Thursday, April 23, 2015

SLSIDY UnConference is Tomorrow

Tomorrow, April 24th, Passages Academy Libraries will host the fourth annual School Libraries Serving Incarcerated and Detained Youth UnConference.  We look forward to an exciting, attendee-driven day!

Friday, April 17, 2015

How To Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip Hop Emcee by Paul Edwards

Where to write?  Use paper or go digital… or keep it all in your head?  Make your own beats or collaborate with a producer?  How to plan your flow in connection with the beat and write it out so you can remember?  These are just some of the essential questions a novice rapper may contemplate and Paul Edwards has solicited advice from over 100 artists-- some of them as well-known as Q-Tip,, and Shock G, some lesser known, and organized their perspectives and insights into four parts: content, flow, writing and delivery.  Within these four parts, topics are addressed by subject matter like content forms (chapter two in part one, including braggadocio, story, abstract and humorous) and rhyme (chapter five in part two, addressing perfect rhyme, assonance, alliteration and consonance, compound rhymes, and coming up with rhymes).  The table of contents is specific and makes subtopics easy to locate.  There is plenty here to keep an interested reader busy and nothing to intimidate besides length--over 300 pages.  While the artists themselves are not always the most articulate, Edwards presents them in their own vernacular.  Teachers might not be happy to read four-letter words in regular use, but younger readers will appreciate the uncensored language.  Backmatter includes an annotated list of interviewees and a helpful index. Recommended for teen patrons who already write or say they would like to write rhymes.  Circulates frequently with Mitchell’s Hip Hop Rhyming Dictionary. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Edwards, Paul.  How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip Hop Emcee. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2009

Bill Batterman expounds on how to use this book to teach public speaking and debate skills on his blog, The 3nr, here.  The post includes an excellent short list of links to lyrics he deems useful to the would-be high school debater.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers poems by Frank X. Walker

Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers poems by Frank X. Walker

This slim volume of accessible poems packs a profusion of potent punches.  For readers interested in learning more about Evers, as well as students of American history, racism, and creative writing, these fifty poems offer a rich experience in several voices.  Educators focused on social justice will appreciate Walker’s clear intent articulated in his introduction:

I believe acknowledging and working to fully understand history can create opportunities to better understand racism.  I offer these imagined poems in hope that art can help complete the important work we continue to struggle with-- the access to economic and social justice that Medgar Evers and so many others died for, and ultimately the healing and reconciliation still needed in America.

Poems like “Ambiguity Over the Confederate Flag” (p.4) and “After Dinner in Money, Mississippi” (p. 29) may be useful to teachers introducing aspects of the craft of poetry.  “Unwritten Rules for Young Black Boys Wanting to Live in Mississippi Long Enough to Become Men” (p.  23) offers a form sure to inspire imitative drafts for the current generation of teens living in the wake of Trayvon Martin and recent events in Ferguson, MO.  Recommended for independent reading for eleventh and twelfth graders due to mature content. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Walker, Frank X.  Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers.  Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2013.

Click here  for an interview with Walker in which he discusses his use of form and craft in Turn Me Loose.  The full text is available via the Project Muse database, currently accessible through the New York Public Library.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philippe Lardy

This haunting and thought-provoking collection of sonnets is both an elegy for Emmett Till and a call to action.  Nelson urges the reader to remember and to bear witness to our country’s shame and horror and offers A Wreath for Emmett Till as a potential starting point.  In the book’s introduction, Nelson describes the heroic crown structure she used and her purpose in selecting such a strict poetic form.  Each of the fifteen interconnected poems is illustrated in vivid color by Lardy’s dynamic and symbol-laden paintings.  This book is not easy to read for many reasons including the difficulty of the subject matter and the complicated form full of literary and historical references.   Helpful backmatter includes a brief history of Emmett Till’s murder and the subsequent trial, notes on the allusions in each sonnet, and an artist’s note.  A Wreath for Emmett Till is a powerful resource for educators looking to tackle the murder of Emmett Till, the birth of the Civil Rights movement and the current state of race relations in the United States.--Regan Schwartz

A teacher’s guide from the publisher is available here.  A guide from Teaching Tolerance is available here.

Nelson, Marilyn, and Philippe Lardy. A Wreath For Emmett Till. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Print

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Happy National Poetry Month!

Passages Academy Library team with poet Reggie Harris at Poets House on 3/13.  Photo by Joe Fritsch

We were fortunate to spend a day with poet. librarian and teacher Reggie Harris (formally known as Poetry in The Branches Coordinator & Information Technology Director)
at Poets House, collecting ideas, poems and inspiration.  We're looking forward to all of the language yet to blossom in our libraries in the weeks ahead.  Thank you Reggie, and thank you Poets House!  We'll be back after spring break on April 13th-- see you then.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sneak Preview: Ghetto Brother: Warrior to Peacemaker by Julian Voloj, Illustrated by Claudia Ahlering

In the last five years there has not been an obvious response to reader demand for another book “just like Yummy,” and that is set to change in May with the publication of Ghetto Brother.  The story of Benjamin Melendez’s founding of, and later departure from, the South Bronx-based gang builds a bit slowly while author Julian Voloj takes the time to lay the foundation for what is yet to come. The true history of the gang’s founding and its role in brokering a peace is all the more surprising in light of later revelations due to the care taken in the first part of the story.  Voloj does Melendez’s tale justice by prioritizing the narrative storytelling over factual minutia, and the black and white artwork by Claudia Aherling utilizes fine detail and watercolor to eschew a cartoonish-ness that might otherwise make this street-language-filled edition appeal to younger readers.  Themes of maturity, identity, and responsibility recommend this book to older teens. 

 Ghetto Brother depicts a fascinating slice of New York City/ South Bronx history that pairs well with Panther Baby and touches on Columbus’s arrival in the western hemisphere and the Spanish Inquisition.  Back matter includes eight pages of photographs and the author’s recounting of the “story behind the story,” where Voloj explains that the book is primarily based on interviews with former activists.  He goes on to list additional resources consulted and includes photos of Melendez himself during the years of his gang involvement as well as Melendez now, forty plus years later.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

This review is of an advance reader’s copy provided by the publisher to the reviewer.  This title is scheduled for release in May.

Click here to see Melendez talking about GB's former storefront right in front of former Passages' site Summit(?!).  (around 2:26)
Julian Voloj and Benjamin Melendez will be signing books at MoCCA Fest 2015 on April 11th (both from 1:30-3pm, and Julian Voloj alone from 5 to 6pm) and 12th (Julian Voloj alone from 12-1pm, and both Julian Voloj and Benjamin Melendez from 3:30-5pm).   

Friday, March 27, 2015

Sports Illustrated Basketball’s Greatest

“In the clutch, who would you rather have with the ball, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird?”  Sports Illustrated’s Basketball’s Greatest is another pictorial with dramatic and artistic photographs of the most famous men in basketball, filling the void left by books like DK’s Basketball’s Best Shots when they go out of print.  Yes, only men.  To their credit, this edition includes the editors’ notes on how they created the rankings and lists the writers and editors whose opinions counted on page ten.  Back matter includes full lists of all nominees for each category.  Less sophisticated readers will appreciate the treasury of photographs, most in full-color, in this oversized coffee table book.  More sophisticated readers will enjoy the articles authored by some of the most famous and most prolific Sports Illustrated writers.  All basketball lovers will find much to discuss, similar to Sports Illustrated’s Kids’ edition on this same topic.  The two make an interesting comparison:  what do publishers do differently when they are trying to sell a book for a younger audience and why?  Perfect for media units and scaffolding the common core’s emphasis on analyzing nonfiction text for audience. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Skyen, Bill. (Editor).  Sports Illustrated Basketball’s Greatest.  New York: Time Home Entertainment, 2014.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Marian Anderson: A Voice Uplifted by Victoria Garrett Jones

Why was vocal artist Marian Anderson awarded the United Nations Peace Prize?  Why did she receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom?  Victoria Garrett Jones leads the curious reader through Anderson’s life beginning with her birth in 1897, and filling the reader in on social and historical context through page-length features on topics like “Spirituals”, “Black Jews” (Anderson’s grandfather identified as such), Anderson’s packing habits (she sometimes traveled with more than twenty-five pieces of luggage at a time!) and key figures in her life and times.  The neat layout, ample white space, and well-selected accompanying images make this volume a strong selection for less-sophisticated older readers.  Helpful front matter includes a timeline of Anderson’s life and backmatter includes a glossary, a bibliography, and an index.  Readers with an interest in American history, black history, civil rights, and music will find much to appreciate.  Patrons requesting a true rags-to-riches story need look no further. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Jones, Victoria Garrett.  Marian Anderson: A Voice Uplifted.  New York: Sterling, 2008.

Click here for a calendar-based activity which invites students to write a public letter regarding their feelings on a present-day social injustice.   Within the lesson, students may read Eleanor Roosevelt’s letter of resignation to the Daughters of the American Revolution upon learning that they would not permit Marian Anderson to perform in Constitution Hall  (an image of Roosevelt’s letter is printed in Jones’ book on page 74.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Things I Have to Tell You edited by Betsy Franco

“my friend and i/ got caught in a storm/ with tears for rain/ and shouts for thunder”
-Melissa Leigh Davis, p41

This slim collection of poetry written by teen girls covers a wide swath of topics, from self-image to gender inequality to complicated relationships and transitioning to adulthood, in its 63 pages.  The writing is at times poignant, acerbic, witty, and deeply touching.  It is always heartfelt.  Each page is illustrated with bold, candid black and white photographs which, while unrelated to the text, complement it well.  Things I Have to Tell You collects voices from girls from many walks of life and many different places and in this diversity offers a chance for girls to see themselves powerfully reflected on the page.  Recommended for fluent readers looking for honest and relatable poetry and to young writers looking for inspiration.  Best suited to teen girls with established poetic leanings.  Front and back matter include a table of contents, author’s preface, photographer’s preface and acknowledgements, author's acknowledgements, and an about the editor and photographer section.  Educators wishing to use this volume in the classroom, perhaps as a supplemental text for women’s history or poetry month lessons, may want to know that there is occasional strong language. --Regan Schwartz

Thursday, March 19, 2015

No Fear Shakespeare: Graphic Novels: Romeo & Juliet

Getting ready to teach Shakespeare? Then I’m sure you’ve heard of No Fear Shakespeare, but have you seen the comic book?  The graphic novel version of No Fear Romeo & Juliet manages to keep many of the jokes and double entendres found in the original play.  Unlike the full-text versions of the No Fear series, the manga adaptation does not contain both the original text and a plain English translation.  Instead, it only has the latter which is suitable for high school students. The graphic novel really excels where it should-- the illustrations.  The black and white panels support the text as they depict characters’ emotions as easy to read; shading helps separate night and day, as well as give characters depth and help the reader understand the mood/tone of each scene. Not every graphic novel reader will gravitate to this adaptation on their own. Students who have read and enjoyed Persepolis and Maus will certainly feel right at home due to the similar art styles, and the demand of students’ background knowledge about the time period. Teachers may want to consider using this adaptation as a scaffolding tool when teaching Romeo and Juliet. I highly recommend pairing this version with both more complex and simpler versions of the play to enrich a reading.--Claudio Leon

Shakespeare, William. No Fear Shakespeare: Graphic Novels: Romeo & Juliet. New York: Spark Publishing, 2008. Print.