Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss by Claire Nouvian

Have you ever seen a googly-eyed glass squid, aka Teuthowenia pellucida? A vampire squid? A glowing sucker octopus? Passages students haven’t either, and although seeing is believing, the photographs in The Deep are often so surprising that many viewers react by insisting they’re not real. Truly the last frontier on Earth, “With an average depth of 3800 meters, the oceans offer 99% of the space where life can develop . . . A staggering thought.” And while humans have sought to dissect and document every species they can get their hands on, thousands and thousands of organisms slip through scientists’ grasp because they inhabit depths rarely accessed. This gorgeous coffee-table sized book collects over 200 incredible photographs of these beings in their bioluminescent splendor and offers the reader a view of their dark and glowing world with basic facts, narrative captions, sophisticated essays, and an understated marker on the side of each page to indicate the depths at which each organism has been spotted. Readers will be be entranced, disbelieving, and full of questions. A perfect text to instigate inquiry, as well as a handy authentic and sophisticated text for teaching features of pictorials. Includes numbers of interest pertaining to the deep sea (pg 246), a one-page glossary, a one-page index, a one-page bibliography, and credits.

Nouvian, Claire Ed. The Deep. Chicago: The University of Chicago, 2007.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cosmogirl! Words to Live By

“Women’s place is in the House-- and in the Senate.” juxtaposed a few pages away from “I love being a girl because I like making guys turn their head.” Hmm. While some of the quotes in this tiny book fall a little short of inspiration, I still strongly recommend this book because it has enough fluff to appeal to a reader looking for light reading combined with enough wisdom and provocative content to instigate deeper incidental thinking or thoughtful conversation. Each page features one to three quotes from individuals both famous and anonymously cited only by first name, age (teens), and the fact that she is a reader of Cosmogirl. This book could be a simple way to locate quotes to kick off a women’s history month inquiry project. The book is divided up into seven chapters covering It’s a Girl Thing, Love Lines, Spirit, Friends and Family, Tough Stuff, Dream it, Be it, and Life Lessons. With an introduction from the magazine’s editor-in-chief and an index to the famous folks quoted inside, the short 212 pages are more addictive than the cover might suggest.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Back in the Days by Jamel Shabazz

Get ready to enter a time warp as you open this book and step into New York City in the 1980s. Photographer Shabazz, who grew up in Brooklyn, knows how to capture the life of the streets: kids hanging out, couples and friends posing, and graffiti on the walls dare the viewer to challenge their authenticity. These pictures are so real, they could have been taken today -- but the older subway cars and the fashion give it away. These were the days of Sergio Valente jeans, Cazal glasses, and Puma and Adidas sneakers. In portrait after portrait, the subjects know they look good, and they work it for the camera, crossing their arms and sticking out their hips. My personal favorites are the ones showcasing matching outfits shared by friends, lovers and entire crews. DYFJ staff members almost always get a kick out of this book as they re-live the clothes of the eighties and talk to the students about how New York City used to look. This book is highly engaging and a real stress-free read.

Shabazz, Jamel. Back in the Days. New York: powerHouse Books, 2001.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bayou: Volume One by Jeremy Love

Graphic novel, historical fiction, and fantasy all rolled into one eye-catching and compelling read, Bayou tells the story of Lee Wagstaff, an African-American girl living in Mississippi in 1933. When her white friend, Lily, is captured by Cotton-Eyed Joe, a fantastical creature, only Lee knows the truth, a truth that may possibly set her father free after he is accused of Lily’s disappearance. Lee crosses over into the fantasy world in hopes of bringing Lily back and is aided by Bayou, a friendly monster that vows to protect her. Tropes on southern history, dialect, folktales, religion, music and race relations are explored metaphorically, literally and visually on almost every page. Some pages are ripe with dialogue, while others simply let the artwork establish setting and mood while moving the plot forward. After racing through the first two volumes, this reader was left anxiously awaiting the release of the newest addition to the series. Students seem to be most drawn to the vivid full-color artwork and theme of injustice by their own curiosity of the highly charged setting.

Love, Jeremy. Bayou: Volume One. New York: DC Comics, 2009.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dogs (Eyewitness Companions) by Dr. Bruce Fogle

Always a hit with the dog lovers among us, this book is compact and concise, making it the perfect resource for quick reference. While it has plenty of factual information about the dog's origin as a species and its present state as a domesticated pet, the real draw is the breakdown of breeds. Divided into categories by size (small, medium, large, and extra large), each breed listed is described and illustrated with specific details that apply to each one. Most useful perhaps is the information regarding temperaments and time consumption for grooming and training. It is our go-to book at Summit when someone wants to show off what their dog looks like, or more often, what the dog of their dreams looks like. Also handy is the section in back about training, taking care of and keeping a dog as a pet.

Fogle, Bruce. Dogs. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2006. Eyewitness Companions.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ripley's Believe It or Not: Enter if You Dare

Conjoined crocodile twins, a 22-inch tall man, a faceless cat, a woman with an elephant trunk nose, a man with tattooed eyeballs: what do they all have in common? They can all be found in Ripley’s Believe it or Not: Enter if You Dare. All of the Ripley’s books are a huge hit with our students who are drawn in by the eye-popping full-color photos of strange-but-true oddities from around the world. The series is perfect for shared reading because the reader can’t help but express their reactions vocally, turning to their neighbor to ensure he or she is equally shocked and amazed. Our most reluctant readers are highly motivated to read the brief captions accompanying each photo by a desire to learn more about just what it is they are looking at. Available in hard cover only, teachers are encouraged to borrow Ripley's books for classroom use.

Barratt, Judy and Sandy McFall, Eds. Ripley’s Believe It or Not: Enter if You Dare. Orlando, FL: Ripley Publishing, 2010.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yo’ Mama is So... by Hugh Payne

Hugh Payne wants you to know he has nothing against yo mama. He hopes she has a sense of humor. This little 256 page joke book averages four one-liners per page and is a perfect stress-free read for the reader who likes his white space riddled with laughs. My favorite part of this volume are the insults between famous people, like Golda Meir on Moshe Dayan : “Don’t be so humble, Moshe, you’re not that great” (p154). I can only hope that the student reader already knows who Meir and Dayan are, and if she doesn’t that this will lead to some wondering and research. Other sections educators can appreciate include the “Insults, courtesy of William Shakespeare” (p 209), a wonderful introduction to the Bard if there ever was one for Passages’ students about to dive into encountering Shakespearean English. Teachers will also and the epilogue, in which the author exhorts the reader to apologize when appropriate.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Denim Diaries 1: 16 Going on 21, by Darrien Lee

Good Girl falls for Bad Boy. Good Girl sneaks out of house, despite her mother’s warning, to attend Bad Boy’s party. Shots ring out, and the couple flees only to find blood on Good Girl’s shirt once they stop running. This is the scene presented to readers in the first few pages of Darrien Lee’s 16 Going on 21, the first volume in the “Denim Diaries” series. The Good Girl/Bad Boy construct becomes complicated as we learn more about both Denim and Andre’s back stories. Students looking for a romance high in drama will be drawn to the theatrical dialogue between Denim and Andre. Moralistic in tone throughout, the ending is left unresolved, creating a desire in the reader for the next book in the series.

Lee, Darrien. Denim Diaries 1: 16 Going on 21. West Babylon, NY: Urban Renaissance, 2009.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Played by Dana Davidson

Looking for a love story? This is a really good one with a twist. Ian is attractive and popular, and he considers himself a real player with the ladies. When he is challenged by the leader of the coolest crew in school (the very crew he is proud to be a member of) to get a very uncool girl to sleep with him and fall in love with him, he knows he has to play the game if he wants to keep the respect of his friends. As cruel as this premise sounds, at heart, Ian is not a terrible person, and he feels the guilt of his motions every step of the way as he puts the moves on unsuspecting, plain and brainy Kylie. As their “relationship” develops, Ian begins to see that Kylie is more than she appears and readers will root for him to do the right thing as he struggles to continue with his friends’ dare while his feelings become real. This is an uplifting story for anyone who has ever been played and a good lesson for the players.

Davidson, Dana. Played. New York: Hyperion, 2005.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Skulls by Noah Scalin

Spaghetti skull, acorn skull, mountain skull. Soy sauce skull, wire frame skull, seashell skull. How many different materials do you think you could use to illustrate one subject every day for an entire year? Artist Noah Scalin took on this project in the form of skulls, with an image posted once a day to his blog. After the blog gained massive public interest, a book was published showcasing 180 of the skulls Scalin created for the project, including short captions that describe the materials used in the process. This book is super accessible -- it’s visually appealing because of its small, square size, and every page features a skull or some skulls made in a multitude of media. Students can usually appreciate the absurdity in some, and the skill in others, but they will almost always give it a chance. This is a highly recommended stress free read.

And the blog lives on as fans all over the world continue to submit found skulls and their own handmade skulls. Check it out:

Scalin, Noah. Skulls. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2008.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Weird but True! 300 Outrageous Facts by National Geographic

What is bellybutton lint made out of? How many people holding hands would it take to encircle the equator? How much can a cloud weigh? In varied fonts and with a combination of digitally created illustrations and photographs, Weird but True delivers the answers to 300 questions you probably never actually asked but will find fascinating anyway. A few may leave you scratching your head like I was when I read “Some sand dunes bark” on page 171 or nodding your head in acknowledegement again, as I was, when I read “If you eat too many carrots your skin can turn orange” (pg 180)-- a harmless experiment you can try with a 6 month old baby. But most will leave the reader with a furrowed brow wondering away: “Human ears evolved from ancient fish gills” (pg 188). A handy index makes your favorite facts findable when you want to prove you’re not making something up, like “99% of people can’t lick their elbows” (pg 199) or “The year 2020 is the next time you’ll see a full moon on Halloween.” (pg 193).

National Geographic. Weird by True! 300 Outrageous Facts. New York: National Geographic Society, 2010.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Black and White by Paul Volponi

Marcus and Eddie don’t care about their mis-matched skin color: Marcus is black and Eddie is white. As best friends and co-stars of their high school’s basketball team, they only care about looking out for each other -- both on and off the court -- and they’ve got it all under control. So when they need a little extra cash to go on a school trip, they’re certain that they’re smart enough and smooth enough to get away with some quick and painless robberies. When one of the robberies goes terribly wrong and a community member, a judge who is “tough on crime” as luck would have it, gets injured, Marcus and Eddie are left to figure out a lot of things that had at one time seemed so simple. This book moves quickly in alternating chapters narrated by Marcus and Eddie and is full of thought provoking material. Marcus and Eddie never let their skin color define them before, but how are they supposed to feel now as their victims, the police, their team, and their once close families begin to do just that?

Volponi, Paul. Black and White. New York: Penguin SPEAK, 2005.