Monday, March 13, 2017

Mirage by Tracy Clark review by Isabella

Mirage is about Ryan Poitier Sharpe a teenage girl with a love of all that is dangerous. Whether she is jumping out of planes at her parent’s skydiving center or taking other risks, she challenges everyone around her to embrace life to the fullest. However, after a LSD trip gone wrong, Ryan is no longer the same. She is afraid of the things she used to embrace and her relationships begin to fall apart. Ryan must fight for her identity before it is too late and the new Ryan destroys everything.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel because it surpasses the restrictions of reality and fantasy. Although the jump into the paranormal surprised me at first, after finishing the book I am glad that the author included it. Ryan is also a dynamic character whose range of emotion is both realistic and relatable. I think readers will really appreciate the nuances of Ryan’s personality, which shows that despite her self-confidence she is insecure just like the rest of us. Finally, I thought that this book dealt with issues such as PTSD and mental illness in a poignant manner that exposes readers to the complexity of both.

I think this book could be used to expose students to the difficulties of mental illness in a manner that is both engaging and relatable. It could be used as a conversation starter about how to improve access to mental health services, as the main characters are noticeably underserved.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

International Academy's MIT Inspire Essay Contest Winners!

As always, our students are amazing!  Out of the 105 finalists (from the entire nation), 12 are from Michigan (3 DCDS, 1 east coast private school - MI resident, 1 Troy High and 7 IA Student entries). Two of our entries are collaborative, so they count as 1 entry, but really we have 9 student finalists).

Nikhil Dwibhashyam (Lake Orion, MI) - 11th -  The Ethics of Linking Genetics and Crime

Alexis Yan (Rochester Hills, MI) - 11th - How Cities Contribute to Innovative Success

Jake Li (Bloomfield Hills, MI) & Sinan Abdulhak (West Bloomfield, MI) - 10th (partner entry) - The "Airpocalypse" in Cities Around the World

Anushka Dalvi - (Troy) 9th - Designer Babies: A Revolutionary Advancement or an Ethical Disaster!

 Sarah Bdeir (Bloomfield Hills, MI) - 12th - School lunches in the United States compared to England and Canada

Pratik Danu (West Bloomfield) &  Runik Mehrotra (Bloomfield Hills, MI) - 11th (partner entry) - Using Artificially Intelligent Swarm Optimization for Carry Trade Optimization to Generate Returns

Lenna Kanehara (Lake Orion) - 11th - Koreans Living in Japan: Chongryon’s Fight Against Assimilation

The official list

These students will be presenting their projects April 10, 11 and 12 at MIT in Cambridge, MA.  This is an amazing opportunity for them.  

This is the 3rd year of the competition and the 3rd year we have IA students presenting.  I have volunteered to be these students' mentor for the last 3 years. My profession as a school librarian is to be the research expert. I believe it is a critical skill for students to leave high school with the knowledge of how to find quality information. It is my strong belief that when schools cut their library programs, their students will not have the foundational knowledge to accomplish what these students have accomplished. They do most of the work, but we do discuss their arguments, where they are getting their research from, who are the experts in the field, and I sign off on their entry forms.  Because of their access to a school library, they know how to use our Gale Databases and have come to rely on QuestiaSchool for the bulk of their research.

Please congratulate them :)  This is a very prestigious national competition.  I'm not sure that we have given them the recognition they deserve for this accomplishment.  This is an incredible amount of university level work and I am super proud of them for accomplishing such a task in high school.  Even during the panicked emails during Christmas break 😊  They win because of what they learn in their classrooms, because of their research and writing skills and because of the "IB way". 

Most of these students write their papers during Winter Break.  This is about a 4000 word investigative essay.  They present an argument in their chosen topic and show evidence that leads to a conclusion.  The strong essays will acknowledge the different perspectives within their topic.  They also tend to provide a source analysis on 1 or 2 of their best sources.  This is not a typical report that list facts from secondary sources.  Conducting an investigation makes use of inquiry and higher level thinking skills.

INSPIRE stands for “Inspiring the Nation's Students to Pursue Innovative REsearch” in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.  For more information, click here.

These students make the International Academy proud!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Discovering the Benefits of Belonging to a Professional Organization

Discovering the Benefits of Belonging to a Professional Organization

by Klaudia Janek
I have been reflecting on my experience at ALA Midwinter last month and some of the larger issues we, as school librarians, have to consider. First, I should explain a bit about how I got to this point. I have always been involved in our state (MI) school library association and taken on leadership roles at local levels. I hesitated a bit in getting involved at the state level because of the work I love doing with the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). There is a large network of IB Librarians all around the world and I enjoy the sense of community I get from knowing we are all doing the same thing....
Click here for the rest of my blog entry (Thanks!)

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bionic review by Isabella

Life can change in an instant, never to be the same again. The main character of Suzanne Weyn’s Bionic, Mira, is the ideal American teenager: she is a star lacrosse player, has great friends, a hot boyfriend, and is the lead singer of a blossoming garageband. Her biggest dilemma is whether to continue pursuing music or to follow her coach's advice and focus solely on lacrosse in order to receive a college scholarship. However, after a horrible car crash leaves her severely injured, Mira is forced to fight for her life. Luckily, she is picked for a clinical trial that allows her to receive state of the art prostheses and suddenly finds her old abilities restored and even enhanced. Nevertheless, nothing is the same and Mira is forced to grapple with her new identity: how much of the old Mira is left or will the new one forever take her place?
Overall, I enjoyed this novel’s perspective on the current issue of biotechnology. As our scientific knowledge advances it is important to consider the ethical implications of using technology to repair the human body. Is it ethical to completely replace a person’s body with wires and metal and if yes until what point can they still be classified as human? Bionic deals with issue by providing a real life example of the impact biotechnology can have. Mira would have died without medical intervention and never been able to regain her independence without biotechnology. Yet, she still faces alienation from her friends and community due to her seemingly enhanced abilities. I also enjoyed the development of Mira’s character because she is not portrayed as an ideal heroine, but rather as an individual who struggles to overcome her faults. She portrays herself, often rightfully so, as the victim, but also neglects others who may feel the same.
My only challenge would be that at times the heroine comes across as inconsiderate and self-absorbed, which given her situation is understandable. Nonetheless, these characteristics made harder for me to connect with her.
This novel could be used in a science classroom to debate the ethics of biotechnology and biomedical engineering. Since it provides a real life example to which students can easily relate to. Also, it could be used to discuss how people cope in the aftermath of a traumatic event, as each character in the novel deals with the trauma in a different way.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Future Shock book review by Alyssa

Elena Martinez, a foster kid, is facing a dilemma; she needs to get a job before she’s eighteen, but not even McDonalds is willing to hire her. Imagine her delight when she is suddenly offered a job at the Aether Corporation, willing to pay enough money to last her for years. But the job turns out to be riskier than expected - she and four other teens are recruited to travel 10 years into the future and bring back data. Everything gets turned upside down when the five teens find themselves not 10 years in the future, but 30; and in a world where only one of the five is still alive.

Future Shock’s thrilling story had me captivated within the first chapter, and I found myself unable to put it down. The book contains a perfect combination of action, mystery, and romance, and the futuristic technologies described in it are absolutely fascinating. Each character’s role in the mission is well described and realistic, and each has unique characteristics that bring something interesting to the story. Future Shock accurately represents the moral and psychological implications of finding out about one’s future, and endeavoring to change it. I also found myself pleasantly surprised by the major plot twist at the end, having never seen it coming. The story does a really good job of keeping the reader guessing.

It is to be noted that this book is more suited to readers at the young adult level, mostly due to some of the mature romantic elements, but other than that and mentions of injury or death there is not much to be wary of. All in all, Future Shock is a very well written representation of a time travel story, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys adventure or science fiction based books.  It would be a good fit for a high school library and a good free reading choice for students.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Upside Down Magic book review

Nory has “wonky”magic. She does not fit neatly into a specific type of magic like many of the people she knows.  There are Flares, Fuzzies, Flickers, and Flyers, based on what kind of magic they can do.  Nory is a fluxer, who is supposed to turn herself into an animal.  However, when Nory tries to turn herself into animals, they are always mixes: like, a kitten and a beaver or a kitten and a dragon.  She also loses her Nory brain and her animal brain sometimes takes over her decisions.  Nory’s father is headmaster of an elite school that takes only people who are neatly labeled.  Because of Nory’s wonky magic, she has to go to a public school.  There she is enrolled in a special class for upside-down magic students.  They are not supposed to refer to themselves as wonky.  The teacher in the upside down magic class works really hard to show the students they are who they are supposed to be.  She helps them try to control their feelings, so they can control their magic.  
Younger readers will fall in love with Nory’s new friends: Elliott, Andres, Bax, Sebastian and Pepper.  They all have some form of upside down magic they struggle to accept.  It’s hard because they are made fun of by the other regular magic students.  The book is a great choice for upper elementary readers.  The dialogue will have them laughing out loud.  Younger readers may find themselves identifying with some of the characters.  While this is a magical, fantasy book the situations are the same faced by many students today.  It’s a perfect choice for those readers who sometimes feel a little different from their classmates.  It will give students empathy for some struggles their classmates might be going through.  However, the magic and the ability to transform into animals will really appeal to most elementary readers.
This is a good purchase for a upper elementary library.  The cover is is fun and cute.  The authors are well known and might introduce readers to their other stand alone books.  I had the pleasure of listening to Emily Jenkins discuss her collaboration with the authors and they just sound like they have a blast writing this series.  As an adult reader, I enjoyed the story.  The story has elements of comedy, realism, magic, fantasy and adventure.  It would be a good free-choice reading book.  A nice addition to a classroom library or school library.  The takeaway message from the story is very important for students today.  Believing in yourself and accepting differences is a part of a whole child education.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

This graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier is very touching.  The story starts with Cat and Maya moving from their home on southern California to the northern coast of California.  Maya is the younger sister and has cystic fibrosis.  Cat is a little resentful to leave behind her home and her friends, but she understands that it is better for her sister and she does love her sister.  They meet their neighbor Carlos who is into looking for ghosts.  As the story develops, we see the reason for his interest in ghosts is tied to Dia de los Muertos and the reason for what the day represents.  Cat is afraid of the ghosts and she does not want to consider what might happen to her little sister as she gets older.  As Cat learns a little more about Carlos, we get a peek at their developing relationship.

I’m not going to lie, I was expecting this story to be a tearjerker and I was thrilled that it was more informative about cystic fibrosis and Dia de los Muertos. I was not mentally prepared to cry. Telgemeier is gifted in conveying strong feelings and emotions in her illustrations.  The illustrations are bright and happy.  Some of the panels that contain ghosts are appropriately subdued to convey a haunting feeling.  It is not scary for younger readers.  It is filled with positive relationships between siblings, parents, neighbors and friends.  It is apparent that a lot of research went into this book.

I highly recommend this book for school libraries.  I think it would be appropriate for upper elementary, middle and some high school students.  Visual art teachers could share this book to show how artists can create books/graphic novels.  For younger readers it could be a good introduction to cystic fibrosis, especially if they have a friend or family member suffering from this disease.  I also think it would be a great classroom read for a spanish culture unit on the Day of the Dead.  It is also a great pick for showing diversity in books.  Many of the characters are Mexican or Mexican-American.  Cat’s new friend is Asian-American.  There is a positive representation of different cultures and accepting who we are.  The author’s note at the end of the book was very informative.  I read through the whole thing because it was so interesting.