Monday, February 20, 2012

Booktalk Breakdown: Secrets, Lies, and Spies

So when I'm not wandering around the internet, reading young adult books, or indulging in my many random t.v. obsessions, I'm a librarian working with 7-12 grade students at an independent all girls school.  As part of my job, I visit both the 7th and 8th grade classes during their weekly grade-level meetings approximately once every three or four weeks with a booktalk.  As I say in my little bio in the sidebar here, I am a rookie librarian; I finished my graduate program in August and started my job a few weeks later.  Booktalking, when librarians or teachers use their creativity and wits to tease and sell books to students, is a standard tool in the youth services librarian's tool belt.  So I was fairly nervous for my first booktalks this fall.  However, I've been pleasantly surprised at how well most of my booktalks have gone so far this year.  Now that I've settled in a little bit, I wanted to try and change up my pretty basic booktalking methods.  Ally Carter's fabulous and fun novels are incredibly popular with our 7th and 8th graders; her newest Gallagher Girls novel comes out in March so it seemed like perfect opportunity to try out a more ambitious booktalk.  Since I'd like to include more library programming posts here, it also seemed like a great opportunity to try out a new occasional blog feature, breaking down my process of developing, creating, and implementing a booktalk.

The Gallagher Girls series, for those who might not spend lots of time with 12 and 13 year old girls, is about an elite school for young women with unique gifts--specifically, gifts for international intrigue. Cammie "The Chameleon" Morgan, our protagonist and narrator, is the headmistress' daughter, a CIA legacy, and a specialist in disappearing into the crowd--hence, her nickname.  So, first I gathered together other fun novels with spies, mystery, and intrigue.

I settled on three novels, all of which are the first in series.

The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker

As I noted in my review a few months ago, this debut is a fun if imperfect mystery that combines elements from E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (elite private school with secret societies) and Veronica Mars (angry outcast teen sleuth searching for the truth about her dead best friend).  It opens with a great hook--a cryptic email from the protagonist's dead best friend.  I typed up the email on my own account and took a screenshot, which I placed into the Power Point slideshow that I used with the booktalk.  A little set up, flash the email up on the screen, and then a final hook sentence and this book was sold!

Inside The Shadow City (Kiki Strike #1) by Kristen Miller

Ananka Fishbein lives a very ordinary life--until one day she sees someone or something creeping out of a sinkhole across the street from her family's New York City apartment.  Ananka decides to investigate and discovers a hidden city underneath Manhattan's streets, an awful lot of rats, a group of renegade girl scouts, and the mysterious Kiki Strike.  Suddenly Ananka's life has been transformed from ordinary to extraordinary.  I did a second person sell with this novel, starting: "You have lived an very un-extraordinary life..."  It certainly helped that as soon as I held the novel up and clicked my slideshow to the cover image, a student yelled out: " Oh my God, I read that--it's soo good!"   

A Spy in the House (The Agency #1) by Y.S. Lee

After a sudden rescue from the gallows, young orphan Mary Quinn is surprised when she's offered an unusual opportunity: an education at Miss. Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls.  Now seventeen years old, Mary learns that her education has prepared for more than a career as a mere governess.  The Academy is actually a cover for The Agency, an independent group of female investigators who take advantage of the Victorian assumptions about women to solve cases when the police can't.  For Mary's first case, she must infiltrate the household of a wealthy merchant suspected of international smuggling and dig through his family's many dangerous--and deadly--secrets.  I was a little unsure about the reception I would get for this novel; historical fiction is frequently a bit of a gamble with a mixed group of middle schoolers.  But I was happily proved wrong and this one sold quite well!

Once I had selected these readalikes, I began working on the other portion of my booktalk.  Recently, I've been working on creating my own book trailers using iMovie.  This booktalk proved the ideal opportunity to try and work in one of my experiments.  I didn't want to do a traditional booktalk for the Gallagher Girls books because so many of the students have already read at least the first novel in the series.  So instead I made this little trailer that acts as a introduction to the premise of the whole series, with a hook at the end for the new title coming out in March.

I then embedded the Youtube version of this trailer into a Power Point presentation.  I decided to add slides with the cover images of each book as well, a practice that I might try to use in many of my future booktalks since it allows more students to see the cover and cover images are key selling point with my students.  The room used for the seventh grade class meetings has a Smart Board and I just hooked my laptop up, tested everything out beforehand, and got the presentation cued up for the start of the meeting.  Considering this booktalk was my first with any kind of media other than my own voice, I was more nervous than usual.  However, it went incredibly well and I had even more trouble than usual deciding how to distribute the one or two copies of each book among the ten to twenty kids who wanted it.

So there's my first Booktalk Breakdown!  I'm beginning to work on another slightly more adventurous booktalk on dystopian fiction for my Hunger Games-obsessed eighth graders and if it comes together, then I'll post another breakdown!


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