Monday, August 26, 2013

Disabled, not Weak
Middle school students can be pretty self-absorbed, but my students have also astonished me with the depths of their compassion for others.  It can be pretty daunting for a 12-year old to start up a conversation with someone with an obvious disability, but reading fiction written in the voice of the disabled helps build understanding.  For a while, I've noticed a trend in YA and middle school fiction, main characters with a disability who are strong either in spite of their physical or mental challenges or because of the daily challenges they master.

Last year, our 8th grade reading teacher read Wonder by R.J. Palacio to all 220 of her students.  It took weeks; she only sees them every other day and she kept their D.E.A.R. time for self-selected reading.  August's wish that people would just treat him like a regular kid and the tale of his first year in public school mesmerized the teenagers, and they protested loudly if there was not time to read each day. 

Selective mutism, a disorder in which a child who is physically capable of speech is unable to talk in some situations or circumstances, has shown up in several novels I read this summer for Book Boot Camp.  In The Silence of Murder, by
Dandi Daley Mackall, 18-year old Jeremy, who has not spoken for nine years, is accused of killing the town's high school baseball coach.  Since he will not speak in his own defense, his loyal and loving sister, Hope, must find a way to prove his innocence.  Selective mutism is also seen in main characters in Listening for Lucca, by Suzanne LaFleur, and If You Find Me, by Emily Murdoch.

An unusual book on this list is Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes.  It is a dystopian novel told in the voice of Clover, who is brilliant and autistic.  It is a typical apocalyptic YA novel; a virus wipes out most of the world, a vaccine is found to save the remnant who have not already succumbed to the deadly disease, and an authoritarian government/private company runs society.  The twist is that the vaccine came from exactly two years in the future, and the government keeps the homicide rate down to zero by executing anyone whose two-years-older future self commits murder.  Another twist is that the only people who can travel to the future are those who are autistic.  I don't think I've ever read a dystopian science fiction novel with an autistic main character who travels to the future.  

Our state book award nominees included The Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen, one of my favorite books this year.  Jessica is a track star at her high school, and she loves to run.  When a bus accident necessitates the amputation of her leg below the knee, Jessica believes her dream is over.  Her perseverance, the kindness of a new friend, a relationship with a girl with cerebral palsy, and a very understanding prosthetic designer help her find her way back after the accident. 

In Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible, fourteen-year-old Aiko Cassidy travels with her scupltor mom to Paris for a major exhibition.  Aiko has learned how to compensate for her mild cerebral palsy, but she'd just as soon be unnoticed.  She creates and prints a Manga comic, but shares it anonymously with her classmates.   Her dream is to be a Manga comic artist, and to one day meet her father, an indigo farmer in Japan.  What I loved about the novel is the romance between Aiko and a young French waiter she meets in Paris.  It was a component that is often missing in books about teens with disabilities. 

 My final book on this list is Paperboy by Vince Vawter.  The main character is a 12-year old living in Memphis in 1959.  The book opens with this attention getting line: "I'm typing about the stabbing for a good reason.  I can't talk.  Without stuttering." The boy stutters so severely that he thinks about everything before he says it.  He plans how to avoid words that are impossible for him, how to include "Gentle Air," as sort of hissing between words that makes it easier for him to speak, and sometimes he just doesn't say anything, because he knows that the words will not be there for him.   During the summer, he is covering his best friend's paper route and although he enjoys delivering the paper, he dreads the conversations that are required for collecting the subscribers' money.  Through him, we meet Mrs. Worthington, whose pretty smile frequently smells like whiskey, and Mr. Spiro, a merchant marine who collects and reads literature, and has the sensitivity and takes the time to get past the boy's disability and become a friend.  His most loyal listener is his family's housekeeper, whom he calls, Mam.   It was not until the last chapter that I learned what the paperboy's name was.  It is too hard for him to say, and he does everything he can to avoid having to pronounce it out loud.  This is a moving story, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, that made me think about those students in my school that stutter, whose words fail them when they try to make their voices heard, and whose audience frequently tries to guess what they are going to say so that the painful episode will be over.  

I put these titles and more into a poster to share with teachers and students at school.  If you are interested in more titles that fit this trend, there's a list at GoodReads: Children's Fiction with Positive Images of Disability.   

Friday, July 19, 2013

50 States of Middle Grade Lit

It's all Tamara's fault.  It usually is.

After this post from Epic Reads in October of last year, my colleague and fellow-trouble maker issued a challenge - create a USA map of middle grade titles with settings in all 50 states.  No problem, right? She created a Google spreadsheet and asked her followers to fill it with middle grade titles for each state. Then I told her I'd try to figure out how to get the map created.  It has only taken me eight months.  I was having trouble figuring out clipping masks in Photoshop Elements.  After a great Photoshop class this week provided free of charge by the South Carolina Department of Education, Office of Career and Technology Education, I finally learned how!

I tried to stick with books that are definitely middle grade, although a few YA titles have slipped in.  If I had the option of including a new title over an old one, I usually chose the new one except for The Outsiders and Something Upstairs, which are personal favorites.   A complete list of the titles I used is below the map. I'm thinking I could use this as a bulletin board, and have students add other titles to each state.   How many states have you read?  Can you make it all the way across the USA in middle grade books?

Since their United States of YA post, Epic Reads has been gathering titles for PLANET YA.  I wonder if a world map of YA will be forthcoming.  I think I need to keep practicing!

50 States of Middle Grade Lit

Alabama – Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Alaska – Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
Arizona -  Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata
Arkansas -  Fire from the Rock  by Sharon M. Draper
California – One Crazy Summer  by Rita Williams-Garcia
Colorado – The White Gates by Bonnie Ramthun
Connecticut – Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
Delaware – The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher
Florida – Chomp  by Carl Hiaasen
Georgia – Kira-kira by Cynthia Kadohata
Hawaii – Night of the Howling Dogs by Graham Salisbury
Idaho – The Sledding Hill by Chris Crutcher
Illinois – On the Day I Died by Candace Fleming
Indiana – Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani
Iowa – The Linden Tree  by Ellie Mathews
Kansas – Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Kentucky – Lena by Jacqueline Woodson
Louisiana – Ruined by Paula Morris
Maine – The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
Maryland – The Journey Back by Priscilla Cummings
Massachusetts – Million-Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica
Michigan – Hidden by Helen Frost
Minnesota – Summer of the Wolves by Polly Carlson-Voiles
Mississippi – Sources of Light by Margaret McMullan
Missouri – The Boneshaker by Kate Milford
Montana – Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann
Nebraska – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Nevada – Northward to the Moon  by Polly Horvath
New Hampshire – Love and Leftovers  by Sarah Tregay
New Jersey – I Survived The Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis
New Mexico – Kepler’s Dream by Juliet Bell
New York – P. S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
North Carolina – Crow by Barbara Wright
North Dakota – Wild Life  by Cythia DeFelice
Ohio – I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
Oklahoma – The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
Oregon – Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry
Pennsylvania – Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Rhode Island – Something Upstairs by Avi
South Carolina – Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
South Dakota – Go Big or Go Home by Will Hobbs
Tennessee – Paperboy by Vince Vawter
Texas – Illegal by Bettina Restrepo
Utah – Missing in Action by Dean Hughes
Vermont – The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner
Virginia – Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Washington – The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
West Virginia – Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
Wisconsin – One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
Wyoming – Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan

Friday, July 12, 2013

2014 Newbery Predictions

Last year I put together a poster for my teachers that included the novels that online reviewers were calling "possibles" for the 2013 Newbery.  I hung a copy over the couch in the reading area, and when the Newbery Awards were announced several students rushed to check it out.  The winner, The One and Only Ivan was on the poster, so were two of the three honorees.  You can see the poster here.
Like many, I was disappointed that Wonder was not on the list of honorees, but I loved The One and Only Ivan, so I got over it. 

Here is this year's 2014 Newbery Prediction poster:

I've used ThingLink to link each book cover to the Goodreads site for the title.  If you hover your mouse over the poster, you will also see links to my sources for the list. 

If you like it, you can download the poster from Flickr.

Check out these sites for 2014 Newbery Predictions:

Goodreads Group: Mock Newbery 2014 Discussion
SLJ -  Newbery/Caldecott 2014: The Spring Prediction Edition
SLJ - Newbery/Caldecott 2014: The Summer Prediction Edition
ALSC - Notable Children's Books Nominees

I'm hoping to get a group of students involved in a Mock 2014 Newbery Award project, complete with award viewing via the ALA Mid-Winter Meeting in January 2014.  These are the sites I'll be following to as the "possibles" are discussed. 

SLJ - Heavy Medal - A Mock Newbery Blog - follow this blog from September to January for discussions about "all things Newbery."
For Those About to Mock - A Mock Newbery Blog

The fact that a book appears on any of the above lists does not mean that it is even being considered by the committee, but this many teachers and librarians discussing the best in new literature for children provide great titles, even if they are not award winners.  

What 2013 titles would you add to this poster?  Which ones have you read that you would not include?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thank you TASL!

As mentioned in my previous post, The Librarians in the Middle went to Tennessee last week to participate in the Tennessee Association of School Librarians 2013 Summer Co-op.  Tamara, Kristen, and I were overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of the professionals who were in attendance, and were blessed with smooth sailing (well, driving) the entire week.

Karen Haggard, the brave soul in charge of putting this show together, did a great job of arranging venues, ordering lunches, coordinating for technology, scheduling presentations, and making sure that the three of us were comfortable in all of our travels.  The mark of a good organizer is that she makes it look easy, but I know that these two days of professional development represented many hours of planning and preparation from Karen and those who helped her in each city.  The librarians at each of the two school venues were gracious and concerned that all session presenters had everything they needed.

There and back again.
A few random thoughts:

I drove over 1,000 miles across the great state of Tennessee and back again.  The Google Map looks like a giant loop with a little tail into and out of western Tennessee.  Our starting point was the dot near Greenville, SC.

All parts of Tennessee are beautiful - the flat farmlands west of Nashville, the river basin in Chattanooga, and the mountains around Gatlinburg.  

Thank goodness for Kristen's phone because my GPS did not understand Nashville, at all!
Clean sheets!  Every night!

We stayed at four Hampton Inns, all of which had these sticky notes stuck to the bed headboards:
We were very glad that we rated clean sheets every night.

I was able to attend one session in Medina when I was not presenting.  It was on library programs, presented by Susan Harris, and left me with several ideas of activities that I want to try next year.  Susan said it was her first presentation.  I think she needs to plan to do more, it was great!

Karen put together the coolest gift bags for us as we were leaving.  I love bags full of goodies, and all of these came from businesses located in Tennessee.   Davidson Titles donated some nonfiction books and the bag, which has a great quote from Erasmus on it, "When I get a little money, I buy books, and if any is left, I buy food and clothes."

Goody bags!
Did you know that the first Coca-Cola bottling plant was in Tennessee?  Me, neither!  Martha White Flour became a sponsor of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948, and I've been cooking with that flour for over 35 years.  Little Debbie Cakes!  Pringles!  Moon Pies!  (I know, they are not in the photo.  The Moon Pies did not make it all the way back to South Carolina.  I ate them in Tennessee.)  According to Karen, Moon Pie began because "Tennesseans wanted something big, round, filled with marshmallow, and covered with chocolate, and it needs to be as big as the moon!"  Who wouldn't want that!

Remember TASL 2013 Summer Co-Op!

As we were leaving, Karen made sure that I had a pen that looked like an ear of corn and a Mason jar mug as a remembrance of my trip to the 2013 TASL Co-op.  In the jar was a business card with a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson that really speaks to me as a teacher and librarian.  "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." 

I hope that our presence at the Co-op planted some seeds.  I have some newbie Tennessee Twitter followers that I hope were influenced by the session about the power of PLN's.  I think we could have discussed Sacred Cows for hours, laugh at ourselves, and still come away thoughtfully provoked.  The keynote on The Care and Feeding of Administrators was fun to plan, but was intended to give everyone some food for thought.

This was a fun trip.  It was an honor to be invited, and I look forward to learning more from the librarians in Tennessee whom I met and who are now part of my PLN on Twitter.  It was a great start to summer professional development. Now it's time to hit that TBR stack beside my bed! #summerthrowdown starts July 1!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tennessee Association of School Librarians Co-op

I am so excited to be heading to Tennessee this week with Tamara and Kristen for the Tennessee Association of School Librarians Co-op!  Karen, the TASL professional development chair, has been so gracious via email and I am looking forward to meeting her and networking with librarians during two days, one in Gatlinburg and the other in Medina.  As Karen explained, Tennessee is a long state, and they repeat their summer professional development so participants can choose the more convenient site.

I'll be presenting two solo sessions.  "The first, What's a PLN, and Why Do I Want One?" I first shared at SCASL in March.  My personal learning network is responsible for saving my sanity, expanding my practice, and helping me to at least find the learning curve.  In one year, a great network of library professionals on Twitter, in the blogosphere, and via our state professional organization have helped revive my practice, and have made me a more effective librarian, as well as a much nicer person to be around. 

The presentation is below.

The other session I am presenting is "Sacred Cows - It's What's for Dinner!"  Inspired by many posts in the last year by librarians I admire who are questioning the practices that have led to our shushing stereotype, I'll reflect on our policies, procedures, and practices to determine whether they support our learning community goals, or just keep us in control of the herd. This was a fun session to create, and my partner-in-crime Tamara helped by putting together a Scoop-it topic.

Tamara, Kristen and I will also be presenting together at the general session.  The topic is, "The Care and Feeding of Administrators."  We will post that presentation at a later date. 

I'm looking forward to a wonderful week of travel, presenting, and meeting new members of our PLN.  When I get back, it will be time to start reading the books for our first Book Boot Camp chat! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I'm "Yapp"ing about #BookBootCamp

The seven South Carolina librarians who are putting together Middle Grade Book Boot Camp are gathering titles and getting our wiki together.  While doing that, I found an app via Librarians on the Fly that can keep all of our participants informed about the schedule, and provide a news feed via a Twitter hashtag. 

Yapp is a free online tool that allows you to create your own mobile app for important events that you want to share.  The design pages are easy to navigate.  Choose from several themes based on the type of activity you are promoting.  The app includes a homepage, invitation page, a page to include a schedule, a newsfeed for following a hashtag, and a gallery for photos that you want to share with the Yapp followers.  You can add extra pages to your app if you need them.  After you finish designing your app, you publish it and share it via a link or QR code.

This is great!  We have a year's worth of Twitter chats coming up, and we wanted to share the dates, the genres, the host for each chat, and the address for the wiki where the book lists are.  The newsfeed via our hashtag #bookbootcamp means that I don't miss any pertinent tweets. 

These are screenshots from my phone.  I downloaded the Yapp viewer, called Yappbox and entered the code of our Book Boot Camp Yapp.  

The schedule page has all of the dates for our chats.  If you click on the arrows pointing right you will see more details, including who is hosting the chat that month, their blog site, and a link to the wiki with a suggested reading list. 

 The News Feed follows your choice of Twitter hashtag. Most of our posts to the #bookbootcamp have been suggestions to each other of books we might want to add to our genre list, or to share a great title or list with other middle school librarians. 

If you need to edit your Yapp after you create it, that's easily done on the website.  When you publish it your followers get a prompt to update to the latest version.

If you want to follow our Middle Grade Book Boot camp via a Yapp, you can click on this link:

Of course, the app lends itself really well for major events like weddings, graduations, and family reunions,  but I think it would be great to use it for promoting events in the library.  What about a Yapp for your library events this year?  What would you include?  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The 2013 Shelf Challenge

School Library Month Shelf Challenge
It was half way through April before I picked up the 2013 Shelf Challenge, issued by The Busy Librarian.  I had a block of time free up from a cancellation in the library schedule and I love a challenge!  It makes sense to me.   These are the books my students browse every day, shouldn't I know what is on the shelf, too?

The idea is simple.  Pick a section in your library and read the dust jackets and summaries from every book in the section throughout the month of April.  (If a picture book section, read the whole book.)  I chose to read the section of fiction where the S authors live, simply because it was suggested in reason number 4.  Those shelves face away from the teaching area of the library, and I noticed they were crowded.  I also couldn't remember adding any new books there recently except Gary D. Schmidt, Maggie Steifvater, and Rebecca Stead, so I wanted to see how old it was looking.

The Book Who Lost It's Cover Image?
The first book I picked up was The Boy Who Lost His Face, 1989 humor by Louis Sachar.   This book belongs at Awful Library Books, not on my shelves. There are water stains on it.  Who put it on the shelf with water stains?  Is it any wonder that no one has checked it out since before 2007?  I wanted to wash my hands after I picked it up!

I pulled a circulation report and found I had 40 books in the S authors that had not circulated since 2007 when we switched to Follett Destiny.  I took a deep breath and began the challenge again, in earnest.   I have allowed myself the option of skipping reading the summary of books I decide to weed, but so far have read them anyway. I'm glad I read Mrs. Yingling's post about the agony of weeding.  I know there is someone else out there making hard decisions about which of a beloved author's (Zilpha Keatley Snyder!) titles to keep. 

This is going to take more than a day, but I have the rest of April.  I'll let you know how I'm progressing. Why don't you take the challenge? You can join up here