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Jen Robinson's Book Page - 5 new articles



When: Victoria Laurie

Book: When
Author: Victoria Laurie
Pages: 336
Age Range: 13 and up

I resisted reading Victoria Laurie's When because the premise seemed to similar to that of another book I had already read (Numbers by Rachel Ward). In both books, a teenage girl has spent her life seeing a set of numbers whenever she looks at people. At some point in her childhood she has figured out that the numbers are the dates that people will die. This knowledge eventually gets her into unwitting trouble with the law, even though she is just trying to help people. Yeah, same premise.

But Leila Roy (who had also read Numbers) called When "entirely entertaining" anyway, and I decided to give it a go. And I'm glad I did. I found When to be the most fast-paced, engaging book that I've read in several months. I did NOT fall asleep when reading it in bed (as I do with almost everything lately), and I read the whole thing in 2 days. I was also irritated when people tried to talk to me when I was reading - always a sign that a book has my full attention. 

When features 16-year-old Maddie Fynn, daughter of a barely functioning alcoholic mother and a deceased cop father. Maddie is bright and hard-working, but also a bit of an outcast, bullied at school, and with only one friend, a geeky boy nicknamed Stubby. To keep her mother in vodka, she runs a little business telling people about their death dates. When she warns a woman that he son is expected to die next week, the woman responds badly. When the son disappears on his way home from school, on the appointed day, Maddie becomes a suspect, and is grilled by the FBI. Things rapidly spiral worse from there.

I'm not normally a fan of what I call the "hapless suspect" books - where someone ends up being investigated by the police for something that they clearly didn't do. But I was willing to give When a pass on this, because Maddie remained a strong character, and because the action was so suspenseful. There are one or two aspects of the book that I might quibble over, but I found the characterization in When strong, and the pacing excellent. I wasn't sure who the bad guy was until the end. There were a number of possibilities, and Laurie had me second-guessing all sorts of people's motives. She made me care about Maddie, and I had to keep reading to find out what happened to her.

I would recommend When more for high schoolers and adults than for middle schoolers. There are torture murders (though these occur offscreen), and the portrait of life with an alcoholic parent is fairly grim. The bullying to which Maddie is subjected is also pretty harsh (though probably not unrealistic). While generally a fast-paced thriller, I do think that When offers some food for discussion for parents and teens who co-read the book (Should you intervene when someone is being bullied? Is one's fate pre-determined?). 

I recommend When for anyone (teen or adult) looking for a fast-paced, intriguing mystery. If you haven't read Numbers, so much the better, but even if you have, When is a very different book, and well worth a look. I especially enjoyed the ending. 

Publisher: Disney Hyperion 
Publication Date: January 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).



#KidLitFaves: Recent Children's and YA Books that Bloggers Love: Jan. 26

KidLitFavesLogoResizeThis is a relatively new series here at Jen Robinson's Book Page (see the inaugural post here). As I travel about the kidlitosphere, encountering reviews by other bloggers (people I trust, and generally have been following for some time), I take note of those reviews in which it is clear that the reviewer really, really likes the book. I share links to those reviews on Twitter (with hashtag #KidLitFaves) and Facebook and round them up here. Hopefully over time this will become a useful resource. I welcome your feedback! 

All Ages:

At A Fuse #8 Production, Elizabeth Bird shares her thoughts on Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, collected by Elizabeth Hammill. Betsy especially appreciates the attention given to diversity i this compilation, saying:

"Tsimshian and Creole, Jamaican and Australian, Chinese American and Chippewa, this is a book that not only speaks to a wider audience than nursery rhyme collections of the past, it’s cleverly constructed and perfectly illustrated to boot. Hammill has clearly created the very first nursery rhyme collection of note for the 21st century."

Picture Books:

At Story Snug, Catherine Friess shares Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson, calling Otto "a lovely celebration of reading, writing, libraries, books and friendship". She adds:

"This is a lovely story to stimulate a discussion about children’s favourite book characters and what children think that they get up to when nobody else is looking!"

Early Readers/Early Chapter Books:

Joyce Grant at Getting Kids Reading recommends Guinea PI(g): Pet Shop Private Eye: Hamster and Cheese, spotlighting "a reluctant PI with a mystery to solve." Here are her reasons for recommending this series for newer readers:

"1) The aforementioned fact that IT’S ABOUT A GUINEA PIG DETECTIVE.
2) It’s got a bit of an edge.
3) The dialogue is not only realistic, but it’s actually funny.
4) You can almost feel the fluffiness of these guinea pigs. I mean, really."

Middle Grade:

Jennifer at Jean Little Library quite likes Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and their Noses) Save the World by Nancy F. Castaldo. Noting that "THIS is what a nonfiction book should look like", her decisive verdict for librarians is:

"A high-interest subject, with sensitive subjects delicately handled, well-written, and a beautiful layout. This will fly off your shelves and I highly recommend it."

Young Adult:

At Random Musings of a Bibliophile, Brandy raves about This Side of Home by Renee Watson, calling the protagonist's voice "perfect". She says:

"What attracted me to This Side of Home by Renee Watson was the cover. The story hooked my interest. The characters made me fall in love... This is a great book to spark thoughts on what defines a person." 

April at Good Books and Good Wine stayed up late into the night reading Emery Lord's Open Road Summer, calling it "exactly my favorite kind of contemporary book". She concludes:

"The friendship between Dee and Reagan is excellent and the sort of friendship where there is give and take in equal amounts... I’ll just say that the romance in this book is super adorable and I think you guys totally will enjoy those bits when you read this book." 

Tasha Saecker at Waking Brain Cells calls Holly Smale's Geek Girl "hilarious, geeky and great fun." She says:

"The first book in a trilogy, this book came out in the UK in 2013 and was nominated and won several awards. It certainly lives up to the hype with its wit, strong heroine and inherent joy. Appropriate for ages 13-15."

Closing Thoughts:

I do hope that you'll click through to read the full reviews if any of these titles pique your interest. Quite a few reviews pass through my screens each week. The seven highlighted here stood out as being particularly enthusiastic examples of each reviewer's work.  

Two other notes about these review excerpts:

  1. If I have quoted from one of your reviews, and you prefer that I not do so in the future, just let me know. No worries.
  2. The book covers that I have included beside each blurb include my personal Amazon affiliate ID, mainly as a convenience to readers so that I can include the cover images. If you don't want your reviews to be included in future because of this, just let me know. 

Please let me know what you think of this new feature!

© 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: January 23

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. This week we have, as usual, plenty of books lists, along with posts about the Cybils Awards, diversity, growing bookworms, reading-related events, literacy programs, reading, writing, publishing, schools, and libraries. 

Awards and Book Lists 

CCBlogC: Sparky! by Jenny Offill Wins 2015 Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a #PictureBook #kidlit

The 2015 Sydney Taylor Book Awards have been announced. @HornBook has the scoop (plus reviews) #kidlit

10 Math Books for Babies and Toddlers from @momandkiddo #kidlit #STEM

A Tuesday Ten @TesseractViews | Even More Science Fiction Picture Books! | #kidlit

20 New Classics Every Child Should Own by @JordanBNielsen @HuffingtonPost #kidlit #diversity via @bkshelvesofdoom

So many of our favorites here: 12 Kids' Books Illustrated by @MarlaFrazee | compiled by @mrskatiefitz #kidlit

10 Best Cootie-Free Valentine's Books for Boys from @rosemondcates #kidlit

For MLK Day, @Book_Nut shares A Dozen Books about the African-American Experience #kidlit

Soon to be needed in my house! 9 Easy Reader Series Starring Girls, from @mrskatiefitz #kidlit

More titles for me to keep an eye on in: Series I'm Adding to 3rd Grade Classroom Library from @frankisibberson

This week's Tuesday Ten @TesseractViewsshares books where humans have magical control or linking w/ animals #kidlit

Top 10 books for reluctant and dyslexic readers from Tom Palmer in @GdnChildrensBks via @PWKidsBookshelf #kidlit

Ten Texts to Get Kids Talking by middle school language arts teacher Emily Rietz | @NerdyBookClub

At @HornBook @randyribay shares some of his favorite #GraphicNovels for high school students #YALit

Stacked: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: YA Books With A Lot of Lying from @catagator #YALit

The Great 2015 YA Series Round-Up from @catagator @bookriot #YALit #BookList


Today's Featured #Cybils Revew is YA #Nonfiction title Be a Changemaker by @lauriethompson reviewed by Lcapizzo

Today's Featured #Cybils Review: Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin, highlighted by @mteblogmama

Today's Featured #Cybils Review is for #BookApp Angus the Irritable Bull – A funny story of friendship on the farm

This Month's Featured Blogger at #Cybils is Margo Tanenbaum, blogger at The Fourth Musketeer + @kidlitwhm #kidlit

#Cybils 2014: A (Spoiler-Free) Peek Behind the Scenes from Round2 #GraphicNovel judge @aquafortis


12 Chapter Books About Diverse (and Loving) Families from @momandkiddo #kidlit #BookList

Why Topics Of Social Justice Belong In Children's and Young Adult Books by @afrocubansista @dos_twinjas #diversity

More Libros Latin@s: 21 YA & MG Novels By/About Latinos in 2015! @LatinosInKidLit #kidlit

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Launches Short Story Contest reports @CarolynSSun in @sljournal #diversity

Embracing the Modern Female Heroine – In All Her Forms | Ann Dye for @CBCBook #Diversity #YALit

Women in Comics, #GraphicNovels Finally Getting Spotlight They Have Deserved for Generations @Bustle @bkshelvesofdoom

Shining the Light: Announcing the Honorees for The Brown Bookshelf's 28 Days Later celebration of Black History Month

Where are all the interracial children’s books? asks @nevinmartell @washingtonpost  via @PWKidsBookshelf

Events + Programs

It's Coming: Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 (books you can't live without), says @cathymere #nf10for10

NationalReadathonDayThumb2A reminder from @abbylibrarian that Saturday 1/24 is National Readathon Day (12 to 4) #timetoread @RandomHouseKids

More on National Readathon Day (Saturday, noon to 4 in your own time zone) from @PublishersWkly  #TimeToRead

Today is apparently National Hug Day. Here's a timely review from @cjfriess | Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo

What's happening in children's books in 2015? A literary calendar @GdnChildrensBks via @bkshelvesofdoom #kidlit

IBGDposterLARGE-580x410Ahead of International Book Giving Day (2/14), get a book plate via @PragmaticMom #giveabook @bookgivingday (poster to left designed by Chris Haughton)

The @BookChook says: Let’s Celebrate International Book Giving Day 2015! Susan wrote a love letter to her #library

How can you get involved in International Book Giving Day, 2/14/2015? @cjfriess has the scoop! #BookGivingDay

Spread the Word: Feb 4 is Global School Play Day says Peter Gray at Freedom to Learn blog #GSPD

MCBookDay-white-21-300x234Multicultural Children’s Book Day #ReadYourWorld says Claire Noland at A Field Trip Life

Press Release @MrSchuReads | CSLP Appoints Kate DiCamillo as New National #SummerReading Champion #libraries

PNC Bank’s $350 Million Early Learning Push | Lisa Kropp has the scoop in @sljournal  #literacy

Gorgeous new PSA from @FirstBook + @Disney w/ goal to get 1M books to kids across the country #magicofstorytelling

Growing Bookworms

If we stop telling kids what to read, they might start reading again @MaxEhrenfreund @washingtonpost @Scholastic

True! How to get kids to read — let them pick their own damn books @voxdotcom via @tashrow | Cites @scholastic report

Metacognitive (self-reflective) books: How early should they be introduced? asks Armida Lizarraga @HornBook #kidlit

Read for Fun at Home (a.k.a. How to fight formal reading instruction in kindergarten) by @StaceyLoscalzo

A defense from @ReadingShanahan of early reading instruction for kids (in response to a report to the contrary)

#RaisingReaders Monday @kateywrites : Martin Luther King, Junior Edition, supporting #literacy for kids in poverty

UK children’s reading shows simultaneous rise and decline. How can that add up? | @GuardianBooks via @tashrow

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Do I Read This Sequel Or Not? Consult this Flowchart from @read4keeps #kidlit #YALit

Funny post by @TheUglyVolvo | All of my Issues With the "Goodnight Moon" Bedroom via @FuseEight + @100scopenotes

Over @bookriot a happy @catagator declares 2015 the Year of the Feminist YA Novel via @bkshelvesofdoom #YALit

In a followup to earlier piece, @haleshannon answers readers' "burning questions about authors and filthy lucre"

DBW 2015: @Amazon, Publishers Look to #Ebook Subscription Services as Discovery Platform @matthewenis @LibraryJournal

Schools and Libraries

"Libraries are how people become readers" | A defense of funding for #libraries by Nicola Morgan @AwfullyBigBlog

Fun photos! School #libraries shelve tradition to create new learning spaces | @Guardian via @tashrow

The Past, Present And Future Of High-Stakes Testing @anya1anya @NPR_ED  via @PWKidsBookshelf

© 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.



I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!: Jill Esbaum & Gus Gordon

Book: I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!
Author: Jill Esbaum
Illustrator: Gus Gordon
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-5

I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! by Jill Esbaum and Gus Gordon is the story of a cow named Nadine who claims not to be afraid of anything, not even the dark, overgrown n woods. When Nadine's friends call her on her bluff ("just to prove it, let's go"), she discovers that she DOES like the woods. Well, during the day, at least. But when she ends up alone in the woods at night, the reader certainly sees that Nadine isn't so brave. When Nadine emerges unscathed, she neglects to tell anyone else that she wasn't, in fact, a hero. By the end of the book, despite Nadine's fears, the other animals are advertising "Sunset Tours" from "Brave Nadine." 

I suppose there's a bit of an implied message in I Am Cow, Hear Me MOO! to the effect that one must be careful about bragging of capabilities that do not exist, as one may be called upon to demonstrate said abilities. But Nadine never actually learns this lesson, which makes I Am Cow, Hear Me MOO! fall on the side of straight-up funny. Esbaum's rhyming text is enjoyable to read aloud, and sometimes laugh-out-loud humor. Like this:

""Well, moooove it, Nadine,"
Starla gave her a nudge.
"Lead on!" urged Annette.
Still, Nadine didn't budge.

She blinked at the woods.
Dark as night.
Were there creatures in there,
and ... did they bite?

Her milk nearly curdled.
Doubt prickled her skin.
But what choice did she have?
Nadine gulped and stepped in."

The bit about "her milk nearly curdled" made me snort. And this, late in the book:

"A hero? Egad. Nadine knew she was not,
and she wanted to say so, but ... sorta forgot."

A flawed heroine who does not learn her lesson. I love it! I Am Cow, Hear Me MOO! is full of sound effects and fun words and laughs large and small. Gordon's illustrations, "created using watercolor, pencils, crayons, and collage" add fun details to reward close reading. On the second page, Nadine is reading "Fire Breathing got Bovines." When she is scared, her eyes are huge and round. 

The collage aspect of the illustrations works especially well, as various portions of the pictures are shown with unusual textures, like silos that seem to be cut out of graph paper, and a pine tree crudely made out of taped together green rippled fabric (or paper, or something).

I Am Cow, Hear Me MOO! is read-aloud friendly and humorous, with a distinctive illustration style. I think that it will work best for preschooler, kids old enough to appreciate the humor, and young enough to accept the absurdities of the story without question. Recommended for group read-aloud, though probably a better fit for one-on-one parent/child reading, where one can look at the illustrations in detail, and perhaps discuss how Nadine ended up in trouble. This is a fun one!

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: May 15, 2014
Source of Book: Library copy, checked out for Round 1 Cybils consideration in Fiction Picture Books. All opinions are my own. 

© 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 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).



Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 21

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 currently send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have five book reviews (picture book through middle grade), a post about the latest Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report, and two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently. I also launched a new #KidLitFaves series this week in which I highlight rave reviews of children's and young adult books by other bloggers. I would love to hear your feedback on this new feature. Not included in the newsletter this week was another links post focused on the Cybils awards

Reading Update: In the last three weeks I completed two middle grade and three adult titles. I read/listened to:

I'm currently reading When by Victoria Laurie and listening to Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen (the most recent published title of this series, so I will be moving on to something different soon). The books we've been reading to my daughter can be found here. Today she declared as her favorite book Arthur's Reading Race by Marc Brown. She's also been quite into reading about Paddington Bear, in anticipation of the movie (for which she saw a trailer a couple of months ago, and which she is dying to see). 

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