Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review: Spirit Week Showdown

SPIRIT WEEK SHOWDOWN by Crystal Allen is the first book in the new Magnificent Mya Tibbs series for middle grade readers.
Mya and her best friend Naomi plan to win the Spirit Week partners competition. However when Mya is reluctantly paired with Mean Connie Tate, her hopes for winning VIP tickets to the Fall Festival quickly disappear. This authentic, endearing story explores many kinds of friendships and what it means to be a friend.
Librarians will find this charming and often humorous book to be a hit with fans of the classic Ramona books as well as more recent series such as Ivy and Bean. What makes this book timely is the way it handles the topic of diversity. Rather than being a focus of the story, Mya just happens to be a black girl in a diverse cast of characters living in Texas.
Middle grade readers will be clamoring for the next book in what is sure to be a popular friends and family series.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins on January 26, 2016. ARC courtesy for the publisher.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

App Review: My Congress

MYCONGRESS is an easy-to-use app for locating detailed information about U.S. Congressional officials.
Users can locate congressional members by zip code, name, state, party, or chamber. A screen is provided for each person that includes background information and a photo. Links are included to their official website and Open Congress profile page. A link is also provided to their contact information.
One of the app’s most useful features is updated information about recent news associated with the congressman. Information is also provided about their YouTube Channel or Twitter Feed if available.
A bookmarks feature allows users to track individuals of interest.
Librarians will find this app to be popular with social studies teachers, particularly those teaching high school government.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Book Review: The Mystery of Hollow Places

THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES by Rebecca Podos is a sophisticated and engaging mystery exploring issues of family and identity.
Imogene learned about sleuthing from her father who writes medical mysteries. With her father suddenly missing, Imogene searches to find the mother who abandoned her as a baby in the hopes of finding answers. Along the way, she learns family secrets that help piece together her family’s past.
The author’s realistic approach to the teen’s investigation and interesting twists and turns along the way will drawn readers into the story. It’s rare to find a high-quality psychological mystery that deals with authentic issues such as mental illness and depression.
Librarians will find this young adult mystery appeals to youth who enjoy realistic, contemporary fiction and intriguing investigations.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins on January 26, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Book Review: Teen Frankenstein

TEEN FRANKENSTEIN by Chandler Baker is the first book in the new High School Horror series.
This supernatural thriller is a loose adaptation of the classic Frankenstein story for a contemporary teen audience. Tor and her best friend Owen have been experimenting with dead rats and reanimation. The sudden availability of a dead teen’s body allows them to try out their theories on a human corpse. When the newly arisen creature starts to attend school, other bodies begin to appear kickstarting multiple murder investigations.
Librarians will find that the dark humor combined with the quirky, classic horror tale will be a hit with young adults.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan on January 12, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Review: Henry David Thoreau for Kids

HENRY DAVID THOREAU FOR KIDS: HIS LIFE AND IDEAS by Corinne Hosfeld Smith features the life and legacy of this beloved author, philosopher, and naturalist.
Aimed at the middle grades, this well-written biography tells the story of Henry David Thoreau. Focusing on his significant contributions and stressing his wilderness experience, the book is well-organized and focuses on topics of interest to youth.
Twenty-one engaging, hands-on activities including journal writing and gardening are woven throughout the book immersing readers in Thoreau’s world. The many visuals add interest to the story. The book also includes a timeline and list of resources.
Librarians will find this book to be an excellent addition to the library’s biography collection. The hands-on activities add to the appeal for reluctant readers.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Chicago Press on February 1, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Special Event Website: American Folklife Center

The AMERICAN FOLKLIFE CENTER at the Library of Congress is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2016 by collecting photos of folklife tradition.
To participate in the project, the public is encouraged to share photos of their own folklife traditions. Photos can be shared at Flickr with the tag “MyTradition” and a Creative Commons license. The photos will be harvested and added to the AFC’s collections.
Librarians could use this project as an opportunity to talk with classes about American folklife as part of a school-wide social studies program.
For a definition and examples of American folklife, go to
To learn more about this special project and the 40th anniversary, go to the AFC’s blog at

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book Review: Underwater

UNDERWATER by MARISA REICHARDT is a powerful story of tragedy, recovery, and reconnection with the world.
After a traumatic experience, Morgan is unable to leave her apartment. With the help of a new neighbor, a therapist, and her family, she begins to takes slow steps into the outside world. Along the way, she learns to forgive others and herself.
The author effectively peels away the layers of Morgan’s life-altering experience to reveal the tragic story behind her agoraphobia.
Librarians will find that readers enjoy the realistic, contemporary story with a hint of romance. This character-driven young adult novel draws attention to a variety of issues from PTSD to school shootings making it a timely choice for today’s teen audience.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan on January 12, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, February 22, 2016

App Review: NASA's Visualization Explorer

NASA’s VISUALIZATION EXPLORER app provides up-to-date information about NASA’s exploration of the Earth, sun, moon, planets, and universe.
The app features Story Lists by topic including Earth, Planet and Moons, Sun, and Universe. Stories can be saved or bookmarked for later use. Stories include visualizations, animations, and images along with short informational texts.
A sharing tool allows users to copy articles and take notes using the standard tablet features.
Librarians will find this app to be useful for classes working on current events related to science. It would also be an effective tool to jumpstart research projects. The highly visual stories would be particularly useful for students with special needs or reluctant readers.
To download the app, go to

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Book Review: Radioactive

RADIOACTIVE: HOW IRENE CURIE AND LISE MEITNER REVOLUTIONIZED SCIENCE AND CHANGED THE WORLD by Winifred Conkling tells the true story of two women who made significant contributions to science.
This important biography traces the often overlooked role of two female physicists who made major discoveries related to artificial radiation and nuclear fission. The story stresses the challenges facing female scientists in the 20th century.
Informational boxes provide related scientific background text and visuals. Although photographs and other illustrations add interest to the text, additional primary sources would have been useful. The book concludes with a timeline, glossary, notes, bibliography, additional sources, and an index.
Librarians will find this engaging nonfiction narrative to be an excellent addition to the library’s STEM biography collection. The focus on women’s roles will be particularly popular with middle school girls.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Algonquin, an imprint of Workman Publishing on January 5, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Book Review: Violet and Victor Write the Most Fabulous Fairy Tale

VIOLET AND VICTOR WRITE THE MOST FABULOUS FAIRY TALE by Alice Kuipers is a beautifully illustrated picture book about twins who write a fairy tale together.
When Violet begins writing a fairytale, her twin Victor joins in with helpful and not-so-helpful ideas and advise. While Violet writes about fictional creatures in a marvelous kingdom, Victor prefers to weave in Australian animals and a wicked witch.
The unusual, mixed media illustrations use rich blues and purples to create a fascinating imaginary world. Different text colors denote the narrator and easy-to-read, handwritten sheets feature the twins’ creative writing.
Librarians will find that the attractive cover and cute storyline will make this a popular picture book. Young readers will enjoy the sibling banter and humorous situations, while teachers will appreciate the author’s nod to the writing process and the twins’ use of vivid vocabulary.
To learn more about the author, go to
To learn more about the illustrator, go to
Published by Little, Brown, and Company, an imprint of Hachette on January 19, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Review: The Big Dark

THE BIG DARK by Rodman Philbrick explores life in a small town after an apocalyptic event.
When a geomagnetic storm disrupts all electronic devices, lawlessness ensues and an anti-Semitic survivalist tries to take charge of their town. The situation becomes desperate when Charlie’s mother begins to run out of medicine. Charlie must trek 50 miles through the snow in search of the nearest hospital.
Although the bad guy is somewhat one-dimensional, the author successfully captures the havoc caused by the disaster. The themes of courage, tolerance, and personal responsibility are effective for the middle grade audience.
Librarians will find this quick read provides a nice introduction to science fiction and dystopian novels for readers seeking to expand their reading options.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by The Blue Sky Press, an imprint of Scholastic on January 5, 2016. ARC provided by the publisher.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

App Review: MarcoPolo Ocean

MARCOPOLO OCEAN is an engaging learning app for budding young scientists.
Designed for preschool and early primary grades, the app provides an immersive environment for young children to explore ocean habitats and creatures.
Choosing an item from the Puzzle icon menu introduces a learning activity such as building a boat or creating an underwater habitat for octopi. Oral directions are provided along with visual assistance for young users. Each of the six activities reinforces vocabulary and ocean concepts.
Choosing an item from the Fish icon menu allows uses to add elements such as divers and sea creatures to the ocean and explore life under the sea.
Librarians will find this app to be a highly visual way to introduce the ocean to young learners. Create a display that includes books about ocean creatures found in the app. The app would be particularly useful for children with special needs.
Part of the Discovery Series, related apps include Arctic and Weather.
To learn more about MarcoPolo, go to

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Book Review: Soar

SOAR by Joan Bauer tells the powerful story of a heart transplant survivor who becomes an amazing baseball coach.
Although Jeremiah isn’t allowed to run because of his heart transplant, he hasn’t given up his baseball dreams. Instead, he decides to turn his middle school baseball team into champions. Along the way, he connects with a neighbor and brings a town alive.
Librarians will find this heart-warming story to be a great addition to the library’s realistic fiction collection. Books about sports are always popular with boys, but this title crosses boundaries and its likely to inspire a wide range of readers. The focus on coaching rather than playing baseball provides a unique perspective. The robotics, steroids, and adoption subplots provide a bonus that will appeal to some youth.
Keep in mind that this title also fits well with the growing number of books exploring ways youth are overcoming disabilities.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

App Review: PBS Students

PBS STUDENTS by PBS LearningMedia is an app designed to help learners access educational content and create storyboards to share their ideas.
The app was designed to complement the PBS LearningMedia Student portal website. Providing access to thousands of resources across subject areas, students can watch videos, play interactives, download images, and complete activities. Favorite programs including those by Ken Burns, Jim Henson Company, NOVA, National Archives, NASA, and many more are available through the app.
Learners explore content by subject area or search for a topic. Local resources can be accessed by state and community. Students can create an account so they can store favorites and build interactive web pages called Storyboards to share what they’ve learned.
Librarians will find this app to be an effective way to provide access to PBS content in a controlled environment. The easy-to-use building tools are an interesting way for students to create and share an interactive poster containing media, images, a background, and text. A URL is generated that students can share with their teacher.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: Paper Wishes

PAPER WISHES by Lois Sepahban tells the heartbreaking story of a family sent to a Japanese-American relocation camp during World War II.
Ten-year-old Manami and her dog lead a happy life in Washington until her family is uprooted and imprisoned in a California camp called Manzanar far from home. Manami is deeply affected by her missing dog and refuses to speak. The love of her family and a compassionate teacher keep hope alive.
The author’s moving story and simple, vivid descriptions of camp life bring this tragic piece of American history alive for middle grade readers.
Librarians will find this work of historical fiction to be an excellent addition to their growing collection focusing on World War II Japanese internment camps. An author’s note provides background information about this tragic chapter of American history.
The short length of the book will make it popular among intermediate readers looking for a “skinny book” to read.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan on January 5, 2015. ARC courtesy of publisher.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Tech Review: Weird but True!

WEIRD BUT TRUE! from National Geographic Kids is a trivia app designed for children.
The free version of the app features two dozen “weird facts” on topics from ants and bacon to pigeons and ice cream. Additional apps can be purchased. Children will enjoy the sound effects and basic animations.
Although there’s not much to the app, it could be a fun way for librarians to introduce the idea of “fact-checking”. In small groups, ask students to explore the 24 weird facts. Then, choose three to verify. Involve youth in conducting web searches to “fact-check” the weird facts found in the app.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Book Review: Science Stunts: Fun Feats of Physics

SCIENCE STUNTS: FUN FEATS OF PHYSICS by Jordan Brown introduces key scientists and over two dozen science experiments for intermediate and middle school readers.
The engaging physics activities are organized into seven chapters focusing on gravity, motion, heat, magnets, sound, light, and electricity. What makes this title unique is the way information about scientists and the science behind the stunts is woven into the narrative.
Although the library is already filled with science experiment titles, the unusual approach and visual appeal of this informational text makes it worth the purchase.
This engaging work of nonfiction would be a great addition to your library’s STEM collection. The diverse cast of characters adds to the appeal of this useful science resource.
Published by Charlesbridge on January 19. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tech Review: International Children's Digital Library

The INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S DIGITAL LIBRARY (ICDL) website and app provide access to historical and contemporary, multi-cultural e-books from around the world.
The ICDL contains thousands of children’s books representing many different cultures and languages. Hundreds of award-winning books are included in the collection.
At the website, users can locate children’s books by country or conduct a search using their keyword or advanced search tools. Users wishing to set up preferences and save their favorite books can register for a free account.
The website also provides information for researchers, educators, and those interested in how they can contribute to the project. An Exhibitions area provides small, thematic collections on topics such as friendship, seasons, or diversity. An Activities area of the website includes ideas for using e-books in library and classroom settings.
The app provides a user-friendly interface for accessing e-books.
Librarians will find this resource an excellent addition to their e-book collection. It’s particularly important for those seeking resources related to cultural diversity. Of particularly note is the availability of books in multiple languages. Teachers will also find a wealth of books focusing traditional tales, legends, and folk tales from around the world.
To learn more, go to

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review: The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof

THE CAT WHO CAME IN OFF THE ROOF by Annie Schmidt is a sweet middle-grade fantasy featuring a shy newspaper reporter and the mysterious cat lady he befriends.
When Tibble is told that he writes too many articles about cats, he sets out to find more news-worthy stories. When he rescues a woman from a tree, he soon learns that she’s actually a cat in human form and has a nose for news. Together, they make a great news team. However not everyone is happy when they uncover a story about a corrupt businessman.
Originally published in the 70s, this Dutch classic has been translated for a new generation of young readers.
Librarians will find an audience for this book among the many children who enjoy cat stories, light humor, fantasy, and a hint of mystery.
To learn more about this author, go to
Published by Delacorte, an imprint of Random House on January 19, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: To The Stars!

TO THE STARS! by Carmella Van Vleet and Kathy Sullivan tells the true story of the first American woman to walk in space.
This fascinating, picture book biography features Sullivan’s childhood dream of becoming a world traveler and her teenaged ambition to become a pilot. Woven into the story are flashes to the future showing the outcome of Sullivan’s childhood aspirations.
The book concludes with a note from Sullivan and a more detailed biography. Short descriptions of other famous women involved with the space program are also provided.
Nicole Wong’s accurate and appealing illustrations add interest to the story. The large, easy-to-read font will appeal to both students and teachers.
Librarians will find this inspirational biography a welcome addition to their nonfiction, picture book collections.
To learn more about the author, go to
To learn more about Kathryn Sullivan, go to
Published by Charlesbridge on January 5, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Book Review: Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum

ALISTAIR GRIM’S ODD AQUATICUM by Gregory Funaro is the second book in this quirky fantasy series for children.
Ruthless villain Prince Nightshade wants to steal the power of the Odditorium. Young Grubb, his newly found father Alistair Grim, and a crew of eccentric characters set out on an underwater quest to find the legendary sword Excalibur and save the Odditorium. They must survive a witch, sea monsters, an assassin, and other magical adversaries to reach their destiny.
Weaving together elements of steampunk, fairy stories, witches, and magic, this series has broad appeal. The combination of whimsical settings, legendary characters, and action-packed adventure will have youth coming back for more.
Librarians will find that fans of the first book will enjoy this new addition to the series. Because both the first and second books have been well-received, interest in the series is growing.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Disney-Hyperion on January 5, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Tech Review: YouTube Kids

YOUTUBE KIDS is an app that offers adults the chance to set up a safe environment for youth to experience YouTube video content.
The app is designed to make age-appropriate recommendations for youth based on viewing and searching history. Initially, the system can be set for “preschool”, “school age”, or “all kids” levels. The search bar can be shown or hidden.
Users are presented with access to content in four categories: Shows, Music, Learning, or Explore. From music by The Piano Guys to science videos from National Geographic Kids, users are presented with endless video options for children. Clicking a channel provides users with access to short video content. The basic keyword search displays content of interest to children. For instance, a search for frogs displays animated stories, science programs, and other interesting videos.
Librarians will find this to be a useful tool for in-school tablets. It would also be a good suggestion for parents of young children.
To download the app through Google Play or the App Store, go to

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Book Review: This is Where It Ends

THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp is the gripping fictional account of a school shooting.
Told in “real-time” from the perspective of friends, family, and classmates of the teen shooter, this quick read takes place in one harrowing hour. The tragic story immerses readers in the thoughts, reflections, and actions of people facing the unimaginable horror of a gunman in their high school auditorium.
The author’s use of time stamps for each chapter, flashbacks, text messages, and other literary techniques adds interest for teen readers.
Librarians will find that students are attracted to this timely topic and drawn to the universal themes of revenge, heroism, and hope.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Sourcebook Fire on January 5, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Website Review: RPO (Representative Poetry Online)

RPO (REPRESENTATIVE POETRY ONLINE) is a web anthology containing 4800 poems in English and French spanning 1400 years.
Containing the works of over 700 poets, the website sponsored by the University of Toronto Libraries is divided into poets, poems, and poetry.
Within the poet section, users can search by name, date, period, movement, nationality, and honors.
Within the poems section, users can search by title, date, form, rhyme, and collection.
Within the poetry section, users can locate works on a map, timeline, and calendar. Criticism, a glossary, and a bibliography are also available.
Librarians will find this to be a useful resource for both students and teachers. The map, timeline, and calendar features provide a unique opportunity to access and think about poetry.
To visit the website, go to

Friday, February 05, 2016

Book Review: The Door by the Staircase

THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE by Katherine Marsh is a fantasy adventure based on the Russian Baba Yaga folktales.
Designed for middle grades, this dark fantasy follows the story of orphan Mary Hayes who is adopted by the mysterious Madame Z. Mary’s new home seems ideal until she begins to realize that her savior may have a dark side.
Librarians will find this fantasy to be popular with children who enjoy folk tales. Teachers wishing to explore traditional folklore at the middle grades may consider this title as part of a literature circle focusing on folklore adaptations.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Disney-Hyperion on January 5, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Tech Review: Kinetic City: Active Explorer

KINETIC CITY: ACTIVE EXPLORER is a website and app used by educators to create Quests for their students.
Sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, educators use the website to build Quests using an easy-to-use web-based template. These activities may ask students to conduct experiments, observe their environment, or create a product. The Quest lists specific activities and lists of tasks for students to accomplish. Youth can share their notes, images, audio, video, and other communications using the App. They can also answer questions or create a chart.
Students create accounts and log in using the app to create their projects using a tool called SmartWorks. Youth can create comic strips, posters, ebooks and other projects.
The website also includes both a SmartWork Gallery of student projects and a Quest Gallery showing teacher-generated activities for grades K-12.
Librarians will find this easy-to-use website and app useful across the curriculum. It only takes a few minutes to create a Quest for students. Learners of all ages can use the app to record data and build projects that can be shared.
To learn more, go to

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Book Review: Passenger

PASSENGER by Alexandra Bracken is a time travel suspense with an abrupt cliffhanger.
This first book in a new science fiction series features seventeen-year-old Etta who discovers she has the ability to travel through time. Thrust into a dangerous situation involving rival time traveling families, Etta must find a valuable object before time runs out.
Of particularly note is Etta’s love interest, a biracial boy born into slavery. His reactions to Etta and to cultures outside his birth time are fascinating.
Fans of both historical fiction and science fiction will enjoy the ride. Most readers will like the hint of romance. The element of suspense will keep young adults happy until the abrupt conclusion. Librarians will find teens clamoring for the next book in this adventure series.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Disney-Hyperion on January 5, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

App Review: Spies of Mississippi

SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI: AN APPUMENTARY brings the well-known book and documentary film by Rick Bowers alive for students.
Focusing on the activities of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission from 1956 to 1997, the app explores important stories of democracy, racial segregation, and even murder. The app actively engages users through text, audio, video, maps, photographs, and other historical, primary source materials. After a video introduction, users can watch a summary of the file, listen to a song, examine a visual timeline with photographs and other primary source documents, explore an interactive map featuring key locations, and view excerpts from the film.
In addition, lesson plans and resources for teachers are provided along with discussion questions.
Librarians will find this fascinating app to be an excellent resource for students and teachers exploring the Civil Rights movement in their social studies or history classes.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Website Review: World of Greek Arts

WORLD OF GREEK ARTS from ArtsEdge is a fascinating, interactive, multimedia exploration of the origin and influence of the performing arts of Greece.
The resource is divided into two sections focusing on music and theater.
The Music of Greece area provides an audio series exploring both ancient and contemporary music of Greece. Users download three audio programs. these programs can also be accessed through iTunes.
The City Dionysia area explores the development of theater in Ancient Greece. The interactive takes students through key concepts using images, animation, and text to help students learn. Then, students follow the process of writing their own play based on the rules and structure of Greek tragedy. An engaging interactive allows students to select the players, masks, and props to stage their play.
A Glossary can be downloaded as a PDF to review key terms.
Librarians will find this resource to be popular among literature, art, theater, and history teachers.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Book Review: Not If I See You First

NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST by Eric Lindstrom is an absorbing, coming-of-age story exploring friendship, trust, and the challenges of being a blind teen.
Parker’s a typical young adult dealing with the drama of school, friendships, and boyfriends. What makes this witty story fascinating is how the author deals with Parker’s blindness. The author’s compassionate, matter-of-fact portrayal of Parker’s disability makes this work of contemporary, realistic fiction unique and compelling.
Librarians will find this young adult drama to be a excellent way to introduce youth to a well-developed character who happens to be blind. Young adults will enjoy the realistic characters, authentic situations, and insights into the life of a blind high school student. Add this well-written novel to your growing diversity collection.
To learn more about the author, go to
Published by Poppy, an imprint of Hachette Book Group on December 1, 2015. ARC courtesy of publisher.