Sunday, July 31, 2011

Module 9: Poetry/Short Stories

Title: Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars

Author: Doug Florian

Bibliography: Florian, Douglas. Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2007. Print.

Summary: A collection of poems and illustrations about all things space: including a different poem for each planet.

Reviews: School Library Journal (July 1, 2007)
Gr 1-5-Nothing gladdens the heart of believers in good poetry for children more than a new collection by Florian, whose verses and paintings consistently capture the essence of his featured themes. This one literally sings the music of the spheres. Twenty playfully lyrical poems treat topics such as the universe, the individual planets, constellations, and black holes. Each selection is presented on its own spread and adorned with a magical painting done in gouache, collage, and rubber stamps on brown paper. Circles abound in the artwork, and many pages have round cut-outs that lead into the next picture. For example, "the earth" ("Two-thirds water./One-third land./Valleys deep./Mountains grand") is illustrated with a colorful globe decorated with circled collage prints of animals and plants. A smaller orb appears nearby, made from a cut-out circle that reveals part of the illustration for the next selection, "the moon." Some of the paintings incorporate mythological names and images. The pleasing blend of faded shades and brilliant colors, of old-fashioned prints and fanciful sketches, makes the illustrations seem both antique and high-tech. An appended "Galactic Glossary" provides additional information. In both language and artwork, Florian strikes the perfect balance between grandeur and whimsy. Like Myra Cohn Livingston and Leonard Everett Fisher's Space Songs (Holiday House, 1988; o.p.), this book is a work of art worthy of the vastness of its subject.-Kathleen Whalin, York Public Library, ME Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Impressions: Considering my three-year-old is on a big space kick right now from watching Wall-E a few too many times, we both enjoyed this book thoroughly. I really liked the poems, and how they were written (spacing and font) while my daughter enjoyed all the different illustrations of the planets and how each page was incorporated into the next.

Activities:This book would be a excellent add-on to a unit on space. After reading the poems and showing the pictures, you could have students draw pictures of space incorporating their own poems into the pictures.

Title: Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd

Author: Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci

Bibliography: Black, Holly, and Cecil Castellucci. Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd. New York: Little, Brown and, 2009. Print.

Summary:  A collection of short stories from famous authors such as Holly Black, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Scott Westerfield (a few of my favorites) about all things geek. 

Reviews: School Library Journal (August 1, 2009)
Gr 9 Up-From Trekkers to science geeks, Buffy fanatics to Dungeon Masters, nerds of all persuasions are sure to find themselves in the pages of this anthology. It contains fun reads such as Black and Castellucci's "Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All the Way" in which a Klingon wakes with a Jedi in her hotel room while at a sci-fi convention, and Tracy Lynn's "One of Us," in which a cheerleader enlists the school nerds to teach her the basics of geekdom so she can impress her Trekker boyfriend. The collection also includes more profound fare such as Kelly Link's moving and masterful "Secret Identity" about a 15-year-old girl who has pretended to be her 32-year-old sister on an online RPG. She must face the consequences of her lies when she arranges to meet the man with whom she has developed a relationship. Also included are stories by YA lit greats such as John Green, Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld, and M. T. Anderson. Each story is followed by a comic-book-style illustration offering information or advice such as "What Your Instrument Says About You" and "How to Look Cool and Not Drool in Front of Your Favorite Author." Simultaneously addressing the isolation and loneliness that geeks can feel as well as the sense of camaraderie and community that can be found when one embraces a world or ideology in which he or she can completely invest, Geektastic is a completely dorky and utterly worthwhile read.-Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Impressions: I thoroughly enjoyed this book, not only for the fact that it included several of my favorite authors (Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Holly Black) but also because the stories were humorous and easy to read. I will admit there were several "not-so-short" short stories, but the comics in between each story were funny as well.

Activities: This book could be displayed as part of a Geek display including graphic novels, science fiction books, and nonfiction books on space, Star Wars, etc. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Module 8: Mystery and Series Books

Title: Where is the Big Bad Wolf?

Author: Eileen Christelow

Bibliography: Christelow, Eileen. Where's the Big Bad Wolf? New York: Clarion, 2002. Print.

Summary: Detective Doggedly is after the Big Bad Wolf but instead keeps finding Eleanor the sheep. Eleanor befriends the three little pigs and talks them into building a house of of straw, then out of sticks. But each time the house is blown down, when the detective goes to investigate, all he finds is Eleanor the sheep pulling the pigs to safety.

Reviews: School Library Journal (September 1, 2002)
Gr 1-2-A determined Detective Doggedly pursues the elusive BBW (Big Bad Wolf) in a delicious parody of the traditional tale. Three dim-witted and naive pigs, a wolf with a taste for unusual costuming, and three sharp-eyed residents of the nearby "Home for Elderly Cows" create a mystery worthy of the slightly befuddled detective: who is destroying the pigs' houses, when the wolf is currently hospitalized with mysterious flulike symptoms? Doggedly catches the culprit, but one doubts that this "egg-snatching, pie-pinching, chicken-chasing, pig-poaching" villain is ready to change his habits when released. Christelow's pen-and-ink and gouache cartoons show sticks and straw flying across pages, the not-too-bright protagonist, and a hilarious wolf in sheep's clothing. Characters comment on all the goings-on in dialogue balloons that add to the fun and humor. Pair this book with Jon Scieszka's True Story of the Three Little Pigs (Viking, 1989), another choice for lovers of fractured tales.-Mary Elam, Forman Elementary School, Plano, TX Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Impressions: I enjoyed reading this book to my three-year-old who was already pretty familiar with The Three Little Pigs. While she was a little young, and didn't catch all the clues (I had to point out the picture of the wolf climbing back in the window of the hospital), overall she enjoyed the story. I think this would be a great book to read to an elementary school audience.

Activities:Use Where is the Big Bad Wolf? with other books that are a play on fairy tales and then have students write their own version of a famous fairy tale.

Title: The Body of Christopher Creed

Author: Carol Plum-Ucci

Bibliography: Plum-Ucci, Carol. The Body of Christopher Creed. San Diego: Harcourt, 2000. Print.

Summary: When Christopher Creed, the annoying kid that every one grew up with but no one liked, disappears in the middle of the week, the entire town is in shock. Every one wonders why a spoiled kid with super strict parents would run away, or worse. When Victor "Torey" Adams is named in Chris's "suicide" note" he begins to investigate the disappearance.

Reviews:  First-time novelist Plum-Ucci wraps a well-crafted mystery... builds to a fever pitch enar the conclusion, vividly describing Torey's late-night hunt for Chris's body in a nearby Indian burial ground. Readers will likely be enthralled. -Publisher's Weekly

Impressions: This book started out rather slow, what should have normally took me a few days to read, took me about a week just to get through the first hundred pages. After that point the story really picks up and the book is difficult to put down.

Activities: After introducing the novel and reading the first four chapters, students will make guesses on the conclusion of the mystery. Students will analyze the mystery, and use text evidence to find all of the clues that lead to their conclusion.

Module 7: Informational Nonfiction/Biography

Title: What if You Met a Pirate

Author: Jan Adkins

Bibliography: Adkins, Jan. What If You Met a Pirate?: an Historical Voyage of Seafaring Speculation. Brookfield, Ct.: Roaring Brook, 2004. Print.

Summary: Forget the peg legs and walking the plank, this book gives the real story of real pirates in history. Everything from Queen Elizabeth's Seadogs to the real Pirate Blackbeard. This book tells about pirate ships, pirate treasure, and pirate attacks.

Reviews: Booklist starred (October 15, 2004 (Vol. 101, No. 4))
Gr. 3-5. Can it be that walking the plank was a fictional punishment invented by illustrator Howard Pyle? In this appealing book, Adkins gives readers the lowdown on what life under the pirate flag was really like. After setting up the conventional portrait of swaggering, singing sailors in colorful duds, he replaces it with a more realistic picture of hard-working sailors who "might swashbuckle just a few hours each month"and bathed considerably less. Yet this realistic portrayal of pirates and their activities is even more intriguing than the romanticized version he debunks. Adkins strikes just the right note in the text, always informative and frequently entertaining as well. Bright with color washes, the excellent, energetic drawings show pirates engaged in a variety of activities, from pumping out the bilge to braiding each other's hair to using the open-air bathroom at the front of the ship. In a send-up of current book marketing, the back cover carries appreciative comments by the likes of Queen Elizabeth I and Leonardo da Vinci. Where pirate fever runs high this spirited presentation will find an enthusiastic audience. For more titles, see the Read-alikes, "Ship Ahoy!"[BKL S 1 04].

Impressions:Overall, I enjoyed this book. The pictures were great and the information was told in a humorous way, with cute little anecdotes about all things pirate. If I hadn't completed my nonfiction project over this particular book, I never would have realized it; but the author has no qualifications to write about pirates, nor does he mention any consultants in writing the book. Therefore I have to question the validity of the information presented.

Activities: Students will use this book along with several other informational books to create a Power Point over a topic of their own interest. The Power Point will then be "taught" to the class while they take Cornell Notes over the topic.

Title: Starry Messenger

Author: Peter Sis

Bibliography: Sís, Peter, Lilian Rosenstreich, and Robert L. Egolf. Starry Messenger: a Book Depicting the Life of a Famous Scientist, Mathematician, Astronomer, Philosopher, Physicist, Galileo Galilei. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996. Print.

Summary:This book tells the life story of Galileo Galilei, the famous Italian astronomer. Explores Galileo's idea that the earth was not the center of the universe and the trials he went through to prove it.

Reviews: School Library Journal (October 1996)
Gr 1-6--In Follow the Dream (Knopf, 1991), Sis depicted both the humanity and heroism of Christopher Columbus. In Starry Messenger, Sis turns his considerable talents to another infamous Italian--Galileo Galilei. He layers his telling so that young children or groups may focus on the short version printed in large type at the bottom of each page. Older readers will glean more from the quotes pulled from the astronomer's treatise (the work that inspired this title) and other primary sources, such as Inquisition documents. This second layer is printed in script and presented in a variety of decorative patterns (suggesting ideograms) to distinguish it. The sophisticated details of Sis's watercolor, pen, and rubber-stamp illustrations provide yet another dimension as well as ambiance. A master of symbol, the artist creates scenes that focus on the subject--"a boy born with stars in his eyes"--and shows how he shines against the darker aspects of his time. The aging scientist stands alone in a circle of yellow light, suggesting his identification with the heliocentrism for which he was being condemned, surrounded by a sea of red-clad Cardinals. The text is no less powerful: "He was tried in the Pope's court, and everyone could see that the stars had left his eyes." The pathos, the painstaking copies of Galileo's famous sketches of the heavens, and the attention to current scholarship make this book a fascinating find. Leonard Everett Fisher's Galileo (S & S, 1992) is a useful companion for a more straightforward approach.--Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg, PA

Impressions: I liked this book because it could be used with a large audience. Each page included a basic text, but also other information including quotes and facts about Galileo that could be further read by an older audience. The illustrations and information were fascinating.

Activities: Students will use this book along with several other biographies to study the lives of an important person in history and then create a scrapbook over their lives.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Module 6: Historical Fiction

Title: Esperanza Rising

Author: Pam Munoz Ryan

Bibliography: Ryan, Pam Muñoz. Esperanza Rising. New York: Scholastic, 2000. Print.

Summary: Esperanza is a rich twelve-year-old who lives in Mexico on her parents' grape plantation. She is used to wearing the finest dresses and being waited on by servants, until one day her father is killed and her house is burnt down. In order to escape a horrible life of being sent off to a private school, Esperanza and her mother must secretly travel to California with a family of their servants. Esperanza gets to America, "the land of opportunity" only to live in a two room shack with no running water, dirty clothes, the same food every day. Esperanza must learn to sweep, take care of babies, and end up packing vegetables with the older women in order to take care of her sick mother and keep what little things they have. 

Reviews: School Library Journal (October 2000)
Gr 6-9-Ryan uses the experiences of her own Mexican grandmother as the basis for this compelling story of immigration and assimilation, not only to a new country but also into a different social class. Esperanza's expectation that her 13th birthday will be celebrated with all the material pleasures and folk elements of her previous years is shattered when her father is murdered by bandits. His powerful stepbrothers then hold her mother as a social and economic hostage, wanting to force her remarriage to one of them, and go so far as to burn down the family home. Esperanza's mother then decides to join the cook and gardener and their son as they move to the United States and work in California's agricultural industry. They embark on a new way of life, away from the uncles, and Esperanza unwillingly enters a world where she is no longer a princess but a worker. Set against the multiethnic, labor-organizing era of the Depression, the story of Esperanza remaking herself is satisfyingly complete, including dire illness and a difficult romance. Except for the evil uncles, all of the characters are rounded, their motives genuine, with class issues honestly portrayed. Easy to booktalk, useful in classroom discussions, and accessible as pleasure reading, this well-written novel belongs in all collections.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Impressions:This book was always recommended to my ELL students by our school's reading interventionist. I even own a copy in my class library, but never got the chance to read it. I thought the story was interesting, and even more so when I found out that it was actually written about the author's grandmother. Its nice to consider a different point of view.

Activities: Students will write a paper about a time when they have overcome a difficult situation and how their life has benefited because of it.

Title: Al Capone Does My Shirts

Author: Gennifer Choldenko

Bibliography: Choldenko, Gennifer. Al Capone Does My Shirts. New York: Puffin, 2004. Print.

Summary: Matthew "Moose" Flannigan comes to live on Alcatraz Island when his father gets a job as an electrician/guard. He loves to play baseball, but comes to find out that none of the other children on the Island play, and ends up spending most of his time taking care of his "ten year old" sister, Natalie. Natalie has a form of autism, which during this time period is undiagnosed, and most of the story tells of the struggle of her family to adapt to her sickness. Moose is one of the only children on the Island, other than the Warden's daughter, Piper, that leaves the Island to go to school in San Francisco. Piper gets Moose in trouble when she puts together a laundry scheme where the kids at school pay a nickel to have their clothes washed by the convicts on the Island, including Al Capone. Moose tries to stay out of trouble, but its not easy when you live on an island full of convicts.

Reviews: School Library Journal (March 1, 2004)
Gr 6-8-In this appealing novel set in 1935, 12-year-old Moose Flanagan and his family move from Santa Monica to Alcatraz Island where his father gets a job as an electrician at the prison and his mother hopes to send his autistic older sister to a special school in San Francisco. When Natalie is rejected by the school, Moose is unable to play baseball because he must take care of her, and her unorthodox behavior sometimes lands him in hot water. He also comes to grief when he reluctantly goes along with a moneymaking scheme dreamed up by the warden's pretty but troublesome daughter. Family dilemmas are at the center of the story, but history and setting-including plenty of references to the prison's most infamous inmate, mob boss Al Capone-play an important part, too. The Flanagan family is believable in the way each member deals with Natalie and her difficulties, and Moose makes a sympathetic main character. The story, told with humor and skill, will fascinate readers with an interest in what it was like for the children of prison guards and other workers to actually grow up on Alcatraz Island.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Impressions:I enjoyed this book not only for the historical mentions of Al Capone, but also the inside look at autism and how it was perceived in the 1930s. I think students would enjoy reading this and seeing how different life was from this time period to our own.

Activities: Students will write a paper about a real time from their past when they put together a scheme and were caught, or how they got away with it. What were the consequences or benefits of their actions?