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Posts from May 2015

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: May 29

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, Australian Book of the Year, book lists, book donation, Nancy Drew, summer reading, the Cybils Awards, diversity, gender, parenting, growing bookworms, SLJ Day of Dialog, picture books, digital reading, schools, and libraries. 


The 2015 Boston Globe @HornBook Award Winners announced by @RogerReads + @rebstead | @sljournal has the scoop #kidlit

The 2015 Australian Book of the Year (overall) is The 52-Storey Treehouse by @AndyGbooks | via @tashrow

Book Lists

Top 10 Circulated Picture Books of 2015 in @100scopenotes school library. Scaredy Squirrel rocks the list!

Best Picture Books of 2015 according to @momandkiddo 's family. From A Fine Dessert to Wolfie the Bunny #kidlit

Top 10 Circulated Graphic Novels of 2015 in @100scopenotes K-4 school library

The Ultimate Guide to Books for Reluctant Readers Ages 12 to 13 @bookriot via @PWKidsBookshelf #kidlit


On the #Cybls blog: #BookList Fun: Dynamic Duos in Books for Beginning Readers by @TheCathInTheHat

Diversity + Gender

Kids Need Queer Books: On the Challenging of LGBTQ Books in Schools | Danika Ellis @bookriot #DiverseBooks

Robert Muchamore: 'Don't gender-section books' @TelegraphBooks via @PWKidsBookshelf

Round up of several articles about boys reading “girl” books from @haleshannon #kidlit

Events + Programs

Lovely! Librarian Margie Myers-Culver donates 200 copies of @CordellMatthew 's WISH to new parents via @100scopenotes

Enjoy recaps of @sljournal Day of Dialog from @medinger and @FuseEight

Nancy Drew and her author get Literary Landmark dedication in Toledo via @PWKidsBookshelf

Growing Bookworms

How Wordless Books Can Help Your Kid Learn to Read | @CommonSense @HuffPostParents via @PWKidsBookshelf

Beware Grade-Level Reading and the Cult of Proficiency, from "quantification for quantification’s sake" @plthomasEdD

How Children's Reading Habits Are Changing & Six Ways to Support them in enjoying reading from @TrevorHCairney

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

What Makes a Picture Book Mega-Hit? asks @fuseeight w/ examples of some recent hits. I too am a Fancy Nancy fan.

Wow! The Authoritative Guide to Children’s Books Turned Into TV Shows from @100scopenotes

Yes, and… Thoughts on print versus digital reading and the need to teach kids each by @KristinZiemke @NerdyBookClub


Truth through humor from Christine Carter @raisinghappines | 11 Ways to Raise a Child Who is Entitled and Rude

Schools and Libraries

Top 10 Authors My 11th Grade Students Read Everything By – by @litreader @NerdyBookClub #YALit

Washington Study Further Ties Quality Library Programs to Student Success | @sljournal

An Open Letter To Principals (Before You Hire A New School Librarian) from @jenniferlagarde

Summer Reading

Parents: Facebook Chat @Scholastic June 1, Noon EST w/ recommendations for books that make kids laugh #SummerReading

"Reading is supposed to be enjoyable + #SummerReading finally gives kids a chance to have a break ..." @greenbeanblog

National Ambassador Kate DiCamillo on The Joy of #SummerReading (w/ booklist) @timeforkids via @MrSchuReads

Some Ideas for School Communities for Getting Students Ready for #SummerReading @cathymere #literacy

Top 10 Ideas for Schools to Promote #SummerReading by Clare Landrigan + Tammy Mulligan @clareandtammy @NerdyBookClub

How to Read With Your Rising First Graders and Kinders This Summer | Jill Eisenberg @LEEandLOW #literacy

© 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.

Five Recent HarperCollins Picture Books that I Enjoyed

I've fallen behind on my picture book reviews of late. So I've decided to try something new. I'm going to do small round-up posts featuring my favorites of the titles that I've received from various publishers. First up was Kane Miller. Second was Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Third was Chronicle Kids. Today I am featuring five titles (or so) from HarperCollins Children's Books.

1. Paddington in the Garden, written by Michael Bond and illustrated by R. W. Alley. In light of the recent movie, HarperCollins has been issuing and re-issuing various  editions of Paddington stories. Among my favorites are the picture books, including Paddington in the Garden. This story, lovingly illustrated by R. W. Alley, focuses on Paddington's love of the Browns' garden, and his joy when he's given a little patch of garden to maintain on his own. A contest ensues, and mishaps occur, but in the end, Paddington triumphs.  

Paddington in the Garden is text-heavy as picture books go, reflecting Paddington's original status as a chapter book character. There are sentences like: "They (gardens) usually require a lot of hard work, and the one at number thirty-two Windsor Gardens was no exception." Parents reading this aloud may have to stop and explain some things. However, the Paddington picture books still provide an accessible entry point for kids into the world of the Paddington stories. Alley's busy, colorful illustrations will make readers of all ages smile. My own daughter gave the first Paddington chapter book a try, but (at five) she likes the picture books better. 

2. Paddington at the Beach, written by Michael Bond and illustrated by R. W. Alley. Paddington at the Beach is a shorter, simpler story than Paddington in the Garden. It focuses on a visit that Paddington makes, by himself, to the beach, and his interactions with a pack of greedy seagulls. Paddington at the Beach is also a counting book, as seagulls 1 to 10 arrive gradually over the course of the story. This book feels more like it was conceived as an original picture book (vs. an adapted incident from one of the chapter books), though I don't know this for certain. Regardless, there is still a relatively sophisticated vocabulary that will reward parents and children reading together. 

Other Paddington titles that we've been reading include the original Paddington picture book and a The Paddington Treasury: Six Classic Bedtime Stories. I've also seen my daughter looking through a couple of movie tie-in edition paperbacks, but she hasn't asked me to read those to her. I suspect we'll get back to the chapter books soon... 

3. Goose, by Laura Wall. Goose is the story of a lonely girl named Sophie who wishes that she had someone to play with. At the park, she befriends a goose. They play together on the seesaw and the slide and have a great time. Eventually (after nearly going off for the winter with the other geese), Goose is allowed to go home with Sophie. 

I like that Goose is just ridiculous, with no moral messages or larger theme (beyond the idea that it's nice to have someone to play with). There's a boy playing in the park with his teddy, and I expected Sophie to end up playing with him, but no, Wall avoids this obvious solution in favor of Goose as playmate. 

There's an old-fashioned feel to Goose (Sophie and her mom both wear dresses, and there's no question of her mom playing with her in the park), but this is balanced by bright, eye-catching illustrations. The illustrations were drawn in charcoal, and then digitally colored. Each page has a single-toned, bright background. The text is brief and straightforward, meaning that Goose could also work well as an early reader. But I think that Goose will work best as a lap read-aloud for very young readers, who can practice identifying the colors, and laugh at the idea of a Goose on a slide. 

4. Goodnight Already!, written by Jory John and illustrated by Benji Davies. Goodnight Already! is the story of Bear, who just wants to sleep, and his neighbor Duck, who is awake and looking for company. Duck keeps hounding Bear, and Bear responds with ever-increasing levels of grouchiness. Until, eventually, Duck falls asleep, and Bear is left wide-awake and frustrated. 

There's a long tradition of books like this, of course, with a pesky friend trying to win over someone grouchy (who often is a bear). What I like here is that Bear never is won over (even though he is woken up). No matter what Ducks asks ("Want to play cards?" "Can I borrow some sugar?") the answer is always "No." There's also plenty of humor, both in the dialog and in the illustrations. My favorite scene is one in which Duck wakes up Bear by poking him on the nose. Bear's eyes pop open, and so do the eyes of Bear's pink stuffed bunny. I laughed out loud. 

I'm actually surprised that this book has a different author and illustrator, because the text and illustrations mesh perfectly. I recommend Goodnight Already! for home use, because it's a perfect parent-child read-aloud. The only risk in reading it as a bedtime book, of course, is that the child will be kept awake from laughing. But that's a small price to pay. Goodnight Already! is going on my keep shelf. 

5. Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens, written by Nina Nolan and illustrated by John Holyfield. Very different in tone from the picture books profiled above, Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens is a picture book biography about a girl from a poor family in New Orleans who grew up to be a famous gospel singer. 

Nolan's prose somehow begs to be read with a Southern accent. When her aunt tells her "One day you'll walk with kings and queens", what follows is: "How was Mahalia going to walk with kings and queens? She didn't even have shoes. But Aunt Bell had a way of knowing things." 

Her aunt is strict, and takes her out of school after fourth grade, but she still tells Mahalia to believe in her own greatness. That aunt is remarkable, as is Mahalia's story. There's a lack of melodrama to Nolan's recounting. Just the facts. Out of school, back in school, working hard, but always singing. Holyfield's acrylic illustrations add more softness to the book. They are works of art, too, capturing the various settings experienced in Mahalia's journey, as well as the affection between Mahalia and her relatives. 

Young readers will, I think, be inspired by Mahalia's dedication to her music, and to her religion. If she could rise up from nothing and sing in front of prime ministers and presidents, it will be hard for readers to complain. I hope that kids will find Mahalia's story. Recommended for school and public library purchase. 

© 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).

The Black Reckoning (Books of Beginning): John Stephens

Book: The Black Reckoning (Books of Beginning)
Author: John Stephens
Pages: 432
Age Range: 8-12

The Black Reckoning is the final book of John Stephens' Books of Beginning Trilogy, following The Emerald Atlas and The Fire Chronicle. I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to the series. Stephens does a good job of reminding readers of key facts from the two previous books, without slowing down the action. He also incorporates humorous passages to lighten the fairly dark overall story. This review will assume that readers are familiar with the first two books.

In The Black Reckoning, the youngest Wibberly sibling, Emma, becomes guardian of the third of the Books of Beginning, the one with power over death. The story begins with Emma having been kidnapped by the evil Dire Magnus. Her brother and sister, together with their mentor Dr. Pym and Emma's protector, Gabriel, search for her. In parallel, they strategize with dwarves, elves, and humans to fight back against their increasingly powerful adversary. 

As in the Lord of the Rings movies, the primary source of humor in The Black Reckoning comes from the historical bad will between elves and dwarves. Like this:

"Please understand," King Bernard said, gesturing about with a large peacock feather (where had that come from?). "We think dwarves are marvelous at certain things--pounding bits of metal with other bits of metal, getting insensibly drunk. But large-scale strategic thinking is not really a dwarf's forte. Or small-scale strategic thinking, for that matter. Or, well, thinking--full stop." (Page 52)

Stephens also extracts some boy-friendly humor from the addition, in this installment, of giants. Like this:

"Further along the valley stood an enormous, ramshackle wooden house. It looked exactly like the sort of house that someone forty feet tall and not overly concerned with cleanliness and appearance might choose to live in." (Page 117)

But The Black Reckoning also has both suspense and heart. Stephens changes viewpoint between several protagonists, leaving them at key moments and thus building tension. He also dwells extensively on the love that various characters feel for one another, particularly the bond between Emma and Gabriel, and that between Kate and the boy who become the Dire Magnus in The Fire Chronicle

I did find parts of The Black Reckoning to move a bit slowly (it took me longer to finish than I would have liked), but I found the characterization strong and the ending moving. Fans of the first two books will definitely want to read this one. As to the series as a whole, I think it will appeal to those who enjoy epic fantasy sagas. Now that the trilogy is complete, they can immerse themselves in all three books. 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids
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).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: May 22

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include Children's Choice Book Awards, the Cybils Awards, the Edwards Award, book lists, summer reading, growing bookworms, diversity, gender, reading, ebooks, 48 hour book challenge, Judy Blume, parenting, Pippi Longstocking, schools, and libraries. 


The 2015 Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards @tashrow| kudos to @OliverJeffers  #kidlit

5 Reasons Why the Children’s Choice Book Awards Are Better than the Oscars (+ other awards) @BookishHQ via @FuseEight

The 2015 Edwards Award Winner is @sharonmdraper | See the list of previous winners @LizB  #YALit @YALSA

I love this award: Mathical: A New Book Award Honors the Magic of Mathematics | @sljournal 

Book Lists (Including Summer Reading Recommendations)

A Monstrous Mouthful of Children's Picture Books, recommended by @BookChook #BookList #kidlit

10 to Note: Summer #KidLit Preview 2015, picture book through middle grade — @100scopenotes

Every Hero Has a Story: A Summer Reading #Booklist w/ mix of nonfiction + fiction, genres, backgrounds @molly_wetta

I particularly enjoyed this list by @CarliSpina @HornBook of #kidlit set in museums 

Classic #SummerReading #BookList for Tweens from @momandkiddo (w/ one of my faves: Gone-Away Lake)

New 2015 #SummerReading Recommendations from @HornBook in various #kidlit categories, w/ emphasis on reading for fun

This week's Tuesday Ten @TesseractViews features speculative fiction with A Splash of Purple  #kidlit

YA Books That Work For MG Kids (including SHUG, one of my faves) | @ehbluemle @PublishersWkly  #YALit


On the #Cybils blog: Interview with author of 2014 #YALit Speculative Fiction winner THE LIVING, @mattdelapena

On the #Cybils blog: Audio #BookList Fun: Listening to the some recent + classic Cybils titles by Lucy @readingdate 

Diversity + Gender

Evaluating Transgender Picture Books; Calling for Better Ones | Librarian Kyle Lukoff in @sljournal #kidlit

The fallacy of shielding boys from stories about girl characters. @heidistevens13 talks with @haleshannon in Tribune

Have you seen @RIFWEB 2015 Multicultural Booklist (Grades K to 5)? 39 books listed, including one by @medinger

eBooks vs. Print

People are Losing their Trust in #ebooks + may be returning to print, reports @goodereader via @tashrow

Thoughts on Kids' Reading in the Digital Age from @frankisibberson + @billbass in @NCTE #Literacy blog

Events + Programs

Nice! Big-Hearted Book Lovers Across Brazil Donate 5,000 Books To Fulfill Girl's Library Dream @HuffPostParents

Growing Bookworms

A #SummerReading theory from @BooksBabiesBows : "the more the books are available, the more kids will read" 

How Doing Science Experiments Can Help Improve Kids' Reading Skills by @ThisReadingMama

Rereading "encourages a child’s predicting of outcomes, appreciation of patterns + understanding..." @AwfullyBigBlog

Literacy Research News Great for Family #Literacy, @readingtub reports on recent @RIFWEB results

More UK pupils 'reading for pleasure' suggests National Literacy Trust survey in @BBCNews story 

Girls like digital media while boys prefer print, finds UK Literacy Trust study on reading habits | @Guardian 


48hbc_newDetails from @MotherReader on the Tenth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge | #48HBC

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

I could relate to this guest post by @bkshelvesofdoom @bookriot | My Fictional Childhood Best Friends (oh, Meg Murry)

"What we have to do ... is understand that e-books are not better, nor do printed books make you old fashioned"

Judy Blume Knows All Your Secrets - Interview by Susan Dominus in @NYTimes Magazine

Funny stuff! Top 10 ways to be evil in children’s books | @GdnChildrensBks via @charlotteslib #kidlit

"A re-read allows us to fly over the pages and absorb more of the secondary meaning of the book" @Flavorwire books

"Taking time to read makes us better people, and enhances our perception of what the world can be" @NerdyBookClub

Book Recommendation Website Cage Match by @bkshelvesofdoom at @bookriot  @goodreads @NoveListRA etc.

It's hard to believe that Pippi Longstocking is 70 today. She seems so young! @cjfriess has the scoop 

Happy 70th Birthday, Pippi Longstocking! @PublishersWkly rounds up various celebratory photos  #kidlit

16 Reasons People Will Always Love Reading #YALit Novels At Any Age @buzzfeed via @PWKidsBookshelf  #IReadYA


The Difference Between Praise and Encouragement | by Vicki Hoefle @PBSParents #Parenting

Let the Kids Learn Through Play urges David Kohn in what seemed to me a well done @NYTOpinion piece

Schools and Libraries

"Series are king": Top Ten Lit Lessons I’ve Learned from Students by teacher-librarian @LibrarianArika @NerdyBookClub

Four Guidelines for Teachers to Encourage Kids in #SummerReading | @kylenebeers #RaisingReaders

Now Is The Time To Go Into Education 'If You Want To Make A Difference,' Says Teacher Of The Year in @HuffingtonPost

How One Man And His Horse Created A Mobile #Library In Indonesia @TheWorldPost via @tashrow

© 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.

Four Recent Chronicle Kids Picture Books that I Enjoyed

I've fallen behind on my picture book reviews of late. So I've decided to try something new. I'm going to do small round-up posts featuring my favorites of the titles that I've received from various publishers. First up was Kane Miller. Second was Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Today I am featuring four titles from Chronicle Kids.

1. Stella Brings the Family, written by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown. Stella Brings the Family is about a little girl who has two dads who is worried about being "the only one without a mother at the (class) Mother's Day party." Her discussions with her classmates reveal that the lack of a mother doesn't cause Stella any other strife. Daddy makes her lunch, and Daddy and Papa both read her stories, etc. It's not that her lack of a mother is a secret - she just doesn't know what to do on this occasion. Eventually, she decides to bring all of the people who care for her (two dads, grandma, aunt, etc.) to the party.

I was a tiny bit bothered by the central implausibility of this story - that her teacher wouldn't have known that she had two dads, and talked to her about it. Apart from that, though, I enjoyed reading about much-loved little Stella, her various family members, and her non-judgmental classmates.

Schiffer's prose is straightforward, with short declarative sentences that help in keeping this story matter-of-fact. Clifton-Brown's watercolor illustrations add warmth, with Stella's curly red hair front and center. The multi-paned party invitation that Stella makes also takes a central place, and appears realistically kid-drawn. Stella's classmates also display a realistic multi-cultural diversity, as well as having their own varieties of family structures. Ultimately, Stella Brings the Family celebrates not so much two dad families, but the fact that families today come in all permutations and combinations. This makes Stella Brings the Family a good choice all around for libraries.  

2. Polar Bear's Underwear, by Tupera Tupera. As one might expect from the title, Polar Bear's Underwear is a silly book about a polar bear who can't find his underwear. His friend Mouse helps him to search for it. Mouse continually points out outlandish pairs of underwear, each seen through a page cut-out. Turning the page reveals the owner of that particular pair of underwear (of course the own isn't Polar Bear until the end of the book). The colorful striped pair belongs to Zebra. ("it's his favorite pair, too.")

There's plenty of humor to Polar Bear's Underwear, as when the owner of a pink pair that says "I love mice" turns out to be Cat ("RUN!"). Of course it's not sophisticated humor. It felt a bit repetitive to me by the end as an adult reader. But I think that three and four year olds, particularly those new to wearing underwear themselves, will enjoy it. The illustrations primarily consist of the underwear and the animals wearing them, with minimal distraction for young readers. 

It's hard to tell from the picture, but the red underwear shown on the cover of Polar Bear's Underwear is actually removable cardboard that goes around the book. You have to take off the bear's underwear in order to open the book. I thought that this gimmick would please my five year old, but she was unimpressed. The removable underwear probably makes book a better choice for home than for library use (one had to keep track of the underwear once it is removed, after all). Polar Bear's Underwear is humorous and kid-friendly, though mainly suited to preschool age readers.  

3. Farewell Floppy by Benjamin Chaud. Farewell Floppy is a quirky tale of a boy and his pet rabbit, Floppy. Floppy isn't much use as a pet - he doesn't really do anything (except jump really high when you scare him). So the boy decides on day that he's going to set Floppy free. He takes Floppy deep into the woods, and (though it's harder than he expects) ties him to a tree and leaves him there. But then ... he learns that it's not so easy to leave behind something that you love, even if you are trying to be more grown up. 

Farewell Floppy is kind of an odd book - it's not fantasy, but it's not straight-up realistic, either. (Have you ever seen a rabbit ride piggy-pack on a boy's shoulders?). The writing is a mixture of dramatic narrative ("The trees got taller and taller. It got darker and darker.") and self-rationalization ("Instead, he just sat there like a nincompoop. He was practically begging me to leave him"). But it definitely makes you want to keep reading, to find out what will happen. Chaud's illustrations capture this mixed tone, with the woods looking rather scary, but Floppy coming across as amusing and slightly pathetic. Readers may not always know what to make of Farewell Floppy, but it will stand out as unique on their shelves. 

4. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt is a celebration of gardening, told from two different perspectives. Up in the garden, a girl and her grandmother plant and water and weed, and enjoy themselves. Down in the dirt, various animals also contribute to the growing of the garden, from the pill bugs chewing through last year's dirt to the skunks gobbling cutworms. 

Messner's prose is lyrical without actually being poetry. Like this:

"I weed and wilt in sun so strong even
Nana looks for shade.

Down in the dirt earthworms tunnel deep.
I'm jealous of their cool, damp, dark."

Neal's mixed media illustrations are as full of browns and greens as any garden. He gives loving attention to even the smallest of creatures, using shifting perspectives to emphasize, for example, a ladybug on a leaf, while the girl and her Nana are small in the background. The color palette follows the seasons, getting warmer and brighter at first, and then darker as fall and winter approach. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt is a book that will make young readers look at the outdoors in a different, respectful way (with fun thrown in, too). End material talks about the various animals in the book in more detail. This would make a great addition to a classroom unit on gardening for second or third graders. 

© 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).

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: May 20

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 two children's book reviews (both picture books) and two posts with mini-reviews of several titles each (from Eerdmans and Kane Miller). I also have one post describing my daughter's and my experience doing the #BookADay summer reading initiative, and one post describing a new literacy milestone for my daughter. Finally, I have two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently, 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I completed one early chapter book, one middle grade title, one young adult title, and two adult titles. I read:

  • Marc Brown: Buster's Dino Dilemma (An Arthur Chapter Book). Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Early Chapter Book. Completed May 18, 2015 (read aloud to my daughter).
  • John Stephens: The Black Reckoning (Books of Beginning, Book 3). Knopf Books for Young Readers. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed May 16, 2015. Review to come.
  • Melissa E. Hurst: The Edge of Forever. Sky Pony Press. Young Adult Fiction. Completed May 14, 2015, on digital ARC. Review to come. 
  • Daniel T. Willingham: Raising Kids Who Read. Jossey-Bass. Adult Nonfiction. Completed May 7, 2015. This is an excellent book for parents about encouraging children to love reading. The author shares a similar philosophy to my own, the idea of wanting kids to love books because we love them, and have gotten so much joy out of reading. I have not had time to review (I'm a bit daunted because I flagged about 100 passages), but I do highly recommend this one. 
  • Katherine Neville: The Eight. Ballantine Books. Adult Fiction. Completed May 19, 2015, on MP3. A re-read of an old favorite (and first time listening on audio). 

I'm listening to Dry Bones, A Walt Longmire novel by Craig Johnson. I'm reading the fourth book in Y. S. Lee's The Agency series, Rivals in the City on my Kindle (courtesy of a belated Christmas gift card). I have a sizable stack of books that I am dying to read, and am working on carving aside more time for that. My biggest problem is that I've been getting up very early, and by bedtime (when I'm most likely to allow myself to read), I fall asleep after very few pages. 

The books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter can be found here. Recent repeat requests have included The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen and Irene Luxbacher, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown, and The Eeensy Weensy Spider Freaks Out! (Big Time!) by Troy Cummings. On our most recently library visit she mostly picked out picturebacks featuring familiar characters from video series (Dora the Explorer, Caillou, Arthur, etc.). The funny thing is, she rarely actually asks to read these books - they mostly sit in her book bag until we return them. But something about pulling them off the shelf pleases her. 

She remains a dabbler in listening to chapter books. She has a good attention span when we read, and seems well able to follow along with a story even when there are minimal or no pictures. However, her attention usually flags between reading sessions, such that we rarely finish a title. Her selection process is somewhat random (based on what happens to catch her eye at the library, or what arrives on our doorstep).

I sometimes feel like if I pushed a bit harder to recommend titles myself, she might find the title that holds her interest from day to day. But my general policy is that if there's a book that she wants to read, for whatever reason (as long as it's not severely inappropriate), I go with it. So we spend a lot of time reading books like Plant Your Path: A Plants vs. Zombies Junior Novel (which has a decidedly non-linear, choose your own path storyline) and Battle Bugs: The Lizard War by Jack Patton (which we cannot read at bedtime, because it might cause bad dreams). I have managed to slip My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett into the rotation, so we'll see how that one works out. 

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

Wish: Matthew Cordell

Book: Wish
Author: Matthew Cordell
Pages: 48
Age Range: 3-5

Matthew Cordell's Wish is a lovely little picture book about an elephant couple longing for a baby. They plan for the baby, but when he doesn't arrive, they are sad. They attempt to go on with their lives, but their happiness is dulled. Until the fabulous day when their wish is granted, and the baby arrives. 

The trying for and arrival of the baby are conveyed in a highly abstract manner. The elephants build a boat and go out to sea and wait for the baby to land in their boat. When he does come, he arrives in his own boat, carried in by a storm. I was reminded a bit of Sweet Moon Baby, in which an adoptive human baby arrives in a similar manner. But in Wish, the impression received by this adult reader is not of adoption, but of a battle with infertility, which is eventually and unexpectedly won.

This does make me wonder a bit about the appropriate audience for the book. I don't think it would work with the early elementary school set, kids who are interested in learning "for real" about where babies come from. It feels almost like a gift book that one would give to adult friends finally expecting a longed-for child. But I think that it also provides a nice vehicle by which parents can tell their young children how much they were longed for, and welcomed, without having to get into any technical details about childbirth. Like this:

"And with every feeling 
that was ever felt,
everything happens.

That everything is YOU.
That everything is US.

You are here."

The joy of the parents, and the child, positively leap from the last few pages of the book. Cordell's pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations are well-suited to the quiet tone of the book, with small vignettes, plenty of white space, and occasional flares of multi-colored bubbles, like gumdrops, conveying effervescence.  

Wish captures both the sadness of unfulfilled longing and the deep love of parents for their children, even before said children are bone. It does this with scarf-wearing elephants and confetti, maintaining a mostly light, quiet tone. I'm interested to try it out with my daughter, and I'll be keeping it in mind as a baby gift for new parents. It is sure to make them smile. 

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion)
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).

Literacy Milestone: Her First Visit to a Little Free Library

LiteracyMilestoneAThis weekend my daughter visited her first Little Free Library. Actually, it was my first visit, too, though I had seen various photos. Last week I saw an LA Times article by Carolyn Kellogg about a children's book drive by Little Free Libraries. As my daughter's bookshelves (not to mention my own) have been a bit overloaded, I suggested to her that we pick out some books to donate. She was thrilled with this idea.

We spent a couple of days intermittently going through a subset of her books and selecting those that were donation-worthy. Her first pick to be jettisoned was The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak (which she actively dislikes, as previously discussed), but we couldn't find it. We made a rule that we both had to agree on each title - if either us felt that the book should be kept, we would keep it. This process led to quite a bit of extra reading, as a number of books had to be read to be evaluated, and a relatively small stack of books to donate. I was able to beef up this stack with some selections from my own stacks, and we assembled a moderate-size box.

On Saturday morning we set out (with help from the LFL website) to find the closest Little Free Library. The one we eventually found was  across the street from an elementary school, close to the public library (where we also had books to drop off), and perfect for our purposes. We got out, dropped off the box, and picked out two books to take home. My daughter was charmed by the whole process, and has shown much more interest in reading "the Little Free Library books" than the (44!) books that we checked out from the public library. We are currently halfway through Buster's Dino Dilemma from the Arthur Chapter Book series). 

A few take-home messages from this process:

  1. The weeding process led to additional reading aloud (of infrequently read titles), and appeared to empowering for my daughter. 
  2. The cuteness of the actual Little Free Library increased my daughter's pleasure in the whole experience, and helped her to bond with her selections. 
  3. This entire experience, of course, reinforces the power of individual choice by kids in what they are going to read. 

I do recommend this experience. Even if there's no book donation drive going on, there is nothing stopping you from collecting a half dozen books from your child's shelves, and finding the closest Little Free Library. Or, of course, taking books to a school, hospital, shelter, etc. Anywhere that you know that gently read children's books will be welcome. And then you'll have room for more books!

© 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: May 15

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include the Jane Addams Book Awards, the Cybils Awards, diversity, Reading Is Fundamental, Little Free Library, literacy programs, growing bookworms, Reading Rainbow, KidLitCon, reading, writing, book discovery, parenting, schools, and libraries. 


Recipients of the 2015 Jane Addams Book Awards were announced today, reports @MitaliPerkins #kidlit

The 2015 International Latino Book Awards Finalists! | @LatinosInKidLit #kidlit

Book Lists

Suggested titles from @StaceyLoscalzo + her daughter for a Middle Grade Family Book Club (parent + child) #kidlit

This week's Tuesday Ten @TesseractViews focuses on #kidlit SFF where the color silver plays a major role

67 Children's Books That Actually Changed Your Life, stories from @buzzfeed readers #kidlit

Stacked: What About YA Non-Fiction?: A Look at Recent and Upcoming Titles #YALit #nonfiction

Books that Rock: YA Fiction for Musicians and Music Lovers | @molly_wetta #YALit #BookList


On the #Cybils blog: Interview with @brandycolbert , author of YA Fiction winner Pointe #YALit

The #Cybils organization's very own @MsYingling is the @YABooksCentral Superstar of the Month. Much-deserved!

On the #Cybils blog: Easy Readers for Toddlers, #BookList from @TheNovelWorld includes @melissawiley + @The_Pigeon 


Spotlight on the Six #Diverse Stories selected for the @FirstBook 2015 Stories for All Project

8 Books About Low-Income Teens from librarian @farre @tsuteam2 #YALit #BookList

Events + Programs

Skybrary_Logo-400x307Fulfilling kickstarter promise, @ReadingRainbow introduces #SKYBRARY a subscription web service w/ books + videos

Read for Success program @RIFWEB shows huge success in turning summer slide into reading GAINS for disadvantaged kids

Neat! @LtlFreeLibrary announces kids' book drive this Saturday, reports @latimes via @PWKidsBookshelf

Per @CynLeitichSmith | @Jumpstartkids + @Candlewick Partner to Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Read for the Record 

See favorite moments from the 96th annual Children's Book Week here:  #CBW15 #kidlit

This is great! At The Barbershop, Cops Read To Kids To Build Language And Relationships | 90.5 WESA @PWKidsBookshelf

Children's Publishers Donate Books to Prison-Nursery Libraries, reports @MitaliPerkins @CBCBook @unprisonproject

This is neat! Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists Help Connect Low-Income Students w/ Elite Colleges @WSJ @QuestBridge 

Boston College Students (including my niece, Arev!) Start Support Group for Women in Innovation  @BostonMagazine

Growing Bookworms

My daughter likes to play library, but the @growingbbb kids really go all out. Fun photos!

Useful stuff! "Thoughts on 'teaching' reading (and why I don't do it)" from homeschooling mom @melissawiley

Sketching and imagination as tools for close reading and comprehension for kids 3-12 by @TrevorHCairney

13 Reading Ideas for the Child Who Needs to Move (inc. exercise bikes) by @ImaginationSoup @ReadBrightly #literacy

#RaisingReaders Monday @kateywrites | Thoughts on the intersection of musical education and #literacy development

"Forced #SummerReading does not make readers out of non-readers; all it does is build resentment" @brainchildmag

Fun stuff! How To Start a Story Time Program for kids in your community by @growingbbb

Brains, Schools and a Vicious Cycle of Poverty, results from new study on brain differences in lower income kids @WSJ 


2015-KidLitConLogoSquareAnnouncing the Call for Session Proposals for #KidLitCon 2015 from Program Coordinator @charlotteslib

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

For writers: "What Are the Great Children’s Literature Writing Retreats?" — @fuseeight rounds them up

For readers, a roundup of "New-ish book discovery engines and websites" from @bkshelvesofdoom

New and forthcoming books for teens tackle increasingly complex and sophisticated issues, reports @PublishersWkly

Why teenagers have to take terrible risks in YA literature – and in real life too | Maria Farrer @GdnChildrensBks

Amazon Editors Launch a Young Adult Book Club reports @GalleyCat via @PWKidsBookshelf #YALit

Lost for words? How reading can teach children empathy | @GuardianTeach @EmpathyLabUK

The Pros and Cons of Writing a Blog per @100scopenotes | I'd add "wondering if anyone is reading what you write" :-) 


This is hilarious! "Help! ‘Free-Range Kid’ Epidemic Is Spreading to Picture Books" by @216Sharon @ReadBrightly

Schools and Libraries

South Carolina Study: Good School #Libraries Affect Student Test Scores - WLTX

Librarian @FuseEight is "In Search of (kids' books, especially middle grade, with) the Elusive Lesbian Mom" 

© 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.

Three Recent Eerdmans Picture Books that I Enjoyed

I've fallen hopelessly behind on my picture book reviews of late. So I've decided to try something new. I'm going to do small round-up posts featuring my favorites of the titles that I've received from various publishers. First up was Kane Miller. Today I am featuring three titles from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. The first two are fiction, and the third is a biography. 

1. Roger Is Reading a Book by Koen Van Biesen. Roger Is Reading a Book is the story of a man who just wants to read his book. But his other-side-of-the-wall neighbor, Emily, keeps undertaking loud, disruptive activities (bouncing a basketball, singing, etc.). Roger keeps knocking on the wall, and Emily understands that he's annoyed, but she's not able to find a quiet activity on her own, until Roger finally offers a solution. 

Roger Is Reading a Book is very fun read-aloud for younger kids. There's a lot of repeated sound, like "LA LA LA", "BOOM BOOM BOOM" "KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCKITY KNOCK", etc. These sounds are conveyed in bold fonts, often at interesting angles. I think this would be a very fun books for new readers to read, with help. Van Biesen's spare illustrations, rendered in mixed media, are unusual, amusing at times, and frequently visually surprising. While there is an underlying message about the joy of immersing oneself in a book, Roger Is Reading a Book is mainly an enjoyable romp. I think it will work best for early elementary age readers, though I quite enjoyed it myself. 

2. Red by Jan De Kinder. Red is a story about standing up to bullying. While it's a bit more message-driven than I normally favor, I liked Red because it stays entirely within the first-person viewpoint of a girl who unwittingly starts something, and then (eventually) stands up for the boy who is bullied.

There's no over-riding narration about what should happen - we just see this little girl who points out something funny about a boy (his red cheeks), and then watches the consequences. She is afraid to help Tommy, and the reader understands why. But then she does. I think that Red will be validating for young readers in early elementary school. It would make a fine classroom read-aloud. 

Also, De Kinder's illustrations are simply gorgeous. They're a mix of pencil, charcoal, ink, aqurrelle, acrylic, and collage, but the charcoal particularly stands out to me. De Kinder uses a fairly limited palette, with lots of black against a sepia background. The color Red is used to denote important things, and to how mood. It's masterful. The mix of kids shown is also highly diverse, adding to this book's value as a classroom read. I look forward to reading and discussing this one with my daughter. 

3. The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton and Don Tate. John Roy Lynch was a young slave who became, during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War, a U.S. Congressman. His story, told by Chris Barton, and brought to life visually by Don Tate, is remarkable and inspiring. 

Barton's prose is unflinching regarding Lynch's suffering as a slave, without going into unnecessary detail. For instance, he notes that Lynch's father, a white overseer, "may have loved these slaves, (but) he mostly likely took the whip to others." He keeps the story moving at a rapid clip, while providing enough detail to give young readers a window into what may be an unfamiliar time. There is a wealth of information here. Don Tate's illustrations show Lynch's suffering and his joy, and convey his personality, too (look at that little smile on the cover image). The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is a book that belongs on library shelves everywhere. It is beautifully executed, interesting, and not to be missed. 

© 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).

Beach House: Deanna Caswell and Amy June Bates

Book: Beach House
Author: Deanna Caswell
Illustrator: Amy June Bates
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-5

Beach House, written by Deanna Caswell and illustrated by Amy June Bates, is a celebration of the simple joys of a family visit to the beach. A family with two older kids and a toddler arrives with their overstuffed minivan at a small house next to a quiet beach.

In rhyming text, Caswell leads the reader through the day, from the impatience of the kids to get to the beach to their time playing in the water and building sand castles to them finally going to sleep, sun-burned, exhausted, and happy. 

Caswell uses brief sentences in rhyming couplets, like this:

"Lifting luggage.
     Dragging, straining.
Ocean calling.
     Patience waning."


"Castles rise. Moats are filled.
Stacking, smoothing.
     Smash, rebuild."

One can readily imagine a board book version of this text, though Bates' watercolor and pencil illustrations deserve full picture book treatment (as is the case here). The family is rendered with just enough detail to give readers a sense of each family member's personality. We see a hint of diaper peeping out the back of the youngest's bathing trunks, and the joy of the older brother doing a little jig as he finally is able to head to the beach. There are amusing details, like the dad so laden with stuff for the brief walk to the beach that one can barely see him at all. And there is the expanse of sand, surf, and sky, perfectly suited to Bates' watercolor medium. 

Beach House made me long for a tiny cottage by the shore, and time to spend there with my family. It would make a nice bedtime read-aloud for preschoolers, sending them off to dream of the ocean. I'm not sure the text has enough complexity to hold the attention of older kids through repeated readings, but those familiar with the joys of beach days will find that Beach House makes them smile. 

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: May 12, 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).

Our First Week Doing the #BookADay Summer Reading Challenge

I've participated sporadically in the past in Donalyn Miller's #BookADay summer reading initiative (outlined and motivated here, now in its 7th year). The idea is to read a book for every day of summer break (many participants are teachers), and share your selection on social media using the #BookADay hashtag. Donalyn says:

"Beyond the goal to read and share, #bookday celebrates reading freedom. We can choose what we read, when we read it, and how we respond to what we read. No strings. No arbitrary markers of success. The #bookday challenge is the antithesis of a summer reading contest. No one keeps score. No one competes. Everyone who reads is a winner."

There are some guidelines, but they are quite flexible. What I decided to do was share each day a favorite book from my recent reading aloud with my daughter. The selection of favorite is a bit subjective, of course. I'm basing the choice on some combination of her reaction and mine. Most days we read multiple books. Occasionally life gets in the way and we might not read anything together (particularly when my husband does the bedtime reading). But since we certainly average more than one book each day, I think we'll be able to make it through. 

One week in, I've been motivated by participating in #BookADay. I'm thinking about what might be "share-worthy" as I select books. I've taken to adding my selections to the pile by my daughter's place at the breakfast table, and we are reading a bit more than usual in the mornings. The ultimate choice of which books to read still falls to her (she is allowed to reject anything, for any reason), but I've been digging out old favorites as candidates. 

I have not tried to explain this whole thing to her - I'm steering clear of anything that might feel like pressure. So I'll just ask her, after we read 3 or 4 books, if there's one she liked best, and share that one. Here are the books we read in our first week:

Tim Egan: The Pink RefrigeratorTim Egan: The Pink Refrigerator. This book from HMH Books for Young Readers is the picture book that launched the Dodsworth and Duck easy reader series. Here are my reviews of The Pink Refrigerator, Dodsworth in New York, and Dodsworth in Paris. I enjoy the easy readers, but I think that The Pink Refrigerator is brilliant, a book that will inspire readers of any age to get up off their chairs and do something

Kate Woodward: What Makes You Ill? (Usborne Starting Point Science)Kate Woodward: What Makes You Ill? (Usborne Starting Point Science). This book was a birthday gift from my brother and sister-in-law. They knew (from Facebook posts) that my daughter frequently asks us to tell her about "chicken pox and stuff like that." She is fascinated by vaccines and symptoms and the like. This book from Usborne's Starting Point Science series is perfect for her, full of details about illnesses and their causes. 

Laura Purdie Salas: Stampede!: Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of SchoolLaura Purdie Salas: Stampede!: Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School. Stampede!, from Clarion Books, is a title that I had reviewed a while back, but didn't recall having read with my daughter. I thought it might be a good choice, though, given the combination of school setting and poems (child being very into rhyming these days). Turned out she had heart it before, because before we could read the book cover to cover, we had to find the boy about a boy who stinks like a skunk. 

Peter Brown: The Curious GardenPeter Brown: The Curious Garden. This one, from Little, Brown, is a long-time family favorite, reviewed here. We've been reading it quite often of late, I think because it's gardening season.

Andrew Larsen: The Imaginary GardenAndrew Larsen: The Imaginary Garden. I bought The Imaginary Garden, a Kids Can Press title, for my daughter's first Christmas, having reviewed it previously. She has only recently come to appreciate it. In addition to having an interest in gardening, she seems quite charmed by the relationship between the main character, Theo, and her grandfather. 

Tupera Tupera: Polar Bear's UnderwearTupera Tupera: Polar Bear's Underwear. I'll be sharing this book from Chronicle Kids in a future post. It's a rather silly book about a polar bear who can't find his underwear, and all of the crazy pairs that he finds that turn out to belong to other animals. My daughter thinks that it is hilarious. 

Kat Yeh: You're Lovable to MeKat Yeh: You're Lovable to Me. This was actually our very first #BookADay selection. I never reviewed this title, from Random House Books for Young Readers, because I received it very shortly before I went into early labor five years ago. It was one of the first books that I read to my tiny daughter in the NICU, and my emotional attachment to it remains strong. This was the first time I read it to my daughter and explained that family history, or at least the first time that she seemed to understand. It will always be very special to us. 

The #BookADay challenge is working out well for us so far, and I anticipate keeping it up. I'm not sure whether I'll have time to write about our selections each week, but you can find them in the lower right-hand sidebar of my blog. And, of course, on Twitter @JensBookPage and my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Are you participating in the #BookADay challenge? 

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.