Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide by Eva Talmadge & Justin Taylor

Reluctant reader or not, students are quickly swayed by enticing illustrations. And what better or more popular illustrations than tattoos? The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide goes a step further than your average tattoo anthology; it chronicles tattoos of famous and cherished lines of poetry, prose and their related illustrations on the bodies of individuals across the country. Each tattoo is complete with an image and an explanation of the significance of the literary inking. Herein lies the librarian’s mischievous plot: bait a student via interest in a literary tattoo, and then lead them to the larger body of work itself! M.’s tattoo of “I feel infinite” on her left shoulder blade, for example, will steer readers to Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Who knows? Soon troubled teens may be tripping over their appreciation of e.e. cummings and Samuel Beckett. Better yet, their enthrallment may have began with a school library and a book about literary tattoos.

*Please note that there is some nudity in this title, but nothing explicit. The book may not be appropriate for all ages. -- Lisa Buckton

Talmadge, Eva and Justin Taylor. The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stay With Me by Paul Griffin

Stay With Me, the newest book from popular Passages Academy visiting author Paul Griffin due to be released this fall, follows the intense but brief relationship between two teens, Mack and Cece. At fifteen, Mack is a HS dropout and a struggling reader with a violent criminal past. But we learn of his nurturing side through his connection with abandoned pitbulls, and his innate ability to train them into loving house pets. Mack shares this gift with Cece, who overcomes her fear of dogs and falls in love with Mack while studying for an upcoming Gifted and Talented test. The two meet at Vic Too's, the restaurant where they work with Cece's mother, brother, and best friend. But when Mack loses control and lets his anger take over, the two are forced to say goodbye forever. This moving and gripping book will appeal to students requesting a love story, as well as those looking for characters that they can easily relate to.


Mack and Cece are torn apart when Mack begins a long period of incarceration at Rikers. Adult readers in facilities may spring into a censorship stance when they read the ways characters bring creativity to bear on using the materials at hand to circumvent security, but young readers won't find any new ideas they haven't heard already. Most importantly, many will be able to connect with the stressful high-stakes atmosphere of the prison.

Besides sharing this exciting new book with you, I am also very excited to share the following excerpts:

From the Dedication
“...for Juan G., who dreams of happy endings.” Juan was a Passages Academy @ Crossroads student whom Paul met during a visit in 2009. He expressed his hope for a happier ending to “Ten Mile River,” and then offered how he would have ended the novel.

From the Acknowledgements
"Thank you to the librarians, teachers, booksellers, and literacy and human rights advocates that have given me opportunities to connect with their students and readers...Anne Lotito Schuh and the Crossroads family, Jessica, Ma'lis and Literacy For Incarcerated Teens..."

I feel comfortable speaking for the Passages family when I say that we wish we could so publicly acknowledge Paul Griffin for his selflessness of time and spirit when it comes to giving to our students. A day when Paul visits is an uplifting day for students and staff alike.
--Anne Lotito Schuh

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Barefoot Gen Volume 1 by Keiji Nakazawa

"Remember this, my little one. This is war. This is what took your father, sister and brother from us... When you grow up you must never, ever let this happen again!" Kimie Nakaoka says as she holds up her new born to watch the fireball that has engulfed Hiroshima. Love, hate, honor, pride, fear, pity, Barefoot Gen is an incredible and timely story that will summon every feeling a human can possibly muster. The story is a short manga series about the life of Keiji Nakazawa before, during and after the nuclear bomb was dropped in his hometown, Hiroshima. The story does an amazing job at pulling you in and never letting go. For those who know what happens (and most of us do), they will be at the edge of their seats waiting for the climax of the bomb drop. The drop is delayed well into the story, giving the readers the opportunity to see the hardships that the Japanese people were already going through because of the war. Unlike most mangas, Barefoot Gen is full of text but the readers are very unlikely to notice it since it is well-integrated in the old school style of animation used by Nakazawa. I found this manga to be one of the most powerful ones I've read to date and I expect it will stay with me for a long time to come.--Claudio Leon

Interested readers can learn more about Project Gen here and here. Teachers can find a lesson plan for middle grades from the Zinn Education Project (utilizing the film version) here, and a study guide which can serve as a series of discussion questions from the National Association of Comics Art Educators here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Snake Bite by Tom Jackson

A couple of sentences per page give the reader intriguing bits of clear information in this 32-page paperback book. The text is supplemented by excellent photographs depicting venomous snakes, the “milking” of snakes, a spitting cobra (mid-spit), and humans interacting with snakes. A wonderful starting point for striving readers looking for an inquiry topic or some engaging independent informational reading. A table of contents, glossary, index, and recommendations for further reading on the web make this an ideal teaching tool for introducing non-fiction text features to this frequently requested topic. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Jackson, Tom. Snake Bite. New York: Crabtree Publishing, 2009.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Deathnote by Tsugumi Ohba, Illustrated by Takeshi Obata

Light Yagami, a teenage boy, discovers a supernatural notebook that grants him the ability to kill anyone whose name and face he knows. The suspicious chain of deaths that follow lead youthful detective L (a code name) to investigate what he believes are homicides. At the start of the story Light uses the notebook with intent to cleanse the world of all evil as if he were a god. As L begins his investigation, Light, in order to stay ahead of L, eventually has to kill more than just criminals and loses focus of his original good intentions. Suicides and homicides are all drawn with intricate detail in gorgeous black and white frames that are sure to suck in the readers time and time again. Readers may be advised: some of the frames graphically depict the death sequences. To view the official site for the manga series and anime series click here. -- Claudio Leon

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Guys Write for Guys Read Edited by Jon Scieszka

Motivating young male readers can be a daunting task, but Jon Scieszka’s Guys Write for Guys Read offers a sparkling and robust antidote. Scieszka, the founder of the “Guys Read” initiative, brings us an anthology of male authors speaking to every aspect of their personal coming-of-age experience. Be it superheroes, sexuality, crime, family, relationships, acne, or school, Guy Write for Guys Read candidly exposes the experiences of male adolescence. Combining fiction, memoir, comic strips, poems, illustrations and jokes, this title will entice a wide variety of readers. But get this, Scieszka’s devised an even more intricate plot; each of the 92 pieces of work in Guys Write for Guys Read is exceptionally brief in length. The authors and illustrators offer just enough to lure the resistant reader in and end each piece with a brief biography and a selected bibliography. --Lisa Buckton

Scieszka, John, ed.. Guys Write for Guys Read. New York: Viking, 2005.