Serafina and the Seven Stars: Robert Beatty
Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 16: Preschool Books, Literary Lots + Deep Work in Schools

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: August 14: Summer Wind-Down 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 sent out every three to four weeks.  

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have one book review (middle grade speculative fiction) and four short posts in a new series that I'm calling "Bookworm Moments", celebrating reading-related incidents with my daughter. In the first, my daughter badgers me to continue buying her picture books. In the second, she packs a stack of "backup books" for reading by the pool. In the third, I enjoy hearing her giggle to herself as she reads on our balcony. In the fourth, I let her read on her own in the cafe of a small local grocery store. I have also published four posts with literacy and reading-related links that I shared on Twitter. Since there are so many, I've included only the most recent one in the newsletter. You can find the previous three here: July 19th, July 26th and August 2nd

Reading Update:  In the last four weeks I finished one middle grade title and 10 adult titles (six fiction and four nonfiction). I read/listened to: 

  • SerafinaStarsRobert Beatty: Serafina and the Seven Stars. Disney Hyperion. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed August 8, 2019, print ARC. My review.
  • Todd Borg: Tahoe Killshot (Owen McKenna, No. 4). Thriller Press. Adult Mystery. Completed July 21, 2019, on Kindle.
  • Todd Borg: Tahoe Silence (Owen McKenna, No. 5). Thriller Press. Adult Mystery. Completed July 23, 2019, on Kindle.
  • Paul Doiron: Almost Midnight (Mike Bowditch). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed July 24, 2019, on MP3. I've enjoyed this series, especially the Maine setting (and the accents of the narrator). But I did feel with this one like the author was veering a tiny bit into agenda-driven territory. I'm sure I'll still read the next one, but if that trend continues I'll be done. (It doesn't matter what the agenda is, the slightest whiff of didacticism can turn me off.)
  • Robby Soave: Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump. All Points Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 1, 2019, on Kindle. In this book, libertarian Robby Soave attempts to explain the actions of "Zillennials" (millennials and Gen-Z), and in particular ways in which they sabotage their own agendas. 
  • Todd Borg: Tahoe Avalanche (Owen McKenna, No. 6). Thriller Press. Adult Mystery. Completed August 6, 2019, on Kindle. I've continued to enjoy this series (clearly), though after this one I decided to take a break. I've downloaded the next one, though, and am keeping it ready for my next reading slump, when I need a "go-to" title. 
  • Ruth Ware: The Death of Mrs. Westaway. Gallery/Scout Press. Adult Mystery. Completed August 7, 2019, on Kindle. I enjoyed this twisty modern gothic mystery, which kept me awake on an airplane ride. Definitely recommended.
  • KnowledgeGapNatalie Wexler: The Knowledge Gap: The hidden cause of America's broken education system--and how to fix it. Avery. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 9, 2019, on Kindle. In this book, Wexler posits that the problem with the US education system is a lack of teaching of content in the elementary years, in favor of skills. She presents what I found to be a compelling case. This is a rare book that I believe will change my thinking and actions. I highly recommend it. I hope to find time to write more about it, but meanwhile, here is a good review from Daisy Christodoulou at TES.
  • Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle: Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive. Oxford University Press. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 10, 2019, on Kindle. I do believe in the general premise of this book, that schools (particularly those servings Pre-K to 3) should incorporate considerably more play and recess than they do. And I was encouraged by various examples cited by the authors that suggest movement in this direction, after years of going the other way. However, I found the book itself too full of anecdotes and extended quotations for my taste. I skimmed a fair bit. I also thought that the authors lumped together ALL school reform efforts ever as deeply flawed and based on impure motives, without presenting much evidence to that effect. I much preferred Natalie Wexler's book. I hope to write more about this one, too, but in the meantime, here's a review by William Doyle at EducationNext that captures the strengths and weaknesses that I observed in the book. 
  • T. Jefferson Parker: The Room of White Fire (Roland Ford, No. 1). G.P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery/Thriller. Completed August 10, 2019, on Kindle. I enjoyed the characters in this book (about a PI who hunts for missing people, while grieving his deceased wife), but found some of the content (descriptions of torture) too dark. I had to skim, and was glad that I wasn't listening on audio. 
  • Jeanne Safer: I Love You, but I Hate Your Politics: How to Protect Your Intimate Relationships in a Poisonous Partisan World. All Points Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 11, 2019, on Kindle. This isn't really something that I struggle with in my family, but I am interested in the general state of discourse in today's partisan environment. This is a fairly quick read, and I agreed with the author's main point that trying to change anyone else's core beliefs is futile and destructive. 

RangeI'm reading The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes by David Robson and listening to Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. Oddly (or perhaps not), I just read about the same research regarding learning and struggle in both books at  the same time. I'm not making a lot of progress with audiobooks because I've been listening to various podcasts, but I am enjoying Range. I haven't been reading aloud to my daughter very much, I must confess (travel, etc.), but I expect to get back into our breakfast reading routine once school starts next week. I need to give some thought to what book to read together next. Harry Potter 6 was too dark for my daughter, I think, but I personally am ready for something a bit more substantive than the Wimpy Kid books. We'll see...  

LuckyStarsMy daughter packed 13 books for a recent vacation to Boston and then somehow coaxed her aunt into buying her four more at the bookstore (I think it was a buy three get one free kind of thing, but still...). Her current obsession is the Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce. I had pointed those out at the library many times, in my quest to keep her supplied with graphic novels, but she was never interested. I'm not sure what sparked her to want them now, but she's happily devouring them. She also quite liked the third book in the Mr. Wolf's Class series by Aron Nels Steinke, Lucky Stars, pronouncing it the best of the series. She has several others for which she is eagerly awaiting preorders. 

In general, she seems to be reading more as summer vacation draws  to a close. I only hope that I can help her to continue this once school starts and a stronger focus in 4th grade on AR points rears its ugly head. Stay tuned!

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

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