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Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci

Rose Sees RedRose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I truly enjoyed this novel about a really sweet girl, Rose, who has had a tough time because she chose to continue her dance and ballet in high school. Her "best friend" Daisy dumps her (because she chose to go to another school and pursue dance). She has no friends, and Rose lives across from a real Russian dancer, who she has never met. Life is looking really bleak for Rose until one night, Vrena, the Russian dancer, breaks into her room and they begin a friendship. The great part of this story is how Cecil Castellucci can paint the beauty of New York City for their one night out together. Castellucci does an awesome job with the characters who become Rose's friends as they create meaning, acceptance, and support with Rose and Vrena. Since Rose was seeing and feeling "black, black, black," her night out with Vrena helps her to see "red" as in Vrena's Russian life (political and cultural differences), new friends: triplets Caleb, Caitlin and Callisto, boyfriends (Free and Caleb). New York City here they come:jamming, dancing, singing, American restaurant, Russian restaurant, sleepover and participating in a peace march. Even though Rose loves to dance, this time spent with her new friends and Vrena, helps her to see how much dancing is the part of her life that she loves. With all the action piled into one night, all these young teens witnessed a real moment together, bridging any cultural gap, with love, laughs, and abandon. I highly recommend this sincere look at feeling like a stranger, overcoming international barriers, to fitting in and feeling free.

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All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg

All the Broken PiecesAll the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great first novel! This slim novel in verse uses spare words with such force. Little Matt Pin left Vietnam, been adopted by a loving family but he has nightmares and secrets he hides from everyone. He left behind a birth mother in Vietnam, an American soldier father he never knew and a little brother. In America, he continues to learn about his heritage, but he does not see the beauty and bright colors of Vietnam, only "choking dust, smoke and death"--and aching for his mother and brother left behind. He lives in a big home with parents and a little brother he loves very much, but he is still unsure if they will want to keep him once they know his secrets. His father has practiced throwing pitches with him and Matt wins one of the coveted spots on the team. Some of his team mates resent him because of his heritage. He is bullied and threatened, but he tells no one. Matt also likes to play the piano and his teacher, Jeff, is a friend of Matt's dad. It is Jeff and Matt's dad who bring him to Vietnam veterans meetings and Matt begins to realize many things he did not understand ad the soldiers tell their stories; that his mother loved him and that is why she saved him, that the soldiers made a difference by saving and transporting Vietnamese children to the United States. Once Matt tells his family about his fears, Matt comes to terms with his culture, himself and begins to look forward enjoying his new life, knowing he will one day look for his birth mother and brother with his family. A sad, hopeful novel that teaches us about the Vietname war and how it affected the soldiers, their families, and those left behind in Vietnam.

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Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Hold StillHold Still by Nina LaCour
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this first novel by Nina LaCour! Caitlin is devastated when her best friend Ingrid commits suicide. And Caitlin had no idea. She literally does nothing all summer, her funk is so huge. Ingrid had such a great personality, they were best friends, did everything together, yet Caitlin had no idea Ingrid was depressed! She finds her best friend's journal under her bed one night, when did Ingrid put it there? Did she want Caitlin to read it? As Caitlin reads the different entries--some are to Caitlin, some to Jayson (a boy she liked), hall monitors and rain clouds...Ingrid was a great artist and photographer who carried her camera everywhere and snapped pictures all the time. Ingrid begins to live and rejoice in life without Ingrid by reading Ingrid's journal, by loving a boy who provides sympathy, and friendship, making a new girl friend. It is her art teacher, Miss Delani, who tells Caitlin she is just as talented as Ingrid and helps renew Caitlin's purpose in life. LaCour was able to sustain the deep, aching sadness that paralyzes Caitlin throughout the first half of the novel and she does a superb job of slowly,reawakening her zest for life through her relationships with her friends and family. I really liked Caitlin's character (depressed, cranky, funny and anguished) but even more I liked so many of the supporting characters, gay Caitlin who knew who she was; Jayson and Taylor--nice boys, Miss Delani- who found it difficult to deal with Ingrid's death and seeing Caitlin everyday as a reminder of how she failed Ingrid, Caitlin's supportive mom and dad. This is a great honor choice for the Morris Debut Award, teens will love it!

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Fallout by Ellen Hopkins

Fallout (Crank, #3)Fallout by Ellen Hopkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The stories of Autumn, Hunter and Summer, Kristina's three oldest children, are provoking, harsh, and sad. We see their childhoods from their point of view, and we feel their pain, their joy, and their ties, to a mother they don't really see or know. Hopkins tells us (shows us) how their mother's meth addiction fuels their dysfunction, how they are predisposed to alcohol, anger, anxiety---all because of the woman who brought them into the world. But this book holds out hope that these teens are strong, working against the odds to make their worlds a better place with each other, even including and accepting their mother, Kristina with all of her shortcomings.

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Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder

Chasing BrooklynChasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Schroeder's 3rd book in free verse is achingly poignant as Brooklyn and Nico still mourn the death of Lucca. Brooklyn was madly in love when Lucca was taken from her and she is still missing him, writing him letters and buying their favorite comic books. Her mother has left with her 2 brothers and Brooklyn remains with her father. Nico was Lucca's younger brother, but they were very close. Nico's best friend, Gabe dies and Both Brooklyn and Nico are stunned. They knew he was suffering, but they were in pain themselves. Now Brooklyn has nightmares about Gabe and Nico is being haunted by Lucca TO HELP BROOKLYN. That is easy for a ghost to say since Nico is still running away to handle the pain. To honor his dead brother's wishes, he encourages Brooklyn to change, start running with him and participate in a marathon. I was compelled to read this book, I felt so badly for Brooklyn and Nico, will they find that they can go on without their beloved Lucca? A must read! It has all the elements YA's will love--drama, suspense, fear, anger, loss and longing!

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Wikipedia Is NOT Wicked!

Hi, My name is Gwyneth and I use Wikipedia every day.

There, I said it. Somehow that's pretty freeing! Wikipedia is NOT a dirty word. We're doing a disservice not teaching our kids HOW to use it and how to cite in - ummm selectively & with forethought. Sadly, I don't believe teachers & college professors are ready to wrap their mind around or admit recent studies that show: Wikipedia as accurate as Britannica.

Much like the Internets in general, (or the Googles, or the Facebooks, or the Twitters, or the YouTubes) many educators look upon Wikipedia with suspicion, sometimes derision, and occasionally with fear.

But who are we kidding? It ain't goin away folks! the Wikipedias are here to stay...It's an Internet Wonder of the World! And for gosh sakes, it comes up top 3 in just about any Google search you do. What? Ignore a good entry for a query? Really? Can you admit, you use it, too?

So....How do we teach kids to use it?

Teaching Wikipedia in 5 Easy Steps.

  1. Use it as background information
  2. Use it for technology terms
  3. Use it for current pop cultural literacy
  4. Use it for the Keywords
  5. Use it for the REFERENCES at the bottom of the page!

Tech Terms Here: I mean, I love me my research databases! I do! Heck, I even made a animation video for them! I love you Gale/Cengage, Sirs, Worldbook, and EBSCO - I do! But if I look up Hashtag or QR code there, all I get are a few articles (one by Chris Harris! YAY!) but no explanation. No definiton. No examples of real world use. That's just not good enough.

But when you look up Hashtags or QR code in Wikipedia you get it ALL!

For more examples of how to use Wikipedia & how to teach it with our kids, see the Further Reading links below

Click for a Teaching Wikipedia At-A-Glance Comic Tutorial! (working on that now)

Oh and By the by...this blog caused me to work. Yeah, like do something I've never done before and it hurt a little. Learning something new sometimes feels ouchy and uncomfortable. Because of this posting I created a Wikipedia editing profile and pushed myself to create a Wikipedia page for my school Murray Hill Middle School because I wanted to be there when my kids (or parents) look for us on the Howard County Public School wikipage. Another step forward in Web Presence and Advocacy - & yes, Socialnomics: be where your customers are. But, I got stubborn and pushed through the uncomfortable feeling (took a break to have dinner Buffy Hamilton & Mary Beth) and Voila! It's done...whew!

"The goal here is not to take Wikipedia as gospel but to use it to focus your research (via links, keywords and references) and get a little context (via background information). Focusing cuts down the time you spend on the project while context will get you a better grade for your effort." - by rebecca from Gear Fire
Further Reading:
Should I use or cite Wikipedia? Probably not.

4 ways to use Wikipedia (hint: never cite it)

Teachers: Please stop prohibiting the use of Wikipedia

Unnatural acts at Nature

20 Little Known Ways to Use Wikipedia

Study: Wikipedia as accurate as Britannica

Rosenzweig, Roy. "Can history be open source? Wikipedia and the future of the past" Journal of American History, Volume 93, Issue 1 (June 2006) p. 117-144.

Schiff, Stacy. "Know it all: Can Wikipedia conquer expertise?" The New Yorker, February 26, 2006 And for balance:

Yes, students, there's a world beyond Wikipedia - via Lucy Gray - elemenous !

What about YOU!?

Photo credits: Flickr Creative Commons:
Guy Fawks: by Stian Eikeland
Workbench mele By flattop341

Wikipedia Is NOT Wicked!
authenticity, Buffy J. Hamilton, fun, gale, howard county schools, Jimbo Wales, murray hill middle school, sirs, socialnomics, wicked, wikipedia
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