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It won’t surprise anyone to know that I read lots of books. However, I don’t just read - I listen, too. Audiobooks became a big part of my reading life a few years ago when I discovered how much more enjoyable they made my summer hours in the yard and garden. Usually I feel like I enjoy (or don’t enjoy) a book based on the plot, pacing, characters, etc. and don’t feel like the format - paper or audio - has much to do with it. However, I think in some cases it may make more of a difference than I expect. For instance, last year one of my very favorite summer books was The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. It’s a great romantic fantasy, and I made excuses to keep doing things that allowed me to listen to it until I finished it, even replaying a part or two because I wanted to soak in every detail. Yes, I listened to it. This summer, I was so excited to start off by reading Ahdieh’s sequel: The Rose and the Dagger. However, this time I had a paper copy so I was reading and not listening, and I quickly noticed something about this author’s writing that drove me nuts - so much so that it affected my enjoyment on the book. The author writes using lots of fragments. Like this. Over and over. On every page. So so many of them. For no reason. I don’t mind a little creativity with writing style now and then, (although I think willfully random punctuation belongs more in poetry than prose) but this was so excessive that I felt it really chopped up the story. A period is to indicate a stop, so I found myself mentally stopping hundreds of times each chapter when what I really needed was just a small pause, which is more appropriately indicated by a comma. I know, I a former English teacher, this may be something that annoys only me, but annoy me it did. AND, it really made me appreciate the reader who narrated that audiobook I listened to last summer. Her seamless reading, with only pauses and not full stops, didn’t ever let me know that the author was using this crazy fragmented writing style. Had I listened to The Rose and The Dagger, it might have been one of my summer favorites again. As it was, I did still enjoy the plot and characters, but because the writing style was so frustrating for me, I found myself quibbling more with plot details than I imagine I would have had I been listening. This was an interesting learning experience for me, and I will appreciate those wonderful audiobook readers more than ever now!  
Posted by kparker  On Jun 17, 2016 at 11:31 AM 21 Comments
've finished a couple of books from my summer reading pile (which is enormous!). One of these was a pleasant surprise and one a sad disappointment. I'd been looking forward to The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas ever since I first heard about it. It's a mystery, and that is always my favorite genre, and the reviews raved about how great it is. Sadly, it did not live up to expectations. It all sounds intriguing: Tessa hasn't been back to the small Pennsylvania town where she grew up for years, not since she and her friend provided testimony that put a killer behind bars. Only now that she's back, doubts creep in about what really happened that summer, especially now that another girl is dead. It sounds promising, like a story line that would pull a reader in, except it never did for me. I had a hard time finishing it, though I did and admit the ending was at least surprising. Overall though, this was a big let down for me. The second book, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, wasn't one I was particularly excited about, and the progression of events was a little predictable, but the characters won me over and kept me happily reading 'til the end! For my readers who love a sweet romance story, this will be a hit.  Jessie has just moved to California with her dad who has remarried. It's not a situation she's happy about, and she definitely doesn't fit in. But her differences catch the eye of a classmate who communicates with her anonymously. As Jessie begins to develop feelings for her email pal, she tries to figure out who he is. She has several suspects, but who is he? Cute, fun, and with some genuine character growth too, this is a perfect summer read!
Posted by kparker  On Jun 06, 2016 at 2:07 PM 21 Comments
I think we're all ready for summer, and one of my favorite parts of those lazy days is sitting outside, reading the perfect book. If you are looking for some great summer reading ideas for yourself or your kids, check out my summer reading recommendation lists. I will be posting my 2016 lists today, and all my lists from the past are available on this website, too, if you need even more options. If you go to the Library Media Center homepage on the Archie School District website, you'll see a "Useful Links" tab. This has the summer reading lists in Word documents. There are also print copies to pick up in the LMC. Enjoy!
Posted by kparker  On May 11, 2016 at 8:33 AM 23 Comments
Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the Missouri School Library Association spring conference. One of the conference highlights each year is finding out which books won the reader awards! Pictured above are three of the four winners. The Gateway Award for readers in grades 9-12 awarded The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey with their honors. The Mark Twain Award, for readers in grades 4-6, selected Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein as their winner, and the Show-Me Award winner for students in grades 1-3 was Trouper by Meg Kearney. The neat thing about these awards is that the winners are selected by students in our state, so many students here in Archie were involved in selecting these winners this year! The other award winner, the Truman Award for grades 6-8, was Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz. Unfortunately it isn't pictured because our library copy of that was damaged this year, and I have yet to replace it, but it will be back the library by August when we return to school!   If you haven't read these books yet, add them to your summer reading list now!
Posted by kparker  On May 03, 2016 at 7:34 AM 28 Comments
I should've posted this with yesterday when I was gushing over how incredible Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle series is. As I was lamenting why I struggle with series, one thing I mentioned is that I can never remember what happened in the previous books. Well, an ingenious website called Recaptains(visit it at: ) provides very detailed recaps of books in a series for people who share my book-memory problem. Just last week I read the recaps for the first two books in The Winner's Curse series because I just got the final book at home but can't remember much from the preceding titles. Today I was checking out the recap for the middle two books in the Raven Cycle, and guess who wrote the recaps? Maggie Stiefvater! It doesn't get much better than that! 
Posted by kparker  On Apr 22, 2016 at 12:03 PM 26 Comments
One of my favorite authors for young adults is Maggie Stiefvater, and a book I (and several of my high school students) can't wait for is the concluding volume to the Raven Cycle series - and it comes out next week! First let me say I don't always like series. I get tired of waiting for the next book to come out, I forget what happened in previous books, and then often the new volumes don't live up to expectations. That has NOT been the case with this series. Each book has seemed like a complete story in itself, so although they end with unanswered questions, they won't make you scream from the complete lack of resolution. Stiefvater is also a fantastic writer: her characters are like real people with depth and flaws, and her imagination leaves me astonished. How does she think of these ideas?! The first book in the series, The Raven Boys, introduces the main character, Blue. She lives in a house full of women - her mom and her aunts, and they all have psychic abilities. In fact, running a psychic phone line helps pay the bills. Blue doesn't have the same skills, but she does believe in what her family does, so much so that she has never kissed a boy, having been told all her life that the first boy she loves will die.  She can't seem to avoid her fate forever when her life becomes entangled with four boys from the ritzy private school in her small Virginia town. The "raven boys," as the locals call the boys, are on a mission to find a dead (or just sleeping?) Welsh king they believe is entombed somewhere close by. As Blue develops feelings for not one, but two, of the boys, she also becomes captivated by the mystery they seek to solve.   If the first book sounds strange, the second is even more so, but because you will be so caught up in the lives of the characters you'll just go with it. One thing I loved about these books is that even the secondary characters matter and drive the plot, too. If you are starting these books now, you are so lucky because you will be able to read the series all the way through - no waiting! The Raven King, book 4, comes out next Tuesday!
Posted by kparker  On Apr 21, 2016 at 9:12 AM 19 Comments
One of the best surprises for me when I changed from teaching high school English to working in the K-12 library has been picture books! I have so much fun reading these stories and thinking of fun ways to use them in all types of classrooms. A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea is not only a laugh-out-loud funny story but also an excellent example of a persuasive essay (and a good lesson on author's purpose, too)! The narrator of the story begins with a clear thesis and then provides great reasons why a pig parade is not a good idea, complete with examples and accompanying illustrations. This is a book that's been used in several English class writing lessons and couldn't be a more fun way to learn!    I also love When Dinosaurs Came with Everything. Imagine a trip to the dentist; after your child's teeth are clean, instead of a new toothbrush, how about a free dinosaur? That's the concept behind this fun story in which a boy and his mother run a series of errands, only to find that with each purchase, a dinosaur is the marketing surprise of the day. I love this story for the complete absurdity of the concept, but it can also be used to talk about consumer issues and business practices. When I read this recently to a 3rd grade class, they had lots of examples of how businesses try to entice customers through their doors. Theses books are both great fun for young and old alike!
Posted by kparker  On Apr 15, 2016 at 8:49 AM 19 Comments
My 2016 Missouri reader's award parties are tomorrow, and that got me thinking about some of my favorite nominees from this year. The two book pictured here are my favorites from this year's Mark Twain nominees. The Mark Twain award is for students in grades 4-6, and students who read 5 of the nominees get to vote for the winner. Some years the students and I have very different favorites, but this year we were right in line with our choices. Probably the most popular nominee with students this year, and one I really enjoyed too, is Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. In this fast-paced adventure, a group of students has been chosen to spend the night in their town's brand new library. The catch is that they will be locked in, and the team that can solve many book-related puzzles first will win an amazing prize. The other book pictured is my overall favorite and one that several Archie students voted for as their favorite, too. It's Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. This is the story of 12-year old Willow, a super genius whose intellect and adaptability have helped her survive a life full of tragedy. As Willow faces another awful event, she comes into contact with a diverse group of people, and each encounter leaves everyone changed for the better. This was a surprising and heart-warming story that truly touched me.  Sometimes I have students ask for books with "no sad parts;" this is not that book. It has its share of sorrows, but the joys are far greater, and this is a book I can see reading again and again during a lifetime.
Posted by kparker  On Apr 05, 2016 at 3:00 PM 25 Comments
Patricia McCormick is an author who does a great job presenting the wider world to our junior high and high school readers by telling compassion-filled stories set outside the US. When I book talk (I present suggestions for check out by telling them about various books' plots.) to our secondary students, many of them want to read books they can relate to - books about teens who face problems they might also encounter. It's sometimes hard to entice them to read about the unfamiliar topics and worlds they will find in McCormick's novels. However, once students open these books, McCormick's writing style is quick to engage, and students are amazed to follow the characters on their journeys through lives so different from our own. McCormick's book Sold, a National Book Award finalist, relays the story of a 13-year old Nepalese girl sold into a terrible life. Purple Heart has perhaps a more relatable protagonist: an American solder serving in Iraq. However, the story covers new ground as the main character, Private Matt Duffy, is recovering from wounds both physical and psychological as he continues his tour in the Middle East. Another McCormick book, not pictured because it's checked out, is Never Fall Down.  This tells the story of Arn, a child soldier in Cambodia during the regime of the Khmer Rouge. Students who choose to read these books often come back and ask me for, "another book like this," and I love to have another to hand them!
Posted by kparker  On Mar 28, 2016 at 11:47 AM 19 Comments
Students in Archie are always excited about new sports books, so at the end of last year I purchased a few books by an author I hadn't heard of: Jake Maddox. To my surprise, these have quickly become some of the most popular books in our entire library! These are especially popular with students in grades 3 and 4 who are looking for a quick chapter book read. There isn't a sport for which there isn't at least one corresponding Jake Maddox, hockey, hiking, football...they're all there! The best news is that several times each year, new Jake Maddox books are released, and so far they've all had SRC quizzes, too! If you know a sports enthusiast who has yet to discover this series, point them to the Jake Maddox books. They are sure to be pleased!
Posted by kparker  On Mar 23, 2016 at 1:05 PM 34 Comments
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