School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:10:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Six Back-to-School Goals for Teacher Librarians | Tech Tidbits Fri, 28 Aug 2015 17:00:41 +0000 memopad_Back2School_webLibrarians can jump-start the school year by setting some essential goals. Here, teacher librarian Phil Goerner tackles his top six objectives and lays out a plan for achieving these goals, which range from creating new maker space projects to engaging teachers in professional development.

  1. Collaborate with teachers

I think this is one of the most important parts of our jobs. I know it always takes a while to build momentum in the fall and get into classrooms. One of the best ways for me to get started is to stay organized. I have been using Google Tasks to keep my lists handy and streamline my day. It synchronizes with my school Gmail no matter what computer I’m logged into, and there is even an app for my smart phone.

I’m working on “sneaking” into as many classrooms as I can to line up team teaching jobs, demonstrate a tech tool, or just to promote the library resources. Since my students have just gone 1:1 with iPads, we are supporting our teachers who are using the heck out of Schoology for their learning management system, Nearpod for delivery of information to students, and Noteability for note-taking, sharing, and learning.

  1. Promote the library

Letting teachers and students know about the library resources is vital in the fall. We’ll be creating and sharing virtual SMORE Newsletters and using Canva graphics to promote our library resources. We’ll even print some old school–style color fliers we post for the students in their bathrooms. We call them the weekly “potty papers.”

  1. Take a lead on professional development

Wow! Who knew teaching teachers would become such a big part of our lives as school librarians? At our school, we have launched the SAMR technology model in hopes that our teachers will strengthen their 21st century skills and support student achievement in deeper ways. I find Google Chrome’s Screencastify to be a strong tool for creating tutorials to support skill-building and understanding. is a great animated GIF creator to create step-by-step instructions. We have been collaborating as a group of teachers after school during our “Tech Tuesdays” to share ideas and insights. Perhaps most importantly this fall, I am excited to spearhead the planning of edcamp Longmont, which will be held at my school using the “unconference” model. We have lots of learning planned, donated goodies to give away, an Apps Smackdown scheduled, and even an active Makerspace to be explored.

  1. Meet with clubs

For our book club, student leaders and I help all members create Goodreads accounts to share their reading. We take and post pictures of #bookface Fridays on Instagram, and set up Skype time with our sister book club at Monarch High School in Louisville, CO, led by teacher librarian Beatrice Gerrish. We also schedule movie premiere visits (Scorch Trials on September 18—are you psyched?), and we’ll be introducing our students to the Somewhat Virtual Book Club using the video from New Cannan (CT) High School (#SWVBC). That should get them off and running for the fall.

  1. Engage in making

My student leaders and I will determine our focus soon, but we are already committed to a few major projects. They are teaming with the student club Peace and Service for Africa to build lanterns with our 3-D printer and getting involved with the One Million Lights project. Secondly, we are collaborating with the local maker space in town and meeting with them during lunch on a weekly basis. We’ll also be organizing a LEGO drive to collect pieces for our middle school, where the students there are creating their own LEGO wall.

  1. Celebrate “freadom”

Don’t forget the special celebrations that kick-start our fall library world! To celebrate ALA’s Banned & Challenged Book Week (September 27–Oct 3), we are coordinating visits from the social studies teachers to attend presentations on First Amendment Rights and the freedom to read.

A highlight of that week will be Banned Websites Day, when we’ll raise awareness for Internet filtering and digital citizenship, which are especially important topics for our 1:1 school. During the week, our readers will be preparing and submitting videos in the Fifth Annual Virtual Read Out, in which students and authors post YouTube videos sharing the importance of freedom to read. What a week!

September’s activities will roll you right into October with Teen Read Week (October 18–24), homecoming festivities, and, of course, all the wonderful celebrations surrounding Halloween.

Once you have your to-do lists started, your projects in motion, and your ducks in a row, make sure to have a formal meeting with your principal to share your annual goals, request their support, and ask them for advice and resources to make things happen.

I’d love to hear what’s on your back-to-school lists.

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Four NYC Publishers, One Epic Season: Rocco Staino’s Peek at Upcoming Fall Titles Fri, 28 Aug 2015 14:25:33 +0000 This past spring, SLJ contributing editor Rocco Staino attended several previews for major publishing houses based in the New York City area. From a get-together at the funky triangular-shaped offices of Macmillan in the Flatiron Building to the posh conference space at the Random House tower on Broadway, Staino offers an insider’s view into hot and buzz-worthy titles coming out this fall.

Deer, dogs, and library Olympics from Random House

Ask any children’s librarian what’s the most popular animal in children’s stories and you’re likely to get Only Childa variety of answers ranging from dogs and cats to bears and monkeys. But surely deer would not be at the top of the list (beside, perhaps, Bambi). Surprisingly, there are two books featuring deer coming out this fall from Random House. Both Guojing’s The Only Child (December) and Lori Evert and Per Breiehagen’s The Reindeer Wish (October) feature girls discovering a magical deer in the woods—but that is where the similarity ends. The Reindeer Wish is illustrated with stunning full-color photography featuring the couple’s daughter, Anja. The young girl, impeccably styled to look like a cherubic folktale character brought to life, helps her baby reindeer become part of Santa’s team. In the wordless picture book The Only Child, Guojing captures loneliness and beauty through a strong visual narrative utilizing softly shaded black and white charcoal drawings.

Happily for canine fans, there are several soon-to-be popular dog titles coming out in the upcoming months, including Space Dog (October) by Mini Grey and two titles in the “Puppy Pirates” series by Erin Soderberg—featuring cover art that had even jaded librarians producing a few “awwwws” of appreciation. But it was A Dog Wearing Shoes (September) by Sangmi Ko, a doggy adoption tale about a pooch who wears bright yellow booties, that received the most notable “Oos and aahs”.

It appears that this holiday season publishers will have a few cross-cultural titles that combine Hanukkah and Christmas as plotlines. In Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer’s Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein (October), which is illustrated by Christine Davenier, readers meet a Jewish girl who is determined to celebrate Christmas—even going so far as to leave latkes for Santa’s reindeer (Oh, here’s another deer!).

BalloonVeteran picture book creator Jarrett J. Krosoczka has decided to illustrate the old adage of “always look at the bright side,” in his latest book It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon (September). Another veteran illustrator, Paul O. Zelinsky, has taken Emily Jenkins’s Lumphy, StingRay, and Plastic from her “Toy” chapter books and portrays them in glorious full-color for their picture book debut, Toys Meet Snow (September).

Illustrators help bring real people to life for young readers in two new picture book biographies. Illustrator Vanessa Newton’s subject is folk artist Harriet Powers in Barbara Herkert’s Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist (October). Raúl Colon joins with author Jonah Winter to create Hillary (January, 2016), just in time for the upcoming presidential race.

Fans of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder will surely welcome Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories (August). The three stories are a peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep. Middle grade readers who prefer fiction that focuses on current events and social issues will find Patricia Rielly Griff’s Until I Find Julian (September) of interest. It is set along the Mexican border and Arkansas and centers on the story of a young boy journeying to the United States to find his brother. Middle graders will also be happy to see Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics (January, 2016) which is the follow-up to Chris Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Random, 2013).

For teens well versed in the art of texting and emoji-vocabulary, Courtney Carbone and Brett Wright , two children’s book editors, have teamed up with the Bard of Avon to retell Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet via texts and emojis. The first two titles in this new series are srsly Hamlet (May) and YOLO Juliet (May).

Young adults who enjoy something a bit more along the lines of John Green will want to check out
debut author Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything (September) about a girl who is allergic to the outside world. Readers who lean more toward bad boy angels and supernatural adventure/romance may want to pick up Lauren Kate’s Unforgiven (November).

Librarians and young readers looking for a reason to celebrate have two this year. Dr. Seuss’s Horton GravesHatches the Egg will be turning 75 this year and Random House is offering a free Bullying Prevention and Friendship Educator’s Kit. Also, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of The Golden Compass, Random House is planning a lavishly designed slipcase anniversary edition that will include a conversation between Philip Pullman and Lev Grossman, author of the “Magicians” trilogy (Viking).

The highlight of the Random House event was hearing author Jennifer Donnelly talk about her upcoming book, These Shallow Graves (October). The story is set in 1890 Gilded Age New York City where the rich and beautiful Jo Montfort enlists the help of a young, smart, infuriatingly handsome reporter to help find the truth about her father’s death. See this clip from her talk:

A Musical Ode to School Libraries at the Candlewick Preview

Each season presents new books and with them, new opportunities to learn and expand one’s knowledge. Candlewick’s fall season offers titles about little known historical personages, transgender issues, and the immigrant experience. And that’s just to start.

FannieUnless they are members of the Mayflower Society, most readers have probably never heard of John Howland. He, as the title of the upcoming picture book by P.J. Lynch states, was The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune (September). In this book for readers in grades two to five, Lynch tells the Pilgrim story from the young man’s point of view. In Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer (August), author Carole Boston Weatherford uses poetry to tell the story of a woman who was a champion of the civil rights movement. The book is illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Teens will learn about the Siege of Leningrad and the role composer Demitri Shostakovich played during that event in M.T. Anderson’s Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad (September).

Two new Candlewick works center on the LGBTQ experience: Maggie Thrash makes her debut with the graphic memoir Honor Girl (September), in which she recalls her first love with her counselor at a girl’s Christian summer camp.  Pat Schmatz tackles the issue of gender nonconformity in Lizard Radio (September). Based in a futuristic society, Kavili has to struggle with defining what she is: a girl or boy, human or lizard.

Several new titles explore Latino culture, including Mango, Abuela, and Me (August) a picture book by MangoMeg Medina and illustrated by Angela Dominguez, which blends two cultures as grandmother and granddaughter overcome a language barrier with the help of feathered pet. In the debut novel by Judith Robin Rose, Look Both Ways in the Barrio (September), middle grade readers are introduced to Jacinta who crosses the line from the barrio to affluent society.

Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz has written about the complexities of crossing societal lines in her new YA novel set in 1911 Baltimore. A Pennsylvania farm girl moves into the home of an affluent Jewish family in The Hired Girl (September).

Fans of Charlotte Zolotow will be happy to know that Candlewick is reissuing Zolotow’s Say It! , a picture book featuring a mother and child taking a crisp, autumn walk. This edition is illustrated by another Charlotte, Charlotte Voake.

Librarians who attend previews and author events are, like me, likely quite familiar with authors telling them how important librarians are to them and to their work. However, I’ve never witnessed an author compose and perform an ode to the blight of school libraries. Yet that is just what happened at the Candlewick Librarian Preview in New York City this past spring. Todd Strasser, the well-known author, was there to talk about The Beast of Cretacea (October). The book is a science fiction retelling of Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick. In addition to describing his new book, Strasser picked up his guitar and serenaded the group with an Ode to School Libraries. Check out this clip:


Sequels, Famous Names, and Debuts Galore for Penguin

Have you been wondering what Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers’s crayons have been up to since The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) or asking whether David Lubar’s Scott of Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie (2005) ever moved on? Readers will be pleased to see some favorite characters return in sequels this fall.

thedaythecrayonscamehomeDuncan is again entangled with another group of crayons, but this time these colors are in need of an understanding friend. Who likes pea green or a maroon crayon broken in two? Duncan handles these and other colorful situations in The Day Crayons Came Home (August). After 10 years, readers will find out how Scott is coping with a baby brother and his sophomore year in high school in the long-awaited sequel to Sleeping Freshmen, Sophomores and Other Oxymorons (August).

Young people will have the opportunity to delve into adult best sellers with editions specifically tailored for them. Daniel James Brown has adapted his New York Times best seller The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics (September) for middle grade readers. At the age of 10, many children are beginning to make their own food choices so Michael Pollan’s young reader’s adaption of The Omnivore’s Dilemma (August) will give those readers the inside scoop on the personal and global health implications of their nutritional choices.

Chelsea Clinton, a recognizable name, is also encouraging young people to get informed and take action with her book It’s Your World (September). Clinton introduces such topics as poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, access to education, gender equality, epidemics, non-communicable diseases, climate change, and endangered species.

In addition to celebrity authors and anticipated sequels, Penguin also has some notable debuts coming out this season. Writer, comedian, and entertainer Justin Sayre pens Husky (September), an LGBTQ-themed middle grade story. Historic preservation, crooked politicians, and the Underground Railroad each finds its way into Lisa Lewis Tyre’s debut novel Last in a Long Line of Rebels (September). Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s debut YA novel The Accident Season was described by editor Kathy Dawson as having the “Best Kiss Ever.” That said, its protagonist Cara and her family mysteriously suffer from accidents every October. Why? Sonja and Charlotte also suffer accidents in Juman Maulouf’s debut middle grade novel The Trilogy of Two (November). These twins who were adopted by the tattoo lady in the circus accidently levitate the audience in this Wes Anderson-esque story. Meanwhile, a fundamental Christian group and the summer before college play a major part in Pratima Cranse’s  All the Major Constellations (November). Famed fashion illustrator Donald Robertson joins the ranks of debut authors. He is bringing Mitford, the fashionista giraffe that he made famous on Instagram (@Drawbertson), to the children’s picture book world with Mitford at the Fashion Zoo (August). One of Robertson’s frequent subjects is the hat-wearing musician Pharrell Williams. Williams also has his own picture book based on his song Happy (October). The book will feature photographs of children across cultures celebrating what it means to be happy.

Speaking of cross cultures, there are a number of titles will give readers insights into other cultures. Crossing social economic lines is the subject of Kaul Hart Hemming’s Gilmore Girls-like novel, Juniors (September). Set in Hawaii, some may find it reminiscent of the film Sabrina. The picture book Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat and illustrated by Leslie Staub tackles the subject of a girl whose mother is in an immigration detention center. Meanwhile, Haifaa Al Mansour’s middle grade novel The Green Bicycle (September) features a fierce Saudi Arabian girl who wants to ride a bike despite its cultural taboo.

Librarians may want to take note of Loren Long’s Little Tree (September), which is a tender exploration Littleof a late bloomer. Also of note is C. Alexander London’s The Wild Ones (September). London, a former librarian, was inspired by Brian Jacques’s “Redwall” series (Philomel).

The preview ended with author Adam Rubin and illustrator Daniel Salmieri entertaining the librarian crowd with their wacky new book, Robo-Sauce, which actually turns into Robo-Book. The duo used book technology and foil to accomplish the trick. Readers will just have to wait until October to get their hands on the book to see the clever book engineering in action.


Macmillan: New Titles by Gantos, Applegate, and More Award Winners

Wondering what Newbery winners Jack Gantos and Katherine Applegate have been up to? How about Arbuthnot lecturer Michael Morpurgo and The Horn Book-Boston Globe winner Steve Sheinkin?

Gantos explores the dangerous side of conformity and loss-of-self in his upcoming autobiographical novel, The Trouble in Me (September). Crenshaw (September) is Katherine Applegate’s latest middle grade title. It centers on Jackson, a boy living in poverty and his imaginary giant cat named Crenshaw.  “This is his masterpiece” is how editor Liz Szabla described Listen to the Moon (October) by Michael Morpurgo. The author of War Horse (Kaye & Ward, 1982) has again set his latest book during World War I. Sheinkin examines the Vietnam War era in Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War (September) that editor Simon Boughton called a “primer in that period of history”.

CCq6J6kUgAAB2iSOther pop culture names from the era also appear this publishing season. There’s Susan Reich and Adam Gustavson’s picture book biography of the Beatles, Fab Four Friends (August); Andrea Davis Pinkney’s Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound (September), and Sondheim: The Man Who Changed Musical Theater (March) by Susan Goldman Rubin.

Editor Neal Porter introduced one of his stars, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, as the “queen of the die cuts” as he presented her I Used to be Afraid (September) and he compared his husband and wife team Philip C. and Erin Stead’s new book Lenny & Lucy (October) to the Brothers Grimm and Neil Gaiman. Nerdy Book Club members take note: Nerdy Birdy (September) by Aaron Reynolds & Matt Davies is a picture book featuring an adorkable, book-loving bird who has trouble fitting into the cool crowd.

There were titles presented that helped shed light on some social issues. Phil Bildner presents a character with autism in A Whole New Ball Game (August), a middle grade story illustrated by Tim Probert. Mixed Me! (October) by celebrity Taye Diggs and illustrated by Shane W. Evans is a picture book about a young biracial boy. The topic of home schooling is featured in Jonathan Bean’s new picture book, This is My Home, This is My School (October). And in the YA space, Hellraisers, the first book in “The Devil’s Engine,” a new horror trilogy by Alexander Gordon Smith, features Marlow Green, a kid with asthma.

For kids interested in computer programming there is Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding (October) by Linda Liukas that features a female main character.

Macmillan previews are noted for their tempting food treats; indeed some of the titles alone caused Baconmouths to water. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s Rachel Bright’s Love Monster and the Last Chocolate (December). We know that Everyone Loves Bacon (September) and that is the title of Kelly DiPucchio and Eric Wright’s book about the price of fame.

Can you believe that famous canine of both book and screen, Lassie, is turning 75 this year? She looks great. In October, Henry Holt will release the anniversary edition of Eric Knight’s Lassie Come Home with the original Marguerite Kirmse illustrations. This year also marks some other notable anniversaries: Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron turns 50. The anniversary edition (September) has a foreword by Rebecca Stead.

Librarians looking for December holiday books that work for more than one type of celebration will embrace Oskar and the Eight Blessings (September) by Richard and Tanya Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel. The story is about an immigrant boy searching for his aunt in 1938 New York City. Eleanor Roosevelt, Count Basie, and Macmillan’s headquarters, the Flatiron Building, all make cameo appearances in this holiday tale.

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Hand in Hand: Kathryn Otoshi on Her Collaboration with Bret Baumgarten for “Beautiful Hands” Fri, 28 Aug 2015 13:25:06 +0000 SLJ chats with picture book artist and publisher, Kathryn Otoshi, about her latest book and the inspiring story behind it's creation. ]]> Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten

Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten

Kathryn Otoshi, best known for her striking concept books, One (2008), Zero (2010), and Two (2014), partnered with Bret Baumgarten, a father and husband battling cancer, to create the timeless and affecting new picture book, Beautiful Hands (2015, all KO Kids Bks.). SLJ asked Otoshi to share the story behind the book.

How did you first meet Bret?
Bret and I met through Brian, a close mutual friend of ours. Bret had mentioned to me before that he always wanted to do a children’s book. When he was diagnosed last year with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, I remembered this. A week later I went over to his house and asked Bret if he wanted to do a picture book together for his children, Noah (age nine) and Sofie (age seven). He was really excited and loved the idea. Thus the collaboration began!

How did the words come together?
It was just last spring that Bret told me he would hold his children’s hands in his every day and ask them, “What will your beautiful hands do today?” This question sparked the rest of the book for me. Little hands can do so many wonderful things—TOUCH… LIFT…STRETCH…REACH. When Noah and Sofie were just babies, he would marvel how their tiny hands would reach out—they could barely squeeze a single finger. But soon they were holding his hand. And before he knew it, their hands were drawing, playing the piano, and creating all these amazing things! As a parent, you watch in wonder as your children grow, not just physically, but as they come into their own as individuals into this world.


Kathryn Otoshi assembling a Spirit Bird from the many handprints.

Otoshi assembling a Spirit Bird from the many handprints.

Tell us about the process for creating this artwork. Who was involved?
I work with symbolism in my stories. For Beautiful Hands, I saw there could be wordplay between the tangible and the intangible—TOUCH hearts; LIFT spirits; REACH for love. Since this was a legacy book for his family, I thought it would be nice to have Noah, Sofie, and his wife, Deborah, to be physically engaged in the book’s process as it all came together. So all their handprints, including Bret’s and my own, are in the story.

Tells us about some of the other hands that are part of the artwork.
Beautiful Hands embeds the handprints of over 100 loving family members and friends, both young and old, who are now in the rainbow art at the end of this book. Even Mocha, the Baumgarten’s dog, got in the book. She’s family too!

How did the art go from initial paint on paper to final artwork as it appears in the book?
At the party, we had trays of different paint colors with huge stacks of large poster-sized paper. Each person’s hands was painted with varying thickness of paint. It’s amazing to see how everyone’s fingersprints and handprints are so unique! All of these handprints were scanned in to the computer and overlayed together to create the art. Hand textures, thumbprints for the wings of bees, hand drawn type—every part of this book is somehow hand-done.

How has Bret’s family reacted to the finished book?Beautiful Hands
It’s been fun involving his children and family from the first initial sketches to the final book launch. I’ve been going to schools across the country in Bret’s memory, making these Spirit Birds out of hundreds of children’s hands. I talk about how we can use our hands to take action and do something creative and loving for others. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Bret. We all miss him—his big heart and encouraging message will always live on in the pages of this book.

“My hope that this story empowers love, creativity, compassion, and a
connection to you and yours, in the fulfilling and remarkable way it has for me” 

~ Bret Baumgarten, 1970–2014

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Stand-Off by Andrew Smith | SLJ Review Fri, 28 Aug 2015 13:00:43 +0000 SMITH, Andrew. Stand-Off. 416p. ebook available. S. & S. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418294. Gr 9 Up–In this sequel to Winger (S. & S., 2013), Ryan Dean West’s senior year at Pine Mountain Academy is off to a rough start. Still grieving over friend Joey’s death, he’s saddled with Sam, a 12-year-old freshman roommate he dismisses as a “larva in soccer pajamas.” Adding to the pressure, his rugby coach wants him to take Joey’s position on the field and as [...]]]> standoffSMITH, Andrew. Stand-Off. 416p. ebook available. S. & S. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418294.
Gr 9 Up–In this sequel to Winger (S. & S., 2013), Ryan Dean West’s senior year at Pine Mountain Academy is off to a rough start. Still grieving over friend Joey’s death, he’s saddled with Sam, a 12-year-old freshman roommate he dismisses as a “larva in soccer pajamas.” Adding to the pressure, his rugby coach wants him to take Joey’s position on the field and as team captain. Resulting panic attacks and visions of a Grim Reaper–esque guy he names Nate (Next Acciden+al Terrible Experience) make Ryan Dean aware he needs help, but he can’t bring himself to ask for it. Hot girlfriend Annie offers sex and parental-sounding advice, but two male relationships finally help Ryan Dean open his heart again. Sam is able to see the pain behind Ryan Dean’s facade due to his own past trauma. Bound by their mutual grief, Joey’s brother Nico and Ryan Dean begin a fragile friendship. The novel’s heavy issues are tempered by Ryan Dean’s wickedly funny ruminations and good-natured male crudeness. An ingeniously conceived subplot provides teens with a practical lesson on sexual consent. Readers are left with the reassurance that no one can be expected to handle their problems alone. VERDICT The novel succeeds not only as an emotionally satisfying sequel but as a hopeful, honest account of coping with a devastating loss.–Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.

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First-Ever “Public Libraries & STEM” Event Forges New Alliances Thu, 27 Aug 2015 20:10:34 +0000 STEMLibrariesProfessionals from the library, education, and STEM fields gathered last week in Denver to participate in “Public Libraries & STEM,” the first conference of its kind to convene leaders from these arenas to examine current and future practices at the intersection of librarianship and science, technology, engineering, and math.

“We were really trying to foster giving [participants] networking opportunities galore,” says Paul B. Dusenbery, the director of the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL), based in Boulder, CO. It, together with the Houston-based Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), organized the August 20–22 event attended by about 150 people. “If you look at the potential for STEM subjects in libraries, it is a beautiful fit.”

Dusenbery also directs the STAR Library Education Network, which he describes as a community of practice where professionals can find resources and examples of library-based STEM initiatives across the country. LPI has worked with libraries for more than 15 years to develop space science learning opportunities. The two organizations received funding from the National Science Foundation to hold the event. Representatives from several other library, education, museum, and science organizations also participated in organizing the conference.

“Sometimes you go to conferences and you meet people in passing, but this was a little bit more intimate,” says Sharon Cox, the manager of the Queens Library Children’s Library Discovery Center in New York City.  “We had more time to sit down and really talk about what each of our organizations is doing and things we’d like to do in the future.”

One idea generated at the event is the possibility of an annual public engagement campaign focused on bringing families into libraries for STEM activities. The key, Dusenbery says, is effectively marketing these opportunities to diverse communities. He points to how Cox uses social media, partners with other community organizations, and holds events such as an annual “discovery street fair” to pull in families from a wide range of cultures and ethnicities.

A pre-conference survey gathered information on what libraries are currently doing and areas where they feel they need support. The results showed that roughly 80 percent of libraries are developing and implementing STEM-related programs.

While Dusenbery says that might sound encouraging, he cautioned that the quality of these efforts is unclear. For example, if public libraries want to work with K–12 schools, the activities or programs they are organizing should be aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, which 15 states and the District of Columbia have now adopted, according to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). The NSTA, along with the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve, led the process of developing the standards.

The survey also showed that library staff members generally feel comfortable working with students in elementary and middle school, but that leading STEM programs for high school students or adults takes them out of their comfort zone. That’s why partnerships with content experts are important, Dusenbery stresses. “You don’t have to be an educator, but we want you to learn how to be a great facilitator” and show children and adults how to find the information they want, he says.

Participants expect the conference to spark a variety of new relationships focused on increasing STEM education opportunities.

“The event was the most helpful conference that I have attended in recent memory,” says David Keely, who is coordinating a $1.2 million effort to create a guide for state library agencies on how to provide patrons “engaging and meaningful informal science and technology experiences.” Cornerstones of Science, a Maine nonprofit, and the Maine State Library, are leading the effort. “If there is the demand, excellent programming will follow.”




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SPONSORED: Stars for Kat Spears’s “Breakaway”! Thu, 27 Aug 2015 14:06:00 +0000 Breakaway, which has already garnered several starred reviews.]]> BreakawayNOTE: This content was sponsored and contributed by Macmillan

Last year we fell hard for librarian Kat Spears‘s debut novel, SWAY. Everyone else did, too: it received two starred reviews and was a YALSA 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick!

Her new novel, BREAKAWAY, is about a young man who finds himself pulled between building a healthy and stable relationship with a girl he might be falling in love with, grieving for his younger sister, and trying to hold onto the friendships he has always relied on.

Reviewers love it as much as we do—it already has two starred reviews:

“There’s not a single canned emotion to be found; each boy’s pain is visceral and true to his character. Readers will be hard-pressed to find a more realistic portrait of friends finding themselves while losing one another. A rare study of growing pains that gives equal weight to humor and hardship.”— Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A painfully honest and powerful depiction of the changing nature of friendships in the face of hardship and an exploration of what it means ‘to be human and alive.’” — Booklist, starred review

Download and read this pup already! Don’t see the green button? Get whitelisted.

For more information about our teen titles, download the 2015 Books for Teens poster now or request a copy by e-mailing your full name, title & mailing address to

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Reviewers and Bloggers: Prepare for KidLitCon 2015, October 9–10, in Baltimore Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:50:45 +0000 KidlitconLogo2015The annual festival of book love known as KidLitCon, for people who write about children’s and young adult literature, takes place in Baltimore this year on October 9–10 at the Hyatt Place Inner Harbor hotel. Registration is now open for the two-day conference, which will include author panels, inside information on evaluating and reviewing books, and bowling.

The 2015 keynote speakers are Tracey Baptiste, the Trinidad-born author of The Jumbies (Algonquin, 2015), and Carrie Mesrobian, author of  YA novels Sex and Violence, Perfectly Good White Boy (Carolrhoda, 2013,  2014), and the forthcoming Cut Both Ways (HarperTeen, 2015).

Here are some highlights from the conference program.

Those wanting to take their reviewing game to the next level can hear from three bloggers-turned-writers for national publications, along with SLJ associate editor Mahnaz Dar, who will demonstrate  best practices in writing for publication.

Offering insight on how artists’ choices influence the experience of reading a picture book will be blogger Minh Le, Caldecott committee member and children’s literature consultant Susan Kusel, and artists Matt Phelan, illustrator of Marilyn’s Monster (Candlewick, 2015), Shadra Strickland, illustrator of Bird (Lee & Low, 2008)  and Kevin O’Malley, co-creator of At the Ballpark.

Participants can learn how to defend and promote books that some people might find “too scary” from certified coward Karen Yingling and authors Mary Downing Hahn (Took; HMH, 2015), Baptiste, and Ronald L. Smith (Hoodoo; HMH, 2015).

Matthew C. Winner, librarian at Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Elkridge, MD, and host of the Let’s Get Busy podcast, will show what’s involved in putting together an entertaining, star-studded podcast month after month.

A panel of current and former Caldecott, Newbery, Eisner, Sidney Taylor, Printz, and Cybils (Childrens and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) committee members and judges will indulge in some Awards Committee Real Talk. The Cybils turns 10 this year; conference registration includes a Friday night buffet dinner at bowling alley Mustang Alley’s.

Other panels will address STEM-related books, intersectionality in children’s and YA literature, and issues of authentic representation, especially concerning LGBTQA+ and differently abled people.

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Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick | SLJ Review Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:00:10 +0000 WINICK, Judd. Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. 208p. (Hilo: Bk. 1). ebook available. Random. Sept. 2015. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780385386173. Gr 2-5–Daniel Jackson Lim, aka DJ, is an ordinary boy in a family of overachievers. He meets Hilo, a robot boy who fell to Earth from space and doesn’t know where he came from or what he is doing on this planet. DJ, along with his best friend, Gina, help Hilo unlock the secrets of his past [...]]]> HiLoWINICK, Judd. Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. 208p. (Hilo: Bk. 1). ebook available. Random. Sept. 2015. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780385386173.
Gr 2-5–Daniel Jackson Lim, aka DJ, is an ordinary boy in a family of overachievers. He meets Hilo, a robot boy who fell to Earth from space and doesn’t know where he came from or what he is doing on this planet. DJ, along with his best friend, Gina, help Hilo unlock the secrets of his past and stop the destruction of the planet. The first installment in this graphic novel series is a fast-paced adventure that is beautifully illustrated in full color and aimed at readers who would love to have a superhero friend. Captivating, silly, tender, and, most importantly, funny, this title will be popular with all readers—from reluctant to avid. The strength of friendship and cooperation is a theme throughout. With a cliff-hanger ending, the book will have kids eager for the sequel. VERDICT Diverse characters, good friends, and humorous dialogue coupled with colorful illustrations and plenty of action make this a must-have for all children’s graphic novel collections.–Paula Huddy, The Blake School-Highcroft Campus, Wayzata, MN

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.

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“Honor Girl” Graphic Novelist Maggie Thrash on Identity and Girls’ Spaces Thu, 27 Aug 2015 12:30:56 +0000 Honor Girl focuses on an experience she had at summer camp when she was 15. Thrash shared how she went from comics newbie to full-fledged author, described the challenges of writing a memoir, and emphasized the importance of all-girl’s spaces.]]> Photo by Nico Carver

Photo by Nico Carver

As a teenager, Maggie Thrash spent her summers at the preppy Camp Bellflower for Girls in Kentucky. With her graphic novel memoir Honor Girl (Candlewick, Sept. 2015), Thrash recounts the summer of 2000, a pivotal time in her life, when she fell in love with Erin, a counselor; grappled with identity and self-discovery; and began to see the seemingly idyllic Camp Bellflower with new eyes. SLJ caught up with the debut author and Thrash shared how she went from comics newbie to full-fledged author, describing the challenges of writing a memoir, and emphasizing the importance of all-girl’s spaces.

Why did you choose to write about this particular moment?

I think it seems like a line in the sand, like a moment. Everyone probably has [that moment] when they’re a teenager and they experience really intense feelings for the first time. It’s that moment when you’re not a child anymore, [that’s] characterized by intense, intense feelings. This was my moment.

It’s interesting that you chose to write about a summer experience—it’s a time when you have freedom to explore your identity.

It’s this really weird, magical, nebulous time that I think is really important for development. I always wonder [about] kids who go to year-round schools. I bet it’s really great in a lot of ways, but they don’t have that summer, that transformative three-month idleness that I think is really important. [That time] when there are no expectations, that’s when things will happen.

You really get to the heart of identity and how being a teen is about trying on different identities. For example, in Honor Girl, you describe how you became passionate about sharpshooting that summer and you wanted to show up your competitor but how you also felt bad about doing that.

There’s that thing when you’re young, that possessiveness about skills or books. As a child, you’re just who your parents say you are. And I remember that [feeling] of someone stealing my thing and how visceral that was and the jealousy [that occurred]. People think of teenagers as being jealous of each other for gossiping and stealing each other’s boyfriends, but I just remember the pain of this girl wearing the same bracelet as me and feeling so insecure about it, [because] that was mine, even though it was just a piece of plastic.

honorGIrlYour memoir takes place in 2000, and you touch upon what a strange period of time that was in terms of gay rights and acceptance.

It was a really weird time, because most people were still homophobic but they were closeted in their homophobia. So everyone was closeted, and everyone was passive aggressively polite toward one another. It was a really strange transitional period. And, at the same time, there were a lot of messages—Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a lesbian character—that it’s okay, that you’re not a freak. But then in the real world, you got very different messages and you very quickly learned that it was just easier to just be quiet.

When you wrote, did you draw upon personal journals or talk to people you knew from Camp Bellflower?

I have some journals. It was mostly from memories. I’m not in touch with anyone from the camp. I ran into the character of Bethany in Thailand, just walking on the street, but I haven’t maintained contact with anyone. I was insecure about that at some times. How does Erin remember this? Does she even remember me? How is she going to feel when this comes out? So it was mostly memories, and I had a ton of photographs.

I feel really good now that it’s coming out in the world, but I also feel nervous, because people are going to recognize themselves. I’ll bet it’s really strange to have no control over how someone is depicting you. I have a lot of control in how this is coming out, and the people being depicted don’t.

Was revisiting such an emotionally charged period tough?

It wasn’t that tough. I think it was mostly cathartic. I’m an adult now, finally, but it feels like I’ve been 15 since I was 15. I just felt, “I’m an adult now. It’s time to get over this.” I had sort of pushed this whole experience into the recesses of my memory, and I hadn’t sat down and submerged myself in these memories for so long.

What books have influenced you?

The “Scott Pilgrim” (Oni Pr.) books [by Bryan Lee O’Malley]. They were just so unpretentious. Anyone can grab them and get into them. That was big, because comics and graphic novels can be so intimidating. But “Scott Pilgrim” was so accessible. I loved it.

When it comes to writing, are there benefits to the graphic novel format?

Oh, definitely. I don’t have any art or comic experience. I had this lofty idea of writing my memoirs, and I got about 10 pages in, and it was just awful. The writing was so awkward. I gave it to my roommate, and he said, “This is awful, but I think it could make an interesting comic. You should try it.” I had never done anything like that before, but once I started, I said, “This feels really right, like the right way to introduce myself to people.” Now I love doing it.

You don’t have to explain yourself [in a comic]. You just show it. I think it’s a fantastic way to tell personal stories.

You have an autobiographical webcomic. Is that a format you find easier?

[My] webcomic is simple and really fun. When I got this agent saying, “Okay, write a graphic novel about that camp section,” I sat down and felt so in over my head. You have to map out every page! It was really overwhelming, and the learning curve was pretty rough. I spent the first year just writing a draft that I had to throw away because it didn’t work. It’s intimidating, but I guess what I learned is that anyone can do this—and anyone should.

You’re also a staff writer for the online magazine Rookie. Does working on a publication that’s targeted to teenagers and young women help inform your writing?

It helped me, because I had to get out of [a certain] mind-set. Half the time I’d be writing it and thinking, “What is Erin going to say?” I had to say [to myself], “Nope. I cannot be writing this for her.” And then I would think of the Rookie readers. I’d think, “I’m writing it for the Rookie girls,” and that would help clear my head out.

I’m very muse oriented. I always have someone that I’m writing for. I had a couple muses for this one, but one of them was just the thousands of unknown Rookie girls out there.

What’s up next for you?

It’s a mystery novel. It’s going to be fiction, all words, non–graphic novel. Non-nonfiction. So it’s going to be really different.

Why do you think this book was so significant for you?

I hadn’t realized before writing this the importance of girls having their own space growing up. So much of the world revolves around boys, and I know that camps like this all over the country are closing, but I hope [they] survive, because [they are] really important.

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 Book Intended to Help Children Fall Asleep Called ‘Worldwide Phenomenon’ Wed, 26 Aug 2015 20:09:52 +0000 RabbitSleepbookThe Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, a self-published children’s bestseller on Amazon, was picked up by Stockholm-based Salomonsson Agency earlier this week, and now Publishers Weekly is reporting that the world English rights to the book may have been bought by Random House in a seven-figure deal.

Written by Swedish behavioral psychologist and linguist Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin, the book, subtitled A New Way of Getting Children to Sleep, claims to get youngsters to nod off fast. Forssén Ehrlin wrote the book, which has been translated into seven languages, using psychological techniques, such as instructing parents when to read slowly or emphasize a certain word. Parents are even told to yawn as they read it. Salmonsson calls the book a “worldwide phenomenon.”

A message on Forssén Ehrlin’s website, which had featured a free download of the ebook, states: “At the moment, we are talking to publishers who want to buy the rights to give The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep the possibility to be in bookstores and libraries around the world. Since not everyone has the ability to buy the book on the Internet, we think this is positive and the right way to go for us to make our bedtime story available to more people, and hopefully help more children to fall asleep.”

The Rabbit is the first by an independent author to reach the top of Amazon’s best-seller charts, not just in the United States and the United Kingdom, but also in France, Spain and several other countries, according to Salmonsson. Forssén Ehrlin’s previous books focus on leadership and personal development. With The Rabbit, he has been able to tap into one of parents’ highest priorities—getting their children to go to sleep.

“It’s all about giving the right suggestions to the child, to help it focus on relaxation and falling asleep,” according to Forssén Ehrlin’s website.

The book, illustrated by Irina Maununen, tells the story of a rabbit named Roger who gets help falling asleep from Uncle Yawn and other characters. Reviews of the book’s effectiveness have been mixed. Some parents say it hasn’t worked in their house, while others report that they are finally so relieved that they have found a solution for getting their child to settle down and get sleepy.

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Philadelphia Launches $30 Million Literacy Push Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:37:43 +0000 The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) has launched a $30 million early literacy initiative intended to ensure that by 2020, all students are reading on grade level when they reach fourth grade. Focusing on the district’s 48,000 kindergarten through third-grade students, the effort began this summer, with about 700 teachers and principals from 40 schools attending a week-long series of workshops.

Dovetailing with the city’s READ! by 4th campaign, led by the Free Library of Philadelphia, the new three-year program will include teacher training, on-site support for teachers, and in-class libraries, with books students can check out selected with an eye to their reading abilities.

Philadelphia_calloutv2Multiple local groups are contributing funding for the initiative, including the William Penn Foundation, which has promised $6 million; the Lenfest Foundation, which is putting in $4.5 million; and the school district. The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia also plans to raise an additional $3.4 million.

“We are excited to support this project because it provides the opportunity for teachers to enhance their literacy skills throughout the year,” Stacy E. Holland, executive director of the Lenfest Foundation, says in a press release release. “This project is critical to the long-term academic success of our children and we are proud to serve as a part of a collaborative effort that has committed time, energy and resources to support the advancement of a citywide literacy agenda.”

Some people, however, are raising questions about the materials that will be provided to teachers to support the reading goals. Debbie Grill, a former school school librarian with the district and a member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, says she wonders who may be selecting the materials for the in-class libraries and how diverse they will be. The district has not yet released details on how many books will be included in the classroom sets, nor how they will be chosen. (Multiple calls and email requests to speak with district officials and the Lenfest Foundation were not returned.) Grill says that in her experience, classroom libraries tend to have about 30 to 40 books and usually include multiple copies, not 30 to 40 titles.

“Classroom libraries are wonderful, but they don’t take the place of a school library and don’t provide a wide range of interest levels,” she says. “You needs thousands and thousands of books to address a child’s interests. The classroom library only serves the children in that room.”

Funding for school library services in SDP has shrunk by more than 90 percent over the past 10 years, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The district reported spending nearly $9 million for the 2002–03 school year on school library services, but that figure had dropped to just under $817,000 for 2013–14. By comparison, spending on legal services has increased nearly 86 percent over that same time period, from more than $4.9 million in 2002–03 to $9.1 million for the 2013–14.

“At the end of the [2014–15] school year, we were down to 10 certified school librarians [in Philadelphia],” says Debra Kachel, who teaches in Antioch University’s library media certification program and sits on the legislation committee for the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association. “I think one or two are retiring, only a few were still in libraries. It’s, to say the least, very tenuous.”

Like Grill, Kachel is concerned about the classroom libraries and their ability to reach students of all reading levels and even abilities. Fewer than 50 percent of Philadelphia’s public school students are at grade level on math or reading. Kachel wonders who will ensure the classroom libraries will offer a wide enough range to meet students’ needs, including materials for students reading above grade level and those geared to English language learners.

“I applaud this effort and those who are investing funds to make this happen,” she says. “However, as a former school librarian, I need to say school libraries are a better, more economical way to implement access to books for all grades, not just K–3.”


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“Toca Nature”: “A Perfectly Pixelated World” | Touch and Go Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:18:56 +0000 Many readers know Toca Boca’s play studio” apps designed with preschoolers in mind. Here’s something from them that’s a little different. It combines sandbox activities with a subtle ecological message.

toca coverToca Nature (Toca Boca A B, iOS $2.99; K-Gr 2) delivers a hip, pretty opportunity to create and enjoy a curated natural environment. Landforms can be created and trees planted on a blank canvas with the swift swipe of a finger. Changing the perspective only requires a tap to an icon. Berries and other treats can be collected and then given to the animals that appear as viewers zoom in close and travel through the ecosystem. A camera icon allows users to take pictures of the wildlife at close range. The focus here is on exploratory play; and there is plenty of it. There are no explicit instructions—and most wonderfully—no in-app purchases, ads, or distractions.

Interior screen Toca Nature (Toca Boca A B) © Löfgren & Svenningsson

Interior screen Toca Nature (Toca Boca A B) © Löfgren & Svenningsson

While beautifully designed, this digital version of nature is a far cry from representing the real thing. In this perfectly pixelated world, predators only eat fish and berries and rabbits bounce merrily by viewers’ sides. Wildlife is friendly, slow, and will only multiply if viewers plant more trees. The limited geographic options may cause some young explorers to lose interest quickly. Habitats cannot be saved and may disappear when the app is not in use. Eco-conscious folks will cringe at the ax icon, which allows users to destroy their creation with one flick of the wrist. As the trees disappear, the animals flee until there are none left. A note for parents explains settings, the various tools used to sculpt this world, and offers a few discussion points. Toca Nature is stunning to look at; but its limited ecological diversity and informational value are problematic. A beautiful, sad reminder of how nature is taken for granted. A trailer is available.—Caroline Molnar, Delaware City Schools

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Behind the Scenes: SLJ In Conversation with Top Children’s Book Editors Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:11:04 +0000 Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET
Join Kiera Parrott, SLJ's review editor, for a conversation with three storied children's book editors, Neal Porter of Roaring Brook Press, Sheila Barry of Groundwood Books, and Kathy Dawson of Penguin.
Register Now!]]>

Presented by: Groundwood Books, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Penguin Young Readers, & School Library Journal

Event Date & Time: Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT
Register NowJoin Kiera Parrott, SLJ’s review editor, for a conversation with three storied children’s book editors, Neal Porter of Roaring Brook Press, Sheila Barry of Groundwood Books, and Kathy Dawson of Penguin.

They’ll delve deep into the genesis and evolution of some of their most critically acclaimed titles and discuss finding new talent, pairing the right author and illustrator, developing relationships with their authors and illustrators, and how they feel about award season buzz.


Neal Porter – Publisher, Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Sheila Barry – Publisher and Editor, Groundwood Books

Kathy Dawson – Vice-President and Publisher, Kathy Dawson Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC


Kiera Parrott – Review Editor, School Library Journal
Register NowCan’t make it on September 22nd? No problem! Register now and you will get an email reminder from School Library Journal post-live event when the webcast is archived and available for on-demand viewing at your convenience!Follow us on Twitter! @SLJournal #SLJbehindthescenes

Need help getting registered? Send us an email describing your problem.

By registering for this webcast, you are agreeing that School Library Journal may share your registration information with sponsors currently shown and future sponsors of this event. Click here to review the entire School Library Journal Privacy Policy.

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Mystery, Thriller, and Sci-Fi Debuts | Adult Books 4 Teens Wed, 26 Aug 2015 13:30:18 +0000 In my last column, I looked at debut novels by authors established in other fields of writing; in this piece, we’ll delve into more debuts, most of them more or less “pure” debuts by first-time authors. First up is a debut almost 30 years in the making. Yukito Ayatsuji’s The Decagon House Murders was first published in 1987 in Japan and has now been published in English by Locked Room International. Regular readers will remember that I’ve been beating the drum for this indie publisher for almost two years now, starting with my review of Paul Halter’s The Crimson Fog and the Tiger’s Head. I note in my review below several similarities between Halter and Ayatsuji; anyone who’s enjoyed Halter should certainly read The Decagon House Murders. The novel is good fun as a stand-alone mystery but even better fun for fans of Ayatsuji’s predecessors— most notably the great English mystery novelists of the 1920s.

We’ve written before about novels that put a premium on setting, and today we have two fabulous debuts that fit into that category. Robert Gipe’s graphic novel Trampoline looks at the fictional but carefully crafted Canard County, KY, where many things are happening at once: a mining company is tearing the community apart while protagonist Dawn Jewel deals with her family in crisis and homicide charges. J. Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest should perhaps have been featured in my previous column, as Stradal is an accomplished short story writer and has worked in film and television, but fortunately his debut novel fits in well with Gipe’s, invoking—as the title should make abundantly clear—the Midwest, particularly Stradal’s home state of Minnesota. Married as I am to a Minnesotan, I appreciate Stradal’s light jabs at that fabulous state, but even those who have never been to the Midwest should find themselves sucked into this story of food culture in what most people assume to be a food wasteland.

It wouldn’t be an Adult Books 4 Teens column without a great science fiction novel, and for this column we have Kristy Logan’s The Gracekeepers. Technically, this is a postapocalyptic novel, positing an Earth with severely raised sea levels, leaving only tiny scraps of land above water. But for the most part, Logan treats this as an entirely foreign world, mining the drama between “damplings”—people who live almost entirely on water—and “landlockers,” who live on the remaining land. A somewhat low-key work compared to the standard speculative novels teens are used to, this is nonetheless a great choice for thoughtful young adults.

Rounding out our debuts—for now—are three thrillers about different kinds of survival. Claire Kells’s Girl Underwater is about the literal kind—wilderness survival after a plane crash. Strong teen characters, fast-paced thrills, plot twists, and romance should make this a slam-dunk for teens. Maggie Mitchell’s Pretty Is takes on survival of a different kind as two young women try to pick up their lives after being kidnapped and held captive for six weeks. The thriller aspects of the novel begin when the two women meet up several years later on a set of a movie written by one of them and based on their experience. And finally, we have Lauren Frankel’s Hyacinth Girls, focusing on yet another type of survival—survival of high school and the bullying that is all too common. Frankel takes a nuanced approach to the subject, placing one of her protagonists, Callie, in the role of both bully and victim, and another—Callie’s mother—in the uncomfortable position of not knowing the truth about any of the accusations. The bullying eventually becomes life-threatening, and the novel races to a suspense-filled ending that’s perfect for teens looking for a page-turning novel.

Ayatsuji_Decagon House_

AYATSUJI, Yukito. The Decagon House Murders. tr. from Japanese by Ho-Ling Wong. 228p. Locked Room International. 2015. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781508503736.
Available for the first time in English, Ayatsuji’s debut novel was first published in Japan in 1987, the same year that Paul Halter, another giant of locked room mysteries, made his debut. Ayatsuji reinvigorates the classical English mysteries of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ellery Queen, and John Dickson Carr by stripping them down to their essentials and examining their moving parts. In this novel, six members of the Kyoto University Mystery Club—each taking the alias of a famous mystery writer—assemble on an abandoned island and take up residence in a decagonally shaped house. Soon enough, the students begin to be killed off, and the race is on to discover the murderer’s identity. Meanwhile, back on the mainland, two members of the club who chose not to go receive mysterious letters that lead them to believe something is afoot on the island. Along with an enthusiastic partner, they set about trying to solve a mystery from years past, which has connections to the island. Ayatsuji leaves no doubt about his intentions, making copious references to Christie’s And Then There Were None, and even the characters are well aware that they have stumbled into a work of their favorite type of fiction. The metafictional trappings are good fun, but they wouldn’t mean much if the mystery itself weren’t equally fun and tricky. And it is. VERDICT For teens who love a good cozy mystery, but especially for those who have read Halter and other writers of cozy metamystery.–Mark Flowers, Rio Vista (CA) Library

hyacinth-girls-cover-imageFRANKEL, Lauren. Hyacinth Girls. 288p. Crown. 2015. Tr $25. ISBN 9780553418057; ebk. ISBN 9780553418064.
Rebecca, guardian to 13-year-old Callie, has just learned that Callie has bullied Robyn, a girl from school. Certain that Callie would never do such a thing, Callie’s friends stand up for her, and the accusation goes nowhere. When Callie herself becomes the target of relentless bullying, it appears to Rebecca that Robyn turned the tables and has become the bully. Rebecca, treading on very unfamiliar ground, is Callie’s guardian because her best friend Joyce was killed in an automobile accident. As the first narrator, Rebecca relates the events in Callie’s life while seeking to understand how to handle them based on her own childhood relationship with Joyce. Callie doesn’t know the real story behind her mother’s accident or of her father’s subsequent suicide. This leaves the girl unsure of who she is and whether she might become like the imaginary people she believes they were. Teens’ interest will pick up when Callie tells her story. Readers need both perspectives in order to understand how Rebecca, through her struggles to understand, keeps missing clues to what is really going on. Fearing for Robyn’s life as much as for Callie’s, Rebecca is determined to make everything all right, but sometimes, others intervene to make decisions for themselves. Teenage friendships, loyalty, and when to stand one’s ground is at the heart of this story. VERDICT The race to the suspenseful end will keep readers reading long into the night; the conclusion will inspire much thought.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA


GIPE, Robert. Trampoline: An Illustrated Novel. illus. by Robert Gipe. 315p. Ohio University Pr. 2015. Tr $28.95. ISBN 9780821421529.
With her bird’s nest of hair, thick neck, and uneasy stare, Dawn Jewel’s caricature jumps off this work’s cover. But this wisecracking 15-year-old from Canard County, KY, has more to worry about than her looks. She’s fighting a war on two fronts: against the mining company that’s all but separated her community from its home, Blue Bear Mountain; and against the enemy within, Dawn’s family in crisis. Since her father died suspiciously, her mother’s gone AWOL, leaving Dawn’s grandmother nominally in charge of her and her brother. Uncle Hubert is primarily a bad influence, employing Dawn to sell moonshine. Then the family faces possible homicide charges when someone is killed in a car accident while Dawn is driving. Only Aunt June provides respite, encouraging Dawn’s artistic talent, cooking her a decent meal, and taking her dancing. Despite these troubles, Dawn’s stream-of-consciousness commentary about her family is biting and funny. Throughout it all, Bilson Mountain’s community radio hums beneath the chaos: from the Velvet Underground to Black Flag, deejay Willett Bilson’s playlist turns him into Dawn’s late night crooner as, shyly, they find each other. Turns out teenagers still fall in love, no matter how heavy things are at home. Gipe’s powerful sense of place will seep into teen readers’ lives. VERDICT This is a killer debut of one teenager’s flight from destruction—strong stuff tempered with humor and love.–Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY

Kells_Girl Underwater_KELLS, Claire. Girl Underwater. 320p. Dutton. 2015. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9780525954934; ebk. ISBN 9780698186194.
Avery is the youngest in a family of athletes from Boston. She’s a sophomore at Stanford when the plane she’s taking home from school crashes in the Rocky Mountains. She is one of the only survivors, along with Colin (a teammate) and three young boys. They spend five days huddled in the wilderness, facing severe cold, snow storms, and a bear attack. Both Avery and Colin are uniquely qualified to survive—Avery’s father is an emergency room doctor who taught her the basics, even taking her along to the ER on Saturdays to work by his side as she was growing up. Colin has a preternatural calm and optimism, as well as strength and a way with kids. But something happens on the fifth day that makes Avery so ashamed she cannot visit the boys or Colin after their rescue. She even lies to the media. Kells’s choice to alternate chapters between the event and its aftermath effectively ramps up the suspense concerning the details of the tragedy and Avery’s subsequent struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder. Avery is a strong, if flawed, character, and teens will love her deeply emotional, and at times angsty, story. There is a strong bond between Colin and Avery that brings a will-they-or-won’t-they element to their relationship. Colin is a truly good person, and readers looking for a humble hero will swoon. VERDICT With the pacing of a thriller and the heart of a romance, this novel steers readers through one young woman’s survival of a devastating tragedy.–Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

The-Gracekeepers-by-Kirsty-Logan-minLOGAN, Kirsty. The Gracekeepers. 304p. Crown. 2015. Tr $25. ISBN 9780553446616; ebk. ISBN 9780553446630.
This speculative tale is set in a water world filled with archipelagos, where people are either “damplings” (born, raised, living, and dying on the water) or “landlockers.” The two mix sporadically and usually with distrust at events like religious revivals or when the circus comes on land. They also interact when there’s a death, as damplings go to landlocked “gracekeepers” to bury their dead, a process that involves prayer and the body being placed in the sea with a captive bird marking the spot until the bird dies. The two groups collide when Callandish, a gracekeeper, is asked to bury a member of the Excalibur troupe, and meets North, a dampling who works with a semi-tame tiger. Each recognizes a certain loneliness in the other, and a need to somehow rectify past mistakes; ultimately, Callandish takes off to visit her mother and to find North, hoping to fulfill her need for companionship and forgiveness. The evocative descriptions of life as a gracekeeper and circus member or as a dampling or landlocker give the work a magical tone. The future Earth setting, in which oceans have risen so high that there are no continents, is something touched upon but not stressed by the author, helping readers to immerse themselves in the narrative. VERDICT Recommended for teens looking for speculative fiction with strong character development and a quiet plot, like those by Kent Haruf.–Laura Pearle, Miss Porter’s School, Farmington ,CT

PrettyIs_bookcoverMITCHELL, Maggie. Pretty Is. 320p. Holt. 2015. Tr $26. ISBN 9781627791489; ebk. ISBN 9781627791496.
When they were 12 years old, Lois and Carly May were abducted from the streets of their respective towns and taken to a cabin in the Adirondacks, where they were held captive for six weeks by a man they knew only as Zed. Now in their early 30s, they have not had any contact since that summer. Lois is an English professor who has written a pseudonymous thriller based on the abduction, and Carly May has become a B-list actress named Chloe Savage, who has just received the script of a new movie based on Lois’s novel. Meanwhile, one of Lois’s students somehow knows about her past and is showing an unhealthy interest in her. Chloe and Lois agree to meet on the British Columbia set of the movie, where past and present collide in unexpected ways. Alternating between Chloe’s and Lois’s narrations, and between the present-day and their respective memories of that summer, Mitchell’s debut novel explores the rich psychological territory of how the protagonists perceived the events of that summer, how it affected their relationships with their families and with each other, and how it marked the course of their lives. VERDICT This is an engaging thriller that will intrigue teens who were fascinated by Jaycee Dugard, Elizabeth Smart, and other tales of abduction.Sarah Flowers, formerly of Santa Clara County (CA) Library

kitchens of the great mwSTRADAL, J. Ryan. Kitchens of the Great Midwest. 320p. Viking/Pamela Dorman Bks. 2015. Tr $27.95. ISBN 9780525429142; ebk. ISBN 9780698196513.
Stradal’s novel chronicles the young life of Eva Thorvald, beginning with her birth to a mother who would rather become an expert sommelier than a mom and leaves with no forwarding address. Eva’s father dies shortly after of a heart attack. The narrative then moves on to three key moments in Eva’s life: her preteens; her teens, and her 20s. Each section ends in a suspenseful way, and many of the characters reappear in later sections. Eva’s teen years are crucial to the other parts of the narrative. Her arrival in a new high school brings romance with a boy who is awkward but smitten. Meanwhile, she works in a restaurant to help her ailing uncle and guardian pay the bills. In the restaurant, Eva learns about food and acquires a reputation for her marvelous palate, which paves the way for her 20s, when her dinners, given as private reserved affairs, bring her fame and satisfaction. There is much to love here for readers of all ages. Stradal’s gentle humor pokes fun at such Midwest customs as calling any cold food a salad and satirizes a few young foodies, too. The plot moves quickly, and the unusual and stimulating structure allows readers to think about what may have happened during the gaps. And teens will enjoy seeing a girl who cannot finish high school nevertheless become a success. VERDICT A very special novel that most readers will hate to see end.Karlan Sick, Library Consultant, New York City

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Rollicking “Ratscalibur” a sure favorite among young fantasy fans|Audio Pick Wed, 26 Aug 2015 13:00:38 +0000 LIEB, Josh. Ratscalibur. 3 CDs. 3:36 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $27. ISBN 978101915301. digital download. Gr 3-6–Joey, a soon-to-be seventh grader, has recently moved to New York City with his mother. He is not particularly enthralled by big city life. Soon though, Joey’s uncle brings home a special new friend for him—a rat, just like the creatures he has seen about the city. To Joey’s surprise, his new pet rodent begins speaking to him from his cage. He learns that the [...]]]> ratscaliburLIEB, Josh. Ratscalibur. 3 CDs. 3:36 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $27. ISBN 978101915301. digital download.
Gr 3-6–Joey, a soon-to-be seventh grader, has recently moved to New York City with his mother. He is not particularly enthralled by big city life. Soon though, Joey’s uncle brings home a special new friend for him—a rat, just like the creatures he has seen about the city. To Joey’s surprise, his new pet rodent begins speaking to him from his cage. He learns that the elderly rat is a ragician (a rat magician) named Gondorff the Grey and he has a special mission for Joey. He must deliver a simple message to his rat cohorts, “I have failed.” The dying Gondorff bites Joey, transforming him into a rat and setting into motion this fun, humorous adventure story that plays off of the mythical Excalibur story. Edoardo Ballerini narrates with enthusiasm, wonderfully voicing each character with lively, distinct personalities and accents. Listeners will be on the edge of their seats while Ballerini takes them along on Joey’s dangerous and action-filled quest into the world of rats, crows, and other animals. Full of puns and parodied names from classic fantasy adventure tales, this animal adaptation is sure to please young fans of “The Lord of the Rings,” the “Redwall” books, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. ­VERDICT School and public libraries will want to add this first volume in the “Chronicle of the Low Realm” tales to their collections, as this series is sure to become a favorite.–Nicole Lee ­Martin, Grafton-Midview Public Library, OH

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The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands | SLJ Review Wed, 26 Aug 2015 13:00:20 +0000 SANDS, Kevin. The Blackthorn Key. 384p. ebook available. S. & S./Aladdin. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481446518. LC 2014048032. Gr 4-6–An auspicious debut middle grade novel. Set in the 1600s, the story revolves around Christopher Rowe, the apprentice to a Master Apothecary. After losing his master, Christopher begins to unravel a series of complex codes that his master had, unbeknownst to Chris, been preparing him to solve all along. The more that the protagonist uncovers, the more he finds himself in [...]]]> the-blackthorn-key-9781481446518_lgSANDS, Kevin. The Blackthorn Key. 384p. ebook available. S. & S./Aladdin. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481446518. LC 2014048032.
Gr 4-6–An auspicious debut middle grade novel. Set in the 1600s, the story revolves around Christopher Rowe, the apprentice to a Master Apothecary. After losing his master, Christopher begins to unravel a series of complex codes that his master had, unbeknownst to Chris, been preparing him to solve all along. The more that the protagonist uncovers, the more he finds himself in danger, along with his loyal-to-a-fault best friend. The story is well paced, managing not only to keep readers hooked but also second guessing everything they think they know. Sands integrates a series of fun and interesting riddles and codes with chemistry concepts—no easy feat. The ending is dynamic and rewarding, with just the right blend of the fantastical and realistic. One of the true triumphs is the author’s ability to create a character who feels accurate for the time period, while also displaying a modern sensibility that will keep readers engaged. The action does get intense but would still be appropriate for upper elementary school students. VERDICT This is an excellent story for readers who enjoy puzzles, action, and fantasy; keep an eye out for future installments.–Chad Lane, Easton Elementary, Wye Mills, MD

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.

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Academy of American Poets Debuts “Teach This Poem” Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:35:14 +0000 AcademyAmericanPoet-LogoThe Academy of American Poets hopes to give teachers in all content areas multiple opportunities to integrate poetry into their instruction with Teach this Poem, a new, free weekly email that features a poem along with instructional resources and ideas for activities related to the selection. Teachers can sign up now to begin receiving the emails.

The new initiative, which begins September 2, expands on the Academy’s existing series Poem-a-Day, an online syndicated series featuring previously unpublished poems that has been running since 2006.

The Academy created the new resource to build upon the lesson plans already available on its website and to give teachers a version of Poem-a-Day for students. The new poetry series, best suited for students in fourth through 12th grade, is curated by Madeleine Fuchs Holzer, the Academy’s educator in residence and a visiting scholar at the Creativity Commons at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Previously, she was the educational development director and the program development director at the Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education. She also served as the director of Arts in Education at the New York State Council on the Arts.

“Teachers can use Teach This Poem as a quick entry into the study of poetry,” Holzer says. “Students can study the poem in isolation or as a connection to a larger unit of study across disciplines.”

The activities that accompany the poems provide “multiple entry points” for doing close readings on poems with students, she adds.  In addition to sending the weekly emails, the Academy will also post and archive the poems and activities on its website.


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Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano | SLJ Review Tue, 25 Aug 2015 19:00:52 +0000 Sesame Street's "Maria"—YA memoir.]]> becoming maria coverManzano, Sonia. Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx. 272p. ebook available. Scholastic. Aug. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545621847.
Gr 9 Up–A groundbreaking Latina educator, TV personality, and award-winning children’s book author shares a poignantly written memoir about growing up in the South Bronx. Manzano, known to many as Maria from Sesame Street, relates events from her youth with candor and childlike curiosity as she tries to find her place within her Puerto Rican family and the dominant white culture. Beginning with fragments from when she was a toddler and ending with her life-changing audition for Sesame Street, the book includes vignettes that offer glimpses of a singular coming of age that will resonate with many young people, regardless of socioeconomic background or culture. Moving from a cockroach-infested apartment to one riddled with rats was a common occurrence, and her father’s violent outbursts continually threatened the safety of the family. Still, music, laughter, food, a network of cousins and friends, and a love of performance shone a light in Sonia’s life, and glimmers of the beloved character she made iconic peek through the trials of an impoverished but warm upbringing. Phrases in Spanish and gritty details of urban life in 1960s New York City add authenticity to this work. Nuanced depictions of racism and sexism will be eye-opening for some readers and all-too-familiar for others. The author shows great restraint, never tinging memories with adult rationalizations or nostalgia, but infuses each episode with age-appropriate language and forthrightness. Lyrical passages, such as one about her first trip to Puerto Rico, are filled with vivid imagery, and the scenes touching upon her burgeoning sexual awakening ring true with sensitivity and subtlety. VERDICT As timeless as Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was a Puerto Rican (Vintage, 1994) and Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin, 2014), this memoir will strike a chord with teens and adults alike. [See the Q&A with Sonia Manzano.]—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s September 2015 issue.

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SLJ and Scholastic Announce 2015 School Librarian of the Year Award Winners Tue, 25 Aug 2015 13:05:08 +0000 Today, School Library Journal and Scholastic recognize School Librarian of the Year Award winner and finalists Kristina Holzweiss, Lakisha Brinson, and Sally Smollar, three school librarians who display outstanding achievement and innovative use of technology.

To learn more about the School Librarian of the Year Award and this year’s honorees, visit

Read the full press release from Scholastic.


School Library Journal, Demetrius Watson,, 646-380-0752

Scholastic Inc., Brittany Sullivan,, 212-343-4848


2015 School Librarian of the Year Award Winners Announced by

School Library Journal and Scholastic

Three School Librarians Recognized for Outstanding Achievement and Innovative Use of Technology

NEW YORK, NY – August 25, 2015 – Today, school librarian Kristina Holzweiss of Bay Shore Middle School in Bay Shore, NY was named as the 2015 recipient of the School Library Journal (SLJ) School Librarian of the Year Award. Sponsored by Scholastic Library Publishing, this award honors K–12 school library professionals for outstanding achievement and the exemplary use of 21st-century tools and services to engage students toward fostering multiple literacies. Lakisha Brinson of Amqui Elementary School in Nashville, TN and Sally Smollar of Plumosa School of the Arts in Delray Beach, FL were selected as finalists. All three school librarians are currently featured in the September 2015 issue of School Library Journal, available in print with winner Kristina Holzweiss as the cover story, and on

To learn more about the School Librarian of the Year Award and this year’s honorees, visit

As 2015 School Librarian of the Year, Kristina Holzweiss will receive a $2,500 cash award, $2,500 worth of print and digital materials from Scholastic Library Publishing and an invitation to the SLJ Leadership Summit in Seattle. Each finalist will receive $500 in materials of their choice from Scholastic Library Publishing. Nominations were evaluated based on several criteria including exemplary service to fulfill the needs of students and the school community; creativity in programming and use of content; collaboration with teacher peers, staff, and administrators; demonstrated student engagement; and exemplary use of technology tools. All School Librarian of the Year Award nominations were judged by a qualified panel of industry professionals including 2014 School Librarian of the Year Michelle Colte.

Quotes about the 2015 School Librarian of the Year Award: 

Kristina Holzweiss, 2015 School Librarian of the Year

“I hope to inspire other school librarians and educators to create new programs for their students and communities. For many students, the school library is an oasis, a safe haven where they can learn about the world around them without leaving their own seats.”

Kathy Ishizuka, Executive Editor, School Library Journal

“This year’s honorees are stellar educators, each integrating technology to enhance learning in creative programs that both serve and inspire young learners. School Library Journal is honored to support them through the School Librarian of the Year Award, which underscores the role of these professionals, who provide critical support to students and teachers nationwide.”

Allison Henderson, Vice President and General Manager, Scholastic Library Publishing

“By embracing the opportunities made possible with technology, these 2015 winners are inspiring their peers and encouraging students to become passionate readers and lifelong learners. Scholastic is proud to celebrate the thoughtful, dedicated and endlessly creative work of school librarians across the country by sponsoring the School Librarian of the Year Award since its inception. These tech-savvy innovators are breaking the mold and we can’t wait to see what exciting ideas and programs they implement in the future.”

About the 2015 School Librarian of the Year Winner and Finalists:

2015 School Librarian of the Year Kristina Holzweiss, Bay Shore Middle School, Bay Shore, NY

Utilizing her own flexibility and creative skills, Kristina Holzweiss has created a culture of innovation and exploration within her library, focused on finding the right tech tools for the right job. Her exceptional efforts and accomplishments have included:

  • cultivating a hands-on environment of discovering, questioning and exploration in the library through the creation of a dynamic makerspace for students;
  • developing “GENIUS Hour,” a teamwork-based program where students create original projects or presentations while exploring their own passions ranging from including robotics to coding;
  • engaging the community in the first “SLIME” (Students of Long Island Maker Expo), a unique Maker Faire encouraging local student participants to explore exhibition halls and dive into maker activities; and
  • collaborating with teachers and peers through tech workshops, social media, presenting at conferences and writing a monthly column for School Library Connection.

Finalist Lakisha Brinson, Amqui Elementary School, Nashville, TN

As a technology guru and former teacher, Lakisha Brinson is constantly seeking out new, exciting ways to engage teachers and impact the lives of her students. Brinson goes above and beyond to deepen her knowledge of technology and match tech tools to the needs of educators through training sessions and interactive games like “digital bingo.” When Brinson isn’t attending tech conferences, hosting parent workshops or training staff to implement project-based learning, she focuses on promoting discussion and discovery in the library through creative programs such as Book Tasting, DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) and Banned Book Week events.

Finalist Sally Smollar, Plumosa School of the Arts, Delray Beach, FL

During her Digital Media class, Sally Smollar engages students, particularly reluctant readers, to collaborate and find the joy in learning with exciting projects—from creating book posters, iMovie book trailers on iPads and stop-motion animation films, to hosting mock trials and organizing author visits to the school. As a member of her district’s Tech Ambassador Program, Smollar actively works to support faculty through teacher training and infusing the curriculum with the latest tech tools. To connect with the larger community, she hosted a workshop for parents and local residents about cyber safety, featuring a special presentation from the State Attorney’s office.

To learn more about the winners and their accomplishments, visit








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Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney | SLJ Review Tue, 25 Aug 2015 13:00:44 +0000 PINKNEY, Andrea Davis. Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound. 176p. chron. discog. index. notes. photos. Roaring Brook. Sept. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781596439733. Gr 5 Up–A tour of the musical powerhouse’s history done with verve and panache. “The Groove” takes readers through the birth and demise of Motown, one of the most influential African American-owned enterprises in the world’s social and musical history. Centering around Gordy Berry, the talented tastemaker and eventual mogul, the ingenious narration highlights the [...]]]> RhtymRIdePINKNEY, Andrea Davis. Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound. 176p. chron. discog. index. notes. photos. Roaring Brook. Sept. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781596439733.
Gr 5 Up–A tour of the musical powerhouse’s history done with verve and panache. “The Groove” takes readers through the birth and demise of Motown, one of the most influential African American-owned enterprises in the world’s social and musical history. Centering around Gordy Berry, the talented tastemaker and eventual mogul, the ingenious narration highlights the company’s humble beginnings—a pipe dream financed by Berry family’s investment of $800—and embeds the stories of the many legends and stars that were born in its studios into the social upheavals and landmark events of the time. From the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and the Vietnam protests of the 1970s, these important milestones are interspersed throughout, bringing home the important place Motown had not only in the proliferation of rhythm and blues, rock, and disco into American culture but also its integration into the African American identity. The funky and melodic narrative style never wears thin and the familiar conceit helps make the darker parts of history age-appropriate for the audience. The thorough and detailed resources, photos, time line, and discography will encourage readers to want to learn more about the well-known Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye, and the not-so-well-known Funk Brothers—Motown’s official studio band. VERDICT A well-crafted spin that will reverberate in the hearts of music, African American culture, and history buffs.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.

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