Wednesday, January 16, 2019

January Book Club:
The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

January's Junior High book club choice was the historical fiction novel The Girl in the Blue Coat  by Monica Hesse, a missing persons mystery set in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in 1943.  This was a change from the recent couple of book choices (Geekerella and Let It Snow), which had strong "romance" storylines, and everyone loved it! 

The main character, Hanneke, hates the Nazis for taking over her country, and for the death of her sailer boyfriend.  She's smart, brave and daring, but focuses on protecting and supporting her disabled father and out-of-work mother through a regular job and another on the side procuring and delivering black market goods.  Hanneke doesn't want to know too much about her Jewish neighbors' disappearances; "there's nothing I can do about it," she thinks.   When one of her best customers asks Hanneke to use her procurement skills to find a missing Jewish girl, a series of events brings her close to young people in the Dutch Resistance, and the truth of the Jewish transports.  Hanneke realizes there is something she can do, and throws herself single-mindedly into saving this one girl.  Nothing in the war is as it seems, and among the many many things that Hanneke sees and misunderstands is herself.

I love investigating the history in historical fiction, and put together the information below to create context for our discussions.

Our next few books are: February, The Adoration of Jenna Fox; March, Five Feet Apart; and April, Girls Made of Snow and Glass.

Dutch words

Hanneke - main character (pronounciation)

Mirjam - the missing girl (pronounciation)

gracht - canal

plein - square

Het Parool - The Watchword (underground newspaper of the Resistance)

Map of Amsterdam

Het Rembrandtplein - Rembrandt Square

Jewish Lyceum (where Mirjam, Amalia, and real-life Anne Frank attended school)

Joods Lyceum today (Google Streetview)

Joodse Ster ("Jewish Star") - the Dutch Star of David badge

Related image

Schouwburg theatre during WWII (where Jews were detained before being transported to the camps)
Image result for schouwburg amsterdam wwii

Street where Ollie & Willem live (in the University of Amsterdam area)

Hollandsche Schouwburg today, as a museum and Jewish cultural center

Hollandsche Schouwburg exterieur. Foto Marijke Volkers

Walking route from Schouwburg toward the transport trains in the Eastern Docklands.
The plan is to help Mirjam escape the prisoner group before they reach the Muidergracht bridge.

Plantage Middenlaan - Google Streetview

Anne Frank House - 263 Prinzengracht, Amsterdam (Google streetview)

Plantage Middenlaan over Muidergracht Bridge

Image result for muidergracht bridge amsterdam

Opklapbed - folding bed (like a "murphy bed" in English)

Image result for dutch antique murphy bed

Amsterdam to Kijkduin

Friday, November 16, 2018

Thankful for New Books!

Yikes!  We're almost to Thanksgiving without a single blog update.  Yes, things have been happening in the Big Kids' Library, but I'm not as good about keeping up here. 

One of the biggest events of the Library year happens in the fall -- the Library Book Sale held on Grandparents and Special Friends Day, and then again at the Fall BBQ the following day.  This is an exciting event for many reasons.  We (the librarians) get to select a huge number of the most awesome new books, we get to display them to the whole school plus a number of wonderful visitors and we get to talk about our collections and why we chose the displayed books.  And then, members of the community get to show their support for our library programs by donating to the library the price of books they select.   We created personalized bookplates for all donated books, and "honorees" get first dibs for two weeks.

Elementary librarian Natalie Bernstein and I spend a large amount of time selecting books that not only support teacher curricula and student learning needs, but that will speak to the diversity of our world and of the human experience, making sure our community has access to reading that will help their hearts as well as their minds to grow. 

From a new non-fiction work on the Vietnam War, or the latest YA fantasy novel, to a gender studies handbook or the new Black Panther comic, we're proud of our collections and love this annual opportunity to show them off.

Below is just a sampling of the new books joining the Junior High and High School library collection this fall.  I hope you're as pleased as I am.


(links go to book descriptions in Goodreads)
All the JH & HS Book Sale books
on display in the library.


Race and Gender Studies
Anderson, Carol and Tonya Bolden.  We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide  (Young Readers adaptation of White Rage)
Mathison, Ymitri, ed. Growing Up Asian American in Young Adult Fiction. (scholarly criticism)


Fiction (grownup and YA)
Acevedo, Elizabeth. The Poet X.  (YA) (2018 National Book Award, young reader)
Jackson, Joshilyn. The Almost Sisters.
Chakraborty, S. A. The City of Brass.
Dray, Stephanie & Laura Kamoie. My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton.
Hughes, Dean. Four-Four-Two. (YA)
Ness, Patrick.  And the Ocean Was Our Sky.  (Moby Dick according to the whales; illustrated)
Owens, Delia. Where the Crawdads Sing.
Quigley, Dawn.  Apple in the Middle (YA)


Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Even Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.  Katharine Wilkinson (Paideia '01), Senior Writer.
Redding, Anna Crowley.  Google It: A History of Google.
Partridge, Elizabeth.  Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam. (YA)
Stewart, Jefrey C.  The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke (2018 National Book Award)


Graphic Novels
Anderson, Laurie Halse.  Speak: The Graphic Novel. (new edition of the 1999 classic YA novel of the aftermath of a high school sexual assault)


En Español
Green, John.  Mil Veces Hasta Siempre (YA, translation of Turtles All the Way Down)
Shetterly, Margot Lee. Talentos Ocultos (translation of Hidden Figures)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. El Libro de la Alegría (translation of The Book of Joy)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Picture Books They Wish They'd Had

On display in the library in March, national Women's History Month.  Some clearly labors of love, all heartfelt, about being different or not fitting in, about being pre-judged and your abilities not being taken seriously, about finding out who you are and where you belong.

Isn't that how many creative works are born?  To fill an unmet wish or need of its creator?

I think I would have liked a picture book version of Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, or one called The Girl Who Hated Group Work. I never really identified with Ferdinand the Bull!

What picture book do you wish had been there for you when you were little?

Friday, March 23, 2018

Alumni & Parents -- Do You Read Ebooks??

Dear Paideia Alumni & Parents,

I'd love your input as I decide on how to go forward with Paideia's ebook offerings.  In the comments section below, or by directly emailing me at, would you help me out by answering these questions?

  1.  do you read digital ebooks (or listen to downloadable audiobooks?)?
  2.  if yes, do you usually borrow or buy?
  3. have you ever borrowed ebooks or audiobooks from Paideia's Axis360 collection?
  4.  do you ever borrow ebooks & audiobooks from your public or university library collection?
  5.  do you know what platform your public library uses? (often it's Overdrive/Libby, but there are others. Currently Paideia uses one called Axis 360.)

Here's why I'm asking

Whether and how the Paideia Library offers digital reading are questions we've wrestled with for years, first with the idea of e-reader devices to check out (in February 2011 -- we never really went there), then with the idea of building a downloadable digital collection, (October 2011 and May 2012) and what the collecting policy should be. Five years ago, we made the leap and launched Paideia's digital collection via Axis360, a platform now part of the Follett Library company.

Right now, Paideia's Axis360 digital collection has just over 500 titles, mostly fiction, almost entirely text ebooks and at the grade 7-12 level.  The guiding policy is to purchase ebooks meant for pleasure reading (as opposed to ones that would be used for research projects, such as Salem Witch Trials, or racial profiling).  There are other variables, imposed by publishing companies, that also influence what goes into our Axis360 collection.  Ebooks (even your Kindle and Audible purchases) aren't actually sold, they're licensed, meaning you are buying permission to use it, without all the rights of ownership (like reselling, or giving it away).   Some publishers only allow 26 checkouts per license, after which a library has to pay for the book all over again. Even worse, other publishers only license a book for 12 or 24 months, whether or not the book is ever checked out in that time!  And then some books are just not even available for the school library collection, period.

Zoom!  Five years later, it's time to re-assess.  Axis360 use is growing, but there are so many new books out that we don't have in that collection.  We haven't added much elementary-level material to the collection at all. Even though there is plenty of information showing that the first wave of enthusiasm for digital reading has lessened, and that readership of print books is rising, we can't just drop the ebooks altogether.  It's 2018, and digital is here to stay.

The thing I love most about offering digital book and audiobook lending from the Paideia Library is that it's 24/7/365!  We do our best to keep families supplied with a generous summer checkout program, but there are still going to be times when there's nothing to read and school is is closed.  Sigh.

Ownership is out, subscriptions are in (think Amazon KindleUnlimited, Spotify, Netflix).  OverDrive, still the largest, most well-known ebook borrowing platform, offers a subscription collection with over 10,000 titles available to our regional independent school membership group.   It's 4 times the annual cost, but 20 times the content, including elementary-appropriate books and audiobooks, and a bunch more stuff (that we may or may not want. We'll see.).

Would more people use Paideia's ebook collection through OverDrive?

If we had more titles available AND used the same app as the local public library systems, would it be more convenient and attractive for Paideia readers?  (ps -- take advantage of your tax dollars; use your public library often!!).  Would a more seamless process for students, staff and families who borrow from their libraries make it easier for the same folks to use Paideia's ebooks?

I think we're going to do it, at least as a test, but before I sign on the line, I'd really like to hear from adult members of the Paideia community about your ebook and audiobook use.  Parents in particular, because you can borrow from our libraries just like your kids can (take advantage of your tuition dollars; borrow from the Paideia Library!!).

Email me at, or leave a comment below to help me offer the best digital reading options for our community.  Thanks!!

Friday, March 9, 2018

January Book Club Update:
Scythe and When She Woke

The semester is well underway, and so are Book Clubs.  Both clubs (junior high and high school) have met twice in 2018, with really great meetings.  I LOVE this part of my job.  OK, so it's a fantastic job and I love most of it, but book clubs are super rewarding, and fun too.

High school book club is teeny tiny this year (3 stalwart members, with a couple more who sometimes come), but we're picking up steam.  We generally meet on Friday afternoons, when fewer clubs and activities are competing for time, and in January we met the first Friday after coming back from the holiday break.  Our book for January was When She Woke, a future-dystopian riff on The Scarlet Letter.  It's the second novel by author Hillary Jordan, whose first novel, Mudbound, is the basis for this year's Oscar-nominated film.

I contacted Hillary in December (we were in the same year at college) and she generously agreed to Skype with us at the January meeting.  Book club members, plus Caroline and Kristi from Admissions, and English teacher Marianne Hines, had a great 30+ minute conversation with Hillary on a snowy (in New York) Friday afternoon.  My favorite answer was to a comment that the last part of the novel seemed to wrap up quickly without a lot of development.  Hillary said that by that point, she'd said what she wanted to say, her characters had learned what they were going to learn, and she was basically ready for it to be done!  I love that, because not only does it remind me that accomplished authors are real human beings, but that they are creators with the power to choose and build their stories however they want.  And that's how it's supposed to be.

When asked if a movie version was in the works, she said of course, that's always a hope, and that it's been under option a couple of times.  Her vision of a TV series caught my imagination.  The story of Hannah, Aidan Dale and the "red" crimes is complete and ready to go, but a future world where the convicted criminal is punished, not by incarceration but by a genetically-induced identifying skin color (red for murder, yellow for misdemeanors, blue for violent crime) and released into society, promises any number of riveting multi-part stories.  HBO, Netflix, Amazon Video,  are you listening????

Junior High Book Club's January discussion of Neal Shusterman's new series starter, Scythewas fabulous!  Sometimes, there's just not that much substance to talk about, even if everyone actually enjoyed the book, but Scythe was not one of those.  In fact, the whole group loved it AND we talked about it for the entire 60+ minutes of the meeting!

Scythe explores many of the same basic if/then ideas as Shusterman's earlier Unwind dystology -- if society evolves and advances in a certain direction, then what happens??  In Unwind, the resolution of a war between anti-abortion and pro-choice factions is the absolute banning of all abortions, BUT, if a child isn't working out for the parents by age 12, they can release her/him to a government Harvest Camp for "unwinding" (being separated into constituent donor parts for transplant procedures).  So sanitary, so thoughtful, so gruesome in its reality.  Death and government and ethics, all in one fast-moving page turner!  Unwind has been a lit book and a Reading Bowl book in the junior high for several years.

Scythe begins with a different if/then proposal. IF advances in technology have made death irrelevant (complete revival is possible even for the "deadish," and turning the clock back on physical age is always an option), THEN how does society make room for the newly born?  In a nod to The Giver,  a revered and feared select group, a kind of priesthood of ordained Grim Reapers, carries this responsibility for society.  In an ideal world, the best person for this job is the person who least wants to do it, but a small and growing faction of new-order Scythes believes there's no harm in enjoying "gleaning," and in meeting their quotas in increasingly flashy and bloody incidents. Two teen-aged Apprentice Scythes are caught on either side of this dangerous political and philosophical rift.

Sanctioned assassins, a perfect virtual government, immmortality, and the ethics of life and death.  Big ideas for 12 & 13 year olds.  One student said that when she told her dad about this book club choice, his response was "I think my daughter is reading the wrong book!"  I'm pretty sure it was the right book, though, because the conversation and the questions were thoughtful, deep and numerous.

  • Imagine the power and responsibility a Scythe would have.  
  • How does this book resemble The Giver? (a few have to carry an unpleasant burden for the many)
  • If living forever means you get so bored, you make yourself "deadish" for fun, who would want to live forever? (the Tucks certainly weren't crazy about it in Tuck Everlasting)
  • Is it right or wrong to enjoy your work, if your ordained work is killing?
  • The Thunderhead is just "the cloud" super-advanced. Who's got stuff in the Cloud? (Google Drive, Amazon Music, Instagram, email?) Think about that!
In February, Junior High book club read Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski (after a routine flu shot, everyone in a 10th grade homeroom can hear other people's thoughts).  High School book club read a fascinating memoir, Thirty Days With My Father, by Christal Presley, a former Grady High School teacher, and Skyped with the author during the meeting. More on that later.

Coming up in March - 

What have you read lately?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

January Update:
Baby It's Cold Outside! (but you knew that already)

Believe it or not, I've been occupied this short term co-teaching the Hip Hop Evolution class with a fine young rapper (and senior), Young Judo (aka Isaiah M). Yes, an old librarian CAN learn a new trick, and it's been pretty cool. I mostly get to expound on the political and social environments of each decade since the birth of Hip Hop in the 1970s, and also be the grownup in the room.  Since I was more on the new wave/punk/electro side of things in the 1980s, it's been fascinating to learn the parallels (and crossovers) of this musical expression that developed at the same time in African American & Hispanic communities. I heard Kraftwerk not long after Afrika Bambaataa did, but unlike me, he was smart and creative and imaginative, and sampled it into Planet Rock.  The Netflix documentary Hip Hop Evolution (clip with Grandmaster Flash here) is essential viewing, and I've also really enjoyed The Get Down (also on Netflix, a short YouTube feature with Flash is here).

I've certainly learned a TON in the past couple of weeks, with another ton (and two weeks) to go. I never did get a rapper name, though. Maybe Grandmaster Books? Suggestions welcome.

 So in the meantime, here are a couple of new developments to throw out there for you. The trailer for Love, Simon (the movie version of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda) was released today, and Holy Cow, it works! The characters are right enough, the look is right enough. So far, I'm happy. I think it's almost possible to hold one's breath until the March theatre release (but I probably won't).


Electric Dreams
Something else I just learned today, related to my robotics post from December, is that Amazon Prime Video has just released a 10-part series inspired by the world of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Will it be any good?  Trailer below, but you'll have to have Prime to see for yourself.

2018 is chockablock with YA book-to-movie releases.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Holy Threep, Batman!: Robots in the Library

I LOVE the Open Culture website.  The curators round up the most amazing and interesting news, articles and videos on all kinds of freely available educational and cultural information on the web, from math to art to language learning.  If you have brain cells that are even the slightest bit curious, check it out. I guarantee there will be something that grabs your interest.

Check out Atlas 
doing a back flip 
in the video 
embedded at the 
bottom of this post!
But the video from this Open Culture post, of Atlas the Robot executing some gymnastic moves, made my jaw drop.  I mean, robots are cool and all, but they're not quite like people, right?  This robot looks so human in its motions (down to the shaky legs), it's kind of scary. Like there really might be a sentient being in there somewhere.  If you watch any of the videos that follow this one on YouTube, it just gets more and more mind-blowing.  I love technology, but refuse to have Internet in my car.  You know, in case HAL 9000 or WOPR takes over and wants to drive my Forester somewhere I don't want to go.

All this made me investigate robots, androids and artificial intelligence in our fiction collection.  If you're intrigued, check out any of these novels for a look into the possibilities of electronic intelligences in the not-too-distant future.

Robopocalypse by  Daniel H. Wilson (ebook also available)  -- An oral history of the robot war.  The novel has many different kinds of robots and cyborgs (including a highly sentient Japanese android), plus, of course, Archos, a massively powerful Artificial Intelligence gone rogue.  There's a just-as-good sequel, Robogenesis.

The amazing and prolific writer Isaac Asimov invented the word "robotics," and Three Laws of Robotics.  The Laws were introduced in a short story, "Runaround," included in two different Asimov story collections, The Complete Robot and I, Robot.  The Will Smith movie I, Robot, includes elements from both the short stories and from The Caves of Steel, the first of Asimov's three futuristic mystery novels featuring NYC detective Elijah Baley and his robot/android partner R. Daneel Olivaw.

How about Blade Runner's written origins, Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Set in a not-too-distant 2021 (the year my daughter graduates from college), humanishly-intelligent androids are are SO good it's hard to tell them from the biological people.   Is there a meaningful difference? What does it mean to be human?

John Scalzi's Lock In is a very different riff on intelligent robotic humanoids.  In the aftermath of a world-wide viral epidemic, 1% of recovered victims are awake and aware, but completely unable to move or respond to anything, a condition known as "lock in."  Neuro-implants allow "Hadens" (as they're called), trapped in their biological bodies, to interact in society by linking their minds with robotic bodies called Threeps (after C-3PO from Star Wars).  Fully human in thought and emotion,  a Haden in a Threep still isn't quite human (they can't taste food, or fall asleep), but isn't quite android either.  In a recurring comic theme, main character Chris the FBI agent destroys Threeps the way Starsky & Hutch crashed cars -- and always gets a new one for the next outing.

And finally, if you're more of a fantasy than a sci-fi reader, try Marissa Meyers' fairy tale Space Opera series, The Lunar Chronicles.  The title character of the first entry, Cinder, is the opposite of a Haden in a Threep -- yep, she's a Cyborg (but a good one).   Instead of a human mind in a robotic body, the robotic parts have been incorporated into Cinder's remaining human body.  Miraculously saved from a deadly fire as a toddler, 36.28% of Cinder's body (including a leg, a hand, and much of her neural network) is cybernetic.  She has a control panel, visual and audio scanners, and access to a data network.  The 63.72% human part of Cinder, however, loves one of her stepsisters, dislikes the other one as well as her unloving, cruel and greedy stepmother, and falls for Prince Kai, who stops into her electronics repair stall in the market one day to get his personal assistant robot fixed.  That's the fairy tale part.  Add a programmer trapped in an orbiting satellite; an evil, beautiful ruler from the moon, Queen Levana, who's scheming to become an Earthen Empress; and impending war between Earth and the Lunars, and you've got your Space Opera.   Each Lunar Chronicle entry riffs on a different European fairy tale, placed in an East Asian or Medieval French-inspired setting.  See if you can guess which one is which!  Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, and Winter.


As I was finishing up this list, I saw this Time Special Edition on my grocery store newsstand.  Wow.

If your reader is younger, the elementary library has some wonderful chapter books and graphic novels for the grade school reader.  Look for:

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (wonderful for all ages)
- when Roz the robot is shipwrecked, she must learn survival skills from the wild animals on the remote island

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series by Dav Pilkey
- a small mouse and his giant flying robot save the world on a regular basis

The Robobots by Matt Novak (a picture book)
- it takes a while for the neighbors to get used to the new robotic family on Littlewood Lane

Little Robot by Ben Hatke  (graphic novel)
- when a little brown-skinned girl discovers a robot that looks like a trash can, she finds a friend worth protecting.

Happy Holidays!