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Posts from June 2014

Abuelo: Arthur Dorros & Raul Colon

Book: Abuelo
Author: Arthur Dorros
Illustrator: Raul Colon
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

Abuelo by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Raul Colon, is a quiet picture book about the relationship between a boy and his grandfather. They live somewhere in the country, where they ride horses, camp, and encounter wildlife. Later, the boy and his parents move to the city, leaving Abuelo behind. However, the skills that Abuelo has taught the boy (such as standing his ground) come in handy in his new life, too. 

Dorros blends English and Spanish words in the text, including translations for key words and phrases. Like this:

"We would ride into the clouds,
with the sky, "el cielo,"
wrapped around us."

and this:

At night, we could see forever.
"Mira", look, he would tell me,
reaching his hands to the stars."

Even after the boy moves to the city, he still includes the Spanish translations for the things that he sees, though he perhaps does this a bit less. 

Colon's watercolor and colored pencil illustrations are warm and deeply textured, cast in desert palettes of browns, grays, and sage green. There's a nostalgic feel to the pictures - this is a book that could be set now or 40 years ago. My favorite illustration is that one at the end of the book. The boy rides a bike, with the shadow of his Abuelo riding alongside him. I can't describe it, but Colon captured this perfectly. 

Abuelo is about family and culture, moving away and growing up. It's a book that introduces readers to a different environment, while touching on universal truths (the fear of getting lost, the need to stand up to bullies). Abuelo is well worth a look, particularly for library purchase. 

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
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).

© 2014 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: June 27

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. This week's topics include book lists and awards, common core and nonfiction, growing bookworms, reading, publishing, schools, libraries, and summer reading.

Book Lists and Awards

International Reading Association 2014 Book Awards | @tashrow #kidlit @IRAToday

The 2014 New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year is The Boring Book by Vasanti Unka via @bkshelvesofdoom

The 2014 Carnegie Medal has been awarded to Kevin Brooks for The Bunker Diary, reports @bkshelvesofdoom

My Magnificent Seven: Fiction Books for Tech Lovers from @BookZone #yalit #kidlit

Stacked: 2014 Printz and Morris Predictions at the Half-Way Point from @catagator #YAlit

A fun list! 14 Chapter Books about the Theater from @momandkiddo #kidlit

13 Books with #LGBTQ Characters, #booklist from @Book_Nut #kidlit

The @bookchook Ten Top Picture Books #kidlit #literacy

A new #booklist from @FuseEight | 2014 Quaker Books for Quaker Kids #kidlit

Common Core / Nonfiction

The Uncommon Corps: Mary Ann Cappiello calls for #Nonfiction Book Festivals for Kids #kidlit

Shanahan on #Literacy: The New Bane of Beginning Reading Instruction: Phony Rigor #CommonCore

Growing Bookworms

ReachoutandreadbwlogoAmerican Academy of Pediatrics Backs Reading Aloud from Infancy via @PWKidsBookshelf @ReachOutAndRead @Scholastic

Pediatricians recognize importance of reading aloud to babies | @JGCanada on news from American Academy of Pediatrics

"Reading aloud to infants is a powerful message to send to all parents" | @tashrow on new MD recs re: reading aloud

Reading Tips for Parents of Babies | @ReadingRockets via @librareanne

What to Do When Reading Is Too "Sitty" | @ImaginationSoup @readingrockets via @librareanne #literacy


So cool! First Photos Of Universal's Diagon Alley Are A Harry Potter Nerd's Dream Come True via @bkshelvesofdoom

Thomas the Tank Engine chugs its way to Edaville Railroad in MA. I remember visiting Edaville as a kid :-)

I love programs like this: Google pushes girls into coding with 'Made With Code' program - @MercuryNews

On Reading, Blogging, and Publishing

I read books. Does that make me a nerd? asks teen columnist in @GuardianBooks via @PWKidsBookshelf

A Mini-Rant on Censorship from Becky Levine, inspired by a recent post by @halseanderson

Bill at Literate Lives shares 5 Things That Made Him a Reader (incl. Willy Wonka) #literacy

100 First Lines from speculative #kidlit | Follow-Up: The Answers! | Views From the Tesseract

Must-read post for book bloggers from @catagator at Stacked: On Blogging, Responsibility, and Content Ownership

So sad to hear via @bkshelvesofdoom that the Strange Chemistry #yalit imprint is being discontinued @StrangeChem

Schools and Libraries

Way to make a difference! Bookmobile donated by Ellen DeGeneres keeps kids reading - Tulsa World #libraries

Lemony Snicket Helps 'Little Free Library' Advocate Spencer Collins @HuffPostBooks @PWKidsBookshelf

A detailed description of her library's 1st Digital Storytime (iPad apps projected on big screen) from @greenbeanblog

From the Office of the Future of Reading feature @KirbyLarson says Farewell at least for the summer #libraries

Good stuff from The Show Me Librarian: Thoughts on Reader's Advisory #libraries

New York Schools Chief Advocates More ‘Balanced #Literacy@NYTimes via @PWKidsBookshelf

Uncommon Corps: Get a Grip: We Need to Focus This Conversation about Including Parents in Education | Myra Zarnowski

New Baskets for Our 3rd Grade Classroom Library, @frankisibberson 's plans to keep her classroom library fresh

"When I do give homework I’m pretty fanatic about the kids doing it on their own." @medinger on homework + parents

Middle School Student-Parent Book Club – A Recipe for Success by @annhagedorn @NerdyBookClub

Summer Reading

Books Beat Summer Slide, nice graphic @FirstBook blog #SummerReading

Good advice from Alysa @Everead : How to Visit the #Library with Kids

Nashville Public Library Reinvents Its #SummerReading Model, Sees Early Success | Lindsey Patrick in @sljournal

Children's #SummerReading Guide 2014: Level 1 Readers + Beyond - how publishers + librarians try to help parents @wsj

Raising #SummerReaders: Tip-a-Day series | Raising Great Readers with Great Books by @aliposner

Raising Summer Readers Tip-a-Day #2: Create a Summer Bucket List from @aliposner #GrowingBookworms

#SummerReading Tip-a-Day #3: Make sure your child always has a next book in mind for after the current one @aliposner

Raising #SummerReading Tip-a-Day #4: Help your children make “summer book bags” | @aliposner

Continuing the series from @MaryAnnScheuer | Summer Reading Favorites: 4th grade suggestions #kidlit

Great Kid Books: #SummerReading Favorites: 5th grade suggestions from @MaryAnnScheuer #kidlit

Nice list of #SummerReading suggestions for kids from Mike Lewis (link goes to PDF) via @FuseEight

First Book's Summer Book List: High School includes Mare's War by Tanita Davis :-)

So glad to hear that @lochwouters experience of Going Prizeless in her library #SummerReading program is going well

© 2014 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.

A Tip for Nurturing Developing Readers: Take Away A Possible Fear

My daughter just turned four in April. She loves to be read to, and we are in no rush whatsoever for her to learn to read on her own. But I've noticed lately that she's sometimes resistant to even flipping through the pages of a book on her own (say, in the car). She'll say: "I can't read yet, Mommy." And it struck me that there was something defensive about this.

So this morning something came up about books (as is not uncommon in our house), and she remarked that if she was going to read a book it would have to be easy. I was inspired to say: "You know, even if you learn to read, we will still read to you. Whenever you like, for as long as you like." Huge smile, big hug, and, perhaps, a look of relief. 

I may be projecting here. It's not that she came out and said: "I'm afraid that if I learn to read you guys won't read to me anymore. And I like it when you read to me." Rather, I've put together fleeing impressions based on her responses to things (including a diminishing interest when I point out individual words when we are reading together). But it's certainly possible that I'm right, and that she's been cautious about the idea of learning more words because she doesn't want us to stop reading to her. This is a fear that I am more than happy to take away.  

So, that is my tip for other parents of developing young readers:

Take a moment to assure your child that even if he learns to read on his own, you will still read to him. 

Then, of course, stay true to your word. There are so many benefits to continuing to read aloud to your children after they can read on their own. You can read them more advanced titles, thus enhancing their vocabularies and giving them exposure to ideas. You can use the books as a springboard to discussions about all sorts of things. And you can experience parent-child closeness, snuggled up together over the pages of a book. 

© 2014 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

Open Wide! Stephen Krensky & James Burks

Book: Open Wide!
Author: Stephen Krensky
Illustrator: James Burks
Pages: 14
Age Range: 1-4

Open Wide! is a preschooler-friendly upcoming board book about the challenges of getting a baby to eat, and the lengths that parents will go to. A mom and dad are trying to get their baby to eat his dinner. He's old enough to be offered a variety of solid foods, and to take a certain delight in refusing to open his mouth. The parents attempt to manipulate him into eating through a combination of words and actions. They have a spoon that projects from a red airplane. They try to entice him with a series of animal comparisons, like:

"These yummy green beans will make you as big as an elephant."

We see the mom holding out the spoon/airplane, while the dad pretends to be an elephant. The dad's shadow is in the shape of an elephant, lending an additional visual cue so that readers can see what he's trying to do. My four year old found the goofiness of the dad's animal postures hilarious. He is particularly silly jumping around the kitchen like a bunny. His son, however, is not amused. The baby remains recalcitrant to the very end, when he takes matters into his own hands. As a bonus, this book comes with a paper airplane / spoon holder that can be extracted fro the back cover and folded together.

Although this book is about a baby, I think that it works for preschoolers, too, because stubborn behavior in regards to eating does not go away when kids learn to walk and talk. When reading with a preschooler, one can leave the punch line of each animal comparison up in the air, and ask the child to fill in the blanks.

Open Wide! is entertaining for parents, too, because we've all been there. It's quite clear, though not explicitly stated, that these are first-time parents. The cute animal examples are interspersed with statements like: "Sam, we don't have all night." For me, this dance between cajoling and demanding obedience rang true. 

Burks' illustrations are entertaining, full of funny animal shadows, grouchy baby faces, and increasingly frantic parents. There is enough detail here to make this more a book for preschoolers than for babies, though I'm sure parents will not be able to resist sharing it with their brand-new solid food eaters.

Open Wide!, with its combination of little kid humor and realistic (ok, slightly exaggerated) depiction of first-time parents, is going on my baby gift list. The "Free Plane Inside" is an added bonus. This one is definitely worth a look. 

Publisher: Cartwheel Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Source of Book: Advance 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).

© 2014 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 Prince of Venice Beach: Blake Nelson

Book: The Prince of Venice Beach
Author: Blake Nelson
Pages: 240
Age Range: 12 and up

The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson is about a 17-year-old runaway called Cali who lives in Venice Beach, CA. He sleeps in a treehouse behind the home of a generous local woman named Hope, has an assortment of quirky and interesting friends, and spends much of his time playing pick-up basketball. After helping a couple of private investigators to find missing kids, Cali decides that he wants to become a private investigator. However, when the case of a missing rich girl named Reese Abernathy lands in his lap, he finds his life becoming far more complicated than he would have expected. 

Cali is an engaging protagonist who should appeal to teen readers. He has a lot of autonomy (Hope is not a parental figure in any way). He knows how to take care of himself, and he tries to do the right thing. But he's a street kid, and he definitely runs into trouble sometimes, too. He's also remarkably uneducated compared with your maintstream YA protagonist (he's not even sure if Austria is a country). He's different, and that makes him interesting. 

Although The Prince of Venice Beach does involve a mystery, and has some action scenes (fights, chases), it's also quite relationship-driven. There's Cali's friendship with a young friend of Hope's, his complex relationship with Reese, and his protective attempts to help a new homeless girl on the scene. And it's a bit of a coming-of-age story for Cali, too, as he decides what he wants to do with his life, and even starts to take a course towards his GED. I found it a nice mix, and a quick read. I read it in a single sitting, and thought that Nelson's prose flowed well. 

Here's Cali musing on a runaway that he's looking for:

"He'd probably enjoyed his new freedom for the first couple days. Away from authority, from teachers and parents. But then the freedom gets to you. And the isolation. No family. No friends. Not even a dog. How many times can you go to McDonald's and eat cheeseburgers by yourself? How many days can you spend on the beach? How many nights can you sleep in your car? Not as many as you think." (Chapter Three)

The Prince of Venice Beach isn't entirely realistic, of course, but it does offer a YA-appropriate version of a private eye novel. Cali would, I think, admire Veronica Mars, were he ever to run across her. It has a unique premise and strong main character, a well-defined setting, and a fair bit of action. Recommended for teens (boys and girls) and escapist-leaning adults. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids) 
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Source of Book: Advance digital 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).

© 2014 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

News Release: Historic Kate Greenway Medal Win for This Is Not My Hat

From Candlewick:

Jon Klassen's This Is Not My Hat becomes the only book to win both the Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott Medals

June 23, 2014 (Somerville, MA): Candlewick Press is delighted to announce that Jon Klassen has won the 2014 Kate Greenaway Medal for Illustration for his picture book This is Not My Hat.

Published by the Walker Books Group – including Candlewick Press in the US and Walker Books in the UK – Jon Klassen’s This is Not My Hat will go into the history books as the first ever title to win both the UK’s highest illustration honor with the Kate Greenaway Medal, and also win the most prestigious award for children’s book illustration in the US, the Randolph Caldecott Medal, which was awarded in 2013. 

In addition, the Greenaway Medal for This Is Not My Hat marks the tenth Greenaway Medal for Walker Books, a feat unmatched by any other publisher, positioning Walker as the home of the very best in illustrative publishing.

Karen Lotz, Group Managing Director of the Walker Books Group said of the win, “Jon Klassen’s cunning hat thief stole our hearts at Walker long ago, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that he has now stolen the hearts of the 2014 Greenaway committee in this historic win. We are particularly proud to be the global publisher of the first creator to win both the Randolph Caldecott Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal for the same book. What on earth will the extraordinarily talented Mr. Klassen do next? Watch this space!”

On winning the CILIP Kate Greenaway, Jon Klassen said, "Winning this award is hugely encouraging. Making a book, you're kind of going out on a limb in the belief that what you think of as a satisfying story is the same as what other people think of as a satisfying story. This doesn't mean everything in the story turns out alright for everybody, but you, as a storyteller, try and make sure it ends the way the story should end. Any audience, children included, take reassurance from that. Storytelling is an act of community, of looking at one another afterward and agreeing that we enjoyed it, or not, whether the story itself portrays happiness or doom. The hope is found when we agree we liked it, and I'm so glad you liked this one."

"Making picture books with Jon is like sky diving," says Liz Bicknell, editorial director. "Jon says, 'Okay, guys, I think this parachute's gonna open.' His art director Ann Stott and I look at each other, laugh, and JUMP OUT OF THE PLANE. So far, we've been landing very nicely. Thanks, Jon!"


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: June 20

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter over the past two weeks @JensBookPage. I have a lot of links because I was traveling last week, and wasn't able to do a post. Topics include book lists and awards, common core, diversity and gender, growing bookworms, kidlitosphere, reading, writing, schools, libraries, and summer reading.

Book Lists and Awards (find other lists in the Summer Reading section below)

10 Books For Kids Who (think they) Hate Reading by Lisa Graff in @HuffPostBooks via @tashrow

Cool Correspondence | Great Books About Writing Letters | @sljournal #booklist #kidlit

Always interesting | Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition from @fuseeight #kidlit

Ten Fantastic Father-figures in middle grade science speculative fiction from Views From the Tesseract #kidlit

I love it! A Tuesday Ten: Incredible Introverts in #kidlit science fiction + fantasy | Views From the Tesseract

Congratulations to @gregpincus | The 14 Fibs of Gregory K is deservedly on the Bank Street Best Children's Books list

Another fun set of lists from @catagator Stacked | Microtrends in YA Fiction (like being stuck in elevators) #yalit

Semi-Grown-Up Gumshoes: Three Adult-Market Girl Detectives. @bkshelvesofdoom

Fun! RT @tashrow Cameron McAllister’s top 10 amazing machines in children’s books | Children’s books  #kidlit

Common Core

Math: "a lens through which we can see the world better", Jordan Ellenberg quoted in post by Marc Aronson #CommonCore

Cut to the Core: #CommonCore Is a Hot Topic at Trade Shows @PublishersWkly

Testing (Again), the Gates Foundation, and Curriculum by Mary Ann Cappiello at The Uncommon Corps

Great Kid Books: #CommonCore IRL: Digital Resources for students studying Colonial America @MaryAnnScheuer

Diversity + Gender

Diverse Books – on why we ALL need them! by @BooksYALove  #WeNeedDiverseBooks

The Brown Bookshelf shares message from @RIFWEB | how + why to choose good multicultural children's books  #diversity

#Diversity in Publishing: Next Steps from the Discussion from @thetoast via @PWKidsBookshelf

Useful resource from Grace Lin | A Cheat Sheet for Selling #Diversity in books via @FuseEight

First Book Pledges to Buy Diverse Books in response to #WeNeedDiverseBooks @sljournal @FirstBook

Interesting question from @haleshannon squeetus: Is anyone really "able-bodied"? Disability as continuum #diversity

The Muscle-Flexing, Mind-Blowing Book Girls Will Inherit The Earth : Monkey See : @NPRBooks via @tashrow

Growing Bookworms

How YA Books Engender a True Love of Reading in My Students | Tina Yang @PubPerspectives via @PWKidsBookshelf #yalit

So true! "It doesn’t take fine literature to hook a kid for life." @LisaGraff @NerdyBookClub on keeping reading fun

"Reading should not be a chore." On the use of apps that force kids to log book time to earn screen time @salon

Are fathers better at bedtime stories than mothers? - @TelegraphNews via @librareanne

#DadsRead Campaign Celebrates Fathers Reading to Kids | @sljournal @ZoobeanForKids @goodmenproject

"I ... credit my husband's love for literature with ... Sprout's enthusiasm for books." @SproutsBkshelf for #DadsRead

#DadsRead Because Dads are Awesome —adorable photos from @fuseeight for @ZoobeanForKids + @goodmenproject effort

Raise A Reader: A Parent Guide to Reading for Ages 3-5 | @Scholastic via @librareanne #literacy

Series books for summer pleasure reading - This is the post for parents by @pwbalto #kidlit

How to encourage students to read for pleasure: teachers share their top tips | Teacher Network via @librareanne


The scoop from @100scopenotes | #Bookaday-gate Resolved! @donalynbooks #BookADay #BookADayUK

For her 200th Post, Stephanie Whelan shares First Impressions Through 100 Favorite First Lines in #kidlit

On Reading, Writing, Publishing

An Art Exhibit Honors 75th anniversary of 'Madeline' - @WSJ via @PWKidsBookshelf

The fault in our aesthetic pigeonholing: Who cares if grown-ups read young-adult fiction? - @GlobeAndMail

Where, What, How, and Why Teens Do and Don’t Read | Consider the Source | Seeta Pai @CommonSense Media in @sljournal

Really? Are We Still Genre Shaming People For The Books They Like? Lauren Davis at io9 via @gail_gauthier

This is hilarious: "adults should be ashamed to read children’s literature!" Satire from Marjorie Ingall @FuseEight

More great stuff! Ten Reasons To Read YA (No Matter What Age You Are) from @Gwenda #yalit

Can you infer an author's interests sometimes? Check out Cats, Dogs and Other Authors’ Favorite Motifs @read4keeps

Schools and Libraries

A teacher says: "you continue the practice of reading aloud because it is right" @Shoulded @NerdyBookClub

Ways that kindergarten teachers can foster the love of literacy in kids | Jennifer Schwanke @ChoiceLiteracy

"As a teacher, I see the importance of caring, compassionate, and dedicated librarians" @JustinStygles @NerdyBookClub

When You Know Better: A Journey to Authentic Book Clubs (learning from @donalynbooks ) by @jenbrittin @NerdyBookClub

Rethinking Teaching Choices, some thoughts on Accelerated Reader programs from @katsok

Press Release Fun: Teachers Are Givers Contest from Walden Media highlighting release of The Giver movie — @fuseeight

I love @lochwouters descriptions of her annual Library Camp-Out programs. Such a fun way to grow bookworms!

The loss of a school's librarian, from the librarian's point of view, sadly, Zoe @playbythebook

UpClose: Designing 21st-Century Libraries | How we were vs. are now using libraries @LibraryJournal

Good news! RT @tashrow Libraries see light after years of cuts #libraries

Summer Reading

Great stuff! Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Reading This Summer by @jamibookmom @NerdyBookClub #GrowingBookworms

10 Tips for Getting Kids Reading This Summer #SummerReading @5m4b #literacy

Great photos! Top 10 Just Right #SummerReading Nook Ideas from @growingbbb

BeBookSmartSigh! New Survey from @RIFweb Finds Only 17% of Parents Make Reading a Top Priority for Summer

8 Tips to Prevent the #SummerReading Slide from @growingbbb #literacy

RAISING A READER Organization Offers Tips for Getting Children to Read During Summer Vacation via @tashrow

I'm loving this series by @MaryAnnScheuer | Here are #SummerReading favorites for Kindergarteners #kidlit

Lots of ideas in #SummerReading favorites: 1st grade suggestions from @MaryAnnScheuer #kidlit

#SummerReading favorites: 2nd grade suggestions compiled by @MaryAnnScheuer #kidlit

Reading is fun! #SummerReading favorites from @MaryAnnScheuer | 3rd grade suggestions #kidlit

12 #SummerReading lists by transportation category (inc. rocketship) from @NPR #bookyourtrip via @bkshelvesofdoom

#Diverse #SummerReading Picks For Kids from Michael Martin @npr via @PWKidsBookshelf

Stacked with a literal twist on "Summer" Reads, 2014 Edition ( #yalit with summer in the title) @catagator

© 2014 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.

Zephyr Takes Flight: Steve Light

Book: Zephyr Takes Flight
Author: Steve Light
Pages: 40
Age Range: 5-8

Zephyr's Flight by Steve Light is an ode to people's fascination with flight. Zephyr is a little girl who is obsessed with airplanes. Her family is too busy to really notice, until her flight attempts cause her to knock over a set of shelves. Sent to her room, Zephyr discovers a hidden door behind her dresser, leading to a magical room full of books and implements related to flying, as well as all sorts of "flying machines." From this room, Zephyr embarks on a fabulous adventure. But, as in the best of children's books, in the end she is back at home, and with her pancakes (instead of dinner) waiting. 

Zephyr's Flight reminds me a bit of Barbara Lehman's books, like Rainstorm or Trainstop, in which a fanciful world is hidden right beside a real one. There are two primary differences, however. First of all, Lehman's books are wordless, while Light's are not. Also, there's a nonfiction underpinning to Zephyr's Flight, with actual historic airplanes set alongside the magic.

Zephyr's Flight is a delightful mix of aeronautical and whimsical. Zephyr ends up, for example, in a land populated by flying pigs. She is able to use her knowledge of airplanes to help one flightless pig to build wings. 

Light's text is full of the wonders of flight. Like this:

"It was filled with papers and pens, drawings and maps,
books about how to fly and where to go.

And then there were the flying machines.
There were big ones and small ones, some with propellers and some
with rudders and very strange things. And all of them were real."

The illustrations all have a steampunk sort of feel, full of amber brown airplanes in old-fashioned styles. Well, at least if steampunk normally includes flying pigs. In truth, the cover of Zephyr's Flight fails to convey the sense of fun and adventure of the book. Which is too bad, because this is a book that I think would please lots of kids in the early elementary school range. I hope that libraries have discovered it, and I wish that I had reviewed it sooner. Recommended for kindergarten and up. 

Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick)
Publication Date: October 9, 2012
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).

© 2014 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

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: June 18

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a 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. I usually send the newsletter out every two weeks. However, I've just returned from yet another trip, and so have a three week interval this time. My travels are done for now, and I should be getting the blog and newsletter back to normal. Thanks for your patience!

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have six book reviews (picture book through young adult), two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently, and a post about another of my daughter's literacy milestones (making up stories). Not included in the newsletter, I shared a news release from Reading is Fundamental about the results of a recent survey. Sadly, the survey found that only 17% of parents make reading a top priority for summer. I'm sure that's not true about readers of this newsletter, thought travel does complicate things a bit. 

Reading Update: In the last three weeks I read two middle grade, three young adult and three adult books. I read:

I'm currently reading In the After by Dimitria Lunetta and listening to Murder in Murray Hill (A Gaslight Mystery) by Victoria Thompson.

You can see the list of books that we've been reading to Baby Bookworm here. It's not complete, because I don't keep very good track when we are traveling, but still gives you an idea. Last night she was pretending to be a baby, so we read several board books. She quite liked new arrival Dinnertime for Chickies by Janee Trasler, the third in this very cute padded board book series for toddlers. In fact, she liked that one so much that this morning she voluntarily put down her Kindle Fire to "read" it on her own. This pleased me. She gets screen time while I ride my exercise bike, and while we're on airplanes, but I'm always happier when she chooses books or coloring instead. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 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

New Survey from RIF Finds Only 17% of Parents Make Reading a Top Priority for Summer

News Release from RIF: Kids Spend Nearly Triple the Time Playing Video Games or Watching TV vs. Reading

Macy's and Reading Is Fundamental Launch Be Book Smart Campaign June 18 to Support Children's Literacy

  BeBookSmart RIF_Primary_Vertical 


WASHINGTON - (June 18, 2014) - Despite research that indicates the importance of summer reading in preventing children from losing literacy skills, only 17 percent of parents say reading is a top summer priority, according to a new survey from Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and Macy's. The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, also finds that children spend nearly three times as many hours weekly watching TV or playing video games as they do reading in the summer. More than 1,000 parents with children ages 5-11 completed the survey online in April.

Results of the survey are made public as Macy's and RIF launch the 11th annual Be Book Smart campaign to support children's literacy. Be Book Smart begins June 18, and invites customers nationwide to give $3 at any Macy's register in-store, to help provide a book for a child andget $10 off a purchase of $30 or more. Macy's will donate 100 percent of every $3 to RIF. The campaign ends July 13.

"Many families think of reading as eating your vegetables--good for you but not necessarily a treat. Reading is the best vacation. It takes you places you never dreamed you would visit, and summer especially is a time when kids can immerse themselves in the topics they like best," said Carol H. Rasco, CEO of Reading Is Fundamental. "Thanks to our partnership with Macy's, we are bringing more books to children who need them most and starting them on a journey to a lifelong love of reading."

More than 60 percent of parents in the survey said they do not believe their child loses reading skills over the summer. However, existing research shows that summer learning loss is a major problem, particularly for low-income children who can lose up to three months of reading skills because of limited access to books and learning opportunities while out of school. The key to helping children maintain and even improve their literacy skills over the summer is providing access to quality books that they can choose based on personal interests. 

Full survey results are highlighted in an executive summary by Harris Interactive. Key findings include:

  • On average, parents say their child spends 17.4 hours/week watching TV or playing video games, 16.7 hours/week playing outside and only 5.9 hours/week reading.
  • Parents who consider reading to be extremely or very important are twice as likely to have a child who reads every day.
  • Children who were involved in a reading program last summer were up to two times more likely to read every day. Yet, over half of parents said their child did not participate in a reading program at all last summer.
  • Last summer, children who read because they wanted to were twice as likely to read than children who read because they had to.
  • Despite the proliferation of e-books and digital formats, 83 percent of parents said their child preferred print books for summer reading, compared to 7 percent preferring tablets and 4 percent preferring e-readers.

"We are committed to RIF's mission of empowering children through literacy and inspiring them to embrace the joy of reading during the summer," said Martine Reardon, chief marketing officer, Macy's. "Be Book Smart offers our customers the opportunity to give back to their local community, and thanks to the collective generosity of our customers and associates, we've given 10 million books to kids since 2004."

The survey sheds new light on the importance of summer reading, as advocates across the nation gear up for National Summer Learning Day, on June 20.

To celebrate the launch of the campaign, select Macy's across the country will host Reading Circles, featuring storytelling and photos with popular book characters. Customers can also help spread the word about the campaign by entering the Be Book Smart Summer Instagram photo contest. One winner will be selected each week  of the campaign to receive a $500 Macy's gift card. Visit /macys  for more details.

 Since 2004, Macy's has helped raise nearly $30 million for RIF. Through customer-supported fundraising campaigns, in-store events and volunteer activities, Macy's has donated funds and resources to further the message of literacy for future success. Macy's longstanding support has enabled RIF to promote literacy at all levels, from buying books for children, training educators, and providing resources to parents.


This summer reading survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Reading Is Fundamental between April 7-18, 2014 among 1,014 parents of kids ages 5-11. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Olivia Doherty at [email protected] or 410-990-0824.

I Am the Mission (The Unknown Assassin): Allen Zadoff

Book: I Am the Mission (The Unknown Assassin, Book 2)
Author: Allen Zadoff
Pages: 432
Age Range: 13 and up

I Am the Mission is the second book in Allen Zadoff's The Unknown Assassin series (following Boy Nobody, which was renamed I Am the Weapon). Like the first book, I Am the Mission is a fast-paced, suspenseful book in which the reader isn't quite sure who to root for. Book 2 picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first book. The variously-named narrator (we do eventually learn his real name) has gone AWOL from his shadowy government organization, The Program. He is in hiding as a camp counselor when a crew from Homeland Security extracts him. His "Father" figure, the head of The Program, gives him a new assignment, one intended to test his loyalty.

The boy's mission is to penetrate the tryouts for an ultra-right-wing summer camp that is apparently radicalizing teens and assassinate the head of that organization, a charismatic man named Eugene Moore. He is not supposed to actually enter the camp, because a prior operative from The Program disappeared there (and is now presumed deceased). The boy ends up out of communication with The Program, and not sure who to trust. I mean, when you are a secret teenage assassin, who can you trust, really? Happily for the reader, the boy's one friend from the previous book, Howard, makes an appearance. 

Like the first book, I Am the Weapon has a premise that may disturb some readers: a teen who has been taught to kill people, quickly and stealthily, and who has no semblance of a normal life. But if you can accept that premise, it's a well-constructed, twisty thriller. The boy does commit one act that I found ... disturbing, I guess, in part because it's clearly a mistake. But he shows hints of humanity, too. Zadoff also provides more background for how he ended up in The Program, and why he is the cold-blooded, fearless killing machine that he is. Fans of the first book will definitely not want to miss this one. 

Zadoff has a knack for quick characterizations, like this:

"He has a masterful way of using truisms to support his ideas. One can easily agree with the truth of the surface statements without questioning the ideas themselves." Chapter "It's Moore", digital ARC (The ARC, at least, doesn't have conventional chapter titles. The first sentence of each chapter is formatted as a title, instead.)

He also muses quite a bit in this book on the nature of fear. Like this:

""The part they don't understand..." he says. "If you don't feel fear, you don't feel joy or love. Not in any real way. Without the fear, the risk is gone. And without risk, rewards don't matter. You're left with nothing much at all. You're numb." ("My Name is Francisco Gonzalez", he says.)

I Am the Mission is written in first-person present tense, which helps to keep up the suspense. The narrator is a surprisingly sympathetic character for a stone-cold killer. Attempting to figure him out is perpetually interesting. Recommended for older teen and adult readers for whom the fascinating aspects of the premise outweigh the disturbing aspects. Personally, I couldn't put it down, and eagerly await the next book. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids) 
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

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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).

© 2014 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

Searching for Sky: Jillian Cantor

Book: Searching for Sky
Author: Jillian Cantor
Pages: 288
Age Range: 12 and up

I picked up Searching for Sky to skim the first few pages, and couldn't put it down. It's not that it's action filled, but more that the premise and the narrator are irresistible. Fifteen-year-old Sky has lived for as long as she can remember (since she was 2) on a tiny Pacific island. She was raised by her mother, Petal, and her mother's partner, Helmut, along with Helmut's son, River. Since her mother and Helmut died a year earlier, Sky and River have lived alone on the island. Though they worry a little bit about survival, they are happy, and just starting to perhaps have grown-up feelings for one another. Everything changes when a boat arrives one day, and takes the two frightened teens to California. Back to a world that they didn't even really know existed. 

There are mysteries in Searching for Sky, as Sky seeks to understand what led Petal and Helmut to the island in the first place. She struggles to reconcile her own memories with the things that other people tell her are true, and begins to realize that not everything was as she thought. She is separated from River, and wants desperately to find him. These issues kept me turning the pages, wanting to understand. Wanting Sky to understand. Wanting to know what would happen to Sky and to River. But the remarkable part of Searching for Sky actually lies in Sky's reaction to the more mundane details. It's fascinating to watch as someone who has never seen civilization tries to understand things like money, lipstick, and the Internet.

I thought that Cantor did a fine job of keeping Sky in character (frequently baffled), even as certain things become more clear to the reader. This is a book that could only have been written in first person present perspective. This aspect of the book reminded me a bit of reading far-future dystopias, in which the characters come across artifacts of our current civilization, and struggle to understand them. Sky struggles to understand just about everything, right down to how to use a toilet (or "Bathroom Tree" as she calls it). For example, one of the first people Sky sees is apparently wearing sunglasses. She says:

"His eyes are hidden by small black shells, and I don't like that I can't see them, that I don't know what color they are." (Page 26)

Sometimes her reactions are humorous:

""Now, come on into the kitchen," she's saying. I follow her into a large open space with a lot of square wood boxes everywhere. "Have a seat at the table." She points to a large, round wood, and I begin to climb up on it. "No, no. On a chair," she says, pulling on another, smaller wood and showing me how she wants me to sit on it." (Page 92)

Sometimes they are profound:

"I think it disappoints her that I refuse to watch the television box with her after dinner. But the few times I've sat there with her, all I've seen are pretend faraway people talking to each other about things that have nothing to do with me. I don't understand why she's interested in them if they're not even here, if they're not even real." (Page 119)

Sky is a strong character, even though her lack of basic knowledge makes her feel foolish and vulnerable at times. I think that teen readers will find her as compelling as I did. Despite the female narrator, I have every reason to believe that teen boys would find this book intriguing, too. In fact, I'm going to put it on the small stack of books that I recommend to my husband. (The previous book I gave him was Matt de la Pena's The Living). I highly recommend Searching for Sky for teens and adults. 

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BWkids) 
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
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).

© 2014 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