Friday, November 27, 2015

Stepping Into Digital Literacy

Recently I was honored to present at the 34th Annual Sharjah International Book Fair in Sharjah UAE. This was the second annual American Library Association (ALA) Library Conference. It was a an incredible experience.

My presentation was on my starting to integrate Digital Literacy into the library curriculum. It's truly a work in progress and I'll update as I learn more!


Fair Pictures
Showing the route from DC to Dubai UAE

Fair welcome
Students were everywhere at the fair!

Loved the variety in book covers

Presentation tweets

Answering questions about access

 Had a great time learning with other school librarians at the fair! Thank you to ALA for such a wonderful and fulfilling opportunity.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Voyagers Series Giveaway

Samples and prizing are provided by Random House Children’s Books
#VoyagersHQ - check out the site!
All right science fiction fans, there's a new series that already has two books out for you!

Part sci-fi, part eco-mystery, all action-adventure.

As the young heroes in VOYAGERS journey into outer space to save planet Earth, you are invited to become part of the story by joining the crew through the multi-platform, VOYAGERS HQ. 

The HQ extends the adventure beyond the page, unlocking games and activities on your device!

Each book has clues and codes that lead to world extensions to be explored, played, and shared. Your online profile tracks your progress through the VOYAGERS universe, and gives you rewards, ranking and virtual currency for each product code redeemed.

You can create your own custom VOYAGERS character, follow the team and experience this space adventure through the eyes of your own virtual droid.

Book 1 - Project Alpha by  DJ MacHale

Earth is in danger! Without a renewable source of clean energy, our planet will be toast in less than a year. There are 6 essential elements that, when properly combined, create a new power source. But the elements are scattered throughout the galaxy. And only a spaceship piloted by children can reach it and return to Earth safely. First the ideal team of four 12-year-olds must be chosen, and then the first element must be retrieved. There is not a mistake to be made, or a moment to lose. The source is out there. Voyagers is blasting off in 3, 2,1!

Credit: Gayle Goodrich

About the Author
D.J. MacHale is the author of the bestselling book series Pendragon, Morpheus Road, the SYLO Chronicles. He has written, directed and produced numerous award-winning television series and movies for young people including Are You Afraid of the Dark?; Flight 29 Down and Tower of Terror. D.J. lives with his family in Southern California.

Website: DJ MacHale Books
Twitter: @DJMacHale
Facebook:  Author DJ MacHale

Book 2 - Game of Flames by Robin Wasserman

The Alpha team has been chosen and they've already snagged the first element on planet J-16. The second is hidden on Meta-Prime, a planet filled with metal mazes, catapults of fire, and warring alien robots. But what our Voyagers don't know is that there is another ship, the Omega team, following hot on their trail...

About the Author
Credit: Sonya Sones

Robin Wasserman is the author of several acclaimed books for children and young adults, including The Waking Dark, The Book of Blood and Shadow, Hacking Harvard, the Cold Awakening Trilogy, and the Chasing Yesterday Trilogy. A former children's book editor, she lives and writes (and frequently procrastinates) in Brooklyn, New York.

Website: Robin Wasserman
Twitter: @RobinWasserman
Facebook: Robin Wasserman

The Giveaway

Get both books in the series AND a special prize pack: A branded iphone 6 case with a home GadgetGrip button! Open to US addresses only. Giveaway closes Wednesday November 18, 2015, 11:59 pm.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Library Update - Part 3

Taking the atelier apart in preparation for the renovation. Sinks have been removed!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Library Update - Part 2

At the end of the school year, the Head of School gathered a bunch of volunteers to pack up the library. That was good and bad. The good was I had a lot of volunteers. The bad was I couldn't control HOW things were packed nor where they were placed nor how they were LABELED! Also, since our update has been delayed, I've had to dig through boxes time and time again to try to find books. Students also only had access to books on a cart.

Book Box Surprise!

Books to be weeded
Finding books to checkout

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Library Update - Part 1

Fall of 2014, I moved to The Stanley Clark School in South Bend. It's a small private school serving students from PreK-8.  I would oversee 4 small libraries: Main (all ages but mostly 1-4), Fannin (PreK-K,) The Tigers Den (5-8 fiction only) and The HPL (professional library).  The one thing I knew going in was the main library and the Fannin Hall library would be combining into a remodeled space.

Here is what the space, known as the atelier, looked like:
Downstairs - kdg lunchroom

Upstairs - 4/5 Lunchroom

Here's the original Main Library:

Here's the original Fannin Hall - I don't have many pictures inside. It was so small, we would sit in the hall and rotate inside!

 So we will see how we will combine the two libraries and also include space for making and legos. Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fable Comcs Blog Tour - 5 Questions with Ulises Farinas

Various authors. Fable Comics. Macmillan (First Second Books). 2015. 128 pg. 978-1626721074. $19.99
From the publisher:
From classics like “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “The Grasshopper and the Ants” to obscure gems like “The Frogs Who Desired a King,” Fable Comics has something to offer every reader. Twenty-eight fables from different cultures and traditions are wonderfully adapted and illustrated in comics format by twenty-six different cartoonists. Edited by New York Times bestselling Fairy Tale Comics’ Chris Duffy, this jacketed hardcover is a beautiful gift and an instant classic.
What a great way to study fables in the classroom. These interpretatins are not only graphic but may provide a twist teachrs and students hadn't expected! Read on as Ulises Farinas answers 5 Questions on The Great Weasel War - his interpretation of The Mice and the Weasel.

1. When researching The Mice and The Weasel - I came across several versions. Which did you use and how did you choose it?
We didn't stick to any single version, we tried to distill the moral into a fun new concept, while still maintaining the essence of the original fable. 

2. Greatness carries its own penalties is one moral of this fable. Agree or disagree? How did you translate this to your version?
When the moral is placed within the context of war, its warning is much more against foolhardy endeavors than greatness in itself. Recognizing your own limitations and preparing properly is something too many people fail to do when confronting their obstacles. When they are defeated, only then it is obvious which mistakes they've maken.

3. Am I detecting a sense of the absurd/humor in your version?
Of course, War is absurd, it is a hysteria that overwhelms people and rids them of their common sense. The original fable had them wearing ornate head-dresses, on mice. I think the absurdity is intended in the original fable as well.

4. I see you are working with Freitas on this story and also on a recently released Godzilla title. How do you two know each other and what’s your working process?
Erick Freitas and I work together on all our titles that we write. Usually we go over an idea together on the phone, afterwards he or I write an outline of what should happen, and Erick writes a script based on that. Then we go back and forth finessing it til it's where we want it.

We've known each other since we were 11 years old. 

5. So, what’s next for you?

Erick and I are currently writing Judge Dredd for IDW, and our anthology series Amazing Forest is being published by IDW as well. 

You will find many of your favorite authors and illustrators in Fable Comics:
Fable Comics is:
James Kochalka and ‘The Fox and the Grapes’
Tom Gauld and ‘The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse’
George O’Connor and the ‘Hermes’ fables
Sophie Goldstein and ‘Leopard Drums Up Dinner’
Charise Harper and ‘The Belly and the Body Members’
R. Sikoryak and ‘Lion + Mouse’
Jennifer L. Meyer and ‘Fox and Crow’
Eleanor Davis and ‘The Old Man and Death’
Jaime Hernandez and ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’
Simone Lia and ‘The Crow and the Pitcher’
Graham Chaffee and ‘The Dog and His Reflection’
Maris Wicks and ‘The Dolphins, The Whales, and The Sprat’
Vera Brosgol and ‘The Hare and the Pig’
Kenny Widjaja and ‘The Demon, The Thief, and the Hermit’
Corinne Mucha and ‘The Elephant in Favor’
Liniers and ‘The Mouse Council’
Mark Newgarten and ‘Man and Wart’
Israel Sanchez and ‘The Milkmaid and Her Pail’
Ulises Farinas and ‘The Great Weasel War’
R.O. Blechman and ‘The Sun and the Wind’
Graham Annable and ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’
John Kerschbaum and ‘The Grasshopper and the Ants’
Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline and ‘The Thief and the Watchdog’
Gregory Benton and ‘The Hen and the Mountain Turtle’
Roger Langridge and ‘Demades and His Fable’

SLJ Good Comics for Kids features Fable Comics editor Chris Duffy, 9/21
Charlotte’s Library features James Kochalka and ‘The Fox and the Grapes,’ 9/22
Musings of a Librarian features Tom Gauld and ‘The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,’ 9/23
Sharp Reads features George O’Connor and the ‘Hermes’ fables, 9/24
Fly to Fiction features Sophie Goldstein an ‘Leopard Drums Up Dinner,’ 9/25
Supernatural Snark features Charise Harper and ‘The Belly and the Body Members,’ 9/26
It’s All Comic to Me features R. Sikoryak and ‘Lion + Mouse,’ 9/27
Ex Libris Kate features Jennifer L. Meyer and ‘Fox and Crow,’ 9/28
The Roarbots features Eleanor Davis and ‘The Old Man and Death,’ 9/29
Fleen features Jaime Hernandez and ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf,’ 9/30
The Book Monsters features Simone Lia and ‘The Crow and the Pitcher,’ 10/1
The Brain Lair features Graham Chaffee and ‘The Dog and His Reflection,’ 10/2
Librarian in Cute Shoes features Maris Wicks and ‘The Dolphins, The Whales, and The Sprat,’ 10/3
Women Write About Comics features Vera Brosgol and ‘The Hare and the Pig,’ 10/4
The Busy Librarian features Kenny Widjaja and ‘The Demon, The Thief, and the Hermit,’ 10/5
The Book Rat features Corinne Mucha and ‘The Elephant in Favor,’ 10/6
Read. Watch. Connect features Liniers and ‘The Mouse Council,’ 10/7
Cherry Blossoms and Maple Syrup features Mark Newgarten and ‘Man and Wart,’ 10/8
Jenuine Cupcakes features Israel Sanchez and ‘The Milkmaid and Her Pail,’ 10/9
Bumbles & Fairy Tales features Ulises Farinas and ‘The Great Weasel War,’ 10/10
Graphic Policy features R.O. Blechman and ‘The Sun and the Wind,’ 10/11
The Book Wars features Graham Annable and ‘The Hare and the Tortoise,’ 10/12
Sturdy for Common Things features John Kerschbaum and ‘The Grasshopper and the Ants,’ 10/13
Kid Lit Frenzy features Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline and ‘The Thief and the Watchdog,’ 10/14
Maria’s Melange features Gregory Benton and ‘The Hen and the Mountain Turtle,’ 10/15
Read Write Reflect features Roger Langridge and ‘Demades and His Fable,’ 10/16

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Batty About Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older - Part 1

Batty About Books 
by Daniel Jose Older

Join us as we read and discuss Shadowshaper. My (@thebrainlair) comments are in blue and Maria's (@mariaselke, Maria's Melange) are in purple.

Cover Appeal
Today - pgs. 1 - 140
Saturday, August 8th - pgs. 141 - end.

First Half Discussion - I decided to look mostly at the characters in this first half. These are the things that stuck out for me as I was reading.

Sierra Santiago
Love Older’s description of his main character - her wild fro, combat boots, and sense of style. Sierra’s style extends to her murals, which I wish I could see. I can picture the huge, shiny dragon climbing the side of the Tower. Sierra alternates between knowing who she is and questioning how others see her.

“Sierra felt an invisible thread of possibility hanging between them...” 67

I identify strongly with Sierra. Even though we are culturally different. Even though her artistic skills are something I will never have. There’s something about her struggle to become herself that rings true to my own memories of adolescence.

What to think? On the one hand, he appears to be new to the scene, “..who had shown up midyear” (9) and introduced himself to Sierra at the party but later her brother, who’s always traveling,  says he always thought Robbie was weird and Robbie himself mentions working with Papa Acevedo since he was twelve. He knows about the Shadowshapers but disappears twice when Sierra needs him. Is that significant or a red herring?

Yes! I want to like Robbie. I want to cheer for him. I do like the mystery of his true motivations, though. I want to know what the resolution for this character will be. I missed the bit about him showing up mid-year, myself. That makes it even stranger that he’s claiming to have worked with Papa for so long… hmmm…

Abuelo Lazaro and Professor Wick
Hmm are they friends or enemies? Wick’s notes states he loves the power of the culture behind the shadowshapers but he also seems to want to help by getting Lucera to return. Something profound has happened to Lazaro and his moments of lucidity hold powerful clues. I expected Sierra to pay more attention to him. I have my doubts about Wick’s power because that seems too easy but I will wait to discuss them after the second half so I don’t spoil much. What really happened between Lazaro and Lucera? How does one have a disagreement with a spirit?

The bits with Wick toward the end of this section were the exact spot when my interest in the overall storyline became to intensify. I liked the characters from the start - but trying to figure out what’s going on with Wick and the creepy shadows makes me want to dive back into the book and find out what happens next.

I’m also getting more suspicious about Abuelo’s health problems. I’m wondering now if it wasn’t entirely natural..

Other characters
I want to know about Sierra’s godfather, Neville. He seemed like a cool guy who knows what’s going on. He also helped her get into Columbia’s library. What does her mother know and why doesn’t she want to speak of it? Was Lazaro hesitant to pass his gift to her because she was female? Is that why she pretends not to know anything? What role will Manny play as the story moves forward? He knows something. What families were torn apart? (75)

where lonely women go to dance
come to the crossroads, to the crossroads come
where the powers converge and become one
I’m just going to leave that right there for now.

Yes! The fact that the rest of the family clearly has information that they aren’t sharing with Sierra is intriguing. What, exactly, are they hiding? I will admit to being a bit angry with the family once I realized that BOTH of her brothers had information and NO ONE told Sierra anything. I was also quite amused with Neville’s antics in getting her into the library. I liked how he was willing to play off of the assumptions people make of him. People want to assume he’s a danger? Fine… he’ll use that. But just how dangerous is he really?

The magic is interesting. Throughout this first half, Robbie and Sierra seem to attract random shadows but Robbie mentioned using specific ones for murals. I wonder how he called them? The name Sorrows doesn’t seem Golden to me.

Agreed! That difference in terminology (Golden vs. Sorrows) is so odd. What, exactly, is going on here? Is Wick combining the spirits from different cultures? It sounded like his “Sorrows” were from a research trip that was earlier than the one he did in this city.


When I first read this part, I was confused and I felt the story was jumbled but going back to re-read, I was able to pick up so much more. I was able to get more into the story and can’t wait to read the second half as I have many questions about Shadowshaping and Robbie and how it all fits together.

Come over to our Batty About Books Facebook page and tell us what you thought of the first half of Shadowshaper. What stood out for you?

Maria has a fascinating look at the book through the windows and mirrors frame of diversity. Please stop by Maria's Melange and read her thoughts.

Affiliate Link: Shadowshaper (Amazon)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Batty About Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older - Cover Appeal

Batty About Books 
by Daniel Jose Older

Join us as we read and discuss Shadowshaper over the next two weeks.

Today, July 25th - Cover Appeal
Saturday, August 1st - pgs. 1 - 140
Saturday, August 8th - pgs. 141 - end.

Be sure to check out our Batty About Books facebook page or tweet with the hashtags #BattyAboutBooks and #Shadowshaper as you talk about the book.

Cover Appeal -  I did a quick inventory with my 19-year-old daughter, Jessica, about the cover and here are her thoughts:

  • I love it.
  • It's eye-catching,
  • Her hair looks like mine.
  • The colors draw you in and make you want to know what they mean.
  • She looks scared - her eyes are very expressive.
  • She looks like she is staring something or someone down.
  • I like her skin color - is she mixed race? (my daughter is, btw)
Like Jessica, I was drawn to this cover. I like how the city is superimposed on the main character and that she is a beautiful young lady who looks powerful but afraid. Not so much that she's afraid of someone but of her own strength instead. 

What kind of battle did she start? Does she do graffiti? I can't wait to learn more!

Check out Maria's thoughts on Maria's Melange!
We are also on Twitter - Maria (@mariaselke) and Kathy (@thebrainlair)

Happy Reading!

Affiliate Link: Shadowshaper (Amazon)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Movie Magic by Julie Mata - Guest Post and Giveaway - May 2015

Mata, Julie. Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man. Disney-Hyperion, 2015. 288p. $16.99. 9781423194606.

from Goodreads:
After her huge success with her first feature-length movie, seventh-grader Kate Walden is eager to start on her next film, a sci-fi romance called Bride of Slug Man. When a new kid comes to town from New York City, Kate thinks she might have a new found film buddy-someone to share her interest with. And it doesn't hurt that he's pretty cute. But it turns out that Tristan is making his own movie, and now the classmates Kate thought were eager to join her cast and crew are divided.

With rumors spreading in school and between sets, Kate finds herself juggling more than just call times and rewrites. And judging from the whispers Kate hears about Tristan Kingsley,she suspects that he isn't interested in having a fellow film-buff friend; he just wants to prove himself as the best filmmaker in school by winning the Big Picture Film Festival. Kate vows to enter too, and tries to focus on just making the best movie she can.

But between the cutthroat popularity contest, a bully situation that goes from bad to worse, and several on-set mishaps, Kate is going to need all the movie magic she can get to make sure Bride of Slug Man hits the big-screen

Read on to find out what Julie Mata has learned about director's tips and how she incorporated those into the Kate Walden series.

Movie Magic 


Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man

By Julie Mata

In the movie Super 8, there’s a moment when a band of kids is shooting a movie scene at a train depot late at night. Suddenly, a real train hurtles out of the darkness toward them. The director, a kid named Charles, shouts “Production Value!” and feverishly tries to film while the train is passing by. This scene makes me laugh because it’s so true. Directors will do almost anything to add extra sizzle—also known as production value—to their movies.

In Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man, twelve-year-old Kate is dying to make a science fiction movie but her best friend longs to star in a romance. In Kate’s mind, flying saucers and aliens add sizzle. Romance does not. Throughout the story, she bounces between wanting to keep her friends happy and trying to make the epic sci-fi flick of her dreams.

One of the great parts of writing about a character who makes movies is that I get to research all kinds of fun filmmaking facts. To get ideas for a flying saucer, I laughed through the epically bungling movie Plan Nine from Outer Space, which won director Ed Wood the dubious title of Worst Ever Movie Director. Ed didn’t have a budget for fancy special effects so he tied fishing line to a toy UFO and dangled it in front of the camera. In an homage to Wood, and because it’s exactly what a twelve-year-old would do (sorry, Ed), Kate gets her UFO shots the same way.

Kate even uses a technique called forced perspective to make her flying saucer look life size. It’s all about putting small objects close to the camera lens to make them look huge, and placing people far off in the distance to make them look small. Kate feels pretty pro when she learns that Steven Spielberg used the same technique in Close Encounters of the Third Kind to make a model ship tanker look real. (And I felt pretty pro writing about it.)

Of course, some of the lessons Kate learns can’t be found in a moviemaking how-to manual. She learns the hard way that you don’t have to be a big-time Hollywood director to end up with a big-time Hollywood ego. She also struggles with bullies, friendship dramas, and wardrobe malfunctions while trying to finish her movie.

Writing about Kate has allowed me to combine two of my passions—moviemaking and writing. I’m no Spielberg but I did write and direct a short film once called Bus Driver. You can check it out on YouTube but be warned, it doesn’t have cool flying saucers or alien creatures from Mars. I guess I was out-sizzled by my own MC.

About the Author

Julie Mata grew up outside Chicago and currently lives in Wisconsin, where she owns a video production business with her husband.. She loves movies and once wrote and directed her own short film. She also loves traveling, gardening, and reading a really good book. Her first book was Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens. For more information, including a downloadable curriculum guide and a filmmaking tip of the month, visit her website:

Find Julie on Twitter: @juliehmata

Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man - Book Trailer

Find more Kate Walden videos on her YouTube Channel! 

You can receive a copy of BOTH Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens and Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man! US Only. One entry per person/email. Ends 6/4/15 11:59 pm.

Stops on the Blog Tour

Monday, May 18
Wed. May 20
Once Upon a Story
Thurs, May 21
Read Now, Sleep Later
Fri, May 22
Curling Up with a Good Book
Tues, May 26
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Wed, May 27
BookHounds YA
Thurs, May 28
The Brain Lair
Fri, May 29
Kid Lit Frenzy


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