Archive | February, 2013

What Goes in a Middle School Library?

28 Feb

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Copyright 2002
Audiobook 2003 Read by David Alan Baker

Of all the things that student teaching taught me, there’s one that sticks out.  All books do not belong in all libraries.  I would love to have all books in all libraries, but the reality is there is a limit of shelving and money and books have to be chosen.  Just because a book does not appear in YOUR middle school library does not mean you shouldn’t read it, it just means there are other consideration.  I think limiting books in my library is still the hardest job.

Yes, the book Feed has been out for 10 years.  And, yes, I’ve been meaning to read it.  But when I saw the audio book at my public library, I got very excited.  I have a rather long commute now and it was an irresistible chance to review an audio book.

Feed is the new 1984 society.  Everyone who is anyone has the feed.  Wherever you go, the feed lets you know what the sales are, where the best times and tracks you personally.  You have access to your favorite shows, the current styles, stores and advertisements 24/7.  Everyone is happy with the feed in this dystopian society.  Which is the exact reason its terrifying.

The book is written like Huckleberry Finn in the 1984 society.  The vernacular is  hard to follow and a little annoying as this group of teens travel to the Moon for Spring Break.  They meet an odd, beautiful teenage girl Violet, take her with them to a nightclub, and get hacked.  For everyone else, the hack which affects their feed is scary and annoying.  For Violet, it may become fatal.  Titus, the” meg” normal teenager, finds himself attracted to Violet, the odd girl who is homeschooled and got the feed as a child and not a baby. Violet questions their society which makes her odd.  She reads about other countries and is interested in the news.  Its a completely foreign concept for the other teens.  Besides the 1984-ish isolation of their society, their bodies are actually breaking down due to the feed.

Having listened to 5+ hours of David Alan Baker’s voice, I can’t imagine another sound for Titus.   But the difference in this audio book are the commercial feed interruptions.  The written word does not capture the truly annoying feed that the audio book provides.  It brought this book to life in a whole new way.  Its an incredible story, but the language is fairly constant with sh*& and f*&^.  For that reason alone, I reluctantly decided it couldn’t be in my middle school library.  Still I highly recommend the book and I hope my more mature students will venture out and read (or listen to!) it anyway.

Recommended: Grades 9 & up

The Gift by Andrea J. Buchanan

27 Feb

cover14175-smallThe Gift by Andrea J. Buchanan

(via NetGalley)

Daisy has moved schools frequently, but she’s really just trying to fit in.  Okay, so only her best friend knows she lives in a trailer.  And, maybe she has a little problem with electrical components like cell phones, etc.  The electrical surge in her tends to fry the electronics.  It’s weird, but the really weird is when she discovers Vivi trying to overdose to get to her ghost lover.  Daisy, her best friend Danielle, and Vivi are tied together dealing with a ghost.  A real ghost who uses Daisy’s “gift” of electricity to “break through”.  But everything is not what it seems.  The handsome senior, Kevin, is interested in Daisy. Vivi has a ghost boyfriend and Danielle’s on the outside.  Yet, there’s more that ties the three girls together.  Can Daisy get control of her “gift” in time to make a difference?  Does Daisy have what it takes?

This is a fast paced book that handles the pathos that is high school while exploring the ties that bind over times or even over lifetimes.

Recommended: Grades 7+

Challenging Reading? To Whom?

24 Feb

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Copyright: 2012

Sometimes I wonder if books we (the adults) consider challenging is really challenging to our kids or just to us.  If you found this book in your school library (middle or high) would you get upset?  A middle school can get away with not having this book in the school by claiming the lead character is a graduating senior.  Would you want this book to be available in your school library?  You be the judge, if you can read past page 8.

“Beautiful Music for Ugly Children” is the name of Gabe’s radio show which plays for one hour on the community radio station – midnight on Fridays.  Gabe, who is legally known as Elizabeth, is about to graduate high school.  He’s explained to his family that he really isn’t a girl – his body is just shaped that way.  He’s focused on playing his “B” side – being Gabe in public instead of just with his family.  Gabe’s a total music nerd and his radio show is an amazing hit.  Every week the Ugly Children Brigade follow his instructions to do cool, non-damaging stunts.  But what happens when the two sides of Gabe/Elizabeth collide?  Why do the guys get more upset with him than the girls do?

Gabe is a well-crafted character, even allowing for unanswered questions like where the name Gabe came from.  His family reactions aren’t overstated; if anything they are understated to the realities so many people face.  Gabe faces violence, disbelief and acceptance from some as the story takes you through his head and his heart and his life.   I really like the lines “That’s what bites about the future – there’s no way to predict it.  You just have to show up and see what happens.”

Football Math of the Game by Shane Gerald Frederick

4 Feb

Football Math of the GameFootball: Math of the Game by Shane Gerald Frederick

How much area is there to run in a football field?  How do you figure out a quarterback’s ranking?  Here’s a short, colorful explanation.  It’s fun and the math isn’t scary, it’s easy.

Recommended: Grades 5 & up

Almost Astronauts by Tanya Lee Stone

4 Feb

Almost Astronauts

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream

Copyright: 2009

In 1957 the USSR launched Sputnik.  In 1958, NASA was created and the Mercury 7 – seven male test pilots – were the first American astronauts.  They were heroes.

In 1960, women joined in the training.  Winner of the Robert F. Siebert Medal, this book tells the story of the thirteen women who were not astronauts, they were more.  These women underwent the same testing, the same training and had the same drive as the men.  They never achieved their goal, but they made the way for others like Eileen Collins, first woman commander of a space shuttle. 

This book is loaded with pictures and personal stories.  The words fly off the page as you travel with them through the astronaut training.  They never became astronauts.  Not one.  But, they made the difference for all the other women who dare to dream.

Recommended Grades 5 & up

Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War by Thomas B. Allen and Roger MacBride Allen

2 Feb

Book Cover: Mr. Lincoln's High-Tech War

Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War: How the North Used the Telegraph, Railroads, Surveillance Balloons, Iron-Clads, High Powered Weapons and More to Win the Civil War by Thomas B. Allen & Roger MacBride Allen

Quick, which President of the United States holds a patent?  Okay, no fair, you read the title.  But what is the patent he holds?

The Southern states succession starts after Lincoln wins the election and before he is sworn in as President in March of the following year.  He died days after the end of the war.  Yet, he founded invention, provided land grants for colleges and land for the poor.

Did you know that Confederate soldiers could not shoot down surveillance balloons?  Any idea why?  Check out the book.  A little physics is involved.  You can handle it.

Recommended Grades 5 & up