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    Worlds of Fantasy

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Feb 19, 2018

    Looking for some imaginative and exciting fantasy and science fiction books? This week we include reviews of the latest additions to old favorites, as well as stand-alone and first books in new series. From animal fantasies to modern fairytales to science fiction set on futuristic Earth or in galaxies far, far away, there is something here for everyone.

    Ages 4–8

    Better Together (Heartwood Hotel #3). Kallie George. Ill. Stephanie Graegin. 2018. Disney-Hyperion.

    Heartwood HotelMona (an orphaned mouse who found a true home as a maid in the Heartwood Hotel in Book One) is busy spring cleaning. Amid rumors of a rival splashy hotel opening in Fernwood Forest, plans are underway to add more zing to the Heartwood’s spring season. Henry, a young squirrel, suggests replacing the annual Heartwood Hop with a season of competitions. Flyers about the Spring Splash go up throughout the forest, and the hotel is soon filled with guests staying for the season to participate in contests (Cutest Egg, Tiniest Talent, and Best Blossom) and the Grand Finale. Mona is overwhelmed with housekeeping chores and extra duties related to the festivities, and is jealous over all the attention clever Henry is getting from staff and guests. When unwanted intruders disrupt the festivities, however, it is brave Mona who saves the endangered hotel guests—and the reputation of the Heartwood Hotel. Readers can look forward to the summer season at the Heartwood Hotel in Home Again, out this July.

    —CA

    The Cherry Pie Princess. Vivian French. Ill. Marta Kissi. 2018. Kane Miller.

    The Cherry Pie PrincessThe King has many strict rules and severe punishments for disobeying them. After Princess Peony asks Librarian Lionel Longbeard if she can borrow a cookbook, he is thrown into the dungeon. When Peony bakes delicious cherry pies, the King bans her from the kitchen. While her parents busily prepare for her brother’s christening and invite the three good fairies (but not the nasty Hag from Scrabster’s Hump), Peony pesters her father to release Longbeard from the dungeon. As a result, he orders that she be locked in her room. Clever Princess Peony escapes, but when found, is thrown into the dungeon for Those Who Speak Out of Turn. With the christening ceremony in full swing, the hag sneaks in, springing a revenge spell on everyone in attendance (“Sleeping twine … that baby’s mine!). Peony, who has once again escaped, is the only one who can save the kingdom from a never-ending nap (well, with the help of the librarian and the jester from the dungeon and a talking cat) and reverse her father’s tyrant ways. Kissi’s humorous black-and-white illustrations complement this reimagined tale of Sleeping Beauty. 

    —NB

    Ages 9–11

    The Adventures of Alfie Onion. Vivian French. Ill. Marta Kissi. 2018. Kane Miller.

    The Adventures of Alfie OnionAs the seventh son of a seventh son, Magnifico Onion is sent adventuring by his fairytale obsessed mother to find a castle, to kiss and marry a princess, and to bring back gold and jewels so that the Onion family can live “Happily Ever After in Glorious Luxury.” Alfie, the eighth son, is sent along to carry Magnifico’s luggage and baskets full of porkpies, sausages, and buns. In true fairytale fashion, while self-indulgent and cowardly Magnifico is not equipped for the hardships and dangers of a great adventure, brave and loyal Alfie becomes the true hero. With the help of some talking animal companions—Bowser, his dog; a horse named Adeline; two mice, Penelope and Norman; and two magpies, Perce and Kev—Alfie frees the castle of the ogre Grindbone and his son, Flugg. Alfie Onion and Princess Mary Onion live happily ever after (so does Magnifico, in a different way). Black-and-white illustrations featuring the large cast of characters add to the fun of reading this rollicking adventure.

    —CA

    The Royal Rabbits of London (The Royal Rabbits of London #1). Santa Montefiore & Simon Sebag Montefiore. Ill. Kate Hindley. 2018. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    The Royal Rabbits of LondonAlthough it is forbidden by the Leaders of the Warren to venture to the burrow at the edge of the forest, Shylo Tawny-Tail, a small, skinny, and timid young rabbit, goes there to visit Horatio, an old, battle-scarred grey rabbit, who tells him stories from The Rise and Fall of the Great Rabbit Empire. When Shylo tells Horatio about overhearing three Ratzis planning to sneak into the Queen’s bedroom in Buckingham Palace to take pictures of the Queen in her nightie to sell to rat-on-a-celebrity.com, Horatio sends Shylo to alert the Royal Rabbits, who are charged with protecting the royals. Taking to heart Horatio’s “Go! By will and by luck, with a moist carrot, a wet nose, and a slice of mad courage,” Shylo makes the dangerous journey to London and leads the Royal Rabbits through a labyrinth of tunnels and, with a sensitive nose and quick thinking, foils the rats’ scandalous paparazzi scheme. This fast-paced, humorous animal fantasy with an unlikely hero is a delightful read-aloud adventure.

    —CA

    Ages 12–14

    The Last Gargoyle. Paul Durham. 2018. Crown/Random House.

    The Last GargoylesPenhallow, who makes it clear he is a Grotesque and not a member of the “bunch of glorified water fountains” called Gargoyles, is the protector of the inhabitants of his Domain, an old apartment house. Penhallow, who can leave the apartment’s rooftop by taking his wisp form and shape-shifting (often as a boy in a hoodie), has become aware that a dark evil is abroad in the city. The Boneless King, ruler of the underworld, is gathering an army of Netherkins—malignant spirits of the dead who choose to stay “before moving on to what’s Next.”Aware that his Domain, the city of Boston, and perhaps the entire world is under threat, Penhallow must find a way to thwart the Boneless King. To do so he takes the mysterious girl who appears on his rooftop as an ally. The droll humor of the first-person narration of this suspenseful tale provides the perfect balance of creepy and funny. Back matter includes a glossary of “goyle-isms,” an author’s note, and a “Penhallow’s Real-World Haunts” list of real places in Boston.

    —CA

    War of the Realms (Valkyrie #3). Kate O’Hearn. 2018. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    War of the RealmsIn the latest book of this Norse trilogy, the Frost Giants, Fire Giants, and Dark Searchers, usually enemies, unite in a War of the Realms to murder Odin so that their chosen leader, Dirian, can rule all creatures and humans. As the war spills over into Earth, threatening to become Ragnarök (the War to End All Wars, which would end life in all of the realms—not just Earth), Valkyrie Freya (a legendary reaper who can cause death with her touch) enlists the help of family, humans, and creatures to turn the giants against each other and to stop the war. During the battle, Freya and her allies put their lives and souls on the line, but is this enough to turn back the clock as death and destruction reign? O’Hearn includes a “Guide to This World” with background information about the names, places, and events in Norse mythology in War of the Realm. Readers who missed the two preceding books in this apocalyptic series will want to experience the buildup to this climactic war of the worlds.

    —NB

    Ages 15+

    Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2). Neal Shusterman. 2018. Simon & Schuster.

    ThunderheadIn a utopian society where death only happens at the hands of scythes—specially chosen and trained ethical reapers of souls—the Thunderhead (the computerized consciousness of the society and the perfect steward of the planet) has been programmed to observe the rulership of Scythedom. Rowan, the fallen apprentice pitted against Citra for the role of scythe, has gone off-grid to glean corrupt scythes. Citra, now Scythe Anastasia, gleans with compassion. Forbidden to act or to “feel,” the Thunderhead sees the acceptance of illegal perversions in some scythes resulting in a “new order,” while Citra, her mentor Scythe Curie, and others demand established decency and humane standards. High-stakes politics come to a head during the World Council election inquest in Endura, the elite Scythe floating island, with explosive results leading to the third book in the series, expected to be released next year.
    —NB

    Unearthed (Unearthed #1). Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner. 2018. Hyperion/Disney Book Group.

    UnearthedEarth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, the Undyings, from deserted planet Gaia, seemingly providing the technological solution Earth has been waiting for. Scientist Dr. Addison discloses the warning that comes with the message, and is jailed. His genius son, 17-year-old Jules Addison, who has been secretly hired by Global Energy Solutions to study alien energy technology on Gaia, plans to bring back evidence to restore his father’s reputation. Through unplanned circumstances, Jules reluctantly teams up with 16-year-old Amelia (a scavenger, raider, and out-of-the-box thinker, who secretly plans to steal technology she finds on Gaia). As they escape mercenaries with evil intentions, they translate hieroglyphs found in an ancient abandoned temple with supposed history and riches to solve complicated puzzles that allow them to proceed through the temple to the next challenge—or to be killed if they make a mistake. What they discover is beyond their imaginations and requires every ounce of their intelligence, strength, and courage to survive and solve the Undying’s last message. Readers will eagerly await the next installment in this series.

    —NB

    Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English from Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, California. Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

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    The Disconnect Between Digital Literacy Trends and Educational Realities

    By Vicky Zygouris-Coe,
     | Feb 16, 2018

    ThinkstockPhotos-stk146244rke_x300Many years ago, I sat down with a fourth-grade student to review one of her papers. We discussed the comments and suggestions I had written and established shared goals. At the end of the conference, I asked her if she had any questions, to which she responded, “You tell me what you do, but will I be able to do it?” The content of this blog post reminds me of my former student’s question. 

    Both in research and in practice, “we” (i.e., federal and local policymakers and researchers) “tell” educators, parents, and others about the importance of teaching and learning in the 21st century and about developing our students’ abilities to comprehend, communicate, and evaluate information in digital forms. On the other hand, it appears that what we know about the need to develop students’ 21st-century literacy skills conflicts with the realities of everyday teaching and learning and other literacy-related and educational goals.

    Top three requests related to digital literacy

    Over the years, I have been involved in school-based professional development, collaborative projects between my university and school districts, and funded projects that have focused on the language and literacy needs of teachers and students across grade-levels and content areas. I have conducted several workshops on digital literacy, disciplinary literacy, and online reading comprehension, among others.

    These are the top three requests (related to digital literacy) I hear from teachers:

    • Digital content they can incorporate into their curricula for differentiated instruction purposes
    • Instructional ideas about how to develop students’ digital literacy without sacrificing content
    • Guidance on how to communicate to their principals, and to others who evaluate them, the role of digital literacies in supporting students’ overall literacy, content knowledge, and skills

    Digital literacy is more “hot” than “important”

    These situated teacher needs support ILA’s 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy survey findings, which rank Digital Literacy No. 1 among all hot topics but No. 13 in terms of importance. Respondents expressed concern that digital literacy is being presented as a quick fix for complex teaching and learning issues and that it is “crowding out a focus on basic foundational literacy skills.”

    Although I both recognize and understand the challenges of adopting a 21st-century instructional and pedagogical digital literacies framework, I also wonder what would happen if digital literacies were conceptualized as a common “thread” that both supports and develops within each one of the top five important literacy topics ranked in the findings: Early Literacy, Equity in Literacy Education, Teacher Preparation, Strategies for Differentiating Instruction, and Access to Books and Content.

    Recommendations

    The 21st-century literacy skills students need to develop are far greater than the sum of their parts; literacy is given meaning by the cultural discourses, practices, and contexts in which it is surrounded. Young readers need to develop their reading and literacy skills using print and digital texts in ways that are developmentally appropriate. In my view, the reported disconnect between digital literacy’s trendiness and importance also highlights the need for more supports that specialized literacy professionals and digital literacy researchers can provide to teachers and parents about the role of digital literacy during the early literacy, intermediate, and adolescent years.

    For example, when I teach my students how to locate, read, comprehend, and evaluate information about the Great Migration movement from the History Channel and how to analyze primary sources from the National Archives, I am accessing content while demonstrating digital literacy knowledge and skills. I spend time over the course of the year modeling, providing feedback, and creating opportunities for my students to collaborate with peers, discuss, and apply what they learn in my classroom in a variety of learning spaces.

    I also use a variety of digital and print texts and resources (e.g., The Great Migration: An American Story by Jacob Lawrence (1993); This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson (2013); and relevant Newsela articles—e.g., “Jim Crow and The Great Migration” and “Songs of African-American Migration were Influential Across the Land.” Furthermore, I differentiate my instruction, the texts, and the supports I provide to help all students construct meaning.

    Digital literacy is neither a quick remedy for the complex demands of literacy teaching and learning nor a substitute for the expert classroom teacher. In closing, I choose to view the results of ILA’s 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report as a call for new, teacher-centered, collaborative, relevant, and strategic discussions among specialized literacy professionals, K–12 educators, researchers, and teacher educators.

    vicki-zygourisVicky Zygouris-Coe is a professor of reading education at the University of Central Florida. 
     
    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    Supporting New Teachers Through Tech: Introducing #Preservicelit

    By Stephanie Affinito
     | Feb 14, 2018

    shutterstock_213310894_x300Where do you find your teaching inspiration? In our tech-savvy world, chances are, you turn to other educators on social media. Facebook groups and Google+ communities provide avenues for digital conversations about teaching and learning. Twitter connects educators through micro-writing. Pinterest houses millions of lesson plans, activities, decoration ideas, and more. Even Instagram can link us to authors and books to bring into our classrooms. So, which one has inspired you?

    Twitter has been a particularly important tool for building my personal learning network (PLN). The virtual support, camaraderie, and inspiration fuels my heart and mind. I tweet for my next book to read, for advice on an upcoming presentation, to request resources, and to participate in Twitter chats for real-time professional development and learning.

    Twitter chats have connected me to other teacher educators, have hatched ideas for collaborative research projects, and—put simply—have supported my own professional learning to better my teaching. I have often said that I wished I knew about the power of Twitter much earlier in my career. Therefore, I have woven Twitter and social media into my teacher education classes to introduce my students to the power of social media to build our fellow tribe of educators.

    Imagine if we created a support system where education students cultivated their own professional learning networks within, across, and beyond institution walls so that, when they graduated, they were armed with a tribe of supportive teachers to support them on their new journey? Enter #preservicelit—a new Twitter chat where undergraduate and graduate education students and preservice teachers connect to discuss current ideas in the field, share ideas and resources, grapple with teaching challenges, ask questions, and meet new mentors for their own professional learning.

    Our inaugural chat was a complete success as education students, preservice teachers, new teachers, literacy teacher educators, practicing educators, literacy coaches, and even prominent authors in our field came together to support new educators as they explored the world of social media and began building their professional support systems.

    While #preservicelit was especially created for education students and preservice teachers, all educators play an important role in its success. Preservice teachers learn about the power of growing their PLNs and practice using social media professionally, ethically, and responsibly to further their learning. Literacy teacher educators coach preservice teachers through virtual interactions, collaborate with other faculty across institutions, combine expertise, and strengthen education programs together. Educators, mentors, and guest hosts support the newest members of our profession and even connect preservice teachers to the very authors, researchers, and professionals they are learning from in their teacher education programs.

    All educators are invited to the #preservicelit chat. Please visit our website for additional information, including a calendar of monthly topics and a place to sign up for text reminders. Join us in supporting our future educators on the first Saturday of every month at 9:00 a.m. ET for a lively 30-minute chat on all things literacy!

    Stephanie AffinitoStephanie Affinito is a literacy teacher educator in the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning at the University at Albany in New York. Stephanie regularly teaches graduate courses on elementary classroom literacy instruction, literacy intervention, and children’s literature. She has researched literacy coaching as part of her doctoral studies and focuses much of her current work on how technology and digital tools can impact teacher learning and collaboration. You can find her on Twitter at @AffinitoLit.

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    Using the Language of Code to Empower Learning

    By Mark Davis
     | Feb 13, 2018
    Coding

    For educators trained in traditional literacy, the idea of becoming proficient in—and teaching—digital literacy might be overwhelming. When I propose teaching coding to my fellow educators, the common reaction is to assume that they must have a science or mathematics background. The misconception makes sense when schools continue to teach coding as an elective and to emphasize its importance to only those interested in computers.

    The past decade has given rise to a campaign to teach coding as a fundamental literacy in all schools. Some might see the movement as part of a political or cultural resurgence from the previous decades. In the late 1950s and early 1980s, many feared that the United States was losing its edge in business and scientific achievements. Educators responded with a renewed emphasis for teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Indeed, STEM and the addition of the arts (STEAM), are still perceived as a critical pathway to college and career readiness. I have spoken with literacy colleagues who believe STEAM is trend that draws attention away from core instruction in literacy.

    As a longtime educator of secondary literacy students, I understand this concern. There are few universal rules or grammar to the various modes of digital content. Writing, for instance, is guided by syntax, formatting, and style. We can examine text with accepted standards whereas digital grammar is still evolving. Instead, we have to rely on research in other fields.

    I challenged myself to develop a digital literacy curriculum where students produced projects focused on their interests. My goal was to focus on information and media literacy with some elements of digital production. In developing the digital literacy curriculum, I had to borrow ideas from the fields of computer science, engineering, and business. During this time, I encountered the vast untapped resource of coding for experiential learning.

    Today’s generation has unlimited access to videos, apps, and readily available content. Just two decades earlier, curating information required significantly more time and skill. Now our broadband access and mobile devices expedite these processes with greater ease.

    This is the critical point of digital literacy: learners have to engage in the creation of content in order to fully comprehend its messaging. My students practiced decoding through the process of coding, learned syntax as a new vocabulary, and became fluent in a global language of programming. As an educator, the exhilaration of observing students bring creativity to problem-solving is empowering. Students, families, and fellow educators want to share in the excitement of innovation.

    The expectations placed on technology have not kept pace with our level of understanding. Educators can bridge this gap by introducing coding. Students who become knowledgeable in the design process learn the value of understanding a problem, researching effective practices, and prototyping methods for achieving greater success. I have seen firsthand how this models literacy instruction. The gratification is unparalleled when a learner breaks the code needed to move the process forward.

    Anyone can start coding without a background in computers. Websites such as code.org provide outstanding resources, lesson plans, and projects for all ages and skill levels.

    Moreover, it is encouraging to see the interdisciplinary connections that can be made; often I see an increase in motivation among teachers and students after engaging in coding. Many of my colleagues were willing to engage their students in coding because they realized how it supported core instruction and produced higher-order thinking. The products could be distributed to families and communities to offer a showcase of project-based learning at its best.

    If you’re not yet convinced to integrate coding into your curriculum, I hope you might at least consider the merits of a digital literacy framework that includes coding as an essential learning process. Seek the support of collaborator and see what can be created. You might find that coding improves not only what you have taught, but also what you have learned. It’s not glamorous or mysterious; coding is just another way to empower ourselves in the digital age.

    Mark DavisMark Davis is a former reading specialist and current middle school computer technology educator. He is a doctoral candidate in the joint Ph.D. in Education program at the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College and holds a graduate certificate in digital literacy. You can find him on Twitter @watermarkedu.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    Registration Opens for the ILA 2018 Conference

    By Alina O'Donnell
     | Feb 12, 2018
    ila-2018-reg

    Registration is now open for the ILA 2018 Conference, which will be held in Austin, TX, July 20–23. Thousands of literacy educators, professionals, and advocates from around the world will gather to connect with and learn from leaders in the field.

    Amid widening socioeconomic disparities, changing student demographics, and an increasingly technology-driven workforce, equity in literacy education has never been more important. With the theme “Be a Changemaker,” the conference will focus on strategies for fostering positive change in literacy education.

    This year’s conference is comprised of three components: Institute Day on Friday, July 20, the Core Conference on Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22, and Children’s Literature Day on Monday, July 23. Registration packages offer discounts and special incentives for bundling events.

    ILA 2018’s new format is designed to deliver a more customized learning experience. Three learning tracks will be offered: Administrators as Literacy Leaders, Literacy Coaching, and Literacy Research.

    The two-day Core Conference kicks off Saturday with an ILA General Session fueled by the changemaker theme. Three keynotes will draw on their own experiences of overcoming adversity, sharing stories of impact about how they’re changing the system from within.

    Nadia Lopez, the founding principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, will discuss how administrators must serve as literacy leaders for their schools and districts. Lopez’s story went viral when the popular Humans of New York (HONY) blog featured one of her students, who cited Lopez as the most influential person in his life. A fundraising campaign ensued, collecting more than $1.4 million  for Mott Hall, a middle school in one of the poorest and most violent neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Lopez’s vision for the school—which she says she opened to close a prison—was to give the youth in her community a way up and out.

    Frequent ILA speaker and lead staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Cornelius Minor takes the main stage at ILA 2018. In previous years, Minor has moved and inspired conference attendees with his talks on digital literacy and access, confronting difficult topics in the classroom, and literacy as a social and political tool for building equity in education. This year, Minor will continue to speak frankly on issues of race and educational equity, challenging attendees to confront their own biases and work toward creating truly inclusive schools and classrooms. 

    Finally, there’s Adan Gonzalez, the son of Mexican-American immigrants living in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Dallas, TX. Gonzalez, the recipient of a Gates Millennium Scholarship that funded both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, created the Puede Network when he was a sophomore at Georgetown. The organization’s charge is to mentor students and break cycles of under-education. After earning a master’s from Harvard Graduate School of Education, Gonzalez returned to his childhood school, James Bowie Elementary, to teach third grade.

    Learn more and register for the ILA 2018 Conference here.

    Alina O’Donnell is the communications strategist at ILA and the editor of Literacy Daily. 
     
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