U.S. Presidents Aren’t Boring

Statue of Abraham Lincoln at Lincoln Memorial

Try these tween books on U.S. presidents to find out something you won't learn in school. Two Miserable Presidents: Steve Sheinkin's guide to obscure Civil War history is well researched, yet thoroughly entertaining. It includes grisly details like Senator Charles Sumner's speech claiming the pro-slavery soldiers were "picked from the drunken spew and vomit," and how he […]

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What’s a B-Movie, Anyway?


Every year, nerds descend on Northwestern University in Chicago to watch B-movies for 24 hours. Like subjects of the show Mystery Science Theater 3000, they cope with watching terrible movies by wisecracking about on-screen events. But why are so many people willing to lose sleep and smell so bad? And what exactly *is* a B-movie, anyway? Ed Wood: A lot […]

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The Biggest Oscar Upsets

Sylvester Stallone's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

American movie fans seem to have a love-hate relationship with the annual announcement of Oscar nominees. Time has vindicated the Academy with several flicks that have become cherished classics, but isn't it more fun to remember Hollywood's biggest upsets? Here are a few controversial choices for best picture from history's annals. Dances with Wolves over Goodfellas, […]

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Food for Thought

If you are anything like me, you are quick to make New Year's resolutions, many revolving around health. If, like me, you are also motivated by guilt, here are a few films about food that should scare you straight. Forks over Knives: This challenging documentary makes the bold claim that many American diseases, like diabetes, cancer and heart […]

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MLK Day For Pre-K

metal peace sign

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day can be a difficult subject to introduce to young readers since it encompasses such large themes. Yet we receive many parent, caregiver and teacher requests for this vital topic around this time of year. Here are some picture books I would recommend to address the themes of unity, peace and diversity that […]

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Beyond Magic Tree House: Transitional Reading Magic

Source: Stories from the Ballads Told to the Children by Mary MacGregor, by illustrator Katharine Cameron

Skinny, short or beginning chapter books—or as we called them in library school, "transitional chapter books"—are essential to bridging that gap between early readers and the next level. Many of them come in popular and well-loved series like Ivy and Bean and Magic Tree House. However, there are a wealth of these wonderful books published […]

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Native Tales: Not Just for November

We experience a flurry of readers seeking informational books and folklore during November, Native American History Month. Here are a few of my favorite readalouds written by Native authors. Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith: The narrative revolves around the cultural keystones of a powwow and a jingle dance. The repetitive rhythm of the text lends […]

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Nested Narratives Offer Multiple Perspectives

Multiple narration is a tricky gimmick, but done well it adds a variety of enriching perspectives. The following are some of my favorite examples. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: A sprawling story that spans centuries and genres as well as characters, Cloud Atlas succeeds at several tough tasks. Mitchell breathes believable life into every character, male or female, 1970s […]

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Unleash Your Inner Artist

Mixing paint with a brush

Have you ever had a secret desire to make art? Many people flinch from the word "artist," most of them harboring a creative spark. Here are a few books to fan that inner flame. What It Is by Lynda Barry - Why is it that kids who are asked to draw freehand react with enthusiasm, whereas adults […]

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