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Posts from February 2013

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: February 28

Here are some highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. I hope you find some food for thought.


Press Release Fun: #Kidlit Celebrates Women’s History Month via @fuseeight  @shelfemployed

Some excellent Ways to Celebrate Dr Seuss' Birthday on Saturday, from @bookchook #literacy

RT @reachoutandread: Friday is Read Across America Day! How will you and your little ones celebrate? #literacy

At @playbythebook, Zoe is Looking forward to World Book Day with a giveaway #literacy #kidlit

RT @book_nut: The @SLJsBoB brackets + judges are up! This year is going to be a tough one to call.

Literacy and Growing Bookworms

Duchess of Cornwall and James Patterson spearhead literary campaign - Telegraph #litrdup #literacy

RT @amazonkindle: Kindle is working with the National PTA to encourage family involvement with children’s reading:

RT @scholastic: why reading aloud to kids is so important? Studies show kids learn more by listening than reading.

squeetus: Common mistakes parents make with their beginning readers, final in series by Kirsten Wilcox  @haleshannon

Fathers and police officers read to children at South L.A. school @latimes #literacy #litrdup

RT @playbythebook: Booktrust launches the Get Dads Reading campaign, challenges dads to match mums in reading w/ kids.

Inspiring Readers: How to encourage a generation to want books by @lilmommareader @NerdyBookClub  #litrdup

eBooks and Libraries

Consumer Patterns in Finding + Buying Children's Books Are Shifting, reports @PublishersWkly  via @PWKidsBookshelf

Interesting. RT @tashrow Killing the Pay First, Read Later E-bookselling Model | Publishing Perspectives

RT @tashrow Is Amazon About to Break the Law? TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing ...

RT @bookpatrol: "In a world without (printed) books, what happens to our bookshelves?" | @washingtonpost

RT @roomtoread: California man promotes literacy by establishing a mini-library in his front yard

Gorgeous photos! RT @roomtoread: The 30 Best Places to Be if You Love Books (according to @BuzzFeed)

RT @bkshelvesofdoom: What the Library of Congress Plans to Do With All Your Tweets via @TIMEBusiness

I want a book butler. Fun post by @rebeccaschinsky: 5 Bookish Jobs That Would Make Readers' Lives Better via Reshama

Kidlitosphere and Miscellaneous

The February Carnival of Children's Literature is up at INSTANTLY INTERRUPTIBLE #kidlit #literacy

RT @cbcbook: Love Grace Lin's #CBW bookmark? More on her creative process: . @pacylin @lbkids

Interesting thoughts from @mstewartscience on narrative nonfiction: Does Story Appeal to Everyone? via Gail Gauthier

Kids' picture book lists from The Children's Bookshelf (including mine!) featured by @bethanyntt #kidlit

A Call for Submissions: Re-Sendakify Sendak! — @fuseeight A Fuse #8 Production #kidlit

Chelsea Clinton interviews Judy Blume about Tiger Eyes movie on “Rock Center with Brian Williams” this Friday at 10p/9c via@amyelynn

RT @bkshelvesofdoom: John Green: 'I'm tired of adults telling teenagers that they aren't smart' via @guardian

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

Teddy Bear Patterns (McGrath Math): Barbara Barbieri McGrath

Book: Teddy Bear Patterns (McGrath Math)
Author: Barbara Barbieri McGrath
Illustrator: Tim Nihoff
Pages: 32 
Age Range: 3-6

Teddy Bear Patterns is the latest entry in Barbara Barbieri McGrath and Tim Nihoff's McGrath Math series (beginning with Teddy Bear Counting, published in 2010). This series uses brightly-colored teddy bears to illustrate counting and mathematical concepts. In Teddy Bear Patterns, small, shiny bears in the six colors of the rainbow are used to teach children about patterns. McGrath starts out by simply grouping the bears by color, moving from two-color patterns up to repeating lines of all six. The bears are also used to show some simple addition and multiplication, as well as "skip-counting" to show odds and evens. Finally, young readers are asked to identify a few patterns near the end of the book, followed by a brief recap of the book's concepts. 

I like the idea behind this book, using something that kids tend to like as a vehicle for learning. One can readily imagine supplementing the book with properly-selected gummy bears (or with these plastic bear-shaped counters), and encouraging kids to dabble in hands-on pattern-making. I found a couple of the examples later in the book to be a bit cryptic, but most of Teddy Bear Patterns is straightforward and educational. 

McGrath's rhyming text isn't particularly lyrical, but this may be deliberate. It keeps the reader's attention on the patterns, rather than on word selection. Here are a couple of examples:

"Let's make a pattern
that's totally new.
Place the teddies by color,
arranged two by two."

"Do you see what they see?
If you do please give a nod.
The bottom bears are even;
the top bears are odd."

That second example didn't scan quite right for me, in terms of the prose. But I'm happy to see kids learning about odd and even numbers in a visual way (the bears are in two staggered rows, with odd numbers up top and evens down below, one skip-counts through them).

I actually liked this book enough to go ahead and order Teddy Bear Counting and the Baby Bear Counters that Amazon recommends with the books (not a formal companion item) for my daughter's upcoming third birthday. Recommended for library purchase and for home education for preschooler-age kids. 

Publisher: Charlesbridge (@Charlesbridge)
Publication Date: February 1, 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 Paladin Prophecy: Book 1: Mark Frost

Book: The Paladin Prophecy: Book 1
Author: Mark Frost
Pages: 560
Age Range: 12 and up 

The Paladin Prophecy is the first book in a new young adult series about a teenage boy (Will West) who discovers that he has special abilities, finds himself pursued by bad guys, and must learn to manage without his parents. Well, to be fair, Will was always aware that he had some special abilities, but his parents encouraged him to keep them under wraps. He has spent the whole first part of his life attempting to blend in. But when Will accidentally aces a national assessment exam, he draws the attention of an assortment of individuals, not all of them human, and only some of them with his best interests at heart.

I found the first part of The Paladin Prophecy, in which Will is on the run, a bit over the top. However, the book improved for me once Will arrived at his new, elite private school, The Center for Integrated Learning. There, for the first time in his life, Will makes friends, and even begins to trust a few people with his secrets. Of course trouble follows Will to the Center, and danger ensues. But there's also some enjoyable banter among the kids. Like this:

""So tell me: What's your first impression?" 

"At six I could do a pretty awesome Scooby-Doo."

She frowned at him. "How many head injuries have you had?"

"None that I remember. Is that a bad sign?"

"I meant your first impression of the school, you goof," said Brooke." (Page 126)

and this:

""Oh, they can do a lot more than talk," said Nick, helping Will up while still walking on his hands. "If you know what I'm saying, wink, wink."

"There's a difference," said Elise, "between using a tool and being a tool."

"Touche, my lady," said Nick, flipping back to his feet and giving a small bow." (Page 312)

The Paladin Prophecy stretches credibility on multiple levels (like the presence of a cab driver who repeatedly risks life, limb, and his employment to help Will, who he's just met). The school is ridiculously posh, and the special skills of Will and his new friends are improbable, to say the least. And that's not even really getting into the supernatural stuff. But I think that kids will enjoy it. The Paladin Prophecy is fast-paced, full of twists and turns and opportunities for cleverness and bravery. There is plenty of tech gadgetry to appeal to modern kids. The teachers, and the subjects that they teach, also play a part in Will's adventure. Mark Frost isn't afraid to toss in world history, Emerson, and genetics, and make the reader think. There's a Spy Kids sort of vibe. 

One device that I enjoyed  was the sprinkling through the book of "rules to live by" given to Will by his father. Like these:



The rules are all listed at the end of the book. 

References to Emerson aside, The Paladin Prophecy is not literary fiction. But it is entertaining fantasy, with a kid-friendly boarding school setting and quirky, likable characters. Though marketed as young adult fiction (the characters are teenagers in high school, there are some nods to hormones and dating), I think it would work fine for middle schoolers. Recommended for teen and tween readers (especially boys) looking for a new epic fantasy series. 

Publisher: Random House (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle

© 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). 

Everything Goes: In the Air: Brian Biggs

Book: Everything Goes: In the Air
Author: Brian Biggs
Pages: 56
Age Range: 3 to 8 

Everything Goes: In the Air by Brian Biggs is a Richard Scary-esque book about a visit to the airport, and all things sky-worthy. There's a nominal storyline in which a family (parents and son) head to the airport, park, go through security, etc., all the way through to just after takeoff. The pages showing the family inside the airport are busy and full of amusing details. These are interspersed with more informational pages about different kinds of airplanes, and other things that fly. In all cases, information is conveyed through labels, text boxes, and dialog bubbles.

My three year old daughter and I prefer the pages about the family going through the airport, though I can imagine that slightly older kids would also enjoy the factual information about planes and blimps and whatnot. The airport pages include a running gag about a mother with five babies, all of whom run away, and have to be tracked down, page by page, in all sorts of predicaments. As an adult reader, the lines "Oh my, all five of my babies have crawled away. Can someone help me find them?!" are pretty funny. But for kids, it's the search for the babies that is rewarding. 

There's other humor, too, of course. On the page depicting the security screening lines, the reader finds: a robot not sure how to go through a metal detector; a man who mistakenly strips down to his underwear (instead of just taking off his shoes); a pirate wanting to go through with a sword; and lots more. Much of this humor is over the head of a three-year-old reader, but I think that five and six-year-olds will have a lot of fun with this book. 

Even the more fact-based pages include some humor, like the text of the label "stunt plane" being written upside down, and a news helicopter completely failing to notice a superhero standing on top of a building. 

Everything Goes: In the Air is a book better suited to being pored over by kindergarteners than to be read aloud, since it's all text boxes, rather than narrative text. But my daughter loves for me to read it aloud to her anyway, as she searches the pictures for familiar elements. Biggs' illustrations are not as detailed as Richard Scarry's, nor as quirky as Bob Staake's, but they are bright and engaging. 

This book arrived with two companion board books: Everything Goes  1 2 3 Beep Beep Beep (A Counting Book) and Everything Goes Stop! Go! (A Book of Opposites). These are aimed more at younger kids, and are less detailed, but Biggs manages to sneak in a few entertaining tidbits. 

I haven't read Everything Goes on Land, but I'm content to recommend this entire series for library purchase, as well as for home use for kids who like seek and find type books. Brian Biggs manages a nice balance of education and entertainment in these books, which are particularly boy-friendly. Everything Goes: In the Air would make a great gift for any young child about to embark on a first airplane trip. 

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
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: February 22

Here are some highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage.

Literacy and Growing Bookworms

Top 10 Resources on Reading Motivation from @ReadingRockets on @adlit #literacy

Neat stuff. RT @tashrow: Your Brain on Books: 10 Things That Happen to Our Minds When We Read | OEDb #litrdup

Guest post at squeetus: Helping your child with reading comprehension + fluency @haleshannon #literacy

Growing Book by Book is sharing monthly Table Topics (ideas to get kids talking). March topics about naming things:

5 Bookish Ways to Banish the Winter Blues from @StaceyLoscalzo  #literacy #kidlit

Chapter Books for Girls & Boys to Get Them #Reading, update of a great post from @TrevorHCairney #literacy

Sounds right to me. Thoughts on Investing in kids' reading by buying books from @katsok  #literacy

10 Ways to Read More to Your Child | via @momandkiddo + The Children's Bookshelf #literacy #kidlit

That's what I say, too: “If you’re bored, read a book.” by Renée Watson @NerdyBookClub

Thoughts on which picture books to keep as your children get older from @LiteracyLaunch  #kidlit


Read It Forward for World Read Aloud Day, details @NerdyBookClub  #literacy #kidlit

RT @bookgivingday: The International Book Giving Day blog hop is LIVE! Share stories about how you celebrated here:

RT @CBCBook: Join @CBCBook in celebration of the 94th annual Children's Book Week, May 13-19, 2013! #CBW #ECAR

Let's Celebrate Fairy Tale Day on 2/26, says @bookchook #kidlit

Introduction to the 2013 SLJ Battle of the Kids’ Books from @lizb #kidlit #yalit

Share a Story 2013 #literacy blog tour is Just 2 Weeks Away. Details + call to participate here: @ShareaStory


RT @playbythebook: Add your post to the February Carnival of Children's Literature! #kidlit #literacy

Cybils Awards Honor Palacio, Sheinkin, Hartman reports @sljournal #kidlit

On the #Cybils blog: Sharing the Love (a few author and publisher reactions to the Cybils winners)

A warm welcome to #kidlit FB page from @SevenImp @FuseEight @100scopenotes + @PhilNel @TheNiblings4


RT @tashrow: Gaby Roslin: Why parents need Britain’s local libraries to be saved – Telegraph

A triumph in library-saving by a community: Library campaigners save Friern Barnet branch @Guardian

Some pathetic attention-seeking: Libraries 'have had their day', says author Terry Deary in @Guardian via @bookchook


Useful tips for anyone, especially entrepreneurs: Nailing The One Minute Pitch by @cmirabile #marketing

Some fine choices. Top Ten Middle Grade Sleuths by @KKittscheron @NerdyBookClub  #kidlit

RT @ReadAloudDad: 67 Books Every Geek Should Read to Their Kids Before Age 10 via @GeekDads

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

What I Did for International Book Giving Day: BookMentors

BookGivingDayI alluded briefly in the mid-February Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup to what I did for International Book Giving Day on February 14th. Today, inspired by a call for stories from Zoe Toft at Playing by the Book, I'd like to share my actions in a bit more detail. 

First of all, I bought two books for my daughter (Baby Bookworm) who will be three in April. I bought her Stephen Savage's Where's Walrus? (a book that I had wanted since reading it for Round 1 for the Cybils last year), and Peggy Rathman's The Day the Babies Crawled Away (which I thought she would like because she is obsessed with books about babies). Turns out that she quite likes Where's Walrus? (I even featured it among her recent favorites), but is indifferent to The Day the Babies Crawled Away. Not enough color to the illustrations, perhaps... To be honest, I also bought her a puzzle for Valentine's Day, and that was the biggest hit of all. Ravensburger frame puzzles are a recent obsession of hers. 

For International Book Giving Day, I also purchased two other books, and I believe that those will have a much greater long-term impact. Through a new nonprofit, BookMentors, I was able to donate two copies of The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems to a first grade classroom at an elementary school in a high poverty area of Lowell, MA. I did this during a beta phase of BookMentors, and the nice thank you note that teacher Ms. Linehan sent me is no longer visible. But you can view the fulfilled request here.

Here's a bit more about BookMentors, from their website:

"BookMentors is a nonprofit that connects teachers and students who need books with donors who want to give books. BookMentors is also a community of readers, writers, teachers, and publishers interested in sharing information about children's and young adult literature."

I think it will take some time for BookMentors to develop as a community, but I think it's a nice idea. Teachers who want particular books can request them. People like me who are interested in donating books can select from the requests, and donate (via PayPal) from the comfort of our own homes. You don't ship the books directly yourself - you pay and BookMentors ships them.

Because of shipping costs, and a bit of a cut towards overhead, the books that I sent via BookMentors were slightly more expensive than they would have been if I had purchased them directly from Amazon. And certainly BookMentors is more expensive than using something like ARCs Float On, which allows me to donate books that I already have in my possession. But for me, there's real value to a) knowing about specific books that teachers are seeking for their particular classrooms and b) not having to go to the post office to send them out. So far, 47 books have been donated to classrooms through BookMentors. Two of those were mine, donated on February 14th for International Book Giving Day.

Happy as I always am to buy books for Baby Bookworm, I'm quite certain that the books that I sent through BookMentors will have a much greater overall impact.

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

Brian Selznick's Poster and Grace Lin's Bookmark for Children's Book Week Unveiled

CBW-Poster-400The Children's Book Council just announced that Brian Selznick's 2013 Children's Book Week Poster and Grace Lin's 2013 Children's Book Week Bookmark are now available. Instructions for ordering the poster (shown to the left) are available here. 75,000 copies will be distributed nationwide, and may be requested online at no cost beyond shipping. Children's Book Week 2013 will be held May 13 - 19).

Bookmark_FINAL-900Grace Lin's bookmark (shown below the activities in the image to the left) is designed to be printed on heavy paper, and then cut out. The full size version is available here

"Established in 1919, Children's Book Week is the longest-running literacy initiative in the country. Every year, author and illustrator appearances, storytelling, parties, and other book-related events are held at schools, libraries, bookstores, museums, and homes from coast to coast! 

Children's Book Week is administered by Every Child A Reader, a non-profit literacy foundation, and sponsored by the Children's Book Council."

See You at Harry's: Jo Knowles

Book: See You at Harry's
Author: Jo Knowles (@JoKnowles)
Pages: 310
Age Range: 10 and up

See You at Harry's, by Jo Knowles, is brilliant, authentic, and devastating. I tend to skim reviews, because I hate spoilers, so I had only the vaguest notion that "something bad happens" to the family in See You at Harry's. But honestly, you can kind of tell from the tone of the book. I'm not going to say what that "something bad" is. Just that I personally found it very difficult. 

Sometimes, when a book is emotionally difficult, I don't finish it. Life is too short, too many other books to read, etc. But I never considered not finishing See You at Harry's. By the time the tragedy occurred, I was far too invested in the characters to stop. All of the characters, but particularly the narrator, Fern, are fabulous. Three-dimensional, unique, and authentically flawed. The family dynamics feel so real that one can imagine being right there at the dinner table with them. Here are a couple of examples:

"I wish Sara could be more like the Sara she was named after from A Little Princess. That Sara is nice to everyone. Even the mice in the attic. This Sara seems to find it necessary to look for everyone's weak spot. And then stomp on it." (Chapter 3)

"The thing is, my dad is the kind of person who gets carried away. When he thinks he has a good idea, there's just no stopping him. We all know he doesn't only care about the business. But sometimes ... yeah. Sometimes it does sort of feel that way." (Chapter 13)

Another aspect of the book that feels authentic is Knowles' depiction of family ownership of a restaurant. An afterword reveals that Knowles grew up in the restaurant business, and this makes complete sense. See You at Harry's is filled with little details about hanging out at the restaurant after school, interacting with employees who are like extended family, and customers who steal the silverware. I was reminded, a tiny bit, of my own childhood, essentially growing up in the family hardware store. 

While there is certainly humor in See You at Harry's, and even joy, parts of the book are very sad. Like this:

"I am holding on to Sara as I sob so hard, I think I will turn inside out. I sob and sob, and she does, too. I soak her shirt with my tears, and she soaks my hair with hers. And she holds me and holds me and doesn't get up. And eventually we tire ourselves out so much we fall asleep." (Chapter 22)

There are also other themes in the book: coping with bullying; coming out at home and school; and managing romantic feelings between friends. See You at Harry's is far more than a book about dealing with a family tragedy. But the tragedy, as far as I'm concerned anyway, is pretty gut-wrenching. So there you have it: brilliant but devastating. I do recommend See You at Harry's for those who enjoy tear-jerkers, and anyone who can handle the serious side of family drama, age 10 and up. 

Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick)
Publication Date: May 8, 2012
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). 

MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge Inspires 48 Hour Book-a-thon at Indiana Elementary School

48hbc_newI thought that some of you, particularly those of you who have participated in MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge each summer, would appreciate this story. One of my newer blog readers, reading teacher Mary Hall from Swayzee Elementary School in Indiana, saw that I had mentioned the 48 Hour Book Challenge on Pinterest. Mary emailed to ask me what it was about, because she was looking for ways to inspire her students to read more books.

I told her that MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge was designed to reinvigorate bloggers, by setting aside a 48 hour period in which they would read (and blog) as much as possible. Mary, a reading teacher with 20 years of experience, was able to apply this basic idea to her own students, launching a 48 Hour Book Challenge on February 8th. Here's what she reported:

"I have 130 fifth graders for reading. I challenged them to read as many pages/books as they could in a 48 hour period.

I had a kickoff on Friday after school from 3-7:00. We had a snack and then read in the gym in 30 to 45 minute increments. We met in groups to share our books and then went back to reading. Our principal provided pizza for us, so we took a break at 5:30 to eat. The kids were so quiet during our reading time, you could have heard a pin drop. 70 students attended the kickoff. I was thrilled with the attendance.

I sent home a reading log with all students to be returned Monday morning. All total the students read 23,983 pages. The kids loved it and I was thrilled with the participation. Thanks for inspiring me to do this with your talk about a 48 hour book-a-thon." 

Isn't that great? 70 kids devoting their Friday afternoon and evening to reading books. More than 300 pages per student read over the weekend. And it sounds like Mary (together with someone who is clearly a supportive principal) made the whole event FUN. And that's what it's all about, right? Getting kids excited about reading. It makes me so happy to have had a tiny part in inspiring this event. (I'm sure that MotherReader will be pleased, too). Way to go, Mary! So great to see a reading teacher go the extra mile to drum up enthusiasm about reading. 

I also wanted to point out a couple of other things about Mary and her 48 Hour Book-a-thon. 

  • Mary first contacted me on December 29th, and held her event on February 8th. Impressive speed, I thought. How much better to just launch quickly and generate enthusiasm right away, rather than spending months planning or coming up with prizes or stickers or whatever. Just do it, that's the take home message that I take from this (though I'm sure it was still a lot of work).
  • Mary first found my blog through a mention in Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer, a resource to inspire any reading teacher. I'm quite sure that Donalyn would approve. 

So, readers, what do you think? Have any of you tried a 48 hour reading challenge with your students? Or with your children? I had a friend (Holly) who I would have LOVED to do something with when I was 10. 

This post © 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. My thanks to Mary Hall for permission to share her event with you all. 

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: February 19

JRBPlogo-smallTonight 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 1645 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once every three weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I am including nine book reviews (one board book, four picture books, two middle grade novels, and two young adult novels). I also have two posts with the end of January and mid-February Children's Literacy Roundups, a post listing 10 recent favorite reads of Baby Bookworm (a new blog feature that I'm trying out), and a quick post about an interview that Becky Levine posted on her blog did about my reading with Baby Bookworm.

Not included in the newsletter this time around (because it was getting a bit long):

Reading Update: In the past 3 weeks, I finished 1 novel for middle grade readers, 5 novels for young adults, and 1 novels for adults. I read:  

  • Rosanne Parry: Written in Stone. Middle Grade. Random House Books for Young Readers. Completed February 12, 2013, digital ARC from NetGalley.
  • Marie Lu: Legend. Young Adult. Putnam. Completed January 29, 2013, on Kindle.
  • Marie Lu: Prodigy. Young Adult. Putnam. Completed February 6, 2013, on Kindle.
  • Harlan Coben: Seconds Away: A Mickey Bolitar Novel. Young Adult. Putnam. Completed February 8, 2013, on MP3.
  • Michelle Gagnon: Strangelets. Soho Teen. Completed February 9, 2013 (digital ARC from the publisher). 
  • Andrea K Höst: And All the Stars. Completed February 17, 2013, on Kindle.
  • Charlaine Harris: Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse). Adult Mystery. Ace. Completed February 2, 2013, on MP3.

I think this must be a first for me. All of the above were read on Kindle or listened to on MP3. No paper books. I am reading a paper ARC now, Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea. And I do have a number of hardcovers stacked up to be read soon. But lately I've just found reading on the Kindle addictive, for reasons including:

  • Several books that I wanted to read enough to be willing to purchase them, despite the size of my TBR stack (but didn't need hardcopies). I just bought Deborah Crombie's latest mystery today, and will not be able to resist that one for long. 
  • Quite a lot of time spent reading while holding a sick child. She is recovering, but the beauty of one-handed reading that one can do in dim light cannot be over-estimated. 
  • A shift by some publishers to digital-only ARCs (which I mind a lot less now than I used to, because of the Paperwhite, though I still find it harder to write the reviews from digital-ARC). 
  • A mild addiction to the Kindle Daily Deals. When a book crops up that I wanted to read anyway, and it costs $2, and it doesn't take up any physical space, well, it's hard to resist. I believe that And All the Stars showed up one day as free. Knowing it was a Cybils shortlist title, again, how could I resist?

I am still reading print books to Baby Bookworm. I have a post below listing 10 of the titles that she has been especially enjoying recently. She's also been missing one of her books. We misplaced At the Boardwalk, by Kelly Fineman, and it's been driving her crazy. I caught her walking around the house the other day saying: "Boardwalk book, where are you?". She finally badgered me into ordering another copy. Such is the price of growing a bookworm ;-) 

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.

A Home for Bird: Philip C. Stead

Book: A Home for Bird
Author: Philip C. Stead
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3 to 8

A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead just won the Cybils Award for Fiction Picture Books published in 2012. I was one of the Round 2 judges who selected this title from among the seven fabulous shortlist titles (more on the others later). Here's what we wrote about A Home for Bird in the blurb for the Cybils website:

"A Home for Bird is a character-driven story about a frog named Vernon who sets off on a perilous journey to help his silent friend find home and happiness. Vernon is a loyal protagonist with whom preschoolers will easily relate. A Home for Bird offers an engaging read-aloud experience, with ample opportunity for audience participation, and a narrative with both subtle humor and charm. Stead's vibrant and fluid illustrations are a perfect match to the story, and will have young listeners clamoring for parents, teachers, and/or librarians to "read it again!""

What more is there to add, really? As required to win a Cybils Award, A Home for Bird is both kid-friendly and well-written. It is eminently read-aloud-able, with a deadpan humor that will please children as well as adults. Like this:

"Vernon was out foraging for interesting things when he found Bird. 

Are you okay?" asked Vernon.
Bird said nothing.
"Are you lost?"
Bird said nothing.
"You are welcome to join me," said Vernon." 

The humor is enhanced because the reader can tell, even if Vernon can't, that Bird is made of wood, and is thus hardly likely to respond to questions. I personally love how Vernon uses Bird's silence to attribute good qualities to him. "Bird is shy... but also a very good listener." And, when Bird has to response to a somewhat perilous situation, "Bird is very brave."

Stead's illustrations in A Home for Bird are simply magical. He uses vibrant colors and sweeping textures to bring Vernon and Bird's story to life. There's a deliberately unfinished quality to the pictures that I think makes them particularly accessible to younger readers, more so than something glossy and with every detail already filled in. They have a quality almost as though a child might have drawn them - and I mean that in the best possible way.

A Home for Bird is probably best suited to 3 to 5 year olds, in terms of both the illustration style and straightforwardness of the story. I think that kids of this age group will identify with Vernon's attempts to be a good friend, even as they feel pleasingly superior because they "get" the joke. The illustrations will have them poring over A Home for Book with rapt attention. You can't go wrong putting this book in the hand of any preschooler. A Home for Bird gets my very highest recommendation.  

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (@MacKidsBooks)
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Source of Book: Purchased for Round 2 in Fiction Picture Books for Cybils

© 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). 

Altered: Jennifer Rush

Book: Altered
Author: Jennifer Rush
Pages: 336
Age Range: 12 and up 

Altered by Jennifer Rush is a thriller featuring genetic manipulations and wiped memories (similar to False Memory by Dan Krokos). Anna lives with her father in a house in the woods, helping to care for the four teenage boys who live as prisoners and test subjects in a basement lab. One of the boys is Anna's best friend, another is her enemy, a third is a more casual friend, and the fourth ... is Sam, who Anna is crazy about. When violence breaks out in the lab, Anna ends up on the run with the boys, learning more than she could ever have imagined about them, and about herself.

I found the start of Altered a bit slow, but the action picks up dramatically once the boys are free of their cells. For me, it was the early part of the book that strained credibility a bit, too. Like this:

"When I'd first found the lab, it was all I could think about. What were four boys doing in our basement? Where were their parents? How long had they been down there? Dad knew exactly how much information to give to feed my curiosity and keep me quiet. I knew about the Branch, of course. But even though I new who ran the program, I still didn't know why."

Um, yeah, a strange lab with four genetically altered teenage boys in your basement would capture one's attention. Anna's relatively matter-of-fact acceptance of the situation made her a bit hard for me to relate to. And then on the run her clear acceptance of herself as weaker than the four boys, someone to be protected by them, grated a bit for me. She's no Katniss Everdeen. Still, she does improve, if you stick with the book. And the fast-paced, chase-filled story will keep readers turning the pages. There's a major twist that I didn't see coming, which always pleases me (particularly in a case like this, where the author shows you that she completely played fair with the clues). 

Altered has an intriguing premise and plenty of action. Although it's not a personal favorite for me, I do think that teens who enjoy science fiction-tinged thrillers  will enjoy it. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@lbkids)
Publication Date: January 1, 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).