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

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.

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

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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