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Jen Robinson's Book Page - 5 new articles



The Ghost in the Glass House: Carey Wallace

Book: The Ghost in the Glass House
Author: Carey Wallace
Pages: 240
Age Range: 12 and up

The Ghost in the Glass House by Carey Wallace is set in a seaside resort town in the 1920's. 12-year-old Clare and her mother rent a summer house that has an octagonal glass house on the grounds. In the glass house dwells, as promised by the title, a ghost. The Ghost in the Glass House explores Clare's growing friendship with the ghost (a boy who doesn't remember his real name), as well as her interactions with her widowed mother and four friends (all of whose families travel the resort circuit of the idle wealthy, and rent houses near to one another from season to season).

I had thought, based on the title and the relatively brief length, that The Ghost in the Glass House was a middle grade novel. But it does contain some relatively mature content. Clare's friend's father is a known adulterer. There are tense crushes between the various teens (Clare is the youngest, others range up to 15), some implied, offscreen sexual behavior, and a bit of underage drinking by the older kids. I still think it would be ok for a mature middle schooler. And it's certainly tame compared to much of today's YA. But it wasn't quite what I had expected. 

Still, The Ghost in the Glass House is creepy and atmospheric. There's a mystery about the boy. Who he is. Why he's stuck as a ghost in the glass house. Why the housekeeper of the rental house wants Clare to stay away from the glass house. There's also tension around the developing relationships between the kids/teens. And emotional depth tied to the fact that Clare just wants to go home to her own house, which her mother has been avoiding since her father died. 

The Ghost in the Glass House provides a bit of a window into the life of privileged families in the 1920's, though it's not all that detailed. I'm not sure how much modern readers will relate to the boredom and complaints of Clare and her friends. But Wallace includes some subtle substance. The housekeeper is a complex character, never fully revealed. There's a hint that one of the boys has feelings for another boy, though Clare doesn't recognize this as anything comprehensible (as she wouldn't). 

Here's the description of the glass house:

"At first glance, the glass house was a riot of reflections: sky and cloud, white brick, the pale underbellies of leaves. Then it resolved into a simple dome held together by copper beams gone green from exposure to wine and rain. It sat about fifty paces from the big white brick house she and her mother were moving into that day. A stand of young maples shades the glass walls, which were further screened by climbing roses that crept all the way up to the slanted panes of the roof." (Page 2)

And here's Clare's friend Bridget:

""The ocean never stops," Bridget complained, staring out at the dark surf beyond he circle of light from the fire they'd build on the beach. "Not even when the sun goes down. It's like some awful machine that works all night and doesn't make anything."

"You've suffered so much," Teddy (her brother) said. "I don't know how you bear it."" (Page 62)

And finally, here's a bit of insight into Clare, who is occasionally profound:

"Clare had the same sensation she got when she heard people rattle off travelers' rumors about a place Clare had actually been: the realization that she already knew more than the adult who was pretending to educate her. She didn't like the feeling, but she was getting used to it. It bothered her most in moments like this, when she didn't know the answer herself and needed one." (Page 85)

The Ghost in the Glass House will appeal to anyone who enjoys ghost stories, as well as to fans of historical fiction. It would make a good step-up book for kids who have read Mary Downing Hahn's books, but aren't quite ready for graphic YA. The Ghost in the Glass House is a subtle ghost story with a strong protagonist and a relatively uncommon historical setting. I think that my own 11-12 year old self would have enjoyed it very much. As I did today. 

Publisher: Clarion Books (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: September 3, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).



Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 28

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book awards, book lists, nonfiction, empathy, mysteries, the Cybils awards, diversity, women's equality day, growing bookworms, kidlitcon, ebooks, parenting, starting kindergarten, teachers, librarians, and accelerated reader program. 


Children's Book Council of Australia Awards for 2015: Winners & Honour Books from @TrevorHCairney  #kidlit

Fun stuff! 2014-2015 yearbook superlatives in #kidlit + YALit from @HornBook 

Book Lists

When it Rains, it Pours: 50 More #PictureBooks From a Stellar 2015 | @BottomShelfBks @HuffPostBooks  

10 Picture Books to Teach Empathy and Compassion from @momandkiddo  #kidlit #BookList

A Tuesday Ten from @TesseractViews | Male Protagonists in 2015 Fantasy Fiction #kidlit 

From the Danish Resistance to Charles Darwin: Nonfiction-Fiction Book Pairings in #kidlit from @read4keeps #BookList 

3 Recent #Diverse #YALit Mysteries from @catagator @bookriot 

Queens of Crime: Female Crime Novelists from Norway, recommendations from @bkshelvesofdoom @bookriot  #mysteries


Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-LgNew #Cybils blog post w/ FAQs + links + new round logo: Yes, YOU Can Be a Cybils Judge, Too! @Book_Nut  

"Being a #Cybils judge is a wonderful opportunity to meet others interested in children’s books" @RobertaGibson 

If you know of anyone who would be a good fit for featured blogger at #Cybils, please let us know #kidlit #YALit 

Why you should apply to be a #Cybils judge, especially in #nonfiction, from Jennifer at Jean Little Library #kidlit 

Why @Book_Nut keeps coming back to work on the #Cybils | "I like being a part of something bigger than myself" 

Diversity + Gender

The Opposite of Colorblind: Why it’s essential to talk to children about race | @LEEandLOW #diversity  

"It’s boring to only read about people just like you." 10 Reasons to Read #Diversely from @LEEandLOW via @fairrosa 

What the Science Says About Kids and Gender-Labeled Toys by @melissadahl @thescienceofus via @PWKidsBookshelf 

Events + Programs

Yesterday was Women’s Equality Day! @rifweb shares some picture books to celebrate, including ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER  

Philadelphia Launches $30 Million #Literacy Push to ensure all kids reading at grade level | @Llauren @sljournal 

Growing Bookworms

"Imagine how boring our reading lives would be if we only read books on our level." @rantryan @NerdyBookClub  #reading 

Librarian @KingAndKids says let's encourage kids to call writers by their names, not just by their books (I do this)  


News! @DanPoblocki joins #KidLitCon Horror Panel w/ Mary Downing Hahn, @TraceyBaptiste @RonSmithbooks + @MsYingling 

Reviewers and Bloggers: Prepare for #KidLitCon 2015, October 9–10, in Baltimore | @sljournal  

#KidLitCon is on @matthewwinner 's Let’s Get Busy podcast @pwbalto #kidlit 

RT @SOLurie: Betsy Bird at Evanston Public Library  Nice shout-out to @JonathanAStroud. Thanks, Betsy, and congrats on the new gig!

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Are tablet computers harming our children's ability to read? | In-depth discussion @Guardian via @PWKidsBookshelf  

Did technology kill the book or give it new life? @BBCNews via @tashrow 


Using #literacy activities (like choosing your own books) to teach kids to be more responsible, from @growingbbb  

Schools and Libraries

Getting Ready For Kindergarten #Literacy Learning - a checklist of things a school interventionist looks for 

Review by @MaryAnnScheuer of good title to ease transition to K | Monkey Not Ready for Kindergarten @randomhousekids 

Meet Kristina Holzweiss @lieberrian SLJ’s 2015 School Librarian of the Year | by @HapaMamaGrace @sljournal 

Maple & Willow Apart by Lori Nichols - back-to-school transitions for two sisters - review by @MaryAnnScheuer... 

Adventures in #Literacy Land: The Pros and Cons of Computerized Reading Programs (esp. Accelerated Reader) 

"Wonderful teachers, we’re in this together, and I see you." Message from Mom of 6 @alamocitymoms to thank teachers 

Social Media

Time Management Tuesday from @gail_gauthier | Managing The Beast That Is Twitter With Tweetdeck, Part 1 

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook



The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magician: Matthew Porter

Book: The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magician
Author: Matthew Porter
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magician is part of Matthew Porter's Monkey World Adventure series (though I haven't read anything else in this series). A magician monkey named Oscar is nominated by a magazine for the title of Magician of the Year. However, another monkey, the Milton the Magnificent, is also nominated, and very badly wants to win. Milton makes a variety of attempts to cheat and knock Oscar out of the competition. Oscar, through a combination of luck and an easy-going nature, triumphs for a time. But then Milton gets truly creative in his sabotage efforts.... 

I'm not a fan of coincidence in stories ("luckily" this good thing happened). But the five and six year olds on whom I tried out this book has no such issues. I would say, though, that The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magician was right at the limit of their comprehension, in terms of the plot and particularly of the vocabulary. There is hypnosis involved, along with various nefarious tricks. The vocabulary includes words like "levitated", "encore", "impeccable", and "sabotage." I found myself having to stop and define some of the words (though not all - I don't like to break up the flow of a read-aloud too much). Here's a snippet:

"Thinking he was rehearsing a new
routine, Oscar became befuddled by
Milton's mysterious monocle.

Under the monocle's spell, Oscar the
magician stole the priceless Blue Diamond
Necklace from the city museum."

As an adult reader, I quite enjoyed the combination of strong vocabulary and alliteration here. But younger children will likely not have the patience for The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magnificent. I would recommend it more for first or second graders. 

I also liked Matthew Porter's textured, colorful illustrations. Both monkeys have strongly delineated personalities. My five-year-old knew, on page two, just from the look of him, that Milton was going to be the bad guy. Some combination of his hair and mustache, I think. The monkeys are all quite human-looking, particularly their eyes, which makes the book more accessible, I think. The images hit a nice sweet spot between amusing detail and simple, bold colors.

I think that The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magician could make a nice classroom read-aloud for second graders. The cover image is eye-catching, with a blindfolded magician riding a unicycle over a frayed tightrope, and I think that kids will be intrigued by the story. Fans of Porter's work will certainly want to add this one to their collections. 

Publisher: Little Bigfoot (@Sasquatchbooks) 
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).



Growing Bookworms Newsletter: August 26

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 usually send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (3 picture books and one YA), as well as a post with mini-reviews of some back to school picture books. I also have two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently, and one post about a new literacy milestone for my daughter (checking out her first book from the school library). Finally, I have a post directed towards book bloggers on why they should consider judging for the Cybils Awards and/or attending KidLitCon

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I finished two early chapter books, two young adult books, and two adult books. I read/listened to:

  • Liam O'Donnell (ill. Aurelie Grand): West Meadows Detectives: The Case of the Snack Snatcher. Owl Kids. Illustrated Early Chapter Book. Completed August 24, 2015. Review to come, closer to the October publication date. 
  • Bill Harley (ill. Adam Gustavson): Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey. Peachtree Publishing. Illustrated Early Chapter Book. Completed August 25, 2015. Review to come. 
  • Jennifer Lynn Barnes: The Fixer. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Young Adult. Completed August 14, 2015, on MP3. A fun, if rather improbable, read. I hope that there will be other books in this series about a teenage "fixer" in Washington, DC. 
  • Alan Gratz: Code of Honor. Scholastic Press. Young Adult. Completed August 16, 2015. My review.
  • Ingrid Thoft: Identify. Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed August 15, 2015, on Kindle. I'm liking this new mystery series, and have the third (and so far only other) one already downloaded.
  • Helen Simonson: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. Random House. Adult Fiction. Completed August 22, 2015, on MP3. This was lovely. 

I'm listening to An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James and reading The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender in print and Starglass by Phoebe North on Kindle. I'm still finding that reading in the evening is difficult, because I get so sleepy. But this does mean that any book that I manage to complete is pretty interesting. 

The books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter can be found here. She's still interested in hearing Critter Club and Magic Treehouse books, and she's developed a particular interest in picture books that involve cooking for some reason. We actually made an attempt at Blackberry Fool, in homage to A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall (thanks to which she now also knows, in a very basic sense, about slavery). 

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

© 2015 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



For Bloggers: Why You Should Consider Judging #Cybils + Attending #KidLitCon

If you are a person who blogs about children's and/or young adult books, whether fiction or nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, or even book-related apps, here are two great opportunities for you to get more involved in the larger community. 

The Cybils Awards

Cybils-Logo-2015-Round-LgApplications are now open for Cybils judges. The Cybils Awards, now in their 10th year, highlight children's and young adult books that are both well-written and kid-friendly. Anyone can nominate titles published in the past year in each of 10 categories. Following the nomination period, two rounds of judging are conducted by bloggers. The Round 1 judges winnow the (sometimes large) nomination lists down to a shortlist of 5-7 titles in each category (some with sub-categories by age). The Round 2 judges then take over, and select a winner in each category. The result is a set of blogger-approved titles, by category, that are of high quality, and that we believe will appeal to kids. You can view past shortlists and winners on the Cybils website (see the right-hand sidebar).

The Cybils-selected titles are a tremendous resource for parents, teachers, and librarians, or anyone who connects kids with books. The process couldn't be conducted, however, without extensive participation by the community of children's and young adult book bloggers. If you are someone who reviews children's or young adult books, or book-related apps, on a blog, you can apply to be a Cybils judge. A number of people have already shared their reasons why being a Cybils judge is worth doing (links here). Here are my top three reasons:

  1. You can get to know other people with like interests. Each Cybils panel consists of a small team of five to seven people who are passionate about their particular category. You'll have email (and sometimes Google Hangout of the like) interactions with your fellow category members. You'll debate and discuss books, and you'll likely start reading each other's blogs, and generally forming personal connections. Blogging can be an isolated pastime (particularly as commenting has declined over the years). But it doesn't have to be isolating, and participating in the Cybils can help.
  2. You can become well-versed in the titled published in your category over the past year, particularly if you are a Round 1 judge. I've judged in Round 1 for Fiction Picture Books twice, and I find myself with a broad knowledge of the books that were published in each of those years. I have a more varied appreciation for authors and illustrators than I did previously, particularly those who work with smaller, more diverse publishers. 
  3. You get to know that you have made a real contribution in helping kids to grow up loving books. Many kids need to find the right book - the book that will hook them on reading. There are plenty of parents, teachers, and librarians working to help them find said right book. But with so many titles published each year, it can be difficult for caregivers to find the books with the highest kid appeal. This is where the Cybils awardees, particularly the shortlists in each category, come in. Know a seven-year-old new reader who wants funny chapter books? Want to make sure that the ones he reads are well-written? Check out the Cybils shortlists for Early Chapter Books. You, as a blogging reviewer of books can help to construct these lists. 

Being a Cybils judge can be time-consuming (particularly for Round 1, particularly for the Fiction categories). But it's also highly rewarding. Apply here

The Kidlitosphere Conference

2015-KidLitConLogoSquareAnother opportunity to participate in the children's and young adult book blogging community is also available this fall. You can attend the Kidlitosphere Conference, an annual gathering of bloggers and authors and other interested parties. This year's KidLitCon will be held in Baltimore on October 9th and 10th. Program Chair Charlotte Taylor has assembled a fabulous collection of panels on topics ranging from Exploring STEM to working with teams to how graphic novels work. This year, KidLitCon will be celebrating the 10th birthday of the Cybils, with a special emphasis on awards, and celebrating young people's literature in general. This year's keynote speakers are Meet keynote speakers Tracey Baptiste (The Jumbies) and Carrie Mesrobian (Cuts Both Ways). 

Attending KidLitCon is an amazing experience. It's a relatively small conference (usually 50-100 people), which means that you can easily meet people. Many of the attendees are introverts (as book bloggers tend to be), and you'll find that just about everyone would rather have some brief but substantive conversation about literature than make conventional small talk. In short, if you are a person who loved children's and young adult books, and cares about connecting kids with said books, attending KidLitCon will feel like going home. I can't recommend it highly enough. 

I live in California, and dislike traveling. Most days, I don't even want to leave my house. And yet, I've attended all of the KidLitCons except one, and I am planning to be there in Baltimore. Here are three reasons for you to consider attending:

  1. You can meet people face-to-face with whom you've been interacting via your blog and social media accounts for years. You can turn virtual friends into real ones, which is a tremendously validating experience. 
  2. You can recharge your interest in blogging, both through ideas from the formal sessions and through casual conversations with other bloggers. Conquering blog burnout has been a regular topic over the years. 
  3. You can learn about new areas of blogging and/or young people's literature, from diverse books to visual storytelling.

Registration for KidLitCon is now open. This two-day conference is quite reasonably priced at $125, if you register by September 20th (and still only $150 after that). This includes two days of panels and presentations, Friday lunch, Friday dinner and bowling(!), Saturday lunch discounts. Single day options are also available, as is an optional Sunday guided tour of Baltimore. 

Sign up now for KidLitCon and/or Cybils judging. You won't regret it!

© 2015 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