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Category Archives: Childrens

How far we’ve come

Within three weeks, I read two books that highlighted the achievements of Vivien Thomas, the African American would-be doctor who led the charge to cure “blue babies”: babies that weren’t getting the oxygenated blood they needed. One delivered the content via a picture book format that would work well to be incorporated into a STEM lesson while the second was a shorter narrative nonfiction text that not only focused on Thomas, but Drs. Blalock and Taussig.

In Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks, she focuses on the triumph of Thomas’ work in the face of adversity. The book angered me as much as inspired me because of the obstacles put before Thomas, yet his drive for success pushed him to help when it was unlikely he’d be recognized or accepted. And that was the case for many years.

And it wasn’t until I read Breakthrough!: How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever by Jim Murphy which came out in 2015, that I understood a fuller picture, since Tiny Stitches literally focuses on the man, Breakthrough! focuses on three people. Thomas included, and more about the experiments and elbow grease that exists when perfecting medical procedures, especially when the instruments to perform them didn’t exist.

VivienThomas.jpg

I love to learn, which is why narrative nonfiction has be so enamored over the last five years, and while both gave me a portrait of Thomas, I am humbled to know that medicine will never be the same without his contributions. The long hours, the intelligence, the dedication in the face of discrimination will leave anyone wondering about all of the others that we never hear about (alas, a post for another day– the great nonfiction being published about those that we need to know more about). I advise librarians to be sure you have a copy of both accessible texts for your shelves and science teachers to read them aloud and use chapters in the study of advancements in medicine.

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Posted by on December 9, 2016 in Childrens, Nonfiction, Young Adult

 

Simplicity

simplicity

With our large English as a New Language learners population at our high school as well as the students who are not reading at grade level, our library is a smorgasbord of reading options that include picture books through college-level academic texts and everything in between. And recently I have been enjoying the array of simple graphic, semi-graphic, or textual fiction and nonfiction for a range of reading abilities.

Take the “A Wicked History” series detailing the lives of “wicked” rulers, tyrants, and dictators with a format that makes learning history cool while creating smaller and shorter chapters with pointed information that give perspective to their “wickedness”.

I also enjoyed several of the Scholastic Branches’ series including the Dragon Masters, Owl Diaries, Lotus Lane, Monkey Me, and The Notebook of Doom. With the right amount of character development, setting, story, and illustrations, these series books are not boring or tired, they actually get better.

Likewise, Orca’s graphic adventure series and the Jason Strange by Stone Arch Books are equally engaging, with my new favorite the graphic adventure series that both teaches and entertains.

So whether you’re a high school library looking to diversify reading ability in your texts or a middle school or elementary school making sure you have the right stuff on the shelves, these are all perfect options with a built in audience and quantity that will keep the students coming back for the others. I advise that they be on every bookshelf.

 

 

Six sensational dark tales

Having just finished Mindy McGinnis’ The Female of the Species, I reflected on my love for dark stories. Not horror stories per se with witches, vampires, or zombies, but dark in mood with tragic happenings to characters and their responses to the situations. So, let me highlight six of my favorite.

  1. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis– This one features Alex who knows the “language of violence”. She seeks retribution for the murderer of her sister, men who are sexually preying on her classmates, and ultimately displays little reaction or emotion to avenging these wrongs.
  2. Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick– The master at dark and twisty tales demonstrates his master storytelling with an intelligent tale of human sacrifices all revolving around an island and through time.
  3. Broken Dolls by Tyrolin Puxty– She packs a punch in a short amount of time balancing good and evil with ethics and exploration of what “could be” using literal dolls to… wait, I can’t tell you because that would be a spoiler. A must read for those with imaginations.
  4. Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein by Stephanie Hemphill– This look at the tragic life of Mary Shelley is the combination of beautiful verse and the sadness of losing multiple children combined with her tumultuous relationship with Percy that bred her writing of Frankenstein.
  5. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge– I can’t get the image of Nyx being locked in the room only to discover what was in it. The cruel Ignifix, Beast to her Beauty in this retelling is full of creepy subplots to keep interest.
  6. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann– A collection of fifty poems that poetically “attack the beauty myth” are for mature audiences looking for a fresh but raw perspective of fairy tales.
 
 

Obsession continues

It can only be described as binge reading. In one afternoon, I read through the seven books that I had my hands on in George O’Connor’s Olympians graphic novel series. I’m one short, with Apollo having come out in January, yet it’s not in our collection yet (oh, it will be). The next one scheduled is for 2017.

In order, the series showcases thus far2016-08-03 13.44.44

  1. Zeus: King of the Gods (2010)
  2. Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess (2010)
  3. Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory (2011)
  4. Hades: Lord of the Dead (2012)
  5. Poseidon: Earth Shaker (2013)
  6. Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (2014)
  7. Ares: Bringer of War (2015)

But, because O’Connor is dynamic, the books focus on the central figure while introducing readers to others, both god and mortal along with the world in which they inhabit or fight for. The stories are concise and focused with beautiful images, simple text, and a story arch. But as an adult reader and high school librarian, I find the additional information after the story to rival the actual graphic novel. There are profiles of some of the main characters that could literally be posters hung on a wall (hint, hint :01 First Second). Then there are “Geek notes” that add the R above “geek” for a dash of humor, additional resources, discussion questions, and if that wasn’t enough, an author note which allows a glimpse into O’Connor’s world: his favorite gods and goddesses, the writing and illustrating process, and embarking on this monumental task. It’s a lesson in passion and perseverance. He serves the middle grade/YA reader along with the librarians and teachers who could use his content. As a package, it shows his mission is not to simply tell a good story, but to serve a larger purpose and that’s to educate kids about these mythical people and creatures with respect and research.

Memorable character: Without having read Apollo yet, the most memorable character was Persephone, highlighted in Hades’ story. Her transformation is like any teenager who fights with her mother and tries on many identities until she comes into her own. Having been whisked away by dark horses to the underworld, her reluctance is turned into acceptance as she creates an image and a name for herself (literally as her name was Kore until she named herself Persephone) as Hades’s wife. I’m also a fan of Demeter’s story in mythology anyway, so knowing that the focus of Hades’ story is almost about everyone else except him demonstrates that most do not know Hades because he chooses to remain elusive. He seems to prefer to be misunderstood.

Memorable scene: Like the Robert Frost poem in which “two roads diverged in a yellow wood”, Heracles had a decision to make, take the harder and more dangerous path with a woman waiting cloaked in darkness or the easier one with a beautiful woman standing bathed in sunlight. Heracles chose the darker path, on a road to become a god, but having to complete twelve labors before coming close enough. The language and imagery was among my most memorable thus far.

Memorable quote: In Aphrodite’s story, she brings to life Pygmalion’s statue named Galatea whom he created in Aphrodite’s likeness but who fell in love with his ivory statue and instead of offering it to her at her temple, asked that she may live. And Aphrodite willed it and attended his wedding to Galatea where she was cloaked. When he stopped at her feet with his new wife, Galatea felt compelled to thank her and her reply was “There is nothing to thank me for. Love like your husband has is love that must be shared. Be happy together. You were made for each other.” Oh how true that was!

I advise that everyone include this series on their shelves, whether it’s in mythology or graphic novels. It should make a rotation on end caps, in booklists, and book trailers. I’m glad I came to the party a bit late on these ones as I don’t think I could have waited each year for a new one to come out (like I’ll have to for the last ones in the series), but good things come to those who wait.

 

Six sensational books I enjoyed… because they’re similar to others I’ve enjoyed

How’s that for a mouthful of a title? Recently I’ve been on a tear reading both in traditional and e-book formats digesting as much as I can while enjoying the summer sun, the pool, the quiet of everyone else being in bed. And of course with the pace at which I read, it’s inevitable that I’d compare books to each other. So here are a few recent reads that I enjoyed in part due to their similarity to others (that you should also read if you haven’t). 26LettersArranged

  1. The Girls by Cline similar to an all-time favorite of mine The Virgin Suicides by Eugenides
    • The almost indifferent narration of Evie’s life with “the girls” on a cult compound conjuring the Manson family is eerily similar to the Lisbon sisters. Both also include an opportunity for readers to step off the pedal of emotion: in The Girls, Evie’s time with the girls are flashbacks while the present life she leads is reflected off of a stoned son of a former boyfriend and his girlfriend while the neighborhood boys look on from the Lisbon household drawing conclusions about them based on what they see.
    • Memorable character: There’s a reason I named my first dog Lux because I wanted to be reminded of the most memorable sister (for me) of the Lisbon girls. The one that was the most daring, she wanted with a passion.
  2. Every Falling Star by Lee similar to A Long Way Gone by Beah
    • I just posted about Lee’s book and it’s similarities to the narrative of a boy soldier from Sudan as first-person stories about their trials in working toward freedom, though Every Falling Star is a rarer look as he’s defected from North Korea.
  3. Last Seen Leaving by Roehrig similar to Wink Poppy Midnight by Tucholke 
    • There’s a glut of self-discovery that happens in both. Flynn is confused about his newly ex-girlfriend’s disappearance as much as Midnight is confused about Poppy’s actions especially when Midnight’s attentions turned to Wink. Everyone needs to admit things they don’t want to admit about themselves and others and this is hard. This struggle is tangible in both stories where the characters are the sole focus and the mysteries that surround them are secondary. A lovely look at human behavior.
  4. Lucky Penny by Hirsh similar to the Lumberjanes series by an array of authors including Stevenson
    • There’s so much girl empowerment in both. Penny’s luck has run out and she’s been fired from her job and lost her apartment, but resourceful Penny moves into her friend’s storage unit, lands a laundromat gig, and falls in love with the boy at the gym where she needs a cheap (or free) membership to shower.This is all helped along by powerfully graphic images as with the girls from the camp for hardcore lady types.  Penny is willing to kick butt too when she needs, along with a vivid imagination and a sense of humor.
    • Memorable Scene: When Penny is standing in her hamburger underwear doing her wash at the laundromat where she works when her young boss walks in.
  5. Bubonic Panic When Plague Invaded America by Jarrow similar to her first in the series Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed the Way We Eat 
    • Informational texts like these making learning science so accessible, but it also makes us appreciate how far science has come and makes us wonder what the future holds, too. There’s a systematic approach to her stories that showcase the advancement of medicine through the tribulations of disease (at times annihilating whole villages and half of a city’s population). But it’s the slow and measured way that scientists explore and test their theories that always provides the breakthrough.
    • Memorable quote: Spoken by the Frenchman Alexandre Yersin in the 1880s, “To ask for money for treating the sick is a bit like telling them, ‘Your money or your life,” which is why he stuck to working in a lab rather than taking on a private practice.
  6. Awkward by Chmakova similar to Drama by Telgemeier
    • Another pair of graphic novels, the innocence of middle school and figuring out where you fit it is hard business. Both deal with being members of clubs, too. The battle rages in Awkward between the art club and science club while Callie is a member of the drama club in Telgemeier’s story. Both artfully demonstrate the crazy world of middle school from weird teachers and those that drink the tears of students to those who are discovering their sexuality, interests, and abilities. We all remember those days.
 

A sight to see

After finishing up a long holiday weekend where the biggest spectacle is beautifully-colored fireworks with the right amount of boom and pace to inspire awe that’s the thought I had when I finished The Stonekeeper, the Amulet series’ first book by Kazu Kibuishi. No2016-06-29 19.36.46t only will I continue to ride this adventure wave of a series, I look forward to the stunning visuals that Kibuishi provides. It’s a true visual treat and I’m not one to slow down to engage with the pages as much as I probably should, yet I did with this one.

Memorable character: I’m going to throw out to you that my favorite character isn’t actually the kids or fun robotic characters or Miskit, it’s actually Emily and Navin’s mom. The woman loses her husband, then with moans and groans from her kids, realizes that the best place to bring her kids is an old family home both to save money and I’m sure to find something to hold on to. I loved her can-do attitude in getting out the pails and Pine-sol to spruce up the creaky place and her willingness, always, to protect her kids, even when she’s gobbled up by a blob. No wonder her kids are so eager to save her because I certainly know a few kids who’d look the other way and continue on their adventure.

Memorable Scene: When the house moves! How gorgeous a visual even with little to no color in the scene, but this is exactly the type of creativity and adventure that makes this series worth investing in. Even the previous scenes when Miskit, disguised as a boatman, ferries the kids across the water are luscious and rich. Mmmmm!

I can’t wait to put the rest of the series on my TBR pile and be sure to order enough copies to handout like it’s my job. Oh wait, it is my job!

 

 

Hollow out time for Wolf Hollow

WolfHollowThere’s something about reading a beautifully-crafted and lyrical children’s book that instantly reminds you of the classics like Charlotte’s Web, Tuck EverlastingPeter Pan, and James and the Giant Peach.  Lauren Wolk’s Wolf Hollow will become a contemporary classic if I have any say.

Annabelle has tried to befriend Betty, a new girl living with her grandparents in their Pennsylvania town, but it’s difficult. Betty wants Annabelle to bring her things or she’ll beat her. And Betty does in addition to terrorizing a friend of Annabelle’s and a younger brother. But the absolute worst occurs when Betty begins blaming an innocent military veteran who lives on the outskirts of town. And mild hysteria comparative to a witch hunt ensues. Yet Annabelle knows the truth and is able to spend time with Toby, the veteran and neighbor, hearing stories about his life so moving that Annabelle’s confession to readers is that “I held very still and waited, trying not to hear it all, hoping, even at just eleven, almost twelve, that I would never have sons of my own.”

Tragedy is at the very root of the book in powerful scenes that transcend readership and touch on society’s reactions to marginalized individuals, but also what the power of kindness can do to overcome these baseless conclusions.

It should be on everyone’s reading list from children that is the intended audience to adults since they can connect instantly with Annabelle’s upbringing and Toby’s post traumatic stress. Yet one of the best elements is its resolution: messy, aggressive, powerful, and for most readers unsatisfactory in that while there is some hope, a lot was lost in the process. This ending is my kind of ending.