Skulduggery Pleasant (Book 1): Derek Landy

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Book: Skulduggery Pleasant (Book 1)
Author: Derek Landy
Pages: 384
Age Range: 8-12

Skulduggery1HarperCollins is in the process of reintroducing Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant series here in the US, after the books did much better in Ireland and the UK. As outlined in a May Publisher's Weekly article, they have issued paperbacks of the first three books, which were published earlier in the US, and will be publishing books four to six in the US for the first time this  month. I agreed to take a look at the first book. I read it in a single sitting. I do think that the time is right this time, and that the series is going to be a hit.

Skulduggery Pleasant, Book 1, begins when a horror author named Gordon Edgley dies unexpectedly. Gordon leaves his home and most of his property to his favorite niece, Stephanie. Left alone at Gordon's house through circumstance,  Stephanie, who has always craved adventure, finds herself under attack and drawn into an unexpected world of magic. She is aided by, and becomes something of a sidekick to, Skulduggery Pleasant, a walking, talking skeleton. Together with a cast of not-necessarily trustworthy allies, Stephanie and Skulduggery fight to save the world. 

Though full of dangerous escapes, epic battles, and magical books and artifacts, what I liked most about Skulduggery Pleasant was Landy's lightly ironic voice. The byplay between Stephanie and Skulduggery, and particularly Skulduggery's occasionally world-weary remarks, made the pages fly by. There is a bit of Irish syntax here and there (the hood of the car is a "bonnet", etc.), but nothing that will be difficult for anyone who has read the Harry Potter books. 

Here are a couple of snippets, chosen from early in the books, so as to avoid spoilers. First, a paragraph that gives you a feel for Stephanie:

"There was an extra door in the living room, a door disguised as a bookcase, and when she was younger Stephanie liked to think that no one else knew about this door, not even Gordon himself. It was a secret passageway, like in the stories she'd read and she's make up adventures about haunted houses and smuggled treasure. This secret passageway would always be her escape route, and the imaginary villains in these adventures would be dumfounded by her sudden and mysterious disappearance. But now this door, this secret passageway, stood open, and there was a steady stream of people through it, and she was saddened that this little piece of magic had been taken from her." (Page 3)

She's a great character, stubborn, outside of the mainstream, and a creative problem-solver. And here's Skulduggery:

"Skulduggery put his gloved hands in his pockets and cocked his head. He had no eyeballs so it was hard to tell if he was looking at her or not. "You know, I met your uncle under similar circumstances. Well, kind of similar. But he was drunk. And we were in a bar. And he had vomited on my shoes. So I suppose the actual circumstances aren't overly similar, but both events include a meeting, so... My point is, he was having some trouble and I was there to lend a hand, and we become good friends after that. Good, good friends."" (Page 43)

Skulduggery Pleasant, Book 1, carries a blurb from Rick Riordan, and this is no coincidence. This would make an excellent next series for fans of the the Percy Jackson books. Skulduggery and Stephanie are an unusual pair of heroes, but one that kids will find easy to root for. Highly recommended, and well worth adding to elementary and middle school library collections. 

Publisher:  HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: May 1, 2018 (reprint edition, original copyright 2007)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 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).

Literacy Milestone: The Joy of Regular Library Visits

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LiteracyMilestoneAI must confess that although I have always loved libraries, public library visits have never been a regular part of my daughter's schedule. Oh, we've certainly visited over the years. We did some toddler storytimes when she was little, we'd go and read picture books at the nearby branch whenever we were at the hospital where my husband works, we'd pop by the branch that was next to a playground as a two for one outing, etc. We'd start out each summer vacation by bringing home bags of library books. 

But the truth that must be acknowledged about our book-privileged life is that we always had plenty of books at home. This was because of my blog (I was a round one judge for the Cybils in fiction picture books twice) and because I am a sucker for buying books, from the Scholastic flyers to freestanding bookstores to Target to Amazon. This abundance of books meant that we never really needed to make library visits part of our routine. They were more something we would do sporadically when it happened to be convenient.

But this fall, I finally found a way to make visiting the library a regular part of our routine. I signed my daughter up for a weekly art class. The class is in the same shopping center as a beautiful new library branch. It's just a hop-skip-and-a-jump between them. This branch, which I hadn't visited until last month, is fairly small but supremely kid-friendly. I cleverly scheduled her class so that the library branch would be open for nearly an hour following the class. 

AtTheLibrary_FotorAnd now: we have a routine.We park across from the library. We return the books that we are finished with. I walk her over and leave her at the art studio. I walk back and sit in the library and read for an hour. Then I pick her up and take her back to the library, where she greedily pulls dozens of books off the shelves and hands them off to me to carry. Then she finds a cozy spot (this branch has several) and reads until I drag her away because we are ridiculously late for dinner. 

The books that she is choosing, not incidentally, are mostly books that she's already read. She is finding her friends on the shelves and bringing them home. Last week she grabbed a half dozen Diary of a Wimpy Kid titles. The week before it was every single Babymouse or Squish title that was on the shelf (several of which we already had at home).  She also likes to grab picture books about which she is nostalgic, like Mo Willems titles, even if we own those, too. She picked a picture book that her class had read last year as part of Project Cornerstone, and a couple of early readers. She picks graphic novels that she's read but that we don't own (like the Amulet series, and the books about Cleopatra in Space). Sometimes I'll suggest something that she hasn't read that I think she might like. She'll shrug and toss it in, but these titles are likely to go back unread. I am fine with this. 

And here's the best part. We go home and she becomes a reading machine, plowing through the books that we brought as though someone was going to take them away. It's hard to even get her to eat dinner or go to bed. Piano practice is a lost cause on library nights. I, of course, am fine with all of that. 

We are rather late to having a real library routine, but I am celebrating it now. I'm more willing to put titles on hold now, too, because I know that we'll be going in within a week. I'll be able to pick them up without making a special trip. My already devoted reader of a daughter is reading more. I get to spend time browsing the shelves and sitting reading myself. It's all good.

If you would like to get your kids to the library more, I recommend scheduling some other regular activity to take place near to the library if you can. The power of building things into your routine cannot be over-estimated. Gretchen Rubin and Charles Duhigg would be proud.

How about you? Have you been successful in making public library visits a part of your regular routine? 

© 2018 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

Literacy Milestone: Writing a Newspaper

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LiteracyMilestoneAPretty much since she knew what writing was, my daughter has loved to write. As I've noted before in these posts, she keeps notebooks everywhere. This week, however, she started a new writing project. She is creating her own newspaper. So far there have been two issues, each about five pages long. The issues have each included:

  • Two pages of ads
  • One page of comics
  • One page of news
  • One page of miscellaneous (one day it was movie listings, the other day it was a description of a skit)

The continuing news story has been about the "Eerie Fire". The headline for issue two was "Eerie fire Rages on!!!!" The situation is quite desperate. Many people, including babies (!) have been killed, some by smoke. The guilty party, Thomas, is in jail, complete with a picture of him behind bars with a sad face saying "I started it". If you have a somewhat dark sense of humor, as I do, these heavily illustrated stories are hilarious. And yes, you can tell she lives on the wildfire-prone West Coast, and that she's absorbed more news stories about fires than I realized. 

The ads have ranged from hair salons to restaurants. They include phone numbers and email addresses, and lists of services. And pictures, of course. The comics (while not as funny as the stories about the fire, if you ask me) are about things like parenting (poopy diapers, etc), drumming, and ninjas. The movie listings are, well, let's say unconventional. 

She is doing this largely on her own. She has asked me to help with copy-editing, mainly correcting spelling, and she has requested some input as she works on the comics. She has plans to continue producing new issues at least twice a week for the rest of the year. (Though this seems unlikely to me, as other projects will arise.) 

Don't you love it when kids get obsessed with a project? Especially a project that involves something creative, like writing or drawing (or both, in this case)? I know I do. I can't wait for the next issue. I'm especially curious to see what will be happening with the Eerie Fire, and Thomas's jail time.

Did your kids ever produce their own books or newspapers?

Thanks for reading! 

© 2018 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

How to be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute: KJ De

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Book: How to be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute
Author: KJ Dell'Antonia
Pages: 320
Age Range: Adult Nonfiction (Parenting)

HappierParentI rarely review books for adults on this blog, but KJ Dell'Antonia's new parenting book How to be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute inspired me to say a few words. I've read and enjoyed a number of Dell'Antonia's articles over the years, and so was interested to hear her voice in book form. I've also been on something of a personal quest to be happier in my own parenting, so this book had the potential to be a good fit.

I was not disappointed. It seems that Dell'Antonia, working (journalist) mother of four children, has been on a similar quest for quite a while. She read extensively on parenting, talked to a variety of parents and other experts, and conducted a survey. Her emphasis for the book is on changes that parents can make to their parenting styles, hacks of various sorts, that will make the parent happier. And happier parents will, she believes (as do I) ultimately lead to happier kids. 

Dell'Antonia cites a number of books that I had already read and enjoyed, like How to Raise and Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haimes, It's OK Not to Share by Heather Shumaker, and The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey. I felt early on in the book that KJ and I we were philosophically aligned, and I marked a number of other books for future reads. I also got a kick out of the fact that two of the parents she cited were people that I knew (Marjorie Ingall and Jason Kotecki), at least in the sense of having met them in person and shared a meal. 

Anyway, How to Be a Happier Parent consists of chapters dedicated to each of nine parenting areas that Dell'Antonia and the people she talked with have found to particular sources of unhappiness or stress for parents. She starts with getting everyone out of the house in the morning and progresses through things like enforcing chores, mediating between siblings, and monitoring homework.

Her basic approach is guided by a set of ten mantras for happier parents that she explains early in the book and then repeatedly refers back to. For instance: "What you want now isn't always what you want later" (you have to take the long view when doing things like enforcing chores, even when being the fun, easy parent is more appealing in the short run). I especially liked "You do you", as in, you don't have to be the Pinterest-perfect parent, your family can do what your family likes.

I highlighted passages in basically every chapter (except for the one on siblings, which I skipped because my daughter doesn't have siblings). In truth, a lot of the recommendations in the book consist of things that I already believe, like staying as far out of your children's homework assignments as you can and using natural consequences to teach them to pack their backpacks properly (by refusing to bring something to them later). But there's a difference between believing philosophically in doing something and actually doing it. And for me, at least, there's value in repetition and the validation of hearing advice that you in your heart want to hear. (Like "you do you.")

The piece of advice that stood out the most for me, and that I feel like could actually change how I do things, was regarding discipline. The general idea is to treat discipline not so much as enforcement but as teaching kids how to enact certain behaviors. And to remind yourself that it takes kids a long (long, long, long) time to learn things sometimes, so you just have to keep repeating yourself over and over again. You should try to do this without beating yourself up over having failed to get this across in the previous 100 times, which will help in staying calm. Here's a section of the text on this that I highlighted:

"“but you’re not here just to stop him in the moment.” You’re here, she says, to teach your child to make the right choices for himself, so offer that option first, even if it seems as if he should know better by now. Some things take a lot of saying...

That whole sequence of connecting, teaching, and then, if necessary, ending a behavior is one you will repeat again and again, especially with a younger child, so make your words positive ones, even if the behavior is anything but. “If I’m going to say it a hundred times,” says Faber, “I figure it might as well be something I want my child to learn.”...

That kind of repetition is where a lot of us fall down. Consistency is hard, and it’s especially difficult when we’ve become so accustomed to an on-demand world...

When we accept discipline as a long-term teaching process, it gets easier. Instead of thinking, I’ve asked him hundreds of times to do this and he still doesn’t do it, parents who are happier in their disciplinary role think something more along the lines of I’ve asked him a hundred times and I’ll ask him a hundred more and that’s how we get there." (Chapter 7)

I'm going to try to remember this. I think it will help. And really, that's why I read parenting and other self-help type books. I'm looking for those ideas that resonate with my own personal philosophy and that might, if implemented, help in some way. 

So, even as someone who has read a lot of books on related topics, I found How to be a Happier Parent useful. This book is not for the mother who is looking for validation in her quest to get her child into Stanford at all costs, or for the father trying figure out how to push his lazy child to practice more so that he can get that football scholarship. (Though these parents could learn a lot if they did read it.) But if you are a busy parent and you are looking for some tips on taking a deep breath, slowing things down, taking off some of the pressure and enjoying your family more, this is the book for you. Highly recommended! 

Publisher: Avery  
Publication Date: August 21, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 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: August 31: New #Cybils Logos, #ReadingAloud, and #Classroom Com

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TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookAwards, #BookLists, #bullying, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #HigherEd, #introversion, #JoyOfReading, #MentalHealth, #play, #ReadAloud, #SchoolLibraries, classroom communities, digital media, grants, project-based learning, and teaching.

Top Tweet of the Week

Thinking Outside Categories in Suggesting Books for Kids by @ArielBBooks @nerdybookclub ow.ly/4DvL30lyMgG | #fantasy #nonfiction #GraphicNovels #poetry #kidlit

Book Lists + Awards

Cybils-Logo-2018-Round450pxHey there, #kidlit bloggers, authors, publishers + fans: The 2018 Cybils Logos are now available for download + use. Promote high quality, kid-friendly children's and YA books by cheering for #Cybils ow.ly/omcE30lATA1

It's here! The 2018 #Cybils Call for Judges: #Kidlit + #YA Book Bloggers / Reviewers (regardless of platform) are encouraged to Come Be a Part of the Fun! ow.ly/vl8j30lxR62 | I love the colors of the new logo

2108 #SouthAsian #Kidlit – Part 3 | roundup from @darshanakhiani ow.ly/Jwv130lCCmU #BookList #DiverseBooks

QuickestKid30 Incredible #DiverseBooks for 2nd and 3rd Grade, another @momandkiddo #BookList ow.ly/tT6c30lzkks #PictureBooks

Super-Cute Handmade Mini Bookmarks (beaded circles on top of oversized paperclips): A Craft to Promote #Reading! w/ #BookList of reading-focused #MiddleGrade lit from @momandkiddo https://t.co/7UX3K9WJsx

Events, Programs, and Research

The @gatesfoundation's #school initiative awards big grants, many to California #nonprofits, to improve the #HighSchool graduation + #college success of African-American, Latino and low-income #students ow.ly/mDr830lARXt @EdSource

A study finds promise in project-based #learning for young low-income children - @jillbarshay @hechingerreport ow.ly/MUB530lzQ6N #PBL #Education

“Act more like an extravert” intervention has “wholly positive” benefits for many, but there are drawbacks for #introverts, reports @Psych_Writer @ResearchDigest – I do not even get why these interventions exist at all ow.ly/XEus30lxQgR | #Introversion

Growing Bookworms

HarryDirtyDogThe Magic of the Read-Aloud | At @ILAToday Heather Miller offers tips for #teachers + #parents to improve #ReadAloud skills, w/ some suggested #PictureBooks ow.ly/50Bg30lyMwp

A call to #teachers from @kegancunningham "This year, let books and how they reflect your students’ lives and interests be your guide. Use books to respond to your students and to push their thinking forward" ow.ly/2Gk930lzk6k #JoyOfReading

No matter our background, and no matter our kids’ ages, books > programs. Connecting with a good book is much more likely to produce #readers than drilling skills | @mary_teaching on online #preschool https://t.co/xuNK8TrZEZ

Higher Ed

Interesting OpEd by Adam Grant @nytopinion | Those Who Can Do, Can’t Teach. The best #teachers are not the experts, but those good at interpreting + communicating material https://t.co/kgTaGtVx94

How to pick a #college course @DTWillingham responds to @AdamMGrantOpEd about #teachers vs. #ResearchExperts in terms of #teaching quality. Willingham says to go where #undergrad #highered is the primary concern ow.ly/t9Vw30lzkC8

Don’t Close the Book on Books - @WSJopinion @Danny_Heitman urges #colleges to make #books more visible on campus, in hope of encouraging more #reading https://t.co/qMj4ZWX8St

Kidlitosphere

Catch up on #kidlit happenings in today's Fusenews @fuseeight ow.ly/5JvA30lxPXM @MarjorieIngall, #AnthonyBourdain, #GoodnightMoon + more

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

ReaderComeHomeSkim #reading on digital media is the new normal. The effect on our brains + society is profound | Maryanne Wolf @guardian ow.ly/UZ0V30lzPUs | "We need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a “bi-literate” reading brain" [Link to Wolf's book on reading in the digital age]

Amazon's children’s book subscription #PrimeBookBox opens to all in the U.S. | @TechCrunch ow.ly/3Vt530lASFx | I could see this working for some, and they do let #parents customize the shipments, but I'm a bit skeptical

So you want to write | advice from @sophiabennett, who writes + teaches #writing, @AwfullyBigBlog ow.ly/ly8930lCmqp | Her most firm suggestion is "read your work aloud!"

Parenting + Play

Say Yes to Play | @donamatthews @PsychToday shares reasons #play is important + things #parents can do to encourage it, w/ lots of references. ow.ly/aOO130lyqVl #outdoorplay #learning #ChildDevelopment

This is excellent to see: The Rise of the #AdventurePlaygrounds | @Tanvim @CityLab ow.ly/ydhw30lxS4h #FreePlay #OutdoorPlay | "The take-home message for municipalities is: Stop setting your bar at the level of the most anxious parent"

It’s come to this: A checkup with the pediatrician may soon include a prescription for more #play, says @AmerAcadPeds in summary by @LATMelissaHealy ow.ly/t5LQ30lCni7 | I love it! | #FreePlay #OutdoorPlay #ChildDevelopment

StandUpAmericanGirlWhen Little Girls Are Mean: Helping Young Girls Handle Relational Aggression, w/ #BookList | @amightygirl ow.ly/6RGR30lxQKp #bullying #meangirls #MentalHealth #parenting [I bought the book shown to the left for my daughter]

The big problem with rewarding kids for good grades and punishing them for bad ones - @jesslahey @onparenting - they learn that parental love is based on outcomes, not good for #MentalHealth + #happiness https://t.co/GFicB2XCvi

Tips for Teachers to Start the Year + Build Community

How to Build #Classroom Community: 10 Easy Tips | Kelli Smith had me at first tip: #ReadAloud, #ReadAloud, #ReadAloud ow.ly/TnRZ30lATaZ #teaching | Guest post @brianwyzlic

4 Ways to Create a Learner-Centered #Classroom@katiemartinedu ow.ly/51Bo30lyqle | Shouldn't we start w/ building the relationship between #teacher and #student?

WontYouBeNeighborNever Too Old: Advice Educators Should Take from #MrRogers - @easycda @BAMRadioNetwork ow.ly/1AAg30lxPGY #Teaching #Learning #Honesty #SelfAcceptance + more

10 Tips for New #Teachers from @gcouros ow.ly/3dgV30lxPPt | Build relationships, ask questions, call #parents w/ something positive + more | #teaching #SelfImprovement #Inspiration

My #Classroom Is A Mess. How @escott818 has changed his #teaching + #ClassroomCulture after reading @CarlaShalaby's #TROUBLEMAKERS https://t.co/hxCAP9V0Gy

Other School + Library Links

How to Spread #GrowthMindset among #Students – guest post by @SilviaWoolard @mrkempnz via @drdouggreen ow.ly/uLZl30lATjC | Teach them not to hide their flaws, to start

In a mastery-based #classroom, #students understand where they need to focus ow.ly/eb1z30lyqvd @TaraGarciaM @hechingerreport | #education #innovation

MegabookOfFluencyMaking Kids Read Fast is NOT the Goal of #Fluency Instruction; Making Meaning Is - Guest post by @TimRasinski1 @ERobbPrincipal ow.ly/RYAl30lyqpS #literacy #reading | "fluency is developed through practice" [Link to Rasinksi's book on fluency]

Are #Classroom #ReadingGroups the Best Way to Teach #Reading? Maybe Not. They can exacerbate achievement gaps ... unless the groups are fluid and focused on skills @SarahDSparks @educationweek https://t.co/MN7LntFx4E

I’m Not Sure We (#SchoolLibrarians) are in the Responsibility Business: Deep Thoughts by @100scopenotes on enforcement (or not) re: overdue books ow.ly/GSjM30lASWE

The latest Colorado contagion: The four-day #school week | @Dale_Chu @educationgadfly raises concerns, especially for younger kids + food insecure kids https://t.co/yjnYM3nPYq

STEM

BedtimeMath#Math 'Story Time' Helps Kids Score Academic Goals | Practice is key, making #math more fun can help ow.ly/JN1U30lBPWR | @writesRCrowell @BedtimeMath @ForbesScience

Testing

If Students Aren't Trying on International #PISA Tests, Can We Still Compare Countries' Results? - @Stephen_Sawchuk @educationweek ow.ly/qkKA30lBPN1 | #testing #schools #assessment

© 2018 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.

Mathematical Milestone: Wowed by the Power of Twos

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MathMilestoneLast night my daughter was working on an assignment for school. She had to write her name in big letters and decorate it. The teacher is apparently going to put the names up on the wall, to mark off an area for displayed artwork in the classroom. In an effort to make hers more interesting, my daughter started adding little math equations around the border. I was kind of half listening as she counted out loud to herself: "Two plus two equals four, four plus four equal eight", etc. As she got up to "1024 + 1024 = 2048" I started to pay more attention.

When she got to the point where she couldn't add them in her head anymore I helped her by writing down the numbers so that she could add them:

   8192
+ 8192
_______

   ?????

Old school math. Carry the one, etc. 

Quite soon she started marveling at how large the numbers were getting. She ran out of room at 131,072, which (I had to check this) is 2 to the 17th power. I told her that this what she was doing (multiplying by two again and again), and that yes, you end up with very big numbers that way. We looked up what power gets you to a million. And she said, unprompted: "I am wowed by the power of twos." She was a bit giddy with the excitement of the whole thing, to the point of disturbing my husband, who was trying to work himself. But I loved it. And he loved it, too, once he realized what was going on. 

She ended up deciding to keep that version of her name and do a different one for the classroom wall, but she took the power of two page in to school this morning to show to her teacher and classmates. This is joy of learning, my friends. When a kid just starts noodling around and discovers something that she thinks is cool. [Hey, if you just keep doubling numbers, you get to really big numbers quite quickly. Cool!] You never know where such opportunities will arise, but you can certainly notice and encourage them when they do.   

Thanks for reading! I hope that some of you will find this little anecdote enjoyable. 

© 2018 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 29: Back-To-School Edition

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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 growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is usually sent out every three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have two book reviews (one picture book and one YA) and three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, full of tons on reading-related news. I also have a guest post from Mrs. P. about her 10th Annual Be-A-Famous Writer Contest. I'm hoping to have more literacy milestones for you next time. I think that the start of the school year will trigger some... 

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

  • Paul Noth: How To Properly Dispose of Planet Earth. Bloomsbury Children's Books. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed August 25, 2018, print ARC. Review to come, closer to publication.
  • Skulduggery1Derek Landy: Skulduggery Pleasant, Book 1. HarperCollins Children's Books. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed August 26, 2018, print review copy. Review scheduled for next week. 
  • Patti Kelley Criswell (ill. Angela Martini): Stand Up for Yourself & Your Friends: Dealing with Bullies & Bossiness and Finding a Better Way. AmericanGirl. Early Middle Grade Nonfiction. Completed August 27, 2018. This is a well-done little book designed to help girls to cope with bullies and meanness, and to avoid such behavior themselves. I bought it for my daughter but read it myself first, and I do recommend it for early elementary age kids (it's pretty simplistic so I doubt it would capture the interest of kids above about 10). 
  • Charles Murray: Coming Apart. Crown Forum. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 18, 2018, on Kindle. I read this book as part of my quest to understand the bifurcation of America. In this case,  because of a what was available for survey data, Murray looks specifically at ways that whites have diverged over the years under a variety of metrics (education, community involvement, marriage, single parenthood, etc.). It was a good companion read to Hillbilly Elegy, which I read earlier in the year. 
  • Craig A. Falconer: Not Alone: Second Contact. Amazon. Adult Science Fiction. Completed August 20, 2018, on MP3. This was a sequel to a science fiction story that I enjoyed, and I thought it had a satisfactory ending. It probably could have been edited down a bit, but as length is a plus for me in audiobooks I didn't mind. 
  • Arne Duncan: How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation's Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education. Simon & Schuster. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 23, 2018, on Kindle. I found this book quite readable, and I appreciated Duncan's willingness to call out many of the lies that we collectively tell ourselves about our education system. I found his prescriptions for what to do to improve the school system to be not too slanted towards more big, government programs, and thus unrealistically expensive, but I did think his heart is in the right place. 
  • Ted Dintersmith: What Schools Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers across America. Princeton University Press. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 26, 2018, on Kindle. This book, about an entrepreneur who spent a year traveling around the US looking for innovative schools and districts, is in many ways the opposite of Duncan's book. [Outside vs. Insider, anti-(most) testing vs. pro-(some) testing, deeply skeptical of- Race to the Top vs. creator of Race to the Top, etc.). Dintersmith's heart is in the right place, too. His issue is more a question of whether his suggestions for local, grassroots change can be scaled up enough to make a difference. He definitely has some inspiring examples, though. 

TalkingAcrossDivideI also listened to about 40% of Scythe by Neal Shusterman, but I just didn't like it and I stopped. Too bleak for me these days, though I suspect I would have loved it a few years back. I'm listening to Heaven's Keep by William Kent Kruger (Cork O'Connor Mysteries, Book 9). I'm reading Talking Across the Divide by Justin Lee on my Kindle, and Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes in print (ARC). 

I'm continuing to read mainly picture books to my daughter. We are making our way through a lot of our old favorites and it's been quite enjoyable. This morning we read The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool and Alison JayYou can see some of those favorites in her reading list here. On her own, she continues to resist reading any of the books for her school's upcoming Battle of the Books, even though she says that she's interested in being on a team with several friends. I think she just really doesn't like being told what to read. And none of them are graphic novels, or even particularly heavily illustrated, so they just aren't her thing. But when she's left alone to read graphic novels and notebook novels she reads ALL THE TIME. To the point where it's hard to get her out of the house for, well, anything. 

KristysBigDayShe did have an excellent reading day yesterday, when not one but two of her favorite series had new releases. I have a video of her joy when she got home to find the newest Babysitters Club Graphic Novel, Kristy's Big Day AND the third Lucy and Andy Neanderthal book, Bad to the Bones, by Jeffrey Brown. She lifted me off the ground with her hug, making my choice to pre-order both books well worthwhile. The downside of graphic novels is that she's already read them both. However, I am confident that she will re-read them both many times. 

WimpyKidCabinFeverShe started third grade last week. She filled out a little "getting to know you" sheet for her teacher with heavy emphasis on reading and writing. Her teacher also asked my husband and me what our goals are for her this academic year. My number one goal is that she continues to LOVE reading. I'm going to do everything in my power to support that at home, of course. She brought home a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book from her classroom library on day 1, read it, and took it back the next day, so we are off to a good start.

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! Hope that your summer reading is going as well as ours is!

© 2018 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