Saturday, October 29, 2011

Truly creepy stories for older kids (ages 9 - 12)

My students clamor for really scary stories, especially at this time of the year. Here's the problem, though - I have never liked horror stories. I have a very active imagination and will get completely terrified by scary stories. So I have to be ready to recommend stories that I don't read. That being said, what better phrase to hook a student than to say, "This grossed me out - I couldn't read it." Coool! My librarian couldn't read this but I can!

My students love, love, love Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The original version with illustrations by Stephan Gammell are certainly gruesome and popular in our library. But our students are also enjoying the new edition with illustrations by Brett Helquist - these illustrations are a bit less macabre and nightmare-inducing. Schwartz's stories are short and accessible, perfect for hooking a reluctant reader. I especially like the way he includes notes at the end about the sources for each tale, noting the folktale and urban legends these scary stories come from.

If your kids like those creepy stories, but are ready for longer short stories, check out Robert San Souci's Haunted Houses - it definitely got under my skin. You’ll find ten tales of haunted houses in this collection by Robert San Souci, one of San Francisco’s great storytellers and folklore collectors. These stories are not for the faint-hearted or those prone to nightmares, but for kids looking for spine-tingling tales, this is your perfect find.

The newest addition to our school library is Chris Grabenstein's Haunted Mystery series. The early reviews are coming in and kids are loving it. They are grabbed by this series' blend of mystery, suspense and macabre humor. This series follows eleven year old Zack Jennings as he moves from New York City to Connecticut. Even in New York, Zack is sure that he can see things, strange things, around him. But in Connecticut, he must deal with ghosts left behind from previous times.

Here's the author's summary for the newest book in the series, The Black Heart Crypt:
"Halloween. Dressing up, eating candy, carving pumpkins, and going to parties.
Most kids' favorite night of the year.
Not Zack Jennings.
Zack knows that on Halloween, the veil separating the ghostly plane from the human world is very, very thin. Powerful spirits can cross over and do some serious mischief."
One interesting feature that teachers might want to know is that these books have reading levels of late 3rd grade, early 4th grade levels. So while they are creepy enough to draw in 5th and 6th graders, they are written with vocabulary and sentence structure that is accessible to reluctant readers.

At the moment, our students are debating whether these books need to be read in order to make sense. The Haunted Mystery books are:
  1. The Crossroads
  2. The Hanging Hill
  3. The Smoky Corridor
  4. The Black Heart Crypt

To get a sense of this series, take a look a this trailer for The Black Heart Crypt, book 4 in the Haunted Mystery series.

The review copy of Haunted Houses was kindly sent by Macmillan Books. The review copies of the Haunted Mysteries series was kindly sent by Random House Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Creepy Halloween fun! Picture books for kids who love to be scared silly! (ages 4 - 8)

Some kids love the delicious spine-tingling feeling of scary stories, while other kids want fun monster stories at Halloween time. Here are three picture books we've had fun sharing with our young children. Tomorrow I'll share the seriously scary stories our older children enjoy - come back if you dare!
Little Goblins Ten
by Pamela Jane
illustrated by Jane Manning
NY: HarperCollins, 2011
ages 3– 8
available at your local library, your favorite bookstore, or on Amazon
With a spooky twist on the classic nursery rhyme “Over in the Meadow,” Jane has created a perfect read-aloud for Halloween. Starting with “a mommy monster and her little monster one,” Jane keeps the wonderful rhythm and rhyme key to a good nursery rhyme, full of rich vocabulary and alliteration. You’ll have fun counting the 10 little goblins hiding, growling and cavorting in their forest home. Jane Manning’s illustrations are deliciously creepy, and yet fun enough not to be really scary. “‘Trick or treat?’ asked the mommy; / Treat!’ cried the one. / So they skipped off together / For some Halloween fun!”
When A Monster Is Born
by Sean Taylor
illustrated Nick Sharratt
NY: Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan, 2007
ages 4–8
available at your local library, your favorite bookstore, or on Amazon 
When a monster is born, this book tells young readers, “there are two possibilities—either it’s a FARAWAY-IN-THE-FORESTS monster, or it’s an UNDER-YOUR-BED monster” And so starts this very funny monster tale, with each page posing new alternatives. “If it’s a FARAWAY-IN-THE-FORESTS monster, that’s that. But if it’s an UNDER-YOUR-BED monster, there are two possibilities.” Young kids will soon figure out the pattern, as the book follows what happens if the monster is under your bed, comes to school, eats the principal and wanders through the town. The artwork is full of bright neon colors featuring furry, round monsters on black backgrounds, giving it a modern look that emphasizes the humor of the story. Taylor’s predictable pattern will engage kids as they chant with you, “That’s that.” Here is a fun preview to give you a sense of this creative story:

In The Haunted House
by Eve Bunting
illustrated by Susan Meddaugh
NY: Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ©1990
ages 4–8
preview available on Google Books
available at your local library, your favorite bookstore, or on Amazon
For kids who love the thrill of the scare, In The Haunted House is a great story that revels in the delicious spine-tingling feel of a good fright. With creepy rhymes that are perfect for reading aloud, Bunting follows two pairs of feet through a haunted house.
“Who’s in the closet, dark as a tomb
Rattling his bones in the gloom-gloomy-gloom?” 
As the feet run from room to room, they discover frightful surprises at each turn. The suspense is deliciously creepy, but never too scary. Meddaugh’s illustrations also create a perfect balance for young readers, lending a silly note to some of the hair-raising creatures. The twist comes at the end, as readers discover which pair of feet (big or small) was really scared. This Halloween book will surely prompt giggles and gasps.

The review copies came from our local library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick: an amazing blend of words and pictures (ages 9 - 12)

I absolutely love reading aloud to students - seeing them on the edge of their seats, watching their eyes light up with the "ah-ha" moments, pausing and letting them think about what's happening or pull pieces of a story together, giving them time to talk to partners about what's happening. It's a magical time of our day. We are reading Wonderstruck right now - Brian Selznick's newest book, an absolutely amazing blend of words and pictures. This would make a wonderful book to read together as a family - there is so much to talk about, share and - really, just revel in the wonder of his story.
by Brian Selznick
NY: Scholastic, 2011
ages 9 - 12
nominated for 2011 Cybils award, graphic novel
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or Amazon
Wonderstruck tells two stories, one in words and a completely different one in pictures. Ben and Rose are two young people, each searching for themselves, trying to figure out who they are, where they belong. Ben's story is told through words, as the readers follow him from his home in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota to New York City in search of his father. Ben lost his mother to a car accident earlier this year, and he never knew his father. After Ben uncovers clues that might lead him to discover his father, he sets off on a quest. Ben is deaf in one ear, but when he is making a phone call to try to track down his father, lightning strikes the telephone line and Ben is made completely deaf. His search through New York City is fraught with difficulties as he tries to navigate this confusing world without his hearing.

Rose's story is told completely through pictures. Readers have to look at each picture, thinking about what information you can put together about Rose's story. Rose is completely deaf, and so her story is silent but full of emotion and visual details - much as her world would have been. Rose is also searching for herself, trying to connect with her distant mother, trying to find her place in the world.

I knew this would be a wonderful story to read aloud with students, because I wanted to share Brian Selznick's innovative storytelling style. We have to read the pictures as carefully as the text. The first time I read this story, I felt a bit off-balance as I had to work hard to piece together the different parts of the story, especially with Rose's story. We've talked about this in class - readers have to work to infer a lot of information, reading between the lines, as it were. Authors don't always tell you straight out everything that happens - you have to figure it out by putting together clues. For example, my daughter figured out early in Rose's story that her name was Rose because there was a birthday card taped to her bedroom wall with "Happy Birthday Rose" written on it. I didn't notice that card, and it took me half of the book to figure out Rose's name! Another student noticed that she has a rose barrette in her hair. Ben's story, too, involves many flashbacks as Ben remembers times with his mother. Selznick's storytelling makes readers think. While this is challenging, my students are hooked and can't wait to find out what happens next.

Some students are fascinated by the idea of collecting things, how their collections of rocks or Pokemon cards is really the same form of collecting that a museum curator does as she or he puts together a natural history or art collection. Other students are fascinated by Rose and Ben's searches for their parents, by their feeling alone in the world. Other students are fascinated by Selznick's visual storytelling, looking for clues and connections between the pictures. I'm fascinated by that sense of wonder and awe we can have, what causes it, how to relish it and honor it.

Brian Selznick is promoting this book throughout the country. He's already visited many schools, libraries and bookstores. We'll be seeing him in Alameda, CA this week and can't wait. To see if he's coming to a town near you, check the Wonderstruck website for tour information.

You can get a sense of Wonderstruck from this book trailer:

Listen to a review and interview with Brian Selznick on National Public Radio. I adore hearing Selznick read aloud some of the story.

Read reviews at 100 Scope Notes and at Educating Alice.

The review copy was kindly sent by Scholastic Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Phantom Tollbooth: 50th Anniversary (ages 9 - 12)

A few books stand out to me from my childhood - books that were rafts I sailed on in my imagination, journeying from place to place, carrying me away from all my cares and worries. A Phantom Tollbooth brought me so much joy as I journeyed with Milo and his trusty watchdog Tock. I loved the wordplay, the thinking, the puns, the secret jokes I could figure out. Tonight, I started reading this with my 10 year old and it brought me right back to that sense of joy I had as a child.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Phantom Tollbooth. Random House is publishing a wonderful anniversary edition of this classic book, including new brief essays from authors, educators and artists such as Philip Pullman, Suzanne Collins, Jeanne Birdsall, Mo Willems, and more.
The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition
by Norton Juster
illustrated by Jules Feiffer
NY: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2011
to be published October 25, 2011
ages 9 - 12
available at your local library, favorite bookstore, and on Amazon
Filmmaker Hannah Jayanti is making a documentary film about this amazing book: The Phantom Tollbooth Turns 50. Jayanti's project is being funded in part through Kickstarter, a fundraising website that I first heard about through Greg Pincus of The Happy Accident. Watch this trailer and see how it brings you right back to reading The Phantom Tollbooth:

The Phantom Tollbooth Turns 50 - Documentary Trailer from Phantom Tollbooth Documentary on Vimeo.

From the Kickster website, here's a description of the project:
"The Phantom Tollbooth turns 50 this year, and we've joined Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer, Milo and Tock, and a host of authors, critics, teachers and kids - to celebrate the classic 1961 children's book, by making the definitive documentary film about this beloved work of the American imagination. Check out for more info."

With conversations - and banter - from Norton and Jules, this documentary explores the educational, political and linguistic back-story and lasting impact of “one of the great works of fantasy in American Literature” (Leonard S Marcus, author of The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth).

We follow Norton and Jules as they return to the house in Brooklyn Heights where Norton began writing a little story "to get his mind off of what he had to do." Working as an architect, Norton was awarded a grant for a book on Urban Perception, which he promptly didn't write. Instead, he created Milo. When he showed his notes to his neighbor, a young political cartoonist bent on overthrowing the government, Jules began sketching – and The Phantom Tollbooth was born.
The Phantom Tollbooth helped me escape into my own imagination, stirred in me a love of language, and embeded in my soul the sense that books can challenge us to think while they lead us on improbable, delightful journeys. I am so grateful that it is finally my time to share this with my daughter. I was one happy mom tonight reading about Milo, Tock, the Whether Man, the Doldrums as Milo sets off in his little car.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Evaluating Book Apps for Children: Pacing and Chunking (part 4 in a mini-series)

As I watch young children read, I am struck by the importance of pacing of book apps. One of the wonderful features of picture books is that we look at them one page at a time. This article will focus on the effect pacing and chunking has on book apps. For other articles in this series, please see Evaluating Book Apps for Children: Part One in a Miniseries.

The best picture book authors and illustrators pay special attention to the way we focus on a page, and how the drama can be heightened by the turning of a page. This is particularly true of picture book apps. Successful book apps do not simply take what is on one written page and put it all on one screen. Printed picture books were kept to 32 or 40 page limits for cost and practicality. But book apps have much more flexibility, and can chunk information with thought and care.

Book apps have taken different approaches to chunking and pacing their books. The Dr. Seuss apps from Oceanhouse Media show just a few lines from a page and zoom in on one part of the artwork. Those familiar with iMovie know this is called the Ken Burns Effect. But this is really often how we read stories - reading a few lines and looking at the pictures that go with those words. When you swipe to the next page of the app, you zoom to another part of the same page in the print book and read another chunk. By doing this, the reader actually controls the pacing of the story, going only as quickly through the story as they are ready to absorb.

One of our current favorites, given the Halloween preparations, is What Was I Scared Of? based on Dr. Seuss's book of the same name (also available at your library). As you can see from the screenshot below, chunking the text allows the words in the app to be much larger than if all of the words from the original page were included.

A Present for Milo, another excellent app for preschoolers, lets young users control the pacing as they discover hidden surprises in the illustrations. Milo the cat chases a little mouse throughout the house: across the living room, along the piano keys, up and down stairs, into the kitchen and through a playroom tunnel to a surprise at the end. On each page, there are just a few words in bold, large letters. While young preschoolers may not be reading these words, the fact that the words only appear as they are spoken helps young children associate the words they hear with the letters and printed words they see. The slow pacing and chunking helps young readers absorb all these different things going on. The pitch-perfect pacing is one of the reasons this app is so successful.

It's interesting to note that the pacing of A Present for Milo also includes the activation of the animated features. As Digital Storytime notes in its 5-star review, "This delightful interactivity is enhanced by animation that doesn't steal the show. This is particularly nice in a title for the very young and makes this book an excellent substitute for toddler board books. The interactive elements also only play one at a time, helping to make an otherwise stimulating title just right for little readers." By controlling the pacing of the animated features, developers prevent preschoolers from tapping everything in site and becoming over-stimulated. Each feature must finish its actions before the app will respond to the next touch. This helps train young app readers to tap and watch, delaying the tapping until they finish watching what happens.

How are your children responding to book apps? Which ones work well and why? It's fascinating to watch this new media develop, and consider the factors that make these stories work well for children.

For other articles in this series, please see Evaluating Book Apps for Children: Part One in a Miniseries.

We purchased the review copy of What Was I Scared Of? during the Halloween sale (currently only $0.99). The review copy of A Present for Milo was kindly sent by the developers, Ruckus Media.

©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Dog Is a Dog, by Stephen Shaskan (ages 4 - 8)

I just love watching kids while they read, especially when their eyes sparkle in that "ohhhh..." moment when they get the joke. Kids love books with unexpected twists, and they'll read them again and again - absolutely relishing the way they KNOW the twist that's going to happen, and they can see how funny it is. A new favorite picture book is A Dog Is a Dog, by Stephen Shaskan. It's a great choice for kids who like funny books, with an unexpected twist.
A Dog Is a Dog
by Stephen Shaskan
CA: Chronicle Books, 2011
ages 4 - 8
available at your local library, my favorite bookstore, and at Amazon
Stephen Shaskan combines silly humor with eye-catching illustrations that pull readers right into the story. With bright, bold colors, Shaskan’s spotted dog enjoys the sunshine in a plastic wading pool, with perfect preschooler goofiness. But that isn’t all. Here's the beginning of the book:
“A dog is a dog,/ whether it's naughty... or nice,
Whether it suns on the beach,
or glides on the ice.
A dog is a dog, if it’s skinny or fat.
A dog is a dog, unless it’s a . . .”
Turn the page and it’s a “CAT!” 
Look closely, and you'll see this cat is actually removing a dog costume. At first, kids will look at it a little quizzically. I mean, a cat was really inside the dog costume? But show them the zipper, and they'll start to get it. The cat, in turn, proceeds to remove its costume to show that it was actually a squid. As the verses repeat, one wacky animal after another emerges from the costume, until the spotted dog from the beginning resurfaces.

Shaskan uses thick, bold lines and bright colors reminiscent of Bob Shea’s Dinosaur vs. Bedtime, but certainly with a sillier touch. Details and patterns within the bright colors lend the digital art a subtle texture. But really, kids will ask to read this book again and again to laugh and giggle as each animal is revealed.

Have fun watching Stephen Shaskan's book trailer, and you'll get a sense of how much fun this book can be:

If you like books with a twist like this, you'll certainly like Guess Again!, by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex.  My youngest daughter read this again, and again, and again - delighting in the way she knew the answers to each joke. What a perfect hook into reading!

The review copy was kindly sent by Chronicle Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Winner of Skype visit with Anne Ursu!

Jasmine, 5th grade teacher
Jasmine, a 5th grade teacher and a blogger at The Bookish Mama is the lucky winner of the Skype visit with Anne Ursu, the wonderful author of Breadcrumbs. Congratulations Jasmine, and thank you to all who entered!

I'm hoping that Jasmine will come back here to Great Kid Books after your class Skype visit to talk about her experience. I'm very interested in the possibilities of connecting kids with authors through a Skype visit.
Our 3rd graders at Emerson are in the middle of reading Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary, and are fascinated by the idea of connecting to an author who means a lot to them. It can be a very powerful experience for a child to meet an author who inspires them. I've helped arrange some amazing author visits with students - Jennifer Holm rocked our socks off last year at Emerson, starting an all-out Babymouse craze at our school, but also hooking some advanced readers on her wonderful historical fiction.

In this time of constrained budgets, a Skype visit could be a win-win all around. Children will be able to connect with authors they admire and learn about what goes into writing a novel. Authors will be able to connect with broader audiences, without having to invest large amounts of time and energy in travel.

Have you had a chance to connect with an author through Skype? Were children really able to get a sense that this was a real person on the computer monitor directly speaking with them? I'd love to hear more direct experiences from classroom teachers and school librarians.

Congratulations, Jasmine! Stop by to let us know how you're planning on using the Skype visit.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Halloween books for little kids (ages 2 - 5)

Halloween has something for everyone: dressing up, going trick-or- treating, and collecting candy. As kids get older, they love reading scary stories and being thrilled with creepy tales. But young children may be sensitive to these bone-chillin’ yarns and need something gentler.  Here are two new books that are wonderful for helping young kids enjoy this holiday.

The I'm Not Scared Book
by Todd Parr
NY: Little, Brown
ages 2 - 6
available at your local library, my favorite bookstore and Amazon
Using his distinctive style of bright, bold figures and simple, reassuring words, Parr has created a wonderful book that reassures young children that we all can be scared of some things. The left side of every spread shows something we may be afraid of: “Sometimes I’m scared of the dark.” Look on the right side and you’ll see a way to make the situation better: “ I’m not scared if I have a night-light.”

Parr’s book is simple and yet it speaks to the heart of an important issue. Young children need to work through how to deal with their fears, and not just push them aside. Parents love Parr’s work for giving them ways to talk about important issues in simple, reassuring ways. We had a great time at our school making up new pages to add to this book - adding to the phrases, "Sometimes I'm scared when..." and "But I'm not scared when ..."

Another book that young kids and preschoolers will love is Pumpkin Trouble, by Jan Thomas. It's silly fun that will make your little one giggle and giggle.
Pumpkin Trouble
by Jan Thomas
NY: HarperCollins
ages 2–6
available at your local library, my favorite bookstore, and Amazon
“This will be great!” Duck exclaims, as he comes across the perfect pumpkin to carve. He can’t wait to carve his own jack-o’-lantern and show his friends Pig and Mouse. But just as Duck is trying to get the last of the slimy insides out of the pumpkin, he falls in head first and can’t get out. Oh, no! And when Pig and Mouse see their friend walking around inside a pumpkin, they shout, “PUMPKIN MONSTER!”

Preschoolers will laugh and laugh at this silly book, as Pig and Mouse run away from the “monster” and Duck runs too, wondering who this monster is. In her classic style, Thomas captures humor and fun with her energetic, bold illustrations and simple text. Perfect for little kids having fun carving their first pumpkins.

For a bit of fun, take a look at Todd reading The I'm Not Scared Book:

The I'M NOT SCARED Book by Todd Parr from Todd Parr on Vimeo.

For some Halloween books to share with older kids, head over to Parents Press for my full roundup!

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

Amazon Affiliate program

I love sharing news about children's books, and helping families find great books for their kids. It is my passion, and I spend a great deal of time sharing my thoughts on this blog.

I am a participant in Amazon's affiliate program, as a way to generate a small amount of income from my hard work. On each post, I also share links so families can find books at their public library and at my local bookstore.

I support my local independent bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway's, buying personal books there and sending many students and local families there. But it's also important to me to provide an option for people who want to shop at Amazon. Equally important, I want to generate some income from my hard work. Almost all of the money I generate through Amazon is used to purchase children's books. I review these books, and then donate them to my local school.

Last week, Amazon announced that it reinstated the California Amazon Affiliate program, after coming to an agreement with the State of California about local sales taxes. This means that if you click through from any of the book links on my site, I will receive a small commission on anything you purchase during that "shopping trip". Whether you buy electronics, games or books, I will receive a small commission. I appreciate support from friends and readers in directing their purchases through Great Kid Books. They allow me to defray some of the costs of running this blog.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Welcome to Poetry Friday! Poetry Tag Time and more!

Spread some Cybils love! Have you nominated your favorite book of children's or YA poetry for the 2011 Cybils yet? Nominations are still being accepted and there are many wonderful books of poetry that still need to be nominated. So check out the list of 2011 Cybils poetry nominations, and then use this form to nominate your favorite!

 I've been missing poetry in my life, lately. I adore the sense of wonder that poetry gives me, the space between the lines for my imagination to take flight, for feelings and emotions to connect to memories and senses, for images to blossom in my mind. One of my great joys this spring was buying the ebook Poetry Tag Time, an anthology compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. It's perfect for dipping into, but be warned - it will get you hooked, make you laugh, pull you from poem to poem! Take a quick look at it, and then share your own favorite poems and poetry books for children in the comments below for Poetry Friday.

Note: if you're having trouble leaving a comment, please just email me!
Poetry Tag Time
compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong
©2011 PoetryTagTime
available for the Kindle or the Nook
ages 7 - 12
Tag, you're it! It's a game we all loved to play as kids. This book makes poetry fun and interesting by inviting poets to play a game of tag. It all starts off with Jack Prelutsky writing about the moon and what would happen if it was a balloon or cheese or a sun. And then Joyce Sidman's tagged! As the Poetry Tag Time site describes, "Jack’s poem makes Joyce think of the sun as an egg yolk and she shares a shape poem, “Maybe.” Joyce then chooses Nikki Grimes: Tag--You’re IT!" As the Poetry Tag Time site describes,
"PoetryTagTime is the first electronic-only poetry anthology for kids! With 30 new poems by 30 well-known contemporary poets writing for children today, here is a poem-a-day for a month of poetry reading, sharing, and exploring."
Poetry Tag Time is the perfect invitation for kids (and adults) to see how one poem can lead to another, one image to the next, one poet to another. And what fun to have this ebook tucked away on your Kindle, Nook, iPad or other ereader for just that perfect time you want to take a break from your busy life and enjoy a bit of poetry. This book is only available as an ebook.

Do you work with older kids? You'll surely want to check out Sylvia and Janet's newest collection for teens: P*Tag. 31 amazing poets play poetry tag: one poem is connected to another by sharing three words, each inspired by an amazing photograph. 

Welcome to Poetry Friday!

Please share your favorite poetry for children in the comments. Then take a moment from your hectic day (why is it that we want to accomplish so much on Fridays?) and browse through the lovely links below.

Tabatha Yeatts shares "The Prescription" by Jacob Polley.

At a wrung sponge, Andi shares a poem "From the Trail". Just perfect for this autumn day. Thank you, Andi!

Elaine Magliaro shares Autumn poems over at Wild Rose Reader. Get into the spirit of the season by reading some of her lovely fall poems.

At The Poem Farm, Amy shares her original poem White Fields and also talks about how it comes from her own notebook. Read more about writer's notebooks at Amy's new blog Sharing Our Notebooks.

Jeannine Atkins writes today about writing poetry by starting at the surface, with a glimpse at how Mary Oliver does this.

Over at PinkMe, Paula shares the briefest of poems, written by her Milo when a certain someone was late picking him up :)

Anastasia Suen sends in Traffic Pups for her Picture Book of the Day: it's a post for Poetry Friday + STEM Friday.

Over at TeachingAuthors, you'll see a post by April Halprin Wayland. This Friday she is offering a poem written to a first draft: To My First Draft (you may know that this is called an apostrophe poem), and then she deconstructs the poem. April also encourages readers to write and share their own apostrophe poems. April is one of the featured poets on Poetry Tag Time, with the delightful "World Wide Wag".

Myra Garces-Bacsal writes that her Poetry Friday contribution for the week is a Q and A with Poet Extraordinaire Professor Gemino H Abad. A discussion on the agonies and joys of first love, muses, the moon, and poetry.

At A Year of Reading, Mary Lee shares "The Devil's NOT in the Details". I love her reflections - so true, so true. I do so love looking at all the details around us.

At Author Amok, Laura Shovan is looking at a form related to the acrostic, the mesostic. DC-base poet Melanie Henderson talks about the genesis of her poem, "A Post-Black Mesostic."

Ben at The Small Nouns is sharing a poem by Lou Lipsitz today: "Have a ____ Day," inspired by a recent TED conference he attended. Inspiring, indeed!

Today, over at my juicy little universe, Heidi Mordhorst shares her reflections on apple-picking and a poem by Robert Frost. 

Maria Horvath writes that we're still looking at the theme of romance, with a poem by Robert Graves that explains what those achy breaky songs are all about. Head over to A Poem a Day from the George Hail Library to check this out.

Carol shares a football poem, in honor of my two fellas, who are right in the middle of their favorite season: "Football Season".

Robin Hood Black writes "I’m delighted to feature Steven Withrow as our special guest today. This poet, storyteller, and author is a passionate advocate for young people’s literature and serves as an advisor to the Keene State Children’s Literature Festival."

Diane Mayr checks in - she's sharing some great links this week! She writes, "I have Poetry Tag Time on my computer since I have a Kobo. It works great and it looks great on a larger screen!" At Random Noodling, Diane has Amy Lowell's "The Matrix." Kids of the Homefront Army continues with "Heaven." Kurious Kitty looks at A Little Bitty Man and Kurious K's Kwotes' has a quote by Julie Larios.

Barbara at The Write Sisters is having a technical problem today, but managed to get "Problems with Hurricanes" posted before things went south!

Steven Withrow has an original poem in a Welsh verse form called a Rhupunt, which he's titled "Jurrasic Fish".

Ruth is sharing the poem "Lost" by David Wagoner.

At Picture Books and Pirouettes, Kerry Aradhya is sharing "an original today, too...except I wrote it when I was in elementary school :)" What fun!

At A Teaching Life, Tara is sharing a poem from a new collection of poetry by poet/teacher Svea Barrett.

Jama's serving up Diane Wakoski's "Breakfast" over at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Breakfast is a lovely, wonderful meal - especially on a special day.

Head to Pentimento to read "At a Window" by Carl Sandburg.

At Read Write Believe, Sara writes, "I was lucky enough to hear Robert Pinsky read at the Folger Shakespeare Library this week, and I'm sharing a poem from his "Things to Hand" series: Jar of Pens." 

At TeacherDance, you can read "Poets Always on the Lookout" and get inspired for finding ideas.

Laura Salas shares wonderful tidbits from P*Tag. I especially loves these lines: "even if we don't / speak the same language, / I'll sip your dream, / and then, and then, say /" -- from Blue Bucket, by Naomi Shihab Nye. Can't wait to get this great anthology from the amazing Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong! Thanks, Laura!

Also remember to head over to 15 Words Or Less, and read/write about Precision.

Father Goose, AKA Charles Ghinga, has a wonderful poem "The Silky Sax" that I've just emailed to our 4th/5th grade teachers! Great imagery!

Janet Squires shares the collection Tap Dancing on the Roof by Linda Sue Park. I adore this wonderful book of Sijo poems - well worth checking out!

review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Journey Into the Deep: Book App review for Nonfiction Monday (ages 10 - 15)

I am excited about the Cybils Awards new category for Book Apps. Have you nominated your favorite book app yet? Head over to the Cybils page to do so - anyone can nominate their favorite book that was published in the past year. In honor of Nonfiction Monday, I'd like to share an amazing nonfiction app: Journey Into the Deep.

The enormity expanse of the ocean's life has always intrigued me. I particularly remember visiting tide pools with my mother, looking in each little nook and cranny to see what creatures lived there. But I can hardly imagine how scientists are exploring the depths of the world's oceans. So I was fascinated by Journey Into the Deep, a new book app based on the book of the same title by Rebecca L. Johnson.
Journey Into the Deep
written by Rebecca L. Johnson
book app developed by Lerner Publishing
available at the iTunes App Store
for the iPad, iOS 3.2 or later
current price: $2.99
preview the print book on Google Books
ages 10 - 15
Rebecca Johnson begins the app with a short video where she tells about how she was captivated by an article about the Census of Marine Life and the incredible marine animals scientists were discovering. The Census of Marine Life was conducted globally between 2000 and 2010 by more than 2000 researchers. After reading this article, Johnson knew she wanted to take kids on an "armchair journey through the ocean in a way that allowed them to meet census scientists, explore the ocean as they were exploring it, and see some of the remarkable creatures they were discovering in their quest."

This app is remarkable for the its depth and breadth, as it takes readers from the shallow edges of the ocean to its unfathomable depths. At each stage, readers are introduced to scientists exploring this particular part of the ocean, creatures they have discovered, and ways they are doing their scientific research as part of the Census of Marine Life. The photographs are truly captivating on the iPad, absolutely brilliant with color. At each stage, you can click on animals and reveal the captions. This has the effect of making the photographs stand out, and draws readers into interacting with them to find out more. Quotes from Census scientists are highlighted in bold red; when you tap a quote, a picture of the scientist appears, along with their research institution.

The navigation structure for this app is remarkable. Journey Into the Deep uses a system of symbols to indicate that you can go deeper within a particular section, other symbols indicate you can tap an image to reveal more information, and another symbol takes you back to the beginning of a chapter. By clicking on the general page, you reveal a slider bar that indicates where you are within the whole book, allowing you to jump from section to section. This navigation system allows readers to browse through this app the way they would through a nonfiction book, and is brilliant.

My only hope is that at some point Lerner is able to add a narrative audio track to this app. I know that many 9 and 10 year olds would be fascinated by the animals and the scientific research that Johnson shares. But the text really is for careful reading, either for a family read-aloud for an interested middle grade reader, or as an independent read for a teenager.

Let's hope that more nonfiction books make their way to Book Apps. There is so much capability to captivate interested audiences with well designed apps like Journey Into the Deep.

I do hope that some nonfiction apps are nominated for the Cybils Award's new Book App category. Have you nominated your favorite book app yet? Nominations are open until October 15th.

Do you love nonfiction for kids? Head over to 100 Scope Notes today to read all about Nonfiction Monday.

This review copy was kindly sent by Lerner Apps for review.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.