School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:16:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Game On! Playful Apps for Children (and Adults) | Touch and Go Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:16:17 +0000 We see lots of game apps and while many will hold children’s attention for a while, only a few will have them returning again and again. The five reviewed below are spot-on. Three are for the preschool through early elementary set, but Monument Valley and Petting Zoo had the adults in our office passing around the tablet.

photo 187 225x300 Game On! Playful Apps for Children (and Adults)  | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Farm’ (Nosy Crow) Scheffler

Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Farm (Nosy Crow, $.99; PreS-Gr 1), a combination of verse, colorful art, and silly play, is sure to win favor with young children, and some older ones as well. The object of the game is to create animals; a swipe of the top panel of the screen allows viewers to choose the upper half of the creature and a second swipe to the lower panel, the feet. While the combinations can yield accurate pictures of barnyard denizens, the fun is in mixing the features to create a new ones. Daft blends—a shicken (half sheep, half chicken); a tabbit (half turkey, half rabbit); a moat (half mouse, half goat)—or any of the other 121 possibilities ensure tons of fun. Rhyming poems for each creature (Moat:“I am the smallest animal/you’ll find down on the farm./I hide inside my tiny hole,/and keep away from harm….”) and appropriate animal sounds will help kids identify the creatures. Children can choose to read the verses or listen to the child-read narration. There is no end per se to the app, just more combinations to be tried. A trailer is available. A spiral bound book of Flip Flap Farm (Nosy Crow, 2013) offers a similar experience on paper—minus the sound track.

The latest addition to the series, Alex Scheffler’s Flip Flap Safari (Nosy Crow, $.99; PreS-Gr 1), employs the same enthusiastic child narrator. The animals featured are those found in Africa, from giraffes and elephants to warthogs and zebras, combining to make such fanciful creations as wartaffes and zebants. A trailer is available, as is a book by the same title (Nosy Crow, 2014). The series focuses on producing one quality activity, fueled by the power of the user’s imagination and sense of humor.—Cindy Wall, Southington Public Library, CT

photo 176 300x225 Game On! Playful Apps for Children (and Adults)  | Touch and Go

Interior screen ‘Gruffalo: Games’ (Magic Light/Stormcloud Games) Scheffler

Gruffalo: Games (Magic Light Pictures Ltd/Stormcloud Games Ltd., $4.99; PreS-Gr 1) is an engaging app inspired by Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo (Dial, 1999), illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Games consists of six interactive activities featuring characters from the popular picture book. While Mouse outwits Gruffalo in the book, in the app, children get to match wits with the creature.

An easy-to-navigate menu invites players into a colorful wooded world offering a variety of games. In “3 in a Row,” the Gruffalo’s not-so-terrible claw emerges to scratch a tic-tac-toe board in the dirt, challenging children to strategize. In “Nut Catch,” players must help Mouse secure nuts while he dodges falling pinecones and caterpillars and races against the clock to top his best score. “Jigsaw” requires children to complete six puzzles of increasing complexity, and for “Snap,” a card game, speedy fingers that can grab matching pairs before Gruffalo does are an asset. “Marching Bugs” and “Match Me” call problem-solving, observational skills, and nimble reactions into play as children explore patterning and engage in shape, color, letter, and number recognition. The activities, which  children will want to revisit to surpass earlier scores, are executed with taps and swipes. Background music and sound effects blend seamlessly into each game, building anticipation while remaining unobtrusive. Whether familiar with Donaldson’s story or not, kids will find Gruffalo: Games loads of fun. Available in English, French, and German.—Diane Sustin, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH

photo 185 300x225 Game On! Playful Apps for Children (and Adults)  | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Petting Zoo’ (Fox and Sheep) Niemann

Simple line illustrations by famed illustrator Christoph Niemann belie Petting Zoo’s (Fox and Sheep GmbH, $2.99 in iOS and Android; PreS-3) masterful presentation. The app features 21 animals, each with their own chapter of whimsical animations. The opening screen depicts a pencil drawing an image of a hat, from which a rabbit with impossibly long ears emerges. Swiping and tapping the creature stretches or squishes it and youngsters will gleefully await the next delightful animation sparked by their fingertips. Though the app is eminently intuitive, a simple, visual tutorial may be accessed from the title screen.

Users have the option of turning the animated transitions off between screens, but doing so significantly limits the fun. What child wouldn’t want to see animals morph from one shape to another: the rabbit into a house from which a break-dancing dachshund emerges? Or witness a lion’s tail turn into the body of an alligator, whose mouth then fills with sharp teeth? Bold colors and black line are featured throughout, but some of the scenes feature animate objects. Occasionally the twangy guitar sound track can feel at odds with the sounds accompanying the animations, but if and when that happens, users can mitigate sensory overload by switching the music off.

Since it has neither text nor narration, this app provides an excellent opportunity to get kids to talk about what’s happening on the screen. With its element of surprise, viewers never tire of in Petting Zoo‘s charm. A trailer is available.—Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA

Eds. Note: Petting Zoo is available in “English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, and Traditional Chinese”.

IMG 0898 225x300 Game On! Playful Apps for Children (and Adults)  | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Monument Valley’ (ustwo Studio Ltd.)

Lured in by the lovely, serene graphics and lulled by peaceful, intriguing music, users will find themselves unable to leave the mesmerizing Monument Valley (ustwo Studio Ltd, $3.99; Gr 3 Up). Time loses all meaning as viewers help the tiny princess Ida climb ladders and descend stairs and follow paths that defy gravity, if not geometry, as they solve each puzzle (10 “chapters” so far with the promise of more to come). The puzzles or structures that Ida must navigate—underground, in the clouds, and at sea—call to mind the work of M. C. Escher and the properties of a Mobius strip, and invite contemplation and play.

Every screen offers surprises—piers that move up and down, panels to step on, handles that reorient the entire maze. Boxes unfold from within walls and stairways shift, resembling the stair hall at Hogwarts. Pesky crows impede the girl’s progress, but a bright yellow “totem” gives her a boost just when she needs it. A guru in a turban admonishes her with unhelpful advice. Marvelous details abound: Ida’s footsteps pit-pat, barely audible, as she scurries up and down; murals on the walls of the mazes tie in to the mysterious underlying narrative. A sound track of muted gongs, plucked strings, and ambient chords, along with architecture full of domes and arches, give the game a vaguely Eastern atmosphere. These mind-bending puzzles are devious enough to still pose a challenge after more than one go-around, which is nice, because Monument Valley is a literally captivating place to visit.—Paula Willey, Pink Me

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

]]> 0
Big Bang Press, a New Publisher for Fan Fiction Writers and Artists Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:50:51 +0000 Hero cover  Big Bang Press, a New Publisher for Fan Fiction Writers and ArtistsEver since E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012) shot to the top of the best-seller list, publishers have been struggling with the tantalizing prospect of bringing more fan fiction writers into the traditional publishing fold. Young authors popular in fan fiction circles are making newsworthy deals, as publishers start counting hits on writing sites like Wattpad and recruiting popular writers, like 25-year-old Anna Todd, who landed a six-figure deal with Simon and Schuster for her One Direction fan fiction epic.

Part of the difficulty comes from the persistence of negative stereotypes around fan works, which range vastly in terms of the quality of writing. Rather than hide their connection to fandom, the new independent publisher Big Bang Press is counting on the fan community for its talent and the buzz its wide audience can potentially create.

The women behind Big Bang, all connected to fandom in various ways, took a specific tack when entering the publishing fray. First, recruit the best writers from the world of fan fiction. Second, give those creators the support, through professional editing and marketing, to publish original work. Big Bang will publish paperback and ebooks for YA and adults.

The strategy is “not to find a piece of fan fiction that has been viewed five million times, but is perhaps not written so well, and just republish that,” says Big Bang editor-in-chief Morgan Leigh Davies, a writer and editor who started writing fan fiction at the age of 14. Instead, Big Bang will “find really talented people and encourage them to write what they want, which is exactly what we’ve done.” All the books will be illustrated by fan artists selected by the editors.

After the Big Bang team chose their first three authors and titles, they raised nearly $53,000 in Kickstarter startup funds to support everything from author advances to publishing costs. All Big Bang authors list their fandom pseudonyms alongside their book descriptions, complete with links for readers to follow.

A Hero at the End of the World

Hero Erin Claiborne  Big Bang Press, a New Publisher for Fan Fiction Writers and Artists

Big Bang author Erin Clairborne.

Big Bang’s debut novel, due out on November 11th, is Erin Claiborne’s YA fantasy satire A Hero at the End of the World, illustrated by Jade Liebes. The novel is aimed at fans of traditional heroic journeys who can get on board with mocking their favorite genre.

“I specifically thought of works such as ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘Percy Jackson,’ Good Omens, and ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ where finding or becoming the chosen one plays a big role in the plot,” Claiborne says.

Inspired by authors including Roald Dahl and Douglas Adams, Claiborne has always loved the way satire can be used to critique. “I think self-referential meta comments and jokes are hilarious, and so I’ve incorporated them into my writing,” she says. “I tend to pay a lot of attention to tropes and clichés and the conversations around them.”

Hero prologue 200x300  Big Bang Press, a New Publisher for Fan Fiction Writers and Artists

Art from ‘A Hero At the End of the World’ by Jade Liebes.

A Hero at the End of the World departs from traditional fantasy canon in that both lead characters, Ewan Mao and Oliver Abrams, are people of color, and one of the main romances is a gay one. Fan culture is often as an active critique of media, especially in terms of representation. Claiborne says that her participation in fan works added to her sense of those gaps. Her work, as a high school librarian in England, also influenced her choices as a writer. “The college I work at is mostly Muslim students of color—African, South Asian, Middle Eastern,” she says. “I still vividly remember that one day, around the start of the academic year, one of the boys in my book club said that the heroes in his YA fantasy books never looked like him. I decided that I wanted to write a book that my students could see themselves in.”

The Big Bang publishing process

Big Bang seeks writers based on the talent authors displayed, not the number of story hits. “They asked for synopses, cover letters, and 50 pages from 20 fan authors, and then three were chosen blindly based on their manuscripts,” according to Claiborne. “Their names were removed from the documents, and only one staff member knew who was who.”

The second and third novels from Big Bang, both aimed at adult readers, are Kady Morrison’s Juniper Lane, illustrated by Quaedam, about two young suburban women’s burgeoning relationship, and Natalie Wilkinson’s Savage Creatures, a fantasy noir thriller set in an alternate Europe illustrated by Anitta K. Smith.

Hero sipping coffee pic 300x225  Big Bang Press, a New Publisher for Fan Fiction Writers and Artists

More from ‘A Hero At the End of the World.’

Fan art draws inspiration from the same sources as fan fiction, though the final product is visual rather than textual. As with fan fiction, the artists within each fan discipline inspire and play off each other’s work. The Big Bang founders knew their novels could stand out if they included illustrations from fan artists that they believed suited each author’s work.

Entering the publishing world has been a positive experience for Liebes. “I hadn’t thought I’d made a blip on anyone’s radar or that I’d get any work besides fandom commissions (art commissioned by fan fiction writers), so it was definitely exciting,” she says.

Liebes adds that she enjoyed the challenge of illustrating someone else’s story. “With fan art…I use the characters and the canon as inspiration, but it’s otherwise completely my work,” she says. “Hero was easier since I had specific scenes I was aiming to capture. But it was also more difficult because I was also thinking of how to frame it—how do I make it into an illustration and not just a scene?”

Neither Davies nor Claiborne is concerned about potential backlash from their fan fiction connections. “I’m proud of my fan fic—well, most of it,” Claiborne says. “Fandom people are my people.” She notes that anti-fan fiction sentiment has waned in recent years. “We have authors like Rainbow Rowell writing fiction novels about teenage girls who write fan fic, and popular TV shows like Bobs Burgers featuring main characters who openly write fic.”

The Big Bang Kickstarter campaign, which exceeded its $40,000 goal, revealed the scope of the nascent publisher’s potential audience and beyond, says Davies. “We did get a few very large donations from exceptionally generous backers, most of our backers were in much smaller denominations,” she notes. “We had over a thousand backers…and that was great, because it really said to us that there was interest in what we were doing across a broad range of people.”

LINE HERE ******

Robin Brenner is teen tibrarian at the Brookline (MA) Public Library and has written for publications including SLJ,  VOYA, The Horn Book, and Library Journal. An active YALSA member, she has served on committees including the Margaret A. Edwards Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, and the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award Committee.

]]> 0
Classroom Management Tricks: Timers and a tool to control noise | Cool Tools Thu, 30 Oct 2014 01:00:35 +0000 As every teacher knows, good classroom management can make the difference between a great class experience and a poor one. While technology doesn’t replace the need for a solid approach to classroom management, tech tools, including these, can certainly help.

SLJ1410w-TK_CT_ClasstoolsWhenever I have long blocks of instructional time, I like to offer students some oxygen in the form of short breaks and/or timed, hands-on activities. Countdown timers can help keep these breaks from stretching on for too long. The Classtools Countdown Timer ( sports two slick features. For one, you can create, set, and view multiple timers on one screen. This means that if you have students sharing presentations in rapid succession, you don’t have to reset the timer for each student, but simply move on to the next timer. The timers can also be set to music—standard options include Mission Impossible, The Apprentice, and Countdown themes—and more music can be accessed with a built-in YouTube search tool.


If you don’t need or want all those features, try the countdown function built into Google. Simply go to and type “set timer” into the search box, followed by an amount of time. A timer will appear, and an alarm beeps when the time is up. Clicking a box icon to the right of the timer will expand the timer to appear full screen, without ads.


When my students are working on group projects, some volume is good, but too much noise isn’t. Too Noisy (free version:; pro version: is an iPad app designed to help students learn to recognize appropriate volume for conversations. The app measures the volume in a room and displays a meter indicating whether or not it is too loud. Too Noisy has four situation settings: silent, quiet, group, and class, and you can adjust the sensitivity of the meter for each situation. The pro version ($2.99) offers additional background themes for the meter display, star awards if the class maintains an appropriate volume, and alarms that alert students when they’re being too loud. The pro version also removes pop-up ads that otherwise appear when you change screens. Whichever version you choose, projecting the Too Noisy meter so that all your students can see it is a good way for them to gauge the appropriate volume.


We’ve all experienced that moment when we ask for volunteers to present or answer a question, and alas, not a hand goes up. Then there’s the opposite—when all hands are raised to participate in some exciting opportunity. In both situations, a randomizer comes in handy. Random Name Selector from Primary Technology ( is a simple tool for picking names from a list you’ve created. To use it, type in or copy a list of names and hit “go.” Once a name is selected, you can launch a two- or seven-minute countdown timer. You may also remove a name from the list after it has been chosen.

Give these tools a try. They won’t do the hard work of classroom management for you, but they can make it easier—and more fun.


Richard Byrne ( writes the award-winning blog “Free Technology for Teachers.”

]]> 0
SLJTeen Chats with Jim Ziolkowski, Founder of buildON Nonprofit Wed, 29 Oct 2014 22:35:13 +0000 buildON Quote SLJTeen Chats with Jim Ziolkowski, Founder of buildON Nonprofit

JZsigning2 SLJTeen Chats with Jim Ziolkowski, Founder of buildON Nonprofit

Jim Ziolkowski signing Walk in Their Shoes at FPM

Jim Ziolkowski left his fast-track corporate career with General Electric and became the founder, president, and CEO of the nonprofit buildOn. The organization’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education via youth-oriented after-school programs in U.S. high schools, and the building of schools in developing countries. Ziolkowski is also the best-selling author of Walk in Their Shoes (S. & S., 2013) and recently visited the students and faculty at Floral Park Memorial (FPM) High School in Floral Park, New York. FPM has an active buildOn chapter under the leadership of social studies teacher Christina Blanc. The members are preparing to make their third trek for knowledge with buildOn in February 2015 to build another school in Nicaragua.

High school librarian Donna Rosenblum, who accompanied Blanc on the first trek to Nicaragua in 2012, arranged for Ziolkowski’s presentation at FPM and had a chance to ask him a few questions.

What was your motivation to leave a corporate job and dedicate your life to buildOn?
In 1989, I was backpacking around the world and witnessed firsthand the severe and widespread poverty people live with every day. While in Nepal, I came upon a village that was celebrating the opening of their first school and was overwhelmed by the immense pride and joy these villagers expressed—the value they placed on education. It was like nothing I had ever experienced and it was a true revelation. These moments and memories stayed with me and when I returned to the United States and was working at GE, I could not forget what I had seen and experienced. It was then that I knew I had a different calling in life.

Where was your first school built?
The first school was built in Misomali, a village in Malawi, Africa in 1992. It was a physically difficult trip since this village had such limited resources and suffered from HIV and AIDS as well as malaria. I actually got very sick while I was there and almost died. My brother was able to bring me to the only hospital in the area and I was fortunate to get medical treatment. I realized that when the people of Malawi contracted malaria or other illnesses they are not so blessed. Most will die. This renewed my determination to finish this school as it was the only way to significantly improve the lives of the villagers.

completed school SLJTeen Chats with Jim Ziolkowski, Founder of buildON Nonprofit

Completed buildOn school in Malawi

I recently returned to Misomali and was shocked and overjoyed to see that there are now five schools in the village. When I left in 1992, 150 children were attending the school built by buildOn; now there are over 1,000 children attending all five schools and half are girls. Steven Tenthani was a close friend and a committed volunteer at the work site every day. His daughter Ruthie was only a few weeks old when the school was completed. She not only attended the schools of Misomali but went on to university and is now a teacher.

Why did it take you 20 years to return to Misomali?
The experience was a difficult one on many levels—physically, psychologically, and emotionally. When I came back from Malawi, buildOn expanded quickly and I was involved in so many aspects of the organization that it never seemed to be the right time. Maybe part of me was afraid to go back but I realized I needed to come full circle. So I returned and feel blessed that I did so.

The following are some eye-opening statistics
from Ziolkowski’s
presentation at FPM:
  • Every 26 seconds a student in
    the U.S. drops out of school.
  • buildOn has built 660 schools in other countries— Mali, Malawi, Nepal, Haiti, Nicaragua.
  • 85,049 students attend buildOn
    schools abroad and 50% of those students are girls.
  • buildOn students has given
    1.4 million hours of community
    service here in the U.S.
  • 95% of inner city youth who are members of buildOn graduate from high school and go on to college.
  • Worldwide, nearly 900 million people cannot read or write.

Why is buildOn involved with inner city youth and afterschool programs?
I realized that we have extreme poverty here in the U.S. as well—a different kind of poverty, but poverty nonetheless. I moved to a drug trafficking neighborhood in Harlem, New York and learned a great deal. The most important lesson was that urban youth don’t necessarily want to escape their surroundings; they want to transform them. Everyone wants the power and ability to change their life for the better and that is what buildOn tries to do—give people the tools to take charge of their lives.

What was it like to meet such people as Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama?
Meeting Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama were pivotal and spiritually gratifying moments in my life. They each shared words of wisdom that have guided me and allowed me to forge ahead as the leader of buildOn. The poem “Never Give Up” by the Dalai Lama is a plea for compassion and resilience and its ideas validate so much of my own life. The mantra “never give up” has been with me all along and is essential for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world.

Why is “We’re not a charity—we’re a movement” a favorite saying of yours?
Based on the statistics I quoted during the presentation (sidebar), it is clear that buildOn is not a charity or a relief agency. The word I use is ignition—to start a fire. That is what buildOn represents. From the South Bronx to sub-Saharan Africa, children are subjected to abject conditions, but through it all they possess hope. That is all the fuel we need. I know that we can’t inspire every kid, but if we provide alternatives—namely the opportunity to change the world through service and education—we can help many teenagers regain control over their lives.

For more information about buildOn and founder Jim Ziolkowski go to

]]> 0
Superintendent of the Year Mark Edwards’s Top Leadership Book Picks | SLJ Summit 2014 Wed, 29 Oct 2014 19:12:40 +0000 SLJ Leadership Summit in St. Paul, MN, on October 25–26. ]]> EdwardsBookList1 2 Superintendent of the Year Mark Edwards’s Top Leadership Book Picks | SLJ Summit 2014In a keynote delivered by Dr. Mark Edwards, superintendent of Mooresville (NC) Graded School District, at the 10th annual School Library Journal Leadership Summit (October 25-26) in St. Paul, MN, Edwards, the 2013 Superintendent of the Year, highlighted works that have inspired him during his groundbreaking tenure at Mooresville.

Many of these titles resonated with the audience that included dynamic teacher librarians, administrators, and other school library stakeholders. Edwards professed that these books were especially influential during the monumental evolution of the Mooresville school system, a process that was chronicled in the New York Times and other publications.

SLJ presents Edwards’ selections—books that can serve as part of professional development sessions for schools and libraries—and go toward personal development and education. Plus, check out the full presentation led by Edwards and his district’s team of school media specialists at the 2014 SLJ Leadership Summit.

DEPREE, Max. Leadership Is an Art. Crown. 2004. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9780385512466.

FULLAN, Michael. All Systems Go: The Change Imperative for Whole System Reform. Corwin. 2010. pap. $26.95. ISBN 9781412978736.

GLADWELL, Malcolm. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Little, Brown. 2013. Tr $29. ISBN 9780316204361.

GLADWELL, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. Little, Brown. 2008. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9780316017923; pap. $16.99. ISBN 9780316017930.

LAMBERT, Linda. Building Leadership Capacity in Schools. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Dev. 1998. pap. $1395. ISBN 9780871203076.

MEDINA, John. Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded): 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Pear Press. 2014. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9780983263371.

PINK, Daniel H. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Riverhead. 2009. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781594488849; pap. $16. ISBN 9781594484803.

THOMAS, Douglas & John Seely Brown. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. CreateSpace. 2011. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781456458881.

]]> 0
Halloween Roundup: Spooky Reads and Mysterious Apps Wed, 29 Oct 2014 19:11:55 +0000 SLJ’s current recommendations for Halloween reads, apps, and spine-tingling fun for all ages. ]]> pumpkins 300x225 Halloween Roundup: Spooky Reads and Mysterious Apps Check out SLJ’s latest recommendations for Halloween reads, apps, and fun for all ages.

Seasonal Tricks and Treats | Halloween Roundup

Put a Little Spook On Your iPad | Apps for the Halloween Season

Monstrously Funny Cartoons | Good Comics for Kids

Neil Gaiman Chats with SLJ About His Reimagined “Hansel and Gretel” | Up Close

Review: Neil Gaiman’s Hansel and Gretel | Good Comics for Kids

Halloween Reading | Adult Books 4 Teens

Video: Christopher Hart Draws a Funny Vampire | Good Comics for Kids

‘Tis the Season: Holiday Stories for Young Readers │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

Spine-Tingling Stories for Older Readers

Preview: Costume Quest | Good Comics for Kids

Bewitching Tales | Great Books for Halloween

Review: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

]]> 0
Egmont USA’s Fifth Anniversary | Spring 2015 Preview Wed, 29 Oct 2014 17:18:11 +0000 Temple Run Book Three Run for Your Life: Artic Rescue in ebook format, a foray into nonfiction with See-Thru Frogs and See-Thru Sharks, and a retelling of Snow White with Tear You Apart. ]]> lostprince Egmont USAs Fifth Anniversary | Spring 2015 PreviewIn the world of children’s books, there is nothing as encouraging as seeing a small publishing house flourish. So it was with great enthusiasm that librarians gathered on October 1 in New York City to toast Egmont USA on its fifth anniversary and its upcoming spring titles. In addition, Matt Myklusch was on hand to talk about the first title in his new middle-grade series “Seaborne,” titled Seaborne: The Lost Prince (out in May), an action-packed pirate story that follows protagonist Dean Seaborne from the Bermuda Triangle to Atlantis. The attendees were treated to a presentation from the author, showing the evolution of the book’s cover art—for which Myklusch did the preliminary drawings.

Watch the video of Myklusch’s presentation here:

After five years in business, Egmont USA is taking its first venture into nonfiction. Readers and librarians can look forward to Sherry Gerstein’s See-Thru Frogs and See-Thru Sharks, both out in March, parts of a series that uses acetate pages with detailed illustrations and accompanying text that should spark the interest of early-elementary school-aged children. Kids may also enjoy science writer Colin Stuart’s Why Space Matters to Me (May), who explains in a question/answer format such topics asCould we be hit by space chunk?”

templerun Egmont USAs Fifth Anniversary | Spring 2015 PreviewEgmont continues to incorporate transmedia into its titles, including the ebook version of Chase Wilder’s Temple Run Book Three Run for Your Life: Arctic Rescue (February), which is the next book tied to the popular mobile game app Temple Run. The multiple-ending format perfectly captures the spirit of the game.

The main character of Patrick Jennings’s humorous chapter book Hissy Fitz (January) is a sleep-loving cat. For older Jennings fans, his Odd Weird & Little, about an owl who poses as a boy, will be out in paperback in March.

Egmont features several debut titles this spring as well. Set in 1960 Hawaii, first-time novelist Anne Bustard’s Anywhere but Paradise (April) incorporates elements of multiculturalism and bullying. Another debut effort is Valiant, from high school teacher Sarah McGuire, who reimagines the Brothers Grimms’ “Brave Little Tailor,” focusing on a young girl who must navigate royal court politics to save the kingdom from an army of giants.

tearyouapart Egmont USAs Fifth Anniversary | Spring 2015 PreviewAnother retelling of a familiar fairy tale is Sarah Cross’s Tear You Apart (January), a version of Snow White. Her latest comes on the heels of her 2013 Kill Me Softly, which was on YALSA’s Official 2013 Teens’ Top Ten titles.

Fans of Ilsa J. Bick’s two-part horror story known as The Dark Passages, which begun with White Space (out in paperback in February 2015) will be glad to know that The Dickens Mirror: Book Two of the Dark Passages will be out in March. Protagonist Emma Lindsay continues to wade through an alternative London, this time meeting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the “Sherlock Holmes” books.


]]> 0
Teen learns important lessons through community service in “Havana Curveball”| DVD Pick Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:00:35 +0000 Havana Curveball. 60 min. Dist. by PatchWorks Films. 2014. $89 (with PPR). $39.95 (no PPR). ISBN 3621179767. Gr 5 Up–In this documentary, how can Cuba, baseball, a bar mitzvah, and a grandfather be connected into one fabulous story? For his upcoming bar mitzvah, Mica Schneider from California’s Bay Area decides to send baseball equipment to Cuba for his community service project. (He loves baseball.) His grandfather lived in the island nation as a child refugee from Nazi Germany, which led to [...]]]> havanacurveball 300x169 Teen learns important lessons through community service in Havana Curveball| DVD Pickstar Teen learns important lessons through community service in Havana Curveball| DVD PickHavana Curveball. 60 min. Dist. by PatchWorks Films. 2014. $89 (with PPR). $39.95 (no PPR). ISBN 3621179767.
Gr 5 Up–In this documentary, how can Cuba, baseball, a bar mitzvah, and a grandfather be connected into one fabulous story? For his upcoming bar mitzvah, Mica Schneider from California’s Bay Area decides to send baseball equipment to Cuba for his community service project. (He loves baseball.) His grandfather lived in the island nation as a child refugee from Nazi Germany, which led to the idea for this project. Due to political embargoes, Mica’s generous donations for Cuban children can’t be directly shipped. Determination propels his family on a road trip up to Canada, where the packages can be legally sent. Months go by with no word that the parcels have been delivered, and Mica teeters on defeat. Undaunted, he seeks out philanthropic agencies that provide aid to Cuba, and eventually he and his journalist father travel there. Grandfather declines the invitation to join them, another emotional setback for Mica, but father and son arrive in Cuba to distribute more sports equipment. There the teen meets enterprising Cuban boys who are also crazy for baseball. They play with masking-taped balls and cardboard mitts, so Mica’s new or used donations are met with extreme excitement, even greed. All the emotional “bases” are voiced by Mica in his sage, prescient narration. The beautiful interlacing of cultural traditions and baseball’s appeal make this an inspiring tale. Directed by Mica’s filmmaker parents, Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider, this film superbly demonstrates what one 13-year-old can do to overcome daunting obstacles and make the world a better place.–Robin Levin, U.S. Holocaust Museum

]]> 0
Teen Historians at New York Historical Society Curate Time Capsule to Be Opened in 2114 Tue, 28 Oct 2014 20:00:02 +0000 nyhs logo Teen Historians at New York Historical Society Curate Time Capsule to Be Opened in 2114On October 8, one time capsule from 1914 was opened and another one from 2014 was sealed, at the New-York Historical Society (NYHS) in New York City. Among the items in the time capsule capturing 2014: hand sanitizer, a Gay Pride tank top, and a NYC MetroCard.

Curating a 2014 time capsule was part of the Student Historian Program, an internship program at the NYHS for high school students in grades 10–12 from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The program provides vocational and academic training, public speaking lessons, and leadership development—as well as an increased understanding of American art and history—and runs during the summer and the academic year.

It was during this past summer that student historians collected and curated items that would encapsulate New York City history and culture in 2014. In preparation, “student historians became familiar with the [backstory] and history of the 1914 capsule from the Historical Society’s museum collection, learned about material culture to better understand how historians might use the contents of the 2014 capsule, and donated an object to be included in the 2014 time capsule,” says Chelsea Frosini, manager of Teen Programs at NYHS.

One student at New York City’s LaGuardia High School, Emily Dabrowska, chose a Lady Gaga concert ticket to be included in the capsule.

The 1914 time capsule had been created by members of the Lower Wall Street Business Men’s Association to mark “the tricentennial of the first official reference to New Netherland, the nascent trading post that would become New York,” according to the New York Times. The Lower Wall Street Association entrusted the capsule to the NYHS, to be opened in May 1974. However, the capsule was forgotten in a storage warehouse, and its rediscovery was the catalyst for the creation of the 2014 capsule.

According to a NYHS press release, the students used object and inquiry-based learning to collect and curate the items that would encapsulate New York City history and culture of 2014. The young historians broke into teams—Collections, Curatorial, Exhibition Design, Education, and Communications and Press—to mimic the museum process of acquiring artifacts, curating artifacts, and interpreting and increasing public awareness about the objects.

There were some similarities between the two time capsules—both contained references to coffee and tea. One 1914 item was a copy of the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, while the 2014 capsule included paper coffee cups from a Greek dinner and Starbucks. Also, memorabilia of the curators were included: a photograph of Ellen Jay, who was involved with the 1914 capsule, had been encapsulated. In the 2014 capsule, each of the student historians enclosed a selfie. Both capsules had a copy of the New York Times.

Both capsules featured examples of technology of the day. The 1914 one contained a telegram from the 40th New York State Governor Martin Glynn, while technology items from 2014 included a flash drive with the Google News homepage saved to it, a CD-mix tape, an Amazon Kindle, and a 3-D printed Freedom Tower.

Plans to open the new time capsule are for October 2114.

]]> 0
Pictures of the Week: Librarians Get a Shout Out at MN Hockey Game | SLJ Summit 2014 Tue, 28 Oct 2014 16:51:01 +0000 SLJ Leadership Summit (October 25–26), and while at a Minnesota Wild hockey game, they got a special shout out from ABDO Publishing. ]]> Librarians and educators from all over the country flocked to St. Paul, MN, on October 25–26, to attend the 10th annual SLJ Leadership Summit, and librarians received a special shout out from ABDO Publishing—who took a group of librarians to a Minnesota Wild hockey game at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center on October 25.

HockeyGame 450x600 Pictures of the Week: Librarians Get a Shout Out at MN Hockey Game | SLJ Summit 2014

The jumbotron reads “ABDO Loves Librarians.”

]]> 1
‘Tis the Season: Holiday Stories for Young Readers │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:30:23 +0000 Whether they’re classic tales or the newest stories, holiday books are always popular with kids, and the following new selections from the editors at Junior Library Guild are sure to please. From Chinese New Year to Halloween and Christmas to Nochebuena, holiday-themed books can support diversity in culture while providing readers with a chance to see themselves in the pages of a book. A mixture of formats―picture book, chapter book, haiku, and verse—offers variety as well.

Sppoky Season ‘Tis the Season: Holiday Stories for Young Readers │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoHAAS, Jessie. Bramble and Maggie: Spooky Season. Bk. 3. illus. by Alison Friend. 56p. Candlewick. 2014. ISBN 9780763664503. JLG Level: I : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

Maggie and her horse, Bramble, are back for another adventure, just in time for Halloween. When a scarecrow makes Bramble jumpy, a bad fall leaves Maggie nervous, and she has a difficult time riding. Though the two are still uneasy on Halloween night, their friendship gives them the power to face even the scariest of surprises.

Bringing her love of horses to the printed page, the author has penned another delightful story aimed at independent readers. On Haas’s website, kids will learn all about Haas, including that she’s married to author Michael J. Daley. The couple lives in a Vermont cabin the size of Henry David Thoreau’s―complete with outdoor plumbing! A curriculum guide with discussion questions is available. The Candlewick website provides an inside look, as well as a listing of awards and reviews.

Shooting at the stars ‘Tis the Season: Holiday Stories for Young Readers │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoHENDRIX, John. Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914. illus. by author. 40p. Abrams. 2014. ISBN 9781419711756. JLG Level: I+ : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

Only once does recorded history cite an account of joint holiday celebration on the battlefield. On Christmas Day in 1914, German soldiers left the trenches to call, “Merry Christmas” to the British soldiers. Nervous at first, the soldiers stepped onto the battlefield to exchange greetings and small gifts and to help bury their dead. The miraculous event never repeated itself.

Delighted about his second book, Hendrix has posted interior spreads on his blog. Fans can follow him on Twitter, where he’s bound to retweet “wonderfully complimentary” reviews. Learn more about the Christmas Truce of 1914 at through informational text and video. On the centenary website for the 1914 truce, there are letters and events to commemorate this single celebratory event in history of war. The New York Times wrote about the unofficial incident in 2005, while the New York Tribune chronicled the day in January 1915.

Santa Clauses ‘Tis the Season: Holiday Stories for Young Readers │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoRACZKA, Bob. Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole. illus. by Chuck Groenink. 32p. Carolrhoda. 2014. ISBN 9781467718059. JLG Level: E+ : Easy Reading (Grades 1–3).

What does Santa do during the month of December? Does he just work to meet his ever-nearing deadline? Using haiku, Raczka tells the behind-the-scenes story of life at the North Pole.

How do you pronounce Raczka? has almost 2,000 free author and illustration pronunciations. Learn about more of the author’s books on his website. Illustrator Groenink includes samples of his beautiful images on his website. Kids can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. Use this title to introduce haiku poems. ReadWriteThink,  Scholastic, and Wonderopolis have great lesson plans.

Nochebuena ‘Tis the Season: Holiday Stories for Young Readers │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoTHONG, Roseanne Greenfield. ’Twas the Nochebuena. illus. by Sara Palacios. 32p. Viking. 2014. ISBN 9780670016341. JLG Level: P+ : Primary (Grades K–1).

’Twas Nochebuena/ and all through our casa,/ every creature was kneading tamale masa./ For one of holiday tradiciones,/ is making tamales―not one, but montones!

In the style of Clement Clarke Moore’s ’Twas the Night Before Christmas, this brightly illustrated book bursts with the magic, love, and tradition of the Latino celebration. Learn about the food, games, and customs of the culture. The merriment is contagious as readers follow families from the kitchen, through the streets, to the church, and back to their houses for a feast on Navidad.

Thong’s bilingual text is supported by a glossary and author note. Be sure to visit the author’s website for resources on multicultural titles. View Palacios’s artwork on her website or blog. Follow her on Facebook and Tumblr.

I know an old lady ‘Tis the Season: Holiday Stories for Young Readers │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoYACOWITZ, Caryn. I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel. illus. by David Slonim. 32p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. 2014. ISBN 9780439915304. JLG Level: HE : Humor Elementary (Grades 2-6).

Everyone knows what happens when an old lady swallows a fly, but what happens when she swallows a dreidel that she thought was a bagel? Poor grandma is just trying to celebrate Chanukah, when the cat drops the toy in the cream cheese. From applesauce to a 20-ton brisket, the title character’s unbelievable “meals” take readers on a hilarious romp through the folksong. The illustrations add even more humor as they are delightful parodies of classic artwork.

Slonim’s artist notes reference the original works of art. Children can visit his website to learn more about the masterpieces. Click on the titles to visit the art museums. Follow him on Twitter. On the author’s website, kids can learn that Yacowitz not only writes books but plays as well. If readers want to make their own latkes, they can try out a recipe at, where they’ll find other information and activities for Chanukah.

Goldy Luck ‘Tis the Season: Holiday Stories for Young Readers │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoYIM, Natasha. Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas.  illus. by Grace Zong. 32p. Charlesbridge. 2014. ISBN 9781580896528. JLG Level: CE : City Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Goldy Luck hasn’t lived up to her name very well. It seems she has nothing but bad luck. On Chinese New Year, her mother sends the young girl next door to deliver turnip cakes. It’s her chance to start again by being nice. A quick trip sends the cakes tumbling to the floor. Three bowls of congee distract Goldy from cleaning up her mess―the last bowl tastes just right. The Chans, a family of pandas, find her napping in the wake of the disaster she has caused. “I didn’t mean to,” she cries, running away. Can she ever change her luck?

Text and illustrations combine for a colorful story about the Chinese holiday. Visit the Yim’s website for biographical information and a book trailer. For information about Chinese New Year, check out the celebration on And don’t miss the author notes and the turnip cake recipe at the end of the book.

Additional Resources

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

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

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






]]> 0
We Need Diverse Books Indiegogo Campaign Aims to Raise $100K Mon, 27 Oct 2014 20:59:58 +0000 weneeddiversebooks We Need Diverse Books Indiegogo Campaign Aims to Raise $100K We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) kicked off an indiegogo fundraising campaign on October 23 that has taken off swiftly. According to WNDB founder, Ellen Oh, the day after kickoff, “We started a… [Twitter]… chat for #SupportWNDB, and within 15 minutes we trended third—under ‘Ebola’ and ‘Halloween.’ And then an hour later, we actually beat ‘Ebola.’”

The WNDB indiegogo campaign raised over $16,000 that day, with familiar names including author John Green tweeting support of the campaign using the hashtag #SupportWNDB. WNDB has debuted a #SupportWNDB video starring Green on October 28, 10 am ET—with a Twitter chat at 1 pm ET. Visit the hashtag #SupportWNDB to join in.

(UPDATE: As of October 28, the campaign has raised over $40,500.)

The campaign aims to reach its $100,000 goal by November 24. The funds, according to the WNDB indiegogo site, will be used for diversity initiatives such as bringing diverse authors into the classrooms of disadvantaged schools; supporting diverse authors through the Walter Dean Myers Award & Grant program; developing education toolkits for teachers, librarians, and booksellers to select diverse books; and developing and hosting a first-ever Diversity Festival in 2016—among other efforts.

Watch the We Need Diverse Books indiegogo campaign video:

We Need Diverse Books from Undercurrent on Vimeo.

Also, you may be interested in:

We Need Diverse Books and School Library Journal Announce Collaboration

]]> 0
Scenes and Resources from the Summit | SLJ Summit 2014 Mon, 27 Oct 2014 16:37:59 +0000 SLJ’s 10th annual Leadership Summit. Here are some scenes and highlights from the event.]]> 15442840977 719fc780ba z 600x400 Scenes and Resources from the Summit | SLJ Summit 2014

“Superintendent of the Year” Mark Edwards from Mooresville, NC, keynoted the event. All photos courtesy of Joey Tichenor.

Inspirational and groundbreaking school librarians from all over the United States descended upon St. Paul, MN, on October 25─26 for School Library Journal’s 10th annual Leadership Summit Fire it Up! Sparking Creativity and Motivating Students.” With thought-provoking presentations by 2013 Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Mark Edwards, and his library media specialist team from Mooresville, NC, and Stephan Turnipseed, president of LEGO Education North America, library leaders gathered together to discuss the importance of sparking creativity and engagement in their students, schools, and communities.

Take a sneak peek at some of the scenes from over the weekend, including a slideshow (photo credit: Joey Tichenor). Check out the full schedule and some of the resources that were shared during the two-day learning experience. And look out for more coverage in the coming days.

Created with flickr slideshow.


Summit coverage:

Joyce Valenza, SLJ blogger and director of the MLIS Program at Rutgers University School of Communication & Information, blogged “Live from the Summit” on SLJ’s “NeverEndingSearch”

Keynote panel:

Superintendent Mark Edwards:

“Mooresville School District, a Laptop Success Story”

“Mark Edwards & Project Connect: Take Your Place at the Table: Thrive as Part of the Solution Your School Needs | Editorial”

“Project Connect Brings School Librarians, Superintendents to the Same Table”

SummitPanel 600x400 Scenes and Resources from the Summit | SLJ Summit 2014

Smart Stakeholders panel moderated by Michelle Luhtala, New Canaan High School, CT: (l. to R.: Monte Kuehl, ABDO; Dottie Coven, Baker & Taylor; Terri Soutor, Brain Hive; Eric Fitzgerald, Capstone; Scott Chain, Follett; Dave Schroeter, Gale/Cengage Learning; Deborah Ford, Junior Library Guild; Trisha McDonell, LEGO Education; Randal Heise, Mackin Educational [not pictured]; Patricia Stockland, Lerner Publishing; Roger Rosen, Rosen Publishing).


Leadership panelists:

Joyce Valenza presented a padlet in which attendees were invited to share what animal they felt most represented their leadership style. 

K.C. Boyd: “Chicago Hope: High School Librarian K.C. Boyd”

Michelle Colte: Michelle Colte Named School Librarian of the Year

sljsummit cake 300x200 Scenes and Resources from the Summit | SLJ Summit 2014

SLJ Leadership Summit turns 10.

School librarians and educators led 15-minute fast-learning sessions:

Andy Plemmons: “School Librarian of the Year Finalist Andy Plemmons: Expecting the Miraculous”

Pernille Ripp:”Why Reading Sucks: Talking honestly with kids might make them more passionate readers”

Tori Jensen, Media Specialist, LEAP High School/St. Paul Public Schools and Leslie Yoder, digital literacy and learning specialist on St. Paul’s success story: “St. Paul to Create 15 New School Library Positions”

Lauren McBride: “How a VA Librarian and Her Book Club Raised Funds to Provide 15K Meals for Students in S. Sudan”

Other highlights:

#SchoolLibrariesMatter video by Capstone Publishing debuted at SLJ Summit: “The Changing Role of the School Librarian.”

During the conference, there were several special announcements, including the presentation of the winners of the “Build Something Bold” Library Design Award, presented by SLJ and LEGO Education and the SLJ/Brain Hive Buzz Award:

“SLJ and LEGO Education Announce the Winner of the ‘Build Something Bold’ Library Design Award”

“Meet the Recipients of the ‘Build Something Bold’ Library Design Award”

Denise Sumnida, winner of the SLJ Buzz Award, sponsored by Brain Hive: (source:


]]> 0
‘Rude Cakes’ and ‘Polar Bear’s Underwear’ Rule at the Chronicle Spring 2015 Preview Mon, 27 Oct 2014 14:47:01 +0000 Chronicle Librarians looking at Books Rude Cakes and Polar Bears Underwear Rule at the Chronicle Spring 2015 Preview

Librarians looking at books at the Chronicle Spring 2015 Preview. Photo by Sarah Lin

Librarians and booksellers flocked to San Francisco’s Chronicle Books headquarters in early October for the publisher’s spring preview. Chronicle has had a banner year, with Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson’s Josephine (2014) selected for the Boston Globe/Horn Book Nonfiction Honor and Sherri Duskey Rinker’s Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and Hervé Tullet’s Press Here (both 2011) each marking their third year on the New York Times bestseller list—it’s always exciting to find out what’s next.

First up was Canadian lawyer-turned-illustrator Holman Wang presenting Star Wars: Epic Yarns (May) and two other “Star Wars” board books he created with his brother Jack Wang, a writing professor at New York’s Ithaca College. Holman took us on a behind-the-scenes slideshow tour of his latest. Each board book page is a photograph of meticulously designed felted wool figures. Backdrops from the Arizona landscape to the Imperial Sand Dunes of California create a three-dimensional wonderland, and with only 12 words in each book, the images become a storytelling vehicle.

Pool (May) is a wordless picture book from debut author/illustrator Ji Hyeon Lee, who lives in Korea. A shy child turns out to be brave and interesting—and the pool has a lot going on beneath the surface in this narratively rich and visually spectacular book.

PolarBearsUnderwear CVR 184x300 Rude Cakes and Polar Bears Underwear Rule at the Chronicle Spring 2015 Preview“Hilarious!” is how to describe the picture book Polar Bear’s Underwear (March) by tupera tupera, the Tokyo-based art and design firm of artists Tatsuya Kameyama and Atsuko Nakagawa. While libraries will have to permanently take off the removable underwear on the front cover, this won’t detract from the checkouts. Kids will turn the die-cut pages for multiple readings, trying to guess which pair of underwear belongs to Polar Bear. Is it this colored striped set? Nope, those are Zebra’s.

Rude Cakes never say please or thank you, and they never say they’re sorry, because they are never, ever wrong. But what happens when a Rude Cake meets a Giant Cyclops? Find out in Rude Cakes (June) by Rowboat Watkins. In this deliciously entertaining book, a not-so-sweet cake gets its just desserts.

Stella’s class is having a Mother’s Day celebration, but what’s a girl with two daddies to do? Stella Brings the Family (May), by Miriam Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, celebrates and embraces families in many forms.

Pool CVR 226x300 Rude Cakes and Polar Bears Underwear Rule at the Chronicle Spring 2015 Preview“Don’t despair about all the pink princess glut out there,” says Chronicle editor Melissa Manlove. When the Prince’s spaceship is in trouble, Cinderella comes to the rescue with a little bit of help from her fairy godrobot in Interstellar Cinderella (May), by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Meg Hunt. This is a refreshing tale with a much needed revamp of happy endings.

In A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School . . . (March) by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud, the first thing that happens is that some giant ants steal breakfast. Then there are evil ninjas, a massive ape, mysterious mole people, giant blobs, and countless other daunting detours along the way to school. It’s thrilling to have another offering from Cali and Chaud, the critically acclaimed author/illustrator team behind I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . (2014).

In the book The Water And the Wild (April) by K.E. Ormsbee, a door opens in an apple tree and the character Lottie enters it, hoping to find a cure for the incurable and a use for the useless. While there are a lot of middle grade fantasies out there, editor Melissa Manlove calls the title “a stunning debut voice in a genuinely unique, unequivocally magical setting.” Throughout this book, illustrator Elsa Mora’s three-dimensional pieces—with more than a dozen layers and hundreds of individual pieces of paper—do a superb job of creating a book package that is as lush, otherworldly, and wild as the story.

Elena Dunkle 300x199 Rude Cakes and Polar Bears Underwear Rule at the Chronicle Spring 2015 Preview

Author Elena Dunkle meets with librarians at the preview. Photo by Sarah Lin

Beth Kephart’s YA novel One Thing Stolen (April) is set in Florence. Nadia Cara is the victim of a rare degenerative brain disease that causes its victims to lose the ability to speak while retaining normal brain function, except for a boost in creativity. Nadia is also falling in love with a boy—whom no one else can see.

After meeting featured author Elena Dunkle at the preview and receiving a signed galley copy of her memoir Elena Vanishing (May), I started reading it on the way back home. It’s as good and original as Chronicle children’s publishing director Ginee Seo says it is. Dunkle’s own battle with anorexia began after a brutal rape she’d experienced at age 13, and she has lost over 24 close friends in the last four years from eating disorder-related deaths. The book is terrific so far, with internal dialogue that any teen will relate to. And Dunkle is a passionate speaker. I’ve already invited her for an author visit for my own teen patrons. Dunkle’s mother, Clare, has written about her own experiences with her daughter’s disease in Hope and Other Luxuries: A Mother’s Life with A Daughter’s Anorexia (May).

]]> 0
Meet the Recipients of the Build Something Bold Library Design Award Sat, 25 Oct 2014 17:10:52 +0000 SLJ and LEGO Education recognize four schools in Alabama, Texas, Virginia, and Illinois for their innovative library designs, achieved on a range of budgets.]]>

SLJ141101 FT BSB WALNUTGROVE 024 Meet the Recipients of the Build Something Bold Library Design Award

Photos of the Walnut Grove Elementary School library by Bob Gathany.


Walnut Grove Elementary School, New Market, AL

A High-Tech Digital Diner

A diner-themed design brings new technology to rural students

Madison County, AL, has a split personality. Since the space race of the 1950s, its county seat, Huntsville, has been a research and development center for the aerospace industry. But just a few miles away from this thriving tech hub, rural Madison County remains anchored to cotton and corn farming and high rates of poverty.

The key to bridging the two sides of Madison County could lie in a school library in New Market, 20 miles outside of downtown Huntsville. There, children from this community are getting their first hands-on exposure to technology. At Walnut Grove Elementary School, the winner of the inaugural Build Something Bold award, sponsored by School Library Journal and LEGO Education, kids as young as kindergarten age are changing the paradigm.

SLJ141101 FT BSB WALNUTGROVE 007 Meet the Recipients of the Build Something Bold Library Design Award

Walnut Grove Elementary School librarian Holly Whitt.

Four years ago, Holly Whitt took over as school librarian at Walnut Grove, a tiny, rural campus of 250 students. The school had iPads and laptops in the classroom, but they were not integrated into the library curriculum.

Walnut Grove has operated in this corner of Madison County for nearly 100 years, and some students’ grandparents and great-grandparents also attended the school. Over the years, the campus has been threatened with closure due to its low enrollment. Today, it is a Title I school, with a student body that is 82 percent white. Sixty percent qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Despite having the highest poverty rates in the school district, Walnut Grove students have consistently scored in the top 10 percent in the county on state standardized tests, something Whitt attributes to the small class sizes and additional aides hired with Title I funds. However, “they stay in poverty for generations,” Whitt says. “It’s just 20 miles away to these very lucrative careers, [but] they’re not breaking that cycle.”

Booths and jukeboxes

Whitt believes that teaching young students real-life applications for their academic learning is the start to bridging that achievement gap.

She knows the local culture well. A native of the region, she graduated from the University of Alabama, Huntsville, with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and went on to earn a master’s of library and information studies from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. She began her career as a research librarian in the Washington, DC, area, working for the Library of Congress, the Institute for Defense Analyses, and National Public Radio.

Seven years ago, when Whitt began thinking about starting her own family, she headed back to sweet home Alabama. “I’m living on my family farm,” she says. “I’m part of the farming community.” Soon after, she began volunteering at the local public school library. When the previous librarian retired at age 70, Whitt was hired to fill her shoes.

The annual library budget is $1,900 to $2,900, but grants and fundraising have brought it closer to $10,000 for the past two years, according to Whitt. Through Title I and 21st Century Community Learning Center federal grants, as well as other funding, Whitt expanded the school library to become a multimedia resource center.

An unused corner of the 2,500 square foot facility was converted into a “Digital Diner” with a $3,240 grant from Lowe’s Toolbox for Education. Two 1950s-style blue booths outfitted with jukeboxes provide an inviting space for celebrations—such as end-of-year parties—and for kids to collaborate on digital projects, as well as more traditional library activities such as book clubs. With its vinyl and chrome, the ambiance hearkens back to the 1950s, but the tools are all new millennium. Library iPads can be inserted into the tabletop jukeboxes, and students can use them to share videos and ebooks they have created.

WG Quadrant web Meet the Recipients of the Build Something Bold Library Design AwardA high-level curriculum

Currently, students have 1:1 access to iPads and laptops and work in small groups on projects such as robotics, coding, and filmmaking. While many incoming kids begin at a remedial level of tech proficiency, their young minds take to it quickly. “Our kids are very eager to take on my work and responsibility if they can see it in a real-world project—such as making a green-screen movie or designing a video game—rather than do a report about Abraham Lincoln and make a Power Point,” explains Whitt.

All students participated in the global Hour of Code event, and 18 of them completed a 20-hour introduction to computer science course, earning the library a $1,000 grant from Fourth and fifth graders recently showed off their coding skills at a regional event. “High school teachers were asking [them] how they did it!” says Pat Campbell, a fourth grade teacher at Walnut Grove. “They remarked that it was a college freshman-level venture.”

The library curriculum, offered to all Walnut Grove students, is often compared by other local educators to gifted and talented programs, or higher level curricula. Tools include LEGO Robotics, CAD software, video game design, and green-screen videography. On a typical school day, a group of girls might be working together to create a video of the inside of the human body, while a cluster of boys designs a video game. Students often come to the Digital Diner during their lunch breaks or after school.

The tech tools are also integrated into lessons of reading and writing. Instructional partner Yolanda Wright, who works with students needing extra help learning to read, uses iPads for students to record book trailers.

“It helps them understand why becoming fluent readers and precise problem solvers is [personally] important, not just something the teacher, librarian, or instructional partner wants them to do,” says Wright. “Our goal is to allow students to combine technology with their classroom learning—to think like engineers and create masterpieces.”

A community learning center

The real proof of a school library’s success is how well it is received by the students. “I can’t wait to begin learning in our library this year. I have butterflies just thinking about it!” a fourth grade boy said, according to Campbell.

Whitt develops stand-alone library and technology curriculum, but classroom teachers and other staff also benefit from the tools she has brought in. Wright works with the library to moderate a summer reading program using the educational collaborative tool Edmodo. “Research, sharing ideas, and collaborating online in a supervised setting will prepare students for future project-based learning and careers,” Wright says.

Walnut Grove principal Elisabeth Smith notes that it’s important for kids to be exposed to high-tech jobs from a young age. “We’re hoping that we can be a source of inspiration for these kids who may not have [tech] in their homes—that we can give them the awareness of the opportunities.”

With the $5,000 Build Something Bold award prize, Whitt hopes to expand the library even more, creating a makerspace, where the school can expand its 3-D printing projects and possibly turn an old phone booth into a recording studio.

Currently, every Walnut Grove class has library instruction time for 45 minutes each week. The Digital Diner is also open in the afternoons and one evening each month, so that parents and community members can learn about technology and get tips on how to help their students. The parents are extremely supportive and excited about what their children are learning, Whitt says. “Everyone wants them to break out of the pattern.” The Digital Diner may just provide the tools to do that.



Nimitz High School, Irving, TX

SLJ141101 FT BSB Nimitz3 Meet the Recipients of the Build Something Bold Library Design Award

Photo courtesy of the Nimitz High School library.

Bold Progress

A student-engineered space with tech tools, snacks, and a “Java Jungle”

If you want to build the library of the future, why not turn to tomorrow’s engineers? That’s what administrators did at the 2,400-student Nimitz High School in the Dallas suburb of Irving, TX. During the summer of 2011, Nimitz High’s library media specialist, Natalie Sunde, was looking for a way to make the 3,000 square foot space more functional. Sunde—along with an advisory committee made up of students, teachers, and administrators—turned to sophomores in the school’s “Intro to Engineering” course, who threw out many of the traditional library tenets.

“All the feedback [revolved] around the need for these multi-use spaces where people could come together and work on collaborative projects,” says Nimitz library media specialist Sherece Johnson.

“Sometimes the old ways of measuring library success, such as book circulation, did not show bold progress,” says Lea Bailey, former director of libraries for the Irving Independent School District.

The students researched the needs of 21st-century learners and used software such as AutoCAD and Autodesk Inventor to render 3-D models of the new library. In the fall of 2012, the re-branded Project Center and Library opened its doors. Freestanding shelves were moved to one end, creating a multipurpose area for project-based learning. Now, about three-quarters of the library is open space where students can meet in groups. Other areas accommodate multimedia presentations, computer use, and quiet reading.

To serve Nimitz’s ethnically and socioeconomically diverse student body, the Project Center and Library now provides free access to high-tech tools, such as iPads, headphones, microphones, and video cameras. Kids use these tools to create interactive graphics, videos, and mobile apps. Videos with school announcements, tutorials for library skills, and book trailers created by students are posted on the Nimitz library YouTube channel. Seventy-two percent of Nimitz students are economically disadvantaged and can’t afford basic supplies. The library, with an annual book budget of about $13,000, plus around $2,500 for supplies, provides markers, tape, and staplers, as well as a die-cut machine, paper, and a printer.

Gone are the old rules of no eating or drinking in the library. They have been replaced by the “Java Jungle” snack room, equipped with a Keurig coffeemaker and a vending machine selling healthy snacks. In addition to school meetings, including those for the Academic Decathalon, PTA, and booster clubs, the library is available to the community for events such as the student council’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and computer classes for parents.

Because building renovations were not required, the redesign came at minimal cost.



Kaechele Elementary School, Glen Allen, VA

SLJ141101 FT BSB Kaechele1 300x199 Meet the Recipients of the Build Something Bold Library Design Award

Photos courtesy of the Kaechele Elementary School library.

Fitness Forward

A new elementary school library combines fitness, fun, and learning

Flexibility is the theme of the new Kaechele Elementary School in Glen Allen, VA. The 400-student campus opened its doors in the fall of 2013 to alleviate overcrowding at three other district schools in this upper middle class Richmond suburb, and the staff had the privilege of building the library from the ground up. The result? A Library Learning Commons with many fun and movable features that might look more at home in a gym or ultra-modern office than a traditional school.

Students can sit on six-inch-tall multi-colored cushions they call “dots,” purchased from the library furnishing supplier Melos, Inc., in Hampton Roads, VA, or chartreuse foam spheres affectionately referred to as “library minions,” created by Safco furniture and bought from Ball Office Products in Richmond, VA. Movable ottomans provide space for silent reading. Wood tables sit on casters and have features on each side that allow them to snap together to form various configurations. They can then be rolled on their sides and stacked, taking up very little space. More than half of the bookshelves are also on wheels.

SLJ141101 FT BSB Kaechele2 300x201 Meet the Recipients of the Build Something Bold Library Design Award“Everything has been purchased or brought into this space intentionally knowing that it could change at any time, depending on the needs of our school community,” says the school librarian and information specialist, Shannon Hyman. Within 10 minutes, the library can go from being a place for a kindergarten storytime to one accommodating a class learning Skype in order to chat with students in another state.

Physical fitness was also a big consideration as Hyman planned the library. With two child-size cross-training gliders, kids can get aerobic exercise while reading books or doing work. Even the backless “dots” and “library minions” are designed to help children use their core muscles while sitting.

The campus was laid out with the library at the school’s entrance, across from the main office, making it a hub for the student body, which spans Pre-K to fifth grade. The prominent placement of the library is designed to inspire kids to become lifelong readers. Kaechele is by definition a place for collaborative learning and experimenting. In the makerspace, kids can create jewelry, duct-tape crafts, or build a marble run out of recycled toilet paper tubes and tape.

What inspired such out-of-the-box thinking? “I like to see what works well, what is good design,” answers Hyman, a self-described hacker. “How can that benefit a school?”



Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, IL

SLJ141101 FT BSB Stevenson Meet the Recipients of the Build Something Bold Library Design Award

Photo courtesy of the Adlai E. Stevenson High School library.

Stairway to Learning

Student-centered features define this reinvented library

In 2009, Adlai E. Stevenson High School in suburban Lincolnshire, IL, faced a decision: renovate the 25-year-old existing library or create an entirely new concept. After studying many other high school, university, and public libraries in the Chicago area, the school decided to re-invent the space. Stevenson is a large public high school in an upper middle class Chicago suburb, with a student body of 3,800 and ample facilities and resources to match.

In fall 2011, the $2.7-million project, funded by the school’s regular budget, culminated in the opening of a 24,000 square foot Information and Learning Center that combined the existing library and tutoring center. The endeavor was led by Stevenson librarians Lisa Dettling and Toni Gorman. To make more room for seating and collaborative work spaces, the library disposed of one-third of its 45,000 books and increased its collection of electronic media.

“Spending priorities have evolved so [the school] now devotes $97,000 of [its] yearly budget to purchasing digital resources,” says head librarian Dettling. “[This allows it] to create a library available to students and teachers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long.”

Online resources include reference ebooks and several digital platforms that also provide a large collection of ebooks and audiobooks. Dettling and Gorman use social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Haiku, to communicate with students and teachers and to sponsor online reading contests and raffles.

During the renovation, a narrow, old staircase was replaced with a new, wider one that also serves as amphitheater-style seating for class presentations or casual gatherings. Two official classroom spaces within the library are equipped with projection screens and movable chairs, promoting a student-centered environment. “Teachers don’t stand in front of the classroom and drone on anymore,” says Dettling. “It’s more exploratory.”

Other spaces are outfitted with new, mobile furniture, such as couches and café tables, which appeal to students, including the 300 to 400 who gather at the library after school.

Using recycled materials and skylights, Stevenson is reducing its environmental impact and electric usage, becoming the first public high school in the country to achieve gold-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for its green building practices.

Lynch Hwang Grace Contrib Web Meet the Recipients of the Build Something Bold Library Design AwardGrace Hwang Lynch (@HapaMamaGrace) is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has also been published on PBS Parents, Salon, BlogHer, and xoJane.


About the Award

SLJ’s inaugural Build Something Bold award,
in partnership with LEGO Education
, recognizes the best in school library design. The winner received $5,000 and a LEGO Education StoryStarter Classroom set with software and curriculum. The first runner-up was awarded $1,500, and the second runner-up and editor’s choice selection received $500 each. The judges were:

EH140415 BuildSomethingBold Meet the Recipients of the Build Something Bold Library Design Award

Chad Sansing, middle school language arts teacher, Staunton, VA
Kathy Ishizuka, executive editor, School Library Journal
Amy Koester, youth and family program coordinator, Skokie (IL) Public Library
Rebecca T. Miller, editor-in-chief, School Library Journal

Please see for more information.


]]> 1
SLJ and LEGO Education Announce the Winner of the Build Something Bold Library Design Award Sat, 25 Oct 2014 17:10:29 +0000 SLJ and LEGO Education Build Something Bold Library Design Award is Walnut Grove Elementary School library, in Madison County, AL. Led by librarian Holly Whitt, Walnut Grove's library features a “digital diner” with tabletop “jukeboxes” of technology. ]]> Walnut Grove Library021 SLJ and LEGO Education Announce the Winner of the Build Something Bold Library Design Award

The “digital diner” at Walnut Grove Elementary School in New Market, AL.
Walnut Grove’s library is the winner of the Build Something Bold Design Award. Photo by Bob Gathany

Today School Library Journal and LEGO Education announced the winner and runners-up for the inaugural 2014 Build Something Bold Library Design Award, which recognizes innovative design within a school library or classroom that demonstrates exemplary and creative use of library space and resources to effectively engage children and/or teens.

The Walnut Grove Elementary School library, in Madison County, AL, takes first place. Led by librarian Holly Whitt, Walnut Grove’s library features a “digital diner,” with tabletop “jukeboxes” of technology, including tablets and an afterschool computer science program involving Arduino and LEGO Education robotics kits. Whitt will transform another part of the 2,500-square-foot library into a makerspace, which serves as a gathering point for tools, projects, mentors, and expertise to enable anyone to make.

WG Quadrant web SLJ and LEGO Education Announce the Winner of the Build Something Bold Library Design Award

Walnut Grove Elementary School library. Photos by Bob Gathany

Despite being the highest poverty school in this rural district, Walnut Grove students have consistently led the district with the highest scores on state tests. The Walnut Grove school library, according to the application, “is an example of building a bold library through transforming physical spaces and creating authentic, diverse experiences for all learners.” Whitt will receive a $5,000 cash award, a profile in SLJ’s November 2014 issue and a LEGO Education StoryStarter Classroom set with software and curriculum.

The runners-up are: 1st runner-up, Nimitz High School, Irving, TX ($1,500 cash award); 2nd runner-up, Kaechele Elementary School, Glen Allen, VA ($500 cash award); editor’s choice, Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, IL ($500 cash award).

The winning entries demonstrated the effective use of creative library programming and design to enhance literacy, STEM, and creative problem-solving.

BuildSOmethingBoldfinalists 600x129 SLJ and LEGO Education Announce the Winner of the Build Something Bold Library Design Award

From left: Nimitz High School (Irving, TX); Kaechele Elementary School (Glen Allen, VA);
and Adlai E. Stevenson High School (Lincolnshire, IL). Photos courtesy of the school libraries

“Congratulations to everyone who entered and to our winners!” said Stephan Turnipseed, president of LEGO Education, North America. “Our goal with this award is to encourage schools to use their library space to create an atmosphere that will make learning an exciting experience for students of all abilities and backgrounds.”

“School Library Journal is honored to highlight the work of these stellar examples, which highlight the creative work and ‘can do’ ethic of school librarians as they strive to provide creative learning opportunities for their students,” says Kathy Ishizuka, executive editor of SLJ.

The winner will be honored at the SLJ Leadership Summit 2014 in St. Paul, MN, on October 26.

]]> 0
Heroes and Monsters: Tales from Around the Globe | Focus On World Myths Fri, 24 Oct 2014 20:21:13 +0000 SLJ1410w FT FO Opner Heroes and Monsters: Tales from Around the Globe | Focus On  World Myths

Illustration by liquidlibrary/Thinkstock Images.

The perennial appetite of children for mythical and legendary heroes is well known to librarians, from five-year-olds asking week after week for books about superheroes to upper elementary students keeping the Rick Riordan books circulating endlessly. For children on the cusp of adolescence, concerns about who they are and whether or not they will be successful begin to become significant. Stories of heroes from myths, legends, and folktales are the perfect vehicles for exploring these issues in a supportive and encouraging way. Both the traditional tales and more novelistic interpretations meet the needs of these readers. Right at the center of the myth is the hero’s quest: the journey that must be undergone in order to meet the challenge or danger. Most often, the success of the hero benefits society at large. Not all heroes are courageous and strong in the traditional sense. Some are tricksters like Odysseus, others are afraid or weak in some way, and some show inner rather than outer courage and fortitude. This tends to be particularly true of stories of female heroes, although Jane Yolen’s Not One Damsel in Distress is evidence to the contrary. This booklist includes world myths, legends, and folktales with the heroic quest at the center. It focuses largely on stories outside of the Greek and Roman canons. Retellings of the traditional stories are followed by modern interpretations. The weaving of myth and legend into novels can be as direct as the Norse myths in Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants or as elusive as the legend of Beowulf in N.D. Wilson’s Boys of Blur. Regardless, the extraordinary power of these ancient traditional stories reaches through to young readers, reassuring them that people have been facing challenges and coming through as heroes for millennia and that they can, too.

SLJ1410w FT FO Strip1 Heroes and Monsters: Tales from Around the Globe | Focus On  World Myths

Traditional Tales

CLAYTON , Sally Pomme. Rama and Sita: Path of Flames. illus. by Sophie Herxheimer. Frances Lincoln. 2010. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781845076726.
Gr 3-6 –Multiple heroes drive the Hindu Ramayana myth: Rama, the traditionally romantic hero; Hanuman, the monkey-god and trickster; Sita, the steadfast hero undeterred by mortal threats; and Lakshman, Rama’s loyal brother. Smooth and engaging, this retelling works as a read-alone, read-aloud, or as a storytelling source. Brightly colored collage-and-ink cutouts enliven the pages.

CROSS, Gillian. The Odyssey. illus. by Neil Packer. Candlewick. 2012. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780763647919.
Gr 5 Up –This lavishly illustrated retelling of the story of Odysseus is accessible and exciting. Cross’s lively and contemporary storytelling style gives a sense of immediacy to the events, as Odysseus and his men face one danger after another in their struggle to return home after the Trojan War. Stylized paintings with a modern feel complete the package.

LEE , Tony. Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood. illus. by Sam Hart & Artur Fujita. Candlewick. 2009. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780763643997; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780763644000.

Gr 6-10–The story of Robin Hood, the legendary outlaw of Crusader England who fought the oppression of the Norman rulers, includes romance, adventure, some gruesome violence, and some snappy, modern dialogue. Dark, strongly drawn illustrations heighten a sense of threatening danger in this powerful graphic retelling.
LUPTON , Hugh & Daniel Morden. The Adventures of Achilles. illus. by Carole Henaff. Barefoot. 2012. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781846868009.

Gr 6-10–Achilles, a tragic and flawed hero, battles not only the Trojans but also the intensity of his emotions in this accessible introduction to The Iliad. The complicated events are concisely but clearly told without sacrificing details or the moral ambiguity of the brutality. The muted blues and reds in the illustrations evoke ancient Greek art.

McCAUGHREAN , Geraldine. Gilgamesh the Hero. illus. by David Parkins. Eerdmans. 2003. Tr $20. ISBN 9780802852625.
Gr 5-9–The oldest hero of them all, Gilgamesh of Sumer, fights his way through life, in the way that heroes are meant to do. But when the death of his friend Enkidu compels Gilgamesh to seek immortality, he finds an unexpected answer to his painful dilemma. Striking graphics and lively narrative bring the ancient tale alive for today’s readers.

MELÉNDEZ , A. Gabriel, Casimiro Paiz & Martina Paiz. The Legend of Ponciano Gutiérrez and the Mountain Thieves. illus. by Amy Córdova. University of New Mexico. 2013. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9780826352392; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780826352408.
Gr 3-5–Transcribed and translated here for the first time, this New Mexican legend tells of a farmer who takes on a band of bank robbers and succeeds by dint of courage and intelligence at a task that eluded law enforcement authorities. Bright, large-scale paintings in this bilingual picture book capture the heartwarming appeal of the hero.

MONTEJO , Victor. Popol Vuh: A Sacred Book of the Maya. tr. by David Unger. illus. by Luis Garay. Groundwood. 2009. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9780888999214.
Gr 4-7–The core of this retelling of the Mayan creation myth is the story of Junahpu and Xbalanke, hero twins who battle the Lords of the Underworld to avenge the deaths of their father and uncle. This striking archetypal hero tale includes gore as well as deep commitment to family. Dramatic color paintings help readers envision the details of a challenging story.

MORPURGO , Michael. Beowulf. illus. by Michael Foreman. Candlewick. 2006. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763632069; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780763672973.
Gr 6 Up–A powerful and action-packed prose retelling of the Old English poem in which a Scandinavian hero kills the monster Grendel, the beast’s mother, and, finally, the dragon sea monster. The language echoes some of the alliterative verse of the original, and the colorful illustrations ensure that the book remains magical rather than nightmarish.

MORPURGO , Michael. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. illus. by Michael Foreman. Candlewick. 2004. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780763673215.
Gr 4-8–When the gigantic Green Knight arrives in King Arthur’s court, Gawain takes on the challenge to behead him, and then, a year later, accepts the same fate. Gawain learns that the quest is not about strength but honor. Morpurgo’s retelling in modern prose is compelling and accessible, while Foreman’s luminous illustrations add to the fantastical feel of the tale.

MORRIS , Gerald. The Adventures of Sir Balin the Ill-Fated. illus. by Aaron Renier. (The Knights’ Tales). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2012. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780547680859; pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780544104884; ebk. $4.99. ISBN 9780547680880.
Gr 2-5–One of a series of delightfully irreverent retellings of the stories of King Arthur’s knights, this tale introduces the lesser-known Sir Balin, who receives a prophecy that he will create calamity around him and kill the knight he loves most. Balin is a thoroughly likable character, a comedian of errors. Renier’s illustrations provide gentle humor.

NAPOLI , Donna Jo, retel. Treasury of Egyptian Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Monsters and Mortals. illus. by Christina Balit. National Geographic. 2013. lib. ed. $33.90. ISBN 9781426313813; Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781426313806.
Gr 4-7–Napoli retells the Heliopolitan story of the creation of the world by Ra and the children of the sky goddess Nut, focusing particularly on the story of Isis and Osiris and the conflict with their brother Set. Novelistic elements lend a smoothness and psychological believability to the narrative. Powerful illustrations in an Art Deco style complete the package. Audio version available from Recorded Books.

QITSUALIK , Rachel A. The Shadows That Rush Past: A Collection of Frightening Inuit Folktales. illus. by Emily Fiegenschuh & Larry MacDougall. Inhabit Media. 2011. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9781926569468.
Gr 3-5–All but one of the four stories in this book are hero tales, stories of hunters fighting monsters. All are victorious, but one of them, Nakasungnak, who defeats the giant polar bear, allows his ego to bring about his ultimate defeat by thousands of insects. Atmospheric and haunting retellings and illustrations result in a spooky reading experience.

RUMFORD , James. Beowulf: A Hero’s Tale Retold. illus. by the author. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2007. Tr $17. ISBN 9780618756377.
Gr 3 Up–Rumford retains the muscular energy and directness of the original Anglo-Saxon poem in this picture book retelling of Beowulf’s fight against the monster Grendel and his vengeful mother. This simple and appealing version, accompanied by powerful illustrations, makes the story accessible to somewhat younger readers.

YOLEN , Jane. Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls. illus. by Susan Guevara. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2000. Tr $21. ISBN 9780152020477.
Gr 4-7–Thirteen traditional stories from around the world feature “regular sword-wielding, spear-throwing, villain-stomping, rescuing-type heroes who also happen to be female.” The warrior Nana Miriam from Niger; Tokoyo, the Japanese Samurai maiden; and Li Chi, the killer of a giant serpent from China are a few of the brave and bold women presented in smooth retellings and evocative black-and-white illustrations.

SLJ1410w FT FO Strip2 Heroes and Monsters: Tales from Around the Globe | Focus On  World Myths

Contemporary Imaginings

ARMSTRONG , K.L. & M.A. Marr. Loki’s Wolves. (The Blackwell Pages). Little, Brown. 2013. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316204965; pap. $8. ISBN 9780316204972; ebk. $4.99. ISBN 9780316231107.
Gr 4-6–With references to Norse mythology, this fast-moving fantasy introduces Matt Thorsen, a 13-year-old from a small town in South Dakota, who is chosen as Thor’s representative in an upcoming battle between gods and monsters. Matt tries to convince his classmates Fen and Laurie, both descendants of the trickster Loki, to join with him to save the world. Audio version available from AudioGo.

BOORAEM , Ellen. Texting the Underworld. Dial. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803737044; ebk. $13.99. ISBN 9781101593356.
Gr 5-7–Drawing on Celtic mythology, with guest appearances by the technology-loving Babylonian god of the dead, Greek ferryman Charon, and others, this engagingly funny story tells of Irish-American middle-schooler and supposed wimp Conor O’Neill, who travels to the Underworld to stop the prophesied death of a family member.

BRUCHAC , Joseph. Wabi: A Hero’s Tale. Dial. 2007. pap. 7.99. ISBN 9780142409473; ebk. 7.99. ISBN 9781440684418.
Gr 5 Up–Bruchac draws on elements of Abenaki tales in this thrilling story of an owl shape-changer who becomes a human and falls in love with an Abenaki woman. Banished from the village because of certain owl features, he embarks on a quest to find his true self and battles destructive monsters.

CHADDA , Sarwat . The Savage Fortress. Scholastic. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545385169; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780545385176; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9780545469968.
Gr 6-8–When Ash Mistry goes to India on a family vacation, he finds an ancient arrowhead from the goddess Kali and soon becomes involved in a terrifying conflict between the evil King Ravana and his shapeshifting rakshasas and the forces of good. An exciting and stirring adventure novel that draws on the story of the Ramayana. Audio version available from Random House Audio.

CODY , Matthew. Will in Scarlet. Knopf. 2013. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375968952; Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375868955; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9780375899805.
Gr 4-7–With rich characterization, Cody offers a different interpretation of the Robin Hood legend: Robin starts out as a drunkard, Much is a girl in boys’ clothing, and Will is the son of Lord Shackley. After being cruelly dispossessed, Will escapes to Sherwood Forest, conceals his identity, and convinces Robin’s band to attack Shackley Castle to get revenge. Audio version available from Random House Audio.

GAIMAN , Neil. Odd and the Frost Giants. illus. by Brett Helquist. HarperCollins. 2009. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780061671739; pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780061964879.
Gr 3-6–Gaiman draws on Norse mythology in this quietly humorous and satisfying novella about a Viking boy who is victimized by his stepfather. In archetypal heroic fashion, Odd meets and befriends various animal helpers (really the gods Odin, Thor, and Loki) and is recruited to defeat the frost giants. Helquist’s illustrations are dramatic and evocative. Audio version available from Recorded Books.

GOELMAN , Ari. The Path of Names. Scholastic. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545474306; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545540148.
Gr 5-7–When math and sleight-of-hand expert Dahlia arrives as an unwilling participant in a Jewish summer camp, she sees two girls walk right through her cabin wall. She is drawn into an old and mortally dangerous mystery involving ghosts, possession, the mystical Kabbalah, and a mythical monster, the Golem. A challenging, suspenseful read with a thrilling conclusion.

HEALY , Christopher. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. illus. by Todd Harris. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062117434; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780062117458; ebk. $7.99. ISBN 9780062117441.
Gr 4-6–This takeoff on the heroic Prince Charmings of European fairy tales reveals the back stories of Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav and their gutsy princesses. When Ella feels imprisoned by married life and goes off to find Rapunzel, the tales collide with humorous and suspenseful results. Lighthearted black-and-white drawings add to the fun.

LIN , Grace. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Little, Brown. 2009. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316114271; pap. $9. ISBN 9780316038638; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9780316052603.
Gr 3-5–Desperate to provide comfort for her extremely poor family, Minli embarks on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon, who controls everyone’s destiny. Minli’s quiet confidence and willingness to trust herself and the unusual helpers she meets lead her to her goal. Lin expertly weaves in Chinese folklore that enriches the narrative and moves it forward. Audio version available from Recorded Books.

SLJ1410w FT FO Strip3 Heroes and Monsters: Tales from Around the Globe | Focus On  World Myths

OKORAFOR , Nnedi. Akata Witch. Viking. 2011. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780670011964; ebk. $13.99. ISBN 9781101513798.
Gr 5 Up–An albino Nigerian girl raised in America returns to Nigeria and discovers that she is a Leopard person, or witch. As Sunny and her friends try to defeat a serial killer, Okorafor inventively blends a fantasy thriller with the harsh realities of the discrimination Sunny faces as an albino and great soccer player. Based on Igbo tradition.

PREUS , Margi. West of the Moon. Abrams/Amulet. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419708961; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9781613125069.
Gr 5-8–In this 19th-century tale of slavery in Northern Europe, Astri escapes a brutish goat farmer and leaves for America with her younger sister. Woven throughout are elements of the tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” Like a gem catching the sunlight, this historical novel illuminates the magic of Norwegian folklore and the real-world heroism of a determined girl.

UEHASHI , Nahoko. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. tr. from Japanese by Cathy Hirano. illus. by Yuko Shimizu. Scholastic. 2009. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780545005432; ebk. $7.99. ISBN 9780545311809.
Gr 6 Up–Uehashi draws on aspects of Japanese myth in this thrilling adventure fantasy about a strong, spear-wielding heroine, Balsa, who becomes the secret bodyguard to Prince Chagum. Chagum is believed to have been possessed by an evil spirit and has been ordered assassinated. Fully formed characters inform the action-packed plot.

URSU , Anne. Breadcrumbs. illus. by Erin McGuire. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. 2011. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062015051; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780062015068; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9780062049247.
Gr 4-6– When Hazel’s only friend, Jack, stops speaking to her and then disappears into the forest, she goes to look for him. What she finds stretches her courage and determination beyond anything she could have imagined. Ursu blends Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” and elements of other fairy tales to create a psychologically realistic fantasy with a powerful resolution. Audio version available from Recorded Books.

WILSON , N.D. Boys of Blur. Random. 2014. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780449816745; Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780449816738; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780449816752.
Gr 4-7–Take envy, anger, and small-town racism. Mix them with football, a blended interracial family, the Everglade swamps, Beowulf, and life-energy composed of courage, love, and honesty. The story of Charlie Reynolds bursts from the page with power and verve, as he and his cousin, Cotton, take on the monsters that are tearing the town of Taper apart.

YEP , Laurence . City of Fire. Tom Doherty. 2009. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780765358790; ebk. $5.99. ISBN 9781429946117.
Gr 5-8–An unlikely group of magical and human characters band together to fight evil in this exciting, detail-filled fantasy set in 1941 San Francisco. The heroes fly by magic carpet to Hawaii, where they’re aided by Pele, the volcano goddess. Although multiple perspectives are presented, 12-year-old Scirye and her journey provide the emotional center of this trilogy opener.

ZAHLER , Diane. Princess of the Wild Swans. illus. by Yvonne Gilbert. HarperCollins. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062004925; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780062004956; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9780062102027.
Gr 4-6–Drawing on Andersen’s “Wild Swans” and the Brothers Grimm’s “Six Swans,” the story of Princess Meriel offers a view of inner heroism and endurance. To free her brothers from their evil stepmother’s curse, Meriel must remain mute as she knits garments out of nettles, and the consequences of her success or failure will affect their whole town.

Sue Giffard is a librarian at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City.

Resources for Teachers

Encyclopedia Mythica. Encyclopedia Mythica. (Accessed 8/27/14).
The encyclopedia is edited by Micha F. Lindemans, and the staff includes a number of subject specialists. Entries offer short descriptions of gods and mythological characters. A section on heroes includes information on approximately 50 characters, mostly male and largely focused on Western mythology.

Myth Encyclopedia: Myths and Legends of the World. Advameg, Inc. (Accessed 8/27/14).
Produced by a company that runs numerous reference sites, this one contains information about various gods, types of myths, and mythological systems from different cultures. Unfortunately, no sources are given, and some errors were found. But much of the information is accurate, and there is sufficient coverage to ensure the site’s usefulness. Zachary Hamby. (Accessed 8/27/14).
An author, illustrator, and teacher, Hamby created this site as a resource for teaching mythology creatively. He includes a page on hero myths, links to other websites and videos, resources on connecting mythology to popular culture, and a section on how to create a “Choose Your Own Adventure”–type story.

Websites on Mythology in World Cultures. Cumberland County AVA Center. (Accessed 8/27/14).
Compiled by a media center for public and private schools in Cumberland County, New Jersey, this resource includes a long list of links (most of which are still active), a number of curriculum units with lesson plans and activities, and a few webquests.

]]> 0
Review of the Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:00:49 +0000 Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual: Renewing the World's Bird Supply Since 2031 is the winner of the first-ever 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers' Literature. Read SLJ's review of the title—plus our reviews of the finalists. ]]> Kirkus Review of the Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers LiteratureThe winner of the first-ever 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature is Kate Samworth’s Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual: Renewing the World’s Bird Supply Since 2031 (Clarion, 2014). Modeled on mail order catalogs of the past and present, “Aviary Wonders Inc. is a picture book that widens the definition of the genre. While truly a picture book, it was created for readers aged 10 and up with well-developed sensibilities and senses of humor. Confronting environmental issues in a clever and whimsical way, it is original, highly unexpected, beautiful, and thought-provoking. Aviary Wonders Inc. is by far one of the most creative books we have ever encountered,” says the Kirkus press release.

Clarion Publisher Dinah Stevenson tells SLJ, “I’m speechless with pride and delight.” With this honor, Samworth has earned the prize of $50,000. She joins two other Kirkus Prize winners, Lily King, author of Euphoria (Atlantic Monthly Press) and Roz Chast, author of Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (Bloomsbury), in their respective categories of fiction and nonfiction.

Check out SLJ’s review of winning title—as well as our reviews of the finalists in Young Readers’ Literature (all published in 2014):The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans); The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos (Farrar, Straus & Giroux); The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston (Carolrhoda Lab); The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell (Scholastic); and El Deafo by CC Bell (Abrams/Amulet).

AviaryWonders 245x300 Review of the Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers LiteratureSAMWORTH, Kate. Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual: Renewing the World’s Bird Supply Since 2031. illus. by Kate Samworth. 32p. Clarion. Mar. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-547-97899-4. LC 2013020247.

Gr 4-8–This futuristic mail-order catalog offers hand-crafted parts for ambitious do-it-yourselfers who want to assemble a customized bird. Founded in 2031 after bird populations declined due to habitat loss, insecticides, and other factors, Aviary Wonders provides an “exquisite alternative” to the originals. Part of the book’s wry humor derives from its use of advertising language. Customers are urged to purchase a second beak for 25 percent off so they can dress up their bird “for special occasions.” Pages of bodies, legs, tails, and other parts feature advice on making appropriate choices to ensure components work together well. Optional embellishments, such as the resplendent Hearst collar or twining green Thoreau wattle and comb, make visual references to their namesakes. The detailed, richly colored paintings of the parts are followed by step-by-step instructions and sepia-toned illustrations that underscore the ridiculous undertaking of assembling birds by joining sections with straps and belts. Advice on how to teach the bird to fly and sing underscores the absurdity of the enterprise. Tucked on the descriptive pages are small notes about the decline and extinction of various species. Although the book’s offbeat humor may puzzle many readers, the ecological subtext will resonate with some environmentally concerned children and adults who hope such a catalog will not become a necessary reality.–Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato

ElDeafo1 198x300 Review of the Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers LiteratureRedReviewStar Review of the Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers LiteratureBELL, Cece. El Deafo. illus. by Cece Bell. 248p. Abrams/Amulet. Sept. 2014. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781419710209; pap. $10.95. ISBN 9781419712173.

Gr 2-6 –Cece loses her hearing from spinal meningitis, and takes readers through the arduous journey of learning to lip read and decipher the noise of her hearing aid, with the goal of finding a true friend. This warmly and humorously illustrated full-color graphic novel set in the suburban ‘70s has all the gripping characters and inflated melodrama of late childhood: a crush on a neighborhood boy, the bossy friend, the too-sensitive-to-her-Deafness friend, and the perfect friend, scared away. The characters are all rabbits. The antics of her hearing aid connected to a FM unit (an amplifier the teacher wears) are spectacularly funny. When Cece’s teacher leaves the FM unit on, Cece hears everything: bathroom visits, even teacher lounge improprieties It is her superpower. She deems herself El Deafo! inspired in part by a bullied Deaf child featured in an Afterschool Special. Cece fearlessly fantasizes retaliations. Nevertheless, she rejects ASL because it makes visible what she is trying to hide. She ventures, “Who cares what everyone thinks!” But she does care. She loathes the designation “special,” and wants to pass for hearing. Bell tells it all: the joy of removing her hearing aid in summer, the troubles watching the TV when the actor turns his back, and the agony of slumber party chats in the dark. Included is an honest and revealing afterword, which addresses the author’s early decision not to learn ASL, her more mature appreciation for the language, and her adage that, “Our differences are our superpowers.”–Sara Lissa Paulson, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York

Additional coverage:

Review in SLJ’ blog “Good Comics for Kids”

Review in SLJ blog “A Fuse #8 Production”

SLJ1410 NF PrS Roget Review of the Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers LiteratureRedReviewStar Review of the Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers LiteratureBryant, Jen. The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. illus. by Melissa Sweet. 42p. bibliog. chron. further reading. Eerdmans. 2014. Tr $17.50. ISBN 9780802853851.

Gr 2-5 –Those who have relied upon a thesaurus (meaning treasure house in Greek), either in print or through the tool menu of word processing software, will gain a greater appreciation for the reference tool in this beautifully designed picture book biography of its creator, Peter Roget. Bryant describes bibliophile Roget, taking him from a timid, studious child who was always compiling lists to an accomplished doctor who by 1805 had compiled the beginnings of the first thesaurus. Busy and exuberant, Sweet’s charming watercolor illustrations, layered over collages of vintage images and fonts, capture Roget’s passion for classification while also providing readers new opportunities for discovery (Latin translations of animal names, mathematical terms, and a plethora of synonyms). Expertly researched and well written, Bryant’s narrative not only details the creation of the thesaurus; it also conveys a sense of Roget the man: his shy nature, his keen intelligence, and his passion for knowledge. There truly was a particular blend of artistry and intellect that went into Roget’s book, as evidenced from a reproduced page from the original thesaurus. The book contains extensive back matter, including an incredibly detailed time line that goes into the man’s other inventions (the slide rule, the pocket chess set) and an author and illustrator’s note, as well as Roget quotations that are sure to inspire if not a love of language then at least a search for the perfect turn of phrase. An excellent illustrated biography.–Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

KeyThatSwallowed 196x300 Review of the Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers LiteratureRedReviewStar Review of the Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers LiteratureGantos, Jack. The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza. 160p. (Joey Pigza: Bk. 5). Farrar. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374300838.

Gr 5-7 –The final “Joey Pigza” novel begins as Joey narrates his present situation back in his “roachy row house on Plum St.” He is without a medical patch to treat his ADHD because his mom can’t remember where she hid them. Joey’s father has gotten a botched face-lift and runs away again. When Joey receives a call at school from his frantic mother pleading for him to come home because she’s afraid she will hurt Carter Junior, Joey rushes home, afraid of what he might find. Things go from bad to worse as Joey tries to comfort his mom. She winds up checking herself into a hospital for depression, leaving middle-schooler Joey to care for his baby brother. Woeful metaphors describe Joey’s dysfunctional predicament and ensuing altercations with his dad, who is stalking the family in order to kidnap the baby. Joey takes responsibility for his condition, as well as challenges his father to do the same. This may be the darkest volume yet in Gantos’s series. Readers who have read the previous books and come to know and love Joey will appreciate the irony and emotional punch of his final triumph. Give this groundbreaking, heartbreaking title to readers mature and sensitive enough to understand the author’s black humor and seriousness.–D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH

Additional coverage:

Review in SLJ blog “Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog”

StoryofOwen1 217x300 Review of the Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers LiteratureJOHNSON, E.K. The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim. 312p. Carolrhoda Lab. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781467710664; ebk. $12.95. ISBN 9781467724067. LC 2013020492.

Gr 7 Up–Siobhan is a typical teenager. Her hobbies include composing music, hanging out with friends, and driving her first car. Her biggest conflict is whether or not to tell her parents that she would rather pursue music than go to a university. All of that changes when she meets Owen Thorskard, currently failing algebra and potentially the nation’s next great dragon slayer. Owen, nephew of famous Slayer Lottie Thorskard, goes to high school by day and trains to protect the rural town of Trondheim by night. The two teens become friends when it becomes painfully evident that Owen needs a math tutor. Little does Siobhan know that she’s signing up for a lot more than tutoring. Soon she finds herself working as Owen’s personal Bard. While he slays, she documents; together they work to show the country that dragon slayers are needed in more than just the big cities. Johnston seamlessly blends fantasy with realistic fiction; readers will have a hard time remembering that dragons aren’t an everyday aspect of life. Suggest this title to reluctant readers as the fast-paced plot and witty dialogue will keep them turning pages until the tale’s exciting conclusion. A great addition for any library with a strong fantasy following.–Jennifer Furuyama, Pendleton Public Library, OR

FreedomSummerMurders1 Review of the Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize in Young Readers LiteratureMITCHELL, Don. The Freedom Summer Murders. 256p. bibliog. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. Scholastic. Apr. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545477253; ebk. $18.99. ISBN 9780545633932.

Gr 6-9–The June 1964 murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi’s Neshoba County merits study and reflection not only as a pivotal event in the Civil Rights Movement but also as a yardstick to measure our country’s progress since then toward true racial equality. Why? Because, as Mitchell and others repeatedly suggest in this authoritative and brutally honest chronicle, a major reason that, of the many racial atrocities committed in the South, this one gained such intense national attention and led to decades of investigations and trials is that two of the three victims were white. The author never makes an explicit connection with current events in Florida and elsewhere, but thoughtful readers will have no trouble connecting the dots. He also never uses the word “terrorism,” but he clearly shows it in action by detailing the systematic campaign of threats, intimidation, assaults, and worse to which African Americans, particularly in Mississippi but also throughout the Jim Crow South, were subjected by whites—including, often, law enforcement officials. Distilling court records, printed sources, and original interviews with surviving family members, the author sets the ugly scene, describes the murders, recounts in detail the ensuing efforts to bring the killers to justice (or at least, as he puts it, “a measure of justice”), and offers biographical sketches both of the victims and of four associated heroes who played important roles in the case. A timely, essential account, illustrated with contemporary photos and capped with extensive endnotes and source notes.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York City

]]> 0
Hostile School Environments the Norm for LGBTQ Youth, Says GLSEN Report Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:00:11 +0000 GLSENsurvey Hostile School Environments the Norm for LGBTQ Youth, Says GLSEN Report

Click image to view full report

For LGBTQ youth, school is a potentially dangerous environment, according to a report released by the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) on October 22, “The 2013 National School Climate Survey.” The report confirmed that the hostile educational climates that LGBTQ youth regularly face have adverse academic and social effects.

According to the report, 74 percent of teens were harassed due to their sexual orientation and another 55 percent were bullied due to gender expression. GLSEN found that this directly affected school performance, as 30 percent reported missing at least one day of school because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable due to bullying. Grade point averages for LGBTQ students who experience bullying and harassment is between nine and 15 points lower compared with those of other students.

The situation has improved somewhat in recent years, according to the survey, with 60 percent of LGBTQ students reporting that they hear homophobic remarks, down from more than 80 percent in 2001. The study also found that those teens in schools with LGBTQ-inclusive curriculums and students at schools with supportive staff members were less likely to feel unsafe.

However, there’s clearly still work to be done: only 19 percent of students surveyed are in schools with these curricula. Administrations themselves often enforce discriminatory policies. Twenty-eight percent of students reported that they were disciplined for public displays of affection for which non-LGBTQ students received no punishment.

]]> 1
Curl up with these books about bears | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:00:00 +0000 These enormously appealing picture books show bears both big and small preparing to hibernate for the winter, saying good night to friends, and finding just the right bed. Feasting until full and being safe and warm helps the animals settle in for the duration. Oh, and a rude awakening results in two hungry bears heading to town for a high-spirited romp.

breakingnews Curl up with these books about bears | SLJ SpotlightBiedrzycki, David. Breaking News: Bear Alert. illus. by David Biedrzycki. 32p. ebook available. Charlesbridge. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781580896634.

K-Gr 2 –Better suited to individual reading than storytime, this picture book is loaded with comedic touches that make poring over the pages a lot of fun. The text is minimal, only appearing as the recognizable ticker that runs at the bottom of the television screen during cable news programming or in speech balloons over the heads of citizens being interviewed by reporters. The lack of a fully written narrative requires readers to really delve into the art to glean clues to the story line, a wonderful means for deep engagement. Two bears wake from their winter slumber and decide to take a field trip to civilization, having a ball while townsfolk run this way and that in alarm. The illustrations are big, bold, and delightfully busy. As the bears enjoy their outing, a secondary situation develops involving two thieves and a charming feline sidekick. The criminals and critters cross paths in the end, and the wayward bears are feted as heroes for actions that only coincidentally save the day. Kids will love the goofy grown-ups, round-bellied bears, and tiny jokes—like a diner sign advertising porridge “too hot, too cold, or just right”—embedded in the artwork, and they’ll enjoy putting together all the rib-tickling pieces of the story on their own.–Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

bearhug 256x300 Curl up with these books about bears | SLJ SpotlightMcEwen, Katharine. Bear Hug. illus. by Katharine McEwen. 32p. Candlewick/Templar. 2014. RTE $15.99. ISBN 9780763666309. LC 2013955672.

PreS-K –A young bear prepares for hibernation, just as his parents taught him. He gathers leaves for his cave, feasts on fish and berries, and meets a mate. When winter comes, they slumber in their cozy den, “snug in a big bear hug.” In spring, they awake together and welcome their new cub. As summer becomes autumn, they teach their little one how to get ready for winter, retreating to their cave when snow starts to fall. McEwen’s mostly double-page collage illustrations deftly capture the feel of a dense forest, filled with stylized trees, snowflakes, rocks, and birds. Though the bears are not heavily anthropomorphized, the story is more idealized than factual, as real bears are solitary animals and do not rear their young in family units. An appealing, if somewhat flawed, portrayal of serene bear life amid the changing of seasons.–Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

abedforbear 255x300 Curl up with these books about bears | SLJ SpotlightMcFarland, Clive. A Bed for Bear. illus. by Clive McFarland. 32p. HarperCollins/Harper. Nov. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062237057.

PreS-K –McFarland revisits familiar terrain with the story of Bernard, who feels his regular cave is crowded and uncomfortable. His quest for other accommodations leads to queries with Frog, Bird, Rabbit, Hedgehog, and Badger. When their abodes prove unsuitable, the mouse who’s been trailing Bernard asks what kind of bed he wants. Mouse’s suggestion takes them back to the perfect place—home, of course. McFarland uses watercolors merged in Photoshop to illustrate with an autumn palette and generous white space. A sweet and satisfying bedtime selection.–Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

sleeptight 230x300 Curl up with these books about bears | SLJ SpotlightTeckentrup, Britta. Sleep Tight, Little Bear. illus. by Britta Teckentrup. 40p. NorthSouth Books. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780735841802.

PreS-Gr 1 –Little Bear and his mother are preparing their cave for a long winter’s sleep, but before they settle in, they travel through the forest saying good night to all their friends: Badger, Mommy Fox and her cubs, Deer, Rabbit, the mice, Squirrel, Wolf, and even grumpy Owl. Finally, after snuggling together on a hill to watch the setting sun, they retire to their cozy nest of soft leaves. The flat, mixed-media illustrations vary from spreads depicting the forest habitat to charming vignettes of stylized animals nose-to-nose in farewell. Teckentrup evokes the colors of late autumn by rendering some bare trees, an evergreen in bright red, and the forest hills and floor in different golden hues. As the day wanes, the background transforms from light to ever-darker shades, lightened only temporarily by the disappearing sun. Baby Bear’s desire for reassurance that his mother with remain with him always, and his requests for “one more hug” and “one more kiss” before he nods off are needs often experienced by little ones, making this a fine choice for bedtime. Teachers will find this story, along with the author’s note that describes how each of the bears’ animal friends spends the winter, helpful for sparking discussion about changing seasons, animal habits, and students’ own winter activities.–Marianne Saccardi, Children’s Literature Consultant, Greenwich, CT

]]> 0