November 23 – Fibonacci Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is dedicated to the man—Leonardo of Pisa, today known as Fibonacci—who promoted awareness throughtout Europe of the number sequence that now bears his name. First appearing in Indian mathematics and linked to the golden triangle and the golden ratio, the number pattern states that each consecutive number in the series is the sum of the two preceding numbers: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…. This sequence is found again and again in nature in such arrangements as leaves on a flower stem, seeds in a sunflower, the tapering of a pinecone, the swirl of a seashell, and manys. These precise compositions allow each leaf to get enough sunlight, make room for the correct number of petals, or squeeze in as many seeds as possible. To celebrate, learn more about this sequence and then observe patterns in nature. A good place to start is with today’s book!

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci

Written by Joseph D’Agnese | Illustrated by John O’Brien

 

Leonardo Fibonacci introduces himself this way: “You can call be blockhead. Everyone else does.” He goes on to reveal that he acquired that nickname because he loved to think about numbers. Once when his teacher gave the class ten minutes to solve a math problem, he knew the answer in two seconds. At home he counted everything he saw. When he was bored his mind pondered the patterns he saw. For instance, on that school day while his classmates worked on the problem, Leonardo spent the time gazing out the window. H e noticed 12 birds sitting in a tree. How many eyes was that? How many legs? “And if each bird sang for two seconds, one bird after the other, how long would it take all of them to sing?” He was counting these answers in his head when his teacher yelled, “‘How dare you daydream in my class!’” He told Leonardo there would “‘be no thinking in this classroom—only working! You’re nothing but an absent-minded, lazy dreamer, you…you BLOCKHEAD!’”

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

Leonardo ran from the room into the city he loved—Pisa, one of the greatest cities in 1178 Italy. A new tower was being constructed—although the builders were having trouble with their math and the tower stood at an angle. He was so enthralled with the math he saw all around him that he nearly walked into danger. “‘What are you, a blockhead?’” a woman shouted. Leonardo’s father was angry and embarrassed by his son’s reputation in town. He wanted Leonardo to become a merchant, and took him to northern Africa to learn the business.

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

In Africa Leonardo learned a new number system. Instead of Roman numerals, the people used numbers “they had borrowed from the Hindu people of India.” In this system XVIII became the much easier 18. During the day Leonardo handled his father’s business accounts, but at night Alfredo, his father’s advisor and Leonardo’s champion, accompanied him as he learned the new number system. As Leonardo grew older, his father sent him on trips to other countries to conduct business. In each Leonardo learned new mathematics concepts. In Egypt he learned about fractions. In Turkey and Syria he discovered methods of measurement. In Greece he learned geometry, and in Sicily he used division and subtraction.

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

One day Leonardo “began to write a book about Hindu-Arabic numerals” and included riddles to demonstrate the ideas. One was about a pair of rabbits. Leonardo asked Alfredo to tell him how many baby rabbits would be born within one year if it took a baby one month to grow old enough to have babies of its own and one more month to have a pair of babies. Alfredo tried to solve it but couldn’t. As Leonardo explained the sequence of adult pairs and baby pairs of rabbits to Alfredo, he noticed a pattern. At the end of month two, there would be 1 grown-up pair of rabbits and 1 baby pair; at the end of month three there would be 2 grown-up pairs and 1 baby pair; at the end of month 4 there would be 3 grown-up pairs and 2 baby pairs…. Leonardo saw that by adding “any two consecutive numbers in the pattern,” you’d get the next correct number. This discovery made solving the problem even easier.

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

Leonardo’s work with math soon spread across Europe. Frederick II, the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire invited Leonardo to visit. There Frederick’s wise men challenged him with math problems that were no match for Leonardo’s quick brain. Frederick II didn’t call Leonardo a blockhead, instead he said he was “‘one smart cookie.’” When Leonardo went home, however, the people of Pisa grumbled and complained. They thought the old Roman numerals were good enough.

Leonardo set out to prove how valuable Hindu-Arabic numerals were. He began observing nature, and everywhere, from the petals of a flower to the arms of a starfish to the seeds in an apple, Leonardo discovered the same numbers—the sequence he had discovered in the rabbit riddle. He realized that these numbers could be used in different ways—to draw a spiral; the same type of spiral found within pinecones and the center of a sunflower.

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

Leonardo finishes his story by relating that even though he is now old, numbers still delight him, as does the secret Mother Nature cleverly uses to organize the world and even the universe. He invites readers to look again through his story and find the places where his Fibonacci sequence appears.

More biographical information about Leonardo of Pisa plus a discussion of where readers can find Fibonacci number patterns in nature and a scavenger hunt through the book follow the text.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci is an engaging, accessible biography that describes this mathematical scholar’s life and theory in a clear and entertaining way, whether their thing is math and science or English, history, and art. Joseph D’Agnese immediately entices kids into the story with the revelation of how Leonardo acquired the nickname that gives the book its title. Using anecdotes such as the birds in the trees and the rabbit riddle, he invites readers to think like Fibonacci, leading to a better understanding and enjoyment of his life story and the mathematical concept. The idea of using your talents and passions wherever you are—as Leonardo does in his work for his father—is a valuable lesson on its own.

John O’Brien’s wonderfully detailed illustrations take children back to early Italy and the Mediterranean with his depictions of Leonardo’s school and town, as well as the under-construction Tower of Pisa and the influential cultures of other countries he visited. Cleverly inserted into each page are examples of the Fibonacci sequence at work—in whorls of wood grain, the spirals of women’s hats, the web of a spider and horns on a passing goat, and so many more. The rabbit riddle is neatly portrayed for a visual representation of the math involved, and the way nature uses the pattern is also organically portrayed. Children will love searching for and counting the various ways Fibonacci’s seuqence is used throughout the illustrations.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci is a fantastic book to share with all children, especially as they begin to learn mathematical problem solving, the value of math, how it is used, and how it occurs naturally in the world. The book makes a marvelous teaching resource and addition to classroom libraries and also a great addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 9

Henry Holt and Company, 2010 | ISBN 978-0805063059

To discover more books by Joseph D’Agnese for children and adults visit his website!

Find a vast portfolio of cartoon and illustration work by John O’Brien for kids and adults on his website!

Watch the Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci book trailer!

Fibonacci Day Activity

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Spiral Coloring Page

 

Have fun coloring this printable Spiral Coloring Page that is inspired by Leonardo Fibonacci’s work.

Picture Book Review

November 4 – Fountain Pen Day

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About the Holiday

Today we spend some ink to extol the virtues of the fountain pen. Designed in 1636 (a mere 22 years after William Shakespear wrote his last play), the fountain pen sported two clever improvments over the quill pen. First, it contained a reservoir of ink that made frequent dipping in the inkwell unnecessary. Second, it’s metal nib didn’t require cutting the way a feather did to retain sharpness. While there are now many alternatives to fountain pens, there are those who prefer its smooth elegant lines for writing everything from notes to novels. Fountain pens are also collectable, and craftsmen around the world create beautiful, innovative works of art on these functional canvases.

 

Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk

Written by Jane Sutcliffe | Illustrated by John Shelley

 

“In 1606 London was a bustling, jostling, clanging, singing, stinking, head-chopping, pickpocketing wonder of a city.” With that phenomenal sentence Jane Sutcliffe begins this fascinating and ingenious look at the Globe Theatre and the experience of attending a play in William Shakespeare’s time.

In addition to all the qualities of London mentioned above, the town was also a “play-going city.” Every day of the week except Sunday, a play—or maybe even two or three—was performed, and as many as 18,000 people attended plays every week! They just couldn’t get too much of a good thing!*” And everyone loved the plays written by William Shakespeare!

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Image copyright John Shelley, text copyright Jane Sutcliffe. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

How did a day at the theater begin? Well, at 1:00 a banner was raised from the roof of the playhouse, and men, women, and children streamed through the streets toward the Globe. It cost a penny to get in, but if you paid more you got a chair, and if you paid a little more than that you were seated in the Lord’s Rooms. The Lord’s Rooms were actually for fashionable people who wanted to be seen but didn’t really care what they were seeing.

All the actors were…well…actors. There were no actresses in those days. Men played women’s parts as well as men’s. And if you think phones and talking are problematic in today’s theaters, you would have been aghast at the audiences back then! They were not well behaved at all!

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Image copyright John Shelley, text copyright Jane Sutcliffe. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

There were plays to please all tastes—comedies, tragedies, histories, and romances—all full of complicated plots and plenty of twists and turns. While the stories may have been intricate, the sets were not. But the bare-bones sets were made up for in gorgeous costumes and even some special effects accomplished with trap doors and ceiling holes. Sounds full of amazement, right? Good thing too because these plays could go on for hours, and most people stood through the whole thing, rain or shine!

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Image copyright John Shelley, text copyright Jane Sutcliffe. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

William Shakespeare’s plays didn’t end when the last line was spoken. In fact theatre-goers repeated the lines they’d heard long after they left the Globe. They used Will’s words so much that his new phrases became part of the common language, and we still use them today!

Jane Sutcliffe inserts a tongue-in-cheek apology before the main text, explaining how she wanted to tell the world about the Globe Theatre in her own words, but that William Shakespeare’s words kept getting in the way. Yes, using another writer’s words is a no-no—but if they’re Shakespeare’s words? Words we use every day? Hmmm…Sutcliff’s lively history of the Globe Theatre and Old London’s theater culture is conversational, humorous, and highly informative.

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Image copyright John Shelley, text copyright Jane Sutcliffe. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

The left-hand page tells the story of the Globe with phrases and words coined by William Shakespeare sprinkled throughout and set in bold type. On the right-hand page readers learn the meaning of those words and phrases (some have changed a bit since Will’s time) and which play they come from. A final note from Sutcliffe at the end of the book reveals a bit more about the playwright. A timeline of Shakespeare’s life and a bibliography are also included.

John Shelley’s incredible illustrations of London and the Globe Theatre will take your breath away. The streets teem with vendors, knights, shoppers, kids, Ladies, and Lords. If you look closely at the intricate paintings you’ll also spy the seamier side of Old London—a pickpocket, a criminal in the stocks, a tavern brawl, a cat snatching a free meal, a woman about to empty a chamber pot on her unsuspecting downstairs neighbor’s head, and…could that be a dead rat?— and that’s only on the first page!!

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Image copyright John Shelley, text copyright Jane Sutcliffe. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Subsequent pages show the waterfront with its sailing vessels, a peek into Shakespeare’s study and a look at the printing press, an aerial view of London, the Globe Theatre with its thatched awning, the actors donning wigs and costumes, and the audiences enjoying the plays and the fun of a day out. Each illustration is alive with color and movement, texture and design, expressive faces, and all the sights, sounds, and aspects of Old London. Kids will love lingering over each page picking out the funny events going on in the lanes, in the theater seats, and on stage.

So hurry to get your own copy of Will’s Words and enjoy it to your heart’s content! You will definitely get your money’s worth!

*Italicized words were invented by William Shakespeare

Ages 6 – 10 and up (Anglophiles and Shakespeare lovers will enjoy this book)

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580896382

To learn more about Jane Sufcliffe and her other picturebooks and books for early and middle grade readers visit her website!

View a portfolio of picture book illustration and other work by John Shelley on his website!

Fountain Pen Day Activity

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Write Like Shakespeare

 

William Shakespeare might have missed out on the new technology of fountain pens, but he sure did a great job with the quills of the day. Try your hand at making a quill pen—you may not be able to write with it, but it sure will look cool on your desk!

Supplies

  • Medium to large size feather with quill, available at craft stores
  • Clay, oven-bake or air-dry, in various colors if desired
  • Wire, beads, paint, and/or markers for decorating     
  • Scissors
  • Baking pan for oven-bake clay

Directions

  1. Roll clay 2 ½ inches to 4 inches long 
  2. Push the quill end of the feather into the clay
  3. Add bits of clay or roll sections of the clay between your fingers to give the clay shape
  4. To make the twisted shape pen, twist the length of clay around itself before adding the feather
  5. Shape the end or cut it with scissors to make the pointed writing nib
  6. If using air-dry clay: Add beads and/or wire and let clay dry around feather
  7. If using oven-bake clay: Add beads and other layers of clay before baking then carefully remove feather. Bake clay according to package directions
  8. Add wire and other decorations after clay has baked and cooled
  9. Reinsert feather into clay

October 22 – Smart is Cool Day

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About the Holiday

There are many ways to be smart—and they are all very cool! The world needs people who can think differently about all issues to solve problems, create art and literature that reflects our times and present alternate viewpoints, and just to make life funnier, more poignant, more beautiful,more  livable. Today, celebrate your particular way of being smart and share it with others!

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein

Written by Jennifer Berne | Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

 

More than 100 years ago on a windy March day, a baby boy was born—Albert was his name. Albert turned one without saying a word. When Albert had his second birthday, he still hadn’t said a word. By the age of three Albert had only said a few words. “He just looked around with his big, curious eyes. Looked and wondered. Looked and wondered.” Albert’s parents were a bit worried because he was so different from other kids. But “they loved him…no matter what.”

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Image copyright Vladimir Radunsky, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Once when Albert was sick, his father brought him a compass. As he watched the needle automatically spin to point north, “Albert was so amazed his body trembled. Suddenly he knew there were mysteries in the world—hidden and silent, unknown and unseen.” Albert began asking questions wherever he went. His teachers told him he was a “distraction” and that “he would never amount to anything if he didn’t behave like all the other students.” But Albert didn’t want to be like other kids.

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Image copyright Vladimir Radunsky, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

While on his bicycle one afternoon, Albert wondered what it would be like to ride a beam of sunlight. He was excited by this idea and it filled him with questions. He began to study light and sound, heat, magnetism, and gravity. He also read about numbers, which to him were like a secret language. Still, Albert had many more questions. After college he wanted to teach the subjects he loved, but he couldn’t find a job.

Instead, he went to work for the government. His job left him a lot of time to ponder his questions. He watched sugar dissolve in tea and smoke disperse in the air and wondered how that happened. Albert realized that everything is made of tiny particles. While many people didn’t believe it, Albert’s work helped prove the existence of atoms.

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Image copyright Vladimir Radunsky, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Next Albert considered motion and how everything is always moving. “Even sound asleep we’re moving, as our planet circles the sun, and our lives travel into the future. Albert saw time and space as no one ever had before.” He wrote about his theories and sent the articles to magazines that published them all. Scientists asked him to join their research and teach with them. People began to call Albert a genius. Now he could spend all his time thinking, wondering, and imagining—doing what he loved.

His ideas took in huge things—like planets—and infinitesimal things—like the particles inside atoms. To help him think, Albert sailed his little boat and played his violin. Even the kinds of clothes he wore—or didn’t wear—affected his thinking. He loved baggy pants, over-sized sweaters, and NO socks! He was easily recognized around town by his long, white hair.

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Image copyright Vladimir Radunsky, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

During all these years Albert never forgot about that beam of light he once wanted to ride. He “figured out that no person, no thing, could ever zoom through space as fast as a beam of light.” If that could occur “crazy things” would happen. While only minutes would pass for the traveler, years would go by for those left on earth. This sounded like a ridiculous idea, but since then it has been proven true.

Albert Einstein continued reflecting on the world until the day he died. He asked and answered many questions that had never been posed before. But he also left many, many questions for other generations—maybe even you!—to discover and solve.

Jennifer Berne’s engaging biography of Albert Einstein is a charming and absorbing look at one of the most unique thinkers in history. Her uplifting, conversational storytelling and well-chosen anecdotes from Albert’s childhood and adulthood will keep kids riveted to the story and show them that while Albert Einstein’s ideas may have been out of this world, he was also very much down to earth. On a Beam of Light introduces readers to this fascinating scientist and will also inspire them to find the genius inside themselves.

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Image copyright Vladimir Radunsky, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

The childlike, offbeat goache, pen, and ink illustrations of Vladimir Radunsky lend the right amount of lightness and movement to each page, depicting not only Albert and his surroundings but also the endless musings that filled his mind and his days. As Albert grows from a baby to a child, his loving and understanding parents stand by and encourage his gifts; he and his bicycle rocket off on a beam of light; and numbers swirl through the air as Albert rests his head on a stack of books. In a restaurant other patrons are portrayed as simple line drawings, putting the focus on Albert as he ponders a dissolving sugar cube, a device that is used to also depict Albert’s thoughts and scientists of the future who have proven his theories correct. When Albert discovers atoms, he and a family portrait are rendered in dots. The muted colors, mottled paper, and period details allow readers to fully appreciate Albert’s Einstein’s story and contributions.

An Author’s Note and further paragraphs about Einstein’s thought experiments, playful nature, pacifism, and most famous equation, as well as a list of resources follow the text.

On a Beam of Light is a wonderful addition to home libraries for children interested in science, math, ideas, history, and creativity in general. Jennifer Berne’s emphasis on the support Albert received from his parents and his ultimate acceptance within the science community is also welcome comfort for kids who do think differently.

Ages 4 – 9

Chronicle Books, 2016 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1452152110

To view more books by Jennifer Berne, plus pictures by her readers and more, go to her website!

Visit Vladimir Radunsky’s website to see a gallery of his books with pictures!

Smart is Cool Day Activity

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I’m Smart Because…

 

In what way are you smart? Draw a picture or write about your special talent on this printable I’m Smart Because…page.

Picture Book Review

October 16 – Dictionary Day

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About the Holiday

Dictionary Day honors Noah Webster, who wrote the first American dictionary. He was born in 1758 to a family that loved learning and knew the importance of a good education. Even as a boy Noah Webster loved words. He went on to become a lawyer, newspaper editor, Connecticut and Massachusetts legislator, and he helped found Amherst College in Massachusetts.

He is most well-known, however, for compiling the first American dictionary that is synonymous with his name and still the most popular dictionary in use. His work, first published in 1828, revolutionized the way language and words were presented and remains always current by every year adding new words that come into common use through new products, fads, and slang.

Wordsmiths the world over celebrate both the amazing accomplishment that is the dictionary, and I would imagine, their own well-thumbed and well-loved copies of this remarkable resource.

W is for Webster: Noah Webster and His American Dictionary

Witten by Tracey Fern | Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

 

Noah Webster was always different. Tall and thin with bright red hair, he liked to use big words when he spoke and wanted to do homework instead of goof around in school. Unfortunately for him school was in session for only a few months a year and goofing around seemed to be the major course of study. Of course, Noah didn’t call it “goofing around,” he called it “‘playing roguish tricks.’”

Noah begged to go to a harder school. “His pa knew Noah would make a terrible farmer. Noah spooked the cows by reciting Latin and spent too much time reading Ames’ Almanack under the apple trees.” His pa agreed, and in 1774 at the age of 16 Noah went off to study at nearby Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut. Yale had strict rules. Students had to rise at 5:30 a.m. and study for two hours before class. They were also fined “two shillings for making ‘tumult, noise, hallooing,’ or otherwise goofing around. Noah thought Yale was wonderful.”

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, text copyright Tracey Fern. Courtesy of macmillan.com

Noah hadn’t been at Yale long before the American Revolutionary War broke out. Although Noah signed up to fight, he recognized that he was “‘ill able to bear the fatigues of a soldier,’” which was “Noah’s big way of saying he was a lousy soldier.” He returned to Yale and graduated in 1778, but he left the school with no job and no prospects. Even his pa told him to leave home to find work.

Noah became a teacher, but he found the British textbooks “‘defective and erroneous.’” He believed the students should have American textbooks that better reflected their diverse experiences. With the Revolutionary War at an end and America victorious, Noah wanted to help “hold his new, complicated nation together.” He believed that America needed a language different than the English spoked in Britain. “‘A national language is a national tie,’ Noah insisted to all who would listen, and to many who wouldn’t.”

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov. Courtesy of macmillan.com

He began the work himself with a speller. Right from the start Noah’s speller was different than the British books. It included everyday words “like scab, grub, and mop.” He also simplified the spelling by taking out unpronounced letters or spelling words phonetically. He also added pictures to every page and presented lists of rhyming words. He also priced his book so almost anyone could afford it. Noah’s speller became a bestseller.

Still, Noah had bigger ideas. He wanted to write a patriotic dictionary with uniquely American words. He took his idea on the road to make money for the venture, lecturing wherever he could. But Noah’s know-it-all tone of delivery, his “prickly personality,” even his “‘porcupine hair’” put people off. And what’s more, they didn’t like the idea of his dictionary. People thought he was a “lunatic” for wanting to replace British words with American ones.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, text copyright Tracey Fern. Courtesy of macmillan.com

In 1806 Noah went ahead and published “A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. It was a flop, but Noah wasn’t discouraged.” The next year he started working on a bigger dictionary. He copied words out of British dictionaries and added American words and he traced the roots of all the words and wrote definitions, sometimes including quotes from famous people to show differences in meaning. He figured the whole dictionary would take 5 years to finish—eight to ten, tops.

But five years later, Noah was still on the letter A. With no money coming in and a growing family, Noah took a variety of jobs, but he always seemed to rub someone the wrong way, and he lost job after job. He decided to sell his fancy house and bought a farm. Here he was able to gather books, books, and more books around his unusual donut-shaped desk. Standing inside the center of the desk, he spun around and around reading the books and finding words to include in his dictionary.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov. Courtesy of macmillan.com

By 1822 Noah had exhausted all the books in his study. He took to traveling to other American libraries, moved his family to New Haven to use the Yale library, and in 1824 even sailed to Europe to explore books found in the National Library in Paris and at the University of Cambridge in England.

Finally, in 1825 Noah finished his dictionary.  With more than 70,000 words, An American Dictionary of the English Language was the largest English dictionary ever written. “Many people thought it was the best English dictionary ever written.” Why the change of heart? Well, one reason might have been that the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, “was a common man and a bad speller.” Another might have been that the timing was just right.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, text copyright Tracey Fern. Courtesy of macmillan.com

However it came to be, Noah was now lauded as a hero by states and newspapers. Congress even adopted the dictionary as its standard reference book. Noah had not only succeeded in writing an American dictionary, he had “created a new American language for a new American nation.” One that is still beloved today.

An Author’s note as well as a list of resources follow the text.

Webster’s dictionary is intrinsically woven into every American child’s life through language and vocabulary development. Tracey Fern’s captivating story reveals the charm and foibles of its author, a man with just the right temperament and perseverance to tackle and complete such an overwhelming task. Fern’s exceptional storytelling skills and deft turns of phrase allow for a comprehensive review of Webster’s life that is full of exhilaration, empathy, and a good dose of the “big” words Webster loved. Fern builds suspense and tension while offering an insightful look at early American history by including details of the staggering research required and the adverse reactions to Webster and his work.

Boris Kulikov’s expressive illustrations perfectly capture the complex personality of Noah Webster, late-1700s-to-early-1800s American society, and the obstacles Webster faced in writing his dictionary. Fittingly, words, books, or ink blots abound on every page, pouring from the air, sprouting from the ground, stacked like the skyscrapers that would come, and surrounding Noah Webster the way they must have swarmed through his brain. Kulikov infuses humor into his paintings, as when Noah tears at his hair wondering how he will support himself after college, shrugs nonplussed at his students’ shenanigans, and buys himself quiet work time by handing out sweets to his kids. Visual metaphors for the hard, backbreaking and mind bending work also enhance this beautiful biography.

Ages 5 – 10 (adult’s will also enjoy this biography)

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015 | ISBN 978-0374382407

Visit Tracey Fern’s website to learn more about her and her books!

Discover a gallery of artwork by Boris Kulikov on his website!

Dictionary Day Activity

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“Big Words” Word Search

 

Knowing and using a wide range of words allows you to express yourself in exact—and often—fun ways. Find the 26 “big” words—one for each letter of the alphabet—in this printable “Big Words” Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

October 12 – Emergency Nurses Day

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About the Holiday

Originating in Australia in 1989 and sponsored by the Emergency Nurses Association, today’s observance has become an international event and honors the dedication and care emergency nurses show for their patients in hospitals, at crisis centers, and in disaster and epidemic zones world-wide. This special day is part of Emergency Nurses Week, which runs from October 9 – 15. This year’s theme is Community. Connect. Care. Compassion, which defines the important role of nurses in both health care and wider society.

Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, A Civil War Hero

Written by Marissa Moss | Illustrated by John Hendrix

 

When President Abraham Lincoln called for young men to join the army fighting against the Southern states that wanted to secede from the Union, Frank Thompson signed up. One thing though, Frank wasn’t really a man but, instead, a 19-year-old woman named Sarah Edmonds. Sarah already knew the freedom that posing as a man could bring in her society. Three years earlier to escape a marriage arranged by her parents, Sarah cut her long hair, began wearing pants, and crossed “the border from Canada into the United States, trading a bridal gown for trousers, trading countries, without a single regret.”

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Image copyright John Hendrix, courtesy of johnhendrix.com

Now, outside the Michigan courthouse, Sarah slowly moved her way along the line to the table where she could sign up to join the troops. When she finally stood in front of the recruiter, however, he stopped her. Sarah was mystified. How did he know she wasn’t a man? She had grown up on a farm, learning the work, copying the gestures, and even wearing the clothes of her brother. But the recruiter took one look at “Frank Thompson” and told her…she was too young to join the army. “He looked at her peachy cheeks free of any sign of a whisker. ‘We aren’t taking any sixteen-year-olds,’” he told her.

A month later, however, more men were needed, and Sarah was allowed to join up. Now a soldier, Frank was a valuable member of the corps. She was an expert at riding and shooting, and she felt at home among the men, enjoying the jokes, stories, and letters. Keeping her identity a secret was made easier by the fact that soldiers did not change clothes to go to sleep. Her small feet led the other soldiers to give her a nickname: “Our little woman.” A name Frank enjoyed immensely.

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Image copyright John Hendrix, courtesy of johnhendrix.com

On the battlefield Frank trained to be a nurse, “which was something only men with the strongest stomachs did because of the long, draining hours and the horrors of surgery without anesthetic.” She fearlessly fought in the battles of Bull Run and Fair Oaks, risking her own life to rescue wounded soldiers. One night the regimental chaplain approached Frank. He wanted to recommend her for a very important—and very dangerous—job. The chaplain wanted to recommend to the generals that Frank become a spy for the North.

“Frank didn’t hesitate. ‘I’m your man!’” she said. Disguising herself as a freed slave, she infiltrated “a group of slaves bringing breakfast to the rebel pickets, the men who guarded the camp.” With so much work to do, the group quickly accepted her, but when the rest of the men, women, and children went off to their own assignments Frank hesitated, not knowing where to go next. Suddenly, a Confederate soldier caught Frank and ordered her to work on the fortifications. The work was backbreaking and left her hands blistered and bloody. The other workers helped when she had trouble.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nurse-soldier-spy-the-story-of-sarah-edmonds-battlefield

Image copyright John Hendrix, courtesy of johnhendrix.com

The work gave Frank an opportunity to count the number of guns the army had, sketch a layout of the fort, and notice that some cannons were fake—just logs painted to look like cannons. By switching jobs with the water boy, Frank was able to get closer to the troops, where she encountered another spy—one working for the Confederate army. When night fell, Frank returned to his Union battalion. Giving the password, Frank was let into camp and made her way to the general’s tent. “Freedom, she knew, wasn’t something to take for granted. It was something to fight for, to cherish. And so long as her heart was beating strong, that’s just what she would do.”

An extensive Author’s Note revealing more about Sarah Edmond’s life as well as an Artist’s Note on the creation of the illustrations follow the text.

Marissa Moss’s biography of Sarah Edmonds is a suspenseful, gripping, and enlightening story of a woman who broke molds, lived on her own terms, and paved the way for future generations of women. Her well-chosen vignettes from Edmonds’ time as a Union soldier demonstrate not only Edmonds’ bravery and abilities but also create a clear and exciting trajectory of her increasing responsibilities and the danger that went with them. Fascinating details of the Civil War period, the people and attitudes involved, and the duplicitous nature of warfare, add up to a rich account of Sarah Edmonds’ life as well as the Civil War era in general.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nurse-soldier-spy-the-story-of-sarah-edmonds-as a spy

Image copyright John Hendrix, courtesy of johnhendrix.com

Meticulously researched and drawn, John Hendrix’s illustrations perfectly accompany and illuminate the text. Accurate depictions of Civil War-era buildings and clothing as well as Union and Confederate uniforms and weapons allow children to become fully immersed in the time period. Wide-view depictions of encampments and battlefields let readers peek into tents and scour trenches, and action abounds. In camp soldiers pick out tunes on banjos, write letters, and hang laundry; on the battlefield fires rage and ammunition explodes as soldiers follow the charge of their leaders; at the Confederate fortifications black workers steer wheelbarrows of rock; and in the medical tent Frank tends to wounded soldiers, the equipment used clearly visible. Scenes portrayed in both daylight and at night highlight the ongoing conflict and the dangerous, secretive work Sara Edmonds undertook.

Nurse, Soldier, Spy: the Story of Sarah Edmonds a Civil War Hero is historical and biographical work at its best. This fast-paced, fascinating look at one particular soldier informs readers about so many aspects of the Civil War era, including societal issues that shaped the United States and are still discussed today. The book is a must for school and public libraries and its in-depth, absorbing content makes it a welcome addition to home libraries for children who love history, art, biographies, and a well-told story.

Ages 5 – 12

Abrams Books for Young People, 2016 (Paperback edition) | ISBN 978-1419720659

Discover many more books, fun stuff, writing tips and more on Marissa Moss‘s website!

View a portfolio of picture book art, editorial illustration, a sketchbook, and more on John Hendrix‘s website!

Emergency Nurses Day Activity

CPB - Doctors Clothespins

Emergency Nurse Clothespin Dolls

 

Make one of these clothespin figures that honors hard-working and compassionate emergency nurses!

Supplies

CPB - Doctors Clothespins on box

Directions

  1. Draw a face and hair on the clothespin
  2. Cut out the outfit you want your doctor to wear (color pants on your clothespin if you choose the lab coat)
  3. Wrap the coat or scrubs around the clothespin. The slit in the clothespin should be on the side.
  4. Tape the clothes together
  5. Wrap the cap around the head and tape it.
  6. If you’d like to display your clothespin doctor on a wire, string, or the edge of a box or other container, cut along the dotted lines of the clothes template.

Picture Book Review

October 11 – Ada Lovelace Day

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About the Holiday

Today we remember the woman who is regarded as “the first computer programmer.” A mathematician, inventor, and scientific pioneer, Ada Lovelace wrote and was the first to publish an algorithm to generate Bernoulli numbers. Her notes published in Taylor’s Scientific Memoirs in 1842 inspired Alan Turing to design the first modern computers 100 years later. Today’s holiday celebrates all women in the science, technology, mathematics, and engineering fields. To learn more about Ada Lovelace Day visit findingada.com.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

Written by Laurie Wallmark | Illustrated by April Chu

 

Ada was the daughter of two very distinguished—and distinct—parents. Her mother loved geometry and was known as “‘The Princess of Parallelograms.’” Her father was a world-renowned poet, “beloved for his Romanic poems.” When Ada was still a baby, however, her mother left Lord Byron and his “scandalous behavior” behind, and “Ada never saw her father again.”

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Image copyright April Chu, text copyright Laurie Wallmark. Courtesy of crestonbooks.com

As was common in Ada’s time she was often left on her own while her mother traveled. Ada filled the hours and days writing, sketching, and inventing in her journal. When she was still a little girl, she built a set of wings for a flying machine she had imagined. To discover if her wings could actually fly, “Ada needed to compute the wings’ power. She broke the problem into steps—surface area and weight, wind speed and angles.” She had to multiply and divide again and again, and while she loved calculating numbers, Ada wondered if there wasn’t an easier way to find the answers.

As she sat at her desk one day a storm blew up, sending the curtains around her open window flapping. They reminded Ada of sails and she suddenly realized that sails were like wings. She grabbed her toy sailboat and headed out to a nearby pond to test her theories. She launched her boat over and over, and “each time she adjusted the sails and studied the effect on the little boat’s speed. A storm of numbers and calculations whirled in her mind and spilled onto her pages.” She stayed by the pond until dark, and “returned home muddy, dripping wet, and triumphant.” Her nanny was not pleased. She didn’t agree with Ada’s mother, instead believing that girls “should not waste their time with math and science and experiments and other such nonsense.”

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

Overnight, Ada developed a high fever, and the doctor diagnosed measles. Ada’s mother was sent for. She hurried home and spent the days and nights at Ada’s bedside reading to her. Ada’s “fever finally broke, but the measles left her paralyzed and blind. To keep Ada’s mind sharp, Mama quizzed her on math problems,” asking her harder and harder questions. The numbers kept her company, and in her imagination Ada used her flying machine to travel to London.

While Ada regained her sight in a few weeks, it was three years before she could walk again. During this time Ada’s mother hired tutors to teach her higher and higher level math. One of her tutors was Mary Fairfax Somerville, a famous scientist and mathematician. Somerville invited Ada and her mother to a gathering of other influential scientists, mathematicians, and inventors. There Ada met Charles Babbage. Babbage, a mathematician and inventor, was impressed by 17-year-old Ada’s knowledge and understanding and invited her to visit his laboratory.

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

Ada brought her journal and shared with Charles Babbage her own work. He didn’t treat Ada as a child but as a fellow scientist and engineer. Babbage showed Ada a mechanical calculator he had designed. With the turn of a handle cylinders of numbers on the three columns of his Difference Engine spun toward the answer to a math problem Ada posed: what is 15 x 12? The machine gave the right answer: 180!

Babbage also had an idea for a mechanical computer—and Analytical Engine—that “would solve harder problems by working through them step by step.” It was an amazing concept, but Babbage hadn’t built it yet. He gave Ada his notebooks and she studied Babbage’s descriptions of how the machine might work. She realized that the Analytical Engine could work if numbers told it how.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ada-byron-lovelace-and-the-thinking-machine-calculating

Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

Over several months Ada created an algorithm—a set of mathematical instructions. Her journal was filled with lines and lines of numbers and symbols. At last she checked her work for errors and found none. Ada had developed the world’s first computer program! With her creative imagination she could see that someday computers would “design powerful flying machines and majestic sailing ships. They would draw pictures and compose music. And they would play games and help with schoolwork.”

Unfortunately, Charles Babbage never finished building his Analytical Machine, and Ada never saw her program in action. But future generations remembered her and her contributions to computer programming. There is even a computer program named for her. We can imagine that the little girl who wanted to fly would be very pleased to know that Ada helps guide modern flying machines.

An extensive Author’s Note, a timeline of Ada’s life as well as a partial bibliography and resources follow the text.

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Image copyright April Chu, text copyright Laurie Wallmark. Courtesy of crestonbooks.com

Laurie Wallmark’s compelling biography of Ada Lovelace is perfectly aimed at her young audience, highlighting Ada’s childhood dreams, obstacles, and events that led her to become an influential mathematician and inventor. Wallmark’s fast-paced text, which beautifully merges lyrical and technical language to tell Ada’s story, is uplifting in its revelation that from even a young age, Ada was respected and acknowledged for her intelligence and mathematical gifts. Illuminating Ada’s predictions for future uses of the computer forms a bridge between her foresight and the experience of today’s children, bringing history alive for readers.

Gorgeous, detailed illustrations set Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine firmly in its 19th-century time period. Lush greens, reds, and golds welcome readers into Ada’s home, where her wooden and paper wings lay among blueprints for other inventions as Ada sits at her desk jotting notes in her journal. A mural in her home cleverly depicts Ada’s imaginings while she recovered from the measles, and the gathering that Ada and her mother attend is a stimulating portrait of the scientists and new inventions of the day. Kids will be amazed to see one of the first “calculators” as built by Charles Babbage. Included on the pages are images of an early loom and punch cards that influenced the development of our computers. It is fitting that the last page shows how far we have come—and how forward thinking Ada was—with an illustration of Space technology in action.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is an important biography that should be included in every public and school library. For children interested in history, biographies, and the science and math fields, Laurie Wallmark’s and April Chu’s book would make a beautiful gift and addition to home bookshelves as well.

Ages 5 – 10

Creston Books, LLC, 2015 | ISBN 978-1939547200

Discover more about Laurie Wallmark and download curriculum and activity guides on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork and learn more about April Chu’s books on her website

This is one book trailer that really computes!

Ada Lovelace Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-computer-coloring-page

Love Your Computer! Coloring Page

 

What would we do without our computers? Here’s a fun printable Love Your Computer! coloring page for you to enjoy!

Picture Book Review

October 5 – World Teachers Day

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About the Holiday

Teachers are amazing! They dedicate their lives to connecting students to the wider world and opening doors to opportunities for a bright future. Today’s holiday celebrates all the work, thought, and planning that teachers put into every day’s lessons as well as the care and concern they have for every one of their students. Wherever you are, thank your teacher or teachers for everything they do to help you write your own story and ultimately your own ticket—like the sharp heroine of today’s book!

Little Red Writing

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

One day in pencil school Ms. 2, the teacher, tells her class that they are going to write a story. Her students are excited, and each one has an idea of what to write. The birthday pencil, wearing a bright pink cone-shaped hat, yells “‘Yippee! I want to write a happy story!’” The state pencil, sporting a map of Pencilvania on its eraser end, wants to tell a nonfiction tale about its state, and the basketball pencil with a small replica basketball topper imagines writing a sports story.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Little Red, looking sharp in her shiny scarlet coat of paint chooses to “write a story about bravery because red is the color of courage. But what would a brave pencil do?” she wonders. She decides to go in search of unusual characters that will give her a chance to fight evil and save the day. Ms. 2 gives “Little Red a basket of 15 red words to use in case she ran into trouble” and reminds her that “it’s ok to wander a little, but stick to your basic story path so you don’t get lost.”

Little Red takes her basket full of nouns and sets off. In her notebook she begins to describe her journey. “As she walked along…” she writes and then stops. “Walking is boring,” she decides. To discover some action she heads for the gym, where other pencils are twisting, throwing, catching, swinging, and jumping. Little Red bounces and boogies and cartwheels “right off the page into a deep, dark, descriptive forest.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

The adjectives lay thick on the gnarled, flowery, shadowy path. The towering trees smell piney and their verdant, russet leaves hide squirrelly creatures. The forest is beautiful, but suddenly Little Red feels “bogged down, hindered, lost!” Remembering her basket, she reaches in and pulls out scissors. They help her “cut through all this description and stick to the story path.” Back on the straight and narrower, Little Red encounters a bottle of “conjunction glue” with just the right kinds of words to help her. She gives the bottle a squeeze, but now finds that her sentences go on and on without saying anything important. All seems lost until “Suddenly” arrives.

“Suddenly,” she hears a throaty roar that begins to chase her. Little Red runs without stopping, throwing out any word she can grab from her basket until she can escape to the next page. Here, however, she discovers a “long, tangly tail” and decides to investigate. The tail winds all along the school corridors, passing the cafeteria, the music room, the art room, and the auditorium. It even meanders by the math room and the after school clubs room into the principal’s office.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Little Red knocks on the door. Inside, Principal Granny, her long tail tangled behind her, roars her greetings. Little Red is suspicious, but she continues to explain the growly voice she heard. In fact, she says, “It sounded kind of like yours.” “The betterrr to be hearrrd on the school interrrcom,” the principal states. Little Red also reports the tangly tail, to which the principal answers, “the betterrr to get charrrged up for my school duties when my batteries are rrrunning low. All at once Red notices the principal’s big sharp teeth. “The betterrr to chomp little pencils like you and grrrind them up!”

With that Little Red realizes that this isn’t Principal Granny but the “Wolf 3000: the grumpiest, growliest, grindingest pencil sharpener ever made!” The Wolf 3000 begins to chase Little Red around the office, and just when there seems no hope, in walks Mr. Woodcutter, the janitor—who immediately faints. There is only one thing left to do. Little Red grabs her last word and hurls it at the Wolf 3000. “KABLOOEY” goes the dynamite, reducing the Wolf 3000 to a pile of parts.

Principal Granny emerges from the rubble shortened but okay and declares Little Red a hero. Little Red rushes back to her classroom in time to hear the other pencils’ stories and to share her own brave adventure.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Joan Holub’s delightfully clever tribute to writing draws on the Little Red Riding Hood story to get kids excited about using the various parts of speech that make writing so fun and reading so enjoyable. The metaphorical “story path” that Little Red traverses brings her into contact with characters that provide immediate understanding of the concepts. When Little Red squeezes the bottle of conjunction glue, out squirt the words so, but, and, although, yet, and or, which are incorporated into the illustrations on the page. Readers’ familiarity with the original fairy tale increases suspense in this fractured version. The Wolf 3000 electric pencil sharpener makes a perfect nemesis, and the fainting janitor leaves Little Red to sharpen her wits and defeat the beast. Dynamite—at least the word itself—truly is mightier than the sword.

Holub’s nibble talent with puns and wordplay elevates Little Red Writing from simply a book about the subject of grammar and writing to a captivating story kids will love to hear again and again.

Grammar has never looked as enticing as in Melissa Sweet’s vivacious illustrations of adorable Little Red on the story path to prove her bravery. Sweet’s pages, combining pencil drawings, watercolor, and collage, burst with animated typography, scraps of vivid red nouns, and expressive characters in a detailed and fully realized pencil school. Little Red’s final battle with the Wolf 3000 gives full range to Sweet’s rousing visual humor in a highly satisfying climax to the story.

For kids who love reading, writing, and a really good story, Little Red Writing would be a welcome addition to their bookshelves. Teachers will find the story enhances any unit on writing, grammar, and literature.

Ages 5 – 9

Chronicle Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1452152097

You will find children’s books for all ages as well as fun videos, activities, and teachers’ resources on Joan Holub‘s website!

Discover books, things to make, and lots of fun on Melissa Sweet‘s website!

World Teachers Day Activity

CPB - Pencil Maze

Pencil It In Maze

 

Writing a story is like completing a maze – you must stay on the right path from the beginning to the end to write a satisfying tale. Find your way through intricacies of this printable Pencil It In Maze

Picture Book Review