February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Multimedia Review | November 2013

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From Up on Poppy Hill (GKids)

redstarFrom Up on Poppy Hill. 2 DVDs. 91 min. GKids. 2013. ISBN unavail. $29.95, DVD + Blu-ray: $34.95.

Gr 7 Up –The first moments of this visually stunning film sweep through a hand-painted watercolor setting of a post-World War II Yokohama, Japan, as appropriate upbeat piano music sets the mood. The film’s characters, also hand-drawn, are done in a more traditional anime style which, when contrasted with the realistic settings, underscores the film’s theme of a place in transition. The teenage protagonist is Umi who, because her mother is away in America studying medicine, wakes early each morning before school to care for a household of colorful boarders. She also raises nautical flags to signal the harbor boats which, we learn as the story unfolds, is in honor of her boat captain father who was killed in the Korean War. But at the heart of this story is the tender relationship between Umi and her classmate Shun as they campaign to save the school’s clubhouse from demolition. However, just as their fragile relationship is blossoming, a secret from the past threatens to destroy it. The talented English voice cast includes Sarah Bolger (Umi), Anton Yelchin (Shun), Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Howard, and others. Occasionally some of the English-dubbed song selections are jarring, but the overall pace and careful crafting of this piece more than smooth out the wrinkles. This would be a great film to watch with a class after a history lesson on post-war Japan, with a manga or Japanese culture club, or simply because it is a beautiful piece of cinematic storytelling. Additional features, including the original Japanese version and a wonderful full-length storyboard version of the film (great for a video production class), will satisfy the cravings of even your most ardent Japanophile.–Chani Craig. Turners Falls High School/Great Falls Middle School. Montague, MA

redstarThe Life of Muhammad. DVD. 3 hrs. Prod. by Crescent Films. Dist. PBS Dist. 2013. ISBN unavail. $24.98.

Gr 9 Up –Three one-hour segments review the life of the Prophet Muhammad, beginning with his time spent in Mecca as a chld, where he had his first revelation, and continuing with his relocation to Medina, where he established a new and unique community. The documentary concludes with his elder days as a moral leader who continues to impact the world today. Host Rageh Omaar discusses the historical context of Muhammad’s life, distinguishing true Islamic teachings from cultural practices. Modern controversies are examined through the lens of history. For example, the wearing of hijab (a Muslim woman’s traditional scarf) is considered from political, legal, historical, religious, and personal points of view, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions. Background images vary from grainy film of camel caravans to modern store windows filled with glittering but modest women’s clothing in present-day Mecca. The production is enhanced by dramatic background music and commentary by Islamic experts, both practicing Muslims and non-Muslim scholars. Repeated footage of multitudes circling the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site, during the annual pilgrimage emphasizes the vast numbers and cultural diversity of Muslims today. Chapter selection is optional. After watching this engaging and informative documentary, high school students will engage in rich discussions, debating misunderstood concepts such as jihad, polygamy, and the historical animosity of Muslims and Jews. Education, after all, is the most effective tool to redefine the current clash of values between Islam and the Western world.–Toby Rajput, National Louis University Library, Skokie, IL

redstarAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. By Benjamin Alire Saenz. 7 cassettes or 7 CDs. 7:30 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. cassette: ISBN 9781470370190, CD: ISBN 9781470365127. $123.75.

Gr 9 Up –When Dante meets and offers to teach Aristotle (Ari) how to swim at the local pool, neither boy has a clue how much their lives will change. While both are 15-year-old Mexican-Americans living in El Paso, they differ in many ways. Dante is self-assured and charismatic, while Ari is introverted, plagued with self-doubt, and obsessed with thoughts of his jailed older brother. The two loners find common ground and form a strong friendship. Family plays an important role in both boys’ lives. Dante’s professor father is open and close to his son, while Ari’s dad is a Vietnam veteran who never shows his feelings and has trouble relating to his son. The boys’ friendship is tested in numerous ways when Dante moves to Chicago for a year and, upon returning to El Paso, tells Ari he is gay and in love with him. Ari’s confusion and eventual self-discovery is beautifully portrayed by narrator Lin-Manuel Miranda. This 2013 Printz and Stonewall award-winning book (S & S, 2012) is a wonderful coming-of-age story, and Miranda does a stellar job of capturing the essences of both teen characters. A terrific addition to audiobook collections.–Julie Paladino, East Chapel Hill High School, NC

redstarLove in the Time of Global Warming. By Francesca Lia Block. 5 CDs. 5:27 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781469270715. $54.97.

Gr 9 Up –Imagine the world ending as a result of earthquakes followed by tsunamis and flooding, wiping out most living things. Combine it with Homer’s Odyssey, and you’ll have Block’s novel (Holt, 2013). Los Angeles has been destroyed, and 17-year-old Penelope has lost her family in the apocalypse. Like a female Odysseus, she takes off into the wasteland to find them. Along the way, she joins forces with three other teens, all with their own problems. They encounter danger at every turn in the form of sirens, witches, and genetically created flesh-eating giants, along with the lunatic who conceived them. Despite their trials, Pen and her friends find that hope and love can be found in this bleak new world. Throughout the book, the characters quote The Odyssey and many of their adventures mirror the classic story. Block’s beautifully written tale is fantastically magical and her characters are sympathetic and quirky. Julia Whelan does an outstanding job narrating, giving each character a unique voice and personality, while not detracting from the dreamlike quality of the writing. A terrific purchase, especially where the classic is taught.–Julie Paladino, East Chapel Hill High School, NC

redstarMatilda. By Roald Dahl. 4 CDs. 4:30 hrs. Penguin Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781611761849. $29.95.

Gr 3–6 –Matilda is the star of Dahl’s delightfully far-fetched tale of a girl remarkably precocious and strong. She has no idea how advanced and insightful she is since she has had to cope as best she could on her own. Finally allowed to attend school, Matilda faces evil head teacher, The Trunchbull. She finds solace in sweet, surprisingly brave Lavender and perfect Miss Honey. In the end, Matilda and her magical strength win the day and change everything. Sprightly music introduces some segments. Kate Winslet’s narration makes listeners feel as though they are at Crunchem Hall along with the delightfully British students. Her pacing is perfect, and she flawlessly captures Matilda’s strength and sweetness and gives a unique voice to each student. Standouts include her voicing of Brucie and Hortensia. American children may need some help understanding occasional British terms and turns of phrase. Hopefully the pinkish box won’t scare off the boys, as this is gem to be enjoyed by all.–Jane Newschwander, Fluvanna County Public Schools, VA

redstarThe True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. By Kathi Appelt. 5 CDs. approx. 6 hrs. Simon & Schuster Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781442366121. $29.99.

Gr 3–7 –Appelt’s latest work (Atheneum, 2013) features a host of eccentric characters including two raccoon scouts, Bingo and J’miah; a 12-year-old boy named Chap who is grieving his grandfather’s death; and the Sugar Man, a Yeti-type creature who has been asleep for 60 years. The raccoon brothers are tasked with waking the Sugar Man if the swamp is threatened. On their first night as scouts, they feel an ominous rumble of oncoming wild hogs. Meanwhile, the man who owns the swampland is planning to pave it and put up a gator-wrestling park. This angers Chap, who cherishes the natural beauty of the swamp and whose mom makes the most delicious pies with the sugar cane. Lyle Lovett’s rolling drawl and warm tone is the perfect complement to Appelt’s tale (S & S/Atheneum, 2013) with an environmental message. It’s a little disappointing that he doesn’t actually sing the lullaby used to keep the rattlesnakes at bay. Appelt writes with a rhythmic cadence and some random rhymes that Lovett delivers with flair. With tension and humor, this charming tale highlights teamwork, family, and especially community.–C.A Fehmel, St. Louis County Library, MO

redstarGotta Be the Pants! Performed by Mike and the Mighty Magic Pants. CD. approx. 55 min. AV Café. 2013. ISBN unavail. $12.97.

PreS-Gr 3 –Veteran children’s performer Mike Mennard’s new group, Mike and the Magic Pants, delivers a debut album filled with music, poetry, and fun to delight the entire family. By combining clever, easy-to-follow lyrics with fantastic vocals and harmonies, each song in this collection is a joy to listen to. Each number has its own flavor and tells a story that could easily be acted out on a theater stage. “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” is sung in the style of an opera singer, a cowboy, a pirate, and more. “Skunk in It” tells of a horrible smell coming from an unsuspecting boy’s sneaker. A wide variety of topics are covered from the “Bigger Bladder,” about a child on a road trip (this one will especially tickle the funny bone of boys) to the gentle, beautiful “Happy Adoption Day.” Interspersed with the 15 songs are short poems like “When Squid Jumped Rope” and silly riddles that start with the phrase “Ask me if I’m a…watermelon/asparagus/stick of butter.” While most of the songs are too long to use in story time, they are great for family listening. A must-have for every collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:


Drugs & Alcohol

Marijuana and the Teenage Brain. DVD. 23 min. with tchr’s. guide. Human Relations Media. 2013. ISBN 9781627060226. $149.95.

Marijuana: Does Legal Mean Safe? DVD. 20 min. with tchr’s. guide. Human Relations Media. 2013. ISBN 978-1-62706-031-8. $149.95.

Early Childhood

The Wheels on the Bus: Animal Adventure. DVD. 45 min. Prod. by Happy Child Prods. Dist. by Entertainment One. 2013. ISBN 1417240342. $9.98.


Love, Concord. DVD. 1:30 hrs. Prod. by Optificer Media. Dist. by FilmWorks Entertainment. 2012, 2013 release. ISBN unavail. $19.98.

Totally Spies! Season One: Top-Secret Missions. 2 DVDs. 4:48 hrs. Prod. by Marathon Media, Dist. by Cinedigm. 2013. ISBN unavail. $19.95.


­­­­­College Life: Perspectives from Students and Instructors. DVD. 52 min. Prod. by Exposure Prods. Dist. by Films for the Humanities & Sciences. 2012, 2013 release. ISBN 9781622908288. $169.95.

Recognizing Abusive Relationships. DVD. 21 min. with tchr’s. guide. Prod. by VEA. Dist. by Films Media Group. 2013. ISBN unavail. $129.95.

Split: A Film for Kids of Divorce (and Their Parents). DVD. 28 min. Splitfilm.org. 2013. ISBN unavail. $49.


Sleepless Epidemic: Practical Steps to Help Adolescents Get the Sleep They Need. DVD. 32 min. Learning ZoneXpress. 2013. ISBN unavail. $79.95.


Schools That Change Communities. DVD. 58 min. Video Project. 2013. ISBN unavail. $79.

Language Arts

Rock ‘N Learn: Sight Words, Level 3. DVD. 50 min. Rock ‘N Learn. 2013. ISBN 9781934312131. $19.99.


Forms of Energy. DVD. 13 min. with tchr’s. guide. Prod. by VEA. Dist. by Films Media Group. 2013. ISBN unavail. $129.95.

Push and Pull Forces. DVD. 12 min. with tchr’s. guide. Prod. by VEA. Dist. by Films Media Group. 2013. ISBN unavail. $129.95.

Remains of a River. DVD. 47 min. Green Planet Films. 2013. ISBN unavail. K-12 schools: $68, public libraries: $49.

Social Studies

Leaving Home. DVD. 72 min. Richter Videos. 2013. ISBN unavail. $59.

Vito: The Life of Gay Rights Activist Vito Russo. DVD. 93 min. First Run Features. 2013. ISBN unavail. $27.95.


Many of these titles are available for download and/or in Playaway format. Check distributors’ websites, playaway.com, and audio download retailers for availability and price.

Language Arts

Al Capone Does My Homework. By Gennifer Choldenko. 5 CDs. 6:04 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 978-0-385-36162-0. $40.

The BFG. By Roald Dahl. 4 CDs. 4:30 hrs. Penguin Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781611761887. $25.95.

A Certain October. By Angela Johnson. 3 CDs. 2:52 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804123242. $30.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. By Roald Dahl. 3 CDs. 3:15 hrs. Penguin Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781611761825. $25.95.

Crow. By Barbara Wright. 6 CDs. 7:25 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804123952. $45.

Formerly Shark Girl. By Kelly Bingham. 5 CDs. 5:06 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781468274911. $54.97.

From Norvelt to Nowhere. By Jack Gantos. 5 CDs. 7 hrs. Macmillian Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781427233134. $29.99.

A Full Moon Is Rising. By Marilyn Singer . CD. 34:02 min. with hardcover book. Live Oak Media. 2013. ISBN 9781430114413. $31.95.

The Golden Day. By Ursula Dubosarsky. 3 CDs. 3:42 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781480518513. $54.97.

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy. By Lynley Dodd. CD. 24 min. Prod. by Bolinda. Dist. by Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781743168042. $29.97.

Happy Endings: A Story about Suffixes. By Robin Pulver. CD. 18:22 min. with paperback book. Live Oak Media. 2013. ISBN 9781430114338. $18.95; with hardcover book, ISBN 9781430114345: $29.95.

I’m with Stupid. By Geoff Herbach. 6 CDs 7:17 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781480533226. $49.97.

Insurgent: Divergent, Book 2. By Veronica Roth. 10 CDs. 11 hrs. Harper Audio. 2013. ISBN 9780062286475. $22.99; Dreamscape: library ed. ISBN 9781624061578. $22.99.

Keeping the Castle. By Patrice Kindl. 6 cassettes or 6 CDs. 6:30 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. cassette: ISBN 9781470352813, CD: ISBN 9781470341954. $51.75.

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail. By Richard Peck . 3 CDs. 3:16 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804123778. $27.

Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking: A 14 Day Mystery. By Erin Dionne. 6 CDs. 6:25 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781469287539. $54.97.

My Book of Life by Angel. By Martine Leavitt. 2 cassettes or 2 CDs. 2:15 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. cassette: ISBN 9781470351618, CD: ISBN 9781470351601. $51.75.

Nightsong. By Ari Berk. cassette or CD. 15 min. Recorded Books. 2013. cassette: ISBN 9781470352967, CD: ISBN 9781470352929. $15.75; hardcover book: ISBN 9781416978862: $17.99

On the Road to Mr. Mineo’s. By Barbara O’Connor. 4 cassettes or 4 CDs. 2:45 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. cassette: ISBN 9781470370640, CD: ISBN 9781470370626. $46.75.

Out of Reach. By Carrie Arcos. 5 cassettes or 5 CDs. 5:45 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. cassette: ISBN 9781470358907, CD: ISBN 9781470358891. $56.75.

The Pinkalicious Picture Book Audio Collection. By Victoria Kann. CD. 43 min. Harper Audio. 2013. ISBN 9780062286413. $13.99.

Shark Girl. By Kelly Bingham. 3 CDs 3:06 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781469274997. $54.97.

Tallow: Curse of the Bond Riders, Book 1. By Karen Brooks. 13 CDs. 15 hrs. Prod. by Bolinda Audio. Dist. by Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781743167616. $59.97.

The Tent. By Gary Paulsen . 2 CDs. 1:31 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN: 9781455810871. $39.97.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. By Stephan Pastis. 3 cassettes or 3 CDs. 2:45 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013 cassette: ISBN 978147037629-1, CD: ISBN 9781470376307. $46.75.

To Be Perfectly Honest. By Sonya Sones. 4 CDs. 4:47 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781480536456. $49.97.

The Waking Dark. By Robin Wasserman. 11 CDs. 13:48 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780307968128. $50.


An Adventurous Day. Performed by Lolly and YoYo. CD. 42:29 min. with booklet. AV Café. 2013. ISBN unavail. $24.99.

Bear Hunt. Performed by Josh and the Jamtones. CD. 45 min. Prod. by Jammin’ with You! Dist. by CDBaby.com. 2013. ISBN unavail. $9.99.

The Best in Me. Performed by Dave Kinnoin. CD. 1:18 hrs. Prod. by Song Wizard Records. Dist. by New Sound Music. 2013. ISBN unavail. $14.98.

Gratitude Attitude (Best Foot Forward Series). Performed by various artists. CD. 46 min. Recess Music. 2013. ISBN unavail. $12.99.

Gravity Vacation. Performed by Marsha Goodman-Wood. CD. 27:22 min. Marshagoodmanwood.bandcamp.com. 2012. ISBN unavail. $12.

Home of Song. Performed by Paul Spring. CD. approx. 36 min. AV Café. 2013. ISBN unavail. $15.

Join In: Tales and Tunes From Many Cultures. Performed by Jeslyn and Ben Wheeless. CD. 64 min. Jeslynwheeless.com. 2013. ISBN unavail. $15.

Lishy Lou and Lucky Too. Performed by Lucky Diaz & the Family Jam Band. CD. 34 min. Lucky Diaz Music. 2013. ISBN unavail. $15.

My Cup of Tea. Performed by Heidi Swedberg and the Sukey Jump Band. CD. approx. 43 min. Sukey Jump Music. 2013. ISBN unavail. $15.

Rhythm Bears. Performed by Groove Kid Nation. CD. 49:33 min. with booklet. Prod. by Groove Kid Nation. Dist. by Distribution 13. 2013. ISBN unavail. $15.98.

Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers. Performed by Trout Fishing in America. CD. approx. 36 min. Trout Music. 2013. ISBN unavail. $14.98.

Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids. Performed by Alastair Moock and others. CD. approx. 38 min. CDBaby.com. 2013. ISBN unavail. $14.99.


With a Mighty Hand: The Story of the Torah. Adapted by Amy Erlich. 4 CDs. 3:59 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781480518599. $54.97.

Social Studies

Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam. By Sumbul Ali-Karamali. 5 CDs. 5:16 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9781804123570. $35.


Through My Eyes: A Quarterback’s Journey by Tim Tebow. By Tim Tebow. 4 CDs. 4 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781480554870. $52.97.


AudioGO, 800/621-0182; AudioGo.com/library
AV Café, 6201 S. 58th St., Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68516; 877/228-2233; theavcafe.com
Brilliance Audio, Box 887, Grand Haven, MI 49417; 800/648-2312; brillianceaudio.com
CD Universe, cduniverse.com
Cinedigm, cinedigm.com
Crystal Productions, 1812 Johns Dr., Glenview, IL 60025; 847/657-8144; crystalproductions.com
Dan Zanes, shop.danzanes.com
Dreamscape, 877/983-7326; dreamscapeab.com
Films Media Group, 132 W. 31st St., New York, NY 10001; 800/322-8755; films.com
Frances England Music, francesengland.com
Harper Audio, harperaudio.com
Human Relations Media, 41 Kensico Dr., Mt. Kisco, NY 10549; 800/431-2050; hrmvideo.com
Listening Library/Books on Tape, Box 25122, Santa Ana, CA 92799; 800/243-4504; booksontape.com
Living Myth Audio, livingmyth.com
Lucky Diaz Music, luckydiazmusic.com
Macmillan Audio, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010; macmillan.com
Naxos, naxosusa.com
New Sound Kids, newsoundmusic.com
PBS Distribution, 1320 Braddock Pl., Alexandria, VA 22314; shopPBS.org/education
Penguin Audio, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014; 212/366-2000; penguin.com
Recorded Books, 270 Skipjack Rd., Prince Frederick, MD 20678; 800/638-1304; recordedbooks.com
Video Project, 150 Green St., San Francisco, CA 94111; 800/4-PLANET; videoproject.com
Weston Woods, 90 Old Sherman Turnpike, Danbury, CT 06816; 203/797-3520; scholastic.com/westonwoods
Youth Sports Club, 9 Florence Court, Valley Cottage, NY 10989; 800/511-2101; YouthSportsClub.com

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2013 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.