Monday, April 30, 2012

Book 56 - Raven Summer by David Almond - Northumberland, England

Liam and his friend Max follow a raven into the fields near their homes and there they discover a baby. She is is lying on top of a pile of stones with a note attached to her clothing, "Plese look after her rite. This is a childe of God." Liam takes her home to his father to find out what they should do. The Police ask the boys lots of questions but they only know that the raven led them to her. The baby is placed with a foster family but Liam's Mum asks if they can visit her. During their visit with the baby, now called Alison, they meet Oliver, a refugee from Liberia and Crystal who are also in the foster home and close to Liam's age. Liam's mother decides they should try to adopt Alison and soon Liam has Alison in his home as his sister. 

This is the main plot of this story yet it also has two very sinister sub plots which all seem to collide at the end of the book. One subplot involves Liam's neighbour and classmate Nattrass who is more than a bully. He has a sadistic side that is truly sinister. The other subplot involves Oliver's past in Liberia and his own trauma at the hands of sadistic adults forcing boys into child armies. 

These subplots are very dark and such a striking contrast with the finding of the baby in the field and the hope she brings with her. Can a person be moved with compassion in one set of circumstances and also become vindictive and filled with hate and rage in another circumstance? This book is for the older teen as it has some very explicit details involving bullying and others which involve the dire realities of war.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Book 55 - Zen and the art of faking it by Jordan Sonnenblick - Pennsylvania, USA

This book was on the School Library Journal list of books to tickle your funny bone. It is a great book for International students who can instantly relate to San Lee's desire to blend in as the new kid at school. He has had to move around quite a lot throughout his lifetime so when he ends up in "Nowheresville" Pennsylvania he observes his school mates and the social cliques like an expert anthropologist trying to figure out which group he will mostly likely fit in with. He has an awesome Humanities teacher who unnerves him instantly on the first day of class. The good news is that the class is studying religions of the world and San had covered that already in his last school. The bad news is that in answering some questions on Buddhism San unwittingly came across as some sort of Zen expert. Now he has to rush off to the town library to really study Zen Buddhism. Enter my favourite character the town librarian - at first a real stereotype but as we get to know her she has all my favourite librarian qualities and more. San finds his studies bring him new enlightenment not only about religion but also about his school, his classmates, his teacher and his own feelings about his father. 

While this was not so much a laugh out loud read, it was enjoyable. I love a book with a librarian as a complex character as well. I can recommend this to students in grades 6 - 8. Lots of fun and some useful thinking about religion, faith and friendships. 

Teenreads review by Jana Silciliano and Jordan Sonnenblick's website and Book trailer by Heidi Floyd on Animoto

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The highs and lows of ebooks

or should I say the agony and the ecstasy? I love ebooks. I have a kindle and I love it. I have more than 80 books on my kindle. I have 9 samples - these are first chapters of books I can download for free to see if I want to purchase them. During conversations with my friends about books I have my kindle app on my smart phone open and I simply find the book we are talking about and down load a sample. I take notes in my ebooks on my kindle, I book mark and highlight. I love it. Some of our students and staff have kindles or nooks or other ereaders. They share my delight in being an International traveler and packing 80+ books in my hand luggage to read and enjoy. So what are the draw backs? I love sharing the books I read. I am a lender of books, my own books, as well as being a librarian. I also love borrowing books from my friends and family and from my local library - Browns Bay Library in Auckland, New Zealand (picture above) I still have a current library card for this lovely place. They do not lend books on to the kindle format - yet.

We do not have kindles in our school library. From the beginning of libraries exploring how to lend ebooks I decided I did not want to commit to the hardware around ebooks. I want my patrons to enjoy ebooks on any device, anywhere, anytime. I did not want to purchase kindles, ipads or readers and lend them out. That seemed to me to be a huge waste of resources. So our library's first connection with ebooks was through Tumblebooks We subscribe to the Tumblebook library. We have passwords and our staff and students then have access to the Tumblebook collection. This is proving to be more and more popular, particularly with the primary school. It has great features for secondary but they have not been as quick to go with us to use it. I love the Shakespearean texts which are read aloud to students.

The PTA at our school raised a lot of money for the library again and this year we decided to trial FollettShelf This provides us with ebooks we select ourselves. Some of the books have unlimited download which means more than one student can borrow it at a time. This month Follett Destiny upgrade has provided a way for FollettShelf to be incorporated into the Destiny catalogue. This has taken a while to launch as the book downloads to one device. So the students have to decide what they will download the ebook to to read it. It does have apple apps for ipad and iphone and they are working on android as well. I was very disappointed to find that about 20% of the books I wanted to purchase - including 'The Hunger Games' were only available in North America. Also not every book is available on ebook format.

We also trialed ebrary from Jstore. I loved this. It was mostly for senior students grades 10 -12. It had a clunky search mechanism but that meant the students had to get skilled at using advance search. The books they found were so helpful. Itis expensive though and now I need to weigh up whether to subscribe to their collection.

So all in all I am a beginner with ebooks but I have taken the plunge. Some of my experiences with them have been great and some frustrating.....

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book 54 - Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Enugu, Nigeria

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the writer who gave the inspirational TED talk I posted about earlier this month. I decided I had to read her books and I started with this one. Published in 2003 this is, in my view, a story of extreme brutality but it is so delicately told by 15 year old Kambili. Kambili lives a privileged life, her father is a wealthy and highly respected businessman. She and her older brother, Jaja, have the best in terms of education and live in a beautiful home. Yet her father terrorizes his family with his fanatic religious behavior which he harshly imposes on them all. Kambili has known no other way of life until her Aunt, Ifeoma, her father's sister, insists that she and Jaja come a stay with her for a week in the summer break. Kambili and Jaja are introduced to a family without strict and unbending rules. Ifeoma and her children love each other loudly and passionately. They too have Christian beliefs even though Kambili's father call them all heathen. Jaja and Kambili's eyes are opend to an alternate world which is such an extreme contrast to their own they are not sure how to relate the two. 

This is a challenging read for those of us who have not had live in fear of someone. At the same time Kimbili is a character who shares her loyalty to a father who almost kills her in his retribution for a perceived sin. Her love for her father is not hard to understand and the confusion she often feels is well portrayed. I recommend this for older teenage readers and invite them at the same time to view the TED talk about the dangers of a single story.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book 53 - Alienated by Andrew Auseon - Santa Rosa, California.

This novel is Men in Black but funnier and for a tween audience. Two eighth graders, Vince and Gene are writers for their own newspaper 'The Globe' which investigates the alien life forms living in their town, Santa Rosa, California. They have uncovered quite a few aliens, Mold Man, Calamari Girl and Crumble Bun - and have befriended some as well. The book opens with some worrying events, aliens they have interviewed suddenly disappearing. Suddenly Vince and Gene find themselves in the center of an Inter Galactic struggle. This impending Universe changing war pits the friends against each other - well that and the fact they like the same girl at school. 

This book will have you look very carefully at the school Councillor and have you laughing out loud at some of the situations the boys find themselves in. I enjoyed this book immensely. It has some themes worthy of consideration in amongst the alien chaos. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book 52 - The Sound of Colours by Jimmy Liao - large city somewhere in the world

“A year ago

I began to notice
that my sight was slipping away.
I sat at home alone
and felt the darkness settle around me.
But today I walked outside
into the thin gray rain
and made my way to the subway.
I have a journey to go on.
There are some things
I need to find." 

This is said by the little girl, she is not given a name, the main character in this picture book as she descends down into the subway. What is it she has lost? Colour, she is going blind. 

This is not a picture book for young shildren. It is definitely a young adult book. The ideas it explores are complex and challenging. The reader is asked to consider things from a very different perspective.

This beautifully illustrated book was translated into English by Sarah L. Thompson. Jimmy Liao is a native of Taipei, Taiwan and a cancer survivor.He has written many books that have been translated into English.The Sound of Colors has been adapted into a stage play and a motion picture.

Book review from studio and from Please don't read this book - particularly helpful review of the art in the book

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Book 51 - The terrible secrets of the tell all club by Catherine Stier - USA

This is for the younger end of the Young Adult fiction category - I guess what I would call a "tweens" novel. The four main characters are your stereotypical middle schoolers - the Queen Bee, Kiley, who is theofunder of the Tell All Club, Josh - the nice guy who seems to love basketball but actually hates it, Anne the new girl to the school and TJ the lovable rogue who always seems to get into trouble. Kiley starts the club by sending the others 50 questions they must answer honestly if they want to get into the club. Question 1 what is your favourite salad dressing? As the questions progress they become more and more personal - what is your favourite memory, what is your most embarrassing moment? and then the final one Who do you really like? 

As can happen with these kind of things once the questions are answers there is no telling who is going to end up seeing your answers.... 

This novel has many twists and turns with misunderstandings and interesting consequences. The characters are more rounded than they first appear. I do like Josh's mother who is forever baking pies to apologise to her community for the actions of her bully son - Josh's big brother. There are some funny moments and some real life lessons. A good read for grade 4 to 6 students.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book 50 - Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi - Gulf Coast, USA

Nailer may be about 15 years old (he is not sure how old he is) but he is tough and able to fend for himself. He lives in a post apocalyptic world of destroyed cities and  ruined environment. His job is to crawl into abandoned ships and remove the copper wire before the heavy crews take the ship apart for scavenge. His father is a drunk who beats him up and his mother died some time ago. In this harsh world Nailer has to fend for himself and at the same time work so that his crew makes quota.

After a massive storm wipes away much of the industry Nailer makes a discovery of his own - a swank clipper ship broken up. He has an opportunity to strip the ship and finally break away from his life of poverty and hard labour. Yet in the midst of the ship he discovers a girl who is in need of his help. Does he risk losing this opportunity to help someone who means nothing to him?

This futuristic book seems to paint such a bleak picture. People who in living in the harsh environment seem to lose much of what makes for civilisation, half dog, half humans who know only loyal servitude to their masters and still the privileged trader class who are themselves in a war of betrayal and take over. Nevertheless the character of Nailer is admirable. He faces his own vulnerabilities and questions whether he will follow after his father's violent and extreme ways.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why story is so important

and the danger of a single story. This is a superb TED talk by an amazing woman,
Chimamanda Adichie. Now I want to read some of her books - she is the writer of 'Purple Hibiscus' and 'Half of a yellow sun'.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Reference Interviews and Personal Project Exhibition

I am a learner when it comes to good reference interviews. This year I am trying to see every student in grade 6 to have a reference interview with them about their Exhibition research. The topics are wide and varied, each student has linked their passion to a global issue. We are looking into illiteracy, leukemia, animal rights and Kony. Each interview is about 10 - 15 minutes long. We start with what is available through our school collection and Destiny webpath express, then we look at EBSCO Middle Search and then .....
Each interview is different and each has been for me very rewarding. To see students smile with delight when we find relevant information is a joy. To have them leave the library with search strategies, sources and ideas is wonderful. We even found articles about lego and autism - the exact topic for one of the students. These reference interviews are fun.

This slideshare from Kaukauna Public Library Staff Training Day was useful : Reference Interview 101
Iowa Library Services includes some body language tips

I created a reference interview record sheet - so I can remember what we did, some guiding questions to help me through at first and an interview sign up sheet. The guiding questions are below for other resources just email me.

Reference Interview Questions for the interviewer

Please tell me more about your topic
What additional information can you give me?
How much information do you need?
What kind of information are you looking for? Please explain that in more detail
Please tell me more about the resources you may use for this assignment

What have you already found?
What type of information do you need?
Do you need up to date or historical information?
I don’t know much about XXXX can you help me understand?