Thursday, December 27, 2012

Booktalk: The One and Only Ivan (Newbery Award winner, 2013)

Can you keep your eyes closed for part of this booktalk? Good. Close them now. I want you to pretend that you’re a gorilla. Your name is Ivan, and you don’t live in the wild and you don’t live in a zoo. You live in a cage in a mall that has a video arcade and some other encaged animals. Yes, a small, shabby mall. Picture it in your mind. Your cage has thick glass on three sides. From your cage, you can see part of the mall (pinball machines, cotton candy, parking lot with no trees). Humans can see into your cage. Inside your cage, there isn’t much. There’s a t.v. of all things, plus a little plastic pool with dirty water, plus a tire swing.
Now I want you to picture a little girl, named Julia, who is the janitor’s daughter. It doesn’t matter what she looks like, because she likes you. Just picture a young girl with a kind face. She brings you treats. Now I want you to picture an older elephant – that’s Stella, and she lives near you, and a little clever dog, Bob, who comes and goes as he pleases. These are your friends. You’re Ivan the gorilla, and this is your whole world. Keep your eyes closed! Think for a minute what it must feel like to be Ivan. Is it boring? Is it safe? Is it fun? Is it lonely?
You can open your eyes now. Ivan and his friends have spent some time trying to figure out what makes us humans tick, for reasons you’ll see when you read the book. But very few other creatures – human or not – understand what goes on in Ivan’s mind and heart.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. 2012: HarperCollins. 305 pages. Booktalk to intermediate grades and middle school. Newbery Award winner, 2013.

Book talk: The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis (Newbery contender)

[Show cover.] Like all of us, Deza Malone was born with advantages and setbacks. I’m going to get the bad stuff out of the way first, so here it is:

Deza and her family are living during the Great Depression, a time in the United States when many people were poor, many children went hungry, and many men and women could not find jobs.
Deza’s family is especially poor and cannot afford medical care. Although Deza is basically healthy, her teeth are rotting are she is often in pain because of this. She’s only 12, and that shouldn’t be happening to someone that young. Deza overhears her father privately talking about how upset he is over her teeth and how frustrated he is that he can’t do anything about them.
Racism is still alive and well during the Great Depression, and many whites still look down on African-Africans. Deza and her family have experienced racism and prejudice first hand.

Okay, I got some of the bad stuff out of the way. Now for the cool stuff about Deza.

Deza is an awesome friend and sister. She’s funny, loyal, and kind. She and her best friend, Clarice, look out for each other. They have a secret sign that means, “two girls, one heart.”
Deza is super smart and never brags or has an attitude about it. She’s a great reader and a brilliant writer. The only time she got a low grade on an essay was when she had a teacher who didn’t believe in giving good grades to African-Americans. Ever.
Deza is tough (she can hold her own in a fist fight) and surprisingly sneaky (in a good way). I can’t tell you what she did that was sneaky, but it really took me by surprise, and that’s part of the reason her father calls her The Mighty Miss Malone.

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis. 2012: Wendy Lamb Books. 307 pages. Booktalk to intermediate grades and middle school. Newbery 2013 contender.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book talk: Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed (Newbery 2013 contender)

When you see the title of this novel - Twelve Kinds of Ice - you might be confused. Twelve kinds of ice? Actually, yes. The kids in this novel are used to cold weather, but they wait all year for ice. Ice lets you explore, play, skate, and create.

Field ice is the first sign that ice is serious about sticking around. Sure, you can't skate on it, but it's nature's way of telling you that real winter is moving in. [Show picture on p. 15]. Those kids on the bus are not going to be able to concentrate at school now, I'll bet. 

Imagine that you could turn your summertime vegetable garden into a skating rink in winter. That's garden ice, and it's so much fun. First, you level the ground, creating a smooth surface with no bumps. Next you get your ice rink boards from the barn, and you pack snow over that before you turn on your water ice to create an upper level of ice. Voila: your own ice stadium, with the sky as your roof. The other kids can't wait: they all show up - the whole neighborhood - and there's even a schedule: the girls can figure skate from 3:30-4:30, and then the boys can play ice hockey from 4:30-5:30. Everyone argues about whose turn it is to sweep the ice, of course. Ice can be a lot of work, you know, but it's worth it.

There are other worlds of ice: some mundane, like the first ice you find in the pail, and some more mysterious, like dream ice and black ice.

Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed, illustrations by Barbara McClintock. 61 pages. 2012: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. Booktalk to grades 2-6. Newbery contender: 2013.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book talk: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Newbery 2013 contender)

[For this book talk, you are going to be the main character, Auggie, but you’ll wear a bag – any bag as long as you can see/breathe – over your head for the entire book talk.]

Hi, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is August, or Auggie for short. I’m the main character in the book you’re gonna read, called Wonder. Yeah, I can hear you murmuring about the bag on my head. No, I am not going to take it off. I repeat: no, I am not going to take this bag off. Why? I’m glad you asked.

Because the second I take this bag off my head, some of you will gasp. Some of you will snicker. Some of you may even call me names and point. I’m used to seeing kids put their hands over their mouths when they see me. Heck, I’m even used to their parents doing that, and yes, it is extremely rude and cruel. I’m not giving you the satisfaction of that.

I get judged on my face all the time, every second of every day. People forget what they’re doing or saying when they see me, and not in a good way. Would I like a chance to escape my fate/face? Haha: did you get the pun? Okay, I’ll repeat it, so listen carefully. Would I like a chance to escape my fate/face? Get it: my face is my fate? Oh, never mind. Actually, mind. Because of the way I look, I’ve been homeschooled my whole life. And now my parents are going to send me to a real school, where my face will be subjected to your judgments, comments, and criticism all the time. My parents are nervous about it. Very, very nervous.

You think you could be me? Even for one day? I bet you wouldn’t last one hour.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. 2012: Knopf. 315 pages. Booktalk to middle grades (intermediate) and middle school. Newbery contender, 2013.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Book talk: Goal! by Mina Javaherbin (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013)

[For this booktalk, don't show the cover yet! Start with the following brief discussion first.]

What do you own that is nearest and dearest to your heart? Don't think of a person. Think of an object: it could be a toy, a book, a trophy, a photo, a stuffed animal, or a piece of jewelry. If your house was burning, this is the object you'd grab before you ran out. Okay, do have your item in mind? What did you pick? [Take a few brief responses.]

[Show cover.] This is Ajani. His soccer ball is his most treasured item. It means so much to him, and it's not easily replaced. But it's just a soccer ball, right? Well, yes and no.

Ajani lives in a township in South Africa where no one has much money: if you have a decent soccer ball, you guard it from the bullies who will certainly steal it. These bullies are bigger than Ajani and his friends and they ride around on bikes. Ajani's soccer ball provides endless hours of fun and friendship for him, so it's more than just a ball. In many parts of the world, children who want to play soccer have to make their own makeshift balls out of whatever they can, and that makes the game so much harder to play.

Ajani and his friends are pretty clever: they always have a guard, and they know what to expect. Soccer is their favorite game ever, and in that respect, they're just like you.

Goal! by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by A.G. Ford. 2010: Candlewick. Unpaged. Booktalk to grades K-3. Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book talk: The Fox in the Dark by Alison Green (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013)

[For this booktalk, you will be focusing on one picture in The Fox in the Dark, which is pp. {5-6}, rabbit in his den, lantern at his feet, text starting "But...Rat-a-tat-tat!"]

[Display pp. 5-6]. Have you ever been really, really scared? Have you ever been outside in the dark and felt terrified? Have you ever had to run inside your house, slam the door, and turn on a light, shaking in fear?

Take a look at Rabbit. He is petrified with fear! He saw a fox in the dark! If you look closely at this picture, he's picturing fox's pointed teeth, fierce expression, sharp claws, and overall scariness!

Oh, hey! Look outside Rabbit's window! Is that Duck? Duck is Rabbit's good friend, and Duck wants to come inside, it seems. Would you let Duck inside if there was also a fox out there in the dark?

The Fox in the Dark by Alison Green, illustrated by Deborah Allwright. 2009: Tiger Tales/ME Media LLC. Unpaged. Booktalk to K-2. Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013 (Primary).

Book talk: Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett (Virginia Readers' Choice)

[Show cover]. Meet blue chameleon. Poor guy. He's blue in two different ways: can you think about that for a second? [Pause.] Obviously, he is blue, right? But he also looks as if he's feeling blue: he's feeling sad, down, discouraged. I wonder why...

[Turn to first page.] Well, no wonder! He's thinking, "I'm lonely." Well, that should be easy to solve: right?

[Turn the page.] Hey?! What just happened? Why did he turn yellow? [Wait for answer.] Yes, chameleons can change colors, but what's he mimicking? [Wait for response.] A banana! Does a banana make a good friend? No! A banana only makes a good snack! Poor chameleon...he's confused. You really cannot be happy being friends with a banana.

[Turn page.] Oh my goodness! What color is he now? He's pink! He's trying to befriend a pink bird called a cockatoo! But take a close look at the cockatoo's face: what expression is he wearing? Suspicion, distrust: that cockatoo does not want to be friends, clearly.

[Return to cover image.] Chameleon, you're off to a rocky start. No wonder you look so blue.

Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett. 2010: Simon & Schuster. Unpaged. Booktalk to pre-K through 2nd. Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013 (Primary).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Booktalk: Immi's Gift by Karin Littlewood (Virginia Readers' Choice)

Immi lives up in the frozen north, a land of ice and snow. It is cold and icy – a white world as flat as the eye can see. Immi goes ice fishing for her supper in this lonely place, and instead of a fish, she catches a little wooden bird. How strange!

You can’t eat a little wooden bird, can you? [Show pages 5-6]. But it’s beautiful, and she wears it on her necklace, next to her little white wooden bear. Those two make an odd pair: don’t they, the colorful bird and the white bird. They’re very different, as if they’ve never met one another.

[Turn the page.] Color starts to seep into her world. She fishes a red flower! [Turn page.] Then an orange starfish … a green leaf ….a purple feather. Where is all this color coming from?

Look at her igloo! It’s the brightest thing in the land. Her world doesn’t seem as cold and lonely anymore. Where on earth did that little colorful wooden bird come from? What does all of this mean for Immi?

Immi’s Gift by Karin Littlewood. 2010: Peachtree. Unpaged. Booktalk to K-2. Virginia Readers’ Choice, 2012-2013 (Primary).

Book talk: I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

[Pacing, agitated.] I lost my favorite hat…actually, I think it’s my only hat, and I’m a bear, so I really need my hat back because I’m out in the cold weather all the time. I’ve spent the whole day walking around the woods looking for my hat and asking various animals if they have seen my hat. Wait…did I ask you this yet? Have you seen my hat? [Wait for reply.] No?!?

Well, let me tell you. Those other animals are no help at all. I asked a snake hanging from a branch, and you know what he said? [Mimicking snake] “I saw a hat once. It was blue and round.” Well…that’s helpful! I mean, mine is red and pointed and he’s telling me about some random hat he saw once. Thanks a lot, snake!

I asked another animal – he was kind of weird-looking, to tell you the truth, and he didn’t even know what a hat was! Useless! Absolutely useless!

Okay, I gotta dash. But if you happen to see my hat – which is RED – please just let me know! Don’t make me come back here again!

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. 2011: Candlewick Press. Unpaged. Booktalk to pre-K through 2nd. Virginia Readers’ Choice, 2012-2013 (Primary). 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Book talk: When You Reach Me (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013)

Raise your hand if you like to write notes. They’re fun, aren’t they? It’s also fun to get notes.

But Miranda has been getting notes from someone who doesn’t sign the notes.  Miranda doesn’t know if the note writer is male or female, young or old. She doesn’t know how the note writer even knows her. You know what’s even stranger? The notes appear in her stuff, and she doesn’t know how the notes got there. How do you get a note into a locked house?

So Miranda has a predicament. Fortunately, she’s pretty tough: she’s in sixth grade, and she walks around New York City by herself. She’s got street smarts, too. She knows how to behave around the homeless man on the corner and the boys who beat up her best friend, Sal. Oh wait, Sal doesn’t want to hang out with Miranda any more. Cross him off the best friend list.

Let’s go back to these mysterious notes. Why can’t Miranda just ignore them? It’s probably just some stupid prank, right? But what if the notes had a ring of truth to them? What if something in the notes even predicted future events using specific details?

Why are these notes so important, and who is writing them? When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. 199 p. Yearling, 2009. Newbery Medal, 2010. Virginia Readers’ Choice (middle school), 2012-2013.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book talk: Bulu: African Wonder Dog (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013)

You think your dog is cool? Ha! He cannot possibly be cooler than Bulu, African wonder dog [show cover or other pictures in the book of Bulu]. This is the story of a real-life dog, a Jack Russell terrier mix, who lived on wildlife education center located in a remote part of Zambia, a country in Africa. I’m going to quiz you on Bulu’s life. Do your best to guess the right answer.

Question 1. Bulu warned his unsuspecting owners about the presence of
a). a deadly snake
b). a crocodile
c). an elephant
d). all of the above

If you guessed “e,” all of the above, you’re right. Bulu had a sixth sense for when other wild animals – harmful or not – were around, and he always did his best to warn his owners.

Question 2. Bulu was super nice to which animals who lived with him in his owners’ small house?
a). two baby warthogs
b). a baby bushbuck (a type of antelope)
c). baby monkeys
d). all of the above

You guessed “all of the above” again? You’re right! Bulu’s owners were setting up a wildlife education center, and they wanted to help rehabilitate injured or parentless animals, too. Bulu accepted these animal orphans as friends and would even cuddle with them.

Question 3. All dogs love treats. Which treat was Bulu’s favorite?
a). vanilla cookies from Starbucks
b). French fries from McDonalds
c). buttered bread
d). worms

You think they have a Starbucks or a McDonalds in the wilds of Zambia? There isn’t a market for miles and miles! This is the wilderness! Bulu liked buttered bread.

Last question. If you’re a dog, like Bulu, and you get attacked by a lion, what are your chances of survival?
a). slim to none
b). survive a lion attack? Hahahahahahhahhahahaah….
c). I don’t even want to think about it.

Does this one sound like a trick question? Not a trick, it’s a “teaser.” To find, read Bulu: African Wonder Dog by Dick Houston.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book talk: Heart of a Samurai (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013)

Do you remember the story of Odysseus? He was away from his home for a very, very long time, but he never forgot his homeland, and he always longed to return.

Manjiro was a 14-year-old Japanese boy on a fishing expedition when he and his shipmates got lost and landed on a tiny island populated only by birds. When the birds left the island, Manjiro and his mates started to starve to death, but luckily they were rescued, by men with blue eyes who did not understand a single word they said. These men spoke English and were whale-hunters. Manjiro now found himself on a different type of boat, with very different mates, whale-hunting. Manjiro ends up in America.

So why can’t Manjiro just go home? It’s not that easy to do in 1841. After all, he’s lucky to alive at all. Being a foreigner in America at this time is not easy. He’s mocked for the way he looks and the way he talks. But he’s fond of the man who adopted him and treated him kindly. He’s there for many years before he’s given the chance to go home again. Can he even still speak Japanese? Will anyone recognize him? Will his family remember him? The Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus.

The Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus.  Amulet Books, 2010. 301 pages. Virginia Readers' Choice for middle school, 2012-2013.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Book talk: Ship Breaker (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013)

Nailer Lopez is a teen with a full-time, grueling, and potentially lethal job, a job which requires him to have facial tattoos which mark him as part of a work crew and also requires him to be fairly small and lightweight. What is he? He’s a ship breaker: he scavenges wrecked, beached ships for their metal. Nailer has to crawl through tight, mazelike ducts inside the ship, usually in utter darkness, and cut away copper wire, aluminum, nickel, and steel clips. It’s really, really scary inside those dark, airless, dead ships and tankers. Kids have gotten lost and trapped and died inside of them. You crawl through tunnels over dead rats’ bodies. You pray to the Scavenge God that you’ll get out alive, and that you’ll scavenge enough metal to stay on your work crew. In this world you’re loyal only to your closest friends. So what would Nailer do if he found a girl, barely alive yet clearly very rich, on a beached ship containing both wealth and dead bodies?

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. Little, Brown: 2010. 326 p. Virginia Reader’s Choice for high school: 2012-2013.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book talk: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares (Virginia Reader's Choice, 2012-2013)

Teens mostly e-mail, text, IM, or call each other nowadays, right? Dash and Lily are completely different. They met by notebook, and it stayed that way for a while. Let me explain. Dash, short for Dashiell, is in his favorite bookstore in New York City, and on the shelves he finds a red moleskin notebook with handwritten instructions involving a challenge, and not an easy one. The challenge – if done correctly – will get the notebook back to its owner. The challenge involves writing, intelligence, willingness to make a fool out of himself, and some luck. And so the game starts. Dash and Lily don’t actually meet for a while. They couldn’t tell you what the other one even looks like: they’re both blanks to each, in that respect. They start sharing through writing: thoughts, memories, aspirations – you know, the kind of stuff it’s easier to write that to say. But both harbor a desire to meet in real life, yet the signs are there that they won’t and can’t have the type of relationship that they had through the notebook. What if meeting in real life ruins everything? Read Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. 260 p. Knopf, 2010. Virginia Reader's Choice, 2012-2013. Booktalk to high school.

Note: This I posted this book talk in November 2010, but I'm re-posting it with better tags.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Booktalk: Touch Blue (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013)

Can you imagine if your school was at risk of being shut down if more kids did not attend? Yeah, I knew you’d like that.

But Tess, age 11, goes to school in a one-room schoolhouse on a small island off the coast of Maine. There’s just a handful of other kids who attend her tiny school, because Tess’s island doesn’t have that many children. Tess’s mom is the teacher. And when you live on small island, school is one of the things that keeps you busy and entertained. The school is part of Tess’s life, along with the lobster boats, the ocean, the salt breeze, the sea birds, and the ferry.

Yet the state of Maine won’t fund her school and keep it open unless more kids attend. But where will Tess’s tiny island get more kids? No new families are moving to their island, but several families have a cool idea – adopt some foster children who need a good home.

So Tess’s family decides to adopt a 13-year-old redheaded boy named Aaron. Aaron has been moved from family to family, and it’s about time he gets a solid, loving family. Tess is really, really excited. She’s always wanted an older brother.

But when Tess takes Aaron around the island, he seems unimpressed. And when he sees their little one-room school, he actually says, “I can’t believe I had to quit my jazz band to come here.” He doesn’t seem to like the other islanders, and he rarely smiles. Tess has a problem. How do you get someone to love an island if he’s determined to hate it?

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord. 186 p. New York: Scholastic, 2010. Virginia Readers’ Choice (Elementary/Intermediate) for 2012-2013. This title would also work well for middle schoolers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Booktalk: Swim the Fly (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2012-2013)

High schooler Matt Gratton is a decent swimmer, but not when it comes to the butterfly stroke, possibly the hardest stroke out there to master. He himself admits that he looks like “a palsied whippet struggling for its life”(41) when he swims it. But Matt would do anything for a hot girl, especially a hot girl named Kelly. She’s impressed that he volunteered to swim the 100-yard butterfly (the fly) in a major meet. Matt and his friends, Sean and Coop, would do a lot to impress girls. Their major goal for the summer is to see a naked girl: a live one. They even hide in a closet at a party, but it backfires majorly, although they might have prevented a pregnancy, who knows. Intelligent strategy is not their strong point. Matt’s buddy Sean even intentionally pigged out on junk food just so he could barf in the pool, on purpose. Actually, that did get Matt out of swimming the fly, so it wasn’t totally stupid. How much of a fool is Matt going to be at the final meet? And will the girl of his dreams ever see anything in him at all? Swim the Fly by Don Calame.

Swim the Fly by Don Calame. 345 p. Candlewick Press, 2009. Virginia Readers' Choice (High School) for 2012-2013. Contains mature references.

Swim the Fly

Monday, June 4, 2012

Booktalk: We Are in a Book! (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012)

An Elephant and Piggie Book
Gerald the elephant and Piggie have the feeling that they are being watched. [Show pp. 6-7] But who could it be? Who do you think is watching them? Right: you are! You’re the reader!

Gerald and Piggie have just realized they’re in a book! And what do they think about that? [Show pp. 18-19] It’s totally cool! [Show them dancing on pp. 20-21]. They are so, so excited to be in a book. Wouldn’t it be cool if you were in a book? You could do all sorts of amazing things.

And Piggie has realized that! He has realized that he can make YOU, his reader, say a word. Guess which word he picked? [Show pp. 28-29]. BANANA!!

[Turn to pp. 30-31]. You cracked them up! I haven’t seen Gerald and Piggie laugh this hard in ages! In fact, Gerald is laughing so hard he has to lie down on the floor! [Turn to pp. 34-35] I haven’t seen this many “ha ha’s” ever!

But what are Gerald and Piggie going to do when this book … ends?

We Are in a Book: [An Elephant and Piggie Book] by Mo Willems. Hyperion, 2010. 64 p. Booktalk to primary grades. Virginia Readers’ Choice (2011-2012).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Booktalk: What Pet to Get? (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012)

Are you allowed to have a polar bear as a pet? Take a good look at the cover of this book: What Pet to Get by Emma Dodd. What’s wrong with owning a polar bear? [Take a few answers.] You bet: your house is too warm. Yeah: he might eat you, too. I understand. Fine, let’s get a different pet.

[Show pages 3-4 or pp. 5-6.] Hey! Great idea! An elephant! And you’d fit nicely on top, right? You look nervous. What’s wrong with owning an elephant? [Take a few answers.] Right: that’s what his mom said, too.

[Turn page to pp. 7-8: the lion.] Okay, next pet idea. You still look nervous. What’s wrong with owning a lion? I mean, the boy is feeding him, right? That cat food isn’t enough? Well, maybe the postman in the window there will bring a pet catalog or something.

[Turn to pp. 9-10: lion eating the postman]. Oh, shoot! He ate the mailman?! I can’t believe it. Okay, you were right: the lion was a very bad idea. I’m sorry.

This poor kid has had unbelievably bad luck with his ideas for a pet. But you know, his mom did promise him a pet, and he seems determined to get one.

What Pet to Get by Emma Dodd. Unpaged. Scholastic, 2008. Booktalk to primary grades. Virginia Readers’ Choice 2011-2012.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Booktalk: A Isn't for Fox by Wendy Ullmer (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012)

For this booktalk, have post-it notes on the following pages in advance: the D/dragon page; the L/llamas page; the O/octopus page; the P/possums page;
 [Show the Letter D/dragon page]. Here we have the D page: D is for what? [wait for answer, then read the stanza]: “D isn’t for crow; it isn’t for snow. / D is for dragons from times long ago.” I hope he keeps his stinky breath away from that cat.
[Show the Letter L/ llamas page]. I see that this is the L page: can you tell me why? [wait for answer, then read the stanza]: “L isn’t for dramas; it isn’t for mamas / L is for llamas in fuzzy pajamas.”
[Show the Letter O/octopus page] I see that this is the O page: tell me why? [Wait for their answer, then read the stanza]: “O isn’t for docks; it isn’t for rocks / O is for octopus knitting four pairs socks.” Yeah, he needs a lot of socks.
[Show the P/possums page] Next we have the letter P: anyone know you call those animals? [Wait for answer, then read the stanza]: “P isn’t for goats; it isn’t for boats. / P is for possums in warm, furry coats.”
A Isn’t for Fox by Wendy Ullmer, illustrated by Laura Knorr. Unpaged. Sleeping Bear Press, 2007. Booktalk to primary grades. Virginia Readers’ Choice for 2011-2012.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Booktalk: The Big Elephant in the Room by Lane Smith (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012)

Pretend your best friend is mad at you, and you don’t know why. You are wracking your brain for the reason. You know there’s a big, big reason which he is not bringing up. Nope, he’s going to let you figure it out. It’s what we call the elephant in the room. He even asks you what the big elephant in the room is! Oh no! You’re in trouble! So this is what you say…
Is it that I broke your computer? No…I guess it wasn’t that.
Is it that I took the cool bike and gave you the bad one? No…I guess it wasn’t that.
Is it that I told a girl you laughed so hard you peed your pants? No…I guess it wasn’t that.
Is that I picked you last for soccer … and baseball … and volleyball? No … I guess it wasn’t that.
Is it that I made fun of your Rainbow Pony backpack? Really? No … I guess it wasn’t that.
And this isn’t about the super glue “accident,” either? Okay, fine, not that one either.
Okay, you’re stumped. You still don’t know what the big elephant in the room is! You’d better get that info out of your best friend, or he won’t be your best friend much longer.
 The Big Elephant in the Room by Lane Smith. Unpaged. Disney/Hyperion Books, 2009. Booktalk to primary grades. Virginia Readers’ Choice 2011-2012.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Booktalk: Machines Go to Work (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012)

[Have the following pages tabbed: fire truck/cherry blossom; the action news helicopter page; the tugboat page.]
[Open to double-page spread of the cherry blossom trees.] Oh no. There’s a fire truck under those cherry blossom trees. Please tell me they are not on fire. [Open page flap.] Oh! It’s a kitten stuck in a tree. The firefighter is setting her free.
[Turn page to action news helicopter.] The Action news helicopter is getting to the scene. [turn page to stopped traffic.] Has there been an accident? [Unfold flap.] No accident. A little family of ducks is crossing the road: so all traffic has stopped.
[Turn to tugboat page.] That is an awesome tugboat, but it seems to be in a huge hurry. [Turn page] How do you fit a huge container ship like that under a bridge? [Unfold flap.] The bridge went up, and the tugboat led the ship.
Read more stories like these in Machines Go to Work by William Low.
Machines Go to Work by William Low. 1 v. (unpaged). Henry Holt and Co., 2009. Booktalk to primary grades. Virginia Readers’ Choice for 2011-2012.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Booktalk: Otis by Loren Long (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012)

[Show page {7-8}]. Can a tractor be a mom or a dad to a baby cow? Take a close look at this picture. Here we have a sleeping tractor. His name is Otis. He works hard all day in the fields, and at night he sleeps in the barn.

One night a scared baby cow, called a calf, could not fall asleep. The poor little calf was all alone, so Otis made some tractor noises and the baby calf fell fast asleep. After that the calf followed Otis the tractor everywhere. [Show pp. {11-12}] They played in the hay, they ran in circles together, and they’d sit under the apple tree and watch them farm. They were the best of friends.

[Turn the page, to the big yellow tractor.] Gasp. What’s this? Oh no, please tell me Otis is not being replaced. He’s such a good and loyal tractor! He’s always worked so hard on the farm! That new tractor is huge and scary looking! And what’s going to happen to the little calf if Otis isn’t around? What do you do if someone tries to replace your best friend?

Otis by Loren Long. Unpaged. Philomel Books: 2009. Booktalk to primary grades. Virginia Readers’ Choice for 2011-2012.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Booktalk: The Odd Egg (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012)

[Hold up cover.] This is you. You’re duck. You found the coolest egg _ever_. It’s huge, white, and covered with green spots. You’ve never seen anything like it.
 [Turn to the first page.] All the other birds have laid their own eggs. Parrot clearly _loves_ hers. Owl is sitting on hers, reading a book at the same time. And then there’s sparrow, who appears to be talking to her egg.
 [Turn to next page.] But you know that your egg, as huge and weird as it is, is the most beautiful egg in the whole wide world. So what if they’re laughing at you? I mean, who cares?
 But seriously. What happens to an egg this huge? Does it hatch? Does it erupt? Is it real? And can you, a small duck, really take care of such an odd egg?
 The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett. 2008: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. Unpaged picture book. Booktalk to primary grades.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Booktalk: The Knife of Never Letting Go (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012)

It can be really embarrassing if you inadvertently think out loud. Much of the time, you really don’t want other people knowing your private thoughts. But for Todd Hewitt, a young teen, everyone else is privy to your thoughts: all the time. Your thoughts are broadcast out loud, in what’s called Noise. It’s almost as if you have speakers broadcasting what you’re thinking. Zero privacy: try keeping a secret.

Todd lives in a settlement called Prentisstown, which is part of the New World, a world without women, all of whom died. Todd has never seen a woman when we first meet him. His parents are dead, and he’s been raised by two of their male friends. Todd’s closest friend is his dog, Manchee, with whom goes on walks. In one of his walks, Todd encounters a physical presence: silence – an absence of Noise, a freedom from it. It has a powerful effect on him, and when he goes back to town, he leaks his secret about what he experienced through his Noise. Todd’s adopted parents are scared to death for him and urge him to leave Prentisstown immediately. From reading their Noise, Todd can tell that he is very grave danger. All he’s got is his dog, his knife, and a book of his mother’s which he can barely read. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. 479 p. Candlewick Press: 2008. Booktalk to high school. Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Booktalk: Hold Still by Nina LaCour (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012)

Ingrid and Caitlin are best friends. Ingrid is really, really obsessed with photography – she’s good at it, too – and she keeps these wonderful, quirky journals which are a composite of her drawings, feelings, and questions. The two are inseparable, and although they have other acquaintances (crushes, friends, etc.), they sort of make up their own world. Caitlin’s the more practical, pragmatic of the two. But then Caitlin’s world changes completely. The worst happens. Ingrid commits suicide.

How do you live your life when your best friend dies? How do you go to school and face the people who knew you primarily as part of a pair? How do you survive? Why do you survive? Now that people just pity you, will anyone your age like you just for you? How do you make sense of the way in which life changes?

There are different ways in which Caitlin survives. Some of these ways she’s aware of, and some she may not be. No one can ever take Ingrid’s place, but there are people out there who are kind, interesting, and forgiving; some of them are well camouflaged, but they’re right there, hiding in plain sight.

The subject matter of this novel may be painful, but it’s a fascinating read, for many reasons. Ingrid foresaw that Caitlin would be alone and in tremendous pain, and she did something really nice for Caitlin to help her. Find out what it was in Hold Still by Nina LaCour.

Hold Still by Nina LaCour. 229 p. Dutton Books: 2009. Virginia Readers’ Choice 2011-2012 for high school. Booktalk to high school. Contains sensitive subject matter.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Booktalk: Marcelo in the Real World (Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012)

If you were to see Marcelo just walking down the street, you wouldn’t think there was anything different or special about him. He’s tall, healthy, dresses normally, and has a summer job working for his dad’s law firm. Normal, right? Well, yes, he is normal. However, he also can hear musically internally in his head (no ipod required), can memorize long passages of scriptures from different traditions, can bond with animals (especially ponies), and has a very hard time figuring out human beings and their motives. Marcelo really wanted to spend his summer working with animals – and he would have – except that his dad, a big shot lawyer, wants Marcelo to experience what life in the “real world” is like. Uh oh, the real world. We know what that’s like, right?

Marcelo has Asperger’s syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum, and he can function pretty well in society, but he’s not as good at reading people. For example, there’s a guy at work, Wendell, who’s a real jerk. Wendell has an agenda, and Marcelo is about to fall victim to it. There’s also a girl at work, Jasmine, who can be pretty tough and blunt but seems to understand and like Marcelo. Wendell has the hots for Jasmine, by the way. Yeah. And perhaps Marcelo does, too, but he’s at a real disadvantage here. You know how it’s hard for Marcelo to figure people out? That means that they can take advantage him: manipulate him, use him, con him. And it’s unfair, because he’s such a cool person, and innocent, too. Will Marcelo be able to figure out people in the “real world” before he gets burned? Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. 2009: Scholastic. 312 p. Booktalk to high school. Virginia Readers’ Choice: 2011-2012.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Booktalk: The Red Necklace (Virginia Readers' Choice for 2011-2012)

A good horror movie keeps you on the edge of your seat. Although this book is not a horror movie – in fact, it’s set during the French Revolution – it’s got a character named Count Kalliovski who would fit in fine to any horror movie.

There are signs that the Count is the devil in human form. The count is incredibly wealthy, seems ageless, lends people money, and in exchange, gets their deepest, darkest secrets. In other words, he’s extremely powerful. He can get people to do virtually whatever he wants. His private motto is, “Have no mercy, show no mercy.” This is a dangerous sentiment to have during the French Revolution, a time of great upheaval, violence, murder and instability in France.

And the Count is going after a young gypsy boy named Yann who can read people’s minds. The Count is pretty relentless, too, when he wants someone dead. His victims are found wearing a red necklace which resembles drops of blood. It’s sort of his own personal way of saying, “I did this.” Can the devil be successfully evaded?

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner. 378 p. Dial Books: 2007. Booktalk to high school. Virginia Readers' Choice for 2011-2012.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Booktalk: The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez (Virginia Readers' Choice for 2011-2012)

Some people are actually really funny when they’re making fun of themselves and their families, and Sonia Rodriguez is no exception. Sonia and her family are Mexican-Americans: in the eyes of the law, Sonia’s here legally, but her parents are not.

Her dad works two (sometimes three) jobs to support the family, and he rarely gets any time off. Sonia’s mom is addicted to sitting on her butt and watching telenovelas; for someone who has been in this country for 16 years, Sonia’s mom speaks virtually no English. Sonia’s a witty, smart, loyal teenager, and like many of us, she has some … interesting … relatives. Her uncle, whom she calls her drunkle, is always drunk and lying around or freaking Sonia out completely. Her aunt is extremely religious and often tells people to their faces that they’re going to hell. This is normal in Sonia’s family.

And family loyalty and discretion – keeping one’s dirty laundry inside the family and not leaking it – are paramount within the family code. The adults in Sonia’s family know this code extremely well. Familia es todo. You protect family members at all costs: right? But Sonia is starting to question this code: find out what her secret is in The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez by Alan Lawrence Sitomer.

The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez by Alan Lawrence Sitomer. Hyperion: 2008. 312 p. Booktalk to high school. Virginia Readers’ Choice 2011-2012.