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Posts from June 2016

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: June 15: #KidLit Reviews, #StoriesForAll + #KidLitCon

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 has refocused recently, and now contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, including bookworms, mathematicians, and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update: It was a busy couple of weeks on the blog. In this issue I have three book reviews (one picture book, one early chapter book, and one middle grade) and two posts about my daughter's latest literacy milestones (sharing things on Facebook and naming favorite authors). I also have one post about why my daughter is lucky to be a girl (reading choice), and another about why parents, teachers, and librarians should consider attending KidLitCon. I also have two posts with links that I shared on Twitter, and two more with quotes from and responses to articles about to the joy of learning

AgathaParrotAndGhostReading Update: In the past two weeks I read/listened to one chapter book and three adult titles. I also abandoned a young adult title halfway through, which did not help with my reading totals. I read:

  • Kjartan Poskitt (ill. Wes Hargis): Agatha Parrot and the Odd Street School Ghost. Clarion Books. Illustrated Early Chapter Book. Completed June 10, 2016. Review to come, closer to publication. 
  • Paul Doiron: Massacre Pond (Mike Bowditch #4). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed June 6, 2016, on MP3. Still enjoying this series on audio.
  • Elly Griffiths: A Room Full of Bones (Ruth Galloway #4). Mariner Books. Adult Mystery. Completed June 9, 2016, on Kindle. I'm not sure whether I didn't enjoy this installment as much as I enjoyed the previous 3 because it took me a lot longer to read, or whether it took me a lot longer to read because I didn't like it as much. But the fact remains that I didn't get much reading done these past two weeks, alas. 
  • Paul Doiron: The Bone Orchard (Mike Bowditch #5). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed June 13, 2016, on MP3.

ThankYouBookI'm currently listening to Nowhere to Run (Joe Pickett) by C.J. Box and reading Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky (the first V.I. Warshawski novel). I'm checking to see if the latter series, which I dipped into briefly many years ago, is a good candidate for my next audiobook series. The books my husband and I and our babysitter have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. I got her The Thank You Book by Mo Willems as a last day of school gift.

My daughter was very pleased to receive an award on the last day of school for having logged the most books read in her reading chart. The total for the school year was 1328. We've decided, even though school is over, to continue with the reading log format for the summer. I find it very helpful in tracking what other people have read to my daughter, and she really likes the sense of accomplishment that she gets from seeing the total number of books read each month. I have warned her that in future school years she likely will not read as many books, because she'll be reading longer books. But I don't think she believes me. 

Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. Wishing you all plenty of time for summer reading.

© 2016 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

Swing Sideways: Nanci Turner Steveson

Book: Swing Sideways
Author: Nanci Turner Steveson
Pages: 288
Age Range: 8-12

Swing Sideways is about an anxious girl named Annie who has been promised a summer of freedom, and her developing friendship with the much more down to earth California. Annie has been having panic attacks, and is worrisomely thin because her throat closes up when she tries to eat. Her extremely tightly wrapped, schedule-obsessed mother is trying to give her freedom, as her therapist has recommended, but is struggling. Annie's more low-key father mediates.

The family, clearly well-off, is summering at their vacation home at some unspecified lakefront community outside of New York City. California is spending the summer at her grandfather's farm nearby, and the two girls, though from very different backgrounds, become close friends. Annie is able to put aside her own insecurities to help California uncover a long-buried family mystery, and accomplish an emotionally important quest. 

Steveson delves deeply into all of the relationships in the story, keeping things moving with the mystery of California's family, as well as a parade of summer hijinks. There is a tree-climbing, sneaking out at night, and secret pet that has to be fed. As the book progresses, the reader also begins to suspect that this is going to be deep sadness by the end of the book. This, I feel I should warn prospective readers, is correct. There is humor and adventure and personal growth in Swing Sideways, but also sadness. 

Here are a couple of quotes, to give you a feel for the book: 

"At the top of the driveway stood a red mailbox. No name, only a crooked, black number seven. I resisted the urge to straighten it. Spindly lilacs lined a gravel driveway, and a jumble of what-type stuff covered what used to be a yard. Peering around the corner of the barn, I squinted and studied the place I'd coveted for so long, listening for the sound of someone lurking nearby. Silence. No sign of a human." (Page 16)

I like how Steveson slipped in the bit about how hard it was for Annie to resist straightening the crooked number. Even by page 16, one knows that her mother would probably find resisting impossible. I also like the use of the word "lurking", setting the tone of hiding and secrets, even as Annie is just looking at a farm. 

"When she came up, we laughed like we'd known each other forever. Like she'd been my best friend since nursery school and not Jessica Braverman, who ditched me last fall when the panic attacks started. Jessica had traded our friendship for contact lenses, a nose job, and her first crush, while I hid in the school bathroom every day, gasping for air. The blooming connection between California and me made my heart lift. It was a powerful feeling." (Page 55-56)

This is a trope of tween lit that always hooks me - the girl who isn't ready to grow up as quickly as her friends are, and ends up having to figure herself out and find new friends. The fact that Annie has had panic attacks and has some sort of eating disorder raises the stakes, and her declared interest in all things country personalizes it, but I think that many tweens will be able to relate. For sure the adults will. I have to say that I think Swing Sideways is a book that adult readers are going to enjoy, but I think kids will, too. Annie's struggles will particularly ring true for those kids who are over-scheduled and struggling with excessive parental expectations. 

Swing Sideways made me laugh, nod in recognition, and cringe in different places, and it brought tears to my eyes at the end. Give this one to kids who like books about summer outdoor adventures (there are chickens!), and to kids who like sad books. Annie and California (and the adults in their lives) will stay with me, I think. Recommended. 

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 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).

Literacy Milestone: Naming Favorite Authors

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other night my daughter received a big coloring page from the library (part of her school's Open House night). It included questions that kids were supposed to answer with words and/or pictures. One of the questions was: Favorite Author. She did not hesitate, responding with two favorite authors: "Mo Willems and my friend Bob Staake." 

Mo Willems as a choice is probably self-evident. We have made our way through his Knuffle Bunny, Pigeon, Elephant & Piggie, and standalone titles over the years. Mo was the first author that my daughter could name and whose work she could recognize. She still gets a kick out of finding The Pigeon hiding out in other books. The other day, as I was in my office working, I listened to her read aloud to her babysitter from a whole slew of Elephant & Piggie titles. This brought me great joy. I have been putting off getting a copy of The Thank You Book because it makes me sad that it is the last Elephant & Piggie book in the series (though I do respect ending a series before it starts to fade). 

Bob Staake is another artist whose work my daughter recognized and appreciated early. Again, not so surprising, given the distinct style of his illustrations and his many fun books. We've read everything from Cars Galore to Look! A Book! We've given My Pet Book as a gift to friends who wanted a pet that they didn't have to clean up after. But our favorites among Bob Staakes's books are The Donut Chef and Mary Had A Little Lamp (written by Jack Lechner). We have been reading The Donut Chef regularly for years and it never gets old. 

The reason that Bob is "my friend Bob Staake" to my daughter is because after I happened to mention to her that I was friends with him on Facebook she went wide-eyed, and insisted that I had to write on his wall, immediately, telling him how much she enjoyed his work. After that, Bob kindly sent my daughter a signed copy of We Planted A Tree (written by Diane Muldrow). She likes to show her friends this "private book" (she means personally inscribed) from "my friend, Bob Staake". We do have other signed picture books, of course, but this one is special, because she initiated the contact. I'm pretty sure that she is now a fan for life, and I am grateful. 

I do make a point, when my daughter and I read a picture book, of telling her about other books we have read by the same author and/or illustrator. We look for commonalities, and she loves it when she notices something that I've missed. She can recognize illustrations by Peter Brown, Jon Klassen, and Alison Jay at this point. But Mo Willems and Bob Staake are her rock stars. 

Incidentally, there was also a question on the coloring page about her favorite book. She just wrote "Lots of books." Narrowing that to one just seemed ridiculous to her. 

I don't remember which picture book authors I appreciated as a child. But my favorite chapter book authors were Zilpha Keatley Snyder and Elizabeth Enright. Of course I had favorite series too (Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and the Maida series by Inez Haynes Irwin, mostly long out of print). But there's a difference, I think, between liking a particular series and following an author across books about different characters. My daughter right now appreciates the Magic Treehouse and Babymouse series. But who she'll appreciate as authors for chapter books remains to be seen. I'll be enjoying the journey in the meantime. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: June 10: #48HBC, #ReadingAloud, #SummerReading + more

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #48HBC, #BunkReads, #SummerReading, booklists, funny books, growing bookworms, homework, kidlitosphere, LGBTQ books, play, raising readers, testing, KidLitCon, libraries, and writing. There were also some great links about reading logs and what parents can do to keep kids enjoying books, discussed here. 

Book Lists (including SummerReading recommendations)

This is neat. @CBCBook is seeking submissions to their first ever Best #STEM Books list  #kidlit

For World Ocean Day, Best Books for Little Beach Babes  A Field Trip Life #BookList

#Summer Reading 2016: Preschool & Kindergarten -- #FamiliesRead  #BookList from @MaryAnnScheuer

#SummerReading 2016 for 1st & 2nd graders -- #FamiliesRead from @MaryAnnScheuer  #BookList

100 Funny Chapter Books for Kids, by category  An epic @momandkiddo #BookList

A Tuesday Ten: Speculating on Spectacles | Protagonists in fantasy or SF with glasses  @TesseractViews #kidlit

Conclusion to #ScienceFiction Pathway series @TesseractViews w/ VIII (18 and up!)  #HandmaidsTale + #Dune + 18 more 


#LGBTQLit for Children and Teens Comes of Age  by Ryan Joe @PublishersWkly #kidlit #YA

Events + Programs

Welcome All Poems, Poets, and Lovers of Poetry - the first ever #Poetry Camp will be this fall  @JoneMac53

This is an interesting idea: #BunkReads | Promoting Book Discovery at #SummerCamp  #SummerReading @PublishersWkly

The @CBCBook Partners w/ the @unprisonproject for 2nd Year to Build Prison-Nursery Libraries for moms + their kids 

Growing Bookworms

Prepare your child for kindergarten w/ interactive #ReadAlouds says @measuredmom  #literacy

9 Activities for Kids to do at Home or in the Classroom during #ReadAloud by @sunlitpages guest @momandkiddo

The One Thing that Made the Biggest Difference to @pernilleripp 's students was having time to #read  #teaching

Motivating Struggling Readers: 1 Simple Tip - give them CHOICE (w/ resources)  @thisreadingmama

#RaisingReaders: Everyday Tips from a mom of 4 readers, a Guest Post @sunlitpages 

How to stop an 8-year-old’s reading freeze  @BookTrustUS #RaisingReaders

How Can Parents Keep Kids #Reading Momentum Going All Summer? Tips from @CTYJohnsHopkins @readingrainbow 


48hbc_newWaxing a bit nostalgic for The 48-Hour Book Challenge + early #kidlitosphere days from @gail_gauthier  #kidlit

So @MsYingling is considering resurrecting the 48 Hour Book Challenge w/ more Middle Grade focus. Have input?  #48HBC

Lots of #kidlit + #kidlitosphere tidbits in today's Morning Notes @100scopenotes  

KidLitCon2016LogoSquare#KidLitCon 2016 Keynote Speakers Announced! Yay for Clare Vanderpool + @AS_King  from @book_nut + @Pamlovesbooks

Are YOU a person who cares about connecting kids with books? Think about presenting/attending #KidLitCon in October 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, Publishing

Musings on Self-Belief, #Grit, and Writing from @aquafortis  @angeladuckw @TheAtlantic

What’s the Geisel Anyway? A New Blog Takes a Look at This Unique Award | Guessing Geisel  @sljournal


Lessons Learned from a Treehouse  A parent working to stop overparenting talks w/ @RaiseAnAdult + Dr. Madeline Levine

4 Things I Plan to Do with my Kids this Summer by Bethany Todd w/ @LauraBarrEd  Downtime, reading, recharging

"It's just not fun anymore" | Why 70 percent of kids quit sports by age 13  @washingtonpost

Schools and Libraries

This is sad. A school uninvited @KateMessner, who had a visit scheduled for 5 months, b/c of her new book's theme 

When School Administrators Think They Know Best  @literacious on @KateMessner @PhilBildner @haleshannon experiences

A chance to donate to get copies of @KateMessner's new book into the hands of kids who missed seeing her speak 

Our Job is Not to Censor | Why classroom libraries need to be for all kids  @pernilleripp supporting @KateMessner

#Homework Inequality: The Value of Having a Parent Around After School  @lisquart  @TheAtlantic

Florida School Officials are holding back kids who do well in school if they opt out of tests @palan57  @HuffPostEdu

Reflections on #Library Service to Unattended Children (+ support of #FreeRangeParenting) from @mrskatiefitz 

Recess Should Not Be Taken Away to Punish Kids, it is developmentally necessary  @POPSUGARMoms #JoyOfLearning

How #NerdCamp Transformed My #Teaching by @hollyschlan  @nerdybookclub  #BookADay #ReadAloud

Crazy Cool Things #Libraries Are Doing (That I Didn’t Know When I Lived in NYC) — @fuseeight 

© 2016 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

Mister Cleghorn's Seal: Judith Kerr

Book: Mister Cleghorn's Seal
Author: Judith Kerr
Pages: 96
Age Range: 7-10

Mister Cleghorn's Seal is a new illustrated chapter book by Judith Kerr (who wrote the very first book that we read aloud to my daughter after she was born: One Night in the Zoo). Mister Cleghorn's Seal is a quick and lovely read, set in a time when cigarettes are "newfangled". I think it would make pretty much a perfect first chapter book to read aloud to a preschooler, with a short length, no chapter breaks, and Kerr's black-and-white illustrations on just about every page. 

Mister Cleghorn's Seal is about a retired shop-owner who, while visiting his cousin's family by the sea, ends up adopting an orphaned sea cub. While it is not common that children's books have an adult protagonist (and even a quiet romance), children will know from the earliest pages of the book that Mister Cleghorn is a kindred spirit. He plays with his cousin's children. And when the seal is refusing to eat, he holds it like a baby, with no concern at all for appearances or anything else. He tricks the narrow-minded janitor in his building. He is wonderful. 

Kerr's gentle illustrations bring Mister Cleghorn, the seal, and the time period to life. My favorite is a page spread in which Mister Cleghorn is sitting in the luggage compartment of a train, bringing the seal home, holding onto his hat, and clearly wondering how he got into this mess. But one could look at any illustration on any page to get a sense of the tone of Mister Cleghorn's Seal. 

Mister Cleghorn's Seal is the perfect next step to read-aloud to kids who enjoy picture books, and have the attention to handle a bit more text. It is a book that will make the reader, and the listener, happy. I'm going to try it with my daughter soon. Recommended!

Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 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).

Do You Care About Getting Kids Reading? Consider Attending #KidLitCon in October

To all of my readers who care about getting kids reading, and keeping them reading, I would like to suggest that you consider attending KidLitCon on October 14-15 in Wichita, KS. KidLitCon, an annual gathering of people who are involved with, and blog about, children's books, is always a valuable conference. But this year's KidLitCon will be of special interest to those of you who care about kids and reading. This year’s theme is Gatekeepers and Keymasters: Connecting bloggers, librarians, teachers, authors, and parents to promote literacy.


We are currently seeking proposals to present on this topic (or other related issues). Registration for KidLitCon is now open. The KidLitCon hotel is taking reservations. We have just announced two fabulous keynote speakers: Clare Vanderpool and A. S. King. But now, we need all of you.

If you are an author, publisher, teacher, librarian, or parent who works to get books into kids' hands, this conference is for you. We're expecting to talk about ways that bloggers can better support all of you in finding the books that will hook kids on reading.

  • Do you blog about raising readers? Come to KidLitCon to talk about how to broaden your audience.
  • Are you a teacher who thinks that getting kids talking about books on blogs or social media will help get them excited about reading? Come to KidLitCon and share your ideas, and learn from others.
  • Are you a parent who wishes that book reviews on blogs were more helpful to you in some concrete way? (More reviews of older titles that are already in the library? More tagging of reviews to make them searchable?) Come and tell us what you're thinking.
  • Are you a librarian who needs books that offer windows and mirrors for particular segments of your patron population? Come share with attending authors and publishers the gaps that YOU see in the diversity of books. 

There are hundreds of people out there publishing reviews of children's and young adult books on blogs, GoodReads, Amazon, etc. These reviewers would love to know how to make their recommendations more useful to people who share books with kids. There are thousands upon thousands of teachers, librarians, and parents who worry about kids reading fewer books, swayed by the distractions of screens and the pressures of testing in school. There are countless authors and publishers and publicists who want to write and publish and promote books that will engage kids, and turn them into readers. What this year's KidLitCon offers is a chance for some of those stakeholders to get together in a single room, share ideas, and talk about solutions. What we all want to see is kids growing up with the chance to fall in love with books. 

KidLitCon is a small, intimate conference, perfect for discussion with and learning from like-minded people. It is a relatively inexpensive conference (early bird registration is $80 for 2 days, including lunch), and hotel costs in Wichita are quite reasonable. I found an inexpensive airfare from San Jose, too. KidLitCon is an introvert-friendly conference (as most attendees are introverts), with plenty of downtime. I've attended nearly all of the 9 previous KidLitCons, and have always found them to be worth my time and effort. 

This year’s primary organizer is Melissa Fox from Book Nut, aided by a team of past organizers and dynamic new assistants. For more information about KidLitCon, please visit our blog or website. We hope to see you all there!

#JoyOfLearning Articles on #ReadingLogs + #RaisingReaders from @PernilleRipp + @DrEricaR + @MEdinger

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three posts that are about nurturing and maintaining a love of reading in kids. The first post, from Pernille Ripp, offers suggestions for parents, with emphasis on counteracting negative practices that schools may impose that threaten the joy of reading. The other two posts, from Erica Reischer and Monica Edinger, both focus on reading logs. The first post discusses why reading logs can sap kids' motivation for reading, while the second, from a long-time teacher, offers a better alternative. These are all articles that I expect to refer back to in the future. 

For all parents who want their kids to be readers: A Parent’s Role in Protecting the Love of #Reading  @pernilleripp

Pernille Ripp: "Thea (her daughter) is lucky.  She has been in a school where they value creating reading experiences above everything else.  Where they work with each child at their level and try to keep reading magical.  Where each child is given time to read self-chosen books, receive one-to-one or small group instruction, and the emphasis is on reading for fun, not reading for requirement or prizes.  As a school, they have said no to so many things we know can harm the love of reading.

Our role as parents has been to uphold the expectations they have created; reading for fun, reading as a natural part of our day, reading as something that becomes part of the conversations we have every day.  We have gladly embraced it.  We have not had to protect our daughter’s burgeoning love of reading from some of the practices such as reading logs, reading for rewards, AR, or forced daily reading reflections we see around schools, but what if we did?  What can we do then?"

Me: Pernille Ripp offers concrete suggestions for how parents can protect their kids from having the joy of reading sucked out of them from poor choices by schools. I am very, very interested in this topic. My daughter made it through Kindergarten just fine, and I was pleased to see classroom libraries in all of the first grade classrooms that we visited at a recent Open House. But I've also seen a fairly strong emphasis on Accelerated Reader points at this school, and I'm preemptively concerned about that. So I'll be saving Pernille's practical, thorough recommendations for future reference. This post is a must read for any parent who is concerned about raising kids who enjoy reading. 

Important: How #ReadingLogs Can Ruin Kids' Pleasure for Books @DrEricaR  @TheAtlantic #JoyOfLearning

Erica Reischer: "As a psychologist (and a parent), I have long opposed reading logs because of abundant research on the negative effects of external controls (such as rewards, deadlines, and assigned goals) on intrinsic motivation. In other words, when motivation to do an activity comes from outside, via rewards or mandates, it tends to undermine people’s interest in doing that activity for its own sake. This decline in motivation ultimately affects enjoyment, creativity, and even performance.

This research would suggest that reading logs have a similar effect on children’s reading habits, especially their desire to read for fun, making reading less of a pleasure and more of a chore. Imagine telling your child that she must draw pictures for at least 20 minutes daily—and also record how much time she spent drawing and how many different colors she used...

[On a recent study to specifically address reading logs and enjoyment] Students assigned the mandatory log showed diminished interest in recreational reading and also more negative attitudes toward reading after the study concluded. In contrast, the voluntary group showed an increase in both interest and positive attitudes. Although this study wasn’t exhaustive, it suggests that reading logs may undermine their intended goals."

Me: My daughter ended up having a positive experience with the very low key reading logs that she had this year in Kindergarten. All we had to do was list the books that we read to her, with a goal of 30 per month. I don't know what would have happened had we not reached that target, but this was not an issue for us. I found having a list of the books we had read useful, and my daughter enjoyed keeping track of the number each month. But I will certainly have an eagle eye out if we have more onerous logs next year.

I think that making kids certify to having read for a certain amount of time every day or making them write about each book could certainly diminish the joy of reading. I mean, I've found that for myself. If I pressure myself to review everything I read, which I have done at certain periods of blogging, I end up resentful, and not wanting to read. I've also found that our reading is sporadic. One day, when my daughter wasn't feeling well, we read her 30 picture books. This past weekend, when we had guests and a plethora of activities, we read only a single book. And that's ok. It all balances out. I do think that I would be tempted by Pernille's suggestion (see above) to just lie, if we were under pressure to certify that we had read for 20 minutes every single day. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it. 

In the Classroom: The Problem with #ReadingLogs and What I Did About It  @medinger shares a positive solution

Monica Edinger: [After questioning the effects of reading logs for years, Monica recently eliminated them.] "What I did instead was have each child create and maintain a Book of Books (aka BoB), based on Pamela Paul’s, a journal of every book she read starting in high school. I thought it such a cool idea I wanted my kids to do that too. Not for accountability to ME, but for themselves. Additionally, I created a weekly BoB period where the children read, updated their BoBs, and met with me. At these meetings we chatted about what they had been reading and what they might read next. It was lovely. It was relaxing. It gave the information I needed about their independent reading. It gave me a space to check in with all my students. It did not single out the weaker readers. They all loved it as did I."

Me: This post made me heave a sigh of relief. Yes, encourage kids to read, encourage them to keep track of the books that they've read, use that list as a jumping off place for discussions and recommendations. But don't let bookkeeping and arbitrary limits kill the joy of reading. I wish that teachers everywhere could see this post! I also much appreciated Monica's perspective as a long-time teacher. She shares how early reading logs were an improvement in that kids could choose what to read, vs. the days of reading basal readers at home. This improved my understanding of how something with good intentions regarding kids and reading could go awry. 

© 2016 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 post may contain affiliate links. 

Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus: Edward Hemingway

Book: Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus
Author: Edward Hemingway
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-7

Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus by Edward Hemingway is an engaging little picture book about a grumpy little monster. Adult readers will anticipate the ending (in which the monster is turned by the power of a smile into a little boy), but my six-year-old seemed to take the story literally. The Grumpasaurus pouts and stomps about, scaring away the cat and occasionally roaring. 

I feel like this may be a book that will appeal more to parents of toddlers than to kids themselves. But I think there's a humor in it for older siblings, too, who will recognize the grumpy behaviors of others, even if they deny ever behaving like that themselves. 

Hemingway's dry humor worked for me. Like this:

"Sometimes called Grumpelstiltskin or the Great Grumpsby, the Grumpasaurus can live anywhere, and is most often seen sulking around the room after a great tragedy or mishap. Such as... 

... a broken toy."

This passage shows the Grumpasaurus, arms folded, mouth turned down, watched apprehensively by the cat, while on the facing page, a teddy bear's arm dangles by a thread. The Grumpasuarus's posture will be familiar to parents everywhere. (And although not stated, I believe that the cat may be responsible for the broken teddy bear.)

Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus sticks to the field guide theme. The inside pages are lightly lined, like a notebook, with faux-spiral visible in the middle. The opening illustration of the Grumpasaurus features call-outs pointing to various features, like "Its angry eyes don't blink" and "Not sure why, but it's got a tail!". Later in the book there is a yellow warning signal, when the Grumpasaurus is forced to do something it doesn't want to do (following storm clouds over a bathtub). 

Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus is cute and funny and true to the moods of a grumpy toddler. While kids will likely not recognize themselves in the Grumpasaurus, parents and older siblings will find much to chuckle about. I could also see this book inspiring kids to create their own field notebooks, making it a potentially good book for classroom use. This is one that we'll be keeping to read again at home. 

Publisher: Clarion Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids) 
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 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).

My Daughter is Lucky to be a Girl: Pirate Robes and Princess Books

An experience that I had the other day got me to thinking about at least one way in which girls are luckier than boys in our society. They can choose "girl stuff" or "boy stuff", including books, with essentially no negative repercussions. Not so for the boy choosing "girl stuff", in most contexts.

What started me thinking about this was a bathrobe, of all things. My daughter had a terrycloth robe that she would wear after her bath. I had noticed recently that it was becoming too small. When I was at Costco this week I happened on a bin of kids' terrycloth bathrobes. I initially reached for one with a pink pattern on it. But then I noticed underneath a white robe with red, blue, and black drawings of pirates. Since my daughter adores pirates I scooped it up and brought it home. It was only when I was cutting off the tags to wash the robe that I noticed that the tag said that it was meant for boys. My response was to cut off the tag and throw it away, and tell my daughter that I found her a robe that I knew she would like.

But the labeling of the robe as being for boys niggled at me a bit, and I posted about my experience on Facebook. My friends celebrated my purchasing of a pirate robe for my daughter, even if it was allegedly meant for boys, and shared other, similar experiences. Because why shouldn't a six-year-old girl want a bathrobe with pirates on it? And indeed, the only complaint that my daughter had about the robe was that it was terrycloth rather than fleece, because fleece would be softer. She promptly put it on anyway, over her clothes, despite it being an unseasonably hot day. 

And that's when I thought: she's lucky to be a girl. Because she can choose the pink bathrobe OR the pirate bathrobe. I can even shop at Princess Awesome, and buy her dresses with pink ninjas on them. She pretty much gets general approval either way. Yay for girls who like pirates. Yay for girls who like pink. It's all good.

But if one of her six-year-old male friends happened to want the pink robe, would his parents be comfortable purchasing it? And if they did, would they be wondering "Is my son gay?" "Is my son transgender?" "Will my son be picked on if his friends see him wearing this pink robe?" Regardless of your opinion on those questions, the point is that it's just more complex. For all practical purposes, that six-year-old boy, except in rare circumstances, finds himself with only half as many bathrobe choices as my daughter. 

Of course a narrower range of bathrobe choices is not a serious hardship. But then my thoughts turned to books. And it's the same thing, isn't it? My daughter reads books about Fly Guy and Spiderman and Plants vs. Zombies as well as books about Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious and princesses galore. A girl who wants to read about trucks or dinosaurs or trains is welcome and encouraged to do so. A boy who wants to read about princesses and tutus and fairies is, well, perhaps not so encouraged. The result is that the boy finds himself, effectively, with fewer book choices.  

This is not a new insight, of course. Shannon Hale has been writing eloquently about this issue for years, and launched the #StoriesForAll campaign to fight against gender-restricted reading. Ms. Yingling has been encouraging middle school boys to "read pink" for several years, too. There are lots of people thinking about and working on this issue.

But as a person who passionately loves children's books, thinking about this made me conclude that my daughter is lucky to be a girl. And I, as a book-pushing mother, am lucky to have a girl. My daughter can read about ninjas and pirates and superheroes if she wants. She can read about Critter Clubs and Mouse Scouts if she prefers. She can read all of it, any book that catches her fancy. 

For the record, I will happily defend any of her male friends who want to read about any of these topics, too. I will recommend books like the Princess in Black series and Babymouse and The Magical Animal Adoption Agency to any kid of the approximate right age who crosses my path. I believe (Jen Malone wrote recently on The Nerdy Book Club) that boys can benefit immensely from reading books that have girls as the central characters. If more boys read books about girls, they'll have more empathy for girls, perhaps even more respect for girls, and society overall will benefit. 

It's not really necessary to market bathrobes differently to six-year-old boys or girls. [And for the record, Costco just tossed them all in the same bin anyway.] In a perfect world there wouldn't be "boy books", which boys and girls feel free to read and "girl books", which mainly girls feel free to read. There would just be books - stories about ghosts and goblins and friendship and treehouses and whatever else any particular kid might be interested in on any particular day. There would just be #StoriesForAll. I think that's something to work towards. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: June 3: #eBooks, #SummerReading, #teaching + more

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. It's a bit of a light week this week because of the holiday, but I do have links for you about #DiverseBooks, #EdTech, #GrowingBookworms, #SummerReading, beginning readers, classroom libraries, funny books, mysteries, play, testing, ebooks, and teaching.

Book Lists + Awards

Review Round-Up from @mrskatiefitz : Books for Beginning Readers (Easy Readers + Chapter Books), May 2016 

23 Entertaining Books For Kids Who Like Diary of a @wimpykid  A @momandkiddo #BookList #kidlit

RA RA Read: Recommended Middle Grade #Mysteries (standalone + series) chosen by Jennifer Wharton  #kidlit

2016 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Announced (inc. video presentation)  #kidlit @HornBook

2016 #Diverse #SummerReading Lists Grades PreK-8 from @LEEandLOW


When is #Reading a Mirror, a Window or Neither?  @medinger reflects on #DiverseBooks #kidlit

We Need Diverse #eBooks Too, Y’know says @fuseeight lamenting the small selection of choices  #DiverseBooks 

#EdTech + eBooks

Ed tech purchasing decisions | @DTWillingham questions some  intuitions regarding #EdTech 

#Reading Digitally vs. on Paper | @Larryferlazzo shares responses  @DTWillingham  @KristinZiemke  @lester_laminack

Growing Bookworms

#SummerReading: Solid tips for encouraging children to enjoy reading more from @MaryAnnScheuer 

5 Reasons Kids Need Books in Their Hands...EVERYDAY! (to take home, to be responsible for, to enjoy)  #raisingreaders

Are We Expecting Too Much–and Too Little–of #Reading / #Literacy Teachers asks @ShawnaCoppola 

Lovely post from @katsok | My Heart is Full: #Reading and My Sons (+ appreciation for @PhilBildner ) 


#PoetryFriday -- Call for Roundup Hosts from @MaryLeeHahn  #kidlitosphere


Some of the ways #play + storytelling + imaginative recreation stimulate #learning + #literacy  @TrevorHCairney

Schools and Libraries

Lindgren Award winner @megrosoff condemns UK's exam-focused education policy as an 'assault on childhood' @guardian

Reflections on #Library Service Responsibilities to an apparent #SummerReading Scammer  by @mrskatiefitz

"it is not what we got done that matters, it is how we felt doing it" | Take the Time says @pernilleripp

Classroom Libraries Work: Tips from @donalynbooks @Scholastic for maintaining yours  #kidlit

Sweat Small Stuff To Find #Teaching Zen |Control over kids is illusion but they can choose to engage  @focus2achieve

© 2016 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

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @SevenImp + @theVogelman + @teachbrooklyn

JoyOFLearningLogoI have three articles for you today related to growing bookworms and encouraging joy of learning. First up, Julie Danielson makes a strong case for classroom read-alouds by teachers. Second, teacher Brett Vogelsinger shares tips for getting kids to be intrinsically motivated to read. And finally, a teacher from Brooklyn laments the wide gap between the experiences of Pre-K vs. Kindergarten kids at her school. 

On the many gifts that #teachers can bestow by #ReadingAloud in the Classroom  @SevenImp @KirkusReviews

Julie Danielson: "The teacher who read to my daughter and her classmates shared a part of herself with them. It was a gift to them. It’s an intimate thing, to share a story with someone. I find, when I read to students (and my own children), that the stories we share engender conversations about life. Sometimes the best discussions pop up – about right and wrong, what it means to be a human, how we should treat each other on this planet. Not all conversations are so deep, mind you. Maybe we just laugh a lot. Either way, we learn an awful lot about each other in the process...

I know—believe me; I know from experience—how much teachers have on their plates. But I also know that students who are read aloud to will never, ever forget the stories their teacher lovingly shared with them."

Me:  In this article for Kirkus Reviews, Julie Danielson (who also blogs at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and is a longtime Kidlitosphere friend of mine) shares seven reasons why teachers who make time every day to read aloud to kids deserve our thanks. Reason #3, shared above, particularly resonated with me, but they are all true and essential. I really believe, as Jules does, that if more teachers could find time in their pressure-driven schedules for read aloud, the world would be a better place. 

Gimmicks to get kids INTRINSICALLY motivated to read  by 9th grade teacher @theVogelman @nerdybookclub

Brett Vogelsinger: "So now, as a teacher in a grade 7-9 middle school, I am forever searching for ways to help kids tap into the intrinsic motivators that led me, and so many adults, back to reading for pleasure.  When I promote reading to my ninth-grade students, I examine my own reading life, think about what makes me open a book, plunge in, and just keep swimming.  Then I create a gimmick, a catchy little phrase that names a habit I want them to internalize. My goal is to marry the power of a gimmick to the power of intrinsic motivation, thereby helping the readers under my care to grow."

Me: My favorite of Vogelsinger's gimmicks is "The Week of Sneaky Reading", during which kids brag about / confess to ways that they have managed to sneak in a few extra minutes of reading time. But what I really like about this post, of course, is Vogelsinger's emphasis on intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards for reading. Extrinsic rewards are shallow and fleeting. But a kid who feels the intrinsic rewards of reading will be a reader for a lifetime. 

Why isn’t Kindergarten like Pre-k when the kids are so close in age + development asks @teachbrooklyn  #JoyOfLearning

MsRumphiusBrooklyn (an anonymous teacher): "From what I’ve seen, pre-k is a success- developmentally appropriate, nurturing classrooms with lots of exploration, play, growth and joy. Why should kindergarten be any different?...

Kindergarten is still very much part of early childhood. Four and five year olds cannot learn or function without movement, sensory stimulation, singing, joy, play, choice and time outdoors. We have a structure for pre-k that has produced at least a few fabulous, developmentally appropriate classrooms.

Kindergarten needs to get on board. In fact, maybe all grade levels should be more like pre-k. Choice, play and happiness for all."

Me: For my daughter, the gap between Pre-K and Kindergarten was not nearly as wide as the one described by this Brooklyn teacher. But I do like the idea of including more choice and play, and less focus on dry worksheets and testing, for all kids. Especially for Kindergarteners. Our school is going from half day to full day Kindergarten next year. I've become more on board with this change (though it won't directly affect our family) since talking with a couple of the teachers about how they look forward to using the additional time to offer more play-based learning. I do hope they succeed!

© 2016 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 post may contain affiliate links. 

Literacy Milestone: Posting on Facebook

LiteracyMilestoneAToday I have another questionable literacy milestone: making a picture specifically for the purpose of posting it on Facebook. My daughter has been aware for a little while that I sometimes stop what I'm doing to post about something that she says or does on Facebook. I use this as a kind of journal for myself, and copy the posts into a Word document periodically. My daughter understands that she is "private" on Facebook, in that we don't share her name or her photo, but that I do share quotes from time to time, or pictures of toys she has set up. 


The other day, after seeing someone who posted some pictures they had drawn at different ages, she said: "I'm going to make a picture for Facebook." She got out some paper, scissors, and markers, and created the above picture, which for some reason is called "The blaze of fire." The little cut strips at the bottom are logs. I believe this is part of some larger saga, which I may be able to share someday, but for now, this is what I have. 

She did help with cropping and typing the caption on the photo, so there was a hint of learning for the process. The bottom line is that, yes, my six year old is creating social media posts. I'm not proud of this fact, but there you have it. Please, no one tell her about Snapchat!

She's also, alas, started caring about how many likes and comments the things that I post about her get on Facebook. The other day I learned that she had hit up her friend's father to go comment (though she called it "compliment") on a particular Facebook post. I suspect that I shall have to become much more circumspect about my social media use in her presence. 

© 2016 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