Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids by Rob Elliot


Q: Why wouldn’t the lion eat the clown?  
A: He tasted funny.  

Nothing lightens the heavy mood common in detention centers more easily than jokes, even the groan-inducing variety.  Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids keeps it clean and punny with this light volume divided into five sections, the largest of which are riddles, animal jokes, and knock-knock jokes.  The other two, tongue twisters and “Some Things to Think About” are pleasant add-ons for the reader whose mouth is beginning to hurt from laughing but not yet ready to put the book away.  Perfect for younger students who are just now ready for language play and looking for an easy laugh, or a developing reader who enjoys the performative and/ or social aspects of literacy. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Elliot, Rob.  Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids.  Grand Rapids: Spire, 2010.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bad Girls by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple


History is full of women who would not behave - some were criminals while some were fighting for a place in a society that had no place for them.  Unfortunately, their stories have often gone overlooked and untold.  In Bad Girls, the mother-daughter team of Yolen and Stemple have profiled twenty-four infamous ladies, capping each woman’s chapter with a one-page comic of the authors performing their research, debating the subject’s badness, and discussing the cultural context for each subject’s actions.  The book’s conclusion focuses on this cultural context and how gender roles have changed over time.  It encourages readers to draw their own conclusions about the women featured within which may make for lively debate.  With an extensive bibliography and index, Bad Girls is an excellent text for inquiry, in addition to being an engaging read. --Regan Schwartz

Yolen, Jane and Heidi Stemple. Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, murderesses, thieves, and other female villains. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2013. Print.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Programming Spotlight: Paul Griffin Visits Belmont


L-R: Student, Erica Nadel, Mackenzie Magee, Paul Griffin, Student, Ms. Shenice
photo by Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Three groups of students at Passages Academy's Belmont site received a visit and books from Paul Griffin, author of Stay With Me, Burning Blue, The Orange Houses, and Ten Mile River.  Paul fielded questions with his trademark graciousness and encouraged students to work on telling their own stories.  "Very inspirational!" remarked one participant, summing up the experience of many.  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

This program was initiated by the American Association of Publishers' Adopt-A-School initiative.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

DIY Nail Art by Catherine Rodgers


Calling all manicurists, manicure-lovers and nail art admirers. Are you looking for creative inspiration? This slim volume is packed with fun ideas for a wide range of technical skills, illustrated with full color, realistic photographs. In just a few succinct pages, the reader learns how to prep the nails for a flawless and long-lasting manicure and exactly which tools will be needed to achieve the decorative designs. The following format is straightforward and simple; the left page has a picture of the finished manicure, the right side has pictures of each step along with written instructions. Students and staff alike enjoy flipping through the pages and choosing their favorites. Recommended for how-to collections, for both independent reading and instructional use on procedural nonfiction. --Anja Kennedy

Rodgers, Catherine. DIY Nail Art. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2013. Print.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lion Boy by Zizou Corder


In the future, private automobiles are illegal, cell phones are powered by the sun, and Charlie’s African dad and British mum have been kidnapped by idiots and are being held on a submarine. What’s a boy to do?  In Charlie’s case, he has the secret special ability to speak Cat.  Yes, Cat, the language of cats.  Will his ability to talk to cats in their own language help him reunite with his parents?

Lion Boy is a trilogy bearing some resemblance to the Harry Potter series, though it never became the world-wide phenomenon.  It will appeal to readers looking for another series taking place in a semi-fantastical world where dark threats abound and magical things can happen… sometimes.  -Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Corder, Zizou.  Lion Boy.  New York: Penguin, 2003.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney


Why, you ask, would an incarcerated or detained teen be interested in carrying around a book with the words “wimpy kid” on the cover? Well, that same question crossed my mind when I first began working at Passages, and I mistakenly didn’t order these books for the library because I didn’t think there would be any demand for them. I was so wrong. As students steadily began to ask me about them, I added the series to my order list and they haven’t stopped flying off the shelves since.

In the first book, the main character of the series, Greg, is a fairly geeky middle schooler who thinks pretty highly of himself -- according to him (it is his journal after all), his classmates are morons, his teachers are clueless, and he spends a lot of time trying to figure out the politics and social dynamics of middle school. He can behave like a bully himself, especially towards those lower on the social ladder, but readers can’t help but laugh at the many ridiculous situations he and his best friend Rowley find themselves in. Told in first person narrative with cartoonish illustrations and a handwritten-style font, both attributed to Greg, this book and the rest of the series is highly engaging and popular with a wide variety of students. Because they are now available in paperback, students in secure facilities can enjoy them soon! --Anja Kennedy

Kinney, Jeff.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  New York: Amulet-Abrams, 2007.  Print.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Programming Spotlight: Bookmarks and Greeting Cards


 Holidays can be difficult when one is separated from loved ones.  With that in mind, we librarians have been collaborating with colleagues to offer crafting programs.  These programs give students the opportunity to utilize library resources and art supplies to make custom bookmarks and greeting cards. Said C. (17), earlier this morning while crafting five original bookmarks, "I think, out of all of the activities, this is really dooooooope!"  D. (15), is pictured above copying inspirational quotes out of a library book, for subsequent use on her bookmarks.

We wish you all happy holidays and hope you find your fair share of what's good to read in 2015!  We'll see you in January.

Love, Passages Academy Libraries

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Adventure Time Vol. 1 by Ryan North


A hapless snail has freed the evil Lich from his bag of holding and he is on a mission to destroy everyone and everything in the Land of Ooo.  It is up to Finn and his best friend Jake the magical dog, with the help of their friends, to defeat the Lich and save Ooo.  If you’ve never seen an episode of Adventure Time, the previous sentences may have sounded like gibberish, but fans of the popular television cartoon series will enjoy seeing it brought so faithfully to comic book form.  The art and dialogue are full of lively action, nonsense humor, and wordplay.  Adventure Time is a vibrant option for readers looking for humorous comics and offers a welcome entry point to the format for those turned off by mainstream superhero comics. --Regan Schwartz

Click here for an ELA lesson plan from Diamond Bookshelf.

North, Ryan. Adventure Time Vol. 1. Los Angeles: KaBoom!, 2013. Print.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How to Overthrow the Illuminati by Will, Chino, Saudade and Mamos


At least once a week I have a student ask for a book about the Illuminati, or I hear them intensely talking about the group’s existence.  For those students, the zine How to Overthrow the Illuminati is a good place to start looking at information about the group.  It is written in a format that won’t overwhelm them and the style of writing is accessible to most.  The authors clearly explain how the Illuminati theory came to be and how the belief in the power of the Illuminati moved from high socioeconomic circles to low income communities, specifically African American ones. Even if you don’t believe in conspiracy theories, the title provides a concise history lesson around factors that have contributed to the growth of the Illuminati theory.  The authors also encourage readers to do their own research by pointing out, “most of their [The Illuminati] secrets are actually ‘open secrets’: information is available in public libraries and websites…” School librarians might be as giddy as I am to use this text to teach research skills to students.

Some of the historical references in the zine will likely go over many students’ heads, but for some it may spark interest into other topics mentioned such as the Knights Templars, the Ku Klux Klan and maybe even Karl Marx.  There is a lot of information in this zine and for those that have been asking to learn about conspiracy theories, this could be a good place to start before moving on to actual conspiracies as it asks the reader to question and prod at the holes and gaps in many theories. --Claudio Leon


Monday, December 8, 2014

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon


Tariq, a sixteen-year-old African-American teen, goes to the store for his mother to buy some milk and picks up a Snickers bar for his little sister.  On his way home he is confronted by a neighbor who perceives that Tariq has a gun.  A third person, Jack Franklin, approaches, shoots, and kills Tariq and drives away.  Franklin is subsequently apprehended by the police and let go.  National activist and political figure Reverend Alabaster prepares to make his move into the spotlight while the nation is asking for answers and Tariq’s mother is asking for justice.  Sound familiar?  

Magoon’s polyphonous novel is thick with topical relevance and the challenges of multiple points of view.   It’s first few pages ensnare the reader within a web of suspense structurally furthered by short chapters.  Characters like Brick and Noodle, members of the local Kings 8-5 crew, will appeal to reluctant male readers and others like Jennica, Noodle’s girlfriend and witness at the crime scene; Kimberly, Tariq’s former babysitter-cum-professional stylist; and Tina, Tariq’s little sister, will appeal to female readers, making this a great text for mixed gender book clubs and class discussions. ELA teachers will find this a rich selection for teaching perspective, voice, and character development.  Highly recommended for fans of Walter Dean Myers’ Street Love.  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber


Click here for a discussion guide from the publisher.


Magoon, Kekla.  How It Went Down.  New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2014.  Print.