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.



Summer Reading 2016- Week one

IMG_2688.jpg This summer I hope to keep up with posting about my reading, but I am taking my last two grad classes, so I will do my best.

The first book, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, is the debut novel of Stephanie Oakes.   I am excited for any further books she writes – this was a complex and tense novel that hooked me in from the start.  After talking to him about it, my husband also read it in about a day.  The writer’s MFA in poetry is highly evident in this novel, in that the writing style and metaphors are fantastic and useful.  That being said, this is a novel for high school students, as it deals with some exceptional levels of violence and cruelty, which Minnow recounts, both to her FBI psychologist, and to her roommate in juvenile detention.  While we know from the very beginning that Minnow no longer has her hands, how that happened is revealed over time.  While the main character that belonged to a cult could become a truly sensational story, the author here carefully crafts a protagonist that the reader responds to – and roots for, through all of the flashback reveals.


I admittedly do not read a lot of series to completion.  I will often read the first book in a series, but often I don’t finish the rest of the books.  The Shadowhunter books are a definite exception to this tendency.  I tend to consume these as quickly as I can, and I enjoyed this first book in her new, connected series.  Fans of the previous two Shadowhunter series will see some of their favorite characters in this, but there is a new cast, and a new take on a love story here as well.  I feel that Clare does a great job of integrating action, adventure, supernatural forces, and love stories that are a bit different from the expectation.  The love interests always face a major obstacle – but often in an unexpected way.  I look forward to the rest of this series as well.

Through the Woods is a collection of graphic novel short stories.  Some are takes on fairy tale – like stories, all of them are unsettling, and leave some interprative choices up to the reader.  This is not a great collection to read right before bed, but I think it is a great addition to my high school library collection, and a great one to give students that enjoy a good creepy read.  IMG_2685.jpg


A Time to Dance is a novel in verse. It tells the story of Veda, a rising star in Bharatanatyam dance.  She lives with her parents and her grandmother, and her mother does not really support her dancing.  She would prefer for Veda to become a doctor someday.  However, when Veda is badly injured in an accident, and has to have one of her legs amputated, she has to find new ways to reach her dreams.  This reminded me a great deal of The Running Dream, by Van Draanen,   Veda’s quest to dance again is inspiring, and the plot does not fall into melodrama, but does a great job of exploring Veda’s quest back to dance in a realistic manner.  The fact that it is a novel in verse also makes this one a quick read.

The final book for the first week was Caged Warrior, by Alan Lawrence Sitomer.   This novel tells the story of Mccutcheon Daniel, or Bam Bam, as he is known in the underground illegal world of cage fighting.  His dad has been training him since he was three, so that he could eventually become an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter, when he turns eighteen.  The family lives in Detroit’s 7 mile neighborhood, and has a lot of fight action, which will appeal to fans of mixed martial arts.  It also has a young man who wants to get out of the fighting lifestyle, but is trapped by his love for his sister, and his abusive, addict father.  This is an interesting work, with a memorable protagonist, and some unexpected twists along the way.


Title Confusion: These Shallow Graves vs. Shallow Graves

Within the last three months we have had two new additions to the Jr/Sr high collection that have very similar titles. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, and Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace.  I am planning on recording a book talk to post for my students, and I thought that might make a fun series of book talks, because there are a lot of books with either identical or very similar titles.

Both of these novels have an element of mystery to them, but they are rather different in some elements.

Shallow Graves, by Kali Wallace, starts with Breezy waking up in a shallow grave, with a man standing over her.  She pulls, and suddenly he is dead, and she is walking around.  She realizes she can see who is a killer or not, and that she can kill anyone who is themselves, a killer.  As she travels around the country looking for some answers, she encounters others, and gets some answers.  This is a supernatural thriller, there are plenty of scary moments, and times I was not sure about the outcome.  I think this would be a good pick for students that like books that are scary, and that involve creatures from various traditions.  There is not a lot of background given about those creatures, so they may want other books after that explain some of the creatures in more detail.  That said, there is also quite a bit of humor in the story as well.  For instance, she once introduces herself in the following way, “Hi. I’m Beezy.  I’m the reanimated corpse your brother found in Wyoming”(Wallace 189).  In some regards the humor around supernatural issues reminded me of Gil’s All Fright Diner, which is one of my favorite books.

These Shallow Graves, by Jennifer Donnelly, also follow a young woman on a quest.  In this case, Jo Montfort is trying to figure out what really happened to her father.  His death was ruled  accidental, but it is clear something else happened.  It is 1890s New York City, however, and her family belongs to the privileged elite, which means that she cannot easily investigate without risking her reputation.  This is a great story, with plenty of action, but also the sense of how stifling Jo’s place in society truly is.  There are some great action scenes in this story as well, as her situation becomes more and more perilous.

Both novels feature scary sequences.  Also, the protagonists have some similarities, as Jo longs to be a reporter like Nellie Bly, and Breezy has always dreamed of becoming a Mars astronaut.  These goals and dreams strongly shape both of these characters, as well as societal expectations that they must fight against.


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.

The Year in Books -2015

In the corner of my office there is a milk crate that holds a couple of binders, and another box.  Inside that box is the majority of the reading logs I have kept since I began teaching.  My mentor teacher – who has since gone on to be a librarian as well – showed me her reading summary logs my first year teaching, and I have been keeping those logs myself since then.

I admit, I don’t write everything down, but I try to write about most books I read, especially those I read that might appeal to students.  It has helped me to pull together book talks, refresh my memory on  a book I have read, and writing a little about a book helps me summarize the information into a quick distillation, which is useful for book talks.

Also, as  a result of those notebooks, I have the information to make my list of what I read this year. I know it will join the rest of the end of year lists, but I like the idea of putting that list in one place for now

  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John
  2. Connor Dinner Party by Nathan Hale
  3. DJ Rising by Love Maia
  4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  5. Explorer: The Mystery Boxes Edited by Kazu Kibuishi
  6. Winger by Andrew Smith
  7. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  8. The Moon Moth by Jack Vance
  9. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  10. There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake
  11. Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
  12. Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  13. Brain Camp by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks
  14. And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
  15. The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi
  16. Tower of Treasure by Scott Chantler
  17. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  18. Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle
  19. Essex County Vol. 1- Tales from the Farm by Jeff Lemire
  20. Glory O’ Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
  21. Taking Flight by Michaela DePrince
  22. The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
  23. The Elite by Kiera Cass
  24. The One by Kiera Cass
  25. Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  26. The Mortal Instruments Book Six – City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
  27. Bellwether Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
  28. The Shades of London Book Three – The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson
  29. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  30. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  31. May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
  32. Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl with Ari Benjamin
  33. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  34. This Song will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
  35. Rump by Liesl Shurtliff
  36. Dead to Me by Lisa McMann
  37. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
  38. Hidden by Helen Frost
  39. The Diviners by Libby Bray
  40. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
  41. Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle
  42. Boy 21 by Matthew Quick
  43. Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones
  44. Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
  45. Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon
  46. X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
  47. Countdown by Deborah Wiles
  48. All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin
  49. The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  50. Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  51. The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go
  52. The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
  53. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  54. Confessions by Kanae Minato
  55. Lacy Eye by Jessica Treadway
  56. How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon
  57. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  58. Ghosts of Galena by Dahly Watson
  59. Dune by Frank Herbert
  60. Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans
  61. Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody
  62. This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
  63. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  64. One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard
  65. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  66. This Journal Begins to Rachet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
  67. The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
  68. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
  69. World of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace at Your School by Laura Fleming
  70. Steel heart by Brandon Sanderson
  71. Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson
  72. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  73. Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
  74. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  75. Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus
  76. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
  77. Those who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta
  78. Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
  79. Chomp by Carl Hiassen
  80. Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin
  81. The President has been Shot: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson
  82. See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles
  83. Lock In by John Scalzi
  84. Butter by Erin Jade Lange
  85. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
  86. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
  87. Hidden by Loic Dauvillier
  88. Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods
  89. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullally Hunt
  90. Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
  91. Dark Life by Kat Fells
  92. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  93. Doll Bones by Holly Black
  94. Boy Nothing by Allen Zadoff
  95. Guys Read: True Stories Edited by Jon Scieszka
  96. Wildfire by Elizabeth Starr Hill
  97. Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf
  98. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwambe and Bryan Mealer
  99. The Christmas Killer by Patricia Windsor
  100. Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen
  101. I Don’t Like Koala by Ferrell
  102. It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee
  103. Jim’s Lion by Richard Hoban
  104. And What If I Won’t by Maureen Fergus
  105. Ben Draws Trouble by Matt Davies
  106. Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker
  107. A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmiko
  108. The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
  109. Mikis and the Donkey by Bibi Dumon Tak
  110. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
  111. Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, Alexis Frederick- Frost
  112. Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
  113. Lunch Lady And the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  114. Babymouse: Our Hero by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
  115. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale
  116. Mercury by Hope Larson
  117. I Was Here by Gayle Forman
  118. Say What you Will by Cammie McGovern
  119. Return to Me by Justina Chen
  120. I am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer
  121. Who Was Amelia Earhart by Kate Boehner Jerome
  122. The Journey that Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escapes of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden
  123. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh
  124. Noah Webster and his Words by Jeri Chase Ferris
  125. The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
  126. This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer L. Smith
  127. Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
  128.  The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
  129. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  130. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  131. Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire
  132. The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
  133. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  134. Crooked House by Agatha Christie


Some thoughts on weeding

This fall I have been working on weeding all of the collections in my district.  I actually find weeding to be a great exercise in reflection.  While I am going through the collections book by book, I realize that eventually every book I purchase for the collections will, in turn, one day be weeded.  While I thought that would bother me, I found it actually soothing that librarians that followed me would one day follow the same process – sitting in relative silence, pondering whether each book should remain in the collection.  In some ways, it makes me feel connected to a long line of librarians, all of whom both purchased and purged books from the collections.  Being a district librarian can sometimes feel very solitary, and such a reflective process helps me to feel part of a long  tradition.

Part of my ease with this might come from the fact that we let teachers and students take the discarded books – I know that there is some opposition to this, but especially with fiction I do not have an issue with it. It also makes it feel more that the books are finding their new home with one family, instead of being shared with all of the children.   Also, I find it encouraging that some students are so excited to take a book home – and find that they really like it when it is their own.

Some of my ease with the process might also be that it is only my second year in the library, so these are not purchases I made.  I do think that taking the time to reflect on the collection in this way is important, and I am encouraged by the fact that weeding is meant to be ongoing.  It means that reflection is built into the very nature of being a librarian.  Taking the time to weed has also allowed me to be in all the buildings more, and observe what students and teachers need – allowing me to gain insight into the future of the library.

Summer reading – Week 8 – It’s the end of the world, and my summer, as I know it, and I feel conflicted

On Thursday I took my son to our local botanical garden, which recently added a beautiful children’s section.  As my son splashed around in the water feature, and I sat in the shade on a gorgeous day, it occurred to me that I may be wrapping up one of the last truly free summers of my son’s life.  He is starting kindergarten, and youth sports, or youth arts programs will probably start to creep in, eventually comprising part of summer.  Part of my thoughts may have been a result of the admittedly dark texts I read for most of the week, but as my personal summer draws to a close, I found myself reading the books I had brought home from school but had not read yet.  That resulted in a rather eclectic, mostly dark,  reading program for this last week.


First up on the docket was Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson.  This was clearly the first in a dystopian future series.  To be honest, while I love mysteries, I have to work myself up to read the dystopian books.  That resulted in a rather bleak week of reading.  The premise  of Steelheart is that an event called The Calamity created people with superhuman powers.  The result is a group called Epics, who desire to rule human.  The desire leads to chaos and destruction for regular people.  David is one of those regular people, now living in a mostly steel version of Chicago called Newcago.  He wants revenge, and who joins a group trying to take out the Epics.  The novel is action packed, and has numerous gun battles and chase scenes.  I thought the premise was interesting, but it also gave me nightmares, so this was not my favorite read of the summer.


The next book I read was a non-fiction account of the building, initial voyage, shipwreck, and aftermath.  The recount is straightforward and clear, with several recollections of witnesses rolled together.  The notes in this discussion of the Titanic are very thorough, and comprise nearly a third of the book.  This is a great one for anyone interested in the Titanic, and  for anyone that wants a great example of nonfiction text features to look for.  One quotation that really stuck with me was, “The events of the Titanic disaster can be seen as a symbol of what happens through overconfidence in technology, complacence, and a mindset of profits over people’s safety” (217).  Quite honestly, this made me realize that part of why people remain fascinated by the Titanic involves what they can project on the disaster, and that there are lessons that people can draw from the situation in every generation.  The danger in that is that the humanity of the people lost can become dulled over time, but Hopkinson did a great job focusing on the actual people on the ship that fateful night.


I finally got around to reading The Maze Runner, by James Dasher.  It has been recommended to me by students, and also the Tech coordinator at school, and my dentist.  I never wanted to take it from a student, as it had holds on it all year, so I took it home for the summer.  I thought it was an interesting dystopian novel, and I admit that my conceptions about what the maze would be turned out to be incorrect, which I always enjoy in a story.  I think my biggest complaint was the near lack of female characters –  I am not arguing that all stories must have all views represented, but the ending of the story left me with a few questions regarding group composition.

IMG_1690This last graphic novel was my treat for a week filled with rather gloomy reading fare.  This was a fun story, about Babymouse realizing how great her life is, and why she enjoys it.  I know that my elementary students like these graphic novels, and I enjoyed it as well.  It was a quick read, with a story of acceptance.

I started back to work yesterday, so this is my last true summer reading post.  Happy reading everyone!