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The Bodyguard Series: Chris Bradford

Books: The Bodyguard #1: Recruit, The Bodyguard #2: Hostage, The Bodyguard #3: Hijack, and The Bodyguard #4: Ransom
Author: Chris Bradford
Pages: 272, 224, 272, 224
Age Range: 10 and up

BodyguardBooks1to4Over the past couple of weekends I binge-read the first four books in Chris Bradford's Bodyguard series (helpfully released all together by the publisher for just such a purpose). The Bodyguard series is about a British teen named Connor Reeves who is recruited into a secret organization called Guardian. Guardian trains teens to act as stealthy bodyguards, especially for teenagers, providing a last line of defense that bad guys will never suspect.

The first four books actually consist of two separate adventures, each broken up across two books and marked by, of course, a cliffhanger in between. In both cases I found the first book, involving descriptions of training, as well as introduction of Principals (protectees), to be a little slow. The conclusions, however (books 2 and 4) were fast-paced and suspenseful. I read each of those in a single sitting. They have short chapters, and occasional surprising twists, making them a good fit for reluctant YA readers. 

In the first book, Connor learns that his father, who died when Connor was eight, was a military bodyguard who died in the line of duty. This understanding, combined with the Guardian program's offer of help for Connor's ailing mother and aging grandmother, pulls the boy in. He is, of course, a natural, though he makes mistakes, and has rivalries with the others from his team of Guardian trainees. He also struggles once or twice with flirtatious interest from his Principals (who are attractive teenage girls in both stories), though he also is interested in Charley, a wheelchair-bound slightly girl from his Guardian team.   

The books offer a fair bit of luxury, with descriptions of the trappings of rich, beautiful, powerful people. These are set against dangerous elements, including terrorists and pirates (the two primary types of organizations that kidnap the children of rich, powerful people, of course). While I personally found the descriptions of Connor's training less than enthralling, young readers who have read fewer adult thrillers than I have will likely find them more interesting, with tidbits about alert levels and self defense. And certainly young readers will be on the edge of their seats at the dramatic climaxes of both storylines.

The Bodyguard series is aimed squarely at fans of the Young Bond series and other relatively PG thrillers. It's timely, with a focus on terrorists and other dangers. There are deaths, but none of them (besides that of Connor's dad) are heartbreaking. There are plenty of guns and other weapons, as well as miraculous tech tools (bulletproof t-shirt anyone?). In short, these books are pure summer reading fun for kids age 10 and up. Recommended, and well worth a look for libraries serving middle schoolers.  

Publisher:  Philomel Books
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Source of Book: Review copies 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: July 26: Quoting from Books, Eliminating #Homework + #Kidlit Reviews

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

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have four book reviews (picture books through middle grade/middle school) and one post with my daughter's latest literacy milestone (quoting from / acting on advice from a book). I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, and one post with more detailed notes / responses to three recent joy of learning-related articles

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

  • Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos: The Adventurers Guild. Disney Hyperion. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed July 20, 2017, print ARC. Review to come.
  • Caela Carter: My Life with the Liars. HarperCollins. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed July 23, 2017, on Kindle. I couldn't put this one down. Review to come. 
  • Laurie R. King: Lockdown. Bantam. Adult Thriller. Completed July 13, 2017, on MP3. An intriguing story, told from multiple perspectives, about the lead-up to a violent event at a central CA middle school. 
  • Joy Ellis: Hunted on the Fens (Nikki Galena, Book 3). Joffe Books. Adult Mystery. Completed July 19, 2017, on MP3. I'm not generally a fan of stories in which some hidden enemy is sneaking around wreaking vengeance for unknown crimes. But I like the characters in this series so much that I was consumed by this story (if worried for the characters). 
  • Brett Battles: The Silenced (Jonathan Quinn #4). CreateSpace. Adult Thriller. Completed July 10, 2017, on Kindle. 

HiloBook1I'm currently reading Ararat by Christopher Golden and listening to Crime on the Fens by Joy Ellis. My daughter and I are still nominally reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire together, but our breakfast reading has been cut short by the need to get to summer day camp by a certain time, so that's going rather slowly. You can find my daughter's 2017 reading list here. For her own reading, she's currently quite into the Hilo books, graphic novels by Judd Winick. She's also been reading and re-reading El Deafo by Cece Bell, I suspect she's working to really understand a story that's thematically a bit above her age level. She incidentally refers to the book as "Cece". As in "Where's Cece? I need to bring it in the car."

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. Here's to more time for summer 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


Serafina and the Splintered Heart: Robert Beatty

Book: Serafina and the Splintered Heart
Author: Robert Beatty
Pages: 368
Age Range: 9-12

SerafinaSplinteredHeartSerafina and the Splintered Heart is the third book in Robert Beatty's Serafina series (after Serafina and the Black Cloak and Serafina and the Twisted Staff). There is little that I can say about the plot of this third book that won't give something away about the plot. Suffice it to say that the book starts with heroine Serafina in peril and continues by mixing strange supernatural events with brave action. Adversaries and friends from previous books play their parts. 

Serafina and the Splintered Heart is a bit sadder than the previous books. Readers who found those books too scary or too dark may want to wait on this one. But for those who loved the first two books, as I did, Serafina and the Splintered Heart does not disappoint. It is suspenseful, creative, and occasionally profound. Serafina is a compelling character who readers will continue to root for. 

As in the previous two books, the Biltmore estate is almost a character in the story. Beatty slips in tidbits about George Vanderbilt's dreams for the estate, as well as other historical notes about the time period. A fun one is when Serafina sees an automobile for the first time, and thinks (having seen sorcery in her life) that it must be something enchanted. 

There's not much I can quote without spoilers, but here are a couple of passages, to give a feel for Beatty's ever-improving writing:

"She had always been able to see things other people could not, especially in the dark of night, but tonight there seemed to be a special magic in the forest. It felt as if she could actually see the evening flowers slowly opening their petals to the moon and the glint of starlight on the iridescent wings of the insects. She felt the caress of the air as it slipped through the branches of the trees, around her body, and against her skin. She sensed the stony firmness of the earth and rock on which she stood." (Chapter 5, ARC)

and:

"The thought of it put a twisting knot in the pit of her stomach. But the truth was, she had run out of other paths to take. Her pa had told her once that true courage wasn't because you didn't feel fear. True courage was when you were scared of something, but you did it anyway because it needed to be done.... she had to stay bold." (Chapter 19, ARC)

Serafina and the Splintered Heart is a dark, Gothic story with an intriguing, three dimensional setting, strong characters, and a sinuous plot. Fans of the first two books will definitely want to read this one. Those new to the series should, of course, start at the beginning. But if the idea of a girl with unusual powers taking on mysterious enemies in and around an enormous, famous estate piques your interest, you should certainly give the Serafina books a look. Highly recommended for kids as well as adults. 

Publisher: Disney Hyperion 
Publication Date: July 3, 2017
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 21: #KidLitCon Registration, A "Flybrary" + #Writing Resources for Kids

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #KidLitCon, #PictureBooks, #STEM, #YA, book clubs, happiness, libraries, love of reading, math, parenting, personal responsibility, reading, screen time, teaching, and writing.

Book Lists (inc. 2 black boy-themed lists)

WhooshBlack Boy Joy: 29 Picture Books Featuring Black Male Protagonists | Charnaie Gordon  https://t.co/I8dI8ahrf0

Where Are All the Black Boys? A 2017 Assessment + Comparison (progress re. 2013)

The Refugee Children’s Books of 2017 and an Ode to The Arrival — from

that Promote Imagination, , questions to prompt kids + 1 new review from  https://t.co/S0iBNb93Dw

Books My (Struggling Teen Reader) Students Most Frequently Stole From the Classroom via  

Events + Programs

Airline launches "flybrary", spreading out 7k classic titles across fleet for kids to read on board  

Kidlitosphere

KidlitconLogo2017-SquareWithHeaderHey there + bloggers, authors + fans: Register now for the 2017 | Hershey, PA | Nov 3-4  

announces keynote speakers Rachel Renée Russell + + Floyd Cooper

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

For Women: How & Why to Start a with Your Friends | Building Relationships

AnneOfGreenGablesThe Crying Game (or Books That Make You Weep, every single time) by  

"my favorite back to school book of all time" (I think), on A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices

Helpful Resources for Young Writers for kids + from

Should fiction have to teach a lesson? No, says , quoted in piece by Alyson Ward https://t.co/P9XewpAzZp

Parenting 

HappinessTrack researcher says we're giving our kids bad advice about how to succeed in life  https://t.co/M8MJV9PXui 

Schools and Libraries

How Their First Card Teaches Kids Personal Responsibility |  https://t.co/JoUjo1jn4t 

Success for students should be “Any path that leads to a happy and healthy life.” |

Americans Oppose Segregation in Theory—but Not in Practice (in their own schools)  https://t.co/IcztIELvJo

CharlottesWebMotivating w/ different preferences + strengths to succeed in |  https://t.co/EwoZ03qogF

Making Your a Safer Place for Kids by cutting back on

Study Suggests College Students are Better Off without a Laptop in the Classroom -

STEM

Elevate program helps Bay Area 6th - 10th graders reach new heights in  

How a Shop Teaches Kids , Fine Motor Skills, and Entrepreneurship

Why a Colorado researcher believes preschool students should learn — and — with |

© 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


Wordplay: Adam Lehrhaupt and Jared Chapman

Book: Wordplay
Author: Adam Lehrhaupt
Illustrator: Jared Chapman
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-6

WordplayWordplay, written by Adam Lehrhaupt (Chicken in Space) and illustrated by Jared Chapman (Pirate, Viking & Scientist), is an introduction to the parts of speech for preschoolers and early elementary school kids, shared in the form of a quirky story. Basically Verb does things, but Noun can be things. When a peanut gallery consisting of Interjection, Adjective, and Adverb admires Noun a little too much, Verb gets jealous. But when a bee threatens the changeable but inert Noun, guess who is there to save the day? In the end, Noun and Verb figure out that they can do a lot more by playing together. 

Obviously, this is all very contrived. But it does rather work. Here's a snippet:

"Everyone watches Verb.

"Wow!" says Interjection.

"An impressive display," says Adverb.

"Very graceful," says Adverb.

Verb is happy."

In the above example, Interjection's name and text are shown in purple, matching his color (see cover image above). Similarly for the yellow adjective and orange adverb. Interjection's "WOW!" is shown in a bigger font than everything else. This consistent visual reinforcement continues throughout the book. Verb, of course, is red, shown in constant movement. Noun is blue and has an odd head shape, but also a friendly smile. They all have rather pig-like noses, in what seems to be Chapman's style, but they are surprisingly cute anyway. The bee is quite menacing:

"BEE!" says Interjection.

"A giant, frightening bee!" says Adjective.

"It's coming dangerously close," says Adverb."

You get the idea. 

Wordplay would be a great addition to any preschool to first grade classroom where the teacher is introducing parts of speech. It would make a good next-stage companion to Mike Boldt's 123 versus ABC and Colors versus Shapes books, albeit with a slightly less madcap storyline. Wordplay is a bit gimmicky, of course, but I like that there is a story - it's not just some dry explanation of parts of speech. It's also a celebration of friendship, which is always welcome for this age range. Wordplay is fun and, well, playful, and well worth a look for schools and libraries. Recommended. 

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


#JoyOfLearning Links from @PernilleRipp + @JoeOcalaNews + @ValerieStrauss: Reading Enjoyment and Eliminating Homework

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three articles to share with you. The first is for teachers on the need to work not just on students' reading skills, but on their enjoyment of reading. The second and third are both coverage of the decision by the new Superintendent of Schools of Marion County, Florida to eliminate elementary school homework and replace it with 20 minutes of reading a day. Every time I hear such stories, I want to shout them from the rooftops. But I'll settle for sharing them with you here. 

Yes! On the Need to Plan for Enjoyment "what (will we) do to protect the love of reading?"  

PassionateLearnersPernille Ripp: "And yet, while I gladly share what we do as I try to help my students become better readers, there seems to be a missing part in this curriculum conversation; the need to plan for reading enjoyment.

Why does this matter? Because our assumptions about what we can do to kids’ reading lives through our well-meaning intentions are wrong.  We have assumed for too long that kids will just like reading, no matter what we do to them in class...It seems, in our eagerness to create amazing readers, we have lost sight of the end game; people who actually want to read once they leave our schools."

Me: Instead of quoting Pernille Ripp practically every time I do one of these #JoyOfLearning posts, why don't I just suggest that if you care about teaching and/or raising kids who love to read, you should follow Pernille's blog and/or join her new Facebook group, The Passionate Readers Book Club. I'll just add that I wish with all my heart for all of my daughter's future teachers to care as much as Pernille does about protecting my daughter's enjoyment of reading. Kids who enjoy reading will spend time reading, and (for most of them,  anyway) the rest will take care of itself. 

This is great! No ! District superintendent does away with it for elementary schools by  https://t.co/bQ7qqnbXXo

Joe Callahan: "Parents of Marion County’s 20,000 elementary school students will no longer have to badger their young children to do those worksheets, spelling words and math problems. That’s because Superintendent Heidi Maier on Wednesday issued a “no homework” mandate to teachers at 31 elementary schools for the 2017-18 school year, citing research that shows young children do better in school when they are given a break from the rigors of a typical school day.

The district alerted educators of the new mandate in an automated voice message Wednesday evening. It was sent to more than 1,200 elementary teachers in all of the district’s K-5 schools. Maier said the research is clear that homework causes more harm than good...

School District spokesman Kevin Christian said that instead of homework assignments, parents will be asked to read with their children for 20 minutes every evening. Maier said the district will send out an automated voice message to parents asking them to spend 20 minutes of quality time reading with their children. And the actual type of book is something the parent and child should pick, or what she calls self-selection.

“It does not have to be Emily Bronte (‘Wuthering Heights’), it can be ‘Barbie Gets Her Nails Done,’ ” said Maier, adding that the Barbie book example was not an actual book. Research shows that when a caring adult sits together with their child reading it can increase reading comprehension, Maier noted."

Me: How great is this? I love it! I wish our elementary school district would do it. I especially love that the district is asking parents to read with their kids every night, instead of doing homework. As my dad pointed out in response to my sharing this on Facebook, if kids read for 20 minutes they are likely to get invested in what they are reading, and keep reading for even longer.

Valerie Strauss has a bit more on Heidi Maier's decision below. 

Why this superintendent is banning — and asking kids to instead by  https://t.co/t9a51jTNLM

Valerie Strauss: "Heidi Maier, the new superintendent of the 42,000-student Marion County public school district in Florida, said in an interview that she made the decision based on solid research about what works best in improving academic achievement in students.

(That may seem like something of a no-brainer, but in the world of education, policymakers are notorious for making a great deal of policy without knowing and/or caring about what the best research shows.)

The policy will apply to all elementary school students in the district — about 20,000 — but not to middle or high school students. Maier, an expert on reading acquisition who started running Marion schools in November after serving as lead professor of teacher education at the College of Central Florida, said she is basing her decision on research showing that traditional homework in the early years does not boost academic performance but reading — and reading aloud — does...

Maier said that students would be allowed to select their own reading material and would get help from teachers and school libraries. For those children who have no adult at home to help them read — the same students who had no adult at home to help them with their traditional homework — volunteers, audiobooks and other resources will be made available."

Me: I think I love Heidi Maier, sight unseen. Here she is, brand new superintendent of the district, and she just sends this out over the summer. She says in this article that feedback from parents has been mostly positive, but I'm sure she's dealing with a fair bit of pushback, too. More power to her!

If all teachers in the US focused on nurturing the enjoyment of reading, and all elementary schools replaced other homework with free choice-based reading time, I believe that there would be measurable positive results in reading scores, number of books read, percentage of students reading for enjoyment, and so on. I believe that kids around the country would be happier, and become better, more confident readers. I know that many parents would be happier, too. Perhaps someday... 

© 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. 


Secrets I Know: Kallie George and Paola Zakimi

Book: Secrets I Know
Author: Kallie George
Illustrator: Paola Zakimi
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6

SecretsIKnowSecrets I Know, written by Kallie George and illustrated by Paola Zakimi, is a gentle story about play, alone and with a friend, and appreciating the outdoors. It's not so much a story as a series of connected incidents, each described by a short sentence, taking place over the course of a day in the life of a little girl. The text, with simple vocabulary, and the incidents that take place, are all preschooler-friendly. No parents are visible anywhere in the story, which takes place mainly in the girl's backyard. 

The text is quiet, like this (across the first 3 page spreads):

"Secrets are for whispering.

Whispers hide in trees.

Trees make great umbrellas."

Even reading this to myself, I wanted to whisper. I think that the way the sentences connect from page to page, "whispering" to "whispers", etc., lends a poetry to the text. It feels like a perfect bedtime book to me. But I can also imagine using Secrets I Know for more interactive reading. Once your preschooler picks up on the pattern, you can ask her to predict what's going to happen next. 

I just love that this girl is out by herself, on a slightly rainy day, playing in a very simple treehouse, having a tea party for her toys in the sandbox, using an umbrella as a pretend boat, etc. Then when she goes next door to find her friend, things get a bit more complex (building a robot costume, taking down a telescope from a shelf). There's a timeless feel to all of this, and one can imagine it inspiring kids to want to play imagination games on their own. 

Zakimi's illustrations (drawn in pencil and digitally colored) are lovely, and perfectly complement the story. Zoom in on that cover, if you will. The nameless little girl is adorable, from her wavy brown hair down to her ballet-flat-covered feet. Her friend is African-American, adding a bit of seamless, unselfconscious diversity. The back yard is delightful, full of trees and puddle, with the girl's cozy-looking house in the background, and a dog cavorting about, lending subtle humor. I especially liked the illustrator's use of light, as the day shifts from rain to sunlight to evening stars. 

Secrets I Know is one of those books that you appreciate a little bit more on each reading. If it had been around when my daughter was three, I believe this would have been one that we read every night and referred to during the day ("Together, friends are ladders" or "You can sweeten tea with sunshine"). I think it would make the perfect gift for a three or four year old, and an excellent choice for library storytime. Secrets I Know is highly recommended, and going on my "to give as gifts" list. 

Publisher:  Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: May 23, 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: Quoting from a Book

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day my daughter was working on a self-selected science project of sorts. She was trying to set up a pulley system with yarn to raise and lower a pool towel over our staircase. The idea was to be able to pull on one end of the yarn and have the towel rise up out of the way. She had a few setbacks, however, in getting this to work. This may have been because she had no actual pulleys. After one of the experiments failed she became briefly frustrated. But then she said:

"Well, Mommy, the only true failure can come if you quit."

RosieRevereThis was pretty much a direct quote from Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, one of our mutual favorites. And it made me so happy to hear it. Because she's taking lessons she learned from books and applying them in her life. Because she is demonstrating growth mindset. Because she is seven, and sometimes she does get frustrated and quit. But not that day, because she thought of what a character in a book would do. And she tried again. 

For the record, she kept trying, and eventually did get the towel to lift up as she had hoped. Thank you, Andrea Beaty! (And thank you Abrams Books for publishing this wonderful series, which I cannot recommend highly enough.)

© 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: July 14: Reading Choice, Bookish Desserts, and Writing Resources

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics for this very light week include #audiobooks, #GrowthMindset, #ReadAloud, #STEM, #SummerReading, funny books, growing bookworms, libraries, reading, reading choice, schools, special education, and writing.

Growing Bookworms / Summer Reading

BabysittersClub4Light and Silly Books Make Good for younger kids via  https://t.co/UGHYUbnKzd

How to to a Child That Won’t Sit Still |  

In Defense of Free Choice Independent | | "Our students are counting on us" https://t.co/SnPxBliUWW

Giving kids choice: "kids need to learn to read for fun rather than what’s required of them"  https://t.co/XtcaNzfShm

CharlottesWebAudioRoundup of sources for downloading for you & your kids for from

Why We Don't Do at the Public , by librarian | similar reasons in my house

Growth Mindset / Learning

My Son Is In And I Want Him To Be Challenged : Margaret Gilmour

A stressed-out childhood could seriously ruin your kid’s brain | via  https://t.co/RwC9ddR2bz

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

CharlieChocolateFactoryShari’s Berries’ 20 Desserts Inspired By Children’s Books –    

Teachers: great roundup of resources for your classroom from + more 

7 Tips for How to Read Faster (and Still Understand What You Read) |

Discussion from : Finding Connections Between (Otherwise Dissimilar) Books https://t.co/ZXfSMjf0vQ

STEM

Books for Kids: The Truth is Out There — |

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


The Girl Who Ran: Frances Poletti, Kristina Yee, and Susanna Chapman

Book: The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, the First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon
Author: Frances Poletti & Kristina Yee
Illustrator: Susanna Chapman
Pages: 48
Age Range: 4-8

GirlWhoRanThe Girl Who Ran recounts the true story of Bobbi Gibb, who from childhood loved running. When Bobbi learned about The Boston Marathon she wanted to run. But in her day (the 60's), women weren't allowed to run marathons. People believed that they weren't strong enough, and would injure themselves. So, after training on her own, running across the country and camping at night, Bobbi dressed up like a man and successfully completed the 1966 Boston Marathon. Bobbi's story definitely held my interest. 

I did feel like the book could have provided a bit more detail to Bobbi's story. What year was Bobbi born? How old was she when she ran the marathon? Where did she grow up? But I suppose it's not difficult for young readers who are inspired by Bobbi's story to look her up.  And this is more a book describing one thing about someone's history, rather than a full-fledged biography. Certainly it is an inspiring story. Here's a girl who loved doing something, was told "no" repeatedly, including by her parents, and found a way to do it anyway. 

In the book's presentation, all of the men around her who realized that she was a woman during the race were supportive, as were spectators along the route. While I found myself a tad skeptical of the universal support once she was already in the race (in contrast to the universal condemnation of the idea prior to the race), I think that this upbeat portrayal will encourage young readers. I liked that the authors, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, made it clear that finishing the race was difficult for Bobbi, but that she gritted it out.

Their writing style is a mix of narrative text, words from the people around her, and the occasional poetic couplet. The book's formatting keeps these three methods distinct. Like this, on one page spread:

"The cheers were a roar. And Bobbi needed it. The ground was hard, her new shoes were stiff, and the final hill was still ahead.

But she couldn't stop now, though she ached and perspired,
and the world whooshed by, like the wind in the fire."

This text is shown at the bottom of the pages, while near the top, above the picture of Bobbi running, the words from the bystanders are shown in various fonts: "It's a girl!" "Go, girl, go!", etc. Different fonts for different voices. My seven-year-old, when I read this with her, will want to read every one of those aloud herself.

The poetic couplets are always in italics, and repeat the "like the wind in the fire" refrain. It's a bit unconventional, this mix of narration, exhortations, and poetry, but it worked for me. And I quite liked Susanna Chapman's illustrations. When Bobbi runs, we see a kind of streamer trail, in red, yellow and orange, a visual representation of her joy in running. There's a fold-out spread showing when she crosses the finish line of the marathon, with plenty of white space, and which adds to the epic feel of Bobbi's accomplishment. 

The Girl Who Ran is the very prototype of inspirational nonfiction picture book. It leaves the reader feeling happy. The fact that it's about a single aspect of the protagonist's life, rather than a chronicle of her full history, could make The Girl Who Ran work for those who are not such fans of biography, but just want a good story. Despite the two authors and separate illustrator, and the multiple narrative methods, the whole package works seamlessly together. The Girl Who Ran is a book that certainly belongs in libraries. It would also make a good classroom read-aloud for first or second graders, perhaps in the week prior to the school fitness run. I look forward to reading this with my daughter. Recommended!

Publisher: Compendium 
Publication Date: June 13, 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: July 12: Keeping a Diary and Selecting Comfort Reads

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 relatively brief issue I have four book reviews (picture books through middle grade/middle school) and one post with my daughter's latest literacy milestone (keeping a diary). I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I finished three adult novels.  I read/listened to: 

AdventurersGuildI'm currently reading The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos and listening to Lockdown by Laurie R. King. My daughter and I are still reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire together, as we will be for a while. You can find her 2017 reading list here. I've noticed that her comfort reading these days consists primarily of Jarrett Krosoczka's Lunch Lady graphic novels. She had a tiring couple of days of sporting and social events this weekend, and when she disappeared for a while I thought she might be sleeping. But no. She came back down having read (for at least the fifth time each) the last two Lunch Lady books. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. Here's to lots more summer 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


The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid: Kara LaReau + Matt Myers

Book: The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid
Author: Kara LaReau
Illustrator: Matt Myers
Pages: 96
Age Range: 6-9

RatsosNotAfraidThe Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid is the sequel to The Infamous Ratsos (reviewed here), in what I hope will be a continuing early reader/early chapter book series by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Myers.  Brothers Louie and Ralphie live with their dad, Big Lou, and the memory of their deceased mother. In this book, the brothers decide to clean up a vacant lot in their neighborhood so that they can set up carnival-style arcade games for their friends. In the course of the project, both brothers have to overcome fears. For Louie, it's a fear of ghosts in the ramshackle house next to the vacant lot. For Ralphie, there's fear of being laughed at by his peers (over an incident with a girl). Luckily, the boys get solid advice from their father that helps along the way.

Can I just say, as a parent, that I love Big Lou? He's a good example to his boys, in a matter-of-fact way. Like when Ralphie talks about a girl in his class who stinks (images reveal her to be a skunk), so that no one has even gone near her. Big Lou says: "Then how do you know she stinks?" That's all, then he drops it. Then when Ralphie claims not to be afraid of anything, he says: "Really? I'm afraid of lots of things." Only when the boys ask how he copes does he say: "By reminding myself that I'm the boss of me, not my fears." All this while he's plying them with spaghetti and meatballs. He's this big, tough guy, but gives his boys the tools that they need. It's nicely done. 

The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid is what I would characterize as a very early chapter book. There are 10 short chapters in 96 pages, with full or partial page illustrations every couple of pages. The line spacing is wide, the sentences are mostly brief, and there is plenty of dialog to keep things moving. Here's a snippet, to give you a feel:

"Chad's stomach growls. "We'd better be done soon. It's almost dinnertime," he says. The Ratsos used to think Chad was mean, until they realized he gets cranky when he's hungry, which is almost all the time.

"Never fear," says Ralphie. "I brought emergency snacks for Carl."" (Page 15, ARC)

I feel like the formatting and vocabulary of the book overall keeps it accessible to very new readers, while the storyline itself retains appeal for slightly older kids (say first and second graders). There's a lovely vibe of kids playing unsupervised together in a neighborhood that kids and adults will find appealing. There's also a whole elementary school dynamic of kids being teased about "kissing in a tree", and the deep embarrassment that comes from being laughed at. But with a soft touch. 

Myers' illustrations lend humor to the story, and capture a lower income urban setting that is too rare in children's books (brick apartment buildings in the background with lines of laundry stretching between them, various junk in the vacant lot, etc.). We see Louie's terror when he approaches the possibly haunted house, as wavy lines show him shaking. And when Ralphie stands up on a bench at school and yells out a brave declaration, any reader will smile at the image. 

Although my daughter has moved on to reading longer, more dense books than The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid, I'm going to give it to her anyway. I think she'll appreciate the central lesson about not giving into your fears, as well as less direct examples in the book of doing the right thing. All set against a backdrop of kids playing and working together on a fun project. What is not to love about that? Highly recommended, and well worth purchasing for libraries serving new readers. 

Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick) 
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).