Posts Tagged book lists

Good Reads for the Road

imagesOne of my favorite things about family road trips has been listening to audio books all together in the car. My family often drives from Portland to Spokane to visit the zillion Parry cousins. It’s about a 7 hour trip in good weather and although we all love to sing in the car and engage the time honored traditions of the alphabet train game and counting railroad cars passed and rivers crossed, there is really nothing  like settling in for a good hour or two of stories read aloud by an expert reader.

We had our favorites over the years. The Jim Dale readings of the Harry Potter stories are masterfully done. In a series with more than a hundred named characters Mr. Dale does an astonishingly good job with making each voice distinct.  Emperor_Mage_TNWe listened to audio books for the Chronicles of Narnia and the wonderful Full Cast Audio productions of Tamera Pierce’s stories. What is unique about the FCA recordings is that each book is recorded by a full cast and is very often narrated by its author. Bruce Coville is the founder of this project and the results are unique and very engaging. My kids particularly loved it that the child’s parts are almost always read by children.

 

We also enjoyed the work of a story teller called Odds Bodkin who has a broad collection of stories for all ages. Long before the Percy Jackson series my kids were enthralled by mythology from Odds Bodkins renditions of the The Odyssey and The Iliad. My all time favorite of his is a Celtic justice tale called The Winter Cherries. And I’ve recently found the resource Open Culture media which has a huge library of the classics in audio. Most of the titles are adult books but there is plenty there for a young reader to enjoy including The Wizard of Oz, Sherlock Holmes, The Three Musketeers, Neil Gaiman reading his own Graveyard Book and also Green Eggs and Ham, Anne of Green Gables and short stories from Rudyard Kipling and Jack London. Best of all these audios are free! Your library most likely has audio books and your local librarian no doubt has great books on tape to recommend. How about you? Does your family have a great read for the road? Let us know in the comments!Winter-Cherries

 

Indie Spotlight: Birchbark Books , Minneapolis MN

birchbark logoImagine a bookstore founded and owned by a world-renowned poet and author for adults and children. Such a unique store exists. It’s Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, created fourteen years ago by Louise Erdrich as part of her passion to ensure that true stories of the native people are told and known, and their laguages not forgotten. Birchbark Books is a teaching store, infused with a generous and welcoming spirit.  We’re talking today with store manager Susan White, about whom the website says. “If you are lucky enough to visit when Susan White is there, you will feel mysteriously better all day.”birchbark storefront

MUF:  Susan, who comes to Birchbark Books, in person and online? What experiences do you strive to provide for native readers? For non-native readers?
Susan: Ours is a neighborhood store, only 800 square ft., but people visit from all over the world, especially from France, Germany, and Great Britain, and from all over North America.  Last week we had visitors from New Zealand. People make pilgrimages!  Our online catalog serves customer in th U.S. and Canada. What makes us so unique is that we serve many communities.  Our mission is to provide accurate and truthful books about native people of the Midwest and all over the country, but we are also a carefully curated full-range bookstore for children and adults.Birchbark Interior

MUF: Your catalog and staff recommendations include so many interesting titles that we have seen nowhere else, and especially intriguing books written for, or appropriate for, children.  As middle-grade authors, we would love to know some of the titles, you particularly recommend to boys and girls ages eight to twelve?birchbark house
Susan: All our children’s books, whether native or not, are chosen for truth and beauty.   Recommendations?  First of all would be Louise Erdrich’s award-winning Birchbark House Series (The Birchbark House, The Game of Silence, The Porcupine Year).  Louise grew up on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series and loved it, but she  knew Laura’s mother was wrong when she said “there is nothing here.” Louise set the Birchbark House novels in the same place to show how much was there when seen from the eyes of the native Ojibwe.  How I Became a Ghost is by Tim Tingle , who sets his series in the 1835 Trail of Tears and writes from the character of a boy who didn’t survive it.  Moose Tracks and Wolf Shadows by Mary Cassanova are especially great for reluctant readers.  I would also recommend Summer of the Wolves, by Polly Carlson-Voiles and a native-title picture book, Black Elk’s Vision, A Lakota Story, by S.D. Nelson.Birchbark How I Became a GhostBirchbark Black ElkBirchbark-- summer of the wolves

Birchbark moose tracksMUF: We’re told that one of the most wonderful things one can take away from a visit to Birchbark Books—guaranteed forgiveness— is absolutely free.  Please tell our readers about the forgiveness booth and other features of your shop—reading spaces, native arts— that create its special atmosphere.
Susan: The forgiveness booth is meant to replace the confessional booth.  Everyone is forgiven and you don’t have to confess anything. You can get a glimpse of it in Bill Moyers’ interview of Louise : http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04092010/watch2.html. 

Despite our small size, we carry not only books but native arts, cards, and jewelry in the store, which we buy directly from the artists.  There is a loft where kids can go to read, and the younger ones can hang out in the Hobbit Hole below. 

The Forgiveness Booth

The Forgiveness Booth

Dharma

Dharma’s favorites: DOG SONGS by Mary Oliver and E.B. WHITE ON DOGS

MUF: Everyone who works at Birchbark Books seems to have a dog helping them peruse the books.  Do these four-footed aides spend their days in the shop, or do they mostly work from home?
Susan: We usually have a dog in the store.  Most often it’s my own dog Dharma.  She’s the Queen Bee and has good bookstore manners.

MUF: Do your native language materials include some introductory books for the curious beginner?
Susan: We’re part of the native language revitalization movement, especially of the Dakota, Ojibwe and Lakota languages.  We carry language materials for adults and children, including several children’s books with CDs.  Some of these materials are hard to find, and we have a large and varied selection.  Louise and her sister Heid have formed Wiigwaas (Birchbark) Press that publishes books in Ojibwe only.  So far they have three books of animal stories. We also have many bilingual books.

MUF:Do you have any  events at the store that would be of special interest to middle-graders?  Anything coming up this spring?
Susan: Of course we don’t have a lot of space for events, but we have had author signings with many young adult and children’s authors, including Phyllis Root.  This spring we’re planning to do feature her new book, Plant a Pocket of Prairie, illustrated by Betsy Bowen.  It’s coming out in May.screenshot_1266

MUF: If a family from out of town made a day visit to Birchbark Books, would there be a family-friendly place nearby where they could get a snack or a meal afterward?  And if they could stay a little longer, are there some other unique activities or places of interest nearby that they shouldn’t miss?Birchbark crafts
Susan:  Right next door is the Kenwood Restaurant, and at the end of the block is Bockley Gallery (www.bockleygallery.com)with works by contemporary native artists.  We’re only two blocks from Lake of the Isles where there are trails for hiking. And of course there are many museums and attractions throughout Minneapolis.

MUF: Thank you so much, Susan, for sharing this wonderful store and its passion with us.  Readers, if you have visited Birchbark Books or are intrigued and think you would like to, please leave a comment.

Sue Cowing is the author of the puppet-and-boy novel You Will Call Me Drog, Carolrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012

 

Teaching with Themed Literature Units: Older Middle Grade

Recently, I wrote about the value of Themed Literature Units, structured units of study designed to develop crucial literacy skills as students read, write about, discuss, and sometimes respond artistically to high-quality children’s literature.  My previous post, “Finding My Way: Teaching with Themed Literature Units,” introduces a strategy for organizing meaningful literacy instruction around memorable middle grade literature.  The post also offers a glimpse into three classrooms where teachers and middle grade students are reading great books on themes such as “Adapting to new situations,” “Taking risks to help others,” and “Courage is inside all of us.”

Today, I’d like to expand our list with an additional themed literature unit for older middle grade readers in an unusual context — a middle school Spanish class.

Overcoming Obstacles in the Search for Identity ~ 8th grade
Ceinwen Bushey is teaching 8th grade Spanish in a Seattle middle school.  She developed her unit, “Overcoming Obstacles in the Search for Identity” to help her students understand their own quests for identity and to recognize similar struggles in other adolescents in Latin America.  She introduced her students to the unit this way:  “For most teenagers like yourselves, middle school is a time of fast growth – physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. It’s also a time for developing your sense of identity, self-esteem, and relationships with your peers. This is true for kids all around the world, but some have it tougher than others. Imagine having to deal with all the things everyday teens have to deal with, then adding to them some really big obstacles. Think about what it would be like to have to move to a new country, learn to speak a new language, make new friends, eat food you’ve never seen before, not have MTV to watch, not have iPhones or iPads or Facebook, and have people thinking you look weird because you’re different from them. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to read, write, and discuss the lives of kids your age that are trying to figure things out, just like you, but who are from Latin America and have to overcome really big obstacles like the ones I just mentioned. They are teenagers who have to move to the United States from other countries, and try to figure out who they are; they’re searching for their identity. The end goal of our work together is to promote cross-cultural understanding and develop awareness that the journey toward understanding oneself is universal; that is, it connects us all to one another.”

Big Ideas
The unit guides students to understand two big ideas:
The path to self-discovery is a universal human experience and connects us all; and
Tough experiences are often the ones that teach us the most about ourselves.

Book List
            

As older middle grade readers grow, they yearn to figure out who they are and how they can make a difference in this world.  Ceinwen Bushey’s unit guides her middle schoolers to take a cross-cultural look at ways that young people, like them, find ways to overcome the obstacles in their lives as they search for identity.

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