Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Fall by James Preller

The Fall by James Preller.  2015, Fiewel and Friends

There is one less person that will attend school in the fall, and it is noticed by everyone.  Funny thing was, she wasn't noticed at all, until...

Morgan was an unassuming girl, but Sam knew who she was.  An accidental meeting led Sam to "accidentally" meet Morgan again and again.  Eventually, their friendship grew.  But Morgan knew something was wrong.  Sam didn't want to be seen in public with her, even avoiding his friends so they couldn't be seen.  But why?

And when Morgan finds out the truth, she decides the better option is not to be a part of it..or any part of life...and when the school finds out about the incident, the reaction is different.  Some are upset this could happen.  But then there are others who make sure that what they did is kept secret - from teachers, counselors, parents - everyone.

This affects Sam most, who was one of the last ones to post on her social media.  He has to look in the mirror everyone knowing he was a part of the tragedy.  He is also one who is full of the "what ifs" as well as trying to keep this dark ugly secret from surfacing.  And he knows what could happen to him if he decides to tell someone.

To Morgan, there seemed to be no alternative to the bullying that was happening everyday, in and out of school.  To Sam, there is an after alternative that could break him and lead him down the same path Morgan was trapped in.  What to do?  What to do....

This is a book about a teen who has to come to terms with choosing to be popular over choosing to do the right thing.  To cope with his grief, the readers get to see how his life has changed in real time, but most importantly, how his life has changed emotionally through his journal.

Powerful, impactful, recommended for readers who delve into this genre. 7-12

Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu.  2016, Roaring Brook Press

Small towns are places where people know each other and neighbors are everyone.  It's a place where people will recognize an unusual car.  They watch out for other people's kids as well as their own, and help create that small town feel that just feels right....

But one day, four years ago, Ethan was taken while riding a bike.  But when another boy goes missing from the same town, it is a pattern, not chance.  Thankfully, both boys are found and returned home but the aftermath is difficult.

Ethan is now fourteen years old.  He's missed out on life and has to deal with PTSD as well as behavioral and relational issues.  His mother hovers and he doesn't want to talk to his therapist about what happened.  Instead, he copes through blocking out what happened.  But then he meets Caroline. Her little brother was the other kid help captive but he can't talk to anyone because of his autism.

While Ethan has the means to go to therapy, Caroline's family doesn't, and the best way to deal with it is to pretend it never happened.  Her brother's life is unraveling, and Caroline is desparate to help.

She wants to know what happens, Ethan wants to forget it.  Together they begin down a path of friendship that allows for cathartic release, which both of them really need.

Powerful book from start to finish.  Two lives unfolding right in front of the readers' eyes allows for a wider perspective, but Caroline's and Ethan's friendship in the novel create another different perspective all of its own.  It's not only about victims, but about families too.  Highly recommended 7-12

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Observations of a Librarian in the 21st Century

Wow...can't believe we are already sixteen (nearly seventeen) years into the 21st century!  Do you remember saying something in high school like, "When it's 2015 I'll be (fill in the blank) years old!" Education is changing to adapt, and so is the pedagogy.  And it's all because society and culture impact teens today so much more differently than ever before.  With that in mind, I came up with some things I believe a 21st century library should be aware of.

1. Teens are connected, and so are adults

Walk down any hall of a high school and you'll see cell phones, laptops, tablets, and headphones galore! Make sure libraries are connected as well.  This is now the standard norm, so libraries should not only be book driven, but device and peripheral driven too. 

2. Learning is done more through video than ever before

Youtube, TedTalks, MOOCs...watching and learning are more accepted than ever before.  When most new web tools have intro videos, take advantage of it.  Create screencasts to "teach" students.  Being visible is now done in front a camera and libraries should put themselves in the spotlight.

3. Reading preferences guide people and libraries.

Some like e-books, some like hardcopy.  Paperbacks, hard copy, newspapers, magazines.  Kindle, Nook, Overdrive, Follett, Netgalley, Edelweiss, and sites for fan fiction are diverse, but they have one thing in common - people who read use them for pleasure, and academic pursuits.  And it make libraries re-think the concept of shelf space.

4. The virtual world is a lot larger than the physical one.

 We don't live in a world where teens get home, eat a snack and do their homework.  It's now more like get home, eat something, binge watch Neflix, check Snapchat or Twitter, then do midnight...or later.  Make sure the library can meet them there.  Create an online presence ASAP!

5. Handwriting is old school.  Keep that in mind when you're creating signage

There are actually teens out there who only know how to write their name in cursive because of documents.  Sigh.... And if that's the case, you know they can't read it.  So make sure that if the library has displays, signage, or posters, that they use a font that to reach all users. Be cursive aware!

6. Social Media is the new telephone


Personal landlines are passe.  Teens today may not understand how a pay phone works, much less a party line.  They communicate en masse with social media.  And when they "talk" to each other it's through text.  Calling someone? That's ancient! Leverage these for the library so teens can communicate their way, making the library easier to access.

7. There is significant relationship building happening online.

 Just when you thought you knew it all, catfishing for teens has taken on a completely new meaning.  Relationships of all kinds begin online and then can become face-to-face.  From using Remind for classes or Groupme for people with similar interests, there are ways libraries can create an online academic relationship with students.

8. Teens have an entrepreneurial spirit.

 Interesting fact: the founders of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat's average age is TWENTY-TWO.  Don't underestimate the genius of teens.  They are changing our future.  Heck they even created a new language adults had to learn - emoji, which began in the late 1990's and now has over 800 characters used in countless devices.

9. Teaching is not about lecture, but a participatory culture

It's one thing to talk to teens, but it completely morphs when teens talk, create, and group together to learn.  Make the library that place where teens are learning in all sorts of ways.  If we are worried about their interaction with people because of their obsession with devices, participatory culture MUST happen. 

10. Libraries should not just have books....they should have a whole lot more


And I'm not talking about computers (although that would be nice!) Think about things that could be checked out to patrons that are out of the norm.  How about gardening tools?  Anyone love to bake? Crafters could always use knitting needs and crochet hooks.  Sports equipment doesn't always have to belong in the gym and budding artists can save money by checking out brushes. JACKPOT!

Friday, December 2, 2016

'Twas the Night Before Techmas 2016 edition

For the past two years, I've created an infographic showing some great webtools for the classroom. So, if you have time and want to try out new tools, try these!  Click on the icons to take you to the sites listed.
And if you missed the last two here are the links:
Techmas 2014 edition           Techmas 2015 edition

Monday, November 28, 2016

Gundpowder Girls by Tanya Anderson

Quindaro Press, 2016

The Civil War is the bloodiest war that happened in our country, killing millions and uprooting our country both economically and personally.  We've heard of places like Antietam and Gettysburg.  We also know the name of people associated with the Civil War, such as Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln.  Why do we know this?  Because it is taught in curriculum and found in textbooks.  But there is always the hidden documented history of the Civil War most people don't know about. These are true stories about the women of the Civil War.

Long, hot days at work, most of the time twelve hours of labor six days a week.  Coming home after walking to and from work stained with twelve hours of labor and dust.  Thinking about the danger of the job but knowing it needed to be done to keep a roof over their families heads and food on the table.

Most of the workers were considered women in that era.  Today, they would be considered children and teenagers.  Girls as young as 10 were chosen because they hands were small and quick, making for a more productive product.

The product?  Ammunition for the guns and muskets used by both sides of the Civil War.  Imagine sitting at a table filled with small metal balls, paper, string, and gunpowder everywhere.  There is no safety equipment nearby and no regulations keeping the workplace safe.  It was just the girls working together in cramped quarters, wearing the traditional heavy hoop skirts, working in a potentially life-threatening job.  And during the Civil War, three different tragedies occurred...

This book is the stories of not only the tragedies, but also about the girls themselves, and the investigation and outcome of those responsible.  Tanya Anderson shares with the reader not only the stories, but also her in-depth research and how she become intrigued with this part of the Civil War.  What is most impressive about this is that voice the book is written in.  This isn't a dry tome of American history, but voices of the victims, witnesses, and others that were part of these tragedies, including Abraham Lincoln.

What makes this a draw for teens is the size of this narrative non-fiction and the interest the author creates to pique interest in what will happen next.  Perfect for junior high and high school libraries, this should be on the shelves showing readers that women were passive bystanders of the Civil War, but involved in many ways in the conflict.  Highly recommended.

Fiction book pair:
Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

YA Poster: Great Non Fiction for Teens

I used to be a minimalist.  I believed that the library walls should be blank so the emphasis was on the books and displays on top of the shelves.

I have VERY MUCH changed my mind about that...

There are some great places to get YA Books posters:

From vendors Follett, Mackin, and Junior Library Guild
Epic Reads Blog
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Lunanshee's Lunacy

The last two are fellow librarians I absolutely love, both online and in person!  So I thought to myself that I need to start trying to create some themed YA book posters myself and emulate those I adminre.  So here's the beginning of my poster venture! As always, please feel free to download and print and post :)

Monday, November 14, 2016

I Laughed Until I (fill in the blank): Humor in YA literature

Yesterday, we had a great discussion on #readYAlit Twitter chat about humor in young adult literature.  It's a nebulous genre because humor can mean something completely differently to one person than another. 

Is humor universal?  That was one question that was tackled in our chat.  Genders, experiences, and type of humor are different elements of humor that play an important part in that question.  There is guy humor and there is girl humor.  How each gender approaches it can be wildly different and how authors use it can reflect those differences.  That isn't to say either gender can't read humor that relates more to one than the's just the appeal may lean toward one side more than the other.

And then there's humor that's found in serious books.  One participant wrote that humor is needed in YA literature to balance the realistic lives in fiction that can be dark and dangerous.  I have to be very careful about what I read so that I'm not focused on realistic fiction because of an incident that took places several years ago.  After booktalking, a student mentioned that it was depressing and she wasn't interested in any of them because of the mood I created with the titles I talked about.  And that student was now I find as many different genres, and include humor in it. 

There are many different places online to find titles about humor that could help out any library and those wanting the "fun" side of YA lit.  If you genrefy, does it have it's own genre or it is part of each major genre (one librarian on the chat had an EXCELLENT answer to that one!)? Would you include humorous titles with those darker novels where humor peeks in every now and then (think John Green)?  Those are questions that I believe are more personal decisions, but the great thing is the exchange of ideas our chat last night held. 

And if you need a title list, never fear!  Here are a few resources you can use:

Ebsco's Novelist of Humorous YA Fiction by Tom Reynolds

YALSA's Genre Guide to Young Adult Humor

Humor in YA Fiction Flowchart

And then there is that often looked over section where you can find MANY humorous titles: Non-fiction (and dewey)!!  Here's my list of non-fiction/dewey I've read that I couldn't help but chuckle and sometimes outright laugh at:

The Stupid Crook Book by Gregory Leland

Cake Wreck: when professional cakes go hilariously wrong by Jen Yates
How They Croaked: the awful ends of the awfully famous by Georgia Bragg
How They Choked: Failures, flops and flaws of the awfully famous by Georgia Bragg
Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And other adventures in the world's most polluted places by Andrew Blackwell
Historical Heartthrobs: 50 timeless crushes from Cleopatra to Camus by Kelly Murphy
I’m Down: A memoir by Mishna Wolff
We Should Hang Out Some Time: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist
Emily the Strange graphic novels by Rob Reger
Happy Bunny Books graphic novels (?) by Jim Benton

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Little, Brown and Co, 2015

1944.  Yael remembers her childhood....the needles poking into her thin frame, the straw in the mattress she shared with her mother in the barracks, the beatings, the deaths.  And she is reminded everyday by the tattoo on her arm put there by the Nazis.

1956.  Her tattoo is now covered by five wolves. and although Yael no longer sees it, the wolves remind her of those she loved who died.  She is no longer a young child, but a young woman and part of the resistance movement.  Twelve years after the horror of the concentration camp and the experimentation she went through with the Angel of Death doctor, life is still dangerous. 

Hitler is still in power, and the face of Europe has changed. There are now two world powers:  the Third Reich, and Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, ruled by Hirohito in Japan. The Soviet Union and Italy have fallen.  Hitler now uses areas in Europe and Africa as Lebensraum, a place for Aryan people to live, thrive and grow.

Yael is an integral part of the plan they have to get rid of Hitler once and for all.  Yael is special because she has unique abilities, ones she received from the experimentation done to her in the camps.  She can now change shapes, becoming someone totally different without anyone knowing who she truly is.  Even she is wonders who are what her true self is....

But that doesn't matter as much as getting close to Hitler.  And there is only one event where this could possibly happen - The Victor's Ball in Tokyo.  Every year, the Axis Tour happens, a cross country grueling motorcycle race.  Prague. Rome. Cairo. Baghdad. New Delhi. Dhaka. Hanoi. Shanghai. Tokyo.  Not all riders will see it to the end and only the victor will be allowed at the ball. 

Yael has stolen the identity of Germany's finest racer, a girl named Adele.  That was the easy part.  The difficult part is surviving the race and wondering who is telling the truth and who isn't.  Can she trust Adele's brother, who says he's there to protect her?  What about Luka, her old rival and lover, who says one thing that could mean another?  Most importantly, will Operation Valkyrie work and put an end to Hitler's reign?

How did this book slip through my hands?  I couldn't read this fast enough.  An alternate history dystopian book, this had all the elements to keep readers intrigued from the characters and their endgames to the fallout of Europe after WWII.  Descriptive in narrative, the reader will be pulled straight into the espionage as well as the life or death race that will leave them gasping at the end.  Sequel published this year (and I can't WAIT to read it!)  If you have readers wanting great dystopia in an alt history, give them this!  Highly recommended 7-12th grades.

Non-fiction book pair:
Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow 
Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Books to Give To Teens Who....

I tried my hand at making an infographic, and first of all, I must say KUDOS to those who create the "What To Read If You Like..." et al.  They are time-consuming!

So in the middle of that, I thought, "hey, why not make a website instead?"  So using Adobe Spark Page, that's what I did :)  Here is the result:

What To Give Teens Who...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Booktrailers Mashed Up, Re-Done, and Upgraded!

This year, I was fortunate to have a presentation approved for the 2017 Texas Library Association Conference.  What I'm going to present on are different ways book trailers can be made by thinking outside the box.  So, I've been experimenting and one type of video I absolutely LOVE are Common Craft Videos.  And since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I decided to take something I really enjoy and create a book trailer designed like it.  The process will be part of the presentation, but here is my first attempt at booktrailering alternate ways:

I still have four more different ways to work with!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Connecting the Real World with YA Books

Nothing says "I want to read that" more than making connections between teens and books.  It's kind of like have to put something they can relate to into a booktalk to make that connection. And when that happens, you better stand back and let the stampede begin!
When I booktalk I always try to make sure there's a personal connection to the book that's interesting or even anecdotal.  And you can do this many ways...through a picture, a video, a story, interesting facts...anything.

So here are some books I've booktalked and how I tried to connect them to teens:

The Season of You and Me by Robin Constantine.  I LOVED that this novel had a main character who was don't see that much in YA lit.

Connector: mention the movie Me Before You...enough said.

The Women in the Walls by Amy Luakvics.  You can't have an October booktalk without having a book about a creepy house, can you?

Connector: Ever dangled your foot beside your bed at night?  Especially after watching a horror movie?

Mark of the Thief by Jennifer Nielsen: slaves, soldiers, and ceasars.  Mix them up and put them in a fantasy Roman Empire, and you have got their attention.

Connector: Let them show off their knowledge by asking them who the most famous Ceasar was of all time.  Then mention a salad was named after him followed by the true story of the ceasar salad. Corny joke, but that's how I roll

Book trailer

The Novice by Taran Matharu: An orphan at birth, the main character has more power than he knows what to do with, until he meets up with some very interesting characters.

Connector: What exactly are Pokemon? No, they aren't cute card characters, they are deadly WEAPONS!  (this plays nicely into the "demons" the characters can manipulate)

Book trailer 

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas: small town and one horrible murder leads to eyewitnesses who aren't sure if they saw what they did or were persuaded to see what they did...

Connector: Give them the history of unsolved murders like the Black Dahlia (but not too much detail).

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco: nothing gets creepier than Japanese folktales come to life.  Especially if they seek revenge in the most ghoulish of ways.

Connector: Because I'm half-Asian, I tell them some folktales my mother told me and my sisters like the Peach Boy.  And I also ask them if they've ever seen The Ring or The Grudge...

Book trailer

Everything Everything: over ten year never stepping outside, never having friends, never falling in love.  Well, that's what happens to the main character until a family moves in next door.

Connector: Ask people who do NOT have allergies to raise their hands.  Then ask those who do and ask if anyone has an unusual allergy

Book trailer

With Malice by Eileen Cook: two best friends on a tour of Italy (and not the Olive Garden variety) end up in a car crash.  One died, one survived but can't remember because of a concussion.  Then the Italian police arrive to extradite her for murder.

Connector: tell them the story about Amanda Knox.  Make sure they know this is a true story.

A Storm Too Strong by Michael. Tougias: Talk about the ride of a lifetime.  Who wouldn't want to ride 80 foot waves in winds over 60 miles an hour on a rubber life raft in the middle of the night?  Now multiply that by 100 and you have Hurricane Andrea meets Survivors

Connector: I start this one out by saying this is a story about two men who have witnessed and seen something no other man has lived to tell about.  Then I show them what real waves look like via Youtube because the kids are a bunch of landlubber North Texans and don't understand life by the sea.

Show this video first                  Show this video second (just first 10 secs)

Amazing Fantastic Incredible by Stan Lee: this is by far the most colorful (literally and figuratively) memoir I've read in a long long time.  A comic book memoir by the king of all comic book characters!

Connector: do you really have to ask?  The cover itself is enough to catch their attention...or at least the attention of comic book and Marvel fans! Comic books aren't just for nerds, and regardless, we will embrace our nerdiness anyway :)

book trailer

film clips of Stan in Marvel movies (start at 12:48)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Webtools That Are Too "Suite" to Pass Up!

The amount of webtools out there are astounding, sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed.  In an area filled to the brim and overflowing with sites, sometimes all we need is a few sips.  There are two suites online that I ABSOLUTELY love. Why?
1. there's only one web address to type
2. the options are there to choose from instead of only have one tool, one choice
3. the built-in functions for each tool has so many options that doesn't limit personal style or creativity.

So let's get to it!

The best part about this suite?  It is COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY FREE!  You don't have any hidden premiums that will bum you out and put a damper on your creativity mindset.  All you do is go in and start creating!  The pure simplistic approach to creating a digital project is what makes this tool my go-to.  The only downside is because of its simplicity, projects can tend to look the same unless the user really goes the extra mile to create and upload images, text, and audio that's been self-created.  The three tools within Spark are:

Spark Post (social media and online banners and posters)
Spark Page (webpage creator)
Spark Video (online video creator)

With a little practice anyone can make an amazing digital project.  What helped me a lot was watching what others created and mixing and folding them to create something different.  What's even better is that once you create something, you can use the link to put it into a different Spark project.  App smashing WITHIN in an that's different!!

Visme is free to use and have very intuitive tools that are easy to manipulate, edit and create.  That is what makes Visme a site students enjoy.  You have the option of creating from scratch or creating from a template.  The user needs to be aware that this is not a completely free site and there are certain areas (such a graphics, music uploads etc) that are premium and can only be used with a paid monthly subscription.  But educators, rejoice!  Visme works with non-profit entities to provide a discount, so look into that as well.  The three tools in Visme are:

1. Presentation
2. Infographic
3. Banner (to make a free one use the custom design dimensions)

Some options allow for advanced creativity, which is nice for those who want to build a more tailored project, but the simplicity of using any of the tools is great for all users.  The infographic tool is a great addition to any suite, and this one has some meat on its bones.  Even the blank template has parameters beginning users will find helpful.  Once done, you are given a link to share, an embed code AND a download.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Come Out Come Out Wherever Your Are - YA Reads to Thrill and Chill

August and September went by in a blur!  What I thought was the beginning of another school year has turned into fall, meaning Halloween (coincidentally, also birthday) is around the corner! With that said, it's time to find some some fiendishly scary YA reads to display!

For me, horror fiction for young adults seemed to wane in a time where werewolves and vampires were having illicit romantic affairs.  But it began to rear its scary head in recent years, and there have been some AWESOME horror novels for teens published in the last few years.

A frequently asked question, is what is the definition of YA horror?  And to me, it's anything terrifying that happens to you in real life or on a paranormal level.  Of course, this opens the playing field to a LOT of perspectives, so this list of 10 definitely is more paranormal heavy.  But I couldn't help putting in two terrifying novels that are VERY reminiscent of horror in the real world.

** watch only if you trailers may not be suitable to all audiences

There are in no particular order....

When you're covered with tattoos to protect you from evil, then encounter a huge flock of crows chasing you, you know something is about to happen.  But it's when you show up at a cornfield knowing something evil lurks between the stalks...yes, it's that creepy!

book trailer

Horror movie pair: Children of the Corn
Nothing screams horror more than an axe murder.  And that's what you'll find between the covers of this great non-fiction book.  Narrative style writing makes this read easy, and the pictures, eyewitness testimonies and life for Lizzie Borden will draw readers to the end.

book trailer

Horror movie pair: Halloween
This is horror...when the characters of this book are abducted and put into an underground bunker with no way to escape, the psychological thrillfest for the sociopath that kidnaps them begins.

book trailer

Horror movie pair: Saw
Entering a contest is easy, but living through it is a different matter altogether.  This is what happens when the teen winners of a contest by horror movie director goes from awesome to creepy.  Facing your fears is one thing, living to tell them is quite another...

book trailer

Horror movie pair: Final Destination

Okiku crawls out of the well, her black hair dangling in front of her deathly face.  The next thing you know, she is hanging from the ceiling looking at the man who just committed murder.  Then the lights go out and the terror begins...steeped in Japanese ghosts and Shinto exorcisms, this book will make you scream with pleasure. 

book trailer

Horror movie pair: The Ring

Jen and her father have just moved into Harmony House, home to several violent episodes, including the death of children.  People in the small town seem to know what's going on, but Jen doesn't and the voices become more real with each day she lives and survives....

Horror movie pair: House on Haunted Hill

Evil is on the hunt for those strange and peculiar people who hide from him.  But it's what happens when the hiding place is revealed.  It's up to Jacob to keep these peculiar, and sometimes dangerous, children alive, if possible.  The old pictures alone are sure to touch a nerve and fill it with dread.

book trailer

Horror movie pair: I actually couldn't think of one for this  because it's just so different and...peculiar (bwaaa-haa-haaa) Here's the movie trailer 

Two young women are trying to run to safety in a world filled with sharp knives.  The one thing they can't shake off is the fact they see the dead all around them.  Not only do they see them, but the dead won't leave them alone....ever...Are they here to help or hinder?

Horror movie The Sixth Sense

The entire premise of this book is to take something sweet and turn it into something dark and horrible, and these writers hit the mark! Think you know Alice in Wonderland?  How about Sleepless in Seattle?  Think again....

Horror movie pair: The Birds or Psycho

Going down a detour is irritating as best.  But going down one in the middle of the woods can cause a little different mood, unless you're narcissistic and on a cell phone.  But when the main character wakes up from an accident and finds herself in a basement, you know something bad is about to happen...

Horror movie pair: Misery

Beautiful house, never for sale.  It's been handed down through generations of a family, and it's special.  But a lot of sadness has occurred within the walls of this house.  Mom died, the aunt disappeared....but perhaps you can hear the scratching on the inside of the walls and the cry to let them out?  CREEP FACTOR times TEN!

Horror movie pair: The Conjuring

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Two Fab Fantasy Fiction for YA: Novice by Taran Matharu and Mark of the Thief by Jennifer Nielsen

I have a teen in the library who is a full-on fantasy reader (and this number seems to grow larger every year!).  I have just about gone through EVERY BOOK in the fantasy section with him and thought I was at a loss until....I remembered I had two at home I read over the summer that were over the top!  He's going to be SO happy tomorrow!  And what are these titles?  Well, glad you asked!

The Novice by Taran Matharu
Fletcher never thought of himself as nothing more than the blacksmith's apprentice.  He knows little about his background and has no family.  But his life dramatically changes when a soldier who has survived the wars comes into town and gives Fletcher a scroll.  Knowing little about it and allowing his curiosity to get the better of him, he reads the scroll and unleashes a power he never thought he possessed - one in which he has control over demons.

Usually reserved for wealthy families, demons are handed down from generation to generation but Fletcher is the unknown component because he has never had nor owned a demon and doesn't have the right pedigree.  This makes him an anomaly which eventually leads him training to become a leader of an army for the Hominum Empire, fighting against the orcs.

 At the military academy he finds himself in, he is also in the company of many others who are competing for top leadership positions including an elf of royal heritage, a dwarf with an upstanding family name, and human brother and sister, who believe themselves to be above all of them.

But Fletcher soon realizes there is more happening than he thought.  Prejudice, long standing rivalry and dark political maneuvers take Fletcher further than he dared do by himself.  He now has to trust those he thinks he can or be betrayed by those who hide their loyalty, and with whom their loyalties truly lie with.

What was so refreshing for me was to see a strong male character in a fantasy novel.  Fletcher is real and brings a much needed masculinity to YA fantasy while not washing out the other secondary but critical characters, including some tough girls.  Readers will be able to see literary and character influences the author uses, from The Lord of the Rings and even Pokemon (demons isn't the right word for the creatures in the'll understand when you read it). Matharu  does such an excellent job at creating a novel based on elements of both low and high fantasy with characters, creatures and a setting that create personality, charm and deception.  This novel truly delivers.  First in a series I can't wait for!

Mark of the Thief by Jennifer Nielsen
Nic lives a hard life working in the mines as a slave for the Roman Empire.  He remembers little about his family, only that his mother deserted him and his sister to the existence they both lead now. But his life is about to change with a twist of fate.

A powerful general comes to the mines in search of a bulla, or medallion, that once belonged to Julius Ceasar.  Said to hold magic from the gods, this is something only heard of in legend.  The general, having searched for it quite a long time, has a hunch it is hidden in these particular mines and Nic is chosen to go into a cave no one has survived to bring the bulla out.

When Nic enters the cave, he is surrounded by wealth, and has to fight for his life against a griffin to find the bulla.  When he does, he mistakenly unleashes the power that begins to work within him. Without knowing it, Nic has turned himself into the most powerful Roman in the Empire.

But even with this power, his life becomes even more precarious.  Not knowing who to trust, Nic is thrust into the center of a power for struggle between praetors, generals, and emperors.  Now in the city of Rome, Nic has no one to help or turn to and finds himself in the arena, facing off against some of the most ruthless gladiators for the brutal pleasure of the city's citizens.

Nielsen's book is one that you may find yourself reading and finishing in one day.  Fast-paced and full of twists, the reader is left with some of the confusion the main character finds himself in. Her details of ancient Rome engulf the reader  through description and emotion and seamlessly connects reality with mythology.  Nielsen doesn't give anything away in this first book of a series, and leaves you feeling the rush this fantasy/mythological journey takes you on.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler's Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb

While WW II was waging furiously in Europe, some countries didn't see as much action. But it didn't mean that pivotal moments didn't occur in those countries.  Switzerland declared itself neutral, but Norway didn't.  And there was one place in Norway that became very VERY interesting to the Nazis.  It was a place so obscure and rare, they would do anything to make sure they could control it. 

An interesting fact - the science behind the nuclear bomb was being explored before and during World War II.  Everyone knew that whomever developed it first would win the war.  And the race was on.  Different physicists and scientists came up with various ways to create one and there were many elements that had to be used.  One of them was called heavy water.  Hydrogen has been replaced by deuterium, which made it essential for bomb making. The unfortunate thing was that heavy water was difficult to produce and there wasn't much of it.

But there was one place in Europe where heavy water was produced.  The Vemork Hydroelectric Plant in Norway.  Difficult to access, it was the perfect Nazi situation, making it hard to infiltrate.  It was to be a huge Nazi secret that gave them the extra incentive to win the nuclear race. 

One thing they didn't count on was the patriotism of the Norwegians.  There were underground resistance groups that sprung up and when the Nazis found them out, they used scare and death tactics to contain them.  It only bolstered them to fight back even more.  Several Norwegians went to England to train with the secret intelligence service to become infiltrators, spies and saboteurs.  They were to go back to Norway and create new resistance groups and sabotage any Nazi effort.

The top priority was to destroy Vemork....but could they without getting caught or putting the small town of Rjukan in jeopardy for their lives? Even worse, their mission was to take place in winter across a vast frozen area where survival would be severely tested.

Young adult non-fiction is fascinating for one very simple reason - these are the events that aren't usually written about in history books. Neal Bascomb hit it out of the park with his newest book. Narrative in nature, Bascomb tells a riveting story as well as providing images and photographs of the main players and sites.  In hindsight, readers will see how one mistake could have changed the outcome of the war. This is the invisible part of WWII teens will find fascinating.

Fiction book pair:
Black Out by Robison Wells

Monday, August 22, 2016

New Kind of Orientation!

Freshmen library orientation, if anything else, should be straight up interesting.  First impressions are the best (and most lasting) ones, so it is up to us to create relationships day one of meeting the first freshmen class that comes in.  Last year, I did a meme powerpoint, which the students absolutely loved!  I am going to use this again, but I thought I'd also create something else for the little time I have left afterward.  
My creation?  10 Things to Know About the Library web list.  But it isn't just any's set up like Buzzfeed and other feeds that have lists with animated gifs in it.  Fun and definitely relatable teen and tweens who are familiar with animated lists.  Pictures do tell a thousand words (boy, I'm full of classic cliches this morning!!).  Enjoy!

Monday, August 15, 2016

That beginning of the school year post!

The week before school starts
And through the library,
We started getting ready
For the extraordinary.

Books were displayed
On the shelves here and there,
Waiting for readers
From here and elsewhere.

The students still had
A week to sleep late,
While librarians work hard
For the big opening date.


Not only the students

But also the teachers,
Were all given info
On things that were keepers.

Like sources and websites
And great info to know,
About books and collab’ing
Great things we can show.

Emails and posters
All ready to make,
To show off resources
For the campus to take.
And use for their projects
And digital work,
The library is here
Like Spock is to Kirk.

Not only does reading
Take place in here often,
But makerspace, gaming
And Lunches, and talkin’.

The library has changed
Through the years can’t you see,
From quiet hush zones
To chill places to be.
The collection has more
Than just books to check out,
But all sorts of things
For all users to scout.

From movies to audio
Kids books and much more,
All for the taking
On the fab library floor.

So with only five days
To get ready to open,
How bangin', how awesome
Let's bring lots of hope in!  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

100 Useful Websites for Educators and Students

There are so many websites out there, it's sometimes difficult to run the gauntlet and not get hit with websites you weren't expecting or even dead links.  I know I've blogged and tweeted many websites I liked over the years and it didn't occur to me to make a list until this summer.  So here is my list of what I consider the top 100 sites for educators, students, and of course librarians.  I tried my best to make sure they were free to use, but always keep in mind the appropriate age of use.

If you see one you love and it isn't listed, please share on the comments section below!
Here is the link to the Google doc you can download.

Happy new school year!! - free downloads to make your projects pop a little more - free 5 GB online storage and file sharing
Adobe Spark - a suite of tools to create presentations, posters,  videos, and websites - online interactive whiteboard - do cool stuff it hour digital photos from posters to magazine covers and more - create and generate hundreds of random cards in PDF take your personal images and create a huge poster through segmentation - timeline creator - make beautiful posters, social media graphics and presentations - send text messages to students, parents and others without sharing your private number - help with citations including APA and MLA - award virtual badges to students for their accomplishments - free games, quizzes and activities for classrooms K-12 - create classes and teach students to code the easy way - explainer videos for teaching and a library of cutouts online lesson planning where yu can attach files, re-arrange lessons, collaborate with other teachers - online courses from top universities public domain stock videos. Seven new videos a week - record voice messages in three simple steps - create, share, embed, collaborate on interactive timelines incorporating video, audio, image, text, link, social media and more - language learning app create infographics from templates or on your own -help with citations including APA and MLA - create online polls for free.  Save them hen you create an account - professional online networking via webinars for educators - online community dedicated to bringing quality resources to the K12 community of educators - online presentation creator unlike standard presentation. Create attractive presentations with provided templates - manage task/projects on and offline. Share tasks in a collaborative environment. Works with many different platforms Creative Commons photos, share and work on documents across devices - use Google spreadsheets to create flash cards - create collages or seamlessly photo stitch images into one picture - dynamic math software for geometry, algebra, calculus, and statistics - create interactive games, polls, surveys save anything you want to see online for later.  Includes social media apps so you can save from Twitter and other social media sites - shortens URLs that can be tracked for statistics - student response system with integrated tools to check for understanding, play quizzes, and generate reports free grammar checker - Project Gutenberg offers free e-books and audiobooks on works that are copyright free, most of which are classics - interactive timeline includes quizzes, did you know sections. Add images and videos.  Allows students to interject via comments - use photos and texts to create a myriad of different products generator - use images, add text, create memes - save websites for future browsing. Perfect for research - screen sharing with anyone on the web -academic videos to learn almost anything - create videos with a multitude of options and no time limit online game show that targets mathematics for all grade levels - create unlimited surveys and polls -cloud based cataloging for beyond the library (think classroom libraries) - curate and share lists as well as allow others to add to them - creative graphics - three different types of timers to help with classrooms, presentations et al.  Features pomodoro, custom and kitchen timers - avatar creator - online community creating and providing lessons for skills and hobbies - online software with great visualization - mind map creator that can be used as a presentation tool as well - interesting and different approach to presentations based on cartoon images and hand actions free digital photos for projects that doesn't require citations - convert most any type of file, videos, documents etc,  into different formats - create badges for websites and blogs use an image provided or your own, add amazing text, share with the world -open educational resources which include quizzes, videos, PowerPoint slides Creative Commons images with attribution video creator with a twist-literally! Creative Commons images with easy to find attribution - create infographics that can be shared.  Has a presentation mode and are downloadable - create online posters  create a board to collaborate with others anywhere anytime
Presentation - record and share quality presentations with free recording and video sharing platform - Creative Commons music for digital projects - create and play multiplayer games - create beautiful quotes - classroom resources for K12 classrooms created by NCTE - send text reminders of class work to students and parents without sending your cell phone number.  Create chats or send to individuals as well - online image editor - web curation tool to share information captures your screen to create and share videos/tutorials teacher creates account which allows students to upload their work - multimedia tool that allows the user to bring in different types of media from documents to videos and more into one presentation
Slides - free templates for Google Slides - create informational posters for organizations, schools, newsletters and more - discover and create how-to guides - suite of tools to make learning g more engaging.  Includes student response quizzes (quickfire) , interactive presentations (discuss), and group work/collaboration (team up) -  copy and paste web sites into the box, this site will “stitch” or curate them into one web address - crowd sourced site with academic flash cards and notes create and share interactive presentations, personal stories, reports and more - create pages for anything from online posters to presentations to specific pages you build by inputting information and links movie clips with lesson plans - downloadable icons of all types interactive timelines to create and share - interactive maps you create with images, dates, and descriptions - web based, no sign in needed to collaborate online programs games, Mindcraft Mods and more - display tweets during a conference or meeting via unique hashtag to see what others are sharing text messages with voice, photos and videos to share with groups -  synchronize videos with your notesto share.  Click on the note to jump to that particular part of the video. Syncs with Google Drive - only site that create infographics, presentations, reports, and web content - create quick videos with the free version - type in a title and it will generate a list of similar titles and subjects - create a blog with a website look - turn online videos into interactive learning experience you customize - collaborate, brainstorm, create and plan with a whiteboard