Monday, May 9, 2011

Professional Reading #16

Klebanoff, A. (2009, July 1). "Block Party: Legos in the Library." School Library Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6666669.html

My tween materials class has been focusing on programming for tweens this last couple of weeks. Through our discussions I read about this article with a fantastic idea for tween programming. Radnor Memorial Library in Pennsylvania has a Lego club that meets once a month. Attendance for this club can some months be as high as 50 kids. The club is open to children and tweens, but they have had an incredible turn out of tween boys. What's awesome about this club is that it isn't just a bunch of kids getting together to play with Legos at their library; the organizers incorporate books into the Lego club as well. The program lasts an hour and a half. A theme has been selected and advertised in advance, there is a book on that theme for each age group represented. Each group is either read to or reads a bit of their book and then goes to creating something that represents that theme out of Legos. Not only does this program get tween boys into the library, it also gets them reading.

Another thing I love about this program is that it makes the library part of the community. It offers a program for kids from different schools within the same community to meet over a shared interest. Libraries have to continue to find programs like these that bring in kids who might not have an interest in reading yet, but they love to create things out of Legos or music or art or any other interest which can be made into a library program. Books can even be incorporated into these programs, like with the Lego club.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Professional Reading #15

Pearson, M. (2009, September 10). "What YA Lit is and isn't." Retrieved from: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2009/09/what-ya-lit-is-and-isnt

Up until this class it had been awhile since I had read tween or young adult fiction. Sure, I'd occasionally picked up a tween book now and then and read it, but then went right back to my adult fiction. Through my tweens materials class this semester I have had the opportunity to absolutely immerse myself in young adult books, focusing primarily on young adult fiction. This was an incredible experience for me, cathartic at times, as I recognized bits of my awkward former tween self within the characters of the books. Anyone who could possibly think that young adult fiction is just a watered down adult book has it dead wrong. These books I've read are meant for young people going through more changes mentally, emotionally, and physically than they will ever again in their lives. These books speak to those changes, the awakening of feelings of empathy or lack of self-identity. Characters like Gypsy and Woodrow from Belle Prater's Boy deal with heavy issues, such as the loss of their parents and how their small town views them. Books like Are You There God, It's Me Margaret teach about physical changes in a young girls' life how no nonfiction book on puberty ever could, as told by a tween girl, with human feelings and concerns included.

These books tackle heavy issues like racism, death, religion, disease, and war. There are many who focus on friendships or interpersonal relationships, also often heavy and complex topics within tweens' lives. These books I've read have also come from all directions, conservative in their approach to tween issues, or incredibly liberal. I have enjoyed them all, as they have reminded me of what it was like to be a tween, the good and the bad. After these last few months of reading tween books I feel as if I've been able to reconnect with my inner tween and have a better understanding of tweens themselves. I would encourage anyone who has smirked at me noticing the tween book in my hands to pick up some young adult fiction and read it for yourself. You may be surprised to learn some important lessons in life you had forgotten.

Professional Reading #14

Rhood, D. (2009, May 29). Sweet Valley Twins: Reading to Understand Contemporary Social Networks. Retrieved from: http://henryjenkins.org/2009/05/sweet_valley_twins_reading_to.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+henryjenkins+%28Confessions+of+an+Aca%2FFan%3A+++++++++++++++++++The+Official+Weblog+of+Henry+Jenkins%29&utm_content=Google+Reade

Stout, H. (2010, April 30). Antisocial Networking? The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/fashion/02BEST.html

The writer of this article makes a pretty interesting comparison between Sweet Valley High books and social networks, in that they both provide a model of socializing for viewers, without them having to participate. As a tween, she used the books as a way of learning about and witnessing social interactions, interactions she was too afraid to experience for herself. I love the idea of learning about social interactions from books. The writer paints herself as on the nerdier side, enjoying reading about how popular girls interact with one another. She relates this to young people looking at Facebook.

I find the author's suggestion that Facebook can be a way for young people to view social interactions from a comfortable distance very interesting and reminded me of an article I discussed earlier, "Antisocial Networking?" which questions if social networking sites are damaging to young peoples' relationships with one another. I am a Facebook user who likes to look at friends photos and read what people are up to, but seldom comments and rarely posts anything myself. I never thought of it in those terms before, but I could see where young people could spend hours on Facebook (an easy thing to do) looking at friends' interactions with one another as a method of learning how peers socialize. As with reading fiction novels to achieve the same purpose, I'm not sure that Facebook communications are going to give young viewers a realistic social exchange. I feel that many younger Facebook users I have witnessed choose to post a more projected view of themselves, rather than the real thing. As an adult, this is easier to recognize, but I would worry about a tween who spends a great deal of time viewing Facebook posts and comments of friends to learn about socializing. I could see where this might lead to "Facebook depression," the recent studies of young people with low self-esteem becoming depressed by spending hours on Facebook looking at peers happily socializing.

The Westing Game



Raskin, E. (1978). The Westing Game. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Plot Summary:
Barney Northrup sent letters to potential renters of the apartments in Sunset Towers. In one day he had rented all the apartments to the only people he had sent letters, their names already printed up on the mailboxes before they agreed. Soon after moving in, the residents were invited to the Westing house on the hill for a reading of Samuel Westing's will. The house had been empty for some time, but smoke mysteriously had come out of the chimney one night, the night Mr. Westing died. As they gathered to hear the reading of the will, the residents were informed that one of them was the murderer and it was up to the others to determine who that was. They would each receive $10,000 to play the game, the winner becoming Westing's heir of over $200 million. The residents were paired off, some in the unlikeliest of pairs, and each given a set of clues. From these clues the pairs were to determine who was the murderer. The Westing Game had begun, players consisting of a dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge, a bookie, a burglar, a bomber, and a mistake, and ultimately not what it seemed at all.

Review:
This book is fantastic. It was just as good reading it now as it was when I was a kid. It is a wonderful mystery, full of twists and turns, and an unlikely ending. The characters are wonderfully developed, each with their own quirks and secrets. One of my favorite parts of the book is the unlikely pairings of residents and how they each end up growing to care about one another and helping each other. Through this, the reader is reminded to not always judge a person without knowing them. Even though it is over 30 years old, the book stands up to the years, it isn't outdated at all. Tweens will love reading this book, as I did when I was younger. This book is likely to have and continue to awaken the mystery lover within many a young reader. An truly incredibly book, not a dull moment at all.

Genre:
mystery, fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
murder, inheritance, friendship

Award Information:
Newbery Medal winner
ALA Notable book

Character Names/Themes:
Sam Westing (Barney Northrup, Sandy McSouthers, Mr. Eastman, Windy Windkloppel): millionaire owner of Westing Paper Products; likes to play chess; poses as salesman; poses as a doorman and heir to his own inheritance; poses as new director of Westing Paper Products; was married to Crow; paid for Judge Ford's schooling; loves the 4th of July; develops the Westing Game
Turtle Wexler (Alice, Tabitha-Ruth, T.R.): junior high student; likes to kick people in the shins; wears braids; plays the stocks; sister to Angela; partner to Flora Baumbach
Angela Wexler: engaged to Dr. Denton Deere; older sister to Turtle; partner to Sydelle; a bomber
Dr. Denton Deere: plastic surgery intern; engaged to Angela; partners to Chris
Grace Wexler: interior decorator; becomes a restaurateur; wife to Jake; mother to Turtle and Angela; partner to James; niece of Sam Westing
Jake Wexler: podiatrist; husband of Grace; father of Turtle and Angela; partner to Sun Lin; a bookie
James Shin Hoo: restaurateur; inventor; father of Doug; husband of Sun Lin; partner to Grace
Sun Lin Hoo: second wife of James Hoo; stepmother to Doug; cook at Hoo's restaurant; partner to Jake; a burglar
Douglas Hoo: track star; son of James Hoo; friend and partner of Theo
Flora Baumbach (Baba): dressmaker; partner to Turtle
Otis Amber: delivery boy for Sunset Towers; private investigator; partner and eventual husband to Crow
Sydelle Pulaski: secretary; fakes an ailment for attention; paints her crutches to match her outfits; partner to Angela; is a mistake
Berthe Erica Crow: cleaning woman for Sunset Towers; wife of Sam Westing; partner and eventual wife of Otis
Theo Theodorakis: high school senior; works in family's coffee shop; his father was once in love with Sam Westing's daughter; brother to Chris; plays chess; friend and partner to Doug
Christos Theodorakis: younger brother of Theo; has a degenerative disease; confined to wheelchair; studies birds; partner to Dr. Denton Deere
Judge J.J. Ford (Josie-Jo): judge; partner to Sandy; Sam Westing paid for her schooling

Annotation:
The residents of Sunset Towers are invited by the recently deceased Sam Westing to play a game. The participants play to discover the murderer among them and to win Mr. Westing's inheritance.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Professional Reading #13

Associated Press. (2011, March 18). “Young Math Whiz Helps Students to ‘Get It.’” Retrieved from: http://www.tweentribune.com/content/young-math-whiz-helps-students-get-it

This article is about a 12 year-old boy named Sandeep who is taking his love for math, something he enjoys working hard at, and using it to help others around his own age. He offered to provide his tutoring services in a program called the “After School Math Club” at his local library. The idea was his own and one he came up with after seeing his friends struggle with math. He was able to help these friends have a better understanding of math, which led him to volunteering at the library to a broader group of kids. Not only does he offer homework help, Sandeep provides grade appropriate worksheets he creates himself and then helps the kids work through him. At the time of the article Sandeep had 10 attendees to his math club, ranging in ages from 3rd to 6th graders.

Of course this article is incredibly inspiring and it shows the awareness of others that arises in kids when they hit their tweens. Sandeep developed an empathy for his classmates who were struggling with math, something he enjoyed. He took these feelings and did something with it. We have a tendency to get lost in the overwhelming media of cyberbully and sexting tweens and lose sight of the good that can come out of tweens. Their growing awareness for those around them, some take this and do harm, such as bullying, but others use it for good. I also am slightly tired of reading articles about tweens who write incredible blogs, or have their own clothing lines. I want to read more articles like this one, about kids who use their talent not for glory, but to help others their own age. Kudos to Sandeep and others like him, I hope to continue finding articles similar to this one.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Book Trailer #3: Surviving the Applewhites

Link to my Surviving the Applewhites glog: http://katehutchmontes.glogster.com/surviving-the-applewhites/

Professional Reading #12

Springen, K. (2011, March). “What’s Right With This Picture?” School Library Journal.

What an incredibly inspiring article. In my MLIS classes I read so much about making the library more of a community space. It is through this process that the library will remain a relevant service in the digital age. The YOUmedia has achieved just that. The library realized that there was a need in their city to boost young people’s knowledge of new technology and they found away to fill that need. Libraries are struggling financially right now and not every library will be able to provide a space like this, either because of space limitations or funding, but it is incredible to know that it works. The photos in this article show tons of teenagers at the library, interacting with one another, creating music, videos, and socializing. YOUmedia is an excellent model for how libraries can keep current and continue to provide a valuable service to their community.

I love that the library involved teenagers in the creation process of this program and the space itself. They asked the teenagers in the community how they would like to sit while playing video games or what they would want in this type of program. Giving young people a say in something that is intended for them, gives them a sense of pride and a greater desire to take advantage of the program. Not only does YOUmedia provide a creative learning environment filled with digital media and technology, including media workshops run by teens, it also promotes the libraries other services as well. Library circulation among teens has risen as teens using the YOUmedia space are also picking up books on their library visits, many even participating in the One Book, One Chicago program. As the article states, YOUmedia follows President Obama’s goal of making young people “makers and creators of things, rather than just consumers.” I have read so many articles this semester where the goal is the opposite, it was incredibly refreshing to read this article.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Professional Reading #11

(2011, April 11). Abercrombie Bikini Top Controversy Sparks Debate on Parenting and Child Fashion. CBS New York. Retrieved from: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/04/01/abercrombie-bikini-top-controvery-sparks-debate-on-parenting-and-child-fashion/

I have been looking for articles on this subject ever since a coworker told me about this. The clothing line, Abercrombie & Fitch, popular among tweens and teens, released a padded, push-up bikini top intended for girls as young as seven and eight years old. The thought of a seven year-old girl walking around with a padded push up bikini top is severely disturbing to me. Why are we sexualizing our children? What parent feels that it is appropriate to teach their young girl that she should be wearing a padded bikini, what lesson is that teaching her? I can guarantee that seven year-old boys could care less whether girls their age have large breasts, so who is this for? Is it for themselves and their own self esteem? If that is the case, how terrible is it that seven year olds feel they need to be sexy in order to feel confident.

This article claims that girls see their friends wearing these tops and want them for themselves. Susan Shapiro Barash, author of the book, "You're Grounded Forever... But First Let's Go Shopping: The Challenges Mothers Face with Their Daughters and Ten Timely Solutions" discusses that Gen-X mothers are more concerned about their appearance than their Baby Boomer mothers, which leads to them allowing their daughters to wear sexier clothes at a younger age. I don't typically read comments at the end of these articles, but these ones were pretty interesting. Most of them were from Gen-X mothers who were upset by Barash's comments stating that their daughter's appearance as well as their own is not of the utmost importance to them. These women argue that if begged by their daughters to allow them to wear a padded bikini top, they would have no problem saying no. Glad to hear it.

Professional Reading #10

Richtel, M. & Helft, M. (2011, March 11). Facebook Users Who Are Under Age Raise Concerns. New York Times.

I think that it's okay to restrict children under 13 years of age from signing up for a Facebook account. As great a tool as Facebook can be for keeping in touch, reconnecting with friends, or even a quick way to communicate with people you see often, it could also be put to some negative uses. I have read many articles recently which discuss cyberbullying and negative comments frequently posted by young Facebook users. I think that it is acceptable to have young people wait until they are more emotionally mature before using Facebook. I must say that I am very happy Facebook wasn't around when I was in middle school. Middle schoolers were hurtful enough face to face, I could only see it as being intensified when hidden behind a computer screen. This article even discusses actual instances of predators coming after young users of sites like MySpace or Facebook.

My primary issue with this article is the parents who are allowing their children to lie about their age in order to sign up for Facebook. I think it's a bad idea to teach your children that lying to get something you want is okay. The one mother discussed in the article justifies this by stating that her son would have done it anyway and at least now she can monitor his usage. If she had concerns that he would go behind her back to use Facebook, why isn't she already monitoring his Internet usage. This goes back to an earlier article I discussed where the parents take a very apathetic approach to their children and technology, like they're going to do it anyway, so why not prevent a whole lot of heartache and just let them. That doesn't necessarily sound like good parenting to me, but I'm also not a parent.

Built to Last



Macaulay, D. (2010). Built to Last. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

Summary:
This book is divided into three parts, each discussing all of the stages of constructing a castle, a cathedral, and a mosque. Each of the buildings constructed and scenarios surrounding their creation are fictitious, but they are all based on actual buildings and architects. This book is absolutely filled with minutely detailed images showing each construction process from determining the location and building the foundation, to decorating the interior and adding the finishing touches. The book discusses the purpose for each building in society and how they were funded. It shows all of the jobs created by the long and ardous undertakings of the construction of these buildings. There were laborers, skilled masons, stained glass makers, and many more people involved. The book also provides maps showing where these buildings would have been constructed and how they impacted the surrounding areas. There is a glossary at the end of the book that defines many of the building terms discussed.

Review:
This book is incredible. The details included in the drawings and descriptions are fascinating. I loved how it showed the long process of each building, providing dates to see how long they each took. In the case of the cathedral, the decision to build it was made in 1223, and the cathedral itself was completed in 1314. Most of the people who initially conceptualized it or funded it were deceased. The author also provides a lot of information on the engineering and design of these building how flying butresses and support domes were used to give these buildings their incredible height. It is also full of fun and interesting little details such as how toilets were built into castle walls, that was something I had never even heard or thought of, and this book provided a full color diagram! This book was inspired by the author's three black and white architecture books, "Cathedral," "Castle," and "Mosque." It was meant to be more of a compilation of those books, but instead Macaulay re-did most of the drawings in color, improving on the accuracy of the scale of the buildings.

Genre:
nonfiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
architecture, construction, castle, cathedral, mosque

Annotation:
Follow along through the entire design and construction of a castle, a cathedral, and a mosque.

The Defenders of the Dead (Star Wars Jedi Apprentice)



Watson, J. (1999). The Defenders of the Dead (Star Wars Jedi Apprentice). New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Plot Summary:
Qui-Gon Jinn, a Jedi Knight, and his young apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, travel to the planet of Melida/Daan to rescue a captured Jedi, Tahl. They arrive in Zehava, the main city on the planet, which is in the middle of a civil war that has been going on for 30 years. The Melida and the Daan people have been fighting for so long, they don't even remember why they began. The city is divided into Melida and Daan sections, each guarded by their own people. All over the city are Halls of Evidence, which contain memories of those who died in the civil war, it is a way of perpetuating the emotions tied to the war. The Jedi's meet up with their contact, Wehutti, who claimed he would take them to rescue Tahl, but the Jedi's are betrayed by Wehutti. The Young aid the Jedi's in their escape from Wehutti and take them to their underground hideout. It is here that the Jedi's learn of the growing resentment of the young people of the city against the elders who fight for reasons they no longer remember. Obi-Wan is drawn to assisting the Young in their uprising against the Elders, but Qui-Gon struggles to remind him that their mission was to rescue Tahl, not get involved where they have not been requested.

Review:
I'm not a huge fan of science fiction, but this book definitely held my interest. It is a fast paced, quick read. I could see a lot of tweens, particularly those interested in Star Wars being very drawn to this series. There are a lot of interesting names and descriptions of characters, forcing readers to use their imaginations while they read. The book didn't end, which for me was slightly annoying because I just wanted to find out what happened and am not really planning on reading any further in the series, but I could see where this would inspire young readers in picking up the next book in the series. There are some good lessons to be had by Qui-Gon Jinn, who lives his life as a Jedi and is a methodical mentor to the more quick acting Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Genre:
science fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
war, Star Wars

Series Information:
The fifth book in the Jedi Apprentice series.

Character Names/Descriptions:
Qui-Gon Jinn: Jedi Knight; Obi-Wan's mentor; wants to complete their mission to rescue Tahl and leave Melida/Daan without getting involved in their civil war
Obi-Wan Kenobi: a padawan (Jedi apprentice); sympathizes with the Young and wants to help them
Tahl: female Jedi; who the Jedi's are sent to Melida/Daan to rescue
Wehutti: point of contact for the Jedi's; he betrays them
The Young: led by Cerasi and Nield; the young people of the planet Melida/Daan are tired of the elders of their planet fighting

Annotation:
Obi Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn are sent to the planet of Melida/Daan to rescue a fellow Jedi, but when they are betrayed by their contact their plan begins to fall apart.

Toy Story 3




Unkrich, L., dir. (2010). Toy Story 3 (Animated Film). United States: Pixar.

Plot Summary:
This is the third animated film of the Toy Story movies from Pixar. It begins with Andy getting ready to leave for college. All his favorite old toys, such as Woody and Buzz Lightyear are starting to speculate about what that means for them. Andy intends to put all of the toys (except for his favorite, Woody) into the attic in a garbage bag, but his mom mistakenly donates them to a daycare instead. Upset about being cast off, the toys try to make the best out of their new home at the daycare, but Woody leaves determined to make it back to Andy. Things at the daycare end up being horrible, as the toys are all put into the youngest kids' room and practically destroyed. It turns out that the daycare toys are being controlled by an evil stuffed bear who locks up Andy's toys and forbids them from leaving. Woody eventually makes his way back to the daycare to rescue the other toys, there they use all of their resources to escape, but the toys haven't succeeded yet. They must encounter some additional obstacles before finding themselves safely home.

Review:
Oh man, this movie had me in tears. It really got me thinking about all of the stuffed animals I still have in garbage bags in my parent's garage. I love Pixar movies. They are a lot of fun for all ages, full of enough silly humor to entertain the youngest kids, but also full of witty dialog, which is nice for older viewers. The characters are all very well developed and each bring their own unique talents and humor to the film. Woody is a great role model, he is a strong character who loves and cares for his friends and doesn't ever give up. The animation is incredible, I even felt that Pixar had greater success in animating humans, something I thought was not as good in the first Toy Story movie. The story was very silly, but will strike a nerve in tweens who were ever attached to their stuffed animals. I think some will also see toys represented in the movie that they played with when they were younger, like Mr. Potato Head.

Genre:
animated film

Age Level:
rated G for general audience; all ages

Subjects/Themes:
growing up, loss

Awards:
Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song

Character Names/Descriptions:
Woody: cowboy toy of Andy's; only toy Andy is taking to college with him; gets separated from the rest of the toys and goes back to rescue them; unofficial leader of the toys
Buzz Lightyear: space invader toy of Andy's; is reprogrammed by Lots-O-Huggin Bear and the other evil toys; is reprogrammed again to only speak Spanish
Jessie: cowgirl toy of Andy's
Lots-O-Huggin Bear: evil stuffed bear; rules all the toys at the daycare; tries to prevent Andy's toys from leaving the daycare
Andy: owner of all of the toys; leaving for college; means to put his toys away in the attic; eventually donates them all to Bonnie
Bonnie: girl in daycare who eventually receives all of Andy's toys; plays well with her toys

Annotation:
As Andy prepares to leave for college, his old toys mistakenly are donated to a daycare. It is up to the toys to find their way back to Andy's room.

Foiled



Yolen, J. (2010). Foiled. New York, NY: First Second.

Plot Summary:
Aliera Carstairs is a very talented fencer; it is her life. She practices everyday after school and on the weekends. She has no friends at school, preferring to be by herself and not really interested in befriending anyone. She plays role playing games every Saturday with her younger cousin who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Aliera is shocked when she is all of the sudden interested in the new boy in 10th grade, Avery Castle. He is gorgeous and popular and also her science partner. As he flirts with Aliera, she gets awkward and uncomfortable with his attention. As they spend a few weeks together working on the dissection of a frog, they begin to get comfortable with one another, and Avery asks Aliera on a date. As Aliera waits at Grand Central station at their determined waiting time she begins to see odd things and a bird begins attacking her hair. She puts on her fencing mask to protect herself and all of the sudden she is aware of fantastical colorful creatures all around the station. A beautiful woman urges her to use her secondhand practice weapon, with a ruby on it's hilt. It is here that Aliera discovers Avery is not who he claims to be, and there is a whole lot more to Aliera and her family than she could ever imagine.

Review:
I really wanted to like this graphic novel, and I definitely did in a lot of parts, but there was just way too fast of a transition between Aliera being a normal girl and all of a sudden the world's defender. Most of the action happens within the last few pages of the book. I still don't fully understand all that happened in the end. I loved Aliera's character. She was a kick-butt girl, with incredible fencing abilities. She also loved to play role playing games. I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if the whole switch to fantasy was explained better and more time was spent developing it. Odd things were definitely alluded to throughout the book, but the actual transition was rather quick. The illustrations were great. Aliera was colorblind, so the gray scale graphics made total sense. The dialog tripped me up a few times. I didn't always understand what was meant in certain thoughts or conversations.

Genre:
graphic novel, fantasy

Reading Level:
Ages 10 - 15

Subjects/Themes:
fencing, rheumatoid arthritis, self-identity

Series Information:
book one of a series to come

Character Names/Descriptions:
Aliera Carstairs (Xenda of Xenon): 11 year old girl; 10th grader, lives in New York City; is a fencer; plays role playing games with her cousin, Caroline; has a crush on Avery; enters into a fantasy world; uses a practice weapon with a ruby on it her mom got secondhand
Avery Castle: cute new boy in the 10th grade; Aliera's science partner; asks her out on a date; turns into a troll
Caroline (Queen Furby): Aliera's younger cousin; has rheumatoid arthritis

Annotation:
Aliera lives for fencing and not much else. She prefers to be left alone, until she meets a new cute student at school who ends up being part of a fantasy world.

Bigfoot Caught on Film and Other Monster Sightings (24/7 Science Behind the Scenes Mystery Files)



Teitelbaum, M. (2008). Bigfoot Caught on Film and Other Monster Sightings (24/7 Science Behind the Scenes Mystery Files). New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Summary:
This book explores popular monsters thought to exist, such as Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Kracken. It explains that the scientific name for these creatures is cryptids, of which the definition is, "a creature that some people believe is real but whose existence has not been scientifically proven." The book focuses on the three cryptids mentioned above, offering photos and evidence that supports their existence as well as evidence which negates it. It also briefly discusses a few other cryptids such as, the Chupacabra and the Mothman. It provides historical information on original sightings of these creatures and recent discoveries or confessions of people who falsified evidence supporting their existence. The book takes a scientific approach to the study of cryptids, explaining the role of cryptozoologists, those who study cryptids, and the kind of schooling involved and the other careers of these researchers. It even offers a quiz at the back to see if you "have what it takes to be a cryptozoologist." There is a glossary of terms at the back of the book and as well as a section for further research and reading, full of book titles and websites.

Review:
I really enjoyed the way this book was set up. I felt that it could have easily gone pretty hokey and played up the sensationalism of these cryptids. Instead, the book took a scientific approach to the introduction and study of these creatures, offering both information which supported and negated their existence. Most of the information was left relatively open ended, leaving young readers to come to their own conclusions, except for the case of the kracken, or giant squid. This is the only cryptid whose existence has been confirmed. There are plenty of photographs which capture the creatures throughout the book, some of which are confirmed false, with explanations provided for how this was done. The book discusses how young people interested in cryptids can document their own evidence they find, such as making a plaster cast of a footprint. I also thought it was really interesting that the author explains that cryptozoologists rarely ever do it as a career, it's more something of interest to them or something that goes along with their career, such as primatologists or anthropologists.

Genre:
nonfiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
cryptozoology, monsters

Annotation:
Research and evidence both supporting and against the existence of such creatures as Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster.

Mockingbird



Erskine, K. (2010). Mockingbird. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Plot Summary:
Caitlin's family is no stranger to tragedy. Her mother died of cancer a few years ago and her brother was recently shot and killed in a shooting at his middle school. All who is left is Caitlin and her dad. Caitlin has Asberger's and depended on her older brother, Devon, to help her know what is right and wrong and to be her only friend. Mrs. Brooks, Caitlin's counselor at school, helps Caitlin learn about emotions and feelings and how to recognize them in other people. She also teaches her about manners and making friends. These are all concepts that Caitlin has a hard time learning and struggles with throughout the book. She eventually befriends Michael, a first grader whose mother was a teacher killed in the middle school shooting. This friendship helps Caitlin to work on feeling empathy for others and normal interactions between friends. Caitlin and her father are still struggling tremendously with Devon's death and Caitlin decides she needs closure. She searches throughout the book for the one thing that will give her some closure and realizes it's been under her nose the whole time. She persuades her dad to help her finish a chest Devon was making as a project to make Eagle Scout. It is through the completion of this project with her dad which begins to heal her family.

Review:
This is a great book. The style in which it is written, with Caitlin as narrator, is pretty incredible. It really helps to put you in the mind of someone with Asberger's with the capitalization of certain letters for emphasis and the italicization of dialog versus thoughts. It was pretty tragic though, and I'm starting to definitely see a pattern with all of the award winning tween books. Caitlin's mother died of cancer, her brother was killed in a school shooting, and she had Asberger's. But, the book is very well written and deals with the struggle of someone with Asberger's working her way through all of these tragic events in her life and dealings with feelings and emotions of herself and those around her. What was so nice about the book was that Caitlin's outbursts and over sharing of the things she is learning about empathy, friendships, and closure really help to educate those around her, especially her dad who is struggling tremendously throughout the book.

Genre:
realistic fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
loss, Asberger's, siblings, friendships, cancer, school shootings

Awards:
National Book Award Winner

Character Names/Descriptions:
Caitlin Smith (Scout): 5th grader; sister to Devon; brother died in a school shooting; mother died of cancer; has Asberger's; working with feelings, emotions, friendship, and closure; excellent artist
Devon Joseph Smith (Jem): killed in middle school shooting; brother to Caitlin; boy scout trying to make Eagle Scout
Dad (Atticus): dad to Caitlin and Devon; wife died of cancer; having a very hard time finding closure after Devon's death; helps Caitlin finish Devon's wood chest to find closure
Mrs. Brooks: Caitlin's counselor at school; helps her work with feelings, emotions, manners, friendships, and closure
Michael Schneider: 1st grader; Caitlin's first friend; son of teacher killed in school shooting
Emma: 5th grade classmate of Caitlin; starts to become a friend of Caitlin's
Josh: 5th grade bully; cousin of the school shooter

Annotation:
Caitlin has Asberger's and is struggling her feelings regarding her brother's recent death in a school shooting.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sex, Puberty and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up




Bailey, J. (2004). Sex, Puberty and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up. London: Franklin Watts.

Summary:
This book covers a lot of information on sex and puberty for boys and girls. It discusses all of the topics typical to books like this, such as sex organs and genitals, acne, birth control, pregnancy, peer pressure, and dating. It also discusses topics which other books might not tackle, such as penis size, lopsided breasts, homosexuality, and masturbation. Nicknames or slang terms are also included for genitals and sex organs. Questions such as, "Is it true you can't buy condoms until you're 16?" or whether you "can't use a tampon if you're a virgin" are explained in the book. The back of the book contains contact information for various services such as Advocates for Youth, adoption agencies, pro-choice resources, and gay and lesbian services. The images and diagrams in the book are all cartoons. There is a glossary at the back of the book, which defines all of the terms covered within the book.

Review:
It's been awhile since I've read a book on sex and puberty intended for young people, and boy is this one different than the one I had. At times I was almost shocked by some of the things included in this book, such as the slang terms for genitals. But then I realized that there are some young people who may of only heard of these body parts in slang terms and it is important for them to know their technical names. I felt like this book was more conversational and less clinical than the book I had when I was younger. I think that aspect of it will appeal to tweens. I also like that it is intended for both boys and girls. This book is very forward thinking, it included questions or facts that tweens might be curious about that they may learn about from friends or older siblings, but too embarrassed to ask. I think that this book would be a little mature for younger tweens, even though puberty can begin in young tweens.

Genre:
nonfiction

Reading Level:
Ages 10 - 15

Subjects/Themes:
puberty, sex

Annotation:
This book contains many of the sex and puberty questions you have, but are too embarrassed to ask.

A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales



Datlow, E. & Windling, T. (eds). (2000). A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Summary:
Some of the world's most favorite fairy tales are retold in this collection of stories by various popular authors. Award winning authors like Neil Gaiman and Gregory Maguire create new stories out of old fairy tales. In the retelling of Hansel and Gretel, instead of a gingerbread house, the witch lures them in with video games and in the retelling of Cinderella, she wears a slipper made of twigs, not glass. Some of these classic fairy tales are retold from a modern perspective, and some are told from an entirely different perspective, such as Jack and the Beanstalk as told by Mrs. Giant or Snow White being discussed from the dwarfs' perspective after she has left with the prince.

Review:
I really loved reading Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. Many of the fairy tales in this collection are like that, but meant for tweens. Gregory Maguire even contributes a tale about Snow White to the book. I was immediately drawn into the stories, reminding me that no one is ever too old for a good fairy tale. It does add interest to have a new spin on them. Some of the tales are a little edgier or more modern, which will definitely appeal to some tweens, others keep the original tone of the old fairy tales, but add new elements to them. I especially loved the retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. It was beautiful and eerie, it made me want to read the original to see how much was kept in this new version. I think these stories might have the same effect on the tweens who read them.

Genre:
nonfiction

Reading Level:
Ages 8 - 17

Subjects/Themes:
fairy tales

Annotation:
A compilation of retold fairy tales by award winning fantasy authors.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson



Lord, B.B. (1984). In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. New York, NY: Harper Row & Publishers, Inc.

Plot Summary:
The book is set in the year 1947. After hearing word from her father in America, Bandit and her mother must leave their family in China and travel to New York to join him. Upon leaving Chungking, her family gives her an American name of her choosing; she becomes Shirley Temple Wong. Shirley and her mother finally arrive to their tiny one room apartment in Brooklyn after a long journey. Shirley begins school and her mother adjusts to life without servants and with washing machines. It takes Shirley a few months to adjust to life, customs, and the English language. She is lonely at first, without any friends. She accidentally interrupts a stickball game one day after school and receives two black eyes from a bully named Mabel. After not squealing on Mabel, the stickball players befriend Shirley and teach her the game. Shirley takes to it immediately, becoming obsessed with baseball, specifically the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson. For the rest of the season, she doesn’t stray far from the radio when a game is being played. By the end of the year of the boar, Shirley has adjusted well to life in Brooklyn, but also realized the importance of maintaining her original language and customs.

Review:
I love the organization of this book, spread over a year, beginning in China. The author shows the progression of Shirley’s year of transformation from being well versed in Chinese customs, to struggling with English and American customs, to submersing herself in only American customs, and finally finding a balance between her Chinese culture and new life in America. I love that the main character is a girl, who is obsessed with baseball. Shirley’s obsession with the sport is fantastic; it adds a lot of humor to the book. There is a great explanation of why baseball is an America’s favorite pastime and there is a lot of symbolism in Shirley’s embracing of this. I like that the events in the book were drawn from the author’s own life and coming to America. Through Shirley’s experiences she shows the hardships and loneliness of children coming to a new country and learning a new language and all new customs.

Genre:
historical fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 – 12

Subjects/Themes:
immigration, self-identity

Award Information:
ALA Notable Children's Book
School Library Journal Best Book

Character Names/Descriptions:
Shirley Temple Wong (Bandit, Sixth Cousin): 10 years old; travels from China to New York with her mother to join her father; loves baseball and Jackie Robinson
Father: Shirley’s father; gets an Engineering job in New York and moves his wife and daughter from China to join him; takes on the job of landlord of their building
Mother: Shirley’s mother; moves from China to New York with her daughter, Shirley, to join her husband; becomes pregnant
Mabel: largest 5th grade girl in Shirley’s class; gives Shirley two black eyes, then becomes her friend; plays stickball; teaches Shirley all about baseball
Mrs. Rappaport: Shirley’s 5th grade teacher
Emily Levy: new girl in Shirley’s class; becomes one of Shirley’s good friends
Jackie Robinson: baseball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers; hero of Shirley’s

Annotation:
It is 1947, the year of the boar, and the year Shirley Temple Wong leaves her home in China and moves to Brooklyn, New York. Shirley learns English and American customs, falls in love with baseball, and tries to hold on to her Chinese heritage.

The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones



Riordan, R. (2008). The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Plot Summary:
Amy and Dan Cahill’s parents died long ago, they were left in the care of their great aunt, but loved dearly by the Grandmother, Grace Cahill. When Grace Cahill dies, an incredibly wealthy woman, family members from far and wide come to attend her wedding and to find what they have inherited. Through a video shown by her lawyer, Grace tells the family members that they can either take a million dollars each, or forfeit the money to participate in a challenge, which could make them extremely powerful. Amy and Dan choose to take the challenge along with a few other family members. They are informed that the Cahills are a very powerful family, producing the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. Each participant is given a clue they must solve, the first of 39. The clue initially stumps the two, but with a little encouragement from their grandmother’s lawyer, they are off and running. The challenge has Amy and Dan traveling all over with their sassy au pair and narrowly escaping traps set against them by their own competing family members.

Review:
This was an exciting book, reminding me at times a little of The Westing Game and a little of The Da Vinci Code. I could see kids really getting into these books, especially because of the size of the series. After beginning the book and realizing, there was not really going to be an end to the book and only one clue would be solved, I was a little annoyed thinking I would have to read 38 more books to discover the final outcome of the series, but it looks like there are only 11 total in the first series. I have heard this series described as a marketing ploy, which is hard not to see with game instructions on the back of the book for kids to play. The whole back cover of the book is an advertisement for the 39 Clues game kids can play by collecting playing cards (which come with the book) and entering to win over $100,000 in prizes. This irked me. I would rather kids be interested in books because they enjoy them, not because there is a prize involved. It was a fun and quick book to read, I think they could have done without the gimmick.

Genre:
fiction, mystery, adventure

Reading Level:
Ages 9 – 14

Subjects/Themes:
loss, siblings, treasure hunt

Series Information:
first book of the first series

Character Names/Descriptions:
Amy Cahill: 14 years old; sister to Dan; parents mysteriously died when she was young; her grandmother died leaving a challenge for Amy and Dan and other family members to take; part of a very powerful family; likes to read; has a stutter
Dan Cahill: 11 years old; brother to Amy; parents mysteriously died when she was young; her grandmother died leaving a challenge for Amy and Dan and other family members to take; part of a very powerful family; likes numbers; has a great memory
Grace Cahill: grandmother to Amy and Dan; very wealthy and powerful woman; in her will she challenged her family members to take part in a game that could make them very powerful; has a cat named Saladin
William McIntyre: Grace Cahill’s lawyer; helps Amy and Dan with the challenge
Ian and Natalie Kabra: cousins of Dan and Amy; also take part in the challenge; are evil
The Holt family: relatives to Dan and Amy; also take part in the challenge; are all athletic; aren’t afraid to use brut force to stop their cousins
Alistair Oh: relative of Dan and Amy; Korean; takes part in the challenge; tries to form an alliance with Dan and Amy, but eventually betrays them
Irina Spasky: relative of Dan and Amy; Russian; former spy; takes part in the challenge; uses sneaky methods to try to stop the other participants of the game

Annotation:
Upon the death of the grandmother, Dan and Amy Cahill are invited to participate in a game where they could become very powerful.

Out of the Dust



Hesse, K. (1997). Out of the Dust. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Plot Summary:
Billie Jo lives with her mom and dad in the panhandle of Oklahoma. The book begins in the winter of 1934, Billie Jo is 14 years old and after years of trying, her mother is finally pregnant again. Her family struggles to survive in the dust bowl where dust storms are ruining her father’s wheat crops. It is her mother’s piano and Billie Jo’s crazy style of playing which bring her the most joy in life. An accident of a pail of kerosene set by the fire by her father, mistaken to be water by her mother and thrown on the fire, and then hurriedly tossed outside by Billie Jo dousing her mother with it instead, turn the Kelby family’s life upside down. Her mother, covered in burns dies in childbirth, taking Billie Jo’s baby brother with her. Billie Jo’s hands were severely burned and she can no longer play the piano. Her relationship with her father is strained, each dealing with their own guilt and blame for the accident. Billie Jo, predicting the way her unhappy life is going in Oklahoma, hops a train west, only to be returned home by a government agency in Arizona. Her running away begins Billie Jo and her father communicating and begins to mend their little family.

Review:
The style in which this book was written was uniquely beautiful. It was a devastating book, with a glimmer of hope at the end, which I’ve found is similar most award winning tween books. I loved the setting for the book, having never read a book set in the dust bowl. The book provided a glimpse of the hard life people who lived in the dust bowl during the depression had to face. Billie Jo is a likable character, spunky and non-conforming to girls her age at that time. I loved reading about her crazy piano playing and was crushed when she could play no longer. As mentioned earlier, this is a really devastating book, but it shows how family is able to overcome incredibly difficult obstacles.

Genre:
historical fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 – 14

Subjects/Themes:
dust bowl, loss

Awards:
Newbery Medal Award Winner
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
A Publishers Weekly Book of the Year

Character Names/Descriptions:
Billie Jo Kelby: 14 year-old girl; lives in the panhandle of Oklahoma with her pregnant mom and dad; loves to play the piano; accidently burned her mother
Pol Kelby (Ma): Billie Jo’s mom; pregnant; died in childbirth after being burned over most of her body; played the piano
Bayard Kelby (Daddy): Billie Jo’s dad; a farmer
Arley Wanderdale: teaches music at Billie Jo’s school; invites her to play with he and his band at the Palace Theatre
Mad Dog Craddock: friend of Billie Jo’s; has a great voice; sings in the same shows where she plays the piano; she has a crush on him

Annotation:
Life in the dust bowl during the depression was hard, but after a terrible accident in her family, life becomes almost unbearable for Billie Jo Kelby.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book Trailer #2: Belle Prater's Boy

The Spiderwick Chronicles: Book 1, The Field Guide




DiTerlizzi, T. & Black, H. The Spiderwick Chronicles: Book 1, The Field Guide. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Plot Summary:
After their parent's recent divorce the Grace children, Mallory, Jared, and Simon, all move with their mom from their apartment in New York to a decrepit Victorian house belonging to their great-aunt, Lucinda. The Grace children immediately sense that there is more to this house than they can see. The scratching noise in the walls prompt them to break open part of the wall where they find an interesting little nest full of newspaper clippings and cockroaches strung up on a string. Mallory destroys the nest, thinking whatever it was that was making it will have to leave. But, destroying its home only makes this little creature angry and strikes vengeance on the Grace children. A note Jared finds in a secret room in the house leads him to discover Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You and the children learn that there is a lot more to this house and their world than they had ever realized.

Review:
This is a wonderfully imaginative book. It is rather short and a quick read, good for younger tweens. Plus, it's a series that leaves the reader with a great hook at the end of the first book, which will inspire young readers to pick up the next book in the series. The illustrations are awesome and add a lot to the book. The Grace children each have their own unique interests, and bond together in their quest to discover what is scurrying around in their house. The authors show the struggle of kids from a recently divorced family, as they are forced to leave the comfort of their home and make major changes in their lives. I look forward to reading more of the Grace children's adventures.

Genre:
fantasy

Reading Level:
Ages 7 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
divorce, siblings, faeries
Series Information:
Book 1 of The Spiderwick Chronicles

Character Names/Descriptions:
Jared Grace: 9 years-old; twins with Simon; brother to Mallory; parents recently divorce; he is having some trouble with his parent's divorce; he finds the Field Guide
Simon Grace: 9 years-old; twins with Jared; brother to Mallory; obsessed with animals; has creatures in jars all over the room he shares with Jared
Mallory Grace: 13 years-old; sister to Simon and Jared; loves fencing; destroys the nest in the wall; has her hair tied to her bed while she sleeps
Arthur Spiderwick: the father to Lucinda, the Grace children's great-aunt; made the Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You Jared finds
Lucinda Spiderwick: the Grace children's great-aunt; is in a home after going crazy talking about faeries; the Grace children go to live in her old Victorian home

Annotation:
After moving to a old Victorian home, the Grace children begin to feel that they are not alone in their new home. The discovery of a peculiar nest in the wall and an interesting book open their eyes to things beyond their imagination.

Babymouse: Cupcake Tycoon




Holm, J.L. & Holm, M. (2010). Babymouse: Cupcake Tycoon. New York, NY: Random House Children's Books.

Plot Summary:
Letting her imagination run rampant in her school library, Babymouse imagines she is on an adventure, scaling a wall to find the lost cupcake. It is only when she falls off of the book shelf and breaks the sprinkler pipe on her way down that Babymouse comes out of her daydream. The school decides to hold a fundraiser to pay for the water damage in the library. Babymouse hates fundraisers, but this one involves selling cupcakes, her favorite! Determined to receive the mysterious grand prize for selling the most cupcakes, Babymouse gets to work. It seems that everyone has already either bought a cupcake from one of her classmates, or they're not interested. Determined to win that prize (instead of focusing on the money she will raise to repair the damage to the library) Babymouse comes up with plan after plan to outsell her classmates. It is in a dream that she finally realizes the plan that will win her the grand prize, a cupcake stand.

Review:
This is a really fun little graphic novel. Babymouse is a hilariously self-obsessed imaginative young mouse, full of mischief. She gets herself into funny situations through her bouts of daydreaming. The narrator is equally funny, with wise quips which knock Babymouse down from her self-absorbed tirades. This is the first Babymouse graphic novel I have read, but I'm sure they are all equally funny and quick little reads. These would be a great way to introduce young tweens into graphic novels, I think a lot of girls would enjoy reading about Babymouse and her adventures. The illustrations are a little harried, which works well with Babymouse's character and adventures.

Genre:
graphic novel

Reading Level:
Ages 8 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
fundraisers

Series Information:
This is book 13 of the Babymouse series

Character Names/Descriptions:
Babymouse: imaginative girl mouse; accident prone
Narrator: adds witty and sarcastic commentary to the story

Annotation:
After Babymouse wrecks her school library during a particularly dramatic daydream, she struggles to raise money to repair the damage by selling cupcakes.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Amandine




Griffin, A. (2001). Amandine. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.

Plot Summary:
Delia’s family had just moved and she was having some trouble meeting new friends, not that making friends was anything Delia was ever good at. After receiving some pressure from her parents, Delia makes Amandine, a strange girl who waits for her ride after school at the same place as Delia. Her friendship with Amandine is troubled from the start. She sends Delia grotesque drawings from her Ugliest Thing notebook and together they create scripts they act out, Amandine doing impressions of people they know. Delia isn’t exactly sure how she feels about Amandine, she has a lot of fun with her, but the fun seems bad and she is never sure what Amandine is going to do next. When Amandine acts really horribly towards their friend Mary and blames Delia for it, Delia decides she has had enough of Amandine. She refuses to hang out with her anymore, but unfortunately Amandine is not done yet with Delia. Amandine has dirt on Delia she is willing to let slip to their school if Delia doesn’t reconcile their friendship. Eventually, a lie is told, and Delia and her family are forced to take drastic measures to make their family “normal” again.

Review:
This book is definitely for older tweens. Amandine and Delia are both 14 years-old, but I think it would be a beneficial book to girls who are just entering middle school. There seems to be a phase girls go through around middle school where low self-esteem has a tendency to make some of them almost mean and create unhealthy friendships. I definitely went through it and saw other girls my age do the same. It's a rough age where you leave the comfort of your elementary school and move to a bigger school with more students. It is at this time when kids either cling onto or shed their existing friendships for cooler or more like minded friends. It can be a pretty brutal time in a girl's life, speaking from experience. Girls Amandine and Delia's age are often still trying to figure out who they are and what image they want to project, they are also dealing with becoming more empathetic and a growing awareness of right and wrong. It's a tough age, which the author captured well in this book.

Genre:
Fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 12 - 15

Subjects/Themes:
friendship, self-identity, lying

Character Names/Descriptions:
Delia Blaine (Delilah): 14 year-old girl; switched schools midyear; overweight; has a hard time making friends; becomes good friends with Amandine; steals things
Amandine Elroy-Bell: 14 year-old girl; becomes good friends with Delia; comes from family of artists; likes to sketch disturbing images for her Ugliest Thing notebook; has a mean streak; lies to get back at Delia for ending their frienship
Mary Whitecomb: friend of Amandine and Delia's; Amandine draws a gruesome depiction of Mary after Mary makes her angry; preacher's daughter; lives in the country; becomes Delia's only friend
Mrs. Gogglio: older neighbor who gives Delia a ride home from school everyday; is a nurse at a senior home; seems to be the only person who really listens to Delia; calls Delia "Delilah"

Annotation:
Desperate for a friend, Delia befriends Amandine even though she never feels quite comfortable in the friendship. When Amandine shows her true colors, Delia's family has to take drastic measures to escape the chaos Amandine caused.

Monday, April 18, 2011

iCarly




Schneider, D. (Writer), & Hoefer, S. (Director). (2007). iPilot (Television series episode). D. Schneider (Producer), iCarly. Los Angeles, CA: Nickelodeon on Sunset.

Schneider, D. (Writer), & Hoefer, S. (Director). (2007). iPilot (Television series episode). D. Schneider (Producer), iLike Jake. Los Angeles, CA: Nickelodeon on Sunset.

Plot Summary:

iCarly is a television show on Nickelodeon starring Miranda Cosgrove as Carly. Carly and her friend Sam host a weekly web show called “iCarly.” Carly’s neighbor, Freddie, who has a crush on her, does all of the technical work for the show. Carly lives with her older brother, an artist, in his loft apartment. In the two episodes I watched, the pilot and another episode of the first season, Carly deals with things like crushes on boys and getting in trouble at school. Her friend Sam has a quick wit and borders on being a bully at times. The web show concept came about in the pilot episode when a video of Sam and Carly talking trash about their teacher. The video went viral, people thought they were entertaining, so they made up their own show. The second episode was about a cute boy at school Carly puts on her show.

Review:

I think it’s great to have a show that deals with modern technology and how kids can get involved with it. Both episodes I watched were pretty silly and there were negative actions without any real consequences, which I thought wasn’t so great. I also felt that Sam’s sense of humor is a little mean spirited and could even be construed as bullyish. Other than that, it’s great to have a show about motivated and creative tweens. I loved the clothing and the sets, the show is really bright and colorful. I would think that mostly girls would be interested in this show. There is a male character, who is pretty funny, but in the episodes I saw, he was not a character I could boys looking up to, but perhaps some could identify with him.

Genre:

Television show

Age Level:

The show was originally rated TV-Y7 (children 7 and older), but is now rated TV-G (general audience).

Subjects/Themes:

Internet, guardian, friendship

Character Names/Descriptions:

Carly Shay: tween girl; best friends with Sam and Freddie; father is away in the Air Force; her older brother, Spencer, is her guardian; hosts an online show with her friends Sam and Freddie

Sam: tween girl; Carly’s best friend; funny; helps host online show with Carly

Freddie: tween boy; neighbor and best friend to Carly; has a crush on Carly; provides technical support for Carly’s show

Spencer: Carly’s 26 year-old brother; is Carly’s guardian; an artist

Annotation:

Carly and her friends, Sam and Freddie, host a web show called iCarly and deal with typical adolescent issues.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Surviving the Applewhites


Tolan, S.S. (2002). Surviving the Applewhites. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Plot Summary:
After being thrown out of every school in Rhode Island and his parents landing in jail, Jake Semple is sent to live with his grandfather in North Carolina. But, even with a new start, Jake hasn’t changed at all and gets kicked out of school again. An interesting possibility presents itself though, and Jake is invited to attend the Creative Academy, a school run by the Applewhite family for their children. Zedediah Applewhite, a woodworker, has two sons, Randolph, a theatre director, and Archie, also a woodworker. Archie is married to Lucille, a poet, and Randolph is marred to Sybil, a popular author. Randolph and Sybil have four children: Hal, a sculptor, Cordelia, a dancer who is composing and staring in her own ballet, and Destiny and E.D. E.D. is Jake’s age and is the only Applewhite not okay with Jake attending their school. She is also the only one who actually develops and follows a set curriculum for herself, therefore the family thinks it best to initially pair Jake with her for his education. Out of work, Randolph takes on a job as director of the upcoming production of Sound of Music at the local small theatre in town. His behavior manages to alienate his entire crew, leading to them leave the production. Randolph urges the other Applewhite's to take up the jobs of the crew and pitch in to help, but the manager of the theatre has had enough of Randolph, his rainbow production, and his crazy antics, and decides to cancel the performance. The Applewhite's kick into high gear and show that they, as well as the journalist and Lucille's guru who have also taken up residence at the Applewhite compound, can all work together to put on this production.
Review:
This book is hilarious. It has so much going on, I was not bored for a minute. It has a nice happy ending with Jake and E.D. having a sense of pride and belonging in their roles in the musical. It’s also neat to see this self-absorbed bickering family come together in the name of art to produce something truly unique. There is a good balance of obvious humor, with the dog and Destiny harassing Jake, and good moral to the story of Jake losing his rebellious ways after discovering something he’s good at that give him joy. This book will definitely appeal to both boys and girls.

Genre:
Fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
homeschooling, creative arts, family

Award Information:
Newbery Honor Book 2003
Character Names/Descriptions:
Edith Applewhite (E.D.): daughter of Randolph and Sybil; the only Applewhite not particularly artistic; very detail oriented and organized; develops her own curriculum for her home schooling
Jake Semple: taken in by the Applewhite's; kicked out of every school in Rhode Island; parents are in jail
Destiny Applewhite: four year-old brother of E.D.; likes to follow around after Jake; asks a lot of questions
Cordelia Applewhite: E.D.'s older sister; starring in and composing a one-woman ballet
Hal Applewhite: E.D.'s reclusive older brother; changes his artistic focus periodically; currently a sculpter
Zedediah Applewhite: father of Archie and Randolph; grandfather to E.D., Hal, Cordelia, and Destiny
Randolph Applewhite: son of Zedediah; married to Sybil; father of E.D., Hal, Cordelia, and Destiny; theater director
Sybil Jameson (Debbie Applewhite): wife of Randolph; mother of E.D., Hal, Cordelia, and Destiny; famous author
Archie Applewhite: son of Zedediah; married to Lucille; woodworker; tattooed
Lucille Applewhite: married to Archie; poet; the one who invited Jake to join the Creative Academy
Jeremy Bernstein: journalist who moves in with the Applewhite's to document their artistic endeavors

Annotation:
A troubled tween finds joy in an unlikely place as he attends an artistic family's creative academy.

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook


Davis, E. (2009). The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook. New York, NY: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books

Plot Summary:
Julian is new to Mosburg Jr. High and he is determined to not let his ultra nerdiness be known to the other students. He doesn't want a repeat of his being an outcast at his last school. But, he can't hold back his incredible knowledge for long and when he accidentally lets a bit of aeronautical engineering slip in his class, he receives an invitation written in secret code. The invitation was to meet Ben and Greta, fellow aspiring inventors who ask Julian to join them in their secret hideout and invention workshop. Together, the three of them become the Secret Science Alliance (SSA) and create inventions such as a fog gun, curfew counteractor, pneumatic rollerblades, and the Kablovsky Copter, named after their idol, scientist Professor Andro Kablovsky. When Dr. Wilhelm Stringer, head inventor and CEO of Industrail Innovations Incorporated steals the SSA's invention notebook and the SSA goes to get it back, they find that Dr. Stringer has plans to steal a priceless artifact from the Mosburg History Museum. It is up to the SSA to foil his evil plan.

Review:
This graphic novel is fantastic. The story is clever and hilarious and the graphics are incredible. The layout of this graphic novel is similar to the adult graphic novels I have read, with a unique layout different from most comics. The book is filled with great diagrams, which provide the reader with a lot to look at and definitely adds interest to the book. Each page is filled with tons of details and descriptions, the reader will have a great time discovering all of these details. The inventions created are imaginative and wonderfully illustrated. I like the added touch of showing the sketches of the inventions shared on paper airplanes or the Hidden-Message-Passer-Pencil. The Secret Science Alliance is a quirky group made up of a nerd, a notorious troublemaker, and a sports jock.

Genre:
graphic novel

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
adventure, inventions, self-identity

Character Names/Descriptions:
Julian Calendar: new student to Mosburg Jr. High; inventor; member of the Secret Science Alliance
Greta Hughes: student at Mosburg Jr. High; notorious troublemaker; inventor; member of the Secret Science Alliance
Ben Garza: student at Mosburg Jr. High; good at sports; inventor; member of the Secret Science Alliance
Dr. Wilhelm Stringer: famous inventor; constructs evil plot to steal Andro Kablovsky's hat
Professor Andro Kablovsky: famous inventor who lived from 1854 - 1942; idol of the Secret Science Alliance

Annotation:
Three junior high students form the Secret Science Alliance through their love for designing and building inventions. When their design notebook is stolen, they find another inventor's evil plan. It is up to the SSA to stop him.

Belle Prater's Boy




White, R. (1996). Belle Prater's Boy. Canada: Harper Collins Canada Ltd.

Plot Summary:

One morning Belle Prater disappeared. She left behind an alcoholic husband and their cross-eyed son, Woodrow. After it was clear Belle wasn’t coming back any time soon, Woodrow went to live with his grandparents in Coal Valley, VA. Next door to his grandparents live Woodrow’s cousin, Gypsy, and his Aunt, Beauty, and her husband, Porter. Gypsy and Woodrow are the same age, but hadn’t spent that much time together on account of there having been a disagreement of some sort between their mothers long ago. Gypsy can’t wait to ask Woodrow what he thinks happened to his mom, and neither can anyone else in their small town. Gypsy and Woodrow become very close, Woodrow is an excellent storyteller and Gypsy is beautiful and tells great jokes. They are well liked by friends and classmates. Through the course of the story things which had been kept from the both of them about their parents' pasts begins to come out, things that are hard to hear and digest. But their friendship keeps them strong as they learn some of life’s hardest lessons.

Review:

This is a beautifully written book. I loved every bit of it. The writing is poetic and lyrical, full of sweet tales. Woodrow and Gypsy, each from different backgrounds, are struggling with the same things in life, wanting to be seen for who they are not how they appear. They also are both dealing with the loss of a parent. I loved the descriptive setting, interesting characters, and odd names of the characters. I love how the story slowly unfolds as you read it. The author doesn’t sum up the book at the end, the reader is left with enough details to draw their own conclusions. The author does an excellent job of showing the thought processes that arise in tweens as they slowly begin to open their eyes to life as it occurs around them, whether they want to or not.

Genre:

Fiction

Reading Level:

Ages 9 – 12

Subjects/Themes:

Family, friendship, loss, self-identity

Series Information:

There is a sequel to this book entitled, "The Search for Belle Prater"

Awards Information:

Newbery Honor Book 1997

Character Names/Descriptions:
Gypsy Arbutus Leemaster: Woodrow's cousin; her father died when she was young, is known for her long beautiful hair
Woodrow Prater: Gypsy's cousin; Belle Prater's boy; is cross-eyed; lives with his grandparents
Belle Prater: Gypsy's aunt; Woodrow's mom; went missing; was depressed
Love Ball Dotson: Gypsy's mom; was always more beautiful that Belle; fell in love with and married Belle's boyfriend, who became Gypsy's father
Porter Dotson: Love's new husband; Gypsy's stepfather
Amos Leemaster: Gypsy's dad; killed himself while depressed after being badly burned

Annotation:
Sharing similar losses in their life, two cousins become best of friends while learning some of life's hardest lessons.

The Higher Power of Lucky


Patron, S. (2006). The Higher Power of Lucky. New York, NY: Atheneum.

Plot summary:
Lucky lives in Hard Pan, California with her French guardian, Brigitte. Lucky never knew her father, on account of he never wanted kids, and her mother was accidentally electrocuted during a storm a few years before. Hard Pan has a population of 43, the number didn't change after her mom died because Brigitte came into town to take care of Lucky. Brigitte is Lucky's father's first wife, and she was only supposed to take temporary care of Lucky while she waited for a foster home. Lucky aspires to be a scientist, she collects insects and specimens wherever she goes, carrying all the tools in her survival kit backpack, which she always has with her. Lucky works at Hard Pan's Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center cleaning up garbage after each twelve-step anonymous meeting. It is here that she overhears the concept of having a Higher Power, which she determines she needs in her life. After seeing Brigitte's passport and suitcase out one night, Lucky jumps to the conclusion that Brigitte is heading back to France and Lucky will move on to an orphanage. This prompts Lucky to run away.

Review:
I thought this was a sweet little book, but to be honest, I am surprised that it won a Newbery Medal. Lucky is a likable character, and the other characters in the book are well developed and unique, but I felt that the story was a little predictable and similar to other stories. The little illustrations were a nice touch, especially in showing Lucky's home (constructed out of three trailers), the cholla burr, the parsley grinder, and the knots Lincoln ties. The setting was pretty interesting for the story, a tiny town in the desert where residents live in old water towers or cut up trailers. The story was enjoyably quirky, in the characters and the story of how Brigitte came to be Lucky's guardian.

Genre:
Fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 8 - 10

Subjects/Themes:
loss, self-identity, runaways

Series Information:
First book in two book series, second is entitled Lucky Breaks

Award Information:
Newbery Medal Winner 2007

Character Names/Descriptions:
Lucky Trimble: 5th grader; lives in Hard Pan; wants to be a scientist; doesn't know her dad and her mom is dead
Brigitte: Lucky's guardian; moved from France to take care of Lucky after Lucky's mom passed away; was married to Lucky's father before Lucky's mom
Lincoln: lives in Hard Pan; is in the 5th grade with Lucky; loves tying knots
Miles: in kindergarten; lives with his grandmother in Hard Pan because his mother is in jail; loves the book Are You My Mother?; likes to ask everyone for food
HMS Beagle: Lucky's dog

Annotation:
Aspiring scientist, Lucky, is always prepared for a disaster with her survival kit backpack. But when she fears her guardian, Brigitte, is going to leave her, Lucky decides to put her backpack to good use and runaway.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Professional Reading #9

Selsberg, A. (2011, March 19). Teaching to the Text Message. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/opinion/20selsberg.html?_r=1

This article is about a college professor using the inspiration of popular media and websites to get students to stay engaged in English and learn to write concisely. I definitely think the ability to write a long term paper is one that all college students should attain, but, I also think there’s something to be said for teaching English through the use of popular forms of communication and technology. It is so important to be able to relate to young students and what is of interest to them at that moment. Formulating assignments around popular websites and social networking sites like Twitter and YouTube is a great way to keep students interest, but I would hope that the professor would do so without sacrificing any English content that should be learned. I especially loved the idea of having students write a book review to post on Amazon. That’s a great way to get students to think reflectively about books they are reading and share them with others, all while using a popular website. I like the idea of keeping assignments concise to keep up with popular forms of communication such as texts and Twitter, but also so that the professor can spend more time on each student’s assignment. It is more difficult for me to write a one page paper than a five page paper. Being concise and keeping our thoughts limited and to the point is a valued skill we should all learn and linking this lesson to popular new media which young students can relate to is a wonderful way to do it.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Professional Reading #8

Zernike, K. (2007, January 7). The Preteen: Betwixt and bedeviled. The New York Times The Nation.

It seems odd to me that we still have not yet mastered the best method to educate tweens. Elementary schools, middle schools, or junior high schools, what is the best way to educate this age group? This article discusses the positive and negative issues associated with each method, for instance, leaving them in elementary school does not adequately prepare them for high school, or that middle school is less of a stepping stone to high school and more a place for lowering self-esteem. How do we make a major change like creating the concept of middle schools and moving 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from their elementary schools to middle schools without first performing a great deal of research to see that this concept is no better, or even worse than leaving tweens where they were. How do we find a proper method of education that will balance the divide tweens fall into of no longer being children, but not yet teenagers.

This article concludes that there isn't a balance, neither method will work effectively for all students. Instead of arguing over which school format is better, schools should focus on creating a support system for tweens through increased guidance counselors and making changes to curriculum that will inspire tweens. This is a tough age group, they are going through so many mental, emotional, and physical changes. I agree that less focus should be on where they are educated and more should be on how they are educated.

Professional Reading #7

Lewin, T. (2010, January 20). If Your Kids Are Awake, They're Probably Online. The New York Times.

In 2000 I was in Italy and saw a group of elementary aged children during their lunch on a field, many of which were on talking on their cell phones. I didn’t even own a cell phone at the time and couldn’t believe that these six and seven year-olds were gabbing on their phones during their lunch break. I knew that it was just a matter of time before I would see the same thing in the U.S. This article discusses the increase in usage of electronic devices by young people between the ages of eight and 18 within the last six years. The article states that young people "spend more than seven and a half hours a day" with electronic devices, such as smart phones, MP3 players, computers, and televisions. I am interested to see the breakdown of time spent on these electronic devices, for instance, how much of that time is spent on computers at school or doing homework.

The thing that bothers me most about this phenomenon is the general apathy of the parents interviewed. Parents with the attitude of what I am I supposed to do, this is how it is these days, it's everywhere, I don't have any control over it, etc. This article discusses parents who have successfully limited electronic devices in their children's lives, showing parents that they are not lacking control over this situation. My parents set limits for the telephone and television when I was a kid, my mom even initiated a week long ban on the television, which actually turned out to be a pretty fun week. My parents allowed us to have video games, but we had to buy the console ourselves. I think this was a great idea, because by the time I had saved my allowance and birthday money to buy a Nintendo, I was reluctant to part with all I had saved for so long on a video game console.