June 30, 2015

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Fantasy novel “Shadow Scale” excels in audio format | Audio Pick


HARTMAN, Rachel. Shadow Scale. (Seraphina, Bk. 2). 15 CDs. 18:10 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $60. ISBN 9780307968982. digital download.
Gr 9 Up—To save Goreddi, Seraphina begins to search for other half-dragons in the hopes they can unite to stop dragons from damaging the fragile peace between humans and dragons. Her journey takes her to other regions in the Southlands, and some of the people she seeks prove to be malevolent. When her old nemesis, Jannoula, gains control of the other half-dragons’ […]

“She’s Beautiful” deftly spotlights second wave feminism| DVD Pick


She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry. 92 min. Dist. by the Cinema Guild. 2014. $99.94. ISBN 0781515149.
Gr 9 Up–This documentary about the second wave of feminism covers the years 1966–71. It deftly pulls together the many threads and factions of the movement, from middle-class housewives responding to Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, many of whom became the founders of the National Organization of Women, to radical groups such as the Redstockings and the lesbians of the Furies Collective. Additionally, women flocked […]

Heartbreak 101 | “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” Movie Review


Author Jesse Andrews judiciously prunes and adds some quirk to the smirk in his screen adaptation of his 2012 debut novel. The result is an amicable, lively enhancement of his book, which in numerous ways it surpasses.

“Cartwheeling” is a touching tale of loss, and growth| Audio Pick


RUNDELL, Katherine. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms. 6 CDs. 6:30 hrs. Recorded Books. 2015. $66.75. ISBN 978149064330. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 3-7–Twelve-year-old Will roams freely in the countryside of Zimbabwe, often with her best friend, stable boy Simon. Motherless since five, she’s deeply loved by her farm manager father and Captain Brown, the old bachelor who owns Two Tree Hill Farm. Smart, fearless, but largely unschooled, she likes books, tends her pet monkey, and rides her horse as she thrives despite the disapproval […]

Engaging, informative documentary explores “The Last Orangutan Eden” | DVD Pick


The Last Orangutan Eden. (Nature). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2015. $19.99. ISBN 9781627892834.
Gr 4 Up–This documentary follows ecologist and host Chris Morgan on his journey exploring the plight of orangutans within the jungles of Northern Sumatra. Deforestation of their habitat is causing the species to diminish. Young orphans are taken to a rehabilitation center, where they can recover and eventually be released to a nature reserve. Since orangutans learn how to survive in the wild by watching their mother […]

Wild Rabbits, Owl Power, and Humans, Too | DVD Reviews


This month features the rerelease of the 1978 animated film of Richard Adams’s novel Watership Down and an up-close examination of the owl’s superpowers. Human behavior is scrutinized, too, in the-times-they-are-a-changin’ documentary The Sixties.

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

“Groundswell Rising” reports on the continued dangers of fracking| DVD Pick


Groundswell Rising: Protecting Our Children’s Air & Water. 70 min. and 52 min.  Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014.  $295.  Rent $95.  ISBN 194154519X.
Gr 7 Up–In this timely and critically important report, the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, are laid out in unequivocal terms by residents in Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and New York, where hydraulic mining to release natural gas is taking place or has been proposed. Spurred to activism to safeguard the health of their children […]

“Listen, Slowly” explores a teen’s journey from the valley to Vietnam| Audio Pick


LAI, Thanhhà. Listen, Slowly. digital download. 8 hrs. Harper Audio. 2015. $18.99. ISBN 9780062346469.
Gr 6-8–Mai (though at school in Laguna Beach she’s known as “Mia”) is a seventh grade valley girl who is expected to accompany her grandmother on an all-summer visit to Vietnam. Bà fled Vietnam with her children during the Fall of Saigon, and doesn’t know what happened to her husband, Mai’s grandfather. Occasionally using her rudimentary Vietnamese, Mai tells the story (grudgingly adding SAT vocabulary sent daily […]

Incredible abilities are showcased in “Owl Power”|DVD Pick


Owl Power. (Nature). 53 min. Dist. By PBS. 2015.  $19.99. ISBN  9781627892827.
Gr 5 Up–Owls are known to have keen eyesight, and this film informs viewers that there is much more to their hunting skills and their nocturnal habits. The main focus here is the manner in which scientists are able to study the owl’s unique set of superpowers. Bird trainers Lloyd and Rose Buck provide a rare and up-close opportunity for viewers—two baby barn owls are seen hatching in an […]

Jim Dale brings well-loved characters to life in “The Mr. Men Collection” | Audio Pick


HARGREAVES, Roger. The Mr. Men Collection Vol. 1. 1 CD. 59 min. Listening Library. 2015. $10. ISBN 9781101891285. digital download.
PreS-Gr 2–This recording features ten titles from the appealing collection of brief books that highlight Hargreaves’s classic “Mr. Men” tales. Mr. Happy ends up chuckling with a now-smiling Mr. Miserable. Mr. Messy leaves the cap off his toothpaste, Mr. Small slips into the mustard, and Mr. Brave rushes to arrive on time for tea to avoid upsetting stern Miss Bossy. There […]

Changing the World with Erin Gruwell | Professional Shelf


Erin Gruwell, a teacher determined to make a difference, and her students became the subject of the 2007 Hollywood movie Freedom Writers. On May 5, Gruwell and some of those same students will visit with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Together they will view a new documentary about the Freedom Writers’ extraordinary journey.

Powerful film explores the dire consequences of plastic| DVD Pick


Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 57 min. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014. $350. Rent $85. ISBN 1941545246.
Gr 7 Up–After seeing this documentary, viewers will not think of plastic in the same way again and will likely be inspired to make some personal changes, such as carrying reusable bags. Journalist Angela Sun’s journey to find the so-called drifting plastic island takes her to the remote Midway Atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There plastic debris from the […]

Sleepy creatures, historical fiction, & a new Sammy Keyes | Audio Reviews


L. Frank Baum’s Ozma of Oz and Ilyasah Shabazz’s historical novel about her father Malcolm X, are among this month’s audiobook reviews.

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

Lincoln, Jefferson, and Franklin | DVD Reviews


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


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


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


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


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

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


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.