Purchaser on the Prowl

Tracking Book Reviews

Your library may subscribe to several reviewing journals, but why limit yourself to print publications to discover new books that would fly off your shelves?

As you can see from the image, I have a folder in my Google Reader devoted to YA Lit.  I have to admit that the small number (39) of unread posts is unusual; the holiday break has given me time to go through my reader.

I often leave this folder unread for days.  Do I not like YA lit?  Please.  It composes approximately 90% of all of my fiction reading.  So why am I not anxious to discover the jewels (some not so shiny) that these blogs hold?

Fear.

Fear?  Yes. Fear of reading about a great new book only to forget its title.  If I read the post, it disappears from my reader.  Yes, I can mark it as “unread” and “star” it, but there have been times when I have seen 170 posts in that folder and just deleted them all. (Sorry to those of you whose blogs I subscribe to – it is no reflection of the quality of your posts! No, it is my way of dealing with information overload.)

I have sometimes attempted to make notes of these titles, but these are often forgotten or misplaced.  You see, not only do I read these blog posts at home, but I sometimes read them during my lunch break at work, or while waiting in line at the grocery store.  And, despite what others will tell you, I am not organized.

I need a way to make note of the titles no matter where it is that I am reading reviews.  What is always handy?  Since I am online while reading them, why not use Google Docs to keep track of those I-do-not-want-to-forget titles?  Because this week is offering me the luxury of time, I decided to create a spreadsheet and begin to fill it with some of those titles.

Bookstore Finds

This is not the only mobile solution I have used to record new titles.  Buffy Hamilton first alerted me to the power of Evernote for collection development.  I haunt the local Barnes and Noble (they know me by first name) and hightail it straight for the Teen section when I arrive.  With iPhone in hand, I scour the new books.  When I find one that seems promising, I use the Snapshot feature in Evernote to take a photo of the book cover and place it in my Collection Development notebook right in Evernote.

Follett Library Resources recently released a Titlewave app that is awesome!  Now, when I find promising titles, I can search for them in Titlewave and read reviews right on my iPhone.  I can even add them to a book order on the spot.

What mobile means have you discovered for recording possible book purchases?

Teen Read Week 2011

Teen Read Week is historically observed the third week of October, but that week is also the time for our fall state testing.  The library is used for testing, eliminating the opportunity for us to sponsor events that week.  No problem!  Those of us in education understand the importance of flexibility.

This year, our Teen Read Week wasn’t celebrated until the week of Oct.31st – Nov. 4th. The theme of Picture It @your library offered many possibilities and we decided to experiment with all new (to us) ideas and activities.

Bookmark Yourself

To begin the week, we borrowed Cathy Nelson‘s “Bookmark Yourself” idea allowing students to personalize bookmarks (with or without their photos – it’s amazing the number of students who don’t want their picture taken).  The activity was popular and is one we will use again.

Pictionary with Book Titles

One morning before school, we played Pictionary with book titles.  Now, I can’t draw worth a lick, but I have enjoyed playing Pictionary before and hoped our students would, too.  Armed with a whiteboard stand, some Expo markers and an eraser, and 15 book titles written on folded slips of paper, I enticed students (some might say I pounced on them) as soon as they began entering the library at 7:30.  Students wander into and out of the library for the 35 minutes we are open before school and at one point we had fifteen students playing Pictionary.  They loved it! Again, this is an activity we will repeat.

Name that Book Contest and Luncheon

Our piece de resistance was the Name that Book Contest and Luncheon held on Friday. (I first wrote about the activity here but did alter my original plans to only use 2012 SCYABA nominees.)  Again, I bow to Cathy Nelson who got my mental wheels (they are quite rusty) moving when she shared her (brilliant! fantabulous!) Books 2 Pics idea with me this summer.  And I must thank my intern, Sheila Roberts, and my co-librarian, Jay Campbell, for their hard work.  Each created slides that rocked! for five books.

Because our school population has grown considerably but our cafeteria has not, we now have four twenty-five minute lunch periods.  Students signed up to participate and by Thursday afternoon, all slots were filled. (Valuable lesson learned last year during Teen Read Week – line up alternates for the game.)

Students quickly reported to the library when their lunch period began and helped themselves to pizza, soda, and cookies.  While they ate, I explained the rules of Name that Book.  The bidding war began when the first book’s clue was provided.  Only one of the four lunch groups completed the game by identifying (or trying to identify) all fifteen books.  All groups had a blast and said they’d love to play the game again.

Teen Read Week 2011 has come and gone, but the memories created will linger for quite some time.  The thrill of implementing new activities and have them succeed is deeply satisfying.  I love teens and their passion and enthusiasm!

Can YOU Name that Book?  The slide above represents one of the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award nominees for 2012.  Any idea which one?

Starting the Year Running: Collaborating on Literature Circles

During the summer, I visit my school library once a week to water plants.  One June day as I strolled through the library,  I noticed how many “sets” of books were sitting on the YABA and fiction shelves.

Each year I order multiple copies of the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award (SCYABA) nominees and often recommend them (as well as non-nominee titles) to our book club officers for consideration.

Once the book club officers and sponsors select a title for discussion, I order more copies to ensure all book club members will have the opportunity to read it before our meeting.  These two factors (book club-selected title and SCYABA nominee) mean we have five or more copies of certain titles.

Why not?

Several discussions over the last year with my book club co-sponsor have focused on the lack of enough class sets of YA titles for her English II classes to read and discuss.

Light bulb moment:  why not examine the titles with multiple copies in the library to determine if they contained common themes?  When I did, I realized that many were either based on abuse or dystopia.  Why not suggest using these titles in classroom literature circles?

I emailed Barbara, my book club co-sponsor, with the idea and she loved it.

So the year’s first collaborative effort was born.

Literature Circles

I admit that in order to ensure we could offer each of her two classes six titles from which to choose, I had to stretch each theme just a bit.  Listed below are the titles we are using.

Abuse:  The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin, What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Things Change by Patrick Jones, Hate List by Jennifer Brown, and Shattering Glass by Gail Giles

Dystopia: Unwind by Neal Shusterman, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, Epitaph Road by David Patneaude, and Epic by Conor Kostick

Planning

On the first day of the collaboration, I would visit the class and booktalk each of the titles being offered as a selection for them.  Students would complete the Title Choice Sheet I provided and Barbara and I would each take one class’s set of Title Choice Sheets and record the students’ first, second, and third choices.  I would use those sheets as I created each class’s literature circles.

After I left the classroom on the first day, Barbara would explain literature circles to the students and assign “The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst. This piece would be the basis for lit circle practice.

On the second day, students would practice two things:

  1. preparing for a lit circle discussion using one of the roles (Discussion Director, Illustrator, Summarizer, Fortune Teller, or Literary Luminary)
  2. participating in a lit circle

Barbara would assign a role to each row in her class.  The rows would circle up and, using the role handout, decide what their role would bring to a lit circle discussion. Barbara and I would listen to each group as they planned.  If we felt it was needed, we would provide direction.

After twenty minutes, Barbara would disband the role groups and have them regroup in lit circles composed of students representing the five roles for which they had just prepared. Barbara and I would would visit each lit circle and provide guidance as needed.

On the third day, I would announce the literature circles and distribute the books I had already checked out to each student.  When I left class, Barbara would again discuss the purpose and workings of a literature circle and allow each lit circle to meet to plan how they would progress (the roles each would assume and the pages that would be read for each of the circle’s five meetings).

Ready, Set, Go!

We put our plan into motion on Aug. 16th (the first week of the 2011-2012 school year).  The students were excited about having a choice in their first class read and did exceptionally well on the second day as they took part in the small group discussions. I looked forward to checking in on their progress and asking for their feedback on this venture.

Overwhelming Success!

Students made class presentations on Friday, Sept. 2nd.  Each group sat in front of the class and shared a summary of their book, real life lessons they had gleaned from it, and then explained the posters that each individual had made on their book.  (The requirements for the poster included three symbols, five quotations, and three things that represented a character.)

I was able to join both classes on Friday and listen to several presentations.  Impressive!  But I didn’t have to wait until that day to know that our lit circles were being successful:  just a week after the students received their book, several boys came to the library to check out the sequel to their novel.  They had finished well in advance of what we had planned and wanted to know what happened next in the story.

Flexibility

Mrs. DeLac is the co-sponsor of our book club and had shared with her classes the novels we would be reading for our September meeting.  One young lady read Angry Management by Chris Crutcher and asked if she could present that novel to the class rather than create a poster on her lit circle novel.  She still assisted her lit circle group with their presentation, but she was so blown away by Crutcher’s book that she wanted to share it with others.  Mrs. DeLac’s flexibility in allowing this student to share another book demonstrated her desire to encourage her students to read for pleasure and talk with others about what they read.

Passion, enthusiasm, and the desire to read for pleasure. A winning combination for our first attempt with Literature Circles!

Image used through a Creative Commons License:

“Reading Time”

Maximum Marketing

While researching for my “Ramp up Reading with Technology” sessions at the 2011 Upstate Technology Conference (Greenville, South Carolina), I stumbled across two free iPhone apps for YA lit:  the Maximum Ride Fang and the Maximum Ride Angel apps.

I excitedly installed the Fang app on my phone (I am such a geek!), considering the marketing possibilities that mobile devices offer for publishing companies and authors.  With the Fang app, you can quiz yourself:  “Who’s Your Flock Mate?” and take a photo of yourself with Max and Fang.  (Tried the photo with Fang – not very good quality unfortunately.)

With the Angel app, you can quiz yourself:  “How Max Are You?” and read the first 21 chapters of the book.  You also get a sneak preview of the audiobook.

With the rise in popularity of mobile devices, I’m surprised that publishers haven’t put more focus into developing free apps for YA series.  Seems this would be a promising playground for book promotion.    

Exclusive New Book Preview for Bookclub Members

You know how some of your best ideas just “hit you” out of the blue?  Last school year, a senior service learner (who was also a member of our Bulldog Booklover Club) was assisting me in processing a new shipment of books.  We were like the proverbial kids in a candy store as we checked the books received off the packing list.

“Oooh…I wanna read this one!”

“I remember the reviews I read as I was considering this one; it is supposed to be awesome!”

My service learner grabbed paper and a pencil to start writing the titles of the ones she wanted to be sure to read.  After all, she was a senior, a voracious reader, and she didn’t want to miss out on one single book that could sweep her into another world for a few hours.

The “Aha!” Moment Strikes

What reader doesn’t love new books and the prospects for adventure, mystery, and/or romance each holds?  As we continued to pull each new title out of the box, I had one of those “aha” moments:  why not hold an exclusive new book preview just for our book club members?

At the time, we were still in our old facility and decided to set up a preview display in our conference room.  Invitations were created and announcements were made and I arrived at school earlier than usual on the morning of our first preview to set up the waiting area for our book club members.   Because our space was limited, I could only allow three members at a time into the conference room to pour over the new books and choose the one they were allowed to check out.

Eager faces awaited me as I opened the library doors at 7:30 and a horde of students raced to the back to claim their space in the preview line.  Excitement bubbled over – letting me know that this was a tradition in the making.

Setting Up the Preview in our New Facility


We still use a conference room in our new facility, and even though it is smaller in size than the first conference room we used,  it contains bookcases and tables perfect for setting up the display. 

Our book club members love this membership perk; watching them as they make their selections (and smell those new books!) makes the time and effort of setting up the preview worth every minute.  I photograph each with his/her selection and request a honest review of it when each is finished reading.

An added bonus:  other students in the library the morning of an exclusive new book preview often ask to see what our members are checking out and ask to have a copy of the book held for them.  Seeing the excitement of their peers creates more interest in new arrivals than do announcements or displays.

How do you promote new books?


I Am Number Four

Cannot wait until this is released!  The first book in this  new science fiction series  will not be published until August 3, but a movie is already in production (produced by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay).

Read Kelly Jensen’s review at Stacked.

Visit the book’s website.

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