Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Middle School Edition

book cover for Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby
Lost in the River of Grass
by Ginny Rorby
Genre: Survival Fiction


Summary:


When two Florida teenagers become stranded on a tiny island in the Everglades, they attempt to walk ten miles through swampland to reach civilization.


Why You'll Love It:

  • Readers will pull for Sarah, thirteen, and Andy, fifteen, as they face poisonous snakes, gators, fire ants, and hunger and thirst while they try to make their way out of a remote part of the Everglades on foot. Sarah insists on adopting a duckling, Teapot, to Andy’s dismay—it will only slow them down—but Teapot is a good mascot, and caring for him gives them a psychological boost through their ordeal.
  • Details about the Everglades and the plants and animals that inhabit it emerge contextually in the suspenseful narrative, giving the story its distinct sense of place and adding depth to the adventure: “Things in our path slither away in startling bursts of speed. If what flees is a gator, it leaves a trail of tiny bubbles on the surface. . . . Water snakes, once they sense the vibration of our approach, swim along the surface, and disappear into the saw grass.”
  • Sarah and Andy’s relationship is believable—their romance alternates between being prickly and being affable; they snipe at each other, but they obviously care for one another.


book cover for Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
Pathfinder
by Orson Scott Card
Genre: Fantasy


Summary:


Thirteen-year-old Rigg has a secret ability to see the paths of others' pasts, but revelations after his father's death set him on a dangerous quest that brings new threats from those who would either control his destiny or kill him.


Why You'll Love It:

  • The first in a series, Card’s latest title has much in common with his Ender Wiggins books: precocious teens with complementary special talents, callously manipulative government authorities, endlessly creative worlds, and Card’s refusal to dumb down a plot for a young audience.
  • While Card delves deeply into his story's knotted twists and turns, readers should have no trouble following the philosophical and scientific mysteries, which the characters are parsing right along with them.
  • This novel should appeal to Card's legion of fans as well as anyone who enjoys speculative fiction with characters who rely on quick thinking rather than violence or tales of mind-bending time-travel conundrums.
book cover for Demonglass: A Hex Hall Novel by Rachel Hawkins
Demonglass: A Hex Hall Novel

by Rachel Hawkins
Genre: Fantasy


Summary:


After learning that she is capable of dangerous magic, Sophie Mercer goes to England with her father, friend Jenna, and Cal hoping to have her powers removed, but soon she learns that she is being hunted by the Eye--and haunted by Elodie.


Why You'll Love It:

  • Rachel Hawkins’s sequel to Hex Hall combines everything fans could ask for: a sprawling and splendorous castle (thirty-one kitchens! ninety-eight bathrooms!), a hot love triangle, an enchanted ball . . . and multi-limbed ghouls, creepy demons, and necromancy.
  • Sophie Mercer continues to win over readers—and warlocks—with her arch sense of humor. (When a vampire orders Earl Grey at high tea, Sophie cracks, he’ll actually getEarl Grey.)
  • Hawkins keeps upping the intrigue: How is it that ghosts can’t see or hear the living, but Elodie’s ghost keeps trying to talk to Sophie? Why does Sophie’s upcoming summer destination, Thorne Abbey, sound so familiar? And how—and, more importantly, why—did Daisy and Nick, two teenagers suffering from retrograde amnesia, get turned into demons?
  • Some of these questions are answered in an explosive, world-inverting finale—which, along with the questions that remain, will have readers counting down the days to the next Hex Hall installment.


book cover for Evolution by Jay Hosler
Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth
by Jay Hosler
Genre: Nonfiction/Graphic Novel


Summary:


In graphic novel format, follows Bloort 183, an asexual alien scientist, as he explains the fundamentals of evolution to King Floorsh and his son.


Why You'll Love It:

  • Clear and thorough text describes the history of life on Earth from its very beginning.
  • The information is kept light and entertaining, delivered by alien scientist Bloort to lofty King Floorsh and the enthusiastic—but easily distracted—Prince Floorsh.
  • Detailed artwork helps readers visualize life forms from the five-eyed opabinia to wild boars, and dramatizes abstract concepts such as natural selection.
  • The book includes plenty of fun jokes as well. For example, it imagines Charles Darwin saying that people went “ape” for natural selection, and pictures eukaryote cells and endosymbiotic bacteria visiting a therapist to discuss how much they need each other.



Monday, March 28, 2011

Books By Theme: YA Lit for People who think YA lit sucks

book cover for They Called themselves the KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group.Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. 172p. 

In the age of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, it can be easy to forget that in our nation's not-so-distant past, a homegrown terrorist organization held large parts of the country hostage. The Ku Klux Klan began with six young male members in 1866 and grew through the rest of the 19th and into the 20th centuries to include an estimated five million men and women. Bartoletti does not censor the hateful language of the Klan's threats or the depictions of their victims. From the chilling cover with a sweat-soaked hood to the picture of thousands of Klansmen marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1925, Bartoletti's juxtaposition of word and image brings to light a shadowy legacy that is with us still.



book cover for Sir Charlie by Sid Fleischman
Fleischman, Sid. Sir Charlie: Chaplin, The Funniest Man in the World. Greenwillow Bks. 268p. 

Charlie Chaplin was born into poverty yet became one of the richest and most successful entertainers of his age. Then his adopted nation turned on him, forcing him into artistic exile for the better part of 20 years. As he did for Mark Twain in The Trouble Begins at 8 (2009), Fleischman here treats his subject with wit and wisdom, bringing to light details that will surprise even the biggest silent film fan. For instance, did you know that Jim Henson's Muppets now occupy the studio that Chaplin built? Published posthumously, this last book from a master storyteller humanizes a Hollywood legend.



book cover for Annexed by Sharon Dogar
Dogar, SharonAnnexed. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. 341p.  

Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl is sacred territory, so it is with great skepticism that I approached Dogar's retelling of the story from Peter Van Pels's viewpoint. The result is both a fresh perspective on a familiar story and a meditation on the tragedy of a lost generation of Jewish youth. While Peter strains under the annex's cramped conditions for the better part of two years, another side of Anne is revealed. It might have been annoying at times to live in close quarters with a young aspiring memoirist. Knowing how the story ends does not stay the impact of the book's final pages.



book cover for Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
Sedgwick, MarcusRevolver. Roaring Brook Pr. 204p.

Sig is alone with the frozen body of his father, awaiting the return of his family, when a stranger comes to the door. Gunther Wolff claims that Sig's father owes him half a fortune in gold and will not leave until it is produced. To Sig's knowledge, the only thing of value in their tiny cabin is an ancient revolver in the store room. Should he use it, knowing that bringing a gun into this game of cat-and-mouse could result in his own death? I am deeply glad that I read Revolver in August, because it would take far more than a toddy and Snuggie to warm the chill that permeates every page of this Arctic thriller.



book cover for The Things A Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt
Reinhardt, Dana. The Things a Brother Knows. Wendy Lamb Bks. 245p.  

Levi's brother Boaz returns home after three years in the U.S. Marines, unrecognizable to his family. The once-popular and -outgoing athlete now stays in his room all day with the radio turned to static andwon't get in a car. When Boaz announces that he will be hiking the Appalachian Trail for the summer, Levi knows that he is lying and follows his brother on a very different journey that leads from their home in Boston to Washington, DC, with stops to meet the families of Boaz's comrades. One of my all-time favorite books is Bobbie Ann Mason's In Country (1985; the 1989 film version stars a youngish Bruce Willis), so naturally, the story's conclusion at the Vietnam Memorial had me sobbing uncontrollably. Nevertheless, the power of this story is in the brothers' journey and their relationship, which builds step by step and mile by mile.


Books by Theme was inspired by both Melissa at One Librarians Book Reviews's feature Listless Monday and Court at Once Upon a Bookshelf's Listed feature.  Be sure to check out their lists!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Four Month Challenge - Part 6



Love these four month challenges- it's become my one and only challenge that I ever really follow through with, so I've decided to just keep it simple and run with it! The next cycle is from April-July 2011, I believe.

Visit the official Four Month Challenge site for more information or to sign yourself up!

Here are the categories:

5 POINT CHALLENGES
Read a book that the author’s name begins with A for April IN April (first or last name): Matched by Allie Condie
Read a book that the author’s name begins with M for May IN May (first or last name): Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
Read a book that the author’s name begins with J for June IN June (first name only): The Summons by John Grisham
Read a book that the author’s name begins with J for July IN July (last name only)
Read a book that begins with the S for Spring: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

10 POINT CHALLENGES
Read a ‘debut’ novel (an author’s first book): The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
Read a book where the author wrote under a pseudonym
Read a book with a male on the cover (male only, no female): Iron House by Jon Hart
Read a book with a female on the cover (female only, no male): I'd Know You Anywhere by Lisa Lippman
Read a book with a house on the cover

15 POINT CHALLENGES
Read a book that you previously DID NOT finish
Read a book with a flower on the cover OR in the title: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
Read a book with a reference to a fairy tale (Cinderella theme, Alice in Wonderland theme, etc)
Read a book that the author was born during the Spring season: Smile by Raina Tegemeier (born May 26)
Read a book that has won awards: One Day by David Nicholls

20 POINT CHALLENGES
Read something that is next in a series
Read a book that the title begins with either your first or last initial: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (First inital is 'A')
Read a book where the main character is an author
Read a book having to do with ghosts, reincarnation, etc.
Read a book with one of the Four Elements in the title – Fire, Water, Wind, Earth

Sunday, March 13, 2011

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Elementary Edition

book cover for Miss Lina's Ballerinas by Gracca Maccarone
Miss Lina's Ballerinas
by Grace Maccarone
Grades PreS-1


Ballet instructor Miss Lina has a solution when her eight students, who always dance in pairs, are distraught when a ninth girl joins the class.


Why You'll Love It:

  • Davenier’s free-spirited drawings and color washes add a sense of music as well as movement to the scenes.
  • It reminds me of the Madeline books.
  • Makes a great introduction to a math lesson on number groupings.

book cover for Rain School by James Rumford
Rain School
by James Rumford
Grades K-3


The children arrive on the first day of school and build a mud structure to be their classroom for the next nine months until the rainy season comes and washes it all away.


Why You'll Love It:

  • This book gives young children a glimpse into the school life of children in another part of the world.
  • The message of the story is clear-while the school structure may be temporary, education is permanent.
  • Rumford's illustrations make great use of color, dark brown skin and bright shirts, shorts and dresses against golden backgrounds, the hues applied in smudgy layers that infuse each scene with warmth-until the gray rains arrive. 

book cover for Emma Dilemma by Kristine O'Connell George
Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems
by Kristine O'Connell George
Grades 1-4


A collection of poems in which Jess explores the joys and aggravations of being Emma's big sister.


Why You'll Love It:

  • The straightforward, honest poems contain a whole range of feelings: embarrassment, fury, affection, and pure terror.
  • The poems and art tell an absorbing story -- complete with a few tense moments and a warm, believable conclusion.
  • Spring-colored line drawings in pen-and-ink and digital media are filled with engaging details, expressive characters, and lots of humor, and bring the family dynamics to life.

book cover for Gold! Gold from the American River! by Don Brown
Gold! Gold from the American River!
by Don Brown
Grades 4-6


Introduces young readers to the history of the California gold rush, describing the journey to California, the process of panning for gold, and the fortunes that this gold brought many different people.


Why You'll Love It:

  • The author does not hesitate to reveal the darker side of mining communities. One illustration vividly depicts the shotgun murder of an American Indian, with a description of the tragic fate of many Indians in the goldfields through violence, disease, and enslavement.
  • The inventive page compositions and scratchy watercolor cartoon figures carry small, telling dramas (the tiny grin that punctuates a successful panner’s face is priceless), and sweeping western landscapes come into full relief.

book cover for Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret UFOs
by Donald J. Sobol
Grades 2-4


Ten brief cases allow the reader to match wits with ten-year-old crime-buster, Encyclopedia Brown, as he investigates such cases as whether a diary of George Washington's mother is authentic, or if a UFO picture supposedly taken by the army is real.


Why You'll Love It:

  • Each of the ten chapters is a brief, self-contained mystery; readers might choose to dip into the book, reading a case or two at a time, or they may devour the book in one sitting.
  • James Bernardin’s detailed illustrations enhance the stories, showing Encyclopedia Brown in action.
  • Young sleuths can consult the solutions at the back of the book—whether they’re stumped or to confirm their exceptional detective work.



Monday, March 7, 2011

Books By Theme: D.O.A.

book cover Dead Reckoning: The New Science of Catching Killers by Michael Baden
Dead Reckoning: The New Science of Catching Killers 
by Michael Baden and Marion Roach
Simon & Schuster (August 20, 2002)


Blood spatter, witnesses, exhumations, and incompetent forensic pathologists this book takes us deep into the world of forensic science, where an accurate reading of blood spatter can mean the difference between guilt and innocence. Baden (Unnatural Death: Confessions of a Medical Examiner), former New York City medical examiner and current codirector of the New York State Police Medicolegal Investigation Unit, takes on these topics plus some not commonly discussed: blow flies, autoeroticism, and the one aspect of his work that is "scary and unsettling even terrifying." One feels part of the autopsy team as Baden who has performed more than 20,000 such procedures describes how the body arrives (bagged and tagged) at the morgue, how the autopsy is performed, how to know the difference between cause and manner of death, and how a body is read by police and medical examiners for evidence. This book is more than the cases Baden handled; it is an in-depth, engrossing look, even for the squeamish, at how medical examiners work and why you want a competent one on your side.



Fingerprints by Colin Beavan book cover
Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case That Launched Forensic Science 
by Colin Beavan
Hyperion (May 2002)


Beavan presents a lively focus on turn-of-the-20th-century politics and science as reflected in advances in law enforcement and criminal detection. The scientific backdrop for this slice of social history leading to the adoption of fingerprints as a forensic tool is carefully articulated within a narrative rich in the texture of locales and competitive ambitions. The author captures the role of key personalities, and the conflicts among them, as he deftly re-creates the pivotal 1905 murder case in Deptford, England, which served as a vehicle for the introduction of fingerprints as evidence in a jury trial. His research reveals how social hierarchies of the day and overlapping contributions to the field resulted in innovative work being erroneously credited. Groundwork laid by William Herschel in India; by Edward Henry and his colleague Azizul Haque; by Henry Faulds, a Scottish medical missionary in Japan; and by Francis Galton, of a prominent British family, is chronicled. The decades-long acrimony between Faulds and Galton is dramatically sketched. In counterpoint, Beavan takes care to describe the alternative methodology being simultaneously developed and implemented in France. Each of these efforts is skillfully outlined against the backdrop of law enforcement's dire need for a means of reliable identification of criminals.



book cover The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York 
by Deborah Blum
Penguin Press (February 18, 2010)


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Blum has cleverly packaged her account of the birth of forensic medicine by addressing the use and detection of various poisons in the early 20th century. The setting is the Prohibition era, when the death toll rose with the widespread distribution of bootleg liquor containing lethal methyl alcohol and the addition of poisons deliberately added by federal government regulation to make alcohols undrinkable. Blum focuses on New York City's first chief medical examiner, Charles Norris, and his colleague, longtime chief toxicologist Alexander Gettler. Norris was relentless in his advocacy for the new profession, often railing against government policies (or the lack thereof) that allowed unregulated poisons to be blithely used in industrial products, cosmetics, and medicinals despite injuries and deaths. Gettler was the consummate workaholic professional, meticulously testing and developing new techniques for extracting the remnants of poisons in corpses. Blum interlaces true-crime stories with the history of forensic medicine and the chemistry of various poisons. This readable and enjoyable book should appeal to history buffs interested in medicine, New York City, or the early 20th century generally. And of course scientists and true-crime aficionados will also enjoy it.



book cover Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers 
by Mary Roach
W. W. Norton & Company (May 2004)


Those curious or brave enough to find out what really happens to a body that is donated to the scientific community can do so with this book. Dissection in medical anatomy classes is about the least bizarre of the purposes that science has devised. Mostly dealing with such contemporary uses such as stand-ins for crash-test dummies, Roach also pulls together considerable historical and background information. Bodies are divided into types, including "beating-heart" cadavers for organ transplants, and individual parts-leg and foot segments, for example, are used to test footwear for the effects of exploding land mines. Just as the nonemotional, fact-by-fact descriptions may be getting to be a bit too much, Roach swings into macabre humor. In some cases, it is needed to restore perspective or aid in understanding both what the procedures are accomplishing and what it is hoped will be learned. In all cases, the comic relief welcomes readers back to the world of the living. For those who are interested in the fields of medicine or forensics and are aware of some of the procedures, this book makes excellent reading.



(All summaries from Library Journal.)


Friday, March 4, 2011

What They're Reading: Graphic Novels!



When my middle school students come to the library each week, I like to pick their brains and see what they're actually reading for fun these days. It helps me keep up with what I need to have in the library collection and what I should be reading. 


When I arrived at my humble little school library this year, there were no graphic novels to speak of in the collection. I decided that one of my goals as a first year librarian was to establish a graphic novel section focused at upper elementary & middle students. 


They can't seem to get enough of them! Kids who never want to pick up a book jump at the graphic novel retelling of The Lightning Thief. One of my most popular offerings in the biography section is Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow


Here's a sampling of other popular graphic novels at Carroll-Oakland's library:
Happy reading!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

5 Minute Factoids: Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell telephone


Today is the birthday of Alexander Graham Bell, an eminent scientistinventorengineer and innovator who is credited with inventing the first practical telephoneMany other inventions marked Bell's later life, including groundbreaking work in optical telecommunicationshydrofoils and aeronautics. In 1888, Alexander Graham Bell became one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society (Wikipedia). 
  • He only attended school for five years; from the time he was 10 until he was 14, but he never stopped learning. He read the books in his grandfather’s library and studied tutorials.
  • In 1883 Bell invented the graphophone, the first practical system of sound recording.
  • Bell died on August 2, 1922. On the day of his burial, all telephone service in the US was stopped for one minute in his honor.
Want to read more on Bell? Try this book...

by Seth Shulman

Seth Shulman closely examines the race to build the first telephone and uncovers potential bombshells with The Telephone Gambit. Although Alexander Graham Bell is widely accepted as the father of the telephone (despite the fact that rival inventor Elisha Gray submitted a similar claim the same day Bell filed his patent), Schulman provides intriguing evidence questioning if the scales were deliberately tipped in Alexander's favor. Was the venerable inventor party to theft from Gray's own research? Or are such accusations merely sour grapes from a bitterly contested legal battle? Fraught with controversy, conspiracy, and possible chicanery, Shulman spins real-life Da Vinci Code drama around one of the most influential inventions of the modern era.