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Book Geek, Episode 1

September 24th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Book Geek, Podcasts

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Hello, my name is Ms. Nancy and I am a book geek. I like reading books, talking about books, reviewing books, hearing about what books my students, their families and others are reading. I love books and I hope you love books, too. I’m starting a new feature here — podcasting! It will be something like the reviews they do on Reading Rainbow. (“But you don’t have to take my word for it,” LeVar Burton tells viewers before the kids give their “booktalks.”) The show stopped airing re-runs on PBS on August 28, 2009? I am not happy about this. When they were younger, my kids and I enjoyed watching the show, notebook and pen in hand to scribble down titles of books we’d like to check out. They were on the air for 26 years. The good news is you can still find Reading Rainbow booklists online, and the books are stickered at the library and bookstores, so be sure to look for them.

The show faced a lot of teasing for using television to try to get children to read. “Shouldn’t they just be reading instead of watching TV?” people asked. But you know what? “Reading Rainbow” worked. The show got children — and their parents, including me, reading, reading and reading some more.

I use the Internet and this blog for the same reason — whatever it takes to get kids reading is good by me. Every week I will try to review at least three different books, for three different reading levels. For this week, I’ve chosen author and illustrator Jon J. Muth, author Mildred D. Taylor, and author Brian Selznick.

Jon J. Muth has illustrated books for authors Karen Hesse and Eric Kimmel, and has also written and illustrated award-winning comic books that have been published in both Japan and the United States. (Just fyi, fancy comic books are now called “graphic novels” and you can look for large sections devoted entirely to the art in bookstores and libraries.) One of my favorite books by Muth is “Stone Soup,” which tells the story of three monks and their journey along a mountain road. The story has its traditional roots in European folklore. Another favorite of mine by the same author is “Zen Shorts,” about the Zen philosophy of Stillwater, a giant panda. The author uses lovely watercolor and ink in his art. I recommend these books for my little and big students — the art is inspiring and gives us lots of ideas for our own drawings and paintings, and the stories are inspirational, too.

My husband, kids and I are reading a graphic novel that we just love. This one is appropriate for all ages of readers, too. (Warning: The book contains the death of a parent, which may upset some younger readers.) It won the Caldecott Medal for 2008 and is called “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and was written by Brian Selznick. It tells the story of young clock keeper, thief and inventor Hugo. His father is dead, his uncle and guardian has disappeared, and he has a goal. It’s a goal that he thinks will kill him if he can’t achieve it. What is he working on? Will he succeed? This book is fantastic, suspenseful, well-written and illustrated. Give it a read.

My favorite book that I’m reading this week is called “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.” This is a famous book by author Mildred D. Taylor. It was written in 1976 and won the Newbery Medal in 1977. It’s set in 1933 Mississippi during the Depression, and is best geared for mature readers grades six and up.

This poignant and evocative book is one of the best works of fiction I’ve ever read. The Logan family, the central characters of the novel, also appear in the books “Song of the Trees” and “Let the Circle Be Unbroken.” The Logans are fighting for their dignity, their family, their lives, and their 400 acres of land during a time when the KKK and the night riders are making their ugly presence known in the Southern United States.

It would be nice to say that those days in America, the racial strife and violence, are long gone. We live in what is far from being a perfect world. To paraphrase one of the characters, Mr. Morrison, make yourself remember the past. Make sure you do what you can to try to make things better. Stay educated.

Reserve your books (and DVDs and music CDs) from your local library, check them out at your school if you are a student, and keep reading! I go to the library once or twice weekly, buy books new and used, and borrow what I can from friends and family. Just don’t forget to take those books back to the library when you’re done!

That’s all for this week.


Ms. Nancy

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 LIB // Sep 25, 2009 at 6:37 am

    That’s great, Nancy!

    You sold me on a book. I had ‘Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry’ in my library–but I’ve never read it. I’m putting a hold on it at the library today.

    I bet others will be inspired to read your recommendations.

    Keep up the good work!

  • 2 Kim Altig // Sep 26, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Nancy, you have done a fabulous job with this webpage. Thanks for all your links to the school library, etc. The podcast is fun, too! I hope everyone at school will check it out.

  • 3 Nancy R. // Sep 27, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Thanks for stopping by, Ms. A! And please let me know if there is anything else you would like to see included here.