Thursday, December 30, 2010

Misfits: Booktalk 3

The next group of misfits I want to tell you about are the N.E.R.D.S., and their name is an acronym for National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society. Yes, they’re nerdy, but they’re also really talented spies who are out to stop Dr. Felix Jigsaw, an evil scientist-villain who is planning world domination and other weird stuff. Each one of the N.E.R.D.S has a special and very odd talent. I’ll tell you about my favorites of the bunch. Duncan Dewey is called “Gluestick” because he eats paste and can stick to walls. Julio Escala is called “Flinch” and uses his hyperactivity to fight evil. Jackson Jones is called “Braceface” – he has 8 rows of teeth – 2 rows on top and 2 rows on bottom. His braces are magnetic and can stick to things and can form weapons. Yeah, and you guys think your braces are bad: ha! At one point, Braceface and this girl named Hyena come face to face with a polar bear who starts to attack them. Braceface morphs his braces into a giant shield which then blocks all the bear’s deadly blows. This valiant action and one other thing gets Braceface his first kiss ever from a girl – and the girl is Hyena. No, I’m not going to tell you how she got her name. You’ll have to read this wonderfully funny book called Nerds by Michael Buckley.

Nerds: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society by Michael Buckley. Abrams, 2010. 306 p. Booktalk to intermediate grades and middle school.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Misfits: Booktalk 2

Dwight is the ultimate misfit. He’s in middle school, and he walks around school with a finger puppet on his finger – origami Yoda [show cover].  The finger puppet talks to people. It has its own voice, its own prophecies, and its own opinions. Basically, Dwight has put himself on a fast track to be mocked, ridiculed, taunted, and possibly pummeled. Let’s leave origami Yoda aside for a moment to talk about other “misfit” moments by Dwight. Dwight went to a dance, bumped into a popular girl, spilled her drink on the floor, and then got down on the floor on his stomach [like a large human sponge] to wipe up the sponge. He then stands up, his stomach wet, and asks her to dance. What does she say? No. That’s right. Misfit Dwight. Did I mention that he also wears shorts with his socks pulled up past his knees? It’s bad. Really bad. Yet the strange thing about Dwight is that his puppet speaks the truth, always. Origami Yoda knows things. His predictions come true. He understands people, yet Dwight himself doesn’t seem to. What is this misfit’s secret? The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. Abrams, 2010. 141 p. Booktalk to intermediate grades and middle school.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Book talk: Holes by Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats didn't do anything wrong, but just try telling that to the judge. Stanley was convicted of stealing valuable but smelly celebrity shoes from a store. As punishment, he's sent to Camp Green Lake. Say it with me: Camp Green Lake. It's neither a camp, nor green, nor a lake. It's hot as hell, and Stanley and the other prisoner boys have to dig holes all day in the hot sun, supervised directly or indirectly by a bunch of nutcase adults, one of whom is called Mr. Sir. The boys are a crazy bunch, too, with names like X-Ray and Zero and Armpit and Barf Bag. What are they digging for? And what mysterious connect does Stanley share with Zero? These boys might be misfits, but they're smart, funny, and crazy. Holes by Louis Sachar.

Holes by Louis Sachar. Bloomsbury, 1998. 233 p. Booktalk to intermediate grades, middle school, high school.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Contests: Booktalk 3

Some contests go on for a while, and others take just a few seconds. That’s the case with 8th grader Nate Brodie’s contest: he has to throw a pass through a target during halftime at the New England Patriots’ Thanksgiving Night Game. The prize - if he throws well? One million dollars. There’s good news and bad news. First, the good news. Nate is really, really good at football. He’s the quarterback on his home team, and he’s talented and passionate about football. The bad news? It has two parts: part one – Nate’s under tremendous pressure, because his dad lost his job, his family is broke, and they could lose their home as a result. Bad news part two – for some athletes, the more stress they’re under, the more likely they are to choke. Nate can’t afford to choke. This million-dollar throw is no fun-and-games contest for Nate's family.

Million-Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica. Puffin, 2010 reprint. 272 p. Booktalk to intermediate grades, middle school.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Contests: Booktalk 2

This book involves the ultimate contest. I am not going to tell you the title. I’m going to give you clues. [Ask them not to shout out the answer.] Clue #1: it’s been made into a movie several times, and most of you have probably seen it. Clue #2: the contest requires that you find a ticket, and then you’ll be allowed into a place which no humans are seen going or coming from. Clue #3: most of the children who find the tickets are weird, annoying, or selfish, but not all of them. Clue #4: A boy who comes from an extremely poor family wins the contest. [Let them reveal the answer, if they haven’t already done so.] Raise your hand if you’ve seen the movie. Okay, raise your hand if you have read the book. If you haven’t read the book, do so. In many ways, it is so much weirder and funnier than the movie. The book has so many strange and quirky little details which the movie just didn’t have time for. My favorite ones were about Charlie’s grandparents and his home life. Remember, they were so poor that they had to fit all four grandparents into one bed [the rest of the family has to sleep on the cold floor], and the conversations involving those poor grandparents are hilarious. No one does sad, strange, and funny better than Roald Dahl.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Puffin, 2007 [copyright dates vary]. 176 p. Booktalk to intermediate grades, middle school.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Contests: Booktalk 1

[Show cover.] I had to read this, because I'd live off just cupcakes and baked goods if I could. Isabel's family just bought a laundromat, and they are planning to turn it into a cupcake shop called, "It's Raining Cupcakes." Both Isabel and her mom make killer cupcakes, and they're always inventing new types of cupcakes, like Hawaiian sky cupcakes, or something equally cool. On her own, Isabel comes up with a pretty unique recipe to enter into a special contest called a bake-off, where the finalists travel to New York City to compete against each other. But beyond the contest, Isabel is pretty worried about her mom, who won't travel anywhere and who has a lot of fears and doubts and insecurities. Usually it's your mom who encourages you, right? Not in this case. Isabel has to walk on eggshells around her mom, who often seems sad and down. So if Isabel does place in the bake-off, what's going to happen? And will they be able to keep the shop running if her mom falls apart? It's Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder.

It's Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder. 2010: Aladdin/Simon and Schuster. 193 p. Booktalk to intermediate grades and to middle school.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Just Write: Booktalk 4

If you like to write – you know, the writing you do for yourself and not just required school writing – you probably know that it’s one of those “easier said than done” activities. Spilling Ink is a great book to get you inspired to write, and it’s funny and helpful, too. It’s got a bunch of “I dare you”s for your writing – to get you going or to keep you going – and it’s even got an Official Writer’s Permission Slip [show page 7]. What I liked most about Spilling Ink is how it explains the messy writing process and the importance of re-writing. Think of your favorite book of all time: did you know the author may have re-written that book up to 20 times? That’s normal, even if it does sound weird. Future novelists out there, if you like writing fiction, this book has great ideas for coming up with a plot, inventing characters, and writing dialogue. You can read part of it or all of it, depending on what advice you need. The author interviews at the end are pretty funny, too. One of the writers has slammed her head on the desk, yelled, “This is hard!” [the writing, not the desk] and then had a strawberry Twizzler to feel better. Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter.

Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. 275 p. Roaring Book Press, 2010. Booktalk to intermediate grades, middle school, high school.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just Write: Booktalk 3

Tod Munn is one of those kids you have to watch out for in school. He’s tough, he’s mean, he will fight you if necessary, and he’s familiar with detention and suspension. The teachers think of him as one of the bad kids. In Tod’s defense, though, he doesn’t have a lot going for him. He’s from a poor family, and his dad left a while ago. It’s normal for him to have no breakfast or lunch, unless he gets a free one from school. But we find out something very surprising about Tod: he’s a really good writer – funny, smart, and engaging. Of course, he’s being forced in write in a journal in detention which lasts one month, under the watchful eye of the guidance counselor. When you start to read Tod’s journal, you realize so many things about him and about the other kids and teachers at his school. Without giving away too much, you might start to realize that Tod is really kind of amazing, and so is what he “scrawls” in detention. Scrawl by Mark Shulman.

Scrawl by Mark Shulman. 230 p. 2010: Roaring Book Press. Booktalk to middle school, high school.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just Write: Booktalk 2

[Ask your teen readers which books they have read by Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises; A Farewell to Arms; For Whom the Bell Tells; The Old Man and the Sea, etc.]

What do you think of when you think of the typical writer? [Get a few responses.] Ernest Hemingway probably wasn’t like any of those. He loved to drink, to hunt, to go on safaris, to fight, and to watch bullfights. Basically, he was a restless adrenaline junkie. He loved women and was married four times. He would not mince words, either in real life or in his writing; in fact, he could be really mean to his friends and even to his family. He believed in getting right to the point and to living life to the fullest. [Show photograph on p.4: Hemingway with the huge tuna]. Hemingway had to be the best at everything: whether it was killing large game in Africa, catching the largest fish, writing the best novel, or winning an argument. This book gives a good mix of photos, stories, and facts about Hemingway’s life. Even though Hemingway was and is a major success, he struggled with alcohol and depression and failures. Reading about his life may evoke different responses from you – the end of his life, which ended in suicide, was pretty sad. And yet he is one of America’s greatest writers. His life was fascinating and enigmatic. Read about it in Ernest Hemingway: A Writer’s Life by Catherine Reef.

Ernest Hemingway: A Writer’s Life by Catherine Reef. 183 p. Clarion, 2009. Booktalk to 8th grade and above.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Just Write: Booktalk 1

Teens mostly e-mail, text, IM, or call each other nowadays, right? Dash and Lily are completely different. They met by notebook, and it stayed that way for a while. Let me explain. Dash, short for Dashiell, is in his favorite bookstore in New York City, and on the shelves he finds a red moleskin notebook with handwritten instructions involving a challenge, and not an easy one. The challenge – if done correctly – will get the notebook back to its owner. The challenge involves writing, intelligence, willingness to make a fool out of himself, and some luck. And so the game starts. Dash and Lily don’t actually meet for a while. They couldn’t tell you what the other one even looks like: they’re both blanks to each other, in that respect. They start sharing through writing: thoughts, memories, aspirations – you know, the kind of stuff it’s easier to write that to say out loud. But both harbor a desire to meet in real life, yet the signs are there that they won’t and can’t have the type of relationship that they had through the notebook. What if meeting in real life ruins everything? Read Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. 260 p. Knopf, 2010. Booktalk to high school.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Take a Second Look: Booktalk 4

What if you didn't know your parents? That's Delana's story: she's an only child who lives with her Grandpa and her Aunt Tilley in West Virginia. Aunt Tilley likes to show Delana old-fashioned photographs of Delana's relatives -- descended from slaves -- and make them come alive through stories. So Delana _thinks_ she knows her family, but once Aunt Tilley dies, Delana gets a secret visit from one of her relatives disguised as a scrawny peddlar -- Cousin Ambertine. Ambertine is on a mission: to tell Delana part of the truth. As it turns out, Ambertine was really close to Delana's mom, and has news which shocks Delana, who finds she must take a second look at her mysterious family. Finding Family by Tonya Bolden.

Finding Family by Tonya Bolden. 172 p. Bloomsbury, 2010. Booktalk to intermediate grades and middle school.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Take a Second Look: Booktalk 3

 [Booktalker's note: I personally would only booktalk this one to high school students due to some subject matter. I'll do another title suitable for middle school on this "take a second look" theme.]

New kids at a school often have difficulty fitting in, but not Jake. It’s as if he came out of nowhere and just fit in perfectly, especially with the cool, football player set. When Rick first meets Jake, he finds him almost annoyingly cool: his clothes, his smile, his Friday night parties, and his one-mindedness. But Rick comes to like Jake anyway, and they grow closer. It soon becomes obvious that Jake’s true interest lies in Didi, a beautiful girl who is already “taken” as the official girlfriend of the school’s popular quarterback, Todd. Disturbingly, the more that Rick finds out about Jake, the more disturbed Rick is by two basic facts: one, Jake seems incredibly un-bothered by Todd’s hatred of Jake; and two, Jake seems ignorant of the fact that Didi is just toying with Jake’s affections. At first look, Jake seems to be golden. At second look, he is amazingly ignorant of the truth of his own personal situation. Jake, Reinvented is by Gordon Korman.

Jake, Reinvented by Gordon Korman. 213 p. Hyperion, 2003. Booktalk to high school.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Take a Second Look: Booktalk 2

[Hold up cover.] This is Loeb. He’s a middle-school zombie. Just like the title tells you, he eats brains for lunch, as the other zombies at his school do. The zombies have flies, maggots, and when they roll their eyes, their eyes fall out of their heads. So Loeb’s got quite a middle school – there are three groups of kids. You’ve got the zombies, the Lifers [regular human beings], and the chupacabras [blood suckers, also called Chupos]. Weird, huh? Well, this is one weird book. It is written entirely in haiku form. Why in haiku? I mean, there’s nothing creepy about haikus! Loeb the zombie likes to hang out in the school library. The librarian, Mrs. Fincher, recognizes that he’s really smart and a good writer. She urges him to enter his haikus at open poetry mike night at school. Oh, and to complicate things, he sort of has a crush on a pretty lifer named Siobhan. Loeb’s friends sure don’t want him to succeed: after all, there are unwritten rules about what zombies can and cannot do. But Loeb is kind of cool, and smart, and funny. So what if his ear falls off from time to time?

Brains for Lunch by K. A. Holt. 86 p. Roaring Book Press, 2010. Booktalk to 5th, middle school, high school.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Take a Second Look: Booktalk 1

Samantha – also called Sam --  is one of the most popular girls at her high school, and she’s part of a tightly knit group of four girls. It’s Cupid Day, the day at their high school where the students get and receive roses with notes from friends and admirers. It’s a fairly normal day, with one exception: Sam dies, and I’m not giving away the ending, because it’s not really the ending. Even though she’s dead, Sam wakes up the next day – and it’s Cupid Day again. This time Sam makes some minor adjustments in how her day goes, because she knows full well how it ends. And she starts noticing little things that she hadn’t noticed before. Then she starts making some changes in what she says, who she interacts with, and ways she treats people. Little things: like eating lunch in the bathroom with a unpopular girl, or giving roses to another girl who is called “Psycho.” Other little things: like noticing her boyfriend Rob is sort of a jerk, and that another guy, a non-popular friend from her childhood, is actually the most interesting guy around. Sam gets to replay her day over several times, and the more she does it, the more she realizes exactly how important words and actions are, even to the point of determining whether another student lives or dies. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. 470 p. Harper, 2010. Booktalk to high school.

Monday, October 4, 2010

From Russia with Love: Booktalk 3

Most princesses have a pretty cushy life, right? When we first meet the princess Anastasia Romanovna, her life does appear to be privileged and comfortable. She’s the daughter of the Russian tsar, and she’s got servants, beautiful clothes, and the best food and education available.  She’s pretty, smart, and kind. However, as privileged as she and her sisters and brother may be, their elevated status as royalty is threatened. There are ominous signs all around them that the Russian people [and others] feel tremendous anger and resentment towards Anastasia’s entire royal family. So, how does Anastasia know all this? She’s got a secret boyfriend, Alexander [nicknamed Sasha], who’s in the military.  He’s one of the guards she meets at her palace, and they strike up a friendship. When he’s sent off to war to fight for Russia, he suffers blindness in one eye. When he is recovering from his injuries, Sasha tells Anastasia about how there may be a revolution soon, or anarchy. Anastasia’s days as a princess are numbered, and Sasha warns her about this. Yet Sasha is determined to stay near Anastasia, even when her father abdicates the throne and her mother is arrested. Soon thereafter, Anastasia goes from being a princess to being a prisoner, one whose life is in great danger. Based on a real historical princess, Anastasia’s Secret gives an insider’s account the death of royalist Russia.

Anastasia’s Secret by Susanne Dunlap. 333p. Bloomsbury, 2010. Booktalk to high school.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

From Russia With Love: Booktalk 2

Yuri is a teenage boy living in Russia in the 1930s, under a brutal Stalin-like leader. The old rule of the Czars is over: they’ve been murdered and exiled, and no one dares speak of them anymore. The new regime – which Yuri is taught to praise at school – is harsh and unforgiving. People in Yuri’s town live in perpetual fear of being kidnapped and sent away to the work camps, where their chances of survival are slim. Yuri’s parents urge him to keep his mouth shut and his eyes down at the ground. In an unstable police state, anyone can be singled out and disappear without a trace. Yuri’s school is shut down, and he’s forced to do brutally hard manual labor.  When he’s sent to a mining camp in the north for answering a question incorrectly [sentence: ten years], Yuri senses that his life is over. Even if he does manage to get home, his parents may be dead or just gone, like so many others. But youth may be on his side: “Sometimes the sunlight had sparkled so brightly across the boundless sheets of snow. Or, in the stinging wind under the china-blue sky, I’d smelled the blessed spring melt. Once I stood under a tree and my heart sang to see the way its tall brave trunk soared …. I’d watch the eagles soaring overhead. I couldn’t help it” (138).  In a world of bleakness, illness, and semi-starvation, Yuri takes what consolation he can get. The Road of Bones by Anne Fine is gripping historical fiction.

The Road of Bones by Anne Fine. 213 p. Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2006. Booktalk to high school, adult.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

From Russia With Love: Booktalk 1

Rose lost her best friend by choosing to attend a special school for the arts [dance, music] instead of the local public school. But even in her private school, Rose feels like an outsider. She's a dancer, like many of the other teens, but she has few friends, no social life, low self-esteem, and no real joy in her daily life, except for fleeting moments of loving dance. Yrena, the Soviet girl across the street whose window Rose can see into, has never spoken to Rose. When Yrena walks to her own school, special agents follow discretely behind her. Rose knows very little about her, until Yrena's face pops up unexpectedly at Rose's bedroom window one day. Shocked, Rose lets her in, and in surprised at Yrena's friendliness and curiosity about Rose's life and the lives of American teenagers in general. In spite of her closely monitored and controlled life, Yrena seems confident, friendly, secure, and happy. She's an outsider in this country, but she has a lot to teach Rose. When they drop in on a party [Rose would never have done this before], Yrena stands up to the girls who bullied Rose. It's like watching a master, a queen bee who's both kind and strong. But can a girl who is under such close governmental control really be available for friendship? Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci is an intriguing novel about friendship, dance, and openness.

Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci. 197 p. Scholastic, 2010. Booktalk to high school.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Book talk: The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Newbery Honor, 2009)

Our theme so far has been ‘hang in there.’ As you know, it’s another way of saying ‘survive’ or ‘endure.’ This novel, The Underneath, shows us the embodiment of survival and endurance. When you look at the cover of The Underneath [display cover], you see three animals cowering, probably in fear: Ranger, a hound dog chained to the house, and two cats. An unlikely trio. They’re living beneath a beat-up shack in the middle of an obscure forest in far east Texas, with bayous, creeks, wilderness, snakes, turtles, frogs, and alligators. The owner of the shack is a terribly cruel man who lives alone, and his only name is Gar-Face. Gar-Face hates other people and animals, too. He’s abused Ranger, who lives alone under the house in fear and hunger and solitude. But Ranger’s life starts to show a little hope and love when a pregnant cat shows up. She’s literally been thrown away by her owners. When she gives birth to two kittens, she and her kittens live with Ranger in the underneath and love him completely. They’re their own little family, as odd as it may seem. The cat and her kittens make Ranger’s life worth living. Yet there is such danger in the forest. There is a snake who is over 1,000 years old, plotting revenge. There’s an enormous alligator whom Gar-Face wants to catch and kill. And there’s a mysterious, beautiful hummingbird whose appearance to a creature or person announces that person’s impending death. Who will die? Who will survive? The Underneath by Kathi Appelt is a truly amazing novel, beautifully written and brilliantly imagined.

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. 313 p. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008. Booktalk to advanced intermediate readers, middle school, high school, adult. Newbery Honor, 2009.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hang in There: Booktalk 2

Have you ever driven your parents crazy with your whining, especially over summer vacation? That is exactly what eleven-year-old Megan is doing to her parents during their summer break in Vermont. Megan’s parents are both artists, and between nine a.m. and noon, Megan is supposed to be engaged in “creative pursuits,” which means art or writing, and no cell phone, no Internet, no television: you get the picture. Poor Megan: she starts to doodle, and then she rips it up. She’s bored. So her mother, one of those “back to nature” types, suggests that Megan go on a hike. Only problem is: Megan gets lost, and she’s got her innocent little dog Arp [not Arf, it’s Arp] with her. Megan actually managed to get lost on the Appalachian trail, too, which stretches on for miles and miles and miles. During my favorite part, she keeps fantasizing about Oreo cookies which are supposedly in a bag hanging from a nail in one of the trail shelters. Only, there’s an animal much larger than Megan that wants those Oreos, too. Can Nature Girl make it on her own? Nature Girl by Jane Kelley.

Nature Girl by Jane Kelley. 236 p. Random House, 2010. Booktalk to elementary [3rd-5th] and middle school.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hang in There: Booktalk 1

Most of you have tripped and fallen at some point, right? When our author, Raina Telgemeier, was in sixth grade, she fell and tripped, knocking out her two front teeth. Only, it wasn’t that simple. She hurt the bone above her teeth, and did some pretty serious damage which required multiple surgeries. This caused her to miss a fair amount of school, and she spent a lot of time in pain and unable to eat. But notice the title and the cover: it’s Smile.

In spite of its painful subject matter, Smile is a funny and thoughtful book. Raina has the normal problems of a pre-teenager: at one point, she’s writing a note to her friend about a boy she likes, and her teacher intercepts it, and the whole class finds out who she has a crush on. But there are also times when she’s so worried about her surgeries that she can’t focus on school, and her grades suffer. She gets teased more than most kids do because of her teeth. Yet Raina is a cool, kind-hearted, brave girl, and Smile tells a great story. Smile by Raina Telgemeier.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier. Graphic novel: 213 p. Scholastic, 2010. Booktalk to elementary [3rd-5th] and middle school.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cool, Smart Poetry: Booktalk 3

Poets can get away with stuff that non-poets can’t. For example, only a poet would think about what trees dream about at night. One of my favorite poems in this collection is called “The Oak Trees Are Dreaming” by Patricia Hubbell, and I got to hear her read it on the CD that comes with the book. Hearing her read it made the poem come alive for me. Back to poets getting away with stuff. Only a poet could write an ode to a termite who caused your Cousin May to fall through the floor today. And only a poet could write an obituary for a clam that lived and died 300 million years ago. And only a poet could compare a bear in a zoo to a lost child in the woods. And only a poet could explain to you why everything that lives wants to fly. The great thing about a treasury of poetry like this one is that it has something for everyone. You are guaranteed to find at least a few poems that you really love. The Tree that Time Built: [Poems] Selected by Mary Anne Hoberman and Linda Winston.

The Tree that Time Built: [Poems] Selected by Mary Anne Hoberman and Linda Winston. 209 p., includes index, glossary, and accompanying audio CD. Sourcebooks, Inc, 2009. Booktalk to elementary school [grades 3-5] and to middle school.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cool, Smart Poetry: Booktalk 2

[Before you booktalk, put bookmarks in your favorite poems in case you want to read a few instead of doing a traditional “booktalk.” These poems are charming.]

Can you imagine a poem about your great-aunt who was a paleontologist famous for finding fossil poo? Or a poem about hugging and kissing a giant dinosaur skeleton in a museum? Or a poem about a prehistoric kid who has a teddy bone instead of a teddy bear? [Show the picture: it’s the poem titled “Teddy Bone.”] Doesn’t he look miserable in his leaky, lumpy bed? He wakes up miserable every morning: so next time you’re whining about going to bed, think about what life was like for prehistoric kids! Can You Dig It And Other Poems by Robert Weinstock features cool, quirky poems with hilarious little details: triceratops on a trapeze; Cro-Magnon men wearing animal tutus; and a T. Rex who accidentally ate his friends!

Can You Dig It and Other Poems: Unearthed by Robert Weinstock. Unpaged [21 poems]. Disney Hyperion Books, 2010. Booktalk to grades 3-6.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cool, Smart Poetry: Booktalk 1

[Before you booktalk, put bookmarks in your favorite poems in case you want to read a few instead of doing a traditional “booktalk.” More charming poems here.]

Did you know that 99% of all species that ever existed are now extinct? 99% -- that’s pretty much all species! So the species that are still sticking around today, like us, are pretty lucky and amazing. [Showcase cover of book]. This book is called Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman and illustrator Beckie Prange. That’s a tricky word – ubiquitous. What does that mean? [Take answers or guesses.] The glossary at the back tells us this: “Something that is (or seems to be) everywhere at the same time.” So basically, ubiquitous means something that’s everywhere – and something we are used to: bacteria, beetles, ants, grass, squirrels, and humans. All of these things have ancient ancestors. Take squirrels, for example.

[If you want, skip the next part, and just read the poem “Tail Tale” and then give your readers a few pre-rehearsed facts from the squirrel info section.]

“Tail Tale” is a cool shaped poem [show the picture]: squirrels have more determination and perserverance than we’ll ever have, and their genetic family is 36 million years old. That’s older than us, good old homo sapiens. In the world of species, we are the new kids on the block. Our everyday world is full of ancient mysteries, and history lives through those ubiquitous plants and animals. Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman.

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman, ill. by Becky Prange. Unpaged. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010. Booktalk to intermediate grades [3-5] and middle school.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Your Medical Diagnosis Is ... : Booktalk 3

[Unless you have a t-shirt that says, "Buddha Burger," you don't need any props for this one.]

Excuse me [run hands through your hair, look disheveled and wild-eyed, confused.] Have you seen a talking garden gnome and / or a Mexican-American dwarf clutching an inhaler? The dwarf might have asked you if he could use your cell phone to call his mom. Which way did they go? [Wait for response.] That is _not_ helping me. Why the funny looks? Okay, sorry, I'll slow down, but if you see anything resembling fire giants or a Wizard of Reckoning -- you'll know him when you see him -- tell me immediately. So, I'm Cameron, and I've been diagnosed with mad cow disease. Those last two wusses who booktalked to you got nothing on me. See, their diseases were just physical: blindness and leukemia. Mine is BOTH physically and mentally degenerative: yeah, both my body and my mind are going to hell in handbasket. I won the sickness lottery. But I'm on a quest, too. I'm trying to find Dr. X, who learned to travel through both space and time. I'm trying to fight this dark energy that is attacking both my brain and this world of ours [hence those nasty fire giants]. Yes, I'm crazy but I'm also not. You have to be a little crazy to live in this world, and you have to be even crazier _not_ to search for meaning. So even if I don't find Dr. X, I hope to find out what all this _means_ before I die. Don't look so glum. I'm funny as heck, trust me. So are the gnome and the dwarf, when they're not being pains in the you-know-what. Read Going Bovine by Libby Bray, and don't forget to suspend your disbelief.

Going Bovine by Libby Bray. 480 p. Delacorte Press, 2009. Booktalk this only after reading every single page, seriously. Upper high school, college, adult.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Your Medical Diagnosis Is ... : Booktalk 2

[Once again, you’ll be doing first-person narration. If you have any football stuff, like a helmet, wear it. Or, if you have any books by or about Malcolm X, hold them, cover facing out.]

I don’t look sick, do I? [Long pause.] Yeah, I got you fooled, just like everyone else: my parents, my teachers, my girlfriend, and my brother, who is also my best friend. Before my senior year in high school started, I had my routine physical, along with bloodwork. And I got some very bad news. Yeah, I’m terminal. Terminal, as in - dying. Dead. Gone. Sooner rather than later. It’s a blood disease, and I’m not going to bore you with the gory details. [Put your hand up to your ear as if you missed a comment from the audience.] What’s that? Skip school? Are you kidding? And miss all the drama? Miss being around the hottest girl in school, who actually _chooses_ to hang out with me? Miss being around my ignorant government teacher, who spews propaganda in spite of my efforts to correct him? Miss being on the football team? [Pause, look insulted.] Yes, that’s right, I made the team. Okay, so the coach is a close personal friend of the family. Okay, so the only sport I only have a chance with is cross country. I’m dying: I might as well go all out. You know all those people who say “I’d like to do X before I die?” Well, that’s my own personal homework assignment that I created just for me. There’s something else you need to know. I’m 18, which means I can keep my medical stuff all to my lonesome self. If I want to tell my parents, that’s fine. If I don’t want to tell them, well, heck, that’s perfectly legal, too. So which did I choose? Get the book, lazybones. Don’t give me that look - you’d be difficult, too. I’m under deadline. Deadline by Chris Crutcher.

Deadline by Chris Crutcher. 316 p. Greenwillow Books, 2007. Booktalk to high school, adult.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Your Medical Diagnosis Is ... : Booktalk 1

[You’ll be doing the next three booktalks in first person narration. For this booktalk, you’ll need a pair of dark sunglasses to wear.]

Most of you think dark glasses are pretty cool, right? Well, I don’t wear them to be cool. I wear them as protection from your stares. That’s right -- you. See, I’m slowly going blind. My name’s Natalie, and I’m a regular teenager, except for the fact that I was born with some abnormalities in my eyes, so it’s always been hard for my eyes to adjust to light, which then causes a host of other problems. As a kid, I started tripping, falling, and having serious accidents because my vision was deteriorating. Reading became hard because I couldn’t see the letters, and by the time I was in middle school, I could not see well enough to get from classroom to classroom. It was scary and embarrassing. I had to count and memorize the steps between classes, and even then, things could go wrong. The summer before I started high school, I had my seventh eye surgery operation. It did not make my eyesight any better. And soon after that, just as the doctor hinted, my eyesight started to get worse. Basically, I’m getting ready to go completely blind. I can’t function in Western Allegany, my small public high school, because it just doesn’t have any technology for the blind. So my parents have sent me away to a Baltimore school for the blind, which is where I am now. It’s got an interesting group of teens. I live in dorm with a group of girls, some of whom are cool, and some of whom aren’t. I’m learning Braille and how to get around with a cane, which is harder than you think. When you’re blind, you’re far more vulnerable than sighted people, also -- both physically and emotionally. In spite of all that they’re teaching me here, there’s one thing I can promise you. No one and nothing can prepare you for going blind. This is my story. Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings.

Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings. 226 p. Dutton Children’s Books, 2010. Booktalk to high school, even adult.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Awesome Arctic: Booktalk 3

Even though fourteen-year-old Alika hasn’t been a teenager for long, he’s an accomplished Inuit seal hunter, and he his family live about as close as humans live to the North Pole in 1868. Seal hunting is a way of life to the Inuit people, and Alika and his younger brother, Sulu, have traveled to the edge of a thick ice floe which is attached to land. It’s the time of the long winter darkness, and Alika and Sulu have come by ice sledge led by their dogs. Their lead sledge dog, Jamka, has sniffed out a seal hole, and Alika sees his chance to wait for the seal to pop up to the surface and provide them with the food they so badly need for the long, dark, frigid winter. But Alika is starting to push his luck: it looks as if a gale is coming, and their village of Nunatak is seven miles away. Alika’s ancestors have been living in this neck of the woods for thousands and thousands of years, and all children are taught to hunt, to build iglus, to predict the thickness of ice over water, to fight off polar bear attacks, and to survive sub-zero weather. If they’re not taught this at a young age, they’ll die. Remember: the Arctic is a formidable foe. It has lots of tricks up its sleeve, and it had one trick that Alika did not see coming: ice floes can break away from the land they’ve attached themselves to. They’re like big ice rafts, basically, and Alika watches in horror as he and his young brother and their dogs are suddenly adrift at sea, all alone on an ice floe: Ice Drift by Theodore Taylor.

Ice Drift by Theodore Taylor. 224 p. Harcourt, 2005. Booktalk to intermediate grades, middle school, even early high school.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Awesome Arctic: Booktalk 2

You have to be really, really tough -- physically and mentally -- to want to reach the North Pole, especially if you did it the old-fashioned way [by boat, dog sled, and your own two feet], as African-American explorer Matthew Henson did. Matthew Henson had always been a determined, adventurous young man. When he was only 13 years old, he walked forty miles completely on his own to Baltimore in order to get a job. He discovered that he loved sailing, adventure, and travel. When he met a young naval lieutenant named Robert Edwin Peary in 1887, it would change his life. He traveled with Peary to the jungles of Nicaragua, and later they started traveling to the Arctic. Explorers tend to dream big, and Robert Peary was no exception. He wanted to be the first man to reach the North Pole, and he asked Henson to come along and be his assistant. This began years of their working as a team to reach the pole. Peary was lucky to have such a brave and loyal helper. Henson gave up much of his life and his personal safety to accompany Peary on these long, often fruitless expeditions. During one, Henson had gone ahead. He was fairly close to the Pole, but he was on thin ice, and he and his dogs plunged into the icy water. If Henson had not been pulled out by a native Inuit man who had accompanied them, he would have died. Peary never wanted to give up, because he was in competition with another man, Dr. Frederick Cook, to be the first man to reach the true North Pole. Eventually, Peary was declared the winner, but sadly enough, Matthew Henson did not receive much credit or glory at the time for his help in the victory. Happily, some of that has been rectified today. Read more about this fascinating man, Matthew Henson, in Onward: a Photobiography of African-American Polar Explorer Matthew Henson by Dolores Johnson.

Onward: a Photobiography of African-American Polar Explorer Matthew Henson by Dolores Johnson. 64 p. National Geographic Society, 2006. Booktalk to intermediate, middle school, even high school.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Awesome Arctic: Booktalk 1

Imagine traveling to the North Pole, a land where nothing is permanent except the seabed far below the ice itself. The air is 15 degrees below zero, and it is completely dark six months out of the year. Unlike the South Pole, the North Pole doesn’t have permanent research stations and scientists living there year round. In many ways, the North Pole is trickier, sneakier, and more mysterious than the South Pole. It seems to have more secrets which are harder to uncover. That’s why the New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin visited the North Pole and wrote this book. He’s an environmental reporter and the first Times reporter to file stories directly from the North Pole. It’s pretty amazing what he went through to get there. It can take days in small planes landing on obscure, icy runways. You have to wear huge, bulky clothing and spend a lot of time sitting around waiting. When you get there, during the daylight months, the sun is blinding, the air is frigid, and you can forget about taking showers. You lose all sense of time because it’s perpetual daylight. Only bring pencils, because pens will freeze up, and you won’t be able to write. Revkin explores many of the mysteries of the North Pole: why the magnetic field there is always shifting; how global warming could massively change the North Pole; and why so many explorers have died trying to get to the Pole. I loved The North Pole Was Here by Andrew C. Revkin.

The North Pole Was Here: Puzzles and Perils at the Top of the World by Andrew C. Revkin. 128 p. Kingfisher, 2006. Booktalk to intermediate grades, middle school, even high school.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fight Back: H.S. Booktalk 3

When you’re the younger brother of an alpha male, you have to fight to maintain your sense of identity, especially when it’s an identity less respected and understood by others in your small town. Although Frankie is smart, quirky, decent looking, and funny, his older brother Steve is much, much cooler; unlike Frankie, Steve is highly respected both by the popular kids at school and by the local “cholos” he hangs out with. Steve’s a varsity athlete who will get a college scholarship, and Frankie likes to blow up anthills [they’re fire ants, relax] with his best friend, Zach, who likes to take out his glass eye and gross out his friends with it. Frankie’s fine with being his own person, until he and his brother have escalating conflicts with John Dalton, a rich, white boy who has it out for both of them, due in large part to the fact that Frankie managed to steal John’s girlfriend out from under his nose [way to go, Frankie!]. Unfortunately, the rivalry with John Dalton has now expanded, and it’s become a racially divided one. Frankie will have to decide at what point fighting back is actually worth it, because anger has a way of erasing your true identity. The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhoes is thoughtful and laugh-out-loud funny.

The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees. 316 p. Hyperion Books [Disney], 2008. Booktalk to high school, adult.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fight Back: H.S. Booktalk 2

Marena is a teenager in a country, probably our own, ruled by the Zero Tolerance Party, which is the only political party, under which it is perfectly legal to arrest anyone at any time for anything. It is a country now ruled by fear, oppression, and ruthless indoctrination. At Marena’s school, which is actually run much like a prison, Marena and her classmates are forced to read [almost religiously] from a huge red tome called the Commemorator. But Marena is having a hard time being a true believer. Her mother, whose memory she clings to even as it fades, was captured and probably killed by the state for protesting their lack of rights. Marena’s a lot like her mom, and so are her two close friends - Eric and Dex. The three of them have been sneaking off their fenced-in compound to a secret, abandoned, empty old building they found - a place where they can be themselves and dream of resistance. However, there are signs that there is another group of resisters trying to make inroads at their school. Unfortunately, one must be extremely careful in this police state to make zero mistakes: punishment entails [among other things] a brain operation which causes you to lose the ability to read, write, or speak. And Marena, Eric, and Dex have been sloppy. Marena may have trusted someone she thought would never betray her, especially to the authorities. She now runs the risk of becoming just like her mother: one of the “disappeared.” The Silenced by James DeVita is about fighting back against a government which has zero tolerance for basic human rights.

The Silenced by James DeVita. Grades 7 up. 512 p. HarperTeen, 2007.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fight Back: H.S. Booktalk 1

When we're first introduced to Jace, a sixteen-year-old boy, he's split in two ways, just like the title of this novel, Split. First of all, Jace is split physically: his dad has physically assaulted him badly, just as his dad been doing to his mother for years now. Secondly, Jace has split from home, and he's looking for his older brother, Christian, who has made himself really, really hard to find. Christian left home years ago, because he was getting assaulted and could not stand the fact that their mother would not seek help: wouldn't tell the authorities, and wouldn't leave. Both Jace and Christian know that it's a matter of time before their mother gets killed by their father, who is actually a judge. A smart, respected judge - cunning enough to have been getting away with this for years. Jace plans to bust his mother out of her private hell, hopefully with Christian's help. But unfortunately, and complicatedly, Jace has a fight on two fronts. The other fight is with himself. He's got his own inner demons, which is why he lost the love of his girlfriend, Lauren, and why he's afraid to get involved with a new girl with whom he works. There are clues that Jace will have to fight hard to avoid becoming like his worst enemy: his father. On a personal note, although this sounds like a grim book, it's an amazing read. I could not put it down, and I highly recommend it: Split by Swati Avasthi.

Split by Swati Avasthi. Grades 9 up. 288 p. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2010.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

For Wimpy Kid Addicts: Booktalk 3

If I were a third grader, and my grades were decent, and my parents owned a candy store with really good candy,  I would be floating on air. But Justin isn't. Yes, his parents own the candy store, and his grades are fine, and he's only been in trouble a few times, but he worries - a lot. His friends call him Justin Case, and Case is not his real last name [no one can pronounce his last name: it's really long]. Justin is a good-hearted kid, the kind you would want for a friend, but he tends to get all worked up about stuff, and that shows in his diary entries. When he gets all worked about things, funny situations evolve. For example, all the kids had to come up with a classroom slogan at the start of the school year. Justin worked himself up into a state about this, and the slogan he came up with was so crazy that the class clowns loved it, but the teacher did not. They also started calling him by his slogan, which was not good. One of Justin's challenges is sports. He tries at sports, and his parents make him play sports, but he's not really good. He is really, really worried about not being able to climb the gym hanging rope. He doesn't want to look stupid, weak, or lazy. He's in a knot about it -- haha, bad pun, sorry. See how Justin handles this one [or doesn't] in Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

For Wimpy Kid Addicts: Booktalk 2

The next Wimpy Kid-inspired book you’d like is Big Nate: In a Class by Himself by Lincoln Peirce. Nate is a fairly average sixth grader, but he’s sure that he’s destined for greatness. What kind of greatness? He has no clue. He’s not stellar at sports, his older sister is Miss Perfect compared to him, and his grades are … not great. However, he does get a very important fortune cookie fortune which tells him, “Today you will surpass all others.” Finally! He is destined for greatness, right? Could his greatness be shown in eating a huge pile of slimy school cafeteria green beans and then causing a massive disaster involving the principal? Um…no. Could his greatness be shown in writing only poems about Cheez Doodles in his poetry portfolio? His English teacher failed to see his greatness in those. Could his greatness be shown in the accident involving his gym shorts and a bunch of towels? Nah, that just ended in humiliation. To find out how Nate did surpass all others, read Big Nate: In a Class by Himself by Lincoln Peirce.

Monday, July 26, 2010

For Wimpy Kid Addicts: Booktalk 1

It’s hard to duplicate the success of the Wimpy Kid books. Everyone’s read them, and pretty much everyone loves them. Well, if you’ve read them, and you want more, I have good news and bad news for you. First, the bad news: the next Wimpy Kid book is not due out until November 2010. Next, the good news. There are some books which are a little reminiscent of Wimpy Kid, but in different ways.
The first one I want to talk to you about is called My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian. [Show your readers the cover.] Just looking at the cover gives you a clue about the main character, Derek. Derek is a smart kid who loves to draw and hates to read. He’s been labeled a reluctant reader, and his mother basically bribes him with chocolate chips per page and threatens him. His dad, who is an illustrator by trade, is a little more sympathetic, but only a little. It’s summertime, and Derek has been procrastinating, nosing around the house, hanging out with his dog and his friends, and … oh, I almost forgot the worst part – Learning Camp. Yes, it is as bad as it is sounds. You’ll have to read about it for all the gory details.
Anyhow, you may be thinking: oh, this is the typical book about the boy who learns to love to read. No, this is not that book. This is a much, much better book. It’s funny, but it’s also more than that. Derek becomes really interested in finding out about a girl who drowned. He found this newspaper that his mom had been hanging on to, and every time he asked his mom about the drowned girl, it’s as if he hit a secret nerve. Who was this drowned girl? Derek may not like to read, but he’s got other talents, including getting his way, being a cool but nice kid, and being a good researcher and sleuth. Once you find out what he’s researching and why, you won’t be able to stop reading. My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian was a great summer read.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Strange Journey: Booktalk 3

If you’ve read any of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, you’ll know that the author, Rick Riordan, tells a great story. In his new series, The Kane Chronicles, he once again sets us on a strange journey. The Red Pyramid features two new main characters, Carter and Sadie, who are brother and sister but who haven’t lived together for years. In fact, the last time they lived together, a birthday cake exploded at a party, and their parents decided they’d live apart - in separate countries. It’s a long story.
Carter and Sadie have an odd, complicated family history of which they know very little when the story begins. Their father is a brilliant Egyptologist who moves around a lot and seems paranoid. At one point, their father seemed to attack the world famous Rosetta Stone, which really backfired, and released some ticked off Egyptian gods. Do not tick off an Egyptian god. They are extremely vengeful, whether they’re male, or female, or…animal. Of course, now that their father is gone, Carter and Sadie have to fight back, and they gain some interesting allies along the way. One of their allies is a cat named Muffin [awww!] and a basketball-playing baboon named Khufu who only eats food ending in the letter O. Strange friends? Don’t get me started about their enemies, who are even weirder. The Red Pyramid is one strange, funny, and mesmerizing journey.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Strange Journey: Booktalk 2

I want to introduce you to a young slave in America in the year 1776: the time of the Revolutionary War. Her name is Isabel, an African-American girl who can read and write, but she wisely keeps this fact to herself. Isabel is 13 years, and she has a sister who is 5 years old, named Ruth. Ruth has special needs, and Isabel sees it as her job to watch out for Ruth and to protect Ruth. Ruth and Isabel are basically all alone in the world. Their mother, also a slave, died of smallpox. Their father, brought over to this country from Africa, is also dead. So the two girls are completely alone.
At one point, Isabel and Ruth had a fair owner who promised them their freedom. Unfortunately, that fair master died, and they changed hands – remember, they’re considered “property,” and got an unfair master who sold them to even worse masters. Basically, they went from the frying pan into the fire, to use a saying. The Locktons, who own them now, are pretty unkind, especially Mrs. Lockton. Before I tell you about Mrs. Lockton, I need to explain that the Locktons are Loyalists – they are on the side of the British, and they don’t want the American colonists to win the war. Back to Mrs. Lockton. She’s such a cruel master that she punishes Isabel inhumanely: she has Isabel branded with the letter “I” on her face. The pain is excruciating, and Isabel almost dies. Nowadays, we consider that a form of torture, and it’s illegal. But in those days, masters could do whatever they chose with their slaves. Luckily, Isabel survives. And also luckily for Isabel, she meets another slave, named Curzon, who becomes her best friend. He recruits her to spy for the Americans. This means spying on her masters, the cruel Locktons. But Mrs. Lockton isn’t done with Isabel. She plans to sell what Isabel holds most near and dear to her heart: Ruth, Isabel’s sister. What would you do if someone sold or tried to sell your sibling? What could you do?
Much of Isabel’s journey has to deal with courage, strength, and survival. If you’re interested in early America, and you want a great read, check out Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Strange Journey: Booktalk 1

[Booktalkers: before you booktalk this, you may want to consider flagging some of Lynne Rae Perkins' cool drawings in this to show your audience. I consider this title appropriate for both middle school and high school.]
When we first meet Ry, he's taking the train to camp. The train stops, and the conductor allows a 40-minute break, so Ry gets off the train. Before he knows it, the train is moving off...without him. Oh, and one other thing. While he _was_ on the train, he opened a letter which he didn't expect to have such disastrous news. It said, "Do not come to camp. There is no camp." So, the logical thing for Ry to do now is to go home, right? Not so easy. Events start conspiring against Ry's homecoming. In fact, the same things starts happening to his grandfather -- who falls down a huge sinkhole -- and to his parents, who are thousands of miles away, on a sailboat. One of the chapters in this fabulous book is called, "When the Rug is Pulled Out, the Earth, too, You Have to Move Your Feet to Keep from Falling." You have to move your feet to keep from falling. And that's what Ry does. This is a wonderful, crazy, fast-paced adventure with intriguing characters. Check out As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cool Brainiacs: Booktalk 3

Not all brainiacs are math and science geniuses. Sometimes a brainiac is just a smart person who thinks of a brilliant solution to a problem - a solution which no one else has thought of. Mama Miti was that kind of brainiac. She was born and partially raised in Kenya -- in Africa, and during her lifetime, she started to see Kenya getting sick: poverty, scarce drinking water, not enough food, lack of jobs, and the growing disappearance of nature. It scared her, and it saddened her, too. People had been trying to think of solutions, but nothing was working. Mama Miti had an idea: get the local people in villages and tribes to plant more trees, even if it just meant starting with one tree. One tree? You'd be amazed what good things can come from a tree. It can be shelter from the burning sun, it can provide food, it can protect watersheds, and it can protect animals. A tree is a starting point for many good things. The tree movement she started was called the Green Belt movement. It has helped many people and villages in Africa. She had an elegantly simple idea. So, remember: a brainiac can use her brain to help thousands of people, just as Mama Miti did, in this fabulous book called Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli.

[Booktalkers: Much of this I got from Mama Miti's [a.k.a. Wangari Maathai] memoir called Unbowed: A Memoir, available in many libraries. If you're booktalking to high schoolers or adults, you might consider using Unbowed.]

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cool Brainiacs: Booktalk 2

Have you ever been insulted and called a blockhead? It's not fun, especially when you're actually smart. I want to introduce you to another Leonardo -- Leonardo of Pisa, also known as Leonardo Fibonacci. This Leonardo loved numbers that he thought about them all the time. In class, he was so smart that he'd finish his work early, start daydreaming about math riddles of his own inventions, and tick the teacher off! Many of the world's brightest minds were often daydreamers, so Leonardo Fibonacci fit that pattern perfectly! When Leonardo was grown up, he wrote a book about Hindu-Arabic numerals [basically, the number system we all use today], and he threw in some math riddles. One of the math riddles was about how fast rabbits can multiply. Now, if you've ever had a pair of male and female rabbits, they can have a lot of babies over the course of a year. You can get stuck with a lot of rabbit families, whether you want them or not. Leonardo discovered that in nature, whether we're talking about rabbits or shells or flowers, there is a magical numerical code which comes up time and time again. He found one of nature's most important codes! Today we call this code the Fibonacci sequence, after Leonardo. If you want to find out more about this amazing code, read Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D'Agnese.