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Jen's Recommendations from the 48 Hour Book Challenge

Posted by Jen Robinson on June 8, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Middle Grade BooksRecommendations
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48hbc.pngThis weekend, in a 48-hour period, I spent 29 hours reading and blogging about books. I was participating in the 4th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge, hosted by our own Pam Coughlan, MotherReader. This is a wonderful event held in celebration of reading. More than 100 people participated, and scores of others followed along, and commented to show support. You can find links to wrap-up posts by all of the participants here. My own detailed wrap-up post is on my blog. Here, I'd like to highlight a few of the books that I read, the ones that I think will be of particular interest to the Booklights audience.

wall.jpgLaurel Snyder's Any Which Wall (illustrated by LeUyen Pham) is an homage to classic children's books about magic, especially to Edward Eager's books. It's also a celebration of childhood, and a reminder not to turn away from the joys of everyday life. It's about four children who discover a magic wall, one that can wish them away to other places (including Camelot). I concluded: "I highly recommend Any Which Wall to anyone who would like a return to reading about magic, a return to old-fashioned stories in which children ride their bikes around unsupervised and eat cake with new acquaintances. It's Laurel's gift to readers, and to the ghost of Edward Eager. I think that he'd be pleased." My full review is here.

masterpiece.jpgMasterpiece by Elise Broach (illustrated by Kelly Murphy) just won the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award for older readers. It's the story of an unlikely friendship between a beetle named Marvin and a quiet eleven-year-old boy named James. It strikes a perfect balance between mystery, world-building, and learning, with fascinating details about art theft and forgery. I think that it's a must-read title for children and adults, and an excellent choice for families reading aloud together. My full review is here. Also, don't miss this year's picture book winner for the E.B. White award: A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker (illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton). This is a wonderful read-aloud for toddlers.

jemma.jpgJemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire, by Brenda Ferber, is the perfect book for tween girls about to head off to camp for the first time. It's about eleven year old Jemma, who is excited to spend the summer at camp with her best friend, Tammy (who moved away at the start of the school year). Everything changes, however, when Tammy brings a cousin to camp, and Jemma is left fighting with the other girl for her friend's attention. This classic tween drama is set against a backdrop that shows all of the best attributes of summer camp. ("... the camaraderie, the friendships, the personal responsibility and teamwork. The songs and campfires and 'smores and swimming.") My full review is here.

calpurnia.jpgThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly is a coming of age novel about a girl living in Central Texas in 1899. Calpurnia is a tomboy and a scientist by nature, taught by her grandfather. She struggles to balance the expectations that society has for girls against her own desires. This is the best kind of historical fiction, a novel that conveys plenty of important information about the time period, while keeping everything organic to the story. And Calpurnia is a great character, a girl that readers will root for whole-heartedly. Although this is billed as a novel for young adults, I think it would work for strong readers a bit younger, too. My full review is here.

I also reviewed The Ghosts of Rathburn Park by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Ghost Huntress Book 2: The Guidance by Marley Gibson, Shift by Jennifer Bradbury (an excellent summer read for teen boys), If the Witness Lied by Caroline Cooney, and Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (adult mystery). But if you're looking for other book recommendations, do take a stroll through some of the other wrap-up posts from the 48 hour book challenge. It is a treasure trove of books selected by avid and discerning readers.

Here are a couple of other articles that caught my eye this week that I thought would be of particular interest to you all:

I mentioned Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook, in last week's post. This week, she had a post that simply cried out to me to be shared here. Susan is responding to a letter from a Mom who is worried because she knows about the importance of fathers as reading role models, but her husband has refused to read bedtime stories to their son. Susan shares a number of suggestions of other ways that the father could be a reading role model. She responds to possible objections that the Dad might have (timing, discomfort with fiction, etc.), and suggests alternatives. It's a nice positive, constructive post, with nuts and bolts suggestions, well worth checking out.

I also thought that you all might be interested in a recent post by Dawn Morris at Moms Inspire Learning, about using games to enhance literacy. She suggests options for kids of different age ranges, from packaged games to simple ideas for playing word games in the car. This post is just in time for summer vacation. Dawn has lots of other great posts, too, including a three-part (so far) series about Ways to Raise an Avid Reader. This one started as a top 10 list, but has grown.

For more news like these last couple of items, check out this week's Children's Literacy Round-Up, which will be available at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, the Reading Tub's blog, sometime today (Updated to add: here is the direct link). Happy reading!


Dawn writes...

These books sound amazing, and I also loved Susan Stephenson's post about fathers reading with their children.

Thank you so much for more fantastic recommendations, and for writing such kind words about Moms Inspire Learning! There are so many great blogs out there, and I feel so honored to have been mentioned here at Booklights.

Best of luck with this new project! I think it's so great that PBS has brought together such a passionate group of individuals to create yet another fantastic resource for parents, teachers, librarians, and authors.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for the kind words, Dawn. I'm happy to have discovered your blog (and to have you involved in the Share a Story - Shape a Future planning, too). There are a lot of blogs out there that I love (I follow about 300 in my reader), but not as many that particularly focus on getting across the joy of reading to kids (the growing bookworms aspect of things). Those are the ones, like yours, that I especially want to bring to the Booklights audience.

I've been following your book challenge all weekend on your blog and these 4 that you highlight here are the same 4 I just requested at my library! Thanks for the great reviews :)

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for following me in the challenge, Diana. I'm glad that I'm on-target with the four that I chose to highlight here. I also think for parents of teen boys that Shift is well worth a look. But we're focusing more on the up to 12 audience here, so I left that one off my highlights. Anyway, thanks for letting me know that this was useful!

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