Previous month:
November 2017

Posts from December 2017

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 8: Bookish #Christmas Gifts, Holiday #Reading, and #Math as #Play

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #Cybils, #GiftGuides, #GrowingBookworms, #GrowthMindset, #math, #play, #poetry, #STEM, book awards, kidlitosphere, parenting, preschool, reading, schools, and testing.

Top Tweet of the Week

How Rewires Your Brain for More Intelligence and Empathy | via

Book Lists + Gift Guides

RealFriendsThese books can help build strong girls — and boys — for today’s world. This has some nice choices

Center for Multicultural Literature’s Best for 2017 (Hint from : It is Excellent) |

Fun Children’s Book Gifts for Christmas | Detailed from

Bookish Gifts for Christmas - suggestions from


ForestWorldToday's featured REVIEW: fiction nominee Forest World, reviewed by

Friday's featured REVIEW: middle grade fiction nominee Stef Soto, Taco Queen | reviewed by

Today's featured REVIEW: Fiction nominee A List of Cages by , review by

Events and Programs

Guys Lit Wire: On behalf of in Washington DC, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

Growth Mindset

Why We Should Embrace Mistakes (+ actively model managing them) in | Amy L. Eva

The Best Questions for Encouraging a | Lee Watanabe-Crockett


A Year of Reading: -- Call for Roundup Hosts for early 2018 from

Fun stuff here: 2017 Children’s Lit: The Year in Miscellanea —

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

LetItSnowHelping plan for the luxury of extra time over the holidays, by  [Pictured: one of my favorite holiday reads, Let It Snow]

Survey by Finds More than 770,000 UK children 'don't own a book'. Those kids 15X less likely to be good readers

Schools and Libraries

U.S. Graduation Rate Hits New All-Time High, With Gains in All Student Groups -

Communicating the Importance of Early Childhood Education to Parents, how and why, does w/

U.S. scores drop in international study -

RT @MindshiftKQED: Anxious teens often just want counselors to help them feel safe again — but their problems will likely only escalate if they don’t learn how to cope with stress, discomfort, and panic.


is | Axioms + can use to encourage playful math

Holiday Math and More: Math Teachers at Play #114 – rounds up seasonal activities, puzzles, etc.

RT @SheilaRuth: Cool project teaching data analytics to students who might not otherwise be interested in #STEM - Edmondson athletes form Sports Analytics Club

© 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 Uncanny Express: Kara LaReau + Jen Hill

Book: The Uncanny Express (The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, Book 2)
Author: Kara LaReau
Illustrator: Jen Hill
Pages: 176
Age Range: 7-10

UncannyExpressThe Uncanny Express is the second book in the Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters series, written by Kara LaReau and illustrated by Jen Hill. The Bland sisters, Jaundice and Kale, love on their own in a boring house in Dullsville. In the absence of their parents (who have been gone for years, having adventures), Kale and Jaundice darn people's socks for a living. In The Uncanny Express, however, they are drawn into an adventure involving a train ride, a lady magician named Magique, and a mysterious disappearance. They find themselves co-opted twice as assistants, first to Magique, and then to detective Hugo Fromage. It's quite an adventure for two girls who would prefer to stay home, eat cheese sandwiches, and watch the grass grow. 

Here are a couple of snippets, to give you a feel for the girls:

"I don't like train stations," Kale decided. "There's too much hustle. Not to mention bustle." (Page 19, ARC)


"Well, this is the mother of all plans," said Magique. "This time, my act is even bigger, even more astonishing than it was before! And it all starts with the very thing the audience hated so much last time: mind reading. Would you like to see a little bit of it?"

"As long as we can keep eating," Jaundice said, taking another bite of her croque madame. Once she scraped off the fried egg on top and removed the ham inside, it almost tasted like a cheese sandwich from home." (Page 39, ARC)

Although this will go over the heads of new readers, I enjoyed the way the book spoofs Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot with Hugo Fromage. His prior cases included "The Mysterious Affair at Kyle's" and "The Murder of Roger Adenoid." Magique is also something of a spoof of stage magicians, admitting outright that everything she does is an illusion (though a hint of actual magic does appear, too). In fact, all of the characters fill locked room mystery stereotypes of one sort or another (jaded reporter, limping ex-military officer, ditzy rich blonde, etc.). This would make a great read for an 7-year-old who has recently discovered the joys of playing Clue, and appreciates the joys of the Fluffernutter (marshmallow fluff plays a surprisingly important role in the story). 

Kara LaReau sprinkles light humor throughout the book. Like this:

"Just remember, mademoiselles, the key to being a good detective is to be observant," said the great detective.

"'Observant?'" repeated Kale. On these occasions, she sorely missed her dictionary.

"It means we must pay close attention to everyone and everything," Hugo Fromage explained.

"Sorry, what did you say?" asked Jaundice, still considering the clipboard.

The great detective sighed." (Page 65, ARC)

It made me laugh. Jen Hill's black and white sketches also add to understanding of the story for new readers, particularly a schematic of the train labeled with occupants of the various compartments. Little quotes from the books that the girls are reading begin each chapter, adding humor and/or insight, depending on the chapter. 

All in all, The Uncanny Express is a worthy successor to The Jolly Regina. This one is a quirky, fun book, perfect for introducing newer readers to the joys of mysteries. Kale and Jaundice are unusual heroines, in their desire for sameness and stability, but this makes then stand out compared to the various plucky heroines typical to most children's books. In The Uncanny Express the two sisters do experience personal growth, but they do so without changing their basic natures. There's also a setup to Book 3, which is sure to be welcome. Recommended! 

Publisher: Amulet Books 
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
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).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 1: Gift Guides, Boys and Reading, Growth Mindset + More

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #creativity, #Cybils, #GrowYourHeart, #GrowthMindset, #play, book awards, boys and reading, flexible seating, gift guides, math, preschool, reading, schools, #STEM, teaching, and testing.

Book Lists + Gift Guides

CrosswordsForKidsI found some useful ideas from this | 25+ Stocking Stuffers for the Whole Family

The Ultimate Children’s Literature Illustrator Gift Guide 2017 — w/ thanks to

Kicking off another 31 Days, 31 Lists | Day One – 2017 Great |

Ten Gift-Worthy Subscription Boxes for Bookworms by

Christmas is Coming: 50 Mighty Girl | from


FishGirlToday's featured REVIEW: elementary/MG nominee Fish Girl | review by

Today's featured REVIEW: nominee 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story | review by Ami Jones

Today's featured REVIEW: Sr. High nominee Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time | review by

Events + Programs

RandonHouseLogoFor every person who shares a good deed on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram by 12/25 w/ , + Dr. Seuss Enterprises will collectively donate $1 (up to $20k) to

RT @MrsPStorytime: Calling all K-4 teachers! There is still time to enter by Be-a-Famous Writer Contest! Prizes from & judged by Run till Dec 15th FREE to enter

Growing Bookworms

"The secret to getting boys to read is the same as the secret to getting girls to read: empower them to make their own choices" via


WhatMakesAMonsterVarious tidbits in this week's Fusenews: “Luminous with the beauty and fragility of life” — + more


6 Unusual Habits of Exceptionally Creative People – via

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

RaisingKidsWhoReadHow to Get Your Mind to Read | "The problem is ... bad education habits engendered by a misunderstanding of how the mind reads"

Thoughts from On Goal Failures... and Possibilities w/ links to more

Schools and Libraries

Want To Become Successful? Allow Them To More | Kim Nassoiy via

What Must Consider When Moving to | | Pix from + more

College students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lecture, taking notes by hand is better | Susan Dynarski

InnovatorsMindset"If the technology takes away our human connection that is crucial for the development of our , it is not worth it" on parent portals vs. conferences

5 Reflective Questions to Encourage a |

Is It Possible To Teach + Willpower + , and how might we do that in ? asks

Liberate the Turkey and on Holiday Weekends suggests other activities instead (like )

3 Articles for Discussion on “Success” – quotes |


RT @MindShiftKQED: When young kids solve problems with their before bed it makes a difference in their academics later


Maybe American Students Are Bad at Standardized Tests (vs. global rankings) Because They Don’t Try Very Hard, suggests new study by economists |

© 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.