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Posts from December 2015

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: New Year's Eve / Cybils Edition

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. It's been a very quiet week, but there are a few posts worth checking out. Topics include book lists, football books, diverse books, reading aloud, growing bookworms, home libraries, screen time, education books, parenting, growth mindset, and schools.

Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-SmMost importantly, stay tuned for the announcement of the Cybils Shortlists, due out first thing on New Years Day at The Cybils Shortlists are lists of 5 to 7 titles in each of 10+ categories, guaranteed by blogger judges to be both well-written and kid-friendly. The lists are a fabulous resource!

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Book Lists

Month by Month: Books About the Year, from

The 50 Best Books for 7- and 8-Year-Olds per - contributed, too  

In her newest Podcast shares a big list of football books for kids

of Britain's Favourite Children's Books per Sunday Times Editor Nicolette Jones

A Tuesday Ten: in 2015 Speculative Fiction 


Anticipation.... New Year's Day is also Shortlist Day! Stay tuned for this great resource, says  

Growing Bookworms

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers (easy readers + chapter books), December 2015 from  

One Dad’s Reading Resolutions for New Year: To not "criticize books that my kid really, really loves"

Easy Ways to Get Your Kids to Read More This Year, by age group, from 

Great poster encouraging reading aloud in 2016! RT @MrSchuReads 16 Reasons to Make 2016 the Year of the Read-Aloud

Establishing a Community of Readers, 5 essential elements of getting children excited about reading

What is the Best Investment Plan For Your Child's Future? A home library, says , so don't wait  

Screen Time

POP! Parents of Preschoolers: Tips on Managing Screen Time when using media w/ small children from  

Books vs. e-books: The science behind the best way to read | via

Schools and Libraries

16 Books Educators Should Consider Reading in 2016 by ed consultant 

Beyond Working Hard: What Growth Mindset Teaches Us About Our Brains |  

How Do You Know Which Books To Purchase? A Few Tips to Help Build A Better Classroom Library from

© 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

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 23

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. It's been a quiet week, and thus this is a fairly short list. But there is definitely some interesting reading here for those in need of distraction. Topics this week include: book lists, mock ala awards, books for tweens, diverse books, nonfiction, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, family reading, growing bookworms, Christmas books, podcasts, parenting, and schools. 

Wishing those who celebrate it a wonderful Christmas, and wishing everyone peace, joy, and understanding in the New Year! I'll be back after January 1st. Thanks so much for reading. 

Book Lists + Awards

Rounding up tons of Mock Election Results via  

All I want for Christmas are...Board Books, new by

Chapter Books for an 8 Year Old Boy: 10 exciting series to keep him reading, chosen by  

Big List of Books for Tween Girls from (mom of an 11 y.o. girl)  

Diversity + Gender

Dreaming of Books: The I want to see (eg realistic fiction featuring Latina girls) from Jennifer Wharton  

Guest Post by on blog: I Am So Over Writing About Strong Girls

Events + Programs

Press Release : 5th National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature To Be Inaugurated on Jan 7, 2016  

Cool! Maryland to mail free books each month to Baltimore children under age 6 via  

Growing Bookworms

ReadingRainbowdefault-logoSuggestions to Rekindle Your Child's Love of Reading Over the Holidays from

Family Reading Resolutions for the New Year to help keep reading a family focus from  

Holiday Posts and Gift Guides

Have Some Holly, Jolly | Christmas-ish book recommendations from

Gift Ideas for Hands-on Reading: Playing with Interactive Board Books from

Five reasons to get your holiday gifts from a bookstore by Shoshana Flax 

This is very fun! Wear Your Favorite Book Around Your Neck | via  

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Guest Post by on about in Thinking re Kids and (including )

If you liked reading…you may like listening to… (book/podcast pairs) by +


Parenting in the Age of Awfulness: How to instill cvility despite today's culture of disrespect

A wish by Nicola Morgan that we give ourselves + our kids this season  

Class Differences in Child-Rearing Are on the Rise reports from survey

Schools and Libraries

Sigh. Kindergarten Has Become the New First Grade. The new preschool is crushing kids:  

How is still "sharing the book love" as an administrator (no longer in the classroom)

© 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

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 18

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. It's been a bit of a light week, but topics include re-reading, writing, eBooks, picture books, book awards, best books, diverse books, reading logs, libraries, gift books, morris awards, Unicef, and National Cookie Day. 

Book Lists + Awards

. Releases Their Annual Lists of best children's books, from to

Our Favorite Dads of 2015 | via  

17 Of The Most Beautifully Illustrated In 2015, by Loryn Brantz

Here are "The New Classics" of children's literature, per teacher Kelly Gallagher-Mack

Top Ten Kids' Books for Foodies by Erin Johnson  + more

All Things Debut | Morris Awards & November/December Releases highlighted by at Stacked

Stand-Out Books of 2015 according to (whose opinion I value) 


10 children's books that feature diverse characters | Corinne Segal  

21 Children's Books Every Black Kid Should Read via

Events + Programs

Sounds fun! Children's Writers & Illustrators Conf. | Jan 23-24 w/ + + more

Friday 12/18 is apparently National Cookie Baking Day. has a podcast + book suggestions w/ cooking

Bringing books to children in Thailand’s remote mountain districts | via  

Growing Bookworms + Young Writers

New Year's With Kids: Ideas that Promote Reading and Writing from  

Ten Ways Kid Writers Are Just Like Grownup Writers by 

Questions to Ask When Kids Aren’t Reading | "Do they have choice?" + more ideas from 

Holiday Book Lists and Gift Ideas

Gift Books 2015: 25 to give this season |

Advice from on ways that you can use money to buy happiness | For yourself, spend on your health  

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Hello, Old Friend, Time to Read You Again - on the pleasures + insights that come from re-reading a favorite

On why kids and adults sometimes crave reading books again and again and again by Miriam Halahmy  

boost boys' reading abilities (+ make them think reading is "cool"), research finds, reports

Why This Book? The Conundrum of Virality (of controversy) and A Fine Dessert — 

These are fun! 24 Things People Slightly Obsessed With Reading Know To Be True 

Lots of good stuff here: 2015’s Biggest Moments in Children’s and YA Literature | 


Simple word, memory & observation games that will shorten any holiday trip with kids by  

Steps to Help Foster a Preschooler’s Spatial Reasoning Skills | Language, mapping, blocks + more News

Schools and Libraries

Some Thoughts On Reading Logs from teacher | "What can we do ... to make them better for students?"  

This is cool! N.Y. Public Library to Host a Reading Recommendation Booth | via

© 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

10 Years Blogging at Jen Robinson's Book Page

JRBPlogo-medI'm finding it difficult to believe that today is the 10 year anniversary of the day I started my blog. It does feel like an accomplishment. I've published ~3170 posts, of which ~1165 are book reviews. I've participated in and helped to organize the Cybils, KidLitCon, and the Children's Book Review Wiki. I've met (online and in person) many wonderful people, some of whom have become treasured real-world friends. And I've read a lot of great books. 

And yet ... as I reach my 10 year anniversary, I find myself at a bit of a crossroads with my blog. I've whittled away a 2-3 month backlog of scheduled reviews, and find myself ... disinterested in writing more. I'm not even reading children's and young adult books (except for the ones I read with my daughter), because I don't want to read things that I'll feel obligated to review. I'm still sharing my daughter's literacy milestones, and I'm still sharing literacy and book-related links on Twitter, and rounding them up here on a weekly basis. But those two things seem to be all I have in me at the moment, blog-wise.

Perhaps this is just because I'm feeling tapped out, between work (unrelated to the blog) and personal responsibilities. Or perhaps it's the way that children's book blogging has changed over the years (fewer comments, etc.). Or maybe it's just the time of year. I'm not sure.

What I do know is that posts, especially reviews will be a bit scarce on my blog in the coming weeks, as I try to dig my way out of this blogging funk. I thank you all for your patience, and wish you the health and happiness this holiday season. Many, many thanks to those of you who have been following this blog over the years. 

© 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


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 11

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book lists, Nancy Drew, early readers, disabled characters, diversity, audiobooks, choosing books, growing bookworms, Christmas books, Poetry Friday, publishing, parenting, schools, and libraries. 

Book Lists + Awards

Guest Post by at | A Children's Librarian's Top 10 Read-Aloud (+ why)

Something Old, Something New | Old Favorites and New Trends in Easy Readers | Barbara Auerbach

2016 Geisel Award Predictions — + more

Inside and Outside the Human Body: A Closer Look in books for kids, from Joy Fleishhacker  

Beyond River Heights: Four Books for Nancy Drew Fans, by

Best Picture Books of 2015, in various categories, according to 


Why I want more disabled characters in books, + which author is "king" of this |  

Favorite Latin@ children's and YA Titles of 2015 from

Let's Get More Kids of Color Excited About Reading says in via 

Events + Programs

Reading is more than just good for the mind. It’s good for the heart. It’s good for the world  

Apparently it is National Cookie Day. has a delicious List

Growing Bookworms

: Discovering Kids' Books on Audio (Guest Post by Linnae Harper )  

Choosing Books for Your Kids With Intention (+ Why Changed the Way She Was Doing It)

How Does a Principal Foster a Love of Reading in her Own Children by 

Early Around the House: The Living Room | alphabet puzzles, family photo stories + more from 

Why Reading the Same Book Repeatedly Is Good for Kids | 

Holiday Booklists and Gift Guides

'Tis the Season: 150 Ways to Give a Book from | great books + more

The Best Christmas Books for Reading Aloud, per  | Ahlbergs, Clement Moore, Scarry, Tolkien + more

Easy Reader/Early Chapter Books for the Holidays, new from chair  

Do Not Buy These Books This Holiday Season | tongue-in-cheek advice from + contributors 

Dad, This Book's About Us! | Gift ideas: Books for dads to read with their kids, from 

I Wish, I Wish – A Gift Guide (Or Not) For Teachers (Tip #1: Stay away from the apples) from 


Fun stuff! 2015 Children’s Lit: The Year in Miscellanea — | Featuring + more  

Various tidbits of interest in Fusenews: Reader’s Advisory – Not Just for Librarians Anymore —

-- Call for 2016 Roundup Hosts from | "It's like hosting a poetry party on your blog!" 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Some ideas for the next great American kid's-book-based theme park (after Hunger Games) from  

Lots of interesting discussions here: What Talking About?: November 2015 in YA News from

Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch on the Future of Publishing in  via


New report on self-regulation. e.g. "Non-cognitive skills predict high school and college completion"

3 Simple Priorities To Raise Healthy, Balanced Kids (including "reading time") by  

Disaster Distress Resources — list from Andrew Roszak , shared by

Schools and Libraries

I gave my students iPads — then wished I could take them back, OpEd by teacher Launa Hall in Post  

New Study Finds Low Levels of Digital Library Borrowing via

Newly signed ESSA provides school libraries w/ dedicated revenue stream to enhance services + resources

© 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: December 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. However, it's been three weeks this time due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have three book reviews (picture books and middle grade). I also have two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently, and two posts with my daughter's latest literacy milestones (listening to audiobooks and writing a pop-up book). 

Reading Update: In the past three weeks I finished seven adult titles. I believe that my adult reading kick is related to the fact that I've been in a severe reviewing funk. For more than a year now I've maintained a backlog of at least 20 scheduled reviews (more than 2 months). That backlog is now down to one review. I just don't feel like writing reviews right now, and so I am not reading books that I feel a responsibility to review (which includes mainly children's and YA titles). I'm not sure where this will lead. Stay tuned. Anyway, these past couple of weeks I read/listened to:

  • Jason Gay: Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living. Doubleday. Adult Nonfiction. Completed November 21, 2015, on Kindle. I like Jason Gay's voice (I read his sports column in the WSJ), and enjoyed this quick read.
  • Elizabeth George: A Banquet of Consequences. Viking. Adult Mystery. Completed November 21, 2015, on MP3. This is the first Lynley/Havers book that I've listened to on MP3, and probably won't be the last. This one kept me thinking. 
  • William R. Forstchen: One Second After. Tor Books. Adult Speculative Fiction. Completed November 22, 2015, on Kindle. I couldn't put down this story, after the aftermath of a major EMP that basically takes down the US. I read this book about 24 hours, and then checked my emergency kit. 
  • Michael Connelly: The Crossing (Harry Bosch). Little, Brown. Adult Mystery. Completed November 27, 2015, on MP3. This one features a retired Harry Bosch working, uneasily, with his lawyer half-brother Mickey Haller. 
  • Janet Evanovich: Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum). Bantam. Adult Mystery. Completed December 1, 2015, on MP3.
  • C. J. Box: Open Season (Joe Pickett, Book 1). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed December 5, on MP3. This was my first book from this long-running series, and I quite liked it. Which is great, because I needed something new to listen to. 
  • Brett Battles: Sick (Project Eden Thrillers, Book 1). Amazon Digital Services. Adult Science Fiction. Completed December 5, 2015, on Kindle. I picked this one up on a recommendation from Rick Riordan's blog. It's about a conspiracy to release a super-plague. 

I'm listening to Savage Run by C. J. Box and reading Exit 9 (Project Eden Thrillers, Book 2) by Brett Battles. The books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter can be found here. We are still working our way through the Magic Tree House books, and mixing those in with a variety of Christmas and other picture books. My daughter continues to be a writing machine. Sometimes she copies things down from books, sometimes she writes her own books, and sometimes she writes mundane things like snippets of our conversation. But she is always writing. I didn't anticipate, really, that it would be writing the hooked her even more than reading. But it's all good :-).  

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: Making Her First Pop-Up Book

LiteracyMilestoneAThis weekend my daughter (now 5.5) got it into her head that she wanted to make a pop-up book. She apparently saw something about how to do this on Creative Galaxy (an Amazon Prime show for kids). With a very small amount of help from me, she constructed a story about two ducks and a dog. The book has 3 page spreads with pop-ups, as well as front and back covers. 

Here's a sample page. The duck is named "Fishin". The river is named "Mount Lara." Not much happens besides the characters meeting and being named. But they do pop up nicely.  


My favorite part is the back cover. Note the UPC symbol, as well as the line of fine print, written in "script". Perhaps this is meant to be a copyright notice. 


She also, on the front cover wrote a title and: "By (her full name)" and then "Illustrated by (her first name and middle and last initials)". She has a long, difficult to spell last name (my husband is Armenian), and this is the first time that she's attempted to write it down. [Illustrated was not spelled in the conventional manner, but you could tell what she meant.]

Things I love about this project:

  • It shows how well she understands the basics of how books are constructed: naming the author and illustrator, adding the UPC symbol on the back cover, and so on. 
  • She wrote her full name for the first time, and it was as an author.
  • She took an idea that she saw on a screen and implemented it herself on paper, with only the slightest help from me. 
  • She made up the story on her own, and made up most of the spelling on her own. [I did contribute the name of the second duck, "Quackers". I did not, alas, get a written credit for this. Maybe next time...] 

My daughter's path to literacy becomes more fun for both of us each day. Thanks for reading! Are books being constructed in your homes? Do any of you still have the books that you wrote as children? 

© 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

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 4

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this over the past two weeks @JensBookPage (I took Thanksgiving week off from blogging). Due to the time of year, book awards, "best of" lists, and gift guides are well represented, along with book lists, gender, diversity, growing bookworms, reading, schools, libraries, parenting, ninja books, and common core. 

Awards and "Best of" Lists

David Almond Wins Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2015, reports

The Best Jewish Children’s Books of 2015 by  

The Notable Children’s Books of 2015 list includes + more

Happy 4th Anniversary, by w/ launch of 2015 Nerdy Book Club Awards 

Fanfare! Magazine's choices for best books of 2015, through 

SLJ’s Best of 2015 | Books, Apps, and More, w/ printable PDF + lots of | 

The Book Awards have been announced. has the scoop. 

Thoughts on Newbery: The Nature of Distinguished, in reference to THE HIRED GIRL from

Book Lists

Favorite Children’s Books About Winter (season, solstice, nature, snow + snowmen), from  

Recommended books about adoption, through , from for

Our) Best of 2015 (Part 4) from + more

Recommended Books for Older Readers (kids + adults), November 2015, from

Diversity + Gender

Ouch! If you enjoyed a good book + you're a woman, the critics think you're wrong |

Strong Opinion Piece : Do We Honor Girls’ Stories? The Double Standard of Lit by Kelly Jensen 

For 2016, is going to read entirely women authors. On she tells why + addresses FAQs 

The Campaign | wants people to give Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle this holiday 

How Diverse Literature Can Make Middle School Easier by Noah Cho via  

Twinja Book Reviews Kicks Off 3rd Annual Month by interviewing

The Diversity List: Picture, Easy, and Early Chapter Books of 2015 that has seen that are 

Rick Riordan cheers end of book covers that whitewash black hero via 

Events + Programs

RIFF_logoThe Gift of Reading is "more than fundamental. It's transformative." shines a light on

December 5th is National Ninja Day. has the scoop on authors  

Native American Heritage Month (November) resources rounded up

On how daring to speak aloud + share an idea can change the world, by 

This is cool. program uses solar power to bring digital books to regions in Kenya w/ no electricity 

Growing Bookworms

A Curriculum Staple: Reading Aloud to Teens by Jess deCourcy Hinds in | Build the pleasure connection 

Don't stop children reading facty books: Nicola Morgan You want them first to read + then read more

The Simple Way to Help Your Kids Become Stronger Readers: Dyad Reading by

Let’s Hear it for Reading Aloud! shares benefits to kids + tips for parents who may not enjoy it (yet) 

Some of our favorites are on the Family Dinner Book Club Line-Up for 2016 

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers (easy readers + chapter books), November 2015 from 

Reading with toddler and newborn, November 2015, recs + an attention-holding tip 

Easy Ways Parents Can Encourage Kids to Write from (e.g. "write instructions to explain something") 

Holidays (Book Lists, Ideas, Gift Guides)

The Best Gifts Are Books – Some Gift Ideas for Lovers from + more

8 Clever Ways to Celebrate the Holidays with Books (Book Advent Calendar, etc.) from Jennifer Ridgway

One for Each Night: 8 Picture Books for Hanukkah, a by Liz Lesnick 

for Every Child's Interest: a Gift Guide from 

Top 10 Holiday Read Alouds per Elementary Librarian 

Reviews: Nine for Kids that thinks are special and worthy of holiday giving 

Bookish Christmas Gift Suggestions for Kids (younger and older) from 

Recommended Young Adult Speculative Fiction to buy for the Holidays, list from at the blog

Holiday Gift Guide from | Fiction by + 

recommendations for your holiday gift-giving inspiration, from organizer Jennifer Wharton 

The Ultimate Children’s Literature Illustrator Gift Guide 2015 from (w/ help from ) 

Crayons Make Great Gifts, Too: Art-Themed Books to Pair w/ Art Supplies from 

I did get some ideas here... Bookish Gifts for $20 or Less from 

GIVE IT: All the goodies for this holiday season | on why you should give books, w/ book + donation ideas 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

10 Reasons I’m Thankful for Children’s Books by | They "were my best friends growing up." (Mine, too!)  

The Bad Habits of Good Readers (like skipping anything they find boring) by Carol Jago


Using Creativity to Boost Young Children’s Mathematical Thinking by w/ tips for parents |  

Why Independent Bookstores Are a Parent’s Best Friend ("they make life easier") by

Schools and Libraries

Everything You Need to Know About Reading Levels, in One Image —  

Can Five-Year-Olds Really Meet State Standards? Linda Jacobson in

A Fine Dessert....What Does This Mean for Teachers? Our voice needs to be part of this conversation 

Two initiatives that encourage Reading for Pleasure in Schools by Joan Lennon 

On the gap between the inner beauty of math and the way it is taught in schools by Gary Stager 

© 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

Be A Friend: Salina Yoon

Book: Be A Friend
Author: Salina Yoon
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

Be A Friend is a new picture book from the prolific Salina Yoon. It's about being true to yourself, as well as the sense of validation that comes when you find that friend who understands you, just as you are. I think that it's lovely, and would make a great companion book to The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton or Leo: A Ghost Story, by Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson. 

Dennis is "an ordinary boy", except that he dresses himself up every day as a mime, and doesn't speak. His closet shows a picture of Marcel Marceau. He only acts, performing scenes to express himself to others. The other kids seem to leave him be, but he does find that he's sometimes lonely. Until, that is, he meets a girl appropriately named Joy, who is prepared to act things out right along with him. 

Dennis (AKA Mime Boy) is shown throughout with white-painted face and striped shift. Yoon highlights the scenes that Dennis is acting out by using a dashed red line to provide clues for the reader. So we see Dennis standing with legs bent, sweat beading his forehead, sitting atop the red dashed outline of a bicycle. The text never explains these miniature acts - it doesn't need to. I think that preschoolers will love identifying the action in each vignette. 

The minimal text in Be A Friend would make it work either as a read-aloud for preschoolers or as an independent read for new readers. There are a few more difficult words, like "extraordinary", but most of the text is quite direct. Like this (over two page spreads):

"They saw the world the SAME way.

Dennis and Joy didn't speak a WORD,
because FRIENDS don't have to."

Be A Friend is heartwarming and reassuring without being particularly sad. While it might be implausible that a kid like Dennis wouldn't be picked on in school, I read this as more of a parable than a literal tale. But the particular device of Dennis acting out scenes (and the reader being able to guess what they are) makes this book extra-fun for preschoolers. And the messages, like Dennis' acts, are mainly hinted at, left to the reader to infer. Be A Friend is going on our keep shelf, a new favorite for me. 

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's (@BWKids)
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
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 Tiara on the Terrace: Kristen Kittscher

Book: The Tiara on the Terrace
Author: Kristen Kittscher
Pages: 400
Age Range: 8-12

The Tiara on the Terrace is the sequel to Kristen Kittscher's middle grade mystery The Wig in the Window. Both feature best friends and twelve-year-old sleuths Sophie Young and Grace Yang. As The Tiara on the Terrace begins, the girls' town of Luna Vista is getting ready for the 125th annual Winter Sun Festival, a tradition involving a parade and a "royal court" of teen girls. Sophie and Grace are helping with the floats. When the Festival president dies under mysterious circumstances, Grace convinces Sophie and their friend Trista to apply to be royal pages, so that they can investigate more closely. A mixture of investigation and festival preparation follows. 

Trista plays a larger role in The Tiara on the Terrace than she did in the first book, which I think is a plus. (I noted in my review of the first book that I liked her better than I did Grace.) Trista is big and awkward and unrepentantly an engineer. Trista and Sophie would have been unlikely to be selected as pages were they not "town heroes" following the events of the first book. Grace, on the other hand, fits right in with the older, more fashion-focused members of the Royal Court.

Some tension between Grace and Sophie is evident from the book's start, as the former is more ready to grow up than the latter (a great dynamic to explore in a book aimed at tweens). Sophie, on the other hand, is the one who has a (completely PG) crush. Like this:

"Hey there," a voice called out behind us. My heart skipped a beat as I turned to see Rod Zimball. He put down his flower bucket and gave a little save. White petals were caught in the crests of his dark curls like whitecaps, and his hazel eyes shone. The only way he could have looked any cuter is if he were cradling a baby panda." (Page 20, ARC)

Once there's a mystery to solve, though, all three girls, with a small amount of assistance from Rod, are all in with investigating. They come up with a secret code for identifying meeting spots, and rap out messages on the walls between their rooms. There's even a late-night escapade involving a stolen golf cart. 

The book's setting, in which just about every scene is associated with the festival in some way, feels fresh. The girls spend a weekend in the Festival Mansion as part of their duties as pages, which gets them away from parental supervision, and gives them plenty of opportunities to sneak about, spying. Here's Sophie on being away from home:

"I was scared, too. Scared everyone would think I was a loser, like Ms. Sparrow had though. Scared of spending every minute with all these older girls--these cooler girls who expected us to serve their every need. But it wasn't just that. I hated the idea of being away from my family for a whole weekend. No playing Uno with Grandpa after finishing my homework. No trying to do the crossword puzzle in the morning with my mom. No listening to dad's totally exaggerated stories about work crises. No Jake being Jake." (Page 128, ARC)

Sophie does make one mistake (a betrayal of Grace) that I found cringe-worthy, but I enjoyed The Tiara on the Terrace otherwise. It's good to see a middle grade mystery with real stakes (an actual dead body), but that remains buoyant overall. I think that the mix of tween angst, cosseted "royals", and murder investigation will work well for kids who are just developing an interest in mysteries (and/or just thinking about having an interest in "more than friend" relationships. There's even a bit of diversity (in Grace and Trista's backgrounds), kept mostly incidental to the story, but good to see.

I would recommend The Tiara on the Terrace for elementary or middle school libraries, or for individual purchase for middle grade mystery fans. I think it's better than the first book, and that fans of The Wig in the Window will definitely want to take a look. If you haven't read The Wig in the Window, it would be better to start with that one, as there are spoilers for the first book. 

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
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).