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The Impossible Clue: Sarah Rubin

Book: The Impossible Clue
Author: Sarah Rubin
Pages: 304
Age Range: 8-12

ImpossibleClueSarah Rubin's The Impossible Clue features a 12-year-old girl, Alice Jones, who is a math geek and mystery-solver. To date, Alice's mysteries have been small-time. But when a famous local scientist, the business partner of one of Alice's classmates, disappears, Alice finds herself dragged into investigating a grown-up crime. There are thugs in suits, limo rides and high-end research labs. The professor has disappeared from a locked room, and evidence points toward the possible development of an invisibility suit. Alice, together with one geeky classmate and another who is a charming troublemaker, tracks down clues.

The Impossible Clue isn't the most realistic story out there, but it is a lot of fun. Alice lives with her scoop-hungry reporter father, while her drama-obsessed twin sister normally lives with their mother. Della is spending the summer with Alice and their dad, however, adding some domestic conflict to the story. Alice's banter with cute guy Kevin lends a hint of what I would classify as pre-romance. I can imagine further mysteries for Alice and Kevin to solve, and their relationship growing somewhat. 

But really, I just love reading a book about a girl who loves math. Alice had planned to spend her summer vacation proving Goldbach's Conjecture. She notes:

"Mysteries are a lot like math, word problems especially. Some are simple, some are complicated, but it's the same process. There's something you want to know, and a lot of information swimming around. The hard part is coming up with the right equation, figuring out which bits of information are important and which bits are just there to confuse you. Then it's just a matter of solving for x." (Page 4) 

And here's a passage that I think illustrates Alice's personality (and Della's) quite effectively. Alice and Della are discussing what to do on a possible trip to Italy with their mom. Della wants to shop, while Alice wants to see the Archimedes museum:

"It was the story of my life. Everyone understood that Della loved being onstage and that she hated math. Because that was normal. But when I said I loved math and hated performing, people looked at me like I had a screw loose. And because the things I liked weren't normal, I didn't have any right to ask other people to do them with me." (Page 1410142)

Now, I would like to think this perspective is a bit of a stereotype in this day of STEM and GirlsWhoCode, but the bottom line is that it's nice to read about a girl who loves math, and also has relatively normal sibling rivalries and relationships with boys. AND she gets to solve a mystery involving a disappearing scientist and a possible invisibility suit. It doesn't get much cooler than that! I recommend The Impossible Clue for middle grade readers, especially those who love math and/or mystery. I hope that Alice returns for further adventures. 

Publisher: Chicken House (@Scholastic
Publication Date: January 3, 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).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 13: #Diverse #BookLists, #BookGivingDay, and #Education

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this relatively light week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #STEM, Accelerated Reader, book-rich environments, educational disabilities, growing bookworms, International Book Giving Day, libraries, Jennifer L. Holm, Scott O'Dell Award, Marianne Dubuc, math, reading assessment, schools, Sydney Taylor Book Awards, teaching, and higher education. 

Awards

InquisitorsTaleThe 2017 Sydney Taylor Book Awards have been announced — @HornBook @JewishLibraries  http://ow.ly/d4dw307UwYx  #kidlit

So happy for @jenniholm for winning the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction | FULL OF BEANS  @randomhousekids http://ow.ly/ebG8307WIvj 

Book Lists

Mom @fuseeight evaluates + scores the 2017 construction-themed #PictureBooks to date http://ow.ly/dKeV307PpvR  #BookList

Less common chapter books for 7-year-olds to devour, a @momandkiddo #BookList http://ow.ly/TAV7307PpR0  @sarapennypacker @juanamedina + more

MuseumOfMysteriesThe #Diversity List: Picture, Easy, and Early Chapter Books of 2016 — @fuseeight   #BookList #DiverseBooks http://ow.ly/1otJ307Uyr9 

Events + Programs

Marianne Dubuc Designs Official Poster for International Book Giving Day 2017, reports @TarieS  http://ow.ly/6FVs307UwyS  @bookgivingday

Libraries Join National Initiative To Transform Public Housing into Book-Rich Environments @sljournal  http://ow.ly/YIUJ307UuU2  @nationalbook

Growing Bookworms

"Assessment that results in a student not wanting to read more...causes more problems than benefits" @ReadByExample https://t.co/RC9HcfqV4X 

Introducing Daliyah, the 4-year-old girl who has read > 1,000 books, visited the @LibnOfCongress  http://ow.ly/H0Rk307WMvr  @washingtonpost

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

HouseWithAClockTop 10 Homes in Middle-Grade Fiction according to @KeirGraff @nerdybookclub  http://ow.ly/itTS307Ppi0  #kidlit 

A genius idea from @momsradius | #Reading Parties where you read (separately) in bed with your kids http://ow.ly/9Wno307WKoB 

Rumors of the Demise of #Books Greatly Exaggerated @GallupNews   http://ow.ly/XVbR307WN3i  | 35% read 11 or more books in past year

Some ideas for #Audiobook bedtime stories…for grownups from @lyraelle  @HornBook  http://ow.ly/N8se307Xi4W  

Schools and Libraries

Sad! #Librarians Go Rogue In Devious Attempt To Save Books From Getting Tossed http://ow.ly/BZOm307WJsT  @HuffingtonPost via @100scopenotes

MathematicalMindsetsAre We Killing Students' Love of #Math? asks @alicekeeler | How can we get kids more engaged? http://ow.ly/nVso307UzN3  @joboaler #STEM

Tips for Parents & Teachers as Children Start School from @TrevorHCairney  http://ow.ly/TWOo307Uwor  | Look like good advice here

Supreme Court to decide: What level of #education do public schools legally owe to students w/ #disabilities? https://t.co/Fr5bLabeHW

Interesting discussion on Leftward Tilt of #Education Scholarship @educationweek http://ow.ly/LQQq307UBgY  | I esp. liked @CSattinBajaj piece

© 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


Literacy Milestone: Listening to Harry Potter

LiteracyMilestoneAI think it's fair to say that a modern milestone for book-loving parents involves the reading to one's child of the Harry Potter books. My husband and I have been determined that our daughter will hear the books (at least the first book) before seeing the movies. This has not been easy. She saw an early snippet of the first movie while waiting for us in line at a ride at Universal a couple of years ago (the parent-share or whatever it's called where one of you waits with the child while the other rides). More recently, I went to pick her up at her after-school care, and found her happily, if somewhat guiltily, watching the movie. Luckily, I arrived early enough that she didn't get past the scene with Dudley and the snake in the zoo, early in the story. This happened again with the second movie. When I arrived, Harry and Ron were eating breakfast at the Burrow. While she knows we don't want her to watch the movies without us, the required degree of self-control is a bit much for a six-year-old.

IllustratedHarryPotter1As we are not keen to change our after-school care situation, this raised the pressure quite a bit. So we decided to make our third attempt at reading the first Harry Potter book. The first try had failed because my daughter just wasn't ready to process such a complex storyline. The second try failed because she started having nightmares (though these were later attributed to the imminent start of first grade, rather than to the book). But, as they say, the third time's a charm. As I write this we are ready to start Chapter 12 of the illustrated edition, and my daughter is hooked. There is no question that we will finish the book within a few days. We are now reading at breakfast and at bedtime, and if we can carve out any other time during the day, we will. She is admittedly motivated in part to finish the book because she wants to see the movie. But there is no question that she is interested in the story for itself, too. She is caught up in the excitement. 

Two of her responses so far have particularly pleased me. Last night we were reading about Malfoy's reaction to Harry receiving this Nimbus 2000 (an exception allowed for Harry because of his unusual election to the Quidditch team as a first year). My daughter remarked: "Malfoy is going to play for the other team, isn't he?" I acknowledged that she was correct in her assumption, though this would not actually happen until Book 2. But I love that she is using her past experience with story to make predictions about where this one is going, and that she has a sense already for what will ratchet up the drama.  That's my girl!

The second incident pleased me even more. This morning we came to a picture of Hermione holding a glass jar of blue fire. My daughter looked at the picture critically and said: "Is that supposed to be Hermione? That's not how I pictured her." And I thought: "YES! We were right to try to get her to listen to the book before watching the movie." Because Hermione doesn't appear in the snippets of the movies that she's seen, my daughter had a chance to form her own mental picture. In my daughter's mind, Hermione is a bit more "girly-looking", with longer, more reddish hair, than in the illustrated edition. But of course the details are not the point. The point is that she has her own impression, not created by this illustrator or by seeing Emma Watson. This is something that I wanted for her, something that I think is important.

HarryPotterBook2IllustratedI doubt very much that we'll be able to hold the line on reading all seven books prior to seeing the associated movies. (Though perhaps, since she's not ready to watch those later movies anyway.) I think that the later movies are less important in this regard, since there are fewer new characters. Still, we can try. And in that spirit, I have already ordered the illustrated edition of Book 2

For what it's worth, I do think that the illustrated edition was worth purchasing for the first book (even though we have at least two other copies of the book). It's not just the pictures, though those have helped keep the attention of a six-year-old who isn't accustomed to finishing such a long story. It's also the large size of the book, and the built-in ribbon bookmark. These give substance to our reading experiences. They make reading this book an event. If you are teetering on the fence, I would nudge you towards purchase, at least for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Currently my husband and I are taking turns reading the book to my daughter, depending on who is home and available. This is working ok for the first book, since we both know the story very well. This will become more challenging with the later books, but we'll figure something out... 

What do you say, other parents? What has been your family's experience in introducing your children to Harry, Ron, and Hermione? Whatever the details are, I hope you've enjoyed it as much as we have. 

[Addendum: Katie's comment below reminded me of something. I actually DID read my daughter the first Harry Potter book once before. She was an infant, newly home from the hospital, and I figured that the important thing was for her to hear my voice. So I read something that I wanted to read, which was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I also read her The Secret Garden while she was in the NICU. Of course she doesn't remember any of this. I barely remember it myself, given the sleep-deprived haze.]

© 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 to books are affiliate links. 


The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island: Dana Alison Levy

Book: The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island
Author: Dana Alison Levy
Pages: 272
Age Range: 9-12

FamilyFletcherRockIslandThe Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island is the sequel to The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher (my review). Both books feature a family with two dads, four adopted sons (two brown-skinned and two white-skinned), two cats, and dog. This installment is set on a small island off the coast of New England, where the family is spending the month of August in a long-beloved cottage. The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island is an episodic story, with viewpoint shifts between the four boys and an entertaining mix of adventure and chaos. They're a bit like a more diverse, and more male, Penderwick family, off to Point Mouette

Although members of the family have been visiting the island since Papa was a boy, this summer things are a bit different. The old lighthouse located next to the family's cottage is fenced off, pending possible sale and/or repairs. A weird artist guy is prowling around making mysterious phone calls. The big house nearby that is usually empty is now occupied, and two teenage girls promise to be annoying. And the boys are discovering that as they get older, their divergent interests can lead to moments of isolation, even in the place that they look forward to visiting all year. 

The plot thread surrounding the looming fate of the lighthouse lends a helpful degree of narrative interest to The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island. While there are plenty of diversions around kayaking, picnics, and trying to teach a cat to swim (who knew that this was even possible?), Levy ties the story together around the lighthouse. A lemonade stand fundraiser for lighthouse repairs goes comically awry, and a common interest brings the boys together with their new neighbors. Through it all, Papa and Dad guide the boys with light hands, sympathetic shoulders, and occasional bouts of exasperation.

One thing I especially liked about The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island is that the family's status as a two-dad household is treated completely without comment. I've long been a fan of "incidental diversity" in children's literature, and I like to think that having read about the Fletchers would make kids equally blasé on meeting a new friend's same-sex parents. The book does take a direct look at racism, however. There's a scene in which second son Jax is presumed by a visitor to be a pickpocket, at least in part because of the color of his skin. This leads to discussions between Jax and his parents, and with an African-American uncle who can speak more from personal experience than can Jax's dads. Levy treats these discussions with a soft touch, not letting them overwhelm the book, and also not dismissing the fact of racism. Like this:

"Jackson," Dad repeated. "There are more good ones than bad. More Captain Jims and Officer Levees and Natalia Galindos and Elon Reynoldses than there are Sheldons. I wish there there were none of him. Seriously, if I could have one wish that would probably be it."

"I would wish for an invisibility cloak," Eli interrupted. He was sitting behind them, listening. "Think of how we could get back at Sheldon if we had that! Poison ivy leaves rubbed on the inside of his clothes. Burrs stuck in his hair." (Page 252)

And the topic moves on. The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island is most of all about the joys of summer, the outdoors and family. Like this:

Jax agreed, and then, since they had caught up to the others, the boys all had to listen to Frog sing his special ice cream truck song again and again until Jax threatened to gag him with his dirty sweat sock. And so they tumbled back to the Nugget, loud and laughing. The sun was low and warm in th esky, and the breeze had picked up, rustling and shivering the tall grass so that it looked like rippling water. The smell of the sea was stronger now, and Jax couldn't wait to head to the beach." (Page 22)

Spending a month in a small cottage with four boys, two cats, and a dog would send me over the edge, but reading about the experience for a couple of hours was quite enjoyable. Of course I'm not the target audience anyway. Kids who enjoy realistic fiction, about families and doing fun things outdoors are sure to enjoy The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island. There's such wish fulfillment in the idea of spending a month of summer in a beloved cottage on an island, with an ice cream truck stopping by regularly, and a puzzle to solve. Levy also includes quite a bit of mapcap, kid-friendly humor (particularly a memorable scene involving flying butter). In short, The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island is not to be missed. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
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).


Simon Thorn and the Viper's Pit: Aimée Carter

Book: Simon Thorn and the Viper's Pit
Author: Aimée Carter 
Pages: 304
Age Range: 8-12

SimonThornVipersPitSimon Thorn and the Viper's Pit is the second book in Aimée Carter's Simon Thorn / Animalgam series, featuring a race of people, hidden in plain sight, who can turn into animals. This review does contain spoilers for the first book. Simon, as introduced in Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den, has discovered that he is the grandson of two ruthless, competing Animalgam leaders from different kingdoms.

After growing up in seclusion, Simon is now living in the L.A.I.R, a hidden school located beneath Central Park Zoo in New York City. He's living with an uncle who he's not sure about and his newly discovered twin brother. But his real loyalty is to his group of three Animalgam friends (and a friendly mouse). In Simon Thorn and the Viper's Pit, Simon and his friends set out on a road trip hoping to rescue Simon's kidnapped mother and keep an important artifact from his grandparents. 

This second book is full of relationship strife: particularly between Simon and his newly discovered family members and (sometimes) between Simon and his friends. Simon and his friend Winter are both Hybreds, children born of parents from different animal kingdoms (e.g. bird and mammal, in Simon's case). With conflict rampant between the kingdoms, their situations are inherently conflict-ridden. Winter, in particular, struggles with the rejection from the bird-Animalgams who raised her, after learning that she transforms into a reptile, not a bird. Simon is never quite sure who to trust. 

Carter also explores the discovery by the Animalgam kids of skills that go along with their animal transformations. For example, Simon's friend Jam turns into a dolphin, and has a remarkable sense of direction. For Simon, this is more complex than for most, because of a secret regarding his own transformations. A secret that he doesn't even share with his close friends. For all of the kids, learning to work with and gain strength from their dual natures becomes part of the process of growing up, a proxy for other adolescent growing pains. For example:

"Jam straightened and pulled his padlock from the pocket in his jeans, fiddling with the lock pick still stuck inside. "The general planned my whole life for me," he said. "I've had a daily schedule since I could walk. That's just how we do things underwater--if you leave no room for error, there won't be any. But there's no room for fun, either, or figuring things out on your own, and that's what I like to do. I like swimming off in the wrong direction to explore a cave I've never seen before, and I like having an hour or two when I can do anything I want. But our kingdom is so big that if everyone did their own thing, nothing would ever get done, so I always feel like I'm stuck in a routine I can't stand." (Page 143, ARC)

Occasionally the growing up messages imparted to the kids by the adults (or by each other) are a bit more overt than I might personally choose, but  I don't think that this dominates the story. Carter has taken a premise that most kids find fascinating (what if I could turn into an animal) and built a fully-realized, conflict-laden world around that. In Simon Thorn and the Viper's Den she introduces readers to the luxurious citadel of the reptile branch of the Animalgams. Other branches are sure to follow in future books. 

The Simon Thorn books are recommended for kids who enjoy reading about fantasy worlds hidden within our own, and for anyone who has ever wished they could transform into an animal. I look forward to reading about Simon and his friends' future adventures. 

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@KidsBloomsbury) 
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
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 @TonySinanis + @cherandpete on #Reading + #Math

JoyOFLearningLogoLast week I found two articles related to the joy of learning that I thought were worth sharing in more detail. In the first, father and teacher Tony Sinanis urges educators to look more closely at school practices that take away the love of reading. In the second, math teacher Mr. C. shares his approach to moving from textbook-based math to real-world math, and the positive response from students. I'm encouraged to see these two teachers both encouraging others to make learning (whether reading or math) more joyful for students. 

HackingLeadershipGreat points here! A plea from a father to other #educators: Let's Not Kill The Love Of #Reading http://ow.ly/qOqa307H1UA  @TonySinanis

Tony Sinanis: "The list could go on and on but the point is that somewhere along the line the reading Paul was doing became more about meeting someone else's expectations than they were about nurturing and growing his love for reading...

I do believe that some of our instructional practices (many of which I was guilty of using as a teacher myself) are actually killing the love of reading instead of nurturing it. When did we stop reading for the joy of reading? Although I am not a literacy expert or reading specialist myself I do think there are some things we could do to help grow a love of reading..."

Me: In this strong post, educator Tony Sinanis writes from a father's perspective about various educational practices that he's seen that appear to be taking away his son's love of reading. He offers suggestions based on his experience, and also references several other articles on this topic (including one by Pernille Ripp, whose work I share frequently). 

My own daughter is only six, but I already worry about the practices she will encounter in school that I fear will dampen her joy of reading. (Reading logs, accelerated reader programs, book reports, etc.). I do whatever I can at home to make sure that reading is something she enjoys and looks forward to. But I shouldn't have to guard against my daughter's school HARMING her love of reading, should I?

I think that Dr. Sinanis does a nice job of discussing this issue without blaming teachers, by focusing on how the drive for accountability leads to practices that book-loving parents can see are not helpful. 

Teaching math? Get REAL! | Teacher Mr. C shares his journey from #math textbooks to real-world lessons @cherandpete https://t.co/n7F5Cx93it

Mr. C.: "(After putting away the textbook and taking kids outside for a snow-based lesson) The students were completely engrossed in their math and really seemed to be getting it. Their computations were based on something that was relevant, tangible and real to them....

Over the course of the following years I slowly strayed further and further from the math text to the point where I am today; the math text collects dust on shelves in the back of my room. Finding content is easy! Math is all around us and we have tools at our finger tips to bring real math to our students!"

Me: This post (via Dr. Doug Green) caught my eye because I try to do this with my daughter. Not only is real-world math more fun for kids, using real, tangible examples reinforces constantly that math is important in life. So much better than dry worksheets (no matter how those worksheets strive for relevance by using the names of kids in the word problems). 

© 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: January 6: The #Cybils Finalists, #ScreenTime + Book Controversies

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage (plus a couple of links from last week, when I did not post very much and did not do a roundup). Topics this week include: #arts, #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #math, #RaisingReaders, easy readers, growing bookworms, reading, screentime, teaching, the Cybils Awards, and The Snowy Day.

Awards + Book Lists

Cybils-Logo-2016-Round-SmThe 2016 #cybils finalists are here!! http://ow.ly/TJST307AP21  | Check out these well-written and kid-friendly titles, by category

#Cybils blog: 2016 Finalists: What’s Being Said | Some of our favorite reactions from authors, publishers, etc. http://ow.ly/97z2307J9jS 

31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 31 – The Best #PictureBooks of 2016 — @FuseEight  w/ links to another 30 #BookLists  #kidlit http://ow.ly/Is0D307CRRw 

A Final Review Round-Up of Books for Beginning Readers from @mrskatiefitz  http://ow.ly/hUCS307CRtT  #EasyReaders #ChapterBooks #kidlit 

Diversity

AFineDessertThe PC Police Crack Down on . . . Kids Books | Meghan Cox Gurdon @WSJ calls for creative space for #DiverseBooks https://t.co/KC1ucqNL4F 

A Renaissance of Children’s Literature re: quality + recognition of #DiverseBooks says @literacious  #kidlit https://t.co/cBbPVTFJmK

‘We need diverse books,’ they said. And now a group’s dream is coming to fruition. #DiverseBooks @washingtonpost http://ow.ly/bVRU307JD1q 

E-Books + Screens

Science Says You Should Still Keep #Reading Print Books Over #e-Books | @good via @drdouggreen https://t.co/0wTQH5BsEq

KindleFireToddlers + Touchscreens: What Does the Research Actually Say? @MarnieKaplan @bellwethered @LarryCuban @drdouggreen https://t.co/dvzLR1PRZX

Growing Bookworms

Easy Ways to Get Your Kids (by age range) to #Read More This Year @ImaginationSoup @ReadBrightly   | Under-schedule! http://ow.ly/N0mg307H68a 

ReimagingLiteracyThree Keys to Creating Successful #Reading Experiences for less than avid readers from @pernilleripp  http://ow.ly/6ABt307H128  | Patience!

5 Reasons to Try #Audiobooks with Kids from @growingbbb  http://ow.ly/vqVe307IRAm  | e.g. #5 Adds more #ReadAloud time into your child's day

Growth Mindset

Pokemon Go Helps #Teachers Develop a #GrowthMindset | a reminder to try learning from kids by @mssackstein https://t.co/5m1Tl5KSXq

Kidlitosphere

Morning Notes: #kidlit news from @100scopenotes | I WANT the #SnowyDay stamps coming soon http://ow.ly/5cTE307H4Vo 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

LittleHouseBigWoodsWhat #kidlit will survive 100 years from now? David Thorpe reflects on #LittleHouse + #GreenGables http://ow.ly/6bHJ307H4BR  @AwfullyBigBlog

I can heartily agree with some of @mrskatiefitz 's 2016 #Kidlit #Reading Pet Peeves http://ow.ly/A25f307s3R0  - esp. "prescriptive + preachy"

ParentingUnplugged Ideas to Keep Kids Busy (+ connect with them) While You Cook Dinner from @momandkiddo  http://ow.ly/NSkh307H4pd  #parenting

Schools and Libraries

Four concepts to help #teachers in Moving from a Classroom of Kids to a Community of #Learners | @bethhill2829 https://t.co/h3artQvBvS

STEAM

The #arts help kids with #math, critical thinking + fine motor |Cory Rosenberg @MotherNatureNet  http://ow.ly/pKJP307CS3M  via @drdouggreen

© 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


Little Big Girl: Claire Keane

Book: Little Big Girl
Author: Claire Keane
Pages: 32 
Age Range: 3-5

LittleBigGirlLittle Big Girl by Claire Keane is a particular take on what happens when a one-time only child becomes a big sister. We see various vignettes of "Little Matisse" as she scoots up onto the counter to "brush her little teeth" and puts on her "little shoes", shown as small compared to those of her parents. When she travels in the back of her parents' car, we see how little she is, compared to the big city. But when Matisse meets her baby brother, she has an instantaneous shift in perspective. Suddenly her clothes and shoes and fingers are big, in comparison to those of the baby. Keane tells us about this perspective shift in words, but she also shows us in pictures, with Matisse growing larger relative to the background in many of the later images. 

Two things make Little Big Girl stand out for me in the sea of new sibling books. The first is the use of the perspective shift, as described above. When else in life does someone go from being small to being big overnight? Keane's bold illustrations capture this beautifully. The second this is the sheer joy that Matisse shows in her every interaction with her brother, and his clear fascination with her. While I think that it's useful to have books in which the new sibling cries a lot and is annoying and takes away attention, I found Little Big Girl's pure focus on a positive to be rather a joy. 

Like this: 

"He slept in a little bed, and wore the clothes Matisse was now too big for.

Suddenly, Matisse realized that she wasn't actually little at all.

She was big."

The first line of this quote is accompanies by a tender image of Matisse kissing the sleeping baby in his cradle. The second shows her putting on his tiny little shoes. We see her medium-size shoes, still small compare to the surrounding shows of mom. And with "She was big" we see Matisse looking at herself in the mirror, a stylish preschooler with hands on hips, self-confident and growing more so before our very eyes. 

Little Big Girl is not a complex book, but it's a nice, positive spin on what happens when someone becomes a big sister or a big brother. The illustrations are heart-warming (just look at that cover above), and the minimal text will keep the attention of even the youngest of big sisters. Little Big Girl would make a great gift for anyone you know who is expecting a second child. Recommended!

Publisher: Dial Books (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: November 8, 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: January 4: Happy New Year Edition

JRBPlogo-smallHappy New Year! Today, 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 five book reviews (all picture books - I have several middle grade reviews coming up), one post with my daughter's latest literacy milestone (appreciating audiobooks), and one post with links that I shared recently on Twitter.  I also summarize my reading, and my daughter's reading, from 2016. 

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read one middle grade and three adult novels. I read/listened to: 

  • Sarah Rubin: The Impossible Clue. Chicken House Press. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed December 18, 2016. Review to come.
  • Charlaine Harris: A Bone to Pick (Aurora Teagarden, Book 2). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed December 21, 2016, on MP3.
  • Charlaine Harris: Three Bedrooms, One Corpse (Aurora Teagarden, Book 3). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed December 26, 2016, on MP3. I like this rather light early series from Charlaine Harris. It does not (at least so far) feature the supernatural.
  • Cate Holahan: The Widower's Wife. Crooked Lane Books. Adult Thriller. Completed January 2, 2017. This is an intriguing thriller told from multiple perspectives that will keep readers guessing, and was my first read of 2017. 

Looking at my list of books read for 2016 overall, I find that I read 50 children's books (not counting picture books), 13 young adult books, and 90 adult books, for 153 books total. In past years I've had a very rough goal of 50 books in each of the three categories. Clearly, my reading has shifted quite a bit from YA to adult books. This reflects that fact that I do most of my reading these days in the form of audiobooks. Adult novels tend to be longer, and hence better value for my Audible credit dollars. I'm also dipping into a bit more nonfiction in my digital reading. I don't have any specific goals for reading in 2017. I always want more time to read, and that's something for me to work on. Of course my biggest reading-related goal will be ensuring that my daughter continues to enjoy reading. 

IllustratedHarryPotter1My daughter concluded the year with 1406 books logged as read by her or to her. This was only a slight decrease from last year's total of 1446 books, which is pretty good considering that a) we read far fewer books than usual in November and December; and b) she's been including longer chapter books in the mix. Her favorite series to read on her own right now is definitely The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka. I even snapped a photo of her lying on the floor reading one of the books while my husband and I were still finishing Christmas dinner. We're also up to Chapter Four of the first Harry Potter book, and she is quite excited about that.

It has been truly amazing watching how her reading ability (not to mention her level of interest in reading) has progressed over the year. Many thanks to all of the authors and illustrators whose work has inspired her, and to the teachers who have helped her along the way.

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. I wish you all a book-filled and peaceful 2017. 

© 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 Princess and the Frogs: Veronica Bartles & Sara Palacios

Book: The Princess and the Frogs
Author: Veronica Bartles
Pages: Sara Palacios
Age Range: 4-8

PrincessAndTheFrogsThe Princess and the Frogs is a reinvention of the classic Frog Prince story featuring a princess who wants a pet frog, but who has no interest whatsoever in princes. Princess Cassandra has everything she could ever want, except for a best friend. She decides that what she needs is a pet who matches her favorite green dress and will play with her all day. The Royal Pet Handler eventually brings her a frog. She has a great time playing with the frog, right up until she loves the frog so much that she kisses him on the head and he turns into a prince. He wants to marry her, but she just wants a pet frog, and so sends him off to work in the kitchens. This happens again, and again, until a solution is found. 

Who knew that ALL frogs were princes in disguise? Hopefully this is just in Cassandra's kingdom, because otherwise, things could get a bit awkward. I just love that Cassandra, confronted by prince after prince, keeps saying: "Princes aren't pets. I want a frog!" She's a delightful heroine, with a big smile, round glasses, and a determination to play and read. Who wouldn't like her? 

My favorite page is one in which Cassandra has sent all of the princes away and is attempting to prove to herself that she doesn't need anyone. We have:

"Cassandra played in the empty courtyard and read books in the silent library.

But even her favorite green dress didn't make her happy. And she still didn't have a friend."

This is accompanied by images of Cassandra jumping rope, while two bored servants turn the rope for her, and having a sad tea party with a real cake and a stuffed rabbit. Finally, she sits dejectedly in a hopscotch grid. The bored servants cracked me up. And perhaps I thought of my own only child, constantly begging for playdates (though never with frogs). But I do quite like the way that Sara Palacios brings Cassandra to life. 

The Princess and Frogs is an engaging story featuring a non-traditional princess with a refreshing twist on happily ever after. It will make kids, especially girls, laugh. Recommended for home or storytime use. 

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: November 15, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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


Literacy Milestone: Appreciating Audiobooks

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter recently became a convert to audiobooks. I had tried them before a couple of times, mostly when we were in the car, but they never really "took" with her. I remained hopeful, though, and kept a couple of children's audiobooks downloaded in the Audible app on my phone. The other day she was lamenting being bored during a short car ride and I suggested that we try a new book: Pippi Longstocking (by Astrid Lindgren, of course, and narrated by Christina Moore). And this one took. She would ask for "my audiobook" whenever the two of us were in my car together over the next few days.

Then yesterday she was looking for music on her tablet (a Kindle Fire) and happened upon the audiobook section. She spotted Pippi Longstocking and immediately asked if she could listen on the tablet. She was finished with her screen time for the day, but I decided that audiobooks shouldn't count, and I agreed. She sat and listened for a while, staring at the cover image on the tablet, before I suggested that she could color or something and listen at the same time. This completely did the trick. I left her home with my husband while I ran an errand, came back 45 minutes later, and found her still listening and coloring, happy as a clam. And when she finished the book shortly thereafter she was thrilled with her accomplishment.

This morning something came up about how a teen we know likes to read on her Kindle, and I said that enjoyed that, too. My daughter piped up with: "I like listening to audiobooks."

And so a convert is born! Next up: The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright. She is already charmed that the youngest Melendy, Oliver, is six in this book.  Special thanks to Katie Fitzgerald, whose recent post about listening to audiobooks with her daughters in the car nudged me to try again with my own. 

© 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


Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure: Jennifer Thermes

Book: Charles Darwin's Around the World Adventure
Author: Jennifer Thermes
Pages: 48
Age Range: 5-8

CharlesDarwinAroundTheWorldCharles Darwin's Around the World Adventure by Jennifer Thermes is a nonfiction picture book focused on a five-year voyage that Charles Darwin took as a young man that strongly influenced his scientific discoveries. Charles, chosen to be the naturalist aboard a ship mapping measurements of South America in 1831, writes about his wondrous findings and collects various natural specimens. The book describes some of Charles' key discoveries at various points along his voyage, while rendering Charles as a real, accessible person to young readers. We learn about Charles' sea-sickness, for example, and how he felt when he experienced his first earthquake. 

Here's a snippet, to give you a feel for Thermes' writing:

"Charles dug up bones of ancient sloth-like creatures, including a giant Megatherium, buried on the beach. How many of these huge creatures once roamed the earth? Why had they disappeared? 

He studied the rocks and tried to figure out how steep cliffs and flat plains were formed. Was it possible that the shape of the land affected the animals' survival?" 

Thermes' illustrations are detailed, with labeled maps interspersed between images of Charles and his experiences. A map on the book's end pages shows Charles' journey as a whole, with an accompanying timeline. Although the main text is fairly detailed in and of itself, there are also end notes, sources, fun facts, and recommendations for further reading. There is a LOT here to keep an interested elementary-schooler reading and studying. My six-year-old was utterly engaged in Charles' story, though we did not pore over map in detail. 

Charles Darwin's Around the World Adventure is top-quality narrative non-fiction, featuring a likable historical figure, interesting plant and animal facts, and well-mapped journey. This is a book that belongs in libraries and classrooms severing first through third graders, everywhere. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (@AbramsKids)
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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