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1. Sailor Twain

Sailor Twain

Mark Siegel, editorial director and founder of Macmillan’s graphic novel–only imprint First Second Books

also author/illustrator of Moving House

illustrator of several picture books (Seadogs by Lisa Wheeler, Long Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant) and another graphic novel for children (Boogie Knights by Lisa Wheeler)

my first introduction to Siegel was To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel, his wife Siena Cherson Siegel’s memoir of her experiences as a preprofessional student in the School of American Ballet.

With Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid in the Hudson (First Second, October 2012), Seigel

surreal magical realism

hefty graphic novel

Captain Twain, captain of a steamboat on the Hudson River, rescues a harpooned mermaid and nurses her back to health.

 

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2. Endless Spanish app review

endless spanish coverThe cute monsters from Originator‘s Endless Alphabet, Endless Reader, and Endless Numbers are back…en español! Endless Spanish (May 2015) follows much the same format as Endless Reader to teach basic Spanish vocabulary. There are two modes, “Spanish immersion” or “Spanish with English translation.”

Begin at A and work through the alphabet to Z, or start anywhere you like by choosing a letter from the main menu.

endless spanish menu

The narrator pronounces a word beginning with the selected letter as that word appears in lowercase. Los monstruos dash across the screen, scattering the letters; drag them into the correct order. As you drop each brightly patterned, monster-featured letter into place, the letter says its sound in a silly voice, followed by the narrator saying its name.

A sentence using the featured word in context (e.g., for amigo, ¡Los monstruos están muy contentos por tener un amigo nuevo!) appears and is read by the narrator. Then the featured word is knocked out of the sentence; it’s pronounced again as you place it correctly. One or two other Spanish sight words such as algo (something), bonito (pretty/nice), muy (very), and que (that), which are presumably included in additional letter packs, are highlighted in each phrase as well. The sentence is followed by a brief, humorous animation explicating both the word’s meaning and the gist of the sentence.

endless spanish animation

“The monsters are very happy to have a new friend!”

Tap to repeat the narrator’s pronunciation of the featured word or the contextual frase as many times as you’d like. In English-translation mode, the narrator gives you the English counterpart of the word/sentence, too.

The silly monsters and the funny situations they get themselves into introduce new vocabulary in an engaging way. Upbeat background music, sometimes with a bit of mariachi flavor, adds to the app’s friendly feel. I’ve been trying — and failing — to brush up on mi poquito de español; perhaps I’ll add Endless Spanish to my rotation of Spanish-language learning apps alongside Mango Languages and Duolingo. Endless Spanish is certainly more fun!

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.0 or later). The free preview gives you one word for each letter of the alphabet up through F: amigo (friend), bien (good/well), casa (house), dijo (said), encontró (found), and flor (flower). Additional words must be purchased separately ($4.99/pack). Recommended for preschool users and up.

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3. Book & Me | Comic #20

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4. Book & Me, Week 5

Book & Me by Charise Mericle HarperToday we posted the final entry (*sniff!*) in Charise Harper Mericle’s original comics “Book & Me.” We’re sad to bid farewell to irrepressible Book and his erstwhile creator, but I imagine them walking hand-in-hand into the sunset, ready for their next bookish adventure.

If you’re not ready to say goodbye, why not start over from comic #1? I bet Book is a big believer in rereading.

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5. Save the date! June kidlit events

Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos

June is a busy, busy, busy month for children’s book aficionados in and around Boston (pretty close to an event a day — whew!) Here are some events you definitely won’t want to miss:

  • NE-SCBWI hosts author Nancy Werlin for a revision workshop entitled “Less is More: Artful Cutting and Shaping” on Sunday, June 7th, from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Workshop registration is $30 for SCBWI members, $40 for nonmembers.
  • Somewhat tangential to kids’ books, but certainly of interest: Lev Grossman and Gregory Maguire will discuss Grossman’s final Magicians trilogy entry, The Magician’s Land, at the Brattle Theater at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, June 10th. Tickets for the event, which is hosted by Harvard Book Store, are $5.
  • Worth the drive: the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference takes place at Manhattan College in Riverdale, NY on the weekend of June 12th–14th. Registration is $440.
  • At 1:00 pm on Sunday, June 14th, at The Carle Musuem, Caldecott winner David Macaulay will discuss his work in honor of the museum’s new exhibit “Gray Matter: David Macaulay’s Black and White.” The presentation is free with museum admission; book signing to follow. 1 PDP.
  • Children’s Books Boston will hold our second annual Wicked Boston Children’s Books Trivia Night — hosted by the incomparable Jack Gantos — at 5:30 pm Monday, June 15th, at M. J. O’Connor’s. We are currently at capacity but accepting names for the waitlist. $10 (cash only, please) at the door.
  • Boston Book Festival launches its latest project, Hubbub: Creative Commotion for Kids, on Saturday, June 20th, in Copley Square. The festival is free and will feature a range of events and activities (author meet-and-greets! storytimes! music! puppet shows!) for kids of all ages.
  • Again, not strictly a children’s book event (but who cares?): Judy Bloom will discuss her brand-new adult book, In the Unlikely Event, with Tom Ashbrook at the Coolidge Corner Theater at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, June 24th. The event is hosted by Brookline Booksmith; tickets are $5.

See our monthly events calendar for all events and more details. Have a local event you’d like to see listed? Email the info to cbb (at) hbook.com.

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6. Crêpes by Suzette app review

crepes menu Oh là là! App Crêpes by Suzette (May 2015), based on the picture book of the same name by Monica Wellington, features a crêpe maker — aptly named Suzette! — peddling her wares across Paris. After first stopping at an outdoor market for the day’s ingredients, she pushes her crêpe cart through town; a map shows the spots along her route (the Luxembourg and Tuileries gardens, Notre-Dame, the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, etc.). The simple story (which can be read aloud or by yourself, and in six different languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Japanese, Italian) incorporates at least one French word or phrase into each scene: “Outside the museum the artist wants a snack, tout de suite. Time to flip the crêpe!” Tap the characters (including, on this page, the Mona Lisa and a mouse and squirrel) to hear different voices cheerily pronounce the French phrase.

crepes postman

The accompanying pictures are collages of real-life photos of contemporary Paris; simply shaped drawings of Suzette and her amis; and French maps, newspapers (Le Figaro), stamps, etc. Allusions to French artwork (Dance by Matisse, The Bath by Cassatt, Three Musicians by Picasso) appear in the illustrations and are explained in an “Art” section accessible from the map icon at the top left of the screen. There’s also a “Vocabulary” tab, which shows translations of the target French phrase in all six languages, and additional photos and videos.

crepes map

Unobtrusive jazzy music (beaucoup de clarinet and accordion, with some strings at the Louvre — classy!), help set the scene. When you’re good and hungry, tap the “DIY Crepes” tab on the front page for a one-minute “Crêpe Maker’s Demo,” a 4.5-minute “Cooking Lesson” (in someone’s kitchen), and an easy written recipe. Bon mangé!

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 6.0 or later) and Android devices; $1.99. Recommended for primary users.

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7. Book & Me | Comic #4

Book & Me #4 by Charise Mericle Harper

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8. Marcia Brown, 1918-2015

brown_stonesoupWe were saddened to hear about the death of author-illustrator Marcia Brown this week at the age of ninety-six. The winner of three Caldecott Medals — for Cinderella in 1955, Once a Mouse in 1962, and Shadow in 1983 — she was also recognized with a whopping six Caldecott Honors (including her indelible Stone Soup in 1948). She was awarded the Regina Medal in 1977 and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1992.

Writings by and about Brown frequently appeared in The Horn Book Magazine. Here is a sampling:

“Distinction in Picture Books” by Marcia Brown (1949)

1955 Caldecott Medal Acceptance by Marcia Brown

“My Goals as an Illustrator” by Marcia Brown (1967)

Letter, with illustration, from Marcia Brown to Bertha Mahony Miller (undated)

“Marcia Brown and Her Books” by Alice Dalgliesh (1955 Caldecott Medal profile)

“From Caldecott to Caldecott” by Helen Adams Masten (1962 Caldecott Medal profile)

“Marcia Brown” by Janet A. Loranger (1983 Caldecott Medal profile)

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9. Book & Me | Comic #7

Book & Me #7 by Charise Mericle Harper

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10. Everybody wants to be Press Here

When Hervé Tullet‘s Press Here came out in 2011, reviewer Lolly Robinson wrote that its ingenious interactivity “gives the iPad a licking.” Following a similar no-screen-needed interactive model is this lovely pair of books:

matheson_tap the magic tree    matheson_touch the brightest star
Susan Dove Lempke wrote of Tap the Magic Tree in the January/February 2014 Horn Book Magazine, “Perhaps inspired by the very popular Press Here, this is winsome in its own right and stylishly designed.” Its more bedtime-oriented companion book, Touch the Brightest Star, is reviewed in our May/June issue.

Here are a few brand-new arrivals with Press Here–like directions to tap, shake, rub, and blow on the pages:

yoon_tap to play

glass_do you want to build a snowman

bird_there's a mouse hiding in this book
What’s that saying about “the sincerest form of flattery?” 😉

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11. May Notes

The May edition of Notes from the Horn Book is on its way! An interview with Last Stop on Market Street illustrator Christian Robinson kicks it off, followed by

  • more picture books celebrating grandmas
  • picture-book musician biographies
  • intermediate fantasy with a hint of creepiness
  • historical fiction for teens

may 2015 notes

Read the issue online or subscribe to receive the monthly Notes from the Horn Book newsletter — along with Nonfiction Notes and Talks with Roger — in your inbox. For more recommended books and interviews, check out the newsletter archives.

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12. Publisher Anita Eerdmans on Roger Is Reading a Book

roger is reading a bookIn our May/June 2015 issue, we asked publisher Anita Eerdmans about the bespectacled, bowtied — and strangely familiar-looking — protagonist of Roger Is Reading a Book. Read the review here.

Horn Book Editors: We’d like to know: Is that Roger our Roger?

Anita Eerdmans: Yes and no. In the original Dutch, the main character is called simply Neighbor (Buurman). One of our acquisitions team members objected to the impersonal nature of it and suggested we give Neighbor a name — maybe something alliterative with the title. Something like… “Roger.” Those of us who know Roger Sutton were immediately struck by the character’s uncanny likeness (bowtie and all). And so to our great delight, “Neighbor” became “Roger” (with thanks to the Belgian publisher, De Eenhoorn, who allowed the change).

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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13. Book & Me | Comic #19

bm19

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14. Ilyasah Shabazz on X

shabazz_xIn our May/June 2015 issue, reviewer Martha V. Parravano talks to author Ilyasah Shabazz about her approach to writing a novel about her father, Malcolm X. Read the starred review of X here.

Martha V. Parravano: Why did you choose to present the story of Malcolm X’s formative years as fiction, rather than nonfiction — and told in the first person, at that?

Ilyasah Shabazz: I wanted to write a book that portrays my father in the light my family remembers him. I chose fiction to illuminate the true spirit of Malcolm that a straight biography couldn’t possibly capture. I wrote X to show teens who may share my father’s feeling of rejection by society that circumstance does not determine destiny. Through passion and hard work, any young person can rise up and make a difference. Writing in the first person enabled me to take the reader inside Malcolm’s head to experience his journey from lost adolescent to human-rights icon as he did — through his own eyes.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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15. Review of Fiete: A Day on the Farm app

fiete on the farm menuIn Fiete: A Day on the Farm (German developer Ahoiii, December 2014), children help sailor Fiete — star of his own previous, self-titled app — and his farmer friends, Hein and Hinnerk, throughout their busy day. The home screen shows the three in a boat. The sky is blue, the hills are rolling, the birds are chirping. Entering the app, it’s early morning; there’s a lit lighthouse in the background, and the boat is gently rocking. Touch the large alarm clock icon and you’re taken to the sleeping men’s bedroom — it’s time to wake them up (their gentle snores are audible along with the ticking alarm clock and birds; it’s really quite peaceful). There are no instructions, so you have to figure out what to do. Swiping at each farmer a couple of times seems to do the trick — each wakes up smiling and ready to start the day. First task completed!

You’re taken back to the early-morning landscape where, swiping horizontally, the sun rises in the background and a rooster crows. The farmers are outside and on the dock (they give you a wave).

fiete on the farm dawn

Touch the rooster to complete the next task: gathering eggs. Swipe a hen to get her to stand up, then use your finger to guide the egg down into an outstretched farmer’s hand (if you miss, the egg falls, crack, but to no ill effect).

Next it’s activities such as virtually pulling carrots, shearing sheep (fun!), sawing a tree trunk with Fiete (really fun!), picking apples (and rescuing a cat from the apple tree), milking a cow (in all honesty, a little weird), and, finally, loading each of the items into its proper delivery truck at the end of the day before settling in around a campfire.

fiete on the farm sheep

There are no written instructions anywhere in this “intuitive interactive app,” but it’s pretty easy to get the hang of things. It’s all very low-key and low-stress; the sound effects are quiet nature noises, and background movement is generally of the gentle swaying-in-the-breeze variety. The visuals are all rounded shapes and subdued colors (until the glorious pink sunset); it looks like the digital equivalent of cut-paper collage, with a bit of European edge to keep things from being too sleepy and bucolic. Wherever Fiete goes next, digitally, little kids will likely want to follow.

Available for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch (requires iOS 4.3 or later), and Android devices; $2.99. Recommended for preschool users.

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16. Update: Francisco and Robert Jiménez School

jimenez_the circuitBack in February I interviewed my mom Gretchen, who’s an instructional aide in Southern California’s Santa Maria–Bonita School District, about her campaign to name the district’s newest elementary school in honor of Dr. Francisco Jiménez. Dr. Jiménez is an author, recipient of a 1998 BGHB Award, and an alum of the area’s schools. And, as he has poignantly chronicled in his book The Circuit and its sequels, he was a migrant farmworker child, like many of the district’s current students.

Who better, my mother asks, to recognize as a champion for these children than someone who has walked in their shoes?

Last night the school board’s naming committee met to hear spoken arguments for the three names on the short list of proposals, narrowed down from about eighty. The nomination for Dr. Jimenéz was combined with that for his late brother, Robert Jiménez — who also attended SMBSD schools and was a beloved employee of the district for decades. Bill Libbon worked with the Santa Maria Boys and Girls Club for forty years and recently retired from his position as its executive director. Santa Maria police officer Mark Riddering, who died of ALS in 2008, was instrumental in bringing the D.A.R.E. drug prevention program to Santa Maria schools. Choosing which of these influential community members to honor must have been difficult, but ultimately the committee unanimously voted to christen the new elementary school “Francisco and Robert Jiménez School.” The school will open in August.

Given that the school will have a dual immersion English/Spanish program, it seems especially fitting to name it after the Jiménez brothers. As Spanish speakers in English-only schools, and with their education spotty due to their many moves, their English bilingualism was hard-won.

It’s also good timing to celebrate both brothers, honoring the memory of Robert Jiménez (who passed away in December) and the literary accomplishments of Francisco Jiménez (whose fourth memoir series entry, Taking Hold, pubbed last week.)

Congratulations to the Jiménez family!

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17. T for two

Reading through the fiction reviews section of the May/June Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Transformations, I’m struck by the sudden urge for tea. One lump or two, protagonists?

teacup_dots

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff: “I didn’t do it on purpose, obviously,” says twelve-year-old Trent Zimmerman. “Kill Jared Richards, I mean.”

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge: “Eleven-year-old Triss Crescent wakes up confused after a terrifying accident.”

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman: “Twig Fowler and her mother keep to themselves so that their neighbors in Sidwell, Massachusetts, won’t discover their secret.”

Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt: “On the first day of school, September 1, 1948, eleven-year-old Tate P. Ellerbee learns that her class will be writing to pen pals.”

Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr: “Young narrator Trille’s best friend is his next-door neighbor, Lena, almost nine, perhaps best described as a more-realistic Pippi Longstocking.”

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente: “He lives an unhappy, bewildered life as ‘Thomas’ until Tamburlaine, a fellow Changeling, reveals her magical abilities and encourages him to find his own.”

t logo

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18. Happy Earth Day!

schrefer_endangered199x300It’s Earth Day! To celebrate, we’ve updated our Earth Day reading list with new books about the beauty of our world and ways to help protect it, all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine. Check ‘em out, then let us know what you’re reading today in the comments.

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19. WWF Together app review

wwf together menuWith Earth Day‘s 45th anniversary celebration yesterday, it seems a good time to review the World Wildlife Fund’s lovely awareness-raising app WWF Together (2013).

The app introduces sixteen endangered species from around the world, each characterized with a quality emphasizing its uniqueness: e.g., panda (“charisma”), elephant (“intelligence”), marine turtle (“longevity”), tiger (“solitude”). Each animal receives its own interactive “story,” comprised of stats (population numbers in the wild; habitat; weight and length; and “distance from you,” the user, if you enabled your iPad’s location services), spectacular high-def photos, information on threats to its survival, and conservation efforts (particularly WWF’s). Tap an info icon at a photo’s bottom corner to trigger a related pop-up fact — did you know gorillas live in stable family groups, or that bison have been around since the ice age? Many of the stories also include “facetime” (close-up videos with narration) and/or educational activities. At the conclusion of each animal’s section is an opportunity to share it via email or social media and to explore symbolic adoption options.

wwf jaguar menu

wwf together jaguar stats

In addition to truly gorgeous photographs and video of these endangered animals, a cool animated-origami design element illustrates the text throughout. Disappointingly, every time I tried to access the (real-life) origami folding instructions from the app, it crashed — which may well be the fault of our iPad. But they’re easy enough to find and download (for free, although email registration is required) on WWF’s website.

From an unobtrusive menu along the left side, you can access a globe — also with a “folded paper” look — which shows locations of all of the featured species for a global perspective and supplies information on additional endangered species. A news section frequently updates the app with current information. Soothing acoustic music by Copilot rounds out this informative and moving app.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 6.0 or later) and Android devices; free. Recommended for intermediate users and up.

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20. Spring has sprung (at last!)

In Boston we’re still having as many chilly days as nice ones, but spring is indisputably (finally) here… and the the winter of our public transit discontent is a distant-ish memory. (The MBTA kindly gave free rides all day Friday to thank passengers for their patience during the winter. For more on that mess, see Shoshana’s hilarious Bostonian dystopia, “Diverted.”)

Two more signs of spring spotted near our office:

geese

geese (and the ubiquitous goose poop) in the Simmons quad

sailboats on the charles

sailboats on the Charles River

Here are all of our “signs of springtime” posts (with recommended books):

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21. Not-so-new New Yorkers

I know this is not news, but, boy, there are a lot of New Yorker covers lately that were done by people (men) who are also illustrators. (Because my husband never throws them away, we’ve got a lot lying around.) Here’s an array.

(Top) Kadir Nelson and Harry Bliss; (Bottom) Christoph Niemann and Liniers.

(Top) Kadir Nelson and Harry Bliss; (Bottom) Christoph Niemann and Liniers.

Three covers by Barry Blitt.

Three covers by Barry Blitt.

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22. Signs of springtime: construction

A late addition to our “signs of springtime” list: ’tis the season for construction!

construction

This is right near our office on The Fenway, but cranes are popping up like crocuses all over Boston.

Here are some recent construction books for preschool- and early primary-aged kids (particularly vehicle-obsessed ones!), recommended by The Horn Book Magazine.

building our houseJonathan Bean draws on his childhood memories to demonstrate the process of one family building its own house in his 2013 BGHB Picture Book Award–winning Building Our House. A little girl narrates the engaging and warm account; the steps are broken down into captions for half-page panels, while moments of greater import, such as setting the corners for the foundation, receive full- and double-page spreads. Family and friends make not just a house but a cozy home. (Farrar, 2013)

dotlich_what can a crane pick upWhat can a crane pick up? According to Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s What Can a Crane Pick Up?, anything and everything. Dotlich’s energetic, smoothly rhyming text is well matched with Lowery’s childlike mixed-media illustrations. The images of happy, friendly-looking machines (and animals, planets, and underpants) are irresistible; the playful hand-lettered verse is full of silly surprises. Mike Lowery’s subdued palette balances the wacky scenes of smiley cranes taking on the challenges. (Knopf, 2012)

fleming_bulldozer's big dayOn his “big day,” Bulldozer practically flies across the construction site; he can’t wait to invite all his friends to his party. He starts with Digger: “Guess what today is!” But everyone appears too preoccupied with work to guess the answer to Bulldozer’s question. Poor Bulldozer: “‘No games.’ He sniffed. ‘No friends. No party.’” Of course, there is a party; everyone has secretly been working on constructing a giant birthday cake, which Crane hoists up, candles blazing. Birthday surprises, cake, and construction vehicles — little bulldozers will lift their blades up high for Candace Fleming and and Eric Rohmann’s Bulldozer’s Big Day. (Atheneum, 2015)

harper_go go go stopCharise Mericle Harper’s quirky Go! Go! Go! Stop! stars two traffic lights and a fleet of construction vehicles. Little Green shouts “GO!”, and Bulldozer, Dump Truck, Mixer, and friends get to work. But without a way to not go, things threaten to spiral out of control. Then a red “stranger” rolls onto the site, and disaster is averted — eventually. Harper’s action-packed illustrations feature cheerful trucks in colorful cartoonlike scenes. Lively dialogue adds to the storytime fun. (Knopf, 3–6 years)

low_machines go to workIn Machines Go to Work by William Low, each of six small vignettes introduces one or two machines (e.g., TV news helicopter); pose a question (“Is there an accident ahead?”); and, through foldout flaps, offers a (reassuring) answer (“No, a family of ducks is crossing the road”). This design, along with terrific sound effects, encourages listeners to join in. Digital art brightly colors each page with slightly impressionistic tones. (Holt, 2009)

machines go to work in the cityMachinery-loving preschoolers are first introduced to a particular situation involving vehicles, from a garbage truck to a tower crane to an airplane in companion Machines Go to Work in the City. What happens next? Lift a flap (which provides an extended scene of the problem at hand) and find out. Just as they did in Machines Go to Work, Low’s painterly illustrations display the drama and excitement of a bustling cityscape.

meshon_tools ruleA diligent T-square rallies its fellow tools to get to work building a shed in Aaron Meshon’s Tools Rule! One helpful illustration shows the tools, strewn about the lawn, but with captionlike arrows to identify what’s what. Meshon’s lively text is full of tool-centric wordplay; a detailed note describes his process for creating the digitally colored mixed-media illustrations of smiley tools with a can-do attitude. (Atheneum, 2014)

demolitionIn Sally Sutton’s Demolition, a demolition crew tears down an old building, sorts scraps of material, and hauls the debris off to make room for a new construction project, revealed at the end to be a playground. The rhyming text, full of onomatopoeia and muscular action words, captures the excitement and energy of big trucks hard at work. Brian Lovelock’s meticulous illustrations give the job site a suitably dusty patina. (Candlewick, 2012)

sutton_constructionSutton and Lovelock offer a builder’s-eye view of a construction project with Demolition companion Construction. The rhyming text’s onomatopoeia and action verbs capture the site’s sounds; cleanly rendered illustrations feature heavy machinery, tools, and men and women hard at work. Listeners will enjoy guessing what the new building will be before the reveal: “The library’s here for everyone. / Ready… / STEADY… / READ!” (Candlewick, 2014)

 

sturges_construction kitties_300x300Four indisputably cute overall-clad kitties don hard hats and hop into colorful earthmovers to dig, move, push, and smooth dirt at a construction site in Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges’s Construction Kitties. Shari Halpern’s irresistible gouache illustrations do the heavy lifting here, channeling Byron Barton’s style (strong black lines, rich hues) but with more subtlety of color. With its bold images and straightforward text, this book would make a good storytime choice.

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23. Solve the Outbreak app review

solve the outbreak menuWork your way up the Center for Disease Control’s ranks from trainee to master “disease detective” by uncovering the causes of disease outbreaks in Solve the Outbreak (CDC, 2013).

Every chapter presents background on a fictionalized outbreak and five clues, each followed by a multiple choice question to narrow down the outbreak’s source. The clues are supplemented with patient profiles and charts of data, notes on the diseases’ characteristics, tips for avoiding the featured disease, maps and stock photos, and clear definitions of unfamiliar terminology. After each chapter’s fifth Q&A, receive the “results” with your points and achievement badges — and hopefully a promotion! There’s also an opportunity to read about the real case(s) that inspired that chapter’s outbreak mystery.

As you investigate the cases, you’ll learn about specific diseases — culprits include E. coli, lead poisoning, West Nile Virus, Legionnaire’s disease, and norovirus — and their transmission as well as methods for tracking and containing outbreaks. The tone is light and engaging (e.g., snappy CSI-worthy chapter titles such as “Up Sick Creek” and “Connect the Spots”) without minimizing the dangers of disease epidemics or the importance of preventative measures.

solve the outbreak spring break

Earn a perfect score solving the twelve outbreak cases in level 1 (don’t worry; you can do-over as much as needed) to access the four cases in recently added level 2 and earn specialist honors.

A few of the Q&As are gimmes; here’s an example from “Midterm Revenge,” the case of college students with a stomach bug:

“What should you do now?

  • Tell the sick students to stop partying so hard and go to class
  • Keep the sick students in the same area until their symptoms are gone
  • Find out if others are sick as well”

But overall, the information is solid, the mysteries are satisfying, and the format promotes both critical thinking and understanding of the scientific method. An “About the CDC” section and interspersed links to the CDC’s website provide additional health tips and contextual information on the CDC’s mission and programs.

If (like me) you liked American Museum of Natural History’s The Power of Poison app, give this one a try. Solving the cases will have you feeling like legendary disease detective George Soper — or possibly just feeling a little more germophobic than before.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 6.0 or later), for Android devices, and on the web; free. Recommended for intermediate users and up.

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24. Book & Me | Comic #2

Book & Me #2 by Charise Mericle Harper

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25. Book & Me | Comic #3

bm3

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