Mooncakes: Book Review

I realize I picked most of the graphic novels on the Hub Challenge reading list, and I haven’t regretted that choice! Mooncakes is a cute story about Nova finding her way as a witch in a hidden magical world. She lives with her two magical grandmothers who run a shop in town as well as protect magical creatures in the forest behind their house. Nova stumbles upon a fight between two creatures and realizes one is actually her old friend Tam in wolf form, struggling against a demon. Tam, who uses the pronouns they, and Nova have a romantic past (and present!) and bring out the best in each other mentally and magically. Tam helps Nova to see her hearing aids as an asset, and assures her that there is no rush to leave home to apply for magical apprenticeships elsewhere. The demon previously mentioned comes back to disrupt their lives and forces and all out magical war between good and evil. With equal parts love and warfare, this would be a sweet story for 6th grade and up.

Two Can Keep a Secret: Book Review

I would recommend Two Can Keep a Secret to quite a number of girls at our school. There have been many requests for something like Pretty Little Liars or Riverdale, and I think this book would fit that mold nicely. It’s dark, twists and turns, and would be great for a mature 8th grader or any high school student who loves murder mystery books.

Two Can Keep a SecretEllery and her twin brother Ezra just moved back to their mother’s hometown of Echo Ridge to live with their grandmother. While they know their mom is better off in rehab, they have never met their father, and are a little creeped out to move to the town where their Aunt Sarah went missing years ago. Mysteries multiply quickly when they come across a dead body lying in the middle of the road on their move into town. Ellery, a novice true crime detective, starts digging deeper into the story when one of her classmate’s, Brooke, goes missing. Her story sounds eerily similar to Sarah’s story, as well as the story of another teenage girl Lacey who was found murdered in the last 5 years. Though there are many characters to keep track of in this book, Karen McManus switches perspectives every chapter, helping give a fuller, more detailed picture of the town’s story. The mysteries are all solved in the end, with a last line that leaves you feeling a little cold and afraid.

Week 32

This week, I got to do some real librarian stuff!  I planned out a research project with our 8th grade science teacher and did a Zoom session with two of her classes today, as a short refresher on using NoodleTools and creating database/website citations.  It was so nice to teach some library skills! The kids are each picking a scientist in any field that interests them, doing some research, creating notecards and an outline, and writing a short paper.  We’re focusing on the skills of paraphrasing, in-text citation, and organizing a research paper.  Hopefully it will be a useful way to end their 8th grade year and give them a solid experience to prepare for the papers they’ll be asked to write in the upper school.

Diana sent out the fourth Severn Library Supplement today, something she has been putting together for our teachers to offer resources, ideas, and some fun. This week she highlighted building virtual escape rooms and taking virtual filed trips.

We also had a really great 7th grade book club meeting today.  Eight of our regular kids came, and it was so nice to see their faces and hear their voices.  We played a rousing game of pictionary (scribbl.io) and just enjoyed hanging out.

Finally, I got some very exciting news for next year, but can’t share it just yet.  I’m waiting for a general announcement to go out to our middle school students, and then will write about it here.  Stay tuned 🙂

Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy! Happy Friday!

Brave Face: Book Review

This is a heavy one. Shaun David Hutchinson overcame so much to get to this point where he could write a memoir of his life. The book begins in 8th grade at a private Catholic school in the 1990s in Florida. Shaun struggles to first figure out who he is, then that he is gay, and finally what being gay means to him. He cannot seem to find the right group or activity where he feels seen and included, so he experiments with different versions of himself. As time progresses, we read about Shaun’s evolving feelings towards queerness and its codependency with his depression. He writes about failed relationships with females, attempted relationships with males, self-cutting, smoking, writing, and an eventual suicide attempt. There are warnings before graphic sections, allowing the reader to choose what they feel comfortable learning. That being said, Shaun never writes for the sake of shock or awe. He writes to help readers feel seen and acknowledged and hopeful for a better future. This would be a good choice for older high school students floundering in their journey to understand themselves.

Bloom: Book Review

My favorite book so far in the Hub Challenge! Bloom, a graphic novel by Kevin Panetta. Especially during this time, it was so nice to read a book start to finish that involved growing up, discovering love, and …. sourdough! Ari’s parents own a bakery, so he is all too familiar with waking up early and starting the grind of baking. His dreams lie elsewhere though. He’d rather move to Baltimore with his band and try to make it as a musician. In order to train a new employee to take over for Ari, his parents hire Hector, a boy about Ari’s age who lives and breathes baking. The two get into a groove together, and Hector reveals some inner truths about Ari – he may like boys and may like baking. With a happy ending and recipes included, what’s not to love about Bloom?

Though the characters are in their late teens, there’s nothing inappropriate for middle school aged readers. If a student loves baking and graphic novels, this could be perfect for them!

Week 31

This week all of my efforts went into Battle of the Books. Naturally, this year’s competition was forced into a virtual version, which created quite an organizational circus. A million thanks to the hosts who created a Zoom room, individual breakout rooms for every team, a live stream, fun trivia for the virtual audience, and a relatively seamless competition. I was so impressed by all the student participants who really showed flexibility, sportsmanship, and respect. Whitney put it well – “I’m really proud of all our kids who competed, for sticking with it even through this time of remote learning, social distancing, and uncertainty. We all have so much more on our mental and emotional plates right now and I was impressed with their dedication to reading the books and showing up for their teams.” The mental drain is certainly seeping in by the end of these weeks, so it is great to see kids thriving.

Other highlights of the week included a Dungeons and Dragons themed trivia, collecting resources for a 6th grade science teacher, scheduling classes for next year, and helping students with their last push to turn in their research papers.

Week 30

Hello from remote learning land! This week has amped up a level due to the fact that junior research papers are due next week AND scheduling for next year has begun. While we still aren’t sure exactly what is in store for the remainder of the year, we’re trying our best to anticipate needs and help out wherever we can. We’ve hosted Kahoot trivia during middle school study halls, met with our Battle of the Books teams in preparation for next week’s competitions, launched the virtual version of our reading challenge, emailed out book recommendations, checked NoodleTools bibliographies, found resources on everything from unemployment rates during the Great Depression to Native Americans in Western films, and finally followed up phone calls to families as part of the “Ambassadors” program. And now, I’m off to watch the middle school Talent Show and enjoy a “snow day” on Monday for a nice 3-day weekend!