In preparation for a SKYPE interaction with Laura Purdie Salas in conjunction with WORLD READ ALOUD DAY, we are taking a look at her ealier title, STA...moreIn preparation for a SKYPE interaction with Laura Purdie Salas in conjunction with WORLD READ ALOUD DAY, we are taking a look at her ealier title, STAMPEDE! POEMS TO CELEBRATE the WILD SIDE OF SCHOOL. Salas offers a youthful, joyful, look at the daily activities of school that tend to bring out the "animal" in students. From the bumblebees that swarm into the doors first thing in the morning to the grey stampede that rushes forth from the school with the last bell.
Pieces like "Picture Day" and "Nesting" capture some of the anxiety that a school day can present for some students.
Particularly funny are the poems about "chicken scratching" (Printer Problems) and the "turtle neck."
The illustrations are delightful and the book really serves well as an mentor text for approach to metaphor. I think younger writers will get this right away. I can see a workshop setting wherein younger writers might take the animal stampede to other scenarios like the mall or the amusement park or what if this were flipped and zoo animals took on the personality traits of people (a flip that would lend itself nicely to a lesson in personification).
I had some difficulty with a poem called "P.U." which likened a student to a skunk with a depiction of the other students pointing and looking on in disgust. If I knew more about the context or what had happened before, I might be able to let this one go, but in the current climate of how we treat one another in school, it is a point of consideration. As I grow to know Laura a little bit better, I sense this is NOT her heart and NOT her intention, but as we share this with younger readers, we'll make a note of this piece.(less)
Getting ready for a SKYPE interaction with Melanie in Room 407. This is one of her titles from 2008. The work celebrates the Coney Island community an...moreGetting ready for a SKYPE interaction with Melanie in Room 407. This is one of her titles from 2008. The work celebrates the Coney Island community and the people who gather each year for a Mermaid Parade to celebrate the opening of the ocean at the summer solstice.
You can find out more about the annual Mermaid Parade here:
What I really enjoy about Melanie's style here is that it made me remember a type of book I used to enjoy as a child. There wasn't much (or maybe any) story to these (I'll have to go back and investigate), but they were--in a sense--"punch-out" books wherein the child punches out perforated scenes and buildings to create stand up stories. I remember having one of a fair and one of a fort and one of a western town.
Melanie's colorful illustrations remind me of these because of their creative rendering. In MERMAID PARADE, Melanies illustrations become a sort of community collage, or sometimes they "flatten out" to become a sort of map/guide to the community.
And this brings me to another point of celebration of Greenberg's work here--the celebration of community and community tradition. I hope there is a whole ladder here of titles that do just this, celebrate a community and their traditions.
As I have "seen" some things while reading Michael Grant's new title, I'd like to share them with you. . .if only in an effort to abs...more***No Spoilers***
As I have "seen" some things while reading Michael Grant's new title, I'd like to share them with you. . .if only in an effort to absolve myself of some of the horrors.
By habit, I am NOT a sci-fi or fantasy reader. No, it's not that I don't like them (I've admitted this before and awoke to a flood of messages and tweets). I do, in fact, know enough about the titles I HAVE read to make recommendations in Room 407 for my readers who do read in this genre. And with recent offerings by David Macinnis Gill (BLACK HOLE SUN) and Beth Revis (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE), I am warming up to the genre like a small climate shift across that part of me called THE READER. And there may be a hundred reasons that I am not drawn automatically to sci-fi to include: background and a seeming need for background language, unfamiliarity with world building and imaginative creatures, and (okay) perhaps a firm grounding in this real word I have created around myself.
But I am sold on Michael Grant's book. And it may be for all for that fact that Grant seems to quietly address each of my limitations one by one as this new title--offered by Egmont--unfolds. I am reminded of the scene from RED DRAGON where "The Tooth Fairy" is showing the smarmy reporter, bound to a chair, horrific scenes from the crimes he has committed asking over and over again, "Do you see?"
Yes. I have seen.
In the opening chapter, I see Noah Cotton going to an insane asylum to visit his brother Alex. Alex is the veteran of some great war where his military prowess is something of lore that leaves Noah feeling a bit inadequate by comparison. Here is where we could draw a ladder to Dana Reinhardt's THE THINGS A BROTHER KNOWS with ease. I see this.
With some prior knowledge of what an asylum might look like, Grant walks the reader to the room of Alex Cotton, who is a mere shell of who he was before. After a tense interaction between the two brothers, Alex begins to mutter--then shout over and over the word "Berserk!" And this is the beginning of the show that Grant carries over 386 pages, the last hundred of which are the most action-packed, suspenseful pages I have had the pleasure to read in the past few years.
In a tweet to Michael Grant, I let him know that these final pages left me "agitated and irritable." I really didn't want anyone around as I finished the book. It reads just like this. Grant responded by letting me know (what a gift Twitter is) that "if it were any consolation, they had the same effect on him).
Grant points the lens now to a father and his son on a private jet. This is Grey and Stone McClure. We can sense the power the father must have from the conversation. The scene seems to be set for a passing down of a company to a successor. They are having a conversation about Stone's sister and a boy she is dating. They are attending a football game in a stadium the jet is about to fly over. Both are curious about whether or not they might be able to see Sadie in the stands as they fly over. I see it.
And then, Grant shatters what I see.
Chapter Three is a graphic description of the events that transpire, wherein Grant seemingly wants to make sure that if you covered your eyes in Chapter Two, you will take in the full effect of his chaos and mayhem now.
He makes you see it.
And by the end of Chapter Four, the reader is fully engrossed in a battle that wages in a nano and macro world wherein those selected for service--because of their "gaming" skills--and a natural bend toward "crazy"--are drivers of microscopic entities that carry the DNA of the operator. With the ability to launch these nanobots onto others who become host (or perhaps "prey" would be more appropriate here) for a manipulative scheme to overtake the rival company created by Grey Stone, a company that created biots as a means of releasing into a singular host a microscopic element that might aid in healing (based upon stem cell research conducted by the company).
Enter the world of Michael Grant's BZRK. This is a book that you simply have to read to really get a sense of how exciting, how speculative, and how haunting Grant's vision really is here.
And because of Grant's ability to point the lens toward scenes that let the story unfold in a way that will satisfy those who are quickly pulled into the science and possibility of the story as well as letting readers like me come into the story as it reveals characters and their relationships, the whole of the complexity of this book (it is very difficult to describe without entering into the technology and associated jargon to render a feel for the book) unfolds until it's dramatic conclusion.
I really want to say more about this book but the elements and twists and turns keep me from saying too much too early. There is so much to see here.
I think this is the kind of book where in a literature circle of readers could really reach into this book at the macro and nano level to flesh out the details I am leaving out in this introduction to what is going to be the hot read for guy readers this spring. BZRK would ladder most well with other sci-fi titles like FEED, FOR THE WIN, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, and UNWIND. With a ladder like this, you will pull those dormant guy readers out of their slumber.
What's more, BZRK--a work of speculative fiction--is so on track with the number of TED talks regarding technological realities and possibilities a lead learner might plug into as readers dive into this world Grant has created. Non-fiction "ladders" might include technological advances, the ethics of innovation, and the possibility of regeneration at the nano level being "driven" by an operator at the macro level.
And, Grant has built into BZRK a most interesting "ladder" when it comes to a fiction title. Each of the characters--once they are brought into the cell referred to as BZRK--are named for a famous poet, artist, or pop culture star (don't miss the character Wilkes ((yes. . .that Wilkes) who has walked the thin line between sanity and insanity. Here there be "ladders" as well. Can you see them?
BZRK has what guy readers want and this might serve as a reader-advisory point. Depictions of violence and mayhem are graphically rendered here. Grant does not disappoint for action, suspense, intrigue, twists and turns. Make sure that BZRK is on your radar.
A colleague gave this book to me for my birthday knowing that I was collecting ABC books. We had a little trouble with C is for CAMO, both of us readi...moreA colleague gave this book to me for my birthday knowing that I was collecting ABC books. We had a little trouble with C is for CAMO, both of us reading it as "Chino," a type of pants. Now, this may say something to difficult nature of decoding some of the letters on the pages of this "hipster-urban" approach to ABCs, or it may be a teachable moment of using the whole text. Behind the letters we couldn't decipher was a camoflauge pattern. . .
Mike Lester is delightful (have you seen THE BUTT BOOK?). Here is a twist on the classic "A is for _______" approach to alphabet books. Charming and f...moreMike Lester is delightful (have you seen THE BUTT BOOK?). Here is a twist on the classic "A is for _______" approach to alphabet books. Charming and funny illustrations invite younger readers to fix Lester's mistakes as the animals actually interact with (sometimes wear) what that letter actually stands for. . .
This one was recommended to me by a friend. I am so thankful for the community of readers with whom I interact on a daily basis for recommendations like one!(less)
Another beautiful baseball title from Matt Tavares. This one is not to be missed for its inter-generational approach and subject matter. This one is a...moreAnother beautiful baseball title from Matt Tavares. This one is not to be missed for its inter-generational approach and subject matter. This one is a pretty book inside and out. (less)
It's the bottom of the ninth. It's raining heavily when Andy Oyler steps up to the plate. Thinking this will be a quick out, the umpire allows the gam...moreIt's the bottom of the ninth. It's raining heavily when Andy Oyler steps up to the plate. Thinking this will be a quick out, the umpire allows the game to go on--and perhaps finish, when Oyler shocks everyone with what would become one of the most celebrated stories in baseball next to Babe Ruth's "called shot."
Tavares brings the mood of the day and the celebration of baseball to this 2005 title, sure to be a hit with your younger guy readers interested in baseball. Tavares has a number of baseball related titles sure to please. Put these out on a display in honor of spring training beginning!(less)
The meeting of Theodore "Teedie" Roosevelt and John "Johnnie" Muir and the camping trip that inspired Roosevelt to draft into action the protection of...moreThe meeting of Theodore "Teedie" Roosevelt and John "Johnnie" Muir and the camping trip that inspired Roosevelt to draft into action the protection of wooded places as national parks and reserves. (less)
Chopsticks do everything together. Noe of the other utensils have ever seen them apart. They have mastered just about every move chopsticks can master...moreChopsticks do everything together. Noe of the other utensils have ever seen them apart. They have mastered just about every move chopsticks can master. But one day, an advanced move with a piece of asparagus leaves one of the friends with a injury.
First, you have to love that the "hospital" for these utensils is the medicine cabinet, delightfully rendered by Scott Magoon.
During the time that his friend needs to mend (his convalescence takes place in the chopsticks wrapper), the other chopstick learns that he can have new experiences and do things on his own (with the encouragement of his friend, of course).
So, how would a secondary teacher use Rosenthal's newest title in the classroom?
First, the author uses the kitchen utensils to create a more precise verb usage (the injured chopstick is "whisked" away--by who else? Yes. Of course.). This creative use of verbs might inspire lead learners to guide students through a verb exercise I have seen before wherein students are asked to choose a profession, create a list of verbs associated with that profession, and then drop those verbs into an unrelated subject or topic that fosters creative verb usage in rough drafts.
Second, CHOPSTICKS would be a wonderful introduction to the "symbiotic relationship" convention with all of the motifs intact.
Third--what a wonderful conceptual look at friendship that would make a wonderful "ladder" into OF MICE AND MEN or FREAK THE MIGHTY. Enduring friendship as nurturing and healthy is a theme that make CHOPSTICKS a natural fit. Or, if one were to really stretch themselves out with this book, they may make a natural connection to Kahlil Gibran's THE PROPHET wherein the classic poet talks about the strength that comes of the individual elements or parts of any pairing (this plays out so nicely in Rosenthal's work here).
Fourth--well--just for fun. The wordplay and whimsical illustrations need to be seen by older readers who will later become consumers of texts for younger audiences. I am going to make sure that every one of our cadet teachers this year sees CHOPSTICKS. There is nothing wrong about a book that is designed for fun, read for fun, and processed as a fun share in the reading classroom.
Make sure to check out CHOPSTICKS. Go back and look at Rosenthal's SPOON as well.
CHOPSTICKS needs to be experienced. I cannot do it justice in the words I might try to offer here. What Jessica Anthony does with a simple composition...moreCHOPSTICKS needs to be experienced. I cannot do it justice in the words I might try to offer here. What Jessica Anthony does with a simple composition is nothing short of master-class story telling that challenges what we think of when we talk about reading.
We'll be talking about CHOPSTICKS at the end of the year. Mr. Hankins coming out with an early prediction for CHOPSTICKS. (less)
Nothing like a good moose tantrum in the middle of an ABC book to bring the whole thing to life and nothing like the reconciliation of a friendship to...moreNothing like a good moose tantrum in the middle of an ABC book to bring the whole thing to life and nothing like the reconciliation of a friendship to wrap the whole thing up. Zelinsky's illustrations are a lot of fun.
Ladder this one up with A IS FOR SALAD. We'll be using both in our ABCs of Categorization and Classification in Room 407 in the future. (less)