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Posts from September 2013

Cybils Nominations Open Tomorrow!

Cybils2013SmallNominations for the 2013 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (the Cybils), open tomorrow, October 1st, and run through October 15th. Now is your chance to show a bit of love for the children's and YA books that you've loved over the past year. The link to the nomination form will be live at  at 12:00 a.m. PST on October 1 (late tonight, for any West Coast night owls). 

You can find all of the details at the Cybils FAQ page. Here are a few highlights:

  • Anyone may nominate one book per genre during the public nomination period. We ask authors, publishers and publicists to wait until after the public nomination period ends to submit their own books. [Authors and publishers may use the public form to nominate books other than their own during the regular nomination period.]
  • For 2013, only books released between Oct. 16, 2012 and Oct. 15, 2013 are eligible. Books that were eligible or nominated in previous years are not eligible for nomination this year unless significantly revised (at least 20% of the book is changed.) The Cybils only accepts titles published specifically for the youth market.
  • Multiple nominations of the same book do not help that book's chances. In fact, the nomination form is designed to only accept the first nomination of a book. 
  • The nominated titles will be displayed as quickly as possible on the Cybils blog, in the following categories:

Book Apps
Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books
Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction
Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Middle Grade Fiction
Elementary & Middle-Grade Nonfiction
Young Adult Nonfiction
Young Adult Fiction

It's Cybils season, folks. Spend some time tonight thinking about your favorite recent, well-written, kid-friendly titles in the above categories. Then come back tomorrow and start nominating! This is your chance to show your appreciation to the authors and publishers who create wonderful books, and to help kids all over the English-speaking world find great titles. 

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 27

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

Banned Books Week

Love.Life.Read.: Let's Talk About It...A Topic Near and Dear to My Heart... #BannedBooksWeek by @scharle4

Thoughts on Banned Books at Stacked and @bookriot from @catagator #BannedBooksWeek

Most-Challenged Books of 2012 (Topped by Captain Underpants series) |@tashrow for #BannedBooksWeek

Book Lists

Stacked: Books with Strong or Unique Worldbuilding, selected by Kimberly #yalit

Children's Books With Single Parents, selected by @PragmaticMom #kidlit

Chapter Book Mystery Series recommended by @CoffeeandCrayon #kidlit

So You Want to Read Middle Grade: some popular middle grade recs from Jonathan Hunt @greenbeanblog #kidlit

50 Books Every Parent Should Read to Their Child – Emily Temple @Flavorwire #kidlit

Great Easy Reader Books for Kids, recommended by @momandkiddo #kidlit

RT @tashrow Top 10 Children’s Picture Books to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month #kidlit


On the #Cybils blog: #Poetry: The Small but Mighty Genre, by @JoneMac53 @Cybils

On the #Cybils blog: Nonfiction Elementary/Middle Grade-- Category Description from Jennifer Wharton #kidlit

On the #Cybils blog: Graphic Novels- Category Description  @lizjonesbooks #kidlit

Meet the #Cybils Easy Reader/Early Chapter Panelists • Family Bookshelf @readingtub

RT @LauraPSalas: Have you chosen your favorite nonfiction books of the past year? #Cybils nominations open soon! #kidlit

At Wands and Worlds: #Cybils Awards 2013: Details on the Speculative Fiction Category from @SheilaRuth

Growing Bookworms

Very nice. @anneursu on what books mean to her son ("Books are a pocket he tucks himself into") @NerdyBookClub

Details idea for sharing a specific #picturebook | Read Aloud TATTLER #2 (Enemy Pie) | @aliposner

Censorship in the Home: Yay or Nay? asks @NoVALibraryMom #kidlit

Reading to children gets better and better as they get older | Tim Lott @guardianbooks via @librareanne #literacy


Register now for KidLitCon 2013 in Austin this November, urges @charlotteslib, "#KidLitCons are a wonderful thing."

The Case for #KidLitCon (vs other conventions) by @MotherReader "I hug the real people that Ive known online forever"

Press Release Fun: #KidLitCon 2013 is Nigh!! — @fuseeight

The call for papers for #kidlitcon is up! Don't miss it. #kidlit


Some truth to this: Schools Are Good for Showing Off, Not for Learning | Peter Gray in Psychology Today

Why Even the Worst Bloggers Are Making Us Smarter | Networks nurture good ideas | Wired Mag via @catagator

On Reading and Writing

RT @heisereads: Fab post from @ProfessorNana on why books on tough topics are so important for kids to to read.

Must read post by Gary Soto in @HuffPostBooks | Why I've Stopped Writing Children's Literature via @medinger

Why science fiction isn't just for geeky boys | Jennifer Ridyard @guardianbooks via @PWKidsBookshelf #kidlit

Interesting musings and data from @charlotteslib on MG SFF blogging and gender imbalance #kidlit

Interesting thoughts on Middle Grade Bloggers as Fans, Gatekeepers, Partners of the Industry from @charlotteslib

Thoughts on Book Endings by @mstiefvater @NerdyBookClub | It is devastating to reach the end of a well-loved book.

RT @tashrow A Reading App Raises a Question: What Does It Mean to Own a Book? : The New Yorker #ebooks


Lovely. A #kidlit-quote filled letter: To My Dearest Little Women- A Letter to My Daughters from @BooksBabiesBows

Food for thought. @StaceyLoscalzo on The Need for Margin (space in our kids' lives)

Great stuff! Why does dining table conversation matter & what does it teach? asks @TrevorHCairney

Programs and Research

My goodness. Very cool! @Scholastic Donates One Million Books to @ReachOutAndRead reports @sljournal

Read for the Record with Loren Long and ‘Otis’ is coming October 3, reports @sljournal @jumpstartkids

Neat! @FirstBook Pledges $9 Million by 2016 to Expand Distribution Internationally | @sljournal

News: Congratulations to @ReachOutAndRead for receiving the Rubenstein Prize for their #literacy work!

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

Monument 14: Sky on Fire: Emmy Laybourne

Book: Monument 14: Sky on Fire
Author: Emmy Laybourne (@EmmyLaybourne)
Pages: 224
Age Range: 13 and up

Monument 14: Sky on Fire is the sequel to Monument 14 (reviewed here), in which a group of 14 kids end up living in a big department store after a series of apocalyptic events. A third book is due out next May. Sky on Fire begins immediately after the end of Monument 14 (stop here if you don't want spoilers for the first book).

The narration alternates, chapter by chapter, between sixteen-year-old Dean and his thirteen-year-old brother Alex. Alex is on the school bus that brought the kids to safety in the store in the first place, together with seven of the other kids. They're on a quest to travel  67 miles to Denver International Airport, where they believe there may be government evacuations to safer locations. The journey is quite dangerous for the kids, because exposure to toxins in the air will cause terrible side effects. These vary according to each person's blood type. The kids have gas masks and multi-layered clothing, but don't know whether or not this will be enough.

Meanwhile Dean has stayed behind in the Greenway store with his crush, Astrid (who is pregnant), and three of the littler kids (including the absolutely adorable five-year-old twins Henry and Caroline). Former big man on campus Jake (father of Astrid's baby) is missing, having gone for help and never returned. Dean and Astrid have to contend with people attempting to break into the store, and with taking care of the smaller children. They've stayed, in part, because Dean, Astrid, and eight-year-old Chloe are all Type O, and react with extreme violence (towards everyone) when exposed to the air outside. 

I must admit that I had to pause mid-way through in my reading of this book, asking myself "Can't these kids ever get a break?". Because this is a pretty bleak book, and bad things just keep on happening. Despite some dark events, the first book also had a certain sense of fun - the idea of being trapped in a big department store, with no adult supervision is cool. But the idea of traipsing through a hostile post-apocalyptic landscape in which the people who are still alive will kill you for your water bottles, well, it's not as appealing.

Sky on Fire is compelling, however. Laybourne uses the alternating narration to ratchet up the suspense. The kids on the bus receive information from someone on the way suggesting that the airport isn't safe after all, and they (and the reader) don't know what to believe. There are interpersonal tensions, particularly between Astrid and Dean, and there is personal growth on the part of several characters. 

There's also growth in the general relationship between the kids. It becomes clear in Sky on Fire how much these kids have bonded into a family. Not an idealized family with no tensions, but a family that is loyal to one another above any outsiders. 

I particularly enjoyed Alex's intelligent voice. Like this:

"If we two were the two last people on earth--not, by the way, as statistically implausible as it was a month ago--she would still be rude to me and I would still pretend that it didn't bother me." (Page 45)

And Dean's more poetic voice. Like this:

"Was it wrong to feel a heart-spike of happiness in the middle of the Apocalypse?" (Page 97)

Because what they were experiencing was so different, I never found the two first-person voices confusing. 

For the second book of what appears to be a trilogy, Monument 14: Sky on Fire wraps things up quite well. It's suspenseful, and has emotional impact. Despite many loose ends being tied up, there are still questions left unanswered, large and small. I am eager for the next book. Recommended!

Publisher:  Feiwel & Friends (@MacKidsBooks)
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Source of Book: Purchased on Kindle

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Literacy Milestone: Memorization

LiteracyMilestoneAMy three-year-old's latest literacy milestone involves memorizing books. This is not exactly a brand-new behavior, but it has accelerated greatly in recent weeks. A year ago, when I'd read one of her favorites aloud, she might chime in with a punchline here and there. But now? If I get a single word wrong when reading aloud a book we've read a few times, she swoops in to correct me. Often with peals of laughter and exclamations of "Silly Mommy!". And as regular bedtime readers-aloud know, it is very, very easy to get a word wrong when one is sleepy...  

I know that this sort of memorization is common, but her level of detail surprises me sometimes. I mean, how many books can she hold, word-for-word, in that little head of hers? More than I, certainly. 

A side benefit of this memorization is that my daughter can "read" to herself, when no adult reader is available. I have a delightful iPhone video of her quietly reading a book to herself in the back of the car. (My husband was driving - I suffer from motion sickness and can't read in the car.) I've also enjoyed seeing her "read aloud" to her dolls from time to time. 

I'm not sure exactly how this memorization plays in to learning to read, but I'm sure that it's a step along the way. Not that we're in any rush. We're having a great time just as things are. 

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate. 

Iggy Loomis, Superkid in Training: Jennifer Allison & Mike Moran

Book: Iggy Loomis, Superkid in Training
Author: Jennifer Allison (@GildaJoyce)
Illustrator: Mike Moran (@MikeMoran_illo)
Pages: 208
Age Range: 7-10

Iggy Loomis, Superkid in Training is a very fun early chapter book for kids. The narrator is Daniel, an elementary school age boy, and the title character is Daniel's toddler brother, Iggy. Daniel has enough trouble sharing a room with Iggy when the main issues are broken toys, temper tantrums, and, well, pee. But after an encounter with aliens leaves Iggy with superpowers, things get really out of hand. 

Iggy Loomis, Superkid in Training is a perfect transitional book for kids ready to move on from easy readers, but not quite ready for text dense middle grade titles. The print is big enough to be easy on the eyes (while still feeling grown up), and at least every other page spread features one of more of Mike Moran's cartoon-like illustrations. 

Jennifer Allison's writing is kid-friendly in both level of action (high) and tone. Here are the first few sentences of the book:

"I knew it would happen eventually, but I didn't think my nightmare would come true quite so soon. Well, it happened today: My parents decided to move my little brother, Iggy, into my bedroom.

Big deal, Daniel, you're probably thinking. Lots of kids have to share bedrooms with their brothers and sisters and they don't whine about it. A few of them even like it." (Page 3)

I liked how she slipped in Daniel's name without it being boring: "Hi, I'm Daniel, and..." This is quite a departure from Jennifer Allison's Gilda Joyce series, but I do think that her experience in plotting shows through. 

There's also a fair bit of dialog from Iggy and his twin sister, Dottie, which I found reasonably toddler-realistic, without being annoying. Like this:

"Why dis not working??!!!! Dis make me so angwy!!!: (Page 5, but shown in the book in all caps in a text bubble)

The text in general isn't slapstick-funny, but it is has kind of a world-weary humor to it that I think will work well with 7 and 8 year olds. Like this:

"Chauncey owns night-vision goggles, high-powered binoculars, and disguises, but playing spy games with him is never fun because he won't share any of his cool spy gear. Besides, he only spies on people who already know he's watching them and who wish he would just leave them alone. What Chauncey enjoys most about spying is making other people mad." (Page 42-43)

And, of course, as long as we're discussing kid-friendliness, there are cool gadgets, weird-looking aliens, and a spaceship that reflects the mental priorities of a two-year-old.

Moran's illustrations add tremendously to the book. They bring to life wide-eyed Daniel, underpant-wearing, bug-eating Iggy, and a refrigerator full of foods made only from broccoli. Most of the pictures are small, integrated into the text, a la today's notebook novels, while others are more like full panel graphic novel excerpts. Fans of the Lunch Lady series will certainly enjoy Iggy Loomis, Superkid in Training. It would also pair well with Ellen Potter's Otis Dooda, Strange But True

Elementary school librarians will definitely want to scoop up Iggy Loomis, Superkid in Training. It's terrific fun for newly independent readers looking to branch out on their own. It's also boy-friendly without resorting to much potty humor, which the adults may find refreshing. My only real complaint is that while Iggy and Daniel are fairly well fleshed out, I would have liked to know more about Dottie. But perhaps that will be remedied in a future book. And I do hope that there are future books. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (@PenguinKids)
Publication Date: September 12, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the author

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Congratulations to Reach Out and Read

Ror.redI was very pleased to learn this afternoon, via the RIF blog, that Reach Out and Read, one of my favorite literacy organizations, was awarded the David M. Rubenstein Prize by the Library of Congress at this weekend's National Book Festival. 

Reach Out and Read is a program that works with doctor's offices to give children new books at each of their well child visits. The idea is that parents look up to doctors, and knowing that their doctor thinks that they should read to their kids provides an extra incentive to do so. Plus, books get put directly into the hands of children. It's brilliant, I think. My own child has received and cherished several Reach Out and Read titles in the course of her 3 1/2 years. I'm glad to see this organization receiving the recognition (and associated funding) of such a prestigious award. 

The full news release is below:

Library of Congress Awards Reach Out and Read Highest Literacy Award

National pediatric literacy nonprofit wins first-time David M. Rubenstein Prize for its groundbreaking work

Boston, MA (September 22, 2013) – In recognition of its groundbreaking advancement of literacy, Reach Out and Read has won the prestigious new David M. Rubenstein Prize, the top honor among the 2013 Library of Congress Literacy Awards.

The award, which comes with a $150,000 prize, was presented today in Washington, D.C. to Reach Out and Read Executive Director Anne-Marie Fitzgerald. Reach Out and Read was chosen for the prize from a pool of more than 185 applicants, both literacy-related organizations and individuals.

“On behalf of our 12,000 pediatricians and the millions of children we serve nationwide, I am incredibly thrilled and honored to accept a 2013 Library of Congress Literacy Award, the prestigious David M. Rubenstein Prize,” said Fitzgerald. “This recognition is a testament to Reach Out and Read’s innovative, efficient model and its enormous impact on improving the lives and futures of children in every state. And now, thanks to the generosity of David Rubenstein, we will be able to spread the opportunity that comes with books in the home and engaged parents to thousands more children.”

The Library of Congress Literacy Awards were first announced in January 2013 as a program to help support organizations working to alleviate the problems of illiteracy and aliteracy (a lack of interest in reading) both in the United States and worldwide. The awards, originated and sponsored by philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, seek to reward organizations that have been doing exemplary, innovative and easily replicable work over a sustained period of time and to encourage new groups, organizations and individuals to become involved.

“Literacy opens doors to life’s great opportunities,” said Rubenstein, a co-founder of The Carlyle Group and a major donor to the Library of Congress National Book Festival. “I am pleased to support the work of these outstanding literacy organizations that are making a profound difference in the lives of so many individuals.”

Founded in 1989, Reach Out and Read’s model includes providing a new, age-appropriate book for each child to take home at every checkup from 6 months through 5 years. Along with the free book for every child, doctors and nurses offer guidance to parents about the importance of reading aloud with their children every day.

Nationwide, Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses serve 4 million children and their families annually at nearly 5,000 pediatric practices, hospitals, clinics, and health centers in all 50 states, with a focus on health centers that serve low-income communities.

Reach Out and Read is a proven intervention, supported by 15 independent, published research studies. During the preschool years, children served by Reach Out and Read score three to six months ahead of their non-Reach Out and Read peers on vocabulary tests, preparing them to start school on target.

In the past, Reach Out and Read has been honored for its impact on literacy by organizations including the American Hospital Association and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

The Library of Congress Literacy Awards Advisory Board, which comprises a broad range of experts in the field of literacy and reading promotion, provided recommendations to Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who made the final awards selections. The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress administers the awards, and John Y. Cole, the center’s director, also serves as the chair of the Literacy Awards program.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is producing a publication that highlights the best practices in a number of categories as exemplified by the top applicants.

Other winners of the Library of Congress Literacy Awards include the literacy organizations 826 National (The American Prize) and PlanetRead (The International Prize.)

Register Now for the 7th Annual KIDLITCON!

Kidlitosphere_buttonIt's official. Here is the announcement from MotherReader at the KidLitosphere Central website:

The seventh annual KidLitCon on November 9th in Austin, Texas is officially accepting registrations!

While we would love to be ahead of schedule with well, a schedule, we invite you to register now to help your organizers plan for attendence. Registering early will also give you a chance to suggest topics that YOU would like to see at KidLitCon 2013. Register before October 11th for $10 off the registration fee and a chance to win a prize package of books and goodies!

Once you register, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions for sending your check or money order. Hotel information will also be available, hopefully with a discount for our group. 

We are still accepting proposals for workshops and panel discussions. Past KidLitCon sessions have included topics such as ethics of reviewing, diversity in children/teen literature, effective marketing, kidlit social media, and online community building. If you are interested in presenting at KidLitCon, please submit a proposal soon. 

Look to this website for updates to the schedule, including our Friday evening event. 

Lots more info to come. For now, start spreading the word! Be a fan on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! And best of all register to attend KidLitCon 2013.

And now back to me. Why should you sign up now to attend KidLitCon 2013, when there isn't even a schedule posted yet? Because attending KidLitCon is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a children's and/or young adult book blogger. KidLitCon is not like other big, monetization-focused, swag-focused conferences that you may have heard about. KidLitCon is a small conference (between 50 and 100 attendees), populated by children's book bloggers and authors. KidLitCon is:

  • A chance to meet face to face people you have interacted with only online, and confirm that yes, you are really friends. 
  • A chance to be surrounded by people who share your passion for children's literacy and literature. 
  • A chance to learn more about blogging if you are new, and to recharge your energies if you've been doing this for a long time. 
  • A chance to talk about things like the ethics of blogging, the relationship between authors and blog reviewers, blogging new releases vs. backlist titles, and much more. (If you register now, you can give your input into which specific topics should be discussed this year). 

I wasn't able to attend last year's KidLitCon due to illness, though I had attended the prior five. I missed it terribly. KidLitCon is where I connect, face-to-face, with my peeps. It's a place where everyone around me knows what the Cybils are, and when the next Divergent book comes out, and who the National Ambassador for Children's Literature is. KidLitCon is home. 

The registration fee is $65, plus $20 for the Friday precon. This is a very reasonable conference fee indeed. If you can at all swing travel to Austin in early November, and you love blogging about children's books and encouraging kids to be readers, you should come. You won't be disappointed. Submit a proposal if you like, but no pressure on that front. The important thing is to come. Register now! The dealine to register is October 24th. 

I hope to see you all there. 

Kids Set New World Record for Scholastic Summer Reading Club

I thought that this was happy news, worth sharing (via news release from Scholastic):


Twenty Schools to Appear in SCHOLASTIC BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS For Most Minutes Read 

SummerChallengeNew York, NY – September 18, 2013 – Kids around the globe have a reason to celebrate: they set a new world record for summer reading! As part of the Scholastic Summer Challenge, a free program designed to keep kids reading throughout the summer months when school is out, kids representing all 50 states and 30 countries read and logged an impressive 176,438,473 minutes, breaking last year’s world record of 95,859,491 minutes. In addition to logging their minutes, children participated in weekly reading challenges, earned virtual rewards and contributed to their school’s overall minutes. Of the 4,284 schools that participated, Jackson Elementary School in McAllen, TX ranks as the #1 school for logging the most minutes, and wins a visit from Dav Pilkey, author of the bestselling Captain Underpants series.

The Top 20 schools that read and logged the most minutes will be listed in the 2014 Scholastic Book of World Records, which will be available through the Scholastic Reading Club, Scholastic Book Fairs, and book stores nationwide; each of these schools will also receive a personalized plaque.

“We are extremely impressed with the amount of reading kids did to help set an outstanding new world record for summer reading,” said Francie Alexander, Chief Academic Officer at Scholastic. “Now that these kids have proved they have reading stamina and can read for many minutes, we encourage them to continue to read independently throughout the school year so they are better prepared to meet rigorous standards and can continue to find books they love.”

The Top 20 Schools in the 2013 Scholastic Summer Challenge are:

  1. Jackson Elementary School, McAllen, TX, 6,333,482 (minutes read)
  2. Sun Valley Elementary School, Monroe, NC, 6,042,663
  3. Dovalina Elementary School, Laredo, TX, 5,359,066
  4. Liberty Park Elementary School, Greenacres, FL, 4,206,222
  5. Hill Intermediate School, Houston, TX, 3,039,434
  6. St. Aloysius School, Baton Rouge, LA 2,933,169
  7. Odom Elementary School, Houston, TX, 2,771,182
  8. Hunter’s Creek Elementary School, Orlando, FL, 2,565,217
  9. Flora Ridge Elementary School, Kissimmee, FL, 2,548,754
  10. Timber Trace Elementary School, Palm Beach Gardens, FL, 2,288,345
  11. Reedy Creek Elementary School, Kissimmee, FL, 2,238,484
  12. Rayford Road Intermediate School, Humble, TX, 2,183,113
  13. Oakridge Middle School, Clover, SC, 2,122,819
  14. Worsham Elementary School, Houston, TX, 1,898,592
  15. Newell Elementary School, Allentown, NJ, 1,885,364
  16. Coral Reef Elementary School, Lake Worth, FL, 1,673,656
  17. Stuart Public School, Stuart, NE, 1,639,619
  18. Raymond Academy, Houston, TX, 1,623,279
  19. Thompson Elementary School, Houston, TX, 1,604,302
  20. Riverview Elementary School, Saratoga Springs, UT, 1,495,565

To see the list of the Top 100 schools, visit

The Scholastic Summer Challenge kicked off its seventh year on May 6, 2013. Kids from around the world were invited to log their reading minutes with the Scholastic Reading Timer mobile app or online at Throughout the summer, kids could visit their profile page to check their personal reading stats, watch book trailer videos, enter sweepstakes, and earn digital rewards from the prize center.

To further the message about the importance of summer reading in the U.S. and increase access to books within their communities, 42 Governors’ Spouses and three Governors joined the Scholastic Summer Challenge as Reading Ambassadors. On behalf of their participation, Scholastic donated 500 books to each Reading Ambassador’s school of choice (for a total of 22,500 books) so that students in their states could take home books and read over summer vacation

For the fourth year in a row, WordGirl served as the national "Ambassador of Summer Reading" for the Scholastic Summer Challenge. She adopted summer reading as her cause, encouraging kids to read books over the summer because reading introduces new words, and new words, in turn, make better readers.

Teachers and students are now invited to join READ 100,000 on the Scholastic website at, where students can continue logging their minutes read during the school year. READ 100,000 helps schools strengthen students’ reading skills by motivating kids to read as part of a school team and recognizing their achievements. The school-wide goal is to READ 100,000 minutes or more!

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K: Greg Pincus

Book: The 14 Fibs of Gregory K.
Author: Greg Pincus (@GregPincus)
Pages: 240
Age Range: 8-12

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. is a middle grade novel about math and poetry. But what it's really about is finding a way to do what you love. In a sneaky, humorous sort of way, by which you are surprised to be a tiny bit teary-eyed by the end of the book. I think that it's wonderful, and hope that it's going to do well. It releases this coming Tuesday. 

I should tell you that I'm not completely objective about The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. The book's author, Greg Pincus, is a friend of mine (a blog friend, sure, but we've enjoyed face-to-face time at various Kidlitcons, and share certain views about the kidlitosphere). I remember quite clearly when Greg came up with six-line, Fibonacci-series-based poems, called them Fibs, and launched a poetry craze (there are 400+ comments on the original post). I remember when Greg shared the news that he was writing a book featuring Fibs, and that Arthur Levine would be publishing it. And now here it is!

As a person who was always pretty good at math, and who studied engineering in college, but whose true love is words, the concept of the Fib has always appealed to me. I would love to see a huge craze of elementary school kids all writing Fibs, and thus integrating math and poetry. I think that the book will help. But I'm not completely objective, so you should take my words in that context. 

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. is about a sixth grader who is a secret poet stuck smack dab in the middle of a family of math geniuses. When Gregory looks to be in danger of failing math, his parents are baffled and concerned. It's only with the help of a truly great math teacher that Gregory K. is able to fit things together. But not without a lot of chaos along the way. Realistic middle grade chaos, with the faintest flavor of Gary Paulsen's Liar, Liar series. 

Gregory's travails with math are set against a backdrop of his relationship with his life-long best friend, Kelly. And no, this isn't one of those books about the boy-girl friendship getting weird in sixth grade. This is a book about a true friendship based on two people who "get" each other, though not without a few bumps along the way. And it's about pie. A lot of pie. (Kelly's mom owns a pie shop, and there is pie in pretty much every chapter.)

In truth, I found parts of the first couple of chapters, in which Gregory's quirky family is wallowing in math, a bit cringe-inducing. Like this:

"I'd be the best superhero ever," his nine-year-old sister, Kay, said as Gregory entered the dining room, "because I'd use the power of the hypotenuse! By taking the correct angle, I'd always be a step or two ahead of the bad guy." (Chapter 1)

I'm guessing this was intentional - Gregory was finding it cringe-worthy, too. But once Gregory's teacher, Mr. Davis, set him to writing about math, instead of doing math, I was hooked, and didn't stop reading until I had finished. I loved the Fibs at the start of every chapter (though the average reader won't know that they are Fibs until mid-way through the book). I adored Gregory's friendship with Kelly. And I liked Greg's mildly snarky voice. Like this:

"The next day at school, the test met all of Gregory's expectations. Unfortunately, that was the only positive about it." (Chapter 3)


"... Fibonacci's not just a sequence but a real person..."

"So is there like a Bob Algebra or a Joe Multiplication?" (Chapter 8)

And here's an example of a Fib, from the start of Chapter 6:

Other times,
The problems find me.
The latter is always far worse."

Fun, but with a core of truth. And that pretty much sums up the book. Gregory is a regular kid, who struggles to pay attention to things that he can't connect with, but dives headlong into the pursuits that he loves. He feels alien in his family, but at home with his best friend. In short, while uniquely himself, he is someone any kid can relate to. Which is why his eventual growth has such emotional impact. 

Teachers and librarians will want to scoop this one up. It has nice Common Core opportunities, too. There's also a theme song for the book, a trailer, and a positive review from Kirkus. I'm expecting big things from The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. Don't miss it!

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

The Shade of the Moon: Susan Beth Pfeffer

Book: The Shade of the Moon: Life As We Knew It Series, Book 4
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer (blog)
Pages: 304
Age Range: 12 and up

The shade of the moon is the fourth book in Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It series. Here are links to my reviews of the first three books: Life As We Knew It, the dead & the gone, and this world we live in. This review will contain spoilers of the earlier books. If you haven't read them, go now.

I loved Life As We Knew It. It's a post-apocalypse (while, during apocalypse) novel that I still think about sometimes, when I'm throwing away spoiled food, say, or watching a disaster movie. The main character, Miranda, started out a bit self-absorbed, but grew up over the course of the book. I liked book 2, the dead & the gone, very much, too. The second book featured a different character, Alex, and was set in New York (plenty of haunting imagery there). Book 3, in which Miranda and Alex ended up meeting, and falling in love, wasn't my favorite of the series, but I still found the world that Pfeffer created quite compelling. 

Book 4, the shade of the moon, is set 2-3 years after the events of this world we live in. The protagonist is Miranda's younger brother, Jon. Jon is living with his three-year-old half-brother, Gabe, and his stepmother, Lisa, in Sexton, an Enclave. The Enclaves are protected towns in which important people ("clavers") live, while most other survivors struggle to survive as "grubs". Basically, the clavers have rights and privileges, and the grubs don't. Jon, Lisa, and Gabe got in using "slips", special passes that Alex received in the dead & the gone, and gave to them as having the greatest need of the family. The remaining members of Jon's family, including Alex and Miranda (now married), live outside of Sexton, as grubs. 

I thought that Miranda was a little self-absorbed at the start of Life As We Knew It. But Jon is definitely worse. He's kind of a jerk, really, thinking of himself as inherently better than the grubs (some of whom are his relatives). And going along with some nasty things that his friends do, because his status as a "slip" is a bit more precarious than theirs. But starting out bad does give Jon plenty of room to improve over the course of the book. And he comes a long way. 

I think that Jon being, well, not such a nice guy muted some of the emotional resonance of the book for me. There's a scene in which Jon sees something devastating, and, well, I wasn't devastated. Because I wasn't in there with Jon, the same way I had been with Miranda and Alex in the first two books. Not until near the end of the book, anyway. 

And yet ... I read the shade of the moon in not much more than 24 hours, staying up late two nights in a row, which is a rare thing for me these days. I think that the societal aspects of the book are fascinating. How would people treat each other four years after a major apocalypse left billions dead? In a world of limited resources, would the dichotomy between the "haves" and the "have-nots" widen? Yes, I would think it would. Here's a key tidbit:

"But Jon knew better. Maybe everyone was equal, of had been before, but everyone didn't live equally. That was the way the system worked. Clavers had more because they deserved more. Grubs had only as much as they needed to survive, because their survival was important. Not essential, the way the claver survival was, but important enough to justify their being fed and sheltered. Grubs could be replaced. Clavers, except for Zachary's granddad, were irreplaceable." (Page 60-61)

Yikes! Tough times indeed. I think that giving Jon that perspective was the right choice on Pfeffer's part, because it was the strongest way to really get the point across to readers. But it did make me wonder a little why new girl Sarah, with different views, gave him the time of day. 

Pfeffer goes even further in making Jon a difficult protagonist. Without giving away any details, Jon is not a boy who treats girls well (at least at first). A brave choice on the author's part. Perhaps a learning opportunity for male readers (one can hope) on potential consequences (both for others, and for oneself, in terms of guilt). 

Personally, I think it's a testament to the power of the book, and the strength of Pfeffer's world-building, that I liked it in spite of Jon's flaws. I liked it better than this world we live in, actually. Perhaps because of the larger themes. 

the shade of the moon ends on a note of hope. Personally, I hope to see another book in the series in the future (though it's not necessary - things wrap up reasonably well in this book). Perhaps jumping forward a few years, until Gabe is a teen... 

Publisher: Harcourt (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 20

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Note that I also live-tweeted all of the Cybils panelists lists, and set up Twitter lists for each of the panels, and for the Cybils panelists as a whole. I'm not including those Tweets here. If you'd like to see the Cybils panels, just go to

Book Lists

A Tuesday Ten: Science Fiction + Fantasy for kids set in NYC | Views From the Tesseract #kidlit

New Stacked book list from Kimberly: Time Traveling Teens #yalit

Stacked Book List: September Debut YA Novels, rounded up by @catagator #yalit

Three great picture book titles that address fear in @MotherReader Thursday Three | #kidlit

Top 10 Sports Books for Youth: 2013, by Daniel Kraus | Booklist via @100scopenotes

Science-Themed Chapter Books (Fiction) for Kids from @momandkiddo #kidlit


On the #Cybils blog: Fiction Picture Books-- Category Description from @MotherReader #kidlit

CybilsLogoBWOn the #Cybils blog: Speculative Fiction --Elementary and Middle Grade --Category Description  @charlotteslib

On the #Cybils blog: Easy Reader- Category Description| Category Organizer = @readingtub #kidlit

On the #Cybils blog: #BookApps category description . Category organizer = @MaryAnnScheuer


Test Driving Oyster, a "Netflix for Ebooks" - @ShiftTheDigital

RT @tashrow E-readers: the best way to get the world’s children reading | Technology | The Observer #ebooks #reading


Get ready for Picture Book Month 2013 in November. Jules from 7-Imp is a Champion #kidlit

Dahl“Turning the Alphabet into Magic”: Celebrating Roald Dahl by Lauren Donovan | @NerdyBookClub #kidlit

"So, thank you, Roald Dahl, who knows how many readers you created besides Matilda." @randomlyreading on Dahl Day

Growing Bookworms

Readers' Theatre: A great way to build fluency, expression & comprehension says @TrevorHCairney #literacy

Sad post @StorySnoops on the joy being sucked from a daughter's love of reading by assigned summer reading

Schools and Libraries

It's never too early: Conversations About Community in 3rd Grade by @frankisibberson

Bookless Public Library Opens In Texas : The Two-Way @NPRBooks

Fun! Queens (NY) Librarian Reads to Alligator to Reward Summer Reading |@sljournal

A travesty. New York librarian fired after speaking up for child who read too much @NYDailyNews via @PWKidsBookshelf

How to Make School Better for Boys - Christina Hoff Sommers -@TheAtlantic via @PWKidsBookshelf

How schools can help parents | Sound It Out by Joanne Meier |@ReadingRockets #literacy

Other Book-Related

Horror in YA Lit is a Staple, Not a Trend, says @catagator in @sljournal #yalit

The longlist for the 2013 National Book Award for Young People's Literature... via @bkshelvesofdoom #yalit

Always good: Newbery / Caldecott 2014: Fall Prediction Edition from @fuseeight #kidlit

Great photos of @CampHalfBlood (the camp) at @bookpeople in Austin, TX this summer

'The Dream Thieves' Author @mstiefvater Picks YA's Most Epic Couples | @BookishHQ via @PWKidsBookshelf

James Patterson to give $1 million to independent bookstores @latimes via @PWKidsBookshelf

Fun! Becky's Book Reviews: Blogging Advice from L.M. Montgomery

GottaBook: The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. Book Trailer! @gregpincus #kidlit #poetry

Programs and Research

RT @tashrow The U.S. Illiteracy Rate Hasn’t Changed In 10 Years  #literacy

Reading for pleasure puts children ahead in the classroom, study finds via @bkshelvesofdoom #litdup

Strong piece: Stopping bedtime stories too early can damage children's literacy - @Capitalbay1 via @readingtub

RT @Scholastic: Not surprised by this one: New study shows reading for fun can improve a child’s school performance #readeveryday

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.