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Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 26: The Call for #Cybils Judges, and More

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, back to school, diverse books, exercise, growing bookworms, love of books, picture books, reading, and STEM. But the biggest news of the week is that the Cybils Awards are gearing up for fall, with a snazzy new logo color scheme, and accepting applications for judges. 

Book Lists

The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Children’s Books of 2016 — @100scopenotes  http://ow.ly/YObS303wdY7  #kidlit #PictureBooks

Great choices here: 10 Favorite #PictureBooks for Starting #School, a #BookList from @MaryAnnScheuer  http://ow.ly/w34h303u8wz  #kidlit

Read Around Town: #PictureBooks that celebrate the Post Office http://ow.ly/5NbT303weCr  @mrskatiefitz #BookList

Six Favorite #EasyReaders from an enthusiastic, internally motivated new #reader @sunlitpages http://ow.ly/TBWQ303uadz  #BookList

A Tuesday Ten #BookList @TesseractViews | Foxes Fantastic | #kidlit fantasy featuring foxes https://t.co/QNHgHlvNOC

12 Girls from Fiction Who Are Their Own Heroes, brave + strong, #BookList by @Bookopolis @ReadBrightly http://ow.ly/lBwT303yJXv  #kidlit

Cybils


Cybils-Logo-2016-Web-Lg#KidLit
bloggers: the 2016 #Cybils logo by @aquafortis  is now available for download. Show your @cybils pride! http://ow.ly/OB4N303wfGQ 

Do You Want to Be a #Cybils Judge? @brandymuses suggests reasons to consider it http://ow.ly/ba4r303yfLk  #kidlit

Announcing the #Cybils Call for Judges + her own new spot as #YA Fiction category chair: @melissawiley   #kidlit http://ow.ly/gqWb303wdDg 

Hey there #kidlit + #YA reviewers: The #Cybils Call for Judges is now LIVE! Apply by 9/14 to help http://ow.ly/1VlE303u9Lv 

Change Is Fun!! | @book_nut summarizes changes to the #Cybils for this fall http://ow.ly/mjkg303pjjM  |Call for judges coming soon! #kidlit

More news from the #Cybils blog: 2 new chairs (@kidsilkhaze + @growingbbb), and 1 closed category (#BookApps) http://ow.ly/pZw0303u7Iu 

Diversity

Why #WeNeedDiverseBeginningReaders | w/ book suggestions at Guessing Geisel http://ow.ly/ZqMX303u7zZ  #kidlit #DiverseBooks

Events and Programs

Italian government is giving teens €500 on their 18th birthday to spend on books/arts @christophhooton @Independent https://t.co/8oS9ookU8j

Growing Bookworms

What’s "important is not that a child learns to love to read, but that a child learns to love story" @storybreathing https://t.co/dlBKQT4qLj

A resource room #teacher's plea: plea: let’s make Language Arts workbooks focus on brief real stories, not" tedium https://t.co/cHG6rebn2m

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

The Great Rooms of Children’s Literature (incl. Berenstain Bears) by @Rumaan @Slate  http://ow.ly/6KHx303weOg  #kidlit [Shown is the book with my personal favorite room from children's literature: Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Velvet Room.]

The Importance of #PictureBooks, No Matter Your Age, guest post by Janice Milusich for @Lauri14o https://t.co/8Q9KsTjPLI

When Celebrity #PictureBooks (based on pop songs) Go Kuh-kuh-kuh-KRAZY! — @FuseEight  http://ow.ly/HCeQ303wdRv  #kidlit

Parenting

On how books can help us raise our children, with a #BookList for discussing 9/11  @donalynbooks @nerdybookclub https://t.co/2wL47YPHeU

Sounds reasonable: Study finds that exercise before #school enhances "on-task" behavior for kids  http://ow.ly/EiIX303wcVn  via @WSJ

Powerful piece by @ChloeSchama @Slate on how #reading to her nonverbal son has helped her to understand him https://t.co/OH08AuGmtC

1/3 of parents avoid reading children scary stories, UK study finds | psychologists say not good @GuardianBooks https://t.co/hT0dfOVlFc

Schools and Libraries

The @HornBook site has a slew of #BackToSchool resources including #BookLists by age and other #school story links http://ow.ly/JwRb303AGoz 

Why Do Intervention Effects Fade? @DTWillingham reviews some new research http://ow.ly/rwCR303u7uQ  #ECE #education #preschool

STEM

This is neat: IceBox Derby Helps Steer Teenage Girls in Chicago Toward #Math and #Science http://ow.ly/oU7v303tViJ  @BeckieStrum  @WSJ #STEM

© 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


Super Happy Magic Forest by Matty Long

Book: Super Happy Magic Forest
Author: Matty Long
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

SuperHappyMagicSuper Happy Magic Forest is a super-fun picture book by Matty Long, about an epic quest by a brave band of five explorers to Goblin Tower to recover The Mystical Crystals of Life. It's basically an affectionate spoof on epic quest stories. The heroes include a mushroom named Trevor, who can't climb things because he has no arms, and a naive fairy with purple wings. They show varying degrees of courage and creativity as they make their way through frozen lands and a "Super Creepy Haunted Forest" to Goblin Tower. What they find there is somewhat unexpected, but they do, in the end, save the day. 

Super Happy Magic Forest would make a perfect gift to any child of Lord-of-the-Rings-loving parents. It's also a nice introduction to the idea of the epic quest for young readers. There are dangers along the way, but these are lashed with enough humor to keep the book from ever feeling scary. 

This is definitely a book to read aloud with dramatic intonations. Like this:

"But the forces of evil were at work. One day,
the Mystical Crystals of Life were
STOLEN"

(Here STOLEN is rendered in large, bold letters)

and:

"They adventured through
frozen lands and faced scary
and terrible creatures."

Long's illustrations are busy, chock-full of entertaining details, particularly the captions. The Super Happy Magic Forest (where the heroes live, and from where the crystals are stolen includes Rainbow Falls, Happy Bunnies, a Cotton Candy Cave, and lots more. There are ghosts and witches and colorful butterflies. It's like a cross between a gloomy quest and an LSD-enhanced trip through Wonderland, sprinkled with mild humor ("With barely enough time to pack a lunch, the heroes began their epic quest.").

Super Happy Magic Forest is a book that we've had for a few months now, and have appreciated a bit more each time we read it. While it's a bit complex (and perhaps scary) for the youngest listeners, it's a great choice for early elementary schools kids. Especially if they like butterflies, rainbow unicorns, goblins, or ghosts. Highly recommended and pure fun!

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: February 23, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: August 24: Reading, Reading, Reading

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter has refocused recently, and now contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, including bookworms, mathematicians, and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this relatively brief issue issue I have four book reviews (picture book through early chapter book), two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, and two more posts with more in-depth highlights from articles about the joy of learning

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read/listened to one early chapter book, two middle grade books, two young adult books, and two adult titles. I read:

  • J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Arthur A. Levine Books. Middle Grade. Completed August 12, 2016. I found this interesting, but didn't love it the way I did the original books. 
  • Holly Black and Cassandra Clare: The Bronze Key (Magisterium, Book 3). Scholastic Press. Middle Grade. Completed August 16, 2016. Review to come. 
  • Kara LaReau (ill. Matt Myers): The Infamous Ratsos. Candlewick Press. Early Chapter Book. Completed August 23, 2016.
  • Jennifer Lynn Barnes: The Long Game (The Fixer, Book 2). Bloomsbury USA. Young Adult. Completed August 20, 2016, on MP3. While not particularly plausible, I enjoy this series, and look forward to future books. 
  • Charlie Higson: The End (The Enemy, Book 7). Disney Hyperion. Young Adult. Completed August 21, 2016. This was the conclusion to a seven book series. While I don't believe I've reviewed these books, I do recommend the series for fans of YA post-apocalypse stories, especially those of the zombie apocalypse variety. They are not for the faint of heart, however. There's a lot of gore, and many, many characters die. I liked the mix of survival story and Lord of the Flies-type kid-on-kid political machinations. This series was strong enough to hold my interest across seven books (spread out over time), and for me to keep reasonable track of what was going on. I was satisfied with the ending. 
  • C. J. Box: Off the Grid (Joe Pickett, Book 16). G.P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed August 15, 2016, on MP3. 
  • C. J. Box: Badlands (Cassie Dewell). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed August 24, 2016, on MP3.

I'm currently  listening to Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and reading Small Data: The Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends  (nonfiction) by Martin Lindstrom on my Kindle. I have a number of recently arrived middle grade and YA titles on my short stack, to which I will be turning my attention soon. 

The books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. Now that school is back in session, we're back to a regular routine, and thus reading more books together. I generally read her at least a couple of books at breakfast, and my husband or I will read her several more at bedtime. I've also noticed that she's becoming more likely to pick up a book to read or look at by herself, when she has some quiet time. I'll often find an open book on her bed or on the playroom floor. I do not comment on this - I want her to turn to books because she wants to, not because she thinks that I prefer it (though of course she knows that I do).

Her most recent favorite title is Ninja Bunny: Sister vs. Brother by Jennifer Gray Olson. She likes for me to read most of the text aloud, while she chimes in with the little sister's dialog (helpfully shown in red). 

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

© 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


Pirasaurs!: Josh Funk & Michael Slack

Book: Pirasaurs!
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Michael Slack
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

PirasaursWhat if the dinosaurs had been, or still were, pirates? You'd have Pirasaurs! Josh Funk's band of dinosaur pirates is on a quest to find buried treasure. They'll have to overcome a mutiny, a damaged map, and a trap first, however. The protagonist is a small, scaly orange cabin boy, uncertain of his place with the rowdy crew. The crew is headed by the female Captain Rex, assisted by Bronto Beard the lookout and Triceracook (a triceratops cook with a hook, covering many bases). 

Josh Funk's rhyming text is fun to read aloud, and sprinkled with strong vocabulary words. Like this:

"With handy hook, Tricercook
Prepares Jurassic feasts!

I love to slurp and belch and burp
With buccaneering beasts!"

and:

"Velocimate can navigate
From reef to coastal bay.

I use my smarts to map the charts.
But still we're led astray."

Bonus points later in the book for use of the words "blurt" and "scallywags".

Michael Slack brings the pirates to colorful life, with special attention to our sometimes hopeful and sometimes discouraged young narrator. A battle between rival pirate gangs is especially dynamic, full of scowling faces and a mix of swords and dinosaur horns. 

Pirasaurs! is full of interesting characters, engaging wordplay, and dramatic (but not scary) action. It is perfect for preschoolers, and recommended for libraries, homes, and classrooms, or anywhere that a pirate- and/or dinosaur-loving child might lurk. 

Publisher: Orchard Books (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @AlisonGopnik + @JKarabinas + @AshleyLambS | #Play + #Reading

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three articles that address the joy of learning, and the things that take that joy away. The first article looks at the cognitive benefits of play for young kids. The second explores better ways of tracking reading than chore-like reading logs. The third piece laments the stress that many American high school kids experience, and proposes a more playful, kindergarten-like atmosphere. All three articles are worth your time. 

GardenerAndCarpenterUnstructured #Play Results in Cognitive Benefits, as well as sheer pleasure @AlisonGopnik http://ow.ly/quta303g6C2  @TheAtlantic

Alison Gopnik: "Just as we should give children the resources and space to play, and do so without insisting that play will have immediate payoffs, we should do the same for scientists and artists and all the others who explore human possibilities.

There is good reason to think that play helps us learn. But another part of the evolutionary story is that play is a satisfying good in itself—a source of joy for parents as well as children. Caring for children is hard work, getting the chance to play again is one compensation. If it had no other rationale, the sheer pleasure of play would be justification enough."

Me: This piece offers a strong defense of play, looking at both the science behind the cognitive benefits and the lighter side, too. I've been pleased to see this article getting a lot of exposure, and I hope it influences parents and teachers everywhere. Pieces like this give me hope that the pendulum is starting to swing back in the direction of play. 

If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Mistaking Compliance For #Learning re #ReadingLogs http://ow.ly/zKKP303ihry  @JKarabinas @HeinemannPD

Jaclyn Karabinas: "(On parent-signed reading logs:Was a signature really the most authentic way for students to share their reading life with me? Did it provide me with the information I needed to help them grow as readers? No! In fact, it sent one message and one message only: I can only be sure you are reading if you write it down and someone signs it. I conveyed that message of distrust in the name of “efficiency.”

...I was able to build an accurate picture of what my students felt was truly valuable for tracking their reading lives. And you know what? They wanted the same things I wanted: to celebrate a growing list of titles, make recommendations to peers, respond in writing to share their thinking, and look for patterns on the types of books they devoured or detested."

Me: The quote in the previous paragraph exactly mirrors my own thoughts on tracking reading (especially for my daughter). We want to keep track of what titles we've read, and it can be fun to look at how many titles that's been, or to see if there are patterns. But any tracking that crosses the line from "this is fun" to "this is a chore" runs the risk of turning reading itself into a chore. And that is a travesty. 

My daughter is just starting first grade, and I am waiting to see what sort of reading log her teacher uses. I am prepared to push back if necessary. My primary job in this area, as far as I'm concerned, is to maintain my daughter's love of reading. Full stop. 

What if High School was more like Kindergarten asks @AshleyLambS in @TheAtlantic http://ow.ly/rSpr303mzlp  via @drdouggreen #JoyOfLearning

Ashley Lamb-Sinclair: "Lauri Jarvilehto is a former employee of Rovio (of Angry Birds fame) who has created a company called Lighneer, which is focused on educational games. Lauri believes—and I agree—that “education is important, but learning matters more.”

Too often, I see high-school students break down in tears over grades or pile on advanced and AP classes because “that’s what colleges want to see.” ...

How can America’s students feel hope for the future when they are so stressed from trying to achieve future success that they break down in tears?"

Me: This piece includes a concise summary of various survey results that capture the academic stress facing American high schoolers today, with comparisons to the situation in Finland (a much of #JoyOfLearning focused country). With my own daughter starting first grade, I worry already about how I can possibly keep the pressure cooker that is high school in the US (and especially in Silicon Valley - see this piece) from crushing her joy of learning. Articles like this one do give me some hope... 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


Milk Goes to School: Terry Border

Book: Milk Goes to School
Author: Terry Border
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

MilkGoesToSchool

Terry Border, the author/illustrator of the Peanut Butter and Cupcake books, has a new back-to-school picture book called Milk Goes to School. In this story, Milk, a cute little red and white milk carton, starts school for the first time. She's excited about her sparkly new backpack, and her dad has attempted to boost her confidence by telling her that she is "la creme de la creme". But when she points these things out to the other students, they quickly conclude that "this Milk is spoiled." As the day progresses, Milk makes mis-step after mis-step, adding to the perception (about which she is in deep denial) that she is spoiled. But after a humiliating experience, Milk does refresh her behavior a bit by the end of the book and find some common ground with the other food children. 

Milk Goes to School is full of wordplay, particularly puns about food. Like this:

"Milk asked Carrot, "Would you like to share crayons?"

"I don't carrot all," Carrot said. "Like I said to Salad, lettuce be friends!"

Carrot seemed okay."

I was reading this book to myself and didn't get this at first. This is a book that calls for being read aloud. There's also this, sure to make a four-year-old giggle:

"Later, in the library, Milk asked if someone cut the cheese.

I don't like that saying," said Cheese, "but I think someone tooted."

"Oops. Sorry," said Beans. 

Much of the humor of the book, however, lies in Border's unique and whimsical illustrations. These were created by manipulating and photographing three-dimensional objects, such as, say, a milk carton with wire arms and legs, wearing a backpack. Fun details are everywhere, like the fishtank full of goldfish crackers and the image of Milk imagining herself as a queen, surrounded by foil-wrapped chocolate coins. I especially enjoyed the family pictures that the students drew, such as three apples (two large and one small) sitting on the branch of a tree. And I'm still smiling over Potato who "wanted to be a sailor on a gravy boat" when he grew up. Oh, and the eggs hatching chicken nuggets. Priceless! 

For me as an adult reader, the story itself is a little bit repetitive, with food puns throughout and Milk saying over and over again that she "didn't think she was spoiled at all." But I think that kids will find Milk Goes to School hilarious, especially kids who have already been through the pain of starting school and making new friends.

I quite respect Border's choice to make Milk, well, a bit spoiled. She does some nice things for the other kids, but she fusses when something is spilled on her drawing, she wants people to see how well she can spell and draw, etc. One suspects that she is an only child who hasn't had much chance to socialize with other kids. This makes Milk Goes to School braver than your run of the mill back-to-school picture book, where the issues are more about overcoming shyness or missing parents, etc. We have realistic character development in 32 food-covered, pun-filled pages. 

I'll add that my six-year-old just came in as I was writing this review, book open on my lap. She shrieked in recognition, saying "I had Peanut Butter and Cupcake in my Kindergarten class. And that's the exact same cupcake." She is VERY excited to read the book (but has friends over right now). I think this incident speaks to Border's distinctive and kid-friendly illustration style. 

In short, Milk Goes to School is a must-purchase for library back-to-school collections. It is sure to stand out, visually and thematically, and to be a favorite with kids. Recommended!

Publisher:  Philomel Books (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony by Ellen Potter + Qin Leng

Book: Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony (Book 3)
Author: Ellen Potter
Illustrator: Qin Leng
Pages: 128
Age Range: 7-9

SeaPony

The Sea Pony is the third book in the Piper Green and the Fairy Tree early chapter book series. (See my review of Books 1 and 2 here.) Piper is a seven-year-old girl who lives on a small island off the coast of Maine. Her island is so small that the younger kids take a lobster boat every morning to another island to attend school. Piper's older brother attends high school on the mainland, and can only come home on weekends. The other thing that's noteworthy about Piper is that she has a Fairy Tree in her front yard. She leaves small gifts for the fairies inside the tree, and they sometimes leave gifts for her. These gifts are mysterious at first, but generally turn out to be exactly what Piper needed.

In The Sea Pony, Piper finds a necklace in the tree. I won't spoil the surprise, but the necklace leads directly to Piper's discovery of the Sea Pony, as well as to the recovery of a lost family item. I'm never 100% clear on whether the Fairy Tree actually is magic, or whether a kindly neighbor might be intervening. But the sequence of events in The Sea Pony certainly have a magical quality to them. There's also a horse, and the chance for Piper to show up her nemesis. Seven-year-old readers will love it!

I quite like Piper. She's independent and resourceful, but with realistic capabilities and shortcomings. She tries to make a special meal for her brother and the result is something of a fiasco. But (living on a small island) she can go to the store by herself and get a missing ingredient. She helps her dad on his lobster boat. She's savvy enough to request payment, but young enough to think that at 10 cents a bait bag she'll earn enough to buy a horse in no time. She reminded me of my daughter in her optimism, willingness to work, and unrealistic larger expectations. Here are a couple of snippets:

"I'd never had a fancy necklace before. The only necklace I owned was made out of folded-up potato chip bags. My best friend, Ruby, made it for me." (Chapter 2)

and:

(On learning that a surprise will be arriving on the ferry) "I wondered what it could be. A candy-vending machine, maybe? Or a gigantic turtle?

Then I thought of something.

"I'll bet it's a CIRCUS!!" I said in my whistle language." (Chapter 3)

Isn't Piper perfect? I also like Ellen Potter's occasional use of Maine lingo. The title of Chapter 7 is: "A Wicked Bad Gullywhumper" (a big storm). 

Qn Leng's black and white illustrations (one per chapter, a mix of whole and half-page pictures) convey Piper's movement and enthusiasm, as well as the coziness of the island. The expression on Piper's face as she stuffs smelly fish into a bait bag in Chapter 7 is priceless. 

The Piper Green and the Fairy Tree series, and The Sea Pony in particular, has a nice mix of "stuff kids think are cool" (living on a small island, taking boats, a Fairy Tree) and realistic family/community/kid dynamics. Piper's family is not the most well-off on the island, and her father doesn't hesitate to take her to task when she uses bait injudiciously. But the island also acquires a horse! The Sea Pony strikes a nice balance, I think. I'm happy to see this series continuing strong. I think it's a perfect fit for kids just starting to be ready for chapter books. Recommended, and definitely a nice addition for libraries serving new readers. 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: August 16, 2016
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @PerriKlass + @Mind_Research + @JasonBoog + @AlisonGopnik

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have two articles about growing bookworms, one about giving kids positive experiences with math (rather than focusing so much on "achievement"), and one about the value of learning through play. The first article is about the benefits of giving young children real, print books. The second is about giving kids choice in what they read. This one was written in response to another piece that cast aspersions on kids' choices, also linked here. The third piece is about ways to get kids to play with math and use it to answer compelling questions. The fourth piece shares recent research about the ways that babies and preschoolers learn (naturally, though play and inquiry). All of these articles are, ultimately, about how to nurture joy in reading, math, and learning in general. Happy reading!

ReachOutAndReadThe Merits of #Reading Real (paper) Books to Your Children by @PerriKlass @nytimes http://ow.ly/G2WL3034VfV  #RaisingReaders @reachoutandread

Perri Klass: "I love book-books. I cannot imagine living in a house without them, or putting a child to bed in a room that doesn’t have shelves of books, some tattered and beloved, some new and waiting for their moment. It’s what I wanted for my own children, and what I want for my patients; I think it is part of what every child needs. There’s plenty that I read on the screen, from journal articles to breaking news, but I don’t want books to go away...

Part of what makes paper a brilliant technology may be, in fact, that it offers us so much and no more. A small child cannot tap the duck and elicit a quack; for that, the child needs to turn to a parent. And when you cannot tap the picture of the horse and watch it gallop across the page, you learn that your brain can make the horse move as fast as you want it to, just as later on it will show you the young wizards on their broomsticks, and perhaps even sneak you in among them."

Me: Perri Klass is the National Medical Director for Reach Out and Read, a fabulous organization that provides doctors with books to give to kids on their well-child visits. I agree with her about the need for kids to have "book-books" as she calls them, vs. eBooks. As an adult, I adore my Kindle, particularly for travel. But for my six-year-old, everything I've read, and everything my instincts tell me, says that her books should be in print, not on a screen, for as long as possible. 

BornReadingLet Kids Read Whatever They Want to Read | Follow the child's lead http://ow.ly/YV4x3035sbK  @jasonboog @GalleyCat via @PWKidsBookshelf

Jason Boog: "For decades, child developmental research has proven that children learn best when they pursue their own interests. The child’s interest is far more important than the choice of reading material. Parents, caregivers, librarians and teachers need to follow a child’s lead when choosing books—no matter what they want to read...

Stop wasting time arguing about the quality of children’s books. Use your energy to help kids chase the stories they love in libraries, app stores, and playgrounds."

Me: Jason Boog's brief piece was written in response to a Slate article in which Gabriel Roth noted kids' love of books featuring licensed characters seen on TV or in movies, rather than reading what their parents might want them to read. That piece sparked a bunch of discussion (including this piece by Catherine Nichols, defending occasional literary "junk food"). These discussions about the quality of children's literature crop up from time to time, of course, and have ever since there has been children's literature in the first place. 

My own experience has been that my daughter enjoys running across books about licensed characters that she likes (from the Frozen princess to Angry Birds). She'll sometimes bring home stacks of such books from the library. I've never had any problem with this, though there are certainly (as Roth indicates in his piece) books that I personally enjoy more. My take on it is that it's not a good idea to insult a child's taste (because this may turn them off reading, which is the worst outcome), so I am generally with Boog on the idea of letting kids read what they want. But I do find, unlike what Roth describes, that if I ALSO keep the books that I like around, and offer those as an option, my daughter will end up enjoying many of those, too. 

Why We Should Worry Less About the "Achievement Gap" + focus on giving kids great #math experiences http://ow.ly/Zw0k3035rvP  @MIND_Research

Brandon Smith: "The achievement gap is just a symptom of a bigger problem... a dissonance between the rich mathematical experiences students should have and what they actually have. This is what I've started calling the "experience gap." For example, when we teach children division with fractions, we have them memorize "Ours not to reason why ... just invert and multiply!" We don't ask kids to understand the why and how this works -- we discourage them from even thinking about it...

Great experiences have tricky problems, twists we didn't see coming, and structure that we can find if we look. Great experiences put faith in mathematics and in people. A great experience is a chance to play with mathematics -- with authentic mathematics where learning happens. We need to give students rich opportunities to learn by doing rather than static observation or rote memorization of rules."

Me: I agree wholeheartedly with Smith's point that we need to teach kids how to PLAY with math, and that it's in working to answer interesting questions that real learning occurs. 

New research shows "We don’t have to make children learn, we just have to let them learn" http://ow.ly/BzWf3039vW6  @nytopinion @AlisonGopnik

Alison Gopnik: "We take it for granted that young children “get into everything.” But new studies of “active learning” show that when children play with toys they are acting a lot like scientists doing experiments. Preschoolers prefer to play with the toys that will teach them the most, and they play with those toys in just the way that will give them the most information about how the world works....

New research tells us scientifically what most preschool teachers have always known intuitively. If we want to encourage learning, innovation and creativity we should love our young children, take care of them, talk to them, let them play and let them watch what we do as we go about our everyday lives.

We don’t have to make children learn, we just have to let them learn."

Me: A friend shared this article with me on Facebook because he knew that the conclusion (quoted above) would be right up my alley. I've seen so many times with my own daughter the way she learns by figuring things out, and playing around with open-ended toys. The whole reason for my shift in my blog's focus over this past year has been that I don't want to see traditional school negatively impact her natural tendency to learn through play and inquiry. 

I think that this general dynamic remains true for older kids, too. They don't play in the same way, of course, but they learn most deeply by striving to understand things that are interesting to them. That's what I think, and it's always good to see articles published that back this theme up. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 12: #BookLists Galore, Girls and #Math, #Reading Communities

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this relatively light week include #BookLists (lots of those!), #DiverseBooks, #PictureBooks, #STEAM, #STEM, activity books, the Cybils Awards, growing bookworms, math, Matt de la Pena, NCTE, reading communities, and reading aloud. 

Awards

Author @mattdelapena Wins the @ncte National Intellectual Freedom Award http://ow.ly/tWT03035s3d  @GalleyCat via @PWKidsBookshelf

Book Lists

First Half Recap Of 2016 #PictureBooks @bottomshelfbks @HuffingtonPost http://ow.ly/4EDr3036Zap  via @100scopenotes #kidlit #BookList

5 Fabulous #PictureBooks About #School - a #BookList from @housefullbkwrms  http://ow.ly/dTJh3034Wyd  #kidlit

Election + President Books Worth Casting a Vote For, a @growingbbb #BookList #PictureBooks https://t.co/95qxueZIDH

#Math Art Books for #STEAM learning, activity books, #PictureBooks + more from @momandkiddo  http://ow.ly/RJXz30339je  #BookList

Top Ten Books for Principals to #ReadAloud at Staff Meetings by @ReadByExample @nerdybookclub https://t.co/RasORTrfso

Excellent #BookList from Jean Little Library:  Strong Minds, Strong Hearts, Strong Girls - recent titles http://ow.ly/8pFs30338xM  #kidlit 

On the #Cybils blog: #BookList by @AnnettePimentel | #Baseball Stories You (Probably) Didn’t Know  #kidlit http://ow.ly/SbQ23039oKI 

Diversity

Beyond a Snowy Day: @FuseEight rounds up some Out-of-Print African-American Children’s Book Classics  #kidlit http://ow.ly/iJjM303399n 

Reading + Growing Bookworms

One mom's solution to kids #reading "Junk Food for the Brain" | keep better quality stuff on hand http://ow.ly/mgpR3033854  @TheCathInTheHat

Read with a kid, learn something - @pwbalto shares recent #reading experiences w/ kids at the #library https://t.co/XQytvDnRV9

Black boys in ‘book deserts’ don’t get inspiring #literary experiences. Let’s do better http://ow.ly/Wj8B3039Pw1  @Chalkbeat @PWKidsBookshelf

The Power of a #Reading Community: "being part of a community... pushes you to be better" says @frankisibberson  http://ow.ly/pwde3039pAD 

Parenting + Outdoor Play

Timely for me: Yes, your kids can and should pack their own #school lunches @washingtonpost via @RaiseAnAdult https://t.co/FYdGavN6mh

Physical Activity Boosts Brain Power + Academic Performance in Kids + Teens - researchers report http://ow.ly/SVtN3039yq3  @hey_sigmund

The movement to bring back ‘risky’ play for children (in playgrounds + parks) @globeandmail via @EllenBSandseter https://t.co/QlIz8FQdKX

STEM

What's Keeping Women Out of Science, #Math Careers? Calculus + Confidence - http://ow.ly/h0PN30337DX  @LianaHeitin  @educationweek #STEM

This I like: #STEM Camp Shows Girls Can not only “get math” but get EXCITED about #math http://ow.ly/Iwv83039uUI  @MIND_Research

© 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


Woodpecker Wants A Waffle: Steve Breen

Book: Woodpecker Wants A Waffle
Author: Steve Breen
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

WoodpeckerWantsAWaffle

Woodpecker Wants A Waffle is an appealing new picture book by Steve Breen. It's about an enterprising woodpecker named Benny who, on smelling the waffles from a new breakfast place, decides that he wants to try them. I mean, he really, really wants to try them. He tries various tricks and disguises, but the dour waitress is not to be fooled. The other animals mock him for his quest. But, as you would expect, Benny finds a clever way to get his way in the end. 

Breen's text is brief and to the point, but with some nice vocabulary ("investigate", "declared"), and read-aloud-friendly sound effects ("TAP! TAP! TAP!", "BAP!", "FWAP!"). After all of the animals chime in regarding how ridiculous Benny's quest is ("BEARS DON'T EAT BAGELS!", etc.), this text follows:

""Well, why not?" Benny asked.

"Why not?" the animals grumbled,
chirped, croaked, and whispered.

They thought, and thought, and
thoughts, and thought...

"Because I SAID so, said Bunny." (on the next page)

I was so grateful that the other animals didn't magically realize that Benny was right, or any didactic nonsense like that. And I loved Benny's solution, which puts the other animals in their place and gains him waffles. 

Breen's ink, watercolor, and colored pencil illustrations have a fairly minimalist look, sprinkled with kid- and parent-friendly humor. I especially liked the tall beehive hairdo on the waitresses head, and Benny attempting to sneak in by camouflaging himself against a large woman's bird-patterned skirt.  His milk carton disguise is rather priceless, too. There's almost a cartoon feel to the book, helped by the sound effects ("SWOOSH!" goes the milk carton into the trash). 

Woodpecker Wants A Waffle is a joyful celebration of persisting to get what you want, even if you have to be a bit sneaky about it. It has kid-friendly humor, fun language aspects for read-aloud, and no moral message at all. A delight through and through. I think it would make a wonderful group read-aloud; libraries will definitely want to give Woodpecker Wants A Waffle a look. Parents may want to make sure there are actual waffles available before reading this one at home, though. Recommended!

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: August 10: #PictureBook Sorting, #Audiobooks + the New Harry Potter

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter has refocused recently, and now contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, including bookworms, mathematicians, and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book through middle grade) as well as a post about the many benefits of sorting through our picture books. I also have one post about my daughter's latest literacy milestone, inventing connections to authors and illustrators. I close with two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, and one with more in-depth highlights from articles about the joy of learning

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read/listened to four adult titles. This mix basically reflects no print reading time at all, but extra time spent on audiobooks. I'm doing some physical therapy for a hip issue and I'm getting in a lot of audio time. I read:

I'm currently reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, etc., and listening to Off the Grid (the most recently published Joe Pickett title) by C. J. BoxI'm going to need a new audiobook series now that I'm about to finish the Joe Pickett books, if anyone has suggestions... I'm looking for mystery series with plenty of installments, available in audio format with decent narration. Other audio series that I have read include Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Paul Doiron, Louise Penny, Victoria Thompson, Robert Crais, and Jacqueline Winspear. In terms of print reading, I do have a bunch of children's books at the top of my queue right now. If only life would slow down a bit to allow me more time for non-audiobook reading. 

The books my husband and I and our babysitter have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. Hard to believe, but the kiddo will be starting first grade next week. I'll let you know how that goes, in terms of affecting her interest in reading. Lately she's been very interested in playing "library" in my office. She is the librarian, and I ask her for book recommendations based on a series, color, or other attribute. There are now stacks of books all over my office that would mystify an actual librarian, but that make sense to my daughter. She has been really pushing the Calendar Mysteries series by Ron Roy, as well as the Alice-Miranda books by Jacqueline Harvey

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

© 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


The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart: Lauren DeStefano

Book: The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Pages: 208
Age Range: 8-12

I picked up The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart because I had enjoyed Lauren DeStefano's previous book, A Curious Tale of the In-Between.  Once I started reading this new title I as unable to put it down. The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart is a creepy tale of two children who live in a group home near the woods. The boy, Lionel, is wild, with sharp senses and a tendency towards feral behavior. He thinks of himself as more animal than human. Lionel is somewhat tamed, however, but the quiet, gentle Marybeth. Until, that is, Marybeth sneaks out one night in search of a mysterious blue creature, and becomes the one who needs to be tamed. The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart is a celebration of friendship and the unique attributes of children. It's also a ghost story, and a mystery. It is haunting and memorable. 

DeStefano's characterization is quite strong in The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart. Lionel and Marybeth are fully realized, and Lionel is particularly interesting. DeStefano also gradually reveals the nature of their children's caregiver, Mrs. Mannerd. The reader starts out thinking that she doesn't particularly care about the eight kids in her care, but this proves not to be the case at all. The other kids are, admittedly, rather one-dimensional, but I think this is accurate to how Lionel sees them. 

Here's a snippet that I flagged early in the book:

"But was too late for that. Lionel already understood. He could  make the chickens lay eggs and he could reason with the most stubborn of foxes. But he had learned years ago that humans were more dangerous than the things that stalked about the wilderness." (Chapter 3 ARC)

The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart is clearly set in the past, though an exact date isn't given. There's a reference to something in the near past having taken place 10 years after "the war",  but an exact date isn't necessary. The book feels timeless. There are (non-cellular) phones and cars. However, what's striking to the modern adult reader is the lack of supervision of Mrs. Mannerd's house by any outside agencies. Even when Marybeth's behavior becomes highly erratic, Mrs. Mannerd makes her own decisions about what to do. 

There are disturbing aspects to The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart, including past violence towards children. The details are more alluded to than spelled out, however, and I think that most middle grade readers will be able to handle the story. I would keep it away from highly sensitive kids, though, to avoid nightmares.

It's hard book to put down once one starts reading it, because of the mystery and because one cares what happens to Lionel and Marybeth. Kids who enjoy details about animals will especially enjoy The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart. Lionel is constantly thinking of things in terms of animal responses. Like this:

"Lionel was at the table early for once. He hadn't overslept; he had been awake all night. He rarely worried, but when he did, it made him nocturnal like the coyotes and spiders." (Chapter 4, ARC)

The bottom line is that kids (and adults) who enjoy ghostly supernatural tales will enjoy The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart. It's well-written, with strong characterization, and plenty of suspense to keep readers turning the pages. Recommended!

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BWKids) 
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Source of Book: Advanced review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).