Friday, October 23, 2009

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson




The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson, 2008, 978-0312594411 pbk $8.99

Who is Jenna Fox? Not even Jenna knows. Waking up after what she is told has been a year in a coma, Jenna doesn’t remember anything about her past but she does know that something is wrong with her present. Why does her grandmother dislike her? Why does it seem as if her parents are hiding her?

The slow unfolding of this story is one of its strengths and it sucked me in right from the beginning . I really liked the way that Pearson allows Jenna to struggle with what it means to be human, a person, and to have a real identity without beating the reader over the head with it. The ethical issues that are raised in the book are not solved, nor should they be. Highly recommended for MS/HS

Check out the book trailer here.



Review by Ann Morgester, Library Curriculum Coordinator, Anchorage School District

Boost by Kathy Mackel


Boost Mackel, Kathy: – Savvy is 13, 6 foot 2 and mad about basketball – she has won a spot on the 18U (18 and unders) team and despite her raw talent, she needs to boost her game if she is going to play at the level she needs to so that she can get off the bench and start the game. When steroids are found, the questions of whose world is going to come crashing down throws her game.

I really liked this book. Savvy is a strong character who is learning to be part of a team and to do the right thing. I liked that the issue of steroids was looked at from the point of view of girls, since so often the books we see on the topic focus on boys sports.

Recommended for MS and HS libraries
Review by Ann Morgester, ASD Library Curriculum Coordinator, Anchorage School district

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sister Wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka


Sister Wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka - 978-1-55143-927-3 - 12.95 - Orca Book Publishers

Celeste lives in Unity, a rural town founded by The Movement, a fundamentalist religious group that believes in pure faith, and obedience. Polygamy is the norm where young girls are assigned to much older husbands. Celeste questions her faith, the beliefs of her community and struggles to find the strength to break free while she worries that her actions will bring shame to her family.

One of the things that I like about this book is that while it shows the beliefs of the community as harsh, and the struggle of Celeste and others is real - it does not demonize the beliefs and shows that while some are not suited to the life, others thrive in it and find joy and fulfillment there. I found it gripping and had a hard time putting it down - it is told in the alternating voices of three girls in the community - Celeste, who questions, Nannette, who finds strength and peace in her beliefs, and Taviana, who was saved from a life as a prostitute and has found healing in the town of Unity, but must leave the town abruptly when the police come looking for her.

Highly Recommended for MS/HS
Ann Morgester, Library Curriculum Coordinator, Anchorage School District

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Night Wings by Joseph Bruchac


Night Wings by Joseph Bruchac with Illustrations by Sally Wern Comport 2009 Harper Collins Publishers 978-0-06-112318-4 $16.89

I think this book would make a great read-aloud, especially at this time of the year when spooky, scary stories are in demand. Some of the characters are a little one-dimensional, the bad guys are nothing but bad! Which does add to scariness of the story. Bruchac's characters play up the stereotypical the stoic indian, to their advantage. The plot is well paced and filled with Abenaki folklore.

Heather Fleming, Librarian, Jane Mears Middle School

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart


The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH; Reprint edition (August 25, 2009) ISBN-13: 978-0786838196

Are you looking for a female character to offset Bella from Twilight? Then try The Disreputable History!

Frankie is a smart, confident teenager in a beautiful body. While she is happy at first with the attention she gets from Matthew, the most popular boy in school, she begins to realize that neither he, nor his friends, take her seriously, nor will they ever include her in their group. Frankie becomes Matthew's girlfriend, and discovers that he is the leader of a secret all boys club. The boys do mindless pranks around the school as a form of bonding. When she discovers them she sends them emails posing as someone else and soon takes control of the group. She soon has them performing pranks with a social message, but none of the boys seem to understand what they are really doing, nor do they ever suspect that pretty Frankie is behind it all. It all comes to a head at the end of the semester when a prank goes wrong. The ending is not neat and tidy, but it will leave you thinking about what it means to be true to yourself.

Recommended for high school and middle school. Most girls should love this character and feel empowered by her.

Nicole Roohi, librarian, Goldenview Middle School.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimon with Illustrations by Dave McKean 2008 Harper Collins Publishers 978-0-06-053092-1 $17.99

Nobody Owens has been raised in the graveyard by the ghosts after he wanders there the night his family is murdered by a shadowy figure named Jack. This a gem of a book. The multi-generational cast of ghosts who range from a Roman to a much more modern witch take on the task of raising and protecting Bod. Bod of course ventures out from the graveyard on occasion to experience the wider world but he comes back home to the "people" who love and care for him. (Yes indeed, you should be seeing shades of The Jungle Book) This story is a charming look at what it means to grow up, make mistakes, and become a member of society. The black and white illustrations through out the book are lovely and help to visualize the story.

School Library Journal recommends it for ages 11 and up. Click here is their very informative review.

Review by Ann Morgester Library Curriculum Coordinator Anchorage School District

Monday, August 17, 2009

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch


Inexcusable by Chris Lynch, 2007 Paperback 7.99 978-1416939726

Keir is convinced he is a good guy. Most of the town is convinced as well despite a list of inappropriate and vicious behavior that Keir and the town laugh off as youthful high spirits. Keir is accused of date rape by Gigi. In the end, this story told in the first person by Keir, ends with the realization that Keir is indeed a rapist, although it is unclear if Keir, who ends up almost catatonic at the end accepts responsibility. Despite an impressive string of reviews, I found this book to be self- aggrandizing and so morally ambiguous as to leave me wondering at the end if Keir would ever accept responsibility for anything. I can see where Lynch was heading with this one, but he didn't get there for me.
It could work for your most advanced HS readers.

Review by Ann Morgester Library Curriculum Coordinator, Anchorage School District

Boy Kills Man by Matt Whyman


Boy Kills Man by Matt Wyman, 2006 Harper Teen (no longer in print)

12 year old boys are made into disposable assassins in Medellin, Colombia. It ends badly for everyone except the Ghost (drug lord). What a sad and depressing little book. I don’t see anything redeeming about it. Not recomended for school libraries.

Review by Ann Morgester Library Curriculum Coordinator, Anchorage School District

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Winter Girls: Laurie Halse Anderson


This was a really hard book for me to read. Lia has been best friends with Cassie for years. They share a lot - including their anorexia. After they have a falling out and don't speak for several months, Lia receives 33 calls from Cassie in one weekend. But she is still mad and so she doesn't answer the phone. Cassie is then found dead in a hotel room. When Lia plays the voice messages from the calls it is just heartbreaking. Lia is also on a downward spiral and there is real question throughout the book if she can save herself.

Anderson uses a number of interesting techniques in this book; strikethroughs, italics, and offsets to illustrate Lia's state of mind (see video of Laurie Halse Anderson talking about Wintergirls ) This is a harsh book that pulls no punches about the effects of Anorexia on the body. Lia's brain is starving and it is clear that this is part of what keeps the spiral going. There has been some concern that this book may "glamorize" or "teach" anorexia. There is an interesting NYT article on the topic. Eating disorders is a difficult topic to write about but Anderson does it with her usual style and grace. I highly recommend this book for HS.

Review by Ann Morgester Library Curriculum Coordinator, Anchorage School District

Monday, August 3, 2009

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson


Twisted Laurie Halse Anderson 978-0142411841 9.99 2007 Viking Pub.

Laurie Halse Anderson doesn’t pick easy topics to write about. From the story of a high school girl who is silent and hides in the janitor’s closet because she has to face the boy who raped her every day at school (Speak) to living through a yellow fever epidemic (Fever 1793) to Twisted, she tackles difficult topics with authentic teen voices. In Twisted, Tyler is a social misfit who is treated as a “problem” so not surprisingly, he acts out. He makes a poor decision and in learning to accept the consequences for his actions he must make decisions about what kind of person he will choose to become. Tyler’s family is emotionally unstable and it is reflected in his own actions. This book deals candidly with the issues of integrity, emotional abuse, self-identity, rage, and violence. At one point, Tyler smashes his father’s train set up. “The temporary rivets holding me together loosened, glowing hot under the pressure that prevented me from turning the bat on my father.....I hit the train table harder so I wouldn’t hit him.” The explosion of violence culminates his decision to choose who he will become, rather than accepting others expectations and perceptions of him. He chooses to make his own decisions rather than to allow himself to continue to twist under other peoples toxic opinions. Tyler’s humor, though increasingly dark throughout the book, and his very realistic voice made me cheer for him all the way through. Highly recommended for High School.

Ann Morgester, Library Curriculum Coordinator, Anchorage School District

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Teaching the Digital Generation By Kelly, McCain & Jukes


Teaching the Digital Generation: No More Cookie-Cutter High Schools by Frank S. Kelly, Ted McCain and Ian Jukes. Corwin Press (2008), Paperback, 280 pages 978-1-4129-3927-0

The basic premise of this book is not new by any stretch, but interestingly still needs to be said, over and over. Our schools are not functional in teaching our students what they need to be successful in the 21st century. Our student's brains are wired differently due to early and consistent exposure to digital media and we need to get on board. I agree completely and appreciate that the authors take a very bottom up approach in that they focus on the physical design of learning spaces as being the first step. If we don't change the spaces we teach in, we will have a much harder time changing our teaching. They are also very clear that a community vision must exist before design and construction begin and they do not mince words when they say that it will "take great courage, steadfast commitment, and a lot of just plain hard work to sustain the vision.” (67). After laying out their reasoning, the authors elaborate on 11 different school designs with the emphasis on the fact that there is no one right answer for every kid. Each of the 11 designs is preceded by a two-page graphic of the concept which is then followed by a short elaboration and a rubric which each design is evaluated against. While the need for professional development is stressed and the resistance of teachers, parents and administrators being asked to move out of their comfort zone is addressed, the book is focused on the physical design of the learning spaces.

The authors explore how the physical design of the school must support 21st century curriculum, but how that curriculum is designed would very much depend on the vision that the community creates and the specific model or models that used. The authors address many aspects of the digital age high school but as a school librarian, I am concerned that most of their models do not have an information center (library/commons) and that while there is much mention of online access to library materials and information there is no discussion of how those materials will be selected, evaluated, and where students are to get voluntary reading material is left out entirely.

I would highly recommend that anyone contemplating a school remodel or construction read this book immediately. If nothing else, it will make you question your assumptions and “the way we have always done it” which is not a bad thing at all.

Related Book: The New Learning Commons: Where learners win byDavid V. Loertscher, Carol Koechlin and Sandi Zwaan; ISBN: 978-1-933170-40-4; Hi Willow Research and Publishing; 2008

Related Websites: No More Cookie Cutter High Schools http://web.mac.com/iajukes/nomoreookiecutterschools/Blog/Blog.html

Review by Ann Morgester Library Curriculum Coordinator, Anchorage School District

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

10 Technology Enhanced Alternatives to Book Reports

Take a look at this list of 10 Technology Enhanced Alternatives to Book Reports by Kelly Tenkely on theapple.com . Talk about creating meaningful integration of technology for students. It isn't about doing more, it is about doing what we do differently!!

Thanks to Joyce Valenza on Twitter for this link (joycevalenza) - and this would be one of the ways to use twitter effectively in your job......

Theapple.com Where Teachers Meet and Learn

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chains: Laurie Halse Anderson


Anderson, Laurie Halse. Chains. Simon and Schuster 2008 978—4169-0585-1 16.99

Isabelle and Ruth were told that when Mistress Finch died they would be given their freedom. It was written in the will. Mistress Finch’s greedy nephew denies that will was ever written and sells them to the Lockton’s, Torries who are returning to New York to work against the Patriots. Isabelle is desperate to protect her young sister who is “simple” and after Ruth is sold away from her by the Lockton’s she is convinced by another young slave, Curzon, to spy on the Lockton’s. In the end though, the questions raised by the book have more to do with who is to be free in this new nation and what Isabelle is willing to risk to be free herself.

This is a powerful book in many ways. I think the point of view on the revolutionary period is different than any other fiction I have read about the period. The colonists are people, not caricatures, with all the kindness and cruelty that exists in the human race. Isabelle is a character to make you cheer and cry and her ultimate decision reveals the power of love and the strength of the human spirit. While the book is appropriate for upper elementary and MS it also offers wonderful discussion points about the revolution for HS.

Also check out Terri Lesesne's Review on her Goddess of YA Literature Blog

Review by Ann Morgester Library Curriculum Coordinator, Anchorage School District

Friday, July 24, 2009

Swimming to Antarctica: Lynne Cox


Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox Biography 978-0156031301 14.99 2005 Harvest Books/Harcourt Inc

Lynne Cox discovered early that she loved swimming in the elements, and as a very fit swimmer with loads of endurance but not much speed over short swims, she is a natural at swimming for hours in open water. At the age of 14 she began by swimming the Catalina Channel between Catalina Island and Seal Beach just south of Los Angles (26 miles/over 12 hours). She then went looking for more challenges and set world records for the English Channel, was the first woman and one of only 5 people to swim the Cook Strait in New Zeland, and raced in the Nile River. She then set her sights on swimming the Bering Strait between Little Diomede Island and Big Diomede before the end of the cold war on her way to her most extreme swim in the life threatening cold of Antarctica. In the mean time swimming around the shark infested Cape of Good Hope, in Alaska’s Glacier Bay, across Russia’s Lake Baikal and in various other spots around the world.

I don’t usually like biography but I was sucked into this book from the first page. Throughout the book Lynne shares her fears, her determination and her triumphs with a humble spirit and with sincere acknowledgment of all the people in her life who have supported and encouraged her to follow her very extreme dreams. A fabulous read!

Review by Ann Morgester, Library Curriculum Coordinator Anchorage School District

7 Days at the Hot Corner: Terry Trueman


7 Days At The Hot Corner by Terry Trueman 2007 Harper Teen 978-0060574949
Scott loves baseball, more than anything else and this senior is set to help his team to a shutout season. So why has everything gotten so hard?

His best friend, Travis, comes out to his family and is kicked out of his house, so he comes to stay with Scott and his dad. But this is new to Scott too and he isn’t sure how to react, what is safe and who to trust. Worse, he worries about being HIV positive because several months before he got Travis’ blood on his hands when they were in the batting cages. It takes 7 days to get back the results of his HIV test and in that 7 days he learns a lot about himself, his family and what it means to be a friend.

7 days is a long time when you are stuck in the hot corner. I loved this book. At 150 pages it is a fast read, and the strong and believable characterizations make Scott’s emotional turmoil and his process very realistic. He doesn’t just overcome his fears or his anger but he works through it in a way that is very true to the age. Even though Scott is a senior I think this book would have strong appeal at the middle school level as well as HS
Highly Recommended

Review by Ann Morgester HS Librarian and ASD Library Curriculum Coordinator

Terry Trueman's Website

God Box: Alex Sanchez



Sanchez, Alex. The God Box.

Paul is a Christian, has a great girl friend, belongs to the HS Bible Study group and is struggling with his feelings about his sexuality. Enter Manuel. Openly gay but a self identified Christian he turns many things upside down. He forces many people to reevaluate what they think and how they act. Recommended for HS.

Review by Ann Morgester. HS Librarian. Library Curriculum Coordinator, Anchorage School District