Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review: The Black Butterfly

Today I'm sharing an upcoming release from author Shirley Reva Vernick. I very much enjoyed this novel, and I can't wait to book talk it to my teens.

The Stats: The Black Butterfly by Shirley Reva Vernick, released May 6 from Cinco Puntos Press
The Synopsis: Penny's Christmas break is not going according to plan. Her mother, off on a ghost hunt in Idaho, has deserted Penny for the holiday and sent her to a bed and breakfast on an island in Maine owned by a woman she's never met. Things couldn't possibly get any worse, thinks Penny--until two unexpected things happen, that is. Romance and ghosts; they can turn any isolated holiday into an adventure.
The Review: This book is highly enjoyable and hits all the right notes for a teen reader. Penny's voice rings so true, bouncing back and forth between anger, intrigue, excitement, gratefulness, and everything in between. The plot has great variety, too, with a few unexpected ghosts, slowly-revealed family histories, and the forging of new friendships. All of these aspects are well balanced, with nothing feeling out of place or overdone. The bed and breakfast is well-drawn, too, adding a great sense of place to the story. There's also a perfect amount of kissing in this book, which I, and many of my teen readers, enjoy.
The Programming Connection: I'll be book talking this title lots in coming months, especially when the cold Maine winter will provide an excellent literary escape from the hot Missouri summer. I imagine my readers who enjoy Myra McEntire will be particularly pleased with this addition to our shelves.

Digital review copy provided by the author.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Flannel Friday: Pizza!

When I was putting together my preschool science program on the topics of counting and measuring, I knew I wanted to share a story dealing with pizza. Then it hit me--a felt story would add just enough extra oomph! So that's what I did.

My felt pizza story involves some of the base ingredients of pizza--flour for dough, tomato for sauce, and cheese for topping. I also made some slices of onion, green pepper, and pepperoni (all some of my favorite pizza toppings, not coincidentally).

I've found that this simple felt activity can be used in so many different ways. It can be a story, narrating the process of building a pizza from start to finish, with all the great cooking vocabulary. It can be a counting activity, doling out the toppings. It can be used as a cumulative tale, too. Not bad for a pretty quick flannel project.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April STEAM Reads Roundup

The Stats: The Smart Girl's Guide to Going Vegetarian by Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RDN, released January 7 from Sourcebooks
The Synopsis: Regardless of a person's reasons for going vegetarian, there's a lot of nutritional thought that needs to go into the decision and the upkeep. This comprehensive title explores the spectrum of vegetarian eating and lifestyles, then dives into the details of how vegetarians--young girls in particular--can meet all their nutritional needs while making the food decisions they want. The title includes excellent resource lists as well as plenty of recipes to get any new vegetarian started going veg healthfully.
The Review: Man oh man, I wish this resource existed when I was a middle schooler. It's completely accessible in its language, tone, and scope, always taking an individual's food choices seriously and never verging on condescending. I'm also quite impressed with the tips and ideas peppered throughout the text, including things like how to approach the school cafeteria or a restaurant menu when you're a vegetarian. The variety of recipes are outstanding, too.
The Programming Connection: The volume would fit well in a teen program on food and nutrition, a topic of interest to a number of the teens who frequent my library.

The Stats: Fly Away by Patricia MacLachlan, released April 8 from Margaret K. McElderry
The Synopsis: Lucy's family are a musical bunch, what with their listening preferences (opera for her dad) and proclivity for singing. Lucy doesn't sing, however, instead channeling her energies into poetry. When Lucy and her family travel to their Aunt Frankie's to help her during the river's annual flood, she encounters an aspect of nature than she's ever before experienced. She also learns the power of words and song when her toddler brother wanders away during the flood.
The Review: In true MacLachlan fashion, this quick, spare story introduces a heartfelt, captivating character, her family, and her inner thoughts. Readers will hear truth in Lucy's insecurities, her need for a secret between herself and her brother, and her strong, strong love for her family.
The Programming Connection: I could connect this title to STEAM areas in two different ways: with the flood connection (science of extreme weather), or with the poetry and music aspects of the book.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review: Lizzy Bennet's Diary

Some of you may not know that I am a huge Jane Austen fan. My love of all things Austen doesn't come up that often here on this blog, as most Austen content is aimed at an adult audience. That changes today, however, as I review today's title.

The Stats: Lizzy Bennet's Diary by Marcia Williams, released April 22 from Candlewick

The Synopsis: Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet and her sisters, living in Georgian England, have their lives just about turned to chaos when their mother learns that Mr. Bingley--a very eligible bachelor--has moved into the neighborhood. The social world of a single Regency woman revolved around marriage prospects, and Lizzy Bennet is no different. This book constitutes her diary, and it proves that all the marriage fuss doesn't mean Lizzy can't have her own opinions and interesting experiences along the way.

The Review: Williams's diary-style interpretation of Pride and Prejudice is fair indeed. It keeps mostly consistent with the characterization from Austen's original--an important detail for me, since adaptations for younger readers need to represent everything that's excellent about the real thing. There are a few moments when Lizzy seems to think or say something that doesn't quite seem in character, but I attribute that to the liberties of changing a third person story to a first person internal narration. I've got no major complaints, which is a pretty big endorsement for me when it comes to an Austen adaptation.

The Programming Connection: I'd book talk this title in conjunction with other diary-style novels, like the Dear America and Royal Diary series. It would also make a nice complement to a suite of historical novels.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Celebrate Words! Two Poetry Month Activities for School-Agers

We've been celebrating Poetry Month with two of my favorite poetry-writing activities. And best of all, both involve library materials! If you're looking to add another activity or two to your own April festivities, give one of these a whirl!

Blackout Poems
All it takes to create a blackout poem is a page from a book and a black marker. I've been mindful of what books I've had to withdraw for broken spines, missing pages, etc., and I set aside ones with "juicy" words specifically for use in this activity. In my program earlier this week, for example, pages came from The Blue Fairy Book and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Once you've got your page from the book, the process is to black out all the words you don't want to use with your black marker. It's almost like making poetry with negative space--choosing the gems of words you want to use in your poem, and getting rid of the rest. What's so great about this activity is that it truly focuses on what words can do. You can't add words, and you can't change word order--what's on the page is what you've got to work with.

Book Spine Poems
I use this activity every year because it's so quick and fun. The premise is to find books on the library shelves, combine them with others, and use their titles on their spines to create a poem. If you want lots of inspiration and some great book spine poems to read, check out Travis's annual Book Spine Poem Gallery over at 100 Scope Notes.


What activities do you use with school-age kids to celebrate Poetry Month?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Newbery Award & Mock Award Discussion Resources

Yesterday evening, I spoke to a group of school librarians at their monthly Library Media Specialist Academy meeting. My 2014 Mock Newbery school library co-facilitator arranged for me to speak on two specific points: the Newbery and my experience on the committee; and mock award programs in the library. I want to share here the variety of resources we discussed in the course of the presentation. Get mocking!

The Newbery Award

  • Gather your kids. My 2014 Mock Newbery involved a group of around 3 dozen fourth- and fifth-graders, all of whom had been selected by their teachers and school librarian due to their past success at reading lots of state award nominees. You can also arrange a Mock Newbery with individual classrooms, or entire grade levels.
  • Choose your books. Great sources for choosing eligible books include Betsy Bird's Newbery/Caldecott predictions; the For Those About to Mock blog; the Heavy Medal blog; the Goodreads shelf of books tagged "newbery-2015" (or whatever award year you're looking for); and starred reviews from different journals.
  • Procure some books. This could be all library copies, special non-catalogued copies, copies donated by Friends of the Library groups, or a combination.
  • Explain Newbery criteria to the kids. I put together a simple sheet with terms pulled from the Newbery manual.
  • Create a scorecard to help participants keep track of their reading. (Mine is based off of one shared on the ALSC Blog by Sarah Abercrombie.)
  • Meet regularly for discussion. My school librarian Mock Newbery partner arranged for me to visit her school library once a month from September through December. Each hour-long meeting opening with some introductory material by me--usually reminders of criteria. Then we'd discuss, with emphasis on comparing our mock titles to one another. We usually wrapped up with some time for question.
  • Arrange a voting party. Our voting party took place on a Saturday afternoon in January at my library--a great way to bring new faces into the public library. We had pizza; discussed books using the CCBC's Book Discussion Guidelines; and used a balloting sheet to vote for our winner and honor books.
  • Celebrate your winners AND the real winners! Share your mock medalist and honorees with the school, at the public library, etc. Then make sure to tune in for the YMA announcement and report back to your Mock Newbery group.

Additional Mock Award Resources

These are the resources I discussed during the course of my talk. Do you have additional resources that you think I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments and I'll edit them in!