Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Good Things Come in Threes: three great tech tools!

There are tons and tons and TONS of websites out there so look at and use, but it can become very overwhelming. I have gone there and it seems like the first day of school is those times my mind and list grow and become frenetic. So, after I've sifted through everything, here are three of my favorite sites this year:

 1. Photosnyth: https://photosynth.net/ Using your phone and the Photosynth app, take multiple pictures to create a 360 image. After saving it, go to the website to edit, publish and save. Think of the many things you can use with this app, including a tour of the facilities, posting where you are (famous places are great!), as a virtual field trip for those who couldn't go or to take a class with you.

2. Easel.ly: http://www.easel.ly/ I've always loved Piktochart, but sometimes it can get a little cumbersome.  I also love Smore, but it can be too elementary.  Easely is the perfect balance of the two!  It's definitely more of an infographic than a poster, but has the ease of use without all the bells and whistles you may need to know with Piktochart.  Easy to teach, it creates great infographics students and educators can share!

3.Duolingo: https://www.duolingo.com/ Want to learn a new language without having to spend a lot of money on a program? Why not try this site? You choose the amount of time you'd like to spend with Duolingo and the further you go, the more difficult it becomes. Contains 8 different languages. There's an app for that too

Okay, I'm stopping with the ones I've used (for now) and love!  Try one or all of them out - I recommend them for K-12. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Historical Heartthrobs: 50 Timeless Crushes—From Cleopatra to Camus by Kelly Murphy and Hallie Fryd

Zest Books, 2014

I'm going to admit something I've done since I was a teenager and still do today.  It helped not only take the monotony out of the monotone voice of my history teacher in high school, but also made non-fiction seem way more interesting....so here's what I do:
I scope out pictures in history books and look at who's hot and who's not.
And THAT is the reason I picked up this book.  It hooked me from the cover and entranced me between the pages.  Kelly Murphy did an excellent job of choosing some of the hottest historical figures in the world, with some of them that matched my personal hottie list! 

The book is chronological and begins with Cleopatra and ends with Benazir Bhutto.  Each historical figure is a short chapter which is divided into:
Life Story
The Story of His/Her Sex Life (and no...it doesn't get into details, more about marriages, trysts, and orientation)
Why He/She Matters
Best Feature
Heat Factor

The book also has these features:
a full page picture of the person
a short but interesting history
small pictures that collate with the subject
a box with an interesting side fact about the era, person, inventions etc
ends with quotes about the person or from the person him/herself.

I'll admit, I didn't know who each person was (12 out of 50..is that bad?) but this book propelled my knowledge forward, making the ones I didn't know interesting and those I did even more interesting. 

Overall, this is one of the more fascinating non-fiction books I've read this year.  It was "chunked" up enough to satisfy not only the voracious reader, but the reluctant one as well and the pictures really pull a reader in.  I had to go back and really look at the person to judge him/her after I read the chapter to either agree or disagree with the heat factor.  I also liked the fact Murphy didn't shy away from the bad boys and girls too....we all know there is that deadly attraction to them.  We all love the good guys, and we love to hate the bad guys.  This has both without detracting from historical fact.

If there were any flaws for me as a reader, it would be two things.  The first is the section entitled "The Story of His/Her Sex Life."  From a book reviewer standpoint, I felt like another word or phrase could have been used that would have been just as good without using the word "sex."  Although the paragraph does NOT convey illicit sexual scenes, I'm worried this may be a decision maker for some librarians. 

The second is more personal, and Murphy and Fryd did an EXCELLENT job of choosing the subject.  It's just that I know some hotties I thought were missing...anyone know who the sexy Manfred von Richthofen is?  He was my first historical crush :) 

Great book I would recommend in JH/HS library collections.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Viking Childrens, 2014

There is no stronger bond than....what?  Daisy isn't sure about her life anymore.  She remembers her family and the memories they shared, the little brother that came into her life, the music, her parents' laughter.  Although those same memories exist today, it's a completely different dynamic, especially when the entire family's loyalties are put to the ultimate test.

Daisy has friends, and she has a boyfriend.  She's musically gifted (more like a prodigy) and has been asked to attend prestigious schools and academies.  Her grades are good and her parents allow her to go out, but it's all dictated by her little brother Steven, who is autistic.  While their mother takes care of him most of the time, she also needs time away.  Their father works long hours and comes home worn out, taking on the night time rituals, including the wrestling match that is more common than showers now. They all walk on eggshells, afraid to make any sudden moves, noises, or modifying a different routine that will spiral Steven into an outburst.  No longer a child, Steven has gotten stronger and while his autism was more controlled when he was little, it has now become dangerous.  When Daisy comes home one day, she sees what Steven's unintentional outbursts did to her mother. It wasn't an easy decision and one that wracked her parents longer than Daisy knew, but it's now come to a point where her mother doesn't feel strong enough to help Steven.  Something had to give, and Steven will be leaving soon. 

A part of Daisy wants to be happy.  She can have her freedom back.  This could mean sleepovers at her house, going out on dates without such stringent time limits, going to music camps, playing her trumpet in the house instead of the basement.  But Daisy is also struggling with the change.  How could her parents want to do this to their only son?  How could she have helped more to prevent this?  What could her parents do more of so Steven can stay home?  It's an emotional battle that only Daisy can fight, and it will be the most difficult one she's ever had to.  Can the family survive this huge change in their lives when Steven has been in their lives creating the familiar habits they are now accustomed to, or will they fall apart over this controversial decision that will make each one of them re-evaluate what their roles in life and family are?

Stasia Ward Kehoe writes a beautiful novel in verse about a topic that seems to only capture lurid headlines without looking at the entire situation a family goes through.  Daisy is the character in limbo throughout the story by trying to have as normal a teen life as possible while also holding the reins of responsibility of taking care of a teenage boy whose autism is creating an unsafe situation he isn't even aware of.  Kehoe writes about this emotional stage of life from all perspectives while being able to fluidly create a centrifugal force that isn't Steven, but is Daisy's life, before, during and after. This is a novel unlike any other and one that should be on YA shelves.  Recommended.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Virtual Tour of Northwest High School Library

Come see what Northwest High School Library offers!  I created this video using a mash-up of the Lapse It! and Photosynth apps, Screencast-o-matic, and Sony Vegas Movie Studio 11 (you can use video creator to create it).  I put in a dash of Digital Juice music and my own voice and voila! A tour every teacher and student has access to!

Monday, August 11, 2014

My Word for the Year: AUDACIOUS!

Either you're already back at school or about to do what you love most.  Professionalism is like relationships - it can be a love/hate (or strong dislike) one.  But also along the same lines, it's something you have to work on constantly in order to make sure you and professionalism stay zen with each other.

Remember the day you decided to be a teacher/librarian/administrator/educator?  Why was that? I hope it wasn't because of the holidays and summers (although that is a most fantastic side benefit!).  I'm willing to guess it was because you either excelled at a certain subject and wanted to share it or you just had that passion to be in the classroom to emulate a role model.  Perhaps it was because you wanted to change the world.  Hopefully, it was something awesome and audacious that made you want to not only pass on knowledge but to learn as well.

Oh, but let's not forget the bumps along the roads that can slow you down. Sometimes we land somewhere at the wrong time and it left a bad taste in your mouth.  It could have been the responsibility may have been too heavy.  More often than not, it's the change that's the biggest bump.  Changes come gradually or be all up in your face, but change itself is a fact of life.  We go through it everyday, so really it shouldn't be a surprise.

What's the most worrisome is slowly but surely, the lack of enthusiasm or even passion begins to wane.  People become entrenched, set in their ways and don't want to conform because they'd rather stand in than stand out.  It could also be the same old same old day in and out that slowly chips away at the passion.  If neither of these fit, it may just be the passage of time.  Whatever it could be, the energy runs low.

I know... I keep saying "you" but really, this is also the story of me too.  I've come against the monsters, bumps, and deficits.  I've been somewhere at the wrong time and have hit the wall full-on to change.  But what I DIDN'T do was refuse to give up.  I am not only the sum of my personal life, but my professional one as well and I wanted to be audacious.  But more than that all is the curiosity I had making me wonder the two biggest words that changed my professional life..."What if"...

Everyday I still face the giants of responsibility, change, and my profession.  But it's also those same days that I continue to work on my audaciousness, my what-if worlds of possibilities, and my wonder to see what's around the corner.  And all of this comes from learning from those I am in awe of, teaching something new that has so much potential, and making my environment (the library!  YES!!!!) as fresh and alive as possible.

I don't think anyone really wants to live in a dark, windowless room.  We didn't start out that way.  So if there is such a thing in your life that is affecting your professionalism, the best place to start is the very first day you fell in love with your job.  Slowly, those dirty panes will slough away, but guess what?  You're the only one that can make that happen.

Let's make it an audacious year, day by day!!  Happy 2014-2015 school year!!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

High school...it can a time filled with memory or horror.  These two books really hit home about teens navigating through the shark infested waters of high school trying to find a lifeboat to help them.  Alice and Leonard are clinging to hope, but don't think these two characters aren't tough as nails either.  They are fighters but in their own ways.  These novels have a dark slice of life outlook but  couple it with variations of redemption, and the novels become powerful...

It's Leonard's birthday, and no one knows it. So today, he has some presents he's giving away to everyone who's made an impact on his life. One is to Linda, his mother, who is never home and takes care of her life more than her son's. Another is for Walt, an elderly neighbor in love with cigarettes and Humphrey Bogart and quite possibly is Leonard's best friend.
He also has a present for the most brilliant violinist Leonard's ever heard, an Iranian student named Baback, who allows Leonard in when he practices. He plans on giving one to Lauren, the girl who stole his heart while handing out religious tracts near the subway.
Herr Silverman, Leonard's favorite teacher who stymies him with the reason why he dresses the way he does and is the one encourager in his life, will also get a present But it's Asher Beal, Leonard's once best friend, who will get the biggest and baddest present...he deserves it for how he treats Leonard every day at school. It's what's in those presents, both bad and good, reflecting why Leonard is making this his last day on earth.
Matthew Quick writes a powerful novel of the conflicting mind of
teenager with brilliance, bringing into light his main character's life through various literary devices, including verse, letters from a dystopian future, and footnotes giving insight into  Leonard's psyche which runs deeper than anyone could possibly imagine.  This is a MUST read!  Highly recommended for high school.  Hatchette, 2013 (on YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults; TAYSHAS list, 2014)

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."  This can be farther than the truth for Alice, especially after a party she attends.  Elaine begins the story, telling everyone who will listen to her what she KNOWS Alice did in a bedroom that night.  And once the news gets out, it goes viral, sending Alice from someone everyone knew and liked to the pariah of high school.  Kelsie also tells her story about her move from Michigan and how she became best friends with Alice but is now conflicted between defending Alice's reputation or being part of the machine.  Josh is dealing with how he became a part of this ugly situation the night his best friend Brandon died.  He knows the truth, and it's eating him up from the inside out.  Then there's Kurt, who is highly intelligent but lacks social graces.  He sees Alice crying on the bleachers and slowly and tentatively reaches out to her, but with all that has happened, is he being true or wanting what others have talked about her doing? 
Jennifer Mathieu does two things in the novel creating a powerful story.  Not only does she weave four voices to paint a picture with different perspectives, but she also subtly inserts Alice into the entire story, showing her strengths and weaknesses and how this entire thing affects her life.  You can't get any closer to a real life scenario about high school and how ugly it can be than you can with this book which shows how words can make or break a teen.  Highly recommended for high school Roaring Brook Press, 2014

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Clockwork Scarab and Half Bad: Book Reviews

Victorian England is experiencing some strange coincidences.  Two young women from society have disappeared and one has turned up dead in the museum. In turn, two other young women from famous lineage are asked to help solve this murder and the disappearance of the other in the name of the crown, and this is how Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker meet each other.  Mina is methodical and perspicacious like her uncle Sherlock.  She also loves the new gadgetry being invented, such as a steam gun and other mechanical devices.  Evaline, on the other hand jumps right into the situation.  She possesses athletic abilities beyond mere humanity and recognizes her abilities to discern the whereabouts of the undead are a part of her, which her broth Bram writes about.  In another coincidence of pairs, two young men hiding their true identity are slowly becoming a part of the mystery as well.  Who is the killer?  Egyptology and secret societies are only part of the screen veiling the truth.
Colleen Gleason writes an intriguing novel that is the perfect blend of historical fiction and steampunk that will hook readers into this series.  You can't help but love the main characters and how their entire personality works so well with their famous families.  YA steampunk is hard to find, and this is definitely one to purchase! 2013 Chronicle Books

In the world of White and Black Witches, Nathan doesn't quite fit into either.  His mother, a white witch, was known for her kindness and her amazing healing powers.  His father, a black witch, was known to cut out of the hearts of white witches and steal their powers.  Nathan tries his hardest to be what others want him to, but can't seem to get a break.  With orders coming down from the Council, his life is closely monitored.  His grandmother loves him beyond doubt and tries to shield him, while his birth sister blames him for the death of their mother and wants to kill him.  It doesn't get easier either. Picked on at school for his small stature and inability to read and write, Nathan's life becomes painful socially and physically. The older Nathan becomes, the more curious his life becomes.  He now cannot stand to be indoors or he becomes deathly ill, a trait of a black witch.  Now, locked up in a cage, he must find a way to have a family member bestow his two gifts onto him, or his life will end. His only hope is to find Mercury, another black witch, who could harm him or help him, but is her help only another painful disguise?
Green creates a dark and ugly side of magic that weaves itself together with the dark and ugly side of bullying, prejudice, and conformity to society.  Although I found it slow to start, the story line picked up and quickly wound itself around me to keep me turning the pages to find out what would ultimately happen to Nathan. Viking, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Bevy of YA Books!

Along with other things this summer, I have been reading and what I want even more is to write a full review for each one, but I read more than I can chew.  So, this time, I'm giving my "booktalk" version, two books at a time...quick, simple and hopefully addictive.  So here goes:

 Elizabeth lives on the East Coast and can't wait to get away from her annoying mother and loser boyfriend (who just broke up with her).  As an only child, she's ready for an adventure!
Lauren lives on the West Coast and can't wait to get away either.  She wants to escape the stress and noise of a houseful of brothers and sisters and find peace and calm.  She's never had a boyfriend, but little does she know romance is blossoming.
Elizabeth and Lauren will be roomies and their email exchange begins.  But as people say, you can't read emotions in text, you can only assume, which is what happens to these two girls.  Miles apart and out of context, they aren't sure if they're the perfect roomies or frenemies.  Their lives are so different, and while each girl peels away the layers, they sometimes find something they don't exactly agree on.
And when they finally arrive on campus...
What a great story about two teens' lives after high school!  They're in that transition period between high school graduation and college move-in day, and Sara Zarr captures those emotions perfectly!  The two voices blend together but are distinctly different not only in life, but in emails, which makes this novel not only endearing, but hitting that unknown so many teens are facing this summer.  Little Brown, 2013

Amy Gumm doesn't have many friends.  Living in the state of Kansas in a trailer park, she navigates through high school as best as she can, which includes taking care of herself when her mother's on a bender.  But that's all about to change...
A tornado blows into town and Amy's trailer is lifted out of Kansas and plunked down in the middle of Oz.  And when Amy opens the door, she doesn't even recognize the place.  Everything looks faded and dead.  The only thing vibrant is the yellow brick road, but it's not a road anyone travels on much anymore...it's too dangerous.
Finally when finding friends, she discovers the true reason Oz is so faded and lifeless.  Dorothy's stealing as much magic as she can to feed her addiction to it.  Every life is in jeopardy, but how does Amy stop it?
With the help of the witches from almost all points on the compass, Amy goes into full-on magical battle training so she can face not only Dorothy, but the bloodthirsty lion and the mechanized and mutilated Tin Woodsmen (you'll have to read it to find out about the scarecrow.
Urban fantasy meets classic fantasy with a twist that is both imaginative and unique. Danielle Paige takes the reader further into Oz and the horror that's happened from the flying monkeys to the munchkins.  HarperCollins, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014

End of the Year: Report, Reflection, Renewal, and Resound

It's finally here.  The last day is on me, and all I can say is, "WOW!  That went by fast!" Summer is here and a lot of educators reflect on this past year to see where they've come from.  Some go beyond reflection and begin to think about next year.
I'll admit, I'm already thinking of some things I'd like to accomplish next year.  But I have to rein myself in and really think hard about what I did this year and how it worked out for me.  Where to start?

Get a snapshot of the past year: it's easy now these days to click on a couple of buttons and whaa-la!  Instant report!  That's the beauty of circulation statistics.  This year, try to go a little deeper.  Think beyond those common statistics and build a snapshot worthy of the amazing things happening in your library.  If you have social media attached to the library, go back and do a review of what you posted, what was video'ed, pictures taken...the whole thing.  Use these as statistics of the wonderful job creating relationships has done for the library.  Numbers are only that....there are no qualifiers of relationships in numbers.  But pictures and videos?  Comments on a post?  Yep, that's gold!  Quite by accident, I stumbled on the amount of books checked out by genre because of how I re-did the spine labels. It was quite interesting and something I can use for next year.  Report on community and public library partnerships as well as those virtual PLNs you're involved with.  Going beyond may take a little more work, but it's guaranteed to get someone's attention that numbers never will.  Also snazz up your reports by changing the fo
rmat.  Why not try a screencast?  How about a Thinglink?  Not only are you showing off your report, you're showing off your tech savviness as well.

Look at your goals for this year: did you accomplish at least 50% of the goals you set out for yourself?  Remember, goals are NOT a to-do list, so doing all of them is not the idea behind it.  Success is the moment when I know I've done something beyond what I expected while reaching a goal.  What do I do with the others ones I didn't accomplish? I simply look at those and ask myself why I prioritized them/accomplished them in a certain way, see if they need to be modified, and either continue pursuing those goals or take them off the list.  One thing I won't do is beat myself up over what I didn't do.  We all have to look at it as a glass  half full.  I don't know about you, but I'm a list person too.  My lists aren't my goals, more like things  needing attention.  But they can definitely play a role into my goals.  They're more like small reflections to trigger other ideas. Not all of them are completed, but it makes me hyper-aware of some things needing to be done.

Go learn something new! I don't know what other states are like, but here in Texas, we are required to have 12 professional development hours each summer.  That's two workshops, and to me, it's simply not enough!  I think part of being a teacher librarian is learning, but we get the double whammy because we aren't only teacher librarians, but techbrarians and bookbrarians as well.  Keep an open mind and eyes wide open because there are so many great PD out there to choose from!  Go to a library conference like ALA to not only get your PD hours, but fulfill your book, technology and teaching all at once, but the books!!!  Or try PD from a local or regional source.  Whatever it is you attend, the most important thing to bring back is an idea you can implement.  ONE idea will make a difference.  Six hours of a workshop goes by in a blur, so get your focus on and choose one, two or three ideas and work them over in your mind during the summer.  Trying to do it all never succeeds and can lead to overload quickly.

Advocate for school libraries! "Not me!" you say?  Hold on...yes you.  Sometimes we think of advocacy as talking, standing in front of an audience extolling the virtues of the importance of libraries.  Yes, there are some doing just that.  But there are others who advocate just as strongly with a quiet presence.  Librarians I love, know and admire make a difference on social media like Twitter by advocating with words and belonging to PLNs with administrator presence.  Other librarians advocate through technology and make their webpages to be a visual advocacy piece hard to overlook.  Still other librarians go online and faithfully blog about the wonderful books (e-books and otherwise) coming out as well as integrating them into reading lists for summer programming.  You also have librarians who work well in a smaller setting and taking partnerships to another level.
What's the best thing about summertime?  ICE CREAM!!  Think of librarians as ice cream.  There are all sorts of flavors out there, even the specialty ones (my favorite is pecan pie ice cream).  And then come the toppings....Who would want to live in a world of only chocolate or vanilla ice cream?  It takes different types of librarians advocating different ways.  This build-up is what creates the power behind advocacy.

So, enjoy your summer!  Read a book while your out there on a long trip.  Take a device on an airplane, put on headphones and listen to audio books while watering the back yard.  Even during the summer, a little bit of librarian always comes out along with the tan lines :)

Friday, May 30, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Delacorte Press, 2013

"Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.
No one is a criminal.
No one is an addict.
No one is a failure.
The Sinclairs are athletic, tall and handsome.  We are old-money Democrats..."
"We live, at least in the summertime, on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts."

And it's those summers that Cadence looks forward to where she spends the most glorious part of her year with her cousins Mirren and Johnny, and Gat, a friend of Johnny's.  It's always been those four since they were littles.  Now, they're much older and things are getting a little more complicated.

On this private island are four Victorian houses, for three sisters and their children, and head of the family.  Clairmont is where Tipper and Harris live, grandfather to the kids and parents to the sisters.  Cadence loves her grandparents' house, with the goldens Prince Philip and Fatima (Tipper loves dogs, especially these), the old tire swing on the big maple tree, and the sense of family when everyone gathers for dinner.  No cell phones, no television, just time spent on beaches, lobsters under the setting sun, practicing their tennis serves on the court, and the adults drinking wine on the front porch in cashmere sweaters and pearls.

Cadence, Mirren, Johnny and Gat, also known as the Liars, are inseparable during their time together.  One for all and all for one, including an unexpected summer romance, which catches Cadence by surprise.  But during these summers, two tragedies occur.  First, Tipper passes away, which changes the family dynamic, especially Harris.  No one says anything about her when Grandfather is around - the grief is too much to bear.  The other is toward the end of  her 15th summer, Cadence is found on the beach, curled in a ball with no one else around, nearly dead.  She goes home to Vermont to recover with her stifling mother and doesn't remember much except snippets...her migraines are killing her.  What hurts her most, though, is her summer friends have distanced themselves.  No emails, no texts, nothing.

Cadence misses a summer, but two years after the accident she is back on the island, which has changed dramatically.  Clairmont is gone, replaced by a new Clairmont and Harris is slowly dipping into dementia.   Despite all of this, she is thoroughly enjoying four glorious weeks of fun, laughter, secrets and surprises with the Liars once again.  Until her memories start coming back....

Lockhart shows her talent with this poignant novel about family, friends, love, hate, secrets and betrayals.  What happens at the beginning at the novel begins to slip and Lockhart slowly reveals the ugly side to a beautiful family.  The one thing truly grabbing the reader is her use of language in the characters' conversations and thoughts.  The readers feels transported by her use of language to the East Coast, living among the wealthy trust fund babies and families to the point where you can almost hear the characters' voices in your mind instead of just reading it.  Mixing the revelations of the family with the language is powerful, but it's the unspoken elevating Lockhart's book to another level completely, which will leave anyone who reads it taken aback unexpectedly as well as creating imagery continuing even after the last page is turned.  AMAZING book, highly recommended!  Upper JH/HS

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

Wendy Lamb, 2014

She'd always known them as Nellaya.  They'd always been inseparable as sisters no matter the circumstances.  They weathered the storm of getting their own personal bedrooms, to Nell in junior high school while Layla went to high school, to their parents divorce. No matter what happened, they were always sisters, watching each other's backs.

Now, Nell is in high school and instead of dreading being Layla Golden's sister, she looks forward to letting everyone know that they are.  Nell looks forward to Layla seeing her grow up and get involved in everything from playing soccer to being in the school play.  And nothing is more fun than being the freshman going to the parties only juniors and seniors go to.  N. Golden and L. Golden....there's nothing more special, beautiful, smart, or driven.

While both sisters are close, Nell does have a separate life filled with her best friend, Felix.  When Layla isn't available, Felix is there, donut in hand, to take Nell through those rough spots.  So, as far as Nell is concerned, high school is going to be the best experience of her life.  She was even fortunate to get into Mr. B's art class, which is nearly impossible to do because it's by far the most popular one on campus. It also didn't hurt that she made the varsity soccer team.  Now there are two Goldens on the team helping push the team to tournament victory.  Nell has hit her sweet spot in life. And then....

Slowly but surely, something begins to draw Layla away from Nell, and she doesn't like it.  First there were the tiny excuses but those soon turn into monster excuses that makes Layla completely separate herself from not only Nell, but her parents too. She begins unwinding from her relationships and Nell can't quite understand what is pushing her away.  They shared everything..until now.

It's when Layla reveals the secret that she's hidden for so long to Nell that will either turn the tide for or against the sisters.  Watching each other's back now means more to Nell than ever before.  She wants to keep her sister safe by keeping her secret, but she also knows she's hurting her more by keeping it.
"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.  Everything we see is a perspective not the truth."

United we stand, divided they fall....

Reinhardt writes a beautiful story about relationships on all levels.  From sisters to parents; from friends to enemies, all of these intertwine to create a story with multiple levels but one very meaningful theme, that of family and love.  The novel is written through the first person perspective of Nell, where she introduces her family and Felix to the reader as she sees them, not necessarily how they see themselves around her, which is another literary device to create another layer in this complex tale.  Reinhardt handles the situation in her book beautifully by diverting against descriptions that tend to take the spotlight in other books with the same dangerous situation.  The reader will root for N. Golden the entire way, not only for her fight to win back her relationship with her sister, but also how she creates and immerses herself in other ones and figures out the meaning of family and love.  I devoured this book - it's that good!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2014

It was a typical day at high school for Adam Daley.  Driving his old 70s Omega to school, his thoughts were on trying to get his best friend to pass a class and mindlessly crushing Lori, who barely knows him.  But something that happens today will change his life altogether...

When the electricity goes out, no one really thinks much about it.  It's a little weird their cell phones don't work but everyone excuses it away as a fluke.  When everyone is dismissed for the day, the only person driving out of the parking lot is Adam.  As the day goes on, Adam and his friends notice the little things making it even more complex and not quite right, leaving them with that doubt of fear in their minds.

After getting home with his little brother and sister, his thoughts automatically go to his parents.  His father is in Chicago and Adam isn't sure whether he's alive or dead.  His mother, the chief of police in town, hasn't returned from work yet.  But after getting back to the safety of home, he feels safer.  Everything seems normal with people cooking out and everyone hanging out in their front yards. Adam still feels off-kilter though, especially when his neighbor Herb asks him to take him to the pool supply shop to buy chlorine tabs when he doesn't even own a pool...it is also the day when Adam realizes the danger in this whole situation with panic slowly building....

Day Two brings on more chaos with people storming the grocery store and mild chaos beginning to read its ugly head.  Day Three becomes even more dangerous...

Now Adam, his family, Herb and others need to protect their neighborhood in order to survive.  No one knows when the end to this will happen, but they not only need to prepare for the inevitable, but need to keep others from taking it away from them.  It becomes a strategic battle, and Adam becomes not only a player,  but a pawn in this game of survival.  Keeping chaos and bullies out using walls and patrols is easy...it's the ones on the inside that may be their downfall...

I'll admit, I picked up this book because the cover and caption drew my eye to it.  After reading the first part of the book, I was hooked.  This isn't Walters first book by any means.  He's a prolific YA author, but this is by far my most favorite.  His characters are the strong point.  The reader gets to know them, but also knows there are things that aren't being shown.  The main characters, Herb and Adam, are ones that Walters deliberately builds slowly, opening layers to create curiosity and keep the pages turning. 

There are several things about this dystopia book that sets it apart from others.  Firstly, the main character is a teen guy who doesn't have a female counterpart to effectively brave the storm, so to speak.  Adam is independent and his focus is on keeping everyone safe, not just his immediate family.  Secondly, the relationships between adults and teens in this novel is what makes the plot fluid, but also thickens it as well.  It shows the strength of teens in a world gone wrong, but also their weaknesses. Adam's evolution into a more mature person is only one of the many we get to know.  Lastly, the reader is invited to the beginning of the end.  While most dystopia take place during or trying to living in a stronghold of a dystopia society, Walters puts his right smack in the front of the entire chaotic world that is slowly falling apart.  I also got confirmation after tweeting with the author...he's working on a sequel!
Perfect for readers of both genders, I highly recommend this for JH/HS.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Take Some Cues from Gilligan: build a nation of readers, not an island

Taking a cue from a popular show in the sixties, Gilligan’s Island, I re-wrote the intro to reflect today’s school libraries (so sing it with the music in mind):
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of some really good reads,
That started on the very first page
Aboard the library.
You really need to integrate
Technology brave and sure
Soon teens will start to pick up books
Fav books won’t be obscure… Fav books won’t be obscure
Trying to get students to look beyond a textbook and read for pleasure is a situation that occurs frequently in high schools. One librarian vs. many teachers on campus isn’t a well-balanced scale, but it’s not so much the tipping point as much as it is the approach.  Understanding the expectations of academics and being able to integrate pleasure reading into this can be the start of a symbiotic reading relationship where both the library and the classroom understand how important both types of reading are to a student. One way to attract both students and teachers alike to build interest in pleasure reading is by integrating technology for a 21st century makeover.
Why use technology in the first place?  There are several reasons why, but the first reason is to create relationships with both students and teachers.  Both of these populations use online resources not only for research and academia, but also to collaborate and most importantly, to communicate.  By using something simple as everyday email, you can create interest and even stimulate conversation.  Here are a few examples how you can use email:
  • Create and email out a survey of what books they’d like to see in the library (creates a sense of ownership so it’s more about THE library instead of MY library)
  • Send out advanced information on author visits, book talks, new books coming in, new programs or collections in the library
  • Send out a weekly book review to share with staff and students.
  • Send out emails to teachers asking if they have time for a genre-based booktalk that goes along with their particular unit they’re studying.

If an email doesn’t catch their eye, perhaps an online poster will.  Create these using any different type of poster creator like Smore or Canva and send out the same information in a more pictographic way.  Embed these onto websites or email out the link (make your message and title catchy!).  This type of technology-laced information is based less on words, more on design, but is used to convey the same meaning.
  • Use this to let students know what hours the library is open
  • Advertise open houses and let everyone know the library will be there, ready to check out books to students while their parents are talking to teachers or even accompanying  them to the library
  • Create a poster of book pairs to send out to educators showing them the correlation between pleasure and academic reading on a visual scale

Nothing attracts more attention than a great book trailer.  These add spice to a book before it may even be picked up, and more often than not, it has been (personally and statistically speaking) the most checked out and popular books. Pictures do tell a thousand words.  Here’s how to use book trailers to stimulate pleasure reading:
  • Put them on a digital picture frame and set it on the circulation desk.  If you don’t have one, try converting an old desktop computer screen into one.
  • Send them to your school’s video announcement system, if you have one.  This will reach the widest audience and all you have to do is sit back and watch them come through the library doors
  • Use them in your booktalks.  Create a 3:1 ratio to not only create interest, but also break up the monotony of a spoken booktalk.

If you don’t try differentiation through various formats, you’re missing the mark and a potential reader, especially in high school, may slip through the net.  Making not only books, but e-books available is becoming a more standard practice in libraries.  Although they may be a little more expensive to buy, a librarian has to personally ask and answer the hard question of price vs. student access.  But there are other alternatives:
  • Let students know about Project Gutenberg.  Most required reading, if it’s a classic, can be found here, or there are books for students who want to lose themselves in the Bronte sisters or a great gothic like Frankenstein.
  • There are apps that also access free e-books.  Free Books – 23,469 Classics to Go is one such app that allows readers to access all types of digital books by genre or author
  • iBooks is a common app for phones or iPads.  The beauty of online reading is that students can find interesting articles online and download them as PDF files to read later.

Sharing booktalks via social media is another way to catch readers, especially those that don’t come often to the library.  It’s a given that most students are on Twitter, Vine, Facebook and Instagram, so grab this opportunity to “talk” to students about great books!
  • Take a picture of the books you may be booktalking and send it out as a picture on all types of social media
  • Take a 15 second video of yourself talking about a great book and put in on the library Instagram page.
  • If you have a PowerPoint, upload it in Google Drive and share it with all the teachers in your building.  Share the link further by posting to Twitter and Facebook.

This isn’t a world of hardcopy vs. technology, but one that accommodates both and creates excitement!  In the library, one of the most important things a young adult librarian can do is think like a teenager.  See how they view the world, how they communicate, and why they read (or don’t) and hone in on those ideas to create a bigger, better and well-grounded library program for teens to enjoy reading for pleasure.

**Republished from  a post I wrote for nerdybookclub.wordpress.com

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Batman Superman Volume 1 Cross World

DC Comics, 2014

Before reading this graphic novel, you should know that the storyline takes place on two worlds, which are both like each other with small variations.  Earth One is where the novel begins, with Batman and Superman meeting in Gotham City not only as old friends, but also to unite against evil mechanisms invading the city.  As they fight they way through the mayhem, Kaiyo, the Chaos Bringer, enters the scene.

Kaiyo is from another universe altogether and she loves to dabble with unexpected outcomes.  She does this well when she takes both Batman and Superman to another world where they meet their younger selves.  Enter Earth Two.

In this world, Batman and Superman are younger versions on themselves, not quite up to speed with their older, newly transported counterparts.  On Earth Two, Superman hasn't yet learned to fly or fall in love and Batman is young and arrogant, thinking himself above any one and any fray.  It's here they meet Kaiyo and find out the chaos she brings is  far bigger and badder than they expected.  Darkseid is coming....

The novel then leaps into another story altogether, giving background into who Darkseid was as a person and how he became an ultimate destroyer with the power of gods.  He rules with an iron fist, leaving no human alive and destroying any worlds he comes into contact with.  Darkseid, taunted and teased for the first time by Kaiyo, is out to kill her, and with this knowledge, Kaiyo is willing to introduce him to opponents worthy of his strength and might.

Can Batman and Superman join forces in both worlds to stave off destruction or can they even begin to see eye-to-eye as they fight to find equal footing, friendship and trust in a completely different world? 

I admit, I haven't read a graphic novel in a long time, and this was a great introduction back into the world of GN and superheroes.  The author and illustrator lead the reader down a rabbit hole of chaos that may not make sense until later in the novel and may require double reading.  But when the reader finally understands the plot...that's when it thickens and begins to mold into the bigger story that continues in three other volumes.  Not only are Superman and Batman present, but Catwoman and Wonder Woman also make their debut.  Filled with larger-than-life characters in situations worthy of them, Greg Pak and Jae Lee write and illustrate an outstanding novel readers will want to continue in the other GNs that follow.  Excellent addition to any graphic novel collection! Recommended upper JH/HS and beyond.
ADDED BONUS:  There's a great addendum that goes through the artwork of this graphic novel from idea to sketch to full image that's AMAZING!!  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow

2014, Calkins Creek Books

 In 1902, something deadly was happening to Americans living in the South.  A strange malady began affecting them, causing a horrible rash on the face, chest, hands and feet.  For most, it was cyclical, beginning in the spring and going away in the summer but for others, it killed. This illness affected young and old, sick and healthy, rich and poor.  No one understood where it came from or how to get rid of it, but it had a name...pellagra...

Was it a disease or an infection?  No one knew and pellagra became a mystery illness that would kill thousands of Americans.  Of course, there were several theories.  Scientists and doctors blamed it on moldy corn, while other believed it was contagious. Medicines of all types were sold by quacks and doctors alike to no avail.  Soon, sanitariums across the South began to fill up with those diagnosed with pellagra.  

The symptoms were noticeable and recognizable.  Pellagra was defined as the  4-D Disease: dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, death.  It affected those that had it physically and mentally, and if the dementia stage became apparent, death was not far along.  

It took a maverick who wouldn't give up to find a cure.  Starting in these sanitariums, Joseph Golderberger was able to identify the main cause of pellagra.  Those on the 3-M Diet (meal (cornmeal); meat (usually fatback) and molasses) were most prevalent of having pellagra.  In a time when money was tight, these three foods were cheap, easily available, and delicious. Golderberger began his research and ultimately found the cure that would change the face of food and nutrition that continues to impact us today.  

I always tell students that non-fiction books are the most interesting stories not told in a history textbook, and this is one of them.  For 200 years, no one understood or could explain how pellagra came to be.  This is a fascinating non-fiction book that will open the eyes of readers from caused pellagra to how it hasn't been seen since 1955.  Intriguing and fascinating, Jarrow seams together stories, facts and images to create a book that goes to the heart of the matter and leaves readers more informed and very aware of cause and effect in the history of the United States.  HIGHLY recommended for JH/HS.

Fiction book pair:
Streams of Babel and sequel Fire Will Fall by Carol Plum-Ucci: Six teens face a bioterrorist attack on American soil as four are infected with a mysterious disease affecting their small New Jersey neighborhood and two others, both brilliant computer hackers, assist the United States Intelligence Coalition in tracking the perpetrators.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

15 Ways You Know the Library is Still Here at the End of the Year

I was collaborating with a fellow librarian to come up with something with some humor in it to remind teachers about some of the things that are still going on with the library.  It prompted me to write this countdown:

15 Ways You Know The  Library is Still Here at the End of the Year:

1.       Students are coming back to class with checked out books

2.       Teachers haven’t received an email wanting a detailed list of everything they have checked out for the past 20 years

3.       When you see the library lights on, the door is actually unlocked

4.       Teachers are getting more requests to collaborate with them on technology than the previous six weeks

5.       You hear a mysterious beeping noise coming from the library (it’s inventory time!)

6.       When you send 15 kids to the library, 12 come back because of the rule of 3

7.       The panic in seniors begins to rise when they find out they owe a fine from their freshmen year

8.       There are updates on the library Twitter,  Instagram, and blog accounts

9.       The AP research students aren’t roaming the halls during their study periods

10.   Technology continues to receive requests for help or to open up a website

11.   When teachers email the library, they get a quick response along with #4 (see above)

12.   A teacher comes back bragging about the fact that they successfully booked the library for classes during testing season

13.   The principal asks if the librarian can do summer professional development, and the librarian comes by to say, “heck yes!” instead of an email

14.   The library box in the work room is still empty

15.   The laminator is hot when you come into work in the morning.

Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington

Soho Teen, 2014

Liv Bloom is an excellent art student trapped with a family she doesn’t think cares for her.  When she get an opportunity to attend  Wickham Academy, one of THE most prestigious boarding schools in the US, she jumps at the chance of not only leaving behind her family, but also going forward into a world filled with paint, oils, canvases and a dream studio. 

Liv is a student on scholarship and this becomes immediately apparent as soon as she steps foot on campus.  While everyone else was born with a silver spoon in their mouths, Liv has lived with a plastic one in hers.  She isn’t going to let that bother her though.  She figures she’ll fit in soon enough, but the first day in the cafeteria leaves her sitting with the weirdo loner Gabe Nichols, another scholarship student.  Life truly begins for Liv when she catches the eye of Malcolm Astor, the IT guy on campus.  When Gabe mumbles about the dangers of dating Malcolm, Liv ignores him…which will cause her to lose her life.

Now Liv is caught not only between two worlds, but also between two boys – one she loves and misses and the other who can hear her.  With the help of the two, Liv wants to find out who is behind the murder and why they’re covering it up as an accident.  Little do they know that the truth is more horrible that any of them realized with arms that reach long into the history of Wickham Academy. ..

What made this book stand out for me is the approach Amy Talkington takes to the supernatural that isn’t encountered on a normal basis.  That one spin will make you gasp, literally, in surprise.  Talkington writes about hope, romance, murder and mystery, all in one very clever and entertaining YA read.  Her characters, from the past and present, are not only syncopated within certain time periods, but interact for and with each other to move the mystery forward and the pages turning.  Readers will get a glimpse of the good life of wealthy kids, but also get to see the dirty rotten parts the characters are trying to hide as well.  Great for all readers, this will also attract reluctant readers because of the pace of the story.  Kudos on her first book!  Recommended JH/HS.