Book Review: Wizards of Once

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

wizard of once.jpg

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in October 2017

When I was growing up, I was a big fan of Roald Dahl (especially The Witches). I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this book up, but the writing style and illustration style brought me back to intermediate school when I was gobbling these books up.

This is the story of a world where there are two main “tribes,” the warriors and wizards. There was a war where witches were removed from the face of the earth. (witches are not what we think of with broomsticks and hats. These witches are monsters). The wizards control the magic and the warriors control the iron and the groups stay away from each other. We are challenged in the book to find the “unseen” narrator and figure out how they fit in the story. (I have my suspicions, but we’ll see as the series progresses 😉 )

Our story follows 2 characters, Xar (a wizard who hasn’t gotten his magic yet and will do ANYTHING to make it happen) and Wish (a warrior who has found a magical object). Both characters don’t fit in in their communites. Xar is trying to catch a witch, even though everyone knows all the witches are dead. He’s hoping he can steal some of it’s magic (knowing full well that he will be cursed forever). Wish has found a magical spoon and a magic sword that says, “There once were witches, but I killed them…”

Wish goes for a walk with her bodyguard and is captured by Xar. It turns out that he has found a feather with some witch blood on it. Some of the blood drops on Xar and his sprite Squeezjoos. It turns out it didn’t affect Xar, but it is affecting Squeezjoos. He will die or turn evil if he can’t get rid of the blood. Wish informs them that her mother, Queen Sychorax has a stone that takes away magic. Can they break into the warrior’s fort to save Squeezjoos? What’s going on with the witches? Are they back? Read to find out!

Quotes:

“That’s the problem with adventures. They bring out parts of you that you never knew were there.” (p. 201)

“The trouble with stories is: you have to know what they mean.” (p. 295)

“Actions have consequenses, you must pay the price of making amends, and some things happen that cannot unhappen.”  (p. 319)

“This isn’t the dark ages you know…’ (well it was, actually, but nobody ever thinks they are living in the dark ages)” (p.327)

*I recieved this ARC from the publisher, I recieved no monetary compensation for this review. Quotes may change in the final publication.

 

Theme: Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is always a concept that is fuzzy to our teens. As much as we try and relate it to their lives (imagine someone stole your project…), sometimes it’s good for them to see an example in a nonschool setting. Lately, I’ve been reading some great books that hit on intellectual property, copyright, and plagiarism in a way that isn’t preachy.

Girl versus Boy Band by Harmony Jones

girl v boy band

Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens in 2016.

Lark has been dealing with her parent’s divorce, but her mother makes life more painful. Her mother is an agent trying to discover the next big music group. She’s convinced it’s this boy band from the UK named Abbey Road and invites them to move in with her and Lark as they try to make it in the music business. Lark loves music and writing, but is crippled by stage fright. She and her friends are trying to help her overcome that when one of the boys steal her lyrics!

Sasquatch in the Paint by Kareem Abdul-Jabar

sasquatch

Published by Disney-Hyperion in 2015

Theo is a quiet, smart kid who enjoys the “Acalympics” with his friends. In 8th grade, he has a growth spurt and everyone wants him to join the basketball team. The problem is something that many teens face, it’s fun to be involved in many different things, but it’s hard to do something extremely well when you are stretched thin. In addition, Theo also has to deal with his father beginning online dating after the death of his mother. Even though some teens would assume this is just a sports book, there’s a lot of subplots with Theo’s friends and family. The part that stuck with me was about Theo’s cousin, Gavin. His cousin had a mixtape stolen and leaked online by another artist. Gavin is not a likeable character, but everyone admitted that he was good at music. How will our characters set things right?

Slacker for Gordon Korman

slacker

Published by Scholastic in 2016.

Cameron is has one dream…to make it to the East Coast Gaming Championships and defeat his nemesis Evil McKillPeople. He doesn’t care about anything else, and that gets to be a problem when he almost burns his parent’s house down. Now, he is grounded from video games until he can prove that he is doing good for the community. So he and his buddies Pavel and Chuck make a fake page on the school website called the “Positive Action Club” and put themselves as the club’s leaders. Unfortunately, the school and community think it’s a real club and they have to start doing community service to keep up the ruse. Then things get really out of hand when someone else starts editing the page and making the boys do more and more community service. Who could have possibly outwitted our heroes? Then the high school students want to compete with our middle school heroes to see who helps the community more!  This book isn’t as directly related to copyright and intellectual freedom, but it does have a hilarious way of informing that you can’t get credit without doing the work.

National Poetry Month: Blackout Poetry

Last year, I celebrated National Poetry Month by bringing poetry to lunches for “Poem in your Pocket Day” This year I wanted to add to our celebration.

I gave study hall students a chance to stretch their brain by creating black out poetry. I really enjoy the examples Kwame Alexander uses in “Booked.” I was planning on putting the ebook up on the screen as an example, but as sometimes happens in the world of technology, my projector broke. I was really lucky to have the MackinVia app on my phone and surface and held that up as an example.

poetry.PNG

We used weeded books to create our blackout poetry. We started by circling words that described our topic or told a story. The results were incredible! We then put our finished products on our “poet-tree!” These poems were mixed in with actual poet books.

Overall, it was a super easy display to make, while still fun and interactive for our students!

Tech Review: Thinglink

Thinglink is a tech tool that my inner librarian loves! Who doesn’t love the idea of embedding information inside images, it’s all the fun of digital libraries and metadata without having to know how to catalog. (yes, my geek flag is waving high).  Also, it allows us to create a polished interactive poster that doesn’t look tacky (unlike glogster…don’t hate me).

thinglinkforteachers.png

I’ve used it for a variety of projects over the past two years. With our Social Studies classes, we’ve made Africa thinglinks on regions of Africa. Our 6th grade science classes embedded different types of clouds in a sky with descriptions of each type of cloud.  With our learning support classes, we’ve created thinglinks about simple machines and states. I’m amazed how much the students enjoy
creating them.

I like that since the students are embedding information in an image, they have to reflect and decide what image would be the best to create. Then they can begin curating websites that would be good to link onto the main image. I’ve found it’s best to give them a checklist for different types of media (websites, images, youtube videos, facts with no media).

There are a few disadvantages to thinglink. When students insert a website, it autogenerates a description. If you’re a teacher creating a webquest, you are normally able to adjust the descriptions to go along with your activity. If you are a student, they have a tendency to leave the computer generated description and that shows a lack of effort and creativity. I know I had the really remind my kids about adjusting the description. The free version doesn’t let you insert pictures easily anymore (it’s possible, but sometimes not worth the effort).

Right now I am taking a class on making hyperdocs. My mind always wraps around how students can make things, but it didn’t occur to me to use this tool as a launchpad for webquests, multimedia text sets, and other activities. It’s been interesting to brainstorm other applications for this tool. I’ve also been looking at thinglinks made by others to see if I can use them in my instruction. There’s a lot of potential in this, and I’m excited to see how it develops as a resource for educators.

What IMLS Means to Me…

With all the budget cuts, its easy to think that Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) doesn’t have as much impact as other programs. Sometimes, it seems like the same libraries benefit and other libraries (school libraries, rural libraries) feel left out. But sometimes things is not as they seem. IMLS’ impact can be felt even if your library has not directly benefitted.

imla

Let’s look at my library. I am in a small, rural, public school library. I have applied for LSTA grants multiple times unsuccessfully, I tried applying for an IMLS grant unsuccessfully. Even though I have not received money directly through them, I’ve benefitted indirectly from grant reciepients. One goal of IMLS grants is to move the library profession forward. Their strategic plan focuses on innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Many of their grants provide professional development for librarian professionals and educators.

I’ve had the privledge of participating in two mentoring programs at the state level funded by IMLS and LSTA. The first was Pennsylvania School Library Association’s (PSLA) Emerging Leaders Program. This program connected me with mentors, other strong librarians, and helped me grow a network of professionals that I still rely on. Rural librarianship has a tendancy to leave professionals feeling isolated and inadequate. I know that I would not be the same professional today if I didn’t access to this mentoring program early in my career. Working with other educators to see what they were doing acrss the state broadened my horizons and encouraged me to work harder for my students make sure they were as competitive as students from across the state. We were able to compare curriculum, technology, instructional strategies, library management, and programming ideas. Now I try and pay it foward and connect with other librarians face to face and online, promoting programs like the Emerging Leaders Program. As a young librarian, my goal has always been to keep myself centered and avoid feeling isolated. These opportunities have helped me flourish.

ELA-1.jpg

The second program was Pennsylvania’s ILEADUSA. This program did end up with grant money going toward my library, but the more important part came from the professional development that came with the program. This was an immersive program where we worked with a team to develop a project and expand our technology skills. These trainings opened my eyes to the great things going on in all types of libraries across the state.

presentation

I admit that I mostly speak to school librarians and view many problems through a school librarian’s lense. It was refreshing to see life through the eyes of a public or academic librarian. They had a different way of approaching problems and a different view. Although all three types of libraries promote life long learning, we all have drastically different ways of implementing it. In the school library, it is very direct. We give them lessons, maybe some clubs, but it is very structured. Academia is more hands off. Students are given a menu of options and very little structure. Public Libraries have to market themselves and develop programming depending on the needs of their community. Both public and academic don’t have a captive audience like I do. Talking with librarians from these settings made me realize that I could have a balance in how I encourage life long learning.

Programs led by IMLS give me a chance to grow as a professional. They help me think of new ways to service my students. They force me to step back and reflect on my school and my program and think how I can improve it. IMLS empowers me to be a better librarian and serve my community and my students in the best way I can.

 

Book Review: Ghosts

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

ghosts

Published by Scholastic in 2016.

This book took me a long time to get to. It happened to come out during my book fair in November, and I book talked it during our raffle and so many kids jumped on the waitlist for my libray copies! It’s take me this long to for it it be back on the shelf!

Catrina and her family are moving to Bahia de la Luna because the air will be better for Catrina’a sister Maya to breathe. Catrina misses her friends, but is hoping that that her sister can be healthier. As they wander around, they meet Carlos who gives ghost tours. Maya is so excited about the idea of meeting a ghost. Cat is not. Telgemeirer doesn’t shy away from the reality of degenerative conditions.

ghosts page.jpg

Page 72, Dying isn’t pretend. It’s real.

Carlos realizes that Maya’s best chance of meeting a ghost is by going to the mission. Once there, Carlos explains that ghosts need a little encouragement to interact with the living. They love the smell of foods, and need a breath from a living person before they can speak. The ghosts are so excited by Maya’s youthful energy that she’s overwhelmed by their attention. Carlos and Cat have to run her to the hospital.

Months pass, and Cat is still angry at Carlos for endangering her sister. She goes to school as her sister recovers, starts making friends, and worries about when and if Maya will recover. Her mother reminds her that Cystic Fibrosis is something that gets worse over time, not better.

Dia de los Muertos rolls around and Maya has to stay in. Cat ends up going trick or treating with her friends, then they go to the party downtown. Cat realizes that ghosts are not terrible and finds a way to share them with her sister.

I love that literature opens the door for hard conversations. Even in a happy, fun graphic novel, these issues that we really don’t want to deal with can be discussed. In these books Maya’s CF doesn’t define her, but it’s still THERE. Life is like that. We all have a perspective that colors the way we view the world, but it is only a small part of who we are.

My only complaint is that the ghosts are protrayed as constantly happy, like eager puppies grateful for attention. Several others have pointed out that California missions have a complex history and many of the ghosts wouldn’t have been pleasant. I understand that sometimes we are restricted by story length and sometimes it’s hard to add nuance to everything. If we are able to generalize things in stories, (like all ghosts are nice and helpful), it becomes easier to generalize things in real life and encourages stereotyping.

 

 

 

VR Tech Review: King Tut VR

While our reading teachers were enjoying nonfiction selections about the pyramids, we decided to have our students use the King Tut VR app.
icon

This app takes you into Tutankhamun’s tomb, gives you a view of not only the mask, but the hieroglyphics in the tomb. Narration gives students a chance to realize the meaning behind these symbols.

Visually, this app is pretty nice. Not as fancy as the Nearpod 360 views or Random 42, but it meets it’s purpose and it more polished that other cardboard apps. But the simplification of hieroglyphics make it easier to for the students to see.

This app steers you toward what it is talking about. The kids may not like this, but as an instructor I love that it keeps them on task.

king-tut

From a classroom management standpoint, this app made me nervous. The app is not as powerful without the narration. It is very hard to get students to start the app at the same time. The reading teacher and I made the decision to to let the students all listen to the narration at the same time (it was a little loud and chaotic). It went much better than expected. We polled the students on their opinions on it, and they thought it wasn’t overwhelming. They are very good about listening to the ground rules of VR, (butts stay in chairs, listening ears stay on, and be careful with the ipods). The calm narration and quiet background music makes it so this app works with a crowd, but that is not the case for every app. We are lucky to have students who understand that we are feeling out the boundries of this technology and give honest and respectful feedback.

An iPod issue that we learned was with the sleep feature. The iPods were set to sleep after 2 minutes of no interaction with the screen. When we tested it, it would have a black screen just as our teachers got excited about it. To save time, we had our first class to use the app go into settings and set it so it wouldn’t go to sleep.

For more information about the app: https://www.eonreality.com/portfolio-items/king-tut/