Classic Book Friday – Changing the World

This book has been around the library for a few years. A couple of people have read it and found it really interesting.

20150226_161950Planetwalker is John Francis’s story of finding a way to make a difference.In 1971, two oil tankers collided in San Francisco Bay. John Francis worked to help clean the resulting oil spill. But the experience affected him so much, that he decided he was going to give up riding in vehicles…no car, no bus, no train. Instead, he was going to walk everywhere. Some folks he knew started to give him a hard time, questioning his motive. Assuming he was trying to make others feel bad. Through that experience, he found that he often wasn’t fully listening to people because he was always trying to prepare his response to what they were saying. So he decided to stop talking for a day. That ended up being such a powerful experience for him that he decided to remain silent for a year. And that turned into 17 years of silence. While walking everywhere and remaining silent, he earned three degrees and traveled the country. The book recounts his journey and focuses quite a bit on the people he met along the way.

Francis no longer walks everywhere and he is no longer silent. If you’d like to get an idea of what he’s about, check out his TED Talk. It’s really interesting.

New Book Wednesday – It’s a Two-fer

So, today I have a new book and a “classic” book. But they go together, so I didn’t feel I could do one without the other. And they’re both from one of my favorite authors.

cpcSo, the “classic” in this pair is Elijah of Buxton. In this story (set, I think, in the 1860s), Elijah is born free in Buxton, Canada, a community of freed slaves. When someone steals the money his best friend was saving to buy his family out of slavery, Elijah travels to the United States to try to catch the thief. On his journey, he learns exactly what his parents went through to get out of slavery.

The “new” book is The Madman of Piney Woods. It’s a companion book to Elijah, which means that it’s set in the same “world,” but you don’t need to have read the first to appreciate and enjoy the second (kind of like Chains and Forge). This is set in the same town as Elijah, but about 40 years later (and Elijah apparently has a small part). In this book Benji and Red are two very different boys, who really aren’t friends, but who have a lot in common. Most importantly, they’ve both had an experience with the Madman of Piney Woods and want to investigate more: Benji from a journalists’ perspective and Red from a scientist’s.

I haven’t read either book yet (although I did just download the audio for Elijah and requested the audio of Madman as I was writing this), but I have not doubt that they are AWESOME. Christopher Paul Curtis is one of my favorite writers and I have never been disappointed in any of his books. One review of Madman I read said that this is really a buddy story, similar to Tom Sawyer. And I can see where a comparison to Mark Twain would be totally on the mark. Curtis writes believable, relatable, funny characters.

App of the Week – Space Station Research Explorer

Last week, I was flipping through my latest edition of Popular Science when I came across this really cool app.


Space Station Research Explorer is your chance to see what’s going on on the International Space Station. Choose facilities to see what the inside of the space station looks like. Click on part of the picture for an explanation of what you’re seeing.

Want to know about the experiments being conducted on the space station? Choose experiments and then choose which kind of experiment you want to see. Want to know about the IMAX film being shot? Want to know about combustion experiments? Want to know what kinds of experiments schools are putting together and sending into space? It’s all there. For each experiment, you can get technical details, pictures, links, and publications related to what they’re doing. Not only can you find out what’s happening now, you can scroll through past expeditions and see what happened then.

Under Media, play games, see videos, listen to podcasts. This app has a lot to offer, and I’ve only started to scratch the surface. Really, it has the potential to be a huge time suck, but it’s so cool, it’s worth it!

Space Station Research Explorer is free and available for both iOS and Android

Classic Book Friday – Twisted Classic

Today’s classic book is a twist on a classic.

romietteSharon M. Draper’s Romiette and Julio takes the Bard’s classic and gives it a modern twist. It’s a slightly older book (published in 1999, hence showcasing it on “Classic Book Friday”), so it may seem a little dated that Romiette and Julio meet in an internet chat room where they hit it off and discover that they go to the same school. Everything is going great until a local gang expresses disapproval of their interracial relationship.

I read this ages ago (probably the first time I was here at Hill Top) and remember loving it. Sharon M. Draper is a fabulous writer. In fact, she was just awarded the Margaret A Edwards award for her significant contribution to young adult literature.

Which brings me to a proposal. Every year, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), through their blog The Hub, does what they call the Best of the Best challenge. For this, they challenge people to 25 of the books that have received awards, like the Printz, the Edwards, the Odyssey, or have been named to a top ten list, like top ten graphic novels, popular paperbacks, etc. For the 4th year in a row, I’ll be participating. And I’d love it if some of you would join me. I’m not suggesting that everyone read 25 books, but a few. The full list of nominated books can be found here (2015_hub_reading_challenge_list-HTtitles). The highlighted books are ones that the library either already has, or that are on order for the library. But, as always, if there’s something you want to read that we don’t have, I will happily get it for you through interlibrary loan. Let’s see if we can, as a community, read 25 of the books!

Let me know if you’re interested in trying some of these books. If you are, I can set up either a Google Classroom or a group on Goodreads and we can keep track of what everyone is reading and what you think of the books.


New Book Wednesday – Classic Edition

So today’s book is really a classic book, written in 1979, but it’s new to our library.

kindredKindred by Octavia E. Butler is a fantastic story. Dana is a Black woman moving into a new home with her husband Kevin, a white man. Suddenly, she is transported from 1976 Los Angeles to 1815 Maryland, where she saves a young boy named Rufus from drowning and then returns to her own time. What passes as a few minutes for Dana is just a few seconds for Kevin. A short time later, she finds herself at Rufus’s side again. This time she stays longer and is gone longer. Again and again, she finds herself pulled to Rufus whenever he is in trouble. Each time her stay is longer and more dangerous. She needs to figure out what her connection is to this boy and how prevent him from pulling her back again.

There’s a little Slaughterhouse Five vibe here in that it reminded me of Billy Pilgrim’s issue of coming “unstuck in time.”

This book had been on my “to read” list for a long, long time. I finally got around to reading it just last year and I loved it. Mrs. Selinsky has said that Butler is one of her favorite science fiction writers. I’ll definitely be looking for more books by her.

New Book Wednesday – Digital Citizenship Continued

We got a bunch of new novels in the library related to techy things, just in time for Digital Citizenship Week. Today’s book gives you a real reason not to use Wikipedia…it could kill you!

wickedIf you’ve been through my class, you’ve heard the story about the school where the 10th grade edited Wikipedia to mess with the 9th grade. For those of you who don’t know it, here’s a short version: At this one particular school every year the 9th graders have to do a paper on the American Revolution and they are told, of course, not to use Wikipedia. Now the 10th graders, having done this project, know that the 9th graders are going to use Wikipedia anyway. So they go in to the relevant articles and start changing names of the military players…to the names of teachers in the school. When the 9th graders turn in their papers, they get caught having used Wikipedia and the 10th graders are caught messing with the 9th graders.

The reason for retelling that story (aside from the fact that I love it!) is that is very similar to the beginning premise of a new book, Wickedpedia by Chris Van Etten. Cole and his buddy Gavin enjoy editing Wikipedia articles and then hearing their classmates embarrass themselves when they present ridiculous informaiton like Genghis Kahn, first astronaut on Jupiter. Cole takes this to the next level when someone steals his girlfriend. He creates a Wikipedia article on the culprit and includes a date of death. Which is funny, until the kid actually dies.

Now someone is continuing this twisted tradition and classmates are dying in horrible ways. Eventually, Cole finds an article on someone important to him, and has just 7 days to find out who is behind all of this before that person meets a potentially grisly end.

I haven’t read this book yet, but it sounds like fun. I will finish this post with a caveat: according to reviews on Goodreads, the blurb on the back of the book (which I used to write this post) isn’t quite right. And that ticked some people off. No one explained what was wrong about it, but I think the general gist is there.

“Random” Book Tuesday – Safer Internet Day

As part of digital citizenship week, today we’re talking about Safer Internet Day. There’s some great stuff out there that’s being done – by kids! – to make the internet a safer place to be. One of my favorite recent stories is of Trisha Prablu and her Google Science Fair project.

And you know I need to include a book as well. Actually, we just got a bunch of new books in the library that touch on digital issues. Today seemed like a good day to talk about Random by Tom Leveen.
Tori has been accepted into the “cool kids” clique at school. She gets to hang with the cheerleaders and the jocks. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for her old friend, Kevin, who isn’t quite cool enough to hang and becomes the target of her new friends’ online harassment. When Kevin takes his own life, Tori’s Facebook page becomes the key evidence in a cyberbullying case against Tori and her new friends. The night before the trial begins, she gets a phone call from what seems to be a wrong number. The stranger on the phone tells Tori that he is going to kill himself unless she can convince him otherwise before the sun comes up.
I really enjoyed this book (Leveen also wrote Sick about a zombie virus which is so much fun). Tori really has to think about her role in the attacks on her friend. She needs to examine her relationship with her brother and her one friend who is still standing by her. It’s really interesting and gives you something to think about.