Saturday, September 28, 2013

fREADom to Read in the Junior High

In recognition of national Banned Books Week, fabulous junior high teacher Sydney Cleland organized and MCed a great community time program on Friday morning.   With an introduction on the recent history of challenged and banned books (ALA has a great timeline called "30 Years of Liberating Literature"), we talked about the difference between a book 'challenge' and a book actually being 'banned' (Banned Books just sounds so much better, but it's not nearly as common as the number of annual challenges), how librarians and libraries have a professional responsibility to protect their patrons' First Amendment right to free speech, and how 'even at Paideia!" we have a policy and a procedure to follow in case somebody challenges a book one of our libraries (yes, Virginia, it happens even at Paideia).

The stars of the show, though, were members of the junior high debate team (coached by Greg and Uri).  Pairs of debaters argued for and against book banning in general, and then for and against specific, often-challenged books, including the Harry Potter series, To Kill a Mockingbird and Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. 

You can't see it very well in the photo, but the caption is


At the end of the program, I handed out bookmarks.

Want to read a banned book??  There are so many to choose from  in the Paideia Library.  Be a rebel -- read a banned book! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reading Club Kicks Off New Year

An ancient society meets Google
in the quest for immortality.
As announced in Monday Morning Meeting today, the high school reading club will meet for the first time this school year on Friday, October 11.  We chose Friday because a) nobody has to run right home to do homework for the next day, and b) it's the least likely day for a team practice.

We're reading the highly lauded Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, an Alex Award winner, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction, and a Best Book of the Year by several major media outlets, including NPR (review here).

The novel is available in paperback & ebook versions, the Paideia Library owns  hardback, book-on-CD and downloadable audiobook copies, and we'll also have a few extra paperbacks to loan.

After school (probably 3:15 pm), Friday, October 11, in the 'old elementary library.'  There will be snacks!

E-mail or come see me in the library, or talk to Clare U. (10th grade) or Julia C. (9th grade) for more info.  See you there.

Have you read it already? What did you think??

Friday, September 20, 2013

The 'New and Improved' National Book Awards

Dang!  There's nothing better than an awards shortlist to make a librarian feel out of touch.  As news reports have noted, the National Book Awards have revamped their announcement process to be like more high profile awards, like Britain's Booker Prize, and released a 'long list' of Young People's Literature nominees on Monday (to be followed by a 'short list' in a couple of months, and the winner in late winter).  This rationed approach has already had its desired effect on at least one person (me), because I've just become aware of four YA titles I'd never heard of before. 

About half of the titles on the longlist seem to be for a middle and upper-elementary readers, while half feel more like "Young Adult" (ages 12-18-ish) .  I'm looking forward to reading the five YA titles, promoting them to students, and hoping one of them becomes the 2013 National Book Award winner.

So here's the complete longlist for 2013 "Young People's Literature" (with my annotations):

Kathi Appelt. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp.    
   By a Newbery honoree, and it sounds intriguing. Sort of like a humorous Beasts of the Southern Wild, in the Delta swamps, with Yetis and other mythical creatures.  Maybe more appealing to younger Paideia readers -- will have to check it out.

Kate DiCamillo.  Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. 
    I know about this author -- she wrote Tale of Despereaux.   A girl and a poetry writing flying superhero squirrel.  Cute, but maybe for more for the Despereaux audience (grades 3-7).

Lisa Graff. A Tangle of Knots.
   Oh dear, totally never heard of this one.  The description sounds totally charming: an 11-year-old orphan, individual stories intertwined into one mystery-to-be-revealed, but again, on the "Rather Young People" side, not quite teenager-ish YA.

Alaya Dawn Johnson.  The Summer Prince.   (NPR review)
Ok, this one sounds like actual YA.  The faerie legend of the exalted and doomed Summer King, set in future dystopian Brazil.   I only heard of it Monday, when Greg ordered it for his junior high classroom (thanks Greg!), but can think of at least 3 other YA novels with a similar inspiration.  Will get for the library, and maybe even do a booktalk on the theme.


Cynthia Kadohata.  The Thing About Luck.
 I know Cindy Kadohata, first as the Newbery award-winning author of Kira-Kira and second as a fellow adoptive mom (her son Sammy was adopted from Kazakhstan).  From the description (Japanese-American children spending summer with grandparents in rural America), I'm thinking that this will find its readership in the elementary library rather than here.

David Levithan. Two Boys Kissing.  (Los Angeles Times review)
All of Levithan's books (Boy Meets Boy, Will Grayson Will Grayson, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and others) are read here, and this one, with its serious themes of love and loss, will be read as well.  An ex-couple participate in a kissing marathon for a Guiness World Record, a protest against a hate-crime committeed against another gay friend, narrated by ghosts of the AIDS generation. A no-brainer purchase, and a real prize contender. 

Tom McNeal. Far Far Away.  (Horn Book review) 
According to Booklist, this is "a masterful story of outcasts, the power of faith, and the triumph of good over evil."  Alrighty then, count me in.  I generally prefer good to triumph over evil, especially when it's the ghost of Jacob Grimm and two teenagers from the village of Never Better, against bitter vengeance in the form of delicious Prince Cakes (made with real village children), and so do many of our faithful readers.

Meg Rosoff.  Picture Me Gone.   (first chapter and author interview in The Guardian) 
Rosoff is universally acclaimed, but her books are not widely read at Paideia.  They are unpredictable, and each is very different from the other (no series writer is she). This one centers around the mystery of her father's missing friend, but is really about Mira's relationship with her father, and the secrets adults keep.  I will probably read this from the public library (I'm sharing my professional secrets here!) before deciding whether to buy it for Paideia.

Anne Ursu. The Real Boy.
  As a sequel to Breadcrumbs, a fast-circulating title in the elementary library, I know already to leave this one to Natalie for consideration.  I'm sure she'll get it -- sounds charming.

Gene Luen Yang.  Boxers & Saints(LA Times review/interview) 
Gene Yang is a staple around here -- his American Born Chinese has been a reading bowl selection, and is sometimes read in Junior High lit classes.  I got to read a preview of this new 2-volume historical fiction /graphic novel last spring -- the two volumes tell parallel stories of young characters involved in opposing sides of China's violent Boxer Rebellion -- and it's a winner.  For sure we'll have this one in our collection, and I'll booktalk it frequently.

The longlists for poetry, non-fiction and fiction, as well as lifetime and first time author awards have also been announced.  Find all that info at the NBF website.

Check out annotations and links for all 10 longlisted Young People's titles at The Daily Beast.   Which sounds most intriguing to you?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Decade Three Begins!

Holy kittycats! If my accounting is correct, I have just begun my twenty-first time around the sun in the Paideia Library. Much has changed, much has remained the same. Just yesterday I attended an English department meeting, held in a classroom that in 1993 comprised 25% of the library space in the whole school (complete with fireplace and bathroom). Now we have a spacious comfortable junior high & high school library in the heart of the campus, an elementary library in the heart of the elementary school, and a huge array of wonderful online resources in addition to print and audio, and our latest offering -- downloadable ebooks and audiobooks for library loaning. On the other hand, many things are this year's variations on eternal themes . . .

  •  the backlog of shelving all the summer checkouts that are slowly returning home  --

  •  marveling at the range of junior high students' summer reading choices. Many from our library, and many more that are new to me. I always learn about wonderful new books from these responses.
For example:
Martha & Greg's 7th graders       Martha & Greg's 8th graders      Jennifer & Tony's class

  •  talking with high school students about what they read, and sharing my favorite reads of the summer with them.   Alex G. is really into lawyer novels, and I can now recommend the Lincoln Lawyer series (we have ebook and print), having finished everything by Michael Connelley in a great rush of candy/escape reading in June (thanks to Bill Clinton for the recommendation).  After the mystery/detective feast, I moved on to the wonderful The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch, and really enjoyed discovering Thieftaker, an urban historical fantasy by D.B. Jackson (who's really high fantasy author David Coe, whose daughters swim on a summer team with my kids in Tennessee).  It and the just-published sequel Thieftaker's Quarry will be coming in the book sale.  I may buy and donate the sequel myself -- I can't wait to read it!

  • the fun of preparing for October's Library Book Sale.  We'll be getting several additions to the Spanish fiction collection, and many other great new books.  Yippee!

In other words, school is in and it's looking to be a good year.  What are your start-of-school routines?