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1. You! Yes, YOU could run for YALSA office.

Do you have a passion for the future of teens services in libraries? Are you looking for ways to give back to the profession and to YALSA? Do you want to effect change, build new skills, and develop a killer resume in the process? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to seriously consider running for an elected position!
Over the course of the next seven months, the 2016 Governance Nominating Committee and I will be working towards developing a diverse slate of members to run for several Board positions including Director at-large, Secretary, and President. Successful candidates will run for election in the Spring of 2016 and begin their terms during YALSA’s Board III meeting at the Annual 2016 conference in Orlando.
For more information on the role of responsibilities of YALSA’s Board, please visit the Governance page which includes some handy FAQs to help get you started. There’s also a series of interviews and podcasts from past Board members in a series on this blog called “Life on the YALSA Board.”

As you ponder and check out these resources, please feel free to also connect with me anytime at shannon.peterson@gmail.com. I’ll also be at the Midwinter and Annual ALA Meetings if you’d like to schedule time for an in-person chat.

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2. Aim Higher: Know Students as Writers

Four ways to help you discover what makes your students tick as writers.

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3. Blog Tour: Ares, Bringer of War, by George O'Connor (ages 9-14)

Today I'm celebrating the release of Ares: Bringer of War, the latest graphic novel by George O'Connor in his outstanding Olympians series. This entire series is terrific and very popular with my students. They're going to be thrilled to see this newest installment.
Ares: Bringer of War
Olympians, book 7
by George O'Connor
First Second, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-14
The mighty Ares is the Greek god of war, consumed by rage, hate and vengeance. His war is destructive, frenzied and maniacal. And as O'Connor clearly shows, you can only really understand Ares in contrast to his half-sister Athena, goddess of the strategic, logical side of war.

O'Connor brings readers right into the middle of the Trojan War, using the Iliad to frame his portrait of Ares. We enter the scene ten years into the war, as the Greeks and Trojans are mired down in the conflict. As Zeus proclaims,
"The cost has been high for both sides. But much that is fated to occur has not happened yet. We may need to take a more active hand."
But the gods incessantly argue and take sides, playing the mortals against one another like a chess game. As O'Connor shows, Ares is blood-thirsty, but he is also loyal and determined, and he truly mourns the loss of his son in the end. Readers will be amazed by the artwork, but also by the complicated interactions between all the gods.

Ares: Bringer of War feels even more complex than previous Olympians books because there is one whole story arc, involving gods and mortals. Previous books seemed more episodic to me, so easier to digest in smaller chunks.

Complicated? Yes, but I've been drawn back to this graphic novel again and again, reading it perhaps four times this week. With each reading, my understanding grows--and I've watched the same thing happen with my students. They read the same graphic novel over and over, noticing more details each time, understanding the characters more fully with repeated readings.

For other stops on the Blog Tour, check out MacTeenBooks. Definitely suggest The Olympians website as a resource for fans -- it's full of information on the gods and O'Connor's research, as well as links and activities.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, First Second Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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4. App of the Week: Adventure Time Game Wizard

Name: Adventure Time Game Wizard
Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: $4.99    atgw3

Fans of Cartoon Network's Adventure Time series can choose any number of games from just about any app store in order to continue their adventures in the Land of Ooo, but the show's latest app, Game Wizard, gives players the power to design levels of game play as well.

At it's core, Game Wizard is a typical 2D sidescroller game that follows favorite characters from the show as they collect coins, battle villains with their awesome swordplay, and jump from level to level.

atgw1

 

However, the magic truly happens when players exhaust the pre-installed levels and turn to the Create mode.  The app walks creators through downloading and printing a tutorial kit and basic grid paper to get started, at which time they use the provided design vocabulary (plus signs for coins, wavy lines for moving blocks, etc.) and a ruler (or steady hand) to draw their game levels.

adgw2

These pages can then be scanned into the app using the device's camera where they can be easily edited and multiple pages can be stitched together.  The new levels can then be shared with the public for others to play.

While Game Wizard is technically aimed at kids and tweens, the game design aspect and continued popularity of the show with teens makes it a fun addition to any library's STEAM programming.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog's App of the Week Archive.

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5. BoB

I went away.  Internet was expensive and spotty.   I am back.

So, it seems, is Battle of the Kids Books.   Here are this year's contenders.  I have only read FOUR of them.  Oh MY!  I must get some eye drops and those clips that keep your eyes open and hire a house minder so that I can read, read, read.

What I Read While I Was Away:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - best book of the batch!
Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones - so good, sigh!
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud - can NOT wait for the next book in this outstandingly fun and creepy series

Three adult mysteries - one set in Singapore (Aunty Lee's Delights), another featuring crossword puzzles (The Crossworder's Delight) and a short story starring Hercule Poirot.  All a lot of fun.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel - surprisingly good and suspenseful

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp - galloping adventure

I started The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett.  Not quite done with it yet.  Considering that the first version was written - and published - when Sir Terry was 17, it's pretty darn good.  I am, I confess, a Pratchett fan.

Still in pjs - retirement is awesome! - now I must get moving or the day will be done before I know it.


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6. Happy Puzzle Day!

The word is out...

Our next installment in The Poetry Friday Anthology series will be published in March! And to whet your appetite for The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, here is the poem for January 29 (today!):

And here are the Take 5! activities that accompany this poem:
Sample puzzle from National Geographic.com/games
1. Hold up a single piece from a (jigsaw) puzzle and ask children to guess what it is from. Then read this poem aloud slowly.
2. Invite everyone to join in on the final line (“a puzzling scene”) while you read the poem aloud again.
3. Just for fun, work together to complete an online jigsaw puzzle. One source: NationalGeographic.com/games/photo-puzzle-jigsaw/
4. Pair this poem with this picture book: Hide-and-Seek Science: Animal Camouflage (Holiday House, 2013) by Emma Stevenson, and guide children in finding the hidden animals within each ecosystem to celebrate National Puzzle Day.
5. For another poem about 100 things, look for the poem “My 100th Day Collection” by Betsy Franco (mid-January to mid-February, pages 38-39) and for riddle and puzzle poems, check out Kindergarten Kids: Riddles, Rebuses, Wiggles, Giggles, and More! by Stephanie Calmenson (HarperCollins, 2005).

In a nutshell, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations offers:
  • 156 new, unpublished poems by 115 poets
  • poems tied to holidays, celebrations, historic events, and wacky occasions across the calendar year
  • all the poems in both English and Spanish
  • Take 5! activities for sharing every poem with children
  • every poem paired with a picture book to read aloud for a story time or lesson plan
  • skill connections (for CCSS, TEKS, and NCSS)
  • poems appropriate for children preK-5 (and beyond)

Pre-order your copy today here. And for more info go here.


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7. Case of the Velvet Claws (1933)

The Case of the Velvet Claws. (Perry Mason #1) Erle Stanley Gardner. 1933. Random House. 215 pages. [Source: Bought]

AUTUMN SUN BEAT AGAINST THE WINDOW. Perry Mason sat at the big desk. There was about him the attitude of one who is waiting. His face in repose was like the face of a chess player who is studying the board. That face seldom changed expression. Only the eyes changed expression. He gave the impression of being a thinker and a fighter, a man who could work with infinite patience to jockey an adversary into just the right position, and then finish him with one terrific punch.

The Case of the Velvet Claws is the first book in the Perry Mason series by Erle Stanley Gardner. Though it is unlikely that contemporary readers will be unfamiliar with Perry Mason, Paul Drake, and Della Street, this would have been their introduction to the world. There are plenty of establishing details and descriptions about these characters. Especially Perry Mason.

The book opens with a mystery woman seeking Perry Mason's help. She's married, and she was out on the town with another guy. This 'other guy,' whom she claims is just a friend, is a politician, a Congressman, I believe. They were together--at a club, at a restaurant?--when a crime was committed. Neither wants to be known as being there, being a witness, both are seeking to avoid all attention. But she fears that blackmail is certain, almost inevitable. She wants Perry Mason to handle it for her, for them both. The blackmail will come/does come from a tabloid-ish publication with a mystery-secret-owner. It is only after Perry Mason involves himself thus far, that he realizes that this owner is the husband of his client. Murder is inevitable. It is a Perry Mason book, after all. Who will be the victim? Who will be accused? How messy will it get?

I loved this one. I really loved it. It has a very different feel to it in a way. Most of the Perry Mason novels I've read were published a decade or two later. And, of course, I'm most familiar with the television show.

Quotes:
Perry Mason continued to speak, slowly and forcefully, yet without raising his voice. “All right,” he said, “I’m different. I get my business because I fight for it, and because I fight for my clients. People that come to me don’t come to me because they like the looks of my eyes, or the way my office is furnished, or because they’ve known me at a club. They come to me because they need me. They come to me because they want to hire me for what I can do.”
Perry Mason made a gesture with his shoulders. “Why should I care if she makes it easy for me?” he asked. “She’s the one that’s paying for my time. Time is all I’m investing.” Della Street said, slowly: “Are you sure that time is all you’re investing?” “Why not?” “I don’t know,” she said, “the woman’s dangerous. She is just the kind of a little minx who would get you into some sort of a jam and leave you to take it, right on the button.” His face didn’t change expression, but his eyes glinted. “That’s one of the chances I have to take,” he told her. “I can’t expect my clients to be loyal to me. They pay me money. That’s all.” She stared at him with a speculative look that held something of a wistful tenderness. “But you insist on being loyal to your clients, no matter how rotten they are.” “Of course,” he told her. “That’s my duty.”
“To your profession?” “No,” he said slowly, “to myself. I’m a paid gladiator. I fight for my clients. Most clients aren’t square shooters. That’s why they’re clients. They’ve got themselves into trouble. It’s up to me to get them out. I have to shoot square with them. I can’t always expect them to shoot square with me.” “It isn’t fair!” she blazed. “Of course not,” he smiled. “It’s business.”
“When you’re representing clients, Della,” he said, “you can’t pick and choose them. You’ve got to take them as they come. There’s only one rule in this game, and that is that when you do take them, you’ve got to give them all you’ve got.”

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Snow big deal?

Well, yesterday's snow storm got us a day off from school, but the forecast promised us that it would be;

"A Storm of Historic Proportions."

Sure, we got quite a lot of white fluffiness sprinkled across our lawns, but in the end, and for
New York City, history will not remember "Winter Storm Juno" as one for the books.


Average snowfall around the country, and the world for that matter, varies.  However, you might  want to read about a really crazy storm that hit New York City.  A storm of historic proportions?  One for the books?




This is the book for you!  Jim Murphy's Blizzard!, is a true account of a real storm that hit Manhattan in March of 1888.  Now, please remember, here was a time when there were snow giant plows, no snow blowers, no trucks equipped with salt for the roads.  Weather forecasting was not anywhere near the science it is today.  In other words, no one saw this coming.  So how bad was it?


It snowed for 36 hours, and while the general accumulation of snow hit about 30 inches (a little under an inch an hour) some of the snow drifts hit as high as 50 inches!  Can you imagine what that looked like?



Here are a few pictures to help you out.        
-Miss Jessikah                                                                           
Snow drifts reached close to 50 inches!
The Snow Fell for about 36 hours!
 That means, almost an inch of snow fell each hour that the storm raged on!


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9. Science Fair Season

Do you remember Science Fair time? Was it a fun time or a stressful time for you? When I was a student, we had the option of doing a science fair project or a social studies project. While I remember some parts were fun (my social studies fair project on Helen Keller was an educational highlight for me), finding ideas for science fair projects was always rather daunting. I didn’t really enjoy science experiments or activities until I learned more about the importance of STEM education and put together science experiment programs at my library.  Thankfully, there is an amazing amount of fabulous science experiment books that should help both students and adults discover the fun aspects of science:

481868_cover.indd

(image from Wiley)

If I ever get to San Francisco, visiting The Exploratorium is tops on my “must do” list. Until then, I’ll have to be satisfied with their awesome books and website.  The Exploratorium Science Snackbook features modified versions (“snacks”) of their exhibits. If you’ve ever opened up a science experiments book and groaned at the very specific materials needed for experiments, fear not. All experiments feature easily obtained materials. Best of all, scientific principles behind the experiments are carefully explained. Each lesson plan includes  advice, tips and time estimates.

vancleave

(image from Wiley)

Anyone in need of easy science experiments definitely needs to be familiar with Janice VanCleave’s vast library of science experiments. Janice VanCleave’s Guide to the Best Science Fair Projects  not only includes detailed instructions for engaging experiments (everything from astronomy to zoology!), but offers points on the scientific method and the ins and outs of research. If you need experiments for very young students (kindergarten and such), check out her Play-and-Learn series.

 

wedareyou

 

(image from Skyhorse)

For fun and creative science experiments that anyone can do with easily obtained materials, Vicki Cobb’s books will provide a vast amount of inspiration and knowledge. We Dare You!  explores geometry, physics, and many other fields of science with fun (and sometimes funny!) science activities. “Insider Information” explains the scientific activity in each experiment.

Do you have any favorite authors or titles of science experiment books? Talk about it in the comments.

The post Science Fair Season appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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10. Storytelling

Skip over to the Storytelling Page for news of our Winter events!!!

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11. My Thoughts: Biggest Flirts & Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols

4 soft snickerdoodles (for both books)

Cover Love:
Yes, I love the flirty style of both of these covers.

Why I Wanted to Read These:
I love Jennifer Echols and contemporary romances.  How could these be wrong?  Here are the synopsis for each book


Tia and Will’s lives get flipped upside down when they’re voted Yearbook’s Biggest Flirts in this sassy novel from the author of Endless Summer and The One That I Want.

Tia just wants to have fun. She’s worked hard to earn her reputation as the life of the party, and she’s ready for a carefree senior year of hanging out with friends and hooking up with cute boys. And her first order of business? New guy Will. She can’t get enough of his Midwestern accent and laid back swagger.

As the sparks start to fly, Will wants to get serious. Tia’s seen how caring too much has left her sisters heartbroken, and she isn’t interested in commitment. But pushing Will away drives him into the arms of another girl. Tia tells herself it’s no big deal…until the yearbook elections are announced. Getting voted Biggest Flirts with Will is, well, awkward. They may just be friends, but their chemistry is beginning to jeopardize Will’s new relationship—and causing Tia to reconsider her true feelings. What started as a lighthearted fling is about to get very complicated.



As yearbook photographer, Harper is responsible for capturing those candid moments that make high school memorable. But her own life is anything but picture perfect. Her parents' bitter divorce has left her wondering what a loving relationship would look like. And ever since the senior class voted her and star quarterback Brody the “Perfect Couple That Never Was,” her friends have been on her case to ask Brody out.

Brody doesn’t lack in female admirers, but Harper can't see herself with him. He seems confused about why they were matched together, too. They’re total opposites—the last people in the world who would ever be compatible, let alone the “perfect couple.” Yet ever since the class paired the two of them, they've found themselves drawn together--first by curiosity, then by an undeniable bond.

The trouble is, though they're very attracted to each other and both of them admit this, they have a hard time getting along or even communicating clearly. If they’re the perfect couple, this shouldn’t be so difficult! Soon it becomes clear their class was wrong, and they throw in the towel. But after they walk away, both of them feel so changed from making the effort that they can’t forget each other. What if that means this match made in hell is the perfect couple after all?
Romance?: Of Course!

My Thoughts:
First off, I don't like either of these summaries because it gives so much away.  These have all the same earmarks of contemporary romances--misunderstandings, listening to rumors over your own instincts and heart, flirting and experimenting.   But they have one more thing that helps so much, Jennifer Echols is great at writing chemistry.  You can't help but root for both of these couples to get together!

I took a longer time getting into Biggest Flirts because I didn't like Tia in the beginning at all.  It was hard for me to root for her to get with Will because she shirked from everything. I understand her reasoning for not wanting to get close to boys, but for someone who so desperately didn't want to follow in her sisters' footsteps, she was really irresponsible.  I would've expected her to be way more straight edged, kind of like Harper.

I really liked Will and did root for Tia to calm herself down enough to see the good in front of her.  And I adored Harper and Brody, all the way through.

Kind of off topic: When I was in high school we didn't do superlatives, however, I am not sure I would've won anything.  They do them now and next year my son will be a senior and I gotta say, I kind of want him and his girlfriend (if they are still a thing next fall) to win cutest couple.  They are so darling together!

Anyway, these are two sweet books, romantic but typical.  Getting close, misunderstandings, not listening enough to your own heart and listening too much to other people, but with good endings.  Not anything too out of the ordinary, except the chemistry.  And that is enough to keep me going!

To Sum Up:  Just a bit mature for my middle school library, however, I could see many 8th grade girls getting into them.  Love these kind of romances!

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12. Station Eleven (2014)

Station Eleven. Emily St. John Mandel. 2014. Knopf Doubleday. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

The King stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored. This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. 

Did I love Station Eleven? Yes. Did I love, love, love it? I'm almost sure of it. Only rereading it a year or so from now will answer that question definitively. But regardless of if it was love or LOVE, Station Eleven is a fascinating, absorbing read. It isn't exactly chronological in its storytelling, yet, I found it easy enough to follow. Its storytelling--the form of it, almost reminds me of LOST. It tells both the story of civilization's collapse and civilization's rebuilding. Readers meet a handful of characters then and now.

The "then" sections perhaps center around the character of Arthur Leander, an actor, a celebrity. Chapters focus in on significant, dramatic moments of his life. Not necessarily in chronological order. And not always from his point of view. Readers meet two of his three ex-wives, his son, his (former) best friend, his lawyer, etc. The novel actually opens with Arthur's death on stage. One young witness to his death is a young girl, Kirsten. Another is a former paparazzi turned paramedic.

The "now" sections center on the Traveling Symphony. Kirsten is one of the actors/performers in The Traveling Symphony. The group travels--horses pulling trucks, I believe--from place to place (town to town) performing. They perform music. They perform Shakespeare.

As I said, the focus is on the collapse of society and civilization. What life might be like if 98% of the population died from a terrible plague/disease within a few weeks. In this book, it's the "Georgian flu." What would life be like without modern conveniences--gas and fuel, electricity, telephones, television, internet, etc.

The book is beautifully written. I liked the world-building. I especially liked Miranda's creation of the graphic novels Station Eleven. I liked what little description we get of Dr. Eleven and his situation. I wouldn't have minded more. It actually would be a graphic novel that I'd want to read if it existed. I liked what the two graphic novels meant to Kirsten.

I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Review: Ida M. tarbell

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business--and Won! by Emily Arnold McCully. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Library copy.

It's About: Ida M. Tarbell, born in 1857, who became one of the first American journalist and also helped found investigative journalism. Her noteworthy articles included a biography of Abraham Lincoln, and an expose of John D. Rockefeller and his company, Standard Oil Trust.

The Good: I really enjoyed learning about Ida M. Tarbell, whose name seemed vaguely familiar from history class.

I was impressed with Ida's many accomplishments and the things she did -- starting with her love of the sciences, attending a co-educational college, her start in journalism, traveling to Paris, freelancing, and then joining the staff of McClure's Magazine, where she wrote her most memorable articles.

One of the things that struck me is how matter of fact it was, how "of course this is what Ida is going to do" it was. While Ida was a pioneer, her story is also a reminder that her life, while not typical of the time, was also just that -- her life. She, with other women, did go to college. She, as others did, created a career, lived away from her family, traveled to Paris, working, having her own home.

I confess: that part of Ida's life, the pre-McClure part, fascinated me the most. I wanted to know more about those things, and those people in her life.

Of course, then, there is Ida's actual journalism, a career she came to sort of sideways. She began loving science, thought she'd be a teacher, and found herself working as an editor at a magazine. It wasn't until her early thirties and her trip to Paris that her work as a journalist really began. So, you can see all the reasons I kept turning the pages -- here, a women in the nineteenth century, having multiple careers. Pursuing her dreams. Living her life on her terms.

One cannot make generalizations about people: for all of Ida's accomplishments, which resulted from drive and determination, she had what seems to be mixed feelings about women's suffrage and equality. McCully explores this area in detail, noting that Ida's being against women getting the vote is probably one of the reasons she is a bit forgotten. What struck me was how modern, actually, Ida's beliefs were: I could easily imagine her in the present, being someone explaining how she didn't need feminism and wasn't a feminist because look at what she accomplished, on her own, and if she did it anyone can so stop with the feminism already.

I would like to learn more about Ida, and her life -- always a good sign in a biography, being left wanting more! I wonder if the things I want to know more about are things that McCully didn't cover because of length (this is a long, detailed biography) or if it's because there aren't the source documentation to answer the questions. For example, I wanted to know more about Ida's unnamed roommates during her 20 but imagine that was left out because of space. I also was curious as to Ida's relationships with her family and those family dynamics. Ida loved her father dearly, and ended up being the main provider to her mother, sister, brother, and brother's family. And yet certain things here left me asking for more and wondering things like whether her father was as wonderful as she painted him, for example. Is that not explored more because of space? Or because there is very little surviving from that time that would fill in the gaps about Ida's family?

Being left with questions, wanting more -- excellent. Learning more about Ida M. Tarbell, and also about what it was like for a woman pursuing a career over a hundred years ago? Even better. I'm so happy that this is a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award! I read it because it was a finalist, and I'll be chatting it up because it's a finalist.




Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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14. ALSC to receive 2014 USBBY Award #alamw15

Día: Diversity in Action

Día: Diversity in Action (image courtesy of ALSC)

Recently, ALSC was awarded the 2014 Bridge to Understanding Award for their Día Family Book Club Program. ALSC President Ellen Riordan will accept this award from the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) during the USBBY Gathering from 8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015 at the Hilton Chicago – Williford A. This event is open to all ALA Midwinter attendees.

Established in memory of Arlene Pillar, an educator who served USBBY as newsletter editor from 1984 until her untimely death in 1990, the Bridge to Understanding Award formally acknowledges programs that use children’s books to promote international understanding among children. The responses of many of the families who participated in the Día Family Book Club show just how successful this program has been.

For more information about the Día Family Book Club program and to download the club toolkit and lesson plans please visit: http://dia.ala.org/content/start-book-club.

The post ALSC to receive 2014 USBBY Award #alamw15 appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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15. 2015 Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson, part 6: The Swap, The Witch's Boy + The Zoo at the Edge of the World

“Isn't it odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times?" Mo had said..."As if something were left between the pages every time you read it." -- Cornelia Funke, Inkspell
When our students look back on our Mock Newbery discussions from this year, they will see parts of themselves in the books they loved and championed. Each book appealed to different readers -- and that's something the Newbery committee wrestles with as well. How do you clearly evaluate the art while acknowledging the personal response? Our discussions just started to dig into this topic, but they helped students listen to each other and consider all that goes into selecting the ultimate award-winning books.
The Swap
by Megan Shull
Katherine Tegan / HarperCollins, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-13
Ellie and Jack might look like they each have everything going for them, but they're each struggling on the inside. When they bump into each other on the first day of school and magically switch bodies, they're forced to see life from a different perspective. While the premise might seem familiar to adults, my students found it compelling and well-written.
"Megan Shull described the setting really well because I felt like I was in the story. I could totally imagine where they would be. Once, when the two characters were switched and the boy was at soccer practice with the girls' team, I could imagine being on the field practicing."
"Oh, and I remember how they were at the swimming pool in the very beginning and Ellie's friend was so mean to her."
Shull creates characters and social situations that my students understood because they were so familiar. From sleepover party dramas to friendship issues, our readers saw elements from their own lives. Emily said,
"The Swap was awesome! The characters were super strong. I could feel that they were actually real people.... The girl was being bullied but when she switches bodies with a boy, he helps her with it."
It was interesting how none of the kids found it difficult to keep track of which character was talking -- they could really feel and understand the nuances in the characterization. I saw the ending as a bit too predictable, but my students focused on the emotional journey and resolution for the two main characters.
The Witch's Boy
by Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Students were drawn into Barnhill's the fantasy world in The Witch's Boy by Ned's journey to stop the coming war and make sure that magic is used wisely and justly. As Alessandra said, it has something for all types of readers. Those who want adventure will like the danger and obstacles Ned and Aine face. Readers who want fantasy will like the magic, the talking stones, the moving forest. But, as Alessandra notes,
"The author did a good job making sure there was friendship and some sadness, weaving in different kinds of stories so different kinds of readers would like it."
As I think back on The Witch's Boy, I think that this is certainly a book that would benefit from another rereading. I could tell that students responded to the themes of courage, justice and inner-strength, but we didn't have enough time to really talk fully about these.
The Zoo at the Edge of the World
by Eric Kahn Gale
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-12
Our 4th graders were especially excited to recommend The Zoo at the Edge of the World to one another. "If you like animals, you'll love this book," said Claire in her nomination. I was happy to include an action-packed adventure in our selection. However, students did not end up citing it during our final discussions.

Students like the development of Marlin's character, as he discovered his ability to speak directly with the animals even though he stuttered so badly that he couldn't speak to other people. I was concerned by the characterizations of the zoo employees who were native to British Guiana. They were never fully developed, but rather used as a contrast to Marlin and his father. I think students really responded to Gale's exploration of treatment of animals in captivity.

The review copies came from our school library and my personal collection. Review copies were also kindly sent by HarperCollins. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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16. Aim Higher: Some Tools For Mid Year Assessments

At the end of this week, the  second marking period will officially come to an end for many of us, and so will the first half of our school year.  This is the… Continue reading

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17. The Infinite Sea (2014)

The Infinite Sea (Fifth Wave #2) Rick Yancey. 2014. Penguin. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I'm so glad I took the time to reread Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave! I felt ready for the sequel. Of course, I felt ready for the sequel the moment I first finished The Fifth Wave! But I felt prepared to fully appreciate the sequel.

First, you shouldn't read The Infinite Sea until you've read the first book in this alien-invasion series. It does NOT stand alone.

Second, if you've read the first book, and at the very least enjoyed-it-in-the-moment, you should pick up this next book.

Third, if you're looking for a quick, compelling read--perhaps for a read-a-thon--then consider this one. What makes it quick is the fact that, like the first book, it is hard to put this one down!!!

Some time has passed--perhaps a few days, perhaps a week or two--since the ending of The Fifth Wave.

The prologue, "The Wheat," is something. I think it does a great job as prologue--reminding readers of the intensity of the series, of the world as they know it.

Book one, The Problem of Rats, "The world is a clock winding down." This first section is narrated by Ringer. I believe this was the first chance for readers to get her perspective. I was expecting the book to begin with Cassie, I almost saw The Fifth Wave, as being Cassie's book predominantly, and opening with Ringer's thoughts, well, it was a good reminder that the book, the series, is so much more than that.

Book one, The Ripping, "From the time I could barely walk, my father would ask me, Cassie, do you want to fly?" This second section is narrated by Cassie. You'll probably notice--beginning with this section--that the chronology of the narrators is interesting and overlaps and goes back and forth a bit. I didn't mind this actually.

Book one, The Last Star, "As a child, he dreamed of owls." Evan Walker gets his chance to narrate. Readers learn much in this section!!!

Book one, Millions, "The boy stopped talking the summer of the plague." I found this section--short as it was--to be so emotional. I loved gaining more insight on Poundcake.

Book one, The Price. This fifth section is narrated by Cassie. I wouldn't say it's the most action-packed section, but that's because it would be too tough to choose. Has there really been a slow section?! But much does happen, and we see it through her point of view.

Book one, The Trigger. Again. So very short. But oh-so-intense. Another Poundcake section. And I thought "Millions" was emotional!

Book two, The Sum of All Things. Ringer's section. Plenty of this novel is told through her perspective, and, I came to appreciate that in a way. Much is learned in this section certainly, or, perhaps I should say much is explained through dialogue?

Book two, Dubuque. Essentially the conclusion of the book. Cassie's perspective, I believe.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. YALSA Board @ Midwinter: Advocates Advisory Panel Update

During the Annual 2014 Conference, the YALSA Board approved an agenda item that proposed a new framework to formally include the voices of professionals in related fields with similar goals and objectives. The Advocates Advisory Panel will be charged with tackling a specific area of focus related to the Strategic Plan, the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report, or other topics as identified by the Board each year. The hope is that through this process, YALSA will gain valuable outside perspective on topics that are important for teens, expand its reach through new and/or strengthened relationships, and model the kind of collaborative, collective work that is called out in the Future report.

Because the Board approved the proposal in concept, as the author, I’ve been tasked with working with the Board Standing Committee on Capacity Building to create an inaugural focus and to hammer out some of the logistics. Although there’s obviously any number of topics that might be interesting to pursue with this, we decided that one viable option would be for the panel to consider strategies that YALSA might pursue in order to connect key principles and guidelines (such as the those presented in the Future report) to LIS education. We determined that this might be a sensible place to start because:

  •  A deeper dive into the state of and needs of LIS educators in light of the report may help inform the work of the Board as well as priority content areas for subsequent Panels
  • Without connecting directly with the ways in which students in LIS programs are recruited and educated, YALSA can’t guarantee that the work recommended in the Futures report can move forward
  • An academic perspective is lacking in YALSA’s current leadership. By actively recruiting experienced LIS educators to serve on the panel, YALSA may build capacity in this area
  • Engaging the perspective of educators in other fields on this issue has the potential to create the opportunity for increased cross-pollination or future collective impact efforts

You can view the full proposal and other Board docs here. If you have questions or ideas related to this proposal, I’d love to hear them! Please feel free to connect with me at shannon.peterson@gmail.com

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19. Live Blogging from ALA Midwinter 2015 #alamw15

MW15_webbanner_950x175It’s almost time for the ALA Midwinter Meetings! Are you #alscleftbehind and unable to make it to Chicago? Are you wondering how you can keep up with all that’s going on? We’ve got you covered! Check the ALSC Blog for photos, videos and information about what’s going on at Midwinter. You can also check in on Twitter; just track the hashtag #alamw15.

Seventeen bloggers have committed to offering short, frequent posts throughout the conference. They are:

  • Alyson Feldman-Piltch
  • Amy Musser
  • Amy Sinnett
  • Andrew Medlar
  • Ashley Waring
  • Barb Langridge
  • Dan Bostrom
  • Elisabeth Marrocolla
  • Gesse Stark-Smith
  • Gwen Vanderhage
  • Karen Choy
  • Kim Alberts
  • Linda Ward-Callaghan
  • Lisa Nowlain
  • Mary Voors
  • Melina Easter
  • Tessa M. Schmidt

Let me be the first to thank this wonderful group of volunteers!

Are there activities you hope we cover? Let us know in the comments below.

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20. Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson & Brigette Barrager

Rare is the princess picture book that I find worth reviewing here. In fact, I even find the "anti-princess" picture books not worth mentioning. However, I LOVE fairy tales and I couldn't resist  reading Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson, with illustrations by Brigette Barrager. Clarkson takes four well known fairy tale princesses and imagines them fed up

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21. Me! A Podcast! And Alley Cats Strike!




Did you know that there is a podcast called the DCOM Podcast, all about the Disney Channel Original Movies (specifically the ones that hosts Eve and Matt remember and are now re-watching and analyzing)? Well, it's true! Why am I mentioning this, you ask?

It just so happens that I wrote the movie Alley Cats Strike for the Disney Channel, and I had a great conversation with Eve about it. It's now available and worth a listen (if, that is, you have any interest in Alley Cats Strike, the old Disney Channel movies, and how many writing decisions get made for different projects, and, very specifically, how I came up with "Delia's shot" towards the end of the film. Or if you're my mom or a relative, of course!).

It was great fun to revisit an project from the past and think about what I might do differently now and, honestly, what still works well. Thanks, Eve, for finding me. And I hope y'all will check out the podcast in general and its tumblr.

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22. Diversity in Jewish Kidlit


Top: Joni Sussman
Bottom, L-R: Ann Stampler, Mira Reisberg, Sylvia Rouss

Sylvia Rouss, Mira Reisberg, Joni Sussman and Ann Stampler spoke at the 2014 Association of Jewish Libraries conference on a panel responding to the Pew study "A Portrait of Jewish Americans" - and it all boils down to diversity.


Today, January 27, 2015, is Multicultural Children's Book Day. It seems like good timing to share some thoughts on diversity within Jewish children's literature.

AUDIO:

Press the play button to listen to the podcast now:

Or click MP3 File 

SUBMIT MANUSCRIPTS!

Submit to Kar-Ben Publishing

Submit to Apple & Honey Press

Submit to Hummingbird Literary
    (Use subject line: Jewish submission via Heidi's Podcast)

BONUS ARTICLE: MIRRORS & WINDOWS:

Here is the first in a 2-part series of articles I wrote about diversity in children's literature for EBSCO's NoveList. This article focuses on race, while the second article will focus on other forms of diversity (including religion). While these articles are not specifically Jewish, I thought you might find them of interest.


CREDITS:

Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries 
Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band 
Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast 
Twitter: @bookoflifepod 

Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.


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23. YMA Favorites

When you’re reading this, a lot of us will be heading or preparing to head to Chicago for ALA Midwinter. There are many things to be excited about during Midwinter–meetings, exhibits, seeing friends.

But not a lot actually meets the level of excitement, that the Youth Media Awards. This will be my first YMAs in person! I’m so jazzed. So I thought I’d take a moment and reflect on my favorite winners of past YMAs. Honestly, I could go on for pages and pages about this, but I’ll just do a quick overview because y’all are packing or flying.  My very favorites of the Caldecott Medal, Newbery Medal, and Printz Award Winners:

I know this is everyone’s favorite, but it’s totally mine. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It won the 1963 Caldecott award. This book was written over 20 years before I was born, but I adored it as a child. I remember asking my mom to read it to me over and over and over again. And it holds up. I use this one in storytimes often, and I’m lucky enough to live near the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi and have seen some of the original art. It’s as gorgeous as you think it is.

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konisburg won the Newbery Medal in 1997. This is one that I was wild about as a child. I was 9 years old when this book came out, and I was part of a program in my school that was similar to the Academic Bowl Team. Well, not entirely similar. But it felt similar. My fourth-grade self resonated with this one DEEPLY. I actually have not read this one as an adult. A part of me is terrified that it won’t hold up. But it will, right? Because Konigsburg? This is the first time in my life I remember being aware that the Newbery medal is something that was actually awarded, and that the seal didn’t just magically appear on books in my school library. I remember my school librarian telling us that this book had won and being very excited because I had read it and loved it so much. Maybe it’s time for a reread?

 

The Printz Award is a little different. It’s a much newer award. The first Printz was awarded in 2000. I wasn’t really aware of the existence of the Printz until college library school, but I quickly became obsessed. I actually wrote my master’s project on the Printz. In doing so, I read many Printz and Printz Honor titles. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, the 2009 winner, is my favorite, and continues to be my favorite Young Adult title of all time. I understand that my approach to this book was different. I was an adult the first time I read it, upon the recommendation of a colleague at my library, unlike the other two titles, which I came to as a child. But this book, like the other two, changed me and stayed with me. Marchetta is now one of my favorite authors. I’m fond of telling friends that if she wrote ingredients lists on the side of cereal boxes, I’d have them shipped over from Australia to read.

That’s the thing I love about award winners, and all books. Remember this when you’re putting award seals on books next week and when you’re teaching classes about the Caldecott and Newbery and when you’re excitedly handing your tweens and teens the Printz Honor book you’ll know they love: these are the books that will stay with them forever. And we get to be a tiny part of that.

*
Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with kids ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

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24. WINTER 2015 NEW VOICES SNEAK PEEK

Happy 2015 to you! To start the year off right, we’d like to introduce our New Voices picks for Winter 2015. These debut novels entertained us, enriched us, intrigued us, and made us so excited to witness the beginnings of these authors’ sure-to-be-stellar writing careers.

Click on the links below to read the first chapter of each title, and make sure to keep an eye on these fantastic authors. We can’t wait to see what they do next!

Blackbird Fly

BLACKBIRD FLY, by Erin Entrada Kelly, follows twelve-year-old Apple Yengko as she grapples with being different, with friends and backstabbers, and with following her dreams. Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to America from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods, makes mistakes with her English, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” But it becomes unbearable in eighth grade, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is. Read the first chapter here!

The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly

THE KEEPERS: THE BOX AND THE DRAGONFLY, by Ted Sanders, is the first in a four-book middle-grade fantasy series about Horace F. Andrews, a quiet boy who discovers he possesses a power that can change worlds. When a sign leads Horace underground to the House of Answers, a hidden warehouse full of mysterious objects, he unfortunately finds only questions. What is this curious place? Who are the strange, secretive people who entrust him with a rare and immensely powerful gift? And what is he to do with it? From the enormous, sinister man shadowing him to the gradual mastery of his new-found abilities to his encounters with Chloe—a girl who has an astonishing talent of her own—Horace follows a path that puts the pair in the middle of a centuries-old conflict between two warring factions in which every decision they make could have disastrous consequences. Read the first chapter here!

No Parking at the End Times

NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES, by Bryan Bliss, is a thoughtful and moving story about losing everything—and about what you will do for the people you love. Abigail’s parents never should have made that first donation to that end-of-times preacher. Or the next, or the next. They shouldn’t have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there for the “end of the world.” Because now they’re living in their van. And Aaron is full of anger, disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But is that too big a task for one teenage girl? Read the first chapter here!

Red Queen

RED QUEEN, by Victoria Aveyard, is a sweeping fantasy about seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose latent magical powers draw her into the dangerous world of the elite ruling class. Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with Red blood serve the Silver elite, whose silver blood gifts them with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the King, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the King forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything to use her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal. Read the first chapter here!

Little Peach

LITTLE PEACH, by Peggy Kern, is the gritty and riveting story of a runaway who comes to New York City and is lured into prostitution by a manipulative pimp. When Michelle runs away from her drug-addicted mother, she has just enough money to make it to New York, where she hopes to move in with a friend. But once she arrives at the bustling Port Authority, she is confronted with the terrifying truth: She is alone and out of options. Then she meets Devon, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who emerges from the crowd armed with a kind smile, a place for her to stay, and eyes that seem to understand exactly how she feels. But Devon is not what he seems to be, and soon Michelle finds herself engulfed in the world of child prostitution. It is a world of impossible choices, where the line between love and abuse, captor and savior, is blurred beyond recognition. This hauntingly vivid story illustrates the human spirit’s indomitable search for home, and one girl’s struggle to survive. Read the first chapter here.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, by Becky Albertalli, is an incredibly funny and poignant twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming-out story—wrapped in a geek romance. Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: If he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be jeopardized. With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. Read the first chapter here!

Check back here for “Opening the Book” Q&A’s with the authors and insightful words from the editors of these fantastic New Voices!

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25. My ALA 2015 Awards Predictions

So I'm going to try my best to share my predictions and we'll see how close I can get (probably not close at all!) Here are my predictions (and hopes!) for Monday morning:

Caldecott Prediction:
Winner:



I wish I had come across this one when I was making my Mock Caldecott list because it would have made our final list for sure. If I was on the committee, this is one I would be championing for-the texture, the use of words in the art, the collage style-it's all fantastic.

Honor Books:

I think this may be a strong year for honor books and we may end up with quite a few depending on how the committee discussion and voting shakes down. 


I think this wordless book will be getting some love.


The detail! It's gotta count for something!

Caldecott Dark Horse:

I have two possible dark horses this year:


I've only recently been seeing Flashlight crop on other Mock lists. When this one came across my desk, myself and all of my staff immediately said Caldecott! I hope we're right!


Photography never does well in award discussions, but if any book can do it, I think Viva Frida can!

Newbery Prediction
Winner:


No surprise there-I think Brown Girl Dreaming is a shoe-in for the top title.

Honor Books:


Maybe it's just because I adored this book and am attached to it personally, but I really would love to see Snicker get honored!


It would be great to see a book featuring an average kid and the writing here is above average!


Fantasy for the win please! I think Glass Sentence has fantastic world building that could help this one in the final push for an honor.

Newbery Dark Horse:


Please, please, please can a graphic novel win this year???


Last year showed us that beginning chapter books have a chance and if any early chapter book has a shot, I think Dory Fantasmagory can lend itself to some fantastic discussion. I would love to hear critical discussion about this one!

Printz Prediction
Winner:

This one is tough because I think it's a close call between two books, but I think in the end it will be Grasshopper Jungle.


Honor Books: 


I think Glory O'Brien's History of the Future is the other book that could end up winning and it's a close call, but I think one will be the winner and one will be an honor book. I would love to see both with shiny stickers on them!


Andrew Smith is a powerhouse writer and I think he can pull of an epic Printz Win and Honor this year!



If we see any non-fiction honored this year by the Printz committee, I think it will the Romanovs. 

Printz Dark Horse:

I had a hard time thinking of a Printz Dark Horse just because I think the contenders are so strong this year. But if I had to pick one, I think would go with:



What are your predictions this year? Anything I left out?

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