Monday, June 29, 2015

Tech Review: MakeBeliefsComix

The MAKEBELIEFSCOMIX website (and app) provides an easy-to-use tool for creating comic strips.
Two, three, or four panel comics can be created. Users begin by naming their comic and providing their name. Next, youth add characters, words, objects, backgrounds, and talk/thought balloons to the panels. Users can change the background color too. Sidebar tools allow creators to scale, bring to font, and flip elements. Comics can be printed or emailed.
In addition to the tool itself, other resources are provided including materials for teachers, special needs, and ESOL/literacy. Writing prompts and tools are also available. Free e-books provide lots of classroom ideas.
Librarians will find endless uses for this easy-to-use comic strip generator.
The comic creator is now available as an App through iTunes.
To create a comic, go to

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Book Review: The Mothman's Curse

THE MOTHMAN’S CURSE by Christine Hayes is a spooky thriller for middle grade readers.
Living in America’s most haunted town, Josie is accustomed to strange happenings in her family’s auction house. However, the appearance of a Polaroid camera that captures images of a ghost draws Josie and her brother into a century old mystery. A ghost, a monster, and a cursed pin are just a few of the creepy things these witty siblings encounter as they try to prevent a disaster in their small Ohio town.
This fast-paced suspense will keep readers on the edge of their seats wondering what will happen next. Hayes’ conversational writing style is easy to read and her characters are well-developed.
What will make the story even more compelling for young readers is the connection to with local legends about a real Mothman. Create a display featuring this book along with others about legendary monsters like Bigfoot and Sasquatch.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Roaring Brook on June 16, 2015.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Website Review: Funbrain

FUNBRAIN is a classic educational website for children containing games along with online books and comics.
For nearly two decades, librarians, teachers, and their students have enjoyed free educational games and online comics from Funbrain. Designed for youth in preschool through grade 8, the website contains over 100 interactive games focusing on math, reading, and literature topics.
Users can create a username and password to keep track of their gaming experiences. However, this isn’t required to use the website.
The Math Arcade provides a wide range of learning games associated with math concepts such as Space Slingshot, Cut It, Blast Off, and Space Fractions. These games aren’t intended for initial instruction, instead they’re a fun way to practice math skills. Beyond the arcade, youth will enjoy math baseball, tic-fac-toe squares, and connect the dots games.
The Reading Arcade provides access to books and comics for youth. Most are displayed in short episodes or chapters. Galactic Hot Dogs is the latest addition to this online collection. Tess’s Tree is a classic favorite. Books designed for younger children feature characters like Brainy Blueberry, Daisy Nuzzlehead, and Captain Buckleswash. Beyond the arcade, youth will enjoy the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, along with Lost Side of Subarea, and Skullduggery Island. Literacy games include Stay Afloat, The Plural Girls, and Grammar Gorillas.
In addition to learning games, the Playground section includes early learning activities designed for adults and children to experience together. Finally, the All Games area provides a master list of the materials including a list of the most popular games and resources organized by grade level.
Librarians will find this to be a popular website for youth seeking “free time” experiences with both educational and entertainment value. Many youth enjoy an affiliated world building website called Poptropica outside the school setting.
To learn more, go to

Friday, June 26, 2015

Book Review: The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk

THE OCTOPUS SCIENTISTS: EXPLORING THE MIND OF A MOLLUSK by Sy Montgomery provides a fascinating look at the world of scientists studying octopus.
Part of the Scientists in the Field collection, the author provides stunning photographs to go with the interesting and informative scientific narrative. The story follows a group of scientists at the CRIBE’S field station as they collect information about the elusive octopus.
In addition to the engaging story of scientific investigation, the book also includes pages focusing on the scientists and fact sheets providing in-depth information on topics such as creature camouflage.
Feature this book in a library display focusing on creatures of the coral reef. Be sure teachers are aware of this growing collection of high-quality science books. The entire Scientists in the Field collection is a great way to address STEM standards and encourage careers in the sciences.
To learn more about the Scientists in the Field books, go to
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on May 26, 2015.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

App Review: Monster Heart Medic

MONSTER HEART MEDIC is an fascinating, interactive, educational adventure game focusing on the cardiovascular system and the importance of healthy habits.
Designed for ages 10-13, the fast-paced game will keep youth interested in learning about the cardiovascular system and how it’s affected by healthy living habits.
Game players are engaged in a quest to collect items related to 37 health fact achievements that are used to become an expert monster medic. Categories include medical exams, monster stories, keep it healthy, travel to medi supply, travel to hospital, travel to park, travel to apartment, and health choices.
Play begins at a fitness center where users are introduced to Ragnar who is training for a marathon. Players are in charge of figuring out what’s wrong with Ragnar’s cardiovascular system by clicking objects on the screen, going to places on the interactive map, and making choices based on readings and medical exams.
Users can choose between English and Spanish languages. They can also turn the music and narration on and off.
The bright, colorful graphics, catchy sounds, and interactive game environment will be attractive to youth. The short scenarios, focused information, and stress on achievements will keep youth interested.
Librarians will want to add this to their health and science app collections.
Published by the Lawrence Hall of Science.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Review: The Book Scavenger

BOOK SCAVENGER by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is a middle grades adventure filled with quests, clues, and ciphers.
When Emily stumbles upon a strange copy of The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe, she teams up with cipher-solving neighbor James to solve a mystery. However when the pair find themselves tailed by two thugs, they realize their quest has become much more than a book scavenger game.
The author did a stellar job weaving codes and ciphers into the storyline. Although adults will quickly figure out the mystery, youth are likely to be on the edge-of-their-seats until the last couple chapters.
Librarians will find a broad audience for this fast-paced suspense. Use this book as the focus of a display containing both fiction and nonfiction books focusing on treasure hunts, games, codes, and geocaching.
What makes this book particularly fun is the transmedia element. The Book Scavenger game is real and youth can participate by hiding and finding books.
To learn more about the game go to the Book Scavenger website at
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Henry Holt on June 2, 2015.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Website Review: NBC Learn

NBC LEARN is a website focusing on news and information of interest to K-12 students.
Thousands of standards aligned stories have been digitized from the NBC News archives dating back to the 1920s. Both subscription-based and free resources are available.
The subscription-based option is connected with the Pearson Online Learning Exchange (OLE).
The free resources include over a dozen video projects. While some collections focus on event-specific topics such as Pi Day, the Summer Olympics, and the Winter Olympics, others are connected to sports topics of interest such as the Science of Golf, Hockey, and Football. Topics specific to science include water, innovation, chemistry, and climate change.
History topics include a video series on the Civil Rights Era and one on the Titanic.
The Writers Speak to Kids is a video series containing over a dozen interviews with award-winning authors talking about the craft of creative writing. Librarians will be specifically interested in these short, quality videos.