School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Mon, 03 Aug 2015 16:05:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 School Librarians Want More Tech—and Bandwidth | SLJ 2015 Tech Survey Mon, 03 Aug 2015 15:40:24 +0000 Photo by Bob Gathany.

Photo by Bob Gathany

IPads, maker spaces, 3-D printers, and coding skills top the tech wish lists for 1,259 school librarians across the country, according to School Library Journal’s (SLJ) 2015 Technology Survey. Educators are hungry to bring their students even more—whether that’s robotics classes or Arduino kits.

“New computers, tablets, video equipment, all digital tools, instruction on usage, [and] enough bandwidth” count among the must-haves for Andrea Oshima, a school librarian at Aviara Oaks Elementary School in Carlsbad, CA. Currently, 64 percent of school librarians consider themselves tech leaders in their schools—and 28 percent feel that their tech skills afford them increased job security.

While school librarians are eager to expand their tech tools, they have concerns about adequate infrastructure and connectivity, budgets, and administrative support. However, they know what their students need: “Without question, iPads,” says an elementary school librarian from Washington State, noting that iPad apps can offer “outstanding platforms for creating and showcasing student work.”

Supporting project creation

From coding to application development, adopting GoPro cameras and Raspberry Pis, librarians are determined to support “project creation,” as one respondent said. Thirteen percent will add a maker space next year, compared to nine percent in 2013. Thirty-eight percent already have library maker activities and tech. Video making and editing are the most popular, followed by computer programming and coding, LEGO sets, and robotics.

While enthusiastic about coding, many school librarians say they need more time and support to gain fluency. Asked about their knowledge of computer coding, 44 percent say they have at least basic knowledge, 48 percent have none, and eight percent are learning now or plan to.

“Any technology would be wonderful,” says Robin Brannan, a library media specialist at Enterprise (MS) Elementary School. However, “being a K–8 library, and myself being the only media specialist, my time is very limited.” Cathy Mayer, the learning resource center director at Lemont (IL) High School, is also a solo librarian for more than 100 faculty members and 1,400-plus students. She is “envious of schools that have technology coaches that are part of the IT or library staff and help head up these efforts.”

Chart Design and Illustration by Jean Tuttle. Click to enlarge

Chart Design and Illustration by Jean Tuttle
Click to enlarge


School librarians’ use of applications for instructional purposes has risen, with 71 percent of school librarians using these tools, including EasyBib and Evernote, compared to 57 percent in 2013. More than half instruct students and teachers on integrating these applications in their curricula, and 17 percent plan to add them to their 2015–16 tech tool kits. Elementary schools saw the highest adoption and an increase of 16 percent since 2013. Among those wanting to understand how to create tech, Beth Marshall at La Center (WA) High School says she is eager to learn programming “because I have had students talk about learning to do this as well.”

Social media use has also increased, with 76 percent posting library information across platforms (compared to 59 percent in 2013) and 42 percent using it to communicate with parents, up from 32 percent. The most popular? Pinterest (38 percent), followed by Google+, Goodreads, Twitter, and Edmodo.

However, social media access is still not allowed at some schools. “I wish our district would allow us to use apps and social media to communicate and share information with students, parents, and the community,” says Emily Moore, librarian at Lake Youngs Elementary in Kent, WA. Despite “a lot of internal hardware…we are still very cautious.”

Need for bandwidth

Access is an ongoing concern. While some librarians lack the budget to buy tech they want, such as 3-D printers or maker space items, others say they need more bandwidth to support computing and online needs, including those required in 1:1 environments.

Most schools have comparable Internet connections, in terms of speed, as do private homes, according to the nonprofit Education SuperHighway. But schools have 100 times more users seeking web access.

Bandwidth is the big issue. “As we move more resources, ebooks, collections, and adaptive reading programs to the cloud, that will increase the need for bandwidth,” says Doug Johnson, director of technology for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage (MN) School District. “That pipe has to be bigger and more redundant, too. So if someone with a backhoe cuts one piece of fiber, there’s a second piece that keeps the connection alive.”

Some schools “risk network days becoming the new snow days,” according to the CDW-G K–12 Connected Heat Map, a 2015 study of more than 400 school IT professionals by the tech firm CDW.

Basic connectivity is fine: Ninety-seven percent say their schools have WiFi, though 18 percent note that only staff can access the network, and only 63 percent say they have adequate bandwidth, compared to 82 percent in 2013. Education SuperHighway’s larger report shows that only 37 percent of schools have enough bandwidth to meet current needs for digital learning, according to its site. As more instruction moves online, from testing to curriculum materials, bandwidth needs rise. “The demand for bandwidth is growing at approximately 50 percent” annually, the site says.

Lag time to upload or download can also be a major distraction in a classroom and takes away from teaching time. Only 63 percent of schools have the necessary average wired speeds of one gigabit per second, according to CDW-G.

Supporting online access for schools is crucial, says Scott S. Floyd, IT director at White Oak (TX) Independent School District. “It has to be a priority of the tech department,” he says. “But instead, schools are too busy trying to control [the use of] bandwidth instead of looking at how to provide the bandwidth they want.”


For 2014–15, median funding overall was $4,800, compared to $5,300 in 2012–13. Elementary schools reported the lowest median budget of $4,200, compared to $4,300. Nine percent of school librarians reported having no budget at all.

Theresa Anderson, a school librarian at Justin F. Kimball High School in Dallas, TX, notes that her $400 budget must accommodate “laminating film, poster paper, and office supplies.” Others are eager for ideas on implementing maker spaces inexpensively. Google and its app suite topped the list of those school librarians used for productivity, research, and collaboration.

Librarians surveyed did spend a median of $1,000 on tech in 2014–15. Thirty percent were responsible for purchasing hardware and equipment, such as desktops and mobile devices, and 64 percent were charged with purchasing ebooks. Three-fourths of school libraries now have ebooks, up from 68 percent in 2013, and e-textbook use, now 12 percent, has doubled.

Device use

Sixteen percent of schools have launched 1:1 initiatives, with another 20 percent planning to add a program, most in the next two years, respondents say. For schools supplying these tools, iPads were the top choice, especially at elementary schools, where 58 percent use them. Chromebooks are next (40 percent); then laptops (34 percent).

Teachers usually have discretion about whether personal devices can be used in class. Most schools have a related policy on their use, according to respondents. For example, some schools allow personal devices only to support learning, while others allow them to be used during lunch. Elementary librarians, in particular, said that students are discouraged from using their devices altogether.

“We are a small K–6 school with dynamic, interactive, face-to-face instruction,” says Megan Sutton, school librarian at Weybridge (VT) Elementary School. “Only a small percentage of our students have personal devices….[their use] would greatly disrupt an active, creative learning environment.”

Librarians, tech champions

School librarians are firm in their belief that students will benefit from more tech, despite challenges. These lamplighters are convinced that with some shifts—more staff and funding, bandwidth, or time—they could bring more access, skills, and interactivity to learning.

“I want a maker space, the latest technology for discovery and learning, BrushBots, and so much more,” says Angela L. Green, a school librarian at Illini Bluffs Community Unified School District 327 in Glasford, IL. “This is my dream for the students, and I will work to make it happen.”

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The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers | SLJ Review Mon, 03 Aug 2015 13:00:15 +0000 Daywalt, Drew. The Day the Crayons Came Home. illus. by Oliver Jeffers. 48p. Philomel. Sept. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399172755.

K-Gr 2–Duncan’s crayons are back in this companion to the spectacular The Day the Crayons Quit (Philomel, 2014), and they are just as forthright as ever. A stack of postcards arrive for the neglectful boy, this time written by a new batch of crayons who have been forgotten at motels, lost under the couch, or left behind in the basement. Maroon [...]]]> thedaythecrayonscamehomeDaywalt, Drew. The Day the Crayons Came Home. illus. by Oliver Jeffers. 48p. Philomel. Sept. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399172755.

K-Gr 2–Duncan’s crayons are back in this companion to the spectacular The Day the Crayons Quit (Philomel, 2014), and they are just as forthright as ever. A stack of postcards arrive for the neglectful boy, this time written by a new batch of crayons who have been forgotten at motels, lost under the couch, or left behind in the basement. Maroon has been marooned under the sofa, having been broken by Duncan’s dad, who sat on it, Tan (or Burnt Sienna) has seen better days and has recently been puked up by the dog, and old frenemies Orange and Yellow have melted in the sun to become one gooey mess. Recurring postcards from Pea Green (aka Esteban), who dreams of traveling, and clueless Neon Red, who writes about grand adventures abroad, will elicit giggles from young ones. Jeffers’s mixed-media illustrations of photographed postcards and childlike crayon drawings against white backdrops enhance kid appeal and encourage close visual reading. A glow-in-the-dark spread and chatty household items, such as a sock, a paper clip, and a pencil sharpener, are new aspects to look forward to, and the general theme of home being a place where everyone belongs will resonate with old and young readers alike. VERDICT A brilliant, colorful tale that begs to be read aloud and a must-have for all collections.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

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

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The Nest by Kenneth Oppel | SLJ Review Sun, 02 Aug 2015 13:00:22 +0000 Oppel, Kenneth. The Nest. illus. by Jon Klassen. 256p. ebook available. S. & S. Oct. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481432320.

Gr 5-7–Steve has always been a worrier, but since his brother was born he’s become even more anxious. When Steve starts having dreams about otherworldly wasps, he takes comfort in their message that everything will be okay. But the more he learns about their plan to “fix” the baby’s congenital condition, the more he’s conflicted. The tension and unease grow as [...]]]> the-nest-9781481432320_hrOppel, Kenneth. The Nest. illus. by Jon Klassen. 256p. ebook available. S. & S. Oct. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481432320.

Gr 5-7–Steve has always been a worrier, but since his brother was born he’s become even more anxious. When Steve starts having dreams about otherworldly wasps, he takes comfort in their message that everything will be okay. But the more he learns about their plan to “fix” the baby’s congenital condition, the more he’s conflicted. The tension and unease grow as Steve begins to wonder if the wasps are real or imagined. The story comes to a climactic end that is cathartic and comforting. Set in a modern-day suburb, this quiet yet emotionally haunting book thoughtfully explores themes of safety, anxiety, and the beauty of the imperfect. Klassen’s black-and-white graphite illustrations complement the sensitive and powerful narrative, written in first person from Steve’s perspective. The images have a retro, printmaker feel and never reveal the entire picture, leaving much to the imagination—what is hidden in the unknown? Is it something bad or good? How can you know? The characters are believable and strongly developed, especially Steve, who deals with anxiety and possibly obsessive compulsive disorder. Scientific information on the life cycle, anatomy, and behaviors of wasps is woven in a way that furthers the plot. VERDICT This affecting middle grade psychological thriller is recommended as a first purchase for libraries.–Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library

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

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon | SLJ Review Sat, 01 Aug 2015 19:00:01 +0000 Yoon, Nicola. Everything, Everything. 320p. ebook available. Delacorte. Sept. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780553496642.

Gr 10 Up–From the first page, Madeline Whittier is a sympathetic character who has had to watch the world from the inside of a bubble—literally. Her diagnosed condition of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency is a life sentence that limits her to a world of two people: her mother, who is a doctor, and her nurse. Everything changes when Olly and his family move into the house next door. [...]]]> Yoon 2Yoon, Nicola. Everything, Everything. 320p. ebook available. Delacorte. Sept. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780553496642.

Gr 10 Up–From the first page, Madeline Whittier is a sympathetic character who has had to watch the world from the inside of a bubble—literally. Her diagnosed condition of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency is a life sentence that limits her to a world of two people: her mother, who is a doctor, and her nurse. Everything changes when Olly and his family move into the house next door. Olly is the kind of inventive guy who figures out a way to communicate with Madeline, and over the course of the next few months Madeline becomes Maddy, a young woman who takes potentially deadly risks to protect Olly emotionally, if not physically. Maddy’s and Olly’s hastily planned trip to Maui and their tastefully described liaison while there suggests a mature teen audience, but readers of Cammie McGovern’s Say What You Will (HarperCollins, 2014) and Wendy Mills’s Positively Beautiful (Bloomsbury, 2015) will fall in love with this humorously engaging story of a girl who discovers life, love, and forgiveness in new places. VERDICT Everything, Everything is wonderful, wonderful.–Jodeana Kruse, R. A. Long High School, Longview, WA

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

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The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall | SLJ Review Sat, 01 Aug 2015 13:00:59 +0000 Pearsall, Shelley. The Seventh Most Important Thing. 288p. ebook available. Knopf. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553497281; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780553497298.

Gr 4-7–A middle school student learns the meaning of redemption in this excellent coming-of-age story. For the rest of the country, it was the year President Kennedy was assassinated. For Arthur Owens, it would always be the year his Dad died. Arthur is struggling to adapt. When he sees his Dad’s hat being worn by the neighborhood “Junk Man,” [...]]]> PearsallPearsall, Shelley. The Seventh Most Important Thing. 288p. ebook available. Knopf. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553497281; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780553497298.

Gr 4-7–A middle school student learns the meaning of redemption in this excellent coming-of-age story. For the rest of the country, it was the year President Kennedy was assassinated. For Arthur Owens, it would always be the year his Dad died. Arthur is struggling to adapt. When he sees his Dad’s hat being worn by the neighborhood “Junk Man,” it is just too much. Arthur isn’t a bad kid, but he picks up that brick and throws it just the same. The judge pronounces a “highly unconventional sentence.” At the behest of the victim James Hampton, the “Junk Man,” Arthur must spend every weekend of his community service helping to complete Hampton’s artistic masterpiece. Inspired by real life artist James Hampton’s life and work, “The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly,” the plot avoids overt religious tones and sticks with the exploration of friendship, love, and life’s most important lessons. From the “Junk Man’s” neighbor, Groovy Jim, to no-nonsense Probation Officer Billie to Arthur’s new best pal Squeak, and even his family, Pearsall has struck just the right tone by imbuing her well-rounded, interesting characters with authentic voices and pacing the action perfectly. Give this to fans of Wendy Mass’s Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life (Little, Brown, 2006) and Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts (Penguin, 2004). Reluctant readers may be intimidated by the page count, but a booktalk or read-aloud with this title should change their minds. VERDICT A recommended purchase for all libraries.–Cindy Wall, Southington Library & Museum, CT

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

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Strike Up the Band | M.T. Anderson and the Story Behind the Leningrad Symphony Fri, 31 Jul 2015 19:31:39 +0000 Symphony for the City of the Dead, and the power of music to change lives and make history. ]]> mt_andersonA new book from National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson is always sure to catch teens’ (and reviewers’) attention. Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad (Candlewick, 2015), his first work of narrative nonfiction, is no exception. It is a thoroughly researched and brilliantly multilayered look at the life of composer Dmitri Shostakovich, his creative influences and challenges with the Stalin regime, and the devastating Siege of Leningrad. The book is as compelling as any spy thriller, as horrific as a zombie apocalypse, and as moving as a heartbreaking novel. Incredibly, it’s all true. And throughout it all, Anderson, a consummate storyteller, documents the power of music to change lives and make history.

I’m happy to say that Anderson will be a part of this year’s SummerTeen, a free virtual conference taking place on August 13. He will be talking more about Symphony for the City of the Dead as part of a panel moderated by Marc Aronson called “The New Age of YA Nonfiction,” along with Paula Ayer and Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Check out the entire program and register today.

When did you first hear the Leningrad Symphony? When did you realize that you needed to tell the story behind its creation?

For years, I had heard three stories about the symphony repeated over and over again in program notes and CD booklets: First, that Shostakovich wrote most of it inside the besieged city itself; second, that a performance of it had taken place in the city under incredibly harsh conditions—the night of the performance, for example, the Red Army bombed the Germans on the opposite side of the city to draw fire away from the concert hall—and third, that the piece had been reduced onto microfilm and brought out of the Soviet Union via the Middle East and North Africa, delivered to the United States, and broadcast here to generate interest in the Russian cause. These are old classical music chestnuts. But about six or seven years ago, I read another sketch of some of these events and this time, something clicked. I realized that it would make a powerful story for teens as well as adults. I remembered my own teenage love of Shostakovich’s music. (His symphonies and chamber music are very passionate, dramatic, [and] dark. And so are a lot of teens.) I gradually started to do reading on the topic and feel my way toward a book.

This work brilliantly combines at least three compelling stories into one—the Shostakovich biography, the history of the city (and by extension the Russian people) in the first half of the 20th century, and the power of music (not only as a political statement or a rallying cry, but also as a way to honor and eulogize his countrymen and capture the attention of the world). Did you set out to write such an ambitious volume or did it just evolve organically?

I didn’t realize how ambitious it was going to be. I thought I’d be essentially digesting things other people had written. Then I discovered, for example, that no one had ever really looked into the symphony’s microfilm voyage. No one really knew who’d arranged it or how it had come about. So it became a much larger and more complicated project as I tracked down sources both here and in the state archives in Moscow, documents that had been left to languish during the Cold War. Eventually, I wrote an academic paper on the microfilm transfer.

I should also mention how grateful this project made me for librarians’ services—and for the recent advances in search engine technology. This is a project where the first clues often were served up by obscure hits and hints online—but which often led to yellowing, archived documents in physical form sitting in boxes, available only at one site in the world. The bridge between the virtual and the physical was often the painstaking work librarians and archivists had done to catalogue their special collections. So, thank you! Kisses and vodka all round!

SymphonyCityDeadYou’ve always done plenty of research, whether working on your historical novels or picture books. Did you have any trepidation about tackling a strictly nonfiction work?

At first, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I found the process fascinating, life-changing. There was so much I didn’t know about the Soviet Union, about its literature and music, about the Second World War. I was constantly amazed and aghast at what I learned. For example: The number of Soviet citizens who died in the defense of Leningrad and its surroundings is higher than the number of Americans who have died in all wars since 1775. Roughly half of the total casualties in the Second World War were Soviet. Coming across facts like this, I felt even more passionate about the project. I thought: This is something we all have to understand.

The book is narrative nonfiction at its best, blending meticulous research and scholarship with gripping storytelling that keeps the text lively and immediate for readers. Was it difficult to establish the proper tone to reflect the seriousness of the subject matter and meet the information needs of teen readers?

It was occasionally a challenge to convey that information—though it was made easier [because] the history itself is so dramatic. In terms of voice, I also occasionally tried to catch some of the characteristic tone used in many of Shostakovich’s letters and in the writing of the authors he admired or knew (Mikhail Zoshchenko, Viktor Shklovsky, Daniil Kharms, Ilf and Petrov, Bulgakov, and even the 19th-century Gogol)—a grim absurdism that came to pervade the Soviet intelligentsia in this period. They were living in a grotesque and violent world; their words and music reflect that. And yet, they also reflect the yearning for something better, something nobler.

You ask in your author’s note, “How do we reconstruct the story of someone who lived in a period in which everyone had an excuse to lie, evade, accuse, or keep silent?” Did you know going in how elusive or contradictory the “facts” would be?

Yes, I knew this would be a challenge. For decades, there has been a violent debate about the authenticity of Shostakovich’s supposed memoirs, for example. But that’s part of the drama of the story. Totalitarianism destroys truth— that’s how dictatorships survive. And yet, Shostakovich strived to make his music into another kind of truth, a truth beyond words.

I made this doubt a part of the story, because I feel that kids need to see how history is actually constructed. History isn’t just sitting there under a tarp, waiting to be discovered. It’s assembled, each and every time we tell it. That’s incredibly important for us all to remember.

How has recent scholarship and the newly available documents and statements changed the debate about the symphony and its meaning?

Well, there has long been a conspiracy theory that Shostakovich didn’t intend the “Leningrad” Symphony to be about the approach of the German Wehrmacht at all, but rather to be about Stalin’s rise to power (as some of his other music is probably implicitly, or even explicitly, a demonstration of his hatred for a regime which betrayed, imprisoned, and executed friends and family members). This is part of the drama of decoding I discuss in the book. Current scholarship suggests that there’s a more interesting and complicated story than suggesting it’s just supposed to be a simple cartoon of one dictator or the other.

Candace Fleming’s The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia (Random, 2014) perfectly sets the stage for Symphony for the City of the Dead, which begins in 1906 with Shostakovich’s birth. Besides checking out a recording of the Seventh Symphony, Op. 60, what book do you recommend we look for as a follow-up read?

I thought Candy’s book was wonderful! I’m not sure what would follow on after you read hers and mine. I guess chronologically, we need a book about Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table. Steve Sheinkin, get right on it!

Or, if you don’t want to wait for a best-seller by Steve called BREZHNEV!, a lot of people have been telling me I absolutely need to read Eugene Yelchin’s Breaking Stalin’s Nose (Holt, 2011). That’s probably where I’m going to go next.

I know there are publishing challenges when it comes to including music, but this book screams for the opportunity, if not with the print version at least with the ebook or audio editions. Is it just prohibitively expensive to do so? Is there a particular recording that you are particularly fond of?

We’re [working on] the audiobook version right now, and we hope to have some brief musical examples. Generally, if you’re looking for a blanket recommendation for Shostakovich’s symphonies, I’d point to some wonderful recordings done recently by a young conductor named Vasily Petrenko. Not only are they full of subtle and impassioned music-making—they’re available to stream via the Naxos Music Library, which several of my local library systems subscribe to. (If yours doesn’t subscribe, these recordings are also on Spotify and similar services.) Shostakovich’s symphonies are powerful music, deeply human and full of terror, love, and longing, and I hope this book will convince readers to explore them.

Does the symphony still enjoy widespread popularity in Russia and abroad? Can you see Symphony for the City of the Dead ever being translated into Russian?

That would be great! The “Leningrad” Symphony still holds a very important place in Russian culture. A few months ago, I mentioned to a Russian cabbie in Boston that I was working on a book about Shostakovich. He immediately, without prompting, started belting out the “invasion” theme of the “Leningrad” Symphony. It has been an amazing lesson for me, learning how deeply important this music was for generations of Soviet citizens. And this is what this book became for me: a story about the power of music to change a nation, to change history, to change the world.



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The Keeper by Darragh | SLJ Review Fri, 31 Jul 2015 19:00:24 +0000 Martin, Darragh. The Keeper. 280p. glossary. Little Island. Jul. 2015. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9781908195845.

Gr 7 Up–Twelve-year-old Oisin Keane has grown up in the suburbs of Dublin without the slightest clue that he coexists with the ancient magic of the land. He and his youthful looking Granny Keane are the only members of the family with green eyes. Celtic folklore and legends attribute magical powers to those with green eyes, because green is said to be the color of Fairies’ eyes. [...]]]> KeeperMartin, Darragh. The Keeper. 280p. glossary. Little Island. Jul. 2015. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9781908195845.

Gr 7 Up–Twelve-year-old Oisin Keane has grown up in the suburbs of Dublin without the slightest clue that he coexists with the ancient magic of the land. He and his youthful looking Granny Keane are the only members of the family with green eyes. Celtic folklore and legends attribute magical powers to those with green eyes, because green is said to be the color of Fairies’ eyes. While in his granny’s spare room, Oisin is chosen by the Book of Magic, one of the only remaining relics from the Dagda’s cauldron. The Dagda was a High King of immense power who is associated with a magical cauldron that held the five gifts of Ireland. The work is the key to finding the five other books of magic. The longer Oisin holds the book, the stronger the bond between them grows, making him the Keeper of the Book of Magic. As a result of this new position, he and his siblings are attacked by Great Queen Morrigan. When she kidnaps his little sister, it’s up to Oisin and his brother to put away their sibling rivalry and save not only their little sister but the balance of the world. The well-crafted story line will hold fantasy readers captive. With each chapter, a new challenge arises, and kids will be happy to join the protagonist every step of the way. VERDICT Fans of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter will enjoy this fast-paced high fantasy adventure that adds a refreshing twist to Celtic myths and legends.–Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

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

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Harris Poll Shows Growing Support for Book Banning, Ratings Fri, 31 Jul 2015 17:51:48 +0000 harris_pollA recent Harris poll on attitudes about book banning and school libraries revealed that out of the 2,244 U.S. adults surveyed in March 2015, the percentage who felt that certain books should be banned increased by more than half since the last similar study conducted in 2011. In addition, more believe that some books deserve to be banned than movies, television shows, or video games.

In 2011, 18 percent of adults surveyed answered yes to the question “Do you think that there are any books which should be banned completely?” In the most current study, published July 8, 28 percent answered the same question in the affirmative—a ten point increase—with 24 percent of those surveyed unsure. This means nearly half of those surveyed are still convinced that no books should ever be banned, but the implications of the findings still deserve attention. “While it’s still a minority perception…I felt that from 18 to 28 percent in just four years was rather surprising growth,” said Larry Shannon-Missal, managing editor at the Harris Poll.

Americans are more tolerant of other types of media, it appears. Only 16 percent of those surveyed felt that any movies or television programs should be banned outright, with nearly a quarter holding video games to similar standards.

“The fact that people are concerned about books speaks to the fact that people still believe in books and words as powerful things, that they have the power to change hearts and minds,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). “However, it does reflect a concern of [OIF], that the easy idea that we simply ban a book we don’t like reflects on our civic education in the United States—that we’re not talking about, teaching about, thinking about the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment.”


A full 71 percent of those surveyed believed books should be subject to a rating system similar to the one used for movies, with 35 percent agreeing strongly. The same proportion expected librarians to prevent children from borrowing age-inappropriate materials. And many wanted to see books with controversial subject matter excluded from school libraries altogether. Sixty percent felt that children should not be able to get books with explicit language from their school libraries, and half said the same for books with references to violence. Yet only 43 percent mentioned books with references to sex, and 37 percent said the same for books with references to drugs or alcohol. (A full 36 percent, however, would ban books that included vampires.)

A third of respondents did not believe children should not be able to access the Koran at school libraries, and another 29 percent would disallow the Torah or Talmud—and 13 percent of those surveyed would exclude the Bible. Some 26 percent thought that school libraries should not contain books that question the existence of a divine being, while 19 percent said the same of books discussing creationism. It was not noted whether any of these sets of responses overlapped, but it would seem that American adults strongly believe that librarians should serve as gatekeepers to their children’s information: some three-fifths of the respondents thought that children with access to ebooks outside of a library setting would be more likely to read inappropriate material.

However, in an interesting postscript to the survey, three in ten respondents said they would be more inclined to read a book if it had been banned—and that number increased to 40 percent if a book was considered “controversial.” Out of those numbers, more than half—53 percent—were in the 18-36 age group.


The survey’s results would seem to show a rise in conservative attitudes toward censorship, especially in the context of school libraries. But Peter Hart, communications director for the National Coalition Against Censorship, cautioned LJ, “We have to be careful about the conclusions that can be drawn from it because the questions are so overarching. I think what they’re registering is a…reaction that is indicative of something, but might not be as definitive as the results seem to indicate.”

Caldwell-Stone pointed out that the survey’s questions about school libraries reflect a different set of attitudes from those surrounding public or academic libraries. Coupled with the broad nature of the questions, this could encourage a less nuanced range of answers. For instance, the children’s “Curious George” series contains references to alcohol, and To Kill a Mockingbird contains an explicitly violent scene. “It’s easy to say ‘violence is a bad thing’ from a broad perspective,” she noted, “but when we get down to actual facts and cases about particular books…would these 2,200 people ban To Kill a Mockingbird from school libraries? I think we would get a far different response on the survey if we actually got into the weeds and started talking about what books [people are] talking about.” The number of book challenges reported to OIF, said Caldwell-Stone, has remained relatively stable over the past few years, although many challenges are not reported to the agency or are reported in the press instead.

In addition, the idea of a rating system for books has no real parallel in other media, said Caldwell-Stone. The U.S. motion picture rating system, established in 1968, is advisory in nature only, with no force of law behind it. “A private movie theater owner might bar a young person from seeing a movie if they’re under 16 and it’s R-rated,” she pointed out to LJ. “It’s not the government taking that action.” There are numerous places people can turn to in order to make informed decisions about books, including Library Journal and School Library Journal, said Caldwell-Stone, “so parents have a multiplicity of resources to turn to, and librarians are perfectly willing to point these out or help parents find them…so that they have an idea of what books are about when their children are picking them out or reading them. The fact that it might take a few more minutes to read a review or a paragraph about a book speaks to the fact that books are complex, and they deal with ideas in different ways.”

This perception of librarians as monitors “could, in fact, be driving some of the changes in attitudes toward whether any books should be banned in general,” speculated Shannon-Missal. “With the rise of electronic books… some people are concerned that this takes the gatekeeper out of the equation, and makes certain inappropriate books more available to children.”


Hart would like to see a follow-up survey examine attitudes toward different types of books and subject matter in order to drive the conversation further. “We thought it would be helpful to ask questions that would try to draw people out a little bit. You say that you are in favor of banning any kind of book—well what about…The Great Gatsby? How do you feel about The Diary of Anne Frank? Or Beloved?… Who knows what someone has in mind when they’re answering that question? A terrorist how-to guide? Are they thinking literature?”

Shannon-Missal, too, hopes to follow up on the 2015 research “with some attitudinal questions layered in about…what is moving the needle on American opinion—see if we can dig a little deeper.”

Censorship and institutionalized ratings are easy answers to difficult questions, said Caldwell-Stone. “I think it circles back to the fact that we don’t talk about these issues from a civic standpoint,” she told LJ. “We don’t talk about the Bill of Rights anymore, and our commitment to educating students about civics has really declined in the last few decades.” However, she noted, “There’s always that other old adage that there should something in every library to offend someone.”

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Game Design-Based Lessons can Help Shrink the Digital Divide, Says Study Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:09:43 +0000 Daily technology-based lessons, specifically those around game design that are taken for school credit, can help bridge the digital divide among students—particularly that between boys and girls, according to a new study.

Students used Adobe Flash to program and edit games, starting with a paper prototype and moving through to a final, group programmed demo. Inquiry and collaborative skills were infused into computer programming by putting students together as teams—and requiring they finish the work for credit. The direction, group work, and even the stakes involved all help “attenuate digital divide effects,” according to the study.

Static tech labs and carts full of devices—even maker labs—may be insufficient at shrinking the gap, assert the authors of the study, which appeared in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. Instead, researchers recommended infusing “designed experiences,”  where children are directed to create a project for a grade, into a school day to enhance  students’ use of technology. While not dismissing hands on, self-directed exploration of technology and digital tools, the authors emphasized the instruction and direction—and knowing the work was part of a required course—as helping to shrink the digital gap.

Ming Ming Chui

Ming Ming Chui

“You can’t do anything without a computer,” says Ming Ming Chiu, professor of educational psychology at Purdue University’s College of Education and co-author of the study. “But just having computers isn’t enough if you don’t how to use it well.”

Shrinking the digital divide is a focus for all educational stakeholders. On July 15, President Obama presented a new program, called ConnectHome, specifically aimed to get faster Internet connections into the homes of low-income students. Children who grow up with limited access to the Internet have less ability than their connected classmates to finish homework, stay in touch with teachers and friends, or even apply for college.

Rebecca Reynolds

Rebecca Reynolds

Chiu and co-author Rebecca Reynolds followed 242 middle and high school students at 38 schools in West Virginia enrolled in a game design program through K-12 platform Globaloria in 2011. They found that the gap between girls and boys and how they engage with technology, shrunk from the start of the program to its end, where “…girls were empowered to participate on par with boys,” wrote the authors.This was “notable” as women tend to show lower skill levels with computer and Internet tools, according to the study. That difference disappeared after the program among the girls and boys—even though both groups were learning new skill sets.

The program also helped to level the divide among students across socioeconomic levels and ethnicities—with all students showing a higher level of ability, plus an increased willingness to use technology in a more advanced manner regardless of their background, by the end of the program. Students averaged 30 percent greater basic, and 49 percent more advanced computer activity after using the game design platform.

The key to these results, say researchers, was creating a stake for kids—requiring students have a reason other than simple curiosity or time after school to engage with the technology. Researchers believe that simply offering students hands-on time with tech tools and devices is not enough to level the divide.

“The study challenges the people in the maker movement,” says Reynolds, assistant professor of library and information studies at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information. “They want to find a way to structure teaching and learning to ensure students are getting more substantive and deep learning experiences, with dedicated time on task.”

Reynolds says she believes school librarians could play an important role as educators, helping to shape a tech program that is scheduled into the school day, rather than just handing students tools and devices to explore “on their own,” she says.

“Educators are always hearing a need to implement technology, and a lot of them struggle with how,” she says. “At Rutgers, we’re suggesting school librarians play a significant role in this.”

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“Comics Connector” Finds Comics Professionals for School Visits Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:09:29 +0000 ChipKidd_CBLDF_logoAn online resource from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) connects teachers and librarians with comic professionals who are able to visit them in classrooms throughout the United States.

The organization is well known for providing legal representation, advice, and referrals in court cases where the First Amendment is challenged in reference to graphic novels and comic books. “One of the greatest tools against censorship is to be proactive against censorship,” said CBLDF executive director Charles Brownstein. “We want communities to have the opportunity to better understand comics in advance of any sort of challenges.” CBDF’s tools and resources include discussion guides, case studies, and its column “Using Graphic Novels in Education.”

The Comics Connector is a practical addition to CBLDF’s many initiatives. Launched in May during Children’s Book Week, the Comics Connector features a growing list of comics professionals state by state, as well as in Canada. Artists, editors, writers, and others in the industry are featured in the database, and Brownstein says that his team will be gathering more participants throughout the summer. “I really expect it to be more prominently in use when we get into the fall semester and banned book season,” he said. “I hope we get to a point to hundreds [of industry professionals] represented in all 50 states and around the world.”

Those wanting to be featured in the database submit a completed questionnaire that denotes what topics they feel comfortable speaking about and the age of the audience they’d like to speak to, either virtually or in person. Contact information is included so that educators can reach out to them directly.

Jesse Karp, who has been a school librarian at the Little Red School School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York City for 14 years, is already thinking about how to use the Comics Connector in September. “We have a literary week at the beginning of the year and the teachers are always hungry for people [to speak to students],” he says. “Most teachers I’ve spoken to are really embracing graphic novels as a platform for literacy, but they don’t have a background in that particular kind of language. So to have a professional come in and guide students through it in a more complex way would give the kids a chance to expand their horizons.”

Karp says that when he asked comic book artist George O’Connor to talk to a group of seventh grade students, “[they] were so engaged by him, and they enjoyed not only the final product but the process, which in itself is a whole other kind of lesson.” Many students asked if O’Connor would come back for another presentation.

Comics Connector helps out publishers, too. Gina Gagliano, associate marketing and publicity manager at First Second Books, a graphic novel imprint of Macmillan, estimates that she gets between one and five emails a week asking if she can recommend comic creators who would be able to speak at an event. “This sort of thing has been needed and it’s great that the CBLDF is stepping up and providing this,” she says. “We worked to get our authors up on the Comics Connector. I’ve already gotten questions that [it] can answer, so it’s been helpful already.”

Cartoonist Jason Little, based in Brooklyn, NY, signed up for the Comics Connector in May. “I think it’s spectacular,” he says. “For those of us who like to draw comics and teach, it’s pretty awesome. We’re pretty excited about it.”

“The thing about being a cartoonist is that it’s the kind of job that pays poets’ wages for doctors’ hours,” adds Little, who teaches cartooning majors at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, in addition to publishing his own comics and graphic novels. The Comics Connector makes it easier for artists like Little to find gigs. “This is for people who don’t have lecture agents,” he says.

Karp sees it as a win-win idea all around. “For a place whose primary mission is the support of the life of creators, to be moving in this direction—connecting the comic world to the larger world—is a great move that can only serve the industry and the world at large,” he says.

Okyle-Carly_Contrib_WebCarly Okyle is a writer at Her work has appeared in School Library, and, among other publications.

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ABDO Launches Database Series for Pre-K–2 Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:02:02 +0000 Abdo Zoom, a database covering 160 animal species for Pre-K–2 learners, will debut in August. Created by educational publisher ABDO, this is the first in a series of new digital resources for young children.

From the release:

August 1, 2015

AZ-Logo-wTag_borderMinneapolis, MN – ABDO (, a leading educational publisher, is excited to announce the launch of its latest digital offering, Abdo Zoom, in August 2015. The first of several Abdo Zoom databases to be released for PreK–2 learners features articles written on 160 different animal species, and is presented with modern appeal, interactive elements, and a streamlined site architecture. Additional databases are under development for subsequent releases.

The initial Abdo Zoom Animals database provides vital facts about each animal species including quick stats, body characteristics, life cycle, diet, and habitat. The highly engaging content features read-aloud text, highlighted glossary terms, streaming videos, and printable activities and games. The puzzles, crafts, games, and coloring activities reinforce learned vocabulary and concepts through a disguised learning approach.

“Intuitive, easy navigation along with a bright, fun design makes exploring factual information more of an adventure for kids,” says BreAnn Rumsch, Marketing & Communications Manager at ABDO. Adds ABDO Editor-in-Chief Paul Abdo, “The Internet can be a great source for exploring ideas . . . but we all know there are pitfalls along the way as well. Abdo Zoom offers a safe online environment through which students can avoid the junk on the Web and access only relevant, appropriate content from current, credible sources.”






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Canciones y Cuentos: Songs and Rhymes for Bilingual Storytimes | Libro por libro Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:00:00 +0000 1507-Libro-openerOne of the five practices of early literacy is singing, and for good reason: it helps develop phonological sensitivity, supports comprehension, and builds vocabulary. The rhythms and vocal patterns that are emphasized while singing aloud help very young children hear and play with the smaller sounds that make up words. This is true in any language, and, in fact, studies show that parents and caregivers should talk and sing to young children in the language they know best. While the youngest of learners may not always have the words to express themselves, music is a universal language that every child understands.

Lullabies, nursery rhymes, clapping songs, and lap bounces sung en español are ideal ways to introduce all children to the beauty and sheer joy of song.


PASCHKIS, Julia. Flutter & Hum: Animal Poems/Aleteo y zumbido: Poemas de animales. Holt. Aug. 2015. $17.99. ISBN 9781627791038.

PreS-K–A book of animal poetry that lends itself to numerous early literacy activities. The snake who only knows the letter “sssssssss” is a perfect entry to letter sounds. Sometimes alliteration occurs in the Spanish text, as when the deer “Ve./ Vuela./Va.” In the English translation the same phrase is expressed in rhyme: “See him/fly./Goodbye.” The text is often incorporated into the illustrations themselves, from forming part of a tortoise’s shell or found on a yellow umbrella. This book is ideal for adult/child sharing. In an author’s note, Paschkis says that although she is not a native speaker, she fell in love with Spanish after reading poems by Pablo Neruda. Her love shows, and her illustrations, created in gouache, are quite extraordinary.

MUSICAL PAIRING: Take the opportunity to share this fun tune that will help little ones play with animal sounds, “Los animales cantan.” And if you’re looking for a craft idea to finish off the program, take a look at this fairly simple “Snake Mobile.”

WOLFF, Ashley. Los pollitos dicen/The Baby Chicks Are Singing. illus. by author. Little, Brown. 2005. Board. $7.99. ISBN 9780316067324.

Baby-PreSIn English, little chicks say “cheep, cheep, cheep.” Through this book version of the classic Spanish nursery song, children learn that baby chicks also say “pio, pio, pio.” Though Wolff’s English version differs slightly from some traditional lyrics, the Spanish translation is a good way to introduce the song in a storytime setting. The simple melody stresses the first syllable in each sentence, making it a catchy tune, easy for children and adults to pick up.
MUSICAL PAIRING: Elizabeth Mitchell sings a lovely version of “Los pollitos” on You Are My Little Bird (Smithsonian Folkways). Librarians may want to help reinforce comprehension by using hand motions to act out each part. For example, while singing the “pio, pio, pio” lines, make your hand into a beak shape; when you get to the line “Cuando tienen hambre,” rub your stomach to indicate hunger.


The following tales will be popular during pajama storytimes, as part of the bedtime collection, or even at a Mother’s Day program.

LACÁMARA, Laura. Floating on Mama’s Song/Flotando en la canción de mamá. illus. by Yuyi Morales. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780060843687.

PreS-K–Anita’s mother sings, and as she sings, she and those around her float in the air. The metaphor will likely be lost on young readers, but they will see the magic of it in Morales’s art. Good things can’t always last forever, and when the neighbors complain, Anita’s mother stops singing. Mama’s desire to sing again is brought back by her own mother, Anita’s Abuela, through a story told in an old family photograph. So many of the stories for very early learners center around the extended family, and Anita’s family has a gift that floats through the generations and lifts them all.

MUSICAL PAIRING: The richly illustrated night sky in Morales’s book is a perfect lead-in to several rounds of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” or, en español, “Estrellita.” Spanish lyrics and an MP3 sound clip can be found at

TILLMAN, Nancy. La noche en que tú naciste. Feiwel & Friends, 2015. Board $7.99. ISBN 978125005974.

Birth-PreS–The board book version of Tillman’s On the Night You Were Born (Feiwel & Friends, 2006) makes this lovely bedtime story accessible for Spanish-speaking parents to read to their infants. A charming title, it survived the transition to the board book format and to Spanish quite admirably. One line is particularly meaningful in the context of early literacy: “El sonido de tu nombre es mágico, musical” (“The sound of your name is magic, musical”). Parents can share the music of language with their children from their very earliest days. Tillman has created lovely art, much of it bathed in nighttime blue, that will calm very young children as they lie in their parent’s arms.

MUSICAL PAIRING: Soothing melodies and charming lyrics can be found in many Latin American lullabies. Putumayo Kids’ Latin Dreamland offers 10 songs including the soothing bossa nova instrumental, “A Jardineira,” the classic Mexican lullaby “Canción de Cuna,” and a lovely version of “Cielito Lindo” from Colombia. Perfect for lulling sleepy heads into a gentle slumber, this CD would also be a calming end to a pajama storytime.

Here are a few more sweet lullabies that will warm kids’ (and grown-ups’) hearts: “Duermete mi niño” and “Arrorró Mi Niño.”


These works are longer tales that can serve as a starting point for storytelling programs. They offer great opportunity for noise-making, call and response, and all-around hijinks.

LAÍNEZ, René Colato. ¡Vámonos! Let’s Go! illus. by Joe Cepeda. Holiday House. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823434428.

PrS-K–The bus in this title looks like a school bus, and Laínez creates a story within the context of song. A boy and a girl get on the bus. On their ride they cross train tracks, a truck driver honks in greeting, a motorcycle vrooms by. They see and hear an ambulance, a fire truck, and a plane. But it turns out they aren’t going to school at all. The kids end up at an amusement park where they drive their own miniature cars and eat ice cream. The joy of this book is the many noises children can make, making it ideal for group participation. The Spanish and English sounds are slightly different (in English the fire truck goes “woo-ooo-ooo” and in Spanish it goes “uuuah”), which makes it perfect for bilingual storytimes. Cepeda’s oil acrylic illustrations are as appealing and fun as the song itself. There are lots of strong primary colors and the characters appear bouncy and happy.

MUSICAL PAIRING: Perfect for pre- or post-road trips or summer excursions, this title can also be paired with the Spanish version of the classic, “Wheels on the Bus.

Recommended CDs and Songs for Spanish- Language Collections

By Claire Moore & Tim Wadham



A Bailar! Let’s Dance by Whistlefritz and Jorge Anaya

Arroró mi niño by Lulu Delacré

1507-Libro-Bx-ChildrensNurseryRhymesCanciones para chicos by Maria Elena Walsh

Cantemos en Español by Susy Dorn.

Children’s Nursery Rhyme Songs in Spanish by Bilingual Beginnings

1507-Libro-Diez-Deditos_CDDe Colores and Other Latin American Folk Songs by Jose-Luis Orozco


“Los Pollitos” by Elizabeth Mitchell; Album: You Are My Little Bird

“Bailamos” by Mister G; Album: Chocolalala

“Open Shut Them (Abre, Cierra)” by Ana, Lu, Irania & Fred; Album: Criss Cross Mangosauce

“Mariposa Olé” by Dan Zanes & Barbara Brousal; Album: Catch That Train

Claire Moore is the head of children’s services at Darien Library (CT) and runs Libros y cuentos, a bilingual storytime.

NUÑO, Fran. Luces de feria. illus. by Enrique Quevedo. Cuento de Luz. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9788415784166.

PreS-K–For preschoolers ready for a delightfully odd trip to an amusement park, this Spanish language tale features a journey with a boy and his father to a park with a train that carries a mummy, Dracula, and Frankenstein’s monster along with paying guests. There is a hall of mirrors, which features reflections that will make kids wonder just who—or what—this father and son might be. The park boasts a Castle of Terror with strange, small, silent creatures. But there are also more traditional rides such as the Ferris wheel, and there is typically unhealthy carnival food as well. Quevedo’s illustrations make this trip to the fair a surreal, imagination-expanding adventure.

MUSICAL PAIRING: Perfect for Day of the Dead celebrations or Halloween storytimes, try following this ever-so-slightly creepy picture book with a round of “Los Esqueletos,” a Costa Rican children’s song about skeletons who eat rice, go to the theater, play chess, and do other funny things. A video and lyrics for several versions of the song can be found on the Spanish Playground website.

KRALJIC, Helen. El cuento del lobo. illus. by Anna Laura Cantone. Picarona. 2014. Tr $21.95 ISBN 9788416117000.

PreS-K–As toddlers grow into preschoolers, the predictable structure of many folk and fairy tales is ideal for strengthening their narrative skills. In the spirit of Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (Viking, 1989), this take on the Big Bad Wolf shows that he is actually a really nice, kind, and helpful wolf. He helps pigs get a ball down from a tree and rescues a lamb from a fox. At the end, he expresses his frustration at still being stereotyped as the bad guy even after all of his good deeds. The stylized illustrations, a mainstay of European picture books, may look unusual to American children, but they are great fun. The characters are drawn with distinctive long noses and big, silly grins. This book can be combined with the more traditional story of “The Three Little Pigs.”

MUSICAL PAIRING: The incomparable Maria Elena Walsh’s “El reino al revés” would make a fun choice for this topsy-turvy tale.

LOZANO, José. Little Chanclas. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781935955856; pap $7.95. ISBN 9781935955863.

PreS-K–Little Chanclas is an amusing family story about Lily, a girl who has a very noisy pair of sandals. Everywhere she goes she makes a flip-flop noise. Lily doesn’t care for any footwear other than chanclas, despite her mother’s repeated attempts to encourage her to diversify. Lily wears them to school, celebrations, and festivals. But eventually, they fall apart. Losing her chanclas of course makes Lily cranky. And mother lays down the law: no shoes, no school, friends, or parties. Just when you think that Lily is going to have to go the way of sneakers, her grandmother arrives with a stack of boxes, all containing flips-flops in different colors. Eventually, when she begins to play soccer, Lily graduates from chanclas to cleats, much to her mother’s relief. Lozano’s illustrations reflect a very Mexican sensibility, and by extension, a very genuine expression of the Latino cultural experience.

MUSICAL PAIRING: “Dos Manitas, Diez Deditos” is a song about fingers (and toes) that reinforces counting skills and it’s a fine activity to follow Little Chanclas. This video features an educator from the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy demonstrating how to teach the song to children. Lyrics can be found at

Tim Wadham ( is a library administrator and the author of Wordplay for Kids (ALA Editions, 2015).

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Fable Comics edited by Chris Duffy | SLJ Review Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:00:57 +0000 Duffy, Chris, ed. Fable Comics. 124p. First Second. Sept. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781626721074.

Gr 3 Up–This title rounds off the successful Nursery Rhyme Comics (2011) and Fairy Tale Comics (2013, both First Second) collections, which contain short tales adapted by popular cartoonists. The majority of the fables in this installment are from Aesop, but there is also a sampling of selections from countries including Angola and India and famous writers such as Ambrose Bierce. Fables lend themselves well to graphic [...]]]> FableDuffy, Chris, ed. Fable Comics. 124p. First Second. Sept. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781626721074.

Gr 3 Up–This title rounds off the successful Nursery Rhyme Comics (2011) and Fairy Tale Comics (2013, both First Second) collections, which contain short tales adapted by popular cartoonists. The majority of the fables in this installment are from Aesop, but there is also a sampling of selections from countries including Angola and India and famous writers such as Ambrose Bierce. Fables lend themselves well to graphic novel format, and the cartoonists do an excellent job of keeping the morals of the stories intact while providing a modern update by changing the setting or putting their own spin on these classic tales. Most notable are those adapted by “Olympians” (First Second) author George O’Connor, which make clever use of the Greek god Hermes. Avid graphic novel readers will recognize the bold colors, thick-outlined characters, and stylized font of James Kochalka, creator of the “Johnny Boo” series (Top Shelf) in “The Fox and the Grapes.” VERDICT This collection of humorous, child-friendly pieces should be a first purchase for school and public library collections.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

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

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The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski | SLJ Review Thu, 30 Jul 2015 19:00:18 +0000 Zagarenski, Pamela. The Whisper. illus. by Pamela Zagarenski. 40p. HMH. Oct. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544416864.

Gr 1-3–A sweet-faced girl in a red hood borrows a special book from her teacher. As she runs home, oblivious to what is happening, the words escape. While a fox nets the jumbled letters, readers can discern “once upon a time,” “wizard,” “bears,” etc. At home, the child is disappointed, thinking the book lacks a story. Then she hears the whisper: “You can imagine the [...]]]> WhisperZagarenski, Pamela. The Whisper. illus. by Pamela Zagarenski. 40p. HMH. Oct. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544416864.

Gr 1-3–A sweet-faced girl in a red hood borrows a special book from her teacher. As she runs home, oblivious to what is happening, the words escape. While a fox nets the jumbled letters, readers can discern “once upon a time,” “wizard,” “bears,” etc. At home, the child is disappointed, thinking the book lacks a story. Then she hears the whisper: “You can imagine the words…the stories….There are never any rules…imagining just is.” She develops an approach, looking more closely at the pictures and asking herself questions from her vantage point at the border. Ironically, this is not a wordless experience for readers; the girl develops opening sentences for the next seven magical compositions. Zagarenski’s signature wheels, teacups, crowns, and tigers populate these richly layered, golden scenes, full of texture and mystery: an elephant and lion float by on a quest, a wizard blows bubbles that become real creatures. During the girl’s return trip to school, the fox requests help reaching grapes. Those familiar with Aesop may be surprised that no trickery is involved. The endpapers reveal the edited fable; the listening fox has also learned about imagining and reimagining. Stories about storytelling can be hard sells to children, who generally prefer the familiar arc of a sustained narrative. However, the mixed-media art is so stunning in this Caldecott-honor artist’s first foray into writing that they will make an exception. VERDICT A sumptuously illustrated fable about the magic of storytelling and the power of imagination.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

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

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A Diverse Book List for the Under-Five Set Thu, 30 Jul 2015 18:34:56 +0000 1507_EL-DiverseList-Header

Over a year into the We Need Diverse Books campaign, most of us in library land know what diversity means to the publishing world—but to a child under age five? Simply put, diversity simply means “different.” Young children start life out as amazing explorers: “What does dirt taste like versus cheese?” “Hey, that baby’s skin is lighter/darker than mine.” The aim of this compilation is not to address every possible configuration of diversity, but instead to offer titles for the sub five-year-old set that showcase “different” in a positive, broad, or subtle way.


Different families

A Tale of Two Daddies. Oelschlager, Vanita. Illustrated by Kristin Blackwood. Vanita Books, 2010. 9780981971452.

A young girl with two fathers answers questions: “Which dad helps when your team needs a coach? /Which dad cooks you eggs and toast?” “Daddy is my soccer coach. / Poppa cooks me eggs and toast.”

A Tale of Two Mommies. Oelschlager, Vanita. Illustrated by Mike Blanc. Vanita Books, 2011. 9780982636671.

Similar in format to A Tale of Two Daddies, questions among three beach-enjoying preschoolers who wonder about everyday life in a two-mom family.

All the World . Scanlon, Liz Gordon. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. S. & S./Beach Lane, 2009. 9781416985808.

Expressive couplets celebrate humankind. Pencil and watercolor illustrations depict a multicultural family, from a summer morning on the beach through a busy day and night.

Double Happiness . Ling, Nancy Tupper. Illustrated by Alina Chau. Chronicle, 2015. 9781452129181.

Told in verses of alternating perspectives as it explores a young brother and sister’s feelings of transition when faced with a move cross-country away from their beloved Nai Nai.

Families . Rotner, Shelley and Sheila Kelly. Photos by Shelley Rotner. Holiday House, 2015. 978082 3430536.

Rotner’s inclusive photographs eloquently visualize dozens of family configurations that help young readers see beyond their own experiences.

Families, Families, Families. Lang, Suzanne, and Max Lang. Random, 2015. 9780553499384.

A menagerie of animal families, each cleverly outlined in a picture frame, creates the effect of a unique family album.

Heather Has Two Mommies . Newman, Lesléa. Illustrated by Laura Cornell. Candlewick, 2015. 9780763666316.

This updated classic features a revised text with new watercolor illustrations and the powerful reminder of “the most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love each other.”

I Love Saturdays/Y Domingos . Ada, Alma Flor. Illustrated by Elivia Savadier. S. & S./Atheneum. 2004. 9780689874093.

A young girl is loved by her English-speaking Euro-American grandparents that she visits on Saturdays, and her Mexican American Spanish-speaking grandparents that she sees on Sundays.

Lola Plants a Garden . McQuinn, Anna. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. Charlesbridge, 2014. 9781580896948.

Mocha-colored Lola and her brother Leo are back, with Lola inspired to plant a garden after reading a library book of gardening poems.

Mango, Abuela, and Me. Medina, Meg. Illustrated by Angela Dominguez. Candlewick, 2015. 9780763669003.

Mia loves her Abuela, and is excited to have her move in. But Mia speaks English, and Abuela speaks Spanish. Enter Mango—a bilingual parrot that serves as the cutest language liaison ever.

One Family. Shannon, George. Illustrated by Blanca Gomez. Farrar/Foster, 2015. 9780374300036.

An interactive counting book that illustrates how a family can be comprised of multiple variations of both gender and culture. Everyone literally counts.

Peeny Butter Fudge. Morrison, Toni. Illustrated by Slade Morrison. S. & S., 2009. 9781416983323.

An African American family shares their love for one another via cooking intergenerationally.

Please Baby, Please. Lee, Spike and Tonya Lewis Lee. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. S. & S., 2006. 9780689834578.

Nelson’s illustrations of an exuberant brown-skinned, springy-haired toddler pair perfectly with the Lees’s sweetly rhyming text.


Sunday Shopping. Derby, Sally. Illustrated by Shadra Strickland. Lee & Low, 2015. ISBN: 9781600604386.

Digitally composed illustrations march across buttery yellow backgrounds as Evie and her grandmother peruse the Sunday paper advertisements, questioning each other on what they would “purchase.”

The NEW Small Person. Child, Lauren. Candlewick, 2014. 9780763678104.

Mixed media illustrations show a family of color adapting to the changing dynamics of their family.

Where’s Lenny? Wilson-Max, Ken. Frances Lincoln, 2014. 9781847803184.

Join Lenny and his biracial family as they frolic and play in this universally appealing story of familial love.

You Can Do It Too! Baicker, Karen. Illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max. Chronicle, 2010. 9780811875615.

Who better to teach an African American baby brother the way of the land than an adoring older sister?

Different friends

Jessica’s Box. Carnavas, Peter. Kane Miller, 2015. ISBN 9781610673471.

Originally published in Australia in 2008, this new version features Jessica using a wheelchair (she was able-bodied in the previous edition) as a subtle ode to physical differences.

Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash: Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual. Brown, Monica. Illustrated by Sara Palacios. Children’s Book Pr., English and Spanish edition, 2013. 9780892392735.

Biracial Marisol is quirky, confident, and doesn’t like to match. At her birthday party, Marisol dresses as a soccer-player-pirate-princess-unicorn.

Me, Too! Dunklee, Annika. Illustrated by Lori Joy Smith. Kids Can Pr., 2015. 9781771381048.

Best friends share many traits, such as a penchant for other languages (oinky boinky , Swedish). But when a new girl arrives—is three a crowd? Colored pencil drawings feature a multicultural trio of friends.

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay. Best, Cary. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Farrar, 2015. 9780374388195.

Zulay and her three friends are all in the same first grade class, where Zulay aspires to run the relay race at Field Day—even though she is blind. An uplifting look at how disabilities do not define a person.

Yoko. Wells, Rosemary. Disney-Hyperion, 2009. 9781423119838.

Yoko is excited to start school—until the other students make fun of her sushi lunch. An intuitive teacher helps students learn about the benefits of cultural differences.

Different concepts

ABC for You and Me. Girnis, Meg. Illustrated by Shirley Leamon Green. Albert Whitman, 2000. ISBN: 9780807501016.

Easily identifiable objects (W is for wagon, K is for kite) are included with color photographs of multinational kids, some also have Down Syndrome, offering a subtle introduction to physical differences.

Black Book of Colors. Cottin, Menena. Illustrated by Rosana Faria. Translated by Elisa Amado. Groundwood, 2008. 9780888998736.

Innovatively describes what it is like for a blind person to experience or think of color. Using an all-black background and raised line art, readers trace and feel the imagery-based illustrations. A braille alphabet is included.

The Handmade Alphabet. Rankin, Laura. Puffin, Reprint edition, 1996. 9780140558760.

Exquisitely drawn hands of all shades and sizes illustrate the ASL manual alphabet.

World Food Alphabet. Caldicott, Chris. Frances Lincoln, 2015. 9781847806536.

An alphabetic photo essay featuring different food from around the globe.

1507_EL-DiverseList-Cvs3Different cultures

Baby Born. Suen, Anastasia. Illustrated by Chih-Wei Chang. Lee & Low, 1999. 9781880000953.

A lift-the-flap book of multinational newborns seen through their active first years of life documents changes in development and the seasons through short rhymes with a lullaby cadence.

Bee-bim Bop! Park, Linda Sue. Illustrated by Ho Baek Lee. HMH, Reprint edition, 2008. 9780547076713.

Park introduces preschoolers to the culinary culture of Korea. Each spread presents a detailed and busy kitchen scene enhancing the rhyming text.

By Day, By Night. Gibson, Amy. Illustrated by Meilo So. Boyds Mill Pr., 2014. 9781590789919.

A buoyant look at children engaging in similar activities around the globe.

Chocolate Me. Diggs, Taye. Illustrated by Shane Evans. Feiwel & Friends, 2011. 9780312603267.

When teased by his classmates because of his thick, curly hair and dark skin, a little boy’s mother helps him see his beauty.

City I Love . Hopkins, Lee Bennet. Illustrated by Marcellus Hall. Abrams, 2009. 9780810983274.

Eighteen clever poems celebrate the diversity and joy of urban life.

Día de los Muertos. Thong, Roseanne Greenfield. Illustrated by Carles Ballesteros. Albert Whitman, 2015. 9780807515662.

A look at the Latin American holiday known in English as “Day of the Dead.”

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music. Engle, Margarita. Illustrated by Rafael López. HMH, 2015. 9780544102293.

Lush acrylic paintings set an enchanting backdrop for Engle’s tale of a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke through Cuba’s taboo against female drummers.

Everywhere Babies. Meyers, Susan. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. HMH, Board Book edition, 2011. 9780547510743.

An appealing text with charmingly endearing multi-toned illustrations celebrates all that boisterous babies do best: playing, sleeping, crawling, and of course, making exuberant noise.

Global Babies. The Global Fund for Children. Charlesbridge, 2007. 9781580891745.

Seventeen cultures are presented in cultural context with photographs showcasing babies in diverse settings.

Happy in our Skin . Manushkin, Fran. Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. Candlewick, 2015. 9780763670023.

This is a sweet ode to diversity in a neighborhood city landscape filled with bustling, loving families of all orientations and backgrounds.

Happy! Williams, Pharrel. Putnam, 2015. 9780399176432.

Children across cultures display their definitions of happy through dimpled smiles and the lyrics of Williams’s chart-topping song in this lighthearted title.

I Am America. Smith Jr., Charles. Scholastic/Cartwheel, 2003. 9780439431798.

A striking look at America through the poetic words and lens of Smith, highlighting multicultural children.

I Am Latino: The Beauty in Me . Pinkney, Sandra. Illustrated by Myles Pinkney. Little Brown, 2013. 9780316233859.

A happy celebration told via breezy text and crisp photographs of smiling children using their senses to showcase traditional food, music, and more.

I’m Like You, You’re Like Me. Gainer, Cindy. Illustrated by Miki Sakamoto. Free Spirit Publishing, Reprint edition. 2013. 9781575424361.

A newly illustrated reprint of the 1988 original. Sakamoto’s illustrations showcase people of varying abilities and ethnicities, demonstrating diversity and differences.

Last Stop on Market Street. de la Peña, Matt. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. Putnam, 2015. 9780399257742.

Figures of all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities are introduced via a city bus trip, where a young boy sees the beauty of everyday objects through his grandmother’s mentoring.

Maria Had a Little Llama/ María tenía una Llamita. Dominguez, Angela. Holt, 2013. 9780805093339.

Peruvian-inspired illustrations lead this retelling of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” into a more diverse landscape.

1507_EL-DiverseList-Cvs4My Colors, My World: Mis colores, mi mundo . Gonzalez, Maya Christina. Children’s Book Pr., 2013. 9780892392780.

This Pura Belpré Honor book tells the story of Maya and her search for color among the tawny hues of her desert background.

My People. Hughes, Langston. Illustrated by Charles Smith Jr. S. & S./Atheneum, 2009. 9781416935407.

Hughes’s classic 33-word poem explodes to life when paired with crisp, sepia-toned photos featuring African Americans from toddlers to seniors.

My Village: Rhymes from Around the World . Wright, Danielle. Illustrated by Mique Moriuchi. Frances Lincoln, 2015. 9781847806277.

This new edition of 22 nursery rhymes features collage illustrations with rhymes appearing in its original language next to English translations.

Over the Hills and Far Away. Hammill, Elizabeth. Various Illustrators. Candlewick, 2015. 9780763677299.

A global compilation of 150 nursery rhymes. Little Miss Muffet is frightened by a spider, a wombat (Australia), grasshopper (America), and “bredda Anancy” (Jamaica).

Peekaboo Morning. Isadora, Rachel. Putnam, Board Book edition, 2008. 9780 399251535.

A toddler plays the universally loved game of “peek-a-boo!” with family members, friends, and the reader of the book via an attached mirror.

Ramadan Moon. Robert, Na’ima. Illustrated by Shirin Adi. Frances Lincoln, 2015. 9781847802064.

Poetic words and spirited, patterned collage artwork capture the solemnity and joy of this monthlong Muslim observance.

1507_EL-DiverseList-Cvs5Say Hello! Davick, Linda. S. & S./Beach Lane, 2015. 9781481428675.

Multiethnic young children demonstrate different ways to say hello in this rhyming text.

Shades of People. Rotner, Shelley, and Sheila Kelly. Holiday House, 2010. 9780823423057.

Celebrates the varying tonal shades of “our skin [which ]is just a covering like wrapping paper…” in a straightforward manner.

Tan to Tamarind: Poems About the Color Brown . Iyengar, Malathai. Illustrated by Jamel Akib. Children’s Book Pr., 2009. 9780892392278.

An inviting poetry collection that reminds readers that each shade of the color is beautiful.

Ten Little Babies . Fujikawa, Gyo. Sterling, 2008. 9781402757006.

Tots of varying skin tones help readers count backward from 10 to none.

Tickle Tickle. Oxenbury, Helen. Board Book edition. S. & S./Little Simon, 1999. 9780689819865.

One example from a classic book series featuring sumptuous babies of all shades and colors playing and learning.

Under the Ramadan Moon . Whitman, Sylvia. Illustrated by Sue Williams. Albert Whitman, 2011. 9780807583050.

A lyrical introduction to Ramadan with richly textured pastel spreads featuring a Muslim family at home and the temple.

We All Count: A Book of Cree Numbers. Fleet, Julie. Native Northwest Publishers, 2014. 9781554763986.

Readers explore new words and different animals via charming illustrations. Pronunciations are given for Cree words.

Whoever You Are/Quienquiera que seas. Fox, Mem. Illustrated by Leslie Staub. Translated by Alma Flor Ada. Board Book edition. HMH, 2007. 9780152058913.

“Joys are the same, / and love is the same. / Pain is the same, / and blood is the same.” Folk art illustrations depict global children in this gentle rhythm of love and acceptance.

Wild Berries. Fleet, Julie. Illustrated by Julie Fleet. Translated by Earl N. Cook. Simply Read Bks., 2014. 9781897476895.

Watercolor and collage illustrations depict a blueberry-picking journey between a young boy and his grandmother. Certain words are translated into n-dialect/Swampy Cree. A recipe for wild blueberry jam, and a pronunciation guide for Cree words round out this serene title.

Different views

A Is for Activist. Nagara, Innosanto. Triangle Square, 2013. 9781609805395.

While activism is typically a message for older audiences, this non-traditional ABC book introduces the topic to little ones.

We March. Evans, Shane W. Roaring Brook, 2012. 9781596435391.

Brings to life Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech with a minimal text and inclusive paintings in warm hues.

Different expectations

And Tango Makes Three. Richardson, Justin, and Peter Parnell. Illustrated by Henry Cole. S. & S., 2005. 9780689878459.

The heartwarming story of two male penguins that create a family of their own with the help of a kindly zookeeper.

Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. Sanat, Dan. Little Brown, 2014. 9780316199988.

Mixed media illustrations bring Beekle to life as he leaves his island of imaginary friends to explore a colorful new city in search of a true friend. Learning to be independent and patient are the backbone of this Caldecott winner.

It’s Ok to Be Different . Parr, Todd. Little Brown, 2009. 9780316043472.

This feel-good message of individuality and acceptance is classic Parr—filled with rainbow-hued cartoonish illustrations with thick black outlines.

Jacob’s New Dress. Hoffman, Sarah and Ian Hoffman. Illustrated by Chris Case. Albert Whitman, 2014. ISBN: 9780807563731.

A gently didactic story, with warmly hued cartoon-style illustrations, follows non-gender conforming Jacob, who wishes he could wear a dress to school.

Red: A Crayon’s Story. Hall, Michael. HarperCollins/Greenwillow, 2015. 9780062252074.

Red Crayon’s label says “red” but his true color is blue. Well-meaning friends try to encourage his redness, yet it isn’t until Berry Crayon asks for Red’s help in completing a blue ocean in his picture that Red accepts his true self.

This Day in June. Pittman, Gayle E. Illustrated by Kristyna Litten. American Psychological Association/Magination, 2014. 9781433816581.

Winner of the 2015 ALA Stonewall Book award, readers experience the exuberance of a Pride Parade. A note to parents and caregivers help make the book a must.

Additional Resources:

Different Cultures

American Indians in Children’s Literature blog, by Debbie Reese.

The Brown Bookshelf

Moreillon, Judi. “Building Bridges for Cultural Understanding: Cultural Literature Collection Development and Programming.” Children and Libraries 11 (2): 35-38. 2013.

Gateway Books: Getting Latino Kids Excited About Reading | Libro por libro | School Library Journal

Vamos a Leer | Teaching Latin American Through Literature

Latin@s in Kid Lit


Different Expectations/Genders/Appearances

Gay-themed Picture Books for Children blog, by Patricia A. Sarles:

Disability in Kidlit — Reviews, articles, and more about the portrayal of disabilities in children’s fiction

LGBTQ Diversity: Building a Collection for Independent Readers | School Library Journal


Different Versions of Diversity:

We’re the People: Summer Reading 2015 | Facebook

Children’s Book Council Diversity website

The World Of Children’s Books Is Still Very White | FiveThirtyEight

How We Talk (or Don’t Talk) About Diversity When We Read with Our Kids | Brightly

Myers, Walter Dean. “Where are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” New York Times, March 15, 2014.

Naidoo, Jamie Campbell. The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children. Written for the Association for Library Service to Children. April 2014.

Children’s & Young Adult Literature Resources: Explore Diversity

We Need Diverse Books | Official site of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign

Multicultural Literature | Cooperative Children’s Book Center
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Notable Books for a Global Society | International Reading Association

I’m Your Neighbor, “New Arrival” Children’s Books

An Expanded Cultural Diversity Booklist: SLJ Readers Respond

The Pirate Tree | Social Justice and Children’s Literature



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Eisner Grant-Winning Library Will Use Graphic Novels to Explore Community Thu, 30 Jul 2015 16:32:00 +0000 ValerieAcklin_Eisner

Pictured from l. to r.: American Library Association’s membership specialist Tina Coleman, Bellmore (NY) Memorial Library’s Valerie Acklin, and Nancy Gropper and Carl Gropper from the Will Eisner Foundation.

Valerie Acklin, head of teen services at Bellmore (NY) Memorial Library (BML), decided to take the library’s mission of serving and uniting the community to the next level by providing a space to connect over a favorite pastime—reading graphic novels. Acklin is the recent recipient of the 2015 American Library Association (ALA) Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grant. Her vision is to use the grant to enhance the positive perception of the library while showcasing its role as an arbiter of living history—all via the comics format.

BML’s staff dedicated time and finances to develop the small graphic novel section, taking it from its original state as a bare-bones collection, quickly doubling its numbers and expanding it to include 775 titles. The collection is now prominently displayed between the adult and teen sections on the main floor.

Acklin and her team saw the collection’s potential as a means to raise awareness about what local libraries can offer the community. In conjunction with the free national campaign Geek the Library, BML hosted its first Comic Con/Geek Fest event last fall, featuring cosplay, panel discussions, artistic workshops, and programs that helped patrons immerse themselves in popular culture.

That successful event was a catalyst that put Acklin on the path toward applying for the grant, which “provides support to a library for the initiation of a graphic novel service, program or initiative,” according to a press release from the ALA. She was motivated in part by the funding the award provides: $2,000 to purchase graphic novels and $1,000 to host numerous graphic novel themed–programs. In addition, BML will receive titles from the Will Eisner Library (a graphic novel collection of the acclaimed writer and artist’s work and biographies about the beloved cartoonist), and copies of each title by this year’s Will Eisner Award-winning authors.

One planned initiative includes an intergenerational program, “Picture Yourself: Using Graphic Novels to Explore the People and Perceptions of Bellmore.” The goal is to use graphic novels to connect to a diverse audience, while also documenting life in the town. “Graphic novels are the ideal format to convey both a sense of place through visual representations, as well as communicate the impressions of the character in that place—therefore a perfect way to reflect a sense of self and a sense of the neighborhood community,” says Acklin.

Starting this fall, three librarian-led book clubs will aim to connect different segments of the local population using graphic novels as tools to better understand the dynamics of the community. The “Homepages” club, for teens through adults, will read books featuring characters that strongly identify with their home and community, such as Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” graphic novels (HarperCollins). Acklin hopes that as participants explore what makes Bellmore what it is, they will gather multiple perspectives of the town based on age, gender, nationality, and life experiences.

Bellmore (NY) Memorial Library's graphic novel collection.

Bellmore (NY) Memorial Library’s graphic novel collection.

The “House Blend” book club will hold meetings at the local Bellmore Bean coffeehouse. This group, for adults and young professionals, will explore graphic novels depicting the journey into adulthood and will consider how the community where one lives and works helps or hinders that process. Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (HMH, 2006) is among the titles. “Community Matters,” also for adults, will focus on factors that create a sense of community and the similarities and differences that make communities around the world thrive and grow.

All the graphic novels discussed will be added to the library’s “Book Club in a Bag” program and made available to local non-library groups and the 54 libraries in the Nassau Library System consortium.

In addition, Acklin has invited local graphic novelists and Bellmore Historical Association members to take part in library discussions and help forge neighborhood connections. As the culminating project, patrons will reflect on their Bellmore experiences through comic-style depictions of a life-changing moment—a funny incident, a daily routine, or a vision of the future. “The fun begins” once members get comfortable using Pixton, a user-friendly online comic creation computer program, Acklin says. “After we compile everyone’s work, BML will publish an original graphic novel anthology based on local history and participants’ experiences.”

A closing “Picture Yourself” celebration hosted by BML will coincide with a month-long display of member-created art at the library and will also be part of the second annual Geek Fest. Attendees will receive a digital copy of the member-created comics anthology, and a physical copy will be added to the graphic novel collection.

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Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz | SLJ Review Thu, 30 Jul 2015 13:00:02 +0000 Schmatz, Pat. Lizard Radio. 288p. ebook available. Candlewick. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763676353.

Gr 8 Up–All great heroes begin with mythical origins. Fifteen-year-old Kavali is no exception. When she was a baby, she was abandoned on a sidewalk, swaddled in a T-shirt with a lizard printed on the front. Since then, she has questioned her true identity. Is she a boy or a girl? A lizard or a human? This work is set in the not-too-distant future, in which the [...]]]> LizardSchmatz, Pat. Lizard Radio. 288p. ebook available. Candlewick. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763676353.

Gr 8 Up–All great heroes begin with mythical origins. Fifteen-year-old Kavali is no exception. When she was a baby, she was abandoned on a sidewalk, swaddled in a T-shirt with a lizard printed on the front. Since then, she has questioned her true identity. Is she a boy or a girl? A lizard or a human? This work is set in the not-too-distant future, in which the government closely monitors gender, occupation, and emotion. When Kavali is thrown into CropCamp, a camp where teenagers learn how to grow organic crops as initiation into adulthood, she begins to question whether she should forfeit her individuality to become a cooperative part of society. Ultimately, Kavali rises above the challenges, discovers her true origins, and makes her own destiny. The themes in Schmatz’s novel surpass in complexity many of its contenders in YA dystopian fiction. The author’s storytelling unravels question upon question for readers, not only about Kavali but also about the power of free will. VERDICT An entertaining and thought-provoking read, this title will be a big hit for those who want a little something more from their dystopian fiction.–Jaclyn Anderson, Madison County Library System, MS

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

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NYC School Tech Summit: Green Screens, Digital Tools, and, Above All, Innovation Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:20:20 +0000 TechSummit4Innovation was the order of the day at the third annual NYCDOE School Technology Summit, sponsored by New York City’s Department of Education (NYCDOE). Nearly 2,000 educators, principals, and superintendents across all five boroughs were encouraged to rethink and reinvent their teaching with new practices and digital tools this fall—and beyond.

“We don’t know what the demands of the future are,” said Carmen Farina, New York City Schools chancellor, during an opening speech to a packed auditorium at LaGuardia High School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “Rote and memorization is not going to get us where we need to go.”

Educators attending the July 29 event got the message. Many arrived with marching orders, often their own, for discovering new ways to engage with their students and for finding new tools for students to use in class and at home.

NYC Teacher Jordan Kamer with his "Do-It-Yourself Green Screen"

NYC teacher Jordan Kamer demonstrates his “Do-It-Yourself Green Screen”

Maker Media’s founder and executive chairman Dale Dougherty, the day’s keynote speaker, launched participants on their digital learning journey, delivering his trademark maker zeal while the crowd fueled up with coffee and bagels. Dougherty encouraged the auditorium to think of ways to engage students without a competitive bent, to allow them to fail, and to get their hands immersed in the journey of creating without worrying about the results.

Yana Domashitsky arrived determined to find new laptops for her K–5 students at P.S. 253, where she serves as the school’s computer technology specialist. As the “SPOC” (single point of contact) between the district’s tech leaders and her Brooklyn school, Domashitsky has been overseeing the rollout of a 1:1 program in third, fourth, and fifth grade classes for the coming school year.

She also needs to replenish the school’s laptop supply for the remaining students. Her pick? “The Lenovos” brand, she says. “They have keyboards where the students can’t pick out the keys.”

Workshops were at capacity during the NYCDOE School Technology Summit.

Workshops were at capacity during the NYCDOE School Technology Summit.

School districts across the country are looking to expand digital tools, apps, programs, and lessons into the curriculum to prepare their students for tech-heavy futures. NYCDOE is not any different. The nation’s largest school district lifted its ban on cell phones in its schools this spring. Farina also acknowledged during her speech that broadband for schools isn’t robust enough, but “we are working on it.”

Barbara Martucci, looking to freshen her skills, honed in on the coding class “Coding is Elementary” during the event’s morning session to bring those skills back to her second graders at P.S. 92 in Manhattan. Bobby Moy, a chess and technology teacher, as well as the school data specialist at the SEEALL Academy in Brooklyn, attended to gather more hands-on practice with Google Apps. He knows he has to stay one step ahead of his pre-K through eighth-grade students.

“I consider myself a digital native,” he says. “But there is just a gap between what teachers and students know. They are multiple steps ahead.”

Packed hallways at NYCDOE School Technology Summit.

Packed hallways at NYCDOE School Technology Summit.

That concern felt palpable in the halls, as educators rushed the tables of vendors—from learning platform eChalk to the online hip-hop library Flocabulary—before flooding the upper floors to attend sessions in the morning and afternoon. Jordan Kamer, a teacher at P.S. 46 in the Bronx, demonstrated how teachers could use green screens to add a creative bent to students’ work. Christa Quint, from P.S. 235 in Brooklyn, showed educators how to “Flip Your Class.” Her presentation demonstrated how to record lessons and highlighted the software she uses, Camtastia, to a packed room.

Not surprisingly, the session “Funding Technology with Grants” was standing room only, with one participant shooing latecomers out of the room as NYCDOE’s Jacob Gutnicki reminded his audience: “When you get the money, don’t forget to say ‘Thank you.’”

In his morning speech, Dougherty reminded the assembled educators that technology is just one tool for exploring ideas and learning. He urged the teachers in the room, as they loaded up with new apps, practices and ideas, to be mindful of bringing experimentation and play into their curriculum.

“The most important transformation we can make is to have teachers see themselves as makers,” he says. “Join us, join the movement.”


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15 New Manga Series to Freshen Up Teen Collections Wed, 29 Jul 2015 20:25:33 +0000 This has been a great year for manga so far, with series debuts that put a new spin on traditional manga genres—and a few that use the standard tropes very well. As I noted last October, manga has been making a comeback after a slump that started in 2007. The result is that publishers are licensing a lot of new series and bringing back some worthy older ones that have gone out of print. In July alone, publishers announced more than two dozen new licenses, including the classic Rose of Versailles, Moyoco Anno’s Sugar Sugar Rune, the fan-favorite Princess Jellyfish, and new titles by Vampire Knight creator Matsuri Hino and Ouran High School Host Club creator Bisco Hatori. Most of those manga will be released in 2016.

In the meantime, here’s a look at some series that debuted in the spring and summer, plus one to look forward to in December. The number of volumes published in Japan is listed after each title (to provide a sense of the length of the total series), along with a note as to whether it is complete or ongoing; most of these series only have one or two volumes out in English right now.

Aki_AngelOfElhamburg_HCThe Angel of Elhamburg by Aki. Yen Pr. 1 vol. Complete.
Gr 8 Up–This quiet story of a king and his loyal friend is complete in one volume, and it’s a beautiful hardcover, too. As the story opens, Madeth has overthrown the evil lord and become king, but his friend Lalvan has done a lot of the work. That continues as Madeth rules his new kingdom, with Lalvan running the army and even writing love letters for the king. The tension between them remains unspoken until the king’s son is born, and then it grows into an irreparable rift. Overseeing it all is a silent angel, whom Lalvan can see but Madeth cannot and whose existence is a mystery that threads through the story.

ACertainMagicalIndexV1_MangaA Certain Magical Index by Chuya Kogino, Kazuma Kamachi, & Kiyotaka Haimura Yen Pr. 13 vol. Ongoing.
Gr 8 Up–The students in Academy City learn to develop their psychic powers using scientific means, and while Touma Kamijou isn’t a great student, he does have one very useful power: he can block the powers of others. He’s heading for a boring summer of makeup classes when Index, a nun, drops into his apartment (literally) and he finds himself protecting her from various evil forces. This shonen manga has plenty of action, but it also mixes in a quasi-religious plot: Index has thousands of grimoires (evil spells) stored in her brain, and there’s tension between the two different systems for developing superpowers, one based on science and one on magic.This manga is based on a series of light novels, also published by Yen, and there’s an anime as well.

demon princessThe Demon Prince of Momochi House by Aya Shouoto. Viz. 7 vol. Ongoing.
Gr 8 Up–Himari’s parents died when she was young, but on her 16th birthday, she learns that she has inherited a house from them. Even though it’s falling apart and located in a forest, she’s determined to live there, as it’s her only connection with them. Condition and location turn out to be the least of her worries, though: the three young men squatting there, who refuse to leave, are a much bigger issue. It turns out that the house was built in the space between the human and spirit worlds, and it serves as a gateway for the spirits. One of the squatters is the guardian of the house, who must keep the spirits at bay and protect Himari from them. The story hews fairly closely to the shoujo romance genre but brings in some interesting twists as the spirits use their magic to try to lure Himari to their side of the divide.

the-legend-of-zelda mangaLegend of Zelda: A Link to the Past by Shotaro Ishinomori. Viz. 1 vol. Complete.
All Ages–This manga, first published in the 1990s in Nintendo Power magazine, closely follows the story line of the Legend of Zelda game. The large, full-color format makes it easy to distinguish from Akira Himekawa’s later “Legend of Zelda” series, also published by Viz. Ishinomori is the creator of the classic sci-fi manga “Cyborg 009,” and his art may look a bit dated, but the manga should appeal to fans of the game.

let's dance waltzLet’s Dance a Waltz by Natsumi Ando. Kodansha. 3 vol. Complete.
Gr 8 Up–From the creator of Kitchen Princess (Kodansha, 2013) comes another comfortable shoujo romance, this one about a lonely girl, Hime, who finds a new life in the world of competitive ballroom dancing. Her partner is the aptly named Tango, a dance instructor who has shied away from competitive dancing since he was a child, and what little tension there is here centers on whether Hime will lure him back. Although the plot sounds a lot like Your Lie in April, except with dancing instead of classical music, this story is much more emotionally subdued.

log horizonLog Horizon by Mamare Touno and Shoji Masuda. Yen Pr. 2 vol. Ongoing.
Gr 8 Up–The setup of this manga is not that different from that of the series “Sword Art Online”: Players are trapped inside a game, whose world becomes their new reality. Log Horizon has a different feel to it, though. Players in this game don’t die, so the stakes are not as high, and while in-game life is not that pleasant, there isn’t the same urgent need to escape. As a result, this title reads like a fantasy tale with a few gaming elements thrown in. The manga is based on a series of light novels (a type of Japanese young adult novel, often illustrated), which Yen Press is also publishing in English.

seki_v_1My Neighbor Seki by Takuma Morishige. Vertical. 7 vol. Ongoing.
Gr 8 Up–Rumi Yokoi is having trouble focusing in class, but it’s not because she has ADHD—it’s because of Seki, who sits next to her. Seki amuses himself with a constant stream of games and tricks, and Yokoi can’t help but get caught up in the action. This is a great classroom comedy that plays off of Seki’s nonchalance and Yokoi’s over-the-top reactions. Every chapter is a self-contained story, so you can start with any volume.

planetesPlanetes by Makoto Yukimura. Dark Horse. 2 omnibus vol. Complete.
Gr 9 Up–This tale of space junkmen got great reviews when it was first published by Tokyopop in the mid-2000s, but as so often happens, sales did not mirror the critical reception. Dark Horse will bring it back in an omnibus edition, with the first volume due out in December. Yukimura is also the creator of the historical manga Vinland Saga (Kodansha, 2013).

requiem rose kingRequiem of the Rose King by Aya Kanno. Viz. 4 vol. Ongoing.
Gr 11 Up–Kanno is best known for her gender-bending comedy Otomen (Viz, 2009), a high school romance about a boy who likes girly things. This much darker story is a gender-bending tragedy, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Richard III, but with a twist: Richard is non-gender binary. The story is filled with symbolism (roses, a white boar), violence, and family drama of all sorts, and it’s told in a cinematic, sometimes elliptical way, with flashbacks and dream sequences. This approach makes for a sophisticated but somewhat difficult read; that coupled with the violence and a few mild sexual situations make this a better choice for older teens.

silent voiceA Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima. Kodansha. 7 vol. Complete.
Gr 8 Up–Shoya Ishida regards life as a constant struggle against boredom, and he pushes his friends toward more extreme stunts, such as leaping off bridges, until they become uncomfortable. When a deaf girl, Shoko Nishimiya, comes to his class, he finds her an irresistible target, and he leads his classmates in bullying her until she is forced to leave school. Even before that happens, however, Shoya’s classmates turn on him, and he finds himself living in near isolation. Six years later, he decides to apologize to the bullied girl and then commit suicide. Instead, he finds his life starting to come back together—but because of all the pain he caused, he has a bumpy road ahead. This is a refreshing story: Oima avoids the usual tropes, and the characters act like real people. It’s a powerful tale dealing with sometimes troubling themes, but a very worthwhile read.

So cute mangaSo Cute It Hurts! by Go Ikeyamada. Viz. 12 vol. Ongoing.
Gr 8 Up–Twins who switch places are a common shoujo manga trope, but the twist here is that the book involves a brother and sister. Megumu is a history nerd, while Mitsuru, her twin brother, is a fighter and a ladies’ man. They go to different schools, so when Mitsuru needs Megumu to take his place for a history test, and they switch places (and clothes), things get complicated: Megumu gets dragged into a fight at her brother’s all-boy school, while Mitsuru learns that girls’ lives are more complicated than he realized—especially after he falls for a deaf girl who is being bullied. Throw in a super-nasty supermodel (she’s the bully) and a mysterious dude who smells of lavender, and you have the setup for a pretty good romantic comedy with a few interesting angles.

steins gateSteins;Gate by Nitroplus. Udon. 3 vol. Complete.
Gr 11 Up–Based on a video game, Steins;Gate is a science fiction story about a group of students who accidentally make a time machine from a microwave and a cell phone and who figure out how to send texts to the past. Naturally, their invention brings them to the attention of the wrong people. The narrative wraps in some real-world elements, such as John Titor (who showed up on bulletin boards in 2000 claiming to be a time traveler from the year 2036) and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

twin starTwin Star Exorcists by Yoshiaki Sukeno. Viz. 5 vol. Ongoing.
Gr 8 Up–The exorcists in this series have nothing to do with devils; they fight monsters called Kegare that prey on humans. When he was young, Rokuro wanted to be the best exorcist ever and kill all of the Kegare, but he gave up on his dream after a terrible incident in which all his friends were killed. The problem is that being an exorcist is the only thing he’s good at. Then Benio, a female exorcist, appears, and he travels with her to the land of the Kegare to rescue two children. Here’s the twist: after Rokuro and Benio fight side by side a few times, they are told by their leader that they are fated to marry and give birth to the greatest exorcist of all. This story mixes plenty of shonen battle action with another common manga plot, the couple who hate each other but are forced to live under the same roof—although, as they are 14, the marriage thing is still purely theoretical.

ultramanUltraman by Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi. Viz. 5 vol. Ongoing.
Gr 8 Up–“Ultraman” started as a superhero TV show in the 1960s (you can see the early episodes on Netflix) and expanded into one of the most popular media franchises ever, with dozens of spin-off movies, comics, and television shows. This volume goes back to the series’ roots, featuring the teenage son of the lead character from the original show. Shinjiro Hayata has inherited some superpowers of his own, and he gets a boost from a special suit. While this story borrows the characters from the original, it’s more serious than the campy original and reads like a superhero comic, with emphasis on the action scenes and a hero who must overcome his insecurity in order to fight against evil.

Your Lie in AprilYour Lie in April by Naoshi Arakawa. Kodansha. 11 vol. Complete.
Gr 8 Up–Arima Kosei was a piano prodigy, thanks in part to his mother, a former pianist whose strict training crossed the line into abuse. After she died, he became unable to hear piano music and could no longer play—until a free-spirited violinist, Kaori Miyazono, came into his life and forced him to go back onstage. This manga is rooted in the romance genre, but it folds in serious issues, such as abuse and depression (Arima describes his world as monotonous) as well as some interesting visual tropes (notes peel off the page when Arima tries to play) and discussion of classical music, including references to pieces and musicians.

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Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, & Deborah Biancotti | SLJ Review Wed, 29 Jul 2015 19:00:10 +0000 Westerfeld, Scott, Margo Lanagan, & Deborah Biancotti. Zeroes. 560p. (Zeroes: Bk. 1). ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Sept. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781481443364.

Gr 9 Up–This may not be the first tale of a group of crime-fighting teenagers with supernatural powers, but its talented writing team get points for creating some fresh and original superpowerd abilities. Scam has a seemingly omniscient inner voice, which can speak for him and get him out of trouble or, all too often, into it. [...]]]> zeroesWesterfeld, Scott, Margo Lanagan, & Deborah Biancotti. Zeroes. 560p. (Zeroes: Bk. 1). ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Sept. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781481443364.

Gr 9 Up–This may not be the first tale of a group of crime-fighting teenagers with supernatural powers, but its talented writing team get points for creating some fresh and original superpowerd abilities. Scam has a seemingly omniscient inner voice, which can speak for him and get him out of trouble or, all too often, into it. Flicker is blind but can perceive what others see. Crash can take down any computer and finds the experience embarrassingly—and dangerously—enjoyable. Bellwether can control the energies of the group and unite them in a common purpose. And Anonymous—well, never mind, no one seems to remember anything about that guy. These five, plus one unpredictable new addition, make up the Zeroes, a team that split up due to infighting but get called back together to fight a baddie and come to terms with their talents and their place in the world. Told from six different points of view, the plot of this hefty tome sometimes gets bogged down, but the time taken to develop each character pays off, and with two sequels planned, readers can look forward to spending more time with the Zeroes in the future. VERDICT For fans of superhero fiction looking for a character-driven tale and those who enjoy works by the three capable authors.–Eliza Langhans, Hatfield Public Library, MA

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

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