Nailer was born a scavenger and will most likely die one. In fact, he comes very near to drowning in a pitch-black oil reservoir in the belly of the beached tanker he is scavenging for copper when a “lucky strike” leads him to an escape hatch, spilling hundreds of gallons of “black gold” onto the beach. That evening a terrible storm hits the beach where the scavengers live, ripping apart tents and threatening to drown anyone in its path. The storm brings with it a new treasure, a high-tech, fast-sailing clipper ship with very precious cargo, a girl. Nailer must decide if he will stay true to his roots and give up the girl or see her safely returned to her tycoon father.
Bacigalupi, P. (2010). Ship breaker. New York, NY: Little Brown.
Everything involved with the actual reading experience of this book feels true to its content: the slick, book cover with copper glinting through a sheen of oil; Nailer’s rough and “survival of the fittest” exterior coupled with his true heroic nature; and the epic journey across the Gulf Coast Region that lay in waste following years of man-made abuse. Nailer’s addict father is absolutely terrifying; Bacigalupi succeeds in convincing me that he would easily gut his own son without a second thought or ounce of remorse. The final confrontation between Nailer and his father leaves the reader breathless and slightly heartbroken as he wrestles with the consequences of his actions. His conflicting emotions and motivations for rescuing “Lucky Girl” and the magnetism between the two reminds me of the remarkable relationship between Todd and Viola in Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go, another post-apocalyptic, science fiction coming of age epic. Ship Breaker however raises relevant questions regarding mankind’s insatiable thirst for resources, the impact on the planet, and the greater impact on the individual.
Wysocki, B. (2011). Ship Breaker [Review of the book Ship breaker]. School Library Journal, 57(3), 78-79.
This title would make an excellent companion to other post-apocalyptic novels exploring questions of survival and individuality such as Lord of the Flies, The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hersch, and After the Snow by S.D. Crockett. A book talk featuring these titles and others might help readers venture further into science fiction, dystopian, and futuristic novels.
Meg and her young brother charles, together with a new friend, Calvin, embark on an adventure to save their father who had been experimenting with time travel. As they encounter the most evil forces traveling through space and the most benevolent allies, Meg, Charles, and Calvin must rely on their unique talents and gifts and ties to one another to save Mr. Wallace and find a way back to Earth in time to save it from the darkness.
L’Engle, M. (1962). A wrinkle in time. New York, NY: Random House.
It’s difficult to add to the immense amount of reflections and critiques of this work. Often hailed as the original science fiction for children, L’Engle’s famous novel has been dissected, discussed, and passed from reader to reader with enthusiasm and joy for years and will be for years to come. As I was reading it, I felt sad that I did not experience it the first time as a child or even young adult. As an adult, I found myself relating to the adults and guides in the novel, hoping for the children’s safety and speedy return, rather than empathizing with the children themselves. I can best describe the novel’s profound impact on the reader by sharing that as I was reading it, I forgot that it was science fiction. The time travel, technology, creatures, and outer realms became so believable through the eyes of the children that I was able to achieve suspension of disbelief; this comes difficult for me as sci-fi is not one of my preferred genres.
HOLLEY, P. (2011). Groundbreakers [Review of the book A wrinkle in time]. Voice Of Youth Advocates, 34(2), 116-119.
In addition to a special collection of Newbery and other award winners, A Wrinkle in Time, can be integrated into genre talks and presentations about science fiction. It’s important to teach readers about genre so that they can better select texts that might interest them. Science fiction is an often misunderstood genre; many patrons still think of it as space opera (e.g., Star Wars). The librarian could use excerpts, trailers, or even film clips to introduce young readers into the basic tenets of science fiction/ fantasy and follow it with a book pass of titles that represent the diversity the genre has to offer.
A toddler unknowingly escapes the murdered who has just killed his entire family by waddling into a graveyard whose ghosts become enamored with the young boy. With a frantic and final plea from the young child’s recently murdered mother, the residents of the graveyard vow to protect him and make him part of their community, shielding him from the Jack who seeks to finish the work that he began. The toddler, Bod, grows into a curious and adventurous young man who is constantly seeking connection with the outside world, sometimes through very dangerous encounters with the spiritual and physical world.
Gaiman, N. (2008). The graveyard book. Harper Collins: New York.
Without risking any major spoilers, I have to confess that I was nearly unable to move past the first ten pages. As soon as my mind attached itself to the eighteen-month old boy bumping his rump down a flight of stairs, diaper sagging, my heart stopped. Any mother of a young child, especially a boy, will immediately feel a maternal affection for Bod and his tragic dillema at the onset of the story. Anyone of us in Mistress Owens’ shoes would have done the same. From the first line “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife” I was hooked, and despite my initial gut-wrenching reaction to the murder of Bod’s family and his mother’s final plea, I knew I had to find out what happens to that little naked baby.
Gaiman crafted this novel to be character-driven, particularly through Bod, but also through the villainous Jack, enigmatic Silas, and host of ghosts and ghouls who reside in the grave yard. The relationships that Bod form with each of them drive the plot and conflicts, leading to an ultimate mash-up of life and death fighting to save one young man. In one particularly poignant scene, the dead leave their home to attend a festival during which they dance with the living only to be forgotten once more by morning. Scenes such as this serve as a reminder of the ways in which we remember and keep loved ones who are no longer with us, near us.
This very unique and extraordinary community demonstrates the validity to the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Schneider, D. (2010). It Takes a Graveyard to Raise a Child [Review of the book The Graveyard Book]. Book Links, 19(3), 6-8.
The Graveyard Book would be an excellent Newbery Award winner to introduce to students as they explore awards for children’s literature. It could stand as the centerpiece to a display or as a gateway for children who are comfortable with illustrated and graphic novels to try a chapter book. Additional award winner’s such as Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret could be the content of a book talk featuring illustrated novels that have received recognition in the world of children’s literature.
Eli and his father live in an uncomfortable, awkward, and at times tumultuous home. After obtaining a job with a famous biologist, Dr. Wyatt, Eli's estrangement from his father grows as a mystery decades old unravels. What is the relationship between Eli's terminally ill mother and Dr. Wyatt? Why does Eli's father hate the biologist so much? Who is the mysterious, beautiful girl staying with Dr. Wyatt and why does Eli feel so drawn to her? His relationships unfurl and deteriorate as Eli seeks the answers to his questions. When he learns the truth, will it change how Eli sees himself?
Werlin, N. (2004). Double helix. New York, NY: Dial Books.
DOUBLE HELIX Nancy Werlin. Dial, $15.99 (256p) ISBN 0-8037-2606-6
DOUBLE HELIX (Book) [Review of the book Double helix]. (2004). Publishers Weekly, 251(7), 173-174.
Nancy Werlin’s medical mystery weaves suspense and medical drama into a thought-provoking narrative. The main characters, Eli, Dr. Wyatt, and Eli’s father, are complimented by a cast of secondary female characters, the enigmatic Kayla and Eli’s girlfriend Viv. Werlin creates strong supporting female characters who display confidence, courage, and intelligence, helping to unweave the puzzle Wyatt presents. In Dr. Wyatt we see the epitome of egotism in medical research and blatant disregard for ethical issues, a warning that Werlin brings home to the readers. Even with a whispered warning regarding the implications of researching involving stem cells, embryos, and genetic engineering, the book itself does not come off as didactic or overly-preachy. Instead, the reader is left with questions regarding these issues and the thrill of a well-structured and evenly paced mystery.
Library Uses:This title is a terrific choice as a read aloud for Language Arts classes and Biology or other science classes as it allows teachers to build cross-curriculuar connections through literature. The library can support the exploration of medical ethics through text sets that include other science fiction and literary texts and nonfiction texts that address the scientific and ethical issues that surround genetic engineering and research. Additional novels may include Jodi Piccoult’s My Sister’s Keeper and Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion.
Hope and her aunt arrive at a new Wisconsin town after leaving New York City to work as a waitress and head chef. She has become accustomed to leaving behind friends and moving from place to place, but this new town forces her to put down real root when the restaurant’s owner, GT, a leukemia survivor, decides to run against the town’s interim mayor in the next election. Hope joins the campaign believing in GT’s vision and passion for the small town and finds herself a permanent home with a full family.
Bauer, J. (2000). Hope was here. New York, NY: Puffin Books.
Hope quickly became one of my favorite female characters. Bauer created a leading female teenage character who is honest, complex, faulted, and most importantly, hopeful. As realistic fiction, this book provides a refreshingly optomistic and gentle examination of some of the more serious issues that some YA realistic titles explore through much more dramatic means. Issues realting to cancer, racism, political corruption, and non-traditional families are treated with dignity and honest perspectives of the characters who are affected throughout the story. GT, although he knows how precarious his life is and how close to death he came, chooses to–despite his relapse–stand up for a cause and become the leader he feels his community needs. The slow-to-grow romance between Hope and short-order-cook Braverman develop with patience and sincerity throughout the course of the novel stands in contrast to the “brooding boy meets girl-next-door” love story that populates many YA books. The secondary cast of characters including the villainous corrupt mayor, Eli Millstone, and Hope’s absentee mother round out the diverse array of human relationships and motivations and stand in stark contrast to heroic GT and Addie, Hope’s maternal figure.
Fletcherspear, K. (2001). Hope Was Here (Book Review) [Review of the book Hope was here]. Book Report,19(5), 56.
Thanks to a very unwelcome visit from the stomach-flu fairy, I missed yesterdays Tech Tuesday posting :-(. So this week I am presenting Tech Tuesday on Wednesday!
Everyday I have teachers ands tudents asking me about technology tools for class presentations. They are eager to move beyond the traditional stand-and-present poster project or click-and-read PowerPoint (this makes my heart happy). Today I present Glogster, an interactive poster creator. Gloster allows the creator to create a mash-up of video, images, text, and graphics to create a virtual poster. View the VoiceThread tutorial below for a basic introduction of the educational version of glogster (edu.glogster.com).
“About me” presentations
Compare/ Contrast ideas or topics
Extend and Deliver in VESTED
Have you or your students glogged? Tell us about it!
Book Summary: Run-away cows, out-of-touch parents, a train ride, and origami newspaper hats. What do they all have in common? Black and white, of course. A story in four parts, these individual plot lines and illustrations seem to be completely disconnected, but pay close attention to the details. They have more in common than you might first appear.
APA Reference of Book:
Macaulay, D. (1990). Black and white. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.
The illustrations tell the story. Much like Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret the text seems to accompany the pictures rather than the illustrations merely decorating the text. The key to finding the connection between all four plotlines lies in the title itself. With strategically placed clues, a black mask, a curious squirrel, a newspaper hidden in a bag, David Macauley illustrates four comedic stories about imagination and exploration. Each storyline utilizes a unique style to set it apart and contribute to its tone. When combined, the result is a fast-paced, tightly-woven narrative.
Burns, M. M. (1990). Black and white [Review of the book Black and white]. Horn Book Magazine, 66(5), 593-594.
This text lends itself very well to lessons on predictions and inferences. Students can view the first page, and stop to make predictions based on the inferences they draw for each of the four story titles, “Seeing Things,” “A Waiting Game,” “Problem Parents,” and “Udder Chaos.” Following a brief discussion of using clues to “read between the lines” of the text, they can stop to periodically check their initial predictions and modify them based on new clues they find in the text.
A visit to Nanny and Poppy’s begins with a window. One little girl creates memories with her grandparents on either side of the hello, goodbye window at the front of the house. From special oatmeal in the morning, peering out at the garden, to waving to special guests like the Queen of England and the Pizza guy, the little girl knows that this special window is “right where you need it.” Trips to her grandparents house are framed through the window complete with memories and dreams of having her own “hello, goodbye window” someday.
APA Reference of Book:
Juster, N and Raschka, C. (2005). The hello, goodbye window. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.
Although the setting was very different from my own memories, I was immediately transported to my childhood and my grandparent’s front porch swing as memories of my own “Nanny” and “Poppy” swirled around me like the finger-painted style of this book’s illustrations. The story with its nostalgic accounts of a young child’s visit to her grandparents’ house are brought to life through the pastel, watercolor, and crayon illustrations, reminsicent of a child’s finger painting. The primary color scheme sets the bright and cheerful mood of the book along with the broad sweeps of watercolor to create a blue sky and swirls of crayons on various greens blend together to make each spread of pages as engaging as the text.
The Hello, Goodbye Window.
illus. by Chris Raschka. unpaged. Hyperion/
Michael di Capua Bks. Apr. 2005. Tr $15.95.
ISBN 0-7868-0914-0. LC 2004113496.
Reynolds, A. J., Jones, T. E., Toth, L., Charnizon, M., Grabarek, D., & Raben, D. (2005). The hello, goodbye window [Review of the book The hello, goodbye window]. School Library Journal, 51(3), 174.
After reading the story and viewing the artwork, students can participate in a “window walk” around campus to collect stories, details, and people they see through various windows. Then, they can use magazines, clip art, etc. to create a collage for the windows they saw. The collage window can become part of a display for this book in the library along with captions from students describing what is in the window.
Book Summary: Mr. Popper, a “house-decorator,” painter, and father, dreams of exploring the Atlantic during his holiday. After writing to the famous Admiral Drake, Mr. Popper receives a surprise package direct from the South Pole, an antarctic penguin. Penguins, however, can be very lonely without other penguins, so the edition of a second penguin begins the ultimate adventure that results in ten full-grown penguins who become international stars of the stage. Through a series of humorous and far-fetched incidences (Mr. Popper must have a refrigeration system installed in his basement along with ice blocks to construct homes for his penguins), The Poppers’ love and dedication to their family of penguins delights the reader from the first “gawk” to the last.
APA Reference: Atwater, R. and Atwater F. (1938). Mr. Popper’s Penguins. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Impressions: With the recent film adaptation starring Jim Carrey, I was very curious about this little book. Although the plot line is far-fetched, its simplicity and quirkiness is very entertaining. As the penguins get into one snafu after another and Mr. Popper struggles to support his penguin and human family, I became attached to the web-footed creatures. The nicely packaged ending that provides a “best of both worlds” conclusion did disappoint me slightly. Hoping for some hint of a moral or lesson, I looked forward to the ending for a nugget of truth to take from the book. Instead, I was left with humorous sketches of sparring penguins and gloved pianists. For small children, however, the penguins’ hijinks and short chapters provide a pleasurable reading experience.
Professional Review: More than 60 years have not dated this wonderfully absurd tale–it still makes kids (and parents) laugh out loud. Poor Mr. Popper isn’t exactly unhappy; he just wishes he had seen something of the world before meeting Mrs. Popper and settling down. Most of all, he wishes he had seen the Poles, and spends his spare time between house-painting jobs reading all about polar explorations. Admiral Drake, in response to Mr. Popper’s fan letter, sends him a penguin; life at 432 Proudfoot Avenue is never the same again. From one penguin living in the icebox, the Popper family grows to include 12 penguins, all of whom must be fed. Thus is born “Popper’s Performing Penguins, First Time on Any Stage, Direct from the South Pole.” Their adventures while on tour are hilarious, with numerous slapstick moments as the penguins disrupt other acts and invade hotels. Classic chapter-a-night fun. (Ages 5 to 10) –Richard Farr (Amazon.com)
Farr, R. Mr. Popper’s penguins [Review of the book Mr. Popper’s penguins]. Amazon. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Poppers-Penguins-Richard-Atwater/dp/0316058432.
Library Uses: This short chapter book would be a fun addition to a text set centered around penguins for a book talk. Paired with nonfiction titles about penguins, it would provide a comical glimpse into the personality of the animals. A display could include essential questions about penguins such as, “Do penguins live with their families?”
Book Summary: A colorful train in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple speeds across a simple track. Simple, block letters describe the types of car on the train through repeated sight words and short sentences.
Professional Review: From School Library Journal (1978) “Happily, Crews did a fine job with Freight Train’s illustrations which aptly convey the excitement of a train rushing by in a blur of color” (p. 131).
DeVinney, G., & Gerhardt, L. N. (1978). Freight train/rain (Review of the book Freight train). School Library Journal, 25(2), 131.
Library Uses: This text would make an engaging story time text for early readers. Children could re-enact the story by using felt cut-outs of the train carts, tunnel, track, etc. and the teacher can help to label the motion of the train using the action verbs from the story.