Thursday, June 30, 2011

Booktalk: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (Virginia Readers' Choice)

Why would a girl hate recess? Why would she need one-on-one lessons from a teacher on how to be a friend?  Why would she hide in an unfinished wooden chest? Let’s start with the first two questions. Caitlin has Asperger’s syndrome. She’s a smart girl and a gifted artist, but she needs more work than most of us on her people skills. She has to learn them and study them almost like you’d study a school subject. Caitlin has to work on which facial expressions on people match up with their corresponding emotions. Because she really doesn’t like making eye contact with people, she has to work hard on that, too. She doesn’t like loud noises, chaos, and people running around and shouting, and that’s recess in a nutshell. Recess freaks her out: she’d rather be alone, drawing.

But it’s so important that Caitlin learn how to make friends and how to be a friend. This connects us to the question of why she was hiding in an unfinished wooden chest. The chest reminds her of the closest friend she has ever had, the person who understood her the most and loved her dearly. Caitlin’s not done with that chest, and luckily, she’s not done with making friends or learning how to be a friend. Get inside the mind of a truly cool and unique girl. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine.

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. 2010: Philomel Books. 235 p. Virginia Readers’ Choice 2011-2012. Booktalk to middle school.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Booktalk: Wild Girl (Virginia Readers' Choice)

Lidie is a young girl from Brazil who is moving to America to be with her father and brother. They moved here years ago to start a new life after Lidie's mom died. Lidie doesn't speak much English; although she's really smart, she is having trouble in school. What is troubling her? A lot of things. First of all, she's lonely. She feels her teacher and her new classmates don't get her. She may be right. Also, she loves horses: riding them, watching them, being with them. She's a lot like her father and her brother in this respect: her father owns a stable and her brother is a jockey. Some people just have good intuition about horses, and Lidie is one of them. There's another character in this story, one who shares a lot in common with Lidie. That character is actually a filly who has been separated from her mother. This young horse is wild, super fast, and very lonely. When she meets Lidie, the two really like each other. The filly's name is Wild Girl, she trusts Lidie instinctively. Can you have a best friend who's a horse? Wild Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff.

Wild Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff. 145 p. 2009: Wendy Lamb Books. Booktalk to intermediate grades and to middle school. Virginia Readers' Choice for 2011-2012.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Booktalk: Drita, My Homegirl (Virginia Readers' Choice)

[Show cover] I want you to take a look at the cover of Drita, My Homegirl. We see two girls' backpacks: one says, "I love Kosova," and the other says, "I love New York." This is an interesting cover, because it didn't happen anywhere in the book, but it easily could have. Drita [point to girl with "I love Kosova" backpack] came to America from war-torn Kosovo. She's a refugee. Her mom is so depressed that she cries all day. Drita goes to public school in New York City and is really struggling both to make friends and to learn English. Maxie [point to girl on cover with "I love New York" backpack] is the same age as Drita, and has a really wicked temper. Maxie's a good kid, but she's impulsive and she gets into trouble. If you yell at Maxie, she'll yell back. Loudly. Maxie isn't super nice to Drita when she first meets her: in fact, she comes up with a really mean name for Drita. But when a girl named Brandee smacks Drita in the face during a basketball game, Maxie comes to Drita's defense. These two girls are very, very different, but they're starting to get each other. They actually have something in common (which Maxie keeps to herself) that could make them life-long friends. Drita, My Homegirl by Jenny Lombard.

Drita, My Homegirl by Jenny Lombard. 135 p. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2006. Booktalk to intermediate grades and possibly to middle school.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Booktalk: How Oliver Olson Changed the World (Virginia Readers' Choice)

There are five facts you should know about Oliver Olson’s parents:

1). They worry about him constantly.
2). They hover over him when he does his homework.
3). They would never let him walk on the moon.
4). They only let him eat super healthy snacks. No junk food.
5). They will not let him go to a class sleepover that he really wants to go to.

There are many facts you should know about Oliver himself, but I’m only to give you 3.

1). Oliver was very sick when he was a little kid.
2). Oliver is a really nice and very smart third grader.
3). Oliver has to make a diaroma of the solar system at home, and his parents are doing it for him, against his will.

The last fact I’m going to tell you is the title of this book: How Oliver Olson Changed the World. Wait a minute? He changed the world? With parents micro-managing him? Yep, you’re just going to have to read it.

How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills; pictures by Heather Maione. 104 p. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux. Booktalk to elementary, intermediate grades. Virginia Readers’ Choice for 2011-2012.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Booktalk: All the Lovely Bad Ones [Virginia Readers' Choice]

If you’re a 13-year-old boy with a love of playing pranks on people, and you are visiting your grandmother’s old house for the summer, it’s fairly normal to think about freaking other people out by imitating ghostly noises in the night. Travis and his sister Corey love pranks: they’re natural pranksters. Their grandmother’s old house is actually an inn which takes guests, including some guests who are ghost-hunters. So obviously, we have a no-brainer here. Travis and Corey strategize: Corey will wear a white nightgown, ghostly makeup and walk around a grove of trees; the ghostly noises they make will spook the inn’s guests. It works beautifully. To keep up the illusion, Corey and Travis need to keep doing their nightly ghost pranks. But when Travis returns to the grove, he sees a dark shape near him, ducking out of sight. It’s not his sister. Turns out it’s a real ghost, and there are more than one. One of them, Miss Ada, is seriously evil and would love to bring Corey and Travis down with her. Sadly, Corey and Travis woke these ghosts from their slumber. Now who's been pranked? All the Lovely Bad Ones: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn.

All the Lovely Bad Ones: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn. 182 p. 2008: Clarion. Virginia Readers’ Choice for 2011-2012. Because this has some frightening/tragic content, I personally would booktalk it starting at 6th and 7th grade and not younger.