Friday, December 13, 2013

Triskaidekaphobia fine clearance

So to encourage research on Friday the 13th, we offered fine clearance for all students who came into the media center and told us what the word triskaidekaphobia means.  It encouraged students to come into the media center, even if they didn't have fines!  Definitely worth trying on the next Friday that's a 13th.  It was a huge hit!

Saturday, November 2, 2013


OriginWhat are you reading this weekend?

I'm working on several great books.  I finished Origin by Khoury last night.  It was pretty popular with our book fair crowd back in early October so I thought I'd try it.  Definitely science fiction with a little bit of romance tossed in.  I'm counting it as part of my romance stack for last week's #bookbootcamp chat.

Origin by Jessica Khoury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm still in the midst of Dear Blue Sky and I'm going to attempt Summer of the Gypsy Moths per a teacher recommendation this week.

I can't help but enjoy the sunshine today.  I'm taking my books outside to get some Vitamin D.  What about you?  Enjoy your first weekend of November!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Check and Treat

In the spirit of the frightfully holiday known as Halloween, I began a new tradition this year.  

Check and Treat!  

No, it's not overly crafty or creative and it's probably already being done by many librarians out there, with a variety of cute(r) names.  But at Muller Road, for the past 2 days, students have been "checking" and we've been "treating".  Simple concept and I really don't know why I never thought of that before.  It's a win-win for students and teachers alike.  

Students come into the media center to return, check their account, check out, or pay fines and voila, they receive a sweet treat.  For myself and my assistant, this is also a great way to hand out the candy that will no doubt end up in our stomachs by the end of the semester.  Win-win!!!

8th graders love getting a treat for checking out new books!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What are you reading this weekend?

The Ghost of GraylockSince I'm traveling this weekend, I brought along some student favorites and some picture books to keep my 3yo happy.  I finished The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe last night/early this morning.  Here's my review.  If you liked The Ghost of Graylock, then this is a good choice for you.  I have trouble keeping both of these in my library since we're doing a Scary Stories display.

The Haunting of Gabriel AsheThe Haunting of Gabriel Ashe by Dan Poblocki
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Poblocki continues the spine tingling mystery with Gabriel Ashe that he introduced in The Ghost of Graylock. Basically the story goes like this: boy loses home in fire, moves w/ family to grandmother's mansion, makes friends with local boy who is ostracized at school, has to choose b/w new friend and group of popular people, discovers local mysterious disappearances, and has to find an ending to the strange happenings around town. Gabriel is the main character but Seth's character also holds up the story. I like the pretend world that Seth introduces to Gabriel. It makes the boys seem more human, more middle school. I did not feel that there was a strong enough connection between Gabriel and his grandmother, but that is explained later in the book. Good mystery, kept my attention long after bedtime, and then of course I had trouble falling asleep.
View all my reviews

This week, I'll have Chad Crews come present his show, Authors of Mystery & Horror to all grades (6-8).  I count on books disappearing from the shelves after students see his show.  I stocked up on Edgar Allan Poe faves like Tales of Mystery and Madness, Scary Stories series', R.L. Stine, Mary Downing Hahn, and Dan Poblocki especially for that reason.  Hope you're reading something good too!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Historical Fiction #bookbootcamp

I accidentally missed #bookbootcamp this past Monday and the genre we covered in September was historical fiction. I have read many of the titles on our wiki but unfortunately, I was on single parent duty Monday night as my husband was working at Richland Library. SO, I'm blogging here as my way of contributing to our discussion, albeit a little late. Here's my list of recent historical reads for me in addition to a laundry list of suggestions that I've enjoyed.  The LONG laundry lists begins...enjoy!

I love reading historical fiction and I prefer particular time periods over others, as I'm sure most of you do too. I know my students have their personal preferences. Vietnam and the Civil Rights Era are both popular historical fiction periods in my school library. I also have some 8th grade girls who love to read the Ann Rinaldi or Carolyn Meyer titles that deal with Revolutionary America or Civil War and royal historical fiction, as I like to refer to it.

CrowMost recently I've read some great new titles that I'm recommending to my new 6th graders and my 7th and 8th graders who are doing some IRP's (Independent Reading Project) on historical fiction. Crow, by Barbara Wright, Glory Be, by Augusta Scattergood, and Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine are good titles for Jim Crow and the Civil Rights time periods.

Glory BeCrow has a male main character, Moses, and is based in Wilmington, NC in the late 1800s. Moses' father was involved in the local African American newspaper and was attempting to get into local politics, which were not open to African Americans in the South at that time. Moses shares his experiences dealing with ignorance and hatred while learning to stand up for himself and protect his family. Glory Be and Lions of Little Rock have female main characters who tell their stories of experiencing integration and their thoughts about civil rights equality. Glory is a little younger and more self-obsessed than Marlee, the main character in Lions of Little Rock. Marlee is a very strong character who stands by her friend Liz as the segregation/integration battle was waged in her school district. I found it interesting that Marlee's parents were also on both sides of the battle as educators. Lions of Little Rock is on our South Carolina Junior Book Award list for 2013-2014 and I'm selling it like hot cakes to my students.

The Quilt WalkLooking for pioneer/prairie life, try The Quilt Walk, Hattie Big Sky (and continue with Hattie Ever After), or May B. Be forewarned, these are more for fans of Little House on the Prairie. I doubt I'd try to sell these to boys but the female main characters are definitely heroines in their own right.

Hattie Big Sky (Hattie, #1)Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Looking forward to the next Hattie book. She is such a strong female character and offers a great historical fiction perspective, like Laura Ingalls Wilder.

May B.May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fabulous story in verse...May B. is truly a heroic character and this is an excellent example of historical fiction for middle grades.

View all my reviews

Breathing Room

Set in 1940, during the political unrest that would become WWII, Breathing Room by Marsha Hayles is an excellent introduction to TB and its effect during early war-time efforts on families and doctors/nurses.  It's written from the perspective of a TB patient, Evvy, who has to leave her family and live in a sanatorium until she is healed.  Evvy misses her twin brother and her father, but does not have a close bond with her mother.  She does, however, make friends with the 3 other girls in her room and I can't say that I've ever seen a middle grade book on this topic.

Between Shades of GrayCode Name VerityFor WWII fiction, always a popular time period with upper grades, Code Name Verity by Wein is a new and popular choice for girls.  While I loved the suspense of the novel and figuring out who Verity might be, I again feel like this would be more of a suggestion to girls than boys.  This is also more for 8th and 9th graders, less for middle grades as a whole.  In addition to Verity, I'd recommend Between Shades of Gray, highlighted recently due to the popularity of the OTHER novel dealing with shades of gray.  No, this does not contain similar content.  B/W Shades of Gray is based on the author's family history.  Set in Lithuania during Stalin's reign, 1941, the main character and her family are put on a train to Siberia as a result of Stalin's tyrannical rule over Russia.  The Russian Holocaust is alive in this story.  Again, I'd recommend to 7th and 8th graders.  It's on the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award list for 2013-2014.  I hope it wins!

Shadow on the MountainJump into the SkyFor boys, I'd recommend Shadow on the Mountain by Preus or Jump into the Sky by Pearsall. Espen, main character in Shadow on the Mountain, becomes a spy for Norway while the country is occupied by the Nazis.  He and his sister secretly "fight" by assisting the local Norwegians in their efforts to defeat the Germans and end their occupation.  Skiing is obviously an important mode of transportation and sport in Norway but for Espen it becomes the way to survive.  I liked the suspense and spy elements in this novel.  Now back to the USA with Jump Into The Sky. Levi Battle was left in the care of his grandmother, who passes away in Chicago. He leaves for his aunt's house in Fayetteville, NC, where he thinks he will find his father, one of the few African Americans serving in the U.S. Army in 1945. Levi sees the harsh reality of being African American in the South during that time. U.S. Army or not, he must learn to deal with society's restrictions placed on race alone. Living in the South is so very different than living in the North during this time. This is an excellent choice for 7th and 8th graders if they're looking for this time period.

Saint Louis Armstrong BeachNinth WardTo move forward in history, for middle grade students, Hurricane Katrina could be considered historical fiction.  After all, they were born around that time so their memory of it is slim and based upon oral history or what they've seen in the media surrounding the hurricane and its effects on the Gulf Coast.  So, with that being said, I have a few teachers who allow that topic as historical fiction.  Ninth Ward and Saint Louis Armstrong Beach are the two novels I'm recommending for that event.  Ninth Ward was on last year's SC JBA list and Saint Louis is on this year's list.  Again, these choices offer both a female and male perspective for this natural disaster.  Ninth Ward offers some fantasy elements, courtesy of New Orleans' voodoo heritage while Saint is a musician, a cultural link to New Orleans.

Our next #bookbootcamp discussion will be the last Monday in October so check it out!  I hope to make that one.  We'll be reading middle grades romances during October.  "See" you all there!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What I've been reading this summer....

Here's just a taste of what I've finished reading lately. I have to admit, it's hard to blog when I'm trying to finish so many great books!

My Sister Lives on the MantelpieceMy Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to this one and it was narrated by someone Scottish. Mesmerizing narration, really! I love the way Jamie overcomes his father's prejudice which is misplaced due to his sister's murder by a terrorist bomb. I disliked the way the mother abandoned the family following said murder. I thought that was a little over the top but people have different ways of dealing with tragedy and I guess she couldn't handle being with the rest of her family following the tragedy of her daughter dying. Overall, I would recommend this to upper middle and high school. There are some situations where lower middle school students wouldn't relate very well.

Mister Death's Blue-Eyed GirlsMister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would definitely keep this one reserved for mature 8th grade readers and high school. There are some overtones and situations that require a bit more maturity than 6th and 7th graders possess, usually. I really liked the historically accurate depictions and personal touches Hahn includes, since this is so close to the real events. There were times where I wanted to slap Nora out of her funk though. Surely there were things around town where she could go to keep herself busy while pining away for friends who left the town to escape the memories of the murders. I appreciated the questioning of God's mercy and Nora's escape into books that her mother may not have approved of. I found the last part to be very interesting and a good conclusion to the story. Had MDH not included that part, I can imagine the questions we readers would have for her.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 1, 2013

Game on! It's that time of summer again... #SummerThrowdown

Heise Reads & Recommends: Launching the New & Improved #SummerThrowdown

It's always nice to have a little competition when reading over the summer, or just some friendly collaboration around the world as we librarians and teachers spend our vacation time reading, whether for our students, our kids, or ourselves, it all counts in this game.  Sign up for #summerthrowdown and get your game on as we read for the fun of it during the month of July.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Catching up...

I've been playing catchup the last 2 weeks as school ended and I began chauffering my preschooler around to camps, doctor appts, and library visits.  I've finished Raft by Bodeen, Life As We Knew It by Pfeffer, Beholding Bee by Fusco, Fire In The Streets by Magoon, and Fourmile by Key.  I enjoyed them all and I won't bore anyone with the same reviews I posted on Goodreads, but I do want to stress how great these are for middle schoolers.


I would reserve Life As We Knew It for mature 7th and 8th graders, especially those intrigued with Hunger Games and Divergent.  There is some romance involved and Miranda does mention her feelings about sex and becoming a woman.  There is not a lengthy discussion about it but I can see some 6th grade parents being offended by this.  

I had students from all grades requesting Raft and I understand why, now that I've finished it.  If you like contemporary survival stories, this is one for you!  As I was reading, I couldn't help thinking of the Open Water movies.  Fourmile is a great book for boys, especially those who are missing their fathers.  It's also contemporary fiction and topics include farm life and relationship abuse (not heavily mentioned but it is a possibility), as well as dealing with grief.  

As I read Beholding Bee, I couldn't help but recall Water for Elephants during the carnival scenes.  This one is historical fiction but it's a story of a girl trying to find her way in the world with the help of a mysterious woman in a floppy hat.  I really liked the characters in this novel.  Bee, or Beatrice, learns to run, to raise a dog and a pig, and to stand up for herself and friends with the help of some ancestors.  I look forward to recommending these books to my students next year.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why do I read over the summer?

This has been a current theme across Twitter and blogs lately so I thought I'd toss my ideas into the ring too. Most simply, I read because I can and because I enjoy it.  I like meeting new characters, traveling to places real and fantastical, and imagining our world in the future.  With that being said, I'm working on several books right now.

Rump, Eleventh Plague, and Thunder Over Kandahar are consuming my time and attention as I chauffeur my little one around to camps, libraries, and such this week.  I'm excited to see Dorothea Benton Frank's newest is out.  Of course I'm 99th on the holds list but that's ok, many more titles to choose from as I await that southern delicacy.

So again, why do I read?  It's free and easy to access if I have transportation to the library.  I can check out 60 items at a time.  As long as I find Wi-Fi, I can download books and audiobooks to listen to while I cook, travel around Columbia, or spend time at work finalizing invoices/POs/last minute book orders for 2012-2013.

The most obvious answer is that reading makes me happy.  I hope you feel the same way!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer's almost here!

We're one of the last school districts around here to get out for summer and I'm patiently, well maybe not so patiently, waiting to start my summer reading.  I've signed up for the Richland Library Summer Reading Challenge and signed my preschooler up as well.  We're almost 1/4 of the way to the finish line on that challenge.  My personal and professional summer challenges are as follows:

  1. Finish reading the 2013-2014 SC JBA list (20 titles total, some already completed)
  2. Read as many middle level titles as possible this summer (endless list here)
  3. Catch up on some of the series that I've started but not finished.  
  4. Read as many picture books as possible with my son to prepare him for pre-K, or Child Development, in the fall at a real school (his words).  Of course Richland Library lets us check out 60 books at one time and we have 3 cards to choose from so......see where I'm going with this?!
  5. In addition, I'm trying to make sure I fulfill the #bookaday challenge, which shouldn't be that hard if we're covering picture books.
So many challenges, so little time!  

My audiobook apps are loaded with downloaded content and I've checked out the limit of titles for my Nook and........  Whew!  I think I'm overplanning my reading time, or should I say underestimating the rest of my life for the summer.

So the point of this post is to encourage everyone out there, all ages, to participate in a reading challenge or just plan to read daily for as little as 30 minutes.  If you don't plan on traveling, check out a great book that will take you to faraway places and meet new people that way.  If you're a MRMS student, join our Edmodo group (Middle School Reads) and let's discuss what we're reading.  Encourage your friends at BMS to participate also.  Email me if you need the code to join.  Happy pre-Summer pep talk!  Now get out there and find a book.

It's Monday, what are you reading?

I've been steadily working on some middle level novels and I'm so glad I started with Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, historical fiction set in 1960s.  If I ever meet Doug Swieteck in person, I just want to tell him he's not a chump and give him a HUGE high five.  I truly didn't think I'd like this book based on the cover and this is indeed a case where you DON'T judge a book by its cover.

Doug loves and speaks baseball.  His life experiences are sometimes met with a WWJP do question:  what would Joe Pepitone do?  For those of us who don't speak Yankee, he's a baseball player.  Doug lives with an older brother and his mom and dad.  His mom has the most beautiful smile.  His dad has a bitter mean streak and fast hands.  His oldest brother is away in Vietnam but returns about halfway through the novel.  As Doug deals with life in all of its frustrations and glories, he matures and ends up shaping his family's future in a big way.  Don't judge this book by the cover!  Read it and enjoy Doug's voice.  5 stars here!!!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

It's almost Monday, here's what I'm reading!

I finished listening to Hattie Big Sky late last week and it was a fabulous book. I'd strongly recommend it to fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which is probably why I loved Hattie so much.  The major difference in the two strong female characters is family.  Laura had one and Hattie doesn't.

In the early 1900s, Hattie travels from Iowa to Montana alone, at the age of 16, and takes over her uncle's claim of 300 acres with the provisions that she fences a certain % and farms a certain % as well.  She lives by herself in a shack that isn't weatherproofed, secure, or really very safe.  But as I listened, I thought that safety then was so different than safety now.  Back then, homesteaders were made of much sterner stuff than many of us nowadays and the major difference is...they had no choice.  They also respected their fellow homesteaders. Well, as you'll see in the book, most of them respected their neighbors.  Hattie exemplifies the homestead attitude that either she tries to make it, or she fails.  To quote a term my Grampa would have used, Hattie has gumption.

I'll stop here so I don't spoil the rest of the story but Hattie gets 5 stars from me!  I hope you think so too.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

It's Monday, what are you reading?

I'm currently working on 3 different books, well maybe 4, by the time this post is published.  I'm listening to Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson and Winter White (Belles #2) by Jen Calonita.  I'm reading Code (Virals #3) by Kathy Reichs.  After meeting with the SC Junior Book Award committee yesterday, I'm trying to finish up my "fun" books and get started on the book award titles.  There are only 125 to read.  Not that many. 

Don't get me wrong, I think all books are fun books but I have to bargain w/ myself to read some book award titles and then indulge in an adult novel or other YA title that is on my TBR list.  With #bookbootcamp starting up in 2 months, I've really got to get a move-on with book award titles.

I discovered some new titles during our JBA meeting yesterday that have already been added to my TBR list.  I'm excited to read Unchained by LB Tillit, which has been recommended for readers who like Bluford High books.  That particular group of readers is very hard to keep interested because I have a limited supply of additional recommended books.  I also have a hard time recommending new titles to that group because I haven't read anything recently that might appeal to these kids.  One of the many areas in my collection that I need to work on!  If you have some titles to recommend, please let me know!  I welcome any and all suggestions.

Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Monday, what are you reading?

So it's Monday, again, and even though it was rainy and overcast this past weekend, I was so immersed in Enchanted by Alethea Kontis that I paid it no mind.  If you like fairy tales, which I do, this is a great addition to your shelf.  I find that not as many of my students enjoy fairy tale retellings but Enchanted is just the right length for middle grade students.  How many times do I tell a student the length doesn't matter?  Too many to count.  I'm keeping Enchanted as one of those that fit the "right length" category.  Looking forward to the next in this series.  For those of you who haven't read it yet, recommend it to those students who are fans of E.D. Baker or Alex Flinn's Cloaked/Beastly writings.  5 stars to this one from Brandon's Books!

I'm continuing to listen to Under The Never Sky by Rossi and even though I'd like to say it's perfect for middle level, it really crosses into YA too.  I'd recommend it for those older middle graders, 7th and 8th, who have surpassed the juvenile status in maturity and reading habits.  Those students who liked Matched would probably really enjoy this series.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Spine Poetry

On the heels of my last post, here are some book spine poems created by both teachers and students.  I'll let you guess which ones were student created vs. teacher created.  I have a hard time telling the difference!  Of all the picnic tables we had available, this table received the most attention and was the most productive overall.  Students were tasked with creating poems by just walking around the library and pulling books off of the shelves.


Was this a challenge for them?  Absolutely!  Was it a challenge for us once all of the books were pulled off of the shelves?  Absolutely!  But it was a winner for all!

In addition to encouraging deeper thought processes in our students, we also encouraged them to read some new books, or find new topics to explore.  For example, Alcatraz.  It was the subject of a non-fiction book pulled by a 6th grader yesterday.  He checked out 3 books on the topic.  Score!

I hope you enjoy these poems as much as we do!

Student?  Teacher?  This was a very thought provoking poem.

Proud students with their creation

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Poetry Picnic

So I bit the bullet and collaborated with some ELA teachers to put on our very first annual Poetry Picnic today.  It was a huge success!  I hope to continue this with some more classes next week and I've even started discussion of spreading this out over the entire school year to keep poetry alive all months, not just during April for National Poetry Month.  Thanks to those who have done this before me and given me much food for thought, like Lorena SwetnamTamara Cox and another blog, A Year in Reading.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Digital Public Library

I can't contain my excitement about this so here's a quick post.  If you haven't see the Digital Public Library yet, go visit!  This is exactly what we need in schools, a collaborative effort for our students to be able to do quality searching of digital content around the world.  Of course, I haven't tested it on student devices yet so I'm containing my excitement until I do so.  Murphy's Law, ya know.  Happy Friday ya'll!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Weekend reads - Game Changers by Mike Lupica

What are you reading this weekend? I have so many books checked out from the public library (44), not to mention from my school library (including audiobooks) that there's no way I'll get through them all in 2 days but I'm going to try!

In the car, I'm listening to Game Changers by Mike Lupica and I've found that I really enjoy his books. They're easy to stereotype as tween guy fiction but in reality, girls would probably enjoy them too, esp. if those girls enjoy playing in their local Pop Warner league. Proud to say that one of my students read The Underdogs, another by Lupica, and enjoyed it!

Mike Lupica develops the friendships among teammates to a good degree, with each character having a unique strength, or weakness, depending on the plot. Game Changers is about the local QB, Shawn, whose dad was the local QB star turned pro who now coaches the kid's league and expects his son will carry the torch, or ball, too. This time, the son isn't feelin' that QB glory and he chokes during the games, costing his team valuable points. Of course, on the team is another local kid, Ben, who would just LOVE to take over as QB but it remains to be seen if the coach will "see the light" and make a position change. I really like Ben's character. If my son grew up to be like Ben, an affable, agreeable sort, I would be thrilled. Chances of many kids being just like Ben, slim. However, Lupica does a good job of developing Ben's good nature and his friendship with Sean. I'm not finished with this book yet but I'm looking forward to the next and have been pushing Lupica's books like crazy with my students this week. I hope you enjoy Game Changers as much as I am enjoying it. 5 stars here on Brandon's Books!


So I've had this blog out in blog-land for 2 years and finally, my first post. Lately, in my life as a middle school librarian, I've struggled with the best way to booktalk what I'm reading, so that my students (and teachers) can see what might be good choices for them. I'm on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, etc... yet I feel like I should be using something more reflective, like a blog, so that it's MY reflection, not written by me but eventually owned by someone like Amazon. So, here it is, finally. Welcome to Brandon's Books!