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.