Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel (Booktalk)

Paleontologists love their fossils, and most of them are not thought of as people who get into fistfights with each other in public. Rachel's and Samuel's fathers are both paleontologists who hate each other's guts. Even worse, both men are competing for the same hidden fossil: the rumored bones of a giant "Rex" buried somewhere in the Badlands. It's the late nineteenth century, and this find would elevate one of them to worldwide fame.

So it would be logical that Rachel and Samuel would hate one another, too, but they don't. They learn to appreciate how much they have in common with one another: they're both kind, analytical, and fascinated with fossils. Both of them want to find these secret bones, too, and they have to find a way to keep their bond hidden from their fathers.

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel. 2016: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. 368 pages. Booktalk to older teens due to some adult content.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers (Booktalk)

[Begin by showing page 2 in which William is drawing an owl on the ground.] William is lonely. He lives in an orphanage. Notice the drab colors in this drawing.

A mysterious man passes him, carrying tools. 

Look what appears the next morning [show owl topiary page].

William stares at it all day, and he goes to bed filled with a sense of excitement. [Show picture of house with cats.] More and more start to appear: what do you notice is happening?

The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers: 2016. [48] p. Booktalk to grades K-2.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina (Booktalk)

Juana wants you to get her name right. That's her dog, Lucas.
This is Juana. At first I pronounced her name wrong, but she taught me how to say it. It's "who-an-nah." I hate getting people's names wrong, and she's a cool kid. Juana lives in South America in the country of Colombia in a city called Bogota. She loves her dog Lucas, hates her school uniform (it's itchy), loves reading under the covers at night with a flashlight, loves soccer.

You know which class is driving her crazy? English. Yeah, it is. She speaks Spanish, and she is finding English class really, really hard. Her mom says she has to get her grades up, because if she doesn't, she won't get to go on a trip she is dying to go on: a trip to Spaceland in Florida. She cannot wait to meet the comic book superhero Astroman there. So the trip is her carrot on a stick, so to speak.

But English is really, really hard. I know you all don't think so, but many of you were born speaking it, so it came easy to you. Poor Juana. Even Lucas feels bad for her.

Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina. 96 pages. Candlewick: 2016. Booktalk to grades 1-4. Excellent read-aloud.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Graces by Laure Eve Booktalk

River is a lonely 15-year-old who has just moved to a small, old coastal town with her mother. She's not popular and she's picked on by mean girls. She becomes fascinated with this family whose children go to her school, and they're called the Graces, because that's their last name. Summer Grace is her age, and the twins, Thalia and Fenrin, are a few years older. They're beautiful and intriguing and popular, and their family is wealthy but is rumored to be witches.

If you liked Twilight (or Mean Girls), try this.
River develops a huge crush on the boy, Fenrin: he's got a lot of girlfriends and is one of the most popular boys in school, so when he shows an interest in her, she's flattered. Summer Grace starts befriending her, too - this uptick in River's popularity is great, and for the first time, she feels happy.

But River starts flirting with the supernatural: she visits an old, obscure bookstore to buy books on magic, and she practices spells. Yet there's another loner, Marcus, who warns her very strongly against associating with the Graces. He seems to have dated Thalia, and he warns that the Graces will use River and then discard her.

The Graces by Laure Eve. 336 p. Amulet Books, 2016. Booktalk to high school.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo Booktalk

I want you to imagine three girls breaking into their teacher's house. One of the girls, Beverly, has taught herself lock-picking from a book. She is breaking in, and her best friends, Louisiana and Raymie, are right there with her. Why are they breaking into their teacher's house?

Their teacher is not a school teacher: she teaches baton twirling to girls entering beauty contests and other competitions. Two of them want to enter and win a local competition called the Little Miss Central Florida Tire 1975 competition. It's sort of a beauty/talent competition, and there is a big cash prize. You have to prove that you are talented and a good person. Breaking and entering is not a good way to prove that.

Let's get back to the girls. You've heard the expression "to be down on your luck"? What does it mean? [Take answer/s.] We have three girls down on their luck here. Raymie's dad just left her and her mom. Louisiana lost her beloved cat and doesn't have enough money to buy food. Beverly doesn't seem to have a dad around, plus she gets into fights with her mom. Beverly's mom forces Beverly to take baton twirling lessons, which she seems to hate. The lessons are where the three girls met one another.

But where is their baton teacher?

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. 2016: Candlewick Press. 263 p. Booktalk to intermediate grades, middle school. Great read-aloud.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm Booktalk

Beans is tired of how his town stinks. There's garbage everywhere, because the town is broke and can't pay garbage men to come collect the garbage. His family has no money, but no one else in town has any money, either. It's the Great Depression of the 1930's, and Beans lives in Key West, Florida. He's always barefoot. His dad usually is out of work. I bet he's pretty thin.

When you're poor and hungry, you have to earn money somehow, and Beans is pretty good at it, at least, when adults aren't cheating him. When we first meet him, he's being ripped off by Winky, who should pay him more for the empty cans he brought in. Beans knows that Winky lies to him.

But then Beans gets another business opportunity: a fast way to make money, and it involves his wagon. Let's just say that smuggling is involved, and plenty of deception. And much higher pay. Enough money to buy his mom some hand cream she really needs for her damaged hands. But Beans' new job involves a high level of risk: what will happen to him if he gets caught? If you like humor and historical fiction, try Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm.

Full of  Beans by Jennifer L. Holm. 195 p. 2016: Random House. Booktalk to grades 3-7.

Monday, September 5, 2016

This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter Booktalk

This little girl made her very own dollhouse! [Show picture]. Her parents did not buy it for her. She used a basic cardboard box, and look what she did with it! Look carefully: do you see the wallpaper in this picture? How do you think she did that? Right, with magic markers. And she made the most incredible tiny furniture, too [show pages]. I see a television which she made from a tiny box. I see a rug which she made from part of a real rug. I see a plate of noodles made from tiny little bits of yarn. Wow, she is imaginative.

She loves playing with her dollhouse family, too. She dresses them, feeds them, and lets them ride in a little elevator to the rooftop pool! I love that rooftop pool: can you see what it's made of? A little bowl of water.

But her best friend Sophie has a store-bought dollhouse [show page]. What do you think of it? Yeah, it does look a bit boring. And there's more. Sophie does not want to invent or create stuff for her dollhouse. She just wants things which were bought in a store. The two girls have a playdate coming up. Find out what happens in This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter.

This is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter. 2016: Schwartz & Wade. [40 p.] Booktalk to K-3rd.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Freedom in Congo Square Booktalk

I want you to imagine a world in which all you did was work. You might work in the fields. You might chop logs. You might feed livestock all day. You were a slave.

Point out the overseer to your readers.
You took care of other people's things. You took care of other people's children. You were almost always watched. If you misbehaved, you'd be whipped with a lash. Do you see the overseer in this picture here? He was watching the slaves, and he's not their friend. They often lived in fear.

But there was one time when you could relax a little. On Sunday afternoons, you could meet up with other slaves in Congo Square. You could sing or dance or play music. For just a moment in time, you could forget your troubles. And this is what you lived for. Come join this amazing world of our past in Freedom in Congo Square.

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie. 2016: Little Bee Books. Unpaged. Booktalk to grades 1-4. Good read-aloud.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt (Booktalk)

Boys don't keep journals? Kevin does. He's 12, almost 13, in the 7th grade. He's the youngest of five boys, and his parents - both doctors - are never at home. His brother Petey (the next oldest) often beats Kevin up. His journal is his way of blowing off steam. It's in poem form. Let's take a look here.

Kevin's real (private) diary is on the left. 
[Read the poem on page 6 and show both pages 6-7 to your readers.] He's taking pages from an old book and circling words and phrases on that page to make a poem within a page - a found poem. This one is very Kevin: it says, "We will die. / The smell is killing us. / TEACHER SMELL is deadly. / Barf." Okay, so it got your attention but it's obnoxious and it's not a good poem. But the poem in his journal which he wrote to himself is pretty good. He talked about words jumping out at him "like tickly little fleas / needing a good scratching. / So I scratched them." He has a great imaginative mind and a flair for words.

So basically he's living two lives: the life of his private journal which shows a really good poet and the life of a found poem graffiti artist whose sole objective is to tick off authority figures at his school.

Why do you think he is doing this? [Entertain theories.] Some of you may be right. What would you think if I told you that Petey, his brother, threw his real journal out the car window and someone found it? Will Kevin be able to keep up his poetry?

Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt. 2014: Chronicle Books. 169 pages. Booktalk to grades 4-9.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Waiting by Kevin Henkes (Booktalk)

Who are these creatures sitting on the windowsill? [Give time for response.]
Let your readers study the creatures up close.

I see an owl with spots, a rabbit with stars, a puppy on a sled, a pig with an umbrella, and a bear with a kite. My favorite is the owl. What do you think they are waiting for? [Show picture, wait for responses.]

Yes, maybe they are waiting for sunshine. Is that why the pig has an umbrella: has it been raining? You think they are waiting for a person? Why do you think that?

I wonder what they're waiting for. If you look carefully at the beautiful pictures, you will find lots of great clues. Read Waiting by Kevin Henkes.

Waiting by Kevin Henkes. 32 p. 2015: Greenwillow Books. Booktalk to preschool - 2nd.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (Booktalk)

It's really embarrassing when your imaginary friend keeps showing up without warning. Oh, wait, it's worse when you're in fifth grade and you HAVE an imaginary friend, as Jackson does. Jackson's imaginary friend is Crenshaw, a very, very large black and white cat with definite opinions about everything.

Creshaw tends to show up especially when things are not going well for Jackson. He first appeared in first grade, when Jackson's dad was struggling with a a disease called multiple sclerosis. And later on, closer to the present time, he starts showing up when their family has lost all their money. I like Crenshaw. He leaves little gifts and signs, things that only Jackson likes. Like purple jellybeans. Jackson really likes those.

But Crenshaw is freaking me out a little. You know what he keeps telling Jackson? "You need to tell the truth to the person who matters the most of all." Tell the truth. And who is the person who matters the most of all? And will Crenshaw every vanish, or is he with Jackson for life?

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate. 245 pages. Feiwel and Friends, 2015. Booktalk to grades 3-8, depending on students' reading levels. Great read-aloud.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead Booktalk

Bridge is a middle school girl who got hit by a car which she was younger and she almost died. That's her on the cover with a friend of hers. She's fine now, and she has two best friends whom she loves and trusts: Tab and Em. Tab is very headstrong and opinionated: she's a bit of a tomboy, and she loves history and politics. You'd never catch Tab putting on makeup or showing an interest in it. Emily is more traditionally "girly" and the boys notice her; she's good at sports and knows more of the "popular" kids. Emily also has a boyfriend but doesn't want to call it that.

When you look at the three girls' personalities, they're actually fairly different, but they get along well and support one another loyally. Yet something changes when someone - we don't know who - gets Em's boyfriend's phone and finds a personal photo of Emily. This person forwards the photo to someone who then forwards the photo, and so on and so on. It's not a naked photo, but it's not a photo that Emily wants "out there." You'll have to read the novel to see the description of the photo!

So who did this? Can we trust Em's boyfriend? And more importantly, will Em survive the mean words and harsh words headed her way? And will her two best friends understand what she is going through? Will they stand by her? And who is this mysterious stranger alluded to in the title, "Goodbye, Stranger?" Read and find out.

Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead. 304 pages. Wendy Lamb Books, 2015. Booktalk to middle school and high school.