Mardi Gras is BIG deal in Louisiana. We even got a week break over the holiday! As a northerner, the culture surrounding Mardi Gras was fascinating. I knew I had to incorporate the holiday into the library in some way, and in the end, we came up with Book Character Dress Up day. Parades and costumes play a large role in Mardi Gras festivities, so dressing up in costume made complete sense, we just added a literary spin to the proceedings. On the Friday before Mardi Gras break, students (and staff) dressed up like their favorite book character. My first year I dressed up as Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter, and in my second year, I dressed up as Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Seeing the kids embrace their favorite characters was so much fun! Of course, there were a ton of Katniss, Harry Potter, and Superhero costumes, but it was really fun to see the range of characters the kids chose. The White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia, Pinocchio and Horrid Henry come to mind as some of the more unique costumes seen.
I started a middle and high school book club in my second year as the school librarian in Louisiana. We had a small group, but each student actively participated and came up with their own questions, and encouraged discussion amongst the group. Overall, my role was pretty limited. Watching the leadership and teamwork develop was pretty wonderful. Over the course of the year, we read:*
“The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.”
“Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’ s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.
Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.”
A brave and beautiful story that will make readers laugh, and break their hearts at the same time. Now with a special note from the author!
Steven has a totally normal life (well, almost).
He plays drums in the All-City Jazz Band (whose members call him the Peasant), has a crush on the hottest girl in school (who doesn’t even know he’s alive), and is constantly annoyed by his younger brother, Jeffrey (who is cuter than cute – which is also pretty annoying). But when Jeffrey gets sick, Steven’s world is turned upside down, and he is forced to deal with his brother’s illness, his parents’ attempts to keep the family in one piece, his homework, the band, girls, and Dangerous Pie (yes, you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is!).
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.
“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”
A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.
By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.
But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.
For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf–her wolf–is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human … until the cold makes him shift back again.
Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human–or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.
Inspired by the author’s childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.
Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope—toward America.
This moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it “enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny.”
My favorite part of book club, was seeing book reviews by students who claimed that the book club books were their favorite books. One girl cited Stargirl as a positive influence on her self confidence and another wrote that Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie encouraged her to be more patient with her hyperactive brother, because it “could be so much worse.”
*reviews from Amazon.com
Pigeon, Elephant and Piggie, Knuffle Bunny… who doesn’t love Mo Willems? While still at the school in Louisiana, I conducted one of my all time favorite programs for Kindergartners through second graders: a Mo Willems author study. We read all the books by Mr. Willems in the library, discussed the characters, the storylines, the humor and the illustrations. We learned that Piggie, Elephant and Pigeon are all a bit dramatic (major understatement here), the characters like to talk to the reader, and Mr. Willems has a very distinct artistic style. The children recognized his books even if they didn’t know the characters (Hooray for Amanda and her Alligator, for example).
After reading and discussing his books, each class and I began our project. Kindergartners drew pictures of Pigeon, Elephant and Piggie, first graders came up with new ideas for Pigeon books or Elephant and Piggie books, and second graders wrote letters to Mr. Willems. This unit worked out perfectly as second graders were about to learn how to structure letters, and loved coming practicing their greetings and salutations.
At the completion of this unit, I gathered all their letters, drawings and story suggestions and mailed them to Mr. Willems. And he responded! He said he’d take some of the story ideas (Don’t Let Pigeon go to Disneyland and Don’t Let the Pigeon have a Donut) into consideration. He even sent the school a signed and illustrated poster.
The students loved reading their letter from Mr. Willems, and he definitely gained some life long fans. Combining elements of fun and curriculum made this one of my most successful school program so far.