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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Chapter Books

Middle Kingdom: Kapolei, Hawaii

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard regularly visits the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This journey takes us to Kapolei Middle School in Kapolei, Hawaii, where Lisa talks with Library Media Specialist Carolyn H. Kirio.

Carolyn H. Kirio, Kapolei Middle SchoolLisa: What are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

Carolyn: Aloha! Greetings from our 50th State! Located in the Pacific Ocean, our state is made up of eight major islands and 124 islets, stretching in a 1,500-mile crescent from Kure Island in the west to the island of Hawaii in the east. Most of the state’s residents live on Oahu, and nearly ¾ of them reside in Honolulu, the state’s capital. Kapolei Middle School is located in Kapolei, a newly developed suburb on the west side of the island of Oahu. Our school services 1,450 sixth to eighth graders and is a year-round multitrack school.

Lisa: What recent changes or new elements are affecting the work you do with students?

Carolyn: Although it is not a recent change, our school is on a multitrack year-round schedule.  To accommodate our large school population, our students are divided into four tracks. This means that at any one time, three of the four tracks are attending school while the fourth is on intersession (vacation). Furthermore, our instructional cycle is a year-round education (YRE) pattern which offers us an alternative way to construct the school calendar. The rotation sequence follows a year-round 45/15 calendar where one track returns from vacation and one track leaves every 15 days. Our teachers do not have a classroom to call their own because they constantly rotate into the room vacated by the teacher leaving on intersession. The transition is completed in a single afternoon with the exchange of file cabinets, instructional supplies, and desks. After the dust settles, our school updates the room and phone lists to reflect the track change.

Kapolei Middle School, Carolyn H. Kirio

Besides being very confusing and chaotic, you might be wondering how this affects the library. Many times I attempt to do school-wide instruction or initiatives. What would normally take a week to complete teaching all classes stretches out to two or more based upon the number of students who need to cycle through, as well as the intersession that occurs for the track. Because timing is everything, I have enlisted technology to assist me in teaching. Using the strategy of flipped classroom instruction, I create many lessons in mp4 format and have them available on demand through our closed circuit and intranet system. The library has several dedicated stations that teachers can call up on demand. As time allows in their busy schedules, they can fit my lessons in throughout the day when it best fits within their course instruction. Some of the most-viewed segments include my lessons on bibliography instruction, recognizing and avoiding plagiarism, and book infomercials I create to get students excited about different titles in the collection.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often by your middle school students?

Carolyn: This year has been a roller coaster as far as tracking which books are trending and which are not. Book-inspired movies and television shows have influenced book borrowing throughout the year. However, once the popularity of the show wanes, students quickly transition back to the writers who reliably create great reads. Narrowing it down, the five authors and their series that remain consistently popular include Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus), Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Rachel Renee Russell (Dork Diaries), R.L. Stine (Goosebumps), and Darren Shan (The Saga of Darren Shan/Cirque du Freak).


Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into middle school students’ hands?

Cacy & Kiari and the Curse of the Ki'iCarolyn: On a daily basis I work as a literature matchmaker to pair students with potential books that they will connect with and enjoy. Engaging students in conversation, my goal is to discover what their personal interests are and what topics they are passionate about. Oftentimes I love to introduce students to Hawaiian historical fiction such as titles written by Graham Salisbury, who focuses on story lines and communities set in different parts of our state. Because characters and settings are familiar, students can easily understand and relate to his books. An exciting new book has recently been on my recommendation list: Cacy & Kiara and the Curse of the Ki`i (Hawaiian statue or idol) by Roy Chang. Roy is the author and illustrator and has skillfully crafted an adventure set in a world where our main characters interact with Hawaiian myths and legends. An intermediate school fine arts teacher, Roy knows what interests middle school kids and created a hybrid manga and chapter book that is an instant draw. I hope that his sequel will be out soon because students can’t wait to revisit Cacy and Kiara and embark on another journey filled with Hawaiian culture and mythology!

Lisa: If you had a new staffer starting tomorrow, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them?

Carolyn: Gee, where do I begin? Get ready for a bumpy ride! Some words of wisdom that would be shared would include:

  • Always keep students busy and engaged
  • Network with your surrounding school librarians and get peer support
  • Organize yourself and make a plan (immediate and short-term goals)
  • Get to know all the teachers and staff in your school
  • Model desired attitudes and behavior
  • Enlist the help of a teacher to collaborate with
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Everyday is a learning experience, just do your best
  • Find the time to laugh and have fun!

Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle schoolers?

Carolyn: No two days are ever the same! Students are filled with never-ending energy and questions. They keep you constantly on your toes and thinking outside of the box. Given the opportunity to grow and challenge themselves, they exceed expectations and surprise you with what they can produce.  

I laugh every day! It is such a weird stage in life for these kids, that if you can’t laugh with them, you will go insane. Middle schoolers have the ability to really push themselves, be independent learners, and tap into their creativity and curiosity. They are constantly questioning who they are, discovering what they can do, and testing where their boundaries lie. As a teacher it can be exciting and frustrating at the same time. They are what they are, which is, in short, growing up.  Still children at heart, they can’t help but want to learn and play, so why fight them? Join them!

Lisa: How have books or other things changed for Middle Kingdom readers during your time as a librarian?

Carolyn: I have been a librarian for 23 years. During this time I have seen the phasing out of the card catalog, floppy disks, and microfiche. I have seen computer storage increase from megabytes to terabytes, to archiving in the cloud. The Internet has made the world a smaller place, offering access to information, resources, and experts from around the globe, and with a click, universally translated into a familiar language that can be understood and comprehended by everyone. Recently technology has progressed and desktops have been replaced by the adoption of apps, mobile technology, and eBooks. Middle Kingdom readers have increased access to information, and libraries are now open virtually 24/7. With so much knowledge at their fingertips, it will be truly amazing to see what they discover and how their curiosity inspires this next generation of learners.


Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary, 1971

Beverly Cleary, 1971

For the last month I have been reading articles, toasts, essays, and interviews with one of my favorite authors of all time: Beverly Cleary. She turned 100 years old this week. Everything I read about her makes me misty-eyed—the birthday plans in her home state of Oregon … her memories of being in the lowest reading group, the Blackbirds, in elementary school … that she writes while baking bread … how she named her characters … that she was a “well-behaved girl” but she often thought like Ramona (me, too!!!) … the fan mail she still receives in a steady stream … SIGH.

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Perkins, read us Ramona the Brave. It was a new book that year—she used it to show us how to open a brand-new book and “break in” the binding so that the pages would turn easily. She told us that it was part of a series and I remember being out of sorts that she would start mid-series, but then I was so engrossed in the story that I dropped my grudge.

Reading Is FundamentalMy elementary school was a RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) school. RIF day was easily my favorite day of the year. I understood that RIF existed to put books in the hands of kids who would not otherwise own books. I had books at home, though many of my classmates did not, and I was always a little nervous that somehow I would be excluded—what if someone reported my little bookshelf, or the fact that I received a book every birthday? What if I was pulled aside—not allowed to go pick a book?! But it never happened. No questions asked—just encouragement to pick a book of my very own. RIF Bliss!

Ramona the PestThat second-grade-year, when my class went down to the entrance lobby of the school to visit the tables and tables piled with books (this remains my image of abundance), the very first book I saw was Ramona the Pest. I knew it had to be related to Ramona the Brave, and was proud to have the presence of mind—my heart beat hard in the excitement of my discovery!—to confirm that the author’s name, Beverly Cleary, was listed under the title. Mrs. Cleary lived in Oregon, Mrs. Perkins said. It was a place so far away from central Illinois that I was surprised one of her books could have made its way to our RIF tables. I scooped it up and carried it around with me as I perused all of the other books. We were allowed to choose only one book, but none of the others even came close to tempting me to put down Ramona the Pest.

illustration by Louis Darling

illustration by Louis Darling

I’m astounded when I look at lists of Beverly Cleary’s books and their publication dates. She started the Ramona series in 1955. My mother was nine years old! The last in the series, Ramona’s World, was written when my son was two, in 1999. And that’s just the Ramona books! What a career! At least three generations have read and loved Cleary’s books.

I still have that little trade-paperback book. It’s well worn—I read it many times as a kid. And I read it to my kids, too, of course. It’s the only Ramona book I own—through all of the cover changes and box sets, I’ve just stuck with my one little RIF book.

I might change that this week, though. I think perhaps I’ll buy myself a boxed set of Ramona and make a donation to RIF in Beverly Cleary’s honor.

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

Keystones of the Stone Arch Bridge

Keystones of the Stone Arch Bridge

In downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, spanning the Mississippi River, there is a “Stone Arch Bridge” that resembles a roman viaduct with its 23 arches. Built at a time when Minneapolis was a primary grain-milling and wood-producing center for the United States, Empire Builder James J. Hill wanted the bridge built to help his railroad reach the […]

Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice

Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice

The woman who cuts my hair, Amy, had a particularly hard summer the year her boys had just learned to read. Their school asked that she keep them reading over the summer, but there were only so many Magic Treehouse books she wanted them to read. What other books would be suitable? The minutes flew […]


Space Taxi

Space Taxi: Archie Takes Flight Wendy Mass and Michael Brawer, illus by Elise Gravel Little, Brown Books for Young Readers What a hoot! When eight-year-old Archie Morningstar gets up early in the morning for his first Take Your Kid to Work Day, he never imagines that his taxi-driving dad in their rickety cab is actually […]


Anatomy of a Series: Topps League Books

We’re in post-season, when a lot of fans start to look wild-eyed, wondering how they’ll hang on for three months until spring training starts in February. Here in Minnesota, it’s tough for sandlot baseball or Little League games to be played in the snow with an icy baseline. Young fans can keep up the momentum […]



Peace is elusive. It is a goal of some people at some time in some parts of the world. As John Lennon wrote: “Imagine no possessions / I wonder if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A brotherhood of man / Imagine all the people sharing all the world …” Is […]


Summer isn’t over yet, the next part …

For older readers, grades four through seven, there are great series choices. How many books do a series make? I’m thinking three or more—I have no idea if there’s an official classification. In July, I heard three excellent speakers on children’s literature, Anita Silvey, Judy Freeman, and Barbara Swanson Sanders. They couldn’t get their book […]


Summer isn’t over yet …

There’s still more summer reading time, whether relaxing in your favorite lawn chair, next to a burbling creek, sitting in the middle of your garden, or soaking in a wading pool. When do I read? I always read before going to sleep. I read when I first get up in the morning—it’s a great way […]