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Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: March 24: #KidLit Mirrors, Transitioning to Chapter Books + Knitting

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #GrowingBookworms, #GrowthMindset, #STEM, #SummerReading, autism spectrum, baseball, chapter books, economic diversity, Edgar Awards, Eric Carle, knitting, librarians, literacy programs, new readers, Readergirlz, Scholastic, schools, Sesame Street, teaching, and Women's History Month.

Book Lists + Awards

QueenOfTheDiamondIt's almost #baseball season! Yay! @momandkiddo shares Best Children's #PictureBooks about Baseball #BookList https://t.co/EKFG9CK1XZ

2017 #AnnaDewdney #ReadTogether Award Finalists Announced | 5 excellent #PictureBooks http://ow.ly/g9V930a89dZ  @PublishersWkly @penguinkids

In honor of #WomensHistoryMonth 20 #PictureBook biographies about awesome women! from @literacious  http://ow.ly/s4M830a3x5f  #BookList

#EasyReader List for the 2017 #SummerReading Program, focus on Architecture, Building + Construction http://ow.ly/Snjj30a7DYN  @mrskatiefitz 

Chapter Book List focused on Architecture, Building + Construction for 2017 #SummerReading from @mrskatiefitz http://ow.ly/atB630aaal0  [See also middle grade list here: http://ow.ly/AmnA30ac8cQ]

2017 Edgar Award Nominees in juvenile + #YA categories from @tashrow    #mysteries #kidlit https://t.co/wJN7VPw3hE


When Our #Reading Lives Help Us Understand Our Life Situations | #kidlit mirrors for financial stress http://ow.ly/bJuQ30a3wXP  @nerdybookclub

WalkWithMeWe need #kidlit mirrors reflecting class issues: @SevenImp shares 2 #PictureBooks w/ economic difficulty http://ow.ly/g1kc30a0Ypv  @FuseEight

This is interesting. @sesamestreet introduces first new TV muppet in 10 years: Julia, who has #autism @npr_ed https://t.co/3SzJTO7YMw

Judging Books by Their Covers, looking for brown people, post by Laura Reiko Simeon @LEEandLOW via @CynLeitichSmith https://t.co/LT5ewaZOTc

This made me sad: author @Barbaradee2 asked by teachers not to talk about her #lgbt -friendly book http://ow.ly/nMet30ac7Cf  @nerdybookclub

Events + Programs

VeryHungryCaterpillarToday is The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day | @greenbeanreads has the scoop  #VHCday @penguinkids  #kidlit http://ow.ly/kf4c30a56ed 

Educators: @Scholastic #SummerReading Challenge is a chance to win 500 books for your #school to encourage #reading http://ow.ly/I3KM30a589o 

New @scbwi #literacy initiative Books For Readers gets books into hands of kids + teens http://ow.ly/RGXc30a11Ue  @leewind @CynLeitichSmith

A toast to the end of @readergirlz Not so needed now to connect teen girls + authors but still loved http://ow.ly/6WqZ30a0Z1g  @lorieanngrover

Book drive for elementary school of robotics team champs told to "go back to Mexico" via @haleshannon  #STEM #kidlit https://t.co/2HlMtcASjh

Growing Bookworms

TheWildRobotCrossing #Literacy Thresholds: Tips for When Kids Are “Stuck” #Reading the Same Things — Julie Hakim Azzam @HornBook http://ow.ly/CvzJ30aadGd 

#Road2Reading Challenge: Navigating Chapter Books: What #Readers Need to Know @alybee930 http://ow.ly/vjDi30a7CpC  w/ #BookList

Chapter book Challenges: @CarrieGelson shares roadblocks + needed skills to help kids make the leap to chapter books https://t.co/QmvXLp9vNr

Toy “Sleepovers” at the #Library Boost Kids’ #Reading Skills, Says New Study | Linda Rodgers @sljournal https://t.co/A1H79eUcP5

Growth Mindset

AWrinkleInTimeYoung Adult (+ middle grade) Novels That Model a #GrowthMindset | @edutopia via  @tashrow http://ow.ly/cPgC30a13MA  #YA #AWrinkleInTime 

Schools and Libraries

Canadian #teacher wins $1M #GlobalTeachingPrize for work in Inuit community in northern Quebec http://ow.ly/8SSX30a59Dl  @CBCRadioCanada

If goal is to increase #reading scores, cutting #librarians + media specialists are steps in the wrong direction https://t.co/BYPIP7Pby6

Three Rules for a Fabulous #SummerReading Program from a #MiddleSchool teacher #librarian @sljournal  http://ow.ly/Uk7b30a7NCE  | Offer choice

ChildDevelopmentAsking children to accomplish tasks (e.g. writing) before they’re developmentally ready leads to failure! @raepica1 https://t.co/hd65kkMiIB

Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class - movement breaks help attitude + #learning http://ow.ly/BS0W30aa99o  Donna De La Cruz @nytimes

Assigned #Reading often Fails where #ChoiceReading Soars | @3TeachersTalk on problems w/ whole-class novels https://t.co/reqDp647Gi


Growing movement uses knitting + crocheting to teach #mathematical thought + interest girls in #STEM http://ow.ly/J1mS30a7D6i  @brightreads

© 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

Horizon: Scott Westerfeld

Book: Horizon
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Pages: 256
Age Range: 9-12

HorizonHorizon is the first of a new seven-book series from Scholastic. Scott Westerfeld wrote this one, and outlined all seven of the books, but other authors will be writing the remaining books (starting with Jennifer Nielsen writing Book 2). You can read Scott Westerfeld's announcement about the series here. Horizon is middle grade science fiction, intriguing enough that I certainly think that middle schoolers will also want to take a look. I read it in two quick sittings, finding it to be like the television series Lost, but aimed at kids. 

Eight kids are the only survivors of a plane crash. Although their flight was passing over the arctic, they find themselves in a jungle full of strange animals and phenomena. Four of the kids are engineers from Brooklyn, a robotics team on their way to a contest in Japan. After the crash they meet up with two young Japanese sisters returning home from boarding school, a Japanese-American teen also returning home, and a rather bossy Alpha male named Caleb. They have to learn to work together, while focusing on both basic survival and trying to understand what's happened. Their survival is clearly not random - they were somehow chosen by an electrical force that rejected everyone else on the plane. 

Things I enjoyed about Horizon:

  • The kids' application of engineering principles to understand things. They also find a device that disrupts basic physical principles, like gravity. This is a book that puts the science in science fiction, something particularly welcome (as far as I'm concerned) in a book for middle grade audiences. 
  • The multicultural cast. The kids from Brooklyn appear to include Hispanic and African American backgrounds. The Japanese girls don't even speak English, and end up teaching the American kids a few Japanese words along the way. 
  • The complex and intriguing setting. There are sentient vines, birds that attack humans, and other odd phenomena. 
  • The pacing of the story. Westerfeld keeps the kids in crisis, frequently separated, and often in peril. Middle grade readers will keep turning the pages to understand what happens next. 

My main quibble about the book as it stands was that I thought that the characterization could have been a bit deeper. I had trouble keeping defining characteristics of some of the characters in my head. But perhaps this is a deliberate way to allow more scope to the future authors of the series. There's definitely a videogame/movie feel to the book - it's clearly not meant to be a character study. [There's some sort of online game, apparently, but I haven't checked that out.]

As part of a seven-book series, Horizon naturally leaves pretty much everything unresolved. I think it will leave young readers eager to read the next book. I've personally not found in the past that series with different authors for different books tend to hold up for me, but I am interested to at least check out the second book. [See also Ms. Yingling's take on Horizon, she is weary of the 7 book series.]  

Science and survival, with a multicultural slant, aimed at middle grade readers. Libraries, at least those not put off by a longer series, will definitely want to give Horizon a look. Recommended for science fiction (and Lost) fans. 

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: March 28, 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).

Four Recent Articles About Growing Bookworms: #eReading, Pleasure Reading + #ReadingAloud

JoyOFLearningLogoRecently, I've run across a number of articles that all touch on aspects of growing young bookworms. The first is about how kids prefer to read print books, and how research has shown that kids who have access to electronic devices tend to read less (even if the devices have books on them). The second article is a list of ten tips for parents to encourage kids to enjoy reading, written by a youth service librarian. The third is about how and why teachers should read aloud to older students, and the fourth is also aimed at teachers, discouraging the grading of students' independent reading. Each of these articles spoke to me on one level or another, and I hope that you find them useful. 

Research suggests providing kids w/ #eReading devices can inhibit their #reading - response + tips @ConversationUS https://t.co/4rbl0FOK0b

Margaret Kristin Merga and Saiyidi Mat Roni: "In a study of children in Year 4 and 6, those who had regular access to devices with eReading capability (such as Kindles, iPads and mobile phones) did not tend to use their devices for reading - and this was the case even when they were daily book readers.

Research also found that the more devices a child had access to, the less they read in general.

It suggests that providing children with eReading devices can actually inhibit their reading, and that paper books are often still preferred by young people."

Me: This post is a response to / recap of a recently published study. In addition to discussing the reasons for the results quoted above, it also includes tips for encouraging children to read. The primary conclusions, that kids prefer to read print books, and that access to devices is tied to less reading by kids, matches with my own intuition, and with what I've observed in my daughter. For instance, we have a family rule that she's not allowed to use her tablet in the car if the drive is less than 30 minutes. So, she reads. But if I would let her, she would use the tablet nearly every time.

As for print books, I've just always felt that those would be better for her, and I've never really dabbled in eBooks for her. She likes to see the pictures, and to have a sense of how much of the book is left. She likes to figure out what percentage of the book she has completed (and I would MUCH rather have her figure this out than spot it in the footer on a Kindle). She's also been passing books back and forth with a close friend, something that would be much more difficult for them in digital format. 

CaptainUnderpantsWell-done: Top 10 Tips for Parents of Kids Who HATE to Read | "Pleasure reading should be just that" + don't judge https://t.co/CLbOp7rsR0

Meredith Hoyer: "3. Forget about progress. In schools, the focus is on progress and growth, as it should be. When you come to the public library, you will notice that we don’t level our books, and that stems from the philosophy of public libraries being a place of informal learning. “My child is at an M level and he needs to be reading P level books but he hates to read and won’t read anything I give him,” a parent might say. It is natural for parents to want to support progress. However, once reading becomes a battle in the home, our best advice is to take a breath, forget about reading levels, and gently guide the child back to a point where reading is comfortable, relaxed and pleasant again. Your child’s teacher will focus on development and progress. Pleasure reading should be just that: pleasurable."

Me: I see a lot of these tip-based posts for encouraging reading, and I share them often. But I thought that this one, written by a youth services librarian, was particularly good. The above quotation gives a nice flavor of Meredith Hoyer's balanced, parent-focused approach. I also especially liked tip 4, about withholding judgement, ending with "If your child chooses comic books, joke books, or Captain Underpants, take the long view and let him/her have fun." 

I feel strongly that my job as a parent who wants to raise a child who enjoys reading is to do whatever I can to make reading enjoyable. Meredith Hoyer and I are clearly on the same page about the ways to do that. 

RivetingReadAloudsCoverRiveting Read Alouds (How and Why to #ReadAloud in classroom with Older Students) | @Scholastic http://ow.ly/1ivb309Ngxv 

Janet Allen: "Television shows vie for the best time slots during prime time; reading aloud is prime time in the classroom because you have used the time to get students engaged. While many factors influence whether teachers choose to read aloud with adolescents, the benefits of establishing reading aloud as an important part of your literacy instruction are well-known. Let’s talk about just a few of the benefits my students and I discovered as we make a case for reading aloud.

Enjoyment: When reading a well-chosen text as a read aloud, you provide readers with a risk-free opportunity to experience the "charm, magic, impact and appeal" (Mooney, 1988) of language and story. It helps them see that text has meaning, especially because their comprehension can often be greater during read-aloud time than when they try to decode text on their own. This results in students being motivated to read more."

Me: I like that this article, on the Scholastic education blog, is specifically focused on reading aloud to older kids, and on the reasons that teachers should read aloud. In addition to the reasons (the first of several is quoted above), Janet Allen offers teachers tips for getting started. The article concludes with a pitch for the author's new book, Riveting Read Alouds for Middle School (with Patrick Daley, published by Scholastic). The book includes "35 engaging read-aloud selections for older students: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, humor writing and more."

While I follow a number of blogging teachers who read aloud to older students, I suspect that this is relatively rare in practice. I think it would be great if this book helped inspire other teachers to give it a try. 

PassionateLearnersPlease, YES! Can We Please Stop Grading Independent Reading? asks @pernilleripp  http://ow.ly/Eatc309PQAc  #RaisingReaders

Pernille Ripp: "So just like we would never grade a child for how many math problems they choose to solve on their own, how many science magazines they browsed or how many historical documents they perused, we should not grade how many books a child chooses to read.  We should not tie pages read with a grade, nor an assessment beyond an exploration into how they can strengthen their reading habits.  Number of books read, minutes spent, or pages turned will never tell us the full story.  Instead it ends up being yet another way we can chastise the kids that need us to be their biggest reading cheerleaders."

Me: I spoke the other night to a young man who loved to read as a child, but railed against the elementary and middle school AR program. He said that it had kept him from reading the books that he wanted, because either they weren't part of the program, or they weren't at the approved level for him. His arguments were against how the program as implemented affected him as an advanced reader. But me, I was just wondering why we need to be measuring the reading of kids who love books at all. When I was in elementary school I read constantly, with some guidance from teachers and the school librarian. But even the public library's summer reading programs turned me off, because I wanted to just read, not track what I was reading.

Now, I get that not all kids are avid readers, and that there may be tracking programs that help in some cases. And I get that Pernille Ripp's more individualized assessment approach is probably more time-consuming. But still ... I was pleased to see a teacher publicly calling for not grading independent reading. Teachers can find more information on nurturing readers in the classroom in Pernille's book, Passionate Learners.

© 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. 

Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner: Tadgh Bentley

Book: Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner
Author: Tadgh Bentley
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

SamsonPiranhaSamson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner by Tadgh Bentley is about a "rather adventurous" piranha who likes to try new things. Most of all, Samson dreams of "eating fine food at the fanciest restaurants". Of course, fearsome piranhas are not generally welcome at fancy restaurants. Samson, however, is determined to give it a try. Only after a series of disguises fail, however, does Samson happen upon a real solution to his problem. 

Tadgh Bentley fills Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner with a lush vocabulary and hints of humor, together with read-aloud-friendly enthusiasm. Like this:

"His friends were right. He couldn't get into a restaurant looking like a piranha.

But maybe he COULD get in looking like something else. He would need a disguise!

Samson checked his moustache and fluffed his eyebrows. He could almost taste the luscious lily linguine and the sizzling seaweed sausages!

"Pardon me, but I believe you have a reservation for Samson P. Rana?""

Get it? P. Rana? Five years olds will like it. I liked the alliteration in "luscious lily linguine and the sizzling seaweed sausages". I also enjoyed expostulations like "SCALEY NEPTUNE'S CRABCAKES!" on the part of the restaurant staff members. 

Bentley's illustrations use deep underwater tones, blues and greens tinged with gray, dramatized with huge red letters when the various restaurant people shriek: "PIRANHA!". There are some nice details, too. I particularly enjoyed scenes showing Samson's boring friends, sitting around an underwater living room, one of them actually resident inside of an old television set. Samson, with his huge teeth, is not exactly an attractive creature, but his expressions do evoke sympathy, and his disguises are funny and cute.

I found the resolution of Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner to be a bit easy, but the final scene is humorous and apt. My daughter found this book hilarious, and will surely want to read it again. Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner takes an initially unsympathetic main character (who likes piranhas?) and makes readers root for him. It has a nice mix of humor and rich, alliterative vocabulary, making it a good recommendation for storytime read-aloud. This is a fun book that I'm happy to have read, and to recommend. 

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: February 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).

On Reading Physical Books with Kids

I love my Kindle. It's wonderful for travel. It's easy to slip into a bag or backpack so that I can read comfortably in idle moments. I can adjust the font size. I love the "sample" feature that lets me try out books before purchasing them. I love being able to balance the Kindle on the sofa arm while I ride my exercise bike, using only a single finger tap to turn pages. I like being able to turn the lighting way down and read in bed in the middle of the night if insomnia strikes. I like the automatic synchronization between my devices that lets me read from my phone or iPad should I happen to be without my Kindle, without losing my place. All wonderful things that have made it easier for me as an adult to find time for reading.

BUT I am going to try to spend more time reading print books at home, because I have noticed that my reading a print book makes my daughter more likely to read. Now that she's reading books on her own, I suggested last weekend that we spend time snuggled on the couch, each reading our own book. We did, and it was very nice.

HorizonLast night my husband brought her home from a friend's house around 7:30. She found me sitting on the couch reading a print book (Horizon by Scott Westerfeld). Without missing a beat, she grabbed her book (Danger! Tiger Crossing, Fantastic Frame #1 by Lin Oliver) and cuddled up next to me, looking over to see what I was reading. She was DELIGHTED to notice that we were both on page 81 of our respective books. We did a bit of math, figuring out how many pages were in each chapter of our books, and as we each read our next chapter she kept an occasional eye on who was reading faster. Then I asked if she wanted to read the next chapter of her book aloud to me, which she did. That was helpful because I could help with a few unknown words, etc.

But here's the thing. If I had been sitting there with my Kindle or my iPad, even if I was reading the same book, I don't know if she would have been inspired to join me. Certainly she wouldn't have been leaning over to check out my page number, or flipping forward to see how many pages were in my book. She knows that when I'm on my Kindle I'm reading books, but that sleek little screen doesn't invite her to participate in the same way that a printed book does. And I want her to participate. I'm already loving our little reading sessions.

So, I'm going to make more effort to read physical books when we are at home together. It won't be difficult. My backlog of children's and young adult books is enormous.

The bottom line is that kids notice, and often emulate, what we do. If we want our kids to read physical books (which I do!), we need to let them see us reading physical books. I knew this, but last night's experience was a good reminder. [See also this reference for a recent report on the influence of access to eReaders and other devices on kids' reading frequency, and this piece written in response.]

Wishing you all happy reading!

© 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: March 17: #STEM #BookLists, eReaders + Learning Styles

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include: #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #eReading, #GrowingBookworms, #RaisingReaders, #SocialMedia, #STEM, Battle of the Kids' Books, conferences, creativity, learning styles, parenting, play, preschool, reading, reading buddies, reading logs, struggling readers, teaching, and Women's History Month. I did hold back a few links about growing bookworms. I've put those in a separate, more detailed post, which will be out next week. 

Book Lists

AdaTwist15 #STEM Titles To Celebrate Women | @dkfdkf8 @sljournal  http://ow.ly/jlBy309WCvV  #BookList #WomensHistoryMonth #kidlit

The Best and Most Inspiring #STEM Books for Kids, #BookList by @momandkiddo from #PictureBook to middle grade https://t.co/CWEW8muC2k

Have Struggling or Reluctant Readers? These Hi-Lo Titles Will Keep Them Engaged | @sljournal #BookList https://t.co/LMGLygnaQB


UK #Ebook sales continue to fall as younger generations drive appetite for print @siancain @GuardianBooks http://ow.ly/Nlcy309WrUT  #reading

New study: The influence of access to #eReaders + other devices on kids' book #reading frequency http://ow.ly/VzCH309N0lK  @sciencedirect

Events + Programs


11-Year-Old Starts Club For Young Black Boys To See Themselves In Books @_TARYNitUP @HuffingtonPost  http://ow.ly/QBl1309WsLX  #DiverseBooks

The 9th Annual @sljournal  Battle of the Kids’ Books Starts Tomorrow! | @medinger  http://ow.ly/I4Za309PQQt   #SLJBOBCAST  #kidlit

How one 2nd grade classroom turned problem of surplus books into community engagement / donation project @sljournal http://ow.ly/QcWC309YRoC 

Interview by @SevenImp of a volunteer for a program that unites incarcerated parents + their kids via #kidlit https://t.co/DzXPzcxVVL

Growing Bookworms

CharlottesWeb5 Creative Ways to Enjoy Books Together as a Family @growingbbb @Scholastic  | Indoor #reading picnic + more https://t.co/DwKOve4AMt

12 truths observed during #Reading Workshop w/ @CarrieGelson's  Grade 4 & 5 class this year : huge selection + more https://t.co/fqjboUmNVR

"Buddy reading across grade levels is a magical thing" says teacher @CarrieGelson + she shares why https://t.co/Ke0xMx7afe

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

2017 @Scholastic #Reading Report Reveals Extent of Book Ownership Divide, opp for #librarians | #KFRR @sljournal https://t.co/22MiyDhJwk

CharlieChocolateFactoryChinese Government to Restrict Foreign #PictureBooks – News from China w/ discussion from @fairrosa  http://ow.ly/y0rb309WPns  #OWNVOICE

This has some useful tips: The Power of #Conferences in a #SocialMedia Age @awsamuel @WSJ  http://ow.ly/sm1U309RpLm  #PLN

A post-festival reminder from @donalynbooks "Children’s and (YA) literature doesn’t exist for the benefit of adults" https://t.co/3gRQbCm7eY


AnimalsThis is good advice: When Your Kid Asks a Question, Hand Them a Book—Not a Phone | @WIRED via @tashrow https://t.co/kw2ARSCggF [This post inspired me to purchase the National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia for my daughter, who is just working on her first school report about animals.]

Inspired by a recent news story, @NotJustCute has ideas for encouraging creative problem solving + thinking in kids https://t.co/QUppVUOfrY


This is just fun: Nimuno's #Lego Tape Turns Anything Into A Lego-Friendly Surface  @LEGOIdeas @dailydot https://t.co/5qGQiznaFq

This post @AwfullyBigBlog seems right to me: we need to let kids be bored so more often that they can be creative http://ow.ly/ofge309YVse 

Schools and Libraries

43 Things We Need To Stop Doing In Schools: Killing the love of reading by making it about #ReadingLogs @TonySinanis http://ow.ly/PMnv309PQT 

Teachers must ditch 'neuromyth' of #learning styles, say scientists | @guardian https://t.co/QBdyb1fUSw

How to Pick a #Preschool and the Importance of #School Tours @LauraBarrEd https://t.co/aCbASEo10g

© 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

Not Quite Narwhal: Jessie Sima

Book: Not Quite Narwhal
Author: Jessie Sima
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

NotQuiteNarwhalNot Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima is a picture book about not fitting in, but being loved anyway, and finding your place. Kelp is born in the ocean, but knows early on that he is different from the other narwhals. He swims clumsily with a glass bowl on his head, wearing floaties and kicking his four legs, while the other narwhals swim gracefully about. His friends accept his differences, however, so he doesn't worry too much about it. Until, that is, his poor swimming leads to him being swept away on a strong current, ending up on land for the first time.  Where he discovers, and is accepted by, unicorns. But then Kelp has to make a choice between staying with his new-found, like friends on land, or going back to the friends below the surface, who doubtless miss him. The book's resolution is a bit sappy, but certainly joyful. 

My six-year-old delighted in knowing before Kelp did that he was, in fact, a unicorn. She also found the ending satisfying. I liked Kelp's determined and hopeful attitude, particularly in a scene where he teaches himself to walk on land by following various animals. Imitating a frog is not especially helpful for poor, Kelp, but it does provide entertainment for the reader. Here's a snippet of Sima's text from later in the book:

"Kelp swam toward home as fast as he could,
which wasn't very fast at all,
hoping that the narwhals would still like him now that he was a unicorn.

When he finally arrived, Kelp had butterflies in his stomach."

There's a mild humor in phrases like "which wasn't very fast at all" (because we've already established that Kelp isn't much of a swimmer), and in some of the dialog (as when Kelp's friends tell him that they always knew that he wasn't a narwhal). This humor off-sets what could have been a tad too much sweetness in Kelp's expression and in the trappings of unicorns (rainbows coming out of their horns, etc.). 

You can read Not Quite Narwhal straight up, as the sparkly story of a unicorn born to narwhals who discovers other unicorns, then journeys home to the narwhals who loved him all along. Or you can read Not Quite Narwhal as a parable about not fitting in (because of being gay, or transgender, or whatever else might make a person feel different) and then discovering that there are other people like you. I can envision a little bookworm living in a house of people who only watch tv discovering a world of avid readers one day in the library, and thinking "Oh, so that's what I am." The possibilities are endless, and make Not Quite Narwhal much more than it seems on the surface. Recommended!

Publisher:Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (@SimonKids)
Publication Date: February 14, 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: March 15: Reading Harry Potter and Squish

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 book and middle grade) and two literacy milestone posts (reading in the car and getting lost in a book). I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, and one with more detailed quotes and responses to some joy of learning-related articles

Reading Update: I've been able to find more time to read than usual, for some reason. In the past two weeks I read one middle grade, two young adult and five adult novels, as well as one adult memoir. I read/listened to: 

  • Lauren DeStefano: The Girl with the Ghost Machine. Bloomsbury. Middle Grade. Completed March 4, 2017, print ARC. Review to come. 
  • Scott Westerfeld: Horizon. Scholastic. YA Science Fiction. Completed March 11, 2017. Review to come. 
  • Tara Altebrando: The Possible. Blooomsbury USA Children's Books. YA Fiction. Completed March 12, 2017, print ARC. Review to come. 
  • D.E. Stevenson: Amberwell. Endeavor Press. Adult Fiction. Completed March 1, 2017, on Kindle. This was a comfort read from one of my favorite authors, which popped up as a Kindle deal right before a vacation. 
  • D.E. Stevenson: Summerhills. Adult Fiction. Completed March 4, 2017. This I had to read because it's the sequel to Amberwell, and I could hardly leave the characters hanging. 
  • Sue Grafton: X (Kinsey Millhone). G. P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed March 5, 2017, on MP3. There was a bit more detail than I needed about water conservation for a mystery here, but otherwise I found it interesting. Hard to believe that this series will be coming to an end soon.
  • Charlaine Harris: A Fool and His Honey (Aurora Teagarden, No. 6). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed March 10, 2017, on MP3. I quite like this series. The books are light, and not strictly plausible, perhaps, but entertaining. I like the librarian main character. 
  • J.D. Vance: Hillbilly Elegy. Harper. Adult Nonfiction. Completed March 12, 2017, on Kindle. I thought that Hillbilly Elegy (memoir by a man who grew up in a dysfunctional Appalachian working class family and ended up with a Yale law degree) was fascinating and insightful. 
  • Charlaine Harris: Last Scene Alive (Aurora Teagarden, No. 7). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed March 15, 2017, on MP3.

PiratesOfBorneoI'm currently listening to In this Grave Hour (Maisie Dobbs series) by Jacqueline Winspear  and reading The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo by Stephen Bramucci and Arree Chung. I'm also working my way through a slew of Kindle samples downloaded during a recent read of Mystery Scene magazine, selecting which ones I feel are worth reading. 

I'm reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling to my daughter. She commented this morning that it's harder to picture the book in her head because this is our first non-illustrated edition, but I told her that it's going to be better in the long run because she can picture things as she likes. She insisted, for example, that Professor Trelawney should be fat based on the description of her clothing. I said "picture her as you like, and then when we watch the movie you can see how the director pictured her, and see if you agree." We are having a lot of fun with this particular read-aloud so far. 

SquishMy daughter is reading more and more books on her own, entering the realm of early chapter books vs. easy readers. She's been borrowing books from a friend who is at an ever so slightly more advanced reading level, and the social aspect of this is, I think, contributing to her interest level. She has also been devouring the Squish books by Jenni Holm and Matt Holm, though we only have a few of those. She still laments that there are not going to be any more Lunch Lady books. You can find her 2017 reading list here

Thanks for reading, 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

Charlotte the Scientist is Squished: Camille Andros & Brianne Farley

Book: Charlotte the Scientist is Squished
Author: Camille Andros
Illustrator: Brianne Farley
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

CharlotteScientistCharlotte the Scientist is Squished, by Camille Andros and Brianne Farley, is about a rabbit who is a scientist, but has trouble focusing on her work because her home is so crowed (rabbits being the way they are). At her wit's end, Charlotte decides to apply the scientific method to her problem. Her lack of space ends up leading her to outer space, where it is quite, but, perhaps, just a bit lonely. Can the trusty scientific method, applied one more time, help Charlotte to come up with a better solution to her problem? 

I was, of course, thrilled to see a picture book featuring a young female scientist. The listing of, and following of, the steps of the scientific method was an additional bonus. The book even includes a bit more detail about the scientific method and some followup questions as end material. My six-year-old, science-minded daughter had no interest in the end material. As an only child, she also couldn't relate very well to Charlotte's difficulty in finding alone time. But, like me, she liked Charlotte anyway, and enjoyed her adventure. 

Camille Andros' text features direct sentences and a matter-of-fact, let's-get-it-done feel. This tone is appropriate to the science-based theme, but also a nice counter-point to the ridiculousness of a rabbit building a carrot-shaped spaceship. Here's a snippet (over two page spreads):

"She tried an experiment to make everyone disappear...
... but it didn't work.

She tried another experiment to make herself disappear.
But that didn't work either."

Brianne Farley's illustrations add both humor and heart to the story. The opening scene, in which a stoic Charlotte stands surrounded by her family, is priceless. The family ranges from babies to clingy young siblings to a male rabbit who is clearly an aloof teenager. They all have personality. The spaceship is delightful, as is Charlotte's joy when she runs across a completely empty moonscape. 

While the conclusion of Charlotte the Scientist is Squished is not surprising, I think that preschool and early elementary readers will find it satisfying. Most readers with siblings, especially younger siblings, will be able to relate to Charlotte's quest to find a bit of quiet space for herself. Charlotte is an engaging heroine, serious and science-minded, but also appreciative of things like blowing bubbles in the bathtub. And despite her differences from her family members, their mutual affection for one another comes through clearly. Libraries and classrooms serving early elementary school readers will definitely want to take a look at Charlotte the Scientist is Squished. Recommended, and going on our "keep" shelf!

Publisher: Clarion Books (@hmhkids)
Publication Date: March 14, 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: Getting Lost in a Book


We started reading the third Harry Potter book last week (the day after finishing the second book). One morning while my daughter ate breakfast we commenced chapter three, in which Harry rides The Knight Bus. Mid-way through, my husband spoke up with a question about the day's schedule. My daughter looked up, startled. She said: "Oh. I thought I was IN Harry Potter. I forgot that I have school today." And I thought: "YES!". What I said was: "Yes, that happens sometimes, when you are lost in a really good book." Needless to say, this was a good start to the day for me. It makes me happy that she can have, and express, that experience known to book-lovers everywhere. 

HarryPotterAzkabanOne other note: As we watched the movie of the second book, my daughter remarked more than once, especially near the end, that things were not as she had pictured them. She had expected Tom Riddle to look more like Snape, but with longer hair, for example. I told her: "That's why we read the book first, so that you have a chance to imagine it your way."

As we move on to book 3, we leave the illustrated editions behind. And although I found the illustrations helpful in holding her interest at the start of the first book, I came over time to find them more of a distraction. I'm happy now to be moving on to the traditional editions, and I think my daughter is, too.

Wishing you all, and especially your children, that experience of getting lost in a book. 

© 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: March 10: Palindromes, #WorldBookDay + Rock Star #Librarians

TwitterLinks Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #KidLitCon, #OwnVoices, book awards, Children's Book Week, children's literady, growing bookworms, International Women's Day, librarians, nonfiction, play, reading choice, social media, teaching, Women's History Month, and World Book Day.

Book Lists + Awards

Frankencrayon2017 Children’s + Teen Choice Book Awards Finalists from @CBCBook via @tashrow  http://ow.ly/A3US309DLse  #kidlit

Fun with Palindromes for Kids | #BookList from @housefullbkwrms https://t.co/0O0pHXuXkl

Telling Her Story: 60 New Books for #WomensHistoryMonth | A biography #BookList from @amightygirl

Top 10 Historical Fiction Titles to Encourage #Diverse Understanding of the Past by Rebecca Redinger @nerdybookclub https://t.co/c5YQdXEs1T

For #IWD2017 @alybee930 shares #nonfiction on women who contributed to the fields of #math + early programming http://ow.ly/vnJv309Iuam 


The #OwnVoices Gap in African-American Children's Books, shown via graph by @CCBCwisc http://ow.ly/7pR1309GD86  #kidlit #DiverseBooks

Amplifying Diversity: @medinger recommends that reviews look at Small Presses for #DiverseBooks + #OwnVoices http://ow.ly/jxV5309KXaF  #kidlit

Events + Programs

CBWLogoDatesAnnouncing the 2017 Children’s Book Week Bookmarks Reveal — @fuseeight @CBCBook #kidlit http://ow.ly/bR17309G6YC  #CBW17

For #WorldBookDay @ToysRUs surveyed 1500 parents about kids + #reading | 52% say reading is a fave hobby for kids http://ow.ly/uXuU309z2sH 

#WorldBookDay gives many UK children first chance to buy their own book | @GuardianBooks via @PWKidsBookshelf https://t.co/3UGbb9YKwA

STEM_Ruchi_SanghviRecommending #STEM Trailblazer Bios series for International Women's Day by @MaryAnnScheuer  http://ow.ly/vUw4309IuZU  #IWD2017 #nonfiction

Children's books and chocolate - a match made in heaven: Save the Date for #KidLitCon 2017, Nov. 3-4 in Hershey, PA http://ow.ly/U3ik309AiOD 

Colombia Garbage Collector Rescues Books From The Trash For Low-Income Kids | @HuffingtonPost via @PWKidsBookshelf https://t.co/dfCSjF5gRt

NFL Players Visited #Schools to #TackleReading for #ReadAcrossAmerica Day | @KathrynStarke @ReadItForward https://t.co/JGrM8Ic0fR

Growing Bookworms

FeathersA Look at Expository Literature + the kids who need access to it to develop a love of #reading @mstewartscience https://t.co/273HL3OXJs

When #Reading Speed Matters for Kids (+ when it doesn't) by @RodriguezCindyL @ReadBrightly  http://ow.ly/QyoD309IT1O  #LearningToRead

To Raise a Reader, parents should #ReadAloud to their children, says @ReadByExample w/ benefits list https://t.co/7jjQfMcLhV

Some heartening quotes from @CarrieGelson's #students that she show she IS growing #LifeLongReaders https://t.co/NGHlATzqIB

GoodbyeStrangerI was also heartened by the positive response of @katsok's students to the magic of a classroom #ReadAloud novel http://ow.ly/r3dR309IuA1 

This @HornBook post by @LauraAWoollett on Bonding (w/ baby) w/ books well resonate w/ MANY book-loving moms http://ow.ly/V8VL309Ivwy  #reading

Good advice: Tailor the #literacy activity to the interests of the kid: #RaisingReaders tip from @JGCanada https://t.co/IN71IDEglC

Look to #literary role models: Insight from the Kids & Family Reading Report | @Scholastic  http://ow.ly/M4KM309KYGe  #KFRR #RaisingReaders


Nice: "if we just sit back + allow ourselves to be open beautiful moments come to us" @Jonharper70bd @BAMRadioNetwork https://t.co/dnyzoMBy5M

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

SoHappyTogetherOn the dangers of "The #PictureBook (title) Earworm" — @fuseeight [e.g. So Happy Together]  http://ow.ly/s0uV309ItxX 

The Rock Star #Librarians Who Choose What Kids Read @WSJ  @MrSchuReads @100scopenotes @MatthewWinner @colbysharp https://t.co/QGd1NkCkl0

Why "Rock Star Librarian" is an Oxymoron, response to recent @WSJ piece from @alliejanebruce @ReadWhileWhite  http://ow.ly/yXSb309G4Un  


Children Love Playgrounds! Discover #Learning Through #Play | Cause and Effect, Perseverance + more @mamasmiles https://t.co/UH39KK19fP

Schools and Libraries

In Favor of the #SlowLearning Movement. By doing less extra stuff in class, kids are #learning more @pernilleripp https://t.co/HIlGpLUbv2

How #MakerMindsets Can Be An Easy Fit For Rural #Schools @LeahabShaffer @MindShiftKQED  http://ow.ly/2cMe309KYiq  #STEM #MakerED

Better ELA #teaching yields better math performance in subsequent years. But not vice versa. @DTWillingham  http://ow.ly/nt5j309DLhp  #schools

Social Media

I agree with the ideas in 3 Ways to Build Your Network (authentic sharing) by @gcouros http://ow.ly/XG2f309GbQo  #IMMOOC #SocialMedia #PLN

© 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

Otter Loves Easter!: Sam Garton

Book: Otter Loves Easter!
Author: Sam Garton
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

OtterLovesEasterOtter, lovable protagonist of a series of books by Sam Garton starting with I Am Otter, is back with a new adventure. In this installment, we learn that Otter loves Easter! Otter is a young otter who lives with an adult male known as Otter Keeper, and surrounds himself with a slew of stuffed animals. [Hmm, I never before thought about the parallels to Curious George, though Otter's adventures are far more domestically-centered.] In Otter Loves Easter!, Otter awakens excitedly on Easter morning to find a bounty of candy. He overeats, of course, finding it simply too hard to share his candy with his (stuffed) friends. After the inevitable stomachache, and a nap, Otter sets up an Easter egg hunt as a way to atone to his candy-less friends. 

It really struck me in this installment how much Otter Keeper pampers Otter. Though Otter takes the lead in every scene (we catch merely a few glimpses of Otter Keeper's feet), as a parent I found it impossible not to notice the huge pile of Easter treats at the foot of Otter's bed. And the adorable Easter breakfast waiting for him on the table, complete with bunny ear pancakes and a decorated hard-boiled egg in a cup. The Easter egg hunt, too, had to involve significant effort on the part of Otter Keeper ("Otter Keeper helped a little too, because even an Easter expert needs help from a grown-up sometimes). This Otter-centered Easter celebration is sure to appeal to young children, most of whom delight in feeling essential to their parents (particularly when lots of candy is involved). 

Otter's messy, occasionally flawed, but well-intentioned antics are full of kid-appeal, too. He puts a hand to his mouth after spilling a dye-filled cup. He looks positively miserable after binging on candy. He regrets the realization that "All the Easter eggs were in my tummy, and my friends hadn't gotten any." He is, in short, both lovable and relatable. 

The Easter egg hunt scene is particularly delightful. Otter's stuffed friends are strategically located around the yard, and the careful reader will enjoy looking among the clutter for the Easter eggs. There are also various live animals, most watching the hunt with wide eyes, and occasional disapproval. One squirrel worriedly clutches a decorated egg, his arms barely fitting around it. A cat lounges on the shed room with sunglasses, holding a drink with a straw, for some reason. This page spread is bright, chaotic fun from corner to corner. 

One other small visual touch that I liked in Otter Loves Easter! is that the end pages are decorated with Easter-egg like patterns in yellow, white, and lavender.

Fans of Otter will not want to miss Otter Loves Easter! And if you are not a fan yet, this is a good place to start. Libraries will certainly want to add Otter Loves Easter! to their holiday collections. Focused entirely on the secular aspects of Easter, Otter Loves Easter! celebrates the delights of Easter eggs and baskets, as well as the safety that comes with being a cherished child. Recommended!

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: January 24, 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).