Sunday, August 02, 2015

Website Review: The Story Starter

THE STORY STARTER is an easy-to-use website that randomly generates story starters.
Developed by Joel Heffner, the idea generator is appropriate for all ages for projects that range from short stories to novels.
Users simply press “CLICK HERE FOR A RANDOM STORY STARTER SENTENCE” and a sentence is displayed in a box on the screen. Users can then copy and paste the starter sentence into their favorite word processor.
For those interested in ideas specifically for children, go to the Story Starter for Kids area. This website generates short, interesting story starters for youth.
As an added feature, the website also contains a fun word game for all ages. The Scribble page randomly generates ten letters. Users then create as many words as they can using the ten letters.
Librarians can have lots of fun with this website. It’s an excellent way to help youth begin the writing process and the Scribble game is a great word activity for free time.
Go to the website at

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Book Review: After the Red Rain

AFTER THE RED RAIN by Barry Lyga, Peter Facinelli, and Robert DeFranco is a post-apocalyptic YA adventure with a hint of romance.
While out scavenging, factory worker Deedra encounters a strange boy named Rose from beyond their territory. The dystopian story evolves into a murder mystery when the factory overseer is found dead and Rose is accused of the killing. Readers learn about the red rain and the true nature of Rose, but the book concludes with the promise of a sequel that will hopeful answer some other questions.
While some readers may find the science fiction aspects of the story absurd, others will find them fascinating. Although the characters lack the depth of many YA novels, the themes and adventure elements will keep readers interested.
This book seems to be stuck between the children’s and young adult levels. While some aspects such as the rape attempt and violence are clearly in the young adult realm, the simplistic world building and social control feel more like a children’s work of dystopian fiction.
Librarians will find many readers for this quirky, post-apocalyptic YA novel. Because it reads like a movie, fans of the recent dystopian wave will feel right at home.
On a personal level, it reminded me of cross between Soylent Green and City of Ember.
Published by Little, Brown on August 4, 2015. ARC NetGalley and Edelweiss.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Website Review: Writer's Workshop: Writer Resources

WRITERS WORKSHOP: WRITER RESOURCES website from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign contains comprehensive guides to grammar, citation styles, ESL resources, and writing tips.
The Center for Writing Studies has developed high quality resources for young adults that explain and illustrate important writing rules, guidelines, and tips. Although aimed at the college level, the materials are also practical for middle and high school students.
The Grammar Handbook provides a comprehensive and easy-to-understand resource to review Parts of Speech, Phrases, Clauses, Sentences and Sentence Elements, and Common Usage Problems. Each concept is carefully explained and illustrated with examples.
The Citation Styles section introduces and illustrates the American Psychological Association (APA) style and the Modern Language Association (MLA) style. It also addresses common questions about Chicago Style, citing social media, and other FAQs.
The ESL Resources provides links to useful websites focusing on English as a Second Language (ESL).
The Writing Tips area offers advice for students with specific needs related to the writing process. In addition to general ideas, tips are provided for specific genre and for taking essay exams.
From basic grammar questions to citation problems, librarians often assist students working on writing projects. This website provides an excellent quick reference to help address common questions.
To learn more, go to the website at

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Book Review: Where's Walrus? and Penguin?

WHERE’S WALRUS? AND PENGUIN? by Stephen Savage is a follow-up to the popular Where’s Walrus (2011) picture book.
This charming, wordless story takes zoo escapees Walrus and Penguin on an adventure through the city. All goes well until a baseball game and a trip to the hospital. Despite the accident, children will cheer the happy ending.
Using simple shapes, basic colors, and interesting patterns, Savage is able to effectively hide Walrus and Penguin in plain sight. The pair use fascinating disguises to avoid detection by the zookeeper. Children will enjoy finding the animals on each two-spread.
Librarians will find a huge audience for this adorable series. It’s the perfect chance to bring out the flannel board and retell the story with other animals.
To learn about the author/illustrator, go to
Published by Scholastic on August 25, 2015.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

App Review: DIY Nano

The DIY NANO app is a fun way to learn about the scale of atoms and molecules.
Developed by The Lawrence Hall of Science, the app involves youth in investigating nano science and how it’s changing our society.
The Activities section contains activities related to Size and Properties, Tools and Techniques, Nano and Nature, and Nano and Our Lives. Each activity begins with a question followed by a summary, materials, instructions, and explanation. High quality images accompany each activity. Related videos are also provided.
The Video area provides access to 1-10 minutes videos focusing on specific topics related to nano science.
The WhatIsNano link provides access to the website. This website may be used without access to the app. It contains information about the annual NanoDays events each spring, nano exhibitions, and information for educators about nanotechnology. Many of the resources from the app are available online website as well as many additional resources.
Nano science is currently very popular in schools. Consider hosting a “nano” event in your library. Create your own exhibition that includes hands-on activities, book resources, and displays.
To access the website, go to

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review: What You Left Behind

WHAT YOU LEFT BEHIND by Jessica Verdi is an authentic and moving story about a teenager coming to terms with fatherhood.
The day Meg dies of cancer, he leaves boyfriend Ryden with a newborn daughter. Without time to grieve, Ryden is thrust into the world of infant care. In search of answers, he seeks out Meg’s journals and a father he’s never met. Will Ryden’s quest for answers help him let go of the past?
Verdi’s present-tense narrative seamlessly weaves in flashbacks and journal entries to help readers empathize with Ryden’s feelings of guilt and inadequacy. The fast-paced plot and well-defined characters combined with the author’s spot-on description of the harsh reality of teen fatherhood make for an outstanding work of realistic fiction for today’s young adult readers.
Librarians will find this YA novel to be an excellent addition to their small, but growing “teen fatherhood” collection. Both males and female teens will be hooked by the realistic portrayal of teen parenthood.
To learn more about Jessica Verdi, go to
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on August 4, 2015. ARC from Edelweiss.

Monday, July 27, 2015

App Review: Plum's Photo Hunt

PLUM’S PHOTO HUNT is an engaging nature photo app for children from PBS Kids.
Part of the Plumb Landing environmental science PBS program, the app sends youth on missions outdoors to photograph interesting things in nature including weather, plants, and insects.
Aimed at children 6 through 9, app users are presented with three options: photo missions, photobombs, and field journal.
The Photo Missions area begins with instructions that are both text and read aloud. Youth choose from over a dozen missions such as looking for patterns and shadows in nature or seeking out animal habitats or unusual weather. The app activates the device camera allowing youth to take a photo of the requested nature element. Users can choose to save the photos.
The Photobombs section allows users to take photos with one of dozens of characters in the foreground. For instance, for a garden scene a child might select a character holding a watering can or if the student is photographing an insect a character holding a magnifying glass might be used. Youth can share their photos for possible use at the Plum Landing website.
The Field Journal allows children to save photos and text together to create an electronic field journal. Youth use photos they’ve taken within the program and add text. Additional pages can easily be added.
A parent button provides information for adults.
This easy-to-use app would be great for classroom science activities. However, keep in mind that separate user accounts aren’t generated so all the images are stored together on a single device.
To learn more about the PBS program, go to Plum Landing at
To see the Plum Landing Picture Sharing areas, go to
To download the app, go to