Monday, June 12, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: The Sand Warrior (5 Worlds)

The Sand Warrior
by Mark Siegel
illustrated by Ianthe Boume
Random House (2017)
Graphic Novel

What It's All About:

The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there's more to themselves--and more to their worlds--than meets the eye...

Why You'll Love It:

  • The three illustrators work seamlessly together to place Oona, a thick-bodied but graceful, pale-skinned strawberry blonde, in exotic, elaborately envisioned settings and surround her with a notably variegated cast of green-, blue-, brown-, black-, and pink-skinned allies and adversaries. 
  • Adorable, cartoonish illustrations bring color and life to this action-packed story that's reminiscent of the animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • With sensitive writing, gorgeous artwork, and a riveting plot, this is a series to keep an eye on.

Who Should Read It:

Perfect for 4th-7th graders.



What Else You Should Read:

Monday, May 15, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Armstrong & Charlie

Armstrong & Charlie
by Steven B. Frank
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2017)
Historical Fiction

What It's All About:

Charlie isn't looking forward to sixth grade. If he starts sixth grade, chances are he'll finish it. And when he does, he'll grow older than the brother he recently lost. Armstrong isn't looking forward to sixth grade, either. When his parents sign him up for Opportunity Busing to a white school in the Hollywood Hills, all he wants to know is "What time in the morning will my alarm clock have the opportunity to ring?" When these two land at the same desk, it's the Rules Boy next to the Rebel, a boy who lost a brother elbow-to-elbow with a boy who longs for one.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Period details from the ’70s and hilarious dialogue will draw readers in from the very first pages.
  • Armstrong and Charlie is a must read for middle grade students who are trying to figure out their own place in the world, since that's exactly what these characters are trying to do. 
Who Should Read It:

Great for 5th-8th graders...also check out this activity kit from the publisher.

What Else You Should Read:

Friday, May 12, 2017

I Tried It: Kicking Off Research With Costumes!


Seventh grade writing teachers at my middle school recruited me to dress up in order to kick off their research projects -- all about the 1960s! Students were able to pick a topic they were interested in and also pick the ways in which they presented the information. I love projects that support student choice.

I also snuck in some handy tips about navigating our state's amazing online database resource, Tennessee Electronic Library.



I showed them how to find primary sources on the databases as well as the nifty feature that automatically generates their citations for them. They were pretty pumped about that one.

It's been so interesting to check in with the students as they discover more about their topics as they research.

Happy teaching!

Monday, May 8, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Strong Inside

Strong Inside
by Andrew Maraniss
Philomel (2017)
Nonfiction

What It's All About:


Perry Wallace was born at an historic crossroads in U.S. history. He entered kindergarten the year that the Brown v. Board of Education decision led to integrated schools, allowing blacks and whites to learn side by side. A week after Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Wallace enrolled in high school and his sensational jumping, dunking, and rebounding abilities quickly earned him the attention of college basketball recruiters from top schools across the nation.

The world seemed to be opening up at just the right time, and when Vanderbilt University recruited Wallace to play basketball, he courageously accepted the assignment to desegregate the Southeastern Conference. The hateful experiences he would endure on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be the stuff of nightmares. Yet Wallace persisted, endured, and met this unthinkable challenge head on.


Why You'll Love It:


  • Author Maraniss doesn’t shy away from the difficulties, not wanting to whitewash history by editing away the ugly epithets that plagued Wallace throughout his career.
  • The bibliography is packed with primary sources, offering ample research opportunities for those compelled to dig deeper into the civil rights struggle of Wallace and other black athletes.
  • Maraniss writes in a way that would draw in reluctant readers. His writing is smooth and vivid. The smoothness makes the book fly by, while the vividness make the encounters Wallace face that much more damning.

Who Should Read It:

Perfect for 7th grade and up.


What Else You Should Read:

  • Legends by Howard Bryant
  • On the Court with LeBron James by Matt Christopher
  • Hoop Dreams by Ben Joravsky

Friday, May 5, 2017

Books By Theme: Positively Presidential


With presidents and politics garnering lots of media attention (in the U.S. and elsewhere), children may be curious. No matter where you live, these presidential-themed picture books -- some funny, some serious -- can serve as discussion starters.

One Today
by Richard Blanco
illustrated by Dav Pilkey

From dawn till dusk, the rays of the sun touch all kinds of people as they go about their daily lives. Amid this bustling crowd, young readers can track one family and their cat across the pages of luminous, jewel-toned illustrations. (Older kids may be interested to note that the art is by Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame.) Originally written for the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama, this graceful poem-turned-picture book features American points of reference, but its message of inclusiveness and hope will resonate with readers worldwide.

Looking at Lincoln 
by Maira Kalman

Fearlessly quirky author and illustrator Maira Kalman has made a book about Abraham Lincoln that is probably not like any others you may have read. Instead of presenting a specific story from Lincoln's life or providing a textbook-style biography, she creates a character (a girl) who becomes fascinated with the 16th U.S. president and learns everything she can about him. The girl isn't bashful about her emotions, either -- she really loves Lincoln and asks herself all kinds of questions about him. With bright, fun illustrations and a casual feel, Looking at Lincoln is a sweet story about making personal connections with historical figures.

President Squid
by Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Sara Varon

With many-armed abandon, a hot pink squid throws himself into a presidential campaign. He's sure he's right for the job: he's famous, he lives in a big house, he's loud and bossy ("Hey Jellyfish! Comb your tentacles! You look terrible!"), and he even wears a necktie! It takes one of the smallest voters under the sea to point out that perhaps Squid might add "helping people" to the list of presidential qualities. Though Squid utterly fails to learn a valuable lesson, his over-the-top antics may prompt giggling kids to chime in with their own ideas about leadership. 

Madam President
by Lane Smith

In this witty book, a little girl imagines that she is President of the United States. After making an executive order for "more waffles, please," Madam President dons a smart pantsuit and makes her way through a busy day of photo ops, treaty negotiation (between a baffled cat and dog), vigorous veto-ing, and a "press conference" (her oral report). This chief executive's cabinet is populated with toy box residents -- Ms. Piggy Bank is Secretary of the Treasury, for example -- in just one of the many visual gags that complement the book's tongue-in-cheek formal text.


Monday, May 1, 2017

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Real Friends

Real Friends
by Shannon Hale
Illustrations by LeUyen Pham
First Second Books (2017)
Graphic Novel (Memoir)

What It's All About:

Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen's #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others.
Why You'll Love It:
  • Pham’s brightly colored panels are the perfect complement to Hale’s nuanced story, particularly when she zooms in on reactions, subtle gestures, and facial expressions that add captivating emotional depth.
  • It's bound to resonate with most readers, especially kids struggling with the often turbulent waters of friendships and cliques.
Who Should Read It:

Perfect for 3rd-6th graders...and here's the book trailer!



What Else You Should Read:

Friday, April 28, 2017

What They're (Really) Reading: April 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.
 


A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel
adapted by Hope Larson

I love that this graphic novel exists! So many students are introduced to a great book they might never pick up otherwise. I always lead them to the original novel when they turn the graphic novel in.

Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher

Netflix is to thank for bringing this book back into high circulation. There's definitely been some controversy over the series' treatment of the novel, but students are clamoring for it.

Prisoner B-3087
by Alan Gratz

Gratz is wildly popular with our middle schoolers, especially after I did a WWII-themed book talk with one of my classes in February.

Carve the Mark
by Veronica Roth

I just grabbed this one off our book fair in March and it's already moving! Not surprising considering the popularity of the Divergent series.

Series of Unfortunate Events
by Lemony Snicket

Once again, Netflix has come into play and reawakened the love of an "older" book! Series of Unfortunate Events also almost won our March Book Madness school wide tournament in March. I love seeing this series fly off the shelves again thanks to Netflix's new adaptation.

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.
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