[Q] Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp

19 Apr

(This is the first post this month that I didn’t pre-write, which is pretty good, considering it’s been almost three weeks! :D)

I remember when Quidditch Through the Ages first came out. I was so excited to get another Harry Potter-related book before the next book in the series came out. The book itself is a very thin volume that almost gets lost on my bookshelf (so thin that its companion book, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is lost somewhere…).

I love how the details of the book, from the author and reviews to the scuff marks and fake library check-out list, make us feel like we’re holding a piece of Hogwarts (excluding the quality of the book, which feels like a cheap paperback, especially with its yellowed pages). There’s even a fictional publishing house (Whizz Hard Books) and an alternate price (14 sickles 3 knuts) to add to the illusion.

At the time, it helped whet my appetite for more Harry Potter, but now, years after the final book was published, I don’t really feel a desire to read the little snippet of the world I don’t quite remember. It’s like how I feel when I try watching the Harry Potter movies but don’t remember much of what’s going on. I loved the series while it was going, but with seven books, it takes a long time to get back into them. Until the last book, I reread all the previous books right before the release of the newest book in the series in order to remember all the details (I couldn’t with the last book because I was in Japan at the time and didn’t have all the previous books with me).

But, this is why I was excited while doing a quick search on this book to see that Warner Brothers is making movies of the companion books, starting with Fantastic Beasts. I think having a trilogy of short, self-contained movies will be better at this point in the life of the story, giving people like me a chance to revisit the world without the burden of having to remember all the plot of the previous parts…

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter Q.

[P] Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass

18 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

In Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass, Joss is the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe living in The Realms, but that doesn’t mean he’s anything special. It just means that he gets to deliver pies. Not just ordinary pies, of course, but pies nonetheless. His life changes when one day, the Earth disappears, taking his best friend, Kal, and his parents with it, leaving behind a girl from Earth named Annika. Now it’s up to Joss and Annika to bring the Earth back.

This campy space coming-of-age adventure is firmly rooted in science but still manages to be funny, moving, and entertaining. Readers will root for Joss as he races around The Realms trying to achieve a seemingly impossible task. The last chapter provides a nice ending that ties up all the loose ends while still leaving room for future adventures.

An educator’s guide with discussion questions and curriculum connections can be found here. You can also read the first seven chapters of the book for free in this sneak peek edition!

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter P.

[O] Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris

17 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

This review refers to the Overdrive version of the audiobook of Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris, read by Carrington MacDuffie.

Christian was raised by a troll, but that didn’t stop him from longing after Princess Marigold. They become pen pals by carrier pigeon, and one day, Christian decides to make his fortune and find work at the palace. There, he must save Marigold from her mother’s schemes and prove that he is worthy of her love.

This is a cute story that is pretty funny, although younger listeners may not get all the references to fairy tales and pop culture. MacDuffie’s voice took some getting used to at the beginning, but her performance is funny and draws listeners into the story.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter O.

[N] No More Dead Dogs by Gordan Korman

16 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Wallace Wallace’s policy has always been to tell the truth. In No More Dead Dogs by Gordan Korman, when Wallace is assigned to write a book report about Old Shep, My Pal, he won’t pretend he likes the book just because it’s his English teacher, Mr. Fogelman’s favorite book. This results in detention, and he is banned from football until he writes a satisfactory essay. Instead of warming the bench at football games, he has to spend time after school with the drama club, run by Mr. Fogelman, as they put on a play of Old Shep, My Pal. Wallace’s suggestions make the play a whole lot more interesting, but someone wants to frame him for sabotaging the play.

This book asks the question: Who are your real friends? As Wallace Wallace goes from being a popular jock to a drama nerd, he reevaluates the people around him that he considered his friends. The “villain” of the story is underdeveloped, but it comes off as more realistic this way–all of Wallace’s friends have their good and bad parts, just like real people do.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter N.

[M] Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee

15 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Eleven-and-a-half-year-old high schooler Millicent Min might be a genius, but she’s no good at making friends. When her mother signs her up for volleyball and she’s forced to tutor Stanford Wong, the basketball jock and her archenemy, she resigns herself to a terrible summer. But summer is ready to prove her wrong…

Even though Millicent may seem like an exaggerated character on the surface, she comes across as a pretty real depiction of a girl who is only good at school who is facing real problems that she needs to deal with head on. The book teaches lessons about friendship and the important things in life that all children have to learn at some point in their lives.

Millicent Min by Lisa Yee won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award in 2004 (among others).

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter M.

[L] Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

14 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

By Newbery Award-winning author Rebecca Stead, Liar & Spy is an unconventional mystery that follows Georges on his adventures with his neighbor, Safer, as their spy club tries to uncover the mystery of Mr. X, who lives in their apartment building. After Georges’s father loses his job and they have to sell their house, Georges moves into the apartment building Safer lives in with his family. At school, Georges is a loner who is bullied by the other kids. At home, his mother, a nurse, is working long shifts at the hospital, and his dad, an architect, is busy trying to get new clients, so Georges is left to explore his new home on his own.

Georges’s life starts improving as he spends more time with Safer, learning to observe the world around him. He begins to see the things around him differently, which leads to seeing himself differently, as well. Even once the mystery of Mr. X is solved, there is still more for the boys—and the reader—to discover, and at the end of the book, readers will want to read it again from the beginning to find the clues Stead deftly weaves into the whole novel.

Things get a little uncomfortable near the end of the book as the reader joins in Georges’s confusion about the revelations that come seemingly one after another. Like in Stead’s other books, astute readers will be able to guess at the surprise ending, but even so, it is satisfying to follow along as Georges finally sorts out fact from fiction.

Teachers reading the book in class may want students to keep a graphic organizer or a chart of facts about Georges’s life to compare what is known to the reader at the beginning of the book to what is known by the end. Students should also be encouraged to explain the changes with clues and evidence from the text, in line with Common Core standards for reading comprehension.

More firmly rooted in reality than Stead’s Newbery Award-winner, When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy is an engrossing mystery that deals with real-life issues. Tweens will relate to the struggles Georges faces and can find courage in his triumphs in helping Safer overcome his fears and in facing his own reality.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter L.

[A to Z] Week 2 Thoughts

13 Apr

This week, I had a lot of posts that were not novels, which is a departure from what I usually post. I really appreciate library school classes forcing me to read and evaluate resources outside of my comfort zone.

Growing up, I read nonfiction and magazines and things, but I didn’t consider it reading unless I was engrossed deep in the pages of a novel. It felt more like how I read when I read online these days. I can see how different kinds of resources (like websites, DVDs, and databases) can be helpful in different contexts though, so I’m glad I was forced to seek them and review them for my classes.

For those of you who are participating, I hope you’re having a great A to Z so far! We’re halfway through~ :D

[K] Kids Web Japan

12 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Kids Web Japan is a bilingual website for kids maintained by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The main content available in English and Japanese, with some pages translated into French, German, Spanish, Korean, Arabic, and Chinese. The English and Japanese sites look like they are regularly updated with news, while the other languages seem to contain informational pages (including some news pages) translated from the main site available in the other languages. There are more pages and games available in English than in Japanese, as the English site contains language lessons and other content that would not be as applicable to children who already know the language. This review will focus on the English version of the site.

Tweens interested in Japanese culture can find information about the daily lives of Japanese children and learn about different customs and traditions in Japan that they may have only seen in anime or manga. There is also a column called “What’s Cool” that has articles about current trends in Japan.

In addition, there is a series of language lessons covering basic conversational Japanese and grammar, with games and articles about the Japanese language to reinforce these lessons. There are also other games and trivia quizzes to test their knowledge of Japanese culture, online storybook pages with Japanese folktales, and recipes of traditional Japanese foods to make at home.

Children of Japanese descent born outside of Japan can also use this site to learn about their heritage and practice reading Japanese at the same time. Tweens of all ethnic backgrounds will enjoy reading about the deeper aspects of Japanese culture that they may or may not have been exposed to through Japanese media.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter K.

[J] Jeremy Lin by Marty Gitlin

11 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Jeremy Lin by Marty Gitlin is another selection from my nonfiction assignment on Asian American biographies.

It is about one of the most recent Asian American athletes to come into the spotlight, Jeremy Lin. Although I did not read this book in person, I was able to preview pages from the book on Titlewave and Google Books. The clean, modern design and bright colors are appealing to the eye, and the writing itself is engaging and interesting to read. Boxes and captions within the text and next to the pictures provide fun “pop-up” facts, and the book also includes web links, a glossary, and further resources and index.

I chose this book because Lin’s story is an inspiration to Asian Americans across the country who finally have an NBA player to call their own. He went through the same struggles that many young Asian Americans are going through today, and he managed to go to Harvard and play in the NBA.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter J.

[I] Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

10 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a diary written in verse follows ten-year-old Hà and her family as they move from war-torn Vietnam to the States during the Vietnam War. Hà struggles with having her life turned inside out before it settles down again as she adjusts to her new life in America.

Filled with imagery and onomatopoeia, this book shows the “other” side of the Vietnam War, written from the point of view of the Vietnamese refugees. In the author’s note, Lai explains that she wrote the book with second and future generations in mind to help them understand their roots. While the characters in the book are fictional, the events are based on Lai’s own experience moving to the States.

This book can be used to complement lessons on the Vietnam War. Students can do research about different aspects of Vietnam culture to present to the class.

It received recognition as a Newbery Honor Book and an ALA Notable Children’s Book in 2012.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter I.

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