Archive for December, 2007

Something Rotten by Alan Gratz

December 29th, 2007

Spoiled teen Hamilton Prince finds out that his dad was murdered by his uncle, who just married his mom. Sound familiar? Horatio tells the tale in Something Rotten.

To Be

1. A modern retelling of Hamlet, which wins points for me. (Although not every modernization is classic…remember the Romeo and Juliet rap? “Modern does not necessarily mean “rap”, teachers.)
2. Denmark, Tennessee is the new setting. Old money in a small town down south. Rosencratz and Guildenstern drive a Charger that plays “Dixie” as a horn.
3. All of the major scenes from the play are in the book, although mixed in order. “To be or not to be…” is discussed over XBOX and the polluted river means even more danger for environmental activist Olivia/Ophelia.

Not to Be

1. Horatio Wilkes is modeled in the same style of a Raymond Chandler hardboiled detective. Fun stuff, but sometimes his one-liners are kinda cheesy. It doesn’t detract too much from the storyline, but students may not get all of the jokes.
2. Quotes from the play show up throughout, which is great. I feel like I appreciate it more, though, since I read Hamlet first and then read the book. Tough to call which order for students to read the two in.

All in all a fun read. I think that even if the students don’t get the references it stands on its own as an intriguing murder mystery. When taken as a straight-up story, the events are crazy. When taken as an allusion, it only adds to the fun.

A Taste for Rabbit

December 20th, 2007

I finally finished A Taste for Rabbit. At a recent district librarian meeting I was asked if I liked it. That’s a tough call.

The Heroic

  1. Rabbits are disappearing and a trend is discovered: the missing rabbits are political dissidents. I can see a connection between the Holocaust, but it could go with any dictatorship/Anthem-type scenario
  2. Fans of animals killing other animals, like Redwall or the Warriors series, might like it. I GIVE A DISCLAIMER, THOUGH. This series is definitely rougher. Nothing too extreme, but not every fan of Redwall will dig the book.

The Barbaric

  1. This book is weird. Now, I know I wouldn’t let a student get away without clarifying a statement like that, so here goes. Many times a character will run a hypothetical situation in their head. The narrative interrupts, complete with indentation and font change, to act out a fantasy scene. But! Even though AR says it’s 4.8, this makes it trickier for struggling readers.
  2. I know that I was supposed to learn some kind of lesson. “Don’t kill sentient beings”? “Forgive your brother”? “Don’t play moochy-poochy stones with badgers”? I love books that give a lesson, so this is kinda a positive and a negative since I felt like Marlin:

    I swear he’s trying to speak to me.

  3. I felt like the author was directly trying to teach me, like Ishmael (shudder) or Fountainhead (just threw up in mouth), instead of letting the story be the story and the reader draw their own interpretations.

I love books and I think that this one has potential, but it’s not for every reader. We’ll see if it circulates.

All in a (yester)day’s work

December 20th, 2007

For all of the highly-qualified librarians who still get the “All you do is sit around and read and browse the Internet” comments, here’s what yesterday looked like:

  1. Got a 4 hour, 35 minute cooking video ready for the Life Skills class. Chose to put it on VCR quickly so that the groups could see their cooking demos on finals day.
  2. Set up a video camera for a teacher to record group presentations
  3. Troubleshot when the VCR copyright protection was stopping the teacher from showing her presentations.
  4. Co-ordinated by phone and by e-mail with librarians and Hyperion reps as the contact person for an awesome author visit next semester.
  5. Set up a display in the office.
  6. Updated the video clock and scrolling announcements on the server.
  7. Managed an online usergroup roster for one class project.
  8. Instructed students on how to upload podcasts on Great Expectations to a virtual classroom for another class.
  9. Answered questions on the Walk to D’feet ALS as an impromptu contact person for students, staff, and the community.
  10. Selected titles for a World War II booktalk for a Social Studies class next semester.
  11. Hooked students up with Shadow of the Hegemon and Titan’s Curse
  12. Sold some book fair books.
  13. Got the instructional specialists set up to work with inclusion students for testing accomodations.
  14. Made sure the PTRO had what they needed for their giftmaking (woo, PTRO!) for the teachers.
  15. Ran 5 VCRS and 3 DVD players (with the help of my assistant librarian).
  16. Stayed on top of AR quiz installation to help any students who were waiting for “that one test”.
  17. Worked with a student aide on labeling books for AR.
  18. Re-shelved classroom literature study books.
  19. Managed 70+ students at lunch (I love the cold…we had an estimated 110+ students on Tuesday morning.)
  20. Ran a club where I taught students Flash and Photoshop.
  21. Solved a worksheet after not being able to find an answer key online (because the teacher lost her answer key) without having to pay a subscription. For future reference, if you are handed a jumble of letters (after having to de-code which polygons have which sides and markings) to try and make a word/phrase, I recommend an anagram permutation solver(Sped up my search mucho-fold.).

Calling it a day I stopped at the store to get a gift card for my assistant who informed me yesterday that yesterday was her birthday. And I did some re-shelving and cataloging before I took off.

Because that’s all we do all day.

This morning, starting a new cycle, I stopped to listen to a teacher who has had three violin lessons to play a Christmas song for her mom on her dad’s violin in memory of him.

I love being a librarian!

Questions for Star Wars: A New Hope

December 17th, 2007

This is in regard to the theme of striking out on your own, as well as state standards on the elements of literature:

  1. What purpose do the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 serve?
  2. How do the droids demonstrate the theme of “out there on your own”?
  3. What colors do the Imperials wear? What might they symbolize? How are the outfits different from what everyone else in the galaxy is wearing?
  4. What might the twin suns sunset that Luke watches symbolize?
  5. What is the mood of the Mos Eisley Cantina? (Where Luke and Ben meet Han Solo)
  6. How does the choice of setting affect the story?
  7. How does Ben’s death demonstrate one of the main themes?
  8. What’s ironic about Princess Leia’s rescue from the Death Star?
  9. Identify one conflict present already. Which type is it? (character vs. …)
  10. Name one example of suspense.
  11. Name one antagonist from the movie and give evidence to support your choice.
  12. From which point of view/perspective is the story told?
  13. Create a simile, metaphor, and alliteration about the movie (those are three separate things).
  14. Identify the:
    Exposition –
    Rising Action –
    Turning Point –
    Falling Action –
    Resolution –
  15. Which genre does this story fit into? What are some parts of the story that help you figure that out?
  16. What are three words used in the story (either dialogue or names of people/places/things) that evoke a certain mood?
  17. Are there similarities/references/allusions in this story that you’ve seen in other stories from other cultures?

Free rice and a vocabulary boost

December 17th, 2007

I don’t know if you’ve seen this yet or not, but the World Food Programme has set up a downloadable game called Food Force to educate people about world hunger.

But as a librarian what intrigues me is
Free rice with every right answer
This reminds me of when I was in college and they had a click and donate site set up.

But now I have to know words? (Just kidding.)

As a librarian whose 30 computers were all in use this morning with games and homework, I think it would be fun to see the students on this.

Why it’s alright:

  1. You don’t give out any personal information that wouldn’t be on any other site (for example, your IP address (which is given to any site you access on the Nets)).
  2. No money on your part is needed, unless you take it all the way back to funding/support that the U.S. government gives to the United Nations. But if that’s your beef (or rice), don’t take it out on a vocabulary game.
  3. It’s actually a pretty elegant site. The design is fluid and doesn’t have annoying pop-ups. Of course, I’m browsing in Safari, so I don’t know if the built-in pop-ups of IE are included.
  4. The food will be distributed by WFP. Here’s a chart of where they buy their rice, and here’s where it goes.
  5. It’s a vocabulary game! What Librarian/Old Language Arts teacher doesn’t like that?

And if the mere act of clicking tires you, the has created an auto-clicker. Leave your browser open and you won’t be troubled with words, words, words. (The huge issue with this, though, is that the site has banner ads. If no one clicks on the banners, the companies don’t want to pay for advertising space.)
My highest score is: 160 grains – affiance means betrothed! D’oh!

I never thought I’d have to use the word sinistral since college.

Easy Vocabulary Authors

December 12th, 2007

Here’s a list of authors that we have in the library who are known for their easier vocabulary. Once students visit the library homepage, these links should become active for them to be able to see the details of the book.

  1. Margaret Bechard – Hanging on to Max
  2. David Lubar – Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie
  3. Harry Mazer – A Boy at War
  4. Paul Langan – Bluford series
  5. Julie Anne Peters – Define “Normal”
  6. Lisi Harrison – Dial L for Loser
  7. Sigmund Brouwer – Orca Currents series (crime drama)
  8. Mary Ryan – Alias
  9. Donna Jo Napoli – Zel
  10. Christine Harris – Undercover Girl series
  11. Kate DiCamillo – Because of Winn Dixie
  12. Lorie Ann Grover (811 GRO collection of poems)- Loose Threads
  13. Graham Salisbury – Under the Blood Red Sun
  14. Walter Dean Myers – Scorpions
  15. Robert Levy – Escape from Exile
  16. Gary Paulsen – Alida’s Song
  17. David Almond – Skellig, Heaven Eyes
  18. Jack Gantos – Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key
  19. Richard Scrimger – From Charlie’s Point of View
  20. Paul Kropp – Encounters series
  21. Susan Shaw – The Boy from the Basement
  22. Louis Sachar – Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes
  23. Dayle Gaetz – Spoiled Rotten
  24. Jon Scieszka – Time Warp Trio
  25. Kathleen O’Dell – Agnes Parker series
  26. Terry Pratchett – Only You Can Save Mankind
  27. Julia DeVillers – How My Private, Personal Journal Became a Bestseller
  28. Jerry Spinelli – There’s a Girl in My Hammerlock
  29. Betsy Byars – Herculeah Jones mysteries
  30. Andrea Cheng – Shanghai Messenger
  31. Robin Spizman – Secret Agent
  32. Leah Komaiko – Malibu Carmie
  33. Kristine L. Franklin – Nerd No More
  34. Avi – Wolf Rider
  35. Anne Schraff – Passages to Adventure series

Platform Game Creation

December 12th, 2007

Check out the tutorial at about platform game creation by tonypa. The source file for Flash can be downloaded here – platform.fla

  1. Try adding platforms in different areas. Different frames of your project can be different levels.
  2. Change the square to a different character.
  3. Add an obstacle/villain that moves on its own.

Frank Beddor’s Seeing Redd

December 11th, 2007

I finally got to finish this since I’ve been scrambling for other booktalks. Something that I’ve learned about Frank Beddor is that he’s an entertainer.

And that’s okay!

Seeing Redd is not The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and that’s okay! It’s fun.

Imaginative bursts

1. The characters really start to come into their own as Alyss is less dreamy-eyed and more monarch.
2. It expands between a mere battle of imagination as King Arch of Boarderland wants a piece of the pie. More of the Heart Queendom is seen (and yes, there are more caterpillars).
3. Lots of action, especially towards the end (like any good fantasy book these days, I guess).
4. Frank Beddor visited my library and he writes like he talks: very energetically and down to Earth. The book level lists at being high, but if students know that it’s mainly “crazy creature jargon”, they should be fine.

Rose thorns

1. I had already read Hatter M, so I was already familiar with some of the new characters, like Sacrenoir and Siren. There are descriptions of these characters, but they were scarier because I had seen them earlier in the comic book.
2. Characters die or are hurt that I hadn’t quite connected with yet.

Final conclusion: With the crazy ending of book two, there better be book three.

Heroes are defined by their villains

December 8th, 2007

Ever since my recent Heroes conversation with my friends, I’ve been feeling quite Joseph Campbell/Carl Jung-ish.

  1. In James Patterson’s Maximum Ride, the mysterious whitecoats and labs are cool. They add intrigue and mystery to Max and her flock. Where the series really develops, though, is when specific whitecoats rise to fight them. The high action and, frankly, one of the reasons the series is successful, revolves around the conflict with the Erasers. But if the Erasers remained faceless/nameless, they’d just be Stormtroopers. Ari, on the other hand, builds a connection for you, makes you almost sympathetic for a villain, and makes Max’s choices all the more catching. Her virtue blossoms around Ari the villain.
  2. In Superman comics and movies, Superman does amazing things (almost super things). He races missiles, lifts helicopters, and even turns back time (and returns from the dead). But Supes is at his best when fighting Luthor. Luthor, epitome of brains and conniving, always pushes Superman to his limits, sometimes even forcing Superman to choose who to save. Sure, you’ll have your alien/experimental threat that is basically a test of super power levels, but Luthor has staying power. The original Action Comics portray Superman as kindof, well, a jerk. (I’m thinking of one instance where the secretary won’t let Superman see the mayor…so he busts down the door.) Superman needs chances to vent his superness. If not, he’s just a bully.
  3. Do you remember Odysseus shooting the suitors through the throat or do you remember Circe and the Cyclops? (If you’re Devin, you answer, “Yes.” to both.) The mega-villains are memorable. How about Hercules? When I say ‘Hercules’, do you think ‘Hydra’ and the gods standing in his way or do you think ‘cleaning uber-stables’? What makes The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan stand out is Percy’s reactions to Ares, Zeus, and Medusa and his choice to not stoop to their level.
  4. Villains are not always the exact obvious opposite, like Luthor and Superman. Moriarty is just as smart as Sherlock Holmes. That’s what makes him deadly and helps us to sympathize with what would have become just another pretentious violin playing detective. What was the most memorable Sherlock Holmes scene? Yeah, you’ve got the hound, but true fans can remember the sword duel atop the waterfalls.
  5. The original Mario Bros. was pipes with crabs and turtles. But want it Super? You’ve got castles and a fire-breathing dragon/dinosaur/gecko. Bowser made it personal by kidnapping the princess, as well as other taunts that grow throughout the series of games.
  6. But it’s not just the villains. Heroes are always joined by foils, like Robin is to Batman or Horatio is to Hamlet. In one of the first fiction epics, Gilgamesh is joined by Enkidu the Wild Man. Humbaba the Tree Giant is a great villain, mainly because Enkidu and Gilgamesh have to team up to win. The villain demonstrates the connection between the super team.
  7. By fighting darkness, the hero stands out. Han Solo is awesome, and would overshadow Luke as the hero, if not for Darth Vader. Such a cool villain makes the hero even cooler just by being around. If not for Vader, Luke would still be hanging around Tashi Station looking for power converters. Ben Kenobi and Yoda train Luke not for a confrontation with the Emperor but for Vader. Vader can only be beat by love. The Emperor can be beat by elevator shafts.

In conclusion, I am stoked for Volume 3 of Heroes.

Another Reason Not to Fully Trust Wikipedia

December 7th, 2007

Here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia article about book 3 in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series:

From a press release made on 30th October 2007 on, it is stated that the publication date of the as yet untitled third book will be September 23, 2008. A fourth book has been announced. Some of the previously mentioned known details may appear in the fourth book instead of the third, since the two volumes used to be one and the same. Paolini has also stated that the book will end with the death of another major character, but gave no hints as to who it might be.[8]

An excerpt from Book 3, “Light and Shadow”, was included in the Eldest deluxe edition and later released on the Fricaya network.[9] The chapter follows Roran, Eragon and Saphira as they approach Helgrind. Saphira finds the mountain’s impregnability to be an illusion created by Galbatorix, and enters it to find a large cavern. The chapter closes with Saphira being attacked by a Lethrblaka (a parent of the Ra’zac), which knocks Eragon unconscious.and arya dies in this book if any of you have quistions about it email me at

Find the bad edit.