Book Talk – The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Mini Booktalk on The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

I haven’t used this with teens yet, but feel free to use it in a library if you’d like.

Life isn’t easy on greasers, and greasers aren’t easy on life.  These teens throw punches at their friends for fun, and pull out switchblades and guns on their rivals, the rich kids in their town.  Ponyboy, yes that’s his real name, lives with his two older brothers, and the greaser life is all they know.

Late one night, a chance encounter with the rich kids will leave one rival dead, and two greaser friends on the run from the law.  Can Ponyboy handle the tough life, and can his brothers keep him safe?  To find out more about how these boys laugh at danger and live to tell the tale, read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

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Busy Busy Busy

Oh my! It’s been awhile since I last posted.  I’m sorry!  My summer class on children’s literature, along with the move to my new apartment, has kept me safely away from blogging for too long.

The fall semester just started, and I’m settling in nicely to my new place.  This semester, I’m taking three courses:  management of school library media centers,  resources for the school curriculum, and young adult literature (this one with a particularly prominent player in the field).

Even though I’ve just begun the semester, I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of teen reads of note recently:

-The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins was phenomenal.
The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author of my beloved Shadow of the Wind, was alright but largely disappointing.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, one of the new classics I somehow missed during adolescence.
Monster by Walter Dean Myers is shaping up to be the first audio book I’ve really enjoyed.  Most other audio books I’ve felt forced to finish, scarcely desiring to change the CD in my car.  This one, however, is most engaging.

For the YA Lit course, every week is dedicated to a different genre, and I get to choose the trade books I want to read from a list of a half dozen or so for each genre.  I like being able to choose what I like, especially in some genres that may have pronounced variation within them.  I plan to write miniature book talks for each, in order to remember what I liked best about them.  More to come soon….

Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This book may be long, but it is an engaging, and therefore quick, read. Kathryn Stockett tells the fictional (but semi-autobiographical-ish) story of the intertwining lives of white families and the black women that work for them in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960’s. I was wowed most especially by the three first-person perspectives that this novel takes: first, Aibileen, an elderly domestic worker who gets attached to every one of the many white children she’s raised; Minny, a cranky maid who has more under her strong and sassy facade than anyone would imagine; and Skeeter, a college-educated white woman who can’t sit idly by while her friends mistreat their “help.” I really enjoyed this novel, and I would recommend it to anyone with a mind open to hearing someone else’s point of view. (Note – There are some adult situations/themes that might only be appropriate for older teens and adults).

For more information, including book discussion resources, the author’s biography, etc, visit the official website here.

Book Review: The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Image from Jim Trelease's Website

The Handbook begins with a rationale for the importance of reading aloud to children, and cites statistics and case studies that show the benefits it offers to literacy, family togetherness, child development, and more.  Then, Trelease walks the reader through some practical techniques as well as beginning reading suggestions for every age and interest.

Based on his experience as a father and grandfather, and his familiarity with many anecdotes from other parents, Trelease tells us (p. 4) that there are some major advantages derived from reading aloud to [your] child:

  • Associating reading with pleasure in the child’s brain
  • Establishing background knowledge (ie, what animals live on farms, what a bulldozer looks like, what a fiddle is).
  • Building vocabulary (Children’s picture books are meant to be read to a child not by a child because their vocabulary and structure are too sophisticated.)
  • Provide a positive reading role model (YOU!)

Although I’m only about halfway done reading The Handbook, I’ve skimmed the final sections that contain a plethora of reading recommendations of every sort.  I highly recommend The Read-Aloud Handbook to parents, teachers, librarians, and any other professional that works with children.

Here’s a link to the author Jim Trelease’s home page that contains book lists, lecture downloads, and excerpts/major points from every chapter of his book.

Quiero ser…

I want to be…a librarian!

For my MLS technology course, I was assigned to compose a paragraph briefly explaining my professional goals, for my ePortfolio.  Did I hit all the points, folks?

I’m eager to begin my career as a librarian and I am building a full repertoire of skills and experience that will enrich my professional practice.  I expect to earn my MLS by 2012, with a School Media Specialist certification, but I’m open to working in a public or school library setting.  My undergraduate specialization was in education and I have many teaching experiences, so I already know how much I enjoy helping children and teens to make the most of the resources available to them and to appreciate the importance of the written word.  As I predict my professional life as a librarian, I see myself working on the front lines of a reference desk or information literacy classroom every day and interacting with different people.  I will learn from my patrons as much as they learn from me, and I will be thankful every day for the blessing of getting to help people in a vocation I love.

PS – Sorry I’ve been MIA for so long.  I get way too caught up with school, work, and life, and I’ve strayed too far from my home[page].  I’ll be posting more often, and hopefully include some reviews of recent reads.

How to Give a Cat a Bath, and other dangerous advice

After decompressing from a semester of MLS studies, I’m finally getting back to Mr. Blog.  I’ve been reading a bit here and there, and have even been putting my VCR to good use.

Bad Kitty series by Nick Bruel

Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I discovered this delightful little series of picture books and illustrated children’s chapter books that center around the life of a very, very bad, bad kitty.

In the original picture book, Bad Kitty, the kitty is loathe to find out that he’s been temporarily restricted to a vegetable diet.  Fortunately, his hazardous protests throughout the house won him back his omnivorous cat food.  The book, and its sequel, Poor Puppy (in which the kitty is introduced to an over-friendly new housemate), incorporate the alphabet and counting, and are devilishly funny and random in their choice of vocabulary.

Additionally, Bruel wrote illustrated chapter books about specific aspects of the kitty’s life, including Bad Kitty Gets a Bath. In this hilarious volume, the kitty’s owner explains the dangers involved in attempting to clean a cat, including injury, death, and pants-wetting.  The book even gives a detailed illustration and explanation of the escalating levels of cat anger as expressed through different hisses.  Any cat-lover (or cat-hater, even) will recognize the high-strung attitude of kitty, something common to many of our feline friends.  I highly recommend these books, to adults and childen.  The picture books are a longer read than most, so keep that in mind when reading with those with shorter attention spans (adults and children included).

Here’s a link to Nick Bruel’s Bad Kitty series: click here.

Update – MLS/Library Media Specialist

So, over the last month, I’ve decided to pursue the Library Media Specialist (school librarian) track for my Master of Library Science program.  I’m excited about this because it will widen my possible job outlook greatly – I’ll be qualified not only for public and academic librarianship, but for public school librarianship as well.  Yay!

Recently, the Queens College GSLIS added a new program to allow non-certified teachers to obtain the Library Media Specialist certification.  So, I began doing some research into feasibility, and I realized that actually, I’d be able to complete the LMS coursework.  Moreover, I’m able to do it through the classic program, provided I obtain my initial NYS teaching certificate before doing my student teaching.  Of course, I’ll be taking very particular courses, many of which will include school observation and teaching hours.

So, in coming months, I’ll be tackling the NYS teacher certification tests, including two covering teaching basics and one covering Physics.  Yes, Physics.  My undergraduate major was Physics Teaching.  Although I completed my degree with honors and taught high school science and Physics after graduating, I am quite rusty in this discipline.  I’ve borrowed some study books for this exam, and I have about a month to prepare.  Wish me good luck!