Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Review: The Bus Ride

THE BUS RIDE by Marianne Dubuc is a beautifully illustrated picture book about a young girl’s first experience alone on a bus.
While many picture books are visually overwhelming, Dubuc’s simple illustrations allow readers to concentrate on the story and characters. Originally published in French, the book translates well into English.
Children will enjoy re-reading the book and following each of the individual characters and families that ride the bus. Even after multiple readings, they’ll find new details to enjoy. It’s particularly fun to follow the words on the newspaper and the movement of the sleeping sloth.
Teachers will find the book filled with opportunities for discussion.
To learn more about the author/illustrator, go to
NetGalley ARC used for review

Friday, February 27, 2015

Website Review: Frontiers for Young Minds

FRONTIERS FOR YOUNG MINDS is an open-access, non-profit scientific journal aimed at youth ages 8-15.
What makes this journal unique is that young people sit along side experts on the editorial board. As such, youth work directly with leading scientists to shape the cutting edge articles. Each article includes brief bios of both the authors and the reviewer(s).
The high-quality, scientific articles include age-appropriate text, figures and references. These papers would provide great models for librarians partnering with language arts and science teachers on STEM research activities.
Articles are published in four areas including Neuroscience, Earth and its Resources, Astronomy and Space Science, and Health. Both core concept articles focusing on the fundamentals of the field as well as articles exploring new discoveries are published. Website users can select articles from one of the four sections or do a key word search.
The People section of the website provides contact information where you can get your students involved in hosting an article review.
The open access articles are freely available. Articles can be downloaded in the PDF format for easy sharing and printing. They can also be shared through popular social networks.
Frontiers for Young Minds also maintains a blog at Scientific American. This blog is an excellent way to introduce youth to the value of blogs and social media in the sciences. Go to…/.
To learn more about this exciting scientific journal for youth, go to

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Review: Walk on the Wild Side

WALK ON THE WILD SIDE by Nicholas Oldland is the latest addition to the charming LIFE IN THE WILD picture book series.
This ingenious, contemporary fable reminds readers about the importance of friendship, slowing down, and appreciating life. Woven throughout the story are witty remarks, funny observations, and zingers that will keep children giggling. While the story is simple and easy to follow, it contains a strong message about the importance of viewing life as a journey. The nature and hiking theme will make readers of all ages want to get outside and enjoy a good hike.
Oldland’s appealing illustrations contain memorable characters that are likely to appeal to both children and adults. Of particular interest is how the author skillfully incorporates factual information about each animals such as what they eat for a snack. In addition, the bold, attractive font is perfect for the picture book format.
Children will enjoy reading the book multiple times observing details like the activities of the tiny bird accompanying the threesome. The book has endless possibilities for library storytelling activities.
In addition to WALK ON THE WIDE SIDE, librarians will want to purchase the other books in this outstanding series including Up the Creek, Making the Moose Out of Life, and Big Bear Hugs.
Available March 1, 2015 and published by Kids Can Press Books, a NetGalley ARC was used for the review.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

App Review: Universal Zoom

UNIVERSAL ZOOM: ALL ABOUT SIZES AND DISTANCES is a fascinating app published by Gamify It. From tiny, subatomic particles to stars and galaxies, this easy-to-use tool allows students to compare two objects to get a sense for the scale of the universe.
Designed for ages 9-11, students can choose from 150 objects presented in scale. The dynamic layout provides users with a sense for the relative size of common objects. Students will enjoy guessing and discovering how many times one object fits inside another. A limited audio element introduces each object encouraging users to read more about each object.
Measurements are available in both standard and meter systems making this an excellent tool for mathematics activities that involve using both units of length. This tool is also effective for a practical exploration of simple and scientific notation. The scale range is 1 yoctometer (1x10-24m) to 93 billion light years (8.8x10=26m)!
This engaging app encourages students to explore the idea of size and scale in a meaningful way. The high-quality images and rich content make this an app that is both appealing and useful for many STEM classroom applications.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Review: Jasper John Dooley: You're in Trouble

JASPER JOHN DOOLEY is a humorous early chapter book series by Caroline Adderson. The first four books in this series are now available.
Designed for children ages 7 to 10, Jasper John Dooley is introduced in STAR OF THE WEEK. In LEFT BEHIND, Jasper experiences sadness and confusion when his grandmother leaves for a week-long cruise. The third episode titled NOT IN LOVE deals with early elementary relationships between girls and boys.
In the fourth episode, YOU’RE IN TROUBLE, readers experience Jasper’s naughty side. From enjoying a forbidden high-energy drink to bending the soccer rules, Jasper explores the idea of “bad” and learns lessons about making good choices.
Young, independent readers will enjoy the numerous illustrations, realistic characters, and short chapters. The age-appropriate stories focus on common childhood problems and ways to deal with feelings. Many children will relate to this only-child with supportive parents.
Librarians will find that boys are the primary audience for this series. The large type and short chapters will provide a sense of accomplishment for reluctant readers.
Published by Kids Can Press. A publisher ARC was used for this review.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Website Review: NEA's Read Across America

“Grab your hat & read with the cat!” Start planning for NEA’s READ ACROSS AMERICA Day celebrated on March 2, 2015.
Each year the National Education Association sponsors America’s largest reading event. Held in conjunction with Dr. Seuss’ birthday, the event encourages a wide range of reading activities.
NEA’s Read Across America website links to lots of useful resources. Go to
Reading Rockets provides many activity ideas including writing resources, an author study toolkit, classroom activities, and other useful materials. Go to
We Need Diverse Books is a new partner for the event focusing on ways to involve youth in reading books that embrace diversity including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethic, cultural, and religious minorities. Go to
The Plan a Reading Event page contains promotional materials, media tips, face sheets, artwork and downloadables like certificates and posters associated with the event. Go to
Did you know you can get free books for your library and classrooms? Go to
The Read Across in the News page contains press and media coverage related to the event. Go to
Social media plays a big part in the Read Across America activities.
LIKE the Facebook page at
Follow the Pinterest page at
Have fun!
“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.”

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Book Review: The Queen's Shadow

THE QUEEN’S SHADOW: A STORY ABOUT HOW ANIMALS SEE by Cybele Young is a beautifully illustrated informational picture book. When the Queen’s shadow is stolen, each creature contributes a piece of evidence that helps to solve the crime.
Designed for ages 7 through 11, the ingenious story masterfully incorporates factual information about animal sight while telling an engaging story.
Young weaves together distinctive collages of digital, pen-and-ink illustrations. Of particular note are the close-ups demonstrating how animals such as the pigeon sees.
Younger children may have difficulty distinguishing the factual information about vision from the imaginary aspects related to losing a shadow. As such, this is a book that would work better in a small group learning environment than as a book for independent reading.
At the end of the book, factual information is provided about how vision works along with descriptions of the animals in the book. The backmatter also includes a useful glossary.
This informational picture book provides endless possibilities for library-classroom partnerships. Involve children in writing their own stories about how animals see. Or, ask them to research other animals senses and write detective stories about those.
Available March 1, 2015 and published by Kids Can Press, a NetGalley ARC was used for the review.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

App Review: Magnetry: Express Yourself

MAGNETRY: EXPRESS YOURSELF by Gebo Kanois an app that encourages creativity, playing with words, and writing poetry. This powerful and easy-to-use tool has endless possibilities across the curriculum.
Students begin by starting a “new collection” and a “new book” containing 16 pages. After choosing a page, users are able to select from eight different categories. Words are randomly generated to get the page started. When a word is clicked, users see usage options and have the opportunity to select a variation of the word. Students can reorganize these words, add words, or delete words. In addition, stickers, backgrounds, and paint tools can be used to enhance to expression. Projects can be saved, shared on social media, and printed.
The Help section provides tools to add, remove, or rename a collection, as well as start or save a new page. The app also allows users to move, customize, delete, and add words, backgrounds, and stickers.
Although many “magnet poetry” apps exist, this one is exceptional. Magnetron’s versatility and user-friendly features make it an excellent resource for library tablets and iPads.
A publisher provided copy was used for the review.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Book Review: Zoology for Kids

ZOOLOGY FOR KIDS: UNDERSTANDING AND WORKING WITH ANIMALS by Josh Hestermann and Bethanie Hestermann is an engaging introduction to the science of animals.
The book is divided into two parts: Zoology for Beginners and Working on the Wild Side - Zoology in Real Life. The first section explores animal form and function, behavior, and habitats. In the second part of the book, readers examine the various careers associated with animals including zookeepers and aquarists, veterinarians, researchers, and conservationists.
The writing is geared to middle grade readers with appealing examples and interesting descriptions. While it includes scientific vocabulary, key words are bold-faced and a glossary provides definitions of these terms. In-depth side-bars and special pages feature interesting facts, background information, and career spotlights. The attractive cover, inviting layout, colorful photos, and inviting illustrations will appeal to student readers. Additional resources and a bibliography are designed to extend the experience.
Twenty-one, hands-on activities are woven throughout the book. From baking edible animal cells to testing your sense of direction, these fun experiences involve readers in meaningful projects that require both creative and critical thinking related to animal life. Teachers will find these activities to be an effective way to address science standards and children will simply enjoy the hands-on experiences.
Readers who enjoy Zoology for Kids will also want to look for other books in the Young Naturalist series including Awesome Snake Science!, Birdology, and Insectigations.
This work of nonfiction will be popular with youth who want to learn more about the science and care of animals. Librarians will find Zoology for Kids as well as the other books in the Young Naturalist series to be outstanding additions to the science collection.
The book is available in both paper and ebook editions.
Published by Chicago Review Press (Available March 1, 2015). Publisher e-ARC used for review.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Website Review: American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month. The AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION (AHA) website at  contains lots of resources to increase awareness of heart health. Children and young adults can save lives if they know the warning signs of heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest.
The AHA website is full of authoritative information useful to both students and educators.
The Getting Healthy section explores the topics of nutrition, stress management, physical activity, healthy kids, weight management, smoke-free lives, and workplace wellness.
The Conditions section encourages an awareness of heart and health conditions such as cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
The Educator section contains great resources librarians can use when collaborating with physical education and classroom teachers on school-wide programs.
The News section contains new articles, infographics, video, and photos that youth can use in their research projects.
The Interactive Cardiovascular Library features engaging, educational science content related to the anatomy and function of the heart as well as information about heart health.
Much of the website’s content would be excellent for STEM informational reading activities.
For more information, go to

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler's Army

UNLIKELY WARRIOR: A JEWISH SOLDIER IN HITLER’S ARMY by George Rauch is a fascinating memoir tracing a teen’s experience as a soldier and prisoner-of-war during World War II.
As a young adult in Nazi-occupied Austria, Georg was forced to serve in the German army. Hitler needed able-bodied soldiers to fight his war, so Georg was drafted despite his Jewish ancestry and opposition to the war. As a radio operator in the infantry, Georg was determined to stay alive while facing gunfire, starvation, illness, and often brutal weather conditions.
Organized into three sections, the book explores his life in the trenches, as a prisoner-of-war, and as a refugee heading home. The compelling story moves quickly containing enough action to keep young adults at the edge of their seats. Without getting deep into the social and political aspects of the war, the memoir does a masterful job helping young readers understand the fear and frustrations Georg experienced while being caught between countries and cultures.
The story is told through a combination of the author’s recollections along with the many carefully archived letters he sent to his mother. This use of primary source documents will be particularly appeal to history teachers. Personal photographs, a map and timeline also provide useful information to readers.
Intended for youth ages 12 and up, this first-person account will be popular with students interested in learning more about war from a non-traditional perspective.
Librarians will find this young adult memoir to be an excellent addition to the library collection. Consider working with English and History teachers to build the book into literature circles related to World War II.
Published by Farrar, Stauss & Giroux on February 24, 2015. A publisher ARC was used for the review.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book-App Review: The Prairie that Nature Built

THE PRAIRIE THAT NATURE BUILT by Marybeth Lorbiecki tells the story of life on the prairie. Readers can enjoy the book four different ways including as a paper book, e-book, app, and augmented reality experience.
The paper version contains the engaging nature story followed by back matter that includes additional information and activities. The nonfiction narrative includes visually interesting cross sections that reveal the world both above and below the ground. Cathy Morrison’s illustrations are beautiful as well as technically correct making this an excellent book for use in science activities.
A free pop-up app for both Apple and Android is available that uses augmented reality to provide a computer-enhanced view of the book. Tablet and smartphone users can watch their paper book “come alive” as 3D images pop-up as the book is read aloud.
The Apple and Android app provides options to “Read to Me” or “Read to Myself”. The read-aloud option highlights each word in red. Each page contains animation to enhance the experience and focus attention on different elements on the screen. The book switches between landscape and portrait layouts making it fun for readers to tilt and turn their device every few pages. The app includes a fun vocabulary matching game and a useful prairie primer with additional information.
The book is chuck-full of scientific information related to the flora and fauna native to the prairie. Use this book as a kickoff for a science project. Ask each child to select a different page to explore in depth. What are their questions? What resources could they use to explore this topic in-depth?
Librarians can download eight, free activities to go with the book at These activities involve students in learning more about the prairie habitat and creating plaster animal tracks, bird feeders, and nature games.
Published by Dawn Publications.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer tells the inspiring story of a young African boy who turned junkyard scraps into a working windmill to generate electricity for his family’s impoverished farm in Malawi.
This Young Readers Edition of Kamkwamba’s well-known adult memoir published in 2009 is likely to spark the scientific interests and imagination of middle-grade students. Readers are gradually drawn into William’s life in his small, rural African village. American children will be amazed at the lack of education and technology available to young William. They will also be moved by his determination and initiative.
While most middle-grade readers aren’t likely to pick up this book on their own, this compelling memoir would be a wonderful opportunity for librarians to collaborate with classroom teachers. Consider using this book as an interdisciplinary, whole-grade reading experience connecting language arts, social studies, and science curriculum.
Readers will enjoy watching the author’s 2009 TED talk at
Be sure to explore the Moving Windmills project at
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Young Readers Group. ARC provided by publisher.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Website Review:

Feature the WHITEHOUSE website at as part of your President’s Day activities.
The Whitehouse website is organized into five major sections that are easy to access and use.
The Briefing Room section features timely information about the President’s activities and public statements. Think about ways that proclamations and executive orders could be integrated into informational reading activities related to language arts and social studies.
The Issues section examines key issues facing the nation and plans for addressing these challenges. Economy, education, energy and the environment, immigration, and health care are a few of the hot topics addressed. This page would be an excellent way to kick off information inquiry projects that make use of contemporary primary source documents.
The Administration section highlights the key people in the Obama-Biden administration. It also includes information about the Offices of the White House and current initiatives such as Let’s Move!
The Participate section encourages the public to participate in White House activities including Google+ Hangouts known as We the Geeks. Follow the Whitehouse on social media including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and others. This is an excellent activity to promote digital citizenship in your library.
The 1600 Penn section is a content-rich resource for learning about the US government, the Whitehouse, and the presidency. Of particular note is the excellent database of American Presidents at
To learn more, go to the Whitehouse website at

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book Review: Clover's Luck

THE MAGICAL ANIMAL ADOPTION AGENCY is an adorable new series by Kallie George. The first book titled CLOVER’S LUCK sets the stage for the series by introducing an unlucky girl named Clover who stumbles into a summer volunteer position at an animal adoption agency. However her job isn’t to match cute puppies with new owners. From unicorns to dragons, the animals in her care are all magical and the potential owners are princesses, witches, and wizards.
This enchanting fantasy series will appeal to a broad range of independent readers who enjoy fairy tales and magical creatures. The writing includes a nice balance of description and dialogue perfect for the target audience. The very short chapters and fast-moving story will keep young readers interested.
Readers will be lining up at school and public libraries to check out Clover’s Luck. This charming series will be particularly popular with children who are seeking a gentle story with only brief glimpses of the scary side of fantasy.
Be sure to download the teacher’s guide at…/Clovers_Luck_t….
Readers will enjoy exploring the series website at
Published by Disney-Hyperion. Publisher ARC used for review.

Friday, February 13, 2015

THE ADVENTURES OF BILLY POSSUM by Thornton W. Burgess is an enchanting e-book app produced as part of a doctoral research project by Michelle Somerton. Originally published in 1920, the e-book is an adaptation of this well-loved children’s classic.
Readers begin by entering their name and choosing an avatar. This is used to track student progress in the story. Multiple users can be added to the system. A walkthrough at the beginning of the book introduces readers to the features of this interactive environment. The book is divided into 25 short chapters that are “unlocked” as youth move through the story. Narration is provided in a soothing Australian voice.
Throughout the story, question icons appear to check student comprehension. Optional clues are provided for youth needing help. Picture Builder activities involve readers in creating a picture to show what’s happening in the story. These fun scenes are saved.
Much more than a typical interactive storybook, this app learning environment was specifically designed to promote reading comprehension. Built-in features including audio and dictionary features, response checking, and a reporting function make this a powerful environment for learning. When the “export option” is enabled for the app, a Results button appears that allows results to be sent through email to a teacher or parent. These results include activity results including the images created by each child. These images could be used in a fun book review activity.
Michelle Somerton has done an outstanding job seamlessly weaving questioning throughout the book. These questions check a reader’s understanding of meanings, sequencing, and prediction without distracting from the storyline. The stunning visual activities encourage children to reflect on the characters, plot, and setting of each chapter.
Hopefully, this is just the first of many e-books that focus not only on beautiful illustrations and stories, but also on strategies for increasing reading comprehension.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book Review: This Side of Home

THIS SIDE OF HOME by Renée Watson is an inspiring YA novel following a young woman facing the timely issues of racial, ethnic, cultural, and community identify.
Her neighborhood is changing and Maya is concerned about the impact this evolution will have on her school and community. The Portland, Oregon setting is perfect for a discussion of changing neighbors and reflects the urban renewal pressures facing many American cities.
Watson brings the difficult topics of race and community alive through authentic, teen characters. The book is successful as both a coming-of-age story as well as an examination of larger, contemporary issues.
Watson’s debut YA novel deserves to be considered for the Coretta Scott King Book Award. However, this isn’t a “black” book or “white” book, it’s an powerful work about changing America. Librarians will welcome this emerging author with a strong multicultural voice.
For librarians participating in We Need Diverse Books campaign events at, I strongly recommend adding this work to your list.
To learn more about Renée Watson, go to
Published by Bloomsbury February 3, 2015. Publisher ARC used for review.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

App Review: The Wired Bunch Series

THE WIRED BUNCH from nine22media is a rip-roaring western e-book series infused with interactive technology. Blending the best of old westerns and classic cartoons with engaging robots and fun animation, this series will be a hit with kids.
Six issues of this popular interactive e-book series have been published so far and six more are under development. The first issue is free, while other issues need to be purchased. The app opens to a bookshelf showing the issues currently available.
Set in an alternative Old West setting, each story revolves around robot cowboys. In the first exciting episode, Marshal Ram and his deputies are introduced to readers. These Old West bots must protect their town from O.L. Tycoon and his evil robots. Children can read the story, listen to the story read aloud, or a combination. At any point, readers can go to a particular page, set a bookmark, or edit the story.
The old-time piano music along with the engaging animation immediately immerse children in the world of the wired bunch! Each e-page is visually stunning with crisp bright colors. Basic animation adds to the experience without distracting from the story. The bright yellow font is presented in a size that is easy to read. The audio narration fits perfectly with the western theme. Throughout the story, readers are encouraged to participate by exploring the screen or answering a reflective question. These interactions relate directly to the story so they enhance the reading experience.
Like the Saturday Morning cartoons of the past, some of the technology references and sophisticated humor may be “over the heads” of some children. However, parents, teachers, and librarians will enjoy every play on words making the books a wonderful joint reading experience.
This interactive e-book series would be a wonderful way to engage reluctant readers both inside and outside the classroom. Children will read these engaging stories over and over again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book Review: When Reason Breaks

WHEN REASON BREAKS by Cindy Rodriguez is a beautifully written work of realistic fiction for young adults. Told through alternating voices, the story follows two very different teens each facing the pressures of school and family. While Elizabeth’s frustrations and fears often end in outbursts, Emily’s anxieties are projected inward. An English teacher with a passion for Emily Dickinson brings the two together.
Rodriguez does a masterful job exploring the different faces of depression. Her characters are believable and realistic. Readers will easily connect with both the main characters as well as the supporting cast.
The author makes meaningful social references and seamlessly infuses cultural references without making these elements the focus on the story.
Weaving in a discussion of the poems of Dickinson was an excellent way to dig deep into the world of mental illness and depression. Librarians will want to pair this book with the works of Dickinson for a richer experience.
While some readers will be drawn to the theme of mental illness, others will enjoy the realistic portrayal of the everyday pressures of school, family, and friendship. All readers will gain insights into the triggers that lead to depression and suicide.
This is the Rodriguez’s first novel. Her experience as a classroom teacher are clearly reflected in her realistic portrayal of the classroom scenes. Readers will eagerly be following her website looking for her next YA book!
To learn more about this author, go to her website at

Monday, February 09, 2015

Website Review: TweenTribune

TWEENTRIBUNE from the Smithsonian Institution is a newly launched website focusing on news and information for K-12 students.
The project is designed so that teachers can make reading assignments and involve youth in posting public or private comments. Free teacher accounts allow educators to create 9 classrooms and manage student accounts for each classroom.
The home page contains chronological access to the latest article postings. Each article contains a photo, caption, short article, and critical thinking challenge. The Lexile reading level can be selected, a comment can be added, an option is provided to assign the article to students, and a quiz link is also provided.
One of the most useful aspects of the site is the ability to choose the Lexile level for a reading assignment. While each article contains a default Lexile such as 900L, the article may also be displayed as 680L, 1090, or 1310L. A master list of articles can be listed by Lexile levels from 500L to 1600L. Teachers can also explore articles by topic such as animals, art, entertainment, fashion, and science.
In addition to the articles, a Photo of the Day area is designed for youth to write their own captions to match interesting photos.
Teachers can assign an article for a particular classroom and add a message. For instance, they might ask students to address a question using the comment feature. Quiz questions can also be assigned and student results recorded.
Common Core aligned lesson ideas are available that help connect the informational reading experience to practical assignments.
The TTJunior and TTTeens sections present articles of particular interest to younger and older youth. The TTEspanol section is still under development.
School librarians can partner with teachers to build an exciting informational reading experience across content areas. Consider a school-wide approach that involves students in reading and discussing current events.
To get started, go to
To visit TTJunior, go to
To visit TTTeens, go to
To visit TTEspanol, go to
To visit the Lessons, go to

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Book Review: Beastkeeper

BEASTKEEPER by Cat Hellisen is an engaging fantasy featuring a magical forest, spooky castle, creepy grandparents, and furry beasts.
When her parents split up, Sarah uncovers family secrets that propel her into a frightening world of magic and curses. Readers will see a connection to the original Beauty and the Beast story, but this mesmerizing tale is much more than a simple fairy tale. Twists and turns will keep readers wondering what will happen next.
Skillfully told by South African author Cat Hellisen, this interesting take on a classic fairy tale effectively bridges middle grade and young teen reader categories. The work contains beautiful descriptions immersing readers into a world where a castle and enchanted forest seem natural. Hellisen’s contemporary fantasy world feels just outside the realm of possibility, but close enough to make the story seem real.
Students who enjoy folklore and fairytales will be drawn to both the characters and the storyline. With a hint of romance and enough intrigue to keep readers interested, the book will be a quick, popular read.
To learn more about this author, explore her website at
Published by Henry Holt on February 3, 2015. Reviewing through Edelweiss ARC.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

App Review: Middle School Science Bundle

The MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE apps bundle from Sprout Labs take an innovative approach to science instruction by allowing users to select a learning style that best fits their interests and needs.
The Middle School Science bundle includes six apps including Forms of Energy, Electricity/Magnetism, Forces in Motion, Light/Sound, Heat, and Elements. Each app is divided into two or three sections exploring key concepts related to the topic.
For each section, students can select from five different approaches. However, the content varies slightly from section to section, so students can easily miss things if they only complete one section.
“Read and Learn” presents users with text featuring key concepts. An option is provided for audio narration. This section would be more effective if the paragraphs of text were placed on separate pages rather than a long scrolling text box. Headings and subheadings would also be helpful. Across the bottom of the screen, trivia and other facts are presented in a “Did You Know?” area.
“Touch and Learn” provides images with hotspots that students can click for text or a video. The hotspots are easy to see so students won’t miss important ideas. However in many cases, content from slide to slide doesn’t flow smoothly as a narrative.
“See and Learn” features high-quality images with descriptive text. Although interesting, this section only provides a surface level exploration of the topic.
“Watch and Learn” display educational videos. These are the same videos used in the Touch and Learn section.
“Quiz and Learn” challenges users to answer multiple choice questions with increasing difficulty.
The apps would be useful as a supplement rather than as a replacement for the textbook and classroom instruction. They would also be useful for special needs students. Although the content is displayed in an interesting way, it lacks the breadth and depth necessary for middle school science students. It would be helpful to provide a clickable glossary to help youth review key terms.
While the audio narration is a useful element, the sound effects and short music clips distract rather than contribute to the content. Happily, these sounds can easily be turned off.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Book Review: Seeker

SEEKER by Arwen Elys Dayton is the first book in a new science fiction trilogy. The story revolves around three friends that have been trained to become Seekers. Instead of becoming the noble protectors they envisioned, the teens get caught up in a world of family lies, deceit, and assassination.
With sword fights and ancient artifacts alongside airships and a disruptor weapon, the novel blends medieval, steampunk, and dystopian elements together for a bizarre, but fascinating near-future world. While many readers will enjoy the “mash-up,” others may dislike this unusual approach to world-building.
The fast-paced story is told from four different perspectives making it somewhat confusing at times as readers shift among characters and between the present, the past, and the future. However, the plot elements come together in the end for a satisfying conclusion that sets up the next book in this young adult trilogy.
Readers are likely to make comparisons with their favorite science fiction and fantasy works, however the novel is distinct enough to hold its own. With a hint of romance along with action-adventure segments, both girls and boys will enjoy the story.
A movie based on this book is already in development, so it’s likely to draw teen readers. Librarians should be prepared for increased interest in the trilogy over the next several years.
Available February 10, 2015 and published by Random House Delacorte BFYR, a NetGalley ARC was used for the review.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Website Review: Created Equal

CREATED EQUAL is a National Endowment for the Humanities project that brings together award-winning documentary films related to the Civil Rights Movement. It would be a great addition to your Black History Month library activities.
The films include The Abolitionists, Slavery By Another Name, Freedom Riders, The Loving Story, and Freedom Summer. For each film, users can stream the full video, read an overview, and explore background information. In addition, links to classroom materials, essays, and other information is provided.
The website also includes lessons for teachers. Topics include equality under the law, the power of the individual, and the strategy of nonviolence. These lessons are connected to Common Core Standards and include questions for discussions and resources. Guides are also provided for essays related to each film. Additional resources include links to lots of quality websites.
The community programs section provides a programming guide and ideas for how your school and community can participate in events. Events will be held around the US through 2016 including film viewings and a traveling exhibition. An online version of the exhibit is available at
To visit the website, go to

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Book Review: Dinosaur Boy

DINOSAUR BOY by Cory Putman Oakes is a goofy new science fiction series. Featuring human-dinosaur hybrids and aliens, it’s the perfect combination for middle-grade readers.
During summer vacation, Sawyer is growing spikes and a tail. His school has a zero tolerance policy for bullying human-dinosaur hybrids. However when the bullies begin disappearing, Sawyer and his friends find themselves in an “out of this world” cover-up involving aliens and an interplanetary pet market.
Although the premise is silly and the situations predictable, important themes including bullying, racial identity, and friendship are skillfully woven through the narrative. Even reluctant readers will enjoy the fast-paced, action-packed story.
Fans of books like Boy or Beast and Aliens on Vacation will dive into this science fiction adventure.
Dinosaur fans will be intrigued by the idea of Dino DNA and the author’s note will encourage them to re-read the story again for hidden details. Librarians will enjoy building dinosaur displays to highlight this popular new series.
Learn more about the author at
Available February 3, 2015 and published by Sourc

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

App Review: Vivaldi's Four Seasons

VIVALDI’S FOUR SEASONS from Touch Press is a beautifully designed app that explores the past, present, and future of this musical masterpiece.
This stunning app is filled with high quality content that is wonderfully presented and easy to access. The app is divided into three parts.
Antonio Vivaldi’s Original featuring Trevor Pinnock explores the version of the music most familiar to listeners. The immersive experience provides the music along with the text of either the Sonnet or Commentary. In addition, a simple, but stunning visual known as a BeatMap shows the role of each instrument as it’s being played. The sonnet option would be an exciting addition to an AP English class. The commentary is easy enough to understand that high school music students will be able to follow the discussion. In addition, users can follow the full score by instrument. The screen is well-designed making it easy to navigation among the options.
Max Richter’s Recomposed featuring Daniel Hope reimagines the music for a new generation of listeners. The app presents the music in a simple screen design with the full score available as well as visual representations of the instrumentation. Holding a finger down on an instrument allows listeners to solo each section. Video is also provided so users can see the musicians play.
The Story featuring Suzy Klein (writer), Max Richter (composer), Daniel Hope (violinist), and Avi Avital (mandolinist) explores the story behind the music including the origin of the music and the composer. It also traces how the music has evolved over time. Although digitized primary source documents from the period would be useful in bringing the story alive for readers, the app does an excellent job telling the story. The short video interviews add to the experience. The most interesting section describes the music as users listen to a few bars at the time.
This amazing music app is recommended for high schools with classical music programs. It would also be useful in high school humanities courses including English and history.
Music lovers will also enjoy other apps by Touch Press including Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, The Orchestra, and The Liszt Sonata.
Although Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is expensive when compared with other apps, it’s well worth the price for the content-rich, immersive experience.
To learn more about the app, go to
To purchase the app, go to

Monday, February 02, 2015

Book Review: We've Got A Job

Black History Month is an excellent time to revisit outstanding titles focusing the African American experience as well as introduce newer books.
Originally published 20 years ago in 1995, THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis has become a favorite of elementary teachers and librarians. This compelling work of historical fiction tells the story of an African American family living in Flint, Michigan in 1963. The fictional family travels to Birmingham Alabama and becomes involved in the factual 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.
The year 1963 is also at the center of a recently published book titled WE’VE GOT A JOB by Cynthia Levinson. This work of nonfiction incorporates the stories of four young people and historical photographs to help young readers better understand their nonviolent fight to end racial segregation in 1963. The goal was to confront white Birmingham through a series of peaceful protests such as lunch counter sit-ins, store picketing, and marches. Levinson does a masterful job combining a fast-paced narrative featuring the lives of real African American youth protesters, along with an overarching discussion of the key historical events and activities. By weaving the experiences of the four youth into the story, the author helps readers feel the events come to life. The book concludes with the “afterworld” providing a glimpse into the lives of Audrey, Wash, James, and Arnetta since their involvement in the Children’s March. An author’s note, timeline, map, notes, bibliography, and index are also included.
The We’ve Got a Job website provides additional information and insights into the Children’s March. Go to
To learn more about the author, visit her website at

Website Review: African American History Month

The AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH website from the Library of Congress contains a wealth of resources to help your school library celebrate during the month of February.
The ABOUT page provides information about the history of this event that began with Negro History Week back in 1925.
The EXHIBITS & COLLECTIONS pages provides access to dozens of online collections focusing on topics such as Art & Design, Baseball, Civil Rights, Culture & Folklife, Government & Politics, Historic Places, Military, Music & Performing Arts, Religion, and Slavery. Resource Guides and Profiles are also available.
The IMAGES page provides access to historical photos, maps, and other primary source documents.
The AUDIO/VIDEO page connects to multimedia presentations related to African American history from participating agencies. These include webcasts, musical recordings, sound artifacts, and other media assets.
The FOR TEACHERS page provides access to lesson plans, activities, guides, and other resources from the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, and the National Park Service.
To visit the website, go to

Youth Media Award Winners from ALA

Drumroll please… the American Library Association youth media awards have been announced. I’ve reviewed many of the winners over the past several months. 

Check out a complete list at