School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Wed, 22 Oct 2014 01:48:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rosen Publishing Acquires Nonfiction Children’s Publisher Enslow Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:27:48 +0000 Today, Roger Rosen, CEO and President of Rosen Publishing. an independent educational publishing house serving Pre–K–12 in schools and public libraries, announced the acquisition of Enslow Publishers, Inc., which specializes in nonfiction books for children and young adults.

From the release:

Rosen 300x174 Rosen Publishing Acquires Nonfiction Childrens Publisher EnslowRoger Rosen announced that he has acquired Enslow Publishers, Inc. Continuing operation of the company will be under Enslow Publishing, LLC. Over the years, Enslow’s award-winning titles have been recognized by organizations such as the American Library Association, the NAACP, the National Council for Social Studies, and the Society of School Librarians International. Books cover subjects including biography, contemporary issues, health and drug education, history and government, holidays and customs, math, science and technology, science projects and experiments, sports, and recreation.

In announcing the sale, Rosen said, “Enslow will be maintained as an independent house, with its own dedicated editorial team and mission. It reflects my continuing commitment to a strong publishing industry serving the needs of the library and classroom markets. In addition to continuing Enslow’s high editorial standards, I will be introducing a broad range of digital and other initiatives I have successfully used to transform publishing companies under my direction into diverse media companies. New ebooks, sophisticated interactive titles, and databases are planned. Our growing direct-to-parent business, with information delivered through sophisticated digital platforms that we have developed, benefits from an expanding content base covering a wide range of subjects and age levels. Supportive and involved parents committed to the educational success of their children are a key and growing part of the future market we are evolving to serve.”

enslow Rosen Publishing Acquires Nonfiction Childrens Publisher EnslowEnslow Publishers, Inc. was most recently under the direction of Mark and Brian Enslow, sons of the company founder Ridley M. Enslow, Jr. In announcing the sale, Mark Enslow said, “We are delighted to make this transition. We feel that Roger Rosen and his publishing team will provide excellent continuity for the Enslow brand and programs.”

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Games Make Inroads into the Classroom Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:21:20 +0000 Games efficacy 600 Games Make Inroads into the Classroom

Digital games are establishing a strong presence in K–8 classrooms, according to a study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Games and Learning Publishing Council. Almost three quarters of 700 U.S. teachers surveyed use digital games for instruction, and four out of five of those teachers reported that their students play games at school at least once a month, according to the study released October 20.

From the release:

Teachers who use games more often found greater improvement in their students’ learning across subject areas. However, the study also reveals that only 42 percent of teachers say that games have improved students’ science learning (compared to 71 percent in math), despite research suggesting that games are well suited for teaching complex scientific concepts.

As Bring Your Own Device and 1:1 computing policies gain prominence in classrooms, it is of note that 37 percent of game-using teachers report digital games as being effective in improving students’ social skills, which is low compared to other skills queried. Teachers whose students primarily play together (in pairs, small groups, as a whole class) were more likely to report improvements in social skills than teachers whose students play alone.

The survey also reveals that teachers would benefit from more comprehensive training to take better advantage of digital games. Of the teachers surveyed, just eight percent said they received training on digital game integration.

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The True Cost of Free Internet Services | Next Big Thing Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:20:57 +0000 In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Putnam), the 1966 Hugo Award-winning science fiction masterpiece by Robert A. Heinlein, the economy of the moon colonies runs under a single key idea: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” The statement refers to the historic practice of bars offering “free lunch” to patrons. The meal, however, consisted of salty foods, which encouraged more drinking. The Internet may seem like a free lunch. But it isn’t. At a recent Google Camp, I was surprised when a speaker said that she never pays for services online and wouldn’t recommend it. I thought, really? I guess she doesn’t mind those pop-up ads, and what about your data that’s mined and sold by the company providing the “free” product? Often, annoying ads and exposure of personal data are the price one pays for free services. I’m all for paying a fair price for a fair deal. I want companies that provide quality services to be successful and am willing to pay for the value they provide. EasyBib, for example, is a pretty slick tool for creating citations. This service, and similar products like NoodleTools, guide students through the full writing process, from source selection to final paper. You can use the free version of EasyBib and other products—if you love ads. Nothing against free stuff; companies have to make money from no-fee tools. But there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Free versions cost companies in server time and bandwidth fees. If I find enough value in a product to keep coming back to it, I’d rather pay the monthly or annual fee to have an enhanced, ad-free experience. School prices are reasonable for both NoodleTools and EasyBib, and most districts in my region happily use these tools.

All-or-nothing policies

There’s a trend toward an all-or-nothing policy in regard to service and content fees. PBS has “free,” ad-supported streaming of NOVA episodes. But it is extremely difficult for schools to purchase rights to the show for ad-free streaming, outside of a massive subscription package. Scholastic has terminated Storia as an ebook selection platform and gone to a subscription deal. Pay for everything, or get nothing. I like the idea of subscription music services like Spotify, for which I pay for full access, even though I don’t listen to every genre. In cash-strapped schools, however, I can’t reconcile paying for an enormous subscription package with content we’ll never use. Our job as librarians is to curate the best content amid a flood of titles. Consumers and providers have to come to a happy medium. Consumers can’t expect a free lunch on the Internet, and content providers must continue to sell individual titles rather than whole-package subscriptions. Unless we want to continue to pretend that telling kids to ignore the ads plastered on the “free” service is a form of media literacy instruction, librarians must be willing and able to pay for the things that enrich teaching and learning.]]> 0
SLJ Debuts ‘Fuse #8 TV’ Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:12:27 +0000   Fuse8TV 600 SLJ Debuts Fuse #8 TV

Betsy Bird has a TV show. Spinning off Bird’s blog “A Fuse #8 Production” on School Library Journal, “Fuse #8 TV” is a monthly webcast hosted by Bird—and the first episode is now available.

Opening with a brief video starring Bird and fellow blogger Travis Jonker of “100 Scope Notes,” the first episode features Bird’s conversation—recorded live—with authors Kekla Magoon and Coe Booth and was sponsored by Scholastic.

Next on “Fuse #8 TV”: a visit to the Eric Carle Museum as well as a “super secret” guest to be announced, says Bird.

For more on the show, visit

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Q & A: Hervé Tullet on How He Works, Why He Got into Children’s Books, and His Mix It Up Tour Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:45:28 +0000 SLJ about taking his creative process to schools and libraries in his latest Mix It Up tour that hit Brooklyn Public Library on October 19. ]]> Herve Tullet photo 392x600 Q & A: Hervé Tullet on How He Works, Why He Got into Childrens Books, and His Mix It Up TourAuthor and illustrator Hervé Tullet, who resides in Paris, rarely fails to impress. Innovative and original, his books include the recent Mix It Up (Chronicle, 2014), a fascinating look at color; the vibrant I Am Blop! (Phaidon, 2013); and Help! We Need a Title (Candlewick, 2014), Tullet’s deconstruction of the concept of the book. His titles not only entertain children for hours—they are also thought-provoking works of art that encourage kids and adults alike to reconsider their assumptions of what a picture book can be. To promote Mix It Up, Tullet has taken his genius to the road, and through painting presentations at schools and libraries all over the world, children create their own artwork at Tullet’s behest.

This past Sunday, on October 19, Tullet took part in a family painting event at New York City’s Brooklyn Public Library, as part of his Mix It Up tour, where the artist led a group mural painting for nearly 400 attendees and read aloud from his books. He recently caught up with SLJ, explaining how he works, what his thoughts are on his work with children, and what the future has in store.

You initially worked as an art director for several years. How did you first get into writing children’s books?

It was a combination of things. But most important was that I was going to be a father for the first time. I wanted my child to see me [in a new way], so I jumped into illustration. When I was [working on] children’s books [initially], it was during my free time—it wasn’t my work. Children’s books were always an experiment.

Brainhive EH 140813 MixingColors Q & A: Hervé Tullet on How He Works, Why He Got into Childrens Books, and His Mix It Up TourCan you talk about your creative process? What is your studio like?

My studio is my airplane when I’m traveling. My studio is my shower. My studio is my brain. Of course, I’ve got an [actual] studio in Paris…. It’s not so big. But I need it when I have to draw. I’m not obsessed with drawing everyday. [But] my studio is definitely my brain.

How do you approach your presentations with kids?

It’s the same in [a presentation] as it is with my books—everybody can come and play. Usually I’ve got a megaphone, and I give very simple prompts. I feel the audience, and I try to [set] a kind of rhythm with my voice. It turns into a kind of dance, because if I say, “Just do a dot,” you can see the gestures of the people, and it turns into something quite fun and interesting at the end.

Watch a demonstration of Tullet’s painting presentation with school children in Japan on YouTube:

On your “Mix It Up” tour, is it hard to work with kids from different countries?

It’s never hard. In each country, [there’s a different] kind of population—it could be wealthy or underprivileged—but what doesn’t change is that there are [people coming to me], because they want to do something. I’ve got very simple and basic material. I’m coming with my squiggles, I’m coming with my dots, I’m coming with my splotches and stains. I’m coming with basic materials that everyone can [use]. One of my favorite sentences is, “So now what do I do.” Because we are going to do something together. We find the way together. [At first, going into schools,] I didn’t want them to draw, because I thought it was filler. But I began to play when I was talking, [such as asking] a child to come and draw with me. [Now my workshop are] something very collective, and we share something, and it turns into an experience.

Your books seem so simple yet you’ve managed to really interact with readers. How do you do it?

It started with my first book, Comment Papa a recontré Maman (Seuil Jeunesse, 2002). I can explain all of my books through this one. When I created this book, I understood that [there were three elements]: the book, someone who can read it (an adult), and the child. The book will talk to [both] of them. I used to say that I create empty books, or books with blanks. I knew that everybody would be able to add something. What is interesting is what they will add, the child or the adult.

Herve Tullet art 600x600 Q & A: Hervé Tullet on How He Works, Why He Got into Childrens Books, and His Mix It Up Tour

Original artwork from Tullet’s exhibition at the Brooklyn Public Library.

Were books a big part of your own childhood?

I discovered books quite late. I think I was saved by very good teachers. When I was a teenager, I didn’t understand the world around me. A teacher [turned me on to] surrealism, and I discovered art, cinema, and museums. So [my discovery of books] came really late, quite late, at [age] 16 or 17.

What’s next for you?

I’m working at the moment on a book [that] explains the way I’m leading my workshops [with kids]. It’s a way to convey what I did in so many places. And I’m working on the idea of living for some time in the United States. It’s quite a serious plan, I [am thinking for] August 2015. It could be New York.

An exhibition of Tullet’s works will be on display in the Grand Lobby of the Brooklyn Public Library until February 1, 2015.

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Adobe’s Lax Security Raises Concerns About Student Privacy Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:09:13 +0000 ]]> 0 Opinion: State Legislation and Parent Advocates Must Bridge Skills Gap Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:34:06 +0000 NACE graphic 600x370 Opinion: State Legislation and Parent Advocates Must Bridge Skills Gap

Click image to see NACE 2014 study.

Being information literate is one of the top five most important skills to employers, according to ”The Job Outlook for the Class of 2014” report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). However, a  2014 Project Information Literacy (PIL) study, “How College Graduates Solve Information Problems Once They Join The Workplace,” reveals that while newly hired college graduates have computer know-how and can input a few key words using a search engine, their information literacy skills don’t exhibit problem-solving, patience, and evaluation skills.

Possessing employable information literacy starts well before college. Some states, including New York and Oregon, have legislation in place intended to bolster student information literacy and put certified school librarians in schools. However, New York State, which recently ordered New York City’s Department of Education to comply with minimum certified librarian staffing requirements, is a prime example of how, when push comes to shove, policy doesn’t necessarily play out into practice in schools.

OregonStateLibraryPicture 300x225 Opinion: State Legislation and Parent Advocates Must Bridge Skills Gap

Oregon State Library in Salem, OR. Photo courtesy of Oregon State Library.

However, having school library policy in place is a necessary launch pad to support information literacy from the get go. For example, the state of Oregon passed the Strong School Libraries Act (House Bill 2586) in 2009 (which became law in 2010), and now school districts must account for “strong school library programs” in their district continuous improvement plans (CIPs) that they submit to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). Submissions are currently on a three-year rotation. In December 2013, ODE updated the related Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR), 581-022-0606, and around the same time, revealed the updated CIP which included two school library indicators.

Oregon is a state that needs self-assessment: the number of licensed school librarians in the state has dropped from 818 full-time equivalents in 1980 to only 144 in 2013, a decrease of 82 percent, says Jennifer Maurer, school library consultant at Salem’s Oregon State Library. Meanwhile, the number of students per librarian has increased significantly: in 1980 there was one librarian per 547 students, compared with almost 3,915 students per librarian in 2013, an increase of 615 percent.

Candace Watkins 225x300 Opinion: State Legislation and Parent Advocates Must Bridge Skills Gap

Candace Watkins

Candice Watkins, director of the Dora Badollet Library at Clatsop Community College in Astoria, OR—and president of the Oregon Library Association—says she’s seen the skills gap [in Oregon] first hand and points to the lack of certified librarians in schools as the culprit.

“One of the good things about the Common Core… is that information literacy is sprinkled throughout,” says Watkins, “… the standards are great, but the infrastructure for getting our kids up to the standards is lacking.”

Certified library staff is not mandated by Oregon’s Strong School Libraries Act, but it should become difficult over time for districts to ignore the library indicator that addresses providing “instruction in information literacy and research proficiencies” if there is no library instruction occurring in the district, says Maurer. The OAR that covers school library programs, 581-022-1520, is vague about school library staffing. However, a document created by the Oregon Department of Education staff to support district employees completing CIPs indicates that “the evidence is clear that district policy and hiring practice should favor placing a full-time, certified school librarian in each school library.”

Passing legislation alone isn’t the cure, parent and library activist Dawn Prochovnic, from Beaverton, OR, has found. After budget cuts eliminated all of the certified librarians in her kids’ school district in 2012, she says the district was able to regain most of its financial stability through a local levy and increased state funding. However, the school librarian positions weren’t reinstated. Instead, one new district-level librarian position was created, and three certified librarians currently oversee library services for 40,000 students in 51 schools.

Dawn Prochovic 264x300 Opinion: State Legislation and Parent Advocates Must Bridge Skills Gap

Dawn Prochovic

Prochovnic, recounts, in a September 2014 blog post, that during a recent School Library Advocacy Council meeting, one of the mothers there asked what her daughter was missing out on without librarians in the school.

“Your daughter is missing out on the Newbery Club, and a professionally administered Oregon Battle of the Books program,” Prochovnic replied, “…deep literature studies and lunchtime book clubs (and in some cases the ability to enter the library during lunchtime and before/after school because the library assistants are often assigned to supervise the lunchroom and/or playground)… school author visits that are tied to and embedded in school-wide curriculum and carefully procured book collections that are developed with your child’s… interests in mind… and she is missing out on her own personal librarian putting a book into her hand and saying, ‘You are going to love this book. I can’t wait until you can read it.’”

“There’s a sense that if there are books in a room, a person to check them out, a place where kids can Google things, and a classroom teacher, then the kids have what they need,” she says. “But you’ve lost your subject matter expert.”

Part of the problem, library advocates find, is that the debate is being incorrectly framed as a choice between books and technology, rather than an overarching mission to teach information literacy skills and place the task in the hands of subject matter experts—certified librarians. It takes unified advocacy to pass and enforce school library legislation, like in the case of New York State. It also takes parents, like Prochovnic, taking a stand and working together with librarians and teachers and organizational groups to make the difference. “We have to have parents saying ‘my kid is worth this,” said Terri Grief, president of the American Association of School Librarians.

Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning novelist of books for young people and a political columnist for Her latest YA novel, Backlash, will be published by Scholastic in April 2015.

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A Look Back and a Look Forward | Reference Online Databases Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:24:04 +0000 SLJ1410w Ref CoreConcepts A Look Back and a Look Forward | Reference Online Databases

These recent online databases, from Rosen and World Book, take on science and history, respectively. While Rosen’s Core Concepts: Chemistry is just the thing for budding young scientists, World Book’s Timelines simplifies history, allowing users to access and create specific chronologies.


Rosen adds a third digital resource to its suite of scientific database series. Core Concepts: Chemistry offers a wealth of information in a straightforward, engaging format. Like other databases from the Core Concepts series, this one packs well-chosen articles, activities, and resources into a user friendly interface.

Grade Level 6 & Up

Cost Subscription pricing for Core Concepts: Chemistry is tiered, based on student enrollment or cardholder numbers, and begins at $595 per year.

Ease of Use and Visual Appeal As with previous databases from this series, Rosen proclaims this particular addition to be a “content-driven, visually stimulating, and media-rich online science resource.” And that it is. This easy-to-navigate site blends readable prose with an engaging format, moving users seamlessly from one topic to the next. The site includes a basic search bar, intuitive navigation tabs, and two centralized boxes, one featuring a spotlighted “Core Idea” (which at the time of this review was “Solid, Liquid, or Gas?”) and another containing a brief synopsis of an aspect of “Chemistry in Action” and brief video clip.

Users are given the option to search articles and topics by browsing alphabetically arranged hyperlinked items. Clicking on individual entries reveals a visually appealing, well-arranged layout complete with black font, a colorful photo or two, and numerous hyperlinked terms that work well for cross-referencing. One example is the article on “Nuclear Reactions,” which includes the subcategories “Inside the Nucleus” and “Nuclear Energy,” as well as a bibliography, glossary, and handy Periodic Table Reference Guide. Left side tabs enable users to quickly and easily navigate the various sections and additional resources without losing track. Each section also provides citations for MLA, APA, and Chicago formats. As with Rosen’s other offerings, this one includes the ReadSpeaker text-to-speech function.

Content The material is comprehensive and thorough. The navigation tabs on the landing page contain categories such as “Atoms and Molecules,” “Biochemistry,” “Chemical Reactions,” “Chemistry in Your World,” “Energy and Reactions,” and “Periodic Table.” By clicking on these tabs, users encounter brief write-ups about the topic and listing of subcategories with both a thumbnail image and “Read More” option. One example is the Atoms and Molecules tab, which contains subcategories, including “Matter Defined,” “Inside Atoms,” “Radioactivity,” “Element Basics,” and “Atomic Pioneer Lise Meitner.” Included within the “Scientist Biographies” section are a number of well-structured biographical sketches of pioneers in the field, such as Gertrude Elion, Antoine Lavoisier, and Michael Faraday.

The “Explore, Create, Learn” tab contains a wealth of tools for users to create a multimedia presentation, podcast, public service announcement, or social media campaign. Also in this section are the interactive time lines for contextual exploration, complete with embedded video clips that add interesting tidbits to the presentation. Another quality feature are the video galleries, opportunity to study with biology flash cards, and a number of other experiments and hands-on activities. The “Chemical Reactions: Moving Molecules” module lets users learn about chemical reactions by combining a chain of elements to either hydrogen or oxygen.

Resources for Teachers and Librarians In addition to supporting the national science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education program, Core Concepts: Chemistry offers “Curriculum Correlations” for Next Generation Science Standards and other national sci-ence standards, state and provincial standards for science, language arts, and mathematics, along with Common Core state standards for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics.

Verdict A great companion to Rosen’s other scientific databases, this is a useful tool that is both highly accessible and packed with informative material presented in an unusually uncomplicated package. Recommended for middle and high school media centers supporting a chemistry curriculum.

Brian Odom, Birmingham, AL.

World Book Timelines

SLJ1410w Ref World books A Look Back and a Look Forward | Reference Online DatabasesFull of promise but ultimately flawed, World Book’s new historical database offers users the opportunity to browse time lines categorized by subject and time period, as well as to create their own time lines. Though this is a creative and innovative approach to history, the execution leaves much to be desired.

Grade Level 3 & Up

Cost Part of a larger subscription to Student, Advanced, Info Finder, Online Reference Center, Discover, and Academic

Overview Users can browse ready-made time lines by categories such as arts, sports, history, geography, and science. They can also edit these existing time lines, as well as create and edit their own, by searching and downloading images and events from the World Book database.

Ease of Use and Visual Appeal The interface is sleek and elegant. The homepage features minimal graphics, and the focus is on the eight clearly delineated categories: “Art,” “Literature,” “Notable People,” “Parts of the World,” “Science and Technology,” “Society and Culture,” “Sports,” and “World History.” When users click on a category, subdivisions appear. Within each, users will find one or more time lines relating to the subject. For instance, “Parts of the World” contains the subdivisions “Africa,” “Australia,” “Europe,” and “Canada,” among others, and “Europe” contains time lines titled “European countries,” “European history,” “Ireland,” and “Notable Europeans.”

The time lines themselves are sparse and pared down, with a deep blue background. Users can zoom in or click on individual events. Most, but not all, of the entries are accompanied by a small thumbnail image.

How It Works In addition to accessing existing time lines, users can edit time lines and create their own. They can add to the text, upload pictures from the World Book collection, or upload their own images. For instance, students perusing Leonardo da Vinci’s time line can place an image of Rembrandt’s self-portrait next to da Vinci’s. Time lines can be saved and accessed later. There are a few features that, while purely cosmetic, will appeal to kids, such as the option to choose background themes and colors and a main image.

However, there are several aspects that aren’t particularly useful. Students can zoom in and out of a time line, but doing so doesn’t provide more detailed descriptions or facts. The ability to download events and images from World Book’s database to add to time lines isn’t helpful or reliable, as students aren’t given any guidance in order to conduct their search. Users with little to no knowledge of the subject or what World Book’s database encompasses may find themselves limited.

Students also have the option to search by keyword, but doing so is problematic. Searches for Vincent Van Gogh and Mary Cassatt yielded no hits, yet doing a search of the “European Paintings 1800s” time line does show both. Those relying upon a keyword search could potentially miss out on important information.

Content Each specific time line runs the gamut in terms of material, all of which is presented neatly and, of course, chronologically. Ronald Reagan’s time line, for example, begins with his birth in 1911 and lists major and interesting events: his first film, first political office, wedding date, and so on.

However, at the time this product was available for review, there were gaps—some quite big—in the content. Many topics, significant either because of kid appeal or because they are perennial curricula presences, are represented spottily or not at all. For instance, there are time lines devoted to only two visual artists: Leonardo DaVinci and Michelangelo. Similarly, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, a widely read Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, does not appear on the American literature time line, though there is an entry on Charles Olson’s Maximus Poems.

This database contains plenty of content, but much of it is either incomplete or of questionable use to the average American student. The “Notable People” category is thorough enough to include time lines for “Notable Canadians” and “Notable Australians” but fails to list Frederick Douglass in the “Notable Americans” time line. Similarly, the “Inventions That Changed the World” time line shows the introduction of air-conditioning for large buildings (1902) but does not include the invention of the first mechanical cotton gin (1793), a significant part of students’ curriculum.

Verdict This database has so much promise, but in its current state, it is only marginally useful. Educators should give it a pass for now.

Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NC

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#WeNeedDiverseBooks: Realistic fiction with diverse protagonists | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:00:01 +0000 With the recent call for diverse books for kids of all ages (, we’re happy to see new titles by debut and celebrated authors with protagonists who haven’t always been in the spotlight. From a grieving African American teen working at a funeral home to a teen in war-torn Zimbabwe, these characters defy stereotypes and will ring true for all young adult readers.

edgeofnowhere 225x300 #WeNeedDiverseBooks: Realistic fiction with diverse protagonists | SLJ SpotlightRedReviewStar #WeNeedDiverseBooks: Realistic fiction with diverse protagonists | SLJ SpotlightSmelcer, John. Edge of Nowhere. 154p. Leapfrog. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781935248576.

Gr 7 Up –Sixteen-year-old Seth Evanoff mourns his mother’s unexpected death. For comfort, he eats more than his share of junk food and escapes from life through a portal of video games on his tablet. Seth works with his father on a commercial salmon fishing boat in the Prince William Sound, and during a storm, he and his loyal dog, Tucker, are tossed into the drink. So begins the coming-of-age journey of Seth and Tucker as they toil and swim among a chain of remote islands toward home. Seth uses wisdom from his Native Alaskan culture and common sense to survive a summer season of challenges. Smelcer’s prose is lyrical, straightforward, and brilliant. This is an example of authentic Native Alaskan storytelling at its best. Readers are drawn immediately into this realistic modern-day vision-quest scenario and easily identify and empathize with the characters. The excitement and fast pace of the action are reminiscent of Jack London stories. This novel would make a versatile addition to any secondary English or multicultural curriculum. Not to be missed.–Naomi Caldwell, Alabama State University, Montgomery, AL

boyinblacksuit 198x300 #WeNeedDiverseBooks: Realistic fiction with diverse protagonists | SLJ SpotlightReynolds, Jason. The Boy in the Black Suit. 256p. S. & S./Atheneum. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442459502; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442459526. LC 2014001493.

Gr 7 Up –Matt’s mother just died, and his dad isn’t coping well, hanging out with the local drunk and downing whiskey, which results in his getting hit by a car and landing in the hospital. Matt is also grieving his mom’s death and now he’s on his own, until he lands a job at the local funeral home: $15 an hour and Mr. Ray as his boss. Attending other people’s funerals helps the teen come to grips with his own grief. Hearing mourners express their real thoughts of suffering at each funeral allows Matt to figure out his own feelings. Mr. Ray is wise and shows up at all the right times to help out the struggling young man, and when Mr. Ray’s secrets come to light, he appears even cooler in Matt’s eyes. Amid all this, Matt meets Lovey, the girl of his dreams, who is smart, funny, gorgeous, and tough. A mystery intersecting Lovey’s life and that of Matt’s best friend, Chris, deepens the plot. Written in a breezy style with complex characters who have real lives, this is another hit for Reynolds, fresh off the success of his When I Was the Greatest (S. & S., 2014). The author’s seemingly effortless writing shines in this slice-of-life story, which covers a lot of the protagonist’s emotional ground. The realistic setting and character-driven tale keeps readers turning the pages of this winner.–Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, San Leandro, CA

diamondboy 198x300 #WeNeedDiverseBooks: Realistic fiction with diverse protagonists | SLJ SpotlightWilliams, Michael. Diamond Boy. 400p. Little, Brown. Dec. 2014. pap. $18. ISBN 9780316320696; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316320665. LC 2013042071.

Gr 9 Up –Patson Moyo’s life is perfectly ordinary. He is on the cross-country team with his best friend, Sheena. His father, a teacher, is often a little dreamy but a wonderful storyteller. His perky little sister, Grace, loves to play games on his cell phone. Patson never would have guessed that his smart, university-graduate father, who had won the Outstanding Teacher Award four years in a row, can barely make ends meet, due to government corruption and the massive devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar. Egged on by Patson’s stepmother, Sylvia, the Moyos decide to improve their situation by traveling to Marage where Sylvia’s brother lives and it is claimed that there are “diamonds for everyone.” The power of Patson’s story is rooted in the very mundane rites of daily life that even modern American teenagers will find familiar—the emoticon-filled texting between Patson and his sister, the angst and anxiety of a kiss between friends—juxtaposed with the real and menacing danger of the brutal whims of corrupt army officers and traitorous fellow miners. Diamond Boy is a companion novel to Williams’s other book about war-torn Zimbabwe, Now Is the Time for Running (Little Brown, 2013). Readers of his past work will find a few familiar characters here, but even readers new to Williams’s fiction will be similarly engrossed by his deft, unflinching prose. Teens will be left haunted by Patson’s harsh yet essentially hopeful journey, where greed, despair, luck, and wonder intertwine on the diamond fields of Marage.–Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

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Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014 Fri, 17 Oct 2014 03:41:31 +0000 The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher are revealed in this month’s lineup.]]> SLJ1410w Multimedia Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014

See our complete list of
October 2014 SLJ Stars.

RedReviewStar Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014Ernest & Celestine. 80 min. Dist. by Cinedigm. 2014. $34.95. UPC 025192222030.

K-Gr 4 –Ernest is a hungry bear who is working his way through winter hibernation, and Celestine is a young mouse who collects teeth for a dentist but who dreams of a more creative life. In their world, Ernest and Celestine have been taught that bears and mice never mix, since bears are big and bad and eat little mice, whereas mice are disgusting little thieves who infest a home. The two become unlikely friends through a series of misadventures in which they break down these stereotypes, beginning when Celestine shows Ernest where to find food in exchange for not being eaten by him. When the two are driven out of their respective communities for stealing food and teeth (in a macabre subplot), they begin a new life together, finding a friendship that they didn’t believe was possible. Their peace is broken when the mice capture Ernest and the bears take Celestine into custody. The film culminates in two simultaneous courtroom scenes, where both Celestine and Ernest defend their friendship while challenging the prejudice of the community. Only when the courtrooms catch fire and both Ernest and Celestine act as heroes do the members of the communities open their hearts and minds. This sweet story, with subtle but beautiful watercolor animation, will tug at heartstrings. The voice actors (including the late Lauren Bacall) bring verve to the characters. This is clearly an allegory about prejudice and racism, and even young viewers will understand that stereotypes are unfair and that it is better to be kind. With its heartwarming, relatable characters and important message about love, it is no wonder that this film was nominated earlier this year for an Academy Award for best animated feature.–Jenny Ventling, Greene County Public Library, OH

RedReviewStar Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014The Girls in the Band. 88 min and 57 min. Dist. by Kino Lorber Edu. 2013. $99. UPC 823857178124.

Gr 6 Up –What was conspicuous about women jazz musicians in the big band era was their near absence. Those lucky enough to be asked to sit in with a band were not accepted by male peers and had short tenures. How women broke into the world of jazz, as revealed in this exceptional documentary, is poignant and disturbing. The resulting all-women orchestras enjoyed fewer bookings and lower pay than their male counterparts. The film focuses on the early days when women’s orchestras, facing gender discrimination, were forced to wear ridiculous costumes, required to have long hair, and told to smile, as if their worth as musicians was secondary to their glamourous images. Personal interviews and historic film clips vividly reveal the struggles these women faced. Especially moving are the story of a young white woman, Rosalind Cron, who joined the predominantly African American International Sweethearts of Rhythm, and the perils of touring in the Jim Crow South. Also covered are the years during World War II, when work was easier to find, and the impact of the feminist movement of the 1970s. There is a wealth of extras, including extended interviews with these trailblazers and advice for women who aspire to work in the field. An accompanying teachers’ guide provides a rich resource of ideas for classroom extension, and a flash drive has online links to even more resources. This provocative and entertaining film will enlighten student viewers across many disciplines.–Constance Dickerson, Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, OH

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

RedReviewStar Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014Mann, Jennifer K. Two Speckled Eggs. 1 CD. 15 min. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490634258. digital download.

PreS-Gr 2 –Ginger wants to have a birthday party, but her mother insists the guest list be all-inclusive, which means including weird Lyla Browning, who smells like old leaves. No party equals no presents, so Ginger relents. Not surprisingly, Lyla’s gift is odd—two small candy eggs in a homemade bird’s nest. Yet when Ginger’s friends decide to play party games by their own rules (peeking during blindman’s bluff, pinning the donkey’s tail on one another) followed by mocking the birthday cake’s unusual flavor—pineapple and coconut—Ginger begins to notice that Lyla really is different, in all the best ways. Solid narration is provided by Michele O. Medlin, who slides easily between snide comments from Ginger’s friends to the sweetness of the two girls discovering genuine friendship. A second track with page-turning signals is included, making this a nice complement to the hardcover edition. This is a wonderful story on kindness, friendship, and the “gift” of individuality. A top pick.–Cheryl ­Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City Schools, OH

RedReviewStar Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014CLEMENTS, Andrew. The Map Trap. 2 CDs. 2:29 hrs. S. & S. Audio. 2014. $14.99. ISBN 9781442357013. digital download.

Gr 3-6 –Alton Ziegler is crazy about maps. He particularly loves the way they can visually display any manner of information in a variety of ways. Surreptitiously, he collects data and creats humorous maps detailing such trivia as the popularity of lunchroom tables (depicted as a topographical map of the cafeteria) or a weather map of a teacher’s clothes. Striped tie today? Look out—the probability of a pop quiz is high. He never meant for anyone to see his collection, but when it’s “mapnapped,” there’s no telling where the road might lead. Keith Nobbs is perfectly cast as the narrator. He creates a pensive Alton that fits the mood of the story. Clements’s (In Harm’s Way) use of subjective third-person narration is interesting in that the listener is privy to the inner concerns not only of Alton but of his teacher Miss Wheeling as well. Rarely is a teacher’s perspective presented with such honesty and clarity in a middle grade novel. Though Nobbs’s voice sometimes cracks when portraying female characters, his delivery, nonetheless, is still pleasing and believable. The Map Trap is a thoughtful, holistic look at the middle school environment that will have wide appeal.–Lisa ­Taylor, Ocean County Library, NJ

RedReviewStar Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014Colfer, Chris. A Grimm Warning. (The Land of Stories: Bk. 3). 9 CDs. 10:05 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2014. $25. ISBN 9781478955801. digital download.

Gr 4 Up –This delightful installment brings listeners back into Colfer’s (The Enchantress Returns) unique fairy tale realm with twins Conner and Alex Bailey. Alex has settled into her training as a fairy godmother, while Conner is forced to work his way through school trying to be “normal,” which is very difficult when you have fairy blood. When brand-new Brothers Grimm tales are discovered in Germany, Conner’s interest is piqued. It’s lucky that his class is heading there on a field trip, even luckier that his crush, Bree, is going as well. As the Grimms’ tales are read, Conner realizes these stories are warnings about events that’ll happen 200 years in the future—which is TODAY. Frantic, Conner must find a way back to the Land of Stories to warn his sister and grandmother of impending doom. Colfer narrates his tale with ease, creating the illusion of more than one voice. Familiarity with previous installments is not completely necessary to follow the story; however, listeners will most likely want to hear the first two and will definitely be clamoring for the fourth due to the epic cliff-hanger. A great choice for fantasy and fractured fairy tales enthusiasts.–Amanda Schiavulli, Finger Lakes Library System, NY

RedReviewStar Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014Gibson, Julia Mary. Copper Magic. 8 CDs. 9 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $87.75. ISBN 9781490627557. Playaway, digital download.

Gr 5-9 –It’s 1906, and 12-year-old Violet Blake feels abandoned. Her half-Odawa mother and brother are away, and she fears they may never return. She goes to the place where her mother would pick herbs and unearths a magical copper hand. She wishes for a new dress. When her wish is granted, she wishes for the return of her family. Will the hand be able to bring her family back together? Narrator Sandy Rustin’s detailed voices and distinct intonations are engaging and complement the author’s unique writing style. Interwoven plotlines are brought together expertly with a spellbinding effect. The author’s treatment of minorities, particularly Native Americans, is handled with great care. Readers who enjoy magic, adventure, historical fiction, and Scott O’Dell’s books will be whisked into Violet’s world.–Jessica Moody, Olympus Jr. High, Holladay, UT

RedReviewStar Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014Lawson, Jessica. The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher. 5 CDs. 5:59 hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2014. $39.99. ISBN 9781629239385. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 3-7 –It’s 1860, and 11-year-old Becky Thatcher has just moved to St. Petersburg, Missouri. She’s looking for big-time adventure in this small town, and once she meets Sid Sawyer, it doesn’t take her long to find it. Pretty soon, she’s sneaking out after dark, stealing graveyard dirt at midnight, and keeping an eye out for dead cats to help her win a bet. The only obstacle standing between her and even more excitement is goody-goody tattletale Tom Sawyer. This fast-paced tale is the perfect introduction to Mark Twain’s classic characters, but readers who are already familiar with Tom, Sid, Becky, and the Widow Douglas will also appreciate this imaginative, pitch-perfect spin on their classic adventures. Narrator Tavia Gilbert does a phenomenal job. She portrays each character with a different voice, giving the impression that the novel is read by an entire cast of narrators instead of just one person. This fast-paced story is perfect for historical fiction and adventure fans.–Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Glen Rock, PA

RedReviewStar Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014Gansworth, Eric. If I Ever Get Out of Here. 9 CDs. 10:20 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $55. ISBN 9780553395464. digital download.

Gr 9 Up –The year is 1975. Lewis Blake, a slightly built teen from the Tuscarora Indian Reservation, is enrolled in advanced classes at high school. Lewis suffers racist stereotyping and bullying from students and some teachers. When he meets George Haddonfield, the boys find common interests in music, especially the Beatles, but Lewis is wary of befriending someone off the rez. George, likewise, is reticent because, as a military “brat,” he moves frequently from base to base. Reservation life is depicted as having close family ties and social customs inaccessible to outsiders. George wants to break through, but Lewis’s shame blockades their attempts at true friendship. Meanwhile, Evan Reininger, a notorious bully, pursues Lewis relentlessly, managing to evade authorities at every instance. The plot crescendos during a massive blizzard, when characters must face their ineluctable realities. Teen popularity and academics serve as a backdrop to the conflicts in this tale of barriers, identities, and trust. The author’s narration is authentic, with Paul McCartney and Beatles song titles providing clever chapter headings. Gansworth manages an artful weave of social complexities representing reservation and “white” cultures with subtle humor to ease the tension. A full discography is provided for music fans. A worthy addition to fiction collections.–Robin Levin, Ft. Washakie School/Community Library, WY

BookVerdict logo black 300px Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014 For all the latest reviews in this subject area and more, check out our Book Verdict site! Book Verdict is fully accessible to all users, though certain content and functionality are only available to subscribers. To log in to your account, click here. To view the new subscription options, Get Started With Book Verdict Pro Today. Don't know if you have an account with us? It's easy to check and verify your email, or create a new account.
The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


preschool to grade 4

Arthur Goes Back to School. 56 min. Dist. by PBS. $9.99. ISBN 97816088830909.

Babar and the Adventures of Badou: Gone Wild. 88 min. Dist. by Entertainment One. 2014. $12.98. ISBN 1417243201.

Deltora Quest. 19:25 hrs. Dist by Cinedigm. 2014. $79.95. UPC 025192234583.

Dinosaur Train: Adventure Camp. 50 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $7.99. ISBN 9781608830619.

Mount Rainier & Mount St. Helens. (Discoveries…America National Parks). 53 min. Dist. by Bennett-Watt Entertainment. 2014. $24.95. ISBN 9781604901733.

Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride. 60 min. Dist. by Entertainment One. 2014. $14.98. ISBN 1417242973.

The Visual Dictionary of Ballet for Children. 155 minutes. Dist. by Kultur. $19.99. ISBN 9780769749099.

Grades 5 Up

Bee People. 102 min. Dist. by TDC Entertainment. $19.98. ISBN 9781939517272.

Bringing It Home. 52 min. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014. $250. ISBN 1941545017.

Cesar’s Last Fast. 54 min. and 93 min. English and Spanish with English subtitles. Dist. by Good Docs. 2014. DVD $179. Digital streaming license $559. ISBN unavailable.

Drying for Freedom. 53 min. Distributed by the Video Project. 2014. $79. ISBN unavail.

Egyptian Pyramids. (Time Scanners.) 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781627890526.

The Great Vacation Squeeze. 27 min. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014. $195. ISBN 1941545009.

Grinding Your Own Oil Paint. 48 min. Dist. by OnAir Video. 2014. $16.95. UPC 88130300368.

‌●s Lost for Life. Dist. by SnagFilms. Available on iTunes. 2013. HD $7.99. SD $5.99. ISBN unavail.

Money Smart: Making Cents of Your Finances. 25 min. Dist. by Learning ZoneXpress. 2014. $79.95. UPC 846742004810.

My Wild Affair. 240 min. Dist. by PBS. $29.99. ISBN 9781608830664.

Stop Traffick: Human Trafficking in America. 35 min. Dist by Learning ZoneXpress. 2014. $49.95. UPC 846742005213.


early elementary

BARDHAN-QUALLEN, Sudipta. Tyrannosaurus Wrecks! 1 CD. 15 min. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490630571. digital download.

Dean, James. Pete the Cat’s Super Cool Reading Collection. digital download. 18 min. Harper Audio. 2014. $8.99. ISBN 9780062365897.

Greene, Stephanie. Princess Posey and the New First Grader. (Princess Posey: Bk. 6). 1 CD. 15 min. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490627328. digital download.

GUTMAN, Dan. Mr. Macky Is Wacky. (My Weird School: Bk. 15). 1 CD. 45 min. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781470341565. digital download.

WARNER, Sally. EllRay Jakes Walks the Plank! (EllRay Jakes: Bk. 3). 2 CDs. 2 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $25.75. ISBN 9781470380450. digital download.

middle grade

Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover. 2 CDs. 2:15 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $25.75. ISBN 9781490627571. Playaway, digital download.

Andersen, Hans Christian. The Snow Queen. 2 CDs. 1:30 hrs. Blackstone Audio. 2014. $19.95. ISBN 9781483040042. Playaway, 1 MP3-CD.

Bausum, Ann. Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog. 2 CDs. 2 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $27.75. ISBN 9781470397890. Playaway, digital download.

CARNEY, Elizabeth. Dog Finds Lost Dolphins! And More True Stories of Amazing Animal Heroes. 1 CD. 1 hr. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490634197. digital download.

Erskine, Kathryn. Seeing Red. 8 CDs. 10 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. ISBN 9781490612812. Playaway, digital download.

GEORGE, Jessica Day. Wednesdays in the Tower. (Castle Glower: Bk. 2). 5 CDs. 6 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $51.75. ISBN 9781490603987. Playaway, digital download.

Levy, Dana Alison. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher. 5 CDs. 5:40 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $35. ISBN 9780804168663. digital download.

young adult

ALSAID, Adi. Let’s Get Lost. 7 CDs. 8:30 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $77.75. ISBN 9781490635262. Playaway, digital download.

ANDERSON, Jodi Lynn. The Vanishing Season. digital download. 6:30 hrs. Harper Audio. 2014. $18.99. ISBN 9780062348326.

Brian, Kate. Endless. (Shadowlands Trilogy: Bk. 3). 6 CDs. 7 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $69.97. ISBN 9781469291857.

Kenneally, Miranda. Breathe, Annie, Breathe. 7 CDs. 8 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $54.97. ISBN 9781491526378.

Patterson, James & Lisa Papademetriou. Homeroom Diaries. 4 CDs. 4 hrs. Hachette Audio. $20. ISBN 9781478953661. digital download.

Payne, Jesse. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (Before 25). 5 CDs. 6:08 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $59.97. ISBN 9781480542648.

Roth, Veronica. Four: A Divergent Story Collection. 6 CDs. 6:33 hrs. Harper Audio. 2014. $25.99. ISBN 9780062346766. digital download.

Sales, Leila. This Song Will Save Your Life. 7 CDs. 8:15 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $45. ISBN 9780553396461. digital download.

WEITZ, Chris. The Young World. 8 CDs. 8:15 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2014. $30. ISBN 9781478900801. digital download.

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21st Century Approach to Test Preparation – ACT/SAT/Advanced Placement Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:30:28 +0000 Wednesday, November 5th, 2014, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM ET / 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM PT
Join this informative webinar to review trends and learn about how online study tools that adapt to a student’s study habits and schedules lead to success for not only the student – but also the school and community! Two featured services will include ePrep (ACT/SAT Prep) and BenchPrep (AP and advance course study.) Register Now!]]>
LY3355 SLJ Webcast 550x196 21st Century Approach to Test Preparation   ACT/SAT/Advanced Placement

Presented by: Recorded Books and School Library Journal & Library Journal

Event Date & Time: Wednesday, November 5th, 2014, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM ET / 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM PT
register button 21st Century Approach to Test Preparation   ACT/SAT/Advanced Placement

Every student should have an equal chance to prepare for success in high school course work and college entrance exams. Better than 90% of students going to college will take SAT or ACT tests – and most of those students will take one or more advanced placement (AP) course. 74% of colleges attribute ‘Considerable Importance’ to SAT/ACT results as admissions factors  – NACAC study – and achieving a ‘4’ or ‘5’ on an AP may earn college credit – making the student candidate more appealing to college entrance panels and save the student valuable time and money once they get to college.

Join this informative webinar to review trends and learn about how online study tools that adapt to a student’s study habits and schedules lead to success for not only the student – but also the school and community! Two featured services will include ePrep (ACT/SAT Prep) and BenchPrep (AP and advance course study.)

ePrep replicates a tutor-based environment through online test practice, strategy, vocabulary building exercises – and most importantly tailored videos specific to each question and topic encountered on ACT and SAT tests.

BenchPrep creates test prep and other subject-based interactive courses you can access from your internet enabled browser on your computer, iPhone, Android and iPad. BenchPrep courses are designed for students and adults wanting to master high school AP course exams with helpful and engaging study features.

Both services work off a student’s busy schedule and allow the student to strategize and focus on areas they need to brush up on or need deeper review.

Thomas Melum. User Experience Expert,
Brad Gray, Manager, Business Development, Recorded Books
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The Five Coolest Things at New York Comic Con 2014 Thu, 16 Oct 2014 15:57:10 +0000 ComicCon WonderWoman77 394x600 The Five Coolest Things at New York Comic Con 2014

Nicola Scott’s Illustration for ‘Wonder Woman ’77.’

The organizers of New York Comic Con (NYCC) put it front and center this year: Harassment will not be tolerated. With that bold statement, made on the New York Comic Con website, their app (with a button to immediately report problems), and signs at entrances to the exhibits, this felt like a more welcoming con for all.

The big picture: Women welcome!

“We made it easier to report incidents, yet we had fewer incidents reported,” ReedPOP senior vice-president Lance Fensterman, who oversees the show, told the comics and pop culture retailing website ICv2 in an interview. “I will take that as saying the program worked, or people just started treating each other as they should. Either way, it makes for a safer environment, and we’re happy about that.”

That’s an important step, not just because it’s the right thing to do but also because it recognizes what has become increasingly obvious: Women are a substantial and growing part of the comics audience, and many are cosplayers, who attend the Comic Con antiharassment sign e1413471704927 450x600 The Five Coolest Things at New York Comic Con 2014convention dressed as their favorite characters. Unfortunately, some female cosplayers have been targets of harassment.There were eight reported cases of harassment this year, half as many in 2013.

At the ICv2 conference immediately before the con, Christine Bohle, a representative from the online ticketing service Eventbrite, showed the results of an Eventbrite survey of attendees of all types of conventions. It revealed that 45 percent are women, with a 50/50 gender split for those under 30. NYCC skews a bit more male, according to Fensterman—last year it was 59/41—but the percentage of women has gone up every year.

 The Five Coolest Things at New York Comic Con 2014

‘Rocket Girl’ artist Amy Reeder’s anti-harassment sign at Comic Con, commissioned by conference organizers.

While women and people of color still made up only a tiny minority of the show’s official guests, the panel schedule was a different story. Numerous events focused on various aspects of diversity, including LGBTQ comics, strong female characters, and sexual harassment issues.

Marvel and DC both hosted events spotlighting women creators. The audience for the DC panel nearly filled a room with a capacity of 700—a crowd that raised the roof with applause and cheers for the creators and for moderator Amanda Salmons’s opening statement, “This is our house. We have been here for decades, and there were others before us.”

So that’s the big picture. Here are five very cool things at New York Comic Con 2014:

1. Retro Wonder Woman is back!

DC announced a digital-first comic, Wonder Woman ’77, based on the 1970s TV show that starred Lynda Carter in the title role. This follows in the footsteps of the digital-first comic series Batman 66, which was based on that classic television show. Wonder Woman ’77 will almost definitely be the sort of comic that new readers can enjoy without having to understand the complicated continuity of DC’s other “Wonder Woman” comics.

2. Manga stays strong

At the ICv2 Conference, ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp presented a white paper on the state of the industry that showed that manga sales were up eight percent last year, and that manga now makes up about 19 percent of all graphic novel sales.

ComicCon Pablo Hidalgo 300x199 The Five Coolest Things at New York Comic Con 2014

Author Pablo Hidalgo with his latest book, ‘Star Wars Rebels: A New Hero’ (Disney Lucasfilm Press) in the Disney booth on Star Wars Reads Day.

That was very clear at the con, where attendees dressed as members of Attack on Titan’s Survey Corps, the teenage soldiers who defend the walled city from the man-eating Titans in the best-selling manga series, dominated the cosplay scene, and con goers flocked to see Takeshi Obata, the creator of Death Not (Viz, 2005), Hikaru No Go (Viz, 2004) and Bakuman (Viz, 2010), speak in two panels.

In one of the panels, Obata, who apparently had not realized how popular his work is in the United States, got a bit emotional when the moderator led the audience in a collective “thank you!” On the count of three, the crowd roared “thank you!” and “arigato gozaimasu!

There were a number of new title announcements, including Yen Press’s license rescue of Kaoru Mori’s “Emma, a romance between a maid and the scion of wealthy family set in Victorian England. The series was originally published by the defunct imprint CMX and has long been out-of-print.

3. Science Takes Center Stage

ComicCOn BillNye 300x225 The Five Coolest Things at New York Comic Con 2014

Bill Nye chats up the New York Comic Con crowd.

Bill Nye the Science Guy and xkcd webcomic creator Randall Munroe had a delightfully nerdy conversation spinning off the questions that Munroe answers in his new book What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).

There are few people who are more articulate—and funny—about science as these two, and they had a ball discussing the logistics of building a billion-story building and turning your apartment into a ball pit. Nye also has a new book that’s about to come out, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (St. Martin’s Press, November 2014), and he had a serious point to make about the rise of creationism. “What I’m concerned by is that if we raise a generation of kids who have no critical thinking skills, we won’t have the next iPhone, the next piece of tech, the next prop,” he said. Nye probably breathed a bit easier, given the hundreds of fans (including a cosplayer decked out as Ms. Frizzle, the teacher from Scholastic’s “Magic Schoolbus” series) who packed the room and cheered both him and Munroe on.

4. Librarians WEIGH IN ON stealth challenges

At the “Saving Indecent Comics” panel, sponsored by the American Library Association and led by teen librarian Tom Maluck, librarians discussed their personal experiences with book challenges, both some well known cases including Fun Home (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), Bone (Scholastic, 2005), and Dragon Ball (Viz, 2000) and something that doesn’t get talked about much: Challenges that come from within the library, in other words, when clerks, catalogers, or others intercept graphic novels and set them aside for additional review.

The panelists also had some stories to share about courageous administrators who stood up for controversial books, including one who announced “I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history” and ordered extra copies of Alan Moore’s Neonomicon (Avatar Press, 2010) after it was removed from a neighboring library system.

5. Books!

ComicCon Big Marvel book 300x199 The Five Coolest Things at New York Comic Con 2014

’75 Years of Marvel Comics.’

Publishers were out on the floor debuting new titles and showing off upcoming ones. Here’s a quick list of the ones that caught my eye:

Taschen’s 75 Years of Marvel Comics: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen by Roy Thomas and Josh Baker, an oversized volume priced at $200;

Sing No Evil, J.P. Ahonen and K.P. Alare’s tale of supernatural doings among metal rockers, recently released by Abrams;

ComicCon Lowriders 300x199 The Five Coolest Things at New York Comic Con 2014

‘Lowriders in Space.’

Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang’s In Real Life (First Second), which touches on the intersection between gaming and, well, real life;

Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raul the Third (Chronicle), a cheery middle-grade graphic novel about mechanics driving a lowrider through space that sprinkles Spanish liberally into its dialogue; and

Disney’ Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars” picture books, featured at the Disney booth.

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Westport Maker Space Expands with Robots, SolidWorks Courses, and Volunteer Training Thu, 16 Oct 2014 15:18:06 +0000 Connecticut’s Westport Library this month has drawn attention from media outlets around the globe, thanks to the acquisition of a pair of fully programmable NAO Evolution robots—named Vincent and Nancy—from Paris-based Aldebaran Robotics. A September 29 story in the Wall Street Journal led to coverage in dozens of newspapers and blogs including the Los Angeles Times, NPR, BBC America, several Fox affiliates, and news outlets in Russia, Spain, and Vietnam. The new robots, which can be programmed to walk, dance, and talk using the Python programming language, will be used in leveled coding classes that will become part of Westport’s growing Maker space program.

“This media frenzy has been hysterical! It’s been wonderful.” Maxine Bleiweis, executive director for Westport Library, told LJ.

Funding for the robots—which retail for $8,000 apiece—was provided by a family foundation that “wanted to fund really exciting projects,” Bleiweis said. The buzz indicates that the robots have already accomplished at least part of that goal, and these stories are certainly a welcome shift away from mainstream media narratives that often describe libraries as outdated institutions. But setting aside their cute, tiny humanoid appearance, Vincent and Nancy are much more than a PR stunt to show the world that libraries offer more than books. The robots represent the latest serious investment of time and funding that Westport has been devoting to hands-on learning efforts. Bleiweis made a direct comparison to subscription costs.

“When you think about $8,000, and then you think about all of the money that you might be spending on Dun & Bradstreet or Moody’s—all of the resources that libraries have used in the past—it’s very similar to thinking ‘we’re going to buy this expensive thing and we’re going to share it with lots and lots of people,’” she said.

Westport Robot ReadingBleiweis later added that Maker spaces are in line with modern views on education. Bloom’s Taxonomy, a tiered set of learning objectives that has been the foundation of many teaching philosophies since it was first published in 1956, has been revised to include “creating” as the peak learning objective—once a student begins to truly understand a subject, he or she can begin creating unique content.

And if a library is hoping to get kids and teens interested in coding, it’s tough to imagine a better hook than a programmable talking robot that can dance. Westport is already planning to have programmers test their skills with robot dance contests and poetry competitions at their fourth annual Maker Faire next spring.

Some patrons may be disappointed that the new robots “can’t be available and live on the floor all the time,” said Bill Derry, Westport’s director of innovation. The robots are delicate, precision machines, and their joints could potentially lead to hand injuries if children were allowed to play with them unsupervised.

“They’ll lock on your fingers,” Bleiweis explained. “It’s not like an elevator door that senses you and opens back up. They’re not for people to touch.”

However, there will be regularly scheduled viewing times when people can see Vincent and Nancy in action, and the robots will be displayed in a “house” where they’ll be available for viewing at any time, with a nearby touchscreen monitor showing videos of the robots.

Community creation

Among public libraries, Westport was one of the earliest adopters of the Maker space movement, hosting its first Mini Maker Faire in April 2012, which drew 2,200 visitors. In July 2012, the library followed up by installing a large, open structure outfitted with workbenches and 3D printers in a prominent location of its great hall. A “Maker in Residence” program, featuring extended programs led by local experts, was launched shortly afterward, and the space has continued to grow and thrive ever since.

In September 2013, Westport was awarded a grant of almost $250,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for its project “MakerSpace 2.0: Retinkering Libraries.” Reviewers of the project proposal were enthusiastic about Westport’s potential to explore questions regarding the changing nature of public library usage and how libraries can engage a community with participatory learning projects.

These Maker space true believers have already begun to see great results. Westport’s ongoing efforts to support the space, including the Maker in Residence programs, have helped establish a virtuous cycle in which residents have begun working on their own projects and helping one another independently, according to Derry.

“We have about 27 volunteers every week who both work in the Maker space and teach,” he explained. “And what has happened is that all levels of people have come in with new ideas and products.”

Derry estimates that in less than three years, at least 10 actual products have been prototyped using the Maker space’s five 3D printers, such as SafeRide, a small device that links up with an Android app via Bluetooth to lock smartphones and prevent texting while users are inside a running car.

Inventor Scott Rownin “did all of his prototyping here, and in return, he would teach a lot of groups,” Derry explained. Other Westport Maker space users “got to have a mentor who was an inventor and was producing and demonstrating how to design, prototype, and innovate.”

In another example that Derry cited, a psychiatry student from Yale University used the Maker space to design and fabricate customized containers for a research project.

And, in a sign of how Westport  is working to appeal to users with a broad range of skillsets, a local biomedical engineer recently encouraged Westport to purchase a $1,000 educational license for SolidWorks computer-aided design (CAD) software. Classes on the software have attracted a new contingent of trained engineers into the library and the Maker space.

“It really draws in people who are usually high level,” Derry said. “Mostly postgraduate members who want to get their skill sets toned up.”

Separately, the software is also being used to facilitate collaboration. Derry said that a former engineer with expertise in SolidWorks was introduced to a local inventor who had created a rough prototype of a tool to fix sockets on roof gutters. The engineer helped refine the prototype using SolidWorks, and then a 3D printer was used to fabricate the new tool.

“Things like that are beginning to happen,” Derry said. “Someone’s idea gets elevated in a very short time, and they create a relationship.”

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2014 National Book Award Finalists in the Young People Literature’s Category Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:51:27 +0000 NationalBkFinalist2014 CVs 2014 National Book Award Finalists in the Young People Literatures Category

The National Book Award finalists for the Young People’s Literature category were announced October 15, whittled down to five from last month’s announcement of ten contenders from the longlist. The longlists and finalists were each chosen by a panel of five writers and literary experts. This year, the list includes four prior National Book Award finalists: Eliot Schrefer in 2012 for Endangered (Scholastic); Steve Sheinkin in 2012 for BOMB (Roaring Brook); Deborah Wiles in 2005 for Each Little Bird That Sings (HMH); and Jacqueline Woodson in 2002 for Hush and in 2003 for Peace, Locomotion (both titles Penguin). The fifth finalist, John Corey Whaley, was a 2011 National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree for his debut novel Where Things Come Back (Atheneum, 2011). The winners will be announced on November 19.

The five finalist titles are:

Steve SheinkinThe Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights (Roaring Brook)

John Corey Whaley, Noggin (S. & S.)

Deborah Wiles, Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two (Scholastic)

Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin)

Eliot Schrefer, Threatened  (Scholastic)

For more SLJ coverage of the five titles read “SLJ Reviews and Interviews of 2014 National Book Award Longlist in the Young People’s Category.”

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When Racing to the Top Slows Us Down | On Common Core Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:00:52 +0000 uphill 300x206 When Racing to the Top Slows Us Down | On Common CoreOne aspect of my job that I enjoy thoroughly is collaborating with teachers and librarians in different settings, schools, and states. Traveling around the country, from Cambridge, MA, to Wasilla, AK, I’ve learned so much from other educators. Their work has also provided me with a useful vantage point on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation efforts.

The dominant media focus on the Common Core initiative has been a false, for-or-against dichotomy. Supporting the CCSS is often perceived as the equivalent of advocating for standardized testing. Being against them suggests a belief in a top-down government and/or a corporate takeover of education, plus a massive mandate for more testing. Yet, it is the No Child Left Behind federal law of 2001, which has not been re-authorized by Congress, that mandates annual testing.

As I see it, the more important issue is the difference in the implementation of the standards in Race to the Top (RttT) vs. non-RttT states. “RttT has driven the ills of excessive testing; teacher measurement; data-archiving monsters that will track ‘achievement’ by numbers using many days annually in formal assessment,” wrote Paige Jaeger, coordinator for school library services, Washington Saratoga Warren Hamilton Essex BOCES, Saratoga Springs, NY, in this column last January “The Wrong Villian”.

I agree. Many of the professionals I know and work with in states that have adopted the CCSS and accepted the RttT funds—and the required student assessments and teacher evaluations that come with them—feel trapped. At this point, in those states, the CCSS are synonymous with the standardized assessments that are being created in response to them. “Local control” does not feel local, and the tests, not the standards, are the point from which curriculum and school-based assessments emanate. The instructional potential of the standards, the fluidity with which educators can meet the standards and engage students in thoughtful and meaningful reading, writing, listening, and speaking experiences, are a mere footnote. In RttT schools, the test scores matter too much. Everyone feels the heat of the myopic focus on a single method of measurement and the disconnect between what the tests actually measure and the authentic learning opportunities children and young adults desperately need.

Apprenticeships at risk?

There are other issues. Because a portion of the Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR) required by RttT are linked to student test scores, teachers in those states fear that their performance evaluations could suffer if they share their classrooms with novices. Teaching, like medicine, is a combination of academic learning and apprentice-based learning. You can’t learn in classes alone, nor by simply trying your hand at something. You need the synergy of both. Will fewer educators in RttT states welcome our pre-service teachers into their classrooms? Will it become more difficult to nurture and expand residency-based teacher-preparation programs in RttT states? If so, how does an apprentice-based profession survive, let alone thrive, in such a climate?

Professional development (PD) has also taken a detour in RttT states. Instead of focusing on school-specific needs and interests with regard to implementing the standards, a fair amount of PD has focused on constructing and implementing the APPR. How can teachers improve the very practices that are being measured without time to plan for the shifts in curriculum and instruction that should or could be taking place to meet the new standards?

The good news is that the non-RttT schools that I collaborate with and learn about through my students in neighboring states have not yet been forced to narrow the curriculum in the service of standardized tests. Teachers everywhere feel a great deal of pressure. But the educators in these schools, at least for now, do not share the same burden of worrying about the tests to come. They can plan more thoughtfully, and less frantically, around the instructional shifts and possibilities that the new standards offer.

Cappiello Mary Ann Contrib Web When Racing to the Top Slows Us Down | On Common CoreDr. Mary Ann Cappiello is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA.

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Throwback Thursday: The Freedom Libraries of Mississippi Thu, 16 Oct 2014 11:00:58 +0000 In the summer of 1964, more than 1,000 volunteers converged on Mississippi to help register African Americans to vote. Among those volunteers was Frederick W. Heinze, who worked with the Council of Federated Organization’s (COFO) Mississippi project, helping establish Freedom Schools, which included providing library services for black children in one of the most segregationist states in the South.

Heinze documented these efforts in an article for School Library Journal. Published in the April 1965 issue, “The Freedom Libraries” is a remarkably matter-of-fact account of a watershed moment in the American civil rights movement, underscored by a strong sense of purpose in turning around entrenched inequities through education and literacy.

Click on the below image to access the full article, which includes an image of COFO’s Vicksburg Freedom House after it was bombed in October 1964. The Nassau-Suffolk School Library Association in New York contributed to a rebuilding fund and sent books to Vicksburg, including works by Ezra Jack Keats.

FreedomLibraries TBT Throwback Thursday: The Freedom Libraries of Mississippi

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A Focus on Diversity and Savvy Blogging Drive KidLitCon 2014 Wed, 15 Oct 2014 19:31:19 +0000 Mitali Perkins e1413399614642 450x600 A Focus on Diversity and Savvy Blogging Drive KidLitCon 2014

Author Mitali Perkins speaks at KidLitCon 2014.

Diversity was front and center at the 2014 Kidlitosphere Conference (KidLitCon) held in Sacramento, CA, on October 10–11. For the first time, the conference had a theme: “Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?” Inspired by the “We Need Diverse Books” campaign, the event raised a number of issues, including “looking at yourself to make changes.” This made for lively and impassioned discussion among the authors, bloggers, and publishers at the conference, now in its eighth year.

As bloggers mixed, mingled, and met for the first time, attendees were excited to finally connect faces with names. It was also clear right away that many wanted the bloggers to go outside their comfort zone and get a little more righteous. Much of the conversation focused on children’s literature scholar Rudine Sims Bishop’s observation that stories serve as windows and mirrors for young people—giving them a view and understanding of other types of experiences or validating their own by showing a similar world. Many participants said that diverse children still need more books that act as “mirrors” reflecting their own experience.

Author Tanita S. Davis (Mare’s War, 2009, Happy Families, 2012; both Knopf) opened the event with a warm welcome, telling attendees they were “people of good will and intelligence” and that “we, in this room, are going to do something” about the lack of diversity in children’s and young adult books. Breakout sessions followed, one focusing on finding a blogging voice and a passion, and the other on locating and reviewing the best diverse books for children and young adults. The next sessions offered insight into independent publishing as a way to get more diverse books into the hands of readers, along with suggested social media tips that can bring more attention to blogs.

KidLitCon logo2 450x600 A Focus on Diversity and Savvy Blogging Drive KidLitCon 2014

A flyer for the conference.

“Getting Beyond Diversity and Getting to the Story” was the afternoon’s topic. The idea was to be more mindful of plot and narratives in books with diverse characters, not just the fact that they feature variety. For example, handing a Mexican girl a good book saying, “You’ll like this, because there is a Mexican girl in it” is not a good way to get people to read diverse books, according to author and co-presenter Jewell Parker Rhodes (Sugar, 2013, Ninth Ward, 2010, both Little, Brown). Rhodes likened the scenario to recommending broccoli: there should be a good story first, rather than simply presented to a potential readers as “good for you.”

During an author mix and mingle sponsored by Lee & Low Books, Stephanie Kuehn (Charm & Strange, 2013, Complicit, 2014, both St. Martin’s Griffin), Sarah J. Stevenson (The Latte Rebellion 2011, The Truth Against the World, 2014, both Flux), Kathryn Otoshi (Zero, 2010, Two, 2014, both KO Kids), Rhodes, Davis, and others were on hand to chat about their writing and diverse books more broadly.

“Through storytelling you can change people’s minds,” author Mitali Perkins reminded the audience during her keynote speech. Perkins also called on others bloggers to “look below the waterline” when considering stories and diversity. What’s on the cover? Who is the foil? Is the beautiful girl in the book blonde and blue-eyed? Is the sidekick the token black kid?

During a Skype session, author Shannon Hale (Dangerous, Bloomsbury, 2014) described her high school experience, during which, due to the student makeup, she went from being among the racial majority to the minority, a situation she liked. “All children deserve to know that they are worth a story,” Hale said.

The We Need Diverse Books campaign presentation by authors emphasized that book bloggers and diversity debates are a strong combination. Freelance writer Martha White moderated this panel, featuring Mike Jung (Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities, Scholastic, 2012), Karen Sandler (the “Tankborn” trilogy, Lee & Low), and S.E. Sinkhorn (Chasing Shadows, Black Mountain, 2010). White also played devil’s advocate by asking why we need this campaign at all, while also providing a history of how the “We Need Diverse Books” hashtag was started. During a lively discussion, everyone who either asked questions or voiced an opinion received a “We Need Diverse Books” button.

The final event was affectionately referred to as “the angry” panel, with participants saying that they were “mad as hell and not going to take it!” Four panelists, including a teenager, discussed issues in diversity aside from race and culture, including sexuality, body image, socioeconomic status, and more. The panelists also called attention to certain movements, such as response to the whitewashing of Liar (Bloomsbury, 2009) by Justine Larbalestier and supporting the “Monstrumologist” series (S. & S.) by Rick Yancey, which bloggers had rallied around in the past. These movements proved that bloggers do have the power to evoke change, they emphasized. The panel urged bloggers and readers to be loud and to voice their displeasure at the lack of diverse books. The participating authors also challenged everyone in room to audit their reading and see if they notice patterns and biases.

This dynamic weekend got the organizers thinking of topics for next year’s KidLitCon in Baltimore. It’s not to be missed, particularly if you’re a blogger about children’s or young adult literature.

Faythe Arredondo is a teen services librarian for Tulare County (CA) Library and has been working with teens since 2008. She focuses on finding innovative ways to get (and keep) teens involved in the library and always seems to find herself knee deep in some crazy project dreamed up by her teen advisory group.

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Three-time Newbery Honoree Zilpha Keatley Snyder Dies at 87 Wed, 15 Oct 2014 18:00:41 +0000 The Egypt Game, died on October 8. She was 87. ]]> SnyderZilphaKeatley Three time Newbery Honoree Zilpha Keatley Snyder Dies at 87Three-time Newbery Honoree Zilpha Keatley Snyder died on October 8. She was 87.

Beloved in the world of children’s literature, Snyder received her Newbery Honors for The Egypt Game (1967), The Headless Cupid (1972), and The Witches of Worm (1972, all S. & S.), vivid, evocative, and dark works for middle-grade readers. One of her earliest titles, The Egypt Game, is centered on the intense fantasy life of a group of children who reenact ancient Egyptian practices and rituals in an empty lot, while in the background, a child murderer lurks.

The novel was remarkable not only for its eerie, absorbing narrative but also for its inclusivity. Snyder’s editor Karen Wojtyla, vice-president and editorial director at Simon & Schuster’s Margaret K. McElderry Books, praised the author’s commitment to diversity: “[Snyder created] for The Egypt Game a multiracial cast of characters that was unusual in the 1960s. And she held her ground; when Walt Disney wanted to buy movie rights to The Egypt Game but refused to guarantee a multiracial cast, she refused to sell him the rights.”

Snyder was born in Lemore, CA, in 1927 and spent her childhood surrounded by animals: horses, cows, goats, dogs, and cats. An imaginative child, she often anthropomorphized the world around her, giving personalities and lives to plants, animals, and spirits. She found her hobby both disturbing and fascinating, describing on her website: “I built leafy shelters for homeless insects, doctored demons, most of whom haunted closets and the dark corners of rooms. Although they really frightened me, I don’t think I would have wanted to be talked out of them. They were my demons, and we had a working relationship.”

Egyptgame Three time Newbery Honoree Zilpha Keatley Snyder Dies at 87Books, too, were an integral part of Snyder’s world, and she learned to read at age four. Feeling like an outcast growing up, she often took solace in the printed word. In an interview with poet Lee Bennett Hopkins in his More Books by More People: Interviews with Sixty-five Authors of Books for Children (Citation, 1974), she said that “I think I read almost a book a day during my childhood and loved every minute of it, so you can imagine that as soon as it occurred to me that books were written by ordinary human beings, I decided that was the kind of human being I’d like most to be.”

After graduating Whittier College in 1948, she was still committed to her goal of becoming a writer, but it was an ambition she put on hold, instead working as a teacher for the next nine years in Berkeley, CA. She married in 1950 and with her husband, Larry Snyder, had two children and also adopted a foster child.

In the early 1960s, however, with her children in school, Snyder rekindled her dream of writing. Though she had always assumed she would write for adults, she realized that her years of teaching had given her an appreciation for the emotional life of children, especially at ages 10 and 11, which she described on her website as “a magical time—when so much has been learned, but not yet enough to entirely extinguish the magical reach and freedom of early childhood.” She made her debut in 1964 with Season of Ponies (S. & S.), a novel about a lonely young girl who encounters a herd of mysterious and magical, horses—and one that clearly evoked her own childhood experiences, launching a long and storied career that would last decades.

Headless Three time Newbery Honoree Zilpha Keatley Snyder Dies at 87A thread of magic ran through many of her other books, which expertly balanced the realistic and mysterious: in The Headless Cupid, an 11-year-old boy copes with his father’s remarriage, as well as a move to a strange new, gothic home along with a new stepsister obsessed with witchcraft and the occult. Similarly, her haunting novel The Witches of Worm centered on a lonely girl who comes to believe the cat she adopted is possessed.

Though best known for her mysteries, Snyder branched out into historical fiction, science fiction, and YA, publishing more than 40 books in total. Though her output dropped off in more recent years, she still continued to write. Her recent books include The Bronze Pen (2008), William S. and the Great Escape (2009), and William’s Midsummer Dream (2011, all S. & S.). Her novels made their mark, garnering her both praise and criticism—The Headless Cupid made the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most frequently challenged books for 1990–2000 because of its themes of witchcraft.

Snyder attributed her creative talents to her ability to derive inspiration from varied sources: the idea for her first novel came to her in a dream; The Egypt Game was born from a combination of Snyder’s own childhood and a game her daughter enjoyed playing; the characters were inspired by some of her own students. In a note she gave to poet and colleague, Lee Bennett Hopkins, she said, “Story ideas develop out of anything and everything—dreams, chance meetings, brief experiences, haunting memories, nagging curiosities, or even from a fascinating place that suggest a good story setting.”

Hopkins said of the author that she “was a delight to know. Her wit was astounding. One never knew what anecdote would flow from her at an instant moment.”

Wojtyla, too, remembers the author fondly: “She was easy to work with, full of ideas, open to suggestions, relishing the backing and forthing of the editorial process. But she could also be a stubborn champion of her characters and their unique voices. I will personally miss [Snyder] enormously, but she will be missed by a much larger community of readers around the world. Thank heavens we have such a wonderful body of her work to laugh and cry over and simply enjoy and relish for years and years to come.”

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Comics in Schools and Libraries | New York Comic Con 2014 Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:45:07 +0000 ComicCon wonderwoman 225x300 Comics in Schools and Libraries | New York Comic Con 2014

Attendees enjoying “cosplay.” All media courtesy of Rocco Staino

Librarians and educators were well represented among the 150,000 enthusiasts at last week’s (October 9-12) Comic Con in New York City with many who joined in “cosplay” (costume play) by dressing as their favorite character from comics, games, and films. Many took time from the packed exhibit floor to attend panel discussions that focused on comics in schools and libraries.

David Mishkin and Jerzy Drozd, two of the founders of Kids Read Comics! (KRC), a free comic event that unites people from the comics and animation fields that took place in Michigan this past summer, joined with Reading with Pictures (RWP) board member Josh Elder to explain how librarians can host their own comic convention at their libraries. RWP is a nonprofit organization that advocates the use of comics in the classroom. The three discussed the success of a KRC conference on comics that was held this past June at the Ann Arbor District Library in Michigan and their work in developing a planning kit for those interested in planning comics-related conferences/programs. (For more information, contact Mishkin and Drozd via email.)

In a session entitled “Comics to Expand Your Brain, John Weaver, a high school English teacher at Williamsport Area High School in Williamsport, PA, explained that graphic novels are acknowledged in the English Language Arts (ELA) Standard 10 of the Common Core. The panel’s discussion conjured titles such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus (Pantheon, 1986), Alan Moore’s Watchmen (DC, 1986), Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (Pantheon, 2003), and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (Houghton Harcourt, 2006) as potential books to be added to the ELA curriculum. Weaver cautioned the group about the high cost of classroom sets of graphic novels, with some books as high as $30 each. He had turned to crowdfunding platform DonorsChoose to raise money for his class sets.

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Librarians (L to R): Amelia Rodriguez and Sharon Galbraith Ryer (Mercer County Library, NJ); Thomas Maluck (Richland Library, SC); Huyen Diep (Midlands Technical College, SC)

Information about the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries was also shared during “Comics to Expand Your Brain.” The two Eisner grants, administered by the American Library Association (ALA), consist of one that is to fund the expansion of an existing graphic novel program and another to support a new graphic novel collection. ALA also presented panel discussions at Comic Con, including “Saving Indecent Comics,” which featured librarians from all over the United States, including: Thomas Maluck, Richland Library, Columbia, SC; Huyen Diep, Midlands Technical College, Columbia, SC; and Anna Call, Wilmington Memorial Library, Wilmington, MA, to name a few. The librarians delved into how librarianship is an “activist profession” and one that works to keep comics on the shelves. Often, comics are “quietly banned” through “self-censorship,” brought up one librarian.

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The floor of Comic Con 2014.

Attendee Ryan Paulsen, a school librarian at the New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle, NY, said that graphic novels are the most visible part of his school library’s collection. He volunteered to SLJ that he often works with his faculty to incorporate graphic literature into their lessons, and recently he collaborated with an English teacher on a unit on comparative storytelling. The culmination was the class adapting Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables into graphic novel format.

Celebrities, including George Clooney, were on hand at this year’s Comic Con, but for librarians, it was the publisher exhibits that drew their attention, with names such as Maureen Johnson, Alex London, R.L. Stine, George O’Conner, and Neil Gaiman.

Cory Doctorow was at the First Second exhibit and took some time to talk with SLJ about his new graphic novel, In Real Life (First Second, 2014). The clip of the conversation is below:

You may also want to read:

New York Comic Con: Highlights and Surprises

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The Trouble With Teen Programming Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:05:26 +0000 teen programming The Trouble With Teen ProgrammingWhen I meet librarians around the world and across the country, teen programming is by far the number one subject I’m asked about. The questions can be boiled down to: “Why isn’t my library’s programming working?”

The first thing I recommend is that librarians check themselves for excuses. Is your first impulse to blame the teens for not buying what you are trying to sell?

Librarians often say, “We don’t offer teen programming. We tried it five years ago and no one showed up.” Or, “The teens in this neighborhood are not interested.” Imagine a retailer with that attitude. In this situation, the library may simply not be providing what their community wants or needs.

The second thing I suggest to librarians is that they take a hard look at  their planning process—and how it contributes to the goal of cultivating strong youth participation.

Ask yourself: why does the library program for teens anyway?

Librarians talk a lot about programming ideas, but not so much about how they are planned, or even why they’re offered. Programming should not be undertaken just for its own sake. It should fit into a broader service context.

Rather than looking at event planning in terms of ideas and attendance numbers, libraries should frame the idea of young adult programming around teen participation and ownership—with the community in leadership roles, possessing decision-making power. To the greatest extent possible, teens should be in charge of developing and carrying out activities for themselves and their peers.

The pitfalls of centralized program development

This participatory model  is at odds with the centralized programming development model used by some systems. Centralized programming most often refers to a system in which, as the name implies, ideas are developed by one group for implementation at multiple library branch locations by local staff or librarians/paraprofessionals who visit a branch.

On the surface, centralized programming may appear to have benefits. Systems using this model declare that it is more efficient, requiring less staff time for the development and delivery of activities.

This may be true in general. But when used with teen activities, it may eliminate any opportunity for their participation, decision-making, and leadership.

This model treats all members of the teen community the same way, while in reality, young adults in different neighborhoods may have vastly different needs and interests. Centralized program planning can focus on idea generation without serving broader goals, and may be unresponsive to the spontaneously evolving pursuits and interests of youth.

Library systems with centralized planning may find that teen programming is difficult to establish and sustain. This failure of planning can be wrongly interpreted as lack of interest.

Teen programming isn’t storytime, with the librarian acting as creator/presenter and patrons in the role of receiver/audience. It can’t be implemented in the same way as activities for younger children and tweens.

Let’s remove the phrase “Teen Advisory Board” from our service vocabulary. Asking youth to offer advice is passive. Librarians with teen advisory groups lament, “Even when I produce programming the Teen Advisory Board specifically asks for, no one shows up.”  But if young adults are in charge, their peers will always be there.

What you can do today; HYBRID PLANNING

Involving teens in planning assures that  programming is relevant and appropriate in a given community.

The group that turns up after school to play Yu-Gi-Oh is a prime example. These young adults share an interest at a particular time at a particular location. This presents a prime opportunity to ask teens to become leaders and run a library program based on what they like to do.

This approach (in the tradition of Tom Sawyer getting someone else to paint the fence) also takes the pressure off of staff—and places the librarian in the role of facilitator rather than creator.

The best of both worlds is a hybrid in which local branch staff can work with youth to decide which activities might be interesting, with a main library acting as a flagship for resources. In practice, hybrid planning can be as simple as asking teens to choose what will happen today…or to decide what will happen next week based on the programming menu. This low-level participation, essentially selecting from a menu, is a basic step toward teens developing their own concepts.

reach out to high schools; ENGAGE ‘REGULARS’

Planning programs with the library should earn teens volunteer service hours. Make an appointment with the guidance counselor at the local high school and tell them that the library is an outstanding setting for their students to earn community service hours. Can you set up a table at the school during lunch? Does the school have a volunteer fair? Offer the library as a venue for extracurricular activities such as the debate team or math club. Suggest using your space to display student art, poetry, and science fair projects.

Talk to the teen standing in front of you at the service desk. Engage teen ‘regulars.’ What do they like to do?

If three kids sit down and begin to play Magik, Risk, or something else, ask them if they’d like to lead a group activity in that game. When you spot someone playing chess, ask if she’d run a chess night. If a teen shows you his drawings, ask him if he will run an art evening. Offer to get the supplies if he will make a flier and arrange for some of his friends to come. Display the art to help mark teen territory.

Are teens playing Minecraft on their personal laptops or watching silly cat YouTube videos? Make the reading room available for them. That is the beginning of a program—and a leadership group.

OK. If you’ve managed to find a reason why each one of those things would be impossible, I implore you to (once again) check yourself. There are teens in your community who are hungry for responsibility and willing to develop activities for themselves and their peers. It’s your job to engage the youth in your community—and to begin the process of participation.

Jennifer Velasquez (@jenVLSQZ) is a lecturer at the San José State University School of Information (CA) and coordinator of teen services for the San Antonio Public Library. A 2011 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, she is the recipient of the New York Times Librarian Award (2005). ALA Editions will publish her book on teen library services in 2015 (if she ever finishes her revisions).

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