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Jen Robinson's Book Page - 5 new articles



Out of My Mind: Sharon M. Draper

Book: Out of My Mind (iBooks Link)
Author: Sharon M. Draper
Pages: 320
Age Range: 10 and up

I've been in a bit of a reading funk lately, starting books and abandoning them after 10 or 100 pages. That's why it was so refreshing to me to discover Sharon M. Draper's Out of My Mind. This book grabbed me from the very first page, and still has not let go, two days after finishing it. 

Melody is a brilliant young girl with a photographic memory (probably) and a passion for words. No one knows this, however, because Melody spends her days trapped in a wheelchair, unable to utter more than a few grunt-like sounds. What bothers Melody is not so much her inability to do anything for herself, but her inability to communicate with her family, let alone with the larger world. 

This pulled me in: 

"I have no idea how I untangled the complicated process of words and thought, but it happened quickly and naturally. By the tie I was two, all my memories had words, and all my words had meanings.

But only in my head.

I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old."

And things like this kept me reading:

"It's like I've always had a painted musical sound track playing background to my life. I can almost hear colors and smell images when music is played." (Page 5)

"It's like I live in a cage with no door and no key. And I have no way to tell someone how to get me out." (Page 38)

"When I sleep, I dream. And in my dreams I can do anything. I get picked first on the playground for games. I can fun so fast! I take gymnastics, and I never fall off the balance beam. I know how to square-dance, and I'm good at it. I call my friends on the phone, and we talk for hours. I whisper secrets. I sing." (Page 51)

You get the idea. There is much more to Out of My Mind than Melody explaining her situation, of course. Things happen in Melody's family, and at her school. A nation-wide quiz contest for middle schoolers becomes a major plot point. There are secondary characters to cheer for, and others to sneer at, and still others that fall somewhere in the realistic in-between. 

But, at heart, Out of My Mind is about Melody and her actions and reactions. Because her lows are so very low, even small accomplishments are cause for celebration, by both Melody and the reader. 

Out of My Mind is a book that drops the reader into the shoes of a character with severe physical limitations, and makes her real. I felt so frustrated on Melody's behalf - so angry when people underestimated or belittled her. I feel like I've gained a degree of empathy for people with cerebral palsy that I didn't have before. Draper manages this without heavy-handed platitudes or giving me the impression that I should react a certain way. Instead, she gets out of the way, and lets Melody tell us what she thinks and feels. Powerful stuff, with a soft-spoken delivery. 

I highly recommend Out of My Mind to advanced elementary school and middle school readers and up, girls or boys. For younger kids, Melody's vocabulary might be a tad intimidating. In fact, my initial reaction to Melody's voice was that her language was too poised and advanced for an 11-year-old narrator. I concluded, however, that this was intentional, and fit with who Melody was. 

I will not forget Melody any time soon, and I hope that many other readers, kids and adults, will be able to get to know her, too. Out of My Mind is something special. 

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (@SimonKids) 
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle during #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign

© 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 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).



Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 29

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include: book lists, the Cybils awards, diversity, growing bookworms, kidlitcon, kidlitosphere, reading, introverts parenting, and summer reading.

Book Lists

Great piece at Stacked: Suicide and Depression in YA: A Discussion and Book List by @catagator #YAlit

Fun! A Tuesday Ten: A Roster of Redheads in #kidlit SF & Fantasy | Views From the Tesseract

10 Perfect Read Aloud Books for 2nd Grade, includes multicultural slant, from @pragmaticmom #kidlit

23 Children's Picture Books Set in New York City from @momandkiddo #kidlit #BookList

Ha! Ha! Laugh Out Loud Books for Reading with Kids from Terry @ReadingTub #kidlit #BookList


Get Your Bookish Opinions Heard! @aquafortis on why YOU should be involved in the #Cybils awards #kidlit

Cybils-Logo-2014-Round-SmRock the #Cybils Awards (+ 3 Reasons You Should Apply) from former category chair Terry @readingtub

Have you applied to be a #Cybils judge yet? asks @bkshelvesofdoom #kidlit #yalit

New blog post at Kidlitosphere Central: Apply to be a #Cybils Judge for 2014!

Calling all bloggers! + What is Speculative Fiction from #Cybils YA SFF category chair @SheilaRuth

We Need YOU! @Book_Nut on why she participates in the #Cybils and you should too #kidlit


Brown Bookshelf: Upcoming or recently published books by African American authors or featuring #diversity in characters

Racist abuse will not stop me seeking more #diversity in children’s literature | Malorie Blackman in @Guardian 


Growing Bookworms

From @donalynbooks "We seem to have forgotten the most important thing kids need to become readers—something to read"

On a family's first read-aloud containing no pictures (The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles) @SunlitPages

Neat video from @Scholastic about love of books for #SharePossible initiative to encourage kids' reading

RT @EnglishComp Download "Open a World of Possible: Real Stories About the Joy and Power of Reading" for free at … #SharePossible

RT @ScholasticTeach Check out @pamallyn's top 5 tips for inspiring a love of literacy in students #sharepossible #edchat

On guiding reading choices: Two Confessions and a Pledge of a Teacher Mom by @elisaw5 @NerdyBookClub

Inside Out: Getting Kids Excited About Books by Shannon L. Brown @NerdyBookClub


KidlitCon2014_cubeNew post: Registered Attendees (so far) for #KidLitCon14 | Don't you want to add your name to the list?

Just announced! The #KidLitCon 2014 Program, with many thanks to Program Chair @charlotteslib

The #KidLitCon 2014 Program is out in the world! from Program Chair @charlotteslib #kidlit

Started a list of #KidLitCon14 Attendees on Twitter, with more to come!


Lots of interesting + time-sensitive #kidlit links in today's Fusenews @fuseeight #Ferguson #nonfiction

Fun stuff! Press Release: Tour the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre From the Comfort of Your Own Home — @fuseeight


Why #Introverts Are The New Power Players In The Digital Age @CherylSnapp @forbes via @cmirabile

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Starr Latronica from ALSC responds to @HornBook editorial about ALSC new social media policy #kidlit

Hey, it's @charlotteslib in @FGNMag on The Geeky Goodness of Middle Grade Fantasy #kidlit

Strong stuff from Susie Rodarme @bookriot | Reading Helped Me Overcome A Racist Upbringing @catagator

Historical Kids: What the HECK is Going On With Nonfiction Bios These Days? — @fuseeight #CommonCore

Lois Lane Is Your New YA Fiction Hero | @THR on upcoming #yalit book by @Gwenda via @PWKidsBookshelf


Are we blindly in love with our children? asks @TrevorHCairney quoting author John Marsden (on respecting teachers)

Op-ed piece in @WSJ from Peter Gray and Lenore Skenazy about the skills kids learn through free play

How To Get Conversations With Your Kids Rolling from @SensibleMoms #parenting

Programs and Research

Tips by age range for Celebrating International #Literacy Day from @FirstBook and @IRAToday

Put a Poem in your Pocket for National #Literacy and Numeracy Week in Austraila says @BookChook

Schools and Libraries

The Magic Words for Librarians: Getting Into the Schools for Booktalks from @abbylibrarian


#SummerReading Tip53 @aliposner | Check out these recently and to-be-released books for great end-of-summer reads

Tip54 @aliposner | Reflect with your kids on their #SummerReading + talk about how you might do differently next time

© 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.



The Tree House that Jack Built: Bonnie Verburg & Mark Teague

Book: The Tree House that Jack Built
Author: Bonnie Verburg
Illustrator: Mark Teague
Pages: 40
Age Range: 5-7

The Tree House that Jack Built by Bonnie Verburg starts out something like the cumulative British nursery rhyme This is the House that Jack Built, only set in a very cool tree house. However, a few pages in, Verburg branches out from the standard cumulative format, eventually introducing story time for a bunch of Jack's animal friends. Then at the end, The Tree House that Jack Built turns into a bedtime book, with Jack and his animal friends settling down to sleep under a full moon. It's a bit disjointed, in truth. Sort of a stream-of-consciousness blending of several different types of books.

Here's what I mean. After several pages of build-up, we have:

"Here is the parrot
who pecks at the lizard
that snaps at the fly
that buzzes by
the tree house
that Jack built.

But who swats the parrot?"

And on the next page:

"Of course it's the cat!

He jumps on the swings, 
the ladder, the birdbath,
the marvelous things
Jack made with his tools--"

See what I mean? That's not to say that it's not fun to read aloud, with punchy, active text. There's a tremendous wish-fulfillment to The Tree House that Jack Built. Jack lives without adult supervision, in a marvelous tree house beside the sea, surrounded by tame animals that gather around him as he reads stories. I can see this story appealing to adventure-seeking kindergartners and first graders. 

Teague's illustrations capture the dazzling tree house, with plenty of browns, greens and blues. He uses various perspectives, to give a sense of being high above the ground. The animals are not strictly realistic, but they do add color and life to the story. Tree house details like a mini water wheel and system of pipes, and a line that the rabbits use to send carrots into the house, will please attentive young readers. 

The text in The Tree House that Jack Built is fun, though it could have been tightened a bit. But the tree house is hard to resist, as are Mark Teague's bold illustrations. I do think that kids will enjoy The Tree House that Jack Built.

Publisher: Orchard Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: May 27, 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



Growing Bookworms Newsletter: August 27

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 middle school), two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently, and a post about with tips from Scholastic about getting kids preschool ready. I have two posts about my daughter's journey to literacy, one in which we celebrate the arrival of a box of Fancy Nancy Books, and the other in which she eagerly awaits the arrival of a particular book. Not included in the newsletter, I posted an update about the Cybils and KidLitCon, and how bloggers can participate in both. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read five middle grade books, one young adult book, and one adult nonfiction title. I read:

  • Holly Webb (ill. Marion Lindsay): The Case of the Stolen Sixpence: Book 1. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Early Middle Grade. Completed August 15, 2014. Review to come.
  • George Hagen (ill. Scott Bakal): Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle. Schwartz & Wade. Middle Grade. Completed August 18, 2014. Review to come.
  • Annie Barrows: The Magic Half. Bloomsbury USA. Early Middle Grade. Completed August 21, 2014, on Kindle. No review, but I plan to read the second book, and may review both after that. 
  • J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Scholastic. Middle Grade/Middle School. Completed August 21, 2014, on MP3. This was the toughest of the Harry Potter books to get through on audio - it is quite long, and Harry is angry all the time. But now I'm on to Book 6!
  • Elizabeth Enright: Return to Gone-Away. HMH Books for Young Readers. Middle Grade. Completed August 25, 2014, on MP3. This was a re-read of one of my all-time favorite titles, a perfect book for summer. Here is a review from 2009
  • A. J. Betts: Zac & Mia. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Young Adult. Completed August 15, 2014. Review to come.  
  • William Deresiewicz: Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. Free Press. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 24, 2014, on Kindle. This book posed some interesting ideas about America's higher education system. There were things that I agreed with, and things that I did not. But it did make me think!

I'm currently reading Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix (ARC). I'm listening to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceAs always, you can see the list of books that we've been reading to Baby Bookworm here. I've continued stocking our breakfast table book rack (new titles at least once a week). This has definitely led to more requests for us to read to Baby Bookworm during or immediately following meals. Not that I should really be calling her Baby Bookworm at all. She started Pre-K this week!

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



KidLitCon and Cybils: Two Chances to Participate in the Larger Community

Hey there, Kidlitosphere fans. There is news to share this week about the 2014 Cybils Awards and KidLitCon. Here is the scoop:


  • The new Cybils website is now live. The new site was designed by Sheila Ruth, Sarah Stevenson, and Anne Levy (with a tiny bit of input from me). I think that it's beautiful. It's also quite user-friendly, with a pop-up for viewing finalists by category, and a responsive design that re-sizes automatically depending on your browser size (especially helpful on mobile). 
  • New Cybils logos are also available, as you can see to the right. You can find logos in different sizes and formats on the Cybils website. Bloggers involved with the Cybils are encouraged to display the Cybils logo on your sites. The Cybils logo was designed by Sarah Stevenson.
  • Updated Cybils bling is now available in the Cybils Cafe Press store. I have already ordered my 2014 Cybils coffee mug. 
  • MOST IMPORTANT: The call for judges for the 2014 Cybils is now live. If you blog about children’s and/or young adult books, either on your own or as part of a group blog, you are eligible to apply to be a Cybils judge. Judges are needed for Round 1 (sifting through perhaps hundreds of nominated titles to produce a shortlist of 5-7 well-written, kid-friendly titles) and for Round 2 (selecting a winner from the shortlist), in 11 categories (some with sub-categories), ranging from Book Apps to Poetry to Young Adult Fiction.You can apply now through September 5th. My application is in already.


  • The program for this year's KidLitCon was just posted, with thanks to Program Chair Charlotte Taylor. There are sessions on diversity, of course, including what promises to be a fabulous keynote by Mitali Perkins. But not to worry. KidLitCon remains true to our roots, with sessions on blogging in general, and an exciting author meet and greet event (more details to come). 
  • There is now a Twitter list of registered KidLitCon attendees (those who have given permission to be listed, and are on Twitter). A blog-linked list of attendees will be posted on our website later this week. The deadline for registration is September 17th, so if you have not yet registered, please do! The room block at the KidLitCon hotel is also filling up fast. See the registration form for details. 

If you blog about children's and/or young adult books, the Cybils Awards and KidLitCon both offer a marvelous opportunity to reach out from the comfort of your own blog and participate in the larger community. Being a Cybils judge is a way to expose yourself to great books within a sub-category of children's and YA literature, and to work with a team of other bloggers who also love that category (aka kindred spirits). Attending KidLitCon is a way to meet long-time blogging friends in person, and make new one. You can also renew your commitment to your blog, and to sharing your passion for children's literature with others.

Have I convinced you? Then apply now to be a Cybils judge. Register now for KidLitCon 2014. Opportunity awaits!

© 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.