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Van Alstyne Library News & Notes

Education in America is a hotly debated issue, and has been for many years. Lately ,there has been a lot of talk of “teaching to the test” and Dallas ISD is considering breaking away from the state system to a Home Rule arrangement. When Teen Council held its Poetry Night last month one of the high school seniors had a wonderful poetry anthology. That reminded me that I had been assigned the same long term project when I was a senior so many years ago. What I was surprised to hear is that her assignment was for an AP English class, while mine was assigned to every high school senior in our school. Are we dumbing down our education, I wondered.

Then, due to staff illness and vacations, I had the privilege of leading our literacy events for children this past two weeks, as well as being a part of a “Quiz Bowl” led by a high school senior for her NHS Community Service Project. What I saw and heard restored my faith in our education system — or at least the one we have here in Van Alstyne.

In elementary class last week we talked about Dr. Seuss since it was his birthday. The children had no trouble calculating his age when I told them he was born in 1904. When we read Hooray for Diffenfoofer Day they recognized the veiled referrals to standardized testing, and recognized in the drawings many of the scenes from Seuss’ other works. This week as we talked about Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day, I found that they could read a map legend, knew something of the struggles between the Catholics and Protestants of that country and had no trouble with their word search challenge.

The Quiz Bowl had four teams and all did very well. The second place team was made up of all students from Van Alstyne High School who collectively answered questions about pop culture, science, math, music, and art across many decades. They left me in the dust for sure.

Last Thursday was the last meeting of the Tween Book Club for this school year. Since I was filling in at the last minute and had not read the book I decided I would ask the group to tell me about the book by helping me to write a book review. Here is what they helped me create and the photo included with this article is of the members who were present that day. They are a fun group. They have voted to meet this summer so we will be looking for a title to interest them.

Tween Book Club Review

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

Publisher: Athenium Books for Young Readers, 2013

The main characters are raccoons named Bingo and J’miah, The Sugar Man who is a creature similar to a Yeti that doesn’t live anymore, humans named Sonny Boy, Chap (he’s 12 years old), Jaeger Stitch, Coyote Man Jim (a disc jockey who howls like a coyote), and the dead grandfather of Chap named Audie Brayburn. The story takes place in Sugar Man Swamp which is in a Louisiana Bayou, but there is talk of wild hogs from Texas so it’s near the Texas border. It’s a current day story but the author tells us the background story of the swamp. The whole book takes place over 5 days.

Binjo and J’miah go on various missions whenever they think something threatens the swamp. Mission Rumble, Rumble, Rumble is to keep the wild hogs from coming to the swamp where they will eat all the sugar cane which is important to the survival of the swamp. Also, there’s someone from Texas who wants to turn the swamp into an alligator wrestling arena.

The group was divided on whether they liked the book or not. On a scale of 1 (least likely to recommend) to 5 (definitely would recommend) the vote was equally split between 1s and 5s with one person choosing a 3. Those who liked it said it was interesting to be several stories instead of just one, the characters were likeable, the author “used good figurative language”, and the ending was good. Those who would not recommend it didn’t like the way the author skipped around in the telling of the stories making it “hard to follow”, they didn’t understand some of it, and there was not a lot of action and “no high drama”. The person who gave it a 3 said it was okay but “not exciting”.

Keep these events on your calendar:

March 20 – Divergent Theme Party 6 p.m. - 8 p.m., trivia, games and food.

March 22 – Meet author Janice Tracy and hear about what she learned researching for her true crime book The Juke Joint King of the Mississippi Hills. (History Press, 2014). Copies of the book will be for sale with a portion of the proceeds donated to the Friends of the Library. Cookies and Punch will be served. 2 p.m.

March 28 – Gaming Tournament 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. Tournaments and free play. $3 general admission. $2 per tournament. Anyone 12-and-under needs to bring along an adult.

Hope to see you around the Van Alstyne Public Library.