Last Five Posts

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Sunday Salon - 2011 Book Battles - We all win!


It's my favorite time of year - Book Battle Time.  My two favorite battles have both announced their contenders.

The SLJ Battle of the Kid's Books 2011
16 books will be judged by children and young adult authors until one book rules them all!  The contest starts mid-March and as soon as they post the brackets, I'll start picking my hopefuls!

  1. As Easy As Falling Of The Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins
  2. The Cardturner by Louis Sachar
  3. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
  4. Countdown by Deborah Wiles
  5. The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis
  6. The Good, The Bad, and the Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone
  7. Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch
  8. Keeper by Kathi Appelt
  9. The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds
  10. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  11. Bartimaeus: Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud
  12. Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos
  13. A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
  14. They Called Themselves the KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
  15. Trash by Andy Mulligan
  16. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
The contest runs from mid-March to early April, about 4 weeks! This is the third year of the contest but the first year they didn't include the Newbery Winner. This tournament is fast, furious and fun! I have six more to read and then I'll be commenting away.  Last year I won a  t-shirt!  

16 books will be judged by a variety of literary names as well as one reader!

  1. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  2. Nox by Anne Carson
  3. Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky
  4. Room by Emma Donoghue
  5. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  6. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  7. Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
  8. Bloodroot by Amy Greene
  9. Next by James Hynes
  10. The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
  11. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
  12. Model Home by Eric Puchner
  13. So Much for That by Lionel Shriver
  14. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
  15. Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne
  16. Savages by Don Winslow
This contest runs from March 7 - Mid-April.  I've only read one of these and plan on reading about 7 more but over the year not for the tournament!

Pick your battle people and come out reading!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Water WarsWater Wars
Cameron Stracher
Sourcebooks Fire
240 pgs.

Water. We need it. There are some places that have a lot of it, but can't get to it.  And there are some places that don't have enough of it at all.  Will and Vera live in time when not just some places are experiencing a drought, but the whole world.  The water they can get has been purified in such a way that people can get sick. Their mom is sick and the Water Authority Board isn't doing anything about it.

One day Vera meets Kai and he's pouring water on the ground.  He say's he knows where there's a river flowing and everyone can have pure water.  Kai, Vera and Will become friends.  It helps that Kai brings them gallons of water for their mom.  One day Kai disappears and Vera is sure he's been kidnapped and that only she and Will can rescue him.

The Good

  • all signs point to real shortages and contaminated water so the premise is great
  • sometimes Vera's voice rings true
  • awesome cover
The Bad
  • was never convinced that Will was 17.  His actions, the time he spent with Vera, the way he spoke - those things seemed to belong to a much younger child.
  • Vera was a whiny brat and she said things that I could not imagine any kid, let alone a 15-year-old, saying. "If anything happened to Will, I didn't know if I could go on."
  • the dialogue was stilted
Water Wars would work better if the characters were younger.  You would expect children at the age of 15/17, who lived in world of poverty and did much on their own, to be more mature.  So the choices they made were unrealistic.  I didn't feel a strong connection to any character which also made their  choices hard to understand.  They chased Kai on bikes not knowing who could have taken him or what direction they would have gone in.  They also knew there was a curfew and about the killing pirates.  They made friends too easily and were able to get out of scrapes with barely any loss. Since I wasn't vested, I didn't care what happened.

Interview with Cameron Stracher





Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Book Clubs in the School Library - Part 1

Some of the students that were in my Mock Newbery club would like to do a "regular" book club.  I've done a variety of book clubs over the past five years but I've yet to find the perfect formula.  I would like to offer a student-run club that's similar to adult book clubs or, at least, what I imagine adult book clubs to be like since I've never been in one!

The Past
Year 1 - had book clubs during lunch periods with separate ones for boys and girls at the 8th grade level.  I picked and library purchased ALL of the books! I also set the dates and led the discussion. I also ran a staff book club in which I picked recent and/or popular Young Adult titles and we read and discussed what would be appropriate for middle school students.

Year 2 - had genre book clubs; one fantasy and one Young Adult.  Again I picked books only this time we met after school.  Library bought four copies that were kept in special spot for clubbers.  I also priced and purchased books for students.  They had a date they had to get the money to me and I placed one huge order. I had another teacher assist me with the YA club and that really helped!  Adults read the Twilight Series and the Luxe series.

Years 3 and 4 - back to grade level at lunch.  I picked the books and we only met from January - May.  The library purchased the books for 6th and 8th but 7th had too many students so only purchased 1/2 the number of books. All grades read Nation by Pratchett so I have many copies of that title.  My plan was to  use the same books each year but students have a tendency to tell others and they'd already read the books.  Adults did a Mock Newbery from September to January with library supplied books.

Now
Year 5 (present) - I did a Mock Newbery club before school from September  to January where I supplied the book list and purchased 1, 2 or 4 copies of the books.  I also let the public library know so that students could go there and get books.  We met at library before school.  Books were always out or had holds and the more other students heard us talking, they wanted to check out those books too! A few Language Arts teachers did a Mock Printz club with library supplied books.

January - this year the library has a smaller budget due to dwindling Scholastic Book Fair monies.  Since we've done Mock Newbery or Mock Printz clubs, Scholastic hasn't offered us much that we don't have.  Also, LA teachers are avid bookclub users so students have most of the books they want at great prices! Good for them, but gives me less "extra-curricular" class to buy additional copies of titles.

Success
I've had the most success when I've hosted them during lunch (20) or before school (14) for 7th graders and after school for 8th graders(10).  I've had limited success with 6th graders (6) and I like to think it's because they haven't been in a book club before!

I've also had authors donate books (Maureen Johnson, Heather Vogel Frederick, Deborah Heiligman) or their time (Cinda Chima, Fran Cannon Slayton, Stephanie Hale, Jacqueline Kelly, Kathi Appelt) or bookmarks (Rebecca Stead, Christina Diaz Gonzales, Heather Vogel Frederick) which has really helped increase student involvement in the club! (hopefully I'm not forgetting anyone or anything!)

Except for during the summer, we've always met in the school library.  In the summers we've met at Borders, Barnes and Noble, and a local coffee shop that has since gone out of business.



Do you do book clubs?  What's your secret?  Are you in charge or students?  Where do you host them?  Do you have them on the weekends or doing school days?  Who picks the books?

If you have any information whether about adult, student, or teacher book clubs, please share in comments or email me!


 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger - Review

Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a DreamFriday Night Lights
HG Bissinger
Da Capo Press
357 pgs

Note:  One LA teacher at our school is doing a book to movie nonfiction unit and I offered to read some of the choices. 

Friday Night Lights follows the 1988 Permian Panthers as they try to make it all the way to state. But this isn't really about the football as much as it's about the towns these games are played in. Football is the background to a story about dreams, hopes, poverty and racism. Friday Night Lights alternates between players as well as between the history of the town of Odessa, where Permian High is located, and the history of some of their biggest opponents.

Bissinger focuses on the racism and poverty prevalent in each town.  Bissinger seemed eager to paint the picture of racism for me instead of letting me form my own conclusions. Not only did he tell me that many town residents didn't find the N word offensive, he proceeded to use it at least 30 times throughout the book and, let me tell you, Friday Night Lights is not Huckleberry Finn. We also learn how many in this town lost their money after a big oil bust. Bissinger gives a detailed account of how some of the parents of current players or former players got caught up in the materialism that was bred during the oil boom.

I found parts of this book fascinating but there were too many parts I wanted to skip over as Bissinger gets bogged down in the social dynamics of each place. I found myself looking forward to the football and I hate football.  Friday Night Lights is a decent read if you understand there's more to Odessa than football.  Had I known that I think I would have enjoyed the book more instead my expectations got in the way.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang - Review

The Great Wall Of Lucy WuThe Great Wall of Lucy Wu
Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Scholastic Press
January 2011
312 pgs. ARC

Soon to be twelve-year-old Lucy Wu just wants to have her own room and play basketball.  But it seems as if the universe is conspiring against her.  Her parents want her to go to Chinese school and her dad wants her great-aunt, Yi Po to move in with them.  Wouldn't you know that Chinese school is Saturday mornings - same as basketball practice!  And where will Yi Po sleep?  In Lucy's room, of course!  Fine, Lucy decides to sabotage Chinese school so they will force her out and to build a wall that separates her side of the room from Yi Po's.

Good news - basketball practice is moved to an earlier time and now Lucy can do both.  Bad news - she may have to battle mean girl Sloane Connors for captain of the students during the student-faculty basketball game. Sloane wants to be captain and wages a smear campaign to get everyone to back down.  Lucy does NOT want to attract Sloane's attention but everyone keeps pushing her to go out for captain.  Now that Lucy has what she wants, how will she keep it?

 Good news - Yi Po stays on her side of the room.  Bad news - Lucy's side quickly becomes a hazardous area with her clothes, homework, basketball and other items strewn about the small space.  Lucy has learned more and more about Yi Po but she refuses to accept her as part of the family. She's sorry about Yi Po's past but that shouldn't ruin Lucy's present!  But the more she learns about Yi Po, the more Yi Po reminds Lucy of her grandmother.  How can she keep her distance and get Yi Po to move out sooner? Does she really want her to move out sooner?

A great middle-grade read about fitting in and dealing with change.  Lucy fights to be American and Chinese and seems to be failing at both.  She has her whole year planned out and is forced to accept changes she had no say in.  Though parts of the Great Wall of Lucy Wu were predictable, you are vested enough in Lucy's character to want to give her a hand yourself.

Thank you to Scholastic Press for this ARC.  Review also posted at Discovery Middle School IMC page.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Are You My Newbery? - How'd We Do?

It was a big day for librarians and students on Monday, January 10, 2011.  The ALA Youth Media Awards were announced!

At the school, we gathered in our Large Group Instruction room to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards, only to find out our school had it blocked! But, for some crazy reason, we could get the ALA Facebook page and my twitter stream.  So we stared at the screen waiting to see if any of our choices made the cut.

The students reactions:
The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan - The Pure Belpre - although we wanted to see this book get the Newbery Honor, we were happy it got some recognition.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia - Coretta Scott King and Newbery Honor - Yay!!!  We were worried because only two other books won both The Scott O'Dell and Newbery (thank you Anita Silvey) so this was fantastic!

And that was it! They had read Heart of a Samurai but were not "impressed".  They kept re-reading and re-reading the announcements sure that they would find Cardturner by Sachar and Keeper by Appelt somewhere!   They were also disappointed that Mockingbird by Erskine and Out of My Mind by Draper didn't get recognized.  I'm proud to note they decided to read Moon over Manifest by Vanderpool next!  I didn't even ask them too

My reactions:
Newbery: For the second year in a row, I was happy to see that I'd read ALL of the books that won Newbery and Newbery Honors.  I was also happy to see One Crazy Summer get more recognition.

Printz: This is the first year that I'd read the Printz winner, Ship Breaker by Paulo Bacigalupi,  before it was announced!  I'd also read one of the honors, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King, and have Stolen by Lucy Christopher on my nightstand since it's also a Cybils YA Finalist!  I'm also pleased that all of the books, except for Stolen, were on my Mock Printz list at Goodreads!

Coretta Scott King (Author): The is the first year that I've read ALL of the CSK winners before they were announced! One Crazy Summer, Lockdown by Myers, Ninth Ward by Parker-Rhodes, and Yummy by Neri!

Schneider Family Book Award: Happy to see I'd read the middle-grade book, After Ever After by Sonnenblick.

Alex Awards: Read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender and had already purchased it for the library!

Pura Belpre (Author): Read The Dreamer by Ryan and Firefly Letters by Engle!

Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Award: Read Will Grayson, Will Grayson by Green and Levithan.  Also went to see them at Anderson's last April!

Geisel Award: I read Bink and Gollie by DiCamillo and McGhee!

Overall, A great year of reading!  I will continue reading the same way but will expand my Printz reading somewhat. The most awesome thing is the ability to talk to a wide variety of students about the books I read!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Are You My Newbery? Discovery Middle School Mock Newbery Results

We spent the last two meetings discussing our top books and trying to come up with a consensus.  We had two rounds of voting with our final being

Newbery
The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Honors
The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Keeper by Kathi Appelt

I am exhausted but proud.  The students argued and pulled out books and looked at passages.  They were intense.  I really appreciated the hard work they put into this club!  We will meet on Monday to watch the webcast with our fingers crossed!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Are You Up to the Challenge?

I usually avoid entering challenges because I never complete them; I'm a better sprinter than marathoner. (sorry Dana Reinhardt)

But this year I'm focused on Generosity; including cutting myself some slack.  Doing #bookaday has reminded me that the journey counts just as much as the outcome.  So, here are some challenges that I'm joining in 2011:

POC Challenge - it's important that I continue to diversify my reading but in addition i need to write about the books I read.  I'll be joining at Level 5  and here are some of the books I plan on reading:

  1. Latte Rebellion
  2. The Trouble With Half a Moon
  3. Great Wall of Lucy Lu
  4. What Can't Wait
  5. Vanished
  6. Red Scarf Girl
  7. The Kayla Chronicles
  8. Revolution is not a Dinner Party
  9. Hole in My Life
  10. Flygirl
  11. A Girl Named Mister
  12. Windup Girl
  13. Does My Head Look Big in This
  14. Shine
  15. We Could Be Brothers
  16. Where the Streets Had a Name
  17. Bitter Melon
  18. Standing Against the Wind
update 12/12/11 Terrible. Only 3 titles.
Books I Should Have Read In School - Each year the 8th graders have to read and debate whether a known classic should continue being read.  It's been a long time since I've had to read these and I need a refresher and I need to expand my knowledge so that I can book talk more choices.  I'm entering this one at the Graduate School level.

  1. Little Women
  2. A Tale of Two Cities
  3. Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  4. Anne of Green Gables
  5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  6. To Kill A Mockingbird
update 12/12/11 NONE!
Graphic Novels Challenge - This a tough format for me because I don't come across them as much as I do ebooks since not all books make good graphic novels.  I know many students become hooked once they discover this area so I need to bone up for book talks. I'm going for the Expert level.
  1. Copper
  2. Spacehaedz
  3. Hereville
  4. Secret Science Alliance
  5. Resistance
  6. Ghostopolis
  7. Cloud Searchers (I've read and loved the first two)
  8. Athena
  9. The Unsinkable Walker Bean
  10. The Sons of Liberty
update 12/12/11 only 40% - fail.
Debut Author Challenge - I like new: new clothes, new books, new authors.  This is purely for fun! Finding new writers and then watching their careers is mighty awesome let me tell you.  This list will change the most! 
  1. The False Princess
  2. Water Wars
  3. Great Wall of Lucy Liu
  4. Here Lies Bridget
  5. Ten Miles Past Normal
  6. The Latte Rebellion
  7. Trouble with Half a Moon
  8. What Can't Wait
  9. Vanished
  10. Sequins, Secrets and Silver Linings
  11. ?
  12. ?
UPDATE: 12/12/11 actually read more - they are just not listed! Will plan better next year.
One,Two Theme - seems like an interesting way to learn more about things.  This will also help me increase my nonfiction readings.
  1. Education 1 book
  2. Race Relations 2 books 
  3. Poverty 3 books
update: another fail.
NOTE: All reading lists are subject to change as I learn about other offerings and start reading for Mock Newbery and Mock Printz clubs.  I will also try to increase my nonfiction reading.

12.12.11 Update - All in all - I need to plan out this better.  I know what my reading normally looks like - I just need to expand in some areas and pull back in others. I'll join these same challenges if they are open next year. 

Cybils YA/MG 2010 Shortlists

The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards posted their 2010 shortlists ! These are the books the Round 1 Panelists felt not only had distinguished writing but kid-appeal too.

I'm a panelist in the YA category so won't talk much about these books.

Young Adult (as listed)
  1. Dirt Road Home by Watt Key
  2. Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly
  3. I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan
  4. Scrawl by Mark Shulman
  5. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
  6. Split by Swati Avasthi
  7. Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Two of these books are on my Goodreads Mock Printz shelf but I've only read one on the list.  I must say, there are some major upsets in this category.  The Amazing Dancer, aged 15, has read 3 on the list!

Other Young Adult Categories: Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy, Young Adult Graphic Novels

Middle Grades (as listed)
  1. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  2. Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
  3. Betti on the High Wire by Lisa Railsback
  4. Crunch by Leslie Connor
  5. Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg
  6. The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
  7. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
I fared a little better in this category, having read three of the seven and have quite a few on my Goodreads Mock Newbery Shelf.

Other Middle Grades Categories - Middle Grades Science Fiction/Fantasy, Middle Grades Graphic Novels

Other Reading Stats: YA SF/F - 1, YA Graphic - 2, MG SF/F - 4, MG Graphic - 2, Easy Reader - 0, Fiction Picture - 0, NF Picture - 1, Poetry - 3, MG/YA Nonfiction - 0

Stop by The Cybils and take a look at all the categories.  How many have you read?

There are many fantastic books here that would make a great addition to any library!


    Happy New Year - Reads and Resolutions

    Happy New Year!

    I hope you had a wonderful 2010, or at least some spectacular moments.

    They say your goals should me SMART; specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

    I've been thinking about how I can make 2011 my year.  What goals could I set that would be smart?  That would be measurable but not limiting, attainable but not shortchanging, realistic and yet enlightening?

    Hmmm.  I'll keep thinking about that.  In the meantime, here are some books I loved from 2010.


    Best Book of 2010 - The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson - he's a master at creating clearly delineated worlds complete with flora and fauna.  I felt like I lived in Kharbranth and fought on The Shattered Plains. I read this one twice and it's over 1,000 pages.  If you like fantasy, read Sanderson.

    I read 240 books in 2010, that's 65 more than 2009!, which I contribute directly to #bookaday and Donalyn Miller.


    Ok, I'm off to work on my goals for 2011. In the meantime, 

    Happy New Year to you and yours!







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