In which I share my daughter's latest milestone on her path to literacy: sneaking in extra preorders from Amazon.


Literacy Milestone: Sneaking in Amazon Pre-Orders

LiteracyMilestoneAI use Amazon to look up release dates for upcoming books of interest, many of which I add to my daughter's and my wish lists. The other day, after one such check-in, I gave my daughter permission to preorder the upcoming Dork Diaries book (Tales from a Not-S0-Best Friend Forever, due out Oct. 22). I figured, who am I kidding? We're GOING to end up buying it one way or another. That was fine.

However, when I logged in to my Amazon account the next morning, I found four new preorders. In addition to the Dork Diaries book, someone had also preordered:

When confronted with this, my daughter claimed that she was only trying to add the others to her wish list and that they had been ordered by accident. I consider this implausible, though not out of the question. Her case is supported by the fact that the only titles that she requested were preorders, but undermined by the fact that further investigation on my part revealed that we had preordered not one but two copies of Guts by Raina Telgemeier (Sept. 17). 

As a parenting matter, I have canceled a couple of the preorders and threatened to turn off one-click ordering on my laptop if it happens again. But as a bookworm-nurturer, I must admit that it made me laugh. Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 16: Preschool Books, Literary Lots + Deep Work in Schools

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #AchievementGap, #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #HigherEd, #homework, #introversion, #JoyOfReading, #NoSummerSlide, #OwnVoices, #play, #SocialMedia, libraries, privacy, reading, schools, and writing.

Top Tweet of the Week

Naked64 #Preschool Books You Didn't Know You Needed, #PictureBook #BookList from @momandkiddo organized by theme: nature, imagination, folklore, etc.


This week in the @literacious Summer of #Nonfiction: #GraphicNovels | Useful #BookList for parents of GN-obsessed kids being nudged to read more nonfiction at school

The First Day and Beyond: 8 #PictureBooks About Kindergarten for Kids | #BackToSchool #BookList by Dena McMurdie @ReadBrightly

Diversity + Gender

The Struggle between #DiverseBooks and #OwnVoices@MGBookVillage | Suggestions per @SaadiaFaruq for "white readers + writers ... who’d rather be on the right side of the #OwnVoices struggle"

Events, Programs + Research

A #college degree still pays off for most students, but not for everyone (inflation, flat wages) @JMitchellWSJ #HigherEd | Not covered in this piece is the people who fail to graduate but incur debt

4 new studies bolster the case: More money for schools helps low-income students, though how the money is spent matters, too @matt_barnum @Chalkbeat #SchoolFunding

Growing Bookworms

CloudyMeatballsSuper cool! @LiteraryLots (temporary, real-life constructions of popular children's book scenes) spread #JoyOfReading in Cleveland neighborhood @GMA

Creating a #Reading Culture in the Classroom by @annhagedorn @nerdybookclub | Ideas for #teachers to nurture #JoyOfReading, like student #BookTalks

#NoSummerSlide Week 11 – What’s the Word? #WordGames for developing + older readers #literacy @TheReadingTub

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

WhyTheyCantWriteIdeas for Teaching #Writing A Book Review by Carrie Rodusky @nerdybookclub | "The IDEA is the basic skill of writing, NOT sentences" + "Make writing meaningful" for students

A #SocialMedia Guide for #Introverts - @WSJ | "recent research suggests that it is introverts who benefit most from using social media" even if they find it challenging to do

A call for #teachers by @thereadingzone to look at whether people you follow on Twitter + Instagram are there for their own self-promotion or to share pedagogy? @Medium #SocialMedia

New CEO James Daunt Wants to Make Barnes & Noble Your Local Bookstore, run like collection of #IndependentBookstores @BNBuzz @WSJ @SaabiraC

Parenting + Play

LetChildrenPlayThis! We should take a lesson from Finland, follow doctors’ orders + build our schools, homes + communities on the #learning language of children: #play @pasi_sahlberg + @williamdoylenyc @WSJopinion

Schools and Libraries

#HighSchools + #Colleges Fight Websites That Sell #Homework Help - @Tawnell @WSJ | This is basically out in the open as a service now

#AchievementGap question still unanswered in #CA despite #LCCF spending | @DanCALmatters | #EducationalEquity

Memphis 3rd grade #reading scores dip as district builds case for retaining students @kebedefaith @Chalkbeat

DeepWorkDepartment of Unpopular Opinions: The Skillful Management of Attention is the Key to Success in a High-Tech Society | @Doug_Lemov shares implications of #DeepWork by Cal Newport for #schools #Focus

Another review of #TheKnowledgeGap by @natwexler "Anyone who seeks to understand ... educational ideas in American #schools and beyond should place it on the top of their #SummerReading list" @greg_ashman

Knowledge Only Adds to #Reading; I Don't See How It Subtracts - @Doug_Lemov on how students are enjoying a knowledge-driven ELA curriculum

Sigh. Amid a #literacy crisis, Michigan’s #SchoolLibrarians have all but disappeared @levin_koby @Chalkbeat | The @Scholastic #KFRR, among other studies, showed that librarians help nurture #LoveOfReading

How the New York Public Library Guards #Privacy in the Digital Age - Amber Burton @WSJ @nypl | @TonyAgeh: #Libraries are a "sanctuary of sorts"

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: August 14: Summer Wind-Down Edition

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 sent out every three to four weeks.  

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have one book review (middle grade speculative fiction) and four short posts in a new series that I'm calling "Bookworm Moments", celebrating reading-related incidents with my daughter. In the first, my daughter badgers me to continue buying her picture books. In the second, she packs a stack of "backup books" for reading by the pool. In the third, I enjoy hearing her giggle to herself as she reads on our balcony. In the fourth, I let her read on her own in the cafe of a small local grocery store. I have also published four posts with literacy and reading-related links that I shared on Twitter. Since there are so many, I've included only the most recent one in the newsletter. You can find the previous three here: July 19th, July 26th and August 2nd

Reading Update:  In the last four weeks I finished one middle grade title and 10 adult titles (six fiction and four nonfiction). I read/listened to: 

  • SerafinaStarsRobert Beatty: Serafina and the Seven Stars. Disney Hyperion. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed August 8, 2019, print ARC. My review.
  • Todd Borg: Tahoe Killshot (Owen McKenna, No. 4). Thriller Press. Adult Mystery. Completed July 21, 2019, on Kindle.
  • Todd Borg: Tahoe Silence (Owen McKenna, No. 5). Thriller Press. Adult Mystery. Completed July 23, 2019, on Kindle.
  • Paul Doiron: Almost Midnight (Mike Bowditch). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed July 24, 2019, on MP3. I've enjoyed this series, especially the Maine setting (and the accents of the narrator). But I did feel with this one like the author was veering a tiny bit into agenda-driven territory. I'm sure I'll still read the next one, but if that trend continues I'll be done. (It doesn't matter what the agenda is, the slightest whiff of didacticism can turn me off.)
  • Robby Soave: Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump. All Points Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 1, 2019, on Kindle. In this book, libertarian Robby Soave attempts to explain the actions of "Zillennials" (millennials and Gen-Z), and in particular ways in which they sabotage their own agendas. 
  • Todd Borg: Tahoe Avalanche (Owen McKenna, No. 6). Thriller Press. Adult Mystery. Completed August 6, 2019, on Kindle. I've continued to enjoy this series (clearly), though after this one I decided to take a break. I've downloaded the next one, though, and am keeping it ready for my next reading slump, when I need a "go-to" title. 
  • Ruth Ware: The Death of Mrs. Westaway. Gallery/Scout Press. Adult Mystery. Completed August 7, 2019, on Kindle. I enjoyed this twisty modern gothic mystery, which kept me awake on an airplane ride. Definitely recommended.
  • KnowledgeGapNatalie Wexler: The Knowledge Gap: The hidden cause of America's broken education system--and how to fix it. Avery. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 9, 2019, on Kindle. In this book, Wexler posits that the problem with the US education system is a lack of teaching of content in the elementary years, in favor of skills. She presents what I found to be a compelling case. This is a rare book that I believe will change my thinking and actions. I highly recommend it. I hope to find time to write more about it, but meanwhile, here is a good review from Daisy Christodoulou at TES.
  • Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle: Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive. Oxford University Press. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 10, 2019, on Kindle. I do believe in the general premise of this book, that schools (particularly those servings Pre-K to 3) should incorporate considerably more play and recess than they do. And I was encouraged by various examples cited by the authors that suggest movement in this direction, after years of going the other way. However, I found the book itself too full of anecdotes and extended quotations for my taste. I skimmed a fair bit. I also thought that the authors lumped together ALL school reform efforts ever as deeply flawed and based on impure motives, without presenting much evidence to that effect. I much preferred Natalie Wexler's book. I hope to write more about this one, too, but in the meantime, here's a review by William Doyle at EducationNext that captures the strengths and weaknesses that I observed in the book. 
  • T. Jefferson Parker: The Room of White Fire (Roland Ford, No. 1). G.P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery/Thriller. Completed August 10, 2019, on Kindle. I enjoyed the characters in this book (about a PI who hunts for missing people, while grieving his deceased wife), but found some of the content (descriptions of torture) too dark. I had to skim, and was glad that I wasn't listening on audio. 
  • Jeanne Safer: I Love You, but I Hate Your Politics: How to Protect Your Intimate Relationships in a Poisonous Partisan World. All Points Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed August 11, 2019, on Kindle. This isn't really something that I struggle with in my family, but I am interested in the general state of discourse in today's partisan environment. This is a fairly quick read, and I agreed with the author's main point that trying to change anyone else's core beliefs is futile and destructive. 

RangeI'm reading The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes by David Robson and listening to Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. Oddly (or perhaps not), I just read about the same research regarding learning and struggle in both books at  the same time. I'm not making a lot of progress with audiobooks because I've been listening to various podcasts, but I am enjoying Range. I haven't been reading aloud to my daughter very much, I must confess (travel, etc.), but I expect to get back into our breakfast reading routine once school starts next week. I need to give some thought to what book to read together next. Harry Potter 6 was too dark for my daughter, I think, but I personally am ready for something a bit more substantive than the Wimpy Kid books. We'll see...  

LuckyStarsMy daughter packed 13 books for a recent vacation to Boston and then somehow coaxed her aunt into buying her four more at the bookstore (I think it was a buy three get one free kind of thing, but still...). Her current obsession is the Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce. I had pointed those out at the library many times, in my quest to keep her supplied with graphic novels, but she was never interested. I'm not sure what sparked her to want them now, but she's happily devouring them. She also quite liked the third book in the Mr. Wolf's Class series by Aron Nels Steinke, Lucky Stars, pronouncing it the best of the series. She has several others for which she is eagerly awaiting preorders. 

In general, she seems to be reading more as summer vacation draws  to a close. I only hope that I can help her to continue this once school starts and a stronger focus in 4th grade on AR points rears its ugly head. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! 

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage


Serafina and the Seven Stars: Robert Beatty

Book: Serafina and the Seven Stars
Author: Robert Beatty
Pages: 352
Age Range: 8-12

SerafinaStarsSerafina and the Seven Stars is the fourth book in Robert Beatty's Serafina series (and the first book in quite a while to inspire me to write a formal review). I have previously reviewed books two and three: Serafina and the Twisted Staff and Serafina and the Splintered Heart, but you should certainly start with book one: Serafina and the Black Cloak. This review does contain spoilers for the previous books, so stop here if you have not read the others.

The Serafina books feature a girl who is being raised at the Biltmore Estate in the North Carolina mountains around the turn of the 20th century. Serafina, adopted as a baby by the household maintenance man, has the power to transform between girl and mountain lion. With help from Vanderbilt nephew Braeden, her best friend, Serafina has established herself as Guardian of the Biltmore Estate, which is regularly besieged by dark forces.

In this fourth installment, set during hunting season in 1900, Serafina finds herself separated from Braeden and facing her most threatening challenge yet. I read a lot and I always appreciate books like this one in which I can't figure out what's going on any sooner than the main character does. I found Serafina and the Seven Stars to be suspenseful as well as moving. I especially appreciated Serafina's developing relationships with the Vanderbilt family and her own father. 

I love Beatty's blend of lyricism, humor, and mystery. Like this:

"She loved to run with her feline brother and sister through the forest, but they were pure mountain lions, not catamount shape-shifters, so she couldn't strategize with them, sneak through the house with them, make secret plans, devise ingenious traps, kill demons, or do any of the things that normal friends did together." (Page 20, ARC)

The Biltmore Estate is essentially a character in all of the books, an attribute (fascinating and complex house) that I always find appealing. If anything, this is even more true in book four, as Serafina moves further out of the shadows and into the household. There's also an engaging new character who promises to play a part in future books. 

Like the other books in the series, Serafina and the Seven Stars is a bit dark for middle grade readers. There are desperate battles and violent deaths, as well as a strong atmosphere of foreboding. Although  Amazon lists this title as being for ages 8-12, I personally expect to hold off on offering these books to my daughter until she is ten. Perhaps by then there will be a book five, and she can devour them all in a single burst. 

In short, I found Serafina and the Seven Stars to be a highly satisfying addition to the Serafina series, and I hope that Robert Beatty will continue to add titles to this fantasy universe. [See also Willa of the Wood, a companion novel.]

Publisher: Disney Hyperion 
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage. 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 9: Learning Disabilities, Cybils Awards + National Book Lovers Day

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #Audiobooks, #BookLists, #Cybils, #EthnicStudies, #FlexibleSeating, #GrowthMindset, #JoyOfReading, #KnowledgeGap, #NationalBookLoversDay, #NoSummerSlide, #Play, #ScreenTime, #STEM, #TriggerWarnings, learning, nonfiction, schools, teaching, and writing.

Top Tweet of the Week

Dispelling Myths Around #LearningDisabilities | Report: 1 in 5 students struggle w/ learning or attention issues. Only 17 percent of teachers feel prepared to support them @YoukiTerada  @edutopia

Book Lists + Awards

Cybils-Logo-2019-RoundThe 2019 #CybilsAwards (for high quality, kid-friendly #kidlit) are COMING soon. Nominations open 10/1 | Get your new logos here:

The Best So Far: 2019 #PictureBook Biographies Done Exceedingly Well, per @fuseeight #BookList #nonfiction

Library Collections: Beginning #ChapterBook Series | Jennifer Wharton analyzes her collection by genre, protagonist, reading level + more. Great resource for #librarians looking for ideas

Diversity + Gender

Editorial Board @latimes | California's proposed new #EthnicStudies curriculum is jargon-filled and all-too-PC + "is more about imposing predigested political views on students than about widening their perspectives"

Events, Programs + Research

Tomorrow (8/9) is #NationalBookLoversDay. "Sit back, relax and READ! Don’t forget to share the #JoyOfReading w/ the young people in your life." @NationalDayCal

Growing Bookworms

CorduroyAudioEarly August #LiteracyTips Newsletter (excerpt) from @TheReadingTub w/ resources for using #audiobooks w/ kids | Yes, listening to books IS #reading

#NoSummerSlide Week 10 @TheReadingTub – Where in the World? Guiding kids in exploring their world + interests more deeply #literacy #SummerLearning

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

3 Reasons Your Students Hate #Writing w/ suggestions for what to tell them, from @paul_emerich

Parenting + Play

Moving Grows the Brain + is key to success for #students - "Our mind needs us to move and exercise for its health just as much as our body does." @MarlaSzwast #OutdoorPlay

Schools and Learning

KnowledgeGapThe case for #teaching about sharks and mummies, not captions and the main idea, to build student engagement + #LoveOfReading @natwexler @Chalkbeat #KnowledgeGap

A Proof Point for the Value of #GrowthMindsets | David Yeager @FutureEdGU @nature #learning

The #FlexibleSeating Spectrum – @paul_emerich shares his evolving thoughts after discussion w/ his #PLN | #teaching

Toddler brains resist learning from screens, even video chat. "The best way for infants + toddlers to learn... is through positive interactions w/ an adult" @yordygirl @medical_xpress via @drdouggreen

Evolving thoughts from @pernilleripp + her #PLN On #TriggerWarnings for #ClassroomLibraries and Potential #Censorship

#HighSchool Naps May Boost Learning for Sleep-Deprived Teenagers - @SarahDSparks @educationweek


EdibleScience#STEM Tuesday Spin Off: Oh, Those Summer Nights Edition – @MGBookVillage | #Kidlit featuring creatures of the night, starry skies, cookouts + more

This is neat: A giant Rube Goldberg machine is being assembled at @TheTechInteract in San Jose. Team is aiming for a @GWR for longest chain reaction. #STEM #CivilEngineering

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage


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