Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Pregnant and desperately poor, fifteen-year-old Esch lives with her two older brothers, high school basketball star Randall and pitbull-raising Skeetah, her baby brother Junior, and her widowed, underemployed, and alcoholic father in rural Louisiana.  Set during the week before Hurricane Katrina descends, Salvage the Bones heart-wrenchingly depicts Esch’s scorching love for her brother’s friend, Skeetah’s Greek tragedy-like devotion to his pitbull and her litter of puppies, Randall’s hopes of attending basketball camp where he’s sure to be noticed by college scouts, Junior’s search for a connection to the mother who died giving birth to him, and their father’s futile attempts to prepare for the unimaginable.  Themes of love, family, friendship, loyalty, and betrayal are thick throughout this many-layered story.  A modern classic for a strong reader.  --Anne Lotito-Schuh

Ward, Jesmyn. Salvage the Bones. New York: Bloomsbury, 2011. Print.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Programming Spotlight: Poetry Performance at BAM

Students residing at the Blum group home attended Poetry 2016: Past Is Present, a performance that opened on Thursday and will continue at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Fishman Space through next week.  Attendees were welcomed by DJ Reborn, warmed up with Baba Isreal, and then took in performance poetry from Climbing PoeTree, Liza Jessie Peterson, Flaco Navaja and Jennifer Cendana Armas, as well as a couple of impressive peers giving debut readings.  Poems were accompanied by beatboxing, dancing, and live music, as well as moving projections, making meaning on a variety of levels and adding to the complexity of the art.  The performance was followed by a Q & A onstage with all of the participants and everyone seemed to enjoy this foray into a new space.  Many thanks to Literacy for Incarcerated Teens for providing the critical funding to purchase tickets, and to Ms. Nadel, Ms. DeLara, Ms. Aiyana, Ms. Sandra, Blum Staff, and Mr. Watters and Mr. Moe at ACS for working as a team to make this trip a success.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Casey at the Bat by Ernest L. Thayer, illustrated by Joe Morse

Teachers looking for a narrative poem to illustrate the genre, as well as poetry lovers searching for a read-aloud poem to serve as an invitation to a story may wish consider this contemporary issue of Thayer’s classic.  I shared Casey this week at the commencement of baseball season and its confluence with the start of National Poetry Month.  This particular version initially grabbed students’ attention with its urban illustrations, though the poem itself seduces the reader using the traditional elements of poetry.  The poem’s pacing and suspense are enhanced by this publication’s layout.  This selection proved perfect for a shared reading and librarians will want to have multiple copies on hand so that students eager to study the images can do so without interrupting the rhythm and rhymes of the poem as it builds the momentum to its final anti-climax, leaving students hankering for more.  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Kids Can Press provides a pdf containing lesson plan ideas on their website.  Click here for the website and then scroll down for the pdf labeled “teaching.”

Thayer, Ernest L. Casey at the Bat.  Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2010.  Print.

Friday, April 1, 2016

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay, Illustrated by Daniel Lafrance

This is the story of a young African teen whose boarding school is attacked by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Koni. The events that follow Jacob are tragic as the LRA implements their ruthless tactics in order to force Jacob and his fellow classmates into becoming part of the LRA. In order to survive his captors, Jacob and three other classmates swear to protect each other as family. War Brothers touches on a multitude of topics from child soldiers to the difficulties of re-entering society after such traumatic events. However, the book does not explore either topic in depth.  This is both good and bad as it can be used as a tool to introduce students to such topics but further resources would be needed to explore them more deeply. The graphics contain just enough text to get the story across, making it accessible to students at a lower middle school reading level. Like any good graphic novel, the story is well paced and told through a well balanced use of text bubbles and graphic panels. Students who enjoyed Dogs Of War should enjoy reading War Brothers.--Claudio Leon

McKay, Sharon E., and Daniel Lafrance, Illustrator. War Brothers: The Graphic Novel. New York: Annick Press, 2013. Print.