Sunday, 31 January 2016

31 January reads

The YA I read in the month of January:

1. Shadows of Sherwood by Kekla Magoon
An updated retelling of the the Robin Hood story for a dystopian society. Robyn Hoodlum is not your ordinary teenager as she tries to piece together the clues her parents have left her while trying to help others in Sherwood. I really enjoyed Magoon's How it Went Down but Shadows of Sherwood is a much lighter read which I did enjoy and know that I can easily recommend it to my grade 7+

2. Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Mim's life is in shambles and she decides to take matters into her own hands and travel to visit her mother. I have read a lot of positive reviews about this book but I haven't had any desire to read it, I think mainly because I don't like the cover art. I tackled it and I won but it isn't one of my favourite reads because I felt it dragged on a bit in the middle. I also feel like every second book I pick up lately is about mental illness.

3.  Young Man With Camera by Emil Sher
T- is soft spoken and indeed most of the time his camera speaks for him. Bullied at every corner, T- takes photographs that put his life in danger. A very gut wrenching read but an important one. I can see my students wanting to read this book.

4. This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
 Lucille's parents have their own problems and have left her to raise her sister on her own. Lucille's world is crumbling around her and she certainly doesn't have the time to fall in love. A great book about friendship, family, and love.

5. Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sacher
When Tamaya throws fuzzy mud at a bully, she has no idea that the consequences will be quite so harsh. A fast paced read that middle school students will love.

6. Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Jacob has grown up hearing stories of the peculiar children from his grandfather. After his grandfather's death, Jacob has to figure out what what his grandfather's dying words mean and what exactly is the truth. I can see how this book appeals to teenagers as the story is engaging and the photos are disturbing. I found it a bit slow in the beginning but certainly a book I can recommend to the right reader.

7. believarexic by J.J. Johnson
Johnson calls this an autobiographical novel and a novel she promised her teenage self she would write. believarixic documents Jennifer's struggle with being bulimarexic starting with her own realization that she needs help. I thought this book did a great job showing how the mind works and how an eating disorder is only one part of the problem.

8. Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
Parker may be blind, but that doesn't mean she's meek or weak. Parker's learned a lot about loss, love, and friendship. A great book with a very strong female protagonist.

9. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Stead has woven together three different story lines and it works. Sherm is dealing with his grandparents' divorce, Bridge and her friends are trying to survive grade 7, and an unnamed teen is dealing with pressures of friendships. Great story about social media, trust, friendship, and betrayal.

10. The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
Matt has lost his mother and wanting to help out his dad, he finds a part time job at a funeral home. Matt's dad is dealing with loss in his own way, while Matt discovers the power of a funeral helps him understand the grief he feels about his mother's death. I enjoyed this book and really liked how well the secondary characters were developed and wanted to know more about them when the book ended. 

11. Frosted Kisses by Heather Hepler
Penny is adjusting to small town life, mean girls, cupcakes, friendship woes, an absent father, and boy issues. A light, clean read that will appeal to my grade 7s. I was pleasantly surprised by how much was going on in this book.

12. Husky by Justin Sayre
Davis is husky and is worried that that's the adjective that is going to describe him this school year. Not much of a story here, just one boy's internal struggle. I found this book very depressing and lacking all around.

13. The Truth about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
After Suzy's best friend dies, she shuts down and refuses to talk to anyone and becomes obsessed with jellyfish. We follow Suzy through her struggles with death, her parent's divorce, and her own place in the world.

14. Emancipated by M. G. Reyes
Six teens are legally allowed to live on their own in a house on Venice Beach. They all have secrets that they are trying to hide. The story could be interesting but isn't as it drags on and on expecting the reader not to figure things out. Not a good read at all.

15. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Megan Chase isn't who she thinks she is and when she discovers who she is, this book takes off. Suddenly Puck, King Oberon and Queen Titania enter the storyline. Along with Queen Mab and her Prince Ash. A fabulous read that I only tackled because I saw it while we were weeding and I thought I better give it a chance.

16. We'll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean
Alice promised Cellie that should would always be there for her but Cellie's destructive ways are pulling Alice into a vortex of trouble that she doesn't want to be in. A solid suspense story that middle school students will enjoy.

17. Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore
Marijke and Lily want the same thing, to find their true love just like in the movies. The two decide to take matters into their own hands, and recreate movie scenes to get their true loves. Everything backfires. The cover is awful but the message is actually quite good: don't put someone else before you.

18. The Dreadful Fate of Jonathan York by Kory Merritt
Jonathan doesn't have a story to tell, so he is banished from the swampy hotel. And so begins the most incredible tale of Jonathan York. A different type of graphic novel, I really enjoyed reading this story. My son saw me reading this book and was excited that I was reading such a great book.

19. Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola
Masha doesn't fit in to her new family and decides to follow her grandmother's footsteps and become the assistant of Baba Yaga. Does she have what it takes? Beautiful story and illustrations hooked me from the start and I loved the ending.

20. The Death of Us by Alice Kuipers
Ivy is back in town after a three year absence and it's like she never left. Callie is drawn to Ivy and even though her mother has forbidden it, Callie keeps meeting up with her. In enters a boy and everything turns upside down.

21. Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by A Watson
Princess Decomposia is running the whole show until Count Spatula arrives and persuades her to delegate in order to take care of herself. Dee's father, the king, certainly does not approve of his daughter's change in approach, nor does he approve of Count Spatula. An adorable graphic novel.

22. Other Broken Things by C. Desir
This is a very honest and painful look at the life of Natalie, a teenage alcoholic. A very dark, mature read. I thought this was a good book but for grade 9 and older.

23. Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
 A world were the Library reigns supreme - anyone can read books, but to own originals is strictly forbidden. Jess Brightwell has been sent to train at the Library by his family. Jess is caught up in politics, spying, and theft. A fabulous read.

24. The Tale of Rescue by Michael L Rosen
A story about a family, a cattle dog, and a snowstorm. Beautifully illustrated by Stan Fellows. A short read, but full of rich vocabulary.

25. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Sam just wants to be normal and she is desperately keeping her OCD a secret from her friends. When Sam meets Caroline and is introduced to Poet's Corner, she feels like she's finally found a place where she can be a little more honest with herself. Riveting read.

26. The Lumberjanes (Books 1 and 2) by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson
These graphic novels follow the antics of five best friends at summer camp. This summer camp is like no other as they meet and fight evil at every turn. Great to see female protagonists in a graphic novel.

27. One by Sarah Crossan
Grace and Tippi are conjoined twins. The novel in verse details their family's financial struggles, the twins move to school, and their medical issues. A very moving novel.

28. Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Sammy
Raine can collect memories and her memory collecting could help find a missing girl. Can Raine figure out Emily's disappearance? A better book than I initially thought it would be.

29. Graceful by Wendy Mass (a Willow Falls book)
Grace is still dealing with her talent and is desperately trying to master her magic to make something other than pizza. A very quick light read, ideal for grade 5-7 students.

30. Like it Never Happened by Emily Adrian
Rebecca Rivers is a part of the 'Essential Five' - the school's theatre elite. The Essential Five are the best of friends, but suddenly lies, love, and a lot of drama leads to scandal. A book I would recommend to my grade 9s.

31. Mapmaker by Mark Bomback and Galaxy Craze
Tanya takes an internship at MapOut and suddenly she has a lot of questions about her father's former company and her father's death. Fast paced action adventure book that I quite enjoyed.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Virtual field trip with RBG

We purchased a Lifesize unit several years ago because we saw the potential for hosting virtual field trips. For a variety of reasons (budget, internet issues, lack of mobility), the unit really has not been used. This year we decided that we needed to change that especially as our principal put aside funds for vft, the internet issues were resolved and our unit was taken off the wall and placed on a mobile stand. All we needed was a teacher willing to give it at try.

The Home Economics teacher approached me in the fall, asking me to organize a virtual field trip with the Royal Botanical Gardens as she had found a program called 'Chocolate: From Treasure to Treat'. We booked it back in November for January 22nd, giving us enough time to prep the students, test out the system and for me to start learning how to use the technology.

On the day of the big event we had a bit of a technological hiccup to start but that wasn't really anything we could have controlled. The connection was crisp and clear and Karin did an incredible job of presenting the material in a variety of ways. And it soon became clear that Karin is a fountain of knowledge. She also had done a lot of work to put the presentation together and emailed back and forth with our Home Economics teacher about the presentation and lesson plan and tailored the virtual field trip to meet the BC learning outcomes for Foods and Nutrition 9.

Students learned about the cacao plant and then had the chance to taste a cacao bean, some nibs, and some unsweetened dark chocolate. It was interesting to see the students' reactions, clearly they thought cacao would taste sweet. We had some students dashing madly for glasses of water as they had popped a whole cacao bean to eat and didn't care too much for the taste.

Karin then went on to explain how chocolate was made more palatable by the Mayans and Aztecs through the use of cinnamon, chilis, or vanilla.

Throughout the presentation we had other teachers popping in to check out the virtual field trip and seeing the Lifesize unit in action. Our Home Economics teacher is looking to book another virtual field trip with Karin at the Royal Botanical Gardens and our Outdoor Education 9 teacher has already placed a request to have Karin present about medicinal plants. I also have the Art teacher and an English teacher inquiring about possible virtual field trips for their classes.

If you have the chance to participate in a virtual field trip, try it. If you are looking to book a stellar presentation, I would highly recommend the Royal Botanical Gardens.