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There's an App for That!

Your Art app will help you discover highlights of the National Gallery of Art collection. The free app includes more than 130 works on view in the West Building by artists including da Vinci, Rembrandt, Vermeer and others. Youngsters, ages 7 to 12, may tune in to learn about more than 50 of the world's greatest paintings by masters such as Rubens, Degas, Monet and Homer. With the app, you can listen to audio commentary, find works of art by artist name, nationality, theme or location, zoom in to high-resolution images, plan your visit and stay current with event and exhibition updates. Free, available at the iTunes app store and Google Play for Android.

The Cure for Cabin Fever

On the Reading is Fundamental website (, your kids will find a ton of activities to keep them busy (and learning) during snow, sleet and wind-chilled days, and also during warm, sunny, perfect, hot and humid days. On the homepage, there is a list of 18 activities for all ages, ranging from Alphabet Learning and Arts & Crafts to Vocabulary Building and Writing. Monthly calendars for ages 0 to 5 and 6 to 15 are also on the site with suggestions for each day; for example, on Feb. 17, parents of little ones might read Marc Brown's Arthur Meets the President or another book about presidents to their child, while older children could read a former president's biography and research how Presidents Day got its name.

— Margaret Hut

Book Reviews

By Mary Quattlebaum

babies / tots

We Love Each Other

With a playful "love" message for Valentine's Day, Japanese author/illustrator Yusuke Yonezu brings together bold colors and stylized illustrations to familiarize tots with basic shapes. The sturdy board-book format allows little fingers to trace a triangle, circle, rectangle and other shapes as youngsters see how a larger whole might be constructed from inherent parts. For example, two small blue triangle-shaped mice actually join together to form one large triangle, and two brown rectangular bears hug to create one giant square. The colors and animal names add another layer of learning to this concept book, and the whimsical critter faces enhance viewing pleasure. Publisher minedition is positioned to be an important creative force. Located in Hong Kong, it draws from an international pool of authors and illustrators and distributes books in English, German and French to countries that speak those languages. Alas, even today, there are relatively few children's books from other countries available in the United States, and minedition can help "open the door to the world" for youngsters.

ages 9-14

The Screaming Staircase

This first book in the Lockwood & Co. series reveals many of the strengths that catapulted Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus series to international success. There's fast-paced action, humor and a rich sense of setting. This time, though, the supernatural intrigue comes not from a cranky genie but numerous unfriendly ghosts on the prowl in the city of London. First-person narrator Lucy Carlyle has joined Anthony Lockwood's small agency with the mission to investigate the notorious haunting of an infamous historic house. As Lucy puts it: "When you go out hunting wicked spirits, it's the simple things that matter most," including a silver rapier and tea bags. The ending of this smashing adventure will leave readers eager for book two.

ages 3 - 8

We Shall Overcome

Award-winning local author Debbie Levy tells the story of the great Civil Rights anthem in a book perfect for Black History Month. Levy's lyrical free verse, which provides a history of slavery and change, is punctuated by lines from the song itself. She opens by describing the conditions of slaves in language easily grasped by youngsters: they "worked long days/with no pay and no say,/no freedom, no fairness,/no choice and no chance." Even though the Civil War ended slavery in the United States, black people still were often denied basic human rights. We Shall Overcome became a song of protest and a cry for change. Vanessa Brantley-Newton places the song lyrics in unexpected places in her fresh mixed-media artwork and shows how the song traveled to and helped galvanize change in India, East Germany, South Korea, Northern Ireland, China and the Middle East. The book closes with an image of an ethnically diverse group of contemporary kids, singing to "declare that�yes!�we are all human beings, deserving of respect." A timeline provides valuable information on the historical events portrayed in the illustrations and touched on in the text.