Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Speak English, we live in America...

Dancing Home by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubarreta

Interesting Facts:
Alma Flor Ada wrote this book with her son Gabriel M. Zubarreta.
The alternating focus in narration, gives readers a glimpse into the lives of each girl.

About the Book:Margarita is proud of being born in Texas because to her it means that she is American.  However, she is ashamed of her Mexican heritage being that her parents and the rest of her family are from Mexico.  For years Margaita has tried to "Americanize" her parents.  She has taken measures to ensure that she does not deviate from the American way by only speaking English and changing her name to Margie. So obviously when her Mexican cousin Lupe moves into Margie's home and begins to attend school with her she is horrified at what others will think of her.  Will they tease her about her Mexican heritage?

While Margie is dealing with accepting who she really is, Lupe is also going through her own crisis.  She is dealing with living away from her family, her parents' seperation, going to a new school, and learning a new language.

Margie based her negative views on Mexico and being Mexican on the limited knowledge she had about the country. She also allowed herself to be influeced by the prejudices of others around her. In Margie's mind, Mexico was simply a place where people were filled with problems such as lack of money and medical care. She saw no point in learning Spanish since in her mind, "English was the language of anyone who amounted to anything."

Why read it?
Being of Mexican heritage but being born as an American, I recognized some of the same stereotypes and predjuces that I once had as a child.  I remember when teachers would discourage us from speaking Spanish in elementary school. When they would hear any of us speaking Spanish they would say, "Speak English, we live in America!" That influenced my view of the language and convinced me that retaining this language was wrong and looked down upon. It was not until I got older that I truly appreciated being bilingual and saw the value of being able to communicate with my family in their native language. This book can help Mexican-Americans examine their views towards their own heritage. English Language Learners and students from other counties may also identify with the struggles that Lupe faces in moving to America.  In a way this book reminded me of Home of the Brave.

One of my favorite quotes:"The United States is made up of all different kinds of people. And most of their ancestors came here form other places, even though they may have forgotten about it or may be trying to pretend that their family has always been here." (pg. 73)

Interesting Sites: - Meet the authors, watch videos, and get extras
Alma Flor Ada's Official Site

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Guys Read and Chick Lit Sections

I took advantage of our district's Open House to visit the newest high school campus in Brownsville, Texas. I mainly did this because I was curious to see their library! The result: I absolutely loved it and the librarians were very welcoming.  My favorite part was the Guys Read and Chick Lit Sections, which are side by side.  These sections are also near the Library's Cafe and a comfy sitting area. Something else I noticed is that on the spine label under the call number there was a little image.  For example, books under Guys Read had little sneakers and the Chick Lit books had either heels or purses (can't remember).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Playing Matchmaker?


Matched by Allie Condie
Sci-Fi YA Lit
1st book of the trilogy

Interesting Fact: There are many real-life love stories that started out with helpful friends and family members playing match makers.  Some people even dash out big bucks to find a "significant other" with the help of dating sites and professional match makers.  However, even in these cases, each person makes their final decision regarding whom they select to pursue a relationship with.

About the Book: In the Society, that decision along with many others is not for individuals to make.  Only authorized officials can decide whom you will end up with and this happens at your Match Banquet.  The fact that the Society will be choosing her future husband seems fine to Cassia.  Everything within Cassia's life has always seemed to work out so perfectly and Cassia credits the Society for this perfection. At the Match Banquet, Cassia has surprisingly been matched to her life-long best friend, the handsome Xander.  Cassia's happiness with Xander is quickly threatened when she notices the mysterious and intriguing Ky whom officials warn she should stay away from.  Soon Cassia finds herself utterly confused.  She knows that there are always consequences to disobeying the Society but she also wants to follow her heart.  Will she choose a secure life with the boy she has always known or will she pursue a romance with the boy she knows so little about? Find out for yourself and believe me, you will not be disappointed.

Why read it?
Even though being confused about the decisions we face in life can be frustrating at times, it is a privilege to be provided with choices.  This book helps readers appreciate freedom of choice and the importance of fighting for that freedom. 

P.S. It also an awesome love story for all those romantics out there. ;)

Interesting Site:
Official Book Site

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Play Ball, Jackie! by Stephen Krensky

Jackie Robinson a video by charritabonita on Flickr.

Interesting Fact: This book is based on the true story of Jackie Robinson.  .

About the Book:Ten year old Matty Romano is excited to attend the opening game for his favorite team the Brooklyn Dodgers.  This is also a big day for Jackie Robinson!  Jackie is the first man ever allowed to play on a major league team.  As Matty witnesses the racist attitude of many fans, he is nervous for Jackie. Will Jackie overcome the taunts and negativity faced?

Why read it?

Jackie Robinson assisted in breaking the color barrier in baseball and is a wonderful figure to recognize.  Many people still face discrimation based on the color of their skin, their religion, and many other factors.  This book can help break those barriers and give hope to those that have experienced discrimination. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The First of The Sixties Trilogy

The Scholastic Channel, (2010). Countdown a new documentary novel by Deborah Wiles [Web]. Available from

Countdown by Deborah Wiles, (2010)

Interesting Fact: This historical fiction narrative is set in Washington D.C. during the period of 1962.  Throughout the book you will find real photographs, quotations, and song lyrics from that time period.
About the Book:Eleven year-old Franny Chapman has a lot to worry about aside from preparing for a nuclear disaster.  Her other worries range from being invisible to observing her older sister’s suspicious behavior, her uncle acting loony, her father being in the military, and feuding (sometimes physically) with her best friend.   As Franny tries to make sense of her personal life she is also trying to understand the world around her.  President Kennedy has made it clear that there is a nuclear threat to the country.  It is because of that threat that everyone including Franny is in a panic.  At school Franny participates in air raid drills in which all students must “duck and cover.”  One time when Franny and her classmates were caught outside when the sirens went on she was certain that they were going to die!  Will Franny ever recuperate a normal life, one with family stability and where friends are actually friendly?  Will the concern for surviving a nuclear disaster even diminish?
Why read it?Readers can learn a lot about the historic events that took place during the 60’s era.  The Cuban Missile Crisis and air raid drills are long gone now but world conflict still exist today.  Therefore, aside from presenting pre-teen problems that young ones can identify with today; larger issues presented are similar to issues that youth today are familiar with such as modern dealings with Afghanistan, Taliban, terrorism, and war.    

Teacher Discussion Guide to Countdown
Official Author Website

The World's Future Through a Sci-Fi Perception...

Book Videos TV, (2010). Ship breaker [Web]. Available from

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, (2010)

Interesting Facts: This is a sci-fi book based on the future when oil has been replaced and biodiesel is used.  The story is set along America’s Gulf-cost. It is categorized as a young adult book and is a Michael L. Printz Award winner. 

About the Book:Hundreds of years from now oil-tankers are no longer in use.  They are now broken down for parts by light crews who scavenge for copper wires just to make ends meet.  Nailer is a young boy who works light crew. He crawls in the dark ducts of these oil-tankers to scavenge for these copper wires, dangerous work indeed.  The recycled parts are then sold to giant corporations referred to as blood buyers.  Nailer’s mother died when he was much younger and since then his father has become a drunk, violent, abusive, and even murderous man.  Nailer seeks to strike luck one day in hopes of getting out of his miserable life.  To his surprise, he one day discovers a ship filled with treasures to scavenge.  The problem is that there is one survivor, a beautiful girl named Nita who also happens to be very rich.  He decides to rescue the girl in hopes that she will lead him to a better life; this decision is a great risk.  He will soon face the decision of staying loyal to his father or going up against his own flesh and blood. Since the story takes place in the future, oil has be used up, sea levels have risen, global-warming has had its effects, animals such as polar bears have become extinct, Orleans has been desolated, and hurricanes can now strengthen up to category 6. Perhaps one of the most interesting changes is that there is a new creation of half-men who are genetically made as a mixture of man, tiger, and dog.  These can prove loyal to their masters but can be deadly if they are after you.  Nailer and his new-found friend Nita will have plenty encounters with such half-men, some good and some not so good. 

Why read it?It should make readers think about the way we treat the earth and its resources.  To imagine a world in which resources are used up and parts of the world forgotten is unsettling.  I also appreciated the lesson in that sometimes the family we choose is closer than those whom we share a blood bond with.  The book offers plenty suspense and much to think about. I can see this being read along with Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes.

A Teen Site
Visit Paolo Bacigalupi's Official Website
Paolo Bacigalupi's Facebook
Paolo Bacigalupi's Twitter

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Warning: This is a Bloody and Gory Tale!

Penguin Young Readers, (2011). A tale dark and grimm trailer [Web]. Available from

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, (2010)

Interesting Facts: This book modifies some of the stories taken from the original Brothers Grimm tales.  Fairytales such as “Hansel and Gretel” were actually very violent in their original form but many have been tailored to into “Disney” versions which are what most kids are familiar with nowadays.
About the Book:The cover of this book is a good indicator of what to expect as it is dark and gloomy story with quite a bit of blood.  The main characters are Hansel and Gretel.  The story begins before they were born and follows them through a long journey that includes dragons, cannibals, werewolves, and many other interesting characters that they run into along the way.  Hansel and Gretel’s wild journey begins when they discover that their father and mother are both willing to have their children beheaded. Before you jump to conclusions, please be assured that there is a completely reasonable explanation for this.  Hansel and Gretel are not aware of the reasons behind such a decision, so they naturally assume that they have bad parents. Therefore, they decide to runaway in an effort to escape their bad parents and find good ones.  The narrative includes personal interruptions from the narrator (author) which are in bold print.  The author uses such interruptions in the story to warn readers about upcoming parts that may be discomforting to read (and visualize).  He also uses them to share insightful thoughts or lessons with the reader.  These interruptions are often humorous as well.
Why read it?Aside from creeping you out, this witty narrative will surprisingly make you laugh. I can see how boys/girls and even adults that usually find the Cinderella-type fairytales boring will be completely engaged in this tale.  If you are not faint of heart, then this may be the book for you!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

As Meggy Swan Would Say, "Eat Toads and Vipers!"

Book Videos TV, (2010). Alchemy and Meggy Swan [Web]. Available from

Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman, (2010)
Interesting Fact: This is book can be classified as historical fiction as it depicts London in 1573. 
About the Book: Meggy Swan is a 13-year old girl whom is sent away to London by her mother and is unwanted by her alchemist father.  Her Granny was the only person who has cared for her and unfortunately she has died.  Her only friend upon her arrival in London is a long time pet goose named Luis whom like her is also disabled.  Meggy was born disabled and therefore needs sticks to help her walk.  The setting of the story takes place during a time when disabled people were treated with little or no respect because of the belief that their disability was caused by sin, God’s punishment, or being possessed by demons.  Due to the constant judgment she faces, Meggy has made developed a rude and cold attitude towards others.  That is why she struggles to recognize true friends when she does find them.  These friends unknowingly aid her in a transformation that even she doesn’t realize is happening.  Meggy discovers that a murderous plan in which her alchemist father is involved and she is torn between keeping silent or speaking up.  Although Meggy is limited in physical strength, her decision proves that she is strong in courage!
Why read it?There is a lack of disabled characters in literature and this is an example of one that is strong willed and courageous.  It can also help us evaluate our view of those that have physical limitations.
Why listen to the audio book instead?The accents provide more of a vivid picture of what is happening in the story.  The different voices that the narrator takes on and the singing are much more enjoyable when you do not have to make them up in your head.  It would be a plus to have students follow along as they listen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Very Annoying Habit of Interrupting...

Candlewick Press, (2010). Interrupting chicken by Ezra Stein [Web]. Available from

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein, (2010)
Interesting Facts:This picture book  has received the 2011 Caldecott Medal.
About the Book:At bedtime, Little Red Chicken insists that Papa read a story to her.  Despite her father’s reminder to not interrupt, Chicken continues to do so ruining the endings to all the stories shortly after their beginnings.  She interrupts Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little before they run out of stories to read.  To solve the problem, Papa turns the tables on the little red chicken asking her to tell him a story which leads to a different kind of problem.
Why read it?It is humorous and can be used to introduce a lesson about manners.  Readers of all ages will enjoy the colorful illustrations which will trigger memories from their own childhood read-aloud.  This picture book struck a personal cord with me personally because I have the habit of interrupting people.  Like Little Red Chicken, I too try to stop myself but many times just can’t help it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Victim of Post Tramatic Stress...

Lerner Publishing, (2010). Book trailer: the freak observer [Web]. Available from

Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston, (2010)
Interesting Facts: This book is an ALA William C. Morris Debut Award Winner.  This award is given to first-time authors of young adult books. 
About the Book:Before I go into details about the book, I would like to say that reading it reminded me of Speak . I say this because like Melinda in Speak, Loa is trying to overcome a tramatic experience. Throughout the book, Loa struggles through the grieving process and suffers from post-traumatic stress.  The death of her little sister to Rett’s Syndrome has completely turned her family life into chaos.  To make matters worse one of her friends has died in what seems to be an accident but may have been suicide. She fights to keep her eyes open so she won’t have to see haunting images of the accident and to escape her reoccurring nightmares with The Boney Guy (Death).  Before The Boney Guy, Loa’s life was pretty good. She now depends on herself to get through her ordeal as her parents are not much involved in her life anymore and she has no friends.  There is one assignment that not only helps keep her mind off things but also seems to be one of the things guiding her on the road to acceptance.
Why read it? When tragedy strikes, people sometimes forget that they themselves are not the only victims.  Sometimes they become cold towards the other survivors around them.  This book shows that not only is it possible to heal but that it is much easier to do so with the support of those around you.
Vist the Author's Official Site:
Book Trailer taken from

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Moon Over Manifest

Image by
Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool, (2010)
Interesting Information:This Newbery winning book is an example of historical fiction. The story is set during the great depression of 1936 in a small fictional town in Kansas but provides glimpses of the past.
About the book:As heartwarming as this book is, it provides its share of suspense and humor.  It is a touching story about a young girl named Abilene (12 years old) who has grown up with her daddy along the railroads.  One day her father sends her off to an unknown place with unknown people and Abilene is not only confused but heartbroken to be torn apart from her father.  Her new home is in Manifest, Kansas.  There she discovers a simple box filled with old letters and trinkets.  The letters are dated from the years 1917-1918, during the First World War.  They are written by a young boy named Ned to his best buddy named Jinx.  Her discoveries lead her on a spy hunt. Abilene is also searching for her father’s tie to the town. Through the letters and with the help of a diviner, Abilene is able to develop a close relationship with Ned, Jinx, Shady, and many others that have a part in this entangled story.  Let’s just say that Abilene and her accomplices found much more than they were bargaining for as they discover the truths behind murders, cons, and their neighbors.
Why read it?It is interesting to see how a story can be written within a story. This story is not only entertaining; it is also educational about important events such as Kansas, Orphan trains, and the Spanish Influenza. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Value of a Banned Picture Book

Image taken from
It's a Book by Lane Smith, (2010)
This picture book is plain and simple.  Its purpose is basically to explain what a printed book is and how it is different from the forms of technology that is prevalent today.  It may sound silly but in reality one must remember that the generation of youths today is more familiar with what technology can do than how to use a book!  Youths now a day are unfamiliar with printed material but they are fond of books on iPods, laptops, Nooks, and Kindles. Therefore, this book presents the basic concept of a printed book in a humorous manner.  This book is marketed towards elementary aged kids but I think it may be even better for the older ones since they can appreciate the tech-terms and final punch line.  Educators can use this as an opening activity in introducing students to web 2.0 tools such as blogs.  In all of its cuteness, this book also happens to be included among many banned books list because of its “jackass” comment.  Before judging the book please read it in its entirety and also keep in mind that the correct term for a male ass or donkey is in fact jackass.
Watch the booktrailer HERE!
Hear what Lane Smith has to say about his book HERE!

Learn about Safety with Officer Buckle and Gloria

Image taken from

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann (1995)

Officer Buckle is a safety activist who tries to teach kids how to keep safe.  The problem is that the kids always get bored during his presentations.  They do not benefit from all of the helpful tips that Officer Buckle has to offer because they are too busy playing or falling asleep during his lectures.  That all begins to change when a K-9 named Gloria joins Officer Buckle in his presentations.  Even though, Gloria cannot talk she does manage to help Officer Buckle by keeping the audience’s attention!  To find out exactly how she does this you need to read the story and look at all the funny illustrations of what Gloria is doing during the safety presentations. This picture book is a Caldecott Medal winner and is useful in teaching content related to safety/rules.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan

About the Book:
The Dreamer (Ryan, 2010) allows readers to glimpse into the life of Chilean poet Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto whom later took the pen name of Pablo Neruda.  Neftali loves to read, displays a creative imagination, and is a talented writer. At a very young age, Neftali discovers that he wants to follow his dreams of becoming a poet; however, his talents were discouraged by his oppressive father whom views such an idea as foolishness.  His father’s constant ridicule makes it difficult for Neftali to overcome his shyness and low self esteem.  Readers may begin to think of children they personally know who display similar traits as young Neftali or who may live in a similar home environment.  All readers can benefit from this biographical story and creative tale but imagine how much more meaningful it would be for someone whom can truly identify with Neftali?  Wouldn’t it be an inspirational tale to share with such ones?
Additional information: Personally, I appreciated the illustrations at the beginning of each chapter as well as those associated with Neftali’s daydreams and feelings.  The book is written in medium texts and includes onomatopoeia.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

Why should you read it?
You may come to realize that we take some of our most common resources for granted such as grocery stores and dishwashers.  People from third world countries may react differently to the things we are used to because they have never been exposed to them.  I felt an appreciation form for minor things that others in other parts of the world are deprived of and my heart goes out to all those that are currently suffering.  Students will become aware of wars that are not commonly heard of and learn about the existance of refugee camps. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

The good girl version of Alaska: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Interesting Facts:
This book is labeled as a young adult novel and is a bit of a love story.  There is a sequel to this book titled "Love, Stargirl."  The first book was narrated by Leo (the boyfriend) and the sequel is written in letter form by Stargirl as a letter to Leo. 

About the book:
One of my favorite YA books is Looking for Alaska.  Alaska is the pretty bad girl in the novel and readers quickly are enamored with her unpredictable personality.  I guess that is why I was enchanted with the character of Stargirl (Susan).  She is the queen of unpredictability and so full of life! When she first arrives at Mica High in Arizona, she takes everyone by surprise with her actions, which they consider just plain weird.  However, there is something about her that captures everyones' attention.  Soon her differences and personality are what make her the most popular girl in school.  Unfortunately, with a sudden change of events she becomes an outcast.

The main character of the book is actually not Stargirl.  It is Leo, the boy who falls in love with her and the narrator of the story. He is a junior at Mica High who is well know for being part of the school show Hot Seat. At first, Leo refuses to admit that he is very much attracted to Stargirl.  When he finally does give in to his feelings, he tries to change her in an effort to make her fit into the same crowd that shuns her.  As he finds out, people are not as accepting as he would have liked.  In fact, sometimes they are just plain cruel.  Reflecting on how he cowardly handles certain events, he experiences disappointment and regret. The story ends by fast forwarding 15 years after the encounter with Stargirl.
Believe Me You Will Want to Know MORE!!!!

Why read it?Many times people shun what they find different or what they don't understand.  Stargirl is the sweetest, most compassionate person in Mica High and yet she is despised for her kindness. This made me reflect on how I at times have labeled great people as "weirdos" and decide to stay a "safe" distance from them thinking that if I get to close I may be treated differently by others.  After getting to know Stargirl, I will try my best to refrain from taking that negative attitude ever again.  I am determined to appreciate people's differences. 

NOTE: If you like first love stories, this is the book for you as well.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Transformation of a Bully

After reading this book, each segment in this trailer will make perfect sense!
Trailer created by Cesteiner1214 and taken from YouTube.

Crash by Jerry Spinelli

Interesting Fact:
The setting of this book is in Pennsylvania, which also happens to be Jerry Spinelli home state.  Jerry Spinelli is a Newbery Medalist. Crash is directed at 5th-8th grade students and there is a guide available for using this specific novel in your classroom!

What is the book about?
Basically this is an account of bullying from the bully's perspective.  However, there are many other themes involved in the book such as caring for the environment, haughtiness vs. humbleness, and realizing what is truly important in life. 
The story is narrated by John Coogan a.k.a. Crash.  He is not only a bully but is also a popular football player, which is where he got his nickname.  Since Crash is well aware of his talent, he is very self-absorbed even claiming to be "the answer to your dreams."  He has a little sister who he considers "weird," parents that spend too much of their time working, and a loving grandfather who has grown old. Crashes target is a "dweeby" neighbor named Penn Webb who is nicknamed Spider. Crash begins to bully Penn back in first grade. The pranks get much more elaborate as Crash matches up with another bully named Mike in middle school.  The fact that Penn joins the cheerleading squad and becomes friends with the most gorgeous girl in school (whom also happens to be Crash's crush) only adds fuel to the fire.  Throughout the story Penn remains an innocent victim of bullying, never retaliating for all that Crash does to him. It is interesting to note the reasons that Crash provides for literally hating Penn, probably some of which are the same reasons real bullies have for picking on their targets.  After the 7th grade football season, certain factors begin to change in Crash's life. These changes involve his parents, money, and grandfather. Crash suddenly begins to reevaluate himself in a way that he can not explain but that he admits feels good about.  Such changes begin the transformation of a bully and lead to the best possible ending EVER!

Why read it?
I'm sure boys would say "because it's about football," but the reason is much deeper than that.  I would say that you should read it because it tells the story from a bullies eyes.  Reading such a book can help a bully understand themselves. It can also help readers, especially parents, identify some factors that can influence bullying. This story proves that people can change, that it's important to stand up for what is right, and that family comes first even if simplifying a way of life is needed.

Link to check out:
Jerry Spinelli's Website

Other Popular Books by Jerry Spinelli:
I Can be Anything (Easy Read)
Love, Stargirl

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Great Children's Books are for Teens and Adults too!

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Interesting Fact:
This book was a #1 New York Times Best Seller!  It is directed at children 7 and UP, so that includes you too! Illustrations are included within the novel.  It is typed in large text so it is possible to read in one day...probably in a couple of hours!

About the book:
This story is about a concieted china rabbit named Edward Tulane. Edward is owned by a little girl named Abliene who loves him dearly.  Despite having such a loving owner, Edward finds humans annoying, has no interest in their affairs, and only loves himself.  Due to an unfortunate event, Edward is one day seperated from Abliene.  Soon he begins to realize that he had been unappreaciative of what he had.  He comes across many different people some of which are loving and some of which are the opposite. He goes through heartbreaks to the point of saying "I'm tired of loving and being loved, its just too painful."  Throughout the book, Edward can not talk (only to other dolls) or move, but he can think and feel emotions!  The ending will warm your heart but probably make you cry!

Why should you read it?
Personally, I think that we should not only read it but share it with others because it teaches such powerful lessons such as friendship, love, and appreciation.  Lessons that are valuable at any age.  It helps us evaluate our attitude towards what we have, who we love, and those who love us.

Image borrowed from the official Edward Tulane website.

Related Links:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Interesting Fact:
This is a fictional book based on a real historical event. It revolves around the effects that Hurricane Katrina had on Louisiana, but especially on the Ninth Ward.