Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fiction, Fantasy, and YA: Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm

Bibliographic data
Holm, Jennifer L..Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff. Pictures by Elicia Castaldi. Ginee Seo Books, New York, 2007. ISBN: 0-689-85281-7

Brief plot summary
Ginny Davis has a big seventh grade year planned. Her “To Do” list consist of getting a dad, getting the role of the Sugarplum Fairy, and looking good in a school photo. Little does she know that her seventh grade year is going to be a roller coaster ride and she better hang on.

Critical analysis
In Middle school is Worse Than Meatloaf, “stuff” represents the life of Ginny Davis and is put into a journal format. “Stuff” includes class schedules, notes from mom, instant messages, cards from grandpa, and graded papers. This is an inventive way to depict a journal and tell a story. Ginny’s life starts off simple and easy, and by the end of the year it is turned upside down through family issues and self discovery. Ginny struggles to find out who she wants to be and where her life has taken her. Jennifer L. Holm has brought together a touching story with very few words paired with pictures created by Elicia Castaldi. This is definitely a creative pairing. Many readers’ will connect to what Ginny is going through: siblings making bad choices, losing that part in the play, or having to deal with a blended family. Although many pages are repetitive, readers are going love “reading” about Ginny’s life through her stuff.

Review excerpts
School Library Journal: “Digitally rendered collage illustrations realistically depict the various means of communication, and the story flows easily from one colorful page to the next.”

Publishers Weekly: “The punchy visuals and the sharp, funny details reel in the audience and don't let go.”

Activities: After reading the book, students will create their own journals using their stuff. They will be required to input a certain number of entries over a specific amount of time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fiction, Fantasy, YA: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Bibliographic data
Marchetta, Melina. Jellicoe Road. Harper Teen, New York, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-06-143183-8

Brief plot summary
Taylor Markham has always had questions about her past: Why did my mom leave me and where is she now? Who is Hannah really? and Who am I? With a new year of “Territory Wars” under way, Taylor’s life is turned upside down. Hannah, Taylor’s part house mother, part guardian, leaves unexpectedly, and Jonah Griggs is starting break down the walls that she has built around herself. As pieces of her past start coming together, Taylor knows she needs to find her mom in order to answer her questions, but her only question is “How?”

Critical analysis
Jellicoe Road is a series of complex stories all leading back to the past. Taylor Markham was dropped off at a 7-11 there after an incident that left her mother crazy and desparate. She knows her mom is connected to Hannah is some way, but until reading Hannah’s manuscript, she does not know the extent. As the story progresses, Melina Marchetta brings in characters who try and support Taylor on her journey to figure out who she really is. Marchetta has written each one of these characters to be different in Taylor’s life, from comic relief to emotional support to a love interest. Although very confusing in the beginning, as you get into the story you realize that you do not want to stop reading. Each reader will be able to see a little bit of themselves in Taylor, and the ending will leave you hoping for a sequel.

Review excerpts
School Library Journal: “Elegiac passages and a complex structure create a somewhat dense, melancholic narrative with elements of romance, mystery, and realistic fiction.”
Booklist: “The complexity of the backstory will be offputting to younger readers, but those who stick it out will find rewards in the heartbreaking twists of Marchetta’s saga.”
Kirkus Review: “A beautifully rendered mystery.”
A Michael L. Prinze Award Winner

Activities: In the book, Hannah wrote a book about the adventures of her and her friends. Students will write one story about an adventure that they have had. Readers could also make a map for the "Territory Wars".

Fiction, Fantasy, and YA: Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Bibliographic data
Hale, Shannon. Princess Academy. Bloomsbury Publishing, New York, 2005. ISBN: 1-58234-993-2.

Brief plot summary
Miri has only ever known the simple life on Mount Eskel. Now she and the other girls are required to go to the “Princess Academy” in order to prepare themselves for a possible life as a princess then queen. Through the academy, Miri learns to read and in turn learns of different places and different ways of life. As the time comes near for the prince to come and choose his princess, Miri must decide if she wants the prince to choose her or if she would rather save her heart for Peder, a boy that she has grown up with.

Critical analysis
What little girl has not dreamed of growing up to become a princess? Princess Academy is a beautifully written tale about Miri, a girl who has tried to fit in and contribute to her family and community all her life. As Miri is taken with all the other girls of the village to “Princess Academy”, she begins to realize who she is and who she could be. Shannon Hale has taken what could have been a simple story, and reinvented it through vivid characters and surprising conflicts. Although it drags in places, readers will be able to see a clear view of the world that Hale has spun. “The east says it’s dawn/My mouth speaks a yawn/My bed clings to me and begs me to stay/ I hear a work song/ Say winter is long/ I peel myself up and then make away;” at the beginning of each chapter, there is poems such as this one that foretells what is going to happen. This touch of poetry completes this old fashioned fairy that will soon be a classic.

Review excerpts
Kirkis Reviews: "An unalloyed joy."
School Library Journal- “This is not a fluffy, predictable fairy tale . . . Instead, Hale weaves an intricate, multilayered story about families, relationships, education, and the place we call home."
The 2006 Newbery Committee: "When it comes to contemporary classics, Shannon Hale has the makings of someone whose books will be read and reread for decades to come."
A Newbery Honor Book
A New York Times Bestseller
A Publishers Weekly Bestseller
A Book Sense Bestseller
An ALA Notable Children’s Book
A NECBA Top 10 Fall Book
A Book Sense Children’s Pick

Related Books:
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
River Secrets by Shannon Hale
Economics is a big part of the life in Mount Eskel. Students could look at life in the mountains versus in the valley. They could also compare the different characters. Shannon Hale has written so many vivid characters that students could create a diagram showing how they are alike and how they are different.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Historic Fiction: Crispin:The Cross of Lead by Avi

Bibliographic data
Avi. Crispin: The Cross of Lead. Hyperion Books for Children, New York, 2002. ISBN: 078680828-4

Brief plot summary
A poor peasant boy has just lost everything that he has ever known, and now a “wolf’s head” has been placed on him. Having only been called “Asta’s boy”, he is shocked to learn that he was christened “Crispin” and learns that there was a lot his mother did not tell him before she died. In order to stay alive he must flee the village that he has always called home, and set out for the unknown. There he runs into Bear, a traveling entertainer who is a lot more than he seems. With Bear, Crispin begins find out who he is, where he came from, and where he is going.

Critical analysis
Avi has produced another wonderful novel with Crispin: The Cross of Lead. Crispin is a young boy with nothing to call his own, no home, no family, not even a name. As the story continues, Crispin starts connecting the dots of the information that he has picked up over the years. Set in medieval times, many students might shy away from this book due to the lack of knowledge about these times. If given a chance, the death of the mom and the “wolf’s head” put on him that are right at the beginning will grab them and keep them wanting more. Avi has written characters that can be related to on so many different levels, such as Crispin’s empty life and Bear’s need to protect him. Readers will be begging for more by the end.

Review excerpts
a. Publishers Weekly- “A page turner to delight Avi's fans, it will leave readers hoping for a sequel.”
b. School Library Journal- “The result is a meticulously crafted story, full of adventure, mystery, and action.”
c. Booklist- “Avi builds an impressive backdrop for his arresting characters.”

A. Related Books:
Crispin: At the Edge of the World by Avi
B. Activities
In the classroom the students could be creating a comparison about medieval times and present day. Medieval times can be fascinating but confusing. Letting the students research before you start the book would give the students a better idea of why things worked that way. You could also compare it to Robin Hood.

Historic Fiction: Nightjohn by Gary Paulson

Bibliographic data
Paulson, Gary. Nightjohn. Delacorte Press, New York, 1993. ISBN: 0-385-30838-8

Brief plot summary
When a new slave is brought to the plantation, Sarny knows he is different. One night she learns that he can read and write, knowledge that has bloody consequences. Although she knows the dangers, she allows him to start teaching her how to read and write, and a whole new, dangerous world is opened for her.

Critical analysis
In Nightjohn, Gary Paulson takes the reader to a side of slavery that is rarely written about in fiction books, life before the Civil War. Gary Paulson writes, "Except for variations in time and character identification and placement, the events written in this story are true actually happened." In Nightjohn, Sarny is a young girl who has no choice in her future, but realizes that she can change the quality of her life through letters. The first paragraph states, “This is a story about Nightjohn. I guess in some ways it is a story about me just as much because I am in it and I know what happened and some of it happened to me but it still seems to be most about him.” Readers will get to see a different side of Gary Paulson as he creates a pair of characters that go through so much and yet are still so real. Taking the events and writing them from Sarny’s point brings the story to a emotional level that students are rarely able to find in young adult fiction.

Review excerpts
a. School Library Journal- "Nightjohn should be required reading (and discussing) for all middle grade and high school students."
b. Publishers Weekly- "Among the most powerful of Paulsen's works, this impeccable researched novel sheds light on cruel truths in American history as it traces the experiences of a 12-year-old slave girl in the 1850s."
c. Kirkus Reviews- “Still, the anguish is all too real in this brief, unbearably vivid book.”

A. Related Books:
Sarny By Gary Paulson
B. Activities:
In order to help the students understand the different roles of slaves, I would have them split into groups and research the different ones that Paulson discusses. I would also have the student research the different accounts of a slave’s life in order to compare points of view.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Historic Fiction: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Bibliographic data
Curtis, Christopher Paul. Elijah of Buxton. Read by Mirron Willis.
Book: Scholastic Inc., New York, 2007.
Audio: Listening Library, New York, 2008. ISBN: 978-073937095-7

Brief plot summary
Elijah has lived his whole life in Buxton, a settlement in Canada for runaway slaves. In this story by Christopher Paul Curtis, we follow Elijah through many hilarious and touching tales and straight into a life or death mission to save a group of slaves.

Critical analysis
In Elijah of Buxton, Christopher Paul Curtis has found the perfect blend of humor and seriousness. Elijah is the first free born person in the settlement of Buxton. Many expectations are on his shoulders, but he cannot help that he is a “fra-gile” boy. Curtis has taken a part of American history that is hard for many kids to relate to, and brought in stories that will have the students laughing out loud and others that will bring a tear to their eye. He is a rock fishing, fragile, understanding boy who has grown up around people who still have the physical and emotional scars of slavery. Although he has heard the stories, Elijah has never experienced what it is like to be on the other side until he is “kidnapped”. Partnered to read the book, Mirron Wilson does a beautiful job. With the accents, speed, and ability to convey the mood of the moment, he was the perfect person to read Elijah of Buxton.

Review excerpts
a. Booklist- “A fine, original novel from a gifted storyteller.”
b. AudioFile- “Mirron Willis delivers depth of emotion as he shapes the story's rhythms and pacing.”
Newberry Honor Book
Coretta Scott King Award
Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction
Canadian Library Association, Book of the Year
Finalist, Governor General’s Literary Award
An American Library Association Notable Booke.

A. Related Books: Nightjohn by Gary Paulson
B. Activities: After reading Elijah of Buxton, pairs of students could write other adventures for Elijah. You could also analyze the different forms of conflict involved in each chapter.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nonfiction: Leonardo da Vinci by Diane Stanley

1. Bibliographic data
Stanley, Diane. Leonardo da Vinci. William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1996.
ISBN: 0-688-10438-X

2. Brief plot summary
Leonardo da Vinci is a biography following da Vinci’s life from birth to death. Included are many of his most famous pieces of art as well as excerpts from his famous notebooks.

3. Critical analysis
This is a book for young and old alike. So many times books only focus on the actual pieces of art instead of what went into creating the art. In Leonardo da Vinci, Diane Stanley has looked at the man behind the canvas. Stanley has put together da Vinci’s life in a way that students can relate to. On the first page, students will see that da Vinci was not taught much past the basics in school, but he could create these beautiful pieces of art. The illustrations are set up to portray excerpts of his art within illustrations that Stanley has created. Included in different areas are also pieces of da Vinci’s infamous notebooks. In order to help students with some of the vocabulary, Stanley has included a pronunciation guide in the front. She also included a reference section at the end to lead students to more books about Leonardo da Vinci.

4. Review excerpts
a. Publisher’s Weekly: “ A virtuosic work.” (Starred review)
b. The New York Times Book Review: “A stunning account. A first class production in every way.”
c. ALA Booklst: “This is the best of the many children’s books on Leonardo.”
d. Awards:
A 1996 ALA Notable Book
A 1997 Boston Globe- Horn Book Honor Book for Nonfiction
A 1997 Orbis Pictus Award
A 1996 Publishers Weekly Best Books Award

5. Connections
a. Related books:
Leonardo da Vinci by Norman V. Marshall
What Makes a Leonardo a Leonardo? By Richard Muhlberger
A Weekend with Leonardo da Vinci by Rosabianca Skira-Venturi
b. Activities: This book could be used in an Art, Humanities, or Literature class. Specifically for Art, I would have students use this book to see the different directions an author can take, and let them decide which type they prefer from Leonardo. Diane Stanley has also written biographies on other artists from the Renaissance period, so students could compare and contrast the different artists of the time.

Nonfiction: Lungs: Your Respiratory System by Seymour Simon

1. Bibliographic data
Simon, Seymor. Lungs: Your Respiratory System. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2007.
ISBN: 0-06-054655-7

2. Brief plot summary
Lungs: Your Respiratory System takes a look inside one of the most vital systems in the human body. Starting from an intake of breathe, through the nasal cavity, down the trachea, and into the lungs, readers will follow the oxygen, as well as get the facts about what exactly your body does with each breathe you take.

3. Critical analysis
Lungs takes an extraordinary look inside the human body. Seymour Simon sets up the book to take readers from inhaling through all the steps our body takes to getting the oxygen it requires to survive. The front cover will grab the reader’s attention, but what will keep it will be the easy to understand way that Simon explains the science of breathing. The pictures will help the readers visualize each part of the respiratory system. Between the man sneezing and the photograph of a person's trachea, students will be fascinated what they see. The Glossary and Index keep the book very user friendly.

4. Review excerpt
a. School Library Journal: “The writing is concise and full of clear examples meaningful to kids.”
b. Booklist: “Although this book isn't quite as detailed as some of the author's previous texts about the human body, there's still plenty of information for elementary-school readers.”

5. Connections
a. Related Books:
i. The Brain by Seymour Simon
ii. The Heart by Seymour Simon
iii. Guts by Seymour Simon
b. Activities:
Great book to use in a science class. You could split the class into groups and have each group focus on a different human body system. Many of Seymour Simon’s books could be used as references.

Nonfiction: Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong

1. Bibliographic data
Armstrong, Jennifer. Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Crown Books for Young Readers, New York, 2000.
ISBN: 0-517-80014-4

2. Brief plot summary
In the fall of 1914, Ernest Shackleton and his crew sailed from England in the hopes of exploring Antarctica. As the weather turned and the elements were against the Endurance, survival was all that was on their minds.

3. Critical analysis
In Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, Jennifer Armstrong has brought this exciting true story to life for young readers. In each chapter, Armstrong has carefully chosen specific events to describe and each page leaves you wanting more. The men aboard the Endurance had so much set against them, and yet the somehow “endured”. To add to the unbelievable story is amazing pictures taken by Frank Hurley. In Shipwreck, you have a nonfiction masterpiece that students will not want to put down until they have read the last page. Armstrong ends the book with, “Here’s to the long white road that beckons,/the climb that baffles, the risk that nerves./And here is to the merry heart that reckons/The rough with the smooth and nerve swerves.” This verse, from a New Zealand school song and one of Shackleton’s favorites, tells you so much about this amazing crew and their fearless leader. Armstrong has an obvious passion for this topic and has made Shipwreck a must read for young adults.

4. Review excerpts
a. School Library Journal: “"A book that will capture the attention and imagination of any reader."
b. Publisher’s Weekly: “Armstrong's absorbing storytelling, illustrated with dramatic black-and-white photographs, makes this an enthralling adventure."
c. Kirkus Reviews: “This unbelievable story is enhanced by the vigorous prose; from the captivating introduction through the epilogue, it is the writing as much as the story that will rivet readers."
d. Awards:
Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Fiction
ALA Notable Book for Children
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book
Horn Book Fanfare
Publishers Weekly Choice of the Year's Best Books

5. Connections
a. Related Books:
i. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Journey by Alfred Lansing
ii. The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctica Expedition by Caroline Alexander
b. Activities: The class could create a classroom timeline in order to help the students understand the timing of major events. I would also have the students focus on cause and effect of the major events.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Poetry: Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy By Sonya Sones

1. Bibliographic data
Sones, Sonya. Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy. HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, 1999. ISBN: 0-06-446218-8

2. Brief plot summary
What do you do when your big sister suddenly starts hearing voices? What do you say to your friends? Cookie now has to go down the emotional journey that she never dreamed she would be embarking on to find the answers.

3. Critical analysis
In Stop Pretending, Sonya Sones takes a complicated and painful matter and puts these raw emotions down in a way that anyone can relate. Each poem brings the reader face to face with the realities of mental illness and the challenges that families face when it affects them. Cookie faces remembering what her sister was like before, and dealing with the reality of who she is now. In the poem “Tired”, Cookie says “I’m tired/ of having a crazy sister./ I am tired of being/ the sister of a crazy person.” Sones takes a sensitive topic and tells a story that anyone can relate too. The story is continued as the poems go from a very depressed state to one of hope. At the end of the book, Sones brings the readers into her experiences with mental illness and how she dealt with them. By doing this, readers will be able to delve deeper into each word and understand them on a different level.

4. Review excerpt
a. School Library Journal- “Unpretentious. Accessible. Deeply felt.”
b. ALA Booklist- “The poems have a cumulative emotional power. They record the personal and translate it into the universal.”

5. Connections
a. Activities: When teaching Purpose, you could introduce this book in order to show the students how to express. You could also use it to show voice.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Poetry: What is Goodbye? by Nikki Grimes

1. Bibliographic data
Grimes, Nikki. What is Goodbye? Ill. by Raul Colon. Hyperion Books for Children, New York, 2004. ISBN: 0-7868-0778-4

2. Brief plot summary
Jerilyn and Jesse’s big brother just died. As their parents struggle to put the pieces back together, Jerilyn and Jesse must cope with a new “normal”. Each topic is told from both Jerilyn’s and Jesse’s point of view so that we get see grief dealt with in different ways.

3. Critical analysis
In What is Goodbye?, Nikki Grimes has taken a topic that is so hard to talk about and written beautiful poems that focus on the new life of Jerilyn and Jesse. Each is trying so hard to get through the devastating loss of a sibling and each must do it their own way. Grimes gives the topic more depth by putting it in two different perspectives with each flowing and integrating so gracefully. In “Regrets”, Jerilyn writes,“ I yelled at him/that morning,/don’t ask me why./ My so-called reason/is small enough/to dance on the head /of a pin.” Jesse says in his side of “Regrets”, “I sneer into the mirror/ raging at the traitor standing there./ How could he go all day/ without thinking of his brother?/ Doesn’t he even care?” There is so much longing in each side. Add to “Regrets” the colored pencils drawing by Raul Colon. His illustrations add so much emotion and depth that you felt the grief coming through their eyes.

4. Review excerpts:
a. School Library Journal- “Grimes's novella in verse is a prime example of how poetry and story can be combined to extend one another.”
b. Kirkus Reviews- “Grimes addresses many areas of the grief process, often in a poignant fashion that is hard to witness; the boy hears his father crying in the night, for instance.”
c. Publishers Weekly- “Anyone who has experienced loss will recognize the gamut of emotions Grimes lays out here.”

5. Connections
a. Activities: In order to teach about expression, this would be the perfect book. It would also work well when discussing different points of view.
b. Children’s Responses: Keep in mind that some students have experienced this and to be sensitive to the topic.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Poetry: The Brothers' War: Civil War Voices in Verse by J. Patrick Lewis

1. Bibliographic data:
Lewis, J. Patrick. The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse. National Geographic Society, Washington D.C, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4263-0036-3.

2. Brief plot summary:
So many times in war, all we know are the statistics. We do not know the people, emotions, controversies that happened on the battlefield. J. Patrick Lewis tries to bring a voice to the Civil War by writing poems from the different sides’ point of view.

3. Critical analysis:
When dealing with any war, many authors are either in your face with the gruesome details or too vague for anyone to really feel the book. J. Patrick Lewis finds the perfect balance in The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse. With many different rhythms and lengths, Lewis brings a voice to a war that many people only see one side of. He then adds many different points of view and different battles so we get a feeling of how people and places felt, before and after the war. In the poem “The Raider”, Lewis writes it from John Brown’s point of view after he tried to take the armory in Harper’s Ferry. In the last stanza, he writes “In truth I am a white man/In sympathy a black./But for this rope, I might have seen/Us win our freedom back.” Each verse, each poem is haunted with the ghosts of the Civil War. In order to bring everything together, Lewis has paired each poem with a photograph taken during the Civil War. Students will be able to not only “feel” each poem, but they will also see firsthand the devastation that the Civil War caused.

4. Review excerpts
a. Publisher’s Weekly- “This heartrending collection of original poems paired with photographs by Civil War photographers makes real what statistics about war cannot-that the casualties of any war have human faces.”
b. Voya- “Teens will be captivated by the faces of these young soldiers-not so different from themselves-and teens who already have an interest in the Civil War will linger over each page.”
c. School Library Journal- “It is difficult to judge which is more haunting in this volume-Lewis's 11 poems or the historical photographs that illustrate them.”

5. Connections
a. Activities: This book would be great for a inter-curricular unit. While the Social Studies teacher is working on the Civil War, the Literature could have students analyze these poems. Then the English teacher could have students pick a battle and write a poem from one side’s point of view.
b. Related Books:
i. Ward, Geoffrey C. The Civil War: An Illustrated History. Knopf Doubleday
Publishing Group, New York, 1992.
ii. Murphy, Jim. The Boys’ War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil
War. Houghton MIfflin Harcourt, New York, 1993.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Traditional Literature: Porch Lies: Tales of Slicksters, Tricksters, and Other Wily Characters by Patricia McKissack

1. Bibliographic data
McKissack, Patricia C. Porch Lies: Tales of Slicksters, Tricksters, and Other Wily Characters. Illustrated by Andre Carrilho. Schwartz & Wade Books, New York, 2006.

2. Brief plot summary
Porch Lies is a collection of short stories that all center around morally questionable characters. The author has taken stories she heard growing up on her grandparents’ front porch and wrote tales that had many of the same characteristics that she enjoyed.

3. Critical analysis
One of the great things about Porch Lies is that no story is exactly alike. Each story is set up with a back story, and each has a character that is so unbelievable they are believable. The stories each have a character who has to make a decision about what is right and what they want, and yet there is so much humor mixed in that even if they make the wrong choice you are rooting for them. Add in a sprinkle of illustrations by Andre Carrilho in which the characters are comically ill-proportioned with realistic facial expression, and you have story collection that students and families are going to enjoy reading aloud.

4. Review excerpts:
a. School Library Journal- “These 10 literate stories make for great leisure listening and knowing chuckles.”
b. Book List- “Great for sharing, on the porch and in the classroom.”

5. Connections
a. Related Books: The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural by Patricia McKissack
b. Classroom Activities: This is the type of story collection that I would read in order to teach Voice in a language arts class. After reading a few of the stories, I would have the students try and write a similar story that could possibly be passed down through their family with focus on bringing themselves out in it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Traditional Literature: Cendrillion: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci

1. Bibliographic data :
San Souci, Robert D.. Cendrillon: A Caribean Cinderella. Illustration by Brain Pinkney. Aladdin Paperbacks, New York, 1998. ISBN: 0-689-84888-9

2. Brief plot summary
Cendrillion takes us into the “Cinderella” story through the eyes of the “godmother”. The story starts out with a young girl whose mother leaves her a wand of mahogany before she dies. Growing up, she never found anyone to use the wand on. Later in life, she becomes a poor washerwoman who befriends a sickly woman who has just had a daughter. Before the mother dies, she names her godmother of her little girl. The girl grows up to be a beautiful young lady, with a stepmother and stepsister that make her their maid. When it is time for the ball, Cendrillion’s godmother finally finds a use for the wand her mother had given her. The drawback on the wand is that it only last for a short amount of time which means they must leave the ball by midnight. The “prince” must try finding her through the slipper that she left at the ball.

3. Critical analysis:
Cendrillion is a wonderful tale of a young girl’s constant optimism and the caring godmother that is always watching out for her. Although the approach to the story is different beacuse we see it from the godmother’s point of view, this classic story still grabs at your heart. Love is still the center of the plot as “happily ever after” sums up the story. Bringing in the French Creole language and the colorful artwork brings life to the story and will make it a favorite of many students. The beautiful illustrations inspire you to take a closer look at the artwork. The illustrator was able to put so much emotion into each the facial expression. Cendrillion is a book for all libraries for the young and the old alike.

4. Review excerpts:
a. Booklist: “Particularly vibrant, oth in it medldious language and its spirited art…A vital rendition of an old favorite.
b. School Library Journal: “ An outstanding Cinderella variant for any collection.”
c. Awards:
i. An ALA Notable Collection
ii. A Booklist Editors’ Choice

5. Connections
a. Related Books:
Domitila: A Cinderella Tale from the Mexican Tradition by J.R. Coburn
Little Gold Star: A Spanish American Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci
b. Activities:
Students could use “Cinderella” in projects that are focused on the different cultures. They could also compare and contrast different “Cinderella” stories and then show present the information to the class in a PowerPoint presentation. In a World Cultures class, the different versions of Cinderella would be a great way to start a unit.

Traditional Literature: A Frog Princess by Eric A. Kimmel

1. Bibliographic data:
Kimmel, Eric A. The Frog Princess: A Tlingit Legend from Alaska. Illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger. Holiday House, Inc., New York, 2006. ISBN 0-8234-1618-6

2. Brief plot summary:
The Frog Princess is about a princess who cannot find a suitor who she likes. Then a handsome young man came and she fell in love. Little did she know that her new home would be in the lake with the Frog People. As time went on her parents refused to let her go, so she was forced to return. Eventually she escaped back to the Frog People and lived happily ever after.

3. Critical analysis:
While I read this story, I kept thinking about wanting just find love, no matter race or religion. The princess becomes the dynamic character who changes within the book, leaving the life she had with her parents to live in the lake, where she feels like she belongs. All the while, her parents do not see her happiness. They see the fact that she is not with them anymore. Students from many different cultures and background can connect with this idea on some level. Symbolism is used by the illustrator by his choice of colors worn by the father and the daughter. Red was used for the father to show the power and importance he had for the tribe and his traditionalism, while a bright yellow that the daughter wore showed the contrasting beliefs between her and her father. This is a well-written book that would work well in the classroom.

4. Review excerpts:
a. School Library Journal : “Bright swaths of watercolors illuminate the landscapes and backgrounds.”
b. Booklist: “The story is gracefully told…”

5. Connections
a. Related Books:
Tlingit Tales, Potlatch, and Totem Poles By Lorie K. Harris
Heroes and Heroines: Tlingit-Haida Legend By Mary G. Beck
b. Activities:
In order to allow the students to know more about the Tlingit, I would bring in other traditional tales from the culture. I would also bring in other versions of the “The Frog and the Princess” to help them compare and contrast. With so many different cultures making up the United States, comparing this story with other Indian tribes versions or tales would show the students how diverse the United States is. This book would also work well in teaching symbolism.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Picture Books: Knuffle Bunny

1. Bibliographic data:
Willems, Mo. Knuffle Bunny. Illustrator: Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, New York, 2004. ISBN: 0-7868-1870-0

2. Brief plot summary:
Trixie and her dad are on the way to do errands and along the way she loses her prize possession. She tries to tell her dad this, but he doesn’t understand what she wants until Mom helps to translate.

3. Critical analysis:
Students are going to fall in love with Knuffle Bunny. It is the perfect mix of story and illustration. The simplicity of the story mixed with the emotions that are exhibited through the pictures, makes this a story that children, teachers, and parents, will all enjoy. Children will connect with the inability of adults to understand everything they say.
The pictures is what grabbed my attention the most. The idea of taking black and white pictures and adding in colorful cartoons make this a Mo Willems story that I will read over and over with my family.

4. Review excerpt(s):
a. School Library Journal: “A seamless and supremely satisfying presentation of art and text.”
b. Booklist: “Even children who can already talk a blue streak will come away satisfied that their own strong emotions have been mirrored and legitimized, and readers of all ages will recognize the agonizing frustration of a little girl who knows far more than she can articulate.”
c. Awards:
2005 Caldecott Honor Book
2007 Carnegie Medal

5. Connections
a. I would also bring in Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity to read. This continues with Trixie and her Knuffle Bunny, and now Trixie is off to school. I would also bring in other books by Mo Willems, such as the “Pigeon” books. They are so simple, but the children are drawn to them.
b. An activity I would have the students do is to tell about a time when a grown up did not understand what they needed, You could teach mood this was by having them draw a picture of their feelings and discuss how feelings can change a character and the story.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Picture Books: Artists to Artists

  1. Bibliographic data :

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art. Illustrations by Eric Carle, Tomie dePaola, Jane Dyer, Steven Kellogg, and many more. Philomel Books, New York, 2007 ISBN13- 9780399246005

2. Brief plot summary:

In order to connect with young artist, many renowned illustrators have taken a moment to describe their start as an artist as well as how they were inspired. With each illustrator, there are pictures of them growing up, and many of their early works.

3. Critical analysis:
Artist to Artist is a great blend of background information of some of the renowned illustrators, and the pictures that they loved to draw. Not only did they write letter to the reader, they invited them in to the place that inspire them. With each letter, the artists drew a self-portrait that symbolizes who they are.
For a student who loves art, this is the perfect inspiration for them. Each illustrator has a different experience for students to draw from, as well as different techniques. Looking through the different illustrations, I could not believe all the creativity flowing through the pages.

4. Review excerpt(s):
School Library Journal "...a gorgeous, browsable gallery of international treasures. "

5. Connections:
In Art class, I would have students look through this book and see which artists they connect the most with. I would also have them write their own bios and inspirations, for future students. Then we could make a class “Artists to Artists book.
In order for them to connect the artists they favor the most, I would have them choose that author and read as many of their books as they can get their hands on. Then makes connections between the different books and the illustrations.

Picture Book: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

1. Bibliographic data:
Selznick, Brian. The Invention of Hugo Cabret . Brian Selznick, Scholastic Press, New York, 2007. ISBN 10- 0-439-81378-6

2. Brief plot summary:
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is about an orphaned boy who must use his knowledge of fixing things to survive. Hugo must continue to care for the clocks at a train station in Paris to keep from going to an orphanage. It is here where he befriends a young girl and her godfather. He does not realize that they will unlock the key to mysterious object his father left behind.

3. Critical analysis:
When I started this book I did not know what to expect. The first forty-five pages are illustrations. At that point I was hooked. Although I knew very little about the characters, I could already feel their pain. Then the writing started and I knew this was going to be one of those books that I HAD to finish in one sitting. Between Hugo, Papa Georges, and Isabelle, the story is driven by heartache, responsibility, and love.
This beautifully written story that has a well-mix of words and amazing illustrations. The pencil drawings, although without color, capture every detail. Many of the pictures focus on the eyes, and they emit the character’s emotions better than words could. It will capture the imagination of the young and the old alike.

4. Review excerpt(s):
a. Awards:
2008 Caldecot Winner
National Book Award Finalist
#1 New York Times Bestseller
New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2007
b. Publisher’s Weekly: “Here is a true masterpiece…”
c. School Library Journal: “This is a masterful narrative that readers can literally manipulate.”

5. Connections:
a. Activities: I would bring in the different elements of the book, such as the mechanics of clocks and the different elements of drawing. This is a book that I would also bring into to a Video Production, Multimedia, or Art class. The creative elements of the book lend themselves to teach students about these elements.
In a Reading class, I would also use this book to teach conflict. By making a chart, you could make connections between the different conflicts and how they intertwine.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Internet Competency

The website that I found that I am really interested in is YABC: Young Adult (and Kids) Book Central. This is the website that goes along with the blog I choose. Most of the website is used for book reviews, although there is also author interviews, free giveaways, news, and forums. Specifically, "It is a website for people who love books."

One of the things I love about this website is that when they review books, they start the article with things like "Must Read" or "Addictive". Many students will not finish a review, but with that at the beginning, they may actually take the advice.

I did not have to use a search engine in order to find this website. I just went to the blog,, and they had the link there.

The link to YABC is Enjoy!

Research Visual/ Multimedia Competency

Understand a student's reading level, whether it be where they are supposed to be or where they really are, is a very important thing for a school librarian to know. You need to know so that when you are ready to suggest books it is at a readable level for them and not at frustration level. The above graph is Edward Fry's model for estimating reading levels. It looks pretty straight forward, but you will need the instructions to use it.

Fry, Edward (1977).Elementary Reading Instruction. McGraw-Hill. Retrieved on July 16, 2009 from Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators:

Image Competency

I found this image using Google Images. I searched "school libraries" since that is my field of study.
I choose this image because it shows me how much a school library needs to be connected with the rest of the school. So many times you find a school librarian that sits in their "hole" only focused on what is going on within those walls. This image shows that school librarians CANNOT do that be then they are missing pieces of the complete puzzle.
Lonsdale, Michelle (2008). "27 October, International School Library Day".Retrieved July 16, 2009 from Google Images:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Competency 6: Specific Facet First Search

I decided to use the Dialog database in order to conduct my Specific Facet First Search. The instructions alone made it seem like it would get my a smaller set of results to start off with this database. I used the Eric database through Dialog. My search was "Young Adult Literature". This yielded 1 hit.

Just to give me a better feel for the program I also searched "Children's Literature" (0 hits) and "Literature" (84,823 hits).

Next in Dialog, I changed databases by using LibLit. I wanted to use the same searches. What I noticed is that you need to have it typed in as "Young Adults' Literature" (2320 hits) instead of "Young Adult Literature" (0 hits). Below is the look of the searches.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Competency #6- Successive Fractions Search

For the Successive Fractions Search, I used ASC. In order to start, I used the broad term "Young Adult Literature". This search got 4, 586 hits. Most of these hits were specific novels instead of Young Adult Literature in general.

My next search added on to the "Young Adult Literature" and I tried to narrow the search by putting "Author Interviews". This only gave me 8 hits and I knew that I had narrowed it too much because some of the hits I had originally seen were not there. So I went back and changed it to "Interviews". This gave me 53 hits.

I did actually try to add one more facet to the search using "Award Winners". This came up with 14,000 hits. This actually blew up my search instead of narrowing it down.

ASC is a very easy database to work with and it gave me a lot of great information. I could also change dates of articles. I believe this is really useful I might have been looking in the 1980s, and I don't want to wade through all of the other articles.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Competency #6- Citation Pearl Growing Search

For the Citation Pearl Growing Search, I used WorldCat. Just looking at the search site, I realized that this is a very useful website. I have been seeing a lot in the news about budget cuts being handed down at a national level to a state level. I knew that this was going to be effecting libraries so I decided that would be my search. For the first search I searched Budgets AND Library AND Public. For that search I had 1,052 hits.

I realized that I might need to take off the focus on a specific library. So I took off the Public and only searched Budgets AND Library. With this search I had 2,046 hits.
Using WebCat was very simple and straight forward. It is a database that I can see students in public schools using with little or no problems.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Competency #6- Building Block Search Strategy

For the building block search strategy, I looked up (public libraries or libraries) AND (first amendment or free speech AND controveresy in the ERIC database. I did try and narrow it down to publications in the last 9 years, but it completely changed my search.
The other hits that I got were relevent, but not much has beeen written about the controversy of the First Amendment and library systems.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Competency #5- Tagging/Cataloging

The book I found was Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children's Literature
by Elizabeth Laraway Wilson.
Library Thing tags:
2008(1) @kidlit(1) b1(1) best books(1) bibliophilia(1) Bin: MM(1) book lists(11) book recommendations(1) books(4) books about books(2) books and reading(3) carol(1) Charlotte Mason(2) children(6) Children's(5) children's criticism collection(1) children's literature(3) Children's literature guide(2) children (1) Christian(2) complementary(1) education(8) educational(1) English(1) Home library(1) homeschool(14) homeschooling (literature lists)(1) jll(1) Juvenile(2) kids(1) literature(9) Literature Guide(3) literature.children's(1) Living Books(1) mothering(1) non-fiction(4) parenting(2) read in 2006(1) reading(7) reference(16) Resource(1) reviews(1) study guide(1) teaching.

Library Thing Link:

Books Children Love will give you great ideas of children's books to pick up at the library. One thing that is unique about this book is that it is not just a listing for fiction. This book breaks it up into subject area for nonfiction as well. You can get lists in areas such as Art, Animal, Crafts, Drama, History, and many more.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Competency #4

The RSS feed that I choose was from the American Libraries website. I originally was looking at the ALA website, but many of their feeds were not working. On this feed is author interview videos and "What to Read" videos for Young Adult Literature. Many school district have authors that come and visit. But if a school district could not come and visit, this would be a great way for librarians to bring the author to the school.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Competency #3

One thing that I have found with podcasts is that anybody can put one on the web. When searching for a good one for Young Adult Literature, I had to go through a lot of bad to get to the good. I did try all of Dr. Lee's podcast's sites first, but what I found was either very old or not done well. So I reverted to good ole' And that is where I found Horn Book magazine's podcast at The first podcast on the website is all about summer reading. It had suggestions in fiction, poetry, and folklore. Along with the podcast, there is a separate lists of recommended books, from picture books to high school. This would be a great website to have as a resource for any library.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Competency #2

I love Young Adult literature. I have been teaching middle school for four years now, and I see how books can change a student. At the beginning of every year, I tell my students that my goal is to help them find one book that they enjoy reading. I have had many students laugh at me with disbelief. Honestly, many parents even have. But come the end of the year, I ask them if I fulfilled my goal, and 9 out of 10 kids say yes.

The website I found to go with my Young Adult Literature theme is the Young Adult (and Kids) Books Central Blog ( This website has everything; book reviews, latest news, interviews, and much more. As I scrolled down, I noticed so many different forms of literature such as general fiction, fractured fairy tales, graphic novels, historical fiction, and science fiction. When I used the search engine, a lot of different websites came up. The YABC blog is the one that grabbed my attention. The intro to the website states that," The YABC blog is a companion site to the YA Books Central web site! You'll find handy links to the latest reviews, interviews, book giveaways and prize shipment notifications. Be sure to visit the site proper for hundreds of reviews, cool contests, and much more! The blog is just the tip of the iceberg. Or should I say...the first page in the book?"

I hope you enjoy the website!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Competency #1

I believe that blogs are used many different ways. We are moving into a era where anyone can be a "reporter" and give the news. Blogs are a way to get information out to the masses, whether it be personal news or informative news.
My focus for my Master's is going to be School Libraries with a focus on Secondary. After teaching for many years, in elementary and middle school, I have found my passion.