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Reading Corner Themes! May 22, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in books, Library, Ready to Read, Recommendations.
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This summer I will be reading Mon-Thursday for an hour to any kids in the library around 1pm. It promises to be enormously entertaining, and hopefully will give me the opportunity to read more picture books. Plus, picture books are fun and the smaller groups will allow more interaction.

To keep what books I’ve read straight, I plan on compiling lists of books for each day. Though I’m scheduled to read for an hour, most likely I will not be reading the whole time, so my goal is 10 books on each topic, for different age levels. A couple for toddlers, a couple for pre-schoolars, some for k-2 grades, and at least one for older kids.

Some of the themes I have lists for already–others I will be compiling as I go along based on what we have at the branch. I don’t want to track down too many books at other branches, so hopefully I’ll be able to find enough for each week.

Here are some of the topics I’ve brainstormed, any suggestions would be great–as well as recommendations of good books on these topics!
-Camping -Farm -Family
-Sports -Clothing -Fruit and Veggies
-Folktales -Colors -Ponds
-Birthday -Creativity -Transportation
-Bedtime -Beach -Alphabet
-Dinosaurs -Jungle -Friends
-Dogs -Emotions -America
-Cats -Ocean -School
-Zoo -Weather -Diversity/multi-cultural
-Bugs -Picnic -Vacation

Some of these I have a lot for, but lots of these I don’t have more then one or two–so I could use suggestions for any read-alouds!


Non-fiction Read Alouds for Kids May 18, 2008

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I’ve never been much of a non-fiction reader, at least not for enjoyment, though I’ve read more then my fair share for school. But since I begun working in youth services I have discovered some really enjoyable non-fiction, particularly aimed at younger readers. Many have stunning illustrations, interesting information, and quite a few are suitable for reading out loud to a group or together at home. Since I love picture books, it is not surprising that I would enjoy these so much. Today’s new book cart was chock full of delightful non-fiction, which I thought I would share!

The first is a hilarious book for pre-k and up that is PERFECT for reading aloud because it invites participation. It is Where Does Pepper Come From And Other Fun Facts and it includes a wide range of facts, from why flamingos are pink to the difference between whales and fish. First a silly statement is made explaining why these things are so, such as “Flamingos are pink because they are embarrassed!” Then a child says “No! Silly” and then the facts are explained. Children will love to say “No!” to the silly stories and pictures, and will not be confused by the facts explained.

Another fun book that came in today is Ape , the illustrations are stunning and the text is simple. The book presents the five great apes and provides a bit of information about each and where they live. It might not be for every family, as the ending presents the fifth ape as humans, and there is definite preservation angle. However, the images and lyrical simple text make this a book that is definitely worth recommending as a read aloud.

Continuing the theme of animals, this is an interesting story for a bedtime theme: Water Beds: Sleeping in the Ocean It pairs simple words with peaceful text that provides information about the sleeping habits of aquatic mammals. Another good themed storytime bookPumpkins –this time for a fall/harvest/pumpkin theme, this non-fiction book has incredible pictures, simple text, and good proportions for sharing with a group.

Oddly, one of the hardest categories for non-fiction read alouds is folk tales, which are particularly hard to find for younger readers. Most of the time a storyteller can modify them to keep attention using dramatics, props, or just voice modulation, but simple folk tales are excellent for sharing aloud. Today, I found The Ghost Catcher with the new books. It is a simple tale of trickery and humor, involving ghosts and generosity that will not frighten children. This is suitable for k-2 grades.

What I have really discovered is that there is a lot of non-fiction that can be incorporated into our story telling in the library, and that rather then just focusing on fiction picture books, we can introduce our children to the world around them from an early age. I hope to find even more amazing non-fiction books–so any suggestions would be appreciated!

Dystopias and Post-Apocalyptic Teen and Juvenile Novels May 14, 2008

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As I was perusing the new book cart on Friday, I noticed a theme running through a lot of the teen books. Some part in the back of my mind had already seen this, but it was the presence of four distinct works on this small cart that really brought home the prevalence of dystopia and post-apocalyptic societies in novels. One of my favorite recent teen novels, Life As We Knew It revolves around an environmental catastrophe and the moral and social decisions that arise as a result. Many, many more have come out over the past two years, perhaps drawing on growing concerns over the dangers society faces over consumerism, environmental degradation, technology, biological warfare, and the role of the government in our lives.
These works draw on older traditions, such as The Giver , 1984 , Alas, Babylon , Fahrenheit 451 These books reflect their societies’ concerns over nuclear holocausts, totalitarianism, social Darwinism, and the future of academia. Looking back at what precipitated these dark views of the future made me reflect on what aspects of society worry us today.

I had planned on taking home at least a couple of the new teen novels about dystopian communities, but all of them were given to customers who expressed an interest in novels like these. Even some of the older books were checked out from my pile of prospective reads. I thought I’d share some of those I did get to read, as well as the titles of some I’m hoping to read.

The four books on the new book cart were: Little Brother , The Sky Inside , GemX , The Compound . This one was on the shelf a couple of weeks ago–it also went out fast! Exodus

Since all the new books were snatched up right away, I will have to wait to review them. But I did get three older books in the genre. All deal with post-apocalyptic worlds, two with dystopian societies, and one with a world still in chaos.

The first was “Hole in the Sky” Hole in the Sky The premise was very interesting, as was the setting. The world has been devastated by a flu virus, the majority of people died. A few hid away from the virus and a few survived. Those who did contract the virus and didn’t die were left changed in different ways. Set around the Grand Canyon, the scenery is a crucial part of the story and plot, weaving contemporary concern with the environment and the damming of the Colorado with Hopi beliefs about the sacred world. While it held a lot of promise, it didn’t really flesh out the characters or fully engage the possibilities.

The Secret Under My Skin The second was “The Secret Under my Skin.” This book wasn’t what I expected–it was more. The premise is that the world underwent an environmental cataclysm because of the technology and greed of many people, who had to be destroyed so that anyone would survive. Thus this is a world where technology must be controlled rigidly and people must be protected from the degraded environment. I assumed this would be a book warning about the way society is headed, and it is in part, but it is a hopeful book about humanity’s ability to survive. Well written, and well plotted, this book brings together many topics that concern today’s youth.

The third book has been very popular over the past couple of years, so much so that I had to swipe this copy right when it came in, and almost ended up giving it out to a customer before I could check it out. The City of Ember is on the Middle School reading list, though it really could be read by quite young children. The City of Ember (1st Book of Ember) This book certainly lived up to its hype. At first I thought it was a lot like The Giver, but slowly it unfolded as a unique and complicated book. Ember is a planned city where everything is falling apart, but where no one has any idea or hope about what to do to fix it. Two tweens full of hope and optimism set out to discover what they can about their city and come up with surprising and intriguing information about what their city is. There are two other books in the series with another on the way.

To find out more about the dystopian teen and tween novels out there, check out my goodreads!

Themes in Young Adult Literature May 9, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in books, Library, Uncategorized.
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For my final exam, we had to identify five major themes in YA literature. This really got me thinking, for a number of reasons. One is that literary elements like themes and style are not particularly interesting to me, so it took some thinking to identify what might be a theme as opposed to any other element of a book. Another element is if there are themes that are unique to YA literature as opposed to works written for other ages? The final issue I had was with identifying works that represented these themes.

Once I started thinking about this, I had a hard time limiting my themes to only five, and an even harder time finding only a few books that could represent the wide varieties of books written within each theme. This was such an interesting question and exercise, so I thought I’d share my thoughts.

First of all–the themes that fill teen literature are the themes that are featured in all literature. Second, most works feature more then one, intertwined to illustrate how life is frequently complicated and difficult.

1. Self-Discovery
* This ranges fantasy where the main character discovers they have secret magical powers to teens who discover their own sexuality, and many more.
* Examples:
Criss Cross
Double Helix (Puffin Sleuth Novels) (Family/science search)
Incantation(historical-self discovery)

2. Quest
* Ranging from epic journeys in fantasy and history to realistic fiction tales of road trips and adventure quests to save the world.
* Examples:
Holly Black, Ironside: A Modern Faerie tale (Fantasy quest for answers into the world of Faerie)
Michael Cadnum, Blood Gold (Historical-quest for justice)
Annie Callan, Taf (Realistic, search for missing father)
Julie Chibbaro, Redemption (History search for religious freedom)
3. Survival
* Whether in the wild, a foreign time or land, or in your high school, the struggle to survive is a fundamental theme of YA novels.
* Examples:
Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak (In a modern high school)
Jerry Spinelli, Milkweed: a Novel (In the Warsaw Ghetto)
Peg Kehert, Escaping the Giant Wave (Environmental)
Susan Beth Pfiefer, Life as we Knew It (end of the world)
4. Relationships
*Teen books in all genres involve relationships—whether between teens and their parents, teens and their friends, and teens and their romantic interests.
Entire Gossip Girls series
Melissa Kantor, If I Have a Wicked Step-Mother, Where’s my Prince? (Parents and teens)
5. Isolation v Conformity
* Teens frequently are torn between the desire to be accepted and the need to chart their path. Rebellion against the establishment fit in here, as well as tales of the “popular girls” who exemplify conformity.
* Examples:
Patrick Jones, Nailed (isolation in high school)
Scott Westerfield, Uglies (to conform or resist in a futuristic world)
Karen Cushman, The Loud Silence of Francine Green (historical)
Walter Dean Myesrs, Shooter (school shooting)