Friday, February 20, 2015

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Okay, I'm on my quest to read the 2015-2016 Lone Star Books. I decided to listen to Unbreakable: The Legion Book 1

As the story started, I thought, "Okay, this is a ghost story book." Great! I haven't read a good ghost story book for a long time. Then as I listened, I thought, "Oh, this is a DaVinci Code for kids." Fine, I liked the DaVinci Code. I listened some more and the book turned into a teenage, unfunny "Ghostbusters." Then there was a "Pandora's Box" conclusion that was a cheesy way to keep The Legion series going. At the end, just another paranormal run of the mill book which will have several sequels to make some more money for Little, Brown.

In all fairness, I'm really TIRED of the paranormal. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything very likable about main character Kennedy Waters to overcome my dislike of paranormal books. I also got lost in during the audio because it just didn't hold my attention. The reader was just fine; I just got bogged down in the details.

I guess I know enough about the story to steer a student to it if they are into this genre. It's just not my cup of tea.

Five down, fifteen to go...

I proceeded on...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lone Star Duo

I've started the long trek reading the twenty books selected for the 2015-2016 Texas Lone Star Reading List. Two down and eighteen to go!

I listened to The Nethergrim by Matthew Tobin. Jeremy Arthur read the book, and he was terrific! He managed to make everyone of the characters unique in voice much like Jim Dale in the Harry Potter series. Because of his excellent reading, I found myself enjoying the book ever so much more. I am not much of a fantasy fan (Jim Dale had to get me started with Harry Potter), so it takes an excellent reader to get me interested.

The story starts with an old legend. Tristan, the knight, and the wizard Vithric defeated the Nethergrim for all eternity. Or did they? Fast forward to the "present" medieval-type time. Edmund works in his father's tavern. He's rather a dreamy kid who loves books. His father, on the other hand, burns Edmund's books to keep Edmund focused on the work at hand. That is, he thinks he's burned all of the books. When a stranger appears at the tavern with mysterious book, Edmund is enthralled, not knowing that the book contains secrets he and his friends will need in the very near future. At night, Edmund, servant-boy, Tom, and Edmund's secret love, Katherine, sneak out to find bones picked clean by some mysterious being. When some of the children go missing (one of whom is Edmund's younger brother), the kids figure out with the help of Edmund's book, that the Nethergrim has returned.

Filled with fantastic creatures and edge-of-your- seat mystery, The Nethergrim doesn't disappoint. While there's a definite narrative arc to the story, it's obvious we haven't seen or heard the last of The Nethergrim. 

I just finished reading the preview copy of Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen. (Her book North
of Beautiful was on the Lone Star list a couple of years ago.) While I always enjoy contemporary realistic fiction and I liked the book, I find that Justina Chen always has a lot going on in her books.

Aspiring photographer and TurnStyle blogger, Shana, has sworn off guys after a particularly nasty breakup with the much-older Dom. While photographing street fashion at the gum wall in Seattle, she meets new boy Quattro who also enjoys photography. All is not all happiness, however, because Shana's father discovers that he is rapidly losing his eyesight which impacts his travel plans for the future. Because of his impending blindness, Shana's dad and mom decide to visit Machu Picchu. Shana gets to go along as a companion to an older woman. Who should show up? Quattro! What a coincidence. He's also sworn off the girls, but for a very different reason.

The Inca Trail is treacherous at the best of times, but after rains, the mudslides are life-threatening. When Shana's father barely rescues her and her mother from their tent during the slide, Shana mourns the loss of her new camera, but is happy to be alive. However, she and Quattro seem to be bonding, but then he pulls back.

It's only when Shana learns that Quattro blames himself for his mother's death and is on the trail to scatter her ashes that his reluctance seems to make sense. That coupled with her father's overt anger over his impending blindness cause her to make the decision to accompany Quattro back to Machu Picchu after it has been closed to visitors due to the danger. When she almost slips down the mountain and is injured, she learns that it is not always wise to try to take the future into your own hands.

I enjoyed both books although they are very different. As Lewis and Clark wrote in their journals, "We proceeded on.."

Only eighteen more to go!


Monday, February 2, 2015

Catch-up Reading

Yes, I have done a bit of reading between Guided Inquiry units, holidays, and checking myriads of citations. I won't try to spend a great deal of time on each book. I just want to catch up, and see how far behind I am on the 40 Book Challenge. (It's going to be so embarrassing if these kids whoop me!)

I've started on my 2015-2016 Lone Star Reading List Reading. So far, I've finished Buzz Kill by Beth Fantasky. Yea! This is a mystery which is not one of my favorite genres, and one that I really need to get the move on. This concerns the mysterious death of the not-so-liked head football coach and the protagonist's dad is the prime suspect. Also, there's a really cute quarterback who is also a mystery unto himself. I really enjoyed listening to this gem.

Unfortunately, I did not really care for Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life by P.J. Hoover. It's about an immortal King Tut who is stuck forever as an eighth grader. It's a Rick Riordan wannabe, but not nearly as good.

I also finished reading The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey for my book club. Set in Northern Ireland in the early part of the 20th century, this follows Eileen, a very strong acerbic woman who gets caught between two worlds - one of rebellion and one of the Unionists. I learned a great deal of history in this one.

I've already discussed Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School by Carol Kuhltha, Leslie Maniotes, and Ann Caspari. It will count an nonfiction on my 40 Book Reading Challenge.

Then there's one book I read a LONG time ago, but did not blog about. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. I blogged about seeing Meg at the Texas Book Festival and was so impressed with her that I read her book. In this book, the protagonist, Jam, has not been able to deal with the death of her boyfriend that her parents send her to a psychiatric hospital. There she is placed in a class of exceptional students and given a journal in which to write. As she writes, she's transported back to the times she was with her boyfriend until she can work through her issues. Effective use of magical realism, but I really didn't know what to make of the book.

Whew! Now I'm pretty much caught up in my book blog!

Sweet Reads!

Back again

I haven't posted to the blog in awhile. It's been quite crazy in Library Land. We finished the Guided Inquiry Unit for seventh grade right before the long winter break. I'll share some of the Meographs that were created in later blog entries, but it was a stressful time to say the least. A number of the students had trouble recording, one group totally deleted their entire Meograph and had to redo it overnight, and others had trouble organizing their information. I truly didn't think it was going to happen. But... miraculously it did. Every group was ready to present, and the seventh grade students listened to each other and gave insightful, thoughtful feedback. Overall, I'm very impressed with Guided Inquiry Design.

Right after the holiday, Dr. Krumins' seventh grade science classes conducted a short "mini-research" project on body organs. While it was compact, we used terminology that the students learned in the history Guided Inquiry project we finished.

Currently, the eighth grade history classes are in the midst of researching for their formal research paper. The students have had a short "Immerse" phase, and an "Explore" phase that I thought was quite successful. I just wish that so many of them would actually do the research so that they could create intelligent essential questions and thesis statements. I always find the eighth grade paper challenging because so many of the students simply don't want to do the work that it takes to do a great job. Plus... they really don't like listening to any one at this time of year.

At any rate, I had to present my Trustee Grant activity to the faculty last week. I created a Meograph showing the Guided Inquiry Plan that Paige Ashley and Peggy Turlington developed last summer at Rutgers when we attended CISSL.  Here it is:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Guided Inquiry: Gather

We've started the "Gather" phase of Guided Inquiry in our seventh grade "We the People" project. This has been a bit challenging for the students due to the fact that they had no formal library research projects in the sixth grade. Because of that, they do not have any experience making notecards in NoodleTools and have lost what little knowledge that they have of creating citations and just the general note-taking process. We are also short on time because we want to get the project completed before the Winter Break. Additionally, we start their time with Inquiry Circles. Some of them are having difficulty with creating a "Fat" Question which will be their Inquiry Question or Research Question. I feel for them.

In order to help them with the process, I check the students' citations each day. Many of the kids catch on quickly to the process. They see a logic in it, and don't have many problems. To others, citations are simply Greek. There are just too many component parts for them to keep up with.

I also taught a bit about plagiarism and primary sources. Therefore, the "information literacy" part of this unit is rather minimal, but hopefully the thinking part will help them a great deal. (I even identified what type of source each of the provided resources were.) This is training wheels for sure.

Today in inquiry circles, the Lowell Mill Worker group created their own strategy for getting their research done. They went through their questions, decided which were simple answers and could be found easily, and then discussed questions/ideas that would require more work. I was impressed that they organized themselves in a systematic way. When I asked if they thought the Mill Worker felt like "All Men are Created Equal," one of the members of the group piped up quickly, "Yes! Because of their jobs in the mills, the girls had the ability to earn money, live on their own, make friends, and leave the farm." When I asked if there he had notecards to support his ideas, it was "Oh, yes!" We've taught them that they can take either side as long as they can support their arguments.  At least there is some progress being made somewhere!

I was hoping that I'd see some of the "Third Space" emerge at this point. This is where the students' interests and the curriculum overlap. While there are some that are excited about their topics, ("I MUST have the Delegate to the Seneca Falls Convention.") others still seem to look at this as just another assignment.

Then there's the problem of notecards not saving in NoodleTools...alas!