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1. It Happens: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader: Kelly Jensen

Book: It Happens: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader
Author: Kelly Jensen
Pages: 278
Age Range: Adult (reference title for librarians and others who do reader's advisory for teens)

I'm not quite the target audience for It Happens: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader, but I've been following Kelly Jensen's blog for years, and I have a lot of respect for her knowledge of and advocacy for young adult fiction. So when she had a contest on her blog to win a copy of It Happens, I decided to enter. And I won! So now I'm here to tell you a bit about the book. 

It Happens is a reference title for anyone who provides reader's advisory to teens, and wants to do better at recommending contemporary realistic fiction. As a blogger/reviewer, I do some of what Kelly calls "passive reader's advisory" (recommending titles, and discussing what interests a particular book might fall under). I can imagine doing more active reader's advisory (where you discuss a teen's interest with them and recommend specific titles) when my daughter and her friends are teenagers. In the meantime, I do a little of that with my nieces, friends who read YA, etc.

Anyway, this book is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to get the right books into the hands of teens, particularly librarians and teachers. It Happens is both a primer on HOW to get the right book into the right hands and a resource with suggestions for exactly what those books might be. In Part 1, Kelly defines realistic contemporary young adult fiction, discusses why this genre is both important and under-publicized, and provides some general resources (book awards, etc.) for discovering titles. She also proposes methods for evaluating and categorizing YA titles, and concludes with a detailed chapter on reader's advisory skills. 

Here is Kelly's definition of contemporary YA, from the end of Chapter 1:

"Contemporary YA features young adult protagonists set in today's world incorporating today's issues, paralleling and intertwining with the values that every teen - and every reader - thinks about: family, friendship, growing up, loss, faith, the future, and many, many more." (Page 8)

She starts each chapter with a quote (some short, some long) from an author or a librarian or other gatekeeper. I found these quotations inspirational in many cases. Like this, from Lisa Schroeder:

"... But perhaps after closing the pages of a well-done contemporary YA novel, a teen will think: If she can make it through, I can, too." (Page 9)

That's why we're here, right? To find the books that can make a real different for kids. I also personally, as a member of the children's book blogging community, enjoyed seeing quotes from people whose blogs I've been reading for years, like Liz Burns and Sarah Gross. [Though I think it would have been helpful for readers less familiar with the community had at least the names of these people's blogs been included.] 

As a reviewer, I found that Chapter 4, on methods for evaluating fiction, resonated, even though (or perhaps because) some of the topics were things that I have been thinking about for a long time. Here's what Kelly has to say about critical evaluation:

"Critical evaluation highlights the elements of a text that work well and those that don't work quite so well. All books have their strengths and their weaknesses, and while critical evaluation sounds like a way to tease out and emphasize only the parts that don't work, that's not the case. Exploring what does and does not work at the same time offers a thorough means for understanding not just the book at hand, but fiction more widely. (Page 27)

All in all, I enjoyed the first part of the book, and learned a bit about book genres and reader's advisory. But for me, where It Happens really shines is in Part 2. In this section, Kelly provides fifteen book "annotations" for each of ten separate topics, thus profiling 150 books in detail. Her selections are all relatively current titles (from the past 10 years), and do not include the obvious, huge print run titles, which people already know about. 

Each annotation includes a cover image, a brief summary of the book, a link to the book's trailer, if available, and a list of "Appeal Factors" (e.g. "female main character", "moving", "deafness", etc.). The appeal factors are very useful (and an index of the factors is available at the end of the book). Kelly goes beyond the genres to get into real specifics, like books set in particular locations, books with people of color or non-traditional families, books about filmmaking or fishing, etc.  

Below that, Kelly also includes a brief section on "Read Alikes" for each book. These Read Alikes were what impressed me the most about It Happens. Rather than just including a list of similar books, Kelly discusses just what it is about this book that might appeal to readers who liked some other title. And then she'll also discuss other books that might make a good follow-on read, and WHY. These references, these connections between the books, really showcase Kelly's deep knowledge of the field. I didn't read every annotation in detail, but I found the Read Alikes fascinating. 

At the end of each chapter/topic, Kelly includes another list of related titles. Then, at the end of the book, she provides several chapters dedicated to books that are good conversations starters around specific issues like bullying and sexual assault. She discusses four or five books in detail for each topic. She gets into exactly what types of discussions a parent or teacher might launch based on having read each book. As the parent of a four year old girl, I'm hoping for an update of this section in about 8-10 years. But I'll keep this edition handy in any case. 

I do wish that It Happens was available as a digital text. It would be lovely to be able to click through to read more about the additional titles listed at the end of each section, or to click on an "Appeal Factor" listed at the end of a book profile and immediately bring up all of the other books listed under that same appeal factor. But it's nice to have It Happens in printed form as a reference to keep on my bookshelf, too. 

The very last chapter of It Happens is a call for readers of the book to advocate for contemporary YA fiction as a genre: to read extensively, and work hard to promote strong titles and get them into readers' hands. For example, Kelly suggests nominating strong contemporary YA titles for the YALSA and Cybils awards. [I, of course, especially appreciated several Cybils references throughout the book.] This is a positive note on which to leave readers, giving them strong next steps to take.  

I will also admit that I found parts of the book a bit physically difficult to read. It Happens is an oversize paperback, and while the format works well for the chapters with book descriptions, it's not quite a comfortable fit to put the book on your lap and read the first section straight through. Also, this section includes quite a few text boxes, set aside from the main text. Some of the text boxes were excerpts of the main text, while others were supplemental. I found this a bit confusing. Visually, the text boxes keep the oversized book from appearing too dense in the non-booklist sections, but functionally, I thought that the ones that didn't provide new information would have been better left out. But that's the most critical thing I have to say in my evaluation of the book. 

All in all, I think that It Happens is a useful resource for anyone who evaluates young adult fiction, including blogging reviewers like me. For those are true gatekeepers, out there in the trenches getting books into the hands of teens, it is essential. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: VOYA Press (@VOYAMagazine)
Publication Date: August 15, 2014
Source of Book: Won from the author in a raffle

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 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

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2. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 8

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book lists, growing bookworms, ebooks, apps, KidLitCon, Cybils, reading, schools, libraries, and summer reading.

Books and Authors

I can't believe that people are protesting The Scarecrows' Wedding b/c the bad guy smokes http://ow.ly/zYVlU via @bkshelvesofdoom

Children’s Lit Questions From Beyond the Grave: A Wild Things! Interview of @SevenImp + @FuseEight by @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/zZ2fS

Book Lists

es! RT @BookChook: @JensBookPage Think u wd like: @BooksBabiesBows Ten Reasons to Read Aloud During Times of Tragedy http://www.booksbabiesandbows.com/2014/06/ten-reasons-to-read-aloud-during-times.html?spref=tw …

New Stacked #BookList and general thoughts from Kimberly on Matriarchal Societies http://ow.ly/zZ2a2 #yalit

Stacked: Get Genrefied: Climate Fiction (Cli-Fi) http://ow.ly/zVYbo #yalit @catagator #BookList

Top Ten Novels in Verse by @katiestrawser @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zTWpJ #kidlit

THIS is a great resource | Easy Reader Books That Are Actually Easy, selected by @momandkiddo http://ow.ly/zVXDe

Nice list of Back to School Books for different ages from @bankstreetedu http://ow.ly/zTSEw via @ChoiceLiteracy

Children's and YA books featuring unlikely friendships from the SSHEL #Library http://ow.ly/zRc5C #BookList

5 Superhero Comics with Girl Power | Friday’s Five @5M4B http://ow.ly/zRbP1

25 Contemporary Picture Books To Help Parents, Teachers, And Kids Talk About #Diversity @buzzfeed http://ow.ly/A1RrK via @FuseEight

eBooks and Apps

Eight Apps to Support Early Reading and Writing | Cool Tools @ShiftTheDigital http://ow.ly/zZv6r

Important thoughts from @MaryAnnScheuer | Reading Online: How will it affect developing readers? http://ow.ly/zZ0ED

Smartphones: The Silent Killer Of The Web As You Know It @ow at The Next Web via @cmirabile http://ow.ly/zRkWL

Growing Bookworms

Great advice from @TrevorHCairney | Helping toddlers to develop reading comprehension http://ow.ly/zVXip #literacy

#RT @ReadAloud_org Babies are born learning and parents are a child's first and most important teacher. Download our 15 Books & Tips http://www2.readaloud.org/15ReadAloudTips

Raising Readers: The Power of Rereading from @SunlitPages http://ow.ly/zZ37Y #literacy

10 easy tips for keeping the love of books alive in an early childhood classroom | @NorahColvin http://ow.ly/zYW43

Kidlitosphere

On Poetry Friday, @JoneMac53 has A Couple of Announcements about #KidLitCon + the call for #Cybils judges http://ow.ly/zRdZ3

Various interesting #kidlit tidbits in: Morning Notes: See You in 2114 Edition — @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/A56VN

Kidlit PictureRT @KidLitCon: Check out some of the people who will be at this year's #KidLitCon. Will you be there, too? http://t.co/pk1Xzlpcpw

A #Kidlitcon program teaser @charlotteslib (+a note that the deadline for panel ideas has been extended a week) http://ow.ly/zTWrA

Congratulations to @FuseEight + @SevenImp on the publication of Wild Things! Lots of fun stuff planned http://ow.ly/zYXuu

At A Year of Reading, @MaryLeeHahn + @frankisibberson are Celebrating the fabulous @KateMessner http://ow.ly/zRcCR

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

"Being readers makes us friends" | Happy Esther Day, Nerdy Friends! | @CBethM @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zTVLN

Gorgeous post on The State of Photography Illustration in 2014 @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/zRewm #kidlit

Interesting: Wikipedia, Amelia Bedelia, and Our Responsibility Regarding Online Sources — @fuseeight http://ow.ly/zRd6s

Programs and Research

New @RalphLauren program has designs to promote kids' #Literacy, 25% of price goes to @ReachOutAndRead http://ow.ly/zYSvJ @Scholastic

Very nice, from SFC Blog: The Y Helps Kids Combat ‘Summer Slide’ http://ow.ly/A1QVQ via @FuseEight #literacy

Scientists Say Child's Play Helps Build A Better Brain, more important than class time | @NPR http://ow.ly/A5lT5  via @PWKidsBookshelf

Schools and Libraries

Love it! A Librarian's Guide to getting to 10,000 Steps in a day from @abbylibrarian http://ow.ly/zTWjU

TEN TIPS FOR A PERFECT AUTHOR VISIT at school by Michael Shoulders | @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zYWTv #kidlit

Nice idea to encourage reading outside of class | The Phenomenon of the 100 Page Club @stephaseverson @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zVXYK

Summer Reading

Rocking #SummerReading and STEAM @RIFWEB http://ow.ly/A56jG

#SummerReading Tip36 @aliposner | As we head into August, take a moment to reflect on your kids’ reading lives | http://ow.ly/zTW4c

#SummerReading Tip37 @aliposner | When in transit to your destination this summer, establish some no technology time http://ow.ly/zTWgh

#SummerReading Tip38 @aliposner | Parents of boys, pay special attention to your boys’ reading this summer http://ow.ly/zZ2QI

#SummerReading Tip39 @aliposner | Consider motivating summer reading with some great graphic novels! http://ow.ly/A2GJN

© 2014 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.

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3. Bats in the Band: Brian Lies

Book: Bats in the Band
Author/Illustrator: Brian Lies 
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

Oh happy day! There is a new book in Brian Lies' Bats series, after Bats at the Library (review), Bats at the Beach, and Bats at the Ballgame (review). Lies' accomplished bats are back, and this time, they are making music with Bats in the Band. While the musical evening setting doesn't resonate quite as much for me as the earlier library or baseball game settings, it's still lovely to be immersing myself in Lies' detailed illustrations, and reading his rhyming but varied prose aloud. In this story, as night falls one evening, a number of bats experience a common yen to make music. They converge on a "summertime theater", deserted late at night, and engage in an impromptu series of musical acts. 

 Here are my two favorite snippets of text:

"Some bats have instruments perfect in size,
Others, without them, will just improvise.
Behind the stage curtain, they're getting in tune,
making up things out of straws, out of spoons.

and

"Then the shimmering vibrations
dwindle down and fade away--
and a silence fills our ears,
as loud as anything we played."

See what I mean? Each set of couplets rhymes, making Bats in the Band nice for read-aloud, but because the passages don't all have the same number of syllables, it doesn't feel sing-songy. I love how Lies uses strong vocabulary words, like "dwindle" and "shimmering". 

And the bats! Set against mainly dark backdrops, the bats have finely textured fur, bright black eyes, and jaunty ears. Their instruments mostly look like real instruments. However, careful study of the illustrations reveals things like a bat guitarist sitting on a champagne cork, and scraps of straws and bottle-caps put into service as instruments.

Bats in the Band has a delightfully silly premise, brought to life with a joie de vivre that could awaken in any reader a fresh appreciation for music. Highly recommended, and a must-read for fans of the series. 

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHBooks)
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 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

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4. The Summer I Saved the World . . . in 65 Days: Michele Weber Hurwitz

Book: The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days
Author: Michele Weber Hurwitz
Pages: 272
Age Range: 10 and up

The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days is about a thirteen-year-old girl who decides to do "one good thing every single day", anonymously, over the summer before starting high school. This would not ordinarily be my sort of thing. But The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days is about much more than the good deeds themselves. It's about that awkward stage in life when you start to grow in different directions from your childhood friends. It's about neighbors, and family, and the very early stages of adolescent attraction. And of all of this is exactly my sort of thing. I liked this book very much. 

Nina is someone who most readers will be able to relate to on one level or another. She likes playing basketball (though she's not sure she can make the high school team). She's exploring a new interest in art. She has a group of friends that she's spent time with because of common activities, but isn't sure she really belongs with them. She plays cheerfully with the little boy next door. She feels frustrated by her work-obsessed parents, and mourns a time when her family was different. And she both loves and is frustrated by her long-time best friend, Jorie. She declares herself "in beween everything". So many of us have been there at one point or another. 

The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days could almost have been written about a girl about to start middle school, instead of high school. It is definitely age-appropriate for middle schoolers - there are a couple of kisses; even the rebellious older brother sits around with his friends and plays poker and drinks root beer.

It's also relatively timeless. Much is made of Nina's not-very-functional cell phone. To me this seemed to be a device to keep Nina focused on the real world, and real conversations. There's plenty of playing ball in the cul-de-sac, gardening, and going to the playground. 

One thing that I really liked about this book was the way that the author highlights everyone in Nina's small neighborhood. This includes people of all ages, and at least a bit of ethnic diversity. There's a little map of the cul-de-sac at the front of the book, adding to cozy feel of the setting.

There's no question that The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days is a feel-good, coming of age story. Nina learns to "step up", instead of waiting for other people to do things. Her actions help to draw the neighborhood together (despite the suspicious reaction of one resident). But Michele Weber Hurwitz keeps the book from feeling message-y by focusing on Nina's first-person voice, and by making it clear that everything Nina does is self-directed. Here's what Nina has to say about it:

"I've never been terrific at finishing projects. This past year, I started a scrapbook, a journal, three books, daily yoga stretches, and a beauty routine involving a weekly mask and blackhead strips. I didn't continue any of them. I got bored, distracted. But the sixty-five things are something I want to finish. I have to. They're sneaky and fun and exciting--thinking of them, figuring out how to keep them secret. Every time, I get this filled-up, kind of powerful feeling. Strong. Hopeful." (Page 53)

The Summer I Save the World ... in 65 Days is a very nice read for middle schoolers, more girls than boys, I think (particularly given the pink and yellow cover). It addresses that yen that kids get sometimes to be a better person, and also explores the "in between" times that arise as kids grow up, and sometimes grow away from other people. There's a light romance and a smidgen of family drama to keep things interesting. The Summer I Saved the World .. in 65 Days is a fun book with heart. Recommended!

Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 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

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5. Comics Squad: Recess!: Jennifer L. Holm and others

Book: Comics Squad: Recess!
Authors: Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Jarrett Krosoczka, Raina Telgemeier & Dave Roman, Dan Santat, Dav Pilkey, Ursula Vernon, Eric Wight, and Gene Luen Yang
Pages: 144
Age Range: 7-10

Comics Squad: Recess! is a new collaborative book produced by a team of today's top cartoonists/illustrators/graphic novelists. It features eight stories, all told in comic strip format. The stories are set in an elementary school environment, and are relevant to the concerns of younger elementary schoo kids. Oh, and they are funny, of course. 

Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, creators of the Babymouse and Squish series, and Jarrett Krosoczka, creator of the Lunch Lady series, are the editors. Babymouse and Lunch Lady make a few cameo appearances before and between the other stories - I guess you could say that they are the informal hosts to the book. Babymouse also appears in one of the stories, repeatedly thwarted in her "Quest for Recess" ("Typical!". Lunch Lady is actually out sick, but Betty is on the job (and stocked up with new inventions) in "Betty and the Perilous Pizza Day".

As I've personally read most of the Babymouse and Lunch Lady books already, I was interested to see what the other authors would come up with. It's quite a varied lot. I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor of Gene Yang's "The Super-Secret Ninja Club", and the frankly adorable cupcake in Eric Wight's "Jiminy Sprinkles in "Freeze Tag"". Ursula Vernon's "The Magic Acorn" features squirrels meeting up with a tiny alien in an acorn-shaped spaceship. "The Rainy Day Monitor" by Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier celebrates the joys of pretending (with some pretty funny, mostly fake celebrity cameos). Dan Santat, on the other hand, mocks the idea of writing a 300 word essay on The Giving Tree, while giving the teeny-tiniest hint of a middle grade romance. 

My favorite story was Dav Pilkey's "Book 'Em, Dog Man". Pilkey writes this as if it were the work of a pair of comic-obsessed young boys. The story is introduced with a letter written by the disapproving teacher of the boys, like this: "As you will see, this comic book contains multiple scenes of stealing, violence, and unlawfulness... and don't get me started on the spelling and grammar!" Personally, I thought that the second-grade-appropriate spelling was hilarious ("desidid", "excape", etc.). 

But it's all fun. Though the tone and style of the eight stories varies, a common orange and black color palette across the book lends a certain visual consistency. 

Comics Squad: Recess! is dedicated to The Nerdy Book Club, which I thought was a particularly appropriate touch. The Nerdy Book Club members, like the authors of Comics Squad, dedicate their working lives to ensuring the kids find reading fun. 

Comics Squad: Recess! is an excellent introduction for younger kids to graphic novels. Including a range of authors ensures that each reader is bound to find at least one story that resonates. This is a book that all elementary school libraries will want to carry (probably in multiple copies). Just be prepared for requests for more of Comics Squad! Fortunately, the authors have other titles available. Comics Squad: Recess! is the absolute epitome of "kid-friendly". Highly recommended. I'll be keeping my copy for when my daughter is a tiny bit older. 

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 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

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6. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 1

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include authors and illustrators, book lists, diversity, growing bookworms, events, summer reading, summer slide, literacy programs, kidlitcon, writing, movies, and schools.

Authors and Illustrators

Wild Things! Funky Buddha Parties to Children’s Books: Before They Were Authors + Illustrators http://ow.ly/zLu55 @SevenImp @FuseEight

Fun! Books the @growingbbb family's favorite Children's Authors Liked When They Were Kids http://ow.ly/zG4qs #kidlit

Book Lists

A timely list! 3 on a YA Theme: Summer Camp | @catagator @bookriot http://ow.ly/zB0pU #yalit

100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime from @Amazon is a pretty nice list http://ow.ly/zJ66c via @PWKidsBookshelf

A Tuesday Ten: SF-based Time Travel in #kidlit | Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/zLujJ #BookList

Books to Help Your Child With Common Kid Problems | @BookishHQ http://ow.ly/zL2xS #BookList #kidlit

From @CoffeeandCrayon | A List of Books About Starting Kindergarten http://ow.ly/zLtEQ #kidlit

New #BookList from Stacked: #YAlit involving Hacking, Gaming & Virtual Reality http://ow.ly/zIkwh

Picture Books for Young Writers | Lit For Kids Blog via @ChoiceLiteracy http://ow.ly/zGeOb #kidlit

A Top Ten Featuring the Coretta Scott King Book Awards by @medinger @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zG9wo #kidlit

Nice list of Middle Grade titles for #WeNeedDiverseBooks from @girlsincapes http://ow.ly/zG8aO via @charlotteslib

Stacked: Censorship, Challenges, and Other Forms of Protest: A Reading List from @catagator http://ow.ly/zG6hd

Diversity

Congratulations to #WeNeedDiverseBooks for incorporating + having a great advisory board http://ow.ly/zOh8A @sljournal

Go Doc McStuffins! Race in Toyland: A Nonwhite Doll Crosses Over @NYTimes http://ow.ly/zJ5G6 via @PWKidsBookshelf

Sigh! Infographic: The Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films. @bkshelvesofdoom @leeandlow http://ow.ly/zJ5aI

Events, Programs, and Research

Very cool! School Librarian Fights Summer Slide with School Bus-Turned-Bookmobile | @sljournalhttp://ow.ly/zOh3J

FirstBookSummer_ReadingEncouraging news from @FirstBook blog: How Kansas City Kids Beat Summer Slide http://ow.ly/zAYTP #SummerReading

Neat idea! Richmond mom brings literacy to laundromats | @KALW in SF http://ow.ly/zJ6do via @PWKidsBookshelf

"This summer, the streets of London have been filled with 50 book-shaped benches, celebrating a range of books" http://ow.ly/zB11c

Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers | @HornBook Colloquium sounds neat http://ow.ly/zOhGA #HBAS14 http://ow.ly/zOhP1

Press Release: A Conference on Censorship in #kidlit and a Call for Proposals @fuseeight http://ow.ly/zG5Nv @ArneNixonCenter

Learning To Read May Take Longer Than We Thought @NPR via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/zJ5Xd #literacy

Growing Bookworms

This is awesome! I want one! Sneaking Books in at breakfast: toast racks as book storage | @playbythebook http://ow.ly/zOz5C

The Maze Runner: Hooking Teachers + Reluctant Readers Since 2009 – Review by @shkrajewski @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zLtQZ

Keep calm + read to your child, @JGCanada advises parents worried about their kids not yet reading http://ow.ly/zLte8

Don't miss: Getting Boys Excited About Reading: Ideas & Resources from @TrevorHCairney http://ow.ly/zAZw0

Kidlitosphere

KidlitCon2014_cubeWendie Old has all the links you need to learn about this year's #KidLitCon http://ow.ly/zIkPb #kidlit #yalit

#KidLitCon 2014 Still Wants YOU! says co-organizer @aquafortis | She just registered. How about you? http://ow.ly/zGsup

Children's + YA BOOK blogging friends! This is the last week for Session Proposals for #KidLitCon14 http://ow.ly/zGczI

Lots of good stuff in this week's Fusenews, including a plug for #KidLitCon14 from @fuseeight http://ow.ly/zIfpG

A Little Shout-Out to #KidlitCon from co-organizer Tanita Davis: The more we talk about things like #diversity... http://ow.ly/zG9ec

"My best memories of #KidLitCon are getting to meet people in real life" | @LizB on why you should attend http://ow.ly/zG79Q

How I presented at #Kidlitcon, and how you can too! from this year's Program Organizer @charlotteslib http://ow.ly/zG6LI

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Diversity + How Can YOU Contribute to the Conversation at #KidLitCon http://ow.ly/zAWvU Tanita Davis

On Reading, Writing, Publishing

Middle Grade and YA: Where to Draw the Line? (+ where to shelve the books in the store) http://ow.ly/zJ5qf @PublishersWkly #kidlit

I feel like this too: Books as Traveling Companions through life by @AmericanClassrm @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zG5op

"Read-alouds can sometimes be just as important to the teacher in the classroom" @rantryan @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zG8GC

I collect bookmarks, too. Loved: Handmade Mini Bookmarks + Books About Reading from @momandkiddo http://ow.ly/zAZzz

Movies and Video

I am intrigued... The Famous Five are headed to the big screen, via @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/zIdfY

Wild Things! Tar Babies + Cannibals: Children’s Literature + Problematic Cinematic Adaptations http://ow.ly/zIkcm @FuseEight + @SevenImp

#KidLit Film Adaptations: The Good, The Bad, and the Traumatizing at Wild Things! http://ow.ly/zG63c @SevenImp @FuseEight

Who would have thought? 8 Reasons Why @momandkiddo Loves Pokémon http://ow.ly/zIean

Schools

At Literate Lives, suggestions from a dad to his daughter, a first-time first-grade teacher http://ow.ly/zLtmw

The plot to destroy education: Why technology could ruin American classrooms — by trying to fix them @salon http://ow.ly/zODY5

An idea for teachers: Battle of the Books by Sherry Gick @LibraryFanatic @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zAZWV

Summer Reading

RT @ErinMargolin: SO GOOD! 10 Tips on How to Avoid the Summer Slide http://www.bonbonbreak.com/avoiding-summer-slide/ … via @bonbonbreak

National Book Foundation Launches New #SummerReading Program in NYC http://ow.ly/zODjU via @PWKidsBookshelf

#SummerReading Tip33 @aliposner | Have a lemonade stand…and, tie it to #literacy! | http://ow.ly/zG9DI

#SummerReading Tip35 from @aliposner | Parents, participate in a READING IN THE WILD scavenger hunt! | @donalynbooks http://ow.ly/zLvcE

Nancy Howe and Rosanne Macek: Keep our kids off the summer slide w/ #SummerReading programs @MercuryNews http://ow.ly/zAPIA

© 2014 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.

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7. The Scarecrows' Wedding: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

Book: The Scarecrows' Wedding
Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

The Scarecrows' Wedding is the latest picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axle Scheffler, the team that created the beloved book The Gruffalo. The Gruffalo is one of my husband's favorite books to read aloud to our four-year-old daughter. They like the rhythm of the text, combined with the every-so-slight scariness of "the deep dark woods." The Scarecrows' Wedding has a similar rhythmic feel. It is a book that begs to be read aloud. The subject matter is a bit lighter, though there is a risk of death near the end of the book.

In The Scarecrows' Wedding, scarecrows Betty O'Barley and Harry O'Hay decide to get married. Betty draws up a short list of her expectations for the wedding. Their farmyard friends help with some of these, but Harry ends up gong off on a quest to find "lots of pink flowers." While he's gone, a slick new scarecrow attempts to make time with Betty. But, of course, it all works out in the end. 

Here's an example of Donaldson's bouncy text:

"They hadn't gone far when some cows gathered round,
And the bells round their necks made a wonderful sound.
Ring-a-ding ding! Ring-a-ding ding!
"Oh, cows, will you please come and make your bells ring
For our wonderful wedding, the best wedding yet,
The wedding that no one will ever forget?"

That last bit, about the wonderful wedding that no one will ever forget, is repeated at intervals throughout the book, giving young readers a chance to chime in. There's subtle humor for adult readers, too, like the fact that the scarecrow who intervenes is called "Reginald Rake." He looks like a rake, too. 

Scheffler's illustrations are kid-friendly, with wide-eyed people and animals. The affection between the two scarecrows is conveyed via their companionable proximity and pink-cheeked smiles. The scarecrows move about as awkwardly as you would expect scarecrows to move, and there are tons of different types of animals to name and count sprinkled throughout the book. 

I believe that The Scarecrows' Wedding is going to make an immediate entry into my family's go-to bedtime reading list. It is a sure-fire hit, and must-purchase for libraries. This will be a great title to read to kids, alone or in groups, come fall. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 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

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8. Growing Bookworms Newsletter: July 30

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 children's and young adult books and raising readers. I currenty send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book to adult), two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently, and an summary post about the status of KidLitCon planning

Reading Update: In the last three weeks I read four middle grade books and one adult book. I read:

I'm currently reading Rose and the Lost Princess by Holly Webb on Kindle, and Memory Maze (The Hypnotists, Book 2) by Gordon Korman in print. I'm listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I am quite enjoying listening to the Harry Potter series (for the first time). 

As always, you can see the list of books that we've been reading to Baby Bookworm here. She has been developing more of an appreciation for humor lately. She especially likes Plants vs. Zombies: Brains and the Beanstalk and Wedgieman: A Hero Is Born. She also likes to peruse the back covers of the Berenstain Bears books, where they display some 20 or so pictures of other books in the series, and make requests. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 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

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9. The Way to the Zoo: John Burningham

Book: The Way to the Zoo
Author: John Burningham
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

The Way to the Zoo by John Burningham is a picture book about a little girl named Sylvie who discovers a secret doorway in her bedroom that leads to a zoo. The animals are friendly, and sometimes Sylvie brings some of them back into her house. The small bear is cozy to sleep with, but the penguins make a splashy mess in the bathroom. And when Sylvie forgets to close the door to the zoo one day, chaos ensues. 

The Way to the Zoo reminded me a bit of Barbara Lehman's Rainstorm, and a bit of Philip and Erin Stead's A Sick Day for Amos McGee. All three books feature implausible events related in a completely matter-of-fact manner. My four year old daughter thought that The Way to the Zoo was hilarious, and asked immediately that I read it again. 

Burningham takes his time with the story. Instead of jumping in to where the girl finds and opens the door, she first glimpses the door from her bed, decides to wait to check it out in the morning, and then forgets, and doesn't look inside until after school the next day. He uses a relatively basic vocabulary, and explains what's happening in detail. I think that The Way to the Zoo could function as an early reader for some kids. Here's an example (all on one page spread):

"It was getting late. Sylvie had to get back 
to her room and go to sleep because she
had school again in the morning.

Sylvie asked a little bear to come back
with her. He did and slept in her bed

She made sure the bear was back in the
zoo and the door in the wall was closed
before she left for school."

This passage is, of course, also good for teaching young readers about foreshadowing. 

Burningham's illustrations are in pen, pencil pastel, and watercolor. The are minimalist, with only the faintest suggestion of backgrounds, lots of white space, and the details left to the reader's imagination. This isn't my personal favorite style of illustration - I couldn't always tell what kind of animal was being represented, for instance. But the pictures made my daughter laugh, particularly one involving birds in the living room, and another in which a rhino lies on the floor covered up in towels for the night. 

The Way to the Zoo has a timeless feel, support in particular by the apparent freedom that Sylvie has from parental oversight. It would make a nice school or library read-aloud for K-2nd graders. Recommended for home or library use! 

Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick) 
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 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

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10. KidLitCon Update!

2014KidLitConLogoThe 8th Annual Kidlitosphere Conference is rapidly approaching. KidLitCon is an annual gathering of children's and young adult book bloggers. It is incredibly fun, educational, and rewarding. This year, KidLitCon will be held in Sacramento, CA, at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, on October 10th and 11th. The theme is Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next? As one of the organizers of this year's conference, I wanted to give you all a quick update of what's been going on with the KidLitCon planning. 

My friend and KidLitCon14 co-chair (with Sarah Stevenson), Tanita Davis from Finding Wonderland, has an excellent new post up at the Kidlitosphere Central blog: What Do We Mean When We Talk About "Diversity" and How Can YOU Contribute to the Conversation? 

Tanita discusses the general buzz around diversity these days, and acknowledges that it can be difficult to even define what we mean by seeking more diversity in books and blogging. There are, after all, many types of diversity. She makes a few suggestions for both diversity-themed and more general session topics that might be submitted for KidLitCon. She concludes:

"We blog, because blogging gives us a voice. We blog about diversity, because we’ve all got different voices. Use yours.Sign up to join a panel or a session or to pitch an idea for this year’s KidLitCon. You can be a part of a game-changing conversation."

So how about it? Do you, in all your uniqueness, have something to contribute to this year's Kidlitosphere Conference? Session proposals will be accepted for one more week, through August 1st. Program Coordinator Charlotte Taylor from Charlotte's Library is standing by for your submissions. If you have an idea but wish to discuss it more informally, you can always email her

We also shared a post recently by this year's Author Coordinators, Melissa Fox from Book Nut and Reshama Deshmukh from Stacking Books, about ways that authors and publishers can get more involved with KidLitCon. Here is their enthusiastic conclusion:

"KidLitCon does have the best of everything: Good books, good conversation and amazing KidLit bloggers under one roof!! We hope you can join us and we look forward to seeing you there!"

Even if you aren't interested in making a presentation, or being actively involved as an author or publisher, you are still more than welcome and encouraged to come to KidLitCon and observe (or participate from the audience). We're expecting librarians, authors, teachers, parents, booksellers, publishers, and readers. Registration Coordinator Maureen Kearney from Confessions of a BIbliovore is ready to accept your KidLitCon14 registration form at any time. Registration closes September 19th.

 

I've submitted my registration form, and can't wait for KidLitCon. October. Sacramento, CA. Kindred spirits talking about ways to get books into people's hands. Don't miss it!

© 2014 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.  

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11. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 25

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. This week's topics include book lists, diverse books, ebooks, growing bookworms, events, KidLitCon, literacy programs, literacy research, schools, libraries, and summer reading.

Book Lists and Awards

Fun new #BookList from Stacked: Teenage Criminals http://ow.ly/zydPR #yalit

A Tuesday Ten: Magical Time Travel in #kidlit | Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/zvU6C

A Tuesday Ten: Speculative #kidlit in which MAPS play a major role | Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/zpXU3

2014 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Finalists Announced | @sljournal http://ow.ly/zt0Oq #yalit

In honor of Apollo XI moon landing anniversary, @FirstBook shares favorite space-inspired books http://ow.ly/zsTGS

Our Top Ten Favorite Picture Book Friendships by @heisereads + @fins025 @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zpXKp #kidlit

Nice list of 10 family-tested "Great Audiobooks" from @Book_Nut http://ow.ly/zpSN7

First Day of School Books, old and new, recommended @growingbbb http://ow.ly/zpPOa #kidlit

Diverse Books

The 10 LGBT YA Books You Need to Read This Year | Kelly Gallucci @BookishHQ http://ow.ly/zvMAz

An big, categorized LGBTQ TBR List For Any Occasion by Alison Peters @bookriot http://ow.ly/zpTkZ via @catagator

eBooks and Apps

A look at Amazon's new Kindle Unlimited from All Sides — @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/zvTi3 #eBooks

Forbes Says Close The Libraries And Buy Everyone An Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription http://buff.ly/1mrHHvf #libraries #ebooks

What Young Adult Publishers and Authors Can Do to Fight E-Book Piracy | Karen Springen @PublishersWkly http://ow.ly/zyG5I

Are Today’s Kids All Thumbs? Touch Matters. Researchers Bring Tactile Learning into Digital Realm @ShiftTheDigital http://ow.ly/zt0I3

Events, Programs, and Research

FirstBookSummer_ReadingNo Kid Hungry: Summer Feeding and Summer Fun @FirstBook blog http://ow.ly/zkiSg #literacy

Press Release Fun @FuseEight | Announcing the Ninth Annual Carle Honors on Sept. 18th http://ow.ly/zydAj

Hillary Clinton launches campaign that recommends reading aloud to children from birth @MercuryNews http://ow.ly/zyeel #literacy

Study finds children who have strong reading skills 'are more intelligent by their mid-teens' | http://ow.ly/zyd10 via @librareanne

Growing Bookworms

Important post! You’ve got them reading–now, how do you keep them that way? | Kathy Higgs-Coulthard @wendy_lawrence http://ow.ly/zpUJU

Grownups: You Can Read YA, and Why Not Read It With Your Kids? | @lori_day @HuffingtonPost via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/zsWPw

Teaching My Daughters to Read -- Part IV, Success by @ReadingShahahan http://ow.ly/zpSZN #literacy

"Wimpy Kid" Author's 6 Tips to Hook Reluctant Readers | @CommonSense via @librareanne http://ow.ly/zpDXV

Kidlitosphere

Fusenews: Full of ever-interesting tidbits from @FuseEight, like The Snow Queen – There Can Be Only One http://ow.ly/zpYrR

KidlitCon2014_cubeDon't miss: A Note for Authors and Publishers About #KidLitCon14 from @Book_Nut + @StackingBks http://ow.ly/zpZCU

Still more from Tanita Davis at Finding Wonderland on why you should attend #KidLitCon14 (even/especially introverts) http://ow.ly/zpYNa

"One of the best ways to deepen commitment to #kidlit is meeting other people who share that passion" @MitaliPerkins http://ow.ly/zkiZ8

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Why YA needs heroines beyond Katniss Everdeen http://ow.ly/zsWnj @TelegraphBooks via @PWKidsBookshelf #yalit

Thanks for the laugh, @SevenImp + @FuseEight | Celebrity Picture Books: The Gift That Keeps On Giving (laughter) http://ow.ly/zsUi8

The Precocious Ones, overachievers who kick-started their career at eye-poppingly young ages? @SevenImp @FuseEight http://ow.ly/zpR6A

Stacked: A Short Update on a YALSA Policy Change from @catagator http://ow.ly/zpX4g

Things that cause readers to "hit pause" on some books, by @donalynbooks @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zpTRe

Lovely Infographic: (Canadian) Readers Save the World, shared @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/zkke7 #literacy @CBCBooks

Schools and Libraries

Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing (costly textbooks) - Meredith Broussard @TheAtlantic http://ow.ly/zsVR1

Why Do Americans Stink at Math?: NYT article recommended by Jeff Barger http://ow.ly/zyFTZ

Great tips for Supporting Readers During Workshops: The First Few Weeks, by Katie DiCesare @ChoiceLiteracy http://ow.ly/zpE8m

How I Addressed Gender Bias in My Book Club by NC teacher librarian @sedley1 @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/zkjJu

How The Public Library Turned Me Into A Reader by Claire Fallon @HuffPostBooks http://ow.ly/zyGiDvia @PWKidsBookshelf

Summer Reading

#SummerReading Tip31 @aliposner | Make some time for playing board games this summer — they can promote #literacy http://ow.ly/zvUo7

#SummerReading Tip27 @aliposner | Encourage summer writing by authoring books (journals) this summer http://ow.ly/zkk2A

#SummerReading Tip29 @aliposner | Use summer as an opportunity to build your child’s vocabulary! http://ow.ly/zpWFG

I'm tempted by #SummerReading Tip30 @aliposner | have “ice cream only day” with your kids (+ tie in #literacy )! http://ow.ly/zsUGe

© 2014 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.

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12. Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature: Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, Peter Sieruta

Book: Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature
Authors: Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta
Pages: 288
Age Range: Adult Nonfiction

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature is an insider's guide to the world of children's books and their creators, written by three well-known children's book bloggers. In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have known Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson since my earliest days of blogging. While we've only met face to face a few times, I've read their blogs for years, and been on shared mailing lists and the like. I also read the late Peter Sieruta's blog, though I don't believe I ever had any direct contact with him. So you should consider my discussion of Wild Things! more along the lines of a recommendation than a critical review. I very much enjoyed the book. 

Wild Things! reveals the authors' deep affection for and knowledge of the field of children's literature. They discuss everything from the history of subversive children's literature to book banning to the ways that the Harry Potter books have affected the industry. This is the first book I've seen that openly discusses gay and lesbian authors of children's books, and how the outsider status of some of these authors may have affected their work. Like this:

"Unique perspectives yield unique books. It is difficult to be gay and not see the world in a way that is slightly different from that of your straight peers." (Page 54, ARC)

I especially enjoyed chapters on "scandalous mysteries and mysterious scandals" and "some hidden delights of children's literature." There's also an interesting discussion of the books critics love vs. the books that kids love. 

Despite covering a lot of ground, Wild Things! is a quick, engaging read. Though there are extensive end-notes citing sources, and it's clear that much research has been done, the book itself reads like a series of chatty essays written by friends. Wild Things! is full of interesting tidbits, like the extra pupil shown on one page of Madeline, and a rather disturbing claim by Laura that Pa Ingalls may have once encountered a serial killer. There are some resources that may help those new to thinking about children's books, such as a list of publications that review children's books. But for the most part, Wild Things! is a book that's going to appeal most to people who already have a reasonably solid grasp of the industry, and at least a passing familiarity with the key players. 

Wild Things! is not, however, insider-y in terms of the book blogging world. Because I've read so many posts by Betsy and Jules, there were certainly places where I could hear their distinct voices coming through. There are some fun sidebars in which all three authors briefly take on some question or author. But there is scant mention in the book of the authors' blogs themselves. The authors do muse a bit in the final chapter about the impact of cozy relationships between bloggers and authors, but for the most part they keep their emphasis on books and authors, and other people who have been instrumental in the evolution of the larger children's book world (like Ursula Nordstrom). They do include snippets of interviews with many authors and publishers, frequently backing up their own opinions with remarks from leaders in the field. 

Wild Things! is strong on the defense of the importance of children's literature (and fairly strong against message-driven celebrity books). Like this:

"And with every doctor, librarian, and early childhood educator telling us that childhood's importance is without parallel, it is baffling to see their literature condescended to, romanticized, and generally misunderstood." (Page 5 of the ARC)

"Childhood is not a phase to be disregarded; the same should be said of the books children read. They deserve well-crafted tales from the people who have the talent to write and illustrate them and who take their craft seriously. Do they need heavy-handed sermons from the latest celebrity "It" girl's newest children's book? Not so much." (Page 6)

I also loved this quote from A. A. Milne:

"Whatever fears one has, one need not fear that one is writing too well for a child, any more than one need fear that one is becoming almost too lovable." (Page 192)

Wild Things! is a book about the joy and quirkiness that is the field of children's literature. It is a celebration of books and their authors, and a defense of the importance of putting the very best possible books into children's hands. Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta accomplish all of this by sharing stories and opinions, theirs and those of others, with the reader. Fans of children's books, be they authors, bloggers, teachers, librarians, parents, or just people who appreciate a good book, are sure to enjoy Wild Things! Recommended for adults and older teens (there is definitely content that is not for kids), and a must-purchase for libraries. Wild Things! is a keeper!

Publisher: Candlewick 
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 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

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13. In the After: Demitria Lunetta

Book: In the After
Author: Demitria Lunetta
Pages: 464
Age Range: 13 and up

In the After is the first of a two-book series by Demitria Lunetta (the second book was just released, though I haven't read it yet). In the After is set in the wake of a world-wide apocalypse caused by an invasion of predatory, man-eating creatures. 17-year-old Amy has lived for three years in hiding, alone except for the company of Baby, a young girl she rescued from a grocery store. Amy and Baby live in silence, for fear of drawing Them. They use sign language to speak, and have never even heard one another's voices.

They actually have things pretty good, all things considered. Amy's mother held an important government position, and their house is surrounded by an electric fence that keeps the monsters out. Her dad was an environmentalist who kept their home as off the grid as possible. Amy and Baby have electricity and water. But they do have to venture out among the creatures to scavenge for food. An encounter with other survivors on one of their trips starts a process that changes Amy and Baby's lives forever. 

In the After is a compelling read, one that will keep the reader guessing. The first part of the book takes place in and around Amy and Baby's home in Chicago. Without giving too much away, I'll say that the second part of the book takes place elsewhere, among other people. This is where Lunetta's storytelling really starts making the reader think. In brief, italicized scenes, Amy is in a mental ward. The rest of the story is told in intermittent flashbacks, as a mentally foggy Amy tries to pieces together how she got there. Because of Amy's fragile state, the reader isn't always sure how to interpret the flashbacks, which makes the story even more thought-provoking. 

The characters apart from Amy are distinct, though not always highly nuanced. Basically, we get to know Amy very well, and the other characters not so well. But Amy is great. Here are a few snippets, to give you a feel for her voice:

"I only go out at night.

I walk along the empty street and pause, my muscles tense and ready. The breeze rustles the overgrown grass and I tilt my head slightly. I'm listening for them." (Page 1)

"So much of who I used to be was about being good in school and having friends who were also good in school. We were, to put it simply, arrogant little know-it-alls. But I miss that." (Page 78)

"The arts were probably pointless now that everyone was focused on survival. I thought back to all my time alone, reading, as the world crumbled around me. It was the only thing that gave me solace and hope." (Page 191)

In addition to keeping the reader wondering about plot points, Lunetta is good at creating atmosphere. She makes the reader feel the creepiness of walking down a dark street where silent monsters might be a only few feet, and the helplessness of being trapped in a mental ward. 

In the After grabs the reader from the first page, and doesn't let go. Recommend for fans of YA dystopias, particularly of the alien invasion variety. Particularly recommended for those who enjoyed Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave. Readers who have read many dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories will notice certain universal themes, but I don't think this takes away enjoyment of the story. I think that In the After is a book that will especially appeal to adult readers, actually, though I would expect teens to enjoy it, too. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: HarperTeen (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 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

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14. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 18

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include authors, book lists, the Cybils, common core, aging, ebooks, apps, growing bookworms, kidlitcon, reading, writing, play, schools, libraries, and summer reading.

Books and Authors

Stories from authors about school visits "gone terribly wrong" at Wild Things blog http://ow.ly/zcwJO  @SevenImp @FuseEight

75 Years Old, Still Showing off her Scar, fun details about Madeline from @SevenImp + @FuseEight at Wild Things blog http://ow.ly/z94Jk 

Book Lists and Awards

Amazon-backed Booktrust Best Book Awards‘ Lifetime Achievement Award turned down by Allan Ahlberg | @TheBookseller http://ow.ly/z3OLT 

The Wildest (bold + unique) Children’s Books of 2014 as picked by @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/zcxat  #kidlit

Teen blogger Summer from @miss_fictional looks back on Favorite Books from her Childhood http://ow.ly/z5flg  #kidlit

Who knew that there could be a list of Top 5 Picture Books about Ninjas? @rosemondcates could! http://ow.ly/z3KJl  #kidlit

Thanks! RT @145lewis: #CYBILS are an amazing resource Looking for summer reading ideas? http://dadtalk.typepad.com/cybils/finalists/ … #kidlit #edchat #elemed

Common Core and STEM

#CommonCore Becomes Touchy Subject for Governors Group, reports @WSJ, as both parties are internally split on CC http://ow.ly/z5fA0 

Tap the STEM Resources in Your Community! | ALSC Blog post for librarians by @amyeileenk http://ow.ly/z3KzZ 

Diversity

RT @tashrow 5 Stereotypes Positive Aging Picture Books Avoid | Lindsey McDivitt http://buff.ly/1zmZLk9  #kidlit

eBooks and Apps

RT @TWhitford: Great Apps To Introduce Coding to Young Kids http://goo.gl/uUdGX0  via @mattBgomez

Malorie Blackman: ‘I love gadgets, but e-reading has to be carefully handled’ | @GuardianBooks http://ow.ly/z3P8z  via @PWKidsBookshelf

Growing Bookworms

What Do Phonics, Phonemic Awareness and Decoding Mean? @CoffeeandCrayon has the scoop http://ow.ly/zeLEb  #literacy

How #Comics Create Life-Long Readers -- @MaryAnnScheuer interview with @jenniholm http://ow.ly/zeLPW  #kidlit #literacy

Teaching My Daughters to Read -- Part III, Phonics from @ReadingShahahan http://ow.ly/zcvyn  #literacy

RT @LiteracySpeaks: 5 Simple Ways to Improve Reading Comprehension from This Reading Mama! http://fb.me/6BtWnEOln 

Fun times @everead | How I Stopped My Children's Whining with Story Club http://ow.ly/z5eUD  #literacy

KidLitCon

KidlitCon2014_cubeBOOM: And we are LIVE! Why you should attend this year's KidLitCon, from co-organizer Tanita Davis, FindingWonderland http://ow.ly/zcvbM 

The registration form for #KidLitCon14 Oct. 10-11 in Sacramento is now live: http://ow.ly/zc0lr  A great way to see friends + talk books

October will be here soon, soon, soon — @bkshelvesofdoom is coming to #KidLitCon14 Are you? http://ow.ly/z3GYs 

RT @CBethM: The 8th Annual @KidLitCon - Spending Time Face-to-Face with Kindred Spirits by @JensBookPage #nerdybookclub http://wp.me/p21t9O-1zS 

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

On having (and integrating) multiple Reading Lives by Kristin McIlhagga @TeachChildLit @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/z94kV 

Cultivating Curiosity, on love of stories vs. love of words at So Obsessed With blog http://ow.ly/z94SO  via @catagator

Food for thought at Stacked: Growing Up, Leaving Some Books (Narnia) Behind by @kimberlymarief http://ow.ly/zi3Ac  #kidlit

Why Book Reviewers Would Make Awesome Authors, by @Miss_Fictional http://ow.ly/zcvDd 

A proposal from @100scopenotes | All Middle Grade Novels Should Be 192 Pages. No Exceptions. Thoughts? http://ow.ly/zcvYJ 

Here's what @medinger thinks about @100scopenotes idea for Putting a Stop to Middle Grade Novel’s Increasing Girth http://ow.ly/zcwej 

Confessions Of A Binge Reader (Or, How I Read So Much) | Ryan Holiday at Thought Catalog http://ow.ly/z3LKY  via @tashrow

Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With @EliteDaily http://ow.ly/z3NZQ  via @librareanne

On Kids

How Much Activity Do Our Students Need? asks @katsok How do you help kids who can't sit still, in era of less recess? http://ow.ly/z92pA 

Did What You Played as a Kid Influence Who You Became as an Adult? asks @FreeRangeKids http://ow.ly/z933H 

Powerful post @KirbyLarson by Michelle Houts on adults looking back and regretting childhood acts of bullying http://ow.ly/z3K36 

Schools and Libraries

Bridging the Gap: Making #Libraries More Accessible for a Diverse Autistic Population | @sljournal http://ow.ly/z3Omk 

Corporal Punishment in Schools: Can it be Justified? @TrevorHCairney thinks it's not the right approach http://ow.ly/zi3el 

Top 10 Ways to Turn Classroom into a Hotbed of Enthusiastic Readers by @megangreads + @muellerholly @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/z5eFi 

Summer Reading

This could keep us busy for the rest of the summer! 50 Fabulous Movies based on Children's Books from @rosemondcates http://ow.ly/zcvGP 

#SummerReading Tip20 @aliposner Set up your vacation accommodations in ways that make literacy more likely to occur http://ow.ly/z3LbF 

#SummerReading Tip21 @aliposner Encourage your kids to author “vacation books” when you are traveling this summer http://ow.ly/z5eOF 

#SummerReading Tip25 @aliposner | Read the SAME BOOK that your child is reading independently + discuss it together http://ow.ly/zeM9u 

#SummerReading Tip26 @aliposner | Try to connect reading to your kids’ summer activities http://ow.ly/zi3mT #literacy

Reading Is Fundamental Study Says Summer Reading Is Not Priority | reports Lauren Barack @sljournal http://ow.ly/z3OeW  @RIFWEB

© 2014 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

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15. I Didn't Do My Homework Because... Davide Cali

Book: I Didn't Do My Homework Because ...
Authors: Davide Cali & Benjamin Chaud 
Pages: 44
Age Range: 6-9

I Didn't Do My Homework Because ... is a celebration of the ingenuity of childhood. On the first page, a teacher asks a child: "So why didn't you do your homework?" On subsequent pages, he shares a host of creative excuses, like:

"An airplane full of monkeys landed in our yard"; and

"Some escaped convicts from the local jail hid in my bedroom and wouldn't come out." 

Each excuse is accompanied by a humorous illustration. In the prior example, we see the boy surrounded by much larger prisoners in yellow-striped outfits. The boy is brining them pink lemonade, and they are looking at his books. Because why not? 

This is a small format book, about the size of an early reader. It's more like a picture book in format otherwise, though the target age range is probably solidly in elementary school. Preschoolers don't generally have much homework, after all. Nor are they likely to know what "carnivorous plants" are. There's a humorous ending in which the teacher doesn't believe the boy, because she has the same book. For me, this was just enough to make it feel a bit like a story, rather than solely a collection of excuses. The illustrations are full of detail, and include boy-friendly tidbits like giant lizards. 

Instructions on the back of the book read:

"WHEN TO USE THIS BOOK:
Whenever you haven't finished your homework.

CAUTION:
Each excuse may only be used once."

Like the excuses, I'm not sure how well this book will hold up to multiple reads. But it's definitely fun, and sure to make elementary school kids laugh. Recommended for classroom libraries, or any seven-year-old with an overactive imagination.  

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 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

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16. Growing Bookworms Newsletter: July 16

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 children's and young adult books and raising readers. I currenty send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book and young adult), two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently, and an announcement about a post that I did at The Nerdy Book Club about the 8th Annual Kidlitosphere Conference (which I am co-organizing). Not included in the newsletter, I shared announcements about the KidLitCon Call for Proposals and Registration Form

Reading Update: In the last three weeks I read four middle grade books, two young adult titles, and one adult book. I read:

  • Sharon M. Draper: Out of My Mind. Atheneum Books. Middle Grade/Middle School. Completed July 5, 2014, on Kindle. Review to come.
  • J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic. Middle Grade. Completed July 8, 2014, on MP3 (library copy). This is my first time listening to the Harry Potter books, and I am quite enjoyig the experience.
  • J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Scholastic. Middle Grade. Completed July 12, on MP3 (library copy).
  • Betsy Byars: The Pinballs. Apple. Middle Grade. Completed July 14, 2014, on MP3. This was a re-read of a childhood favorite, and I was delighted to find that The Pinballs completely held up. 
  • Michele Weber Hurwitz: The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days. Wendy Lamb Books. Middle School. Completed July 2, 2014. Review to come. 
  • Naomi Paul: Code Name Komiko. Scarlet Voyage. Young Adult. Completed July 13, 2014, on Kindle. I'm not planning to review this one. I finished it, but it didn't quite work for me overall. 
  • Anthony Doerr: All the Light We Cannot See. Scribner. Adult Fiction. Completed July 3, 2014, on MP3. I enjoyed this novel, though it's a bit slower-paced than my usual reading diet of mysteries and children's books. It's about the lives of two teens (a radio-obsessed German boy and a blind French girl) leading up to events during World War II. 

Incidentally, I did not finish The Silkworm (A Cormoran Strike novel) by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) on Kindle. I had enjoyed the first book in this series, and continued to appreciate the relationship between Strike and his secretary, Robin. However, there were some aspects of the book that were just too dark for me. I put it aside about 1/3 of the way through, not wishing to subject myself to more. Other people report more appreciation for the book. 

I'm currently reading Rose by Holly Webb on Kindle, and Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater in print. I'm listening to Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright, while I await the third Harry Potter book (on request from my library). 

As always, you can see the list of books that we've been reading to Baby Bookworm here. We're closing in on 1000 books read so far this year, though this is a lower bound. I'm not good about listing books that we read on vacation, nor about listing books that anyone else reads to her besides my husband and me.

One thing that I've particularly noticed about reading with my daughter lately is that she notices things in the pictures that I wouldn't necessarily notice myself. For example, she always points out the "L" knitted into "Little Louis'" sweater in Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen. She is not good enough yet at observation to recognize the bear and other animals from Klassen's I Want My Hat Back making a cameo in Extra Yarn. But I'm working on her. 

I also love, love, love when a book makes her peal with laughter. The most recent standout in this arena was A Promise Is A Promise, by Florence Parry Heide & Tony Auth. This is the book that taught my daughter the word "Nincompoop", a new favorite. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 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

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17. The Registration Form for KidLitCon14 is Now Live!

KidlitCon2014_cubeIt's here! Time to register for the 2014 Kidlitosphere Conference, otherwise known as KidLitCon14. You can find the registration form at the Kidlitosphere Central website. Registration will be open until September 19th, but there is no need to delay. 

Many thanks to this year’s Registration Coordinator, Maureen Kearney from Confessions of a Bibliovore for creating the registration form, and managing the registration process. 

If you blog about children's and/or young adult books, or you write children's or young adult books, or you just care about getting the right books into the hands of kids, KidLitCon is the place for you. KidLitCon is a small conference, not at all intimidating, and a perfect place to meet (or catch up with) friends who share a common interest. This year's KidLitCon is in Sacramento, California on October 10th and 11th. You can find more information about KidLitCon here. There's also still plenty of time to submit a session proposal. Contact program coordinator Charlotte Taylor from Charlotte's Library if you have questions. 

KidLitCon 2014. Sacramento, CA. October 10-11. It's going to be an amazing time! I hope to see you all there. Register now!

© 2014 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

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18. The Young World: Chris Weitz

Book: The Young World
Author: Chris Weitz
Pages: 384
Age Range: 14 and up

The Young World by Chris Weitz is a post-apocalyptic survival story, this one featuring a mysterious illness that kills everyone except teens (they continue to catch it as they reach age 18 or so). The Young World ought to have felt like "been there - done that" to me. But it didn't, for some reason. Well, because of a combination of strong characterization, well-delineated settings, and intense action, I think. With bonus points for the inclusion of diverse characters, and for tackling race relations head on. I quite enjoyed it, and look forward to the sequel (the book ends with a cliffhanger). 

The Young World is set in New York City. Rival groups of teens have formed armed encampments. There's a considerable amount of rivalry, political maneuvering, and violence. In this, The Young World reminded me a bit of Charlie Higson's Enemy series, though without the zombie adults, and with considerably more three-dimensional characters. 

The story is told in alternating chapters by Jefferson and Donna, two kids who were friends before the Sickness came, and who seem destined to be more than friends in the aftermath. If they can survive that long, that is. Jefferson and Donna are very different from one another, and keeping track of their separate first-person voices is not a problem. (The publisher also helped in the digital version that I read by using different font sizes for the two narrators.) Jefferson is a half Japanese / half white younger son of an "oldie" father. He is introspective and hopeful, a self-declared "nerd philosopher king", genuinely trying to find a better way for the survivors. Donna is a "trigger-happy feminist sniper", and calls herself "the pixie-ish, wacky best friend". She's all tough talk, but she secretly cries while watching iPhone videos of her deceased baby brother. 

Jefferson and Donna live in a kind of commune in a protected Washington Square Park. However, they soon set out on a quest to help find a journal article that their resident evil genius (and apparently person with Asperger's), Brainbox, thinks may hold a key to understanding the Sickness. Jeff, Donna, and Brainbox are joined by Peter, a gay, Christian, African American boy who is a bit of a wise-ass, and SeeThrough, a tiny Chinese girl who excels at Martial Arts, but doesn't talk much. They make friends and enemies in the course of their journey, and even have to fight a bear. 

Here are a couple of quotes, to show you the difference between Jeff and Donna's voices:

"Taped to the pedestal, mementos of the dead. Snaps of moms, dads, little brothers and sisters, lost pets. What Mom used to call "real pictures," to distinguish them from digital files. Hard copies are where it's at now that millions and millions of memories are lost in the cloud. An ocean of ones and zeroes signifying nothing." (Jefferson, in his first chapter)

"Not enough hands or time to get rid of all the bodies, though. And they're still out there, millions of them, slowly turning to mulch, pulsing with maggots. It's been a banner year for carrion eaters. Hope I didn't spoil your appetite." (Donna, her first chapter)

In looking through my clippings, I find that I highlighted a ton of passages, mostly from Donna. She has a real flair for getting to the heart of things. Like this:

"But books--books are handy. You can keep ideas on paper for, like, centuries. And if you want to find stuff out, it's right there. You don't have to grab it out of the air, call it up from some data center in, like, New Jersey. So books had the last laugh. Nobody is going to know what the hell me and Jeff and the crew did five years from now. Unless Jefferson writes it down in one of his fancy notebooks or there's space aliens who can read things from people's bones or something. But Huck Finn is gonna be chillin' on the Mississippi forever." (Donna)

I love that last bit. The Young World is an adventure story that I could see reading again, even after I know how things turn out, just to enjoy hanging with the characters. On the first read, I did read pretty quickly, curious to know how things were going to turn out. There is plenty of suspense.

I also quite like the attention that Weitz pays to the details of New York. One of my favorite scenes is when Donna finds Pooh and friends in the New York Public Library. I don't know New York all that well, but there are plenty of other details that enhance the sense of place, without being too insider-y. Like details about the exhibits in the Met.  

One has to get past the contrived nature of the premise of The Young World, of course, but that's true of all post-apocalyptic stories, particularly ones that strive to leave the teens in charge. However, I found other aspects of Weitz's world-building are refreshingly realistic. The kids scrounge up generators and solar panels, so that they still have some access to gadgetry. They run around clutching their iPhones even if there's no cell service, and they can occasionally listen to music or watch movies, too. It's not all "technology is now dead" as in many stories.

The characters also maintain certain aspects of their pre-existing social structures. The rich, white kids band together, call themselves the Uptowners, and have a fully separate society from the kids from Harlem. The Harlem kids are strong fighters, and some of them believe that they are actually better off than they were before the apocalypse. The kids from the alternative school end up in Washington Square Park, and remain cool with alternative lifestyles. I found it all fascinating. 

Bottom line: even though this post-apocalyptic scenario of killer virus leaving only teens might seem on the face of it a bit tired, Weitz's execution made The Young World totally work for me. I can't wait for the next book, and I highly recommend The Young World to fans of near-term post-apocalyptic teen fiction. It's a bit violent, though, and has some cursing and sexual references, so I would call it a high school, rather than middle school, read. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids) 
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Source of Book: Advance digital review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 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

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19. The Call for Session Proposals for KidLitCon14 is Now Live!

I 2014KidLitConLogo am pleased to announce the call for proposals for the 2014 KidLitCon. The 8th annual KidLitCon will be held in Sacramento, CA on October 10th and 11th, with sessions held on both days. This year’s theme is Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?

From the proposal submission form: 

“We are looking for presentations and panels that will inspire and edify Kidlitosphere bloggers. While we’re specifically interested in presentations that address what bloggers can do to make a meaningful difference in increasing and promoting diversity in children’s and young adult literature, sessions covering other topics such as reviewing critically, trends, social media, marketing, technology, and industry relationships are welcome.”

This year’s Program Coordinator is Charlotte Taylor, who blogs at Charlotte’s Library. Charlotte prepared this year’s submission form with assistance from last year’s Coordinator, Jackie Parker from Interactive Reader

The last day for proposal submissions is August 1st. I hope you'll consider participating. Click here for the Proposal Submission Form. The registration form will be available soon. 

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20. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 3

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. I am posting a day early this week because of the July 4th holiday. Topics this week include: authors, awards, book lists, common core, growing bookworms, events, kidlitcon, publishing, teaching, libraries, and summer reading.

Authors

Rest in Peace, Walter Dean Myers. Here's an appreciation from Tanita Davis at Finding Wonderland http://ow.ly/yIbNs

Just Walk Away: Authors and Illustrators Who Do — @fuseeight http://ow.ly/yIBxa #kidlit

Book Lists and Awards

Roger Sutton makes some excellent points in this @HornBook editorial about new ALSC policy on communication by judges http://ow.ly/yFSbj

RT @CynLeitichSmith: Growing Int'l #Latino Book Awards Reflect Booming Market http://nbcnews.to/1nPPLbF via @NBCNews

2014 Guardian Children’s Prize Longlist | @tashrow has the list http://ow.ly/yFrdp

Children's Literature at SSHEL | #kidlit recommendations for Independence Day: Remembering the Revolution http://ow.ly/yFJcy

Stacked: Get (sub)Genrefied: Alternate History @catagator http://ow.ly/yIBXO #BookList

A few Seek and Find Picture Books, recommended by @greenbeanblog http://ow.ly/yIBq5 #kidlit

Very nice list! 14 Children's Books that Challenge Gender Stereotypes | @momandkiddo #BookList http://ow.ly/yCaBW

Top Ten Books for Young Readers about Encountering Obstacles by @MrazKristine @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/yCcaz

2014 Mind the Gap Awards (books ignored by ALA awards) from @HornBook http://ow.ly/ywTV1 via @tashrow

Common Core / Literacy

#CommonCore IRL: In Real Libraries -- 2014 ALA Presentation from @MaryAnnScheuer + friends http://ow.ly/yFrql

Higher Ed Administrators Seek To Stem States’ Rush Away From #CommonCore @LibraryJournal via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/yv1kk

Spreading the Good Word about Visual #Literacy @SevenImp chats with Francoise Mouly @KirkusReviews http://ow.ly/yubPV

Events, Programs and Research

RIF_Primary_Vertical"children spend nearly 3 times as many hours weekly watching TV or playing video games as they do reading" | @RIFWEB http://ow.ly/yIALH

Sad! The World Book Night project has been suspended, reports @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/yIAzA

Book drive for unaccompanied immigrant children kicks off July 10 reports @latimes via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/yFSo6

Growing Bookworms

One of many reasons to read aloud | Children’s Picture Books Use More Sophisticated Words Than You | Michaels Read http://ow.ly/yIBgc

Why dialogue is important to kids' comprehension development from @TrevorHCairney http://ow.ly/yudra #literacy

RT @PapaJFunk: @JensBookPage This story inspired me more than anything http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/fashion/21GenB.html … I'll read every night to my kids while they're in my house...

Kidlitosphere

KidlitCon2014_cubeCall for session proposals @charlotteslib -- #Kidlitcon 2014: Blogging #Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit http://ow.ly/yIAlO

The call for session proposals for #KidLitCon14 is live! Deadline for submissions is 8/1. Theme: blogging #diversity http://ow.ly/yIbCJ

Celebrating @MrSchuReads with a Donation to @ReadingVillage, from @MaryLeeHahn + @frankisibberson http://ow.ly/yFrhx

Miscellaneous

Interesting thoughts @haleshannon on the segregation of ideas (choosing to only hear from people w/ similar ideas) http://ow.ly/yIArf

Interesting article on the cost to our productivity of distractions from Facebook push updates, etc. @WSJ (login req) http://ow.ly/yC8Td

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Bertelsmann Getting Out of Book Retailing, reports @wsj (login req) http://ow.ly/yC9Ks #Publishing

Powerful post on books as Lifelines by Heather Preusser @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/ywV9c

Schools and Libraries

Teachers should cry in class when reading poignant stories ... Michael Morpurgo says @TelegraphBooks @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/yFSxJ

Interesting! Pew Research Center – 7 Surprises About Libraries | reported by @tashrow http://ow.ly/yC9TN @PewInternet

Save libraries by putting them in the pub says man tasked by Government to save them The Independent via @bookpatrol http://ow.ly/yx0FW

Summer Reading

Fizz, Boom, Read: Library #SummerReading Programs Blend Learning with Fun and Prizes | @sljournal http://ow.ly/yFICh

Jumpstart your summer adventure – Dig into reading, suggests @wendy_lawrence http://ow.ly/yCbNR #SummerReading

Fun idea! @aliposner Tip-a-Day #5: Designate a place outside your home specifically for #SummerReading outings http://ow.ly/yucI1

#SummerReading Tip-a-Day #6: Take your kids on a “summer is here” new book-getting mission! | @aliposner http://ow.ly/ywVze

#SummerReading Tip#7 @aliposner | Make sure your kids have reading STARs – Space, Time, Access to books, and Rituals http://ow.ly/yzTvR

#SummerReading Tip #8 @aliposner | Create an open-faced book display somewhere in your house http://ow.ly/yzTAI

The Ultimate #SummerReading List for Teachers from @Scholastic via @mattbgomez http://ow.ly/ywSXv 

I love this one! #SummerReading Tip #9 from @aliposner | Create an outside reading spot at your home | http://ow.ly/yCbkU

#SummerReading Tip #10 @aliposner : Make sure kids have easy access to tools for written response to books http://ow.ly/yFrJw

#SummerReading Tip #11: Stock up on “Barebooks” materials for fun and authentic summer writing | @aliposner http://ow.ly/yIBDa

Five Tips for Summer-Long Learning - Tina Chovanec from @ReadingRockets @FirstBook http://ow.ly/yFrbS #SummerReading

Macy’s and @RIFWEB Aim to Boost Summer Reading (hint: only 17% of parents think it’s a priority!), says @StorySnoops http://ow.ly/yCbw3

© 2014 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.

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21. My Pet Book: Bob Staake

Book: My Pet Book
Author: Bob Staake
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

I love Bob Staake's picture books. I especially love Mary Had a Little Lamp, written by Jack Lechner and illustrated by Staake, about a little girl who has a lamp for a sort of pet. I also love a two other books about the crazy things that kids will select as companions: Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf and Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly and Stephen Michael King. So you may imagine my delight when Staake's newest picture book, My Pet Book, landed on my doorstep. Yes, My Pet Book, as is clear from the cover image, is about a boy who has a book for a pet. My Pet Book is fun-filled AND has the bonus of making a statement about how wonderful books are. 

The boy, from Smartytown, doesn't care for dogs, and is allergic to cats. As he's casting about for a pet that will be easy, his mother suggests that "A book would make the perfect pet!". His father jumps on the bandwagon by suggesting that "no pet book had ever run away." Various benefits of book as pet are outlined in the book, including the fact that they don't poop. (This amused me because just the day before two young friends were lamenting the fact that dogs poop, and that kids in their home would be expected to help clean that up.) And so the boy selects "a frisky red hardcover." 

"Of all the books with the store,
He liked this one a lot!
The pages crisp, the printing fine,
It's spine so very taut.
He didn't need to give his pet
A name, like Rex or Spot.
It wouldn't answer anyway,
And so the book was bought!"

The boy has a number of good times with the book (not least immersing himself in the book's stories), and he is devastated when the book in fact does run away. A frantic search ensues, but not to worry. All turns out well in the end for boy and book. Here's my favorite part of the text:

"The boy's mom gently asked him
How a book could bring such joy.
"It's cuz every book's a friend!"
Said the yawning little boy.

While I generally resist overt messages in picture books, I am happy to be able to give this particular message a pass, because it is supported by an such exciting and amusing story. While the book is not alive (doesn't eat or talk or anything), Staake does allow the book a bit of apparently independent movement. It can march along ahead of the boy on its leash, and it is able to hide at one key point in the story. 

My Pet Book showcases Staake's colorful, detailed illustrations. The people have round, abstract faces in various colors. The houses are sometimes tilted, and the cars oddly shaped. Each page includes some small detail to delight young readers. My daughter, for instance, was pleased to point out fleas jumping off a dog's back on one page. And while there is no apparent reason for there to be a cat on a tightrope in the middle of the book, it's nice to see one there anyway. My daughter and I both particularly like one page spread in which the boy is imaging that he is in various stories. The smirk on his face as he ties a purple octopus in knots is priceless, as is his sheer joy to be headed into space in a yellow rocket ship.

Even the end papers of My Pet Book are fun. They feature various images of the boy doing things with his book, like juggling, eating ice cream, and taking a bath. 

My Pet Book is destined to be a family favorite in my house, and will find a place beside The Donut Chef (a frequent read) in my daughter's room. Especially recommended for libraries, My Pet Book will be a colorful, quirky addition to the ranks of books about the joy of books. What a treat!

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 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

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22. Good Night, Sleep Tight: Mem Fox & Judy Horacek

Book: Good Night, Sleep Tight
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Judy Horacek
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-5

Good Night, Sleep Tight is a fun little bedtime book, chock full of nursery rhymes both well-known and obscure.  Two siblings, Bonnie and Ben, are being looked after by "their favorite babysitter", Skinny Doug. When bedtime comes, Doug relates a series of rhymes to them, like this:

"Good night, sleep tight.
Hope the fleas don't bite!
If they do,
squeeze 'em tight
and they won't bite
another night!"

The kids keep asking for a repetition, and it always goes like this:

"Some other time," said Skinny Doug.
"But I'll tell you another
I heard from my mother:"

And he goes off into another rhyme. The rhymes wind the kids up for a bit, but eventually Skinny Doug slows things down, and Bonnie and Ben go to sleep. 

Horacek's illustrations are fun-filled, and with more detail than the original rhymes suggest. For example, the "It's raining! It's pouring!" story ends with a raincoat-clad man Fred and kids knocking fruitlessly at the door of the old man's little house. In pat-a-cake, Fred and the kids, clad in old-style clothing, purchase the cake from the baker's counter. And so on.

It's nice to see a positive male caregiver dynamic, and a book about two kids experiencing the joy of words. Because the text consists mainly of nursery rhymes, Good Night, Sleep Tight is, of course, perfect for reading aloud. This one belongs on the bedtime reading shelf for preschoolers everywhere. Recommended!

Publisher: Orchard Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 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

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23. The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair: Kate Bernheimer & Jake Parker

Book: The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair
Author: Kate Bernheimer
Illustrator: Jake Parker
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair, written by Kate Bernheimer and illustrated by Jake Parker, is my favorite type of picture book. That is, it is largely nonsense, but is based on an issue that will resonate with young kids. There's a girl who has beautiful long brown hair, and who decides that she doesn't need to brush her hair. "It's just my way", she tells her (largely invisible) parents. Because her hair is such a mess, a mouse decides that it's the perfect habitat, and moves in. Before she knows it, the girl has something like 100 mice living in her head. but there are consequences. 

Kate Bernheimer ratchets up the nonsense from page to page. Like this, after the mice ask the girl not to bathe anymore:

"Much to the mice's relief, the girl agreed. For though she was becoming quite dirty, she had grown fond of their company. They had set up such a marvelous home for themselves -- a palace, really, atop her head. It had secret passageways and a cheese cellar and a tiny circular moat."

Seriously? Mice with a moat on her head? It's hilarious. 

Jake Parker's illustrations (rendered in pencil and digitally colored) suit the story perfectly. The girl's hair is a gorgeous, tangled mess. She has bright brown eyes in her heart-shaped face. She  looks like a doll, really. The mice are perky and cute. The girl's doll, Baby, manages to look forlorn as the girl's attention is taken up by the mice. There's a slight soft-focus to the pictures that works well with the story. 

I can't wait to share The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair with my own daughter, who has, shall we say, issues with hair-brushing. In our house, we've been telling her that birds will come to live in her hair if we don't get out the tangles. But mice work, too, and, as it turns out, are more fun. The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair is hilarious, and well worth picking up. Especially recommended for preschool girls who have long hair. 

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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© 2014 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

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24. At Nerdy Book Club: The 8th Annual KidLitCon

Member of the Nerdy Book ClubI'm proud to say that I have a post up today at one of my very favorite blogs, The Nerdy Book Club. I talk about the 8th annual KidLitCon, and how for me this conference on children's book blogging is really all about spending time with kindred spirits. For anyone curious, I also provide a bit of background about how KidLitCon came to be. Here's a snippet from the post:

"Attendees share a love of children’s books, as well as a determination to get the right books into young readers’ hands. I have attended six of the seven so far, and I have enjoyed them all. I find it rejuvenating to spend time, face-to-face, with kindred spirits. I try very hard not to miss this annual chance to see people who started out as online friends, but who have become, like the Velveteen Rabbit, real."

If you are not already following the Nerdy Book Club (which you should be!), I do hope that you'll take a minute to pop over and read the full post. I've read and shared countless Nerdy posts over the past couple of years, and it was an honor for me to have a chance to post there myself, particularly about something as near and dear to my heart as KidLitCon.

KidLitCon 2014. Sacramento, CA. October 10-11. I hope to see you all there! The call for session proposals is here, and the registration form will be available very soon. 

© 2014 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

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25. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 11

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include authors, awards, book lists, diversity, growing bookworms, kidlitcon, blogging, ebooks, teaching, and summer reading.

Authors and Books

The Rise Of Young Adult Authors On The Celebrity 100 List by @natrobe @forbes http://ow.ly/yVSB6 via @PWKidsBookshelf

Nice tidbits about author James Marshall, “Wicked Angel”, on the Wild Things blog http://ow.ly/yXQ4M @SevenImp @FuseEight

Thank You, @NerdyBookClub says @StudioJJK on dedication of new anthology w/ @jenni @mattholm + others http://ow.ly/yVA3v

Read J.K. Rowling's new short story about grown-up Harry Potter + friends @today http://ow.ly/yVyWK via @bkshelvesofdoom

Ludwig Bemelmans’s Madeline Celebrates a Milestone (happy 75th!) @NYTimes http://ow.ly/yVSGt  via @PWKidsBookshelf

Author Interview: Five questions for @varianjohnson from @HornBook http://ow.ly/yYlDd 

Book Lists and Awards

2014 South Asia Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature via @MitaliPerkins http://ow.ly/yIP71

Loved Ed DeCaria's answer to What are the best poems for kids? on Quora. He recommends the #Cybils lists http://ow.ly/yVSnQ @edecaria

Get On Board: SLJ Selects A Bevy of Board Books | @sljournal #kidlit http://ow.ly/yVxfQ

Top Ten Schneider Award Favorites of the 2014 Schneider Award Jury by Peg Glisson @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/yS3cf #kidlit

A Top Ten List: Book that Heal by @MsLReads @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/yOoR3 #kidlit #yalit

Read Me a Bedtime Story, recommended bedtime books from @growingbbb http://ow.ly/yRWgb #kidlit

A Tuesday Ten: Diverse Stories in Speculative Fiction | Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/yN8qy #Diversity

UK Booktrust Best Book Awards announced, @tashrow has the list http://ow.ly/yKP72

3 family-tested read-aloud chapter books @SunlitPages | Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Magic, Runaway Ralph, Ramona the Pest http://ow.ly/yKQvF

Great selections! 18 Picture Books Guaranteed To Make You Laugh Out Loud Or At Least Smile @Loveofxena @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/z0xjS 

Diversity

How to Build a Bestseller with Non-White Characters | @chavelaque @sljournal on @varianjohnson + #diveristy http://ow.ly/yKNXn

Sure #WeNeedDiverseBooks but don’t forget #WeNeedMoreWalterDeanMyerses too, suggests @fuseeight http://ow.ly/yKRID

"diversity in fiction is about presenting the world through different viewpoints" Tanita Davis quotes @diversityinya http://ow.ly/yXRq9

Diversity Movement Gains Visibility at ALA Annual, wirtes Wendy Stephens | @sljournal #WeNeedDiverseBooks http://ow.ly/yVx2Z

Growing Bookworms

What do I get if I read this? A call against the use of external prizes in reading programs for kids from @HornBook http://ow.ly/yVxTr

Shanahan on #Literacy: Teaching My Daughters to Read: Part 2, Print Awareness (point at the words at least sometimes) http://ow.ly/yS0uv

How to Read Stories to a Very Active Child, tips from @Booksforchildrn http://ow.ly/yN8KO

Born Reading: An Interview with Jason Boog — @fuseeight http://ow.ly/z0y0Z  #GrowingBookworms #literacy

I liked this post on The #Literacy Benefits of Family Dinners @growingbbb | Some excellent points http://ow.ly/z0wQm 

Kidlitosphere

KidlitCon2014_cube#KidLitCon14 in Sacramento, California, why @semicolonblog wants to hitch a ride i your suitcase to go http://ow.ly/yN8uT

#KidLitCon14 Update: Call for Session Proposals is Up! reports @aquafortis (co-organizer) http://ow.ly/yKPbP

#KidlitCon14 | Call for Session Proposals @book_nut http://ow.ly/yKJPN | Blogging #diversity in YA and children's lit

Wild Things!: Website and Book Launch from @SevenImp + @FuseEight | #kidlit fans will want to check this out! http://ow.ly/yRV91

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Why digital vs. print reading should not be an either/or conversation, by @frankisibberson http://ow.ly/yS3Zo #eBooks

Insights from @catagator at Stacked: The Three C's of the Changing Book Blogging World, credits, comments, + crit http://ow.ly/yRYJa

Stacked: Reader Advocacy, Speaking Up + Ducking Out: On @catagator Quitting 2015 Printz committee. Go Kelly, I say! http://ow.ly/yKSXG

Schools and Libraries

Why Should Educators Blog? | @ReadByExample shares several reasons: http://ow.ly/yXQom

Should We Be Quantifying Our Students’ Reading Abilities? asks @ReadByExample @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/yKRlX

Too Soon for Technology?: The latest on digital use by preschoolers | @sljournal http://ow.ly/yVwRi #libraries

Summer Reading

Better than the title suggests: How to Trick Your Kids Into Reading All Summer Long @TheAtlantic via @librareanne http://ow.ly/yXOCj

Some experiences w/ #SummerReading programs from @SunlitPages + request for feedback from blog readers http://ow.ly/yVARq

Raising Summer Readers Tip #12: Schedule a few social gatherings that celebrate books and #SummerReading | @aliposner http://ow.ly/yKS38

This one very important! #SummerReading Tip #13: Read aloud to your kids, even if they are great readers! @aliposner http://ow.ly/yN8fr

Raising Summer Readers Tip #14: Remember to make reading aloud interactive! | @aliposner #SummerReading http://ow.ly/yOoM1

This sounds like fun! Tip #15 from @aliposner | Pair books with movies to add some fun into #SummerReading | http://ow.ly/yRXGU

#SummerReading Tip #16 @aliposner : TALK about your plans for reading while on vacation BEFORE your travel begins http://ow.ly/yRY0a

#SummerReading Tip #17 from @aliposner | Raise kids who view packing books as a traveling necessity http://ow.ly/yVAxa

#SummerReading Tip#18 @aliposner | For reluctant vacation readers, wrap a book to read aloud for each day of vacation http://ow.ly/yXPKy 

#SummerReading Tip #19 @aliposner | When en route to your vacation destination, take advantage of captive audience! http://ow.ly/z0yzc 

© 2014 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.

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