School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Sat, 25 Oct 2014 17:14:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Meet the Recipients of the “Build Something Bold” Library Design Award Sat, 25 Oct 2014 17:10:52 +0000 SLJ and LEGO Education recognize four schools in Alabama, Texas, Virginia, and Illinois for their innovative library designs, achieved on a range of budgets.]]>

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

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


Walnut Grove Elementary School, New Market, AL

A High-Tech Digital Diner

A diner-themed design brings new technology to rural students

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

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

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Walnut Grove Elementary School librarian Holly Whitt.

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

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

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

Booths and jukeboxes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A community learning center

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

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

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

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

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



Nimitz High School, Irving, TX

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

Photo courtesy of the Nimitz High School library.

Bold Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Kaechele Elementary School, Glen Allen, VA

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Photos courtesy of the Kaechele Elementary School library.

Fitness Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, IL

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

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

Stairway to Learning

Student-centered features define this reinvented library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About the Award

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

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

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

Please see for more information.


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

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

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

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

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Walnut Grove Elementary School library. Photos by Bob Gathany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional coverage:

Review in SLJ’ blog “Good Comics for Kids”

Review in SLJ blog “A Fuse #8 Production”

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

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

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

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

Additional coverage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click image to view full report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak Peek Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:00:25 +0000 Can’t wait to see what hot, new books are reviewed in our upcoming November issue? The SLJ review editors selected a few standout titles for this month’s “Sneak Peek.”

Preschool to Grade 4

Dory 217x300 Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekRedReviewStar Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekHanlon, Abby. Dory Fantasmagory. illus. by Abby Hanlon. 160p. Dial. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780803740884; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698135932. LC 2013034996.

Gr 1-3 –Six-year-old Dory, known as Rascal to her family, wants more than anything to be included in her older siblings’s fun, but her endless questions and make-believe monsters drive them crazy. When Violet and Luke tell Dory a bedtime story about the evil Mrs. Gobble Grackle, who steals baby girls, they unintentionally feed her already overactive imagination. Dory and her imaginary friend, Mary (who resembles Maurice Sendak’s Max), are always on the lookout for monsters, and they thwart Mrs. Gobble Grackle’s attempts to kidnap her with banana peels and sleep-inducing darts. When Dory pretends to be the dog her brother has always wanted, she convinces Mrs. G that she isn’t the baby to kidnap and sabotages a trip to the doctor’s office. Hanlon effectively uses many childlike pencil drawings and word balloons interspersed with a good mix of short and long sentences in brief, episodic chapters full of Dory’s hilarious adventures. New vocabulary words are used in context within familiar settings and situations for the audience, creating a successful transitional book for new readers ready for longer stories. Dory ultimately finds a way to prove her bravery to her brother and sister, and readers will laugh at her entertaining antics.–Kristine M. Casper, Huntington Public Library, NY

Grades 5 to 8

Angleberger 201x300 Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekAngleberger, Tom. Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus. illus. by Tom Angleberger. 208p. (Origami Yoda: Bk. 6). Abrams/Amulet. 2014. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9781419709333; ebk. $13.95. ISBN 9781613125120.

Gr 4-6 –The fateful day has finally arrived for the seventh graders at McQuarrie Middle School to embark on their much-anticipated field trip to Washington, DC, their reward for defeating the FunTime Menace back in Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue (Abrams/Amulet, 2014). When cell phones and origami (and paper altogether) are banned on the trip by Principal Rabbski, and “bus buddies” are mandated, the kids are anxious that things might turn “nostrul” (awful). Tommy and the gang open a new case file chronicling their ups and downs, with Kellen adding the riotous illustrations. Smuggled cell phones and lime Fruit Roll-Ups used to create Fruitigami Yoda may save the day, but Harvey threatens to sour everyone’s plans with his smuggled evil origami, Emperor Pickletine (with real pickle head). Chaperones include Mr. Good Clean Fun (along with his monkey puppet, Soapy) and dreaded Mr. Howell, who seems destined to thwart any possible fun. Can the students avoid the standardized tests? Will Fruitigami Yoda conquer Emperor Pickletine? As Angleberger brings the wildly popular series to a close (or does he?), age-appropriate boy-girl relationships are explored, and most of the story lines are wrapped up. As in the previous titles, instructions to make the origami figures are included, and this installment also includes an entertaining chart showing the effects of Origami Yoda on all of the pertinent characters. Fans of the series won’t want to miss the satisfying conclusion, but new readers should start at the beginning.–Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA

Brilliant World of Tom Gates 220x300 Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekPichon, L. The Brilliant World of Tom Gates. 256p. (Tom Gates). Candlewick. 2014. RTE $12.99. ISBN 9780763674724; ebk. $12.99. ISBN 9780763675813. LC 2013952846.

Gr 3-5 –Fifth-grader Tom Gates has a lot of negatives in his life. His older sister annoys him and he retaliates by playing tricks on her. His teachers assign too much homework and when he runs out of time to do it he offers over-the-top, fantastical excuses for why it’s not done. Adding to these issues, his family has many mishaps, like failed camping trips and the dog chewing up his tickets to a rock concert. Tom endures it all with his penchant for doodling and writing about everything that happens. For example, whenever the teachers focus on him in class he creates doodles of them staring at him with their “beady eyes.” This helps him feel better. His self-centered storytelling is over-the-top but will be enjoyed by those who can’t get enough of Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books (Abrams/Amulet). The engaging illustrations are plentiful and will delight avid and reluctant readers alike. This title was originally published in the United Kingdom; some British words and phrases are sprinkled throughout. A humorous glossary explaining the Briticisms is appended.–Tina Martin, Arlington Heights Memorial Library, IL

Lost Hero 212x300 Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekRiordan, Rick. The Lost Hero: The Graphic Novel. adapted by Robert Vendetti. illus. by Nate Powell. 192p. (The Heroes of Olympus: Bk. 1). Disney-Hyperion. 2014. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781423162797; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781423163251.

Gr 4-8 –Riordan’s ever-popular mythology series that resonates so strongly with reluctant readers and those who yearn for action-packed adventure now have the option to follow the story in graphic novel format. If the traditional narrative version of The Lost Hero (Disney-Hyperion, 2010) hit the ground running, it is nothing compared to what awaits readers in a sequential art format. It takes fewer than 10 pages for the story to start with a [quite literal] bang, and it relents very infrequently thereafter. Powell does an excellent job of adapting the original story into pictorial format, hitting all of the high points and representing all of the major details in the drawings, so little is lost. For those unfamiliar with Riordan’s storytelling, they will receive a healthy introduction to his easy-to-follow story lines that teach with great accuracy the mythologies that students will undoubtedly learn in the classroom but with such fun and ease that it will hardly feel like school. Readers who are new to reading comic books will be no less entertained; there are a few pages here and there that may make following the panels in order a touch challenging, but they will catch on quickly. It goes without saying that this book will fly off the shelves; Riordan, of course, has a ready-made audience, but he always does a good job of welcoming new readers, so this one is a must for both school and public libraries.–Trina Bolfing, Westbank Libraries, Austin, TX

Grades 9 & Up

Girl Defective 195x300 Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekRedReviewStar Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekHowell, Simmone. Girl Defective. photos by Henry Beer. 320p. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442497603.

Gr 9 Up –Australian author Howell brings stateside her intriguing story of a coming-of-age summer for 15-year-old Skylark Martin. The teen lives above the family record store in a small Melbourne suburb with her home-brewing, stuck-in-the-past father, and endearing younger brother, Gully, whose social issues have manifested as an obsession with being a detective and near-permanent wearing of a pig snout mask. She is blunt in her depictions of them and her mother, who left the family to reinvent herself as performance artist Galaxy Strobe (“What can you say about your mother in darkness, wearing an outfit fringed with seventy thousand tampons?”). Flawed but likable Sky is drawn to the 19-year-old, enigmatic, worldly Nancy, who introduces her both to recreational drugs and underground parties. There’s an element of mystery to the story, with posters around town of a girl who died and has some connection to both those parties and the record store’s attractive new hire, Luke. But while Nancy is outrunning her past, and Luke seeks to make sense of his own, Sky finds a future that holds some promise. Howell’s writing is engaging and well suited to the pacing of the story, and the Aussie references are part of the charm.–Amanda Mastrull, Library Journal

RedReviewStar Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekLyga, Barry. Blood of My Blood. 480p. (I Hunt Killers: Bk. 3). ebook available. Little, Brown. 2014.Blood of My Blood 198x300 Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak Peek Tr $18. ISBN 9780316198707. LC 2014003643.

Gr 9 Up –Jasper “Jazz” Dent is locked in a storage locker with two dead bodies, trying to nurse his own bullet wound in the dim light of a fading cellphone. Picking up (without pause) from the cliff-hanger ending in Game (2013), Lyga’s series about the 17-year-old who was first introduced in I Hunt Killers (2012) as the son of escaped killer Billy Dent continues as he tries to aid the police in his father’s recapture. Unaware that his girlfriend Connie has been lured by Billy to a Brooklyn tenement house and imprisoned with Jazz’s mother, and that his hemophiliac friend, Howie, has been attacked, Jazz faces his demons alone—including repressed memories with sexual undertones, and the creepy voice of Billy educating his son on the acumen required to be a good serial killer (appearing in italics). The worrisome genetic factor plagues Jazz yet propels him in the right direction to foil some copycat killers and elude authorities long enough to solve his own life’s mysteries. Obstructing the law, the teen follows clues that take him back home to Lobo’s Nod for the chilling climax and surprise ending, despite red herrings thrown in the readers’ path at every turn. Connie and Howie continue to play major roles in this episode, often providing their own points-of-view, as do officers Hughes and Tanner as bumbling but likable authorities. As a trilogy wrap-up, this gory winner with raw appeal requires having read the first two titles.–Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland

Blue Lily Lily Blue 198x300 Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekRedReviewStar Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekStiefvater, Maggie. Blue Lily, Lily Blue. 400p. (The Raven Cycle: Bk. 3). Scholastic. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545424967; ebk. ISBN 9780545662901.

Gr 9 Up –Having inhaled the first two installments in this thrilling series about four Virginia schoolboys on a quest to find a legendary Welsh king, teens will be anxious to see where Stiefvater next leads Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. The volume picks up directly after The Dream Thieves (Scholastic, 2013) and the quest takes some bizarre and dangerous twists. Blue Sargent and the psychically talented women of 300 Fox Way take center stage this time. Blue’s mother Maura has disappeared, and it’s not immediately clear if she wants to be found. Despite the fact that “time and space were bathtubs that Maura splashed in,” Blue and Mr. Gray, Maura’s ex-hitman boyfriend, begin to think she’s underground and in trouble. Informed by several mystical and live sources that there were three ancient sleepers in the nearby mountain caves, one of which is not to be awakened, the young people are hurled toward a subterranean encounter of the weirdest kind. Throughout, the prose is crisp and dazzling and the dialogue positively crackles. The supernatural elements—magic, a mirrored lake, an evil curse, the appearance of Owen Glendower’s 600-year-old daughter—are completely organic and suspension of disbelief is effortless due to the nuanced and affecting characterization. Blue and the Raven Boys come into their own over the course of the novel and realize their individual strengths and the power of their collective bonds, making them unstoppable. It’s a good thing, because it seems as though all hell is about to break loose in the final volume.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

Party Games 199x300 Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekStine, R.L. Party Games: A Fear Street Novel. 288p. ebook available. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250051615.

Gr 9 Up –Lurking on Fear Street are many more page-turning (albeit formulaic) horrors from the beloved author. This first installment of the revamped series has the classic Stine recipe: told from one character’s point of view in a linear chronology, with a focus on plot over character or context development. Each chapter is a cliff-hanger and readers can anticipate the type of scare they’re in for—until the final twist. The novel is written from the perspective of contemporary teenager Rachel, who is delighted to be invited to her crush Brendan Fear’s birthday party on his remote private island. The cursed Fear family and has a terrifying reputation, and when teenagers start being murdered at Brendan’s party, it seems the curse is becoming a reality. The book was frightening—with ghosts, masked robbers, and even red-eyed bats—but the murders are committed off stage and the details aren’t too gruesome. Also, despite the romantic plot line, there was nothing raunchier than a kiss. The simple language and horror themes will appeal to many readers, including reluctant ones. A volume that proves why Stine’s books endure.–Lisa Nowlain, Darien Library, CT

The Infinite Sea 225x300 Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekYancey, Rick. The Infinite Sea. 320p. Putnam. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399162428; ebk. ISBN 9781101599013. LC 2014022058.

Gr 9 Up –The majority of the first person narration in this second book in “The 5th Wave” series (Putnam) shifts between Ringer, a beautiful teen with deadly aim, and tough-but-tender Cassie, who thought she was the lone surviving human. A third-person viewpoint is used for Evan, an alien who has shifted his allegiance in the face of true love and Ben (Zombie), badly injured but still in command of the rag-tag paramilitary group of creatively nicknamed children and teens. The action springs back and forth in place and time as readers learn why Poundcake no longer speaks, how Evan is related to super-strong Grace, and why chess is important to Ringer. The “infinite sea” can be made of snow, of tears, of the floaty feeling of semi-consciousness, and, more than once, it is a sea of blood. Yancey keeps the pressure on, as Cassie and Ben seek to protect the younger humans and outsmart the devious Silencers. Ringer struggles to maintain her humanity in the face of nanotechnology and Evan struggles with turning his back on what his species has been working toward for thousands of years. Yancey’s writing can be melodramatic (“The world will be consumed by the crushing dark.”; “The Others didn’t invent death; they just perfected it.”) but will keep action-craving readers enthralled. With a 5th Wave movie in the works, and alien questions left unanswered, expect readers to be interested in this series for the foreseeable future.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX


RedReviewStar Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekCharleyboy, Lisa & Mary Beth Leatherdale, eds. Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native Dreaming in Indian 229x300 Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekAmerican Voices. 128p. illus. photos. reprods. Annick. Nov. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781554516872; ebk. ISBN 9781554516889.

Gr 6 Up –This dynamic, creative work is an interactive portal that introduces readers to the lives of 64 indigenous Native American young people. The writers here include an award-winning throat singer, a fashion model, a hip-hop dancer, a tribal leader, an activist, a graphic designer, a comic book creator, a chef, a dancer, a musician, a makeup artist, and a rapper, and the contributors communicate powerfully who they are in their own words and images. The visuals are a blend of bold, contemporary digital graffiti and indigenous art at its best, and the end result is a collage of profound, sometimes gritty photos and digital images. The text is a combination of awe-inspiring poetry, prose, and poignant captions. No topic is left untouched—identity, racism, gender, bullying, abuse at boarding schools, adoption, mixed heritage, runaways, suicide, drug, poverty, coming of age, death, and sex, though the tone is positive and success stories are emphasized. This slim book effectively presents honest portrayals of strong, hopeful, and courageous indigenous youth living nonstereotypical lives. Not to be missed.–Naomi Caldwell, Alabama State University, Montgomery, AL

 Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekRedReviewStar Hot New Titles by Angleberger, Stiefvater, and Yancey | SLJ Sneak PeekSidman, Joyce. Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. illus. by Rick Allen. 32p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Nov. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780547906508.

K-Gr 4 –The 12 selections in this collection offer a winter wonderland of deftly crafted poetry, fascinating science facts, an amazingly rich vocabulary, and stunning illustrations. In the title poem, the bees are lyrically described, ”Born with eyelash legs/and tinsel wings/we are nothing on our own./Together, we are One….Deep in the winter hive,/we burn like a golden sun.” In “Big Brown Moose,” the animal humorously chants, “I’m a big brown moose,/I’m a rascally moose,/ I’m a moose with a tough shaggy hide…” Science facts about the animals’ lives in harsh winter climates appear in sidebars on each spread. Sidman explores the safe places that allow for survival, such as in the underwater beaver lodge, “In the dim oval room,/they groom, snack, kiss;/strong brown bullets that dive/in the under-ice world.” The poet also includes the role of plant species in the process, such as the skunk cabbage that signals spring as the first plant to sprout through the snow and about its importance as it attracts insect pollinators. Readers come to understand that the seemingly barren winter is actually teaming with the hidden activity of plant and animal life. Allen’s intricately detailed, hand-colored, linoleum prints jump off the page, wrap around the words, and breathe life into the foxes, voles, swans, wolves, and more. This combination provides a magnificent celebration of winter that delights and informs. A comprehensive glossary of specialized words is included. Douglas Florian’s Winter Eyes (Greenwillow, 1999), Barbara Rogasky’s Winter Poems (Scholastic, 1995), and Anna Grossnickle Hines’s Winter Lights (Greenwillow, 1995) also celebrate the season but cover a wide range of events. Winter Bees distinguishes itself with a focus on the science of animal survival, coupled with superlative illustrations. Readers young and old will enjoy this winter journey and marvel at the wonders of nature.–Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY

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Locke Jetspace: L.A. School “Library of the Future” Thu, 23 Oct 2014 15:00:07 +0000 Space1 Locke Jetspace: L.A. School Library of the Future

The renovated library space at Locke High School in Los Angeles is futuristic and minimalist, with movable seating so that kids can discuss and collaborate. All images provided by NRBLB.

A spacious 3,000-square-foot student area tagged “Locke Jetspace,” the former school library at the Alain LeRoy Locke College Preparatory Academy (Locke HS) in Los Angeles, CA, has been renovated by the L.A. design collective No Right Brain Left Behind (NRBLB) and national charter school system Green Dot Public Schools (GDPS), which took over the high school in 2008.

The former library space has been designed with the purpose of redefining the way students can learn, says Viktor Venson, founder of NRBLB, who won a $100,000 LA2050 grant, a city-improvement grant, with GDPS back in May 2013.

feature2 399x600 Locke Jetspace: L.A. School Library of the Future

Books are layered in hexagonal tower book shelves.

“We wanted to see what the future of the library would look like in 2050… how [it] could energize the rest of the school,” he shares in an August 2014 Fast Company article.

Jetspace has been renovated by NRBLB with a 21st-century lens. It’s open, minimalist, and airy. Books are layered in hexagonal book towers, with more [towers] to be added in the future, according to Douglas Weston, director of development of GDPS. Instead of tables, the room has casual, mobile seating that lends itself to students gathering together easily to discuss and collaborate. Also to be added? About 100 Chromebooks, says Venson, which students can borrow and use to access digital resources, and GDPS hopes to fund through a Google grant it had submitted in late September.

“The goal was to make it into a space that could be used [by students],” states Weston.

The space was furnished by in kind donations from Allsteel and the rest of the furniture was designed and made by NRBLB at cost. A collection of architects and design firms donated their hours, including Chicago-based The Third Teacher+ and L.A.-based Woodsmithe and Kellie Patry. Working together, they were able to “build a space for very little,” says Weston.

Before1 300x199 Locke Jetspace: L.A. School Library of the Future

The “before” photo of Locke High School’s library.

However, in early October, Venson said the modern new space is being used at “less than 20 percent capacity.” Locke Jetspace opened this past spring, but the center needs a librarian to organize and run it—and the money to fund that position.

Not enough funding is a familiar tune with school librarians and. Locke HS lies in Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood and is made up of four academies serving nearly 2,000 students from grades 9−12. Jetspace will serve the entire campus, where nearly 80 percent of students fall below the poverty line, says Weston.

When GDPS took over Locke HS, the library was filled with books, but most were out-of-date, says Weston. The area was often closed to students, only opened for professional development and community meetings.

Space21 Locke Jetspace: L.A. School Library of the Future

“After” the renovation.

Today, the doors aren’t closed, but the space lacks a certified school librarian—or what Weston refers to as “a curator, someone with a background in technology who will help coordinate projects and other programs” and check out books, which the students can’t do right now.

The GDPS director notes that an interim curator is starting in about a week, and while there is funding for the first year, the charter school is raising funds to hire a curator for an additional year.

“…it’s still a work in progress,” states Venson.

Watch a NRBLB video of Locke JetSpace below:

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We Need Diverse Books and School Library Journal Announce Collaboration Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:00:10 +0000 WDNB withtag copy 600x270 We Need Diverse Books and School Library Journal Announce CollaborationWe Need Diverse Books (WNDB) has announced its collaboration with School Library Journal on a variety of initiatives concerning diversity in children’s literature. “SLJ has a long and storied history of supporting diverse books, including its May 2014 issue entirely devoted to the subject,” said WNDB VP of Development I.W. Gregorio. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with such a critical voice in the children’s literature world and look forward to creating content that will help teachers, librarians, and booksellers alike diversify their shelves.”

The WNDB partnership with SLJ will include:

  1. Sponsorship and collaborative programming of a diversity-focused event to be held in association with the 2016 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Boston.

  2. Content sharing and support for the We Need Diverse Books Diversity Festival to be held in summer 2016 in the Washington, DC, area.

  3. Joint development of an Education Kit to introduce teachers, librarians, and booksellers to select diverse books and provide them with tools to present these titles to their patrons and students.

SLJ is honored to partner with ‘We Need Diverse Books,’” says Kathy Ishizuka, executive editor at SLJ. “The spirit and objectives of WNDB dovetail with our own belief in the power of books and a commitment to helping transform the publishing landscape to best serve our kids and the greater community.”


More than just a hashtag, We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots nonprofit organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. WNDB is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.

On October 24, the group will launch its inaugural Indiegogo campaign to support its future initiatives, including a Diversity in the Classroom program, the Walter Dean Myers Award and Grant program, a diverse books Education Kit, and its inaugural Diversity Festival in 2016. Volunteer & sign up for its mailing list at, or follow WNDB on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram.


School Library Journal is the most influential publication serving libraries—the largest market for new children’s and young adult books—and is the only full-service publication serving the youth and school library market. It reaches over 35,000 elementary, middle/junior, and senior high school librarians and youth service librarians in public libraries. SLJ educates its readers to become leaders in technology, reading, and information literacy. School Library Journal is a publication of Media Source Inc., which also owns Library Journal, The Horn Book publications, and Junior Library Guild.


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Put a Little Spook On Your iPad | Apps for the Halloween Season Wed, 22 Oct 2014 23:49:04 +0000 Librarians who work with young children will tell you that it’s around the age of five that kids start asking for scary stories. Granted, there’s scary and then there’s not-so-scary, which is usually what those children are looking for. Last year’s Halloween app column featured productions for these youngsters. This year’s selection will be fun to share with the middle grades during any season, but especially fun as the holiday approaches.

ghosts cover 225x300 Put a Little Spook On Your iPad | Apps for the Halloween SeasonGhosts: Encyclopedia of Phantoms and Afterlife (Terrylab, free download, $2.99 in-app purchase; Gr 4 and Up), a collection of tales about ghosts and ghostly phenomena, features high-quality graphics and animation and spooky mood music. If you’re looking for something to put kids in the Halloween mood, this app, billed as “an entertaining mystic interactive horror story book” is likely to do the trick.

To begin their journey, viewers must clear their way through the cobwebs, dust, and detritus on the opening screen to locate a skeleton key that will unlock the volume. Once inside, they can enter their name on the first page, which will personalize the entries. Chapters are selected by holding the heart-shaped planchette over the icons on a Ouija board, which offer information about “Ancient Ghosts,” “Ghosts of Cemeteries,” “Animals’ Ghosts,” “Poltergeists” and other topics.

Under each icon, text written in script appears on yellowed pages. Chapters provide stories about types of ghosts, legends of ghostly trains, ghost twins, and tales of ancient rituals. Readers will learn about the cat that lived in an ancient abbey in the county of Cheshire in England (tap the screen and paw prints pitter patter across the page), and other spirits, and have an opportunity to decode ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Once a chapter is finished, the page beings to burn, revealing the Ouija board where another topic can be selected.

Embedded in the sections are pop-up notes and animated maps and illustrations. Skeletons and messages emerge from behind shattered mirrors, specters appear in windows, insects crawl across pages, and shadows pass over screens as words and letters tumble off the page and haunting sound effects and music are heard in the background. An unnerving, but fun, interactive romp through the legends and lore of the spirit life. For a peek, take a look at the trailer.  Also available in Russian.—Danielle Farinacci, Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep, San Francisco, CA

sher 2 300x225 Put a Little Spook On Your iPad | Apps for the Halloween Season

Interior screen from  ‘Sherlock’ (HAAB) Doyle

While a free “lite” version of Sherlock: Interactive Adventure (HAAB Entertainment, free, lite download, $2.99 full, in-app purchase; Gr 5 Up) is available, in order to experience all the features of this a fully narrated, visually rich tale of Baker Street’s celebrated sleuth, viewers will want to own the complete version.

The app doesn’t come with instructions, but from page one (and “play”) Simon Vance’s narration will bring “The Red-Headed League’ to life. The audio is important; although some students may be familiar with Arthur Conan Doyle’s intelligent and amusing style, some may not understand the elevated vocabulary without Vance’s fluid narration creating the proper context. Timing is everything in storytelling and on auto-play, the music and sound effects flow seamlessly as the visuals unfold.

The humor of Holmes’s observations, his quirky investigative style, and the satisfying ending are seamlessly integrated. Once viewers understand the story, they can return to individual screens to reread the text and thoroughly examine the details that they may have missed. Objects, located with a magnifying glass, can be gathered in a “collection” that provides details about the items, the mystery, and Sherlock Holmes. A map of London highlights where events take place and a “dossier” collects profiles on the characters that appear in the story. The menu offers access to these files, while the slides and settings are found along the bottom of the screen. More titles in the series are promised. A great app to introduce the writing of Doyle. Available in English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish.—Pamela Schembri, Newburgh Enlarged City Schools, Newburgh, NY

Eds. note: For additional Halloween apps, see our 2013 and 2012 selections.

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Fight What You Know: Debunking Traditional Writing Tropes | New York Comic Con 2014 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:55:54 +0000 Fight What You Know Fight What You Know: Debunking Traditional Writing Tropes | New York Comic Con 2014

“Fight What You Know” panel at Comic Con 2014 (L to R): Susana Polo, Brenden Fletcher, Danica Novgorodoff, Amber Benson, Wendy Xu. Photo credit: Twitter/@SamMaggs

As one of the lead advocates for building women’s representation in geek culture, “The Mary Sue”—a female-centric blog devoted to comics, sci-fi, fantasy, tech, and beyond—developed and hosted “Fight What You Know,” a panel on demystifying the writing process, at this year’s New York Comic Con (October 9–12).

Empathy and how writers use it to create stories that resonate with readers was the panel’s thematic backbone, and Susana Polo, “The Mary Sue” editor at large, moderated the panel, which  included Amber Benson, author of The Witches of Echo Park (Ace Trade, January 2015), Brenden Fletcher, co-author of comic book series “Gotham Academy and “Batgirl” (both DC Comics, 2014), Danica Novgorodoff, artist and author of The Undertaking of Lily Chen (First Second, 2014), and Wendy Xu, creator of Tumblr blog, “Angry Girl Comics.”

Witches of Echo Park 199x300 Fight What You Know: Debunking Traditional Writing Tropes | New York Comic Con 2014Polo set up the presentation by stating that she intended to debunk the myth that writers can only write what they know. “I understand the fear beginner writers [have] of reaching outside their own perspective, and I also see the lie in a lot of the dumb beginner excuses for [tropes] like, ‘The characters just speak to me,’ and ‘As an artist, I just follow my muse,’” she said to SLJ. “…You’re the person who creates [the characters] and makes them do things… [so] you have responsibility for the level of diversity in your work… and whether they perpetuate horrible [clichés].”

Among the many tools the panelists use, Google was the most popular. Fletcher cited it as his first step in any research process. Benson agreed, saying that she used a car crash scene she’d found on Google Maps to construct a car crash scene in one of her books (which book, she didn’t say). When it came to writing believable characters, conducting research on people was a common approach. Novgorodoff, a self-admitted introvert, emphasized listening as her tool and said that she preferred eavesdropping on conversations on the subway to build characters.

BatGirl 231x300 Fight What You Know: Debunking Traditional Writing Tropes | New York Comic Con 2014

Brenden Fletcher’s “Batgirl.”

Writing characters of diverse ethnic and racial identities can be a challenge. After receiving feedback from cultural and historical experts, Fletcher “had to totally trash a relationship in one book, because [he] found it was culturally inappropriate.” Crowdsourcing for information on your blog is also a way to conduct research, said Xu, who wanted to create a character of Chinese and Nigerian descent in her upcoming graphic novel about Asian-American witches. To make the character seem authentic, she put a call out on her “Angry Girl Comics” page, asking to hear the stories of Nigerian immigrant families and/or families with mixed-race backgrounds. The responses enabled her to create a well-rounded character with a solid back story.

SpecifUndertakingLilyChen 211x300 Fight What You Know: Debunking Traditional Writing Tropes | New York Comic Con 2014icity in description is also a key element in writing believable scenes. Novgorodoff literally went the extra mile and traveled to rural Oregon for her book Refresh, Refresh (First Second, 2009). “I wanted to go there and see what the trees looked like, and what kind of houses were there, and what the air smelled like.” On the flip side, Benson explained how to make the fantastical relatable and real. In one of her fantasy stories, she’d based the world around the idea of a suburban mall with conveyor belts. “You have to start with a kernel of reality,” she said.

Meanwhile, Fletcher, “Batgirl” writer, explained how he got into the young female mindset. “I started as an actor and that’s what acting is all about: being able to put yourself in the shoes of another person. So much of

AngryGirlComics 225x300 Fight What You Know: Debunking Traditional Writing Tropes | New York Comic Con 2014

A comic strip from Wendy Xu’s blog “Angry Girl Comics.”

my work in writing is channeling what I did as an actor… The authenticity comes from inside me, in that sense. The details come from research, but the voices, the people, their feelings are mine in some way… It’s all empathy.”

One final takeaway from “Fight What You Know,” is the acceptance of criticism, which goes back to being a good listener and empathizer. “If… people are saying [something in your book] is an issue,” Xu said, “…then it’s worth taking into account.” She added that forgiving yourself and learning from it is just as important to a writer’s growth. “We’re human beings, we make mistakes… In the end, if you’re pleasing yourself and writing something that moves you, you’ll find other people who like it.”

Check out more Comic Con coverage on SLJ:

Comics in Schools and Libraries | New York Comic Con 2014

The Five Coolest Things at New York Comic Con 2014

Links: New York Comic Con… and Beyond!

Fiction writer and journalist Camilla Zhang is a NYC native with a passion for comics, social justice, and art. When not tethering words together, she is doing one of the following: making collages or jewelry, practicing kendo, interacting with people, or sleeping.

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New Pew Report Finds Young Women Targeted for Online Harassment Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:05:36 +0000 Youngwomen PEW New Pew Report Finds Young Women Targeted for Online HarassmentFindings from the Pew Research Center’s first report devoted to the subject of online harassment, released October 22, show that “young adults, those 18–29, are the most likely age group to both witness and experience online harassment… 65 percent of these young internet users have been the target of online harassment and 92 percent have witnessed it.”

Additionally, the survey reveals that young women are targets in comparison to their male counterparts. According to the Pew Center press release: “Young women, those 18-24, experience certain severe types of harassment at disproportionately high levels: 26 percent of these young women have been stalked online, and 25 percent were the target of online sexual harassment. These figures are significant not only compared with their male peers, but also with women just slightly older, ages 25-29. Additionally, these young women do not escape the high rates of other types of online harassment so common to their age group in general.”

The Pew findings are representative of U.S. adult internet users and come from a mix of 3,217 respondents. The margin of error for the 2,849 web respondents is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

To view the full report, click image below:

Pew Harassment1 245x300 New Pew Report Finds Young Women Targeted for Online Harassment

Click image to view full Pew report.

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Lawson reimagines Twain’s classic characters in “Becky Thatcher”| Audio Pick Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:00:52 +0000 Lawson, Jessica. The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher. 5 CDs. 5:59 hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2014. $39.99. ISBN 9781629239385. 1 MP3-CD. Gr 3-7–It’s 1860, and 11-year-old Becky Thatcher has just moved to St. Petersburg, Missouri. She’s looking for big-time adventure in this small town, and once she meets Sid Sawyer, it doesn’t take her long to find it. Pretty soon, she’s sneaking out after dark, stealing graveyard dirt at midnight, and keeping an eye out for dead cats to help [...]]]> actualtruthful  Lawson reimagines Twains classic characters in Becky Thatcher| Audio Pickstar  Lawson reimagines Twains classic characters in Becky Thatcher| Audio PickLawson, Jessica. The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher. 5 CDs. 5:59 hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2014. $39.99. ISBN 9781629239385. 1 MP3-CD.
Gr 3-7–It’s 1860, and 11-year-old Becky Thatcher has just moved to St. Petersburg, Missouri. She’s looking for big-time adventure in this small town, and once she meets Sid Sawyer, it doesn’t take her long to find it. Pretty soon, she’s sneaking out after dark, stealing graveyard dirt at midnight, and keeping an eye out for dead cats to help her win a bet. The only obstacle standing between her and even more excitement is goody-goody tattletale Tom Sawyer. This fast-paced tale is the perfect introduction to Mark Twain’s classic characters, but readers who are already familiar with Tom, Sid, Becky, and the Widow Douglas will also appreciate this imaginative, pitch-perfect spin on their classic adventures. Narrator Tavia Gilbert does a phenomenal job. She portrays each character with a different voice, giving the impression that the novel is read by an entire cast of narrators instead of just one person. This fast-paced story is perfect for historical fiction and adventure fans.–Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Glen Rock, PA

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The Power to Perceive: Paul Fleischman shines a light on the environmental crisis | Up Close Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:00:06 +0000 Eyes Wide Open, he has penned an empowering call to action, stirring young people to challenge assumptions and think for themselves.]]> SLJ1410w COL Upclose Paul Fleischman The Power to Perceive: Paul Fleischman shines a light on the environmental crisis | Up CloseThough many authors have taken on environmental issues, few have done so as effectively—and innovatively—as Newbery Award–winning author Paul Flesichman in Eyes Wide Open (Candlewick, 2014), which recently received an SLJ star. Rather than simply offering the typical, kid-friendly ways to save the Earth, the book explores the political and economic roots of the ecological crisis, addressing not just the scientific but the social. Fleischman has written an empowering call to action, stirring young people to challenge assumptions, examine the biases of companies and politicians, and, ultimately, think for themselves.

What brought you to the topic of the environment?
The same act of noticing, which I encourage in the book. When I moved to Aromas, California, the sky held swallows by day and bats by night. Ten years later, both were gone. I began noticing dead bees on the driveway. I was gripped by the idea of a holocaust unseen and unheard by humans. I wanted to write a book that would go behind the taken-for-granted quality of daily life.

Your work differs from most books on the topic aimed atyoung people.
My goal wasn’t telling kids what to do but giving them the understanding that would be a foundation for action. I thought of my best teachers: the ones who made surprising connections between the past and the present, who picked out general principles behind the mass of facts. I searched for the roots of the environmental crunch we’re in and the roots of our difficulty in dealing with it. Giving readers names for them will give them power to perceive what’s going on in many different spheres.

A big theme throughout is challenging readers not to believe everything they read.
Progress has losers as well as winners. The interests who stand to lose from our veering away from fossil fuels have flooded the media with an alternate science—different facts, explanations, forecasts. These are increasingly delivered by unseen online hands and front groups with deceptive names. Not a problem if you’re studying calculus or French, but with the environment, the ability to look critically at information sources is crucial.

SLJ1410w COL Upclose eyeswideopen 399x600 The Power to Perceive: Paul Fleischman shines a light on the environmental crisis | Up CloseWhat was your research process like?
I read, I watched, I clicked—for three years. I did the very things I recommend readers do. I shied away from sources that saw only black and white but no gray. I clicked on hundreds of websites’ “About” pages, trying to get a sense of who was behind the site, then went elsewhere for corroboration. I watched stacks of videos and realized that they were like op-eds, honed to present an argument in its best light rather than to cover all sides.

Was balancing the science with a discussion of political and economic systems a challenge?
I had to remind myself that this would likely be the first time that readers would look critically at their own economic and political systems. It was exciting to open their eyes to things hiding in plain sight, from the price of fast food to the funding of candidates. More of the book is devoted to human behavior than the behavior of molecules, because that’s where both the causes and the solutions lie. Technical problems are easy by comparison. The world needs teens’ out-of-the-box thinking here.

What do you want readers to take away?
My hope is that they’ll come away with a new view of their moment in history. They’re seeing global civilization attempt to change course—something unprecedented. I hope they’ll see their lifestyle from a new angle, as something similarly unprecedented. And I hope they’ll be able to encounter any environment-connected news story and have the context and vocabulary under their belts that makes what might have been cloudy suddenly clear.

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Connecting Adults, Kids, and Science | Consider the Source Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:10:18 +0000 SciencePic Connecting Adults, Kids, and Science  | Consider the SourceI’m just back from the Wisconsin Science Festival in Madison. I’ve been to similar events in several states and if there is one word that characterizes them all it is excitement. Sure, kids spending a school day in a cool building surrounded by lots of exhibits will always be energized. And a Saturday excursion to see robots and rockets is a surefire winner for many families. But the buzz that I’ve witnessed at these fairs is not only in the children. There’s a sense among the adults—from the professors presenting to the undergrads facilitating—that because science is such an exciting field, kids are going to “get” it. Rather than being an impenetrable language separating experts from amateurs, science is an expanding and expansive field and its activities are thrilling to share.

In the late 1950s, after the Soviet Union sent a satellite into orbit ahead of the US, we panicked. Suddenly federal funds, and our focus, turned to science. While we are long past that Sputnik moment, we are aware that the ability to understand and move forward in the discipline is crucial today. This current awareness, I sense, has something to do with our digital world.

There is no doubt that there’s a digital divide—not merely in terms of devices (smartphones are becoming ubiquitous), but in how we use them (having a tool is not the same as learning, or being taught, how to best use it). Still, because so much of our life is digital, we understand that on some level computer science is intrinsic to who we are. And as that is so, science itself is perhaps become more engaging than scary. There’s more interest in science across the board, more efforts to engage minorities (including girls) in coding, and more young people exhibiting enthusiasm about math. Where science and math were once deemed cold, distant, less human and humane than English, say, or history, attitudes are changing.

How can the school librarian play a role? Making sure that displays of new books include as much science and math nonfiction and fiction (though there is precious little of this for K-12) as possible. Sharing information about clubs and activities, such as Black Girls Code to spread the word is also essential. Post examples of young people inventing, researching, exploring, and creating in science and math. Join the groundswell. This is a moment of possibility, and we should make sure that all young people get the message.

**This just in: As I was writing the above post, I saw an entry in Paul Fleischman’s blog. It opens a crucial conversation we need to have about when science standards and politics clash in our schools. Part of the push towards science comes, of course, from focus on STEM and the new science standards. But there is problem when scared or cowed states, districts, or schools turn away from the standards. Pleasing, or not angering, vested interests inclines some to, well, lie.


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Rosen Publishing Acquires Nonfiction Children’s Publisher Enslow Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:27:48 +0000 Today, Roger Rosen, CEO and President of Rosen Publishing. an independent educational publishing house serving Pre–K–12 in schools and public libraries, announced the acquisition of Enslow Publishers, Inc., which specializes in nonfiction books for children and young adults.

From the release:

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

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

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

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

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

From the release:

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

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

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

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

All-or-nothing policies

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

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

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

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

For more on the show, visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you approach your presentations with kids?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Were books a big part of your own childhood?

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

What’s next for you?

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

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

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Adobe’s Lax Security Raises Concerns About Student Privacy Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:09:13 +0000 ]]> 0