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Act 4 School Libraries – a grassroots approach

  • Posted on June 27, 2010 at 1:41 PM

ReadySetContactcard Check out this printable card “Ready, Set, Contact!” Christie Kaaland, Deb Kachel, Deb Logan, Alice Yucht, and Joyce Deacon formed Act4SL  at the AASL 2009 conference in Charlotte, NC, as a grassroots effort, unaffiliated with any professional organizations. Their aim is “to provide a simple process for anyone, anywhere to act on behalf of school libraries.” 

This is not an official product of ALA, AASL, ISTE, NECC, etc. Instead it is an effective way to provide more resources to you – the frontline school librarian who wants to speak up for school libraries, but doesn’t know where to start. By taking only five minutes, you can fill out this card, put it in your wallet or purse and be ready to respond immediately when action is needed.

See what you unofficially learn when you attend official conferences like #ala10?

ALA Annual Thursday Fun Before It's Begun

  • Posted on June 25, 2010 at 10:16 AM

I arrived in DC for ALA Annual #ala10 on Wednesday. Since I have so many meetings scheduled, I wanted to take time to gather resources for my students before the conference. In addition, I’m quite capable of filling my time with extra meetings or tours. Here are some of my activities so far: 

1)  Reception at the DC Convention Center thanking ALA for bringing in this conference of 25,000 people.  Past President Jim Rettig and ALA   

Conference Planner Deidre Ross accepted this gift. The conventional planners promised to locate sweet tea in this city and let me know who has it. I might not make it without my daily dose! 

2) Took a mini, behind-the-scenes tour of how the convention will be set up. This included looking at the logo for the 2011 Midwinter Meeting in San Diego. Of what do you think it is composed?  Would you believe those are not water drops or flower petals? Instead, they are speech bubbles to illustrate the importance of networked communication. I am always surprised by graphic designers. 

3) Visited the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library which is barely a block from my hotel. They have free Wi-Fi for those of you who don’t like paying $13 a day for internet connectivity in your hotel room.  They have information and free water for ALA attendees, also. 


4) Janice Rosen of the Library Services to the Deaf Community Adaptive Services Division of the MLK Jr. Memorial Library graciously hosted my group of Allison, Cristol and myself as we learned about providing services to hearing impaired/deaf community and the visually impaired community. I took photos of books and devices I needed and was given two catalogs to help build a collection to support the needs of my students coming in this year. There will be a fantastic panel on Sunday at that library. Pop in at any time between one and five to learn more about serving the needs of your patrons. Authors like Emily Arnold McCully will be on hand to share materials. 

Wendall Kellar

5) Visited the children’s room to meet Wendall Kellar, who was preparing for story time, and Maggie Gilmore.  

6) Visited the new teen room at MLK Jr Memorial Library and chatted with Wanda Jones about their facebook fan page Teenopia. 

7) Checked out displays throughout the DC Public Library.  One that caught my eye had several YA literature titles displayed along with information on the utterly fantastic Teen Health & Wellness database. To recognize 2010 National HIV Testing Week, there 


were materials, bookmarks, programs (HIV Mythbutsers: A Teen’s Guide to Good Info; Teen Dating, Relationships, and HIV; and It’s Complicated: Making Healthy Choices about Sex), and even snack-size Ziploc bags filled with condoms. 

8) Cristol headed off for her tour of the White House, her massage, and her lunch using coupons from the convention center while Allison and I wandered towards the mall. Along the way, we visitied the store for the National Law Enforcement Museum. The groundbreaking for the NLEM is in October with the museum to open in 2013. There will be 15,000 sq. ft. with “computer ineractives, immersive media, and one-of-a-kind artifacts that will givitors new insignts into law encorement and it place in American history and society.” 


9) I have always wanted to see the Wright brothers planes and the Spirit of St. Louis so Allison and went to the National Air and Space Museum .  Soon after we arrived, we decided to focus on just the air part of the museum and save the space for the next trip. Even visiting half the museum took hours. 

The exhibit on GPS systems was enlightening and I’ll share more about that in my blog post on geocaching. I took photos of some of the banners for my notes.  New technologies like Augmented Reality using camera feeds and GPS to superimpose data and graphics were highlighted. I like traveling and the concept of pointing my phone at a site to then gather information in real-time. 

Did you know today there are 30 satellites making up the US GPS system? Did you know the Chinese equivalent to the US’ GPS system will be called Compass and have 12 satellites by 2011, 35 by 2020? The current Navigation System is named Beidou after the Big Dipper’s Chinese name. 

I really enjoyed the National Air and Space Museum. It felt like I just couldn’t learn enough about the Wright brothers. One of the signs quoted Charles Dollfus saying “Men of genius– erudite, exact in their reasoning, hard workers, outstanding experimenters, and unselfish — the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright have, more than anyone else, deserved the success which they achieved. They changed the face of the globe.” 

What an accolade! Another sign about the Wright brothers ability to use visual thinking stated “The Wright brothers’ use of graphic mental imagery to conceptualize basic structures and mechanisms was among the most important elements of their inventive method.” 


The Wright brothers learned from others, including the Lilienthal Hang Glider of 1894. 


I was amazed to see the variety of engines so I had to call my auto mechanic dad to leave a message.  I was fascinated with the skis 


on the Polar Star. 

10)  Back to the hotel for a quick nap and an attempt to answer emails. I slipped into the Library Champions reception and tried to circulate thanking people for donating and planning in their wills for ALA contributions. 


 11) Then off to dinner with the ALA Board members and key staff of the Library of Congress. We were fortunate to be able to dine in the Members of Congress Reading Room. This is an amazing room facing the U.S. Capitol with oak doors, half walls, decorated marble fireplaces at both ends, and a very elaborately decorated paneled ceiling with seven inset paintings. There were two large masaic panels over the marble fireplaces. History was at the south end. Law was at the north end. Friends of law include: Industry, Peace, and Truth. The enemies of law include Fraud, Discord, and Violence. So much symbolism throughout the Thomas Jefferson Building!

I was fortunate to dine with Robert Dizard, Mike Handy, Kathryn Mendenhall, and

Librarian of Congress Billington

Kathleen Ott. The Librarian of Congress gave a short speech reminding us of the pillars of specialized knowledge, wisdom, character, and judgment. Then he thanked Roberta Stevens for her hard work at the LOC and wished her the very best for her future as ALA’s president beginning Tuesday night.

Curious what we ate? How about this menu:

Red Treviso Salad with Compressed Asian Pear

(Saved Fennel, Rouge Creamery Smoked Bleu Cheese toasted with toasted pine nuts in a pine nut vinaigrette)

Roasted Black Cod

(With fresh herbs, lemon zet and olive oil)

Sage Crusted Chicken Breast

(Citrus Beurre Blanc, Orzo Pasta Pilaf flavored with a hint of tomato, Grilled Asparagus with Red Peppers)

Peaches and Cream

(Layers of peaches, vanilla cream and pistachio cake with amaretto peach coulis)

Demitasse Coffee Service


12) I was too tired to slip away to the 2010 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, although I did pick up the information about it. “Haitian artists affected by the January 2010 earthquake are featured at the Festival Marketplace with nearly two thousand craft items for sale.” There will be exhibits for Asian Pacific Americans, Mexico, and more. 

Scars Twitter

  • Posted on June 22, 2010 at 12:20 AM

SCARS author Cheryl Rainfield is having a Twitter Chat this Wednesday, June 23 at 7 p.m. EST, and I hope you will join us!  The more people we get to join in, the better we are at spreading the word on such important issues that Cheryl addresses in her book and activist work. I blogged  a little bit earlier this month on the impact SCARS had on me. Since I’ll be traveling to ALA Wednesday, I hope you readers will be there.

Event details are online here:

If you have never participated in a Twitter event here is a sample tweet: 1 in 10 girls hurt themselves. BREAK THE SILENCE w/ @CherylRainfield TwitterChat Wed, June 23 at 7pm EST. #breaksilence is the hashtag

Top Teen Titles #50-54

  • Posted on June 20, 2010 at 9:04 PM

The Last Song#54 The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks. Grand Central Publishing, 2009.  ISBN:  0446547565, 400 pp.

Publisher’s  Description: “Seventeen year-old Veronica “Ronnie” Miller’s life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wilmington, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alienated from her parents, especially her father… until her mother decides it would be in everyone’s best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie’s father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church. The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story about love in its myriad forms – first love, the love between parents and children – that demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that deeply felt relationships can break our hearts… and heal them.”

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, ShelfariTeensReadToo

Awards:  Awards? Who needs awards when it comes to fun romance books?! Alright, I’ll admit that The Last Song was selected for the Goodreads Choice Award for Chick Lit (2009).

The Last Song   by, Nicholas Sparks  Diane’s note: Finding romantic books for teens is never easy. Nicholas Sparks has created a novel perfect for teens and young adults that shows you can quickly change with the right friends to help.  My favorite quote: “Life, he realized, was much like a song. In the beginning there is mystery, in the end there is confirmation, but it’s in the middle where all the emotion resides to make the whole thing worthwhile.”  Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, I should mention that this has been made into a movie starring Miley Cyrus. Since Nicholas Sparks wrote the screenplay before the book, that little tidbit might be important.

#53 The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. Greenwillow Books, 2006.  ISBN13: 978-006083577X. 400 pp.

The King of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #3)Publisher’s Description: 

By scheming and theft, the Thief of Eddis has become King of Attolia. Eugenides (yoo-JEN-ə-deez) wanted the queen, not the crown, but he finds himself trapped in a web of his own making.

Then he drags a naive young guard into the center of the political maelstrom. Poor Costis knows he is the victim of the king’s caprice, but his contempt for Eugenides slowly turns to grudging respect. Though struggling against his fate, the newly crowned king is much more than he appears. Soon the corrupt Attolian court will learn that its subtle and dangerous intrigue is no match for Eugenides.

Quotes from Readers: 

Megan Whalen Turner is a genius. This is my favorite of her books thus far. (I haven’t read A Conspiracy of Kings yet.)

(Sequel to the Queen of Attolia.) This book is a standalone, although it’s even more enjoyable if you’ve read the previous two. Like its predecessors, it contains twists and surprises galore, and the way the main character manages to make everything work out for him is just wonderful to behold. I wish there were two number ten slots, because this would be right there with Queen.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari


  • School Library Journal Best Book
  • ALA Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults
  • Horn Book Fanfare
  • New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Chidlren’s Book Award Masterlist (VT)

Diane’s note: This is book three in the series by Megan Whalen Turner.  It is a fascinating fantasy without  epic exploits.  I believe you should read them in order since there are spoilers throughout. Some series you can read in any order, then go back and re-sort the pieces. For this series, I think you should stick with the order listed below:

The Thief
The Queen of Attolia
The King of Attolia
A Conspiracy of Kings

Just Listen Cover#52 Just Listen by Sarah Dessen  Viking Juvenile, 2006. ISBN13:  9780670061051. 371 pp.

Publisher’s Description:

Last year, Annabel was “the girl who has everything”—at least that’s the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf’s Department Store.This year, she’s the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong. Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen’s help,maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.

Quotes from Readers:  Dessen’s books all have a similar feel, but this one is her best.  The characters are real and fully realized.  They have faced hardships and they heal each other.  A great love story, where you see each detail of the characters feelings unfold.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads, TeensReadToo

Awards: ALA Teens’ Top Ten, Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee 2011

Diane’s note:  Sarah Dessen’s books resonate with my teen students. Just Listen will invite comparisons to Speak. I was glad to see this made the list.

#51 Forever by Judy Blume – 1975 ISBN13: pp.

Publisher’s Description:
There’s a first for everything . When you build up something in your mind — really imagine it, wish for it — sometimes, when it actually happens, it doesn’t live up to your expectations. True love is nothing like that. Especially not for Katherine and Michael, who can’t get enough of each other. Their relationship is unique: sincere, intense, and fun all at the same time. Although they haven’t been together all that long, they know it’s serious. A whole world opens up as young passion and sexuality bloom. But it’s senior year of high school, and there are big changes ahead. Michael and Katherine are destined for another big “first”: a decision. Is this the love of a lifetime, or the very beginning of a lifetime of love?

Quotes from Readers:

Forever... by Judy BlumeA girl book, to be sure, but required reading for every girl upon turning sixteen or so?   It is a story of first love and sexual awakening that really empowers female choice and respect.  The main character is responsible- she goes on birth control, and she loses her virginity because she wants to with the boy she loves and trusts.  And eventually, she grows and moves on.

This book has a timeless appeal to teenage girls especially.  I have heard so many stories of “I just couldn’t stop reading it–do you have another book like this?”

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, ShelfariTeensReadToo, Fahrenheit451 blog

ForeverAwards:  Well…. honestly, this book is not well-written in a literary sense, so I couldn’t find an award for the writing. Wait…. how about an award for being #7 on the 100 most frequently challenged books: 1990–1999?

Diane’s note: Okay, I admit it. I did read this book when I was in middle school. I didn’t have to sneak it like my friends did. My mom was the local librarian four hours a week and simply let me check it out.  I was all excited to read the juicy sex stuff, but the romance left me feeling flat so it never became one of my favorite titles.  I was confused by Ralph so I went back to sneaking reads of some of my mom’s more adult titles to see if any of them named their penises. Phew! It was a relief to find out most don’t. While this book remains a classic for censorship, I wonder how we’d feel about it reading it today? Hmm? I notice it’s not on the shelves in my middle school. I wonder if it’s on yours. Was there some type of censoring or self-censoring occurring before I arrived or did all the copies simply wear out?  Would you consider this a strictly high school title or would you put it on the middle school shelves?

#50 Eragon by Christopher Paolini. Alfred A. Knopf, 2002. ISBN13: 978-0-375-82668-8. 497 pp.

Eragon (Inheritance, #1)Publisher’s Description: When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself. Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds. Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands….

Online reviews:
Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads


  • Arizona Young Readers’ Award (2006: Teen Book, Winner)
  • Beehive Award (Utah) (2004-2005: Young Adult, Winner)
  • Book of the Year Award (2004: Kids’ Non-Illustrated, Winner)
  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award (2004: Children’s Literature, Winner)
  • Books I Love Best Yearly (BILBY) Award (Australia) (2007: Shortlist Older Readers)
  • Borders Original Voices Award (Finalist, 2003: Intermediate/Young Adult Literature)
  • Buckeye Children’s Book Award (Ohio) (2007: Grades 6-8, Winner)
  • Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award (2004-2005, Winner)
  • Colorado Children’s Book Award (2005: Junior Novel, Winner)
  • Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award (2006, Winner)
  • Evergreen Young Adult Book Award (Washington) (2006, Winner)
  • Florida Teens Read (2006, Winner)
  • Gateway Readers Award (Missouri) (2006: Young Adult Division, 1st Place)
  • Golden Archer Award (Wisconsin) (2006: Middle/Junior High School, Winner)
  • Iowa Teen Award (2008, Winner)
  • Kanga Award (Australia) (2005: Year 6-7, Top 15 Book)
  • Nene Award (Hawaii) (2006, Winner)
  • Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award (2005: Grades 6-8, Winner)
  • Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award (Illinois) (2006, Winner)
  • Rhode Island Teen Book Award (2005, Winner)
  • Sequoyah Book Award (United States) (2006: Young Adult, Winner)
  • Soaring Eagle Book Award (Wyoming) (2005: Grades 7-12, Winner)
  • South Carolina Young Adult Book Award (2006, Winner)
  • Teens’ Top Ten List (2004, Winner)
  • Virginia Readers’ Choice Award (2006: Middle School, Winner)
  • Volunteer State Book Award (Tennessee) (2006: Grades 7-12, Winner)
  • West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award (2005: Older Reader, Reading List)
  • White Ravens Award (2004, Winner)
  • Young Readers’ Choice Award (2006: Grades 7-9, Winner)

Diane’s note:  Fun stuff online at Eragon was a success story that inspired many teens to write. Paolini was only fifteen when he wrote the first draft of Eragon then worked with his family to self-publish. Thanks to Carl Hiaasen, Knopf picked up Eragon and began this huge journey. My students who love a deep fantasy with many characters love the Inheritance cycle including  Eragon, Eldest, Brisinger, and a rumored fourth book. I remember my oldest son curled up between soccer games with Eragon.

Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson, and the Inheritance cycle. Three of our most circulated fantasy series for middle schoolers. Critics found all the cliches, errors, and plot similarities to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Still youth vote for this title over and over again, as you can see by the list of awards at the top. The students have spoken. I own multiple copies.

Top Teen Titles #55-59

  • Posted on June 19, 2010 at 9:01 PM

Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest#59 Band of Brothers by Stephen E Embros. Simon& Schuster, 1992. 336pp hardcover. Available from Pocket Aug, 2002. ISBN13:  9780743464116.  480 pp.

Publisher’s Description:   On the bloody battlefields of World War II Europe, Easy Company, 506th Airborne Division, U.S. Army, got the toughest missions. As good a rifle company as any in the world, Easy was always in the thick of the fight — from parachuting into France under a hellish crossfire early D-Day morning, to the final capture of Hitler’s supposedly impregnable Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden.

New York Times bestselling author Stephen E. Ambrose tells of the men in this brave unit who fought, went hungry, froze, and died for their country, and for one another — taking 150 percent casualties and earning Purple Hearts as combat pay. Drawing on interviews with survivors as well as the soldiers’ journals and letters, Ambrose chronicles the gripping true stories of these American heroes.

Online reviews: The BookReporter  by John Kless, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari

Diane’s note: My students knew the HBO mini-series based upon the book and the interviews with Easy Company soldiers. Few of them had read the book in middle school, but the high school brothers visiting snatched this title from the displays. Several of the students knew of the new HBO mini-series The Pacific and were seeking similar videos. Telling them about adult stories that appeal to high schoolers opened a new world to them. An excellent nonfiction read.

#58 Holes by Louis Sachar. Yearling Books, 1998. ISBN: 0440414806, 240 pp.

Publisher’s Description: As further evidence of his family’s bad fortune, which they attribute to a curse on a distant relative, Stanley Yelnats is sent to a hellish boys’ juvenile detention center in the Texas desert. As punishment, the boys here must each dig a hole every day, five feet deep and five feet across. Ultimately, Stanley “digs up the truth” — and through his experience, finds his first real friend, a treasure, and a new sense of himself. Winner of the 1998 National Book Award for young people’s literature, here is a wildly inventive, darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment — and redemption.

 Quote from Reader: Holes shows what happens if you become one of the bigotted people.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, ShelfariTeensReadToo


  • Newbery Medal (1999)
  • National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (1998)
  • Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Fiction (1999)
  • Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (2001)
  • Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (2001)
  • Sequoyah Book Award (2001)
  • Sunshine State Young Readers Award Winners (2002)
  • Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award for Junior (2001)
  • Zilveren Zoen (2000)
  • A Christopher Award for Juvenile Fiction
  • An ALA Notable Book
  • An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
  • An ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults
  • A New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year
  • A Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Book
  • A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
  • A Publishers Weekly Notable Children’s Book of the Year
  • A Publishers Weekly Bestseller
  • A Horn Book Fanfare Title
  • A Riverbank Review 1999 Children’s Book of Distinction
  • A New York Public Library Children’s Book of 1998-100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • A Texas Lone Star Award Nominee
  • A NECBA Fall List Title

Diane’s note: Holes was #6 on Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Children’s Novels’ list. I credit the 5th grade teachers at Rutland Elementary school for reading this to my #3 son’s class. He and his classmates informally arranged a trip to the movie theatre to see Holes the weekend it was released. Since my son was basically a non-reader and had never displayed any enthusiasm towards any book, Louis Sachar was my hero! Since then I continue to see Holes read-aloud to alternative classrooms in high schools and to middle schoolers. Disenfranchised teens need titles like Holes. Every middle school collection must have Holes available.  Here is a snippet of the Q&A with the author Louis Sachar from his webpage:

Why do you think book’s lead character, Stanley Yelnats, connects with so many children?
Stanley isn’t a hero-type. He’s a kind of pathetic kid who feels like he has no friends, feels like his life is cursed. And I think everyone can identify with that in one way or another. And then there’s the fact that here he is, a kid who isn’t a hero, but he lifts himself up and becomes one. I think readers can imagine themselves rising with Stanley.

 #57 Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. TOR/MacMillan, 2008. ISBN: 978-0765319853. 384 pp.

Publisher’s Description:  “Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.”

Quote from Reader: If I had a dollar for every time I tell someone that they must “read this book immediately…” I would have a lot of dollars.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, ShelfariTeenReads


  • Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009),
  • Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2008),
  • John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2009)
  • Emperor Norton Award (2008),
  • Sakura Medal Nominee for High School Book (2010),
  • Florida Teens Read Nominee (2009)
  • Top 10 Editor’s Picks: Teens
  • Book Sense Children’s Pick; CYBIL Award
  • Booklist Editors’ Choice
  • Kirkus Best Book of the Year
  • Publisher’s Weekly Kids Galley to Grab
  • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
  • VOYA’s Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror
  • Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List

 Diane’s note:  One of my very favorite books and a delight to put in the hands of my teen readers. It addresses my inner geekness and makes me want to go back in time to change the world. How was it we allowed the infringements on our Constitutional rights under the previous administration? How could Cory Doctorow create such an entertaining and thought-provoking book? It will change many readers and open eyes.

#56 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle .  Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1962.
ISBN: 0-374-38613-7. 230 pp.

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

Publisher’s Description:   “Meg Murry, her little brother Charles Wallace, and their mother are having a midnight snack on a dark and stormy night when an unearthly stranger appears at their door. She claims to have been blown off course, and goes on to tell them that there is such a thing as a “tesseract,” which, if you didn’t know, is a wrinkle in time.  Meg’s father had been experimenting with time-travel when he suddenly disappeared. Will Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin outwit the forces of evil as they search through space for their father?

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Series, #1)Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, ShelfariTeenReads


  • 1963: John Newbery Medal
  • 1964: runner-up, Hans Christian Anderson Award
  • 1965: Sequoyah Award
  • 1965: Lewis Carroll Shelf Award
  • #2 on Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Children’s Novels
  • Diane’s note:  Wesley Yandell Jr. wrote an article for SLJ on 04/01/2007 called “Big Is Beautiful: For struggling readers, large-print books may make a huge difference.”  I’ve found students refusing to try a classic if the cover is ugly or worn, the print is tiny, and the illustrations washed out. Wesley purchased large print editions and found students reading the classics.  My favorite quote in this book comes from Meg: “Maybe I don’t like being different”, Meg said, “but I don’t want to be like everybody else, either.” This is book 1 of the Time Quintet. Last year’s Newbery winner When You Reach Me is heavily influenced by A Wrinkle in Time. I usually put this in the hands of fourth through sixth graders and since it came in at #2 on Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Children’s Novels, I feel vindicated. Still, you readers thought it should be on the Teen list, also. There are many students at my school who have not discovered this series, so having it on both lists is a good thing! How many of you didn’t discover A Wrinkle in Time until you were adults?

    #55 Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party by M. T. AndersonCandlewick Press, 2006. ISBN13: 9780763624026. 358pp.

    Publisher’s Description:  It sounds like a fairy tale. He is a boy dressed in silks and white wigs and given the finest of classical educations. Raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers, the boy and his mother — a princess in exile from a faraway land — are the only persons in their household assigned names. As the boy’s regal mother, Cassiopeia, entertains the house scholars with her beauty and wit, young Octavian begins to question the purpose behind his guardians’ fanatical studies. Only after he dares to open a forbidden door does he learn the hideous nature of their experiments — and his own chilling role in them. Set against the disquiet of Revolutionary Boston, M. T. Anderson’s extraordinary novel takes place at a time when American Patriots rioted and battled to win liberty while African slaves were entreated to risk their lives for a freedom they would never claim. The first of two parts, this deeply provocative novel reimagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.  A gothic tale becomes all too shockingly real in this mesmerizing magnum opus by the acclaimed author of FEED.


    National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2006),
    British Fantasy Award (2007),
    Book Sense Book of the Year Award Nominee for Children’s Literature (2007),
    Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry (2007),
    Horn Book Fanfare Best Book (2006),
    BCCB Blue Ribbon Book (2006),
    ALA YALSA Printz Honor book (2007)

    Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, SLJ review.  

    SLJ reviewer Sharon Rawlins notes: 

    The novel is written in 18th-century language from Octavians point of view and in letters written by a soldier who befriends him. Despite the challenging style, this powerful novel will resonate with contemporary readers. The issues of slavery and human rights, racism, free will, the causes of war, and one persons struggle to define himself are just as relevant today. Andersons use of factual information to convey the time and place is powerfully done.

    Diane’s note:
    M.T. Anderson’s work is astonishing. I cannot tell you that I “enjoyed” reading this title because it was so intense. I’m glad I read it. I was amazed by how it was crafted. I was captured and yet appalled at the treatment of the main character. I was intrigued with the historical details of this novel set in time and tone of the American Revolution. I was angered by the master’s treatment of his slave as an experimental subject instead of a real person. I was involved in the reading. Yet, I don’t put this in the hands of most of my middle school students. I think this is a strong YA or adult book. It takes a special person to persevere in the reading, yet M.T. Anderson has created a work of art.

    Videogame Guides

    • Posted on June 18, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    My students are asking for videogame guides and more. I could use your help locating and selecting a collection of these for middle schooler’s. They want the official guides, the cheat code books, and books or magazines that deal with taking the medium to a new level and actually programming.  What do we call that? Vmod?

    What titles do you have in your library? How current are your titles? I think weeding in that section would be even more important. How do you support your gamers?  Let me know the sources you include and I’ll compile a pretty list. While I’m attending ALA Annual conference in DC next week, I’ll be looking for resources, too. So if you see me playing games, I’m just researching collection development, that’s all.

    Silly library cartoons

    • Posted on June 12, 2010 at 5:33 PM
    Book Burning

    Book Burning comic from

    I’m always looking for silly library/ computer/ information science/ and web 2.0 comics to share with my students. During the Tennessee Library Association conference in Memphis, I heard Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes of speak. I even won a copy of one of their books.

    Cover from Library Mascot Cage Match

    Unshelved by Gene Ambaugh & Bill Barnes

    There are other sources of library-ish humor out there. Have you ever checked out the humor at You need to read the disclaimers as you enjoy their sarcastic wit and free speech. Translation: there’s stuff here not for students, but for adults. Some of the computer comics and library comics tickle my fancy. I hope you enjoy them, too. The Book Burning cartoon came to me through Keith Fiels.

    Book Burning


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    Lisa von Drasek offers Children's Book Publishing 101

    • Posted on June 7, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    Lisa Von Drasek, Children’s Librarian, Bank Street College of Education School for Children Pre-K- 8 has given me permission to repost this here:   

    On-Line class, June 14-28th

    Ever wonder how a children’s book gets published?  As the Bank Street College of Education’s children’s librarian, I am often asked about this topic. At least once a week, a parent, teacher, or graduate stops by my office, e-mails or leaves a voicemail asking how they can get their children’s book published.   That was how this course developed.  What does an editor do? Do I need an agent? Is there a market for my idea? How do I submit my manuscript? What is a book proposal? What is the deal with self-publishing? We will follow the process of children’s book publishing from manuscript to bound book in the bookstore.


    • Posted on June 7, 2010 at 4:48 AM

    Scars by Cheryl Rainfield. Westfield Books, 2010. ISBN 9781934813324. $16.95 250 pp Grades 8 -adult. Read reviews about Scars here. 

    Cover of book Scars by Cheryl RainfieldIn Scars Cheryl Rainfield  has created a vibrant character, Kendra,  who realistically deals with an unbelievable number of issues in just 250 pages. Fifteen year old Kendra experiences flashbacks as she tries to recall the identity of her abuser. Since she suppressed these painful memories, attempting to deal with them causes her emotional pain which she then attempts to release through cutting, or self-harm. Her mother is unsupportive of Kendra’s artistic efforts, individuality, and sexual orientation. To make her therapy more difficult, Kendra must deal with a stalker who seems to be trying to prevent her memory from returning.

    The strands of these issues weave together an amazing story until suddenly they form a tapestry of betrayal with a shocking conclusion.

    Scars was difficult for me to read and I have struggled over sharing with you about this title.  Unfortunately, like the author, I was a victim of sexual abuse as a child and can relate to the emotions of her character. Like Kendra, the abuse was not addressed until I was much older. During Kendra’s remarkable journey of uncovering her memories of who her abuser was, we are given flashbacks to the actual incidents. These were very hard for me to read because I tried to suppress my own memories growing up. Until there was a confrontation between family members who had known of the abuse  and myself at age 18, I did not know that anyone had ever been aware the abuse had occurred. 

    They thought they had managed to shame the abuser into stopping and that I wasn’t left alone with him from that point until his death when I was just 7. When the confrontation occurred at 18 years of age, I shared some of the flashbacks and memories of what had happened in the intervening time, which then shocked the family members into revealing some of their own abuse. Suddenly I was dealing with their grief and remorse at not having adequately protected me at the same time as I was battling my own anger with everyone’s silence at their own abuse. How did I handle this at 18? I suppressed it again to mention it casually through the years as if I had dealt with it and moved on. I played the role of good girl who didn’t discuss it with any other family members who might be hurt by any tarnishing of the memory of this person.

    It wasn’t until I was reading Scars that I faced the fact that I have not managed to forget or move on. I have made choices in my life based upon my fears and situational similarities to memories of the past. In the past I have either reacted with stiffness at men’s attempts to casually display affection or I have gone to the other extreme.

    One of the best parts of this book is the resource section at the back for others who are dealing with any of the issues involved in Scars. This is the most comprehensive list I’ve seen. I have had a student come to me to request more information and access to these titles particularly titles on cutting. While I cannot be a counselor for all 1000 students, I can connect them to good counselors, websites, books, and more. I have resources for a counselor for myself if I choose to learn how to handle these memories.

    After reading Scars, I was looking for an opportunity to share the ARC with a student to get his or her opinion on its appropriateness in a middle school collection. There are so many issues included – sexual abuse, self-harm through cutting, stalkers, and sexual orientation – that I worried Scars would simply read as a laundry list of issues instead of a vibrant story of hope and learning to cope. Would parents reject this title as “too mature” without allowing students to read a truly amazing story?

    One of my students had been sharing her horrorstory writings with me. These were incredibly graphic. While we discussed her horror stories in the library, a school psychologist was listening openly and asked if her mother knew what she wrote. The student confirmed that she did. The psychologist was worried yet didn’t know how she could step in and possibly disrupt our open conversation.

    When the student asked me for suggestions of books with extremely intense emotions and drama like child kidnapping and abuse,  I shared several that we had, along with the strategy of locating “books with issues”. Then I asked the student if she wanted to read Scars. I discussed my concerns with the book and how I was curious how parents would view this title. I asked her permission to contact her mother and talk about the book she’d be reading. We agreed she would take it home to read that night and bring it back so I could write my review the next day.

    I take Intellectual Freedom and the Library Bill of Rights very seriously. I did not want to censor this student’s access to Scars. I had a relationship with the student and parent that was comfortable enough to openly discuss my concerns and I did want to know about a parent’s reaction. As I dialed the telephone, I wondered if the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee ,to whom I liaison for the Executive Board, would consider what I was doing blasphemous. Was I being too protective? Was I attempting to act in loco parentis? What if the parent objected?

    It was a wonderful phone conversation to have. Through reaching out to this parent I was able to express my concerns with her daughter’s writings, discuss issues of abuse and self-harm, and to discuss intellectual freedom in choosing titles to read. I assured the mother that I was not forcing her child to read this title and that there were resources available in the book and at school to help cope with any questions about the issues. I encouraged her to look at the book that night and to read it with her daughter so she could discuss it openly.

    The next morning the student beamed as she returned the book to me. Her mother was surprised at her interest, yet willing to leave the decision to read or not read Scars to her daughter. The student then pleaded to keep the book until she had finished it. Two days later, when she brought back the book, she also brought two friends who had been reading along with her and wanted to check it out to finish reading.

    We had a very open discussion as to what ages Scars would appeal. They felt that eighth graders might enjoy it the most but that it should be available to other mature readers. They said mature because they confessed there were some areas in the story that confused them, but they thought the eighth graders would know more about life, dating, and sex who would better understand it.  Each of them raved about what an excellent book it was and that they would be looking for evidence of SIARI (self-injury and related issues) among their friends so that other people could learn healthy ways to cope with pain.


    I'll fight you for the library

    • Posted on June 7, 2010 at 12:35 AM

    I’ll Fight You For the Library  My teacher colleague Amanda Miller shared this video link to “I’ll Fight You For The Library” performed by Taylor Mali as part of the Page Meets Stage Series at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City on April 29, 2009.  I’ve kept it and enjoy it so much that I just had to share it here with you.

    This clip mirrors my passion for keeping the library open for student instruction above all. I want a sign to post on my desk, near the calendar and on my school calendar online that states “Library programming and scheduling is centered around students first and foremost. Events that infringe upon their access must occur before or after school.

    Or maybe I just want to fight them for the library.