Contact PMSDirections to PMSSite Map

pmslibrary@piedmont.k12.ca.us Subscribe to my updates

Archive for September, 2010

The Poet Slave of Cuba

Friday, September 24th, 2010

poet slaveBy Margarita Engle, Art by Sean Qualls    p. 183  – Grades 7-12 – biography

Trapped as a slave in a wealthy home in Cuba, Juan Francisco Manzano lived his life in fear of the cruel punishments of his masters.  This sad and harrowing story was uncovered because the young slave,  Manzano, wrote vivid poetry that describes his time as a slave.   In Cuba poetry is like television; many people perform poetry for others and stories are often carried across the country because people repeat the poems they have heard.  It is for this reason that the author, Margarita Engle, was inspired to write this biography in verse, paying tribute to Manzano’s work.  While enslaved Manzano could not stop creating poems in his head; sometimes his owners praised him for his creativity and other times he was severely punished.  The poems were part of Manzano and came to him as naturally as breathing; no punishment, no matter how harsh, could stop him from being himself.

Connections:  For other serious stories in verse try Aleutian Sparrow or Out of the Dust, both by Karen Hesse.  For stories about people escaping oppression try 5,000 Miles to Freedom: Ellen and William Craft’s Flight From Slavery, by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin, or The Year of Impossible Goodbyes, by Sook Nyul Choi.

Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori (Book One)

Friday, September 24th, 2010

nightingale floorBy Lian Hearn, p. 305 – adult fiction

Takeo has never known his father, who died many years before, and he has been growing up in a remote and peaceful Japanese village surrounded by the rest of his loving family.  The rest of Japan is not so;  it is a time of warlords, and secret societies in the middle ages, and Takeo’s home is attacked and destroyed by a warlord named Iida who is threatening to take over the whole country.  When Takeo returns from a walk in the woods and  sees his village burning, something inside him takes over.  He scares the warlord’s horse and causes Iida to fall to the ground.  Understanding his fatal blunder, he runs back into the woods chased by the warlord’s soldiers.  They all run into a man on horseback who fights for Takeo, cutting off the arm of one of Iida’s best warriors.  This mysterious man turns out to be a lord of the Otori clan, another of the powerful families of Japan.

Takeo’s life changes completely from this day forward.  He is adopted by the Otori and  he discovers his father was a famous assassin.  He also finds out his real heritage is the Tribe, a kind of secret ninja society; he possesses some of the Tribe’s extraordinary abilities.  He can hear details across a crowded courtyard, or through a wooden door, he can make himself “go invisible” and become as silent as a ghost.

In these turbulent times, talents like these are desired by many, and Takeo finds himself pulled in different directions, but he is determined to complete the final task for his adopted father:  kill Iida, the same  lord who burned his village and killed his family.  The trouble is the only way to reach the warlord in his palace is to cross the nightingale floor, a huge room covered in a floor that sings whenever anyone touches it.  How can he  cross the nightingale floor and avenge his family?

Connections: For other stories taking place in medieval Japan try The Samurai’s Tale, by Erik Christian Haugaard, or The Sword that Cut the Burning Grass: A Samurai Mystery, by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.

The Alchemyst

Friday, September 24th, 2010

the-alchemyst-book-coverBy Michael Scott – p. 375  – Grade 6-9 – fantasy

Michael Scott is a professor of mythology and was inspired by the TRUE  story of Nicholas Flamel.  He was actually a real person!  He was born in Paris on September 28, 1330, and buried 1418, but the tomb is empty! Thus begins the myth, or history, of the alchemyst, Nicholas Flamel, immortal and still alive in today?

The Alchemyst begins in modern day New York City; teenage twins Sophie and Josh have moved there  for the summer.   The brother works in a bookstore  for Nick Flemming (name sound familiar?) and the sister works at a cafe across the street.  Right away the bookstore is blown up by mud people and a menacing character named Dr. John Dee.  When Dee and his muddy henchmen storm into the bookstore, Josh is watching from a hiding place.  Dee grabs Flamel’s wife, Perry, and almost makes off with the most powerful book of magic, but Josh manages to grab a few key pages before he and Mr. Flemming have to escape the explosion.   Flamel believes Josh and Sophie might be the twins of the prophecy, so he wants to keep them close in the hopes of finding his precious wife and the stopping Dee from destroying the world as we know it.   From the moment the bookstore explodes Josh and Sophie are on a roller coaster adventure, full of magical, mythical creatures and frightening beasts.  Sequels The Magician and The Sorceress continue the perilous adventure.

Connections:  Other adventure fantasies The Lightning Thief series, by Rick Riordan, Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling, The Alchemist’s Cat, by Robin Jarvis

CYRM 2011-12 Winners

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Have you read the California Young Reader Medal winners?

 

Middle School Winner: Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass  &  Young Adult Winner:  Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Every_Soul_a_Star_book_cover

graceling