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Posts from June 2015

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: June 26 (posted June 30)

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book awards, book lists, summer reading, boys and reading, literacy programs, 48 hour book challenge, growing bookworms, KidLitCon, Poetry Friday, introversion, Judy Blume, reviewing, and schools. [This didn't post on Friday, I am just noticing, so I am posting it now. It it not updated to add links after Friday morning.]


Newbery / Caldecott 2016: Summer Prediction Edition — @fuseeight  #kidlit 

Landman, Grill Win 2015 Carnegie, Greenaway Medals in U.K.  via @tashrow #BookAwards #kidlit

Book Lists

Books for Preschoolers that Help Teach Basic Concepts, a categorized #BookList from @growingbbb 

18 Wonderful Picture Books about the Arab Nation, chosen by @PragmaticMom in hopes of spreading peace  #DiverseBooks

All-Time Great Family Read-Alouds: mysterious, timeless, funny + adventurous categories by @ehbluemle @PublishersWkly 

A Tuesday Ten: #kidlit speculative fiction where characters show Ability via Disability @TesseractViews  #Diversity 

On the #Cybils blog: #BookList Fun: Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Deserves it’s Own Book Club by @pamlovesbooks 

Middle School Pride : LGBTQ+ Tweens in Literature for Youth | @YALSA  via @tashrow #BookList #DiverseBooks

Diversity + Gender

Let's Stop Shaming Little Boys Who Read About Girls, w/ book suggestions @bananasuit @bookriot  via @tashrow 

Listening Library @LLAudiobooks + @penguinkids Announce Read Proud Listen Proud to highlight recommended LGBTQ #YALit 

Events + Programs

48hbc_newThe Tenth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge: Winners! @MotherReader  #kidlit #48HBC

How barbershops make the cut in helping kids read | The Kansas City Star  #DadsTurnThePage

Neat! Books On Buses: New program helps get books to Roanoke children | @WDBJ7  via @PWKidsBookshelf 

Growing Bookworms

#RaisingReaders Monday: on the value of Picture Books for Bigger Kids | @kateywrites 

Early #Literacy in Everyday Places: The Campground from @mrskatiefitz | stories, stars, songs + more  

How to swap games consoles for books (and get kids reading) | Alex Scarrow @GdnChildrensBks  via @tashrow

#FamiliesRead: Tips for Parents for Encouraging the Love of Reading from @MaryAnnScheuer 


2015-KidLitConLogoSquareAnnouncement! @CarrieMesrobian to Speak at #KidLitCon 2015, delivering the Friday, Oct. 9 keynote in Baltimore  

A Year of Reading: The #PoetryFriday Roundup is Here! @MaryLeeHahn @frankisibberson 


Please Stop Interrupting Me! |Thoughts from @raisinghappines on the high cost of interruptions on productivity 

5 Things that Happen When You Embrace Being Alone @marcandangel via @benjamingilpin 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Advice for writers from Judy Blume, reported by @StaceyLoscalzo : “First, read, read, read and read.”  

Amazon Tests Paying Authors Per Page Read Instead of Per Book for eBook self-publishing services  via @100scopenotes

"Children's books are, paradoxically, one of the most important forms of writing we have, and the most overlooked." 

"Reading is a delightfully solitary activity, and as kids we all loved it... because we were on our own" @Wendy_Mc 

Let’s Put On a Show! The Introvert Author’s Dilemma — @fuseeight responding to @medinger + @pwbalto 

We Are the Book Champions, My Friends: on reviewing + responsiblity in response to @100scopenotes post @fuseeight 

Response (+ questions) to book critic vs/ champion discussion launched by @100scopenotes + @FuseEight from @medinger 

Schools and Libraries

This is cool: 12 Unexpected Ways to Use LEGO in the Classroom |@atxcopywriter @Edudemic 

English Class in #CommonCore Era: balancing the call for more nonfiction @NYTimes via @PWKidsBookshelf  

STEM-Themed Library Backpacks Encourage Outdoor Exploration, reports @Llauren @sljournal  #STEM

Summer Reading

Summer reading 2015: Printable recommendation lists for Kindergarten & 1st graders from @MaryAnnScheuer #FamiliesRead 

#SummerReading suggestions for 2015: 2nd & 3rd graders -- #FamiliesRead @MaryAnnScheuer w/ PDF list 

#SummerReading 2015: Book recommendations for 4th & 5th graders @MaryAnnScheuer #FamiliesRead 

© 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

Fraidyzoo: Thyra Heder

Book: Fraidyzoo
Author: Thyra Heder
Pages: 48
Age Range: 4-8

Fraidyzoo, by Thyra Heder, is a combination alphabet book and over-the-top story about the types of animals that one might find at the zoo. A family decides to go to the zoo one day. However, the younger daughter is afraid of the zoo. She just can't remember exactly what it is about the zoo that she fears. So her parents and sister embark on a day-long quest to help her remember what she might be afraid. They act out (with quite elaborate props/costumes) animals for each letter of the alphabet. By the end of the day, the little gir is ready to give the zoo a try (though they have to push the visit to the next day). When they get to the zoo, they discover that there is still something to fear (though it's not any of the animals). 

I find Fraidyzoo just a tad gimmicky. Having to go through the costuming of all of the animal types gets old for me. But my four year old loves it, and has asked for it several times. She declares that it is her "favorite book." She is very impressed with the creativity of the family in their dressing up. I think she especially enjoys the fact that the author doesn't always tell you directly what animal is being acted out on each page. You have to guess from the visual cues, text hints, and your knowledge of what the next letter of the alphabet is. The animals are all identified on the back end papers. For example, as we reach N we have:

"Is it one of those whales with a horn?"

This is accompanied by a picture of the older sister in a wading pool with her hair stuck up on her head like a horn. 

Heder's watercolor and ink illustrations are humorous and creative, and reward close inspection. The family uses all sorts of props from around their house (kitchen tongs as antlers, for example), and the results range from the simple to the complex. Owls in towels" just shows the two sisters wrapped in white towels, their shapes owl-like. But on the next page there's an enormous rhinoceros made out of cardboard and duct tape, requiring three family members and some accessories to move it around.

Only late in the book does the little sister start to actively participate in the charades. In fact, the careful reader will notice the little sister becoming happier and happier as the book progresses, a validating thing for young readers. Also validating, I think, is the lengths to which her family will go to make her feel safe. We should all have families who will trash their house and spend an entire day acting out zoo animals. 

So, if you are looking for an alphabet/zoo book for slightly older readers (vs. the early preschool crowd), kids who enjoy solving not-so-obvious puzzles, Fraidyzoo may be just the ticket. The end is a fun surprise, too. Heder's busy illustrations are unique and memorable, and my own four year old finds them laugh-out-loud funny. Definitely recommended for library purchase. I think that Fraidyzoo might work well for a group read-aloud for kindergarteners, too. 

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams  (@AbramsBooks) 
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Source of Book: Library copy

© 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).

Literacy Milestone: Writing Her First Book

LiteracyMilestoneALate last week, my daughter (who is in a "make things out of construction paper and tape" phase) made a little book. It was initially just some sheets of paper folded over and taped together, with a few pictures and a cut-out. But then my husband got out a story that he wrote and illustrated when he was in first grade. (It was about hockey. We all found it hilarious.) This inspired my daughter to turn her book into a story. 

Quick as a flash, she drew some additional pictures, and then told us the story that went with them. It involved a boy named Jonathan who "lost his kite in a gust of wind", got the kite stuck in a tree, and called the fire department for help (complete with drawing of a cell phone). She wrote a lot of the story down herself (with much spelling help from Daddy), until she got too tired, and my husband wrote out the rest for her. But the words were all hers. 

I was impressed that she had a main character, a problem, a solution, and a happy ending. While not a complex story, to be sure, I think it shows that she is on the right track. This is what comes of reading hundreds upon hundreds of books to a child - she does develop a sense of story. 

Yesterday she had friends over. As soon as they arrived, she needed me to give her the book (which was already put away for safekeeping), so that she could show it to them. Similarly with her babysitter today. She is proud of her work.

I think it's safe to say that this will not be her last story. 

© 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 Princess in Black: Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and LeUyen Pham

Book: The Princess in Black
Authors: Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham 
Pages: 96
Age Range: 5-8

I've been wanting to read The Princess in Black for a while, the premise of a black-clad, superhero/princess being irresistible. But I waited until I could read it to my daughter. She received a copy for her birthday in April, and recently (after I had left it prominently displayed in her room), asked me to read it to her. ("Read that black princess book, Mama."). We ended up reading it in one sitting, and I predict that we will read it again. The Princess in Black is delightful. The sequel is already on our wish list. 

The Princess in Black is a very early chapter book with a large font, and color illustrations on every page spread. The Princess in Black was written by husband-and-wife writing team Shannon and Dean Hale, and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. The Princess in Black, as is clear from the cover image, is not your traditional, pink dress-wearing, waiting-to-be-rescued princess. No, the Princess in Black is basically a secret superhero. 

As the story begins, Princess Magnolia, clad in a puffy pink dress, is entertaining a nosy duchess. But when Magnolia's glitter-stone ring starts to ring, she knows that her monster-taming services are needed. Princess Magnolia excuses herself, changes clothes in the broom closet, escapes the palace via a secret chute, and rushes off to save the day. 

The premise alone makes The Princess in Black worth reading. But the writing is also pitch perfect for the age group. The Hales use short sentences, but also don't shy away from precise, descriptive vocabulary. Like this:

"Princess Magnolia minced to the door. Her glass slipper went tink-tink-tink-tink

"You're going to just leave me here?" said the duchess.

"I'll hurry back!" said Princess Magnolia.

She smiled sweetly. She shut the door softly.

And then Princess Magnolia ran."

I read this title aloud to my daughter, but I think that a developing reader could manage it without too much help. The chapters are short, and the storyline is clear cut. There's a bit of viewpoint change, between the princess, the duchess, and a goat boy, but the plentiful illustrations will help kids to keep the story straight. There are monsters, but they are not particularly scary. Princess Magnolia is brave and skilled, and not in the least intimidating. 

LeUyen Pham's illustrations are perfect for the tone of the book. The monsters are colorful and a bit goofy. Magnolia comes across as intrepid, but still with a nice smile on her face (beneath her black mask). Some of the pictures have a comic book feel (like the fight between Magnolia and a monster), while others are more conventional. There are hints that careful readers can use to predict elements of the plot (like a not-so-hidden trapdoor in a tree). It's all perfect for the age range, and much more fun than a traditional early chapter book. The illustrations are more like what one would find in a picture book. 

Although The Princess in Black is about, well, a princess, I don't see any reason why a five-year-old boy wouldn't enjoy it, too. Magnolia is a secret superhero, complete with hidden passages and a mask. She literally kicks monster butt. She in fact inspires the goat boy to try his hand at being a superhero. Perhaps she will inspire your sons. But certainly she will inspire your daughters. And she'll do it with a smile on her face, and great hair.

Actually, my daughter said that she thought that Princess Magnolia looked better in her puffy pink dress than in her black superhero costume. And that, my friends, is why it's important that she has The Princess in Black on her shelf. To broaden her perspective, and show her, in a light-hearted, fun-filled way, that girls can be the ones who take action. Even if they are princesses. 

I highly recommend The Princess in Black as an early chapter-book read-aloud to four and five year olds, or as an early read-it-yourself title for early elementary school kids. I look forward to sequel, and hope that the princess will have many future adventures. 

Publisher: Candlewick Press 
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Source of Book: Personal copy (a 5th birthday gift received by my daughter)

© 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).

Finding Audrey: Sophie Kinsella

Book: Finding Audrey
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Pages: 304
Age Range: 12 and up

Finding Audrey is the first young adult title by bestselling novelist Sophie Kinsella (Shopaholic series, etc.). Finding Audrey is about a teenage girl who had a mental breakdown after an episode of bullying at her all-girl school. Audrey spent six weeks in a mental hospital. As the story begins, she is recovering at home, planning to start at a different school in the fall (one grade lower).

Audrey panics easily, wears dark glasses to avoid any eye contact, and takes various medications to fight anxiety and depression. Her only contact is with her family and her therapist, though she eventually lets her older brother's friend, Linus, into her previously closed world. Finding Audrey chronicles the ups and downs of Audrey's progress over several months, as well as her growing relationship with Linus, and the interactions of her quirky family.

I quite liked the fact that Kinsella resists making Finding Audrey an issue book about bullying. We never even learn the details of what happened to Audrey, and that's ok. Instead, we see the impact that the incident has had on her vulnerable mental state, and the impact on her family.

Also, despite being about depression and mental illness, Finding Audrey is not a depressing book. In fact, it's quite funny in parts (helped out by Audrey's quirky Mom and sarcastic older brother). Here's the beginning of the book:

"OMG, Mum's gone insane.

Not normal Mum-insane. Serious insane.

Normal Mum-insane: Mum says, "Let's all do this great gluten-free diet I read about in the Daily Mail!" Mum buys three loaves of gluten-free bread. It's so disgusting our mouths curl up. The family goes on strike and Mum hides her sandwich in the flower bed and next week we're not gluten-free anymore." (Page 1)

And there's this:

"(I've often noticed that people equate "having a sense of humour" with "being an insensitive moron.") (Page 5)

See what I mean? Audrey has an entertaining and engaging voice. Even when she is down, she maintains a certain black humor. Like this:

"Dad says it's totally understandable and I've been through a trauma and now I'm like a small baby who panics as soon as it's handed to someone it doesn't know. I've seen those babies, and they go from happy and gurgling to howling in a heartbeat Well, I don't howl. Not quite.

But I feel like howling." (Page 38)

Yes, Kinsella has a deft touch all around for Audrey's voice. Audrey's little brother Felix is also a source of humor. Like this:

"Mummy is going to throw the computer!" says Felix, running onto the grass and looking up in disbelieving joy. Felix is our little brother. He's four. He greets most life events with disbelieving joy. A lorry in the street! Ketchup! An extra-long chip! Mum throwing a computer out of the window is just another one on the list of daily miracles." (Page 2)

In truth Felix felt like he was included for the sole purpose of entertainment value. But, as the mother of a five year old, I still enjoyed him. The other secondary characters are well-developed. Mum is a bit over-the-top, perhaps, and Linus a bit too good to be true, but these characteristics both work in the context of the story.  

As the earlier quote shows, Finding Audrey is set in England, and does include British vocabulary. I've read enough British books to know that a lorry is a truck and a chip is a french fry, but some readers may have to make a slight mental adjustment. Personally, I stopped noticing any cultural shift early in the book, as my focus honed in on the characters. 

Finding Audrey takes the serious subjects of mental illness and depression and renders them accessible to teen readers. Kinsella accomplishes this through Audrey's unflinching first-person viewpoint. Finding Audrey never feels message-driven (Bullying is bad! Care about your fellow student!). It feels, rather, like an interesting story about a character that the reader will care about. I think that Kinsella did a fine job of finding the right balance here, and I hope that Finding Audrey finds its way into the hands of many teens. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: June 9, 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: June 19

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book awards, book lists, book organization, the Cybils Awards, diverse books, growing bookworms, kidlitosphere news, KidLitCon, the 48 Hour Book Challenge, RIF, First Book, summer reading, Enid Blyton, Escape Adulthood, helicopter parenting, schools, and libraries. 


Press Release Fun @fuseeight : Salt by Helen Frost wins the New York Historical Society Children’s History Book Prize  

Book Lists

Reading for Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, organized by age level, from @HornBook  #BookList #DiverseBooks

Also: Some Books about Ramadan for Young Readers, selected by @randomlyreading  #BookList #DiverseBooks 

You Won’t Find Your Average Princess in These 10 Books | #BookList by @dcorneal @ReadBrightly 

10 + 1 Picture Books that Spark Creativity | @PernilleRipp  #kidlit #BookList

Soccer books for kids: high interest nonfiction (ages 7-12), recommended by @MaryAnnScheuer #kidlit 

16+ Books + Series to Read if You Like Harry Potter. Commonality = all page-turners. A @momandkiddo #BookList #kidlit 


0615_BeBookSmart_11New #Cybils blog post: Helping Our Friends at @RIFWEB w/ @Macys #BeBookSmart initiative  

On the #Cybils blog: #BookList Fun: YA #GraphicNovels recommended by @lkeochgerien @YAReviewNet 


This is just sad: Teacher Challenged for Reading “King & King” Resigns | @Llauren @sljournal  

Events + Programs

48hbc_new48 Hour Book Challenge: Prizes announced by @MotherReader #48HBC  #kidlit

48 Hour Book Challenge: Time to Get Ready says @MotherReader sharing her plan  #48HBC #kidlit 

Storytimes and Read Alouds for Incarcerated Teens | YA Underground | Amy Cheney @sljournal  #WeNeedDiverseBooks

The @RIFWEB #BeBookSmart Fundraiser with @Macys Kicks Off Next Week. By participating you can help give books to kids 

How @FirstBook helped a "Crazy Summer Reading Program" to help at-risk kids in VA town become a reality 

Kinney, Pilkey, Pastis, and Peirce Raise Money for LA School Libraries | @Llauren @sljournal  @accessbooksca

Growing Bookworms

Three Recommendations for First Steps into Early Chapter Books from @cathymere  #kidlit #BookList

#Literacy + Life: Summer Road Trip edition from @readingtub w/ downloadable ebook + activities  

When Your Child Hates Reading- Some Advice From Those of Us Who Try | Great stuff from @PernilleRipp  #RaisingReaders

Find what excites them: On the art of getting first graders hooked on reading, by teacher @tkiepert @NerdyBookClub 

A call from @PernilleRipp for teachers to become Reading Warriors, and act to support kids' LOVE of reading 


2015-KidLitConLogoSquareBig Kidlitosphere news! Registration for #KidLitCon 2015 (Baltimore, Oct. 9-10) is Now Open! Details here: 

Lots of food for thought from @catagator in Stacked: Links of Note: June 14, 2015  + YAY she's coming to #KidLitCon 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

This post by @EmmaBarnesWrite @AwfullyBigBlog made me nostalgic for my childhood Famous Five books by Enid Blyton  

Stacked: A peek into how @kimberlymarief 's respondents organize their books - by genre leads the pack. See graph: 

Where Do You Fall On The Book Critic/Book Champion Continuum? — I fall a tiny bit to @100scopenotes left but not much 

Funny! Symptoms of a Book Hangover | @EpicReads 

Placed my pre-order for PENGUINS CAN'T FLY, a book about keeping life fun from @escapeadulthood + @stmartinspress 

15 words you should eliminate from your vocabulary to sound smarter @mashable via @thereadingzone 

The Pleasure of Reading Fast + Short w/ current favorite sources for short texts + online reading from @donalynbooks 


Helicopter Parenting Is a Trap. It's Time to Break Free | @DeanJulie @HuffPostParents  -> I'm reading her book now. 

Schools and Libraries

A primer on buying and reading Manga (especially for libraries) from Andrea Lipinski @sljournal 

My child would agree with this: "Schools need more Legos & fewer textbooks" says @justintarte 

But The Kids Aren’t Reading – 20 Ideas for Creating Passionate Reading Environments in the classroom | @PernilleRipp

Teacher-Training Initiative Aims to Reinvigorate Profession, by Caroline Porter @WSJ ttp:// @wwfoundation @MIT 

Heroic Reads: Supporting Collaborative Summer Library Programs w/ books about heroes for various ages @sljournal 

Adventures in #Literacy Land: 10 Ways Teachers Kill a Love of Reading  via @ProfessorNana

Nice! Delaware Bill Would Ensure a Librarian in Every School | Lauren Barack @sljournal 

Poverty, family stress are thwarting student success, top teachers say @LyndseyLayton @washingtonpost via @Scholastic 

Great resource! 10 Early #Literacy Resources at Your Public Library (Besides Books) from @mrskatiefitz 

3 simple reasons why schools still need libraries (and librarians) by teacher Randy Ribay @HornBook 

© 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 Hunted (The Enemy, Book 6): Charlie Higson

Book: The Hunted (The Enemy, Book 6)
Author: Charlie Higson
Pages: 464
Age Range: 12 and up

I am fascinated by Charlie Higson's The Enemy series, unable to resist reading these books. I've purchased most of the series in hardcover, and just read Book 6 (received as a review copy) within a week of the publication date. This is true despite the fact that the books are gorier than I generally prefer, and the fact that Higson has no problem killing off protagonists. In fact, he seems to rather enjoy it. I had actually considered dropping this series after the bleak ending of Book 5, but I'm glad that I didn't. Because Book 6, The Hunted, is the best of the series so far. 

The Enemy series is set in and around a near-term post-apocalyptic London. A mysterious virus has infected everyone over the age of 16 - killing many adults outright, and turning the others into nearly mindless, kid-hunting, zombie-like creatures. Various pockets of children and young teens have survived, remaining in peril from the grown-ups and (sometimes) from one another. There are frequent, bloody battles with said grown-ups. No one is safe, and it's best not to get too attached to any of the characters. This is actually not that hard, because Higson doesn't go very deep with most of the characters, instead juggling a large, shifting cast.

The primary things that make this series work for me (and, I would imagine, for teens) are:

  • Fast-paced suspenseful plotting. Higson clearly planned out the whole series prior to writing the books. There are flash forwards and flashbacks, and kids whose paths intersect in unexpected (but clearly long-planned) ways. Higson shifts viewpoint between characters at times, to ratchet up the suspense. These books are difficult to put down once you start reading. [I kind of want to go back someday and read all of the books in a short time, to really see how the plot threads weave together. But I'll have to wait a while, until I forget more of the details.] 
  • The socio-political dynamics between the kids. Different groups establish different types of communities. Some leaders are strong - others are smart. There is conflict between the groups, but also, sometimes, partnership. The world-building is fascinating. 
  • The underlying puzzle of where the virus came from, and how it is continuing to affect the monstrous grown-ups. These questions are addressed relatively slowly, from book to book, adding interest as well as an underlying menace. 

I have previously reviewed the first two books of this series, The Enemy and The Dead. I believe that Book 7, The End, will conclude the series next year, making this a good time to start in with the series, if it sounds intriguing to you. Stop reading now if you haven't read books 1 to 5. 

The Hunted primarily follows two related plot threads. A young girl named Ella has survived a grown-up attack thanks to the rescue of a mysterious, misshapen man. He takes her to a barricaded farm out in the country. Meanwhile, a small group of kids has set out from the Natural History Museum to try to find Ella, and reunite her with Sam, the brother she believes is dead. Opportunities for danger and heroism follow. While maintaining the suspense level of the earlier books, two things made The Hunted even better for me:

  1. More of a focus on a small group of the characters whom the reader starts to hope will specifically survive. Ed, the leader of the rescue mission, is worth rooting for, as is Ella. There's also an intriguing new character.
  2. More hints about and study of what caused the virus in the first place, and where things might be going in the bigger picture. 

So, for fans of the series who were put off by the super-depressing ending of Book 5, don't give up. Give The Hunted a try. I think you'll enjoy it. And really, anyone who has made it this far in the series - don't you want to know what's going to happen? Who will survive, and how? I know I do. I can't wait for Book 7. 

For readers with a fairly high tolerance for gore, violence, and suspense, The Enemy series is a solid pick. Book 6, The Hunted, is my favorite yet of this "can't put it down" series.

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: June 2, 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).

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: June 17

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 three book reviews (early chapter book to YA) and one posts with mini-reviews of several picture books. I also have two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently, and one post about a new literacy milestone for my daughter (being inspired by a book).

Reading Update: I got a lot of reading done in the last two weeks (thanks in large part to my husband taking my daughter away for a Daddy/Daughter weekend). I completed two early chapter books, one middle grade title, four young adult titles, and four adult titles (three of them nonfiction). I read/listened to:

  • Todd H. Doodler: Super FLy: The World's Smallest Superhero. Bloomsbury. Illustrated Early Chapter Book. Completed June 3, 2015. My review.
  • Shannon Hale and Dean Hale (ill. LeUyen Pham): The Princess in Black. Candlewick Press. Illustrated Early Chapter Book. Completed June 7, 2015 (read aloud to my daughter). Review to come.
  • Lauren DeStefano: A Curious Tale of the In-Between. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Middle Grade / Middle School. Completed June 12, 2015 (ARC). Review to come.
  • Charlie Higson: The Hunted (an Enemy Novel) Disney-Hyperion. Young Adult Fiction. Completed June 6, 2015. Review to come. 
  • Sophie Kinsella: Finding Audrey. Delacorte Press. Young Adult Fiction. Completed June 7, 2015. Review to come. 
  • Gary D. Schmidt: Orbiting Jupiter. Clarion Books. Young Adult Fiction. Completed June 10, 2015. Review to come. 
  • Matt de la Pena: The Hunted. Delacorte Press. Young Adult Fiction. Completed June 14, 2015.
  • Daniel T. Willingham: Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What it Means for the Classroom. Jossey-Bass. Adult Nonfiction. Completed June 3, 2015. I read this because I liked Willingham's Raising Kids Who Read so much. Though geared more towards teachers, I still found some interesting tidbits about how people learn in Why Don't Students Like School. 
  • Carol Dweck: Mindset. Ballantine Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed June 10, 2015. I can't believe I waited this long to read Mindset. I found it inspirational, both for my own life and for my parenting. I am now nagging other people to read it. I was inspired to read Mindset by this post at Everead
  • Katherine Neville: The Fire. Ballantine Books. Adult Fiction. Completed June 11, 2015, on MP3. As I suspected, this was not as good (even on audio) as The Eight. But it still held my attention. 
  • Julie Lythcott-Haims: How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. Henry Holt and Co. Adult Nonfiction. Completed June 15, 2015, on Kindle. This is another book that I will be nagging other people to read. Absolutely top-notch. Lythcott--Haims distills research for a wide variety of other sources (including several titles that I've read recently, such as Mindset), adds in her own personal experience as Freshman Dean at Stanford and as a parent of two teens, and comes up with solid recommendations for parents. Highly recommended. 

I'm listening to The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad series) by Tana French, and am utterly captivated. I dropped Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer, which I was reading on my Kindle, due to annoying formatting (a very light font for certain sections that I found hard to read). I'm reading And All Between (Green Sky Trilogy, Book 2) by Zilpha Keatley Snyder on my Kindle, and the second Joshua Dread book by Lee Bacon in print. 

The books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter can be found here. She quite liked The Princess in Black, which we read in a single sitting. She chose that book (with a few small paperbacks) to take with her on her weekend trip. We've been mixing in more early chapter books into our reading, but are still primarily reading picture books. When she returned from her weekend away, one of the first things she wanted to do was sit down with me and read half a dozen or so picture books. She's been more into variety, finding long-unread (or never read) titles from our shelves. 

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

Super Fly: The World's Smallest Superhero! by Todd H. Doodler

Book: Super Fly: The World's Smallest Superhero!
Author: Todd H. Doodler
Pages: 128
Age Range: 7-10

Todd Doodler is the author of one of my daughter's favorite (once upon a time) board books: Animal Soup. We also enjoyed his more recent board book The Bus Driver. He has written and illustrated numerous other titles for the youngest of readers. Super Fly: The World's Smallest Superhero! seems to be his first chapter book, and I was intrigued to read it. 

Super Fly is a heavily illustrated early chapter book with plenty of white space and a breezy, over-the-top attitude, perfect for newer readers. Eugene Flystein is a somewhat geeky young fly who prefers reading and inventing to typical fly activities (like, oh, flying). When Eugene starts a new school in fourth grade, he finds himself the target of a bullying Crazy Cockroach. Fortunately, he also finds a best friend in Fred Flea. Well, a "pest friend", anyway.

When one of Eugene's inventions goes awry, giving Crazy Cockroach increased strength and intelligence, there's only one thing to do - Eugene has to test out the invention himself, becoming Super Fly. What follows is a comic book style adventure (albeit mainly in prose) in which Super Fly, after overcoming some hurdles, and helped by Fred Flea, saves the day.

Several things make Super Fly kid-friendly:

  • A classic "underdog becoming a hero" storyline.
  • Disgusting, insect-specific details, like the school being "a brown pile of yuck floating in a broken toilet in the center of town" and Super Fly being paralyzed by an excess of smell from flowers. Or the invention of the "Poop-A-Rama", which makes "everyday objects smell like, well,you know."(Page 2) 
  • Gentle spoofing of superhero stories. For example, when Fred Flea becomes Super Fly's sidekick, he starts talking like this: "Sweet chipmunk coffee-covered corn cobs, Super Fly!". Eugene's town is called Stinkopolis.
  • Clear, amusing, comic book-like illustrations on nearly every page. 

Super Fly also has hints of humor for parents reading with their kids, like the fact that the bully calls Eugene "McFly" (shades of Back to the Future). The marching band for the high school plays "We Are the Champ Bugs" by Queen Bee (Page 104). And so on. 

Despite this humor, Super Fly wasn't quite my personal cup of tea. (The Poop-A-Rama got things off to a bad start for me.) But I think that seven year old kids will find it hilarious. Unlike in the Fly Guy stories by Tedd Arnold, in which Fly Guy basically lives in the human world, Doodler has created a whole sub-culture for insects, who live beneath the notice of humans. There are flea circuses and parades, houses and gym class. 

I felt like Super Fly could have been written as a full graphic novel - the story has a similar feel, and I think that Doodler would have been up to creating more illustrations. The fact that it's a chapter book instead makes Super Fly an excellent bridge book for kids who have the reading skills for early chapter books, but may be lacking in interest. Give this to kids who have devoured the Squish or Lunch Lady books, and watch them eat up Super Fly, too. Super Fly would also make a nice, humorous summer reading title for older elementary school kids looking for something different. 

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).

Literacy Milestone: Being Inspired by a Book

LiteracyMilestoneAMy general criterion for books I select for my daughter is that I hope she will find them enjoyable. That's all. But about 18 months ago I ran across Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts. I knew that she liked the companion book, Iggy Peck, Architect. But I also studied engineering in college myself, and while I would never force any career choice on her, I'm happy for her to see that as one option. So I bought Rosie Revere, Engineer for my daughter for Christmas that year. We read it once or twice, but she was not particularly interested, and it landed on a shelf of less frequently read books. She was about 3 1/2.

Recently, however, my daughter, now 5, has decided that she is interested in architecture as a possible career path. This came about because she said that she wanted to build Legos when she grew up, and I suggested that architects can help build real buildings, which she thought was pretty cool. So we've been practicing math and reading Iggy Peck a bit  more. I ran across Rosie Revere the other day, and I thought: "Why not try this one again?" This time, she LOVED it. 

As soon as she put the book down she had to go read part of Iggy Peck again (just the part where the kids construct a bridge from shoelaces and such). Then she wanted to read Rosie Revere again. She in particular pored over a page late in the book where various kids from Rosie and Iggy's class invent things. And then she said: "I want to make my own inventions." The timing for this was not optimal, because I was trying to get her to go to sleep. But I certainly appreciated the sentiment. She was SO excited. She dragged out an old, defective slinky from a drawer and proposed using it to make spring shoes (shown in the book). She got out a Mr. Potatohead and tried to combine the pieces in new ways. She was, in short, inspired. 

It's not that she's never been influenced by a book, of course. Singing songs, coloring pictures, etc. But this is the first time I've seen her light up in response to a new possibility, introduced by a book. I'm sure it will not be the last. 

The other take-home message from this for me is a reminder that kids need the right book at the right time. This is the justification for us having a ridiculously large number of board books, picture books, and early readers. Because you just never know when some particular book is going to hit at just the right time, and inspire a child. 

Thank you, Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, for inspiring my child. Of course by next week she'll probably want to be a water table again, but for now, we are having fun with the idea of inventing.  

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: June 12

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include Children's Choices Awards, UK Children's Laureate, book lists, the Cybils Awards, KidLitCon, growing bookworms, diverse books, literacy programs, book discovery, schools, libraries, reading with boys, and summer reading. 


Illustrator Chris Riddell named as UK children's laureate | @GuardianBooks #kidlit

2015 Children’s Choices List from @CBCBook + International Literacy Association is now available in PDF. Via @tashrow

Book Lists

Funny Picture Books that make @momandkiddo 's kids laugh out loud (most are hits in my house, too) #kidlit

20 incredible nonfiction picture books "that should be on the family bookshelf" by @CarrieGelson

Friendship: Real, Imagined, + Spare in intermediate chapter books │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go @sljournal #kidlit

Favorite First Chapter Book Read-Alouds from @growingbbb at @ThisReadingMama  #kidlit

A Tuesday Ten @TesseractViews | Prisoners of the Fantastic | #kidlit SFF where status as prisoner is key story point 

The Ultimate Superhero, Supervillain, and Superpower YA Reading List | @molly_wetta @YALSA via @tashrow #YALit

Most Popular Books in My 7th Grade Classroom 2014-2015 from @heisereads #YALit #kidlit

Spine-Chilling Whodunits for #SummerReading | Adult Books 4 Teens column by @droogmark @sljournal


#Cybils blog spreadsheet: #kidlit bloggers interested in receiving notices + review offers from publishers read this:

On the #Cybils blog: #BookList Fun: @Cybils #STEM Books chosen by @StackingBks 


Redefining Normal: Books About Teens with Special Needs| Alison M.G. Follos @sljournal #YALit#DiverseBooks

10 LGBTQ Picture Books That Paved The Way @HuffPostArts via @tashrow #DiverseBooks #KidLit

7 YA Books Featuring Bisexual Characters, compiled by @catagator @bookriot #YALit #DiverseBooks

Events + Programs

Neat! Alabama Attorney Launches Grassroots Effort to Establish Barbershop Libraries 4 Boys @TheRoot via @Jon_Scieszka

Remembering Nepal: Children's Books to Inspire Engagement + Organizations rebuilding #Literacy from @MitaliPerkins 

Growing Bookworms

Fun stuff from @mrskatiefitz | Early #Literacy in Everyday Places: The Pool

On the challenge of reading the same books over (and over) again with toddlers by @ReadingWithBean #RaisingReaders [One forever known by heart in my household due to re-reads is Bear's Birthday.]

Useful: I'm a Reading Tutor: 3 Ways I Teach Reading from @Everead

Why we need to read to our boys (+ help them to become readers): Ideas & suggestions from @TrevorHCairney #literacy

As "A Guide to Reading Rituals", Maria Russo in @NYTimes recommends HOW TO READ A STORY by @KateMessner  #kidlit

It's "never too late (to read w/ your kids, inc. teens)—and it can never go on too long" Deb Werrlein @washingtonpost

Reading at Home: 8 Things Your Kid’s Teacher Wishes You Would Do | @dcorneal @ReadBrightly via @tashrow

Study: Sesame Street when introduced delivered lasting educational benefits to millions of U.S. kids @washingtonpost

Fathers not reading enough to their children, says UK's @Booktrust (responding to a recent poll) @GuardianBooks 


2015-KidLitConLogoSquareHey there, #kidlit + #YALit bloggers. There's a New #KidLitCon 2015 Tumblr for news + announcements. Details here:

Author @TraceyBaptiste to Speak at #KidLitCon 2015, delivering the Saturday keynote #YALit @pwbalto @SheilaRuth

Hey there #KidLit + #YALit bloggers: Please help plan #KidLitCon 2015 by filling out a brief survey | Pls RT!

Can you believe that @SheilaRuth, #KidLitCon co-organizer this year with @pwbalto, has been blogging for 10 years? 

Lots of good stuff in this week's Fusenews: from obscure book awards to slightly haunted houses | @FuseEight 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

The Best Websites to Discover New Books @Goodereadermike @goodereader via @tashrow #SummerReading

At Stacked, @kimberlymarief wants to know How Do You Organize Your Books? She now has a dedicated library in her home 

Food for thought from @katsok for a summer morning | What Are You Known For? 

Schools and Libraries

"Librarians! PTO! Teachers! Kids! Everyone gets involved, makes it fun" | @haleshannon on prepping for author visit

Good news! Portland (OR) Public Schools is looking to hire ~30 school librarians, reports @sljournal

Top Ten Reasons I Choose To Read Poolside by @katsok - always a teacher for kids in her community @NerdyBookClub

"Let's ensure our kids aren't just being compliant robots" The engaged student vs. the compliant student @justintarte

On The Need For Students to Learn (+ educators to embrace aspects of) Digital #Literacy by @E_Sheninger

I like this idea: Could Storytelling Be the Secret Sauce to #STEM Education? by @Kschwart @MindShiftKQED

Is the pendulum swinging back towards more play in Kindergarten? asks @motokorich in @NYTimes  #ECE

Summer Reading

The Only Game | Baseball books for #SummerReading, recommended by Marilyn Taniguchi @sljournal #kidlit

#SummerReading suggestions for kids from Berkeley School Libraries, shared by @MaryAnnScheuer in handy PDF by age

© 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 Great Good Summer: Liz Garton Scanlon

Book: The Great Good Summer
Author: Liz Garton Scanlon
Pages: 224
Age Range: 9-12

The Great Good Summer is the first novel by Liz Garton Scanlon, author of several picture books (including All the World, which I adore, and The Good-Pie Party, which I reviewed here). The Great Good Summer is the story of 12-year-old Ivy Green, who lives in a small town in Texas. Ivy is having a difficult summer because her mother has run off to Panhandle, Florida with a fundamentalist preacher called Hallelujah Dave. Ivy becomes friends with Paul Dobbs, a classmate who is obsessed with space and devastated by the end of NASA's Space Shuttle program. Ivy and Paul, despite their very different personalities, end up taking an impulsive road trip to Florida in search of both Ivy's mother and Cape Canaveral.  

Here are the things I liked most about The Great Good Summer, in no particular order:

  • Marla Frazee's golden cover image (I would recognize her illustration style anywhere).
  • Ivy's quirky, charming Texas voice. Having lived for a time in Texas, I was able to read this book, and hear Ivy's accent in my head. I liked her sense of humor, and her tendency towards little asides. Like this: "(Personally, I think if you're an only child, you should automatically be issued a dog when you're born, as a consolation prize, but my mama and daddy disagree.)"
  • The relationship between Paul and Ivy. Though the two come to care about one another, they also argue, over big and little things. Their relationship is not that idealized boy-girl friendship that you see in books sometimes, nor is it a "boy-girl" relationship. It's just a relationship between two people of very different interests, each going through a stressful time. 
  • Liz Garton Scanlon's ability to slip in small, profound statements that make the reader stop to think (particularly late in the book). These are again not heavy-handed, but they are there for the reader who would like to find them. 
  • The positive portrayal of Ivy's teacher (and summer employer), Mrs. Murray.
  • Paul's passion for space. It's nice to see a character, a kid, who cares passionately about something. Ivy is actually a bit jealous of Paul for having this, which I found realistic. 
  • The author's head-on treatment of religion. Ivy is unabashedly religious, though her mother's actions do cause her to question things a bit. Paul is more scientific, and not a believer. They have discussions about this. The church is an important part of Ivy's life and her community. This was handled realistically and without being heavy-handed. 

Here's a quote that captures that last point (as well as Ivy's voice):

""We've gone to church all our livelong days," I say, "and put out collection money in the basket, and volunteered in the food pantry, and still here we are, Mama run off to Florida without her pills, us left behind to worry, and nothing but a postcard in more than a month! Do you think that's truly and indeed the best that God can do?""

I love that "truly and indeed". This would be a fun book to read aloud, I think, though my own daughter isn't old enough to listen to it yet. 

Anyway, those were the highlights for me. Low-lights? None, really. The Great Good Summer is a quick read with strong characters, and a nice balance of humor and substance. Highly recommended, and a wonderful summer read for anyone 9 and over. 

Publisher: Beach Lane Books (@SimonKids) 
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).