Monday, January 31, 2011

Retro Book of the Week: The Pigman

The Pigman
by Paul Zindel

The Pigman is one of our protected and required books for seventh grade, so I figure that it is worth a mention as a retro book of the week. This is the story of Lorraine and John, two bored teenagers with unpleasant home lives. One day, while making prank phone calls posing as a fake charity organization asking for donations, John and Lorraine meet Mr. Angelo Pignati. The two quickly become friends with Mr. Pignati, and they begin spending most of their free time at his house. Mr. Pignati becomes a father figured to John and Lorraine, and he enjoys the youthful, carefree times that the trio spends together.

However, The Pigman is, overall, a dark novel. It is a novel about loneliness, grief, pain, deceit, and betrayal. Perhaps these themes are the reason why students today can still identify with the the characters in the novel more than forty years after it was written. Many of Paul Zindel's "retro" books remain popular today. In fact, Zindel was the winner of the ALA's 2002 Margaret A. Edwards award, which "honors an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature."

I have read The Pigman with seventh grade students, and I can say from first hand experience that this is a great choice for bringing thought-provoking discussion and real emotions to the classroom. We have both individual copies and class sets available, as well as teaching guides and an audio recording. Check it out today @your library!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Today in the Media Center

Today we are teaching Mrs. Corlette's 6th grade students all about MLA citations! We will learn about intellectual property, and that it is possible to steal ideas from people. Then we will learn how to use information in a way that respects the creator of the information.

Essential Question: Why must we cite sources that we use to find information?

Key Vocabulary: source, citation, publisher, bibliography

By the time Mrs. Corlette's student's leave the media center today, they will know why and how to cite sources of information. They will learn the five things we need to know in order to do a citation (title, author, publisher, place of publication, and date) and the three places on a book where we can find those things. It's going to be a busy day here in the media center!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This Just In...

Pictures of Hollis Woods
by Patricia Reilly Giff

25 paperbacks (with Kapco plastic covers)
1 CD
Reading Level: 6.4
Interest Level: 5-8

"Drawing is what you see of the world, truly see."

Hollis Woods is a foster child taken in by a retired art teacher, Josie. The story weaves together the stories of Hollis's growing affecting for her new caregiver and the pictures she draws of her fond memories with her previous foster family, the Regans.

Pictures of Hollis Woods was a Newberry Honor book in 2003, and was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie in 2007. Check it out today @ your library.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Retro Book of the Week: How To Speak Politely and Why

How To Speak Politely and Why
By Munro Leaf

This book goes beyond retro. It's vintage. 1934, to be exact. Even though it is a children's book, How to Speak Politely and Why is a good book to read with middle school students. It covers the basics of being polite, such as a saying "please" and "may I." However, the book also covers good grammar. Children are taught how to use verb tenses and adverbs, and how to avoid double negatives. Munro has crafted a clever and cute book that teachers grammar in a non-threatening way.

Though students would likely not be interested in checking this book out on their own, it could be a great teaching tool. Students could create similar pages for grammar rules that they learn, or a class could compile their own kid-friendly set of grammar rules. They could also do this digitally, using a Prezi or a PhotoStory presentation. We have many books on grammar, as well as children's books, that are available for teachers to use in lesson plans -- check one out today @ your library!

[Retro Book of the Week celebrates the oldies-but-goodies in our media center. Books with faded covers can still have modern appeal! Sometimes I just want to celebrate the books that have influenced YA literature and my literary past, and sometimes I want to give new life to timeless classics. These features will be heavy on books from the 80's and 90's.]

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Are You A Nerdfighter?

What is a Nerdfighter, you ask? Well, here are some definitions from around the web:
 "We're Nerdfighters. We fight against suck....we fight for awesome. We fight using our brains, our hearts, our calculators and our trombones."
"Nerdfighters are not composed of cells and tissue, but instead made entirely of awesome."
"Nerdfighters are about raising money and awareness for important causes. Nerdfighters are about building a supportive community of friends...  Nerdfighters are about stupid beautiful projects and making each other laugh and think with t-shirts and pocket protectors and rants about the situation in Pakistan which sucks right now. In the contemporary world where things fall apart and the center can not hold you have to imagine a community where there is no center... A lot of life is about doing things that don’t suck with people who don’t suck.”

Nerdfighters is a community created by authors (and brothers) John Green and Hank Green. They have an amazing website that explains what it is to be a Nerdfighter, in all its many forms. John and Hank celebrate nerds, awesomeness, and decreasing WorldSuck. Basically this means that they want young people to celebrate being who they are, and they encourage people to actively work to make the world a better place.

Nerdfighters celebrate great things like Harry Potter, LOLcats, intellectual freedom, gaming, activism, humor, nostalgia, Web 2.0, and music (of all kinds). Librarians, readers, students, teachers, and authors are all joining the Nerdfighter force. Are you a Nerdfighter?

If you are interested in Nerdfighter lit, check out books by John Green, David Levithan, and Maureen Johnson...and of couse, you must read Geektastics: Stories from the Nerd Herd (featuring short stories by these three authors and many more!). Check these out and more @ your library! DFTBA*!

(*Don't Forget To Be Awesome!)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Retro Book of the Week: Dicey's Song

Dicey's Song
by Cynthia Voigt

Dicey's Song is a good study in how book covers have changed over the past thirty years. I've included the covers from the 1982 First Edition, 1984, 1990, and 2002. If you look at the 1982 and 1984 covers, these are typical 80's books covers: realistic drawings done in dull colors. The 90's cover tells us absolutely nothing of what the book is about, and in fact is the least circulated edition in our collection. The 2002 cover is the most circulated, likely because it follows the more modern trend of using photographs on the book cover. But looking at any of these covers, would you really be able to tell what this book is about?

Dicey's Song won the Newberry Award in 1983, and it is actually a pretty popular story with our students that actually pick the book up and read it. It was on the Battle of the Books list last year, and I had many students tell me how surprised they were that it was such a good book. This is the second novel in the Tillerman Cycle, a series of seven books about the four Tillerman children who are abandoned in a parking lot by their mother. In this book, Dicey and her siblings, James, Maybeth, and Sammy, are living with their Gram and attempting to adjust to normal life on their grandmother's very slim budget.
The Tillerman Cycle was a very popular series in the 80's an 90's, and we still have multiple copies of all the books on our shelf here in the library, including a class set of Dicey's Song. The books in the series include:

  • Homecoming (1981)

  • Dicey's Song (1982)

  • A Solitary Blue (1983)

  • The Runner (1985)

  • Come a Stranger (1986)

  • Sons from Afar (1987)

  • Seventeen Against the Dealer (1989) 

  •   [Retro Book of the Week celebrates the oldies-but-goodies in our media center. Books with faded covers can still have modern appeal! Sometimes I just want to celebrate the books that have influenced YA literature and my literary past, and sometimes I want to give new life to timeless classics. These features will be heavy on books from the 80's and 90's.]

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    The Mysterious Benedict Society

    The Mysterious Benedict Society
    by Trenton Lee Stewart

    This is one of those books that I read and immediately wondered why it hasn't been made into a movie. Though it is a very long book (524 pages), I can't imagine why Hollywood hasn't edited it down into a fun kids movie. After all, this is a book about kids working under cover as spies to save the world from an evil genius!

    Our hero in the novel is an eleven-year-old orphan named Reynie Muldoon. Reynie participates in a special test for children with special gifts, and finds out that he has been selected as a member of a The Mysterious Benedict Society. The Society is made up of four children, each selected because of his or her special gifts. Reynie is skilled in logic, and he can think outside of the box to figure his way out of any situation. Stickey Washington is a genius with a photographic memory. Kate Wetherall is my favorite: she's a tough girl who carries a bucket filled with tools that she uses, MacGyver-style, to get things done. And, finally, Constance Contraire is a tiny, stubborn girl with a set of skills that are not revealed until the end of the book.

    The Mysterious Benedict Society is sent to the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, which is run by the evil, narcoleptic Ledroptha Curtain. Using logic, resourcefulness, and pure smarts they must stop Mr. Curtain from taking over the whole world using messages sent through television and radio signals. This book is perfect for upper elementary and middle school students because it is filled with puzzles and problems that readers can solve right along with the characters. The writing style and tone are similar to that of Roald Dahl, the spy action is reminiscent of the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, and kids who like the art puzzles in Blue Balliet's books Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, and The Calder Game will love the puzzles in this book. The Mysterious Benedict Society is highly recommended, and we are fortunate to have five copies of this book on the shelf because it is a Battle of the Books title for this year. Check it out today @ your library!

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    ALA Youth Media Award Winners for 2011

    The Newberry and Printz Award winners were announced this week while we were out for the snow. Here they are:
    Newberry Award (for outstanding contributions to children's literature)
    Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

    Newberry Honor Books
    Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
    Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
    Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman
    One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

    Printz Award (for excellence in literature written for young adults)
    Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

    Printz Honor Books
    Stolen by Lucy Christopher
    Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
    Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
    Nothing by Janne Teller

    Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award (for books of merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experience)
    Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

    Stonewall Honor Books
    will grayson, will grayson by John Green and David Levithan and
    Love Drugged by James Klise
    Freaks and Revelations by Davida Willis Hurwin
    The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams

    William C. Morris Award (for book published by a first-time author writing for teens)
    The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston

    Margaret A. Edwards Award (for an author who's body of work has made a significant contribution to young adult literature

     Sir Terry Pratchett

    Coretta Scott King Author Award (recognizing an African American author of outstanding books for children and young adults)
    One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

    Corette Scott King Author Honor Books
    Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
    Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
    Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Retro Book of the Week: Real Ghosts!

    Real Ghosts
    by Daniel Cohen

    This gem was found in our non-fiction section (130's: Paranormal Phenomena). Each chapter discusses different types of real ghosts, including ghosts captured on film, historical ghosts, and exorcisms. Cohen writes for an upper-elementary audience, so he explains in the first chapter: "This does not mean all of the ghostly events described in this book are true, or that they actually happened just the way they are described. It means that the stories are supposed to be true, and at one time a lot of people believed them. People still believe some of them." Cohen goes on to explain that many ghost stories come from people making mistakes about what they see and sometimes from people lying to get attention.

    Though this book has been in our library for around thirty years, it is still checked out by students. Ghost stories and scary stories are very popular, no matter which section of the library they are shelved in (fiction, short stories, or non-fiction). However, I am sad to say that this book will have to be retired. Just flipping through it to read a chapter resulted in pages falling out, plus the corners are completely worn and it smells kind of funky. Sometimes retro books just have to go. Don't fret! We have plenty more scary stories, both "real" and fiction -- check one out today @ your library.

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    What I'm Reading This Weekend

    by Ally Condie

    This is a young adult dystopian favorite genre! I read the free sample on the Nook and it sounds really good. It's about a girl in a future society where the government makes all of the decisions for people (sort of like in The Giver), including who they are "matched" with to marry. However, the main character, Cassia, is mysteriously matched with two boys -- does that mean the government made a mistake?

    The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
    by Stieg Larson

    I've had this book recommended to me almost ten times, so I guess it's time to buckle down and read it. From what I've gathered it's a sort of action-packed detective-type novel that is very, very Swedish and very, very hard to explain. I guess I'm in for either a trip or a treat.

     The Seeker's Guide to Harry Potter
    by Geo Athena Trevarten, PhD

    Another look at the symbolism and themes in the series.

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    52 Book Challenge

    Last year I made a goal to read 50 books, and I completed it. This year I'm going to read 52, and 20 of those are "required" reading (I made a list of books that I MUST read because I already own them and they've been hanging around my house for too long!). I've done quite well so far in the new year -- I've already completed two books. For a change of pace, these are both adult books, one fiction and one non-fiction:

    1.) The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter
     by David Colbert
    Because I'm a big ole Harry Potter nerd (at least right now, after reading and watching the seventh book). This book was really cool because it explains the folklore and mythology behind the Harry Potter series. JK Rowling has a background in the study of literature, so her choices to use names, symbols, and archetypes were deliberate. I enjoyed learning more about how these stories all fit together in the series.
    2.) Room
    by Emma Donoghue
    Though Room is told through the eyes of a five-year-old boy, it is not a children's story. Jack has lived in Room his entire life with his Ma, and Room is the only world he knows. Ma has been locked in Room for seven years by Old Nick, who is their only connect to the world outside. This is a dark and troubling book, but very well written. Jack's narrative is believable and realistic. I have a hard time saying I enjoyed this book, as it tells about terrible crimes that no one should experience, but I give it five stars because I couldn't put it down.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I

    I finally finished my rereading of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows over the Christmas break. I had to reread the book before watching the movie verision, which was released in theaters over Thanksgiving. I should have been on the ball about this earlier, so I know my posting about the movie is a bit late. But it's better late than never, right?

    In my opinion, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 is the best movie adaptation of the books yet. Some people were upset that the producers decided to split the book into two parts, but I think this was the right decision. Very few scenes were left out, so avid fans can see all of their favorite parts. Yes, as always there were a few changes in the movie -- however, most of these were for good reason and didn't take anything away from the overall effect. And the overall effect was amazing! The dark tone of the book and the anticipation of the final battle between Voldemort and Harry Potter translated brilliantly.

    Two scenes from the movie were done particularly well. In the opening scene, Hermione performs the obliviate spell on her parents as she prepares to leave on her journey with Harry. The music, scored by Alexandre Desplat (who also wrote the music for Twilight: New Moon) is dramatic, painful, and also shows the urgency of their situation. The scene is perhaps the best and most emotional of the entire series.

    The other scene that really stood out was the scene where Harry and Hermione danced in their tent. Hermione is in love with Ron, who has returned home because he is frustrated with the lack of progress or direction in the trio's quest. Hermione is heartbroken, so Harry pulls Hermione out of her chair and tries to cheer her up with a dance. The music, O Children by Nick Cave, is both haunting and wonderful. It's so nice to see the deep level of platonic love that these two have for each other, and it was one of the sweetest and most touching scenes of the series...even if it wasn't actually in the book!

    The seventh Harry Potter movie reminds us all the end is near. After ten years of films and fourteeen years after the publication of the first book, the series is about to come to a close for good. My generation grew up with these books, and seeing the final installment on the big screen is bittersweet. However, it's not over yet! Part 2 comes out on July 15, 2011. In contrast to Part 1, where the trio spend most of their time pondering and hiding, Part 2 promises epic battles and showdowns to end the series. July cannot come quickly enough, I just hope that Part 2 is as good at Part 1!

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    January's Featured Books: Realistic Fiction

    January is Realistic Fiction month in the media center. We've got all kinds of good stuff on display, from Bluford High to Orca books and lots more. Friendship, bullies, sports, drama, the effects of drug abuse, death, divorce, love, school, gangs, and growing up are all popular topics in realistic fiction. If you like books about modern kids and the conflicts of day to day life, realistic fiction is your genre! Check one out today @ your library!

    Retro Book of the Week

    Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective
    by Donald J. Sobol

    Leroy Brown, nicknamed "Encyclopedia" by his friends and teachers, is just your average ten-year-old. Well, a ten-year-old operating a private detective agency and ridding a community of all crime using his clever skills of observation. Encyclopedia's father is the chief detective of the town of Idaville, and his toughest crimes are solved by his son at the dinner table. Encyclopedia charges 25 cents per day (plus expenses) for anyone seeking to hire the boy detective. Idaville is one safe place to live: "For nearly a whole year, no criminal had escaped arrest and no boy or girl had gotten away with breaking a single law in Idaville." Wow, this Encyclopedia kid practically has super powers. And he's only 10!

    These books are particularly memorable because they are the kids-friendly option in the popular two-minute mystery genre. Boy Detective is the first book in a whole series of Encyclopedia Brown books. The book features ten short mysteries, with each story containing all the clues that children will need to solve the mystery on their own. Answers are found in the back of the book so readers can check to see if they have solved the crime along with Encyclopedia Brown. Reading these books as a kid (I had my mother's copies from the 60's ) I felt really smart. As an adult I just have to wonder how the adults in the stories could be so dumb!

    The Encyclopedia Brown series has twenty-six books and ten related books about wacky facts/trivia. The first book was published in 1963, and the series has been republished and repackaged many times over. The latest cover has been updated for the 21st century with a photograph cover. Our library has paperbacks with the covers from the 80's. These are great stories for reluctant readers, male and female, and I remind kids that even Diary of a Wimpy Kid's Greg Heffley reads (and loves) Encyclopedia Brown! Check out a copy today @ your library!

    [Retro Book of the Week celebrates the oldies-but-goodies in our media center. Books with faded covers can still have modern appeal! Sometimes I just want to celebrate the books that have influenced YA literature and my literary past, and sometimes I want to give new life to timeless classics. These features will be heavy on books from the 80's and 90's.]