Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Flatiron Books, 2017

Scarlett Dragna has been wanting to go to Caraval since she was ten.  Every year, she wrote a letter begging them to come to her tiny island so she and her sister can be enveloped in the mystery and magic that Caraval holds.  But there is no response....
And life goes on.  Scarlett and Tella have grown into young ladies under the cruel and watchful eyes of their governor father, who is heavy with his hand and empty with his heart.  Escape is something both girls want, but there is no way out.  Their father will hunt them down and the repercussions will be swift and hard.
But one day changes that...

Scarlett finally receives an invitation from Legend, the man who created Caraval.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience but it couldn't come at a worse time.  Scarlett is set to make a Duke (even though they haven't met) and will leave the island and be able to shelter her sister from the horrors of their daily life.  Go or stay?

On the day she receives her invitation, circumstances force to her to go to Caraval before time runs out.  Tella and Julian, both accomplices in abducting the staid Scarlett, go to the island where the sisters are separated.  All three make it to Caraval in time, and it's as magical as Scarlett thinks...but also more dangerous than she does. When she enters into Caraval, little does she know what she is getting into.  Thoughtful, staid, practical Scarlett quickly finds herself in conflict with not only her surroundings, but also the relationships she has with both her sister and the enigmatic Julian.
People aren't what they seem....don't always believe what you see...Caraval is as beautiful as it is dark.

Garber writes magic into this book not only through the plot but also with the beauty of her writing and words she chooses.  This book paints a vivid picture not only of the characters' real lives, but also the fantasy world people wish to get lost in.  Scarlett is a sharp contrast to the other characters, which adds to the depth of the relationships found in this novel and it reads quickly.  The story behind Caraval is enchanting and Garber instantly grabs the readers attention with her unique use of letters at the beginning of this novel.  Readers will be as captivated with Caraval as the characters.  This is the type of fantasy book I've been waiting for!!  Recommended for upper junior high and high school

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Growing Strong Librarians

I was asked to present a short presentation for new library directors on what librarians want from there perspective. I thought about the library directors/leaders I admire and why it was I did admire them so much. These are the attributes I came up with that I could find in all of those library leaders I look up to.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

State of the Library Report....Trying Something Different

I've done the traditional.  I've created infographics.  This year, I wanted to try my hand at a video report.  Well, it was a toss-up between that and a Buzzfeed-style report, but I'm intrigued with the animated typographic videos that are coming out.  This is ONLY a prelim (I was playing around with it today) but thought I'd post it as Biteable is an amazing site to create this kind of video!

Library Report 2017 on Biteable.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Going Beyond the Normal: Creating Unique Book Trailers

This is a presentation I did for TxLA this year about book trailers.  We seem to always use the same tools to create book trailers, so I decided to try my hand at using tools you may not have thought about or knew could be mashed!



My Adventures in Breakout EDU



When I first heard about these kits, I was very very curious.  It wasn't until I went to a conference and really learned about them that I got excited about doing this!  My excitement escalated when I got my precious two boxes of breakout edu.  Time to get started!  Well.... there were some glitches along the way, so hopefully this post may help.

First of all you get a white paper in the box that has a website and password.  I took this and went directly into the site where I found how the locks worked, how to set up a game, examples of  games- the whole shebang.  I was feeling really euphoric!

Then I started playing with the locks.  Yep....those can be a little tricky.  Some of them (READ THE DIRECTIONS!) were easy peasy, but others?  I had to play with them for quite awhile to get them to work.  It takes finesse, understanding the directions, and gnashing of teeth to have them all up and working.  So what I thought would be super easy actually took me quite awhile to set all the locks for four boxes.  WARNING:  you can't do this 30 minutes before you use them.  Give yourself at least a day so you can walk away if need be or get someone to help.

Then came the creativity.  I feel I'm a pretty creative person.  This portion, the making of the game, can't be taught to you.  It has to come from within....sometimes deep within.  I was using the these boxes as a demo and again, it took a lot of thought and practice to get a semblance of something cool.  First, you have to start out with a story ie you have to write a story.  Okay, got it. That was the easiest part of writing a breakout edu game.

THEN....you have to come up with clues for each lock.  You need to give yourself time to do this, so take time to think of these clues, as they can't be straight up answers.  This took me more time than I thought as I made FOUR DIFFERENT GAMES because of course...I didn't read the directions.  Usually you create one game and put the clues for different boxes on different colored sheets (which I read after I had completed all four games!) DUH....but something great came out of this.  After the second game, I was able to whip them out with no problem.

Next, make sure you demo this game before you actually play it.  Did I mention you need to demo this game before you actually play it?   Yes, I did with my library aides and boy, did I find where I needed more help and clues that needed to be less obtuse.  I told the students I would re-do them and they could come back tomorrow and play, which they did and they worked!!  Angels sang, the lights shone brighter...it was a miracle!

Needless to say, Breakout EDU will take you for a loop the first time.  And yes, maybe the second or third.  I was frustrated through some of the process, but you know what?  When I heard the kids telling me they were thinking about replaying the game all day before they came to the library, that was all I needed to make it worth my time.  They couldn't wait to try the next one!

Bottom line?  Buy a kit.  If you can't afford it, piecemeal one through Amazon.  And start looking at lessons and see how they are using them.  I'm attaching mine here with some words of advice you can take or leave.  Now, today is the day librarians get hands on experience with it....wish me luck!!

Here is a link to the clues and story.  Remember, there are four different lessons, so one clue from each section will complete the kit

To start the game, I made a simple coded message using the wingding or webding font on MS Word.
There are LOTS of different ways to create a coded message, but this was by far the easiest.

You also have to have a directional map.  You can make one in MS Excel, and here is one I made.  I would suggest downloading it and editing it to fit your needs.

Have fun, and if you have any great tips, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Teaching and Researching like a ...SHINOBI!

(And there are 65 more synonyms for "ninja" so I'm not done with these yet!)

I had a request from a biology teacher to collaborate with her on a biomes project.  She provided her lesson plans and assessments for the project and asked how could I incorporate databases and Adobe Spark into it.  I have two days, so one will be for information, the other for creation.  Here's the research project done with Adobe Spark Page.  I also have a link with two sets of database questions from Facts on File linked, if you'd like to use this lesson.

The beautiful thing about this is that is can definitely become a template for other research projects.  If realized I can switch up the activities but keep the same framework, thus making a library of these projects that can be edited with new information or products that become available. 
Biomes

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

Fiewel and Friends, 2017

 Gwendolyn Bloom isn't enjoying school today.  Being pointed out by "that girl" and her friends while everyone else laughs at you isn't what she planned or wanted.  But this is just another stop along the string of schools she has attended, which may or may not last long.  It's on days like this she wishes her mother was there, but she can't be.  When Gwendolyn was ten years old, her mother passed away. The memories she has of that day, filled with terror and confusion, won't stop.

Her father, who is a foreign diplomat, has taken Gwendolyn around the world.  New York is the current place they call home.  Without a mother, her father is the only parent she has and she treasures that.  But one evening, after coming home, her father isn't there....nor the next night...and Gwendolyn keeps waiting. Eventually she is taken in by the older Jewish couple in loco parentis until her father shows up. And things take a turn....

One day, while Gwendolyn is alone in her apartment, a knock is heard.  Behind it are men in black searching for her father, but also through his papers and computers, asking her what he's told her about his job.  They're from the US government and for the first time, Gwendolyn is realizes what her father does.  The men looking for him are wondering is he still a spy for them or has he defected? The last known place in Europe he was detected was recorded before he went off the grid.

With only a scrap of information Gwendolyn stops at nothing to find her father.  With some help, she begins training in krav maga with a Mossad agent before getting entangled in the dark and dirty world of racketeers, arms smuggling and human trafficking.  One clue leads to another. Gwendolyn knows she's running out of time...unless it's already too late.

This book goes from zero to 100+ quickly.  The reader's emotions for the main character jumps for empathy to encouragement to excitement as they see her morph and change into someone who will pull out all the stops.  The dark world of criminals makes a large nod in this novel including introducing minor characters, all victims of human trafficking.  It's not sugar coated, but it isn't gratuitously graphic is nature either.  Teens reading this book may begin to connect with what's happening in the real world and see a larger picture.  Although others may see the rising action as a tad unbelievable, I enjoyed every page.  It reads like a Jason Bourne novel, only with a kick a** female character.  Recommended for upper JH/HS


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Coloring in the Lines: Searching for Copyright Friendly on the Web

Here's a presentation I'll be doing at a pre-conference for copyright at TxLA 2017.
The slides all have a link on them so you can click on a slide to see more.  I'm working with some stellar people, including Kevin Smith, Gretchen McCord, Stephanie Towery and Deidre McDonald.  If you can't make it, I can share my portion of it :)  Happy conferencing!!
Here's the link to open it in Google Slides



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Conference Season Is HERE!

April is the month when librarians, educators, administrators, and many many more amazing people convene for the annual Texas Library Association annual conference April 19-22.  The size of the conference is amazing, with thousands of professionals, authors, speakers, publishers, techies (and some that are all of these!) and more learn, network and present for five days of library nirvana......I can't wait!!  This year, it is in San Antonio, Texas, so here are some tips before starting off conference that'll make it even more amazing.

This year's theme is "Own Your Profession" and these next few tips will help you own it like an expert conference attendee!

1. Make your schedule now.  Don't wait until you get there and are handed a conference scheduler.  Do it now so you can really see what you'd like without having to flip pages in your hotel room.  The conference schedule is online (and yes, it includes pictures of speakers) and shows everything that is being presented.  Best of all?  Use the control+F function to search key words, speakers, events, and more to really target your learning experience.  Here's the link to the schedule

2. There always seems to be a race to the exhibit halls when they open, so be prepared ahead of time.  You usually receive a paper copy that includes coupons, but this year, you can actually download the guide with coupons to fill out early!  All you have to do is go to this link and request the PDF and you're on your way to preparedness on the exhibit floor.  (there's a tiny link below the major one...click on that.  The big one is ALA.  Keep looking below that link :)

3. The San Antonio Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center has been updated, and you may want to see the meeting rooms and ballrooms layout to help you map out for an ultimateTxLA Conference experience. Here's the link to the convention center with tons of information, including getting there and parking. It's always good to know before you go!

What's a little professional development without some fun?  Try these out!

1. The Riverwalk is considered one of the top tourist destinations in the nation!  Don't know much about it?  Not to worry!  If you find a street near the Alamo with stairs leading downwards, more than likely it's to the Riverwalk.  Lots of amazing restaurants, full of culturas, you need to go, if only to walk around.  PLUS....the conference precedes Fiesta, so there are sure to be cool vendors selling fiesta items!!  Here's a link to the Riverwalk and everything that goes along with it



2. Back in the day, my husband and I, along with friends, would cross the border for a weekend out.  We'd go shopping, eat some amazing food, and get to experience hanging out in another country (which always sounded pretty cool!)  Alas, those days aren't quite as carefree, but since you're in San Antonio, you CAN experience Mexico in the city.  El Mercado (Market Square) reminds me of those days.  Lots of stalls where authentic Mexican wares are sold line up next to each other along with some tasty eateries.  They also have a cool indoor shopping area featuring Mexican wares, jewelry, art and eveything in between you should visit too.  It's a little ways from the Riverwalk, but worth the walk (or Uber or car drive or bus etc).  Here's the link to El Mercado


3. I didn't know about this until I stumbled onto an article about it and this year I'm going! There's a beautiful church called the San Fernando Cathedral and every week there is a light show about the history of San Antonio that happens on the building. It's about beauty, history, culture...and not to be missed!  Thank goodness none of the dates are cancelled during the TXLA conference.  This is a MUST SEE!  Here's the link to the San Antonio Plaza (not too far away from the Riverwalk at all!)

I'll see you there!!!

IMAGES:
Riverwalk: https://c1.staticflickr.com/8/7669/16936302228_2482c39d53_b.jpg
El Mercado: https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4135/4917927146_822165ea83_b.jpg
San Fernando Cathedral: By Nan Palmero from San Antonio, TX, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons






Friday, March 24, 2017

Diversity in YA literature Poster

Excellent books that feature diversity from various genres that feature different diversity in today's society.  Here is the link to download the pdf


Friday, March 10, 2017

Interactive Research Activity!

I went through this EXTREMELY interesting workshop on interactive presentations and why they are important to learners.  We were tasked with doing this with a class, and this is actually the second one I'm doing (first one worked out SUPER well!)

If you've never heard of chunk and chew, it's a simple concept.  When you chunk information together, it shouldn't be handed over to the students without the opportunity to allow them to chew on it.  If they don't, the learning diminishes.  Kind of like eating your favorite meal.  Now, multiply that by 10 and see how enjoyable it would be to eat the entire thing.

Below is the Adobe Spark webpage I made for this project.  After reading the article, kids in groups will move to different posters that has each letter of the alphabet in a table.  They have a certain amount of time to write something in it that begins with that letter.  Then they rotate until the rotations are done.  When they come back to their chart, they can read what else people put down and share out the most interesting fact about the article.

The second activity involves the questions on the webpage.  It's like 4 Corners.  Students stand underneath the word that fits them best (holidays, food, movies, colors, clothing etc).  With each word is a question in an envelope they need to answer with their devices (we are 1:1).  Then they rotate to the next question until the rotations are done.

Their exit ticket is the emoji PDF before they leave, giving me feedback on if I hit the target or not.

 I'm sharing the webpage so if anyone would like to use it, they absolutely can :) Research Like a Ninja!