Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday, February 18, 2018

We Are #Diverse: YA Fiction and Non-Fiction pair, Then and Now

NOTE:  I have been told by several people that Loving Vs. Virginia is a work of fiction.  I have adjusted the blog post as necessary to reflect that.

When you get your hands on a great non-fiction book and fiction book pair, it can make an impact far beyond than just being a satisfying read.  This is true of the next two books.

Both happened during my lifetime.  One I had heard about, but only in passing; the other I never heard about even though it took place within the last five years.

Both books made an impact on their social culture.  One became a law; the other created awareness.  One challenged society behind a curtain; the other challenged society with the shutters open wide.

Both books allow the reader to see what happens when the status quo is challenged.  One book showed the horrors of segregation and violence found in our history books that our grandparents or even our parents knew/experienced first hand.  The other shows that this is still happening today and something teenagers could experience first hand during their lifetimes.

Both books also show strength in individuals.  One woman refused to live apart from her husband and was sparked to make a difference, never knowing what path that would lead her down and the strength she would need through herself and others to impact our nation.  One young man showed strength through hours of physical and emotional pain to find the power to forgive and understand the power they created through social media and broadcasts.

Both are books that should be read or listened to.  Written in narrative non fiction format and novel in verse fiction format, they are compelling, each in their own way, but both books are alike in that they show how endurance through a time a change and acceptance can be powerful.

I read The 57 Bus, which is the story of Sasha.  They identify as agender and was more comfortable wearing a skirt that pants or shorts.  They also knew the difficulty of being different, but with the school Sasha attended in Oakland California, they were accepted.  But one day on the bus going home, someone saw the uniqueness that was who this quiet person who loved Russian literature and history was and decided to mess with them.  A lighter came out, and skirt was set on fire, and Sasha was severely burned on over 20% of his body.  But this book is also about teens and the way they think.  It's about different cultures and opportunities, it's about the love of families and the pain of making bad choices.  I especially like the fact that the author wasn't biased in her writing on guilt or innocence but stayed factual through eyewitness accounts, courtroom testimonies and interviews. (non-fiction)

I listened to Loving vs Virginia.  I had heard about this case but really didn't think anything about it.  Sometimes that happens to important Supreme Court Cases...we don't really think about them because they happened so long ago.  But this audiobook hit to the heart.  Listening to how Mildred and Richard's romance blossomed and turned into something deeper through their individual voices and viewpoints created a depth of understanding that this is something we still deal with today in our culture.  The couple's voices take you through their secretive marriage to the struggles they faced trying to live as husband and wife in the state of Virginia; having their home and lives invaded through police bullying and threats; and the tipping point and amazing people who supported their decision and never gave up.  It took years for interracial marriages to become law, but their were the pioneers.  HIGHLY recommended as an audiobook but keep a hardcopy on the shelves as well. (fiction)

Monday, February 12, 2018

TCEA 2018 Recap (includes great presentation links!)

The Texas Computer Educators Association conference 2018 has gone down in the books as one of my favoriate TCEA conferences of all time.  My legs are ached when I got home...I never knew how awesome compression socks can be outside of being in an airplane!  Now that the week is over, I've had time to really enjoy looking back at everything I learned and shared.  If you've never been to TCEA, you should come get your technology on!  Here are some presentation I co-presented on as well as some AMAZING presentations of all types to encourage campuses to embrace not only technology but the changing role of student learning and educator curriculum.  Even if you didn't come, many of the presentations handouts are shared via the TCEA website
Here is my curated list of amazing presentations recommended for librarians to take a peek out and go forth and conquer (if not this year, then next year!) 

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Devil Made Me Do It: YA Reads For Those Who Like Horror

Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist
Greenwillow, 2018

Glory, Texas sits in the middle of the West Texas plains.  Full of dust and hard-living, Glory isn't a town for the weak of heart or spirit.  In fact, no place is, not after the slow plague ten years ago that turned those infected into Shakes, not quite human creatures who are always looking for their next victim.  Glory and other town are able to keep the Shakes at bay with fencing and shake-hunters, rough men who go outside the safe boundaries to hunt them down.  

Willie, aka Daisy Wilcox, is trying her hardest to make ends meet for her and her family.  Willie's mother succumbed to the infection and she isn't sure if Mother is dead or alive.  Her father, the local drunk, is never home except to steal the hard earned money she ekes out.  But then he goes one step further.

One day, Willie's home is approached by some very rough shake hunters who are looking for Willie's father and the money he stole from them.  Now, it's up to her to find her father and return the money or lives will be at stake.  With the help of two young shake-hunters, Willie must travel to the next town over...across the plain riddled with Shakes...

Once forced out, she sees the reality and horror of life outside Glory.  With only two inexperienced shake hunters and unexpected visitors, Willie isn't sure she'll make it to the next town.  And then....

Berquist takes the setting of the Texas plains and weaves a dystopic tale where not quite zombie-like creatures can be more terrifying than the natural predators of the plains.  This will capture the attention of those wanting more horror dystopia set within a future Western.  What makes this book even more unique is the Western aspect of the novel itself, which is hard to find in current YA fiction collections.  Recommended 7th-12th grades.

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
2015, Harlequin Teen

Amanda and her family have lived their lives in the woodlands.  Her father, a trapper, maintained a decent living while she and her siblings helped her mother around the house.  The last winter was a bad one for the entire family, especially her mother, but Amanda has a lot to be happy about, especially her trysts in the forest with the love of her life.

But things change.  When Amanda finds out she's pregnant, she desperately needs to hide the fact, especially after she is shunned by the one person she thought loved her.  Her father fears another brutal winter will further hurt the health of his family.  With that in mind, he decides to move his family to the prairie lands across the mountains.  A long drive, but perhaps this is what Amanda needed....a fresh start.

The entire family makes the drive to their new homestead, where Amanda's father was told he could pick from several abandoned houses as his own.  Things look up for the family.  They pass other homesteaders who wave in the distance to them.  Mother is doing well taking care of the baby, who can neither hear or see, and her little brother and sister, while tired, are healthy and curious.  

But once they find a home, the horror begins....little does Amanda nor her family know the house they selected has a gory past, and one that will quickly rise up to greet them.  

Sometimes you can't run far or fast enough....

Talk about CREEPY.  This was definitely a page-turner where the author left a crumb trail only to lead the reader right into the edge of horror, death and hauntings.  This is truly a novel for those YA readers who absolutely love true horror, not just supernatural.  Recommended 9-12th grades

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Sound and the Fury: My Experiences with Audiobooks

I absolutely LOVE to read....and read....and so on (you get it) and with that mindset, I didn't really delve much into audiobooks because I always had my book in hand.  I also felt the same way about
e-books.  I foolishly considered myself a purist who would choose hardcopy over any other format.

Well, I have since changed that mindset!

Time is different for me now and in order to keep up with the massive amounts of titles I'd love to read, I had to rethink my plan.  One day I had a three hour drive ahead of me with nothing to do.  I'm one of those people who don't travel with the radio on, preferring instead, peace and quiet.  The meeting I had to go to was one where all of the reading lists for the Texas Library Association was convening and I lamented about the fact that I had less time than ever to read.  One librarian from Katy ISD (Robin Cashman) and the other from San Antonio (Dana Hutchins) suggested audiobooks.  I'll admit, I did the whole "OK, I will" without really going to, but she then started setting me up with an account and watching me download the books.

On the way home, I listened to my very first audiobook....WOWOWOWOWOW!!

It was one of those HUGE new Stephen King books (Sleeping Beauties) and three hours wasn't going to cut it.  So I spent the rest of that week when I was walking, driving, getting ready in the morning, etc to "read with my ears."

And I was hooked.

What makes them such a draw is that the delivery by those reading the books is above amazing.  They put emotion, character, voice into it and constantly changed they own syncopation and tenor to match other characters in the book.  It really was like listening to their conversations or allowing them to open up to me.  The only comparison I could possibly make is that instead of being visually stunning, they were auditorally (yes, my own made up word) resounding.

Since then in the last month I have "read" six other audiobooks and HIGHLY recommend you "read" them too!
Mary Addison is in a group home, complete with ankle bracelet.  She's been that way for a few years now.  Why?  Because at nine years old, Mary killed a baby.  Now a teenager, Mary wants out, but public opinion has already condemned her as a baby killer.  Can she ever outrun that reputation?
Mary Addision is a baby killer....allegedly.

This urban fiction novel packs a punch up until the very end for anyone listening to this.  Although this is about Mary, the listener will also get caught up in the lives of the other girls in the home, what brought them there and the hope or hopelessness they face.  9-12th grade.
 Sebastian's summer isn't going the way he thought it would.  His best friend isn't around and his mother is pressuring him to get a job.  He realizes he does need something to distract him, especially when he can't forget what happened when he picked up a gun, which makes him spiral ever downward into depression and dark thoughts.  But then Aneesa moves in and his life begins to turn around.  Too late or just in time?

Readers will get caught up in the past and present and find themselves on a roller coaster ride of Sebastian's life in this realistic fiction novel.  9-12th grade.
 Nix has spent her life on the high seas, searching for treasure, adventure and old maps.  With each map her father finds, the ship sails through time and space to travel back to that time.  Nix has been to ancient Rome and Chine to modern day New York City and Hawaii in the 19th century.  But it's one map her father is obsessed that could completely change or erase Nix.  And when it's found, she has to make a difficult decision and suffer loss.

Adventure fantasy at its finest, readers will be transformed along with the narrator's voice of Nix and her other shipmates.  7th-12th grades
 Breakfast Club meets Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None in this new mystery novel.  Five teens are in after school detention.  The brain, Bronwyn; the beauty, Addy; the jock, Cooper; the criminal, Nate; and Simon the outcast.  But at the end of detention, Simon is dead and the other four are now murder suspects.  Who did it and why will drive the reader but the motive for it will push the reader over the edge.

This relies on four different narrators who bring to life not only the characters, but the story behind each one, including personal lives and secrets.  9-12th grade.
 These tales will delight and enthrall readers who enjoy listening to fantastical creatures and peculiar people.  Made up as a sort of fairy tale-like anthology, readers will meet all types of people including a man who turns into an island; the first person who can transform into a bird; people who can grow their limbs back over and over and lonely giants, each tale is a mixture or whimsy and wonder with a little horror mixed in.

If you know the origins of fairy tales, this book will delight you with the morals each tale has in its own dark and delightful way.  7th-12th grade.
Reminiscent of fairy tales, this novel is about two very different girls.  Mina is beautiful and fragile-looking, but is far from it.  Living with a glass heart, she is able to manipulate glass and mirrors to make her way to the throne.  Lynet is the replica of her mother, the dead queen and is constantly surrounded by the king's protectiveness for his only daughter.  Ever the daredevil, little does she know the power she wields on her own that far surpasses what she can do.

A little Snow White, a little Rapunzel, this fantasy novel will delight readers of the genre, especially when they heard two different voices in alternating chapters recall events through completely different lenses.  7th-12th grade. 

Here are reasons why audiobooks should be in the library collection:

1. There are just some students who don't like to "read" so give them an option
2. Some people like to listen and read at the same time (great for struggling readers)
3. Long road trips by bus for extra-curricular (just sayin')
4. These are great examples of prose and poetry for UIL events
5. Use snippets of the books during a booktalk.  Let the characters talk to the kids instead
6. They may be more expensive but the library owns them for perpetuity!
7. Comes in many different options from playaways to digital to CD so technology doesn't have to be a barrier

SO...if you were like me, then yes, you should definitely try it at least once.  But beware, you'll get hooked!

Happy reading (with both your eyes and ears!)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Top 10 Best Reads of 2017

2017 was a good read year for me and there are certainly those books that really stood out from the rest.  Here's my top 10 list for young adults, both fiction and non-fiction (although I could put more, I'll hard to do!)
Most of these are 2017 publications, but I included books from the past 18 months.  So in no particular order:

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Creating Collections: Think Beyond the Book!

Libraries without books are can use this with an endless amount of similes but basically, that is what a library is filled with.  But sometimes, we need to look beyond the basics and start thinking about how we can meet our students and patrons on their levels, whether it's where they live, what is popular for students, or how it can impact reading.  Here are a few things to think about if you're wanting to beef up that collection like....(again, can you finish this simile? ) :)

1. DVDs and/or Blue Rays.  Yes, public libraries do this a LOT....and it's a great service they do for the public.  School libraries should also take a queue from the public libraries and add this as a collection in the library.  I did this a couple of years ago and interest in it, both on campus and with students, has been really positive.  I stocked it with "books to movies" DVDs because if they won't read the book, maybe...just maybe...they would after seeing it. These were both recent and classic books to movies (is Holes considered classic yet?) and it seems like the amount of books to movies for children and teens is never-ending.  All of them are rated PG-13 at the high school level (and miraculously, that included Nicholas Sparks!) so I didn't cross any invisible lines.  And you can get creative too.  Yes, all of the Avengers movies and DC movies are included because hey, graphic novels count!  And of course I had to slip in a few movies that teens should watch, like Gremlins and ET, among a few others.  But think about the displays and pairings you could make with them!  Kids and teachers will thank you for this small but important part of the collection pie.

2. "If you don't read it with your eyes, it isn't considered reading."  Yeah....right....BUT I challenge those who say that to try audiobooks!  I'll admit it, I was a purist too.  But then I found myself in a situation of being on long drives in my car and wanting to keep up with the latest YA reads.  All it took was for one excellent high school librarian to "show" me an audiobook and I was hooked!  Now, it's all I can do to not hop in the car and hit play!  Why is this collection so important?  Because you will have readers in a similar predicament as me.  Long bus rides to games, UIL competitions where they're waiting for the results (and the long drive home), holidays flying or driving to destinations and many many other situations where all it takes is a touch of a play button and the book opens up.  I am absolutely enthralled with the talent of these readers and the different voices they use to make the book come alive.  If you've never tried it, please do!  (And if you need any recommendations, I can give you a few :)  I'm HOOKED....

3. Makerspace items.  Some libraries have them, some don't, but either way think about the possibility of checking out those items to students.  During the holidays, I've worked with students on doing what I call "creative archiving" or taking old books and making something with them.  Once they learn the skill, why stop at school?  Take those glue guns and cute little scissors and add them to the things students can check out to take home and use.  It could be something as small as a loom, knitting needles and other small maker items to more substantial items like a portable green screen, cameras or virtual googles.  If you truly want your makerspace to thrive, allowing students to take them home may just take that interest over the edge. 

'Tis the season to share, and for librarians, it all starts with our collections.  Happy holidays, ya'll!!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Diversity in YA Lit: Three Great Titles

YA authors have really stepped up to the challenge of providing authentic novels with diversity in them for the teen reader.  This particular genre (if we can call it that) is a burgeoning one, and very desperately needed on library shelves.  Our populations are becoming more and more diverse, and having diverse titles in the library helps open up not only pages, but conversations about cultural differences and even dispelling stereotypes of people from different cultures.  With that said, I'd like to introduce three great YA novels that feature diversity in very different perspectives:

Backfield Boys by John Feinstein.  Farrar, Straus, Giroux 2017. 
Jason and Tom have been friends since they were kids.  It doesn't matter that Jason is Jewish and Tom is African-American.  They see beyond this to the foundation of their friendship and interests.  And their love of football is one of them. 
Both Jason and Tom are gifted athletes.  Jason is an amazingly quick wide receiver and Tom's arm is perfection for a quarterback.  Living in New York City, their school doesn't have a football team, but they are given a chance in a play for a prestigious private school that is known for their outstanding athletes who make it to the pros.
But when they arrive at school, something isn't right.  The coaches, who praised them during camp, are now different, treating both Tom and Jason brusquely.  One of the boys is at the tipping point of calling it quits, when the truth begins to slowly rear its ugly face...segregation.  Now they have a very different passion, one that could potentially expose the shining facade of football greatness.  Recommended 7-12 grades.

Bang! by Barry Lyga.  Little Brown, 2017. 
Sebastian killed his little sister.  When he was just four, he picked up a gun and now his sister isn't with them anymore.  His father left, and his mother is hollow, only leaving the house to go to work or her therapist.  Sebastian remembers the details, but wishes he didn't.  And he can't let it go...
Sebastian is fourteen and summer is nearly upon him.  His best friend, Ethan, will be gone all summer and to create a sense of normality, his mom tells him he must find a summer job, no excuses.  Sebastian doesn't even know where to start, until he meets Aneesa.
She's so much more different than any other person he has met.  Up front and honest, she makes him feel like there's more to life than the little voice who tells him otherwise.  What starts as an accident on a bike becomes a new friendship, with new ideas.  Pulling their ideas and expertise together, they decide to start a Youtube channel to create pizzas and some day, sell them.  Aneesa works in her Muslim heritage and Sebastian brings it on with his pizza skills. Slowly, but surely, the channel starts to take off.  First a 100 followers, then a 1,000...and the count keeps growing.
But when things in Sebastian's life begins to crumble again, the little voice starts talking, telling him it's time....go get the gun...  Recommended for grades 8-12.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.  Atheneum, 2017.
No crying.  No snitching.  Revenge.  These are the Rules Will has been taught by his big brother Shawn.  Tough neighborhood, tough life, tough luck... and when things got tough, Shawn made sure he and his little brother stayed tough.  The Rules come into play the day Shawn sees his brother's body lying in the street.  His mourning may be silent, but he also knows what he has to do.  Going to his brother's side of the bedroom, Will takes the gun, tucks it behind him, and walks out the door onto the elevator.
Seven floors to the lobby.  Seven floors to revenge.
But on the ride down, Will meets the people coming on.  And what's so strange is that everyone who comes into the elevator cabin are people Will hasn't seen in a long time.  On floor six, Buck enters the cabin.  He's the one who gave Shawn the gun.  On floor five, a childhood friend.  On floor four, his father.....the only problem with this entire situation is that Will knows these people have died.  And each one brings a new perspective into what happened and what may happen.  Is it Will's imagination or are they truly there?  Will has to decide whether to play by the Rules or change them...and his life.  Recommended for grades 7-12.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Another Round of Great K-12 Library Ideas!

The fun never stops with my current position!  I have seen some more amazing things I'd like to share via the blog.  These are also posted on my Twitter feed (@yabooksandmore) of great ideas I've seen in libraries I've visited.   

If there is one thing we need bring into students' lives, it would be that they live in a world with people and events that make a difference for the better.  This YA librarian promoted this through her awesome display (which can be used for a bulletin board too!) 

This savvy elementary librarian went environmental on the library by re-using things teachers didn't need anymore into some amazing genre signs!  Beautiful!!!  Now, go hit up your teachers for old, unused globes!  (And if you have extra, DM me and I'll take them)  :)

Sometimes you don't need signs to capture attention.  Try wallpapering the backs of the shelves for certain genres like this middle school librarian did with her graphic novels. Plus, it cost little to nothing to do it :)  POW!  Ka-BAM!

This elementary librarian decided to do something to showcase books AND gets students involved in the library.  Taking those large envelopes (that have a tie or metal closure on the backs), she got her students to decorate them for the holidays.  They couldn't open it until they checked them out.  Use it for any holiday and promote student library collaboration :)

This junior high librarian created and used series lists of books and their order to create shelf markers under the series to help students track and find them easier.  She and her library assistant did these on their own but you don't have to if you have a Follett Titlewave account.  It contains a series tracker/finder, including have them in numerical order as well as when the newest one will be released.  You've got to try it out :)  

Enjoy these and be inspired, share, and incorporate them!