Friday, March 12, 2010

I decided to take some time off from grading - it is Spring break after all - and start going through my books and get them in order. Right now I am focusing on getting the debut titles in alphabetical order as well as the books that are intriguing me and the ones by favorite authors. There are a few I've read everything they ever wrote. :-) Alex Flinn is one and right now I am re-reading Beastly as it is required reading in my YA literature course. I am still cracking up over the chatroom messages from Froggie - he is not at all happy about having to live in a pond - his stuff keeps floating away! The chatroom is the brain child of a psychologist who wants to help the ones who have been transformed. There is mermaid who decides to become human and lose her voice for the guy she saves from drowning, a frog prince, a bear, and Kyle, who goes by NYCBeast. This is a delightful modern version of Beauty and the Beast and I'm enjoying revisiting his transformation into a young man who actually cares about others.

As I was doing my stretches this morning while watching the Today Show I was delighted to see Mike Lupica as one of the guests. He was promoting his latest sports novel The Batboy about a 14 year old who gets to hang out with his idols who play for the home town major league team. This is more than just a boy and his favorite sport type of book - it is also about a man redeeming himself with his son for having used steroids in his baseball career. Lupica said he was at a Broadway show and a woman politely tapped him on the shoulder and told him she was a school librarian and said she couldn't keep his books on the shelves. She went on to say boys who were resistant readers were the ones reading his books. I had to smile as I hear him say that. We are the authors' biggest fans and supporters! :-) So, there I was this morning, going through my books and finally found the copy of Lupica's Miracle on 49th Street about a 12-year-old girl who confronts a Celtics MVP that he is her father. His college sweetheart, her mother, never told him and she has recently died from cancer. Caring for no one but himself, the thought of a daughter doesn't set well with him, but Molly doesn't give up easy. The hardback copy, which is is what is in front of me, has Molly sitting on a bench in what appears to be Central Park, with a basketball by her side. Looks like a book for girls who like sports. Don't know too many middle school boys who would pick it up. No surprise that the paperback edition has the same kind of miracle snowy look background, but it is of a basketball being spun on a finger. I imagine the girl on the cover turned away too many of Lupica's MS male readers. Often the paperback covers are much more "generic" than the hardback one. Sales is the bottom line and tweens/teens are visual. If the cover doesn't get their attention they are not going to pick up the book.

I am also having a great time going through the Nonfiction books I've not had time to enjoy - I had to chuckle as I picked up a title in the Capstone series - Killers Animals. Hippos in the Wild by Jody Sullivan Rake. I had not thought of hippos as deadly but the picture of a huge hippo - mouth open (can be as wide as 4 feet) with one tusk looking deadly sharp I have changed my mind before I've even opened the book! The book is full of hippo facts, including some that will have elementary age boys laughing aloud - male hippo will turn they butts to each other and poop on each other! That's taking it a bit father than the pi-- on you type comments of posturing males! Like most all of Capstone's books - a wealth of bold color photographs and high interest short bits of text on each page.

Never enough community helpers and career books in elementary schools - we start the career units early these days! I am sure there are lots of kids who wonder what the toilet looks like in a jail's holding cell. Well, they can find out in Beyond the Bars: Exploring the Secrets of a Police Station by Tammy Enz. This is one of the Hidden Worlds series. Others covers hospitals, shopping malls, and sports stadiums. As always, Capstone goes for the high interest topics. That's why boys gravitate toward their books and why we hand them to the kid who sits in the library and refuses to look at anything!

Lots and lots of new bios on President Obama but Jennifer L. Marks' Presidente/President Barack Obama is the first early picture book style bio I've seen that is bilingual. Wonderful full page photographs but the best part of this book is the Spanish/English time line that runs along the bottom of the pages that only goes up to the point in his life the information on the double page spread covers. It's one of the Pebble Plus Bilingual series.

Another title in this series is El Ejercito De EE.UU./The U.S. Army by Matt Doeden I picked this one up because so many of my students are either married to men in the military or someone in their family is in the military. I wanted to see where the author got his information from. When I am asked about evaluating nonfiction titles I tell students the first thing to look for is the author's credentials and if it doesn't appear he/she has the credentials needed in the subject area, check to see who did he/she consult with. The consultant on this book is John Grady, the Director of Communications with the Association of the United States Army. This reassures me that someone who knows the facts and has the background to catch errors in either text or illustrations has gone over both before the book went to press. Pass up the books where there is no evidence that that author doesn't have a background in the subject area nor are they any acknowledgements to anyone who does.

Okay - now this is just plain cool! I found a craft book with a project in it that I used to do with the left over fabric from when I used to make the kids' clothes when they were little but I had never thought of doing it with old t-shirts, but it makes sense as this fabric is so stretchy! Anyway, you cut the old t-shirts into 2" strips and then braid three strips together, sewing on new pieces as you go until you have enough to roll into what you want - a glass coaster, a place mat, a rug, etc. You sew the braids together and its a durable, throw in the washing machine rug. This and other projects in Cool Crafts with Old T-shirts: Green Projects for Resourceful Kids by Carol Sirrine. This is a gotta have title for public libraries with craft programming as well as middle and high schools with crafty girls. :-)

Back to my piles of books!