Previous month:
December 2016
Next month:
February 2017

Posts from January 2017

How To Outsmart A Billion Robot Bees: Paul Tobin

Book: How to Outsmart A Billion Robot Bees
Author: Paul Tobin
Pages: 320
Age Range: 8-12

HowToOutsmartBeesHow To Outsmart A Billion Robot Bees is the second book in the Genius Factor series by Paul Tobin. It follows How to Capture An Invisible Cat, which I adored. In this book, as you might gather from the title, the enemies of genius inventor Nate send an army of robot bees after him. His friend/crush/partner in crime-fighting Delphine, together with his intelligent car, talking dog, and robotic pelican, all join the battle, while various other friends and parents remain oblivious to the entire situation. Except for the bees - everyone is aware of the bees. 

I continue to find narrator Delphine's voice highly entertaining, and Nate's quirky genius highly appealing.

Here are a couple of examples:

"There was an immediate panic, because as any soldier can tell you, guns are not very useful against bumblebees, not unless you are a very good shot. (Page 29, ARC)

"From my side, I've constantly puzzled why Nate does these things, but I've come to accept his oddities, because that's what friends do. After all, he never complains about my Cake vs. Pie meetings, or how I collect photographs of my meals whenever I eat macaroni and cheese at a restaurant (eighty-four of these photos, to date), and so we just ... accept each other the way we are." (Page 55, ARC)

"Seriously, the jets kicked in and they were powerful. The jet suit nabbed the car up into the air and then dropped it on the next car, making a noise that I'll just describe by saying that it sounded like one car dropping on top of another. Add in a few exclamations of surprise, and you've pretty much got it." (Page 59, ARC)

How to Outsmart a Billion Robot Bees is full of intriguing gadgets, dangerous situations, and engaging banter. The actual plot of this second book didn't grab me quite as much as that of the first book. However, I remain delighted by the humor and the characters, as well as the general focus on the things that can be accomplished by sheer brainpower. This is a series that I will happily recommend to any fans of fantasy, science, or middle grade/middle school male-female dynamics. Highly recommended for any reader, age eight and up, and a must purchase for libraries everywhere. 

Publisher:  Bloomsbury Kids USA (@KidsBloomsbury) 
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
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).

A Quick Thought on the Importance of Voice

GoldfishBoyI was fortunate to have a significant chunk of free reading time this weekend. I started out with a stack of recent children's books, and ended up finding three that caught my interest (one of which I'm still reading). I realized something through this process, something that I think has been gradually becoming more true for me over the years. I realized that whether or not a book hooks me comes primarily down to narrative voice. Plot and settling and characterization are all helpful and necessary, of course. But what hooks me (or doesn't), what keeps me reading (or not) is voice. When the narrator makes me smile, makes me flag multiple passages in the first chapter, I know that I'm in good hands. When I find myself skimming instead, I have learned to move along to the next book. Even if the topic is something that I might normally be interested in.

The voice can be humorous or profound, sarcastic or inspiring. It's not that I'm looking for one particular voice. But I'm looking for a voice that connects with me on some level. 

Here are the passages that I flagged first in the three books that made the cut for me this weekend (and no, I'm not going to share the list of books that didn't). First: 

"Now here she was, six weeks into the school year at Dunwiddle. It was the first day of serious rain and her feet were soaked. But what was a girl to do? Wet feet were wet feet. Nothing to be gained by moping." (Page 5 of Upside-Down Magic #3: Showing Off by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins)

Here I think what I liked was the matter-of-factness of "Nothing to be gained by moping." Second:

"I lived on a quiet, dead-end street in a town full of people who said how great it was that they didn't live in that big, smelly city of London--and who then spent most of their mornings desperately trying to get there." (Page 1 of The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson)

This one struck me as insightful. I had a feeling I would like the narrator's sense of humor. Third:

"Silence is golden and, in this case, it's useful, too. It allows you a chance to look at Billy and see what kind of a boy he is. The first thing you'll notice is that he's tall, and kind of pale-looking -- even a bit sickly, like he's been ill or something. But that's only to be expected of someone who was in a serious car accident." (Page 2 of The Most Frightening Story Ever Told by Philip Kerr) 

I don't always like the device of third-party narrator talking directly to the reader, but in this instance, it worked for me. A reference later on the same page to books as "a kind of taxicab for the mind" sealed the deal. 

It used to be that I would read a book because I knew that I liked the author, or because someone had recommended it to me, or because I had seen a good review. And those things will still help to get a book onto my candidate stack in the first place. But it takes more than that now for me to actually finish a book. It takes something in that voice that grabs me and makes me want to keep reading. Because I get up very every day, and books that don't hook me are books that do not keep me awake. When I'm falling asleep after a few pages, struggling to continue a book, I don't end up reading anything. Which is a tragedy. So these days, I listen to what the voice inside my head is telling me about the voice of each book, and I respond accordingly. 

Side Note 1: I wonder if my current attachment to voice has to do with the fact that these days I listen to more books on audio than I read in print (though the stack this weekend was an actual print stack). There the quality of the narrator's voice also has an impact, though that's not what I'm talking about here. 

Side Note 2: Of course plot also has an impact on a book's ability to keep me awake. But I have to get far enough into the book for the plot to engage me. Usually, the voice comes first. 

Have any of you noticed a growing dependence on voice to get you interested in books as you get older? Or is this just me? Anyway, I thought that my book-loving friends might find the question of interest. 

© 2017 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: January 27: #ALAYMA, #STEM, and Invention

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #ALAYMA, #BookLists, #GrowthMindset, #PictureBooks, #STEM, bibliotherapy, book awards, giftedness, girls and math, homeschool, inventing, multicultural books, parenting, reading, and schools.


GirlWhoDrankTheMoonWinners of the 2017 ALA Youth Media Awards via @sljournal   #kidlit #YA #nonfiction #PictureBooks 

The #ALAYMA Children’s Book Awards Highlight Race — and Politics says @nytimes  #kidlit #YA

The Best Tweets from the 2017 Youth Media Awards according to @100scopenotes  #ALAYMA #kidlit #YA

Reflections on the 2017 #ALAYMA + where they appear agenda +/or politically driven from @mrskatiefitz 

Book Lists

Knitting + #PictureBooks = Love… six books to keep you warm | #BookList from A Field Trip Life 

CalpurniaLovely #BookList for Readers who Like Anne of Green Gables, moving beyond orphan + historical tropes @momandkiddo

RA RA READ: #kidlit featuring Big Bad Bullies, a #BookList w/ elem through #YA from Jennifer Wharton 

Bibliotherapy for Teens: 25 Title About Tough Topics @literacious  #BookList #YA @jayasherguy @NealShusterman +more

The 2017 Rainbow Book List for books w/ LBTQIA+ content is available. @tashrow has the top 10 + link  #DiverseBooks

Diversity + Events

SaveMeASeatWhy Are #MulticulturalBooks So Important? Plus Books to Get You Started Reading from @mamasmiles  #DiverseBooks 

Gene Yang's #ReadingWithoutWalls to Debut as annual program in April  @geneluenyang @PublishersWkly #DiverseBooks

Multicultural Children's Book Day has arrived! #ReadYourWorld - @RandomlyReading has the scoop + link-up 

Growing Bookworms

Three compelling reasons to read to your kids from @SevenImp @HornBook | Real truths presented w/ click-worthy drama 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Like @medinger I am perfectly happy to see "Kinderguides" hit a legal road block  #kidlit

I do agree with  @TamsynTweetie  @AwfullyBigBlog on the Joy of #Audiobooks by@yTamsynTweetie 

A Reading Life…Interrupted + changed by cancer, but also expanded by the resilient@ProfessorNana @nerdybookclub

Parenting / Nurturing Learning / Growth Mindset

WinAtLosingWin at Losing: How to Help Kids See Success in Their Failures | @samweinman @ReadBrightly  #GrowthMindset

Who Needs Creativity? @NotJustCute on why #Creativity is important + why it may be declining in US students

Paris, Shanghai, Rome … teacher takes her children out of school for a better #education @sweale  @guardian

Schools and Libraries

Are Kids Missing Out By Not Skipping A Grade? | @LindaFlanagan2 @MindShiftKQED  #schools #giftedness


RosieRevere9 Ways to Inspire Student Inventors | @edutopia  @coolcatteacher via @drdouggreen #STEM #teaching

Women In #STEM Speak Out To Girls Everywhere | Nurturing a love of #math + #learning in girls from @MIND_Research

© 2017 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

Bob, Not Bob!: Liz Garton Scanlon, Audrey Vernick & Matthew Cordell

Book: Bob, Not Bob!
Author: Liz Garton Scanlon & Audrey Vernick
Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

BobNotBobThe title of Bob, Not Bob! only begins to make sense if you notice the text above the title: "To be read as though you have the worst cold ever." And what word sounds an awful like "Bob" when you have a really stuffed up nose? Why, "mom", of course. Little Louie has a terrible cold. And although generally getting to be more independent, when he is sick, all he wants is his mom. All the time. But when he calls for her in his stuffed-up voice, what comes out instead of "Mom" is "Bob". This gets a bit confusing, because his dog is named "Bob". Silliness prevails, all set against the strong force of maternal love and a sick child's need for comfort. 

Bob, Not Bob!, written by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, is a perfect picture book for the winter cold season, with just the right mix of humor and universal suffering. Like this (illustrated with a series of separate vignettes):

"Today, Little Louie's nose was clogged.

His ears crackled

and his brain felt full. 
(He didn't know of what.)

But mostly, his nose.
It was disgusting.

Little Louie didn't want to color.

Or watch TV.

He didn't even want to shoot baskets with wadded-up tissues. 
All he wanted (besides maybe some hot chocolate) was his mother.

BOB! called Little Louie with his weird,
all-wrong, stuffed-up voice."

Definitely fun text to read-aloud, especially if one is willing, as directed, to read Louie's lines in a properly stuffed up voice. 

While the text suggests Louie's mother's endless patience, as does the cover image above, Matthew Cordell does occasionally slip in hints that Mom is suffering, too. My favorite page is one in which Louie is ranting loudly about his misery, clinging to his mom's legs, while she holds a laundry basket and puts her free hand over her face. 

Speaking of the illustrations, bonus points for Louie and his family being brown-skinned, in a book that it not "about" diversity, but instead about something completely universal: the common cold. The text and illustrations together convey Louie's utter misery, as well as the melodrama that can accompany any sick child. 

Bob, Not Bob! is a book that belongs in libraries everywhere, to be taken home during or after a bout with sickness. Bob, Not Bob! offers a humorous take on a winter cold, but also honors the love and patience of mothers. The fact that the mom ends up sick at the end of the book seems inevitable and appropriate. Recommended for stuffy-nosed listeners of all ages. 

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion)
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).

A Post About Reading to Kids that Especially Brightened My Day

Today my long-time blogging friend Julie Danielson had a post published on the Horn Book Family Reading Blog (a blog well worth following). The title and sub-titles of the post are an entertaining experiment in the power of "clickbait" (“Her Kid Held Up a Book. You’ll Never Guess What This Mother Did Next”), but the post itself discusses three excellent reasons to read to your children:

  1. Because "there are consistently well-crafted, compelling books being published, and they are a joy to read on many levels."
  2. Because reading aloud to your kids brings you closer, and opens up opportunities for conversation (often much better conversations than "that whole Tell-Me-About-Your-Day thing").
  3. Because "Research shows time and time again that the more a child is read to at home or at school, the better his or her test scores are." [Jules notes, as I feel, that this is a wonderful side effect, more than a reason to read aloud to your kids.] 

I certainly agree with Jules about these reasons, and consider them all important. One of the greatest benefits to me from my blog, one that I didn't anticipate when I started it, is that I am exposed to so many wonderful books that I can share with my daughter (born 4+ years after I launched the blog). I would also add, to Jules' suggestions for finding great titles (including a wonderful linked list of picture book recommendations), that parents check out the Cybils Awards shortlists, a great source of recommendations for kid-friendly, well-written titles. 

WestMeadowsSnackSnatcherI am also certainly finding that reading books together brings my daughter and me (and my daughter and my husband) closer together. Yesterday we spent the drive home from karate discussing just what it was that happened at the climax of the first Harry Potter book, and why Quirrel might have wished to help Voldemort return. The West Meadows Detectives series (which she would like to see more of) has inspired discussion about kids who have learning differences, and how they cope in schools. Other books have led to discussions about being loyal to friends, being independent, etc. My husband has read my daughter a couple of his favorite books from childhood, and I know she loves thinking about young Daddy reading the same books. And so on, examples of this books-bring-closeness for me are countless. 

As to the third reason, I can't really speak for my daughter yet (she luckily has not really had test scores). But I've long believed that it was my love of reading that helped me (though test scores) get into my dream college. 

As you can see, this post on the Horn Book blog would have been right up my alley, regardless. But what particularly made it brighten my day was that Jules was kind enough to recommend my blog to parents looking for book ideas and literacy information. So if you are here from the Horn Book Family Reading blog, welcome! And if not, I do recommend that you hop on over and read “Her Kid Held Up a Book. You’ll Never Guess What This Mother Did Next” by Julie Danielson. You won't be disappointed. 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

A Greyhound, a Groundhog: Emily Jenkins & Chris Applehans

Book: A Greyhound, a Groundhog
Author: Emily Jenkins
Illustrator: Chris Applehans
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6

GreyhoundGroundhogA Greyhound, a Groundhog isn't so much a story as an extended bit of wordplay centering around a greyhound and a groundhog. Emily Jenkins' spare text reads almost like a tongue-twister, as we follow grey dog and brown hound around through the pages of the book. There's a minimalist narrative about the greyhound and groundhog becoming friends, playing together and celebrating nature. Like this (over three page spreads):

"A greyhound, a groundhog,
a found little 

Around, round hound.
Around, groundhog!

Around, brown hog.
Around, grey dog."

You almost have to stop and check yourself, to make sure you are reading it right. The similar and repeating words, and rhyming words, make A Greyhound, a Groundhog a poem in picture book form. I think it would work best as a read-aloud for preschoolers, with a soothing rhythm that would comfort before naptime. 

Chris Applehans' watercolor and pencil illustrations use a restrained color palette with lots of purple-tinged gray and brown, and plenty of white space. The spare illustrations reinforce the minimalist text, while also capturing Jenkins' wordplay around the shape of the animals. For instance, the "roundhog" mentioned above is shown rather like a ball, uncertain in the face of the cheerful and very different-shaped greyhound. Later in the book, as the animals' play becomes more active, both text and animals leap around the page, with slightly blurred edges representing speed. Ultimately, Applehans is able to capture the joy the greyhound and groundhog take from their friendship. 

A Greyhound, a Groundhog is a certainly a quieter picture book. It is also a lovely celebration of friendship.

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).A 

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @thebrodybeat + @PeterFonagy + @Bookopolis | Raising Readers by Reading Together

JoyOFLearningLogoLast week I was fortunate enough to come across three different articles, all aimed at parents and focused on the benefits of reading with kids (or at least encouraging kids in their own reading). In the first piece, Sharon Brody shares a nostalgic view of reading aloud to her sons, long after they could read on their own. In the second, Dr. Peter Fonagy suggests reading together as a concrete way that parents can bond with their children. And in the third, Kari Ness Riedel encourages parents to stay engaged with their kids' reading, even as said kids move into elementary school. She does mention continuing to read aloud to kids at this time, but also offers tips for talking with kids about their own reading. All three of these articles are well worth your time. 

SeriesOfUnfortunateThis piece I LOVE! "Keep reading (aloud) to the kids until you cry yourself silly, people"  @cogwbur @thebrodybeat

Sharon Brody: "I ask only this: consider, at least, that you have options. The magic of being read to does not disappear just because it’s no longer a practical necessity. We took the read-aloud game into quadruple overtime...

The overarching perks? Beyond the pure fun, family reads helped make my sons the readers and thinkers and listeners and dreamers they are, and helped forge unbreakable bonds. The older the kids became, and the further they traveled from the land of pretend, the more they seemed to appreciate the oasis of the read-aloud."

Me: An old friend who knows of my interest in this matter sent me the link to Sharon Brody's piece for WBUR. Brody waxes nostalgic for the years she spent reading aloud to her her two sons, long after they could read on their own, and of their particular enjoyment of the Series of Unfortunate Events books. The benefits that she talks about, like having a shared family experience and vocabulary, are things that I hope for with my family. And her tears over the final book that she read aloud to her boys (because they were getting older and busy) made me determined to appreciate every moment that my daughter still wants to snuggle up against me to listen. 

TigerWhoCameToTeaHow to bond w/ your child through #reading + why reading together is worth making time for  @PeterFonagy @Telegraph

Peter Fonagy: "There are many ways in which parents can interact in this way, but there are certain activities that can support it. There is good evidence that ‘book sharing’ is one effective way of building this kind of behaviour in parents who struggle with it – perhaps for reasons of temperament or the way they were themselves brought up.

For anyone in the vastly busy day-to-day, having some time to read together perhaps at the end of the day can create a space for the kind of meeting of minds between parent and child which is developmentally so helpful to children...

Reading with your child can feel like a hard ask at the end of a day – particularly when it’s a book that you’ve read to them a hundred times, and which you never particularly liked in the first place – but it is an activity really worth making time for, especially if you can steer them towards a book that you can both love (The Tiger who Came to Tea was my favourite). 

Remember, with each minute you can help them maintain their interest in your story telling, you have improved their ability to focus on the things in their lives which are important."

Me: Professor Fonagy is a British psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist who has published a variety of scholarly work. This Telegraph piece, however, is designed to give parents a concrete way to interact with their children. Dr. Fonagy cites academic research, as one would expect, but also speaks powerfully of the benefits of finding joy in reading. There is no question in my mind that reading together has helped me to bond with my daughter, both when she was an infant and now that she is in grade school. 

BookopolisLogoHow to Stay Engaged w/ Your Reader as They Grow even if you can't read everything w/ them @Bookopolis @ReadBrightly 

Kari Ness Riedel (who runs a reading community for kids): "What can we actually do as parents of school-age children to engage them as readers beyond signing off on their nightly reading log? It’s wonderful if you have the time and passion to participate in a parent/child book club. Or if you can read all the same books as your kid and compare ideas. But this isn’t realistic for many parents.

A simple and effective thing you can do is ask your kid about what they are reading... From my experience, what you ask, when you ask, and how you ask matters." (Details follow) 

 Me: I am still reading with my six year old, of course, and I intend to keep reading with her for as long as I can. But I've also been happy to see her starting to read books on her own. I so want for her that experience of being lost in her own book. Kari offers what I think is good advice in how I can share a bit more in the books that she is reading by herself. For parents who aren't already reading lots of children's books themselves, these tips will be particularly valuable. 

© 2017 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. 

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 20: #STEM Books, #28DaysLater + Reading Aloud

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #GrowingBookworms, #GrowthMindset, #ReadingAloud, #STEM, Black History Month, Book Giving Day, boys and learning, Lego, libraries, Multicultural Children's Book Day, Picture Books, play, reading, schools, SLJ Battle of the Books, and teaching.

Book Lists

AdaTwistThe 40 Best Multicultural #PictureBooks of 2016 according to @coloursofus  via @tashrow #DiverseBooks #BookList

CCBC Choices 2017: The Final List of 246 favorite books for kids from @CCBCwisc  #kidlit #BookList

The first educator-vetted list of Best #STEM Books for kids for 2017, published @CBCBook 

12 Can't-Put-Down 12 Books for 12 Year Olds, a @momandkiddo #BookList  @KateMilford @AdamGidwitz + more

Books to Get Your Students Outside and Immersed in Nature, #BookList by @thereadingzone @nerdybookclub


“Yes. . .I Have Those Kind of Books.” by @PaulWHankins @nerdybookclub   #LGBTQPIA #BookList #DiverseBooks

Events + Programs

28dayslogoWe Are Here: Announcing Honorees for the 2017 @brownbookshelf #28DaysLater #BlackHistoryMonth #kidlit celebration

#ReadYourWorld: Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 Events and Free Stuff | @RobertaGibson rounds up the details

The 2017 Contenders for @sljournal Battle of the Kids Books @SLJsBoB have been announced  via @medinger #kidlit

Dallas Public #Library hopes 'bookbike' is just the first of fleet to soft-pedal #literacy @Calebjdowns via @tashrow

Growing Bookworms

Followup from @TonySinanis 's son on things he likes about #reading + things #teachers do that help (+ that don't) 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

5 Great Places to Donate Your Old Books |Laura Lambert @ReadBrightly  #reading

Parenting + Play

WinnieMeetsQueenNew Pooh author Jane Riordan says boredom is good for kids + parents overorganize | @MailOnline via @iamfree2think

Powerful words to say instead of “good job!” – @Teach_Preschool responds to @raepica1 @BAMRadioNetwork 

Want to Raise Successful Boys? Science Says Do This (But Their Schools Probably Won't) @BillMurphyJr  via @sxwiley

World's first professor of #play (funded by @LEGO_Group) apply now for the most coveted job in #education @guardian

Schools and Libraries

RedCrayon#PictureBook Believing: Sharing Picture Books with Intermediate Students by @CarrieGelson @nerdybookclub

Our Adopt-A-Shelf Program: The Deets | @ShawnaCoppola  #libraries #RaisingReaders

5 Tenets of Student Choice to strive for in the classroom from @pernilleripp  #teaching

#GrowthMindset: practical tips you may not have tried yet | @Inner_Drive @GuardianTeach  @drdouggreen #teaching

What Will it Take for Schools to Get Serious About “Healthy #Homework ” Levels?  @EmergingEdTech via @drdouggreen 


How and Why to Teach Children to Think Like #Scientists (w/ Free Printable science journal) from @mamasmiles  #STEM

© 2017 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

Hello, Mr. Dodo!: Nicholas John Frith

Book: Hello, Mr. Dodo!
Author: Nicholas John Frith
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

HelloMrDodoHello, Mr. Dodo! is a very cute picture book about a little girl named Martha who loves birds. One day, while looking for birds in the woods behind her house, Martha encounters a dodo. Of course dodos are supposed to be extinct, but this doesn't stop Martha from befriending the bird. She learns that he really can't fly, and that he loves donuts. She keeps the dodo a secret to protect him, but one day she slips up, and the dodo's life is threatened. Only some quick thinking by Martha saves the day. 

Nicholas John Frith offers a read-aloud-friendly text, with occasional italics for emphasis, and a clear trust in children to a) cope with mildly disturbing things and b) take responsibility on their own (as when Martha does her own research into the history of the dodo. Here's a snippet:

"It was a dodo -- and it was supposed to be extinct!

Once there had been thousands of them,
then they had all disappeared. People had
hunted them and eaten them for dinner.

No one had seen a dodo for hundreds of years.

"Poor things," thought Martha.
"Well, they're not going to eat my dodo."
And she decided to keep him a secret.

This is accompanied by an illustration of Martha in her room, surrounded by books, set against sample pages (in a muted gray, so that they don't take over) of texts describing dodos and showing their hunter-induced fate. Frith's illustrations (except for the sample pages) are colorful and vaguely cartoonish (e.g. Martha with oval, pure black eyes), and filled with details that highlight Martha's love of birds. Her bedroom slippers are birds, her binoculars are always around, her kite has large feathers attached to the tail, etc. My six-year-old particularly enjoyed a picture of Martha imagining the dodo covered with snow and looking like a misshapen snowman during the winter. 

Here's the true endorsement for Hello, Mr. Dodo! After I read it to my six-year-old, she immediately asked me to read it again. She used to do this as a small child, but now rarely wants an immediate re-read. Martha and Mr. Dodo found their way immediately into her heart. And into mine. Hello, Mr. Dodo! is going to be one of my favorite picture books of 2017, I believe. Highly recommended! This would make a great preschool or K-1 read-aloud.

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books  (@Scholastic
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 18: Middle Grade Reviews and Listening to Harry Potter

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 growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book and middle grade), one post with my daughter's latest literacy milestone (being read Harry Potter), and two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter.  I also have a post with excerpts from and responses to two #JoyOfLearning related articles that I read recently.

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

  • Jonathan Stroud: The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood and Co., Book 4). Disney-Hyperion. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed January 15, 2017, on MP3. I agree with Charlotte that this book is better than books 2 or 3, and well worth a read. 
  • Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows: My Lady Jane. HarperTeen. YA Fantasy. Completed January 10,2017, on MP3. I enjoyed this reimagining of the story of Lady Jane Grey (complete with people who turn into animals) much more than I had expected. It is very fun and well-suited to the audio format. 
  • Thomas Perry: The Old Man. Mysterious Press. Adult Thriller. Completed January 8, 2017. 
  • Megan Abbott: You Will Know Me. Little, Brown and Company. Adult Thriller. Completed January 9, 2017. Suspenseful if implausible. I read this one quite quickly because it kept my attention, which is really all the endorsement you should need. 

I'm currently listening to The Final Day, the conclusion to the John Matherson trilogy by William R. Forstchen (an apocalyptic series about what happens to America in the wake of a devastating EMP). I'm dipping in and out of several nonfiction books on my Kindle, and haven't selected a next fiction read yet.

HarryPotterBook2IllustratedMy daughter's reading list for 2017 can be found here. It's not terribly lengthy so far, but we did just finish reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling. You can read about our experience below. My favorite moment from the final chapter was when the house cup was awarded. My daughter jumped up and down shouting: "We won!!!" It pleased me very much to see her so invested in the story that she felt like part of the "we". We have already started to read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. She also read the first Dory Fantasmagory book by Abby Hanlon on her own, and is currently reading the second. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. 

© 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

The Impossible Clue: Sarah Rubin

Book: The Impossible Clue
Author: Sarah Rubin
Pages: 304
Age Range: 8-12

ImpossibleClueSarah Rubin's The Impossible Clue features a 12-year-old girl, Alice Jones, who is a math geek and mystery-solver. To date, Alice's mysteries have been small-time. But when a famous local scientist, the business partner of one of Alice's classmates, disappears, Alice finds herself dragged into investigating a grown-up crime. There are thugs in suits, limo rides and high-end research labs. The professor has disappeared from a locked room, and evidence points toward the possible development of an invisibility suit. Alice, together with one geeky classmate and another who is a charming troublemaker, tracks down clues.

The Impossible Clue isn't the most realistic story out there, but it is a lot of fun. Alice lives with her scoop-hungry reporter father, while her drama-obsessed twin sister normally lives with their mother. Della is spending the summer with Alice and their dad, however, adding some domestic conflict to the story. Alice's banter with cute guy Kevin lends a hint of what I would classify as pre-romance. I can imagine further mysteries for Alice and Kevin to solve, and their relationship growing somewhat. 

But really, I just love reading a book about a girl who loves math. Alice had planned to spend her summer vacation proving Goldbach's Conjecture. She notes:

"Mysteries are a lot like math, word problems especially. Some are simple, some are complicated, but it's the same process. There's something you want to know, and a lot of information swimming around. The hard part is coming up with the right equation, figuring out which bits of information are important and which bits are just there to confuse you. Then it's just a matter of solving for x." (Page 4) 

And here's a passage that I think illustrates Alice's personality (and Della's) quite effectively. Alice and Della are discussing what to do on a possible trip to Italy with their mom. Della wants to shop, while Alice wants to see the Archimedes museum:

"It was the story of my life. Everyone understood that Della loved being onstage and that she hated math. Because that was normal. But when I said I loved math and hated performing, people looked at me like I had a screw loose. And because the things I liked weren't normal, I didn't have any right to ask other people to do them with me." (Page 141-142)

Now, I would like to think this perspective is a bit of a stereotype in this day of STEM and GirlsWhoCode, but the bottom line is that it's nice to read about a girl who loves math, and also has relatively normal sibling rivalries and relationships with boys. AND she gets to solve a mystery involving a disappearing scientist and a possible invisibility suit. It doesn't get much cooler than that! I recommend The Impossible Clue for middle grade readers, especially those who love math and/or mystery. I hope that Alice returns for further adventures. 

Publisher: Chicken House (@Scholastic
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 13: #Diverse #BookLists, #BookGivingDay, and #Education

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this relatively light week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #STEM, Accelerated Reader, book-rich environments, educational disabilities, growing bookworms, International Book Giving Day, libraries, Jennifer L. Holm, Scott O'Dell Award, Marianne Dubuc, math, reading assessment, schools, Sydney Taylor Book Awards, teaching, and higher education. 


InquisitorsTaleThe 2017 Sydney Taylor Book Awards have been announced — @HornBook @JewishLibraries  #kidlit

So happy for @jenniholm for winning the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction | FULL OF BEANS  @randomhousekids 

Book Lists

Mom @fuseeight evaluates + scores the 2017 construction-themed #PictureBooks to date  #BookList

Less common chapter books for 7-year-olds to devour, a @momandkiddo #BookList  @sarapennypacker @juanamedina + more

MuseumOfMysteriesThe #Diversity List: Picture, Easy, and Early Chapter Books of 2016 — @fuseeight   #BookList #DiverseBooks 

Events + Programs

Marianne Dubuc Designs Official Poster for International Book Giving Day 2017, reports @TarieS  @bookgivingday

Libraries Join National Initiative To Transform Public Housing into Book-Rich Environments @sljournal  @nationalbook

Growing Bookworms

"Assessment that results in a student not wanting to read more...causes more problems than benefits" @ReadByExample 

Introducing Daliyah, the 4-year-old girl who has read > 1,000 books, visited the @LibnOfCongress  @washingtonpost

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

HouseWithAClockTop 10 Homes in Middle-Grade Fiction according to @KeirGraff @nerdybookclub  #kidlit 

A genius idea from @momsradius | #Reading Parties where you read (separately) in bed with your kids 

Rumors of the Demise of #Books Greatly Exaggerated @GallupNews  | 35% read 11 or more books in past year

Some ideas for #Audiobook bedtime stories…for grownups from @lyraelle  @HornBook  

Schools and Libraries

Sad! #Librarians Go Rogue In Devious Attempt To Save Books From Getting Tossed  @HuffingtonPost via @100scopenotes

MathematicalMindsetsAre We Killing Students' Love of #Math? asks @alicekeeler | How can we get kids more engaged?  @joboaler #STEM

Tips for Parents & Teachers as Children Start School from @TrevorHCairney  | Look like good advice here

Supreme Court to decide: What level of #education do public schools legally owe to students w/ #disabilities?

Interesting discussion on Leftward Tilt of #Education Scholarship @educationweek  | I esp. liked @CSattinBajaj piece

© 2017 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