Monday, September 28, 2015

Stonebird by Mike Revell

Book JacketIn the late nineties there was an excellent cartoon series called Gargoyles featuring some gargoyles that came to life at night, helped a police detective solve crimes and made light-hearted banter with each other. I remember that the excellent Keith David voiced the lead gargoyleÅ› voice.

As creatures that had lived for hundreds if not thousands of years the gargoyles were very noble, principled beings. Gargoyles on the whole are supposed to represent fierce protectors whose very appearance is enough to deter those who wish to do evil.What if however a kid could control them by simply saying a few words.

The novel Stonebird by Mike Revell deals with a young boy called Liam whose parents are divorced. On top of that his older sister is going through a phase, he's just moved to a new school where he knows no one and to top it off his dear grandmother is ill in the hospital. Then one day he discovers a diary his granny kept when she was his age and his opinion of her changes. What really excites Liam is that a strange stone creature seems to be his protector He just needs to find out why.

Many tv shows and more than a few novels often portray bad guys or antagonists as people who deserve what's coming to them. That way, when the hero socks them one we can jump and cheer. Reality is often quite the opposite and this novel shows just that. Liam finds that his nemesis has his own reasons for acting the way he does and this knowledge makes him question his own behavior.

Though the book does not have a happy ending, the conclusion is satisfying. I will say that his book is written by a British author and although it seems that some of the references have been modified so that American readers will not get lost there are some words in the book that some parents may not approve of. Also the subject matter is very emotionally intense so for this reason I recommend the book for ages 10+.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Stormstruck by John Macfarlane

Book JacketAll through junior high and high school I was a member of a Boy Scout troop- A Sea Scout troop to be precise. We learned a lot about knots, basic navigation, clouds and we bonded through camps and other adventures. More than anything though, the life lessons have stuck with me all through life. There is something about leaving the confines of land in a small craft at the mercy of the elements that builds teamwork, character and camaraderie.

Stormstruck is written by John Macfarlane, an ex-Navy serviceman. In it a headstrong boy called Sam determines to save his faithful pooch Pogo from a certain death by making a sea journey. As you would expect. things soon go awry and they have to help each other survive. There are other elements to the story as well- Sam constantly references the wise sayings of his older brother Steve and later  in the novel we discover why.

 I remember reading The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in college and the line "twas water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink" has always stuck with me as being perhaps the worst thing about being lost at sea. The book is told in a first person viewpoint and on more than one occasion the search for water and his burning thirst are Sam's major predicaments.

Macfarlane's knowledge of sea survival is astounding and he is able to transmit that through Sam's voice. Sam, for his part is a very capable young seaman. As you would expect there are lots of twists and turns in the story and just when we think he is safe some other calamity befalls him making for a compelling read indeed.

This story has echoes of classic survival reads such as The Call of the Wild and The Old Man and the Sea but with a youthful exuberance of books such as Down the Yukon by Will Hobbs. I recommend it for ages 9+.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Some cool library blogs and websites

A good rule about blogging is that you should read other blogs both to see how people structure their posts but also to see what other professionals in the field are thinking and doing. So today I will highlight some blogs that I ether follow or check from time to time .

I am very pleased to call this lady a colleague. Not only is Mary extremely passionate about early literacy but she is also an accomplished ukulele player and her blog has great tips for parents and caregivers of little ones, several story time staples as well as videos of cool activities you can use in a story time or read aloud. Check her out!

Abby the librarian is another wonderful (and very pink) blog that I found online.   She gives tidbits about her life as a librarian, provides highlights of conferences she attends and I really dig how she does book talks and she also includes some read alikes, something I will try doing myself on this blog in the future.

STEM and STEAM are all the rage now and this librarianÅ› blog is devoted to exploring all things science. This is a good site to get programming ideas, see what's going on in the STEM world or get ideas for things you can do at home with your own children. I confess that I have done all three with this site. Ms Koester also provides many other resources for more information about STEM, books to use etc. Excellent resource.

I can't ever remember talking to librarians when I was in library school (apart from my darling wife) and I wish that I had done so some more. The name of this blog drew me in and whilst on the site I was amazed by the many and varied posts she has about a variety of topics. Of particular interest to me was a post directed at prospective children's librarians,  a post about mentoring and one about burn out . It is good to see people reflect on things and it is also great to see that there are other people with the same issues, questions and thoughts about the profession as yourself.

The library where I work is in a residential neighborhood and there are at least ten schools (and more under construction) within a five mile radius. I interact with a lot of teachers and students and I think it is good to see what school librarians are up to. I found this blog and as you would expect it has a large amount of book reviews that are listed by reading level and interest. I like that there are lots of HILO books (high interest low reading level) and many diverse books as well. I firmly believe that people across the spectrum need to see themselves represented in literature.The author also includes some tips on how not to plagiarize material as well as a link to the school's catalog and links to databases.

Finally this isn't a blog at all but rather two magnificent librarians uploading dozens of songs-some with props and some without. The Jbrary ladies have saved me on on many occasions when I have to do read alouds at nearby schools and have run out of songs to sing. Check them out, it is well worth it!

Monday, September 7, 2015

National Hispanic Heritage Month crafts

National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15th through October 15th and during this time we recognize the many and varied accomplishments Hispanics and Latinos have made to American culture, politics and life in general. If your city has school groups that do folkloric dance I bet those groups would be willing to perform at community events or at libraries and other community places. Such a program would be excellent and a craft would be the icing on the cake. If no such group is available then crafts are an excellent way to celebrate the month.

Some of these crafts I have done and some I am yet to try. This first craft is one of my all time favorites because it is easy and it allows for an explanation about the tradition of lucha libre in the Spanish-speaking world.

Mexican wrestlers

I like recycle crafts because I can teach the kids a simple lesson without being too preachy. This particular craft involves using old paper grocery bags to make sarapes.  Kids can be as creative as they want too and I usually have some made before hand as well as pictures of some so the kids can get an idea of what they're supposed to look like.

Another cool craft that is easy to make and that can be part of a craft/music program is a shaker or maraca. These can be used in a small ensemble and kids usually enjoy shaking the life out of them. Toilet paper rolls, empty tin cans, plastic cups and paper plates can all be used to make these.

Image result for make shaker crafts 

Learning a language is learning a culture and part of that is knowing what certain words are and their significance. A small picture dictionary is a fun way for kids to increase their vocabulary as well as solidify their letter knowledge. 

Ojo de dios are classic crafts and kids of all ages can complete them with a little help and a short demo.

Addtional resources:

Scholastic's Hispanic Heritage Month site has games, information about famous Latinos as well as a teacher's guide.

Time for kids is another excellent site with crafts, activities, printables and profiles of influential Hispanic Americans.

Here are some fantastic books to share with children about Hispanic Heritage month.

The National Education Association (NEA) has a trove of lessons, activities and other ways to celebrate the month.