Monday, November 23, 2009

"Going straight to the source and learning something new is like finding buried treasure."

Many of the blogs I like to read have been participating in Facts First! Nonfiction Monday posts. I have enjoyed reading about new nonfiction books and decided to share one that I purchased at the AASL conference in Charlotte this month. Go Straight to the Source by Kristin Fontichiaro is part of the forthcoming 8-title series "Super Smart Information Strategies." Fontichiaro, a school library media specialist and Michigan colleague and friend, writes about using inquiry strategies to discover more about primary sources.

What I like about Go Straight to the Source is that it covers several types of primary sources (pictures, objects, and print), helps students learn what a primary source is, and provides hands-on activities and examples to guide readers through the process of using these resources in research. Each activity reminds students to ask questions and write about what they see, think, and wonder. This page, for example, demonstrates how a reader might ask questions about a primary source image.

Fontichiaro also explains how regular people are creating primary sources that tell stories about them each day. In one activity she challenges students to look at the objects an adult has in his or her pocket and/or purse in order to learn more about the person. She then continues the activity and explains how a student might learn about another through the objects in his/her backpack.

Unfamiliar words are highlighted throughout the text and there is a glossary to help with both pronounciation and definitions of these words. There is also an index which is helpful in locating information about specific types of primary sources throughout the book. Go Straight to the Source is written for an upper elementary audience, but I will probably use many of the activities in middle school as well, especially because many of my students have never investigated primary sources or worked closely with a librarian in the past.

Go Straight to the Source will be published in January 2010. Other titles in the series include Find Your Way Online, Team Up Online, Find the Right Site, Hit the Books, Write it Down, Put it All Together, and Make the Grade.

This week Facts First! Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Diane Chen at Practically Paradise.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"I begin to think that maybe there are more things in life that seem simple, or even stupid, on the surface but turn out to have so much more . . .."

Lucius and Aurora are the new kids at school. However, they have arrived under vastly different circumstances. Lucius' family has moved after he did the unthinkable: created an explosion that left him without his arms. Aurora's father has decided to move after they lose her mother to sickness. Both are alone in a new place and have to figure out how to cope. Unlike Lucius, Aurora is instantly popular. She is the kind of girl everyone wants to be friends with. For Lucius, it's more difficult. People notice right away that he has prosthetic arms, complete with hooks, which intimidates many and keeps them at a distance. Told in alternating chapters, we hear Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logstead from both Lucius' and Aurora's voices.

I read this book quickly, probably within a couple of hours. However, I've gone back to it four or five times in the last few weeks--reading parts out loud to students, colleagues, and generally whoever would listen because there were so many parts that I wanted to share. I loved Lucius' relationship with Nick Greek, the former football star turned security guard at his new school. There's something transformational about being able to help someone else when you are in bad circumstances and their friendship defined that for me. I also tend to believe that one positive relationship with an adult can change a kid forever, even though the impact may not be seen for years.

Although this is a quick read, there is a lot to think about. I'm always advocating for kids to be allowed to read whatever they want, regardless of format or length--this book is an example of a slim volume that really delivers.

Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logstead was published in September, 2009.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Among the hardships, disappointments, and losses, it's the adventure of it all that has gotten me up each morning."

It's summer and Lyza has no idea the adventure that lies ahead of her. It's 1968, the Vietnam War has captured the attention of the nation, and Lyza's mother has left the family. Instead of being free to wander and enjoy the summer, Lyza's father decides that she must wash dishes at the local diner while her father teaches courses at the local university. Lyza's unique friendships with her neighbors Malcolm and Carolann make them perfect partners for sneaking off while her father is working. Her friends also provide a window to look at race relations in the late '60s, as Malcolm is African American and his brother is drafted, sending letters home throughout the summer explaining the differences between current society and the military attitude about race, as well as sharing what it's like to be at war.

Lyza and her grandfather have always shared a love of adventure. From the time she was little, he would show her maps and tell her about his travels. When he passes away, she discovers an envelope that says, "FOR LYZA ONLY." She has to decide if she should share the contents of the envelope and, if so, who will understand? Will she be able to figure out the clues her grandfather left behind? Even if she can discover the secret, will she have enough time to complete the adventure?

Told in verse, this is a story of a family figuring out how to change when circumstances demand new ways. I especially loved the relationship between Lyza and her grandfather. I lived with my grandparents twice (once as a teenager and once as an adult), so I got to enjoy a great relationship with my grandfather. Reading about Lyza's adventures reminded me of how much I miss him--and what a wonderful influence he was in my life.

Kaleidoscope Eyes by Jen Bryant was published in 2009.