Monday, February 27, 2012

Book 44 - Marcelo in the real world by Francisco X. Stork - New York, USA

Marcelo is 17 years old and has development disorder in the autism range, though no doctor is able to fully diagnose his condition. He is looking forward to his summer working with the horses at his school for special needs children. His father, however, has determined that Marcelo needs to experience life in the real world and work at his law firm in the mailroom. If Marcelo successfully works there the whole summer he can return to his special school and if not then his father wants him to go to the local High School.

Marcelo is determined to see the summer out at the law firm so he can return to his school and the horses. His boss in the mail room is a beautiful young woman called Jasmine. Jasmine understands Marcelo quickly and creates an environment in which he can thrive and grow in independence. She helps him rise to the challenges of corporate life. AT the same time Marcelo's father's business father has his son come to work in the firm for the summer. Marcelo distrusts Wendell instinctively and soon discovers that Wendell is motivated by self interest. The two fathers push their sons together and as a result Marcel learns much more about the real world than anyone anticipated. Marcelo throughout the entire summer struggles to be true to himself and at the same time trying to fit in with a world that operates simultaneously on face value and hidden meaning.

This book made me think and it has stayed with me even after a few weeks. The title is very provocative - prompting the question what is the real world? Marcelo's condition makes him evaluate everything literally and with that comes an honesty and integrity that is not common in the real world. He has to work hard at understanding the sub text and hidden meanings in what people say. This novel is rich in material to provoke thought and discussion, I can see why it is an award winner.

While looking for more information about the book I discovered the Story Sleuths website They challenge their readers to read like writers and to investigate award-winning children's literature for clues about how to improve their own writing. The chose this book to look at when it won the Schneider Family Book Award at the ALA Conference in Boston. Their discussion of the book is very detailed looking specifically at plot even to the extent of drawing a map of the plot. This is great teaching on the craft of writing and very good analysis of this book in particular. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book 43 - The Mutiny on board H.M.S. Bounty by William Bligh, graphic novel - Tahiti

We are building up our graphic novel collection and what better way to do it than to use classic stories. We have some of Shakespeare's plays in Manga. We have other popular titles such as Stormbreaker in graphic novels and I have just ordered an ebook graphic series of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. 

I read this particular novel because we were wondering whether to put it into the primary or secondary graphic novel collection. It is a very simplified version of William Bligh's account of the mutiny. It is well illustrated and the frames and flow of the graphic novel work well. It is so simple that it will indeed be added to the primary collection.

I have not read this Classic before so I do not feel qualified to review this graphic novel in terms of the original story line. I think I will read another Saddleback Illustrated Classic that I am more familiar with to compare directly. I do like this method for getting the story to students and those who find it memorable I am sure will seek out the full version. I need to read up some research on whether readers do transfer on to other print forms of texts once having read the graphic novel. 

Barnes and Noble review

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book 42 - The Indigo Notebook by Laura Resau - Ecuador

This is a great read for International Students. Fifteen year old Zeeta lives in a different country each year as her eccentric, English teaching mother seems unable to stay in one place very long. Each year Zeeta writes a new journal - her notebooks, and each year they are a different colour. This year the notebook is Indigo. As she settles in to her new surroundings of Ecuadoran Andes, Zeeta makes friends with the locals as she speaks some of the language. While she yearns for an ordinary life she tries to convince her mother to change her flighty ways. 

Then Zeeta meets up with an American teenager called Wendel who looks remarkably like one of the locals. Adopted by his parents from the region Wendell has made a journey back to try to find his birth mother and father. He convinces Zeeta to help him. 

As Zeeta and Wendell begin their search they discover many things are not as they seem in the local villages. Wendell has some surprising talents he has inherited from his birth family. Zeeta's mother starts to do her utmost to change to please her daughter and Zeeta begins to realize that sometimes getting what you dream for may not be what you wanted after all.

This book combines mysticism with some of life's harsher truths. I enjoy the way Zeeta's mother, Layla seeks to change and in the end some of the steps she makes are very positive.

This is the first book in a series and I will be looking to buy the others for the library.

Laura Resau's website

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Love reading - love quizzes

Just surfacing from Love Reading Week. This was my first attempt at a whole week of reading and library promotion and already I have ideas for next Love Reading Week - February 2013.

This year we had daily quizzes for three different levels of the school. I was so surprised and encouraged by how much the students and staff enjoyed these. These will definitely be on the agenda for next year.

The primary students wrote poems based on Richard Peck's poem "I read because..." only they wrote "I love reading because..." I put each poem into a word cloud using Tagxedo. The cool thing about this website is that you can select shapes to place your word clouds into. Four of the poems are featured here.  I printed each poem and posted it onto the door of the library. 

The PTA held their annual book swap with more than 2000 books changing hands throughout the school.

We held an International Languages Story telling event using the Little Prince as a common story.

Staff members told us about their favourite books and we took their photos with them then put the book and photo on display. Many books were borrowed on the strength that "My teacher liked this...." 

And next year?? Perhaps lunch time readings in the library. Dress up as your favourite book character (though I am not keen on dress ups myself). Plus a repetition of all of the above. A feedback survey will be going out to staff later this week - I  think my next year list will be growing as a result.
A few of my wonderful colleagues with their favourites........

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book 41 - LOL...OMG! by Matt Ivester - Cyberspace

OK I know that strictly speaking this is not Young Adult fiction but it is so applicable to senior high students. Matt Ivester wrote this for College Students after his experience setting up and then removing the website "Juicy Campus". What he thought would be a fun way for students to let off steam about Campus Life became an anonymous forum for bullying, outrageous cyber jokes and for some students regrettable antics. Thus the title of his book - LOL laugh out loud, something that starts as a joke on the Internet can quickly spread and cause a lot of damage and become OMG Oh my God. Ivester gives actual examples often with changed names to show how this happens without much thought. Even the most innocent of posts can be misinterpreted.

Ivester is not suggesting that we should turn off all our social media - he gives some great tips on how to develop an online presence that accurately reflects and promotes you. He also suggests that we all should check search engines to see what other people will find when they search for us.

Timely, readable - a must for students and adults alike.

Stanford School of Business review of the book
From Safely Spotlight - a service for parents

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Love Reading Week coming up....

It is Valentine's Day this Tuesday so in an effort to spotlight reading at our school I have declared that it will be Love Reading Week.

I spent yesterday preparing Daily quizzes for Lower Primary, Upper Primary and Secondary school. I think I ended up writing 70 multi-choice questions in total. The questions included characters, titles, authors, settings, first lines and library information. I hope the students really enjoy answering them in their homerooms.

We will also enjoy the International Language Story Reading sessions again. We will be including Middle School this time so more students hopefully will mean more fun.  

We will launch our own FollettShelf ebook collection - purchased with the Scholastic Book Fair proceeds the PTA gave the library last week. We will also begin a four week trial of Proquest's ebrary system to see if that is something we want to subscribe to next year.

This is the start of what I hope will be annual celebration of reading in our school. Small beginnings.......

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book 40 - Far from Gringo Land by Edward Myers - Santo Domingo, Mexico

Rick Dresner, a senior in high school, is spending his summer vacation with the Romero family, who live in a barrio in the hills of Santo Domingo, Mexico. He'll help them build a house on their land, and in return, they'll provide room and board and help Rick improve his Spanish. It sounds simple enough and the Romeros are family friends, yet as Rick makes his way up the hill to their house he is wondering if this whole plan was a terrible idea. He hardly knows these people and he definitely knows nothing about construction.

Rick was right about the construction project, it turns out to be a lot tougher than he had imagined. All of the construction materials have to be carried up the steep and narrow street to the Romero's house. He has to learn how to make a brick wall that is straight and strong. He has to work harder than he has ever worked before. At the same time language and cultural differences lead to awkwardness and misunderstanding. Rick realises he really is a Gringo who has a very wealthy and easy way of life in his homeland. When he falls for a rich American girl from a very different part of town life gets even more complicated.

This is a great story to help students appreciate differences in culture. I think our International students will relate to Rick's embarrassment and awkwardness coping with Spanish and the Mexican culture which is so very different to his own.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My first book trailer using Animoto

Hope I can teach my students how to do this now... plus find out how to make credits.....

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book 39 - The Interrogation of Gabriel James by Charlie Price - Billings, Montana, USA

Winner of the Edgar Award for best young adult mystery 2011 this is the story of Gabe, a fourteen year-old who is being questioned as a material witness to two murders in his community. Gabe tries to recount the details of the events but as he does so he begins to wonder just how responsible he really is for the terrible events which unfolded. The story is told in flash back as Gabe answers the questions. It is told from first person point of view so we not only hear Gabe's answers we know his thoughts and fears.

Under interrogation Gabe tells of how his relationship with his girlfriend had to end. How a new student to his school and cross country team is cruelly harrassed because of his ethnicity. How he discovers a local homeless man severly wounded. How he makes a discovery about a classmate's home circumstances which are very disturbing. In amongst the events Gabe knows about the town also has a spate of pets being abducted and forest fires.

Charlie Price talks about his book in this interview including a plot summary. Billings Montana is CHarlie Price's home town and during the 1990's was where a whole community got together to put an end to what had been an esculating series of hate crimes against Jews and Native Americans. The success of their efforts is still celebrated to this day.

Charlie Price's website with more info on the book and his other books. Review below from "Pickoftheweek."