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Booktalk: The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Boy in the Black Suit cover

Jason Reynolds was already a published author when he skyrocketed to YA fame with his 2014 novel When I Was the Greatest.  With 2015’s The Boy in the Black Suit, he once again takes a sensitive, realistic, and powerful look at the life of a troubled teenage boy in an urban setting.  Give this book to any teens you know who could appreciate a realistic fiction story about death, grief, identity, families, and friendship.

BOOKTALK:

After Matt’s mother passed away, his life went in some unexpected directions.  Unfortunately, most of those directions were bad.  Many of the kids and teachers at his school stopped talking to him or avoided him, almost like his mother’s cancer was contagious.  Then his father started drinking again, and life at home got even worse.  Matt felt like he was more alone than he’d ever been before.

Then Matt got a new job to help pay the bills, and that job saved his life.  Which is a little weird, because his new job was all about death.  You see, Matt’s new job was working at a funeral parlor, helping people who had just lost loved ones of their own.  He started wearing a black suit every day to school, and that got him even more weird looks than before.  But even though Matt had been feeling so depressed because of his mom, his dad, and his friends, working at the funeral parlor and attending the funerals of strangers starts to reopen his heart in ways he never expected.

Welcome, New Readers and Listeners!

Hi, Everyone.

I recently discovered that Be a Better Booktalker was listed as a resource on New York City’s DOE website in conjunction with their NYC Reads 365 program.

DOE Header

This is, of course, EXTREMELY awesome, and I appreciate the shout-out!

If you’re here for the first time to learn about booktalking, then welcome to the site!  I developed Be a Better Booktalker several years ago as a weekly podcast, and on this blog you can find information about booktalking, the text of each booktalk I share, and audio of each episode.  Most episodes are simply the booktalks themselves, which are just a few minutes long.  I occasionally record longer “in-depth” episodes in which I discuss different topics at length, including how to write and record booktalks, public speaking tips, favorite books of the year, and genre guides.

To listen to the audio episodes, just scroll down to the bottom of each entry and you’ll see the audio player embedded there.  And to search for books by topic, grade level, and more, check out the “Categories” list in the left-hand column.

Thanks for visiting the site, and if you’d like to learn even more about booktalking, here are a few more resources you can also check out:

Book Talks by the Library Lady

Nancy Keane’s Booktalks — Quick and Simple

Scholastic Booktalks and Discussion Guides

OMG. Be a Better Booktalker is BACK!

Thanks to the valiant efforts of Christopher, Travis, and the admins in the GoDaddy hosting department, the last bits of malicious code that had been cleverly hiding in my website’s files have been eliminated and Be a Better Booktalker is back up and running!

WOO-HOO!

Anyway, didn’t I say something about onwards and upwards?  Okay, so, first I’ll be uploading two new episodes which are, technically, old episodes.  After I dialed back my website when it first was hacked, two episodes that had been previously published (Crazy by Linda Vigen Phillips and Nil by Lynne Matson) vanished from the site.  So I’m going to be putting those two back up this week.

After that I’ll put up … let me check my long-neglected booktalk file … oh, good.  I have some that I wrote but never recorded.  Okay, so over the next few weeks I’ll be posting booktalks for Dear Marcus: A Letter to the Man Who Shot Me by Jerry McGill, Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen, and How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg.

And then I’m gonna have to go through my pile of “hey, this would probably make a good booktalk” books and actually write some more stuff!

Anyway, thank you all for your patience, and I look forward to dusting off my microphone and posting regular episodes again!

Like a Butterfly From its Chrysalis, I Emerge From My Technical Hiatus. Maybe.

Hi Again!

Well, my plan was to get Be a Better Booktalker back up and running before the new school year started.  Which is happening … um … next week.  Unfortunately, there’s a technical issue on the GoDaddy / Managed WordPress end, so the resolution that my new tech ally thinks might work can’t be tested yet.

So here’s the plan.  I’m going to upload a picture of Exploding Kittens in this post.  By which I mean the card game, not actual exploding kittens!  If he’s able to fix the problem, then you will see the picture of the game.  If not, then I will be rebuilding the site from scratch.

Exploding Kittens

And so … onward and upward!

Rebuilding the Site, and Getting Back to Normal

Hi again, everyone!

Thank you so much for your patience while I’ve been figuring out what to do next with this site.  Since Be a Better Booktalker was hacked several months ago, I had to take some time to figure out if I was going to rebuild this site from scratch, and if so, how.

The site is going to start looking different over the next few days and weeks.  I’m basically going to be copying / tweaking / fixing several years’ worth of content, so pages might be disappearing and reappearing while I work on them.  My plan is to use the month of August (minus my vacation when I’ll be out of town) to work on this, so that by the time we’re officially in back-to-school mode the site will start looking and feeling “normal” again.

In the meantime, I’m still podcasting with Dan, Kevin, and Hawk over at the Temple of Bad podcast.  Yeah, I know that listening to me talk about bad movies isn’t QUITE the same as listening to me talk about good books, but it’s entertaining in a different way!  We came back from our hiatus to discuss Invasion of the Star Creatures, and we’re going to be recording a discussion of Journey to the Seventh Planet next week.

I’ll also give a plug for the “Manga 101” article I wrote this summer for School Library Journal.  I’ve been reviewing books and apps for them for years, but this was my first article so it was a personal milestone for me.

Okay, that’s all for now.  Thanks for listening, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the new and improved site!

Reporting From Limbo

Hi, Guys.

As some of you have already noticed, if you look up this podcast on iTunes or follow the iTunes link on this page, you’ll find the episodes that were posted from the old feed which I stopped updating several weeks ago.  I can now tell you that our friends at iTunes are ON THE CASE!  Which means that after trying and failing to figure it out myself, I had to ask for help.

In the meantime, you can listen to the new episodes here on the website or through the updated RSS feed, although for some of you the new episodes are already appearing in iTunes and/or the Podcast app, just in a new location.  I’ll keep you posted when the right link is up and running!

I Am Rebuilding My Vast Empire

… by which I mean I’ve figured out how to set up the email subscription widget for this page.  It turns out that I had to activate my Jetpack first.  Ah, WordPress, you’re so whimsical!  Anyway, I re-invited a bunch of people who had subscribed to the old website, or commented on it, or given me moral support, etc. etc.  So if you’re here because of a recent invite, welcome!  Check out the new bells and whistles on my fancy new site!

Anyway, the rebuilding process is going well.  The old pictures on my blog did NOT all vanish when the old server went down (YAY!)  I’m still fixing broken and outdated links (BOO!)  And adding a simple links / blogroll widget to this page is way more complicated than I would have thought (???)  [ETA 6/29: Okay, I figured it out.  I just had to put in a text widget and wrestle with the HTML until I got it right.  Go me!  Anyway, there’s now a “few of my favorite links” section on the left-hand side that contains most of my old favorites, plus new websites and new tumblrs, too!]

So please enjoy the website as it continues to improve (read: I figure out what I’m doing).  And stay tuned for a new podcast episode next week!

Still Under Construction

wallpaper book pic

Hi, everyone!

[FYI, both the site and this post are technically under construction right now.  I’ll use this post to keep you … uhm … posted about what’s going on.  So check back here for the latest info.]

I’m still getting the hang of the WordPress bells and whistles, so just bear with me for a bit.  Originally I was going to use this picture (gathered from the stack of YA books I’m currently reading) and use it as wallpaper for this site, but when I tried that it made the page title unreadable 🙁  And so instead we’re now enjoying a much “cleaner” look.

I manually added the actual MP3 files back into each post, which I thought would be a 1-step process but actually turned into a process of 159 steps because I have a LOT of episodes at this point and there was no way to transfer them all at once.  But THEN I discovered two days later as I was trying to figure out the whole iTunes / RSS thing that I have to do some more tweaking to those 159 episodes which will actually involve removing all of those MP3 files I manually put in so that they’ll be added to the RSS feed correctly.

*bangs head against the wall*

So I was hoping that once I removed my old website and put this new-and-improved one in its place that the RSS feed would be the same … except … it isn’t 🙁  Anyway, the NEW RSS podcast feed is now here: http://beabetterbooktalker.com/feed/podcast/

I think this might mean that you’ll have to re-subscribe to the podcast in iTunes when I’m done uploading all the episodes into the new RSS feed, unless of course iTunes surprises me with its intuitiveness.  We shall see.

[Oh thank God.  The new feed DID automatically update in my iTunes subscription just now.  There’s only one episode in it at this moment (which happens to be at 3am), but I’ll spend my free day on this (*grumble*) and I’ll get all of the episodes into the new feed.]

I will also be adding image files back into my posts, because most of them are going to disappear after Wednesday when the old server vanishes.  I’ll also be double-checking all my old links to see which ones need updating.  This is going to take a little while because I have three years’ worth of posts to go through (yikes!)

This week I won’t be posting my regularly scheduled episode because I’m going to be wrestling with this damned working on this website migration project, but by next week everything should be back to (almost) normal.

Okay, here’s my last ETA (6/26/14):

QuickBlogCast vanished yesterday and all of my old pictures are still up on the site.  I’m *hoping* that means that they’ll stay there, because that would save me an enormous chore.  I still have to go through the entire site and fix outdated links, but I’ll be doing that gradually.

I used beabetterbooktalker.net as an intermediary step while I was working on the new site, but I’m not going to be using it anymore because beabetterbooktalker.com is up and running again.  I’m probably not going to keep the .net address, but I’m not sure yet if I’m just going to cancel it or let it run its course.  Come to think of it, I’ll leave it up for a little bit just to re-direct people back to this site.  Anyway, your old beabetterbooktalker.com bookmarks (you DID have this site bookmarked, right?) will still work.

As of this moment, all 150+ episodes of BaBB are up on the new RSS feed.  If you subscribed to the podcast on iTunes, you won’t need to subscribe again.  The new episodes going forward will automatically be appearing in the new feed.

Thanks again for your patience, and … onward and upward!

Good Thoughts to Everyone Recuperating From Hurricane Sandy!

Hearing what my friends and colleagues have had to suffer (loss of power / phones / cable / internet) and watching the news to see what happened to people all over the east coast is making me very grateful that we suffered so little.  We just had some incredibly strong winds, flickering lights, and a bunch of downed trees in our neighborhood.

My best and strongest thoughts are going out to Judy, Hawk, Nicole, Dan, Kevin, Josh, Martha, and everyone else who’s getting back on their feet and reconnecting to the rest of the world.

My next booktalk will be going up later today, but how much later will depend on whether or not my chiropractor is open for business.  You see what I mean?  I’ve just got little problems!

Happy Anniversary!

On May 31, 2011, I posted my very first “how-to” episode of Be a Better Booktalker, in which I introduced the concept of booktalking.  Since then, I’ve been keeping up with creating new “how-to” episodes once a month.  Granted, several times I thought the well was running dry, but new topics have continued to bubble up from the recesses of my brain and have also been sparked by questions from my listeners.  I’ve also been able to maintain a steady supply of weekly episodes consisting of one booktalk each.  So far, I’ve had a mix of old and new booktalks, using many that I’ve written and archived over the years.  That archive has grown considerably smaller over the last year, but I still have a good stash of booktalks left in reserve.

So now it’s time for me to look forward to next year, think about the future of this blog and podcast, and think about some changes that you and I can make together. 

I had taken several of my booktalks out of contention for Be a Better Booktalker because I’d previously presented them on another podcast.  Well, I’ve decided that I’m going to put those titles back in my master archive list because that way my listeners will be able to access all of them in one place, and I’ll have the opportunity to explore and explain the booktalking techniques and history of each one.  I don’t guarantee that they’re all going to become future episodes; I’m just letting you know that I’m putting those titles back in the mix.

And now here’s the part where you come in.  If you have ideas for books that you’d like me to booktalk or topics you’d like me to cover in future “how-to” episodes, please let me know.  You can help me shape the future of this podcast with your suggestions!  You can leave me comments here or write to me at beabetterbooktalker at gmail dot com.  Also, you can help Be a Better Booktalker grow by spreading the word to your friends and colleagues.  If you know librarians, teachers, parents, or anyone else who might be able to benefit from this podcast, please send them the link to this website or tell them to check out the podcast on iTunes. 

Let’s take the dying art of booktalking and pull it out of the ashes!

Anyway, thanks so much to everyone who’s been listening since day one, to my new listeners who are just starting to explore the archived episodes, and to everyone who’s been helping to spread the word about this podcast.  It’s been a great year, and I look forward to sharing booktalks with you for years to come!