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Halloween is in the air

22 Oct

My costume is ready and – spoiler alert –  I won’t be a ghost or a vampire. They are, however,  the topics of two fun (middle school aged) graphic novels I read this weekend.

In Sheets by Brenna Thummler, one of the main characters is a ghost. The other is a girl holding her grieving family together. This is a serious story of loneliness, grief and invisibility.

Marjorie Glatt feels like a ghost. A practical thirteen-year-old in charge of the family laundry business, her daily routine features unforgiving customers, unbearable P.E. classes and laundry…always, always laundry.

Wendell is a ghost. A boy who lost his life much too young, his daily routine features ineffective death therapy, a sheet-dependent identity, and a dangerous need to seek purpose in the forbidden human world.

Find out what happens when their worlds collide.

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner, is sweet, funny, and chock full of Twilight  references.  It is about fandom and first crushes. All I have to say is, are you sure you teachers are what they say they are?

Publisher’s Summary: It’s the beginning of the new school year and AJ feels like everyone is changing but him. He hasn’t grown or had any exciting summer adventures like his best friends have. He even has the same crush he’s harbored for years. So AJ decides to take matters into his own hands. But how could a girl like Nia Winters ever like plain vanilla AJ when she only has eyes for vampires?

When AJ and Nia are paired up for a group project on Transylvania, it may be AJ’s chance to win over Nia’s affection by dressing up like the vamp of her dreams. And soon enough he’s got more of Nia’s attention than he bargained for when he learns she’s a slayer.

Now AJ has to worry about self-preservation while also trying to save everyone he cares about from a real-life threat lurking in the shadows of Spoons Middle School.

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Carry on, Plumdog

11 Oct

Emma Chichester Clark has a new Plumdog book out. It was a delight to sit down and year how Plumdog’s year went. She has such a wonderful perspective on the world and the events around her.

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Publisher’s Summary: In 2014 Cape published Plumdog, a year’s worth of entries from Emma Chichester Clark’s blog of the same name which records the daily life of Plum, her dog, in Plum’s own words and Emma’s delightful illustrations. It was seized on by dog lovers everywhere and became the bestselling book written by a dog of that year … indeed quite possibly since records began.

Another Year of Plumdog is exactly what it says: another year of leaping, catching balls, diving into rivers, puddles, the North Sea, and hanging out with friends.

Yes, it is a dog diary but there is social commentary to. Each entry is a delight to read for dog lovers of all ages. The borders edging every page add to this wonderful book, making it a delight to spend time with.

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I read it snuggled next to Lucy, who has never had as many exciting adventures as Plumdog. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to mind.

 

3 Oct

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I first saw the cover on Twitter and, even then, not knowing much about Check Please, I knew I wanted to read it. I waited a few months for it to appear in my local public library’s catalogue. As soon as it did, I placed a hold.

It finally came and I brought it to school because I was hoping to talk about it with my kids. I did, but not for the reasons I thought.

You remember that old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover. Well, despite the cute cover – and cute illustrations throughout – this book is really not for 6th graders. The main character is a college freshman. There is some drinking and cussing and some mature themes. I held the book up for them to see and they all agreed it looked really appealing. I told them why I wouldn’t add it to our classroom library. And I told them that I bet some parent or grandparent somewhere will pick this book up for a middle or upper elementary school-age reader and someone will end up shocked. There isn’t anything really graphic, most of the mature stuff is implied. I told them I hoped they’d read it when they were a little older.

It was a very enjoyable graphic novel. It has an online presence and you can read some of it at this link: CHECK PLEASE!

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Eric Bittle may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It is nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking (anything that hinders the player with posession of the puck, ranging from a stick check all the way to a physical sweep). And then, there is Jackhis very attractive but moody captain.

A collection of the first half, freshmen and sophmore year, of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life. This book includes updated art and a hilarious, curated selection of Bitty’s beloved tweets.

A sequel, Check Please! Sticks and Scones is expected next year. I look forward to reading it…at home.

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.

 

 

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.

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