Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The best middle school fiction of 2014!

It's been a tremendous pleasure to serve on VOYA magazine's Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers selection committees for 2013 & 2014! We four librarians, plus one teacher, read over one hundred books and devoted many hours of time online and in person to discussing, sorting and ranking them. 

Our goal was to come up with at most 30 books that we could put forward as the best of the year for ages 11-14, bearing in mind literary merit, appeal to kids, relevance to curriculum, and the diversity of North American readers.

Apart from getting to read these books, another source of fun was recruiting student volunteers to review them for us! Without their honest feedback the list would have been sorely lacking.

Check out this year's list and last year's too, if you missed it! There's a bit of something in there for everyone. Some titles are appropriate for middle grade elementary readers, while those on the older end overlap with high school.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Each Little Bird That Sings: Our global studies book club selection!

Our first 3rd and 4th grade lunch recess book club selection for 2015 is Deborah Wiles' delightful, award-winning Each Little Bird That Sings which is set in Mississippi. During the last few years I've been lucky enough to make multiple trips to the South for personal and professional reasons, and have fallen in love with this sometimes misunderstood region. Many of our students have little or no experience with this part of the country, making it a perfect focus for our book club. And Little Bird, with its vivid sense of place, was an ideal selection. It's a book about love and loss, honesty and trust, resilience and compassion.

During our first meeting today, students paired off and role-played an awkward conversation between Comfort and Declaration, best friends who are going through a bumpy readjustment period. Here are some of them sitting on "Listening Rock" (role-played by our red beanbag chair)! We talked about smart ways to handle situations like this one.

On a lighter note, we were inspired by Comfort's "Top Ten Tips for First-Rate Funeral Behavior" to make up some lists of our own. Here are a few of my favorite selections! As you can see, most of them took the approach of giving advice in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Top Ten Tips for First-Rate Math Class Behavior

1. If your teacher calls on you, say "I forget."
2. Stand on your chair and yell, "I'm the king of the world and I hate math, so no more math!"

Top Ten Tips for First-Rate Wedding Behavior

1. Always say the bride and groom aren't meant for each other.
2. Say in a loud whisper that the bride's dress is ugly.

Top Ten Tips for First-Rate Art Class Behavior

1. Do NOT limit yourself to the piece of paper.
2. When your teacher says to wash your hands, wipe them on your neighbor's clothes.

Top Ten Tips for First-Rate Sleepover Behavior

1. Drink lots of sugary drinks without your mom knowing.
2. Always jump on your mom's bed, not your own bed.