Thursday, June 15, 2017

EtherWorld by Claudia Gabel & Cheryl Klam - student book review by Nicole

Immediately following the ending of the previous novel of the Elusion series, Elusion, Gabel and Klam start the novel with Regan and her newly discovered father in the Ether World. Struggling to fight and return to the real world, Regan and Josh are desperate to destroy the virtual reality escape of Elusion to protect the real world from the unknown dangers hidden in the code.
Once forced out of the app by Patrick, the new head of her father’s company Orexis, Regan goes through the struggles of trying to find the bodies of her friends still stuck within Elusion while dealing with political and familial issues. Continuing with the mysteries, Regan relies on her friends for help to heal the trapped people and finally find the body of her father to prove that he is not dead. On the edge of your seat until the end of this novel, Ether World is full of adventure and romance until the very end.
It should be noted that it is necessary to read the first novel as many of the concepts explored are futuristic. Combined with a complicated plotline in relation to character’s interactions, the reader may become confused or not be able to follow what is going on. Furthermore, there are many scenes of violence or illegal activities that may not be suitable for a younger audience. Despite these small warnings, they add to the plotline and make sense in accordance to the characters situation.
Overall, I believe that this novel was a wonderfully executed sequel to Elusion. I love the concept of this novel: a polluted future with people desperate for nature but end up leaning upon technology for a replacement. It questions actions taken today that will ruin the environment and comments upon how lucky we are to have such a beautiful world. Moreover, technology’s usage and its “addictive” tendencies is portrayed similarly in that its overuse will destroy one’s life.
Considering school usage, a technology themed book shelf or themed month is one of the easiest ways to incorporate this book into your library. For literary analysis, motivations of characters such as profit, family, and love are three of the most prevalent motivations driving the main characters. Lastly, technology and its implications can be analyzes along with its effects upon society.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Magonia student book review by Nicole

Aza Ray has been different her entire life; the subject of a mysterious disease, she is left on earth struggling to take a breath of fresh air and live like a normal teen. When she sees ships in the sky, she is left to believe that it was just a hallucination due to her heavy medication. That idea is proven wrong. Aza is swept into the world of Magonia, a world where she is dead to earth but can live and breath normally for the first time in her life. Torn between her past family and friend Jason, Aza desperately clings to survival in her new life, trying to hold true to what she knows. Aza is challenged through the discovery of talents and powers she has unlocked through her canwr and her true mother’s pushes for lessons with Dai. Furthermore, through discoveries of Magonia’s new culture Aza finds the true reasons for issues between the Magonians’ and the “drowners”, or people living on earth; Earth has forced the Magonians to steal their food by taking their precious Magonian epiphytes and hiding them in the seed vault.

Through trial and error both between Aza in Magonia and Jason on earth, they reunite to protect the fragile balance of peace between Earth and Magonia. Magonia is a wonderful premier book to the new series by Headley. Only lapsed by a few swear words not suitable for younger audiences, this book is suitable for the young adult fantasy genre. In my opinion, the dual perspective of both Aza and Jacob was executed in a professional manner, always leaving the reader on the edge of their seats. Each character had their own personality that shined, allowing for a variety of perspectives to the multitudes of events on the novel.

 Relationship wise, the connection between Aza and Jacob was not over done but at times their thoughts of each other balanced on the thin line of cheesy and profound. Headley’s writing style is so unique and amazing to both read and analyze. She not only creates a feeling like the reader is within the head of her characters through casual diction but the structure of the physical words reflects the true emotions of these events. In that case of structure, the words at times are bolded, replaced by symbols to represent a greater meaning of loss of words, dragged throughout the page utilizing new paragraphs and white space, and many more creative styles rarely seen in many books. The structure’s creativity is truly what sets this book apart from most YA fiction novels. A literary analysis of the structure is a great place to start but additionally the analysis can focus upon the motif of being able to breathe and an overarching question of what creates true family and friends.

 A key aspect of this novel, review wise, to be noted is that this is an Epic Reads member book. To gain more information there are videos on their YouTube channel with a synopsis and a DIY that may be watched. I agree with the selection of this book becoming apart of the Epic Reads community as it suits the main goals and overall theme of the books Epic Reads normally promotes and advertises for (the popular YA audience).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde book review

This is the 3rd book in the Chronicles of Kazam series.  I recommend reading the books in order as these are not really stand alone books.  We’re back with Jennifer Strange, a 16 year old orphan who is the manager of Kazam Mystical Arts and Court Mystician for the Kingdom of Snodd.  Jennifer is in high demand - from the Queen to Once Mangificent Boo to the Mighty Shandar.  She is about to go on an adventure (because Quests need to be approved).  In this story we meet Addie and lose a few characters along the way.  Jennifer has been sent to find the Eye of Zoltar in the Cambrian Empire.  She doesn’t have much to go on, but she does think it will save the dragons.  The land they travel to is very dangerous.  People go there as “jeopardy tourists” and sometimes they do not make it back.  There are many perils along the way and they are not all solved because the story ends with a major cliffhanger...with a promise from the author that there is more to come.

I have been enjoying this series and I highly recommend it to fans of Harry Potter.  The setting is sort of an alternate reality of Great Britain and magic is not kept secret.  If readers like magical fantasy, dragons and epic journeys, this book is for them.  I think it would be a good purchase for a middle school or high school library.  This particular book is a little bit darker than the first two.  There is violence during the scenes with the Hollow Men, but nothing out of the ordinary for a fantasy novel.  Some of the dialogue is quite entertaining when the characters are being light-hearted.  There are many quirky personalities and Jennifer embraces them all.  Readers will learn quite a bit about economics from the princess.  Some readers may decide that economics is cool ;)  Overall, this is a great series and I am always recommending the books.  

Also, this:

It's Not Me, It's You by Stephanie Kate Strohm book review

I choose the book because I enjoyed the other books Stephanie Kate Strohm wrote.  I think this was her first released hardcover as the other books were released only in paperback.  Avery Dennis has been dumped just days before her senior prom.  Avery has never been without a boyfriend and decides this is the perfect time to find herself.  She also wants to figure out why none of her many relationships have lasted.  Avery is considered one of the popular girls.  She is cute, athletic and smart.  She takes her studies seriously and it’s one of the things the other popular girls make fun of her for.  She’s had the same science lab partner for years and they are at the top of their class.  Avery has an oral history project due before graduation, so she decides to explore why her past relationships have failed.  Her teacher tells her this is not the intent of the oral history project, but Avery sets out to prove her wrong.  This is a romantic comedy and has a happy ending.

This book may actually seem pretty fluffy on the outside, but any historian will see the components of writing up an oral history and setting out to interview your primary sources.  The author also sets up sort of a historiography.  The topic of finding out why your relationships don’t work out is fun and funny, but I really think the underlying methodology would help some readers see that history can be fun.  Readers will also enjoy the romance and the jokes throughout the story.  The story may be difficult for some readers to follow as it is written in an interview format, with varying perspectives.  But it will be no problem for stronger readers. There is also some diversity among the characters.  One review labeled it as stereotypical, but I don’t agree with that.  I think it reflects the diversity in many high schools today.

I enjoyed this book.  It is a fun, quick read in terms of the content.  But it could be used by a history teacher to illustrate that oral histories can be fun and not all topics have to be super serious.  The example in the book may not be ideal for a school project, but a reader could transfer their new found knowledge to a more history content oriented topic.  I would recommend it as a purchase for a high school library.  I would do a readers’ advisory recommendation to a not super serious history buff or a student looking for a romantic comedy.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Running Girl by Simon Mason review by Isabella

Running Girl is a high stakes mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. Garvie Smith is a math genius that thrives in laziness. He is an utter contradiction: the student with the highest IQ at school, but also the one with the worst grades. However, when his ex-girlfriend is found murdered in a local pond, his laziness is brought to a screeching halt. He embarks on a quest to find out the truth and bring her murderer to justice. However, this is much easier said than done, because even the police are grasping at straws.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book because it provided a unique take on the typical murder mystery infused with a diverse cast of characters. The plot includes several twists, which made it very difficult to predict the outcome until the very end. I think that this is one of the novel’s greatest strengths because young adult mysteries often struggle to maintain an intriguing plot line. Furthermore, this novel includes a wide variety of characters, which add a new flavor to the mystery genre. I particularly enjoyed how the author introduced Sikhism to the reader in a way that inspires curiosity and a desire to learn more about Inspector Singh’s culture. Today, this is particularly important in literature due to the increasing hostile and uninformed prejudices people hold against those they struggle to understand. Finally, I enjoyed the imperfection of the main character and that the mystery was not easily resolved, but rather due to the persistence of Garvie. His use of mathematics to propel the plot line further, might even inspire some mathphobes to look at math in a slightly more positive light.

I would recommend this book definitely to high school students who enjoy mysteries/thrillers, as well as those who have a desire to try something new. I enjoyed the book overall very much and think that it would be a wonderful addition to any school or classroom library. One thing to consider is that this book does deal with murder, illicit drug use, under-age drinking, and child pornography (alluded, not explicit).

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Day of Silence Book List for our school library

 @your library

These books are ready for you to check out during our annual #DayofSilence sponsored by IA GSWA.  We have to have our Day of Silence earlier than usual because the national day falls during our break.  Here are some suggestions for books that are ready to checkout.

Non-Fiction Titles

The antigay agenda : orthodox vision and the Christian right
261.8 HER Herman, Didi.

The new gay teenager
305.23 SAV Savin-Williams, Ritch C.

A place at the table : the gay individual in American society
305.38 BAW Bawer, Bruce, 1956-

Cherry Grove, Fire Island : sixty years in America's first gay and lesbian town
305.9 NEW Newton, Esther.

Statistical timeline and overview of gay life
306.76 CHA Chastain, Zachary.

GLBTQ : the survival guide for queer & questioning teens : gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning
306.76 HUE Huegel, Kelly, 1974-

The letter Q : queer writers' notes to their younger selves
306.76 LET edited by Sarah Moon ; with contributing editor James Lecesne.

Homophobia : from social stigma to hate crimes
306.76 PAL Palmer, Bill, 1957-

A new generation of homosexuality : modern trends in gay and lesbian communities
306.76 PAL Palmer, Bill, 1957-

What causes sexual orientation? : genetics, biology, psychology
 306.76 PAL Palmer, Bill, 1957-

Being gay, staying healthy
 306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Coming out : telling family and friends
306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Feeling wrong in your own body : understanding what it means to be transgender
 306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Gay and lesbian role models
 306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Gay issues and politics : marriage, the military, & work place discrimination
306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Gay people of color : facing prejudices, forging identities
306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Homosexuality around the world : safe havens, cultural challenges
306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Smashing the stereotypes : what does it mean to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender?
306.76 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Gays and mental health : fighting depression, saying no to suicide
616.89 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Gay characters in theater, movies, and television: new roles, new attitudes
791.43 SEB Seba, Jaime.

Fiction Titles

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens agenda
FIC ALBERTALLI Albertalli, Becky,

Am I blue? : coming out from the silence
FIC BAU edited by Marion Dane Bauer.

FIC CAPETTA Capetta, Amy Rose,

 FIC CAPETTA Capetta, Amy Rose,

The miseducation of Cameron Post
 FIC DANFORTH Danforth, Emily M.

If you could be mine
FIC FARIZAN Farizan, Sara.

The sweet revenge of Celia Door
 FIC FINNEYFROCK Finneyfrock, Karen.

Say the word
FIC GAR Garsee, Jeannine.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
 FIC GREEN Green, John, 1977-

Geography Club
FIC HAR Hartinger, Brent.

Nothing pink
FIC HAR Hardy, Mark, 1965-

Totally Joe
 FIC HOW Howe, James, 1946-

We are the ants
 FIC HUTCHISON Hutchison, Shaun David,

Promise me something
FIC KOCEK Kocek, Sara,

Boy girl boy
 FIC KOE Koertge, Ronald.

The Arizona kid
 FIC KOERTGE Koertge, Ronald.

Openly straight
FIC KONIGSBERG Konigsberg, Bill.

Absolute brightness
FIC LEC Lecesne, James.

Boy meets boy
FIC LEV Levithan, David.

Two boys kissing
FIC LEVITHAN Levithan, David.

FIC LIE Lieberman, Leanne.

Enduring love : a novel
FIC MCE McEwan, Ian.

Forbidden colors.
 FIC MIS Mishima, Yukio, 1925-1970.

Gone, gone, gone
FIC MOSKOWITZ Moskowitz, Hannah.

If I was your girl
FIC RUSSO Russo, Meredith,

Empress of the world
 FIC RYA Ryan, Sara.

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe
FIC SAENZ Sáenz, Benjamin Alire.

Fans of the impossible life
FIC SCELSA Scelsa, Kate,

As I descended
FIC TALLEY Talley, Robin,

FIC WESTERFELD Westerfeld, Scott,

Highly illogical behavior
FIC WHALEY Whaley, John Corey,

 FIC WIT Wittlinger, Ellen.

Love & lies : Marisol's story
 FIC WITTLINGER Wittlinger, Ellen.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Are you still there by Sarah Lynn Scheerger - review by Isabella

Are you still there is a psychological thriller that is engaging from start to finish. The story begins with a school under lockdown. Desperately trying to remain hidden and cursing her untimely decision to use the bathroom, a girl is perched on a toilet seat. Luckily, the bomb is found in time and everyone is saved. However, the bomber is still on the loose and it could be literally anyone. Trying to move on and keep her life together, Gabi as well as several other students begin volunteer at the school’s anonymous helpline. There she connects in a Breakfast Club-esque way with her fellow helpline volunteers and realizes the danger of not living her life fully, but also the danger of judging people incorrectly. As the school year progresses, Gabi begins to receive ominous threats from the bomber that lead to her to believe that somehow she is a part of his morbid plans.
Overall, I liked the structure of this novel a lot. I thought it was creative to include messages from the bomber throughout the novel, so that although the plot line shifts, the main story arc is not neglected. Furthermore, I thought that these notes helped increase the suspense of the story, as well as give insight on the character of the bomber because he and Gabi hardly interact with one another. Also, I enjoyed the development of Gabi character because it stresses the importance of having a life outside of school, which students sometimes neglect. Also, in contrast to reviews of the advanced copy, many of the reviewers complaints were fixed in this final edition, which I believe should be commended. The changes the other reviewers suggested, really improved this novel and made it an enjoyable read. For instance, some reviewers complained about Gabi’s reluctance to approach her father (the detective in charge of the investigation) with the threats. In this edition, it is explained that she was worried about being separated from her friends, as her parents were considering to put her and her sister in a private school. Therefore, it makes sense for her to be reluctant, as speaking up would have cemented her parents’ resolve to put her in a different school.

Finally, I think that this novel presents a very important message: it is never right to judge others by their exterior, as rarely can a facade represent the whole story. Nowadays, social media has become an integral part of life for many teenagers and thus they often forget that there is more to a person than their tweets and posts. People are multifaceted and Are you still there really captures the importance of remembering to give others a genuine chance. I think text would be a wonderful read in an English or Psychology class. One thing to note is that this text deals with many mature themes: suicide, bomb threats, and  alcoholism.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Run by Kody Keplinger review by Rua

This book truly is a ride. A legally blind girl, who is known to be the perfect daughter, with good grades, goes to church every Sunday, and doesn’t talk back to her parents, meets another girl who doesn't go by the rules, and isn’t good by any standards. She takes an interest in her because this girl doesn’t treat her differently, or with pity but instead just the same as any one. This book focuses on the friendship and growth of the two main characters, and how close they become as they run away from their hometown. I loved the way it was written and the language used.

 This book hinted at teens questioning their sexual orientation. Although it is not directly told, or obviously implied, there are some scenes where you question where their love for each other is more than a friendship. If not focused on that, this book is very cute because it shows how strong a friendship could become if given the right amount of needs to grow. This book also stresses on the disability one of the characters have: being legally blind. When it is in her view the reader is walked through the hardships of barely seeing, and how it feels like to have this condition. It gives the reader an insight on what problems may arise, or how the character personally feels when dealing with this condition or with others around her treating her. In the book, we are shown how she feels like a burden to many because they have to walk her everywhere or look at her closely. She even says that she doesn’t usually go to parties because her close friend doesn’t want to watch her the whole time. When this new girl comes in and treats her normally, showing her she isn’t a burden, she starts to experience life in a fun way and starts to understand the meaning of just enjoying every day for itself.

This would be a good selection to share with a GSWA club and for a gay friendly book display. It could be a possible book choice for a book club. It is also a good free read book choice. There are no direct classroom curriculum connections, besides a genre study (realistic fiction). It is a good choice, especially if you are looking to diversify your book collection. 

Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb - review by Nikhil

That friendship trumps selfishness is one of the most important life lessons to learn, and one would be hard-pressed to find a book that does a better job of teaching this than the dystopian futuristic novel Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb.  In this novel, protagonist Megan and her two friends Kelly and Luis are forced out of their former lives and must navigate the Zone, a dangerous wasteland caused by an attempt by an alien race, the Visitors, who previously destroyed the Moon and stopped the Earth’s rotation, to wipe out the human race and inhabit Earth themselves.  In their quest to find the secrets of Megan’s lost father, which could help to rid the Earth of Visitors and stabilize the planet once again, the trio goes through all sorts of adventures ranging from playing a game of poker to ambushing a horse carriage to save the people inside.  The epic series of events that these characters experience changes them as people and reveals fundamental truths about human nature that overcome the boundaries of literature and apply to our own lives.

What impressed me most about the book was the author’s truly unique writing style: one that abounds with wit and of which every sentence is thoughtfully constructed.  It really engrosses the reader and makes the book engaging to read, rather than a chore.  This writing style of the author, which incorporates modern forms of sarcasm that may appeal to the younger generation while still remaining dignified in tone, is truly what makes the book great.

Furthermore, the novel is rich with literary devices such as irony, character development, foreshadowing, and metaphors.  It would be a good addition to a school library.  I think the book would be a good free reading choice.  It could also make for a good book club discussion for both boys and girls.

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.

How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes - Book review by Rua

A student book review by Rua...and it has all the feels.
A girl who studies ballet all her life suddenly has a body change and her whole life crumbles around her. Everywhere she turns she can hear the snickers and whispers of peers and teachers about her body image. Although she is an excellent ballet student all she can think about is how to lose her weight. Her mother pushes her into multiple failed diet attempts and hardcore exercise. When she gets a panic attack for the first time, her mother was convinced to put her into a therapy camp that supposedly will help her. The readers experience the ups and downs she goes through during the camp and how she slowly tries to pick up the crumbled pieces and stick her life back together.
This book was simply amazing. Brilliant and amazing. From page one Holmes hooks me in and I could barely put the book down. At the same time I was reading that book, I was also feeling down myself, and this helped lift my confidence about my own self and how I view my own body. This story makes you go on an emotional rollercoaster with so many loops and turns, but in the end it was worth it.
To students, i really recommend this, because people nowadays view themselves so negatively and always look at their flaws as restrictions and walls to what they want to do in the future. They stop their dreams and restrict themselves because they believe they aren’t good enough with how they look, or the body type they have. This book incorporates all of those thoughts into one person who is too afraid to chase her dream because she believes she doesn’t have the body.

It also incorporates people who are afraid and their fear stops them from chasing after their dreams. All in all this book portrays how people struggle and if they really want to change and feel better they can, and can eventually live their dream of becoming who they want to be.

Burn Girl by Mandy Mikulencak reviewed by Isabella

Here is another student book review written by Isabella:

Burn Girl written by Mandy Mikulencak is about a sixteen year old girl named Arlie, whose life has been anything, but pleasant. Growing up with an addict mother and abusive stepfather, Arlie has never experienced a family life that even borders on “normal”. However, after her mother suspiciously dies of an overdose, Arlie is thrust into a new life she never imagined in her wildest dreams. Everything is different, as now she goes to school, is singing in a choir, and has an adult who cares about her well-being, her uncle Frank, who she never knew existed. However, when her new life is jeopardized by someone from her past, Arlie is forced to decide how far she will go in order to protect it.
I really enjoyed this book due to its excellently developed relationship between Arlie and her best friend, Mo. I have never read a book that so elegantly depicted the complexity of friendship because both characters have prominent flaws, but are able mostly to overcome them for the good of their friendship. Also, I thought that Arlie’s relationship with her uncle was developed in a both realistic and heartwarming way, which I thought was very well done. Finally, I liked that the author did not try to portray addiction in a one sided manner, but rather demonstrated its effects on others.
One aspect that I thought could be developed a bit more, was the romance between Arlie and Cody especially when you compare it to Arlie’s relationship with Mo and Frank. Their love can be categorized as “insta-love” since there is very little build up to their romance. However, since this was not the main focus of the novel, it does not hurt the book’s overall quality.

This book is an excellent conversation starter to talk with students about the effects drug abuse can have not only on themselves, but also their family members. Furthermore, this book entails many positive messages, such as friendship, forgiveness, trust, and learning how to cope with a tragedy. One thing to note, is that there are a few violent scenes in which characters are severely injured.

Here is a great book trailer provided by the publisher:

Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

I've got a few students who have been helping me with book reviews and they have been doing an amazing job.  I just added this book to my collection and Nicole wrote up the review.  Their guidelines are to summarize the book, write what they thought about it and then how it could be used in a school or school library.

I'm proud of my book review group 😊 
Here is Nicole's review:

After living so much of her life in the dark side of New York city, Lucy Manette is a celebrity in the light with a powerful and loyal boyfriend. Unfortunately, what allowed to get her to the light will come back and destroy everything. Her boyfriend Ethan has dark secrets too, which causes a giant celebrity mix up with crime and an almost ruined reputation. His doppleganger Carwyn, an illegal dark magic copy of himself to save his life when he was just a baby, resurfaced from years in the dark. Trying to be kind, Lucy releases his collar (which labels him as a doppelganger) but that ends with him missing. Another mix up causes her boyfriend to go missing with the doppelganger as the not so discrete replacement. This mix up only is a small part in the grand scheme of things once the terrorist group sans-merci takes over the city in the name of lucy, the golden thread in the dark. Full of mystery and suspense, Brennan takes the reader on a trip into the world of a modernized tale of two cities.
I would recommend this book. I enjoyed reading it. The main female lead struggles with genuine choices given her situation and makes human decisions. I love that about her as sometimes books try to make their characters perfect but Lucy is definitely not. Her background story is well built and actually drives parts of the plot, giving reason to these decision. Unfortunately, her decisions regarding the relationship/love triangle brought this book down. The relationships sometimes took the focus of the characters when it was unnecessary.
Regarding things to be aware of, there are brief sex jokes and a short club scene with drugs but nothing is extreme. Most of these inappropriate comments are made by the doppelganger Carwyn.
As I was looking through other reviews, many people mentioned the relationship between this book and Charles Dickens’ Tale of two Cities. From what I read is was a great re-write but as I have not read that book, I cannot fully comment upon the correlation.
Educationally, this could be an extended reading after reading Tale of Two Cities. Students can compare and contrast the plot with the original. This easily fits in with other books such as Cinder which are modern versions of older stories and would make a great re-written story shelf. An other category it fits into is social issues with the light and dark divide. That division runs so much of the plot and a lesson devoted to modern/past racism would suit this novel.
Things to look for through this book:

  • Characterization and how it drives choices
  • Light vs dark
    • Racism
    • Quality of life
  • Expectations and reality
Find this book in our school library!

Here is an awesome book trailer provided by the publisher, HMH Books:

Monday, January 30, 2017

Advocating for your school library on twitter

I've been keeping tabs on our Michigan Association of School Boards, Superintendent, Secondary Principals, I am aware there is a national school board advocacy institute going on today.  Search twitter for the hashtag #NSBAAI17

Also, MI assistant principals are meeting today at Crystal Mountain.  Search what they are doing with the hashtag #2017AP

The hashtag #miched has a large following, so that will bring attention to your tweet.

@MASB is Michigan Association of School boards
@MASALeads is MI Association of Superintendents 
@massp is the MI association of secondary school principals
@MEMSPA  is the Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association

Depending on what you write (have room for) #MISchoolLibrary and @michiganmame

If you use the right hashtag, it will show up on their conference feed.  As our administrators and boards are scrolling through twitter on their phones during the conference....give them something to look at :)

AASL has some great images to use.  You can also promote our MAME infographics or whatever you are doing in your library to show that it is in fact, a very busy place.

Highlight the diversity of your collection.  Tweet out a book that your students are reading.  Just bring attention to your library.  Maybe an edtech project.  Your online resources.

I'll be sending out both advocacy items and some of the awesome things my students are doing/creating or using the library for.