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Posts from March 2009

Children's Literacy Round-Up: March 30

Terry_readingtubfinal_1 This week’s children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, is now available at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, The Reading Tub's blog. This week Terry Doherty has collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; raising readers; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; grants, sponsorships & donations; and other new resources.

I'm very appreciative of Terry's efforts this week. It was my turn to do the round-up, but I've been knocked off-kilter by a family crisis back in Boston, and Terry graciously stepped in to help. I should be back to blogging in a few days. Thanks for your patience. In the meantime, you can get your fill of literacy and reading news at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub.

Also, this month's Carnival of Children's Literature is now available at Jenny's Wonderland of Books. I've got a bunch of other Kidlitosphere news stored up for when I get back, but Jenny Schwartzberg has a lovely array of Irish-green links available right now to brighten your week. Don't miss it!

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2009

I know, I'm supposed to be taking a short break. But I couldn't let this news pass. Via Bookwitch:

"This year’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award goes to the Tamer Institute for Community Education in Ramallah. They have been working for twenty years to get children and teenagers in Gaza and the West Bank to read.

It was founded to help children read and receive an education when the unrest meant that they couldn’t go to school. They hold writing workshops, and help train librarians and they supply libraries with books. Since the start they have also published over a hundred books, as there were practically no Palestinian children’s books at the time."

Like Bookwitch, I think that a literacy organization like this will be able to do great things with this money (5 million kroner ~= $600,000), and I'm happy to hear about this selection. See more details in the School Library Journal article and on I love this award, which demonstrates such a strong appreciation for children's literacy!

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 24

Jpg_book007Today I will be sending out the new issue of the 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. There are currently 691 subscribers. 

This week I have two book reviews, a post with Kidlitosphere news, and a link to this week's children's literacy roundup at The Reading Tub. I also have an announcement about a book previously reviewed that's now available (Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson) and an installment of my recurring reviews that made me want the book feature.

This week I read the most recent title in Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series, Another Thing to Fall,  and found it a worthy addition to the series. It's just out in paperback. I also read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer (more on that will be forthcoming) and two young adult novels (Ghost Huntress: The Awakening and Streams of Babel, reviews of both included. I also watched two movies made from young adult books: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Twilight. Of the two, I was more wowed by Twilight, which actually made me want to go back and re-read the book.

I'm going to be taking a few days off from the blog after this post, and may not be able to send the newsletter next week, but I'll be back as soon as I can. I hope you'll all keep reading in the meantime. Thanks for growing bookworms!

Children's Literacy Round-Up: March 23

Terry_readingtubfinal_1 This week’s children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, is now available at the Reading Tub's new blog. This week Terry Doherty has collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; raising readers; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; grants, sponsorships & donations; and other new resources. There's really too much great stuff for me to even begin to know what to highlight for you.

30poets30days But I will include one update. Terry mentioned that Gregory K would be making an announcement today about his plans for National Poetry Month (April). That announcement is now up at GottaBook. Greg will be hosting 30 Poets / 30 Days, a month-long celebration of children's poetry (image credit to Gregory K). Click through to see his amazing line-up of poets, each of whom will be sharing a previously unpublished poem at GottaBook. Don't miss it.

Book WhispererAlso, since Terry mentioned Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, in the round-up, this seems like a good time to announce that I'm actually mentioned in Donalyn's recently published book: The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. Isn't that neat? I'm excited about it, anyway. I'm working on a review, but it's taking me a while, because I seriously have about 100 post-it flags marking passages. But let me just tell you that if you are at all interested in encouraging children as readers, most especially if you are a teacher, this is a must-read title. Sarah Mulhern said something at The Reading Zone to the effect that we should find a way to get a copy of this book into every teacher's hands, and I agree. But for now, I'm highly, highly recommending it here. (And, ok, perhaps I'm not objective, because of the whole mentioned in the book thing, but regular readers know that I've been recommending Donalyn's columns since long before there was a book at all.)

Happy reading!

Streams of Babel: Carol Plum-Ucci

Book: Streams of Babel
Author: Carol Plum-Ucci
Pages: 432
Age Range: 12 and up 

Streams of BabelStreams of Babel, by Carol Plum-Ucci, is a book that I've been interested in since first hearing about it in Notes from the Horn Book last May. And it did not disappoint. Streams of Babel is set in 2002, in New Jersey, in the emotional shadow of September 11th, as local residents gradually become aware that bioterrorists have poisoned their water. The book opens, in dramatic fashion, with the death of 17-year-old Cora Holman's mother from a mysterious flu. Cora and several of her neighbors are also ill. Hints of the terrorists' act gradually unfold. This isn't an over-the-top, post-apocalypse story. The compelling thing about it is how current and possible it all feels, with terrorists chatting in Internet cafes, and the government trying to track them down.

The viewpoint shifts, via first-person chapters, between that of Cora and those of several other young adults, including a boy from Pakistan who is working as a virtual spy for the US government. These narration changes accomplish two important things. First, the characters are all quite fully developed, interesting and three-dimensional. Second, the changing perspective makes it relatively easy for the author to include cliff-hangers, and keep the reader compulsively turning the pages. Also, the changing narrators allow the ultimate cliffhanger - the fact that the reader can't know who will survive.

I read this book in one long sitting, unable to put it down. Streams of Babel is the perfect combination of suspenseful thriller and in-depth character study. I especially liked Cora, damaged after spending three years ashamed of her mother's drug addiction, afraid to let anyone else in. The young spy from Pakistan, Shahzad, is bright, conflicted about America, but loyal to the people who are kind to him. Cora's neighbor Owen, though popular, is a hyper-introvert, someone who "would love six weeks on a deserted island". Owen's older brother, Scott is a fixer, determinedly suppressing his own disappointment over not being able to go to college. Their friend, Rain, is beautiful and privileged, but surprisingly determined to help people. I liked them all, in some cases because of their faults.

Here are a few quotes, to give you a feel for Plum-Ucci's writing:

"I had gotten this strange compulsion last fall to start taking pictures around Trinity Falls on Sundays. It kept me out of the house on my day off, for one thing. For another, it made me feel like I belonged to the place instead of like some squatter, some daughter of an addict. Through a lens, the most beautiful parts of Trinity came clear. Azalea gardens in bloom in spring. Trees that lined streets in perfect, royal arches. Lawns as thick as Persian carpets and green as Ireland. People hung American flags off porches and trimmed real hedges around their swimming pools in Trinity." (Page 16, Cora)

"I actually like being inside Saint Ann's Hospital. I like taking my shift breaks in the emergency room nursing station, watching the medics fly around, hearing the ring of oh-so-many phones. But tonight, I didn't feel that sense of control over an out-of-hand universe that usually comes with being in the ER." (Page 46, Scott"

"I want to say something to Allah, so I face the east. "Perhaps I am a coward, Great Allah," I whisper. "Perhaps I should feel ready to reach past the Internet and mere images of reality. So if you please, maybe I would like to be a bigger part of reality, as my father would have wished. Perhaps I would like to taste a ballpark frank, view a cathedral, use chopsticks, visit a theme park, wear Gap jeans, smell a Jew, go to school, see a good doctor, eat Kentucky Fry, watch the Yankees, own an ATM card, touch a piano, read the Shakespeare in the English..."" (Page 182, Shahzad)

I picked this book up because of the premise. But I'll remember it because of the characters. And I'll be looking for Plum-Ucci's other work. Highly recommended for teens and adults.

Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Publication Date: May 1, 2008
Source of Book: Library copy
Other Blog Reviews: Mrs. F-B's Book Blog, Regina Reads, Ms. Yingling Reads, A True Reality
Author Interviews: Little Willow

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

Ghost Huntress: The Awakening: Marley Gibson

Book: Ghost Huntress: Book 1: The Awakening
Author: Marley Gibson (book website)
Pages: 352
Age Range: 12 and up

Ghost HuntressThe Awakening is the first book in Marley Gibson's new Ghost Huntress series. It's about a sixteen-year-old girl named Kendall who moves from her "beloved twenty-two-hundred square-foot high-rise condo on the Gold Coast of Chicago to this creaky old Victorian house here in Radisson, Georgia". Something about moving to a quieter location causes Kendall's previously dormant psychic powers to awaken. Together with a newly acquired group of friends, Kendall becomes a ghost huntress, someone who uses scientific means to detect and prove the existence of ghosts, while also using traditional psychic methods to help the spirits to "pass on."

I must admit that I very nearly put this book aside, unfinished. I was annoyed by Kendall's incessant brand-name-dropping ("At home in Chicago, I'd have my favorite Patagonia Synchilla blanket", "I took the world's hottest shower and got dressed in the Blue Cult jeans that Marjorie gave me", etc.), and constant references to how much better it was to live in Chicago, not to mention her over-the-top hormonal response upon meeting the boy of her dreams (she actually passes out, though this is partly due to the whole psychic thing). But something kept me reading. I think it was the idea that actual teens would be able to relate, far better than I, to Kendall's voice. [Also, please note that I'm reviewing from the ARC, and can't speak to the final form of hte book.]

At any rate, by the end of the book, I was ready for the next title in the series (The Guidance). Kendall grew on me, as she settled in to her new life, and eased up on the brand-dropping. The other characters are engaging and diverse. Kendall and her new best friend, Celia, quote Shakespeare at each other, while another friend reverts to speaking French in times of crisis. I'll be interested to see if the characters develop further in the next book. I also enjoyed the peeks into the science behind modern-day ghost-hunting (reminiscent of Daniel Hecht's Cree Black series, written for adults).

Here are a couple of other passages, to give you a feel for the book:

"I don't want to be one of those messed-up kids on seven different medications for all sorts of afflictions. I want to be a normal teenager who goes to school, has friends, watches too much TV, talks on the cell incessantly, and plans for her future. Not too much to ask, right?" (Chapter One)

"Good thing Mom can't hear the wild pounding of my heart or the ringing in my ears. And that irritating headache from last night has returned. Only this time, it's in the back of my neck. Thump, thump, thump, like there's a tiny elf with an even tinier hammer beating on my cerebellum." (Chapter Two)

"I block out Taylor's photographing and just concentrate on my surroundings. It's so dismal and ... full of lives cut short, of heartache and heartbreak and physical suffering. Of course it is a cemetery, so one would assume these things are in the atmosphere. But the sensations literally encompass me, garroting me with their persistent fingers. Opening my eyes slowly, I see them. All around me. Scattered about the cemetery. (Chapter Twelve)

Overall, I think that many teens will enjoy the Ghost Huntress series. Kendall and her love interest, Jason, have a bit of a Edward and Bella vibe going (instant and irresistible attraction, masked initially by bickering). There's plenty of creepy peril to keep readers turning the pages. And the whole idea that "the science is real", introduced in a foreword, is intriguing enough to make people pick up the book in the first place.

Publisher: Sandpiper
Publication Date: May 4, 2009
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Quotes are from the ARC, and may not reflect the final book.

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

Reviews that Made Me Want the Book: March 20

Welcome to the latest edition of my Reviews that Made Me Want to Read the Book feature.

The Miles BetweenLike Lenore from Presenting Lenore, I'm looking forward to Mary Pearson's upcoming title, The Miles Between. Lenore quoted a summary from Mary Pearson in a January interview with The Best Book I Have Not Read: "The Miles Between is about four teens who embark on an “unauthorized” road trip in search of one fair day. The main character has an obsession with coincidences and also a secret she is keeping from the rest of her road trip renegades, and as the story unfolds, she discovers they have secrets of their own."

Another book that I had merely to hear about to be interested in it is Sara Zarr's third book, Once Was Lost. Sara recently announced: "The narrator is a 15-year-old pastor’s daughter in a small town. Guess what the book is about? That’s right. Family! In this case, the narrator and her view of life and faith (in God, in family, in friends) is challenged and transformed by the kidnapping of another young girl in her town." No cover image yet, but it's tentatively scheduled for October.

Scaredy Squirrel at Night And one more title that I really just need to know about to want is Scaredy Squirrel at Night by Melanie Watt. But I did llike Cheryl Rainfield's review, too. Cheryl calls it "a funny, light-hearted book about bad dreams, and a worrywart who discovers that he can sleep without bad dreams after all. Recommended."

Frankie PickleMary Lee and Franki from A Year of Reading are two of my go-to people for recommendations for early elementary school books. Recently, Mary Lee reviewed the first book in a new series by Eric Wight: Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom. She said: "This graphic novel hybrid is sure to be a hit with elementary kids in grades 2-5. I asked two of my graphic novel readers to check it out and they loved it. The way the story changes visually when Frankie's imagination takes hold reminded them of Baby Mouse."

11 Birthdays I love the movie Groundhog Day. It's one of those movies that I always stop and watch for at least a few minutes whenever I run across it. Kimberly J. Smith from Cool Kids Read recently reviewed 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass, saying: "Grownups will remember the Bill Murray movie "Groundhog Day" which had a similar premise of a repeating day, but with 11 Birthdays, this story isn't just about getting the day right, but the background story of why it started happening in the first place." And I think that's good enough for me to want to give it a look.

Fortune's Magic FarmI have to admit that neither the title nor the cover of Suzanne Selfors Fortune's Magic Farm would normally catch my eye. But I generally read Charlotte's reviews at Charlotte's Library. And Charlotte said: "I enjoyed this one, especially the dystopia for the young reader that is Runny Cove. Unlike Isabelle, I was a little disappointed when the story took us off to Fortune's farm, where, instead of slugs and evil boarding house matrons, we encountered the pleasures of a sunny garden filled with whimsical magical plants. Maybe I'm just too cynical to enjoy whimsical magical plants, but the wonderful farm never felt as real as the miserable town. However, doubtless the target audience of ten year-oldish girls will find the garden delightful..."  Since I am more of less compelled to read all of the dystopian novels that I come across, this one goes on the list.

Bones of FaerieAnd, for a more grown-up dystopia, I'm intrigued by Janni Lee Simner’s Bones of Faerie, reviewed by Sarah Mulhern at The Reading Zone. Sarah says: "Post-apocalyptic fantasy?  Faeries?  Dystopian?  Can all of these words really describe one book?  And can that book possibly be good with all of that going on?  In Janni Lee Simner’s case, the answer is a resounding yes!" Good enough for me!

The PlagueLibrarina caught my attention with a review of The Plague, by Joanne Dahme (due out in May). "When Nell’s parents succumb to the plague, she and her brother, George, fear what will become of them. As they follow the death cart to the graveyard, however, something miraculous happens. They cross paths with the king — who is struck by the fact that Nell looks nearly identical to his daughter, Princess Joan." Adventure follows.

 The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate Another historical fiction review that caught my eye recently was Tasha Saecker's review at Kids Lit of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (by Jacqueline Kelly). Tasha begins: "In 1899, girls are expected to grow up to be either wives or teachers.  So what is a girl like Calpurnia to do?  She is much more interested in different species of grasshoppers than in tatting or cooking.  She would rather spend hours with her grandfather in his shed doing experiments than learning to knit all of her six brothers socks." She concludes with a comparison to Caddie Woodlawn.

Marcelo in the Real WorldAnother review from Tasha that caught my eye was of Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork. Here's a snippet: "Marcelo has always heard internal music that is hard for him to pull away from... This book is written from Marcelo’s point of view, allowing the prose itself to become as poetic, strange and amazing as Marcelo’s inner dialogue.  It is a book where you feel the world around you shift as you see it through Marcelo’s eyes."

The September SistersKelsey from Reading Keeps You Sane recently gave a rave review to Jillian Cantor's The September Sisters. "Okay, I really don't know how to express myself with this one. But if you want the gist of it, I'll give you one word. Phenomenal. The September Sisters by Jillian Cantor was phenomenal. Phenomenal... The moment I read the book, the first page. I was hooked." It does sound intriguing.

And that is enough of a wish list for anyone for one week! I hope that some of these reviews capture your attention, too!

Thursday Afternoon Visits: NCAA Tournament Edition

Kidlitosphere_button I'm watching a bit of college basketball in the background, while catching up on Kidlitosphere news today. (You just have to listen for when the crowd gets loud to know when something exciting is going on.) Here are a few highlights from the children's and young adult book blogosphere.

At The Miss Rumphius Effect, Tricia begs to differ with a Guardian article that says: "The larger-than-life, black-and-white morality of children's books is a relief for adult readers tired of ambiguity." I agree with Tricia that this is not a particularly nuanced representation of the moral complexity often found in children's books. But I'd be happy to see more adults take time to check out children's and young adult literature either way.

Tbd2009 Little Willow has the official press release for the Readergirlz, Guys Lit Wire, YALSA 2009 Operation Teen Book Drop, a "reading stimulus plan for hospitalized teen patients... Teen patients in pediatric hospitals across the United States will receive 8,000 young-adult novels, audiobooks, and graphic novels." In preparation for the April 16th event, the Readergirlz Divas are hosting a series of weekly contests. You can find more details here.  

Laini Taylor has the scoop on an upcoming Phoenix event called Project Book Babe, a fundraiser for bookseller Faith Hochhalter, who is going through chemotherapy right now for breast cancer. Laini also has news about her own expected and sure to be a book-lover baby.

ShareAStoryLogo-color Terry Doherty has a wrap-up post for the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour at The Reading Tub. Please join me in thanking Terry for this amazing event. Although the initial event is finished, Terry promises "Share a Story-Shape a Future will be back. For the near term, the blog will remain our bulletin board and archive. If/When we pull together the links and bloglists into a single spot, that’s where you’ll find it. When we’re ready to start thinking about themes and start planning our lineups, that’s where we’ll make the announcement." [Image credit: Author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba created the Share a Story - Shape a Future logo.]

Speaking of raising kids who love books, Jenny from Read. Imagine. Talk shares a lovely anecdote in which her very young son, Ethan, demanded to go to the bookstore right away "because there was a new book out that he "really very needed to get right now.""  He was following her example, and gives us all a real-life demonstration of the way that modeling book-loving behavior rubs off on kids.

I've been enjoying Sarah Mulhern's "Slice of Life" posts at The Reading Zone. Yesterday, she related some snippets of discussion from her 6th grade girls about the best literary boyfriends. Sarah concluded: " I couldn’t help but smile- they weren’t arguing over boy bands, or movie stars, or athletes- it was literary characters. This language arts teacher couldn’t be prouder." As she should be. Sarah also shares her accelerated reader frustration, and a more positive follow-up.

Tamara Fisher has a great post at Unwrapping the Gifted about using bibliotherapy with gifted kids. She explains: "Essentially, by having gifted students read literature and/or biographies featuring gifted children or adults, the students can gain insights into their own giftedness." She also provides a list of sample questions to ask kids about their reading, and an extensive reading list.

Last OlympianDates are now available for Rick Riordan's author tour for The Last Olympian. He'll be here in the Bay Area on May 9th, just a few days after the official release date. Safe to say that these events will be very, very popular! Perhaps I'll see some of you there.

Kate Coombs has a fun post about picture books with bite at Book Aunt. She says: "it is with some gusto that I give you a handful of books that aren’t sweet. In fact, they are tart and funny, and above all, toothy."

Witch MountainI also enjoyed this post at Ink Splot 26, about the movie Race to Witch Mountain. I know that a lot of people think it was corny, but I love the 1975 Disney movie version of Escape to Witch Mountain. I will have to have the new special edition DVD, even though my brother Steve, the king of gift-giving, already bought me the regular DVD. So I was pleased to learn from Nancy T's interview with the stars of the new movie that the actors who played the original Tony and Tia will have cameos in the new movie. Fun stuff!

And finally, I wanted to say thank you to Travis from 100 Scope Notes, who recently included my blog in his "blogs that clog my reader (in a good way)" list. I'm in excellent company. And his is a blog I never miss, either.

Books Now Available: Wintergirls

WintergirlsLast month I reviewed an advance copy of Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Wintergirls is lyrical and searing, and carefully researched. It's painful to read, but important, too. Wintergirls doesn't give any easy answers for what families can do to help girls caught in the net of anorexia, but it does expose the true depth of the problem... In any event, it's a suspenseful story with a complex, wounded protagonist, a realistic setting, and Laurie Anderson's vivid writing. Highly recommended for teens and adults. This is a book that you'll be hearing about for a long time to come.

Wintergirls is due out today. Don't miss it!

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: St. Patrick's Day Edition

Jpg_book007Happy St. Patrick's Day! I hope that you're all able to take at least a few moments to feel festive, in honor of the holiday. Today I will be sending out the new issue of the 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. There are currently 686 subscribers. 

This week I have full reviews of two books (one for tween girls, the other for young adults), as well as a post with four capsule reviews of middle grade nonfiction titles. I also have a post with Kidlitosphere news, this week's children's literacy roundup, and a post continuing my discussion about the idea of a public information campaign to encourage reading aloud with kids. I also have several posts this week that I have not included in the newsletter (because it was getting a bit too long):

This week I finished reading Darkness Falls by Kyle Mills (eco-thriller about the effects of an oil-eating bacteria that has the potential to devastate world-wide economies). I also read and reviewed Boys are Dogs by Leslie Margolis and The Pigman by Paul Zindel. Just as I said last week, I'm hoping to get more reading time in this week. Seems to be a common refrain with me... But I do have some time set aside for reading next weekend. What are you reading?

Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms!

Two New Nonfiction Series from Bearport Publishing

Nonfiction.monday In honor of Nonfiction Monday today, I'd like to highlight two new series from Bearport Publishing: Defining Moments - Super Athletes and Little Dogs Rock! Bearport sent me the first two titles available in the Super Athletes series and two of the eight titles from the Little Dogs Rock! series. I found all four books to be high-quality titles, suitable for middle grade readers. The books feature a nice mix of text, with insets and callouts, and color photographs, as well as bibliographies, author bios, and references for further reading on each topic. Words likely to be unfamiliar to middle grade readers are printed in bold, and included in the glossary at the end of each book.

LeBron JamesLeBron James: I Love Challenges, by Michael Sandler focuses on LeBron James' gold medal-winning performance in the 2008 Olympic basketball game against Spain. After a brief section stopping at a critical point in the game, the book moves backwards to discuss James' background and his close relationship with his mother, Gloria James. Sandler highlights James' determination to play in the NBA (he says: "Basketball kept me off the streets"), moving on to his becoming the top NBA draft pick straight out of high school.

Sandler also takes a step back to discuss US Olympic basketball history, giving context for the 2008 game. The text comes full circle to end on a high note with the gold-medal win, followed by a timeline and various facts about LeBron James (he writes and eats with his left hand. Who knew?). Without being particularly message-y, the book does convey the benefits of personal responsibility, determination, and teamwork. It seems to me like a book that will have young basketball fans turning the pages.

Michael PhelpsMichael Phelps: Anything is Possible!, by Meish Goldish follows a similar pattern, starting in the midst of the relay race that, if won, would give Michael Phelps his eighth gold model in the 2008 Olympics, and then taking a step back to recap Phelps' childhood. His childhood diagnosis of ADHD and the statement by a teacher to his mom that "Your son will never be able to focus on anything" are covered (as you might expect - these are pretty well-known facts at this point), along with his early fears of putting his face in the water.

Phelps' coach, his early swimming milestones, and his "Swim with the Stars" program are also reviewed, before Goldish returns to wrap up the wins in China. Some of the photos, especially the Olympic photos, are truly gorgeous. I think this one will be successful, because Phelps remains in the limelight, and it is beautiful. I would try it on kids who have ADHD or other learning difficulties, to show them a case-study in overcoming hurdles.

ChihuahuaChihuahua: Senor Tiny, by Natalie Lunis begins, irresistibly, with the story of a fluffy little Chihuahua who saved a one-year-old's life by stepping between the boy and a rattlesnake. The photo of boy and dog after the rescue, well, you'd have to be heartless not to be touched. The book then covers the history of the Chihuahua (the smallest of dog breeds), and highlights several Chihuahuas who have been in the spotlight (from Taco Bell to Legally Blonde).

Other sections discuss the positive attributes of Chihuahuas as pets, and things that owners need to watch out for. Throughout the book are fetching photos of Chihuahuas in various costumes (and even one riding a mini-motorcycle). There are also facts about Chihuahuas' size, colors, coats, lifespan, etc. Those are nice, but it's the pictures that are going to make readers exclaim "aww... how cute!". There are also little fire hydrants around the page numbers, which I thought was a nice touch. I think that middle grade dog lovers (one I'm thinking of in particular) will adore this series, and this book in particular.

dachshundDachshund: The Hot Dogger, by Natalie Lunis follows the same format as the Chihuahua book (and is by the same author). It doesn't have quite the same "hook" as the previous book (the pictures of dogs in costumes, and the little red-headed boy whose life was saved), but the pictures are still "awww"-inducing. There's a great action shot of a Dachshund in mid-air during a race (the 2007 Wiener Nationals), and even a picture of Queen Victoria with one of her Dachshunds. I liked the "Dachshund Dos and Don'ts" page (including health risks) and the "In the Movies" section (with pictures from Toy Story). If you know a young dog fan, I highly recommend checking out the books from this series. Other dogs featured include Beagle, Jack Russell Terrier, Pomeranian, Pug, Toy Poodle, and Yorkshire Terrier. Something for everyone!

Lisa L. Owens is hosting today's Nonfiction Monday round-up.

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

Children's Literacy Round-Up: March 16

This week’s children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, is now available. And, because we (Terry Doherty and I) took last week off from the round-up to celebrate the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour, this week's round-up is enormous. Let's dive in! 


On Read Across America Day (March 2nd, Dr. Seuss's birthday), the National Post's book blog, the Afterword, ran a fun feature on five things you didn't know about Dr. Seuss. For example, "Dr. Seuss rhymes with another epic figure in children's literature: Mother Goose. Coincidence? No."

In related news, Everybody Wins! shares a reminder from Senator Tom Harkin, in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday, to read to kids. He says: "By taking some time to read to a child, you open doors that otherwise might be closed in their life. Whether by inspiring a child’s imagination, enriching their creativity, or instilling a renewed sense of excitement about the educational process, reading helps children become successful students equipped with the tools they will need as they enter the workforce."

Rtw-logo_sm Reading the World XI will be held March 28 and 29 in San Francisco. The conference, celebrating multicultural literature for children and young adults, is sponsored by University of San Francisco's School of Education. We found the news via: A Fuse #8 Production (where you can find more details).

We love it when athletes demonstrate the importance of reading to kids. Thus we were pleased to see this announcement, that "The Pittsburgh Penguins are proud to team up with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on Friday, March 20, 2009 with our first-ever children’s book collection. Fans are encouraged to bring new or gently used children’s books to the game. The books will then be distributed to local Carnegie Library branches throughout the Pittsburgh area for summer reading programs."

And in other athletes reading with kids news, Richard Hanks at Getting Reading reports "The players from Rotherham United, trained by Reading Matters, visited their first school, Maltby Manor, on Thursday (12/3/09). They read with six pupils each in a series of reading partnerships.

Brian Scott from Literacy and Reading News reported on March 8th that: "The Denver Public Library's (DPL) new Reading Rocket bookmobile will hit the road today, making its first stop at Schmitt Elementary in the Ruby Hill neighborhood. It is the first of two new bookmobiles that will serve 28 Denver Public Schools (DPS) and 15 community centers. A second Reading Rocket is scheduled to arrive in April 2009."

NPM_LOGO_2008_final April is National Poetry Month, as we've mentioned previously. Gregory K reports at GottaBook that "In celebration of the release of his new book My Hippo Has the Hiccups, Kenn (Nesbitt) is offering up a free 30 minute web-based visit for any group that purchases 10 or more copies of his book." Greg's got big things planned himself for National Poetry Month, but the details won't be available until March 23rd. Stay tuned!

Raising Readers

At Literacy is Priceless, Anna Batchelder shares a handout for parents with "tips and technology resources that are helpful for fostering child literacy development." She says: "Feel free to print, distribute and share!"

Sue_steph1At The Book Chook, Susan Stephenson shares an interview with Valerie Baartz, The Almost Librarian, filled with tips for parents on including literacy-related activities in day-to-day life. Susan concludes (and I agree): "Wow! Isn't that a wonderful summary of what literacy does for kids? And as Valerie says, a tremendous gift for parents to bestow." (Image to the left created by Susan)

The Hawaii Reporter has an article by J. Arthur Rath, III about Wally Amos, Read it LOUD! founder, and his children's literacy efforts. The article includes parental reading tips from Amos, like this one: "Children and adults love hearing good stories read out loud during family gatherings--ostensibly for the kids, but you may be surprised at the interest from others. It strengthens family bonds. A little tip: make certain your children grow up seeing you read often. Become a friend of your local library--it has what you need for a good life."

At Educating AliceMonica Edinger has an excerpt from a recent New York Times article about motivational rewards for students. There doesn't seem to be a consensus as to whether "giving children prizes or money for their performance in school" is a good idea or not.

I ran across a nice little opinion piece in the Courier Connection, written by children's librarian Deanna Gouzie, about ways to reach reluctant readers. Here's a brief snippet: "Make a Connection – I believe that kids who do not read simply have not met the right book yet. They have not uncovered the author or subject that will help them discover the fun part of reading."  

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

Bookninja links together two recent studies on reading to kids, and adds a personal response. The good news is that (via Carolyn Horn at The Bookseller), "Reading to children aged two years and under will have a positive effect on a child’s vocabulary, according to a study reported by The British Psychological Society." The bad news is that (according a recent Telegraph article), "Three quarters of Britain's parents are too busy to read bedtime stories to their children, according to a study." We found the link to Bookninja's post at Omnivoracious.

Natasha Worswick at Children's Books for Grown-Ups also commented on the second survey, discussing the fact that: "In the news last week was the results of a survey that found only 1 in 30 fathers read their children a bedtime story. The rest are too busy to do so. Only 3% said that they easily found the opportunity to do so and the rest of those said they found it a struggle because of time pressures and busy lifestyles." Sad, that's what that is.

Everybody Wins! reports on the various studies assessing whether or not parents are reading aloud to kids, concluding: "We need a renewed effort in the U.S. to encourage reading aloud in the home; to provide support to parents who struggle themselves with literacy; and to provide read-aloud support in classrooms through volunteer programs like Power Lunch; and to encourage more read alouds in school curriculums." Can't argue with that! 

Tim Shanahan announced at Literacy Learning the opportunity for people to participate in an online discussion about the National Early Literacy Panel (NEAP) report. He says: "The discussion in being sponsored by the National Institute for Literacy and will include Laura Westberg, from the National Center for Family Literacy (she was the PI on the report), Tori Molfese, a panelist from the University of Louisville, and me." 

Matt Ferraguto from Reach Out and Read brought to our attention a article about a study that we previously mentioned, on when learning starts. The new thing in this article that we noticed was that "at 6 months of age, babies can distinguish between the sounds of all languages (the adult brain cannot)." Isn't that fascinating?

Terry found an article on Marnee Brick’s Speech Therapy Telepractice Blog about using charts and schedules to build early literacy. "Picture charts and schedules provide children with a way to “read” within their ability." Several specific examples are given.  

Education Week reports, in an article by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, that "While learning experts surely agree that too much television and inappropriate content can have detrimental effects on children, the right kinds of programs can set them on the path toward reading." Good news for PBS! has an article by Mary Desaulniers about the effects of music on the brain, and on reading ability. Here's an excerpt: "Can music help produce better readers? Definitely, according to a research done at Northwestern University which suggests that music training is directly linked to enhanced verbal proficiency. In fact, researchers at the university suggest that musical training may be more effective for developing verbal skills than learning phonics. Why? The brain’s multi-sensory engagement during music practice and performance enhances the same communication skills needed for speaking and reading".  

Kids Doing Great Things

Franki Sibberson has a lovely post at A Year of Reading about kids finding charitable causes that they believe in, and taking action. For example, Franki's daughter asked for books written in Spanish, instead of gifts for her, for her birthday, and donated them to a children in Guatemala. Another little girl collected things for the Humane Society at her birthday party. Franki says: "Kids have always been amazing in the way they work to make the world a better place.  But, I think the tools of the 21st Century have made it easier for them."

At The Book Chook, Susan Stephenson has a post (which I mentioned briefly before) about a 10-year-old girl named Darla who created her own literacy program for younger kids in her neighborhood. "Darla created Bookworm Wednesday, where she invited neighbourhood children to come to her house, borrow books, enjoy small incentives for reading them, and listen to a story being read aloud." She's now working to help others to establish Bookworm Wednesday programs in their communities.

21st Century Literacies

21stCenturyLiteracies KatieD at Creative Literacy reports on using iMovie to keep literacy alive in early elementary school classrooms.

Terry first heard via Twitter (from @lonniehodge and @philiplee95) the news that there's now a reader that allows you to read Kindle books on your iPhone. Here's the New York Times article. A friend of mine who travels quite a bit with his three-year-old, and has an iPhone, was very interested in this news!

Grants, Sponsorships & Donations

Idesofmarchmadness2009becausekidsneedbooks Cari from Book Scoops brought to our attention a book donation event called The Ides of March Madness: Because Kids Need Books. The event is being hosted by The King's English, an independent bookstore in Salt Lake City. Cari says: "The idea is to get books into the hands of children who would otherwise not be able to get books. "

According to a recent news release "The Pitney Bowes Foundation has awarded a $50,000 grant to Everybody Wins! for the support of Project LEAP (Literacy Enhancement Action Plan) ... Project LEAP will improve educational outcomes for low-income students by enhancing the ability of Everybody Wins! affiliates and strategic partners to deliver literacy mentoring services.

Terry reports that "Read Aloud Virginia has just received over 9,000 books from First Book in Washington, DC! While this seems like a lot of books, it really comes out to less than one free book per child during Read Aloud Virginia's summer months."

According to a recent press release, "Capstone Publishers, the leading publisher of high-kid-appeal children’s books for school and public libraries, has made a donation of 10,000 books to Books for Africa, the world’s largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent. ... Books for Africa is a nonprofit organization based out of St. Paul, Minn., and has shipped more than 20 million books to 44 African countries since it was founded in 1988." 

According to another new release, Pratham Books, a not-for-profit trust in India, has a mission of putting a book in every child’s hands. For the past five years, the organization has been spreading the joy of reading among children in India and abroad. Early this year, Pratham Books, along with other publishers like the National Book Trust, Children's Book Trust, Scholastic and Eklavya, distributed books worth roughly $6million (Rs.30 crores) to nearly 6 million children studying in close to 70,000 government schools in Bihar, a heavily populated northern state of India! See more about the Bihar Reading Improvement Program here.

New Resources

Now this is cool! An exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum "will explore the relationship between wallpapers and books created for children through works from the permanent collection and the National Design Library. From their beginning in the 1870s, children's wallpapers have been strongly influenced by literature and popular culture. Works on view will include papers illustrated with nursery rhymes and designs inspired by works of fiction and adventure, such as Peter Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland, and Cinderella." Thanks to Julie's Children's Illustration blog for the link.

Kyra from Black Threads in Kid's Lit suggested " - a visual search engine designed by these two French guys". We tried it by entering "Jon Scieszka", and it brings up a map with sections for books, author, children, illustrator, and links to Guys Read, library thing, etc. When you hover over a word, the pictures that link to the topic light up and lines connect the resources. Worth a look. Kids might really like it.

And that's all for this week. Note that we have not repeated links here that were included in Share a Story - Shape a Future. Please check out the Share a Story - Shape a Future blog for many additional resources related to children's literacy. Thanks for reading!