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Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress // Christine Baldacchino

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Title: Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress 
Author: Christine Baldacchino
Illustrator: Isabelle Malenfant
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Year of publication: 2014

A Canadian picture book, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress deals with non-traditional gender roles and bullying in a very casual manner. Morris is a creative, imaginative kindergartner who loves his mother Moira, his cat Moo, and his tangerine dress. The other kids laugh at Morris; the boys won’t let him in their spaceship (“Astronauts don’t wear dresses!”) and the girls tell him that “Dresses are for girls!” Their jarring statements upset Morris and give him a tummy ache. After spending some time with his mom and his cat, Morris has a dream about a space safari. He paints a picture of his dream and returns to school, tangerine dress in hand, and a rediscovered confidence. At school Morris makes his own spaceship and displays his painting. When the other boys see that Morris’ space safari includes elephants and tigers they no longer care about his tangerine dress and want to be part of his adventure.

Morris is a dynamic and resilient protagonist who thinks outside the box. The same characteristic that makes him a target of ridicule also makes him the ultimate space explorer whose imagination is able to take his classmates on new adventures. This book is important because it explains that Morris’ gender expression is okay and it’s only one small part of him as a person. Morris isn’t defined by his dress, it’s just one piece of the Morris puzzle! The book is charming and not overly complex. It doesn’t delve deep into sexuality or gender identity, it simply shows, “Hey, you’re a little different and that’s okay!”

Malenfant’s beautiful watercolor, charcoal, and pastel illustrations provide appealing texture and movement. The contrast of the bright tangerine dress, depicted with smudged pastels, perfectly expresses the “swish, swish” and “crinkle, crinkle” movement described by Baldacchino. The muted watercolor and dull charcoal backgrounds add depth to Morris’ tangerine hair and tangerine dress making him stand out in a sea of watercolor children.

Policy and Procedures Resource Guide

This Electronic Notebook is an online resource guide used to aid in the development of a school media center policy and procedures manual.

CLICK HERE to view the Electronic Notebook.

Discussion Scenario: Diversity

SCENARIO:

Imagine you are working in a public library as a children’s librarian. You are setting up a display of books with diverse characters and a parent starts talking to you about your choices. This person tells you: “In this library/neighborhood, we don’t have many people of color. I don’t think we need this display/these books here.”  Do you agree? Why or why not?

1)  What would you tell this person?  Prepare a minimum of three “talking points” that summarize your position and provide citations backing up your claims. You can list your arguments in bullet points. They do not need to be long, just a short two-three sentence reason on each bullet, explaining the need to include those books in your collection (or not.)  Include references to articles, websites, books, etc. [You can use any standard citation style.]

RESPONSE:

I absolutely do not agree with the patron’s assertion; however, I have worked in customer service long enough to understand the importance of acknowledging feedback of all kinds. It is even more important to present diversity in areas that are lacking it –especially in regard to children. It is vital for children to understand that not everybody is exactly the same and that’s okay! The world is a beautiful place – rich with diverse cultures and belief systems – exposing children early on gives them the opportunity to learn, to grow, to become well-rounded adults, and to make important life choices and develop their own opinions and belief systems later on in life. Exposing children to diverse situations, lifestyles, and backgrounds is not telling them what to think or believe but giving them options and nurturing intelligent, thoughtful children. In an area lacking diversity, it is especially necessary to provide resources for those children who may feel different.

I would respond to a patron who expressed these concerns with the following:

  • Acknowledge and show appreciation for sharing their concern: “Thank you for expressing your concern. We appreciate your feedback (warm smile)”
  • Politely explain why I’ve chosen these particular titles. “I’ve chosen these titles because it’s important to cultivate awareness, understanding, and respect for different cultures! These books help children develop diverse perspectives. (Iwai, 2015)” Then I would explain, “We also feel it’s important to provide resources for the ‘few children of color’ that are living in the area.”
  • Inquire about the patron’s interests in order to direct them to other displays or events that better meet their needs. “We have a number of other displays here as well! Would you like me to show you where they are?”

Iwai, Yuko. “Using Multicultural Children’s Literature To Teach Diverse Perspectives.” Kappa Delta Pi Record 51.2 (2015): 81- 86.ERIC. Web. 4 Sept. 2015.

Makerspace Program: Binary Code Jewelry

Technology and computer skills are increasingly important in this interconnected world.  Makerspaces provide a creative environment perfect for inspiring interest in activities like coding and computer programming.  It is a common misconception that maker activities have to be expensive and complicated.  Not every Makerspace requires 3D printers or pricey electronic components.  Simple maker activities can be inexpensive and still foster “the spirit of DIY creation and discovery.” (Peterson, 2013).  One easy and inexpensive maker project is creating a binary code necklace (using the ASCII encoding scheme).  It doesn’t take a coding expert to introduce binary basics to provide a foundational framework for understanding computer science.  This maker activity is simple enough for kids but interesting enough to provide coding basics for adults as well.

For this maker activity, it is necessary to provide background on the need for computers to translate data and instructions into their own encoded language.  There are a number of resources available online to provide background in basic coding concepts.  Everything inside the brain of the computer is made up of numbers.   A series of numbers can be interpreted a number of ways. It is the software or encoding scheme (in this case ASCII) that provides meaning to the 0s and 1s.  Each letter is made up of 8 bits and separating markers are called delimiters.  Thinkersmith  provides visual resources that depict the ASCII alphabet in binary.  Worksheets show the letters of the alphabet alongside their corresponding binary code.

After providing Makers with some binary background, it is important to provide examples of how to spell things out using the binary code they’ve just been introduced to.  It is the hands on playing with code that solidifies understanding.  In the image below, white squares represent 1 and black squares represent 0.

 

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Handouts can be provided with a number of words alongside blank squares.  Together the Facilitator and the Makers can go over the words and color the squares to spell the words in binary.

E.G.

“FUN”   (F)  01000110 (U)  01010101 (N) 01001110

Thinkersmith also provides the worksheets that Makers can use to spell their names in binary.  After spelling the names out on paper, makers can pick out two colors of beads to represent the 0s and 1s for their bracelets or necklaces.  The names are then spelled out with the beads (they can be separated by a colored bead chosen to act as a delimiter) then strung to create the jewelry.

This is a great starting activity for a library looking to start a Makerspace on a budget.  Funding for this activity is minimal.  Necessary supplies include colored beads, string, jewelry clasps, and free online binary worksheets that can be printed as take home handouts.  Books from the library’s collection containing information about computers, programming, coding, and jewelry making can be displayed for check out after the Maker activity.  With proper advertising and social media documentation, this activity could strike up community interest in the library’s Makerspace.  Promoting this program could lead to future funding opportunities from community members and local businesses (especially businesses with interests in computers and programming).  Crafty activities such as this can also be funded by hosting a supply drive to develop Maker craft boxes.

Other notable resources to help with this project:

Binary Code Summary

Professional Development Coding Resources

Hour of Code Tutorials

Full ASCII Table

Thinkersmith Coding Lesson Plans and Worksheets

References:

Peterson, K. M. (2013). Low tech, high gains: Starting a maker program is easier  than you think. School Library Journal.

(Thinkersmith makes their materials available under a Creative Commons license.  They can be used with proper credit.)

Blood and Chocolate // Annette Curtis Klause

‘Vivian, I’d like to give you my heart,’ Rafe said, suddenly serious, then immediately grinning again. ‘But since that might be inconvenient, I’ve brought you someone else’s.’

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Title: Blood and Chocolate
Author: Annette Curtis Klause
Publisher: Laurel Leaf Library
Year of Publication: 1999

When I began reading Blood and Chocolate I was a bit apprehensive.   I worried Vivian’s character wouldn’t be developed properly and that she’d remain hard and unlikable.  As the story progressed, so did Vivian, and so does the reader.  It’s easy to forget that Vivian exists in a world apart from humankind; it becomes easy to pass her off as vain and pretentious. Interestingly enough, it’s the same qualities that set Vivian apart from humanity that highlight the human experience.  Shewolf or human, everyone has the face the world sees and the self we hide.  Everyone struggles with acceptance, with heartache, with rebellion.   Vivian is a beautifully and realistically dynamic protagonist.  For such a strong and otherworldly shewolf, she still maintains the dark vulnerability of a teenage girl in love.

Publishing Project

1

I’m currently taking a course called “Preparing Instructional Media” for my MLIS program. We were assigned to create an electronic published document as well as a paper-based document.  Both items are required to fit into a theme of our own choosing.  I imagined a Teen Book club based on fairy tale retellings.  It’s important to design events around relevant materials that are likely to garner interest from the target audience within the community.   I created an electronic poster for the club, an electronic flyer for one of the specific meetings, and two bookmarks to serve as the paper documents.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with my finished products.  Originally the typeface on the “Magical Retellings” poster was an off-white color.  It looked nice and clean, but some viewers had trouble reading the lighter text.  I wanted to appeal to teens stylistically.  The images and fonts chosen were designed to resemble some of the popular images that circulate on social media sites such as tumblr and facebook.  So many promotional materials posted by libraries employ zero graphic design concepts and are loaded with silly clip art and harsh colors and fonts.  My goal was to create aesthetically pleasing materials that provide enough information to interest the viewer in the event being advertised.

teen reader summer book club

Whisper of Death // Christopher Pike

“I sit alone in a dead world. The wind blows hot and dry, and the dust gathers like particles of memory waiting to be swept away. I pray for forgetfulness, yet my memory remains strong, as does the outstretched arm of the oppressive air. It seems as if the wind has been there since the beginning of the nightmare. Sometimes loud and harsh, a thousand sharp needles scratching at my reddened skin. Sometimes a whisper, a curious sigh in the black of night, of words more frightening than pain. I know now the wind has been speaking to me. Only I couldn’t understand because I was too scared. I am scared now as I write these words. Still, there is nothing else to do.”

Title: Whisper of Death
Author: Christopher Pike
Publisher: Archway Paperbacks
Year of Publication: 1991

A young couple’s miserable day trip turns exceptionally nightmarish when they return home to find that everyone has disappeared.  Well, almost everyone.  A small group of high school students remain; their only connection is a girl named Betty Sue who recently committed suicide.  The teens struggle to make sense of this strange new and potentially deadly situation.

Pike really knows how to craft a creative storyline.  Despite its age, Whisper of Death doesn’t feel dated in a way that makes it inaccessible; however, some readers may find a few of the comments regarding the more serious topics (*tw: rape and abortion) antiquated and/or victim blaming.   Politics aside, this short novel provides a very creepy and compelling read.  Also, I’m a sucker for the neat cover art and awesome neon typeface.

Why We Broke Up // Daniel Handler

‘It’s different,’ you said. ‘You’ve made, Min, everything different for me.  Everything’s like coffee you made me try, better than I ever–or the places I didn’t even know were right on the street, you know?  I’m like this thing I saw when I was little, where a kid hears a noise under his bed and there’s a ladder there that’s never been there before, and he climbs down and, it’s for kids I know, but this song starts playing…’

wwbu

Title: Why We Broke Up
Author: Daniel Handler
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Year of Publication: 2011
Awards: Michael L. Printz Award Nominee (2012)

Why We Broke Up is a letter to quirky Min’s basketball star ex detailing their relationship and its aftermath through her eyes.

I was pretty thrilled to find this on the bargain shelf for $4.97 and I tried really hard to love it.  Unfortunately, Min is less of a believable female protagonist and more of a manic pixie dream girl contrived by an aging white dude who probably longed to meet someone like Min back in high school.  One could argue she defies the trope because she’s telling the story  or even because she argues against being “different” but her whole character makes me think of a really awesome social media account that leads followers into believing the account holder’s whole life is whimsical and magical when in reality most of their time is spent watching Law and Order in their underwear.  The feeling the chosen images give you were meticulously planned out, edited, and presented.

Many of the descriptions were so drawn out I became bored halfway through and forgot what was being described in the first place. (Maybe I was just sleepy?)  I get it, Min was in love and heartbroken and sorting through her feeeeeelings, but in parts it’s just too much.  Maybe I’m an old grump, jaded by dating too many Eds, and pushing away all the Als.  Maybe I found this book at the wrong time.  Perhaps it’s more appropriate at the end, or even during, some magical love affair.  I’m very much a proponent of reading books when it feels right and admittedly my timing was likely off on this one.

YOU EITHER HAVE THE

FEELING

OR YOU DON’T

The illustrations are cute and the book itself is very visually pleasing.  In a way, I will admit, Why We Broke Up is kind of charming, character tropes and all.

Leviathan // Scott Westerfeld

Maybe this was how you stayed sane in wartime: a handful of noble deeds amid the chaos.

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Title: Leviathan
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year of Publication: 2009
Awards: ALA 2012 Notable Children’s Book, ALA/YALSA 2012 Best Books for Young Adults, School Library Journal Best Books of 2009

Prince Alek is whisked away in the middle of the night by his father’s most trusted men.  A war is coming and the young prince finds himself caught in the crosshairs.  Deryn is a fifteen year old girl disguising herself as a boy to make her mark in the British Air Service.  A Clanker and a Darwinist, the teens are thrown together in an unlikely alliance to escape the Germans and begin an even greater adventure.

Leviathan is the first book in the fantastic trilogy that combines steampunk and biological fabrications to create a novel setting for a re-imagined history of World World I. Beautifully illustrated by Keith Thompson, the rich language is paralleled with intricate black and white illustrations.

“Leviathan is as much about possible futures as alternate pasts.  It looks ahead to when machines will look like living creatures, and living creatures can be fabricated like machines.  And yet the setting also recalls an earlier time in which the world was divided into aristocrats and commoners, and women in most countries couldn’t join the armed forces– or even vote.

That’s the nature of steampunk, blending future and past.”

Scott Westerfeld

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