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Posts from August 2017

Big Sister, Little Monster: Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum & Edwin Fotheringham

Book: Big Sister, Little Monster
Author: Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum
Illustrator: Edwin Fotheringham
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

BigSisterLittleMonsterBig Sister, Little Monster, written by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham is the latest in a long line of picture books about rivalries and loyalties between siblings, especially sisters. In this instance, big sister Lucy considers her messy, pesky, attention-seeking little sister Mia to be a monster. But when Mia makes herself scarce, Lucy eventually misses her. She finds her sister playing merrily in a hidden world behind a strange door, a world populated by colorful monsters. The monsters have no interest in relinquishing kindred spirit Mia, until big sister Lucy puts her foot down. And then the loyal sisters play together happily ever after. 

I have to say that for me, the introduction of actual monsters, with a "Where the Wild Things Are" dynamic, made Big Sister, Little Monster rise above the ordinary. Sure, the ending is a little sappy, but before that we have this:

"Sister? Shmister!" growled a grimy monster. "You're not like Mia!"
"Mia prances in puddles," snorted a scaly monster.
"She paints with pudding," sang a fangy monster.
"She's rule-free and ready to romp," bellowed a furry monster.
"Monster Mia is our queen!" they hollered. 
"We're keeping her forever!"


I like the alliteration, as well as the sheer joy in Mia's antics. I also like Lucy, when she gets "VERY MAD" at the monsters, finding her own "INNER MONSTER". Her determined expression, hands on hips, hair flying, is a joy to behold. 

Fotheringham's illustrations render the items in the day to day background of the girls' lives in muted colors, while the monsters are brightly colored, set against a dramatic black background. This contrast visually echoes the change in the entire dynamic between the girls, as Mia goes from supplicant to treasured sister, in one fell swoop. 

Big Sister, Little Monster is a fun yet empowering take on the pesky little sister / annoyed yet protective older sister dynamic. It is fun to read aloud, with monster voices and plenty of drama, as well as being visually pleasing. I think libraries will want to give this one a look for their picture book collections. Recommended!  

Publisher: Scholastic  (@Scholastic
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).

When a Wolf is Hungry: Christine Naumann-Villemin & Kris Di Giacomo

Book: When a Wolf is Hungry
Author: Christine Naumann-Villemin
Illustrator: Kris Di Giacomo
Pages:  34
Age Range: 4-8

WhenAWolfIsHungryWhen a Wolf is Hungry was originally published in France, and maintains a certain French tone, I think. Written by Christine Naumann-Villemin and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo, it's the story of lone wolf Edmond Bigsnout, who leaves his home in the wood because he has "a hankering for some rabbit." Specifically, a city bunny. He finds an apartment building in which dwells such a rabbit. However, when he accidentally leaves his knife in the elevator, another resident borrows it. After that, the wolf keeps going home for different implements with which to kill or cook the bunny, but he keeps running into building residents who borrow them. By the end of the book, Edmond is very hungry, but won over by the kindness of the residents who, we just know, are gong to become his neighbors. 

Naumann-Villemin's text is humorous, with a dark slant. Like this:

"In no time at all, Edmond was back.


The bear from the fourth floor!

"Good day, sir! Are you our new neighbor?"

"No ... uh ... I mean ... yes ..." said the wolf, lying through is teeth.

"Welcome to the building! My, that's a nice chainsaw you have there. What did you need it for?"

"To slice a rab ... uh ... to trim my ..."

"Would you mind terribly if I borrowed it until this evening? I have a hedge to trim on the roof."

"Not at all..."


Di Giacomo's illustrations are also dark in tone, but again with flashes of humor, as when "Miss Eyestopper" bats her eyes at the stammering Edmond. It's not completely clear whether the other animals are actually onto Edmond's scheme, and are deflecting him, or whether they are just rather pushy neighbors, assembling a fun rooftop party. 

When a Wolf is Hungry is an entertaining take on the thwarting of the big, bad wolf. Here he's stymied by friendly but presumptuous neighbors, and his own reflexive politeness. This book reminded me in theme of A Well-Mannered Young Wolf by Jean Leroy and Matthieu Maudet, though with a different feel. This book won't be for everyone, but it worked for me, and I think that anyone who likes fractured fairy tales will want to give it a look. Recommended!

Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (@ebyrbooks)
Publication Date: August 7, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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 Links from @JulieSuratt + @MelanieBCurtin + Margaret Kristin Merga + Sky Yonehiro

JoyOFLearningLogoI realize that I share these Joy of Learning links posts somewhat irregularly. That's because I generally wait until some piece strikes me so strongly that I feel a need to share it, and to quote from it, and to respond to it. Then there are usually a few others floating about that I decide are also worthy of a more in-depth look. In this case, a piece that I read today from Boston Magazine about letting your kids be mediocre (vs. pushing them with activities and academic enrichment) really hit home. It echoed concerns voiced by a Silicon Valley teen in a piece that I read over the weekend. I also ran across articles over the weekend about nurturing grit in children, and about the importance of continuing to read aloud to older kids. As these are both topics of particular interest to me, I have quoted from and responded to those here, too. I hope you find these articles as interesting as I did. 

This piece by in is so good! In Praise of Mediocre Kids | Accept kids' own interests

Julie Suratt: "Some see these early-education initiatives as a way to give kids a jump-start, while others, including one former middle school teacher who wished to remain anonymous, think they’re simply a waste of money. “There’s nothing a three-year-old should be doing academically,” she says. “That makes kids hate learning. A love of learning is what makes them successful.”...

Naylor, the sports psychologist, sees the same thing happening on the playing field: “As parents, we’re great at supporting our kids; we’re bad at letting them feel challenged.” If a child doesn’t get playing time, or if she has to sit on the sidelines, “that’s okay,” he says. Tears of frustration indicate passion—and intrinsic motivation. Look at Michael Jordan, who was cut from the varsity basketball team during his sophomore year of high school. He managed to turn out just fine...

A friend recently sent me a New York Times article in which college admissions officers shared advice they give their own kids. A quote from MIT dean of admissions Stuart Schmill resonated: “If you couldn’t write about this on your college application, would you still do it? If the answer is ‘no,’ then you shouldn’t be doing it.”"

Me: This long-form Boston Magazine piece resonated strongly with me. Author Julie Suratt talks about her desire not to push her kids too hard, and to pay attention to their actual interests, rather than forcing them into things that don't bring them joy but will help them to get into college (whether academic enrichment activities or sports, etc.). The piece is made stronger by Suratt's admission of sometimes being tempted, or getting caught up in what other people are doing. I especially liked the quote above from the college admissions officer on activities. 

What I struggle with is the balance between not pushing my daughter into activities but helping her to be more gritty about the activities that she does pursue. She has loved karate for two years, and I think it's really good for her. Recently, however, for whatever reason I've had to push her to go to class. If I let her off the hook, in the interest of letting her do some other open-ended play instead, am I teaching her that she should always follow her whims? What about her desire to get to Black Belt?

This balance, I think, is going to be a work in process. But meanwhile, I highly recommend that parents (especially parents struggling with implied pressure to put your kids in extra tutoring, competitive sports, etc.) read Julie Suratt's article. 

Sad OpEd by local teen about how Silicon Valley culture leads to stress in teens and adults

Sky Yonehiro: "This is the culture that has been passed on to all the children of Silicon Valley. When articles talk about helicopter parenting, “checklisted” childhood or outside pressure, they are missing a crucial part of the puzzle: the children.

My classmates are always trying to do more, always wondering if there is something more they should be doing and always worried that they are missing something. I’ve had classmates frantically ask me if I’d heard that so-and-so is doing something, and if they should be doing that and more. I’ve also had classmates privately divulge summer plans, internships and extracurriculars to me as if they were secrets, hoping that others don’t do the same thing."

Me: This OpEd is a lament by a Silicon Valley teenager concerned about the pressure that she see exerted on herself and her friends by the competitive local culture. Her view is that this is exacerbated by the mindset of parents here ("Silicon Valley loves the toxic startup culture, loves the materialism of owning Teslas and loves the competitiveness that drives the anxiety and fakeness of the area. It loves its image and its money, no matter what the cost.").

As the Boston Magazine article shows, this pressure is not unique to Silicon Valley (though it's certainly possible that it's worse here than in other parts of the country). But I think that the article is worth reading because it gives a student's perspective on the pressure that is undeniably being brought to bear on many teens. All I can do is share articles like this and maintain my determination not to put such pressures on my own child. 

GritWant Your Kids to Succeed in School and Life? Science Says to Instill This 1 Thing Above All

Melanie Curtin: "As Duckworth defines it, grit is, "passion and perseverance for long-term projects; having stamina; sticking with your future, day in, day out ... and working really hard to make that future a reality." (my emphasis)

In other words, grit is tenacity. It's the ability to stay connected to a goal, even when that goal is far away or there are setbacks...

But when kids in Dweck's research studies read and learn about the brain (particularly how it grows in response to challenge), they become more brave, more resilient, more likely to try even harder things, more ... gritty.

Why? Because they start to see that simply doing the hard thing helps them expand. That it doesn't matter whether you get the answer right--it just matters that you try, and keep trying.

It's a lesson we can all take to heart, especially since grit research showed something else totally fascinating: there is no relationship or an inverse relationship between grit and talent. Hang on and make sure you got that last part -- inverse means the less talented you are, the more gritty you are likely to be ... which may be exactly what leads to your success."

Me: This Inc. Magazine article is a high-level introduction to the impact of grit on student success, and the impact of a growth mindset on grit. While the concepts weren't new to me, and there wasn't a lot of detail about what parents should actually do, it was good to see these concepts introduced in a mainstream magazine.

As I noted above, grit and tenacity are something I'm working on with my daughter. She's about to start taking piano lessons. Her teacher told us that kids who practice get better, and kids who don't practice end up quitting, because they get frustrated by the lack of progress. So, I suspect that the piano lessons will be a good experiment for us. Of course it's going to depend on whether she enjoys learning to play as much as she thinks she will. She's already nervous about the prospect of doing recitals, which I think means that they will be good for her, too. 

Research shows the importance of parents with children – even after children can read

Margaret Kristin Merga: "Research has typically found that shared reading experiences are highly beneficial for young people. Benefits of shared reading include facilitating enriched language exposure, fostering the development of listening skillsspellingreading comprehension and vocabulary, and establishing essential foundational literacy skills. They are also valued as a shared social opportunity between parents and their children to foster positive attitudes toward reading.

When we read aloud to children it is also beneficial for their cognitive development, with parent-child reading activating brain areas related to narrative comprehension and mental imagery. While most of the research in this area focuses on young children, this does not mean that these benefits somehow disappear as children age....

In addition, children were sometimes terrified of reading aloud in the classroom, and this fear could potentially be alleviated through greater opportunities to practice at home."

Me: This article in The Conversation reports findings from a more detailed academic report (linked within the article) by Margaret Kristin Merga. While I was already on board with most of the benefits reported in the article, I appreciated seeing them verified and publicized here. I especially appreciated the point about kids being nervous about reading in class, and how helpful it can be for them to read aloud with their parents at home. 

I do know how tempting it is to scale back on reading together once a child can read on her own. Because reading on their own is good for them, too. They need the practice, and we need the quiet. My daughter likes to read in bed to herself some nights, and I'm either sleepy or interested in getting into my own bed for my own reading. So I don't read to her at night very often these days. My husband still does, though, and I try to read to her over breakfast instead. She's seven, and even though she's reading middle grade graphic novels on her own, we still come across many vocabulary words that she's not familiar with, whether we are reading picture books or Harry Potter.

So, if you need a little extra dose of motivation to keep reading together, go on over and read this Conversation piece. And if you really want to delve into the details, you can click through and read the full research report, too.   

© 2017 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. 

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 25: Back to School Edition

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #Cybils, #GraphicNovels, #GrowthMindset, #ScreenTime, #STEM, academic red-shirting, books for boys, books for girls, eclipse, growing bookworms, motivation, neurodiversity, racism, reading logs, and schools. 

Book Lists

AlvinHo16 Books That 6- to 8-Year-Old Boys Say Are Must-Reads |  

Just For Fun: An Reading List from

The Big List of Preschool Books, a

50+ Multicultural STEAM Books for Children |

Themed Early Chapter Books for Kids Age 6-10, from

ZitaNPR's List, response + recommendations from new Graphic Novel category chair

Top Ten Kids' Books w/ Neurodiverse Characters by Kacy Smith etc.

Cybils Awards

The Call for Judges is coming soon, says , middle grade fiction chair

Cybils-Logo-2017-Web-SmThe 2017 Call for Judges is now live: We Need YOU! | + bloggers/reviewers, find details here:  

Growing Bookworms

Instead of accountability re: reading at home, how do we create passionate environments in schools?  

Growth Mindset

11 Ways to Build Capacity and Never Stop Growing  

UC Berkeley is teaching students to cope with and learn from failure |

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

LittleHouseBigWoodsRacism, Children’s Classics and the World Today | use these books to teach, don't just ban them, says 

Read like a girl: how children’s books of female stories are booming | via

Rediscovering the joys + disconcerting aspects of Kids’ Books as a parent by Meghan Cox Gurdon

The End of child_lit: The Literary Listserv Era Comes to a Close — shares her thoughts

Schools and Libraries

Why Stickers, Pizza Parties + Tickets Didn't Work in My Classroom by via  

Oldest Kids in the Class May Get an Edge in College Admissions - study finds effect of academic redshirting


Are tablets turning babies into insomniacs? - study finds tablets causing lost sleep in babies + toddlers  

© 2017 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

Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster: Richard Torrey

Book: Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster
Author: Richard Torrey
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Ally-SaurusBossyAlly-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster is the sequel to Ally-saurus & the First Day of School (which my daughter and I enjoyed but which I didn't review for some reason), both by Richard Torrey. The books feature a little girl named Ally who is obsessed with dinosaurs, and wants to be called Ally-saurus. In this installment, Ally and her friend Kai, along with Kai's little brother, Petey, are having a perfectly lovely time playing in the Ally's front yard. Ally is stomping around and roaring like a dinosaur. Kai is dancing "across a grand stage". And Petey is wandering about with his clearly precious teddy bear.

This live and let live fun stops when the bossy new girl who lives next door comes over and insists not only that they all play monsters, but that they play her way. Ally is not allowed to be a dinosaur and Kai is not allowed to dance. Because Maddie declares herself rule-maker in chief. Flashbacks illustrate other instances of Maddie's over-the-top bossiness. But when Maddie messes with Petey's teddy, Ally-saurus finally strikes back. 

In truth, Maddie's bossiness is a bit over-the-top. One wonders why on earth Ally and Kai put up with it for as long as they apparently did. And the resolution is a bit pat, with Maddie folding instantly once the other three put on a united front. But I do think that Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster gives parents a vehicle for talking with their kids about what to do when another child is too bossy.

I like that what tipped Ally over the edge was a threat to her friend's younger brother, rather than meanness to herself. And I like the way that Ally and Kai, when left to their own devices, are free spirits. Kai is a boy who just wants to dance and perform. Ally is a girl who wants to roar like a dinosaur. So be it. I also like that the kids are playing on their own in the front yard, apparently for the whole day, and have to resolve their own conflicts. [This may not be realistic in 2017, but it should be.]

I also love Torrey's illustrations. The kids are drawn in black and white, but each has colored lines showing how they see themselves in their imaginations. Ally-saurus has spikes and a tail. Kai has a top hat and bow tie. And Maddie has a monster outline, and a crown (showing her self-appointed ruler status). The colors used for each child are picked out in the children's own drawings, too, lending a pleasing visual coherence to the story. 

Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster is a whimsical take on an issue that all kids struggle with at some point - how to manage when a bossy kid comes along and tries to take over. Fans of the first book will certainly want to give this one a look. It might even inspire them to stand up to low-level bullying. Paired with the first book, these could make a nice classroom read aloud for early elementary schoolers. Recommended. 

Publisher: Sterling Children's Books 
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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: August 23: Middle Grade Reviews, Realistic Graphic Novels and Getting Lost in Books

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 growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also 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 books through middle grade) and one post with my daughter's latest literacy milestone (not wanting to be interrupted when reading). I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I finished three young adult and one adult novels. Due to a minor knee issue I haven't been able to exercise as much as usual, so my audiobook reading is way down. Still, I read/listened to: 

  • Rebecca Donovan: Reason to Breathe. Skyscape. YA Fiction. Completed August 18, 2017, on Kindle.
  • Rebecca Donovan: Barely Breathing. Skyscape. YA Fiction. Completed August 19, 2017, on Kindle.
  • Wendy Walker: Emma in the Night. St. Martins Press. Adult Psychological Thriller. Completed August 16, 2017, on Kindle.
  • Rebecca Donovan: Out of Breath. Skyscape. YANew Adult Fiction. Completed August 22, 2017, on Kindle. I binge read this series after a friend recommended it. It's romantic suspense featuring a main character who is emotionally scarred from abuse and family dysfunction, set in a wealthy suburban (first two books) and college (third book) setting. 

SmileI'm currently reading Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh and still listening to Not Alone by Craig Falconer. My daughter and I are still reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire together. Now that she is back in school for the year (effective today!), I expect us to get back into our regular morning reading routine, and make more progress. You can find my daughter's 2017 reading list here. For her own reading, she recently became hooked on Smile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier. We had to make an immediate library trip to look for Drama and Ghosts. However, she was disappointed that these don't feature the same characters, and she is resisting reading them.

We looked at a whole section of other graphic novels at the library, but she's primarily interested in graphic novels that are thick and realistic (like the memoir-driven Real Friends and El Deafo as well as the Babysitters Club Graphic Novels). So it's become a bit difficult to find titles that fit her criteria and are age-appropriate. In the meantime, she continues to re-read the aforementioned titles repeatedly. She usually has at least one open in her room, in the car, and in the family room. Whatever works for her, I say, though I'll keep my eyes open for other choices. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. Happy back to school season!

© 2017 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

My Life with the Liars: Caela Carter

Book: My Life with the Liars
Author: Caela Carter
Pages: 288
Age Range: 8-12


My Life with the Liars by Caela Carter is a middle grade novel about a girl who has been rescued from a cult. Zylynn is a few days shy of her thirteenth birthday when she is removed from the compound of the Children Inside the Light by a man who tells her that he's her dad, though she can call him Louis. Zylynn, who spent her entire life inside the compound, is baffled by everything around her. She doesn't even know what a "dad" is.

As her story unfolds, the reader learns from Zylynn's first person thoughts just how poorly she's been treated, though she doesn't even fully realize it herself. Even as Louis and his sympathetic wife Charita try to help Zylynn, they have no idea how deeply damaged she is inside, and how hard she is fighting to get back Inside the Light, where she has been programmed to believe that she belongs. A deadline involving a ceremony that must be performed inside the compound by her thirteen birthday, if she is ever to return "home" adds tension to the story. 

I read this book in pretty much a single sitting. I couldn't put it down because Zylynn felt so real to me. I kept thinking things like: "This poor child. How could they do that to children?" Here she is smiling for the first time in her birth father's home:

"I feel a strange pinch in my cheeks, an ache in my jaw. I move my fingers to my lips and that when I realize it: I'm smiling too." (Chapter 10)

And here she is laughing for the first time:

"She pokes me again right above the belly button. And the strangest thing happens. It starts at that point. A little bubble, a movement of my muscles. Not indigestion or cramps. Not painful. It bounces from my belly through my windpipe and it's already out my mouth before I know what it is.

I laugh." (Chapter 16, ~70% of the way through the book)

She is stunned by simple things, like being given the choice of what t-shirt she wants to buy at Target. It's heartbreaking. 

I do think that My Life with the Liars is middle grade reader appropriate. Having read a number of young adult and adult novels about cults, there were things I was waiting, dreading to see revealed that were, happily, not. Kids will likely be baffled by the things that the leaders of the Children of the Light did to children, but I don't think it will give them nightmares. And for certain My Life with the Liars has the potential to make kids appreciate the things that they do have, from parents who hug them to the ability to choose what kind of sandwich they want for lunch.  But the reason to read it is that Zylynn is an unusual, compelling character, and her experience feels real and immediate. Highly recommended for kids and adults. 

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Source of Book: Personal copy, purchased on Kindle after reading Kate's review at Opinionated Book Lover

© 2017 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: August 18: Super-Short Distracted-by-My-Birthday Edition

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. I took a bit of vacation time over the past week (wine tasting with friends and also celebrating a milestone birthday) so this is a super-short post. Topics include the #Cybils Awards, #play, #STEM, #YA, book awards, learning, literacy, reading levels, studying, and wordless books. Wishing you all a lovely weekend, as summer starts to wind down (!). 

The Cybils Awards

Cybils-Logo-2017-Round-SmWelcome to the 2017 Cybils Awards from , co-blog editor (w/ ), frequent judge + logo designer

Have you all seen the beautiful new 2017 Logo? Designed and updated by

Literacy + Learning

GirlAndBicycleMaking books accessible for even the newest readers: wordless + one-word stories  

Before You Study, Ask for Help - more active, self-regulated approach -> better  

An example where bins of leveled readers took away a 1st grader's enjoyment of | Lisa Koch


FreeRangeKidsWhen it comes to physical activity, 19 Is the New 60 says in | Kids need more time to

Children Were Born to Learn! Get Out of Their Way! Don't let get lost 

Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

This piece on the Toxic Drama on Twitter by is fascinating if depressing  


5 Ways to Make Exciting in , observations from | Experiments + more

© 2017 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 Adventurers Guild: Zack Loran Clark + Nick Eliopulos

Book: The Adventurers Guild
Author: Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
Pages: 320
Age Range: 9-12

AdventurersGuildI accepted a review copy of The Adventurers Guild because I think it's a great title. After reading it, I do think that it's a fun book. The Adventurers Guild is set in a world in which most of civilization has fallen to various Dangers (monsters, etc.). Teenage friends Zed and Brock live in one of the few remaining safe places, a walled town called Freestone. As the story begins, Brock and Zed are preparing for the annual Guildculling, a ceremony in which teens are assigned to a profession. Both boys hope to be assigned to one of the four High Guilds, though this is a stretch for Zed who comes from poverty and is the only person in town who is half-elf. Brock, son of two Merchants, expects his path to be more smooth. However, the Guildculling offers surprises for both boys and (could this possibly be a spoiler, given the book's title) they end up in the Adventurers Guild.

The Adventurers Guild is made up of fighters who protect Freestone's citizens, and who are the only ones to ever venture outside of the city's walls. Becoming Adventurers thus exposes Zed and Brock to exciting new things, as well as unexpected dangers. Each boy has a secret, also, which complicates his situation. 

The world that Clark and Eliopulos has created is basically medieval (with guilds, hand-crafts, armored soldiers and flagons of ale), with the addition of magical characters such as elves and dwarves. Magic is certainly not ubiquitous, but it can be learned, and the elf-blooded Zed turns out to have innate abilities. Freestone is protected by magic, and part of the plot involves a quest to an abandoned druid shrine to acquire a powerful protective artifact. These things are set against a post-apocalyptic world in which the boys, traveling outside the wall, are scared the first time they see a squirrel. The occasional references to a long-gone world (like worn stone that was once a road between cities) added enjoyment to the story for me. 

The Adventurers Guild is clearly aimed at boys, with the two viewpoint characters male and regular references to "breaking wind", spitting, and belching. There are strong female characters, though, as well as economic and other diversities that should make this book appeal to a wide range of kids. There's a minor plotline to do with one of the boys having a crush on a girl, but this is far from central to the storyline. Loyalty to friends and comrades is a much stronger theme in the book. 

The Adventurers Guild ends on something of a cliffhanger, and it's clear that Zed, Brock, and their friends will be experiencing other adventures. I expect this novel, with fighting, scary creatures, politics, and magic to be a hit with fantasy-loving middle grade readers. Recommended, and certainly one that libraries will want to purchase. 

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion)
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).

Give Me Back My Book!: Travis Foster and Ethan Long

Book: Give Me Back My Book!
Authors: Travis Foster and Ethan Long
Pages: 56
Age Range: 3-6

GiveMeBackMyBookGive Me Back My Book is the story of two friends, Redd and Bloo, who fight over ownership of a green book. Only when the rather smug Bookworm makes off with the book do the two friends find a way to work together. Give Me Back My Book is part celebration of reading, part illustration of the way kids sometimes bicker, and part introduction to the components that make up books. 

Personally, I found the third element, the instructive bits about what makes up a book, a tiny bit off-putting. But when I read the book aloud to my daughter, the humor outweighed that. Here's an example (Redd is making the case that the book is his book):

"There are letters on each  page
and they are gathered together
to form words that have meaning
when you read them!"

Then on the facing page, Bloo basically has a tantrum, stomping his feet, shaking his fists, and saying: "ALL books do that!" You just have to smile as you read it. 

Bloo's reactions are definitely read-aloud-friendly. My daughter pronounced the book "hilarious" (though, interestingly, she didn't feel that it was necessary for me to write about the book).

The illustration style of the book is unusual. According to the front matter, Travis Foster created Redd and Bookworm digitally, while Ethan Long created Bloo. Mr. Long assembled the images, adding photos for the green book and various art supplies that are used later in the story. So we have cute, cartoon-like characters reading and interacting with real books. 

Give Me Back My Book! is a bit quirky, but I think that librarians will find it useful for preschool storytime. And kids, if they are anything like my daughter, will pronounce it hilarious, even as they are learning about table of contents, spine, and illustrations. Recommended for library purchase. 

Publisher: Chronicle  (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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: "I'm Reading! (And I DON'T want to be interrupted)"


Here's a small milestone for the readers among you. The other day I was driving my daughter home from her child care. We had been having a discussion while walking to the car. Foolishly, I tried to continue the discussion after we were in the car. After a moment or two she responded, in an exasperated tone: "I'm reading!". As in, "please don't bother me, these car rides are my reading time. So what if I'm reading El Deafo for the fourth time - I still don't want to be interrupted." The next day this scenario was repeated, except that she said: "I'm in my book now" when she no longer wished to be disturbed by conversation.

ElDeafoYou reap what you sow, people. That's all I have to say. We've all been there - so engrossed in a book that we respond irritably to any interruption. I can hardly be surprised when my daughter acts like this. 

Mind you, when we got home she still didn't want to talk to me because I had previously promised some device time, and she chose that over continuing the reading. And then friends invited her over, and she was out the door for that. So that's the pecking order, I guess. Friends, device, book, talking to Mommy. Ah well. At least I'm on the list somewhere. And the readers among you all know that I'm actually ok with coming after books, at least some of the time.

© 2017 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: August 11: The #Cybils Awards, Diverse #BookLists + #GirlsWhoCode

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #GirlsWhoCode, #JoyOfLearning, #Math, #reading, #STEM, bookmobile, coding, gender roles, growing bookworms, learning styles, reading choice, schools, and writing.

Book Lists + Awards

The 2017 Are Coming Soon! | | Bloggers select kid-friendly + well-written titles

MadreGooseRT @NCTE: Colorful Poetry: 22 Diverse Poetry Picture Books for Kids via

10 to Promote a | from

on + from + more

If You Like This Classic Children's Book You'll Love This Book from


What Color Is the Past? History, + Books for Kids — examples + musings from  

Seeding Book Deserts with | on

Events + Programs

DearDragonRT @JoshFunkBooks: The theme for 's 9th Annual Be-a-Famous Writer Contest: ! Your K-4 Class Can Submit On 10/15!

Authors, Illustrators Share Talents, Pass On Love of , Then Pass Out Their Books

Falling in Love w/ (nonprofit + tutoring ctr for kids):

Love it! School Bus-Turned-Bookmobile Rolls Across Georgia | Jan L. Wilson 

It's never too late! Some ideas for celebrating National Book Lovers Day by Jess Butterworth

Growing Bookworms

AllSeeingEyeGiving "freedom of choice, guidance from librarians ... comics + engaging visuals"  

calls out who assign to kids but don't read themselves


Happy 14th blogiversary to at Waking Brain Cells | that's a LOT of reviews + news over the years 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

BedtimeForFrancesThe Grown-Up Joys of Children’s Books: Saturday essay in  

Exploring Story Elements with Kids | Tips from |


How Dads Can Engage in Their Child's In the New School Year - guest post

Schools and Libraries

What Parents Wish Would Ask Them About Their Child | "What are they passionate about?" +more  

A Tale of Two Puzzle Workers, a reminder for + readers that kids are different + learn differently

How a Ditched Awards + Assemblies to Refocus on Kids and |


FriendshipCodeSome thoughts (MAJOR RANT) from on how teach + reviews of some books

is Universal: Interview with Education Leaders +  

Reshma Saujani On Closing the Gender Gap in Tech |

© 2017 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