During 2009's Teen Tech Week, Mr. McCurry and I helped students create educational videos using Animoto. 

The students began by selecting the topics, identifying key vocabulary, and searching for graphics/photos to support their topics online. 

Students then created their own accounts in Animoto, uploaded their work, and created their final videos. They did an incredible job! 

Check out a few examples here:

Student Videos

Five Stars!

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Imagine having extraordinary powers - powers to literally move mountains or cause floods.  Imagine carrying electric currents throughout your body - enough to ignite fires, set off alarms, cause light bulbs to explode.  Your magical powers may be strong, dangerous, or fierce - or it may be something harmless that makes your life better - like the gift of always being perfect, doing things the right way, and never having to work hard for your success.  Mibs and her family have these powers - or as they call it, their "savvy."  When they turned 13 years old, their savvy was revealed to them on their birthdays.  Mibs and her siblings then had to learn to keep their family secret hidden from everyone and had to attempt to live as normally as possible while keeping their savvy under control.

Mibs was excited and nervous on her 13th birthday.  Today, she would finally learn what her savvy was. 

Rather than the day becoming a celebration, however, Mibs life began to spin out of control.  A horrible car accident has left Mibs Poppa in a coma.  Mibs mother and older brother have to travel out of state to be by his bedside while her father is fighting for his life. 

Mibs knows in her heart that her father needs her.  Though she doesn't know what her savvy is yet, she's convinced she has the ability to bring her father back from the coma - to save his life.

The adventure begins when Mibs hides on a bus headed to her father's hospital.   She never expected this bus ride journey would reveal her real savvy, connect her with a friend that accepted her the way she was, and bring her closer to her siblings.  Mibs even finds herself falling in love for the first time.

In the end, Mibs not only saves her father, she learns to accept and be happy with herself, her own savvy, and the family she loves. 

Looooovvvvvveeeddddd this book!  Fast-paced and interesting, feel-good story

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Bartoletti

  3.5 Stars


His life was a lie.  He said the right things.  Made his family proud.  Loudly declared his loyalty, his patriotism, his pride.  All alone, he swallowed the truth.  Until he could no longer live the lie. 

At first, Helmuth Hubener believed Hitler was Germany’s savior.  He became a prestigious member of Hitler’s youth and outwardly praised Hitler for protecting Germany from the Communists.  Once appointed Chancellor, though, Hitler did not keep his promises. 

He promised peace – but gave them never-ending war.  He promised them power – but took away their basic rights and freedom.  He promised them prosperity – but required great personal sacrifice. 

At first, Helmuth rebelled by listening to banned radio programs.  Here he began learning the truth.  The atrocities inflicted by Hitler – the lies he had fed the German people.  Helmuth knew he had to make others aware of the real Adolf Hitler and the threat he posed to everyone, Germany included.  He couldn’t remain silent anymore. 

Helmuth knew the great risk involved when he began printing and distributing pamphlets that spoke against the Nazi regime.  Despite the risk and sacrifice, Helmuth had to speak and take a stand for those too afraid.


This fictional account is based on actual events.  Helmuth Hubener, sixteen years old, was captured, tortured, and executed for treason.  Until the final moments of his life, Helmuth never regretted his actions.

He believed it was his obligation to tell the truth and take a stand against Hitler’s inhumanity – even if he must pay with his own life.




Waiting for Normal  by Leslie Connor

     4.5 Stars

Addie was used to chaos – or as Mommers like to call it, constant change.  Things were good for a while.  Mommers married Dwight.  Then the twins came along, Brynna and Katie.  For awhile, they were like a real family.   Then Mommers acted out again.  She started lying, spending all the money, ignoring us all.   Even a great dad like Keith has his limits.

He took the twins away when Mommers took off and left us alone for three days.  Keith was the closest thing I ever had to a real dad – losing him hurt the most. Addie tried to be optimistic. Keith promised to bring the twins over to see her as often as he could.  She thought the new trailer Dwight bought for her and Mommers was cute.  And Elliot and Soula from the minimart were supernice and fun, even though Mommers made fun of them. 

Addie knew Mommers loved her, but she didn’t act like other parents.  Mommers slept all day, never cooked, played on her computer all the time and watched goofy TV shows, like Jeanette for the Judgment, when she was actually at home.

Mommers always seemed to have a hard time holding things together.   Addie had a hard time focusing on the good when Mommers started disappearing again.  She was staying gone for days at a time, and Addie’s food kept running out.  Addie didn’t want a nicer house, new clothes, or popularity at school. 

She just wants what she’s never had - a life that’s normal.  

   Five Stars

The Juvie Three  by Gordon Korman


  • Accessory to a robbery

  • Breaking and entering

  • Grand theft

  • Manslaughter 

Three juvenile delinquents:  troublemakers, incapable of ever rehabilitating, dangerous.

Gecko, Arjay, and Terrence were convicted of committing crimes and now are serving time as punishment.  Lives ruined – freedom taken away.

Their luck suddenly changes, though, when the three teens are selected for a new program.  Douglas Healey offers to supervise the boys as they all live together in a halfway house, attend school while keeping up their grades, attend counseling, and stay out of trouble.   Each boy knew what this meant – a reduced sentence, much more freedom, and a second chance.  Gecko begins to think that this will actually work out – that is, until the fight breaks out. 

Why did Doug try to break up the fight?  It was an accident.  He never should have gotten in the way. 

Now, he’s lying in a hospital.  He’s in a coma and may never wake up. Gecko, Arjay, and Terrence are frantic – convinced they’re headed back to juvy hall and prison.  The only way they have a chance to avoid being sent back is to pretend nothing is wrong.   Eventually Mr. Healey will wake from his coma, and they’ll explain what happened.  Keep calm and stay out of trouble.   That can’t be too hard, right? 

 Not until…Gecko falls in love with a beautiful rich girl whose uncle happens to be cop.  Arjay joins a rock band and begins playing in the hottest city clubs.  Terrence thought he wanted to join the toughest gang in the city.  When he changes his mind, they are ready to even the score.  The price?  Terrence’s life. 

Yup.  This is going to be harder than they thought.

You’ll find yourself rooting for the juvie three. This book will keep you reading and wanting more.  I was sad when the book ended – though the ending couldn’t be more perfect.

Highly recommended

   Five Stars

Factory Girl by Barbara Greenwood

Imagine living in a tiny two room apartment – you, your mom, baby sister, and little brother.  It’s cramped and dirty, with no running water or electricity. Dinner is potatoes and water soup. If you’re lucky, there may be hard, stale bread to eat.

Emily Watson was only twelve years old. She had to drop out of school and find a job. Her family depended on her for survival.  Acme Garment Factory did not care that Emily was only twelve.  Underage children were good workers – cheap labor.  Emily began working a backbreaking, boring job –snipping loose threads from garments. She earned four dollars a week for working ten hours a day.

If she accidentally pierced the garment with her scissors, Emily lost an entire week’s wages.  If she spent too long in the bathroom, her pay was docked.  She couldn’t talk to the other girls.   She couldn’t smile, stretch, or even take a brief break.  The factory was dirty, hot, and smoky.   Her bones ached, eyes blurred, and fingers cramped. 

Life in the early 1900s was miserable for the working poor.  Though Factory Girl is fiction, the setting and events are very real.  Before child labor laws, children like Emily worked long hours in deplorable workplaces, with little pay, and often experienced abuse under the hands of their ruthless employers.  They never had a real childhood.The jobs were often dangerous, and many lost their lives as a result.  The photographs in this book depict the hopelessness of their situation, the extreme poverty of the times, and the unforgettable young faces will haunt you long after you stop reading. 

If you found Factory Girl as unforgettable as I did, try Margaret Haddix’s Uprising or Getzinger's The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

Digital Storytelling:  Using Animoto to Create Music Videos

Nehemiah selected 2009-2010 Top Tiger Book Award nominee Toby Wheeler:  Eight Grade Benchwarmer.

Kaylee chose nominee Deep, Dark, and Dangerous.

Christian chose Schooled by Korman.


Destiny chose Poison Apples by Archer:


They did a fantastic job! View their videos here:


red-star.jpgred-star.jpg red-star.jpg3.5 Stars

The Poison Apples by Lily Archer 


Aside from attending the same ritzy, prestigious boarding school, Alice, Reena, and Molly seem to have nothing in common.  Reena is beautiful, spoiled, and arrogant.  Alice is quiet, intelligent, and sophisticated.  Molly is hopelessly nerdy with frizzy hair and big eyeglasses.

We all know that appearances, though, can be deceivingAll three girls are shocked to learn that they share one common factor:  wicked, evil stepmothers have taken over their families and homes.  Each ninth grader is dealing with much more than the typical problems with boys, having trouble fitting into a new school, or experiencing difficulty completing class assignments.

Though their situations seem impossible to change, Reena, Alice, and Molly decide to take fate into their own hands.  Suddenly, they unite and form a group called The Poison Apples.  Their primary purpose is revenge.  Together they can fight back and stop the evil stepmothers of the world!


    3.5 Stars

 Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

Jane should have been grateful.  She could have died that day.The shark attack left her body lifeless. The blood loss so severe she almost died before reaching a hospital.  Is it selfish to not feel grateful? To wonder if a boy will ever want to kiss you? To grieve the loss of her future art career – her drawing talents?

Her friends try to be understanding, but they don’t get it. Who cares about who is dating who?  What other girls are wearing?  What guys will be at the party Friday night?

Jane is lost. Her life left behind- her identity swallowed, consumed, and left ravaged by a shark. Things will never be the same.


 red-star1.jpgred-star1.jpgred-star1.jpgred-star1.jpg4 Stars

Happy Kid! By Gail Gauthier

Could things get any worse??  Kyle suddenly found himself placed in advanced Language Arts and Social Studies classes.  Now he had to spend hours doing homework just to scrape by, and he was stuck eating lunch with the dorky A-list kids. He never had time to hang out with his friend Luke anymore.  And to top it off, Luke had already found Kyle’s replacement.

Kyle didn’t think he would ever be able to shake the bus incident.  Kids still stared at him like he was an ax murderer, and the troublemakers had even started a Kyle fan club.

It was just a screwdriver for pete’s sake.

Kyle had made the screwdriver at school.  It just happened to fall out of his backpack on the bus, right when the bus driver was looking in the rearview mirror.  Kyle didn't mean anything by grabbing the handle and holding the screwdriver upright.  According to the driver. Kyle was waving around a weapon.  A Weapon??

Kyle didn't mean to freak the driver out.  Next thing you know, 911...What's Your Emergency?

No biggie.  Even though Kyle had to sit in the police car until his dad showed up, everything did eventually get cleared up in the end.

So why won’t people move beyond it?

Kyle’s mom is tired of him moping around so she makes an offer he can’t refuse.  Kyle will get paid for every chapter he reads of this cheesy self-help book – as if that would make a difference in his life or make him "happier."

To Kyle’s surprise, it actually does.

Though his life overall still stinks, Kyle begins to see a little light at the end of the tunnel.

Great story - lots of laughs.  If you liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid, try Happy Kid!


 Toby Wheeler: Eighth Grade Benchwarmer by Thatcher Heldring

smallpurplestar.gifsmallpurplestar.gifsmallpurplestar.gifsmallpurplestar.gif       4 stars 

Why do your friends suddenly change in middle school?  Toby liked the way things used to be.  He would hang out with his best friend JJ, pull crazy pranks at school, and spent hours playing street ball and basketball at the rec center.  Now that they’re in 8th grade, JJ doesn’t have time for Toby. 

JJ has a stuck-up girlfriend, Valerie, and spends all of his time playing guitar in a lame garage band.  To make matters worse, JJ never even shoots hoops with Toby anymore.   

When Toby’s basketball rival, Vinny, made fun of him and told Toby he was a weak player, Toby decided he wasn’t going to put up with being slammed by anyone.  He’d try out for the boy’s basketball team, show that punk Vinny how good a player he really is, and find a way to spend time with his friend JJ again.   

Toby’s plan didn’t exactly turn out the way he had hoped.   

Toby makes his middle school team, but he finds himself warming the bench during every game.  The coach picks on him constantly, and his teammates, even JJ, make fun of the way he plays. 

Not only that, but the coach’s daughter seems to have a crush on him.  Just what he needed – another reason for Coach not to like him. Toby is surprised to find out, however, that being a benchwarmer is not always so bad. 

Watch Toby become a fan favorite, get the hottest girl in school, and realize that the best shooter on the team is not always the star player. 

Great story for anyone who feels like he/she always comes in last place!     



fourstars5.jpg   Four Stars

Taken by Edward Bloor

Charity wakes up groggy, tired, and confused.  The last memory she had was being taken to a hospital.  Her face still felt flush with a fever, and she was weak and tired.  Charity soon realized she is not at a hospital, and these men were not doctors.

Charity’s greatest fear has become a reality – she’s been kidnapped. 

In 2036, the children of the wealthy are frequent targets for kidnappers.  Even with the top notch security in her Highlands community, the constant supervision surrounding her and monitoring her every movement, the guards and security systems meant to protect her, Charity has still become a target.  She’s just a means to an end - a ticket being used by kidnappers to cash in ransom money.

Charity hopes and prays her father can be reached, and he is willing to follow the kidnapper’s demands and instructions. If her father acts quickly, Charity will not be harmed.  Despite how hard her father tries to save her, the plan fails.

When one of the kidnapper’s identity is revealed, Charity feels shocked and betrayed.  She knows there are no guarantees, and she must now be willing to act in order to save herself– be prepared to fight and to flee.  What Charity does not realize is that being kidnapped will actually save her in the end. 

Losing the life she has now and leaving others behind is the only way she will ever experience true freedom and happiness.

Exciting, and totally unexpected – right up until the satisfying conclusion.





   smallgreenstar.gifsmallgreenstar.gifsmallgreenstar.gifsmallgreenstar.gifsmallgreenstar.gif    Five Stars   

Not your Mama's Rapunzel!

 I admit it.  I've never read a graphic novel.  The pictures in most make my eyes cross.  I like simple uncluttered lines of text. This graphic novel, however, may make me a fan of the genre.  Rapunzel's Revenge would never captivate readers if not for the amazing artwork.  In this spin on the traditional Rapunzel fairy tale, Rapunzel refuses to be the helpless beauty in the woods - waiting to be rescued by her prince.

As a young girl, Rapunzel began having strange dreams.  She dreamed of an unknown woman frequently.  The woman was kind, affectionate, and loving to Rapunzel - everything her own mother was not.  Rapunzel knew she should be grateful for the beautiful castle she lived in and fine clothing she wore.  Rapunzel, though, was miserable.  Her life was empty and lonely.  She was always isolated from other people, never allowed to explore beyond the castle walls.  Despite her separation, Rapunzel soon learned from her own observations that Mother Gothel was a cruel, cold woman - a witch with magic powers she used to dominate others. 

When Rapunzel finally manages to sneak away and meets the woman in her childhood dreams, she and the woman realize they are actually daughter and child.  Mother Gothel had ripped Rapunzel away from her mother at a young age, and her real mother had been grieving ever since. 

When Rapunzel confronts Mother Gothel, she finds herself in an even more miserable situation - she's locked away for years - deep in a tower in the woods.  Here, Rapunzel realizes she has to take a stand for herself, her real mother, and all the townspeople Mother Gothel has abused. 

Part fairy tale, western, romance, and comedy, Rapunzel's Revenge is a wild ride you'll never forget!  I couldn't put this book down.  Rapunzel is one of the greatest heroines you'll ever meet.  The expressive sketches in this graphic novel make the story come alive, with humor written within the graphics themselves.  Loved it!