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Blakely Blogs about DragonBreath

  • Posted on January 31, 2011 at 3:02 PM

Ursula Vernon’s series DragonBreath comes with this description on her webpage:  A combination of text and graphic novel, the Dragonbreath books tell of the adventures of Danny Dragon, a young dragon attending a school for reptiles and amphibians. Join Danny and his best friend Wendell the Iguana as they travel under the sea outwitting bullies, fending off giant squid, meet giant heron, run from ninjas,and fight were-hotdogs, all the while trying to avoid getting an F in Science!

Blakely writes today about the arc of DragonBreath on my shelves. DragonBreath was about a dragon who was having trouble breathing fire. No matter how hard he tried, the most he could muster was some smoke. Danny, the dragon, was lectured every day by his father about applying himself more to breathing fire. “Think hot thoughts!” his dad said.

It was even worse because Danny went to a school full of reptiles and amphibians who didn’t believe he was a real dragon since he couldn’t breath fire. The only one who believed him was his best friend Wendell, an iguana, who was constantly getting into trouble from Danny’s little schemes.

Danny was constantly bullied by a Komodo dragon named Big Eddy and his two lackey’s Jason the salamander and Ham, the chameleon. Big Eddy stole Danny’s lunch everyday but today Danny’s lunch was a very vicious looking potato salad. He let him have it and moments later they heard Big Eddy scream that the potato salad had bitten him and escaped into the sewers.

Earlier that morning, Danny had procrastinated and waited until he had gotten on the bus to do his homework. Against his friend Wendell’s wishes, he wrote a paper about something that he just made up off the top of his head and he got an F for it. Now he had to redo it the next morning. He knew nothing about the ocean so his mother suggested he go to see his cousin Edward who was a sea serpent. He dragged Wendell along. They went through a huge adventure and nearly got eaten twice. Once by a shark and once by a giant squid. Both times Danny’s cousin Edward saved them.

When the squid had gotten Danny and Wendell, Danny was so scared, he breathed fire under water. The water extinguished the flame, but the steam hurt Danny and the squid. When they returned home, Danny and Wendell stood up to the bullies, turned in the paper, and got an A.

When Danny told his father he’d breathed fire underwater, his dad wanted him to show him, held up a piece of bacon, and told him to think hot thoughts. Danny tried again but only got smoke and a lecture.

The best part of DragonBreath is the illustrations – especially of the potato salad.

Sue Polanka's slideshare

  • Posted on January 31, 2011 at 9:48 AM

Thanks to Michael Porter’s sharing, I was able to view Sue Polanka’s slide share on Purchasing E-Books for Your Library. My principal shares my enthusiasm for obtaining e-readers. Now we are researching which formats, platforms, devices, and e-books to purchase. I hope you view the slideshare and share your opinions here.

For example, do you circulate e-readers to middle schooler’s? How many should a library provide for a population of 900 students? Do you preload mass libraries of stories or do you purchase access to web-based ebook products? So many questions, so little time.

Diane talks Food Part III

  • Posted on January 31, 2011 at 5:42 AM

I’d like to include my own  disclaimer right from the start as Susan Norwood did: I am overweight and am not a dietitian. What I am is a skeptical librarian who wants healthy accurate information for her students. I do not trust every flashy new diet book out there, but I do usually talk to my special library friends who work in the health field for more sources.

For example,  Susan mentioned the really popular series of books Eat This, Not That. The authors are stating that by simply choosing one food over another, you’ll lose weight. The WebMD review of this title included this phrase:

“The authors promise you will lose weight if you make smarter food choices, but don’t be fooled into thinking that ordering a Big Mac instead of a Whopper with cheese will lead to weight loss as depicted on the book’s cover.”

I found the entire article and comments by Elisa Zied, (MS, RD, the author of Feed Your Family Right, and  an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman) helpful as they expanded my thinking.

We must help kids think about childhood obsesity. We need more materials. Where can we turn? I thought I’d point out some of the nonfiction series on food that appeal to students. I’m excluding cookbooks from this list because they are a separate post of their own and very popular.

First, let’s look at Rosen Publishing’s new series Incredibly Disgusting Food which I think this is a must have for your middle school health collection.

After reading Salty and Sugary Snacks: the incredibly disgusting story, I went to the refrigerator and began munching on carrot and celery sticks instead. Here’s one section that really hit me in the gut:

“The American Medical Association believes that obesity plays an important role in the premature deaths of 280,000 U.S. citizens every year. According to the Research and Development Corporation and the University of Chicago, “More Americans are obese than smoke, use illegal drugs, or suffer from ailments unrelated to obesity.”

I trust the materials Rosen Publishing produces on health and wellness. Their Teen Health & Wellness Database is an amazing tool for middle and high schooler’s. When I see they’ve produced new health and teen wellness books, I snap them up.

Sometimes the text reads at a sophisticated level, yet the topic and approach are straightforward and appeal to my readers. This series really sends a clear message on the dangers our teens face with food. I think Michelle Obama would highly support these titles in her quest to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation.

My favorite part of these titles is a page at the end with TEN GREAT QUESTIONS TO ASK A NUTRIONIST. These questions seemed to catch the interest building throughout the entire text and stimulate  the reader to want to continue learning. I need answers to these questions.

Look at some of the topics discussed: mass-production, sugar, overweight vs. obese, insulin, glucose regulation, salt, hypertension,  additives, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, diet, quality of life, nutrition labels, and exercise. I’m amazed that author Adam Furgang was able to pull together a truly fascinating narrative nonfiction title.

Any of us could predict a title focusing on Fake Foods: Fried, Fast, and Processed. I didn’t expect to consider becoming a vegetarian after reading author Paula Johanson’s text. Moving on to Carbonated Beverages, I thought to myself, how can those be incredibly disgusting? Then I read:

In fact, soft drinks are one of the major culprits in the obesity epidemic in the United States….In addition, tooth decay, bad breath, hyperactivity, depression, gallstones, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and premature death are all possible consequences of drinking carbonated beverages in excess.”

WOW! I had to read on to find out more. Along comes Mysterious Meat: Hot Dogs, Sausages, and Lunch Meats. I’d like to review it for you, but every time I pick up the title, someone else snatches it out of my hands. Even my #3 son who NEVER reads, held on to this for 20 minutes reading, examining the captions, and flipping back and forth. Need I tell you that I don’t plan on eating sausages this month? I think I’ll try some nice fish and nuts. Make that black beans, homegrown, and garden veggies.

All in all, we loved this series. Rosen’s designers so brilliantly included the word disgusting in the title that teens are intrigued and pick them up. Yes! If I can get teens to stop and think about what they are eating, I’ll put the Incredibly Disgusting Food series on my shelves.

If you are looking for something for a little big younger crowd, try Breakfast By the Numbers (Cherry Lake’s Real World Math: Health and Wellness) It includes many healthy food choices with math strategies integrated. This series is written for a younger audience with a smaller font, large line spacing, and five simpler, more focused chapters.

Blakely Blogs about Books

  • Posted on January 30, 2011 at 5:11 AM

Owl Ninja by Sandy Fussell. Candlewick Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780763650032. 272 pp. $15.99

I’m taking advantage of having my son’s girlfriend, Blakely, nearby to read books for me and to share her teen perspective.  Blakely helped unpack (okay, she totally did all the unpacking of) the books I brought back from ALA Midwinter and immediately identified 51 titles she wanted to read right away.  She innocently asked me if I had any bookends in the house. “Kitty cat or teddy bear bookends?” I asked. Bwah! Hah! Hah! I have her in my clutches now. She is becoming an avid reader and writer of books. Here is today’s post:

Samurai Kids: Own Ninja Book Two. Owl Ninja is the second book in the Samurai Kids series. Even though I hadn’t read the first book, the second book has details about the first book to catch you up to speed. Owl Ninja is about these five kids who were shunned by society because of their differences. They are training to become great Samurais under the teaching of their Sensei – a samurai who is the subject of great myths, rumors, and gossip.

Characters include Kyoko who is the most ridiculed of all because she has write har, pink eyes, and six fingers and toes. Also, she is the only female samurai. Her parents abandoned her at birth and she was raised in the wild by snow monkeys – her spirit animal.

Mikko only has one arm but is more skilled with it than any other samurai with two arms. His spirit animal is the striped gecko.

Niya only has one leg and is the narrator of the story. He is just as skilled as wise as their sensei. His spirit animal is the white crane.

Yoshi has vowed never to fight because as a child while wrestling with another child, he threw him out of the ring, accidentally killing him by crushing his head on a rock. He spirit animal is the tiger.

Taji is a blind boy who always knows who is coming before anyone else. His spirit animal is the golden bat.

Nezume is fidgety and skinny and the fastest samurai in the mountains. His spirit animal is the long-tailed rat.

Sensei Ki-Yaga was once a famous samurai warrior and teacher to the emperor.

In the story these five samurai kids and their sensei travel to see the emperor in order to stop a great war that is about to happen. With the help of a couple ninja and some old friends, they travel a long distance – learning,  telling stories, meeting new and old friends, and even seeing a ghost along the way.

Our young samurai friends (called Cockroaches) learn honor, love, respect, courage, benevolence, wisdom, and to be like ninjas – all to make sure that no one has to die for a war. There is conflict as the dragon master and his students attempt to prevent them from convincing the emperor to end the war.

Blakely’s favorite passage:

Yoshi asks “I would like to ask the Dragon Master a question. Why would any master want his students to fight?”

The Dragon’s chest bloats with pride, and the opportunity to teach Ki-Yaga’s Cockroaches a lesson. “Because my students will emerge victorious and win great honor.”

Nezume shakes his head. “They will be covered in blood.”

“Or even worse,” Sensei says, “they will be covered in cloth.”

Dead.

Our favorite part of Owl Ninja were the illustrations by Rhian Nest James. These were absolutely lovely illustrations that seemed true to Japanese techniques. Blakely mentioned they look like they were painted with brushes of ink. Even though we were reading an ARC, we loved the illustrations. I cannot wait to see the final book.

You can email Blakely by clicking here. Don’t you wish you were curled up on the sofas and love seats reading with us and chatting about books?

Food Part II

  • Posted on January 29, 2011 at 9:15 AM

Susan Norwood continues with her discussion of Food Books, Part II

Let me say at the outset that I am overweight—not morbidly so, but I could easily shed 20 pounds I have high blood-pressure, need to eat more healthfully, and I’m not proud to admit this. Our kids are in the same position.

Everyone knows that teenagers are obsessed about their looks. Boys and girls worry about their weight, and no one wants to be fat. We have a dress code at our school. Students are supposed to wear their pants at the waist and have their shirts tucked in. It’s a struggle to enforce, especially with the boys who wear knee-length shirts. For some, these enormous shirts are a way to hide belly rolls.

Recently, I asked my students to write an essay about their favorite restaurants. They rhapsodized about the chains they love: McDonalds, Taco Bell, O’Charley’s, Olive Garden, Red Robin, etc. Restaurants are happy places for them. They LOVE to eat out; however, they have no clue about what’s in their food. While they may not know about nutrition, they do know that lots of calories and fat grams are bad.

I brought in a copy of my book, Eat This, Not That (2008) by Zinczenko and Goulding. As my kids would say, these authors have “cred.” They are editors for Men’s Health. Zinczenko has also written The Abs Diet and The Abs Diet For Women (which I could surely use). The book is highly popular with both boys and girls, avid and reluctant readers.  It is colorful, loaded with pictures, and easy to understand. The facts are laid out in sidebar and large captions.  The information is easy to grasp at a glance.

What kind of information does it contain? Well, for starters, let’s go back to the maligned Chicken McNuggets from The Omnivore’s Dilemma. You’d think that McDonald’s Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips would be a much healthier choice, but NO. Five pieces with creamy ranch sauce (yum) has 830 calories and 55 grams of fat. According to the authors, this is equivalent to 20 Chicken McNuggets. OMG. At this point, they accuse me of “hatin’ on McDonalds,” but I assure them that I’m not. I just make different choices when I go.

Here’s another zinger. I used to feel so self-righteous when I’d order the Taco Salad at Wendy’s. It was a salad, but add the best part, the crispy hard shell, and it’s no longer so healthy. That shell alone adds 370 calories and 20 grams of fat. I could go on with shocking examples from this book all day long. It is that engrossing. Kids can flip through the section on their favorite restaurants, which is arranged alphabetically. Then they can peruse various sections, such as Candy, Movie food, Vending Machine food, School Cafeteria food, Cereals, Snacks, etc. Everything a kid is likely to eat. There is another book in this series, Eat This, Not That For Kids: Be the Leanest, Fittest Family On the Block (2008). This book contains more examples of foods to eat and avoid. The emphasis is a little more on kid food: pizza, hamburgers, tacos, mac n’ cheese, etc. But, it is food that adults eat too.

Again, these books are popular. Students regularly ask to take them home to share with their family. These books should be in classroom and school libraries. They could be utilized in classes other than Reading, such as Math, Science, and Health. Take a look at them. I guarantee you will not put the book down once you pick it up.

Next by Susan: Funny Food books.

Don’t Read This If You Are About To Eat

  • Posted on January 26, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Susan Norwood couldn’t resist guest blogging today on FOOD.

Here is Nashville, we once again have a snow day. So far this month, we have had a whole week off of school. Today, we are off again. The only thing better than sitting around reading, is sitting around eating. Cooking is not really my thing, but the long cold days have turned my interests to food. Evidently, my students feel the same way.

I had a copy of Everyday with Rachael Ray (February 2011) sitting on my desk. The bright red magazine lured me in with its tempting captions: Comfort Food We Love! The Best Burger! Valentine’s Gifts! Ooh. Can we say food porn? This magazine was for me- not my classroom library, so I was surprised when a boy asked to read it. He read the book for a full 20 minutes without talking.

This got me to thinking. Books and magazines about food are relevant to students. Look how popular all of the food reality shows are. Providing students with materials about what they eat is enormously important. Michelle Obama has launched an iniative to combat childhood obesity. I did a little bit of checking to see what she has had to say about this problem.

In a speech to the NAACP Annual Convention in 2010, she said that African American kids are significantly more likely to be obese than white children. Nearly half of all African American children will develop diabetes at some point in their lives. This shocks me!

Back to my classroom.  A couple of years ago, I had a student- a boy who had immigrated from Ghana. One day I instructed students to write a short essay about their favorite restaurant. He told me that he could not write this essay because his family did not eat out. “Why not? “ I asked. Ever so politely, he replied, “We do not wish to be fat like Americans.” Ouch. Sadly, he was right.

I remember reading aloud a chapter from Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma for Kids: The Secrets Behind What You Eat.  The chapter was on McDonalds, and how their meals are designed to be eaten in a car. This was how Chicken Nuggets came to be. What really astounded the kids was when they found out that there are 38 ingredients in a McNugget.  Pollen tells us that the stuff that is sprayed on them to keep them fresh-looking is a form of butane (lighter fluid). Kids reacted in horror. Some flatly refused to believe this. Most agreed with me, though, that in the future they would stick with hamburgers that only have a few ingredients. This lesson has become semi-famous. I still have kids ask to read the book and take it home to share with parents.

After they digest the information on the McNugget (pun intended), I let them know what’s in cattle feed. It’s disgusting—some of it isn’t even food, and by the way, the cows stand in poop all day.

To be continued . . .

Top Teen Titles #20-24

  • Posted on January 25, 2011 at 1:10 AM

#24 Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, The by E. Lockhart. Hyperion, 2008. ISBN:  9780786838189, 342 pp.

Publisher’s Description: Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14: Debate Club. Her father’s “bunny rabbit.” A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school. Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: A knockout figure. A sharp tongue. A chip on her shoulder. And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston. Frankie Landau-Banks. No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer. Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society. Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places. Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them. When she knows Matthew’s lying to her. And when there are so many, many pranks to be done. Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16: Possibly a criminal mastermind. This is the story of how she got that way.

Quotes from Readers: Feminism, pranks, & class issues. What’s not to love?

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

Awards: Printz Honor, 2009. Finalist for the 2008 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Cybils Award for best young adult novel. Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year list. Richie’s Picks Best of 2008 List. Tayshas List, 2009. NY Times Notable Children’s Book list, 2008. School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, 2008. Library Journal’s list of Seattle Public Library’s Fiction Favorites of 2008. Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best List. Washington Post Best Kids Books of the Year. Booklist Editors’ Choice. Morning News Tournament of Books, 2009. SLJ Tournament of Kids Books. Rhode Island Teen Book Awards Finalist. 2010 Teens Top Ten. SLJ Battle of the Kids Books. Connecticut Nutmeg Award finalist, 2011. Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award finalist, 2011. Georgia Peach nominee, 2011. Oregon Battle of the Books, 2010-2011. IRA YA Choices list.

Diane’s note: First sentence of this title isI, Frankie Landau-Banks, hereby confess that I was the sole mastermind behind the mal-doings of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds.” Okay, as soon as I stopped laughing at the image of loyal basset hounds and malfeasance, I was able to read this book in a day. I would not have picked up this title, if I hadn’t been in the room when the Printz Awards were announced and this was named an honor book. This was such a great read that I will be forever grateful for awards programs that produce winners and honorees that I’ve never seen. I am grateful to the committee for exposing me to such a variety of titles to suit all readers.

Frankie’s coming of age is funny and painful at the same time. I laughed and grimaced at her pranks. She isn’t a perfect person and I think that’s what made me love reading about her the most. Frankie is empowered. She is not prepared to let someone treat her like arm-candy. Just because she transformed into a beauty suddenly doesn’t mean she’s fried her brains. There were times I didn’t like what Frankie was doing. I think that’s the beauty of this title because you are forced to react and experience Frankie’s feelings while you are reading.

Cellhouse Rules Guest Blog by Becky Jackman

  • Posted on January 24, 2011 at 2:19 PM

Becky Jackman, School Librarian at New Providence Middle School, guest blogs today.

Sometimes I find inspiration in unlikely places. I went to ALA Midwinter expecting to learn about great new books, to have wonderful discussions with co-workers from around the country, and to return to work revived, refreshed, and renewed. I never expected that the most lasting impression would actually come from a side trip to San Francisco.

RULES–Loud talking, shouting, whistling, singing, or other unnecessary noises are not permitted. If you saw these rules posted in a library, you probably wouldn’t think twice about it. But what if you saw them on a sign that said “Regulation #30. Cellhouse Rules”. Does that make you stop and think? Should libraries and prisons have the same rules?

It made me stop and really consider what I want “my” library to be like. Do I really want the rules in my library to be almost the exact same rules that Alcatraz prison had? I bought the sign to put in my office so that I am continually reminded that I’m running a library, not a prison. I wish that I could talk more eloquently about this subject. The imagery of this idea has weighed on me since I returned from Midwinter.

Issues with a classroom library that becomes a de-facto branch library

  • Posted on January 22, 2011 at 4:35 AM

Susan Norwood guest blogs today about her classroom library. We joke that she has a branch library in our school – AKA a classroom library that is open to more than just one classroom.

A curious thing is happening in my classroom library. My books are disappearing at a rapid rate. I use the honor system: kids sign out their books on a legal pad. It’s nothing high-tech. Certain types of materials have to stay in the classroom– namely manga, graphic novels, and magazines, because students read these every class period.

Lately, I have been having visitors. Students pop in from other classrooms. I don’t know who they are, but I can’t bring myself to tell a child, “No, you can’t read my books, unless you’re in my class.” Yesterday, a boy I don’t know, handed me four of my books that he had borrowed. I was happy to see the first four volumes of the Bone series by Jeff Smith. Those books are pricey, and I didn’t want to have to buy new ones. By the end of the day, I noticed that volumes 5-7 of Bone are now gone. I hope it’s the same kid, who is honest. He also returned Dragonball Z (Volumes 1-3).

What else is missing?

  • Five copies of The Test by Peggy Kern (a new Bluford High book)
  • Three copies of Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (Twilight is still popular)
  • Two copies of Eclipse (see above)
  • Naruto and Fruits Basket (I can no longer keep track of these. They come and go with alarming speed)
  • Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Enter If You Dare! (the brand new purple book)
  • Ripley’s Special Edition- 2011
  • A drawing book for boys – don’t know the title, but boys have asked to buy it from me.
  • The Rose that Grew From Concrete— poems by Tupac Shakur- 2 copies
  • Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney – 2 copies

I know that there are more missing. These are the titles that I know are AWOL. So, why the sudden interest in my library, especially among students that I don’t have? I think it’s because our (Diane’s) library has been closed since we returned to school after the winter break. We missed a week of school and a few days when she was in San Diego, but it seems like forever since kids have been able to check out books. Again, not just my students, but the whole school.

My students miss the library. Some of them are downright irate. When Diane stopped by my room yesterday, she had to explain why the library is closed for the time being, and also, that students will not be able to go as often. This is unfortunate, and not something that she wants to do. The good news is that many students are in the habit of having outside reading material with them at all times. Every day now, boys will come by my room to borrow Sports Illustrated, SLAM, The Dupont Registry (really expensive cars), and other magazines, which I allow them to borrow them- but only for one period. I tell my students something my mother (a reader) used to tell me, “If you like to read, you’ll never be bored.” That went along with, “Saying you’re bored is like saying you’re too stupid to entertain yourself. Interesting, smart people are never bored.” She got right to the point.

Our once vibrant library has been quiet as a tomb, but my “branch library” is bustling. Our kids are hungry for good things to read! I’m doing my best to feed them.

Note to readers: The library was closed the first week of school because I was only there two days before ALA Midwinter San Diego. The second week was a snow day closure all week. We are open again with a new schedule which combines fixed checkout times for every student to come once every two weeks and a flexible schedule of instruction which allows a great deal of access.

Rot & Ruin

  • Posted on January 19, 2011 at 4:20 PM

Jonathan Maberry’s new book Rot & Ruin corrupted me. I couldn’t do anything else on my airplane flight to San Diego but read obsessively. Susan Norwood told me about this book first in the following facebook message:

WE NEED THIS BOOK IN THE LIBRARY.  I just finished a fabulous young adult ZOMBIE book– Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry. I sat around for half a day in my nightgown, not wanting to shower til I finished the book–it’s that good– right up there with Hunger Games. Gritty, gory–filled with violence and romance, yet virtually no profanity. Fortunately there is another book in the series. I’m almost sad I finished it.

I thought to myself, okay, Susan is totally into The Walking Dead and everything zombies, but I’ll check out the reviews and see what they say.  (Of course I didn’t want to mention the reason I haven’t popped by her house to watch a marathon of The Walking Dead is because I am a big scaredy-cat, screamer at all scary movies, and might be too afraid to drive home after watching. )

Susan insisted that I take Rot & Ruin with me and I am so glad I did. I couldn’t believe a book of zombies could tell a romance story from a boy’s point of view (definitely not mushy) while being a mystery and paranormal dystopia.

Next Susan told me I have to visit the author Jonathan Maberry’s website. When I mentioned how much I enjoyed Rot & Ruin, she handed me The Enemy by Charlie Higson. Next on the list are In the Forest of Hands & Teeth and Patient Zero. We are looking for some seriously scary books, not Goosebump style for her eighth graders.

Do you think anyone will notice if I keep staying up to read all night and walk like a zombie through school this week?