Monday, January 4, 2010


The Art of Crochet 4 Kids. DVD. 1:30 hrs. Prod. by Leisure Arts. Dist. by AV Café. 2009. $19.95.

K-Gr 4—This Wild West-themed program inspires young children to learn to crochet. The first two segments teach crochet basics, and feature two animated characters in one part and nine-year-old Ryan in the other. The animated section may be too fast paced for beginners, while the segment with Ryan is punctuated with programmed pauses that allow learners to work at their own speed. Slight differences between the two crochet methods allows children to find the style that works best for them. Next, three projects are presented: making crochet flowers that can be used as pencil toppers or decorative accents for clothing demonstrated by a diverse group of girls and boys; granny squares, the most complicated of the three, taught by an adult instructor; and a Wild West triangular scarf, presented by the animated characters with a sing-along feature that serves as an aid to remembering the crochet pattern. This fun-filled program does not assume any prior knowledge of needlecraft, requires only the most basic supplies, and presents lessons in an entertaining and engaging fashion.—Misti Tidman, Boyd County Public Library, Ashland, KY

Drugs & Alcohol

Everything You Need to Know about Alcohol in 22 Minutes. DVD. 22 min. with tchr's. guide. Human Relations Media. 2009. ISBN 978-1-55548-808-6. $139.95.

Gr 7 Up—It is difficult to walk the line between social drinking as a rite of passage and the dangers of alcohol abuse when talking to teens. This program does an excellent job with a difficult subject. The initial graphics are choppy and quick moving, providing a feeling of immediacy by showing scenes of teens drinking, kids in the hospital, and teens being arrested. Case studies, accounts of DUI accidents, and interviews with an emergency room doctor, a mom whose child died from alcohol poisoning, a neuro-psychologist, and young people who have abused alcohol help explain the dangers of teenage drinking. The inclusion of a teen born with fetal alcohol syndrome is a particularly powerful illustration of the effects of alcohol abuse. Viewers will relate to the teen-on-the-street style interviews. The computer graphics of alcohol's affect on the human body are interesting, but the text that accompanies some sections doesn't remain on screen long enough. Among the other topics covered are health problems related to alcohol abuse, binge drinking, driving under the influence, legal ramifications of DUI, and a section to help students determine if they have a problem with alcohol. The exceptionally well-done teacher's resource book includes excellent student activities and fact sheets that reinforce the film's message. This powerful testament to the dangers of teen drinking would be an excellent addition to the health curriculum.—Barbara Skaryd Fecteau, Beverly High School, MA

Straight Talk: The Truth about Alcohol and Sex. DVD. 18 min. with tchr's. guide. Human Relations Media. 2009. ISBN 978-1-55548-803-1. $139.95.

Gr 7 Up—Viewers will immediately be drawn into the experiences of the teens portrayed in this film. The action begins on the basketball court as Marcus, a high school senior almost guaranteed a college scholarship, teases Nick and Steve who have been in relationships for a while about not having "closed the deal" with their girlfriends. The young men express their comfort with "waiting." The scene cuts to an unsupervised underage drinking party at a student's house. Nick's girlfriend. Meghan, dances topless while another boy records her performance on his phone. Steve and his girlfriend retreat to his car where they have sex. Alexis goes to an upstairs bedroom with Marcus, but when she changes her mind, he rapes her. As a result of the night's events, Nick breaks up with his girlfriend, Steve's girlfriend breaks up with him, and Marcus is arrested for rape and loses his scholarship. Meghan is taunted by classmates when the recording of her dance is passed around during gym class. The teacher confiscates the phone and informs the photographer that he could be convicted of engaging in child pornography. While the resolutions are a little too neat, they don't sugarcoat the consequences of drinking and sexual misconduct. Statistics related to the results of drinking and sex are included between scenes, but the realistic vignettes are the most powerful elements of the film. An important tool to initiate classroom discussions.—Constance Dickerson, Cleveland Heights/University Heights Public Library, OH

Tales from the Prom: The Good the Bad and the Ugly. DVD. 23 min. with tchr's. guide. Human Relations Media. 2009. ISBN 978-1-55548-814-7. $139.95.

Gr 7 Up—A wide range of teens and their prom experiences are covered in this honest look at what can go wrong during an event that should be fun and memorable. Along with beautiful prom dresses and sharp-looking tuxedos, viewers are treated to scenes of prom-goers vomiting and being wheeled into the hospital on a gurney while CPR is performed. Eight chapters cover the issues of peer pressure, alcohol poisoning, sexual assault, and more. One chapter depicts students taking a breath test upon arrival at the prom, while another shows an alcohol-free after-prom party. The multicultural young people present believable stories about instances of alcohol and drug use that ruined their prom experience. In addition to scenes of happy students talking about the night they expect to remember for the rest of their lives, the importance of parents setting limits and explaining the risks of drinking is emphasized. Medical emergency workers and law enforcement personnel discuss the dangers of underage drinking. Viewers will relate to the teens in the film and may be dissuaded from partying with alcohol on this important night.—Ann Weber, Bellarmine College Prep., San Jose, CA

Early Childhood

Thomas and Friends: Team Up with Thomas. DVD. 46 min. Prod. by HIT Entertainment. Dist. by Lionsgate. 2009. $14.98.

PreS-K—The series' new live-action host, Mr. Arkwright (Robert Slade), brings warmth and personality to the engine driver's locker room on the Island of Sodor. With charm and humor, he guides viewers through a creative project between stories about Thomas and his friends. This presentation includes four tales that demonstrate important lessons about friendship and teamwork, all based on the characters from Rev. W. Awry's The Railway Series: "Heave Ho Thomas," "James Works It Out," "Tram Trouble," and "Push Me, Pull You." Hank the engine and Flora the steam tram join the cast of familiar characters. The stories all end on a positive note. The narrator's straightforward and enthusiastic delivery complements the variety of voice actors. The computer-generated enhancements and the quality sound effects enrich the production. A fine addition to collections for young children.—Heather Acerro, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN

Young Minds: Numbers and Counting. DVD. 35 min. 2009. $19.99.

PreS—This production is designed to teach numbers and counting to young children up to age three. Set to classical music from composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, visuals feature objects that can be counted. There are 10 to 15 pictures or videos for each number segment from 1 to 10. As each visual appears, the child narrator counts the items and makes a short statement about them; the number is shown next to the items. For example, three granny apples are pictured for the number 3 as the narrator states: "Three apples. 1, 2, 3. These three apples are green." The audio is clear and the narration is well-paced. Most items will be easily recognized by viewers, such as animals, fruits, boats, crayons, and flowers. This production will work well for children learning one-to-one relationships and counting to 10. Since it is low-key and may challenge children with short attention spans, it would be best shown in small segments.—Stephanie Farnlacher, Trace Crossings Elementary School, Hoover, AL


Character: Communication Basics. DVD. 16 min. with tchr's. guide online. LearningZoneXpress. 2009. ISBN 1-57175-752-X. $49.95.

Gr 5–8—Effective verbal, non-verbal, and online communication is explained in this exceptionally well-produced program. Ben and Anne, two middle school students, visit a communications professor and two actors in order to get a better handle on how to communicate effectively. The college professor provides several simple, easy-to-remember rules for communicating well both verbally and via texting or online. The young people then visit two actors who show them the differences between effective and ineffective non-verbal communication by acting out several scenarios relevant to preteens. The hosts close the program with tips on the best ways to be active listeners. The video and sound quality is excellent, the graphics are simple yet fun, and the music suits the program's overall tone. This film can easily be incorporated into a class period and would be a superb choice for middle school classes.—Ivy Miller, Wyoming Seminary Upper School, Kingston, PA

Cliques: Where Do You Fit In? DVD. 15 min. with tchr's guide. Human Relations Media. 2009. ISBN 978-1-55548-800-0. $129.95.

Gr 5–9—Hosted by two middle grade students, this brief production features interviews with students and a guidance counselor. It demonstrates the exclusionary nature of cliques as opposed to friendship groups, which are more open and accepting of differences. It also touches on the fact that social bullying and gossip are often a large part of cliques and discusses ways to combat being a victim of bullying and get out of a clique. The film is well done and the interviews are enhanced by and mixed with animated cartoon scenes. The teacher's resource manual includes 11 activities, worksheets, fact sheets, and a bibliography of additional resources. Never preachy, this tool will help students understand the importance of real friendship, as opposed to belonging to a clique.—Kathy Miller, Baldwin Junior High School, KS


Anatomy of a Puff. DVD. 15 min. with tchr's. guide. Human Relations Media. 2009. ISBN 978-1-55548-809-3. $139.95.

Gr 7 Up—Describing a cigarette as a "dirty delivery system" for nicotine, a 20-something host focuses on the harmful chemicals inhaled by smokers. Standing in a smoke cloud to start, he describes by-products such as pesticides, arsenic, benzene, ammonia, formaldehyde, and others, in terms of their carcinogen content, affects on the central nervous system, and why they are used in the making of a cigarette. For example, pesticides from growing tobacco remain in the leaves even after it is washed, and ammonia is added because it increases the affect of the nicotine. Teens will identify with the other common uses for some of these chemicals, such as arsenic in rat poison, benzene in gasoline, and formaldehyde in preserving biology specimens. Students might be surprised to learn that hydrogen cyanide was used in the gas chambers by the Nazis, and that the amount of polonium-210, a radioactive substance, absorbed by a pack-per-day smoker is equivalent of 300 chest x-rays every year. Clearly blaming tobacco companies for manipulating the ingredients used in cigarettes to hook users on nicotine, the program shows President Obama signing a health reform bill that includes a prohibition for labeling "light" or low-tar cigarettes, which are not less harmful than regular cigarettes. Succinct information is reinforced with word images, colorful graphics, medical illustrations, and an off-screen echoing voice—all just gimmicky enough to appeal to teens. The excellent teacher's resource manual includes activity sheets, fact sheets, and more. By narrowing the focus of a multifaceted topic, this program neatly fills a niche in the antismoking curriculum.—Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY

Fast Food Nutrition. DVD. 16 min. with tchr's. guide. LearningZoneXpress. 2009. ISBN 1-57175-833-X. $79.95.

Gr 6 Up—Two smiling, upbeat teens offer facts about good nutrition and tips for eating healthy in our fast food world. The typical tribulations of fast food meals, such as calories, saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and sugar, are explained. The pair suggest finding healthier meals at different restaurants or selecting healthier food at the same fast food restaurant, such as salads and fruit. The merits of grilled vs. fried, water vs. soda, and fruit vs. fries are discussed. Portion control (regular vs. super-sized) is emphasized. While nothing new is presented here, the teen presenters may make the information more palatable to viewers. Preteens and teens in health classes may be receptive to the information and think twice before eating fast foods.—Ann Weber, Bellarmine College Prep., San Jose, CA

Language Arts

Barkus, Sly and the Gold Egg. DVD. 10 min. with tchr's. guide. Nutmeg Media. 2009. ISBN 1-933938-66-8. $49.95.

PreS-Gr 3—Barkus and Sly, two tricky foxes, think they're pretty clever. But when they sneak into the hen house and swipe three chickens, with a tasty meal in mind, these two shysters meet their match. The chickens use what's at hand to turn the two against each other, causing a falling out among thieves and saving themselves in the bargain. Sally Anne Lambert's humorous watercolor illustrations are scanned iconographically. Angela McAllister's delightful book (Bloomsbury, 2002) is read by Debra Leigh who creates unique voices for each character; background music adds a nice touch. A fun introduction to the book.—Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA

Bats at the Library. DVD. 11 min. with tchr's. guide. Nutmeg Media. 2009. ISBN 1-933938-62-5. $49.95.

K-Gr-3—"Word spread quickly from afar…a window had been left ajar. Can it be true? Can it be? Yes, bat night at the library." The bat families first introduced in Brian Lies's Bats at the Beach (2006; Nutmeg Media, 2008) are back for a literary adventure in this iconographic rendering of the book (2008, both Houghton Mifflin). Once again, the youngsters are ready to play; viewers will delight at the imaginative mischief to be had at the library—puppet shadows on the wall with the overhead projector, swimming in the water fountain, posing in a gingerbread house pop-up book, and duplicating themselves with the copy machine. Finally tired out, the little ones join their elders for a magical story time, sitting in chairs, or hanging upside down from the tabletops. Children will be tickled to see scenes from some of their favorite books such as Make Way for Ducklings, Little Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, Pippi Longstocking, and others—all inhabited by bats. Background strings and high-pitched bat squeaks enhance the whimsical acrylics painted in warm, rich colors. In a conversation with the author, Lies shares his inspiration for the story. The setting is based on the library in the small town where his father grew up—a stone building with stained glass windows where, indeed, there was once a visiting bat. As Lies speaks, close-up stills allow viewers to notice the artwork's clever details that they may have missed the first time around. The author also confides that another bat family outing is in the works—Bats at the Ball Game. Use this charming, clever offering for library orientations and bat units.—Barbara Auerbach, P.S. 217, Brooklyn, NY

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves. DVD. 10 min. (closed captioned). with tchr's. guide. Weston Woods. 2009. ISBN 978-0-545-19658-1. $59.95; CD, ISBN 978-0-545-19689-5: $12.95; CD with hardcover book, ISBN 978-0-545-19701-4: $29.95.

PreS-Gr 2—Fletcher is a young fox experiencing his first autumn. To his horror, his favorite tree appears to be sick. Its leaves are changing color and falling off. Fletcher does what he can to stick the leaves on again, even enlisting the help of passing birds. Other animals are more sanguine, however, as they use the fallen leaves for nests and warmth. Finally Fletcher takes the last leaf home and makes a bed for it. Will his tree be all right? Finding it covered in beautiful icicles, Fletcher begins to accept the changes around him. Julia Rawlinson's gently humorous story (Greenwillow, 2006) about the change in seasons is nicely read by Katherine Kellgren who creates unique voices for all the characters. Evocative music plays in the background. As Tiphanie Beeke's soft watercolor illustrations, highlighting autumn colors, are scanned iconographically, minor animation is added. A six-minute author interview provides insights into her background and the writing process. English subtitles are optional. This sweet story will fit in nicely with a unit about autumn.—Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA

Little Miss Sunshine Presents: Fun in the Sun. DVD. approx. 69 min. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 2009. ISBN 1-4359-8504-4. $16.97.

PreS-Gr 1—Fans of Roger Hargreaves's Mr. Men & Little Miss series will recognize familiar characters in this entertaining animated presentation. It features six episodes of Cartoon Network's The Mr. Men Show: "Fair," "Wildlife," "Amusement Park," "Beach," "Lake," and "Science" Each segment includes short vignettes of the characters displaying their particular idioms with flair. Occasional musical interludes add to the experience. Mr. Grumpy and Miss Chatterbox create a classic comic combination, made for laughs. But Mr. Messy and Mr. Persnickety working out their differences provide their fair share of entertainment. The show is just plain fun. Bonus features include "Meet the Character," "Learn to Draw the Character," a game, and more. Fun for the younger set.—Heather Acerro, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN

Los Gatos Black on Halloween. DVD. 8 min. (closed captioned). with tchr's. guide. Weston Woods. 2009. ISBN 978-0-545-19658-1. $59.95; CD, ISBN 978-0-545-19689-5: $12.95; CD with hardcover book, ISBN 978-0-545-19701-4: $29.95.

K-Gr 3—Just spooky enough for viewers who are ready for a bit of a chill at Halloween, Marisa Montes's Pura Belpré award-winning picture book (Holt, 2006) becomes livelier and even more suspenseful with eerie music and creepy creatures that fly. It's Halloween night and los gatos (cats), las brujas (witches), los esqueletos (skeletons), los muertos (dead ones), phantoms, ghosts, ghouls, and others are gathering at a haunted casa (house) for a Monsters' Ball. The party comes to a screeching halt, however, when the scariest creatures of all, trick-or-treaters, appear at the door. About two dozen Spanish words are introduced in the story, and their meanings are clear in context and supported by strong visual clues. Yuyi Morales's spooky paintings are animated just enough to amuse and yet be hauntingly creepy: flames flicker, witches ride their broomsticks like skateboards, tails twitch, and mummies lumber awkwardly. Maria Conchita Alonso expressively reads the descriptive poem, with howls and yowls and squeaks, while the music of Otmara Ruiz provides rattles and whiny violins which rise to match the excitement in the end. Best of all, a chorus provides an accompaniment of typically monstrous sounds. Read-along captions are optional. This spirited celebration of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos is a must-have.—MaryAnn Karre, Horace Mann Elementary School, Binghamton, NY


Field Trips with Recess Monkey. DVD. 1:30 hrs. Big Kids Video. 2009. $14.95.

PreS-Gr 3—Inspired by field trips taken with their classes at school, popular children's band Recess Monkey (Jack Forman, Daron Henry, and Drew Holloway) have produced this DVD as a companion to their recently released CD, Field Trip (Aug. 2009, p. 58). Each of the four episodes includes some or all of the following: a field trip, a radio call-in vignette ("Radio 8 Ball"), a music video, and a concert scene (from Seattle's Experience Music Project). Each segment, hosted by puppet Mayor Monkey, takes place in a different location in Seattle: Gasworks Park, the historic Fremont Bridge, Pike Place Public Market, and a ride on a ferry and in a seaplane. Among the 13 rock 'n roll songs featured are "Hot Chocolate," "Marshmallow Farm," "Haven't Got a Pet Yet," "Bubble Factory," "Birthday Bite," and "Green Monster." Most of the camera work looks very professional, and the sound quality is good throughout. A must-have for fans of the band.—Beverly Bixler, San Antonio Public Library, TX


The Perpetua Story (The Torchlighters: Heroes of the Faith Series). DVD. 37 min. with tchr's. guide, student workbook. Prod. by Christian History Inst. and the Voice of the Martyrs. Dist. by Vision Video. 2009. #501301D. $14.99.

Gr 3–8—A torchlighter is someone who commits to serving God and passing on the light of the Gospels even when the going gets tough. Set in the year AD 203 in Carthage, North Africa, Perpetua, an affluent young mother, is charged with converting to Christianity and sentenced to prison. She is required by the Roman rulers to renounce her belief in Christianity and make a burnt offering of incense to the Roman gods. If she refuses, she will face death by wild animals in the arena with fellow Christians. What will she choose? The DVD contains an animated version of this story from early church history in easy-to-understand language that is suitable for younger children. The beautiful artwork perfectly portrays the emotional and poignant story. Bonus features include an audio version of the story and a 61-minute documentary that blends the story told by two Bible scholars with on-location footage. This version would be suitable for older children because it blends historical facts with the story. A useful tool in Sunday schools or Christian educational settings.—Cynde Suite, Bartow County Public Library System, Cartersville, GA


Animal Rock with Lucas Miller!, Vol. 1: Monarchs, Metamorphosis and More! DVD. 43 min. Victory Multimedia. 2009. $18.95.

PreS-Gr 4—Austin, TX, treasure Lucas Miller (the Singing Zoologist) presents his first video featuring songs (from his CD albums) and stories about animals. Featuring live-action footage, audience participation, and animation, the video includes "Animals Rock," a story about monarch butterflies; "Goin' Down to Mexico" (monarch butterfly migration); "Metamorphosis" (frog's life cycle); Miller's retelling of his picture book, Fifi the Ferocious (Providence Pub., 2002), using puppets; "Laugh Ourselves Silly;" "Stinkle, Stinkle Little Skunky" (to the tune of "Twinkle Little Star"); and "The Cow on the Bus" (to the tune of "Wheels on the Bus"). As a special bonus, Miller reads his picture book, Dr. DNA and the Anaconda Invasion (BioRhythms Pub., 2007). Not only does he capture the attention of the children in the audience, he also encourages them to move along with the songs and keeps them laughing by using silly voices for the various animals. The animation is cute and engaging, and the camera work and audio quality are top notch. A great addition for animal-themed video collections.—Beverly Bixler, San Antonio Public Library, TX

Coal Country. DVD. 1:25 hrs. Prod. by Evening Star Prods. Dist. by Liaison Distribution. 2009. $24.98.

Gr 7 Up—Soft music, including songs by Grammy-winning singer Kathy Mattea, blended with scenes of bucolic West Virginia are a razor-sharp contrast to aerial shots of mountaintop mining taking place across the state. Coal supplies a large portion of the nation's electrical power and mining has employed generations of West Virginians. Divided into ten chapters, some of those families are interviewed in this documentary. They discuss the health hazards of living near surface mines and the mammoth impoundment ponds created by mountaintop removal mining. Many of them have become vital members of grassroots activism and their demonstrations and lawsuits have drawn attention to environmental concerns, including clean water. Massey Energy is the corporation singled out in this program. Industry spokespersons do speak on behalf of the company's reclamation efforts, but most of the camera time is devoted to mountaintop mining opponents. Environmental science, government, and journalism classes can utilize this film to spark debates about many of these topics.—Patricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley College, Mt. Carmel, IL

Exploring Forest Biomes. video or DVD. 14 min. with tchr's. guide. Visual Learning Co. 2009. video: ISBN 978-1-5923-4430-7, DVD, ISBN 978-1-5923-4429-1. $79.95.

Gr 3–5—Filmed on location around North America, this film presents three types of forest biomes—temperate deciduous forests, coniferous forests, and rain forests (both tropical and temperate). All are defined by location, climate, flora, and fauna. Trees native to these different types of forests are highlighted. The need to conserve forests is emphasized. Along the way, viewers are given opportunities to compare, predict, decide, and observe. The program can be paused for classroom discussion. There is a final review and a five-question test at the end. The female narrator moves things along at a steady pace presenting clear, well-organized information. Blackline masters offer extension activities. The inclusion of maps showing the global locations of these biomes would have been a nice addition. Bonus features on the DVD include labeled slides and an iMovie project. A valuable introduction to a unit on forest biomes.—Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA

Inquisitive Minds: Energy and Power. DVD. 26 min. Prod. by Power to Create. Dist. by Landmark Media. 2009. $195.

Gr 6–9—This fast-paced program investigates energy and power, focusing on electricity and the sources used to generate it. A female student narrator poses questions which are explained by an adult male narrator. A mad scientist character, Dr. Knowledge (aka Dr. K), demonstrates real-time lab experiments, adding humor while engaging students' thinking skills. Topics covered include energy; electricity as it relates to hydro-electric power, power lines, coal and nuclear power; electromagnets; work; and renewable sources of energy produced by solar power, wind power, biomass fuel, and geothermal power. Live-action footage, often on-site at various industrial locations, features company employees explaining the process by which energy is generated based on job responsibilities and working environments. Diagrams further explain these processes. This classroom-friendly and well-documented film provides easy-to-understand explanations and would be a useful introduction for science and ecology classes as well as an excellent springboard for student discussion and research.—Linda M. Teel, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial (NOVA Series). DVD. 1:52 hrs. Prod. by Vulcan Prods. and WGBH. Dist by PBS Home Video. 2008, 2009 release. ISBN 978-1-59375-719-9. $19.95.

Gr 9 Up—The ongoing debate between the supporters and opponents of Darwin's Theory of Evolution lies at the core of this in-depth review of the latest skirmish between those forces. As is typically the case, the battleground is focused in the classroom, this time the widely-publicized Dover, Pennsylvania, case in which teachers resisted a local school board order in 2004 to acknowledge the religion-based theory of creation, thinly veiled as the concept of "intelligent design." One incident—a student-painted mural depicting human evolution—quickly ignited conflicts between members of the school board, administration, parents, students, teachers, and national organizations supportive of each perspective. The film's content and presentation is balanced and well-organized. Interviews with lawyers, scientists, and local citizens; reenactments of the trial; and crisp graphics provide a great deal of information. The focal point of the argument is the question about the chromosomal differences/similarities between humans and chimpanzees. The teaching materials in PDF-format on the DVD are rich in resources for classroom use. This timely, comprehensive program will be a valuable resource in the eternal dispute between science and Scripture.—Dwain Thomas, formerly of Lake Park High School, Roselle, IL

Ocean Animal Emergency: Troubled Waters for Marine Mammals? (NOVA Series). DVD. approx. 56 min. with tchr's. guide. PBS Home Video. 2008, 2009 release. ISBN 978-1-59375-872-1. $24.95.

Gr 9 Up—This informative film documents marine animal emergencies, many of which are a result of changes in the ecology of our oceans. The program highlights the Marine Mammal Center located in Sausalito, California, and its contributions as a life-saving center for the northern elephant seal, the California sea lion, and the Pacific harbor seal. Actual footage of seals and sea lions being rescued because of malnourishment, net and human garbage entanglements, and toxin poisoning emphasizes the devastating effects of these environmental problems and the need to maintain healthy ocean environments. Chapter selection is optional. The DVD-ROM includes teaching materials such as handouts, a list of Web sites, and a supplemental YouTube video. Science teachers needing materials to introduce ocean studies, environmental studies, and spark classroom discussion will find this presentation a useful addition to their resources.—Linda M. Teel, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

PetroApocalypse Now? DVD. 48 min. Video Project ( 2009. #PET-980-P. $109.

Gr 9 Up—As we have witnessed frequently since the energy crisis of the late 1970s, the world's economy—and consequentially, our standard of living—often rests on the availability of energy, typically based on fossil fuels. This thought-provoking documentary examines the amount of oil we need now and will need in the future to satisfy our increasing demand for products based on this increasingly elusive commodity. Three key points are raised: the planet's escalating population (especially in Third World developing countries) requires more energy, even if individual demand remains constant; the rate of oil extraction continues to decline as current exploration focuses on increasingly difficult-to-tap locations; and, while research into alternative technology-based resources such as solar and wind power and gas continues to advance, the widespread application of those sources is still far into the future. The producers of this nicely-paced program have done extensive research. There are interviews with a wide range of experts in energy production and utilization, both from the business and academic sectors. Crisp, clear graphics and an assortment of vintage film and still imagery illustrate the message that, despite assurances from oil-producing countries that supplies are adequate, too much is at stake not to give priority to addressing this critical issue. This film will be a valuable addition to media collections and will be welcomed in a variety of classroom settings.—Dwain Thomas, formerly of Lake Park High School, Roselle, IL

Short Attention Span Science Videos, Vol. 1 & 2: Sustainability—The Coral Reef Notebook. 2 DVDs. range: 45:42–48:02 min. GG Films ( 2009. ISBN 0-0822269-4-2. $39.95.

Gr 6 Up—Designed to be accessed by topic, this unique set provides more than 30 two- to four-minute, easy-to-understand micro-documentaries on ecological sustainability in an engaging manner. Dr. Stephen Palumbi, a marine biologist at Stanford University and a leading expert on the genetics and ecology of a variety of marine and terrestrial systems, narrates the topics based on current research in which he and his team are actively engaged. Visuals feature live-action footage taped at research locations around the world, including Fiji, Samoa, the Caribbean, and Micronesia. The first volume covers topics such as sustainability, productivity, diversity, resilience, and the impact that maintaining ecosystems has on our future. Volume 2 expands the basic principles of sustainability through an exploration of coral reefs and how they help to maintain the quality of life. Based on ecosystems and their resources, topics include life on a reef, four kinds of coral, growing a giant clam, natural global warming lab, and others. Individual segments can be easily accessed. Excellent video angles and photography allow viewers to see close-up, colorful images of coral reefs. Supplementary reference materials and a quiz are available at This well-documented, clearly-presented program is aligned with the National Science Education Standards and will be extremely useful to introduce environmental issues as well as to spark classroom discussion and engage students in further research.—Linda M. Teel, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

Social Studies

Billy Blue Hair: Why Are Fire Trucks Red? DVD. approx. 30 min. Prod. by Kayo Media. Dist. by 2009. $14.95.

PreS-Gr 1—Animated characters Billy Blue Hair and his dog Doogie are back for another adventure in this follow-up to their excellent debut film, Why Do Giraffes Have Long Necks? (Sept. 2005, p. 74). Billy chases Doogie into the live-action world of a fire department. The episode begins with Billy watching firefighters put out a fire. In a conversational tone, he offers some safety tips. As Billy tries to catch up with Doogie, he visits a firehouse where information is presented about firefighters' chores, their life at the fire station, and how they get dressed in 60 pounds of gear. Viewers also learn about a variety of fire trucks and their uses, why fire trucks are red, why fire hydrants come in different colors, and the procedures that firefighters use to fight a fire. Lots of interesting information is presented in an attention-grabbing manner that will have children clamoring to watch the film again and again.—Veronica Schwartz, Des Plaines Public Library, IL

George Washington Carver: His Life and His Work. DVD. 30 min. Prod. by Kaw Valley Films. Dist. by Marshall Pub. 2009. $19.95.

Gr 6 Up—Few individuals in our history personify the value of education and dedication more than George Washington Carver. Born the son of a slave in 1864, Carver was raised in the dark days of Reconstruction in the South. He became a symbol of overcoming the worst of circumstances as he single-handedly became responsible for renewing a large part of the South's economy with his innovative research in agriculture. Leaving home at an early age in search of as much formal schooling as the conditions of the time would allow, Carver eventually achieved international fame through his work at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The story of the "Peanut Man" is partially told from a first-person perspective with a background of striking music. A rich variety of visuals include black-and-white vintage photographs from the post-Civil War era and rare color film footage of Carver near the end of his life in 1943. Particularly moving is a brief black-and-white sound film clip of Carver accepting an award. A five-part chapter selection option—"Inspiring Words," "Early Life," "College Years," "Tuskegee Years," "Final Years"-enhances the film's usability in the classroom and for individual research. This motivating, well-crafted title will be popular in collections serving middle and high school students.—Dwain Thomas, formerly of Lake Park High School, Roselle, IL

Getting to Know the U.S. Presidents: Thomas Jefferson. DVD. approx. 22 min. (closed captioned). Getting to Know. 2009. $39.95.

Gr 1–6—Another one of Mike Venezia's biographies, with its humorous cartoon illustrations, hilarious asides, and fascinating kid-friendly information, has been made into an animated film. It doesn't get any better than this! This production, adapted from his book Thomas Jefferson: Third President (Children's Press, 2005) is a delight. Jefferson narrates the story of his life. He talks about his childhood, family life, hobbies, and rise in politics. Slavery is also addressed. Along the way, viewers are treated to a nice overview of the American Revolution and the subsequent formation of a new nation. Jefferson's role in it is highlighted, especially his part in the writing the Declaration of Independence, his time as Secretary of State and Vice President, and his two terms as President. Original patriotic-sounding music bounces in the background as the cartoon illustrations, and even some historical paintings, are animated; some touches are reminiscent of Monty Python. Humorous dialogue, great visuals, solid facts, and a kid-friendly presentation make this a winner.—Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA

Study Skills

Study Skills for People Who Hate to Study. DVD. 18 min. with tchr's. guide. Human Relations Media. 2009. ISBN 978-1-55548-796-6. $139.95.

Gr 7 Up—Six teenagers address the three main areas that can sabotage effective studying: organization, procrastination, and distraction. Using an improv style with silly humor and sparse props, the teens help one of their friends finish her homework assignments before a day at the beach. After each of the three segments, the program can be paused to facilitate classroom discussion. Each section also features short, amusing animated sequences to illustrate the concepts. The informative teacher's guide includes student activity sheets, fact sheets, tests, discussions questions, and more. While older students may find the story line silly, all viewers will recognize the obstacles undermining effective studying and relate them to their own issues. A fun, easy-to-implement program.—Terry Ann Lawler, Phoenix Public Library, AZ


Many of these titles are available for download and/or in Playaway format. Check distributors' Web sites,, and audio download retailers for availability and price.

Language Arts

Adam Canfield: The Last Reporter (unabr.). 7 CDs. 7:54 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-50737-108-7. $74.96

Gr 6–9—Adam Canfield is back and so is the staff of his school newspaper, The Slash, previously eliminated by the school board for causing trouble (especially for the town's most powerful family). Now Adam and his co-editor must find a way to raise money to keep the paper going. The Ameche brothers, twins with some pretty unorthodox ways of generating income, are Adam's first choice. Nothing is quite what it seems, including Adam's relationship with Jennifer, which leaves him confused. Also, the "safe" story he was planning to write about the improved test scores of the student population ends up being another exposé. There are some interesting discussions about journalistic ethics and the responsibility of reporters and political candidates (the school election is another sub plot). Narrator Patrick Lawlor gives each character in Michael Winerip's novel (Candlewick, 2009) a slightly different voice, accentuating their personalities. He is masterful at capturing the tone in Phoebe's voice that makes her so annoying and Adam's inner thoughts as he struggles to find out how he feels about Jennifer. He matches the fast pace of the action, and provides an understated delivery of some of the most hilarious lines. A brief interview of the author by his daughter is informative.—Edith Ching, Washington Latin Public Charter School, DC

After (unabr.). 9 CDs. 10 hrs. Penguin Audio. ISBN 978-0-14-314505-9. $34.95.

Gr 8 Up—Through flashbacks, listeners learn that 15-year-old Devon has been a good student and an outstanding soccer player, and her life is all about control and not messing up. But as the story (Viking, 2009) by Amy Efaw opens, Devon is found by the police lying on her family sofa, bloody after giving birth to a baby which was found in the dumpster by a passerby. The story moves through Devon's arrest, her confusion about what is happening to her, and the preliminary court proceedings to determine whether she will be tried as an adult for attempted murder or in juvenile court. Rebecca Soler does a fine job of varying her voice to reflect Devon's various states of consciousness and conscience. Most prominent is the flatness of Devon's voice as she responds to the demands and interactions of those around her, such as her lawyer, who loses patience at Devon's resistance to assist in her defense. Soler also captures the teen's softness as Devon recollects the romantic encounter that led to her pregnancy and then quickly switches to a harsher tone as Devon reflects that she doesn't want to be like her own irresponsible mother. This is an emotional, compelling listen, as the details of the birth are told in great detail and Devon often seems like an observer rather than a participant.—Edith Ching, Washington Latin Public Charter School, DC

Al Capone Shines My Shoes (unabr.). 7 CDs. 7:52 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2009. ISBN 978-0-7393-8006-2. $55.

Gr 5–8—In Gennifer Choldenko's sequel (Dial, 2009) to Al Capone Does My Shirts (Putnam, 2004), it's 1935 and 12-year-old Moose Flanagan lives on Alcatraz Island where his father is a prison guard. The boy finds himself indebted to the infamous mobster, Al Capone, who pulled some strings to get his disabled sister, Natalie, admitted to a special school in San Francisco. His friend, Annie, warns Moose that owing a prisoner a favor is a dangerous position to be in, but he refuses to tell anyone, afraid that Natalie will be kicked out of the school if he does. When his sister comes home for a visit, Moose discovers that she has become an unwitting accomplice to an escape plan by some of the convicts on Alcatraz. Narrator Kirby Heyborne's dramatic performance draws listeners into the thick of the story, and he does a wonderful job portraying and differentiating between the various characters. The story is sometimes humorous and sometimes sad, but always moving. It would make a good springboard for discussing topics such as trust and right versus wrong. A must-have for elementary, middle school, and public libraries with strong audiobook collections.—Kathy Miller, Baldwin Junior High School, Baldwin City, KS

Black Box (unabr.). 4 CDs. 3:54 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2009. ISBN 978-0-7393-8595-1. $38.

Gr 7 Up—Elena, a high school freshman, has always looked up to her older sister, Dora, and the two have an exceptionally close relationship. But when Dora is hospitalized for depression, Elena has a difficult time coping. The strained visits to the hospital, the tension once Dora returns home, the keeping of secrets, and the attempt to "make everything the same as it used to be" as her parents' arguments escalate and Dora seems to be spiraling out of control put Elena in the vortex of a difficult struggle. At school, the only people who will even speak to her are some of Dora's worried friends and the rather strange Jimmy Zenk who seems to know a great deal about depression. At home, she tries to monitor Dora's actions, such as sleeping most of the day, hoarding her pills, skipping school, and not eating. The situation becomes even more difficult when Dora must swear to keep Elena's secret. Lynde Houck narrates Julie Schumacher's novel (Delacorte, 2008), perfectly capturing Elena's voice. At the conclusion, Schumacher offers commentary about writing the book. Poignant, at times heartbreaking, and always honest, the blend of a good story and a strong narrative voice makes this an exceptional listen.—Janet Hilbun, Texas Women's University, Denton

Branded Outlaw (unabr.). 2 CDs. approx. 2 hrs. Galaxy Press. 2009. ISBN 978-1-59212-349-0. $9.95.

Gr 10 Up—L. Ron Hubbard's pulp fiction Western from the 1930s is a story about young Lee Weston who comes back home to Wyoming to find his family murdered. Convinced that his father's old enemy, Harvey Dodge, is to blame, Weston sets out to seek his revenge. Almost immediately Weston gets into a gunfight, murders another man, and is wounded. He is nursed back to health by a young woman and falls in love with her, only to discover that she is the daughter of his enemy. While this title will probably not be of interest to the majority of teens, there's plenty of action, blazing guns, and some romance here to capture the attention of reluctant readers who like Westerns. The multicast narration is well done, and superior sound effects and musical interludes add to the suspense. The cover art is exquisitely designed.—Ivy Miller, Wyoming Seminary Upper School, Kingston, PA

A Chair for My Mother and Other Stories (unabr.). CD. 1 hr. HarperChildren's Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-0-06-176121-8. $13.99.

PreS-Gr 3—This collection includes stories by Vera B. Williams about Rosa and her family—A Chair for My Mother (1982), Something Special for Me (1983), Music, Music for Everyone (1984), and A Chair for Always (2009)—plus Cherries and Cherry Pits (1986, all Greenwillow). In the first title, a young African-American girl tells of the sorrow of losing her home and belongings to a fire and the jar in which the family places all of their loose change to save for a lovely, soft armchair. In the first four tales, the chair is a character, symbolizing warmth, love, security, and family to the young narrator. In A Chair for Always, Rosa expresses her attachment to the now aging chair when her mother and grandmother begin thinking it might be time to find a new one. Martha Plimpton perfectly captures the tenderness and joy of these stories. This winning collection celebrates family and the power of hope.—Deanna Romriell, Salt Lake City Public Library, UT

Change-Up: Mystery at the World Series (unabr.). 6 CDs. 6:33 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2009. ISBN 978-0-7393-8101-4. $55.

Gr 5–7—In John Feinstein's mystery (Knopf, 2009), the news media hits on a "feel good" story highlighting a minor league baseball pitcher, Norbert Doyle, who has recently been added to the major leagues and will be pitching in the World Series. This feat combined with his ability to cope with his wife's death of his wife and raise his children on his own, and the personal obstacles he has overcome, seems like a fantastic story. Yet 14-year-old reports Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson begin to ferret out the painful truth behind this pitcher's public persona. The author narrates in a resonant New York voice that perfectly recreates the sports broadcasting environment. Listeners accustomed to dramatic readings may have to get used to his steady, clipped pace. Feinstein's style in writing and narration reflects his experience as a sports writer and commentator for major print publications and radio broadcasts. A perfect choice for sports fans.—Tina Hudak, St. Albans School, Washington, DC

City of the Dead: The Haunting of Derek Stone, Book 1 (unabr.). 3 CDs. 3:12 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4233-9476-1. $39.97.

Gr 5–8—Fourteen-year-old Derek survives a horrific train wreck, but his father and older brother Ronny are killed. When Ronny shows up a month after his death, with no explanation, their uncle, who is taking care of Derek and the estate, accepts him immediately. But it's soon apparent to Derek that Ronny is not who he seems to be. Investigating the fact that there was a similar disaster 70 years ago at the same place involving a train full of murderers and thieves introduces Derek to the idea of translation, or dead souls possessing the bodies of the more recent victims. The book's title refers to one of the large cemeteries in New Orleans. The first title (Scholastic, 2009) in the series by Tony Abbott ends with a cliffhanger. Nick Podehl does a good job with Derek's first person narration, lending an immediacy and urgency to the story. What secrets lie ahead in the City of the Dead? Though it occasionally veers off into territory where suspension of disbelief becomes a heavy burden, this should be a good match for reluctant readers.—Charli Osborne, Oxford Public Library, MI

Crashed (unabr.). 9 CDs. 10:49 min. Brilliance Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4233-7495-4. $72.97.

Gr 9 Up—In Robin Wasserman's sequel (2009) to Skinned (2008, both Simon Pulse; Brilliance, 2008), Lia Kahn has been forced to make the adjustment from a rich, popular, shallow high schooler to life as a "mech" (a mechanical replica of the human body) after a terrible car accident. In the mech world, there is no death, no work, no life, no point. Lia has moved to a mech compound where she will not feel like the outcast she has become in her home and at school. Abandoned by friends and family, her life consists of meaningless days of giving tours to new mechs arriving at the compound and being trapped in the mind of the old Lia. The religious extremists catapult her world into chaos when her face is broadcast on screens everywhere as the person responsible for causing the death of humans. As she begins a search for the truth, friends become enemies and she has to learn to move from her self-imposed isolation to trusting her new mech friends. Reminiscent of Mary Pearson's Adoration of Jenna Fox (Holt, 2008; Macmillan, 2008), this futuristic tale's thought-provoking plot will engage teens trying to make sense of the world around them. Kate Reinders gives Lia an authentic voice, except when she moves from normal dialogue to the "techie" voice is somewhat distracting. While this fast-paced, riveting story can stand on its own, most teens will want to begin with the first title in the trilogy.—Jeana Actkinson, Adjunct, Educational Service Center, Region XI, Ft. Worth, TX

The Day of the Pelican (unabr.). 4 CDs. 4:23 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4418-0207-1. $69.97.

Gr 5–8—The war in Kosovo in the 1990s is brought to life in Katherine Paterson's novel (Clarion, 2009). The story follows Meli Lleshi, a 12-year-old Albanian girl, and her family as they begin to see violence escalating in their small town. The Serbians are the dominant force in the country and, under the leadership of war criminal Slobodan Milosevic, their brutality against the minority groups knows no boundaries. When the Lleshis and their extended family see the handwriting on the wall, they escape just as the violence reaches their doorstep. The trek to safety in Macedonia is a struggle, but they finally arrive at a refugee camp. When NATO effectively ends the war, Meli's family decides to move to America where new struggles and hurdles await them. The story provides insight into the Albanian culture, the war in Kosovo, and what it feels like to be an immigrant in a new land. It also offers a glimpse into the role of women in these cultures. Narrator Tavia Gilbert does a marvelous job of representing the family's accents when necessary but, for the most part, her narration is unaccented. She perfectly voices the emotional struggles of Meli and her family as they attempt to survive. A welcome addition to historical fiction and multicultural collections.—Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Devil's Kiss (unabr.). 7 CDs. 8:29 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4418-0165-4. $54.97.

Gr 9 Up—Sarwat Chadda's fast-paced novel (Hyperion, 2009) combines modern London with a fantasy world of ghuls (vampire/ghoul), weres, the Grigori (fallen angels), the Knights Templar, Arthurian characters, and a dash of Harry Potter. Thanks to a prophesy, Bilquis (Billi) SanGreal is the only female member of the Knights Templar. Since she is also the youngest, she tries to combine school with a rigorous training and patrolling schedule which she resents. This makes her easy prey for the attention of Mike, a handsome and mysterious young man who appears to understand her better than anyone else. But Mike isn't what he appears. He's the Archangel Michael on a quest to bring forth his watcher brothers and sisters, trapped in the ether by Solomon's mirror—protected through the ages by the Templars. Filled with Biblical lore, magical words and symbols, and medieval history, the novel takes listeners on a roller-coaster ride, leading to a tumultuous denouement. Anna Flosnik does an excellent job of voicing all the characters. A highly recommended listen.—Suanne Roush, Osceola High School, Seminole, FL

Emperor Mage: The Immortals, Book 3 (unabr.). 8 CDs. 7:45 hrs. Full Cast Audio. 2008. ISBN 978-1-934180-20-4. $55.

Gr 6–10—Tamora Pierce's third title (Atheneum, 2003) in the series continues the riveting story of Daine, a Tortallan girl with wild magic—the ability to communicate with animals and shape-shift into their form. This power earns her a mentorship from Numair Salmalin, a mage, and a fast friendship with Alanna the Lioness, the King's Champion (and the main character from Pierce's Song of the Lioness Quartet). As a developing mage and healer, Daine is invited to Carthak to meet with Emperor Ozorne, also known as the Emperor Mage. Unfortunately, he has angered the gods, especially Carthak's own Graveyard Hag, and Daine is tapped as a vessel for the goddess, quickly managing to become embroiled in the battle between Emperor and gods. Given a "gift" by the goddess, Daine is able to raise creatures from the dead. When Ozorne threatens Numair, Daine becomes so angry that she raises an army of dinosaur skeletons that destroys the Emperor's palace. In the aftermath, Ozorne escapes and Daine discovers that Numair is still alive. This full-cast production is narrated by the author. They all do a wonderful job, especially Carmen Viviano-Crafts, who voices Daine, and Mike Komurek as Daine's new friend, Zek the Marmoset. All the drama, humor, anger, and romance come across clearly. While the audiobook could stand on its own, it is recommended for libraries circulating the previous volumes.—Jessica Miller, New Britain Public Library, CT

Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All (unabr.) cassette or CD. 1:15 hrs. Recorded Books. 2009. cassette: ISBN 978-1-4407-2154-0, CD: ISBN 978-1-4407-5158-8. $25.75.

Gr 3–5—Leroy Brown, 10-year-old son of Idaville's Chief of Police, will solve any case, big or small, for a quarter in this collection (Dutton, 1968) of 10 short mysteries by Donald Sobol. Sometimes with his partner Sally in tow and sometimes accompanying his father, Encyclopedia pieces together the clues to get to the truth. Among the tales are "The Case of the Frightened Playboy," "The Case of the Wounded Dog," and "The Case of the Muscle Maker." After each story, there is a pause to allow listeners time to stop the recording and try to solve the case of on their own before the answer is given. This is the draw to the series. However, the plots and characters have little substance and the lifestyle represented is dated. Steer listeners instead to mysteries such as the 39 Clues series (Scholastic).—Richelle Roth, Boone County Public Library, KY

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk. 2 CDs. approx. 1:45 hrs. Full Cast Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-934180-38-9. $29.

Gr 6–10—Sid Fleischman's compelling story (Greenwillow, 2007) begins in 1948, three years after the end of World War II. In Vienna, Austria, "Freddie the Great," a second-rate American ventriloquist whose career is on the downswing, opens his hotel closet and sees a long-legged boy curled up on the floor. Twelve-year-old Avrom Amos Poliakov is a dybbuk, a wandering soul, who helped Sergeant Freddie T. Birch escape from a POW camp during the war and has returned to collect on the favor. And so begins the odd journey of the scrappy Avrom, ghost of a Jewish boy murdered by a German SS officer, and the struggling American entertainer. Avrom will help Freddie become a first-rate ventriloquist, but there's a catch: Avrom needs Freddie's help in tracking down Colonel Gerhard Junker-Strupp, the Nazi who killed him. Freddie becomes possessed by Avrom's spirit and is an instant hit in Paris. What unfolds is an entertaining and moving story, told with humor and pathos, and characters who embrace life despite unimaginable tragedies. Featuring excellent narration by Banna Rubinow and a full cast, the tale is brought to life with distinct and lively characterizations. The pacing is quick and sharp, the delivery is excellent, and each chapter begins and ends with piano music reminiscent of old-fashioned radio plays.—Roxanne Spencer, Western Kentucky University Libraries, Bowling Green

Everything for a Dog (unabr.). 5 CDs. 5:10 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4233-9236-1. $59.97.

Gr 4–6—Ann Martin's moving story (S & S/Feiwel & Friends, 2009) shifts between three main characters' points of view: a dog named Bone, who was born wild in a barn; Henry, who desperately wants a dog; and Charlie, who survives the death of his brother through bonding with his brother's dog. Bone, along with his sister Squirrel, are discarded in a mall parking lot. (Squirrel's story is told in Ann Martin's A Dog's Life: the Autobiography of a Stray [Scholastic, 2005]). Bone is rescued, given away, and finally abandoned to live as a stray. Charlie is tormented by the death of his brother, who fell from a tree where he allegedly climbed to get Charlie's kite. Henry, whose parents are both librarians, has tried for years to convince them to let him have a dog. As their refusals become more adamant, his resolve to be more responsible grows. There are hints early on that Henry will adopt Bone, but readers will be surprised at the relationship revealed between Charlie and Henry. Martin fully develops each character, drawing listeners into their struggles. David Pittu's narration is methodical and measured. Dog lovers will be enthralled by this audiobook.—Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

Glass Houses: The Morganville Vampires, Book 1. 7 CDs. 8:30 hrs. Tantor Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4001-4190-6. $59.99.
The Dead Girls' Dance: The Morganville Vampires, Book 2. 7 CDs. 9 hrs. Tantor Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4001-4191-3. $69.99.

Gr 9 Up—College should be an exciting time, but for brainy 16-year-old Claire Danvers that's too mild a word. Due to advanced placement, Claire can start college early, but her parents refuse to allow her to go to the distant Ivy League school of her dreams. She goes to Texas Prairie University where she is tormented by the popular girls—but that's the least of her worries. Morganville, home of the university, is also home to vampires and vampire hunters. Claire finds protection from the horrors of the town in the Glass House with three fellow outcasts, Goth girl Eve, rebellious Shane, and Michael, who disappears during the day. Claire falls for Shane and would do anything to protect her friends, including facing down bloodthirsty vampires and dangerous bikers. Rachel Caine's first two books (Penguin, 2006, 2007) in the series flesh out the characters and the setting, allowing listeners to really visualize the town. These suspenseful titles are filled with violence, language, and sensual situations. Cynthia Holloway's narration has a supernatural quality that is perfectly suited to the story, and she does a nice job of switching between characters and capturing the changes in Claire as she grows more mature and confident. Older teens will fall under Caine's spell as she weaves together scary moments with romantic situations, which are at times overly descriptive, but not graphic. Those looking for books like Twilight, but with more bite, will enjoy this series.—Sarah Flood, Breckinridge County Public Library, Hardinsburg, KY

Jumping to Conclusions: Rachel Yoder—Always Trouble Somewhere, Book 7 (unabr.). 3 CDs. 3:25 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4418-0683-3. $44.97.

Gr 2–5—In this volume (Barbour Pub., 2009) by Wanda Brunstetter, 11-year-old Rachel is having a problem with eavesdropping and the resultant rumors, leading to all sorts of misunderstandings, some comical, others more serious. When she overhears a comment about her brother's health and inadvertently spreads a rumor that he is dying, she realizes that listening in on other people's conversations can be harmful to herself and to others. Rachel's adventures are set in a modern Amish settlement, but young listeners will easily identify with her moods and mishaps. The plot seems repetitive at times, as Rachel makes the same mistake over and over again without learning from her experiences. The story is sprinkled with Pennsylvania Dutch words and phrases which are glossed over in the print edition, but are immediately translated in the audiobook by narrator Ellen Grafton who provides a youthful delivery. This story often refers to events in earlier books, so purchase only where the previous volumes are available.—Misti Tidman, Boyd County Public Library, Ashland, KY

Lawn Boy (unabr.). 2 CDs. 1:24 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4233-9589-8. $39.97.

Gr 4–7—At the beginning of summer vacation, the 12-year-old narrator wonders how he is going to get enough money to buy a new inner tube for his bike. Grandma comes to the rescue when she gives him her late husband's riding lawn mower and he starts mowing a few yards in the neighborhood. Within a month, he has 15 people working for him and more business than he can handle. Arnold, one of his customers and a home-based stock broker, invests some of the boy's earnings not only in the stock market but also in a prizefighter, helping him earn thousands of dollars. Gary Paulsen's enjoyable novel (Wendy Lamb Books, 2007) also offers lessons on how a free-market economy works, buffered by lots of wacky humor and the inclusion of improbable and unexpected events. Tom Parks does an excellent job of conveying the innocence and unbridled enthusiasm of the young man. However, the protagonist sounds younger than 12 and a Latino character sounds somewhat robotic. In spite of these quibbles, this is a fun and educational audiobook.—Wendy Woodfill, Hennepin County Library, Minnetonka, MN

Need (unabr.). 7 CDs. 8 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4233-9926-1. $87.97.

Gr 7 Up—Move over Edward Cullen (Twilight)—there's a new boy in town. Carrie Jones's terrific fantasy/romance/thriller (Bloomsbury, 2008) is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Zara White flies to Maine to live with her grandmother after her stepfather dies in her arms. At the airport, she notices a mysterious man pointing at the plane and—it seems—at her. Could this be the same man she has seen around her South Carolina hometown? When he shows up in tiny Bedford, things turn really creepy. Zara begins to realize that the townspeople are hiding monumental secrets: young boys are disappearing and nobody—not the head cheerleader, the star athlete, or even Zara's grandmother—are who they claim to be. Zara joins forces with new friends Issie, Devyn, and the mysterious Nick, and romance blooms as they race to outwit Zara's stalker. Narrator Julia Whelan deftly captures Zara's youthful Southern twang and the harder-edged Northeastern accents of the other characters. This is a taut, satisfying thriller. Don't be put off by the provocative cover—the writing is gentle enough for younger teens. A sequel, Captivate, is planned for early 2010.—Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK

The Nine Pound Hammer: The Clockwork Dark, Book 1 (unabr.). 8 CDs. 10:22 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2009. ISBN 978-0-7393-8078-9. $55.

Gr 4–7—John Claude Bemis's debut novel (Random, 2009) draws on Southern folklore and American tall tales to present the story of Ray and his younger sister who ride an Orphan Train south from Maine. Ray thinks his sister might fare better alone, so he jumps from the train and sets off on his own. He meets up with an eclectic group of performers in a medicine show. Ray realizes that this troupe is running from an evil entity—the Gog—who wants to capture the Siren, a mermaid-like creature whose voice mesmerizes all who hear it. It's never made clear how the Siren will help the Gog build a machine, better than the one John Henry destroyed, that will allow the Gog to spread darkness throughout the world. While the book is overly long and somewhat difficult to follow, narrator John Mayer is marvelous, infusing the sharply drawn characters with distinct personalities and drawing listeners into the tale. There are so many dangling plot lines, that there is no satisfying conclusion.—Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Piper Reed Gets a Job (unabr.). 2 CDs. 1:52 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2009. ISBN 978-0-7393-6191-7. $24.

Gr 3–5—Piper Reed and her Gypsy Club compatriots need a place where they can hold their important meetings. After all, doesn't every club deserve a clubhouse? Unfortunately, the members are less than affluent. Not to be discouraged, Piper decides to earn the money by getting a job. Ultimately, she starts her own business—a birthday party planning service. Her first job is to plan a space-themed party for Brady, a toddler who can't wait to be three. After babysitting a wild set of triplets who locked her out of their house and illustrating her Emily Dickinson-loving little sister's fairy tale book that takes place on an air force base, Piper earns (almost) enough money to purchase a clubhouse for the Gypsies. Kimberly Willis Holt's latest title (Holt, 2009) about the fifth grade Navy brat features kid-friendly writing and excellent narration by Emily Janice Card. Her voice has a child-like quality that easily changes from adenoidal to authoritative as needed. A delight.—Terri Crowe, Daviess County Public Library, Owensboro, KY

The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano (unabr.). 2 CDs. 2:05 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2009. ISBN 978-0-3075-8307-9. $24.

Gr 7 Up—Margarita Engle's biography (Holt, 2006) chronicles the talents and tortures that filled the early life of Juan Francisco Manzano. Offering insights into early 19th-century Spanish colonial life, Engle uses the diverse viewpoints of Manzano, his parents, owners, and overseer. Because Manzano memorized and recited poetry as a child, he received special attention from the Marquesa who owned him, but he felt like a "poodle" doing tricks to amuse her friends. Though he taught himself to read and write, and was promised freedom at her death, when his owner died another noble woman reneged on the agreement. The new Marquesa showed off his poetic skills, but also exploited Manzano's abilities as a healer and tailor. At the same time, she had him whipped, locked in a morgue, and abandoned on a roadside. After years of abuse, he finally stole a horse and ran away. Engle based the book on the poet's own notes, smuggled to England by abolitionists. Her free verse narrative not only reveals inspiring moments of inner strength, but also presents hard-hitting facts about slavery. Four narrators handle the emotional and poetic content with equal dexterity, reading in clear Spanish-accented English that enhances the text. Engle delivers her own Historical Note with more information on Manzano and recites two of his poems in Spanish and then in English. A valuable resource for classes studying Latino history and culture or slavery.—Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT

Ryan & Robbie's Bike Ride Adventure and Lao Lao's Chinese Secrets. CD. 18:25 min. with hardcover book. 2009. ISBN 978-0-9820254-6-8. $15.95.

K-Gr 2—Roger Hackett's passion for Chinese culture, language, and food, as well as his two sons, inspired him to write his first book. His effort at presenting a multicultural family of three generations succeeds in its attempt to show strong family values, teamwork, and Chinese cultural traditions, but it falters in its literary merit. The story relates how the boys' Lao Lao (grandmother) gave their mother a pendant that held a secret. Upon touching it, she would "know time that [she] did not have before." The necklace's secret is not further developed in the story, but later, Ryan and Robbie's mother makes similar pendants for them and imparts "secrets," which are more like motivational guidance, to help them tackle challenges. During a bike ride through their neighborhood, the boys recall their mother's advice to help them deal with the situations they encounter. The story would have benefited from judicious editing. Jared Beckstrand's work as an animator at Disney Studios is evident in his bright, cartoon-like illustrations. The CD uses the sound of a gong as the page-turn signal and features soft Asian-inspired instrumental music. Liu Quinjia, the book's Chinese cultural advisor, narrates the tale in a somewhat flat voice; intermittent laughter and the voices of Hackett's sons who echo the narrator in some places are a bit confusing. A second audio track includes the pronunciation of the book's Mandarin Chinese phrases and their translations.—Ruth Lorbert, East Woods School, Oyster Bay, NY

The Spectacular Now (unabr.). 7 CDs. 8:19 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4233-9963-6. $87.97.

Gr 9 Up—Filtered through the whiskey-soaked perceptions of high school senior Sutter Keely, Tim Tharp's quirky novel (Knopf, 2008) echoes the tragic-comic struggles typical of many students launching themselves into the maelstrom of the adult world. Part witty party boy and would-be Lothario, Sutter walks a tightrope of avoidance, love, compassion, and resistance to the whole grown-up thing. Life would be so much simpler if everyone understood both his desire to help those in need and his aesthetic appreciation of the intangible beauties to be observed in the "spectacular now." Part comedy and part poignant saga, MacLeod Andrews delivers a knife-edge performance, full of jaunty insouciance and touching despair, liberally soused with the teen's ever-present, whiskey-laden bon mots. Sutter's adventures and alcoholic slide take place mostly on a road to nowhere. Along the way, he loses his girlfriend and alienates his sister and brother-in-law by nearly setting their house on fire; but he also sets up his best friend with his first girlfriend, and aims to boost his new girlfriend Aimee's self-esteem with his sincere and flamboyant attention. Andrews's portrayal is perfectly nuanced, and listeners will be entranced, even as they wince at the zany perambulations of a young man who has lost his way, all the while helping friends and strangers with his keen insights and goofy charm. Sutter is a more charming, less alienated Holden Caulfield, trenchantly in thrall to the "Bright Lights, Big City" of his alcohol-infused imagination.—Roxanne Spencer, Western Kentucky University Libraries, Bowling Green

Spy Killer (Stories from the Golden Age Series). 2 CDs. 2 hrs. Galaxy Audio. 2008, 2009 release. ISBN 978-1-59212-166-3. $9.95.

Gr 9 Up—"Kurt went to the back of the room and found the round-faced, slit-eyed proprietor." So goes the story of Kurt Reid, who has been accused of murder, and his adventures on "the Yellow Continent." Originally published in 1936, this is part of a series of stories by L. Ron Hubbard that have been recorded by a full cast, with music and sound effects. Like a lot of pulp fiction from that era, there are obvious stereotypes and distinct language that will make it a difficult sell to today's audiences. The narration is very dramatic, but the accents used for the Russian and Chinese characters border on ridiculous. Unless it is tied to a lesson on cultural stereotypes of the past or American pulp fiction, skip this title.—Genevieve Gallagher, Charlottesville High School, VA

Strawberry Hill (unabr.). 4 cassettes or 4 CDs. 4:30 hrs. Recorded Books. 2009. cassette, ISBN 978-1-4407-4721-2: $33.75; CD, ISBN 978-1-4407-4725-0: $46.75.

Gr 3–5—During the Great Depression, Allie Sherman's father loses his job and finds a new one in Stanford, CT. Allie is unhappy that the family has to move. She will miss her friends and doesn't want to leave her familiar life behind. When the 10-year-old learns that her new street is named Strawberry Hill, she is enchanted by the thought of a street strewn with strawberries, and decides that the move might not be so bad after all. After arriving at her new home, Allie discovers that there are no strawberries. She also is confronted with a myriad of other concerns, including her desire to fit in at her new school and a longing for a new best friend in Mary Ann Hoberman's debut novel (Little, Brown, 2009). She does a stellar job of interweaving Allie's tender narrative with some of the harsh realities of one of the most difficult times in American history. Cassandra Morris's narration brings Allie to life with an appropriate voice. For public and school library collections.—Amy Joslyn, Fairport Public Library, NY

Winnie Dancing on Her Own (unabr.). CD. 63 min. Live Oaks Media. 2009. ISBN 978-1-43010-752-1. $18.95; with paperback book, ISBN 978-1-43010-753-8: $20.95.

Gr 2–5—Winnie lives with her father (her mother is deceased) and has two best friends—Vanessa and Zoe. The girls call themselves "The End of the Alphabet" club. But problems arise between the friends when Zoe and Vanessa insist that they all sign up for ballet. Winnie has never been graceful on her feet and she much prefers to do what they always do on Tuesday afternoons—go to the library. Winnie eventually agrees to begin ballet lessons, but soon drops out. Vanessa and Zoe team up and Winnie finds herself excluded from the club. This is painful for Winnie, but she handles it well and a believable compromise is worked out. Laura Hamilton provides minor voice variations to distinguish between the three girls; Zoe's voice sounds a bit young. Jennifer Richard Jacobson's well-written, realistic story (Harcourt, 2001) will captivate listeners.—Stephanie Farnlacher, Trace Crossings School, Hoover, AL


America. CD. 37:35 min. with lyrics. New Hope Records. 2009. $14.99.

Gr all levels—Bobby Susser's latest album features 12 simple original songs. He opens with "America," an upbeat, catchy pop tune celebrating our country. Among the other songs are "Dear Mr. President" (an open letter to our leader encouraging cooperation), "Lucky Little Man from Louisiana" (a bluesy ditty), and "Dancing in the USA" (a stand-out rocking tune guaranteed to get kids up and dancing). The songs offer an upbeat, optimistic look at life, such as "Brighter Day" (about looking forward to the future), "Building Bridges Today" (a Caribbean-flavored tune about working together), "Hope Is in the Air" (a song about hope for the future), "We Can Make It Together" (regarding the importance of cooperation), and "Happy Feeling." Susser continues to invite guest artists to join his efforts and sing lead in a song or two; in this case, Ben E. King, Paula Atherton, and Mike Green share their talents. However, too many songs repeat choruses too often. An enjoyable listen for previous fans.—Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

Cows and Horses. CD. 44:18 min. School House Songs. 2009. $9.95.

PreS-Gr 3—Lee and Sandy Paley sing 19 original, bouncy, energetic songs in a variety of musical styles such as rock, soft rock, jazz, march, and bluegrass. Sound effects, speaking, and whistling enhance some of the pieces. Vocals and instrumental performances are very good. The album includes several silly songs, such as "Take a Duck to Lunch," "Breaky with a Black Bear," and "Walrus Stuck in the Waterslide." Other topics featured are soda pop, polar bears, kites, farm animals, hippos, toboggans, and more. A fun album for the whole family.—Beverly Bixler, San Antonio Public Library, TX

If the World Was Upside Down. CD. approx. 39 min. AV Café. 2008, 2009 release. $16.

PreS- Gr 3—Joe West is a seasoned musician from the southwest, and this is his first attempt at a children's recording. The line-up is all original songs, with the exception of Michelle Shocked's "The Ballad of Patch Eye and Meg." West and his band of bluegrass rockers perform some unusual but enjoyable songs, including "My Grandma," which pays tribute to a family's aging matron. The title song, while unique and engaging, contains lyrics that may raise some eyebrows. As West sings about the way the world would be if it was upside down, he somewhat irresponsibly involves "Aunt Jane" who drinks too much and falls asleep on the couch. This doesn't mesh with the balance of the silly lyrics, which encourage the call and response phrase "upside down" following such phrases as "we'd wake up in the morning (upside down) and we'd walk to the school bus (upside down)." The strength of the album lies in the band's solid accompaniment. Sometimes the lyrics limit the enjoyability of a song. For example, waltzing "Anita Pita" has a clever tune, but the lyrics describe a single mother who carries a vacuum wherever she goes to support her daughter by cleaning for others. For those who like quirky songs.—Kirsten Martindale, formerly Menomonie Public Library, WI

My Trampoline. CD. 42 min. Prod. by Minivan Prods. Dist. by Allegro Media Group. 2009. $14.95.

K-Gr 5—Grammy-nominated recording artists Peter Himmelman bounces to new heights on his fifth album for school-aged children. He grabs listeners' attention from the opening song, "Imagination" (a catchy, up-tempo tune about using one's imagination to enhance playtime), and holds it until he closes with "Lullabye with Baseball and Trains" (a ballad about being tucked into bed), never skipping a beat. The blues, country, pop, and rock musical styles enhance the listening experience. Standouts include "My Trampoline" (a ballad that includes a riff straight from "Fiddler on the Roof"), "Main Dish" (a country-flavored lament about being a side dish or a main dish for dinner), "Peter's a Pin Head" (a middle-of-the-road rock tribute to picky eaters), "Ten Billion Blades of Grass" (an ode to grass on the lawn which channels the grandeur of "Circle of Life"), and "Are There Any Kids Named Steve Anymore" (a Bob Dylan-esque observance about the cyclical nature of popular names). Himmelman's arrangements of the songs are commendable, his lyrics are thoughtful, his use of a handful of backup singers adds just the right amount of pizzazz, and the band is top-notch. An outstanding collection.—Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

The Time Machine. CD. 44 min. AV Café. 2009. $15.

K-Gr 4—San Francisco-based kiddie rock band The Sippy Cups offer some thoughts about growing up, inspired by the performers' children. The presentation of their 11 musically sophisticated original songs range from silly to funky to serious depending on the subject matter. The title cut, "The Time Machine," is a funky pop wish for a time-travel machine that uses echo distortion to achieve a sound that might be considered "scientific." Standouts include "Starry Morning" (a simple ballad about being born that features dissonant harmonies to add depth), "Seven Is the New Fourteen" (a zany psycho-pop tune about growing up too quickly), "One Day Soon" (a middle-of-the-road rock piece about milestones that kids face), and "Hailstone Man" (a driving rock number comparing life's ups and downs with the weather). The album closes with a dreamy ballad, "Awake." Spoken word tracks used to set up a couple of the songs are probably fun shtick to hear in a live concert, but they just seem inserted to fill up space here. A creative, edgy compilation.—Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

The Tortoise and the Hare (Stories in Music Series) CD. approx. 54 min. with activity booklet. Maestro Classics. 2009. ISBN 978-1-932684-18-6. $16.98.

PreS-Gr 4—This entry in the award-winning series is presented by Stephen Simon and the renowned London Philharmonic Orchestra. The story was adapted by Bonnie Ward Simon and is expressively narrated by Yadu (Konrad Czynski). The simple Aesop fable is expanded to include press conferences, a pretzel vendor, and a French bistro. Simon's composition perfectly reflects the animals' movements and personalities: frenetic, manic music in different tempos is the theme for the arrogant hare, while a stately, dignified motif, featuring the contrabassoon, is used for the tortoise. The tracks following the story include a reading of the original fable; the "Pretzel Vendor of Paris" song, with a vocal performance by Jim Shaffran of the Washington National Opera and a Dixieland Band; information about the music; and an instrumental version of the pretzel vendor song with which listeners can sing along. The booklet contains fun facts and activities. Fans of the series and classical music will welcome this creative production.—Beverly Bixler, San Antonio Public Library, TX

Traveling On. CD. approx. 42 min. AV Café. 2009. $12.

K-Gr 4—Brian and Terri Kinder perform 15 original songs on their sixth album in a variety of musical styles such as rock, folk, jazz, and country. Brian's gravely voice and Terri's sweet vocals harmonize well together on songs such as "Rhythm Band" (which features rhythm instruments and a children's chorus), "Farmer Fred" (has a chicken on his head), "Shake-a-Saurus," "Lucky Day" (in which the singer breaks a neighbor's window and is proclaiming how lucky he is, while the neighbor is shouting at him that he is in big trouble), "Billy the Bully" (is afraid of butterflies), "Grandmas Love to Rock" (and dance to the twist, the pony, the funky chicken, etc.), and others. Instrumental performances are also top notch. A fine addition to music collections.—Beverly Bixler, San Antonio Public Library, TX

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