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.