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Posts from August 2014

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 29

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include: book lists, the Cybils awards, diversity, growing bookworms, kidlitcon, kidlitosphere, reading, introverts parenting, and summer reading.

Book Lists

Great piece at Stacked: Suicide and Depression in YA: A Discussion and Book List by @catagator #YAlit

Fun! A Tuesday Ten: A Roster of Redheads in #kidlit SF & Fantasy | Views From the Tesseract

10 Perfect Read Aloud Books for 2nd Grade, includes multicultural slant, from @pragmaticmom #kidlit

23 Children's Picture Books Set in New York City from @momandkiddo #kidlit #BookList

Ha! Ha! Laugh Out Loud Books for Reading with Kids from Terry @ReadingTub #kidlit #BookList


Get Your Bookish Opinions Heard! @aquafortis on why YOU should be involved in the #Cybils awards #kidlit

Cybils-Logo-2014-Round-SmRock the #Cybils Awards (+ 3 Reasons You Should Apply) from former category chair Terry @readingtub

Have you applied to be a #Cybils judge yet? asks @bkshelvesofdoom #kidlit #yalit

New blog post at Kidlitosphere Central: Apply to be a #Cybils Judge for 2014!

Calling all bloggers! + What is Speculative Fiction from #Cybils YA SFF category chair @SheilaRuth

We Need YOU! @Book_Nut on why she participates in the #Cybils and you should too #kidlit


Brown Bookshelf: Upcoming or recently published books by African American authors or featuring #diversity in characters

Racist abuse will not stop me seeking more #diversity in children’s literature | Malorie Blackman in @Guardian 


Growing Bookworms

From @donalynbooks "We seem to have forgotten the most important thing kids need to become readers—something to read"

On a family's first read-aloud containing no pictures (The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles) @SunlitPages

Neat video from @Scholastic about love of books for #SharePossible initiative to encourage kids' reading

RT @EnglishComp Download "Open a World of Possible: Real Stories About the Joy and Power of Reading" for free at … #SharePossible

RT @ScholasticTeach Check out @pamallyn's top 5 tips for inspiring a love of literacy in students #sharepossible #edchat

On guiding reading choices: Two Confessions and a Pledge of a Teacher Mom by @elisaw5 @NerdyBookClub

Inside Out: Getting Kids Excited About Books by Shannon L. Brown @NerdyBookClub


KidlitCon2014_cubeNew post: Registered Attendees (so far) for #KidLitCon14 | Don't you want to add your name to the list?

Just announced! The #KidLitCon 2014 Program, with many thanks to Program Chair @charlotteslib

The #KidLitCon 2014 Program is out in the world! from Program Chair @charlotteslib #kidlit

Started a list of #KidLitCon14 Attendees on Twitter, with more to come!


Lots of interesting + time-sensitive #kidlit links in today's Fusenews @fuseeight #Ferguson #nonfiction

Fun stuff! Press Release: Tour the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre From the Comfort of Your Own Home — @fuseeight


Why #Introverts Are The New Power Players In The Digital Age @CherylSnapp @forbes via @cmirabile

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Starr Latronica from ALSC responds to @HornBook editorial about ALSC new social media policy #kidlit

Hey, it's @charlotteslib in @FGNMag on The Geeky Goodness of Middle Grade Fantasy #kidlit

Strong stuff from Susie Rodarme @bookriot | Reading Helped Me Overcome A Racist Upbringing @catagator

Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days? — @fuseeight #CommonCore

Lois Lane Is Your New YA Fiction Hero | @THR on upcoming #yalit book by @Gwenda via @PWKidsBookshelf


Are we blindly in love with our children? asks @TrevorHCairney quoting author John Marsden (on respecting teachers)

Op-ed piece in @WSJ from Peter Gray and Lenore Skenazy about the skills kids learn through free play

How To Get Conversations With Your Kids Rolling from @SensibleMoms #parenting

Programs and Research

Tips by age range for Celebrating International #Literacy Day from @FirstBook and @IRAToday

Put a Poem in your Pocket for National #Literacy and Numeracy Week in Austraila says @BookChook

Schools and Libraries

The Magic Words for Librarians: Getting Into the Schools for Booktalks from @abbylibrarian


#SummerReading Tip53 @aliposner | Check out these recently and to-be-released books for great end-of-summer reads

Tip54 @aliposner | Reflect with your kids on their #SummerReading + talk about how you might do differently next time

© 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 Tree House that Jack Built: Bonnie Verburg & Mark Teague

Book: The Tree House that Jack Built
Author: Bonnie Verburg
Illustrator: Mark Teague
Pages: 40
Age Range: 5-7

The Tree House that Jack Built by Bonnie Verburg starts out something like the cumulative British nursery rhyme This is the House that Jack Built, only set in a very cool tree house. However, a few pages in, Verburg branches out from the standard cumulative format, eventually introducing story time for a bunch of Jack's animal friends. Then at the end, The Tree House that Jack Built turns into a bedtime book, with Jack and his animal friends settling down to sleep under a full moon. It's a bit disjointed, in truth. Sort of a stream-of-consciousness blending of several different types of books.

Here's what I mean. After several pages of build-up, we have:

"Here is the parrot
who pecks at the lizard
that snaps at the fly
that buzzes by
the tree house
that Jack built.

But who swats the parrot?"

And on the next page:

"Of course it's the cat!

He jumps on the swings, 
the ladder, the birdbath,
the marvelous things
Jack made with his tools--"

See what I mean? That's not to say that it's not fun to read aloud, with punchy, active text. There's a tremendous wish-fulfillment to The Tree House that Jack Built. Jack lives without adult supervision, in a marvelous tree house beside the sea, surrounded by tame animals that gather around him as he reads stories. I can see this story appealing to adventure-seeking kindergartners and first graders. 

Teague's illustrations capture the dazzling tree house, with plenty of browns, greens and blues. He uses various perspectives, to give a sense of being high above the ground. The animals are not strictly realistic, but they do add color and life to the story. Tree house details like a mini water wheel and system of pipes, and a line that the rabbits use to send carrots into the house, will please attentive young readers. 

The text in The Tree House that Jack Built is fun, though it could have been tightened a bit. But the tree house is hard to resist, as are Mark Teague's bold illustrations. I do think that kids will enjoy The Tree House that Jack Built.

Publisher: Orchard Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: May 27, 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

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: August 27

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 currenty send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book to middle school), two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently, and a post about with tips from Scholastic about getting kids preschool ready. I have two posts about my daughter's journey to literacy, one in which we celebrate the arrival of a box of Fancy Nancy Books, and the other in which she eagerly awaits the arrival of a particular book. Not included in the newsletter, I posted an update about the Cybils and KidLitCon, and how bloggers can participate in both. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read five middle grade books, one young adult book, and one adult nonfiction title. I read:

  • Holly Webb (ill. Marion Lindsay): The Case of the Stolen Sixpence: Book 1. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Early Middle Grade. Completed August 15, 2014. Review to come.
  • George Hagen (ill. Scott Bakal): Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle. Schwartz & Wade. Middle Grade. Completed August 18, 2014. Review to come.
  • Annie Barrows: The Magic Half. Bloomsbury USA. Early Middle Grade. Completed August 21, 2014, on Kindle. No review, but I plan to read the second book, and may review both after that. 
  • J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Scholastic. Middle Grade/Middle School. Completed August 21, 2014, on MP3. This was the toughest of the Harry Potter books to get through on audio - it is quite long, and Harry is angry all the time. But now I'm on to Book 6!
  • Elizabeth Enright: Return to Gone-Away. HMH Books for Young Readers. Middle Grade. Completed August 25, 2014, on MP3. This was a re-read of one of my all-time favorite titles, a perfect book for summer. Here is a review from 2009
  • A. J. Betts: Zac & Mia. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Young Adult. Completed August 15, 2014. Review to come.  
  • William Deresiewicz: Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. Free Press. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 24, 2014, on Kindle. This book posed some interesting ideas about America's higher education system. There were things that I agreed with, and things that I did not. But it did make me think!

I'm currently reading Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix (ARC). I'm listening to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceAs always, you can see the list of books that we've been reading to Baby Bookworm here. I've continued stocking our breakfast table book rack (new titles at least once a week). This has definitely led to more requests for us to read to Baby Bookworm during or immediately following meals. Not that I should really be calling her Baby Bookworm at all. She started Pre-K this week!

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

KidLitCon and Cybils: Two Chances to Participate in the Larger Community

Hey there, Kidlitosphere fans. There is news to share this week about the 2014 Cybils Awards and KidLitCon. Here is the scoop:


  • The new Cybils website is now live. The new site was designed by Sheila Ruth, Sarah Stevenson, and Anne Levy (with a tiny bit of input from me). I think that it's beautiful. It's also quite user-friendly, with a pop-up for viewing finalists by category, and a responsive design that re-sizes automatically depending on your browser size (especially helpful on mobile). 
  • New Cybils logos are also available, as you can see to the right. You can find logos in different sizes and formats on the Cybils website. Bloggers involved with the Cybils are encouraged to display the Cybils logo on your sites. The Cybils logo was designed by Sarah Stevenson.
  • Updated Cybils bling is now available in the Cybils Cafe Press store. I have already ordered my 2014 Cybils coffee mug. 
  • MOST IMPORTANT: The call for judges for the 2014 Cybils is now live. If you blog about children’s and/or young adult books, either on your own or as part of a group blog, you are eligible to apply to be a Cybils judge. Judges are needed for Round 1 (sifting through perhaps hundreds of nominated titles to produce a shortlist of 5-7 well-written, kid-friendly titles) and for Round 2 (selecting a winner from the shortlist), in 11 categories (some with sub-categories), ranging from Book Apps to Poetry to Young Adult Fiction.You can apply now through September 5th. My application is in already.


  • The program for this year's KidLitCon was just posted, with thanks to Program Chair Charlotte Taylor. There are sessions on diversity, of course, including what promises to be a fabulous keynote by Mitali Perkins. But not to worry. KidLitCon remains true to our roots, with sessions on blogging in general, and an exciting author meet and greet event (more details to come). 
  • There is now a Twitter list of registered KidLitCon attendees (those who have given permission to be listed, and are on Twitter). A blog-linked list of attendees will be posted on our website later this week. The deadline for registration is September 17th, so if you have not yet registered, please do! The room block at the KidLitCon hotel is also filling up fast. See the registration form for details. 

If you blog about children's and/or young adult books, the Cybils Awards and KidLitCon both offer a marvelous opportunity to reach out from the comfort of your own blog and participate in the larger community. Being a Cybils judge is a way to expose yourself to great books within a sub-category of children's and YA literature, and to work with a team of other bloggers who also love that category (aka kindred spirits). Attending KidLitCon is a way to meet long-time blogging friends in person, and make new one. You can also renew your commitment to your blog, and to sharing your passion for children's literature with others.

Have I convinced you? Then apply now to be a Cybils judge. Register now for KidLitCon 2014. Opportunity awaits!

© 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.

Tips from Scholastic for Getting Kids Preschool-Ready

ScholasticParentsScholastic sent me some tips for parents to help get kids ready for preschool. As my own daughter went back to preschool (for PreK) just yesterday, I thought that this would be a timely thing to share. You can find more tips from Scholastic parenting expert Maggie McGuire here

5 Tips (from Scholastic) to Get Every Child Ready for Preschool

1.      USE YOUR WORDS. Talk, sing and use rhymes with your child. Children 0 – 5 years of age develop literacy skills through conversations.   Talk about what you’re making for dinner or buying at the grocery store; talk about the people you see in your town – the firemen, policemen and the pediatrician and what they do to help people.  Research shows 3 year-olds who live in language-rich environments have a vocabulary of nearly 1,110 words, but children without this experience only know 500 words? (Source: The Preschool Experiences We Deserve: A Guide for Families, FIS, 2014).

2.      BOND WITH BOOKS. Use books to show that words and pictures go together and to create special bonding moments with your child. Ask your child questions about the pictures and letters. Even parents who are not confident readers can use picture books and create stories to go with the images. 

3.      PLAY IS LEARNING. LEARNING IS PLAY.  Preschoolers learn through fun and games. Role-play activities like serving pretend meals or dress-up, as well as doing puzzles and playing with blocks and other manipulatives all contribute to school readiness.  When adults talk about and participate in the activities, children learn new vocabulary and develop more sophisticated social skills that will serve them well in a preschool or school setting – sharing, taking turns, etc. 

4.      SHOW CHILDREN THAT MATH IS EVERYWHERE. Children ages 0 – 5 are hardwired for math - whether that’s counting their fingers and toes, learning shapes, manipulating objects like building blocks or dividing up cookies so everyone gets an equal share. Play with and talk about numbers, shapes and patterns everywhere you find them.

5.      GET CRAFTY AND BUILD MOTOR SKILLS. Arts and crafts activities help develop a child’s early writing skills. Have preschoolers paint, draw, cut and glue to develop fine motor skills. Connect literacy with these activities by asking a child “What’s the story?” in his/her picture.

(Back to Jen) These are all things that we do in my house. Some, admittedly, we do more than others. I am not personally very crafty, for example, though I'll share books with my daughter at pretty much any time of the day. But I do agree that it's important to pursue a variety of activites.

I especially agree with the notion that kids are hardwired for math. My daughter has recently starting throwing random math problems at me throughout the day, like "Mom, what's eight plus twenty million plus seventeen?" She thinks that the fact that I can usually answer these questions means that I am very good at math. I tell her that I have had a lot of practice, and that she'll be good at math, too, when she practices more. Last night (after her first day of PreK) we couldn't get her to go to bed, because she was sitting at the kitchen table doing pretend math problems (basically scribbling, but calling them math problems). 

Bottom line, there are many factors to school readiness. But Scholastic's tips are all solid places to start.

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. (Except for the tips, which are from Scholastic.) You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Mix it Up! by Herve Tullet

Book: Mix it Up!
Author: Herve Tullet
Pages: 56
Age Range: 3-5

Mix it Up! is a companion book to Herve Tullet's Press Here. As with Press Here, the author encourages young readers to physically interact with the book to make things happen. With Press Here, readers pressed dots to apparently make them group, change color, or move about on the page (as shown on the subsequent page). In Mix it Up! the focus is on mixing colors. 

First, young readers are asked to tap a grey dot to encourage various colored splotches to appear. Then the primary color blends are explored, like this:

"With one finger take a little bit of the blue...
And just touch the yellow. Rub it...gently..."

On the next page, the reader sees a blotch of green paint, with yellow and blue just visible around the edges. Tullet keeps things varied by sometimes having readers mix the colors by rubbing the pages together, and sometimes tilting the book to dribble colors down into each other. The resulting paint blobs or splotches vary depending on the mixing method used (more splatter when you "Close the book and push down really hard", etc.). Later in the book, he introduces the effects of mixing white or black in with a color. 

While Mix it Up! does not feel as groundbreaking as Press Here did on a first reading, it is a fun and creative introduction to color mixing. I look forward to introducing it to my four-year-old (though I am expecting that she'll want to get real paint out as soon as we're done reading it). Fans of Press Here will not want to miss Mix it Up!, and readers new to Tullet's concept are bound to be charmed. Highly recommended for preschoolers (though better for individual than for group reading). 

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: September 16, 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: August 22

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. The new Cybils website launched late last week, and the call for judges for 2014 was released on Monday, so there are quite a few Cybils-related links. The KidLitCon program is shaping up nicely (due out next week), and there are a few links there, too. Other topics this week include book lists, back to school books, growing bookworms, parenting, publishing, reading, schools, libraries, and summer reading.


#Kidlit 's @StudioJJK is featured on the TED website today talking about Lunch Ladies as heroes, says @100scopenotes

Book Lists: Back to School

Planet Kindergarten and other Books for New Kindergarteners from @darshanakhiani #kidlit #BookList

Five @FirstBook Favorites for Back to School #BookList

#BookList for Back to school: easing your kindergarten worries (ages 4-7) from @MaryAnnScheuer

Book Lists: Other

Australian Children's Book of the Year Winners Announced @TrevorHCairney #kidlit

A Tuesday Ten: #kidlit Fantasy Dealing with Death and Loss | Views From the Tesseract #BookList

Buried Treasure: Real and Imagined Adventure Titles | by John Peters @sljournal #kidlit #booklist

Seeking #diversity in your #yalit reading? New Stacked #Booklist | Protagonists of Color in YA SFF

Some solid choices in Favorite Historical Fiction Novels from @brandymuses #BookList

Read about female pilots on National Aviation Day, a #BookList from @CarliSpina @HornBook

In honor of Shark Week, a list of "recent YA books featuring sharp-tongued narrators with biting wit" @HornBook

10 Books By Women (About Girls) That Boys Should Read from @Book_Nut (inspired by @haleshannon )

I am saving this list! Over a Dozen Great Audiobooks for Kids recommended by @momandkiddo #kidlit


Cybils-Logo-2014-Round-SmNew Cybils blog post | Meet Members of the #Cybils Team at #KidLitCon!

Don't miss it! The call for judges for the 2014 @Cybils awards went up today on our lovely new website

Original Content: Aunt Cybil Wants You, says Gail Gauthier #cybils

Re the #Cybils Call for Judges, @tashrow says: "Join in the fun, you will be glad you did!" #kidlit

WANTED! Panelists + Judges for the 2014 #CYBILS Poetry Award | Reasons you might be a good candidate from @JoneMac53

Cybils_mugmugsNew #cybils blog post: Now Updated for 2014: Cybils Bling! | Get yours now! #kidlit #yalit

Thoughts and links re the Call for #Cybils Judges! from MG Fiction organizer @MsYingling #kidlit

Some advice for potential #cybils panelists at the end of this week's #kidlit SFF roundup @charlotteslib

Growing Bookworms

Time to get ready for The 6th Annual K-4 @MrsPStorytime Be-a-Famous Writer Contest, says @MrSchuReads

Teach Me How To Read: 10 Strategies When You are Stuck from former teacher @growingbbb

Jon Scieszka on How to Get Kids to Love Reading (Stop Telling Them How Important Reading Is) @ParnassusBooks @librareanne


2014 KidlitCon PictureAnother #KidlitCon Shout Out! Tanita Davis has a gorgeous image showing some of the expected attendees:

Can you see yourself with these expected #KidLitCon attendees? (photo collage by Tanita Davis)

A #Kidlitcon14 Program peek, starring Jewell Parker Rhodes! from Program Chair @charlotteslib

Blast from the Past: Thoughts and Photos from Last Year's #KidLitCon from @aquafortis

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Food for thought: A Possible New Reading Plan For Serials from @gail_gauthier

Fightin' words from Steve Cohen @WSJ "I'm Backing @Amazon and Authors Should Too"

DucklingsThis pleases me. New "Make Way for Ducklings" Children's Bookstore in Faneuil Hall in Boston @PublishersWkly

At The Uncommon Corps, thoughts from Myra Zarnowski on YA and adult books that are Adapted for Children

Thoughtful stuff! Girls Ruin Everything: Stephenie Meyer, Lois Duncan, and Childhood Nostalgia | @catagator @bookriot


5 Things All Teen Girls Need, say @SensibleMoms #Parenting

Fathers Who do Household Chores More Likely to Have Daughters Who Aspire to less Trad'l Feminine Occupations @WSJ

Schools and Libraries

This is neat! In Tehran, a Couple Turns Their Taxi Into a Rolling Library @WSJ

A library steps up in a crisis: Ferguson Public Library Offers Lessons for Students in Limbo | @sljournal

Displaying Multicultural Books: The Magic of Windows and Mirrors by @MitaliPerkins #diversity

Top Ten Reasons for Starting a Staff Book Club by @megskogie @NerdyBookClub

Summer Reading

#SummerReading Tips 42-45 @aliposner | Several concrete ways to motivate end-of-summer reading!

#SummerReading Tips 46-47 @aliposner | Before school, visit a library, museum, park, or fair that celebrates #kidlit

#SummerReading Tip49 @aliposner | Encourage fun and meaningful writing over the summer

#SummerReading Tip 51-52 @aliposner Help your kids integrate writing by encouraging them to author their own books

© 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.

Yes, She Is My Daughter: Growing a Bookworm

Two days ago my daughter came to me with a Berenstain Bears book, and begged me to get her a copy of a book shown on the back cover (The Berenstain Bears Sleepover). I agreed, subject to some behavior conditions, and ordered the book from Amazon. I told her that it would be here in two days (the beauty of Amazon Prime). 

Now, for the past two days she has been asking me, at regular intervals: "Is my book here yet?" Today the mail came, and UPS came, and the book did not come. My daughter arrived home from an outing and immediate asked me: "Did my book come?". She was crushed when the answer was no, even though I told her that there was still time for another package to arrive. I had to distract her with another "new" book from my review shelf. 

Here's the thing: she has literally hundreds of books in her bedroom alone. She has a huge bag of library books in the family room. But this is not enough. It has to be THIS particular book that she has her eye on. The Berenstain Bears Sleepover is the one she wants, and she wants it now. 

Yes, this is my kid. I do the exact same thing. I have an overflowing stack of books from publishers, and I still order, and pay for, particular titles that I HAVE to have. 

Readers will be happy to know that while my daughter was off on another outing, the book did come. She came to visit me in my office when she got home, and I told her that the book was in the kitchen. She ran down the stairs, literally panting with excitement, screaming: "It came! It came! It came!".

This book cost me $3.59. The rewards of seeing her so excited about the arrival of the book that she wanted? Priceless. Don't ever let anyone tell you that choice is not essential to 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. This site is an Amazon affiliate.

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher: Dana Alison Levy

Book: The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher (iBooks Link)
Author: Dana Alison Levy
Pages: 272
Age Range: 9-12

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy is an episodic story depicting a (school) year in the life of a New England family. Sam, Jax, Eli and Frog (a nickname) range in age from 12 to six. They are all adopted, and have different ethnic backgrounds, skin colors, and interests. They have two fathers, one called Dad and one called Papa. Dad is a teacher at a local high school, while Papa runs a computer company from the house. They are, in short, a thoroughly modern take on a stable two-parent family.

The nice thing about The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher is that while it has diversity in spades, the diversity feels incidental to the story, rather than being the main point. The kids are the important thing, along with the various growing pains that they go through. Oh, there are new people that the family meets who need to have things explained to them. There are references to the various holiday traditions embraced by the family, in the interest of ensuring that everyone's background is included. But the heart of the book is the individual issues that each boy is going through, and the ways that the Fletchers all come together as a family.

Sam, the oldest son, is struggling to balance his love of soccer with a new interest in drama (and his new interest in a girl who likes drama, too). Jax, the older of two 10-year-olds, is watching his long-time best friend start to act grown-up, in ways that Jax isn't ready for. Eli attends a new school, an academically-focused private school that he really thought that he would like (but doesn't). And Frog? He spends most of his time explaining the absence of his new best friend, who may be imaginary. Mingled with all of these individual stories is friction that the family has with their new, grouchy neighbor, Mr. Nelson. 

Things to like: 

  • The kids are not perfect. They are boys, with all the attendant mess and noise that one would expect. There is lots of soccer and hockey, and the watching of Patriots games on TV. 
  • The dads are not perfect. They are good parents, who try hard, and who are occasionally overwhelmed. Little email snippets and notes at the start of each chapter help to communicate what the dads are really thinking, at times (particularly emails from Papa to his sister). 
  • There are frequent reference to "The Fletcher Family Rules", which are things like: no one plays until everyone has finished their homework. Such rules seem necessary in a large family, and are a nice demonstration of structure. 
  • There's not sweeping resolution, but progress is made in a realistic fashion, in various areas. 

Despite the modern composition of the Fletcher family, and the presence of cell phones and screen time, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher has an old-fashioned feel to it. There's a camping trip, a Halloween party, and a scramble to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. There's playing with kids in the neighborhood, and attending Family Night at the kindergarten. No external real-world events tie the story to an exact time (Mr. Nelson is a Vietnam Veteran, but we don't know his exact age), which will keep this book from feeling dated in coming years. It would make a nice companion book to The Penderwicks series, actually, though featuring boys instead of girls. 

I must admit that I found The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher to be a bit slow-paced, especially the first half of the book. It took me a while to get distinct pictures of all four boys in my mind, and the episodic plot didn't capture my full attention. This did improve for me in the second half of the book, and I enjoyed the book, but it took me a bit longer to get through than I would have expected.

Still, I think that The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher has a lot to offer young readers, especially boys. Happily, kids who have gay parents, or who are adopted, or who are not white, may find in the Fletcher family a mirror. But I think that most readers will be able to identify with at least one of the brothers. Any reader could get some good ideas from the brothers, about trying new things, not judging people when you don't know what they are going through, and admitting when you have made a mistake. All of this, with plenty of boy-friendly fun along the way. I would consider The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher a must-purchase for libraries serving middle grade readers.

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers 
Publication Date: July 22, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon and iBooks affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate 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

New Fancy Nancy Books Bring Joy

The arrival of a box of new Fancy Nancy books generated considerable excitement in my house this week. My four-year-old daughter actually delayed her departure for her first-ever soccer practice (something that she was VERY excited about) to finish reading Fancy Nancy: Sand Castles and Sand Palaces.

Later, before she would go to sleep, we had to read the new picture book Fancy Nancy and the Wedding of the Century AND all six titles in Fancy Nancy's Fabulous Fall Storybook Collection, as well as the newest copy of Fancy Nancy and the Fall Foliage (which we already had a copy of). The only title that we deferred reading for was Nancy Clancy: Secret of the Silver Key, which was dismissed, rightly, as "too old" (but which I have saved for later). 

I did not object. My daughter's preferred format for books these days is paperback. You know the sort of books I'm talking about: Berenstain Bears, Little Critter, and various TV-spinoff books in thin, square packages. She especially likes it when there are stickers included in the books. But she'll read them anyway, without the stickers.Those that have pictures of other books from the series on the back cover are particular favorites - she is constantly bringing those to me to request additional titles. (Happily, these books only cost $3-$5 each, so I sometimes use them as rewards for aspirational behaviors). Paperback early readers are also favorites. 

BookRackPhoto2As a parent, I have come to appreciate these paperbacks. They are lightweight, and it's easy to take them on trips or in the car. Because they are inexpensive, I don't worry about them being damaged. And they fit quite nicely in my new breakfast table toast rack / book rack. However, I do (silently) lament the fact that by focusing on these titles, my daughter is missing out on the richer vocabulary of more traditional picture books. And this is why the arrival of new Fancy Nancy books brings joy to me, as well as to my daughter. Because the Fancy Nancy books are chock-full of rich vocabulary words, all defined in the text.

My daughter knows what "foliage" is because of Nancy. She knows what a "banquet" is, and what "translucent" means. She has learned these words painlessly, because Nancy uses them. And because Nancy is "fancy", delighting in swirling tutus, glittery Thanksgiving turkeys, and accessories of all colors, Nancy feels like a friend, not a teacher. The books are not didactic, though there may be a lesson or two to be absorbed here or there, and they often make my daughter giggle. 

I should also add that although the new paperbacks are destined to be read more in the short-term (taken on trips, etc.), the hardcover of Fancy Nancy's Fabulous Fall Storybook Collection is a particular delight. This is a compendium of six previously-published stories, at least one of which we already have. But the table of contents, from which one can pick which story to read first, makes my daughter feel grown-up. She refers to the stories as "chapters", and feel that she is reading a big girl chapter book. For those titles that don't fit into the format of this square book, there are wide patterned borders on each page, with sketches of leaves, and a foliage-friendly palette. 

A celebration of words, in a four-year-old-girl-friendly package, that's what the Fancy Nancy books are to me. To my daughter, they are just fun. And that's exactly what I'm looking for. 

© 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. 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).

Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night: Jon Davis

Book: Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night
Author: Jon Davis
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night by Jon Davis is a cozy picture book that presents a practical solution to night-time fears. Small Blue is a little, floppy-eared rabbit. When she awakens during the night, she imagines that all sorts of "creepy" things lurk in the darkness. Big Brown, a big, cozy bear/parental figure brings safety and reassurance. He patiently offers up cheerful alternatives to Small Blue's imaginings. Eventually, Small Blue is able to imagine cheerful things in the darkness, too. 

Davis' text is full of rich, descriptive vocabulary. Like this:

"Small Blue thought of creepy things.
She thought of sneaky things.
She thought of gnarly snarly teeth,
boggling goggling eyes,
and a sniffly snuffling nose."

Big Brown's alternatives are delightful, as are the interactions between the two. Like this:

"Perhaps," said Big Brown. "But couldn't it also be
a smiley spacemen's zero-gravity birthday party?
"Well, maybe," said Small Blue.

Clearly, this is a book that is going to be fun to read aloud. I mean, who wouldn't want to read about "warty witches and clackety skeletons, sniff-sniff,sniffing"?

Davis' digitally painted illustrations are set mainly against a deep, purplish-blue background (like the cover), conveying the darkness in a relatively warm way. The creepy things that Small Blue imagines are shown with ever-so-slightly fuzzy edges, a visual cue that they are not real. Big Brown's imaginings, while more cheerful, are also faintly blurred, compared to the crisp lines that he uses for the main characters. A couple of page spreads in which the light is turned on are bright and detail-filled, reminiscent of Kady MacDonald Denton's cozy settings. 

But the heart of Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night lies in the warn, trusting relationship between Small Blue and Big Brown, conveyed via words and pictures. This is a perfect book with which parent and child can curl up in bed, staving off night-time terrors. This one is going on our keep shelf. Highly recommended!

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHBooks)
Publication Date: August 26, 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: August 15

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include illustrators, madeline, book lists, awards, the cybils, kidlitcon, common core, diversity, growing bookworms, reading, technology, schools, and libraries. 

Authors and Illustrators

10 children's illustrators to watch | guest post by @SevenImp @BookPage #kidlit

Madeline’s 75th Birthday Brings Revelations | fun tidbit-filled story by @roccoa @sljournal #kidlit

Book Lists and Awards

Trends in Picture Books: Birds, noted by @greenbeanblog #BookList #kidlit

Books for World Elephant Day 2014, selected by Elissa Gershowitz @HornBook #BookList #kidlit

Books for a 13 year old boy: 10 exciting titles to keep him reading, selected by @Everead #BookList

Sister, Sister: Sibling Drama in Young Adult Literature | a #BookList from @sljournal #yalit

A fun new Stacked #BookList : Doomed Cities of History and Legend #yalit

Celebrating Shark Week with shark-themed books | #BookList from @Scholastic

5 Favorite Bug Books from @BooksBabiesBows

Backpacks, Lunch Boxes, and Giggles Galore: Back-to-School Adventures (picture books) | @sljournal

A variety of back to school picture books recommended by @HornBook #BookList #kidlit

Lots of great lists popping up in the Picture Book 10 for 10 from @cathymere + @mandyrobek #kidlit

Favorite Picture Books of the Year (so far) in @momandkiddo 's house #kidlit #BookList

Sherry @semicolonblog is collecting books about large families. Any favorites? #kidlit

Best Mysteries for Kids : @PragmaticMom #BookList

Nominations open soon for the 2014 Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards! @TarieS #awards

Common Core and Nonfiction

Waiting for the #CommonCore to Go Away? Don’t Hold Your Breath | Marc Aronson in @sljournal

#CommonCore goes from unifying standard to divisive hot potato | @Guardian via @PWKidsBookshelf

It’s time to rethink what children’s non-fiction could be @TelegraphBooks via @tashrow #kidlit


Cybils-Logo-2014-Round-SmDrrrummm Rolllll..... the #Cybils are launching a BRAND-NEW-SUPER-DUPER-AWESOME website tomorrow! @aquafortis

Coming Soon: Cybils Season | @brandymuses shares why she is excited to apply to be a #Cybils judge

This week's round-up of middle grade SFF, with what @charlotteslib looks for in #cybils panelists


Great post @booksmugglers | SFF in Conversation: @corinneduyvis and The Insidious Comfort of Invisibility #diversity

Write Fat Kids says @sarahhollowell | "Tell fat kids that they're awesome" via @catagator #kidlit

What are the best books for children who feel 'weird' or different? asks @GuardianBooks via @tashrow

#Diversity in Children's Books: It's a Question of Power, says @MitaliPerkins #KidLitCon14 keynote speaker

Growing Bookworms

Nice depiction of a child's pride in really reading his very first book @SunlitPages #literacy

Catching Up Loose Ends (+cognitive dissonance) in the Waning Days of Summer @ReadingShanahan #literacy

Developing a bathroom library @playbythebook (always a good source for #GrowingBookworms ideas)

#SummerReading Tip41 @aliposner + “Picture Book 10 for 10″: Read wordless picture books with your kids


KidlitCon2014_cubeRumor has it that rooms in the #KidLitCon14 hotel block are going fast. Book yours now! And please register soon!

Book Links | #cybils + #kidlitcon + A Wrinkle in Time @semicolonblog

The State of Children’s Literary Blogs Today (Prepare to Update Your Blogroll) — @fuseeight #kidlit

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Preaching to the Choir: Singing the Praises of Books and Reading by @ProfessorNana @NerdyBookClub

Harry Potter and His Friends Changed My Reading Life by @LauraKomos @NerdyBookClub

For this week's Environmental Book Club at Original Content, @gail_gauthier comments on Cli-Fi


Adam Price: The Underchallenged 'Lazy Teenager' | Solid parenting advice for avoiding unmotivated kids @WSJ

Programs and Research

Books Strengthen Family Bonds - @FirstBook post about WIC program that gives new moms kids' books

.@Scholastic Kicks Off the 2014 School Year w/ Expanded Resources to Help Get Kids Preschool-Ready

Summer Camps Help Aboriginal Kids Find Fun in Reading, reports @PublishersWkly  #literacy

Schools and Libraries

California Administrator Creates Digital Stopgap After School Librarian Cuts, says @ShiftTheDigital

Good column by @GeoffreyFowler in @WSJ on Why the Public Library Beats Amazon (catalog)—for Now

Lovely! Teaching a Love of Picture Books by @katsok @NerdyBookClub #kidlit

Technology and Social Media

How do you keep up? Part 2: (and other newsy tools) for current awareness. — @joycevalenza @sljournal

Join the #teacherfriends Twitter Chat | new chat Tues pm by @mattbgomez for teachers new to Twitter

© 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.