Archive for November, 2007

AZLA 07 Closing and Some Old Tech

November 30th, 2007

The Arizona Library Association has put up my handout on their website (‘Set your library on fire!’ is in between the RDA status report and the MARC records update).

Some other funny news today. You can tell my bias towards the digital and online. One of our teachers asked if we had an opaque projector. Have you seen one of these things?

Unleashed from the darkest depths of our AV Abyss (the very back corner of the closet) comes:

The Opaque Projector 

 Click the image thumbnail to see its Dalek glory:


If you don’t want the burden of scanning in documents into some program called “PowerPoint”,  you can put your document under the Watchful Eye and put it up on the screen. Just like ScanTron answer keys, any educational technology that existed before digital boggles. Clerke, you have schooled me.

If you at home want to buy your own, there are still some left on the Internet.

WWII Books

November 26th, 2007

As teachers are starting to take their students through The Diary of Anne Frank, I’ve been asked for book recommendations. Here is a list (that will update) of books that I think connect well to World War II and its issues:

  1. Soldier X by Don Wulffson
  2. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
  3. Boy at War by Harry Mazer
  4. Revolution is not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine – Actually takes place during China’s Cultural Revolution in the 70s, but the secret police, mob rule, and underground resistance are very similar to Nazi rule.
  5. Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya
  6. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  7. Maus by Art Spiegelman
  8. War, Women, and the News by Catherine Gourley
  9. Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins by Walter Dean Myers
  10. Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

November 25th, 2007

Imagine George W. Bush as president (shouldn’t be too tough).

Now imagine him putting his face on giant posters everywhere you walk.

Now imagine people being pulled from their daily jobs and schoolwork to instead recite the teachings of George W. He then institutes a youth program that rewards kids for selling out their teachers, friends, and family that don’t quite agree with how life is going (or the spies just don’t like the people).

Thankfully we have a president and not Chairman Mao:

Not a Fan

The Revolutionary

  1. Revolution is Not a Dinner Party is a stellar debut by this author. Ying Chang Compestine has written cookbooks (and is the spokesperson for Nestle Maggi) and a couple of children’s books, but this is her debut in a novel. She writes most of this novel from her own childhood in China, which is scary once you’ve read the book.
  2. This novel fits perfectly in any Anne Frank/WWII unit of study, even though the Cultural Revolution in China happened after World War II. You still have youth squads (the Red Guard and the Young Pioneers) busting up people who stand in their way and disagree with the dictator.
  3. Students will relate to her mother-daughter struggle as well as her love for her dad, but the thing that kept me reading was the suspense of who was going to get dragged off next or if the main character’s family would be overheard by their next door neighbor, Comrade Li. Her dad is an awesome character who, when demoted from surgeon to janitor, still operates on his enemy’s (Comrade Li) friends after hours because he is so skilled. What’s really cool is that her dad did that in real life, too.

The Distant

  1. She sets up the peaceful life before the giant upheaval for the first 20 pages. If a student were to pick this up on their own, they might not get what life is like because it is not the US. Once the Comrade moves in, though, stuff starts heating up and I finished the book in one and a half days of not-putting-it-down.

This is a very valuable book that may get overlooked because of its cover and, frankly, some prejudices that we still have about China. I am booktalking this on Monday and hopefully it stirs up some circulations because the book, society challenging and historical as it is, is worth the effort.

Genesis Alpha by Rune Michaels

November 25th, 2007

Before I review this awesome book, I wanted to share this other library gem:

Don't mess with Tubman

I will avoid the obvious “Harriet the Spy” references. But doesn’t she look like she should play opposite Keanu Reeves?

Keanu: Tubman, look out!


Harriet: He just bought a one-way ticket.

Thought you might appreciate what comes across our scanners daily.

Genesis Alpha (almost as exciting as the Underground Railroad) is about a young boy who was created for his stem cells. His birth was sped up at month 8 to be able to save his older brother who had cancer.

Flash forward to his teen years and now his brother is on trial for murder. Should the older brother have been saved at the expense of the victim? Crazy questions arise throughout the entire book. This is suspense in the M. Night Shyamalan sense, less Clive Barker or Darren Shan. The reader constantly has to guess who’s crazy, who’s hurting, and who’s a mix.

One of the coolest parts for me is that the killer, whoever it is, left clues inside a World of Warcraft-esque MMORPG. The main character has to investigate in game (but it’s not one of those lame, “If you die in the game, you die FOR REAL” books). What’s really cool is that violence in video games is brought up but discussed quite eloquently. Yay! (for a change)

Questions of if we are more than just our DNA show up as people freak out about the genetic similarities between the two brothers.

Unlike my in-person library reviews, I can’t give too much more detail. It would be like saying, “Bruce Willis is already dead.”


Ranger’s Apprentice: The Icebound Land by John Flanagan

November 22nd, 2007

John Flanagan, please come to my library.

If you have not read book 1 and 2, don’t read this review. There will be spoilers.

I am usually a big fan of fantasy, but as I’ve become a librarian I’ve seen so many fantasy books recycle the same concepts/plots. When Ruins of Gorlan came out, it breathed life into the genre. Amidst all of the Eragon-wannabes (which Eragon, by the way, borrowed heavily from some earlier works), Ruins of Gorlan took classic themes and added a modern feel. Icebound Land continues this success (which is good to know that as a librarian the series that you are updating/stocking is still quality literature).

Straight Shot

  1. The mentoring relationships that endear the series to me continue, but take on new forms. Since Will was captured in Burning Bridge, Halt decides to go rescue him. Horace and Halt develop a bond revolving around loyalty to kingdom and friend. Seeing the two of them traverse the towns and countrysides in a constant battle between chivalry/tradition/sanity and individualism/community is awesome.
  2. The theme of sacrifice runs throughout. Halt is important to the current clean-up from book two, so Baron Arald and the king can’t spare him the trip to Skandia to rescue Will. Halt has to figure out what to sacrifice, gets himself banished, and may have lost all that he worked for as a ranger to save Will. (Total Jack Bauer moment when he gets banished, by the way.)
  3. Slavery, gender stereotypes, and drug use are all challenged in Icebound Land. What I love about Tolkien I love about Flanagan. You can write socially challenging books that make readers comfortable until they realize it’s no longer about orcs/wargals and instead about the reader’s own dark world. Will gets poisoned by someone slipping him some warmweed. As people are trying to help him, he struggles with addiction. The shakes, listlessness, friend disappointment, and a general lack of motivation for anything other than the next fix show a natural consequence for drug use (besides just ‘You’ll get arrested.’ Our students are invincible/immortal, didn’t you know that?).

Off the Mark

  1. Not much misses the target in this book, which makes sense that book one was a Grand Canyon Award book. The reading level is listed as high, but Flanagan does a decent job of using context to show what ‘poultices’ and ‘jarls’ are.

If you have not read the first book because it was ‘another guy with a cowl and a bow on the cover’, give it a shot. A fan of fantasy or not, many of my students have these books on hold (and are very jealous that I have an advanced reading copy of Battle for Skandia). Once you get to the epilogue, sit back, relax, and listen for the dramatic music during the credits.

Flash Game Sample

November 21st, 2007

Today at Future Professionals I could see that some were almost ready to start programming in Flash, but were intimidated by the time that it takes to get used to ActionScript.

It, literally, is another language. Just like Spanish or French, it takes some getting used to. One of the ways that I became familiar with programming was by taking apart other people’s programs.

So I give to you a game that I made for my friend Brian. (In my high school group of friends was Tommy, Tommy, Brian, Brian, and Mike.)

Click on the .fla file to download the source. (Depending on where you are, you may need to right click/control click.)

Brianland Source File

Test the movie in Flash to see what it does (spacebar fires and arrows move) and then experiment.

As you experiment, try to:

  1. Increase the amount of money the character gets
  2. Increase the number of hook gnomes
  3. Change the amazing artwork

Once you are comfortable with editing the parts of the program, try editing other people’s files and finding tutorials.

Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill

November 20th, 2007

a natural lyrical gift

Rarefied as Rembrandt,
a student like this appears once

Your Own, Sylvia is probably one of the most accessible biographies for students. Hemphill does a great job presenting the birth and death of Sylvia Plath.

The Beautiful

  1. There are lots of interesting details, presented in a way that is intriguing. (I never would have pictured famous poet Sylvia Plath as a guard on the high school basketball team.)
  2. Each little snippet is a poem – but a fictionalized poem by one of the people that knew her. The above quote is from Wilbury Crockett, her high school English teacher. But what’s extremely cool is that this quote uses words that Crockett actually said.
  3. The accessibility/readability of the book helps to paint a bigger picture of her life and motivations. The footnotes amidst the poems help to put events in historical context.

The Tragic

  1. Sylvia Plath ended her life violently. The book leads up to this, but does not paint it as the focal point of her life.
  2. There are no traditional paragraphs, only poems and footnotes.

Fans of Sonya Sones or Kelly Bingham will definitely enjoy this.

Writing Process Comics

November 19th, 2007

In an effort that would make Stan the Man proud, we will be creating comic books about the different steps of the writing process. Each comic needs to have:

  1. A hero that has the step of the writing process in his/her name
  2. A power/ability/device that demonstrates the specific 6 Trait of Writing that goes with that step of the writing process
  3. Three examples of dialogue that demonstrate a knowledge of the details of that part of the writing process
  4. Use two of the three templates for pages:
    Page 1
    Page 2
    Page 3

We will use the following sites for inspiration:

Hero Generator

Chip Designer

Rock Star

Soldier Generator

  1. To save the background layout image, Control + Click on the image to save it.
  2. In Word, select Insert->Watermark. When your options come up, select  ‘Picture’ and then make your options look like this:
    Now you’ll have more than just your usual Word layout!
  3. Design your hero using the links above. You’ll now need a screenshot.
  4. Press Apple + Control + Shift + 4 to get the screenshot cursor. Draw your box and then paste what you copied into Word.
  5. Click on the picture. In your formatting palette (View->Formatting Palette), select Wrapping (the picture needs to be selected for wrapping to show up). Change ‘Wrap To’ to ‘None’ and change ‘Style’ to ‘In Front of Text’. For each picture you’ll need to change the wrapping.
  6. Move and resize your pictures using the squares (handlebars).
    You can even flip images by resizing to the opposite side.
  7. To add dialogue, in your formatting palette select Add Objects. Click on the tab with the green square and the yellow circle (the AutoShapes).
  8. Click and drag whatever object you want onto the page.
  9. You can also add WordArt (the shiny ‘W’ in Add Objects) to give your comic that extra BAM/KAPOW!

Witness the awesome power of The Editor, wielding the Ring of Conventions.



Beowulf: The New Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds

November 19th, 2007

The new movie is out, receiving mixed reviews, and so Candlewick Press decided to re-release Gareth Hinds’s comic book/graphic novel of the epic poem.

Arm-ripping good time

  1. Amidst the comic is the actual text from A.J. Church’s 1904 translation. It was picked for its readability, but there are some drawbacks (check below).
  2. Beowulf is right up there with Gilgamesh as the granddaddy of modern comic books and anything Star Wars. Expect lots of action (which is unexpected for students from something originating around 700AD-850AD).
  3. It’s fun to say Hrothgar, Unferth, and Geat. “Geat! Sweet!”

Mother issues

  1.  The translation is lacking. Beowulf wasn’t quite your underdog hero. He was known as a good foreign king because he stole (really well).
  2. Graphic novel it is. Definitely, definitely a high school book. I would not recommend it for junior high libraries. I was pretty excited about the book, but then I can’t put it on the shelf (no matter how many dress-up doll stickers I can use to clothe Grendel’s mom).

The final strike: If you are a high school librarian and want to spice up World Lit or AP English, get it.

Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

November 19th, 2007

What I love about the character of Stargirl is how she struggles to act in unconditional love in each situation. If you are not familiar with the character, Susan Carroway (Stargirl) tries her best to cheer up the people around her. The first book is told through Leo’s perspective as he struggles with maybe having a crush on her, wondering what people think. In Love, Stargirl, Stargirl is writing letters back to Leo.

Take happy stones out of your wagon

  1. There’s not as much funny high school drama. Susan wanders around town to interact with people.
  2. It’s told from Stargirl’s perspective, so it appears like she’s clueless instead of the average person just not knowing what to make of her.
  3. Some people are uncomfortable with a weird protagonist.

Add happy stones to your wagon

  1. Whether it’s the middle-aged woman who won’t leave her house, a widower who sits daily at his wife’s gravesite, or an angry young girl ready to explode.
  2. In the beginning of the book, her dad (who’s up at 4:30 in the morning) leaves a light on for her to find her way home. As she impacts more and more people, more lights come on on the porches to help her get safely home.

Final conclusion: Light-hearted, makes you feel good about living.