Previous month:
January 2008
Next month:
March 2008

Posts from February 2008

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: February 19, 2008

Jpg_book007Tonight I will be sending out the new issue of my Growing Bookworms weekly 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 children's books and raising readers, all in a convenient email format. There are currently 206 subscribers.

This week's issue contains reviews of three books (two fiction picture books and one title for middle schoolers), a children's literacy and reading news round-up, and two Kidlitosphere round-ups with links to useful posts from the week. I also have the announcement about the Cybils Award Winners. (Note that the winner list itself may not display in email, in which case you will need to click through to see it.) Finally, I have the first post of what I expect to be a new recurring feature: Reviews that Made Me Want the Book. Content published on my blog this week that's not included in the newsletter includes:

The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains a subset of content already included on my blog, Jen Robinson's Book Page, for readers who may not choose to visit the blog every day. It is also my hope that parents, authors, teachers, librarians, and other adult fans of children's books, people who may not visit blogs regularly, or at all, will learn about and subscribe to the newsletter. If you could pass it along to any friends or colleagues who you think would be interested, I would be very grateful.

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! 

Children's Literacy Round-Up: February 19

Here is some literacy and reading news from around the wires and blogs.

  • Education Week looks in-depth into "concerns that money-for-achievement programs actually decrease students’ intrinsic motivation to learn and send mixed messages about studying." Thanks to the International Reading Association blog for the link.
  • Tamara Fisher's latest Unwrapping the Gifted column at Teacher Magazine is a veritable treasure trove of links related to gifted students and gifted education.
  • School Library Journal's Extra Helping has an article by Debra Lau Whelan about a recent study that found that found that UK kids think that reading is cool. For instance: "kids are quite proud to be labeled as readers, with 71 percent saying the description fits them just fine." The International Reading Association blog has the link to the full report.
  • The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune has an article by Steve Shank in the business forum section about the importance of children's literacy in Minnesota, from a business perspective. The gist is "If even a single child graduates from school unable to read, we should be concerned. But when our population of school-age children is shrinking and so many of them are at risk for illiteracy, we should call it what it is -- a national crisis in the making. Changes are needed, and they are needed quickly."
  • The Hub (Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia), reports that "Elementary students in Ontario are going to get extra help reading and learning in their school libraries. Ontario will provide school boards across the province with an additional $40 million over the next four years to hire about 160 more library staff." They give two thumbs up to Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, and I agree. Seems like every week there is encouraging reading and/or literacy news out of Canada.
  • The Canberra Times (Australia) has an opinion piece by Ilana Snyder that classifies the current media debates over literacy education as "the literacy wars." Snyder says: "At the heart of these battles are competing definitions of literacy... My view is that both psychological and social understandings of literacy are useful for teaching and learning purposes but that is not the point here. There is no single, correct definition of literacy that would be universally accepted. This lack of agreement about what literacy is helps explain the conflict between the conservatives who want to preserve valued traditions and the literacy teachers who are caught somewhere between the legacy of the past and the imperative to prepare children for the demands of the future." It's an interesting discussion.
  • The Age (Australia) has an article by Elisabeth Tarica about a program developed by a teacher from Victoria, Maggie Goodes, who has developed a program "to help teachers better understand and communicate with struggling students." Goodes has been using the program to help underachieving middle schoolers in New York City. The article includes a list of tips for helping an older child with reading. I especially liked this one: "Encourage teenagers to read easy books to younger children and siblings. Struggling readers can see themselves as successful readers when they read to younger children. They can easily read this type and level of text, and it can be rewarding for both them and the younger children." Thanks to Kelly Herold for the link.
  • As another idea for helping older children with reading, see this post at Literate Lives, about a parent-child book club. See also this post by Janet at PaperTigers, about how to help children grow into life-long readers. Janet is seeking to compile reader suggestions on this important topic.
  • The Menasha Public Library in Wisconsin is launching a program called 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, to encourage parents to read aloud 1000 books with their children before they start school. Read more in this Appleton Post-Crescent column by Kathy Walsh Nufer. The Kidlitosphere's own Tasha Saecker from Kids Lit is the director of the Menasha Public Library, though Tasha is not quoted in the article.

And that's it for this week. Happy reading to all!

Sunday Afternoon Visits: Newsletters, Poetry, and RIF

This post will be a bit shorter than usual, since I published a visits post on Wednesday, but I have run across a couple of things since then.

And that's all for today. Hope that you all (in the US, at least) have Presidents Day off tomorrow, and are enjoying a restful three-day weekend.

Blood Brother (Traces): Malcolm Rose

Book: Blood Brother (Traces)
Author: Malcolm Rose
Pages: 160
Age Range: 13 and up

Blood Brother

Blood Brother is the sixth of Malcolm Rose's Traces books. Traces is a young adult mystery series focused on a teenage forensic investigator living in a future society, with an intelligent robot as a sidekick. Luke Harding, recovering in the hospital from his last case, is assigned to investigate the mysteriously high number of deaths recorded at the hospital over the last three months.

Working on this case is difficult for Luke, who is suffering crippling headaches, and missing his girlfriend, Jade. But what really makes this case tricky is that one of the prime suspects turns out to be his own father. In Luke's world, children are taken from their parents at five years of age, and raised entirely in schools, with no parental further contact. Meeting his parents for the first time in more than 10 years is quite a shock for Luke. He finds himself caught between his emotions and his duty. He is completely astonished by the radical notion that his parents might love him unconditionally, and this realization changes him a bit.

As with the other books in the series, Blood Brother features an intriguing combination of bleak dystopian future, high-tech forensic tools and techniques, clever villains, and fast-paced action. Luke is a strong hero. He is smart, brave, and loyal. He maintains his humanity, despite his exhausting and soul-deadening job, and struggles quietly but determinedly against a system that forbids his marriage to his girlfriend (because matches are arranged based on like abilities).

Malc the robot adds humor, and emphasizes Luke's humanity through his own rigid though patterns. The book is filled with exchanges like:


"Your remark is in blatant conflict with expectation. I deduce that you are using irony." (Page 99)


"When I told him I was taking a thumb price, his face fell."

"Incorrect. Also, it is impossible unless he also had a face transplant and rejected the foreign tissue." (Page 160)

Malc also explains to Luke "the biochemical basis for the proverb 'Love is blind'." And towards the end of the book, he displays some traces of humanity himself.

The Traces books are a bit dark, and Blood Brother is no exception. However, the books are laced with humor, and offer considerable food for thought. Although Blood Brother is the sixth in the series, I think it stands alone just fine, and does not require the reading of the previous books. Blood Brother is highly recommended for high school fans of forensic detective shows, science fiction, and speculation about what society will be like in the future.

Publisher: Kingfisher
Publication Date: January 15, 2008
Source of Book: A review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Books for YAs and the People Who Love Them, 50 Book Challenge. See also my review of the fourth Traces book, Double Check.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum: Kate Bernheimer

Book: The Girl in the Castle inside the Museum
Author: Kate Bernheimer
Illustrator: Nicoletta Ceccoli
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

The Girl in the Castle Inside the MuseumThe Girl in the Castle inside the Museum is compelling and beautifully illustrated, though also dark and surrealistic. It's a very unusual picture book, one that stands out from the pack. The story is of a girl who, as you might expect from the title, lives in a model of a castle, inside a glass bubble at a museum. Children (like the girl pictured on the cover) peer through the glass at the girl inside the case, but when she dreams, she imagines children her own size, who can visit her.

Despite having many wondrous playthings, the girl is lonely in her castle. The creepy part comes near the end of the book, when the girl hangs a picture frame on her wall, so that the reader can leave a picture of him or herself, so that the girl "won't have to miss you at all." Now, inside her dreams, inside the book, the reader can keep the girl company. The last line is "Do you see her? She sees you?" It's deliciously creepy - the sort of book that kids will remember long after they're grown, though it might be a trifle scary for the youngest children.

Bernheimer's writing is spare, yet poetic. My favorite passage is:

"But, oh, it is beautiful!
There are moats and turrets
and bright shining lamps.
There are darkly winding streets
That gleam in the rain."

The writing includes frequent questions, and comes across as a conversation between the author and the reader. For example, "And what does she dream of, the girl in the castle inside the museum?" I think that this style will lend itself well to read-aloud.

Ceccoli's illustrations, rendered in acrylic paint, clay models, photography, and digital media, are simply stunning. The clay models and photography give certain elements of the pictures three-dimensionality, while other details are left for the background. Some of the paintings, especially those of people, feature blurred, dream-like edges, in keeping with the dream-like atmosphere of the book.

The two paintings of young girls, apparently sisters, peering into the globe around the castle are compelling, with large eyes that look real (although the girls as a whole are rather doll-like and surreal). The castle is a whimsical treat, filled with engaging and unexpected toys. My favorite aspect of the illustrations is the Escher-like flooring in the girl's bedroom, which makes it appear as though some of the toys are floating.

I think that this will be a somewhat polarizing book. Kids, and their parents, will either love it or hate it. It's definitely not for everyone. But for those with a taste for magical castles, and ready for a hint of dark mystery, The Girl in the Castle inside the Museum is not to be missed. The illustrations pull the reader in, and don't let go.

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (Random)
Publication Date: February 12, 2008 (available now)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: StrollerDerby, Book Buds (by Kelly)

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Sally and Dave, A Slug Story: Felice Arena

Book: Sally and Dave, A Slug Story
Author/Illustrator: Felice Arena (blog)
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

Sally and DaveI wanted a copy of Sally and Dave, A Slug Story, written and illustrated by Felice Arena, as soon as I saw the title and the cover. Who could resist Dave, a short, plump slug in a Hawaiian shirt, with sunglasses over his eyes on stalks above his head? Not me. Sally, I must admit, took a bit more getting used to.

Sally and Dave are two slugs. Here are their descriptions:

"Meet Sally. She's sensational at sports. She's sleek, slim, and simply stunning." (Accompanied by a picture of Sally holding a tennis racket and ball, standing on a soccer ball, and with superiority literally radiating from her persona in the form of lines.)

Meet Sally's neighbor, Dave. He's just a common fat slug." (With a picture of Dave lying on his side, waving hello, with a big smile on his face.) "Dave loves sleeping sideways in his own slime, and spending time sucking up salsa sauce he's spilled on his satin shirt." (The picture of Dave sucking up the salsa from his shirt-front, managing somehow to look happy-go-lucky, even as a waiter eyes him disdainfully, is priceless.)

In the story that follows, the contrast between Sally's active successful life and Dave's indolent happy life is shown on every page. Sally undertakes "synchronized swimming", while Dave undertakes "synchronized sipping". Sadly, the superior Sally is downright mean and condescending to the lazy Dave. Until, as the astute reader might expect, Sally ends up in danger, and Dave is able to draw on his own strengths to save the day, and prove that he too is "special". While this is a fairly common theme in picture books, the quirkiness of the two slugs and the s-repetitive alliteration throughout the book make Sally and Dave: A Slug Story original and fun.

I think that kids will find the alliteration particular entertaining. Arena misses no opportunity to throw in some extra S's. Dave sees Sally skate by one day while he's "slicing a salami sandwich". When he's in the shower, he listens to "Superfreak". He doesn't walk, he slithers, sometimes sliding in his own slime. And so on. It made me smile, and I can imagine three-year-olds laughing in delight.

Arena's illustrations also add considerably to the reader's appreciation of Sally and Dave. Rendered in (apparently) watercolor and pen and ink, the pictures have a faintly cartoon-like feel. Arena is talented at conveying the emotions of the slugs, despite their relatively limited facial features, doing a lot with the eyes and mouths. She also includes humorous details, like Sally's ski mask, floating above her head across those eyes on stalks, and Dave's bottle of "Slug Screen", which is appropriately short and fat.

In short, this is a highly entertaining title that is sure to please preschoolers. I think that the fact that the main characters are slugs, with the hero a boy slug, will make this book especially pleasing to young boys, though I'm sure girls will like it, too. In fact, I'm keeping my copy, because I think that when I'm in a bad mood, looking at Dave's happy face will cheer me up. Highly recommended.

Publisher: Kane/Miller Book Publishers
Publication Date: March 1, 2008 (but it's available now on Amazon)
Source of Book: A review copy from the publisher

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

New Blog Photo

I decided, after two years of looking at it, that it was high time for me to replace the photo on my blog. This is a hard thing for me, because I so rarely like photos of myself. But I do like this one, especially because when I look at it, I know the history of the uncropped version of the photo. In any case, it's high time for me to have a photo in which I'm not wearing sunglasses (it was a very rainy day, actually).

This photo was taken using Susan Taylor Brown's camera by an employee at Hicklebee's Books, during National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jon Scieszka's visit to Hicklebee's in January. You can find more details about that visit, and the uncropped version (with Jon Scieszka) here. Thanks for remembering your camera, Susan, for thinking to take the photo of me with our new National Ambassador, and for going to the trouble of sending it to me! Your thoughtfulness now has a semi-permanent place on my blog.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Reviews that Made Me Want the Book: Valentine's Day Edition

Today I am introducing a new feature of my blog: Reviews that Made Me Want the Book. One of the great things about the Kidlitosphere, of course, is the book reviews. People uncover all sorts of hidden gems, books that would never make the ever-shrinking book pages in print newspapers, yet deserve special attention. Despite the fact that I mostly skim reviews (because I have a keen wish not to know too much about each book before I read it), I frequently run across reviews that make me say "now that's a book I want to read." When this happens, it's usually a combination of the reviewer's ability to get across the essence of the book, and something in the book's subject matter that particularly appeals to me (or that I think will appeal to my blog's audience).

In the past, I've been somewhat haphazard about following up on these "I want to read it" pings. However, I've decided to change all that, by starting an occasional feature in which I list these reviews.

A couple of caveats are in order. No, I won't be making any attempt to keep track of all of the reviews out there. Kelly Herold used to do that, when there were a lot fewer blogs, and it quickly became unmanageable. Instead, she founded the Children's Book Reviews wiki, where a number of people organize their reviews. Sherry does a Saturday round-up of recent book reviews every week at Semicolon, also, and you'll find that a source of nearly 100 links during many weeks.

There are many, many reviews published on the blogs. I'll be highlighting those very few that awoke the "I want it" voice inside myself. I'll be focusing mostly on books that I learn about from a review, that aren't already on my radar. Or in some cases books that I knew about, but wasn't necessarily intending to read, until a reviewer convinced me otherwise. I'm not sure if the result will be of interest to anyone else, but we'll give it a try and see. Here is my first list:

Before Green GablesBudge Wilson's prequel: Before Green Gables. This one isn't quite a review, but I was convinced to read the book by an email from Mark Blevis from Just One More Book!, and by Mark's recent podcast about the book and the Anne of Green Gables 100th anniversary.

21td2dgixl_aa115_Zizou Corder's new book: Lee Raven, Boy Thief, reviewed by Bookwitch. Sadly, this book isn't available in the US yet. Bookwitch says: "Although set in 2046 it has the feel of a Victorian novel, with street urchins all over the place. They may use mobile phones, but it’s very Victorian." Doesn't that sound fun?

The Accidental Time Machine Joe Haldeman's The Accidental Time Machine, reviewed by Becky at Becky's Book Reviews. Without going into too much detail, Becky says: "No matter what I say from this point, it couldn't do justice to the book. It is exciting. It is fast-paced. It is funny in moments. The writing is definitely all witty and clever and oh-so-right."

The Adoration of Jenna Fox Mary Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox, reviewed at The Reading Zone. This one was already on my radar, but Sarah pulled me in with this: "An amazing science-fiction story, I would classify Pearson’s novel as dystopian. It’s a frightening look at where our society is headed and what might happen in our future. It raises questions of medical ethics, bioethics, humanity, and how far we are willing to go to save someone we love."

Star-Crossed Linda Collison's Star-Crossed, reviewed by Angieville, who said that it: "reminded me of a mixture of The Witch of Blackbird Pond and a more mature The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. Like Kit and Charlotte, sixteen-year-old Patricia Kelley is forced into a radically new life, but remains stubbornly determined to shape it to her will. Orphaned, illegitimate, and penniless, Patricia stows away on a British merchant ship bound for Barbados."

Brendan BuckleySundee Frazier's Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It, reviewed by Ms. Yingling Reads. Here's the beginning: "
Sundee Frazier has done a wonderful job of creating a dynamic ten-year-old character who loves rocks, scientific studies and Tae Kwon Do, misses his grandfather who recently passed away, has a supportive mother and father and a best friend to hang out with, and just happens to be biracial."

Piper ReedKimberly Willis Holt's Piper Reed Navy Brat, reviewed by Marcie Atkins at World of Words. Marcie says: "Are you looking for a book for girls (or guys) who have "graduated" from Junie B., but still need a good, short chapter book to keep them reading? This is the book." And that's enough to capture my interest.

Fog MagicJulia L. Sauer's Fog Magic, capsule reviewed by Becky Levine, in a list of her favorite books. Becky says of the fog: "it is magic. Fog cools, it hides, it changes the light. In Fog Magic, it leads you into the past, into a Brigadoon-like village that doesn't exist in the sunshine."

And that's it for today. These eight titles are now officially on my radar, because of the insightful reviews linked above.

The Cybils Winners Are Here!

Cybils2007whiteThe winners of the 2007 Cybils awards have just been announced. Here is the press release:

"Boy Toy" author Barry Lyga bests Sherman Alexie in teen category; Palestinian's childhood memoir also honored

Chicago, IL--This was the year of troubled childhoods, with a wrenching story of a middle schooler's seduction by his teacher clinching a winning spot in the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards, informally known as the Cybils.

Barry Lyga's Boy Toy was a surprise choice in the Young Adult category over heavily favored Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which won a National Book Award.

Judges cited Lyga's ability to reach "beyond sensationalism and straight into empathy, challenging expectations and assumptions on every page," according to the awards announcement at the Cybils website. "Lyga's prose is unflinching and the result is heartbreaking and unforgettable."

The Cybils team hands out awards in eight genres of children's literature -- both Graphic Novels and Fantasy & Science Fiction were also split by age group, for a total of ten awards. The other five categories were fiction and nonfiction picture books, middle grade novels, middle grade/YA nonfiction, and poetry.

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, Ibtisam Barakat's haunting account of the Six Day War won for middle grade/YA nonfiction, with judges lauding how the author "conveys the fear, confusion and tumult of war." At the same, they said, "It's also an excellent memoir of childhood in any culture: the broad injustices, the importance of trivial things, the mysteries of the adult world."

Not all the winning titles were so serious. The True Meaning of Smekday, Adam Rex's spoof of science fiction novels, won that category in the younger age group. Janice N. Harrington's impish The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County took top honors in Fiction Picture Books.

Nearly 90 kidlit bloggers participated in two rounds of judging; the first group waded through 575 titles nominated by the public last autumn. Their short lists were announced on Jan. 1 at

The Cybils are the only online literary awards, said Boles Levy, and insist on only two criteria: the books must combine both literary merit and kid appeal.

"We're not about dictating kids' tastes," she said. "But we're impatient with formulaic garbage too."

For More Information:

Anne Boles Levy
Co-Founder and Editor, The Cybils Awards

And here is a widget from Adaptive Blue showing all of the winners:

Please consider purchasing these winning titles, and showing the publishers through your actions that you think that the Cybils are an important award that can influence sales figures. If you buy from Amazon or BookSense by clicking the links in the widget (here or at the Cybils blog), a portion of the proceeds will go to the Cybils organization. Thanks! Happy reading, and happy Cybils day!

Wednesday Afternoon Visits: Valentine's Day, Anne Shirley, and Countdown to the Cybils

Cybils2007whiteHappy day before Valentine's Day, and day before the Cybils announcements! (If you're reading this on Thursday, they are probably already here). I've been delinquent in keeping you up to date on Kidlitosphere news, due to my recent travels, but I have saved up lots of interesting tidbits for you.

  • Before Green GablesFirst off, a not to be missed podcast for all of the Anne Shirley fans out there. In celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the release of Anne of Green Gables, Just One More Book! talks with Before Green Gables (the new prequel) "author Budge Wilson, editor Helen Reeves, LM granddaughter Kate Macdonald Butler, the Right and Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, LM Montgomery expert Betsy Epperly, publicist Alina Goldstein and the many voices of Anne Shirley enthusiasts." Did you know that there's going to be an Anne Shirley quarter released in Canada? And it's nice to know that LM Montgomery's family has been involved with this prequel from the start. But what's really wonderful about this podcast is listening to various fans talk about why they love Anne - I swear she's more alive to her fans than if she was ever real. Go listen. You won't regret the time, I promise. And for the record, Mark has convinced me to read Before Green Gables.
  • And speaking of anniversaries, February 12th was the 199th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Becky has a comprehensive post about Darwin at Farm School, with simply tons of links and book recommendations. This post is a tremendous resource for readers, teachers, and Darwin fans everywhere.
  • In a sad piece of book news, I learned from Educating Alice and BookMoot that mystery author Phyllis A. Whitney died this week at 104. It was fitting, however, that I read this news while visiting with my parents, because my mother and I shared a love of Whitney's books when I was younger (along with Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Daphne Du Maurier, as also cited by Camille and Monica). I had actually picked up one of Whitney's teen mysteries at a used bookstore earlier that day, though I didn't end up buying it.
  • Charlotte from Charlotte's Library has a tip for engaging reluctant readers that I haven't seen anywhere before: "on nights when I think it might be a struggle, I communicate only in written notes... And it gets him to read." She also references the use of notes as games to engage children, as illustrated in Elizabeth Enright's Spiderweb for Two.
  • Marjorie's most recent Books at Bedtime post at PaperTigers suggests "two resources which offer parents some tools to help make storytelling a joy for all concerned." She includes this wonderful quote from Australian author Mem Fox: "Please read aloud every day, mums and dads, because you just love being with your child, not because it’s the right thing to do."
  • Jennifer Schultz writes at The Kiddosphere about one of my favorite books: Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook. She notes: "Trelease stuffs his handbook with absorbing anecdotes from parents, teachers, librarians, and children. It's a wonderful read, even if you already incorporate reading aloud time in your home or school." I completely agree! Jennifer goes on to talk about two specific titles recommended by Trelease. In an odd coincidence, my local library blog also featured The Read-Aloud Handbook this week. Great minds think alike, I guess.
  • The Horn Book has published a new guide to relatively recently published sports books for kids, organized into categories. Thanks to Read Roger for the link. Food for many a reluctant reader on the list, I'm sure.
  • At Chicken Spaghetti, Susan writes about the neuroscience of Mother Goose. That is, she talks about "Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, by Maryanne Wolf, a cognitive scientist and professor of child development at Tufts. Her book looks at how children learn to read—or, in some cases, why they don't learn to read." It's fascinating stuff.
  • PostergirlzThe newest postergirl for readergirlz, HipWriterMama, has an important post about self-worth, teen dating, and violence awareness. She wrote this in honor of National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week, which was last week, but sadly, this information is relevant all the time. She especially urges communication, and closes with this validation: "Love is all about respect and empowerment. Love is about honor. Remember that. Because you deserve to be honored and respected. You are so worth it." A message for Valentine's Day, or any day.
  • Speaking of respect for women, Tasha from Kids Lit links to the 2008 Amelia Bloomer list, which "honors authors and illustrators whose books are feminist and expand the role of girls and women beyond the traditional." However, both Tasha and the awards committee lament the "small number of truly powerful, well-written feminist books for young readers, and by the small number of non-white, non-Western characters."
  • And speaking of non-white characters (well, of non-white authors, anyway), Mitali Perkins has the complete list of the Brown Bookshelf's 28 Days Later series of interviews for Black History Month. She's linked to the first few interviews - you can find the others at The Brown BookShelf. Also for Black History Month, Elaine Magliaro has several lists of relevant poetry and picture book biographies at Wild Rose Reader. You can find links to her wonderful posts, and several others, here.   

I must close by telling you how lucky I feel, reading all of these posts, to be part of such a wonderful community of smart, literate people who care about children and reading. I am truly fortunate, and in awe of the amazing things that all of these people are doing on their blogs and in their book-loving lives. Happy Valentine's Day! I wish you all happiness and chocolate.

Take Action to Support RIF

I wrote last week about the funding issue facing Reading is Fundamental. Today I'm here to tell you how easy it is to take action to show your support for RIF's inexpensive book distribution program. All you have to do is click here and follow the instructions to send email to your local and national elected officials. I tested it out this morning. All I had to do was enter my zip code and other information, add a paragraph of my own text (optional), and in about two minutes I had sent email to:

  • George W. Bush
  • Richard B. Cheney
  • Senator Barbara Boxer
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein
  • Representative Michael M. Honda

[Actually, I had to go to another website to re-send the message to Senator Boxer, because she requires some other form to be used, but I received a message telling me how to do it.] And that was it. Very, very easy! A few others I noticed who said that they also helped out in this way include: Susan Thomsen from Chicken Spaghetti, cloudscome from A Wrung Sponge, and Megan Germano from Read, Read, Read. See also Donalyn Miller's eloquent post at The Book Whisperer - she puts RIF's important contribution in a larger context.

If you think that it's important to get books into the hands of America's less-privileged children, please consider using this simple method to show your support for RIF.

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: February 12, 2008

Jpg_book007Tonight I will be sending out the new issue of my Growing Bookworms weekly 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 children's books and raising readers, all in a convenient email format. There are currently 199 subscribers.

This week's issue contains reviews of four books (two fiction picture books, one middle grade title, and one title for middle schoolers), a children's literacy and reading news round-up, and a Kidlitosphere round-up with links to useful posts from the week. The Kidlitosphere round-up was published a bit early, because I was traveling, and I hope to be back with more news within the next day or two. I also have an important announcement about proposed funding cuts for Reading is Fundamental's book distribution program. Content published on my blog this week that's not included in the newsletter includes:

  • An announcement about a book that I reviewed previously that's now available for purchase in the U.S. (The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd). 
  • A slightly off-topic announcement about the start of the new season for Jericho, a compelling television drama about ordinary heroes living a small town in Kansas after a major crisis cripples the US government. I highly recommend that you check it out. 

The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains a subset of content already included on my blog, Jen Robinson's Book Page, for readers who may not choose to visit the blog every day. It is also my hope that parents, authors, teachers, librarians, and other adult fans of children's books, people who may not visit blogs regularly, or at all, will learn about and subscribe to the newsletter. If you could pass it along to any friends or colleagues who you think would be interested, I would be very grateful.

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! And Happy Valentine's week! Don't miss the announcement of the Cybils winners, at the Cybils blog on Thursday.