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Just some of my favorite Hurricane Titles

  • Posted on June 22, 2011 at 6:55 PM

Remembering Hurricane Katrina, I wanted to share these titles with you briefly.

A Place Where Hurricanes Happen by Renee Watson and illustrated by Shadra Strickland. Random House, 2010. Picture book.

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little, Brown., 2010. Fiction for ages 10 and up.

Hurricane Katrina from the series TurningPoints in U.S. History by Judith Bloom Fraden and Dennis Brindell Fraden. Marshall Cavendish, 2010. Nonfiction.

Hurricanes! from the series Eyewitness Disaster by Angela Royton. Marshall Cavendish, 2010.

Of these four titles, the Eyewitness Disaster series title Hurricanes! has been most popular. Even when I was working with these books out in public at my favorite beverage habitats, other adults would pick up each title then sit and pour over Hurricanes! Upon request I took other titlesin the series by for their perusal including:

    • Earthquakes
    • Floods
    • Storms
    • Tsunamis
    • Volcanoes

One of the students commented to me about why this series was so popular. He said that this book had details in it, but was designed so your eyes popped from box to box to read and you weren’t bored. Woohoo! High praise, indeed!

I like the series in part because it goes beyond a focus on just disasters in the U.S. but has a global span. My only negative is that I wish each title ended with a stronger wrap up, so I don’t suddenly turn the page to find the Glossary. Then I end up flipping back and forth moaning and wanting more information. This is a solid upper elementary and middle school nonfiction title.

Hurricane Katrina was popular for a younger group and ELL readers due to the photographs and straight forward narrative. The message of learning from our mistakes was clear to my students. I knew this title was a hit when students continued to ask each other questions after reading like “Why didn’t the government get there sooner? How could those people be calling for help and no one help them? What about their pets? Why did they write 5 people, 1 dog, 1 cat on the roof?”

Aha! I knew quite a bit about the pets question since I am a member of the ASPCA and donated what I could to help the animals stranded there be reunited with families. During the ALA Annual 2006, the ASPCA awards program was one of my favorite events and not just because it was held at the zoo. I felt like I had been able to contribute something to causes I cared about.  The ASPCA events remain some of my favorite at ALA Annual even though my schedule is super-heavy this year.

A Place Where Hurricanes Happen is a picture book written from the point of view of four young children living in a New Orleans neighborhood. As the opening states:

We’re from New Orleans, a place where hurricanes happen. But that’s only the bad side.

This title worked with my middle-schoolers while we were studying point of view, voice, and inferences. The moment of silence when they saw the double-page spread of the flood was worth listening to them complain that it was a little kids book when I began. After I ended, one of the students suggested that this would be a good title for Reader’s Theater and different voices reading. I agreed.

The author and illustrator managed to include the sense of joy and living in the moment that children do, no matter what city they live in. I’m happy to return to New Orleans after my visits in 2006 and 2007.

Ninth Ward is such an unusual title that I read my ARC twice. Jewell Parker Rhodes created a wonderfully unique character in Lanesha. Her approach to dealing with incredibly difficult situations was mystical yet practical. Mathematics and engineering grounded with “the sight” and an ability to reach out to others.

Once students finished Ninth Ward, they moved on to other disaster fiction titles by Peg Kehret. Several older boys sought out Paul Volponi’s Hurricane Song.

If I were at school, I’d pull out the other titles on hurricanes and disasters we’ve used this year.

My Heading to New Orleans & Remembering Hurricane Katrina Post

  • Posted on June 22, 2011 at 11:40 AM

The 2006 ALA Annual Conference will always remain a vibrant memory to me. As ALA was the first national organization to hold a conference, there was a great deal of attention on how libraries claimed to build communities. During this conference, librarians stepped up, showed up, and helped others up. To many local people we were special because we kept our promise and journeyed there. I blogged on my personal blog at that time Deep Thinking at blogsome dot com.

From an ALA Press Release on June 7, 2011: ““Libraries Build Communities” began in 2006, as the library community came to the aid of local libraries and community groups after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005. Coordinated by the ALA’s Chapter Relations Office, the volunteer effort has become an Annual Conference tradition, as conference attendees continue to volunteer to assist libraries and community groups in conference cities.

The ALA was the first national organization to hold a conference in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and conference volunteers will continue to support rebuilding efforts.

“When the ALA first came to New Orleans in 2006, there was an unimaginable amount of work that needed to be done throughout the city,” said ALA Chapter Relations Office director Michael Dowling. “In a few short days, the ALA was able to make a difference and illustrate that libraries do in fact build communities. Even now, five years later, we continue to demonstrate the importance of libraries in each city we visit whether it be through community services projects like “Libraries Build Communities” or through the free programs and services we provide.”

Fast Forward to the Future, what else is happening with ALA and the more recent disasters? Well, according to the most recent press release there are the “Disaster Relief Efforts at Annual for Haiti, Japan, Missouri, and Alabama.

International Relations and Chapter Relations Offices will be taking in donations at Annual for Haiti, Japan, Alabama, and Missouri.

This year, we will have two clearly marked donation boxes set up at the three Information Booths in the Convention Center. All funds donated will be split equally between the four relief efforts.

Information about the donation boxes will be shared in the Registration Area, in Cognotes and at the Opening General Session. Flyers on How and where to make donations will also be available at the Information Booths – for those attendees who would like to make an individual donation to a specific relief effort.

Alabama and Missouri (Joplin) donations will be used to provide assistance to librarians who have lost their homes or otherwise been affected by the recent tornados. The Chapters there have set up their own donation opportunities, so this is where we will refer interested parties after conference.

Haiti and Japan donations will be used for library reconstruction.

I can remember in 2006 going to New Orleans and chatting with as many local people as I could to gather their stories. I chatted with all walks of society and spent time listening. I listened to children talk about their feelings.

During that time we had several families move to Nashville and the students shared their feelings. I can vividly remember the face of one young boy who carried every toy car he owned with him to school each day in his backpack because they were the only things he had left when the flood came and the waters came into his car while they were fleeing. Stories matter.

The next blog post will highlight some of the titles I have shared with students lately on Hurricane Katrina and disasters.

Susan guest blogs: “Walking in Sunshine”—Non-Depressing Fiction for Younger Readers

  • Posted on June 22, 2011 at 8:45 AM

“Walking in Sunshine”—Non-Depressing Fiction for Younger Readers

“Walking in Sunshine”—Non-Depressing Fiction for Younger Readers (With no apologies to Katrina and the Wave—that’s a happy, summery, pool-side sounding tune!)

Since Diane hasn’t addressed the tempest surrounding Meghan Cox Gurdon’s article, “Darkness Too Visible,” in the June 4, 2011 edition of the Wall Street Journal, I guess I will. Diane is busy moving to another house, while she keeps a lookout for another position as librarian.

Cox opens her article with a vignette about a mother venturing into a suburban bookstore on a quest to buy her thirteen year-old daughter a book. She was horrified at the dark nature of young adult literature. Cox goes on to talk about the negative impact of novels that explore “pathologies.” I won’t talk about that. I believe that these novels are crucial for many young readers, but there is lighter fare out there.

I wish Diane or I had been at the bookstore to help this mother out. The books in the Young Adult section are for a wide variety of maturity levels, going up to 18 years-old.  Mom may have been better off looking in the Independent Readers section instead. These books tend to have lighter themes, and the reading level is not that different from YA.

There are times when I too do not want to read depressing books. I avoided Dave Pelzer’s “A Child Called It,” for years. Likewise, I avoided Ellen Hopkins’s “Glass.” When I did read these books, I was blown away with their power and have recommended them to readers. Not to ALL readers, but those to whom I think the book will be relevant, moving, and helpful.

I would have asked the mother what her daughter liked to read. If she could tell me titles or genres, I could take it from there. Here are books that I would recommend. These books are all in my classroom library. This list is in no particular order, and it is not data-drive (buzz word alert!). These are books that kids like. They make great summer, pool-side reading because they are “fun” reads. The writing quality is excellent.


Anything by Will Hobbs—I especially likeCrossing the Wire — Fast-paced, life-or-death drama.

Esperanza Rising– Pam Munoz Ryan — Well-to-do Mexican girl goes to the U.S. and does migrant work after her father is killed.

Both titles have special appeal to Hispanic students—they have Mexican protagonists.


Maximum Ride series by James Patterson—The books have short chapters, so they’re easy to pick up and put down. Frequent cliff-hangers keep readers hooked.


Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney—I can’t keep these books on my shelf. I lost about 10 copies this year. Kids read them over and over.

Wimpy Kid wanna-be’s– There are lots of titles coming out that have been inspired by Wimpy Kid. Recommendations anyone?

Schooled – Gordon Korman—A kid raised on a commune by a hippie grandma goes to real school for the first time—a large public school, where he is the 8th grade’s biggest weirdo (but in a good way!)

Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Elsewhere– Gabrielle Zevin—Love, love, loved this beautiful story about a girl who dies, goes Elsewhere and ages backwards until she is reborn on earth. Really thought-provoking and liked by guys and girls. It gave me goosebumps.

Keturah and Lord Death– Martine Leavitt. – Lord Death [need to say a couple of words about Lord Death so that he or it doesn’t sound creepy and depressing]  falls in love with a girl and wants to make her his bride. She loves someone else. The teacher in me appreciated the sophisticated vocabulary.

Beastly– Alex Flinn- Modern telling of Beauty and the Beast that also made it to the big screen.

Shiver- Maggie Stiefvater- Girl falls in love with wolf, but he can’t stay in human form much longer. He shares her bed as a human, but they only kiss and cuddle. [Oops! Update from Susan: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater does have a sex scene. The protagonist has sex with her wolf-boyfriend, but it’s pretty chaste–especially compared to Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. At least in Shiver, the girls says afterwards, “We used protection.” ]

Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld—Hard-hitting sci-fi with plenty of romance and suspense. Intense, yet shouldn’t offend anyone by being overly graphic. A great story that doesn’t need sex, graphic violence, or profanity to propel the action. I had a popular, athletic girl bring Uglies to a pep rally to read!

Historical Fiction

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis—This book is a great read. It combines history, drama, and humor. The teacher in me loves the background knowledge it will build in students. It has a Mark Twain quality in its blending of humor and drama (runaway slaves).


Behind the Curtain series- Peter Abrahams. Modern female sleuth reminds me of why I loved Nancy Drew! The mysteries are well-plotted. I couldn’t guess “who dunnit”.

So Be It – Sarah Weeks– A girl investigates her past. There is something wrong with her mother, who only has a vocabulary of about 20 words. She boards a bus to another city, based upon clues she finds in an old photograph.

Okay. These are some of my suggestions. I could certainly come up with more, but it’s tough when all of my books are boxed and I don’t have my bookshelves to look at. I would highly recommend these books for summer reading. They will hold a young person’s attention at the beach, poolside, or just hanging around at home.  As my mother said, “If you like to read you will never be bored,” a mantra I repeat to my students.

Can you recommend other titles? While I love edgy titles, they are not for everyone.  Please let me know what you would add to my admittedly short list. There is plenty of YA fiction that isn’t overly “dark.”

Readers can leave comments for Susan Norwood here or email her.


  • Posted on June 19, 2011 at 5:51 PM
Monday, June 27th, 5:30–7:30 p.m.
Morial Convention Center, Room 243, New Orleans, LA

with these Featured Poets:

Mike Artell
Stephanie Calmenson
Kristine O’Connell George
Mordicai Gerstein
Nikki Grimes
Alan Katz
Joyce Sidman
Marilyn Singer
Lee Wardlaw
Janet Wong
Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

ALA Share: USBBY* event

  • Posted on June 19, 2011 at 4:45 PM

Saturday, June 25th, 4:00-5:30
New Orleans, LA
Location Morial Convention Center, Room 227

“International Children´s Book Publishing: A Small Press Perspective”

This session will feature a panel discussion of representatives from small, independent publishers speaking on issues relating to international children’s books: Patsy Aldana, publisher of Groundwood Books, Kira Lynn from Kane Miller Books, Ellen Myrick, marketing representative for Lemniscaat and North-South Books, and Victoria Rock, editor with Chronicle Books. There will also be displays of recent publications and marketing materials from other independent publishers of international children´s books.

Diane’s note: I’m excited about this because Kane Miller Books have had several distinguished picture books this past year. I’ve seen good things from Chronicle and Groundwood Books. Of course I know about North-South Books, but I’ve never heard of Lemniscaat so this is an opportunity to grow and learn something new.

* (United States Board on Books for Young People)

ALA @ NOLA share: Books for Library’s Youngest Patrons: Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers

  • Posted on June 18, 2011 at 3:59 PM

On ALA Connect (to which everyone can subscribe even if they aren’t a member of ALA) Sue McCleaf Nespeca wrote about the program: Books for Library’s Youngest Patrons: Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers. If you were to visit the ALSC website, it would mention the program but not the amazing speakers, so I am sharing Sue’s description:

“Preschool Storytime has been a staple in libraries for years, but now the audience for programs has become much younger. Librarians model to parents and caregivers how to share great books, rhymes and songs with the youngest members of our community. What does one look for when choosing the best books for children ages zero to five? How important are developmental stages and what techniques can be employed while sharing books with the very young?

Speakers: Denise Fleming, recipient of the Caldecott Honor and author of several books for the very young; Roger Priddy, founder and creative director of Priddy Books; April Whatley Bedford, Ph.D., College of Education and Human Development, University of New Orleans; Sue McCleaf Nespeca, Early Literacy & Children’s Literature Specialist, Kid Lit Plus Consulting

This program will be held on Monday, June 27, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the
Convention Center, Room 338. Hope to see you there!

If you have further questions check out: or Email:

Nonfiction Monday because we NEED information

  • Posted on June 6, 2011 at 10:12 AM

I love nonfiction. More importantly I love reading and learning new information everyday. I have been mentally compiling a list of all the new true things I learned about this weekend while we were moving. After everyone shares their nonfiction entries today, I’ll post my list at the bottom. Take a moment to ponder what you’ve learned recently. As they say, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Let’s share the love of learning new truths.