App of the Week – GifBoom

This week it’s a fun app, with the hopes that you’ll capture some memories of Spirit Week.

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GifBoom is a free app that lets you use your phone’s camera to create your own gifs, either with pictures or with short video. You can apply a filter, add text, speed it up, or slow it down.

I’ve only played with it a little bit, but so far it’s a lot of fun. You can take pictures or video within the app (although, when I did that, I couldn’t focus the camera), or you can load pictures or videos already in your phone’s gallery. The app will let you load up to 60 pictures for a single gif.

The app is free and available for both iOS and Android. If you do use it, you may want to go into settings as soon as you log in and change your privacy settings – the default is to make everything public.

Download the app and gif your Spirit Week! Friend me…I’m hilltoplibrary. Make gifs of your week. Send them to me (either through email or sharing in the app) and we’ll create a Spirit Week gif gallery! Maybe I’ll even have some fabulous junque for the best ones.

April is…School Library Month

We’ve been talking about how aware April is: poetry, occupational therapy, autism. But, if you remember back to the Snapple debacle, April is also School Library Month. I’m trying not to be too competitive with Mrs. Trusty this year.

In addition to being school library month, this week is also National Library Week. So, I went hunting for a good book with a good librarian in it. If any of you have aspirations to become famous authors, let me give you this piece of advice: write a good librarian in your story and you will become a librarian favorite.

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This is one of my perennial favorites (that means I talk about this book at least once a year). So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld is about so many things. It’s got social media, tends, tendsetters, missing people, missing shoes, and a potenial vast conspiracy. And best of all, when Hunter, the main character, needs to crash a black-tie affair, he needs some help trying to figure out how to tie a bow tie. So what does he do? Does he look it up on the internet? No. He calls the reference desk at the New York Public Library.

And for that reason, I will always recommend Scott Westerfeld books to you!

A Perspective on Wikipedia

No book or app suggestions today. Just an interesting article from the Washington Post on some of the issues with Wikipeida.

Today in History in Books

I’m skipping New Book Wednesday this week in favor of a Today in History entry. On this day in 1865, President Lincoln died. So, how about a few books about his assassination and death?

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Manhunt by James L. Swanson recounts the 12 day search for John Wilkes Booth in the wake of his assassination of Lincoln.

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers is another fabulous story from former text book writer Steven Sheinkin. Remember, he’s the guy who feels so bad about having subjected kids to boring text books for so many years that he now writes these fabulously engaging and interesting books about history. In this book, Sheinkin recounts the story of a group of counterfeiters who planned to steal Lincoln’s body and hold it for ransom…$200,000 and the release of one of their members from prison.

Finally, Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation is a chonicle of her obsession with presidential assassinations and assassination attempts. In addition to other assassinations, she takes a look at the details surrounding the night at Ford’s Theater…the plans leading up to it and the days following. She also talks a lot about Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, whom she describes at the unluckiest man ever born. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with Vowell, in addition to being a witty writer and occasional daily show guest, she was the voice of Violet in The Incredibles.
Some other Lincoln assassination trivia. If you watch the TV show Bones, Booth (played by Philly native David Boreanaz, son of Channel 6 weatherman Dave Roberts) is supposed to be a descendant of JohnWilkes Booth. Booth’s brother Edwin once owned the Walnut Street Theatre here in Philadelphia. And in Assassination Vacation, Vowell does at one point end up at the Mutter Museum!

App of the Week – Scholly

This week is another app and website combination.

There are lots of websites out there that collect scholarship information for students. And while that’s a good thing, that’s also the problem, too. There are lots of them. And each one wants you to create a profile and give them all sorts of information about yourself. It could be almost a full-time job researching all of the available scholarships out there.

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Enter Scholly. The app and website were developed by Drexel student Christopher Gray, who earned $1.3 million dollars in scholarships. He worked with two partners to create an app that gathers information from many of the other websites and put the info all in one place. They were recently featured on Shark Tank where the investors were fighting to back the business.

you can download the app for iOS or Android. The app is $.99. You can also register to use their website, which has a registration fee of $2.99. Some people have said they found the interface on the app a little difficult to work with, so it may be worth the extra $2 to register with the website.

You’ll be asked for some information and their algorithm will search for scholarships that will be a fit for you. I registered so that I could see the interface and I get a couple of emails a week showing new scholarships that match my criteria.

If you want money for school, this is definitely an app or site to check out. It pulls a lot of useful information into one spot.

“Classic” Book Friday – April Is…

April is OT Awareness Month.

April is Poetry Month.

April is Autism Awareness Month. And today, we’re turning Hill Top blue to show our support (even though the actual “light it up blue” day was last week…we rescheduled, since we were on spring break). So, how about a book that looks at a character who thinks a little differently?

20150410_092304In The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, Ted’s cousin Salim has come to visit. Since he hasn’t been in London before, Ted, his sister, and Salim decide to go up in the London Eye…the giant ferris wheel. The line is long and a stranger offers Salim a ticket to move up in line. Since he’s never been before, everyone goes along with it. The only problem is…when the Eye makes its full trip, Salim isn’t in the car anymore.

Naturally, everyone is frantic and the police are investigating, because people just don’t disappear. Ted, whose brain works a little differently than most folks’, thinks that he can be the key to finding Salim. He can think about things and see things in a way that the police, the adults, and even his sister can’t. He’ll be the one who finds Salim.

This is a great mystery story. How can someone just disappear from a ferris wheel? Ted’s a great character, who shows how a brain that works a little differently can be a great asset when things just don’t make sense.

New Book Wednesday – April is…

April is a lot of things. As Mrs. Trusty pointed out yesterday, it’s OT Month (watch out for the Snapple machine). It’s also Poetry Month. So for today’s new book, I thought I’d highlight a book in verse.

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Frank X Walker’s Turn Me Loose tells the story of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers. Evers grew up in Mississippi and served in the Army in World War II. When he returned after the war, he went to college, got married, found a job, and settled into the Civil Rights movement. He worked to break down the Jim Crow laws and even applied to the segregated University of Mississippi Law School as a test case for the NAACP. As he became more active and helped investigate the deaths of people like Emmet Till, he became an target for white supremacists. In June of 1963, Evers was assassinated in his driveway by Bryon De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizen’s Council.

Walker’s collection of poetry tells the story of Evers by telling the story of the people around him. Short poems paint a picture of life in Mississippi from both sides of the Civil Rights movement. While Evers himself is not a voice in the book, you hear about the atmosphere and the tragedy through the characters of De La Beckwith and his family and through Evers’s family, specifically his wife and brother.

I’ll be honest, while this book is short and can be read quickly, it is not an easy read. The ideas expressed by the De La Beckwiths can be disturbing and the experiences related by the Everses are heartbreaking. But it’s a good book to read. I’ve done a lot of reading up on Medgar Evers since I read this book…I knew his name, but not much about him when I started it. He has a fascinating story. For a quick primer on his life, check out (yep, I’m going to say it) the Wikipedia article on him (remember, I’ve always said Wikipedia is a good jumping off point).

Interesting “current events” fact I found in that article. There used to be a TV show on called In the Heat of the Night. It was a cop show, set in Mississippi, that often dealt with racial issues since it focused on two cops, one white, one Black. There was one episode that seems to reference Evers’s murder. The Bryon De La Beckwith character is played by James Best, who is perhaps best known for playing Sheriff Roscoe on The Dukes of Hazard, and who just passed away yesterday.