School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Tue, 25 Oct 2016 04:01:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Building a 21st Century Library Mon, 24 Oct 2016 18:29:31 +0000 Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PT
In this webinar, you will learn what several experts are doing to help schools build a 21st century library. Our panelists will explain that it’s not enough to simply purchase digital assets – educators need professional development opportunities that concentrate on why students benefit from modern technology. They will also discuss how school librarians can leverage digital and print resources to become instructional and technological leaders, ultimately outfitting students with the skills they’ll need to succeed in the digital future.
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Presented by: The Lilead Project, OverDrive & School Library Journal

Event Date & Time: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT
Register NowSchools across the country are revising their goals, missions and strategic plans to ensure that they are preparing “future ready” graduates. The educational shift towards the digital age comes with its own set of challenges, from integrating district-wide information literacy to embracing a culture of new technology. The key is to take a constructive and collaborative approach that fosters accessibility and best practices. 

In this webinar, you will learn what several experts are doing to help schools build a 21st century library. Our panelists will explain that it’s not enough to simply purchase digital assets – educators need professional development opportunities that concentrate on why students benefit from modern technology. They will also discuss how school librarians can leverage digital and print resources to become instructional and technological leaders, ultimately outfitting students with the skills they’ll need to succeed in the digital future.


Bailey Hotujac, School Content Specialist, OverDrive

Dr. Cathi Furman, Library Department Supervisor, Hempfield School District

Robin Ward Stout, Supervisor for Library Media Content and Emerging Technologies, Lewisville Independent School District

Robert Jones, K-12 Library Services Coordinator, Clark County School District


Rebecca Jozwiak, Editorial & Research Director, The Bloor Group
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Increasing Awareness of Youth “in the Margins” |YA Underground Mon, 24 Oct 2016 18:00:38 +0000 More and more youth are displaying critical disconnections from literature due to the lack of available texts that reflect their lived experiences. Books that are self-published or produced by small independent publishers offer a growing opportunity for diverse character representation.

For marginalized youth who sometimes walk a path of isolation, books that reflect their lived experience help to validate their existence and show others that the “world is not made of one single story,” as author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says. For nonmarginalized youth, diverse titles offer the opportunity to see the world as their peers experience it and the language to take part in dialogue for better mutual understanding.

Incarceration, homelessness, mental illness, LGBTQ-related issues, emotional and physical abuse, lack of parental figures, teen pregnancy, and gang violence are just a few of the many experiences many young people navigate while trying to maintain hope of survival. The following titles can shed light on some of these circumstances and provide content to interest both the reluctant and the voracious reader.


Donna M. Zadunajsky’s Help Me! is a novella of raw and daring dialogue that intimately addresses multiple challenges. Over the course of a few months, 13-year-old Mick Conners deals with the backlash of his mother’s infidelity, which resulted in his parents’ divorce and the birth of half siblings he rarely sees. He also deals with the suicide of his best friend, who felt helpless after enduring daily bullying, which Mike, too, experiences. Mick deals with these jolting issues with coping devises that include cutting and, eventually, Russian roulette. If this fictionalized account comes across as riveting and authentic, it’s because the story is based on a real-life account. For youth who face depression and bullying and feel that they have no way out, this book encourages them to talk about it rather than hide or bury their feelings. This powerful title can be read in a short time frame and features a subject that is capable of generating rich dialogue among readers. For those on the outside looking in, this volume gives cues that serve as flags and warning signals. The first installment of a series by the same name, this title provides online resources on suicide and self-injury prevention as well as the author’s own gmail account as an outlet for those who simply need someone to talk to. “I don’t know all the answers, but I do know that we need to do something about it,” Zadunajsky writes.

the-missingMelanie Florence’s The Missing takes a serious look at how authorities have chosen to ignore the disappearance of indigenous girls in the Canadian province of Winnipeg, where a large number of girls have gone missing and then turned up dead, yet their cases are not always followed up with investigations. The author addresses these issues through Feather, a strong-willed protagonist who stops at nothing to get to the bottom of her girlfriend Carli’s disappearance. One of the high creep factors is in the abductor’s view of his victims, who are compared to food products instead of humans. While this is presented as a mystery, the story focuses less on the investigation and more on how the protagonist and her friends cope with the mishandled themes of abduction, antigay sentiments, child abuse, racism, and mental illness in the community. The book has a hi-lo reading level with short chapters to catch the interest of reluctant readers.

little-miss-somebodyWhen I sat down to read Christy Lynn Abram’s Little Miss Somebody, I planned to read just a little, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. I kept envisioning that Nikki would be saved by someone, or save herself by finding her father, but in this first installment, the 15-year-old protagonist cannot find refuge. From the first line, she is mocked and called “white girl” because her Northwestern accent, blue eyes, and curly hair do not sit right with the hard-core St. Louis street girls who bully her. Set in an environment of generational poor parenting and substance abuse, Little Miss Somebody provides a clear and concise description of what life can be like for those who have been both abused and abandoned by multiple adults and older youth, with no knowledge of whom to turn to—nor how often these situations can remain unreported to authorities. At the end, I was disappointed with Nikki’s judgement, which caused her to continue to fall into the hands of irresponsible adults. I was angry that no adults in her life stood up for her and that there was no happy ending. My disappointment lasted until I spoke to others and was able to see how clearly the book allows readers to observe the impact of the characters’ decisions and how well the narrative was written, leaving readers wanting more.

this-way-homeIn Wes Moore and Shawn Goodman’s This Way Home, 17-year-old Elijah lives in Baltimore and is being scouted for a basketball scholarship by college recruiters at an upcoming street ball three-on-three tournament. Winning the scholarship is a way out of his rough neighborhood, where gang life has already claimed his friend. Faced with wearing old tattered uniforms for the tournament, Elijah and his team cannot resist the new gear given to them by a street gang. Wearing the gear during the first round, however, makes the team indebted to the gang, and when the players put their old uniforms back on, it doesn’t stop the gang from retaliating. The authors offer enough action for sports enthusiasts, but the drama broadens the audience, while the short chapters will capture and hold reluctant readers.

untold-storyThe Untold Story of the Real Me: Young Voices from Prison by the Free Mind Writers is a collection of poetry and prose produced by the Free Mind Book Club and Writing Workshop, which is made up of juvenile offenders who were charged and incarcerated as adults and have served or are currently serving time in a Washington, DC, adult detention facility or federal prison. The entries’ themes touch on fatherhood, freedom, identity, love, family, and race, and the volume features black-and-white photos and author profiles of workshop members, many of whom are no longer incarcerated and serve in the workshop’s outreach program as poet ambassadors at community events. The cover graphic, also in black-and-white, was created by a workshop member. With no change in the writers’ vernacular, the authenticity has remained intact. The following is an excerpt from a poem that drives home a teen father’s love for his infant daughter—the reason he is trying passionately to make something of himself:

“Ma’ziyah” by Rico

Lovin’ you and knowin’ you all mine

At only 8 months now, your smile and laugh alone

Make my life just shine

And for anyone to say you isn’t

One of the most beautiful babies that they ever saw

They will be lying!

Ma’ziyah, you is the air I breathe

The earth I walk on and the heart that’s in my chest

I never thought I could love so strong

I feel something in my heart that was never there

At first I was livin’ life not carin’ about livin’ or dyin’

But you have given me a reason to forever care

You is daddy’s princess and I’m so glad…

Another poem reveals the hopeless odds that are stacked against youth who grow up in a low-income environment of systemic social injustices, deprived and ignored by authority and an incubator that fosters failure instead of success:

Southeast DC by Arthor

…I am from where public schools pass you without attending class

I am from where teachers are drug addicts

I am from where being African American with dreadlocks is almost everyone

I am from where mistaken identity is highly possible

I am from where people need help but don’t get it

I am from where you can’t be weak or you stick out

I am from where the smell of gun smoke is usual

I am from where people eat in the dark

I am from where basketball hoops are made from milk crates

I am from where you got holes in shoes and clothes

I am from where you grow up too fast

I am from where every neighborhood has a candy lady and a bootlegger

I am from where Go-Go music is blasting from every radio

I am from where babies are out at midnight

I am from Southeast DC

These verses are the voices of our young incarcerated black and Latinx youth, who need to be heard. Youth who are not incarcerated and read these words should be given a chance to discuss the social issues reflected in the writings.

The list below includes previously mentioned titles, as well as additional essential readings that can serve to help increase awareness of the issues discussed above.

ABRAM, Christy Lynn.  Little Miss Somebody. 278p. ebook available. Humble Bee. 2015. pap. $12.98. ISBN 9780692386224.

ADICHIE, C.N. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story [Video file].

ALEXANDER, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. 336p. New Pr. 2012. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781595586438.

FLORENCE, Melanie. The Missing. Lorimer. 160p. Aug. 2016. 160p. Tr $27.99.  ISBN 9781459410886.

FREE MIND WRITERS. The Untold Story Of The Real Me: Young Voices From Prison. 160p. Shout Mouse. 2015. pap. $14.99.  ISBN 9780996927444.

LAURA, Crystal T. Being Bad: My Baby Brother and the School-to-Prison Pipeline. 144p. Teachers College Press. 2014. pap. $29.95.  ISBN 978080775596.

LEWIS, Tony, Jr. with K.L. Reeves. A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration. 2015. Hanover Place. 2015. pap. $15. ISBN 9780692431573.

MCCARTHY, Katherine.  Invisible Victims: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. 198p. Createspace. Jul. 2016. pap. $12.73. ISBN 9781534754607.

MOORE, Wes & Shawn Goodman. This Way Home. 256p. Delacorte. 2015. Tr  $17.99. ISBN  9780385741699.

SEGAL, Nathan.  Life After Bullying: Practical, Actionable Strategies To Rid Yourself of Bullies. 72p. CreateSpace. July 2016. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781535471251.

STEVENSON, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. 352p. Spiegel & Grau. 2014. Tr $28. ISBN 9780812994520.

WATKINS, Dwight. The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America. Hot Bks. 2015.  176p. Tr $21.99. ISBN  9781510703353.

ZADUNAJSKY, Donna M. Help Me. 126p. CreateSpace. Jan. 2016. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781522742456.

About Sabrina Carnesi

Sabrina Carnesi, is a school librarian at the Marie Holland Library at Crittenden Middle School in Newport News, VA. She has worked for more than 30 years in public and independent school educational urban settings and is known in social media as Miss Marie’s Librarian. She is currently a member of In the Margins Award and Book Selection Committee, which is dedicated to bringing national attention to self-published books by, for, and about people of color living in the margins.

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SLJ’s October Pop Picks Mon, 24 Oct 2016 17:03:15 +0000 These are SLJ‘s October 2016 Popular Picks, a collection of titles that your kids and teens will want to get their hands on. This month’s Pop Picks list includes a colorful seek-and-find by Brian Cronín, a hilarious “autobiography” by Jim Murphy, another zombie-apocalypse YA thriller, this time from Gregg Hurwitz, and a terrific look at the history of forensic science by Bridget Heos.


1610-pop-picture-boooksBiggs, Brian. Tinyville Town Gets To Work. illus. by Brian Biggs. 32p. Abrams Appleseed. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419721335. POP

PreS-Gr 1 –Tinyville Town is a happy place where everybody has a job to do and does it well. From the baker to the bus driver, people take pride in their work, and the town runs smoothly. When a traffic jam stops the orderly flow of their day, the townspeople realize that they need a new bridge. The mayor agrees and declares that this new bridge will be bigger, stronger, and more beautiful than the first. Using broad and colorful cartoon art, the story chronicles what it takes to complete such a project. Charming spreads of construction workers and vehicles fill the book with just enough detail to be interesting while not getting overcrowded. The endpapers display a bird’s-eye view of the town and pictures of all the workers for readers to have fun finding. This is the first book about Tinyville Town by the creator of the popular “Everything Goes” series, and children who enjoyed the earlier titles will gravitate to this one. VERDICT With a setting reminiscent of Richard Scarry’s Busytown, this offering will be a hit with future city planners and engineers and all children who like to know how things work. Recommended for purchase.–Amy Nolan, St. Joseph Public Library, MI

Bloom, Suzanne. A Number Slumber. illus. by Suzanne Bloom. 40p. Boyds Mills. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781629795577. POP

PreS –A menagerie of animals prepare for bed while the narrator asks readers, “What do you do to get ready for bed?” The text transitions from rhyming questions, enumerating some of the common rituals in preparing for bed, to the query, “What do other sleepyheads do when their busy day is through?” A countdown begins as “ten terribly tired tigers tiptoe to their beds” and “seven slightly stinky skunks somersault into their bunks.” With wonderfully alliterative sentences and rich vocabulary for each of the creatures from 10 to one, the narrative ends by assuring readers that what other sleepyheads do is “fall fast asleep, just like you.” The illustrations, done in pastel, have an impressionistic, dreamlike quality, with jewel-tone backgrounds that are perfectly suited for this bedtime book. VERDICT Rhyme, alliteration, and cozy images make this excellent selection ideal for read-alouds.–Ramarie Beaver, Plano Public Library System, TX

Cronín, Brían. The Lost House. illus. by Brían Cronín. 40p. ebook available. Viking. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781101999219. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Two children and their grandfather are about to go to the park, but first they need to find all of Grandad’s missing items. Readers are then encouraged to move from room to room, searching for one specific item per page. Each room is only one color, though, and with each object matching the hue of the room, the task is exceptionally hard. The pink room, where readers need to find Grandad’s glasses, is filled with ovular objects, adding to the difficulty. The cover and front page show each of the missing items. However, there is no small picture on the page to show readers what they are looking for; frustrated finders will have to flip back and forth for a reference to what the requested item looks like. Still, some children will be up to the challenge, as each room is vividly detailed and decorated, with blinding color to draw in the eye. VERDICT An artistic and creative seek-and-find book that makes for a fun interactive addition to most collections.–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI

Eaton, Jason Carter. How To Track a Truck. illus. by John Rocco. 32p. Candlewick. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763680657. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Don’t want a train for a pet? How about a truck? First, you need to know how to track one. And to do that, you need to decide what kind of truck you want so you will know where to look. Then you need to use your best detective skills to find and lure one. Once you have chosen the perfect truck to fit your lifestyle and it responds to the Universal Truck Signal, you need to name it, play with it, and treat it with kindness and love. There is a truck out there for everyone! From the creators of How To Train a Train, this book on acquiring a vehicle as a pet is sure to please fans and newcomers alike. This fun and lively volume is chock-full of moving vans, monster trucks, garbage trucks, car transporters, ice-cream trucks, snowplows, and dump trucks. Children will love identifying the various vehicles and determining which one they would prefer to have as a pet. Rocco’s large cartoon illustrations are very appealing and give tons of personality to the “pets.” The vibrant colors are bold on the pages, inviting readers in. VERDICT A lovely storytime read-aloud. Children will be lining up to check this out. Another must-have for fans of titles about vehicles.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

Flake, Sharon. You Are Not a Cat! illus. by Anna Raff. 40p. Boyds Mills. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781590789803. POP

PreS-Gr 1 –When Duck insists he is a cat and meows to prove his claim, Cat corrects his obvious error by asserting that ducks always say “quack, quack.” But silly Duck would much rather stick to “meow,” and Cat fails to convince him otherwise, no matter how hard he tries. When Duck changes his chosen identity at a moment’s notice and becomes a parrot, even admitting that he was a squirrel yesterday and a rooster last week (“Cock-a-doodle-do!”), poor Cat is at his wit’s end and ultimately gives in. Flake, best known for her middle school novels, presents a hilarious picture book that will surely beg multiple readings, with the absurd premise that nothing should be assumed, no matter how obvious. Cat is the straight man to screwball Duck, and this makes the two an appealing pair sure to be adored by young readers. Raff’s soft pastel illustrations are a perfect match for the quick-witted, comic book–style text. Children will enjoy observing Cat’s mood as it shifts from smug self-righteousness to angry frustration to confused acceptance by the end of the story. Fans of Mo Willems’s popular “Elephant and Piggie” and “Pigeon” series will embrace this silly animal tale wholeheartedly. VERDICT A delightful picture book, ideal for storytime and for supporting teaching units on animal sounds.–Etta Anton, Yeshiva of Central Queens, NY

Fleming, Denise. 5 Little Ducks. illus. by Denise Fleming. 40p. ebook available. S. & S./Beach Lane. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481424226. POP

PreS-Gr 1 –This stunning version of the familiar children’s song features a quacking father duck and ducklings who travel not just “over the hill” but “through the woods,” “past the paddock,” “across the fields,” and “down the road” on successive days of the week. By Saturday all are gone until they heed sad Papa Duck’s final “quack, quack, quack!” and come running home. On Sunday, Mama Duck suggests that the family rest. Fleming’s signature pulp paper paintings bleed to the edges of every spread, providing vibrant textured backdrops for the ducks’ adventures. In a brilliant use of color to represent various environments and temperatures, her speckled skies change from the cool blues of the pond to deep forest green to bright blue and then the yellow of a sun-hot day on the farm. Several creatures, including a less familiar flying squirrel, share scenes with the ducks, and some appear repeatedly. A huge, multicolored turkey spills over two pages, as do a group of pigs contentedly wallowing in mud. Papa Duck’s wings are outstretched to welcome his little wanderers just back from their final encounter—charming young Anna in her wading pool. VERDICT Large, repetitive text that invites participation; the opportunity to learn the days of the week; and interesting back matter that contains brief information about the ducks and other animals in the book make this a great storytime choice for all libraries.–Marianne Saccardi, Children’s Literature Consultant, Cambridge, MA

Jaramillo, Susie. Elefantitos/Little Elephants. illus. by Susie Jaramillo. 10p. (Canticos). Encantos. Oct. 2016. Board $14.99. ISBN 9780996995917. BL POP

Toddler-PreS –Following her wonderful Los pollitos/Little Chickies, Jaramillo returns with a beautiful adaptation of another well-loved traditional song for children. This accordion-style interactive board book features the nursery song in Spanish on one side and its English translation on the other. As an elephant balances on the web of a spider and finds the web holds strong, it invites another elephant to join in. The cumulative song goes up to five elephants balancing on the web in this sweetly illustrated book. The English translation changes the original lyrics somewhat to fit the tune, but the spirit of the song remains the same. Both versions have identical layouts and illustrations, and thanks to the concertina format, neither language takes precedence over the other. The cartoon-style elephants are appropriately gray and stand out against a white background, with the spider’s thread going across the page (the spider makes an occasional appearance), and the lyrics are simply and clearly displayed, accompanied by their corresponding number in a different color. The work has sturdy, turn-the-wheel effects that will send the elephants’ heads and trunks swaying, much to the delight of little hands. And the spider’s web? Well, of course it will break in the end! VERDICT Perfect for bilingual storytime programs and any bookshelf.–Lucia Acosta, Children’s Literature Specialist, NJ

Yaccarino, Dan. I Am a Story. illus. by Dan Yaccarino. 40p. HarperCollins. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062411068. POP

PreS-Gr 3 –This picture book imagines the story of story—from the story’s point of view. Yaccarino’s characteristic bright, stylized illustrations take readers from an ancient campfire to a modern-day one, making key stops along the way as the tale proudly narrates through the page turns. “I am a story. I was told around a campfire, then painted on cave walls. I was carved onto clay tablets and told in pictures.” Together words and illustrations capture a broad range of storytelling methods and platforms: art, writing, theater, radio, television, film, computer, and more. The book also subtly tackles the struggles of access as story prevails through time, contrasting wealthy private libraries with public libraries and showing failed censorship attempts. Coming full circle, the book closes as it started, with stories around a campfire—this time with a modern-day family under the constellations that were represented in the beginning by pictures in the sky. VERDICT A simply told but powerful celebration of the importance of story as well as a jumping-off point for more in-depth study of communication through history. An excellent choice for classroom discussions.–Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA


1610-pop-middlegradeFairstein, Linda. Into the Lion’s Den. 320p. (The Devlin Quick Mysteries: Bk. 1). ebook available. Dial. Nov. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399186431. POP

Gr 3-6 –Readers meet 12-year-old Devlin Quick, girl detective and book lover, in this new series. Devlin’s friend Liza thinks she has seen someone slice a page from a rare book in the New York Public Library. Unfortunately, this crime was committed with no grown-up witnesses present. Devlin, knowing that defacing a book is a horrible thing to do, wants to solve this mystery as soon as possible. She enlists the help of the police commissioner, her friends, and others in an effort to crack the case. Devlin is a clever character who is constantly coming up with creative methodologies to gather evidence and piece together information. An appreciation of reading is a reoccurring theme throughout; many classic works of literature are referenced and explored throughout the narrative. The friendly and loving relationship between Devlin and her mother is also developed. The New York City setting plays an interesting and crucial role in this mystery; famous landmarks are significant parts of the plot’s progression. Historical and geographical facts are also often woven seamlessly into the character’s adventures. Readers will be exposed to new vocabulary in an engaging and easy-to-comprehend manner. They’ll also be introduced to a wide array of concepts and techniques often used in detective and forensic work. VERDICT A well-crafted and satisfying first volume in a new series. Ideal for bibliophiles and mystery fans alike.–Deanna Smith, Mamaroneck Public Library, NY

Murphy, Jim. Revenge of the Green Banana. 224p. HMH. Jan. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544786776; ebk. ISBN 9780544868236. POP

Gr 4-6 –Jim Murphy has decided that sixth grade is going to be different—this year he will not sit in the back of the class, he will do his homework, and he just might manage to impress his crush, Kathy Guenther. This plan goes awry within the first minutes of the first day of school, when Jim’s new teacher, Sister Angelica Rose, reveals that she has an entire folder detailing his past antics. After repeated humiliations at her hands, Jim and his friends start work on elaborate revenge plots. The author and main character share a name, which, along with a “warning” at the beginning of the book, sets up this goofy tale as an autobiography. It often reads like a story told by an older relative, and though this conversational style can be appealing, younger readers aren’t given a lot of context for the world of a 1950s Catholic school and the secondary characters aren’t always well realized. Nonetheless, the quick plotting, school high jinks, and charming protagonist will go a long way for many readers. VERDICT Recommended for fans of slapstick humor.–Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Sloan, Holly Goldberg. Short. 304p. Dial. Jan. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399186219. POP

Gr 5-8 –Middle schooler Julia Marks reluctantly lands a part as a munchkin in a summer stock production of The Wizard of Oz. Tentative at first about her performing abilities, she’s helped along by a group of adults who see what she has not yet realized about herself: she makes a big impression for such a small person. Julia is indeed very small; the title of the book describes the protagonist, who is several inches shorter than her classmates and has been uncomfortable about her height since she overheard her parents discussing it negatively. Julia’s rambling first-person narration is very funny as she resists every new opportunity (lead munchkin dancer; second string winged monkey) and then decides she loves it once she tries it. Julia finds mentors in the well-drawn characters who make up the theater group, especially the charismatic director, who works lying down after he breaks his tailbone, and a septuagenarian costume designer and former prima ballerina. She changes her perspective on her own size when she befriends Olive, an actress with dwarfism who wows the protagonist with her singing and dancing chops, her fashion sense, and her confidence as she dresses down the director for his bias against an aspiring cast member. Brief chapters and an accessible writing style add to the novel’s appeal. VERDICT Theater kids and fans of Tim Federle’s “Nate” books will love this.–Beth Wright Redford, Richmond Elementary School Library, VT


1610-pop-yaAsher, Jay. What Light. 272p. Penguin/Razorbill. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781595145512. POP

Gr 7 Up –Sierra has grown up on her family’s Christmas tree farm in Oregon, and for as long as she can remember, she has always lived two lives around Christmas: every year after Thanksgiving, her parents pack up their trailer and drive down to California to sell Christmas trees at their lot for the month of December. Even though her parents met as teens on the same lot, her father doesn’t want her dating any of the boys who work there. Sierra is OK with this, figuring that she’s not there long enough for a romance to be worth her time. And then she meets Caleb, a boy with a painful secret from his past that he’s still trying to live down. At first, Sierra isn’t sure if she should start a relationship with him, but the more she gets to know him, the more she realizes that some things are worth the risk. This is a sweet, light romance, perfect for holiday reading. While Caleb’s secret is awful, it doesn’t seem quite bad enough to merit the treatment he receives in his community. Side stories with Sierra’s friends add some humor but are overall frothy. VERDICT This is more sugar in your peppermint mocha than you’re expecting, but it’s good nonetheless. Asher’s fans will gravitate toward it.–Necia Blundy, formerly at Marlborough Public Library, MA

Brunner, Kym. Flip the Bird. 368p. ebook available. HMH. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544800854. POP

Gr 7 Up –Scoot over, Don Calame—Brunner is about to join you on your perch. This is not a book for the squeamish. It’s about falconry at its finest, but it is also about much more than that. On his way to capture his first hawk, Mercer Buddie meets the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, she is also the daughter of pro-animal activists. Mercer must come to terms with who he is, who he wants to be, and the belief systems he wishes to espouse and reconcile those with his desire to be with a hot girl. The humor is bawdy, though not quite as ribald as Calame’s, and the accounts of hunting and dispatching prey are as honest as the descriptions of what happens when animal rights extremists “save” animals from humans. Brunner also introduces the issue of animal research and why adorable canines may just be the answer to human cardiac conditions. Readers will think deeply about their beliefs and why they hold those values right along with the protagonist. The puns, including Mercer’s decision to name his red-tailed hawk Flip, keep an otherwise heavy subject from becoming too grisly. Lovers of Sterling North’s Rascal, Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf, and Calame’s Dan Versus Nature will flock to this tale about a teen and his hawk. VERDICT Get multiple copies for nature-loving reluctant readers.–Jodeana Kruse, R. A. Long High School, Longview, WA

Garber, Stephanie. Caraval. 416p. ebook available. Flatiron. Jan. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250095275. POP

Gr 8 Up –Scarlett and her sister, Donatella, have been raised on a remote island by a demanding and cruel father. Scarlett is about to be married to a man she’s never met, and though her long-held dream of receiving an invitation to Caraval, the once-a-year, fantastical, immersive performance, has come true, she believes attending would jeopardize her wedding and destroy her sole chance to get herself and Tella away from their father. When her sister teams up with a sailor to trick Scarlett onto a ship and take her anyway, the heroine plans to stay for a night or two, then return home for her wedding. But then Tella is kidnapped by Legend, Caraval’s mysterious mastermind, and the protagonist learns that she can get her sister back only if she plays Legend’s game for five nights—and wins. It won’t be easy, though. Nothing (and no one) at Caraval is what it seems: time speeds up, clothing morphs according to its own agenda, and players may be called on to pay for things with their deepest fears or two days of their lives. Without knowing whom she can trust, including her own reason and senses, Scarlett must work out where her sister is and how to save her. This twisty, terrifically fun page-turner is ideal for fans of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, and fantasy novels where relationships between sisters drive the plot, such as “The Hunger Games” or Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty. VERDICT A must-have fantasy debut for high school collections.–Stephanie Klose, School Library Journal

Griffin, M.A. Lifers. 288p. ebook available. Scholastic/Chicken House. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338065534. POP

Gr 8 Up –Alice has disappeared, and after reading her cryptic final message, best friend Preston is determined to find her. Clues from her notebook lead him to MIST (the Manchester Institute for Science and Technology), where he witnesses a boy’s death and realizes that Alice is also in danger from a government conspiracy spearheaded by Christopher Armstrong, a member of Parliament elected on a law-and-order platform. But crime isn’t exactly disappearing in Manchester; it’s being forced underground. Preston will have to go “beyond the valve” before he can figure out how to rescue Alice, assuming, of course, that he’ll be able to make it out alive himself. This urban sci-fi novel is short on details of how the valve actually works, and readers are left to accept that some kind of teleportation system has been built at great expense just to deport teen delinquents in a near-future, although not dystopian, England. Action and adventure abound in this thriller, although there’s little in the way of character development. Some strong language makes this more suitable for older readers. VERDICT Purchase where James Dashner’s “Maze Runner” series or Alexander Gordon Smith’s “Escape from Furnace” books are popular.–Elizabeth Friend, Wester Middle School, TX

Hurwitz, Gregg. The Rains. 352p. ebook available. Tor Teen. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765382672. POP

Gr 7 Up –Following on the popularity of apocalyptic zombie fiction, this is an edge-of-your-seat test of survival. Set in an anywhere town, the narrative moves along at a breakneck pace. Creek’s Cause is a peaceful community filled with farms and hardworking people. Chance Rain is a 15-year-old who feels that he will never measure up to his brother, Patrick. Star quarterback and homecoming king Patrick is the envy of the other young men around him. Living a normal life on the farm, the brothers are content with tilling fields, delivering calves, hunting, and driving tractors. In one horrifying night, Creek’s Cause becomes a war zone when everyone under the age of 18 quickly realizes that they are no longer safe. Chance and Patrick have already fended off multiple attacks from infected adults by the time they arrive at the school, where other survivors are hiding. The parasite that transformed the adults into ferocious, inhuman beings affects teens the minute they turn 18. Unfortunately for Patrick, his birthday is a few weeks away. The siblings are determined to save Patrick and the remaining kids, so they set out on a seemingly impossible mission to find out the truth. This title is one of the better YA zombie-esque novels that has been written in the last few years. It is refreshing and surprising and won’t leave teens feeling as though they’ve traveled this path before. VERDICT Recommended for all YA collections, especially where Jonathan Maberry’s “Rot & Ruin” series is popular.–Amy Caldera, Dripping Springs Middle School, TX

LaMarche, Una. You in Five Acts. 336p. ebook available. Penguin/Razorbill. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101998939. POP

Gr 8 Up –Joy, Diego, Liv, Ethan, and Dave are students at Janus Academy, the highest-rated arts school in New York City. They are all friends, but more than that, they have one thing in common—they are all tired. Joy is tired of struggling to be recognized as a serious contender for prima ballerina by her parents and teachers. Diego is sick of always being seen as just a friend—especially by the one girl he wants the most. Liv yearns for some escape from her daily life. Ethan has had enough of the girl of his dreams always looking through him. Dave is tired of his past successes defining his future. None of the five realize that their world is changing, and it’s all coming down to one pivotal moment that spirals out of their control. LaMarche crafts the novel in five parts, each narrated by one of the main characters. The protagonists are diverse, intelligent, and solidly teen in their perspectives. Each voice is distinct and recognizable. From the beginning, the story is counting down to a culminating event, and the author is able to develop suspense but also keep the book humorous and romantic. The conclusion is heartrending and timely but also unexpected and fresh. Different points of view keep the work moving at a fast pace and add to its compulsive readability. VERDICT Purchase for all libraries that serve teens.–Morgan Brickey, Arlington Public Library, TX

Pike, Aprilynne. Glitter. 384p. ebook available. Random. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101933701; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9781101933718. POP

Gr 9 Up –In this original dystopian story, the 18th-century court of Versailles is brought to life amid a technologically advanced society where corporations have surpassed governments in wealth and power. The eccentric founder of the Sonoman-Versailles Corporation purchased the palace of Versailles from the French government and created a company-based kingdom that is inspired by the baroque era of the kings Louis. Within this strange corporate kingdom is the naive Danica. She is the hapless teenage daughter of a family who live in the palace as members of the court. Danica’s life is thrown into turmoil when her power-hungry mother forces her into an engagement with the abusive and ruthless king. In order to escape and change her identity, Danica must somehow raise an exorbitant amount of money in the six short months before her wedding day. In a desperate attempt to save herself, the protagonist turns to selling the extremely potent and highly addictive drug Glitter. Slowly, her well-laid plans unravel as she falls hopelessly in love with a drug dealer and her friends become her unknowing victims. This is a stunning, unique, and fast-paced read. While illicit drug use and sexual violence make this book better suited to mature readers, fans of dystopian tales will find it breathes new life into their favorite genre. VERDICT Give this one to readers who enjoyed Kiera Cass’s “The Selection” series or Ally Condie’s Matched, or anyone looking for a fresh dystopian novel.–Ellen Fitzgerald, White Oak Library District, Lockport, IL

Shepard, Sara. The Amateurs. 320p. ebook available. Freeform. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484742273. POP

Gr 8 Up –Five years after the murder of Dexby teen Helena Kelly, her killer is still at large and her younger sister, Aerin, is consumed by grief and lack of closure. Seeking help in solving the crime, Aerin posts to Case Not Closed (CNC), an online forum that specializes in solving cold cases. Eighteen-year-old Seneca Frazier and 19-year-old Maddy Wright, two amateur sleuths who frequent the board, are among those who answer the call. The ragtag duo, joined by Maddy’s stepsister Madison and fellow CNC member Brett, show up on Aerin’s doorstep ready to start the investigations anew. As the skilled group begin to make headway, explosive relationship dynamics threaten their efforts. The teens must also deal with increasingly physical attacks as they chase down clues. The first in a new series, the narrative is told from multiple points of view, with chapters in this page-turning thriller alternating among four main characters. Lighthearted moments break up the tension, but the characters’ logic often requires a suspension of disbelief, while pacing can be uneven and dialogue stilted. Love triangles are distractingly prevalent, with all four main characters somehow involved in one, and the relationships mainly give way to love at almost first sight. Additionally, Shepard seems to take pains to reveal that Seneca is biracial and Madison is Asian American, but the knowledge adds little to the story. VERDICT A fun but additional whodunit for libraries with a demand for Shepard’s other series, as well as fans of Ally Carter’s “Gallagher Girls” or James Patterson’s “Confessions.”–Alea Perez, Westmont Public Library, IL


1610-pop-gn-riggs-hollowcityRiggs, Ransom. Hollow City: The Graphic Novel. illus. by Cassandra Jean. 272p. (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children: Bk. 2). ebook available. Yen. Jul. 2016. Tr $20. ISBN 9780316306799. POP

Gr 8 Up –A graphic novel adaptation of the second volume in the “Miss Peregrine” series. Readers might be lost in a new world if they start with this adaptation, but those familiar with the first installment will be immersed in a dark and exciting adventure. For newcomers, this format can serve as a gateway into Riggs’s original books, while for existing fans, they are an opportunity to experience the stories and characters in a different way. Jean’s loose yet detailed and evocative illustrations serve the narrative well, with echoes of traditional manga and a minimalist palette seen in of some of today’s darker comics. The found photographs that were such an important factor of the original novels are featured throughout, providing an air of authenticity and mystery. VERDICT Riggs enthusiasts will enjoy this alternative, and with Tim Burton’s film adaptation due in September 2016, libraries can expect new readers looking to discover the books.–Billy Parrott, New York Public Library


1610-pop-nfredstarBYRD, Robert, retel. Jason and the Argonauts: The First Great Quest in Greek Mythology. illus. by Robert Byrd. 48p. bibliog. Dial. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803741188. POP

Gr 3-6 –Byrd compellingly retells the ancient Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. Jason, wishing to reclaim his rightful throne, takes 50 Argonauts (including the powerful Hercules) on a quest for the Golden Fleece, encountering a myriad of dangers along the way. He is alternately favored and cursed by the Olympian gods. Jason succeeds in the quest, only to find he is out of favor with the gods for having broken his promises to Medea. He wanders homeless and eventually dies when the figurehead from the Argo crushes him. The story is an important one for children to know, and this version makes for an excellent introduction. Byrd, illustrator of Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer and the 2008 Newbery winner, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, has created powerful visuals for this timeless tale. They are brightly colored and action-packed, replete with numerous details that keep the eye engaged. Every page includes a small insert that amplifies a particular aspect of the narrative. An author’s note expands on Byrd’s research. VERDICT An excellent retelling and a first purchase for most mythology collections.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

redstarHeos, Bridget. Blood, Bullets, and Bones: The Story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA. 272p. bibliog. glossary. notes. photos. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062387622. POP

Gr 8 Up –The use of DNA evidence by forensic scientists to help solve crimes is a relatively new innovation. It was only in 1994 that the FBI created a database of DNA samples from convicted and suspected criminals called the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). However, the field of forensic science has been around for centuries. In fact, as early as 270 CE there was Zhang Ju, a Chinese coroner who wrote about the crimes he solved by examining the bodies of the victims. Using numerous real-life cases, Heos presents a riveting history of the evolution of modern forensic science. One of the first scientific tests ever developed in relation to murder was one for determining the presence of poison, in particular arsenic. This 18th-century breakthrough laid the groundwork for countless other developments in the quest to solve crimes. Heos deftly incorporates the stories behind many murders to illuminate advancements in areas such as fingerprint evidence, firearm and blood pattern analysis, and forensic anthropology (how bodies decompose). Also covered are the rise of the medical examiner, the advent of criminal profilers, and the development of DNA evidence. The text, with photographs sprinkled throughout, is gripping and easy to read but not for the faint of heart. VERDICT Sherlock Holmes lovers, CSI: Miami aficionados, and forensic science students will all be drawn to this rather gruesome yet highly entertaining and fact-packed history.–Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn

redstarJenkins, Steve. Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics. illus. by Steve Jenkins. 48p. bibliog. chart. diag. HMH. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544630925. POP

Gr 2-6 –Jenkins combines cut-and-torn-paper illustrations with infographics to present highly engaging visual comparisons from the animal kingdom. Ranging from one to four pages in length, the graphic sections feature careful layouts that convey well-chosen and fascinating data. Clean lines and abundant white space lead readers to absorb the information without strain or confusion. In one example, a horizontal bar graph examines the speeds of 15 animals, each identified by name and a silhouette figure. In addition, illustrations highlight two particular examples with captions. Varied graph formats demonstrate each topic to maximum effect. Concentric circles show the surprising differences between wing speeds of hummingbirds and gnats. Cut-paper horns are neatly placed within a bar graph of horn lengths. There’s even a logic tree outlining the decision-making process of an armadillo. Scales are clearly noted, even when they shift on the following page, as in the impressive four-page look at the deadliest animals that reveals the mosquito’s clear dominance. Estimated data is always identified, such as numbers representing the combined biomass of species. In some cases, two graphs are used to offer different perspectives on the topic: a horizontal bar graph details tongue lengths, for example, while on the facing page a vertical depiction compares those lengths to the size of each animal (and the bars are cleverly rounded to resemble tongues). VERDICT Compelling visual presentation makes the information accessible and exciting. Highly recommended for all science collections.–Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR


1610-pop-dvd-trombone-shortyTrombone Shorty. 14 min. Dist. by Dreamscape. 2016. $38.99. ISBN 9781520014548. POP

Gr 1-4 –Based on the Caldecott Honor title, this program centers on Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. As a young boy growing up in New Orleans, he was immersed in music and determined to create it, despite the challenges posed by age and lack of money and equipment. Andrews had his own band by the time he was six, and he earned his nickname from a used trombone that was taller than him. This gifted musician has gone on to an impressive career. Told in the first person and aptly narrated by Arnell Powell’s rich voice, this genial presentation includes lively background trombone music. An author’s note provides additional information. Bryan Collier’s glorious, rich, in-depth illustrations are lightly animated. The animations vary in quality—sometimes creating a perfect mood and other times unnecessarily taking away from the visuals. Nevertheless, this is a joyous homage to cultural roots and to the importance of following and achieving dreams and encouraging those who come after you. VERDICT A solid choice for any program serving children.–Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary, Federal Way, WA

1610-pop-dvd-teotihuacans-lost-kingsTeotihuacán’s Lost Kings. (Secrets of the Dead). 55 min. Dist. by PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627897075. POP

Gr 7 Up –This episode centers on the ancient city-state of Teotihuacán, located in modern-day Mexico, and the imposing pyramids that flourished before the rise of the Aztec civilization. The program focuses on the discovery of a tunnel leading beneath the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent. Archaeologists follow this tunnel, excavating bit by bit, discovering wood, obsidian, and jade artifacts. The explorers employ the latest technology in their work, including 3-D laser scans to visualize the dark, narrow space, and scientists explain their forensic work on recovered human and animal bones. The documentary includes extensive commentary from Mexican archaeologist Sergio Gómez Chávez, providing an important Mexican archaeological perspective. It is important to note that this film discusses human sacrifice, an important rite in Mesoamerican cultures, and contains brief but mildly graphic re-creations of the ritual. The program attempts to offer cultural context, avoiding much of the sensationalism found in other documentaries. It also covers Teotihuacán’s relationship with neighboring polities, such as rival city-state Tikal. VERDICT An illuminating documentary that discusses a significant pre-Columbian society, compiling a healthy mixture of archaeology, history, forensics, and digital technology. A great classroom aid for history and anthropology courses.–Jeffrey Meyer, Mount Pleasant Public Library, IA

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Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems | SLJ Review Mon, 24 Oct 2016 13:00:30 +0000 WILLEMS, Mo. Nanette’s Baguette. illus. by Mo Willems. 40p. Disney-Hyperion. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484722862.

PreS-Gr 2 –The hilarious account of how Nanette, a young frog entrusted with her “biggest responsibility yet” ends up “beset with regret.” Although Nanette meets her friends and “Mr. Barnett with his pet” on the way to buy a baguette for the first time by herself, she doesn’t forget her task and emerges triumphant from the bakery. But the loaf is warm and [...]]]> redstarWILLEMS, Mo. Nanette’s Baguette. illus. by Mo Willems. 40p. Disney-Hyperion. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484722862.

nanettes-baguettePreS-Gr 2 –The hilarious account of how Nanette, a young frog entrusted with her “biggest responsibility yet” ends up “beset with regret.” Although Nanette meets her friends and “Mr. Barnett with his pet” on the way to buy a baguette for the first time by herself, she doesn’t forget her task and emerges triumphant from the bakery. But the loaf is warm and “smells wonderful,” and bite by bite, she devours it before she reaches home. Nanette’s fear of facing her mom proves unfounded, though, when she admits her mistake and is enfolded in her mother’s soothing embrace. The two set out together to get another baguette, and a surprise ending demonstrates that even adults can succumb to temptation. With few exceptions, the entire text contains words rhyming with Nanette. The French village, handcrafted with cardboard and paper and digitally integrated with other photographed illustrations, is home to Nanette and her frog community. Visual jokes fill every page: the pictures on the walls of Nanette’s home, Mr. Barnett’s pet, signs in a shop window. With lip-smacking delight, Nanette floats through double-page splashes of vibrant color as she consumes the baguette, then appears in a bull’s-eye, eyes popping, mouth twisted, as she realizes her error. The background echoes her distress as it becomes dark and filled with black squiggles and the “KABOOM” of a thunderstorm, which leaves the girl “wet with no baguette.” There is so much to discover and enjoy in this treat for eye and ear—even a hidden Pigeon. VERDICT For a storytime treat that children will devour, don’t miss this shopping trip.–Marianne Saccardi, Children’s Literature Consultant, Cambridge, MA

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2016 issue.

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Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics by Steve Jenkins | SLJ Review Mon, 24 Oct 2016 13:00:07 +0000 JENKINS, Steve. Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics. illus. by Steve Jenkins. 48p. bibliog. chart. diag. HMH. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544630925. POP

Gr 2-6 –Jenkins combines cut-and-torn-paper illustrations with infographics to present highly engaging visual comparisons from the animal kingdom. Ranging from one to four pages in length, the graphic sections feature careful layouts that convey well-chosen and fascinating data. Clean lines and abundant white space lead readers to absorb the information without strain or [...]]]> redstarJENKINS, Steve. Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics. illus. by Steve Jenkins. 48p. bibliog. chart. diag. HMH. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544630925. POP

animals-by-the-numbersGr 2-6 –Jenkins combines cut-and-torn-paper illustrations with infographics to present highly engaging visual comparisons from the animal kingdom. Ranging from one to four pages in length, the graphic sections feature careful layouts that convey well-chosen and fascinating data. Clean lines and abundant white space lead readers to absorb the information without strain or confusion. In one example, a horizontal bar graph examines the speeds of 15 animals, each identified by name and a silhouette figure. In addition, illustrations highlight two particular examples with captions. Varied graph formats demonstrate each topic to maximum effect. Concentric circles show the surprising differences between wing speeds of hummingbirds and gnats. Cut-paper horns are neatly placed within a bar graph of horn lengths. There’s even a logic tree outlining the decision-making process of an armadillo. Scales are clearly noted, even when they shift on the following page, as in the impressive four-page look at the deadliest animals that reveals the mosquito’s clear dominance. Estimated data is always identified, such as numbers representing the combined biomass of species. In some cases, two graphs are used to offer different perspectives on the topic: a horizontal bar graph details tongue lengths, for example, while on the facing page a vertical depiction compares those lengths to the size of each animal (and the bars are cleverly rounded to resemble tongues). VERDICT Compelling visual presentation makes the information accessible and exciting. Highly recommended for all science collections.–Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2016 issue.

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How To Build a Museum: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture by Tonya Bolden | SLJ Review Fri, 21 Oct 2016 13:00:40 +0000 BOLDEN, Tonya. How To Build a Museum: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. 64p. index. notes. photos. Viking. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780451476371.

Gr 5 Up –One hundred years ago, the National Memorial Association was formed to establish a monument honoring African American veterans of the Civil War. It took years to get Congressional support, but finally, in the late 1920s, a bill was passed to create a committee to establish a museum dedicated to [...]]]> redstarBOLDEN, Tonya. How To Build a Museum: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. 64p. index. notes. photos. Viking. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780451476371.

how-to-build-a-musuemGr 5 Up –One hundred years ago, the National Memorial Association was formed to establish a monument honoring African American veterans of the Civil War. It took years to get Congressional support, but finally, in the late 1920s, a bill was passed to create a committee to establish a museum dedicated to African American contributions to our nation. While the committee was abolished during the Depression, the dream was not. However, it took another 70 years of urging by activists and politicians to renew interest in the project. Bolden investigates this history and the search for a museum director and artifacts, including the national call for “treasures” and the related national tour by curators in search of items for the collection. In addition, she discusses the museum’s location on the National Mall, a place once bordered by “holding pens for enslaved people bound for the Deep South.” Archival and contemporary photos and reproductions of artwork and other materials enhance this clearly written, well-documented book. The images increase in the second half and highlight the museum’s permanent collections devoted to slavery and freedom; segregation; African American religious, civic, and educational institutions, communities, military experience; and other topics. Here, introductory paragraphs discuss the focus of the exhibits and the questions they ask, while captions add fascinating detail about the items presented. VERDICT An important, profusely illustrated account of the history, building, and collections of a national treasure.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2016 issue.

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Scythe by Neal Shusterman | SLJ Review Fri, 21 Oct 2016 13:00:16 +0000 SHUSTERMAN, Neal. Scythe. 448p. ebook available. S. & S. Nov. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781442472426.

Gr 8 Up –In a world in which humanity has conquered death (no aging, no disease, no poverty, no war), ruled by the Thunderhead, an omniscient evolution of today’s cloud, Scythes are the only ones who are allowed to take a human life. They are considered to be the best humanity has to offer, and they roam the world “gleaning” people in order to [...]]]> redstarSHUSTERMAN, Neal. Scythe. 448p. ebook available. S. & S. Nov. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781442472426.

scytheGr 8 Up –In a world in which humanity has conquered death (no aging, no disease, no poverty, no war), ruled by the Thunderhead, an omniscient evolution of today’s cloud, Scythes are the only ones who are allowed to take a human life. They are considered to be the best humanity has to offer, and they roam the world “gleaning” people in order to keep the population in check. Scythes are treated like royalty and feared. The last thing Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch want is to become Scythes, but when they are chosen by Scythe Faraday to become his apprentices, they are thrown into a life in which they need to master the art of death. They prove to be apt pupils, but when Scythe Faraday mysteriously gleans himself and Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to two other fearsome Scythes, they will have to put their skills to the test against each other. Intertwined with the fascinating concept of humanity conquering death and the idea of Scythes is the prospect that perhaps this is not the ideal world in which to live. Humanity has perfected itself—so what does that leave it to accomplish? Shusterman starts off this series in dramatic fashion as he creates an engrossing world that pulls readers in and refuses to let them go. VERDICT A truly astounding, unputdownable read and a fast-paced beginning to an excellent sci-fi series. A must-have.–Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2016 issue.

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SLJ Leadership Summit 2016: The Power of Purpose Thu, 20 Oct 2016 17:36:08 +0000 Carla Hayes and Todd Burleson Photo by Shawn Miller

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and SLJ‘s School Librarian of the Year, Todd Burleson, at a post-Summit meeting. Hayden is holding up a card made by Burleson’s students, while Burleson shows off his September SLJ cover. 
Photo by Shawn Miller

From stirring keynotes by a civil rights legend and an award-winning author to a lively Hackathon rife with crowdsourced ideas toward tackling major issues in the profession, the 2016 School Library Journal Leadership Summit was one to remember. A record 210 registrants gathered in our nation’s capital October 15–16 for the Summit, made possible by by platinum sponsor Capstone; gold sponsor Follett; and silver sponsors ABDO, Diamond Book Distributors, Gale Cengage Learning, Junior Library Guild, Lerner, littleBits, Mackin, Rosen Publishing, and The Library Corporation (TLC).

With the theme “Taking Charge in the New ESSA Era,” the event featured rapid-fire “Fast Learning” sessions and filled-to-capacity preconference tours of local school libraries and the Library of Congress. New this year was a superintendent’s panel and a Maker Playground, led by school librarians Colleen and Aaron Graves, where visitors tinkered with paper circuits and more. On hand, too, was SLJ’s School Librarian of the Year, Todd Burleson, who got the thrill of a lifetime with an in-person sit down post-Summit with the new Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden.

Newfound purpose

Karim Abouelnaga Photo by Audrey Lew

Karim Abouelnaga, founder and CEO of Practice Makes Perfect, urges attendees to consider their individual purpose. 
Photo by Audrey Lew

Karim Abouelnaga, founder and CEO of Practice Makes Perfect, kicked off the first day with a thought-provoking keynote on redefining your sense of purpose, which became a through-line for the event. Abouelnaga’s goal is to close the achievement gap “one summer at a time” with his Near Peer Program, which matches at-risk kids with mentors who are just a few years older. To crystallize one’s own purpose, he urged attendees to ask: “Why is this important now? Why is it important to me now? Why am I the right person to be doing this now?”

That emphasis on the value of individual effort continued as four school district superintendents—Mat McRae, Swan Valley, MI; Pam Moran, Albemarle County, VA; Timothy Purnell, Somerville, NJ; Karen Sullivan, Indian Prairie, IL—shared their thoughts on how school librarians can raise their profiles and advance the profession. Their candid advice centered around the idea that it’s personal involvement and enthusiasm that make a difference, not programs. The importance of directly working with classroom teachers was emphasized. “If you can’t make a list of teachers you’ve worked with in a day, you’re putting your job in jeopardy,” said McRae. But that requires outreach on your part. “You have to build relationships with teachers. That’s all there is to it. That takes time and trust. They will not invite you into their classroom until they know you care about them.”

McRae was also blunt about the need for school librarians to advocate for themselves. “I don’t think you do enough of it. You have to find ways to market the great things you do,” as tired as you might be at the end of the day, he added. Purnell had a tip for doing so: “Find articles about how the role of the librarians has changed, request a meeting and say ‘I can help out in these areas.’”

“Find a way to get in the way”

Congressman John Lewis Photo by Audrey Lew

Congressman John Lewis was a memorable speaker with a powerful, inspiring message. 
Photo by Audrey Lew

Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) and Andrew Aydin, coauthors of the “March” graphic novel trilogy, about Lewis’s involvement in civil rights movement, also underscored the import of personal responsibility. Lewis recounted how, when he asked his parents about segregation, they replied, “Don’t make trouble. Don’t get in the way.” But the civil rights leader, inspired by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., told the Summit audience, “When you see something that is not fair, not right, not just, you have an obligation to find a way to get in the way. We hope young people will adopt the philosophy of nonviolence and save a little spaceship we call Earth for generations yet unborn.”

Aydin, after recalling that the library where his mom worked was his “liberation” as a kid, drove home the idea of being the change you want to see. During the process of writing “March,” he said, “Sometimes [Congressman Lewis] fell asleep, sometimes I fell asleep. But we felt we had this mission. Imagine if we could instill social consciousness in every nine-year-old in America.”

Shaun David Hutchinson, author of We Are the Ants (S. & S., 2016), also emphasized the difference one librarian can make by resolving to reach out. Hutchinson shared his struggle with depression and finding his footing as a gay teen. In the books he read, the only gay characters were beaten, died of AIDS, or became the punchline of a joke he would never find funny, he told the audience in his closing keynote. “Being gay was as foreign an idea as being a vampire. But the difference was, I could find and check out a dozen books about being a vampire.”

A voracious reader in his youth, Hutchinson plowed through every book in his Catholic school library, and he recounted how his librarian struggled to keep up. She started slipping him “Dune” novels, along with books by Robin McKinley and Stephen King. He didn’t realize until years later that these weren’t from the school library; the librarian had put her job on the line by bringing in her own books. Hutchinson insisted, “A kid you give a book to today may be standing up here tomorrow telling you it saved his life.”

“The most important word is community”

Burleson ended the Summit by looking toward the future and underscoring, one last time, the power of the personal efforts of one librarian. “With the right mind-set, skill set, and tools, the library of the future will be more exciting than ever,” Burleson, librarian at Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka, IL, said in a final “Fast Learning” session. What is the right skill set? It varies, depending on your community. “The answer is rooted in place,” he noted.

Burleson illustrated what he meant by relating his recent mission trip to inner-city Detroit. His team sought refuge from the 95-degree weather in a library—which wasn’t air conditioned. Despite the stifling heat in that tiny library, a single librarian welcomed them with ice pops and friendly conversation, while also managing a slate of programs. The place was packed with patrons attending story time, printing resumes, and more. The librarian had posted signs: “Free lunches, 4:30–5:30” and “Prizes for Book Reports Anytime.”

“The library of the future celebrates community and develops connections,” Burleson concluded. “And the heart of it will be certified and passionate librarians.”

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SLJ Regrets an Error, Updates Reviewer Guidelines Thu, 20 Oct 2016 16:45:42 +0000 The editors of School Library Journal (SLJ) were recently made aware of a serious error within our review of Tim Tharp’s audiobook Mojo (Listening Library, 2013), published in our July 2013 print magazine. In an email to SLJ executive editor Kathy Ishizuka, YA author and editor Saundra Mitchell explained her disappointment:

“[This review] contains the line: ‘Alcohol and drug use, swearing, lesbian relationships, strippers, and more combine to make this choice most appropriate for high school students.’

While I understand the value of enumerating the contents of a book so that librarians can make informed purchasing choices, we take exception to the inclusion of “lesbian relationships” being equated with drug use and swearing, and meriting a more mature audience simply by existing.

People are not mature content, and it’s harmful to LGBTQIA+ teens to equate their existence with mature content. It hypersexualizes them and underscores the harmful belief that LGBTQIA+ people are sex-first, people second. Gender and orientation aren’t synonymous with sex.

I’m writing to ask that you reconsider your review guidelines and that your reviews editors be aware of this issue when vetting reviews before publication.

LGBTQIA+ teens are desperate to see themselves reflected in their books. When their mere existence is labeled mature content, it diminishes the chances they’ll actually get the books they so desperately need.”

We couldn’t agree more. The fact of a person or character’s sexual orientation or gender identity should never be used as a warning or a means of limiting potential audience. We deeply regret the error and apologize to our readership. We have corrected the review, eliminating the mention of “lesbian relationships” in the above-mentioned line and sent the updated review to all of our licensee partners. The revised version will also appear shortly on our review resource Book Verdict.

SLJ’s reviewers and editors pride ourselves on creating content that helps librarians build diverse and inclusive collections, reflective of the rich experiences of a wide array of readers. To further that goal, we recently offered an eight-week online course for all SLJ and LJ (Library Journal, our sister publication) reviewers on the topic of diversity and cultural literacy. We’ve also begun internal sensitivity training for our review editors, including a training session on inclusive language. We have also updated our Reviewer Guidelines to include a section on what does and does not constitute “mature content” for children or teens and will continue to offer training opportunities for our corps of SLJ reviewers on this and related topics.

We encourage our readers to contact us with concerns or suggestions about this or any other reviews.

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It’s Genius Hour! Thu, 20 Oct 2016 13:35:53 +0000 Students in Don Wettrick’s “Innovation” class at Noblesville (IN) High School brainstorm project ideas. Photo courtesy of Don Wettrick/Noblesville High School

Students in Don Wettrick’s “Innovation” class at Noblesville (IN) High School brainstorm project ideas.
Photo courtesy of Don Wettrick/Noblesville High School

It’s 7:30 am on the first day of my summer break, and I’m sitting in Don Wettrick’s classroom hoping my brain will wake up in time to absorb everything I don’t understand about genius hour. Wettrick wrote a book on the subject—Pure Genius (Dave Burgess Consulting, 2014)—and, as innovation coordinator for Noblesville (IN) High School, he has been sharing the most amazing stories about his students.

Those teens have been in the news lately for their work on local problems, such as addressing light pollution in town and helping SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients use their benefits at the local farmers’ market. Until recently, I taught in the same district, so I would occasionally meet his students around town. They could barely contain their enthusiasm and pride about the work they did in Wettrick’s “Innovation” class. I’ll never forget the day a high school student handed me his business card and encouraged me to attend a performance of the one-act plays his new company was producing.

This is the work that defines these students. That’s why I attended Wettrick’s two-day “Pure Genius” workshop—to learn how to recreate this phenomenon in my own school.

What’s genius about it?

Genius hour is different everywhere, but at its core, it is time set aside for students to work on and learn about what interests them most. Time in which their learning is self-driven, not guided by standards, rubrics, or exams. It’s a chance for students to explore what they love, in a space in which failure is welcome and support is everywhere.

Genius hour has its roots in Google’s 20 percent time policy. Early on, Google employees were encouraged to take one day—20 percent—of their work week to pursue company-related projects that interested them. The innovation resulting from this policy led to the development of some successful products, such as Google News and Gmail. It didn’t take long for educators to see the potential in this idea. Many, including Wettrick, credit the influence of best-selling author Daniel Pink and his 2009 TED Talk, “The Puzzle of Motivation,” in which he reveals the motivational power of autonomy. Today, librarians and teachers, including Wettrick, are adopting 20 percent time in their classrooms in the form of genius hour, although it may go by other names, too.

What’s important is what happens during genius time, not the amount of time itself. It can take place for 20–30 minutes on Fridays or during an after-school club. It might be one lesson in the library or a cluster of lessons; there’s no defined format.

School librarians are embracing it. The kind of out-of-the-box research and nimble thinking that teaching genius hour requires are well-suited to librarians, especially those whose schedules allow them to co-teach and plan with classroom teachers. Genius hour and the maker movement are cut from the same cloth. Genius hour projects frequently take place in the maker space—it’s where prototypes are built and inventions take form. Kristina Holzweiss, 2015 SLJ School Librarian of the Year, calls her maker space lessons “Genius Hour”; at her library at Bay Shore (NY) Middle School, they are one and the same. A maker space is an area for students to create, and genius hour is the time during which those students can brainstorm, plan, and design their creations.

“Genius Nuggets” and other approaches

Carving out the time for genius hour can be a big challenge in a world where educators are accountable for every minute of instructional time. But the gains to be made in student engagement and critical thinking are well worth it.

Asked how his genius hour has evolved, Wettrick explained that after several iterations of his innovations class, across two schools, he feels strongly that “Innovation” classes like his own should be formal elective courses at the high school level. “The push to foster creativity, [advance] toward innovation, and (maybe even) make the shift towards entrepreneurism needs significantly more time than 20 minutes a week,” he says.

Craig Dunlap, RTI math and blended learning teacher at Yealey Elementary in Florence, KY, was inspired after reading Wettrick’s book, and integrated genius hour into his classes at all levels. His blog chronicled the year, with all of its ups and downs. Dunlap’s elementary students participated in small-scale genius hour projects—which he called “Genius Nuggets”—and researched topics that interested them, whether it was mastering a bike trick or studying the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Students created presentations to share what they learned.

Sixth graders at the Bay Shore (NY) Middle School library  with a K’Nex creation made during genius hour. Photo courtesy of Kristina Holzweiss/Bay Shore Middle School

Sixth graders at the Bay Shore (NY) Middle School library
with a K’Nex creation made during genius hour.
Photo courtesy of Kristina Holzweiss/Bay Shore Middle School

Some school librarians and teachers, especially at the elementary level, choose a block of time on a specific day of the week. Sherry Gick, a former librarian for Rossville (IN) Schools, 2015 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, and currently associate director of innovative learning at Five-Star Technology Solutions, worked with a third grade teacher on a shared genius hour project in which they met one hour a week for 16 weeks. Gick’s students explored recycling at their school, while her collaborative partner, Matthew Winner, teacher librarian at Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Elkridge, MD, and a 2013 Mover & Shaker, worked with his own third graders to explore energy-saving strategies at their school. The classes communicated via Skype to share their progress. Gick’s eighth grade class met for one class period each week, with an additional half-period work time, for nine weeks. Students focused on school improvement topics, ranging from updating the dress code to growing food for school lunches, and concluded with a presentation to the administration.

Holzweiss works around varying time slots. Sometimes she has a whole week to lead her middle school students through a genius hour/maker space project; other times she has one day. In a few class periods, students created stop-motion videos, video games using websites, working Ferris wheels out of K’nex, and more.

Via Skype, third graders at Rossville (IN) Schools watch kids at Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Elkridge, MD, present a genius hour  project about saving energy. Photo courtesy of Sherry Gick

Via Skype, third graders at Rossville (IN)
Schools watch kids at Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Elkridge, MD, present a genius hour project about saving energy.
Photo courtesy of Sherry Gick

Are you ready?

It may seem impossible to prepare for genius hour, since students determine the content, materials, and even the driving questions. The teacher is charged with creating the environment and norms that will set up their students for success. Asked what can make or break a genius hour, Wettrick says, “The key to a successful genius hour is creating a culture of learning.” That also means teaching students to embrace failure. His students work from a design model that requires them to make a two-week action plan and assess their progress regularly. Finding the fun in failure is part of that. Some projects get abandoned after two weeks, while others grow and evolve throughout the year. One project, a podcast consisting mostly of political discussions described as “brutally honest” by the two students who produce it, continued into the new school year. In a recent Periscope video, those students discussed a rebranding effort to focus their message and how they communicate it.

To Dunlap, part of creating the learning-rich environment is making sure he has a way for students to report their activities and communicate with him. “Organization is the key to success,” he says. Dunlap uses the Office program OneNote Class Notebook, but any classroom management system that allows students to submit work and ask questions will enable the dialogue students need.

Holzweiss plans by considering how much time she will have with students, and the students themselves: What grade are they in? Are they mostly special education students or English language learners? Then, she selects resources for them based on their learning styles.

If this is beginning to sound costly, don’t fret. Joy Kirr, founder of a genius hour LiveBinder, a treasure trove of resources for teachers and librarians, says she doesn’t worry about funding student projects; she lets them worry about it. “If students want to do something strongly enough, they’ll find a way,” she says. Obtaining the money to fund a project is just one challenge the students need to work through. Kirr’s LiveBinder has articles, advice, and project examples from every grade level. Browsers can see what Julie Haden’s first graders at Palencia Elementary School in St. Augustine, FL, drew and wrote about their projects, or check out the Global Genius Hour Project’s wiki, featuring more ideas and examples. Providing tips on how to record students’ projects, Laura Rahn, a seventh grade teacher at Blue Ridge Middle School in Purcellville, VA, collected her students’ projects on a Padlet.

Advice from the trenches

Pink’s recipe for engaged, motivated workers (students) includes “Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.” Each librarian and teacher interviewed mentioned these characteristics as the ones that make or break genius hour.

Students should be working on a project of their own choosing, making strides toward mastering a skill or learning all they need to know. The best projects are rooted in real problems with real stakes.

“Have a plan. But be flexible,” Gick says. Holzweiss advises, “Try it once, try it twice. Then try it again!” Both Dunlap and Wettrick openly admit to getting it “wrong,” over and over. If the way you’ve got it organized isn’t working out, try something different. Don’t be afraid to switch things up midstream. You are learning right alongside your students, modeling trial and error in real time.

Genius hour doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Many students will need guidance and encouragement, simply because they haven’t ever been asked to learn this way before. Others, especially those who thrive in the lecture and test environment, may have a tough time adjusting to the “failure is fun” attitude.

Kirr advises teachers new to genius hour to “keep the reasons why in your heart.” Return to your purpose behind trying genius hour in the first place, and let the students guide you in your decision making. She also stresses that it’s important to make it work for you. There is no one genius hour “method”; no set curriculum to follow. Adapt it to your teaching style, so you feel comfortable and empowered to continue.

At the end of my two-day workshop in Wettrick’s bright, multicolored classroom, I get it. “Genius hour is the purpose of school,” he says. “It’s a space for learning. But the students get to choose what they learn, what they are curious about.”

When he launches a genius hour, Dunlap says,“I normally say something like this: ‘What would you want to learn about if no one told you what you had to learn about? Go do it!’ I see a blank look on kids’ faces…and [then], they light up.”

Matteson-Addie_Contrib_webAddie Matteson is a middle school librarian at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA.

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Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer | SLJ DVD Review Thu, 20 Oct 2016 13:00:45 +0000 Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer. 34 min. Dist. by Dreamscape. 2016. $38.99. ISBN 9781520016788.

Gr 4-8 –This iconographic video expands on Carole Boston Weatherford’s exemplary picture book biography of Fannie Lou Hamer by adding narration and simple animation. Janina Edwards’s spirited narration conveys the beauty of Weatherford’s poetic text and convincingly voices Hamer’s perspective. Born in poverty, Hamer became a powerful voice of the civil rights movement. Forced to leave school after the sixth grade, she was in [...]]]> redstarVoice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer. 34 min. Dist. by Dreamscape. 2016. $38.99. ISBN 9781520016788.

voice-of-freedomGr 4-8 –This iconographic video expands on Carole Boston Weatherford’s exemplary picture book biography of Fannie Lou Hamer by adding narration and simple animation. Janina Edwards’s spirited narration conveys the beauty of Weatherford’s poetic text and convincingly voices Hamer’s perspective. Born in poverty, Hamer became a powerful voice of the civil rights movement. Forced to leave school after the sixth grade, she was in her forties when she first learned of her right to vote. Though registering to vote cost her work and drew death threats, Hamer was undaunted. With her signature song “This Little Light of Mine,” she rallied others to register and worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. Throughout her life, Hamer faced hardships, which are described with candor and sensitivity. In 1963, after she and other civil rights workers sought service at a whites-only café, she was jailed and brutally beaten. Hamer refused to give up hope, though. Ekua Holmes’s exquisite collage art depicts Hamer in yellow, symbolic of her Mississippi Delta roots and resilience. The presentation lingers over details in the mixed-media collages: sunflower motifs, snippets of text, and maps on clothes. Folksy guitar and simple animations enliven the presentation: hands clap, heads nod, and a pick-up truck rumbles into view. VERDICT This well-crafted video is an excellent resource to supplement American history studies, especially the civil rights era. Hamer’s inspiring life story should resonate with a wide audience.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2016 issue.

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Grumpiness, Gumption, and Gratitude | “The Great Gilly Hopkins” Movie Review Wed, 19 Oct 2016 22:29:48 +0000 Kathy Bates and Sophie Nélisse in The Great Gill Hopkins (Photos: Lionsgate Premiere)

Kathy Bates and Sophie Nélisse in The Great Gilly Hopkins (Photos: Lionsgate Premiere)

An alternative title for the feature film adaptation (finally) of Katherine Paterson’s classic The Great Gilly Hopkins could be The Great Kathy Bates. Though the children’s novel was published in 1978, before Bates’s film career began in earnest in the early 1980s, it’s as though Paterson had the actress in mind when she wrote Maime Trotter, the Southern, churchgoing, tough lovin’ but ever patient foster mother to an incorrigible 11-year-old, Gilly Hopkins, who has bounced from foster homes all of her young life. When Trotter raises her arched eyebrows, you know she means business.

Gilly’s sullen, dismissive attitude toward all forms of authority might have something to do with her peripatetic track record. She tilts her face downward and barely looks Trotter in the eye when first introduced. At her new school, she’s determined to fail, though nothing gets past her teacher, Ms. Harris (Octavia Spencer). She heedlessly—and needlessly—gets in fights with boys and rashly rejects the only classmate who offers an overture of friendship. Instead of giving Trotter and her new foster brother, W.E. (Zachary Hernandez), a chance, she hatches a plan to steal enough cash and hightail it to San Francisco, the last-known address for the birth mother she idealizes. (All she knows of her is based on one photo and postcard.) Gilly’s one tough, Teflon nut to crack, but as Trotter would advise, give her time.

The film remarkably retains the book’s essence, even though Gilly is a few years older, as played by Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse. The setting has a timeless quality, not 1970s retro (though there are abundant earth tones in the Trotter home) but not quite in the hip here and now either: there’s not a smartphone in sight. It could take place anytime in the last 20 years. Most importantly, the pace zips along from the get-go, following Paterson’s story line beat by beat, without softening Gilly’s defiant disposition. She may not be as mean-spirited or racist as in the book, but she comes close. (The script was written by the author’s son David Paterson, who produced the film along with brother John.)

Though it has been released in a limited number of theaters, the film will most likely find its audience in platforms that are more inviting, given the intimacy of the story, video on demand and/or streaming, since it feels more like a made-for-TV movie. The visuals are of the everyday, and the editing jumps abruptly from scene to scene, with a few awkwardly staged moments: not once but twice, a conversation takes place where the participants have no idea that others are in the room nearby. No matter, the focus remains steadfastly on the softening of Gilly—keep a Kleenex at the ready.


Sophie Nélisse and Glenn Close

If ever the tone turns treacly, a reaction shot of Gilly glowering acts as an antidote. Nélisse appropriately comes across as petulant, restless, and angry, all without an eye roll.The acting among the juvenile cast is often transparent— they indicate exactly what they think and want—so it should be no surprise that the bar raises considerably when Bates is on screen, joined by Bill Cobbs as the blind neighbor, Mr. Randolph, and Glenn Close as Gilly’s grandmother, Nonnie, who suddenly surfaces in her granddaughter’s life. (Sadly, Bates and Close only share brief moments together.)

The movie is among the more successful no-frills, stripped down adaptations of middle grade lit, joining a select group that includes Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia (also adapted by David Paterson), K.L. Going’s Fat Kid Rules the World, and Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now.

Directed by Stephen Herek
99 min.
Rated PG

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Teens Review LGBTQ Romances, “A Darkly Beating Heart,” and More Wed, 19 Oct 2016 18:00:40 +0000 The Kitsap YA reviewers take on diverse LGBTQ titles, a sci-fi adventure, and A Darkly Beating Heart, a time-traveling novel that moves between contemporary Japan and a 19th-century Edo village.

no-holdingEVANGELISTA, Kate. No Holding Back. Swoon. Oct. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781250100627.

Gr 9 Up–Nathan has been in love with his best friend, Preston, for ages, to the point where it’s an open secret that only Preston is unaware of. But Nathan is running out of time to confess, as Preston is about to start training for the Olympics. Perhaps a romantic vacation in Europe is just the impetus he needs….

The cover of this book is miserably awful. And by miserably awful, I mean it looks somewhat like a PSA or a bad advertisement. It’s generic and hideous, and there is nothing more to say about it. Besides that, the cover design is absolutely abysmal in all ways.

To put it simply, No Holding Back was boring. There was no dynamic flow whatsoever in the main relationship, and Preston and Nathan were about as interesting as cardboard. Additionally, the background of traveling through Europe was underutilized completely, adding little more than window dressing to something that could have been engaging and cute. It was actually quite a shame. When one reads “road trip” novels, one expects regional flair and sweet romance. One does not expect the literary equivalent of papier-mâché dioramas and awkward writing fumbles in the romantic relationship featured. In all, this was an incredibly dull book with almost no redeeming points in its unrelenting mediocrity.

The most compelling aspect of this book is that the main relationship is quite cute, in a generic, sugary sort of way. At least there’s no weird (read: creepy) or abusive dynamics in Preston and Nathan’s relationship, and I am a sucker for childhood-friend romances. However, their romance was extremely bland and felt much like any other feel-good romance. Additionally, the fact that there were definite hints at other interesting characters made the book slightly salvageable, if only because I wanted to see what was going to happen to the mostly endearing supporting cast, and the mostly endearing main characters.

No Holding Back is yet another example of LGBTQ lit I’ve read lately that felt oddly like retooled fanfic. This could have been because of the writing style, or it could have been because of the number of fic-y tropes that appeared within it, but either way, I kept wondering about this for most of the time I read the novel. In all, this is a book I cannot recommend to anyone. Seriously. There’s better LGBTQ lit out there. Lots of it. Go read something like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe instead.–Ella W., 16

weight-of-zeroFORTUNATI, Karen. The Weight of Zero. Random. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101938911.

Gr 9 Up–I’m sure by now you’ve read a YA book about a teenager struggling with mental illness. The Weight of Zero will blow your mind. Prepare to be submerged in the 100 percent realistic world of 17-year-old Catherine, who has bipolar disorder, as she prepares for her ultimate depression.

I liked the cover a lot. It reflected the overall hope of the book, with light colors and the hints of dark with the bold black title and clothes.

The most compelling aspect of the book was the main character, Catherine. I was on my seat the entire time, anxious to see what would become of her, all because Fortunati made her so real. I was also impressed by the author’s writing style; it’s really hard to create realistic dialogue and situations for teens, but here it seemed just about perfect to me. I wasn’t disappointed with this book for ANY reason.

This is an amazing book. I love that is has such a positive message and shows how to ACTUALLY deal with mental illness in such a realistic and un-gushy way.—Juliette S., 14

gemina-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoffKAUFMAN, Amie & Jay Kristoff. Gemina. Random. Oct. 2016. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780553499162.

Gr 6 Up–The sequel to Illuminae, Gemina is just as good as its predecessor. It takes place with two new main characters with quirky personalities in the Heimdall space station. This book holds the fate of not only the people in the Heimdall Station but also the Hypatia and all of Kerenza.

There’s nothing really catchy or especially cool about the cover, but it’s good and fits with the theme of the book and series.

I really liked both the characters and the unexpectedness of the plot line. The characters were just as good as in the previous book, if not better. I felt like in Illuminae, the characters were less likely to survive and therefore made you not want to turn away, but in this, just when it feels like you know what’s coming next, or when your favorite character dies, something totally unexpected happens, totally changing the story.

At first, I was disappointed with the character change; in the last book, you really got to know Kady and Ezra. But then the characters turned out to be amazing.–Kaitlyn H., 14

when-moon-2MCLEMORE, Anna Marie. When the Moon Was Ours. Thomas Dunne Bks. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250058669.

Gr 9 Up–When they tore down the old water tower, the last thing they expected to find was a girl who came out of it with roses growing from her wrist—a girl who fears pumpkins and whose skirt hem is always a little damp. As far as anyone knew, she was just strange, but to the Bonner sisters, she was prey.

The cover was beautiful. I just wished it covered the whole book. The whole magic of the book in general was compelling. Nothing was really disappointing.

The book was really beautiful. I liked the flowery writing, but at some parts, it got a little long and tedious to read. But mostly, it was enticing and interesting.–Rachel F., 15

adventureMILLS, Emma. This Adventure Ends. Holt. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627799355.

Gr 8 Up–When Sloane moves to Florida, she makes friends with a group of people who change her life—and the rest of her family—for the better.

I absolutely love the cover of this book; it’s what originally prompted me to pick it up. It’s also significant to the plot of the book without giving anything away.

For me, the most compelling aspect of this book was the dynamic among the characters. I especially loved the relationship between Sloane and her dad, a writer who can’t find the inspiration to write. Their dynamic was really funny and interesting to watch play out with the rest of the conflicts in the book. The writing style also had a nice flow, and I never felt like the pacing was uncomfortable or rushed; it felt very natural.

I think one of the only things I did not enjoy about this book was the occasionally awkward dialogue. The writing style itself is wonderful, but sometimes I felt like the dialogue was stilted and a little unrealistic. It wasn’t annoying to the point where I couldn’t read the book, but most teenagers don’t actually speak like Sloane does.

I really did love this book a lot. It made me laugh and cry, and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. This book is genuinely refreshing, especially if you’re a reader who also enjoys fandoms or is interested in the concept of an all-consuming group of friends (similar to books like “The Raven Cycle” and others with strong friendship dynamics). I loved it and can’t wait to read more from Emma Mills!–Grace B., 17

glitter-cvrPIKE, Aprilynne. Glitter. Random. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101933701.

Gr 9 UpGlitter is an awesome book, taking place in a futuristic palace stuck in a past where people are in their own little bubble, speaking formally, wearing fancy historical clothes, and even reenacting history.

The cover really drew me in. It’s interesting, colorful, and visually appealing. It gives readers a glimpse into the story.

I really liked the characters. They all had unique personalities that developed and helped the story be so interesting. Also, the plot kept me reading all night long. I like how you can never really expect what will happen next.–Kaitlyn H., 14

SMITH, Lindsay. A Darkly Beating Heart. Roaring Brook. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626720442.

Gr 10 Up–Still reeling from family difficulties and the fallout from the end of an extremely toxic relationship, Reiko is packed off to stay with relatives in Japan, accompanied only by her rage. While staying in the historical village of Kuramagi, however, she finds herself slipping into the memories of Miyu, a girl living in the village during the Bakumatsu. Initially, the time slips are a way of escape, but as Reiko and Miyu become more enmeshed and the past and present collide, there may be no way for a deadly tragedy to be averted.

darkly-beatingThe cover of A Darkly Beating Heart is absolutely hideous, and I really mean that when I say that. It’s just all the worst parts of YA paranormal romance cover design combined into one hateful whole, and I despise it. While this novel isn’t high literature, “The Girl from the Well” duology proved that Japanese-themed horror with good cover design is something that can be done. The least this cover could provide is a better color scheme, because this one looks like some stereotypical goth vampire Halloween costume. And last time I checked, A Darkly Beating Heart was about revenge and the Edo period, not a failed Visual Kei band.

The most compelling aspect of this novel is the main character, Reiko. She’s consumed by hatred and self-loathing and completely unable to deal with most of her family. At the same time, she’s an enormously sympathetic character, even if she’s not very likable most of the time. She’s a character who speaks to the darkest parts of people, in the same way that Miyu speaks to her.

Additionally, major props to this book for handling Reiko’s bisexuality so well. As Reiko, she’s wrestling with the fallout from her massively toxic relationship with her ex-girlfriend, with whom she’s still somewhat in love. As Miyu, she has an initially fulfilling relationship with Jiro, a male character, though it later turns poisonous. Neither relationship is portrayed as more important than the other, and this aspect of Reiko’s character is not the entire focus of the book, which is something highly refreshing in a book with an LGBTQ main character.

I was disappointed only in the lack of vivid description and period detailing in the Miyu sections of the book. I’m a huge geek about the Tokugawa shogunate, so seeing one of my favorite time periods not getting a ton of attention was a bit disappointing. Additionally, the atmosphere wasn’t as creepy as I would have liked, which was also a letdown. I prefer my horror on the darker and more brutal side. If I’m feeling paranoid by the end of the book, I consider it successful horror. However, A Darkly Beating Heart left me with no such feeling and in fact ended a bit too happily. I know I shouldn’t have wished for a brutal downer ending, but I kind of found myself rooting for one. Yes, I know. I’m a terrible person.

While this book wasn’t high literature, it was certainly a ton of fun, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s certainly a must-read for fans of The Girl from the Well or the “Higurashi: When They Cry” franchise, as in some ways it’s quite similar. Basically, if you’re into horror anime, this is probably the kind of thing you’d like.–Ella W., 16

girls-like-meSTVIL, Lola. Girls Like Me. HMH. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544706743.

Gr 8 Up–The cover is amazing; I rarely find such a trendy and modern cover that just screams “READ ME.” The art style is so appealing that it makes the book seem appealing. Sadly, the amazing cover of the book led me to have high expectations that were not met. The cover was amazing but didn’t reflect the book. At all.

Just from reading the back of the book, I was intrigued. You don’t find many books about people who struggle with being fat or being trans. It was kind of a clichéd story, but hey, it sounded interesting. So the cover, plus the back, made me pick it up and want to read it.

For me, this book was disappointing in all aspects. The writing style: no. It seemed cool and unique when I first started the book, like something that would be at the beginning of every new chapter, but quickly turned into something else. It wasn’t good. It. Felt. Like. I. Was. Reading. Like. This. Not enjoyable at all. It was like being cheated out of a book. There wasn’t enough detail to allow me to picture the characters in my head, or picture anything in my head, really. Fifty percent of the book was in the weird/hard-to-understand format, and the other 50 percent was messages. I could tell this just by flipping through the pages. I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t recommend this book and will not be finishing it any time soon.

This unique book will either confuse you or make you want to throw it across the room in frustration. If you enjoy this type of thing, though, go ahead and read it.–Kayla C., 14


People use many different coping mechanisms after losing a loved on. For Shay Summers, that mechanism happens to be writing. When this leads her to meet and promptly fall for a wry and dashing soul online, Shay must decide between making the final leap by telling him her real identity or losing her chance a true love.

I really liked the cover because it was simple, visually appealing, and reflected the contents, but not in a way that was super cheesy.

The most compelling aspect of this book was the main character, Shay Summers. I instantly fell in love with her, in part because I can identify with her love of the written word.–Isabel T., 14


Shay Summers isn’t the thinnest of girls, and because of that, she’s bullied in school and her stepmom is constantly trying to get her to eat healthy. So when she falls for a guy online and realizes he’s someone she knows in real life, she doesn’t want to reveal who she is, because she thinks he won’t accept her for who she is.

I liked the cover! It was really cute and reflected the contents well. I really loved this book. The story was really sweet and well thought out, and I enjoyed how it was written in poetry form. That was really unique and made it fun to read. Sometimes, the poetry made it a little confusing to understand, but most of the time, it was really well-written, which was awesome.

I wish there had been a little more detail on how they got Boots out of the hospital at the very end, but that was only minor in the story.–Zoe D., 13


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The Book Palace: One Librarian’s Adventure at the Library of Congress Wed, 19 Oct 2016 16:19:53 +0000 I should not have worn this dress.

It has a lining, and I can already feel the sweat on my back between my shoulder blades as I walk toward the entrance of the Madison Building. The heat in Washington, DC, is like a humid wall, a relentless scorch that almost feels tangible, like I could reach out and cup it in my hands. The building’s marble shines so brightly in the sun that it almost looks like a mirage. For a moment, I think it is.

It’s supposed to be in the 90s today. Why didn’t you wear a summer dress? 

It’s 8:20 am on Monday. The instructions were very clear that the building does not open to the public until 8:30 am. I notice a few other people looking as uncomfortable as I feel, and I know I have located fellow participants. I sidle up, angling my back against the wall to hide what I’m sure is a lovely sweat stain between my shoulders and nervously make small talk with the other teachers outside a building that is no less than a dream come true for any great lover of books and information.

The Madison Building

The Madison Building

We all chat shyly. Some call DC home, others hail from the farmlands of Iowa, some flew down from Chicago, others drove from New York City, and one came up from the Florida panhandle. We all tried to hide our excitement standing so close to the building.

Suddenly, we are waved through the door for the public. We enter single file and feel a blast of cool air. I now feel how sweaty I really am and wonder if it’s the heat or my nerves, or both. As we prepare to walk through the metal detector in the grand lobby, I look to my left and see the gigantic statue of James Madison, for whom this building is named. You’re here. You’re really here. 

It is my turn. I go through the metal detector, collect my things, and head toward the elevator bank. I am about halfway there before I realize I have no idea where I am going. Then I see the sign with an arrow that reads:

Library of Congress
Summer Teacher Institute
Teaching with Primary Sources

Here we go, I tell myself as I step in the elevator. Here we go. It’s going to be great.

And it was.

What is the Summer Teaching Institute?

The Library of Congress Summer Teacher Institute is a program for K–12 educators. There are five weeklong sessions each summer, the first being a specialty session that deals with a particular topic in education.This year it was science, technology, and engineering. Participants in the program, in the words of the library, “draw from among the millions of digitized primary sources in the library’s collections to design and refine a primary source activity to use with their students. While the emphasis is on learning and applying teaching strategies, participants also have opportunities to meet experts from the library and possibly to research in the library’s reading rooms to gather information and resources to use in developing their activities.”

In other words, the educational outreach specialists (who are fantastic) show teachers how to incorporate primary sources into lessons and teach students how to examine, reflect, and pose questions to inform their learning. In the meantime, teachers will work with the educational outreach team to learn how to search all the digitized holdings of the library to build their primary source activity.

I heard about the program in the late fall of 2015 and immediately set a Google alert for the application opening. In early spring of 2016, I applied with the help of my awesome instructional technology specialist. In March, I received an email from the education outreach team. It began, “Thank you for applying, but we cannot offer you a spot in your preferred session.” I was crushed…until I noticed that I was accepted into the latter session. Cue victory dance.

So that is how I came to be in the Montpelier Room in the Madison Building of the Library of Congress, practically vibrating with excitement. I sat at a table with a high school history teacher, a middle school humanities teacher, an elementary school music teacher, and a K–5 librarian like me. After our entire group of 26 went through introductions, the educational outreach team, featuring the teacher-in-residence, began our amazing week.

Abraham Lincoln’s Librarian of Congress, Ainsworth Rand Spofford, referred to the institution as a “book palace,” and trust me, that name fits. It’s also a map palace, a photograph palace, a journal palace, a rare document palace, and more.

What makes a primary source primary, and how can they help our teaching?

If you want to see some serious, sometimes intense, discussion between teachers, pose this question. One of the best parts of the training was the encouragement to rely on our prior knowledge and to be prepared to question what we know. We looked at photographs, newspaper articles, maps, drawings, political cartoons, sheet music, brochures, flyers, editorials, journal entries, and more. We wrote what we considered a primary source and changed it as the discussions progressed. All in all, I had about six different versions as the week went on.

Powers examining an early European map. Each participant was assigned an individual primary source, before combining their findings as a group.

Powers examining an early European map. Each participant was assigned an individual primary source, before combining their findings as a group.

We examined the earliest maps from Europe and considered their creators’ meanings. We read a journal entry from a patent clerk who was in DC the night President Lincoln was assassinated, coupled with an article from a Southern newspaper that practically celebrated the event. We each chose a topic that our students would be learning that fall and built amazing lessons and units using the seemingly endless resources of the library’s website and reading rooms. I picked life in colonial Massachusetts and among the resources I found were: the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter, a 1642 set of laws from England, and a 1700 brochure detailing how to deal with smallpox.

Outside our prescribed projects, we explored the building. The most special treat was an after-hours tour of the Main Reading Room (usually viewed from above through thick glass). The ornate space was featured in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, but—sorry—there is no secret reading room for the president behind the wall. Then, an Etsy-loving librarian’s fantasy: a huge room filled with card catalogs.

A journal entry written the night of Lincoln's assasination

A journal entry written the night of Lincoln’s assassination

My Advice

Every single session and activity was interesting, beneficial, and invigorating—a rare occurrence for professional development. If you are a K–12 educator, I recommend applying for the 2017 programs. (Trust me: set a Google alert.) My advice for those lucky enough to attend?

  • If something sparks your interest, write it down. You will not remember it in 15 minutes, let alone when you get home, because something else is going to intrigue you at any moment.
  • Go to at least one reading room, if only to ogle it. Don’t worry, the staff is used to it.
  • Ask questions, even ones that seem ridiculous. I learned that if I was thinking it, someone else was, too.
  • Check with your school to see if help with expenses is available. The institute covers the cost of the program, as well as a per diem for lunch for the week. However, transportation and lodging are on you.
  • Don’t just seek out fellow attendees who are “like you.” Everyone you meet is a resource.
  • You’re in session from 9 am–5 pm, Monday to Friday, and every second is taken up. Though some museums and attractions stay open late in the summer, extend your stay by a day and take in the sights, if you can.
  • Drink plenty of water—and don’t wear a dress with a lining.


Kate Powers is library media specialist at James M. Quinn Elementary School in Darmouth, MA. 



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A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and Letters by More Than 30 of Today’s Favorite Children’s Book Illustrators by Beatrix Potter & others | SLJ Review Wed, 19 Oct 2016 13:00:02 +0000 POTTER, Beatrix & others. A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and Letters by More Than 30 of Today’s Favorite Children’s Book Illustrators. 112p. illus. Warne. Nov. 2016. Tr $25. ISBN 9780241249437.

Gr 3 Up –In 1866, a truly remarkable woman was born. Scientifically inclined and always curious, the observant Potter grew up to become a woman ahead of her time. In this tribute to Potter and her memorable characters, 32 contemporary illustrators share anecdotes about their experiences with Peter [...]]]> redstarPOTTER, Beatrix & others. A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and Letters by More Than 30 of Today’s Favorite Children’s Book Illustrators. 112p. illus. Warne. Nov. 2016. Tr $25. ISBN 9780241249437.

beatrix-potterGr 3 Up –In 1866, a truly remarkable woman was born. Scientifically inclined and always curious, the observant Potter grew up to become a woman ahead of her time. In this tribute to Potter and her memorable characters, 32 contemporary illustrators share anecdotes about their experiences with Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Squirrel Nutkin, and many other denizens of Potter’s enchanted world. E.B. Lewis (The Other Side) observes that Potter’s characters are “simple, beautiful, and full of life.” Betsy Lewin (Click, Clack, Moo) discusses her interest in the writer, noting that Potter “was a shining example of a woman making a place for herself as an artist and author.” In addition to recounting personal encounters with Potter’s work, each artist reimagines her world in original artwork. How delightful to see Peter Rabbit, Mr. McGregor, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and company portrayed in various and unique styles. Excerpts from and introductory descriptions of nine of Potter’s books round out this superb collection. VERDICT This 150th anniversary celebration of the life and work of Beatrix Potter will encourage aspiring young artists to carry on her legacy and is recommended for public and school libraries.–Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2016 issue.

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Three Ways To Use Picture Books with Older Kids | Programming Cookbook Tue, 18 Oct 2016 21:28:54 +0000 Picture books, though often created with prereaders in mind, offer countless opportunities for older students in upper elementary and middle school to explore writing and art and engage in discussion. I love sharing picture books with older kids, letting them take over and encouraging them to create their own stories. The three programs profiled below each use fabulous picture books that are likely already in most library collections and are sure to spark creative projects.

The Hat Trilogy

Start by sharing Jon Klassen’s first two hat books, I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat. Before reading 000-hat-trilogythe books, remind kids to pay close attention to the pictures. After reading both books, talk about the similarities between them. Kids might notice that the first hat described in I Want My Hat Back is the hat featured in This Is Not My Hat. Beyond hats themselves, ask students to identify other common themes in the books, such as big animals eating smaller animals or the concepts of karma and irony.

Next, talk about the final book, We Found a Hat. Before I had a copy on hand, I simply showed my group a picture of the cover and asked them to make predictions about what might happen in based on what they know from the cover and the previous story lines. After a group discussion, ask kids to illustrate and/or write their own version of the third book. They can do so by writing and illustrating multiple pages, create a comic-style storyboard, or just jot down broad ideas on a single page. After they’re done, have them share their ideas and stories with the rest of the group.

This activity was created before the publication of We Found a Hat, but could also be expanded to include all three titles. Read all three books, and then ask kids to come up with a brand new story, or just read the third book after they have completed the bookmaking activity.

Don’t Let the Pigeon…

Middle grade readers undoubtedly know the well-loved character from Mo Willems’s beginning reader books. This DIY Pigeon activity is a great way for kids to work on their persuasive arguments.


Interior spread from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems.

Start by reading any of the Pigeon books aloud. Ask kids to take up the pigeon’s argument, articulating why they deserve to drive the bus, stay up late, etc. Repeat with more books, offering kids the chance to act as narrator.

Next, lead a discussion about other things the pigeon should NOT be allowed to do, taking notes on a whiteboard or piece of poster paper. Once the kids have generated a list, allow them the chance to create their own pigeon book. Choose a group topic, or let each kid illustrate a page for any of the ideas.

Something Spectacular

These three seemingly unrelated picture books get kids talking about the beauty they see in everyday life and how the ordinary can be spectacular.


Interior spread from Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña.

Begin by reading Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop On Market Street, Mac Barnett’s Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, and Antoinette Portis’s Wait. While reading each book, stop to talk about what the characters are seeing and how they interpret their world. This is also a great time discuss the Newbery win and Caldecott honor for Last Stop On Market Street and what constitutes distinguished writing and illustration for children.

Next, challenge the group to think of something beautiful or spectacular that they experienced recently that might seem like an ordinary occurrence. Why was it beautiful? What made it special? Ask each kid to write or illustrate their own story and then share it with the group.

With permission, share any of the above final student projects with the authors and illustrators via social media.

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Watch with a Friend: Tween-Friendly Movies To Scare Your Socks Off Tue, 18 Oct 2016 15:15:01 +0000 Middle schoolers—or librarians—looking to host a spooky Halloween-themed movie night might find themselves in a bit of a pickle when it comes to selection: Which movies will raise goosebumps but not parental eyebrows? You need just the right blend of creaky stairs, dimly lit basements (“No, don’t go down there alone!”), and terrible decision-making, combined with ample dashes of humor and levity. The following films are all rated PG. They’re from various decades, so bear in mind that the MPAA ratings have changed over time, and, as with all media, what one viewer finds ho-hum the next is likely to find terrifying. You’ve been warned.

Poltergeist (1982)


When TVs attack! A middle-class suburban family is tested when a series of bizarre and then increasingly terrifying events happen in their lovely new home. May cause fear of electronics, bedroom closets, and clown dolls (as if we weren’t already scared of those). Viewers into conspiracy theories may want to check out the legends about the cast and crew of the film being “cursed.”

Gremlins (1984)


Another classic from the 1980s, this might be a bit of a stretch for this list; it’s credited with being one of the films that launched the crusade to add PG-13 to the MPAA ratings list. A dad’s quest to buy his son a neat Christmas gift goes all to heck when the kid fails to follow simple instructions. May cause fear of microwaves, blenders, and cute, seemingly innocuous fuzzy toys.

Beetlejuice (1988)


Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetleju…. Yet another terrific and traumatizing film from the Eighties, Beetlejuice stars Michael Keaton as the eponymous ghoul haunting a recently deceased couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) and the house’s new inhabitants (a young Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, and Jeffrey Jones). Gross, funny, and spooky. Adults of a certain age will appreciate the cameos by Robert Goulet and Dick Cavett. Likely to inspire a long-lasting appreciation for Harry Belafonte.

The Witches (1990)


This film has a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Based  on the Roald Dahl book and imbued with the magical effects of Jim Henson, it’s the tale of a boy who accidentally stumbles upon an annual convention of witches. In one of the best—and most nightmare-inducing—scenes, the group of seemingly lovely ladies remove their disguises to reveal their grotesque, witchy selves underneath. Anjelica Houston as the Grand High Witch is delectably horrific. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) cameo. May cause fear of witches, obviously. Also wigs, being turned into a mouse, and British seaside resorts.

Goosebumps (2015)


In this metafictional spin on the enormously popular book series by R.L. Stine, the author (played by Jack Black) keeps his terrifying characters locked in his books—until an unwitting new neighbor boy accidentally unleashes them on an unsuspecting town. Fans will appreciate seeing classic “Goosebumps” characters come to life, including the ventriloquist’s dummy and a rampaging werewolf. Breakneck pacing and handfuls of slapstick humor keep the creep factor from getting too high.

Ghostbusters (1984)


Got a strange case of horizontal book stacking? Every good librarian knows who to call when a disgruntled spirit invades the stacks! This classic starring Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd is great viewing any time of year. (The 2016 reboot starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon is a blast but has been given the slightly higher PG-13 rating, apparently due to “crude language,” though to this viewer it didn’t seem to be any cruder than the original.) Just don’t cross the streams.

The Watcher in the Woods (1980)


In the early 1980s, Disney made several dark and spooky live-action films designed to appeal to young adults growing up as seminal horror movies like The Exorcist were hitting the big screen. Though a flop at the time, The Watcher in the Woods has gone on to become something of a cult classic, due in no small part to a shiver-inducing performance by the legendary Bette Davis. In it, she plays the owner of a sprawling old manor house, newly occupied by sisters Jan and Ellie, who begin investigating the mysterious disappearance of a young girl decades before.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)


Another from Disney Productions, the screenplay for this film was written by Ray Bradbury, based on his novel. A creepy carnival show comes to a sleepy little town, and only two boys and the town librarian can save everyone from the soul-sucking plans of the nefarious Mr. Dark. There are some excellent performances by Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd, and Pam Grier. A haunting score adds to the sinister atmosphere.

Casper (1995)


A young Christina Ricci stars as Kat, the daughter of Bill Pullman’s Dr. Harvey, a “paranormal therapist.” While investigating a haunting at Whipstaff Manor, Kat befriends the titular friendly ghost, and tries to help him remember his life before the afterlife. Meanwhile, Casper’s trio of naughty uncles wreak havoc. There’s also a very sweet and swoony kiss between Ricci and Nineties tween heartthrob Devon Sawa, who plays Casper (briefly) in his human form.

The Monster Squad (1987)


While not particularly successful in its day, this film has since become something of a cult classic for today’s Gen X parents. With a Goonies-esque vibe, a band of kids obsessed with the classic Universal monsters encounter Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, and others, and must battle to vanquish them to limbo. More goofy humor and rad 1980s fashion than actual horror.

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Alright, so this is another film that is more comedy than horror, but it’s too good to leave off the list. Delightful performances by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker elevate this madcap story about a kooky trio of witches bent on running amok (“Amok! Amok! Amok!”) on Halloween night in order to become immortal. Only three kids (among them a very young Thora Birch) can stop them and destroy their book of spells.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956; 1978)


Some kids may appreciate the vintage black-and-white McCarthy-era heebie-jeebies of the original (and learn the derivation of the term pod people), but for true scares, my pick is the 1978 remake starring Donald Sutherland as Matthew Bennell, a man who slowly comes to realize that everyone around him—though they appear exactly the same as before—is changing into oddly emotionless not-quite-humans. As more of his friends and colleagues fall victim to the change, the paranoia reaches a fever pitch. An ominous score and Sutherland’s innate creep factor keep the stakes high and the tension taut. This is one of those rare horror films that was both box office gold and critically acclaimed.

Coraline (2009)


Very few book adaptations rival the source material, but 2009’s stop-motion animation version of Neil Gaiman’s brilliant horror-fantasy tale does just that. Upon discovering a secret door in her new house, Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) goes looking for adventure on the other side, finding an alternate and warped world populated by an “Other Mother” (voiced by Teri Hatcher) with button eyes and an army of rats. Though almost nothing could be as scary as one’s own imaginings while reading Gaiman’s shuddersome prose, the visuals and art direction here are both grotesque and beautiful.

What are your favorite tween-friendly scary movies? Share them in the comments below.



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Browse This! Great Magazines for Kids and Teens Tue, 18 Oct 2016 14:00:53 +0000 Ranger Rick to Rookie, these thoughtfully curated, smartly designed, and engagingly written magazines are sure to entice patrons, from babies and toddlers to teenagers.]]> slj1610-greatmag-openerThere are fewer things more exciting as a kid than getting a piece of mail. For many adults of a certain age, checking the mailbox each month for Highlights magazine was a beloved ritual, a milestone of sorts. In the library, magazines have an important, if somewhat unusual role. Being somewhat flimsy in comparison to hardcover books, they don’t hold up to repeated circulations, and attrition rates are often high. And yet, studies and anecdotes show that magazines are an ideal choice for atypical, struggling, and reluctant readers. Well-placed periodicals often see high in-library usage among a wide variety of readers and can be used as a starting point for research or simply enjoyed as a quick pleasure read.

Recent studies reveal that kids and teens—despite their general fondness for screens—strongly prefer to read print materials. Though the last few years have been tough on traditional magazine publishers, there are still a number of thoughtfully curated, smartly designed, and engagingly written print publications for children and young adults. SLJ’s review editors have selected a number of standout periodicals covering a diverse range of subjects and topics. We looked for publications that are a bit “under the radar” and distinguished through reader-friendly formats, design, and articles. In addition to traditional print magazines, you’ll also find a number of online-only publications that feature quality content and stunning graphic design.

Little Ones


Babies/Toddlers– With softly rounded edges and sturdy pages, this publication offers stories, poems, and facts. An array of fun and colorful illustration styles and mediums keep the presentation lively and varied. A full-page “Guide for Caregivers” offers read-aloud suggestions, extensions, and play ideas to reinforce early literacy development. A free Story Bug interactive app is also available for download.
Cricket Media. 9 issues/yr. print $33.95; digital $9.99; print & digital bundle $39.95.

This clever and creative Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winner offers an array of features and activities to earn its subtitle as “The See and Do, Laugh and Learn Magazine.” There are comics, informational pieces, puzzles and mazes, movement activities, drawing and craft projects, poems, rebuses, and more. A “Play House” spread includes readers’ artwork and photo submissions.
Owlkids. 10 issues/yr. $34.95.

Rounded edges and thick pages are two toddler-friendly elements of this bright and bubbly publication. Regular features include “Tell Me a Story,” “Read Me a Poem,” and “Let’s Do a Puzzle,” illustrated with full-color photos or engaging artwork, footnoted with presentation tips and talking points for caregivers. The slim issues easily slip into a backpack or diaper bag and are perfect for waiting room, restaurant, or naptime perusal.
Highlights. 12 issues/yr. $39.96.

slj1610-greatmag-lo-cvs2National Geographic Little Kids
PreS-Gr 1–
Winner of a 2015 Parents’ Choice Gold Award, this bold and glossy publication is full of factoids, interactive elements, and glorious close-up photos from the National Geographic archive. For nature lovers, budding conservationists, and young explorers, these tantalizing tidbits are sure to whet kids’ appetites and send them to the library to learn more about these amazing animals and places.
National Geographic. 6 issues/yr. $15.

Spanish and Bilingual

Choice picks for Bilingual or
Spanish-language readers.


slj1610-greatmag-highfive15 a 20. Grupo Editorial Notmusa. 12 issues/yr. digital subscription only; available via Nook, Zinio. $15/yr. or $1.25/issue. Gr 8 Up.

ChopChop. ChopChop Kids, Inc. 4 issues/yr. $14.95. Also available in English. Gr 2-5.

High-Five Bilingüe. Highlights. 12 issues/yr. $39.96 Toddlers-K.

Motivos. Motivos. 4 issues/yr. $12/issue. Gr 5-10.

Ranger Rick Jr.
PreS-Gr 2– Introducing preschoolers to the natural world is the mission of this periodical. Dynamic and well-designed, with Ricky Raccoon as the mascot, it ties together stories, age-appropriate facts, and fun activities such as nature crafts, simple recipes, and games. Each 36-page issue includes a poster and loads of engaging animal photographs. Ranger Rick Jr. Appventures for iPad is also available for kids to play games and create wild music, animals, and pictures.
National Wildlife Federation. 10 issues/yr. $15.

Thomas & Friends
PreS-K– A great choice for pint-size train aficionados, this all-things-Sodor-all-the-time publication includes stories, fun facts, and basic reading and math activities, posters, and coloring and craft activities. It is the perfect vehicle for the Thomas-obsessed to reinforce early learning skills while spending time with the affable tank engine and his beloved friends. All aboard!
Redan Publishing. 6 issues/yr. $28.97.

Babies/Toddlers– It’s never too early to foster a love of animals. Sized and constructed for little hands, each issue boasts stories, poems, and fingerplays; puzzles and concepts like counting, colors, and shapes; and lift-the-flap and peek-a-boo features. “Zoobies + You” offer suggestions for extension activities. The main selling point is, of course, the gorgeous full-color wildlife photographs.
Zoobooks. 6 issues/yr. print $29.95; digital $19.95.


Gr 1-5– Psychedelic full-page artwork, surreal story lines, and a delightfully irreverent sense of humor set this literary publication apart. Short stories, games, mini comics, and information are all united by sophisticated design elements and artwork from leading and up-and-coming illustrators. Unlike most read-and-toss mags, kids and adults will want to keep and collect these gorgeous issues.
Anorak Press. 8 issues/yr. $48.

Gr 4-6– This Canadian magazine encourages students to explore current topics in STEM with a dash of pop culture. Articles range on subjects from Mars and acid rain to poetry and SpongeBob SquarePants. The Adventures of Tallulah comic is a regular feature that explores an aspect of water (e.g., how water evaporates) through the wild antics of the titular character, who is a water droplet. Large photos, illustrations, and graphics help break up the text and bring energy to the page.
Brainspace Magazine. 4 issues/yr. $33.

Gr 3-5– Reviewed and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, each issue features kid-friendly and health-conscious recipes. A diverse array of children prepare and make recipes in clear, bright photos. Young foodies can expect to find such delicious menu items as “Herby Roast Chicken” and “Green Gazpacho.” Although most of the content is aimed at upper elementary students, each issue opens with a “ChopChop Jr.” spread with a simple recipe for the very youngest aspiring chefs.
ChopChop Kids, Inc. 4 issues/yr. $14.95. Also available in Spanish.

slj1610-greatmag-elem-cvs2EcoKids Planet
Gr 1-4– This periodical began as a Kickstarter project in 2014. Each issue focuses on a particular country or region, exploring the flora and fauna through eye-popping and crisp photography, clean design, and child-friendly illustrations. Crosswords, coloring pages, educational games, and posters are found throughout. Ideal for homeschooled students or for any child interested in science, geography, and animals.
EcoKids Planet. 12 issues/yr. $47.87.

Gr 2-6– This visually exciting magazine with a DIY attitude launched in July with an impressive array of illustrated essays and stories, comics, and activities, along with interviews of noted children’s book authors and illustrators, such as Cece Bell and Aaron Becker. Mazes, drawings to complete, and writing prompts offer plentiful opportunities for engagement, while the quality artwork and inventive layouts are sure to inspire imaginative responses.
Illustoria LLC. 4 issues/yr. $56 or $16/issue.

K-Gr 3– Launched in 2016 and filled with stories, puzzles, crafts, graphic and nonfiction pieces, and more, this illustrated cornucopia of ideas and activities meets its mission to encourage “girls to be strong, smart, fierce, and above all, true to themselves….” Accordingly, the first issue was inspired and developed by such female “superstars” as Jacqueline Woodson, Alison Bechdel, Mickalene Thomas, and Diana Nyad and features articles on topics from sports and astronomy to ocean life and street art.
Kazoo Magazine. 4 issues/yr. $50.

Kids, Code, and Computer Science
Gr 4-8– This recipient of a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor offers how-to sections for novice programmers covering a variety of programming languages, challenging code-based puzzles and games for more advanced students, interviews with tech innovators and computer scientists, and articles about new and emerging tech and platforms. A must-have resource for any library serving young coders.
Owl Hill Media. 6 issues/yr. online magazine $15; print + online magazine subscription $29.99/year.

Gr 3-6– With an emphasis on environmental science, this Canadian-based periodical is chock-full of brief articles on topics such as migration and weather patterns; sidebars filled with facts, comics, quizzes, and puzzles; and a plethora of photos. The projects are practical and easy to follow for budding scientists. Kids provide the answers in an advice column and participate in a photo caption competition and a reader’s spotlight. Informative and playful.
Owl Kids. 10 issues/yr. $26.69.

Story Monsters Ink
Gr 3 Up– Young readers get to know more about the renowned authors and illustrators profiled; Dav Pilkey, Jeff Kinney, and Kate DiCamillo were recently on covers. The focus also takes in pop culture, with a behind-the-scenes profile of the voice behind SpongeBob SquarePants, as well as science and nature articles, with further reading suggestions. For parents, there are reading guides of books, some published by advertisers, and adult-oriented features (“What’s Behind the Bullying?”). Also included are readers’ submissions and a “Teacher of the Month” spotlight, along with straightforward recipes and more.
Five Star Publications. 12 issues/yr. $39. Free digital subscription available.

Middle School

Gr 7 Up– Aspiring artists, fans of animated films, and tweens and teens interested in a future career in animation will appreciate the seriousness with which the subject is treated here. Monthly calendars highlight upcoming television and big-screen premieres as well as DVD releases and conference events. Interviews and feature stories take readers behind the scenes of blockbuster films like Disney’s Zootopia and DreamWorks’s Kung Fu Panda 3, offering insight from working artists and designers.
Animation Magazine. 10 issues/yr. print $60; digital $36; print/digital bundle $78.

Devo Zine
Gr 6 Up– A Nashville-based bimonthly magazine that presents daily devotionals (prayers or inspirational words) submitted by diverse teens all over the world to motivate other teens. The Christian faith-focused publication has a teen advisory board, and its members often contribute poems and articles about missions work, college prep, and other teen concerns.
The Upper Room. 6 issues/yr. $21.95.

Gr 5 Up– Long before makerspaces became the hot new thing in the library land, this magazine was encouraging kids and adults alike to build, rebuild, hack, tweak, upcycle, and create. Each issue features ample DIY projects with clearly illustrated instructions, typically supplemented by online video. Readers will also stay up to date on the latest emerging technology and tech tools.
Maker Media, Inc. 6 issues/yr. print $34.99; digital $19.99; print/digital bundle $39.99.

Military Kids’ Life
Gr 4-8– A unique magazine based in Tennessee, with contributions written mostly by military kids themselves. It features the typical puzzles, recipes, and games often found in Highlights, but with a military life focus. Articles include personal stories about living overseas, how to celebrate the holidays without mom or dad, and an interview with a “famous” military kid. Considering the lack of resources for this particular group, this publication is especially relevant to libraries serving communities with armed forces.
Chameleon Kids. 4 issues/yr. $14.95.

The Wand
Gr 5 Up– The premier quarterly for the most devoted Harry Potter fans. Keep posted on the latest Alliance campaigns and special events—from the “Granger Leadership Academy” conference coming up in spring 2017 to innovative HP programming ideas to various grassroots literacy efforts, such as building libraries in the U.S. and abroad. Muggles need not apply.
The Harry Potter Alliance. 4 issues/yr. $40.

Youth Runner Magazine
Gr 6 Up– A slickly designed digital glossy for young runners and athletes who compete in track and field, cross country, and triathlons. Interviews with a diverse array of rising stars and advice from top coaches make this a must-have for tweens and teens serious about the sport.
Gosportz Media. 6 digital issues/yr. $9.95.

High School

slj1610-greatmag-highsch-cvs1AP: Alternative Press
Gr 9 Up– This look at the alternative and punk music scene features reviews, information on new albums and bands, and other music news, as well as Buzzfeed-worthy roundups and listicles. The design—black font on a white background, with tons of photos—and the spare, accessible text are teen-friendly. Steer your alt and punk fans this way.
Alternative Press Magazine, Inc. 12 issues/yr. print and digital $14.95.

Halftime Magazine
Gr 9 Up– A highly visual lifestyle magazine devoted to presenting “the sights, sounds and spirit of the marching arts.” Interviews and in-depth feature stories cover high school and college marching band, drum corps, winter guard, indoor drumline, and all-ages ensembles. Upbeat and inspirational.
Muse Media. 6 issues/yr. print $14.95; digital $4.99.

Gr 7 Up– Targeting intelligent, ambitious teenagers, this magazine presents readers with career options, covers relevant issues, and gives middle and high school students a platform to discuss their achievements, from running marathons to raising funds for the wrongfully convicted to establishing a program to allow teens to learn more about the medical profession by shadowing physicians. Earnest in tone and fresh and clean in design, this inspiring selection also includes reviews of colleges and lists of relevant organizations, making it an ideal option for the college-bound.
The John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. 5 issues/yr. $30.

Gr 7 Up– A free, online-only magazine for teens interested in user-submitted fantasy and science fiction short stories with a focus on diversity. (“We want the wild, imaginary worlds of our stories to still reflect the world we live in.”) A new story is published each month and a forum is available to students looking to engage in or continue the conversation. Most submissions are from adult authors, though a recent issue featured YA author Phoebe North.
Inscription Magazine. Online. Free.

Gr 8 Up– A digital magazine based in El Paso and Austin, TX, that was established in 2002 to provide an avenue for Latina teens to express their creativity. This publication hopes to empower its audience through media and technology and accepts submissions of poetry, essays, tips, stories, reviews, and ideas. It is guided by its teen advisory board, and some of its recent features include “Rape Culture in Hispanic Communities” and “The Positives of Community College.” It is funded via donations from public and private sectors and offers volunteer and internship opportunities.
Latinitas. Online. Free.

Library Favorites

These classic periodicals
need no introduction

Cobblestone (history)
Dig (archeology, history)
Faces (culture, geography)
Muse (science, arts)
National Geographic Kids
New Moon Girls
Ranger Rick
Skipping Stones (literary)
Spider, Cricket, Cicada (literary)
Sports Illustrated for Kids
Stone Soup (literary)

Mochi Magazine
Gr 8 Up– Aimed at young Asian American women, this online magazine examines stereotypes such as the dutiful Asian daughter and controversies around white actors playing Chinese characters, but it also features lighter fare, such as tips on finding vintage clothing. A “College & Career” section adds to the educational aspect. Visual appeal is high: the clean design resembles that of Refinery29, there are tons of photographs, and readers have the ability to filter by categories such as entertainment, beauty, fashion, and relationships.
Mochi Magazine. Online. Free.

Gr 9 Up– Started in 2011 by blogger and fashionista Tavi Gevinson at the age of 15, this online magazine is a refreshingly authentic departure from the often bland fare aimed at teen girls. Through fiction, personal essays, photography, and art from YA contributors, Rookie takes on everything from makeup and fashion to sex and body image to race and culture. Readers will find tips on finding moto jackets in plus sizes alongside coverage of the antirape march, SlutWalk. Adolescents will appreciate the forthright, funny attitude and the atmosphere of inclusivity and encouragement.
Rookie. Online. Free.

Gr 9 Up– Young women tired of mainstream media will flock to this entirely volunteer-funded independent magazine with the tagline “Talking back since 2004.” The personal truly becomes political here, from a profile of a burlesque dancer who uses a wheelchair to an essay in which an author uses her own experiences with body hair as a jumping-off point to explore cultural norms and attitudes. Arresting black-and-white images emphasize the subversive tone. Diverse in terms of subject and contributors and unapologetically body positive and inclusive, this empowering option is just the thing for teens eager to speak truth to power.
Shameless Media. 3 issues/yr. $18.

Gr 7 Up– Provides quality coverage of the issues facing and pertaining to black girls, topics so often missing in mainstream publications. Articles cover a wide range of topics on education, social justice, health, celebrities, movies, beauty, and more. Teens are also urged to submit short stories and poetry. The layout is bright and inviting and with cover girls like musicians Chloe and Halle (spring 2016), who were recently signed by Beyoncé, sure to attract readers.
Sesi Magazine. 4 issues/yr. $10.

Sex, Etc.
Gr 9 Up– Recognizing that sexuality can be a murky and overwhelming topic for adolescents, the staff of this resource for teens, by teens demystify the subject, addressing the physical (penis size, vaginal health) and the emotional (fatphobia, coming out) in a candid yet reassuring tone. Young adults drawn in by the bright, eye-catching design will absorb plenty of solid information. More than a sex ed guide, this magazine urges readers to consider for themselves issues such as the importance of virginity. An excellent, sensitively crafted addition.
Answer/Rutgers University. 3 issues/yr. $45. Bulk order rates also available.

Gr 9 Up– Most teens are likely already familiar with this edgy and perennially hip monthly magazine—the logo and its many reiterations (T-shirts, hats) are a popular aesthetic on Tumblr. Content focuses largely on skateboarding news, trends, and events; interviews; and profiles of skateboarders from the United States and around the globe. The photography is top-notch. Students can enjoy bright photos of Ishod Wair’s “hectic double-set tailside” and Wes Kremer’s “frontside flip into the crust,” to name a couple.
High Speed Productions. 12 issues/yr. $17.95.

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Choosing Leaders: What Are You Voting For? | Editorial Tue, 18 Oct 2016 14:00:15 +0000 Next month the United States will elect a new president. This election cycle has much at stake. How each of us talks about the race and takes part is consequential. Libraries have always been about fostering understanding of the democratic process, but there is an intensified requirement raised this round to confront mis­information.

Our kids are watching and learning. So far, they have witnessed, largely due to Donald Trump’s candidacy, a low bar of rhetoric that, heightened by the gaze of a camera lens, has glamorized racism, sexism, and xenophobia at the expense of accuracy, insight into how policies affect daily life, and clear discussion of the issues at hand. The noise and show of self-aggrandizement and hostility as a leadership stance drowns out thoughtful approaches to complex problems. If we let this deplorable level of discourse stand as a new normal for the viability of hype, we fail our students, ourselves, and the foundation upon which our democracy is built.

As I sort through the vast flow of content and media coverage geared to sway instead of inform, I am more committed than ever to the mission of libraries to help foster an educated citizenry and develop all sorts of literacies—including information and digital literacy. This work has always mattered, and now it is more important than ever.

We have tools at hand (see “Election Resources“) and models to follow. These range from more passive approaches such as displays that surface reliable sources on the issues and candidates to proactive programming that takes the issue of truth in electioneering head on. Consider the “Debate Watch Party” that Johnson County Library in Kansas planned for late September and October—complete with live fact-checking and on-site voter registration. Fact-checking has been much too absent so far, but we hope that will change with more major media outlets (including the New York Times) deciding to call out downright lies for the good of the people. This is welcome and needed.

Beyond that, there is something more ineffable at stake in this election, a perhaps evergreen issue that is now in stark relief—why we choose to vote for a candidate. Is an election a thumbs-up in some kind of popularity contest, or the opportunity to influence a better future? The election process is a time to help children learn how to vote responsibly, by thinking now about why they would choose a certain leader and what qualities matter. I choose empathy, strength, commitment, passion for positive change, and kindness. I also want a leader who is humble enough in the face of our very real challenges to do the hard work to accomplish what needs to be done, even if incrementally. I want a leader who is respectful and listens to a wide range of perspectives. And I want a leader who tells the truth. This is what I hope to reinforce with the children in my life who will live with the outcome of this election much longer than any of us adults will.

For me, a vote is an investment in a future worth building. It’s a way of empowering someone who best aligns with my ethics and principles. It’s also an obligation, to make an actual best choice, each time. Politics is where idealism and pragmatism meet. Though the balance will be different for each voter—and each contest—it’s important to consider the whole picture before adding your voice to the tally. The excitement of embracing that responsibility is real, and it becomes more tangible as one is informed, actively questioning, and thinking and dreaming about the world we can create.


Rebecca T. Miller




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The First Silent Night | SLJ DVD Review Tue, 18 Oct 2016 13:00:31 +0000 The First Silent Night. 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2015. $24.99. ISBN 9781627894173.

Gr 5 Up –This sweeping backstory of the world’s best-known Christmas carol is a mystery, with surprises aplenty as the 200-year-old song’s humble history is revealed. With gorgeous cinematography and rich narration by British actor Simon Callow, the tale is told with splendor yet simplicity. The illegitimate, impoverished Josef Mohr was born in 1792 in Salzburg, Austria, during a time of deep divisions between the haves [...]]]> redstarThe First Silent Night. 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2015. $24.99. ISBN 9781627894173.

first-silent-nightGr 5 Up –This sweeping backstory of the world’s best-known Christmas carol is a mystery, with surprises aplenty as the 200-year-old song’s humble history is revealed. With gorgeous cinematography and rich narration by British actor Simon Callow, the tale is told with splendor yet simplicity. The illegitimate, impoverished Josef Mohr was born in 1792 in Salzburg, Austria, during a time of deep divisions between the haves and have-nots, but he was able to study for the priesthood thanks to a benefactor. In the dark, cold year of 1816, the adult Mohr penned a devotional poem to the Madonna and Christ child, which also expressed his hopes for peace. This itinerant priest in the Tyrolean Alps wrote what would become the lyrics for “Silent Night,” but this fact was unknown until 1854. Mohr asked his friend Franz Xaver Gruber to write the melody for his lyrics, and they sang the carol as a duet on Christmas Eve in 1818. Lovely excerpts of “Silent Night” in solo, duet, and choral arrangements are skillfully woven throughout the background. The DVD has many bonus tracks, and one, a Salzburg travel guide, is worth the modest price alone, as it provides a history of classical music for music teachers. Exquisitely made, this documentary would also be highly relevant to social studies teachers for its inquiry process in answering unsolved historical questions through primary source documents. VERDICT A cultural Christmas gem, this DVD would engage audiences in schools, libraries, and homes.–Lonna Pierce, MacArthur & Thomas Jefferson Elementary Schools, Binghamton, NY

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2016 issue.

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