Tag Archives: book talk

A Long Walk to Water

This is a book talk for a 6th grade class.

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story Salva is sitting in school one day when an explosion rocks the classroom. Rather then telling the students not to panic, or evacuating quietly, the teacher tells the students to run, run as fast as they can, and be careful who they trust. It is 1985, and the boys do that, they run, and then walk, as fast as they can. Not sure who to trust or where they can find safety, they embark on a quest that takes them across the desert, to refugee camps in two different countries, facing violence and environmental dangers every step. Their quest lasts years, and many never make it. They are called the Lost Boys.

Nya is also 11, and in 2008 she also spends most of the day walking. Only her trips take her to the water hole to get water, four hours one way, four or more hours back. Hauling water for her whole family is her full time job. The same thing every day, except when the water dries up, and then it might be a longer walk. The dangers Nya faces are less dramatic, but if the water dries or is fouled her and her village all could die.

While this is fiction, it is based on a true story. In A Long Walk to Water, Linda Sue Park moves between the experiences of these two kids, a boy and a girl, in two different times in a country far away. The events that happen to the two are things that real kids just like you experienced and continue to experience. The country is Sudan. Does anyone here know anything about Sudan? Where is it? What is it like? If you don’t know, Sudan is the largest country in Africa. Like many countries around the world unrest and civil war has led to many people fleeing the country in the past century. As fighting dies down, challenges arise over access to education, food and water. To find out how a few brave people, just your age, struggle through violence, and now struggle to live their lives in a part of the world that is completely different from ours, read A Long Walk to Water. And if you want to learn more about the stories of kids living all around the world, come join our Summer Reading Program, One World, Many Stories.

Book Talk Tuesday is hosted by Lemme Library, head on over to check out the other posts:


Aliens on Vacation

Aliens on Vacation The summer in between his sixth and seventh grades could have been awesome. It could have been basketball camp. It could have been lounging by the pool. It could even have included winning the ultimate challenge with his best friend, and kissing a girl.

But no, instead David (aka Scrub) is sent by his mostly absentee parents to spend the summer with the grandmother he’s never even met, in the middle of nowhere, with no cel reception or internet access. His grandmother who dresses like a hippie, only cooks things made of soy or grown in her garden, and worst of all, runs a bed and breakfast for crazy people who want to dress up like extras from Star Trek. His parents, his grandmother, and all the guests must be insane.

At least that is what David thinks. But the evidence that meets his eyes on arriving at the Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast makes him wonder if he is the crazy one. A nearly seven foot tall ashen skin man sniffing the mailbox. A family of four of unusual proportions walking on all fours down the hall. And things just get stranger from there. The house rules, posted in his room, are as following:

  1. Leave nothing behind
  2. Take nothing with you
  3. Dress appropriately
  4. Two arms, two legs, one head
  5. No harming the natives

David’s suspicions are confirmed when his grandmother reveals that her guests are all tourists from around the universe, and she needs him to help her keep things going. Can he keep the tourists from revealing their origins to the suspicious town? Will his summer suck as badly as he thought? Well you’ll just have to pick up a copy of Clete Barrett Smith’s Alien’s on Vacation.

Somehow, in this science fictiony story, Smith has managed to capture more realism and humor then are found in many supposedly realistic fiction books. Rather then trying to write the next Harry Potter, or the next Percy Jackson (sort of the same thing really), Smith writes a book that will resonate with boys and girls, make them laugh, and look at the people around them a little different. The afterword refers to the author’s critique group criticizing this as having too much Narnia in it, but unlike most fantasy this book isn’t about entering or discovering a strange world, but about looking at the real world and discovering that, if we let it, the strange things will come out. And that most of the really strange things are us.

I’d recommend this book for middle grade kids. It isn’t violent (though Scrub does have things thrown at him, including rotten fruit and someone’s elbow), and has less of the potty humor of Wimpy Kid books. There may be a first kiss, but it is pretty innocent. In many ways this is The Strange Case of Origami Yoda on summer vacation.

Reviewed from Advanced Reader’s Copy obtained from NetGalley.


(This book talk is for a fourth grade class)

Crunch When you don’t drive a car, gas prices don’t seem very important–since you don’t have to buy any! But the price of gas impacts everything, when it gets more expensive the price of other things raises. Everything you buy has to get to the store somehow, and that cost goes up, so you get to pay that cost. But even so, people still pay the money to get the gas. What would happen, though, if there was no more gas, no matter how much money you have?

In Crunch, by Lesile Connor, this is exactly what happens. And to make it even worse, Dewey Marris’ parents are stuck with the truck his dad drives way up north, with no hope of getting back unless gas becomes available again. So Dewey is left at home with his older sister and three younger brothers, two of whom are twin 5 yr olds. Not only that, he and his brother have to keep the family’s bike repair shop open, because with no gas everyone is turning to bike power to get around. Dewey doesn’t want to turn any one away, and since he is responsible he just keeps taking on more and more. But how much can one boy do, especially when things are disappearing, and there seems to be no hope his parents will return soon? Can he figure out who the thief is? Will his parents ever make it home?

Read Crunch, by Lesile Connor to find out what a world without gas would be like and to see if Dewey and his family can survive the crunch.

Book Talk Tuesday is hosted by Lemme Library, visit her there to read all of the other great book talks!

One Crazy Summer, or What’s in the Kitchen?

One Crazy Summer One summer, Delphine’s dad decides that she and her sisters are old enough to fly all the way across the country to spend time with their mother in Oakland California. Only, here’s the thing, it is 1968, Delphine is eleven, and they are flying alone to see a mother that they barely remember, since she left them when they were babies. And they are going to Oakland, which is STILL a scary neighborhood, but THEN it was a hot bed of racial tension. When the girls arrive in California, do you think their mother is happy to see them?

No! In fact, she doesn’t even show up to get them from the airport, until Delphine calls her and begs. And when she does show up, she demands the money they were saving for Disneyland! Things go downhill from there, when she kicks them out of the house the next morning and tells them not to come back until 6 p.m.. All alone, with no breakfast, since their mother wont even let them LOOK in the kitchen, these three girls end up at a Black Panther summer camp. This group is trying to advocate for greater racial equality, and just recently a young man was shot. Things are tense in the neighborhood, and it might get violent. But Delphine and her sisters are there for the free breakfast and not the revolution.

Do you think they will manage to stay out of the revolution and possible violence? Will they ever discover what is in the kitchen? Read One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia to find out what happens to Delphine and her sisters.

I gave this book talk, or something like it as I didn’t write it out beforehand, to a fourth grade class and a boy dragged his mom to the library to get him a card and tracked me down to ask about the book with the kitchen, cause he wanted to know what was in there.

Hosted by The Lemme Library

Book Talk versus Review

In my mind a book talk is vastly different from a review, both in purpose and in execution. When I’m trying to sell a book to someone I want to hook them in, entice them into finding out more, whet their appetite so they can try it and see if they like the book. A review, on the other hand, should tell me more about the book, enough so that I know pretty much what I’m getting and if I’m going to like the book. I use reviews to add books to the library collection, and I appreciate honesty and thoroughness. I don’t mind spoilers or critical reviews, in fact I LOVE critical reviews, and I prefer publications like The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books that will tell me if a book is middle of the road or even not worth my money.

With a booktalk, however, I assume that the person telling me about the book thinks that it is worth reading, otherwise why are they trying to get me to read it? I follow the rule of only booktalking books I like, mostly because it is hard to do otherwise.

I bring this up because another blogger has started up a Book Talk Tuesday and I want to join in (yay a meme!), but needed to first clear the air about what I will be writing. Book talks are the description that sells the book, that hooks the reader, that drags that kid into the library to ask what was in the kitchen. I may only need to read one review of a book to know if I’ll like it or need to buy it, but I can read more than one book talk to see more ways to sell a book to different people.

Historical Facts and Fiction for Fourth Graders

When this fourth grade teacher invited me to her class, I was distracted by the first part of the email where she told me that students don’t use the public library because of the internet. So I didn’t realize until shortly before the presentation what exactly she wanted, which was booktalks and not a presentation on libraries. Since it was a last second switch, I selected books I’d recently read and that sort of connected. The theme was children in the past, which lead into a presentation on slavery. Our county’s reading program has been slave narratives, and I was promoting a program I’d planned.

I book talked three books:

1. Knucklehead, a memoir of growing up in the 1960’s that is laugh out loud funny, and a crowd pleaser. Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka
2. One Crazy Summer, a recent award winner, and the story of three girls in Oakland and the Black Panther movement. The kids were dying to know what was in the kitchen that Delphine’s mother wouldn’t let them see, but I wouldn’t tell them. I’m hoping some one picked the book up to find out. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to find out! One Crazy Summer
3. Elijah of Buxton, an older title, but a surprising favorite. Even the teacher was amazed that four or five of her kids had read this. Several of the kids had already moved onto Bud, Not Buddy. It is always a mixed blessing to recommend books to people they’ve already read and loved, it means I’m on the right track, but that this one will not work. Elijah Of Buxton

The last title was a good transition to my presentation on slavery, as I had brought a picture of the school class at Buxton along with other pictures and documents on slavery. Even the kids who had read the book were interested in the pictures and finding out about the real place the book was based on.

Because the presentation is kind of a downer, especially because many of the children had no idea about slavery, I ended up reading Tadpole’s Promise, which the kids enjoyed. Though a couple told me it wasn’t the happy ending I’d promised them!