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April 16, 2015

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Lincoln, Jefferson, and Franklin | DVD Reviews

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The arrival of Barb Rosenstock’s Ben Franklin’s Big Splash makes waves, along with Maira Kalman’s inspired biographies of presidents Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. Additionally, post-Katrina New Orleans and the civil rights movement are poignantly depicted in The Whole Gritty City and The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement.

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Animal adventures and fun lessons abound in “Humphrey” collection | Audio Pick

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Birney, Betty G. Humphrey Audio Collection, Books 8-11. 11 CDs. 13 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $75. ISBN 9780553556490. digital download.
Gr 3-7–Everyone’s favorite golden hamster is back in this audio presentation of four of the books by Birney. In “Mysteries According to Humphrey,” Humphrey’s class is reading Sherlock Holmes, a substitute takes over, and Humphrey has his own mysteries to solve. “Winter According to Humphrey” brings snow, a pageant, and all the winter holidays. In “Secrets According to Humphrey,” the class […]

A cozy barnyard tale prepares youngsters for bedtime|Audio Pick

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RAY, Mary Lyn. Go to Sleep, Little Farm. 1 CD. 15 min. $15.75. Recorded Books. 2015. ISBN 9781490660080. digital download.
K-Gr 2–On a quiet farm a variety of creatures are preparing for sleep: gray mice hide under roots, a beaver makes a bed in a bog, and a little girl prepares to go to sleep. The sweet storyline and crafty wordsmithing combine for a work that children will love to listen to before going to bed. Such lines as “Somewhere a […]

Lifelong civil rights activist celebrated in “Barber of Birmingham”| DVD Pick

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The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement. 26 min. Dist. by the Video Project. 2014. $59. ISBN unavail.
Gr 7 Up–This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Selma march, and this documentary introduces viewers to a man described as a foot soldier for the civil rights movement: 85-year-old James Armstrong. He carried a flag when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched towards the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and his Armstrong Barbershop (parts of which seem held together […]

Documentary sheds light on vicious bullying cycle in “Mentor” | DVD Pick

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A powerful documentary about bullying and suicide in a small town.

From the Page to the Screen | Multimedia Reviews, March 2015

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This month features the arrival of the DVD and audio versions of Jon Agee’s satirical Nothing, Alison McGhee’s wintry Making a Friend, and Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton’s The Very Fairy Princess, who lets her sparkle out in both formats. Christopher Myers’s H.O.R.S.E. and Ann M. Martin’s Reign are among the starred audiobook reviews.

This article was published in School Library Journal's March 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

The Fast and the Feisty | “Insurgent” Film Review

Theo James and Shailene Woodley in The Divergent Series: Insurgent (Photo credit: Andrew Cooper)

After the heavy plot lifting in the first film based on Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” trilogy (HarperCollins) viewers are in for a smoother ride in the adaptation of her second installment, Insurgent. It speeds past intricate intrigues and sketchy characterizations, moving like a sleek roller coaster ride, free from clunky exposition.

Black’s “Forest” is chock-full of magic and mystery | Audio Pick

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Black, Holly. The Darkest Part of the Forest. 8 CDs. 8:30 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2015. $25. ISBN 9781478955894. digital download.
Gr 8 Up–A small town, sibling pairs, a beautiful horned boy who has been entombed in a clear casket for as long as anyone in the town can remember, and a dark forest inhabited by Fae folk of all shapes, sizes, and temperaments—these are just a few of the elements Black blends together to create this riveting and engrossing story that […]

“Oil & Water” drills deep into the issue of conservation | DVD Pick

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Oil & Water. 78 and 55 min. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014. $295. Rent $95. ISBN 1941545165.
Gr 9 Up–This exquisitely edited documentary focuses on two young men who have dedicated their lives to the preservation of the indigenous culture and the ecosystem of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Hugo Lucitante, a member of the Cofán tribe, spent years in the U.S. and graduated from a Seattle high school. The film follows Lucitante over the next several years as he returns home to […]

March Stars

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Visit old friends and new with this month’s SLJ stars. Will Grayson, Will Grayson fans will delight in finally seeing TIny Cooper’s masterpiece come to life, and Avi fans are in for a treat with Catch You Later, Traitor. Graphic novel fans have a wonderfully gruesome new series with “The Lunch Witch,” while YA fans looking for a new voice will find it with Claire Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days.

This article was published in School Library Journal's March 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

“This is the Rope” discusses importance of family and history | Audio Pick

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WOODSON, Jacqueline. This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration. 1 CD. 7 min. Weston Woods. 2014. $12.95. ISBN 9780545790512.
Gr K-2–Something as simple as a discarded rope has tied a family story together through several generations. In the middle of the 20th century, an African American family moves from South Carolina to Brooklyn, NY, making the great migration north as many other families bravely did at the time. This tale follows a family through several generations, always coming […]

“Little Big Girls” explores puberty and its effects | DVD Pick

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Little Big Girls. 52 min. Dist. by National Film Board of Canada. 2014. $295 (PPR). ISBN unvail.
Gr 5 Up–Three of the times in a girl’s life when she’s told she’s a “big girl” are depicted in the animated introduction: when she learns to use the potty; then when she rides her bike without training wheels for the first time; and lastly, when she gets her first bra. The subject here is early puberty, and the candid interviews with girls who […]

A Nat Geo explorer gets up close and personal in “Crocodile Encounters!”| Audio Pick

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Barr, Brady with Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld. Crocodile Encounters! And More True Stories of Adventures With Animals. 1 CD. 45 min. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490635873. digital download.
Gr 2-4–National Geographic explorer Barr presents four suspenseful and often humorous tales of his encounters with crocodiles. In “Undercover Croc,” he dons a specially developed crocodile suit to enter into a large group of fearsome crocodiles. In “Toy Story,” he tries to capture a crocodile using a remote-controlled car and milk jug with […]

Around the World in DVDs |Multimedia Reviews, February 2015

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Many of February’s DVD selections highlight world history, from the invention of the hot-air balloon in 18th-century France to China’s terra-cotta warriors and the black pharaohs of ancient Egypt. In addition, the 2015 Carnegie Medal–winning Me…Jane earns a star, and SLJ’s quarterly review of music is also featured.

This article was published in School Library Journal's February 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

“Me…Jane” paints portrait of Goodall as a curious youngster | DVD Pick

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Me…Jane. 9 min. Dist. by Weston Woods. 2014. $59.95. ISBN 9780545696869.
PreS-Gr 2–In this heartwarming portrait of primatologist Jane Goodall as a young girl, author Patrick McDonnell eloquently tells the story of young adventurous Jane. She, along with her stuffed chimpanzee, Jubliee, delights in exploring the outdoors; observing animals and nature; and finding magic in such things as the discovery of where eggs come from. Children will love the simple text of this Caldecott Honor–winning picture book (Little, Brown, 2011), which […]

Two young Afghanis form a dangerous friendship in “The Secret Sky”| Audio Pick

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Abawi, Atia. The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan. 7 CDs. 7:45 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $77.75. ISBN 9781490627403. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 9 Up–This story is told through the alternating viewpoints of three young Afghanis—Fatima, a Hazara girl on the cusp of womanhood; Samiulla, a teenaged Pashtun boy disillusioned by the “religious” teachings of radicals; and Rashid, a believer in the harsh justice and rhetoric of Islamic fundamentalists. On the path to the well, Sami and Fatima […]

February Starred Reviews

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Animals dominated the starred reviews this February, from plucky poultry to a runaway tiger cub to the fabulous world of hippos.

This article was published in School Library Journal's February 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Unique wildlife is beautifully showcased in “Animal Misfits”|DVD Pick

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Animal Misfits. (Nature.) 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $19.99. ISBN 9781627891714.
Gr 5 Up–This program describes how and why certain animals have evolved in such unconventional ways, including pandas, nonmeat-eating carnivores, flightless parrots, fish that walk on their fins, and even the eerie-looking stalk-eyed fly. The sloth maintains its leisurely lifestyle because the plants it eats take a long time to digest and don’t provide much energy. To protect itself from swift predators, the sloth blends in with the environment, […]

Smith’s humorous, heartbreaking “Winger” translates seamlessly to audio | Audio Pick

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SMITH, Andrew. Winger. 8 CDs. 9:52 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $52.97. ISBN 9781491507926.
Gr 9 Up–Ryan Dean West is the smartest student in the junior class at Pine Mountain boarding school, a starter on the rugby team, and two years younger than the rest of his classmates. He is also hopelessly in love with his best friend, Annie, who sees him as just a little kid. When Ryan Dean moves into Opportunity Hall, the dorm for misbehaving students (owing to an […]

Paddington Finds a Home on the Big Screen | Movie Review

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Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that this frisky and good-natured take on Michael Bond’s beloved bear was produced by David Heyman of the “Harry Potter” film series. Both adaptations plant a big wet kiss on bustling, inclusive London.