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December 19, 2014

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SLJ Multimedia Reviews

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SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014

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School Library Journal DVD reviews editor Kent Turner selects the top picks out of the more than 250 DVDs reviewed in SLJ this year. The following are memorable works that will enhance curricula with their strong educational and entertainment appeal.

This article was published in School Library Journal's December 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014

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SLJ’s top 10 audiobooks of 2014 represent the best of the best of 2014’s releases, with titles for all age groups and interests.

This article was published in School Library Journal's December 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

A complex father-son relationship is found “Somewhere in the Darkness” | Audio Pick

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MYERS, Walter Dean. Somewhere in the Darkness. 5 CDs. 5:15 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $51.75. ISBN 9781470393922. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 7 Up–Jimmy is 14 years old. His biological mother is dead and his father has been incarcerated for the past nine years. As the story opens, Jimmy is living with Mama Jean in a rundown New York neighborhood. One day he returns home to find a stranger claiming to be his father. Crab, as Jimmy’s father is called, has been […]

“Safety Show” explores a broad range of topics | DVD Pick

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The Safety Show. (Ruby’s Studio). 47 min. Dist. by the Mother Company. Themotherco.com. 2013. $14.99. ISBN 9780988282780.
PreS-Gr 1–Keeping children safe is a key concern for parents and teachers, and this production addresses this important topic in a way that empowers children instead of scaring them. The upbeat music, original cartoons, practical crafts, and music videos make learning about safety fun and memorable. Segments cover a range of different topics, and young viewers will learn how to stay safe in a […]

Award-Winning Works Arrive | Multimedia Reviews, December 2014

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The debate about cell phone radiation and the startling increase in teen drug overdoses are scrutinized in this month’s DVD section. In addition, the landmark Emmy Award–winning series Years of Living Dangerously takes viewers around the world exploring climate change. Author Neil Gaiman provides one of the voices in the audiobook version of his acclaimed and ghostly novel The Graveyard Book, and Jacqueline Woodson narrates her award-winning free verse memoir Brown Girl Dreaming.

This article was published in School Library Journal's December 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Gaiman’s ghoulish “Graveyard” is brought to life with a full cast | Audio Pick

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Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. 7 CDs. 8:30 hrs. Harper Audio. 2014. $27.99. ISBN 9780062364463. digital download.
Gr 5 Up–Gaiman’s beloved novel gets the full-cast treatment in this new audio edition. Due to ghastly circumstances, the ghosts of a graveyard take in a young toddler whom they name Nobody, or Bod for short. The enigmatic Silas becomes Bod’s guardian and makes it his duty to protect the boy from those who intend harm. Bod grows up in the graveyard, and although […]

Sir David Attenborough investigates “Fabulous Frogs”| DVD Pick

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Fabulous Frogs. (Nature). 60 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. DVD $19.99. Blu-ray $24.99. ISBN 9781627890731.
Gr 4 Up–Presenter Sir David Attenborough states, “There’s more to frogs than you might suppose,” and this film has the quality sound and visuals viewers expect from this series, in addition to Attenborough’s charming, conversational approach. He clearly loves these creatures. An abundance of interesting facts concerning the 5,000 species of frogs and toads that share our planet will captivate viewers, along with explanations and discussions […]

‘Katniss and Mouse’ Game in ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1’| Film Review

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The hit “Hunger Games” film series has become more assured in its latest installment, with Katniss Everdeen returning as a teen embracing the role of rebel leader and engaging in a lethal game of “Katniss and Mouse” with President Rose.

A young sleuth solves mysteries in “Spy Catchers of Maple Hill”| Audio Pick

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Blakemore, Megan Frazer. The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill. 7 CDs. 8 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $45. ISBN 9781490627595. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 4-6–The year is 1953, and fifth grader Hazel Kaplansky is a girl in search of a mystery. When rumors begin flying that the Russians are operating a spy ring right in her small New England town, Hazel knows she is the girl for the case. She’s the smartest, most relentless person she knows, and she’s ready to put […]

Rwandan women build their own business in “Sweet Dreams”| DVD Pick

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Sweet Dreams. 56 min. Dist. by Liro Films. Sweetdreamsrwanda.com. 2014. Schools $195. 1 year streaming rights $150.  Three years streaming rights $350. ISBN unavail.
Gr 9 Up–A devastating civil war in the 1990s between Hutus and Tutsis left Rwanda in an emotional and political spasm, with more than 800,000 murdered. The surviving families experienced nationwide trauma, but perhaps the unifying force of traditional drumming could help them heal. Drumming had been the exclusive domain of men until Kiki Katese created a […]

November Starred Reviews

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Get political with Ken Burns’s newest documentary, The Roosevelts, find out how Megan Shepherd’s “Madman’s Daughter” trilogy ends, and change how you see rainstorms with April Pulley Sayre’s Raindrops Roll with the November stars, which offer the best of fiction, nonfiction, and multimedia.

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Bailey, Brave Girl, Leroy Ninker, and the Romanovs | Multimedia Reviews, November 2014

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Harry Bliss’s enthusiastic dog and Michelle Markel’s picture book biography of labor activist Clara Lemlich make their DVD debut. In audiobooks, Kate DiCamillo’s Leroy Ninker Saddles Up while becoming a cowboy and Candace Fleming traces The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Alaskan culture and human nature explored in “Ice Whale” | Audio Pick

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GEORGE, Jean Craighead. Ice Whale. 4 CDs. 4:30 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $46.75. ISBN 9781490630212. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 4-6–This magnificent story begins with Toozak‚ a Yup’ik Eskimo boy in Alaska, staring at a whaling ship with a red, white, and blue flag. When Toozak unknowingly leads the Yankee ships to the whales’ feeding grounds, the animals are slaughtered. For this, the village shaman declares Toozak’s family cursed until one of them can save the life of Siku, a young ice […]

Teen learns important lessons through community service in “Havana Curveball”| DVD Pick

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Havana Curveball. 60 min. Dist. by PatchWorks Films. 2014. $89 (with PPR). $39.95 (no PPR). ISBN 3621179767.
Gr 5 Up–In this documentary, how can Cuba, baseball, a bar mitzvah, and a grandfather be connected into one fabulous story? For his upcoming bar mitzvah, Mica Schneider from California’s Bay Area decides to send baseball equipment to Cuba for his community service project. (He loves baseball.) His grandfather lived in the island nation as a child refugee from Nazi Germany, which led to […]

Lawson reimagines Twain’s classic characters in “Becky Thatcher”| Audio Pick

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Lawson, Jessica. The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher. 5 CDs. 5:59 hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2014. $39.99. ISBN 9781629239385. 1 MP3-CD.
Gr 3-7–It’s 1860, and 11-year-old Becky Thatcher has just moved to St. Petersburg, Missouri. She’s looking for big-time adventure in this small town, and once she meets Sid Sawyer, it doesn’t take her long to find it. Pretty soon, she’s sneaking out after dark, stealing graveyard dirt at midnight, and keeping an eye out for dead cats to help […]

Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014

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The saga of all-women jazz orchestras and boys bonding over baseball feature in two starred DVD reviews. In addition, the secrets behind the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza and The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher are revealed in this month’s lineup.

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Documentary explores female pioneers in the world of Jazz | DVD Pick

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The Girls in the Band. 88 min and 57 min. Dist. by Collective Eye Films. 2013. $99. UPC 823857178124.
Gr 6 Up–What was conspicuous about women jazz musicians in the big band era was their near absence. Those lucky enough to be asked to sit in with a band were not accepted by male peers and had short tenures. How women broke into the world of jazz, as revealed in this exceptional documentary, is poignant and disturbing. The resulting all-women orchestras […]

October Starred Reviews

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Travel to an English boarding school with wild tomboy Will in Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, learn how Roget determined The Right Word, and listen to The Girls in the Band with the October stars, which offer the best of fiction, nonfiction, and multimedia.

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

An unlikely friendship blossoms in “If I Ever Get Out of Here”|Audio Pick

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Gansworth, Eric. If I Ever Get Out of Here. 9 CDs. 10:20 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $55. ISBN 9780553395464. digital download.
Gr 9 Up–The year is 1975. Lewis Blake, a slightly built teen from the Tuscarora Indian Reservation, is enrolled in advanced classes at high school. Lewis suffers racist stereotyping and bullying from students and some teachers. When he meets George Haddonfield, the boys find common interests in music, especially the Beatles, but Lewis is wary of befriending someone off the […]

A Virtuoso Performance: ‘Vivaldi’s Four Seasons’ | Touch and Go

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A new app from Touch Press is always cause for celebration, and in ‘Vivaldi’s Four Seasons,’ the developer, with the help of Deutsche Grammophon, has engineered a production that mirrors the groundbreaking work accomplished in its productions of ‘Beethoven’s 9th’ and the ‘Liszt Sonata in B Minor.’