Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Student Ready to Battle her Book


Students are reading to prepare to defend their books selected for School Library Journal's annual Battle of the Kids Books. We are going to have a Mock BOB and tie it in with our Teen TECH Week festivities. Students were able to select a book that appealed to them, and they will prepare to battle their opponent during both lunches. One student is ready and came running into the library proclaiming love for her book, Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal. She is ready to to cross (s)words with the student defending Flora and Ulysses by DiCamillo!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Games as Part of the Library Collection


In October, I opened my print copy of School Library Journal to read Christopher Harris' regular column. For this issue, he talked about how games can support the Common Core curriculum. He gives examples of board games to support the curriculum, but it was his list of non-learning games that could be added to the library collection that interested me. He believes these games,"can offer a mental refresh for students." I already had a deck of  cards, UNO and Go available for student use, but that was it.  I knew about Set, and I have given it as a gift to many kids in the family. I love playing it, but I just didn't think about having it in the library. With Chris' urging through his article, I added a bunch of games to a recent Amazon order. I purchased Set, Spot it!, Quiddler, Sumoko and Bananagrams. I thought that made a nice mix of logic, word games and number games. I just got the order this past week, so I haven't had a chance to promote the games.  I look forward to teaching a few kids over the coming weeks, so that they can be the ones to teach others. 

Students are learning how to play Set

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dark Days Tour in New Orleans is a Big Hit

picture by Tom Lowenberg of Octavia Books
It all started when a librarian in my district contacted me when she heard the Dark Days Tour was going to visit New Orleans this year. Five authors would be speaking on the panel: Veronica RossiTahereh MafiSophie JordanKiersten White and Claudia GrayThe librarian was hoping that one of the authors might be making a school visit. The tour is a grueling week where the authors make appearances in four different cities. A school visit was not going to happen. (My colleague couldn't even attend the event herself because she was needed as a chaperone for her school's band that was marching in one of the first Mardi Gras parades of the season.) When I talked to Judith Lafitte at Octavia Books, where the event was to be held, she mentioned that she needed a moderator. I suggested one of my students (Paris Evans) could do it. She is the head of Bookmarked and is willing to jump into anything that sparks her interest. The idea of moderating definitely sparked her idea of fun. She frantically spent the weeks leading up to the event reading book one of each of the series that the authors would be promoting. We sat down together a few days before to come up with questions. Paris really didn't need my help with that; she had wonderful thought provoking questions that were general enough to ask each author. She also designed a question specific to each author, but the time got away, and she did not get a chance to ask everything that she wanted. 

Dinner at High Hat Cafe before the big event
I told Paris that I would take her and several of her friends, who are also in Bookmarked, to dinner before the event. I chose High Hat Cafe because of the location, and I thought the kids could find something on the menu that they liked. The restaurant was a big hit, and they ate food that they had not had before. They were adventurous with their food choices, and luckily, they loved everything that they ate. When we arrived at the bookstore, it was packed and standing room only. I had to stand off to the side where I could hear clearly, but it was difficult to get good pictures. 

Judith on the far right kicks off the event
Paris got the ball rolling by asking the authors to give a brief description of their series for those in the audience who might not be familiar with the books. It was a great start. She also asked them about the themes in their books, if these are themes that they would pursue in future books. The authors, who all have strong female characters, fantasy and romance woven through their stories, all said that these are themes that they believe make a good story, and they will continue to use these elements in future works. Paris also asked about the special powers that the characters possess, and if the authors could have one of these, which would it be. Claudia definitely liked the idea of being a witch. Sophie definitely had no interest in having the gift of Homicidal Tendency Syndrome that her characters had. The authors spoke for about an hour, and then it was time for the signing. By then I had been on teacher duty for 12 hours. I was beat. 

View from spot on the sidelines
Paris received many compliments on her job as moderator from the authors and other attendees as well. The authors claimed that her questions were better than some of the paid professionals they have encountered. I was so proud of her. She was thoughtful, spoke with confidence and kept the discussion moving from author to author. She even made an inside joke about one of the characters that got the audience laughing. I will miss her terribly next year, but I know that she is destined to make her mark in the world which can't happen without continuing her education.

picture by Tom Lowenberg of Octavia Books

At the end of the evening, the students pose with the authors


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Preparing for the Mock BOB in the library


Announcing the Mock BOB on the doors to the library
Not long ago I got an email from Shelley Diaz, an editor at School Library Journal. She was preparing for SLJ's annual Battle of the Kids Books, and she wanted to know if we wanted to participate in a Mock BOB that could be highlighted in SLJ. I don't know how to say no, so I readily agreed. The BOB begins the same week as Teen Tech Week. So I have decided to combine them this year. I will have lots more to say about our Mock BOB as it gets closer to D-Day, March 10th. Just so you know, the gauntlet has been thrown, so. I created the video below to share with all of my students to get them armed and ready. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Paris Weighs in on the Dark Days Tour

The books by all the other authors are sitting in a stack in her room
We have been gearing up for the Dark Days Tour on February 21st at 6PM at Octavia Books.

Paris (president of high school book group, Bookmarked) wanted to share some of her thoughts on being asked to moderate the panel with visiting authors Veronica RossiTahereh MafiSophie JordanKiersten White and Claudia Gray.

First, I asked her why she thought that I picked her for this job. She says,  "I think that you think I am a people person and would not be intimidated by the audience and the responsibility. Moderating the tour means that I had to become acquainted with all the authors' works which meant I had a lot to read to prepare. Knowing me, I think that Ms. Kahn knew this was a challenge that I would happily accept and fulfill."

Then I asked her what she is looking forward to the most about this event. At first she had to stop and think, but then she said, "What I am looking forward to most is the fact that the audience will see that I'm a student that others recognized as worthy of the moderator position. I am glad Judith at Octavia Books trusted Ms. Kahn's judgement in selecting me. I believe that I can give everyone what they are looking for!!!! Whenever I meet an author, I am always hoping to get their thoughts when they were writing the story and what they had hoped the readers' reaction would be to the story. I may open the discussion with that."

Next week, she and I will work on developing some good questions. I am not worried about that though because I think that Paris can think on her feet quickly.

We know that one of the first Mardi Gras parades of the season begins only a few blocks away from the bookstore that very evening, but we think attending this event is going to be a lot more fun than catching beads and cups and watching a few marching bands pass by. Hope to see you there!




Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bookmarked is Putting on Battle Armor for a Mock BOB

BOB illustrations by Mark Tuchman for School Library Journal
Read about PFTSTA's participation in School Library Journal's annual Battle of the Books.
Open here to read the article.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Deb Caletti Charms the Members of Bookmarked

Deb Caletti on the big screen
In the summer of 2012, I went to the American Library Association conference in Anaheim, CA. I love ALA Annual because I am such an author groupie, and I get the opportunity to meet so many of the authors that I have been reading myself and sharing with my students. One of the authors I met that summer was Deb Caletti. I have not had a chance to read every book that she has written for young adults, but I have loved every one that I have read. We made a connection that summer, and when I asked Deb if she would talk to my high school book group, she readily agreed. She lives in Seattle, and we live in the New Orleans area so visiting by Skype was our visiting method of choice.


Deb began by telling us about herself and her journey to become a writer. She always has loved to read and has fond memories of having stories read to her when she was young. Her love of the written word fueled her dream of becoming a writer, but she never took any creative writing courses in school. Finally, she just set a goal for herself to write. She went to the most logical place she knew to learn how to write, the library. 


She wrote four novels before becoming a published author, but she was determined to figure out how to make herself a writer, so she did not get discouraged. She explained her writing process and how she does not fully map out her story before writing. She also keeps her writing a secret. She doesn't tell anyone what the story is about or let anyone read what she has been writing until it is finished. She wants the story to feel like real life, and in life, things just happen sometimes. She also explained that people have questioned her depiction of parents in her books. She believes that humans are flawed which means parents are flawed. By presenting parents in this way, she is depicting real life. One of her biggest joys is receiving letters from her teen readers who say that she really understands them and what they are going through. When that happens, she knows that she did her job right. 

Bookmarked poses with Deb Caletti
Though writing is her job, and she needs to write a book a year to pay the bills, Deb loves what she does and couldn't imagine doing anything else. The members of Bookmarked could feel her excitement and energy even through the computer, and Deb won some new fans after today's visit. Thank you Deb for taking the time out of your writing schedule to spend some time with us. We had a blast!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Go on a Blind Date with a Book

Found displayed in the St. Tammany Public Library in Madisonville, LA
On Saturday, I trekked north across Lake Pontchartrain to visit a friend. As a fellow library lover and user, she wanted to show me the brand new library that recently opened in Madisonville, LA in St. Tammany Parish. The library is a stunner. She had an agenda for our visit, but I mostly wanted to check out the teen section. I found this sign on display and knew that I had to do the same thing in my library. This sign that you see above was posted on a rack with books wrapped in tissue and paper hearts encircling the display. Adorable.

Display that I created
I decided to bring paper with me to school today to wrap some novels that I love and see if anyone takes the bait. I used plain paper but covered each package with heart and cupid stamps. In each package I slipped a paper that asks you to Rate Your Date. I forgot to see what the public library form looked like so I created my own.

Form I created for students to Rate their Date
I wrote the barcode number on the outside of the wrapped book so I could check out the book before the kids could do the unwrapping. What fun! I had several checked out today. The students loved the idea and couldn't wait to get reading.

The first student to attempt a blind date with a book
He read this book already, so he went on a second blind date

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Middle School Students Help Label Books


During middle school lunch, there are always kids who visit and want to "help." I certainly have lots of jobs that they could do, but because it is so crazy during lunch, it is hard for me to oversee whatever job that I would give them. This past week, I decided to give in to them and get them to help me continue to fulfill my new year's resolution. You may remember that I began the task of labeling all the volumes in a series  with green stickers after we returned from break in January. I got through the authors whose last names begin with an A or B. Then I got kind of bored with the project and standing in the stacks with my stickers, labels and iPad. I realized that if I didn't get some help, I would never finish what I started.

I showed the kids what I was trying to do by labeling the series. I let them go to the stacks and choose a series that looked interesting to them. They brought the books to the circulation desk where they looked up the order of the books in the series. I put the green stickers and labels on the books because I am one of those anal librarians who want the labels put on a certain way. When we finish with each series, the students re-shelve the books for me. It is a win-win for both me and the students. They are doing a job that needs to get done, and I get some help with a job that I found tedious. It really isn't important that the books get labeled in alpha order, just that they all get done. I am hoping that the students won't get bored with this project and continue to work with me. If they do, I can probably enlist others who would help. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Teen Writes a Review for Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge

The following book review was written by a member of Bookmarked, the high school book group at PFTSTA. This book is geared to 8-12 year olds, but as you can see the reviewer Michaela, who is 14, is a big fan of the story.



Edge, Christopher. Twelve Minutes to Midnight. Albert Whitman. March 2014. tr. $16.99 ISBN 9780807581339 

The blood-curdling tales in the magazine, The Penny Dreadful, are taking London by storm. No one expects the author to be thirteen year old Penelope Tredwell, who writes under the pen name of Montgomery Flinch. She seems to have the city in the palm of her hand. One day, she gets a letter from the Bedlam psychiatric hospital asking for Montgomery Flinch's help in a mysterious case. Each night, at exactly twelve minutes to midnight, the patients rise from their beds in a trance like state. They maniacally write continuous ramblings of gibberish. However, Penelope soon discovers that these writings are much more than gibberish. They are predictions of the future. She becomes determined to solve this eerie case, but realizes that this power is much more dangerous than she thought. This twisted evil will stop at nothing until the entire country is tortured with its sick visions of the future.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight is a spine-tingling tale that is unlike anything I have ever read. It's dramatic and creepy story line provides a thrilling ending that will fascinate every reader. The malevolent evil behind the Bedlam mystery is mesmerizing and terrifying. Any reader, young or old, will be captivated by this rich and unique novel. The story like a sunset is dark and beautiful. I cannot take my eyes off an alluring sunset, as I could not take my eyes out of this book. Review by Michaela B. age 14

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Student from PFTSTA Will Moderate the Dark Days Tour


I learned a couple of months ago that a group of young adult authors was going to be on tour together and that New Orleans and Octavia Books was one of only four stops on the tour.The authors are Veronica Rossi, Tahereh Mafi, Sophie Jordan, Kiersten White and Claudia Gray. I was hoping that at least one of them would be making a school visit then. Sadly, that was not going to happen. However, one of the owners of Octavia Books, Judith Lafitte, and I cooked up something that I think is going to be equally as exhilirating. Judith was asked to be the moderated for the group, but that is not a role that she enjoys. Together, we thought it might be exciting to have one of my students lead the discussion. Paris Evans, who is the head of the high school library book group, was thrilled when I broached her with the idea. She has taken home copies of the authors' books and plans to read as much as she can before the event on February 21st. I have offered to take her and some of her friends to dinner before the event. We are turning this into a very special outing. If you live anywhere near New Orleans, think about joining us in three weeks at Octavia Books to meet these authors and see Paris in action. Of course, I will blog lots about it afterwards. So stay tuned on this blog to view lots of pics of this action-packed event. Maybe not so much action, it is just a panel discussion, but I think it is going to be loads of fun. 

Open here for details about New Orleans stop

Monday, February 3, 2014

Even in the 21st Century, Reading is Still Important

Members of Bookmarked looking for the next great book 


Stephen Krashen has been conducting national studies for years that show the power of reading in improving children’s lives. He states that there is much evidence illustrating the value of free voluntary reading or recreational reading. Over the past 20 years, research has shown that students who read independently and freely perform better in school with reading, writing, grammar and vocabulary. No matter what path our students choose in life, be it science, technology, math, humanities or the arts, they will need to be able to read critically to succeed and perform at their job. Since the beginning of 2014, I have added many new books to the shelves of the PFTSTA Library. Some students have walked through the doors to find these books and check them out. Yet, even with the influx of new books, I am not seeing a rise in circulations. This concerns me, though, there may be several factors causing this. It could be because the students have an electronic device and are reading books on a Kindle, Nook or iPad. Or maybe the kids are visiting the public library often or like to own the books he/she reads and buys books at a local bookstore. Whatever the case, children should be reading daily. They should always have a book to read at their bedside and in their backpack when time allows. If a student needs something good to read, please encourage them to visit the library to see what is new and what might interest them. 


Sharing recently arrived ARCs with members of Bookmarked
I say to read what you love so that you will learn to love reading. Here is a quote from Maya Angelou that says it even better: “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” 


Today, members of Bookmarked received a Spirit Monkey that shows their commitment
to reading to add to their PFTSTA key ring.


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