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Posts from September 2017

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: September 29: #Cybils, #KidLitCon and #BannedBooksWeek

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. I had a rather challenging week, and my Twitter time was very limited. I did live-tweet the Cybils judge announcements, but have not shared those here. You can find the panel announcements as well as the category descriptions on the Cybils blog. Cybil nominations open Sunday, October 1st. Nominate your favorite (well-written and kid-friendly) children's and young adult titles by category.

I also shared a few KidLitCon-related reminders this week. Here's the gist:

Other topics this week include: #BannedBooksWeek, #BookList, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #KidLitCon, #STEM, eBooks, emotional labor, gender equity, growing bookworms, parenting, reading community, and schools. 

Book Lists

TheWildRobot20 Kid-Approved Books for Advanced 2nd + 3rd Grade Readers |  

30 Days of for Preschoolers, a

The Freedom to Read: Challenged & Banned Books

Events + Programs

How Bill Cosby Ruined a Perfectly Good | When a book is banned bc of the author  

Growing Bookworms

BookWhispererThe Important Decision I Made to Create a Community Classroom by 

"In our eagerness to help kids become better readers, we have made the kids drown in" tasks, warns


This is useful advice for anyone: Three Steps to Say “No” Gracefully | 

This piece will resonate with moms I know: How Emotional Labor Drags Women Down + Harms Gender Equity

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Are Better for Babies? | Study looks at engagement in kids under 2 |  

Schools and Libraries

MindsetThis is really interesting: A Simple Tool for Fostering in a 2nd grade classroom by

This! Don't Forget the Joy: A Call to Action for Our Students from  


Colleges Move to Close Gender Gap in -  

© 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

The Silver Mask (Magisterium, #4): Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Book: The Silver Mask (Magisterium #4)
Author: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Pages: 272
Age Range: 8-12

SilverMaskThe Silver Mask is the fourth book (of a planned five) in the Magisterium series, co-written by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Stop here if you have not read the previous books, and fear spoilers. 

The Silver Mask begins with Callum in prison, the mage community having learned at the end of the previous book that he has the soul of Enemy of Death Constantine Madden. Though Call doesn't have any of Constantine's memories, and doesn't believe that he would do the things that the evil overlord did, the magical leadership isn't so sure. They keep Call locked in a cell, for everyone's protection. When he is broken out of jail, however, Call finds himself in even bigger trouble, as Constantine's mother and his former second in command, Master Joseph, have plans for him. 

I found the beginning of The Silver Mask to be a bit slow, but by the end I was reading quickly and wished that the next book was already available. I continue to like Call very much. His self-deprecating sense of humor and his determination to do the right thing (even when he is making questionable choices) are appealing. His crush on his friend Tamara is particularly disarming. In a small spoiler, I'm going to share that Tamara and Call kiss in this book. I love the subsequent quotation:

"Jealousy flared up again, even though he'd just been kissing her. After all, Jasper was Tamara's old friend and had had somehow convinced the last girl who liked Call to like him better.

The thought was like a splash of cold water. Abruptly he realized several things: (1) Kissing created a haze of stupidity that lasted for at least ten minutes; (2) now that it had worn off, he had no idea what kissing Tamara meant; and (3) he had no idea what he was supposed to do now." (Page 107)

Call gives himself mental points for anything that he does that seems Evil Overlord-ish, steering determinedly away from such activities. Here's another quote that I liked:

"Call had a feeling Alex had an Evil Overlord list, too, but his scoring went the other way. He probably gave himself a point every time he dressed all in black or menaced small children. Maybe a gold star if he did both at once." (Page 81)

That made me laugh. Anyway, I don't want to say too much about the plot, to avoid spoilers about this book, but the ending is definitely strong (and not nearly as sad as the ending of the previous book). What I really think is that those who have not read any of the books might benefit from waiting until book five comes out, and binge reading the entire series. But if you are, as I am, hooked on the story of Call and the Magisterium, I think you'll find The Silver Mask a satisfying addition to the series. Recommended!

Publisher: Scholastic  (@Scholastic
Publication Date: October 10, 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).

Tea with Oliver: Mika Song

Book: Tea with Oliver
Author: Mika Song
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

TeaWithOliverTea with Oliver by Mika Song is a satisfying story about friendship (and tea), aimed at preschoolers. Oliver, a cat, "talks to himself a lot." He's a bit lonely, and wishes that someone would have tea with him. Philbert, a mouse, lives beneath Oliver's couch. Philbert would LOVE to have tea with Oliver, but is too "too shy to come out from under the couch." Philbert attempts to get Oliver's attention via a series of notes, but lightly comic misunderstandings intervene (as when Oliver mistakes one of the notes for a handkerchief and uses it to blow his nose). Oliver's cousin turns up and hosts a party in Oliver's house, but the rowdy crowd is too busy dancing for tea, and breaks the teacups. Of course things turn out ok in the end.

Tea with Oliver is a celebration of one-on-one friendship and of quiet pastimes in general. Neither Oliver nor Philbert enjoys the big party (what mouse would enjoy a room full of rowdy cats?). But they are both quite happy at the end of the book to be drinking a cup of tea together. 

I was a bit concerned on reading this with my daughter that the book's focus on the joys of a cup of tea might not resonate with a seven-year-old, tea-drinking being a fairly adult pastime. But of course I forgot the wide appeal of the tea party. Imagine, if you will, the joy of having a tea party with a friendly little mouse in a pink shirt. Tea with Oliver reminded me a bit of A Visitor for Bear (by Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton), which also ends with a mouse and another animal having a quiet cup of tea together, but aimed at a slightly younger audience. 

Song's minimalist illustrations are direct and readily accessible for preschoolers. The text consists mainly of dialog, coupled with a minimum of straightforward sentences like: "So Philbert decides to march right up and hand Oliver the letter." This makes Tea with Oliver a quick, read, perfect for bedtime or breakfast. Tea with Oliver is a warm, friendly tale to which my daughter and I both gave two thumbs up. Recommended, and a great fit for preschool storytime. 

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: August 8, 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).

Literacy Milestone: Reading To Help Fall Asleep

LiteracyMilestoneAI must admit that I do not usually read to my daughter before bed. I keep a very early schedule, and reading (a book that I've likely already read) in her comfortable bed simply doesn't work for me. I can't get through more than a few pages before I am asleep. So, I read to her over breakfast. My husband does read with her at night. Sometimes her reads to her, and sometimes she reads to him. Lately, for instance, she has been reading Real Friends aloud to him, one chapter a night. 

RealFriendsThe other night, after they finished their chapter, she asked if she could read some more on her own (a different book). She said that reading to him charges her up, and that she likes to read silently to herself to help get sleepy.

This made me happy when I heard it, because it is certainly true for me. The busier the day, the more I need to read for a few minutes before I fall asleep. It helps me to calm my mind down. This is one of the many contexts in which I consider reading a gift. The fact that my daughter has access to the same gift pleases me tremendously. 

I'm sure that many of you can relate. All of these are steps along the path to becoming a Reader. 

© 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: September 22: Books for Fall, Pirates + Learning from Preschoolers

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookList, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #GraphicNovels, #KidLitCon, #nonfiction, #parenting, #play, #ReadYourWorld, bookstores, grades, preschool, reading, schools, and writing. 

Book Lists

Wonderfall Books for Preschoolers, a from |

These Books are a Treat: Books, a

Something I'm always on the lookout for these days: 3 w/ Girl Power – mini-reviews from 

Newbery / Caldecott 2018: Fall Prediction Edition — | ,

Diversity + Race

A Letter from Readers to Latinx Writers About Race, Gender, and Other Issues |  

How to Talk to Kids About Race: Books That Can Help | via

Events + Programs

PiratesMagnifiedPirates Magnified | reviews a mashup of informational text + seek + find for

Why Should Students Write? Because encourages creativity + exploration. Consider the contest 

The UK's is inspiring families to find this week (and always) |

Growing Bookworms

Great post for + : 's students share where is trash (No choice!) vs. magic


KidlitconLogo2017-SquareWithHeaderNew session on , Multicultural Children's Book Day, added to program. Thanks  

The latest Fusenews has various interesting tidbits, starting with a plug for

Thank You for Your Patience, aspiring panelists | Panels will be announced Monday 9/25 starting at 9 am PDT

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

ThickAsThievesGrowing w/ Middle Grade - or Out of It? When readers outgrow series in process by via  

A review of the new in San Jose from | Great for buying discount bestsellers

Hey, Educators! Wants to Embarrass You! (Book Trailer Premiere for IT’S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK)

No Grown-Ups in Sight: The Freedom of (Realistic) Middle Grade Adventures | Catherine Newman

Guest Post | A Look at Expository | Survey: 75% liked expository

Parenting + Play

This seems like good advice: How Not To Raise a Narcissist  Read Together + more |

Why kids should never let go of |  

Schools and Libraries

LifelongKindergartenHow to Make Every Grade More Like | interviews on book  

In response to pressure, educators set sights on eliminating A-F grading system

What All Grade Levels Can Learn from a Classroom | |

© 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

The Pomegranate Witch: Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler

Book: The Pomegranate Witch
Author: Denise Doyen
Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler
Pages: 40
Age Range: 5-10

PomegranateWitchI wasn't sure what to make of The Pomegranate Witch when I first saw it. It's a slightly undersized picture book, with a dark, old-fashioned-looking cover. Inside the story has an advanced vocabulary and is written entirely in poetry (real poetry, not just upbeat rhymes). But after reading The Pomegranate Witch aloud to my daughter, I've concluded that it is fabulous.

The Pomegranate Witch is about a creepy farmhouse on the outskirts of a small town. In the yard of the farmhouse is an enormous pomegranate tree. The local children covet the fruit of this tree. However, the tree is protected by the Pomegranate Witch. We never see her clearly, but we see her actions as she battles the local children in an effort to guard her fruit. It's unclear for a time whether the witch is real or a sort of group hallucination, but someone blasts the children with water cannons. The mood lightens late in the book, around Halloween night. There's an ambiguity to the ending, though my seven-year-old has not doubts about her interpretation. The ending and the quality of the poetry both make The Pomegranate Witch special. 

Here's an example of Denise Doyen's writing:

"And before its sagging porch, amid a weedy foxtail sea,
Found the scary, legendary, haunted pomegranate tree.

The gnarled tree loomed high and wide; its branches scraped the ground.
Beneath there was a fort, of sorts, with leafed walls all around.
Its unpruned limbs were jungle-like, dirt ripplesnaked with roots,
But glorious were the big, red, round, ripe pomegranate fruits."

Don't you love the word choices? (Amid. Ripplesnaked. Gnarled.) I also like the adjective repetition in the last line of each stanza. You wouldn't write "big, red, round, ripe pomegranate fruit" in a regular sentence. But it works here. Last there's this:

"Some clever gangster-pranksters dug a foxhole in the field.
When they peered below the leaves? Witchy work boots were revealed!
Next, they scavenged broken racquets, rusty rakes, a dead tree limb;
What better tools to yank a pomegranate from its stem?"

The rhyme between limb and stem does work, if you read it aloud. It made me stop and give a little nod. The previous page also has a reference to how "forbidden fruit is tempting." Nice subtle biblical reference. This is clearly a book to reward repeated reads. The story itself is suspenseful (Is the witch real? Will the kids get any fruit?), atmospheric, and occasionally humorous. 

Eliza Wheeler's illustrations add to the ambiguity surrounding the witch, shown lurking beneath the tree, in shadow, with her broom most visible. They also lend humor, particularly when the Pomegranate Gang is formed, wielding weapons such as rakes and tennis racquets. There's a timeless quality to the images, with girls in dresses and boys in suspenders and bow ties, but the Gang also displays diversity in ethnicities and sizes. Nothing is shown as red in the somewhat muted illustrations, except for the glowing red pomegranates. 

Thought-provoking, surprising, entertaining, and gorgeously written and illustrated. The Pomegranate Witch is not to be missed. The advanced vocabulary makes it more of a book for elementary schoolers than preschool kids. It would make a lengthy but wonderful classroom read-aloud for Halloween. Here in my house, the Pomegranate Witch is going on our "keep" shelf. Highly recommended! 

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: August 1, 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: September 20: #Reading Role Models, Required Reading, and Graphic Novels

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 brief issue I have four book reviews (early reader through picture book) and one post about the impact of required reading time as homework on a child who already enjoys reading. I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter and one post with more detail about two joy of learning-related articles that I came across recently concerning teachers as reading role models. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I finished two middle grade books and one adult novel. I read/listened to: 

  • Rob Buyea: The Perfect Score. Delacorte Press. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed September 15, 2017. Review to come.
  • Laura Martin: Edge of Extinction #2: Code Name Flood. HarperCollins. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed September 17, 2017.  Review to come.
  • Louise Penny: Glass Houses. Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed September 15, 2017, on MP3. Fabulous addition to this long-running series. 

GhostsGreenglassHouseI'm currently reading The Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford and listening to The Western Star by Craig Johnson. My daughter and I have gotten back into a groove reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire together at breakfast. We are nearly halfway through, and she is quite disappointed in Ron for not believing Harry about the Goblet of Fire. For her own reading, she continues to read the same graphic novels over and over again (Real Friends, the Hilo books, the Babysitters Club books, and anything else we can find by Raina Telgemeier.

I tried to broaden her range a bit (only because I'm running out of books that fit her narrow criteria and are remotely age-appropriate, not because I have any problem with her reading graphic novels) by picking up Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown. She complained: "It's kind of a graphic novel and kind of not," and cast it aside, declaring that she does not like this sort of book. So ... I guess she'll continue re-reading for the time being. She has no complaints about this, though she is very eager for Babysitters Club #5, which will be releasing soon.

I can tell that she's not bored by the re-reading from an incident that happened yesterday. We were driving home from karate and I heard her suddenly peal with laughter over something she read in her book. Said book was Babysitters Club Graphic Novel #3, which she has read at least four times already. So, as long as what she's reading is making her happy, I am happy. You can find her 2017 reading list here

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. 

© 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

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk: Josh Funk and Edwardian Taylor

Book: It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

ItsNotJackIt's Not Jack and the Beanstalk, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Edwardian Taylor, is a meta retelling of the classic story, in which young Jack rebels against the narrator. He doesn't want to sell the cow, who he loves. He wants to eat the beans instead of throwing them out of the window. He questions the rhyming choices of the giant. And by the end of the book, well, let's just say that things don't turn out quite the way the narrator was expecting. But it's all good fun, and everyone is happy in the end. 

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is told with a mix of dialog bubbles and narration. The narrator basically interacts directly with Jack, as well as with the giant. The narrator's words are shown in a gothic font, while the dialog bubbles use different colors, to help identify the respective speakers. This is quite clear visually, but does require the use of voices (or other attribution) when reading aloud. Here's a snippet, where I've added attributions:

"(Narrator:) When Jack arrived at the
top of the beanstalk, he
found himself in front of
a humongous house.

(Jack:) "I'll bet a giant lives there."

(Narrator:) Jack entered the house.

(Jack:) "Are you sure about that?"

(Narrator:) Yes! Jack definitely entered the house.

(Narrator:) Everything inside the house 
was tremendously large.

(Jack:) "Spoiler alert: 
A giant lives
here. Can I 
go home

(Narrator:) Suddenly, Jack heard a booming voice--

(Giant:) "FEE-FI-FO-FUM,

(Jack:) "Umm, that 
doesn't even
rhyme. How about:
I can see the 
giant's bum?""

You get the idea. As the book progresses, Jack and the giant become less and less cooperative, and the narrator becomes more and more cranky. This is shown using bold, oversize text, with plenty of exclamation marks. I especially enjoyed when Jack pointed out an inconsistency in the narrator's instructions. How can he use his ax to chop down the beanstalk when we're already established that Jack has no possessions. There are also notes of modern humor, like the fact that the giant is a vegan (and thus unlikely to eat Jack). There's even a cameo appearance from Cinderella. 

Edwardian Taylor's digitally rendered illustrations feature a wide-eyed, expressive-faced Jack and a gold-toothed giant with an epic beard. The ending includes a delightful range of fairy tale characters, including an unhappy Pinocchio and a cheerful Goldilocks eating dinner with three three bears. A note on the back cover urges kids to look for the gingerbread man, the three blind mice and other fairy tale friends hidden throughout the book, suggesting good cause for a re-read. 

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is an introduction for early elementary school kids to both meta-fiction and fractured fairy tales, all in a disarming and engaging package. The narrator's over-the-top responses are especially fun to read aloud. It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk is a joyful story, and would be a fun addition to any library or classroom serving preschoolers. We will certainly be reading it again in my house. Recommended!

Publisher: Two Lions (@AmazonPub)
Publication Date: September 19, 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).

On Required Reading Time

My daughter just started second grade. The second grade teachers at her school don't have reading homework per se. They just ask that kids read whatever they like for 20 minutes each night, and that parents check a box to indicate that this has been done. This I find greatly preferable to last year's worksheet-driven reading homework. 

PiratesPastNoonSo, the first night this was assigned, I asked my daughter to read for 20 minutes for homework. Can you guess what happened? She picked up a Magic Tree House book, rather than one of her usually preferred graphic novels, and started reading. After exactly 20 minutes she asked if she could stop. Told yes, she dropped the book (never to be picked up again, as far as I can tell) and went to do something else.

This scared me a little bit. I don't want reading to be some chore that she does because she must and drops as soon as she is allowed. Later the same night she begged to be allowed to read in bed before going to sleep. With an inward sigh of relief, I said yes.

The fortunate truth is that my daughter pretty much always gets more than 20 minutes of reading time a day. On school days, I read to her for 20-30 minutes in the morning while she eats breakfast. She reads in the car as we drive between her various activities. This is good for at least 15 minutes a day. If the book is interesting to her, she will stay in the car when we get home so that she can continue reading. Most nights she reads in bed. Either she reads to my husband or he reads to her, and often she reads to herself also.

Every time I see her choose to read, it makes me happy. Thus the idea that forcing her to read as homework might make reading less desirable is disturbing. So, here's what I decided to do. I told her that as long as I do see her reading as she goes about her day, I'm going to just check off that "read for 20 minutes" box every day. We are not actually going to time anything. 

This is what I believe makes sense for us (and I'm more than happy to share this plan with her teacher). Other kids will be of course different in their responses. I do think that in general assigning 20 minutes of free reading time as homework is vastly preferable to having to read little curriculum-dictated stories and answer questions about them. And I think for kids who don't read, and/or who need the extra reading practice time, a parent being able to say "Hey, you have to read for 20 minutes now for your homework" is probably a good thing. The message that the teachers think that reading is important is also good. And the fact that they give the kids free choice about what to read is excellent. 

If I hadn't had this experience with my daughter, of her pushing to ONLY read for 20 minutes on the very first day that reading was made into homework, I don't think I would have questioned the policy at all. I would have been too busy cheering the fact that there were no worksheets or reading logs or quizzes. But even this. Even a very light touch, hands-off version of reading homework felt to me like, if I enforced it, it would diminish my child's joy of reading. So I stopped doing that. Very quickly.

The bottom line is that as a parent who wants to raise a child who loves to read, I'm going to have my work cut out for me. I will need to vigilant, and listen to the signals that come from my daughter. But it's something that I know for certain is worthwhile. 

What do all of you say? Do you enforce a dedicated time for reading as homework, if it is assigned? Or do you take a more organic approach? 

© 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: September 15: #NBAwards, Fearless Readers + #KidLitCon

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #Cybils, #KidLitCon, #LiteracyDay, #STEM, growing bookworms, parenting, publishing, raising readers, reading levels, schools, sleep, and teachers. 

Book Lists + Awards

The Award Longlist: Young People’s Literature | Kudos to + + others

SophiesSquashA Season of Change: 20 Mighty Girl Books Celebrating Fall | from | I adore Sophie's Squash

10 Books for the Jewish Fall Holidays, from

12 New Books About -Loving Girls & Women | from

Reading about wild weather & learning about hurricanes ( for ages 5-16 from )

Clementine36 Best Series about Girls, new , + more 

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of International | shares a Batchelder Award 

Alysa shares + seeks book recommendations for a 7-Year-Old Girl ,

Growing Bookworms

How is Raising Fearless Readers Who Will Try Anything |  

Interview by of Specialist Tracy Woelfle at Guessing Geisel | w/ tips for parents

My Principal Is ‘All Over the AR Points.’ Readers Respond recent piece on

Brilliant! Bathroom Book Blurbs: Recommendations in Every Stall | H.S. Librarian in

Kidlitosphere / KidLitCon

KidlitconLogo2017-SquareWithHeaderRegistrations are rolling in for , Nov. 3-4 in Hershey PA. Apply here + hang out w/ fab / crowd 

Delighted to announce new speaker 4 BuildingABetterWorld panel

Reserve Your Spot for in Hershey PA, Nov. 3-4 | calls it useful + "a lot of fun"

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Stroppy Author laments the low financial value given to "invaluable" children's books  


StrengthSwitchWhen Is Hard: A New Way to Help Your Child | Strength-based

Stepping Back from : A Stanford Dean’s Perspective |  

Schools and Libraries

Ideas to Incorporate Movement into the | via | stretches, walks + more 

I loved this story of how elementary principal built community by starting a Recess Baseball Club

start times are finally getting pushed back — and it's working via

Why should make a priority + how to get into a better routine


Why Is the Best Way to Make Sense of the World | interviews 

© 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

Bizzy Mizz Lizzie: David Shannon

Book: Bizzy Mizz Lizzie
Author: David Shannon
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

BizzyMizzLizzieBizzy Mizz Lizzie is about a little bee who tries to do everything: music lessons, art lessons, dance lessons, Honey Scouts, and so on. Lizzie's goal is to be so successful that she is able to meet the Queen Bee, and to tell the Queen that she is "the best bee I can be." Lizzie naturally doesn't listen to her best friend, Lazy Mizz Daizy. Daizy spends most of her time lying around in the garden, reading and dreaming, and listening to the stories of "a very nice old lady." When Lizzie has a chance to meet the Queen by participating in a spelling contest, she pushes herself too hard, and finally learns "to stop and smell the flowers." 

The resolution of Bizzy Mizz Lizzie is, of course, completely predictable, and the message is overt. These things are normally a turn-off for me, but I liked Bizzy Mizz Lizzie anyway. David Shannon fills it with lots of fun, bee-centric details, and uses lots of "z's" in the text. This makes it a fun book to read-aloud. Like this:

"The next day the entire colony was at the Spelling Contest. Everyone buzzed as loud as they could when the Queen arrived. Newzy Suzie, Zach, Zack Pat-on-the-Back, and Lizzie battled through round after round. But then Suzie forgot a "z" in "razzmatazz," and "Zach Zack was fooled by "bamboozle." All Lizzie had to do was spell "quizzical" and she would win!"

And although I'm not a big fan of the illustrations in Shannon's David books, I did quite enjoy the images in Bizzie Mizz Lizzie. His illustration style is somehow suited to bees. Lizzie has bouncy ponytails, while Daizy is shown contented and a bit scruffy. There are lots of fun details, like Lizzie carrying a stack of "Junior Honey Scout" treats, towering high above her head, with names like "Honey Pies" and "Swarms". I also had a fair bit of sympathy for Lizzie's tired mother, who car-pools various groups of young bees around on her large back, with a less-than-contented expression. 

The bottom line is that the message about cutting back a bit on structured activities, and taking time to enjoy life, is one that many kids today could benefit from hearing. The fact that it is delivered in a buzzy, humorous, read-aloud-friendly package makes Bizzy Mizz Lizzie a winner. Recommended, and an excellent pick for early elementary school classrooms and libraries. 

Publisher: Blue Sky Press (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Source of Book: Advance 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).

#JoyOfLearning Links from @TechNinjaTodd + @LarryFerlazzo: #Teachers as #Reading Role Models

JoyOFLearningLogoYesterday I came across two different articles, both of which discussed the importance of teachers being reading role models for their students. Todd Nesloney talks about reading programs that don't work, and shares tips for educators to both enhance their own reading lives and inspire students. Larry Ferlazzo interviews Pernille Ripp, who is promoting her new book on raising Passionate Readers. Their discussion ranges from the importance of an inclusive classroom library to "do's" and "don't's" for teachers looking to inspire young readers. Both articles are well worth your time. 

KidsDeserveItMust-read for educators: When Adults Don't Read, Kids Lose |

Todd Nesloney: "And yet, in schools across America, students are being subjected to prescribed reading programs that we know don’t work. (Krashen 2003) These programs often require students to select books based on computer generated levels. Further, they reduce reading to a task that only matters if it’s accompanied by an assessment. What’s more, they allow teachers to assign texts to students without having a knowledge of children’s or young adult literature and, most crucially, without ever having a conversation about books and reading with their students...

Here are a few tips to help all educators unlock the reader inside them that’s just waiting to get out! ... (click through to read Todd's tips)

A good rule of thumb is this: if you wouldn’t do it as a real reader, you shouldn’t ask your students to do it. OR if you must employ some scaffolding to help students develop the skills they need to grow authentic reading lives, remember, scaffolding is meant to come down.

The bottom line is this: your students need and deserve for you to be their independent reading champion. Reading changes lives. Not only is reading the fundamental skill that underpins all learning, but it’s also a crucial component in the development in a curious mind, a gentle spirit and a loving and empathetic heart."

Me: This is an excellent piece, from the references documenting why it's important for kids to read for pleasure to a series of detailed tips for educators to support their own personal reading lives (and hence model and inspire reading for pleasure in kids). 

PassionateReadersAuthor Interview: speaks w/ 'Passionate Readers' author on +

Pernille Ripp: "Yet research now shows just how important it is to be reading role models for our students (Loh 2009) and how valuing independent reading time in class changes the reading experience itself. So we must look inward before we start to mold our classrooms. We must see how our own reading experiences shape the very experience we create for students; how what we value becomes what we make time for; how what we read becomes what we book talk...

Do be a role model of what a "real" reader looks like; share your great habits and the bad ones. Too often our kids who are not established readers think that strong readers have it all figured out; when to read, what to read, and how to understand the text, and yet this is not true.  I consider myself a strong reader and I often fall out of my reading habits, I have to plan for my reading, and I sometimes cannot find a great book to read. So share in order to have them share what their reading lives look like. And step aside, their reading journey is theirs to explore, not to be a copy of your own...

While there are many things I could list under don'ts, especially things like AR, reading logs, and neverending reading tasks to keep kids accountable, my biggest don't is: Don't be the teacher that kills the love of reading for a child. Question your practices, educate yourself, keep the conversation going with your students and then continue to push yourself to become a better teacher of reading. "

Me: I've been a huge fan of Pernille Ripp's work since discovering her blog a couple of years ago. I was pleased to see this Education Week Teacher interview highlighting Pernille's new book. The interview also covers the importance of students developing a personal reading identity, and suggestions for cultivating a culturally representative classroom library.

But the paragraph that resonated most with me personally was the last one that I quoted above, about the things that teachers sometimes do, presumably without realizing this, that kill the love of reading for kids. My daughter is just starting second grade. At her school, second graders start using the Accelerated Reader (AR) program, just to familiarize themselves with it. In third grade they are apparently expected to use it, and to earn a certain number of points. This makes me quite apprehensive. How sad is the fact that I am worried about the school killing my daughter's love of reading, rather than expecting the school to support it? I'll be addressing this topic more in future posts. For now, go read the interview

© 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.