Wednesday, March 29, 2017



This area will become the Cyber Lab for students with blended schedules.
Our high school runs a 2-year S.T.E.M. program. Students apply in their sophomore year, and if they are accepted, participate in seminars throughout their junior year. During their senior year, they are enrolled in an actual S.T.E.M. class. As part of their class, they are responsible for the planning and implementing of a project that benefits some aspect of the school district.
This is the first year that such a project was implemented. I applied last year to be the beneficiary of their program, and they selected my application in part because the library is a space that is used by the entire school.
The plan for the library is as follows...
1) A space for the Cyber Lab students. The library is home to students who are enrolled part-time in cyber courses. They go to some of their classes, and they come to the library for classes that they take online.
This area will eventually be a makerspace.
2) A more contained instructional space. Now that our students each have a Chromebook, the need for desktops has decreased. My instructional space is being reduced. I can still accommodate the same number of students, but less space is needed since they no longer need desktops. The extra are will be changed to...
3) Collaborative Space: This are will have a project, mobile white board, and tables covered with a white-board surface so that dry erase markers can be used.
4) A Makerspace: This area use to house the cyber students and a few desktops. For now, it will have approximately 6 desktops that will be better quality and more extensive applications such as C.A.D. and other advanced programs. Eventually, I would like to make this are more like the makerspaces I see in other libraries.
5) An updated reading area: My cozy reading spaces will receive an upgrade. Furniture will be rearranged and new furniture, plants, lamps, and area rugs will be donated by local retailers.
The planning phase is finally over, and the maintenance crew has been in the library all week. I will post "after" photos as soon as everything is finished!

Posted by: Nicky

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Title: Audacity
Author: Melanie Crowder

Genre: Historical Fiction, Novels Written in Verse

Series: Stand Alone

Book Summary:(via Goodreads) A gorgeously told novel in verse written with intimacy and power, Audacity is inspired by the real-life story of Clara Lemlich, a spirited young woman who emigrated from Russia to New York at the turn of the twentieth century and fought tenaciously for equal rights. Bucking the norms of both her traditional Jewish family and societal conventions, Clara refuses to accept substandard working conditions in the factories on Manhattan's Lower East Side. For years, Clara devotes herself to the labor fight, speaking up for those who suffer in silence. In time, Clara convinces the women in the factories to strike, organize, and unionize, culminating in the famous Uprising of the 20,000. 
Powerful, breathtaking, and inspiring, Audacity is the story of a remarkable young woman, whose passion and selfless devotion to her cause changed the world.

Characters: Clara, Mama, Papa, Marcus, Nathan, Benjamin, Pauline, Joe

What I Loved: I loved loved LOVED this book. I'm not, generally, a fan of fiction written in verse, but this was executed perfectly. The writing was eloquent without straining the flow of the story. It truly felt as though you were inside Clara's thoughts. I have been on an historical fiction kick lately, having loved The Salt of the Sea and Orphan Train. This book was also on the book list for our academic reading team, and a lot of my students (both girls and boys) raved about this one.
It is also obvious that Melanie Crowder thoroughly researched her subject matter, the time period, and Clara Lemlich's life. The text is so rich that, when Clara is describing walking the street of New York, I could hear, smell, and see the city around her.
I also picked up this book because, having recently read A Handmaid's Tale and How to be a Woman for a feminist book club that Janine and I both belong to, I have been looking for something about women in American history. I think if a historical fiction novel is well-written, it makes the reader want to read more about it's time period, it's characters, and it's true story. Audacity certainly accomplished that.

What I could have done without: There isn't much I can find to be critical of in this novel. I didn't give it five stars on Goodreads because I only give 5 Goodreads stars to books that I consider "great literature"--books that affect me profoundly and which will resonate with me. Still, as young adult literature, I consider this great writing. The thing that frustrated me, and I think this is a result of the verse writing, is that I didn't feel as though I grew to know the other characters very well. Clara's family, Joe, Pauline--they all seemed rather two-dimensional.

Final Grade: A-

Review by Nicky

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Title: The Witch Hunter
Author:  Virginia Boecker
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal
Series: Not that I could find
Source: Digital Copy Courtesy of Edelweiss

Book Summary:  (Via Goodreads) Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. When she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to die at the stake. Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can track down the person who laid a deadly curse on him. As she's thrust into the world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and all-too-handsome healers, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate

Characters: Elizabeth, Caleb, John, Fifer, Blackwell

What I Loved: Where to start, where to start?!  There was so much I loved about this book!  First I LOVE historical fiction so this book to start was right up my alley.  The setting is the 16th century England and from the start you really feel as if that is where you are.  Kings and queens, an internal struggle for power intermixed with the descriptions of an English village and life in it make you feel as though you are right there.  One of my next favorite things is anything dealing with the supernatural and I love the take on it in this book.  You are led to believe that these supernatural beings are the “bad ones” and Elizabeth and the other witch hunters are doing their noble duty and riding the country of them.  However as the story progresses and you learn along with Elizabeth that not everything is as it seems. This change of thought process is complicated for Elizabeth and those around her trying to understand how she became what she was.  I also loved Elizabeth.  Yes, she is a strong character but what I loved more was that as she was discovering the deception and twisted truths behind her training and upbringing she was struggling with loyalty, truth and consequences of choices. Things that all of us struggle with (in our own ways) from time to time and its these struggles that make her a totally believable, and relatable character.  The supporting cast of characters also should not be overlooked,  they are unique and interesting,  each adding so much to the story. This is one of those stories that grabs you from the beginning and doesn’t let go!

What I could have done without:.  I will be honest in saying that there wasn’t much I didn’t like about the book.  It was a great read that my students will love to read!

Final Grade: A

Review by Janine

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Title: Made You Up
Author: Francesca Zappia
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Series: Stand alone
Source: Courtesy of Edelweiss

Book Summary: ( Via Goodreads) Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Characters: Alexandria, Miles, Tucker, Charlie

What I Loved: I have to say that this book was difficult to read in a lot of ways, but I thoroughly enjoyed it!!! First we have Alex, who is struggling with Schizophrenia.  She is our narrator for the story, so we are seeing things through her eye,s which is extremely difficult since one of her symptoms is hallucinations.  She is constantly struggling with what is real and what is not. This, for me, was really a powerful thing. As a reader, I was constantly struggling with what was real and what was not. To be put in her shoes and see things from her point of view really put some perspective on the daily struggle that people have with Schizophrenia. It was frightening at times just how real her hallucinations were becoming and the lengths she tried to go to determine what was “real”.   The story itself was written so well that when some things (and I won’t say which!) were pointed out as hallucinations, I had no idea.  Her friendships grow gradually throughout the story, never feeling rushed or contrived, and when her friends find out about her illness they react as I feel like most friends would, supportive and caring and protective as they try and shield her from others who aren't so kind. I feel as though this book would give a sense of perspective and empathy to my students that they wouldn’t have had before reading this, which as far as I am concerned, will help them to be better able to interact with people who have a variety of conditions, illnesses etc. However, it isn’t without some conflict when others are made aware of her situation, which as a teacher made my stomach turn, and nostrils flare! This book will be one that my students will thoroughly enjoy, while at the same time giving them perspective on an illness that they may not be aware of or aware of how it affects a person and their daily life.

What I could have done without:.  There isn’t anything I could have done without,  but know that at times this book is difficult to read and confusing.  This is a book that I would recommend reading so that when students have questions you can help them to process and understand (as best you can) what they have read.

Final Grade: A

Book Review by Janine

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review: The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

21490991: Title: The Boy in the Black Suit
Author: Jason Reynolds

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Book Summary:(via Goodreads) Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest.

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

Characters: Matt, Mr. Ray, Love, Chris, Matt's dad

What I Loved: This book is one of those rare gems that I can recommend with equal confidence to both male and female students. Matt, his friendship with Chris and Mr. Ray, his struggles with awkwardness with girls, his romance with Love, the gritty urban setting... these are all things that will appeal to a variety of readers. Matt is the kind of guy you want to bring home to mom (or in my case--you would like your daughter to bring home to you). He's genuine and charismatic. His struggles are real. Some readers may read the plot summary and think, "ugh... not another book about someone dying of cancer." However, Matt's way of handling his mother's death--his moments of both strength and weakness--are unique. Mr. Ray's character was definitely my favorite, and the things that Matt learns from him are universal lessons. This was just simply, a wonderful, well-written story.

What I could have done without:.  The one thing that I struggle with when writing about this book or book talking it to students, is that it is difficult to really tell what happens in the story. A lot of things happen, but there is no arching climax. When Matt and Love find out that they are connected by a fateful night--a horrible event for both of them, the plot sort of reaches its peak, but there's no rush of adrenaline like a reader may experience with other books. Rather, this story is full of little vignettes or events that carry the plot along in a fast enough pace to keep you going.

Final Grade: B+

Review by Nicky

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma


Title: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Series: Stand Alone

Source: Digital ARC Courtesy of Netgalley

Book Summary:(via Goodreads) The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.

We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture—which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.

Characters: Amber, Violet, Ori
What I Loved: There is a lot to love about this book, so I am going to try my best to do it justice without giving too much away (which is going to be difficult)!  First, I really like the multiple points of view.  I love hearing about an event from those involved, but when you hear it from two sides it really gives you a clearer picture of what is going on.  In the beginning of the book, we are introduced to Amber, who is an inmate in the Aurora Hills Juvenile Detention center. She tells us of life inside and how it changed when Ori arrived. Ori is the connection between Amber and Violet.  Her story is one that I still can’t forget.  Ori is just one of those girls/ characters that everyone loves.  She is well written, entirely believable, and kid that I could imagine at my school.  She is nice, thoughtful and someone who brightens the room when she walks in.  Then we meet her best friend Violet, who is the opposite in every way from Ori, and you are left wondering why, why would a sweet, nice girl be friends with someone who is obviously not.  Violet is hard, cold, and conniving-- a difficult character to connect with. But as her story is revealed, you are left to wonder, not why she was the way she was, but were the events that occurred to her what shaped her, and was this the person she was always going to be?  What surprised me was how big of a role bullying played in this book. It begins as teasing and then quickly escalates into much more.  It adds a sense of realism to the book-- a what would you do, how would you react type of situation. Although, personally, knowing Violet’s whole story does not make her in the least bit more likable for me.  I think that it will make a great book for discussion with my students.  What are you born to do, and how much of what happens to you in society changes you.  I also can’t wait for my students to read it because the ending….. OH MY!!!! I just need to talk about it with someone!!  
What I could have done without:.  The only thing I will say about this book is that at the beginning... it was confusing.  I won’t give it away, but I reread the first section of Amber’s story because I wasn’t getting it.  I think that when my students read it, I will just encourage them to keep going because it all does come together at the end!

Final Grade: B+

Review by Janine

Monday, April 13, 2015

"Big Books" Slatwall Display

"I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie"

I've seen this on several tee-shirts, especially at our yearly academic reading competition, so this display has been in the back of my mind for a while now.  I finally put it up for one of my April displays, and the kids (and teachers) love it.  The one problem is that the lettering is crooked and off-center, which as I sit here, is currently driving my bonkers.  I also feel like it needs "more." I don't know what kind of "accessories" you would add to this display, but it's a little too plain for my taste.

post by Nicky