Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart (Booktalk)

Have you ever met someone who hated his or her name? You have to meet Lily and Dunkin.

Lily's real name is Tim, which she hates. She's always felt as if she were truly a girl, but the world sees her as a boy. Lily's mom calls her Lily, but her dad insists on calling her Tim. Lily is in 8th grade and wants to start taking hormone blockers so that she can ultimately transition to becoming female. At school everyone knows her as Tim; she dresses as a boy.

One of my favorite novels of 2016.
Norbert also hates his name, and who can blame him? He's also in 8th grade, and he's bipolar; he developed early, and he's really tall for his age. Without his medication, there are two versions of him: one is manic and filled with energy, and the other is sluggish and extremely depressed. Plus he's got that lousy name.

Do these two people have anything in common? They sound incredibly different, and they're at different popularity levels at school. But after a few encounters, they get to know each other. Find out what happens in this amazing novel called Lily and Dunkin.

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart. 2016: 352 pages, Delacourt Books for Young Readers. Booktalk to middle school, high school.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel (Booktalk)

Paleontologists love their fossils, and most of them are not thought of as people who get into fistfights with each other in public. Rachel's and Samuel's fathers are both paleontologists who hate each other's guts. Even worse, both men are competing for the same hidden fossil: the rumored bones of a giant "Rex" buried somewhere in the Badlands. It's the late nineteenth century, and this find would elevate one of them to worldwide fame.

So it would be logical that Rachel and Samuel would hate one another, too, but they don't. They learn to appreciate how much they have in common with one another: they're both kind, analytical, and fascinated with fossils. Both of them want to find these secret bones, too, and they have to find a way to keep their bond hidden from their fathers.

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel. 2016: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. 368 pages. Booktalk to older teens due to some adult content.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers (Booktalk)

[Begin by showing page 2 in which William is drawing an owl on the ground.] William is lonely. He lives in an orphanage. Notice the drab colors in this drawing.

A mysterious man passes him, carrying tools. 

Look what appears the next morning [show owl topiary page].

William stares at it all day, and he goes to bed filled with a sense of excitement. [Show picture of house with cats.] More and more start to appear: what do you notice is happening?

The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers: 2016. [48] p. Booktalk to grades K-2.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina (Booktalk)

Juana wants you to get her name right. That's her dog, Lucas.
This is Juana. At first I pronounced her name wrong, but she taught me how to say it. It's "who-an-nah." I hate getting people's names wrong, and she's a cool kid. Juana lives in South America in the country of Colombia in a city called Bogota. She loves her dog Lucas, hates her school uniform (it's itchy), loves reading under the covers at night with a flashlight, loves soccer.

You know which class is driving her crazy? English. Yeah, it is. She speaks Spanish, and she is finding English class really, really hard. Her mom says she has to get her grades up, because if she doesn't, she won't get to go on a trip she is dying to go on: a trip to Spaceland in Florida. She cannot wait to meet the comic book superhero Astroman there. So the trip is her carrot on a stick, so to speak.

But English is really, really hard. I know you all don't think so, but many of you were born speaking it, so it came easy to you. Poor Juana. Even Lucas feels bad for her.

Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina. 96 pages. Candlewick: 2016. Booktalk to grades 1-4. Excellent read-aloud.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Graces by Laure Eve Booktalk

River is a lonely 15-year-old who has just moved to a small, old coastal town with her mother. She's not popular and she's picked on by mean girls. She becomes fascinated with this family whose children go to her school, and they're called the Graces, because that's their last name. Summer Grace is her age, and the twins, Thalia and Fenrin, are a few years older. They're beautiful and intriguing and popular, and their family is wealthy but is rumored to be witches.

If you liked Twilight (or Mean Girls), try this.
River develops a huge crush on the boy, Fenrin: he's got a lot of girlfriends and is one of the most popular boys in school, so when he shows an interest in her, she's flattered. Summer Grace starts befriending her, too - this uptick in River's popularity is great, and for the first time, she feels happy.

But River starts flirting with the supernatural: she visits an old, obscure bookstore to buy books on magic, and she practices spells. Yet there's another loner, Marcus, who warns her very strongly against associating with the Graces. He seems to have dated Thalia, and he warns that the Graces will use River and then discard her.

The Graces by Laure Eve. 336 p. Amulet Books, 2016. Booktalk to high school.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo Booktalk

I want you to imagine three girls breaking into their teacher's house. One of the girls, Beverly, has taught herself lock-picking from a book. She is breaking in, and her best friends, Louisiana and Raymie, are right there with her. Why are they breaking into their teacher's house?

Their teacher is not a school teacher: she teaches baton twirling to girls entering beauty contests and other competitions. Two of them want to enter and win a local competition called the Little Miss Central Florida Tire 1975 competition. It's sort of a beauty/talent competition, and there is a big cash prize. You have to prove that you are talented and a good person. Breaking and entering is not a good way to prove that.

Let's get back to the girls. You've heard the expression "to be down on your luck"? What does it mean? [Take answer/s.] We have three girls down on their luck here. Raymie's dad just left her and her mom. Louisiana lost her beloved cat and doesn't have enough money to buy food. Beverly doesn't seem to have a dad around, plus she gets into fights with her mom. Beverly's mom forces Beverly to take baton twirling lessons, which she seems to hate. The lessons are where the three girls met one another.

But where is their baton teacher?

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. 2016: Candlewick Press. 263 p. Booktalk to intermediate grades, middle school. Great read-aloud.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm Booktalk

Beans is tired of how his town stinks. There's garbage everywhere, because the town is broke and can't pay garbage men to come collect the garbage. His family has no money, but no one else in town has any money, either. It's the Great Depression of the 1930's, and Beans lives in Key West, Florida. He's always barefoot. His dad usually is out of work. I bet he's pretty thin.

When you're poor and hungry, you have to earn money somehow, and Beans is pretty good at it, at least, when adults aren't cheating him. When we first meet him, he's being ripped off by Winky, who should pay him more for the empty cans he brought in. Beans knows that Winky lies to him.

But then Beans gets another business opportunity: a fast way to make money, and it involves his wagon. Let's just say that smuggling is involved, and plenty of deception. And much higher pay. Enough money to buy his mom some hand cream she really needs for her damaged hands. But Beans' new job involves a high level of risk: what will happen to him if he gets caught? If you like humor and historical fiction, try Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm.

Full of  Beans by Jennifer L. Holm. 195 p. 2016: Random House. Booktalk to grades 3-7.