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Jen Robinson's Book Page - 5 new articles



Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 22

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. The new Cybils website launched late last week, and the call for judges for 2014 was released on Monday, so there are quite a few Cybils-related links. The KidLitCon program is shaping up nicely (due out next week), and there are a few links there, too. Other topics this week include book lists, back to school books, growing bookworms, parenting, publishing, reading, schools, libraries, and summer reading.


#Kidlit 's @StudioJJK is featured on the TED website today talking about Lunch Ladies as heroes, says @100scopenotes

Book Lists: Back to School

Planet Kindergarten and other Books for New Kindergarteners from @darshanakhiani #kidlit #BookList

Five @FirstBook Favorites for Back to School #BookList

#BookList for Back to school: easing your kindergarten worries (ages 4-7) from @MaryAnnScheuer

Book Lists: Other

Australian Children's Book of the Year Winners Announced @TrevorHCairney #kidlit

A Tuesday Ten: #kidlit Fantasy Dealing with Death and Loss | Views From the Tesseract #BookList

Buried Treasure: Real and Imagined Adventure Titles | by John Peters @sljournal #kidlit #booklist

Seeking #diversity in your #yalit reading? New Stacked #Booklist | Protagonists of Color in YA SFF

Some solid choices in Favorite Historical Fiction Novels from @brandymuses #BookList

Read about female pilots on National Aviation Day, a #BookList from @CarliSpina @HornBook

In honor of Shark Week, a list of "recent YA books featuring sharp-tongued narrators with biting wit" @HornBook

10 Books By Women (About Girls) That Boys Should Read from @Book_Nut (inspired by @haleshannon )

I am saving this list! Over a Dozen Great Audiobooks for Kids recommended by @momandkiddo #kidlit


Cybils-Logo-2014-Round-SmNew Cybils blog post | Meet Members of the #Cybils Team at #KidLitCon!

Don't miss it! The call for judges for the 2014 @Cybils awards went up today on our lovely new website

Original Content: Aunt Cybil Wants You, says Gail Gauthier #cybils

Re the #Cybils Call for Judges, @tashrow says: "Join in the fun, you will be glad you did!" #kidlit

WANTED! Panelists + Judges for the 2014 #CYBILS Poetry Award | Reasons you might be a good candidate from @JoneMac53

Cybils_mugmugsNew #cybils blog post: Now Updated for 2014: Cybils Bling! | Get yours now! #kidlit #yalit

Thoughts and links re the Call for #Cybils Judges! from MG Fiction organizer @MsYingling #kidlit

Some advice for potential #cybils panelists at the end of this week's #kidlit SFF roundup @charlotteslib

Growing Bookworms

Time to get ready for The 6th Annual K-4 @MrsPStorytime Be-a-Famous Writer Contest, says @MrSchuReads

Teach Me How To Read: 10 Strategies When You are Stuck from former teacher @growingbbb

Jon Scieszka on How to Get Kids to Love Reading (Stop Telling Them How Important Reading Is) @ParnassusBooks @librareanne


2014 KidlitCon PictureAnother #KidlitCon Shout Out! Tanita Davis has a gorgeous image showing some of the expected attendees:

Can you see yourself with these expected #KidLitCon attendees? (photo collage by Tanita Davis)

A #Kidlitcon14 Program peek, starring Jewell Parker Rhodes! from Program Chair @charlotteslib

Blast from the Past: Thoughts and Photos from Last Year's #KidLitCon from @aquafortis

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Food for thought: A Possible New Reading Plan For Serials from @gail_gauthier

Fightin' words from Steve Cohen @WSJ "I'm Backing @Amazon and Authors Should Too"

DucklingsThis pleases me. New "Make Way for Ducklings" Children's Bookstore in Faneuil Hall in Boston @PublishersWkly

At The Uncommon Corps, thoughts from Myra Zarnowski on YA and adult books that are Adapted for Children

Thoughtful stuff! Girls Ruin Everything: Stephenie Meyer, Lois Duncan, and Childhood Nostalgia | @catagator @bookriot


5 Things All Teen Girls Need, say @SensibleMoms #Parenting

Fathers Who do Household Chores More Likely to Have Daughters Who Aspire to less Trad'l Feminine Occupations @WSJ

Schools and Libraries

This is neat! In Tehran, a Couple Turns Their Taxi Into a Rolling Library @WSJ

A library steps up in a crisis: Ferguson Public Library Offers Lessons for Students in Limbo | @sljournal

Displaying Multicultural Books: The Magic of Windows and Mirrors by @MitaliPerkins #diversity

Top Ten Reasons for Starting a Staff Book Club by @megskogie @NerdyBookClub

Summer Reading

#SummerReading Tips 42-45 @aliposner | Several concrete ways to motivate end-of-summer reading!

#SummerReading Tips 46-47 @aliposner | Before school, visit a library, museum, park, or fair that celebrates #kidlit

#SummerReading Tip49 @aliposner | Encourage fun and meaningful writing over the summer

#SummerReading Tip 51-52 @aliposner Help your kids integrate writing by encouraging them to author their own books

© 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.



Yes, She Is My Daughter: Growing a Bookworm

Two days ago my daughter came to me with a Berenstain Bears book, and begged me to get her a copy of a book shown on the back cover (The Berenstain Bears Sleepover). I agreed, subject to some behavior conditions, and ordered the book from Amazon. I told her that it would be here in two days (the beauty of Amazon Prime). 

Now, for the past two days she has been asking me, at regular intervals: "Is my book here yet?" Today the mail came, and UPS came, and the book did not come. My daughter arrived home from an outing and immediate asked me: "Did my book come?". She was crushed when the answer was no, even though I told her that there was still time for another package to arrive. I had to distract her with another "new" book from my review shelf. 

Here's the thing: she has literally hundreds of books in her bedroom alone. She has a huge bag of library books in the family room. But this is not enough. It has to be THIS particular book that she has her eye on. The Berenstain Bears Sleepover is the one she wants, and she wants it now. 

Yes, this is my kid. I do the exact same thing. I have an overflowing stack of books from publishers, and I still order, and pay for, particular titles that I HAVE to have. 

Readers will be happy to know that while my daughter was off on another outing, the book did come. She came to visit me in my office when she got home, and I told her that the book was in the kitchen. She ran down the stairs, literally panting with excitement, screaming: "It came! It came! It came!".

This book cost me $3.59. The rewards of seeing her so excited about the arrival of the book that she wanted? Priceless. Don't ever let anyone tell you that choice is not essential to 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. This site is an Amazon affiliate.



The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher: Dana Alison Levy

Book: The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher (iBooks Link)
Author: Dana Alison Levy
Pages: 272
Age Range: 9-12

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy is an episodic story depicting a (school) year in the life of a New England family. Sam, Jax, Eli and Frog (a nickname) range in age from 12 to six. They are all adopted, and have different ethnic backgrounds, skin colors, and interests. They have two fathers, one called Dad and one called Papa. Dad is a teacher at a local high school, while Papa runs a computer company from the house. They are, in short, a thoroughly modern take on a stable two-parent family.

The nice thing about The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher is that while it has diversity in spades, the diversity feels incidental to the story, rather than being the main point. The kids are the important thing, along with the various growing pains that they go through. Oh, there are new people that the family meets who need to have things explained to them. There are references to the various holiday traditions embraced by the family, in the interest of ensuring that everyone's background is included. But the heart of the book is the individual issues that each boy is going through, and the ways that the Fletchers all come together as a family.

Sam, the oldest son, is struggling to balance his love of soccer with a new interest in drama (and his new interest in a girl who likes drama, too). Jax, the older of two 10-year-olds, is watching his long-time best friend start to act grown-up, in ways that Jax isn't ready for. Eli attends a new school, an academically-focused private school that he really thought that he would like (but doesn't). And Frog? He spends most of his time explaining the absence of his new best friend, who may be imaginary. Mingled with all of these individual stories is friction that the family has with their new, grouchy neighbor, Mr. Nelson. 

Things to like: 

  • The kids are not perfect. They are boys, with all the attendant mess and noise that one would expect. There is lots of soccer and hockey, and the watching of Patriots games on TV. 
  • The dads are not perfect. They are good parents, who try hard, and who are occasionally overwhelmed. Little email snippets and notes at the start of each chapter help to communicate what the dads are really thinking, at times (particularly emails from Papa to his sister). 
  • There are frequent reference to "The Fletcher Family Rules", which are things like: no one plays until everyone has finished their homework. Such rules seem necessary in a large family, and are a nice demonstration of structure. 
  • There's not sweeping resolution, but progress is made in a realistic fashion, in various areas. 

Despite the modern composition of the Fletcher family, and the presence of cell phones and screen time, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher has an old-fashioned feel to it. There's a camping trip, a Halloween party, and a scramble to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. There's playing with kids in the neighborhood, and attending Family Night at the kindergarten. No external real-world events tie the story to an exact time (Mr. Nelson is a Vietnam Veteran, but we don't know his exact age), which will keep this book from feeling dated in coming years. It would make a nice companion book to The Penderwicks series, actually, though featuring boys instead of girls. 

I must admit that I found The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher to be a bit slow-paced, especially the first half of the book. It took me a while to get distinct pictures of all four boys in my mind, and the episodic plot didn't capture my full attention. This did improve for me in the second half of the book, and I enjoyed the book, but it took me a bit longer to get through than I would have expected.

Still, I think that The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher has a lot to offer young readers, especially boys. Happily, kids who have gay parents, or who are adopted, or who are not white, may find in the Fletcher family a mirror. But I think that most readers will be able to identify with at least one of the brothers. Any reader could get some good ideas from the brothers, about trying new things, not judging people when you don't know what they are going through, and admitting when you have made a mistake. All of this, with plenty of boy-friendly fun along the way. I would consider The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher a must-purchase for libraries serving middle grade readers.

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers 
Publication Date: July 22, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon and iBooks 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).

© 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



New Fancy Nancy Books Bring Joy

The arrival of a box of new Fancy Nancy books generated considerable excitement in my house this week. My four-year-old daughter actually delayed her departure for her first-ever soccer practice (something that she was VERY excited about) to finish reading Fancy Nancy: Sand Castles and Sand Palaces.

Later, before she would go to sleep, we had to read the new picture book Fancy Nancy and the Wedding of the Century AND all six titles in Fancy Nancy's Fabulous Fall Storybook Collection, as well as the newest copy of Fancy Nancy and the Fall Foliage (which we already had a copy of). The only title that we deferred reading for was Nancy Clancy: Secret of the Silver Key, which was dismissed, rightly, as "too old" (but which I have saved for later). 

I did not object. My daughter's preferred format for books these days is paperback. You know the sort of books I'm talking about: Berenstain Bears, Little Critter, and various TV-spinoff books in thin, square packages. She especially likes it when there are stickers included in the books. But she'll read them anyway, without the stickers.Those that have pictures of other books from the series on the back cover are particular favorites - she is constantly bringing those to me to request additional titles. (Happily, these books only cost $3-$5 each, so I sometimes use them as rewards for aspirational behaviors). Paperback early readers are also favorites. 

BookRackPhoto2As a parent, I have come to appreciate these paperbacks. They are lightweight, and it's easy to take them on trips or in the car. Because they are inexpensive, I don't worry about them being damaged. And they fit quite nicely in my new breakfast table toast rack / book rack. However, I do (silently) lament the fact that by focusing on these titles, my daughter is missing out on the richer vocabulary of more traditional picture books. And this is why the arrival of new Fancy Nancy books brings joy to me, as well as to my daughter. Because the Fancy Nancy books are chock-full of rich vocabulary words, all defined in the text.

My daughter knows what "foliage" is because of Nancy. She knows what a "banquet" is, and what "translucent" means. She has learned these words painlessly, because Nancy uses them. And because Nancy is "fancy", delighting in swirling tutus, glittery Thanksgiving turkeys, and accessories of all colors, Nancy feels like a friend, not a teacher. The books are not didactic, though there may be a lesson or two to be absorbed here or there, and they often make my daughter giggle. 

I should also add that although the new paperbacks are destined to be read more in the short-term (taken on trips, etc.), the hardcover of Fancy Nancy's Fabulous Fall Storybook Collection is a particular delight. This is a compendium of six previously-published stories, at least one of which we already have. But the table of contents, from which one can pick which story to read first, makes my daughter feel grown-up. She refers to the stories as "chapters", and feel that she is reading a big girl chapter book. For those titles that don't fit into the format of this square book, there are wide patterned borders on each page, with sketches of leaves, and a foliage-friendly palette. 

A celebration of words, in a four-year-old-girl-friendly package, that's what the Fancy Nancy books are to me. To my daughter, they are just fun. And that's exactly what I'm looking for. 

© 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. 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).



Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night: Jon Davis

Book: Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night
Author: Jon Davis
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night by Jon Davis is a cozy picture book that presents a practical solution to night-time fears. Small Blue is a little, floppy-eared rabbit. When she awakens during the night, she imagines that all sorts of "creepy" things lurk in the darkness. Big Brown, a big, cozy bear/parental figure brings safety and reassurance. He patiently offers up cheerful alternatives to Small Blue's imaginings. Eventually, Small Blue is able to imagine cheerful things in the darkness, too. 

Davis' text is full of rich, descriptive vocabulary. Like this:

"Small Blue thought of creepy things.
She thought of sneaky things.
She thought of gnarly snarly teeth,
boggling goggling eyes,
and a sniffly snuffling nose."

Big Brown's alternatives are delightful, as are the interactions between the two. Like this:

"Perhaps," said Big Brown. "But couldn't it also be
a smiley spacemen's zero-gravity birthday party?
"Well, maybe," said Small Blue.

Clearly, this is a book that is going to be fun to read aloud. I mean, who wouldn't want to read about "warty witches and clackety skeletons, sniff-sniff,sniffing"?

Davis' digitally painted illustrations are set mainly against a deep, purplish-blue background (like the cover), conveying the darkness in a relatively warm way. The creepy things that Small Blue imagines are shown with ever-so-slightly fuzzy edges, a visual cue that they are not real. Big Brown's imaginings, while more cheerful, are also faintly blurred, compared to the crisp lines that he uses for the main characters. A couple of page spreads in which the light is turned on are bright and detail-filled, reminiscent of Kady MacDonald Denton's cozy settings. 

But the heart of Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night lies in the warn, trusting relationship between Small Blue and Big Brown, conveyed via words and pictures. This is a perfect book with which parent and child can curl up in bed, staving off night-time terrors. This one is going on our keep shelf. Highly recommended!

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHBooks)
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