Making Text-to-Text Connections

Today my students impressed me so much!  We were reading Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic and discussing the part of the story where Hannah/Chaya experiences the tattooing of Jews in the camps. One of my students raised his hand and said, “Ms. M., that reminds me a lot of Chains“.

Intrigued, I encouraged him to continue.

“Well, the tattooing reminded me of Isabel being branded with an ‘I’ by Mrs. Lockton. In Chains, the ‘I’ is a punishment, a way for Mrs. Lockton to take even more away from Isabel. But instead, Isabel took back the branding and made it hers. She said the ‘I’ stood for Isabel, for her, and not for insolent. And now Hannah/Chaya is taking back the tattoo, making it meaningful to her instead of just giving in and taking it.”

WOW! I had never even thought of that connection, but how great is that? It’s so true, and such a solid connection between the two novels we read this year. I am so proud of my students!

A Mirror to Nature: Poems about Reflection by Jane Yolen

A Mirror to Nature: Poems About Reflection is Jane Yolen’s newest poetry book. The photographs in the book are absolutely stunning and are taken by Yolen’s son, Jason Stemple.

Each poem is based on a picture taken by Stemple and each picture is of a reflection in nature: seven wood storks with seven reflections, a frog sitting atop a floating bottle, a solitary cockle made less alone by its reflection. The poems are brief but powerful, describing the scene in each picture and digging deeper. One of my personal favorites is the frog on the the bottle, which Yolen points out is not biodegradable- yet the frog doesn’t know the difference between it and a log.

This is a gorgeous book, with full-page, full-color photographs. I shared it with my class today as a mentor for our observation door poetry and it was a big hit. The pictures drew a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” and the poems brought out laughs and sighs of agreement. A great book to share with students of all ages, this is a must-have for your poetry collection! It is also a great book to use for science/language arts connections, as each photograph is accompanied by a brief caption giving more information.

Baker & Taylor Fall 2008 Preview

Before today, I had never been to a publisher’s preview. When my school librarian passed on the information about Baker & Taylor’s Fall 2008 Preview, I jumped at the chance. Instead of heading to school this morning, I headed up to Bridgewater, NJ to attend the event.

The preview was held at Arbor Glen, an adult living residence in Bridgewater, down the road from their warehouse. Unfortunately, the warehouse is under construction, so they were unable to offer tours like they normally do. But you know what? That is more than ok, because Arbor Glen was gorgeous! I was about ready to move in by the end of the day.

The event was held in a conference room, and I was thrilled to find water, coffee, muffins, and various pastries. The preview actually lasts 3 days, but I chose to attend today’s session because it was the easiest day for me to get away from my classes. As I had never been to a preview before, I was not sure how it would work. I arrived with 5 minutes to spare, so I grabbed a pastry (which was delicious) and found a seat just as the lights dimmed.

The publishers in attendance spoke one by one, introducing their biggest titles for next fall, with a Powerpoint to help with the finer details. I was was one the few non-librarians in the room, so the ISBN numbers, etc were not as important to me as to others, so I mostly looked at the pretty cover art images.

The morning began with Scholastic. They presented a good deal of titles, but the following were my favorites:
Maze Of Bones (39 Clues) by Rick Riordan- I should hate the idea of this series. I never like series books that are written by more than one author. Online games tied to books seem desperate. I hate it when publishers advertise books as “THE NEXT HARRY POTTER!!!!!!”. Yet, I can not wait to get my hands on this. Can. Not. Wait. The rep from Scholastic was extremely enthusiastic, and never once compared it to Harry. And my favorite part is that the few ARCs that were printed are missing the last two chapters, so that reviewers can’t get a head start on the game! The series will have two books next year, 4 in 2009, and 4 in 2010. The first book will be out in Sept. 2009

Dog Lost by Ingrid Lee- I am a sucker for animal stories. Especially dog stories. This sounds like a tearjerker! “11-year-old Mackenzie has got one friend in the whole world: Cash, his brown-eyed pit bull. His dad won the runt after a long night of drinking and gambling–ever since Mac’s mom died, that’s all he seems to do, and soon he erupts in a rage at the innocent pup, takes her away in the trunk of his car, and dumps her in the middle of nowhere. Mac vows to find Cash and bring her back home–he has to: All strays are about to be outlawed! Little does he know that while he searches for Cash, she’s surviving her own adventures and proving in the process that all dogs–even pit bulls–are born good”.

Along Came Spider by James Preller- A story of two best friends, Spider and Trey, who realize that growing up can be hard when you are different. One of the boys has a learning disability, and when they enter 5th grade he becomes a target for bullies. Is it time for the boys to end their friendship or stand up for each other?

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- YES YES YES! The buzz on this one is great. And I got an ARC today! Can not wait to read it. The rep described it as American Idol meets Survivor meets the end of life as we know it.

Kin (The Good Neighbor) by Holly Black- a new graphic novel series. Creepy and a 3 part series. I am looking forward to this one!

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Emperors of the Ice: A True Story of Disaster and Survival in the Antarctic, 1910-13 by Richard Farr- Another one I was lucky enough to scoop up an ARC of. This is a non-fiction book, grades 6 and up, that tells the tale of Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard’s journey to Antarctica to study the emperor penguin in the spring of 1910. A true life survival tale!

A Life in the Wild: George Schaller’s Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts by Pamela S. Turner- Scientist George Schaller is on a mission: to save the world’s great animals and their environments. This biography, illustrated with Schaller’s own amazing photographs, examines the amazing life and groundbreaking work of the man International Wildlife calls “the world’s foremost field biologist.” I can’t wait to get a copy of this, if only for the photographs alone. It looks gorgeous!

Charlesbridge
Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World by Jane Yolen- Jane Yolen. Enough said. I will definitely be ordering this title!

Random House
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes by Peggy Gifford- I loved the first Moxy Maxwell book. Moxy’s voice was so like my little sister’s that I had to love her! The rep told us, in hushed tones, that this one is even better than the first!

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman- The true story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Depression-era teens who created Superman, and their quest to find a publisher willing to take a chance on a new medium- comic books. In the end, they sold the rights to DC Comics for $130. Yes, you read that number right!

Those are only a handful of the books I saw today. I wrote down pages and pages of notes, with a lot of books added to my “must-get” list. Fall 2008 looks like an exciting season for most publishing houses!

To be continued later, after American Idol. Coming up, a summary of Lesley M.M. Blume’s author talk (amazing) and the unreal lunch provided by Baker & Taylor (delicious!).

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