Book, site and app reviews from the Parent staff

BOOKS FOR KIDS

"BUILDING OUR HOUSE" by Jonathan Bean

Told through the eyes of his older sister, Bean describes how his family moved to a field and built their very own house from scratch. Construction equipment is everywhere as the house grows slowly bigger. Detailed illustrations tell much of the story, and careful observers will notice the new baby added to the family and the cat with new kittens as the months pass. The truck and tool crowd will demand more than one reading. FOR AGES 3 TO 7

"THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER" by Kevin Henkes

Henkes shares the ups and downs of Billy Miller's second-grade year in this gentle chapter book about family, friends and school. Each member of Billy's loving family is the star of a vignette that moves the reader through the seasons. Early chapter-book readers will easily relate to Billy's fears and also his growing confidence as he discovers it is indeed the year of Billy Miller. AGES 7 TO 10

"THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE (LOCKWOOD & CO.)" by Jonathan Stroud

Lucy Carlyle has grown up in a London where ghosts are taking over and children are the only ones who are sensitive enough to see and battle the "Problem." Alone and desperate for work, she takes a job with Anthony Lockwood who runs a small ghost detecting agency and together they battle a variety of specters and try to keep the business alive. But the Screaming Staircase might just be their Alamo. The first in a series, read this one with the lights on! AGES 10 TO 14

"45 POUNDS MORE OR LESS" by K. A. Barson

With a wry and convincing voice, Anne Galardi relates how in her sixteenth summer, she vows to lose 45 pounds. Her aunt's wedding looms on the horizon and as a bridesmaid, Ann will be in the spotlight. Dealing with the all too real issues of self-concept, weight and family dynamics, Barson leavens her story with slapstick humor and heart. FOR TEENS

-Jennifer Young and Kathy Leonard, Collection Development Librarians, Technical Services, Columbus Metropolitan Library

WEBSITE

SERIOUSLYAMAZING

Kids love to know facts that grown-ups don't know. On its website, SeriouslyAmazing (seriouslyamazing.si.edu), the Smithsonian Institute shares all kinds of fascinating stories and strange facts to read and share. Quirky questions are answered by videos of the museum's work in the areas of science, art and history. If your child tends to walk around with his or her nose buried in the Guinness Book of World Records, this site will be just right to feed their curiosity.

-Jennifer Young and Kathy Leonard

FAMILY APPS

LUMOSITY MOBILE

Maybe you're rusty. Maybe kids really are learning more advanced principles much earlier than you were. Maybe you need a little brush-up in order to help them with their homework. Enter Lumosity Mobile, a free app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch from Lumos Labs, Inc. The idea is to improve your memory and overall brain function through "scientific brain workouts." (It's more fun than it sounds.) Neuroscientists put this one together, and essentially, the app makes a program based on your specific cognitive wants. You'll be asked a few questions in the beginning about what you'd like to improve or focus on (i.e., think outside the box, react quicker, dissect complex arguments). Then you're given a "workout" made up of games. New challenges are based on past performance, and they range in difficulty. Time to lift some brain weights.

JELLY SPLASH

This app from Wooga GmbH is everything a person could need in a time waster: simple and fun. It's a puzzle, with the goal being to connect the same colors together, gathering points to advance to the next level. You move quickly between each one, and it's a little addicting watching the little jellies vanish when you connect them with a swipe of your finger. There are enough levels beneath a pay wall to keep your kid occupied, but it does prompt you to shell out some money for certain "moves" and extra lives. It offers different modes, and it gives you the option to compete with friends on Facebook. You can play this one on the iPad and iPod Touch, too.

-Taylor Rogers