Monday, April 24, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Unbound

Unbound
by Ann E. Burg
Scholastic (2017)
Novel in Verse/Historical Fiction

What It's All About:

The day nine-year-old Grace is called to work in the kitchen in the Big House, everyone warns her to to keep her head down and her thoughts to herself, but the more she sees of the oppressive Master and his hateful wife, the more she questions things until one day her thoughts escape--and to avoid being separated she and her family flee into the Dismal Swamp, to join the other escaped slaves who live there.

Why You'll Love It:
  • I've discovered that there's a big niche for novels in verse at my school. Kids love the format and the quick pace of the writing. 
  • The cadences offer excellent choral reading possibilities and a glimpse into the little-known existence of covert slave communities in the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and North Carolina during slavery years.
  • Providing strong suspense and vivid imagery, the survival tale conveys the terror and dehumanization of slavery, a girl’s courage and growing sense of self amid terrible odds, and a family’s binding love and unyielding spirit. 
Who Should Read It:

Great for 4th-8th graders.

What Else You Should Read:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Books by Theme: If You Like Wonder...


Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard all about Wonder. If you've been under said rock, learn more about this excellent book and the "Choose Kind" movement here. Then read these other books that also showcase empathy, kindness, and accepting differences.


El Deafo
by Cece Bell

Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece's class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends. Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school--in the hallway...in the teacher's lounge...in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower!

Out of My Mind
by Sharon Draper

Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom - the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she's determined to let everyone know it - somehow.

Loser
by Jerry Spinelli

Just like other kids, Zinkoff rides his bike, hopes for snow days, and wants to be like his dad when he grows up. But Zinkoff also raises his hand with all the wrong answers, trips over his own feet, and falls down with laughter over a word like "Jabip." Other kids have their own word to describe him, but Zinkoff is too busy to hear it. He doesn't know he's not like everyone else. And one winter night, Zinkoff's differences show that any name can someday become "hero."

Paperboy
by Vince Vawter

An 11-year-old boy living in Memphis in 1959 throws the meanest fastball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering, not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend's paper route for the month of July, he knows he'll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything. The paper route poses challenges, but it's a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble--and puts the boy's life, as well as that of his family's devoted housekeeper, in danger.

Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life...until now.

Stargirl
by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’ s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first. Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal.


Monday, April 17, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Legends by Howard Bryant

Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Basketball
by Howard Bryant 
Philomel Books (2017)
Sports Nonfiction

What It's All About:

Giants of the game like Steph Curry, LeBron, and Michael Jordan have transcended the sport to become cultural icons and role models to young fans. From the cornfields of Indiana and the hills of North Carolina, to the urban sprawl of New York City, Chicago and L.A., love of the game stretches from coast to coast. Featuring Top Ten Lists to chew on and debate, and a Top 40-style Timeline of Key Moments in Basektball History, this comprehensive collection includes the greatest dynasties, from the Bill Russell-era Celtics, to the Magic Jonson-led Lakers, to the Jordan-led Bulls, right up to the Tim Duncan-led Spurs.

Why You'll Love It:
  • This is an easy hook for serious sports fans seeking an exploration of the history of basketball.
  • Alternates among overviews of each decade since the 1960s, profiles of particular players or accounts of high-profile matches, themed “Top 10” lists, and lends itself well to browsing.
  • Rather than present a rigidly systematic chronicle or an indigestible barrage of names and statistics, he begins chapters with highlight reels of each era’s leading players and teams.
Who Should Read It:

Great for 5th grade and up.

What Else You Should Read:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Books By Theme: You're In Luck...


Luck Uglies 
by Paul Durham

Strange things are happening in Village Drowning, and a terrifying encounter has Rye O'Chanter convinced that the monstrous, supposedly extinct Bog Noblins have returned. 
Now Rye's only hope is an exiled secret society so notorious its name can't be spoken aloud: the Luck Uglies. As Rye dives into Village Drowning's maze of secrets, rules, and lies, she'll discover the truth behind the village's legends of outlaws and beasts...and that it may take a villain to save them from the monsters.


A Whole Lot of Lucky
by Danette Haworth

Hailee Richardson never realized how much she hated her Salvation Army life and Goodwill accessories until the night her family wins the lottery. All of a sudden she's no longer the only girl at school without a cell phone or a brand-new bike! And the newfound popularity that comes with being a lottery winner is just what she's always dreamed of. But the glow of her smartphone and fancy new clothes wears off when Hailee is transferred to Magnolia Academy, a private school. All of a sudden, her best friend and parents seem shabby compared to the beautiful Magnolia moms and the popular bad-girl Nikki, who seems to want to be her friend.

Lucky Strike
by Bobbie Pyron

Nate Harlow would love to be lucky, just once! He'd like to win a prize, get picked first, call a coin toss right, even! But his best friend, Genesis Beam (aka Gen), believes in science and logic, and she doesn't think for one second that there's such a thing as luck, good or bad. She doesn't care what names the other kids call them. She cares about being right, about saving the turtles of Paradise Beach, and she cares about Nate.

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky
by Holly Schindler

August “Auggie” Jones lives with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” Auggie is determined to prove that she is not as run-down as the outside of her house might suggest. Using the kind of items Gus usually hauls to the scrap heap, a broken toaster becomes a flower; church windows turn into a rainbow walkway; and an old car gets new life as spinning whirligigs. What starts out as a home renovation project becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time.

Three Times Lucky
by Sheila Turnage

Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

Monday, April 10, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Overturned

Overturned
by Lamar Giles
Scholastic (2017)
Mystery Fiction

What It's All About:

Nikki Tate's father has been on death row for killing his best friend in a gambling dispute, but he has always maintained his innocence, and now his conviction has been overturned and he is back at the casino, where high school junior Nikki has been operating illegal poker games in the hopes of saving enough money to get out of Vegas after graduation--and now he is determined to find the real killer, and Nikki is inevitably drawn into his dangerous search for the truth.

Why You'll Love It:
  • A fast-paced, compelling mystery and memorable characters and relationships make this selection a first choice.
  • The mystery never feels forced and seems to flow naturally, gaining momentum as Nikki peels away each layer until everything is ultimately revealed.
  • Racial elements at play - the Tates are black while their rivals, the Carlinos, are white - hover in the background, adding another layer to Giles's murder mystery.
Who Should Read It:

Perfect for 7th grade and up.



What Else You Should Read:

Friday, April 7, 2017

Books by Theme: If You Like Dork Diaries


I don't know about you, but I find that Dork Diaries is even more popular than Wimpy Kid at our middle school! I'm constantly directing readers to other great books to read after they've finished Russell's series. Here are the books and series I point to over and over again to whet readers' appetites.


Popularity Papers (series)
by Amy Ignatow

Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang are best friends with one goal: to crack the code of popularity. Lydia’s the bold one: aspiring theater star, stick-fighting enthusiast, human guinea pig. Julie’s the shy one: observer and artist, accidental field hockey star, faithful recorder. In this notebook they write down their observations and carry out experiments to try to determine what makes the popular girls tick. But somehow, when Lydia and Julie try to imitate the popular girls, their efforts don’t translate into instant popularity.

Dear Dumb Diary (series)
by Jim Benton

School was okay today. Actually, it was better than okay. Angeline got her long, beautiful hair tangled in one of the jillion things she has dangling from her backpack, and the school nurse -- who is now one of my main heroes -- took a pair of scissors and snipped two feet of silky blond hair from the left side of her head, so now Angeline only looks like The Prettiest Girl in the World if you're standing on her right. (Although personally, I think she would look better if I was standing on her neck.)

Amelia's Notebooks (series)
by Marissa Moss

 Moss may have her name on the title page, but this is really Amelia's book. The feisty, make-believe nine-year-old takes on a life of her own as she writes and draws her feelings about moving, starting a new school, and making new friends (some antagonism toward her older sister, Cleo, who "picks her nose with her little finger," sneaks in as well). A colorful riot of childlike drawings and lots of hand-printed text spill every which way across the pages. Both the language and the art style are on target for the age group--Amelia is droll and funny and not too sophisticated for her years; she's also poignant and real as she longs for her "far-away" friend and takes tentative steps to find one close by.

Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting

by Tommy Greenwald

Here are a few things you need to know about Katie Friedman:
1. Katie is swearing off phones for life! (No, seriously. She just sent the wrong text to the wrong person!)
2. She wants to break up with her boyfriend. (Until, that is, he surprises her with front row tickets to her favorite band, Plain Jane. Now what!?)
3. She wants to be a rock star (It's true. She has a band and everything.)
4. Her best friend is Charlie Joe Jackson. (Yeah, you know the guy.)
5. And most importantly, Katie's been offered the deal of a lifetime—get ten of her friends to give up their phones for one week and everyone can have backstage passes to Plain Jane. (A whole week!? Is that even possible?)

Ten Rules For Living With My Sister (series)
by Ann M. Martin

Pearl's older sister Lexie is in eighth grade and has a boyfriend. Pearl's only boyfriend is the family's crabby cat, Bitey. Lexie is popular. Pearl is not, mostly because of the embarrassing Three Bad Things that happened in school and which no one has forgotten. Everything Pearl does seems to drive Lexie crazy. On top of that, their grandfather is moving into their family's apartment and taking over Pearl's room. How will these sisters share without driving one another crazy?

11 Birthdays (series)
by Wendy Mass

GROUNDHOG DAY meets FLIPPED in this tale of a girl stuck in her birthday.
It's Amanda's 11th birthday and she is super excited -- after all, 11 is so different from 10. But from the start, everything goes wrong. The worst part of it all is that she and her best friend, Leo, with whom she's shared every birthday, are on the outs and this will be the first birthday they haven't shared together. When Amanda turns in for the night, glad to have her birthday behind her, she wakes up happy for a new day. Or is it? Her birthday seems to be repeating iself. What is going on?! And how can she fix it?

Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf (series)

by Jennifer Holm

Ginny has ten items on her big to-do list for seventh grade. None of them, however, include accidentally turning her hair pink. Or getting sent to detention for throwing frogs in class. Or losing the lead role in the ballet recital to her ex-best friend. Or the thousand other things that can go wrong between September and June. But it looks like it's shaping up to be that kind of a year! Here's the story of one girl's worst school year ever -- told completely through her stuff.

Gossip From the Girls' Room (series)

by Rose Cooper

Gossip from the Girls’ Room fills readers in on all there is to learn about middle school life at Middlebrooke, where Sofia has her very own blog and discusses all the juicy gossip that comes out of the Girls’ room; read along to find out just what happens when class is not in session.

Monday, April 3, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Well, That Was Awkward...

Well, That Was Awkward
by Rachel Vail
Viking (2017)
Middle Grade Fiction

What It's All About:

Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can't breathe, can't walk, can't anything and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J. 
It turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie's beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J. s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She's had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best. It s all good. Well, almost all. She's trying.

Why You'll Love It:

  • This modern, middle-school retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac is heartwarming, funny, and tender, offering a story of young love and loyalty, friendship and family.
  • This tween romance proves that some stories stand the test of time, even with modernization.
  • Gracie's breakneck narration is presented in and out of text messages, folding in an effortlessly diverse cast, including Latina Sienna and Filipino-Israeli Emmett.
  • Readers will see themselves in Gracie and her friends, root for them, and likely figure out who is actually texting whom before the characters do, even if they haven't read the source material.

Who Should Read It:

Great for 5th-8th graders.



What Else You Should Read:

Friday, March 31, 2017

What they're (really) reading: March 2017



By keeping a pulse on what our students are checking out at our middle school library and keeping a close eye on which books are circulating heavily, I feel that I can spend the small budget I have more wisely by choosing books I know will have a greater likelihood of circulating widely.

Each month I'll feature some books that are on the "heavy rotation" list in our middle school library. They're not necessarily new, shiny, or covered with awards -- they're just what the kids want.
 


This Month's Selections:


School For Sidekicks
by Kelly McCullough
Fantasy/Adventure Fiction

Superhero geek Evan survives a supervillian's death ray, and is sent to the Academy for Metahuman Operatives. Unfortunately, instead of fighting bad guys, Evan finds himself blacklisted, and on the wrong side of the school's director. Can he convince his semi-retired has-been mentor to become a real hero once again?

Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi : a math adventure
by Cindy Neuschwander
Nonfiction 

Radius, son of Sir Cumference, embarks on a quest to find the magic number known as pi in order to restore his father--who has been turned into a dragon--to his original shape. Glad to see this title get some love from Pi Day :)

Baba Yaga's Assistant
by Marika McCoola
Graphic Novel

Most children think twice before braving a haunted wood filled with terrifying beasties to match wits with a witch, but not Masha. Her beloved grandma taught her many useful things: that stories are useful, that magic is fickle, and that nothing is too difficult or too dirty to clean. The fearsome witch of folklore needs an assistant, and Masha needs an adventure. This book was featured in February's book tasting activity I did with students. I think it was a success!

Across the Universe
by Beth Revis
Dystopian Fiction

Amy, having been cryogenically frozen and placed onboard a spaceship which was supposed to land on a distant planet three hundred years in the future, is unplugged fifty years too early and finds herself stuck inside an enclosed world ruled by a tyrannical leader and his rebellious teenage heir and confused about who to trust and why someone is trying to kill her. Revis was a featured author at the SE-YA Book Fest we attended this month, so I was glad to see that this book got a circulation bump. 

Mark of the Thief
by Jennifer Nielsen
Historical/Adventure Fiction

When Nic, a slave in the mines outside of Rome, is forced to enter a sealed cavern containing lost treasures of Julius Caesar, he finds himself in possession of an ancient amulet filled with magic once reserved for the Gods, and becomes the center of a conspiracy to overthrow the emperor and destroy Rome. 

More Happy Than Not
by Adam Silvera
Speculative Fiction

After enduring his father's suicide, his own suicide attempt, broken friendships, and more in the Bronx projects, Aaron Soto, sixteen, is already considering the Leteo Institute's memory-alteration procedure when his new friendship with Thomas turns to unrequited love. This one also got a bump in interest from the SE-YA Book Festival we attended this month.

Monday, March 27, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures
by Margot Lee Shetterly
Harper (Nov. 2016)
Narrative Nonfiction

What It's All About:

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African-American women who lived through the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.

Why You'll Love It:
  • In any context, these women’s contributions to science and aerospace technology would be impressive, but the obstacles imposed by the norms of their society make their achievements all the more impressive.
  • There's already lots of interest generated from the movie in theaters right now.
  • Shetterly's book offers up a crucial history that had previously and unforgivably been lost. We'd do well to put this book into the hands of young women who have long since been told that there's no room for them at the scientific table.
Who Should Read It:

Great for 5th-8th graders.




What Else You Should Read:

Friday, March 24, 2017

Spring Book Fair Top Ten Titles


We're just finishing up our Spring Book Fair, and I've been so impressed with this season's titles!

It's also my first middle school book fair and I have to say I like the selection better than the elementary fairs. I feel like there's more quality books here in middle school land -- at least as far as book fairs are concerned. 

Listed below are the top best-sellers at my middle school this time around. I'm pleasantly surprised by many of the books that were consistently selected -- also note that perennial favorites like Wimpy Kid are not to be found anywhere on the list. I believe this is because they KNOW they can find those titles at our library. They went for the books we don't have in the collection to purchase at the book fair. 

Smart cookies ;)




Number 10: Surrounded By Sharks by Michael Northrop

When Davey wakes, just as the sun is rising, he can't wait to slip out of the crammed hotel room he's sharing with his family. Leave it to his parents and kid brother to waste an entire day of vacation sleeping in! Davey heads straight for the beach, book and glasses in hand, not bothering to leave a note. As the sparkling ocean entices him, he decides to test the water, never mind that "No Swimming" sign. But as the waves pull him farther from shore, Davey finds himself surrounded by water -- and something else, too. Something circling below the surface, watching, waiting. It's just a matter of time. 

Number 9: 2017 Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition

Get an inside look at the indie game scene, the big-money world of eSports, and a celebration of 25 years of Mario Kart. There’s everything from space shooters such as Destiny, to RPGs such as Fallout 4, to the hit sport series FIFA and Madden. We’ve got sims, strategy games, and horror titles, and we also take a look at the toys-to-life phenomenon.

Number 8: Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Cardinal rule #1 for surviving school: Don't get noticed by the mean kids.
Cardinal rule #2 for surviving school: Seek out groups with similar interests and join them.

On her first day at her new school, Penelope--Peppi--Torres reminds herself of these basics. But when she trips into a quiet boy in the hall, Jaime Thompson, she's already broken the first rule, and the mean kids start calling her the "nerder girlfriend." How does she handle this crisis? By shoving poor Jaime and running away! Falling back on rule two and surrounding herself with new friends in the art club, Peppi still can't help feeling ashamed about the way she treated Jaime. Things are already awkward enough between the two, but to make matters worse, he's a member of her own club's archrivals--the science club! And when the two clubs go to war, Peppi realizes that sometimes you have to break the rules to survive middle school!


Number 7: Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn't happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister's sake - and her own.

Number 6: How They Choked by Georgia Bragg & Kevin O'Malley

Over the course of history, famous people made mistakes that were so monumental they could never escape them, no matter how brilliant their successes! Ferdinand Magellan is credited as the first man to sail around the world . . . but he only actually made it halfway. His terrible treatment of everyone he met cut his life journey short. Queen Isabella of Spain is remembered for financing Columbus’s expeditions—and for creating the Spanish Inquisition. J. Bruce Ismay commissioned the unsinkable marvel of the sea, the Titanic—and then jumped the line of women and children to escape death on a lifeboat. Readers will be fascinated well past the final curtain and will empathize with the flawed humanity of these achievers.

Number 5: Naruto: Itachi's Story by Masachi Kishimoto & Takashi Yano

Uchiha Itachi, four years of age. With the hell of war burned into his eyes, the boy makes a resolution: he will rid this world of all violence. The birth of Sasuke, meeting his friend Shisui, the academy, genin, chunin, and then the Anbu—Itachi races down the path of glory toward his dream of becoming the first Uchiha Hokage, unaware of the darkness that lies ahead…

Number 4: Assassin's Creed Last Descendants by Matthew J. Kirby

Nothing in Owen’s life has been right since his father died in prison, accused of a crime Owen is certain he didn't commit. Monroe, the IT guy at school, might finally bring Owen the means to clear his father’s name by letting him use an Animus—a device that lets users explore the genetic memories buried within their own DNA. The experience brings Owen more than he bargained for. During a simulation, Owen uncovers the existence of an ancient and powerful relic long considered legend—the Trident of Eden. Now two secret organizations will stop at nothing to take possession of this artifact—the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templar Order. It soon becomes clear to Owen that the only way to save himself is to find the Trident first.

Number 3: Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Lida thought she was safe. Her neighbors wearing the yellow star were all taken away, but Lida is not Jewish. She will be fine, won't she? But she cannot escape the horrors of World War II. Lida's parents are ripped away from her and she is separated from her beloved sister, Larissa. The Nazis take Lida to a brutal work camp, where she and other Ukrainian children are forced into backbreaking labor. Starving and terrified, Lida bonds with her fellow prisoners, but none of them know if they'll live to see tomorrow.

Number 2: Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap by Akira Himekawa

On the day of the Picori Festival, Link and Princess Zelda go to watch the sword-fighting tournament. The winner is a strange man named Vaati, who has come to claim the Light Force which is sealed within the Bound Chest. When the Light Force turns up missing, Vaati turns Princess Zelda to stone! To save his friend, Link needs the power of the Picori Blade, but only a certain master swordsmith can reforge it. Can Link find the pieces of the broken sword before Vaati does?

Number 1: Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey's search for his new life's meaning leads him into the loving arms of 8 year old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog. But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey's journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders, will he ever find his purpose? 

Monday, March 20, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Nothing But Trouble

Nothing But Trouble
by Jacqueline Davies
Katherine Tegen Books (Nov. 2016)
Humorous fiction

What It's All About:

Odawahaka has always been too small for Maggie's big scientific ideas. Between her stuck-in-a-rut mom, her grumpy grandpop, and the lifetime supply of sludgy soda in the fridge, it's hard for Maggie to imagine a change. But when Lena moves in with her creative spirit and outrageous perspective, middle school takes off with a bang. Someone starts pulling the kind of pranks that send their rule-loving new principal into an uproar—complete with purple puffs of smoke, parachuting mice, and a scavenger hunt that leads to secret passageways. Suddenly the same-old football games, election for class president, and embarrassing stories feel almost exciting. And for the first time in her life, Maggie begins to wonder if there might be more to Odawahaka than she ever saw coming.

Why You'll Love It:
  • This series starter, full of unapologetic girl power and complete with appended activities based on Maggie’s interest in physics and Lena’s in Dadaism, might especially appeal to lonely studious-and-creative types, with its reassurance that they’re not as alone as they may think.
  • A vividly realized present-day setting, distinctive, believable characters, subversive humor, and a satisfying ending give this title solid kid appeal.
  • The story's high entertainment value is balanced by more serious moments when the girls reflect on tricks that backfired or cope with family problems.
Who Should Read It:

Great for 5th-8th graders.

What Else You Should Read:

Friday, March 17, 2017

Books by Theme: Middle Grade Magical Realism

Disappearance of Emily H.
by Barrie Summy

You'd think that the ability to see memories attached to objects would be useful when starting a new school, but it's not much help to eighth-grader Raine. She still has to put up with the school's mean-girl clique, whose bullying seems more sinister when memories reveal that they know more than they're telling about the recent disappearance of fellow student Emily. Though following Emily's memories becomes increasingly risky, Raine feels compelled to find the missing girl. Combining authentic middle school social drama with supernatural mystery, Raine's dogged search for the truth is bound to keep you turning pages. 

The Lightning Queen
by Laura Resau

For Teo and Esma, destiny strikes during their childhood in the 1950s, when Esma and her Romani family visit Teo's Mixteco community in the dusty Mexican mountains. Teo is grieving the loss of his twin sister, but spirited Esma (who calls herself the "Queen of Lightning") puts "the spark of life" back in him. Though Esma's fortune-teller grandmother predicts that their friendship will be lifelong, even lasting into the lives of their grandchildren, readers are fast-forwarded to the present day, where Teo and Esma have lost touch over the years. Can their grandchildren figure out how to reunite them so they can fulfill their destiny? Find out in this magical and deeply moving read.

Wish Girl
by Nikki Loftin

Peter and Annie each have their own reasons for wanting to run away to the magical valley near their rural Texas community. Quiet, sensitive, and deeply misunderstood by his slowly fracturing family, Peter isn't sure he can keep going. Odd, artistic Annie calls herself a "wish girl" – as in Make-A-Wish, the program for kids with cancer. When family drama and the looming shadow of a risky cancer treatment overwhelm the two friends, they turn to the valley for safety, protection, and hope. If you're enchanted by author Nikki Loftin's poetic writing style, you might also enjoy her previous book, Nightingale's Nest.

Nightbird
by Alice Hoffman

It's rumored that there's a monster living in Sidwell, Massachusetts. But 12-year-old Twig Fowler knows better than to believe rumors -- especially since the "monster" is actually her older brother James, who was born with wings due to an old family curse. Their mom says that they have to keep James a secret, but when sisters Julia and Agate move in next door, Twig and James make friends with them anyway -- and in so doing, discover the chance to change their family's fate. For another quirky, quiet book that mixes magic with everyday life, check out Jane Yolen's Centaur Rising.

Monday, March 13, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Short

Short
by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Dial Books (January 2017)
Realistic Fiction/Humor Fiction

What It's All About:

Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she'll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn't ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive--one of the adults with dwarfism who've joined the production's motley crew of Munchkins. With her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia's own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn't want to fade into the background--and it's a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!

Why You'll Love It:
  • Sloan again captures the authentic voice of a child dealing with weighty topics, including loss and identity, in a charming and often funny way.
  • It’s refreshing that Julia doesn’t mind being short and believes she’s “little, but big inside.” Her self-acceptance is inspiring, and the joy she experiences in her foray into theater is irresistible.
  •  Julia's musings about the play also serve as a well-crafted introduction to theater terminology and convey drama’s ability to open participants up to new experiences.
Who Should Read It:

Perfect for 5th-8th graders.



What Else You Should Read:

Saturday, March 11, 2017

I Tried It: YA Book Festival Field Trip With Middle Schoolers!



Held on Middle Tennessee State University's campus here in Murfreesboro, the Southeastern Young Adult Festival is the brainchild of four middle and high school librarians in my district. This marks the second year in the festival and Friday was reserved uniquely for educators and their students to meet and greet with over 40 young adult authors.

Here are some pics from my students' visit to the festival:

The author panel we attended included M. Tara Crowl, Tracy Barrett, Bridget Hodder, and Megan Shepherd.



At the bookstore, we were able to purchase books by the authors and get them signed.

Best. Job. Ever.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Books By Theme: Encouraging a Growth Mindset With Picture Books






What Do You Do With a Problem?
by Kobi Yamada

This is a story for anyone, at any age, who has ever had a problem that they wished would go away. It's a story to inspire you to look closely at that problem and to find out why it's here. Because you might discover something amazing about your problem… and yourself.

What are problems for? They challenge us, shape us, push us, and help us to discover just how strong and brave and capable we really are. Even though we don't always want them, problems have a way of bringing unexpected gifts.


Lesson Idea: http://www.teachcreatemotivate.com/growthmindset/

The Most Magnificent Thing
by Ashley Spires

This funny book offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity. The girl's frustration and anger are vividly depicted in the detailed art, and the story offers good options for dealing honestly with these feelings, while at the same time reassuring children that it's okay to make mistakes. The clever use of verbs in groups of threes is both fun and functional, offering opportunities for wonderful vocabulary enrichment. The girl doesn't just make her magnificent thing --- "she tinkers and hammers and measures, she smooths and wrenches and fiddles, she twists and tweaks and fastens." These precise action words are likely to fire up the imaginations of youngsters eager to create their own inventions and is a great tie-in to learning about STEM.

Lesson Idea: http://www.kidscanpress.com/sites/default/files/products/assets/MostMagnificentThingThe_2177_teaching_2.pdf

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
by Mark Pett

Beatrice Bottomwell has NEVER (not once!) made a mistake... Meet Beatrice Bottomwell: a nine-year-old girl who has never (not once!) made a mistake. She never forgets her math homework, she never wears mismatched socks, and she ALWAYS wins the yearly talent show at school. In fact, Beatrice holds the record of perfection in her hometown, where she is known as The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes. Life for Beatrice is sailing along pretty smoothly until she does the unthinkable - she makes her first mistake. And in a very public way!

Lesson Idea: 
http://www.thenedshow.com/assets/a4-the-girl-who-never-made-mistakes-primary-lesson-plans-the-ned-show.pdf

Beautiful Oops
by Barney Salzburg

A life lesson that all parents want their children to learn: It's OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn't ruin a drawing - not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don't be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator.

Lesson Ideas: http://beautifuloops.com/share-ideas/

The Dot
by Peter Reynolds

Simplicity itself, like the dot in the title, this small book carries a big message. Vashti doesn't like her art class. She can't draw. So when her teacher tells her just to make a mark, Vashti belligerently hands in her paper with a single dot. But what a wise teacher Vashti has. She makes Vashti sign the paper, and then she frames it. Seeing her work on the wall encourages Vashti to do better, and she takes out her watercolors and begins experimenting with all sorts of dots

Lesson Idea:
http://tworeflectiveteachers.blogspot.com/2013/10/teaching-about-growth-mindset-early-in.html

Monday, March 6, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Mighty Jack

Mighty Jack
by Ben Hatke
First Second Books (September 2016)
Graphic Novel/Fantasy

What It's All About:

Jack might be the only kid in the world who's dreading summer. But he's got a good reason: summer is when his single mom takes a second job and leaves him at home to watch his autistic kid sister, Maddy. It's a lot of responsibility, and it's boring, too, because Maddy doesn't talk. Ever. But then, one day at the flea market, Maddy does talk—to tell Jack to trade their mom's car for a box of mysterious seeds. It's the best mistake Jack has ever made.

Why You'll Love It:
  • This book, like many graphic novels, will have wide appeal -- to already avid graphic novel readers, but also to those who love fairy tale retellings.
  • Hatke's interpretation of the familiar fairy tale is richly imagined, giving girls—including one on the spectrum—equal weight in the adventure rather than staying true to the male-dominated original. 
  • The full color panels and crisp depictions of all the vegetation which comes alive is so well done. Kids can let their imaginations run wild in this story.
Who Should Read It:

Great for 5th-8th graders.



What Else You Should Read:

Monday, February 27, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Frogkisser!

Frogkisser!
by Garth Nix
Scholastic (2017)
Fantasy Chapter Book

Summary:

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother's new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land-and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.


Why You'll Love It:
  • This line: “I don’t expect to need rescuing. I’m not that kind of princess.”
  • Refreshingly, there’s no romance plot here, and just as refreshingly, the two dark-skinned women are both beautiful and benevolent. 
  • Playing on fairy tale tropes and conventions, Nix delivers a delightful adventure stuffed with absurdity, magic, and a spirited young heroine.
Who Should Read It:

Great for 6th-10th graders.



What Else You Should Read:

Friday, February 24, 2017

I Tried It: Book Tasting/Book Speed Dating

I recently ordered a bunch of new books and wanted to show them off to my students in a fun way. Enter one of my school's reading teachers, Mrs. Russell, and a collaboration was born! 

We hosted a book tasting in the library! This activity enables students to quickly rotate through lots of different genres and sample each book for a couple of minutes. This also exposes students to types of books they might not normally pick up on their own.

 Here are some pictures from our event and some further resources from some of my favorite middle school librarian bloggers below. 





Awesome Book Tasting Resources:

Read Mrs. ReaderPants' overview of her experience hosting book speed dating in her middle school library.

Check out Mighty Little Librarian's take on Book Speed Dating.

Here's a free book speed dating sheet from Teachers Pay Teachers.
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