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: