Thursday, February 21, 2013

Students Enthralled with Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow traveled straight from the airport to PFTSTA today to speak to the 135 members of the high school. I was thrilled to have an author who would be interesting to the boys. He has a wonderful talk that he has given at all the previous stops on his tour, but that did not deter him from letting the students see how passionate he is about technology, privacy, freedom of information access and a whole slew of Internet issues that weren't even in our consciousness twenty years ago.

Some of the students said that he really didn't talk about his books. In essence he did. All the issues that are real to him including his stories of schools that issued laptops to students then spied on those students at home, companies that rented laptops then spied on their customers in compromising positions, and the US government prosecuting citizens who violate the computer fraud and abuse act are all included in his fictional novels about Marcus Yallow in some way. His books are set in the near future, and some of the technologies described in the books are definitely available now but others are not but could be soon.

He also talked about his friend Aaron Swartz who was an Internet activist. Aaron was indicted for downloading journal articles by the millions from JSTOR from the servers at MIT. Aaron thought this information should be available for free. Aaron, only 26, killed himself in January of 2013, two years after his initial arrest. Cory wanted the students to know that suicide does not solve your problems and that no matter how depressed you get, it is important to seek help. He explained that he is using this book tour to talk about suicide and the need for prevention.

Cory does not talk down to the students at all, and some of what he said was over my head, but the students really seemed to get it. So many of them clamored to talk to him when it was over and bought a book for him to sign. You can hear more from Cory and about his books by listening to this interview by Susan Larson on The Reading Life from WWNO. If you want to read his books online for free, you can find Little Brother here and you can find Homeland here. Craphound is Cory's website, and he is editor of the blog, Boing Boing. You can watch a talk that he gave at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC a few days before he was in New Orleans. Look for more pictures of this visit on the PFTSTA library website

We would like to thank Judith and Tom at Octavia Books and the people at MacMillan for making this visit possible.

OMG, Ruta Sepetys Blew Us Away

Ruta Sepetys spent an hour entertaining the juniors with stories of her life before she became an author and after when she spent years researching the historical background of her two novels, Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy. The students were an enrapt audience as she told each funny and harrowing tale that she experienced. 

Initially, Ruta, wanted to sing opera, but found out early on that she was no good at it. So with her finance degree, she figured out a way to combine her love of music with management and build a career. She began her career in Hollywood as a music manager and spent 22 years as a manager.  We are so lucky that she finally ditched that job and chose to write. Her first book is based on her family's history in Lithuania. The students were riveted by how she applied the "method acting" that she experienced in Hollywood to her research. She spent hours locked in a train car that was used to transport Eastern Europeans to the Russian death camps. It still had blood stains and scratch marks on the walls. Then she paid to take part in an extreme simulation experiment and was locked in a former Soviet prison for 24 hours. She realized from that experience that she would never have survived deportation or be a hero and help others imprisoned along with her. It also taught her that authors do not have to engage in such radical tactics to complete research for a book.

She came to school to talk about her newest book, Out of the Easy. Set in a 1950's New Orleans, the book takes place mostly in the French Quarter. That is only about a 15 minute drive from school. She found author, Chris Wiltz, who was a font of information and helped her tremendously in the research for this book. Chris hooked her up with a gangster who showed Ruta the seamy side of old New Orleans. Though Ruta incorporated some of the stories that she learned by talking to Chris and this man into her book, the heroine of the book, Josie, is purely fictional. Ruta imagined her protagonist after her father explained that the 1950's were not such a happy time, and your life was determined by your birth. He was thinking about being born in the right family, but Ruta thought the more interesting story would be if you were born in the wrong family. Josie's prostitute mother and unknown father were definitely not the right family, but through determination, Josie works extremely hard to overcome the burdens of that family. 

Ruta makes presentation with author, Chris Wiltz, at Garden District Books
Ruta's formal talk ended an hour after it began, but students clustered around for another hour getting their books signed and talking with her. She was so kind to oblige them. Several of the students who had read her book wanted to talk motivation for specific characters. Their insightful comments let her know that they had truly enjoyed her work. When she told one of them that as an author she loves hearing from her readers like them, one of the students told her that as a reader she loves getting to talk to an author like Ruta. Later, Ruta told me how she felt that visiting PFTSTA was one of the best events that she ever did. She was awed by the students who were such deep thinkers and feelers.

What a wonderful afternoon we had. Thank you Ruta for stopping by our school. Also, thank you to Penguin for making it all possible. You can find more pictures of the event on the library website here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bookmarked Skypes with Corey Whaley

I am such an author groupie. To me, meeting the authors that I read is like meeting a Hollywood star. I am so in awe of what they do. There are librarians who become writers, but that will never be me. I can write in this blog, but fiction is not something that I can do. My imagination just doesn't work that way. 

I have met Corey Whaley, author of Where Things Come Back, several times. I just adore him. In October, I saw him at an event in Baton Rouge, LA and asked if he would visit us at PFTSTA when he returned to Louisiana. He recently moved back to the northern part of the state but driving to New Orleans is a hike. His schedule just wasn't going to allow a face to face visit, so I opted for the next best thing, Skype. He readily agreed. 

Bookmarked meets every Monday during lunch, so that is when we scheduled our Skype session. Corey didn't really have anything planned, and neither did we. I started the ball rolling with a question about Perks of Being a Wallflower by Chbosky. I had recently seen the movie, but I knew that Corey was a big fan of the book and the author, and many of the students in the room were too. Corey explained that the book came out when he was 16, and as a library helper in his school, he got first dibs on new books. When Perks arrived, he was intrigued by the cover and ended up loving the book. He said that he had never read books with characters who were so honest with who they were. I think it is great that this thirteen year old book still resonates with teens. More Bookmarked members had seen the movie than read the book, but many have it on their to read lists. 

We also talked a lot about characters because the characters are so important in Corey's book. He explained that Cullen, the protagonist in Where Things Come Back, is based on a version of himself. He called it semi-autobiographical because Cullen lives in a small town and is quite cynical and sarcastic like he is. In his second book, which is in the edit phase, he created a character that was less like himself and less likeable. He says that he enjoyed writing a character who is a bit of a jerk. He is not allowed to reveal much about his next book, but he hopes to see it published in the spring of 2014. 

We had such a good time that some of the students stayed much longer than the planned 30 minutes to hear what else Corey had to say.

Find more pictures of this event on the library website here

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Exciting Week of Authors Planned

I must have been crazy when I planned our return to school from Mardi Gras break. 

On Monday, Bookmarked will be skyping with Corey Whaley, the author of Where Things Come Back. Corey recently moved back to Louisiana but in the northern part of the state. I was hoping that we could get him to visit us in person, but his schedule just wasn't going to allow it. He agreed to the skype, and I think that the students in Bookmarked will probably enjoy that visit almost as much. 

Open here to listen to interview with the author on The Reading Life
Then on Tuesday, I was able to schedule Ruta Sepetys, author of Out of the Easy, to come visit us. She is making a world tour for her book, and her time in New Orleans is really tight. However, this book is set in New Orleans, and I had several students who read it and loved it. I thought it was one of the best books that I have read in a really long time. So I knew that I wanted her to visit Patrick Taylor. Unfortunately, she is coming during the lunch period, and we can't hold her talk in the cafeteria. We have to use a classroom which means fewer students get to meet her. If you want to know more about her and this wonderful book, please click here to listen to her interview on The Reading Life with Susan Larson at WWNO. The interview is about 15 minutes long, and it is at the beginning of the podcast.

On Wednesday, we are hosting Cory Doctorow, author of a slew of books, but he is touring to promote Homeland. He is on a busy tour also, and initially, I had heard that he was not going to make any school visits. Lucky for us that was just an ugly rumor. His stories are embedded with technology which holds a lot of appeal to the boys. It is hard to get high school boys interested in reading. I am hoping that there will be students clamoring to purchase his books when he finishes speaking. We have scheduled his talk with the entire high school. I think that it is going to be a blast, and I can't wait. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

New Library Finally Framed

The new building for PFTSTA is right on target for completion. We are due to open for the first day of school in August 2013. Unfortunately. I have only been able to see it from the outside. My principal, Jaime Zapcio, has taken a number of hard hat tours. Lucky for me, she knows how much I want to see the library. The short video above shows how the new library looks with sheet rock. I can't wait until I have a space where I can fit every book on a shelf and don't have to have piles of papers surrounding my circulation desk. I am also dreaming of that natural light and windows where I can look out and see the tops of the trees surrounding the school. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Teens Review Fantasy, Realistic and Historical YA Fiction

Bookmarked members are enjoying the 2013 titles from a variety of publishers. In this edition of SLJTeen, the students wax poetic about some of the titles and endorse all of them as good reads. Click here to read the reviews

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I Interview James Patterson

Today, my interview with author James Patterson was published. You know, the article practically wrote itself because he talked, and I listened. I did have to come up with the questions but that wasn't too difficult. Click here to read my article in the newest edition of SLJTeen.

The timing of this interview coincides with a contest that Mr. Patterson is sponsoring called The Funniest Kid in North America. He is in search of funny kids across the country. All a kid has to do is write some jokes, perform them on a 60 second video and then submit the video to the contest. Click here to open the link to read all about how to enter.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Follett Challenge has Begun, Please Vote for PFTSTA

The PFTSTA Library needs your help to win the Follett Challenge and $60,000 in resources for our library. You can help by casting your vote everyday until March 15th. Don't worry, I will remind you again if you forget. We are moving to a new building, and we need the resources to complete our new space. Click here to open the link to vote.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Continuing the Advocacy for School Libraries in Louisiana

Today I got an email from the president of the Louisiana Library Association (LLA). Of course, I wasn't the only one to receive it. She sent it out to all members of LLA who are subscribed to the listserv. During our fight in December and early January to ask BESE not to change the language about libraries in the Louisiana handbook for school administrators, Bulletin 741, I was working with the Louisiana Association of School Librarians (LASL). I am glad to see LLA on board with the movement to keep librarians in all schools. The president of LLA wrote a great letter imploring all librarians to begin a grass roots effort to write to local newspapers and state legislators about the importance of librarians in schools. 

I am posting it in its entirely here. If you live in Louisiana, we need your help to spread the good word about school librarians. 

February 4, 2013
My dear colleagues,
In lieu of LDOE and BESE recent actions, we have much work to do to get Louisiana's school librarians' positions secured.  These positions are in danger of being cut and reverting our schools to the dark ages.
We are launching a collaborative writing project between the school librarian and several teachers at each school.  Letters should be written to the editors of a major newspapers in the area or in our state expresssing why school librarians are important.  It is meant to persuade the editors and our state senators and representatives to make it mandatory to have a school librarian at every school.   Every child should write a letter.  This will also help the students prepare for the writing portion of LEAP.  We hope to provide a steady stream of letters to the editors.  These should also find a way into the email and snail mail of our Louisiana legislators.
Some suggested reasons for incorporating into the body of the letters are given below.  You may wish to "google" for more reasons or create your own.  This is an inexpensive, effective and constructive way to get the "grassroots" message out to our public.  School librarians are essential at every school.
School librarians--
-are knowledgeable, interested adults with whom to discuss books.
-are instructors who have expertise on researching, writing and presenting projects.
-provide a connection between the outside world and the classroom.
-offer assistance and guidance in completing homework assignments.
-offer a safe haven to visit an open, friendly and attractive place.
-offer a place where all are given equal opportunity to use the resources.
-share a smile of genuine pleasure for coming through the door.
-teach students to use social media websites and tool such as blogs, wikis, Facebook and  
   Twitter safely and responsibly.
-show resources that will broaden students knowledge.
-encourage and develop decision making skills.
-develop students' self esteem.
-develop students' personal productivity.
-help with science and social studies fair projects and papers.
-teach respect for copyright and intellectual property.
-provide access 24-7 to an online catalog, selected electronic resources, databases and curriculum- related websites through a school library website.
-can help students to write a good thesis statement.
-teach students to become effective and efficient users of information.
-help students ride the wave of the information highway.
-help students recommend books to their friends.
-escape from the world and explore other dimensions.
-help students go beyond academic requirements.
-encourage students to synthesize information from diverse perspectives.
-offer multicultural literature.
-share indepth exploration of a topic.
-allow students to use E-READERS.
-help students respond to literature.
-offer a program for students who are working on various levels to feel successful! 
-offer books to students reading on various levels to improve their abilities and experiences.
-introduce students to new people and places through reading and books.
-help students to become lifelong readers and learners.
Even parents can feel free to express their opinions and write letters, too.  Success stories relating to school libraries are welcome from anyone.  Our public must help us with this endeavor.  They need to be a voice in this appeal.
Charlene Picheloup
Louisiana Library Association

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Using News Articles to Write Gists in Social Studies

Students finding newspapers on Worldbook Online

I did this same lesson last semester with the students in Mr. Johnson's social studies classes. I thought it was very successful, so I wanted to share it with you. Everyday when students arrive in Mr. Johnson's room, they begin the day with a gist. They are suppose to find a news article on-line and then write 10 words summarizing the article that they read. For the first few weeks of the semester the students were allowed to go to any site they chose to find news articles. With the world at their fingertips, the students still selected CNN, BBC or Fox News ninety-five percent of the time.

I know that I am a dinosaur, but I explain to the kids when they visit the library for this lesson that I was lucky to have access to my local newspapers in my school library much less newspapers from India or Japan. I then show them how I have collated a number of sites that they can use to find newspapers and news magazines from across the globe, many in English. To keep the students from reverting back to their old ways, Mr. Johnson requires the students to use one of these sites twice a week. The first four links below are pages with links and lists of 100s of sites, and I open each one of these to explain how it works. The last five links are individual news sites that the students may not know, and I think that they might like to read. This list of news sites can be found on the PFTSTA Library website. By the way, the students' favorite is the Newspaper Map because you get a great visual world map and can easily find English publications from almost anywhere.

Let me know in the comments, if you have any suggestions to add to this list.

Need News? 
Find a link to newspapers from around the world on WorldBook Online. (available by subscription only)
Find newspapers from around the world in many different languages from OnlineNewspapers.
Find a list and links of some of the leading news magazines from the left and the right points of view.
The Newspaper Map highlights 10,000 newspapers around the world and translates into English for you.
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.The Huffington Post has a special edition just for teens.
The Daily Beast is an online news magazine brought to you by Newsweek which is no longer in print.
The New York Times online edition allows you to read 10 articles for free every month.
US News and World Report, digital edition only, this magazine is no longer in print

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