School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Sat, 23 May 2015 15:24:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Hands-on Projects and Titles that Celebrate Maker and Latino Cultures | Libro por libro Sat, 23 May 2015 13:00:20 +0000 A scene from Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl.  Illustration by Pura Belpré Award winner Rafael López.

A scene from Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl.
Illustration by Pura Belpré Award winner Rafael López.

Imagine that you are entering a library with a brand-spanking-new maker space. This same library has a largely Spanish-speaking clientele. It features a glass-enclosed area formerly used as a computer lab. The space is flexible, with furniture designed to be easily movable and to accommodate multiple stations. To celebrate the new configuration, the library has decided to host a community Maker Faire. Families are invited to partake in an all-day immersion of maker culture with a Latino twist.

Making Art

Inside, the current maker-in-residence, a local Latina artist, is leading children and their parents in an art project—they are making papel picado, a Mexican folk art, in which paper is cut into elaborate designs. Prominently displayed on a table featuring books from the library’s collection is Magic Windows by Carmen Lomas Garza and its companion title Making Magic Windows (Children’s Book Press, 2014).

Libro-Garza_Magic-WindowsLOMAS GARZA, Carmen. Magic Windows: Cut-Paper Art and Stories as told to Harriet Rohmer/Ventanas Magicas: Papel picado y relatos de Carmen Lomas Garza contados a Harriet Rohmer. tr. by Francisco X. Alarcon. Children’s Book Pr. 2003. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780892391837.
Gr 1-4–This 2000 Pura Belpré Award winner for illustration exhibits a strong sense of extended family ties and was inspired by Lomas Garza’s grandfather. One of the illustrations was created as an offering for him. Each of the exquisite paper cuts are accompanied by a one-page story. Many of the images portray things from nature such as a nopal cactus, flowers, horned toads, hummingbirds, fish, deer in a corn field, and the Mexican symbol of the eagle with a rattlesnake. The beauty of this title is not only the artwork, but the way in which Lomas Garza turns her creations into a tribute to her family and her culture. This book is really about connections across generations.
Young patrons can create their own papel picado by trying out these simple instructions.


The walls of the maker space have been coated with a special paint that turns them into erasable whiteboards, and a colorful mural by the maker-in-residence is taking shape. Children are invited to add their own drawings to the scene of people dancing and playing instruments in a carnival-like setting.

Libro-Ortiz-Sofi-Magic-Musical-MuralORTIZ, Raquel M. Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural/Sofi y el mágico mural musical. illus. by Maria Dominguez. Piñata Bks. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781558858039.
PrS-Gr 3–When Sofi is sent on an errand to the bodega to get some milk, she gets sidetracked on the way home. The bodega is just at the end of the block, but the mural, The Pueblo Sings, painted on the side of the building, is a huge distraction with its “musicians, dancers, tropical fish” and a vejigante, or trickster. After she buys the milk, she stops to admire the mural again, and it comes alive. One of the musicians stretches out his hand, and Sofi finds herself in the world of the mural. She dances and becomes part of the celebration, eventually becoming a vejigante herself. Then she is back in the real world with the jug of milk at her feet.
The titular mural isn’t presented in all of its glory—only pieces. The kids in our imaginary maker space could have a great time fleshing it out. They can also try their hand at making their own vejigante masks.

Making Music

Two former study rooms have been converted to music and video recording studios. Inside one of them is a drummer laying down tracks with her cajón, a six-sided box-shaped percussion instrument. She was inspired to learn percussion when she learned about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga.

Libro-Engle_DrumDreamGirlENGLE, Margarita. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music. illus. by Rafael López. HMH. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544102293.
Gr 2-5 –Engle, writing in her familiar free verse, tells the story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a girl of Chinese, African, and Cuban ancestry who broke the gender barrier in the male-dominated Cuban salsa scene. Millo dreams and practices on her drums until she gets the opportunity to play her bongos in a cafe. The author’s note shares more about the young musician’s story, inspiring readers to learn about this heroine who broke through the drumhead ceiling. López’s illustrations here are among his best. There’s a magical realism cast to the images. When Millo taps out rhythms on the table at home, López depicts her and the table floating dreamlike in the air. The illustrator creates poetry using the vibrant visuals. His intriguing use of perspective makes the drums seem bigger than the birds and fauna pictured in the background. This book will be a hit with young, budding musicians, and any kids who want to do something that they are told they cannot.


In the other studio, a young girl with a vihuela is recording a song she has written.

Libro-Torres-FINDING_THE_MUSICTORRES, Jennifer. Finding the Music/En pos de la música. illus. by Renato Alarcão. Lee & Low. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780892392919.
Gr 2-5 –Reyna accidentally damages her grandfather’s vihuela, which is smaller than but similar to a guitar. The instrument hangs above a booth in her family’s restaurant, until Reyna knocks it from the wall, gesticulating wildly because of her frustration with the behavior of twin boys who are misbehaving in the next booth. Reyna journeys throughout the neighborhood to find a way to get the vihuela fixed. The journey takes her to someone who not only knew her grandfather but also has an old recording on which her grandfather played.

The vihuela is a very important part of mariachi music, as an author’s note makes clear. Take the opportunity to explore mariachi music by having local musicians join in on a fiesta-themed storytime. For related hands-on projects, check out these maracas and drum craft ideas on Pinterest.

Making Fun

In the upcoming weeks, the library’s maker-in-residence, who also belongs to the local lowrider club, will be teaching attendees how to use the brand-new 3-D printer by creating parts for her vehicle. Included on the list of related library materials is the graphic novel Lowriders in Space.

Libro-Camper-Lowriders-in-spaceCAMPER, Cathy. Lowriders in Space. illus. by Raúl the Third. Chronicle. 2014. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781452121550; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781452128696.
Gr 3-6–This graphic novel is a maker book if there ever was one. In a world occupied by animals and insects, the wolf Lupe Impala and her sidekicks, the aptly named mosquito Elirio Malaria and Flapjack Octopus set out to win the Universal Car Competition. They take an old junker and fix it up. Lupe and friends are going to need a lot of fixtures to get the vehicle running. They don’t have a lot of money, so they improvise with things they find at an old, abandoned airplane factory. They come upon the mother lode—an unopened box of random rocket parts. The friends trick out the car (Raúl the Third’s illustrations show the trio’s designs sketched out on graphing paper) and make it look like new. With the spare rocket parts, the car jets off into space, getting a makeover of an extraterrestrial kind.

With its terrific retro three-color comic illustrations, the ingenious design of the spreads, the Latino cultural references and Spanish (including translations) sprinkled throughout, and particularly the breezy, easy-to-read text, this book is a perfect vehicle for getting reluctant readers engaged.


The 3-D printer expert will also be on hand to help kids design and print out their own mini Lucha Libre wrestler action figures. Yuyi Morales’s Niño Wrestles the World (Roaring Brook, 2013) and Xavier Garza’s books are just the thing to get kids excited for the future session.

Libro-Nikko--Great-and-MightyGARZA, Xavier. The Great and Mighty Nikko! A Bilingual Counting Book. Cinco Puntos. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781935955825; pap. $7.95. ISBN 9781935955832.
K-Gr 3–Garza takes the traditional bedtime story and gives it a festive twist. Nikko is playing with Lucha Libre action figures on his bed. His mother, of course, doesn’t want him wrestling on the bed. Nikko is not wrestling; it’s the Lucha Libre fighters. His mother points out that they are just toys, but Nikko tells her that his bed has become a Lucha Libre ring. The wrestlers come out one at a time until it’s nine against one—it’s Nikko himself who emerges triumphant. What makes this work particularly distinctive is Garza’s art, which is big and bold, with strong colors. The title’s art style has a comic book feel, down to the Growls! and Roars! of the wrestlers. This is a book that celebrates not only Mexican culture, but the universal joys of imaginative play.


The Maker Faire’s last stop is a kite-making booth, complete with recycled materials and an educator discussing the physics of kite-flying with the young participants. The following volume serves as an excellent read-aloud to conclude the program.

Libro-Kleipeis_Franciscos-KitesKLEPEIS, Alicia. Z. Francisco’s Kites/Las cometas de Francisco. illus. by Gary Undercuffler. tr. by Gabriela Baeza Ventura. Piñata Bks. 2015. pap. $17.95. ISBN 9781558858046.
PrS-Gr 3 –As he looks out his window and sees kites flying, Francisco decides that he wants to make kites himself. He doesn’t have money to buy supplies, but he scours the area around his apartment building and finds junk and scrap, all perfect for making a kite. When Francisco finally gets to fly his creation, he is approached by Mr. Morales, the owner of a recycled goods shop who says he wants Francisco to make kites that he can sell. Once the boy’s mother gives her approval, Francisco makes the kites, which sell out. The child uses his earnings to take his mother out to a Salvadoran restaurant for her birthday. The notion of creating things of beauty with recycled materials makes this book perfect to share with budding makers. Check out these kid-friendly instructions for creating kites.

Making Food

To finish off the day, refreshments are served—homemade salsa in molcajetes with chips. Jorge Argueta’s Salsa is on display, along with all his other “Cooking Poem” titles (Groundwood).

Libro-Argueta-Salsa-by-JorgeARGUETA, Jorge. Salsa: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem. illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. tr. by Elisa Amado. Groundwood. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554984428.
PreS–2–Argueta’s cooking poems have all been gems, and it’s surprising to realize that up until now he hasn’t covered salsa. Argueta places the yummy treat into historical context, beginning with the traditional vessel in which salsa is made—the molcajete, which is fashioned from volcanic rock. The first illustration depicts a volcano, giving the whole process a sense of awe and wonder. Argueta connects the making of salsa with ancestors and ancient tradition. Modern-day children are depicted in the style of ancient Aztec art as they make the salsa from fresh ingredients. The salsa makes them want to dance in the style named after this delicious, spicy condiment. The poem, presented bilingually, shines in both languages.
Those at the cooking station can use the verses that are highlighted in Argueta’s text or this easy-to-follow and kid-friendly recipe—adult supervision always required—to concoct the flavorful sauce.


You leave the maker space amazed and gratified by the way that the activities and technology are galvanizing the community. You are grateful that, no matter how advanced the technology, makers are still inspired by books and stories.

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Pictures of the Week: Author Gabrielle Balkan Wows Librarians at Quarto Fall Preview Fri, 22 May 2015 20:13:49 +0000 The 50 States.]]> On Wednesday May 13, Quarto Publishing USA presented its fall titles during its first-ever librarian preview, calling attention to its new nonfiction imprint, Wide Eyed Editions. On hand was author Gabrielle Balkan, whose book The 50 States, state-by-state look at the United States, is one of the latest offerings from the imprint.


Gabrielle Balkan

Author Gabrielle Balkan discusses her writing process.


Michelle Bayuk, Gabrielle Balkan, and Betsy Bird

(From l. to r.) Michelle Bayuk, associate director children’s book marketing, publicity, and social media at Quarto Publishing Group USA; author Gabrielle Balkan; and youth materials specialist at New York Public Library and SLJ blogger Betsy Bird.

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How to Run a Library Volunteer Program that Students Love Fri, 22 May 2015 13:00:08 +0000 library _volunteers_1

Dartmout Middle school students Payton and Aidan delete and recatalog old reference books.

The bell just rang for the start of school at Dartmouth (MA) Middle School, and I’m still taking off my coat. Fifty to 60 students are about to flood into the library to print schoolwork, look for books, hang out, and play computer games for 15 minutes before the Pledge of Allegiance signals the start of homeroom.

No worries. The lights and computers are on and the circulation desk computer is ready to go, thanks to the Leconte sisters, student volunteers who let themselves in each morning. Reilly, in eighth grade, and Reese, in sixth, check out books until they head off to their lockers. Then, eighth grader Normandy takes over while I circulate the library assisting students.

On an average day, at least ten students help me run the library. Altogether, over 40 seventh and eighth-grade students work there each year. I couldn’t do it without them.

Why have student library volunteers?

Having student library volunteers frees me up to do more collaboration with teachers, one-on-one instruction at students’ point of need, and reader’s advisory. Like many school librarians. I operate a busy program with no paid assistance. While parent volunteers have always been a part of it, I was excited to start the school’s first student volunteer initiative when I started here six years ago. Since I’ve given students the responsibility to help plan and create displays and programs, the initiative has taken off. It’s now a hotly demanded leadership position.

How it works


Eighth grade volunteers test-run Touchcast, am iPad app students use with green screens in the library.

Seventh and eighth grade students are eligible to be library assistants, positions that I promote during my sixth grade Library Skills class. Promotion is really unnecessary, though, since I probably get asked five times a week how to become a library assistant! The most common suggestion on my Padlet wall this year was to let sixth graders help in the library.  I have enough volunteers at the moment, and I love knowing all my volunteers from their year in my class.

My middle school students crave responsibility and love doing authentic work. Every class period is busy. When library assistants aren’t working the circulation desk, they’re straightening books, running errands, and doing special projects like helping me delete weeded books, relabel my reorganized biography section, or set up a book buffet for an incoming class.

Most students volunteer during free periods, but those with no room in their schedule volunteer before or after school. I treat the students like real employees and stress that this is a real job. I require that students be in good academic standing, and I check in with teachers at least twice a year. Occasionally, I’ve asked students to take a break until their grades have improved, and I’ve had to “fire” two students for various reasons. If I have a group of students in a class period, I often save big projects for them to complete together such as moving books, relabeling, or playing with new apps for the iPads.


Get administrator approval

I’m lucky to work in a place with lots of support from my building administrators. Still, launching my volunteer program was not without its challenges. Proposing a change in student scheduling, which I had to do that first year, can be a tough argument. Make your case to administrators and guidance counselors (often in charge of scheduling) that your initiative will benefit the whole community and provide a leadership and service opportunity for students. My assistant principal, Carl Robidoux, said, “When students can connect with their environment they take better care of it, plus the program gives the school library new ideas, immediate feedback and a fresh set of eyes.”

Bestow responsibility

Requiring students to fill out an application ensures that they are interested in the position and not just in spending a free period in the library. The application I use is fairly simple, with an essay component (“Why do you want to be a library assistant?”), two teacher recommendations, and a parent signature. Most students who take the time to fill out the application are a good fit. Some may not yet be ready for the responsibility; don’t be afraid to take them aside and talk about what they need to do to become a library assistant the next year.

Getting students who truly want the responsibility is important. Look for enthusiasm and excitement on the student applications; those students will be your rock star volunteers. For instance: “It would be lots of fun and an honor to help out in one of my favorite places. Plus, library assistants get to hang out with Ms. G!”

Keep ‘em busy

Maintain an ongoing list of tasks that volunteers can do. Those of us who have run solo programs for years may have difficulty delegating, but prioritizing your time as a professional is important. When I see a low level task that needs doing I add it to my special project list for parent or student volunteers. I also have a standard list that students can reference that includes things like look for trash, straighten books, water plants, push in chairs, clean tables and empty recycling.

Make it special

For middle school students, learning how to use the circulation system is special; my students fight over who gets to check in the books! Give them other special privileges, such as delivering reserved books to students around the school during class time. Nametags are another way to make the job special. Creating them seems like a small thing, but I’ve found that most students are thrilled to decorate and wear them while working in the library.

Celebrate and appreciate

Find a small way to say thank you to your volunteers. A simple breakfast party at the end of the year and thanking them for all their hard work goes a long way. Say “thank you” on a daily basis, and take the time to let students know how much you appreciate their assistance. I also write letters of recommendations for eighth graders that can be used for future employment and have been used as job references.

Capitalize on their interests and talents

“I absolutely love to read…I could show younger kids and kids my age who I know and influence them to read. Since I know these people, they might take my advice and end up reading more than ever.” —From a volunteer application essay

Spending a little time to get to know student interests and talents is well worth the effort. I’m hopeless when it comes to bulletin boards and display ideas. Luckily, some of my student volunteers are always pros at this. One annual display they make shows their favorite books with notecards explaining their choices. We always have a huge jump in circulation when that’s up. I’ve also had students test out the new library website, iPad apps, ebooks, and green screens. Last year, they created book trailers using Animoto that were featured on our school website and on QR codes around the library. Some students have more outlying interests, such as eighth grader Kate, who enjoys reading the shelves in the nonfiction area and reordering books that are misplaced. She says that it’s relaxing to re-shelve books.

I say I understand…and that she’s in the right place.

Laura GardnerLaura Gardner has been a school librarian for ten years and is a teacher librarian and National Junior Honor Society advisor at Dartmouth Middle School. A National Board Certified Teacher in Library Media, she serves on the board of the Massachusetts School Library Association. She and her husband live in Fairhaven, MA with their two young children.


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Mathical: A New Book Award Honors the Magic of Mathematics Thu, 21 May 2015 11:53:17 +0000 Marc 2What subject area is the ugly duckling of your library? The one that doesn’t get much attention, isn’t seen as appealing or as much fun as the other sections—but just may be as attractive and exciting? I bet I know: math books. I’m talking about those titles that approach the topic as fresh and interesting—and as alive as the latest sports result. If math titles are your ugly duckling, I have a solution—a way to free those titles to flock with the other swans. Just last month a new prize was announced: Mathical Books for Kids from Tots to Teens. I can’t say I love the name, but I do think this is an award worthy of your attention.

A bit of background: the prize comes from an alliance between Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI)—a non-profit that focuses on mathematical research and works to deepen appreciation of mathematics across all age levels—and the Children’s Book Council (CBC). As you know, the CBC works with other organizations, such as the National Council of Social Studies and the National Science Teachers Association to produce annual lists of “notable” trade books in those fields. But the Mathical prize is different. As David Eisenbud, director of MSRI, explained to me, the organization wanted to select and honor individual exceptional books, which makes the award sound to me more like American Library Association’s (ALA) celebrated youth award winners, than a long list of titles.

The name Mathical was chosen to imbue math with a sense of the magical, or mythical—the aura of wonder and inspiration—and Eisenbud hopes the prize will help K-12 readers to appreciate the “charm and reach” of mathematics. Thus MSRI is open to all kinds of books in which the subject plays a role—nonfiction, of course, but also adventure stories, picture books that take an imaginative and original approach to to the topic, applications of math to real-life situations and concerns, and more.

To facilitate this wide-ranging mandate, the organizers have crafted an impressive, and unusual, set of judges. There are the math professors—Jordan Ellenberg, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin and author of the wonderful How Not to Be Wrong (Penguin, 2014), was struck by the “variety and multiplicity” of approaches in the books; but also SLJ blogger Betsy Bird; and former children’s book ambassador Jon Scieszka, who along with some middle and high school math teachers, comprised the panel (full list on the site). Each book had many readers, indeed, some judges also actively sought comments from young readers. The judges then met—physically and digitally—to share perspectives. Out of this discussion came the first list of winners and honor titles—and one very special addition.

If you want to highlight math in your library as creative and an exciting and enjoyable endeavor, here’s your ready-made display (the prize comes with handy stickers, and a poster and bookmarks, so the books can display their pride). From the Mathical site:

The Mathical prize winners in five age categories, published in 2014, are:

Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light

Grades K-2:
One Big Pair of Underwear by Laura Gehl

Grades 3-5 and Grades 6-8:
Really Big Numbers by Richard Evan Schwartz

Grades 9-12:
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano

The Mathical Honor books (published 2009-2014) are:

Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett
Over in a River: Flowing Out to the Sea by Marianne Berkes

Grades K-2:
Zero the Hero by Joan Holub

Grades 3-5:
Bedtime Math: This Time It’s Personal by Laura Overdeck
Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese
Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems by J. Patrick Lewis
Numbed! by David Lubar
The Rookie Bookie by L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz

Grades 6-8:
Mathemagic! Number Tricks by Lynda Colgan
The Ice Castle: An Adventure in Music by Pendred Noyce

Grades 9-12:
The Unknowns by Benedict Carey
What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter by Jeffrey Bennett

The first Mathical Awards were presented at the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library in Washington, DC. Fourth grade students from were in attendance.

The first Mathical Awards were presented at the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library in Washington, DC. Fourth grade students from Sacred Heart School were in attendance.

The Mathical folks are aware that in honoring math books they have a lot of catch-up to do—so they’ve added a Hall of Fame category. Each year, a book—a past great, published long before the prize existed but deserving of a place in the sun—will be named. The first winner, is, of course:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

The first Mathical prize was announced to applause at the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library with fourth grade students from the Sacred Heart School in Washington, DC, in attendance. CBC will have a table at ALA annual in San Francisco where you can pick up Mathical swag to decorate your display. And the next round of books, the 2015 candidates as well as the second Hall of Fame selection, will be judged in June to be announced at a propitious time in the winter or spring. For authors or publishers interested in submitting books for consideration, a set of guidelines is available from Mathical.

So fly on math books—you are finally free to soar, with your prizes glittering in the sun.

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Charged! From Atoms to Electricity | Touch and Go Thu, 21 May 2015 11:50:57 +0000 At this point we’re playing catch-up with Kids Discover; the developer has produced more than two dozen apps based on single issues of the magazine by the same name. While we have reviewed many of their productions, we’re still working our way through their list. The two apps reviewed today are introductions to foundational science topics studied at one point or another during every student’s career.

For those living in the tri-state New York area, Ted Levine from Kids Discover will be presenting with author/illustrator Roxie Munro on “The Digital World of E-books, Apps, and Gamification” at the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference in NYC June 12-14, 2015, a full, three-day event that brings together publishers, authors, and educators.

photoAtoms (Marjorie Frank / Joe Zeff Design; iOS $3.99; Gr 4-8) is one of 26 assorted history, geography, and science apps offered by Kids Discover. The content is neatly divided into eleven sections; the first eight are informational with appealing titles such as “How Small Is Small?” “It’s Elemental,” and “Fission Fusion No Con-Fusion.” Information and facts are presented in small chunks and accompanied by impressive graphics (colorful photos or drawings) and a number of videos and animations. A short clip showing the effect of a nuclear blast on a wood-frame house, three-fifths of a mile from a 1950s Nevada test site, will fascinate viewers, as will the animated look at how nuclear power is converted into electricity used in the home.

The final sections are comprised of activities designed to reinforce concepts (mostly memory and matching games), and a quiz. “Resources” contains links to five websites including one of the  periodic table (one is also found in the app); however, the link to the “atomic timeline” leads to a timeline site and students will have to do some digging to find the related one. The further reading suggestions link to each title’s Amazon listing. Not all the resources are free of ads.

Navigation is fairly straightforward. From the intro page, viewers swipe to switch pages or tap the screen to bring up a scrubber bar with small page views they can choose from. In most apps, a tap to the arrow at the bottom right corner of the screen will turn the page; here it just indicates there is more to the chapter and readers must swipe or tap the screen to advance forward. (There is a quick tutorial at the app’s opening).

The Kids Discover site has additional resources including lesson plans, infographics, and activities to help make the best use of their apps.—Kelly Jo Lasher, Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ

Screen from Electricity (Kids Discover) Joe Zeff Design

Screen from Electricity (Kids Discover) Joe Zeff Design

Kids Discover magazine has created another dynamic science-based app for budding scientists to explore. Electricity’s (Sean Price/Joe Zeff Design; iOS, $3.99; Gr 4-8) visual index offers readers 11 chapters or sections to begin their journey. Each section provides clear, succinct basic facts about the topic, accompanied by eye-catching visuals. Offerings include interactive 3-D models, videos, photos, and pop-up captions that will capture users’ attention.

Lightning flashes across the screen as the difference between static and dynamic electricity is explained, and in another section students can follow a simplified view of the path of an electrical current from a power plant to the inside of a home. An additional enhancement within the app is the “Currents in Time” page where taps to a timeline consisting of 11 dates yield images and information on their significance including facts about Thomas Edison, Luigi Galvani, Georg Ohm, and other leading scientists. A word search; a matching game, “Who Did What?”; and a five-question quiz are offered in the last section. “Resources” recommends books and websites. This electrifying app is a winning choice for middle level students. Two related print downloads are available on the developer’s website.Stephanie Rivera, Naperville Public Library, IL 

For additional apps on science topics, see School Library Journal’s list of “Outstanding STEM Apps.”

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Latinitas and DIY Girls: Paving the Way for Latina Makers Wed, 20 May 2015 17:53:36 +0000 DIY girlsThe rise of maker culture and new media focused initiatives has not gone unnoticed in the Latino community. Two nonprofit organizations, Latinitas and DIY Girls, are working with Latina teens and tweens to promote tech- and media-related skills.

Luz Rivas, founder of DIY (“Do-It-Yourself”) Girls, was inspired to start an organization aiming “to increase girls’ interest and success in technology, engineering, and making through innovative educational experiences and mentor relationships,” she says, when she revisited her elementary school in Los Angeles and noticed the lack of technology programs for girls.

“I became interested in technology when I was in elementary school,” she says. “It was hard to see that 30 years later, nothing has progressed. I thought, why don’t I combine aspects of the growing maker movement, activities, and equipment that is accessible to everybody and create a program for girls?”

DIY Girls develops and implements educational programs and events designed to encourage engagement with technology, promote self-confidence, and support aspiration to technical careers among tween girls in L.A.’s northeast San Fernando Valley, where the majority of students are Latino. Now in its fourth year, DIY Girls offers afterschool programs to fifth grade girls in five area schools, bringing equipment and materials for projects, such as coding and creating video games and a controller, and using the 3-D printer.

It has also branched out to middle school students, offering monthly programs and summer camps that have taken place at the Los Angeles Public Library. “Our goal is to keep connected with the girls as they grow older, offering a mentorship that we hope continues until they graduate high school,” Rivas adds.

Since its inception, DIY Girls has worked with 400 girls. Its staff is made up of Latina women with degrees in engineering, toy design, psychology, and an aspiring maker/STEM librarian, in addition to volunteers and mentors. The organization is currently is fund-raising for a two-week maker-themed summer camp on Indiegogo with the goal of reaching $8,000 within the next 15 days.

Photos courtesy of Latinitas.

Photos courtesy of Latinitas.

Latinitas is another nonprofit organization that is focused on inspiring young Latinas to develop technology skills, with an added emphasis on media. Latinitas was founded by Laura Donnelly and Alicia Rascon in 2002. Originally conceived as a class project at the University of Texas Austin, where they first met as graduate students, as a way to address the misrepresentation and lack of positive portrayals of Latinas in media and technology, it began as a digital magazine made for and by young Latinas.

“Young women are always struggling with issues of identity and self-esteem, but most Latina girls don’t often find themselves in magazines. And so we started Latinitas, says Donnelly. “It became a space where teens could receive lessons in writing, photography, and then digital publishing as media evolved. Since Austin is tech-centered, coding was the next natural step.”

Latinitas has expanded to include a nonprofit that hosts programs, clubs, workshops, and summer camps in Austin and El Paso, TX. With an audience of 12–17-year-old girls, Latinitas aims to provide a creative outlet for expression, help participants learn about their culture, and foster career exploration in STEM fields.

The organization has served over 20,000 elementary, middle, and high school Latinas with afterschool enrichment programs focused on media, technology, and cultural literacy. As the participants grow older, they serve as models for their younger counterparts in the program. Ninety-two percent of Latinitas alumni reported that they had graduated from high school within four years. Latinitas has four full-time staff members and 20 volunteers.

The group has partnered with 12 libraries in Austin and El Paso to host events that are open to entire families, not just girls. A recent library workshop, Code Chica, which focused on video game design, took place at the Southeast Austin branch. Families came from as far as an hour away to attend. The projects and ideas are usually generated by the participants themselves, and they often tie it back to their culture. One girl created Piñata zombie video game. Another tied her game to the Llorona legend,” says Donnelly.

The family connection is a big part of what makes DIY Girls have a long-lasting impact on attendees, Rivas believes. “When they do things with electronics at our programs, they get to take [their creations] home and share [them] with their families. It creates a special bond with their dads, who [often] have always been tinkerers. The fathers are surprised that their daughters could make projects like that.”

classroom10 - Latinitas

Paola Ferate-Soto, a librarian at the Austin Public Library who has hosted several Latinitas programs at her branch, has a daughter who attended the summer workshops held by the group. “It’s a great opportunity to offer tech-related programs to girls. We have wonderful male librarians and they attract a lot of boys for computer-focused programs. But we noticed that there weren’t that many girls wanting to use the computers,” says Ferate-Soto. She has since seen less resistance to tech programs from young female patrons. “It’s a great away to expose them to tech in a non-threatening and exciting, accessible way,” she says.

DIY Girls and Latinitas have each received financial and in-kind sponsorships from companies and organizations as varied as Microsoft, the L.A. Lakers, the United Latino Fund, Evil Mad Scientist, Target, and IKEA.

They both aim to inspire at-risk young Latinas to pursue STEM-related fields—and to impart confidence and creativity in their mentees. “We are allowing them to create; we’re not giving them step-by-step instructions,” says Rivas. “We provide opportunities for them to learn by troubleshooting a project. Our goal is for them to be excited and enthusiastic about creating technology, rather than just using technology.”


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How Brooklyn Special Ed Students Built a Library | The Maker Issue Wed, 20 May 2015 15:00:11 +0000 Adaptive Design  teacher Charles Brown with a reading easel in progress.

Adaptive Design teacher Charles Brown with a reading easel in progress.

All students consider themselves makers at P.S. 721K, a public school in Brooklyn, NY—it’s part of the educational mission. The school’s 400 on-site 14- to 21-year-old special education students make their own soap, cook meals (often with vegetables grown in the school garden), and run coffee and bake shops. In a third-floor shop, they wield tools and assemble furniture from industrial-strength corrugated cardboard, glue, and wooden nails.
The young people at this facility, a vocational school/occupational training center, live with a range of disabilities. Some have mild autism, while others are wheelchair bound, or do not speak. Yet “there’s not a job done here that the kids were not a part of,” says principal Barbara Tremblay.
Recently, shop students at the school built furniture for their new school library—colorfully painted stools and book return boxes (color-coded for students who don’t read). Students work at the library, too, under the guidance of teacher Rizwan Malik.
“Not all of our kids are readers,” says Tremblay. Still, having a school library was a top priority when she became principal three years ago. Then, the library space was mostly used for teacher meetings. That was before she overhauled it, knocking out a wall to make the space wheelchair accessible and enlisting Malik to oversee it. “Library is part of what we do here,” Tremblay says. “Whether it’s picture symbols or you hear it on audio, you need to access literature.”
While Tremblay’s students won’t be packing the library to cram for AP exams, many of them will likely become lifelong library users, says Melissa Jacobs, coordinator at the Office of Library Services in New York City’s DOE. “This is the population that needs [a school library] the most,” she says.

Student-built stools and book bins.

Student-built stools and book bins.

The return of shop

For many students, that means spending time building things in the shop with teacher Charles Brown, who guides them in making the sturdy chairs, book stands, and other items—all out of cardboard. “Everything you see here was made from three-layer cardboard—the kind stores like Costco use to ship their big materials,” he says.
Brown received training in this construction from the Adaptive Design Association (ADA), a New York City nonprofit dedicated to creating custom-designed furniture out of industrial cardboard for disabled children. In ADA’s midtown Manhattan storefront location, staff teach volunteers, from high school and college students to educators and professional designers, these skills.
ADA and the NYC DOE are in the process of setting up more shops in city high schools serving general education students.
“Kids helping kids is powerful and working for a purpose is powerful, especially with a purpose that is very clear, and you quickly see that your work has an impact,” says ADA executive director Alex Truesdell. The right adaptation can enable developmental milestones, she adds.
Giving a child the right furniture—for instance, an elevated chair that literally helps her sit at the table with peers—allows kids’ abilities, rather than their limitations, to shine, she says.
Truesdell sees multiple benefits of the hands-on shop experience, for both able-bodied children and others. “We must put shop in every school. We only learn by doing,” she says. “We don’t learn by watching.”

Accessible and low cost

ADA shares its building with DIYAbility, a group dedicated to assistive technology and promoting equal access to maker tech tools. Among the organization’s initiatives is a summer maker program for teenagers with physical disabilities. DIYAbility is also developing an affordable Morse Code communication system for people who don’t speak, Truesdell says.
“People with disabilities are the largest minority worldwide,” she adds, “and the most underperforming in schools.”

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Our Voices Matter: SLJ Chats with Valynne Maetani About “Ink and Ashes” | Up Close Wed, 20 May 2015 14:10:34 +0000 SLJ1505-Upclose_Valynne-MaetaniValynne Maetani’s Ink and Ashes, releasing in June from Lee & Low’s Tu Books imprint, is not only the author’s first book, it’s also the first Tu Books New Visions Award winner. Established in 2012 as an opportunity for diverse unpublished and unagented writers of middle grade and YA fiction to submit their work, the New Visions Award was given to Maetani in 2013 for her mystery thriller. With a fast-paced plot and threads of Japanese culture, this debut adeptly heeds the call for diverse genre fiction for teens.

What first motivated you to submit your manuscript to the contest?

When I heard about the New Visions Award, it was three weeks before the submission deadline. With a manuscript in dire need of revisions, I realized I couldn’t make it. But then someone replied to the announcement for the award ask[ing] why it mattered if the writer was “white,” suggest[ing] Tu Books get rid of the term “of color” from their website.

I have read many wonderful books with diverse characters written by authors who are not “of color”—books that were meaningful and shed light on different cultures. But underrepresented voices are equally as important. This award matters. I am a Japanese American writer who grew up in Utah, surrounded by and reading books about people who looked nothing like me. I am an author of color. Our voices matter.

The dynamic among the siblings is just so spot-on. Were you inspired by your own family history while writing this book?

I am the oldest of five children (two brothers and two sisters). Because my brothers and I are very close in age, we were in high school at the same time, so I got to experience them in a way my younger sisters never did. The siblings in the book are based on my brothers, although I actually toned down the personalities of the characters. In real life, they are so over-the-top that I didn’t think it would be believable.

SLJ1505-Upclose_CV-InkandAshesThe themes in Ink and Ashes include everything from bullying to adoption to first love. How did you map out the plotting and pacing while still maintaining these real-teen details?

This was definitely my greatest challenge. I really struggled with the pacing. In the final draft, I analyzed all the themes and aspects of Claire’s life and examined how they could affect her both positively and negatively and then tried to sequence the events according to the degree she might be affected.

There’s a lot of Japanese culture interwoven into the narrative, but it’s not the entire focus of Claire’s tale. Why was it important for you to write the story this way?

I have a [younger] sister, and I wrote Ink and Ashes for her 18th birthday. Because I never got to see myself in books other than [those with] settings involving war, an internment camp, or high fantasy, I wanted her to have a contemporary [title] with a Japanese American protagonist. I was tired of reading about people like me who were hated just because of the way they look; thus, I thought the greatest gift I could give her was a book I never got to read.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

My paternal grandparents were very superstitious. While they taught me things I shouldn’t do or say, I never knew why, and I never thought to question my elders. Writing this story allowed me to learn the meaning behind various Japanese rituals and traditions that I grew up practicing.

What are you working on next?

My current project is a collaboration with Courtney Alameda, author of Shutter (Holt, 2015), on a young adult Japanese horror/thriller, [which is] a retelling of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Our main characters will be plagued by Japanese monsters and ghosts and require the help of shinigami (death gods) for protection. After that, I hope to be working on the sequel to Ink and Ashes.

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“Listen, Slowly” explores a teen’s journey from the valley to Vietnam| Audio Pick Wed, 20 May 2015 13:00:12 +0000 LAI, Thanhhà. Listen, Slowly. digital download. 8 hrs. Harper Audio. 2015. $18.99. ISBN 9780062346469. Gr 6-8–Mai (though at school in Laguna Beach she’s known as “Mia”) is a seventh grade valley girl who is expected to accompany her grandmother on an all-summer visit to Vietnam. Bà fled Vietnam with her children during the Fall of Saigon, and doesn’t know what happened to her husband, Mai’s grandfather. Occasionally using her rudimentary Vietnamese, Mai tells the story (grudgingly adding SAT vocabulary sent daily [...]]]> listenslowlyLAI, Thanhhà. Listen, Slowly. digital download. 8 hrs. Harper Audio. 2015. $18.99. ISBN 9780062346469.
Gr 6-8–Mai (though at school in Laguna Beach she’s known as “Mia”) is a seventh grade valley girl who is expected to accompany her grandmother on an all-summer visit to Vietnam. Bà fled Vietnam with her children during the Fall of Saigon, and doesn’t know what happened to her husband, Mai’s grandfather. Occasionally using her rudimentary Vietnamese, Mai tells the story (grudgingly adding SAT vocabulary sent daily by her mother) as she frets over her oily T-zone, her crush back home, bloodthirsty mosquitoes, and OMG: only dial-up Internet! At the same time, Mai revels in the sights and tastes of crowded cities and rural villages, eventually embracing even awkward traditions as she comes to appreciate her heritage. Narrator Lulu Lam beautifully manages both the ending uptick of valley-girl inflections, and the tonal variations of Vietnamese. The writing is excellent, and the narration rises in every way to the material. This book has abundant educational points that make it good for classroom use, yet it never feels heavy-handed as it explores the cultural points. Funny, heartfelt and full of depth, this modern narrative is seamlessly wrapped in a lush cloak of history and culture. Mai and Bà’s journey will captivate listeners. VERDICT An excellent multicultural title for social studies or history classes. Suggest to fans of authors Mitali Perkins and Lisa Yee.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

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Teen Charm Offensive: Fostering Positive Attitudes About YA Programming Wed, 20 May 2015 11:30:54 +0000 2librarians_alt_webTeen service librarians instinctively understand how to modulate their communication with young people. Facing a 16-year-old with five o’clock shadow, we can pitch a service while assessing the teen’s desired level of mediation, comfort level, and familiarity with the library.

We must do the same when communicating with our colleagues, even those who are, shall we say, less than teen-friendly.

We teen services people strive for equity of service and resources and get how non-traditional programs are library-appropriate. We smile when 25 teens walk in. But sometimes our colleagues don’t “get” us—and we certainly don’t get why they might view teens as problems.

It’s difficult not to become angry with colleagues who treat teens with benign neglect or overt hostility.  Right or wrong, it’s simply a fact: we teen services librarians often have to justify our activities in a way that other age-based services don’t. Some dreaded questions from colleagues: “What does that have to do with the library?” or, “Why do teens get to do/have that?”

How we react in these situations is critical. We’re lead advocates for young adult services, and every interaction with colleagues reflects on what we do.

Just as we display a professional attitude with the public, we must adopt one with coworkers. Teens aren’t born knowing how to use the library, and our colleagues aren’t born knowing how to serve young adults—or understand our innovative programming. We have to be good team players and diplomats at work—and help our colleagues understand the importance of what we do.

Soft skills

How? By employing soft skills to effectively communicate with colleagues—and make the library environment better for everyone.

Soft skills are personality traits and habits—like friendliness, optimism, teamwork, critical thinking, and language—that characterize relationships within the workplace. They complement hard skills, which are occupational requirements: the things you have to know to do a particular job. Think of hard skills as what you do—and soft skills as how you do it.

Here are some tips on building a positive in-house attitude towards teens and our services for them.

Showcase positive examples 

This is not the time to be shy or modest. Talk about how great the teens at your location are. Cite the incredible successes of the programs/activities they plan and how much they help the branch by volunteering “X” number of hours this month, this year.

It can be beneficial to have a voice from outside the organization deliver your message. This could be the local media, a high school principal or teacher, a PTA group, parents, or other youth-serving agencies. If what’s going on in teen services is garnering kudos from community players, the shine reflects on the library as a whole. Managers understand this—capitalize on it.

Put it in writing and Refine Talking Points

Know the teen services statistics—program attendance, YA circulation, number of teen volunteers and their hours— and create a monthly narrative report. Give it to your supervisor. He or she needs to know the numbers regarding teen patrons and see how your efforts contribute to overall service goals.

You need to master these statistics, too, so that you can set goals and know if you’ve achieved them.  Get a baseline of what is going on now, so you can measure outcomes of your service efforts monthly and annually.

Numbers are great—but they don’t tell the whole story of your success. Be prepared with anecdotes about teen participation, how the library impacted a young person’s life, and how a parent complimented your service. Be ready with an elevator speech so that when a library board member, city councilor, or library administrator says “hello,” you are prepared to tell them about young adult programs.

Put on your game face

When you walk into your branch library, be a ray of professional sunshine (seriously). Even if you aren’t feeling it, smile and be positive. It shows professionalism. Leading a perpetual charm offensive on behalf of teen services is important.

You are nice, helpful, a team player, and hard to say “no” to because colleagues like you. You work hard at it. If you are all these things, your colleagues will have positive feelings towards you, and by extension, about teen services. Help colleagues with their service efforts. These efforts are leverage for when you need help, too.

It’s never personal

One of the worst things you can do is alienate yourself from your coworkers—it’s stressful and bad for you on so many levels. While you aren’t at work to be friends with your colleagues, necessarily, you do need to maintain professionalism, kindness, and friendliness.

Remember that the coworker who is mean to teens may be afraid of them. The manager who hates the idea of teen programming may have had bad experiences in the past. Your kindness and professionalism can help offset these negative feelings.

Help colleagues better serve teens

We’ve all had the experience where we cringe, overhearing a colleague attempting to help a teen at the service desk, and doing a poor job. Your impulse might be to step in and take over—but you risk offending your colleague. Modeling outstanding teen customer service may not be enough—it may, frankly, be too subtle. Directly offering unsolicited tips to colleagues (e.g., during a reference interview or readers advisory) may help them. Saying to a colleague while still in the moment, “You know what I like to do when a teen has a question like that?”, is a gentle way of offering advice. Also, talk to your manager about offering training (“some tips”) during a staff meeting.

Employing soft skills and diplomacy will make you a more effective teen services librarian and help keep the library atmosphere positive—improving things for everyone. Will it always be easy? No. Here’s some realism about the usefulness of kindness, from Sun Tsu’s Art of War: “The exercise of kindness in battle leads to victory.” This is the best kind of victory—one where everyone wins.

velasquez headshotJennifer Velásquez (@jenVLSQZ) is a lecturer at the San José State University School of Information (CA) and coordinator of teen services for the San Antonio Public Library. A 2011
Library Journal Mover & Shaker, she is the recipient of the New York Times Librarian Award (2005). Her book, Real-World Teen Services, is available from ALA Editions.

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SLJ’s Guide to 2015 BookExpo America ARCs and Galleys Tue, 19 May 2015 15:22:41 +0000 BEA2015_SLJ_module_altBookExpo America is just around the corner, on May 27–29! Sign up today to receive School Library Journal’s exclusive 2015 BEA Guide to ARCs & Signings, sponsored by Sourcebooks.

We’ll let you know when our insider’s guide to some of the hottest new titles for children and teens coming to BEA is ready to download.



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From Superheroes to Vampires: The Hottest Graphic Novels and Manga of 2015 Mon, 18 May 2015 20:39:25 +0000 Tuesday, June 9th, 2015, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PT
Join Brigid Alverson, editor of SLJ’s "Good Comics for Kids," along with a panel of experts who will share their views on the hottest graphic novels hitting book shelves this year. You'll hear all about upcoming releases from DC, Dark Horse, Archie Comics, Del Rey, Marvel, Titan, and Viz Media, including Batman, Star Wars, Buffy, SHONEN JUMP, and more!
Register Now!]]>

Presented by: Marvel, Penguin Random House Library Marketing, Viz Media & Library Journal

Event Date & Time: Tuesday, June 9th, 2015, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT

Join Brigid Alverson, editor of SLJ’s “Good Comics for Kids,” along with a panel of experts who will share their views on the hottest graphic novels hitting book shelves this year. You’ll hear all about upcoming releases from DC, Dark Horse, Archie Comics, Del Rey, Marvel, Titan, and Viz Media, including Batman, Star Wars, Buffy, SHONEN JUMP, and more!

With blockbuster movies and hit TV shows featuring more comic book adaptations than ever before, find out which upcoming titles will be driving your holds lists this summer and beyond.


Kelly Coyle-Crivelli – Library Marketing, Random House

David Gabriel – SVP, Print, Sales & Marketing, Marvel Publishing Worldwide

Leyla Aker – Senior Vice President, Publishing, Viz Media

Ashlee Vaughn – Marketing Manager, Viz Media


Brigid Alverson – Editor & Writer, Good Comics 4 Kids


Can’t make it June 9th? No problem! Register now and you will receive an email from Library Journal with the URL to access the archive for this event.

Follow us on Twitter! @LibraryJournal #LJgraphicnovels

For more information about this webcast, please visit

Need help getting registered? Send us an email describing your problem.

By registering for this webcast, you are agreeing that Library Journal may share your registration information with sponsors currently shown and future sponsors of this event. Click here to review the entire Library Journal Privacy Policy.

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Jane Addams 2015 Award Winners; Apply for Best Buy Teen Tech Grants; NYT Summer Reading Contest | SLJTeen News Mon, 18 May 2015 19:25:07 +0000 The Girl from the Tar Paper School. Sarah Hill has been chosen as the President-Elect of YALSA. Teens can participate in a summer reading contest run by the New York Times. Best Buy is offering up to $10,000 to nonprofits working with teens and tech programming.]]> Award news

Girl From Tar Paper School Cover ArtThe recipients of the 2015 Jane Addams Book Awards were revealed on April 28. Presented since 1953, the awards are given annually to the best children’s books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races. This year’s winner for younger children is Duncan Tonatiuh’s Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation. For older children, Teri Kanefield’s The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement (both Abrams) took top prize. Two books were named Honor Books in the Books for Older Children category: Deborah Wiles’s Revolution (Scholastic) and Margarita Engle’s Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal (HMH). Check out the award’s website for more information on other books that were honored.

Upcoming event

YA A to Z: David LevithanThe Freedom to Read Foundation will be hosting a FTRF45 New York City event on Friday, May 29, in conjunction with BookExpo America in celebration of the organization’s 45th anniversary. Authors David Levithan (Boy Meets BoyAnother Day), Carolyn Mackler (The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things) and Jeff Smith (“Bone”) will be appearing at the fund-raiser. These authors have all written books that were subject to significant censorship challenges, and are passionate advocates for the freedom to read.

The event will be held from 6:30–9:00 p.m ET at the Scholastic headquarters in New York City in its Greenhouse space. Cosponsors for the event include the New York Public Library and Elsevier. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at

New imprints

imprintErin Stein, who has had editorial positions at HarperCollins, TokyoPop, and Little, Brown, has cemented her new role at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group as publisher of a new imprint, Imprint. Macmillan president Jon Yaged told Publishers Weekly that Imprint’s “initial list is a mix of blockbuster authors, debut new voices, and multimedia talent, reflecting Imprint’s wide-ranging approach to storytelling.” It will release approximately the same quantity of picture books and middle grade, and young adult titles. YA author Kami Garcia has followed her longtime editor to the new publisher and will be working with Stein on The Lovely Reckless (Fall 2016), a contemporary YA romance about the daughter of an undercover detective who falls for the car thief her father is trying to nab.


EPic pressEPIC Press, a new Minneapolis-based publisher of teen fiction, will launch its first list of 48 titles this fall. ABDO, a publisher of nonfiction titles for the school and library market, is the new venture’s parent company, and founder Joseph Abdo’s son, Kenneth Abdo, will be EPIC’s managing editor and sole employee. EPIC is being launched as a separate company.

EPIC’s debut list will include eight series, each containing six related novels, which will be released simultaneously in hardcover and in digital formats. This approach, EPIC executives maintain, is intended to encourage readers to consume more content at a faster clip, comparable to teens’ propensity for “binge-watching a favorite series” on Netflix.

The eight series include Nicole M. Taylor’s Bots,; Sylvia Aguilar-Zéleny’s Coming Out, S.E. Wendel’s Earth Aliens, Jennifer Skogen’s The Haunting of Grey Hills, Shannon Layne’s He Said, She Said, Sam Moussavi’s Hoop City, Laura McGehee’s Stoopid, and Josh Anderson’s Time of Death. EPIC is also implementing an Instant Access QR Code program for libraries: QR codes and hardcover copies of EPIC releases are available free of charge after librarians have purchased $500 in ebooks.

New York Times summer reading contest

EH140605-YalsaSince 2010, the New York Times has invited teens to submit responses to their favorite NYT articles read during the summer. Winning pieces have been posted on the newspaper’s website. This year, the contest has added an all-new commenting system.

Every Friday from June 12 through August 14, teens ages 13–19 from anywhere in the world will be asked, What interested you most in the Times this week? Participants can choose from any article, essay, video, interactive, or photograph published in 2015, on any topic they like. Every Tuesday starting June 30, winners from a previous week will be announced and published on the blog. Check out a PDF with more information on guidelines, contest rules, and how educators can use this activity with teens.

YALSA news

Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) members elected Sarah Hill as the division’s next president-elect. Hill will begin her term in June 2015, becoming president for one year in June 2016.

Hill is an information services librarian at Lake Land College in Mattoon, IL, and has served as Illinois School Library Media Association President as well as on a variety of ALA and YALSA committees, including the Alex Award Committee and the RUSA/YALSA Young Adult Reference Committee.

Grant opportunity

best buyThe Best Buy Foundation invites applications for Teen Technology Programs Grants of up to $10,000. These will be awarded to qualifying nonprofits that provide teens with places and opportunities to develop 21st-century technology skills that will inspire future education and career choices. Applications are being accepted from June 1–29.

Examples of program activities include:

  • Computer programming
  • Digital imaging (photography, graphic design, videography)
  • Music production
  • Robotics
  • Gaming and mobile app development

Community Grants are designed to support local efforts and are reviewed for consideration by Best Buy teams across the nation. The average grant amount is $5,000 and will not exceed $10,000.


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SPONSORED: Score Advance Reader’s Copies of Marie Marquardt’s “Dream Things True” Mon, 18 May 2015 19:04:35 +0000 Dream Things True, a YA novel about a wealthy Southern boy and an undocumented Mexican girl who fall in love in their hostile Georgia town. NOTE: This content was sponsored and contributed by Macmillan.]]> dream things trueA modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face their hostile Georgia town

Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much — except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two years old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard.

But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. But how will she tell her country club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant and lives in the United States without permission?

Dream Things True is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.

MARIE MARQUARDT is a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and the author of Living Illegal: The Human Face of Unauthorized Immigration. She is widely published on issues of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. South. Marquardt has also worked as an advocate among immigrants in Atlanta. She is a founder and cochair of El Refugio, a hospitality house near the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. Dream Things True is Marie’s first young adult novel.

If you’re an active librarian in the United States, please request your complimentary advance reader’s copy via email. Please include “DREAM THINGS TRUE” in your subject line. Or download your copy from Edelweiss today.

For more information about our favorite teen titles, click here.

NOTE: This content was sponsored and contributed by Macmillan.

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You Know that Book with the Blue Cover? │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go Mon, 18 May 2015 19:00:46 +0000 You don’t have to work in the library for very long before someone asks for a book by its cover color. Pinterest pins abound for book displays on this very topic. This week’s selections by the editors at Junior Library Guild feature a number of subjects. What’s the main thread that binds them together? All of the covers are blue.

SmickCRONIN, Doreen. Smick! illus. by Juana Medina. 40p. Viking. 2015. ISBN 9780670785780. JLG Category: P : Primary (Grades K–1). LiveBinder Resources.

A dog and a chick. Who would ever think that two such unlikely pals could have so much fun? Sure to be a read-it-again classic, Cronin’s latest picture book tale has plenty of  action and affection.

Want to see what Cronin looked like in the second grade? Check out her picture in her FAQ on her website. Visit the illustrator’s website and follow her on Twitter. Meet Smick in the publisher–created book trailer.

Earmuffs for EveryoneMcCARTHY, Meghan. Earmuffs for Everyone!: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs. illus. by author. 48p. S. & S./Paula Wiseman. 2015. ISBN 9781481406376. JLG Category: NE : Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6). LiveBinder Resources.

When Chester Greenwood was 19, he applied for a patent from the U.S. government. He had an idea for better ear muffs. With a patent in hand, the young inventor maintained the sole rights to sell or make his product. Sixty years later, stories began to circulate about Greenwood. Eventually fact became difficult to separate from fiction. The inventor would have his day, even though he never saw it.

Notes about the inventor and patents appear at the end of McCarthy’s book. In addition to visiting her website for more information, a Smore flyer has been created with news articles, informational texts, and other websites. For behind-the-scenes info, watch the award-winning author’s video about her latest book. posts an informational text with audio about Greenwood.

GingerbreadROCKLIFF, Mara. Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution. illus. by Vincent X. Kirsch. 32p. HMH. 2015. ISBN 9780544130012. JLG Category: NE : Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6). LiveBinder Resources.

Christopher Ludwick loved to bake as much as he loved his country. When his wife said he was too old and fat to fight for General Washington, he went to war as a baker. After all, “No one goes hungry in my America.” A German immigrant, Ludwick volunteered to speak to the hired British army. He thought he could persuade them that Americans were not their enemy. Maybe he could even convince them to change sides.

Rockliff includes an author’s note on the life of the Philadelphia baker, who also became a philanthropist. Check out the recipe for gingerbread on the end pages. Readers can learn more about the author on her website. Follow her on Twitter. Primary sources such as newspaper accounts and photos of Ludwick’s cookie presses can be found on the Readex Blog. The baker’s bequest of $13,000 formed the trust that created  the Christopher Ludwick Foundation. The charitable organization now awards $200,000 in yearly grants for the education of poor children in Philadelphia. Read about Kirsch’s work on his website, and follow him on Twitter.

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WALKER, Sally M. Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh. illus. by Jonathan D. Voss. 40p. Holt. 2015. ISBN 9780805097153. JLG Category: NE : Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6). LiveBinder Resources.

Long before A.A. Milne wrote the story of Winnie the Pooh, a real bear sat at a train station. A soldier named Harry (who was also a veterinarian) bought the orphaned bear, who became the army company’s mascot. When Harry had to go to the battlefields of France, he decided the safest place for Winnie was the London Zoo, where a zookeeper would care for her. What he didn’t know was that the children of London would grow to love her, too.

Be sure to read Walker’s author’s note and visit the websites she includes in the nonfiction picture book. Read more about the author on her website. The documentary Secrets of Nature: Hold All includes footage of Winnie at feeding time about two minutes and 40 seconds into the film. Jonathan D. Voss makes his picture book debut with his beautiful illustrations. Margie Myers-Culver provides resources and a glowing review on her blog, Librarian’s Quest. Read more about Winnie’s history at the Fort Garry Horse Museum website.

Whale in my swimming poolWAN, Joyce. The Whale in My Swimming Pool. illus. by author. 40p. Farrar. 2015. ISBN 9780374300371. JLG Category: PK : Pre-Kindergarten (Grades PreS-PreK). LiveBinder Resources.

On a hot sunny day, a little boy finds a surprise in his swimming pool—a whale! Though the boy is as persuasive as Mo Willems’s Pigeon, his efforts to convince the surprise visitor to leave are ignored. When nothing works, a bit of inspiration gives him a brand-new solution.

Perfect for your pre-K audiences, Wan’s whale of a tale will have kids laughing out loud. Follow the author/illustrator on Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to visit her website, where an excellent teacher’s guide is available. Pair this title with Jenni Desmond’s The Blue Whale (Enchanted Lion, 2015) in a unit with older readers.

Additional Resources

The resources for the above titles have been organized in JLG Booktalks to Go: Spring 2015 LiveBinder. Titles are sorted by interest level, PreK-3, 3-6, 5-8, and YA. All websites are posted within each LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources are added. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Booktalks and resources are also included on JLG’s BTG Pinterest board.

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

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

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Teens Review Murder Mysteries, a Feminist Cinderella, and a Noah Webster Bio Fri, 15 May 2015 20:01:31 +0000 The reviewers from the Kitsap (WA) Regional Library YA Book Group share their thoughts on upcoming teen literature. From a creepy retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories to an even scarier serial killer mystery, these books are bound to give young adults chills during the summer months. For those needing some girl power reads, check out Princess X and Mechanica, a retelling of Cinderella in which the heroine is a budding engineer. And for that lover of nonfiction or linguistics, the biography on Noah Webster is just the thing.

RuthlessADAMS, Carolyn Lee. Ruthless. S. & S. July 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481422628.
Gr 9 Up–
Redheads. Every single girl he’s killed has been a redhead. Ruth Carver is a phenomenal horse trainer and competitor who is loved by her family and friends. Except for one man, Jerry T. Balls, who sees Ruth as a heartless, ruthless, insensitive poison to everyone around her. In his eyes, she needs to be purified before he murders her in cold blood, just like the six girls before her. The story begins when Ruth regains consciousness in Jerry’s cabin, after he’s beaten and broken her to weakness and breaking point. Against all odds, Ruth escapes to the wilderness, the backyard and playground Jerry’s grown up in. How does a 17-year-old outsmart a man who’s memorized every tree, every particle of dirt, do you ask? Ruth is ruthless. She will win this battle against the man with a gun and a quest to kill her. No matter how many times Ruth is beaten and outnumbered, pushed to the point of desperation, she won’t give up. Not as long as God and the ghosts of Jerry’s redheaded six victims remain ever watchful of her.

Will Ruth make it home to discover the truth of what her family feels about her? Will she keep alive long enough to set things right from her not-so-perfect family and social life? Ruthless is a novel that will keep you enraptured, mesmerized, and beguiled until the very. Riveting. End.

The main conflict was fascinatingly captured to provide a simple visual to readers. Carolyn Lee Adams, I feel like we should be buddies. Your writing is descriptive in the most stimulating way. Your character development is enchantingly stretched throughout the entire novel, as well as mind absorbing, helping the reader (me) establish the character’s mind in their/my own. I almost sprang to my feet in joy when not a single slang word was used against God or Jesus, and I was filled with a frenzy of ecstasy when you mentioned religion in such a positive and respectful way! Thank you!

Also on your perpetual use of flashbacks—I found that absolutely fabulous. The way you established character framework and grounding from a safe distance in a helpfully comprehensive and detailed way, I was starstruck. Pure excellence.

All of you at Simon and Schuster are very lucky to be working with Carolyn. I know I would personally give anything to sit down and talk with her about her captivating writing style and methods for my own books.

Carolyn, I just have to say that the little blurb about you on the back of the book is hilarious. You are hilarious.—Sam G., 14

Cornwell_Mechanica_YA Middle SchoolCORNWELL, Betsy. Mechanica. Clarion. Aug. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780547927718.
Gr 6-10–
Nicolette, deemed “Mechanica” by her not so congruently named evil stepsisters, Piety and Chastity, has always had a way with machines and she learned it all from her mother. But now both of her parents are gone and as the evil steps take control of the house, Nicolette appears condemned to a life of drudgery. But she has a few tricks up her sleeve, and with the ball and technological exposition in the near-future she may be able to escape using her talent, luck and just a little bit of magic.

I liked the cover art a lot, especially the title font. It clearly reflected the contents and gave the book that intriguing air of mystery that draws the eye. I also really liked the illustration of the city towards the bottom of the cover because it introduced the theme of mechanics and possibly a little steampunk to this remake of the classic fairy tale.

The most compelling aspect of the book was Nicolette’s determination and independence. She was anything but a weak damsel in distress and she made sure to show it. Her determination, resourcefulness, and quiet inner strength were what kept me reading, honestly. The plot was okay, not as twisty or turny as I would have liked. But what kept me reading was my NEED to find out what became of the unique character that is Nicolette, aka Mechanica.

There have been many remakes of the story of Cinderella and I think this has been one of the better ones. It did, however, have a lot that was similar to Marissa Meyer’s Cinder (Feiwel & Friends), which I wish hadn’t been the case. The plot also lacked major twists—at some points I could guess pretty well what would come next.—Isabel T., 13

OblivionCREAGH, Kelly. Oblivion: A Nevermore Book. S. & S./Atheneum. July 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781442436275.
Gr 9 Up–
After losing Varen to the dreamworld of his own design and her failed attempt to bring him back, Isobel is determined to try once again before his power grows too strong, strong enough to blur the lines between his realm and reality. But Isobel isn’t the only one desperate to have Varen as her own. The demoness who seeks him as her tether to the real world in order to wreak havoc and destruction, Lilith, will do absolutely anything to keep the two young lovers apart. Loosely based off of the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Creagh expertly weaves a world from his haunted imagination in this final installment.

The cover art was dark and mysterious and gripping, the font its typical calligraphic purple as consistent throughout the trilogy. I found the most compelling aspect to be the lure of demons and the twisted reality of the dreamworld. The whole series focuses on the fact that dark forces can develop and take root in the deep recesses of one’s mind, beings of the imagination that are impossible to escape. Unless you add in romance, the promise of light through the gloom, then maybe, just maybe, it will be enough to conquer one’s inner demons.

It may be my anticipation for this book’s release, or my desire to be satisfied that the trilogy has finally come to an end, but I cannot name a true fault to this book. The story itself is a bit lengthy but delicately crafted, thus making each part essential for the determined ending. Apart from that, there were a few horrific scenes throughout, but nothing to personally haunt my dreams or let them meld into reality.

In comparison to the last two books, I found it to be a fantastically excellent wrap-up to this romantic thriller, satisfying my desire for action, words of double meaning, and the implied notion that love can conquer all—even sooth our darkest parts of ourselves. –Meghan S., 16

ShackledLEVEEN , Tom. Shackled. S. & S. Aug. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481422499.
Gr 9 Up–
I didn’t finish the book. The reason I didn’t finish this book is that its beginning was soo slow-paced I fell asleep and had to push myself to read every page. I have read many books with a super-long build up to the action and they have been well-worth the wait, but, for me, this book was ruined by the unpleasant beginning. I understand why some books need a huge amount of backstory for it to make sense, but his didn’t seem like it did. Personally, I would have jumped right in to the action that is promised in the summary on the back.—Juliette S.,13

PRIEST, Cherie. I Am Princess X. Scholastic. May 2015. Tr. $18.99. ISBN 9780545620857.
Gr 7 Up
–May and Libby were best friends, and together they created the comic book world of Princess X, a girl with a pink dress and a katana, a girl ready to fight anything. Now Libby is dead, and Princess X should be too, but she’s come back in the form of a webcomic and Internet phenomenon. May knows this means only one thing: Libby isn’t dead, and she needs May to find her before time runs out.

I am Princess XI liked the cover of I Am Princess X, although it wasn’t gorgeous. The street art style really fit the contents. What better for the cover of a novel about an underground webcomic than a sticker of the main character on a telephone pole? The way the title was positioned slightly off-center was a little annoying, because it drew attention away from the novel title, instead of showcasing it. Otherwise, the cover was pretty perfect, with a dark, street-smart, gritty feel, just like the contents.

I loved the plot. It’s essentially made out of what Internet-based fandom geeks dream of, made several shades darker and more twisted, and it’s fantastic. The central plot of two friends trying to reunite in the face of almost insurmountable odds is compelling. It’s even more compelling when framed by an Internet-based thriller and two refreshingly non-romantic boy-girl friendships. The setting of Seattle makes the story go round, and this setting is also refreshing, because so many people who set stuff in Seattle get it so, so wrong. I Am Princess X doesn’t. It also gets the randomness of Internet theory-mongering completely and utterly right. It’s a teen thriller for the digital age, and it’s very good at being that.

I’m going to complain about the font. It’s purple. Very purple. It kind of makes my eyes ache. Suffering through 218 pages of words the color of the Orchid colored pencil was enough to give me a very bad headache and get me very distracted.

Now, onto the problems with the plot. For one, the voices of the characters did not ring true at all. The main characters were purportedly 17-19-year-old fandom and Internet geeks, but they didn’t sound like it at all. In my experience, people of that sort tend to be foul-mouthed, dirty-minded, and either very shy in real-life and loud on the Internet, or loud in both. May and co. were neither. They were just kind of boring and bland about everything they did, with unrealistically polite voices. I’m not complaining about characters not swearing in a novel, but I am pointing out that for that demographic, the voices are highly stilted and unrealistic. Also, the author seems to have very little experience with Bainbridge Island, where I live. There is nowhere near the ferry dock where you could inconspicuously moor a Zodiac, and there are absolutely no thick woods nearby either. Perhaps the author was thinking of Fletcher Bay instead of Winslow.

I Am Princess X will appeal to a very specific group of people: fandom geeks who spend a lot of time on the Internet. If you aren’t familiar with webcomics, the social systems of the nerdier sides of the web, or why certain sites are considered gross or terrible, this is NOT a book for you. Despite its flaws, this is a quite good book, and if this is the kind of thing that appeals to you, do read it. Preferably all in one go, with minimal breaks to recover from the hideous purple font. —Ella W., 15

Noah WebsterREEF, Catherine. Noah Webster: Man of Many Words. Clarion. Aug. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544129832.
Gr 5-8–
Noah Webster is most widely known for writing the first dictionary that was for Americans when the United States just became independent. His dictionary and interest in the language of Americans created the language we speak today. Noah Webster was a big supporter for having an Americanized form of English and to change some spelling. These are changes we still use today.

I did not like the cover. Noah Webster was a very factual man, and the cover does not represent this. The image of him on the front and the border around it seem messy. They don’t seem to fit with the background. The title also seems stuck on the background instead of fitting with it.

The borders around the pictures in the book often look messy and unorganized. The pictures also sometimes seemed to be on the wrong page. There would sometimes be a picture of something that would only make sense once you had read one or two pages after it.

The most compelling aspect of this book was learning about the time period Noah Webster lived in. I had never heard about things like the Boston Massacre and the Stamp Act from the point of view of someone who lived it, only in a general way. It was really interesting to learn about his point of view, as well as others. It was also interesting to learn that the language Americans should use was a big controversy and that there were no copyright laws when America first gained independence.—Olivia C., 13

All We Have IS NowSCHROEDER, Lisa. All We Have Is Now. Scholastic. July 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545802536.
Gr 7 Up
All We Have Is Now is a book about embracing what you have and living life to the fullest. This inspiring tale shows how two teens choose to help others in a time of need. In the process, they realize that what they have is really all that they need, even if they don’t have much.

The writing format was really compelling because you slowly got to learn more about the character’s pasts in a way that gave you more insight into their actions. The one thing that I didn’t like was that there wasn’t a very good reason for the characters to be where they were. They couldn’t leave because they didn’t have passports, but I think that if they couldn’t get out legally they at least would have tried to sneak out.—Naomi D.,12

the creeping_SIROWY, Alexandra. The Creeping. S. & S. Aug. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418867.
Gr 7 Up
–When Stella was young, she and her friend Jeanie were out in the woods. Stella came back, Jeanie didn’t. Years later, Stella has no memory of what happened, only what people have told her—until there’s another murder. Stella’s trying to remember anything… and this girl gives her some déjà vu.

The cover was what caught my attention, because it was actually creepy. I liked the writing style. The author has this way of making it just readable in the day, but at night… I like that kind of stuff, so that was the most compelling aspect. But after a while I got bored, because the same things were happening.—Maddie B.,14

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Maker Bookshelf: A starter collection for current and aspiring makebrarians | The Maker Issue Fri, 15 May 2015 15:00:15 +0000 SLJ1505-BookShelf-MakerListings

One of the basic tenets and strengths of the maker movement is its emphasis on constructive and collaborative learning through hands-on, trial-and-error experimentation. While a live mentor demonstrating and leading activities is the gold standard, a growing number of titles offer inspiration, support, and clarification for a wide variety of maker topics. The following list of recommended books was crowdsourced by librarians running maker spaces and/or offering maker programming in their libraries or schools.

Professional reading

DOORLEY, Scott, Scott Witthoft, & the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration. Wiley. 2012. pap. $49.95. ISBN 9781118143728.

Focuses on the dynamics of the physical arrangement and design of creative spaces. Perfect for libraries just starting to plan.

FLEMING, Laura. Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School. Corwin. 2015. (Corwin Connected Educators). pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781483382821.

A soup-to-nuts guide to planning, implementing, and maintaining a school maker space on a variety of budgets.

MARTINEZ, Sylvia Libow & Gary S. Stager. Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Constructing Modern Knowledge. 2013. pap. $34.95. ISBN 9780989151108.

Essential to understanding the philosophical and pedagogical underpinnings of the Maker Movement in education, this book also offers specific examples on how to integrate maker activities into lesson plans.

WILKINSON, Karen and Mike Petrich. The Art of Tinkering. Weldon Owen. 2014. Tr $32.50. ISBN 9781616286095.

More inspirational than instructive, this work beautifully highlights the endless possibilities for the intersection of art and technology by showcasing the works of over 150 maker artists.

3-D Printing

DIANA, Carla. LEO the Maker Prince: Journeys in 3D Printing. illus. by Carla Diana. Maker Media. 2013. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781457183140.

Gr 2-6– A picture book introduction to 3-D printing. Great for prepping elementary-aged children on basic capabilities and mechanics.

MURPHY, Maggie. High-Tech DIY Projects with 3D Printing. (Maker Kids). Powerkids Pr. 2014. lib. ed. $27.50. ISBN 9781477766705; pap. $11.75. ISBN 9781477766767.

Gr 4 Up– For librarians and students just getting started with 3-D printing, this title offers basic instructions and several fun project ideas.


DOORLEY, Rachelle. Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors. Roost Books. 2014. pap. $21.95. ISBN 9781611800654.

PreS-Gr 2– From the creator of, this guide for grown-ups provides 55 experiments and activities to do with the tiniest tinkerers. Ideal inspiration for maker-themed family programs at the library.

GABRIELSON, Curt. Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff. Maker Media. 2013. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781449361013.

Gr 3 Up– Tied directly to science curricula, this book includes step-by-step hands-on experiments that feature no- or low-cost materials.

LARSEN, Elizabeth Foy & Joshua Glenn. Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun. illus. by Heather Kasunick & Mister Reusch. Bloomsbury. 2012. Tr $25. ISBN 9781608196418.

Gr 2 Up– This guide is chock-full of low-tech, high-tech, old-school, and cutting-edge activities that encourage kids to explore, take things apart, and not be afraid to fail.


BRIGGS, Jason R. Python for Kids. 2012. pap. $34.95. ISBN 9781593274078.

MORGAN, Nick. Javascript for Kids. 2014. pap. $34.95. ISBN 9781593274085.

WEINSTEIN, Eric. Ruby Wizardry. 2014. pap. $29.95. ISBN 9781593275662.

ea. vol.: No Starch Pr.

Gr 4-8– Vibrant and visually engaging, with chuckle-worthy asides, these introductory guides to computer programming languages are instructive and kid-friendly.

THE LEAD PROJECT. Super Scratch Programming Adventure! No Starch Pr. 2013. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9781593275310.

Gr 3-7– Using a graphic novel format, colorful visuals, and helpful sidebars with definitions, this book is a superb resource for Scratch newbies.

Robotics & Electronics

BDEIR, Ayah & Matt Richardson. Make: Getting Started with littleBits: Prototyping and Inventing with Modular Electronics. Maker Media. May 2015. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781457186707.

Gr 3 Up– This is an introduction to littleBits, electronic building blocks used to create simple circuits, robots, and microcontrollers. Bdeir guides readers through the basics of using these snappy, magnetic modules.

MONK, Simon. 15 Dangerously Mad Projects for the Evil Genius. McGraw-Hill/TAB Electronics. 2011. pap. $25. ISBN 9780071755672.

Gr 8 Up– Geared toward older students and adults, this book offers step-by-step instructions for advanced electronic projects such as a touch-activated laser sight, an LED strobe, and a surveillance robot. Mad scientist approved.

Peppler, Kylie, Melissa Gresalfi, Katie Salen Tekinbas, & Rafi Santo. Soft Circuits: Crafting e-Fashion with DIY Electronics. ISBN 9780262027847.

——-. Short Circuits: Crafting e-Puppets with DIY Electronics. ISBN 9780262027830.

ea. vol.: The MIT Press. 2014. (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning). Tr $30.

Gr 5 Up– This series offers projects that can be completed by kids with a bit of adult help. In Soft Circuits, makers learn to create wearable technology, like a solar-powered backpack. In Short Circuits, students learn about using microprocessors and create a DIY flashlight.

TODD, Sylvia. Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Project Book: Super-Simple Arduino, Volume 2. illus. by author. Constructing Modern Knowledge Pr. 2014. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9780989151160.

Gr 4-8– Twelve-year-old Sylvia Todd, the whiz kid who creates STEM videos at, here offers her preteen fans a fun and easily digestible intro to Arduino, the popular open-source electronics platform.

VALK, Laurens. The LEGO™ Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book. No Starch Pr. 2014. pap. $34.95. ISBN 9781593275327.

Gr 5 Up– Though pricey, the LEGO™ Mindstorm kits teach basic programming and robotics. This full-color guide offers accessible, step-by-step instructions for making the most of these powerful bots.


D.I.Y. Crafts

LUPTON, Ellen & Julia Lupton. D.I.Y.: Kids. Princeton Architectural Pr. 2007. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781568987071.

Gr 2-6– Found objects and household items combine for fun and easy arts & crafts activities. These low-tech crafts are perfect for beginning D.I.Y.ers.

MORGAN, Richela Fabian. Tape It & Make It: 101 Duct Tape Activities. Barron’s. 2012. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781438001357.

Gr 3 Up– A staple in the toolbox of every Do-It-Yourselfer, the fix-anything adhesive now comes in a delightful variety of colors and patterns. This eye-catching book will help crafters create wallets, neckties, masks, purses, and more.

Paper Arts

HARBO, Christopher L. Flight School: Level 1. ISBN 9781429647410.

——-. Copilot: Level 2. ISBN 9781429647427.

——-. Pilot: Level 3. ISBN 9781429647434.

——-. Captain: Level 4. ISBN 9781429647441.

ea. vol.: (Paper Airplanes). Capstone/Edge Books. 2011. lib. ed. $20.49.

Gr 1-5– The humble paper airplane is a low-cost way to explore paper engineering and the principles of aerodynamics. Crisp photos and clear diagrams make the folding process foolproof.

ROCHE, Art. Art for Kids: Comic Strips: Create Your Own Comic Strips from Start to Finish. illus. by author. Sterling. 2011. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781402784743.

Gr 1-5– Roche not only offers tips on how to create characters, but also guides kids through the creative planning and storyboarding unique to a three-panel format.

SCHWAKE, Susan. Art Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Adventures in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper, and Mixed Media for Budding Artists of All Ages. photos by Rainer Schwake. (Lab Series). Quarry. 2012. pap. $22.99. ISBN 9781592537655.

Gr 1 Up– With an emphasis on process and technique over product, this book helps educators guide children through open-ended projects that progressively increase in difficulty.

WATSON, Esther. Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine? illus. by Mark Todd. HMH. 2006. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780618563159.

Gr 7 Up– Unique and personal self-published mini magazines, zines offer myraid avenues of creativity for tweens and teens. Watson introduces 21 zine creators, whose works and enthusiasm will inspire the next generation of indie artists and authors.

Storytime Picks for Little Makers

BEATY, Andrea. Iggy Peck, Architect. 2007. ISBN 9780810911062.

——-. Rosie Revere, Engineer. 2013. ISBN 9781419708459.

ea.vol.: illus. by David Roberts. Abrams. Tr $16.95.

Two born makers uses their STEM talents to save the day in these charmingly illustrated tales. Iggy uses found objects and a knack for engineering to build a trestle to help his classmates when a field trip goes awry. Rosie, inspired by her Great-Great Aunt Rose (a famous WW II riveter), constructs a flying contraption. Both titles would pair well with STEM activities, such as making spaghetti bridges or designing Rube Goldberg machines.

BREEN, Steve. Violet the Pilot. illus. by Steve Breen. Dial. 2008. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803731257.

Violet loves all thing mechanical and can fix almost anything. Sadly, this doesn’t win her any friends at school. With her canine copilot, Orville, at her side, she builds an airplane and enters an air show in the hopes of impressing her classmates. Vibrantly colored cartoon art makes this ideal for group sharing. Endpapers depicting Violet’s design provide a great jumping off point for an extension activity.

SPIRES, Ashley. The Most Magnificent Thing. illus. by author. Kids Can Pr. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554537044.

A little girl determines to create “the most magnificent thing” using household objects and tools. With her bemused pug looking on, she tinkers and constructs, with unsatisfactory results. After having a major meltdown, she regroups and ultimately triumphs after much trial and error. Spires articulates in text and images the realistic frustrations common to tinkerers. A funny and charming ode to trying (and trying and trying) again.

YAMADA, Kobi. What Do You Do With an Idea? illus. by Mae Besom. Compendium. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781938298073.

A tender visual metaphor for nurturing creativity. A little boy has an odd idea. It is not valued or encouraged by others, but he tends to it nevertheless. Shown as an egg sporting legs and a crown, his idea grows and eventually hatches. Finely detailed black-and-white pencil drawings allow the bright, golden egg to pop on the page. Inspirational reading for any young maker.

Contributors include Erica Thorsen Barber, Tina Berumen, IdaMae Craddock, Stacy Dillon,
Shawna Ford, Colleen Graves, Nancy Jo Lambert, Amy Laughlin, Jenny Lussier, and Diana Rendina.

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Furry And Fierce | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 15 May 2015 13:00:14 +0000 A bold hamster, intrepid insects, a lionhearted rat, a curious opossum, and a band of valiant woodland creatures—these furry little anthropomorphized heroes embark on all manner of derring-do in a crop of fun, new animal adventure tales. Offer these middle grade books and graphic novels to kids who tear through Erin Hunter’s “Warriors” series (HarperCollins)—but perhaps are not quite ready for the intricate politics of Brian Jacques’s classic “Redwall” sagas (Philomel).

lastofthesandwalkersHosler, Jay. Last of the Sandwalkers. 320p. First Second. 2015. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781626720244.

Gr 5 Up –New Coleopolis is a community of beetles, moths, and a few other insects. The sanctuary is protected under a palm tree. Most residents are content to live within the confines of their oasis, going to school, restaurants, museums, and other routine activities without a thought for what lies beyond. Yet there are a few independent thinkers who yearn to explore the mysterious world away from home. Lucy, in particular, is adamant about venturing out. The group of elders attempts to stop her, as they seem to already know what is out there and will do whatever it takes to keep it a secret. Eventually, Lucy and a small group head out on a grand expedition. Things go awry from the start, and the beetles will be lucky to return safely to New Coleopolis with or without any new information. Friendships and loyalties are tested to their limits as great, potentially life-altering discoveries are made. This graphic novel is reminiscent of Richard Adams’s Watership Down, Brian Jacques’s “Redwall” series (Philomel), and Robert C. O’Brien’s Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H. Though the characters are not human, they have their own unique and individual characteristics that will resonate with young readers. The black-and-white illustrations adeptly complement the narrative and infuses each protagonist with expressive emotions and personality. The text is well written, complete with scientific information and humorous puns. VERDICT This epic graphic novel adventure is recommended for fans of animal fantasies.–Carol Hirsche, Provo City Library, UT

beyondthewesterndeepKain, Alex. Beyond the Western Deep. illus. by Rachel Bennett. 80p. Action Lab. Jun. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781632291035.

Gr 4 Up –This novel, from game designer Kain and animator Bennett, is about an ancient hatred between races, impending war, fear of failing a family legacy, and renegades with single-minded purpose—all told with warrior mammals. The book opens with a quote from Sean Rubin, one of the illustrators of the graphic novel adaptation of the “Redwall” series (Philomel). In it, he explains why stories starring animals are necessary. In the Four Kingdoms, a tenuous treaty has brought peace to the seven races. This first volume in a series shows an archivist cat digging into some (beautifully done) old scrolls that set the historical context. It also depicts the emotional turmoil of a squirrel named Quinlan, an uncomfortable leader who is sent on a quest to bring peace, while rebels fight a duel to the death and expose their cruel but noble plans. This title is very much in the “Redwall” tradition, and its graphic novel format is fun, with dynamically cinematic action and dialogue. The violence is cartoonish and brief—action, more than bloodshed, is emphasized. Originally a webcomic with lively discussion posts by devotees, this translation to the page will satisfy fans. Readers of Jeff Smith’s “Bone” (Scholastic) and Bryan J.L. Glass’s “The Mouse Templar” (Image Comics) may also be interested. VERDICT Young readers who haven’t yet discovered other iterations of the story will enjoy it—and any animal-based fantasy lover will gobble it up.–Lisa Nowlain, Darien Library, CT

RatscaliburLieb, Josh. Ratscalibur. illus. by Tom Lintern. 192p. Penguin/Razorbill. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781595142429.

Gr 4-6 –A move to the city has Joey adjusting to new surroundings, but that’s nothing compared to the changes to come. His favorite uncle, Patrick, brings him a rat for a pet and, much to Joey’s surprise, the sickly rodent introduces himself as Gondorff the Gray and asks for his help. One magical, or rather “ragical,” bite on the finger later, Joey is turned into a rat, escaping cats and crows as he attempts to deliver an important message to King Uther of the Low Realm. Once Joey pulls Ratscalibur, the mythical spork in the scone, he finds himself on a dangerous quest to see the powerful squagician Squirrelin who will hopefully help save the kingdom of Ravalon and turn Joey back into a human. Readers will root for Joey and his friends to prevail in this fast-paced and entertaining story about a magical world humans can’t see. Short chapters and plenty of action keep the story moving, while Joey’s worry and self-doubt make him a well-rounded character. Black-and-white illustrations further illuminate the details in Joey’s new and exciting life. Readers will be pleased to see every indication of a sequel. VERDICT A great choice for those who prefer their unlikely heroes in animal form.–Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL

appleblossomthepossumSloan, Holly Goldberg. Appleblossom the Possum. illus. by Gary A. Rosen. 288p. Dial. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803741331; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698155008.

Gr 3-6 –Mama Possum has done her best to impart wisdom to her newborn “A” possum brood—Antonio, Alisa, Abdul, Ajax, Alberta, Angie, Allan, Alphonse, Atticus, Alejandro, Augusta, Amlet, and the littlest possum, Appleblossom. There are many rules that must be followed in the possum world—never be seen during the day, avoid cars (metal monsters), people, and especially the hairies (dogs). Mama Possum teaches the youngsters how to theatrically play dead to avoid the many calamities facing them daily. Mama tells the babies they are solitary creatures and need to fend for themselves, but when she disappears, the A clan doesn’t feel ready to face the world. Appleblossom and two of her brothers, Amlet and Antonio, band together and share stories of their new adventures out in the world. Curious Appleblossom finds a human home with a seemingly nice creature (a little girl named Izzy), but it also houses a terrifying beast of a dog named Columbo, who is intent on sniffing and destroying. When Appleblossom accidentally stumbles down the chimney into the house, it is up to her family to save her. An unlikely friendship and bond forms between Izzy and Appleblossom, and the possum must choose between family and friendship. Sloan has masterfully created an intensely satisfying and humorous tale that makes possums seem utterly adorable. Rosen’s charming illustrations pair beautifully with the text, as he draws the possums with intertwined tails, pink noses, and vivid expressions. VERDICT A perfectly sweet animal tale, with just the right blend of humor, excitement, and uncertainty.–Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA

HarriettheinvincibleredstarVernon, Ursula. Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible. illus. by Ursula Vernon. 208p. (Hamster Princess). Dial. Aug. 2015. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780803739833; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698403970.

Gr 3-5 –From the creator of the “Dragonbreath” series (Dial) comes a new fairy tale heroine in the form of a hamster. Princess Harriet Hamsterbone is not like ordinary princesses who are known for trailing around the palace looking ethereal and sighing a lot. She is, however, brave and intelligent and excels in other hamster princess skills, like checkers and fractions. Harriet is also invincible, due in part to a curse put upon her at birth by the evil wicked fairy god mouse, Ratshade. The curse dooms Princess Harriet to fall into a Sleeping Beauty–like slumber at the age of 12 but leaves her unable to die until then. Rather than worry about the inevitable, Princess Harriet lives life without fear—cliff-diving and Ogre-cat fighting, all with her trusty quail friend Mumfrey at her side. When the curse backfires, leaving all in the Kingdom in a deep slumber except Harriet and Mumfrey, it is up to the fierce little hamster to find a willing prince able to help her break the curse and save the kingdom. The artwork is large and in graphic novel–style, with sparse colors, similar to the “Dragonbreath” illustrations. Move over, Babymouse, there’s a new rodent in town! VERDICT Vernon has created a spunky heroine readers will cheer for and who will leave them eagerly searching for the happily ever after in the next installment.–Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA

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Brian Selznick’s 2015 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Slideshow Fri, 15 May 2015 12:00:52 +0000 It was a BIG night for the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association. The 46th annual Arbuthnot Honor Lecture was delivered by Brian Selznick on Friday evening May 8 to a capacity crowd at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC. This annual lecture celebrates May Hill Arbuthnot (1884–1969), distinguished writer, children’s literature scholar, and editor of the “Dick and Jane” series. Selznick wowed the crowd with his talk entitled “Love Is a Dangerous Angel: Thoughts on Queerness and Family in Children’s Books.” The author/illustrator’s depth of research, insightful interpretation of Arbuthnot’s classic text Children and Books, and passionate defense of “funny, funny families” everywhere will go down in the annals of ALSC history as an address to remember. On view at the gala event was the exhibit, Building Wonder, Designing Dreams: The Bookmaking of Brian Selznick, curated by Wendy Lukehart. Special thanks to Sharon McQueen for sharing a slideshow of images from the evening.


The program for the Honor lecture


DC Public Youth Collections Coordinator Wendy Lukehart, who organized the entire event


Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee: Daniel Meyer, Gail Zachariah, Sue McCleaf Nespeca (Chair), Brian, Marybeth Kozikowski, and Bina Williams


Barbara Genco with ALSC President Ellen Riordan


ALSC Vice-President/ President-Elect Andrew Medlar


Scene from the exhibit


Scene from the exhibit


Cabinet of Wonders from the exhibit


Brian’s mom, bother, and nephews


Cameron Myers, DC Public librarian, who programmed the flight simulator for the exhibit


Scene from the exhibit


Luann Toth, Connie Rockman, and Malore Brown


Brian’s editor Tracy Mack and former Scholastic Director of Education/Library Marketing John Mason and his wife Barbara


ALSC Executive Director Aimee Strittmatter and ALSC Past President Starr LaTronica


Brian autographing books for Sharon McQueen and Richard Douglas Wambold

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DK Mines Existing Content for a Promising New Resource | Reference Online Thu, 14 May 2015 21:04:15 +0000 SLJ1505-Ref-DKfindOutInformation literacy for elementary school students continues to garner more attention nationwide, and DK, best known for its informative, engaging, and visually stunning nonfiction works, has taken up the charge with its newest creation, DK Findout! Easily accessible on PCs, smartphones, and tablets, this interactive and appealing online encyclopedia supports student learning and aims to provide users of all ages with the critical skills needed to become independent, lifelong learners.

DK Findout!

Grade Level Gr 3–6
Cost Free
Ease of Use and Visual Appeal With its clean, white background and limited color palette, this resource features a streamlined approach that emphasizes curated content without sacrificing visual appeal.
Bold orange directional arrows change the homepage’s default image to one of five predetermined subjects that students can select and explore; at the top of the page, an orange icon also functions as a portal to DKfindout!’s category index. This judicious use of color is striking in its minimalism. A search bar in shades of pale yellow and cream is located at the bottom of the screen.
Further down the homepage, users can explore any of the 11 broad categories, each with its own vivid, high-resolution image, or they may opt to examine one of the six colorful sidebars containing bonus material, including quizzes, videos, and fun facts. This straightforward user experience will win over students and teachers alike.
Content There are 10 clearly named, alphabetically arranged categories, including “Animals and Nature,” “Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life,” “Earth,” “English,” “Math,” and “Science.” An additional category (“More Find Out!”) accompanied by an icon of an enigmatic exclamation point, is vague. Clicking on it reveals two subcategories (more will follow): “Festivals and Holidays” (which contains only five entries, such as “Chinese New Year” and “Day of the Dead”) and “Special Events,” which includes only one entry, “World Wildlife Day.”
The content here varies from category to category. “English,” for example, currently contains just a “Parts of Speech” subcategory, whereas “History” is slightly more comprehensive, with 18 subcategories.
Overall, the nonfiction expertise and authority that users expect from DK is present throughout, but the breadth of subjects available is sorely wanting. A search for terms such as “shipwrecks” and “basketball” yields no results, while “pirate” returns an entry called “Who Were the Vikings?” and “pirates” results in “Chinese Junk.”
The lack of rather common subjects is unfortunate, especially when more obscure topics, including the guanaco (a small relative of the camel) and the euoplocephalus (a type of dinosaur), are included. Because the website is still in development, these omissions can be easily corrected in subsequent versions, but until then, the website lacks scope and depth.
Student and Teacher Resources While there is no area dedicated to student resources, the website’s developers are actively working on a “My Stuff” feature, where students can store information they’ve found. Those with different learning styles will appreciate the various means through which they can access information; for example, the entry on knights includes a sound clip of knights jousting. Small black and red flashing circles on the accompanying image serve as a means to gather additional information, be it through text boxes or links to other pages within the site.
Educators, once registered, have the ability to create and order lesson plans, and while several features are not live as of yet, they will likely bolster teachers’ preparation and enrich the classroom experience. A page designed to support parents in assisting their children with homework is currently in development as well.
Because so many parts of the website are still in development, users can sign up for email notifications regarding updates and new features, and a feedback tab on the homepage allows students, teachers, parents, and others to rate it and make suggestions.
Verdict Although the visual appeal is strong, the site’s content is still a work-in-progress. DK packages top-notch information in an engaging and distinctive way, and while the website shows great potential, it has far to go to achieve the level of authority for which the brand is known.

Audrey Sumser, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Mayfield, OH.

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