Monday, January 30, 2012

Busy Week Ahead

I like to post weekly, but all I have is a very short note. I saw a small group of 7th graders today. The assignment is a mini-research paper to correlate with their reading of the novel, Flush by Carl Hiaasen. I put together a set of 7 task cards for them to use to begin their research for this assignment. They were given specific resources both print and electronic to use to find information on water quality and water pollution. Once they found their sources of information, the students had to create a citation for each source in Easybib. I thought this would be simple for them. All of the students had experience with the databases and using Easybib. It did not go as well as I would have liked. First, the students did not follow the steps on the task cards. Not following directions is often a big problem with students. So I went back to my task cards and at a teacher's suggestion, I divided each task into steps. You can find my task cards here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Andrea Cremer, Author of the Nightshade Series, Visits PFTSTA

Click here to watch the book trailer

On Friday, January 20th, the 9th and 10th grade students were treated to a talk by Andrea Cremer. She has written a trilogy called the Nightshade series, and she is also a history professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. I was fascinated with her explanations of how she used her knowledge of the early modern era of history (1500-1800) to flesh out the elements of the fantastical world that she builds.
She talked about her upbringing in a very rural area of Wisconsin. This fostered her love of nature, the woods, and wolves because of her proximity to the outdoors. She knew that if her characters were going to change into wolves, then they needed to be beautiful not horrid. As she found the real wolves that she encountered as a child to be beautiful. It was a horse accident one summer that got her on the road to writing. She was bed bound for 12 weeks and wanted to spend her time doing something that she always dreamed of doing. She had the time, and so fulfilling her love of writing seemed to be a way to turn her misery into a very positive experience. Nightshade, the first in the series, came out of her convalescence period. The publisher loved it so much that she received  contracts for the whole series very quickly.
Since she mentioned that she was from Wisconsin, one of my students asked about her interest in cheese. I was mortified. What was he thinking? Andrea was a consummate professional; she didn't blink an eye and told us more about the dairy state and cheese. Other questions were quite insightful. One student asked how you draw the lines between science fiction and fantasy. She explained how the lines are extremely blurred these days. Andrea talked about Steampunk which has elements of both sci fi and fantasy, and how she has a Steampunk novel in the works that is coming out in 2013. That got the boys very excited.

Click here to watch Andrea's interview with two 8th grade students
Another aspect of her writing that I found interesting was the way she wrote. She does not like to create an outline. Though she knows where she wants her story to end up, she does not write it in chronological order. She would write the scenes as they came to her no matter their order. Then she would fill in as needed. She also thought of her trilogy as one long book. The first two end in total cliffhangers, but she kept writing as if it were one book, not three. So for her, there were no delays in the action of one book to the next. Now that all three of her titles in this series have been published, you can read them in succession.

We would like to thank Penguin Teen and locally owned Octavia Books for bringing Andrea Cremer to PFTSTA. Late on Friday, a student stopped by the library to tell me that Andrea Cremer was the best. You know what, that just made my day!

Find more pics of this event on the PFTSTA Library website.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Get Reading 9 : Created with Student Help

I have been working on the pieces and parts of this video for a month. In the meantime, my school desktop and laptop were converted to Windows 7. I had not used the new Movie Maker, and I was not sure if PhotoStory would work on 7. The learning curve was small and except for the time that it took to download the programs onto my computer I got this put together this afternoon in about 45 minutes. Thank goodness because I have a litany of other computer issues that I won't dwell on now. In this episode there are two recommended books: The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk and Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer. The president of Bookmarked, the high school book group, gives her take on the Pfeffer book.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

John Green's TFiOS Tour Hits New Orleans

Last night was a real treat. I took a couple of former students to dinner, and then we went to see the touring John and Hank Green show. John Green is the author of some of my favorite young adult literature titles. He is on tour for the New York Times bestselling book The Fault in Our Stars or TFiOS as he likes to abbreviate it.
John Green
The brothers are making 17 stops on this tour. At each stop they are performing at a venue of around 500. There were sell outs in the 6 cities before New Orleans and though NOLA didn't sell out, there were over 450 people in the audience last night. I was blown away because I knew so many of them. I did not see any librarians that I knew, but the audience was made up of mostly teens and 20 somethings. So there were a lot of my former students there. Every time I turned around, someone else was calling out "Ms. Kahn" to me. That made it a lot of fun. John and his brother Hank created a Youtube channel called the Vlog Brothers. I have seen some of the videos, but I don't follow it. So I missed many of the references that they made. Oh well, that is the curse of getting old. You can't keep up with pop culture. 
John started the event with a reading from the book. I can't wait to dig into it because it tells the story of two teens and their heroic fight against cancer. As a cancer survivor myself, I am intrigued to hear about treatment from a teen's point of view. The book is all about heroism. John said that he began forming the story when he asked himself if a person dies young can they live a heroic life. He believes you can. 

Hank Green
Hank is a singer and the creator of DFTBA, which means Don't Forget to Be Awesome. This is the tenet of the nerdfighters. Anyway, he sang a bunch of songs last night. My favorite of the evening was Book Eight, where he laments that the epilogue of HP 7 is garbage, and JK Rowling needs to write an 8th book in the series. 

The books were pre-signed, but I decided to stay to get my books personalized. I was able to get a few close up shots of the guys. Chad, in the striped shirt, graduated from PFTSTA in 2009. He was an active member of Bookmarked and spent a lot of his free time hanging in the library. 

By the way, you can listen to Susan Larson interview John Green on WWNO's The Reading Life.

Find more pics of this event on Octavia Books Facebook page.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Time for the Louisiana Teens' Readers' Choice Awards

If you are ages 12-18 then click here to cast your vote for your favorite books.

These are the books on the ballot: 
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Iron Heart: The True Story of How I Came Back from the Dead by Brian Boyle
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Mare's War by Tanita Davis
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
Ruined by Paula Morris
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
If I Grow Up by Todd Strasser

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy New Year and Welcome Back to Computer Hell

We returned to school today. We had a wonderful two week and one day break from academia. The last two days before the break there were computer issues at school. Some students and teachers could log on to the Internet. Others could not. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it. You could be using a hard wired computer or the wifi. I managed okay and was able to print and access all that I needed to and was able to help teachers who could not.

Over break a new server was installed. I am using the brand new  Lenovo laptop that the district gave all the teachers. It is working fine, but I have to tweak it and add all the programs that I like to use, like Chrome. Luckily, all my documents from the old server are accessible from the new computer. BUT..... there is a problem. The new laptop runs Windows 7. I have a desktop that I use for all my library circulation. It has the scanner attached. That computer runs XP. I can't have a 7 profile and a XP profile on the server and have them both synchronize together. So I can't use my desktop until they can get me a new operating system.

Ugh, what a way to start the new year.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Reading to Review for the Journals

I love to read, though I am picky about what I read. Generally, I will read several YA titles that appeal to me and then read an adult book to keep up with what my adult friends recommend. I like fiction, and only read a non-fiction title if the subject is one of my passions. Sometimes I need to read a book because a student has begged me to or because someone objects to a book's content and I need to see if I agree (usually I don't) or because the author is going to visit my school.

I have always thought that I was capable of writing book reviews for the journals for librarians. I am reading all the time, and I have been writing reviews on this blog for years. I would see the call for reviewers in School Library Journal (SLJ) but never respond. I was gun shy and didn't know if I could live up to their standards. After winning the Gale TEAMS Award in October, I was asked by Library Media Connection (LMC) if I would review for their magazine.  Then I got a call from SLJ and asked if I would review for them too. The nice part about writing reviews is receiving new books for the library. The bad part is that I have to read books that I have not selected. SLJ wants reviewers to read a book a month, and LMC wants reviewers to read two books a month.

I received my first box from LMC the other day. There were four books to review, two for January and two for February. Uh oh, now I have to read books that I might not like, or even books that are so poorly written that they might be really awful. Now what am I going to do?. No more 50 page rule for me. You know the rule where you read 50 pages to decide if you like a book, if you get to page 50 and still hate the book then you stop reading. Relief. I hate reading a book that I don't like. It brings back memories of all the boring textbooks that I had to read in school. Yes, textbooks are extremely boring.Where were all the beautifully photographed non-fiction available today when I was in school?

Reading to review is going to put a big crimp in my ability for choice. I wonder how I will fit in the title that my adult book group selects every month. This is not a permanent job, so I will see how it goes. If I have no time to read what I want, then I will have to pull back and ask to review less books. I am willing to try it, and I am hoping to find some real gems in the boxes that I open every month.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Get Reading a Dystopian Novel for the New Year

Happy New Year one and all. I have been spending my day (in between going to parties) creating the tenth episode of Get Reading: digital booktalks for teens who love to read. In this edition, I highlight two new dystopian series: Divergent by Veronica Roth and Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Watch the video to find out more.

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