Friday, January 28, 2011

Booktalk: Abe's Fish by Jen Bryant [Generosity; 2]

[Start by showing p. {6}: Abe's mom is stirring a pot, and Abe is next to her.] Abe and his family are poor, thin, and hungry. For the last few days, they've been living off turnip soup and little green apples. [Turn to next page: Abe is fishing.] Abe really wants to catch a fish to feed his hungry family. When he does, he is so proud of himself: his family will be overjoyed, and they'll eat well. But when he meets an American soldier on the road, he remembers his Ma's words, "We must be good to the soldiers." The soldier's head is bandaged. Like young Abe, he looks poor. Abe has a serious dilemma, and he only has one fish. This is based on a true story: Abe's Fish: A Boyhood Tale of Abraham Lincoln by Jen Bryant.

Abe's Fish: A Boyhood Tale of Abraham Lincoln by Jen Bryant. Illustrated by Amy June Bates. Unpaged. Sterling, New York, 2009. Booktalk to elementary, internediate grades. Includes a great section in the back with more biographical info on Abraham Lincoln.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Booktalk: The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings [Generosity; 1]

[Booktalker’s note: I am using the newest one, the 2011 one which is illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon].

[Show readers page [4], which has Calpurnia at her dresser, fixing her hair.] This is Calpurnia, who lives in a forest in Florida with her family and her loyal but lazy dog, Buggy-horse. She work up early today because she had the feeling something special would happen. [Turn to the next page, which shows Calpurnia at the breakfast table with her family.] When Calpurnia is eating breakfast with her family, her father tells them that hard times have come to the forest, and that he can’t catch any fish. No fish means no money and no food for their family. Calpurnia’s family is in big trouble. Well, Calpurnia decides to take matters in her own hands. She seeks out a wise woman, Mother Albirtha, who tells her a secret. It’s an important secret. It could save Calpurnia’s family, and maybe save the other poor people, too. It has to do with a secret river, full of all kinds of delicious fish, waiting to be caught. This is powerful knowledge. What will Calpurnia do to find this secret river, and if she finds it, what will she do with the fish? The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. 2011: Atheneum [it was first published in a slightly longer form posthumously, and was awarded a Newbery Honor in 1956]. Booktalk to elementary school, and elementary intermediate grades. This would also make a great classroom read-aloud.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Booktalk: Reality Check by Jen Calonita [Teen Chick Lit; 3]

You know how you act differently if you think a lot of people are watching you, and scrutinizing your actions? Try having the whole country watching you. That’s the case with Charlie. When we first meet her, she’s the ringleader of a group of very tight high school girls. They live in a small town and do small-town stuff. Charlie, for example, works at a coffeehouse called Milk and Sugar. Pretty normal. But there’s a woman who keeps coming in to Milk and Sugar every day, from out of town, asking Charlie a lot of questions, admiring her spirit and personality, and supposedly catching up on some reading. She even wants to meet Charlie’s friends and learn as much as she can about them. There’s Brooke, with red hair and a very direct manner; Hallie, with long curly brown hair, the daughter of local restaurant owners; and Keiran, Charlie’s oldest friend, who is blonde and super pretty and spends a lot of her free time babysitting her younger siblings. The girls are a team, and a very attractive one. The woman, as it turns out, is from the Fire and Ice Network, sort of like MTV, which produces teen reality shows. She offers the girl a contract, with mega-bucks and glamorous parties attached. The show is going to be called “The Cliffs,” after Cliffside, the name of their small beach community town. But there’s a real danger to exposing your private life and your friendships and your feelings to the whole world. Can these close friends stay true to each other and expose themselves to the whole country? Reality Check by Jen Calonita.

Reality Check by Jen Calonita. 277 p. Poppy/Little, Brown: 2010. Booktalk to high school, possibly adults who like chick lit.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Booktalk: Vintage Veronica by Erica S. Perl [Teen Chick Lit; 2]

If you saw 15-year-old Veronica walking down the street, you’d notice her clothes first. She might have on a bright pink poufy skirt from the 1950s, men’s bowling shoes, cat-eye glasses, and a vintage guayabera shirt. You’d also notice that, besides being pretty, she’s on the heavy side. At school, Veronica has been both picked on and ignored due to her weight. Let’s just say she has trust issues with other teens. But Veronica is talented, and she’s got a really cool job at this vintage clothing store called The Consignment Corner, secluded away from the public in her little corner two flights up, deciding on which clothes get sold to the public and which ones get trashed. It’s actually a really important job there. The owners noticed that she has a real eye for clothing: she knows her styles, cut, materials, and details. She’s an expert on vintage clothes, unlike the other employees. Speaking of the other employees, they’re starting to notice Veronica. The two alpha girls who work retail, Zoe and Ginger, will now actually talk to Veronica and seek her out, even though she’s a little afraid of them both. They’re charismatic, self-confident, and mean. And then there’s this boy called the Nail (real name: Lenny) . He’s a stockboy whom Zoe and Ginger make fun of. But Veronica starts to think he’s kind of cute, and he’s actually really nice to her: that’s a first, with Veronica and guys. But Zoe and Ginger hate Lenny, and he doesn’t exactly like them, either. Remember that Veronica is vulnerable – she’s got practically no dating history, and she’s hungry both for female friends and a little male attention. Whom will she chose? Or will Veronica screw it up and lose them all? Vintage Veronica by Erica S. Perl.

Vintage Veronica by Erica S. Perl. Knopf, 2010. 279 p. Booktalk to high school, adult.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Booktalk: Jane by April Lindner [Teen Chick Lit; 1]

If you've read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, you'll remember that Jane Eyre is a young 19th-century English woman who has had a tough childhood and is an orphan. As a young woman, she goes to work as a nanny for Mr. Rochester, a brooding, handsome, temperamental, and wealthy man who seems to be single but has a mysterious past. It's part ghost story and part romance: Jane and Mr. Rochester are both intriguing, strong-willed characters. This novel, Jane by April Lindner, locates the story in modern America: the original Jane Eyre inspires the story but doesn't dictate it. Jane Moore is 19 and has dropped out of Sarah Lawrence College. Both of her parents died recently in a car crash, and she doesn't have the money to stay in college. She applies to a nanny agency, and due to complete lack of knowledge in rock music [plus her total disinterest in rock stars], she gets an interesting nanny assignment. She's to be the nanny to the daughter of the country's most famous and most influential rock star, Nico Rathburn. Nico has a past of wild living, drugs, and failed marriage. He lives on a huge, somewhat isolated estate, Thornfield Park. Jane is a good nanny to his daughter, but she's confused when she starts having feelings for Nico, and especially confused when he show genuine interest and affection for her. What would a glamorous, rich rock star see in a plain Jane like herself? And more perplexingly, who has he stashed away on the forbidden third floor of his mansion, with a ghostly, female-sounding laugh?

Jane by April Lindner. Poppy/Little, Brown: 2010. 373 p. Booktalk to older teens [be aware of adult content issues] and to adults.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Riotous Roald Dahl: Booktalk 4

[For this booktalk, either hold up page 16 – the Twits at the table, with Mr. Twit eating “spaghetti,” or Xerox and enlarge the picture so your audience can see the picture.]
 Take a close look at this picture. These are the Twits: Mr. and Mrs. Twit. Tell me what you see in this picture. [Wait for a few responses.] Yes, they are ugly, and they appear to be eating – what food do you think that is? [Get brief response.] It does look like spaghetti, and that’s what Mrs. Twit is eating, but Mr. Twit is eating WORMS! That’s right – she mixed in worms with his spaghetti. What kind of person would do that? Well, to find out why, you’ll have to read the story. She had a very specific reason for doing what she did. But back to the Twits. I hope you never meet a couple like the Twits for as long as you live. Even their own pets hate the Twits. If I told you about their pets, you wouldn’t believe me. It’s just too crazy. And once you read about the kind of food which lives in Mr. Twit’s beard, you’ll never want to eat again. The Twits by Roald Dahl.

The Twits by Roald Dahl. 76 p. Scholastic, 1980. Booktalk to elementary, intermediate grade, reluctant middle school readers.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Riotous Roald Dahl: Booktalk 3

People will do strange things for love, and Esio Trot is the perfect example of this. It’s a weird title, isn’t it? Anyone know the trick behind it? It’s actually the word “tortoise” spelled backwards and split in two. Tortoise, you know, like a turtle. Mr. Hoppy is a very shy and lonely man who lives by himself. Every day he talks to the lady on the balcony below his apartment’s balcony. Her name is Mrs. Silver, and she has a little tortoise called Alfie. Mr. Hoppy is madly in love with Mrs. Silver, and she adores her little Alfie. Her goal in life is to get little Alfie to grow bigger. As you can imagine, tortoises don’t grow very fast. But Mr. Hoppy hatches a secret plan involving a tortoise airlift and over 100 tortoises. Mr. Hoppy may be shy, but he is pretty devious. Some people will do anything for love: Esio Trot by Roald Dahl.

 Esio Trot by Roald Dahl. 64 p. Puffin, 2009 [repr.]. Booktalk to elementary, intermediate, middle school reluctant readers.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Riotous Roald Dahl: Booktalk 2

Poor Mr. Fox – he’s got three of the nastiest, meanest, grossest, and ugliest farmers in England on his tail, and all because he’s just trying to provide food for Mrs. Fox and their little foxes. Okay, so he’s taking the occasional chicken from Farmer Boggis, the occasional goose from Farmer Bunce, and a turkey from time to time from Farmer Bean. That’s what foxes who live around farms do. But these three farmers just can’t forgive Mr. Fox. They shoot off his tail, and when he moves underground, they try to dig him out. They’re bound and determined to get Mr. Fox, no matter what the cost. Heck, they’ll get him even if they have to rip up the whole countryside. Yet, Mr. Fox is not an ordinary fox, and he’s got clever allies, like Badger and Mole. It’s war, and may the smartest creatures win!

Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. 96 p. Puffin, 2007 [repr.]. Booktalk to elementary, intermediate, middle school reluctant readers.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Riotous Roald Dahl: Booktalk 1

Have you ever been bossed around and bullied by someone older than you? George has ... big time ... by his grandmother! His parents aren't home, and it's his job to give his grandmother her medicine at 11 o'clock. Just so you know, George lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere with only his grandma, his parents, and some farm animals. And poor George has the grumpiest, meanest grandma around. He gets a sudden idea: what if he makes her his own medicine, full of ingredients like nail polish, floor polish, and engine oil? But instead of dying, grandma gets taller, and taller, and taller, until her head bursts through the attic and the roof. George's marvelous medicine has produced a monster. Now that she's huge, what's she going to do? And what else can his medicine do?

George's Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl. 96 p. Puffin, 2007 [repr.]. Booktalk to elementary, intermediate grades, middle school/reluctant readers.