App of the Week – Website of the Week – Podcast of the Wee

So, in addition to an app, this week I’d like to introduce you to a website. Podomatic is a website for independent podcasts. So you’re not going to come to Podomatic for things like Stuff You Should Know or the TED Radio Hour (can you tell how my podcast listening goes?). But you know what you can find there?

HillCast – the podcast about all things Hill Top! We have a great group of students working in podcasting activity. They’ve already put together a few episodes. Their specific web address is

Want to know who’s responsible for the podcast? Listen to Episode 1 – Meet the Team. Want to know about the STEM Competition Dr. Schindler’s Physics class attended? Check out Episode 2 – STEM Competition. Tired of all of your print jobs in the library coming out double sided? In Episode 3 – Tech Tips, Sam will walk you through permanently disabling that feature.

New episodes will be uploaded on Mondays. And you can subscribe through iTunes if that’s what you usually use to listen to your podcasts (we’re not in iTunes yet, but from the Podomatic page, you can send your subscription to iTunes).


Oh, and it is still an app. Podomatic has an app for both Apple and Android.

Destined-to-Be-a-Classic-Book Friday–Authors, uthors everywhere, but not a drop of ink…

With apologies to Willy Wonka, who owes apologies to Samuel Coleridge…

Today’s featured book is Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. This is the sequel to Seraphina, a fantastic high fantasy book about the conflict between dragons and humans. In Hartman’s fantastically constructed world, dragons can take on human form, sometimes making it difficult to know who is who. And Seraphina throws everything off by being half-human and half-dragon, though very few people know it.


I haven’t read Shrh1adow Scale yet, but it will likely be on my spring break list. And I had the pleasure of meeting Rachel Hartman on Monday when she was at Children’s Book World in Haverford. She was funny and interesting and insightful and has been a Terry Pratchett fan since she was a kid.


If you’d like a chance to hang with an author, this coming Thursday, March 26th, at Children’s Book World will be AWESOME!! Gayle Forman, who wrote If I Stay, will be there with my very favorite author A.S. King. As if that wasn’t awesome enough, on Tuesday they announced that Libba Bray, who wrote last summer’s summer read Going Bovine, is going to join them! It’s possible that Mrs. Selinsky and I both squealed like teeny-bopper Justin Beiber fans when we found this out. The event is at Children’s Book World in Haverford (right across from the Haverford School) and begins at 7. I may be a little late, but I will definitely be fangirling that night.

No-Entirely-New Book Wednesday

This book has been hanging around the library for about a year now and I’ve talked about it before. But it is an obvious choice to talk about this week.


Navigating Early is set around the end of WWII. Jack’s mother has just died, and his military father has moved him from Kansas to a boarding school in Maine. While there, Jack meets one of the school’s quirkier students, Early Auden. When Jack and Early are left on campus during a school break, they take off on an adventure.

So, why is this book relevant to this week? Part of the story hinges on the idea that there are mathematicians who believe Pi is not infinite. Remember, this book is set before computers were everywhere and could do everything. There is one mathematician who noticed one number seemed to stop repeating and he took this as a sign that Pi would end. This is particularly distressing for Early who has created a story around the number Pi about a young man named Pi who was sent on a journey and must find his way home. Early’s story is closely related to that of his brother Fisher who was killed in WWII, although Early steadfastly believes his brother is still alive.

This is a fantastic book – a Printz honor book from 2014. It’s got adventure, pirates, fabled bears, and math. What more could you want from a story?

App of the Week – Who Wants Some Pi?

As most of us know, Saturday will be Pi Day. And not just any Pi Day. This year, the date takes Pi to 4 digits: 3.1415! Hill Top will be celebrating, as always. And here are a couple of apps to get you ready for the celebration.


If you’re on an Apple device, check out Learn Pi Free. You can use this app to quiz yourself on how far out you can memorize Pi. It has a quiz mode and a test mode. There is a paid version, although I can’t see any difference in the description. My guess is that for $.99 there are no ads.


If you’re on an Android device, check out Pi (3.141159…). This free app will tell you some of the history of Pi, show you Pi to 1020 decimal places, and allow you to test your memorization skills.

There’s also some cool stuff going on at the Franklin Institute on Saturday. To start with, they are opening at 9.26AM (3.1415926). But then they have a whole line up of Pi(e) Adventures.

Classic Book Friday – Changing the World

This book has been around the library for a few years. A couple of people have read it and found it really interesting.

20150226_161950Planetwalker is John Francis’s story of finding a way to make a difference.In 1971, two oil tankers collided in San Francisco Bay. John Francis worked to help clean the resulting oil spill. But the experience affected him so much, that he decided he was going to give up riding in vehicles…no car, no bus, no train. Instead, he was going to walk everywhere. Some folks he knew started to give him a hard time, questioning his motive. Assuming he was trying to make others feel bad. Through that experience, he found that he often wasn’t fully listening to people because he was always trying to prepare his response to what they were saying. So he decided to stop talking for a day. That ended up being such a powerful experience for him that he decided to remain silent for a year. And that turned into 17 years of silence. While walking everywhere and remaining silent, he earned three degrees and traveled the country. The book recounts his journey and focuses quite a bit on the people he met along the way.

Francis no longer walks everywhere and he is no longer silent. If you’d like to get an idea of what he’s about, check out his TED Talk. It’s really interesting.

New Book Wednesday – It’s a Two-fer

So, today I have a new book and a “classic” book. But they go together, so I didn’t feel I could do one without the other. And they’re both from one of my favorite authors.

cpcSo, the “classic” in this pair is Elijah of Buxton. In this story (set, I think, in the 1860s), Elijah is born free in Buxton, Canada, a community of freed slaves. When someone steals the money his best friend was saving to buy his family out of slavery, Elijah travels to the United States to try to catch the thief. On his journey, he learns exactly what his parents went through to get out of slavery.

The “new” book is The Madman of Piney Woods. It’s a companion book to Elijah, which means that it’s set in the same “world,” but you don’t need to have read the first to appreciate and enjoy the second (kind of like Chains and Forge). This is set in the same town as Elijah, but about 40 years later (and Elijah apparently has a small part). In this book Benji and Red are two very different boys, who really aren’t friends, but who have a lot in common. Most importantly, they’ve both had an experience with the Madman of Piney Woods and want to investigate more: Benji from a journalists’ perspective and Red from a scientist’s.

I haven’t read either book yet (although I did just download the audio for Elijah and requested the audio of Madman as I was writing this), but I have not doubt that they are AWESOME. Christopher Paul Curtis is one of my favorite writers and I have never been disappointed in any of his books. One review of Madman I read said that this is really a buddy story, similar to Tom Sawyer. And I can see where a comparison to Mark Twain would be totally on the mark. Curtis writes believable, relatable, funny characters.

App of the Week – Space Station Research Explorer

Last week, I was flipping through my latest edition of Popular Science when I came across this really cool app.


Space Station Research Explorer is your chance to see what’s going on on the International Space Station. Choose facilities to see what the inside of the space station looks like. Click on part of the picture for an explanation of what you’re seeing.

Want to know about the experiments being conducted on the space station? Choose experiments and then choose which kind of experiment you want to see. Want to know about the IMAX film being shot? Want to know about combustion experiments? Want to know what kinds of experiments schools are putting together and sending into space? It’s all there. For each experiment, you can get technical details, pictures, links, and publications related to what they’re doing. Not only can you find out what’s happening now, you can scroll through past expeditions and see what happened then.

Under Media, play games, see videos, listen to podcasts. This app has a lot to offer, and I’ve only started to scratch the surface. Really, it has the potential to be a huge time suck, but it’s so cool, it’s worth it!

Space Station Research Explorer is free and available for both iOS and Android