Sunday, January 31, 2016

Book Review: Groundhog's Dilemma

GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA by Kristen Remenar is a beautifully illustrated picture book exploring the themes of peer pressure, friendship, and honesty.
Groundhog is concerned about disappointing his friends when he announces six more weeks of winter. After being approached by various animals with different perspectives, he decides that telling the truth is the best path.
The richly colored pages with large, attractive characters will appeal to children. The use of speech bubbles lend themselves to a read-aloud approach using varied voices.
Librarians will find this book to be a popular addition to their “Groundhog’s Day” holiday book collection for early elementary children. The themes of peer pressure, friendship, and honesty will ring true with young readers.
To learn more about the author, go to
To learn more about the illustrator, go to
Published by Charlesbridge on December 1, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Book Review: In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CRAZY HORSE by Joseph M. Marshall III tells the powerful story of a Lakota boy who goes on a road trip with his grandfather to learn about his cultural heritage.
Designed for middle grade readers, this compelling story follows Jimmy McClean’s journey to learn about the past in order to understand the present. Jimmy’s grandfather facilitates Jimmy’s quest by taking him to historical landmarks and telling the stories of of his culture heritage using Crazy Horse as the thread that weaves the tale together.
Librarians will find that readers of both realistic and historical fiction will enjoy this story. The novel would be an effective way to immerse readers in Lakota culture and heritage. Consider weaving this text into the upper elementary or middle school reading and history curriculum. The author’s note, glossary, and bibliography add to the usefulness of this outstanding text for classroom use. Also, keep in mind that this book is an excellent addition to the diversity collection.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Amulet/Abrams on November 10, 2015. ARC courtesy of publisher.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Website Review: Joy2Learn

JOY2LEARN is a website that brings art, music, and theater alive through multimedia experiences featuring famous artists.
Through seven, engaging interactives, learners explore topics including painting, piano, jazz, theater, dancing, sculpture, and architecture. For instance, actor Gregory Hines explores the history of tap dancing, the creative process, the techniques of tap, and the artists of tap. Along with the video segments, users examine images and complete activities. Teacher resources include artist biographies, online resources, and other materials.
Librarians will find these fascinating, interactive programs to be popular with art, music, and theater teachers seeking a multimedia way to introduce their students to key concepts.
To learn more, go to

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Review: The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill

THE BOY WHO BECAME BUFFALO BILL by Andrea Warren is an engrossing nonfiction adventure featuring young Billy Cody.
This compelling true story details young Billy Cody’s life growing up on the plains and ultimately becoming an entertainer. Although the book discusses the Wild West show, emphasis is placed on his younger years. The bulk of the biography explores his tween and young adult years in Kansas, his role in the Civil War, and his work as a scout and guide.
The author skillfully weaves historical events into the real-life story of the beloved entertainer. The author’s notes point out that the legend can be difficult to distinguish from the facts. However, Warren’s well-researched biography does an excellent job focusing on historically accurate information.
Librarians will find this biography is written specifically for the middle grade audience. The easy-to-read narrative combined with the short chapters focusing on specific historical events will be attractive to young readers. The wealth of primary source documents including photographs will add to the appeal for young learners. A discussion guide is available for this title.
Add this title to your growing collection of outstanding biographical works by Andrea Warren.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Two Lions on November 3, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tech Review: iCell

iCELL is an engaging science interactive from HudsonAlpha.
Providing a 3-D view of the inside of an animal, bacteria, or plant cell, the interactive is an excellent way to immerse science students in biology. Users can select and zoom into parts of the cell. Elements of the cell are labelled and annotations can be turned on or off. Learners explore cell structures at the basic, intermediate, or advanced level.
Librarians will find this interactive to be an excellent reference resource for students seeking help or review with cell biology. The large font makes the tool effective for large group, electronic white board activities.
The interactive can be downloaded for use on computers or played in a web browser with a web player. It can also be downloaded as an Apple App.
To download the app for tablets, Mac OS, or Windows, go to

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review: Lightning Queen

THE LIGHTNING QUEEN by Laura Resau tells the captivating story of a friendship that bridges the Rom and the Mexico Indian cultures.
In this poignant story that weaves together historical and contemporary tales, an old man shares with his grandson the story of growing up in the remote mountains of Mexico and his encounters with a young gypsy girl. Inspired by true stories, this fascinating multi-cultural tale of friendship will draw readers into the world of mid-20th century Mexico.
Librarians will find that fans of both historical and contemporary fiction will enjoy the bridge between the past and the present as well as between the cultures. With a hint of romance and magic, this fast-paced novel is a good choice for readers seeking stories focusing on the topics of cultural diversity and friendship.
The book’s end notes along with the author’s website provide excellent background information and resources for teachers.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Scholastic on October 27, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Review: MARTians

MARTians by Blythe Woolston tells a bleak, dystopia story exploring life in the near-future suburbs.
When Zoe’s public school is privatized, she’s fast-tracked for graduation and given the option of working at one of two super-sized, mega-stores. With her mom absent and her house in foreclosure, she moves into an abandoned strip mall. Although she excels at fitting into the system, she knows there must be more to life than her dead-end job in the rotting suburbs.
Librarians will find that this quirky work of science fiction strikes a chord with youth frustrated by the consumer culture and lack of empathy in today’s society.
To learn more about the author, read
Published by Candlewick Press on October 13, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Book Review: The Emperor of Any Place

THE EMPEROR OF ANY PLACE by Tim Wynne-Jones tells the engrossing, multi-generational story of family relationships and survival during war.
After his father dies, Evan’s estranged grandfather comes to visit opening family secrets reaching back to World War II. At the heart of the story lies the truth behind a soldier’s diary. With elements of magical realism, readers will become immersed in conflicts both past and present.
The author’s use of dual storylines will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Librarians will find a broad readership for this story that includes those who enjoy realistic fiction with hits of fantasy, multi-generational mysteries, as well as young history buffs.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Candlewick October 13, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Tech Review: Matific

MATIFIC contains over 1000 interactive web-based math activities and apps.
Engaging math episodes (mini-games), worksheets, playlists, and lesson plans are available for grades K-6. These immersive math experiences stress analytical reasoning and critical thinking.
Resources are available through both the website and the app.
Librarians will find many ways to integrate these resources into the math classroom. While some interactives work well as large group electronic whiteboard experiences, others are better for independent work. Consider weaving individual episodes into library STEM displays that connect math with other content areas. For instance, connect an interactive focusing on measurement to a display that contains measurement tools and instruments along with books and activities.
This free service can be used by individuals or as part of a classroom environment. Using the premium service allows student tracking and other more advanced features.
To use the web-based version or download the Google Play or Apple App, go to

Friday, January 22, 2016

Book Review: Breakthrough!

BREAKTHROUGH! by Jim Murphy tells the fascinating true story of the three researchers responsible for developing a procedure to treat “blue baby syndrome”.
Aimed at the middle grades and young adults, the engaging nonfiction narrative explores how three people came together to create a groundbreaking medical procedure to repair a severe type of heart defeat. What makes the book particularly compelling is that each contributor faced professional challenges. As an African-American, Thomas faced prejudice and as a woman, Blalock dealt with gender-bias.
Murphy is known for his effective use of primary source documents. While the book contains photos of the people involved and some images of medical procedures, it lacks the wealth of photographs, diagrams, and other illustrations that bring Murphy’s other works to life.
The book contains source notes, a bibliography, and an index that are useful in research. However, the narrative style will make it difficult for students to use for research projects unless they read the entire work.
Librarians will find that this book will appeal to students who enjoy narrative nonfiction related to science and medicine. However unlike some of his other books, it’s not likely to appeal to reluctant readers.
This title would be an excellent addition to the library’s growing collection of books that connect STEM with issues of diversity.
To learn more about the book, go to
Published by Clarion on December 8, 2015. ARC from the publisher.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Book Review: Calvin

CALVIN by Martine Leavitt is an imaginative, coming-of-age novel exploring a teen’s discovery that he has schizophrenia.
Told as a letter written to Calvin & Hobbes’ comic book author Bill Watterson, the story traces a schizophrenic teen’s experiences with love and survival as he deals with his mental illness for the first time.
Leavitt’s conversational style and sense of humor combine for an appealing alternative to the many young adult novels focusing on mental illness.
Librarians will want to add this YA novel to the growing selections available on teen schizophrenia.
Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan on November 17, 2015.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Book Review: The Tale of Rescue

THE TALE OF RESCUE by Michael J. Rosen tells the fictional adventure of a dog that comes to the aid of a family during a blizzard.
When a young boy and his parents are lost in a snow storm, a cattle dog comes to their rescue. Unable to convince his master of the emergency, the cattle dog manages to create an ingenious way to save the frightened family.
Rosen’s rich storytelling skills make the tale come to life. Middle grade readers will feel like they’re reading a true story. What makes the novel particularly compelling is the use of the epilogue to extend the experience.
The beautiful watercolor illustrations add to the appeal of the story.
Authentic, well-written animal stories are always in demand, so librarians will find a large audience among animal lovers. The short length combined with the engaging epilogue will be popular among reluctant readers.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Candlewick Press on October 13, 2015. ARC courtesy of publisher.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Website Review: Global Volcanism Program

THE GLOBAL VOLCANISM PROGRAM from the Smithsonian Institution contains valuable resources about volcano science from around the world.
The website is divided into sections titled Reports, Databases, Learn, Research, and Information.
The Reports section provides weekly reports of recent volcano activity from around the world. These activity reports can be viewed through an interactive map. The Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network contains reports since 1968.
The Database section allows users to search for specific volcanoes or eruptions. Information is also available in list or spreadsheet forms.
The Learn section provides lots of resources for educators including links to YouTube videos, a gallery of terms and photos, and links to maps and other information.
The Research section details the petrology and volcanology projects currently connected with the Smithsonian including online exhibits and collections.
Librarians will find this to be an easy-to-use website for information about specific volcanoes and eruptions. It’s also an effective way to show students the real-world work of scientists.
To learn more, go to

Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review: An Inheritance of Ashes

AN INHERITANCE OF ASHES by Leah Bobet is a gripping young adult fantasy exploring issues of war, family, and community.
Sisters Hallie and Marthe are alone on their family farm in the aftermath of a war. A mysterious veteran, the arrival of “twisted things,” and strange stone messages mark the beginning of a fight for survival.
This work of dystopia fiction has the feel of historical fiction, monster fantasy, and even the horror genre. However, at it’s core is a story of family, friendship, and forgiveness that transcends genres.
Librarians will find that this unusual fantasy appeals to a broad spectrum of readers.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Clarion on October 6, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Tech Review: Progenitor X

PROGENITOR X is a web-based, narrative science game from the Games Learning Society.
In this immersive learning experience, users become part of an elite squad of scientists who must identify and treat humans who have been infected during a Zombie pandemic. Student scientists must apply problem-solving skills to save the world.
Designed for middle school through college, students learn key biology concepts including the relationships among cells, tissues, and organs.
Based on real-world research, game players learn how human skin cells work. In addition to the demo game, the website also links to current research related to regenerative biology.
Librarians will enjoy the connection between fact and fiction connecting the Zombie stories teens love with real-world science. Use the game to jumpstart interest in biology.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Book Review: Dear Yeti

DEAR YETI by James Kwan is an adorable picture book featuring a pair of young hikers on a quest to find a mythical creature.
A small, blue bird delivers letters from the hikers to the yeti trying to convince the creature to show itself. Along the way, the yeti helps the children by leaving them berries, building a snow shelter, and saving them from a bear. In the end, they form a friendship.
The large, informal font and epistolary form will be attractive to young readers. The illustrator’s use of a red dotted line to follow the bird’s flight will appeal to young adventurers.
Librarians will find this story of a friendly, helpful monster to be popular with primary-aged children. The story would also be a fun way to introduce letter writing.
Learn more about the author/illustrator at
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan on November 3, 2015.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Website Review: Annenberg Learner

The ANNENBERG LEARNER website contains hundreds of high-quality interactives for teachers and students of all ages.
Educators looking for interactives can narrow their search by grade level, discipline, audience, or software. Disciplines include arts, education, foreign language, language arts, literature, mathematics, science, and social studies/history.
Librarians can align the interactives with specific curriculum needs. The interactives can be integrated into the classroom or used in learning centers in the library.
To explore the interactives, go to

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE by Patrick Ness is an unusual and fascinating blend of fantasy and realistic fiction sure to engage young adults.
Unlike the “indie kids” who always seem to be involved with a vampire attack, alien invasion, or some other supernatural adventure, Mike is just a normal teen leading an ordinary life. Although one of his friends happens to be one quarter cat god, most of the time Mike and his friends deal with typical teen issues from crushes to car accidents.
Each chapter begins with a humorous fantasy element featuring indie kids facing a paranormal crisis. The rest of the chapter is told through the eyes of a teen just trying to deal with life as a high school senior.
Ness is at his best when his fantasy elements collide with every-day life. The author uses witty narrative and often hilarious situations to tell a unusual story of normal life in a chaotic world.
Librarians will find a large audience for this book among those who enjoy both realistic fiction and fantasy. Fans of Ness will be delighted with his latest work for young adults.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by HarperTeen on October 6, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Website Review: Batterypop

BATTERYPOP is an excellent video website for kids.
It can be difficult to locate quality educational videos on the major video sites like YouTube. Instead, try this child-focused website. Although many of the videos are focused on entertainment topics, there are also lots of educational videos available.
The Shows section features web video series. Seek out series focused on educational topics such as ROCKALINGUA, a musical Spanish language series and ANTS, a nature series.
The Channels section provides videos from related organizations such as such as UMIGO, a math adventure series. This area also links to the National Film Board of Canada’s videos for children.
The Gamezone section contains resources for gaming fans. Youth who enjoy Minecraft will find lots of videos of interest.
Videos are also organized by topic. Be sure to check out the Science and Math area for lots of STEM connected videos. The Crafts area contains ideas that could be adapted for library makerspaces.
Librarians will find this to be a valuable starting point for connecting youth with age-appropriate videos.
To visit the website, go to

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Book Review: One Today

ONE TODAY is a picture book adaptation of Richard Blanco’s amazing poem written for President Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration.
Blanco’s poem tells the story of a day in America from early morning through night.
Best known for his comic series such as Captain Underpants, Dav Pilkey brings the poem alive through his vibrantly painted illustrations.
Librarians will find this picture book to be an excellent read-aloud book.
To learn more about the poet, go to
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Hachette on November 3, 2015. Review copy courtesy of publisher.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Book Review: Frederick's Journey

FREDERICK’S JOURNEY by Doreen Rappaport tells the inspirational true story of a slave boy who ultimately achieves freedom and spreads his abolitionist beliefs to promote change.
The author skillfully weaves together a nonfiction narrative that combines Douglass’ life story with excerpts from his writings and speeches. Amazing illustrations by London Ladd add to the power of this important story.
In addition to the narrative itself, the book also includes an Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, timeline, and sources.
The Big Words series is an excellent way to introduce youth to key historical figures. Librarians will find Frederick’s Journey to be an excellent addition. Consider creating a display that features this entire series. Incorporate a timeline that shows how the books are connected chronologically and thematically.
To learn more about the author, go to
To learn more about the illustrator, go to
Published by Disney-Hyperion on November 3, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Book Review: What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night: A Very Messy Adventure

WHAT THE DINOSAURS DID LAST NIGHT: A VERY MESSY ADVENTURE by Refe Ruma and Susan Tuma describes the chaos that ensues when toy dinosaurs come to life.
Told through cleverly staged photographs, the narrator speaks directly at readers describing what happens in one home when the plastic dinosaurs come out at night. From raiding the refrigerator to painting the walls, the dinosaurs wreak havoc. When everything returns to normal, readers are told not to be fooled.
A note at the end of the book explains the origin of the idea and how it became an international sensation known as Dinovember, the month when plastic dinosaurs come to life.
Librarians will have a blast working with youth to create their own dinosaur adventures in the library. Get out the digital cameras and have some fun!
To enjoy many more plastic dinosaur photos, go to or
Published by Little Brown, an imprint of Hachette on October 20, 2015. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

App Review: Shout Science!

SHOUT SCIENCE! by Scott Dubois is an amazing comic storybook app exploring scientists and scientific discovery.
Designed for ages 7 through 11, the app contains three narrative biographies featuring Anton Van Leeuwenhoek, Maria Sibylla Merian, and James Hutton. Set during the Scientific Revolution in Europe, readers learn about both science and history connected with the scientist. Students scroll down a timeline or explore a map, then make a selection. For each person, the student can read the story or access additional information about the person including background information, an image and timeline.
Rather than reading across pages, users scroll down a series of screens to read the story. To enhance engagement and reading comprehension, the app incorporates animation, diagrams, sound, and interactive elements.
Use this engaging comic storybook app to jumpstart a biography project. Connect the app with the graphic biographies in your library collection.
Go to Shout Science to learn more about the author and the app at

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Website Review: Teacher's Guides for Using Primary Sources

TEACHER’S GUIDES FOR USING PRIMARY SOURCES from the Library of Congress are an engaging way to help learners analyze historical documents and other materials.
Ten guides are currently available for analyzing primary sources including motion pictures, political cartoons, books and other printed text, newspapers, sheet music and song sheets, manuscripts, oral histories, sound recordings, maps, and photographs and prints. A general guide to primary sources is also available.
Each one-page guide encourages students to observe, reflect, and question. In addition, ideas are provided for further investigation.
A Primary Source Analysis Tool is also available. This online tool allows students to enter notes that can be downloaded, printed, and/or emailed.
Librarians will find these one-page handouts and easy-to-use tools to be useful when addressing standards related to the analysis of primary source documents and informational reading.
While many teachers are familiar with these tools, the Analyzing Newspapers guide is new. Use this guide with the Chronicling America collection available at
To explore these Teacher’s Guides, go to

Book Review: Animal Planet Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia

ANIMAL PLANET ANIMALS: A VISUAL ENCYCLOPEDIA provides a visually stunning look at animals from around the world.
After an introduction and table of contents, the book describes how to use the book. This page should be helpful for young readers who might easily be overwhelmed by the size and scope of the text.
The reference book is organized by animal kingdom. After an overview that explores general information about animals, chapters examine mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, arthropods, and other invertebrates. Within each category, a few pages introduce the animal type followed by an examination of small groups of animals and close-ups featuring specific examples. For instance, a two-page spread on bears is followed by a close-up examination of the Giant Panda. The book concludes with a glossary, a couple pages about traits humans share with other creatures, and an index.
While the book is logically organized and would be particularly useful to children working on projects related to specific animal kingdoms, it might be overwhelming for youth accustomed to an encyclopedia organized in alphabetical order. The book’s consistent presentation of feature elements such as animal facts and feeding habit make the book easy to digest.
The visual layout of the book includes color coded chapters with endless high-quality photos that will appeal to readers who enjoy browsing animal books. However, the hundreds of information-rich pages may be overwhelming for student researchers seeking specific facts for class projects.
With more than 2500 animals and over 1000 photographs, librarians will find this amazing reference book to be popular across grade levels.
Published by Liberty Street/ Time Inc. Books on September 22, 2015. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

App Review: JFK Challenge

The JFK CHALLENGE app from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation immerses users in American history and the impact of Kennedy’s presidency.
Designed for ages 9 through 11, students become NASA and Peace Corps trainees as they accept President Kennedy’s challenge to make a difference in the world. Users begin by creating a quick profile so their work can be saved. Then, they choose a mission: The Peace Corps or The Space Race. A multimedia tutorial provides an overview of the history of their mission and Kennedy’s connection. Students then work their way through a series of skills-building training activities and missions. The game elements are directly related to the content of the app making the experience both fun and educational.
Librarians will find this app to be a motivating way to bring history alive for youth. Use this app in a library station related to Kennedy or as part of a series of activities connected to life in the 1960s.
To learn more, go to

Monday, January 04, 2016

Book Review: Finding Winnie

FINDING WINNIE: THE TRUE STORY OF THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS BEAR by Lindsay Mattick traces the remarkable life of the bear who inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.
Told as a bedtime story by a mother to her young son Cole, the picture book follows a World War I soldier and his bear cub from Winnipeg Canada to a zoo in London, England. Christopher Robin Milne, son of the famous author, befriends Winnie at the zoo and names his stuffed bear Winnie-the-Pooh. In a wonderful conclusion, we learn that young Cole is the great-great-grandchild of the soldier that befriended the bear cub. The book concludes with an album of incredible primary source documents and photographs tracing the story.
The beautiful watercolor illustrations contribute to the appeal of this charming picture book.
Librarians will find this book to be a wonderful way to introduce a new generation to Winnie-the-Pooh. Consider a display that includes this picture book, the Winnie-the-Pooh chapter books, and related stuff animals. Also, use the book to introduce the idea of primary source documents and how they can help researchers better understand history.
Published by Little Brown, an imprint of Hachettte on October 20, 2015. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Book Review: Thank You and Good Night

THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT by Patrick McDonnell is an adorable bedtime story featuring an elephant, a bear, and a bunny.
Three friends come together for a pajama party filled with play, food, and fun. After a bedtime story, they share thanks and a goodnight kiss.
This sweet story of friendship and gratitude combines beautiful illustrations with simple text likely to appeal to young children.
Perfect for a read-aloud experience, this charming picture book is likely to become a classic. Librarians will find young children checking this book out over and over again.
Look for it on “Best of 2015” lists.
Published by Little-Brown, an imprint of Hachette on October 6, 2015. Review copy courtesy of publisher.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Tech Review: Reef Defender

REEF DEFENDER is an app from the Department of Land and Natural Resources of Hawaii.
Before jumping into the game, app users are encouraged to explore the Hawaii Sharks website to learn more about sharks, Hawaiian mythology, shark safety, and shark incidents. An shark quiz is also available. Students will also enjoy following sharks with the Tiger Shark tracker.
After learning about the importance of the reefs to sharks, app players use their pet shark to boot bad items that can harm the reef out of the ocean. Bad items include bottles, cans, cigarettes, invasive species, motor oil, herbicides, and fertilizer.
Librarians will find this game to be a nice way to motivate youth to explore the informational website about sharks. Add this app to a learning center that includes books about reefs and reef creatures.
The app is available for both Apple and Android.
To explore the website, go to