Children's Book Reivew: Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

Synopsis:  Twelve year old, Lonnie Collins Motion, and his sister Lili are placed into separate foster homes after their parents are killed in a fire.  Lonnie tasks himself with being the "rememberer" and decides to write his sister letters to help them remember what happens while they are apart.  The entire book is in letter format and each letter is written to Lili from Lonnie (aka Locomotion).  The letters are bittersweet as Lonnie writes about the good times he and Lili had with their biological family as well as how much they both love their new foster families.  The book addresses important issues such as loss, family, and peace through Lonnie's insightful reflections about the world around him. 

My Thoughts: This is the second Jacqueline Woodson book I have read (the first being Feathers) and I've decided that I need to read more of her work.  Peace, Locomotion was short but oh, so sweet and Woodson's writing is beautiful.  I feel like she has the ability to get inside each of her characters and really bring them to life. While this is a great read for anyone (young or old), it would be especially appropriate for children who have experienced loss or are in foster care.

Recommended for Grades 4-7.  

Image taken from http://www.jacquelinewoodson.com/mg.shtml.


Adolescent Lit. Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The first books I read by Maggie Steifvater were The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.   I really enjoyed them and even had the opportunity to meet Maggie at the ALA conference  in 2011.  At this conference she was handing out (and signing) free copies of The Scorpio Races.  I have been meaning to pick it up and read it for some time now, but just haven't had the chance.  I was further motivated to read it when Maggie won a 2011 Printz Honor Award for the book.  It definitely deserved the award.  I love how she develops her characters and how she creates the setting of the island of Thisby.  As I was reading, I kept thinking that I would really like to visit Thisby only to have to remind myself that it does not exist.     

In this award winning novel, Maggie Stiefvater takes readers to the fictional island of Thisby where flesh eating water horses, better known as capaill uisce, inhabit the surrounding waters.  Thisby is home of the annual Scorpio Races where islanders attempt to train and race the capaill uisce and tourists travel from all around to see the race.

Kate "Puck" Connolly lives with her two brothers, Gabe and Finn.  Their parents were killed by a capaill uisce and they were left to take care of one another.  Gabe, Puck's older brother, decides that he can no longer stand to live on the island of Thisby, and makes plans to move to the mainland.  In an attempt to stop him Puck decides that she will race in the Scorpio Races, but cannot bear to ride one of the capaill uisce that killed her parents.  She instead decides to ride her land mare, Dove.  

Sean Kendrick, four time winner of the Scorpio Races, longs to be free of his current employer and owner of most of the island, Benjamin Malvern.  Malvern refuses to sell Sean the capaill uisce, Corr, that once belonged to his father.  But this year, Malvern has agreed to sell Corr to him if he wins the race.  

Who will win the Scorpio Races?  A large cash prize awaits whomever crosses the finish line first.  Both Puck and Sean need the money, but someone will come back empty handed.

Recommended for Ages 13+.  

Image from http://maggiestiefvater.com/the-scorpio-races/ 


Adolescent Lit. Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I had just started to hear about Shadow and Bone when I went to the ALA (American Library Association) conference in California.  Leigh Bardugo was there signing books and giving away maps of Ravka and very cool grey nail polish.  It was great meeting her and hearing a little more about the book, but I still really didn't know exactly what I was getting into.  It took me less that two days to read the book and I am thinking that it will be very hard for me to wait for the next book in the trilogy, Siege and Storm, to come out in 2013.  

In this first installment of the Grisha Trilogy, Leigh Bardugo introduces readers to a fantasy world based on Russian folklore and culture. The land of Ravka has been at war for many years and is divided by the Shadow Fold, an area of complete darkness and flesh-eating volcra.  With enemies at all sides, the King of Ravka trusts the fate of his land to the Darkling and his Grisha (those with unique magical abilities).  At a very young age, children in the land of Ravka, are tested for Grisha abilities.  Alina and Mal, orphans brought to live at the home of a Duke, are tested, but Alina hides her abilities so that she will not be separated from Mal.  Years later, Alina and Mal are in the army; Alina is a mapmaker and Mal a tracker.  While traveling through the Shadow Fold, a place where the Darkling has no power, a volcra attacks Mal, and Alina protects him by shielding him with light.  Once out of the fold the Darkling whisks Alina away and announces that a long awaited "Sun Summoner," who will help destroy the Shadow Fold, has been discovered.  As Alina learns to use her summoning powers and trains to become a Grisha, she longs to see Mal again, but is also drawn to the Darkling.  The more time Alina spends as a Grisha at the Little Palace, she struggles to know what to believe and whom she can trust. Bardugo does a fabulous job of creating the world of Ravka, with its subtle but intriguing magic.  There is suspense throughout most of the book and just when you think you've got the plot figured out, you discover that things may not be as you suspected.  All of you Harry Potter fans and lovers of fantasy, Shadow and Bone is a must read!

Recommended for Grades 9-12. 

Image from http://www.leighbardugo.com/books/. 


ALA12 Conference

The picture to the left is just a glimpse of the exhibit hall at the American Library Association's National conference in Anaheim, California.  While going to the workshops is fun (and informative), I have to say that my favorite part is the exhibit hall.  If you have been to the ALA conference, then you know that opening day of the exhibit hall is a mad house.  I had little old lady librarians pushing me out of the way to get free books. Needless to say, I survived that first day and went back each day for more.  Below you will see a picture of all of my free books.  The ones on the top shelves are the ones that I acquired from ALA12 and most of them are signed by the author. 
Just to give you an idea of how awesome this conference is, here are just a few of the authors I met:  Merissa Meyer, Ally Condie, Paolo Bacigalupi, Chris Cline, John Corey Whaley, Jack Gantos, James Dashner, Ruta Sepetys, Marie Lu, and many more.  Two highlights from the trip were participating in the Young Adult Koffee Klatch and going to the Printz award ceremony.  At the koffee klatch, I was able to meet and talk to many YA authors about their current and upcoming books.  At the Printz award ceremony I heard speeches from the Printz award winners including one hilarious speech from Daniel Handler and Maria Kalman, where they sang a multi verse song "Without Libraries We'd Be Dumb".  I also attended some great workshops about collaboration, technology, and common core.  I was just hired this week to be an elementary school librarian where I live in North Carolina, so I am very excited to be able to incorporate some of these new ideas into my library! 


Adolescent Lit. Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Lena Holoway, seventeen, always looked forward to her eighteenth birthday when she would receive the cure.  Before scientists found the cure, people thought that love was a good thing, but now they know better.  Falling in love, or catching the deliria, is a disease and once it has taken hold there is no escaping its grasp.  Lena believed that being cured would allow her to be safe and without pain.  The only problem is that with only months left until her appointment to be cured, Lena Holoway falls in love. 

Lauren Oliver's Delirium is the first book in yet another dystopian trilogy.  From the beginning, Oliver has reader's sitting on the edge of their seats trying to figure out just what Lena's society is all about as they attempt to eradicate love, pain, and feelings in general.  At the age of eighteen, an appointment is made for each member of the society to receive their cure.  While the exact steps for the procedure are not outlined in the book, it is suggested that the part of the patient's brain that controls feelings is removed.  In the novel, Lena transitions from a girl who completely trusts in her government and their way of operating to a girl who questions their ideas and recognizes that love is necessary for living a life that is full and complete.  

Oliver leaves readers hanging at the end of the novel, but thankfully book two in the trilogy, Pandemonium, is already out.  

Recommended for Grades 9-12. 


Adolescent Lit. Review: Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers has a special gift for writing novels that many of today's teenage readers are interested in and can relate to.  Myers won the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 1994, where four of his books, Hoops, Motown and Didi, Fallen Angels, and Scorpions, were recognized for "authentically portraying African-American youth without being limited to any particular ethnic group" (American Library Association). In 2000, Monster won the Michael L. Printz award for excellence in young adult literature. Walter Dean Myers is the current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. 

Synopsis: Steve Harmon, a sixteen-year-old black male, has been arrested and charged with felony murder.  As the lookout in a robbery that left a store owner dead, Steve struggles throughout the novel with whether he is truly guilty of murder.  If convicted, Steve could face a sentence of 25 year to life in jail.   Having taken a film-making class in school, Steve tells the story of his ordeal by alternating between screenplay and journal formats.  The screenplay format allows readers to see the intensity within courtroom while the journal entries show the inner feelings of Steve as he is unsure of what his conviction will be. Black and white images are also expertly woven in to accompany the text. In this novel, Myers tells a realistic story of a boy who experiences jail and struggles with guilt, but wants more than anything to be pronounced innocent.    

Recommended for Grades 9-12.  
Click here to purchase from Amazon.


ESL Resources

English language learners are an ever growing part of school and library populations.  There are many resources available to assist these learners as they learn to read and speak English.  I remember the first time I had a student come into my fourth grade classroom that did not speak a word of English.  The school where I taught only had a part time ESL teacher who happened to be at another school that day.  I was terrified.  Thankfully I had another student who was bilingual and could translate beautifully.  We made it through the first day, but I was still clueless as to how I was going to help this new student learn to speak English while I still taught my other 20 students.  I ended up pulling resources from the ESL teacher and used many bilingual books from the library, but I hate to say that I feel I did not provide that student with the best resources available to learn English.  

I now work in a school that has a very large ESL population with two full time ESL teachers.  These teachers are fabulous at what they do and provide resources for students, parents, and teachers.  Because I was once in that situation (not knowing what to do with my new ESL student), I think it is extremely important to know about the ESL resources that are available to you.  

Here are just a few I have found to be helpful: 

1.  Lanternfish:  This is an online resource for teachers.  There are downloadable crosswords, wordsearches, flash cards, worksheets, and phonics resources.  I get excited just going to this site because there are so many things for me to download and actually put to use in the classroom.  All of the resources are geared towards English language learners and vary in difficulty.  

2. Vocabulary.co.il: This site has many sections that help students improve their vocabulary skills.  The English Language Games are specifically for English language learners.  These are interactive online games that students can play on their own and are fairly simple to learn to play.  The only problem with the games is that the actual screen for the games is small.  Examples of some of the available games are English Word Recognition, Find the Synonym, Idioms Game, and many different sight word and matching games.  

3.  ESL Games:  This is definitely my favorite of the three.  This website has interactive games for kids to play on their own and games for teachers to use in whole group activities.  The screen size is good and the games are really fun.  There are grammar games, vocabulary games, and interactive pronunciation exercises.  If you were only going to check out one of the three resources I've recommended, I would definitely take a look at this one. 

While there are many other online ESL resources, I hope these will at least help you feel at ease when that first ESL student walks through your doors!