Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Picture Book Wednesday: Steamboat School

As a part of our historical fiction presentation I read Steamboat School. The book focuses on the difficulty African-Americans had in receiving an education in the 1840's. 

Steamboat School is the story of a boy named James. He is attending his first day of school. What James doesn't realize is that the school is located in a church basement and the students must be taught by candlelight. The students are taught by the Reverend John. The African-American students are working hard to learn when some white men and a state law prohibits their ability to be taught at the church. Reverend John with the help of James and his sister Tassie come up with a way to help the students learn. 

Deborah Hopkinson does an excellent job of writing this historical fiction book based on the true story of John Berry Meachum. Meachum was a former slave who believed in the importance of education. He created different schools to help educate young African-Americans. 

Hopkinson book is an excellent choice for educators. This book could be used as a back story to show the educational restrictions placed on African-Americans when discussing topics such as racial segregation and introducing Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. 

I recommend adding this book to school libraries at all levels, public libraries, and the personal libraries of historical fiction lovers. Sara and I will be discussing this book further and providing more resources on this book at our Nerd Canp Session in two weeks. Some lucky individual will also get to take this book home. Look for Sara and I in our Two Nerdy Sisters t-shirts. 

New Book Tuesday 6/28

haven't bought any new books in three weeks! Shocking, right? Rest assured, I'm not sick. I gave away 15 books and bought 8 books for our Day One presentation at Nerd Camp MI:

Two Nerdy Sister's Present Best in Historical Fiction:What's Nerd Camp without books? Come explore the newest trends in historical fiction with one expert in history and one super nerdy reader and history aficionado. Books for all grade levels presented. The best part: lots of giveaways! We know you are nerdy too, so feel free to share titles with us! (Elementary, Middle School, High School, Reading, Cross Curricular) Presenters: Sara Ralph and Amy Ralph

It's less than two weeks away! We're so excited!

Here are the new books for this week:

also went to B&N on Sunday and picked up these lovelies:

To be able to give away as many books as possible at our presentation, some of the books will have been "gently read" by Amy and/or myself. Well, I'm not going to get Salt to the Sea read so this copy will be given away so I can keep my copy.

Happy reading everyone!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

YA Friday: Helping The LGBT community

My heart has been very heavy this week as I see the continued mistreatment of people in the LGBT community.

Last week Sara mentioned the recent passage of the HB2 bill in NC. This bill shows a clear bias towards transgendered individuals in NC. The hatred towards the LGBT community continued this week with the massacre of  49 people. Events like these lead me to the question "When will it stop?"

While terrorism is a whole different issue, hatred of people who are different continues in the United States. What can the literary community do to end this cycle? I think that we can help by providing our students and children with materials to help them be informed about the differences of others. 

Members of the literary community often interact with children who maybe considered LGBT students. Providing books that help children see themselves in the story maybe helpful to children who are struggling with mistreatment because they are LGBT. These material may also  help heterosexuals to understand more about the LGBT community and become more understanding. 

Below are some links to lists of excellent LGBT books from 2016: 

Here is a link with books for all ages in honor of LGBT pride month:

Middle Grade Thursday: Some Kind of Courage

Devotion. Determination. Bravery. Kindness. And yes, courage. All of these words describe the main character of Dan Gemeinhart's 2016 middle grade novel, Some Kind of Courage, which is set in Washington State in 1890. Joseph is driven by one thing and one thing only: getting back his beloved family horse, Sarah. Before his father died, he asked a man named Mr. Grissom to take care of Joseph. When Mr. Grissom sells Sarah to a corrupt horse trader, Joseph bravely confronts him, taking both the money and his father's gun to go off on foot to rescue his horse.

Along the way, Joseph meets a young Chinese boy, Ah-Kee, who is stranded without food or shelter. Even though there is a language barrier between them, the two boys decide to travel together to find Sarah and Ah-Kee's people, developing a deep friendship along the way. This book is a definite page-turner as the boys face adventure at every turn from wild animals to river rapids. I also appreciated the historical setting. I often have commented that the "dead parent trope" is often overdone in children's literature, but children living during frontier times really did have to contend with losing their entire families to disease or accidents. The treatment of Ah-Kee because of his ethnicity, treatment of Native Americans, difficulty of access to medical treatment and the dangerous environment in general of the West are also addressed. While a horse is not a pet, I think today's readers can appreciate Joseph's connection to Sarah if they have close relationships with dogs, cats, etc.

I highly recommend Some Kind of Courage to all middle grade readers.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Middle Grade Thursday: Fighting Against Censorship

Two authors had their school visits cancelled because of "controversial" content in their books or in books they had book talked.

Phil Bildner's story: http://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=6781

Amy and I both have the misfortune to live in the state infamous for making discriminating against transgendered people the law.

As librarians, this goes against everything we stand for in our profession. I could rail on and on about this and the politics involved in HB 2, but it would be preaching to the choir.

I've rarely experienced author visits. We had one in my 12 1/2 years at my former school, which is a Title 1 school with 93% of the students receiving free/reduced lunch. Being a native North Carolinian Edith Cohn very generously came for free. I ordered 20 copies of her book, Spirit's Key, from Amazon. I sold 10 copies, gave away 5 and put the other 5 in our library. The kids talked about the visit for weeks afterwards. They were amazed that someone who had a book published was willing to come to see them.

Despite attending schools in an upper middle class neighborhood, author visits aren't a common occurrence at my children's schools. Carolyn, who is finishing 7th grade, very excitedly attended an extension of nErDcampMI, nErDcamp Jr., in 2014, and met three authors. Charlotte, who is finishing 4th grade is coming to the same event this year. Not a day goes by that she doesn't mention meeting Raina Telgemeier. 

The fact that adults would willingly choose to take away the magical experience of an author visit from kids is both baffling and heartbreaking.

What can I do? What do librarians do? We put books in the hands of kids. The greatest inspiration for this is my friend and the Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schu, aka @mrschureads. He has given books to both Amy and me. Plus, he was the King of Author Visits during his tenure as a school librarian. 

Teachers and/or school librarians: I'm giving away three bundles with the following books for your school or classroom libraries. Contact me in some way (comment on this post, reply to a tweet or FB msg or RT) to win. Contest ends Thursday, June 16 and the winner will be announced on Friday! Also, I am calling tomorrow to donate to Kate's initiative to help the kids in Burlington, VT. More details here: http://www.katemessner.com/5425-2/

Books in the giveaway bundle:

And Edith's for coming to my school gratis! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Picture Book Wednesday: Ninja! Attack of the Clan

NArree Chung's Ninja holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it one of my favorite read alouds with my youngest daughter, but it really taught me how upper elementary can find love for a picture book. I can still picture a 4th grade student name Onya, begging me to replay the book trailer for Ninja again. The rest of the class responded with, "Yes" and "Please, Mrs. Ralph?" We were watching book trailers that represented various genres in preparation for a class assignment. We watched it a second time, and then they begged for a third. I let them watch it 15+ more times during check out time. Our hold list for Ninja remained very long and it consisted of mostly 4th and 5th graders.

I was so excited to find out about a follow up:

Our fearless ninja, Maxwell, is seeking out someone to play with him, but everyone in his "clan" (family) is too busy. He resigns himself to being alone , but a fabulous surprise awaits him as he goes to eat his dinner. Chung takes on a subject to which almost every child can relate. As a parent, I cringed guiltily at times when I dismissed my children when they wanted to play. The panels and speech bubbles of the layout give the book huge kid appeal.

My own ninja said: Hey, I've never seen this book before!

Me: That's because it just came out today.

Christine: I want to read it.

And she did.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016