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)

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:
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