Thursday, September 22, 2011

Booktalk: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda; Darth Paper Strikes Back

I wrote a booktalk for Origami Yoda a while ago. It's a Virginia Readers' Choice for 2011-2012, and the link is here:

The sequel, Darth Paper Strike Back, is just as good. Here's the booktalk:

Whenever there’s a force for good – Dwight and Origami Yoda – there’s also a force for evil. In this case, it’s Harvey. Seventh grade has barely started, and Harvey has already unleashed the power of the Dark Side, in the form of his own origami finger puppet: Darth Paper. Harvey’s made it his mission to bring Dwight down, and he’s quite obvious about it. His minion Darth Paper looks like Darth Vader, and even has own little pink lightsaber. In order to stop Harvey and to prevent Dwight from being sent to a school for really bad kids, Tommy and the others start a case file. But it may not be enough. Origami Yoda seems to be losing it. A popular girl named Jen (who believes in Origami Yoda) asked him for advice, and all Origami Yoda could tell her was, “Zero Hour comes. Prepare to meet your doom!” You could get kicked out of school for saying such things! Is Origami Yoda actually helping Harvey and Darth bring about his own downfall? Dwight’s friends are starting to wonder. Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book by Tom Angleberger.

Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book by Tom Angleberger. 159 p. 2011: Amulet Books. Booktalk to intermediate grades, middle school.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Booktalk: When the Whistle Blows (Virginia Readers' Choice)

If you live in a small rural town in West Virginia where many of the men work for or on the railroad, you get used to risk and danger. Trains are dangerous: it’s a simple fact. Jimmy, a young teenager, knows people who have been hit and killed by trains. Boilers can explode, killing the fireman and the engineer. But Jimmy’s dad, the railroad foreman, is more afraid about a new kind of technology. He says that the steam engines are all going to be replaced by diesels, and that a lot of men will lose their jobs. The diesel engines are faster, more powerful, and require fewer workers. Much of their small town, Rowlesburg, could be unemployed. And they are already poor enough.

But Jimmy’s really tough, both physically and emotionally. He survived a brutal football game in which a member of the opposing team intentionally tore up Jimmy’s already badly damaged knee. The kid was an animal. Jimmy’s worked in a shop where he had to go after criminals with a club. And it turns out that his dad is sick and getting sicker, threatening the security of Jimmy’s whole family. To survive in this type of town, you have no choice but to be tough. When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton.

When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton. 162 p. 2009: Philomel Books. Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012, middle school. Booktalk to middle school, high school.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Booktalk: Ways to Live Forever (Virginia Readers' Choice)

How many times have you said, “When I grow up… ?” Probably lots of times. When I grow up. It’s a normal childhood phrase. Sam is 11 and doesn’t say it. He says, “if I grow up.” He has leukemia, and he’s been through chemotherapy several times. The leukemia also comes back, unfortunately. Pretty sad, huh? So you’re thinking, why would I want to read a sad book? There are a bunch of reasons, but the best one I can think of is that Sam is a really cool and brave person. He met his best friend, Felix, in the hospital, and they’d do crazy stuff like stealing a trolley and riding around in it, or asking their tutor to help them make things which explode. Sam is also a fact collector and an expert list maker. He really likes wolves, and he wants to break some silly world records. He’s a normal kid with a normal family who has to think about death and dying, because it could be around the corner for him. Just getting to know him was one of the coolest things about his story. Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls.

Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008. 212 p. Booktalk to middle school. Virginia Readers’ Choice 2011-2012 for middle school.