Friday, April 28, 2017

Of Poetry & Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin, Edited by Philip Cushway and Michael Warr

A volume of poetry, portraiture, and history, Of Poetry & Protest is “unapologetically political,” specifically addressing police violence, Black Lives Matter, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panthers, and how poetry and protest converse with one another. Forty-three living poets are featured, each with a full page portrait, one of their poems, and perhaps most interestingly, a first person narrative describing each writer’s journey to becoming a poet. Throughout the pages are scattered cultural ephemera including fine art, album artwork, posters, flyers, and photographs. This volume lends itself to a unit on current affairs as well as history, author studies, and obviously poetry.  Recommended for strong readers.--Anne Lotito-Schuh

Cushway, Philip and Michael Warr, Eds. Of Poetry & Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016. Print.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Ms. Baxter-Sweet outside of Crosroads.  Photo re-posted from DNAinfo/Noah Hurowitz

Congratulations to Ms. Baxter-Sweet, Passages Academy's multi-sited Principal, on being named "Principal of the Week" by while we were away on break!  Click here to read the whole interview.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Black Panthers For Beginners by Herb Boyd illustrated by Lance Tooks

This book is the only non-fiction text I've come across devoted to illuminating a narrative about the Panthers written in a manner that speaks to the young people I serve.  (If you’re reading this and you’re aware of others, please speak up in the comments!)  Interestingly structured as narrative history through the Panthers’ Ten Point Program, readers may find it helpful to create their own timelines as they read through the story Boyd weaves.  Helpful backmatter includes “The Panther Pantheon,” an illustrated who’s who of the most famous Panthers; a short list of political prisoners with mailing addresses; an illustrated version of the Black Panther Party Program and Platform; a short timeline; a bibliography; and an index. Some readers may view the text as  inflammatory where others read it as honest, but school librarians will be hard-pressed to find this essential history documented in a volume this accessible to teen readers.  —Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Boyd, Herb.  Black Panthers for Beginners.  Danbury: For Beginners, 2015.  Print.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Programming Spotlight: Big Read 2017 Panel

Our 2017 panel consisted of a diverse group of authors, as pictured left to right; Len Vlahos, Laura Stamper, Mrs. Trevaskis (Bronx Hope Librarian), Selene Castrovilla, Catherine Stine, Heather Bao, and Heather Swain.

New York City Teen Author Festival (NYCTAF) completed its 10th annual event on March 26th. As part of NYC’s largest young adult literature (YA) event, Bronx Hope hosted a Big Read author panel through collaboration with Senior YA Librarian from The Bronx Library Center, Katie Fernandez.                  

Our author panel discussion featured six authors of young adult literature.  Each author spoke about the type of writing they do, followed by an author reading, with each one reading an excerpt up to a full chapter from their book. At the conclusion of the presentations, students were able to ask questions. --Allison Trevaskis

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

When by Victoria Laurie

Would you like to know when everyone you love is going to die, even though you can do nothing to stop their deaths? Maddie has the ability to see everyone's death date. She uses this as a means of income to help her mother make ends meet after her father's death. Maddie charges people to tell them when they are going to die. However, after a reading goes wrong, Maddie becomes the prime suspect in a series of killings. Now, with the FBI watching her every move and her mother falling deeper and deeper into alcoholism, Maddie needs to find a way to prove her innocence. For readers who love a mystery mixed with a bit of fantasy, When is the book for you. --Claudio Leon

Laurie, Victoria. When. Los Angeles: Hyperion, 2016. Print.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Black History in its Own Words by Ron Wimberly

Angela Davis, Saul Williams, Laverne Cox.  Dave Chappelle, Spike Lee, Arturo Schomburg.  Shirley Chisholm.  Serena Williams.  Cheryl Dunye.  Ice T.  Katherine Johnson.  Jimi Hendrix.

bell hooks.

Each luminary, along with twenty-six others, some more famous, some less, are featured in this handsome volume which takes a less-is-more approach, text-wise, and combines with a slick handmade aesthetic to make a book that is hard not to pick up and virtually unputdownable until it is over, too soon for this reader who would like to see at least five hundred more additions.  

Each two-page spread features a grey scale portrait of its subject, and includes a short quote within its brightly colored frame.  The adjacent page provides one or two simple and usually intriguing statements describing the subject and usually cites the source of the quote.  Intended for older teens, this title will be sure to engage many who profess they do not like to read.  Perfect for teachers and librarians seeking an entry point to discuss the citing of sources. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Wimberly, Ron.  Black History in its Own Words.  Portland: Image Comics, 2017.  Print.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Twisted History by Howard Watson

Similar to the Wicked History series, Twisted History takes a look at several historical figures, their lives and their actions. The title focuses more on each individual’s death and the reasons why each historical figure met their end the way they did. Twisted History is divided into three sections: Treachery & Torture, Saints and Sinners, Murder & Mayhem. Each of the sections contextualizes the figure within its category for example Joan of Arc is under Saints & Sinners while Vlad The Impaler is found under Treachery & Torture and Al Capone under Murder & Mayhem. Each profile is no longer than five pages and they are sprinkled with plenty of pictures making the title accessible to students in middle school and above. Those who enjoyed any of the Wicked History titles should enjoy Twisted History. --Claudio Leon

Watson, Howard. Twisted History: 32 true stories of torture, traitors, sadists and psychos... plus the most celebrated Saints in history. London: Quantum Books, 2015. Print.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Programming Spotlight: X: Or Betty Shabazz v. The Nation at the New Victory Theater

All four photos X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation, by Marcus Gardley, directed by Ian Belknap
The Acting Company
Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson

On Friday, March 24th, a small group of teachers at Belmont accompanied our placement students to Manhattan's New Victory Theater to see Marcus Gardley's X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation.  Teaching artists Chad Beckim and Janet Oneyenuchea returned to Belmont on Monday to debrief with our students, some of whom spoke at length in response to the discussion questions the teaching artists posed.  It was wonderful to see them draw out the synthesis that had taken place in many attendees' minds since the start of the unit back in February as they reflected on their learning experiences.

We are grateful to everyone at the New Victory Theater for their steadfast support of our students' learning and unwavering encouragement to New York City's detained youth, and to Literacy for Incarcerated Teens (LIT) for the funding to purchase such a large block of tickets so that all placement students and their chaperones could share this special theater-going experience together.  Thank you!--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Biography of Malcolm X by Jessica Gunderson, illustrated by Seitu Hayde

When a picture-book length biography of Malcolm X is needed and the reader is a pre-teen or teen, teachers and librarians may want to have Gunderson and Hayden’s volume handy.  Gunderson has done an admirable job of summarizing the complex life of a complex hero and Hayden’s full-color illustrations in a mature neutral palette will no doubt further the accessibility of the text to developing readers who do not yet have the confidence or ability to visualize text independently.  While most teachers will prefer to make longer versions of X’s life story accessible via audio and film resources, when a shorter print text is needed, this one may come in handy. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Gunderson, Jessica.  Illustrated by Seitu Hayde.  A Biography of Malcolm X.   North Manakato: Capstone, 2011.  Print.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Programming Spotlight: Julius Caesar at the New Victory Theater

All three photos Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, directed by Devin Brain
The Acting Company
Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson

On Friday, several of us at Belmont took the Leake and Watts group to see an abridged production of Julius Caesar at the New Victory Theater.  Mr. Villaronga worked with these students in ELA class to read through the classic.  I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who might want to see it on Sunday, but so I’ll  just say that it is an excellent choice for adolescents considering themes of power, friendship, betrayal and violence. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber