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1. April Notes on the way

Vampires, werepeople, and yetis — oh my! In this month’s Notes from the Horn Book newsletter, I get to ask Cynthia Leitich Smith five questions about her (ahem) tantalizing new series Feral, a spin-off to her Tantalize quartet. Other goodies in this issue:

• more YA fantasy series entries
• picture books about the big city
• recommended reading for National Poetry Month
• intermediate books about wartime

april 14 notes April Notes on the way

Read the issue online here, or subscribe to receive Notes from the Horn Book newsletter (and its supplement Nonfiction Notes) in your inbox. Find more recommended books and interviews in the newsletter archives.

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2. Desperately seeking stories

As de facto administrative assistant for the office, I’ve been hearing the name “UNICCO” (the facilities management company here at the Simmons College campus) quite a bit as we get settled into our new space. And it makes me think of nothing so much as…

unico Desperately seeking stories

That is, The Fantastic Adventures of Unico, an early anime film about — surprise, surprise — a baby unicorn with the ability to bring happiness to everyone he meets. I remember Unico fondly and vividly from my ’80s childhood, but by the time I was in college I was convinced I had invented it, since no one else I knew had ever heard of it. (Same with The Adventures of Mark Twain, another weirdo ’80s movie.) Happily, internet searching has proved it’s not a figment of my imagination, and maybe I’ll even get around to watching it again.

In libraries, bookstores, and on sites like “Stump the Bookseller,” there’s an abundance of people hoping to be reunited with a half-remembered book from childhood. Often what hazy memories they do have are of the book’s appearance or their emotional experience of it rather than the more prosaic bibliographic information that would help a bookseller or librarian with the literary detective work. And, like me with Unico, they may eventually conclude it never existed.

Are there any stories or books from your childhood you’ve been looking for? Or have you been reunited with any long-lost loves? A few of mine: The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts, The Wednesday Witch by Ruth Chew, and The Wild Swans retold by Amy Ehrlich and illustrated by Susan Jeffers.

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3. Divergent movie review

divergent poster Divergent movie reviewIn the world of Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, the dystopian city of Chicago is run through a personality-based system of grouping. The five factions, to one of which every person belongs, are Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite. Abnegation, with its focus on humility and selflessness, acts as the political power; Amity, the good-natured, peaceful types, are the city’s farmers; Candor, those who value truth above all else, work as the judging body; Erudite are the thinkers and creators; and Dauntless, the bold, are what amounts to a standing army. Children are raised within the faction of their birth but, when they come of age, take a test to tell them where they truly belong. Beatrice (a.k.a Tris) from Abnegation takes her test only to find that she is Divergent — that is, she displays traits characteristic of more than one faction. Divergence is rare, and considered shameful and very dangerous. Tris is forced to dedicate her life to one faction (she chooses Dauntless) and keep her Divergence a secret.

The movie adaptation, directed by Neil Burger (Summit, March 2014), stars Shailene Woodley (from The Descendants and The Secret Life of the American Teenager). Slight and unremarkable-seeming at first, Woodley looks the part of the self-abnegating teen. As the story goes on, she grows into her role as a good YA dystopian female protagonist: sensitive but tough, and the consummate underdog. Woodley is a strong actor, reaching the emotional depths necessary for a character as out of her element as Tris. As the stakes get higher and the situations all the more impossible, Woodley’s Tris remains a hero to root for.

Theo James plays The Love Interest, Four, exactly as we would want him to be played: moody, strong, sexy, vulnerable, and surprisingly funny. Kate Winslet is intelligent and devious as the power-grabbing Jeanine, Tony Goldwyn (Scandal‘s POTUS) is totally believable as an ascetic politician, and Jai Courtney’s Eric is just plain scary. Altogether, the cast delivers an engaging and downright exciting performance, their stories developed over the backdrop of a surreally beautiful dystopian world. I also appreciate some of the content decisions — especially the depiction of sexual assault (in a controversial scene created for the movie) as a very real and constant fear in this society and Tris’s capable, Dauntless response to it.

But I have so very many questions. And while some of them are questions about gaps in the world-building (How does the train keep running? Can anyone be kicked out of a faction at any time? Who is behind all the technological advances in what appears to be a fairly stagnant society?), others raise more problematic issues.

If there is a line between bravery and recklessness, Divergent smashes it to bits. The movie defines bravery as actively choosing to do something scary even though you’re afraid. And yet, the film also portrays Dauntless characters doing scary and downright reckless things without thinking and without fear. I ask you, how can an individual be considered “dauntless” by being both thoughtful and thoughtless at the same time? What is up with the Dauntless, anyway? Why do they run everywhere whooping and pounding their fists? Is that what bravery looks like?

As to costuming — the use of color palettes for the individual factions is very well done, clearly delineating the five groups with visual representation. But… of course the Dauntless are shown as pierced, tattooed, and primarily black-clad. Coming from an individual who is both tattooed and pierced (and who also wears primarily black), I must tell you that tattooing, piercing, and dressing all in black do not a badass make. (Honestly, I’m pretty sure I would be placed in whichever faction is the most cowardly.) Isn’t it time to find another way to show an audience that a group of characters are “dangerous”?

Divergent was an entertaining movie with strong acting, beautiful visual effects, and an exciting plot. Yes, I have questions. Hopefully, the second movie will clear them up for me — because I will definitely be checking it out.

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4. The Poetry App review

poetry app menu The Poetry App reviewThe Poetry App (Josephine Hart Poetry Foundation, 2012) may not be specifically geared toward kids, but I think it has a lot to offer younger users. First and foremost, the app presents over one hundred classic poems from sixteen of the world’s greatest poets — including W. H. Auden, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, William Butler Yeats, and Sylvia Plath. Additionally, each poem available to read is paired with an audio recitation performed by one of thirty critically acclaimed actors and performers.

The lineup of contributors is a veritable who’s who of British thespian elite, which includes — and let me preface this list by saying that each is known for a host of memorable roles; I’ve simply boiled them down to their most kid/teen-relevant, pop-culture characters — Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort), Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy), and Robert Hardy (Cornelius Fudge) from the Harry Potter franchise; Ian McDiarmid (The Emperor/Senator Palpatine) from the Star Wars movies; Roger Moore (James Bond); Dan Stevens (aka Matthew Crawley) and Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley) from Downton Abbey; Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) and Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle) from Game of Thrones; and Jeremy Irons (aka Brom from Eragon, Macon Ravenwood from Beautiful Creatures, and Scar from The Lion King).

The main menu is straightforward and simple to navigate, featuring a cozy living room setting warmed by a crackling fire and six section icons to click through. Unfortunately, once you’re actually exploring the poems organized by poet or actor, the interface becomes over-conceptualized. Animated hot air balloons float across pictures or portraits of actors and poets, all pasted in front of the scrolling background of a starry night sky. It’s too busy to be effective. Good thing the recitations are so impressive and beautifully done. This is one of those apps with incredible content — if you can get past its appearance.

poetry app dickinson The Poetry App review

Introductions and essays by the late author Josephine Hart accompany various poems, providing context and some explication. There is also a composition tool, so users can compose their own poetry if inspiration strikes. Easter eggs are hidden throughout the app, some featuring video clips of actors reciting poems. Click around to find them all.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 5.0 or later) and Android devices (requires Android 2.3.3 and up); free.

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5. Our terrific interns

origami2 300x348 Our terrific internsYesterday I was tidying up my new office and found these little origami items left by my marvelous spring semester design intern, August Lah. Most of the time I keep her pretty busy, but on days when there’s a lot of scanning, it’s hurry-up-and-wait time. Place the book on the scanner, click on Preview, crop, then wait 20-30 seconds while the scanner captures the image. Multiply by 90 images in the book review section. Ugh.

What to do during that brief down-time? August says she is a fiddler by nature, so anytime she can get her hands on a scrap of paper (post-it note, gum wrapper) she folds it into something better. August is waaay beyond me in origami intelligence. She says she’s only memorized a few shapes, but she’s good enough to be able to improvise new forms, too.

This little find just reinforced for me how much we all depend on our interns. Not only do they help us with on some of the more mundane tasks in our jobs, but most times I also learn from them — a new Photoshop shortcut, a cool website with free grunge fonts…or a new origami animal. Most of us here were once interns ourselves, some for this very company, and it’s still the best way to get started in the field.

The deadline for summer intern positions is April 15, which is next Tuesday. There are two or three editorial slots available and one design slot. Check out the application information here.

origami1 300x430 Our terrific interns

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6. Dayenu!

Pour the wine (or grape juice) and chop the nuts and apples. Here are some new books for Passover. (And here are two more.)



balsley its a mitzvah grover Dayenu!Two Shalom Sesame series entries, written by Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer and illustrated by Tom Leigh, follow Sesame Street characters in Israel as they learn about doing good deeds. In It’s a Mitzvah, Grover!, Grover and friends clean up a playground after a storm, though Moishe the grouch hesitates to participate. In Grover and Big Bird’s Passover Celebration, Big Bird joins Grover and learns about Passover as they do mitzvot en route to a seder. The tone is un-preachy and preschoolers will recognize the friendly cast of characters. (both Kar-Ben, 2013)

glaser hoppy passover Dayenu!The rabbit family that celebrated Hanukkah in author Linda Glaser and illustrator Daniel Howarth’s Hoppy Hanukkah! now joyously observes Passover. In Hoppy Passover!, siblings Violet and Simon participate in traditions such as reciting the Four Questions and preparing the Seder plate. The rabbit-children’s infectious excitement comes across in both text and illustrations (though the cheerful, pastel-colored palette and bouncing bunnies may bring to mind another springtime holiday).
(Whitman, 2011)



adler passover Dayenu!David A. Adler follows up 2011′s The Story of Hanukkah with the The Story of Passover . The straightforward text touches on Jacob and the Children of Israel; slavery and Pharaoh’s cruelty; Moses’s encounter with the burning bush; the ten plagues; and the Red Sea escape. Jill Weber’s expressive, rich-hued acrylics play up the drama (ew, lice) but also offer reassurance and even some humor through small, eye-pleasing details. (Holiday, 2014)

glaser stone soup with matzoh balls Dayenu!Stone Soup with Maztoh Balls: A Passover Tale in Chelm begins with a stranger arriving in Chelm on Passover. Let “all who are hungry come and eat,” sure, but the villagers don’t have much to share. The stranger produces a stone, promising to make matzoh ball soup…and you know the rest. Linda Glaser’s well-cadenced text and Maryam Tabatabaei’s digital-looking art are as light as the Chelmites’ matzo balls (“…so light they can almost fly”). (Whitman, 2014)

kimmelman little red hen and the passover matzah Dayenu!Who will help make the Passover matzah? When Sheep, Horse, and Dog prove unreliable, stereotypical Jewish mother Little Red Hen (somewhat grudgingly) takes up the reins.  The good-natured cadence of Leslie Kimmelman’s text for The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah extends the mother-hen comparison, while Paul Meisel’s affectionate ink, watercolor, and  pastel illustrations keep things from going too far over the top. An author’s note about Passover and a matzah recipe are appended. (Holiday, 2010)

passover lamb Dayenu!Miriam, protagonist of Linda Elovitz Marshall’s The Passover Lamb, is looking forward to singing the Four Questions at her grandparents’ Passover seder. But when a newborn lamb on the family’s farm is abandoned by its mother, Miriam worries she’ll have to miss the seder to care for the unwanted baby. Her solution is unsurprising but charming; soft illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss reinforce Miriam’s affection for the (particularly cute) baby sheep. (Random House, 2013)

portnoy tale of two seders Dayenu!In A Tale of Two Seders by Mindy Avra, a young girl has gone to six different Passover seders in the three years since her parents’ divorce. At the sixth seder, attended by both her mom and dad, the girl’s mother likens families to different varieties of charoset, a traditional dish: “Some have more ingredients…But each one is tasty in its own way.” The realistic story is accompanied by Valeria Cis’s pattern-filled illustrations. Charoset recipes are included. (Kar-Ben, 2010)

longest night Dayenu!A young Jewish slave describes the ten plagues and the Israelites’ hurried flight from Egypt in The Longest Night: A Passover Story. Illustrator Catia Chien’s dark, expansive acrylic paintings are well matched with Laurel Snyder’s impeccable rhyming couplets (although some illustrations, such as a full-page, open-jawed wolf, may be too intense for very young readers). The concluding spreads, featuring the parting of the Red Sea and a gorgeous sunrise, are a treat. (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 2013)

strauss elijah door Dayenu!In a small village long ago, the once-close Lippa and Galinsky families feuded. With the rabbi, their children (who loved one another) enacted a plan to bring their families together for Seder so that Passover could truly be celebrated. How the whole village participates makes Linda Leopold Strauss’s The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale  a warmhearted story of reconciliation and togetherness. Strikingly painted woodcuts by Alexi Natchev illustrate the Passover tale. (Holiday, 2012)

weber yankee at the seder Dayenu!In 1865, a Jewish family in Virginia hosts an unanticipated Passover guest: a Yankee soldier. The “festival of freedom,” here celebrated by people with conflicting beliefs but a common cultural history, has great meaning. Elka Weber’s The Yankee at the Seder, a well-told tale based on actual events, is accompanied by Adam Gustavson’s richly textured oil paintings. Endnotes provide more information about the real-life figures and the Passover holiday. (Tricycle, 2009)

ziefert passover celebrating now remembering then Dayenu!Harriet Ziefert’s appealing Passover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then presents contemporary Passover rituals alongside a retelling of the festival story. Left-hand pages include “Now” information while right-hand gatefold pages open to reveal the “Then” side: additional details about the Passover tale. Karla Gudeon’s unfussy illustrations against natural-paper-textured backgrounds help illuminate events. The decorated endpapers are adorned with holiday symbols. (Blue Apple, 2010)

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7. The new headless torsos, redux

The new headless torsos could also be this.

erlings boy on the edge The new headless torsos, redux   bedford neverending The new headless torsos, redux
For more book jacket love, read Thom Barthelmess’s article What Makes a Good Book Cover? From the March/April Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Illustration.

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8. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Erin go bragh! Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with nonfiction about Ireland and its history, fiction starring Irish and Irish American protagonists, and a little bit of pure blarney, all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine.


Picture books

bunting ballywhinney girl Happy St. Patricks Day!In Eve Bunting’s Ballywhinney Girl (Clarion, 2012) Maeve’s grandpa unearths a mummy — common in Ireland, where (a note says) scores of remains have been found. Maeve’s uneasiness at the find turns to empathy for the long-ago girl who, like her, had blond hair. Emily Arnold McCully’s masterful pen-and-ink lines capture Maeve’s feelings; watercolors evoke the lush countryside. This is a sensitive opening to the universal theme of curiosity about death.

depaola jamie orourke and the pooka Happy St. Patricks Day!In Jamie O’Rourke and the Pooka (Putnam, 2000), Tomie dePaola’s good-humored tale about the folly of counting on someone else to do your work, Jamie O’Rourke, “the laziest man in all of Ireland,” and his cronies have a grand time while his wife is away, but the house ends up a mess. When a pooka, or animal spirit, arrives and cleans the place from top to bottom, Jamie thinks his problems are over. DePaola’s cozy, colorful illustrations are a good match for the lighthearted, rhythmic text.

wojciechowski fine st. patricks day Happy St. Patricks Day!In the St. Patrick’s Day contest with rival burg Tralah, young Fiona Riley’s idea to paint the town green gives the town of Tralee hope for a win. When Tralee stops painting to help a red-bearded little man in green, it looks like they’ve sacrificed their chance to win. Susan Wojciechowski’s A Fine St. Patrick’s Day (Random, 2004) is a folk-like tale of kindness rewarded featuring a winning heroine and lots of atmosphere in Tom Curry’s rich illustrations.


Intermediate fiction

dowd kathleen Happy St. Patricks Day!A light hand, sharp wit, serious social issues, and a hint of subversion are ingredients in Siobhan Parkinson’s lively Kathleen: The Celtic Knot (Girls of Many Lands series; AmericanGirl, 2003). Times are hard for Kathleen and her family, who live in a crowded tenement in 1930s Dublin. Her opportunity for advancement comes when an unexpectedly kind nun recommends Irish-dance lessons. Well-contextualized Irish words and phrases are further defined in the appended glossary; historical notes and photos are included.

giff nory ryans song Happy St. Patricks Day!Patricia Reilly Giff’s Nory Ryan’s Song (Delacorte, 2000) recounts the tragic days of Ireland’s mid-nineteenth-century potato famine. Twelve-year-old Nory’s struggle to find food for her family brings her to the outcast village wise woman, where she overcomes her superstitions to learn the art of healing. Reflective rather than suspenseful, this first-person narrative allows the reader to become an eyewitness to history. This is a story of raw courage that ends hopefully if not happily. Look for sequels Maggie’s Door (2003) and Water Street (2006).


Older fiction

dowd bog child Happy St. Patricks Day!In 1981, eighteen-year-old Fergus finds a body of a girl from the Iron Age in the bog between Northern Ireland and the Republic. He dreams about her while struggling to focus on exams as his brother, a political prisoner, begins a hunger strike. Parallel themes of sacrifice and resurrection dominate the imagery of Siobhan Dowd’s novel Bog Child (Random/Fickling, 2008), and the suspense sustains momentum. An author’s note gives background.

heneghan grave Happy St. Patricks Day!After construction workers discover a mass grave in his schoolyard, thirteen-year-old foster child Tom falls — or is pulled — into the excavated grave. He emerges from the darkness to find he has traveled through time from 1974 Liverpool to 1847 Ireland. Tom’s colorful first-person narrative in The Grave by James Heneghan (Farrar/Foster, 2000) describes the era of the great potato famine with honesty; his time travel experiences also provide some clues to his family background.


Nonfiction, Poetry, and Folklore

bartoletti black potatoes Happy St. Patricks Day!In explaining how repeated years of blighted crops decimated Ireland’s huge subsistence class, Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine (Houghton, 2001) draws on an impressive array of sources to give faces and names to those who suffered and to those in positions of influence in Ireland and England. Added materials include a map, time line, and discussion of sources. Numerous archival prints add haunting evidence.

brown across a dark and wild sea Happy St. Patricks Day!A picture book biography based on the Irish legend of Columcille, Don Brown’s Across a Dark and Wild Sea (Roaring Brook, 2002) emphasizes the love of books and learning that helped preserve Western civilization during the Dark Ages. The text is lilting; the sentences vary in length and intensity to make it suitable for reading aloud. The design (with calligraphy by Deborah Nadel) is dramatic, and Brown’s illustrations are almost dreamlike in quality. An informative author’s note is appended.

depaola patrick the patron saint Happy St. Patricks Day!In Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland (Holiday, 1994), Tomie dePaola separates his narrative into two sections: the first, a biographical account of Patrick’s life; the second, a compilation of legends. The uncluttered illustrations are reminiscent of murals in their emphasis on essential elements of the narrative. The whole is a well-executed treatment of an appealing subject.

doyle one two three oleary Happy St. Patricks Day!Malachy Doyle gathers together seventeen Irish playground rhymes for calling someone out in One, Two, Three O’Leary (McElderry, 2004), a tale about the O’Learys and their ten children. Illustrator Will Hillenbrand depicts the family as bouncy and jolly, with bright colors against white backgrounds. The premise of the book is quite ambitious (a story told completely in nonsense rhymes), but the pictures tie the rhymes together to tell a lively bedtime story.

doyle tales from old ireland Happy St. Patricks Day!In another collection, Tales from Old Ireland (Barefoot, 2000), Doyle retells seven of his favorite tales, beginning with “The Children of Lir,” one of the best loved of Irish tales. “Lusmore and the Fairies” warns of the need to respect supernatural powers; “Fair, Brown, and Trembling” is a Cinderella variant; other tales are deeply rooted in Celtic mythology. Niamh Sharkey’s illustrations are richly colored like illuminated manuscripts. Thorough source notes are included.

snell thicker than water Happy St. Patricks Day!While sharing a common Irish heritage, the voices and styles of the well-known and award-winning writers gathered in collection Thicker than Water: Coming-of-Age Stories by Irish and Irish American Writers (edited by Gordon Snell; Delacorte, 2001) are as refreshingly diverse as those of any top-notch short story collection. A strong sense of place, from a tiny island off Ireland’s west coast to a roadhouse in West Texas, is the common thread of these growing-up stories; that, and the strength of the writing.

souhami mrs mccool and the giant cuhullin Happy St. Patricks Day!Irish folk-hero Finn McCool hides behind his clever wife in Jessica Souhami’s Mrs. McCool and the Giant Cuhullin: An Irish Tale (Holt, 2002), a teasing tale of two cowardly giants. When Finn sucks his magic thumb, he can see fierce Cuhullin, who has his own magic finger, coming after him. Finn runs home to his wife, who hatches a plan to fool Cuhullin and deprive him of his magic finger. Both the light, playful text and vividly colored art are well matched to the comic tale. A well-made source note is appended.

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9. The real superheroes

j toys 225x300 The real superheroesShared reading has made my child a Frog and Toad and George and Martha  fan. Preschool has made him a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. (Remember them, ’80s kids? They’re back.) In the absence of action figures, he uses his Lego animals as Ninja Turtles. The other day he was playing superheroes: “Here’s Donatello, and Michelangelo, and Leonardo, and Raphael. And Arnold Lobel… And George Marshall…” Music to my ears.

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10. At long last

There may have been some jumping up and down yesterday when I spotted this on the Magazine table.

nix clariel cover At long last

The Abhorsen trilogy/The Old Kingdom Chronicles is one of my all-time favorite series; I’ve read Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen several times each and listened to the superb audiobooks narrated by Tim Curry many more times. The trilogy even helped get me a job at a children’s bookstore when the manager overheard me busybodily recommending them to a fellow customer.

Clariel (sometimes called Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen) has been nothing more than a cherished rumor among YA fantasy fans following the release of Abhorsen eleven long years ago. Now I have it in my hot little hands and am halfway through it — but, unfortunately, most readers will have to wait until the October publication date. (Nyah nyah.)

I do miss the cover art by the incomparable Dillons, though.

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11. Dinosaurs app review

 Dinosaurs app reviewMany kids visit natural history museums for school field trips or just for fun. Around here it’s the Harvard Natural History Museum (home of the stunning glass flowers room and free to Massachusetts residents on Sunday mornings). Chicago has the Field Museum. And in the NY/NJ/CT tri-state area kids flock to the American Museum of Natural History. The museum, with ongoing renovations and advancement (including the state-of-the-art Rose Center for Earth and Space including a shiny new Hayden Planetarium), is home to a vast and impressive collection. But what’s most memorable to fossil-heads about the AMNH are the staggeringly impressive fossil halls.

Nothing beats seeing those dinos in person, but with Dinosaurs (2010) the AMNH has created a useful and engaging app that lets you get close to the real thing. It starts with an amazing mosaic in the shape of a T-rex’s head. Double-tap anywhere on the head to zoom in; now you can see how individual rectangles — over a thousand! — make up the big T-rex picture. Double-tap again to get even closer — now you can see each image (fossils, scientists, dioramas, archival photos) more clearly. Another tap brings you closer, then another isolates the image. (NB: At any time, pinching or stretching apart your fingers on the screen lets you zoom in or out.) The Info button at the top right of each picture tells more about what’s going on; you can then email the photo, add comments, or look at what other people have said (often “Wow!”).

A simple three-button navigation at the bottom of the screen allows you to jump back to the full mosaic; read “Stories” (i.e., select from an alphabetical listing of dinosaurs, with helpful thumbnail pictures, then tap to learn more about that dino — Scientific Name, Specimen #, Age, etc.); and access “AMNH Extras” including museum information and Educators Guide PDFs.

dinos in the attic 198x300 Dinosaurs app reviewOk, so this isn’t the most dynamic app. It doesn’t sing or make any dinosaur noises, and nothing moves on its own. Though it sounds anachronistic to describe an app as “old school,” you can say that this is a perfect one for people who prefer their museums the older and dustier the better (minus, of course, the rampant poaching, international theft, and sticky politics – all of which, incidentally, make for a fascinating read in Dinosaurs in the Attic, if you’re just that old school).

Available for iPad (requires iOS 4.2 or later); $1.99.

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12. Reading Rainbow app review

reading rainbow friends and family Reading Rainbow app reviewThe Emmy and Peabody–award winning Reading Rainbow, hosted by LeVar Burton, ran for twenty-three years on PBS. Now young readers can explore the Reading Rainbow app (RRKidz, 2012), which retains a similar style to the show complete with its signature, catchy theme song: “Take a look, / it’s in a book, / a reading rainbow…” The app contains a library of hundreds of children’s e-books in addition to book-related activities and live-action “video field trips” narrated by Burton.

When children enter the app, they are prompted to create a profile including name, age, gender, and three things they like — I chose wizards & fairies, things that go, and animals. These choices allow the app to tailor reading options for each child (accounts can be created for up to five children). The app is geared toward kids ages 3–9 and includes fiction and nonfiction book titles, with new e-books and videos being added every week. There is also a web- and app-accessible parent dashboard where a parent can monitor their child’s reading progress, search for specific e-books by title or author, and manage their subscription. There are three subscription options with this app: a free subscription for five e-books and seven videos, a monthly recurring subscription for $9.99, or a six-month recurring subscription for $29.99.

The app itself is very easy to navigate. The home screen allows access to everything in the app, the most important of which is a portal to different themed floating “islands” where kids can explore “worlds of reading”: Action Adventures & Magical Tales, Genius Academy, Awesome People, National Geographic Kids, Animal Kingdom, My Friends My Family, and Music Mountain. Simply scroll to the island of your choice and tap on it to enter. Once inside, you’ll see two scrolling rows full of theme-connected e-books and videos. There is also a scrolling row of videos to watch about fascinating people, places, and things related to the theme (and all of the videos are also available via a button on the main screen). Within the scrolling row of e-books, some are marked as new or recommended e-books “just for you” (based on the child’s age and interests as chosen in their profile). And some e-books will fit more than one category, so you may see an e-book on several islands’ lists. After you select an e-book, there is a sneak peek description to introduce the e-book to a reader. If you want to get the e-book, just click yes when prompted and it will download in your “backpack.”

reading rainbow book recs Reading Rainbow app review

A child’s backpack is reachable via the home screen, where you’ll also have easy access to everything in the app. You can see the e-books you’ve checked out when you click on the backpack (the design of which is customizable — I chose the sports theme). You can only have five e-books in your backpack at a time, so when you’re finished reading an e-book just “return” it through the return slot so you can check out another e-book. There are also helpful “how-to” videos in your backpack. Once you click on an e-book in your backpack, it’s time to read!

There are two modes of reading: “read to me” and “read by myself.” While reading an e-book, there is the option to browse through the page spreads, pause the narration by touching the text, and play a game (although I was only able to play a matching game with each of my five e-books). When you want to leave an e-book, just click on your backpack and it will bring you back out of the e-book so you can continue exploring the app. If you come back to an e-book you haven’t finished yet, the app will return you to the page where you stopped reading. After you’ve completed an e-book, sticker rewards are given to motivate further reading.

Right now the available e-books are from publishers including Charlesbridge, Holiday House, National Geographic Kids, Kindermusik, Abrams, Sleeping Bear, Shenanigan, Peachtree, Kane, and Little, Brown. While there’s nothing flashy to be found within the app’s e-books, the extensiveness of this collection makes it an invaluable resource that will provide children with hours of education and entertainment. “But,” as LeVar Burton says, “you don’t have to take my word for it” — check it out yourself.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 5.1 or later); free. Monthly subscription to content is $9.99, or a six-month subscription is $29.99. Android and web versions coming later this year.

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13. April children’s lit events in the Boston metro area

There’s lots to celebrate this month: National Poetry Month, D.E.A.R. Day, World Book Night, Poem in Your Pocket Day, El día de los niños/El día de los libros — and let’s not forget much nicer weather! See below for children’s lit–related events coming up in the greater Boston area. Be sure to check our monthly events calendar for all the details.

April is National Poetry Month!

Paleontologist Barnas Monteith will read from his new book The Furious Case of the Fraudulent Fossil and lead paleontology activities at Wellesley Books this afternoon at 4:00 pm.

Also today at 4:00 pm, Vermont’s cartoonist laureate James Kochalka will celebrate the publication of The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza at the Cambridge Public Library. Pizza included (while it lasts).

The Phantom Tollbooth author Norton Juster will speak as part of the “Gateway to Reading” Lowell Lecture Series tonight at 6:00 pm at the Boston Public Library main branch.

The John F. Kennedy NHS and John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum will hold “To Light the World: Stories of Hope & Courage for Challenging Times,” a conference for educators and librarians for grades 3-8, tomorrow, April 3rd, beginning at 8:00 am. Registration is $100.

The Writers’ Loft will host its new Middle Grade Morning Critique group tomorrow and on Thursday, April 17th, at 10:00 am. Please email writersloftma@gmail.com if you are interested in submitting a middle-grade manuscript in progress for critique.

Nonfiction author Susan E. Goodman will speak about and sign her space travel guide How Do You Burp in Space? at The Clay Center Observatory at Dexter Southfield school at 6:30 pm tomorrow.

The Writers’ Loft’s picture book manuscript critique group meets Thursday, April 10th, at 10:00 am. Manuscripts for critique should be submitted by the Monday prior to the meeting.

Trident Booksellers and Cafe will host a panel on self-publishing — including YA author Brendan Halpin and middle-grade author Meg Wilson — at 7:00 pm on Thursday the 10th.

Writers interested in breaking into nonfiction freelancing work or critiquing a nonfiction manuscript are welcome at the Loft’s new Nonfiction Think Tank, which meets this month on Friday, April 11th, at 10:00 am.

The annual Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day, inspired by Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8, will be celebrated on Saturday, April 12th.

The Foundation for Children’s Books will hold their spring half-day conference “What’s New in Children’s Books?” on Saturday the 12th, from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm at Lesley University. Authors Steve Sheinkin, Jason Chin, Kathryn Lasky, Michael Tougias, and Melissa Stewart will be special guests. Registration is $65 for individuals, $25 for students, and $40 for each member of an institutional group.

The Writers’ Loft will host a historical fiction panel with Alisa Libby, Susan Meyer, and Marissa Doyle at 2:00 pm on Saturday the 12th.

Learn about Simmons College’s satellite MA and MFA Children’s Literature programs at the Carle Museum by attending an informational session at the museum on Sunday, April 13th, at 12:00 pm.

On Sunday the 13th at 2:00 pm, Caldecott Medal winner Mordicai Gerstein will read and discuss his latest picture book The First Drawing at the Carle Museum. A drawing demonstration and book signing will follow.

Frances Driscoll will read and sign her picture book The Swan Boat Ride at the Boston Public Library main branch on Sunday the 13th at 2:00 pm.

Also at 2:00 pm on Sunday the 13th, the Belmont Gallery of Art will host an opening reception for its new exhibition “Books on the Charles,” a celebration of illustration in Boston-based publisher Charlesbridge’s picture books.

Meet more than twenty children’s book authors and illustrators at Authorfest, held at Winchester Town Hall on Tuesday, April 15th, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm. The authors will also be visiting Winchester schools during the school day.

Author/illustrator Tad Hills will read and sign his latest picture book Duck & Goose Go to the Beach at the Burlington Barnes & Noble on Wednesday, April 16th, at 10:00 am.

The monthly YA Think Tank writing group will be held at 10:00 am on Saturday, April 19th. Participants will workshop their YA works-in-progress; manuscripts for critique should be submitted one week prior to the meeting.

Susan Schwake, author of 3-D Art Lab for Kids, will lead a free paper sculpture activity for children at the Carle Museum on Saturday the 19th at 1:00 pm. A book signing will follow.

Hampshire College Theatre’s Seedling Productions presents Lily Plants a Garden by José Cruz González at The Carle on Saturday the 19th with performances at 1:00 and 3:00 pm. Tickets are $4 in addition to museum admission.

This year’s World Book Night will be celebrated on Wednesday, April 23rd.

CactusHead Puppets presents The Bremen Town Musicians at The Carle Museum with performances at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm on Wednesday the 23rd, Thursday the 24th, and Friday the 25th. On Saturday the 26th, performances will be held at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. Tickets are $5 (members $4.50) in addition to museum admission.

On Wednesday the 23rd at 7:00 pm, YA author Laini Taylor will celebrate the publication of Dreams of Gods and Monsters, the final entry in her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, at the Brookline Library.

Poem in Your Pocket Day will be celebrated on Thursday, April 24th.

Grub Street instructor Jane Kohuth will lead a three-hour crash-course in picture-book writing at Wellesley Books on Thursday the 24th at 6:00 pm. Registration is $55 for Grub Street members and $65 for non-members.

The Massachusetts chapter of the national kidlit book club Chapter & Verse will meet in the Stevens Memorial Library at 6:30 pm on Thursday the 24th. This month, author Anne Broyles and librarian Marina Salenikas will lead discussion of poetry collection What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski and verse novel Gone Fishing by Tamera Will Wissinger, illustrated by Matthew Cordell.

Instructor Emily Prabhaker will guide participants through the history of the Caldecott Medal in The Carle Museum’s workshop “A Caldecott Celebration” at 9:30 am on Friday, April 25th. Registration is $34 for Carle members and $40 for non-members. (3 PDPs)

Author/illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka will read and sign his new picture book Peanut Butter and Jellyfish at The Carle on Saturday, April 26th, at 2:00 pm. A drawing activity is included.

On Saturday the 26th, at 2:30 pm, Timothy Young will present the 2014 Annual Barbara Elleman Research Library Lecture entitled “Extinct Monsters: What Scholars Learn from Children’s Books” at The Carle. (1 PDP)

Join acclaimed children’s poets Jane Yolen, Richard Michelson, Jeannine Atkins, Heidi Stemple, and Steven Withrow for The Carle’s Family Poetry Jam on Sunday, April 27th, at 1:00 pm.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series author/illustrator Jeff Kinney will speak as part of the “Gateway to Reading” Lowell Lecture Series on Sunday the 27th at 2:00 pm at the Boston Public Library main branch.

Annie Cardi will present and sign her debut YA novel, The Chance You Won’t Return, at Porter Square Books on Tuesday, April 29th, at 7:00 pm.

El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) will be celebrated on Wednesday, April 30th.

Local author Michelle Chalmers will lead a diversity workshop for children at the Boston Public Library main branch on Wednesday the 30th at 4:00 pm. The workshop includes a reading of Chalmers’s picture book The Skin on My Chin, discussion of diversity, and a craft activity.

On Wednesday the 30th at 7:00 pm, The School for Good and Evil #2: A World without Princes author Soman Chainani will discuss fairy tales and literature with fairy tale/folklore scholar Maria Tatar and Wicked author Gregory Maguire at the Harvard Coop.

Do you have the inside scoop on more upcoming Boston area children’s book–related events? Let us know in the comments or email cbb@hbook.com.

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14. Night of Cake & Puppets

taylor night of cake and puppets Night of Cake & PuppetsThe last book in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Dreams of Gods & Monsters, publishes today. In honor of that occasion — and in case you need something to tide you over (and excite you further) until you can get your copy of Dreams — here’s a review of Taylor’s digital original Night of Cake & Puppets (Little, Brown, November 2013).

Laini Taylor’s YA fantasy trilogy Daughter of Smoke & Bone focuses on a never-ending war between chimaera and seraphim in the world of Eretz and the fraught relationship between a chimaera resurrectionist, Karou, and her star-crossed love interest, Akiva, a seraphim soldier. E-novella Night of Cake & Puppets takes place between the first two novels and focuses on two secondary characters, Karou’s best friend Zuzana and her love interest, “violin boy” Mik. This is the story of their meet-cute in Prague, and fans of this couple will relish a closer look at the beginning of their decidedly unstar-crossed relationship. While book two, Days of Blood and Starlight, does reference how Zuzana and Mik became a couple, Night provides all the details from that fateful evening.

Zuzana has had a crush on Mik for three months, but has up until now been too bashful to even talk to him — she doesn’t even know if he knows she exists. Zuzana finally takes the initiative one night at the theater where they both work on the weekends to enact her intricate plan for them to meet. She leaves a treasure map in his violin case in hopes that he’ll follow it to the locations where she’s left objects and clues for him to find. The treasure at the end of his hunt? Zuzana. Mik has a few tricks up his sleeve to surprise Zuzana, too.

As always, Taylor’s lush descriptive language paints a vivid picture for readers, and series fans will be happy to see familiar characters and settings. While Karou herself is not present in the novella, her humorous texts offer support to Zuzana. Karou’s ex Kaz makes an entertaining (unwanted) appearance. The story alternates between Zuzana and Mik’s perspectives, and their endearing insecurities allow their lovable personalities to shine. It’s a night full of puppets, magic, cake, music, and the hope of romance. While readers of the novels already know there will be a happy outcome to this story, the inherent anticipation during its unfolding makes the novella a satisfying page-turner. Carpe noctem!

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15. Earl Martin Phalen interviews Walter Dean Myers

myers walter Earl Martin Phalen interviews Walter Dean Myers

Photo by Constance Myers

On a visit with our downstairs neighbors Reach Out and Read, I learned that their CEO Earl Martin Phalen blogs for The Huffington Post on the topics of early education, literacy, and parenting.

Phalen recently interviewed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Walter Dean Myers about literacy and his ambassadorial platform “Reading is not an option.” One of my favorite moments:

I was raised in a foster home and my mom was not a wonderful reader—she could read with her finger tracing the words. She would read with me maybe three days a week. I looked forward to that time—it was just mom and me. I wasn’t conscious of learning anything—I was just sharing the time with her. And eventually by the time I was four I was picking up words because she was reading primarily True Romance magazines. By the time I was five, I could sit there and read to her. And it was not something that I was formally learning or she was formally teaching me. It was just the time that we spent and shared together. . . . What I’m seeing is that many of the parents think you have to be a really good reader to teach your child. And that’s not true.

Read the abridged interview or listen to it in its entirety here.

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16. 2012 Mind the Gap Awards

mindthegap2012 2012 Mind the Gap Awards

Most likely to haunt award committees Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann
Better luck next time Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke,
illustrated by Lauren Tobia
Tragic and tragically overlooked America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell by Don Brown
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance
of Amelia Earhart
by Candace Fleming
The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf
Best Cold War book left out in the cold Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet
Best year-round Christmas book
(think of the money you’ll save!)
The Money We’ll Save by Brock Cole
Science made simple (youngest) Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes
Science made simple (oldest) Feynman by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Leland Myrick
Best animal survival stories Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Vicky White
Naamah and the Ark at Night by Susan
Campbell Bartoletti, illustrated by Holly Meade
Best human survival stories Bluefish by Pat Schmatz
Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
Best swamp survival stories Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story
by Thomas F. Yezerski
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Batteries not required Press Here by Hervé Tullet

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17. Mini Grey on Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey

grey tractionmanbeach 170x194 Mini Grey on Traction Man and the Beach OdysseyFrom the May/June 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine:
Reviewer Christine Hepperman asks Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey author/illustrator Mini Grey about a new favorite character. Read the full review of Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey here.

Christine M. Hepperman: Will Beach-Time Brenda reappear in future books, maybe headline a series of her own?

Mini Grey: Oooh—there’s an idea. Poor Brenda might have to wrestle with some undignified situations in the ordinary world, but perhaps save the day through the power of cocktail snacks, canapés, and optimism. I can see her battling household appliances and all sorts of other horrors and having to get very very dirty. But she’d need a sidekick—or could she share Scrubbing Brush?

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18. “My Favorite Newbery” matching game featuring Robin McKinley

74a4b042beed463593664345441434d414f4141 My Favorite Newbery matching game featuring Robin McKinleyRobin McKinley won the 1985 Newbery for her high fantasy The Hero and the Crown, in which Aerin, the outcast daughter of the king, battles the great dragon Maur. Can you guess which of these Newbery-winning books is the author’s favorite?

a) Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi (2003)
b) Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1990)
c) Smoky, the Cowhorse by Will James (1927)

This post is part of our ongoing game matching Newbery and Caldecott medalists to their favorite winning titles. To see more entries, click on the tag matching game.

Previously: Neil Gaiman, Erin E. Stead, Lois Lowry, Linda Sue Park, Beth Krommes, Susan Cooper, Jerry Pinkney, Paul O. Zelinsky, Russell Freedman, Sharon Creech, and Emily Arnold McCully.

Coming soon: David Wiesner and Laura Amy Schlitz.

gameshow 500x341 My Favorite Newbery matching game featuring Robin McKinley

Illustration by Devon Johnson

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19. Medalist matching game round-up

gameshow 500x341 Medalist matching game round up

Illustration by Devon Johnson

For our July/August 2012 special awards issue, The Horn Book Magazine asked Newbery and Caldecott Medalists to write about their favorite winning books. On Out of the Box we challenged readers to match each author or illustrator to his or her choice. We’ve collected all the entries here in case you missed any.

For each author or illustrator below, you’re given three possible favorite titles. Click on the correct one and you’ll see that person’s writing about his or her fave; click on the other choices for surprises from The Horn Book.

Neil Gaiman, Newbery Medalist for The Graveyard Book (2009)
a) Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (2012)
b) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1963)
c) When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2010)

Erin E. Stead, Caldecott Medalist for A Sick Day for Amos McGee (2011)
a) Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (1970)
b) A Tree Is Nice written by Janice Udry and illustrated by Marc Simont (1957)
c) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1963)

Lois Lowry, Newbery Medalist for Number the Stars (1990) and The Giver (1994)
a) Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz (2008)
b) The Grey King [The Dark Is Rising Sequence] by Susan Cooper (1976)
c) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2009)

Linda Sue Park, Newbery Medalist for A Single Shard (2002)
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20. Review editing punchiness

cordially uninvited Review editing punchinessWe are down to the wire at the Horn Book Guide, madly trying to finish editing reviews for the fall 2012 issue (due out in October) for an early August deadline. In other words, we are punchy. When we noticed the name of the eleven-year-old main character of Cordially Uninvited, Jennifer Roy’s ripped-from-People-magazine-headlines novel about a royal wedding, we had to laugh. Claire Gross, former associate editor for The Horn Book Magazine, current Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois, herself a bride-to-be, is also a bridesmaid at the prince of England’s wedding? We always knew how brilliant she is, but she had no idea she was so versatile. If anyone can do it, our Claire Gross can.

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21. Roxie’s Doors app review

roxies doors menu Roxies Doors app review“Lift the flaps and step through doors into wonderful worlds that you can explore. Open the door to a fantasy — imagination is your key!” Welcome to Roxie’s Doors (OCG Studios and Roxie Munro, 2011), an interactive lift-the-flap search-and-find app based on author/illustrator Roxie Munro’s 2004 picture book Doors.

The rhyming text (with optional narration by either Roxie herself or male narrator Dirk Kennedy) guides readers through nine doors leading into a firehouse, train car, horse stable, doctor’s office, sailboat, refrigerator door, car repair shop, backstage at a theater, and a spaceship.

Text on the left-hand side of each screen contains five to nine words highlighted in bold red font to indicate objects (including a hat and an apple on every page) to look for behind the door on the right-hand side: “When you’re hungry and want a treat, open this door for good things to eat. Search for some meat and dessert that you freeze. Find bread and butter, eggs, milk and cheese. Explore this space for leftover stew. And look for a hat and an apple, too.” Tapping opens the initial door; opens other, smaller doors within the revealed room; closes doors; and moves objects.

 Roxies Doors app review

When you’ve touched something the text asked you to find, the image is highlighted, a ding sounds, and the red word turns green, making this app a great word/image association learning tool. The text on the left-hand side is usually still visible once you open the main door as a reference to objects you still need to find. Touch the arrows at the bottom corners to move backward and forward through the app; a pull-down menu at the top of every screen also allows you to jump to different pages within the app and turn the narration and sound on and off.

The text on the first nine screens is only minimally narrative, but at app’s end waits “a door of a different kind — to fantastic worlds that will open your mind”: a book that tells the story of a “big day” in a medieval kingdom. Find a crying baby in one room of a castle, a princess in a tower room, a queen missing her king, and so on through a knight’s battle with a dragon and a jousting tournament. Unlike the app’s other sections, the story does not progress until you find each red-highlighted item or person mentioned; not every object to locate is hidden behind a door. But by this point in the app, you are (hopefully) an expert object-finder able to move the story briskly along.

 Roxies Doors app review

My only minor complaint: with text taking up half of the screen, it’s hard to see all the objects inside some of the rooms (for instance, in the wide-view fire station scene versus in the close-up fridge). While this does add to the challenge of finding all the hidden objects, I found it much easier to navigate the castle story at the end because the scene filled the entire screen, with text popping up on scrolls in unobtrusive portions of the illustration.

This enjoyable app offers young children a combination of two things they love in books: lift-the-flaps and search-and-find. Available for iPad (requires iOS 5.0 or later); $2.99.

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22. The wave of the future?

“What is it?”

“It looks like a Disney princess movie!”

“It sounds like a Planet Earth episode.”

Well, not exactly, but not far off the mark, either.

Disney and author Jennifer Donnelly (A Northern Light, Revolution) are collaborating on a multimedia fantasy project set to debut in early May. The WaterFire saga is projected to include four novels, an enhanced e-book, a theme song, and an extensive website with video clips — in short, a franchise on a Disney-sized scale.

What we actually received, inspiring oohing and ahhing as well as the comments above, is a nifty little gadget created by PIM, or Printings in Motion.

photo 1 The wave of the future?

Imagine a BLAD with marketing specs on the back — and inside, an embedded screen about the size of an iPhone’s. Open the cover and video begins playing: Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live a people of the water…

photo 2 The wave of the future?

Buttons allow you to select between a book trailer and a “making of” short. It even came with a USB cord to charge it and/or play the videos on your computer screen.

donnelly deep blue The wave of the future?Series-opener Deep Blue begins with Mediterranean Sea mermaid princess Serafina’s prophetic nightmares on the eve of her wedding. As the books go on, several mermaid princesses from other regions will be introduced as they fight together to protect merfolk from an “ancient evil” and impending war. In the making-of video, Donnelly says that Disney sent her a “comprehensive mermaid bible” about the characters and their cultures; she expanded upon their sketches and outlines as she wrote. It’s a bit disconcerting to think of well-respected author Donnelly taking so much direction from Disney.

PIM’s other clients include Yahoo!, HP, and Heineken. Will publishers — and presumably film studios, app developers, etc. — without The Mouse’s or Mercedes-Benz’s global reach be able to afford this technology to market their products? (As Roger exclaimed, “Good lord, how much did this cost?”) Is PIM the Next Big Thing in marketing, or a flash-in-the-pan fad?

Perhaps more importantly: is this PIM marketing ploy a little too much? And will the WaterFire books — with their clear Disney stamp — live up to it? Only time will tell.

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23. Byron Barton on My Bus

byron barton Byron Barton on My BusIn the March/April 2014 Horn Book Magazine, reviewer K. T. Horning asked author/illustrator Byron Barton about My Bus, his latest transportation celebration. Read the starred review here.

K. T. Horning: Joe from My Bus and Sam from My Car (Greenwillow, 2001) seem to lead parallel lives. And yet Joe’s passengers are animals and Sam’s are people. Do they reside in the same town, or even the same universe?

Byron Barton: Joe and Sam live in neighboring communities. They have different bus routes. The area has changed somewhat over time, but it is only by chance that, on one day, Joe had only cats and dogs for passengers. On another day and another bus route Joe or Sam could have chickens, pigs, or people on his bus. They all love to ride on buses, cars, trains, boats, and planes.

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24. Lazoo Zoo! app review

lazoo zoo menu Lazoo Zoo! app reviewIt’s always time to feed the animals at Lazoo Zoo! (2013). Move from habitat to habitat dishing out all sorts of delicious foods — from reasonable fare such as bananas and grapes to more ridiculous entrees such as burgers, birthday cake, and even a saxophone — to a motley crew of eleven animal residents.

The food dispenser comes equipped with fruits and veggies; after several minutes of game play, hidden foods will begin to appear. Touch to add them to your collection. And if you don’t see your favorite food items on the menu, you can create them, or any other doodles, in the available paint shop using standard drawing tools and a nuanced color palette.

Be careful which foods you offer up, though: some animals are pickier than others. The monkey’s bib will clue you in to whatever snack he’s jonesing for, while the lion scratches outlines of his choices in the sand. They have no qualms rejecting what’s been given to them.

lazoo zoo lion Lazoo Zoo! app review

Other animals incorporate parts of their latest meal into their physical features. The chameleon changes colors. The giraffe’s spots change depending on what he’s eating. And when the monkey gets too full, he grows a colorful coiffure. For extra giggles, take a chance and feed the tiny bird at the edge of the pool a few times. See what happens.

The animation offers some funny surprises and silly sound effects, both of which keep things interesting and fresh. The characters and brightly colored settings are kid-friendly and inviting.

The app is more activity than linear narrative, and with neither text nor audio instructions to speak of, it’s best just to click around until you get the hang of it. There are five fanciful play areas to explore, and once you’ve doodled a bit, you’ll start to notice your own artwork peppering the posters on the zoo walls. While our iPad 1 doesn’t support the photo booth feature, later models will allow you to take photos with the animals of your choice. Delightful gameplay best suited for users ages two and up.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch (requires iOS 5.1 or later); free.

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25. March Notes

March Notes is here! This month, look for five questions for queen of collage Lois Ehlert, plus

• picture book biographies about trailblazers
• preschool books about vehicles
• chapter books starring spirited heroines
• YA novels about boys on the edge


march 14 notes March Notes

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