School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Sun, 01 Feb 2015 06:21:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sponsored Content: Jane Casey’s “Jess Tennant” Series Offers a Modern Nancy Drew Sat, 31 Jan 2015 14:55:44 +0000 How to FallMeet Jess Tennant.

Don’t call her a modern-day Nancy Drew.

She’s definitely not Britain’s answer to Veronica Mars.  

Jess is…the kind of heroine who doesn’t cower…”– Publishers Weekly

Jess Tennant…defiantly bucks the local social order…Snappy dialogue and Jess’ tenacity make this a page-turner, and readers will thrill to notice some very obvious loose ends that lead into her forthcoming second outing. High-quality mystery writing for young readers.”– Booklist

 NOTE: This content was sponsored and contributed by Macmillan.

“Readers who have outgrown Nancy Drew but aren’t ready for Laurie King or James Patterson will enjoy this female-driven whodunit.”– School Library Journal

Jane Casey’s Jess Tennant Mysteries:

Bet Your Life#1 HOW TO FALL: Sixteen-year-old Jess Tennant searches for the truth behind the death of a cousin she never got to meet.

#2 BET YOUR LIFEJess gets in over her head when investigating a classmate’s beating.

#3 HIDE and SEEK:  One of Jess’s classmates is kidnapped right before the holidays.


Email with your full name and mailing address for a complimentary copy of HOW TO FALL and for a 2015 Books for Teens poster. (US-based librarians only, please.)

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Black Storytime, Flourishing at Multnomah (OR) County Library Fri, 30 Jan 2015 14:00:44 +0000 Black storytime flyer 1

As someone who checks off the “Caucasian” census box, I make sure that the materials I order for our county libraries’ collections reflect a range of views and cultures. Recently, though, as I was looking back at my past programs, I was dismayed to see that the books I chose to share didn’t always highlight diversity. That got me thinking that most public library programs speak to the broadest group possible, not to the threads of cultures that make up our communities.

Should libraries offer programs geared to one culture? After I spoke with youth librarian Kirby McCurtis, who started “Black Storytime” at Multnomah County Library (MCL) in Portland, OR, it was clear that the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Back in 2012, MCL kicked off its first Black Storytime program. Focus groups with parents and community leaders had revealed that patrons wanted more books and services that would reflect and promote the richness of African American culture and experiences. In addition, a 2011 MCL study showed that the library was underused by the black community.

Black storytime kirby

MCL’s Kirby McCurtis.

Fast forward three years, and Black Storytime is thriving. Programs have spread to an additional two libraries in the 19-branch system, with weekly drop-in sessions on Saturday mornings scheduled in two branches and on Sunday afternoons in another.

When it comes to advertising and outreach for the program, McCurtis explained, MCL has a directory of local black-owned businesses, and she regularly sends flyers and updates to them. Residents learn about the programs at hair salons, barber shops, real estate offices, a local bookstore, and other places around the city.

The library also has a great relationship with the Skanner,  a local, black-owned newspaper, and KBOO, a community radio station. While these ties help with promotion and publicity, McCurtis seemed most impressed by how storytime attendees publicize the program.

BlackStorytime_02“Black Storytime is being spread by word of mouth,” she said. “I constantly have parents telling me that they have invited their friend, coworker, or neighbor to join in next week, and the program has grown and keeps growing. At each location, there are regulars who are the best advocates and are always speaking our praises, which feels great.”

“There are two types of people who come to Black Storytime,” she added. “One is the group that happens to be at the library on a Saturday morning, notice storytime going on, and drop in. The other group comes more intentionally, seeking out more diverse audiences.” She has also noticed an increase in non-black parents who have adopted African American children.

What makes Black Storytime different from all other storytimes? For one, McCurtis seeks titles featuring African American children, such as Misty Copeland’s Firebird (Penguin, 2014), Marc Tauss’s Superhero (Scholastic, 2005), and Anna McQuinn’s Leo Loves Baby Time (Charlesbridge, 2014). She pairs books with movement activities, fingerplays, and songs, such as Ella Jenkins’s “This-a-way That-a-way” or Ziggy Marley’s “Ziggy Says.” Often, the 30–45 minute session ends with group activities such as block play or a craft activity.

While the target age range for the program is early childhood, McCurtis likes to cast that wider, “controlled chaos” net, advertising a birth through six-year-old range. “It is a smaller group than my weekly preschool storytime group,” she said. “The size of the group at 15 to 20 participants makes the program feel more intimate,”  she said.

Black storytime parachute

A Black Storytime session at MCL.

Indeed, one of the long-term goals of Black Storytime is to create lifelong library users—and perhaps even inspire a librarian or two in the making. McCurtis explained, “I think it is important for children of color to see me in my role as a librarian, because there aren’t many people of color in our profession.” I could hear the smile on her face over the phone as she recalled being recognized in local stores and out in the communities: “You’re the librarian from Black Storytime!” That type of recognition is what any library, or librarian, wants.

But let me circle back a bit. When I was asked to write this article, a follow-up to the SLJ piece about the program when it was launched, I had loads of questions. I was sold on the benefits, and I understood why MCL decided to offer a culturally specific program in addition to those that they offer in Russian, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Spanish. My question was, “Could I, a white librarian, offer Black Storytime?”


“Oh man! No one has ever asked me that before!” was McCurtis’s spontaneous response.

The question probably sprang from the fact that there are far more Caucasian librarians in my own professional network. Yet the communities we serve are more diverse.

Could I try to offer an authentic cultural experience if I’m not a member of that culture?

I understood, after speaking with Kirby, why having the right staff member lead this program was so critical to its success. “I think what people value the most at Black Storytime is the fellowship,” she explained. MCL has been proactive in regard to their hiring process, creating specialty job descriptions around languages and cultures that are represented in the larger Portland community.

“At storytime, there is plenty of time for adults and kids to get to know each other and find common interests—even if it is just in the raising of their child,” she continued. “This happens quite a bit at Black Storytime, because this might be the only time a family [spends time with] another African American family during their week….We’re building community.”

Besides Black Storytime, MCL routinely holds cultural celebrations and festivals that reflect their patrons’ backgrounds. A quick glance at their website calendar found the following:

  • Celebrate Crêpes and all Things French!
  • Discover the Rhythms of Ghana
  • Celebrate Chinese New Year
  • Celebrate Lunar New Year
  • Celebrate Slavic New Year
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Calling All Environmentalists | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 30 Jan 2015 14:00:11 +0000 Books on ecological awareness are nothing new, but these recent books call attention to the environment in innovative ways. Leahy’s Your Water Footprint uses strikingly memorable infographics to impart some unmissable–even shocking–information on how much water it really takes to sustain our life choices, while Kallen’s Running Dry gives readers additional framework on this global issue. Russo’s Birdology encourages kids to find the joy in nature for themselves, through bird-watching and other interactive activities. Finally, Burns’s Beetle Busters, by turns fascinating and frightening, highlights how human error resulted in a massive infestation of longhorn beetles.

beetlebustersredstarBurns, Loree Griffin. Beetle Busters: A Rogue Insect and the People Who Track It. photos by Ellen Harasimowicz. 64p. bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Houghton Harcourt. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780547792675.

Gr 5-9 –They arrived unseen, burrowed in wooden pallets, spools, and crates, aboard ships from China. The first group spotted in the United States, in Brooklyn, NY, was contained, and quickly taken care of, but since then infestations have been discovered from Massachusetts to Illinois, and as far north as Canada. They’re Asian longhorned beetles, pests with “powerful jaws and a taste for wood” and the frightening potential to eat their way through North American forests. Griffin takes readers alongside a team of dedicated scientists and citizen volunteers working to eradicate this invasive species in a quarantined area in Worchester County, MA. Along the way, she explains how the creatures can go undetected for years (their life cycle begins inside trees, which keeps them heavily camouflaged) and offers information that early studies on the creature have yielded—not all of it hopeful. Abundant, close-up, color photos of the insect (from egg to pupa to mature adult), damaged trees, onsite workers, and informative labeled diagrams and maps help tell this disquieting story. Burns questions the approach of the scientists she followed and both admires and “trusts.” But for her, the story is also personal. The author lives within the quarantined area in Massachusetts and has seen firsthand areas where swatches of infested (and other) trees have been cut down. Her questions about the method employed will leave readers asking some of their own—as they should. A timely, well-told story and a call to action.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

waterfootprintredstarLeahy, Stephen. Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use To Make Everyday Products. 144p. further reading. index. maps. notes. photos. websites. Firefly. 2014. Tr $35. ISBN 9781770854994; pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781770852952.

Gr 4-8 –With exceptionally clear and informative prose and an abundance of well-designed infographics, this book presents the shocking facts about our water usage. Quite simply, we are using too much water in our everyday lives and this consumption cannot be sustained. Consider, as Leahy points out, that it takes 634 gallons of water to produce a single cheeseburger or 660 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt. This title provides an impressive amount of data, making the issue of water use concrete and inescapable. Leahy helps readers understand the nature of the problem by highlighting what is important to know about our global, national, and local water consumption and why; explaining the significance of concepts such as water footprint (or the amount of water it takes to produce the goods and services consumed by an individual or community); emphasizing noteworthy ideas; and providing suggestions for making wise choices. To assist readers in becoming informed decision-makers, the text and infographics work together to describe the scope of the problem by providing information about water consumption at home, in our foods, and in farming and manufacturing. The urgency of the situation is emphasized, but so, too, are the steps readers can take to address the crisis. This is an exemplary book for focusing on Common Core standards that emphasize the integration of text and graphics in both reading and writing. Pair this book with Paul Fleischman’s Eyes Wide Open (Candlewick, 2014) to enlighten readers further about urgent water and ecology issues.–Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York

runningdryKallen, Stuart A. Running Dry: The Global Water Crisis. 64p. bibliog. diag. ebook available. filmog. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Twenty-First Century. Feb. 2015. RTE $33.32. ISBN 9781467726467. LC 2014003223.

Gr 4-8 –This title provides a clear and concise look at the importance of fresh water in sustaining life on earth. An introduction explains where fresh water is available and where it is most needed, while subsequent chapters discuss how water is tainted and where, the concept of supply and demand, and our changing climate. Fast facts, statistics, and information on governmental policies and scientific innovations that may help save water are all presented, allowing readers a brief overview of this global issue. The information is organized well, and the accompanying photos will enhance understanding. Both the length and format (comprised of short sections that shed light on various topics, such as water conservation, water rights, fracking, and the water cycle) of the book will appeal to those with little or no background on the subject. An excellent source for student research.–Denise Moore, O’Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD

birdologyRusso, Monica. Birdology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Birds. photos by Kevin Byron. 128p. bibliog. index. photos. Chicago Review. Jan. 2015. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781613749494.

Gr 4-6 –One way to address today’s “nature deficit” is to focus on the birds outside almost every window. Observation activities set off in color text boxes are designed to develop observation skills and cultivate an understanding of bird behavior. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of birds, such as field marks, beaks and feet, wings, eyes and nests, and more. Feathers make birds unique, and the first chapter describes the different kinds. Color photos of wing and tail feathers highlight their different shapes, and photographs of birds in flight show how the feathers function. One “Eyes Only” box explains that since picking up a wild bird feather is not only illegal but also not healthy, looking without touching is best. “Try This” boxes highlight such activities as bird feeding, walking like a heron, and building a small brush pile where birds can roost. One “Listen For” alerts novice bird observers to figure out different bird songs, calls and alarm signals, and the honking and quacking of birds in flight. An excellent glossary of “Bird Words” provides definitions, and the four-page index differentiates pictures from text with italics. Beautifully illustrated with full color photographs and sketches, this is sure to create new bird watchers.–Frances E. Millhouser, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA

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2015 Children’s Choice Book Awards Adds Three New Categories Thu, 29 Jan 2015 22:29:54 +0000 Press Release Fun: The CBC and the 2014 Children’s Choice Book AwardsThe Children’s Book Council (CBC) and Every Child a Reader (ECAR) have announced the addition of three new categories in the 2015 eighth annual Children’s Choice Book Awards:

  • Children’s Choice Debut Author
  • Teen Choice Debut Author
  • Children’s Choice Illustrator Award

The new awards are in addition to the existing Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year, Third to Fourth Grade Book of the Year, Fifth to Sixth Grade Book of the Year, and Teen Book of the Year awards—and will replace the former Author of the Year and Illustrator of the Year awards, in which finalists were determined by national bestseller lists.

The winners of these new awards will be determined by votes from kids and teens.

Read the full CBC press release below.

New York, NY — January 29, 2015 – Every Child a Reader (ECAR) and the Children’s Book Council (CBC) have announced the addition of three new categories in the 8th annual Children’s Choice Book Awards, the only national book awards program where the winning titles are selected by kids and teens. In 2015, the three new award categories will be Children’s Choice Debut Author, Teen Choice Debut Author and Children’s Choice Illustrator Award. The five finalists for each of these awards will be determined by selection committees comprised of librarians, educators, booksellers, and children’s literature experts appointed by Every Child a Reader; winners will be determined by votes from kids and teens.

These three new awards are in addition to the existing Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year, Third to Fourth Grade Book of the Year, Fifth to Sixth Grade Book of the Year, and Teen Book of the Year awards, and will replace the former Author of the Year & Illustrator of the Year awards, in which finalists were determined by national bestseller lists.

The finalists for the K-2, 3-4, and 5-6 Book of the Year categories will be selected by kids through the Children’s Choices Program, a joint project of the International Reading Association (IRA) and the CBC in which 12,500+ children from different regions of the United States read newly-published children’s and young adult trade books and vote for the ones they like best. Teen Book of the Year finalists will again be chosen by thousands of teens via voting conducted by, open now through Monday, February 2 here.

Kids and teens will determine the winners in all 8 categories of the Children’s Choice Book Awards by voting online at from Tuesday, March 17, 2015 through Sunday, May 3, 2015. In 2014, over 1,200,000 votes were cast online by young readers. Winners will be announced during the 96th annual Children’s Book Week (May 4-10, 2015).

“We are excited to create the opportunity for emerging talent to be recognized in the Children’s Choice Book Awards for the first time this year, and to bring a variety of voices in the field of children’s literature to the table in the finalist selection process for our three new categories,” said Nicole Deming, Communications Director of the CBC and ECAR. “As always, kids and teens will decide who wins — this program gives them the unique opportunity to voice their opinions about the books being written for them on a national scale.”

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Two Books Challenged Again in Highland Park Schools in Texas Thu, 29 Jan 2015 19:23:01 +0000 The Working Poor: Invisible in America and The Art of Racing in the Rain stir up sides as the Highland Park (TX) Independent School District's board gears up to vote on revisions to the district's book policy. ]]> EH_150129_TexasChallenge

Two books that were suspended from Texas’s Highland Park High School’s (HPHS) Approved Book List in September 2014 are now being rechallenged. The titles, The Working Poor: Invisible in America” (Knopf, 2004) by Pultizer Prize-winning journalist David K. Shipler and The Art of Racing in the Rain (Harper, 2008), by Garth Stein, were among seven books that were banned from use at HPHS, only to be reinstated a week later.

The high school is part of the Highland Park Independent School District (HPISD), outside of Dallas, TX, and the two book challenges are part of an ongoing debate over the district’s book selection policy and how much influence parents should have in the district’s book selection and curricula.

“Under current policy, reading materials are selected by teachers and administrators; parents who object to their child’s book assignment may have the child opt out, with the teacher providing an alternative assignment.” says a December article from SLJ.

In mid-December, a parent from Highland Park “lodged a formal challenge with HPISD [for] the book The Working Poor: Invisible in America,” according to Lynn Dickinson, a parent and a member of HP Kids Read (HPKR), described as “a group of parents dedicated to protecting educational and academically challenging literature in the HPISD classrooms” on its website.

The Art of Racing in the Rain was also challenged at that time.

HPKR has been going head-to-head with opposition group Speak Up for Standards (SUFS), the latter which began an email campaign last spring to remove what the group deemed as “offensive” and “vulgar” reading material from the high school’s Approved Book List. The campaign sparked a chain of book challenges, which eventually lead the district’s superintendent, Dawson Orr, to initiate revisions to the district’s materials selection policy.

TheWorkingPoorThe Working Poor, taught in AP English III, covers subjects of America’s impoverished and addresses abortion and past sexual traumas. The work of nonfiction had originally been one of the seven book titles that were suspended from HPHS’s book list (that were all then reinstated), which includes Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little Brown, 2007) and John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines (Dutton, 2006).

The parent who lodged the formal complaint, questioned the book’s literary merit and wrote in her complaint’s summary:

“[The book is] sexually explicit…[containing] depiction of abortion and aftermath of body parts, degrading and offensive to women portraying them as weak, pathetic, ignorant, sexual objects and incapable beings.”

The Dallas Observer reports that in “the English department’s review of the text, teachers acknowledged the book contained some potentially controversial passages, but said overall it was “a means to build students’ capacity for empathy and knowledge of an issue facing millions in America and millions more across the world.”

“Considering that the author [David K. Shipler] has a new book coming out about the freedom of speech, I find it rather ironic his book is being challenged,” says Kristin Pekoll, assistant director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF), referring to Shipler’s book Freedom of Speech: Mightier than the Sword (Random, May).

Millie Davis, the director of the Intellectual Freedom Center at the National Council of Teachers of English, tells SLJ that literature used to teach in AP courses is targeted to meet college requirements, which are outside of the school district’s requirements—so parents have no place in selecting AP materials.

A committee to reconsider is currently being appointed to review The Working Poor, says the HPISD website.

ArtofRacingRainThe other challenged book, The Art of Racing in the Rain, was first contested in the fall of 2014. A reconsideration committee voted to uphold its use in November, however the complainant, a parent with a child at HPHS, then appealed the committee’s decision, which was upheld by the high school’s principal, Walter Kelly. The dispute is being advanced to the next step, or “level two,” in the appeals process and will be presented before the superintendent this week, says the district’s website (dated January 27).

Back in December, Orr presented his recommended changes to the material selection policy before the school board, eliciting optimism from OIF’s Pekoll, who tells SLJ that his recommendations took OIF’s guidelines on books selection policy, The Workbook for Selection Policy Writing from the OIF, into consideration.

“[Orr’s] proposed policy really shows thoughtfulness and deliberate protection of First Amendment values,” says Pekoll, who called out specific instances in the superintendent’s proposal, including continued access to challenged materials throughout the reconsideration process, no warnings or labels on the books lists, and evaluating materials as a whole.

The vote on the revised policy is scheduled to take place at a February 10 school board meeting.

“I am optimistic,” Pekoll shares about the upcoming vote. “I think the school district and the board have done a fantastic job of upholding freedom-to-read principles.”

You may also be interested in reading:

‘Highland Park Kids Read’ Takes on Censorship Battle in TX School District


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Screencasting Tools for Tech Support | Cool Tools Thu, 29 Jan 2015 16:23:24 +0000 This time of year, a lot of new laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, and other devices appear in the hands of our students and colleagues. While most students adapt to new devices like ducks to water, our colleagues often need help. Providing assistance when someone is right in front of you is straightforward: you see a problem and try to show that person how to fix it. Offering help remotely can be a challenge. Here are some video and screencasting tools for doing so.

SLJ1501w-TK-CT_TechSupportTeach Parents Tech  is a good resource for finding tutorial videos for the person in your life who needs help with the basics of navigating a computer and/or the Internet. This free Google service allows you to send digital care packages to family and friends. Simply specify a recipient, choose the type of help they need, and enter an email address. Your recipients will receive a set of Google-selected videos designed to help with specific tasks. As the sender, you can preview the videos before sending.

SLJ1501w-TK-CT_ScreencastOmaticWhen Teach Parents Tech doesn’t have the video tutorials you need, it may be time to create your own. There are a lot of solid tools. My favorite? Screencast-O-Matic,  free on Mac and Windows computers. Your account lets you record videos of everything happening on your computer. Enable access to your computer’s microphone, and you can narrate the actions you are performing on your screen. A big yellow circle follows your cursor on the screen during the recording, making it easy for viewers to see exactly what you’re clicking on in your videos. Share your Screencast-O-Matic videos by uploading them directly to YouTube. Screencast-O-Matic’s basic service is free; a paid option ($15 a year) allows you to record longer videos in high definition.

SLJ1501w-TK-CT_AirServerIf you need to make a video tutorial about an iPad issue, try AirServer,  which lets you mirror your iPad’s screen to your Mac or Windows computer. While doing so, turn on AirServer’s record option to create a tutorial video. You can try Airserver for free for seven days before purchasing it for $11.99.

SLJ1501w-TK-CT_ScreenCastifyThe plummeting prices of Chromebooks makes them attractive for folks who do most of their work online. Creating Chromebook tutorial videos used to require broadcasting and recording a Google+ Hangout. Not any more, thanks to Chrome applications like Screencastify.  When it’s installed in your Chrome browser, you can record all the actions you are performing on your Chromebook. Voiceovers are supported, and a pointer is included by default. Completed recordings can be saved to your Chromebook or uploaded to YouTube.

SLJ1501w-TK-CT_ScreenleapSometimes people can’t find the right words to describe the problems they are having with their computers or iPads, and a tool like ScreenLeap  will save both parties a lot of frustration by letting you invite people to share their screens with you. To do so, just visit the site, click “share your screen,” and send the resulting sharing code to your recipient, allowing him or her to view it. The basic screen-sharing service is free; for $15 you can enable voice conferencing.

Finally, when you’re stumped by someone’s tech support question, turn to YouTube, where I’ve found answers to many of my own tech questions over the years. In fact, before you make your own screencast, check there to see if someone has already addressed the same problem. There’s a good chance someone has.

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Ancient Civilizations Up Close | Touch and Go Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:59:49 +0000 For sneak peeks of the apps reviewed today, visit the Kids Discover website. You’ll find a trailer and “learning tools” for both Ancient China and Incas.

Journey back in time to Ancient China (iOS $1.99; Gr 3-6) with Kids Discover’s high-interest app. Based on the popular informational magazine by the same name, this production employs text, high-resolution photographs,and computer-generated illustrations in covering a variety of topics related to the culture, including engineering feats, inventions, medicine, traditions, and the Silk Road,

Screen from 'Ancient China' (Kids Discover)

Screen from ‘Ancient China’ (Kids Discover)

The concise text offers a few basic facts on each screen and in some cases, additional bits of information can be found behind pull-tabs and icons. For example, when tapped, icons on a painting depicting a Chinese village provide a glimpse into the culture’s class structure through descriptions of each person’s job and social status. Children can also view a panoramic scene of the Forbidden City (and a quick virtual view of one of its plazas) and circle (by 360 degrees) a computer-animated image of one of the thousands of terra-cotta statues found at the tomb of Shi Huangdi. Other elements include a time line that reveals each Chinese dynasty from 221 BCE to AD 1912, an interactive diagram of the Chinese zodiac, a video snippet of silkworms at work, and how-to instructions on using chopsticks. The final chapter connects China’s past to its present culture with a look at topics that are likely to be familiar to contemporary students such as fireworks and martial arts.

The few simple activities that are included in a separate chapter are geared toward a younger audience. Overall, Ancient China will satisfy students looking for some basic information.Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

Interior screen from 'Incas' (Kids Discover)

Interior screen from ‘Incas’ (Kids Discover)

An imposing, animated view of Machu Picchu, perhaps the best-known of all of the ancient South American sites, greats viewers on opening Incas (Kids Discover; iOS $3.99; Gr 4-6). Clear, color photographs of a variety of locations and  artifacts, video clips, and 17th-century drawings, along with text and an illustrated timeline, tell the story of a highly organized empire that at its height ruled millions of subjects in an area that extended from modern-day Ecuador to central Chile. Hallmarks of the culture, including its extraordinary textiles, monumental architecture, extensive network of roads and bridges, agricultural methods, accounting system, as well as its beliefs and traditions (naming, marriage, etc.), are all briefly addressed. The history of the empire is one of conquest and expansion, but it was quickly toppled by a small band of soldiers in the company of Francisco Pizarro (1532-3). Over the next century, the native population was decimated as the result of “overwork, lack of food, and disease” under Spanish rule. A paragraph of information is provided on most screens and viewers are encouraged to tap images or icons for more details. Doing so yields another fact or two, a captioned image, or a 360-degree look at an artifact, such as the ornamental earlobe plugs worn by nobility. Weblinks to additional information will be appreciated by researchers. This generously illustrated app touches on many of the unique aspects of this extraordinary civilization and its legacy. Useful as an introduction and a review.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

For additional app reviews, visit our Touch and Go webpage.

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Let’s Talk About “Selma” | Consider the Source Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:32:38 +0000 selma 2

Let’s talk about Selma—the movie. There’s the film, and the reactions: the Oscar snubs, protests from the members of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s cabinet and a number of historians, and defense from the filmmaker and some of the key figures in the 1965 marches. Beyond all of this friction there’s the question: What can we learn from the film and the controversy?

If you haven’t been following the conversations, Selma was the personal passion of Ava DuVernay—who not only directed the movie but also helped to write and produce it, and of David Oyelowo, the marvelous British actor who plays Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped find the funding to make DuVernay’s dream a reality. Originally, as DuVernay explained to Rolling Stone, the script was more about Dr. King and President Johnson working toward what would become the Voting Rights Bill. That, at times uncomfortable and confrontational, but nonetheless real, partnership is indeed what recent historians have emphasized. But, DuVernay felt the picture needed a different focus. “I wasn’t interested in making a white-savior movie; I was interested in making a movie centered on the people of Selma.” To craft the film she had in mind, DuVernay and her scriptwriter chose to change history.

I want to pause a moment before talking about Selma and history to consider the second part of that sentence: “a movie centered on the people of Selma.” The real power of the film is precisely in its humanity. Yes, it is about race, violence, politics, and voting rights. Yet the artistry, the grace, and the depth of the film is in how it takes names out of textbooks, and off posters and postage stamps, and creates living, breathing people: laughing, eating, doubting, and suffering. Moviegoers see Dr. King and Coretta Scott King weighing, battling, and struggling to deal with his infidelity. The cinematography even casts many interior scenes in a soft brown light. Those who immerse themselves in this powerful and human experience of true courage will love the movie.

On seeing the film, though, Joseph A. Califano, Jr., who was for a time President Johnson’s top assistant for domestic affairs, found it so false that he stated in a Washington Post opinion piece, “The movie should be ruled out this Christmas and during the ensuing awards season.” As Califano recalls the events, Dr. King and LBJ were partners and, indeed, even the idea of marching in Selma was the president’s idea. Perhaps given cover by Califano, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose to largely ignore Selma in its Oscar nominations. It was nominated for Best Picture—but there were no nominations for director or for leading or supporting actor. David Carr of The New York Times thinks this has to do with the nature of the Academy: it’s 93 percent white, 76 percent male, and averages 63 years of age. Carr quotes the film blogger Sasha Stone as saying that a year after giving best picture to 12 Years a Slave the academy has snapped back, like a rubber band, to what they know, to films that are made in their own image.

Is Califano correct? Is the history in the film so distorted that the Academy was right to largely ignore it? I begin my book Master of Deceit (Candlewick, 2012), a biography of J. Edgar Hoover, with the blackmail letter and tapes of Dr. King’s sexual encounters that the FBI sent to his wife. I know that story well. The film has it that Johnson told Hoover to send that package, in order to sow dissension and undermine Dr. King’s message. That is not true. Hoover had played the tapes for president, but Johnson, who had his own extramarital affairs, did not find them disturbing and had no role in the FBI plot to use them. Indeed, the tapes were sent on November 24, 1964 while the King family was in Oslo, Norway, and Coretta listened to them in early January 1965—long before the events in Selma. Further, while I am not an expert on the Johnson presidency, I do know that he was a master politician, and that recent historiography has emphasized his partnership with Dr. King. In several important ways the film decided to choose its narrative over what we know about history. One the one side, we have the director’s image of her film, on the other, divergence from known history. To me this is a lesson in perception, expectation, and beliefs—and how we speak at cross-purposes across racial lines.

There are at least three Selmas. First, there is the film honoring and exploring the African-American population of Selma, which DuVernay succeeded brilliantly in crafting. Second, in order to tell that story, DuVernay felt she needed to alter the history of the FBI tapes and recast the role of the President Johnson. As educators, we should make sure to discuss this shift with students—to use the story the film chose to tell as a prompt to investigate the evidence of past. Indeed, there is a larger lesson in this: the difference between a powerful human story that we can tell in historical or cinematic fiction, and the historical record, which is often more complex, nuanced, and fragmentary. Finally, there is the story of how DuVernay’s film and its divergence from history feed into already existing views across racial lines. The story of a confrontation with racism 50 years ago becomes the occasion for rehearsing and re-asserting anger, bias, prejudice, and judgment now.

It is hardly surprising that Califano, a man who worked beside a LBJ to change racial laws, would be upset to see the president cast as a devious and calculating obstruction to change. It is hardly surprising that Andrew Young, who marched along with Dr. King, exclaimed, “I think they did a magnificent job of telling the story. It’s 90 percent factually accurate. They got the whole story right.” To one person 10 percent wrong is all wrong; to another, even with that blurring, the big story, the whole story, is right.

Selma gives us the opportunity to appreciate DuVernay’s cinematic achievement, to explore actual historical events, and then to step around our immediate impulse to blame, condemn, or judge—and to imagine how the picture comes across to a different viewer, a different audience. Let us use Selma not as a chance to attack and talk past each other, but as an opportunity to see the world from another perspective. That is the modern day bridge Selma asks us to cross.


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Dance: On Your Toes | Focus On Thu, 29 Jan 2015 14:00:31 +0000 SLJ1501w-FO-BlackSwan-openerIn an October 22, 2014 New York Times Op-Ed piece, Shael Polakow-Suransky and Nancy Nager wrote about a training session at the Bank Street College of Education for 4,000 New York City pre-K teachers. They concluded with the following statement: “Classrooms that pulse with meaningful play are our smartest investment.” Movement and dance are essential components of play for children. Dance is woven into our human fabric. It starts with finger snapping, hand clapping, knee tapping, and foot stamping. Parents and teachers instinctively sing and dance with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. In turn, these emergent dancers imagine steps or learn variations as instructed by a choreographer. With music in their heads or from a written composition, they perform solo or with an ensemble. They dance in front of no one at all or in a hall filled with thousands. In the last few years, there has been a lovely profusion of titles starring dancing children, dancing animals, dancers on stage, dancers in the woods, and dancers on the ice. A former New York City Ballet dancer, Allegra Kent, has penned a story about, of course, a swan. A current American Ballet Theater dancer, Misty Copeland, has written a love letter of encouragement to a doubtful girl, and a young dancer, Michaela DePrince, has shared her journey from war-ravished Sierra Leone to the ballet stage. Dance titles continue to win awards, with a Sibert Honor for Ballet for Martha and a Caldecott Honor for Flora and the Flamingo. At their best, these books successfully convey the spirit of cooperation that dance fosters. We make connections with cultures and with others when we dance, and what better means can there be to encourage personal growth and empathy?


Preschool/ Early Elementary

DEMPSEY, Kristy. A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream. illus. by Floyd Cooper. Philomel. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399252846; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698152908.
Gr 1-4–A little girl from 1950s Harlem whose mother sews for the Metropolitan Opera is allowed to take a dance class, albeit while standing in the back. At a performance she sees Janet Collins, their first African American dancer, and her dreams soar. A beautifully written story illustrated with soft shades of browns and yellows illuminating the faces.

FEIFFER, Jules. Rupert Can Dance. illus. by author. Farrar. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780374363635; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781466875296.
PreS-Gr 2– Mandy goes jazzy in a bedroom solo. After she falls asleep, Rupert, her ginger cat, performs his own routine. Caught in the act, Rupert will not move a muscle, but Mandy persists, and together they enjoy a free-spirited dance. Energetic lines and splashes of color on a white background match the upbeat mood.

IDLE, Molly. Flora and the Flamingo. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452110066; ebk. $11.99. ISBN 9781452127934.
––––. Flora and the Penguin. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452128917; ebk. $11.99. ISBN 9781452132273.
ea. vol: illus. by author. Chronicle.
PreS-Gr 2–A stately flamingo and a softly rounded little girl in bathing cap and flippers perform an exuberant pas de deux. The wordless story, filled with charm and humor, is related seamlessly through delicately flowing lines and page flaps. In her second outing, Flora returns with ice skates for an ice dance with a penguin. Also told wordlessly with lift-the-flaps, the second adventure is equally endearing and memorable.

ISADORA, Rachel. Bea at Ballet. illus. by author. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin. 2012. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780399254093; Board $7.99. ISBN 9780399168444; ebk. $7.99. ISBN 9781101639702.
PreS-K–Bea and her preschool classmates enjoy learning their first ballet steps and positions. Veteran ballet portrayer Isadora uses black lines on a white background to showcase the diverse children, adding colors for their wardrobe. There’s humor and audience connectivity as the little ones “clap hands to the music!”

KENT, Allegra. Ballerina Swan. illus. by Emily Arnold McCully. Holiday House. 2012. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823423736; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780823429066.
PreS-Gr 2–Despite an initial rejection, Sophie, a very determined swan, joins a class of ballet students and works at her wing and webbed feet movements. In a glorious finale, she flies high in a perfectly appropriate solo. Delicate watercolor illustrations beautifully depict a hard-working swan and her human dance mates.

KOHUTH, Jane. Duck Sock Hop. illus. by Jane Porter. Dial. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803737129; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101647110.
PreS-Gr 1–An assortment of ducks adorned in very colorful socks join together for a rollicking and spirited dance. Rhyming text and colorfully detailed sock patterns that pop on a white background will have everyone, tired ducks and listeners alike, eager for more fun.

MACCARONE, Grace. Miss Lina’s Ballerinas. illus. by Christine Davenier. Feiwel & Friends. 2010. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780312382438; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781466809451.
PreS-Gr 1–Eight girls dance in their studio and all about their town of Messina until a ninth girl joins the class. Bafflement over the new numerical pattern happily leads to different formations and more dancing. A rhyming text and lovely watercolor illustrations complement this first title in a series of stories featuring the young ballet dancers.

MANNING, Maurie J. Kitchen Dance. illus. by author. Clarion. 2008. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780618991105.
PreS-Gr 2–A sleepy brother and sister join their parents in the kitchen for a “tango/across the room with the leftover tamales.” A happy family, a sprinkling of Spanish words, and a tender goodnight add up to a good time for all. Watercolor, crayon, and chalk art are a spirited accompaniment.

RAY, Mary Lyn. Deer Dancer. illus. by Lauren Stringer. S. & S./Beach Lane. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442434219; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442434226.
PreS-Gr 2–Unsure of her dancing skills in class, a dark-haired girl returns to her quiet spot in the woods, where she is joined by a deer. Gracefully and with growing confidence, they observe each other and then begin joyously spinning and leaping through the woods and across the pages. Beautifully illustrated in intense shades of green.

SCHAEFER, Carole Lexa. Dragon Dancing. illus. by Pierr Morgan. Viking. 2007. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780670060849.
PreS-Gr 1–A nicely diverse class crafts a birthday present for Mei Lin—a Chinese dragon that climbs mountains, swims seas, creeps through forests, and dawdles under cherry blossom trees. The children in the story move and “stomp” along. Listeners can join in the fun with hand and body movements and later draw their own dragons.

SCHUBERT, Leda. Ballet of the Elephants. illus. by Robert Andrew Parker. Roaring Brook/Brodie. 2006. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781596430754.
Gr 1-4–In 1942, a circus owner, a choreographer, and a composer collaborated on a most unusual event—a polka for elephants. Background information and details about the big animals and petite dancers working in concert provide an amusing and very different glimpse into creative cooperation. Watercolor illustrations convey just the right atmosphere.

SIF, Birgitta. Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance. illus. by the author. Candlewick. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763673062.
PreS-Gr 2–Frances loves to dance for birds, swans, and ducks but not for people. When the birds show her a girl who sings, she gradually gains the confidence to perform for others. The dark palette of greens and browns provides an unusual but appealing setting for a host of humans and animals.

SINGER, Marilyn. Tallulah’s Solo. illus. by Alexandra Boiger. Clarion. 2012. lib. ed. $16.99. ISBN 9780547330044; ebk. $10.49. ISBN 9780547822815.
PreS-Gr 2–Tallulah knows that she is destined for ballet stardom. When little brother Beckett gets a better role in a production of “The Frog Prince,” Tallulah sulks, but her mother wisely offers sound advice. Illustrated with appealing watercolors, this is one in a series of stories featuring the future ballerina as she grows in maturity and technique. Audio version available from Recorded Books.

THOMAS, Jan. Is Everyone Ready for Fun? illus. by author. S. & S./Beach Lane. 2011. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781442423640; ebk. $8.99. ISBN 9781442435742.
PreS-Gr 1–Three antic cows jump, dance, and wiggle on Chicken’s sofa until they collapse in a sleeping heap. Preschoolers will eagerly join in the action in this colorful tale, perfect for storytimes. Digitally illustrated with close-ups of very entertaining cows and a rather irate chicken.

WILLEMS, Mo. Elephants Cannot Dance! illus. by the author. (An Elephant and Piggie Book). Disney-Hyperion. 2009. Tr $8.99. ISBN 9781423114109.
K-Gr 2–Tutu-clad Piggy wants to teach Gerald to dance, but the big guy is quite reluctant. When he finally agrees, he cannot follow directions. In a surprise twist, Gerald choreographs his own dance, “The Elephant,” which demands audience participation. As in other titles in the series, the characters have winning personalities, expressively drawn.

SLJ1501w-FO-MiddleElem-StripMiddle Elementary

BERNIER-GRAND, Carmen T. Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina. illus. by Raúl Colón. Marshall Cavendish. 2011. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780761455622.
Gr 4 Up–Despite near blindness, the Cuban ballerina devoted her life to dance and to her homeland. Throughout her long career, she was beloved by audiences for her interpretation of classic ballets. Each episode of her life is presented in free verse on one page and faced by a portrait or scenes from Cuba, all depicted in warm and appealing colors.

COPELAND, Misty. Firebird. illus. by Christopher Myers. Putnam. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399166150; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698171602.
Gr 2-6–In a poetic voice, the African American ballerina and soloist with the American Ballet Theater assures a young girl, not unlike herself, that a “dancing dream” can be beautifully and majestically attained. The brilliant colors and sharply angled background design evoke both the quietude and the drama of the Firebird ballet in a superb fashion.

DEPRINCE, Michaela with Elaine DePrince. Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. Knopf. 2014. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385755122; Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385755115; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385755139.
Gr 4-8After Michaela’s parents are killed during the civil war in Sierra Leone, she is adopted by an American family. With her new mother, she recounts the journey from dreaming girl to successful ballerina. A wonderful role model, Michaela was one of the featured dancers in the 2012 documentary First Position. Illustrated with an insert of color photographs.

GREENBERG, Jan & Sandra Jordan. Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring. illus. by Brian Floca. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. 2010. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781596433380; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781466818620.
Gr 2-6–In 1944, at the Library of Congress, the curtain rose on Appalachian Spring, an American modern dance classic. Martha Graham, Aaron Copeland, and Isamu Noguchi collaborated on the choreography, music, and set designs. The process and the dance are superbly detailed step-by-step, and the watercolor illustrations brilliantly capture every movement. Copious back matter provides historical context.

POWELL, Patricia Hruby. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. illus. by Christian Robinson. Chronicle. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452103143; ebk. $12.99. ISBN 9781452129716.
Gr 2-5–A stage performance, from raised curtain to final bow with flowers, provides the book-design backdrop as this title in free verse follows the extraordinary life of a dancer who fled race riots in St. Louis and discrimination in New York City and found phenomenal success in Jazz Age Paris. Expressive acrylic paintings expertly portray her many talents. Audio version available from Recorded Books.

REICH, Susanna. José! Born to Dance: The Story of José Limón. illus. by Raúl Colón. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. 2005. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780689865763.
Gr 2-4–Reich presents brief moments in the 20th-century modern dance choreographer’s life, from his childhood in Mexico to his arrival in New York City and discovery of dance. Fierce, strong, and proud like the man himself, Limón’s work is still performed by many companies. Spanish words provide flavor, and the powerful full-page portraits showcase his enduring talent.

YOLEN, Jane & Heidi E.Y. Stemple. The Barefoot Book of Dance Stories. illus. by Helen Cann. Barefoot Bks. 2010. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781846862191.
Gr 1-5–Visit Germany, Japan, the West Indies, Spain, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Scotland, and Mali, and read about their dances, how to perform them, and what to wear. Eight stories to read aloud and to tell are the perfect accompaniment. Watercolor and mixed-media art decorate the pages and embellish the costumes. Juliet Stevenson reads the accompanying CD.

Susan Pine, a retired New York Public Library children’s librarian, is a member of the Bank Street College of Education Children’s Book Committee.

For Teachers

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation. (Accessed 11/22/14).
In 1958, Alvin Ailey began choreographing the African American dance experience for American and worldwide audiences. Click on “CLASSES—Recreational” for photographs of children performing hip-hop, ballet, and more. Click on “ABOUT—Revelations: 50 Years in Pictures” for a photographic history of the classic dance and audience favorite.
Ballet Hispanico. Ballet Hispanico. (Accessed 11/22/14).
Ballet Hispanico has served its New York City community with classes and cultural enrichment programs on Latino dance since 1970. Click on “CLASSES—Adventures in Dance (Ages 2–5)” for support statements about the importance of dance skills in fostering physical, social, cognitive, and aesthetic growth.
National Dance Institute. NDI Center. (Accessed 11/22/14).
Since 1976, the NDI, founded by Jacques d’Amboise, has been committed to establishing inclusive dance programs in schools, believing that through them “children learn to work together and develop personal standards of excellence, a pride of achievement, and a curiosity about the world….” Click on “About NDI” for excellent supportive statements for school arts programs.

For Students

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive. Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. (Accessed 11/22/14).
Gr 4 Up–Located in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, Jacob’s Pillow, recipient of a National Medal of Arts, hosted its 82nd dance festival in 2014. Click on “GENRE” for brief clips of ballet, contemporary, cultural, modern, tap, and more. Tap dancer Savion Glover, the American Indian Dance Theater, José Limón, and Alicia Alonso are among the performers and organizations presented.

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We Need Diverse Books Opens Submissions for “The Walter” Award Thu, 29 Jan 2015 13:00:35 +0000 PrintStarting January 29, We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) is inviting submissions from diverse authors in young adult literature for the first-ever Walter Dean Myers Award, also known as “The Walter,” named after the celebrated children’s book author who passed away in 2014.

The inaugural Walter Award will be given to a winner in the young adult category (with up to three other submissions recognized with honors).

Submissions for The Walter must be written by a diverse author (person of color, Native American, LGBTQIA, person with a disability, or marginalized religious or cultural minority in the U.S.), and the submission must be a diverse work (a YA work written by a diverse author featuring a diverse main character). The submission must be an original work published in the U.S. for the first time in 2015. (Work may have been originally in another language and translated, but the first English publication year in the U.S. must be 2015.)

The deadline for submissions is November 1, 2015, and the winner will be announced in February 2016.

“We are thrilled to play a part in the continued legacy of Walter Dean Myers,” said Lamar Giles, vice-president of Communications for WNDB. “It is so important to highlight and amplify the voices of diverse authors and diverse works.”

Myers was a lifelong advocate for diversity in books for young readers and a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. WNDB seeks to honor his memory with this award.

For further details about eligibility, submission guidelines, and FAQs, visit The Walter’s official website, or email questions to

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Ebooks Will Surge in Classrooms, Study Says Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:00:14 +0000 Ebook surgeClassroom materials will dramatically transition from paper to digital books in the next two years, educators predict, according to a survey from LightSail Education, a K–12 literacy platform that partners with Baker & Taylor.

The January 28 report, polling  475 educators, predominantly school and district leaders, also revealed a strong preference for digital libraries over rental models.

Among those polled, 94 percent expect that ebooks will increase in their schools and districts, with 52 percent predicting that ebooks will surge to account for more than 40 percent of all books in their school or district.

Forty percent would prefer purchasing ebooks outright, with only 16 percent opting for a Netflix-like subscription service. Only four percent liked the idea of a one-time, time-limited checkout.

Read the full LightSail press release below.


Schools Want Ebooks Integrated With Digital Learning Tools and Assessments to Drive Literacy Growth

NEW YORK, January 28, 2015 – A new LightSail Education survey of 475 educators – predominantly school and district leaders – from across the United States indicates that schools and districts see their use of classroom materials transitioning substantially from paper books to digital books over the next two years. An overwhelming majority of schools and administrators indicate a strong desire to build digital libraries rather than experiment with book rental and subscription models, but the market is still in its early stages.

The report, “State of the Digital Book Market” is the first to analyze K-12 decision makers’ views on the transition from paper books to digital books and literacy platforms.

Key findings of the report include:
·       K-12 decision-makers predict massive growth in the school-based ebook market.

·       The Library purchase model for ebooks is favored by most education leaders, where a preference is established.

·       Educators show a clear preference for reading in digital texts moving forward, where a preference exists.

·       School and district leaders are actively seeking technology tools that support literacy instruction.

Remarkable ebook market growth expected in next 2 years
–       94% of respondents expect that ebooks will increase as a share of books read in their school/district over the next two years.
–       58% report that ebooks currently represent less than 10% of all books in their school/district.
–       52% expect that in two years, ebooks will account for more than 40% of all books in their school/district.

Preference for Library purchase model for ebooks, with much of market unclear on best option
–       40% want to purchase ebooks in the Library model, in which the school owns the texts, and students can check books in and out of a “digital library” on their devices.
–       16% want a subscription service similar to “Netflix” where, for a monthly fee, students can access a broad library.
–       4% are interested in renting books through model that offers a single, time-limited checkout per rental.
–       40% either were not sure which book model they wanted or did not have enough information to express a preference.

Migration to digital books embraced by school and district leaders
–       52% want students reading in digital books.
–       8% prefer paper books.
–       40% expressed no preference for digital or paper books.

Strong demand for technology tools that support literacy instruction
–       86% have researched at least one technology tool for literacy, such as tools that assess students while reading, measure reading behaviors, or differentiate materials based on student reading level.
–       58% have researched three or more such tools.

“With a record 10 million tablets and computers sold into US schools last year, district leaders and decision makers are gearing up to make a major shift to from print to digital,” said Gideon Stein, Founder and CEO of LightSail Education. “The results of this survey strongly suggest that schools are looking to build digital libraries where they own their content outright rather than experiment with models like book rentals or subscriptions.”

The survey also found that ebooks are used across instructional models in schools, with especially consistent use for independent reading; 90% of survey respondents indicated the use of ebooks for independent reading.

The survey was sent to district and school leaders nationally, and respondents represented districts and schools in more than 35 states. Approximately 75% of respondents identified themselves as district administrators or school leaders. LightSail invited these individuals to respond to a survey about the eBook market, in order to understand their perspectives, and to inform its 400+ publisher partners of the needs of today’s educators.

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“Selma”: Accurate Enough? Questions about the film’s historical accuracy present a teachable moment. Wed, 28 Jan 2015 18:44:02 +0000  

Freedom Marchers with Flags, 1965. Photo by Matt Heron

Freedom Marchers with Flags, 1965. Photo by Matt Heron

Film director Ava DuVernay kicked a sacred cow in the movie “Selma” with her portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. as the tough, demanding driver of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Influential, well-connected people from Joseph Califano to Maureen Dowd have expressed their dismay at seeing President Lyndon Johnson depicted as the reluctant, recalcitrant president who had his arm twisted into compliance. Others have rushed to DuVernay’s defense.

The dialog between the two men is discomforting. In real life, King had the finesse of a black preacher born in the segregated South speaking to a white man. He was nuanced and respectful of the President: if not of the man, of the office. But no matter how you parse it, King and Johnson both wanted and needed the Voting Rights Act, and in their own way, worked together to achieve it.

The whole controversy misses one of the most skillfully-done aspects of Selma. This is the 1965 voting rights marches seen through the eyes of 2014, the eyes of “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “Black Lives Matter.” Right now, frustration and anger have a place at the rainbow table we insist is set equally for all Americans.

Duvernay masterfully slips in 2014 reference points. Look at the protesters sitting in front of the Dallas County courthouse, fingers laced behind their heads, elbows jutting out. In 1965, people daisy-chained themselves together, crossing one arm over the other to hold hands with those on either side. “Hands up” would have been jarring. Those jutting elbows sneak up on you later, when you Google “Selma” and look at 50 year old black-and-white photographs. Or listen carefully to “Glory,” Common and John Legend’s Golden Globe-winning song: it begins as a swooping spiritual-turned-protest song, moves into rap, bringing us up to 2014 with the lyrics, before slipping back to protest song.

Bobby Simmons, 17 Years Old, Marches for the Vote, 1965. Photo by  Matt Herron

Bobby Simmons, 17 Years Old, Marches for the Vote, 1965. Photo by Matt Herron

The lyrics remind us that the rainbow promise hasn’t been delivered on: “That’s why Rosa sat on the bus/That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up.” And the path forward: “It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy.”

In the first heady moments of the film’s release, it looked like there might be a place at the table in Hollywood for Duvernay. Though the film has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture and Best Original Song, DuVernay was not nominated for Best Director. Hollywood is not ready for the edge in her voice, not ready for her insistence that we open our eyes and place our history in context.

Interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air, DuVernay put it this way: “I’m just inviting people into this time and space—into the spirit of Selma in 1965—what it was, what it means now…”

This film gives us the opportunity to work with students on historical accuracy, using primary sources and expert opinion. Here are a few good starting points.

Have students locate primary source material on President Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr.

  1. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Cornell University Library has compiled a terrific list of primary sources on King, as has The King Center.
  2. Lyndon Baines Johnson: the LBJ Library has compiled archival materials (videos, phone calls, historians debating) on the relationship between King and Johnson, and a long list of journal articles with opinions on the film. Full video and transcript of the “American Promise” speech by LBJ. All presidential photos on the site are in the public domain and can be freely copied and used.

Learn more about the five day march to Montgomery, covered in the film with archival footage.

  1. Read the article that appeared in the 1965 New Yorker, Letter from Selma, written by reporter Renata Adler. What do you learn about the young adults who marched that wasn’t covered in the film?

Close read of visuals:

  1. Have students locate archival photos of the Selma protests. Compare them with stills from the film. How are they the same? How are they different?
  2. Check out the cover of the New Yorker, January 26, 2015. Who are the people portrayed on the cover? What point is the artist trying to make?


Although Selma is not a documentary film, it is a film about real people, in a real historical period. What is the difference between a documentary film and a dramatization?  What responsibility does the director, Ava DuVernay, have to historical accuracy?

Elizabeth Partridge is the author of Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don’t You Get Weary (Viking Children’s Books, 2009).


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2015 NCTE Children’s Book Awards Announced Wed, 28 Jan 2015 14:51:02 +0000 NCTE_fictionRain, Reign by Ann Martin (Feiwel & Friends) has received the Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children, and The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (Random) has received the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Both awards promote and recognize excellence in children’s literature. The Charlotte Huck Award recognizes fiction for children that has the potential to transform their lives, and the Orbis Pictus Award recognizes excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children.

Each year, one winner, up to five honorable mention books, and a list of recommended titles are selected for each award.

This year’s Charlotte Huck Honorable Mention books are:

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff (Philomel)

NCTE_nonfictionThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander (Houghton Harcourt)

El Deafo by Cece Bell (Abrams)

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee (S. & S.)

Revolution by Deborah Wiles (Scholastic)

This year’s Orbis Pictus Honorable Mention books are:

A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (Scholastic)

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford (Houghton Harcourt)

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans)

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams)

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson (Roaring Brook)

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Unique wildlife is beautifully showcased in “Animal Misfits”|DVD Pick Wed, 28 Jan 2015 14:00:12 +0000 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, [...]]]> animal misfitsAnimal 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, taking on a green tinge from the algae growing in its coarse fur. The visuals of the animals and exotic habitats (Ethiopia and New Zealand) are stunning. The time-lapse photography employed to examine how the arctic wooly bear caterpillar freezes through several winters only to thaw again in spring is breathtaking. Brian Unger provides smooth narration with enthusiastic but unobtrusive emphasis. The program is bookended with the message that there is nothing wrong with being different and variety is often a testament to resilience.–C.A. Fehmel, St. Louis County Library, MO

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Carnivorous cakes, nail-biting horror, and a reimagined Alice | SLJ Sneak Peek Tue, 27 Jan 2015 16:43:51 +0000 Alice and Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts, the following works featured in SLJ’s February 2015 issue will entertain and pique the interest of voracious and emergent readers. Check out the latest sneak peek of reviews appearing in the next print issue.]]> From a hilarious chapter book set in space to an imaginative origin story for Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts, the following works featured in SLJ’s upcoming February 2015 issue will entertain and pique the interest of voracious and emergent readers. Check out the latest sneak peek of reviews appearing in the next print issue.

Fiction: Preschool to Grade 4

Hall_Red_Hall, Michael. Red: A Crayon’s Story. illus. by Michael Hall. 32p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062252074.

PreS-K –Step inside the life of a crayon in this funny and poignant picture book. The star of the show is Red, a blue crayon who mistakenly has a red label. His teacher tries to convince him to draw strawberries, but they show up blue. He tries on a red scarf, but it just does not match. His mother suggests he mixes with other colors, but the results are not what he expects. No matter how hard Red tries, his efforts just keep coming out blue. His other crayon friends try to help him reinvent himself, but no matter what they do, Red is still a blue crayon. After much self-doubt and denial, Red makes a new friend, a Berry-colored crayon, who asks him to complete his drawing by adding a blue ocean for his boat. Red gives it a go, and suddenly, he finds his true self and discovers what his other art-supply friends knew all along. The rest of his crayon friends are impressed with his new style, and Red comes to embrace his true identity. Hall’s latest picture book is all about staying true to oneself, no matter what others say. The illustrations emulate children’s artwork, giving readers a great opportunity to identify colors and new vocabulary. Large, clear text make this perfect for a read-aloud, as well as independent reading. VERDICT Reminiscent of Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit (Philomel, 2013), this witty and heartwarming book is sure to become a favorite for children and adults alike.–Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library

Pennypacker_Completely Clementine_Pennypacker, Sara. Completely Clementine. illus. by Marla Frazee. 192p. Disney-Hyperion. Mar. 2015. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781423123583. LC 2013030583.

Gr 2-4 –Third grade is ending and Clementine feels anxious as the school year comes to a close. She does not like saying goodbye, and she’s especially not ready to bid farewell to Mr. D’Matz. She’s also worried about her mother’s nutty “nesting” behavior as the new baby’s birth approaches, and she’s so mad at her dad she isn’t speaking to him. Everything wraps up neatly by the end, though, and Clementine is finally ready to face the summer and embrace the unknowns of fourth grade. Clementine is just as fresh and funny in this seventh and final title in the series as she was in the first book. It’s sure to be popular for readers already familiar with Clementine and will doubtlessly engender a new set of fans to read each of the books about this entertaining character. VERDICT This last title in the popular and laugh-out-loud chapter book series is a must-have for library collections.–Gaye Hinchliff, King County Library System, WA

Reeves_cakesinspaceReeve, Philip. Cakes in Space. illus. by Sarah McIntyre. 224p. Random. May 2015. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780385387927; lib. ed. $15.99. ISBN 9780385387958; ebk. ISBN 9780385387941. LC 2014000428.

Gr 2-5 –Ten-year-old Astra and her family are moving to a whole new planet, aptly named Nova Mundi. Since it takes 199 years to get there, the space travelers will be frozen in sleeping pods. Astra’s skeptical—and hungry! She decides that she needs a snack before going into hibernation, so she asks the ship’s super computer robot, Nom-O-Tron, to make her the “ultimate cake…so delicious it’s scary.” The robot goes to work, but the girl’s parents put her into her sleeping pod before any cake is produced. When Astra wakes up early, she discovers that Nom-O-Tron has made decidedly scary cupcakes that seem to be eating anything they can find. Can Astra and her robot sidekick Pilbeam save the ship? Add some otherworldly pirates and a slithery, creepy alien called the Nameless Horror, and you have a wacky and fast-moving, if somewhat outlandish, adventure. While the full-color cartoon illustrations can seem like something from The Jetsons, that won’t matter to budding readers ready to step up to chapter books. Underlying lessons about not judging by appearances and being careful what you ask for contribute to a happy ending with some sci-fi fun along the way. VERDICT An out-of-this-world choice to read alone or read aloud.–Katherine Koenig, The Ellis School, PA

Willems_Waiting Is Not Easy_Willems, Mo. Waiting Is Not Easy! illus. by Mo Willems. 64p. (Elephant & Piggie). Disney-Hyperion. 2014. Tr $8.99. ISBN 9781423199571. LC 2014007802.

K-Gr 2 –Gerald and Piggie are sharing another adventure in the latest book in the series. The expected large print, spare dialogue, and bubble delivery make it easy to read. Gerald loses patience with Piggie when he is told that a surprise is in store but that he must wait for it. His reactions include producing several loud GROANS and reminding Piggie repeatedly that waiting is NOT easy. Piggie knows that the surprise is worth the wait, but she has to keep Gerald there to see it. The simple words and expressive illustrations, as always, reveal the fact that we often overlook the obvious and that there is beauty all around us. Nothing brings greater joy than sharing that beauty with our friends. VERDICT This original story is about friendship, but it also offers insights into human emotions.–Janene Corbin, Rosebank Elementary School, Nashville, TN

Fiction: Grade 5 & UP

Kirby_The Arctic CodeKirby, Matthew J. The Arctic Code. 336p. (The Dark Gravity Sequence: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062224873; ebk. ISBN 9780062224897.

Gr 4-7 –In the first of this new sci-fi series, the northern part of the world is enveloped in the Freeze, a new ice age that is steadily creeping southward. Twelve-year-old “devilishly clever” Eleanor Perry is safe in relatively warmer Phoenix, AZ. While hoards of northern refugees flood into the city and are housed in buildings plagued by crime, plumbing issues, and power outages, she lives comfortably in the suburbs with her geologist mother and uncle. Currently, her mom is in the Arctic, exploring the frigid ice sheet for a nonprofit organization. Eleanor grows concerned when she receives a cryptic message from her mom, which includes mysterious files from G.E.T., the monolithic and suspicious energy corporation headed by the equally untrustworthy Dr. Skinner. She learns that her mother has gone missing and determinedly stows away on a plane bound for the Arctic. Upon arrival, Eleanor discovers that G.E.T. and Dr. Skinner control everything involving the exploration. Eleanor doesn’t trust the doctor’s motives and she secretly sets out to find her mom. What she discovers will surprise her—and readers. This is an exciting, page-turning tale. Middle grade readers will be compelled by Eleanor’s daredevil adventure to find her mom and thrilled as she unearths some startling secrets. VERDICT While the scientific descriptions may be confusing at times, intrepid readers will be rewarded with an action-packed, intriguing story.–Diane McCabe, John Muir Elementary, Santa Monica, CA

Nielsen_We are all made of moleculesNielsen, Susin. We Are All Made of Molecules. 256p. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553496864; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780553496871; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780553496888. LC 2014017652.

Gr 7-10 –Thirteen-year-old Stewart and 14-year-old Ashley could not be more different. Stewart is a quirky, gifted intellectual who is coping with the loss of his mother, while Ashley is a popular fashionista still reeling from her parents’ divorce—brought about by her father’s announcement that he is gay. When a serious relationship develops between Stewart’s father and Ashley’s mother, the two teens find themselves living under the same roof. By turns humorous and heartbreaking, the story is told in alternating chapters narrated by both protagonists. In comparison to Stewart, Ashley is somewhat underdeveloped, but the contrast between the two characters makes for a compelling read, particularly as they begin to challenge and influence each other. Their overlapping journeys will leave readers with much to think about, as Nielsen unflinchingly tackles issues such as bullying, bigotry, and tolerance; the true nature of friendship; and what it means to be a family. The book will appeal to fans of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder (Random, 2012) and Jo Knowles’s See You at Harry’s (Candlewick, 2012). VERDICT This work of realistic fiction should find a place in most libraries serving teens.–Lauren Strohecker, McKinley Elementary School, Abington School District, PA

Rose_BlueBirds_CV-198x300Rose, Caroline Starr. Blue Birds. 400p. Putnam. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399168109; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698173514.

Gr 4-7 –Like Rose’s debut novel, May B. (Random, 2012), Blue Birds is historical fiction told in free verse. Set in the late 1580s, the story centers on two young girls who forge an unlikely bond, one which defies the conventions of their respective communities and threatens to shatter an already fragile détente. Alis is a colonist who’s just arrived on the island of Roanoke with her family and a small band of English men and women intent on settling the New World. Kimi is a young Roanoke girl who watches the arrival of the white folk with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation. Over time, even as tensions mount and violence erupts between the two peoples, the young women find each other amid the confusion, hatred, and ignorance—communicating through gestures and simple words. Told in alternating voices, rendered in distinct font styles for each girl, the verses allow readers to see their relationship evolve from one of tentative friendship to a deep bond of sisterhood. As the girls become closer, their poems occasionally share a page, the short stanzas working together as meaning and understanding is reached. Rose’s writing is accessible and filled with rich details describing the setting: the rough and ragged barracks in which the settlers strive to make a home as well as the vibrant natural beauty of Kimi’s village and surrounding woods. Based loosely on the slim evidence surrounding the events of the infamous Lost Colony of Roanoke, Rose takes some liberties with history (explained in an author’s note): there was no record of a young woman—other than wives and mothers—being among the group of settlers during that time period. Similarly, the actual whereabouts of the missing settlers is one of history’s great mysteries. The tough choices the characters must make are, on the whole, believable outgrowths of their burgeoning bond. The ending, however, may stretch credulity for some readers. VERDICT With two compelling main characters and an abundance of rich historical detail, Rose’s latest novel offers much to discuss and much to appreciate.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

White_Thickety 2White, J.A. The Thickety: The Whispering Trees. illus. by Andrea Offerman. 528p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062257291.

Gr 5-8 –In this relentlessly grim follow-up to 2014’s The Thickety: A Path Begins, (HarperCollins), siblings Kara and Taff are on the run inside the dangerous forest known as the Thickety. Demon Sordyr is hot on their heels and intent on keeping them inside the woods. With the help of a beguiling new friend with a demonic past, Kara and Taff search for a way out of the cursed forest and away from their lost lives in the village of De’Noran. Kara’s magical ability to communicate with animals begins to grow, but like all magic, it comes at a terrible price: in this case, her memories. The plot turns come fast and furious, while the dark imagery of the forest and spot illustrations add to the underlying feeling of dread. The nail-biting suspense will keep readers turning the pages late into the night, and in Kara, readers will find a protagonist to root for. Fans of happy endings, however, should search for a different adventure. VERDICT Readers who enjoyed the spine-chilling first installment will be eager to get their hands on this sequel.–Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Darien Library, CT

Fiction: Grades 9 & Up

Engle_the book of ivyEngel, Amy. The Book of Ivy. 304p. Entangled Teen. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781622664658.

Gr 9 Up –After the brutal war that decimated most of the country, Ivy Westfall’s grandfather founded Westfall and envisioned a democratic nation in which everyone had a right to vote. However, after a conflict between the Westfall and the Lattimer families, the Lattimers won power and governed Westfall as a dictatorship. All of her life, Ivy has been trained to hate President Lattimer for his imposed laws—specifically arranged marriages. When it is her turn to marry, she is assigned to Bishop, President Lattimer’s son. Going into the marriage, Ivy’s father and sister encourage her to kill her new husband and return the Westfall family to their rightful position. This mission becomes increasingly difficult as Ivy develops feelings for her husband. She is forced to make a decision that will alter her entire life. The Book of Ivy begins as most dystopians do—with a ceremony and the main character forced into a situation as dictated by the government. However, the novel quickly separates itself from the mediocre and presents a fantastic plot that makes readers think about the blurred lines between right and wrong. VERDICT Well-developed characters and intricate world-building combined with complex relationships, political corruption, and betrayal, leave readers begging for the second book in this series.–Lindsey Dawson, Saint John’s Catholic Prep, Frederick, MD

SLJ1502-Fic9up_LathamLatham, Jennifer. Scarlett Undercover. 320p. Little, Brown. May 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316283939; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316283892.

Gr 6-10 –Sixteen-year-old Scarlett is a Sam Spade-talking, fedora-wearing Muslim American who runs her own detective agency in the gritty city of Las Almas. Scarlett’s usual cases involve adultery and insurance fraud until a 10-year-old girl hires her to investigate a suicide. The minute the teen takes the case, she is tailed by two strange girls with gold circles in their eyes. Someone breaks into her apartment and steals a family heirloom. Even her closest friends start acting like the world is ending. Scarlett quickly discovers that her case isn’t just about a suicide, but rather an ancient war between genies and the descendants of King Solomon. There is a relic that could tip the balance of power. Scarlett is tough and fiercely independent. While her older sister takes comfort in religion, the protagonist finds solace in her father’s old copy of One Thousand and One Nights. Unfortunately, the novel suffers from its heavy hard-boiled lingo which, in its modern setting, becomes a distraction from the characterization. Despite this, the supernatural mystery is engaging and the Muslim American teenage sleuth will be a welcome addition to YA shelves. VERDICT A fun, if flawed, whodunit with a diverse protagonist who is an heir apparent to Veronica Mars.–Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ

breaking-sky-cori-mccarthyredstarMcCarthy, Cori. Breaking Sky. 416p. Sourcebooks Fire. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492601418; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781492601425.

Gr 9 Up –The year is 2048. Teenager Chase, better known by her call sign, Nyx, is a pilot in training for the American military’s topmost secret project. Back in 2020, American pilots were massacred in an airfight by drones—dictator Ri Xiong Di’s most effective weapon. The entire world has endured a second Cold War ever since. No other countries are allowed to aid the U.S. at all, and the people are suffering. The military is secretly testing two new plane prototypes that might outrun the drones. However, their pilots must be young and strong enough to withstand the tremendous force on the human body that occurs when traveling at high speeds. In order to get funding for more prototypes, Nyx and her comrades must prove the worth of the project. On a training mission, Nyx spots a third prototype that she didn’t know existed. In her haste to discover the identity of its pilot and country, Nyx endangers the entire project and many lives as well. But, if she can start dismantling the wall she’s built around herself since her difficult childhood, she might be able to trust someone, fall in love, and save the day. Similar to the S.J. Kincaid’s “Insignia” series (HarperCollins), this novel distinguishes itself. The dialogue is authentic, and the characters are nuanced. Chase has determination and resolve, even in the face of her fears. The description of her flights is breathtakingly realistic. VERDICT Strong characterizations, action, adventure, and emotion combine to produce a sci-fi novel that is more than just the sum of its parts.–Kelly Jo Lasher, Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ

oakes_queen of heartsOakes, Colleen. The Crown. Vol. 1. ISBN 9781940716022.

––––. The Wonder. Vol. 2. ISBN 9781940716213.

ea vol: 222p. (Queen of Hearts). ebook available. BookSparks/SparkPress. 2014. pap. $15.

Gr 9 Up –Readers get a peek into the story behind the darkly twisted world of Wonderland before Alice arrived. Fifteen-year-old Princess Dinah, heir to the throne of Wonderland, tries to navigate her way to power around the ruthlessly brutal King; her half-sister, Vittore; her much adored “mad” brother Charles, who is the direct heir, but not able to take on the responsibilities of the throne; and an interesting hierarchy of characters who are either in support of or in opposition to her becoming the “Queen of Hearts” once she turns 18. In The Crown, readers catch a glimpse of the causes of the future Queen’s anger-management issues and mistrust of people. Surrounded by few friends and numerous enemies—with the shape-shifter and king’s advisor Cheshire being the most dangerous of all—Dinah lives in constant fear and is forced to hide her true feelings for mere survival. In The Wonder, Dinah is in exile, hiding from the king’s assassins, and purported to be a traitor and murderer. Oakes expertly expands the children’s classic into a complex and compelling series of plot twists that uncover the future Queen of Hearts’s true origins. The author fleshes out some of the quirks in Carroll’s work and adds more depth to the source material’s secondary characters. Familiarity with the original isn’t necessary, but will add richness to this tale. VERDICT Complete with a mad tea party in the woods, this cinematic series has just the right amount of fantasy and epic suspense to keep even the strongest of hearts on the edge of their seats.–Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

Graphic Novels

Grades 9 & Up

SLJ1502-Fic9upGN_WatsonWatson, Andi. Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula. illus. by Andi Watson. 176p. First Second. Feb. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781626722750; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781626721494.

Gr 6-10 –In this graphic novel by longtime comic artist Watson, harried Princess Decomposia is so busy running the Underworld for her overbearing and hypochondriac father that she never has time to eat properly. With state affairs hanging in the balance, she hires pastry chef Count Spatula as the new cook, hoping he will finally be able to assuage the King Wulfrun’s cantankerous belly, so that he can go back to running the gloomy kingdom. When Wulfrun (who could give Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse’s dad a run for his money) discovers the growing friendship and romance between the Princess and the cook, all hell breaks loose as the burgeoning couple take a day trip aboveground. Visual and textual puns abound in this Downton Abbey-esque romp, which balances serious discussions on class, gender, and politics with humor and wordplay. Decomposia learns to stand up for herself, inspired by her new friendships, and comes into her own, a lesson that could border on preachy, but is delivered with nuance. The inky black-and-white illustrations on the mostly three-tier, six-panel pages denote movement and facial expressions with aplomb. The narrative is appended by a section of character sketches that will intrigue visual artists. VERDICT This comedy of manners and errors is a delightful confection for graphic novel fans looking for a quirky, tame romance.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Nonfiction: Preschool to Grade 4

Hsyu_the dinner that cooked itselfHsyu, J.C. The Dinner That Cooked Itself. illus. by Kenard Pak. 32p. Flying Eye Books. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781909263413.

Gr 1-3 –Hsyu and Pak have revived a Chinese folktale, keeping the flavor of ancient China while making the story appealing to a modern audience. The mixed-media illustrations are done in the style of traditional Chinese art and include Chinese characters for several key words. The well-written story offers a familiar lesson on the value of hard work and thoughtfulness. The idea of finding a match based on birth year and name may be unusual to readers but will offer a starting point for talking about Chinese culture. VERDICT A solid choice for multicultural folktale collections.–Laura Stanfield, Campbell County Public Library, Ft. Thomas, KY

Nonfiction: Grade 5 & Up

healy_love and profanity_Healy, Nick, ed. Love & Profanity: A Collection of True, Tortured, Wild, Hilarious, Concise, and Intense Tales of Teenage Life. 232p. index. Capstone/Switch Pr. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781630790127.

Gr 8 Up –Short yet powerful autobiographical stories comprise this collection of consistently excellent, vivid writing. The 43 authors from various backgrounds include a few YA well-knowns—John Scieszka, Joseph Bruchac, Carrie Mesrobian, Will Weaver—and many new and upcoming names. The stories reflect the writers’ adolescent experiences with conflict, bullying, family, school, friendship, unrequited love, sex, and more. They offer appeal mostly for high school teens and even adults, though there are several that would be appropriate for upper middle schoolers. Love, or the abysmal lack of it, is central to many of the stories, while profanity is primarily reflected in situations rather than word choice (though the language is occasionally graphic). The stories are, by turns, edgy, nostalgic, poignant, sad, and humorous, with some offering a combination of these qualities. Each selection is heartfelt and thought-provoking and could be a catalyst for intensive discussion. VERDICT Readers of Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking up, Standing out, and Being Yourself edited by Luke Reynolds (Chicago Review, 2013) and Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally (Zest, 2012), may appreciate this compilation.–Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, CO

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Shakespearean Resources | Mix It Up Tue, 27 Jan 2015 16:15:34 +0000 SLJ1501w-MixItUp_ShakespeareAsk any person over the age of 12 to name one poet or playwright and the most common answer would likely be “William Shakespeare,” followed by a rendition of “To be, or not to be; that is the question.” If there is one thing youth librarians and teachers—we few, we happy few, we band of brothers—can count on while serving children and teens, it is that we will be regularly tasked with finding Shakespearean resources. Nearly 400 years after his death, Shakespeare remains at the core of literary study in many of the world’s educational systems—as evidenced by the sheer number of resources, books, academic papers, websites, and research centers dedicated to studying and disseminating his work.

Lest you revel in the winter of your discontent, despairing over the vastness of information, rest assured knowing that the resources available have evolved from the giant tomes of yore. How beauteous mankind is! Yes, we still love books, but this brave new world is full of interactive apps and websites that have made groundbreaking performances and adaptations accessible to a wider audience.


SLJ1501w-MixItUp_FolgerFolger Shakespeare for Kids
Free | Gr 3 Up
Perhaps one of the best known resources for all things Shakespeare is the Folger Shakespeare Library. Located in Washington, DC, Folger has the world’s largest collection of the printed works of Shakespeare, and their online presence provides a rich and informative look within their holdings. Their website features a section, “Shakespeare for Kids,” which is aimed at young audiences. Archived webinars present tips for teaching Shakespeare to young pupils; Folger also offers a bevy of teaching resources, including modules, curriculum guides, guides for ESL students, and information on deconstructing sonnets or plays.

Notable item: Archived webinar “Shakespeare in Other Words,” recorded March 12, 2013. Highlights literary devices used in Shakespeare’s works and relates them to Common Core standards.

MIT Global Shakespeares 
Free | High school
The Global Shakespeares Video and Performance Archive offers full-length performances of Shakespeare’s plays from around the world in dozens of languages, along with essays and content from scholars and educators in the field. The “Links” through the “Resources” tab provides access to a variety of international Shakespeare organizations and acting companies, which showcase varied productions and performances of the Bard’s plays. This is a particularly rich resource for upper high school students who may be comparing and contrasting the different ways Shakespeare’s works are presented in other languages, cultures, and styles.

Shakespeare’s Globe
Free | Middle to high school
The London-based Shakespeare’s Globe—rebuilt near the site of the Globe Theatre, where the poet himself performed as a resident player in the early 1600s—is a playhouse and exploratorium that examines Shakespeare’s works through education and stage productions. Many of the institution’s offerings require visits to the center, but a fair amount of instructional resources are available online. Notably, the “Papers and Research” and “Playing Shakespeare” sections within “Discovery Space” provide teachers with an inventory of teaching guides, teacher’s notes, and supplementary information on many of the Bard’s plays. A great source for drama teachers or those interested in teaching students more about the Shakespearean stage.

Notable item: Check out their beautifully interactive website for teaching A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Shakespeare Uncovered PBS
Free | High school
This treasure trove of resources includes videos featuring actors such as Ethan Hawke, David Tennant, and Jeremy Irons exploring pivotal Shakespearean roles, as well as digital shorts exploring themes, Shakespeare’s biography, and discussions with experts. If that weren’t enough, full-length performances of select plays are free for viewing. High school teachers will find the lesson plans matched to national standards helpful.


SLJ1501w-MixItUp_AtPlay2aShakespeare at Play (iOs)
Free (videos $3.99 each) | Middle to high school
Allows app users to simultaneously watch a play while reading along with the text. A great resource for players in a Shakespeare production, this app will find an audience with high schoolers or even college students looking to fully immerse themselves within the acting methodology of performing in a Shakespeare play. Videos must be purchased separately.

SLJ1501w-MixItUp_shakespeare-pro-appShakespeare Pro (iOs)
Free; Pro version: 9.99, or 4.99 vol. pricing | Middle to high school.
With 41 plays, 154 sonnets, and six poems, this app puts Shakespeare at your fingertips. The plays include a list of characters, scene breakdowns, annotated and abridged plot points, and limited glossary access. Truly set up as a bit of a teaser for the pro-app, the free option offers users a taste of the extras like portraits and notes, and features limited information regarding chronology of works, theater information, statistics, roles, scansions, and poetry terms. Great for on-the-go homework; but consider the pro version for more in-depth assignments.

The Sonnet Project (iOs)
Free | Elementary to high school

In this exploration of Shakespeare’s sonnets, various actors read each poem in different locations in and around New York City. Daily examples are featured, and users may refer to the library to browse and select their own. A visually pleasing and innovative introduction.

Print Resources

SLJ1501w-MixItUp_StratfordZooLENDLER, Ian. The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth. illus. by Zack Giallongo. 80p. First Second. 2014. Tr $19.99.ISBN 9781626721012; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781596439153.
Gr 4 Up
This beautifully illustrated romp is a take on Macbeth like no other. The animals of the Stratford Zoo leave their cages at night to put on the play for the other animals. While there are more authentic renditions of Shakespeare in many comic versions, this one goes for the laughs, with visual puns and a noir stage retelling with Macduff as a gumshoe private eye. The cast of characters is limited to Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Macduff, Banquo (Banksy), and the witches. Best introduced to readers familiar to the story, these offerings are sure to become favorites.

SLJ1501w-MixItUp_BrickCOmedies_2McCANN, John, Monica Sweeney & Becky Thomas. Brick Shakespeare: The Comedies— A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Taming of the Shrew. 352p. Skyhorse. 2014. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781628737332.
Gr 4 Up
A witty visual representation of four of the Bard’s most popular plays as told through LEGO figurines. Carefully abridged text introduces younger readers to one of the most popular playwrights in history. For a darker take on his work, be sure to take a look at Brick Shakespeare: The Tragedies—Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar (Skyhorse, 2013).

MONTEE, David. Translating Shakespeare: A Guidebook for Young Actors.
415p. Smith & Kraus. 2014. pap. $21.95. ISBN 9781575258898.
High school; Professional reading
Written to inspire young actors and serve as reference material for teachers, this guidebook begins by outlining the Stanislavsky system and then jumps right into using Hamlet’s “Speak the speech, I pray you…” as a lesson on how to grapple with Shakespearian language. Subsequent chapters include advice on researching and choosing which text to use, how to fill the role or connect with characters and language from so long ago, and verse scansion and rhythm. Among the other topics are “The Vital Antithesis,” “Exercising with the Text,” “Contexts, Icons, Contrasts, and Contradictions,” and “Shakespeare Scenework: Plays in Miniature.” In the ample appendices, readers will find “Examples of Dramatic Contexts for Shakespearean Production.” Clearly a labor of love, this guidebook is required reading for those serious about acting or teaching Shakespeare.

NEWLIN, Nick ed., 30 Minute Shakespeare” series.
Nicolo Whimsy Pr.
Middle to high school; Professional reading
Daunted by the idea of putting on a production of Shakespeare? This series makes the task manageable, whether in the classroom or a theater club. While the works themselves are abridged, the author’s goal is to keep the language and feeling intact. Includes stage directions, ideas for props and casting, set lists, and performance notes. These 18 adaptations are not necessarily designed for the Shakespeare expert but rather for those new to the Bard. Available for purchase in paperback or PDF.

SLJ1501w-MixItUp_SeasonsWEINER, Miriam. Shakespeare’s Seasons.
illus. by Shannon Whitt. 32p. Downtown Bookworks. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781935703570.
PreS-Gr 1
For the preschool set comes Shakespeare’s Seasons. Weiner caters to ye young ones who may not be quite ready to enjoy Shakespeare’s full-length plays and sonnets. Short passages pair well with expressive paper collages which would work well for storytimes about the seasons.


SLJ1501w-MixItUp_StarWarsDOESCHER, Ian. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. 176p. Quirk Bks. 2013. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781594746376.
Middle to high school
Perhaps the perfect marriage between two famed pop-culture phenomena, this title features lines such as “Pray, R2D2, where art thou?” Those familiar with The Bard’s work will chuckle at the resemblance between robots C3P0 and R2D2 and Hamlet’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. This tome serves as more of a novelty than a useful book for schoolwork, but the story will expose interested readers to iambic pentameter and early modern English.

High school

Whether you call him the Swan of Avon, The Bard, or simply Shakespeare, you’ve probably never experienced him in 140 characters before. Since 2009, this feed has made its way through the complete works of Shakespeare, tweeting—in order—a quote every 10 minutes (currently, the play of choice is Henry VI Part 3). For those seeking a bite-size dose of Shakespeare, this Twitter handle shouldn’t be missed.

Shakespeare Insult Creator;
AML: App: Shakespearean Insults
Free | Gr 6 Up
These one-trick ponies generate insults in Early Modern English, inspired by the work of great Bill himself. Take for example, these zingers: “Thou unmuzzled flap-mouthed skainsmate!” and “Thou infectious dizzy-eyed hedge-pig!”

SLJ1501w-MixItUp_Tweettext#shakespearesunday and #shakestag
High school

Not surprisingly, there are tons of Shakespeare fans on Twitter. Every Sunday, students can join would-be Shakespeareans from around the globe by tweeting favorite quotes from the Bard using the hashtag #shakespearesunday. Don’t forget to identify the play/poem, act and scene, or line. For added fun, try the #shakestag game. It’s like an online literary version of the playground game Tag. The first person begins by tweeting a Shakespearean quote, identifying a theme, and “tagging” another Twitter user, who becomes “it.” That next person must tweet a different quote on the same theme, tagging yet another user. This format can easily be translated into a classroom game for younger students, while older students can be encouraged to participate online.

Stacy Dillon is the lower school librarian at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Manhattan; Amy Laughlin is a children’s librarian at Darien Library, CT.

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Betsy Bird Returns to Host SLJ’s Youth Media Awards Pre-Game—and Post-Game—Show Tue, 27 Jan 2015 14:36:38 +0000 And now, the moment of reckoning is upon us. That is: the announcement of the 2015 American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards.

Elizabeth-Bird-PreGameHostElizabeth (Betsy) Bird (left) and Lori Prince (right) will return to host School Library Journal’s second—so far, annual—live pre-game show presented via Google Hangout at 8:30 a.m. ET/7:30 CT on Monday February 2, 2015. So grab some coffee, tune in, and join the fun. (Follow SLJ on Google+ for an invitation to the event. Direct RSVP to pre-game show, and the post-game show following the YMA announcements)

Expect a no-holds-barred conversation about the most highly anticipated honors in children’s publishing, including the prestigious Newbery and Caldecott awards.


Bird, New York Public Library’s youth materials collections specialist andLori-Ess-PreGameHost blogger, “A Fuse # 8 Production,” and Prince, director, publisher and author relations for First Book and a former children’s librarian will reprise their hosting duties from last year’s Youth Media Awards Pre-Game, Post-Game Show, which again will stream live from SLJ’s offices in New York City.

Stay tuned after the award announcements for a post-game wrap-up, and Bird and Prince will respond to your comments and questions via the live chat and on Twitter (#sljpregame). The official hashtag for the 2015 Youth Media Awards is #ALAyma.

The pre-game show will precede the award announcements, which will be streamed live at 8 a.m. CT from ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. After the announcements, the SLJ post-game show will commence at around 9:30 a.m CT (10:30 a.m. ET).

For more livestream videos from SLJ, subscribe to our YouTube channel or follow us on Google Plus.

SLJ-Pre-game Show dance number: ALA Youth Media Awards 2014 from School Library Journal on Vimeo.

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Stellar Beginning Chapter Books for Young Readers │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go Tue, 27 Jan 2015 12:00:36 +0000 Violet Mackerel and friend Rose, along with Monkey and Robot, are back with some amusing tales for young readers. Joining them is John Himmelman’s Bunjitsu Bunny, which packs a punch but also features tales that warm the heart. Abby Hanlon presents Dory, a charmingly irresistible girl named Dory. Renowned author Cornelia Funke introduces Emma and Tristan who journey on a magic carpet to save a genie. Add these wonderful new selections chosen by the editors at Junior Library Guild to feed the reading appetites of those learning to read on their own.

Violet MackerelBRANFORD, Anna. Violet Mackerel’s Pocket Protest. illus. by Elanna Allen. 128p. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. ISBN 9781442494589. JLG Level: I+ : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

The big oak tree that has sheltered Violet and her friend Rose for years is scheduled to be cut down. The park where they have spent many afternoons playing will be turned into a parking lot. Where will the birds make their nests? And what about the squirrel? Putting their heads together, the two girls come up with a plan.

Author Branford does more than write about small things—she makes them. Read more about her on her website. Illustrator Allen lives in New York with her family, where she also designs characters for television. Read about her on her website. On their publisher’s site, you’ll find a sample of their latest collaboration.

Monkey and RobotCATALANOTTO, Peter. More of Monkey & Robot. illus. by author. 64p. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. ISBN 9781442452510. JLG Level: E+ : Easy Reading (Grades 1–3).

Monkey and Robot are back with four new hilarious stories for independent readers. From Halloween costumes to tire swings, Monkey’s ideas are always unexpected. Robot remains his best friend, keeping him out of trouble and on a somewhat straight path.

For more on Catalanotto’s work, check out his website. If you’re considering him for an author visit, workshop, or staff development, you can find contact information and testimonials on his site. His name is easier to say than it looks. Find out how at You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Read an excerpt at Simon & Schuster.

Emma and the Blue GenieFUNKE, Cornelia. Emma and the Blue Genie. illus. by Kerstin Meyer. 96p. Random. ISBN 9780385375429. JLG Level: I : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

Emma lives by the sea but dreams of a land where people ride camels, palm trees sway, and there are no brothers. One night she and her dog Tristan are sitting in the moonlight when a bottle washes up. Would something bad happen if she opens it?

Listen to Funke pronounce her name at A visit to the author’s website is quite delightful. The homepage appears to be her living room. Guests click on animated objects that lead them to information. Fans can post pictures and stories, as well as sign the guestbook. Just for fun, click on the fireplace. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Dory FantasmagoryHANLON, Abby. Dory Fantasmagory. 160p. Dial. 2014. ISBN 9780803740884. JLG Level: I : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

Dory is the baby of the family. Between her temper tantrums and her active imagination, her family is at their wit’s end. Her older sister Violet and brother Luke decide to trick her into behaving. “Mrs. Gobble Gracker is a robber, and she steals baby girls…she’s been looking for you,” they tell her. Lucky for us, the plan backfires, providing comical adventures for kids.

Read more about Dory and Hanlon’s other characters on her website where you’ll find many more charming illustrations. Don’t miss Betsy Bird’s glowing review on her blog.

Tales of Bunjitsu BunnyHIMMELMAN, John. Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny. illus. by author. 128p. Holt. 2014. ISBN 9780805099706. JLG Level: E : Easy Reading (Grades 1-3).

Isabel is the best bunjitsu artist in her school, but, as she says, “bunjitsu is not just about kicking, hitting, and throwing….It is about finding ways NOT to kick, hit, and throw.” Outsmarting bullying pirates, learning lessons from Lucky Cricket, and even conquering a wave, the young bunny encounters many opportunities to exercise what she’s learned.

Himmelman co-runs a martial arts school, where he found the inspiration for his characters. Find out more about the author/illustrator by visiting his website. Like his Facebook profile. Read an excerpt at Macmillan.

EllRay Jakes WARNER, Sally. EllRay Jakes Rocks the Holidays! illus. by Brian Biggs. 160p. Viking. 2014. ISBN 9780451469090. JLG Level: I+ : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

EllRay didn’t mean to, but somehow he did something that made Kevin mad. Now he has carry out three challenges that prove they are still friends. Then EllRay is chosen to emcee the school’s winter program, but he’s just an ordinary kid. How is he supposed to be good for the community when he can’t even be there for his friend?

A visit to the author’s website reveals a scrapbook with pictures of her as a kid. Kids can even send an email. Read about her favorite books and the answers to other questions in Deborah Kalb’s interview.

Additional Resources

The resources for the above titles have been organized in JLG Booktalks to Go: Fall 2014 LiveBinder. Titles are sorted by interest level, PreK-3, 3-6, 5-8, and YA. Check out our award-winning Spring 2014 LiveBinder which organizes resources for spring releases. All websites are posted within each LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources are added. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Booktalks and resources are also included on JLG’s BTG Pinterest board.

For library resources, tips, and ideas, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)





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“Harry the Dirty Dog” Illustrator Margaret Bloy Graham Dies at 94 Mon, 26 Jan 2015 19:04:12 +0000 Margaret Bloy GrahamBeloved children’s book illustrator Margaret Bloy Graham, best known for the “Harry the Dirty Dog” series, died January 22 at age 94 in Cambridge, MA.

The “Harry” books kicked off in 1956 with Graham’s husband Gene Zion’s Harry the Dirty Dog (HarperCollins). The title was one of many upon which the husband-wife, author-illustrator team collaborated, and this treasured picture book tells the story of a troublesome pooch who runs away from home to avoid taking a bath, only to become so covered in grime and filth along the way that his own family fails to recognize him. Graham’s delightful artistic style has a nostalgia-inducing quality that made Harry the Dirty Dog an instant classic and that easily calls to mind the idyllic tone of a 1950s childhood. Harry was one of many books that Graham worked on with Zion.

A mischievous, black and white-spotted scamp of a dog, Harry was described by SLJ “Fuse #8” blogger Betsy Bird as the “canine Dennis the Menace of his generation,” and the polled educators and librarians voted the book #43 on Bird’s “Top 100 Picture Book Poll Results.” The book also made the National Education Association’s Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children.

“When we look at classic books for kids, the cream really does rise to the top,” said Bird. “Margaret Bloy Graham? She was the cream, and her Harry is going to be remembered for a very long time to come.”

Other titles in the series included No Roses for Harry! (1958), Harry and the Lady Next Door (1960), and Harry by the Sea (1965, all HarperCollins).

Harry the Dirty DogThough “Harry” remains Graham’s most well-known collaboration, it was far from her only one. Her illustrations for legendary children’s book author Charlotte Zolotow’s The Storm Book (Harper, 1951), a gentle look at a child’s first thunderstorm, won her a Caldecott Honor. A versatile artist, she also provided the illustrations for renowned poet Jack Prelutsky’s humor collection Pack Rat’s Day (Macmillan, 1974), while in the 1980s, she collaborated with longtime friend and “Little Bear” author Else Holmelund Minarik on What If? (1987) and It’s Spring (1989, both Greenwillow).

Born in Toronto in 1920, Graham developed an interest in the arts at an early age, training at Toronto’s Art Gallery when she was 10. She attended the University of Toronto in 1942, earning a BA in art history.

Graham moved to New York City soon after graduating and began working at Condé Nast, as well as doing freelance illustration and design, where she met Zion. The two married in 1948 and at Graham’s encouragement soon began teaming up to create picture books. Inspired by Graham’s drawing of a group of children picking apples, Zion penned their first title, All Falling Down (HarperCollins, 1951).

Theirs was a fruitful collaboration, yielding 13 books and one Caldecott Honor, for the sweetly charming Really Spring (HarperCollins, 1956), about a group of city dwellers who, tired of awaiting spring, rely on pencil and paints to bring on the season a little early.

Though the couple divorced in 1966, Graham continued to illustrate and even began writing her own books, including Be Nice to Spiders (1968) and yet another canine series, the “Benjy” books (both HarperCollins). She remarried in 1972, to Oliver W. Holmes Jr.

Graham made her mark on the world of children’s literature, and her works are still celebrated.

“Harry the Dirty Dog is a character who generations of children have embraced as if he were their own beloved pet,” said Kate Jackson, editor in chief at HarperCollins Children’s Books, in a prepared statement. “We at HarperCollins will miss our long time treasured author and friend.”

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Is 2015 the Year of the Desktop? | The Next Big Thing Mon, 26 Jan 2015 18:14:14 +0000 Given the rapid proliferation of tablets, Chromebooks, and other 1:1 computing devices last year, 2015 should be the year of the desktop—even in this time of rapid shift towards 1:1.

For all of the power and potential of tablets and Chromebooks, they just can’t get some things right. Printing is finicky, and the larger screen of a desktop can really help with creative work. iPads are nice for video and audio editing, but neither goes very far on a Chromebook. More technical work like CAD designs for 3-D printing or higher-level programming also works better on a desktop, with its additional computing power and ability to run virtual machines.

Desktops, it can be argued, are becoming more important, rather than less. I don’t mean the old, broken-down variety. Libraries supporting 1:1 situations need the latest and greatest ones, powered up to support high-end creative and technical work by students. Many districts are also looking toward thin clients or virtual desktops to stretch tech budgets. Having dedicated machines for specific work is just as key.

Desktops’ peripheral hardware is equally important. Libraries can support informal learning and exploration by providing students access to special tools and software for art, music, video, and technology fields. These tools can be expensive, but you can take steps to introduce new possibilities, even on a tight budget.

With audio production, for instance, having a quality microphone greatly improves how the outcome sounds. If you are serious about audio and have money to create an audio station, consider the USB microphones from Blue, like the Yeti (about $120), which I love. To get started, you could also get the Blue Icicle ($35), providing USB input for any regular microphone. Free software, such as Audacity, or Apple’s GarageBand, makes recording and editing as easy as cut and paste.

Similarly, consider enhancing the art capabilities of your special library desktops with a graphical tablet. The basic Bamboo tablet from Wacom starts at about $55; the larger, more advanced Wacom Intuos ($200–$300) offers better precision and pressure sensitivity.

By seeing desktops as the next big thing, libraries can boost their tech capabilities while filling gaps opened by shifts away from desktops and laptops elsewhere in the school. High-end desktops with add-ons supporting creative, technical work and exploration help students develop new skills and abilities. That’s why  are still a critical part of libraries moving forward.

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