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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Library2Play--Thing #10, AISDCL20 #12

Image Generators

I tried Image Chef, first, but I'm not pleased. While it's easy to use, there's not a lot of stuff to play with (prefab stuff) and everytime I tried to add the image over here in Blogger, it was broken. Oh well.

I did find the Glitterizer. Cheezy (and yes that word has a 'z' in it.). But cute.

What you don't see here is that the text has an animated glitter effect. But, there wasn't any way to get the HTML code to plug in.

I don't know, this one just seems like a fun way to burn some time. Really didn't do much for me today. I can see where it could be fun to make some different signs or cartoons or whatever.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Library2Play--Thing #9, AISDCL20 #8 & #9

Useful Library-Related Blogs and News Feeds

I played with several of the sites provided in this discovery activity.

Of course, the Edublog Awards are a wonderful place to start. I enjoy finding out what others think are particularly good. That doesn't always mean they've got a large following. It just means they're particularly good and people should know about them. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I wonder what they were thinking.

I do like the blog School Libraries on SuperGlu. There's some good stuff there. And it seems to be pieced together the way my brain works. (That would be randomly). It's a little confusing if you don't already know how it's put together--try finding stuff, okay?

I've never really like searching for feeds in Bloglines. Honestly, it feels like the old versions of search engines, and honey, I'm all about the new stuff.

Still, though, my favorite way to find interesting blogs and feeds is to "shop" others. I liken it to when I'd visit my grandmother's house and go "shopping" in her pantry for a snack. We might have some of the same things at my house, but there's was always something different and WAAAAY cooler at hers.

That's how I found this blog today.

Students 2.0

I love this. What a great insite into what kids are thinking--without having too worry too much that you don't want to know that particular thought!!!

Library2Play--Thing #8

RSS Feeds, and Feedreaders

I have to tell you, I love RSS feeds. Just the advent of them means I don't have to troll through my bookmark list for new things..and get increasingly disappointed to find that my favorite bloggers post about as often as I do on my personal blogs. (I'm averaging 3 posts every couple of months, all at once. Very bad.) I'm not a very patient person (could be that undiagnosed ADD), so I don't like to go looking for something and come up with nothing--like new posts and news. So, RSS feeds and newsreaders are a miraculous thing for me.

I use my feeds constantly, for school and home. Okay, so the school one is relatively new, but I do enjoy it, a great deal. Everything I'm looking for on one page? It's great, saves me time. At home, I keep up with my friends blogs..makes it easy for me to point someone to a blog, and see when my friends have posted updates.

Libraries could do a lot with this. Providing a feed for users of your library's blog would be a good PR tool--let patrons know of new developments and events in your library, even if they aren't faithful visitors to your blog/site. I keep the Amazon blog in my personal feeds so I can see what's up with new books or whatever that I might be interested in, so it becomes something of a collection development tool. Fun stuff!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Before I Die, by Jenny Downham

Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of ‘normal’ life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.

With the movie "Bucket List" opening over the weekend, reading this book was a good way to kick off my weekend of self-reflection. Talk about making you think and consider relationships as well as how you live your life. Do you just give up, or do you go out fighting?

Oh, I cried. Wonderfully written, and so touching and real. Tessa is fabulous, Zoey is what you expect—loyal but still caught up in her own life, just like your typical teenager. Adam is an unexpected joy, and Cal, Tessa's little brother, will just wrench your heart out.

I truly can't believe this is Downham's first novel. I can only imagine what she'll give us next, as powerful as this one is.

One Good Punch, by Rich Wallace

ASK ANYBODY AROUND East Scranton High School: Michael Kerrigan is almost too good to be true. Dedicated athlete, captain of the track team, editorial assistant (obituary writer) at the Scranton Observer, he's never been in trouble, and he doesn't associate with troublemakers. This is the most important track season of his life - and he's ready.

That is, until the police find four joints in his locker. Soon Mike's seemingly perfect world is threatened, and with pressure coming from his parents, his childhood best friend, and his sort-of girlfriend, Mike is faced with a choice - a choice that will determine the kind of athlete, friend, and man he becomes.

This is a short, quick read. Readers will relate, quickly, to the guy who "has it all together" and is on track for success.

That being said, the ending doesn’t jive with me. I honestly can’t see too many teenagers throwing away their lives to make the choices that Mike does--most in my estimation aren't ready for the concept of the "the greater good." Maybe I'm a tad jaded.

Head Case, by Sarah Aronson

Frank Marder is a head, paralyzed from the neck down, and it's his fault. He was drinking. He was driving. Now Frank can't walk he can't move, he can't feel his skin. He needs someone to feed him to wash him, to move his body.

When you're a head, do you ever feel like a whole person? Will Frank ever get to forgive himself?

Wow, what different take on this. Or, it feels original at least. Frank's just a kid, just a teenager, with all the teenage boy stuff going on--but it's all, very literally, in his head.

I really, really like that Aronson has worked with individuals with these sorts of problems. She’s seen those who “deal” and those who don’t. I can’t imagine being in a situation in which my body will no longer respond, but I’m still dealing with being a kid and growing up.

HOWEVER, I don’t like that the first chapter makes it appear as if that last drink was somehow the impetus for all of it. The things that happened are the consequences of drinking and driving, NOT just drinking one too many. And, yes, these consequences CAN and DO happen to the kid who has it all.

I realize the book wasn't meant to be preachy, and teenagers wouldn't be drawn to it if it was, but I think that's something to consider.

The Poison Apples, by Lily Archer

We all know the stories of Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel. But have you ever heard of Alice Bingley-Beckerman, Reena Paruchuri, or Molly Miller? Of course you haven't. Not yet. But here's something you should know. What these girls have in common with their fairy-tale sisters is this: They are the stepdaughters of three very evil stepmothers. And they're not happy about it. They think they are alone in their unhappiness until they arrive at Putnam Mount McKinsey, a posh boarding school located in lovely, rural Massachusetts. Here is where they will plot their revenge. But first, they have to meet. In her first novel, Lily Archer tells a knowing, unforgettable story about how friendship just may turn out to be more happily-ever-after than family.

A really fun read. The characters are well-developed, and SOOO teenagery. It really does seem like a rarity that getting a new step-parent as a teenager is sweetness and light. It can seriously stink, regardless of the people and personalities involved. Archer's book is wickedly funny, and heart-felt. Maybe those step-mothers are worth it, after all.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Unwind, by Neal Shusterman

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them.

Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

Wow. I loved this book.

Could be a little controversial, in terms of the extremely “late-term” abortion issue (in utero vs. walking around conscious). Shusterman takes a very different approach to the idea that all are important, they way they are, not in terms of what they could be or be used for. Certainly would spark interesting debate.

Awesome story, very well-written, a characteristic of Shusterman, as we know. The characters are well-developed and it never gets “slow.”

The Declaration, by Gemma Malley

It’s the year 2140 and Longevity drugs have all but eradicated old age. A never-aging society can’t sustain population growth, however…which means Anna should never have been born. Nor should any of the children she lives with at Grange Hall. The facility is full of boys and girls whose parents chose to have kids—called surpluses—despite a law forbidding them from doing so. These children are raised as servants, and brought up to believe they must atone for their very existence. Then one day a boy named Peter appears at the Hall, bringing with him news of the world outside, a place where people are starting to say that Longevity is bad, and that maybe people shouldn’t live forever. Peter begs Anna to escape with him, but Anna’s not sure who to trust: the strange new boy whose version of life sounds like a dangerous fairy tale, or the familiar walls of Grange Hall and the head mistress who has controlled her every waking thought? Chilling, poignant, and endlessly though-provoking, The Declaration is a powerful debut that will have readers agonizing over Anna’s fate until the very last page. ones we follow.

Thought-provoking and intense. The characters are developed to the point that I was rooting for some and wanted to give others a piece of my mind. Teens will gravitate to this one because it’s something that could happen, and because it’s easy to like Anna, even when she’s not standing up for herself. This one reminds us that the paths we’re placed on don’t have to be the ones we follow.

**I think it could be paired well with Unwind (Shusterman). The whole value of life debate.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Get Well Soon, by Julie Halpern

Anna Bloom is depressed—so depressed that her parents have committed her to a mental hospital with a bunch of other messed-up teens. Here she meets a roommate with a secret (and a plastic baby), a doctor who focuses way too much on her weight, and a cute, shy boy who just might like her.

But wait! Being trapped in a loony bin isn’t supposed to be about making friends, losing weight, and having a crush, is it?

In her fiction debut, Julie Halpern finds humor in the unlikeliest of places, and presents a character whose voice-and heart-will resonate with all of us who have ever felt just a little bit crazy.

I described this to my assistant as sort of an anti-Hopkins (Crank, Burn, etc.). Anna is real and honest and funny. I wish I had a wit like hers sometimes. The other characters are great—just as diverse as teenagers in a hospital like this should be. The problems they have come in with are legitimate. I love to see that not every teen with emotional issues is portrayed at the far ends of the spectrum—Anna is just depressed, she’s not cutting or being physically destructive. It does provide some hope and you do see that Anna sees the changes in herself. My only complaint is that all the kids seem to think, and never get past it, that they are there only because someone else (parents) wasn't willing to put up with them and their problems.

It would be GREAT paired with Hopkins’ Impulse. Contrasting the darker side vs the lighter side of being sent to a mental hospital.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Derby Girl by Shauna Cross

Meet Bliss Cavendar, a blue haired, indie-rock loving misfit stuck in the tiny town of Bodeen, Texas.

Her pageant-addicted mother expects her to compete for the coveted Miss Blue Bonnet crown, but Bliss would rather feast on roaches than be subjected to such rhinestone tyranny.

Bliss’ escape? Take up Roller Derby.

When she discovers a league in nearby Austin, Bliss embarks on an epic journey full of hilarious tattooed girls, delicious boys in bands, and a few not-so-awesome realities even the most bad-butt** derby chick has to learn.

(**I had to edit this phrase for language.)

Okay, I have to say it....I LOVE Bliss. She's funny, sarcastic, irreverent (not in a bad way)--she's an edgy chick in an un-edgy world. What punk girl doesn't want to push the envelope, and if you've ever seen Roller Derby--oh my "push" the envelope doesn't begin to describe them! Yet, Bliss is still just a teenage girl with all the emotions and issues.

This is a wonderful choice for reluctant readers. "Outsiders" will grab this one because Bliss is an outsider, too.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Breathe My Name, by R.A. Nelson

I need to see you.

Please come right away.

We have to finish.

Frances Robinson is in high school now. She lives a quiet, suburban life, far from her horrifying past. When she was a child, her birthmother smothered her three sisters. Through pure luck, Frances survived. Now her mother has just been released from prison . . . and she wants to see Frances.
A new boy at school called Nix charms Frances. Together, Nix and Frances embark on a clandestine journey to visit Frances' mother: to confront the monster in its lair. This trip will help Frances at last find peace-or die trying. But no matter what, Frances will discover just what it means to finish.

The intensity of the story line, coupled with a teenager’s real struggle to find herself will grab readers. The characters are well-defined and aren’t static. Even those who aren’t prime players are real and appropriate.

And I just like Frances and Nix. He's good for her when she most needs to have a strong and calming force. She's struggling to find out who she was and what that means to who she is today--and that the two aren't necessarily synonymous.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Library2Play--Thing #7, AISDCL20 #18

Google Tools and Apps

I love Google. I hate to say it..really, there's a part of me that cringes at the thought of admitting it to you, but I do love Google.

It's because I prefer my students not "google" their research. I'm a librarian, though, and I know how, well...academically dangerous googling can be. So, I push the databases that my campus subscribes to and has available. I tell them that I don't want them to go to Google the first day they're in the library researching for their projects, if it can be avoided. (Because I do realize that sometimes it can't be.) And, then, I teach them how to Google (or use Yahoo, or Dogpile, or MSN Live Search, or whatever.)

But I do suggest GoogleTools to my students. I use Google Notebook for myself at home. Honestly, that was how I started my own "jacked-up" version of an RSS feed. Then I learned about Blogrolling and then Internet Explorer came with a bookmark section just for feeds! WHEEEE! There's too many good things around!

What I really like about the Notebook though is that You can get a screen shot, and can make notes as to why you bothered to clip that info. With my bookmarks, and sometimes the RSS feeds, I go back and wonder what I was thinking when I decided to save that page. I did create a couple of new notebooks, under the guise of the "Mean Old Library Teacher." One is for things I run across while participating in Library2Play. The other is for things I collect to use while serving on the Facilities Committee for the new high school we'll be building. Both will be linked in my sidebar under "Place to go."

I opted to look at Google Scholar for the second part of this discovery activity. Of all the Google apps and tools, this is the only one I felt I had much use for that I hadn't played with yet. I like it pretty well, but feel like I might get more immediate useable information through my databases. Or that I can't print what I've pulled up. It was nice to pull up a book abstract and have it provide places to purchase the title--since not everything can be purchased on Amazon. (ssssshhhh...don't let them hear me say that!) So, while there's pros to using Google Scholar, there are cons. I think I'll stick with my databases for scholarly research.

Library2Play--Thing#6, AISDCL20 #6

Flickr Mashups (and other mashups)

Alrighty, I played all over fd's Flickr Toys over at BigHuge Labs. All kinds of cool things there. No one thing jumped out and really, really caught me. I did have some ideas for several of the applications available, though....

The Motivator...I'm seeing things like the ALA "Read" posters. Our PALs could do posters with some of our local stars for younger students. Or we could just design our own motivational posters, with images from around our school and community.

Movie Poster GREAT idea for marketing for the theater departments productions. Or club activities. I was in charge of the prom a few years ago and our theme was "vintage Hollywood." This would've been perfect!

The Magazine Covers and Trading Cards would be great products for projects--a magazine devoted to "The Pardoner's Tale" from Canterbury Tales. Trading cards for our health classes' self-help organization research projects. This could be a lot of fun. Even trading cards for our school organizations and athletic teams.

The Palette Generator for use in art classes and our web design/production class. Even some of our other vocational classes, like the apparel class.

Oh..and then...combine Mappr with Google LitTrips. Honestly, I love Google LitTrips--getting to "travel" to all the places in a story or novel, making it come alive. But you could do the same thing, on a smaller scale with Mappr. OR, combine it with the trading cards application or postcards application and create a "notebook" (or "set") for your studies.

The possibilities are bound only by what we're willing to try. I've got to email that Health teacher about his project now.

Library2Play--Thing #5, AISDCL20 #5


I've always used Photobucket for my pictures and things. Honestly, it's what I've used for my personal blogs, both for photos I post and for the design elements I use. (My personal blogs are far more interesting to look at, if only because I've played with them more.) It's user-friendly and compatible with everything I do. And, if I wanted to, I could order a calendar with my photos on it.

But, Flickr, I like. It's easier to use. Tagging takes less time. Uploading takes less time. This could certainly be more beneficial for my work stuff AND for my family stuff. (I just need to convince my boyfriend that Flickr really, really would be easier to use than setting up a MySpace for his family. Ugh.)

I like the group stuff too, everyone can share photos, or not share, or only share with certain groups. Seems SO much easier than what we do now ("here, let me email you these 50 photos 3 at a time"). It's also a neat way to get into social networking. More free-flowing and unstructured than MySpace or Ning.

My Flickr

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