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Hey, Reader

6 Aug

I cry over books all the time. In fact, when I give a book talk, I tell the kids f it made me cry. It’s like a thumbs up signal. Very rarely do I cry over the back matter in a book, but I did for Jarrett J.  Krosoczka’s upcoming graphic memoir Hey, Kiddo.

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Publisher’s Summary: In kindergarten, Jarrett Krosoczka’s teacher asks him to draw his family, with a mommy and a daddy. But Jarrett’s family is much more complicated than that. His mom is an addict, in and out of rehab, and in and out of Jarrett’s life. His father is a mystery — Jarrett doesn’t know where to find him, or even what his name is. Jarrett lives with his grandparents — two very loud, very loving, very opinionated people who had thought they were through with raising children until Jarrett came along.
Jarrett goes through his childhood trying to make his non-normal life as normal as possible, finding a way to express himself through drawing even as so little is being said to him about what’s going on. Only as a teenager can Jarrett begin to piece together the truth of his family, reckoning with his mother and tracking down his father.
Hey, Kiddo is a profoundly important memoir about growing up in a family grappling with addiction, and finding the art that helps you survive.

The book is honest and powerful and made even more so by the images of real drawings and letters from the author and several family members that are integrated effectively into the book. The palette choice is muted earth tones, and the back matter explains the colors were chosen.  Let’s just say I wasn’t the only one with a hanky. And I shouldn’t be the only one who reads – and cries over – the back matter.

There is some strong language and issues around addiction, but I feel very confident about putting this in my classroom library.

The book doesn’t come out until October, but you hear Jarrett tell his story in this TED Talk from a few years ago.

 

 

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Meet my new friend, Crafty Cat

31 May

I am a hardcore monogamous crafter. I knit. It is my only craft.

My new friend, Crafty Cat, is multi-craftual.

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I first met her in The Amazing Crafty Cat.

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Publisher’s Summary:Sometimes school can be scary and even embarrassing, but not today. Today is Birdie’s birthday, and everything will be perfect! Birdie’s panda-riffic cupcakes are beautiful, and there’s one for everyone. She will be the star of the class. But then . . . disaster! A trip and fall on the way to school means no more cupcakes! Who can save the day? Who can make the class smile again? This is a job for Birdie’s alter ego . . . the Amazing Crafty Cat!

After a quick transformation, Birdie is ready. She’s not afraid of sticky paws or paper cuts. She’s not afraid of anything, even Anya, the class bully. It’s time to get crafting!

I got to know her a little better in Crafty Cat and the Crafty Camp Crisis.

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Publisher’s Summary: Second grade isn’t always a breeze for Birdie. There are just so many opportunities to embarrass herself! But Birdie’s got a secret weapon that nobody knows about—her alter-ego, Crafty Cat! Birdie can become Crafty Cat without anyone noticing, and she always manages to get herself out of a jam using her awesome crafting skills! When Birdie goes to a day-camp for crafting, she knows she’s going to have a great time and be the best in the group. But when things go wrong, can Crafty Cat help Birdie set them right?

And I learned a lot more about her (and friendship) in Crafty Cat and the Great Butterfly Battle.

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Publisher’s Summary: Everyone in Miss Domino’s class is excited about the school play and its lead role, the super-sparkly butterfly. Birdie knows she’d be perfect for the part—unfortunately, she’s not the only one who feels that way. Eight other classmates also want the starring role. And even worse, one of them is Anya! And doesn’t Anya always seem to get her way?

Who can save the day? Crafty Cat! As her alter-ego, Birdie can craft her way out of any disaster. With tape, tissue paper, and her can-do spirit, Birdie will find a way to shine on stage.

From Just Grace and Fashion Kitty author Charise Mericle Harper, the Crafty Cat series is a hilarious, charming, and sweet new graphic novel trilogy for elementary-age readers about a little girl who can craft her way out of any situation. Each volume includes fun and simple instructions for do-it-yourself crafting activities.

 

Summer reading 2018 – the first post

7 May

Although I still have six and a half weeks of school to go, my mind is already turning to summer reading. What is more stereotypically summery than summer camp?

I only went to Girl Guide camp once. It was the summer between grades 7 & 8 and about 4 of us went from our small-town troop. We shared the same tent and I have very fond memories (and one really funny one) of the whole thing.

Vera Brosgol’s experience wasn’t as great and she uses her memories of camp to tell a less pleasant experience in Be Prepared.

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Publisher’s Summary: In Be Prepared, all Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.

Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!

In writing class, my students have been working on theme-based essays, turning the protagonist’s life lesson into a universal. Brosgol does that exceedingly well. Although Vera’s camp is centered around Russian scouting, it speaks to the universal desire we all feel to fit in.

 

A great graphic novelization

9 Apr

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Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, based on her personal experience of being raped when she was a teenager, first appeared in 1999.

It won  the 1999 National Book Award and the 2000 Printz Award, among many others. It has also been challenged in a number of schools around the country because of the difficult subject matter.

 

 

download-1Now, almost twenty years later, the original story has been  reproduced as a graphic novel, illustrated by Emily Carroll.

The use of grayscale for the illustrations is the right choice for this book, given Melinda’s state of mind through most of the book. In this age where women are speaking up about their experiences of sexual assault, a new audience will have a chance to encounter this powerful story in a new way and learn the importance of having a voice and speaking up.

The dead shall speak

26 Feb

Trayvon Martin was killed six years ago today.

He is just one of many young black people, violently killed by people in power, mentionedin the powerful graphic novel  I Am Alfonso Jones, written by Tony Medina and illustrated by Stacey Robinson & John Jennings.

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Publisher’s Summary: Alfonso Jones can’t wait to play the role of Hamlet in his school’s hip-hop rendition of the classic Shakespearean play. He also wants to let his best friend, Danetta, know how he really feels about her. But as he is buying his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun, and he shoots Alfonso.

When Alfonso wakes up in the afterlife, he’s on a ghost train guided by well-known victims of police shootings, who teach him what he needs to know about this subterranean spiritual world. Meanwhile, Alfonso’s family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice for Alfonso in the streets. As they confront their new realities, both Alfonso and those he loves realize the work that lies ahead in the fight for justice.

In the first graphic novel for young readers to focus on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, as in Hamlet, the dead shall speak—and the living yield even more surprises

Although choppy in places, the book does a great job showing how the press and the justice system work against young people like Alfonso.

Many of my students are still a bit too young to pick up The Hate You Give  or Dear Martin,  but I think many of them would pick up I Am Alfonso Jones. I hope they do.

Some graphic novels

2 Oct

There is always an audible gasp when I tell my class that my least favorite genre is graphic novels.

I explain that I am not a visual learner; I am a verbal learner. We are rare. I learn from the words I see and hear. It is not that I don’t need or enjoy pictures – I just prefer the words.

Once, during independent reading time, I watched they eyes of a student as he read a graphic novel. He spent much longer on the page than I would have and his eyes roamed back and forth all over the page, taking in the details I would probably miss. It was enlightening and helped me understand what makes graphic novels so appealing to kids.

Recently, I came across two graphic novels my kids might enjoy.

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Publisher’s Summary: Every night, tiny lights appear out of the darkness in Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning she brings them back to life in her whimsical drawings. When a mysterious new girl appears at school, Sandy’s drawings are noticed for the first time… but Morfie’s fascination with Sandy’s talent soon turns into something far more sinister.

Blending the reality of a strict Catholic school with a young girl’s boundless imagination, Nightlights is a beautiful story about fear, insecurity, and creativity, from the enchanting mind of Lorena Alvarez.

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From the Series Website: Meet Rickety Stitch…a walking, talking, singing skeleton bard.

He’s the one skeleton in the dungeon who seems to have retained his soul, and he has no idea why.

Rickety’s only clue to his former identity, is a song he hears in his dreams, an epic bard’s tale about the Road to Epoli and the land of Eem.

Madly reading through the last weeks of summer

14 Aug

I’ve had this pile of books sitting around. Maybe I have more than one pile.

Here are two truths about my book piles:

  1. They are not stagnant. Books come and books go.
  2. They are shrinking.

I’ve been blitzing through my piles, trying to get as many books read before I have to go back to school.

While at ALA, I got arcs of two graphic novels, aimed at two different demographics, but both are the first in a series.

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The Sand Warrior is geared to a middle school audience and my arc will end up in my classroom library,

Publisher’s Summary: The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves—and more to their worlds—than meets the eye. . . .

• The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.

• A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.

• Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

 

As with most of his books, Scott Westerfeld’s The Spill Zone is geared to an older audience. There is some language and activity in the book that will keep me from putting it in my 6th grade classroom library, but I can imagine teens connecting with the main characters.

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Publisher’s Summary: Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone.

The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn’t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone’s twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death—or worse.

When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits—and it seems to be calling Addison’s name.

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