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Jen Robinson's Book Page - 5 new articles



Pirasaurs!: Josh Funk & Michael Slack

Book: Pirasaurs!
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Michael Slack
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

PirasaursWhat if the dinosaurs had been, or still were, pirates? You'd have Pirasaurs! Josh Funk's band of dinosaur pirates is on a quest to find buried treasure. They'll have to overcome a mutiny, a damaged map, and a trap first, however. The protagonist is a small, scaly orange cabin boy, uncertain of his place with the rowdy crew. The crew is headed by the female Captain Rex, assisted by Bronto Beard the lookout and Triceracook (a triceratops cook with a hook, covering many bases). 

Josh Funk's rhyming text is fun to read aloud, and sprinkled with strong vocabulary words. Like this:

"With handy hook, Tricercook
Prepares Jurassic feasts!

I love to slurp and belch and burp
With buccaneering beasts!"


"Velocimate can navigate
From reef to coastal bay.

I use my smarts to map the charts.
But still we're led astray."

Bonus points later in the book for use of the words "blurt" and "scallywags".

Michael Slack brings the pirates to colorful life, with special attention to our sometimes hopeful and sometimes discouraged young narrator. A battle between rival pirate gangs is especially dynamic, full of scowling faces and a mix of swords and dinosaur horns. 

Pirasaurs! is full of interesting characters, engaging wordplay, and dramatic (but not scary) action. It is perfect for preschoolers, and recommended for libraries, homes, and classrooms, or anywhere that a pirate- and/or dinosaur-loving child might lurk. 

Publisher: Orchard Books (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 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).



#JoyOfLearning Articles from @AlisonGopnik + @JKarabinas + @AshleyLambS | #Play + #Reading

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three articles that address the joy of learning, and the things that take that joy away. The first article looks at the cognitive benefits of play for young kids. The second explores better ways of tracking reading than chore-like reading logs. The third piece laments the stress that many American high school kids experience, and proposes a more playful, kindergarten-like atmosphere. All three articles are worth your time. 

GardenerAndCarpenterUnstructured #Play Results in Cognitive Benefits, as well as sheer pleasure @AlisonGopnik  @TheAtlantic

Alison Gopnik: "Just as we should give children the resources and space to play, and do so without insisting that play will have immediate payoffs, we should do the same for scientists and artists and all the others who explore human possibilities.

There is good reason to think that play helps us learn. But another part of the evolutionary story is that play is a satisfying good in itself—a source of joy for parents as well as children. Caring for children is hard work, getting the chance to play again is one compensation. If it had no other rationale, the sheer pleasure of play would be justification enough."

Me: This piece offers a strong defense of play, looking at both the science behind the cognitive benefits and the lighter side, too. I've been pleased to see this article getting a lot of exposure, and I hope it influences parents and teachers everywhere. Pieces like this give me hope that the pendulum is starting to swing back in the direction of play. 

If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Mistaking Compliance For #Learning re #ReadingLogs  @JKarabinas @HeinemannPD

Jaclyn Karabinas: "(On parent-signed reading logs:Was a signature really the most authentic way for students to share their reading life with me? Did it provide me with the information I needed to help them grow as readers? No! In fact, it sent one message and one message only: I can only be sure you are reading if you write it down and someone signs it. I conveyed that message of distrust in the name of “efficiency.”

...I was able to build an accurate picture of what my students felt was truly valuable for tracking their reading lives. And you know what? They wanted the same things I wanted: to celebrate a growing list of titles, make recommendations to peers, respond in writing to share their thinking, and look for patterns on the types of books they devoured or detested."

Me: The quote in the previous paragraph exactly mirrors my own thoughts on tracking reading (especially for my daughter). We want to keep track of what titles we've read, and it can be fun to look at how many titles that's been, or to see if there are patterns. But any tracking that crosses the line from "this is fun" to "this is a chore" runs the risk of turning reading itself into a chore. And that is a travesty. 

My daughter is just starting first grade, and I am waiting to see what sort of reading log her teacher uses. I am prepared to push back if necessary. My primary job in this area, as far as I'm concerned, is to maintain my daughter's love of reading. Full stop. 

What if High School was more like Kindergarten asks @AshleyLambS in @TheAtlantic  via @drdouggreen #JoyOfLearning

Ashley Lamb-Sinclair: "Lauri Jarvilehto is a former employee of Rovio (of Angry Birds fame) who has created a company called Lighneer, which is focused on educational games. Lauri believes—and I agree—that “education is important, but learning matters more.”

Too often, I see high-school students break down in tears over grades or pile on advanced and AP classes because “that’s what colleges want to see.” ...

How can America’s students feel hope for the future when they are so stressed from trying to achieve future success that they break down in tears?"

Me: This piece includes a concise summary of various survey results that capture the academic stress facing American high schoolers today, with comparisons to the situation in Finland (a much of #JoyOfLearning focused country). With my own daughter starting first grade, I worry already about how I can possibly keep the pressure cooker that is high school in the US (and especially in Silicon Valley - see this piece) from crushing her joy of learning. Articles like this one do give me some hope... 

© 2016 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 post may contain affiliate links. 



Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 19: #BackToSchool Edition

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics during this relatively light week have shifted from last week's plethora of #BookLists to a focus on schools and libraries. Other topics include: #KidLitCon, classroom libraries, college, Cybils Awards, dollhouses, early readers, ebooks, literacy, playful learning, read aloud, and Sir Ken Robinson.

Book Lists

10 (Non-Preachy) Life Lessons Found in the Pages of Middle-Grade Fiction by @MelissaRoske @nerdybookclub  #kidlit

A Stranger Things-Inspired #BookList | Eerie, Creepy Books for Kids — @FuseEight   #kidlit 

+ #KidLitCon stalwarts @tanita_s_davis + @MsYingling talk Tanita's coming-of-age/tween novels @sljournal 

A Head's Up that The 2016 #Cybils Awards are coming soon!   #kidlit #BookAwards #PureFun 

Events + Programs

#BooksWithBarbers program encourages #reading (esp for African-American boys) in barbershops @thestate via @tashrow

Growing Bookworms

Some thoughts on Classic Beginning Readers and whether they are still useful or relevant at Guessing Geisel  #kidlit

Why we need to #ReadAloud to struggling #readers by @measuredmom  | "It shows them that the struggle is worth it"

Early #Literacy Around the House: The Kitchen (recipes, cooking shows, etc) by @mrskatiefitz 

Tough times out there? Here’s why #reading with your kids is more important than ever by @amyjoyce_berg  @tashrow

The Hurdles and Joys of #RaisingReaders by @LisaYee1 @ReadBrightly  #FlashlightReading


ThisIsMyDollhouseMy favorite thing in today's Fusenews @fuseeight is photos inspired by THIS IS MY DOLLHOUSE 

Just a note that the program for #KidLitCon is shaping up nicely + will be posted soon. It's going to be great!

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Thoughts on #Reading Analog (esp. for deeper reading) in a Digital World by @ReadByExample @nerdybookclub 

The Three Robbers by @TomiUngerer + #moral-free children's books  by Mark O'Connell @Slate #kidlit

5 Ways To Keep #Books Relevant in a world full of online distraction by @Mylifeonawhim @HuffingtonPost  via @tashrow

Parenting + Play (or Lack Thereof)

 10 Ways to Motivate Your Kid to Learn w/ focus on joy of discovery, unstructured #play, #learning styles  @Scholastic

Wondering why adults don't spend more time physically, creatively #playing  Ruth Hatfield @AwfullyBigBlog

Depressing: The dark side of Silicon Valley, according to a teen who grew up there @businessinsider @Quora  #RatRace

Schools and Libraries

How to Create a Culture For Valuable #Learning rather than conformity + compliance  @SirKenRobinson @MindShiftKQED

On using a "gradual release" policy for a 1st grade #classroom #library by Bitsy Parks @ChoiceLiteracy 

The importance of curating / weeding your #classroom #library by @katsok  @ChoiceLiteracy

How to create a positive (not incentive-based) #reading culture in your #school by Waheeda Simjee @tes 

OpEd: America desperately needs to redefine ‘college and career ready’ - @dintersmith via @drdouggreen  #education

Who would have though? Finland’s Hot New #Karaoke Bar Is a Public #Library | @SmithsonianMag via @tashrow

© 2016 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



Milk Goes to School: Terry Border

Book: Milk Goes to School
Author: Terry Border
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8


Terry Border, the author/illustrator of the Peanut Butter and Cupcake books, has a new back-to-school picture book called Milk Goes to School. In this story, Milk, a cute little red and white milk carton, starts school for the first time. She's excited about her sparkly new backpack, and her dad has attempted to boost her confidence by telling her that she is "la creme de la creme". But when she points these things out to the other students, they quickly conclude that "this Milk is spoiled." As the day progresses, Milk makes mis-step after mis-step, adding to the perception (about which she is in deep denial) that she is spoiled. But after a humiliating experience, Milk does refresh her behavior a bit by the end of the book and find some common ground with the other food children. 

Milk Goes to School is full of wordplay, particularly puns about food. Like this:

"Milk asked Carrot, "Would you like to share crayons?"

"I don't carrot all," Carrot said. "Like I said to Salad, lettuce be friends!"

Carrot seemed okay."

I was reading this book to myself and didn't get this at first. This is a book that calls for being read aloud. There's also this, sure to make a four-year-old giggle:

"Later, in the library, Milk asked if someone cut the cheese.

I don't like that saying," said Cheese, "but I think someone tooted."

"Oops. Sorry," said Beans. 

Much of the humor of the book, however, lies in Border's unique and whimsical illustrations. These were created by manipulating and photographing three-dimensional objects, such as, say, a milk carton with wire arms and legs, wearing a backpack. Fun details are everywhere, like the fishtank full of goldfish crackers and the image of Milk imagining herself as a queen, surrounded by foil-wrapped chocolate coins. I especially enjoyed the family pictures that the students drew, such as three apples (two large and one small) sitting on the branch of a tree. And I'm still smiling over Potato who "wanted to be a sailor on a gravy boat" when he grew up. Oh, and the eggs hatching chicken nuggets. Priceless! 

For me as an adult reader, the story itself is a little bit repetitive, with food puns throughout and Milk saying over and over again that she "didn't think she was spoiled at all." But I think that kids will find Milk Goes to School hilarious, especially kids who have already been through the pain of starting school and making new friends.

I quite respect Border's choice to make Milk, well, a bit spoiled. She does some nice things for the other kids, but she fusses when something is spilled on her drawing, she wants people to see how well she can spell and draw, etc. One suspects that she is an only child who hasn't had much chance to socialize with other kids. This makes Milk Goes to School braver than your run of the mill back-to-school picture book, where the issues are more about overcoming shyness or missing parents, etc. We have realistic character development in 32 food-covered, pun-filled pages. 

I'll add that my six-year-old just came in as I was writing this review, book open on my lap. She shrieked in recognition, saying "I had Peanut Butter and Cupcake in my Kindergarten class. And that's the exact same cupcake." She is VERY excited to read the book (but has friends over right now). I think this incident speaks to Border's distinctive and kid-friendly illustration style. 

In short, Milk Goes to School is a must-purchase for library back-to-school collections. It is sure to stand out, visually and thematically, and to be a favorite with kids. Recommended!

Publisher:  Philomel Books (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 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).



Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony by Ellen Potter + Qin Leng

Book: Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony (Book 3)
Author: Ellen Potter
Illustrator: Qin Leng
Pages: 128
Age Range: 7-9


The Sea Pony is the third book in the Piper Green and the Fairy Tree early chapter book series. (See my review of Books 1 and 2 here.) Piper is a seven-year-old girl who lives on a small island off the coast of Maine. Her island is so small that the younger kids take a lobster boat every morning to another island to attend school. Piper's older brother attends high school on the mainland, and can only come home on weekends. The other thing that's noteworthy about Piper is that she has a Fairy Tree in her front yard. She leaves small gifts for the fairies inside the tree, and they sometimes leave gifts for her. These gifts are mysterious at first, but generally turn out to be exactly what Piper needed.

In The Sea Pony, Piper finds a necklace in the tree. I won't spoil the surprise, but the necklace leads directly to Piper's discovery of the Sea Pony, as well as to the recovery of a lost family item. I'm never 100% clear on whether the Fairy Tree actually is magic, or whether a kindly neighbor might be intervening. But the sequence of events in The Sea Pony certainly have a magical quality to them. There's also a horse, and the chance for Piper to show up her nemesis. Seven-year-old readers will love it!

I quite like Piper. She's independent and resourceful, but with realistic capabilities and shortcomings. She tries to make a special meal for her brother and the result is something of a fiasco. But (living on a small island) she can go to the store by herself and get a missing ingredient. She helps her dad on his lobster boat. She's savvy enough to request payment, but young enough to think that at 10 cents a bait bag she'll earn enough to buy a horse in no time. She reminded me of my daughter in her optimism, willingness to work, and unrealistic larger expectations. Here are a couple of snippets:

"I'd never had a fancy necklace before. The only necklace I owned was made out of folded-up potato chip bags. My best friend, Ruby, made it for me." (Chapter 2)


(On learning that a surprise will be arriving on the ferry) "I wondered what it could be. A candy-vending machine, maybe? Or a gigantic turtle?

Then I thought of something.

"I'll bet it's a CIRCUS!!" I said in my whistle language." (Chapter 3)

Isn't Piper perfect? I also like Ellen Potter's occasional use of Maine lingo. The title of Chapter 7 is: "A Wicked Bad Gullywhumper" (a big storm). 

Qn Leng's black and white illustrations (one per chapter, a mix of whole and half-page pictures) convey Piper's movement and enthusiasm, as well as the coziness of the island. The expression on Piper's face as she stuffs smelly fish into a bait bag in Chapter 7 is priceless. 

The Piper Green and the Fairy Tree series, and The Sea Pony in particular, has a nice mix of "stuff kids think are cool" (living on a small island, taking boats, a Fairy Tree) and realistic family/community/kid dynamics. Piper's family is not the most well-off on the island, and her father doesn't hesitate to take her to task when she uses bait injudiciously. But the island also acquires a horse! The Sea Pony strikes a nice balance, I think. I'm happy to see this series continuing strong. I think it's a perfect fit for kids just starting to be ready for chapter books. Recommended, and definitely a nice addition for libraries serving new readers. 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: August 16, 2016
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2016 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).




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