with a literacy milestone concerning my daughter (playing librarian). 

Reading Update: Continuing my middle grade reading kick, in the last two weeks I completed four middle grade titles and one adult title. I read/listened to:

I'm listening to The City of Gold and Lead by John Christopher (Book 2 of the Tripods trilogy), and am reading I Am the Traitor by Allen Zadoff (Book 3 of the Unknown Assassin series, due out in June). 

The books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter can be found here. She recently declared her favorite book to be Socks! by Tania Sohn. But her appetite for new Berenstain Bears books remains insatiable. She received a Barnes and Noble gift card for her birthday, and she selected 3 Berenstain Bears Books, one Frozen coloring/activity book, one Jake and the Neverland Pirates book with little play figures included, and six Little Golden books about various familiar characters (including Lady and the Tramp). I did take the liberty of telling her that Grandma and Grandpa had only wanted her to use the money for books. 

The other news in Baby Bookworm's reading life is that she's listening to a new chapter book. She spotted the first three Alice-Miranda books by Jacqueline Harvey sitting on one of my upper bookshelves, made her precarious way up onto the counter to reach for them, and insisted that she wanted to hear the first one, Alice-Miranda At School. I thought that it would be too challenging for her (after she had recently rejected the second Clementine book for not having enough pictures), but she is up to Chapter 10. Go figure! She's also been dabbling in listening to audiobooks, via a CD that we have of some Disney Princess stories. 

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

© 2015 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 Detective's Assistant: Kate Hannigan

Book: The Detective's Assistant
Author: Kate Hannigan
Pages: 368
Age Range: 8-12

The Detective's Assistant by Kate Hannigan is historical fiction speculating on the existence of the niece of an actual historical figure, Kate Warne, the first female detective to work for Pinkerton's Agency. 11-year-old Nell Warne is dumped on the doorstep of her extremely reluctant aunt by marriage, after the deaths of Nell's family members from various causes.

Aunt Kitty lives in a Chicago boarding house in a time immediately prior to Abraham Lincoln's election as President. Aunt Kitty blames Nell's father for the death of her husband, and this keeps a rift between woman and girl. But slowly, Kitty starts to allow Nell to help her in her work, to become an informal detective's assistant. The two are involved in solving various cases, including one with great historical significance and one that strikes much closer to home.

Truth be told, it's Aunt Kitty who is the stronger character here, despite Nell's first-person viewpoint. Though rather disagreeable (Nell refers to her in letters as "Pickled Onion"), Kitty shows herself to be an early feminist, a woman who believes that girls can do anything. She is a stickler for vocabulary and self-improvement, and she frequently surprises Nell with her expressed beliefs (e.g., paraphrasing: 'You want to be a nurse? Why not become a doctor?').

On of my favorite scenes in one in which Nell and Kitty are following a suspected murderer at night, in a creepy setting. Nell worries that they'll be caught, and Kitty, after the briefest of reassurances, adds: "And the proper word is isn't, not ain't. Mind your grammar, even in times of distress."

Yes, Kitty/Kate is a strong character. But Nell is fun, too. She has a melodramatic voice that lends an over-the-top, not quite realistic tone to her experiences. This is a good thing, because otherwise reading about an unwanted girl whose entire family has died might be depressing. And The Detective's Assistant is NOT depressing. It's entertaining and educational and occasionally suspenseful, but not depressing. For example, here's Nell, undercover with some secessionists:

"I'd read enough newspapers by now to know about abolitionists, and I did not think the term deserved to go hand in hand with the word traitor. I fanned my face a little faster and resisted the urge to smack these blithering cretins roundly on their hot heads." (Page 274) 

All in all, Nell is a pretty good foil for Kitty. Hannigan weaves in the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of mid-nineteenth century America almost seamlessly. Nell is excited to try the exciting new food, "iced cream". And she is especially pleased with the new dish "Macaroni a l'Italienne with Fromage" (aka macaroni and cheese). She has to be careful not to drag her skirts through horse dropping along the street, and she aspires to the widest, most petticoat-filled skirts she can get.

Nell is an avid newspaper reader, and it is through her curiosity about the world that young readers will pick up background about Abraham Lincoln, slavery, and the Underground Railroad. Letters between Nell and her best friend, Jemma play a key role, too, conveying both major information and tidbits like the existence of "the glorious thirty-three states in the Union."

These letters (displayed using a font that looks like rounded handwriting) also help to show Nell's educational progress throughout the book, as her vocabulary and grammar improve. It's only in an afterword that the author reveals that Kate Warne and her Pinkerton's colleagues were real people. And finally, the letters include various codes that the two girls use for passing information back and forth. A key to the puzzles' solutions is included at the end of the book, though I doubt many readers will need it. 

The Detective's Assistant is an entertaining, multi-layered blend of historical fiction and mystery, perfect for middle grade readers. Highly recommended.  

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 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, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Literacy Milestone: Playing Librarian

LiteracyMilestoneALast night, not long before bedtime, I noticed that my daughter was being suspiciously quiet. I went into her room and found her ... organizing her collection of early readers by series and color. For example, the Mia books were together next to the Pete the Cat books because both have yellow and white spines. She then proceeded to give me one of the books (Celebrating Massachusetts) to take back to my room because it was green, and the only one from its series. I thought quietly to myself, "here is a librarian in the making." 

This morning she continued her organizing, and then went directly into pretending to be a librarian, telling me that, sadly, the library wasn't open yet, and I would have to come back later. When I said that I needed the library because I had no books at home she gave me a (pretend) comic book that she said I could keep, but that I would still have to come back later. Eventually she gave me some books "to take home", including Rocket Writes a Story, which she proclaimed "a grownup book."

As a side note, since we were looking at the (mostly lacking) organization of her books anyway, I suggested that we could go through the books and set aside the ones that we don't like as much. I said that we could donate them, and maybe someone else would appreciate them more than we do. She immediately piped up with: "Yes, let's donate that Book with No Pictures. But only to a grownup, because kids wouldn't like it." When she likes something, she is staunchly loyal. And when she doesn't like something... she doesn't change her mind, either. 

Anyway, I can't swear that this is the first time my daughter has pretended to be a librarian, but this is the first time I've seen her seriously organizing her collection. As for weeding the collection, well, we're going to have to work on that soon, before we completely run out of space. Happy National Library Week from Baby Bookworm (now 5 years old) and me! 

© 2015 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: April 17

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book lists, summer reading, tax day, baseball season, national poetry month, operation teen book drop, the Cybils awards, diversity, growing bookworms, schools, libraries, reading, publishing, Astrid Lindgren, reading retreats, and book promotion.

Book Lists

For #RedSox season, some favorite baseball-themed books (fiction + nonfiction) from @HornBook #kidlit

2015 Books from previous Caldecott Winners — @100scopenotes #kidlit

For tax day, #BookList for kids about money, money, money, money @HornBook #kidlit #nonfiction

Book List for Beginning Readers, perfect for #SummerReading from @momandkiddo

Great resource from @mrskatiefitz | a dozen easy readers featuring superheroes who are not licensed characters

7 More Comics for 7-Year-Old Girls from @GeekDads w/ suggestions from readers + including #Babymouse

23 Feminist Books Every Child Should Read from @buzzfeed #kidlit (from Paper Bag Princess to Princess in Black)

#RaisingReaders Monday: Favorite Adventure Series from @kateywrites (I love Mysterious Benedict Society, too)

Ten (Plus Two) Tried-and-True Read Alouds for Middle Grades by former 4th grade teacher @mrsmelanieroy @NerdyBookClub

Sigh Top Ten Most Challenged Books in 2014. w/ stated reasons via @bkshelvesofdoom

Make ‘Em Laugh | Funny audiobooks for kids and teens, recommended by Sharon Grover and Lizette Henegan @sljournal 

Novels in Verse: my top ten + two more to read (ages 9-12) from @MaryAnnScheuer #NationalPoetryMonth

2015 YA Novels in Verse: A Stacked #Bookfrom @catagator List #NationalPoetryMonth


On the #Cybils blog: Interview with @DeanPitchford1 author of MG Fiction winner Nickel Bay Nick @Book_Nut

On the #Cybils blog: List Fun from @SheilaRuth | Young Adult High Fantasy

On the #Cybils blog: List Fun: Readable Nonfiction for kids + teens, recommended by librarian + panelist @scharle4 


The @CBCBook and #WeNeedDiverseBooks to Partner on Resources and Programming for Publishing Internship Program

Events + Programs

The @readergirlz Operation Teen Book Drop 2015 will be held tomorrow, 4/16. Details here: #RockTheDrop Share books!

ALA_NLW2015_336x2808 Great Children’s Books About Libraries for #NationalLibraryWeek from @RobertaGibson

DigiLit Sunday: Five Web Poetry Stops You'll Want to Share with Students for #NationalPoetryMonth from @cathymere

Very cool. Until May 10 @The_Pigeon + his family will be matching individual donations to @FirstBook (up to $50k)

Terry @readingtub (w/ help from @SheilaRuth) is launching FLIP - A project / web app for #Literacy First Responders 

Growing Bookworms

Is your child a reluctant reader/writer? Take them to a show (author event) by Kristin O'Keefe in @washingtonpost

Lovely! "The emotional bonding that reading together has developed is something I never expected" @BooksBabiesBows

I enjoyed this post, about how Baby @greenbeanblog has preferences for certain books (above his age range), w/ photos

"Reading for fun – .. letting kids choose what they read and giving them time for that in school – has so much value"

I love these, too: Books about Books, with Book Lists from @semicolonblog #GrowingBookworms

Alysa @Everead says The Easiest Bedtime Story Ever involves retelling the stories from a child's favorite board books

"you have to show them the thing that will make them want to read. That’s what makes a reader" @Jon_Scieszka in PW 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

These I want! NYRB to Reissue Astrid Lindgren Classics Mio, My Son and Seacrow Island, reports @PublishersWkly

Here's where I'll go for my next reading weekend: 10 Great Bookish Hotels found by @catagator

Lovely! Ideas for A Dream Reader's Retreat from @catagator

Book-Shame | @medinger responds to @NYTimes piece, likes eReader partly for the privacy aspect

Searching for the Real: Children’s Literature When Fiction and Reality Intersect — @fuseeight #kidlit

Food for thought in: Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn't work. @DelilahSDawson

Useful for authors: Three Ways to Help Bookstores & Libraries Talk About Your Book | Kelly Jones @LatinosInKidLit

Stacked: How Do You Keep Track of #YALit Book Releases?: A Resource Guide from @catagator

Schools and Libraries

Using Comics to Teach English Language Learners | Dawn K. Wing @sljournal

Is rhyming ability in important in reading? @ReadingShanahan | yes but not as accurate or sensitive as other skills

Those Tired #SummerReading Lists. Here’s What to Do. (fostering lifelong reading) | Carly Okyle in @sljournal

Today at @MrSchuReads author @mstewartscience encourages educators to include #nonfiction in classroom libraries

Report debunks ‘earlier is better’ academic instruction for young children @ValerieStrauss in @washingtonpost

How #Libraries Are Transforming Into Community Anchors | Courtney Young in @HuffPostBooks

Hard to resist: 11 Reasons Librarians Are Better Superheroes Than The Avengers from @Grammarly 

© 2015 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 Book That Proves Time Travel Happens: Henry Clark

Book: The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens
Author: Henry Clark
Pages: 416
Age Range: 8-12

The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens by Henry Clark is an entertaining romp through history, complete with visits to the Civil War era south and ancient China. There are clues hidden in Morse code, as well as linked hints derived from an ancient Chinese text. There are multi-cultural characters, and their skin color is essential to the book's plot (not just an add-on for the sake of "diversity"). And yes, there is time travel, via a mechanism that I have not seen described previously. In short, The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens is smart and fun and a great choice for middle grade or middle school readers. 

The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens features a middle school age boy named Ambrose Brody (sometimes called Bro), his best friend Tom Xui, and a Romany girl named Shofranka who the boys meet at a carnival. Ambrose is worried about his father, who has recently been laid off as an English teacher at the middle school because he likes to walk around in (very detailed) historical costumes. [People who "prefer to dress in the attire of other time periods" are called "trans-temporals", and are frequently persecuted]. 

Ambrose ends up pulled into a time-traveling adventure by Shofranka, who is trying to find a hidden family treasure (and also replace a lost book). The three kids end up in their own southern town, back in 1849, where their various dark skin colors cause them some problems. Various adventures ensue, but I won't spoil the suspense by telling you anything more about them. 

Here's how Clark introduces Ambrose's ethnic background:

"I like Mrs. Xui (Tom's mother) but she says odd things sometimes. I once her call me "Tom's nice African friend," which I thought was pretty funny. My mom is black, but she's from Canada, and she can speak French because that's the only way she could talk to her grandparents. My dad is Irish, and he says he's the palest man in Ohio, which anybody who's seen him in a toga would definitely agree with. Irish doesn't describe me, and neither does African, though I do look more like my mom than my dad." (Page 33)

Tom has a verbal quirk by which instead of swearing he simply uses random vocabulary words. So we have passages like this:

"Bilious!" Tom cursed, and sat back down. He tugged on my pant leg until I joined him. "You're not going to let that astrolabe get to you, are you? We have better things to think about." (Page 49)

As these curse words are mentioned completely outside of any context, they are not useful for improving the vocabulary of readers. I personally found them mildly annoying. But that's my only real quibble with the book. There are various other examples of wordplay in the book that I think work better. 

The mechanics of the time travel are vague, but there is a thought-out method to the whole thing. There are definite echoes of the Back to the Future movies, including as an over-the-top example in which a tiny bit of knowledge given inadvertently to someone in the past changes the future (and not in a good way). One scene also strongly called to my mind the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. I don't think that kids will get too hung up on the details - they'll instead appreciate the inherent coolness that there would be in having access to a time travel device. 

The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens hits a nice sweet spot, I think, between geekiness and rollicking adventure. There are chases to be won, codes to be broken, and bullies to be tackled in various time periods. The interactions between the three main characters are plausible (with realistic amounts of sarcasm, for example), and there are plenty of kid-friendly details sprinkled throughout the book. The Book That Proves Time Travel Exists is well worth a look by libraries, and seems sure to please strong middle grade and middle school readers. Recommended!

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 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, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Completely Clementine: Sara Pennypacker + Marla Frazee

Book: Completely Clementine
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Illustrator: Marla Frazee
Pages: 192
Age Range: 6-8 

Clementine is back, and despite nearing the end of her third grade year, she remains Completely Clementine. In this installment Clementine is looking forward to the imminent birth of her new younger brother or sister, and to summer vacation. But her happiness is tainted by two things: her sadness at leaving the classroom of her beloved teacher, Mr. D'Matz; and her disagreement with her father over the eating of meat. As Completely Clementine begins, Clementine is giving her father the silent treatment, and neither one of them is happy about it.  She's also trying to get Mr. D'Matz "promoted" to teach fourth grade, but neither he nor the school principal is buying it. 

But in other ways, Clementine is the same. She still calls her brother by an assortment of vegetable names. She wants the new baby to have a name that's an object of some sort. She still spends time with friend and neighbor Margaret, despite their two very different personalities, and she is still "NOT" in love with Margarets's older brother, Mitchell. Here she is upon seeing Mitchell dressed up for his mother's wedding:

"And I still couldn't speak. I felt really strange. I felt ... at first, I couldn't even think of a word to describe it. 

And then I did: gozzled.

Which could N-O-T, not be right, because I did N-O-T, not love Mitchell.

But then, luckily, I figured it out When Mitchell says the word baseball, you can practically see the love stars beaming out from his chest. Because I was standing right in front of him, I must have gotten hit with some of them. (Page 115-117)

Marla Frazee's illustrations, as always, bring Clementine and her family and friends to life, particularly in little sketches that show the characters' moods via their expressions and posture. Frazee knows Clementine through and through by this point, as do loyal readers. I think that Sara Pennypacker is doing a nice job of having Clementine (and her brother, and Margaret) develop just the tiniest bit from book to book. They aren't fixed, but they aren't changing rapidly enough to be off-putting to young fans who gobble their way through the series. 

Completely Clementine is, perhaps, a touch lighter than some of the other books in the series, and with a compressed one-week time frame. This makes it a perfect summer read for six and sever year old fans (and for forty-something fans like myself). It has all of the trademark humor found in the other books, as well as what is sure to be a relevant plotline for many, about dealing with parent-child disagreements.Highly recommended!

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 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, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: April 10

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book awards, book lists (many!), the Cybils Awards, diversity, we need diverse books, growing bookworms, schools, summer reading, classic books, and puzzles.


If you could change any rule in the ALA Youth Media Awards (Newbery, etc.) what would it be? asks @fuseeight

Book Lists

25 Great Examples of Children's Books that Feature Birds from @TrevorHCairney #kidlit

Top 10 Best Multicultural Easy Readers per @PragmaticMom #BookList

Recommended books for Easter (secular and religious) from Katie Bircher @HornBook #BookList #kidlit

#RaisingReaders: Five Series for First Graders, approved by the 6 year son of @SunlitPages #kidlit

Early Chapter Books Featuring Magic Perfect For Kids Ages 5-9 | a @momandkiddo #BookList #kidlit

Great books that inspire a love of reading in kids — recommended by kids @ValerieStrauss @washingtonpost via @tashrow

Roundup of 2015 Books from previous Newbery Medal/Honor Winners — @100scopenotes #kidlit

Roundup of the 2015 books starring Latino and Latino-American characters. @fuseeight #WeNeedDiverseBooks #kidlit

This week's Tuesday Ten @TesseractViews is about #kidlit science fiction + fantasy involving circuses 

Top 10 Pulse-Pounding, Nail-Biting Historical Fiction Adventures by Kate Hannigan | @NerdyBookClub

Today's Stacked: Get Genrefied feature focuses on #YALit Westerns @catagator @kimberlymarief


On the #Cybils blog: Interview with J. Patrick Lewis + George Ella Lyon, #Poetry winners for Voices from the March

This month's Featured Blogger @Cybils is @LeeWind | great interview by @Book_Nut


How We Talk (or Don't Talk) About #Diversity When We Read with Our Kids | @mattdelapena @ReadBrightly

Best children's books to celebrate #diversity from @parentdishca via @tashrow #kidlit

Authors praise rise in LGBT-themed kids' books @ebarnews via @tashrow #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Interesting. How Asperger’s Powers My Writing by Tom Angleberger @origamiyoda @DisabilityInLit 

Events + Programs

Cool! New Kids' Book Festival for Boston kicks off June 20 #kidlit @PublishersWkly

Kudos to #WeNeedDiverseBooks on officially being a 501-c-3 Nonprofit. This will enable great programs @PublishersWkly

Summer-reading-challengeRT @Scholastic: WOW: day 1 of teacher registration down & already 100K kids are signed up for the #SummerReading Challenge!

The Joy of Reading | Q&A with National #SummerReading Champion Kate DiCamillo @sljournal

Growing Bookworms

Praise for Books Deemed Perfect for Reluctant Readers (attractive, hook readers + keep them reading) @LatinosInKidLit

Early #Literacy Around the House: The Backyard, including games w/ verbal component liked Red Rover @mrskatiefitz

"In order to raise readers, children must be given choices" says @StaceyLoscalzo #RaisingReaders

Poetry Is Actually Kinda Cool: Great #Poetry Books for Reluctant Poetry Readers by @buildalibrary @ReadBrightly 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Which modern day children's books will become classics? asks @GdnChildrensBks via @PWKidsBookshelf #kidlit


Puzzle play between ages 2 and 4 helps boost learning math-related skills -- @ScienceDaily

Article on the Benefits of playing Family Card Games with kids @WSJ (memory, math skills, closeness, etc.) 

Schools and Libraries

Common Misconceptions about Mindset, Rigor, and Grit by teacher @cherylteaches @middleweb

"Engagement matters. Choice matters. Motivation matters. I see it every day I teach." @katsok

© 2015 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.