Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Fav YA Reads for 2011

When I was at the AASL conference in October, I talked to a university professor who is on YALSA's Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee. She explained to me that she reads a book a day. Wow! I did know that all members of the BFYA committee are expected to read over 300 books a year, but I just couldn't finish a book every day. I love to read. I love reading YA titles, but I just don't think that I have the time to read that much. I average 50 titles a year. I admit that some days I just don't feel like reading. Other days I read for several hours. I am going to start reviewing books for Library Media Connection and School Library Journal. I hope that I can meet their deadlines.

This is the time of the year when everyone seems to be making best of and worst of lists. I tried to avoid it because I did not want to be cliche, but I like to reflect. Even though I probably mentioned some of these titles in this blog over the year, I want to give another plug to some of my favorite authors and titles that I read in 2011.

Bookmarked, my high school book group, is part of the YALSA YA Galley program. So we are sent boxes and boxes of books. The kids get excited every time a new box arrives, but the boys usually walk away disappointed because all the new titles seem to be geared for girls. (Publishers did you hear this? We need more books with teenage boy appeal!) Several of my favorite reads this year had male protagonists and would definitely appeal to boys. I loved John Corey Whaley's Where Things Come Back. The small town setting, the cast of hilarious characters, and the idea that the search for a woodpecker would be more important than the search for a lost boy was intriguing. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi was the Printz winner for the year, and if I had been on that committee, it would have had my vote too. It is about a dystopian world where no one ever heard of child labor laws, as the kids are sent in to strip old ships to mine them of valuable materials. Another title that I enjoyed that would appeal to boys was the end of the trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, Goliath. I thought it was the best of the three, and I love the stories that give the reader an alternate history like he does with World War I. This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel, which tells the story of Victor Frankenstein's life as a teenager was a gothic adventure that could have been written hundreds of years ago.

I am amazed with all the dystopian stories that authors keep churning out that they can offer a new perspective on a future that we hope never happens. I read the first book in two new dystopian series and loved them both. One was Delirium by Lauren Oliver. In this future, everyone must take the cure for love when they reach 18 years of age. Lena can't wait for the cure until she meets Alex and finds out that feeling the passion of love is amazing. Then there is Divergent by Veronica Roth. In this story Tris, now 16, must choose the group in which she plans to live. Does she stay with her family or leave the group that nurtured her to find her true calling in life? It is an extremely hard decision for someone of that age. I also read Matched and its sequel, Crossed, by Ally Condie in 2011. Matched was amazing, but the second in the series not so much. I am hoping the third book will make it all worth it.

I also want to mention Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now. It just so happens that Doug in the story was born the same year as I was. This really was one of my very favorites that I read this year, but as it is historical fiction, my students have not had a lot of interest. I recommend it all the time, though. My other very favorite of the year was Shine by Lauren Myracle. It is so different from her other works. It tells a harsh story, but in such a beautiful way. Since my book group got to meet Lauren at the ALA conference this summer, they all got signed copies of Shine. They liked the book as much as me.

There you have it. It is not a definitive list, nor an authoritative list. I read books to feed my soul, and these books did the trick. I can't wait to see what awaits me in 2012.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My First Contribution to School Library Journal Extra Helping

Last week, I was asked to type up 200 words describing the books that my middle school students were reading for fun. It was published in the online newsletter, Extra Helping, that School Library Journal publishes every other week. Open the link below and scroll down to find out what the middle school students at PFTSTA love to read:
What Are They Reading for Fun?: Middle School Edition

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fourth Graders Visit PFTSTA for Science Extravaganza

It's not often that we see 35 little ones sitting on the floor in the PFTSTA Library

It has been almost nine years since I was an elementary school librarian. I miss the beautiful picture books, and the way I could hold a class of 32 kids in the palm of my hands as I told a gripping story. Luckily, we have an event every year that gives me the opportunity to ham it up and be silly in front of a group of kids. 

Each semester, Mrs. Higgins, the seventh grade science teacher invites the 4th graders from Metairie Academy to visit PFTSTA. The students spend 45 minutes engaged in the experiments that the 7th graders created, and then they spend 45 minutes with me. I have two fabulous books by Steve Jenkins that I have used for three different Extravaganza events. The non-fiction books, Bones and Actual Size, are huge with amazing pictures and the science fits right into the event. You can see me on the right reading to the students. 

Once I read the books, my 8th grade helpers use the interactive white board and quiz the audience on the information found in the books. All members of the audience received a learner response device, so they could take the quiz electronically. The answers to the questions all came from the two books that I read aloud. I had two sessions of 45 minutes each. When it was over, I remembered why I moved to the upper grades. It is hard work entertaining a room full of 9 year olds. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What do the PFTSTA Students Want for Christmas?

I received a bunch of multiple copies of brand new books from a library that could not use them. I wanted to give them away as prizes, so I ran another email contest for the students. That way, I would be getting the books into the hands of kids as well as getting them to read their school email. I also went through some of the boxes in the library and found more books to give away. I had  a total of 31 books which meant ten percent of the student body would win a book.

I really like surveys. So I created a google form and asked the following questions.: What electronic device do you want for Christmas, be realistic or dream a little either way is correct?; What device do you want to give your family for Christmas?; What device do you want to give your friends for Christmas?; and finally, What device do you want to give your teachers for Christmas?. I am so proud of the students at PFTSTA; by reading their responses, you can tell that they put a lot of thought into it. Even though they were asked for a one or two word answer many of the students made some interesting comments.

One student wanted, "a device for his family where we would always be connected."
Another student would "give my friends headphones, gift cards that they could use ON their electronic device. I suppose it just depends."
One sixth grader remarked, "I think the teachers need APPLE LAPTOPS! Down with the Dell! Haha!"
A ninth grade girl says that she wants this for her friends, "Canon cameras because that has been at the top of everyones wishlist this year.
I love this idea for the teachers from a senior, "An e-reader with a complimentary book, The Case Against Homework."

I used my new favorite word cloud creator, tagul, to collate the responses.

All the students want for 2011 Christmas:

Get Adobe Flash player

All the students want to get for their families: 

All the students want to get for their friends:

All the students want to get for their teachers: 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Review of a New Fav Title

I picked up Mrs. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs on a fluke. I had seen it listed on the best seller list, but I really didn't know much about it except that it included some unusual photographs. The author found some old black and white photos from various collections to enrich the story. Each photograph portrays one of the many cast of unusual characters that reside in this book.

Jacob adores his grandfather and has listened to the stories that his grandfather tells about his childhood in the children's home as if they were fairy tales. It is not until his grandfather dies that he learns the truth. His parents don't understand, but allow him to travel with his father to find the children's home on an isolated island in Wales. Jacob is astounded by what he finds on the island of his grandfather's youth, and you will be too.

I am not a fan of horror, and I guess you could say this has a tinge of horror or the grotesque to it. I say this is a story of magical realism that you want to believe. I adored the peculiar children, and I anxiously awaited the description of each one.

The story doesn't tie up all the loose ends. I am not sure if a sequel is planned or if the author just wanted the reader to decide what happens next to the children. Either way I recommend this highly unusual book.

Check out the book trailer created by the publisher Quirk Books.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Need Help Selecting a Book?

Not everyone likes to read the same kinds of books. Selecting what to read next can often be an arduous task for some, especially those reluctant readers. I encourage all students to read, and if technology is king in your home, then there are some great new tools that can be used to tie the Internet to books. You can use these tools for book recommendations or even help with book selection for holiday gifts.

Author, James Patterson, believes students must be good readers to find successful careers, and I agree with him. He is all about finding books that mean something to you. He has created a website called Read Kiddo Read to recommend good books for students.

Barb Langridge has created  a phenomenal website about books called A Book and A Hug. The website may have an elementary look about it, but she has lists of good books for tweens and teens. There are also some great author videos that your child might like. 

StorySnoops was created by four moms in California. They read extensively, and you can search their site by age level, genre, author, title or recommended books. For lists of good titles for tweens and teens you can find it on their website. 

Scholastic has created a site called You are What You Read. Find out what five books have shaped the lives of authors and celebrities and log in the five books that shaped your life. 

I recently found a literature mapping tool. You type in an author’s name, and the screen fills with names of many authors. The placement of each author is based on how similar the writing is to the author you typed. It is hard to explain because it is very visual. You can use it for all ages. It is a lot of fun to watch the author's names move across the screen every time you type someone new in the box. 

I have one more site that I recently found. It is called Small Demons. I imagine that the name is some literary reference, and if you know what it means please let me know. The idea at this site is to list books and add all the references that are made in this book like music, movies, food, people, places, etc. Members will be able to add and edit the books. It turns a book of printed words into a very visual form. This one just got started so the number of books is limited, but it will grow. 

Have fun and check out some of these websites. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Voting Opened for Edublog Awards

The polls have opened for the annual Edublog Awards. I was shortlisted again this year for best librarian blog. You can vote once a day until December 14th. Open here to enter the voting booth.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Presenting at LACUE 2011

On Wednesday, November 30th, Kelly Maher, Lisa Valence and I were scheduled to present at the LACUE conference. We titled our presentation: Preparing Students for the Future: Tools for Teachers and for Teaching Teens. We were to begin at 1PM which was the last hour of the conference. When we walked into the room for the noon session right before ours, there was one person sitting at the presentation. UGH! We really didn't want to present in front of a party of one. When I began to hook up the computer and get ready for our marvelous multi-media powerpoint that we created, people started to walk in. Whew! We were going to have an audience after all. About 20 people attended our session. Kelly began the session by thanking them for joining us for the very last hour. We got several compliments when we were done. We put together a wiki with all the sites that we mention in our talk and more. Open it up and check it out, you might find something new to try with your students.
Lisa Valence, Kelly Maher, and Elizabeth Kahn
LACUE November 2011

I am at the beginning of my presentation 
when I talk about the physical size of the library.

Highlighting the 2011 TEAMS Award Winners

When Lisa Valence and I heard that we won the Gale TEAMS Award in September, we thought that we would receive $2500 and that would be it. Who knew this was an honor that would keep on giving and giving, even several months later. Gale Cengage sent us to the American Association of School Librarian's Conference in Minneapolis in October and held a reception there in our honor. We have a year's subscription to Library Media Connection magazine, and we are waiting to receive the cash award along with $500 in Gale products and some Linworth products, too. Library Media Connection asked us to write an article for their magazine describing the collaborative project that we submitted for the award. 

The icing on the cake is this marvelous video that Gale had produced about Patrick Taylor Academy and the project that we designed to teach the social studies research paper. The video was shown at the Gale booth in the exhibit hall during the AASL conference (over and over again). It was also played during the ceremony where we officially accepted the award and made acceptance speeches. 

Now, you have a chance to see this video. Click below to open and view. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

LACUE Award Winner

Region I winners for LACUE
I am standing on the far right

On Tuesday, November 29th, I accepted an award from the Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators. They gave me the Region I Educator of the Year Award. There are 8 regions in the state of Louisiana. I applied for the Leader of the Year Award which is designed for non-classroom personnel who exhibit exemplary use of technology for teaching and learning. The best candidate overall is selected as each region's Educator of the Year. I was excited to win that, then one person from each category is selected as the state winner. Okay, I wanted to win state, but you can't win everything.  I won the lovely certificate that you see me holding in the picture below and bragging rights too. 

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