Wednesday, October 21, 2015

10+ Sites for Classroom Digital Projects

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

2015, HarperCollins

Take one slightly OCD supervillain with a penchant for science, one golden knight who works for the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, and one superbad shape-shifter girl.

Swirl it all with a heavy dose of sarcastic humor, a heaping of death and destruction, and a taste of the days of Lancelot with a hint of today's science technology.

Read for a day (or two) and you'll see what an OUTSTANDING graphic novel this is!!

Ballister Blackheart is a supervillain.  He's created not only a name but a reputation for being the nemesis of the kingdom's golden boy, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin (and the humor begins...).  They've been fighting for years because of a joust gone wrong and nothing will mend the friendship they once shared.

And then along comes Nimona.  Such a cute girl with red hair...and a penchant to want to destroy, kill and maim.  She's a shapeshifter, and can replicate into anything in order to help Sir Blackheart take over the kingdom.  But there are a few slight problems.

He wants control and order, she lives in chaos.
He's not into hurting or killing people, she doesn't think twice about not doing it.
He's a seasoned veteran, who's been working on his reputation for awhile.  She's a young newbie, with lots of enthusiasm and curiosity.

Together, they are beginning to tear the kingdom apart (even though she's allergic to bananas  and can hardly watch a scary movie), especially after they find out what the Institution is truly up to.

The Director assigns Sir Goldenloin the task of killing the girl and capturing Blackheart, but he's not sure he can do it.  Go against the Institution and lose his place of glory or kill a little kid?  What's a knight to do?

Stevenson creates a graphic novel which not only tells a great story, but also brings about fits of laughter.  Her art is a spot-on delivery of building and creating characters and their personalities the reader understand through through the artwork Stevenson creates.  She carries it forward not only through artwork, but the subtle ways the characters interact and speak to each other all while an exciting tale is told.  No wonder this was nominated for the National Book's truly an excellent GN!    HIGHLY recommended for JH/HS

Friday, October 16, 2015

How to Win at High School by Owen Matthews

HarperTeen, 2015

 I was tasked by a student recently that most of the books I booktalked did not have a guy as the main character….so I went in search of some and this book popped.  SO glad it did! 

Adam Higgs recently moved to a new school, Nixon Collegiate, a complete opposite of where he went.  BMWs and Mercedes are standard issue cars here, and the cliques prove who has it and who copies it.  Adam fits into neither category.  In fact, he fits into only one – the loser category.  He’s carried this burden since forever.  Unlike his uber popular little sister and his athlete god status in high school brother, Adam has never been able to climb higher.  It’s just not in him.  His days consist of going to school, hanging out with Brian, the only friend he has from his old school, and seeing his brother Sam, now in a wheelchair from an injury his senior year but living independently.  Sam relives his glory days through stories and tells Adam he needs to experience it before it’s all over, but how?

Adam finds his inspiration in the movie Scarface. Kicked around, Scarface rises to the top slowly to find glory.  With that in mind, Adam takes what little money he makes at the local pizza and buys new clothes.  And the first opportunity to make a name for himself happens in chemistry.  Sarah freaking Bryant is his lab partner and when an assignment comes up, he takes it upon himself to do the work for the goddess, but at a price ten bucks a page and 50 bucks for an A.  Hey, if these people have the money, Adam figures it’s a way to make some. 

Soon his homework business begins to take off and people begin to notice how Sarah, Rob, Jessie, Alton and the others are seen with Adam.  With the growth of his business, Adam figures he can do a little more to win at high school.  Soon the homework business turns into fake IDs, turns into booze, turns into….bad.

And just when Adam is at the top of his game, his empire begins to crumble with huge consequences….

For guys wanting a guy book, this one is it, hands down.  And yes, ANY reader who enjoys real life reads will quickly snap this book up. Seen from the perspective of a teen zero to hero, the reader walks beside him at home, at work and at school to see the entire picture of a day in the life of Adam from Day One to the end.  You’ll want to warn him of the danger ahead, but can only stand there and watch the train wreck happen.  And that’s what makes this book amazing.  The plot and is solid, the characters very believable and the lives of everyone involved isn’t contrite.  Pair it up with 1-2 pages a chapter, and it reads fast...a true page-turner.    
Book pair:  Playing with Matches by Brian Katcher

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

All We Have is Now by Lisa Schroeder

Emerson and Vince are walking through the streets of Portland and it's pretty quiet...not a lot of traffic, not a lot of businesses open, very few people out.  It's been this way for awhile because everyone is spending time with their loved ones.  You see, in 28 hours, a meteor will hit the United States and those who survive will be few and far between.

Emerson and Vince just have each other.  They've been living on the streets and there is no one closer than each other.  With not much time left, both of them have made a pact to see the end of their world on their own terms, and with this in mind, they go to that jumping point in the city....and it's there that will change their lives.

Carl is standing on the bridge Emerson and Vince go to, and he saves their lives.  He tells the story of how he met someone who made a wish come true for him.  In turn, Carl is to pay it forward to five people, and Emerson and Vince will make his fifth wish happen.  When asked what they want, both of them reply with the only thing they've never really had an abundance of - money.  Carl gives him his wallet filled with money and has only one it forward.  People will be easy to find, you just have to look and see which ones have wishes or regrets and make them happen.

Emerson and Vince don't know what he's talking about until they meet people along the way as they make their way through town.  Until they see the one person who always wanted to go to Paris...and they make it happen for her.  They take two little girls home, but also take them on an adventure through a fairy tale.  And slowly, their friendship begins to change from that of friendship to one on a deeper level.

Emerson has a regret she's not sharing with Vince...the one that makes her want to go home one last time.  She knows if she tells him, he'll want to change the regret into reality, but it's so hard to go back after what she's been through...and it's too late, isn't it?

Part novel in verse, part prose, Schroeder is the weaver to lives.  Although many of the people Vince and Emerson meet are strangers, there is an invisible string that will weave their stories into one.  It's a story about what people do knowing their living their last days, but more than that, it's about the impact relationships have on one another, especially when viewed through different perspectives, even if it's the same situation.  Excellent quick read for high school!
Link to book trailer

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown

HMH Young Readers, 2015

I picked up this graphic novel because I was intrigued not only by the cover, but by how this non-fiction GN would stack up to what happened....I wasn't disappointed.

At this moment in time, there are two very significant historical moments high school students have lived through and will tell their grandchildren they were alive when it happened.  Most students can tell you about the 9/11 tragedy because there is a memorial set up, it's been televised and Youtubed, and schools usually honor those who died every year.

When asked what the other significant historical moment happened during their lifetimes, most had to think about it until I showed them the cover of the book.  Don Brown, who wrote and illustrated this GN, tells the tragic story of not only Hurricane Katrina the natural disaster, but also the tragedies that happened to those who stayed, the heroes and the villains, and how this natural disaster was SO overlooked not only by the state, but also by the federal government.  Brown's illustrations depict the sadness and desperation people felt, from those at the Superdome to those trapped in their homes, to the patients in hospitals left behind and based on factual evidence.

Brown also injects sad truth into the book as well.  Authorities in charge of the city from the top down weren't available or around during the aftermath.  Some in the police force abandoned their posts and the companies who volunteered their services  before the hurricane hit to transport those who couldn't get out were turned away...but there were the unknown heroes as well, who used their boats and other water vehicles to help those stranded on their rooftops.

While booktalking this book last week, I asked students to recall the heat in Texas in August, when temperatures easily reached into the 100s.  Would they be able to stand on a paved road for 24 hours with little or no water or food?  Coupled with extreme humidity, raw sewage, toxic water and the smell of death in the air....that's what people went through who were left behind.

This is the powerful image Don Brown creates, not only physically but emotionally as well.  And it is also something students need to know more about instead of compartmentalizing it as another hurricane that wrecked a city.

This is an important book to have in any library because it tells a story needing to be told in a format conveying more than words on pages.  Highly recommended.    

Fiction book pair:
Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi