Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book talk: Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

Timmy Failure runs his own detective agency, is flunking out of school, has a polar bear named Total, and rides his mom's Segway, which he's not ever, ever supposed to do. He's pretty good at keeping his mother in the dark, but the Segway - his Failuremobile - has been stolen, which means there will be pain and suffering on Timmy's part. A guy's gotta have wheels.

Come to think of it, there are two other females associated with pain and suffering: the first is Molly Moskins. She's in his class, and she smells like a tangerine. She's got a crush on Timmy, and he wants nothing to do with her. 

But she's nothing compared to the evil one. The evil one is so evil that Timmy doesn't even want you to see her picture. He blocks out her head with a black square. I'm not even going to say her real name. You can call her the evil one, or Weevil Bun. Take your pick. She runs her own detective agency, and she's so good at school that she actually tutors other kids. But you know what? Timmy has her detective log. The Holy Grail. Ahhh....revenge....

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis. 294 p. 2013: Candlewick. Booktalk to grades 3-7.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Book talk: Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

Have you ever felt as if you were being watched?

Our protagonist – whose name we don’t know – is a young girl who works on a farm during the time of the Civil War. She feeds the cow and the chickens, and she does daily farm chores: cleaning, gathering food, helping her family.

She has a busy but quiet life. She sees Confederate soldiers riding by on their horses one day: the war is going on, but she and her family have food and their health and one another.

But she’s being watched. When she’s alone in the shed, she can feel an eye trained on her. Whose eye is this? Who would hide behind picked corn stalks? And why is this person in her family’s shed?

There are no words in this book, but this is a powerful story called Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole.

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole. Unpaged, wordless. Scholastic: New York, 2012. Booktalk to K-3. Would work especially well for students learning about the Civil War. 2012 New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books Selection; 2012 Parents' Choice Award for Picture Books Winner.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Book talk: Hello! Hello! by Matthew Cordell (2012 New York Times Notable Children's Book)

[For this booktalk, enlist the help of another person – adult or child (doesn’t matter) who holds a handheld electronic device and ignores you as you say “Hello! Hello!” You’ll also need a copy of this book.]

[You approach the other person who is engrossed with his/her device.] Hello! Hello! [You sigh, loudly.]

Okay, I’ll try again. [Walk away from the person, and then come back.]

Hello! Hello! [Sigh.] Fine, I’ll go outside.

[Show pp. 13-14]. Hello, leaf.

[Show pp. 15-16] Hello, bug.

Gee, there’s a lot going on out here. I should probably go outside more often. This stuff seems pretty interactive, and you don't even have to plug it in.

[Show pp. 21-22] Hello, horse! [Turn page, quickly] Oh my gosh! The horse said hello back to me! What is going on? [Turn a few more pages..] Gee, they all know hello…

Hello! Hello! By Matthew Cordell. Unpaged. 2012: Hyperion. Booktalk to pre-K through 2nd. Good readaloud. 2012 New York Times Notable Children’s Book.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book talk: A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirachad

Most of you have been at home alone while you waited for your parents to return home, right? It’s a fairly typical teen experience. But what if you had no way of contacting your parents when they were gone? What if you worried they’d get hit by sniper fire when returning home? In this graphic novel, Zeina drew us a map of how tricky it was to avoid the sniper near their apartment. 
Avoiding the sniper in A Game for Swallows

And what if the block and the area you lived in got bombed so regularly that all your neighbors would come join you in the foyer of your apartment because it was considered the safest spot? Imagine living with all your neighbors in a tiny room for hours and hours and even days. It’s a hard way to live, but Zeina and her little brother have grown up with this. They live in Beirut, Lebanon, during a time of civil war, a civil war which dragged on from 1975-1990. They know of people who have disappeared and were never seen again. But there’s humor in this novel: her neighbors – virtually family since they live in close quarters – are protective, loving, and quirky. If your world shrank to one room, would you be able to laugh?

A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return by Zeina Abirached. Graphic novel. 188 p. Booktalk to middle school, high school.