Sunday, May 31, 2015

Website Reviews: National Safety Month

June is NATIONAL SAFETY MONTH. Raise awareness of what it takes to stay safe.
Many government websites promote safety during this special month. A few examples are featured below:
The Healthfinder website from the US Dept. of Health and Human Services provides ideas for promoting the month including announcements, sample tweets, cards, and resources.
BAM! Body and Mind
This website designed for youth from the Centers for Disease Control focuses on many types of safety including water safety, helmet safety, and sun safety.
Tox Town
This US National Library of Medicine program explores environmental health safety concerns.
Sunwise Kids
The EPA provides information for children about sun safety.
Pedestrian Safer Journey
This website examines resources for three different ages geared at promoting safe walking for youth.
Bicycle Safer Journey
This website examines resources for three different ages geared at promoting safe bicycling for youth.
Stay Safe! from Kids Health
Get youth involved in informational reading experiences focusing on different situations where it’s important to stay safe.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Review: The Cowboy

THE COWBOY by Hildegard Müller is an adorable picture book about friendship, acceptance, and helping others.
Designed for beginning readers, the story follows Anna and her toy dog Toto on their adventure to the beach. When a large wave carries Toto out to sea, a young cowboy comes to the rescue.
The large, attractive illustrations will appeal to young children and the simple, clean font is easy to read. Part of the I Like To Read series, librarians will find this to be a popular option for beginning readers.
The publisher website contains Common Core standards connections, flash cards, and discussion questions at….
Published by Holiday House on May 1.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Website Reviews: Summer Reading Programs

It’s time to think about ways to promote summer reading. Let’s explore some resources to share with teachers, parents, and children.
ALA Library Summer Reading Programs
The American Library Association maintains lots of resources to support summer reading programs.
Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP)
The CSLP is a consortium of states working together to provide high-quality summer programs for youth. Most public libraries are eligible to use the materials. Many school and public librarians work together to encourage children and young adults to participate in summer reading.
Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge
The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is a free online reading program for children. The website contains resources for kids, educators, and parents. School librarians as well as parents can register and track students.
Reading Rockets: Summer
Reading Rockets provides ideas for parents, teachers, and librarians to promote summer reading. They also link to articles and research that discuss the importance of summer reading and ways to reduce reading skills lose. Also, be sure to check out their summer book lists.
PBS: Raise a Reader!
This page provides ideas for using the PBS website and other resources to promote summer reading.
Children’s Choices Reading List…/Booklists/ChildrensChoices.aspx
Get youth involved with reading books that children say they enjoy. The International Literacy Association and Children’s Book Council maintain these Children’s Choices lists.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book Review: The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

THE BOYS WHO CHALLENGED HITLER: KNUD PETERSON AND THE CHURCHILL CLUB by Phillip Hoose tells the amazing true story of teens who stood up to the Nazis in Denmark during World War II.
The book’s introduction discusses how the author learned about the story and connected with one of the Churchill Club members. This work of nonfiction then alternates between a narrative discussing the formation and activities of the Churchill Club with the recollections of member Knud Pedersen.
Filled with historical photos, maps, artwork, and other primary source documents, the fast-paced story is presented in short chapters that follow the teens from their acts of sabotage through their trial and imprisonment during the War. It concludes with a discussion of what happened to the group members after the War.
To ensure that this book doesn’t get lost in the nonfiction section, consider featuring it along with works of historical fiction. Or, even better, suggest it to youth who enjoy dystopian fiction. This work of nonfiction contains the elements of resistance fighting that youth enjoy in dystopian works. It’s also a great choice for youth who enjoy real-world military and adventure stories.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on May 12, 2015.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Website Review: War of 1812

THE WAR OF 1812 website by Thinkport provides endless resources for exploring this often overlooked time in American history.
Produced through a collaboration among the Maryland Public Television, Friends of Fort McHenry, and the National Park Service, the website is organized into four sections: overview, resources, interactives, and field trips.
The Overview introduces the context of the war and the key players.
The Resources section provides over 100 documents, images, lessons, videos, audios, and interactives related to the War of 1812. Users can filter their search by resource type, grade, or keywords.
The Interactives area includes a clickable map, slideshow, “Hold the Fort” game, “Cast Your Vote” games, and a link to online tools.
The Field Trips section links to key historical sites where students can learn more about battles and key events. Links are also provided to other resources related to the topic. Many of these materials were designed for the 200th anniversary a few years ago.
To visit the website, go to

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review: Cuckoo Song

CUCKOO SONG by Frances Hardinge is an eerie supernatural mystery set in England after World War I.
When Triss wakes up after an accident, her life feels strange. Pages have been ripped her diary, her memories seem incomplete, and dolls are coming to life. In her quest to understand her illness, she discovers a world of creepy changelings that causes some exciting sinister suspense.
Hardinge immediately grabs that attention of readers and provides just enough information about each character to keep readers wondering and guessing.
Librarians will find this book popular among youth who enjoy a thriller without needless blood and violence. Written for ages 12 and up, both middle grade youth and young adults will enjoy this spooky fantasy.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Amulet Books on May 12, 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

Tech Review: Expedition: Insects

EXPEDITION: INSECTS by the Smithsonian Science Education Center is an ebook exploring the exciting world of insects.
From deadly hornets to stealthy stink bugs, young readers will enjoy learning about six different types of insects in their natural habitats from around the world. Designed for grades 3 through 5, interesting text and colorful images will appeal to science students. In addition to insect facts, the informational text also provides suggestions for ways that youth can observe nature.
Short video clips, interactive images, sounds, and links to key terms will maintain students interest and promote scientific understandings. Animated maps help children connect world geography to their exploration of insect habitats and an interactive sketchbook encourages young artists.
The iBook interface divides that book into eight chapters investigating the blue morpho butterfly, Asian giant hornet, Malaysian walking leaf, African dung beetle, brown marmorated stink bug, and firefly. Students can add highlights and notes using the built-in note taking features.
The accompanying project website includes downloads such as sketchbook pages and informational pages.
Those without access to the iBook format can still read a full-color PDF version of the book.
Go to the project website at

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Book Review: Saint Anything

SAINT ANYTHING by Sarah Dessen is compelling work of contemporary young adult fiction.
After Sydney’s older brother is convicted of aggravated drunk driving, her parents have a difficult time adjusting to his incarceration. With problems at home, Sydney reaches out to members of a warm, caring family for the support and acceptance she needs.
Dessen’s conversational writing style is enjoyable to read. She manages to make everyday moments seem special without unnecessary drama. Her spectrum of fully developed characters will quietly immerse readers into this coming-of-age story.
While many teens seek out Dessen’s stories for the romance elements, her themes of self-discovery, family love, and friendship are at the heart of her young adult novels. These themes are particularly strong in SAINT ANYTHING. Librarians will welcome Dessen’s latest work of realistic fiction.
To learn more about this author, go to
P.S. After reading this YA novel, I wanted to watch the 1988 film Mystic Pizza while eating french fries.
Publishing by Viking on May 5, 2015.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Website Review: Inklewriter

INKLEWRITER is an easy-to-use, online tool for writing and publishing interactive stories.
This free tool lets students easily write branching stories that can be shared with the world. Begin by exploring the library of favorite and examples stories.
When youth are ready to write, they start a new story. The intuitive approach makes it easy to add text and create links to branches of the story. Basic text tools are provided as well as the option to add images. Users can easily switch between the writing and reading modes. The map and contents options help students visualize the sections of their story. Students can save their work and generate a URL that can be shared with their teacher and peers.
Although inklewriter houses stories for free through an affiliated website, the stories can also be downloaded or turned into an HTML file or Kindle e-book for a small fee. Resources are also provided to help users turn their stories into interactive games.
School librarians will enjoy helping their students write interactive stories. An education page discusses ideas for incorporating inklewriter into the classroom.
In 2012, inkle hosted a writing competition. The ten best stories are available as a free iPad app called Future Voices. In addition to their interactive writing site, the company is also known for their interactive games.
To get started writing interactive stories, go to
To follow their blog, go to
To download the Future Voices app, go to
To learn more, visit the website at

Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Review: 125 COOL INVENTIONS

125 COOL INVENTIONS: SUPERSMART MACHINES AND WACKY GADGETS YOU NEVER KNEW YOU WANTED! is the latest amazing addition to the “125” collection from National Geographic Kids.
From a fish toilet tank and mobile sauna to a multicopter, this book is chuck-full of incredible inventions. Designed for middle-grade students, each two-page spread is filled with colorful photographs of inventions along with descriptions and interesting facts.
At three points in the book, sets of seven-related finds, gadgets, or ideas are presented. Otherwise, readers are bombarded with one invention after another in no particular order. However, a table of contents and index are provided for those interested in a particular topic or category of invention.
Youth never tire of these highly-illustrated National Geographic Kids books. They’re perfect for reluctant readers and those who enjoy short descriptions rather than long narratives. Highlighted words draw reader interest and feature key scientific ideas.
Lovers of engineering and inventions will flock to the library for this attractive and amazing book. Librarians might as well buy multiple copies with the library binding because this book will be in constant circulation.
Children can go to the website to vote for their favorite inventions at…/125-cool-inventions/.
Published by National Geographic Kids, May 12, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Website Review: The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes

THE INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is both a physical and virtual exhibition focusing on the famous fictional crime investigator.
Although it would be fun to experience the traveling exhibition in personal, the website presents lots of information about author Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous detective.
The Path to Baker Street section explores those people who inspired the creation of Sherlock Holmes and the characters in the stories. Historical photographs bring the time period to life.
The Popular Fellow section features the movie and television adaptations. It also provides links to Sherlockian Societies, fan sites, and trivia.
The Footsteps of Holmes connects the fictional aspects of the stories to the real forensic science. Short videos and images highlight Sherlock’s methods.
The Sherlock in the Classroom area includes information, activities, and resources that can be used independently or in combination with a physical tour.
Create a librarian display featuring the works of Sherlock Holmes as well as a laptop with the website. Incorporate the suggested activities to make the display interactive!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret

BALLET CAT: THE TOTALLY SECRET SECRET by Bob Shea is the first book in a charming new series for beginning readers aged 6 through 8.
After discussing activity options like making crafts and playing checkers, Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony decide to dance. However when Sparkles the Pony becomes sad, the two friends share secrets that make them both feel better.
Shea cleverly weaves assistance for beginning readers into his adorable story. For instance, changes in the font size help young readers better understand the nuances of the plot. In addition, many new words are repeated throughout the story providing opportunities for practice. The use of speech bubbles makes it clear to the reader, who is saying, what. The simple use of lines and colors will be welcomed by children who are easily distracted by complex illustrations.
Librarians seeking books for beginning readers will look forward to many more Ballet Cat books in the future. Also, use the book in a display featuring empathy and friendship.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 5, 2015.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

App Review: DIY Sun Science

DIY SUN SCIENCE is a science app designed to help families and educators learn about the sun through hands-on activities.
Designed by NASA and The Lawrence Hall of Science at UC-Berkeley, the app features multimedia information about sun science and thirteen hands-on activities.
The app’s inviting interface encourages users to conduct investigations using common household items, explore images and videos, or view live images of the sun.
The Activities section is divided into sunny day activities and projects that can be done any day. Each investigation begins with a question such as “What does the sun look like over time?” or “Can you spot the sunspots?”. Each activity includes a brief overview, age level, time commitment, materials, and step-by-step instructions. It concludes with an explanation of the science behind the activity, related videos, and other information.
The Images + Videos section provides to image galleries and short video clips on topics such as the dynamic sun, studying the sun, and Sun-Earth connections. It also sun videos from the past 48 hours.
The Sun Observatory section shows lives images of the sun from a NASA satellite. A slider is used to compare features as seen in different wavelengths. Students can explore different ways to look at the sun, learn more about the sun, and solve sun a puzzle.
Librarians will want to work with classroom science teachers to integrate this stunning app into the STEM curriculum.
Many of the activities and resources can also be accessed through a website at…/diy_sun_science.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review: Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights

STONEWALL: BREAKING OUT IN THE FIGHT FOR GAY RIGHTS by Ann Bausum is a powerful and timely work of nonfiction for today’s teens.
Bausum’s compelling narrative begins in the summer of 1969 at a bar in Greenwich Village, New York. What begins as a police raid on the Stonewall Inn soon erupts into riots in the street and cheers of “gay power.” In the days following the raid, emotions continued to run high as frustrated LGBT citizens began to organize. The raid had become a symbol of the oppression felt by thousands of gay and lesbian community members in the city. The rest of the book describes the gay pride movement of the 1970s, the impact of AIDs in the 1980s and 90s, and the changing public attitudes of the 2000s. The book concludes on an optimistic note focusing on the LGBT community’s rainbow symbol of diversity and unity.
Bausum is known for her carefully researched books focusing on social justice. From carefully describing the oppression experienced by generations of gay individuals to clearly explaining the tireless work of gay advocates, Bausum does a masterful job helping today’s young people understand how decades of struggle led to recent societal changes. In the book’s author notes, Bausum explains her motivation for writing a book about the gay rights movement at this point in American history. Her timing is perfect.
Librarian who have been waiting for an up-to-date LGBT history will be quick to add this outstanding work of nonfiction to their library collections. Filled with first hand accounts, historical quotes, and primary source documents, social studies teachers will find this book to be an excellent addition to their social justice curriculum.
Look for STONEWALL to appear on many “best of nonfiction” lists for 2015.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Viking on May 5, 2015.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Technology Review: Mindsuckers

MINDSUCKERS by Matthew Twombly presents three incredibly cool graphic novellas from National Geographic.
The website begins with the first story, but an upper-right, sidebar-menu provides access to all three surprising stories.
Users scroll down a series of screens to experience the beautifully illustrated and well-narrated science-rich experiences. In addition to the narration, nature sounds contribute to the experience.
ON SINISTER POND features the amazing life cycle of a flatworm. From a snail spewing flatworm larvae to a parasite-carrying heron, children will enjoy all the gory details of science.
FEARLESS RAT examines a parasite-infected rat caught by an unsuspecting cat. Children will never look at a cat and mouse the same way again.
THE STING OF DOOM tells the story of a cockroach who falls victim to a jewel wasp. Again, children will enjoy the sinister scene.
Librarians will find the three stories an excellent way to draw youth into the science section of the library. Share the stories as a large group, then immerse youth in books about parasites, leeches, bloodsuckers, and other freeloading creatures.
Read a feature article titled “Mindsuckers: Meet Nature’s Nightmare”. In addition to another story, the page also provides access to a photo gallery, video, and the three macabre graphic novellas for youth. Go to…/11/mindsuck…/zimmer-text.
Go to National Geographic at

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Book Review: We Dig Worms!

WE DIG WORMS! by Kevin McCloskey is an adorable informational book for beginning readers. From sea worms to earthworms, the simple narrative follows a child’s exploration of the world of worms.
Designed for children 3 and older, this highly illustrated book is designed for kindergarten and first grade readers. While some of the all-caps sentences may be difficult for beginning readers, the mixture of traditional picture book and comic presentation formats will appeal to young children.
The appealing illustrations created on recycled paper bags and printed on brown paper pages make the look and feel of the book distinct. The compelling visuals encourage youth get down on the ground an observe nature closeup. Important science facts are seamlessly woven into the short narrative. The different perspectives of birds, children, and earthworms all add to the appeal of the informational text. Scientifically correct diagrams add information of interest to older readers as well as younger children.
The back endpages explain how to read comics with children and the book website provides Common Core connections and a student activity sheet.
Go to the publisher’s book website at
To find other Level One books, go to
Published by Toon Books, Spring 2015.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tech Review: DuoLingo

DUOLINGO is a free and easy-to-use website and app for language learning. From Spanish and French to Hebrew and Klingon, users can choose from dozens of languages.
Students begin by creating a log-in so the system can track progress. Next, users can jump right into the basic lessons or take a placement test.
The first section provides tips and notes to orient learners new to the language. Each highly interactive lesson incorporates attractive visuals to support learning and reinforces text with audio support. Users are provided with detailed, corrective feedback to support learning. Interaction includes clicking, typing, and recording audio. Progress through the lesson is shown on a status bar. At the end of each lesson, weekly progress is shown and an option is provided to review.
Users are encouraged to set daily goals to keep motivated. A reward system is used to encourage participation. Users are invited to compete with their friends through Facebook.
In addition to the lessons, the tool provides other types of support including a personal word list, activities, and the opportunity for discussion. The Immersion option involves users in reading articles from the web. It’s even possible to upload documents to increase reading comprehension.
Although the format is slightly different on the app and website, they’re both equally easy to use.
Librarians will find this to be an excellent supplement to the school’s language classes.
To get started, go to

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Book Review: Grace

GRACE by Kate Parkinson features a young ballerina who dreams of dancing, but lacks the form and finesse to be successful.
In this adorable picture book, young Grace is told to “Give up, Grace” by her ballet classmates. Discouraged, she goes home and draws a picture of a cat finding solace in the arts. She soon realizes that she has a talent and joy for painting. Her ballet classmates applaud her drawings and she becomes the set designer for their performance. It’s unlikely she’ll become a professional designer, but she’ll continue to enjoy dancing.
The front endpapers feature a cat demonstrating the five ballet positions immediately drawing in young readers. The large-print, easy-to-read font presents sentences that are perfect of beginning readers. The attractive illustrations include a diverse group of characters with memorable facial expressions that will connect with young children.
Librarians and classroom teachers will appreciate the simple but important message. The large, simple drawings are perfect for a read-aloud experience followed by a drawing and dancing activity.
Look for other early readers in Holiday House’s I Like To Read Books collection.
Learn more about the author/illustrator at
Published by Holiday House in 2015.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Website Review:

The HOWTOSMILE.ORG website allows educators to search, collect, and share high-quality science and math (STEM) activities.
Developed in cooperation with inquiry-based learning organizations including science centers and museums, the National Science Foundation funded project is an excellent place to identify STEM activities for libraries and classrooms.
Currently listing over 3500 science and math activities, the website is easy to search and use. A topics list includes mathematics, chemistry, energy, cooking, ocean literacy, climate, life sciences, and astronomy. Within each of these major categories, users can identify activities by Common Core standards.
Both a basic and advanced search are provided to facilitate the quest for activities. Search results display the project title, description, cost, age range, learning time, subject, preparation time, resource type, language, and source institution. A direct link is also provided to the activity. Users can also share the resource through social media.
Of particular note is the option to search based on diversity including accessibility; culture, ethnicity, and gender; learning style support; and special needs including limited English proficiency, low literacy level, or learning disabled.
A wide range of resource types are included such as mobile apps, demonstrations, exhibits, experiment/labs, field trips, games, lessons, models, and simulations.
Users can create a free account to store their searches and favorite activities. Participants are encouraged to provide feedback, make lists, and post useful comments. Participation is rewarded with badges.
Use the website blog for an effective way to keep up-to-date on recent listings and suggested activities and events.
To begin exploring, go to

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review: Undertow

UNDERTOW by Michael Buckley tells the story of a clash of civilizations and the families caught in the middle.
Thousands of evolved sea creatures have landed on the shores of Coney Island. Met with fear and distrust, many citizens from the governor to street gang members want to drive them back into the sea. However, others prefer them to quickly acclimate themselves and join society. This near-future fantasy will keep readers wondering whether intelligent beings from different species can live together or will explode into violence. The exciting conclusion sets readers up for the next book in this highly anticipated dystopian fantasy trilogy.
UNDERTOW is likely to have broad appeal with young adult audiences. With just a hint of cross-creature romance reminiscent of the Twilight series and enough violence and conflict for dystopian lovers, this fast-paced novel is sure to be a hit.
Librarians will find this book to be perfect for book clubs or class discussions. From racial (or in this case species) discrimination and class wars to bullying, Buckley examines real-world social issues within the context of a fantasy environment. Teachers will identify endless social studies and history tie ins.
Keep in mind that Michael Buckley is known for his children’s books. While UNDERTOW is not inappropriate for middle grades, it’s clearly aimed at the young adult audience.
To learn more about the author, go to
To find out about the trilogy, go to Be sure to watch the movie trailer.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Young Reader on May 5, 2015.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tech Review: Lizard Evolution Virtual Lab

The Lizard Evolution Virtual Lab is an amazing science website and app from Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) BioInteractive project.
Developed by a team of scientists, educators, graphic artists, and film makers, the website and app provides a virtual space for exploring the evolution of the anole lizards in the Caribbean.
Containing nearly 3 hours of instructional content, the app includes four modules including ecomorphs, phylogeny, experimental data, and dewlap colors. In each module, students are involved with questioning, collecting data, making calculations, analyzing information, and discussing results. Videos, images, maps, illustrations, and other visual content accompany the text presentation.
Engaging activities are woven into the materials such as dragging lizards into categories and labeling groups; measuring lizards and recording the results; building and analyzing a phylogenetic tree; and analyzing the color and brightness of lizards using a scale. Progress through the modules is tracked and users can print out their results.
Educator materials are providing including a summary and learning objectives, key concepts, and suggestions for using the lab with students. Other useful materials include additional resources and a glossary. In addition to the virtual lab itself, the project website also includes a six-page worksheet that can be downloaded as a PDF file and printed.
Librarians and classroom teachers will enjoy having two ways to access this content. First, users can go to the project website and use the browser version. Second, users can go to iTunes and download the app for mobile devices.
Both the website and the app are intuitive and easy-to-use. They contain the same content, so students could use either virtual lab for the same experience.
The Virtual Bacterial ID Lab and the Stickleback Virtual Lab are also available through HHMI.
Published by BioInteractive in 2015.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Book Review: Nellie Bly and Investigative Journalism for Kids

NELLIE BLY AND INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM FOR KIDS by Ellen Mahoney is an engaging exploration of the muckraking era beginning in the late 1800s.
Using Nellie Bly as the focus, this outstanding informational book explores the life of this well-known investigative journalist while teaching readers about the art and science of journalism. In addition to Bly, the book also features other key muckrakers from the era including Jacob Riis, Ida Tarbell, Ida B. Wells, and Upton Sinclair. It concludes with connections to modern times.
Alluring quests are woven throughout the book. These 21 fun activities help readers learn the basics of journalism. Youth are involved in investigations such as finding the 5Ws and conducting an interview, writing assignments such as writing a short story and sending a letter, and multimedia experiences such as designing a board game, creating a comic strip, and building a diorama.
The compelling narrative will immerse readers in history and bring alive the experience of these important journalists. The highly visual text incorporates a timeline, digital reproductions of primary source materials, period illustrations, and historical photographs. The use of sidebars, captions, famous quotes, and an attractive layout add to the appeal.
Librarians are always looking for engaging works of nonfiction to tie with Common Core informational reading experiences. The combination of an appealing narrative, primary source materials, and creative activities makes this a “must purchase” for school librarians. Add this to your social studies reading list for 2015.
This outstanding work of nonfiction is sure to inspire a new generation of investigative journalists.
Published by Chicago Review Press on May 1, 2015. Reviewed through NetGalley.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Website Review: The Brain Scoop with Emily Graslie

THE BRAIN SCOOP WITH EMILY GRASLIE is an amazing YouTube Channel sponsored by The Field Museum in Chicago.
Described as the “chief curiosity correspondent”, Graslie shares new episodes every other Wednesday that feature fascinating items in The Field Museum collection. From insects and sharks to fossils and biomechanics, a wide range of topics are explored. The purpose of the channel is to share the behind-the-scenes work of natural history museums including both the research and collection aspects.
The entry page features the latest episode along with a list of the most recent videos. The most popular vides are also listed.
The “playlists” area of the channel is organized by popular topics. Viewers can choose from over 100 individual episodes or explore a category like Prep Lab Adventures or Ask Emily!
The high-quality videos run from 3 to 15 minutes and feature the enthusiastic narration of Emily Graslie. Designed to appeal to watchers of all ages, the tightly edited episodes are likely to appeal to the middle-grades as well as high school viewers.
Librarians will be happy to see that this is an ads free, education channel. With over a quarter million subscribers and over 10 millions views, THE BRAIN SCOOP is a video series you don’t want to miss.
For more information, check out the social media feeds including Tumblr, Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter.
To extend the experience, follow their Tumblr blog at

Friday, May 08, 2015

Book Review: Nimona

NIMONA by Noelle Stevenson is a quirky new graphic novel fantasy based on the popular web comic.
A young shapeshifter teams up with a super villain to wreak havoc on the Institute of Law Enforcement. Set in a world reminiscent of a Renaissance faire, the story combines kingdoms, dragons, and sword fights with videophones and modern hospitals. The addition of sharks, countdowns, and explosions add to the irreverent atmosphere. Filled with witty humor and symbolism, sophisticated teen readers will enjoy the subversive tone from beginning to end.
The beautifully rendered, full-color graphics will immediately attract graphic novel fans, while the wicked humor and well-paced plot will keep them reading. The complex character development and memorable approach to world building make this graphic novel special.
The unconventional blend of old with new is sure to attract young adult readers. Librarians will find a broad audience for this book that includes lovers of both bizarre superheroes and unusual medieval kingdoms. Look for this book on the YA graphic novel “best of” lists for 2015.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by HarperTeen on May 12, 2015.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

App Review: Metamorphabet

METAMORPHABET by Vectorpark is an engaging, interactive alphabet app.
An astounding educational tool for young children, users are invited to interact with the letters of the alphabet revealing fun transformations. This unique app makes extraordinary use of the touchscreen interface encouraging children to tap, touch, drag, spin, and twist letters.
Users begin by exploring the letter A. Without the need for instruction, children quickly realize that they can interact with the letter activating words, sounds, and animation. Soon an option, in the form of a star icon, is provided for jumping into the next letter, B. Although each letter contains a different organic design and response to touch, there’s enough consistency that users will become familiar with the triggers. Once a letter has been explored once, it’s available through an icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
The letter, words, animations, and sounds are all connected making each letter a mini-story experience. Librarians and teachers will find METAMORPHABET to be an excellent addition to their app collections.
To learn more about the publisher and their apps, go to

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Book Review: The Novice

THE NOVICE by Taran Matharu is the first book in the outstanding new SUMMONER fantasy trilogy.
Since Harry Potter’s reign more than a decade ago, many fantasy school series have come and gone. However, few have displayed the character development and depth of world building necessary to make them stand out. THE NOVICE is an exception. Although the first book incorporates an academy for young summoners, this trilogy takes a much broader look at the conflict among humans, dwarfs, elves, and orcs.
After stumbling upon a scroll that releases a frisky salamander demon, fifteen-year-old Fletcher sets out on his own and soon discovers an academy that helps him train as a summoner. Along with his dwarf and elf friends, he uncovers the evil plans of a group of nobles seeking personal gain.
Themes of class and species inequality make the storyline particularly compelling for teen readers. With just enough action and violence to keep readers on the edge of their seats, the plot moves quickly leaving readers thirsty for the next book.
Librarians will find a huge audience for this adventure fantasy. Because of its broad appeal, look for The Novice on youth “best of fantasy” lists this year.
A prequel is also available on Kindle called Origins. Readers will also enjoy Rory (Book 0.5). Start reading it at Wattpad.
Newcomer Taran Matharu has become known for his works posted at an online community called Wattpad. For those who enjoy fan fiction, there are already nearly 50 Summoner Fan Fiction stories available online. To learn more, go to his page at
Published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. Available May 5, 2015.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

App Review: The New Immigrants: NYC 1880-1924

THE NEW IMMIGRANTS: NYC 1880-1924 by Vanguard Direct and the New York Department of Education invites users to explore the immigrant experience in America.
This outstanding history app is divided into six sections: a new beginning, the migration process, tenement life, earning a living, nativism, and assimilation and cultural preservation.
Users begin by scrolling down to the first topic, a new beginning. Or, they can click on one of the six sections. Each section provides an overview along with a sidebar containing three areas to explore. The sidebar options reveal a primary source document and an explanation. Users can then swipe through additional examples, choose the information icon for related materials, reveal questions and prompts geared at particular grade levels, save materials to a collection, or use the crop tool to zoom and crop an area of the screen.
Navigation is very intuitive making the app easy to explore and use. The images and other elements are high-quality. Students can create a collection of their materials, print or email PDFs from their collections, and use the search tool to explore related documents.
Teaching materials are provided for elementary, middle school, and high school levels. They include document based performance tasks along with instructional strategies and activities.
Social studies teachers and librarians will enjoy the focus on the carefully curated primary source collection of over 100 artifacts woven into the app including documents, newspaper articles, cartoons, photos, audio, video, and more. The New Immigrants app deals with a broad spectrum of topics from the journey and hardships to the triumphs of the immigrant experience. As such, it should work well in a classroom situation where it’s important to explore multiple perspectives and experiences.
Librarians will find this to be an excellent addition to the school’s history app collection. There’s a need for an app like this on every topic in American history!
To download the app, go to iTunes