Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Thanks for keeping up with us in 2011! We'll be back with what's good in 2012 on Jan. 3.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What’s Good?: Exciting news about a former student!

from left to right: Lauren Adelman, MoMA Educator; P. showing off her sculpture; Ben Petty, Passages Academy Art Teacher; Alan Calpe, MoMA Teaching Artist. Behind them are more pieces from the Body/Building: Sculpture as Self-Portrait class that P. participated in.

Through our Community Partnership with MoMA, one of our former students applied, was accepted, and just completed a ten-week art class at the museum as a Community Scholar. Her work is on display right now along with all of the other teen participants’ work in the Education and Research Building (54th Street entrance, downstairs). Ben Petty, her Art Teacher while she was at Passages, and I went to the opening on Friday night and were thrilled to see her and her beautiful work. She gave me this quote about her experience in the Teen Program: “MoMA is a great experience. Your imagination equals beautiful spontaneous art.”  --Anja Kennedy

Friday, December 16, 2011

Guest Post: We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction by Nic Sheff

Nic Sheff and his father, David Sheff, appeared on the addiction/recovery literary scene in January 2009, when they published Tweak and Beautiful Boy, respectively. In We All Fall Down: Living With Addiction, Nic Sheff continues the story of his addiction, this time beginning with a knock on a drug dealer’s door—exactly where he hoped he would never be when he wrote the epilogue to Tweak. We All Fall Down is the story of relapse and the struggle not just to get sober, but also to stay sober or, more accurately, to live sober. Less dramatically drug-fueled than its predecessor, We All Fall Down describes Nic’s tenuous relationship with twelve-step programs (like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous) and with non-substance-related addictions that threaten his sobriety (read: girls. especially newly sober girls).

We All Fall Down is a memoir that resonates with many of the incarcerated youth I work with. When I asked the students about their favorite books, three girls described how they passed We All Fall Down around eagerly. Specifically, they enjoyed the fact that it was “hopeful,” “not just about drugs” and “realistic—it didn’t act like [getting sober] was super easy.” Creative writing and/or English teachers can use sections of this book as an engaging introduction to creative non-fiction and, of course, the value and trappings of such difficult self-exposure. If read alongside his father’s work, students can also get a good sense of how life events are multi-dimensional and of how context impacts how reality is perceived. --Katie MacBride

Katie MacBride is the Young Adult Librarian at the Mill Valley Public Library in Marin County, California. She also volunteers at the Marin County Juvenile Hall, where she brings books and offers reader's advisory services. She teaches a creative writing class at both the public library and the juvenile hall.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rikers High by Paul Volponi

What does a typical day look like for the hundreds of teens awaiting sentencing on Rikers Island? What happens behind all that barbed wire and security? Our students are understandably curious, and this book, while fictional, paints a picture of one teen’s experience. The main character is Martin Stokes, a seventeen year-old who has never before been in any real trouble, and he has recently been arrested for a “bubblegum charge” -- he was taken in by an undercover police officer for “steering” him to buy drugs in the neighborhood. While on Rikers, Martin witnesses and is the victim of extreme violence, is forced to attend school, and tries his best in the midst of all this to figure out a plan to survive the system and get released. Luckily, Martin has a strong head on his shoulders, clear vision, and a supportive family at home.

Our students are certainly able to relate to Martin’s feelings of just trying to get through the day, of being frustrated with the justice system, and of being homesick. They are huge fans of many of Paul Volponi’s books, and in the last couple of weeks, two of our high school classes have been reading Rikers High in preparation for a Skype meeting with the author. --Anja Kennedy

Friday, December 9, 2011

Guest Post: Boot Camp by Todd Strasser

Can you imagine being dragged out of your bed in the middle of the night, getting handcuffed and driven to a teenage boot camp, completely against your will? In Todd Strasser’s Boot Camp, Garrett is dropped off at Lake Harmony, a reform school that promises to change any child into the one their parents want. From day one, Garrett is tortured, beaten and humiliated— all tools the staff use to bend the will of the teens in Lake Harmony’s “care.” Everyone has a choice at Lake Harmony, either thrive by accepting the brainwashing or get beaten down daily. Garrett has to figure out how to survive without losing himself.
Todd Strasser tells a graphic story about the unconstitutional tactics and beliefs of boot camps that exist across America. These camps make expensive promises to parents they have to meet, sometimes at deadly costs for the children. Parents and teens everywhere will appreciate the honesty in this book and will learn to value the importance of communication in their relationships. -- Denice Martin

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, December 7, 2011

King George: What Was His Problem?: The Whole Hilarious Story of the American Revolution by Steve Sheinkin

This book is the perfect antidote to every boring, poorly contextualized, and heavily sanitized textbook telling of our nation’s birth forced on students across this expansive country. Readers are taken through the entire American Revolution, from the reviled Stamp Act of 1765 through the battles at Lexington and Concord in 1775, to the British surrender in Yorktown in 1781. All of the essential historical information is here, accurately revealed through a series of personal stories, sprinkled liberally with quotes and conversations, bringing to life the main players in this grand saga. It also features a “Whatever Happened to...” section with pithy biographies of key figures in the Revolution. King George: What Was His Problem? is both a satisfying read and an excellent resource for research, as it is well-indexed with copious source notes. Don’t let the abundance of bibliographic material keep you from picking up this very amusing and enlightening history. --Regan Schwartz

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Alex Rider: Point Blank by Anthony Horowitz

One of our graphic novel readers has been asking for the next book to this series for some time now, so I decided to see what the buzz was all about. Alex Rider connected with my younger self, and from the beginning to the end the novel reads like a film. Alex Rider: Point Blank is the second book in the Alex Rider series; so far only three titles have been adapted as comics from the original series. The central story from the original books remains, albeit shortened. Alex Rider is a teenager and a secret agent of the British organization MI6. As cool as this sounds, for Alex this is a curse more than a gift because he has to work twice as hard to maintain his grades. Readers are engaged quickly through the introduction, where Alex catches some bad guys using unorthodox methods, which get him into trouble with his own agency. The story evolves at a fast pace and adds a few layers of complexity. There are some plot twists which readers may or may not see coming. This graphic novel is colorful and vivid, and that’s definitely part of the appeal-- all the gadgets, explosions and action in the novel are exciting, largely due to the artwork. --Claudio Leon

Friday, December 2, 2011

Where We'll Be: The Biblioball

Dear Readers,

We would like to invite you to join us at the best party in NYC tomorrow night, the Desk Set's Biblioball.

Who: Librarians and librarian lovers
What: Sets from DJs Duane Harriott, Shakey, John XI, Marty McSorley, Mikey Post, Brian Blackout, Jimmy T; The return of the Fancy Pants Raffle; The premiere of “S is for Shhhhh…” an original short film in the Noir style; Jeremy Balderson takes your portrait in front of Gilbert Ford’s one-of-a-kind backdrop; Make your own Origami Corsage and so much more1
Where: The Bell House, Brooklyn
When: 8pm-4am
Why: Because we like you. And you like books. And proceeds support Literacy for Incarcerated Teens

Click here to purchase a ticket before they sell out.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

Welcome back to library team member and blog writer Claudio Leon! He flew home from Mexico yesterday after attending the FIL conference thanks to a travel grant from ALA and our principal's commitment to excellence in school library services to readers who read en espanol. We hope to have these books and dozens more on our shelves soon!--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Programming Spotlight: Bai Xi at the New Vic

Yesterday, two extremely talented teaching artists from The New Victory Theater visited two groups of students at our Boys Town site. Students had a great time with trust-building exercises and balancing activities.

Boys Town faculty, staff, and students had the opportunity to share in a phenomenal Chinese circus experience today. One of our students was invited to the stage to dance and complete hat tricks!--Tyler Hamilton

Bai Xi opens to the general public tomorrow on December 2 and will run through January 1, 2011. It's not too late to get tickets!

Photo Credit: Aubrey Haynes

Tyler Hamilton teaches Math at Passages Academy's Boys Town site. He coordinated today's trip and enjoyed it immensely himself.