Saturday, November 28, 2009

Booktalks for Middle and High School Students

Gaiman, Neil. 2002. Coraline. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Have you ever played the game Clue?

My favorite part of the game, is the secret passageways. I have always wanted to have secret passageways in my house, so I can sneak from the Lounge to the Conservatory or the Study to the Kitchen. Secret passageways are usually dark, narrow hallways, and they seem as though they would be covered with spiders and bugs and undesirable things. If I really found a secret passageway, would I be brave enough to go in it? I am not sure if I would. Would you be brave enough?

Well, in this book, Coraline finds a secret passageway. The scariest part about Coraline’s secret passageway, is that when she is with her mother it’s not there at all! You see, Coraline just moved into a new flat, it’s an old, big house that they have turned into several flats. Miss Spink and Miss Forcible live downstairs, and upstairs is a crazy old man training mice for a circus. But next to Coraline’s is an empty flat. Coraline asks her mother to unlock the old door, that used to lead into the other flat, and when her mother does, Coraline sees that they have bricked the other side of the door for privacy.

The next day, while both of Coraline’s parents are out, Coraline sneaks down the key to the old door and unlocks it. When she opens the door, there is no longer a brick wall but a secret passageway. Coraline thinks of herself as an explorer, so of course she heads down that secret passageway. What do you think she will find? You will be just as shocked as I was, at what she finds. Read Coraline, to find out.

Hesse, Karen. 1997. Out of the dust. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

Hi! I'm Billie Jo, and this book, Out of the Dust, is a collection of my journal entries from January of 1934 to December of 1935. Those were some hard days back in Oklahoma. I was 14 years old trying to grow up as normal as you can living in a dust bowl. Everything we owned was ALWAYS covered in dust. For example, when we set the table for dinner, we would keep the plates and cups upside down on the table until we sat down, then we would shake out our napkins, put them in our laps, and flip over our dishes leaving circles where the dust couldn't reach. Even then the dust still got in our food. Daddy used to say things like, 'The potatoes are peppered plenty tonight,' and 'Chocolate milk for dinner, aren't we in clover.' We tried to joke about the dust but it was a real hardship for us.

We lived on a farm like most everyone else but it was real hard to get anything to grow in those days. We relied on the rain, and it hardly ever came. All of our crops would get choked by the dust since they had no deep roots. But it wasn't just the dust that made life hard in those days. I was a 14 year old girl and I had hopes and dreams that took me far from the Dust bowl of Oklahoma, and far away from the trajedy that struck mama. And even though it happened many years ago, and I have been trying hard to forgive myself and Daddy; its still hard to talk about. But you can read about it in my journal if you would like, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.

Spinelli, Jerry. 2000. Stargirl. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

There is always someone a little bit different in every high school. And in our school, Mica Area High School, there was Stargirl. The question we all had about her was: is she real? Most people don't walk into a new school and a new situation with such boldness; usually they try to blend in for awhile and see how things normally go. But this wasn't Stargirl's plan. She walked in and immediately made a name for herself. But it wasn't such a good thing. Who wears cream dresses with ruffles all the way to the floor that look like they could have been your grandmother's wedding dress? Who keeps a ukelele strapped to their back? Who carries a large canvas bag with a large real-life sized sunflower painted on it? Who plays and sings Happy Birthday to people they don't even know? Who does that? Stargirl does it.

But is she real? Do you think that the administration could have planted an actress among us to boost morale and give us school spirit? To make things more interesting here? That's what Hillari Kimble thinks and Kevin agrees with her because if she's not fake, then she's in real trouble. Can she last in our high school if she's real, or will she be mocked and teased until she leaves. High school is a rough place and she may want to think about that because I think she might be real; and I think I may want to get to know her better. Read Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli to find out more about her.

Collins, Suzanne. 2008. The hunger games. New York: Scholastic Press.

"My first impulse is to scramble from the tree, but I'm belted in. Somehow my fumbling fingers release the buckle and I fall to the ground in a heap, still snarled in my sleeping bag. There's no time for any kind of packing. Fortunately, my backpack and water bottle are already in the bag. I shove in the belt, hoist the bag over my shoulder and flee.

"The world has transformed to flame and smoke. Burning branches crack from trees and fall in showers of sparks at my feet. All I can do is follow the others, the rabbits and deer, and I even spot a wild dog pack shooting through the woods. I trust their sense of direction because their instincts are sharper than mine.

"The heat is horrible, but worse than the heat is the smoke, which threatens to suffocate me at any moment. I pull the top of my shirt up over my nose, grateful to find it soaked in sweat, and it offers a thin veil of protection. And I run, choking, my bag banging against my back, my face cut with branches that materialize from the gray haze without warning, because I know I am supposed to run.

"This was no tribute's campfire gone out of control, no accidental occurrence. The flames that bear down on me have an unnatural height, a uniformity that marks them as human-made, machine-made, Gamemaker-made. Things have been too quiet today. No deaths, perhaps no fights at all. The audience in the Capitol will be getting bored, claiming that these Games are verging on dullness. This is the one thing the Games must not do.

"This fire is designed to flush us out, to drive us together. It may not be the most original device I've seen, but it's very, very effective.

"In a matter of minutes, my throat and nose are burning. The coughing begins soon after and my lungs begin to feel as if they are actually being cooked. Discomfort turns to distress until each breath sends a searing pain through my chest. I manage to take cover under a stone outcropping just as the vomiting begins. I lose my meager supper and whatever has remained in my stomach. Crouching on my hands and knees, I retch until there's nothing left to come up."

What will come of Katniss and the other tributes? Will she be able to survive with 23 other tributes trying to make sure that she doesn't? Who will survive... The Hunger Games?

Anderson, M.T. 2002. Feed. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.

Have you ever wondered if all the English classes that you take will ever really matter? Have you wondered what good an assigned essay will do for our future? Listen to this and decide:

"Violet asked me about my mom and dad. I told her that my dad did some kind of banking thing, and my mom was in design. I didn't understand what my dad did exactly. Whatever it was, he was off doing it on the moon until tomorrow, when they were going to tell us about our feeds.

"When I asked her what her dad did, she said, 'He's a college professor. He teaches dead languages.'

"'People study that?'

"She shrugged. 'I guess.'

"'Okay. So what are the dead languages?'

"'They're languages that were once important but nobody uses anymore. They haven't been used in a long time, except by historians.'

"'Like what languages?'

"'You know, FORTRAN. BASIC.'

"'What does one sound like?'

"She slid off the bunk, and went to get her bag. She opened it and pulled out something, which was a pen. She also had paper.

"I looked at her funny. 'You write?' I said. 'With a pen?'

"'Sure,' she said, a little embarrassed. She wrote something down. She put the pad of paper on my lap.

"She asked me, 'Do you know how to read?'

"I nodded. 'I can read. A little. I kind of protested it in School. On the grounds that the silent 'E' is stupid.'

"'This is the language called BASIC,' she said.

"On the paper it said,

002110 Gota 013500

013500 Peek 16388, 236

013510 Poke 16389 236

"She read it to me. I could tell the numbers fine.

"'So what does that mean?' I asked.

"'It's the first thing my dad teaches the students on the first day,' she said. 'It means, 'I came, I saw, I conquered.'

"I looked at her pen. 'You write all the time,' I said, completely in awe.

"'I've done it since I was little.

"'Do you write... stuff?'

"'Not stories or anything. I just write down things I see sometimes.'

"'On paper.'


"I looked at her. 'You're one funny enchilada,' I said.

"She nodded real quiet.

"'Doesn't your hand get all cramped up?' I asked. 'Don't you end up like, hook-hand?' I made hook-hand. We pawed at each other with hook-hand.

"She shook her head and smiled.

"'I asked, 'Why don't you use the feed? It's way faster.' (p. 64-66)"

Do you think in the future we will read or write? And what is this feed that is so much faster? Is faster always better? Read Feed, by M.T. Anderson and decide for yourself.

Stephenson, Lynda. 2005. Dancing with Elvis. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Weyn, Suzanne. 2004. The bar code tattoo. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

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