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Posts from October 2016

Literacy Milestone: Writing Essays


My daughter learned an essay format in school for writing nonfiction. This format consists of a topic sentence, followed by three fact-based sentences, followed by a conclusion. She loves this format, and has been writing little essays about various topics at home: Halloween, Christmas, friends, etc.

We were nearly late for school the other day because she had to come up with one more sentence about Halloween. What I especially enjoy about these essays is that the conclusions always start with "Clearly." As in "Clearly, I have told you all about Halloween."

I also love the phonetic spelling in the essays. She is much too impatient to get her ideas on paper to stop and ask for help with spelling. So she just writes away, as the words sound. Sometimes this makes the essays a little difficult to decipher, but she's always happy to help.

This path to literacy gets more fun every day.

© 2016 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: October 28: Halloween Books, Audiobooks + #MathematicalMindsets

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. I was actually on vacation in Hawaii for most of the week, so this post is a bit late and a little shorter than usual. But I did manage to save some links about #BookLists, #Math, #STEM, 90 Second Newbery, audiobooks, boys and reading, coding, Geisel Award, growing bookworms, Halloween, parenting, raising readers, reading levels, schools, and screentime (or lack thereof). Happy reading!


BunnyHordeInteresting question by @MissALibrarian on Guessing Geisel: Could The #PrincessInBlack win the Geisel?  @haleshannon 

2016 Teens’ Top Ten have been announced by @yalsa  @tashrow has the scoop | #YA #kidlit

Book Lists

#Halloween books for beginning readers: goofy, sweet, scary fun!  #BookList from @MaryAnnScheuer #EarlyReaders 

BeAFriendMore #PictureBooks to Spark Empathy in readers of all ages by @pernilleripp  #BookList #teaching

Starting to round up the 2016 Best Books Lists at @MrSchuReads@PublishersWkly  #kidlit #YA #PictureBooks

Events + Programs

News: 90-Second Newbery Film Festival open for submissions for 6th year  @90secondnewbery @etiberland #kidlit 

Growing Bookworms

TurtleInParadise How #Audiobooks Can Help Kids Who Struggle with #Reading @LindaFlanagan2 @MindShiftKQED   | Quotes @MaryAnnScheuer

RT @ReadingTub: Bet you'll be nodding @JensBookPage - 8 Brutal Truths of Raising a Book-Loving Kid | @IvaMarie @ReadBrightly 

“Just Right” Books: So Much More Than a Level by @mfuemm @nerdybookclub  | #ReadingLevels limit readers by boxing in

Three Ways to Increase Student Engagement in #Reading @ReadByExample  #ReadAloud #Speedbooking #BookRaffle

In Which We Ask the Right Question (What are you #reading?) vs Are you finished? by Christy Peterson @nerdybookclub

FantasticMrFoxLongtime children's bookseller offers new @storytimepost  service, sending 2 hand-picked books for kids each month 

The truth about boys + books: they read less – and skip pages @DanielBoffey @guardian  via @tashrow #literacy 

Schools and Libraries

RT @RansomTech: Should "rigorous" even be associated with K? "Kindergarten is becoming the new first grade"

Screentime / Parenting

Banning Tablets Is Best for Children | @mims @WSJ found less tablet time made his kids less cantankerous  #play

#Parenting | Teaching Tech Limits to kids by modeling healthy screen habits by @HeatherShumaker 


MathematicalMindsetsRT @JoBoaler: How to create a Mathematical Mindset classroom! Ideas for opening tasks and asking rich questions, now on youcubed

RT @MIND_Research: Study: #MiddleSchool Is Key to Girls' Coding Interest  @USNews #STEM

Turns Out, Counting on Your Fingers is associated w/ being smarter by @mcjomcg  @WSJ  #math #STEM #learning

© 2016 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

Bionic: Suzanne Weyn

Book: Bionic
Author: Suzanne Weyn
Pages: 240
Age Range: 12 and up

BionicBionic is a fast-paced YA title with an intriguing premise. Mira is a high school junior who has a promising future ahead. She's a top lacrosse player, sings in a band, and is thinking about college. When a horrific car accident leaves Mira severely injured, her plans seem to be derailed. Then the opportunity to become a research subject for a government project involving bionic limbs run via a chip in the brain changes everything for Mira again. But will she change too much to feel human anymore? 

I found that Weyn's spare text kept this book bearable, even when I was reading about Mira's first person suffering. Mira is in and out of consciousness at first, and this gives the reader a break, too. Mira's entire accident and initial hospital stay takes place over only two chapters - the surgery and physical therapy are covered, but not in much detail, and with the tedious bits skipped over. Like this:

"I have a new respect for toddlers. This is work! Frustrating, exhausting work. It's demoralizing and humiliating not to be able to do the  most basic of activities. I can't stand, walk, or even control my new arm. By the end of the day, I'm once more in tears." (end of Chapter 2)

"I thought the day would never come, but today Carol pushes me to the front door in my wheelchair. Mom is right behind me, loaded down with all my suitcases.

When Carol stops inside the front door, I lean heavily on my crutch and pull myself to standing. The weeks of exercises I've done with Raelene have built up my back and abdominal muscles to the point where I can hold steady and not tumble forward." (start of Chapter 3)

The rest of the book is about Mira's recovery and increasing level of bionic capabilities. There's a bit about her frustration with the recovery and her changed situation (no more lacrosse team, etc.). There's some understandable depression on Mira's part, but also introspection. Like this:

"Sitting by the living room window, I notice the patterns in everyone's days. The same people come and go at the same times. Old Jim next door walks his dog, Rusty, every morning at eight, then again at five. A day-camp bus drops the same two small kids off at four every afternoon. The mail carrier drops the mail in our box at two every day. In just two days I've got their routines nailed. Even the birds and squirrels show up at more of less the same time. I've never realized before how much of life is lived from habit." (Chapter 6)

Shown slowly over the course of the book, we see how the chip in her brain affects Mira's emotions and self-perception. And how her changes affect the people around her (best friend, boyfriend, bandmates, family). I liked the fact that Mira had a single mother, dedicated but struggling, and a younger brother with autism. As a mother, I can't even imagine how Mira's mother managed, but as a reader with an eye out for diverse family situations, I appreciated this one. I particularly liked the fact that Mira's brother, though clearly different, was able to do things to help her as the book progressed. 

Bionic is a quick read with a premise and writing style that will keep readers turning the pages. It would make a good choice for reluctant teen readers, particularly those with a yen for speculative fiction. Recommended for libraries serving high schoolers. [There's nothing that I think would make it objectionable for middle schoolers, but it feels more like a high school book to me.] The theme of reinvention (and then further reinvention) should resonate with teens. 

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2016 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).

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @E_Sheninger + @MsSackstein + @UnleashMind | #Play #Homework #Testing

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have articles that take a positive stand regarding three things that are well known to impact the joy of learning in students. First, an elementary school principal argues for more play in school. Next we hear about a Vermont elementary school that has abolished homework. Third, an elementary school teacher shares her strategies for helping to keep testing from harming kids' sense of personal worth. Each of these is a small data point - a voice in the wilderness calling out in on behalf of kids against the relentless pressures heaped upon them. But they are a start! Hope they brighten your day. 

"Seemingly endless positive impacts ... on kids" | On The Need for More #Play in #School per principal @E_Sheninger 

Eric Sheninger: "Play has a magical effect, at times, of taking away some of the stress and pressures of life. It is in these carefree moments that kids and adults develop and enhance certain skills that will play a huge role in personal and professional development.  I find myself reflecting on the seemingly endless positive impacts that play has on kids and yet it is being cut from schools across the world.  Ask any young kid what was their favorite part of the school day and they will respond in no specific order – recess, gym, or art.  

Our kids need and deserve more play, not less! Recess in particular is needed not just in our youngest grades, but also even through the middle and high school years."

Me: Eric Sheninger both cites research on the positive impacts of play and offers concrete suggestions for schools on how to incorporate more play throughout the day. I hope that this article is widely read!

TheHomeworkMyth#Homework Abolished for Children in Vermont Elementary School to Make Room for #Play, Sleep, Family @UnleashMind 

The Mind Unleashed: "The principal of the Orchard School in South Burlington, Vermont, a kindergarten-through-5th grade school says that he’s observed more anxiety among students in the last decade. The school opted to do away with homework this year, based in part on the book, The Homework Myth...

Alfie Kohn, the author of the book says that, “Homework may be the greatest extinguisher of curiosity ever invented.” He also argues that there is no real evidence that homework causes better academic learning. There is research to support his claims that go back to 1897, where a study proved that assigning spelling homework had no effect on children’s spelling proficiency later on. (Joseph Mayer Rice in Gill and Schlossman 2004, p. 175.)

There has also been a global push toward allowing children more free ‘play’ time, since this natural state of curiosity allows learning to happen organically, without force or the ensuing frustration.

There are also great men and women in history who have proven that intellectual prowess need not be gleaned from a system which tends to indoctrinate us against our most basic, inborn genius."

Me: School by school, the pendulum does seem to be swinging away from increased homework... I can hope, anyway. 

HackingAssessmentTips for #teachers to keep #testing from taking away kids' feelings of value from @mssackstein 

Starr Sackstein: "Living my life in a solutions-based model, I'd be lying if I said I haven't told kids that the tests are bad. The truth is these tests don't accurately assess our kids, the lowest functioning ones especially, so we need to remind our students that no test cannot define them...

All students have the right to feel like they have something valuable to offer the world and it's our job to ensure that no test takes that away from them. There is more to each of us than our score on any given exam and we must keep this in perspective."

Me: Recognizing that testing is inevitable in most classrooms today, Starr Sackstein includes a list of ways that teachers can try to mitigate the negative effects of testing. For example: "Do your best to align actual class learning with some aspect of critical thinking. Although it may not look exactly like the test, the skills are the same." My daughter, in first grade, has yet to get bogged down by testing, but I know that it's coming, and I expect to have more personal thoughts to share on this in the future. 

© 2016 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 post may contain affiliate links. 

Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes: Jennifer L. Holm + Matthew Holm

Book: Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Illustrator: Matthew Holm
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

BabymouseChristmasCupcakesBabymouse, the intrepid, cupcake-loving heroine created by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, has appeared in 20 graphic novels to date. Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes is Babymouse's first foray into the world of picture books. As a longtime fan of Babymouse, I found the new picture book delightful.

As the story begins, we find a young Babymouse, perhaps three or four years old. Her little brother is a (very loud) baby. It's Christmas Eve, and Babymouse, alas, eats all of the cookies meant for Santa. But that's ok, because she decides to make Santa some Christmas cupcakes. However, in classic Babymouse fashion, things do not work out quite as expected. A fantasy element roars in, and, well, let's just say that it's a good thing Santa doesn't need very many cupcakes. 

I do love Babymouse. I love that she adores pink, but also wants a suit of armor for Christmas, "because of all the dragons." I love that baking cookies for Santa isn't unique enough, and the fact that she considers (though happily rejects) making a tuna casserole. As in the graphic novels, the dry voice of the narrator interacting with Babymouse lends humor to the story. And I love, love, love the ending, which made me laugh, and also nod with recognition. 

This is, I believe, Babymouse's first time appearing in full color (the graphic novels are black, white, and pink), and Matthew Holms' eye-catching illustrations are sure to draw in the youngest of readers. I challenge any reader to resist the illustration in which Babymouse leaps into the air, positively bursting with excitement, when she hits upon the idea of Christmas cupcakes. There's also a quite fetching pink dragon. 

Fans of the Babymouse books will definitely want to add Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes to their holiday wish lists. For those children too young to already be fans, Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes is a perfect introduction for preschoolers to an imaginative, stereotype-busting character. It's difficult for me to assess objectively how this book will work for people meeting Babymouse for the first time, but I strongly suspect that it will be successful. There are fun, read-aloud-friendly sound effects and typical small child behaviors (like making a huge mess when helping out, and not being able to resist eating too many cookies). And there is Babymouse. 

My only slight regret (though I agree with as a creative decision) is that Babymouse does not, in this book, mutter "Typical." I am hoping for a future picture book in which she says that for the first time.  

Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes is highly recommended for in-home holiday reading, and a must-purchase for libraries. I can't wait to read it with my own young dragon-slayer. 

Publisher: Random House Books for Children (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 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).

Buddy for President: Hans Wilhelm

Book: Buddy for President
Author: Hans Wilhelm
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

BuddyForPresidentJust in time for Election Day, Harper Children's brings us Buddy for President by Hans Wilhelm, in which a boy lobbies hard for his dog to become the next President. Buddy's qualifications including appreciating the great outdoors (like President Theodore Roosevelt) and a (slobbery) ability to kiss babies right and left. Here's a high point of the book:

"Buddy will be our top dog! He will put his presidential paw print only on good laws, like bedtime just for grown-ups and more playtime for kids."

The very next passage felt a bit overly sentimental to me:

"Everybody will cheer when Buddy introduces a law so that all kids must have a safe lace to live with grown-ups and dogs who love them with all their hearts."

But mostly, Wilhelm sticks to fun characteristics of dogs that translate well into leadership, like being good listeners, and being good at playing. The new National Anthem, all in woofs to the tune of Take Me Out to the Ball Game is a lot of fun, as are the campaign posts for dog leaders of other countries (a poodle for France, of course). Wilhelm's bright, cheerful illustrations, with Buddy always a smiling figure, help to keep Buddy for President on the humorous side. I think that kids will find this one entertaining. 

Buddy for President would make a light-hearted classroom or library read-aloud (for kids five and up) on or before Election Day. There are a few facts thrown in that could form a basis for discussion (what is a summit, etc.), as well as a nice plug for reading aloud. 

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 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: Making Lists


Now that she is writing more, my daughter has a new hobby: making lists. She is never without a little notebook of some sort and a pencil. Here are some recent examples:

  • A packing list of items that she wanted to bring on a weekend family trip (important stuffed animals, books, a favorite dress, etc.). This list was illustrated, to make sure that I (the person doing the packing) understood what she meant.
  • A list of things she is going to do when she is an adult. This list I am keeping, because it is pretty funny. Sample: "never clyn up ever agen" and "yoos ipad as much as posbul". I liked the "as posbul", an acknowledgement that even as an adult she will not be able to be on the iPad 24 hours a day. Though who knows what advances in battery technology may be posbul over the years?
  • A list of "house rules" for our family. 
  • A planning list for a fictional birthday party that she was imagining for a young friend.

She sometimes seeks our assistance in determining the content of the lists, as with the "house rules", but otherwise she is happy to work on the lists on her own. She uses phonetic spelling (see above), so the lists can be difficult to decipher. So far we've been able to figure them out.  

What say all of you? Did your kids have a list-making phase? 

© 2016 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: October 21: #KidLitCon16, @BallouLibrary + #ReadingAloud

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include: #BookLists, Ballou High School, book donation, growing bookworms, grades, KidLitCon, libraries, mysteries, picture books, reading aloud, school, the Cybils Awards, women illustrators, and writing.

Book Lists

FindingWinnieWomen Make #PictureBooks Too (2016 edition), #BookList + call for suggestions from @LaurelSnyder 

New Children's Books for Preschoolers from @growingbbb  #PictureBooks to Elephant & Piggie #BookList

Top Ten Books to #ReadAloud During Story Time by Shannon Hawkins | @nerdybookclub  #BookList

Detectives unite!: Celebrating National #Mystery Series Week | #BookList from @Scholastic  via @tashrow


CharlesDarwinAroundTheWorldFrom category organizer Jennifer Wharton: #Cybils Elementary and Juvenile #Nonfiction Nominations Round-Up 

#Cybils #BoardBook Nominations Round-Up from Jennifer Wharton  | Check out this new category! #kidlit 

#Cybils Fiction #PictureBook Nominations Round-Up from Jennifer Wharton  | So many great titles #kidlit

On the #Cybils blog: Now accepting submissions from #kidlit + #YA publishers, authors, and publicists 

Events + Programs

The 2016 #BookFair for @BallouLibrary  is ON!!! Donate #YA titles via @amazon wish list  @chasingray #HighSchool

Growing Bookworms

FullOfBeansFull of Beans: Building students' knowledge of a story's setting, helping show movie in our minds @MaryAnnScheuer 

8 ways to engage kids when #reading #PictureBooks @Donna_Erickson via @tashrow

Eight ways writing 'teaches' reading to under 5 year olds from @TrevorHCairney  #literacy #GrowingBookworms

Img_1003Thoughts + photos from #KidlitCon 2016 from this year's host @book_nut   #KidLitCon16 (shown w/ co-organizers)

Postcard (highlights) from #Kidlitcon 2016 from organizing team member @aquafortis  #kidlitcon16  


PlayborhoodI like it! The Anti-Helicopter Parent’s Plea: Let Kids #Play! by Melanie Thernstrom in @nytimes  @playborhood

Schools and Libraries

For school + public #librarians | The 2017 Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Award — @FuseEight  @alscblog @SimonKIDS

The Emotional Weight of Being Graded in #School, for Better or Worse | @LindaFlanagan2 @MindShiftKQED  @mssackstein

© 2016 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

Before Morning: Joyce Sidman + Beth Krommes

Book: Before Morning
Author: Joyce Sidman
Illustrator: Beth Krommes
Pages: 48
Age Range: 3-7

BeforeMorningBefore Morning, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes, is simply beautiful, in words and text. It's about the power of wishes, and quiet respite that a snow day can bring. The story is told mainly through the pictures, accompanied by a spare poem from Sidman, sprinkled line by line across the book. We see a girl pause at a bakery window, dragged past by a busy parent. We see the girl at home with her parents, trying to hide her mother's pilot hat, so that her mother won't leave. We see the mother leave for work, while her husband and daughter are sleeping. And then we see it start to snow, and snow, and snow. 

Here's just a hint of Sidman's text:

"Let the air turn to feathers,

the earth turn to sugar,

and all that is heavy
turn light."

This was across three page spreads. You want to read it aloud, slowly. This would make a wonderful bedtime book, soothing and uplifting, and celebrating family. 

Krommes' scratchboard and watercolor illustrations are rendered in a deep palette. Everything is textured and slightly abstract looking. She fills in details that tell us more about the girl and her family. The father standing in the kitchen, having clearly prepared the dinner on the table. The girl's room, full of model airplanes. A picture of the mother in uniform on a side table. And at the end, as any reader would hope and expect, we see the family stop at the bakery, and take home the cake that the girl wanted in the first place. 

In the middle of the book the authors' focus turns to the snow storm. We see skies full of snowflakes and birds, over snowy town scenes. But throughout these images, we also follow the mother's journey, into the airport, and then home again. This is a book that rewards close observation, a slow reading of the text, and a slow perusal of the pictures. 

Before Morning is lovely, through and through. This story that celebrates a child's love of her parent would make a perfect new baby gift. It's especially wonderful, of course, that it's the mom who is the breadwinner, and has the job that inspires and saddens the child. Before Morning belongs in libraries and on home bookshelves everywhere. I think it will work best for preschoolers, but I hope that my six-year-old appreciates it, too. Because it would make me very happy to read this to her. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 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: October 19: The Boxcar Children, Device Limits + #Babymouse

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 has refocused recently, and now contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, including bookworms, mathematicians, and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book through illustrated chapter book), one post about my daughter's latest literacy milestone (becoming obsessed with the Lunch Lady series), and one post about the benefits I saw when my daughter spent a week without device time. I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter and one more in-depth post on recent joy of learning-related articles.

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read three early chapter book to middle grade and five adult titles. I read/listened to: 

  • BabymouseQueenJennifer L. Holm (ill. Matthew Holm): Babymouse: Queen of the World. Random House. Graphic Novel. Completed October 13, 2016. This was a re-read for me and a first read-aloud to my daughter from what I'm sure is going to be a beloved series for her. 
  • Aimee Carter: Simon Thorn and the Viper's Pit. Bloomsbury Kids USA. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed October 16, 2016, print ARC. Review to come, closer to the February publication date. 
  • Shannon Hale and Dean Hale (ill. LeUyen Pham): The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde. Bloomsbury Kids USA. Illustrated Early Chapter Book. Completed October 18, 2016. Read aloud to my daughter. 
  • Daniel J. Levitin: A Field Guide to Lies. Dutton. Adult Nonfiction. Completed October 5, 2016, on Kindle. This was an interesting book about the ways that people can mislead with data and information, and giving advice for more critical information consumption. 
  • Charlaine Harris: Grave Surprise (Harper Connelly, Book 2). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed October 7, 2016, on MP3. 
  • Carol O'Connell: Blind Sight (Mallory). G.P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed October 11, 2016, on Kindle. This was the first new Mallory book in a while, and I read it in pretty much a single sitting on a long plane ride - definitely intriguing. 
  • William R. Forstchen: One Year After. Macmillan. Adult Thriller. Completed October 12, 2106, on MP3. This was the sequel to the post-apocalpyptic novel One Second After, in which a massive EMP takes down all US electronics and electricity. This sequel was more a cautionary tale about what type of people the larger society should put into power in order to rebuilt. I'm looking forward to the third book in this series, due out early next year. 
  • Harlan Coben: Fool Me Once. Dutton. Adult Mystery/Thriller. Completed October 17, 2016, on MP3. This standalone mystery/thriller really kept me guessing. I also enjoyed seeing occasional nods to Coben's long-running Myron Bolitar series. 

TheTrespasserI'm reading Paul Tobin's second Genius Factor book (due out after the first of the year), following How To Capture An Invisible Cat, which I adored. A blurb from my review of the first book is actually included on the ARC of the second, though I don't know that it will make it into the final copy. I was still quite pleased to see it. I'm listening to the latest in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad mysteries, The TrespasserThe books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here

BoxcarChildren1My daughter continues to dabble in reading the Magic Tree House books on her own, though she hasn't actually completed another title. She likes to organize the books according to which ones she has and hasn't read (or had read to her), and to read bits here and there. I also, thanks to a suggestion from Ami on my Lunch Lady post, picked up the first few Boxcar Children books for her. She's reading the first one, but I'm not sure that she's hooked yet. Time will tell... I would be happy for her to read books that are a little bit easier, to get more practice, but she's having none of it. What we really need are about 10 more Princess in Black books, immediately. But I realize that this is unrealistic. 

BabymouseChristmasCupcakesI've also noticed more and more that when I'm reading picture books to her, she wants to chime in and read parts of them herself. We read a book that had a "this plus this equals this" pattern repeated through the text, and she wanted me to read the first part, then read the second part herself, and have us chime in together on the "equals" part. Figuring out who is gong to read what slows us down a bit, but I love seeing her so engaged in the books. Recent picture books that she has particularly enjoyed include I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino, The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett, Buddy for President by Hans Wilhelm, and Before Morning by Joyce Sidman. And, of course, Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes by Jenni Holm and Matt Holm, which she loved, loved, loved. She literally jumped for joy when I showed it to her. My husband and I had to read it to her back to back, so that we could both share in the love. 

I'm continuing to share all of my longer reads, as well as highlights from my picture book reads with my daughter, via the #BookADay hashtag on Twitter. Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2016 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

Enzo's Very Scary Halloween: Garth Stein + R.W. Alley

Book: Enzo's Very Scary Halloween
Author: Garth Stein
Illustrator: R.W. Alley
Pages: 40
Age Range: 5-8

EnzosHalloweenMy daughter and I love Enzo, who debuted in Enzo: Racing in the Rain and has also been seen in Enzo and the Christmas Tree Hunt! The Enzo books are written by Garth Stein and illustrated by R.W. Alley. Enzo is an irresistible little dog who lives with race car driver Denny and his daughter Zoe. The stories are told from Enzo's first person (dog) perspective, and reflect his limited understanding of the things that people do. They also incorporate Enzo's affinity for running, an appropriate trait in a dog belonging to a race car driver. 

In Enzo's Very Scary Halloween, as Zoe and Denny prepare for a ghoul-filled Halloween, Enzo braces himself to protect them. He has no idea why Zoe thinks that an "impending invasion" of ghosts and goblins will be fun, and he worries as the neighborhood is gradually transformed into a scary place. When Halloween night comes, Zoe dresses Enzo up as a dragon. When people's reactions convince Enzo that he really has turned into a dragon, he runs away, determined not to hurt anyone AND afraid that creatures are chasing him. There's surreal fright for a few pages, but of course things turn out ok for Enzo in the end.

One minor nit that I noticed when reading this book is that for a year-old puppy who doesn't understand when people are pretending to be scared, Enzo has a remarkably advanced vocabulary, using words like "sneering", "revelation" and "transformed". I doubt that this concern will bother child listeners, but it does mean that Enzo's Very Scary Halloween is a book better read to kids than read by new readers. It's also quite text-heavy for a picture book. Like this (one page spread):

"Over the next week, Denny's prophecy begins to come true. Each day, more houses on our street become haunted: giant spiders weave webs on porches, gravestones appear on lawns, and pumpkins try to sneak into people's houses. They are evil pumpkins, with sneering, demonic faces, but they're very slow moving, so we should be able to escape their evil spells. (I have never trusted a pumpkin." 

R.W. Alley's gentle illustrations ("pen and ink, pencil, watercolor, gouache, acrylics, and coffee spills on paper") keep Enzo's Very Scary Halloween from being too scary for young listeners. Enzo's worried eyes  and questioningly cocked ears convey his feelings throughout. Even on the page spread in which Enzo starts to believe that he might actually be a dragon, his wide eyes remain recognizable. I especially like Alley's use of fall colors in the dragon scenes.

Fans of Enzo will certainly not want to miss Enzo's Very Scary Halloween. I think that the advanced vocabulary and relatively dense text make this a better choice for early elementary school kids than for preschoolers. It's also a relatively advanced concept for readers to put themselves in Enzo's shoes, and understand why he would find Halloween so frightening. I don't think it's necessary to have read the previous Enzo books to appreciate this one, however, and it could happily join other Halloween stories in a library or bookstore display. It's a lovely portrayal of the full spectrum of Halloween traditions and decorations. Personally, I love Enzo, and was happy to see him back in a new adventure. I look forward to sharing this one with my daughter. 

Publisher: HarperCollins  (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 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 Time I Came to Appreciate My Child's Misbehavior: A Week without Device Time

Recently my daughter made a poor choice. The details of her poor choice are not relevant here. What is relevant is her punishment. My husband and I opted to take away her beloved Kindle Fire tablet for a week. She doesn't get much device time during the week anyway, but here's what happened over the weekend:

  • On Saturday, instead of looking at her device during the 30 minute drive to her soccer game, she talked to us, and started reading a Magic Tree House book (the first one she's read on her own). She periodically piped up from the back with remarks like: "I can read the word 'difficult.'" She read some more when she got home.
  • On Sunday morning, instead of staying home to watch videos on her device, she went with my husband to the gym, where she played in the Kids' Club with several friends who were there.
  • On Sunday afternoon she entertained herself for an hour in the playroom, constructing a sculpture out of Uno cards, tape, dice, and wooden skewers. 

I'm sure there have been other incidents over the week in which, by not having access to her device, she did something that I, for one, view as a better use of her time. Something involving reading books, playing with other kids, building something, or some other physically or intellectually engaging pursuit. But you get the idea. It was quite refreshing.

I'm not planning to take away her device forever. It's truly wonderful when we are traveling. She also has apps that she's supposed to do for school, and from which she probably is learning something. But what I've noticed is that the more time she spends on the device, the more time she wants to spend on the device. She is cranky and miserable when it is taken away. She is oblivious to our questions and instructions when she is using it. She believes that she can multi-task (e.g. putting on her soccer cleats while watching) but she takes approximately forever to get anything done. 

So, having her off of her device for a week has been a blessing. While I won't be hoping for future bad choices on her part, I will be quick to use this form of consequence again when the need arises. 

© 2016 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