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Posts from January 2013

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 31

Here are some highlights from the links that I have shared on Twitter in the past week or so @JensBookPage.

Book Lists and Recommendations

Wands and Worlds: 50 Essential Science Fiction Books, and my commentary by @SheilaRuth

Early and First Chapter Books about Girls (standalone) from@momandkiddo for Weekly Children's Bookshelf #kidlit

On the #Cybils blog: Some Worthy YA Titles that Missed the Shortlist #yalit

The Brown Bookshelf announces 2013 Honorees for 28 Days Later campaign|

RT @elvenjaneite: All but one of the YA fiction finalists for the Cybils are also on the BFYA list. Awesome: …

Awards and Contests

RT @Candlewick: SLJ's Battle of the Kids Books 2013 contenders have been announced! Start reading! @sljournal#splendorsandglooms

Old news by now, but ... Applegate, Klassen Win Newbery, Caldecott Medals via @sljournal #kidlit

Top Ten Things You May Not Know About the Newbery Award by@medinger @NerdyBookClub #kidlit

RT @cbcbook: Kane Miller & @JillCorcoran's #kidlit poetry collection sparks a writing contest for kids! #kidlitchat

Sydney Taylor Book Awards Honor Heiligman, Borden, Glaser via@sljournal #kidlit

Literacy and Growing Bookworms

Literacy Guest Spotlight Q & A with Shara Lawrence-Weiss at Growing Book by Book #literacy

Tiny Tips for Library Fun: 1000 Books Before Kindergarten is Still Rockin! #literacy @lochwouters #litrdup

RT @ReadTogether: To grow the economy, invest in early childhood education via @thehill: #literacy #ece @rosadelauro @firstfiveyears

RT @tashrow Great Tips to Turn Kids into Regular Readers – #Literacy

There's still time to apply for the Toyota Teacher of the Year award says NCFL #literacy

RT @BookChook: @JensBookPage Interesting article: Boys’ love of reading #literacy

7-Imp 7 Kicks #314: Featuring Priya Kuriyan + Int'l Book Giving Day on 2/14 #literacy


RT @charlesbridge: Pew study: Library patrons want personalized recommendations « The Thingology Blog

RT @tashrow: Rumors of the library's demise have been greatly exaggerated | ITworld

RT @catagator: One of my all-time favorite library stories is this one -- a NYPL branch loans out an American Girl Doll


ELL Teachers Connect and Learn in Twitter Chats #ELLChat via @EducationWeek

TEACHERNINJA: @library_jim wants to know your favorite Reading Positions. I favor the couch in my office

Thoughts on Critical Reviews & Critical Advocacy from @catagator at Stacked

RT @ChasingRay: Massive round-up of impressions from #alamw13 including the crew packing 500+ books into their suitcases at coat check …

This post (c) 2013 by Jennifer Robinson. All rights reserved.

Gingersnap: Patricia Reilly Giff

Book: Gingersnap
Author: Patricia Reilly Giff
Pages: 160
Age Range: 8 and up

Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff is a slim volume, suitable for younger middle grade readers. Gingersnap is historical fiction set near the end of World War II in New York. Jayna, aka Gingersnap, is an orphan happy to be living with her much-older brother, Rob, after spending her early years in the foster care system. When Rob is sent off to the war in the Pacific (chef on a submarine), Jayna is left to stay with the siblings' landlady, Celine. A clue found in an old journal, however, sends Jayna off on a daring journey to Brooklyn, in search of family and a home.

For the most part, Gingersnap is straight up historical fiction. However, Giff also includes a ghost girl who may or may not be appearing to Jayna, encouraging her to go off on the trip. Giff leaves the reader to decide whether the ghost girl is real or a hallucination on the part of Jayna. I'm not totally sure that the ghost girl is necessary to the book -- her presence muddies the genre a bit -- but I'm sure some readers will appreciate that aspect of the book.

Personally, though, I thought that the strengths of the book lay in Jayna's characterization (plucky even when insecure) and the historical details. Gingersnap feels like a World War II novel, but Giff is secure enough not to need to beat the reader over the head with details. Instead, she uses just a few to evoke the time period. Like this:

"Celine bought me a hat for Easter Sunday. Imagine, my first veil. It had little blue dots, and I kept blowing at it all through church to get it out of my eyes. I loved it!" (Page 24)

"Mrs. Murtha drew arrows on the blackboard, showing those planes diving and looping, exploding into our ships. One morning, with tears in her eyes, she told us that our president had died, and there would be a new president, a man named Harry Truman." (Page 29-30)

She also includes soup recipes throughout the book (Jayna likes to make soups to suit her mood). These are quite simple, and might entice young readers to want to try their own hands at soup-making. Other scenes (with an echo of A Little Princess, for me), are set in a bakery. The characters' appreciation for food is also, I think, an accurate representation of wartime. 

Gingersnap is an old-fashioned book, with a somewhat idealized ending. But I personally loved it. I read the last couple of chapters with happy tears rolling down my cheeks. I think that the 9 year old me would have enjoyed it, too. Although I do have some fear that this might be one of those books that adults adore more than children do, I plan to keep my copy to try out on Baby Bookworm when she's older. Recommended. 

Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 30

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out the new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. There are 1640 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every three weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I am including eight book reviews (three picture books, one middle grade graphic novel, and four young adult novels). I also have one post with the mid-January Children's Literacy Roundup and one post with links that I shared on Twitter. Not included in the newsletter, I also shared a press release about the results of the Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report

Also not included in the newsletter as a separate post, but worth mentioning here, the American Library Assocation Youth Media Awards (including the Newbery and Caldecott Awards) were announced on Monday. You can read the official press release here. I haven't read the Newbery winner, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, or the Printz winner, In Darkness by Nick Lake. But I was thrilled to see one of my favorite 2012 titles win the Caldecott: This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. Also nice to see the Cybils finalists well-represented across the awards. Because the ALA Awards have been covered so extensively everywhere, I'm not going to say more here. But Travis has a great roundup of the winners and reaction posts at 100 Scope Notes. 

Reading Update: In the past 3 weeks, I finished 5 novels for middle grade readers, 6 novels for young adults, and 3 novels for adults. I read:  

Reviews of most of the above MG/YA titles are to come. I'm currently reading Prodigy by Marie Lu (having cleverly finished Legend on Prodigy's publication date). I'm listening to Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris. 

And of course I'm still reading books to Baby Bookworm. She is currently obsessed with Mercer Mayer's Little Critter books, and Mia: The Sweetest Valentine, by Robin Farley. She also loves Marla Frazee's illustrations of babies. We read Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers and All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon all the time. In fact, she just popped by my computer, and pointed excitedly at the picture of All the World, saying "That my book!"

How about you? What have you and your kids been reading and enjoying? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Beta: Rachel Cohn

Book: Beta
Author: Rachel Cohn
Pages: 336
Age Range: 14 and up 

Rachel Cohn's Beta, the first installment in a new YA dystopia series, is exactly the kind of book that I enjoy. It's set in a post-apocalypse, high-tech world, and features both action and ethical questions (about the nature and treatment of clones). Elysia looks and feels like a 16-year-old girl (somewhat), but she was actually born in a laboratory on the posh island enclave of Demesne. She is a "Beta", one of the first clones to be copied from a teenager. Adult clones do all of the mundane work on the island. Elysia is purchased by the wife of the Governor. She is meant to be a sort of replacement for the family's teenage daughter, now off in college on the Mainland. This makes her part servant and part pseudo-family member. And, of course, 100% property. 

The clones on Demesne are supposed to exist to blindly serve the humans. When Elysia starts to have thoughts and feelings of her own, she finds out just how dangerous humans can be.

Cohn renders the island setting vividly, like this:

"I have never lived anywhere but Demesne so I cannot compare it to other places, but even without a chip telling me so, I think I could understand that this island is an ideal, an embodiment of perfection. Breathig in the silken air is like having warm honey trickling sweetly down your throat. The contrast of colors--Io's violet-blue, the lush green plants and tall trees, the flowers' bursting plumes of bright pinks, yellows, oranges, reds, purples, and golds everywhere--intoxicates the eyes." (Chapter 1)

I like that Demesne is beautiful and apparently safe. This is a nice contrast from some of the physically bleak dystopias I've read of late (though of course there's a darker underside). I found some echoes of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, which I also enjoyed. 

I like Elysia's voice. WIthout sounding completely wooden, she also doesn't sound quite like a human teen. She has gaps in her knowledge that sometimes lend humor. Like this:

"It's like my wiring is tripping all over itself. My chip tells me to express delight at the humans' food, but my stomach says it is indeed delighted. Whoever invented adding melted cheese over starchy goodness was surely the most brilliant human ever." (Chapter 5)

"Now that I've learned what sarcasm is and that it cannot cause physical injury, I have privately renamed this lady Mrs. Red While for the amount of pinot noir she drinks while complaining about pretty much any topic up for discussion." (Chapter 12)

The plot in Beta has quite a few threads, some of which are left open for the next book. It's a fast-paced, entertaining read, and I look forward to the next installment. I also found the lack of implied judgement around the societal developments (impact of global warming, etc.) refreshing. 

That said, there are a couple of things that didn't quite work for me. One was that the book is set well into the future, after The Water Wars. Demesne is part of a whole new chain of islands that emerged from the ocean. There have been some big technological advances, like the method of copying newly dead people to create clones. But ... the day to day technology, and the way people speak, just didn't see that different from today. This felt like a disconnect, though I understand why the book is written this way (practicality and accessibility). I also found Elysia to become a bit ... easy for my personal taste, as the book progresses. I agree with the Amazon classification of this as a book for ages 14 and up. There's a fair bit of sex, and although there's not a lot of violence what there is is a bit disturbing.  

Beta doesn't explore the science aspects of the situation very much (how the clones are created, exactly). People looking for pure science ficiton may be disappointed. But people looking for an engaging novel with an intriguing premise and an unusual and memorable heroine will want to bive Beta a look. I liked it. 

Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children (@DisneyHyperion)
Publication Date: October 16, 2012
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 

Return to Me: Justina Chen

Book: Return to Me
Author: Justina Chen
Pages: 352
Age Range: 12 and up

Justina Chen's Return to Me is a coming of age novel about 18-year-old Rebecca (Reb) Muir. Reb is headed off to Columbia in September, planning to start down the path to becoming a corporate architect as quickly as she can. Her plans are derailed, however, when her beloved father abandons the family for his young mistress. The demolition of her family and the threat to her college funding send Reb on a journey of self-discovery, one that parallels (but is different from) her mother's. 

I found Return to Me to be an enjoyable read. I liked Reb and the people in her support network (especially her unabashedly nerdy younger brother). I loved Reb's obsession with treehouses and other small, nurturing spaces. I appreciated the detail of two very different island settings in the book, and I liked the emphasis on architecture. I found it refreshing to see a book for teens that treats the choice of college and careers as more important than the choice of boyfriend. I flagged a number of inspirational passages about finding and following one's passion in life. Like this:

"You know. In here." Grandma tapped her heart and then pointed at mine, as though she knew I was asking about myself. "Trust your instinct, Reb. No amount of planning is going to confirm what your gut can, especially when life changes our best, most detailed plans. When your passion and your power collide, that's when you know you're on the right path."

"Passion and power?" I asked, not understanding.

"When what you love intersects with what you're good at. And when that happens, you have to lean into your calling, even if people think you're absolutely crazy." (Chapter Twenty-Eight)

and this:

"This is what women do when they defend their dreams. They pick their way through their own sharp-edged doubts and swim through the sea of skepticism. They remember that nothing and no one can turn them into powerless victims--not reneged vows, not betrayals that have ricocheted them from one ed of the country to the other.

This is what women do.

They speak." (Chapter Thirty-Six)

But here's the thing. I know Justina Chen. I know that she's a co-founder of Readergirlz, an organization dedicated to empowering teenage girls through helping them find literary role models. I know that Justina is passionate about helping girls to become the best selves that they can be. This comes through in Justina's other books, too (see my reviews of Girl Overboard and North of Beautiful). This is obviously an admirable goal. But for me, in the case of Return to Me, I think that the message overwhelmed the story a bit.

Return to Me towards the end feels a bit like a manual for finding oneself, rather than a novel about a teenage girl. While I think it's a useful manual, one that I would like the teenage girls in my life to read, I also think that this aspect has a detrimental impact on the pacing of the book. There were several places where I thought that the book was about to end, and then it continued (always disconcerting). The more personal plotlines (to do with Reb's relationships with her mother, father, and boyfriend) wrap up earlier than the career choice plotlines, and that made the pacing feel off to me, too.

Don't get me wrong. I liked Return to Me. I would recommend it for teenage girls, particularly those who are struggling with what to do with their lives, and/or those who are coping with a family divorce. But I think that it could have been edited to make the later part of the book a bit tighter and to scale back the intensity of the message. I'll be interested to hear what other people think. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Source of Book: Digital review copy from the publisher

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 

Little Critter Bedtime Stories and We Are Moving: Mercer Mayer

Books: Little Critter Bedtime Stories (6 paperbacks included)
Author: Mercer Mayer
Pages: 24 each
Age Range: 3 - 5

I'd seen Mercer Mayer's Little Critter books around, of course. There are dozens of them. But I'm not sure I had read any until the Bedtime Stories boxed set arrived on our doorstep recently, along with a standalone copy of We Are Moving. I must admit, these books are not my favorites. But I must also admit that Baby Bookworm, at nearly three years old, adores them. So I felt that in good conscience, I had to write about them. 

These are quick reads, designed for the interests of preschoolers and early elementary school kids. The Bedtime Stories set includes: 

  • The Best Teacher Ever (choosing a gift for Teacher Appreciation Day)
  • The Best Show & Share (deciding what to bring for a special show and tell)
  • Bye, Bye, Mom and Dad (spending the night with Grandma and Grandpa)
  • The Lost Dinosaur Bone (solving a mystery at the natural history museum)
  • Just a Little Too Little (camping out)
  • Just a Little Music  (attempting to play an instrument)

Baby Bookworm likes the kid-friendly humor. Like when in We Are Moving Little Critter is so opposed to the move that his father has to carry him to the car, and when in Bye, Bye, Mom and Dad Little Critter makes pickle sandwiches with marshmallows on them. She also seems to like the fact that she can relate to some of the experiences (like eating in a tent), while others stretch her expectations, revealing things that she'll be able to do when she's a just a bit bigger (like camping out in the back yard or taking music lessons).

The illustrations frequently feature disagreeable expressions on the part of Little Critter and Little Sister (as when they find out about the planned move). There are other amusing details to counter the text, like when Little Critter spills "just a little bit" of paint, but we see that he has actually tipped over an entire gallon can. Or when Little Sister helps Grandpa water the garden, but we see that she's really watering Grandpa's pants. Like the topics, the illustrations are relatable and kid-friendly, full of warm details like treehouses and teddy bears.

These books do a good job of setting up kid-appropriate conflicts (such as listing off all of the worries that a kid might have in facing a move to a new house). My problem with the books is that the conflicts are resolved too hastily, and too easily. The feared move ends up fine, with all fears shown on the last 3 pages to be groundless. When Little Critter encounters setbacks with a variety of teacher appreciation gifts, the drawing that he hastily scribbles at the end of the book is the only one that the teacher puts up on her wall. When he is careless and lets the frog that he plans to bring to show and share escape, his mother finds it just in time, and he gets a ribbon. It's all just too easy and too tidy. Perhaps this is one of the things that kids like about the books, but it doesn't work for me as a reviewer. 

Still, Baby Bookworm asked me to read her all seven books this morning after breakfast, during a time period in which she usually asks for the iPad. She took a couple of the books to bed with her last night, too. And they make her laugh. All of that does work for me, and will keep me reading these books over and over again, as requested. And if I was looking for a book to address a particular issue, this is a series that I would look to.  There are "I Can Read" books about the same characters, too, which I will certainly consider when we are ready for them. Do any of you have thoughts about the Little Critters books? 

Publisher: HarperFestival (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 

The Black Rabbit: Philippa Leathers

Book: The Black Rabbit
Author: Philippa Leathers
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3 and up 

The Black Rabbit by Philippa Leathers is a lovely little picture book about a small white bunny who goes outside one sunny day to find himself followed everywhere by a big, black rabbit. Children ages three and up should understand right away that Black Rabbit is Rabbit's shadow. But although Rabbit comes to appreciate Black Rabbit, the gag continues throughout the book, and Rabbit never gets the joke (which I think adds tremendously to the appeal of the book). 

Leathers' text is minimal, and well-suited for read-aloud. Like this:

"Rabbit ran.

But the Black Rabbit was right behind him.

Rabbit ran even faster.

The Black Rabbit won't find me here! thought Rabbit, and he hid behind a tree.

But when Rabbit stepped out from behind the tree...

there was the Black Rabbit right in front of him."

In fact, The Black Rabbit could probably work as an early reader, too. But I think that it's best suited for read-aloud to preschoolers just old enough to understand what a shadow is.

Leathers' illustrations are fairly minimalist, too, with just a few colors. Black Rabbit dominates most of the pages, size-wise, but Rabbit shows more character. Despite being small and drawn in streamlined fashion, Rabbit's personality is conveyed through posture and action. Leathers throws in a bit of humor to the pictures, too. For instance, outside of the "the deep, dark wood" is a big wooden sign that says "Welcome to the deep, dark wood". It made me smile. 

I haven't tried this on Baby Bookworm yet, but I am expecting it to be a favorite. This is Philippa Leathers' first picture book, but I hope it will not be her last. Recommended for home and library use. 

Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick)
Publication Date: January 22, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 

Janie Face to Face (Janie Johnson): Caroline B. Cooney

Book: Janie Face to Face (Janie Johnson)
Author: Caroline B. Cooney
Pages: 352
Age Range: 12 and up 

I spent the Christmas holiday this year immersed in the world of Janie Johnson. I had read The Face on the Milk Carton a while back (and clearly remember seeing the movie), but read it again after running across a library copy. Then, knowing that I had the final book in the series waiting for me at home, I picked up the other 3 books on Kindle, and gulped them all down quickly. So, I was completely primed for the final book, Janie Face to Face. I thought that Cooney did well in wrapping up the series, and also providing a book that was suspenseful in its own right.

While one could probably read Janie Face to Face without having read the other books in the series, I wouldn't recommend it. This is a book that was clearly written to give closure to long-time fans of the series. This review will contain spoilers for the earlier books (at least the first book). 

Janie Face to Face is told from multiple viewpoints, but primarily those of Janie and her kidnapper. Several years after finding her own face on a milk carton, and learning that she was kidnapped at age three, Janie Johnson starts college in New York. In an effort to put her complicated past behind her, Janie doesn't tell her new friends anything about her kidnapping. She goes by Jane instead of Janie, in an effort to avoid recognition. She alternates weekend visits between her birth family and her "kidnap family", but allows people to think that she has two families because of a divorce. Janie's past intrudes anyway, however, when she and her families receive letters from a true crime writer, indicating that the writer is going to do a book on Janie's story.

The chapters depicting Janie's college life are interspersed with chapters told from Hannah's perspective, titled "The First Piece of the Kidnapper's Puzzle", "The Second Piece of the Kidnapper's Puzzle", etc. The Hannah chapters reveal that Janie's ordeal may not be over. They also, for the first time in the series, reveal the depth of Hannah's pathology. Hannah's bitterness towards both her own parents and Janie, and her unwillingness to take personal responsibility for her own life, come through again and again. Like this:

"Frank was probably lavishing money on that little girl. But would he pay Hannah's bills? No! She would have to get a job. And that had never worked for her. She was too fragile." (Page 67)

"It's her fault! thought Hannah. She kept the rage out of her voice. "I'll call again," said Hannah smoothly. "Good afternoon."

"Thank you for calling," said the sweet little voice of the vicious little parent thief." (Page 162) 

Other sections crop up from the viewpoint of other characters, including Janie's best friend from high school, Janie's siblings, and Janie's one-time boyfriend, Reeve. These sections give insight into the impact that Janie has had on the people around her, as well as on the current danger facing Janie. I especialy liked that Cooney took the time in this book to delve into the character of Janie's brother Brendan, scarcely mentioned in the earlier books. Certain chilling parallels between Brendan's thinking and Hannah's even emerge. 

Overall, the perspective shifts add tension to the book, and require the reader to pay close attention. Like the other books in the series, this is one that fans will want to read in a single sitting, constantly turning the pages to find out what will happen to Janie next. Without going into detail, I will say that Cooney wraps up the story nicely at the end, in a manner that I think fans will find satisfactory. 

The downside for me of reading all of the books in a very short time period was that I did notice a couple of inconsistencies. But these were very minor. And I thought that author and publisher did a good job of overcoming the inherent inconsistency, that the first book was originally published more than 20 years before the final book, though only five years elapse in story time. There's a reference in Janie Face to Face to how amazing it was that Janie and Reeve didn't even have cell phones five years earlier, and had to call home from a payphone.  Cell phones didn't really pop up quite that quickly, but still, it's nice that they made the effort.

Janie Face to Face feels utterly contemporary, with Facebook posts playing a major role in the mystery. And, in fact, this plot line may encourage teen readers to think twice about posting every detail of their lives on a platform that those with ill intent might be able to access.

The notion that a teenager might awaken to find that she isn't who she always thought she was remains endlessly appealing for kids. The fact that Cooney explores this idea using realistic fiction (vs. the many authors who tackle this theme via fantasy) makes the Janie Johnson series particularly difficult to resist. I found Janie Face to Face to be a solid ending to an enjoyable series, with a nice mix of sentiment and suspense. Recommended!  

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 

Links I Shared on Twitter This Week: January 18

Here are some highlights from the links that I shared @JensBookPage this week. Links already covered in the Children's Literacy Roundup: Mid-January are not repeated here.

Book Lists and Awards

The 2013 Scott O’Dell Award goes to Louise Erdrich for Chickadee via @tashrow #kidlit

The 2013 Edgar Awards Nominees (mysteries) have been announced via @tashrow

Food for thought from @MitaliPerkins on Children's/YA Book Awards: A Demographic Survey #kidlit

RT @playbythebook: Which series of books are ideal for a seven-year-old girl? … #kidlit

Best Early Chapter Books: Series about Girls from @momandkiddo  #kidlit

Top Ten Books featuring Autism Spectrum Disorders by Carrie Cox @NerdyBookClub #kidlit

Literacy and Growing Bookworms

RT @readingrockets: Can e-books motivate boys to read more? New @Scholastic report surveys kids' reading in digital age

Announcing the 2013 Share a Story - Shape a Future #Literacy Blog Tour. This year's theme is: the First Five Years

Did you know that there's a 7th edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook coming out this summer? News via @ReadAloudDad

There's still time to register as a book giver for World Book Night US via @Keplers #literacy

RT @CBCBook: Get some funding for your public school or library's creativity projects. Apply for an @EJKeats 2013 minigrant.

Food for thought on reading incentive programs: "Daddy, I want a book buck!" via @catagator #literacy

RT @readingrockets: 50 FAQs from parents about #LD: (via @LDorg) #dyslexia #sped

How To Instantly Transform A Child's Life Today - nice infographic @ReadAloudDad from Nancy Ann Wartman #literacy


Convincing theory on "Why Giant Smartphones are the New Normal" from @cmirabile

On the #Cybils blog: A Project from our Publisher Liaison @SheilaRuth

RT @bkshelvesofdoom: Boulder library reconsiders ban on children | | Colorado Springs | Pueblo |: …

Interesting thoughts on support and gender from @catagator at Stacked: Thank You For Being a Friend*

Food for thought: Boy Books, Girl Books, or JUST PLAIN GREAT BOOKS? by @literaticat via @catagator

This post (c) 2013 by Jennifer Robinson. All rights reserved.

Mid-January Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup

JkrROUNDUPThe mid-January edition of the Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup is now available at The Family BookshelfJen Robinson’s Book PageThe Family Bookshelf, and Quietly share in publishing this twice-monthly collection.

Terry has outdone herself this time around, with a host of literacy and reading-related events, news about literacy programs and research, and suggestions for growing bookworms. As Terry said, it's been a busy month already. Here are a few highlights from the roundup (but do click through to read the whole thing):

"Before you know it, Valentines Day will be here. It is SO much bigger than a box of chocolates! In addition to the announcement of the Cybils winners, it is alsoInternational Book Giving Day. The idea is very simple: give a book, leave a book, and/or donate a book. There is lots of info available …

"As you may remember, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy,  Scholastic pledged 1 MILLION books through its Book Grants program. Last week, more than 100 schools from New York and New Jergey started picking up their books. Each school received between 500 and 10,000 books for their school and classroom libraries to replace lost books."

"We are likely on the proverbial front end of the research, analysis, and discussions regarding kids and screens. Day Nurseries (UK) cites an American Academy of Pediatrics study looking at the effects of screens on children between 3 and 18 months of age. Among the findings are “a range of possible long-term implications upon both mental and physical health,” including developmental delays and autism to a loss of creative thinking and problem solving to obesity. The article is well worth a read."

And here are a couple of additional tidbits from me:

I'll be sharing some other links in my Twitter wrapup post tomorrow, and Carol will be back with more literacy and reading news at the end of the month. Thanks for reading, and for caring about children's literacy!

(c) 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. 

Sound Bender #2: The Shadow Mask: Lin Oliver & Theo Baker

Book: Sound Bender #2: The Shadow Mask
Author: Lin Oliver & Theo Baker
Pages: 336
Age Range: 10 and up 

The Shadow Mask is the sequel to Lin Oliver and Theo Baker's Sound Bender, featuring a boy named Leo who can dip into an object's past (sometimes) by touching it. Leo and his brother Hollis are living under the not-so-tender care of their step-uncle, Crane, after the disappearance and presumed death of their parents. Crane is a manipulator and an opportunist who makes his living trading in black-market antiquities. In The Shadow Mask, Crane convinces Leo to travel with him to the jungles of Borneo, in search of the missing mask (the companion to one discovered earlier by Leo's father). 

I found the pacing a bit off in The Shadow Mask. Nearly half of the book takes place prior to the trip to Borneo, though most of what takes place is setup for the events in the jungle. It's not that the early part of the book, in which Leo is sent temporarily to another school, isn't interesting. And some of the things that Leo learns are important later. But the real action is on the journey to the jungle, and it takes an awfully long time to get there. There's also a simply enormous coincidence around the repeated appearance of a mother and daughter who help Leo. While I'm generally pretty tolerant of necessary plot devices, this one was a bit over the top even for me.  

Still, it's an entertaining book. Leo's sound-bending is intriguing. And Leo and his best friend spend a fair bit of effort trying to understand how the gift works, which is the kind of detail often glossed over in books. It's also nice to read a middle-grade adventure story set (in part) in another country. The jungle visited by Crane's party is far from idealized (Hollis hates it). Leo is plausibly flawed (he makes mistakes in his dealings with people he cares about, and has to apologize). 

I think that 10-14 year old kids (particularly boys) looking for adventure stories with a supernatural twist will enjoy The Shadow Mask. Those who enjoyed the first book will want to give it a look. 

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 

Babymouse #17: Extreme Babymouse: Jennifer L. Holm & Matt Holm

Book: Babymouse #17: Extreme Babymouse
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Illustrator: Matt Holm
Pages: 96
Age Range: 7 and up 

What more is there to be said about Babymouse than what I have said already (Babymouse: Cupcake TycoonBabymouse: Puppy LoveBabymouse: HeartbreakerBabymouse: DragonslayerBabymouse: Beach Babe)? Each of these graphic novels for younger kids is a delight from start to finish. Babymouse #17: Extreme Babymouse is no exception. In this installment, the intrepid Babymouse turns her hand to snowboarding. Well, ok, technically she is driven to try snowboarding after all of her classmates become board obsessed, and she feels left out. But whatever. That's a technicality. She brings her patented blend of imagination and frustration to the slopes. 

Some highlights for me in Extreme Babymouse included:

As always, I love the narrator's deadpan insertions. In this book, I giggled over "I think we need some duct tape over here" after a humpty-dumpty-like wipeout. I was also delighted to see the sun and a cloud chiming in with their observations on the fall. 

Not to risk getting spoiler-y, but I really liked the ending of this one. While maintaining a light touch, and staying true to character, the authors give Babymouse the chance to grow a little bit. And that, as they say, is extreme. Highly recommended for fans of the series, and for anyone who could use a good laugh. You don't need to read the Babymouse books in order (although certain jokes do recur, rewarding loyal readers). I can't wait until Baby Bookworm is old enough to enjoy these. 

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).