Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Break

Dear Readers,

Happy summer!  We will continue to provide school library services this summer, but we'll be taking a break from posting until the start of the new school year.  We wish you a wonderful summer full of good reads.

See you in September,

Anja, Regan, Claudio and Jessica

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pinned by Sharon Flake

Autumn is the only girl on her high school wrestling team, and she’s good.   A younger boy, Roland, would like to get to know her better, but Autumn only has eyes for Adonis.  In fact, Autumn is in love with Adonis, a fellow student who manages her wrestling team when he’s not teaching her math class, volunteering to tutor and mentor other students, taking visiting dignitaries on tours of his school, and speaking at school assemblies.  Adonis, however, disdains “regular” people who are not differently-abled (as he is in his wheelchair), and he cannot stand the way Autumn flails in academics,  nor her relentless pursual of him.  Will Autumn graduate on time, succeed in the face of mean wrestling opponents, and win Adonis’ heart?  This novel in two voices (chapters alternate between Adonis and Autumn’s different perspectives and voices) explore differences in abilities and becomes heavy-handed, at times, but will still appeal to fans of Flake and developing middle school readers looking for a bit of a love story.  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Flake, Sharon.  Pinned.  New York: Scholastic Press, 2012.  Print.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football's Make-or-Break Moment by Carla Killough McClafferty

From the early days of brute force football to the contemporary high-flying dynasties, Fourth Down and Inches provides readers with a concise history of the American pastime and brings awareness to the dangers of the sport. The book begins with a detailed history of the origins of college football, mentioning some of the oldest team feuds and how they originated, along with the rising popularity of the sport.  Each chapter discusses  injuries and fatalities that happened in the field and the gradual progress made towards identifying and treating concussions.  As the book moves through the years, the focus shifts to the prevention of fatalities and minimization of injuries at both the college and professional level. Although the book provides many medical terms and details the high tech equipment used to keep players healthy, it never overwhelms or confuses.

Fourth Down and Inches is filled with old and new pictures of teams, athletes and past games. The diagrams are colorfully detailed and help explain some of the equipment the athletes use and the medical analysis done to help make sure football becomes a safer sport. For those looking to learn more about football and its wonderfully dangerous history, Fourth Down and Inches is a great read.--Claudio Leon

McClafferty, Carla Killough.  First Down and Inches: Concussions and Football’s Make-or-Break Moment. Minnesota: Carolrhonda Books, 2013. Print.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Graffiti School: A Student Guide With Teacher’s Manual by Chris Ganter

Acknowledging in his introduction that the graffiti scene is split into two groups:  illegal sprayers and legal sprayers, and noting that the legal sprayers need experience and ideas to create the detailed pieces worthy of a legal wall, author Chris Ganter has written the missing “how-to” book for the less experienced writer.  With the care of a teacher, Ganter covers graffiti’s relationship to society, its history, the hip-hop context, terminology, and related media before jumping into directions for designing graffiti.  These chapters are separated out into a) designing and b) dealing with spray paint.  The last chapter of the book is devoted to teachers, suggesting approaches to planning a graffiti unit and including a sample lesson plan, exercises, and corresponding “solutions.”  Back matter contains a smattering of sample alphabets (for more of these, see Walde’s Graffiti Alphabets), a European-oriented timeline of graffiti’s evolution beginning in 1970, a glossary, a bibliography for further reading, photo credits and an index.  Strongly recommended for independent use, as well as art educators.  Highly popular with Passages students at Belmont.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Ganter, Chris.  Graffiti School: A Student Guide with Teacher’s Manual.  New York: Thames & Hudson, 2013.  Print.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Core Reference List

Which titles are the most popular and essential reference print items in your library?  In ours, they seem to be:

1) Hip Hop Rhyming Dictionary by Kevin M. Mitchell

2) Pocket Oxford American Dictionary (Paperback) by Oxford University Press

3) Scholastic Pocket Thesaurus by John K. Bollard

4) The Occupational Outlook Handbook

7) DK’s Spanish-English Visual Bilingual Dictionary (other languages in this series are popular as well)

8) The Ultimate Scholarship Book by Gen and Kelly Tanabe

--Passages Academy Library Team

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Core Biography List

Which are the most popular and essential biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies in your collection?  Here are Passages Academy Libraries':

1) Yummy by Greg Neri, Illustrated by Randy DuBurke  (n.b. This hybrid volume contains an acknowledged element of fiction)
2) A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer

3) The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X, Alex Haley and Attallah Shabazz
4) Life in Prison by Stanley Tookie Williams (n.b. Currently only available in a hardbound version)

5) Saddleback's Hip-Hop Biography series titles Drake, Nikki Minaj, Beyonce

6) LeBron James: King of Shots by Anne E. Hill

7) The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures

8) A Question of Freedom by Dwayne Betts

9) Fist Stick Knife Gun by Geoffrey Canada, illustrated by Jamar Nicholas

10) Burned Alive by Souad
11) DK Biography: Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky

---Passages Academy Library Team

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Before I Die by Candy Chang

What do you want to do before you die?  

Candy Chang contextualizes this question in New Orleans after the storm, the wake of tremendous personal loss, and the Stoics’ suggestion that to contemplate death is to restore perspective and make life meaningful. Chang introduces her book with this context, and then goes on to describe her project to paint an abandoned house in her neighborhood with chalkboard paint and stencil it with a grid of the sentence, “Before I die I want to ________________.”  Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public.  This book shares highlights via text and photographs of Chang’s New Orleans installation, and then goes on to show images and quotes as the community art installation found new life in new environs.  Artists and community members in Jerusalem, Germany, South Africa, Thailand, and more created similar projects to similar effect.  The book also includes “remixes,” stats, and directions for making this kind of wall project.  This book can inspire students to talk about public art, to think about the questions worth asking, and to reflect on what they hope to accomplish, as well as evoke responses to the aspirations from around the world contained within the covers. The design of the book uses pulled quotes against solid color rectangles alongside colorful images of text, rendering it accessible for emerging readers as well as their more sophisticated peers.  Recommended for independent reading, inquiry, and art educators. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Chang, Candy.  Before I Die.  New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013.  Print.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Snitch by Allison Van Diepen

Julia DiVino has a plan for her future and it does not involve the gang life.  Julia has managed, with her best friend Q for support, to stay clear of the constant gang-related violence and drama at her Brooklyn high school, despite the fact that some of her friends are in rival gangs.  When gorgeous Detroit-transplant, Eric Valiente shows up, he and Julia fall hard and fast for each other.  But soon he reveals his gang-involved past and joins up again, breaking Julia’s heart in the process.  Then, at a club one night, Julia warns Eric that he’s about to get jumped.  With that one act, her life will never be the same - no one’s will.  Because everyone is not who they seem and she’s not the only snitch.

Snitch is a fast-paced, drama-filled novel that has wide appeal - it is one of the most popular books in our libraries.  Its accessible language and straightforward structure make it a solid independent reading choice for reluctant readers ready to move on from the Bluford High series or similar books. --Regan Schwartz

Those looking to facilitate a book club discussion of Snitch is may want to take a look at the teacher guide available here. 

Van Diepen, Allison. Snitch.  New York: Simon Pulse. 2007.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon

Seventeen-year-old Antonio pleads guilty to his abusive father’s murder; whether he did it or not is unclear, but he’ll still have to serve ten years for it.  Natasha, Antonio’s girlfriend, swears she’ll wait for him.  But ten years is a long time, and while Natasha is getting ready to go to college and explore the world, Antonio is stuck in a four-by-ten room.  Upstate allows the reader to see how two intertwined lives can go in complete different directions over the course of ten years.  The entire narrative of the book is wonderfully done in correspondence between Natasha and Antonio.  The letters between the two at first come almost daily and eventually devolve to a handful a year.  Did Antonio really kill his father? Where will Natasha be when Antonio is finally released? Upstate is a great independent read for fans of Paul Volponi’s Riker’s High and Walter Dean Myers’ Lockdown. --Claudio Leon

Teachers and book club facilitators may want to check out Macmillian's teacher guide to upstate here.
Buckhanon, Kalisha. Upstate. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005. Print.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Book of Majors by College Board

For students who have had a productive career exploration experience and an idea of where their interests lie, College Board’s Book of Majors is a handy reference item.  For users who know the major they would like to pursue in college, the Book of Majors offers a useful list of every major offered at American universities.  Underneath each major (e.g. Music Management, Nanotechnology, Cabinetmaking, African-American Studies), readers can find a definitive list of U.S. colleges offering it.  For those who have not yet selected an area of focus, as well as those who have, this sizeable volume includes other useful tools: a part 1 featuring a two-page spread on each major describing what it covers, who might like it, recommended high school preparation, a surprising fact related to the major, typical courses in the major, concentrations, a description of the course of study, related majors, questions to ask prospective colleges, career options and trends relating to the major, an insider’s quote, and where to go for more information (snail mail and on the web.)  For those who want to know what all of their options are but are short on time, as well as for career exploration guides, the book also offers a thirty seven page listing of majors with one sentence describing each.  This is where some will most efficiently discover that it is possible to major in Gunsmithing, Gay/Lesbian Studies, and Geotechnical / geoenvironmental engineering.  Highly recommended for reference collections where access to the Internet is limited or prohibited.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

College Board.  Book of Majors 2013.  New York: The College Board, 2013.  Print.

Friday, June 6, 2014

March: Book 1 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin illustrated by Nate Powell

John Lewis grew up trying to save the souls of the chickens on his family’s farm in Pike County, Alabama. He ended up on Capitol Hill.  March: Book 1 tells the story of his journey from boy preacher to renowned civil rights activist in vignettes as he entertains two young boys and their mother in his office on the morning of President Obama’s inauguration.  The book is solidly rooted in Mr. Lewis’ lived experience - from his first trip up north in 1951, to his first meeting with Dr. King, to his introduction to nonviolence and the fight to desegregate Nashville’s lunch counters.  Illustrated in arresting black and white, March: Book 1 is an engaging and edifying read.  The conversational tone make it accessible, even to those with little experience reading graphic novels, though the content and vocabulary recommend it to fluent readers. --Regan Schwartz

A teacher's guide is available from the publisher here.

Lewis, John and Andrew Aydin.  March: Book 1. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf Productions. 2013.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Spotlight Interview: Coe Booth


Coe Booth, beloved author of Tyrell, Bronxwood and Kendra, took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions from one of our students. Thanks Coe!

D:  When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Coe:  I really don't remember a time when I wasn't writing stories.  Ever since I learned how to write words and sentences, I was stringing them together to make stories.  On my second grade report card, the teacher complained to my mom that I wasn't paying attention in class, that I was just writing all day!  So this has been a constant thing in my life, and it surprises me to know that not everybody has characters and stories in their head all the time. That must be very boring!

D: How do you come up with the stories you write?

Coe: That's a hard question because there's no one place where stories come from.  They usually start with myself, with experiences I've had or emotions I've felt.  From there it's a combination of situations I've seen my friends go through, things I've witnessed in my neighborhood, and lots and lots of imagination.  As a writer, you really need to be an observer. You have to watch people on the street, eavesdrop on other people's conversations in public places, etc.  You also have to be in touch with your own feelings, the pleasant ones and the sad, difficult ones.  That's why I really recommend keeping a journal.  Not only does it help you understand yourself better, but it comes in handy when you're trying to recall what you were feeling at certain points in your life.  And that becomes very useful when you're writing stories.

D: Who helped you accomplish your goals? How?

Coe: It would take way too long to answer this question! Besides my parents, I think my friends had the most to do with helping me accomplish my goals.  Even when I was young, I always chose good friends.  I grew up in the Bronx, so of course there were lots of kids who were making bad decisions.  I never turned my back on them, but they weren't my close friends.  I surrounded myself with people who were about something, who had goals.  And they weren't just dreamers; they worked really hard to make their dreams come true.  If it weren't for my friends, I probably wouldn't have any books published.  When I was working as a crisis intervention specialist, a job that took up most of my time, my friends got together and reminded me of the goal I had since I was a kid, to be a writer.  Then they pushed me to quit that job so I'd have more time to write, advice I (thankfully) followed.  Friends are so important; choose them wisely!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Still I Rise By Roland Laird with Taneshia Nash Laird, Illustrated by Elihu “Adofo” Bey

From colonial day slavery to the Obama campaign, Still I Rise is the intertwined history of the United States and the African American struggle towards freedom and equality in graphic novel format.  The book is narrated by two caricatures which lend some humor to what otherwise would be a very dry and long history lesson.  One strategic decision that separates this text from others on the same subject is the authors' inclusion of the huge events like the abolishment of slavery without dwelling on them.  Instead, the novel brings attention to lesser known events that contributed to the fight for African American equality. The book focuses on back deals and individuals who were working behind the scenes, kind of the unsung heroes of African American history in the United States.  Unfortunately, once the book gets into the Civil Rights Movement it speeds up, trying to squeeze forty plus years of history into fifty pages which may leave the reader with a desire to know more about those years.  Then again, that seems to be the perfect place where teachers can jump in and help students fill in the gaps.  

Still I Rise has a large quantity of text for a graphic novel and its panels and text bubbles are not so easy to follow.  This makes it a bit less accessible for students without any experience reading graphic novels. Students looking to learn more about the history of slavery in the United States, or who enjoyed The Cartoon History of the United States would likely enjoy this book.--Claudio Leon

Laird, Roland, and Laird, Taneshia Nash. Still I Rise. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., 1997. Print