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The Teacher and the iPad

12 Mar

Once upon a time there was an ordinary teacher. She wasn’t especially good at technology, but she wasn’t particularly bad. She was just right.

When Fall came, her vintage document camera – circa 1998 – died. She knew this day was coming and had feared it. Her avoidance did nothing to stop the devices inevitable demise. Fortunately, she had always been kind to the tech person, who found an iPad with a stand to replace her old machine.

Life returned to normal. The teacher learned to manage her new tool. She recharged it regularly. She learned to project landscape. She made the most of her new tool. But one thing perplexed her: Why was there a single port to attach the projector and the power cord? Without an answer to the question she carried on.

One day, the Monday after returning to Daylight Savings Time, the unthinkable happened: she was modeling writing for her students and the iPad died. Being a “just right at technology teacher” she rigged something that functioned satisfactorily. Suddenly, she heard a little voice.

“Oh Great Teacher,” the voice called, “Why don’t you just plug the power cord into the other port on the dongle?”

“Pardon, me?” she replied courteously, but authoritatively, “I don’t think it has a second port.”

“I think it might,” said the small voice, humbly but authoritatively.

The teacher, knowing her pupils to be digital natives looked at the dongle, which did indeed have a second port. The teacher plugged the power cord into the second port, recharged the iPad, and carried on, a little more wisdom in her salt & pepper head.

And she taught happily ever after.

This week’s book talks 5/22-25

26 May

We began our Ancient China unit so, I pushed books with some connection to that topic.

I started the week with Grace Lin and ended with Faith Erin Hicks.

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Goodreads Summary: In the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.

 

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Author’s Website: The moon is missing from the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to notice! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can’t help but notice the village’s peculiar inhabitants and their problems-where has the innkeeper’s son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know if his pet is a toad or a rabbit?

But one day, a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.

Newbery Honor author Grace Lin brings readers another enthralling fantasy featuring her marvelous full-color illustrations. Starry River of the Sky is filled with Chinese folklore, fascinating characters, and exciting new adventures.

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Goodreads Summary: Pinmei’s gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller.

Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide.

Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei’s grandmother–before it’s too late.

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Goodreads Summary: An unlikely friendship forms between Nameless City native Rat, and Kai, whose country has recently conquered her city.  The two of them must find common ground between their cultures and foil a sinister conspiracy.  Hicks has created a beautiful and intricate world inspired by Central Asia and the Silk Road in which the besieged inhabitants of an ancient city are desperate to learn the secrets of the perished civilization which carved the city out of living rock.

 

 

 

 

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Goodreads Summary:Kaidu and Rat have only just recovered from the assassination attempt on the General of All Blades when more chaos breaks loose in the Nameless City: deep conflicts within the Dao nation are making it impossible to find a political solution for the disputed territory of the City itself.

To complicate things further, Kaidu is fairly certain he’s stumbled on a formula for the lost weapon of the mysterious founders of the City. . . . But sharing it with the Dao military would be a complete betrayal of his friendship with Rat. Can Kai find the right solution before the Dao find themselves at war?

My new series obsession

14 Aug

At the YALSA Coffee Klatch at ALA, Marissa Meyer sat at our table and talked to us about the final novel in her Lunar Chronicles series,  Winter.

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I was intrigued because I’d seen the other books on my local library, but had never read them. I picked up the first book in the series, Cinder,  recently.I got the audiobook because all I am actually reading in book form right now are Morris eligible books.I am near the end of the third disc and have decided that this series is my new obsession. Since my new commute will be about 10 minutes longer this year, I will have extra listening time in the car, so I’ve already decided that my year-long project will be to listen to all the books in the series during my commute.

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In a nutshell, The Lunar Chronicles  are futuristic retellings of classic fairy tales. In CINDER, a teenage cyborg (half human, half machine) must deal with a wicked stepmother, start a rebellion against the evil Queen Levana, and decide how she feels about a handsome prince. As the series continues, Cinder forges alliances with Scarlet, a spaceship pilot who is determined to solve the mystery of a missing loved one — with the help of a magnetic street fighter named Wolf; Cress, a computer hacker who is imprisoned by Queen Levana; and Winter, a princess who’s in love with a commoner, and who discovers that Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress may hold the key to saving her kingdom — and the world.

Fortunately, my local library has the first 4 books in audiobook format. Winter  won’t be published until November, so I have time to take some audiobook detours away from this mission.

Modern myths and fairy tales

13 Jul

Finn was the only person who witnessed the kidnapping of  beautiful  Roza, at the spring festival. Finn O’Sullivan  is the main character of Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap.

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The story begins as if it were a realistic novel about the aftermath of a crime. But as we read this novel, we see glimpses of subtle magic and realize Bone Gap  is much, much more.

I started this book a few weeks ago and abandoned it. I decided to give it another chance and I am so glad I did. Roza hasn’t been kidnapped by an ordinary man. Finn can’t describe the kidnapper. Other characters, human and animal, seem to be just a bit shy of ordinary. Bone Gap appears to be an ordinary small town, complete bullies,eccentrics, rumors, affection, and intimacy. As Finn looks into Roza’s disappearance the book transitions seamlessly from ordinary to extraordinary.

The book has overtones of Greek mythology and fairy tales, none of it spelled out in detail. Ruby lets the reader draw on their one knowledge of these things and connect the dots. Whoever you imagine the kidnapper to be, you will not regret reading  Bone Gap.

Summer School

25 May

This week I handed out  summer school flyers. Summer school is completely optional, of course, though highly recommended for those receiving the “invitations”. There were definite groans. In his debut novel, Return to Augie Hobble, 

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Lane Smith introduces us to the eponymous character who failed his creative arts class and must redo his final project. His dad runs a seedy amusement park and Augie’s summer assignment there is collecting garbage. Augie’s summer is does not look promising. Smith takes this unpromising summer and shakes it up by adding a plan to run away, bullying, werewolves, missing pets, robbery, visions and government agents. With so many weird and wonderful things happening, the thread of the story could get lost, but Smith ties up loose threads and leads readers to a satisfying ending. This would make a great end of the year read aloud or a great book for upper elementary/lower middle school kids to read as they kick off summer vacation.

Ursula Le Guin and The Princess in Black

21 Nov

Did you see or hear Ursula Le Guin’s acceptance speech for the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards on November 19, 2014?

Like many people she was one of the first science fiction/fantasy writers I ever read.I was probably in my teens.  There certainly wasn’t much of anything science fiction or fantasy-like  for me before I was a teen.

Nowadays, there is so much more for kids. A nice little entry level book is The Princess in Black written  by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, and illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

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I have a girl in my class who is really into superheroes. This is a little young for her, but wouldn’t it have been great if this had been around when she was  in kindergarten or first grade!

Goodreads Summary:Who says princesses don’t wear black? When trouble raises its blue monster head, Princess Magnolia ditches her flouncy dresses and becomes the Princess in Black!

Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when . . . Brring! Brring! The monster alarm! A big blue monster is threatening the goats! Stopping monsters is no job for dainty Princess Magnolia. But luckily Princess Magnolia has a secret —she’s also the Princess in Black, and stopping monsters is the perfect job for her! Can the princess sneak away, transform into her alter ego, and defeat the monster before the nosy duchess discovers her secret? From award-winning writing team of Shannon and Dean Hale and illustrator LeUyen Pham, here is the first in a humorous and action-packed chapter book series for young readers who like their princesses not only prim and perfect, but also dressed in black.

If you know a young person who loves superheroes, this is a wonderful read for them. I also think it would be great to shake things up a little and see what ahoys would think about this book. It would pair nicely with Robert Munsch’s The Paperbag Princess. 

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I still smile thinking about the time I read it to a class of first graders. When we got to the end a sweet little girl named Mina had a look of horror on her face. That wasn’t the ending she was expecting. Success!

Poisoned Apples

17 Nov

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Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty  by Christine Heppermann wasn’t quite what I expected. From the little bit I’d read about it, I was under the impression it was a collection of poems based on fairy tales. Well, there are, but not in the way I expected.

Heppermann begins with the premise that all fairy tales are based on a real story. From that point,  she imagines what stories from today might be turned into fairy tales. Voilà!

This is a fantastic collection of  50 poems about modern teenage girls. The cruelties of fairy tales take on new forms.

From the Publisher: Cruelties come not just from wicked stepmothers, but also from ourselves. There are expectations, pressures, judgment, and criticism. Self-doubt and self-confidence. But there are also friends, and sisters, and a whole hell of a lot of power there for the taking. In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious. Complemented throughout with black-and-white photographs from up-and-coming artists, this is a stunning and sophisticated book to be treasured, shared, and paged through again and again.

These are not easy poems to read, but this might be the best collection of poetry I’ve read this year.

Eggs over easy

3 Oct

What’s the chance two books would have EGG in the title? Excellent, apparently.

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Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire, is a romp through Tsarist Russia.

From the publisher: Elena Rudina lives in the impoverished Russian countryside. Her father has been dead for years. One of her brothers has been conscripted into the Tsar’s army, the other taken as a servant in the house of the local landowner. Her mother is dying, slowly, in their tiny cabin. And there is no food. But then a train arrives in the village, a train carrying untold wealth, a cornucopia of food, and a noble family destined to visit the Tsar in Saint Petersburg — a family that includes Ekaterina, a girl of Elena’s age. When the two girls’ lives collide, an adventure is set in motion, an escapade that includes mistaken identity, a monk locked in a tower, a prince traveling incognito, and — in a starring role only Gregory Maguire could have conjured — Baba Yaga, witch of Russian folklore, in her ambulatory house perched on chicken legs

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald is an art mystery set in New York.

From the publisher: Only two people know about the masterpiece hidden in the Tenpenny home—and one of them is dead.

The other is Theodora Tenpenny. Theo is responsible for tending the family’s two-hundred-year-old town house, caring for a flock of unwieldy chickens, and supporting her fragile mother, all on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. So, when Theo discovers a painting in the house that looks like a priceless masterpiece, she should be happy about it. But Theo’s late grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and if the painting is as valuable as she thinks it is, then her grandfather wasn’t who she thought he was.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all over Manhattan and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

The Power of a Story

23 Jul

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The cover looked scary, so I almost rejected The Night Gardener  by Jonathan Auxier without opening it. When I did, I looked at the subject headings:

1. Ghosts – Fiction

2. Household employees – Fiction

3. Brothers and sisters  – Fiction

4, Orphans  – Fiction

5. Storytelling  – Fiction

6. Blessing and cursing  – Fiction

7. Dwellings  – Fiction

8. Horror stories

Number eight was worrisome because, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I have an aversion to scary stories. I have learned over time, however, many are not as scary as I fear. If you think of this list as you would an ingredients list on a food package, horror is only the 8th ingredient. Ghosts are first, but the things in between are not so bad.

So, I decided to give it a try, and like Mikey, I liked it. Do you remember Mikey?

Back to  The Night Gardener.

Molly and Kip, unaccompanied minors are driving their fish cart, pulled by their horse, Galileo, to a house everyone warns them not to go to. They feel they have no option. They are alone, unskilled, in a foreign country, and are willing to work for room and board. Molly does possess a very useful soil, aside from her willingness to work hard. She is a story-teller. The house they arrive isn’t what it seems. Something mysterious is happening and the family seems to be wasting away. The children encounter a mysterious stranger and an ancient curse. along the way, Molly tells stories and Kip wonders how a story differs from a lie. Molly thinks, “Both lies and stories involved saying things that weren’t true, but somehow the lies inside the stories felt true.” As the story unfolds, and Molly and Kip realize that they must end the curse and save the family, she elaborates:“A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens ‘em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide.”

I had a little trouble getting into the story at first. The drama unfolds slowly, but it is worth persevering. By the middle of the book, I was hooked and wanted to see how it would end. I don;t think this is a book I would read aloud in class, but I’d definitely recommend it to some of my students who love middle grade fiction. The book feels as old as a fairy tale and is very well written, aside from the Irish Brogue, which I think Auxier could have left out.

 

Flashback to 2008

9 Aug

Today is Fiona’s 5th Gotcha Day.  A Gotcha Day is the day a pet was adopted. Her are pictures of her the week I adopted her in 2008 and on her Gotcha Day last year.

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A lot has happened in the last 5 years. Both Fiona & I are a lot grayer. I began as a school librarian in September 2008. That job was eliminated in June 2002. Looking back at books from 2008, here are some I bought for the school library and used frequently or recommended to many kids. If you haven’t looked at any of these you should.

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee

How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams ,  written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet,

Garmann’s Summer , written and illustrated by Stian HoleMasterpiece by Elise Broach

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon & Dean Hale

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look

Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator by Sarah C. Campbell

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

What to Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!”  written by Barbara Kerley

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball  by Kadir Nelson

The Underneath  by Appelt, Kathi

Frogs by Nic Bishop

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek by Deborah Hopkinson

Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka

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