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Posts from September 2015

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 9

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include booklists, diversity, nonfiction, the Cybils awards, Poetry Friday, book drives, fantasy, literacy programs, growing bookworms, teaching reading, kidlitcon, bookshelves, parents in children's books, podcasts, and libraries. [This post was inadvertently published early, on Wednesday instead of Friday. Next week's will be longer.]

Book Lists

Celebrating #Literacy: Kids as Readers, Writers, and Imaginers | Joy Fleishhacker @sljournal #PictureBooks http://ow.ly/RWVN7 

Great #PictureBooks to Use for Teaching about Contrast & Contradictions @PernilleRipp http://ow.ly/S0GOn  #kidlit

The Allure of the Unsettling in 3 New Middle Grade Fantasy titles | @liswithanS @sljournal #kidlit http://ow.ly/RWUhE 

Raising the Bar: New and noteworthy #nonfiction for secondary students | @dgrabarek @sljournal http://ow.ly/RWTY7  

My Top Ten YA Book Recommendations by Mollye Oze @MollyeYa @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/RRcmO  | A solid #BookList

Cybils

Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-LgOn the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Liz Jones ( @LizJonesBooks ), Graphic Novels Chair http://ow.ly/ROtdi 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Charlotte Taylor @charlotteslib Elem. + MG Speculative Fiction Chair http://ow.ly/RWNbV  

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Jennifer Wharton, Early and Middle Grade Non-Fiction Chair http://ow.ly/RWMSc 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Jone MacCulloch ( @JoneMac53 ), #Poetry Chair http://ow.ly/RRccR 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Liz Jones ( @LizJonesBooks ), Graphic Novels Chair http://ow.ly/ROtdi 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Terry Doherty ( @ReadingTub ), Fiction Picture Books Chair http://ow.ly/RO7Ww 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Karen Yingling ( @MsYingling ), Middle Grade Fiction Chair http://ow.ly/RWNxS 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Stephanie Charlefour ( @scharle4 ), Young Adult Non-Fiction Chair http://ow.ly/RWQ7s 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Jackie Parker ( @interactiver ), Young Adult Fiction #YALit http://ow.ly/RWUpn 

Diversity

71 picture books, early readers, middle grade + young adult novels by/for/or about Latin@s shared at @LatinosInKidLit http://ow.ly/RWOno  

Great Middle Grade/ YA Novels with Non-White Main Characters, recommended by @CampHalfBlood #DiverseBooks http://ow.ly/RRcec  #BookList

#WeNeedDiverseBooks announces mentorship program for upcoming writers/ illustrators who are diverse or writing such http://ow.ly/RNY2s 

Events + Programs

Putting LGBTQ Books into Kids’ Hands w/ the Shared Stories Open Minds program, by @Llauren @sljournal #DiverseBooks http://ow.ly/RWWga  

I Knew I Could Make a Difference in My Community by a rising middle schooler on running a book drive @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/RO9Ej 

Growing Bookworms

Advice on Reading to Babies plus board book recommendations from @darshanakhiani #GrowingBookworms http://ow.ly/RWM8E 

Good overview of basics in teaching kids to read: How Parents Can Instill Reading from @ReadingShanahan http://ow.ly/RWRoa  

"To foster, not force" | What Other Countries Do Right When It Comes to Reading | Laura Lambert @ReadBrightly http://ow.ly/S0FYR 

3 go-anywhere activities that send your #literacy activities to the clouds, in #Literacy + Life series @ReadingTub http://ow.ly/S0GjV 

Kidlitosphere

2015-KidLitConLogoSquareWhat to expect from @matthewwinner 's #KidLit Podcasting session (12:45 pm on 10/10 at #KidLitCon 2015) http://ow.ly/RWP0A  

Poetry Friday: The First Week of School and #CYBILS Plea from #Poetry chair @JoneMac53 http://ow.ly/RO87h 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

First post in promising new @bookriot feature by @catagator | This Month in YA News #YALit http://ow.ly/ROah6 

19 Rad Bookshelves For Your Home (or Dream Home) by @catagator @bookriot | I love the bookshelf refrigerator! http://ow.ly/ROa1J  

Why children's authors shouldn't always 'kill the parents' | @GdnChildrensBks via @tashrow http://ow.ly/RO8Xc  #kidlit

Why are all the moms gone? A parent/writer tries to find herself in #kidlit @washingtonpost via @tashrow http://ow.ly/RO8tL 

"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are" | 19 Best Children’s Book Quotes per @dcorneal @ReadBrightly http://ow.ly/S0FKj 

Podcasts

9 Podcasts About Children's Books and #Literacy, for kids + adults, recommended by @growingbbb http://ow.ly/RWMA0 

Schools and Libraries

To Weed or Not to Weed? Criteria to ensure that nonfiction collection remains up to date @jlgdeborahford @sljournal http://ow.ly/RWWJq  

How to organize a classroom library: 20 points| 1 Read the books in your classroom library for pleasure @carriegelson http://ow.ly/RRcwn 

© 2015 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: September 9

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.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have five book reviews (picture book through YA). I also have two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently, and one post about a new literacy milestone for my daughter (starting her first school reading log). 

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I finished two middle grade, one young adult, and three adult books. I read/listened to:

  • Holly Black & Cassandra Clare: The Copper Gauntlet: Magisterium, Book 2. Scholastic. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed September 2, 2015. Review to come. 
  • Michelle Cuevas: Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir by Jacques Papier. Dial Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed September 8, 2015. Review to come. 
  • Katie Alender: The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall. Point (Scholastic). Young Adult. Completed August 28, 2015, printed ARC. My review.
  • Simone St. James: An Inquiry into Love and Death. NAL. Adult Mystery. Completed August 29, 2015, on MP3. This is a creepy ghost story with a nice sense of place (small English coastal village, most WWI). I enjoyed it enough that I'm listening to another by the same author. 
  • Louise Penny: The Nature of the Beast (A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed September 5, 2015, on MP3. I simply adore this series. 
  • Ingrid Thoft: Brutality. G. P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed September 7, 2015, on Kindle. This is the third book that I've read recently in this new series - I'm sorry that there aren't more published, but it does leave me something to look forward to. I especially like the detail of the Boston setting, and the wry observations of the main character. 

I'm listening to Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James (another ghost story published for adults) and reading Trouble is a Friend of Mine (a new YA novel) by Stephanie Tromly. I have the new Lee Child book queued up on my Audible app. I've been spending a lot of time listening to books while I exercise. I tend towards adult titles in part because they are longer, and thus better value for my limited audiobook credits. 

The books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter can be found here. She remains obsessed with the Magic Treehouse books (which she refers to as "the Jack and Annie books"), and after much begging I finally gave in to her request to order a big set from the Scholastic Reading Club. She lobbied by showing me where on her bookshelf she wanted to put them, and talking about how she would want to read them multiple times, and so needed her own copies. What can I say? She knows her audience. And it's only about $1.50 per book (I say, rationalizing.)

She's also been reading a lot of books with school settings, such as Monsters Love School by Mike Austin and My New Teacher and Me! by Al Yankovich. And the Arthur Chapter Books, many of which are set in schools. 

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

© 2015 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: Her First Reading Log

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter started Kindergarten a couple of weeks ago. On September 1st, we started her first official reading log (actually labeled "Reading Chart"). The teacher explained it to us during Back To School Night. It's a very simple sheet with 30 numbered lines in two columns. We just have to fill in the title of each book that we read together, and turn in the log at the end of the month.

I believe that parents who can't show 30 titles read will be gently (?) reprimanded. Me? The first thing I did was go into Excel and make my own version of the Reading Chart, so that I could print out more pages. I logged our 56th title this morning, September 8th (though we cheated by starting a couple of days early, since we received the reading chart on August 28th). Getting to 30 titles in a month would only be a problem, maybe, if we moved exclusively to reading chapter books this year. But I have no plans to do that.  

I've been logging the books read to my daughter as part of my blog for years (this year's titles are here). So for me, this written reading log is actually helpful. I leave it on the kitchen table, and add books as I read them during breakfast. My babysitter fills in the titles that she reads in the afternoons, too. Then I just need to bring the piece of paper up to the computer every so often, instead of carrying up a big stack of books. My daughter, being rather a Type A sort of person, will remind us to add titles to the list. 

I'm not sure what our future will look like with school reading logs. I'm leery of anything that turns reading from something that we do for pleasure to something that feels like a chore. But so far, keeping a very simple paper list of titles read is working well for us. Maybe I should get a binder for completed pages, so that my daughter will have a tangible record of her Kindergarten reads. What do you all think? 

© 2015 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


Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton: Don Tate

Book: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton
Author: Don Tate
Pages: 36
Age Range: 6-8

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate is pretty much the perfect companion to The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, which was written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate. Both of these picture book biographies feature slaves who transcended their lot as well as circumstances allowed, and left behind inspirational legacies.

George Moses Horton was a North Carolina slave before (and during) the time of the Civil War. As summarized in an Author's Note, he "taught himself to read, sold poetry to college students, and published several books--all at a time when African-American literacy was discouraged, devalued, even outlawed in this country." Horton's story is remarkable, and true (Tate relied heavily on Horton's own autobiography). 

Tate convey's Horton's story directly. He doesn't shrink from details like the fact that Horton was separated from his family as a teenager, and didn't become free until he was sixty-six, but he doesn't dwell on them, either. We see George's despair when people try to free him, but his master refuses to sell, and his hopelessness when he has to return to the backbreaking work of the farm. But most of the time, his head is held high, as shown on the cover. 

The text in Poet is fairly dense, and the details of Horton's situation are unusual for the time period. Together, these things make Poet a better fit for slightly older kids - I would say six to nine, rather than for preschoolers. Here's a snippet (taken from a single page):

"George composed more than a dozen love poems a week, selling them for 25 cents each. Some paid him with fine suits and shoes instead of money. In time, George dressed as sharply as the students themselves.

With money, nice clothes, and newfound status, George felt freer than he ever had in all of his life.

But he was not free. He remained the property of his master. George continued to work on the farm during the week and visit Chapel Hill on the weekends." 

Tate's mixed media illustrations show George's emotions, through expressions and posture. We see him grow older throughout the book, but his appearance remains distinctive and consistent. My favorite illustration is one in which George is devastated at his master's refusal to sell him. Tate shows George's head in his hands, a poem streaming from his head (it's hard to describe, but quite powerful). 

A detailed author's note fills in gaps, as well as giving some background regarding the author's own initial reluctance to write about slavery, and why he changed his mind. A bibliography may inspire kids to further reading. 

Reading about a boy who had to teach himself to read by firelight, using a cast-off spelling book, at personal peril, ought to inspire kids of today who could read, but choose not to make the effort. One can only hope, anyway. Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, belongs in libraries and classrooms everywhere. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (@PeachtreePub) 
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Source of Book: Advanc review copy from the publisher

© 2015 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 affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).Poet: The 


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 4

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include: book awards, writing contests, nonfiction, book lists, picture books, young adult fiction, easy readers, diversity, the Cybils awards, growing bookworms, raising readers, book clubs, writing, intersectionality, learning to read, kidlitcon, kidlitosphere, entitlement, schools, and libraries. 

Awards + Contests

The 2016 Scottish Children’s Book Award Shortlist via @tashrow http://ow.ly/RIgQh  #kidlit #YALit 

It's time for the @MrsPStorytime 7th Annual “Be-A-Famous-Writer” Contest! @MrSchuReads has the scoop http://ow.ly/RIeSP 

Book Lists

#Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A Starter Kit Collection for teachers from @CarrieGelson #kidlit http://ow.ly/RIgxB  

10 Years After Hurricane Katrina: Four New Books reviewed, plus list of other #kidlit titles from @randomlyreading http://ow.ly/RvG9T 

Women Make #PictureBooks Too, the 2015 edition!!! from @LaurelSnyder | She welcomes your suggestions #kidlit http://ow.ly/RIfhO 

Best #PictureBooks for the New School Year! suggested by Esme Raji Codell #BookList http://ow.ly/RB8ZP 

Great #kidlit resource: Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers, August 2015 from @mrskatiefitz http://ow.ly/RvGtf 

Great resource! 6 Multicultural Easy Reader Series, with title lists, from @mrskatiefitz #kidlit #DiverseBooks http://ow.ly/RIfwH 

Real World Readers: Focus on Attention-Grabbing Titles: comic adventure, humor, nonfiction + more from @sljournal http://ow.ly/REROi 

Read Aloud Books for Autumn that the Whole Family Will Love (they have a cozy feel) from @momandkiddo http://ow.ly/RB2sP 

A Tuesday Ten from @TesseractViews | Speculative #kidlit Fiction from 2015 focused on animals http://ow.ly/RLCHX

On The Radar for @catagator at Stacked: 14 September YA Reads http://ow.ly/RB5Tg  #YALit #BookList

There's a lot of great new #YALit coming out in September | @bkshelvesofdoom has the scoop @KirkusReviews http://ow.ly/RIhgo  

Audiobooks: Realistic fiction tackles teen issues while it entertains | Sharon Grover & Liz Hannegan @sljournal http://ow.ly/RLyFk 

Books (beyond bestsellers) To Read If You Love The Perks of Being A Wallflower from @catagator @bookriot http://ow.ly/RvHdJ  #YALit

Stacked: Big round-up of this fall's new #YA Horror novels from @catagator http://ow.ly/RLF7w 

Cybils

Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-LgAn Ode to the @MotherReader of the #Cybils Fiction Picture Books category from new chair @ReadingTub #kidlit http://ow.ly/RAWD0 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Anne Levy ( @zaftigbabe ), Executive Director http://ow.ly/REMpr 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: @SheilaRuth Publisher Liaison (and #KidLitCon co-organizer this year) http://ow.ly/RFbBR 

JenRobinsonArmor2Hey, that's me being profiled on the @Cybils blog today, as #Literacy Evangelist + Social Media Guru #Cybils http://ow.ly/RIdO3 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Sarah Stevenson ( @aquafortis ), Co-Blog Editor http://ow.ly/RIhvD  

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Melissa Fox ( @Book_Nut ), Co-Blog Editor http://ow.ly/RIFu8 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Cathy Potter ( @cppotter ), Book Apps Chair http://ow.ly/RLBfR 

On the #Cybils blog: Meet the 2015 Organizers: Katie Fitzgerald ( @mrskatiefitz), Easy Reader/Early Chapter Books...http://ow.ly/RLBr4

Diversity

Hearing Diversity, on the role of audiobooks in connecting #DiverseBooks w/ young audiences @thombarthelmess @CBCBook http://ow.ly/RExe0 

"if ... a character’s racial identity never comes up? They’re not ‘race neutral.’ They’re white." @LindaSuePark http://ow.ly/REwfM  

Favorite "books where girls are just as sordid and snarling or wild and wacky as their male counterparts" @FuseEight http://ow.ly/RB7AF 

Intersectionality: The Next Step in #DiverseBooks | A #KidLitCon panel Oct 10 w/ @ZettaElliott @dos_twinjas Mary Fan http://ow.ly/RAS7D 

Growing Bookworms

Reading with toddler Little Miss Muffet, August - New book behaviors, favorite titles, + tip from mom @mrskatiefitz http://ow.ly/RBaKG 

Parents/teachers: "small acts remind our kids (+ us) that reading is a joy, not a chore" @bookopolis @ReadBrightly http://ow.ly/RIwZr  

12 Ways Your Parents Turned You Into A Book-Lover | @juliaseales @Bustle http://ow.ly/RLDTU  #RaisingReaders

Learning to Read: A Survival Guide for Parents | Useful tips for this oft-frustrating stage from @ReadBrightly http://ow.ly/RIwdl 

#RaisingReaders Monday: Tips for Starting a Boys’ Book Club by @ddaurelio, guest post on @kateywrites blog http://ow.ly/RAXLy 

Don’t Let Reading Take a Back Seat This Fall, concrete suggestions from @Booksforchildrn http://ow.ly/RvHWw  #GrowingBookworms

Kidlitosphere

2015-KidLitConLogoSquare"It's about connecting in real-life with people you've spoken with, or read, online" @LizB on attending #KidLitCon http://ow.ly/RIfVY  

How Graphic Novels Work #KidLitCon 2015! @limeminearia quizzes @jayhosler @maggiethrash @rafael_rosado1 & @jorgeagu http://ow.ly/RLG0l 

Lots of #kidlit tidbits in today's Fusenews: Anagnorisis, Masks of the Oculate Being, and More @fuseeight http://ow.ly/RIepA 

Still more #kidlit news in Morning Notes: Expeditious Edition — @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/RIeEE  (thanks for #kidlitcon mention)

September Activity Calendar w/ book birthdays, #literacy events, authors + celebrations @MrSchuReads @LibrarySparksMg http://ow.ly/REONG 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Not if it's the right author: @StaceyLoscalzo Shares her Answer to the Question: “Can a Novelist Be Too Prolific?” http://ow.ly/RB5ks 

"gave myself permission to stop reading a book if there wasn’t some sort of spark propelling me onward" @SVChristine http://ow.ly/RB4a1 

Good advice for #Writers in this @HornBook @RogerReads Editorial: Read (lots of children's books) Before You Write http://ow.ly/RENfm 

Parenting

How 10 Minutes a Day Can Tame the Entitlement Trend | @AmyMcCreadyPPS @ReadBrightly http://ow.ly/RIxGp  #Parenting 

Schools and Libraries

Teacher's Choice…some old and new favorite picture books about school from @randomlyreading http://ow.ly/RAY0l  #BookList

Teacher's Choice - some favorite chapter + middle grade books about school from @randomlyreading #kidlit http://ow.ly/RLFxG 

Taking It to the Kids—Lessons Learned from 3 authors about planning middle grade author library visits @sljournal http://ow.ly/RERzs  

"Books are valued here" | The First Days of school: What Do Our Classroom Libraries Say to Young Readers? @cathymere http://ow.ly/REOih 

How I Select A #PictureBook For Our Classroom – helpful tips from @PernilleRipp (+ some new favorite titles) http://ow.ly/RBb1x 

How and Why to Set up a Read It Forward program at your school, to encourage lifelong readers by @goodbooklady http://ow.ly/RvFXv 

Getting to E: The State of the School #Ebook Market | @matt_pc @sljournal http://ow.ly/RLxVD 

#PictureBooks are "sacred texts we are bringing in, ones that will build our community, inspire us..." @PernilleRipp http://ow.ly/RLEzH 

© 2015 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


Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey: Bill Harley

Book: Charlie Bumper vs. the Perfect Little Turkey
Author: Bill Harley
Illustrator: Adam Gustavson
Pages: 160
Age Range: 7-10

I liked Bill Harley's first Charlie Bumpers book, Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull. So I was happy to give Book 4, Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey, a look. Charlie Bumpers is a third grader with an annoying younger sister, the Squid AKA Mabel, and a bossy older brother, Matt. The Charlie Bumpers books are highly realistic illustrated early chapter books, with a likable and imperfect hero. 

In this installment, Thanksgiving is approaching, and Charlie's parents have inadvertently ended up with slightly too many guests expected for Thanksgiving dinner. Charlie is particularly aggrieved to learn that he'll be expected to share his bedroom with his annoying younger cousin, Chip (much to the amusement of Matt and Mabel). Charlie's dissatisfaction with his parents and siblings lead him to submit a snide response to a school assignment about defining family. However, over the course of the long holiday weekend, Charlie has occasion to reassess. 

I quite liked this story. I found the core family dynamics to be realistic, even as some of the actual events were a bit over the top (a good things for this age range). Charlie's parents are strict, and when distracted, are not always completely fair. But they mean well. The relatives, particularly Chip, are flawed, even Charlie's beloved Uncle Ron. The ending involves some degree of redemption for Charlie's suffering, but not in an overly-saccharine way. His revised definition of family is true to Charlie's own voice. 

And here are a couple of snippets, to give you a feel for Charlie's voice:

"Mrs. Burke was sneaky. She'd fooled us again. She had gotten all of us interested in something, and now we had to write about it. What a horrible way to ruin a perfectly good learning experience." (Page 15, ARC)

"Mom was acting like a marine sergeant. She always gets like this when relatives come. But you don't argue with a marine sergeant--especially when it's your mom." (Page 43, ARC)

"I looked at Mom. If we'd been in a cartoon, there would've been little puffs of steam coming out of her ears." (Page 107, ARC)

As an adult reader, I could sympathize with Mom, but the above passage still made me chortle. 

One other thing I enjoyed in this book. Charlie's little sister has just learned to read, and spends the entire book spelling things, and sounding things out. I think that the relatively new readers who are this book's target audience will find this funny. 

Charlie Bumpers and the Perfect Little Turkey reminded me a bit of The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, albeit for a younger age range, and with a bit less diversity (though there is some). It's the story of an ordinary kid in the midst of the chaos of extended family and friends, coping with a difficult cousin and, ultimately, bonding with his own siblings. Charlie Bumpers and the Perfect Little Turkey would be a great read for any early elementary schooler this fall, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. It's not necessary to have read the earlier books in the series to enjoy this one. Recommended!

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (@PeachtreePub)
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 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 affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).Charlie 


The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall: Katie Alender

Book: The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall
Author: Katie Alender
Pages: 336
Age Range: 12 and up

I was not initially taken by the cover of The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall, by Katie Alender. However, Ms. Yingling reviewed The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall, comparing the book favorably to Lois Duncan's Down a Dark Hall. This piqued my interest, and after reading the first chapter I was hooked. The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall is a young adult horror novel set in a former "institute for the care and correction of troubled females." The main character, Delia, inherits the property, known by locals as Hysteria Hall, from her great aunt. From just about the first moment Delia enters the house, she observes strange phenomena. As things get worse, Delia learns that leaving Hysteria Hall is more difficult than she could ever have imagined.

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall is an excellent ghost story, full of chills and suspense. In the first section of the book, brief sections labeled "Observations Made After the Fact" add foreshadowing. Like this:

"As I crossed the threshold into the house, my father called to me. "Delia," he said.

I turned, one foot in, one foot out, to look back at him.

"Don't get too attached to this place, okay?" he said. "it's not like you can stay here forever." (End of Chapter 2)

Observations Made After the Fact (next page)

Can't stay forever, eh?

Wanna bet?" (Page 15-16,ARC)

One thing that I think makes Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall work is that Delia has a pretty good understanding of the nature of the other characters (living and otherwise). Like this:

"For some reason, my mother assumes strangers are interested in our lives. Maybe because her students spend all their free time kissing up to her and pretending to care about insignificant details of her existence. Mom never met a situation couldn't kablooey into an awkward overshare." (Page 7, ARC)

"Dad, for his part, had a way of making authoritative pronouncements as if we were all his royal subjects. Probably from being treated like a minor god-figure by his eager-beaver students. (Sadly, when your parents are professors, college loses a bit of its mystique.) (Page 9, ARC)

The interpersonal dynamics between Delia and the other characters, particularly her family members, are realistically flawed, and provide a good contrast with the spectral events taking place in the story. Another small thing that the author did that added a layer of realism to the story was having ghosts who lived 100 years earlier who didn't understand modern-day colloquialisms. This lent a faint dose of humor to an otherwise rather dark story.

Hysteria Hall, itself something of a character in the story, is delightfully creepy and fully realized. The ghosts that live there are complex beings. The mystery about how the Hall became haunted will keep readers guessing, and the action will keep them turning the pages. I found the ending satisfying, both in terms of plot and in heart. I would recommend The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall to anyone who enjoys reading about ghosts, creepy old buildings, or teenage struggles for identify. This would pair well with Dan Poblocki's The Ghost of Graylock, and would be a good addition to any library's YA horror collection. 

Publisher: Point (@Scholastic
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2015 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 affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


The Ghost in the Glass House: Carey Wallace

Book: The Ghost in the Glass House
Author: Carey Wallace
Pages: 240
Age Range: 12 and up

The Ghost in the Glass House by Carey Wallace is set in a seaside resort town in the 1920's. 12-year-old Clare and her mother rent a summer house that has an octagonal glass house on the grounds. In the glass house dwells, as promised by the title, a ghost. The Ghost in the Glass House explores Clare's growing friendship with the ghost (a boy who doesn't remember his real name), as well as her interactions with her widowed mother and four friends (all of whose families travel the resort circuit of the idle wealthy, and rent houses near to one another from season to season).

I had thought, based on the title and the relatively brief length, that The Ghost in the Glass House was a middle grade novel. But it does contain some relatively mature content. Clare's friend's father is a known adulterer. There are tense crushes between the various teens (Clare is the youngest, others range up to 15), some implied, offscreen sexual behavior, and a bit of underage drinking by the older kids. I still think it would be ok for a mature middle schooler. And it's certainly tame compared to much of today's YA. But it wasn't quite what I had expected. 

Still, The Ghost in the Glass House is creepy and atmospheric. There's a mystery about the boy. Who he is. Why he's stuck as a ghost in the glass house. Why the housekeeper of the rental house wants Clare to stay away from the glass house. There's also tension around the developing relationships between the kids/teens. And emotional depth tied to the fact that Clare just wants to go home to her own house, which her mother has been avoiding since her father died. 

The Ghost in the Glass House provides a bit of a window into the life of privileged families in the 1920's, though it's not all that detailed. I'm not sure how much modern readers will relate to the boredom and complaints of Clare and her friends. But Wallace includes some subtle substance. The housekeeper is a complex character, never fully revealed. There's a hint that one of the boys has feelings for another boy, though Clare doesn't recognize this as anything comprehensible (as she wouldn't). 

Here's the description of the glass house:

"At first glance, the glass house was a riot of reflections: sky and cloud, white brick, the pale underbellies of leaves. Then it resolved into a simple dome held together by copper beams gone green from exposure to wine and rain. It sat about fifty paces from the big white brick house she and her mother were moving into that day. A stand of young maples shades the glass walls, which were further screened by climbing roses that crept all the way up to the slanted panes of the roof." (Page 2)

And here's Clare's friend Bridget:

""The ocean never stops," Bridget complained, staring out at the dark surf beyond he circle of light from the fire they'd build on the beach. "Not even when the sun goes down. It's like some awful machine that works all night and doesn't make anything."

"You've suffered so much," Teddy (her brother) said. "I don't know how you bear it."" (Page 62)

And finally, here's a bit of insight into Clare, who is occasionally profound:

"Clare had the same sensation she got when she heard people rattle off travelers' rumors about a place Clare had actually been: the realization that she already knew more than the adult who was pretending to educate her. She didn't like the feeling, but she was getting used to it. It bothered her most in moments like this, when she didn't know the answer herself and needed one." (Page 85)

The Ghost in the Glass House will appeal to anyone who enjoys ghost stories, as well as to fans of historical fiction. It would make a good step-up book for kids who have read Mary Downing Hahn's books, but aren't quite ready for graphic YA. The Ghost in the Glass House is a subtle ghost story with a strong protagonist and a relatively uncommon historical setting. I think that my own 11-12 year old self would have enjoyed it very much. As I did today. 

Publisher: Clarion Books (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: September 3, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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