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Literacy Milestone: Getting Lost in a Book


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

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

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

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

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

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: March 10: Palindromes, #WorldBookDay + Rock Star #Librarians

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

Book Lists + Awards

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Events + Programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Bookworms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

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

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

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


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

Schools and Libraries

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

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

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

Social Media

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

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

Otter Loves Easter!: Sam Garton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @savitakalhan, @PsychToday + @EDmerger on #ReadingChoice and #Homework

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three articles that I've shared recently that I thought warranted further discussion. In the first, UK author Savita Kalhan shares a situation that she recently observed in a secondary school in which kids are limited to reading a pre-selected set of books on school supplied kindles. In the second article, for Psychology Today, authors Paula J. Schwanenflugel and Nancy Flanagan Knapp share an article inspired by their new book on the psychology of reading. They focus on the problems with limited students to read within narrowly defined reading levels. In both of these articles, seemingly well-intentioned schools are taking away students' love of reading by restricting choice. In the third article, Paul G. Moss outlines some issues with overloading students with homework, including the creation of negative attitudes. Such negative attitudes, of course, threaten the joy of learning. 

GreatExpectationsSad piece by @savitakalhan  about a secondary school that is sucking pleasure from kids' #reading by limiting choice http://ow.ly/H6w2309BCZT 

Savita Kalhan: "But I have noticed something very worrying, and I hope it is not a trend that is being repeated in other schools.

The use of eReaders, in some schools, has taken the place of paperback books almost completely. I know of one very large secondary school where every Year 7 and 8 pupil is given a kindle preloaded with books. Older years are given a nook. They are used for lessons as well as for reading for pleasure, apparently...

The kids are NOT allowed to read anything else other than one of the books on the school kindles. If they are caught reading a paperback book, they are given a detention!"

Me: I found the situation documented by Savita Kalhan simply horrifying.Talk about taking away the joy of reading. It's bad enough to expect kids to read from a pre-installed set of titles. But to punish them for selecting their own outside choices. Words fail me. Savita theorizes that this policy is due to the need for the school to be able to measure and document what kids are reading (to justify the expense of the devices). What I know is that if my daughter's school had a policy like this I would speak up, very loudly.  

PsychologyOfReadingYes! Why you should use passion + curiosity, not #ReadingLevels to help kids find good things to read @PsychToday https://t.co/6XJ2RxB2x2

Paula J. Schwanenflugel, Ph.D., and Nancy Flanagan Knapp, Ph.D.: "Most school reading incentive programs require students to read texts within a restricted range of their measured reading skill levels, either within the Lexile range just mentioned, or, if using another rating system, within five months of their measured reading levels... Many schools now even restrict the books students can check out from the school library to those at such “appropriate” levels...

Myth #1: Each text has a discrete, accurately measurable reading level...

Myth #2: Each reader has a discrete, accurately measurable level of reading skill... 

Myth #3: Readers should (almost always) read texts very near their reading level...

Passion, curiosity, and knowledge are at least as important as reading levels in helping children find good things to read. "

Me: There is a lot of detail in this article (excerpted from a new book), so please do go and read the full piece. There's quite a bit on the benefits to kids of reading above and below their suggested reading level. To me, forcing kids to read within some narrow range is clearly a way to take away the joy of reading.

I let my daughter, who is in first grade, read anything she finds lying around the house that catches her eye. (We have a LOT of books lying around the house). When something is too difficult for her, she'll plug away for a bit, and then get bored and find something else. I did teach her the five finger rule, and she finds that useful in identifying the books that she's not ready for yet. As for books that are too easy for her, I want her to enjoy those for as long as she likes. We just pulled a bunch of easy readers to donate to a book swap at her school. She was happy to jettison some of them, but some she kept because she loves the characters (Amelia Bedelia, Elephant and Piggy, Dodsworth, and, yes, Sponge Bob). 

If more schools could focus on what makes kids LOVE reading, the world would be a better, and more literate, place in the long run. 

HomeworkStrikeOverloading #homework reduces performance, stresses students + creates a negative atmosphere in classroom @EDmerger https://t.co/T0KMglJMHc 

Paul G. Moss: "Despite a new surge in notification tools, homework assignment still remains a lawless enterprise, with even the best of willed teachers being reduced to mavericks, having to set work for their students with no idea of how much work they have already been set by other teachers. The teacher cannot tell if they may be overloading them, and this results in a range of issues...

Students spend a long day at school, and the amount of energy it takes to then have to work at home and carry on the effort should not be underestimated. Students who are overworked face the very real possibility of burning out, either physically, mentally, or probably both...

Another issue that stems from overloading students is the creation of a negative attitude towards homework. Understandably, getting students to buy into the policy is impossible when the overarching perception is that the process is unfair, inequitable, and exhausting. "

Me: This article was written with middle and high school students in mind, responding to the situation where different teachers are assigning homework, and the overall homework load is too strenuous. [This was the situation in Greg Pincus's The Homework Strike.] I worry about this issue in my daughter's future. But the problems of excessive homework (reduced performance levels, etc.) certainly show themselves in elementary school, too.

My biggest concern in this is the last point from Moss that I quoted above. Overloading creates a negative attitude towards homework. And, I would argue, towards school and learning in general.

As with reading, if more schools had a focus on (or just paid more of attention to) fostering the joy of learning, students would be much better served. 

© 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. 

Upside-Down Magic #3: Showing Off: Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

Book: Upside-Down Magic #3: Showing Off
Author: Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins
Pages: 208
Age Range: 8-12

ShowingOffShowing Off is the third book in the Upside-Down Magic series by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins. I enjoyed the first book in the series (review here) and seem to have missed the second, but the third book has enough background that I didn't feel like I had  missed anything significant. The Upside-Down Magic books are set in a world in which everyone has one of five types of magical abilities. In some people, however, these abilities are "upside-down" and don't work correctly. When Nory, the son of a controlling school principal, turns out to have upside-down abilities, her father sends her away to live with a more free-spirited (and tolerant) aunt. The books center around the trials and tribulations of Nory and her friends in the Upside-Down Magic (UDM) classroom at their local middle school. 

In Showing Off, Nory and her fellow UDM 5th grade classmates are worried about how to participate in the school Show-Off event, basically a talent show with group performances by each class. Nory is particularly concerned because her father is likely to attend the event, the first time she has seen him since he sent her away, and she knows that he expects her to display conventional, rather than upside-down talents. Nory's friend Pepper is also worried about the performance, because her upside-down talent involves being unable to avoid terrifying animals (of which there will be many present). The story shifts between the viewpoints of Nory and Pepper as they work to master their unruly talents, and navigate various interpersonal relationships. 

Showing Off is a fun book that combines magical challenges with universal middle school issues. If it occasionally strays near to the territory of being lesson-y (as when one girl tells another that her friends never make her feel badly about herself), the overall light tone keeps it on safe ground (like when a character who has turned into a piano feels a bit "off-key"). 

I do like Nory's voice. Like this;

"Now here she was, six weeks into the school year at Dunwiddle. It was the first day of serious rain and her feet were soaked. But what was a girl to do? Wet feet were wet feet. Nothing to be gained by moping." (Page 5)

I also appreciated Nory's personal growth over the course of Showing Off, as she comes to realize her father's limitations. I think that the goofiness of the UDM kids' abilities in general will resonate with any middle school kid who has ever felt different or awkward. Which, I imagine, is most of them. The ending of Showing Off is satisfying on multiple levels, and represents a kid-friendly wish fulfillment that will leave readers eager for the next installment. This is certainly a series that belongs in libraries everywhere that serve kids heading off to middle school. Recommended!

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: December 27, 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).

Literacy Milestone: "I wish I had a book" OR Reading in the Car

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day, as we got into the car to drive home from her karate lesson, my daughter remarked "Oh! I wish I had a book to read for the drive home." And then she realized: "But it's ok, we can listen to my audiobook." Which we did.

The drive home from karate is less than two miles, and having something to read isn't really pressing, but I certainly appreciated the sentiment. When I was a child I would never have considered undertaking the 15-20 minute drive to my grandparents' house with a book to read. For longer trips I would carefully plan out which books I was going to take. 

Alas, thanks to motion sickness I am not able to read in the car anymore (with the wonderful exception of audiobooks). But it gives me great pleasure to know that my daughter can, and wants to. 

MagicTreehouseTigerShe'll still choose her tablet when she can (and the tablet was necessary on a recent cross-country plane trip). But I made a rule a while back that she is not allowed to use the tablet for drives less than 30 minutes. That rule is paying off now, as she starts to think before every outing "What book should I bring?"

When she was younger I tried keeping picture books in the car at various points, but it never worked all that well. My daughter had only limited interest in looking at picture books by herself. She wanted someone to read to her. [Perhaps because she was so accustomed to having someone read to her.] Now that she can read to herself, however, it's a whole new world. 

You may be able to hear my sigh of contentment from wherever you are. 

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

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: March 3: Mighty Girls, Library Sleepovers, and Playful #STEM

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #eBooks, #PictureBooks, Ezra Jack Keats Awards, free speech, gifts for girls, growing bookworms, libraries, parenting, play, raising readers, reading, schools, Sesame Street, and STEM.

Awards and Book Lists

PieceOfHomeThe 2017 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Winners via @tashrow @EJKeats http://ow.ly/zk5f309q3HZ  #kidlit

Some of the Funniest #PictureBooks of 2017, according to @FuseEight  http://ow.ly/1Ifq309rMkr  #BookList

Children's Books about Women in Politics and Women Activists, #BookList from @momandkiddo  #PictureBooks #nonfiction https://t.co/CYNoxODRUC

Diversity + Gender

Some fun stuff here: 60 Girl-Empowering Birthday Gifts compiled by @amightygirl | All $25 or less, w/ age recs https://t.co/8CUAmJJsIb

Editorial: Tear Down That Wall: @RogerReads @HornBook on the #ReadingWithoutWalls Challenge by @geneluenyang  http://ow.ly/EsKF309upJH 

Growing Bookworms

AllOfAKindFamilyA lovely story from @sunlitpages about #RaisingReaders: When a Book Finds You at Just the Right Time  #kidlit https://t.co/Z5ThJPanGE

How stuffed animal sleepover programs at #libraries encourage kids to read @CNN  #ReadAloud #RaisingReaders https://t.co/n0wvH7VpXv

Exploring Software + Websites to Support #Reading Comprehension for kids by @CompConnCarla http://ow.ly/WKXj309q0TQ  #teaching

This is fun! 12 Fundamental Truths About Having A Bookworm Kid | @msemilymccombs @HuffingtonPost https://t.co/0iloZwTgiU

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

LittleMenInteresting 3-part series by @gail_gauthier on re-reading her childhood favorite Little Men as an adult http://ow.ly/dxT2309q3gQ 

Based on relevant studies, @DTWillingham reports that paper beats #ereaders for now, but he thinks this will change http://ow.ly/IzhV309rCPz 

Interesting musings from @op_booklover on Shifting #Reading Genres: Less YA, More Adult Fiction | See comments https://t.co/QYUCdjJhec

On beloved childhood #kidlit characters who have not (so far) been appropriated into other formats http://ow.ly/pagA309q1t3  @FuseEight 


ResetChildsBrainThis is a really good post from @momandkiddo | 4 Easy Ways to Limit #ScreenTime : Practical Ideas that Work https://t.co/B6IITcyxCq

#Parenting: How Big is Your Worry? @NotJustCute shares tips for Helping Anxious Kids Find Calm https://t.co/BklLtws0nS

Schools and Libraries

On "conflict between the free-speech ideals of academic debate + a creeping self-censorship in the #classroom @WSJ https://t.co/UGY5IBiugf

10 Neuro Nuggets for Educators (e.g. "numb buns = lame brains") @adamsteaching @BAMRadioNetwork https://t.co/JRGMakyMpm 


How and why the lovable, mistake-prone Grover was selected to teach children about #STEM http://ow.ly/x99E309rMCE  @TheAtlantic @sesamestreet

From Dream to STEAM: Guided #STEAM Learning (for kids 3-5) Through #Play @VealHeidi @BAMRadioNetwork https://t.co/JBubqXWIY4

© 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 Fox Wish: Kimiko Aman and Komako Sakai

Book: The Fox Wish
Author: Kimiko Aman
Illustrator: Komako Sakai
Pages: 32
Age Range: 2-5

TheFoxWishThe Fox Wish was originally published in Japan in 2003, and was brought to the U.S. this year by Chronicle Books. Written by Kimiko Aman and illustrated by Komako Sakai, The Fox Wish is about two children who find magic in what might have been an ordinary day. The first-person narrator, a little girl, realizes that she has left her jump rope at the playground. She heads out to get it, taking her little brother (barely more than a toddler) with her. This is the first fanciful aspect to the story, really, since two children that young would not, today, be likely to just head out on their own without a word to any adult. Anyway, the children discover that the jump rope has been taken by a group of foxes, who are attempted to jump rope and singing a fun song. The girl ends up helping them (they are having problems with caught tails). At the end of the book, the girl has a chance to help a young fox's wish come true. 

There is certainly a message to this book, about how lovely it is watch someone else's wishes come true. But the message comes only at the end of a charming, if somewhat quirky, adventure. Kimiko Aman's text is quiet and contemplative, like this:

"But there wasn't anything left hanging from the tree branch where I'd left it.

Where could it be?

A big wind blew.

"What's that?" Lukie asked.

From somewhere nearby we could hear other kids laughing."


"Lukie and I were quiet all the way back through the park.
The light was golden and the air was warm, and in our footsteps I kept hearing the rhythm of the jump-rope rhyme."

Komako Sakai's acrylic gouache, oil pencil, and ballpoint illustrations did not originally grab me, but they've grown on me as I spend more time with the book. There's a remote quality to the illustrations, the children's faces just barely drawn in, that adds to the fanciful feel of the story. The Fox Wish feels like a tale that might be told at bedtime to children in Narnia. 

The Fox Wish won the Japan Picture Book Award, and it certainly has an international feel (though the children look more American than Japanese). I'll be interested to see how it's received by children in the U.S. Personally, I found the story charming and unusual. It left me with a good feeling, and a desire to see people's wishes come true. Recommended. 

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 1: #KidLit Reviews, Historical Fiction and Eliminating #Homework

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 brief issue I have four book reviews (picture book, early reader, and middle grade) and a post about a school that eliminated homework, and our own recent experience with homework. I also have one post with links that I shared recently on Twitter (I was on vacation the other week). 

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

  • Philip Kerr: The Most Frightening Story Ever Told. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed February 15, 2017. Review to come. 
  • Sue Grafton: W is for Wasted (Kinsey Millhone). G. P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed February 15, 2017, on MP3. This is the first audio I've listened to in this series in quite some time, and I enjoyed it. 
  • Deborah Crombie: Garden of Lamentations. William Morrow. Adult Mystery. Completed February 24, 2017, on Kindle. This book was closely tied to the previous book, and I wished that I had read them closer together. But I did enjoy it. 
  • Rhys Bowen: In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II. Lake Union Publishing. Historical Fiction. Completed February 26, 207, on Kindle. This is a standalone historical novel by the author of multiple historical mystery series. Set during World War II in England, before America joined the war, this book presents a nuanced view of people's thoughts and fears, as well as glimpses into the work of British spy agencies. I thought that it was fascinating, and hope that Bowen will produce a sequel. 

I'm currently listening to X by Sue Grafton and reading Amberwell by D.E. Stevenson (not having quite gotten enough of a British historical novel fix). My daughter did not get very much reading done over the past week or so, because we were on vacation in Disney World. She pretty much crashed as soon as she got back to the hotel room every night. She did spent some time writing journal entries on the trip, though, and I am certain that she will appreciate reading those later in life. Since we've been home we've been dipping into a mix of old favorite and newly arrived picture books. You can find her 2017 reading list here

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. 

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

Hats Off to You!: Karen Beaumont and LeUyen Pham

Book: Hats Off to You!
Author: Karen Beaumont
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

HatsOffToYouThe just-released Hats Off to You! is a companion book to the glittery Shoe-la-la!. In the first book, four girls declare their love for shoes. In this new title, the same girls are enamored of hats: dramatic, sparkly, eye-catching hats. The story begins with Emily, Ashley, Kaitlyn, and Claire in an attic, dressing up in fancy clothes, but lacking hats. They go down to a street fair conveniently located below and find a tent called "Chez Chapeaux" (yes, this is one of those books that will have the reader rhyming everything by the end of a read-through). They try on a plethora of hats before returning to the attic to add extra decorations to their selections. Only at the end of the book does the reader learn that the outfits are for a mother-daughter tea. 

Beaumont's bouncy text is read-aloud friendly and unabashedly glamour-focused. Like this:

"Oo-la-la! This hat's tres chic.
Mine was made in Mozambique.

Funky hat, to match my shoes.
I like the girly curlicues." 

She does vary the meter occasionally, to keep things from getting too sing-songy. Like this:

"Emily, Ashley, Kaitlyn, Claire!
Need to choose new hats to wear.

Hats and more hats piled up high.
Which hats do we want to buy?

Oh, my!"

There's almost a Dr. Seuss feel to the above example, paired as it is with LeeUyen Pham's jaunty illustrations of the girls dancing around the store, following the vendor. Each ends up with a leaning stack of multiple hats atop her head. The vendor's clown-like attire adds to the over-the-top feel of the celebration. 

As for the girls, they are adorable, with big smiles, and apparently boundless energy. They represent a range of ethnicities, with the hat-seller adding yet another gradation of skin tones. Each mom strongly resembles her daughter, and the book ends in warm hugs and thanks to the moms for all that they do. What mom wouldn't want to read this with her daughter? What six-year-old wouldn't delight in the crazy hats that end up on the moms' heads? 

Hats Off to You! is a delightful celebration of friendship, motherhood, and dressing up. It is multicultural without being "about" diversity, which is, I think, a great way to go when you can pull it off. While clearly aimed at four to eight year old girls, I could see Hats Off to You! appealing to that segment of little boys who like dressing up, too. It is read-aloud friendly and one that I look forward to sharing with my own six-year-old. Recommended!

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

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History: Walter Dean Myers and Floyd Cooper

Book: Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Pages: 40
Age Range: 5-9

FrederickDouglassFrederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History is a picture book biography written by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. In straightforward fashion, it traces the life of a man named Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, born a slave in Maryland, who eventually (changing his name along the way) becomes a writer and leader of the abolitionist movement, as well as an advocate for women's rights. Myers gives particular focus to Frederick's quest to learn to read. His owner's wife starts to teach him, but her husband fears that learning to read will "make (Frederick) unfit to be a slave." He's right about that, in fact, and Frederick eventually escapes to Massachusetts. 

This is a very text-dense picture book that refers (though it doesn't dwell upon) to mature matters, including the fact hat Frederick was beaten for arguing with his master. I think it's more suitable for kids in elementary school than earlier. Reading it with kids will of course spark discussion about slavery, the causes of the Civil War, early women's rights, and the militant abolitionist John Brown. Like this:

"When he was nineteen, Frederick fell in love with a free black woman, Anna Murray. But he was a slave and could not be with her as he chose. The lure of freedom because almost unbearable, but to try to escape was a risky business. Slaveholders did not want to lose their precious "property." When slaves who tried to escape were caught, they were often punished severely.

Frederick new he had to take the chance!"

I do have one quibble about the book. The text skips over the fact that British sympathizers bought Douglass' freedom from his owner. This information is included in a timeline at the end of the book, as is the text of the document officially freeing him. But as I was reading the book I found it odd that this wasn't mentioned. I'm sure that Myers had a reason, but to me it was confusing. The timeline is helpful, though. 

I was quite pleased with Cooper's illustrations, rendered in erasers and oils on board. The old-fashioned sepia tones transport readers to the time of the story. We see Frederick as mostly serious throughout the book, but it's a picture of him as a boy enrapt as the mistress of the house reads to him that tugs at the viewers heart. 

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History covers a lot of historical ground, educating young readers about Douglass himself, as well about America in the 1800s. Myers does a nice job, I think, of humanizing Frederick, while keeping the story focused on the facts. This, I think, is the right balance for a book for younger readers. His focus on the power of words also comes through without being didactic, and delivers a more powerful message about education because of that restraint. Frederick Douglass would be a strong addition to any library's biography collection. 

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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

The Goldfish Boy: Lisa Thompson

Book: The Goldfish Boy
Author: Lisa Thompson
Pages: 320
Age Range: 8-12 

GoldfishBoyThe Goldfish Boy is a very impressive debut novel by Lisa Thompson. Set on a small street in a suburb outside of London, The Goldfish Boy is about the mysterious disappearance of a toddler. The story is told by first person narrator Matthew, who is wrestling with his own demons. As Matthew strives to figure out what happened to little Teddy, he also shares clues with readers about the triggers for his own steadily worsening obsessive compulsive disorder. 

Matthew's voice is simply fascinating, unusual and distinctive, painful yet funny. So trapped by his fears of germs that he is virtually unable to leave his house, Matthew entertains himself by watching his neighbors out the window. He even takes little notes. This viewpoint and attention to detail position Matthew somewhat for putting together the clues about Teddy's disappearance, though he ends up needing some on-the-ground help from two neighbors. 

The two mysteries (Teddy's disappearance and the root of Matthew's compulsions) captured my interest. But it was really Matthew's voice that kept me reading The Goldfish Boy. You know you are in good hands when you find passages like this:

"I lived on a quiet, dead-end street in a town full of people who said how great it was that they didn't live in that big, smelly city of London--and who then spent most of their mornings desperately trying to get there." (Page 1)

and this:

"Mr. Charles could have been anything from sixty-five to ninety-five years old. He never seemed to get older. I figured he'd found an age he quite liked and just stopped right there." (Page 3) 

Here's one of many passages about Matthew's OCD:

"My bedroom was the best part of the house. It was safe. It was free from germs. Out there, things were dangerous. What people didn't seem to understand was that dirt meant germs and germs meant illness and illness meant death. It was was quite obvious when you thought about it. I needed things to be right, and in my room I had complete control. All I had to do was keep on top of it." (Page 12)

The Goldfish Boy is a book that has the potential to make young readers feel more compassion towards students who are struggling with inner demons. The other characters in the book, particularly two other twelve-year-olds living on Matthew's street, are complex and intriguing. We learn through flashbacks, for example, about Matthew's relationship with his childhood friend Jake, who is now a bit of a bully. Thompson traces Jakes's evolution from bullying victim to bully, and casts just the faintest hint of Matthew's culpability through lack of loyalty. Matthew's developing relationship with newer neighbor Melody, who has her own questionable habits, is both entertaining and thought-provoking.   

The Goldfish Boy is book that I think will intrigue both children and adults.  It has strong characters, a ripped-from-the-headlines mystery, and a protagonist with a unique and compelling voice. I was surprised to learn that it was Lisa Thompson's first novel. It is a most assured debut, and I look forward to Thompson's future work. Highly recommended. 

Publisher:  Scholastic Press (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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