Archive for December, 2011

Google Maps is a fan of Tolkien

December 20th, 2011

In Google Maps, type “The Shire” as destination A and “Mordor” as destination B. Choose the walking directions.
Do you see the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings joke in there?

The Hobbit trailer

December 20th, 2011

I didn’t expect the trailer to have so much stuff from the book already. Check it out here.

3D tours of the Smithsonian and a virtual dinosaur dig

December 16th, 2011

Even if you don’t get to travel this break, you can still explore the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History by clicking here.

Want to see what the process is like when you dig up fossils? Click here

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney

December 16th, 2011

I don’t need to say much aside from this being another enjoyable installment of the series. Kinney writes like a stand-up comic – funny scenario A leads to B then C then back to A with a twist. I paused briefly to read a few pages this morning and ended up reading it cover to cover.

The Newton Project

December 13th, 2011

The University of Sussex has scanned Isaac Newton’s notebooks and put them online for others to search. Check out the notebooks from the 1700’s by clicking here.

A visit from Mayor John Lewis

December 12th, 2011

The mayor of Gilbert took time out of his schedule to answer letters that students wrote to him as part of Mr. Donoghue’s Social Studies class. It’s very relevant, and there was quite a bit of rigor, too. Students thought critically about real solutions and analyzed the situation from multiple viewpoints. What a great lesson.

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

December 9th, 2011

This is a funny book for a librarian to carry around.

This is a funny book.

Charlie Joe Jackson has avoided reading a book for all of the years that he’s been in school. He has paid off his friend, Timmy, to read books for him: one ice cream sandwich per book. At the start of the story, Timmy raises his price until finally he refuses. Charlie must create an elaborate scheme in order to finish the final project of the year, a position paper where he must read a lot of books and write a big essay, and yet maintain his non-reading streak. His fans would expect nothing less.

The voice in this book is awesome. Charlie definitely sounds like a non-reader, which then helps non-readers read the book. Sometimes I have to sell a book’s concept to a student so that they’ll endure to the end because they trust that I know what I’m talking about. Charlie Joe Jackson speaks with authenticity that needs no help from me. Also a bonus are the short chapters, illustrations, and the 25 tips that give funny sidenotes to the story. My only nitpick is that sometimes the descriptions didn’t line up with the illustrations. No big deal, but I thought it was a little odd.

Librarians, read the book. It’s an easy recommendation to students that accomplishes what it set out to do – getting non-readers to read, despite Charlie Joe Jackson’s best efforts. This is not a sappy book, though. Greenwald pulls no punches in making fun of other books and airing complaints from reluctant readers.

An amazing interactive map of the Pearl Harbor attack

December 7th, 2011

National Geographic always has great resources, but this one really grabbed my attention. Check out this map that commemorates the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Just like how the JFK Library incorporated real audio and visuals in We Choose the Moon, National Geographic has included a ton of primary sources (click on the We Were There links) from the attack.

Put this one up on the LCD and let the students explore.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

December 2nd, 2011

Selznick’s Wonderstruck is in the same style as his Hugo Cabret. The massive illustrations contribute significantly to the narrative, although Wonderstruck switches it up a bit. For most of the novel, the text follows Ben, a young orphan in 1977 as he tries to find his father. The pictures, though, are of a young girl in 1927 running away from home. The two plotlines mirror each other in engaging ways and, since one is in text and the other pictures, Selznick can jump back and forth between time periods without too much trouble.

The book explores Deaf culture (lower case “d” is the condition, upper case is the culture) in two different eras. One thing I never really thought about before was that, during the silent movie era, both hearing and nonhearing audiences could enjoy the movie just the same. Once theaters added “talkies”, a whole people group was left out.

Side note: did you know that some movies offer captioning? Check out to search for captioned movie showings in your area.

The book moves quickly, although it feels like there is more text in Wonderstruck than Hugo. I also missed the photos from movies that Hugo had. We do get to meet Lillian Mayhew, an actress from the 1920s that went through personal scandals in Hollywood. We also learn about some of the inner workings of museums around New York.

It’s one to check out. I finished it within a 24-hour period. I really enjoyed seeing a Star Wars poster in the background of one of the drawings, since the book takes place the summer of 1977. One thing you’ll have to look for when you read it: all of the references to E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Poligraft – Tracking financial influence in politics

December 2nd, 2011

I recommend the Congress app for Android, iPhone, and Windows phones. It’s a very handy tool to stay informed about what your elected officials are doing.

While on Sunlight’s website, I found Poligraft, a site that helps you track financial influence in politics. You find an article online and paste in the URL or the selected text. The site then searches the article for political names and organizations. On the side of the screen it highlights those names and shows either how much money that politician has received from which organization or how much the organization has donated to politicians.

It can help you track influence when sifting out bias (which helps students meet standard 1.2.4 from the AASL’s Standards for 21st Century Learners).

Click here to learn where Sunlight gets its data.