Sunday, May 22, 2011

Booktalk: The Dog Days of Charlotte Hayes [Virginia Readers' Choice]

If you buy a pet, you must take good care of the pet. What does this include? [Gather responses: fresh food, fresh water, love, exercise, etc.]. Charlotte Hayes’s father brought home a beautiful dog: a Saint Bernard he named “Killer.” {Show cover.} Now, Killer was just not an apt name for this dog: he’s a completely gentle sweetheart who wouldn’t hurt a fly. And even though Charlotte’s dad brought this Saint Bernard home, he really wasn’t prepared to give the dog all the time and attention which the dog deserves. I’m still mad at the dad for doing this. You know a book has you hooked when you’re mad at a fictional character.

So, by default, Charlotte has been taking care of Beauregard, which is her name for the dog. She gives him water, food, and as much attention as she can – which is still not enough. It’s just not fair to Beauregard. And Charlotte is a really cool girl: she wants Beauregard to have the best possible home, with a family who is 100% committed to him. So she takes him to the animal shelter and tells them she found a lost dog, hoping a really nice family will adopt him and give him tons of love. But when she gets home from school the next day, she hears a bark. Beauregard is back. How on earth did he get there? The Dog Days of Charlotte Hayes by Marlane Kennedy.

The Dog Days of Charlotte Hayes by Marlane Kennedy. 233 p. Greenwillow Books, 2009. Virginia Readers’ Choice 2011-2012. Booktalk to intermediate grades and to younger middle schoolers.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Booktalk: Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford [Virginia Readers' Choice]

It can be tough being a nobody, but Newt Newman has survived it so far. His older brother, Chris, is a popular football star: so cool, that everyone’s heard of Chris, but nobody’s heard of Newt. Newt is 10, freckled, skinny, and short. Newt has always felt as if people look right through him, as if he’s not there at all. Don’t get me wrong: Newt does have friends – two of them – and they’re very close. He also likes drawing sketches of superheroes, and he’s pretty good at it. Newt’s just a normal kid who doesn’t call attention to himself, ever.

But then the unthinkable happens. During one of Chris’s football games, Chris gets hit in the head – really, really hard. So hard that Chris goes into a coma. What’s worse, a kid gets blamed for collision, and only Newt knows that the kid isn’t responsible. And one other very weird fact: Newt starts dressing up as Captain Nobody. Yeah, it sounds like a joke, and it sort of is, but he also starts doing some pretty heroic stuff. Is this just because his older brother is in a coma, or is the real Newt capable of amazing feats? Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford.

Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford. 2009: G. P. Putnam/Penguin Young Readers Group. 195 p. Virginia Readers’ Choice 2011-2012. Booktalk to intermediate grades.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Booktalk: Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak [Virginia Readers' Choice]

Let’s say that tonight your dad wants to send a message to a friend who lives across town. What are his options? [Wait for responses: call on the phone, email, etc.] What would your dad do if it were colonial America, 1773? [Wait for responses.] He’d send an errand boy to deliver the message. An errand boy was 11 or 12 years old, and he ran errands and usually lived in someone else’s household. In this case, it’s Ethan [point to cover]. Ethan is the paperboy for the printer, and he’s the errand boy. Ethan has no living parents: his mom died giving birth to him, and his dad drowned at sea. Ethan works for a living, and he works hard. It might take him all day to do his work and deliver messages. He keeps his mouth shut, his eyes open, and his feet in motion. Boston in 1773 is a very tense place. The Sons of Liberty are counting on Ethan to share the notice about the secret meeting at Old South. They have a midnight deadline: should the tea be taxed or should they fight back? Ethan’s day starts at dark: 5:30 in the morning, and goes til at least 9 at night. Can you keep up with him? Would you have been as tough and smart as he had to be? Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak by Kay Winters.

Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak by Kay Winters, illustrated by Larry Day. 2008: Dutton’s Children’s Books. Unpaged. Booktalk to intermediate grades [3rd-5th] and 6th. Virginia Readers’ Choice for 2011-2012.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Booktalk: Annie Glover Is Not a Tree Lover [Virginia Readers' Choice]

Of all the things in life that can embarrass you, your grandmother is not supposed to be one of them. Grandmas are all about hugs, presents, baking cookies with you, telling you funny stories about your parents – all that good stuff. But Annie Glover’s grandma has chained herself – with a padlock – to a tree named Elmer. And when Annie Glover’s classmates saw Annie’s grandma chained to a tree, they thought it was a man wearing pink shoes. How totally embarrassing! [Show picture on p. 6]. Now, Grandma has very good reasons for wanting to save this beautiful tree named Elmer. But the city council wants to cut Elmer down in order to put up a swimming pool. And who doesn’t want a swimming pool? Swimming pools are awesome, but there’s a secret reason why Elmer is awesome, too. I just hope everyone finds out the secret reason before the chainsaw guy gets to Elmer. Annie Glover Is Not A Tree Lover by Darleen Bailey Beard.

Annie Glover Is Not A Tree Lover by Darleen Bailey Beard. Pictures by Heather Maione. 120 p. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. Booktalk to elementary (2nd) and intermediate grades (3rd-5th). Virginia Readers’ Choice 2011-2012.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Booktalk: 11 Birthdays [Virginia Readers' Choice]

You know the acronym BFF? Remind me what it stands for. Right: best friends forever. Amanda and Leo were pretty much destined to be BFFs. They were born at the same time in the same hospital, and a mysterious old woman prophesied to their mothers that Amanda and Leo would be the best of friends. The same old woman asked their mothers to celebrate their birthdays together each year, and the two moms half-heartedly agreed to. It sort of sounds like something out of a fairy tale, right? The plan mostly worked, for a while. Amanda and Leo had great birthday parties together and they were really good friends. However, at their 10th birthday party together, Amanda heard Leo talking about her to a friend of his. He basically said that Amanda didn’t have many friends and that his mom made him share parties with her. That really hurt her feelings. So naturally, the two are no longer friends. Amanda’s 11 birthday party is coming up, and for the first time, she and Leo will be celebrating separately. But remember how these two are destined since birth to be BFFs? Fate has a funny way of bring former best friends together again. 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass.

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass. 267 p. Scholastic: 2009. Virginia Readers’ Choice for 2011-2012. Booktalk to intermediate grades (3rd-5th) and 6th grade.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Booktalk: The 100-Year-Old Secret [Virginia Readers' Choice]

Many of us have cool family legacies: a grandfather who fought in a war, relatives who came here from other countries -- it's pretty common. But Xena and Xander Holmes have an incredibly cool family legacy: they are the great-great-great-grandchildren of Sherlock Holmes. As you can remember, Sherlock Holmes was one of the smartest detectives of all time. He lived in London in the late 1800s/early 1900s and he could figure a ton of stuff out about you just by looking at you. He could deduce facts about you which other people simply could not. And he was always right! Even cooler, Xena and Xander have inherited similar talents from Sherlock Holmes, since they're his direct descendants. And there are people who have been watching Xena and Xander ... even from abroad. It may be hard to believe, but even the greatest detectives leave some cases unsolved, and that's what happened with Sherlock Holmes. Xena and Xander inherit Sherlock Holmes' casebook of unsolved mysteries, and there's one in particular they really, really want to solve. But some trails grow cold over the course of time, and this makes their case involving a 100-year-old secret even more challenging. The 100-Year-Old Secret [The Sherlock Files] by Tracy Barrett.

The 100-Year-Old Secret [The Sherlock Files] by Tracy Barrett. 157 p. Henry Holt and Company: 2008. Virginia Readers' Choice for 2011-2012. Booktalk to 3rd-5th.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Booktalk: Frankenstein [graphic novel]; [Monsters; 3]

Victor Frankenstein discovered the key to creating life. When he decided to create a human, he got way more than he bargained for. He crafted one together using parts of dead bodies: he even disgusted himself in the process, yet he made a creature. But Frankenstein’s creature was not truly human. After all, is it human to turn against your maker, killing off his friends and loved ones? No wonder Victor Frankenstein sees his creation as a monster. But the monster is going to fight back. He wants a companion, and he’ll stop at nothing to get one. Can Victor Frankenstein actually make a second creature? This is a graphic novel adaption of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, adapted by Lloyd S. Wagner.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein [Campfire graphic novels], adapted by Lloyd S. Wagner. 2010: Kalyani Navyug Media. 68 p. Due to some gory content, I would hesitate to booktalk this to elementary school [5th and under], but I do think it’s acceptable for middle school and high school.