Today, 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 a review of an adult nonfiction title and a post about having reader be part of my daughter's self-concept. I also have a post about recapturing my reading flow and an idea from my daughter about customized levels of homework. I 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 eight middle grade titles and six adult titles (three fiction and three nonfiction). I read/listened to:
- Aimée Carter: Simon Thorn and the Shark's Cave. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed January 18, 2019, print library copy. This was a fun read with which I kicked off a delightful reading weekend. This is the third book in an intriguing fantasy series about a race of people who can transform into animals. Kids from the different animal kingdoms attend school together, with associated rivalries, and there are also family secrets and a quest for a powerful artifact.
- Megan Frazer Blakemore: The Story Web. Bloomsbury USA Kids. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed January 19, 2019, print ARC. This book is wonderful. It has my highest recommendation, but won't be published until early June. It is discussed more in my post about recapturing my reading flow.
- Andrew Clements: The Friendship War. Random House Books for Young Readers. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed January 19, 2019, print review copy. This one was a quick read about a rivalry between two friends starting to grow apart and the inadvertent sparking of a craze for button trading. Not my favorite of Clements' work, but solid.
- Krista Van Dolzer: The Multiplying Mysteries of Mount Ten. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed January 19, 2019, print ARC. This is about an artistic girl who accidentally ends up spending a week at a small math camp, and ends up immersed in a (mildly) frightening scavenger hunt. Kids who enjoy books with puzzles and realistic quests, and/or reading about math geeks, will enjoy it. This one releases April 9th.
- Cynthia Lord: Because of the Rabbit. Scholastic Press. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed January 19, 2019, print review copy. This is a short, quiet read about a girl from rural Maine who starts public school for the first time after having been homeschooled. She hopes that one of the other girls in her class will become her best friend, filling a hole left by the older brother who has been growing away a bit. But she finds herself embroiled in a more complex friendship with a boy named Jack, who is apparently on the Autism spectrum. And there's a cute pet bunny. Releases March 26th.
- Zilpha Keatley Snyder: The Velvet Room. Yearling. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed January 24, 2019, personal print copy. This was a re-read of one of my all-time childhood favorites. Here's a link to a review I wrote back in 2006.
- Dan Wells: Zero G. Audible Studios. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed January 24, 2019, on MP3. This is a multi-cast Audible Original that I downloaded on a whim. It's about a boy who is going with his family on a colony ship to a new planet. Through some glitch, he awakens from statis early in the trip, and finds himself the only one who can save the ship from being hijacked by pirates. I had some trouble overcoming this coincidence as an adult reader, and I found some of the information dumps about space and space travel a bit didactic, but I did get into it by the end. It's definitely entertaining and kid-friendly.
- John Bellairs: The House with a Clock in its Walls. Puffin Books. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed January 29, 2019, on MP3. I listened to this book on audio, the first time I had read it in many years. The plot and suspense hold up well, as does the coolness of Lewis' uncle's house and magical abilities. However, I found Lewis a bit annoying. He's constantly in or near tears, in a way that you wouldn't see a middle grade character (boy or girl) today. I suspect that this improves with future books, as he gains a real friend, and I may well go ahead and try the next one out.
- Kelly Gallagher: Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It. Stenhouse Publishers. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 17, 2019, on Kindle. I read this as part of a project that I'm working on. Although the research is a little dated (2009 edition) relative to some of the other books I've been reading, I still thought that it was brilliant. Gallagher makes an excellent case for the ways that schools are killing reading, and the things that teachers (and to a lesser extent parents) can do about it. The practices he discusses (excessive testing, too much close reading, lack of choice) certainly seem to be still widespread.
- Naomi Alderman: The Power. Back Bay Books. Adult Fiction. Completed January 18, 2019, personal print copy. This is a speculative fiction title about what might happen if women developed an internal power source that would let them damage or even kill men with a touch. I found some of it intriguing and some of it difficult to read (unpleasant imagery), but it did hold my attention.
- William R. Forstchen: 48 Hours. Forge Books. Adult Speculative Fiction. Completed January 20, 2019, on Kindle. This book was fabulous. It's about what might happen to society if we learned that there were only 48 hours left before an extinction-level event might occur. I won't say more, because the suspense is a major part of the story. But I couldn't put it down.
- Charlaine Harris: Shakespeare's Landlord (Lily Bard, Book 1). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed January 21, 2019, on MP3. Eh, this one was ok. It's an older Harris title that doesn't have supernatural elements. It's about a woman who has fled to a small town after a terrible experience and works as a cleaning woman. She has very limited contact with people, until she ends up immersed in a murder investigation.
- Nancie Atwell and Anne Atwell Merkel: The Reading Zone, 2nd Edition: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers. Scholastic Professional. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 25, 2019, on Kindle. This one is also fabulous. I took many notes, and got great ideas. I wish that my daughter could attend the school described in the book.
- W. Thomas Boyce, M.D.: The Orchid and the Dandelion. Knopf. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 31, 2019, advance review copy. My review.
I'm currently reading Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey and It Wasn't Me by Dana Alison Levy. My daughter has been testing my commitment to provide her with judgment-free choice by asking me to read to her at breakfast from a Peanuts anthology. While I have a reasonable level of affection towards the Peanuts characters, reading comic strip after comic strip aloud does very little for me. And I don't think it does much for her (no narrative arc, no strong vocabulary), except that I am validating her choice. And so we continue. We have been interspersing this with picture books, so that helps. Her favorite recent picture book is Peep and Ducky: It's Snowing, the latest from her current favorite illustrator, David Walker (author David Martin).
In terms of her own reading, my daughter is reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo for school. She's nearly finished and has so far cried twice over it. At home she's reading Dumpling Days by Grace Lin. Her school library book is Surprise Island: A Boxcar Children Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner. She's also enjoyed the first Surfside Girls graphic novel by Kim Dwinell. I picked up a couple of other new graphic novels for her upcoming winter school break, but she doesn't know about those yet.
Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!
© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage.