Friday, October 29, 2010

Where's Waldo by Martin Handford

He might be a blast from the past, but Waldo is as popular as ever in the Summit library. Just in case you’ve never opened a Where’s Waldo book, or if it’s just been a long time since you last looked inside, every double-page spread is a colorful, crowded, puzzling landscape-- and Waldo, the man in a red and white striped sweater, glasses, and a scarf, is always somewhere to be found. But it’s not easy to find him, and even after the reader has found Waldo, he or she can still try to find the rest of the recurring characters. Each spread also provides an opportunity to discover new ideas. Many students love these books, but I find them especially useful when trying to reach our self-identified non-readers. Those students who claim to hate reading and hate books are often perfectly content to sit in a beanbag chair and search for Waldo and his group of friends. Often these same students will turn to their neighbors and work together to solve the puzzles and shout out (very excitedly) when they find who or what they’re looking for. These are “stress-free” books. They’re also great for students who are fans of I Spy books and optical illusions.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers

Lockdown. I can’t think of a title more appealing to many of the students I meet at Bridges. One copy is currently missing from our school library after I went out of my way to book talk it on the occasion of the recent announcement that it was a National Book Award finalist. (Stay tuned on November 17th when the winner is announced!) It doesn’t hurt that the cover is enticing too. Readers may have to make it to the second chapter to get hooked, but the entire novel is filled with Myers’ signature telling details, humor, and mission to transport the reader to familiar and unfamiliar territory through the eyes of a young man from Harlem.

In this iteration we meet Reese who finds himself doing time in an upstate juvenile detention facility. Unusually, Reese has been selected as the pilot participant of an experimental new work-release program, and is confronted with the very real challenges that stop him from what might seem to outsiders and policy makers to be an easy path to success.

For those who are familiar with Myers’ oeuvre, Lockdown reads like a cross betweenMonster and The Mouse Rap. Like Monster, Lockdown provides keen insight into the mentality of the denizens of the obscured world that is a secure juvenile detention center. The novel, which I can only guess has been at least several years in the making, comes at a time when more public attention is turned to New York’s state-run juvenile detention facilities than ever before. Lockdown is a timely walk in a resident’s shoes, and should appeal not only to the young people who can relate to Reese, but to the reading public who are curious and remain largely in the dark regarding what life is like for the residents of these facilities.

Adults who give this book to incarcerated young folks should expect readers to express frustration at the lack of a happy ending. Walter Dean Myers continues his remarkable service to citizens of all ages as a public intellectual.

Myers, Walter Dean. Lockdown. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.

Friday, October 22, 2010

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones

Students seeking an easy read novel in verse with a rags-to-riches plotline may find what they are looking for in Sones’ One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies. Set in contemporary Beverly Hills, the sixteen year old narrator tells her story of loss, transplantation, meeting her estranged movie-star father, and adjustment and betrayal through poems and emails. Funny and over-the-top, One of Those Hideous Books is a quick read with no chapter breaks. Recommended for independent reading and available for book groups via the Great Stories Club grants Passages received.

Sones, Sonya. One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fear This Book by Jeff Szpirglas

Ever wonder where your fears come from, why you can't control your reaction to them, or even why you sometimes like to be scared? Fear This Book begins with an explanation of our physical response to fear and then moves onto explore the origins of superstitions, scary stories, and common phobias. Each topic is given a two-page full-color spread with engaging illustrations, whether it is fear of the dark, snakes, monsters, spiders, or even school. Szpirglas' conversational writing style offers the reader origins, explanations, and interesting trivia related to each topic. With Halloween approaching, students may appreciate reading a brief passage about their own fears. Fans of trivia books like Ripley's Believe It or Not, The Guinness Book of World Records, and Do Not Open will appreciate the information included. Other spooky resources in your library include Are You Afraid Yet?: The Science Behind Scary Stuff, the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine, works by Stephen King, and Darren Shan's Cirque du Freak and Demonata series.

Szpirglas, Jeff (author) and Ramon Perez (illustrator). Fear This Book: Your Guide to Fright, Horror, & Things That Go Bump in the Night. Toronto: Maple Tree Press, 2006.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself by Maxine Anderson

Have you ever wondered how to make your own invisible ink? Or how to make a camera out of a cardboard box? Leonardo da Vinci might be famous for being a great artist, but he was also a tireless inventor. Inspired by the notebooks he filled with ideas and sketches for his inventions, author Maxine Anderson has developed simple experiments for students to recreate da Vinci’s big ideas using common household objects. Each project, and there are close to twenty of them, is introduced through its connection to Leonardo da Vinci and its historical context – some of the more interesting ones include a “perspectograph,” hydrometer, helicopter and parachute. Part biography, part history, and part hands-on experiments, this book is loaded with activities for a variety of content areas. For next week’s Italian Heritage celebration, I will be working with the middle school math teacher (hey, Mr. LoPorto!) and his students to create some of the more mathematically based projects in the book.

Anderson, Maxine. Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself. White River Junction, VT: Nomad Press, 2006.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Exciting posts on NYPL's blog!

We were just mulling over the week and realized we'd be remiss if we didn't share with you that we were recently honored with an interview by Marie Hansen, librarian with the New York Public Library (also one of our community partners) on their blog Stuff for the Teenage! You can read it here:

Also check out Lindsy Serrano's post, an Incarcerated Teens booklist, for some titles you may have missed. Lindsy has been visiting Passages' students in the Bronx for booktalks, library cards, and giveaways since 2007.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Guest Blog Post: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Esperanza longs to escape from her stifling and poverty stricken Latino neighborhood. In this series of 44 brief vignettes, Sandra Cisneros allows us a view into the intimate life of a young girl, coming of age in a large family where everyone shares and sometimes aches for clothing, food, and the attention of its members. Each story is narrated in first-person present tense and may be only a few paragraphs in length, yet completely able to be read as stand alone pieces. Some of the themes covered in this collection are culture, gender roles, responsibilities and concept of home. Simile, metaphor, personification, alliteration, and other forms of figurative language are interwoven throughout The House on Mango Street and provide for an abundance of learning activities. --Mary Lou DeLigio

Mary Lou DeLigio is a former member of Passages' library team and is currently breaking new ground heading up the PA-Bridges' intake team. She is a veteran English teacher and Special Education teacher.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Swimming With Hammerhead Sharks by Kenneth Mallory

Have you ever contemplated swimming with sharks? If not, you might enjoy the opportunity to vicariously follow author Kenneth Mallory as he takes the reader by the hand in preparing for a trip to the Cocos Islands to suss out schools of hammerheads. Supported by relevant pictures and sidebars on SCUBA, El Nino, and rebreathers, Mallory’s story is a narrative detailing his opportunity to travel with hammerhead expert Pete Klimley as he searches for answers to shark questions and attempts to get live footage for an IMAX film. Teachers will find the last pages of the book most valuable as they list as-yet-unanswered questions, related conservation issues, what you can do to help sharks, and both print and web bibliographies for further reading. This book is probably not one that students will decide to read through on their own, but will come in handy while teaching non-fiction genres, careers, and, of course, for students studying hammerhead sharks.

Click here for a web directory on hammerhead sharks by Tim Spalding including links to National Geographic lesson plans for middle school students.

Mallory, Kenneth. Swimming With Hammerhead Sharks. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guest Blog Post: Kendra by Coe Booth

Kendra is the story of a teenage girl who falls in love with a boy from her school. On the surface it sounds like a typical love story but as it progresses the reader learns that Kendra is neglected by her mother in order to live out the life she was unable to after having Kendra at a young age. Kendra now lives with her over-protective grandmother who fears that Kendra might turn out just like her mother, pregnant at a young age. She obsessively watches over her and tries to keep track of every second of Kendra's life, especially now that Kendra is the same age her mother was when she became pregnant. With her mother absent and a boy that makes her feel loved, will Kendra be strong enough to resist the temptations ahead of her? Or will she follow along in her mother's footsteps? Kendra will surely connect with students as it did with my sister. We read the book together and the book connected more with her than with me, mostly because she likes romance and she has a parent who constantly watches her every move. I think this book can teach a valuable lesson to parents that they may not want to hear, which is that teenage children will do what they want to do even under constant watch and parents have to learn to trust their children's choices. -- Claudio Leon

-- Claudio Leon was a founding member of Passages Academy's library team. Mr. Leon served as Passages' Library Assistant from Spring 2007 until Fall 2009; he is currently pursuing a career in computer information technology. His presence on the team and at Horizon is missed tremendously.

Booth, Coe. Kendra. New York: Scholastic PUSH, 2008.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Keesha's House by Helen Frost

What if there is a safe place for every teen to go to when home is no longer safe? Helen Frost's brief free-verse novel imagines such a place in the voices of seven alternating teenage narrators. After Keesha's mother passed away, her alcoholic father became physically abusive; Stephie is afraid to tell her family she is pregnant; Stephie's boyfriend, Jason, is worried how the pregnancy will effect his future playing college basketball; Katie's stepfather has been making unwanted visits to her bedroom at night; Dontay struggles dealing with incarcerated parents and foster parents that he feels treat him like a second-class citizen; Carmen finds herself incarcerated again after a DUI; and Harris' father rejects him because he is gay. While not every teen ends up staying at the titular house, actually owned by a man named Joe, the home is the tie that binds these intersecting story lines. This book will be a hit with fans of Ellen Hopkins' free-verse poetry novels Crank, Glass, Burned, and Impulse. Its brevity, diversity of narrators and accessibility make it an excellent introduction to the genre as well.

Frost, Helen. Keesha's House. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia

Dominique is going to jump Trina after school at 2:45 – but Trina doesn’t know that. Leticia knows, but she’s not sure if she should get involved. In alternating chapters, these three girls narrate the story from their own perspectives. Really, they don’t have much in common at all: Trina is over-confident and completely oblivious to her classmates’ attitudes towards her; Dominique is a tough basketball player who can’t think about anything except getting back on her coach’s good side; and Leticia is just trying to get through the day without too much drama. This book, by award-winning author Rita Garcia-Williams (Like Sisters on the Homefront) was a National Book Award finalist. It is a good choice for independent reading and can also be used for ELA instruction in many ways, including lessons on point of view, characterization and prediction. It’s also a great tool for instigating a conversation about ethical issues facing teen readers— Should Leticia snitch to protect someone else, or keep quiet to protect herself? Should Trina get jumped, just because she’s annoying and the reader may not like her very much? What will happen to Dominique if she jumps Trina? How should violence be addressed in schools?

For more about the book, check out the trailer

Williams-Garcia, Rita. Jumped. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Unknown Soldier by Joshua Dysart, Illustrated by Alberto Ponticelli

The ComiCon arrives in town Friday (thanks for the heads up, Mr. Lopez!) and we’re hoping to scout out the best new comic books and graphic novels of the season, so before we go, I thought I’d tell you about my favorite discovery from this summer: Unknown Soldier: Haunted House. Following superhero comic book procedure is only half of what the team behind Unknown Soldier has to offer. The other half is worth its weight in gold: factual information about the conflict in Uganda as it plays out (fictionally) before an Americanised refugee who has returned as a competent doctor to administer to those in need. Raising the ethical dilemmas that come with child soldiers and culture clashes when foreigners enter civil war zones, this is a compelling, violent, and informative read which would make for great independent reading in tandem with units on child soldier texts, an examination of contemporary civil wars, or diversity in comic books. Highly recommended as a genre-crossing counterpoint to Beah’s Long Way Gone. Coming soon to a Passages Academy Library near you!

Here's a link to a more in-depth article on this fascinating series published in the New York Times.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Guest Blog Post: G is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book by David M. Schwartz, pictures by Marissa Moss

“L” is for literacy in math. Most encounter math as simply hard numbers, impossible logic, and unending fear. Some believe reading and writing have no place in math. G is for Googol quells these notions. From A-Z, this book shows the softer side of math, using lively illustrations, simplistic writing, and a resounding message that math is interconnected to real life and can actually be fun. It supplies educators with great examples and a great answer for the lingering question all math students ask: “Why do I need to know this?” Educators and students alike can benefit from reading this book due to its simplistic, but informative nature. It also serves its purpose of making sure every reader can feel at home with math, no matter his or her skill level. --Vinny Agostinelli

-- Vinny Agostinelli is a math teacher at Passages Academy- Summit, where he regularly incorporates real life math into his lessons.

Schwartz, David M. and Marissa Moss. G is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book. New York: Random House, 1998.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Guest Blog Post: Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence by Geoffrey Canada and Jamar Nicholas

What if one day your rules of survival didn’t protect you anymore? In this graphic novel, Geoffrey Canada describes the violent code of conduct he learned growing up in the South Bronx in the 1960s. Kids fought with fists and, in more extreme circumstances, sticks or knives. Once you proved you had “heart,” you were left alone. This changes, however, when guns start to become more common. How do you follow a formalized code in the face of sudden, senseless violence? Jamar Nicholas' cartoonish but gritty drawings are accessible and perfectly match the content. An afterward by Canada gives some information about his organization The Harlem Children’s Zone. A provocative and quick read, this would make great discussion fodder! -- Lisa Goldstein

--Lisa Goldstein is a Neighborhood Library Supervisor for Brooklyn Public Library and has been conducting outreach to Crossroads Juvenile Center since 2007.

Canada, Geoffrey (author) and Jamar Nicholas (illustrator). Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence. New York: Beacon Press, 2010.