Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement. 60 min. Dist. by New Day Films. 2013. $150. ISBN 9781574484830.
Gr 9 Up –The tone is set from the opening sequence, as a woman in a wheelchair in scuba diving gear navigates gently through an underwater reef, her hair and the air bubbles trailing hypnotically upward. Fixed explores the science and ethics of enhancements, from therapeutic restorations that allow a father to kick a ball with his children, a paralyzed man to mentally direct a robotic arm to hold his partner’s hand, to the benefits anticipated by “transhumanists,” who embrace technology to extend mental and physical abilities beyond what is today defined as “normal.” The men and women interviewed are thoughtful, deeply committed, and well spoken as they present their points of view, such as biochemist and university professor Gregor Wolbring, a legless, self-described “variation” who crawls by choice in many public situations. The film addresses the economic aspects of who benefits from enhancement technology, the issues arising when parents can select genetic traits in offspring, and the degree to which society is responsible for designing a world that’s accessible for everyone. (The film incorporates lilting dance segments by artists with a variety of mental and physical differences.) In a non-judgmental way, it touches upon many thoughtful questions germane to almost any subject, and would be particularly well suited to classes in biology, robotics, ethics, counseling, and leadership. Director Regan Pretlow Brashear gives viewers much to consider and discuss.–
The Last Ocean: The Toothfish and the Battle for Antarctica’s Soul. 53 min. and 87 min. versions. Dist. by the Video Project. 2013. $89. ISBN unavail.
Gr 7 Up –The Ross Sea, a deep bay of the Southern Ocean in Antarctica, is the most pristine and untouched expanse on the planet. It’s a fragile ecosystem and home to countless land, air, and ocean species, such as the Antarctic toothfish, more commonly known as Chilean sea bass. Several years ago, New Zealand began to allow limited fishing in this area, and in recent years up to 20 other countries have begun commercial fishing operations, to the extent that the toothfish is in grave danger of disappearing. And with its absence, the change in the food chain has brought danger to penguins, orca, and many other native creatures. The ongoing and often discouraging battle to save this unspoiled area is the focus of this important and beautifully documented film. Stunning photography, both on land and under the sea, attest to the significance of Antarctica and the urgency of the need to protect it. The many international scientists, environmentalists, and government officials who present their concerns and points of view advance their ideas in a calm manner, but their concern about the threat to this nature reserve is apparent. This is a very worthwhile addition to all collections on environment, ecology, and nature.–
Nicky’s Family. 96 min. Dist. by Menemsha Films. 2013. $29.95. ISBN unavail.
Gr 7 Up –When a hidden scrapbook of children’s photos, descriptions, and letters surfaced, a riveting account of rescue and courage emerged: the record of Sir Nicholas Winton’s efforts in Czechoslovakia during WWII. An Englishman of wealth and privilege, he responded in 1938 to a friend’s warning that children were in danger under the Nazis. Nicky uncharacteristically threw himself into the task of securing exit visas and adoptive homes for more than 600 Jewish Czech children. Deportations and murder threatened, so parents sought refuge for their children. He devised a meticulous system, allowing British families to select adoptees by photo and description. Counterfeit travel documents were printed, kindertransports arranged. Dozens of adult survivors describe their origins, suffering, and eventual salvation, illustrated by Nazi-era photos and film footage, matched with dramatic recreations. An emotional conclusion celebrates that more than 5,700 people today credit Sir Nicholas, now a vigorous 104 years old, with saving their families. This Holocaust history stands out above others for its breadth and precision. A top choice for Holocaust studies and profoundly memorable.–
Grimes, Nikki. Almost Zero. (Dyamonde Daniel Series, Bk. 3). CD. 56 min. Full Cast Audio. 2013. $15. ISBN 9781936223503.
K-Gr 5 –Dyamonde Daniel covets something she sees on a friend at school: high-top red sneakers. She’s advised to ask—no, TELL—her mom that she needs them and that, furthermore, it’s her mom’s job to get her what she needs. Her mom tells her she’ll give that some consideration, but unfortunately for Dyamonde, her mom concludes that she will indeed supply her daughter with what she needs, but only what she needs…removing all the extra clothes in her bedroom! After wearing her only outfit—now stained—for three days, Dyamonde’s heart goes out to a classmate who lost everything in a fire. She organizes her school and neighborhood to come together and donate clothes to the family. Not only are her own clothes returned to her so that she may donate some, but many lend a hand in various ways. Teaching a wonderful lesson without being didactic is only one of Grimes’s talents. Narrating is another. Her pacing, diction, and intonation are perfect and will allow listeners to just fall into the story.
Gaiman, Neil. Fortunately, the Milk. CD. 1 hr. Harper Audio. 2013. $13.99. ISBN 9780062332080.
Gr 3-7 –A mum leaves for a conference, leaving her son and daughter in the care of their dad while she is away. Before she leaves, the dad assures her he has everything under control. And he does for the most part. But, he forgets one simple thing: the milk. Facing the possibilty of having no milk for the kids’ cereal or, more importantly, for his own tea, dad leaves to pick up the breakfast staple from the corner store. When he finally returns with the milk later that morning, he has quite an amazing, time-twisting, mind-bending tale to tell. It is a yarn replete with planet-remodeling aliens, savage pirates, blood-thirsty “wumpires,” a time-travelling dinosaur scientist, and dancing elves, with touches of humor, philosophy, and feminism. The story is told from the son’s point of view, who interjects his father’s storytelling with occasional questions and skeptical comments. Gaiman also narrates, and is a committed, energetic storyteller. While it is a fast-paced, rip-roaring adventure, brief mention of throat-slitting, use of guns, and talk of human sacrifice make this recording not quite suitable for the the smallest members of the family. Hilarious, captivating, and just plain fun, this is a production not to miss.–
Earl, Esther with Lori and Wayne Earl. This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl. 7 CDs. 8:07 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $59.97. ISBN 9781480585492. MP3-CD.
Gr 7 Up –This is the memoir of Esther Earl, a 16-year-old who suffered from terminal thyroid cancer that metastasized in her lungs. She was an inspiration for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Esther kept incredible notes from when she was 10 until her untimely passing at age 16. Her fears, wishes, anxieties are all revealed with incredible sincerity and depth. Esther was an amazing person and wanted everyone to share love. She wanted to be treated as a regular person, without “cancer perks.” The audio version is so moving that some listeners may want to start over from the beginning as soon as they finish. Esther is unforgettable, and her voice will remain with you long after you finish the audiobook. Narrator Cristina Panifilio sounds like a teen and ably conveys Esther’s struggles as she puts her deepest fears down on paper. Lori and Wayne Earl, Esther’s parents, also narrate parts of the book. Both kept diaries as well, and their feelings of helplessness and compassion come through. The audio also includes the actual eulogy delivered by Wayne and comments by Esther’s siblings after she died. Their sincerity and love shine through. This very witty, moving, and emotional work would be an excellent choice for anyone who needs help dealing with loss.
Klavan, Andrew. The Long Way Home. (The Homelanders, Bk. 2). 6 CDs. 7:12 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. $52.97. ISBN 9781491500064.
Gr 7-10 –In this fast-paced sequel to The Last Thing I Remember, Charlie West is a fugitive on a mission to discover the truth about the year he can’t remember. He heads home to search for some answers after a harrowing escape from both the police, who believe he murdered his friend Alex, and a terrorist group known as the Homelanders, who believe he has betrayed them. While the book begins mid-action, his backstory is provided through flashbacks and first-person inner monologues, allowing the audience to be brought up to speed quickly. Covert interactions with his friends also offer glimpses into his lost year, providing both Charlie and the listeners with clues that could help solve the mystery of his past. While the intense, thrilling narrative will keep the audience on the edge of its seat, it’s Charlie himself who propels the story. Passionate and loyal, he loves his country and God, and while his patriotism and religious conviction could have come across as over-the-top, they instead make him more realistic; his beliefs are a large part of who he is and what motivates him, yet they don’t define him. Narrator Joshua Swanson’s well-modulated voice perfectly conveys Charlie and his struggles as he fights to clear his name, and his youthful sound lends authenticity to the performance. Action-packed and suspenseful, the audiobook will have listeners eagerly anticipating the next installment.
Lanagan, Margo. Sea Hearts. 9 CDs. 10:25 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. $59.97. ISBN 9781486204687. MP3-CD.
Gr 9 Up –From her first crawling moments, Misskaella Prout is drawn to the seals that lurch ashore on the wave-dashed coast of Rollrock Island. Lumpy, dowdy teenaged Missk is accustomed to being overlooked. Then one night, she draws forth a man from within a seal, and afterwards finds herself with child. She keeps the pregnancy a secret, but baby Ean cannot thrive on land, and eventually Missk releases him to the sea. As time goes on, Missk becomes known as a witch, as she will bring forth a sea bride, or Mam, from within a seal, if a man is willing to pay. Additional points of view include those of Dominic, who coupled with a sea maid and broke his betrothed’s heart; his son, Daniel, who eventually helped the enchanted Mams return to the sea; and more, before the narrative concludes as Trudle Callisher lays Misskaella to rest. Narrators Eloise Oxer and Paul English, reading with lilting Irish accents, do full justice to Lanagan’s gorgeous prose. Lanagan’s beautiful phrases evoke images of sea spray and kelp beds, love-struck men and heart-sore Mams who dearly miss the sea. This tale of selkies and human frailty, published in print as The Brides of Rollrock Island, (Knopf, 2012), will appeal to listeners looking for depth of plot and well-crafted prose.
The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:
PreschoOL TO gRADE 4
Bonifacio in Summertime/L’été de Boniface. ISBN unavail.
Poppety in the Fall/L’automne de Pougne. ISBN unavail.
ea 27 min. (Léon’s Four Seasons). Dist. by the National Film Board of Canada. 2012, released in 2013. $129.
Enchanted Tales: Snow White & Princess Castle. 96 min. Dist. by the New Video Group. 2013. $9.95. ISBN unavail.
Caillou: Let’s Go Sledding. 75 min. Dist. by PBS. 2013. $9.99. ISBN 9781608839513.
Columbia. ISBN 9781604801569.
Cuba. ISBN 9781604801576.
Ecuador. ISBN 9781604801583.
ea 25 min. (Worlds Together). Dist. by Master Communications. 2013. $29.95. with teacher’s guide.
Doug Unplugged. 6 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2013. $38.99. ISBN 9780977709809.
Léon in Wintertime/L’hiver de Léon. ISBN unavail. 2008, released in 2013.
Molly in Springtime/Le printmeps de Mélie. ISBN unavail. 2009, released in 2013.
ea 27 min. (Léon’s Four Seasons). Dist. by the National Film Board of Canada. $129.
Grades 5 and Up
Bat City USA. 36 min. Dist. by the Video Project. 2013. $79. ISBN unavail.
Easy Like Water. 56 min. Dist. by the Video Project. 2013. $89. ISBN unavail.
The Graduates/Los Graduados. 120 min. Dist. by PBS. 2013. $24.99. ISBN 9781608839964.
Living for 32. 40 min. Dist. by the Video Project. 2010, released in 2013. $79. ISBN unavail.
Love in the Animal Kingdom. 60 min. (Nature). Dist. by PBS. 2013. $19.99. ISBN 9781608839995. Rated PG.
Men at Lunch. 67 min. Dist. by First Run Features. 2012, released in 2013. $24.95. ISBN unavail.
No Otter Zone. 16 min. Dist. by the Video Project. 2013. $49. ISBN unavail.
Running for Jim. 78 min. Dist. by Filmakers Library. 2013. $295. ISBN 9781463118143.
Mars, Jimmy. Alien and the Pants of Doom. (Alien Series, Bk. 2). CD. 1:03 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. $29.97. ISBN 9781743177419.
Clements, Andrew. We Hold These Truths. (Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School Series, Bk. 5). 4 CDs. 4:30 hrs. Audioworks. 2013. $19.99. ISBN 9781442357044.
Douglas, Gabrielle with Michelle Burford. Grace, Gold, and Glory. 4 CDs. 4:18 hrs. Prod. by Zondervan. Dist. by Brilliance Audio. 2013. $52.97. ISBN 9781480552500. MP3-CD.
Giff, Patricia Reilly. Winter Sky. 3 CDs. 2:51 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $27. ISBN 9780804121422. digital download.
Gleitzman, Morris. Extra Time. 3 CDs. 4 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013 $49.97. ISBN 9781486204281. MP3-CD.
Patterson, James & Chris Grabenstein. I Even Funnier: A Middle School Story. (I Funny Series, Bk. 2). 3 CDs. 4 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2013. $18. ISBN 9781478925156.
Pflugfelder, “Science Bob” & Steve Hockensmith. Nick and Tesla’s High Voltage Danger Lab: A Mystery with Electromagnets, Burglar Alarms, and Other Gadgets You Can Build Yourself. 4 CDs. 4 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. $49.97. ISBN 9781480533653. MP3-CD.
Wood, Maryrose. The Interrupted Tale. (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place Series, Bk. 4). 6 CDs. 8:19 hrs. Harper Audio. $45. ISBN 9780062224798. digital download.
Anderson, Laurie Halse. The Impossible Knife of Memory. 8 CDs. 9:13 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $59.97. ISBN 9781480553606. MP3-CD.
Cokal, Susann. The Kingdom of Little Wounds. 13 CDs. 15:14 hrs. Brilliance Audio. $54.97. ISBN 9781480518360. MP3-CD.
Cole, Kresley. Endless Knight. (The Arcana Chronicles, Bk. 2). 9 CDs. 11 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. $97.75. ISBN 9781 470363383. Playaway. digital download.
Kate, Lauren. Teardrop. 11 CDs. 12:59 hrs. Listening Library. 2013. $44. ISBN 9780804122962. digital download.
Kaufman, Amie & Meagan Spooner. These Broken Stars. 9 CDs. 11:15 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2013. $50. ISBN 9780804123433. digital download.
McKay, Kirsty. Undead. 6 CDs. 7:15 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. $66.75. ISBN 9781470369101. Playaway. digital download.
Rhodes, Morgan. Rebel Spring. (Falling Kingdoms Series, Bk. 2). 10 CDs. 12:19 hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2013. $59.95. ISBN 9780804121231.
Sanderson, Brandon. Steelheart. 10 CDs. 12:20 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. $52.97. ISBN 9781480569386. MP3-CD.
Stone, Tamara Ireland. Time After Time. (Time Between Us Series, Bk. 2). 7 CDs. 8:37 hrs. Listening Library. 2013. $44. ISBN 9780307967985. digital download.
Walker, Rysa. Timebound. 10 CDs. 12 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $52.97. ISBN 9781480558571. MP3-CD.
Wilson, N.D. Empire of Bones. (Ashtown Burials Series, Bk. 3). 10 CDs. 12 hrs. Listening Library. 2013. $48. ISBN 9780804126991. digital download.
CLASSIC COMEDIANS KIDS SHOULD KNOW
City Lights. 86 min. Dist. by Criterion Collection. Criterioncollection.com. 1931, this edition 2013. DVD & Blu-ray $39.95. ISBN 9781604657852.
Gr 9 Up –Considered one of the greatest of Charlie Chaplin’s (almost) silent films, City Lights was made as the popularity of talkies rendered silent movies obsolete. Still, despite its release four years after Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer (1927), City Lights was an overwhelming success. Chaplin’s inspired musical score and comedic sound effects render audible dialogue unnecessary and help to propel this engaging love story to its compelling conclusion. Even young people used to the non-stop action of today’s movies will find that Chaplin’s antics and brilliant pacing will keep them engaged throughout. Optional audio commentary by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance supplies details of both the making of the movie and aspects of Chaplin’s history and personality that led to the story line. Other supplements include a 2003 documentary that explores how Chaplin’s mastery of visual communication and pursuit of perfection contributed to City Lights becoming one of his most acclaimed films; visual effects expert Craig Barron examines Chaplin’s ingenuous set designs; and Chaplin historian Hooman Mehran discusses Chaplin’s arduous process of production. Additional material contains deleted scenes, a scene rehearsal, and boxing footage, including an excerpt from the 1915 short film “The Champion” that provides comparisons for the boxing match in City Lights. A booklet contains a brief history and critique of the film and selections from a 1966 interview with Chaplin for Life magazine. While some of the supplementary information is at times contradictory (Chaplin’s relationship with lead actress Virginia Cherrill being one example), overall it provides considerable insight into both the making of the film and the genius of the man behind it. A welcome addition for teachers looking to enrich their students’ appreciation for the dramatic arts and the history of film.–
Safety Last! 73 min. Dist. by the Criterion Collection. 1923, this edition 2013. DVD $29.95, ISBN 9781604657319. Blu-ray $39.95, ISBN 9781 604657302.
Gr 4 Up–In this classic silent film, Harold Lloyd plays a down-on-his-luck department store clerk desperately trying to earn enough money to marry his sweetheart, all while pretending to be a successful manager at the store so she is none the wiser. As part of a publicity stunt, he gets paid to scale the department store building, but quickly finds himself in both dangerous and hilarious situations, such as hanging from the hands of the building’s clock—the movie’s most iconic image. Modern audiences (especially children) may find the pacing too slow at first, but they will find the ending just as funny and suspenseful as when it first was shown back in 1923. Included are a wide variety of special features, highlights include an engaging audio commentary by film critic/historian Leonard Maltin; a 1989, 108-minute informative documentary about the life of Lloyd (which reflects on the loss of part of his hand, making the death-defying stunts he performed all that more impressive); a new documentary about the groundbreaking visual effects; and three recently restored shorts that display the well-rounded approach of Lloyd’s comedy. A terrific package for easily one of the best silent comedies.–
Cather, Willa. O Pioneers! 5 CDs. 5:34 hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2013. $39.99. ISBN 9781629230764. MP3-CD.
Gr 8 Up –This work, written in 1913, was the first in Cather’s “Great Plains” trilogy, and it was followed by The Song of the Lark and My Antonia. Strong-willed, intelligent Alexandra Bergson is the daughter of Swedish immigrants. She inherits her father’s farmland instead of it being left to her brothers, Emil, Oscar, and Lou, because she has the vision and foresight to try new crops, buy additional lands, and take risks in order to reap future rewards. Cather’s poetic and lyrical writing captures the Nebraska prairie and rolling hills. Using a variety of voices and capturing the dialects of the various immigrants who inhabit the novel, reader Betsy Bronson is impeccable. Her melodic voice imbues Cather’s words with the sentiments of love, envy, jealousy, and peace that drive the story. This recording is delightful and leaves one with the understanding and appreciation that the land is always there for those who take time to truly see and appreciate it.
London, Jack. White Fang. 6 CDs. 7:47 hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2013. $39.99. ISBN 9781629230368. MP3-CD.
Gr 7 Up –This is a story of a wolf-dog’s survival from birth to maturity. London describes the struggles between man and animal, artfully depicting how both have to overcome struggles from their own kind as well as each other. The story begins prior to the birth of the pup, White Fang. Narrator Matthew Steward does an excellent job of portraying the two men, Bill and Henry, who are accompanied by a team of six dogs pulling a sled with a coffin strapped to it. It is during their difficult journey through the Yukon when they first encounter the she-wolf who lures each of their sled dogs to be devoured by the pack of wolves. Bill decides to try to kill the she-wolf in hopes of saving the last of their dogs, but he does not return, and Henry hears the suffering cries of his friend. Listeners will be captivated by the fight that Henry puts up to defend his life, the coffin, and his last two dogs, but when a search party arrives and saves him, the story abruptly changes to the hardships that the she-wolf endures to survive with her pack and, eventually, her cubs. In part three, White Fang becomes mistrustful of humans as he suffers inhumane treatment at the hands of his cruel owners. Ultimately, he comes full circle, and his fierce pride restored, when he saves the life of the man who initially saved him.