AP Geography students deliver hope :-)

as the comments roll in from the non-fiction reading project, I’m profoundly impressed by the students’ responses. Clearly they are intelligent teens but also must have grasped comprehension from their studies with Mrs. Clarke. Terrific notes everyone. Remember to submit a reply to your a classmates comment. Assess their content and respond. Great job so far! 


Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater- A Review

Title: Shiver

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Release Year: 2009

Reviewed By: Sarina

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance


Summary: “For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without.

Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human… until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.” (Goodreads.com)

To sum this book up in my own words, after recommending it to countless friends, “It’s basically Twilight, only actually well-written with characters who have believable emotions and healthy relationships, and werewolves instead of vampires.” It’s better than it sounds, I swear. I first came across this series (it is a series, a trilogy technically, with one recently-released standalone novel based on a minor character), after reading another of Mrs. Stiefvater’s books, called Lament. I deliberately avoided this series for the exact reasons one would suspect; it sounded boring, cliché, and stuffed full of awkward fumbling teenage romance. I kept putting off getting this book from the library, where it would glare at me accusingly from the shelf as I took out the other books written by Maggie Stiefvater multiple times. I eventually caved and brought it home, where it sat on my pile of to-read books until a day before it was supposed to go back to the library. I picked it up on a whim, because I had nothing else to do, and I ended up staying awake until three a.m. to finish it.

To be perfectly honest, this is the first and only series of paranormal “romance” that I have ever picked up and enjoyed. I put sarcastic exclamation marks around the term romance because while relationships certainly do factor into a novel, they don’t drown it in mopey teenage angst, and are mercifully lacking in abuse (CoughTwilightCough). The plot is well-written, with a good dose of Medical Drama, Action-Adventure, and Animal Rights. Werewolf-ism is portrayed as a disease, rather than a romantic characteristic. I found myself genuinely attached to the characters, Sam and Grace. Grace is a studious bookworm who has always been fascinated by the wolves near her house after being attacked by them as a child. Sam is an unfortunate poet who got bitten by the wolves as a child, and ended up becoming one of them for half the year (during winter. The disease is related to temperature and seasons, not relegated by the moon.)

With a well-developed and diverse cast of characters, particularly later in the series, The Wolves of Mercy Falls series is definitely something I would recommend to anyone who is fed up with the cliché young adult romance fiction. I’d also recommend it to anyone who likes snow, the science of contagious diseases, hardcore heavy metal/synthetic rock, dead German poets, and peppermint hot chocolate.


Our PBL Book 6: John Grisham

Book 6:

John Grisham – The Painted House


Description:Using his own childhood for inspiration (and leaving the lawyers behind), bestselling author John Grisham sets A Painted House in 1950s rural Arkansas. During harvest time, together with hired Mexicans and hill people, seven-year-old Luke Chandler picks cotton on his family’s rented 80 acres. But racial tension, a forbidden love affair, and murder cause Luke to grow up before he’s ready. — Description by Dawn Towery.

Genre:Adult books for young adults; Coming-of-age stories
Tone:Homespun; Suspenseful
Writing Style:Descriptive
Lexile:780 [view chart]
Persistent link to this record (Permalink):

Library Journal:

Lucas Chandler is a seven-year-old boy who lives in an unpainted house on an Arkansas farm with his parents and grandparents in the early 1950s. He loves Coca-Cola, baseball, and the St. Louis Cardinals, and he plans on using the money he earns picking cotton to buy a shiny baseball jacket from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. Soon after the hired crews of Mexicans and “hill people” arrive to help pick the Chandler family’s 80 acres of cotton, Lucas sees things that cause him to lose his innocence much earlier than he should and long for the days when he did not have to keep secrets or worry about his and his family’s safety. Legal thriller master Grisham changes direction with this lawyer-free coming-of-age novel, and the results are stunning. Featuring vivid descriptions, bits of humor, and a thrilling pace, this is a suspenseful and satisfying read. (Novelist).


Our PBL Book 5: Khaled Hosseini

Book 5:

Khaled Hosseini – And the Mountains Echoed


Author:Hosseini, Khaled
Adults Fiction-Award-Winner
Description:The best-selling author presents a story inspired by human love, how people take care of one another and how choices resonate through subsequent generations.

Genre:Adult books for young adults; Family sagas; Political fiction
Storyline:Character-driven; Intricately plotted
Tone:Dramatic; Heartwrenching; Strong sense of place
Writing Style:Lyrical
Persistent Link: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=neh&tg=UI&an=10176774&site=novp-live&scope=site

Publisher Weekly:

Hosseini’s third novel (after A Thousand Splendid Suns) follows a close-knit but oft-separated Afghan family through love, wars, and losses more painful than death. The story opens in 1952 in the village of Shadbagh, outside of Kabul, as a laborer, Kaboor, relates a haunting parable of triumph and loss to his son, Abdullah. The novel’s core, however, is the sale for adoption of the Kaboor’s three-year-old daughter, Pari, to the wealthy poet Nila Wahdati and her husband, Suleiman, by Pari’s step-uncle Nabi. The split is particularly difficult for Abdullah, who took care of his sister after their mother’s death. Once Suleiman has a stroke, Nila leaves him to Nabi’s care and takes Pari to live in Paris. Much later, during the U.S. occupation, the dying Nabi makes Markos, a Greek plastic surgeon now renting the Wahdati house, promise to find Pari and give her a letter containing the truth. The beautiful writing, full of universal truths of loss and identity, makes each section a jewel, even if the bigger picture, which eventually expands to include Pari’s life in France, sometimes feels disjointed. Still, Hosseini’s eye for detail and emotional geography makes this a haunting read. Agent: Robert Barnett, Williams & Connolly. (May) –Staff (Reviewed March 18, 2013) (Publishers Weekly, vol 260, issue 11, p)

Reader Review:

…With heart-breaking realism, Hosseini tells the tale of a family split apart by poverty and desperation. From the small rural villages to the large bustling cities of Afghanistan, the writing transports the reader into the heart of the story, experiencing the sounds, the smells and the changing political landscapes. From immense poverty, to the greatest riches. From the modest and humble, to the arrogant and the proud, the cast of characters are a triumph.

That one event in Kabul in 1952 leads on to many others, including characters and settings from Paris, to the Greek Islands and back to Afghanistan. Characters who appear, on the face of it, to be so different and so diverse are all connected in one way or another to the day that a loving father told his two small children the story of farmer Baba Ayub – it is this story, and its meaning that is threaded through the whole novel and which eventually turns from a fable to the truth… (Goodreads)

Interview: http://youtu.be/6EKyM6B2GrA

Audiobook: http://youtu.be/3qISCJHVvSs

AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED is an unforgettable novel about finding a lost piece of yourself in someone else.

Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.
Author interview:

About Author:

Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. In 1970 Hosseini and his family moved to Iran where his father worked for the Embassy of Afghanistan in Tehran. In 1973 Hosseini’s family returned to Kabul, and Hosseini’s youngest brother was born in July of that year.
In 1976, when Hosseini was 11 years old, Hosseini’s father obtained a job in Paris, France, and moved the family there. They were unable to return to Afghanistan because of the Saur Revolution in which the PDPA communist party seized power through a bloody coup in April 1978. Instead, a year after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, in 1980 they sought political asylum in the United States and made their residence in San Jose, California.
Hosseini graduated from Independence High School in San Jose in 1984 and enrolled at Santa Clara University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1988. The following year, he entered the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, where he earned his M.D. in 1993. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in 1996. He practiced medicine for over ten years, until a year and a half after the release of The Kite Runner.
Hosseini is currently a Goodwill Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He has been working to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan through the Khaled Hosseini Foundation. The concept for the foundation was inspired by the trip to Afghanistan that Hosseini made in 2007 with UNHCR.
He lives in Northern California with his wife, Roya, and their two children (Harris and Farah). ( Goodreads)

Our PBL Book 4: Dan Brown

Book 4:

Dan Brown – Inferno
Inferno (May 2013)

AdultsFiction- Award-Winner : Goodreads Choice Awards: 2013
Description:In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces–Dante’s Inferno. Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle.

Genre:Adult books for young adults; Suspense stories
Storyline:Intricately plotted; Plot-driven
Tone:Atmospheric; Suspenseful
Writing Style:Descriptive; Jargon-filled
Persistent link to this record (Permalink):

Persistent Link: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=neh&tg=UI&an=10176760&site=novp-live&scope=site

Publisher Weekly:

The threat of world overpopulation is the latest assignment for Brown’s art historian and accidental sleuth Robert Langdon. Awakening in a Florence hospital with no memory of the preceding 36 hours, Langdon and an attractive attending physician with an oversized intellect are immediately pursued by an ominous underground organization and the Italian police. Detailed tours of Florence, Venice, and Istanbul mean to establish setting, but instead bog down the story and border on showoffmanship. Relying on a deceased villain’s trail of clues threaded through the text of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, the duo attempt to unravel the events leading up to Langdon’s amnesia and thwart a global genocide scheme. Suspension of disbelief is required as miraculous coincidences pile upon pure luck. Near the three-quarters point everything established gets upended and Brown, hoping to draw us in deeper, nearly drives us out. Though the prose is fast-paced and sharp, the burdensome dialogue only serves plot and back story, and is interspersed with unfortunate attempts at folksy humor. It’s hard not to appreciate a present day mega-selling thriller that attempts a refresher course in Italian literature and European history. But the real mystery is in the book’s denouement and how Brown can possibly bring his hero back for more. Agent: Heide Lange, Sanford J. Greenberger Associates. (May) –Staff (Reviewed June 10, 2013) (Publishers Weekly, vol 260, issue 23, p)

Book reporter: http://youtu.be/nJ1SkX1qASA
Author interview:

Our PBL Book 3 – Rawi Hage

Book 3: Rawi Hage  –Cockroach

Rawi952130-gfDescription:A tale set during a month in a bitter Montreal winter finds a would-be thief rescued from a suicide attempt and forced into counseling with a naèive therapist to whom he relates his childhood in a war-torn country and his troubled present life in a series of smoky emigrâe cafes.

…Urgent and unsettling, Cockroach takes place during one month of a bitterly cold winter in Montreal’s immigrant community, where a self-described thief has just tried but failed to commit suicide. Rescued against his will, the narrator is obliged to attend sessions with a well-intentioned but naive therapist. The story leads us back to the narrator’s violent childhood in a war-torn country, forward into his current urban life, and out into the frozen night-time streets of Montreal, where the thief survives on the edge.

In 2008, Cockroach was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. It won the Paragraph Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction, presented by the Quebec Writers’ Federation. Cockroach is published by House of Anansi Press.( CBC)

  • Awards: Quebec Writers’ Federation Literary Awards: Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. Nominated Shortlist: CanadaReads.

Genre:Canadian fiction; First person narratives; Psychological fiction
Tone:Funny; Moving
Writing Style:Lyrical
Persistent link to this record (Permalink):


 Watch Book trailer:

Listen to interview with Samantha Bee: http://www.cbc.ca/player/AudioMobile/Airplay/ID/2421017396/

Watch trailer:  http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Canada+Reads/2014/Video/Books+Trailers/ID/2439166124/   The book trailer for Cockroach by Rawi Hage. Samantha Bee will defend Cockroach during Canada Reads March 3-6, 2014.

Watch: CanadaReads Final defense- Samantha Bee


Our PBL Book 2: Camilla Gibb

Book 2:
Camilla Gibb- Sweetness in the Belly
IMG_7792.JPGDescription:  Orphaned at the age of eight, British-born Lilly devotes her life to the teachings of the Qur’an from within a Sufi shrine, but is persecuted for her foreign heritage, forcing her to flee to London, where she is equally disconnected.
Genre:Canadian fiction; Political fiction; Psychological fiction
Sweetness in the Belly was longlisted for the 2007 Impac Dublin Literary Award, was the winner of Ontario’s 2006 Trillium Book Award and was shortlisted for the 2005 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen Award.
Sweetness in the belly (Mar 2006)





“…as a valued teacher of the Qur’an to Harari children, and as friend and nurse to Ethiopian exiles in London. “You put roots and they’ll start growing,” her bohemian parents told her to justify their nomadic ways. But grown-up Lilly actively seeks roots and relationships, agonizing over the uprootings that famine, corruption, and political instability made inevitable for Ethiopians in the 1970s and ’80s. Her narrative shuttles between two cosmopolitan cities, two tumultuous decades, and two significant others….”( Amazon)

Author interview:

Trillium Awards:

Our Geography PBL: Book 1- Elizabeth Hay

ELIZABETH HAY- Late Nights on Air.
Late nights on air (Sep 2007)

Author:Hay, Elizabeth, 1951-
Adults-Fiction Award-Winner
Description:Accepting a position at a northern Canadian radio station in 1975, Dido Paris disarms a hard-bitten broadcaster with her beauty and vocal talents before controversy surrounding a proposed gas pipeline triggers call-in-listener debates on the air.

Genre:Canadian fiction
Writing Style:Lyrical
Persistent link : http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=neh&tg=UI&an=206350&site=novp-live&scope=site

Award Winners
CBA Libris Awards (): Fiction Book of the Year
Ottawa Book Awards: English Fiction
Scotiabank Giller Prize
Canada Reads Across the Country



Ottawa writer and former CBC Radio journalist Elizabeth Hay was part of a particularly formidable shortlist in 2007 that included former winners M.G. Vassanji (a two-time Giller winner at that) and Michael Ondaatje.

Yet it was Hay’s sometimes comic, sometimes tragic tale about a zany cast of characters at a small radio station in the Canadian North that won the jury over that year.

The jury (David Bergen, Camilla Gibb and Lorna Goodison) described Hay’s Late Nights on Air as a “splendid achievement” and considered it “in some ways a dazzling virtuoso praise song to Canada and things Canadian.”(CBC)


By Ian Gordon Malcomson
This is a finely crafted portrayal of life in Canada’s Far North! In her story, Hay effectively brings together a motley group of southerners in Yellowknife to work the northern airwaves for the CBC. This novel covers a time in the middle 70s when the North was opening up to development of its great deposits of oil and natural gas, and people were coming from points south to start a new life for themselves. What many were not prepared for was the incredible struggle they would have to go through to assert their identity. The land that they are about to enter is described in the novel in all its unexpected ferocity, unimaginable vastness, haunting beauty, forsaken loneliness and unyielding naturalness. Intimidating enough to send any newcomer packing after their first winter! The barren world that confronts these outsiders – Harry, Gwen, Eddie, Dido, Ralph and Eleanor – is one that can only be temporarily subdued by the power and lure of transmitted voices breaking into other’s confined living spaces dotted over the hundreds of miles of open wasteland. All the above physical dimensions have the power to keep northerners eking out a living in tiny communities hugging the banks of the many rivers like the mighty Mackenzie. For the whiteman there is no substitute for the human voice, even though people like Gwen attempt to go out and capture the numerous sounds of wildlife on tape to compensate for the real thing. It is the magnetic qualities of the Dido’s voice on a late night program that initially draws Harry to her in what turns out to be an unhappy affair. The trouble with a voice pattern is that while it becomes the initial badge of identity in the far reaches of nowhere, it only serves to lead people to each other in the hope of forming more lasting contacts.


Videos talk :


Fiction as resource for academic study… Geography AP

Excited to use the reading of fiction for a senior academic course. What is typically reserved for recreation reading or English classes, fiction storytelling can be a powerful device in building understanding. Finding personal and social meaning of a story often demands developing geographic knowledge.

So, our Geography teacher, a ‘book club’ LAT and a teacher-librarian are collaboratively planning a Project Based Learning unit for Geography 12 AP.  The project’s core is exploiting the power of Literature Circles strategies that engage the five major curriculum threads of Geography 12 with a FICTION reading list. Our Grade 12’s will select a title after we provide book talks, exemplars and an introduction to the books and outcomes.

The project is designed so student’s written reflections address the five themes of Geography (Movement, Region, Location, Interaction with the Environment and Nature of Place).  Even historical inquiry demands the inclusion of “geographic eyes” to build deeper understanding. An exemplary book report should include some interpretation of geographic elements that build more understanding.




Discussion options, through social media may enrich the conversations during December as everyone reads. It’s always wonderful hearing what students think!

https://twitter.com/kssreads/status/535999466608664576 and


Teachers will add instructional elements for communication, writing outcomes, text notations and works cited products.  In addition, to various writing pieces, a peer sharing process and assessment will conclude the unit.
Our plan is that the teachers will share support, discussions and assessment duties.


How does reading fiction strengthen understanding of the real world?

In addition to the academic rigour of formal disciplines, storytelling provides the author liberty to express the affective side of understanding human interactions.  Reading fiction encourages people to build language and share human relationships with a sense of time and place.  Social Studies can be an interface to sciences and arts. The personal and emotional responses to stories helps people make conceptual connections.  Fiction poses hypothetical scenarios and relationships that provoke our intellectual growth.


Elements to consider when composing the project’s written component”

  1. Human Geography includes the following topics:
  2. College level course objectives you may encounter:
    1. Interpret maps and analyze geospatial data.
    2. Understand and explain the implications of associations and networks among phenomena in places.
    3. Recognize and interpret the relationships among patterns and processes at different scales of analysis.
    4. Define regions and evaluate the regionalization process.
    5. Characterize and analyze changing interconnections among places.
      • Geography: Its Nature and Perspectives
      • Geography as a field of inquiry
      • Major geographical concepts underlying the geographical perspective: location, space, place, scale, pattern, nature and society, regionalization, globalization, and gender issues
      • Key geographical skills
      • Identification of major world regions
      • Population
      • Geographical analysis of population
      • Population growth and decline over time and space
      • Migration
      • Cultural Patterns and Processes
      • Concepts of culture
      • Cultural differences and regional patterns
      • Cultural landscapes and cultural identity
      • Political Organization of Space
      • Territorial dimensions of politics
      • Evolution of the contemporary political pattern
      • Challenges to inherited political-territorial arrangements
      • Agricultural and Rural Land Use
      • Development and diffusion of agriculture
      • Major agricultural production regions
      • Rural land use and settlement patterns
      • Issues in contemporary commercial agriculture
      • Industrialization and Economic Development
      • Growth and diffusion of industrialization
      • Social and economic measures of development
      • Contemporary patterns and impacts of industrialization and development
      • Cities and Urban Land Use
      • Development and characters of cities
      • Models of urban hierarchies: reasons for the distribution and size of cities
      • Models of internal city structure and urban development: strengths and limitations of models
      • Built environment and social space
      • Contemporary urban issues

Teen reads: Goldfinch a disappointment

Goldfinch TarttI could not agree more. The bright spot for this librarian is that several of my brilliant and articulate Grade 12’s have developed the same conclusion. Agreeing with one Goodreads reviewer, a girl commented, “motherless main characters? enough already!”.

Halfway thru now. Spending lots of energy trying to be less harsh and trying to enjoy the ride Tartt is taking me on. But I am not succeeding. This book is utter ridiculousness. Not believable at ALL. and this morning my friend informed me it was named Book of the Year. I’m speechless….Of never-ending stream of consciousness ‘pompoonery’. Yes. I made that word up. It’s the merging of pompous and tom-foolery. Is Tartt serious? ( Menke, Goodreads)