Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book 38 - The boy in the dress by David Walliams - an ordinary town in England

This is the story of Dennis - an ordinary boy who lives in an ordinary house in an ordinary street in an ordinary town in England. This is not an ordinary book though, it is extra-ordinary in that it tells exactly how Dennis feels - his mother left one day and after a while in a house where the rules include "No talking about Mum. No Crying. And worst of all - no hugging." Dennis is full of sadness.

Dennis saves one part of a photo of his mother from the bonfire of photos his father burned in their gardenl. In that photo she is laughing with him and wearing a pretty floral dress. While he is at the corner shop one day Dennis sees a copy of Vogue magazine with a model wearing a similar dress and he buys it and secretly reads it cover to cover.

An after school detention leads him to meeting one of the most beautiful and popular girls in the school, Lisa,  and as they walk home together they discuss fashion. She is amazed at his knowledge and thus begins their friendship. Together they push the boundaries of what is considered usual and it leads to some very unexpected consequences.

David Walliams the author of the book is well known in England as one of the comedy duet in the series "Little Britain." One of their regular skits is actually mentioned in the book - where the two men dress up in women's clothing and pretend to be "ladies". I wondered if this book too would be a comedy. It is not - it is more a classic British tale of triumph over tragedy. I thought the emotions in the book were real and raw and many students could easily relate to them. I will suggest this as a read aloud to some of our grade 5 and 6 teachers.

From the National Library of New Zealand

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book 37 - Jumped by Rita Williams-Gracia - inner city somewher in USA

Perspectives - three different young women, attend the same school, are in the same grade, the events all happen on the one day, three very different perspectives.

Trina: "Hey" I say, though I don't really know them. The boy-ed up basketball girl barely moves. The others, her girls, step aside. It's okay if they don't speak. I know how it is. They can't all be Trina.

Dominique: Some stupid little flit cuts right in between us and is like, "Hey." Like she don't see I'm here and all the space around me is mines. I slam my fist into my other hand because she's as good as jumped.

Leticia: Why would I get involved in Trian's life when I don't know for sure if I saw what I thought I saw? Who is to say I wasn't seeing it from the wrong angle?
While Dominique is a basketball player the "Jumped" title of this book is not refering to basketball but to a fight. Letitia is trying to make up her grades. She has a math class before school to try to improve her grade. She is lacking motivation and feels disconnected with her school world now her friend is on job placement. She knows the code though and she know how dangerous Dominque can be when she is crossed. Dominique is furious. She has been benched by the coach until her grades improve. She blames her science teacher for this and tries to bully him into changing her grade. Life is all about how she sees things, her space, her sport, her girls - she is in control - until coach benches her. Trina is all about drawing attention to herself. Wearing hot pink outfits, trying to be friendly with everyone, failing to read how others are really reacting to her attention seeking antics.

This is a book brimming with tension. It is set in an inner city school somewhere in the USA. At this school there are police officers patrolling the hallways. The teachers lock the doors to keep problem students out. It is a compelling read, especially as each chapter is from one of the three girls' perspectives. I was wondering, however, as I read if any of my students would relate to it. Our school is nothing like the one Trina, Letitia and Dominique attend. Having sadi that though sometimes the best the most thought provoking stories are those that bare little resemblance to your own world. I will try this out with some of my avid readers and see what they think.
Common Sense media's discussion tips for the book - worthwhile reading...

Rita Williams-Garcia's website

A review from a teacher at Berkley High

Friday, January 27, 2012

Book 36 - Brain Jack by Brian Falkner - San Jose, USA

Sam Wilson has skills, talent and ambition - he wants to hack into the most secure websites and leave again without a trace. He is does not want to cause trouble - his motivation is more like the reasons why people climb mountains - becasue they are there. If there is a major secure network - Sam simply sees it as a challenge.

Sam's infiltration into the world's largest tele-communications company sees him helping himself to some new hardware - including the latest neuro-headset, way out of his price range normally. The headsets link in with brain waves making clumsy mouse and kepboard use unnecessary. Just think about what you want the computer to do and it will do it. A gamer's dream come true. It is while he is using this new technology Sam realises that if anything on anyone's computer is vulnerable to a hack then what would happen if your mind is hooked into the system?

Sam's biggest success in hacking the communications company brings him to the attention of some elite hackers and to his delight he is invited to join them - inside the computer system of the White House. It is this invitation that leads Sam into bigger trouble than he has ever known. It is bigger trouble than the USA has ever known - things in the whole world may possibly never be the same again.

This book has heaps of action, raises some very topical questions and an unexpected resolution. Great read. By the way - Brian Falkner is a kiwi and his other books are great reads as well. My favourite for younger audiences - 'The Real Thing.'

Brian's website and his thoughts about the book

Katie's review in YA reads - with a different cover illustration shwping the neuro-headset

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book 35 - Boys without names by Kahmira Sheth - Mumbai, India

This is the story of a storyteller - an eleven year old boy called Gopal. He loves to read and write and tell stories to his siblings. His is not an easy life in a poor rural village in India. His family cannot pay their debts so they have to flee in the middle of the night - looking for a better life in Mumbai. Gopal cannot say good-bye to his friend, he leaves hoping for a fresh life in the big city.

When Gopal meets a strange youth near his Uncle's shack who offers him work he jumps at the offer, knowing anything he can bring home will help his family. But it is a trick and Gopal finds himself locked away in a shed with other boys gluing beads onto photo frames. The boys are forbidden to talk or to call each other by their names. Gopal quickly creates nicknames for all the people - the strict and cruel foreman, each of the boys. His story telling abilities soon bring him friends but there are some who see his ability to read and write as a real threat. Locked away from his family, in squalid working condition, Gopal discovers an inner strength and a hope that does not fade despite his circumstances.

I recommend this book for so many reasons. It has a very real issue at its heart - child slavery. It is very well written. It will make for great discussion with all who read it.

Kashmira Sheth's Blog

An interview with Kashmira Sheth

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

30 goals for 2012 from Teacher Reboot Camp

Shelly Sanchez Terrell has a blog called Teacher Reboot Camp - she is a teacher and ICT enthusiast in the USA. She manages several wikis for educationalists. She has a 30 goals challenge for 2012. I am not sure I can handle 30 goals especially as the first one is to write a "Me manifesto" The theme for the year is "Dare to Believe"which does capture my imagination.

The Manifesto is to be a public declaration of what I am about. That should be easy right?

Below is Shelly explaining what a Me Manifesto is and how to create one.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Destiny is on the go - on my smart phone

This is so awesome - I know my geeky side is definitely coming out now but I downloaded this app to my smart phone this afternoon. Now I have our library catalogue Destiny Quest with me 24/7 - wherever I go.

Now how do I let the staff and students at my school know about the app, how to download it and then get them using it..... hmmm the marketing questions are always the toughest aren't they?

Here is a wordpress post showing how David Barrow Elementary School Library is promoting it. Looks like I have some work to do....

Below is the Follett YouTube description of how to use the app. For anyone at our school - come and see me for the website address and make sure you have your username and password handy..... Destiny is on the go.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book 34 - Bull's Eye by Sarah N. Harvey - Victoria, Canada

Emily's Aunt Donna, her mother's sister, has died and suddenly her whole world changes. Some people get left an inheritance of money or gifts; Emily was left photos and information. Emily has to deal with the new understanding that her Aunt was her mother and her mother is her Aunt. Somehow everything has warped. Nothing is the same and nothing ever will be the same again.

Emily goes in search of her real father and finds some interesting answers. In her quest for vengence against who she thought was her mother she begins to graffiti Bull's Eyes everywhere. When she is caught and prosecuted part of her punishment is to help children caught up in foster care. The punishment brings Emily to new understandings about others and their problems and about her mother and what she did for her.

An Orca Soundings book this is short and all action. The message is clear and believeable. A great read.

Sarah N Harvey's website  Orca Books website

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Book 33 - The Adventures of Jack Lime by James Leck - Iona, Nova Scotia, Canada

This book is laugh out loud funny and written in the style of the cheap detective novels of the USA. Jack, however, lives in Iona, Canada and is a teenage boy who decides to become a detective even though he is still at school. Believe me at Jack's school there are plenty of activities that require the skills of a detective. The only trouble is that these same activities involve people who do not appreciate the interference of a detective. Jack is remarkably successful as he observes and come up with interesing and accurate conclusions. He does get into trouble with his peers though and the last mystery is a complicated tangle from his previous cases.

I would love to see this made into a book trailer - it has heaps of potential. I can't wait to get it inot the hands of some of the avid readers in grades 4 - 6, I know they will enjoy it.

Review from Kids Can Press

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Book 32 - Cleopatra Rules by Vicky Alvear Shecter - Alexandria, Egypt

The cover of this book is a complete forerunner of the tone and style of this history of Cleopatra. It is very chatty and colloquial, it is full of glamour and gossip BUT at the same time it brings into focus that the historians who wrote about Cleopatra closest to the time of her life were Romans - her sworn enemies and the ones who maligned her character. The writer maintains that to trully understand Cleopatra we have to try to take as many views of her as possible from as many sources. Very balanced approach.

Some things I didn't know about Cleoptara before reading this book: She was a book worm, she hung out at the library at Alexandria. She could speak and read many languages. She had a son with Juliius Caesar and three children (including a twins) with Mark Antony. She was a strategist and knew how to sway public opinion in her favour when in Egypt but was powerless to move the crowd in Rome.

A fascinating read and though not strictly Young Adult fiction I am still counting it in my total due to the style of writing in the book. I hope this will prove popular with the readers of our school.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book 31 - The Great Motion Mission by Cora Lee - USA

Having read a combination of fiction and fact in the previous book I have now found a combination of fact and fiction. These are an interesting genre.

In this book - which we have classified as nonfiction, the story is told of an unnamed city council in the USA which is cancelling the summer fair in favour of a physics conference. Jeremy and his uncle Liam try to start a campaign to reinstate the fair but the next door neighbour and physics whiz Audrey sets out to show them that there is physics everywhere, even in their ordinary lives.

Audrey shows them that physics can help sports people; that gravity and the laws of motion even make fair rides exciting; that music and art have sound waves and light waves which bring the show to us.

There are fact sidebars throughout the book featuring each form of physics under discussion. I am not sure many students will read this book for the story. I have aske dour Physics teachers to have a close look at this book. Cora Lee has also written "The Great Number Rumble" which won the American Institute of Physics 2009 Communication award.

Kirkus Review (The world's toughest Book Critics)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book 30 - Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen - Pennsylvania, USA

Having read the previous book I decided I would go to a traditional Gary Paulsen with this read. Woods Runner certainly is not traditional though - not for Gary Paulsen nor for a fiction book.  This story follows thirteen year old Samuel who lives with his parents at the edge of the wilderness in the British Colony of Pennsylvania. They are a long way from other settlers and from any towns. It is true frontier country. Samuel is growing in his hunting skills and it is while he is out hunting for his family that they are attacked by British soldiers and Iroquois. Samuel arrives home to find their cottage raised to the ground. He fearfully goes on to his nearest neighbours and finds them all savagely murdered. Samuel is convinced that his own parents have been taken prisoner and thus begins his quest to find them. He discovers how brutal his enemy can be but alos how courageous his allies are on his behalf. As he makes his way deep into the enemy territory he makes lifelong friendships and loyalties.

Each chapter of Samuel's story is followed by a fact file about the American Revolution. Gary Paulsen does not spare the reader any of the gruesome details of warfare and frontier life in those times. The details are compelling. This makes for a deeper understanding of Samuel's life and a greater appreciation of his bravery.

Gary Paulsen talks about his writing and Wood Runner.
A Book Review posted at National Geographic Kids by Reed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book 29 - Masters of Disaster by Gary Paulsen - USA

Warning - kids do not try this at home. I think from the cover you can guess that this is a book for the tween boy audience. Harry is a young man who is determined never to be bored or inactive. He works up some amazing plans and his friend Riley and Reed are always included in the events. Riley is the details person, writing notes and making calculations. Reed somehow always ends up being the stunt man, even when there is no actual stunt involved. This trio work together in an effort to enter the record books, the problem is that their outrageous ideas seem to end up in disaster - just as the title suggests. Their antics will make you laugh out loud.

I had not realised that Gary Paulsen also wrote for a younger audience and that his books for them were so funny. It just goes to show what a versitile writer he truly is. Random House has an old webpage about the author's life and it does show what an adventuresome person he is. No wonder he can write books like this one.

Review from kidsreads

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book 28 - Shakespeare makes the playoffs by Ron Koertge - USA

I really enjoyed this book. It has nothing to do with Shakespeare himself other than the main character Kevin's nickname is Shakespeare because he writes poetry. The entire book is written in poetic form. It is a delight and an enlightenment at the same time. Kevin challenges himself to write in different forms of poetry - he writes free verse, quatrains, couplets and villanelles.

Kevin's father, a writer himself, gives him a red note book in an attempt to encourage his son's writing talent. Kevin discovers how useful it is to have a secret keeper. He writes about his girlfriend Mira. He writes about baseball. He writes about his grief at his mother's death. He writes about his father's grief. He writes poetry which makes compelling reading. At a poetry reading evening Kevin meets Amy - an exceptional poet. He begins a friendship with her but begins to realise that their mutual love for poetry is developing into something more.

This book is a sequel to Shakespeare Bats Cleanup and true to form our library doesn't have that book either - so frustrating. I can say that as I am the one who creates the orders each year. I will be ordering the first book.  However, we do have two other works by Ron Koertge which I will be looking into when we return from the winter holiday.

Review from Guys Lit Wire Blog
60secondrecap take on the book

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Book 27 - Ice by Sarah Beth Durst - Arctic Circle

I am not really a great fantasy reader but this was an enjoyable tale of the Polar Bear King and redemption of people you love. Cassie had grown up on an Artic research station with her father. Her mother had died when she was young - or so she was told. Her grandmother had told her a fairy tale of how her mother had been swept away to the ends of the earth by the north wind because of the polar bear King. On her eighteenth birthday Cassie comes across the largest, fastest polar bear she has ever seen. Just as she was about to fire a tranquilising dart into it so she could tag it he disappears as if into thin air. As she tells the story to her father his reaction makes her realise her grandmother's story may not be fiction afterall. What if she could find her mother? What would happen if she could find the polar bear King? Defying her father, Cassie steps out of the only home she has ever known and into the ice world of the polar bear King, trolls and the terrible North Wind.

Cassie learns a lot about loyalty, bargains, love and family. She has to take impossible risks and show courage and stubborness can make a way where there seems no other way. I enjoyed the fantasy world where bears can talk, castles are made from ice and logical thinking can still save the day. A good winter's tale.
Sarah Beth Durst's website and a review from teen reads