Monday, October 31, 2011

What's Good?: Spotlight Interview: Regan Schwartz

Passages Academy Libraries couldn't be happier to have a new librarian on our team. Please meet Regan Schwartz, who has re-ignited Passages' library at Crossroads since September and enriches the team through her numerous contributions. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

JFS: Can you tell enews readers a little bit about your background in teaching and what you were doing last school year?

RS: Sure! I've been teaching English as a Second Language to middle schoolers for the past seven years in Queens. I have spent the last four years working exclusively to provide ESL services to students with disabilities in self-contained and inclusion settings. For the last three years I have also been working my school's library, helping to automate it and get the first RFID system in New York City's public schools up and running. It was volunteering my time there, doing readers advisory and collection development that inspired me to start my own library journey.

What is your favorite thing to read and your favorite place to read?

I feel like such a librarian stereotype - but I really do read anything and everything. Right now my favorite thing to read is anything by Terry Pratchett, and my favorite place to do so is curled up in the corner of my couch, with my dog at my side and the morning light pouring over my shoulder.

What was your favorite book when you were a teenager?

RS: That is a tough question. I'd say Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block and The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. The first for showing me this amazing, magical world full of love and whimsy. The second for introducing me to the idea of social justice. And for descriptive language so precise, I could taste the Oklahoma dirt in my suburban bedroom air.

JFS: What do you like to do for fun when you're not reading?

RS: I recently adopted a senior, half-blind dog with some severe behavioral issues. He was found on the streets of Queens right in the middle of this snowy winter and came to us with a lot of baggage. Working with him and our trainer has been my all-consuming hobby for the last few months! I also enjoy painting, and baking!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

On Site!

Best parent-teacher conferences yet! On Wednesday and Friday, families arriving to meet with teachers picked up a free indestructible and wordless picture book (thank you LIT! thank you Workman publishing!), signed up for library cards and the Imagination Library program, and helped themselves to handouts on library programs and literacy development. Michael Blake, Assistant Principal, Passages Academy--Horizon, shows off his love of reading with six new NYPL cards-- one for each member of his family.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Updated Report of Observations Which Somehow Seem to Reflect Abstractly on Life (Stat 2) by Sarah McNeil

Graphic representations of data abound in non-fiction, reports, and they have been highlighted recently at the Museum of Modern Art’s Talk to Me exhibit. Students are constantly asked to interpret pie charts and bar graphs, but rarely do they have as much fun with them as McNeil in this ½ size zine. In a very uncluttered presentation, McNeil graphs personally relevant information like “Books I’ve Read & Finished This Year” & “People I Usually Talk to in a Day” as pie charts, “Tattoos” (which plots “Tattoos I Have” against “Level of Regret”) as a line graph, and throws in a bar graph on podcasts in an effort to gain new perspective on her life. This zine includes a table of contents and an author’s note, and, as Passages’ own Brendan Daly pointed out, it makes a great companion to the hilarious Graphjam.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror: Spine-Tingling Spooktacular by Matt Groening

The Treehouse of Horror series, a special publication within the regular Simpsons comic book series, may be perfect for Halloween, but the books excite readers all year long. Since acquiring a handful of these last year, they have been some of the most often-handled, picked up and flipped through books in the library. Some students ask if we have any books based on TV shows, and these and the Boondocks comics are among the first that I point them towards. Described by one student as “mad colorful,” these Simpsons comics are eye-catching, in sharp contrast to the black and white art of the Boondocks. Presented as episodes that stand alone, each segment allows for bite-sized enjoyment. In Spine-Tingling Spooktacular, ELA teachers might want to look for the Simpsons’ take on Kafka’s classic Metamorphosis, where Homer turns into a bug-breath beetle. --Anja Kennedy

Monday, October 24, 2011

100 Words Almost Everyone Mispronounces from the Editors of American Heritage Dictionaries

How do you say mischievous? Or epoch? Or chaise lounge, for that matter (lovely to sit on, excruciating to pronounce)? And, perhaps more importantly, how are we supposed to say them? As someone who learned most of the “ten dollar” words she knows from reading them, I have a long and embarrassing history of very public mispronunciations. I am happy to say those days have come to an end, thanks to this slim volume of phonetically confounding words. Each entry gives the accepted pronunciations as well as a history of the word’s usage and the explanation for the popular mispronunciations we all hear and use. Not only is this a helpful guide to pronunciation, it is a fascinating and accessible bit of etymology - so much so I actually read it cover to cover! --Regan Schwartz

Friday, October 21, 2011

Onsite! BRC

One of Passages’ new sites, Brooklyn Residential Center, (I should say “new to Passages,” because the OCFS site has been around awhile) has a new mural. Photo courtesy of Mr. B, who also shared this quote from one of the students who planned the artwork: “I chose wings for this mural because to me it means this program is just starting. It is lifting off like if a baby bird hatched out of its egg and took off to fly for the first time and was successful at it. " --R. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Programming Spotlight: BPL Kidsmobile

Earlier today two groups of students at Boys Town had the pleasure of climbing aboard the Brooklyn Public Library's Kidsmobile. Lee Gabay, English Teacher, was momentarily allowed behind the wheel for a photo op. 100% of the students who evaluated the program said they would describe it as “very good” or “excellent.”

Bleach by Tite Kubo

Just finished reading all fifty-something volumes of the Naruto manga series? I’d recommend Bleach. The similarities are embedded deeply within the story, but they are certainly there. Bleach is about a teenager in high school who is one of the most powerful guardians on Earth. Ichigo, the main character, can see the dead souls that failed to travel to the afterlife and are now trapped in our world torturing the living. It is Ichigo’s job to help them cross over by helping them finish the task that is keeping them earthbound. This is the beginning of a complex story line that entwines loyalty, betrayal, family drama and eventually the fate of the world hanging in the balance, while waiting for Ichigo to find his true strength to conquer it all. Like Naruto, Ichigo must look within himself to overcome the challenges that will test his will and rely on his friends to face the plot twists that take the readers for a long and amazing ride. As is typical in manga this one is drawn in black and white. --Claudio Leon

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Food Play by Saxton Freymann

No words are necessary in this fun, and strange, little book of photographs depicting creatures made exclusively out of food. With ordinary fruits and vegetables, Freymann creates a fantasy world where a little mushroom person can fly with the help of a radish balloon and a school of bell pepper fish swim through the page. Perfect for anyone in need of a smile, this book has brought just that to plenty of non-readers, reluctant readers, proficient readers, and everyone else in between. It’s a definite stress-free read. --Anja Kennedy

Freymann, Saxton. Food Play. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2006.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Angry Black White Girl: reflections on my mixed race identity by Nia

In five photocopied pieces of 8.5 x 11’’ paper, Nia’s zine is a breath of fresh air for readers looking for a short, honest, non-fiction perspective of what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Two pages are quotes, two pages are Aaron McGruder comic strips, and the balance of this half-size zine (no staples! thank you!) is full of direct talk from a woman who knows how to speak her mind in a zine, and some anecdotes detailing her self-imposed silencing in real life. Informative and instructive in both form and content. Coming to Summit Friday. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Monday, October 17, 2011

Response by Paul Volponi

With one brutal swing of a baseball bat, Noah Jackson’s life is changed forever. Having headed over the town line into nearly all-white Hillsboro to boost a car, Noah ends up the victim of a vicious, racist trio of teens. Now he has a chance to turn his life around and stand for something bigger than a quick payday. What will be Noah’s response?

Volponi’s short novel is a fast, accessible read, that works hard to ground the concept of a hate crime in relatable life experience. While some of the characters are flat and lack the nuance that would make Response a revelation, it is nonetheless an engaging read that leaves the reader hungry for more. Fans of Walter Dean Myers and Sharon Draper will enjoy this book, but students who are eager for grittier novels, such as Tyrell or Ten Mile River, may be left unsatisfied. Educators may find Response a useful companion piece for a unit seeking to address hate crimes in a modern, urban context. --Regan Schwartz

Friday, October 14, 2011

Show Me The Money! by Sian Keogh

Like moths to a flame, enthusiastic and reluctant readers alike are drawn to this ever-popular title. Essentially a game, each two-page spread challenges the reader to find a specific number of dollars or euros. Much like the perennially popular Where’s Waldo? series, Keogh’s books appear easy enough to draw you in and prove challenging enough to keep you glued to their full-color pages. Unlike the better known series, this book, along with the similarly formatted Hunt the Cupcake! and Find the Golf Balls feature answer keys at the end to the fifty photo puzzles, offering sweet relief to the easily frustrated. Perfect for National Gaming Day and recreational independent reading for all ages.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Keogh, Sian. Show Me the Money! New York: Firefly Books, 2009.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Guest Post: You Don't Even Know Me by Sharon G. Flake

The boy code of silence is broken, and a perfect blend of powerful poems and short stories written by boys is created in Sharon G. Flake’s You Don’t Even Know Me. In this book, Flake gets us to contemplate on what it really means to know someone. The boys in this book share their stories of foster care, thoughts of suicide, obesity, unplanned pregnancy, love, revenge and the need to be understood with us in hopes of being accepted into our world. This book is a great invitation for all our boys to read and rise and write and inspire. I highly recommend You Don’t Even Know Me as a good read, especially for our reluctant readers. Sharon G. Flake did it again and this time the voices of boys is heard loud and clear. --Denice Martin-Thompson

Denice Martin-Thompson is a Reading Specialist at Passages Academy’s Summit site in the Bronx. She’s the creator of RAW- Ready, Able & Willing to Read and Write, an intervention service for Pre-K--Adults and she is also a published poet. Struggling to Survive The Story of a First Year Teacher Told Through Poetry is available here. Her passion for the arts comes alive in her writing; she believes in the liberating power of poetry and hopes to self publish her other titles one day. You can read more about Ms. Martin-Thompson by visiting her website here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Programming Spotlight: NYPL Visits Horizon

Today we are wrapping up a record-setting 12-consecutive group visits (over the course of two days) from the New York Public library at Horizon. Ms. Jeanine Thomas and Mr. Avondale Dyer of NYPL’s Mott Haven branch have been so good to our students and it has been such a treat to connect with them. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Paranormal Caught on Film by Dr. Melvyn Willin

“What is that? Is that real?” Students ask these questions every time they open this book to photographs of what really look like ghosts, apparitions, and other unexplainable visions caught on film. In his introduction, Dr. Melvyn Willin welcomes the reader to “the world of the extremely weird.” He doesn’t claim that all of the photographs represent paranormal activities, but he does give each one the opportunity to convince the reader with its companion story. Each photographic mystery is assigned a chapter: Ghostly Figures, Strange Lights & Apparitions, Simulacra, The Unexplained, and Back From the Dead, and is then paired with the context or history in which the image was captured. This book has plenty of material for students to wonder at; be sure to steer them to the text for the full experience. --Anja Kennedy

Willin, Dr. Melvyn. The Paranormal Caught on Film. Cincinnati, OH: David & Charles, 2008.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sold by Patricia McCormick

Lakshmi has spent all of her thirteen years in her small village in the mountains of Nepal, working hard and trying to make the best of things despite her thoughtless, gambling step-father. But when the family loses what little they have in a monsoon, her stepfather’s solution is to sell Lakshmi into prostitution. Thinking she is going to the city to work as a maid, Lakshmi ends up captive in a brothel in Calcutta, told she must earn her way free.

Told in captivatingly sparse free-verse, Lakshmi’s story unfolds in a series of powerful vignettes. Through Lakshmi the reader meets a cast of richly detailed supporting characters, who create a vivid world where Lakshmi’s struggle for freedom and justice comes to life.

Sold is a very intense look at the realities of child sex trafficking. While McCormick deals very sensitively and honestly with an incredibly difficult and brutal topic, teachers and librarians may still want to recommend this book to mature readers. -- Regan Schwartz

McCormick, Patricia. Sold. New York: Hyperion, 2006.