Click here to read this mailing online.


Table of Contents:

Jen Robinson's Book Page - 5 new articles



Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: June 26 (posted June 30)

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book awards, book lists, summer reading, boys and reading, literacy programs, 48 hour book challenge, growing bookworms, KidLitCon, Poetry Friday, introversion, Judy Blume, reviewing, and schools. [This didn't post on Friday, I am just noticing, so I am posting it now. It it not updated to add links after Friday morning.]


Newbery / Caldecott 2016: Summer Prediction Edition — @fuseeight  #kidlit 

Landman, Grill Win 2015 Carnegie, Greenaway Medals in U.K.  via @tashrow #BookAwards #kidlit

Book Lists

Books for Preschoolers that Help Teach Basic Concepts, a categorized #BookList from @growingbbb 

18 Wonderful Picture Books about the Arab Nation, chosen by @PragmaticMom in hopes of spreading peace  #DiverseBooks

All-Time Great Family Read-Alouds: mysterious, timeless, funny + adventurous categories by @ehbluemle @PublishersWkly 

A Tuesday Ten: #kidlit speculative fiction where characters show Ability via Disability @TesseractViews  #Diversity 

On the #Cybils blog: #BookList Fun: Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Deserves it’s Own Book Club by @pamlovesbooks 

Middle School Pride : LGBTQ+ Tweens in Literature for Youth | @YALSA  via @tashrow #BookList #DiverseBooks

Diversity + Gender

Let's Stop Shaming Little Boys Who Read About Girls, w/ book suggestions @bananasuit @bookriot  via @tashrow 

Listening Library @LLAudiobooks + @penguinkids Announce Read Proud Listen Proud to highlight recommended LGBTQ #YALit 

Events + Programs

48hbc_newThe Tenth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge: Winners! @MotherReader  #kidlit #48HBC

How barbershops make the cut in helping kids read | The Kansas City Star  #DadsTurnThePage

Neat! Books On Buses: New program helps get books to Roanoke children | @WDBJ7  via @PWKidsBookshelf 

Growing Bookworms

#RaisingReaders Monday: on the value of Picture Books for Bigger Kids | @kateywrites 

Early #Literacy in Everyday Places: The Campground from @mrskatiefitz | stories, stars, songs + more  

How to swap games consoles for books (and get kids reading) | Alex Scarrow @GdnChildrensBks  via @tashrow

#FamiliesRead: Tips for Parents for Encouraging the Love of Reading from @MaryAnnScheuer 


2015-KidLitConLogoSquareAnnouncement! @CarrieMesrobian to Speak at #KidLitCon 2015, delivering the Friday, Oct. 9 keynote in Baltimore  

A Year of Reading: The #PoetryFriday Roundup is Here! @MaryLeeHahn @frankisibberson 


Please Stop Interrupting Me! |Thoughts from @raisinghappines on the high cost of interruptions on productivity 

5 Things that Happen When You Embrace Being Alone @marcandangel via @benjamingilpin 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Advice for writers from Judy Blume, reported by @StaceyLoscalzo : “First, read, read, read and read.”  

Amazon Tests Paying Authors Per Page Read Instead of Per Book for eBook self-publishing services  via @100scopenotes

"Children's books are, paradoxically, one of the most important forms of writing we have, and the most overlooked." 

"Reading is a delightfully solitary activity, and as kids we all loved it... because we were on our own" @Wendy_Mc 

Let’s Put On a Show! The Introvert Author’s Dilemma — @fuseeight responding to @medinger + @pwbalto 

We Are the Book Champions, My Friends: on reviewing + responsiblity in response to @100scopenotes post @fuseeight 

Response (+ questions) to book critic vs/ champion discussion launched by @100scopenotes + @FuseEight from @medinger 

Schools and Libraries

This is cool: 12 Unexpected Ways to Use LEGO in the Classroom |@atxcopywriter @Edudemic 

English Class in #CommonCore Era: balancing the call for more nonfiction @NYTimes via @PWKidsBookshelf  

STEM-Themed Library Backpacks Encourage Outdoor Exploration, reports @Llauren @sljournal  #STEM

Summer Reading

Summer reading 2015: Printable recommendation lists for Kindergarten & 1st graders from @MaryAnnScheuer #FamiliesRead 

#SummerReading suggestions for 2015: 2nd & 3rd graders -- #FamiliesRead @MaryAnnScheuer w/ PDF list 

#SummerReading 2015: Book recommendations for 4th & 5th graders @MaryAnnScheuer #FamiliesRead 

© 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



Fraidyzoo: Thyra Heder

Book: Fraidyzoo
Author: Thyra Heder
Pages: 48
Age Range: 4-8

Fraidyzoo, by Thyra Heder, is a combination alphabet book and over-the-top story about the types of animals that one might find at the zoo. A family decides to go to the zoo one day. However, the younger daughter is afraid of the zoo. She just can't remember exactly what it is about the zoo that she fears. So her parents and sister embark on a day-long quest to help her remember what she might be afraid. They act out (with quite elaborate props/costumes) animals for each letter of the alphabet. By the end of the day, the little gir is ready to give the zoo a try (though they have to push the visit to the next day). When they get to the zoo, they discover that there is still something to fear (though it's not any of the animals). 

I find Fraidyzoo just a tad gimmicky. Having to go through the costuming of all of the animal types gets old for me. But my four year old loves it, and has asked for it several times. She declares that it is her "favorite book." She is very impressed with the creativity of the family in their dressing up. I think she especially enjoys the fact that the author doesn't always tell you directly what animal is being acted out on each page. You have to guess from the visual cues, text hints, and your knowledge of what the next letter of the alphabet is. The animals are all identified on the back end papers. For example, as we reach N we have:

"Is it one of those whales with a horn?"

This is accompanied by a picture of the older sister in a wading pool with her hair stuck up on her head like a horn. 

Heder's watercolor and ink illustrations are humorous and creative, and reward close inspection. The family uses all sorts of props from around their house (kitchen tongs as antlers, for example), and the results range from the simple to the complex. Owls in towels" just shows the two sisters wrapped in white towels, their shapes owl-like. But on the next page there's an enormous rhinoceros made out of cardboard and duct tape, requiring three family members and some accessories to move it around.

Only late in the book does the little sister start to actively participate in the charades. In fact, the careful reader will notice the little sister becoming happier and happier as the book progresses, a validating thing for young readers. Also validating, I think, is the lengths to which her family will go to make her feel safe. We should all have families who will trash their house and spend an entire day acting out zoo animals. 

So, if you are looking for an alphabet/zoo book for slightly older readers (vs. the early preschool crowd), kids who enjoy solving not-so-obvious puzzles, Fraidyzoo may be just the ticket. The end is a fun surprise, too. Heder's busy illustrations are unique and memorable, and my own four year old finds them laugh-out-loud funny. Definitely recommended for library purchase. I think that Fraidyzoo might work well for a group read-aloud for kindergarteners, too. 

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams  (@AbramsBooks) 
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Source of Book: Library copy

© 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).



Literacy Milestone: Writing Her First Book

LiteracyMilestoneALate last week, my daughter (who is in a "make things out of construction paper and tape" phase) made a little book. It was initially just some sheets of paper folded over and taped together, with a few pictures and a cut-out. But then my husband got out a story that he wrote and illustrated when he was in first grade. (It was about hockey. We all found it hilarious.) This inspired my daughter to turn her book into a story. 

Quick as a flash, she drew some additional pictures, and then told us the story that went with them. It involved a boy named Jonathan who "lost his kite in a gust of wind", got the kite stuck in a tree, and called the fire department for help (complete with drawing of a cell phone). She wrote a lot of the story down herself (with much spelling help from Daddy), until she got too tired, and my husband wrote out the rest for her. But the words were all hers. 

I was impressed that she had a main character, a problem, a solution, and a happy ending. While not a complex story, to be sure, I think it shows that she is on the right track. This is what comes of reading hundreds upon hundreds of books to a child - she does develop a sense of story. 

Yesterday she had friends over. As soon as they arrived, she needed me to give her the book (which was already put away for safekeeping), so that she could show it to them. Similarly with her babysitter today. She is proud of her work.

I think it's safe to say that this will not be her last story. 

© 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 Princess in Black: Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and LeUyen Pham

Book: The Princess in Black
Authors: Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham 
Pages: 96
Age Range: 5-8

I've been wanting to read The Princess in Black for a while, the premise of a black-clad, superhero/princess being irresistible. But I waited until I could read it to my daughter. She received a copy for her birthday in April, and recently (after I had left it prominently displayed in her room), asked me to read it to her. ("Read that black princess book, Mama."). We ended up reading it in one sitting, and I predict that we will read it again. The Princess in Black is delightful. The sequel is already on our wish list. 

The Princess in Black is a very early chapter book with a large font, and color illustrations on every page spread. The Princess in Black was written by husband-and-wife writing team Shannon and Dean Hale, and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. The Princess in Black, as is clear from the cover image, is not your traditional, pink dress-wearing, waiting-to-be-rescued princess. No, the Princess in Black is basically a secret superhero. 

As the story begins, Princess Magnolia, clad in a puffy pink dress, is entertaining a nosy duchess. But when Magnolia's glitter-stone ring starts to ring, she knows that her monster-taming services are needed. Princess Magnolia excuses herself, changes clothes in the broom closet, escapes the palace via a secret chute, and rushes off to save the day. 

The premise alone makes The Princess in Black worth reading. But the writing is also pitch perfect for the age group. The Hales use short sentences, but also don't shy away from precise, descriptive vocabulary. Like this:

"Princess Magnolia minced to the door. Her glass slipper went tink-tink-tink-tink

"You're going to just leave me here?" said the duchess.

"I'll hurry back!" said Princess Magnolia.

She smiled sweetly. She shut the door softly.

And then Princess Magnolia ran."

I read this title aloud to my daughter, but I think that a developing reader could manage it without too much help. The chapters are short, and the storyline is clear cut. There's a bit of viewpoint change, between the princess, the duchess, and a goat boy, but the plentiful illustrations will help kids to keep the story straight. There are monsters, but they are not particularly scary. Princess Magnolia is brave and skilled, and not in the least intimidating. 

LeUyen Pham's illustrations are perfect for the tone of the book. The monsters are colorful and a bit goofy. Magnolia comes across as intrepid, but still with a nice smile on her face (beneath her black mask). Some of the pictures have a comic book feel (like the fight between Magnolia and a monster), while others are more conventional. There are hints that careful readers can use to predict elements of the plot (like a not-so-hidden trapdoor in a tree). It's all perfect for the age range, and much more fun than a traditional early chapter book. The illustrations are more like what one would find in a picture book. 

Although The Princess in Black is about, well, a princess, I don't see any reason why a five-year-old boy wouldn't enjoy it, too. Magnolia is a secret superhero, complete with hidden passages and a mask. She literally kicks monster butt. She in fact inspires the goat boy to try his hand at being a superhero. Perhaps she will inspire your sons. But certainly she will inspire your daughters. And she'll do it with a smile on her face, and great hair.

Actually, my daughter said that she thought that Princess Magnolia looked better in her puffy pink dress than in her black superhero costume. And that, my friends, is why it's important that she has The Princess in Black on her shelf. To broaden her perspective, and show her, in a light-hearted, fun-filled way, that girls can be the ones who take action. Even if they are princesses. 

I highly recommend The Princess in Black as an early chapter-book read-aloud to four and five year olds, or as an early read-it-yourself title for early elementary school kids. I look forward to sequel, and hope that the princess will have many future adventures. 

Publisher: Candlewick Press 
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Source of Book: Personal copy (a 5th birthday gift received by my daughter)

© 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).



Finding Audrey: Sophie Kinsella

Book: Finding Audrey
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Pages: 304
Age Range: 12 and up

Finding Audrey is the first young adult title by bestselling novelist Sophie Kinsella (Shopaholic series, etc.). Finding Audrey is about a teenage girl who had a mental breakdown after an episode of bullying at her all-girl school. Audrey spent six weeks in a mental hospital. As the story begins, she is recovering at home, planning to start at a different school in the fall (one grade lower).

Audrey panics easily, wears dark glasses to avoid any eye contact, and takes various medications to fight anxiety and depression. Her only contact is with her family and her therapist, though she eventually lets her older brother's friend, Linus, into her previously closed world. Finding Audrey chronicles the ups and downs of Audrey's progress over several months, as well as her growing relationship with Linus, and the interactions of her quirky family.

I quite liked the fact that Kinsella resists making Finding Audrey an issue book about bullying. We never even learn the details of what happened to Audrey, and that's ok. Instead, we see the impact that the incident has had on her vulnerable mental state, and the impact on her family.

Also, despite being about depression and mental illness, Finding Audrey is not a depressing book. In fact, it's quite funny in parts (helped out by Audrey's quirky Mom and sarcastic older brother). Here's the beginning of the book:

"OMG, Mum's gone insane.

Not normal Mum-insane. Serious insane.

Normal Mum-insane: Mum says, "Let's all do this great gluten-free diet I read about in the Daily Mail!" Mum buys three loaves of gluten-free bread. It's so disgusting our mouths curl up. The family goes on strike and Mum hides her sandwich in the flower bed and next week we're not gluten-free anymore." (Page 1)

And there's this:

"(I've often noticed that people equate "having a sense of humour" with "being an insensitive moron.") (Page 5)

See what I mean? Audrey has an entertaining and engaging voice. Even when she is down, she maintains a certain black humor. Like this:

"Dad says it's totally understandable and I've been through a trauma and now I'm like a small baby who panics as soon as it's handed to someone it doesn't know. I've seen those babies, and they go from happy and gurgling to howling in a heartbeat Well, I don't howl. Not quite.

But I feel like howling." (Page 38)

Yes, Kinsella has a deft touch all around for Audrey's voice. Audrey's little brother Felix is also a source of humor. Like this:

"Mummy is going to throw the computer!" says Felix, running onto the grass and looking up in disbelieving joy. Felix is our little brother. He's four. He greets most life events with disbelieving joy. A lorry in the street! Ketchup! An extra-long chip! Mum throwing a computer out of the window is just another one on the list of daily miracles." (Page 2)

In truth Felix felt like he was included for the sole purpose of entertainment value. But, as the mother of a five year old, I still enjoyed him. The other secondary characters are well-developed. Mum is a bit over-the-top, perhaps, and Linus a bit too good to be true, but these characteristics both work in the context of the story.  

As the earlier quote shows, Finding Audrey is set in England, and does include British vocabulary. I've read enough British books to know that a lorry is a truck and a chip is a french fry, but some readers may have to make a slight mental adjustment. Personally, I stopped noticing any cultural shift early in the book, as my focus honed in on the characters. 

Finding Audrey takes the serious subjects of mental illness and depression and renders them accessible to teen readers. Kinsella accomplishes this through Audrey's unflinching first-person viewpoint. Finding Audrey never feels message-driven (Bullying is bad! Care about your fellow student!). It feels, rather, like an interesting story about a character that the reader will care about. I think that Kinsella did a fine job of finding the right balance here, and I hope that Finding Audrey finds its way into the hands of many teens. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: June 9, 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).