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Posts from March 2009

The Pigman: Paul Zindel

Book: The Pigman
Author: Paul Zindel
Pages: 166
Age Range: 13 and up 

The PigmanBackground: My young cousin from New Jersey recommended that I read The Pigman. This young adult novel was published in 1968, but I don't believe that I ever read it as a teen. I'm happy to have now rectified that omission. It is a true classic.

Review: The Pigman, by Paul Zindel, is the story of two somewhat alienated teens who become friends with, and are changed by, a lonely old man named Angelo Pignati (aka The Pigman). As the book begins, the reader learns that Mr. Pignati has died and that friends John and Lorraine bear at least some responsibility for his death. To help themselves cope with this, John and Lorraine have chosen to write down their story ("the facts, and only the facts about our experiences with Mr. Angelo Pignati"), using alternating, first-person chapters.

John and Lorraine's friendship with each other is somewhat surprising. John is popular and attractive, a rebel who drinks and smokes too much, and has been known to set off bombs in the school bathroom. He's a thorn in the side of his older, beaten down parents, unable to live up to the standard set by his conformist older brother. Lorraine is a bit overweight, emotionally crippled by her single mother's toxic criticism, and clearly very bright. She's usually the one who pulls John back from destructive behavior (or tries to). The alternating chapters allow the reader to see their developing relationship from both sides.

Lorraine and John's friendship with Mr. Pignati is even more surprising. He's this painfully lonely, isolated guy whose closest friend is a baboon at the local zoo. They meet him through a fluke (a prank call, of all things, in the days before caller ID). But neither John nor Lorraine is able to resist his infectious smile, or the fact that he likes to buy them things, and do things for them. Eventually, the three form an odd little family unit, a dynamic that works, at least at first, to all of their benefit. Unfortunately, this doesn't last (this is clear from the start of the book).

The thing that strikes me most about this book is the depth of characterization. I have a hard time believing that John and Lorraine, and even Mr. Pignati, aren't real. They feel real, right down to being sometimes annoying, making mistakes, and showing surprising vulnerability. Here are a couple of examples:

"I stood on the corner day after day with all the kids, and nobody talked to me. I made believe I was interested in looking at the trees and houses and clouds and stray dogs and whatever--anything not to let on how lonesome I felt inside." (Page 12, Lorraine)

"That's how it always is. Lorraine remembers the big words, and I remember the action. Which sort of makes sense when you stop to think that Lorraine is going to be a famous writer and I'm going to be a great actor. Lorraine thinks she could be an actress, but I keep telling her she'd have to be a character actress, which means playing washerwomen on TV detective shows all the time. And I don't mean that as a distortion, like she always says I do. If anyone distorts, it's the mother of hers. The way her old lady talks you'd think Lorraine needed internal plastic surgery and seventeen body braces, but if you ask me, all she needs is a little confidence." (Page 17, John)

"When Angelo Pignati came to the door, I wish you could have seen him. He was in his late fifties and was pretty big, and he had a bit of a beer stomach. But the part the slaughtered me was this great big smile on his face. He looked so glad to see us I thought his eyes were going to twinkle out of his head." (Page 23, John)

Reading this book as an adult, I was very conscious of it being a book published in the 60's. Not so much in the details of the setting (though you probably won't find a 2009 YA novel in which an old man invites two teens into his home and gives them alcohol on a regular basis, and no one really notices), but in having the feel of an early-generation young adult novel. The minor juvenile delinquency, the near-complete estrangement from parents, the "us against the world" bubble of the characters, and the overt analysis of people's motives and weaknesses all contributed to this impression. I still think that The Pigman will be a hit with today's teens (my cousin is a case in point), because many of the themes are timeless. But the book has a vibe to it that reminds me of the young adult books that I read when I was a teenager.

In any event, I enjoyed The Pigman. It's a book that will make the reader think, and feel understood. I'm glad that it's still in print, and I look forward to reading the sequel, The Pigman's Legacy.

Publisher: HarperTrophy
Publication Date: 1968 (reissue date for this paperback 2005)
Source of Book: Bought it

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


Public Information Campaign for Read-Aloud: Follow-up

ShareAStoryLogo-color On Monday, as part of the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour, I wrote about the possibility of a public information campaign to encourage reading aloud with kids. Specifically, I asked:

  1. Do you think that a public information campaign about the importance of read-aloud makes sense?
  2. If so, who would you suggest as a prominent spokesperson to bring attention to this cause?

About a dozen people responded this week, and I'd like to share some of that feedback here. I've also referenced a few comments from my first post on this topic (just some of the ones specifically relevant to the public information campaign idea). But please do read through the comments on the both posts, if you're interested in this, as I had to select a sub-set from the thoughtful discussion. [Many of the suggestions from the earlier post, the ones not specific to a public information campaign, were included in a fabulous Share a Story - Shape a Future resource kit, prepared by Terry Doherty and Susan Stephenson.]

  • Carol Rasco reminded me (via email) that there is a nonprofit out there working to promote reading aloud with young children: Read it LOUD!, founded by Wally ("Famous") Amos. Their website explains: "Building on the reading promotion and young readers initiative of The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, a three-year public-private partnership – Read it LOUD! -  has been formed with the Read it LOUD! Foundation to stimulate 5,000,000 parents nationwide to read every day to their children. Many sponsors and donors are joining this extraordinary partnership." They have a very nice website, though I found it a bit difficult to tell what's currently going on with the organization. But I certainly support their mission!
  • (Updated to add) Another nonprofit working in this specific area is Richmond-based Read to Them. Their mission is to "celebrate the lifelong benefits – for both children and adults – of reading aloud." They focus on advocacy for read-aloud, and one school, one book programs. Thanks to Mary Lee Hahn for the link.
  • Terry Doherty pointed out that "The *slogan* needs to be short and clear, not unlike "smoking kills." Suzanne suggested "copying the idea of the campaign "Got milk?" - only this one would be "Read lately?"" Susan Stephenson also supported the importance of a simple, easy to follow message. Karen suggested last month: "Parents are very concerned about safety issues like sun protection, environmental toxins and bicycle helmets, etc. Could reading and the potential harms of not reading be exposed in a similar way?"
  • Terry added: "Rather than rely on the Oprah platform to launch the campaign, I would like to see a simulcast across all major TV channels, with lots of cross-promoting (e.g., ESPN personality on CNN, and vice versa)... A program that shows real people of various walks of life (not just celebrities) "practicing reading" in its various forms (at home, at school, with a tutor, with a sibling, listening at the library, etc)."
  • Carol added: "A dream would be a prime time show on several networks and online simliar to what NBC, ABC, CBS and perhaps others did on cancer research/awareness not too very long ago." 
  • Suzanne said: "the campaign should probably explore the use of additional technology beyond magazine ads and PBS spots - let's explore the use of YouTube and email and having the spokespeople produce their own bits. Less "professional", but authentic and grassroots". Cheryl Rainfield had also suggested earlier: "internet ads, maybe an email ad, even radio (like satelitte radio).... Bookstore bookmarks, or printable bookmarks, that kind of thing."
  • Eva Mitnick said: "I like the idea of a "team" of people getting the word out. They can be leaders, media giants, authors, celebrities - perhaps with one huge person in the lead. Our society needs to be permeated with the message - after all, we all know that we must brush our teeth (and amazingly, most of us do), and this is just as important." Suzanne discussed this team approach, too. Terry added: "Some of this goes back to the idea that people want to see themselves. That's where a team can help: parents (moms and dad, but not necessarily together); suburbanites and city dwellers; book lovers and book reticents." And really, most contributors seemed to think that the team approach was the right idea, ideally with some high-profile person or family to start things off.
  • Specific suggestions for potential celebrity spokespeople ranged from sports figures, actors, and children's to current and former First Ladies. Celebrities named so far have included (with thanks to Terry, Kate Coombs, Aerin, and Suzanne): Barbara Bush, Michelle Obama, Mo Willems, Neil Gaiman, Angelina Jolie, Katie Holmes, Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith, Angie Harmon and Jason Sehorn, Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, and even recognizable younger people, like the Obama girls, Miley Cyrus, Dakota Fanning, and the like. Michelle Obama generated the most mentions.
  • There was a general feeling (expressed first by Aerin) that anyone acting as the public face of a campaign like this should be a parent.
  • Christine and Tif both mentioned (on the earlier post) that a public information campaign should also include pediaticians (both the AMA and the American Osteopathic Association). Marjorie Coughlan added: "how about some of those celebrities you mention reading stories not just to children but to adults - put us in the shoes of the listener and see how much enjoyment we get out of it."
  • Andrea added: "I'd like to see a campaign focused on reading to older children. Too many parents stop reading to their children as soon as they can read themselves. I would like to see a campaign with images that includes upper elementary children being read to." Teacherninja suggested last month that the PSAs include specific book recommendations, especially for older kids.
  • Australian Susan Stephenson suggested that, while an international campaign would be "wonderful", international might be too broad a scope to start with, especially given the variation in potential spokespeople that you'd need for different countries.
  • Bookworm reminded us that even as a campaign sounds exciting, people can get "charged up" to share information with their families and friends every day (as the Share a Story - Shape a Future event demonstrated). Deb Nance also discussed ideas and plans for more local efforts.
  • Finally, Jenny stressed the importance of keeping teachers involved, adding: "I think that to really raise a nation of readers, there needs to be a policy change in terms of reading curriculum and what matters most... A public service campaign might be just what is needed, but I really believe that to get this to take flight teachers will need to carve out time to read wonderful books without worrying about loosing time intended for basic skills." [I know that Donalyn Miller would agree on the importance of teachers in this matter - I've just started reading Donalyn's new book for teachers: The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, and it is amazing!!]

Isn't that all great stuff? Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the discussion this week, and to the many commenters on my first post about a campaign for read-aloud. I'm not precisely sure where to go from here, but perhaps this discussion will inspire someone, somewhere, to take action. Thanks for reading!

Image credit: Author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba created the Share a Story - Shape a Future logo.


Share a Story - Shape a Future: Day 5: The Future of Reading

Sue_steph1 Today is the final day of the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour, focused on the future of reading. Today's host, children's book author and illustrator Elizabeth O. Dulemba, says:

"We’re lucky to live in a time with multiple ways to enjoy our stories, such as ebooks, ereaders, audiobooks, podcasts and ... twitter books? But will these technologies mean the demise of the printed book?... I’m a firm believer that once people get hooked on new ways to enjoy stories, they will want to absorb them in as many ways as possible, be it DVDs, online, audiobook, ebooks, podcasts, whatever."

Elizabeth has collected a variety of posts and resources about technology and reading. Here are today's links:

More Great Resources

Please do continue visiting the Share a Story - Shape a Future website and commenting on the various posts. There's been a lot of great discussion this week, and I know that the energy and enthusiasm for children's literacy will continue! Many thanks to the Share a Story - Shape a Future team for this amazing event! I'll have more thoughts over the weekend.

Image credit to Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook.


Share a Story - Shape a Future: Day 4: A Visit to the Library

ShareAStoryLogo-color Today is Day 4 of the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour. Today's theme is A Visit to the Library. Today's host, Eva Mitnick, says:

"Nothing is as good as picking up a picture book and reading the whole thing cover to cover. Will it work for story time? Is it perfect to read to a class? Is it a wonderful lapsit book for a grown-up to share with a favorite child?"

I do love libraries! Here are today's links (from here):

More Great Posts

Susan Stephenson asked me to remind you all not to forget to check out the comments on all of the Share a Story - Shape a Future posts. There are some great discussions going on.

Image credit: Author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba created the Share a Story - Shape a Future logo.


Boys Are Dogs: Leslie Margolis

Book: Boys Are Dogs
Author: Leslie Margolis
Pages: 208
Age Range: 9-12 

Boys are DogsBackground: I don't have a particularly good memory. But Leslie Margolis' Boys Are Dogs made me remember the boy who threw my yearbook out of the window in junior high (in the rain, no less). And the boy I disliked so much, for reasons I can't now recall, that I put thumbtacks on his chair in homeroom (sorry!). And the boy who wrote "Keep up your studying. It's the only thing you can do" in my yearbook in eighth grade (what possessed me to ask him to write in my yearbook I can't recall).

Review: In Boys are Dogs, Leslie Margolis captures the thought processes of an 11-year-old girl who not only doesn't like boys, but finds them a source of stress, revulsion, and terror. When Annabelle's mother moves them in with her boyfriend (Ted, aka Dweeble), Annabelle has to leave her apartment, her friends, and her all-girls elementary school to live in the suburbs and start 6th grade at Birchwood Middle School. There, she quickly finds a set of girlfriends, but finds herself mercilessly tormented by the middle school boys.

To soften the blow of the move (and perhaps to distract Annabelle), her mom and Ted get her an untrained young puppy. Though she tries to resist this blatant bribe, Annabelle is smitten, and spends considerable effort training her dog. One day, she accidentally uses one of the dog-training tips to deal with a pesky boy. And it works! Annabelle then sets out on an ambitious boy-training program, using her dog-training book as a guide. While the results are somewhat mixed, it's an entertaining ride.

Here are a couple of examples:

"But that was all before the boys showed up (to a camp dance).
They filed off their bus, messy-haired and slouchy. Every single one of them wore regular old shorts or jeans and ratty T-shifts.
Once inside, they stood in one corner in an unfriendly, lumpy clump. Instead of dancing, they pushed each other around. Rather than eat our food, they threw it at one another. Then they tore down our streamers ... Those middle school boys acted like a pack of wild dogs. But I didn't know it then. And by the time I figured it out, it was almost too late." (Page 2-3)

"My mind raced. Starting tomorrow, I'd have six different teachers instead of one. This would be the first time I'd be at school without a uniform. I liked the new jeans and pink T-shirt I planned to wear just find, but what if they were the wrong kind? Or what if Rachel made a mistake and no one else wore jeans on the first day of school?" (Page 34)

"Just hearing his name made me feel queasy. I couldn't even say it out loud, which meant that Jackson was my Voldemort, basically." (Page 178)

I liked Annabelle's close relationship with her mother, and her slowly developing relationship with stepfather-figure Ted (who listens to Meatloaf, and wears embarrassing running clothes). The transitional difficulties of the family's moving in together (the way that mom goes from eating takeout at the coffee table to using placemats and napkins to accompany home-cooked meals, Annabelle's mortification at having to fold Ted's running shorts, etc.), felt real to me. I personally found the one-sidedness of Annabelle's view of the boys at her school a bit off-putting, and the ease with which she found a set a friends a trifle implausible, but I doubt that either of these things will be a negative for the target audience.

I think that tween girls who are about to start middle school will really enjoy Boys are Dogs (though I wouldn't bother to offer this one to boys). It's light and funny, with a cute cover and an engaging protagonist. I know that a lot of librarians are constantly on the lookout for books for tween girls, and this one fits the bill. There is a sequel, Girls Acting Catty, in the works.

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Publication Date: September 2, 2008
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Provo City Library's Children's Book Review, Mainstream Fiction, Flamingnet

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


Wednesday Afternoon Visits: March 11

Kidlitosphere_button_170 I know that I've been posting a lot about the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour this week. But there have been lots of other things going on around the Kidlitosphere, too. Here are a few highlights:

The latest issue of Notes from the Horn Book (a free email newsletter from the Horn Book Magazine team) is now available. Read Roger has the details.

Mary Lee Hahn has posted the lists of 2009 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) at A Year of Reading. Mary Lee was actually on the committee, and it looks like they did a great job.

Gail Gauthier is doing a series at Original Content this week about adult books for young adult readers. I may be biased, because she's been focusing on a book that I recommended (The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King), but I've found it fascinating. You can find the relevant posts here, here, and here (and here). And can you believe that Gail has been blogging at Original Content for seven years!? 

Laini Taylor has a heartening post about how the Twilight movie transformed her thirteen-year-old niece into a reader. She also discusses a downside of the hyper-popularity of books like Twilight (anecdotal evidence suggesting that this is making it hard for other types of books to be published). But me, I'd rather focus on the upside - the Twilight books, like the Harry Potter books before them, like the Wimpy Kid books and the Percy Jackson books, are getting kids reading. I wish these authors all success, because they are making a difference.

And speaking of authors who make a difference, our own Jay Asher (former Disco Mermaid) was featured in the New York Times this week. It seems that his amazing book, 13 Reasons Why, has been ever so slowly climbing the best-seller lists. The quotes from teens in the article are a lot of fun. 13 Reasons Why is a book that's helping teens every day (by addressing the sometimes small-seeming events that can drive a teen towards suicide).

Another movie that I think would inspire kids to read books is the movie version of The Hunger Games. I just heard from The Longstockings that "According to HollywoodReporter.com Nina Jacobson and Color Force have recently acquired the movie rights to a futuristic young adult novel, Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins!" Now that's a movie that I'd like to see.

At 4IQREAD, Kbookwoman speaks up for "a public relations campaign that raises the importance of universal literacy to a human right". She suggests one specific program: "I would like to see every child own a CD player so they can listen to stories read aloud even if they do not have adults in their lives that can read to them."

Speaking of literacy, Carol Rasco announced this week that RIF's FY10 Dear Colleague Campaign has begun. The campaign: "includes a bi-partisan letter co-sponsored by members of Congress. The letter asks their colleagues to sign on in support of RIF funding." RIF's team is "asking that you take 10 minutes to visit RIF’s Advocacy Center and send e-mails to your members of Congress asking them to sign on in support of RIF’s funding for fiscal year 2010." Carol also highlighted another Cybils title (poetry winner Honeybee) this week in her Cover Story feature.

SmallGracesMarch Elaine Magliaro announced that the March Small Graces art auction has begun. She says: "Maybe you’ll be the lucky person to win this lovely original painting by popular children’s author and illustrator Grace Lin. Remember…all auction proceeds will be donated to The Foundation for Children’s Books to help underwrite school visitations by children’s authors and illustrators in underserved schools in the Greater Boston area."

Trevor Cairney from Literacy, families and learning writes about "the 4th 'R': Rest!" He says (emphasis mine): "Allowing time for play inside and outside of school is important, and I have written extensively about its importance for children's learning, development, creativity and well being".

Els Kushner has a delightful post at Librarian Mom about how her first "professional reading" took place when she was in second and third grade, "and sat in the Reading Corner for hours at a time reading one children's novel after another." She shares some of her childhood favorites, and concludes: "for practical job preparation--who would have known it?--nothing in my formal pre-library-school education beats those two years I spent hunched in the reading corner. I hope, for my profession's sake, that even though open classrooms have largely fallen out of fashion, there are still kids out there reading with such indiscriminate freedom as I had." 

Endoftheworld2009MarchOctoberthis Becky is hosting a second End of the World Challenge at Becky's Book Reviews. She says: "Read (over the next 7 months) at least four books about "the end of the world." This includes both apocalyptic fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction. There is quite a bit of overlap with dystopic fiction as well. The point being something--be it coming from within or without, natural or unnatural--has changed civilization, society, humanity to such a degree that it radically differs from "life as we now know it." Now, I think it's very safe to say that I'll be reading at least four "end of the world (as we know it)" books in the next seven months. However, I find that formal challenges, where you have to keep track, and check in, are a bit too much for me. But I'll be following Becky's progress!

Susan Taylor Brown is compiling lists of memorable mothers, fathers, and grandparents from children's literature at Susan Writes. Check out the lists so far, and share your suggestions.

And that's all for today. I'll continue to update you on the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour for the rest of this week, and I'll be back with reviews and literacy news this weekend. Happy reading! 


Share a Story - Shape a Future: Day 3: Reading Aloud

Sue_steph1 Welcome to Day 3 of the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour. Today's theme is Reading Aloud, hosted by Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook (image to the left created by Susan). Susan says:

"Reading is magic. When you encourage a child to read, you are actually conferring two special magical powers on him - the power to solve problems, and the power to enter other worlds."

Here's today's schedule, with links (many borrowed from the Share a Story - Shape a Future blog and The Reading Tub):

Other Share a Story - Shape a Future News and Links

If you have something to share on read-aloud, please share your comments on one of the participating blogs. Or write a post of your own, and leave the link here. This is a topic worthy of much discussion! 


Press Release: Reach Out and Read Celebrates 20th Anniversary

I received this press release from Matt Ferraguto of Reach Out and Read. Since Read Out and Read's goal aligns very much with my own (that every child grow up with books and a love of reading), I thought that I would share the full release here.

Reach Out and Read Celebrates 20th Anniversary: Early literacy program has distributed more than 20 million children’s books since 1989

(BOSTON, MA) March 11, 2009 -- In March 1989, Boston City Hospital pediatricians Barry Zuckerman and Robert Needlman began handing out books to their youngest patients, offering advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud, and employing volunteer readers in their waiting room. That was the birth of Reach Out and Read, one of the most successful early childhood interventions ever developed, which currently serves 25 percent of the nation’s at-risk infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

More than 20 million books have been distributed to children in the 20 years since Drs. Zuckerman and Needlman and early childhood educators Jean Nigro, Kathleen MacLean, and Kathleen Fitzgerald-Rice first developed the Reach Out and Read model: a brilliant, yet simple strategy to promote childhood literacy and school readiness.

Every child who participates in Reach Out and Read (ROR) starts kindergarten with a home library of up to 10 brand-new, developmentally-appropriate books and a parent who has heard at every regular checkup about the importance of reading. Proven to improve school readiness, ROR focuses on those children at greatest risk -- children living at or near poverty -- during the critical years before they enter kindergarten.

More than a dozen research studies demonstrate Reach Out and Read’s powerful impact, unmatched among other early literacy interventions. Studies show that parents who get books and literacy counseling from their health care provider are more likely to read to their young children, read to them more often, and provide more books in the home. Children who participate in Reach Out and Read score significantly higher on vocabulary tests and show improved language development -- the single strongest predictor of school success. 

Since that first Reach Out and Read book was handed out in 1989, more than 50,000 pediatricians, family practitioners, and pediatric nurse practitioners have been trained in the ROR model. Today, Reach Out and Read partners with 4,121 hospitals, clinics, health centers, and practices in all 50 states to serve more than 3.5 million children ages 6 months to 5 years old, including more than a quarter of America’s most impoverished children. 

One of Reach Out and Read’s greatest strengths, especially during challenging economic times like these, continues to be its cost-effectiveness. The cost of the full, five-year ROR program is just $40 per child.

Endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Reach Out and Read is the model of a successful public-private partnership, drawing funding support from the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Defense, 14 state governments, and individuals, corporations, and foundations nationwide.

Reach Out and Read’s National Center, Coalitions, and Sites plan to celebrate the program’s 20th Anniversary with a yearlong campaign aimed at boosting nationwide awareness of the importance of early literacy. 

After 20 years, Reach Out and Read’s goal remains the same: that every child grow up with books and a love of reading. Reach Out and Read’s website includes information for all parents including how to select age-appropriate children’s books, reading tips, and developmental milestones. For further information, visit www.reachoutandread.org.  


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 10

Jpg_book007This afternoon 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 679 subscribers. 

This week I have two book reviews, one middle grade nonfiction title and one young adult fiction title, and an announcement about a book previously reviewed that's now available. I also have a post with Kidlitosphere news, and a post continuing my discussion about the idea of a public information campaign to encourage reading aloud with kids. Finally, I have two posts with details about the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour. These posts replace the usual children's literacy round-up for this week. A third post written in anticipation of the tour is not included in the newsletter.

I didn't get much reading done this week, for various reasons (work, houseguests, general exhaustion, and following the Share a Story - Shape a Future tour, to name a few). I did finish and review The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (so, so good!). I also started a couple of other books that didn't work for me, and put them both aside. I am currently 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'm also reading middle grade fiction title Boys are Dogs by Leslie Margolis. Hoping to get more reading time in this week. What are you reading?

Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms!


Share a Story - Shape a Future: Day 2: Selecting Reading Material

ShareAStoryLogo-color Welcome to Day 2 of the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour, focused on helping parents and teachers to recommending reading material for kids. Today's host is teacher Sarah Mulhern from The Reading Zone. Here's a snippet from Sarah's introduction for today:

"As Terry said yesterday, it all starts with raising readers. By surrounding children with text and stories, we are helping them blossom into the readers they can and should be. So maybe yesterday you decided to set aside some time every day or so to read with your children. But now you are overwhelmed - where do you begin? How do you find books to read? How do you know what books your child will enjoy sharing with you? Today’s bloggers have fantastic ideas and suggestions for selecting reading material for different age groups."

Here's today's schedule, with links (links borrowed from The Reading Tub, where Terry Doherty is keeping up with everything that's going on):

Other Share a Story-Shape a Future News

Sue_steph1 In addition to direct links to the posts for today, Sarah has included a special section on her host post with additional resources for selecting reading material. She'll be filling in additional suggestions as they come through during the day. So head on over to check out this excellent resource, and share your thoughts!

Image credit: Author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba created the Share a Story - Shape a Future logo at the top of the post. Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook, created the image in the preceding paragraph.


Share a Story - Shape a Future: Day 1: Raising Readers

ShareAStoryLogo-color The Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour started today! Day One: Raising Readers is being hosted by Terry Doherty from The Reading Tub. As Terry explains:

"Read with your kids everyday sounds simple. But for lots of reasons, it doesn't always happen. Sometimes reading sounds like just another thing on a To-Do list that is already overbooked.

We understand. It happens to us, too.

All this week, people passionate about books and reading will explore some of the challenges that can get in the way of that daily dose of reading. We're not going to quote studies or print lists of statistics. We're not even going to tell you that you have to read with your child.
Instead, we're going to introduce you to resources and share specific, do-able activities that can help you make reading "just" a regular part of your daily life. Share a Story - Shape a Future is an event to offer tried-and-true ideas for promote reading as a life-long skill. So let's get started ..."

And it's a great start, I can tell you that! Here are direct links to today's fabulous posts. They are all well worth reading in full!

I also chimed in with: A Public Information Campaign for Read-Aloud (where I would greatly appreciate your feedback).

If you'd like to chime in, today or any other day, the Share a Story - Shape a Future team would love to hear from you. You can comment on any of the posts, and/or write a post yourself. Terry says: "If you put up a post related to the day's theme, be sure to include that link in your comment at the host's blog. Periodically throughout the day, I will be updating my post at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub with those additional links, just like we do for Nonfiction Monday and Poetry Friday."

Share a Story - Shape a Future image created by Elizabeth Dulemba.


Chill: Discover the Cool (and Creative) Side of Your Fridge: Allan Peterkin

Nonfiction.monday Book: Chill: Discover the Cool (and Creative) Side of Your Fridge
Author: Allan Peterkin
Illustrator: Mike Shiell
Pages: 80
Age Range: 9-12 

ChillI have to admit that when Raab Associates sent me a copy of Chill: Discover the Cool (and Creative) Side of Your Fridge, I kind of scratched my head. Really? A book about refrigerators? But it was an engaging, small-format hardcover (a little larger than a mass-market paperback), with bright colors, glossy pages, and a mix of text and illustrations. So I opened it up, to see what it was all about. And I'm surprised to report that this book had me pealing with laughter.

It's a tongue-in-cheek look at the history of refrigeration, with primary emphasis on the importance of refrigerator art as a form of artistic expression. It's hard to even know if this is a book that should be considered nonfiction. It's filled with "factoids", but even those are related in a light-hearted manner. For example: "Neodymium magnets can hold up to one hundred times their weight. (They can also stop cardiac pacemakers, so keep Granny away from the fridge!)". There are also sections like "Where Did Fridge Art Come From?" by Lady Sibyl Snivel, the British Institute of Refrigerative Expression." and "The Brainwashing Fridge" (how to manipulate your refrigerator art to convince your parents to buy you a puppy).

Here are a few things that made me laugh:

  • In a section with quotes about fridge art: "Sticking rubber snakes on the fridge is a perfect way to annoy my big sister - Leonard, devious sibling"
  • and, "My fridge reminds me, every morning, of my current infatuations with people, places and things" -- Paris Stilton, cheesy starlet".
  • and "Every time I get expelled, putting up the fridge magnets in my new dorm room makes it feel like home -- Ned, boarding school reject"

There are quizzes, like identify the celebrity fridge (Cleopatra's has a note to buy eye liner" and interpretations from Dr. Henry  Froid (pronounced Freud) about what your refrigerator art might be telling you ("Narcissists display far too many pictures of their self-absorbed selves and they endlessly detail their achievements." There are even lists of taboo refrigerator behavior, and things NOT to stick on your fridge.

As you can see, it's all rather irreverent, but definitely entertaining. I must admit that I lost interest during a longer section about different styles of fridge design (birthday, letter tiles, etc.). But I can imagine that kids might be inspired to undertake actual craft projects from some of these ideas. The end of the book even includes some recommendations for becoming an entrepreneurial magnet maker. In short, this could make an entertaining gift book for reluctant middle-grade readers, looking for humor and/or ideas for quirky, creative projects. I'm still a bit bemused that I enjoyed a book about refrigerators, but I did.

Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: March 1, 2009
Source of Book: Review copy from Raab Associates

Today's Nonfiction Monday wrap-up is at Lori Calabrese Writes!

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