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[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.

[H] Human Body DVD (Rock ‘N Learn)

9 Apr

(Part of this was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

In the Human Body DVD by Rock ‘N Learn, Marko the Pencil and Bailey the Butterfly guide Kevin and the viewers through all of the major systems of the human body, including the skeletal system, circulatory system, and digestive system, as well as the five senses. The content is correlated to National Science Education Standards and features the voices of popular anime voice actors Vic Mignogna, Luci Christian, and Kira Vincent. (This was especially amusing to me, considering my other job as an anime translator. :D)

This DVD covers a lot of material in depth, so it may help for children to watch it in parts in order to really grasp each concept. There are a lot of clear drawings and on-screen labels that show all the major parts of each system and explain how they work. There are bonus sections on how to take a multiple-choice standardized test (using practice questions based on the DVD) and a segment on the (new) food pyramid.

A test on the material covered in the DVD can be found online here.

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

[G] Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz

8 Apr

(Part of this was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Reminiscent of the Canterbury Tales, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village  is a collection of connected monologues and dialogues written from the point of view of tweens in the Middle Ages from different walks of life. The lively dialogue between the characters and the reader or audience gives students a glimpse into the lives of kids their age in the Middle Ages. Some of the characters know each other and talk about each other in their sections. Others seem wise beyond their years as they learn the ways of the world at a young age in order to survive.

The book contains information boxes about topics related to the vignettes, like the Crusades and falconry. There are also notes on words or phrases used in the text and a bibliography at the end.

I have been using this in my middle school book club as the basis for an interdisciplinary project that has students read the book, perform a monologue from the book, write a research paper on a topic from the Middle Ages covered in the book, and do a slide presentation summarizing the research.

My students don’t really get a chance to do that many presentations at school, and most of their schools don’t do school plays anymore, so I think it’s a really good chance for them to interpret the text and practice different kinds of public speaking. It’s also a good chance to introduce basic research methods because the book itself has many resources that students can use to start their research.

This book won the Newbery Medal Award in 2008 and was an ALA Notable Children’s Book in the same year.

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

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