You are currently browsing the archives for March 2009.
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Anime or MamaMe

  • Posted on March 31, 2009 at 7:52 PM

I thought my #2 son came to visit me on his block leave before heading off to Afghanistan. Naw! He really came to Nashville for the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention.

I took a look at the events, so maybe I don’t blame him. I wonder if there’s still time to put together a costume? I guess I’m lucky that the AnimeCon was in Nashville since I’ve looked at the upcoming schedule of all the other events planned this year. I’m trying to get a handle on the number of potential readers attending these events. I may have to ask said-son to spy for me to see what’s most popular. 

In the meantime take a look at all of these activities and see if you can determine why so many people attend.

Video Programming:
Anime Screening(s)
AMV Contest
Hentai Screening(s)
Panel Programming:
Guest Panels
Industry Panels
Fan Panels
Costume Events:
Hall Cosplay
Hall Cosplay Contest
Non-competitive Cosplay Event
Masquerade / Cosplay Competition
Art Programming:
Art Show
Artists’ Alley
   Music Programming:
Game Programming:
Video Gaming
Collectable Card Games
Live Action Role Playing
Role Playing Games
Tabletop Games
Other Events:
Autographs (free)
Dealers’ Room
Con Suite
Game Shows
Childrens’ Programming Track
Guests: James L. Barry (Manga Artist)
Lisa Furukawa (Singer / Pianist / Composer)
Mohammad "Hawk" Haque (Artist, Applegeeks)
Steve Horton (Manga Artist)
Jeff Nimoy (Director / Writer / Voice Actor)
The Notorious MSG (Hip Hop / Rock Group)
Colleen Ann O’Shaughnessey (Voice Actress)
Ananth Panagariya (Writer, Applegeeks)
Sam Romero (Web Comic Artist)
The Slants (Band)

Beacon Street Girls Confessions of Secret Pleasures

  • Posted on March 31, 2009 at 2:10 PM

I spend the majority of my time reading "guy" books, nonfiction, and mysteries/adventure novels. I don’t slobber over all those romance books right now due to my cynical nature even though sometimes I have been seen Worst Enemies/Best Friends - Book for Girlsreading romance novels with suspense in them. I just don’t spend most of my time reading girly books.

Along comes a series for girls that I enjoy reading as much as my students – the Beacon Street Girls. I read the first one with surprising enjoyment and immediately tried to read the second, but a group of girls nonchalantly asked, "What’re you reading?" When I showed them the cover, two squealed with happiness and mentioned that they’d read some of these at the public library in paperback, but they were never in. Then, <gasp> they took the book away from me and checked out every volume I had in the series. They haven’t remained on the shelf long enough yet for me to finish reading about Charlotte, Katani, Avery, and Maeve. Maybe I should go to their website to find out more at Promises, Promises - Part of the Beacon Street Girls Book Series
I ordered these because they came highly recommended by Donna Tabor, my Sebco Books rep. I’d never heard of Sebco books, but this year I was willing to try a variety of vendors who have their specialized bindings/rebindings so I could test how well their books held up to the intense use (or was that abuse) of middle schoolers. 

Donna took a look at the survey needs of my students and their requests, then she helped me match series with interests. Through Donna and Sebco I ordered new Choose Your Own Adventure books, Camp Confidential books, the Romantic Comedies series, Deltora Shadowlands, Flight 29 Down, the Tales of Young Americans series, and the Beacon Street Girls. 

When the money ran out, I had to set aside my wish lists for Shonen Jump, Yu Gi Oh Duelist, Cirque Du Freak, and Private in strong reinforced binding. If you are interested in ordering from Sebco, you might give Donna a call at 1-800-223-3251 or email her at Tell her Diane sent you and that I need some more Beacon Street Girls books. 

Too sad to write

  • Posted on March 29, 2009 at 7:15 PM

Friday morning we laid my beloved German Shepherd Marshall T-Rex (Teddy Bear Rex) to rest. Marshall provided many stories for nearly 12 years to all family, friends, and students. How many dogs respond to the question "What do you WANT?" by going to the refrigerator, opening the door, and pointing to the meat drawer where his hot dogs were waiting?

In Marshall’s early years his ears still touched on the top of his head, he helped me "hear" before and after my ear surgeries, he tattled on our boys when they were doing the wrong thing, when the boys walked out to the car one day, he decided to enter a steakhouse and went straight to my feet where he waited for me to pick up the take-out, and he heard #2 son’s distress call from deep in the woods so he came to get me and forced me to follow him to the son who had fallen. 

Marshall knew he was smarter than most people and had a strong sense of right and wrong. If he thought I needed to wake up, he’d come slide his nose under my shoulder and lift me off the bed. Marshall loved riding in commercial vans and especially loved the Schwan’s man (who visited just to pet Marshall long after I stopped purchasing). The UPS and Fed Ex workers who delivered often ran for their trucks because Marshall thought the open doors were invitations. He’d hang his head out the front door and bark, begging to go with them. Even my mail lady would laugh at him. I heard her say, "If you got in my truck, it’d be so lop-sided, it’d tip over." 

110 pounds of sheer love and adoration. My very dear friend who sat beside me on the sofa during my very painful divorce period (coinciding with 2 boys joining the army) and let me cry into his doggy shoulder. 

In the end, the torn ACL, constant pain, and doggy version of MS were just too much to bear for Marshall and his family that loved him. As I type, Marshall’s companion, Lucy Girl, sits sadly on my lap and sighs with me. 

I’ll try to pull myself together and send you something cheerful tomorrow. I’m off to finish reading the meaningful young reader’s version of Three Cups of Tea. I need some substance and empowering in my reading tonight.

Biography reports? ARGH! I need more resources

  • Posted on March 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM

We are counting down 19 days to our TCAP testing. Then what will the students be doing for the rest of the school year? It appears they’ll be spending all of their time in the library researching. Teachers I haven’t seen outside grade level meetings, except when they blow a projector bulb or have technology problems, are suddenly signing up for days and days of research.  

Take our math department that will prepare biography projects of famous mathematicians. I’m so excited to have all of these teachers in, but now I discover that I need more biographies and I need them now! I need biographies on famous people. I need biographies on sports people for the P.E. department. Where am I going to get all the biographical information I need? 

Aha! The Lincoln Library to the rescue.  This year I purchased three reference sets that you should know about. (Okay, I admit that some of you good middle school librarians may already know about these, but this is my first year at this level, so I’m entitled to be playing catch-up.)

Earlier in the year every sixth grade class walked in to do research on ancient Greeks and Romans from mythology. The five-volume set of the Lincoln Library of Greek & Roman Mythology © 2006 edited by Timothy and Susan Gall came in very handy. For those students researching Artemis (AKA Diana) the article includes: Pronunciation, equivalent character, gender, culture, attributes, a True-False quiz, extensive information on her coming into being, her habits, her wrath, her enemies, her family; Diana in art, in literature, in space, in modern usage, and the source of her mythology. That’s quite a bit of information for students who stumble upon the name Artemis in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and want to know more. Yet the language is easy to read and won over my students who didn’t want an old fat book about Greek Mythology. There are more than 500 entries intended for grades 4-12 so you’ll find plenty to meet your needs.

For my physical education students, we come to the fourteen volume Lincoln Library of Sports Champions, Eighth Edition, © 2007. With brief, alphabetically arranged biographies of 300 great sports personalities, this reference set will meet the needs of many students. I had to check out the six pages on Freddy Adu, who, at 14, debutted as the youngest player in the modern era of American professional team sports. I really appreciate the full-color illustrations and spacious layouts between paragraphs. I noticed groups of students reading a paragraph, looking up to share information they’d read, then returning to the next paragraph without any tracking problems. 

On to the newest set The Lincoln Library of Shapers of Society: 101 Men and Women Who Shaped Our World. This seven volume set debutted in 2008 and is a hit. The eight page article on Nicolaus Copernicus includes illustrations, sketches, timelines, books & web sites for further study, and a concise section "Why is Copernicus Important?" Am I the only one who has had teachers write questions for students like this – Tell me why this person is important? 

All the students read that question and moan, "I don’t know. You’re the teacher. You tell me why I have to study him (or her)." Each article includes a timeline so the next time you are teaching this skill, you might want to pull out these books. They are also much more appealling to my ELL/ESL students.

Want to know more about these books? Go to their website at This is one reference purchase this year that I am proud to have made. Tomorrow I’ll have to share some of the other biographical sources I’m using. Why don’t you tell me about your favorites?

Paris Pan Takes the Dare

  • Posted on March 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Paris Pan Takes the Dare"Eventually, we pulled up to Johnny’s Bait and Tackle, and I stared at the white frame house, wondering what fishing had to do with candy."

You never know what will happen when you log on to Facebook. One of my friends posted a note inviting us to participate in the Nearest Book Note with these rules: * Grab the book nearest you. Right now. * Turn to page 56. * Find the fifth sentence. * Post that sentence along with these instructions in a note to your wall…. 

Well, I didn’t want to post a new note, so I’m giving you the 5th sentence from page 56 of Paris Pan Takes the Dare by Cynthea Liu. Putnam. June, 2009. 978-0-399-25043-9 $16.99. 

Seventh grader Paris Pan has never lived more than 8 months in one home so her survival skills for adjusting to new schools are superb. Unfortunately her scrapbook page for lifelong friends is empty. When Paris’ family moves to Sugar Lake, OK, Paris discovers more than new friends. From her deliciously scary adventures in the haunted woods surrounding her home to her confrontations with bullies, we laugh and empathize with this delightful character.

I loved Paris Pan’s Chinese-American family. Her arguments with her siblings and her parents are grounded in traditional respect while embracing modern problems. Paris has a dog named Go which always has to go – just another example of Cynthea Liu’s quirky humor. (According to my ex-husband "go" means "dog" in Chinese and is the sound dogs make. Try saying GoGoGo instead of RuffRuffRuff.) But the fact that the parents speak with an accent doesn’t prevent this family from eating like any typical American family. One of my favorite scenes involved Paris erupting when her father insists upon eating the unhealthy sour cream with his nachos even after he’s had a heart attack and is put on a healthy diet. Unhealthy American eating habits reign supreme. 

Looking for rites-of-passage books? Paris Pan has a ritual "Dare" for 13 year olds involving an unsolved ??murder?? and mysterious disappearances of teens. Hey, it even has some basketball action since every student in middle school including all 7 boys and 4 girls in seventh grade must be on the team. Did I mention that I joined track in 8th grade because every darn student had participated in every sport all year? ARGH! Don’t ask… (shuddering with embarrassing memories)

Actually, I laughed so hard reading this book that I cannot wait to put it in the hands of several of my middle school girls. They are going to love Paris Pan. I’m just sorry for you, readers, that you have to wait until June to get your hands on Paris Pan Takes the Dare. 

Hello, Cynthea, could you please write more novels? Maybe you should meet my sons for further adventure ideas. They’d make great comic relief characters and I’m sure Paris’ mother would love to bring them home to meet Verona. Let’s be friends on Facebook and chat.

Kenn Nesbitt online to chat with you? How?

  • Posted on March 24, 2009 at 6:00 AM

Because My Hippo Has the Hiccups is set to come out April 1st, and because April is National Poetry Month, poet Kenn Nesbitt is trying something exciting to get everyone thinking about poetry. How about a deal to bookstores, librarians, schools, and anyone else that can get 10 kids together to learn about poetry using My Hippo Has the Hiccups?  

Kenn Nesbitt is offering a free 30-minute "online author visit"-meaning that kids can see, hear, and chat with Kenn right on their computers-to any group that buys 10 or more copies of Hippo. Just purchase the books through his website, and he’ll set up the visit at that time.


These free visits will be available on a first-come basis, during the weeks of April 6-10, April 20-24, May 11-15, June 1-5, and June 8-12. Programs will start at 9am PST, and run on-the-hour, and there will be no more than 2 participating classes in each online session. Kids will be allowed to ask Kenn questions through an online chat, which will be controlled by the moderator.My Hippo Has the Hiccups - by Kenn Nesbitt

Technical requirements are:
* A computer with a high-speed Internet connection
* Windows, Mac, or Linux
* A Flash-enabled browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari
* Speakers!
* Projector (optional)

For more information, or to sign up online, please go to Once your time-slot is scheduled and the book order has been confirmed, they will send you a link to the online meeting room, as well as a link where you can run a test to ensure that your software (Flash-enabled browser, etc.) is compatible. 

Teachers and librarians, now is a great time to get together to pool your orders. You know you have got to have this book anyway, so you might as well get the delicious opportunity to chat with your students.  Ooo, I wonder if Kenn will read poetry with that fabulous accent he uses on the audio CD accompanying My Hippo Has the Hiccups? I confess I have played several poems over and over just to listen and giggle along. I’m not immune to funny poems with wacky characters. My Hippo Has the Hiccups offers over 100 poems to entertain your students. It’s a must have for elementary classrooms and libraries.

The Carbon Diaries by Saci Lloyd

  • Posted on March 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

I am following the example of Amy Young-Buckler in creating a Wordle challenge for my students this month. I intend to print out each of their word clouds to display – hoping to entice more readers and techno-geeks like me to share. While playing with the various formats of, I used some terms from the new book The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd
This title was in my pile of books for high school/young adult readers and it made for a very interesting eco-thriller read reminding me of Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Look for The Carbon Diaries 2015 in April, 2009, from Holiday House. ISBN 978-0-8234-2190-9 $16.95.

Set in the United Kingdom in the near future (2015 isn’t that far away), this title explores a wide variety of teen and global issues including the greenhouse effect, carbon emissions, global warming, fuel shortages, rationing, dating, teachers with agendas, women’s rights, global responsibilities, droughts, food shortages, family relationships, teen rock bands, and so much more. 

I enjoyed the title and hope this title receives great buzz from my fellow greenies. It was serious yet irreverent simultaneously just like teenagers view life. Daily news warns us of pending environmental disasters like what triggered the draconian measures of The Carbon Diaries 2015. The possibilities of the government suddenly enforcing strict rationing and totalitarian measures is not as far-fetched any longer. 

Eve Harvey of Vulpes Libris has written an excellent review – go read her insights to understand more about why this is a witty yet scary title. Jill Murphy on theBook Bag has a review. Author Sam North has reviewed The Carbon Diaries 2015 on Reading Rants! Out of the Ordinary Teen BookLists has a fun review that begins "Sixteen-year-old Brit Laura Brown just wants to rock out with her punk band, the dirty angels. Unfortunately, the environment keeps getting in the way."
The Carbon Diaries 2015
Check out the eco-friendly looking UK cover. Doesn’t it look like a paper bag? 
I have been enjoying reading the UK reviews and global perspectives including Peter Hollindale’s review in Books for Keeps the Children’s Book Magazine. Since the ecological issues addressed in The Carbon Diaries 2015 are global, we need more of a global perspective in book reviews, too.

I hear tell from the Chicklish Interview with Saci Lloyd that there is a sequel The Carbon Diaries 2017 coming soon.

My hippo has the Hiccups by Kenn Nesbitt – Poetry Month is coming

  • Posted on March 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Time to make your plans for April National Poetry Month. Have you ordered your copy of Kenn Nesbitt’s My My Hippo Has the HiccupsHippo Has the Hiccups and Other Poems I Totally Made Up? It’s being released in hardcover on April 1st by Sourcebooks with illustrations by Ethan Long. ISBN 978-1-4022-1809-5 $17.99 

I strongly recommend My Hippo Has the Hiccups for every elementary classroom and library collection. Teachers who have borrowed this title from me state it reminds them most of Jack Prelutsky, or a combination of Shel Silverstein with Jeffrey Moss, but all agreed it was a substantial title for poetry collections. I think in part it’s the voice of poet Kenn Nesbitt who speaks in words and the cadences of our students. Kenn knows how to reach children with this rib-tickling verse. My Hippo Has the Hiccups will greatly appeal to early readers. This title includes an audio CD which is tremendously popular among the elementary crowd and kept our middle schoolers engaged through the end. 

My 6th graders listened intently to the CD and looked through the book to offer their criticisms. I’m scanning all their notes into a pdf file to send Kenn Nesbitt for his response, but I wanted to include some of their personal notes (including positives and negatives). One of the students Madylin produced a poem in response and gave me permission to share:

Some of the poems I heard,
were actually pretty good.
I didn’t know what to expect,
but I liked as many as I could.
Some seemed more for 3rd grade and under,
but some of the other poems just made me wonder.
Why did someone write this poem?
What inspired them?
Did they like their own poem?
Or did they sign it with their initials,
like I would with them. 
Whatever happened through their mind,
and made them want to write.
My favorite poem was called "Pet Shopping,"
and I loved the fact that the sound effects
were better than alright.
But all I have to say,
is that most of these poems were okay.

From another student: "All of the poems were great but there were three that I liked: Shelley Sellers, Poor Cinderella, and I Think My Dad’s Dracula. I loved "I Think My Dad’s Dracula" because it was really funny and I also really think my dad’s Dracula. Poor Cinderella is funny, too. It’s almost like the reverse of the Cinderella story."
Astasia liked the Cinderella poem, too, adding: "I really thought they were interesting but my favorite was Cinderella. Sometimes I feel that way and I can relate to her. I know she was mad because no fairy godmother came to the rescue. Her stepsister got married to the prince and she really wanted him, but had nothing to wear. Her mean stepmother didn’t let her do cool things like my mother. She felt a negative affect from her stepmother. She sat at home watching TV in her own miserable day."

The students disagreed about which ages would most appreciate each of the poems, but they discussed them in depth. Some argued that they were best for 3rd and 4th graders while some of the poems seemed to appeal most to K-1. Through reading their responses I gleaned that middle schoolers most appreciated the tongue twister of Shelley Sellers with the audio cd, and written poems "I Think My Dad Is Dracula", "I Went To The Barber", and "Alphabet Break" with it’s twisted ending. As graduates of the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom generation, they appreciated the Alphabet Break poem and giggled as much as first graders. 

May I confess my favorite on the audio CD was Dexter McDwyer? It’s one of the shortest in the book but I love a man play-acting with an accent. Plus this tickled my fancy. Click here to listen to Dexter McDwyer on audiotape.

I’m Dexter McDwyer, an excellent liar. 
I never say anything true. 
Which means I’m implying I’m probably lying, 
so I don’t believe me. Do you?

Many of the students pleaded for Kenn Nesbitt to write specifically for middle schoolers so they didn’t have to pick through some of the poems for K-5. As Rebekah wrote: Most of your poems were quite enjoyable. You should also write poems for older kids, too. Also the background sounds were cool and made the setting come to life.

In discussing the cd, one ELL student wrote: "My favorite poem was the tongue twister. it was really hard to understand. The man talked so fast, I couldn’t hear him. I also liked the one about the Dracula dad. That would be fun to see in a play. It would be better for little kids in elementary schools to act out this play. I think this poem was funny, too. The man made funny sounds, too, which made it better." Click here to listen to the tongue twister Shelley Sellers.

Sade wrote "I Cloned Myself" was my favorite poem. I liked it because it had a special vibe to it. Also it had music, and that made me wanna dance. Other poems without music are boring, and they don’t tell anything. All they do is rhyme and stuff. I think that this one is for any grade because it’s funny and kewl!!! I honestly could listen to it forever and ever."

Austin wrote: "My favorite one was "I played a Game." The person that was talking had good rhymes. Everything he said was rhyming and made much sense. For example he was rhyming  about playing video games and board games. Also he made it sound like he was playing video games. Lastly, the sound effects were very cool."

These are poems that the students could relate to – see the responses to "Don’t Ever Bite Your Sister.":

  • My favorite poem is Don’t Ever Bite Your Sister. I like this poem because it is similar to my brother and I. My brother and I fight like everyday and I always get him back 10 times worse. This poem is funny, and I thought of my brother when he said, "Don’t ever bite your sister."
  • I liked "Don’t Ever Bite Your Sister" because I’m the oldest and sometimes I think about biting my sisters. It tells you not to do all sorts of things to your sister because you might get in trouble for it. When I heard it, it gave me an idea. Maybe I will put monkeys and stuff in her bed. Then it’s talking about putting stuff in her hair and a fake snake in her bed. When you think about putting something in your sister’s hair or something, listen to that."

Sixth graders like the macabre of the Barbershop poem. Click here to listen to I Went to the Barber.

  • As Cameron states: I went to the Barber was the funniest. I think it would be from 4th grade and up. Because it had alot of cutting in it plus it was funny because if you want to talk about a bad hair day, well, just think if you were that man who got his nose, head, and ears cut off. But overall that poem was the best of all. 
  • Nygel adds: I liked I Went to the Barbershop. I like when he cut up all of his body parts. I hope I never go to a barber that bad. The one in the poem must have gotten fired. If I were the boss, I would never let him come back. I wouldn’t ever let him come back because we wouldn’t even have any customers. I would call the police.

Lamonte pleads for more poems like Dracula "I like this one because the author made it interesting by making the reader find out the small mystery. Now I think you should do poems like where the Readers have to find out the mystery." Click here to listen to I Think My Dad is Dracula.

I listened to the entire CD several times and was impressed with the narration – it was clear, unhurried, and easy to understand. The narrator definitely pitched his voice for the elementary crowd so I was pleased by the mixed response of my sixth graders. They listened objectively and were able to pick through each poem to identify their favorites. Their teacher Penny Combs did a fantastic job of discussing writer’s purpose and having each student consider who the best audience was for each poem. 

These students had never been to the wildly popular (arguably most popular) poetry web site for children: (Don’t judge me too harshly – this is my first year with them.) Kenn Nesbitt is a tremendously popular poet and performer who visits more than 72 schools yearly. I hope you will rush to the website and immediately order this book. See the next post for a special reason why you should order soon.

Sourcebooks is a publishing company that has produced some surprising hits. Remember Hip Hop Speaks to Children, my favorite poetry book in 2008? Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop  I’m very happy to see how many awards Hip Hop Speaks has taken and note that it continues to circulate constantly from my collection. Mystery of Merlin and the Gruesome Ghost Hip Hop Speaks to ChildrenRumor is Sourcebooks are bringing to the states a series of Horrid Henry that has been an international hit. Keep your eyes on this company as they bring titles to the U.S. that fill gaps in your collection, particularly for poetry, puns, and fairy tales.

I NEED my MONSTER by Amanda Noll – is it your kind of bedtime story?

  • Posted on March 23, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Many review journals share information from the "big" publishers, but I like to contribute something once and awhile from the Independent Publishers Group like I Need My Monster written by Amanda Noll and illustrated by Howard McWilliam; published by Flashlight Press, 2009. ISBN 978-097-997-462-5 $16.95
illustration - I Need My Monster-Front cover for book published Spring 2009 - McWilliam, Howard
I Need My Monster is a unique take on a bed-time book that you’ll find yourself needing multiple copies for public libraries. Elementary schools will find ways to enjoy the title in story time and as a writing prompt. Even my middle school students tried to pry it out of my hands to take home to read to their little brothers and sisters. 

Ethan peeks under his bed one night to discover his monster has gone <gasp> fishing instead. Ethan knows his relationship with his monster is important to keep him cowering in his bed at night, afraid to get up because the monster could be waiting to <double gasp> nibble his toes. What will he do?

Being the sensible little boy he is, he raps the floor for a substitute to appear. Sadly, none of the monsters can measure up to the degree of scariness needed to enable Ethan to sleep. They even accuse him of being too picky. 

For those of you who have curled up with children to read bedtime stories, you know there is a fine line between a story that is too short and one that is just right. Amanda Noll has created a satisfying twist to bedtime stories that enables the child to crave scarier and scarier monsters, to laugh at our fears and to curl up in the end deliciously scared of letting our toes dangle over the edge.

Check out the audio review on Just One More Book and listen to Andrea Ross & Mark Blevis discuss how this book was supremely designed and created. They love the illustrations and rave about the artwork by Howard McWilliam. I appreciated listening to their podcast and relating to their love of the sketches in the end pages. Publishers, we do appreciate each extra touch to these picture books.

Noll and McWilliam are new to the picture book publishing world, but I anticipate we’ll be seeing more of them. McWilliam has been busily illustrating magazines and newspapers before creating this work of picturebook art.  Check out his blog to see some of his ongoing illustrations for adults, too. McWilliam created his illustrations by drawing them with pencil on paper, scanning them, and then painting them with digital acrylic paint.  He also designed the font which impressed me. I loved the text placement of this book not just the illustrations. 

I also particularly like the title on the cover with its raised letters and unique letters for the word monster. Be sure to put the book jacket out where students can touch and shiver with delight. Come on, how can you miss when you have an eyeball for the letter "O"? 

illustration - - - McWilliam, Howard

One of my favorite illustrations (conveniently posted on the illustrator’s web page) shows Ethan indignantly explaining to this monster that "I definitely need a boy monster. Boy monsters are for boys and girl monsters are for girls. Everybody knows that." When I read this to a three year old, she emphatically nodded her head as if I were silly for not already knowing that. 

I appreciated the effect of lighting on this illustration and attention to design throughout this title. The illustrations show intense care with lighting and color especially with sentences like:

Then the bed trembled as 
Gabe unfurled his spiked tail.
He was daring me to guess
where he might pop up.
I shivered.

Add this to your basket of bedtime goodies and shiver with your readers. Looking for something fun with your librarian readers? There’s an activity page on Flashlight Press’ website that kids (or librarians or teachers) can download and print to make their own monster.   Full instructions are on the webpage. If kids want to scan and send them jpegs of the monsters they create, Flashlight Press will post them to the site. Get your imagination going.

Box Out by John Coy

  • Posted on March 22, 2009 at 8:38 PM

Recently I asked all my 7th and 8th graders to respond to a reading interest survey. With the four language arts teachers involved, I have been analyzing their responses and sharing conclusions to help guide buying for classroom collections and the library. I shared with one of the teachers that out of his102 students who Box Out by John Coyresponded, 26 asked for more sports books. Where do I begin finding new titles?

Aha! Along comes John Coy with his basketball book Box Out to the rescue. While Box Out was released in June, 2008, by Scholastic Press, it didn’t land on my desk until this month. I admit to my students that I don’t spend much of my free reading time curled up with sports fiction, but I’m always willing to try the books they recommend. 

Basketball fans both male and female will enjoy Box Out thanks to John Coy’s realistic and exciting game action. But there’s more! This turns out to be more than just a sports story (not that there’s anything wrong with being a sports story).

Box Out is also a story of how a teen deals with peer pressure, and the pressure of small town expectations to go along and not cause trouble. In this instance sophomore Liam deals with the excitement of his rise to the varsity basketball team; then his conflicting emotions when he realizes his coach leads students in prayer and pressures them to participate in religious activities; his plummet from popularity when he quits this team; and his rediscovery of his love of the sport through helping the girls team.

There are so many excellent reviews out there that I don’t even want to try to top them. Go to John Coy’s site to read some excellent reviews from people I admire like Joel Shoemaker and Rob Reid. SLJ and Booklist gave Box Out good reviews. Also check out:
Reading Junky’s Reading Roost
had a mixed response
Naomi Bates YA Books review
Americans United for Separation of Church and State

While looking through the glowing reviews to Box Out, I did stumble upon one that danced around the issue that some small towns could be offended by the enforced separation of church and state. I can recognize that from my childhood and the pressure to conform. Whether you believe coaches should lead prayers or not, this title weaves delicately across the court of teenage pressure to conform while exploring and learning how to support your own beliefs. 

I have a confession to make. The tipping point for me packing Box Out for my Spring Break was reading rumors (like in Debra Lau Whelan’s SLJ article A Dirty Little Secret and the AS IF Authors Support Intellectual Freedom blog) that some librarians hesitated to purchase Box Out because there was a minor supporting character that wouldn’t be approved of in their communities. I hurriedly raced through Box Out searching for this character. What a disappointment! All those people that were looking for controversy should actually read the book. You have to get all the way to page 261 to read two lines of controversy, but even then, the action moves on to focus on the main character and the exciting sports story. Wait, someone tries to throw the controversy back in their face on page 267, but no, it just wasn’t that important and disappears again. 

For everyone wondering, Box Out is a successful basketball story and an entertaining read. Shame on anyone who self-censors this title without reading it. I appreciated the girls basketball action because there aren’t enough books out there that include girls. Looking at the website I see that John Coy has a new sports series coming out this March published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of the Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group (not by Scholastic)Top of the Order. I’ll be reading these to see if they’ll meet the needs of my middle schoolers.

As for other sports titles, I’ll be pulling in a wide variety of fiction/nonfiction/book and magazine titles. Stone Arch books has the Jake Maddox series for easier fiction and these circulate constantly. We have a large collection of Matt Christopher titles but they aren’t circulating. Is it because they are at shin height? Would moving them increase circulation? Is it the covers? Do the students want fiction sports titles or nonfiction?

I’ve been purchasing a large number of individual nonfiction sports titles and series for the major sports, but once they leave the "New Book Display", I haven’t bothered to promote them. Seems like the students are demanding more theme-oriented displays. How many different ways can I promote sports books? I’m seeking. Any answers?

*** Note that I had to make a correction above as to the publisher of Top of the Order. One thing I appreciate about blogs is the ability to go make corrections quickly. I appreciate Caroline’s pointing it out. ***