Monday, April 17, 2017

Hot Tech Tools

Here's a short list of some tools that you can use in the classroom and beyond

TASL Talks

Hot Tech Tools for Classroom and Beyond - Some for testing, some for studying, some just for fun!

List by Pamela Thompson, LMS, Col. John O. Ensor Middle School, El Paso USD;@PThompson_EMS ; http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/

I originally presented this list at a Tech Conference for a neighboring school district. TASL asked me for a contribution, so here you are!

Monday, April 10, 2017

TASL Talks: Legislative and Advocacy for YOU: National Poem in Your Pocket Day - April 27, 2017

This is a nice article and mention of our upcoming event for National Poem in Your Pocket Day:

TASL Talks: Legislative and Advocacy for YOU: National Poem in Your Pocket Day - April 27, 2017: by Pamela Thompson, LMS,  Col. John O. Ensor Middle School, Socorro ISD (El Paso) ;  @PThompson_EMS  ;  http://booksbypamelathompson.blogsp...

Thursday, April 6, 2017

YA Pick: Blood Family

Blood Family
by Anne Fine
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
2017
291 pages
ISBN: 9781481477734


Blood Family is the gripping tale of a boy who had no chance. Edward's mother is a ghost of a woman who has lost her humanity. Beaten and abused for years, she has lost her will to survive let alone raise a seven year old child. If not for a nosy neighbor, Edward would probably be dead.

Rescued from the home along with his mother, Edward is taken to "safety." The conditions of his childhood home are documented by social workers and police officers. There is nothing to eat and deplorable conditions. Edward has never set foot from the house, never been outside, never talked to anyone before. Everything he knows he has learned from thirty year old VCR tapes of episodes of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood."

Edward is grateful to be saved but worried about his mother. She will never be capable of taking care of herself again. Edward is shuttled off to foster homes and never fits in. He realizes his mother's abusive "boyfriend" is really his "blood" father and terrified  that if they share the same DNA, maybe Edward will be evil also. He does not want to become a beast.

After a series of relationships, homes, demons, drugs and failures, he realizes he will be okay.

The chapters are told in first person by a series of narrators: the neighbor who calls the police, the police who respond, social workers, foster parents, teachers and Eddie himself. Readers will get the big picture and not just Eddie's possibly skewed view of things. The book was first released by Doubleday in Great Britain. Blood Family is a tough book about a deplorable subject. It is not a "feel good" book.

Recommended for realistic fiction collections and high schools.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Grammar Pick: Word Play

Word Play
by Adam Lehrhaupt
Illustrations by Jared Chapman 
Arthur A. Levine Books
2017
40 pages
ISBN: 9782545934282

On sale date: July 25, 2017

Word Play is a lively and colorful picture book that takes place on the playground where all the types of words come out to play. Verb comes out to "do," Noun comes out to "be," Adjective comes out to "describe." This picture book will come in handy in all English and  reading classrooms and will benefit all learners of grammar--which is a concept so dismally missing from curriculum that students don't have any idea what a noun or verb is let alone an adjective or adverb. An interjection? Never heard of it! 

As a former high school English teacher I can attest to the fact that high school students did not know what a sentence fragment was at the beginning of the year. They had to be "reminded" that a noun and a verb must be present to make a sentence. 

Adam Lehrhaupt makes learning grammar fun and accessible. Colorful illustrations will delight younger learners.  Jared Chapman captures characters' personalities and facial expressions in each two page spread. 

Highly recommended for all English language collections and grammar classrooms. Oh, the possibilities of teaching with this book! 

Grade 3-up and all grades English.




Friday, March 31, 2017

March School Library Journal YA Xpress Reviews: Chemistry

My review of Chemistry appears  here on the School Library Journal YA Xpress reviews.
Chemistry is the 8th review from the top.

I enjoyed this lighthearted romp which is comic clever, romantic  and a satire of zombie and vampire books that have come before.
Chemistry (Stella Blunt, Book 1)
C.L. Lynch
One Tree Hill Press
2016 
372 pages 
ISBN: 9780995307001


Monday, March 20, 2017

Picture Book Pick: Tidy

Tidy
By Emily Gravett
Illustration by the author
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
2017
32 pages
ISBN: 9781481480192

Charming and intelligent, Tidy is a keeper. Pete the badger likes everything tidy. He is the Felix Unger of the forrest. He does not like dust, leaves, twigs, detritus.  He goes on a cleaning frenzy tidying his ecosystem. Illustrations of Pete's concrete jungle show readers how a forrest can be killed. What Pete  discovers is that messy in a forrest is a beneficial thing. Nature needs "messes" to keep the balance of the system. Pete learns a valuable lesson and makes friends with his forrest neighbors.

Winsome animal illustrations capture each animal's  personality. Pete himself is precious, even when he wields a vacuum cleaner on the folio page. The strong message of keeping wild spaces wild will capture a new audience inspired to save nature.


Highly, highly recommend ages preschool to all grades. The message is inspiring. Emily Gravett amazes.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Non-Fiction Pick: Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel

Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk and Feel
by Nancy F. Castaldo
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2017
152 pages
ISBN: 9780544633353

Beastly Brains  is a must-have for young scientists, animal behaviorists, and animal lovers. Scientists have  hought crows were smart for a long time, but this book proves other species can think, learn and remember. Dolphins have a language of their own and use "signature whistles" their entire lives. They recognize each other by the whistle even if it's been years since they have seen one another.

Did you know that your dog can feel jealousy? Of course you did! Well, science is now backing you up. Apes and monkeys are studied often. Scientists have learned that apes like to gamble and they show emotion if they lose. many animals use tools including monkeys, dolphins and crows.

Beastly Brains is a must buy for animal behavior sections.

Recommended grade 6-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Spy Series Pick: Spy Ski School


Spy Ski School 
by Stuart Gibbs
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
2016
368 pages
ISBN: 9781481445627

Spy Ski School is the fourth in this fun series and it's the BEST! Ben Ripley is up to it again. More fun, more gadzooks, more catching evil criminals, more silliness, more hijinks, more tomfoolery,  and more shenanigans within the CIA. Ben, Erica, Zoe  and other spy students from the academy are sent to a ski resort in Colorado to "blend in" and make friends with their target's daughter, Jessica Shang.  The CIA needs to know what the fabled  Chinese gangster is up to and stop him before his evil doings. Jessica and father Leo arrive in a parade of expensive SUVs surrounded by huge bodyguards. Ben is worried how he will ever make contact with all the goons around, but team member and BFF Erica always has a plan. 

It wasn't Ben's fault that once he caught sight of Jessica, it colored his perspective. Erica's reaction to Ben's crush is a cross between angry girlfriend and pouting little girl. The closer Ben gets to Jessica puts Erica on edge. Could it be because Leo Shang wants Ben dead or maybe because Erica truly likes Ben herself? 

Spy Ski School is a laugh out loud novel for middle grades and up. Some scenes are sheer slapstick-- reminiscent of early television's "The Three Stooges" or Charlie Chaplin's skits. Somehow falling down on ice skates and causing a people pile is really funny and trying to walk like a human while wearing ski boots is equally as charming. There really isn't any way to be "cool" on the ski slopes. Ben doesn't have to act like he's undercover; he is a natural, lovable oaf that any bad guy would never expect  he was really  a seasoned spy. 

The electricity between Ben and Erica is heating up to a fever pitch, and working side by side risking their lives on a daily basis heightens their senses. The banter between the two teens is often hysterical and always entertaining. Stuart Gibbs is a master of story telling! Spy Ski School has it all! There is more action, more romance, more friendship, more planning, more plotting, more deception,  and more spying in this book. These bad guys are using real bullets and they are out for blood. 

If you haven't read the Spy School series, you need to get with the program. These are some of my favorite books to recommend at my middle school.

Highly, highly recommended grade 5-up. Buy this series for every reluctant reader, boy or girl They will LOVE it! 

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review. 


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Graphic Pick: Fish Girl

Fish Girl
by Donna Jo Napoli
Illustratons by David Wiesner
Clarion Books
2017
192 pages
ISBN: 9780547483931


Ethereal illustrations by David Wiesner capture the beauty of Fish Girl and her aquarium home. Colorful sea creatures are realistic and beautiful. A friendly orange octopus is the epitome of a true friend. Fish Girl is a captive in an aquarium. Caught as a baby "mer-son," Fish Girl owes her life and sustanence to Neptune, the sea god. Neptune is the only parent figure Fish Girl has ever known, and he claims he saved her from death, giving her a home at the aquarium. The only thing he asks is that she "perform"--allowing visitors to glimpse a sighting of her. She is not allowed to fully  appear to anyone and cannot interact with the human guests. Neptune warns her that if people really believe that she's a mermaid, someone will come and take her away to study and cut open. This is enough to frighten her into subservience.

One day, this all changes when a curious twelve year old named Livia bonds with her. Fish Girl cannot speak and has no legs to walk, but she dreams of being human. What would it be like to have legs and walk on dry land and wear real clothes and  attend a yoga class? Livia continues to sneak visits with Fish Girl whom she names Mira (short for Miracle) and wonders where Fish Girl came from and just who Neptune really is. After one of her visits, Mira questions her keeper's intentions as well. She searches Neptune's office and finds overdue bills and a photo of Neptune fishing on a boat.Mira realizes her "father" is not the god of the sea but a common fisherman and he's been lying to her about everything.

Mira  decides she wants out and enlists the help of Octopus in her foray. Her friend will do anything for her and does.

Fish Girl is the strange but wonderful story of a mermaid and a human who become friends and later sisters. It is full of friendship, hope, possibilities and love.

Magnificent art will win over even "boy" readers who thinks that Fish Girl is a "girl" story. One reviewer on Amazon reported that her son said, "while he said this was a "girl story" (a huge insult for a 4th grade boy), he eventually succumbed to mom's pleas and read it and called it, "pretty good, but still would have been better with boys" ... Which is basically a rave review for him..." That being said, if boys are led to this book, they will likely enjoy the story and the fantastic graphic content. 


Highly, highly recommended for fans of graphic novels and middle school readers. 

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Memorial Pick: Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder
by Kate Messner
Illustrations by Greg Ruth
Scholastic Press
2017
32 pages
ISBN: 9780545470124

Available April 25, 2017
Just in time for Memorial Day!

Rolling Thunder tells the story of a brave soldier, a grandfather now, who along with his grandson, visits the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, to honor his friends who were lost in battle. What a message! Illustrations bring America's heartland to readers.Author Kate Messner uses rhyming couplets and creates a tone of quiet, sadness and memories of those lost.

One  illustration depicts a young boy shaking the hand of a vet--it is poignant and full of grace. Other illustrations of the Rolling Thunder ride and the parade of bikes on the front cover are inspiring. One illustration shows the bikes coming head-on at the reader off of the page, This powerful image will have readers feeling the rumble of Rolling Thunder. The Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam wall of names are beautifully illustrated by Greg Ruth. Almost every two page spread shows an American flag proudly on display.

Rolling Thunder arrives just in time for Memorial Day. Finally!  A new picture book that librarians and teachers can use to teach children the importance of the day, of the soldiers who came before, of patriotism, and of being American and of being free!

This is one important little book. In tough times, our children need inspiration. They need to be taught and shown what is right and wrong. Rolling Thunder arrives just in time.

Highly, highly recommended for every classroom and collection. As a librarian, I always got requests for books that helped teach kids the significance of holidays. If you need inspiration for Memorial Day, look no more!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book and Swag Giveaway: Dog Man Unleashed



I have FIVE FREE copies of Dog Man Unleashed to giveaway to lucky winners! Winners will also get a Dog Man poster and Dog Man tattoos! This is epic, people!

All you have to do for your chance to win is write a comment to this blog. Please include your first name, city, state and email. I need your email contact in case you win. It will not be used for anything else. Comments await publication, so it may take a day or two if you post on the weekend, but your comment will be published in the order it was received. 

Deadline for posting a comment is noon MST Feb. 27. Winners will be chosen randomly by Randomizer and notified on Feb. 27. Please check your email on that date in the afternoon. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books, posters and tattoos will ship from New York . 

Now, good luck and start posting. Hooray for Dog Man! 

Reluctant Reader Pick: Dog Man Unleashed (book 2)

Dog Man Unleashed
by Dav Pilkey
Graphix
224 pages
2016
ISBN: 9780545935203

Kids don't need to be told: Dog Man Unleashed is the real deal! Dav Pilkey just keeps getting it right for those reluctant readers who just need a reason to pick up a book. This second book is even more fun than the original.Inane, silly, charming, ridiculous, and did I say silly? Well, fun then. Sheer fun!

 Pilkey does the amazing: he makes everything possible: a T. Rex skeleton becomes reanimated and dances around , a cat can be an evil genius, a police chief is so bumbling that he needs the assistance of Dog Man to solve even the silliest of crimes. In a graphic novel that reads more like a "Rocky and Bullwinkle" cartoon with evil Natasha and Boris, Dog Man is your hero. Pilkey must have spent every Saturday morning glued to his television watching the roadrunner outsmart Wile E. Coyote.

Poor Dog Man. He is half Dog (the head and dog instincts) and half human (the human body). In a  freak accident, Officer Knight and Greg the Dog get blown up, and  the ambulance takes them to the hospital with the siren sounding, "Wee-OOO-Wee_OOO" --never has anyone found a way to write a siren sound that was legit before Pilkey--so applause for that alone! The ER doctors say that the only way to fix Greg the Dog and Officer Knight is to combine them into one. This seems far-fetched, but it is laugh out loud funny!

Dialog is tongue-in-cheek with 80's and 90's references. It is irreverent and hysterical. Two kids are  passing by, a boy and a girl, and see the cat villain stealing treasure chests. A  mysterious stranger wants to stop him by  using  his mind powers to pick up a phone booth to throw at the cat. The kids ask, "What's a phone booth?" Next he picks up a stack of newspaper and a mailbox then "he grabs some other stuff with his brain" from Lulu's Obsolete Goods. The kids wonder what each obsolete item is and that's the fun of it! Adults will chuckle along with their reluctant readers--if they are lucky enough to be reading along, that is!

Dog Man is the perfect cop...except for the fact that every time he sees a bone, he wants to lick it and every time he sees a ball, he wants to chase it and catch it. Pilkey has included flip pages with instructions for readers to flip the pages and see the "action" cartoon. Readers will be delighted!
How to draw pages in back teach readers how to draw main characters and Pilkey's website has more content to interest young doodlers and dreamers.

Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants series made readers out of a generation of reluctant readers two decades ago; Dog Man will take this generation by storm. Hooray for Dog Man!

Highly, highly recommended for all reluctant readers and anyone who needs a laugh. This is sheer silliness for the fun of it! Don't fight it! Give in to Dog Man!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.







Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Picture Book Pick: Watersong

Watersong
by Tim McCanna
Illustrated by Richard Smythe
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
2017
32 pages
ISBN:9781481468817


Watersong is a brilliant work of art! They symphony of  watercolors capture the power of a rain storm and a young fox as he wanders his forest home. He watches the storm listening  to the raindrops and the wind. He sees the changes that the rain brings.

Tim McCanna's use of onomatapoeia will excite young readers to follow along and make the sounds on each page. This is book that needs to be read ALOUD over and OVER again. In fact, children will demand it to be read out loud.

Readers will love reading, "Drip, drop, plip, plop, pitter, patter, pat," and the sounds throughout the storm. After the storm, the young fox observes a rainbow before coming home to his mother and family. Facts about foxes and ecosystems are included on the last page.

Kirkus called this book "Beautiful," and no one will disagree.  In fact, Watersong is an early contender for the Caldecott Award.

This book is a must for language arts and poetry. Art classes will be dazzled by the beauty of the illustrations. Young readers will learn a few facts about ecosystems and the water cycle.

Highly, highly recommended for all young readers and all library collections.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Perfect Pick: If I Had a Little Dream

If I Had a Little Dream
by Nina Laden
Illustrations by Melissa Casrillon
A Paula Wiseman Book
2017
32 pages
ISBN: 9781481439244


Rhyming verse tells  a sweet story--a song if you will--that sings off the illustrated pages. A little girl narrates, "If I had a little land...." and rhymes the verse. After that first rhyme, she  inserts a new noun: house, garden, pond, boat, bicycle, table, chair, dog, cat, brother, sister, book (my favorite, of course!), nest and dream. The book page reads, "If I had a little book,/I would name it Friend./Friend would go wherever I went,/our story would never end."

Magical illustrations look  like an illuminated manuscript with the borders (marginalia) used effectively to frame the characters and story. The illustrations help to give this little keeper a nostalgic feeling of easier, less troublesome times.

 If I Had a Little Dream is a tender and loving story that celebrates life's simple treasures, Simple children's book magic done right!

Highly recommended for young dreamers everywhere.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.