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Jen Robinson's Book Page - 5 new articles



Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: October 9

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book lists, Halloween, the Cybils Awards, gender stereotypes, banned books week, early literacy, Stephanie Meyer, young adult books, preschool, classroom libraries, audiobooks, and reading levels. 

Book Lists

Horn BOO! 2015 - Fun collection of new Halloween books from @HornBook #kidlit  

Finding Friends, Resolving Conflicts -- 5 terrific new books, and 2 old favorites (ages 4-9) from @MaryAnnScheuer 

Great #PictureBooks to Teach Theme (many different themes included) – a #BookList from @PernilleRipp 

20+ Books for Kids Who Like Percy Jackson (fast paced stories of kids on life changing adventures) from @momandkiddo 

#BookList of Favorite YA mysteries from @elvenjaneite (thought she would love to hear recs of more #diverse titles) 


Biblio File: #Cybils Nominations--What to Nominate in #YALit #nonfiction from @kidsilkhaze 

Middle Grade Books That Haven't Been Nominated for the #Cybils from @MsYingling (MG Fiction Chair)  

#Diverse Elementary/MG Speculative Fiction Books that haven't been nominated for the Cybils yet per @charlotteslib 

Great Books Not Yet Nominated for #Cybils 2015 for various age ranges from @mrskatiefitz 

Elementary and Middle Grade #Nonfiction: #Cybils Nomination Suggestions from @semicolonblog 

#Cybils Nominations are STILL open! | Some suggested #PictureBooks from Tales of an Elementary School Librarian 

Suggested #Cybils Nominations, by category, from Jennifer at Jean Little Library #kidlit #YALit 

Get Your #Cybils Nominations In! | @TesseractViews suggests some speculative fiction titles not yet posted 

More #Cybils Suggestions in YA speculative fiction from @kimberlymarief at Stacked 

Some books eligible for this year's Elem/MG #Cybils that haven't been published, or nominated, yet by @charlotteslib 

New Round-up of Middle Grade fantasy + science fiction from around the blogs, plus #Cybils nomination suggestions 

Suggested books to nominate for the #Cybils awards in Young Adult Nonfiction from panelist @semicolonblog 

Diversity + Gender

20 Kids' Books That Defy Gender Stereotypes in @MotheringMag via @tashrow #DiverseBooks  

Events + Programs

For #BannedBooksWeek: Alternatives to (various reasons for) Banning Books from @ReadingRainbow  

4th graders undertake project to build #LittleFreeLibraries in #ProjectBookGiving by @HartmansRoomGr4 @NerdyBookClub 

Growing Bookworms

Board Books: Building Blocks of Early #Literacy with Guest Orli Zuravicky | @kateywrites kateywrites @Scholastic  

"We need to encourage children to love and read books if we’re to improve #literacy levels" Nancy Atwell @telegraph 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

OK ... Twilight author Stephenie Meyer announces new gender swap version (female as vampire, male as human) | @EW  

If 80% of 'Young Adult' books are bought by adults, should we keep the label? - David Thorpe @AwfullyBigBlog #YALit 

The Good, Bad, and The Celebrity #PictureBook | @PCzajak in @HuffingtonPost via @BookChook 

Maintaining Privacy and Safety Online: Tips & Tools To Use (+ a book recommendation) from @catagator at Stacked 

Schools and Libraries

Does Preschool Improve Later Literacy Achievement? Thoughts from @ReadingShanahan on why improvements fade away 

Yes, Audiobooks & GraphicNovels Count: Accepting Students’ Diverse Reading Choices @RodriguezCindyL @LatinosInKidLit  

Yes! Some Rules We Need to Break In Our Reading Classrooms (e.g. "You must reward reading") by @PernilleRipp 

"Our classroom libraries are for all kids that enter our classroom", not just for the teacher @PernilleRipp 

Why Kindergarten in Finland Is About Playtime (+ Why That Could Be More Stimulating Than #CommonCore) @TheAtlantic 

When Does Level Matter? Being Efficient with Small Group Instruction - @frankisibberson @ChoiceLiteracy 

Just Because They Can Doesn't Mean They Should: Choosing Age-Appropriate Books 4 Literature Circles @ChoiceLiteracy 

© 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



Who Done It?: Olivier Tallec

Book: Who Done It?
Author: Olivier Tallec
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-5

Who Done It? is an interactive book by Olivier Tallec, perfect for preschoolers. It has extra-thick covers, and is designed to be held horizontally. Each page spread features a question that starts with "Who". For example: "Who didn't get enough sleep?" and "Who played with the mean cat?" Beneath the question are a series of simple illustrations of characters, animal and human, one of which matches with the question (well, two of them match in one case). 

My daughter, at five, was able to pick most of the solutions out pretty quickly. On a couple she needed more time, but she only needed help with one of the dozen questions. Younger children will likely need more help - some are obvious, but others are more subtle. The funniest spread asked: "Who couldn't hold it?", with a picture of a sheepish animal standing in a yellow puddle. But all of the questions feature topics that will resonate with preschoolers. A tiny guide at the end of the book shows the solutions. 

Tallec's illustrations are not realistic, but they are fun. All of the characters (kids and animals) have huge heads and found eyes with tiny dot pupils. Tallec manages, despite the minimalist drawings, to convey emotions through mouths and eyes, and sometimes posture. A large, blue bear sits, leg crossed and hands folded, on a bench, expression solemn. A blonde girl has bangs that cover her eyes. A boy in love blushes bright pink. 

I would have liked to see a bit more diversity in the skin tones of the children, but that's my only complaint. The animals demonstrate a wide range of fur colors, and perhaps this was a deliberate way of making it easier to separate out the kids from the animals. 

Overall, though, I think that Who Done It? is a great choice for preschoolers. It's interactive without feeling contrived, and gives young listeners a chance to feel observant. Because the illustrations are relatively small, I think it lends itself more to one-on-one reading with a parent than to classroom or storytime use. I'm gong to try it with my preschool-age nephew when he visits. Recommended!

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: October 13, 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: October 6

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 (picture book through middle grade) and one post highlighting some recent Halloween books. I also have two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently, and one post about a my completion, with my daughter, of the 2015 #BookADay challenge

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I finished one middle grade, one young adult, and one adult title. I read/listened to:

  • Sophia McDougall: Mars Evacuees. HarperCollins. Middle Grade Science Fiction. Completed October 5, 2015, on Kindle. A fun start to a new science fiction series set (mainly) on Mars, and featuring the aftermath of an alien invasion on earth. 
  • Stephanie Tromly: Trouble Is A Friend of Mine. Kathy Dawson Books. Young Adult. Completed September 27, 2015, on Kindle. This was an entertaining YA mystery novel. 
  • Emily St. John Mandel: Station Eleven. Vintage. Adult Fiction. Completed October 1, 2015, on MP3. This one I really enjoyed. It's something of a literary post-apocalyptic novel, set 20 years after a global pandemic has wiped out most of the world's population, but with flashbacks to the time before. I did struggle a bit with the notion that after 20 years no one had figured out a way to get the electricity running, but that's a minor quibble. 

I'm reading The Tiara on the Terrace by Kristen Kittscher and listening to Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, Book 3) by Ransom Riggs on Audible. I'll be flying to Baltimore tomorrow for KidLitCon, and hope to get more reading time in while I'm on the plane(s). I have a number of titles queued up on my Kindle, a mix of advanced digital copies of YA novels, and books that wanted enough to purchase, based on other people's reviews. The books my husband and I (and our nanny, and the occasional friend) have been reading to our daughter can be found here

My daughter finished out her September Reading Log with just over 200 books read to her, including a number of Arthur and Magic Treehouse chapter books. We're not off to as strong a start in October due to some travel, but our reading should pick up soon. A recent favorite (requested two days in a row) was How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps by Jennifer LaRue Huget and Edward Koren

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



Orbiting Jupiter: Gary D. Schmidt

Book: Orbiting Jupiter
Author: Gary D. Schmidt
Pages: 192
Age Range: 12 and up

Gary D. Schmidt's Okay for Now is one of my favorite YA novels. I've also read and enjoyed several of his other books. So I was pleased to get my hands on an advance copy of Schmidt's upcoming YA novel, Orbiting Jupiter. It's a slim book with (in the ARC anyway) plenty of white space - a very quick read. But wow, does Orbiting Jupiter pack a punch. 

Orbiting Jupiter is told from the perspective of 12-year-old Jack, who lives with his parents on a small dairy farm in Maine, during the winter that Jack's family fosters a youth named Joseph. Joseph has an intimidating history. He took some sort of drug in school and, not in his right mind, tried to kill a teacher. He was sent to a juvenile facility called Stone Mountain. And, at 14 years old, he has a three month old daughter. All of this is revealed in the first chapter of Orbiting Jupiter, though Jack and the reader don't come to understand the details of Joseph's story until much later. 

Joseph is a damaged, complex character. But the cows like him, so Jack and his parents are more than ready to give him the benefit of the doubt. So are a couple of teachers at Jack's middle school, though most shun Joseph and/or consider him a trouble-maker. Personally, I was reeled in by the first chapter, unable to put Orbiting Jupiter down until I had finished it. I had to know what would happen to Joseph. My heart ached for him, and broke for him. 

Schmidt's writing style is spare - not every detail is captured. For example, we never learn why Jack's family decided to take in a foster child. Schmidt just launches into the specifics about Joseph. But this makes the 12 year old narrator more convincing, I think. Jack tells us about what he thinks is important, at the level that he's able to understand and talk things. Like this (a confrontation between Jack's father and Joseph's father):

"My father put his glasses back on and they looked at each other for a while. Then Joseph's father said a few words I'm not allowed to say, and he looked at me. When my father took a step toward him, he said a few more words I'm not allowed to say, and left.

Dahlia was watching the whole time. If Joseph's father had come within range, you know he'd have limped out of that barn.

Like I said, you can tell a whole lot about someone from the way cows are around him." (Chapter 2)

Other things to like about Orbiting Jupiter:

  • Jack's parents are great. Supportive but taking no nonsense, expecting both boys to work, and teaching them how, but also encouraging fun. They're the kind of people who, in the least didactic way possible, make you just want to be a better person. 
  • The small town setting is convincing. The suspicion that people display towards Joseph feels realistic. The Maine weather plays a significant role. 
  • There's a completely timeless quality to Orbiting Jupiter. No cell phones. No instant messages. Nothing like that. Just pure story. 

There is some mature content in Orbiting Jupiter. We know that Joseph has had sex, and it's clear pretty early on that he has been physically and possibly sexually abused. But these things (particularly the sexual abuse) are alluded to, rather than being directly addressed. Kids who aren't ready for them could, I think, gloss over them to some extent. Still, it's clearly YA and not middle grade, despite the middle school setting.  

I think that Orbiting Jupiter would make a wonderful pick for reluctant teen readers. High school libraries simply must stock it. But the combination of compelling characters, realistic suspense, and taut writing makes Orbiting Jupiter a book that should please any discerning reader (12 and up). Highly recommended, and a book that I will not forget. 

Publisher: Clarion Books (@HMHKids) 
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Source of Book: Advance 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).



Completion of the 2015 #BookADay Challenge

I participated this summer/fall in Donalyn Miller's #BookADay challenge, on behalf of my daughter and myself. Each day, I shared one recent book that we had read together recently and enjoyed. Sometimes we read in batches, and I scheduled the posts our over the next few days, but we always shared at least one book per day. Today, after 155 featured titles, I've decided to stop for this season. It's been getting hard not to repeat titles. You can see all of the books that we featured on this blog page, or on my Growing Bookworms Facebook page. It's a pretty nice list, if I do say so myself. Our final selection was Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. 

We'll be back for more next summer. Happy reading to all!

© 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