Previous month:
September 2018
Next month:
November 2018

Posts from October 2018

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: Halloween Edition

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 usually sent out every three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have three book reviews (two picture books and one young adult mystery), two literacy milestones (transitioning to reading more text and utter satisfaction with a new series installment). I also have a post about what's been working for my family in reducing screen time. I also have three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, full of reading- and education-related news. 

Reading Update:  In the last three weeks I finished one middle grade and six adult titles. I read/listened to: 

  • WildRobotEscapesPeter Brown: The Wild Robot Escapes. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Middle Grade Science Fiction. Completed October 13, 2018, library copy. This is a lovely sequel to The Wild Robot - highly recommended! 
  • Reihan Salam: Melting Pot or Civil War?: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders. Sentinel. Adult Nonfiction. Completed October 12, 2018, on Kindle. This is a thought-provoking book that strives to recommend a sustainable middle ground in terms of immigration policy. I learned a lot from it. 
  • Stephen Hawkins, Danile Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon: Hidden Tribes: A Study of America's Polarized Landscape. More in Common. Online Report. Completed October 14, 2018 (printed the downloadable report). This is the result of a fascinating study that categorized people via a survey into seven "tribes" based on their shared values, and then did interviews. The authors conclude that most of the polarization in the country is actually driven by loud voices at the extreme left and right, representing only a small proportion of the population. The "exhausted majority" is basically tired of the whole thing and wants things to calm down. It's a long report (~150 pages) and a bit hard to read online, but certainly worth a look. 
  • Adam Alter: Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Penguin Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed October 18, 2018, on Kindle. My takeaways from this book: reinforcing my desires to keep my daughter off screens as much as possible and away from social media for as long as possible, and to try to curb my own screen time (especially social media time). But there was a lot in the book that wasn't relevant for me, so it was a bit a of a slow read.
  • Joy Ellis: Fire on the Fens. Joffe Books. Adult Mystery. Completed October 19, 2018, on MP3. A suspenseful installment to a series that I enjoy. 
  • TruthHector Macdonald: Truth: How the Many Sides to Every Story Shape Our Reality. Little, Brown and Company. Adult Nonfiction. Completed October 28, 2018, on Kindle. I agreed with the author's central tenet ("There is usually more than one true way to talk about something. We can use competing truths constructively to engage people and inspire action, but we should also watch out for communicators who use competing truths to mislead us."). Truth is well-researched and covers a lot of persuasion / spin / truth related ground. But the book itself was a little longer than it needed to be for me. I got bogged down at times and had to switch to something else. But I did learn a few things. 
  • Steven Johnson: Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most. Riverhead Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed October 30, 2018, on MP3. There's some useful information in this book about decision-making, but I found the author a bit condescending by the end of the book. I think it might have been better in text vs. audio so that I could skim. 

I'm currently reading Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover and also Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal by Ben Sasse (which I am really enjoying).  My non-fiction kick continues unabated, though I did just download a couple of novels that I'm interested in on MP3. In general, I'm on a quest to better understand some things (divisiveness in the country, happiness, impact of screen time, etc.), and the books are helping. I'm listening to a few podcasts, too, and that's been interesting. 

BearsAndBlossomsMy daughter and I are continuing to read picture books together while she eats breakfast. Lately we've been reading through our collection of Halloween-themed books. Our favorites are Just Say Boo! by Susan Hood and Jed Henry and Otter Loves Halloween by Sam Garton. We are also reading and re-reading books from Shirley Parenteau and David Walker's Bears on Chairs series. My daughter flat-out adores these books, particularly Walker's illustrations. I finally had to break down and buy her Bears and Blossoms, after running out of renewals at the library. [I'm sure you can all imagine that this required a lot of arm-twisting.] We're also reading some of the Magic School Bus picture books together. 

WhoWasAnneFrankIn terms of her own reading, she has been enjoying biographies (Who Was Anne Frank?, Who Is J.K. Rowling?, etc.). Hmmm. I guess we are on a nonfiction kick together, though I think that's a coincidence. She's reading about Laura Ingalls Wilder right now, and I've suggested using that as a springboard to start reading the Little House books together. We'll see... 

She's read the new Dork Diaries book several times and has already finished the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book that came out yesterday. Kudos to Scholastic Reading Club and her teacher for building excitement by getting the books into kids' hands on release day! We continue to visit the library every week and bring home everything from the Hamster Princess to Catstronauts to Lego Ninjago graphic novels to picture books. And Babymouse. Always Babymouse. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! 

© 2018 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

Two Problems for Sophia: Jim Averbeck & Yasmeen Ismail

Book: Two Problems for Sophia
Author: Jim Averbeck
Illustrator: Yasmeen Ismail
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

TwoProblemsForSophiaTwo Problems for Sophia is the sequel to One Word for Sophia, both picture books written by Jim Averbeck and illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail. In the first book, Sophia worked to convince her four adults (mother, father, uncle, and grandmother) to grant her greatest desire: receipt of a pet giraffe for her birthday. In this new book, Sophia has (spoiler!) brought the giraffe, Noodle, into the family. But if Noodle is going to be able to stay, Sophia has to solve two problems: sloppy giraffe kisses (long tongue) and super-loud giraffe snores (long neck). 

Continuing a theme from the first book, Sophia's adults each speak to her differently depending on their situations. For instance, Mother is a judge. So we have:

"Mother rendered her verdict at breakfast.

"Noodle is guilty of robbing this family," she said, "of sleep! I hereby order you to find a perdurable solution to his problems."

In Two Problems for Sophia, Sophia is able to bring in an expert to help: Ms. Canticle, an acoustical engineer. But in the end, Sophia herself comes up with a complex blueprint for an invention to mute the snoring. Supplies needed include:

"Father's briefcase, Mother's gavel, some crepe paper bunting, two rolls of duct tape, Grand-mama's girdle, and a spare flugelhorn from Ms. Canticle." 

Super-fun seeing Sophia come up with an engineering solution to her problem. Other nice touches:

  • The inside front cover has a detailed list of "Giraffacts" (printed sideways, because the accompanying illustration of a giraffe fits better that way).
  • The inside back cover includes a glossary of big words introduced in the story (though most are made clear from context). 
  • Sophia's family is mixed race (Father and Uncle Conrad are white, Mother and Grand-mama are black, and Sophia and Ms. Canticle have skin in different shades of brown). This requires no direct comment whatsoever - it just is. Bonus that the family members have varying, and strong, occupations. 
  • There are strong vocabulary words like "chomping" and "perpetual", and interesting phrases to read aloud like "You'd better muzzle that nuzzle." 
  • Ismail's illustrations are busy and joyful. I especially like the stubble that Uncle Conrad exhibits in the morning, and Grand-mama's grouchy expressions. Despite the over-the-top nature of the story, they also come across as a real family, drinking coffee in the mornings, and dragging when they don't get enough sleep. 

In short, Two Problems for Sophia is a welcome addition to a series that I hope will continue to grow in the future. Highly recommended, and a great addition to home or library bookshelves everywhere. 

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (@SimonKids)
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 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).

What Has Worked for Us in Reducing #ScreenTime

DorkDiaries13I cannot over-emphasize how effective it has been to require my daughter to do things before she can have access to screen time. Right now as I write it is Saturday morning. We have a free day ahead of us and are taking it easy. She asked, for the first time in ages, to have her 30 minutes of iPad time. (My fault: I brought up screens in the first place.) I said ok, after she gets dressed and brushes her teeth and hair (a policy that I established back over the summer). And so … 45 minutes later she is up in her room re-reading the newest Dork Diaries book, still in her pajamas with messy hair and unbrushed teeth, no screen in sight. [Update: she did eventually get the screen time, but she read the entire book first, so I still think it was a win.]

Since putting this policy in place, we've cut her iPad time almost to nothing. This despite the fact that the things I require her to do are things that she's going to have to do eventually anyway. It's a miracle of human motivation, at least in our case. In place of that screen time she is reading, writing, drawing, doing crafts, and building elaborate structures out of MagnaTiles. Honestly, I consider this one of my greatest ever parenting wins, second only to the fact that she now cheers enthusiastically for the Red Sox and is starting to understand the game. 

ReaderComeHomeAlso on the subject of screen time, I have taken my daughter's recommendation / request that I read more print books to heart. I've been reading more in print and less on my Kindle (though not none). This makes every book acquisition decision more complex, as I have to decide on format (print, kindle, library, audio). But I find the extra effort worthwhile. I'm validating her request as well as more visually demonstrating reading to my daughter. And there's the potential benefit that I'm reading more deeply myself. [See this article by Maryanne Wolf for more detail, and/or check out her book Reader, Come Home, which Mary Ann Scheuer recommends].

The more I read on this topic [see iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us and Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, for example, as well as this recent NY Times piece by Nellie Bowles], the more I think that keeping my daughter's screen time down is important and likely to pay long term dividends. She reads more. She's less irritable. My guess is that she'll have better concentration in the long term. I know it will be harder when she's old enough for social media and when she has more homework that has to be done on a computer.

But for now, just requiring her to take care of routine business before getting on the device is working like a charm. I highly recommend giving this a try!

© 2018 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 may be affiliate links, providing me with a small commission on purchases. 

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: October 26: #LearningStyles, #ReadingLevels, and Multiple Truths

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this relatively light week include #ChildDevelopment, #Cybils, #GrowthMindset, #Habit, #HigherEd, #KidLitCon, #LearningStyles, #LittleFreeLibraries, #loneliness, #math, #MentalHealth, #play, #ReadingLevels, #STEM, #ViewpointDiversity, empowerment, parenting, and schools. 

Top Tweet of the Week

Theory: Widely Used, Yet Misunderstood | via | "when try to match to a perceived , the benefits are nonexistent"

Book Lists + Awards

FishAreNotAfraidThe Awards kick off their featured blogger reviews w/ nominee Fish Are Not Afraid of Doctors (Maud the Koala), reviewed by Round1 Judge

About the for Imaginative Children, a from

17 Fun and Educational Leaf Books for , a from

Space Books for Kids that Will Turn Them into Astronauts, from

Diversity + Gender

HungerGamesFemale + Characters Really Do Empower Young Girls, Study Finds (but more are needed) via

What Do We Do When Our Truths Aren't the Same? asks | She offers 5 excellent tips to help, such as "Listen More, Talk Less"

Events + Programs

Todd Bol, creator of the movement, dies at 62 | Here's someone who made a practical difference for

Growing Bookworms

I’m a Reader: 5 Ways You Already Model for Your Kids from

Kidlitosphere / KidLitCon

KIDLIT_con_poster_final_web_smReaching : Part 1 Getting Books to Kids 2019 Panel + more | + co-host |

Lots of interesting tidbits in today's Fusenews: We Would Have Also Accepted “Fast Food Fairies” —


Amid College Success Push, The U.S. Overlooks The Fact That One In Four Are - Allison Dulin Salisbury +

Parenting / Personal Growth

WhatIfEverybodyUnderstoodWhat If Professionals Pushed Back when asked to implement developmentally inappropriate practices?

In Defense of : What Will it Take to Get , , and to Follow the Doctor’s Orders? -

I agree 100% with that there's value in sometimes “Not Having a Choice” – Put things that you want to do regularly into a "no choice" category and do them

Yes, You Can Know What Skills Your Children Will Need In The Future – | + more |

Schools and Libraries

Understanding-Texts-and-ReadersWhat Are the Best Ways to Use ? | talks w/ author + shares common mistakes + ways to avoid them in the

How Can Preventive Skills to Help Kids Avoid or Cope w/ - via |

10 Tips for Maintaining Positive Behavior via | "Misbehavior is an opportunity to ", maintain relationships + lots more

+ Stress = An Occasional Personal Day? - thinks this can be a good idea to give overwhelmed kids a break + help them focus

: The New Project says low expectations in hurt kids by not challenging them or preparing them for


What Does a Million Look Like? | An effort to help 3rd graders visualize large numbers turns into an ambitious project to build a model of a 1M

© 2018 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.

Lights! Camera! Alice!: Mara Rockliff & Simona Ciraolo

Book: Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker
Author: Mara Rockliff
Illustrator: Simona Ciraolo
Pages: 60
Age Range: 6-9

LightsCameraAliceLights! Camera! Alice! is a picture book biography of Alice Guy-Blaché, a woman who made some of the earliest (and most exciting) films of the late 19th and early 20th century. Mara Rockliff and Simona Ciraolo's introduction to Alice's life starts with her as a relatively privileged little girl who "lived on stories". After a series of tragedies, however, Alice is forced to seek work. She ends up working at a camera company, where gets in on the ground floor of moving pictures. Here Alice taps her love of story and applies it to the new medium, becoming a quite successful filmmaker. The book traces Alice's ups and downs as she travels from France to America, and eventually back to France, raising a family, and making movies.

The book is constructed as a series of discrete scenes, with title pages in between them, just like they used to have in old movies. "A Terrible Catastrophe", "Starting Something", "Imagination", etc. I found this a nice homage to the film theme. Rockliff's writing has a breathless, old movie style quality, too, with lots of exclamations and italics (some of the exclamations in French). Like this:

"The inventors turned a crank, and a picture appeared--a moving picture! Soon, the camera company was selling the new cameras. They were a sensation. 

Imagine! Anything that happened could be caught on film to see again... 

and again...

and again..."

It's fun to read aloud. Alice is an appealing heroine, although her story ends on a quiet note.  

What what took this book over the top for me were Ciraolo's illustrations. Alice is simply adorable as wide-eyed, book-loving child with a bow in her hair. And she retains that sweetness and enthusiasm all through the book, even as she ages. Just look at her up there on the cover. You'll see. She just looks like someone you would want to spend time with. Ciraolo uses a mix of perspectives and colors, some pages busy and others full of white space. Although the book is long at 60 pages, it flies by.

I think this is a book more for elementary school kids than for preschoolers, requiring a certain attention span. But this makes it a perfect choice for elementary school libraries, particularly those seeking more books about interesting historical women (and who doesn't want more of that?). My eight-year-old read it herself, and then we read it together, and we both enjoyed it very much. Highly recommended, especially for those who appreciate stories in their many forms. 

Publisher: Chronicle Kids (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 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: Utter Satisfaction with the Latest Installment of a Favorite Series

LiteracyMilestoneAThe newest installment of Rachel Renee Russell's Dork Diaries series, Tales from a Not-So-Happy Birthday, was released last Tuesday. Being a sucker for books, I had acceded to my daughter's request that I pre-order it. It arrived while she was at school. I put it in the car so that she would have the earliest possible access. [The day could come when I would take a new book to her at school, but this was not that day.]

She loves her after-school care, and I always have trouble getting her to leave. But not last Tuesday. As she started her usual complaining I interrupted with: "Would it make a difference if the new Dork Diaries book was in the car?" She didn't even respond verbally. But she was in that car more quickly than ever before. [Side note: if authors that she loves could have new releases every week, we would never again be late for piano lessons. But it would be expensive.]

DorkDiaries13She read in the car on the way to and from piano. She stayed in the car for a while, reading, when we got home, and then settled herself in cozily on the couch under a blanket. She even took the book with her to the bathroom. She did not stop reading until Tales from a Not-So-Happy Birthday was finished. My husband and I were at the time watching Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. We are big Red Sox fans. She would interrupt periodically to say things like "This is SO good!" or "I can't BELIEVE it!". She even displayed mild irritation when we leapt up from the couch to celebrate Jackie Bradley, Jr.'s grand slam, because we were breaking her concentration. 

Soon enough, she finished the book. She closed it with satisfaction, declared it now to be her "favorite book", and added: "It's even better than the iPad." High praise indeed! In truth, she hasn't even looked at, or asked for, her tablet in several weeks. This I consider a parenting win, one that I am grateful for every day. But I was still pleased to hear her declare that a book was better. 

She's been excited about the arrival of new books before, of course. I think what stood out about this incident was how well the book itself lived up to her expectations. She immediately started pressing me to read it, something that she doesn't usually do. 

I suppose this isn't really a milestone. It's more an excuse to share with you how happy it made me to see my daughter so thrilled by, so immersed in, a book. Thank you Rachel Renee Russell. While I certainly enjoyed that Red Sox game, what will stay in my memory far longer is my satisfaction in looking over at her, curled up under her blanket, beaming with happiness. THIS is what growing bookworms is all about. 

© 2018 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: October 19: Halloween #PictureBooks, #DigitalReading + #RealFriends Sequel

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #CharterSchools, #DigitalReading, #EdPolicy, #GraphicNovels, #GrowthMindset, #Halloween, #Introversion, #JoyOfLearning, #JoyOfReading, #KidLitCon, #MentalHealth, #PictureBooks, #Retention, #SchoolFunding, #ScreenTime, #ShannonHale, libraries, parenting, and reading.

Top Tweets of the Week

KIDLIT_con_poster_final_web_smLook Who’s Coming to ! Some excellent additions to the attendee list. Talk w/ bloggers, authors, librarians + more March 22-23 2019 in Providence, RI

Lunch Session: All About Multicultural Children’s Book Day , organized by + |

Book Lists + Awards

The Awards are now accepting 2018 / submissions |

PomegranteWitchBest (an Entirely Subjective ) from

Down to Earth Publications for |

Events, Programs + Research

for 2 Washington DC schools!!!!!!!! | urges people to help students at two high-poverty by purchasing their requested books:

Study: story-listening shows promise as an intervention for people living with – This certainly sounds reasonable to me! |

New Neighborhood Data on , Prisons, and Poverty | Kids growing up in neighborhoods w/ more single parent homes are less likely to move up economically + more likely to be incarcerated as adults

Growing Bookworms

Is There Anything More Powerful than a Child Choosing a Book? w/ suggestions for how we can all contribute to kids choosing to read

Help from | Explanation of w/ tips for incorporating it into everyday activities |

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

BestFriendsMy 8 year old daughter is going to be over the moon at this news: 'Best Friends' Will Be The Sequel To & You Can Peep The Cover Here +

So What Do YOU Do With Found Time? Author + basks in the joys of

All Those You’ve Bought but Haven’t Read? There’s a Word for That - Kevin Mims

Why Many Are Drawn to (and Are Really Good at It) | "If you’re an introvert who loves writing, it’s probably in part because you get to work alone."

"Where is the balance ... between doing something purely for enjoyment + then extending the love of that thing to others in a professional way" | interesting thoughts on from


ConfidenceCodeThe for Girls: 5 Tips for of Tween and Teen Girls. Between the ages of 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels fall by 30 percent. , ,

doesn’t only apply to – study finds it’s better to encourage children to help, than to be “a helper” –

These Are The Skills That Your Kids Will Need For The Future (Hint: It's Not ) |

Why You Should Like a via | make interesting items available, then "simply stand back" + let them

Schools and Libraries

Retired : “Stop Taking The Joy Out Of School” – | My favorite "stop treating small kids like big kids" + "let kids have "

What’s So Great about ? Deborah Robins + cite many reasons why

The Fight for the Best in the Country: What Got Right and Wrong by Cara Stillings Candal

From 'Rotten Apples' to Martyrs: America Has Changed Its Tune on -

What happens when you pay to get ready for ? RI is about to find out, w/ help from the via

Holding back causes later to spike, studies say. "A policy meant to make sure students stay on track, then, appears to have caused more students to leave altogether."

How are America’s public schools really doing? guest post @valeriestrauss suggests that it's more the abstract perception of is suffering, while most people are pretty confident in their own kids' schools

Teachers in America: followed 15 US around the nation on a day of "frustrations, pressures and hard-earned victories"

ScreenTime + Digital Reading

ArtOfConcentrationThe lost art of : being distracted in a | Put simply, better concentration makes life easier + less stressful + we will be more . Suggestions from

Strategies for with deeper understanding, some ideas from | Develop a system for highlighting + more |

Do we read digitally as well as we read paper texts? No, says "as learning demands increase and the texts are more extensive, paper wins hands down" for


I like the from , which awards $22 million + star status |

Recent paper suggests overly narrow Focus In May Hurt Long-Term. They need a broader set of skills to prosper over entire | via

Testing + Assessment

Doesn't Have to be a Dirty Word as an indicator of + - there's a lot more to data than

ACT Scores Show Drop in Readiness, Especially in - Only Asian students show improved scores

© 2018 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.

Little White Lies (Debutantes): Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Book: Little White Lies (Debutantes, #1)
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Pages: 400
Age Range: 12 and up

LittleWhiteLiesLittle White Lies is the first of the new Debutantes series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. The protagonist of Little White Lies is Sawyer Taft, an 18-year-old girl who was raised above a bar by her less than reliable single mother. Sawyer's life changes forever on the day she first meets her wealthy grandmother, Lillian Taft. Lillian gives Sawyer an offer she can't refuse. Live with Lillian for nine months, participating in a debutante season, and receive half a million dollars in trust for college. Also, have the chance to investigate to figure out who her unknown father might be. 

Little White Lies actually begins as an inexperienced police office named Mackie is left to cope with the presence of four white-gloved debutantes, clearly from wealth, in a holding cell. As Mackie tries to figure out their story, the action flashes back nine months to Sawyer's meeting with Lillian. The primary action moves forward in jumps, narrated from Sawyer's first person viewpoint, interspersed with brief scenes with Mackie in the jail cell. This technique allows Barnes to build suspense, and foreshadow certain aspects of Sawyer's story. 

And what a story it is: full of suspense, secrets, and yes, lies. I found Little White Lies to be compulsively readable. Although it's fairly lengthy, I devoured most of it in a single afternoon. [Luckily I have turned my 8-year-old into a bookworm. She understood and mostly let me be.] The characters aren't all particularly likable, but Sawyer is. And Lillian grows on you. The posh setting of the debutantes (country clubs, balls, charity auctions, spa days, and pearl necklaces) is nicely counter-balanced by Sawyer's much less polished manners. Here's Sawyer interacting with a man in a bike shop (where she works pre-Lillian):

"It's times like this," I told him, "that you have to ask yourself: is it wise to sexually harass someone who has both wire cutters and access to your brake lines?" (Chapter 1)

And here she is interacting with her new-found relatives:

"If there was one thing I'd learned growing up bar-adjacent, it was that sometimes, the best way to keep someone talking was to say nothing at all." (Chapter 10)

"For the record," I told my cousin, "any lock-picking ability I may or may not have acquired growing up has less to do with where I lived and more to do with the fact that I was a very weird, very obsessive little kid."

The lock popped open." (Chapter 17)

But really, I could have picked any of dozens of passages. Sawyer has a strong personality. Her rough edges are set against the knife in velvet glove mannerisms of the society set, where women cut one another down by saying sugary things that could be taken as compliments. The makes the book pleasurable to read. The twisty plot, with clues false and real planted throughout, makes it compelling.

Although Sawyer's mother's teen pregnancy is a major plot point, and there are references to teen drinking, there's no overt sex in the book. There is a blog that plays a part in the story on which someone is posting secrets written on intimate (but not too intimate) parts of her body (her face hidden). The fact that Sawyer is out of high school (via GED), and the importance of various adults to the story, makes this a book that I think will work well for adults as well as teens. 

My only complaint, really, is that I'm sure it will be at least a year until the next Debutantes book comes out. I highly recommend Little White Lies, and expect it to be a hit with teens and adults. 

Publisher: Freeform (Disney)  
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2018 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: Actively Wanting to Transition to Reading More Text


I wrote last month about my daughter (age eight, third grade) expressing a preference NOT to influence her younger cousin towards reading graphic novels, so that he would not become addicted. The other night she brought this up again, even more directly, saying that she wished she had never discovered graphic novels, even though she loves them, because she thinks that reading them has made it harder for her to learn to read books with more text. Her worry made me wonder, for the first time, whether such a thing could be true.

StuartLittleI think her concern has been triggered by two things. First, she's participating in her school's Battle of the Books (quiz show-themed reading incentive contest), and is feeling (self-imposed) pressure to read at least some of the books on the booklist. There are some appealing titles on there (Stuart Little, a Magic Treehouse book, a Judy Moody), but none of them are graphic or notebook novels.  Second, her teacher has asked her to try to read (and take AR tests on) more nonfiction titles. I am not an AR fan, but I am ok in general with the idea of her reading more nonfiction, as long as it doesn't dampen her enthusiasm for reading. And although there are a few nonfiction graphic format books, the pool of these in the school library is fairly limited. 

I ran her question by my Facebook and Twitter communities and received an array of responses. Most people said things along the lines of what I've always believed, that she will get there in her own time or when she finds the right book, and that the important thing now is to keep up her enjoyment of reading. This was helpful and encouraging, and there were some suggestions for encouraging her to diversify her palette a bit (see below). But a few quieter voices did say things like "Well, it took my son until 8th grade" for that to happen. Or, "I'm seeing 8th graders who will only read Wimpy Kid and Big Nate and I worry about them in college." Or, "I'm an adult and I still read mostly in graphic formats."  And these things, together with my daughter's own concerns, gave me pause.

SmileI've defended my daughter's love of graphic and notebook novels always. I've bought her a ton of books, and checked out piles of library books. I've loved watching her curled up on the window seat reading these books over and over again. But I've done all of this secure in the understanding that she will one day move beyond them into also reading more text-heavy books. [See Pernille Ripp's recent defense of graphic novels, complete with examples of some high quality graphic novels that tackle serious subjects.]

I love graphic novels and believe that they are "real books". However, I do not want my daughter to be someone who grows up ONLY reading comics, graphic novels, and notebook novels. First of all, she would miss out on a LOT of amazing books. Second, she would struggle in high school and college, or whenever it becomes necessary to be able to read more dense prose. Third, she would eventually start to struggle with reading comprehension in testing (and say what you will about the amount of testing in our schools, she needs to be able to do it). So yes, she does need to add more to her reading repertoire than heavily illustrated reading at some point.

That point doesn't have to be in third grade, I would have said… But now here she is, feeling like it's time. This tells me that it's time to at least explore our options.

WimpyKidMeltdownThe first thing my husband and I told her when she brought this up the other day was that she could practice by reading something text-heavy but easier. We told her that she doesn't need to go directly from the 13th Diary of a Wimpy Kid to the third Harry Potter book. She immediately seized on the idea of the Magic Treehouse books, and set herself a goal of reading all 49 of the ones that we have (thank you Scholastic Reading Club) for practice. She thought that she could read 7 a day, and whip through the series in a week. She has already realized that this would only be possible if she was home sick from school for several days, or otherwise had her schedule magically become clear of other things. But she did whip through three or four of them. 

ChristopherMouseWhat I have seen her doing since then is switching back and forth between formats. The other day she read a couple of chapters of Christopher Mouse (a Battle of the Books title) on one couch, then moved over to the other couch to re-read a Dork Diaries book. She brought home Who Is Jane Goodall? and Crystal the Snow Fairy from the school library, and alternates between those and whatever graphic novel or picture book is near at hand. Now that I think about it, she's like someone working to build up a new muscle. She exercises for a bit, then takes a break with some other activity that's easier for her, and then returns. 

Meanwhile, I've been working on building up some titles that I think might be helpful for her during this transition. In the interest of beefing up her nonfiction options, I ordered a couple of the Who Is(Was) ... titles about people I knew she would be interested in. She shrieked with joy over Who Was Blackbeard?! I also picked up a few Science Comics, and dug a Nathan Hale Hazardous Tale title that I had previously picked up out of the stack.  

My Facebook and Twitter friends had other constructive suggestions, such as:

  • Me reading aloud something more challenge to her, to build up her listening comprehension. And yes, we will get back to this at some point, but we're taking a break after the very intense Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Her reading something in print format that she has already read in graphic format, like City of Ember or a Babysitters Club or the first Wings of Fire book. 
  • Finding more in between books, like the Andy Griffiths Treehouse books and the various Scholastic Branches books, that are heavily illustrated by still primarily text driven. 

I'm keeping all of these in my back pocket, along with my own the thought of trying audiobooks again. But I don't want this to turn into some sort of a complex for her, either. Third grade: the year she had to give up reading what she loves. So I'm planning to take it very, very slowly. I'll keep buying her graphic novels (and science comics and so on) and helping her check them out from the library. I'll also help her if and when she wants to find other titles that are a bit less heavily illustrated, but still hold her interest. 

I will keep you all posted. Many thanks to those who have already chimed in and offered support on this topic! 

© 2018 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: October 12: #Cybils Nominations, #KidLitCon Panels and #Reading for Pleasure

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookAbandonment, #BookLists, #Censorship, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #homework, #introversion, #JoyOfReading, #KidLitCon, #LearningStyles, #MentalHealth, #Mindfulness, #Nonfiction, #PE, #SchoolLibrarians, #ScreenTime, #spelling, #ViewpointDiversity, parenting, schools, and testing.

Announcement of the Week

Cybils-Logo-2018-Round450pxNot a tweet, but: #Cybils Nominations are open through Monday, October 15th. Just a few more days! You can find the nomination link and details here. The Cybils award is for high-quality, kid-friendly children's and young adult books published in a variety of categories in the past year. Anyone can nominate. The Cybils shortlists (which come out on New Year's Day) are an excellent resource for parents, teachers, and librarians looking for excellent titles.

Book Lists + Awards

DragonsHalloween -themed Early for Kids Ages 6-10, timely from

This is a super-fun : 24 Must Have Books for 1-Year Olds according to |

Not sure about celebrating ? has compiled a of Literature for Young Readers that you can peruse instead

NeverTooYoungTwo New Books for preteen + young teens w/ a lot to love

Yet To Be Nominated | suggestions from

books not yet nominated for the Awards, a from

Diversity + Gender

And a response to Shannon's piece: How handles Boys Who Boo Books — | "I looked every student in the eye and told them that whatever they like to read is okay. And that making fun of someone for what they like is not okay"

PrincessInBlackWhat are we teaching boys when we discourage them from books about girls? The goal is to encourage . The more we try to tell kids which books are for them, the more reluctant they are to read

Let’s Indigenize Our Bookshelves & Fully Welcome Native Kids As Readers by

This is an interesting study: “My-side bias” makes it difficult for us to see the in arguments we disagree with –

This article about by in is fascinating | Large Majorities Dislike + don't fit into the divisive tribes that most people think they do

Growing Bookworms

DogmanWhy Belong in All of Our Libraries – A defense from as + "Because you see when we tell kids that a book is too easy we are dismissing their entire journey"

We are Changed Because of Our Daily Stories | shares the way that has helped grow her classroom into a community of

Growing up in a house full of books is major boost to later and levels, 31 country study finds (w/ >80 books needed to be effective)

Kidlitosphere / KidLitCon

KidLitConNoDetailAnnouncing Big Issues in Panel! | This year's organizers are +

Don’t Forget the ! Panel w/ | Organizers

[To see the other KidLitCon2019 panels being announced individually, follow or @KidLitCon. I'll share again when the full program is published.]

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

THIS: Children who enjoy + have significantly better mental wellbeing + are much happier than their peers says new report based on survey of UK children

Pleasure includes anything you read just because you want to. In this post for UK , shares benefits of + ways help

BadKittyCensoring the Unsaid, OR, Damned If You Do, #%&*@ If You Don’t — "If we start removing all the books that don’t contain bad words but mere allusions to them, where precisely does that end?"

Thoughts from on one of the key ways that she makes time for : leaving books that aren't working unfinished. We need to teach this to our kids.

Parenting, Play + ScreenTime

Kids and : What's a parent to do?

were concerned that my son plays alone at . Here’s why is ok with it | | FWIW my daughter does this sometimes, maybe due to

Schools and Libraries

WhyStudentsAre You a Visual or an Auditory ? It Doesn’t Matter, "there’s no good scientific evidence that actually exist"

I appreciated these musings from on working on a + something new every day |

6 Improvements Inspired By Practicing -

Should you teach kids ? has learned over time that avoiding spelling is doing the child "a complete disservice". She shares some tips

The Problem with, "Show Me the Research" Thinking. Understanding the limitations of + accepting responsibility for contributing to moving it forward via

is just as important as any other subject, say Andrew Sprake + Clive Palmer

In These Districts, Friday Is Not a School Day. More adopt a four-day schedule to save money, retain | | What do you guys say? Good idea, or no?

The Case for Quality : Why it improves , and how can help | argues that reducing homework might help some affluent kids but would deprive poorer kids

The Teen Brain: How Can Help Students Manage Emotions and Make Better Decisions - via

Testing / Assessment

Singapore abolishes exam rankings + various other + metrics, says is not competition + each should focus on his or her own learning progress

In similar news, UK's Ofsted (Office for Standards in ) inspectors to stop using results as key mark of success | +

The Data Says…What? (Or: Why we struggle to make sense of results) –

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: October 10: Print Books, Picture Books, and Looking for Nonfiction

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 usually sent out every three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have two book reviews (one middle grade and one board books), a roundup of children's items published by the US Government Bookstore and two literacy milestones (pushing me to read print books, and a renewed appreciation for picture books). I also have three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, full of reading- and education-related news. 

Reading Update:  In the last three weeks I finished four middle grade and five adult titles. I read/listened to: 

  • PowerPlayBeth McMullen: Power Play (Mrs. Smith's Spy School for Girls). Aladdin. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed September 21, 2018, library copy. This is the second book in this series which would be a great followup for slightly older fans of the Spy School series (with a bit more of a girl power slant). I look forward forward to future books about Mrs. Smith's Spy School for Girls
  • Jennifer L. Holm: The Third Mushroom. Random House Books for Children. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed September 22, 2018, print review copy. My review.
  • Tom Angleberger: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Book 1). Harry N. Abrams. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed September 23, 2018, library copy. I had seen this book around for years but never read it. I found it a fun, quick read, but my daughter didn't have any interest in reading it. Maybe when she's a bit older... 
  • Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm: Babymouse: Our Hero. Random House. Early Middle Grade Graphic Novel. Completed September 28, 2018, read aloud to my daughter, who remains on a huge Babymouse kick.
  • Michael Gurian: The Minds of Girls: A New Path for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Successful Women. Gurian Institute. Adult Nonfiction. Completed September 21, 2018, on Kindle. This book had some interesting ideas about how differences in male vs. female brains could affect parenting decisions.
  • HardwiringHappinessRick Hanson: Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence. Harmony. Adult Nonfiction. Completed September 22, 2018, personal copy. This book I really liked a lot. The idea is to kind of re-wire your brain by noticing things that make you happy and taking a bit of extra time to really absorb them. 
  • Heather Mac Donald: The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture. St. Martins Press. Adult Nonfiction. Completed October 3, 2018, on Kindle. I read this book as part of my quest to understand what's going on on college campuses these days. I thought that Mac Donald made some interesting points, but found the book to be a bit of a slow read due to the significant over-abundance of examples. 
  • Seth Stephens-Davidowitz: Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. Dey Street Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed October 7, 2018, on Kindle. This book is about using big data, particularly Google search data, to draw social science conclusions. It's not all correlation. There are sections on the types of A/B tests that tech companies can run on the fly in the presence of today's huge quantities of data, for example. The writing style is engaging and some of the ideas that Stephens-Davidowitz teases out of the data are fascinating (he was inspired by Freakonomics, and it shows). 
  • Anne Bogel: I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life. Baker Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed October 8, 2018, personal copy. This book was a visual and experiential delight. I read a chapter or two before bed every night for a couple of weeks, and enjoyed it immensely. It would make a perfect holiday gift for any book-loving friend or family member. 

RemarkableThingI'm currently reading Hank Green's An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. I'm listening to Fire on the Fens by Joy Ellis. However, my audiobook reading time has been significantly curtailed since I started listening to podcasts. The most interesting of those that I listened to recently was a recommendation from Sandhya Nankani, an installment of Shane Parrish's The Knowledge Project from last year in which Shane interviewed Naval Ravikant. You can view a transcript here. There's some good discussion about reading (not telling kids what to read, not putting pressure on yourself to finish books, etc.). 

My daughter and I are continuing to read picture books together while she eats breakfast. We've been checking out a few each week from the library (more details about our library visits here and about her renewed love of picture books here), as well as reading old favorites. She also helps me to screen any titles that arrive for potential review, though I'm not really seeking those out at this point.  

RealFriendsIn terms of her own reading she continues to worry that her "addiction" to graphic novels is making it more difficult for her to branch out into reading more text-based titles. This is going to be a topic for another post (with thanks to several of my Facebook and Twitter friends). For now I'll just say that it's something we are working on. I'm trying to help her balance reading a few more books that are text-based without losing the joy that she gets from diving into those graphic and notebook novels over and over again. This is mixed in with a push from her teacher for her to read more nonfiction, which we are also working on. 

Not to worry, though. I still have to drag her away from books to get her out of the house, into bed, or out of the bathroom. I am still getting back strain because she wants so many library books. And one of my best moments of the weekend was listening to her read Real Friends aloud to her Build A Bear, Janet, during a car ride.  

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! 

© 2018 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

House: 5 First Words Board Books: Michael Slack

Book: House: 5 First Words Board Books
Author: Michael Slack
Pages: 14 pages each
Age Range: 3-5

HouseBoardBookI don't normally review board books. But my daughter and I both thought that House: 5 First Words Board Books, illustrated by Michael Slack, was exceptional. It arrives as a box, hinged on the left-hand side, so that you can open it like a book. The outside of the box displays the exterior of a house, with a cut-out for the upstairs window. Inside, five little chunky board books are laid out face up, representing five locations in a house (and matching what you see on the cover of the box, like you are now peeking inside). The rooms consist of living room and bedroom upstairs, and bathroom, kitchen, and garage downstairs. 

The living room is the largest room (twice the width of the others) and drew us in first. Each page contains a simple labelled illustration of something that you might find in the living room: sofa, coffee table, computer, art, window, etc. The final page spread shows all of the items assembled together in a view of the whole room, with the text "living room". The other books follow the same general pattern. The bedroom is, as you would expect, a child's bedroom, so the illustrations include things like an easel and crayons. The kitchen has a high chair. The garage has a tricycle. It's definitely a family home. 

Although not specifically mentioned, a black cat makes a cameo in the final spread of each book. The cat is somewhat mischievous, hiding in a drawer, flushing the toilet, and getting behind the wheel of the car. My daughter and I found the presence of the cat a nice detail, and something to guess about as we read each book ("What will the cat be doing here?"). 

Slack's illustrations have a graphic design quality to them, with bold colors and simple shapes, and a robust two-dimensionality. The couch, for instance, is a flat shape with thick black lines delineating the seat, sides of the arms, and cushion divider. There's some texture to the green shape and the black lines, but it's more an abstract representation of a couch than anything else. I think this works in terms of being kid-friendly. You can tell what everything is, and the illustrations are highly accessible. I see this as a book that will make preschoolers want to try their hand at drawing household objects. Or perhaps they'll try abstract art, because the art in the living room is delightful. 

The whole package of House is simply satisfying. The way the books fit together in the box and the way the interior and exterior of the box reflect and augment what's going on in the book, works. The labels of the objects are simple and appropriate, and the illustrations are cheerful and straightforward, with just a hint of whimsical detail. My daughter would have flat-out adored these books when she was about three, and even at eight she was utterly charmed. We are at the stage of giving away a lot of books, but this one is already dear to our hearts, and going on our keep shelf. Highly recommended! This would be a wonderful gift for any preschooler. 

Publisher:  Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 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).