Even Grittier

Not to "toot my own horn" or anything, but...

Pam Pleviak and I have spent this past year presenting on how educators and librarians can help our students develop Grit as we support them on research projects. Today, our blog post, "How to Encourage Grit in 21st-Century Students," was published on EDSITEment NEH, in their Closer Readings blog about the Common Core.

Read the entire post HERE. And yes, I'll come back and update the link once the move is complete.


True Grit

True Grit, the original movie
Pam and I have been discussing the articles and studies we have been reading over the past year about the need for resilience, to survive life's inevitable "slings and arrows". Again and again, research shows that the strongest, the smartest, the most talented do not necessarily succeed in life. 

Instead, the athlete (not necessarily the strongest) who keeps getting back up and trying eventually wins; the student (not necessarily the smartest) who continues to study hard despite less than an "A" average becomes a wealthy CEO; the musician (not necessarily the most talented) who practices day and night reaches enduring fame.

True Grit, the book
How many authors have you heard of who were rejected time and again, but finally got published and became best-sellers? How many actors worked odd jobs for years and even decades, but kept auditioning and taking small roles until that breakout role that made them a star? How many entrepreneurs started company after company, or patented product after product, and one day made it big? What do they all have in common? They all have an elusive quality - Angela Duckworth calls it grit - the resilience to take failure and learn from it... to take hardship and rise above it... to endure pain and even ridicule until finally triumphing.

So, if this is the stuff of success, then we desperately need to instill it in each of our students. How can we do that? Stay tuned for our ideas as we develop them.


I Love Yarn Day, 12 October


Time for some yummy amigurumi in the library (since the knitting club meets here anyway)!
Click for more information on this titleClick for more information on this title
Click for more information on this titleAnd since Monday also starts Teen Read Week, lunch hours in the school library will be devoted to craft books and some little DIY projects.



I couldn't say it better: Retire the "21st Century" in "21st Century Learning"

if only every child had access . . .
Hank Thiele has blogged about a concept many teacher-librarians mutter about. Effective learning is neither restricted to some future time, nor to a specific technology. To Learn Twice: Retire the "21st Century" in "21st Century Learning"

For some related perspective, he recommends Lisa Nielsen's summary of John T. Spencer's Adventures in Pencil Integration blog: http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2011/08/pencil-integration-blog-historical.html


If You Liked The Hunger Games...

...you'll love this book. Yes, we've all been using that line a lot lately, and there are (fortunately) quite a few YA books that deserve the comparison. I've been compiling a list, but I just threw it away because I finished a book that REALLY, TRULY will appeal to the same students.

Article 5, by Kristen Simmons, is a mashup of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (the U.S. is a totalitarian Fundamentalist theocracy), Neal Shusterman's Unwind (teens who don't comply are disposed of) and Cormac McCarthy's The Road (post-apocalyptic quest, where no one can be trusted), all wrapped up in a teen love/survival triangle à la The Hunger Games.
Ember Miller's mother does not accept the Moral Statutes that are enforced by a Taliban-style force known as the Moral Militia. As a single mother, she and Ember are in violation of Article 5 of those statutes, which means they can be targeted for "rehabilitation". Ember has absorbed enough of her mother's revolt to realize that she does not want to become a compliant, subservient "sister", so she looks for a way to escape. When all seems lost, an unlikely savior rescues her, and teaches her how to survive as they strike out to join a rumored Resistance.

Along the way, Ember must struggle with her panic over how her mother must be coping with the same kind of rehabilitation, her buried feelings for the boy-next-door that she misses, her conflicted feelings for the brutal, survival-savvy soldier who helps her, and whether she has the ability to take another's life if necessary to survive.

Like the first Hunger Games, this book ends with enough resolution to satisfy teen fans, yet enough loose ends to fuel sequels - and I sincerely hope they are in the works.


Tired of Zombies?

Not that there can ever be too many zombie apocalypse books, but perhaps it's time to move on. In that spirit, how about a robot apocalypse? Even better, it's frighteningly convincing, written by a roboticist as a mashup of "Terminator", "Chucky", and Slade's Children.
Yes, the evil robot overlord has taken control of every linked technology in the world, turning it all against the puny humans. Most are murdered by their caretakers and helpers, but a few are rounded up in slave labor camps (where they are experimented on by their captors), and fewer still are hiding in isolated pockets of resistance: the low-tech Osage Nation, an elderly Japanese manufacturer, some small Army units.


Haiti's Earthquake in YA Fiction

I just finished Nick Lake's newest YA novel, In Darkness, on a Kindle from my library. Since I loved his Blood Ninja two years ago, I was eager to read it. It was the first eBook-format ARC I had seen, and the download made it super easy to acquire and to read!

Shorty is a young, fatherless Haitian boy, living in the desparate  Port-au-Prince slum called Site Soley. Rival gangs run drugs and guns, but are revered as benefactors of the destitute families who live within Site Soley. Pre-earthquake foreign aid workers are sometimes benevolent, but other times contribute to the local violence. By the time of the Haitian earthquake, Shorty has joined his local gang in killing rivals, getting shot himself. He is recovering in the hospital when it collapses on him during the earthquake.

Trapped alone in the dark with decaying bodies, Shorty recalls his own life, but also channels the memories of Toussaint l'Ouverture as he lead a Haitian revolution against the slavery and colonialism of the French. As Shorty drifts in and out of his own memories, we realize that his neighborhood has returned to the conditions of slavery that his ancestors fought against. A little history and a lot of  current affairs should appeal to teens who are aware of international news. The depiction of gang life, some bloody violence, and a little voudou will appeal to many others.


Why yes, as a matter of fact, we are.

For all the right reasons. And, librarians are the most collaborative, and communicative, and, I suspect, empathetic. It's all those reference interviews.


You had me at "Well hello there..."

Jian Ghomeshi's CBC Radio “curatorial show,” Q, is always fascinating and often keeps me in the car long after I’ve reached my destination – just to hear the end of a great song or interview. It’s been two nights in a row now: first, William Shatner’s analysis of why our relationships with our favorite radio performers seem so intimate was especially fascinating under the circumstances…

Today, Jian interviewed Mark Schatzker, humor writer for The Globe and Mail. Schatzker's short column about Occupy Toronto protests included satirical quotes by fictional protestors, one of which has been adopted by U.S. presidential candidate Rick Perry as a rallying cry against the protests. I had to laugh when Schatzker mentioned that Perry's misuse of the quote by "Jeremy" had garnered him far more fame than his recent book, Steak, had.

Jian responded, "If only Jeremy had cited your book!" Indeed, how sad that one inflammatory sentence can take on such a life of media notoriety, while the typical media sales package did not accomplish that goal for a book by the same author!

Speaking of the Occupy Wall Street protests, does anyone else find the City of Oakland's responses this past week reminding them eerily of Cory Doctorow's YA novel Little Brother?


Sign of Our Times

I blame it on Google and Amazon.
A big book order arrived at my library, and I assigned student helpers throughout the day to unpack boxes, and check the titles off against the packing list. One young man brought me a book, and said it wasn’t on the packing list. I thanked him and congratulated him on catching the mistake.

Later, he brought me two more that weren’t on the list, then 4 more. I was astounded, because our supplier has never made such a mistake. After school, when things were quiet, I took the stack of books and checked the packing list. They were all on it. I looked at the stack of new books, wondering why my student couldn’t find them on the alphabetical list. Slowly, I realized what they had in common: all the titles started with “The…”

He couldn’t find these titles because they weren’t alphabetized in the T’s!