Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Review: The Wild Ones

THE WILD ONES by C. Alexander London is an enjoyable middle grade adventure fantasy featuring an epic conflict between wild and domesticated animals.
House pets known as The Flealess are planning to attack Ankle Snap Alley and break the treaty with The Wild Ones. Kit, a young raccoon in the city for the first time must find the Bone of Contention and stop the turf war.
Librarians will find the blend of witty humor with the well-developed animal characters to be a draw for youth who enjoy anthropomorphic stories. Fans of Redwall, Warriors, Spirit Animals, or any of the other animal series books will enjoy the diverse cast of animals.
Published by Philomel, an imprint of Penguin on August 25, 2015.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

App Review: Monster Guard: Prepare for Emergencies

MONSTER GUARD: PREPARE FOR EMERGENCIES by the American Red Cross is an engaging middle grade app preparing youth for natural disasters and other types of emergencies.
Sponsored by Disney and reviewed by major government agencies, the app is both engaging and authoritative. This visually attractive educational simulation stresses the Learn-Practice-Share approach including the importance of learning how to stay safe in an emergency, practicing safety strategies, and sharing with friends and family.
Users work their a series of 14 fun training activities. Students can role-play as five different monster recruits, earn badges, and beat high scores as they learn about emergencies. Audio support and subtitles address the diverse needs of learners. The simulated training environments focus on the types of emergencies found in particular areas of the United States such as hurricanes in coastal areas and wildfires in dry regions.
Librarians will find this to be an excellent app for building both science and social studies curriculum connections. Extend the experience by creating a display of books associated with natural disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods.
To learn more, go to

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Book Review: Icebreaker

ICEBREAKER by Lian Tanner is an intriguing middle-grade science fiction thriller that takes place aboard a huge ship traveling the icy southern polar regions.
After 300 years at sea and an epic Civil War, the crew of the Oyster is divided into three tribes. As an outcast, twelve-year-old Petrel lives a lonely life with only a couple talking rats as companions. The ship was originally launched to save the final remnants of knowledge and technology from the evil Anti-Machinists. However, memory of the original mission has been lost for generations until a lone boy is spotted by Petrel on an iceberg. What follows is a fast-paced story of survival and renewal.
Tanner’s skills at world building and character development will bring the story alive for middle grade readers. Her balance of interesting dialog with vivid descriptions will help readers visualize this unusual shipboard setting.
Librarians will find that this exciting adventure will appeal to youth who enjoy dystopian settings with elements of steampunk. ICEBREAKER is the first book in The Hidden Trilogy.
To learn more about this Australian children’s author, go to
Published by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan on August 18, 2015.

Friday, August 28, 2015

App Review: EarthViewer

EARTHVIEWER is a fascinating, interactive app from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that allows users to explore the science of Earth’s history.
Through timelines and visualizations, students can see the continents grow and shift as they scroll through billions of years of Earth’s history. Users can zoom into their favorite landmark and follow how it changes through time. Layers allow users to view data on atmospheric composition, temperature, biodiversity, day length, and solar luminosity.
Part of the HHMI’s BioInteractive initiative, the app opens with the option to take a short tutorial or jump right into the program. Users pinch out or in to switch between timeline views. The three main timeline views include phanerozoic (540 million years), deep history (4.6 billion years), and modern (100 years). Suggested areas to explore contain place markers such as cities, fossils, impact events, mass extinctions, biological events, and geological events. In-depth options include text and illustrations about topics such as the greenhouse effect and plate tectonics. The teacher resources area includes quick guides, references, and other information.
Librarians will find endless applications for this resource. Students can start with a modern city and track it back through time. Or, follow a famous fossil as it moves through time. Collaborate with the science teacher to build connections with the library’s science collection including books on prehistoric creatures, fossils, plate tectonics, and other curriculum-related topics.
The accompanying website also includes data files, classroom activities, worksheets, video clips, and a downloadable version.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Book Review: Court of Fives

COURT OF FIVES by Kate Elliott is an action-packed fantasy adventure filled with mysticism, forbidden romance, and a compelling examination of race and class identity.
As the child of mixed race parents, Jessamy been brought up in the Patron class but still has ties to the Commoners. Stuck between two worlds, she secretly trains for the Fives competitions as a way to escape the suffocating expectations of society. However, her world is turned upside down after the death of an aristocrat who sponsored her family. The games may be her only hope to save herself and her family.
Her first young adult novel, Elliott pitched the idea as “Little Women meets Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games” and she succeeded on all three counts. The Greco-Roman Egypt fantasy setting combined with characters that cross classes and an engaging adventure plot will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Librarians will find that both male and female readers will enjoy the smart, strong protagonist. This compelling YA fantasy joins a growing of titles that address social issues within the context of a convincing fantasy world.
The detailed world-building and complex characters along with the gripping plot will have readers waiting in line for the next book in this new trilogy.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Little, Brown an imprint of Hachette on August 18, 2015.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Website Review: Climate Kids

CLIMATE KIDS from NASA’s Eyes on the Earth program features information and activities related to climate change.
The “Guided Tour of the Big Questions” provides an excellent overview to key concepts related to climate change. Then, users can explore eight areas of climate change including weather & climate, air, ocean, fresh water, carbon’s travels, energy, plants & animals, and technology.
The navigation bar connects users with areas where they can play games, make stuff, get information about the world, keep up to date, watch videos, and dream of a green career.
A Planet Health Report widget provides information on air, temperature, sea ice, and sea level.
The Climate Time Machine page looks at changes in the climate over the ages.
The website is colorful and engaging. Students will find it easy to read and use.
Librarians will find this to be a valuable tool for introducing students to important, accurate information about climate change. Pair this website with books about climate change. Work with the science teachers to weave in the website’s content into science activities.
The website’s teacher resources are outstanding too.
To visit the website, go to
For those seeking more in-depth information, go to

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Review: The Little Shop of Monsters

THE LITTLE SHOP OF MONSTERS by R. L. Stine and Marc Brown is a picture book with just the right balance of giggles, gross outs, and evil grins to please most monster book fans.
Written for ages 4-8, this silly-scary book actively engages readers. Potential monster buyers are asked to guess the name of a creature or what it eats. The author use rhymes and visual clues to keep readers thinking.
These two popular children’s authors make a great team. R.L. Stine’s creepy creatures are beautifully illustrated by Marc Brown. The gross visuals and goofy jokes are just right for the primary grade audience. The quick scare at the end will keep readers coming back for more.
Librarians will have fun with the variety of creatures displayed at the Little Shop of Monsters. Involve the art teacher in creating your own library-front window display of student-produced monsters. Then, get students to write stories to go with the creatures. This is also a great opportunity to bring out your creature puppets and other monster books. Pair this picture book with the beginning chapter books from the Magical Animal Adoption Agency by Kallie George.
To learn more about R.L. Stine, go to
To learn more about Marc Brown, go to
Published by Little, Brown Kids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group on August 25, 2015.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Website Review: Will Hobbs

WILL HOBBS is an award-winning author of picture books and young adult novels with a rich website for young fans. Hobbs writes outdoor adventures about places in the wild. With more than twenty books published, reader fans will enjoy learning more at his author website.
The website includes a biography in the Meet Will Hobbs section. There are lots of photos embedded throughout the site. Use the website to learn about his growing up, his family, and his writing. In the Will’s Books section of the website, users can click on a book cover and read an interview about each title. The author tells where he got his ideas and shows photos of his own adventures. There is a story summary plus information about awards and audiobooks for each title.
Don’t miss the Favorite Questions section and learn more about Will’s life, family and his writing. Most of the content is aimed to his young adult readers, but there is also a section for teachers and librarians. Here he suggests some curriculum resource materials and provides contact information about having him come to speak.
Will Hobbs is a favorite of many teen readers. Librarians can use this site to promote his books and extend student’s experience with his work.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book Review: Goodbye Stranger

GOODBYE STRANGER by Rebecca Stead takes an authentic look at the challenges facing middle school youth in today’s society.
A work of realistic fiction, the story follows three connected narratives what capture the awkward often complicated friendships of young teens.
From facing cyberbullies to dealing with the unintended consequences of impulsive texts, Stead does a stellar job addressing the issues on the minds of children as they enter young adulthood.
Librarians will find a ready-made audience among Rebecca Stead fans. This well-written novel is likely to swell her already large fan base. Youth interested in books about friendship will be drawn to the quiet humor and authentic dialogue among characters. However, some younger readers may have difficulty following all the characters and dealing with the unusual approach to the narrative.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Wendy Lamb, an imprint of Random House on August 4, 2015.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Website Review: BAM! Body and Mind

BAM! BODY AND MIND from the Center for Disease Control provides information and activities aimed at helping young people make healthy lifestyle choices.
Designed for children 9 to 13 years old, the website contains six sections: Diseases, Food and Nutrition, Physical Activity, Your Safety, Your Life, and Your Body; all are packed with information and activities. For example, the Disease section includes the Disease Detectives and Immune Platoon activities and more. Information about Asthma is found within Disease Detectives and more details are added in Meeting the Challenge in the Physical Activity Section. Acne and its treatment are explained in the Under the Microscope section of Your Body.
In the Teachers Corner, educators can quickly view lessons and activities, handouts, and recommended related materials. Teachers can use BAM! to provide interactive, informative and fun activities in their classrooms; activities that are linked to the national standards for science and health.
Librarians can partner with teachers to plan and deliver a healthy food activity. Setup a blender with needed ingredients and have students try the recipes for drinks and smoothies found in the Food & Nutrition section. Lots of other recipes are provided in Cool Treats. Pair this activity with a cookbook display featuring healthy recipes.
Visit and learn more about BAM! at

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review: Chasing Secrets

CHASING SECRETS by Gennifer Choldenko combines an engaging medical mystery with a little-known historical event.
Set in 1900, Lizzie would prefer to work along side her physician father than attend finishing school. She secretly longs to become a doctor and is fascinated by science. When part of San Francisco is quarantined, a family servant is trapped in Chinatown. Although officials are denying a plague, Lizzie is convinced that people aren’t telling the truth about what’s happening in the city and she is willing to do anything to save her friends and family.
This compelling work of historical fiction weaves together a number of interesting themes related to forbidden friendships, race relations, and class. It also sheds light on the history of immunization and people’s distrust of medicine.
Fans of Choldenko’s other works of historical fiction will recognize her use of humor, well-developed characters, and conversational writing style. Librarians will find an audience beyond those who traditionally read historical fiction. This is an excellent opportunity to pair historical fiction with nonfiction books about the history of medicine.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s on August 4, 2015. ARC from NetGalley.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Website Review: The Science of Baseball

The SCIENCE OF BASEBALL website from the Exploratorium combines articles on the history of the sport, along with instruction for throwing varied pitches, and components that explore the forces involved in hitting the ball.
Young people will enjoy seeing if they can react fast enough to hit a 90 mph fastball. They’ll learn how to identify the “sweet spots” on a wooden bat, find out how bouncy a baseball is, and compare their bounciness with other sports balls like golf balls, basketballs, and tennis balls. They can also experiment with how temperature affects the ball.
Baseball is a Spring, Summer into Fall event. Keep in mind that interest is not limited to just boys. There is a section called “The Girls of Summer” that focuses on the history of female players.
Aimed at the middle grades, the site has several embedded video and audio clips. It uses an older version of Flash for the interactives that may not work on all systems. Librarians can find added resources on the ‘Baseball Links' page and the Bibliography list.
Lead into the World Series at your school. Use the Science of Baseball website as the centerpiece for a collaboration between classroom teachers and the school library. Incorporate math with activities for baseball statistics. Set up a MakerSpace center for related baseball experiments.
Find more ideas at the website, go to

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Review: Mr. Postmouse's Rounds

MR. POSTMOUSE’S ROUNDS by Marianne Dubuc is the charming story of a mouse postman who delivers mail to a variety of interesting creatures.
This adorable picture book takes readers from house to house as Mr. Postmouse makes his rounds. Each creature’s living space is displayed as a cross-section. Children will be delighted by the funny situations and fascinating variety of habitats.
Dubuc’s amazing illustrations will appeal to readers of all ages. The many tiny details found in each drawing will encourage re-reading and provide lots of opportunities for I-spy games.
Librarians will enjoy exploring each page with children. Pair this book with nonfiction works showing cross-sections. Or, seek out other picture books that explore life below ground or animal homes. Teachers will discover endless ideas for writing activities such as selecting a house from the book and writing about a day in the life of the creature that lives there.
Published by Kids Can Press on August 1, 2015. ARC from NetGalley.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Website Review:

The STOPBULLYING.GOV website provides a variety of useful resources to help educators develop programs to prevent bullying.
Managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the website contains major sections including “what is bullying”, “cyberbullying”, “who is at risk”, “prevent bullying”, “respond to bullying”, and “get help now”. The content includes definitions, examples, statistics, strategies, and additional information.
In addition, there are sections specifically aimed at parents, educators, community members, teens, and kids. The website blog and newsroom contains up-to-date information and resources including articles, research findings, and strategies.
Of particular note are the media sections. The images page contains appealing photos and infographics that could be used in library displays. The video page includes dozens of short videos focusing on specific issues such as LGBT bullying and cyberbullying.
For youth working on research projects related to bullying, the resources page and policies and laws page would be particularly useful.
Kick off the school year with a library promotion that encourages friendship and positive relationships. Weave in resources to help young people address the issue of bullying before it starts.
To visit the website, go to

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Review: Finding Someplace

FINDING SOMEPLACE by Denise Lewis Patrick is the gripping story of a young teen’s experiences surviving Hurricane Katrina.
Written for middle grade youth, this compelling work of historical fiction begins a few days before the hurricane as Teresa prepares for her 13th birthday. Unaware of the severity of the storm, Teresa is caught in the 9th Ward when the levee breaks. The rest of the story follows her escape, temporary move to New Jersey, and return home.
Patrick’s well-developed characters draw readers into the culture of New Orleans. Her authentic portrayal of the disaster and its aftermath are shocking realistic.
It’s been a decade since this disaster, so it’s important to revisit this event with a new generation of youth. Librarians will find the combination of disaster, suspense, and real-life popular with youth. Pair it with nonfiction works about forces of nature and other books about natural disasters.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan on August 4, 2015. ARC from NetGalley.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

App Review: Space Station Research Explorer

The SPACE STATION RESEARCH EXPLORER app from NASA involves youth in exploring the array of scientific experiments being conducted on the International Space Station.
Designed for young adults and adults, the app discusses the results and benefits of research in microgravity. Focusing on recently completed and ongoing experiments, this engaging resource includes in-depth descriptions, photos, video, and interactive media to bring the science alive for users.
The app is divided into five sections:
The Experiments area includes the topics of biology and biotechnology, human research, earth and space science, physical science, educational activities and outreach, and technology development and demonstration. Within each major category, users can choose a subcategory. Users can filter their search for experiments by choosing a particular expedition or sponsor. A detailed technical report along with images are provided for each experiment.
The Facilities section shows a 360 view of the interior of the three station modules. Users can tap on racks to see descriptions of the items stored there.
The Benefits resources include the areas of human health, earth benefits, and global education. Each topic explains a specific example of how the experiments are positively impacting the world.
The Media materials provides podcasts, games, and videos to explore.
The Links area includes space station-related websites and links to useful resources.
Librarians will find this to be a useful resource for science classes. The app would be a great jumping off spot for student reports and investigations. The technical reports would also be an useful resource for informational reading in the sciences.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Book Review: The Prisoners of Breendonk

THE PRISONERS OF BREENDONK by James M. Deem tells the compelling, personal stories associated with a lesser-known concentration camp during World War II.
Located in Belgium, the internment camp held both Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners who were political dissidents or accused of resistance activities. Occupied from 1940 through 1944, it was also used as a transit camp for Jews on their way to death camps in Germany and Poland. The prisoners were subjected to forced labor and lived under the constant threat of starvation, interrogation, and torture.
Following the chronology of World War II, Deem’s work of nonfiction provides a comprehensive examination of the camp and it’s inhabitants. Told through short narratives that weave in background information and personal histories, Deem brings the poor, over-crowded conditions to life for young adult readers.
Designed for young adults, this well-researched work contains an afterward and information source sections in addition to the body of text. Of particular note are the many high-quality illustrations including maps, signs, photographs, and drawings. The author also describes why so many photos and sketches are available from this camp.
Librarians will find this outstanding work of nonfiction to be an excellent addition to the history section of the library. Its focus on this brutal, but lesser-known camp will be particularly appealing for YA researchers already familiar with Nazi-German concentration camps.
Visit the National Memorial Fort Breendonk website at
Read the Wikipedia article at
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on August 4, 2015. ARC paper and NetGalley.

Friday, August 14, 2015

App Review: Choose Your Path

CHOOSE YOUR PATH from the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is an engaging app focusing on bullying prevention. This interactive learning experience was designed as part of the museum’s Power of Children exhibit.
Youth choose from three settings: online, playground, or classroom. Before getting started, users have the option of setting up their own name and avatar, a friend, and an adult. Users are then faced with a dilemma that’s shown on the screen and also read aloud. The audio aspect can be turned on or off. Participants are given four choices and instructed to drag their choice into a box. The user is then provided informative feedback about their selection. After the challenge, users are asked whether they’d like to choose a different path within the same challenge or select another challenge area.
Because the app only contains three dilemmas, it won’t take long for youth to complete the activity. However, the experience is an fun and effective way to review at the completion of a lesson on bullying prevention.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Book Review: School for Sidekicks

SCHOOL FOR SIDEKICKS by Kelly McCullough is a middle grade fantasy adventure for children who dream of becoming superheroes.
After surviving an encounter with Masks and Hoods, Evan Quick is whisked away to a special school for youth with special powers. At first, he’s thrilled to be part of this superhero universe despite the disapproval of his parents. He’s given the name Meerkat and assigned to be the sidekick of a has-been superhero known as Foxman. After discovering a government conspiracy, Evan realizes the fine line between good and evil and must work with his meta-human classmates to save the world.
Youth who enjoy superhero stories will get caught up in this engaging adventure. However, those who prefer other types of science fiction and fantasy may find it to be melodramatic and corny.
Sidekicks and other minions are popular themes in books and movies right now. Librarians can capitalize on this movement by featuring these newly respected heroes in displays, reading groups, and programs. Hold a sidekick costume party, get youth involved in creating their own characters, and create your own comic books.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan on August 4, 2015.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Website Review: What Was There

WHAT WAS THERE is a website that brings history alive through maps, images, and place-based stories.
The website uses technology to connect time and space. A “virtual time machine” allows users to explore places as they appeared in the past. Users can either explore photos already in the system or upload their own photos. The uploaded images then appear on a Google Map interface.
To explore the map, users can enter the name of a place or a zip code. The Google Map will zoom into the area and show images that are available. Image details include when the photo was taken, the title, description, user, tags, source, and copyright information. In many cases, uses can compare the photo to a street view showing what the location looks like today. It’s even possible to overlay the historical photos on the street view for a direct comparison. Other nearby photos are also shown.
Consider a library project collaborating with the local historical society to scan and add photos to this growing website.
To visit the website, go to

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Review: Fuzzy Mud

FUZZY MUD by Louis Sachar is a fast-paced middle-grade ecological mystery exploring friendship, bullies, and a life-threatening biohazard.
A work of speculative fiction, the story revolves around three children who stumble upon a mutated microorganism with the potential to cause a global pandemic.
Sachar weaves together short, focused chapters with excerpts from Senate hearings to create a quick read for a broad audience. For such a short book, the author is able to create multi-dimensional characters and a believable plot.
Youth who enjoy the environmental mysteries of Carl Hiassen and Jean Craighead George will be drawn to this ecological thriller. While reluctant readers will enjoy this fast-paced, “skinny book”, it will also be popular with those who read school and friendship titles. The variety of themes make it a good choice for group discussions.
Librarians and teachers will find the timely environment issues to be good connections with STEM connections. Consider a display that includes medical and ecological mysteries along with works of nonfiction about the CDC and strange diseases.
Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House on August 4, 2015.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Review: Bookopolis

BOOKOPOLIS is a website designed to ignite a passion for reading in children ages 7-12.
Intended to build a community of readers, this social network provides a safe environment for elementary and middle school youth to connect with other book lovers. Youth can find books to read as well as share their book reviews.
Students can explore new books, create a bookshelf, share with friends, and earn points. The website also offers book suggestions and features new releases.
In addition to being a resource for children, the website also provides resources for teachers and librarians including lesson ideas, book recommendations, and standards connections. Educators can sign up for a teacher account to set up classes.
To explore the website, go to

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Book Review: Mechanica

MECHANICA by Betsy Cornwell is a high-powered steampunk fairytale with a 21st century ending.
Loosely based on the Cinderella story, this engaging steampunk fairytale tells the classic story with a twist. Nicolette longs to invent special, ash-powered machines like her mother did, but magic is now illegal and her wicked stepmother and stepsisters keep her busy as a servant. There’s no fairy godmother, just a hint of magic and Nicolette’s unending passion to become a working inventor.
Cornell provides a refreshing twist on the classic tale. While the book has the potential to draw both fairy tale and steampunk fans, traditionalists may be disappointed by the switch ending. However, many youth (and adults alike) will cheer for the strong heroine’s decision.
With all the recent fairytale retellings, librarians have the opportunity for lots of interesting displays and promotions.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Clarion on August 25, 2015. ARC from Edelweiss.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Tech Review: Biodiversity Heritage Library

The BIODIVERSITY HERITAGE LIBRARY website contains an interesting digital collection as well as two games to help the website verify the accuracy of OCR scanning.
The digital library contains free access to biodiversity knowledge. With nearly 100,000 titles and over 160,000 volumes, it contains millions of pages of taxonomic literature. While many of the materials aren’t likely to be of interest to K-12 youth, there are some interesting items that could be woven into art and science classes.
The BHL Blog is a good place to go for specific items of interest to youth. For instance, a children’s librarian’s Taming the Wild post shared some cool social media posters made from images from the collection. The blog also hosts a podcast featuring key collections such as their SHARK WEEK collection. It’s available at iTunes.
A good place for youth to start is at the Flickr stream. When students find an image of interest they can learn more by exploring the entire report or book.
The website’s two purposeful games help the library verify the automated information mined when objects were digitized. The Smorball game asks users to type the words they see as quickly and accurately as possible to help coach their team to victory. The Beanstalk game involves users in typing the words presented to them correctly in order to grow their beanstalk.
The Biodiversity Heritage Library is a great way to introduce youth to digital collections in the sciences.
To explore the website, go to
Go to the Taming the Wild blogpost at…/taming-wild-social-me….

Friday, August 07, 2015

Book Review: Lair of Dreams

LAIR OF DREAMS by Libba Bray is the second engaging suspense in The Diviners series.
Set in the 1920s, this paranormal thriller features an array of fascinating characters from the first novel including Evie, Sam, Jericho, and others. A sleeping sickness is spreading through New York City. Henry DuBois and Ling Chen are diviners who are able to walk in dreams. Will they be able to solve the mystery of this rapidly spreading illness or will they be trapped in the dreamworld? In addition to the dream theme, many subplots will keep readers connected with all the characters and prepare fans for more books to come.
Bray has become a master of blending historical fiction with supernatural fantasy elements. From speakeasies to racism, a wide range of political and social issues are seamlessly woven into the fabric of this haunting story.
Fans will be standing in line for this exciting thriller. Consider a library event that includes period costumes and ghostly decorations.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Little, Brown, an imprint of Hachette on August 25, 2015. ARC through Edelweiss.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Website Review: Teen Ink

TEEN INK is website that encourages youth to express themselves through poetry, essays, stories, reviews, art, and photography.
For more than 25 years, the nonprofit group The Young Authors Foundation has provided a website, magazine, and books all written by teens for teens. Aimed at young adults ages 13 through 19, the website works with English and Art teachers to encourage teens to submit their work for publication.
The website is divided into nine sections.
The Poetry section is organized into free verse, song lyrics, sonnets, haiku, limericks, and ballads. Users can view the works by today’s best, top voted, most discussed, or more recent.
The Fiction section includes action-adventure, fan fiction, historical fiction, realistic fiction, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, scripts/plays, and thriller/mystery.
The Nonfiction section is divided into types such as memoir, interviews, and essays. There’s also a hot issues section with topics such as bullying, environment, and health.
The Reviews section provides book, movie, music, TV, and video game reviews. Summer program and college reviews are also posted.
The Forums section provides two areas for youth to interact. There’s a writer’s workshop as well as regular forums.
The Art/Photo section posts artwork by medium and the Video section posts video work by theme.
The Summer Program section helps youth identify summer programs of interest across subject areas and the College Guide section features resources to help youth learn about college and university options.
In addition to the main sections, a Submit Work area provides guidelines and suggestions for youth wishing to submit their work, a Contests area features opportunities across writing and art genre, and the Other Teen Ink Goodies links provide many additional resources and opportunities.
Teen Ink also features a Library Advisory Board that serve as volunteer liaisons and advisors. This is a great way to get involved at the national level.
Finally, be sure to make use of the many social media features infused into the website including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Librarians may wish to suggest this website to youth seeking to get their work published. It’s also a great source for short creative and nonfiction works for reading activities.
To learn more, go to the website at

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Book Review: Baba Yaga's Assistant

BABA YAGA’s ASSISTANT by Marika McCoola is an engaging middle-grade graphic novel fantasy featuring a central character in Russian folklore.
Masha isn’t looking forward to a new stepmother and stepsister, so she decides to leave the family and apply for a job as Baba Yaga’s apprentice. She inherited a love of folklore and bit of magic from her grandmother, but that may not be enough to save her from this supernatural old woman who preys on children and flies around in a mortar wielding a pestle.
McCoola builds a convincing bridge between old folklore and modern society in this well-written, fast-paced graphic fantasy. Emily Carroll’s convincing illustrations draw readers into the plot. Of particular note are the beautifully bordered folktale sequences woven throughout the story.
This spooky, yet lighthearted tale will delight readers who enjoy fairy tales, but it will also be a hit with graphic novel fans. Librarians looking for age-appropriate graphic novels for middle grade children will be thrilled with this short, illustrated work. Teachers will enjoy the many curriculum connections related to folklore.
Published by Candlewick Press on August 4, 2015.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Website Review: Kidjutsu

KIDJUTSU is a useful website providing comics, webcomics, manga, and graphic novels for youth.
A kids comics directory, the website contains a kid-friendly collection of comics that can be read online for free. Each comic is carefully screened and marked with an age rating.
Users can browse comics by title, by age rating, or by genre. The results can be displayed by most popular, most voted, or most recent. Information is provided about each comic along with recommendations for related comics. Comics can be read using a full-screen reader window. Social media links are provided for sharing.
In addition to the free resource, the website also links to suggested graphic novels.
Librarians will find this to be a useful resource for youth seeking free web comics beyond those available in the library.
To get started browsing, go to

Monday, August 03, 2015

Book Review: The Tea Party in the Woods

THE TEA PARTY IN THE WOODS by Akiko Miyakoshi is an amazing picture book story of a path, a party, a pie, and a parade through the snow.
Designed for ages 4-8, young Kikko sets out through the snow covered woods to catch up with her father who is on his way to Grandmother’s house. She’s carrying a pie for her grandma, but it’s smashed when she falls in the snow. Disoriented, she ended up at a large house and is invited to join a formally dressed party of animals for tea. All the forest animals contribute pieces to form a new pie she can take to grandmother’s house.
Unlike many forest tales that are filled with scary creatures, this story views the woods as an inviting place stocked with warm, caring animals and pie made of forest fruits and nuts.
The magical elements seems to rise naturally in this bridge between fantasy and reality. The soft charcoal drawings perfectly match the quiet story. The hint of color add to the appeal.
Librarians will find that both the illustrations and story will attract a wide range of children. The story’s focus on cooperation and problem solving will be particularly compelling for primary teachers.
To learn more about the author/illustrator, go to
Published by Kids Can Press on August 1, 2015.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Website Review: The Story Starter

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

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Book Review: After the Red Rain

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