Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: Aviary Wonders Inc.

AVIARY WONDERS INC.: SPRING CATALOG AND INSTRUCTION MANUAL by Kate Samworth is a cleverly conceived and beautifully illustrated picture book you may have missed when it came out earlier in the year. 

Set in a future where living birds no longer exist, readers of this fictional catalog can order parts and assemble their own birds. All of the birds in the book are actual species and many are identified as endangered or extinct.

It’s dark, but humorous approach isn’t intended for young children. Instead, it’s designed for sophisticated readers who appreciate the quirky premise and call for a different future.

Although readers will have fun thinking about how they might mix and match parts to build the perfect mechanical bird, it’s hoped that they’ll also reflect on the serious issue of bird and habitat conservation.

This 2014 Kirkus Prize winning picture book provides endless opportunities for library and classroom activities focusing on environmental conservation. It’s one of those rare picture books that people of all ages will enjoy. Use it to kickstart a middle grades environmental discussion or a high school biology project.

Work with the art teacher on a project that involves using the book to create mix and match birds. Display the result in the library!

To learn more about the author, go to

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Website Review: Mission US

MISSION US is a “revolutionary way” for 5th-8th graders to learn about American history through immersive, multimedia, interactive games.

The project currently involves three missions. Additional missions are coming soon.

In MISSION 1: FOR CROWN OR COLONY, learners become a printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston where they encounter both Patriots and Loyalists.

In MISSION 2: FLIGHT TO FREEDOM, students escape slavery as they journey north to Ohio in 1950 during the time of the Fugitive Slave Act.

In MISSION 3: A CHEYENNE ODYSSEY, players take on the role of a Northern Cheyenne child experiencing the encroachment of settlers, railroads, and expeditions.

The EDUCATORS section provides standards-aligned educational materials related to the interactives.

The THINK FAST! game tests student knowledge of history through a fact-paced trivia game. In addition to the website, the THINK FAST! section is available for the iPad and Android Tablet for free.

The Facebook page provides ideas and activities to extend the experience.

To learn more, go to

For the Facebook page, go to

Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: We Were Liars

WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart is an absorbing, edge-of-your-seat suspense with love, secrets, pain, and tragedy. It’s on lots of 2014 YA lists, so it’s worth another look.

The engaging story revolves around a wealthy family that reunites each summer on their private island. Readers follow Cady Sinclair’s frustrations in trying to put together the pieces of her life after a personal tragedy she doesn’t remember. Throughout the book, Lockhart weaves in short, dark fairy-tales that parallel the tragic storyline. The twists and turns along with the shocking conclusion make this perfect for a teen who enjoys escaping into the world of privilege, vacation homes, and summer romance. While many young adults will enjoy the distinct writing style, others may find it disjointed.

This thin novel contains short chapters and a quick-moving plot that will be popular with a wide range of readers. Early buzz about a movie adaptation will increase its popularity even more. Put this on your “read on the beach” summer book list.

An interesting website accompanies the book. It contains background information about the fictional family, story, and author. It also contains opportunities to extend the experience. Go to

Sunday, December 28, 2014

App Review: Storybooks from Nosy Crow

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, CINDERELLA, and THE THREE LITTLE PIGS are just three of the amazing, interactive storybook apps available from publisher Nosy Crow.

Each of these award-winning apps contains an age-appropriate version of the classic children’s story along with visually stunning illustrations. Text-highlighting supports emerging readers.

The animation, music, and interactive elements contribute to understanding of the story rather than distracting from the plot. The open-reading environment incorporates a game where readers work their way through onscreen tasks such as collecting treasure as they read the non-linear narrative. This approach is particularly effective with reluctant readers.

Look for others in this series coming soon. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES is currently under development.

To explore the apps, go to

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review: Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World

EYE TO EYE: HOW ANIMALS SEE THE WORLD by Steve Jenkins applies astounding collage techniques to produce an informational picture book that will fly off the shelves.

Fans of Steve Jenkins of WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A TAIL LIKE THIS? will enjoy his focus on eye sight in animals. While younger readers will be drawn to the appealing images, older children will enjoy the informational aspects of this book. The accurate, detailed focus on the special features of each animal will be useful to both students working on reports and teachers seeking interesting examples for class. Additional details about each animal are found at the end of the book.

Of particular interest is the way Jenkins traces the evolution of the eye. Look for the chart showing the evolutionary process.

Although the collage illustrations are amazing, design an activity that asks children to compare the collage images with photographs of each creature. The book along with close-up eye photographs would be fun for a library display.

Go to the author’s website to learn more about the books. Be sure to check out the section on making books. Go to

Friday, December 26, 2014

Website & App Review: Curious George

The CURIOUS GEORGE website and apps provide endless hours of fun and learning for young children.

The free website is attractive and easy to use. The GAMES section contains 18 games featuring Curious George. While some activities focus on a learning activity such as matching or patterns, others seem to have little educational value. The STORIES section contain a few e-books to read online. The CREATE section contains fun writing, drawing, recording, music, and art activities. The CURIOUS ABOUT.. section provides a collection of activities based on a theme such as zoo animals. Questions are provided for adults working with children. The PARENT and TEACHER sections include lots of on- and off-computer ideas.

Eleven apps are available with the Curious George character. They include an interactive story builder, interactive books and games, literacy learning activities, drawing tools, an interactive picture dictionary, and a reader collection. The Curious Reader app contains a collection of interactive books with read-to-me and read-to-myself options. The books are purchased separately.

Both the website and apps are published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The website is free, but the apps are sold individually or in two, 4-app bundles.

To explore the website, go to

To access the apps, go to

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Book Review: El Deafo

Three of the best children’s books of 2014 are autobiographical including THE SCRAPS BOOK and BROWN GIRL DREAMING. EL DEAFO is at the top of my list. Feature all three in your library and encourage youth to write their own stories.

EL DEAFO by Cece Bell is a powerful graphic memoir focusing on the frustration of growing up with a hearing impairment. While Cece’s story highlights the embarrassment and loneliness of deafness experienced by many children, the universal themes of friendship and acceptance are at the core of this unforgettable story.

The author’s warm and honest approach to storytelling contribute to it’s appeal. Cece’s “listener for all” alter-ego El Deafo is wonderfully drawn in sequences placed in green bubbles to separate them from reality.

Besides the exceptional storyline, what makes EL DEAFO so magnificent is the graphic memoir format. Many students who might overlook the traditional autobiographical format will embrace the simple, well-drawn, visually-rich approach.

Librarians who grew up in the 60s-70s will enjoy her spot-on references to everything from Batman and John-Boy to Hostess Cherry Pies and sleep-overs. You may even be moved to sing Yellow Submarine.

Having experienced hearing loss as an adult due to an illness, I can empathize with Cece’s frustrations. Like Cece, my problem isn’t with volume, it’s clarity of sound. Her book does an outstanding job educating readers about how to interact with a person with hearing loss. These small informative details make this much more than your typical graphic memoir.

To learn more about Geisel honor book winner Cece Bell, go to her website at

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

App Review: Ken Burns

The KEN BURNS app will bring history alive for your students through video scenes and historical photos. 

Rather than revisiting his documentaries, this app is a new way to explore American history content. The short, focused content segments will be popular with both students and teachers.

The TIMELINE view allows users to zoom in to explore the chronology of history through short video scenes.

The THEME view provides a playlist of scenes related to art, hard times, innovation, politics, race, war, and leadership.

The FILM view involves users in exploring scenes from favorite Ken Burns films.

Some of this content is also available at the KEN BURNS AMERICA website at

The full version of this app is $9.99 and it’s also available as part of the Apple Volume Purchase Program discount.

For more information about the app, go to

To download the full version, go to

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Book Review: The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life

THE SCRAPS BOOK: NOTES FROM A COLORFUL LIFE by Lois Ehlert is a charming picture-book and a perfect way to introduce the concept of autobiography to young children.

In her beautiful book, the beloved author-illustrator opens her studio and archives allowing readers to learn how she creates her popular picture books. Combining historical photographs, scans of book plans and drafts, along with artwork from her books, Ehlert uses a visually stunning approach to describe her life and creative process.

THE SCRAPS BOOK would be a wonderful way to introduce the concept of autobiography to young children. Begin by sharing and discussing her picture books. Then, read her autobiography pointing out familiar images from her work. Talk with children about the creative process and Ehlert as an author-illustrator.

Although Color Zoo was a Caldecott Honor Book, she hasn’t won the ultimate Caldecott medal. Could this be her year?

To extend the experience, what a video interview with Lois Ehlert from Reading Rockets at

Monday, December 22, 2014

Website Review: Figment

Involve your students with an exciting online reading and writing community called FIGMENT. #figment 

A social network for writers of all ages, this website provides an engaging environment for writing, reading, and interacting. Many of their activities and contests revolve around upcoming and recently released young adult novels. School libraries use the site for after-school and summer programs and clubs.

Participants known as “Figs” begin by creating a login and profile. Keep in mind that students must be at least 13 to participate.

The LIBRARY is a place to locate and read the creations of participants. Users can search by genres. Figs can “like” and comment on what they read.

The SPOTLIGHT section provides a selection of readings from both professional and novice authors. Fan fiction, contest winners, and other collections of writings are featured.

FIGMENT CHATS provide a chance for participants to ask questions of professionals. Chats are active for a week, then archived. Recent discussions can still be accessed.

The GROUPS are a place where Figs can meet, talk, and often collaborate on reviewing and writing projects. Both private and public groups can be formed. Many educators use this area for classes and clubs.

The FORUMS is a place for public, threaded discussions on a wide variety of topics.

The DAILY FIG is a blog containing news and information for Figs.

The CONTESTS section is popular with teachers and librarians. Many of the contests are associated with young adults books and themes.

The POLLS & QUIZZES section is a fun way for Figs to share their ideas and opinions.

Educators are encouraged to sign up for a free educator account that provides access to special features and opportunities.

To explore this website, go to

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Book Review: Grasshopper Jungle

GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith is an edgy, hilarious, science fiction comedy that brilliantly merges coming-of-age with end-of-the world themes. Look for it on the 2014 Printz shortlists.

Much more than an apocalyptic thriller, this intense tale is told from the point of view of a young historian named Austin Szerba. Backstories of the main characters’ ancestors are skillfully woven throughout the story providing readers with fascinating and bizarre insights and connections that extend well beyond the monster theme.

Austin is an extremely horny sophomore who hangs out with his girlfriend and gay best friend. The realistic approach to teen sexuality and frequent use of potty humor will be particularly appealing to teens. However like many of the most edgy books in the YA collection, it’s likely to offend some readers.

Austin’s already confusing life is turned upside down when an unstoppable army of six-foot-tall praying mantises are unleashed in his small Iowa town.

The combination of teen sex talk, a deranged mad scientist, an underground “bunker of Eden”, and gory alien creature violence are sure to be a draw for teens. Those who enjoy the creative mind of Andrew Smith will also be happy with the result.

The movie rights to the book have already been purchased, so the novel will remain popular in YA and school libraries for at least the next several years.

To learner about the author, go to

Saturday, December 20, 2014

App Review: Incredible Numbers

Looking for a way to support math in your library as part of your school’s STEM program? Try the INCREDIBLE NUMBERS app by Ian Stewart.

In this award-winning app, Stewart explores the hidden beauty of numbers and patterns. From music to nature, the app shows how mathematics is woven into everyday life.

This app is a wonderful way to help reluctant learners see the value in math through amazing animations, interactive demonstrations, and puzzles. Intended to inspire and promote curiosity, users are encouraged to play with sound waves, create codes, and find patterns. For students having trouble with abstract algebra and complex equations, this app helps to visualize math’s mysteries.

At $9.99 this isn’t an inexpensive app, however it’s well worth the investment. Consider the bundle that includes three apps from Touch Press including THE ELEMENTS, SOLAR SYSTEM, along with INCREDIBLE NUMBERS.

Learn more about this app at

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: The Night Gardener

What’s your Newbery prediction? THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathan Auxier is an eerie dark fantasy sure to make the short-list.

In the vein of horror classics by authors like Edgar Allan Poe and Washington Irving, two Irish orphans are drawn to a spooky house in the woods surrounded by an even creepier tree. As readers become immersed in the story, they’re struck with a foreboding feeling that only an extraordinary author such as Auxier can conceive. The author’s vivid descriptions, fast-paced writing style, and compelling themes make this an unforgettable tale.

Divided into three sections named arrivals, pursuits, and departures, readers are taken on an exciting journey with a satisfying conclusion that keeps the door open for another adventure.

Teacher librarians will find this book perfect for discussions about the role of truth, lies, wishes, and the nature of storytelling. It’s also a great way to introduce youth to gothic tales from the 19th century.

Like Holly Black’s Doll Bones and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Coraline, dark fantasy for the middle grades seems to be increasingly popular.

Many youth start their passion for horror fiction with works by R. L. Stine. Use THE NIGHT GARDENER to provide a transition to more sophisticated themes and storylines.

To learn more about this popular new author, check out his website at

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Website Review: Whale Wars

WHALE WARS: BLOOD AND WATER is an award-winning interactive experience from Animal Planet that is sure to jumpstart a discussion about environmental issues, conservation, and the role of activism.

The website is divided into five video chapters. Each section provides concise text along with stunning illustrations and engaging video clips. The visuals include current and historical photographs, maps, infographics, diagrams, and timelines. Many of the images contain interactive elements for further exploration.

Involve students in examining the real-world organizations involved in this program. Ask them to explore the different perspectives and concerns of environmental groups, countries, and corporations.

To explore this resource, go to
Follow the TV show at

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Review: The Glass Sentence

THE GLASS SENTENCE by S. E. Grove is the intriguing first book in The Mapmakers fantasy series. Those who enjoy alternative history and plays on time and space will find the imaginative approach well-crafted.

The story takes place in 1891 after The Great Disruption that jumbled time and geography. Sophia’s parents are explorers who left her in the care of her Uncle in Boston. After her Uncle is kidnapped, Sophia and her new friend Theo must rescue her Uncle, save the world, and set up the second book in the series.

This exciting mystery includes adventures on trains and pirate ships, in castles and dungeons, and even a race through caves and up ice towers. Lovers of cartography will be delighted by the idea of interactive, immersive maps made of unique materials.

What makes THE GLASS SENTENCE distinct is its interesting approach to world-building. Readers must be willing to suspend disbelieve not only in terms of place, but also of time. With many works of fantasy, the key to success is how much readers connect with the imaginary world established by the author. When a reader feels this world is too much like the "real world," too different from our universe, or simply poorly developed, it can be difficult to entice the reader unless the characters and plot are exceptional. Grove has created a bizarre, but fascinating alternative universe.

This inventive fantasy will appeal to sophisticated readers, but may be overwhelming and confusing to others. For those youth willing to suspend disbelief, it’s a great new breed of fantasy.

Consider using this book to kick off an exploration of maps in books, the history of maps, and exploration.

To learn about the author and series, go to
To learn more about the series, go to

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

App Review: Smithsonian's Prehistoric Pals

SMITHSONIAN’S PREHISTORIC PALS is a series of engaging interactive book apps exploring dinosaurs and the prehistoric world.

While these e-books are short and lack some of the interaction of some other apps, they provide excellent reading experiences for young children. Designed for ages 3-8, users choose from the standard read-to-me, read-it-myself, and autoplay modes. Each screen contains a colorful picture along with a couple sentences of text. New vocabulary and pictures are clickable and provide additional information. An option is provided for students to record and share their own voice reading.

The books are all based on traditional paper books published by Smithsonian. Titles include It’s Tyrannosaurus Rex, Saber-Tooth Trap, Mosasaurus, Pteranodon Soars, and others.

Oceanhouse Media is known for their high-quality apps for youth. A collection of 10 books is available in a bundle.

For a complete list, go to

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review: Ashfall Trilogy

Let’s revisit the ASHFALL trilogy by Mike Mullin. After the final book in a series is published and the first wave of readers are done, it’s time to think about ways to market these books to new audiences.
This engaging trilogy is one of the more realistic post-apocalyptic series available. The books follow fifteen-year old Alex Halprin as he struggles to survive after a natural disaster involving the Yellowstone supervolcano.

SUNRISE follows Alex’s struggle to stay alive on the road as he tries to find his family. As he walks from Iowa to Illinois, Alex meets traveling companion Darla.

In ASHEN WINTER, Alex must retrace his journey back to Iowa to locate his parents. Once again, Darla plays a central role in helping Alex cross a landscape that is becoming increasingly dangerous.
Set a year after the volcanic eruption, SUNRISE follows the struggle of Alex and Darla to establish a working community in a post-apocalyptic world. Much of the book deals with the practical aspects of starting a new life in a hostile environment including dealing with cannibals and mobs, creating a stable form of government, and building a sustainable food source. Always on the edge of catastrophe, the community’s approach to building greenhouses, acquiring supplies, and defending themselves keeps the story exciting from beginning to end.

Also, check out DARLA’S STORY by Mike Mullin. This novelette has been referred to as the ASHFALL the prequel or Book .05. Set prior to Alex and Darla’s meeting, it tells Dara’s back story.

Mullin’s compelling narratives challenge readers to think about the day-to-day challenges of both short and long-term survival. Unlike many YA dystopian works that rely on games, aliens, or supernatural elements to engage readers, Mullin’s gritty text reads more like realistic fiction. Our beloved characters face the stark reality of their post-apocalyptic world with bravery, love, and hope.
Learn more about Mike Mullin and his trilogy at

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Special Event Website Review: Christmas Bird Count

The annual CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT is a wonderful way to encourage citizen science in your students. It’s also a fun pre or post holiday library activity. #AudubonCBC 

The 115th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is sponsored by the National AudubonSociety. Between December 14 and January 5, tens of thousands of volunteers take part in this annual adventure for all ages. Use your library as a count location or find a count near you.
Go to

The CBC HELPS BIRDS page provides interesting information for students about the importance of the bird count and how the data is used to help scientists.
Go to

Students can use the ONLINE GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS to help with bird identification.
Go to the Online Guide at Or, go to

Create a display in your library focusing on ways that youth can become involved in real-world science projects. Include the award-winning book CITIZEN SCIENTISTS: BE A PART OF SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY FROM YOUR OWN BACKYARD by Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz.
Learn more about other Citizen Science projects at

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Book Review: The Iron Trial

THE IRON TRIAL by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare is the first book in the exciting new Magisterium fantasy series.

While most readers are likely to agree that the magic school setting is very reminiscent of Harry Potter, the unexpected twists and turns of the plot make it an excellent example of a "first book" in a series. By the end of the book, readers will be asking when the next one will be released.

Holly Black and Cassandra Clare make a dynamic writing team. While Black generally writes for children, Clare is better known as a young adult author. This winning combination works well for this new series.

While there’s nothing particularly special about THE IRON TRIAL (Lexile 830L), it’s likely to be a hot item in most libraries. It’s a quick read and a good lead-in series for children without the reading skills to be success with the HARRY POTTER books (Lexile 880L-980L).

THE IRON TRIAL was number three in the GoodReads Choice Awards for 2014, so it’s sure to be popular with middle grade youth.

For information about Holly Black, go to
For information about Cassandra Clare, go to
For activities and online games related to the book, go to

Publisher ARC used for review

Friday, December 12, 2014

App Review: American Museum of Natural History

The AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (AMNH) is known for their great website, however they also have a growing number of quality, free apps.

THE POWER OF POISON: BE A DETECTIVE is a 2014 Webby Award Nominee. The app involves students in exploring three different cases of accidental poisoning in animals. Through a series of animations, participants must determine which of the 18 suspects is to blame.

PTEROSAURS: FLIGHT IN THE AGE OF DINOSAURS is an app that provides an in-depth look at flying reptiles and the latest fossil discoveries. Animations, interactives, video interviews, and exciting activities immerse youth in the world of dinosaurs. PTEROSAURS: THE CARD GAME and DINOSAURS are two other apps based on the AMNH special exhibit.

The CREATURES OF LIGHT app provides animations, photo galleries, and videos related to bioluminescence.

The BERNARD FAMILY HALL OF NORTH AMERICAN MAMMALS app provides information about the museum’s mammal collection including interviews, photos, and commentary from the curator.

COSMIC DISCOVERIES is an app containing 1000 astronomical images from the AMNH’s image collection.

These free apps are a wonderful way to expose youth to the wonders of science and the importance of museums.

Go to the AMNH Apps page at

Or, go directly to iTurns at

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Review: The Crossover

THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander is a novel-in-verse sure to attract reluctant readers, particularly boys. Add it to your list of great works-in-verse from 2014.

Dads, brotherhood, basketball, and music are a blockbuster combination for middle grade readers. The fast-paced novel-in-verse format is perfect for this exciting story sure to be a winner with a broad audience including athletes. The rhythm of the story, music, sports, and even health all play a role. While sports plays an important role in the story, important themes including jealousy, sibling rivalry, and heart health are the key to the book’s success.

The author’s unique approach to the novel-in-verse format serves as an exciting way to introduce verse to youth. Consider a literature-circle with other 2014 stories in verse including BROWN GIRL DREAMING and THE RED PENCIL.

Use THE CROSSOVER to introduce youth to other sports-related books for middle grades and young adults.

To learn more about the author, go to his website Book In A Day at

Download the Educator’s Guide for lots of curriculum connections at

This book belongs on the Newbery shortlist!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Website Review: iWONDER

iWONDER from BBC is an exciting “question and answer” website librarians can use to promote inquiry-based learning.

The entry page of the BBC project shows questions like “What was the Earth’s first predator?” and “How does a breeze turn into a terrifying tornado?”. Each question links to an interesting article featuring text, images, and sometimes animation and video. The article concludes with links to related stories.

Although not designed specifically for students, these short, illustrated articles would be useful for informational text activities related to the Common Core Curriculum. Articles can be found across content areas including arts, food, science, consumer, earth, history, religion and ethics, and webwise. Readers can also link directly to the major BBC content sections.

Ask students to select a question from the main page and write about what they already know about the topic. Then, involve them in reading the article and discussing what what they learned. Finally, ask youth to develop new questions based on their reading. Use other Internet resources to address these new questions.

To explore the latest iWONDER topics, LIKE the Facebook page at

To visit the website, go to

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Book Review: King Dork Approximately

KING DORK APPROXIMATELY by Frank Portman is the long anticipated sequel to the 2006 young adult cult-classic KING DORK.

Once again, the author is able to successfully channel the sarcastic male adolescent. This coming-of-age story pokes fun at everything from public education to teen love. Teen readers who enjoyed the music and cultural references in the first book will be happy to see these elements in the sequel. However since it’s been a decade since the first book was published, so it’s difficult to predict what today’s youth will think of the vinyl vs CD debates and clunky cellphones.

Picking up where the first book leaves off in 1999, the story meanders through a series of subplots including a first girlfriend and band show, but lacks the engaging plot of the first book. However the “slice-of-life” approach is likely to appeal to it’s anti-establishment audience.

What to have some fun? Participate in Figment's writing contest associated with the book. Go to

Monday, December 08, 2014

Website Review:

CLIMATE.GOV is an outstanding U.S. government website from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) focusing on high-quality scientific data and information related to the climate.

When students are doing research on climate change, global warming or other climate-related topics, they often run into biased sites that are “pro” or “con” rather than informational sites that contain useful facts to support arguments and make decisions. The NOAA Climate website provides quality news and information students can use in STEM projects.

The HOME page links to recent topics of interest. It also provides a Global Climate Dashboard containing a quick-look at useful data in the form of graphs related to climate change, climate variability, and climate projections.

The NEWS & FEATURES section provided featured articles, along with access to departments of interest. The images and video section is useful for student projects. The event tracker may help youth focus on a particular event such as a storm or flood that may be associated with a larger climate issue.

The MAPS & DATA section explores global, U.S., and regional data.

The TEACHING CLIMATE section is designed for educators. It provides access to reviewed resources in major areas of climate research. Resources are also organized into formats including visuals, video, demos & experiments, and interactive tools.

Finally, the SUPPORTING DECISIONS section is designed to help communities manage climate-related risks. The topics in this section would be exciting for students to explore when considering the impact of climate change on society and the environments.

To explore the website, go to

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Website Review:

FACTCHECK.ORG is an award-winning website providing consumer information that can be woven across the curriculum.

This nonpartisan, nonprofit website for the Annenberg Public Policy Center shares useful information to help youth make responsible decisions related to issues of public policy. It attempts to “reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics”. At the same time, it models important information inquiry skills by discussing alternative perspectives and identifying the factual accuracy of advertisements, debates, speeches, interviews, and news.

The HOME page provides access to topics currently in the news, while the ARTICLES section links to recent topics.

The ASK FACTCHECK section allows users to ask a question. Questions and answers are provided along with a place to read more about the topic.

Around elections, go to the ELECTIONS section for up-to-date information about the facts and falsehoods surrounding particular players.

The VIRAL SPIRAL section features “a list of false and misleading viral rumors” along with a summary of facts.

The ARCHIVES provides a list of popular people and topics such as immigration, guns, and health care. Use the SEARCH for specific topic searches.

Teachers will find the QUIZ ARCHIVE particularly useful.

A companion website called FLACKCHECK.ORG focuses on political literacy and provides lots of resources to help learners identifying flaws in arguments.

To access FACTCHECK.ORG go to
Use Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter to keep up-to-date on current topics from FACTCHECK.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Book Review: A Snicker of Magic

A SNICKER OF MAGIC by Natalie Lloyd is a charming story with quirky characters and a fantasy twist. Lovers of words, ice cream, and a dash of magic won’t be able to put down this potential award winner.

This heart-warming story revolves around a lovable group of characters including a 12-year-old girl, along with her quirky family and friends in Midnight Gulch, Tennessee. Felicity sees words hovering around people. Although she’s a word collector, she isn’t comfortable with the idea of sharing her love of words with an audience. Along with her new friend Jonah, Felicity learns about the magical, but also tragic history of the town.

Lovers of words including many teachers will immediately be drawn to the idea of a word collector. The idea of magical ice cream, long-kept secrets, and a family curse will all be a draw for many youth. Most readers will be cheering for Felicity to bring back the magic to her small town.

The theme of anonymous good deeds is woven throughout the story. Bring a little magic into your library. Start a “Be the Beedle” club at your school encouraging youth to participate in acts of kindness.

Download activity ideas from Scholastic at

A SNICKER OF MAGIC is the first novel by Natalie Lloyd. Follow her blog at

Look for this book on many of the “best of 2014” lists.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Website Review: Made With Code

MADE W/ CODE is a Google Project focusing on inspiring girls to pursue careers related to computer science. Their Holiday Lights project is a fun and easy way to introduce the concept of coding. #MadeWithCode

The PROJECTS section provides beginner, intermediate, and advanced coding projects that involve youth in coding snowflakes, avatars, and other fun activities.

The MAKERS section highlights girls who are making a difference in the world through coding. Watch short videos featuring these young women.

The MENTORS section includes short videos from women of all ages and backgrounds who have used coding to reach their dreams. From musicians and filmmakers to activists and storytellers the testimonials illustrate the power of technology.

Use the COMMUNITY, EVENTS, and RESOURCES sections to jumpstart your own MADE W/ CODE program in your library. Connect the website with computer software, apps, and library books young people can use in coding projects. You can even download a kit for a library code party!

Go to for the general website.
Go to for the Code the Holidays Project.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Book Review: West of the Moon

WEST OF THE MOON by Margi Preus is a unique combination of traditional folktale and historical fiction. 

Set in the mountains and forests of Norway, a young girl seeks to escape to America to join her father. The author masterfully weaves together traditional folktales and a young girl’s dreams into a rich story of determination and a quest for a better life. The prose is beautifully written and fits perfectly with the story’s themes.

This dark story for middle grade children shows the harsh reality of hunger, child labor, and cruelty often glossed over in the folktales found in picture books. Preus skillfully examines the difficult decisions that must be made in desperate situations. The book provides a wonderful opportunity to talk with students about folktales along with the stark reality of the immigrant experience. Often our social studies curriculum explores the lives of immigrants without providing the context of their lives prior to their decision to seek a new life in another county.

This well-research work includes an excellent Author’s Note at the end of the book. This section connects the story to the author’s family heritage. It also provides insights into some of the historical aspects including topics such as rickets, tetanus, cholera, and charm books. Finally, it discusses the many folktales references in the book. Youth will have fun connecting the specific folktales with incidents in book.

The unique combination of myth and reality makes WEST OF THE MOON a book to revisit as you put together your “best of 2014” list.

With recent interest in stories related to the Brother’s Grimm, this book is one that may expand this interest into other regional folklore.

To learn more about the author, go to

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Website Review: Artsedge

ARTSEDGE is an educational program providing lessons, activities, how-to’s, and resources related to the arts including dance, theatre, music, and visual arts.

Sponsored by The Kennedy Center and the U.S. Department of Education, the website contains sections for educators, families, and students.

The Collections area allows users to search by art genre, time period, place, and big idea such as STEM or global cultures. Or, enter a topic of interest.

The Multimedia Finder provides access to images, audio stories, music, video clips, and interactives. In addition to a text search, users can search by art genre or media type.

The Educators section users to search for lessons and how-to guides. It’s also possible to search based on the National Core Arts Standards. By registering at the website, teachers can store and organize their favorite resources for easy access.

The Arts Days app provides a full year of events connecting the arts to inventions, artists, and milestones.

To learn more, go to

To download the free app, go to

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Website Review: 24/7 Science

24/7 SCIENCE is an engaging online resource from The Lawrence Hall of Science that combines hands-on science activities with online tools and interactives. Apps are also available.

From building bridges to picking the best beak, learners are encouraged to design, experiment, and test out ideas through engaging hands-on science experiments.

The games and activities section of the website contains web-based interactives related to earth and space science, nano technology, and other areas of science.

Some activities are now available as free apps. The DIY Sun Science app focuses on investigations related to the sun, while the DIY Nano explores nanoscale science, engineering, and technology.

To learn more the activities, go to the 24/7 website at

To download the apps, go to

Monday, December 01, 2014

App Review: Hopscotch

HOPSCOTCH is one of a growing number of apps build to teach programming to children.

The app is a visual programming language designed to help children develop a sense of computational thinking. Youth apply skills in logic and critical thinking to design simple games, animations, and stories.

Inspired by MIT’s Scratch, HOPSCOTCH is the first program designed for mobile devices such as the iPad. Students drag and drop colorful blocks of code to build simply programs. Recommended for children 8 and up, it’s particularly useful for young children who lack advanced reading and typing skills needed for traditional programming.

The free version has limited characters and options. A School Edition of the program is available with these features unlocked.

To learn more about the program, check out the FAQs at

To download the free app, go to

To download the school version, go to