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Archive for November, 2012

November 30, 2012

December: The Spirit of Giving

The United States is a country of many cultures and religious beliefs.  For this reason, families celebrate holidays in a variety of ways.  Regardless of faith, the December holidays are often observed with food, music, games, and even gift giving.  While public schools don’t focus on the traditions of any one religion, it’s important for children and teens to learn about all religions, and to understand that the best way to celebrate any holiday is by sharing.

  • Allow readers to share their December family traditions.  Is there a religious observance?  Do they gather with family and friends?  What foods do they eat?  Is there special music?  Do they exchange gifts?
  • Have readers use books in the library or sites on the Internet to research worldwide religious observances.  Ask them to find out if there is a place of worship for each of these religions in your community.  Consider sponsoring a panel discussion in the library that includes someone from these different religions.
  • Talk about the “spirit of giving.”  What organizations in your city or community sponsor a “giving” event?  Is it food, clothing, shelter, or toys?  Find out about the history of the organization.
  • Read aloud We Planted a Tree (Picture Book) by Diane Muldrow & illus. by Bob Staake and Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq (Picture Book) by Mark Alan Stamaty.  How do these books represent the “spirit of giving”?
  • Have readers look through their toys and games and choose one item to give to one of the following characters:

Calvin Coconut
Junie B. Jones
Anastasia Krupnik
Gooney Bird Greene
Nate the Great
Marvin Redpost
Sammy Keyes

Ask them to state why they selected the particular item for the character.

  • Display books that represent the “spirit of giving” in some way.  Sponsor an essay contest called “What I Learned about Giving from Reading  (Book’s Title).”  Remind readers that the “giving” may be in the form of friendship. Book suggestions from Random House include:

Bud, Not Buddy (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Eleven (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Everything on a Waffle (Middle Grade) by Polly Horvath

Faith, Hope and Ivy June (Middle Grade) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Flipped (Middle Grade) by Wendelin van Draanen

The Friendship Doll (Middle Grade) by Kirby Larson

Gingersnap (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Hattie Big Sky (Middle Grade) by Kirby Larson

Holes (Middle Grade) by Louis Sachar

Hoot (Middle Grade) by Carl Hiaasen

Laugh with the Moon (Middle Grade) by Shana Burg

Liar & Spy (Middle Grade) by Rebecca Stead

The Mighty Miss Malone (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

One Year in Coal Harbor (Middle Grade) by Polly Horvath

Pictures of Hollis Woods (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Racing the Moon (Middle Grade) by Alan Armstrong

Small Steps (Middle Grade) by Louis Sachar

Turtle in Paradise (Middle Grade) by Jennifer L. Holm

I Am the Messenger (Young Adult) by Markus Zusak

Lord of the Deep (Young Adult) by Graham Salisbury

The Lost Songs (Young Adult) by Caroline B. Cooney

  • Instruct readers to exchange written holiday greetings between main characters from any two novels they have read.  Encourage them to make the greeting personal.
  • Finally, ask all readers to give the gift of story by sharing a special book with a friend.  Ask them to write a letter to the friend telling them why they want them to read the book.




November 30, 2012

SLJ Best Books of 2012!

Congratulations to our School Library Journal 2012 Best Books selections! Annotations are included below.


Oh, No! by Candace Fleming, illus. by Eric Rohmann
PreS-Gr 2 –When Frog falls into a deep hole and can’t get out–and is soon followed by a series of hapless critters–Tiger prepares to pounce, but a jumbo-size rescuer rumbles up just in time to save the day. Toe-tapping rhythms, chant-along refrains, sing-it-out sound effects, and elegant antic-filled artwork make for a boisterous read-aloud treat. (Aug.)

Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills.
PreS-Gr 2–A book-loving pup is determined to author his first work, collecting interesting words, searching for inspiration, and finally settling on a topic that brings him success…and a new friend. Packed-with-personality paintings and an entertaining text communicate the creativity, perseverance, and sense of satisfaction that define the writing process. (July)

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Gr 7 Up–In the kingdom of Goredd, humans and dragons have forged a fragile alliance, with the super-rational creatures assuming human form to serve as ambassadors and teachers. Seraphina, a gifted court musician, must hide the truth about her mixed heritage and call upon all of her abilities to investigate a royal murder that threatens to undermine a generation of peaceful accord. Brilliantly realized high fantasy at its fire-breathing best! (Aug.)

One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath
Gr 5-7–Wise, witty, and loaded with pizzazz, Primrose Squarp of Everything on a Waffle returns with an update about life in her small Canadian town. She is back with her mother and father, who had been presumed lost at sea, but her attachment to her foster parents is as keen as ever. Lonely no more, she has a best friend at last, and high drama has arrived with loggers and a plan to clear-cut trees on Mendolay Mountain. Quirky, funny, and unforgettable. (Aug.)

Every Day by David Levithan
Gr 9 Up–Each morning, A inhabits a different body and has learned not to get too involved in or possessive of the host’s life. All that changes when the 16-year-old wakes up as a blowhard teen and falls for the boy’s sweet, but much-maligned girlfriend. A tender and surreal exploration of identity, personal responsibility, and love. (Sept.)

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Gr 4-7–It’s always hard being the new kid, but 10-year-old Auggie has severe facial deformities that make his transition from homeschooling to a fifth-grade classroom particularly trying. Palacio tells the boy’s story from a number of perspectives (including his sister’s and friends’), and readers will root for him as he experiences cruelty and kindness and makes friends. (Feb.)

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Gr 5-8–Bullied at school, reeling from changes in his family, and adjusting to a new apartment, seventh-grader Georges hopes that he’s found a kindred spirit in Safer, a 12-year-old loner who wants his help spying on a suspicious neighbor. Then their efforts become increasingly daring, and Georges feels pushed to the boundaries of friendship. Filled with memorable characters, authentic humor and heartache, and thought-provoking dilemmas. (Sept.)

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.,  illus. by Kadir Nelson.
Gr 2 Up–An excerpt from this iconic speech is gloriously illustrated with regally composed oil paintings. Still eloquent and relevant, Dr. King’s words are interpreted through close-ups of the speaker, expansive overviews of the 1963 gathering before the Lincoln Monument, and affecting portrayals of handholding harmony. (Nov.)

November 02, 2012

November – American Education Week

November: American Education Week

American Education Week is celebrated annually in schools and libraries across the nation in November.  This year’s celebration takes place November 11-17.  This is an excellent time to engage students in various activities that commemorate the importance of education in our country.  Here are programming ideas for this week:

  • Have readers read about the history of American Education Week.  While the National Education Association spearheads the event, there are a number of co-sponsors.  What other organizations join hands with NEA to celebrate education?  Why is education such an important mission for these organizations?  When was the U.S. Department of Education formed?
  • Instruct students to find out about their state’s Department of Education.  Is the Superintendent or Director of this department elected or appointed?  What are the educational issues facing your state?  How is your school district celebrating American Education Week?
  • Take a look at the timeline for American Education Week on the following website. http://www.nea.org/grants/47607.htm.  Have readers recommend a book to use in honoring each of these important milestones.  For example, note the date that the American Disabilities Act was passed.  How are the main characters of The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin (YA) by Josh Berg and Wonder (Middle Grade) by R.J. Palachio served by this act?   How could Helen Keller in Annie and Helen (Picture Book) by Deborah Hopkinson & illus. by Raul Colon have benefited from such an act? Think about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the difference it could have eventually made to Kenny Watson in The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis and Addie Ann Pickett (Middle Grade) in A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg.  What is the Title IX Act?  Have readers find a biography of a girl that was given a chance to excel because of this act.
  • Pick a main character to be a teacher for a day.  What subject might they teach?  Examples from Random House include: Mena from Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature(YA) by Robin Brande; Brendan in Brendan Buckley’s Sixth-Grade Experiment (Middle Grade) by Jacqueline Harvey; Roy Morelli in Roy Morelli Steps up to The Plate (Middle Grade) by Thatcher Heldring; Hollis Woods in The Pictures of Hollis Woods (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff; Deza Malone in The Mighty Miss Malone (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis; Ruthie and Jack in The Sixty-Eight Rooms (Middle Grade) by Marianne Moore; Roy Eberhardt in Hoot (Middle Grade) by Carl Hiaasen; and Andi Alpers in Revolution (YA) by Jennifer Donnelly
  • The National Education Association establishes a special celebration for each day of Education Week.  Have readers locate an appropriate book for each day.

Monday – Veterans Day – Suggest that students focus on Nick’s father in Scat (Middle Grade) by Carol Hiaasen and Brother’s dad in Heart of a Shepherd (Middle Grade) by Rosanne Parry, both soldiers in the Middle East.

Tuesday – Parents Day – Instruct readers to suggest a book for their parents to read.  These may include: Faith, Hope, and Ivy June (Middle Grade) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor; Child of the Mountains (Middle Grade) by Marilyn Sue Shank; Blubber (Middle Grade) by Judy Blume; Laugh with the Moon   (Middle Grade) by Shana Burg; and Liar & Spy (Middle Grade) by Rebecca Stead.

Wednesday – Support Professionals Day – Remind students that this includes teachers’ aides, office staff, cafeteria staff and janitorial staff.  Readers may enjoy introducing the Lunch Lady series (Elementary and Middle Grade) by Jarrett J. Krosoczka to the cafeteria staff.

Thursday – Educator for a Day – This is a time to celebrate all teachers. Sponsor an essay contest titled “What it’s like to Teach _________”  Have student fill in the blank with a character from a favorite book.  They may select Junie B. Jones, Anastasia Krupnik, Olivia Bean, Rosie Sprout, or Stanley and Zero from Holes (Middle Grade).  Instruct them to think about the chosen character as a student.  Would they be fun to teach, or a pain? Illustrate  conclusions with specific examples from the books.

Friday – Substitute Educator Day – Introduce readers to Miss Matlock in To Come and Go Like Magic (Middle Grade) by Katie Pickard Fawcett.  What is she like as a substitute? Then write a letter to a teacher from a novel and ask  them to substitute in your class for a day. Readers might consider Mrs. Starch  from Scat (Middle Grade) by Carol Hiaasen; or Tia Lola in How Tia Lola Learned to Teach (Middle Grade) by Julia Alvarez.  Tell them why you would like for them to teach you for a day.

November 02, 2012


★ War has been declared, and the young, royal, exiled FitzOsbornes are immediately in the thick of things as Cooper’s Montmaray Journals trilogy comes to its conclusion.

Their island kingdom of Montmaray was captured by the Nazis several years earlier, and they have been living in London ever since. Teenagers at the start of the war, they are flung headlong into adulthood; Simon and King Toby are in the Royal Air Force, Princess Veronica does something secret in the Foreign Office, and Princess Sophie works in the Food Ministry, where she churns out information regarding rationing. It is her voice, as true and clear as ever in her long-running journal, that paints a detailed and nuanced portrait of life in the madness of war, with its deprivations, bombings and disruptions; devastating damage to life, property and spirit; constant fear, heartbreaking loss and brief moments of giddy laughter. The family is foremost in the narrative, but the wider cast of characters includes Churchill, the Kennedys and several other historical figures. Seamlessly weaving fiction with fact, Cooper makes it all personal. Modern readers, whether or not they know more than a few basic facts about that era, will be completely caught up in Sophie’s nightmare and will gain an understanding that only the best historical fiction can provide. (Readers are advised not to peek at the family tree, as it contains spoilers.)

Absorbing, compelling and unforgettable. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12 & up) – Kirkus Reviews


★ In this satisfying conclusion to the Montmaray Journals (A Brief History of Montmaray, 2009, and The FitzOsbornes in Exile, 2011), the surviving royals continue their exile in Britain during the war years 1939–44. King Toby and Simon are serving in the RAF; Sophie and Veronica train as secretaries (but end up acting as unofficial intelligence agents); and tomboy Henrietta is forced to attend boarding school. As always, Sophie’s journals provide readers with a fascinating view of wartime Britain. She notes rationing that affected even the affluent, overnights spent in damp air raid shelters, and the expectation that everyone—even the wealthy—will do their part. Private musings observe worries about friends and family serving (and dying) on the front, a grief-fueled sexual encounter with cousin Simon, and her uncovering of the true circumstances surrounding Toby’s disappearance in Belgium. The use of real characters (including U.S. Ambassador Kennedy and his children) is skillfully integrated into the story adding insight into complicated wartime views of fascism and socialism. Appended with an author’s note separating the facts from the fictions, this makes a perfect choice for teen devotees of Downton Abbey and other period dramas. – Booklist