Thursday, June 27, 2013

ALA 2013

Two of us, Claudio and Regan, are presenting at the American Library Association's annual conference in Chicago this Saturday.  The topic? Arts programs in school libraries serving detained youth.  If you are attending, find us and say hello!

In other news, yesterday marked the end of the Passages Academy school year.  Posting here will slow down over the summer as we prepare for another great school year.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: a fable by John Boyne

The Fury has come for dinner and decided Bruno’s father is destined for greatness, so the family is moving to Out-with.  Told from the perspective of nine-year old Bruno, Boyne’s tale is a brilliantly written short novel which offers an engaging counterpoint or supplement to the textbook teachings on the Holocaust for middle and high school students.  While most fiction for adolescents features an adolescent protagonist, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas requires a more sophisticated reader to appreciate the clever wordplay referring to Hitler and Auschwitz.   Readers of all ages stand to benefit from the discussions the book will be sure to inspire, including the importance of questioning one’s surroundings, following a moral compass, and genocide.  The ending packs a quiet punch--wait to see the movie if you can.  Originally published in 2006, back matter in the 2011 edition includes eight discussion questions from Pat Scales and an interview with the author.  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Oxford University Press has published an 88-page teacher guide written by Hayley Davies-Edwards.  You can get it for free here.

Boyne, John.  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: a fable.  New York: Random House, 2011.  Print.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Jokelopedia compiled by Ilana Weitzman, Eva Blank, Alison Benjamin, and Rosanne Green

Nothing brings people together like a joke so silly that it just cracks you up.  Luckily, Jokelopedia is chock full of them.

“Why was the margarine unhappy when she gave birth to marmalade?
She was expecting something butter”
“What did the 0 say to the 8?
Nice belt.”
“What’s the fastest way to crash a computer?
Let an adult use it.”

Now, I admit, that last one hit a little too close for this librarian’s comfort, but it is the wealth of jokes like these that pulls groups of disparate teens together for shared reading, laughing, and groaning.  Interspersed with the one-liners are pages of comedy history, comedy biographies, step-by-step procedures for a multitude of practical jokes, ample cartoons and illustrations, and longer-form narrative jokes.  Jokelopedia is an engaging, low-stress read, sure to elicit a smile (or an amused grimace). --Regan Schwartz

Weitzman, Ilana, et al, eds. Jokelopedia. New York: Workman Publishing, 2006. Print.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Science Ink by Carl Zimmer

“Miss, you got any tattoo books?” is asked at least once a day, every day, here inside Passages’ libraries.  But until now, there have not been any absolutely fabulous tattoo books that marry tattoos and... science.  Thank you Carl Zimmer and Mary Roach!  239 glorious matte color pages of science tattoos make their subjects one of immediate intrigue and coolness.  The handsome hardcover volume includes a half or whole page of text providing context for each tattoo image.  Zimmer gives accessible, well-crafted introductions to the topic along with a few words about the person wearing the tattoo and his or her connection to the subject at hand.  The book is organized by theme with chapters on physics, chemistry, evolution, neuroscience, DNA, and the like.  Back matter includes a handy visual index, as well as information about the authors and a standard index.  Science teachers, rejoice! --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Zimmer, Carl.  Science Ink.  New York: Sterling, 2011.  Print.

Click here for seventeen slides from the book provided via the New York Times.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Guest post: Chulito: A Novel by Charles Rice-Gonzalez and Street Dreams by Tama Wise

Chulito’s been best friends with Carlos since they were 5, but Carlos goes away to college, while Chulito runs for the local Hunts Point dealer, Kamikaze, and has dropped out of school. When Chulito and Carlos reconnect, Chulito realizes that his feelings for his friend may be deeper than he's ready to admit. This book is full of sex, drugs and real life on the streets of the Bronx, but it’s also a story about betrayal, loyalty, choosing love and not losing everything. Only collections that include other adult urban fiction books will find this book appropriate, but it’s high-quality writing, and shows men being tough and truly loving at the same time. Librarians andteachers looking for a more school-appropriate book should get Street Dreams, by Tama Wise. Set in urban New Zealand, it has some unfamiliar local vocabulary, but is for every fan of hip-hop, graffiti, and breakdancing. Tyson, the main character, falls in with a local crew of rappers and graffiti artists and falls for their promoter, Marc. Will he be able to connect with him without alienating the leader of the crew, Seige, and his best friend? One or both of these books should be included in any high school library collection--GLBTQ students need to see themselves in urban lit.  -- Andrea Swenson

Rice-Gonzalez, Charles. Chulito: a Novel. New York: Magnus Books, 2011. Print.

Wise, Tama. Street Dreams. Valley Falls: Bold Strokes Books, 2012. Print.

Andrea Swenson is the school media specialist at East Side Community, a 6-12th grade public school in New York City. She loves to talk about books (no surprise!).  Andrea was recently recognized for her work with the chemistry teacher at East Side by the American Chemical Society Committee on Environmental Improvement for incorporation of sustainability into chemistry education.

Andrea is curating a list of books with LGBTQ characters, themes and issues that are recommended for middle and high schools in New York City. You can find her lists and links here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper

Andrew Jackson’s life is changed forever the night he and his friends make the tragic decision to drink and drive to celebrate their high school basketball team victory. Andrew, B.J., and Tyrone look on in horror as the car Andy is driving bursts into flames with team captain, Robert Washington, trapped helplessly inside. Andy is finding it easier to deal with the consequences of having his license revoked until he is twenty-one and having a two year suspended sentence on his record than the guilt he feels over causing the death of his best friend. His parents tell him to be strong. Coach tells him he can’t blame himself forever. His friends and girl try to be supportive, but Andy still struggles. The story hinges on the question of will he ever be able to forgive himself? Sharon Draper deals with a variety of issues in Tears of a Tiger in a format that offers the reader a variety of insights into the issues. She uses a conversational format for most of the book but then includes student assignments, letters, and diary entries to provide further character insight. Also included is a reader’s guide with discussion topics as well as activities and research ideas. The first book in the Hazelwood High trilogy, this book is for the reader who is not afraid to deal with the tough issues of teen life. -- Bernardine E. Lowery-Crute

Draper, Sharon. Tears of a Tiger. New York, NY: Simon Pulse, 1994. Print.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

Just when you thought you knew that Rosa Parks sparked what later came to be known as the Civil Rights Movement in December, 1955, Phillip Hoose cracks open the previously almost silent vault of Claudette Colvin.  Divided into two parts to encompass Colvin’s two major efforts to fight injustice as a teen, Hoose gives us Colvin’s voice, along with his own narrated tale, engaging and brief sidebars, and historical photographs.  Adolescent readers may be intrigued to learn of Colvin’s arrest and placement in an adult jail, her meetings with Rosa Parks before Parks made history, and her subsequent experiences as a pregnant teen. Readers will never see Parks in the same way again.  Backmatter in the paperback edition includes an epilogue, afterword, interview, bibliography, notes, acknowledgements, photo credits and an index, all of which help the reader see this work of non-fiction as a well-documented inquiry project.  A riveting, inspiring non-fiction read, this book will be of interest to social studies and ELA teachers alike, as well as their students. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Social Studies teachers may be interested in these lesson plans developed by The State of Rhode Island and librarians may want to familiarize themselves with this pathfinder from Eduscape’s website.

Hoose, Philip.  Claudette Colvin:  Twice Toward Justice.  New York: Macmillan, 2009. Print.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Almost Home by Jessica Blank

Elly is twelve and too terrified to tell anyone that her step-brother rapes her almost every night.  After her peers mercilessly bully her and assault her one day after school, she is rescued by a mysterious teen who teaches her how to dumpster dive and sleep on pavement.  Elly crosses paths with similarly traumatized and presently homeless teens and Blank’s narrative switches narrators each time a new chapter begins.  This gritty young adult novel, set in L.A., will be too much for some, and all too familiar for others.  Almost Home can be viewed as a cautionary tale that ultimately conveys that leaving danger does not always mean finding safety.   School librarians will want to be aware that this unblinking depiction of teen homelessness includes sexual exploitation, rape, and drug abuse.  Recommended for independent reading for older teens. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Blank, Jessica.  Almost Home.  New York: Hyperion, 2007. Print.

Hyperion has published a discussion guide authored by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer which includes discussion questions, project ideas, and a short interview with the author.  Access it here.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Getting Away With Murder: the True Story of the Emmett Till Case by Chris Crowe

In 1955, fourteen-year-old Emmett Till’s gruesome death by the hands of the husband of a white woman he dared to whistle at would force the nation to face the realities of segregation and trigger the long Civil Rights battle that would define the next decade.  Getting Away With Murder tells this story in a compelling and accessible narrative.  After setting the scene in the first chapter, the book follows a mostly chronological path, from Emmett’s arrival in Mississippi, to his murder and through the trial to the the final chapter, “Aftershocks.”  Author Chris Crowe makes good use of many powerful photographs and quotes, and includes in the back matter a timeline of Civil Rights events, a bibliography, and three lists of additional resources and materials related to the Emmett Till case.  All of which makes this book an engaging and useful tool for teaching about the Civil Rights movement, and a good starting point for related student inquiry projects.  --Regan Schwartz

*Teachers and librarians will want to be prepared for a photo of Emmett’s decomposing body on page 67.

Crowe, Chris. Getting Away With Murder: the True Story of the Emmett Till Case. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2003. Print.