Sunday, May 31, 2009

After Tupac and D Foster



After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson



      Four stars


Neeka and her best friend had been tight since they were little kids - being hauled around in their onesies by their mamas.  They always thought it would be the two them, sitting on Neeka's stoop, laughing and cutting up.  Then they met D Foster.


D was crazy beautiful.  Even Neeka's hot brother, Jayjones, got goofy around her.  D's life wasn't so pretty.  Her mom was hooked on drugs and D had been passed around from one foster home to another.  At least Flo bought food with the state money. 


The narrator and Neeka had their own set of problems, too.  Neeka had to catch grief about her older brother, Nash.  Then Nash gets locked up over something stupid.  The narrator didn't know her daddy and times were always tough for her and her mama.


Only one person seemed to know what each girl was feeling - Tupac.  Tupac's songs and dope lyrics always spoke to their hearts. 


No matter what happened, even if they lost touch with one another, and D was lost to them forever, Neeka, the narrator, and D knew what they  had together was real. As real as the pain in Tupac's voice.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Google Earth Lit Trip

brothers-war.jpg

The Brothers’ War: Civil War in Verse by J. Patrick Lewis

 I am excited that my project using Google Earth was recently published on the Google Lit Trip site for educators.  The direct link and download for viewing in Google Earth can be located here:

The Brothers In War:  Civil War Voices in Verse - KMZ file (downloaded and opens in Google Earth)

About the book:

 This book of poems is truly amazing.  J. Patrick Lewis writes eloquently, using emotionally loaded words and imagery, to speak in the voices of various Civl War participants - both real and imagined. 

What I found ironic about this text are the juxtaposition of the flowing, beautiful language and the subsequent horror it was detailing.  Some examples of Lewis’s powerful imagery included in The Brothers’ War are the “sickle moon” revealed during the bloody aftermath of the Battle of Seven Pines,  the voice of a hospitalized Confederate soldier - “giving up the ghost To welcome Mr. Death,” a runaway slave describing his “bullwhip-long odds” of making it to freedom - ”a land as alien as space.”  The Brothers’ War also includes Civil War photographs, adding visual interest to the events of the Civil War and the text.  This book is a useful resource in both Language Arts and Social Studies classes.

Podcasts of letters - written from the point of view of a concerned father and a son.  The son is a Confederate Prisoner of War.  He writes his letter home on his way to a Union prison.

Letter from Home - Father to Son Recording - Charles Barnett, Language Arts teacher barnettecivilwar.mp3

Letter Home - Son to Father Recording by Cody Eldridge, 8th grade student at DR Hill civiwarcody.mp3

The Google Earth Lit Trip is located under the middle grade section: 6-8. Read the viewing session tips in order to view the event locations included in this book - also included in tour is supplementary information about the Civil War.   

 *You must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the file.  This should open automatically in Google Earth.  Under My Places, Temporary Files, you can select the Civil War .kmz file to view the tour. 

In order to read the content saved under each location and to view and hear media files, pause the tour and manually click on each underlined placemark.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Football Genius by Tim Green



 


  Four Stars


Troy White had a great gift - he could predict beforehand the opposing football team's strategy and plays.  Call it ESP or intuition - either way, Troy just knew he could be very valuable to his favorite team - the Atlanta Falcons. Even though the team's star linebacker lived in a ritsy neighborhood close to Troy, he knew he'd never have a chance to meet him - much less, help them have a winning season.  He couldn't even get his own football coach to let him play - not as long as Troy played the same position as the coach's annoying son, Jamie.


Troy thought his luck had changed.  His mom found a great knew job working in the PR department of the Falcons.  She even had an All-Access pass!  Troy would get to see the action up close!  And maybe, just maybe, he'd have a chance to help Seth and the Falcons win the championship.

Troy's plan fails miserably.  He gets arrested for trying to sneak up to Seth and the Falcon's Coach during a game.  His mom loses her new job.  And to top it off, she busts him for sneaking into Seth's backyard through a hole in the fence and stealing a game ball.

Troy knows he has to prove to everyone he really is a football genius - no matter what it takes.

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman




4.5 Stars   

The story begins with the dreadful murder of a family.  A young toddler is the only survivor that fateful night.  The little boy manages to escape when he decided to go exploring.  His exploration leads him outside to a nearby graveyard.  The innocent young toddler does not know he is being pursued by an assassin. 

 His recently departed mother knows her son is still in danger. She frantically appears in the graveyard and pleads to the spirits and ghosts buried there to take her son in, shelter him, and protect him from harm.

That is exactly what they do.

This begins the story of Nobody Owens.  Though the beginning of The Graveyard Book is bleak, this coming of age story is fascinating and will keep you in suspense.

Nobody, called Bod, lives in the graveyard.  His family is a host of ghosts and spirits.  Along the way, Bod frequently finds himself in danger; at times, from graveyard spirits less than kind to the living. 

He also continues to be hunted by the man who destroyed his family. As Bod gets older, he yearns for the outside world. He outgrows the younger spirits who used to play with him, and Bod wants to experience life on his own. In order to have a life in the world beyond the graveyard gates, Bod finds himself in a position of fighting for his life once more.

Can he defeat the evil man who wants him dead?  Will Bod be able to leave the only family he knows and loves behind?

This story is magical and unlike any that I have ever read before. Nail Gaiman creates a fascinating setting, interesting characters with a variety of stories to tell, and manages to weave humor, fear, and emotion into each page he has written.

Highly recommended

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