Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spotlight: Family Literacy at Parent/Teacher Conferences

Family Literacy at Belmont
Table at Horizon invites parents to get resources and explore the content on our library iPads
Last night at our four largest sites, Belmont, Bronx Hope, Crossroads and Horizon, parents were greeted by site librarians with take-home gifts! We had a selection of paperback picture books and board books for young readers in both English and Spanish, applications for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Reading Hot Spots maps by the National Book Foundation, and Family Literacy Pamphlets by New Visions for Public Schools. Some sites also had public librarians signing visitors up for library cards. Tomorrow afternoon is the second day for conferences, and we’re hoping to give more folks the resources they need to get books into the hands of young children. Many thanks to Literacy for Incarcerated Teens for providing the funding for all of the children's books. --Anja Kennedy

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Teenie by Christopher Grant

Smart, self-conscious, petite Martine Lashley is about to have a very tough year.  A freshman at the immense Brooklyn Tech High School, she is under a lot of pressure, both academically and socially.  Determined to earn a scholarship into a study abroad program in Spain, her grades start to slide as she deals with ostracizing cliques, her best friend’s dangerous lack of judgement, and the increasingly forceful attentions of the star of the basketball team.  Not knowing where to turn for help, she tries to handle everything on her own, but that’s a lot for a girl nicknamed Teenie to carry.

Christopher Grant’s first book is full of complex characters and realistic situations brought to life by its vibrant descriptions of familiar Brooklyn settings.  While it is written at a middle school reading level, the content is high school appropriate, as the book deals with sexual assault and violence. --Regan Schwartz

Grant, Christopher. Teenie. New York: Ember, 2010. Print

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Beowulf (Graphic Novel Adaptation) by Gareth Hinds

As a mythical hero who accomplished unparalleled deeds, Beowulf should need no introduction.  This graphical adaptation tells the story of his battles against Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and his final battle against a monstrous fire breathing dragon. It is a beautifully drawn graphic novel which strays from traditional text bubbles.  Instead, text is delivered through stand alone boxes.  Some pages possess a few text boxes while others are left empty with nothing but imagery.  This adaptation could be used to introduce readers to graphic novels as there are never more than three text boxes per page.  Often the pages left with no text are the actual battles between Beowulf and his adversaries.  Having no text during these intense moments allow the reader to be sucked in and appreciate the artwork.  The final chapter changes from full color to black and white perhaps as a symbol of Beowulf’s last battle.  Whether in color or black and white, the novel never loses it’s ability to convey to the reader the gruesomeness, sweat, and effort of each of Beowulf’s battles.  If you’ve never read Beowulf this is the perfect introduction. --Claudio Leon

Hinds, Gareth. Beowulf. Candlewick Press, 2007. Print.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-It-Yourself Designs to Amuse Your Friends and Scare Your Neighbors by Tom Nardone

Tired of the boring old jack-o-lantern with a cheesy grin? Well, this is what you’ve been waiting for. In Extreme Pumpkins (and Extreme Pumpkins II), Nardone, shows off his creativity with the pumpkin -- making unusual, and sometimes gory, displays with just a few extra props and materials. In addition to looking at the photographs of his imaginative jack-o-lanterns, readers can learn about how to re-create his designs, as well as how to dispose of pumpkin carcasses and random trivia relating to the designs. For instance, in the “Roadkill-Eating Pumpkin” chapter, readers might find the sidebar on actual roadkill statistics quite sobering: an estimated 41 million squirrels are killed annually, and 26 million cats! In “Crime Scene Pumpkin,” we learn about the variety of uses for fake blood on Halloween. My personal favorite of all the creations, “Property-Defender Pumpkin” might take a little extra work, and a few extra pumpkins, but it’s sure to be memorable amidst all the regular pumpkins out there this month.

Students have often looked through these books to get inspiration for the pumpkins they carve in their facilities and for future pumpkin-carving at home. ELA teachers may find these books useful in the upcoming nonfiction unit; science teachers may appreciate the how-to steps. --Anja Kennedy

Nardone, Tom. Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-It-Yourself Designs to Amuse Your Friends and Scare Your Neighbors. New York: Penguin, 2007. Print.

Monday, October 15, 2012

African-American Classics: Graphic Classics Vol 22 edited by Tom Pomplun

Often, graphic novel adaptations of classic literary works struggle to stand on their own, appearing as watered down versions of greats.  Thankfully, that is not at all the case in this top-notch collection.  Modern African-American comic writers and artists have adapted a slew of classic stories and poems by America’s earliest African-American authors, including W.E.B. Dubois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and turned them into engaging and dynamic comics in their own right.  From a haunting adaptation of Jean Toomer’s “Becky” by Mat Johnson and Randy DuBurke, to a spare and dreamy “On Being Crazy” illustrated by Kyle Barker, this solid anthology offers something for everyone.  Its use as a tool in analyzing how different texts address similar themes or in comparing versions of the same story told in diverse media, may be of specific interest to teachers of English Language Arts. --Regan Schwartz

Pomplun, Tom. African-American Classics: Graphic Classics Vol 22. Mount Horeb: Eureeka Productions, 2011. Print.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collected by Alvin Schwartz

Yes, they’re corny, and no, they’re not that scary. But, they are short and slightly spooky, and perfect for students who just want to read a little story at a time. Better yet, they’re a good fit for students who like to tell scary stories and need more material. This book, along with More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3, also has a lot of potential for ELA teachers currently working on short stories with their classes. With the accompanying CDs (sold separately, but available in some of our libraries) that include stories from all three volumes of Schwartz’s scary story collections, teachers will certainly be able to find at least a few to entertain, all while demonstrating the traditional elements of short stories. Note that the illustrations by Brett Helquist are far lighter than the original publications’ drawings by Stephen Gammell; the original books would certainly be scarier, and probably more appealing to teens.--Anja Kennedy

Schwartz, Alvin. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. New York: Harper Collins, 2010.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nevermore: A Photobiography of Edgar Allan Poe by Karen Lange

This approachable and engaging photobiography is a great match for anyone with even the slightest bit of curiosity regarding Edgar Allan Poe. All too often, Poe’s life is glossed over during short story and poetry units of study.  Packing a number of extant photos of Poe and his contemporaries, as well as the arc of his tumultuous 40 years of life into a slim 57 pages, this volume is a perfect introduction or second text on the subject of the life and times of Edgar Allan Poe.  Lange neatly covers real-life tragedies that lent themselves to literary masterpieces like “The Raven” and “The Tell-tale Heart” and inspired contemporary literature like Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events.  She similarly covers Poe’s tragic loves and places his writing in literary history, crediting him with the invention of detective fiction.

Backmatter includes a chronology, a list of quote sources, books, articles, and websites for further reading, an index, and illustration credits.  An excellent non-fiction text to supplement or include in ELA curricular studies, this volume straddles the divide between a simple text and a more challenging text in regard to layout, structure, and language features.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Lange, Karen.  Nevermore:  A Photobiography of Edgar Allan Poe.  Washington D.C.:  National Geographic, 2009.  Print.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One Piece by Eiichiro Oda

If you like pirates, over-the-top characters, and long journeys, you’re going to love One Piece.  As this manga series starts we meet Luffy, a teenage boy who ate a devil fruit from a Gum-Gum Tree.  Unbeknownst to Luffy, the fruit grants him special powers at the cost of the ability to swim.  How then will Luffy be able to realize his dream of becoming the greatest pirate in history? Since this manga series is on the lengthy side with about 66 volumes, it will surely keep readers entertained for a long time.  One Piece may provide fodder for teachers working on topics that include debate skills as they prepare arguments on the subject of “Pirates vs. Ninjas.” In all seriousness, readers of manga series like Bleach, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z and Death Note will enjoy this prolific writer. --Claudio Leon

Oda, Eiichiro, and Lance Caselman. One Piece. San Francisco, CA: Viz, LLC, 2004. Print.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Accuser by Anne Schraff

When the neighborhood bully gets murdered, all clues seem to point towards Donyell’s brother, Ricky. Donyell doesn’t want to believe it, but Ricky was out late that night, he came home in bloody clothes, his face looked like it had taken a few punches, and most incriminating of all, he tells Donyell to lie for him and he leaves town for a few days. In a mere 30 pages, Donyell tries to solve this murder mystery by speaking with all the potential suspects, only to discover that he was mistakenly jumping to a lot of conclusions.

This book is part of the Quickreads series, a collection of high interest, low reading level books from Saddleback, and written by one of the authors of the tremendously popular Bluford High series. While it might not have a lot of appeal for students who like to sink their teeth into a longer story, it could be a good match for students looking for something they can get through in one class period or one evening. Our Reading Specialist at Bronx Hope likes to use books in this series while working with her students; this title is one she says students like the most. --Anja Kennedy

Schraff, Anne. The Accuser. Costa Mesa, CA: Saddleback, 2010. Print.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

Sonia Rodriguez is determined to be the first in her family to graduate from high school.  However, Fortune does not seem to be favoring her aspirations.  As the oldest daughter in a traditional Mexican-American family, she must balance the academic demands of her teachers (at least one of which is an out-of-touch bigot) with the nearly all-consuming demands of her family.  When she balks at these responsibilities and focuses on her school work she is chastised and misjudged as conceited and lazy and sent to her abuelita’s in Mexico for the summer.  She soon realizes that she may have been doing a great deal of misjudging herself.  Sonia returns home with a new sense of her history and vision for her future, but the old obstacles remain as stubborn as ever and bad situations escalate quickly.  Will Sonia’s determination be enough to see her through?

Inspired by the lives and stories of the author’s own students, and vetted with them each step of the way, The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez is a modern Cinderella story, told in the fresh and feisty voice of its protagonist.  Beyond being an engaging coming-of-age story, it is also an interesting examination of stereotyping and prejudice in modern American society and full of rich character development.  Readers will find plenty to discuss, analyze, and debate.  With a Lexile of 800, it is aimed at students reading comfortably at a fifth or sixth grade level. --Regan Schwartz

Sitomer, Alan. The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez
. New York: Jump at the Sun Books, 2008. Print.