Finding new perspectives – a podcast edition

One of my favorite things to do on my commute to and from school is to listen to podcasts.   I have been expanding my list that I subscribe to, and I think I will post on a fairly regular basis about various podcasts, because they are another way to get information on a variety of topics.

One of my favorite podcasts last year was the excellent Sampler from Gimlet Media.  The show is over now, but Brittany Luse, the wonderful host, is creating a new show, so I am excited for that.  While the podcast is over, if you are new to the world of podcasting, Sampler is a great place to try. There are only about 31 episodes, and each episode gives people a sampling  of various other podcasts- hence the name.  It helped me find Buzzfeed’s Another Round, which I look forward to weekly.  The show is hosted by Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu, and each week they interview different people, and also offer perspectives on a wide range of topics.  Their interviews with Hilary Clinton and Lin Manual Miranda are excellent, as are most of their other interviews.  They tend to ask questions I do not hear on different shows, and they bring a great joy to their work.

The last podcast I wanted to mention in this context is See Something, Say Something, which is another Buzzfeed podcast, this one hosted by Ahmed Ali Akbar, in which he talks to a variety of Muslims about their faith and experiences.  In a current environment where Muslims are often not well understood, such a show is a valuable addition.

While at this point I have not used a lot of podcasts with students, they are podcasts that help me be a better educator and librarian.  Sometimes book recommendations are shared, sometimes I simply gain a new perspective.

What are podcasts you listen to?  How are you getting information from a variety of viewpoints and perspectives?

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2016: A Year in Books

I know that I have not written any posts in awhile, maybe I will do better this year – here’s hoping, but no promises.   Anyway, here is my 2016 list, just the books and authors, in the order I read them.  I apologize for any mistakes in transcription, especially regarding author names.

  1. Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
  2. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  3. The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
  4. The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
  5. The Contender by Robert Lipsyte
  6. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
  7. Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
  8. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
  9. Saxby Smart Private Detective – In the Treasure of Dead Man’s Lane and Other Case Files by Simon Cheshire
  10. The Cabinet of Curiosities by Stefan Bachman, Katherine Catcall, Emma Travayne, and Claire Legrand
  11. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
  12. Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson
  13. Illuminae: The Illuminae Files _01 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristof
  14. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
  15. First & Then by Emma Mills
  16. The Kind Worth Killing For by Peter Swanson
  17. The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas
  18. The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
  19. 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
  20. Breakthrough:How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever by Jim Murphy
  21. October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shephard by Leslea Newman
  22. God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant
  23. God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant
  24. My Name is not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson
  25. Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince
  26. How I Became a Ghost:A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story by Tim Tingle
  27. Nightbird by Alice Hoffman
  28. Rhyme Schemer by K.A.Holt
  29. The Shattering by Karen Healey
  30. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
  31. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
  32. The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson
  33. Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
  34. Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
  35. Fake ID by Lamar Giles
  36. The Heir by Kiera Cass
  37. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
  38. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  39. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
  40. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
  41. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
  42. Caged Warriors by Alan Lawrence Sitomer
  43. A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman
  44. The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
  45. The Story of Owen:Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston
  46. The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Maureen Johnson
  47. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
  48. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  49. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Act by Lynda Blackmon Lowery
  50. After the Funeral by Agatha Christie
  51. Masterminds by Gordan Korman
  52. Capital Crimes edited by Martin Edwards
  53. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  54. Nothing Bad is Going to Happen by Kathleen Hale
  55. The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brusker Bradley
  56. Grave Mercy by Robin Lefevers
  57. Miss Marple Stories by Agatha Christie
  58. Kids of Appetite by David Arnold (Advanced Reader’s Copy)
  59. Challenger Deep by Neal Schusterman
  60. The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L.Holm
  61. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  62. What Light by Jay Asher
  63. Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
  64. The Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine
  65. The Cursed Child by J.K.Rowling
  66. Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick
  67. The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer
  68. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Stone
  69. The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
  70. Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories by Stephanie Perkins
  71. 99 Days by Katie Cotugno
  72. Something Wicked in These Woods by Marisa Montes
  73. Laughing in my Nightmare by Shane Burcaw
  74. Shelter by Harlan Coben
  75. Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz
  76. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
  77. Aluta by Adwoa Badoe
  78. The Crown by Kiera Cass
  79. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
  80. Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier
  81. Snow White by Matt Phelan
  82. The Revelation of Louisa May by Michaela MacColl
  83. The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  84. Burning Midnight by Will Mcintosh
  85. The Wikkling by Steven Arntson
  86. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
  87. Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci
  88. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
  89. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  90. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  91. Dead Wake by Erik Larson
  92. The House Across the Cove by Barbara Hall
  93. The Cat at the Wall by Deborah Ellis

 

Thoughts on the new Jay Asher novel, What Light

Yesterday I received my Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) of What Light, by Jay Asher.   I loved Thirteen Reason’s Why  – and both the content and the form of that novel have really stayed with me.  It is a novel that has often been on hold in my library, and students have fallen in love with it year after year, often hearing about it through word of mouth.

What Light, by Jay Asher, is another way for him to explore the ideas of redemption and forgiveness (he says as much in his opening letter to the ARC), but with a much happier construct.  Sierra, the main character in the story, runs a tree farm in Oregon with her parents, and every year they go down to California between Thanksgiving and Christmas to run a tree lot.  Sierra misses her friends from Oregon, and also loves her time in California, with her best friend there, Heather.   The majority of the novel takes place in California – and this might be their last year on the lot there.  They will keep the farm, but the actual business at the lot has been in decline.  Sierra is notoriously picky with her romances, but then one day Caleb catches her eye.

Despite being warned about a terrifying incident in Caleb’s past, Sierra and Caleb start a tentative relationship – one that looks destined for heartbreak.  Will Sierra get a Christmas miracle?  What actually happened in Caleb’s past?  Should everyone be judged by their worst day? These are some of the questions that the novel posits, and the plot does have a nice quick pace to it.

I have been eagerly waiting for my copy, ever since I stumbled across the first Teen Book Festival Event at Barnes and Nobel and won the trivia contest.  I felt guilty and gave half of my swag away, but as a school librarian, I am excited to have access to Advance Reader’s copies this year, both to read and assess for collection development, and to share with students.  I am planning to have students turn in book recommendations this year, and do a drawing each month with the students that participate.  I will give away various prizes, but I am sure the ARC’s will go first.

I did enjoy What Light, although I do think that some additional character development would bolster the story.  Throughout the novel, Sierra is always making coffee with hot chocolate and a peppermint stick, and this novel is the equivalent of that.  Lots of good feeling, warmth and nostalgia, with the hint of something darker underneath.  While I do have some hesitations about this novel, I think it will prove popular with a lot of my high school students, and I also really like the hopeful message of the story.  With so many dystopian novels crowding the scene, I have admitted that there are times I would like more “books about puppies” – and this book fits that desire quite nicely.  While not my favorite by this author, I still finished it pretty quickly, and fell easily into the rhythms of the story.   This will make a good addition, also, as a holiday story – of which there are really not many for the secondary level.

Finally, I am always glad when there is a novel that presents people who are farmers, or live in a more rural area, as regular people – not people defined fully by their geography as backwards, or stupid.  As a teacher/librarian in a rural district, I can say that simply putting teenagers in a rural setting does not change their desire to be the best person they can be, or their need to go through the turmoil of adolescence and find their own ways in life.

 

Highlights of Summer Reading Weeks 4-5

 

IMG_2711.jpgTurning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Act by Lynda Blackmon Lowery.  This nonfiction book is a great way for students to learn about the realities of the Civil Rights Movement.  Lowery speaks of her experiences in several marches, culminating in the march from Selma to Montgomery, on which she was the youngest marcher.  While I had seen the horrible and iconic images of the first Montgomery march, there were a lot of details that I had no awareness of.  This is a clear and straightforward text, with several pictures to illustrate the narrative.

IMG_2810.jpgMasterminds by Gordan Korman is about an idyllic, perfect town, where there is no crime, and no one lies.  However, as the children of the town soon begin to discover, nothing is really as it seems.  This has a lot of action and adventure, and is the first in a series.  I don’t want to spoil what actually happens, but it was different than other books I have read.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapien AgendaIMG_2811.jpg by Becky Albertalli is a charming novel aboutSimon, a closeted junior in high school.  When Martin, who is in the musical with him, finds some emails, he tries to blackmail Simon with the information. Simon has been considering coming out, but he knows there will be struggles, and he hasbeen emailing with another student from his school, and he does not want to risk outing him as well.  A great, romantic, coming of age story.

Nothing Bad is Going to Happen by Kathleen Hale – this is the sequel to No One Else Can IMG_2809.jpgHave You.  It is another story about Kippy Bushman, and this one involves her finding her boyfriend, unconscious, after an apparent suicide attempt – however, just like in the first novel, not everything is at is seems.  An interesting mystery, although not as strong as the first book.

Musings on Baseball and trying something new

This year my son played baseball for the first time.   Neither my husband nor I ever played organized sports, so it was a new experience for the entire family.  The season had its ups and downs – it was clear that most of the other parents had more background knowledge, and some knew each other from t-ball.  My son really struggled at first, not only had he never played, he had never even seen a baseball game before.  We were lucky and had great coaches, that really worked with all of the kids.  Also, in the first round of games, they were allowed to use the tee, but then transitioned away from that.  This led to my son striking out several times in a row, but when he finally did hit it, the parents on our team reacted like he had won the entire game.   It was really fun to watch my son start to consistently hit the ball, and awesome to watch his entire team really improve and start playing as a team over the course of the season.

There were plenty of moments of high drama during the season, and one team that I dreaded playing, because things always seemed to get heated, but yesterday was our last game – and I realized I will miss it.  We only missed one game the entire season, and that was because I read the schedule wrong once, and we missed the second game.  There were several games that no one wanted to go to, my son wanted to quit, and we were tired from our lives.  Also, like I said, neither my husband nor I are very into sports.

This morning, I realized that after the intensity of the final tournament this weekend, I was actually sad to see the season end.  My son is sad too – his team won the tournament, and he is excited to wear his medal around – but I don’t think I would have predicted this outcome when we all started this season.

It made me think that there are a lot of things that I have just dismissed, because I know I don’t like them – and that maybe I am wrong about some of those.  Also, it made me think I need to keep trying new approaches with those students that don’t want to read – I need to keep striving to find ways to help them through their struggle.  If we always quit when something gets too hard, we might cheat ourselves of an experience we might really enjoy.

 

On making a book trailer

For one of the classes I am taking this semester, I needed to create a book trailer.  I read a book we had just received from our Junior Library Guild Subscription, These Shallow Graves, by Jennifer Donnelly.  It is a historical fiction mystery, set in New York City in the 1890s – which seems to be a fairly popular setting in YA fiction.  I enjoyed the novel, and thought especially that the depictions of social constraints for all types of people in that setting were well used.  Also, as a Jennifer Donnelly novel, the characters are engaging and rich, and I found myself cringing as the heroine, Jo Montfort, was often in dangerous situations.

I then set about creating my trailer, and I admit, the whole process easily took me more hours than the literature review I had due for my other class did.  I began by using an iMovie template, but found it to be unworkable.  I was not able to modify the template at all, and while it did have great features, I decided to abandon it and go another route.  ( I have subsequently been informed that you can save a template as a project, and then modifications are much more possible).

After a quick internet search, I happened across an article by Richard Byrne called, “Free Technology for Teachers: 5 Free Tools for Creating Book Trailer Videos”.  I had used Animoto in the past, but my free trial had ended, and I was not sure if I could justify the purchase price at this time.  I decided to try Masher, as it offered the tools I needed.

I was able to create a pretty good video between using Masher and music from the Free Music Archive – but then I could not get it to download.  Tech support from Masher was helpful throughout, but we never did fix the issue.  They did suggest next time I sign up as an educator and try it that way, so that might be an avenue I do consider.

At this point I was cursing the entire concept of Book Trailers, and ended up emailing a librarian listserv I belong to.  They were, of course, highly helpful, and one person suggested the Chrome extension WeVideo.  I installed that, and it worked very well.  My video worked, and it was easy to add text to the still images I had found.  I will say the saving grace for me was that as I found images, I copied and pasted their link into a Google Drive document, so I could find the images later and cite them correctly.  Also, I saved the images to my photos and desktop so I could get them again later.

Finally done with that, I spent the next hour or two on my works cited page, thinking perhaps historical fiction, with the difficulties in image finding, was not the best original choice.

I admit my attitude was pretty bad regarding the whole episode, until a couple of days later, when a student came into the library with tech issues of their own.  I worked with them on troubleshooting, and even suggested WeVideo as an alternative to Screencastify.  They decided to stay with the original program, but the interaction made me realize that unless I am willing to try new programs and technology, how will I continue to help my students?  Also, I will not glibly throw off the suggestion to just, “make a book trailer”, without coming up with some appropriate guides and help for my students first.

I am not going to share my finished project here for a couple of reasons.  1 – All I can see are the mistakes on this one. 2. – I have a works cited page, but I lack the rights for a lot of the images, and I don’t want to be a poor steward of copyright law.

Tech Tool #1

For my summer class we need to turn in a technology tool each week, in a show and share manner.  I did some light research, and found some articles on apps and programs that would work well on chrome books.  Next year we are going 1-1 with Chromebooks 3-12 grades, and as such, I am interested in what will work well for that implementation.   I found a useful article to consult at Tech Republic. 

This week, I started with the app Wunderlist, which I was able to use on my Chromebook, and download on my Mac desktop, and to my iPhone.  I liked this in that I could use it across platforms.  I tried it out by making a grocery list in that column, and I liked that I could type it on my Chromebook, and then have the list to check off on my phone.

What I also really liked, especially for work purposes, is that this would be a great collaboration tool.  It is easy to use, and one someone has the app, you can share lists with them.  You can also add items to lists very easily, and assign due dates, and the party responsible for that task.  These are all great features, and I think they could be useful for collaborative group work in a class, or on a committee.