Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Summer Reading 2015

Today Monica Bullock's sixth grade reading classes came to the library to get ideas for summer reading. As noted previously, I pulled the books and added QR Codes that linked to book trailers or authors discussing their books. Students used iPads with headphones to access the trailers. Then the students wrote down some titles that may be of interest to them for the summer.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

No, this is NOT a book I would recommend to Middle School students. It's an adult book for my June
Book Club meeting. I actually listened to the book. I'd already purchased it on Audible before my book club selected it. So....I listened.

The book is a murder mystery told in three voices. First wife, Rachel, is still besotted with her ex-husband, Tom. Having not been able to conceive a child, Rachel turned to alcohol to give her comfort. However, Tom turned to another woman, Anna with whom he married and had a child, Evie. Rachel stalks Tom because she passes his house, their house, everyday on her train ride into London. Anna is the second voice in the story. She detests the house and Rachel and fears for Evie's safety from Rachel. She has difficulty after Evie's birth and hires Megan to help care for the baby. Megan lives down the street with her husband and has been unemployed after the art gallery where she worked closed. Although Megan works for Anna for awhile, she quits alluding to another job. Megan also has some emotional issues and seeks help from a therapist to help her work through those issues.

One morning Rachel awakes in her bedroom to find that she's had a horrible head injury. She knows that something is wrong although she cannot remember because she was so drunk the night before. Then when Megan goes missing, she somehow feels that she has some knowledge of it if she could only remember...

The three voices are not sequential in the story. Parts of the story are told in flashback. It was most concerting when Megan's chapter is read after her death.

I rarely read murder mysteries. I rarely read mysteries at all. I enjoyed Girl on the Train. It's not great literature, but it's a good read.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Now that I've finished the 40 Book Challenge, I've set a goal for my summer reading. I like to try to read at least 20 books during the summer. I know I'm going to need to finish my Lone Star Reading, but I think I've got some really terrific reads in my TBR pile. My book club is meeting throughout the summer, too; I'll be reading some great adult books in addition to my YA fare.

At TLA, I saw a great YA panel. Julie Murphy was there talking about her new book, Dumplin'. I saw this ARC on Edelweiss, and just knew it would be a book I'd like to read. Julie is apparently from Fort Worth, and her book is set in Clover City, Texas. While this is a fictionalized town, Murphy obviously knows her small town stuff.

The summer before her junior year, Willowdean Dickson, falls hard for her co-worker, private school student, Bo. He's good-looking, athletic, and personable, and he seems to really like her. This would be no problem except that Willowdean is everything he's not. She's fat, somewhat self-conscious, and seems to be losing her BFF, Ellen. Her life is also complicated because her single mom was once Miss Teen Blue Bonnet and directs the pageant every year, her loving aunt is dead, and she idolizes Dolly Parton.

Things are going well between Willowdean and Bo until she finds out that he will be attending Clover City High in the fall. She can't face the scrutiny the two of them will face. She quits her job, starts dating one of the football players, and enters the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant just because she can. When she finds that she will be competing with her best friend, Ellen, they have a major disagreement and stop speaking.

While the end is quite predictable, it's the journey that is interesting. When Willowdean and her new pageant-participating girlfriends visit the Hideaway (a drag queen club), and later learn how to prepare for the pageant from the drag queens themselves, I knew that this was more than just the regular small town novel. Also, the references to Dolly Parton and her music made the book more than just the usual YA fare.

I really liked Dumplin'. Murphy's Willowdean is an honest portrayal of what it feels like to be the fat girl in high school (and I should know.) The book has an authentic voice. I'm sure folks in New York may think that some of the things in the book are over the top:I can assure them that those kind of things really happen in Texas. (Nobody knows beauty pageants and small towns better than Texas.)

Enjoy Dumplin'!

(Note: According to Amazon, Dumplin' has 384 pages - counts as two books!)

Julie Murphy is third from the left.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Rising Seventh Grade Parent Meeting

Cindi Timmons and the rising seventh grade parents' book club visited the library this morning to discuss summer reading. I organized the books and added QR Codes on as many as possible linking the title to a book trailer or a book talk. These were displayed in the library. Susan Bauman,  MS English Coordinator, shared the reading that the kids will do during the summer and the required reading during the 2015-2016 school year. I shared info regarding Young Adult Literature, Self-selection, and reading levels.

Here's the Animoto I had showing the books on the list:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fifth Grade Research

Last week we started on the FINAL research project of the year. Yippee!!! Our fifth graders are studying Ancient Rome. The students were immersed in basic information in their classrooms by our fifth grade history teachers, Parker Ainsworth and Matthew Giorgio. They selected possible topics deciding on one and then the fun began.

Students learned about search terms, related terms, and wrote their 5 Ws questions about their topic. (This sounds easy. You wouldn't believe how some write questions that have nothing to do with their topics.) Then we discussed plagiarism and Trash and Treasure notetaking strategies. Teaching fifth graders how to find information for their citations is always fun as well. The students use at least one database (reference) article, one book (print), and one web site. We also cover web site evaluation.

The students have been terrific. I thought they'd blow it off at the end of the year, but they've been most attentive and have worked hard on their research.

The final product is a "Museum Artifact" representing their topic, a museum card describing the artifact and a persona piece where they personifiy the artifact. We'll see how that goes.

The 40 Book Challenge

Okay, I did it! I read or listened to 40 books during the 2014-2015 school year! I didn't get all of the genres read, but I did finish!  Some of the books were 350 page or longer and counted as two, but here they are:

Now for summer reading... I've challenged myself to read at least 20 books this summer. So... a new list starts!


I'm so glad that it's finally May! Although with all of the rain and severe weather we've had this year, May is not the joyful month I usually celebrate.

Last week my book club met to discuss The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic
Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown. I was bad and hadn't finished the book. I've been on a new medication (because my insurance company won't cover the meds I've been on for years), and it just wears me out. Whenever I've tried to read, I'm asleep in five minutes. That doesn't bode well for finishing books. Enough of that...

At any rate, The Boys in the Boat was an outstanding read. I didn't know much about rowing. I certainly didn't know that the University of Washington was and still is a powerhouse rowing school. While the reader knows from the beginning that the UW team will win, how they got there is an amazing story. Brown focuses primarily on Joe Rantz, a very unlikely hero. Joe's mother dies when he is very young. When his father later remarries, Joe's stepmother, Thula, takes a dislike to the boy (she really just hates her life), and kicks Joe out of the house. For the most part, Joe raises himself. When he finally gets to college, he goes out for the rowing team. For quite a while, it doesn't look like Joe has much of a chance. But our unlikely hero prevails to not only go to to win an Olympic Gold Medal, but to also graduate from college, marry his sweetheart, and have a productive life.

What Brown does brilliantly is the juxtaposing the Great Depression, Hitler's use of the 1936 Olympics as a propaganda tool, and the story of Joe Rantz, the rowing team, and the University of Washington coaches. The story is reminiscent of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit and Unbroken (both more or less from the same time period in history). Like those two, this is definitely movie-worthy.

Now I want to go to the University of Washington and see the famous shell - the Husky Clipper!

I also finished listening to I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. (Our copy is currently missing. Forgive me for not having the book in hand.) This won the 2015 Printz Award. Usually, I don't particularly like the Printz winner, and I thought I wouldn't like this one either as I first started listening.

The book told in alternating chapters by Jude and Noah, fraternal twins. That's not particularly unique. What is unique is that the chapters don't occur sequentially. Jude is writing at an older age than Noah. Therefore, there's a real-time and flashback quality to the book while maintaining the narrative. Because Noah looks at things as they happen and Jude after they happened and because Noah knows things Jude doesn't, the book is confusing as first. Additionally, there are a number of characters that to the listener meld together for a bit until they become more clear as the narrative progresses.

Jude and Noah both apply to a prestigious art school at their mother's request. When Jude is accepted and the more-talented Noah is not, both have a crisis. Then their mother is killed in a tragic car accident. Both feel responsible for very different reasons.

This beautifully written,  multi-layered book and way too complicated for me to describe. Other can do a much better job than I; however, it is an OUTSTANDING book. I think the Printz committee really got this one right.

Wow! Two really great books at the same time. When does that ever happen?