Monday, February 25, 2008

Architectural Doghouses in the Library!

Every spring, each student in M & D's eight-&-nine year-old class chooses an architect to research. The final project includes a research notebook, a display board, and a doghouse designed in the style of the chosen artist. The best part is that the library gets to display the projects for several weeks!

This year the Paideia Library has the following architects "in the doghouse." Come see them all!

Mies van der Rohe
Julia Morgan
I.M. Pei
Philip Johnson
Kevin Roche
Richard Neutra
Antonio Gaudi
Arata Isozaki
Zaha Hadid
Aldo Rossi
Kenzo Tange
Leila Ross Wilburn
Christian de Port Zampare

Luis Barragan
Richard Meier
J. Neel Reid
Renzo Piano
Le Corbusier
Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron
Sir Norman Foster
Mario Botta
Frank Lloyd Wright
Hans Hollein
Santiago Calatrava

Monday, February 18, 2008

Python Picks Podcast #1:
Servant of the Shard

Last school year, we tried to launch a series of podcast booktalks. I made a few, and managed to recruit one student (an actor, dancer, martial arts student and all-around brave soul) to create a few others. It was a fun learning experience, but hasn't quite taken flight. I hate for all that hard work to be forgotten, so I've figured out how to embed the files into this site for others to hear.

Click the "play" arrow on the controls above to listen to the premiere student-created Python Pick, Servant of the Shard, a fantasy epic by R. A. Salvatore. Comments and feedback would be fantastic!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tutorial: How to Post a Book Review

This is my first attempt at creating a tutorial for the cool features on our Surpass WebSafari catalog. It's related to the Book A Month Challenge I'm featuring in the library this year (more on that later). The video's a bit rough, but it's a start. Play it and let me know how it works for you.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Non-Fiction Monday:
Grief Girl: My True Story

Last night Dad told me they were crossing the road to go to a fruit stand when a speeding tow truck came out of nowhere and hit them.

Australian teen Erin Vincent was fourteen when she was half-orphaned on October 23, 1983. Only half on that day; her father survived the accident but suddenly died exactly one month later, never having left the hospital.

The three Vincent children, 18-year-old Tracy, 3-year-old Trent, and Erin, along with Tracy's boyfriend Chris, work to keep what remains of their family together. They are supported by a few neighborhood friends, but abandoned by many more. Tracy shoulders the parental role, Trent's the child, and Erin is somewhere in the middle. Tension and resentment builds between the sisters, their mother's parents (an altogether unpleasant couple) initiate a battle for custody of Trent, and their favorite uncle turns out be robbing the trust fund. As you can tell, Grief Girl is no rosy "how we bounced back" story. It's real.

Written in the present tense, there's a raw immediacy to the story that puts the reader inside Erin Vincent's life, and it's not a happy place to be. She's sure the accident is her fault, for thinking about it during angry times. There is virtually no emotional support for Erin, much of what is offered, she rejects as insincere, and what she finds, institutional powers try to forbid. For close to three years, Erin to bounces around inside her grief -- she's angry and sarcastic, she's disconnected, she pushes people away, and she's then alone, longing for connection. "I wish I could talk to someone who's been through it, someone who 'gets it.'" The writing is honest, she doesn't gloss over parental flaws -- her mom favored Tracy, and her dad sometimes had been physically abusive.

I'm not sure whether it's under-identification, or over-"getting it," but I finished the book feeling only so-so. This doesn't mean I don't recommend it. I do -- it's a real and powerful story, and everything that Erin went through speaks to the universal desire to connect, to be known and accepted. Erin's longing to find someone who "gets it" also expresses a need to find someone who "gets her." Everyone, in good times and bad, can identify with that.

- the
first chapter of Grief Girl at HarperCollins

- Erin talks about why she wrote Grief Girl & reads an excerpt
- biography, documentary, performance art, homage: a book trailer by Erin's husband Adam Knott

Grief Girl: My True Story was a 2008 Nominee for ALA's Best Books for Young Adults

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Author Visit a Big Success!

Last Thursday, January 31, the Paideia Library brought Young Adult author Alan Gratz to school for a day of teaching and discussing his path to becoming a successful YA writer. He had a fully packed day, meeting with 4 high school and junior high classes, and again with aspiring high school writers during lunch.

The day started with an all-male high school literature class, where Alan discussed writing the father-son relationship, and the all-male world of Samurai Shortstop. The discussion was really rolling when the period ended; they could have gone on for much longer.

In two junior high lit classes, Alan’s “author talk” discussed his life as a writer, including two rejected early novels, a stint as a scriptwriter for a true-crime TV series, and how he developed from a guy who hated research into one who has written meticulously researched, outlined and revised historical fiction. Alan showed a photograph of a man in traditional kimono and sandals, throwing out the first pitch in the 1915 Japanese high school baseball championships. It captured his imagination, and Samurai Shortstop became the story of the people in the photo.

In another JH class, Alan led a writing workshop in which students created the story of a photograph -- who's in the picture? where are they? why are they there? -- an idea that the teachers have turned into an autobiography writing exercise, using students’ own family pictures.

This was the first time I’ve planned and coordinated an author visit, and it was as stress-free as an author visit could possibly be. I hope they’ll all be as successful -- for the students, teachers, author and your friendly librarian.