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What joy there is in finding a good book…

These posts are divided by Module (genre for each week’s reading) and are in reverse chronological order. Happy reading, Mary

Nancy Drew Graphic Novel: The Fake Heir

Module 10 – Graphic Novels/Censorship Issues/SLIS 5420

Bibliography:

Petrucha, Stefan. (2006). Nancy Drew Graphic Novel: The Fake Heir. (D. Ross, Artist). New York: Papercutz/Simon & Schuster.

Summary:

While this book is not without its minor flaws (editing-wise), I think it’s a gem and the perfect book to end my list of summer reads.  I can’t help it – I still love Nancy
Drew, and I’m thrilled to see the way that the character and the mysteries are still going strong.  Finding a Nancy Drew Graphic Novel series is like finding gold, as far as I’m concerned.  I’m a big fan of Graphic Novels, and this one did not disappoint.  Here we have a modern Nancy (she drives a hybrid, of course).  As usual, she’s always stumbling into a mystery.  While the Nancy of this novel is not as polished as the earlier ones, the character is written in a way that is thoroughly age appropriate (elementary readers) and appealingly modernized.  Old friends Bess, George, and Ned are here (Ned roller blades, and George could be mistaken for a boy – I actually thought her character was Ned at first) and, of course, father Carson Drew can still be counted on to show up at just the right moment. A treasure has emerged from the bottom of the lake (when the lake becomes a sinkhole for a reason never explained).  The treasure belongs to a deceased couple who were Carson Drew’s clients.  Their only heir is a missing cousin who hasn’t been heard from in years.  When his wife shows up to try to claim the treasure, things become very mysterious.  Nancy cracks the case in trademark Nancy Drew-style.  The mystery is well-written, with clues that aren’t too obvious and with age-appropriate content.   The art is fantastic (comic-style, reminiscent of the Archie comics but more stylized). I’m delighted to discover this graphic novel series version of an old favorite that is still relevant.

Reviews:

“This graphic novel would be great for someone who either loves Nancy Drew stories or mysteries. Graphic novels are not usually a format I love, but I did enjoy this story. It is about how Nancy Drew finds a wreck of an old yacht. In the wreck, she discovers a safe filled with expensive jewelry and tries to figure out who it really belongs to.”
Warner, Emily. (2010, June 20). Review of Nancy Drew Graphic Novel: The Fake Heir. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com
This is a customer review, as very few reviews exist for this title and the only ones found were customer reviews.  Mary’s Summer Bookshelf

Ideas:

Graphic novels lend themselves to any number of purposes at multiple age levels.  The young reader graphic novels can be particularly useful in the classroom for reading times (reluctant readers may particularly enjoy them).  Having commercial series graphic novels available for SSR is a great idea.  This book could also be part of a project in a class – students could read this book or one like it and then be challenged to create their own story with pictures, for example, or it could be completed in class in groups and presented as part of a reading unit. Marrying art and text at higher reading levels allows for many opportunities for interdisciplinary projects utilizing writing, reading, and art.  A library presentation about young reader graphic novels would be a boon to young readers, and include an introduction to some of the series available, an overview of the format using the books to demonstrate, and fun activities like creating a large graphic novel as a group.

Calamity Jack

Module 10 – Graphic Novels/Censorship Issues/SLIS 5420

Bibliography:

Hale, Shannon and Dean. (2010). Calamity Jack. (N. Hale, Illus.) New York: Bloomsbury USA.

Summary:

Calamity Jack fancies himself to be something of a criminal mastermind, but one with the worst possible luck.  He lives in the “New World Territories” which are a cross between the land of fairytale, the Wild West, and the US or even London in the late 1800’s.  Jack is always trying to figure out a get rich quick scheme that generally involves things like climbing beanstalks to get the golden egg from the goose that lays them, working with his pixie friend Pru to try to scam people out of ice cream, expensive canes, flamingos – whatever.  He has a love interest named Rapunzel (Punzie for short) that he really wants to impress, and he wants to be able to help his Mamma, who has struggled with her bakery/cafe business since his dad died.  This adventurous tale is a bit reminiscent of the recent Sherlock Holmes feature movie as far as characters and scenes, and I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Jack and Sherlock and Punzie and Irene Adler.  Great fun – Calamity Jack is excellent storytelling at its best, with detailed, colorful illustrations that move the fast paced action along at rip-roaring speed.

Reviews:

“In this companion to Rapunzel’s Revenge, the swashbuckling plot shines in the graphic-novel format, with frequent wordless stretches showing adrenaline-fueled action sequences, while the panel arrangement, shifts in perspective, and sound effects drive the story forward as inexorably as a steam engine. This steampunk-flavored fairy tale will appeal to boy-, girl-, reluctant- and eager readers alike.”

Burkam, A.  (Fall 2010). Review of Calamity Jack. Horn Book. Retrieved from http://www.titlewave.com

Ideas:

Graphic novels are a favorite format of mine, and I can’t help but be encouraged by the amount of GN’s being written for young readers.  This format is great for encouraging reading as fun, and can be used in a library or school for an activity or individual reading time.  I like the idea of using Calamity Jack with traditional fairytales (such as Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, etc.) to contrast the stories and formats and talk about how fairtytales – where they come from, how long we’ve been reading them, etc. – and ask students why they think fairytales are so important.  It would be fun to have students create (in groups) a new story incorporating an old fairytale in the same way that Calamity Jack does.  It would also be fun to have each group draw and write one “scene” that blends new and old and then put them together in different orders to create stories as a group.

Included in:

ALA Great Graphic Novels for Teens – 2011

Childrens’ Books of the Year 2011  – Ages 9 to 12

Children’s Choices for 2011

Wicked Girls

Module 9 – Poetry/Short Stories/SLIS 5420

Bibliography:

Hemphill, Stephanie. (2010). Wicked Girls. New York: Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins.

Summary:

Told from the perspective of key figures in the Salem witch trials, this insightful and often biting look at the group dynamics of a cadre of Puritan girls of varied social class/status and temperament and how they managed to accuse over 60 people of witchcraft, sending many of them to their deaths at the gallows, is fascinating and amazingly well-written.  The verse leaps off the page; as a reader I was immediately there and standing in the shoes of each of the girl portrayed.  Hemphill examines psychological and environmental factors through the verse and in the voices of the players.  How a group of girls playing at fortune telling and witchcraft swayed their elders to believe that many of their neighbors had put spells on them and were witches is hard to fathom in this day and age, yet Hemphill manages to bring the events to life in a personal way that immediately makes clear to the reader just how easy it was.  Clever, insightful, beautiful, and frightening – this book is pure magic and takes social commentary to a new level.

Reviews:

“In this superbly wrought fictionalized account of the Salem Witch Trials, Printz Honor winner Hemphill offers a fresh perspective on an oft-told tale by providing lesser-known Salem accusers with a variety of compelling motivations that will resonate deeply with contemporary teens. Twelve-year-old Ann Putnam is starved for her brusque mother’s love. Her older cousin Margaret is jealous of anyone her betrothed Isaac’s wandering eye falls upon. And 17-year-old pretty, blond servant Mercy Lewis is tired of the surreptitious touches of pious Puritan men. When two other girls in their village fall prey to fits, Ann, Margaret and Mercy recognize the opportunity to be seen in a society that brands them invisible. But as their confidence grows, so does their guilt. They know exactly what they’re doing, but the rewards are too sweet to stop: “…our elders shrivel and shrink, / and we girls / grow spine tall.” In subtle, spare first-person free-verse poems, the author skillfully demonstrates how ordinary people may come to commit monstrous acts. Haunting and still frighteningly relevant. (thumbnail bios, author’s note, further reading) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)”

Kirkus Review. (2010, June 1). Review of Wicked Girls.  Retrieved from http://www.titlewave.com

Thoughts:

The perfect accompaniement to any class talking about the Salem witch trials and a great partner resource to use when teaching The Crucible to high school students, Wicked Girls can be used in a poetry unit in class or as part of a booktalk at the library to discuss everything from history to group dynamics.  This book would be great for reading aloud and/or acting out scenes in class and will give readers insight into the power of peer pressure, hysteria, and social paranoia.  Hemphill’s beautiful verse can be used in a poetry unit and should prove accessible and engaging – it’s about young people who get together and cause some serious problems for grown-ups, and about how dangerous it can be to blindly follow the leader or get caught up in a social group and lose sight of what is real and what is right, and the verse is exceptional.

Of note:

Booklist starred 6/15/10

Kirkus Review starred 6/1/10

Publisher’s Weekly starred 7/5/10

School Library Journal starred 8/1/10

Here in Harlem

Module 9 – Poetry/Short Stories/SLIS 5420

Bibliography:

Myers, Walter Dean. (2004). Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices. New York: Holiday House.

Summary:

Walter Dean Myers beautifully brings to life the voices,rythms, colors, shapes, sounds, sorrows, joys and lives of his beloved Harlem.  Myers’ poetry sings – the musicality of his words bring to life boxers, musicians, preachers, nurses, parents, streetwalkers, x-ray technicians, ballplayers, mechanics, poets and teachers.  Told in different voices (each poem is titled with a name, age, and occupation) and punctuated by vintage photographs, these poems blend together to create a community and evoke the spirit of a time and place.  These honestly written poems bring to life the aspirations and heartbreaks of generations of Harlem’s people and weave a story of the struggles and triumphs of a society.

Reviews:

“Gr 6 Up-Myers’s skill with characterization and voice are apparent as he models Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology (Sagebrush, 1962) to bring Harlem to life for readers. A complexity of experiences comes through vividly in the varying poetic styles, from the Deacon Macon R. Allen: “Don’t give me no whispering church/Don’t be mumbling nothing to my Lord/You came in crying and you going out crying/So don’t be holding back the word” to 14-year-old Didi Taylor: “I’d love to live on Sugar Hill/Be as rich as I could be/Then all the folks from down the way/Would have to envy me/I’d stick my hincty pinky out/Put my hincty nose in the air/Get a hincty chauffeur to drive my car/And a white girl to do my hair.” Selected black-and-white photos from different time periods accompany some of the poems, but the connection to the subjects is often slight. While there are occasional references to historical events or people, this collection can be enjoyed without knowing them. The rich and exciting text will give readers a flavor of the multiplicity of times and peoples of Harlem, and the more than 50 voices will stay with them, resurfacing as their understanding of the context develops. Use this title to supplement classroom presentations, for individual or choral recitation, or simply suggest that teens find a good chair, get comfortable, and listen to what the people have to tell them.” -Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Linday, Nina. (2004). Review of Here in HarlemSchool Library Journal.  Retrieved from http://www.titlewave.com

Thoughts:

This book would be great to use for a modern poetry unit at the middle school or high school level.  The format transcends what some readers might associate with poetry.  Each poem tells the story of a person and gives insight into that person’s character.  The book as a whole gives voice to an entire community.  The personal, realistic nature of the poems would lend itself well to teaching writing and reading poetry and could be read aloud in class or even acted out.  A challenge to students could be to have them write similar poems  that portray their community, their friends, family, or town.

Of note:

Booklist starred 11/1/04

Horn Book starred 4/1/05

Kirkus Review starred 11/15/04

Notable/Best Books (ALA) 1/1/05

Publisher’s Weekly starred 11/15/04

School Library starred 12/1/04

Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask

Module 8 – Mystery/Series/SLIS 5420

Biography:

Stine, R.L. (1993). Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask. New York: Scholastic.

Summary:

I got a big kick out of this book, so I think it’s a great read.  Carly Beth is just too nice.  Her guy friends play tricks on her all the time because she is so gullible.  When Halloween comes around (and her pals put a fake worm in her sandwich that she is certain was real), Carly Beth decides to get revenge.  She visits a costume shop that’s down the street from where she lives, and gets more than she bargained for when she selects one of the scariest masks from the weird backroom.  Carly Beth may get her revenge, but she learns an important (and scary) lesson about the importance of being true to yourself and not trying to be something that you aren’t. Chills and thrills!  Perfect for older elementary and middle school aged readers.

Reviews:

“..ideal for reluctant readers and Halloween-themed sleepovers…one of the better books in the Goosebumps series.”

Clark, Terreece. Review of Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask. Common Sense Media. Retrieved from http://www.wikipedia.com

Thoughts:

The Goosebumps series are indeed for reluctant readers and, as commercial series often are, they are excellent for building reading skills and encouraging the love of reading for kids.  The stories in this series read like urban legends or the kind of tales told around the campfire or at slumber parties.  Using several of these books in a library at Halloween for a storytime or other Halloween event would be perfect.  Gather the kids around and present a safe but scary storytime activity as part of the annual Fall festival or at a book fair.  Scary treats would make the event especially fun, as would putting on skits from the stories.

Stranger With My Face

Module 8 – Mystery/Series/SLIS 5420

Bibliography:

Duncan, Lois. (1981).  Stranger With My Face.  New York: Laurel-Leaf.

Summary:

What can I say?  I’ve loved Lois Duncan books since the fifth grade when I first read Killing Mr. Griffin.  Duncan is true to form in this suspenseful and different book about Laurie and the strange double who seems to be plaguing her.  Laurie lives with her family on an island on the east coast.  She is finally enjoying some social success with the “in crowd” when she’s thwarted by a girl who looks just like her.  Her friends keep seeing this girl everywhere, and Laurie is being blamed or getting into trouble with her friends because of it.  Who is this mystery person?  Is she real, or a ghost?  Laurie could swear she’s seen and even felt a presence in her room at night.  Is Laurie being haunted, or is something much stranger going on here?  Why is this mystery person causing harm to the friends who are closest to her?  The novel unfolds to reveal the mystery of Laurie’s past and the strange reason behind Laurie’s new problems.  I won’t spoil it for you.  Duncan’s suspensful tale is a great late night read for middle school or high school teens.

Reviews:

“…professionally orchestrated suspense for the willingly susceptible…”

 Kirkus Reviews.  (1982, January 1). Review of Stranger With My Face. Retrieved from http://www.bookrags.com

Thoughts:

As evidenced by the lack of any professional (editorial) reviews for this book, Duncan’s book isn’t exactly literature (though it was a top pick by ALA in 1981).  This book could be great as part of a book study if put on the reading list with similar books or other Duncan books.  It would be fun for a group of readers, as part of a library book group, to read some of Duncan books and discuss them as a group.  These are the types of books that teens love to read around Halloween, and they could be incorporated into Halloween events at the library for teen readers.  A Halloween event for all young readers with events for each age group would be a great venue for a book talk on Duncan’s classics (like Killing Mr. Griffin, Daughters of Eve, I Know What You Did Last Summer).

Of note:

ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 1981