February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Civil Rights Movement & More | Best of Apps & Enhanced Books

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SLJ1410w-APP_HisDreamOUrStoriesHis Dream, Our Stories: The Legacy of the March On Washington. Terry Golway. (MetroDigi, Comcast NBCUniversal). 2013. iOS, requires 7.0 or later. Free, via the iBook app.

Gr 6 Up –Outstanding writing and more than 20 compelling videos combine to tell the story of the 1963 gathering on the Washington Mall that culminated in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Among the many who braved the overwhelming crowds (estimated between 200,000 and 300,000) and record-breaking heat to attend—and/or share their stories here—were Jesse Jackson, Mamie Chalmers, Peter Yarrow, and Andrew Young. In addition to reminiscences of that day, the app provides context for each vignette with details on the Greensboro sit-ins, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Detroit Walk to Freedom, and the Atlanta Student Movement.

Among the video narratives is Jesse Jackson’s account of his arrest in Greensboro, NC; his comments on Dr. King’s “broken promise” message; and his memories of the civil rights leader’s death. Other visuals include black-and-white archival photos of individuals, events, and documents, often several to a screen.

Originally written to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, this updated e-version includes fascinating bonus material including interviews with event organizers Roy Wilkins and Dr. King just days prior to the event. There’s also an interactive component that allows readers to upload and save their own stories and photos for personal use and/or sharing. An excellent springboard for further study or classroom discussion.–Celeste Steward, Alameda County Library

SLJ1410w-APP_HowIBecameAPirateHow I Became a Pirate. Melinda Long. (Oceanhouse Media). illus. by David Shannon. 2014. iOS, requires, 6.1 or later. Version 2.6. $3.99.

PreS-Gr 1 –Ahoy, mateys! Did you hear? Melinda Long’s picture book illustrated by the inimitable David Shannon is now an app. The story tells of one Jeremy Jacob’s adventure with a group of pirates during a family outing to the beach. The scalaways are looking for a spot to bury treasure and someone to do it, and spying Jeremy’s sand castle causes them to realize, “He’s a digger, he is, and a good one to boot!”

A sea chantey plays in the background on opening the app and sound effects such as crashing waves, squawking seagulls, and booming thunder can be heard throughout. Shannon’s bold illustrations display well on the iPad and slight animations, including characters that blink, a rowboat that rocks, and falling rain, add to the liveliness.

Children can choose to read the story independently or listen to the winning narration that alternates between the gruff tones of Braid Beard the pirate and Jeremy’s young voice. One feature provides children with the opportunity to record their own narration. A charming story, enhanced by the iPad’s capabilities.–Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME


Spies of Mississippi: The Appumentary. (Joe Zeff Design) 2014. iOS, requires 6.0 or later. Version 1.0.5. Free.

Gr 7 Up –A stunning combination of the written word and the visual arts. The app, based on the book by Rick Bowers (National Geographic, 2010; also an iBook) and Dawn Porter’s documentary film of the same title (Trilogy Films, 2014 ), takes viewers inside the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission’s (MSSC) clandestine, “state-funded” campaign to maintain racial segregation in the state during the 1950s and ’60s. As noted in the foreword of Bowers’s book, the history of the MSSC is a story that involves “spies and counterspies, agents and double agents, informants and infiltrators…[along with] dedicated civil rights workers and fearless student activists, truth-telling journalists and justice-seeking lawyers who dared to challenge the status quo.” This will be a shocking history lesson to most, and the app combines text; archival photos; police reports and other documents (some made public as recently as 1998); and film clips (introduced with music), to tell the story.

The MSSC actively sought to thwart the work of civil rights activists before, during, and after the 1964 Freedom Summer, and the book, film, and app draw connections between it and the activities of the white supremacist organizations, including the deaths of Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. Interactive biographies of individuals that make appearances in Porter’s film are provided as well as three film segments and a time line containing numerous resources.

Extensive Common Core-aligned lesson plans with weblinks and discussion questions for grades 6-8 and 9-12 are offered along with an “all grades” resource list and suggestions for related enrichment activities. A first-rate production.–Joy Davis, Ouachita Parish Public Library, Monroe, LA

For additional app reviews visit the Touch and Go webpage.

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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