Thursday, 31 December 2015

Book blurbs for January's vote

Book blurbs and covers for the January #yabookchat vote. Please pick on that you would like to read for February's chat. Blurbs and covers are from Goodreads. Vote here

 We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless. Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink.

Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.

They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules.

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

Adams knows exactly how she’s spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps, she’s ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive, and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in her family’s closet tear them apart?

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. 

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
Parker Grant doesn't need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That's why she created the Rules: Don't treat her any differently just because she's blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there's only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that's right, her eyes don't work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn't cried since her dad's death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened--both with Scott, and her dad--the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

Questions for Orbiting Jupiter #yabookchat

1. Jack's parents haven't taken in a boy in 12 years. Why do you think they decided to take Joseph?

2. People are quick to judge. How and why has Joseph been misjudged?

3. Why does Jack follow Joseph off the bus the first day?

4. Why do you think Joseph walks out onto the Alliance when it isn't safe?

5. Could Joseph or Jack have done anything differently about the fight?

6. What did you like about this novel?

7. Who would you recommend this book to?

8. If a student loved Orbiting Jupiter, what book would you recommend next?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Evolving Advocacy

If you read my blog post, Admin and the TL, then you know my struggle with advocacy. My current administrators have commented on several occasions that they don't really understand what I do in the library. While I really do appreciate their honesty, I am quite frustrated that after three years at my school, they are still at a loss as to how to describe the role of the teacher librarian. What frustrates me most though, is that I know my administrators are not alone.

I had thought that advocacy was one area of my teacher librarianship that was strong. I do monthly reports that have evolved over the years to fit the administrators' focus. I meet with my principal to go over the monthly report and meet once a month to talk about everything from the future of the library to concerns. I invite administration into the library to see projects in action. I include them on emails to staff. I organize collaborative time for teachers and invite admin to join. I thought I was keeping them well informed of what I do but I was mistaken.

After our meeting about the November data, I came home and reflected on what had transpired. The meeting itself went very well as my principal took time out of his very busy schedule to go through, item by item, the entire report. Yet, he once again stated that he still didn't fully understand what I do as a teacher librarian. Clearly a monthly report of data and ancedotal evidence was not painting a vivid image of the daily life of this teacher librarian. We have joked in the past that the best way for him to understand what I do would be to job shadow me for a day but we both know he simply doesn't have time to do that. I mulled the problem over all evening and texted my library assistant late in the day with a proposed plan.

For the next two days, my library assistant followed me around and photographed everything I did. There were photos of me co-teaching, collaborating, talking about assessment, helping students find good fit books, helping students with school work, dealing with plagiarism, pulling resources, organizing resources, marking, and delivering resources to teachers.  I threw all the photos into a powerpoint with brief descriptions of what was happening in each photo and sent it off to my administrators and waited.

My administrators talk a lot about Making Learning Visible and Sketchnotes so I was hoping my more visual presentation would resound positively with them and it did. My principal emailed me about it, talked to me about it and came up to the library to talk to my library assistant about it. It's a start. Do I think my advocacy work is done? Hell no. Advocacy is never done. What I know is that I need to keep coming up with different ways to articulate what it is that I do so that my administrative team understands the importance of a fully funded teacher librarian and library program. Can't wait to see what I dream up for next month's meeting.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

My 11 favourite reads of the year

As many of you know, I read a lot of YA books. There were many fabulous books that I read this year and the following were the best of the best, in no particular order.

1.Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

It's a cruise highlighting the new artificial sweetener, Solu. Solu is working, but there are some side effects that weren't mentioned to the passengers before they partook in the Solu experiment.

2. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world and as a result, never leaves her house. A book about first love, independence, and taking chances.

3. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
The heart breaking story of Joseph, who at 14 is a father and a foster child. A quick, emotional read as we get glimpses as to what kind of person Joseph truly is. By the time it all comes together, the novel is pages away from being over.

4. The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
Great cover art and a great little story. Steve's baby brother is not well and Steve is worrying. He's worried about his baby brother, his parents who are clearly stressed, and about the wasps that he is allergic to. Steve discovers that if he says yes, all will be fixed. Or will it? 

5. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Audrey suffers from anxiety but when she meets Linus, she challenges herself to tackle her anxiety. A very realistic read with a lot of humor.

6. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Theodore thinks about killing himself. Violet can't deal with her sister's death. The two very unlikely pair lean on each other as they try to keep themselves alive.

7. George by Alex Gino
George is just trying to be true to herself. She knows she is a girl but everyone else sees her as a boy. A school play is a turning point for George.

8. Undertow by Michael Buckley
30,000 Alpha, a group of aquatic warriors, land on Coney Island. Clearly it's war but who exactly is the enemy? A science fiction dystopian novel full of drama and romance.

9. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Caden's mental illness is spiraling out of control. Challenger Deep takes you into Caden's world and his struggle to navigate his illness.

10. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Roza has left Bone Gap and no one is surprised by her disappearance. Finn knows better and realizes how important it is to find her and bring her back.

11. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Throughout history, Love and Death have chosen their players and Death always wins. Will Love's most recent player prove Death wrong?

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Admin and the TL

Every month I meet with my principal and present him with my monthly report. This past week we sat down for a lengthy conversation about my November report. I realized after our meeting that my principal still does not know what I do during the course of the day and I don't know how I can change that. We meet every month to discuss what I have been up to. We talk about collaboration. We discuss PBL projects. We chat about technology and what direction to take. We skirt around Maker and how I don't have either the time or the space in the library for it. We talk a lot. But still, this month's conversation started with a version of, "I'm still trying to wrap my mind around what the role of the teacher librarian is." At least he is honest.

Aren't I doing the right things? I have an incredibly strong library program that is well supported by my colleagues and PAC. I meet with administration to talk about what is happening and what my vision for the library program's future is, and I present admin with detailed monthly reports. But clearly this isn't working. I am at a loss as to what to do next. My library assistant suggested that I ask my principal to job shadow me for the day. As lovely as that would be, we all know what would happen - he'd get pulled away for more pressing issues. But she's right. The problem is that the library is not a place that administrators venture into. Sure they will wander in, but usually with a different purpose: to find a student or find a teacher and thus they are not seeing what learning is going on in the library space or what I am doing to facilitate that learning.

And as much as I want to quickly remedy the situation, I have to stop and reflect. It can't just be my administrative team that doesn't really understand what teacher librarians do. Indeed, I would imagine that most principals and vice principals are a tad unclear as to what happens in a library. I think many would imagine it's about checking books in and out and re-shelving them which, interestingly, I don't do at all. And so we have a bigger problem. Teacher librarians need to do a better job of educating people about what it is that we do. No, I need to rephrase that. Teacher librarians need to educate people who don't use the library but make decisions about teacher librarians and library programs what teacher librarians do. If administrators truly understood what teacher librarians do, they would be our greatest advocates.

Clearly we have a lot of work still do.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Questions for The Masked Truth

Q1 The title, The Masked Truth, refers to what/whom?

Q2 Did you believe Max?

Q3 You had to suspend your disbelief every so often - was any one thing just too much?

Q4 What do you think of Riley?

Q5 Let's talk siblings: Brienne/River and Riley/Sloane.

Q6 Can you see Riley and Max lasting?

Q7 Are there other YA suspense/thriller books you can recommend?