For Librarians

For Teachers and Librarians Page Update!

It’s smack dab (almost) mid-August, which means … time once again for our semi-annual update on what’s new on MUF’s For Teachers and Librarians page!

Here’s an overview of three great new resources and links we’ve added: (you’ll find them marked with New! on the For Teachers/Librarians page):

In the section, BLOGS (of special interest to teachers and librarians):

Top Teaching Blog by Scholastic:  Well regarded as a resource for literacy professionals everywhere, Scholastic also offers teacher-to-teacher support through the Top Teaching Blog.  Eight innovative teachers bring you right into their classrooms for ideas on how to enhance middle graders’ literacy experiences.  Even though summer is quickly waning, you’ll get some great ideas from team member Shari Edwards in this post: a challenge to herself to read a children’s book a day.

A Year of Reading:  Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn are classroom teachers and authors of acclaimed professional books on literacy.  Their blog is rich with ideas and resources for bringing middle grade readers and good books together!  Check out Franki’s thoughts on selecting that all-important first read aloud of the school year.

 In the section, GENERAL RESOURCES for teaching and literature

Finding Common Themes in Fiction Texts: 3rd grade teacher Beth Newingham offers a wonderful array of strategies and resources (downloadable posters!) to help you guide  middle grade students to find and learn from the themes in good books.  This is a rich site from Beth’s classroom in Troy, Michigan — take your time and dig in!  Beth is also part of Scholastic’s Top Teaching Blog team, so we encourage you to visit her there as well!

We invite you to share your new favorite teacher and librarian middle grade resources in the comments section below!

Picture Book Windows to the World

BHIS2This summer, I’m working with reading specialists in a literacy camp for middle grade English learners in a diverse Seattle public school. Our students are immersed in the hard work of becoming stronger readers and writers.  At the same time, they’re eagerly exploring the world around them — their familiar world of family, school, and community, as well as the broader, less familiar world beyond.  Quite fitting, given the school’s motto — “A World of Learners.”

Picture books can be powerful and engaging tools for learning about ourselves and others.  Our literacy camp students, whose families came to Seattle from around the world, are especially hungry for books that reflect their own experiences and connect them with people whose lives are very different.  Teacher librarian Theresa Gekeler suggests the following selection of picture books that open windows for readers everywhere.

My Chinatown: One Year in Poems by Kam Mak (HarperCollins, 2001).  Kam Mak grew up in a place of two cultures, one existing within the other. Using extraordinarily beautiful paintings and moving poems, he shares a year of growing up in this small city within a city, which is called Chinatown (IndieBound description).

 

My Name is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin; ill. by Barbara Kiwak (Boyds Mills Press, 2005). Bilal worries about being teased by his classmates for being Muslim. He thinks maybe it would be better if people don’t know he is Muslim. Maybe it would be best if he tells kids his name is Bill rather than Bilal. Then maybe they would leave him alone. Mr. Ali, one of Bilal’s teachers and also Muslim, sees how the boy is struggling. He gives Bilal a book about the first person to give the call to prayer during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. That person was another Bilal: Bilal Ibn Rabah. What Bilal learns from the book forms the compelling story of a young boy wrestling with his identity (IndieBound description).

Salsa Stories by Lulu Delacre (Scholastic Press, 2012). When Carmen Teresa receives a notebook as a holiday gift, the guests suggest she write down their own childhood stories, which they tell. But Carmen Teresa, who loves to cook, collects their family recipes instead!  With energy, sensitivity, and warmth, Lulu Delacre introduces readers to a symphony of colorful characters whose 9 stories dance through a year of Latin American holidays and customs. Countries include Mexico, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Guatamala and Peru. Seventeen delicious and authentic recipes are included (IndieBound description).

onegreenappleOne Green Apple by Eve Bunting; ill. by Ted Lewin (Clarion Books, 2006). Farah feels alone, even when surrounded by her classmates. She listens and nods but doesn’t speak. It’s hard being the new kid in school, especially when you’re from another country and don’t know the language. Then, on a field trip to an apple orchard, Farah discovers there are lots of things that sound the same as they did at home, from dogs crunching their food to the ripple of friendly laughter. As she helps the class make apple cider, Farah connects with the other students and begins to feel that she belongs (Clarion Books description).

mynameissangoelMy Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed; ill. by Catherine Stock (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2009). Sangoel is a refugee. Leaving behind his homeland of Sudan, where his father died in the war, he has little to call his own other than his name, a Dinka name handed down proudly from his father and grandfather before him. When Sangoel and his mother and sister arrive in the United States, everything seems very strange and unlike home. In this busy, noisy place, with its escalators and television sets and traffic and snow, Sangoel quietly endures the fact that no one is able to pronounce his name. Lonely and homesick, he finally comes up with an ingenious solution to this problem, and in the process he at last begins to feel at home (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers description).

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2010). From first-time Mexican author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh comes the story of two cousins, one in America and one in Mexico, and how their daily lives are different yet similar. Charlie takes the subway to school; Carlitos rides his bike. Charlie plays in fallen leaves; Carlitos plays among the local cacti. Dear Primo covers the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of two very different childhoods, while also emphasizing how alike Charlie and Carlitos are at heart. Spanish words are scattered among the English text, providing a wonderful way to introduce the language and culture of Mexico to young children (IndieBound description).

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits; ill. by Gabi Swiatkowska (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003). Yoon’s name means Shining Wisdom, and when she writes it in Korean, it looks happy, like dancing figures. But her father tells her that she must learn to write it in English. In English, all the lines and circles stand alone, which is just how Yoon feels in the United States. Yoon isn’t sure that she wants to be YOON. At her new school, she tries out different names – maybe CAT or BIRD. Maybe CUPCAKE! (IndieBound description).

Many thanks to Theresa Gekeler, teacher librarian at Grand Ridge Elementary in Issaquah, Washington for her wonderful book ideas!

 

Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold (Clarion, 2011) won the 2012 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award for the middle grade/young adult and was named a 2012 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com.

Happy Flag Day! Let’s celebrate with an interview with award-winning author Kate Messner and a giveaway!

 

Happy Flag Day!

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What better way to celebrate than to talk to award-wining author Kate Messner        

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about her middle-grade mystery book, Capture the Flag!

 

Kate’s newest middle-grade novel series has it all – excitement, intrigue, high-stakes action, and best of all it centers on the stolen American flag! What a great idea and a fun topic for our Flag Day post!

 

 

A stolen flag, a secret society, and three complete strangers . . .
Capture-the-Flag
Anna, José, and Henry have never met, but they have more in common than they realize. Snowed in together at a chaotic Washington, DC, airport, they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle named for an ancient king. Even stranger, news stations everywhere have just announced that the famous flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been stolen! Anna, certain that the culprits must be snowed in, too, recruits Henry and José to help find the thieves and bring them to justice.
But when accusations start flying, they soon realize there’s even more than a national treasure at stake. With unexpected enemies lurking around every corner, will the trio solve the heist before the flag is lost forever?

 

 Praise for CAPTURE THE FLAG
A Junior Library Guild Selection
“A fast-paced mystery . . . a sparkling start for a promising new series.” –KIRKUS REVIEWS
“A novel as cinematic in execution as it is patriotic in theme.” –PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

 

I just finished reading your delightful book, Capture the Flag, I was wondering – where did you get the inspiration for this story? Did you visit the actual flag in the Smithsonian?

I did visit that flag – but not until I already knew I was going to let it be stolen in this book!  The inspiration for CAPTURE THE FLAG was actually the setting — I love airports and thought it would be great fun to set a mystery in one during a snowstorm. I love the super-charged atmosphere…everyone coming or going someplace. In airports, everyone has a story.  And I loved the idea of the snowstorm keeping everyone stuck there for a short period of time so my kids could investigate the crime, knowing that if they didn’t solve it, all the evidence and suspects would fly away as soon as the storm let up.

 

Much of the book takes place in an airport and the baggage area underneath. Were you able to go behind the scenes of the baggage handling area to do research for this book?

That’s the one thing I wasn’t able to explore firsthand in my research. Not surprisingly, airport security in a post-9/11 world doesn’t make exception for children’s authors.  However, I was able explore those under-the-airport worlds virtually, since most companies that build baggage handling systems have videos online showing how they work.

 

How much research, if any, do you do for your fiction books? Do you think this is  important?

I do extensive research for my books, especially when it comes to making sure I have the setting just right.  For CAPTURE THE FLAG, that meant spending a day at the Smithsonian, exploring behind the scenes with the curator of the flag exhibit and talking through just how those fictional bad guys might get out of the museum with the flag.

 

This book is your first mystery. Did you have fun writing it?

Great fun – but it was a great challenge, too, and taught me to plan in much more detail than I’d been accustomed to with my previous books.

 

Any tips aspiring authors should be aware of when writing mysteries for middle grade readers?

When I teach mystery writing workshops, I focus a lot on planning – the idea that suspects aren’t the only ones who need motives; investigators do, too.  It takes a lot of playing around with ideas to make sure all the details end up fitting together just right. And I think setting is huge in mysteries, too. The place can be a huge part of the story, and I encourage writers to think of it as the playground for their characters. What adventures can happen in a museum? In an airport, or a rainforest, or at the World Series?

 

Do you tend to stick with one writing level at a time or go back and forth depending on what inspires you?

I write across genres — middle grade, chapter books, and picture books – both fiction and nonfiction – and I love them all, so I couldn’t choose just one as a favorite. Most often, it’s my deadlines the determine what any given writing day looks like. The book that’s due first gets first priority, and when I’m not on deadline, I tend to play a lot, working on whatever seems to be calling me that day.

 

Your characters are ethnically diverse. How important do you think it is to have ethnically diverse characters in middle grade  books?

Very much so – and I’ve actually been quite involved in providing input for the covers for this mystery series. Scholastic has been amazing about asking for feedback, and we’ve talked about just this topic – the importance of not only including kids from different backgrounds on the covers but also showing their faces.  When I was teaching 7th grade, it was important to me that all of my students could find books with faces on the cover that looked like theirs. It was frustrating to me when most of the books I could find with brown faces on the covers were historical or issue books, where the story was about the character’s race.  In real life, it’s not like that — kids of all different backgrounds go to school and play lots of different sports and solve mysteries and have adventures, and I feel like we need to be mindful of that when we write and market books, too. I’ve been thrilled with the covers for the books in this series!  (And I can’t share the cover for book 3, MANHUNT, quite yet, but I can tell you that I think it might be the best of all!)

Many thanks!  ~Kate

 

And many thanks to you, Kate, for giving us a peek into your writing process. Mysteries are my favorite and I really loved this book! Can’t wait to read the new one in the series.

To learn more about Kate’s many amazing books, see her website http://www.katemessner.com/

Now, for what you’ve all been waiting for,  Kate has generously offered to donate an autographed copy of Capture the Flag to one lucky reader!  Simply leave a comment below and you will be entered in the giveaway.

 

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Jennifer Swanson is a life-long mystery lover. Some say she was born with a magnifying glass in one hand a Nancy Drew book in the other.