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!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Advising Today

Also,  bungalows can't dine eloquently. Furthermore, giraffes have igloos and jobs. Kangaroos laminate macaroons, notoriously often, a purposeful quail rages spectacularly in testerone.  Ugly vermin wail "Xavier!" y Zebras¡

Our story doesn't make much sense, but my 9th grade advisees laughed and enjoyed ourselves playing this goofy improv game during advising period today.  Going around the circle, each person adds one word to the story; the word has to be the next one in the alphabet. A, an & the were free, plus short prepositions.

It's snowing right now, on the last day of the last full week of classes for the term. Monday and Tuesday are review days, and finals are Wednesday-Friday.  Then 2+ weeks for the December holiday break.    ¡¡Xavier!!

and Happy Holidays to all.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Junior High Book Club:
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, and a Visit With "Hannah"!

Go Big or Go Home!

A chance meeting with Paideia alumna Bex Taylor-Klaus in September prompted the choice of Julie Murphy's Dumplin' for our November junior high book club choice.  Bex, who moved to Los Angeles in the middle of 11th grade to pursue an acting career, was in town filming the movie version of Dumplin', and had come by campus with her parents to visit.  With that connection, how could we not read the book?? Plus, it's a pretty awesome book. In the movie (which features superstar Jennifer Anniston as a former beauty queen mom), Bex plays Hannah, one of a crew of unlikely small-town Texas beauty pageant contestants.

Willowdean Dickson's mom calls her "Dumplin'."  A plus-size person herself in back in high school, Will's mom made herself over into a Texas teen pageant queen, and simply can't understand how Will is ok with her own generous and curvy body.  Confused by the inexplicable attention of 2 cute boys, and a newly distant best friend, a rebellious Willowdean decides to show them all by entering the annual Bluebonnet Pageant, along with a crew of other "non-traditional" contestants.  Add in a couple of drag queen style coaches and a Dolly Parton soundtrack, and the Miss Teen Bluebonnet Pageant will never be the same.

Don't you just love the cover art?  A confident Diva in a killer red dress.   

Book club members pretty unanimously loved the novel, though we were split on which boy we wished Willowdean had chosen in the end.  We talked briefly about the book, watched the Julie Murphy "fun facts" video, and OF COURSE had to listen to Dolly Parton sing 'Jolene' (read the book to see why; a Dolly performance from The Porter Wagoner Show is embedded below).

But the highlight of today's meeting was a video visit with Bex, who talked about filming the movie (locations & sets in Marietta and Jonesboro), her co-stars, and how a script has to pare down a 9-hour narrative into a 90-minute movie.  Some subplots had to be let go (bummer) and some characters and scenes were reworked or combined to keep the important points, but lessen the complexity.   Bex also explained how prosthetic teeth turned her gorgeous self into an awkward, bucktoothed misfit.  Hard to imagine, but she showed a photo and a video of herself looking a lot more Freddie Mercury in the teeth department.  Wow.  And, Bex says that Dolly Parton wrote an original song to run with the credits.  A whole new generation of Dolly fans is about to be created!

We can't wait til the movie comes out sometime in 2018.  I think a Book Club field trip will be in order.  Stay tuned for details.

Our December book is going to be Will Grayson Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Julie Murphy Fun Facts 

Which one is the Real Dolly Parton??

Dolly Partin sings Jolene

Fan art - Willowdean in her work uniform

Coat of Many Colors

Theme Song and Clips from 9 to 5

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What Elementary Teachers Are Reading

I am a library intern this year and will be making a few guest post throughout the year. - Catherine London

For this blog post I went around the elementary school classroom and took pictures of all the books teachers are reading. You can take a look at what they are reading here. When you are walking around campus you can be sure to take note; they have some pretty interesting choices.

Patrick Dougherty

Becki Veal - Admissions

David Millians
Elizabeth Copeland

José Cordero

Miranda Dillard - Music

JoJo Cadray

Becca McCauley

Kaela Nicholson

Annie Perry

Sanidia Oliver

Emily Austin 

Alessandra Ribeiro

Emily Schreck

Brian Eames

Natalie Bernstein

Diana Lockwood

Kristi Budd

Brooke Marty

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

What Teachers Are Reading in the High School

Anna's note - Robert and Catherine are both doing internships in the library this school year.  Look for more guest posts from them in the near future.

Hello all! For this blog I went around the high school and took pictures of what the teachers are reading. I noticed that some teachers liked fiction, some liked non-fiction, and some weren't reading anything at all. Please read and see what your teachers are reading throughout the high school. This blog also has the subject each teacher is teaching in the caption if you want to compare or just know.

Robert Pickel
Library Intern

Marianne Hines - English and Writing Lab
Brian Meeks - Senior Systems Administrator
Mike Emery - Athletic Director
Stacey Winston - Assistant Coordinator
Brett Hardin - High School Coordinator and Social Studies
Sarah Schiff - English
Gavin Drummond - English
Melissa Mckay-Hagan French and Spanish
Jack Bross - Mathematics
Jack Bross - Mathematics
Rachel Peterson - Dean of Students
Jeanne Lee - Social Studies
Barrington Edwards - Social Studies
Mark Schmitt - Mathematics 
Beth Schild - Mathematics
Ansley Yeomans - Mathematics
Tally Johnson - English
Lindsay Reid - Biology
Magnus Edlund - Biology and Chemistry
Miranda Knowles - Biology
Eddy Hernandez - French and Spanish
Amanda Sautter - Biology
Natalie Rogovin - Social Studies
Jim Veal - English
Joy Lewis-Mendez - Spanish
Joanna Gibson - French
Rosalinda Ratajczak - Math