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  • Library Treasure Hunt: Orientation Made Simple

    An editable Google Slides digital treasure hunt for students to independently get to know your library. I am VERY excited about sharing this library orientation treasure hunt for back-to-school because it makes library orientation for secondary schools so easy! It is editable so you can add in your own links, change the clue categories, and really adapt it to what works best in your library. This activity is really flexible so students can complete it when they're physically in the library or virtually. I created this treasure hunt themed orientation last year because our students weren't on any type of fixed schedule and it was hard to do any type of orientation in the limited class time we had. We posted this to our Schoology course for students to complete and gave them a prize as an incentive for completion. Since you can make it your own, it can also easily be adapted to get students up and moving in the library during a class. Included are some ideas for clue categories and possible questions to ask your students. Since it is digital it's easy to add links to your library catalog, have students search databases, and really make them click around at your resources. The final clue leads students to the library circulation desk for a prize, which helps with getting teenage buy-in (we handed out bookmarks and Jolly Ranchers). It's a lot of fun and my students enjoyed it last year, so I'm excited to share it! Click below to get to the product and please leave a review if you use it- I'd love to know what you think!

  • Review: The Davenports

    The Davenports by Krystal Marquis Summary A formerly enslaved man, William Davenport has grown his business to become one of the few wealthy Black families in Chicago. At the turn of the century his children have grown up in privilege and are often sheltered from the reality of most Black Americans, though have an understanding that their wealth only offers so much protection in 1910 America. Focusing on the two Davenport daughters, their wealthy friend, and their maid the story examines how 4 young Black women trying to chart their own path amongst the many limits placed on them by family and society. My Thoughts While there is romance and love triangles, The Davenports is really about a changing America and the tensions between generations, specifically within the Black community. The younger characters feel constrained by the expectations put on them, whether it’s in who they marry or their careers. The Davenport son and youngest daughter Helen want to transform their father’s carriage business into automobiles; their father pushes back, especially with Helen who is expected to conform to gender roles. Oldest daughter Olivia is happy to find a suitable husband until her eyes are opened by an activist who teaches her about the growing threat of Jim Crow laws. Industrialization, segregation, trauma of slavery: Krystal Marquis effortlessly weaves these important themes of U.S. history into her story. Book Information Title: The Davenports Author: Krystal Marquis Publisher: Dial Books Publish Date: January 31, 2023 Genre(s): Historical Fiction Themes: coming of age, family, racism Protagonist Description: 4 young Black women Trigger Warnings: discussion of racism, violence This post contains affiliate links to the book(s). Thank you for supporting Ms.Burke's Books & independent bookstores, through

  • Review: M is for Monster

    M is for Monster by Talia Dutton Summary A moving take on Frankenstein, Doctor Frances Ai brings her younger sister, Maura, back to life after a tragic accident. Maura does not remember any part of her life before waking up and when she meets the ghost of Maura in her mirror, realizes she is not the sister Frances thinks she is. Choosing the name "M", she tries to adapt to who Frances wants her to be in fears she will be operated on again. But as she tries harder and harder M begins to realize that she does not want to be someone she's not, if only Frances could accept that. My Thoughts Unlike the horror story of Frankenstein, M is for Monster is about love, acceptance, and grief. Frances’ experiment to create M is motivated by her love for her sister and the guilt she has over her death. All she wants is her loved one back, which anyone who has lost someone close to them can understand. M herself pretends to be Maura in order to be what Frances needs, allowing M to be safe and feel a part of this family. That storyline in particular will resonate with a lot of teenagers, who are often navigating figuring out who they are while also living up to parent and peer expectations. The graphics included bold black images, allowing details to shine through and make the novel seem fresh against the background of muted vintage colors. Book Information Title: M is for Monster Author: Talia Dutton Publisher: Abrams ComicArts - Surely Publish Date: June 28, 2022 Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Science Fiction Themes: acceptance, love, being yourself Protagonist Description: Asian-American female Trigger Warnings: vague discussion of surgery and death This post contains affiliate links to the book(s). Thank you for supporting Ms.Burke's Books & independent bookstores, through

  • Review: Girl Forgotten

    Girl Forgotten by April Henry Summary Escaping into her favorite true crime podcast is the only way Piper Gray can handle her move to a new town and a new family; she's never been close to her dad but is now living with him, her stepmother, and two stepsiblings that she barely knows. While wandering her new town she finds a gravestone of a girl her age and she is intrigued, especially when it turns out that Layla Trello was murdered before she could graduate high school seventeen years ago. And while there are plenty of rumors her murder is still unsolved. Deciding to create her own podcast to solve the case is a no-brainer and with the help of new friend Jonas she sets out on her investigation. But there are secrets that were meant to be buried; will Piper put herself in the line of sight of the killer before she can solve Layla's case? My Thoughts Girl Forgotten is a twisty thriller that will be appealing to YA readers. I appreciated that Piper investigated like a 17 year old would and has to grapple with ethical dilemmas like repeating unfounded rumors publicly and the ramifications of things like slander. Those are situations that are important to talk about when it comes to true crime podcasts and making Piper unaware felt realistic. Her relationship with Jonas was neccessary for the plot, though underwhelming as far as romance. This is now one of many books released in the last year or so I have read where there is an unsolved murder and someone starts a podcast about it. It is going to quickly become a tired plotline, though I understand with the popularity of true crime podcasts why it's become a thing. It also has a lot of ethical dilemmas and the question of where the line is between helping a case and exploiting it is important. Henry's examination of the legal aspects of defamation was impactful without being preachy and Jonas often serves as the devil's advocate for when Piper is crossing a line. Henry handled these issues well without taking away from the pace and suspense of the novel. Book Information Title: Girl Forgotten Author: April Henry Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Christy Ottaviano Books Publish Date: March 28, 2023 Genre(s): YA mystery/thriller Protagonist: most characters presumed white Trigger Warnings: violence, murder (though not graphic in description) I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) of this book for free from NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Christy Ottaviano Books. This is my honest review and all opinions are my own This post contains affiliate links to the book(s). Thank you for supporting Ms.Burke's Books & independent bookstores, through

  • Review: Love and Other Great Expectations

    Love and Other Great Expectations by Becky Dean Summary Britt had her future mapped out: scholarship to UCLA thanks to her prowess on the soccer field. But now she's been diagnosed with a blood disorder, forced to give up soccer and her scholarship. So when her English teacher proposes a literary scavenger hunt with an all expenses paid trip to England, Britt jumps at the chance. She may not like English class or reading but she does like the $10,000 award that will be given to the winner. In the midst of unravelling the clues she befriends a cute British boy, Luke, who just happens to be unsure of his own future and looking for a chance to run away a bit. With Luke and her minder in tow, Britt is determined to do her best and discovers along the way more about herself then she ever expected. My Thoughts Love and Other Great Expectations is a cute romance with great characters and an entertaining plot. It doesn't have a great deal of educational or literary value but would be a fun read for teens. Dean creates characters that are unique but aren't overboard into cutesy or quirky. Woven into the story is a mini ode to great British literature, with clues that take Britt to key locations involving Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Chaucer, and Arthur Conan Doyle (to name a few). I thought that one of the weaknesses was in the description of England, both the culture and the people. The physical locations were detailed a bit and there were a lot of mentions of specfic British food, but overall it did feel like a very surface level description of the setting. Britt never really delved into the British culture outside of figuring out her clues; she was very much focused on herself or Luke. It's even mentioned when another competitor talks about the sites she saw and how Britt isn't doing any of those things, but then the plot moves on. The other issue was that while the book focused mainly on her quest to win the scavenger hunt with the Luke storyline as secondary, the ending and announcement of the winner felt rushed in place of wrapping up the Luke plot. It was a little jarring as so much focus was on Britt winning, then the novel moved on quickly from the competition to the love story. As this is Dean's first novel I did really enjoy her characterization and look forward to reading her next book. Book Information Title: Love and Other Great Expectations Author: Becky Dean Publisher: Delacorte Press Publish Date: June 14, 2022 Genre(s): YA romance Diversity: all characters are either presumed white or not specified Trigger Warnings: none- characters kiss but that's as far as the romance goes This post contains affiliate links to the book(s). Thank you for supporting Ms.Burke's Books & independent bookstores, through

  • Review: Banned Book Club

    Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada, illustrated by Ko Hyung-Ju Summary It is 1983 in South Korea and Kim Hyun Sook has started her freshman year of college. She meets a handsome student named Hoon who invites her to a book club; she eagerly accepts thinking they'll be discussing some of the classics she has read and loved. She is shocked to find that this is an underground book club who reads banned books that could land them in jail. Risking arrest, violence, or even disappearance, Hyun Sook becomes more involved in the club and opens her eyes to the history and truth of the totalitarian regime she is living under. (The author notes that she has combined accounts of her friends and her own into one narrative for this story, as well as created a fictional university). My Thoughts Banned Book Club is an important read for two reasons: the first being that with an increase of books being challenged, the role of censorship and control through books is very timely. But I also find it an important examination of South Korea's history, knowing little about the Fifth Republic's military regime and the democratization movement. As with many pushes for democracy, college students were at the forefront and Hyun Sook's gradual involvement from naive student to making molotov cocktails is fascinating. The stark black and white illustrations from Ko Hyung-Ju emphasize the tension of living in fear, with Hyun Sook's friends constantly being arrested or in dangerous situations. The use of shading is especially effective in scenes where the authorities are closing in or questioning the students. There is still a misconception that graphic novels are simply comics with a new name- Banned Book Club is a fantastic example of how untrue that is. The illustrations and writing combine to tell a suspensful and meaningful glimpse of Hyun Sook's life and South Korean history. Book Information Title: Banned Book Club Author: Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada Illustrator: Ko Hyung-Ju Publisher: Iron Circus Comics Publish Date: May 19, 2020 Genre(s): memoir, graphic novel Themes: freedom of speech, civil rights, Protagonist Description: college aged female, straight, South Korean Trigger Warnings: Violence This post contains affiliate links to the book(s). Thank you for supporting Ms.Burke's Books & independent bookstores, through

  • Review: I Must Betray You

    I Must Betray You by Ruth Sepetys Summary Living in constant fear and paranoia is the norm in 1989 Romania, under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu and his secret police. 17 year old Cristian Florescu has been taught to trust no one, to whisper in his own apartment because it's bugged, and that someone is always watching. But he wasn't careful enough as he gets cornered by the secret police and forced to become an informer. Inspired by his outspoken (and dying) grandfather, Cristian starts a dangerous game of trying to undermine the regime while lying to everyone he loves by informing. Including Lilliana, the girl across the street that he has been in love with for years. Learning through an illegal broadcast of Radio America that communist countries around the world are starting to fall Cristian wants to push for Romania to be next. But what can a 17 year old do? And at what cost? My Thoughts Ruth Sepetys writes amazing YA historical fiction and often focuses on aspects of history that get overlooked within a larger, well-known context. I have also read Between Shades of Gray, which takes place during WWII but follows a Lithuanian girl forced from her home and sent to a Siberian work camp. I Must Betray You follows the same pattern: the larger context being the fall of the Soviet Union and the lesser known dictatorship in Romania. Beyond being a fantastic writer and storyteller, Sepetys sheds light on history that often doesn't make the textbooks. The novel is suspenseful due to the very nature of living under the Ceausescu's regime and Sepetys emphasizes the very regular lives of these characters who nonetheless live in constant fear. Cristian gets pulled in by the secret police for simply possessing an American dollar bill. The paranoia that lies under every move, conversation, and interaction is what is so frightening; Cristian has to monitor everything he says to his family, best friend, and Lilliana. The toll that takes is heartbreaking. What I believe sets Sepetys apart from many historical fiction writers is how she weaves historical detail into her story, allowing the reader to feel immersed in the setting without it reading like a history lecture. Standing in line for hours for expired food; risking attack by wild roaming dogs; hoarding Kent cigarettes to use as a main form of currency as money is worthless. These are details that make life in 1989 Romania feel real and give immediacy to Cristian's story. Highly recommend that teen and adult fans of historical fiction read I Must Betray You. Book Information Title: I Must Betray You Author: Ruth Sepetys Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publish Date: February 1, 2022 Genre(s): historical fiction Themes: loyalty, betrayal, hope Protagonist Description: 17 year old boy, straight, Romanian Trigger Warnings: violence I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) of this book for free from NetGalley and Penguin Young Readers Group . This is my honest review and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links to the book(s). Thank you for supporting Ms.Burke's Books & independent bookstores, through

  • Review: Finding Her Edge

    Finding Her Edge by Jennifer Iacopelli Summary As part of the legendary Russo family, Adriana is used to her family getting attention in the figure skating world. The pressure is on even more now that her family owned ice rink is hosting the Junior World team, while her sister is being filmed by a TV crew as she trains for the Olympics. On top of that Adriana is worried about her family's finances and the arrival of her ex-partner and crush, Freddie. Then social media explodes with speculation of a romance between her and her new partner, Brayden. Fearing the fate of the rink and knowing how increased fame and success could help, Adriana agrees to fake a relationship with Brayden and grow their star power. As their feelings become more real, Adriana has to make some life altering decisions that will decide not only her love life but what will come of her family and their future. My Thoughts Finding Her Edge is a fun YA romance that I particularly was excited to read given the figure skating aspect. I’m a former figure skater (though as a hobby and not competitive) and my first job was working at an ice rink, complete with teaching little kids how to skate! Would a non-skater be as enamored of this book as me? Maybe not, but it was a satisfying romance regardless of how much you’re invested in the skating world. There were aspects of the book that were a little weak. The financial issues of the family are a driving force of the plot, which should add some depth to Adriana's struggles but doesn't quite resonate as it's an abstract issue with no real impact on her life in the book. Some of the characters were one dimensional, notably Adriana's sister Elisa and her dad. Both did not seem to develop beyond being self-absorbed, mkaing it difficult to understand why Adriana would care or have empathy for them. Luckily both the sister and dad spend most of the book away at the Olympics and do not have a lot of direct interaction to read through. As a whole the book is enjoyable and any issues I had were nit-picking as the book is a light, romantic read that offers a unique backdrop to a classic love triangle. Book Information Title: Finding Her Edge Author: Jennifer Iacopelli Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group, Razorbill Publish Date: February 8, 2022 Genre(s): romance Themes: love, family Protagonist Description: Teenage girl, straight, white Trigger Warnings: not much beyond kissing I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) of this book for free from NetGalley and Penguin Young Readers Group. This is my honest review and all opinions are my own.. This post contains affiliate links to the book(s). Thank you for supporting Ms. Burke's Books & independent bookstores, through

  • Review: The Inheritance Games

    The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes Synopsis A lover of riddles, puzzles, and code Tobias Hawthorne created his final masterpiece when he named teenager Avery Grambs as the sole inheritor of his fortune, leaving almost nothing to his family. Which is confusing as Avery had never met Tobias or any of his family and has no idea why she would get everything. To solve this mystery requires Avery to navigate the sprawling Hawthorne House for clues while also trying to resist the charms of the three Hawthorne grandsons. With Agatha Christie vibes, this novel is suspenseful and fun, with the sequel The Hawthorne Legacy even more gripping than the original (in my opinion). My Thoughts The first two books of the Inheritance Games trilogy (the third book, The Final Gambit released August 30, 2022) have an old school, Agatha Christie mystery feel, which I absolutely love. The setting is mostly modern, with Avery having to deal with social media and paparazzi with her newfound fame. But once they're at the Hawthorne mansion it feels very classic mystery with secret passageways, grand libraries, and codes that cannot be solved with technology. It's a great blend of reality mixed with a fantasy world of what we would like to imagine being rich would be like (at least I would- it always involves libraries with rolling ladders and sky high bookshelves- ha!). Predictably, Avery is entangled with more than one Hawthorne boy in a potentially romantic way but I appreciated how independent Avery remained regardless of her feelings for the boys. The potential love interests post just another challenge for Avery in her quest to figure out why she was chosen to inherit and as a smart, feisty character she is well aware that any of the boys could be playing her to get closer to the money. She questions whether she can trust any of them, regardless of her feelings. At no point does Barnes let that overtake all the other complications in Avery's life, which can easily happen in YA novels. Avery does find herself in life threatening situations but the book never turns into a thriller; danger is kind of a background threat, where the reader knows Avery will be just fine but is along for the ride anyways. As a fan of mysteries, The Inheritance Games and The Hawthorne Legacy are a fantastic addition to this YA genre. Book Information Title: The Inheritance Games Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publish Date: September 1, 2020 Title: The Hawthorne Legacy Publish Date: September 7, 2021 Title: The Final Gambit Publish Date: August 30, 2022 Genre(s): Mystery Themes: family, loyalty, trust Protagonist Description: 17 year old girl, straight & white Trigger Warnings: Some implied sexual content This post contains affiliate links to the book(s). Thank you for supporting Ms.Burke's Books & independent bookstores, through

  • Engaging Students in the Library with Poetry Stations

    A flexible lesson or program that is perfect for collaboration with English classes. The poetry stations were created to support the 7th and 8th grade English teams, who were both doing units on poetry at the same time. My co-librarian and I to'ok this as a great opportunity to bring those classes into the library to engage in student-centered activities while also offering flexibility to teachers. Hence, stations which allowed us to shorten or extend time, as well as switch out activities based on the class' needs. We set up the 5 following stations, with directions at each and walked around to help students get started. We had a lot of support materials, too. Station 1: Magnetic Poetry We ordered kits in English and Spanish, as we have a large number of Spanish speakers. We also got small magnetic easels and trays to put the magnets in; important to keep some semblance of order at this station! Some students were told to write down their creations for their teacher but most it was just to play around with. We had to move many along to try other stations because they just wanted to stay here! Station 2: Haikus We used this worksheet from Poetry4Kids, which I'd recommend because it is simple with clear rules of haikus and an example. We also put a book with haikus out so students could read some more examples; this was one of the more challenging types of poems for them to write, though it went fast once they got it. Station 3: Acrostic Poems Another worksheet from Poetry4Kids was used for this station- for high school it may be too simple, but it definitely helped our middle schoolers who weren't quite sure what to do. Station 4: Blackout Poetry We printed out book excerpts in English and in Spanish, along with black markers and color markers. I did an example so that students could see a model using the same excerpts they had, which I think helped them visualize what they were supposed to do. This was one of the stations that took longer. Station 5: Magazine Poetry We put a pile of older magazines out, with some white paper, glue sticks, and scissors. Students were to cut out words or phrases to then paste on the paper to create a poem. This one needed the most supervision as it turned out to be the messiest. We also had to redirect a few students who were just cutting out pictures, especially a group making collages of Harry Styles (we removed the J-14 magazines after this as it was too tempting for teenagers). This station was also longer. For the classes that spent the entire period they ended up going to all the stations; others only did 2-3. After explaining what they were going to do we handed them a number of which station to start at. We found that some stations took a lot longer than others, so instead of doing a fixed amount of time at each we just guided the students when they were done to another station. For some of the larger classes this was tricky but it did give students who were really focused to not be interrupted and the ones who were getting squirrely to keep moving. Did it go smoothly for every class? Of course not. Some students were not engaged, others had trouble staying focused or on task. But overall I think the students enjoyed moving around, trying different ways to creating poetry, and having the chance to play around with the magnets or art.

  • 5 Lessons Learned With Our Makerspace

    How to scale back the Makerspace vision & implement it intentionally in your library. Our county was given a grant to put Makerspaces in all of the middle schools, primarily as support for the after school program. For our school we got approached to see if the library would want to run it and we jumped at the chance! We started off with a grand vision since we had such a great budget but quickly realized that even when you have the funds, you need to implement the Makerspace in small chunks. Our materials also ended up getting delayed to the very end of the year, so by necessity we had to scale back our original plan. Here are the 5 biggest takeaways we learned this year with our first Makerspace. 1. FOCUS FIRST ON PUTTING SYSTEMS & STRUCTURES INTO PLACE. How the Makerspace will work best for you and your students will be different in each school, so focusing on putting in systems is a crucial first step. A lot of it will be trial and error, but keeping activities simple and working on the structure of the Makerspace will make it run much smoother in the long run. We started the year with a lot of freedom in the Makerspace and quickly realized that was not going to work. We had to create structure around when the Makerspace was open to students, how many could access it at once, what types of projects were available, and what the expectations of the students were. It's easy to get caught up in planning all of the fun stuff! 2. IT'S OKAY TO PUT LIMITS ON THE MAKERSPACE USE. This has been our biggest challenge because ideally we would want students to have autonomy and freedom to create. We started with that and it was a disaster, both figuratively and literally. So many Perler Beads stuck in the carpet! We needed to figure out a management plan. One of our big limits has been the total number of students allowed in the Makerspace during their lunch period. Students have access to all of the Makerspace materials but as the room is small and we have other students in the main library, limiting the number has helped us manage the Makerspace and helped students have more room to actually work. The other big limit is the number of options students have in our after school Maker Club. The short version is the first part of the year was chaos and it just was not working. We decided that having an open Maker Club was not working for us and instead limited students to 3 monthly options. This has not only cut down on some of the issues we were having but it also set clear expectations for the club. 3. SIMPLE MATERIALS & PROJECTS ARE BEST TO START OFF WITH. Through the delay of our fancier materials and in conversations with other middle school librarians, we've discovered that students tend to gravitate towards the low tech options. This makes sense as it requires less of a learning curve and students can jump right into it without feeling intimidated. This also makes it easier to implement a Makerspace, both in planning and for the budget! The Perler Beads have been our most popular item, by far. We also have yarn, painting, and random supplies that students can use to build things (I emphasize "things"- I have no idea what some of these creations are!). Items like straws, popsicle sticks, and toliet roll tubes can be used for STEM activities as well. Start small and build both yourself and the students up to the more complicated items. 4. COLLECT BASIC MATERIALS AND ASK FOR DONATIONS. There are a lot of recycled materials to just collect, namely pieces of cardboard, toliet or paper towel rolls, etc. We asked for donations from staff, which also helps get the word out that there is a Makerspace. These low cost materials are easy to gather and there are a lot of activities they can be used for. We also used our Buy Nothing groups on Facebook to get items and it's been amazing. We requested supplies but also just kept a lookout for items that could work. Through this we got all of our Perler Beads, as well as puzzles and random art supplies. We also posted to our friends that we were looking for items; don't be afraid to ask! None of these items were high tech but that goes along with #3. 5. CREATE A PLAN FOR THE YEAR, WITH ROOM FOR FLEXIBILITY. Our grand vision of the Makerspace has been altered a lot this year. We have changed the physical space of where we thought the Makerspace would be and of course had to change plans with the delay in materials. Having a loose big plan is good, especially when you have a grant to take advantage of! But how the Makerspace is built up and how it will be used will change as you get more comfortable with it. Make a plan for each month, adjust it as you go, and realize you can go slow. All of the things do not need to happen all at once; leave room for the culture of a Makerspace to start to form in your school.

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