Friday, January 30, 2015

SPIC-AND-SPAN!: LILLIAN GILBERT’S WONDER KITCHEN by Monica Kulling tells the inspiring true story of an ingenious woman who used creativity and perseverance to succeed. From factory assembly lines to kitchen layouts, Lillian Gilbreth spent her life looking for ways to make everyday tasks more efficient. The mother of eleven children, she applied what she learned at home to inventions and ideas that everyone could use.
Monica Kulling’s narrative skillfully weaves useful facts into a fascinating story, while David Parkins’ appealing illustrations match perfectly with the tone of this informational reading experience.
SPIC-AND-SPAN is Monica Kulling’s latest addition to her popular “Great Idea” series featuring the lives of inventors and their inventions. Use the books in a literature circle focusing on informational reading, biography, and inventions.
Unfortunately, children aren’t likely to pick up this book on their own. Teachers librarians will need to think of creative ways to market SPIC-AND-SPAN with children. Consider ways to connect the book with other science and engineering books. Or, focus on the biographical elements and connect them with other books about people. This would be a wonderful book to feature during Women’s History Month. Build a display focusing on woman engineers.
There are some excellent websites focusing on the life of Lillian Gilbreth. Develop an activity that asks students to compare the book to information they find on the web about this exceptional woman. Talk to children about comparing three different sources of information.
Download a Teacher’s Guide for the book at…/spic-and-span_gui….
Published in 2014 by Tundra Books. The publisher provided a print copy for this review.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review: Member's Only

MEMBERS ONLY: SECRET SOCIETIES, SECTS, AND CULTS - EXPOSED! by Julie Tibbott profiles over fifty mysterious organizations. From cults and clubs to secret societies, young people will love the facts and folklore surrounding these exclusive and secretive groups.
Tibbott’s work of nonfiction is well-organized. Each chapter focuses on a different group. A brief outline includes the date it was founded, it’s status, exclusivity factor, secrecy factor, threat factor, and quirk factor. Along with a photo, a brief history and background start the chapter. Readers then learn about what it takes to become a member and what it’s like inside the organization. Many chapters include icons, logos, and other visuals associated with the group. The chapter concludes with a discussion of related topics from zombies to doomsday prophets.
The author’s conversational approach will appeal to young readers who are made to feel like they’re insiders in this “members only” world. Teens who enjoy reading about conspiracy theories, the lives of the rich and famous, and scary cults will all enjoy reading about the fascinating world of exclusive locations and groups.
Although many of the groups will be new to readers, others will be familiar. Secret handshakes, hazing, murder, and magic are just a few activities that will keep readers immersed in the short narratives. Many students are likely to use the book as background information to jumpstart their own investigations.
While many works of nonfiction sit on the library shelf, students will check out this one along with books about celebrity gossip, magic, and ghost hunters.
Available February 3, 2015 and published by Zest Books, a NetGalley ARC was used for the review.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

App Review: The Echidna and the Dress

THE ECHIDNA AND THE DRESS is a charming, comic-style picture book app exploring Aboriginal life. Set in the Australian Outback, the app tells the true story of the relationship between a boy and his grandmother. A small spiny creature who is able to foretell both good and bad news, the echidna plays a central role to this compelling cultural story. The echidna is a popular creature in Australian appearing on the 5-cent coin and serving as a mascot for the Olympics.
While many apps overwhelm readers with quick-moving animations, loud sounds, and distracting interactives, this delightful e-book tells a sweet story in a pleasant, nurturing way.
The beautifully illustrated e-book app includes just enough animation to make the story come alive for readers. The simple background music and sound effects contribute to the appeal. The voices perfectly match the needs of the story.
While this linear e-book app doesn’t include extras or activities, it’s a great example of the beauty found in a simple story. Perfect for cultural studies in the primary grades, the app would be an excellent addition to a school library’s collection. It could easily be shared with a class using a whiteboard.
Other digital story apps including Ngurrara and Warlu Song are also available as part of the Yijala Yala Project created by Big hART in Australia. This cultural project is intended to connect people across generations.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review: Ares: Bringer of War

ARES: BRINGER OF WAR by George O’Connor is the latest addition to the popular OLYMPIANS graphic novel series designed for middle grades and young adults.
Although each of the graphic novels in the OLYMPIANS series stand alone, those new to Greek mythology may want to read them in order because ARES assumes that readers are familiar with the backstory of the gods. Each volume focuses on one of the gods in the Olympic pantheon including Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Aphrodite. In addition to the story, each book contains an afterward, family tree, discussion questions, and source notes.
The fast-paced, action-packed stories are drawn from primary documents. The seventh book in the series, Ares: Bringer of War, focuses on the gods’ interference in the Trojan War. This book is a great way to jumpstart an exploration of classics like the Iliad. Although the classic story is filled with violence, O’Connor keeps the gore to a minimum so it’s unlikely to bother readers.
George O’Connor is known for his beautifully illustrated graphic novels with historical themes. In Ares, he does an excellent job helping readers visualize the relationship between the gods and humans through the use of shape and color.
For those students who enjoy the historical aspects of the graphic works, suggest O’Connor’s first graphic novel titled Journey Into Mohawk Country based on to a seventeenth-century historical journal.
Fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series will be attracted to this graphic novel series. Use Riordan’s website to explore the Greek Gods and explore mythology. Go to
To learn more about the OLYMPIANS series and background information about the Greek Gods, go to To extend the Ares reading experience, explore the online activities at
NetGalley ARC used for review

Monday, January 26, 2015

Website Review: PBS Kids Writers Contest

The WRITERS CONTEST from PBS Kids is a fun way to get primary grade children excited about writing. The website includes information about entering a writing contest, an opportunity to read stories, and the chance for children to create and save their own story.
The ENTER CONTEST section provides information about the contest, rules, prizes, and a chance to meet the judges. The 2015 event is for children from Kindergarten through Grade 3. It runs from January through July. A “Story Writing Fun Guide” is available with lots of writing ideas to guide children through the writing process.
The READ STORIES section of the website contains both contest entries and online stories to explore. They can be viewed by station, grade, prize, and year. Over 1695 stories are available to view. Check out the Story Stats to read the most popular stories.
The START CREATING section provides objects and backgrounds to jumpstart writing. Children can use the text and paint tools to enhance their story. Story Sparks provide starters to stimulate writing. Students can create a sign-in that allows them to store and share their stories online.
Teaching ideas are also available including a writing guide, caption writing activity, and get-ready-to-write worksheet. An illustration worksheet, brainstorming worksheet, and revising checklist are also available.
To visit the website, go to
For teaching ideas related to the contest, go to
To download a Story Writing Fun Guide, go to

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Review: Tunnel Vision

TUNNEL VISION by Susan Adrian is a heart-pounding paranormal suspense that will keep young adult readers engaged from beginning to end.
Jake has a secret. When he holds an object, Jake he can see through the eyes of the owner. A party game reveals his talent and sets in motion a string of events that include government surveillance, rouge agents, and underground scientists.
A talented storyteller, Adrian does a masterful job layering the lies and deceit. Readers will quickly become caught up in the intrigue wondering who our protagonist should trust. Adrian’s description of the tunneling experience makes the phenomena seem real. Her vivid descriptions of captivity and escape contribute to this nail-biting suspense.
Containing a hint of romance and just enough paranormal elements for fantasy lovers, this fast-paced adventure will appeal to a wide range of YA readers.
This YA novel serves as an excellent bridge to adult thrillers. It also opens the door for paranormal readers to explore related sub-genres involving government espionage and spy novels.
Published January 20th, 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin. Edelweiss ARC used for review.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Website Review: Social Explorer

SOCIAL EXPLORER is a website and app that provides access to current and historical data in a visual way.
The easiest way to get started is by choosing the Maps option. Users can explore 220 years of data from 1790 to the present. For instance, students can see how the population centers in the United States have shifted over time. Powerful tools allow users to see maps side-by-side, swipe maps, and annotate maps. The storytelling features allows users to create multi-map presentations that incorporate text, images, video, audio, and annotations.
Users can also explore the Table option to display and download tables of data. The professional version provides access to many more data sets.
The Help section includes excellent instructions for using the website to generate maps and tables.
Although not specifically designed for K-12 students, Social Explorer has lots of potential for teaching and learning across the curriculum. Use the website’s blog to gather lots of ideas for integrating this interactive tool across the curriculum.
American Migrations at is a project that uses Social Explorer to study African American and Latino migrations through American history.
Census Explorer at uses Social Explorer to bring U.S. Census Bureau data alive for learners.
Students can use either the website or app to explore the resources. For access to some features, users need to get an account. Additional resources are available with a subscription to the professional edition.
For the website version, go to
For the website blog, go to
For the Apple iTunes version, go to
For the Android version, go to….