Sunday, August 20, 2017

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Sourcebooks Fire, August 2017

Sal's life is one of stealth and swiftness.  After a war that ruined the lands and completely annihilated Nacea and its people...his people, he had to resort to thievery in order to survive.  But one fateful encounter with a lady will change his path from one of stealing goods to one of stealing lives for revenge....

The queen now rules over the lands and has put an end to dark runes and magic.  But her reign is in  time of shifting and danger, where she must be protected at all costs.  To ensure the safety of the queen four Hands, or assassins are assigned to her:  Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal.  But when one of the hands die, an audition opens to replace this position.  Twenty-three people come forward to audition, from noblemen to thieves, including Sal and his thirst for vengeance of those nobles who killed his people.

But realization begins to dawn when the rules of the audition are explained.  Only one will survive and that person will become Opal.  Everyone who auditions will have the opportunity to kill or be killed.  It's a fight to the death and one Sal intends to win.

As the deadly audition begins, trickery and conniving create a cat and mouse game that slowly decimates the twenty-three to three...but who will win and become the new Hand?  And are the liaisons people they can trust or not?

Miller weaves a tale that will enthrall fantasy readers.  Although the book does contain violent episodes, it also contains elements of castles, magic, truth and romance.  Miller adeptly creates a world where even those you think are safe aren't, and those that are evil don't succumb to good. In the events that surround Sal and those he must fight against, lies a small but very unique part of the main character's life.  She introduces the reader to a gender fluid character, but like those assassins and auditioners in this book, she introduces him subtly and without fanfare, making this topic understated instead of in your face. For the more mature fantasy reader, the novel has hints of GoT readers will find and the story will have them begging for the next installment.  Highly recommended.  HS

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Copyright and the Classroom

This was a presentation I created for professional development for teachers.  It's something they really need to understand before school starts, so feel free to use it to teach the importance of copyright, fair use and Creative Commons.  This was created after reading Renee Hobbs's book, Copyright Clarity, a MUST READ for all educators, administrators and librarians!! Click below to get to the PDF of this presentation

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Young Adult Literature Resources and Booklist

Had an amazing day with librarians throughout the Dallas area!!  Here is the presentation I did for the Summit :)

Enjoy and start reading some great books TODAY!! :)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Smashing Research: Engaging Students and the Research Project

I and my friend, Sue Fitzgerald, had the honor of being chosen to present at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago this year.  When she and I talked about our topic, we thought it would be relevant to not only talk about the importance of research, but also how to make it more engaging and student-owned.  Here is the presentation (which I can't believe I forgot to add!!)
It contains ideas for:
Project-based learning
Smashing apps to create a digital research project
TON of websites
Unique ways to combine sites for projects
Examples of excellent student proejcts

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Five Important Things For the New School Year

Happy new school year!!  The gears are starting to turn and school openings are around the corner.  School campuses are caught up in a whirlwind of professional development, campus training, and many other things that will pull them from what they want to be doing - working in the library.  If you only get one day to do this, here are some things to keep in mind and keep your mind from whirling.

1 Everyone has that to-do list for the beginning of the school year.  There are some pretty important things on that list, but take a second look.  What are some of those things you can wait on?  Sometimes lists can be an overload and focusing on completing all of them isn't productive.  Instead of the frenzy of getting things done, look over and think what should come first


2. You can't do it all yourself (although we try!).  Being a librarian is being part of a collaborative environment.  Asking others for help and asking others to help are two very different but important activities we should do on a daily basis.  Be it your admin team, campus departments or even people outside your library walls (other librarians, consultants, virtual PLN) make a call or write an email. It will make a difference.


3. Learn a new tool this year.  Try something you've never tried before and work it into your presentations and curriculum with students.  There are a ton of great new tools out there from collaborative videos (Flipgrid) to curation (Follett Destiny Collections) to new Google tools (try Blocks) and so many more.  Look at ways you can use them, but more importantly, how your campus can use them.


4. The best libraries are one that are open and ready for anyone.  Look at your spaces and start defining them.  Creating a successful learning commons takes time, but with a little ingenuity, you can create one area that is different from what was there last year.  A table, some interesting bins of low tech makerspace, a 3-D printer, whiteboard paint, signage can all help create a feeling that there's something new and different.


5. Read.  That's pretty simple, right? the world of librarianism, it's easier said than done.
 Prfoessional needs of your own and others will play right into reading time.  Educators and librarians know reading makes an impact (It's the "R" in STREAM) so make sure you have time to read and share that love and excitement.  There's nothing like the feeling of changing even one student from a non-reader to a reader.


Friday, July 28, 2017

#NTXLibCamp Resources

Three years ago, a group of librarians in North Texas decided to create the first ever libcamp in our area.  From the beginning it has grown every year and this was no exception.  There were librarians from the area, but also librarians from Austin, Houston and El Paso who attended.  PLUS teachers were encouraged to come and we have several in the crowd as well.

But the most important takeaway from LibCamp was the mass of information wealth librarians across all grade levels, expertise, years of service and awesomeness contributed toward to make this such a great professional development experience!  

And if you have something that amazing, it needs to be shared.  A google doc of the event was archived for anyone who came to have access to, but I thought it was valuable enough to share it with everyone.  Please use/read/glean from it what you can to use at your school or share with your own personal PLN.  That's the beauty of's an amazing thing!  

Here's the link to the Google Doc from NTXLibcamp 17

Also, if you'd like to see them in Twitter format, search the #ntxlibcamp hashtag to catch a quick glimpse of the highlights :)

SUPER great before school starts!! :)  Have a Happy New (School) Year 2017-18!!!

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. 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 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.