You are currently browsing the archives for October 2008.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 19 entries.

Do you know Jake Maddox?

  • Posted on October 29, 2008 at 9:52 PM

Jake Maddox. Author, book character, or series name for Stone Arch Books? As a cataloger, watching these books come in and out nonstop can be frustrating. You sit there wanting to tweak the record as soon as the books are on the shelf. Those darn books just won’t stay on the shelf long enough for you to argue with yourself again…. 

Do you file these in fiction as FIC MAD for Maddox? Do you put them under FIC and the three letters of the text editor? Do you file these in fiction as FIC $@# for the t-r-u-e brilliant brain behind these "high-interest fiction books for struggling and reluctant readers"? (I know a secret!) :-) Who is Jake Maddox? Is Jake a character? Nope! Must be a pen name for some author.

I give up. I’m putting them all in FIC MAD for the series because it will put them at exactly the perfect height for eye contact. My reluctant readers who come in desperate to get a book so the teacher will stop yelling at them to "find a book" in 2 minutes, will be able to easily identify all the titles in the series. Give me a break, you make decisions like this in promoting books all the time.

Oh? You want to know what these books are? They are from a grouping called Impact Books that are targeted to an interest level of Grades 4-8 but with a reading level of Grades 2-3. They are modern/contemporary stories. They involve sports, sportmanship, teamwork, and core values. The students report they are fun, not demeaning or condescending, and that there is just enough sports action to make their senses gear up.

I have most of the first series of Jake Maddox. There are 34 on the list. I wasn’t sure if I should donate them to my middle school library or not. . My old elementary school students loved these, too, so I debated donating them back to that school where I’d definitely be a hero. "Perhaps these are too young?" I wondered. "What if I process them and the students won’t read them?"So I took them in to my middle school Grades 6-8 and waited.

Nope! I have such an incredibly diverse group of students speaking 35 languages, from 47 countries, and totaling 882. You would be shocked at the wide diversity of students who are reading these titles. Students casually picked up a title and sauntered off to read. Before their classes left, they raced up to check out the books and returned to band class where they promptly got write-off’s for reading instead of rehearsing. 

I forgot and left a flyer advertising all of the new Jake Maddox books out on the table. Oops! I surely didn’t mean to cause the students to start demanding more in the series, or did I? You readers know just how much I hate to have to order more books. NOT! Now the students can’t wait for all of the 2009 Spring titles like:

  • Free Climb
  • The Hunter’s Code
  • Legend of the Lure
  • Wild Hike
  • Running Rivals
  • Soccer Spirit
  • Stolen Bases
  • Tennis Trouble

The top four have male main characters and the bottom four have female main characters. Boys are reading all of the titles even when there is a female athlete on the cover. The boys seem to have radar or tracking devices on the books, too. The minute a book is returned, a student is digging through the return box and checking it back out. 

The entire collection covers a broad range of sports. I have witnessed students beginning with the title focusing on their sport first, then rushing back to the library to pick ANY other title in the series. They have learned that the titles deal with issues they face in middle school and that the Jake Maddox series doesn’t sugar-coat the issues. 

I can tell the students love these books because they left me a note in the consideration bag:

Dear Ms Chen,
Please get every single one of the Jake Maddox books. Probably you need to buy more copies because they are so easy to read and I finish them in a day. Then I have to beat everyone to the library during advisor/advisee time and somebody else comes in and gets them first. That makes me sad. (drawing of sad face)  Could you please fly up there to Minnesota and tell your author friends that we need more Jake Maddox books? Maybe the author can write some about bouncing on the trampoline and playing dodgeball. Those are my favorite sports during gym but we don’t have a trampoline. 

<signed by> 
your favorite student

Who could resist a plea like that? Looks like we’re off to contact all my author friends and tell them to stop enjoying fall and get back to writing. In the meantime, I hope you purchase these books and test reader reaction for yourself.


  • Posted on October 26, 2008 at 7:00 AM

How about spending a moment editing a wiki called SWOTlibraries? SWOT stands for:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

While I’m working this weekend on long-term visions, I will be part of a group exploring our organization using the SWOT methodology. Strengths and weaknesses are the internal part of your school, organization, or group. Opportunities and threats are external. The OT’s need to be addressed first, then the SW’s. Links between O’s and S need to be drawn. 

I believe in creative brainstorming and would like your help editing this wiki. Please go to and add your ideas. I think beautiful fall days are perfect for contemplating the future and how we can help to make libraries better.

ARC's and kids

  • Posted on October 24, 2008 at 7:27 AM

Did you see the great article highlighted on SLJ’s home page today? It’s a link to the Publisher’s Weekly article School Librarians Connect Kids to Galleys. My students are so enthusiastically devouring all review books I have and the Advanced Reading Copies (ARC’s) of books that are coming soon. The students are sitting in informal spur-of-the-moment groups discussing the titles. Many come to me individually to discuss books. They keep writing reviews for our school wiki and appear ready to start blogging about the books so they can have their discussions in non-threatening ways. 

Now I have a unique problem: the students have driven a certain Language Arts teacher to distraction this year. They want to write real reviews and book blurbs for ARC’s to put on our wiki because they realized that "real people" (an authentic audience) reads what they write. The teacher has asked me if I can find 182 ARC’s before November 10th so every student in her classes can participate. I’m not sure if I have 182 ARC’s because I do try to read them quickly, review them, put them in a student reviewer’s hand, etc. Publishers, HELP!!!!!!!

If you have some extra ARC’s needing to go in students hands, please mail them to me at:

John F Kennedy Middle School
2087 Hobson Pike
Antioch, TN 37013

I know that I am not alone. There are many other librarians out there that want to do similar projects with the students. Your sales won’t go down. They’ll go up drastically. I give my students the ARC’s if they review them, then when the book is in, they can have their photograph taken with the final project. Try it out. Give us a chance to see your titles. Librarians, tell them you want the ARC’s.

Glorious to be a school librarian

  • Posted on October 24, 2008 at 7:22 AM

I’m in Chicago preparing for the fall ALA Executive board meeting and joint meeting of divisional leadership. As I met with Mary G for breakfast and raved on and on about my students, I realized I needed to just take a moment to ask you, "Isn’t it great and glorious to be a school librarian?"

We have individual relationships with our students, staff, administrators, and parents. We have professional leadership roles. We have curricular expertise and technical knowledge from which everyone can benefit. We can personally make a difference in the emotional and intellectual growth of each student. Wow! What an awesome job. And to make it even better, we get to play with, touch, savor, and share books. Wait! There’s more. We get to use technology to make lifelong learning exciting, meaningful, personal, and relevant. 

We really do have the best job in school. I hope you take a moment to savor your professional life today.

The Devil's Breath

  • Posted on October 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

David Gilman, author of The Devil’s Breath, has an interesting life story himself. Principal writer for the UK TV show A Touch of Frost, David has also worked as a firefighter, professional photographer, marketing manager, The Devil's Breath (Danger Zone)and served in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment Reconnaissance Platoon. The Devil’s Breath is the first of an eco-friendly teen super-fit school kid that saves the world series The Danger Zone. 

Max Gordon is a 15 year old boy attending a physically tough school that seems to have prepared him for the life of a super-agent. With an attempt on his life in the first scene, we quickly realize Max is no ordinary teen. He keeps his cool, uses logic and manages to solve many mysteries to locate his father. Fortunately he has the help of three too-cool-to-be-believed friends. All were strong characters and I suddenly wanted a daughter just so I could teach her how to fly when she is 12. Oh, wait, I have to learn first.

Quickly after the attempt on his life, Max realizes his father is in danger in Namibia (one of the world’s driest countries). Max is aided in searching for his father by a friend who is a Bushman. My favorite scenes in the book are those describing the bush lifestyle. There is even a plea to help the Bushmen’s very real plight at Survival International’s Web site.

I had to wrestle this title back from my student book blurb bloggers (say that 3 times fast) in order to read this title myself. I made sure to read all 390 pages of my ARC in 3 hours so I could return the book to them tomorrow. They warned me that I will have never seen such evil retribution if I don’t return the book fast tomorrow morning! 

My savvy students are racing through this adventurous romp and jacket image for The Devil's Breath by David Gilman - large versionrecommending it to their friends who like Anthony Horowitz’ Alex Rider series, Clive Cussler, Ted Bell, and James Bond. Some of them discovered online that the UK version was released a year earlier and they have pestered me for links so here you go:

The author’s blog is pretty easy to remember
The Puffin UK version of The Danger Zone website
The original YouTube video uploaded in 2007 when the title was released overseas.
The US version was released September 23, 2008, by Random House. Hardcover, 400 pages, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-385-73560-5 (0-385-73560-X).
What will I do when the students realize that the second in the series: Danger Zone: Ice Claw was released in the UK July, 2008? I wonder if my assistant Dorothy is going to England for the holidays. Hmm… Perhaps she could slip in one little book upon her return.

Guest Counselor Chery Tyler & Literature to Help

  • Posted on October 19, 2008 at 6:20 PM

Cheryl Tyler blogs in part 3 today:
Before I focus on literature I wanted to spend a non-academic moment to address the issue of our belief system. Amid our convictions, we possess prejudices—even if it’s prejudice against prejudiced people. It’s easy to vilify people who don’t believe like we do. For example last night someone stomped the Presidential candidate sign we have in our yard. It is all too easy to get into a “we-them” mentality, because what we believe seems so right.


Here’s a far out analogy that takes it from the thought into experience: I’m left-handed, and the first leftie born in the 20th century. My grandfather was the only leftie born in the 19th century. When my aunts taught me how to knit, it was difficult because they could only see it from the way they had done it all their life. They couldn’t identify with my “difference”—but for me it wasn’t a handicap because it was me.


The issue of protecting gay students might be offensive to you and cut across the core of your fundamental beliefs. Therefore, it is quite okay to tell a student you don’t understand, but you’re there for them if they need you. See this issue through the lens of protecting a child from being harmed physically or emotionally; certainly that’s on the radar of everyone’s value system. Making school safe for everyone is part of the mandate from your school system, and probably in the mission statement for your school.


What if someone comes to you for Heather Has Two Mommies? This child will get comfort from the book because there’s at least one other someone out there who has two moms. His situation is normalized as he turns the pages, even though his name is Joe and not Heather. Undoubtedly there’s no difference than when you give a child a book dealing with any other issue you don’t find “in common” in school. Think about those books: the parent in prison, a mom who is bipolar or a dad who is a gambler; in elementary school you don’t read a book to a class about the dad who drinks, but you certainly have the book tucked away for the child who needs it.


Gay teens state they live their life wearing a mask, and they’re in need of a caring adult. Students will look to school librarians to help them find answers. Here is a list of websites and literature you might find helpful (there is a range of literature in here, and some schools and school districts may not permit you accessing it):

  • Gay-Straight Alliance Network (
  • GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel (7th grade and up).
  • Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
  • Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez, a trilogy for 9th grade up.
  • Gay Christian Network ( is a website for conservative gay Christians. They present both the side for remaining celibate, or to date and find a life partner.
  • For parents who come to you, they may be interested in PFLAG ( This is a group for families and friends of persons who are gay.
  • GLSEN ( stands for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
  • Exodus International is a group for people who want to live a heterosexual life ( My note: This is a faith-based group and the research that supports their claims of same-gender attraction change has been questioned, however many students will ask about this program. 
  • The Advocate ( is a national, award-winning gay and lesbian e-zine.
  • ( is a project created by the Southern Poverty Law Center. A free Teaching Tolerance Newsletter that is available to educators who are interested in anti-bias issues and new educational materials.
  • Open Lives: Safe Schools a book published by Phi Delta Kappa and edited by Donovan R. Walling. It addresses gay and lesbian issues in education.

 This week has been prolific with news about gay students. We started the week with the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death, then there was the information about the school in Chicago for GLBT teens, and finally actress Hillary Duff has started a new advertising campaign to help stamp out gay slurs. Here’s a link to the CNN video:


My book—And You Invited Me In—began fifteen years ago when I saw that my nationally-known conservative church was not available when our landlord, and fellow church member, died of AIDS. While I’m conservative, I also strongly believe that no matter what the issue, the law of grace trumps everything. That’s the kind of love we possess when we shield our students from a shooter. Everyday there are “word shooters” in our classes. The words might be a look or a sound but they all say the same thing. Don’t let that happen. Be the change agent in your school. Make a difference and you’ll save a child.

Diane’s Note to Readers and Cheryl:
I deeply appreciate the time and research Cheryl devoted to writing this three-part series this week. Having a close relationship with the school counselor is so important and I appreciate Cheryl’s going above and beyond to help extend our study to other readers of this blog. Thank you, Cheryl.

Kids Against Hunger

  • Posted on October 16, 2008 at 7:35 PM

World Food Day is October 16th. How does this relate to books and students? The holiday season is approaching. Have you witnessed parents worrying about how they will feed their families? Does this impact students? Perhaps your school holds Canned Food Drives or Winter Coat Drives. The student council at my school recently planned their activities and chose leaders for both these groups. I decided to have the leaders read Kids Against Hunger by Jon Mikkelsen from Stone Arch books new series WE ARE HEROES.  (All proceeds from the sale of this book goes to Kids Against HungerTM )

I wasn’t prepared for the seriousness with which they approached their reviews. They told me that the facts are the same as they hear over and over, but that there was a twist to this book. They told me how the main character’s choice and sacrifice meant something to them. Then they took a look at all the titles in the series to see if any others would be of interest. Finally, one of them said, "You should order all of these because I will read them all and if I’ll read them, then lots of other kids will, too."

My students were very enthusiastic about Kids Against Hunger and asked if they could share this title with different classrooms to help make their food drive a success. Aw, shucks! If you insist, I’ll get more copies of books that help you convince others to do the "right" thing. 

What is a hero? Are kids heroes? As a companion to the book, Stone Arch Books has created a social networking web page for educators and students to share their stories on what they’re doing to make the world a better place. Events with friends, classmates, teachers, and parents can be posted at Videos, audio clips, photos, and stories are all accepted. Every month, Stone Arch Books will highlight their favorite story on the site. 

I wonder if my students or your students will contribute. We already have a "Green Team" of recyclers at my middle school. A small number were chosen from nearly 200 applicants. I wonder what will happen when they realize Stone Arch has a title in this series called The Green Team? I’d better get busy ordering.

The mission of Kids Against Hunger™ is to significantly reduce the number of hungry children in the USA and to feed starving children throughout the world. To learn more visit and be sure to do your part by purchasing a copy of Kids Against Hunger.

Guest Counselor: Cheryl Tyler

  • Posted on October 14, 2008 at 5:36 PM

Cheryl Tyler blogs in part two today:

School bullying is an epidemic, and to ignore it is to ignore the single common thread among all the school shootings in America. We school professionals have the power and ability to (metaphorically) strong-arm the oppressor by our position. This “strong arm” is to teach our students to respect and value each other in our differences. By doing this we will probably save a life.


I experienced being bullied when I was a kid, but it doesn’t compare to the pain of seeing my child being bullied by a group of mean girls in the 4th grade. They stomped her coat and kicked it across the classroom floor (among other things). We told the teacher, but she chose to do nothing. In January we decided to home school because every Sunday night she would become physically ill and would cry herself to sleep. Our beautiful, intelligent daughter felt ugly and stupid, and it took years for the damage of those few months to be put behind her.


How can we not see the bullying happen? You know that student who is being tormented: it’s the child who might use any excuse to not be in class. Or one who won’t make eye contact with certain peers. If you can’t see “the bullied,” you can at least see “the bully.” That would be the mean girl who has a little smile when you tell her she’s upsetting someone. It’s the boy who makes fun of and/or calls other boys “gay.”


Earlier this year California middle-school student Lawrence King was killed because he was gay. The statistics about harassment of gay students are astounding. According to a comprehensive national study, 86.2% of GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) students report being verbally harassed, 44.1 physically harassed, and 22.1 have been physically assaulted at school. Grades are lower and the drop-out rate is high for these students. How can we not see these things happening?


In a wealthy and liberal school district in California, researchers found that GLBT students are bullied and harassed more than overweight or disabled students. Anti-gay bullying has only gotten worse in schools. Teachers generally will only recommend a student shouldn’t say that about their peer. That lack of force further suggests that being gay is wrong. Here are some facts taken from the Palo Alto (CA) High School Online School Journal

*    78% of the total student body has witnessed harassment of gay students;

*    93% report hearing gay epithets (such as “a fag” or “that’s so queer”);

*    51% report hearing anti-homosexual slurs daily;

*     One-third of these (GLBT) students are harassed due to their orientation;

*      One out of six is beaten where (s)he requires medical attention;

*      Gay kids are four times more likely to be threatened with a weapon at school.

*      Because 40% of all students at some time experience a degree of same-sex attraction, there is a tendency to over-compensation by striking out against gay students as a means of not being perceived as gay.

*     According to the American Psychological Association the suicide rate for GLBT students is four times that of non-gay students, and it is the leading cause of death in this group.

Today, October 13, 2008 one of the news headlines from CNN was about considerations for a gay-friendly high school in Chicago. Advocates of this school say it won’t promote being gay, but keep teens safe from “horrifying levels of harassment” and will keep them in school to graduate.


Please do not toss this into File 13 as an “agenda item” of a group you do not agree with because of this, that or the-other. You may be the only person who acknowledges this is happening. Refuse to permit any child in your care from being tormented. You have the power to make a change. Do it today.

Thanks, Cheryl! We can’t wait to read part three.

Volunteer or give up the right to complain

  • Posted on October 12, 2008 at 4:00 PM

Man! I’m not mincing words here. If you complain that not enough school librarians are represented on big ALA committees, have you completed your volunteer form yet? Better yet, have you personally committed to distributing this information so that you encourage other school librarians to get involved with you? 

If not, you don’t have the right to complain. If you won’t do it yourself or find someone to do it, how can you decry the lack of participation? It’s as if you are saying, "that’s important for someone else to do, not me." 

We are professionals. Being part of a profession means being involved beyond the walls of our daily j-o-b. Sometimes it’s hard. Attending conferences is hard to do for school librarians. I KNOW THAT! Yet there are many ways to overcome these obstacles. Ask me. I have gone to conferences with only $7 cash and survived through friends and vendors.

The first step is caring enough to submit your name or helping someone else to submit theirs. Take that step in faith that you will find a way.

Camila Alire, American Library Association (ALA) president-elect, is seeking member volunteers for the 2009-2010 ALA and Council committees.  NOTE:  Members interested in volunteering to serve on a committee are required to complete the online committee volunteer form available at: deadline for completing the form is Dec. 5.

I have personally spoken with Camila about my interest in having more school librarians involved in every committee. She understands and agrees with this. The major obstacle is that you must volunteer first. This year, AASL is extremely fortunate to have Cassandra Barnett, AASL President-Elect and Fran Roscello, ALA Council Member as AASL appointees to assist ALA President-Elect Camila Alire in the selection of volunteers for ALA committees as well as ALA Council committees.

Last year Ann Martin had the opportunity to assist Jim Rettig in appointing volunteers to ALA committees. Ann wrote: "What I found out was that if more AASL members had filled out the ALA volunteer form – then AASL would have been able to put forth more names. As it was just about every ALA committee had an AASL member appointed. AASL needs your help to continue the great work that Jim began in placing AASL members on committees for ALA."

I hope that I am irritating you. I hope that you are defensive. I hope that you react. I want impassioned people who care about our profession to be involved. If you have been feeling a little complacent, I hope I rock your boat. I hope to irritate you so much that you go out and help sign up other volunteers just so I’ll stop needling you and rocking your world. Do I need to personally email every single school librarian in this country with an invitation to a committee for you to understand that you are very qualified and very needed?

Don’t think I’m not watching. I AM. I care deeply about school libraries. I want to make all libraries of all types better. I truly believe you, the people in our profession on the front lines, make the difference. Your voice must be heard. You must be seen. You are needed. Will you respond?

What are your thoughts on the draft AASL standards?

  • Posted on October 12, 2008 at 2:00 PM

Finally I have spent some hours in contemplation of the second draft of the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action. Have you? 

AASL members are encouraged to thoroughly examine and critique the contents. Feedback should be sent to by Wednesday, October 15, 2008. I’d like to suggest that even if you are not a member of AASL, you need to read and review these standards. These are the guideposts of our profession. We must care enough to read, consider, and recommend. 

I’m not going to tell you what I think. I want you to spend time on your own with the standards. Think of the hours these committee members have devoted to create a document to aid you in your teaching. Does it fulfill your needs? Does it advance your profession? Isn’t it worth your time to consider and comment?