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Archive for July, 2012

July 31, 2012

August: Everything School-Related

August: Everything School-Related

Regardless of whether school begins in August or after Labor Day, students approach August with the realization that summer vacation is about to end.  Many schools offer back to school information sessions for parents and students – school supply lists, curriculum offerings, school safety tips, menus for the school lunch program, after school activities, field trips, information about clubs and student and government, etc.  Much of this information is sometimes delivered via the school’s website and at an open house when families can visit the school and meet the teachers.  Public libraries have a roll too.  Summer reading programs are winding down by August, and kids welcome an opportunity to stay involved at the library.  Consider sponsoring special programming for school-age children and teens that help them focus on a positive school experience.  Here are a few ideas:

  •  Many students approach school with anticipation, but some experience school anxiety.  Lighten up the beginning of school by introducing some humorous books.  Suggestions from Random House include:

  Junie B., First Grader (at Last) (ages 6-8) by Barbara Park & illus. by Denise Brunkus

                    The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room (ages 7-9) by Patricia Reilly Giff & illus. by Blanche Sims

                                               How to Survive Middle School (Without Getting Your Head Flushed), Deal with an Ex-Best Friend, um, GIRLS, and a Heartbreaking Hamster (ages 8-12) by Donna Gephart.

                       The Fabled Fourth-Graders of Aesop Elementary School and The Fabled Fifth-Graders of Aesop Elementary School (ages 7-12) by Candace Fleming.

  •  Have readers make a poster on School Bus safety that features a favorite main character.  Get them started by introducing the following books:

                     The Berenstain Bears Catch the Bus (ages 4-6) by Jan & Stan Berenstain

                      Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus (ages 6-8) by Barbara Park & illus. by Denise Brunkus

  •  Talk about students’ favorite Field Trips.  Divide readers into groups and ask them to plan a local Field Trip for each subject area.  Suggest that they read the following books from Random House:

                     Scat  (ages 8-12) by Carl Hiaasen

                    The Sixty-eight Rooms (ages 8-12) by Marianne Malone & illus. by Greg  Call

  • Talk about healthy School Lunches and have them plan a different menu for each day in the school week.  Then introduce the following book as an example as an alternative lunch experience:

                     When You Reach Me (ages 8-12) by Rebecca Stead

  • Have readers suggest activities for an After School Program.   Younger readers will enjoy reading about kids in the following after school program:

                    The Zigzag Kids series (ages 6-9) by Patricia Reilly Giff

  • Talk about the purpose of Student Government and why such an organization is important.  Suggest the following books from Random House:

                        Rosie Swanson: Fourth-Grade Geek for President (ages 8-12) by Barbara    Park.

                    Class President (ages 8-12) by Louis Sachar & illus. by Amy Wummer.

  • Ask readers if they have ever taken part in Field Day.  Have them plan a Field Day activity for their school.  Younger readers will enjoy the following book:

         Junie B. Jones is Captain of Field Day (ages 6-8) by Barbara Park & illus. by Denise Brunkus.

  • Have readers to think about the good reasons for using the School Library.  Introduce the following book:

                 Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I Don’t)  (ages 6-9) by Barbara Bottner &  illus.  by Michael Emberley.

  • What are some Special School Programs that they have enjoyed?  Maybe it’s an author visit, or a special speaker.  They will find great joy in the following:

                    Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta (ages 7-10) by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

  • Suggest that older readers locate a book that fits each of the following subjects:


                 Language Arts


                 Social Studies


                 Foreign Language




                 Physical Education

  • Challenge all readers to think creatively and critically by asking them to name a favorite main character and share what subject they would especially excel in.  Suggestions from Random House include:

             Autumn Winifred Oliver from Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different  (ages 8-12) by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb.

            Lydia from Child of the Mountains (ages 9-up) by Marilyn Sue Shank.

             Deza Malone from The Mighty Miss Malone (ages 10-up) by Christopher Paul Curtis.

            Hollis Woods from Pictures of Hollis Woods (ages 9-12) by Patricia Reilly Gif.f

            Darnell from Darnell Rock Reporting (ages 8-12) by Walter Dean Myers.

            Brian from Brian’s Hunt, Brian’s Return, Brian’s Winter and The River (ages 9-12) by Gary Paulsen.

           Juli Baker from Flipped   (ages 10-up) by Wendelin Van Draanen

               Leon  from How to Get Suspended and Influence People (ages 12-up) by Adam Selzer.

            Jerry Renault from The Chocolate War (ages 14-up) by Robert Cormier.

July 31, 2012

David Levithan’s EVERY DAY is “awe-inspiring”!

★ A (his only name) has a secret. Each morning he wakes up in a different body and life: sometimes he is a boy, sometimes a girl; sometimes he is gay, sometimes straight; sometimes he is ill, more often well. The only unchanging facts are that he is always 16 and it is a different persona he borrows each day. It has always been this way for him, though he doesn’t know why it should be. He does know that it is imperative that he do nothing to change his host’s life—until he meets Rhiannon and, for the first time, falls in love. And then all bets are off. Levithan has created an irresistible premise that is sure to captivate readers. While the story requires a willing suspension of disbelief, the plot is so compelling readers will be quick to comply. Aside from his premise, Levithan has done an extraordinary job of creating more than 30 characters, each one a distinct individual and each one offering fresh insights into A’s character. And thosefamiliar with Levithan’s earlier work will not be a bit surprised to learn that his latest is beautifully written (lips are “gates of desire”; “sadness turns our features to clay, not porcelain”). All these elements work together to make a book that is a study in style, an exercise in imagination, and an opportunity for readers themselves to occupy another life: that of A, himself. – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

★ Imagine waking up in a different body every day. A is a 16-year-old genderless being who drifts from body to body each day, living the life of a new human host of the same age and similar geographic radius for 24 hours. One morning, A wakes up a girl with a splitting hangover; another day he/she wakes up as a teenage boy so overweight he can barely fit into his car. Straight boys, gay girls, teens of different races, body shapes, sizes and genders make up the catalog of A’s outward appearances, but ultimately A’s spirit—or soul—remains the same. One downside of A’s life is that he/she doesn’t have a family, nor is he/she able to make friends. A tries to interfere as little as possible with the lives of the teenagers until the day he/she meets and falls head over heels in love with Rhiannon, an ethereal girl with a jackass boyfriend. A pursues Rhiannon each day in whatever form he/she wakes up in, and Rhiannon learns to recognize A—not by appearance, but by the way he/she looks at her across the room. The two have much to overcome, and A’s shifting physical appearance is only the beginning. Levithan’s self-conscious, analytical style marries perfectly with the plot. His musings on love, longing and human nature knit seamlessly with A’s journey. Readers will devour his trademark poetic wordplay and cadences that feel as fresh as they were when he wrote Boy Meets Boy (2003).

An awe-inspiring, thought-provoking reminder that love reaches beyond physical appearances or gender. (Fiction.14 & up) – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

July 02, 2012

July: Anti-Boredom Month

July is “Anti-Boredom” Month, and I can’t think of a better way to deal with boredom than spending the month with good books. Some children are over-scheduled with activities, and they still complain of boredom during the summer months. They and their parents need to be reminded that boredom isn’t an issue when there are books to spark one’s imagination. Public libraries do an excellent job of sponsoring summer programs that encourage kids to spend their vacation reading and exploring all the information that the library offers.

  •  Advertise the summer reading program as a “gift to young readers.” Introduce them to a variety of books, especially ones that challenge their imaginations.
  •  Introduce all ages to The Phantom Tollbooth (ages 7-up) by Norton Juster &)illus. by Jules Feiffer. This is a perfect book to kick off “Anti-Boredom” Month. Why is Milo so bored when he has so many toys? Ask readers to relate their own lives to Milo. Then have them make a list of all the things to do if they only use their imagination.
  • Celebrate the imagination in young children by reading aloud And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss. Suggest that they create their own story called And To Think That I Saw It On My Street. Encourage them to tell their story to the group, and create a series of illustrations about what they imagine. This is also an opportunity to have teens work with younger children to create a story.
  • Sponsor an art contest that asks young readers to draw another world – someplace they visited through books, and a place that is totally foreign to them. Consider using the following books from Random House:

We Planted a Tree (ages 4-8) by diane Muldrow & illus. by Bob Staake
Ice Island (ages 8-12) by Sherry Shahan
Laugh with the Moon (ages 8-12) by Shana Burg
Shabanu (ages 12-up) by Suzanne Fisher Staples
I Am the Messenger (ages 14-up) by Marcus Zusak

  • Have children and teens read a historical novel. Then have a writing contest called “No Boredom in History.” How do the main characters make use of their time? Why wasn’t there time for boredom? What message do these characters send today’s kids? Consider the following books from Random House:

Crow (ages 8-12) by Barbara Wright
Looking for Marco Polo (ages 8-12) by Alan Armstrong & illus. by Tim Jessell
May B (ages 8-12) by Caroline Starr Rose
The Mighty Miss Malone (ages 10-up) by Christopher Paul Curtis
Hattie Big Sky (ages 12-up) by Kirby Larson
Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood (ages 14-up) by Jame Richards

  • Many kids go away to camp during the summer. Have kids who don’t go away to think about the type of camp the following main characters may attend:

Melonhead in Melonhead and the Undercover Operation (ages 7-9) by Katy Kelly & illus. by Gillian Johnson.
Cheesie Mack in Cheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or Anything (ages 8-12) by Steve Cotler & illus. by Adam McCauley
Brendan Buckley in Brendan Buckley’s Sixth-Grade Experiment (ages 8- 12) by Sundee Frazier
Harriet in Harriet the Spy (ages 8-12) by Louise Fitzhugh
Kevin Puch in The Fast and the Furriest (ages 8-12) by Andy Behrens
Malone & illus. by Gina Triplett

  • Suggest that readers read the following books and discuss how the main characters use their imagination to occupy themselves:

Tar Beach (ages 4-8) by Faith Ringgold
Eleven (ages 8-12) by Patricia Reilly Giff
The Elevator Family (ages 8-12) by Douglas Evans
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (ages 8-12) by Jeanne Birdsall
Flush (ages 9-12) by Carl Hiaasen
Turtle in Paradise (ages 9-12) by Jennifer L. Holm
Racing the Moon (ages 8-12) by Alan Armstrong & illus. by Tim Jessell
The Sixty-Eight Rooms (ages 8-12) by Marianne Malone & illus. by Greg Call
The Lost Songs (ages 12-up) by Caroline B. Cooney

  • Have readers make summer reading suggestions and plan an activity for the following main characters:

Junie B. Jones
Calvin Coconut
Mason Dixon
Jackson Jones
Marvin Redpost
Gooney Bird Greene
Velma Gratch
Lucy Rose
Moxy Maxwell
Anatasia Kruptik
Sammy Keyes

  • Conduct a Sunday Afternoon program for Parents and have kids share books and activities. Or, consider creating a page on the library’s website and use contributions from kids called “Not Bored in the Library.” This is a good place for kids to recommend good books they read during the summer.

July 02, 2012

Four starred reviews for SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman!

★ Hartman proves dragons are still fascinating in this impressive high fantasy. After 40 years of peace between human and dragon kingdoms, their much-maligned treaty is on the verge of collapse. Tensions are already high with an influx of dragons, reluctantly shifted to human forms, arriving for their ruler Ardmagar Comonot’s anniversary. But when Prince Rufus is found murdered in the fashion of dragons—that is, his head has been bitten off—things reach a fever pitch. Seraphina, a gifted court musician, wants only to go unnoticed as the investigation draws close: she is the unthinkable, a human/dragon half-breed, and her secret must be protected. But when Prince Lucien Kiggs asks for her help with the murder investigation, she has no choice but to become involved, even if Kiggs’ acute perceptiveness is a danger to her. Equal parts political thriller, murder mystery, bittersweet romance, and coming-of-age story, this is an uncommonly good fantasy centered upon an odd but lovable heroine who narrates in a well-educated diction with a understated, flippant tone. Fantasy readers young and old who appreciate immersion into a rich new culture will not mind the novel’s slow build, especially as it takes wing and hurtles toward the stratosphere. This is an exciting new series to watch. — Krista Hutley, Booklist (STARRED REVIEW)

★ The royal court of Goredd is celebrating forty years of an uneasy peace with dragonkind, but the festivities take a darker turn when Prince Rufus is found murdered. Assistant music mistress Seraphina tries to unmask the killer (aided by Prince Lucian Kiggs, Rufus’s nephew), all the while concealing her own relationship with dragons, a secret stretching far up her family tree. Hartman’s depiction of these powerful dragons is unique in fantasy literature: capable of assuming human form, the dragons are nonetheless awkward with human customs and vulnerable to human emotions, which are forbidden by the dragon censors. This representation is used to good effect in the character of Seraphina’s teacher Orma, a dragon in human form constantly being tested by his fellows lest he betray an unseemly connection to his student. To the innovative concept and high action, add Seraphina’s tentative romance with Kiggs (himself betrothed to another), rich language lively with humor and sprinkled with an entire psaltery of saints and an orchestra’s worth of medieval instruments, and a political conspiracy aimed at breaking the dragon-human truce, and what you have is an outstanding debut from author-to-watch Hartman. —Anita L. Burkam, The Horn Book (STARRED REVIEW)

★ In Hartman’s splendid prose debut, humans and dragons—who can take human form but not human feeling—have lived in uneasy peace for 40 years.
The dragons could destroy the humans, but they are too fascinated by them. As musician Seraphina describes it, attempting to educate the princess, humans are like cockroaches to dragons, but interesting. As the anniversary of the treaty approaches, things fall apart: The crown prince has been murdered, anti-dragon sentiment is rising, and in the midst of it all, an awkward, gifted, observant girl unexpectedly becomes central to everything. Hartman has remixed her not-so-uncommon story and pseudo-Renaissance setting into something unexpected, in large part through Seraphina’s voice. By turns pedantic, lonely, scared, drily funny and fierce, Seraphina brings readers into her world and imparts details from the vast (a religion of saints, one of whom is heretical) to the minute (her music, in beautifully rendered detail). The wealth of detail never overwhelms, relayed as it is amid Seraphina’s personal journey; half-human and half-dragon, she is anathema to all and lives in fear. But her growing friendship with the princess and the princess’ betrothed, plus her unusual understanding of both humans and dragons, all lead to a poignant and powerful acceptance of herself. — Kirkus Reviews (STARRED REVIEW)

★ In this complex, intrigue-laden fantasy, which establishes Hartman as an exciting new talent, readers are introduced to a world in which dragons and humans coexist in an uneasy truce, with dragons taking human form, dwelling among their former enemies, and abiding by a strict set of protocols. Sixteen-year-old Seraphina, assistant to the court composer, hides a secret that could have her ostracized or even killed: she’s half-dragon, against all rules and social codes. Along with the distinctive scales she keeps hidden, she has a mind filled with misshapen personalities whose nature she doesn’t quite grasp. As Seraphina navigates the complicated politics of a court where human-dragon relations are growing ever more fragile following a royal murder, she has to come to terms with her true nature and powers, the long-dormant memories her mother hid within her, and her growing affection for charming prince Lucian. There’s a lot to enjoy in Hartman’s debut, from the admirably resourceful heroine and intriguing spin on dragons to the intricately described medievalesque setting and emphasis on music and family. Ages 12–up. — Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)