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Archive for July, 2014

July 18, 2014

July: Anti-Boredom Month

by Pat Scales

Most children and young adults look forward to summer vacation, but many express boredom two weeks after school is out. Perhaps this is why July is “Anti-Boredom Month.” No one should be bored when they can enroll in a summer reading program at their local library, but some children don’t have transportation or caregivers who can get them to the library. In these cases it’s important that the library come to them. Some libraries do this by offering summer reading programs through book mobile services. It may also be done through organizations that provide summer care for children. For example, the Girls and Boys Clubs programs may be a natural partnership. Even Title I programs in schools may not offer a full range of library services and would welcome the public library involvement in serving this population. It’s common for libraries to have summer reading themes, but the program will bring in more readers if there are activities beyond a focus on the numbers of books read. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Introduce a new genre each week. Include activities that call upon readers’ imaginations: (1) Write a rap that conveys the plot of a book (2) Write teasers to introduce a book to other readers (3) Produce a video to entice others to read the book. A sampling of titles from Random House include:

Adventure

The Ballad of Wilbur and the Moose by John Stadler (picture book)

Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson (middle grade)

The Living by Matt De La Peña (young adult)

Mystery

Nate the Great series by Majorie Weinman Sharmat & illus. by Marc Simont (early reader)

Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt & illus. by Iacopo Bruno (middle grade)

Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise by Wendelin VanDraanen (middle grade)

Mojo by Tim Tharp (young adult)

Fantasy

Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss (picture book)

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee (middle grade)

Wise Acres: The Seventh Circle of Heck by Dale E. Basye & illus. by Bob Dob (middle grade)

Spoils by Tammar Stain (young adult)

Science Fiction

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Red Robot by Margaret McNamara & illus. by Mark Fearing (picture book)

The Winter of the Robots by Kurtis Scaletta (middle grade)

Indigo by Gina Linko (young adult)

Touched by Cyn Balong (young adult)

Historical Fiction

Born and Bred in the Great Depression by Jonah Winter & illus. by Kimberly Buicken Root (picture book)

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis (middle grade)

Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Reilly Giff (middle grade)

Under the Blood-Red Sun by Graham Salisbury (middle grade)

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (middle grade)

Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson (young adult)

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen (young adult)

Humor

How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan & illus. by Lee Wildish (picture book)

Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale by Sally Lloyd-Jones & illus. by Alexandra Boiger (picture book)

Chessie Mack series by Steve Cotler (middle grade)

Middle School Cool by Malya Williams (middle grade)

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm (middle grade)

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk (young adult)

Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart (young adult)

Will by Maria Boyd (young adult)

Nonfiction

In New York by Marc Brown (picture book)

The Daring Nellie Bly by Bonnie Christensen (young adult)

Cause by Tonya Bolden (middle grade-young adult)

A Passion for Victory by Benson Bobrick (middle grade-young adult)

Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario (young adult)

  • Older readers may enjoy creating a webpage where readers can share a favorite book. Encourage them to help younger readers with posts. Readers using book mobile services may post when the book mobile comes to their neighborhood.
  • Sponsor a writing contest that grows out of a favorite novel. Ask readers to write an essay called “Name of a character Is Not Bored.” (e.g. “Harriet Welsch Is Not Bored,” or “Woohoo Cray Is Not Bored”)
  • Finally, have readers plan a musical production called “Anti-Boredom Reads” that includes a sampling of books read during the month of July. Each reader should be included in the production. They should pick a favorite book to present. They should design and create appropriate props and scenery. Younger readers may need to work as a group. Have readers make invitations for their family members and posters advertising the program. This type of activity is easily accomplished in childcare facilities outside the public library. Teens might coordinate this activity. Many need volunteer hours for school, and this is a perfect opportunity for them.

July 18, 2014

Five stars for THE FAMILY ROMANOV: MURDER, REBELLION, AND THE FALL OF IMPERIAL RUSSIA

★ The tragic Romanovs, last imperial family of Russia, have long held tremendous fascination. The interest generated by this family is intense, from debates about Duchess Anastasia and her survival to the discovery of their pathetic mass graves. A significant number of post-Glasnost Russian citizens consider the Romanovs holy to the extent that the Russian Orthodox Church has canonized them. This well-researched and well-annotated book provides information not only on the history of these famous figures but also on the Russian people living at the time and on the social conditions that contributed to the family’s demise. The narrative alternates between a straightforward recounting of the Romanovs’ lives and primary source narratives of peasants’ lives. The contrast is compelling and enhances understanding of how the divide between the extremely rich and the very poor can lead directly to violent and dramatic political change. While the description and snippets on the serfs and factory workers are workmanlike, the pictures painted of the reclusive and insular Romanovs is striking. Unsuited to the positions in which they found themselves, Nicholas and Alexandra raised their children in a bubble, inadequately educating them and providing them only slight exposure to society. The informative text illuminates their inability to understand the social conditions in Russia and the impact it might have had on them. This is both a sobering work, and the account of the discovery of their bones and the aftermath is at once fascinating and distressing. A solid resource and good recreational reading for high school students.–School Library Journal, starred

★ History comes to vivid life in Fleming’s sweeping story of the dramatic decline and fall of the House of Romanov. Her account provides not only intimate portraits of Tsar Nicholas, his wife, Alexandra, and the five Romanov children but also a beautifully realized examination of the context of their lives—Russia in a state of increasing social unrest and turmoil. The latter aspect is realized in part through generous excerpts from letters, diaries, memoirs, and more that are seamlessly interspersed throughout the narrative. All underscore the incredible disparity between the glittering lives of the Romanovs and the desperately impoverished ones of the peasant population. Instead of attempting to reform this, Nicholas simply refused to acknowledge its presence, rousing himself only long enough to order savage repression of the occasional uprising. Fleming shows that the hapless tsar was ill equipped to discharge his duties, increasingly relying on Alexandra for guidance; unfortunately, at the same time, she was increasingly reliant on the counsel of the evil monk Rasputin. The end, when it came, was swift and—for the Romanovs, who were brutally murdered—terrible. Compulsively readable, Fleming’s artful work of narrative history is beautifully researched and documented. For readers who regard history as dull, Fleming’s extraordinary book is proof positive that, on the contrary, it is endlessly fascinating, absorbing as any novel, and the stuff of an altogether memorable reading experience. –Booklist, starred

★ It’s an astounding and complex story, and Fleming lays it neatly out for readers unfamiliar with the context. Czar Nicholas II was ill-prepared in experience and temperament to step into his legendary father’s footsteps. Nicholas’ beloved wife (and granddaughter of Queen Victoria), Alexandra, was socially insecure, becoming increasingly so as she gave birth to four daughters in a country that required a male heir. When Alexei was born with hemophilia, the desperate monarchs hid his condition and turned to the disruptive, self-proclaimed holy man Rasputin. Excerpts from contemporary accounts make it clear how years of oppression and deprivation made the population ripe for revolutionary fervor, while a costly war took its toll on a poorly trained and ill-equipped military. The secretive deaths and burials of the Romanovs fed rumors and speculation for decades until modern technology and new information solved the mysteries. Award-winning author Fleming crafts an exciting narrative from this complicated history and its intriguing personalities. It is full of rich details about the Romanovs, insights into figures such as Vladimir Lenin and firsthand accounts from ordinary Russians affected by the tumultuous events. A variety of photographs adds a solid visual dimension, while the meticulous research supports but never upstages the tale.
A remarkable human story, told with clarity and confidence. (bibliography, Web resources, source notes, picture credits, index) – Kirkus Reviews, starred

★ Making vibrant use of primary sources that emerged since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Fleming (Amelia Lost) brings to life the last imperial family of Russia. Writing with a strong point of view based on diary entries, personal letters, and other firsthand accounts, she enriches their well-known story with vivid details. The narrative begins in February 1903 (with some flashbacks to the meeting of tsar Nicholas and German-born tsarina Alexandra) and also features primary sources from peasants and factory workers—including an excerpt from Maxim Gorky’s 1913 memoir—that help to affectingly trace the increasingly deplorable conditions and growing discontent that led to the Russian Revolution; key figures such as Rasputin and Lenin are profiled in some depth. Fleming’s fulsome portraits of Nicholas and Alexandra, along with her depiction of their devoted relationship, highlight the role their personalities played in their downfall, as well as that of their beloved country. A wonderful introduction to this era in Russian history and a great read for those already familiar with it. – Publishers Weekly, starred

★ Her focus here is not just the Romanovs, the last imperial family of Russia, but the Revolutionary leaders and common people as well. She cogently and sympathetically demonstrates how each group was the product of its circumstances, then how they all moved inexorably toward the tragic yet fascinating conclusion. Each member of the Romanov family emerges from these pages as a fully realized individual, but their portraits are balanced with vignettes that illuminate the lives of ordinary people, giving the book a bracing context missing from Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra, still the standard popular history. The epic, sweeping narrative seamlessly incorporates scholarly authority, primary sources, appropriate historical speculation, and a keen eye for the most telling details. Moreover, the juxtaposition of the supremely privileged lifestyle of Russian nobility with the meager subsistence of peasants, factory workers, and soldiers creates a narrative tension that builds toward the horrifying climax. Front and back matter include a map, genealogy, bibliography, and source notes, while two sixteen-page inserts contain numerous captioned photographs. – The Horn Book, starred