January 4 – World Hypnotism Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2006 to honor Dr. Jack Gibson, an Irish hypnotherapist who used hypnosis extensively in his practice. Its purpose is to dispel the myths surrounding hypnosis as “mind control,” which is a popular misconception perpetuated by movies and other types of entertainment. To celebrate, learn more about hypnotism and check out local special events, including free hypnotherapy sessions.

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France

Written by Mara Rockliff | Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

 

During the colonists’ war with England, the rag-tag American army needed France’s help. Who better to send than Benjamin Franklin, the charming and experienced statesman? Ben hoped to convince King Louis the Sixteenth and Queen Marie Antoinette to send money and soldiers to America, “but it turned out that they needed Ben’s help too….” At the time, Paris was enthralled by Science. This “new” discipline was introducing new materials, new inventions, and new ideas into society.

One of these notions was Ben Franklin’s own—and when the people of Paris saw him “they went absolutely gaga over the American in the peculiar fur hat. Because everyone had heard about Ben Franklin’s famous kite experiment, which showed that lightning was the same as electricity.” Soon, however, even Ben couldn’t hold a candle to Dr. Mesmer—the “elegant and mysterious” man who wielded “an astonishing new force.” “Dr. Mesmer said this force streamed from the stars and flowed into his wand. When he stared into his patients’ eyes and waved the wand, things happened. Women swooned. Men sobbed. Children fell down in fits.”

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Image copyright Iacopo Bruno, 2015, text copyright Mara Rockliff, 2015. Courtesy Candlewick Press

Dr. Mesmer seemed to do the impossible. He could make the same glass of water taste like strawberries or vinegar just by telling his patient what to taste. He said he could use this force to help people who were sick, and indeed, after a session with Dr. Mesmer “in a room hidden behind heavy drapes covered with signs and symbols” many people emerged saying they had been cured. Those rich enough paid 100 gold louis to learn his secrets, and everyone considered Dr. Mesmer’s force the “most remarkable thing that science had discovered yet!”

Everyone that is, except the city’s doctors, who “griped, and groused, and fussed, and fumed” because their patients only wanted to be treated by Dr. Mesmer. The doctors went to the King to complain. They even suggested that Dr. Mesmer’s force didn’t exist at all. Louis didn’t know what to think, but he did know who to consult—Ben Franklin! Ben wanted to observe this force in action for himself. As he watched, Dr. Mesmer’s helper, Charles, made a group of patients gasp, groan, twitch, and tremble. Some even fainted.

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Image copyright Iacopo Bruno, 2015, text copyright Mara Rockliff, 2015. Courtesy Candlewick Press

When it came time for Ben Franklin’s turn, “He didn’t gasp and groan or twitch and tremble. And he didn’t faint. In fact…he didn’t feel a thing.” Dr. Mesmer said that Ben must be “special” and that’s why the force didn’t work on him. Ben hypothesized a different reason. He said that instead of the force being “in Dr. Mesmer’s wand…it was in the patient’s mind.” They acted and felt the way they did because they expected to.

To test his theory, Ben had Charles wave his fingers near a woman’s face. She screamed and “said she felt a burning flame.” Next Ben told Charles to perform the same routine, but with the woman blindfolded. This time when Charles waved his fingers near her stomach, “she said she felt the heat—IN HER EAR. When he “moved behind her back, the woman shrieked that she felt burning—IN HER LEG!” Ben brought in another patient, blindfolded him, and told him he was being mesmerized. He said he could feel it—even though “Charles was not even in the room.” When Charles came back and waved his fingers and wand, the patient felt nothing.

“Ben tested patient after patient, but it was always the same. If the patient believed something would happen, something did—even without the force! If the patient did not expect anything to happen, nothing did—even with the force!” He revealed his observations to the king, and soon all of Paris was talking—and laughing. And Dr. Mesmer? He took his wand and ran. Ben Franklin soon returned to America—with the help from France he had sought and to his scientific work.

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Image copyright Iacopo Bruno, 2015, text copyright Mara Rockliff, 2015. Courtesy Candlewick Press

The world benefited greatly from the meeting between Ben Franklin and Dr. Mesmer. Ben’s blind test is still used today when new medicines are being developed, and Dr. Mesmer’s force brought to light what we call the placebo effect and also the state of hypnosis, two powerful abilities of the brain that scientists are still studying.

Throughout Mesmerized Ben Franklin studies Dr. Mesmer and his force, using the scientific method. As Franklin observes, hypothesizes, tests, and finds his theory supported, each particular step of the scientific method applied appears highlighted and explained on the page. An extensive Author’s Note about the events of the story also follows the text

Mara Rockliff’s—dare I say it?—mesmerizing true tale of a meeting between two of the most fascinating figures of the late 1770s is the type of nonfiction that can get kids excited about science and history. Intrigue, mystery, charismatic personalities, wit, and a familiar topic are blended together to reveal the uses and steps of the scientific method and to highlight one event in time that still resonates today. Rockliff’s story crackles with fabulous vocbulary—doctors gripe, grouse, fume, are peeved; the king is in a quandary; patients twitch and tremble; plain Ben Franklin is an “apple pie” while elegant Dr. Mesmer a “layered torte.” Rockliff’s story flows at an enthralling pace, keeping readers riveted to discover Dr. Mesmer’s secret.

Iacopo Bruno’s sumptuous illustrations are nothing short of astounding. If the Oscars gave out awards to books, Bruno would certainly win for best costume and set. Every page is gilded with the opulence of the French court as gold buttons, collars, candle sticks, and drawing rooms glint with a polished sheen. Period dress is depicted in the women’s full flowing gowns of red, purple, and green, and in men’s top coats, breeches, lace cuffs, and high buckle shoes. Powdered wigs curl at men’s ears and climb high above women’s heads, festooned with flowers, ribbons, and pearls while Ben’s white, wavy locks fall naturally on his shoulders. In addition to setting the historical scene, Bruno depicts the effects of Dr. Mesmer’s force and the scientific methods Franklin used to debunk it with just the right amount of humor to entice kids and allow them to fully understand and appreciate Dr. Mesmer’s impact on society.

Ages 6 – 10

Candlewick, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763663513

To learn more about Mara Rockliff and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of book jacket and other illustration work by Iacopo Bruno on his blog!

World Hypnotism Day Activity

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You Are Getting Sleeeepy Maze

 

The roundabout pattern of this printable You’re Getting Sleeeepy Maze may make you feel as if you’re in a trance, but don’t zone out before you solve it! Quick! Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled all of France at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 10 – Nobel Prize Day

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About the Holiday

When Alfred Nobel’s will was read after his death on December 10, 1896, his heirs were taken by surprise. Nobel had signed a new will the year before, leaving most of his wealth to create prizes recognizing those who had done their best to benefit mankind in the fields of physics, chemistry,  medicine, literature, and peace. Opposition to this will on the part of the family and those Nobel had chosen to award the prize delayed Nobel’s wishes until 1901. Today, the awards include a prize for economics and are announced in early October. The awards are presented on December 10 in Stockholm, Sweden, except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is awarded in Oslo, Norway.

Jane Addams Day falls on the same date to commemorate her achievement in being the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her work to bring about social change, equality, and peace. Each year the Jane Addams Peace Association presents awards to outstanding children’s books that promote peace and justice. To learn more about Jane Addams and the Jane Addams Peace Association, visit janeaddamspeace.org.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams

Written by Tanya Lee Stone | Illustrated by Kathryn Brown

 

On a busy street stands a very special house where anyone is welcome and some find a home. In 1889 Jane Addams, a wealthy young woman, bought an elegant house in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Why? At just six years old on a trip with her father, Jane “noticed that not everyone lived like her family did.” Right then she vowed that when she grew older, she would live in a poor community and “find a way to fix the world.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane was brave and strong. Sometimes she and her stepbrother George would “sneak away at night to explore in nearby caves.” Jane was also smart and “read and read her father’s book collection,” which also served as the town library. Unlike most women at the time, Jane went to college. She attended Rockford Female Seminary and “graduated at the top of her class.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

After graduation, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, and when her father died that same summer, “Jane felt lost.” Two years later some friends invited her to travel to Europe with them. Although they went to the opera, museums, and many beautiful places, it was an experience in London that stuck with her. There she saw many “people in ragged clothes with outstretched hands, begging a cart vendor to buy his rotten fruits and vegetables that hadn’t sold at the market.” 

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When Jane returned home, the question of how she could help nagged at her. She returned to London to learn about Toynbee Hall, where poor and wealthy people lived together and learned from each other. Here, skills, such as cooking, were taught to provide people with the education to find jobs. Toynbee Hall was called a settlement house, because the rich people who worked there lived there as well.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane now knew what she wanted to do. In 1889 Chicago was a diverse city with a large immigrant population. Many didn’t speak English, which made it hard for them to find jobs. “Large families were crammed into ramshackle houses with no running water.” Garbage lay in the street, and tough kids ran wild with nothing else to do.

Jane found a large house in the middle of one of these areas that had once belonged to Charles J. Hull and upon his death had been given to his cousin, Helen Culver.  When Helen discovered what Jane wanted to do, she donated the house for free. Jane left the house unlocked, letting people know that they could come there whenever they needed. In time, people did find their way to Hull House when they were hungry or out of work. Jane also had her own way of dealing with unruly children or those who didn’t understand her generosity. Once when a man broke into Hull House twice because he had no job and no money, Jane gave him a job.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane helped the neighborhood in other ways too. She built a public bath so that people could stay clean and avoid illness. She convinced “public officials to build more public baths.” Because children had nowhere to play, Jane convinced a neighbor to give her his unused lot near Hull House. She tore down the buildings and built Chicago’s first playground. For kids whose parents worked long hours, she started a morning kindergarten and after school clubs. She also began offering evening classes for children who worked during the day.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane had help with her endeavors. Her friend “Ellen Gates Starr was her partner from the start.” Many other people also helped. They moved into Hull House and “taught literature, art, English, math, science, and cooking.” Hull House continued to grow, and by 1907 Jane oversaw thirteen buildings, including “a gymnasium, coffee house, theater, music school, community kitchen, and an art gallery.”

By the early 1920’s more than 9,000 people visited Hull House every week. Jane’s work “changed a bad neighborhood into a great and strong community.” Today, you can still see Jane Addams’ commitment to others in the community centers that bring people together in nearly every city and town.

An Author’s Note with more information on Jane Addams follows the text.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Tanya Lee Stone brings the story of Jane Addams’ work in Chicago to children in a compelling biography that gives readers a fully developed portrait of this most amazing woman. Stone’s active and evocative language puts children in the Hull House neighborhood, allowing them to get a feeling for and understanding of the issues of the time. Stone’s excellent examples of how Jane Addams responded to a variety of problems facing her community and even Hull House itself, demonstrate how generosity, empathy, and kindness can make positive changes in people’s lives. Depictions of Jane’s early compassion and commitment give children a sense that they too can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Kathryn Brown’s riveting illustrations capture Jane’s early moments of concern for others, bravery, and study that informed her adult life; times of decision and cooperation that led to the establishment of Hull House; scenes of poverty, upheaval, and need that touched Jane’s heart; and images of her successes in Chicago that inspired others around the country. Brown’s softly hued watercolors are beautifully infused with realistic period details and honest emotion that provide readers with a strong foundation for understanding and appreciating the life of Jane Addams.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams is an inspiring choice for children with a philanthropic heart and to open discussions on how one person can make a difference. The book would be a welcome addition to home and classroom libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0805090499

To learn more about Tanya Lee Stone and her books, visit her website.

You can view a gallery of illustration work by Kathryn Brown on her website

Nobel Prize Day Activity

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Jane Addams Coloring Page Poster

 

Jane Addams is an inspiration to all! Print this Jane Addams Coloring Page and hang it in your room or locker to inspire you to make a difference and be a positive influence in your community!

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You can find The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 10 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

The Thanksgiving holiday—with all of it’s shopping, decorating, cooking, and hosting of family and friends—offers lots of opportunities for adults and kids to share their funny, sad, and even embarrassing stories with each other. Learning about others’ triumphs and foibles is a wonderful way to build bonds, and when multiple generations get together it’s also a great time to pass down family traditions. Today’s holiday encourages people to engage in the art of oral storytelling as a way to stay connected to their family heritage. To celebrate elicit your child’s help in the holiday preparations—and get talking!

Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

 

In a cozy home, preparations are being made for Thanksgiving. A little boy is eager to help out and is excited for the day. As his mom bustles around the kitchen, he urges, “Mama, fetch the cooking pot. / Fetch our turkey-cooking pot. / Big and old and black and squat. / Mama, fetch the cooking pot.” With the fat turkey snugged into the pot, the little boy knows just what comes next.

He hauls a basket of kindling to the stove, remind his daddy that he needs to make the fire “blazing hot.” But Thanksgiving dinner isn’t just about the turkey, so the boy ties on an apron to help his sister make the bread. “Sister, knead the rising dough. / Punch it down, then watch it grow. / Line your loaves up in a row.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Big brother also has a job to do to make sure the dinner comes out perfectly tasty. His younger sibling watches carefully as the older boy brushes the turkey with juices, basting the delicious-smelling bird until it’s golden. Grandpa and Grandma also get their instructions from their precocious grandson. With the recipe for the cranberries memorized, the little boy guides his grandfather through the process and has a particular wish for Grandma’s pie: “Grandma, bake your pumpkin pie. / Whip the topping light and high. / High enough to touch the sky. / Grandma, bake the pie.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With all the yummy aromas wafting through the kitchen, it’s getting hard for the little one to wait: “Baste. Boil. Bake a treat / When do we sit down to eat?” But it’s not quite time. As more family members arrive, they are also pressed into service. Auntie’s job is to fix the potatoes. How? The little tyke knows they should be mashed “just like Grandma taught you how” and topped “with butter from our cow.” Uncle’s here too with the cider jug ready to fill all the proffered mugs.

One family member’s job may be the hardest. Who is that? The baby! As the boy gently rocks the cradle, he whispers, “Baby, be a sleeping mouse. / Such a peaceful, sleeping mouse. / Snug and happy in our house. / Baby, be a mouse.” The house is alive with all the rushing around and excited voices, and while the little boy is looking forward to eating, he also knows that with “food and loved ones, we are blessed.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With the dinner well underway, it’s time to turn attention to the table decorations. Homemade Pilgrim hats are just the thing for clever placemats. Finally, the food is cooked, the candles on the table are lit and it’s time for one last thing. The boy stands on his chair “to raise a hearty shout. / A happy, hungry, hearty shout. / ‘COME AND GET IT! /  DINNER’S OUT!’”

But the adults are so slow! The boy sits in his chair eyeing all the scrumptious food to come as Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle, and even his sister and brother mill about, seeming to never find their proper place. At last everyone has gathered around the table, grace has been said, and it’s time to “share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Through her child’s-eye view of an old-fashioned Thanksgiving day, Pat Zietlow Miller captures the excitement and endearing impatience of children on this special family holiday. Young readers will recognize the little boy’s tone of urgency as he exhorts his family members to do their particular jobs to make the meal a success. This ready identification makes Zietlow’s story always up-to-date while connecting children with the past. Little ones, who love to be involved in holiday preparations, will love to hear this gentle, rhyming tale that flows as smoothly as the well-organized kitchen portrayed.

Jill McElmurry’s homey illustrations glow with golden hues that invite readers into the old-fashioned kitchen to take part in one family’s happy Thanksgiving dinner. Clothing, hairstyles, a cast-iron stove, and an old hand-pump faucet set the story in yesteryear, but the smiles, plump crispy turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and convivial hustle-bustle tell readers that this is a story as current as today. Children will love lingering over the details on each page and trying to guess who is going to show up for dinner next.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2015 | ISBN 978-0307981820

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jill McElmurry and her books for kids, visit her website.

Homemade Bread Day Activity

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My Family’s Recipe Box, Label, and Cards

 

Holidays are a perfect time for kids to learn traditional or favorite family recipes. With this easy craft and printable label and recipe cards, children can create their own unique recipe box.

Supplies

  • A tea bag box, such as Tetley Tea or another appropriately sized box with a lid that overlaps the front edge
  • Printable Recipe Box Label | Printable Recipe Cards
  • Washi tape
  • Heavy stock printing paper
  • Adhesive printing paper (optional)
  • Glue (optional)

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celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-recipe-cards

Directions

  1. Cover the box in washi tape
  2. Print the label on adhesive printing paper or regular paper
  3. Stick label to box or attach with glue
  4. Print recipe cards on heavy stock paper
  5. Write down favorite recipes and store them in your recipe box

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You can find Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 16 – National 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. Today, celebrate by taking a walk through the dictionary—either in book form or online—to learn a few new words!

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, 2015, text copyright Tracey Fern, 2015 . Courtesy of us.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, 2015. Courtesy of us.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, 2015, text copyright Tracey Fern, 2015. Courtesy of us.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. 2015. Courtesy of us.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, 2015, text copyright Tracey Fern, 2015. Courtesy of us.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!

National 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!

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You can find is for Webster at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 7 – National Lighthouse Day

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About the Holiday

For centuries along rocky shores, lighthouses have stood as sturdy beacons warning ships at sea of dangerous waters. In 1789, the United States Congress approved an Act for “the establishment and support of lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers and the commission of the first Federal lighthouse, the Cape Henry Lighthouse at Cape May, Virginia Beach.” Two hundred years later, the anniversary of this historic event was celebrated with another Congressional resolution sponsored by Senator John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, which designated August 7 as National Lighthouse Day. On this day, where possible, the country’s lighthouses are open to the public for viewing and tours. To celebrate today, visit a lighthouse if you live close by or read up on lighthouses and the work of brave lighthouse keepers throughout history.

Hello Lighthouse

By Sophie Blackhall

 

“On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse.” It is sturdy and shines its greeting far out to sea, “guiding the ships on their way.” “Hello! …Hello! …Hello!” The lighthouse has just gotten a new keeper. He begins his job by polishing the lens, refilling the oil, trimming the wick, and giving the “round rooms a fresh coat of sea-green paint.” He works at night too, making sure that the clockwork is wound to keep the lamp moving and writing in the logbook.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

To have his tea, the keeper must boil his water and for lunch or dinner he fishes for cod right from the lighthouse window. He wishes for someone to talk to—the special someone he writes letters to. He puts these letter in bottles and throws them into the sea. Outside, the wind whips up the waves and they crash against the lighthouse.

One day, the keeper spies the tender ship that is bringing him “oil and flour and pork and beans…and his wife.” The next day fog descends, thick and gray. Instead of a beam of light, a bell clangs to warn the ships away. But, still, a ship founders and breaks apart on the rocks. “Not a moment to lose, the keeper rows out. He pulls three sailors from the deep, black sea. He and his wife wrap them in warm blankets and serve them hot tea. The keeper makes note of all this in his log.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

In the winter, “the sea turns into a carpet of ice.” The keeper falls ill, and his wife tends to him as well as to the light. She runs up and down the spiral stairs to feed her husband broth and “chip ice off the lantern room windows.” At last his fever breaks. With warmer weather the ice melts, giving way to icebergs that float by going south. “Whales pass by on their journey north.”

Inside the lighthouse, the keeper’s wife is about to have a baby. She walks around and around, while “her husband boils water and helps her breath in—and out.” When the baby is born, the keeper notes the time and date in the logbook. “The sky erupts in swirls of green. Hello! …Hello! …Hello!”

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

The baby is a toddler when the tender brings an unexpected letter with the coast guard seal along with its regular supplies. After reading it, the keeper tends to the light “just as he’s always done,” but he “knows it’s not for long.” Through the telescope, the keeper and his wife watch the horizon for the arrival of the coast guard. When they come, they install a new light—one that runs by machine. There is “no lamp to fill, no wick to trim. The keeper’s work is done.”

He and his wife and little girl “pack their belongings into the boat and wave farewell to the gulls.” As they sail away on the ship, they look back and say “Good-bye, Lighthouse! Good-bye! …Good-bye! …Good-bye!” From its perch on the tiny island, the lighthouse sends out its constant beam through crashing waves and enveloping fog—”Hello! …Hello! …Hello?” From across the bay, a light from a little house “beams back. Hello! …Hello! …Hello! Hello, Lighthouse!”

An expensive and fascinating Author’s Note about lighthouses, the life of a lighthouse keeper, and how Hello Lighthouse came to be follows the text.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

As I read Hello Lighthouse, I saw myself as a child—a displaced New Englander growing up in Florida who loved everything about the craggy northern coastline and its history. I would have absolutely adored Sophie Blackall’s detailed and atmospheric book, and today’s young readers will too. The story of the light’s last keeper reveals the work and contemplations of the men and families dedicated to keeping shipping lanes safe. The weather and seasons—and ever-present logbook—are characters in their own right, just as they were for the conscientious and brave lighthouse keepers. Happy surprises—the arrival of the keeper’s wife and baby—will delight children as they add to the depth of the story.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Blackall’s stunning illustrations will swell readers’ hearts with the same intensity as the rolling seas.  A cutaway image of the lighthouse offers a realistic view of the five levels of living space accessed by a winding staircase that ultimately leads to the lens. Thrilling portrayals of choppy seas, wind-whipped crashing waves, pea-soup-thick fog, and sailors thrown from their wrecked ship will rivet children to the story. The cyclical nature of a keeper’s work mirrors the round rooms of the lighthouse and is represented throughout the story with circular, porthole-like snapshots of the keeper at work and round accents in the home, such as rugs, tables, and the quilt pattern on the couple’s bed. The final image of the family—the baby now a little girl—communicating with their old home anchors the story in history, togetherness, and a love of the sea.

Hello Lighthouse is a gorgeous, enlightening, and cozy read-aloud for home and classroom libraries that will enthrall young readers again and again.

Ages 4 – 9

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0316362382

To learn more about Sophie Blackall, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Lighthouse Day Activities

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Lighthouse Coloring Page

 

This lighthouse perched by the sea is a beautiful reminder of the days when a keeper lived and worked at his lighthouse. Give this printable page some color and shine!

Lighthouse Coloring Page

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National Archives Lighthouses from the Collection

 

If you’re fascinated by lighthouses, you’ll love exploring these drawings from the United States National Archives. Click below to download a pdf of lighthouses from around the country. 

The National Archives of the United States Coloring Book of Lighthouses

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You can find Hello Lighthouse at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 28 – National Day of the Cowboy

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About the Holiday

Observed annually on the fourth Saturday of July, the day commemorates the “contributions of the Cowboy and Cowgirl to America’s culture and heritage.” The heyday of the cowboy and cowgirl came after the Civil War when Texas experienced a booming wild cattle population. As the population of the United States grew, the demand for beef increased. Cowboys and cowgirls drove nearly 5 million head of cattle north to meet the demand, sparking tales, legends, and a rich history of the Great Plains in their boot and hoof steps. With no written laws on the books, cowboys even came up with their own code of conduct, which included living each day with honestly and courage, taking pride in your work, standing up for what’s right, and many more rules to live by. For more information visit The Day of the Cowboy website.

Real Cowboys

Written by Kate Hoefler | Illustrated by Jonathan Bean

 

Real cowboys wake with the dawn’s light and are careful not to make too much noise for the people still sleeping in the “little houses in the hollow, and up the mountains, and at the edge of fields in the distance.” It is natural for the cowboys to think of others. Their job is to care for the herd; to help a stranded calf and their dog who is trying to lure it to safety; to soothe the herd when thunder rumbles overhead.

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Real cowboys sing soft, slow songs to their cows to encourage them to continue moving when the path is narrow and dangerous and to sleep when coyotes howl in the night. Cowboys are good listeners—heeding the advice and warnings of the trail boss and other cowhands. “Sometimes they listen for trucks, and wolves, and rushing water. And sometimes they just listen to the big wide world and its grass song.” Along the way cowboys keep themselves safe with their wide-brimmed hats and leather chaps.

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, text copyright Kate Hoefler. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Because the cattle drive is long—lasting “for hours, or days, or weeks”—cowboys learn to be patient. “Even on a fast horse, they have to move with the slow rhythm of a herd….” When they need help, real cowboys don’t hesitate to ask, using hand and hat signals to alert other cowhands. “Real cowboys want peace. They don’t want stampedes, where all the cattle spook, and thunder over the earth, and scatter in dust storms.” Sometimes, however, this happens, and sometimes a few cattle and dogs are lost. Thinking of them when times are quiet, “real cowboys cry.”

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, text copyright Kate Hoefler. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

At night cowboys take turns eating and sleeping so there is always someone to watch over the herd. When they pack up camp and move on, real cowboys are mindful of the earth, and when they are far from home, inside themselves they can feel homesick, even if they look tough on the outside. “Real cowboys are as many different colors as the earth. Real cowboys are girls too.” In their hearts “real cowboys are artists,” creating stories that are bigger than the wide open prairie. “They wonder what’s past the horizon. And one day, when their work is done, real cowboys find out.”

Kate Hoefler’s moving tribute to cowboys and cowgirls demonstrates the qualities of kindness, thoughtfulness, and mindfulness that we want to share with our children. With lyrical language she follows cowboys on a cattle drive, where they experience the joys and sorrows that life entails for all. Hoefler’s pacing echoes the day-to-day movement of the herd as well as readers’ daily life. Delving into the responsibilities and characteristics of these men and women is a unique way to open the world to children and promote discussions about the traits of caring individuals.

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Jonathan Bean’s hand-stenciled illustrations printed in four Pantone colors are particularly effective in portraying the life of the cowboys and cowgirls entrusted with herds of cattle. Early morning dawns to rose skies that color even the horses and reflect in the drinking trough. Cattle, obscured by dust raised on the trail, form the backdrop to a cowboy worriedly watching his dog coax a calf from a cliff, and afternoon turns to night in a two-page spread where a cow nuzzles her calf as it sleeps. Depictions of the enormity of the herd traveling from one place to another amid sweltering days, rain storms, and blizzards are beautifully rendered, and the emotions of the cowboys are clearly discernable and touching.

Real Cowboys is stunning in both language and illustrations. For quiet story times, bedtime, or times for reflection and inspiration, this book would make an excellent addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544148925

To view a gallery of illustration by Jonathan Bean, visit his website!

National Day of the Cowboy Activity

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Rootin’-Tootin’ Round-Up Maze

 

These cowgirls and cowboys have a surprise waiting for them. Can you help them round it up in this printable Rootin’-Tootin’ Round-Up Maze?

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You can find Real Cowboys at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

July 20 – National Moon Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates July 20, 1969, the day when astronauts first walked on the moon. Six hours after landing on the moon with his fellow astronauts, Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder and stepped onto the moon’s surface. Watched by millions of people on TV, this monumental human achievement ushered in the technical advancements we enjoy today. To celebrate, why not share that historic moment with your child and read up on the people who helped make that mission possible—like the subject of today’s book!

Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing

Written by Dean Robbins | Illustrated by Lucy Knisley

 

“Margaret Hamilton loved to solve problems.” When she looked around, she saw many things that made her wonder “why?” Instead of going with the status quo, though, she came up with her own answers. Some things she questioned were why girls didn’t play baseball and why there were so few women doctors, scientists, judges and other professionals. So Margaret joined the baseball team and studied “hard in every subject at school—reading, music, art, and especially mathematics.”

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

From her father who was a poet and philosopher, Margaret learned about the universe. She wanted to know “how the planets moved, when the galaxies formed, and why the stars shone.” She loved to gaze “at the night sky in wonder.” She especially wanted to know more about the moon—how far away is it? How many miles is its orbit around the Earth? What is its diameter?

In school, Margaret found it fun to solve “harder and harder math problems” in algebra, geometry, and calculus. “And then she discovered computers!” She realized that she could use computers to solve so many of her questions about the universe. She began writing code and called herself a software engineer. After starting with simple mathematical problems, Margaret moved on to writing code that “could track airplanes through the clouds,” predict the weather, and perform functions they never had before.

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

In 1964 she joined the team at NASA that was working on sending astronauts to the moon. In writing her code, “Margaret thought of everything that could happen on a trip to the moon.” What if the spacecraft went off course or lost power? What if one of the astronauts made a mistake? Margaret wrote code that could solve all of these problems and more. Soon Margaret was leading a team of her own as “Director of Software Programming for NASA’s Project Apollo.”

She was instrumental in helping Apollo 8 orbit the moon, Apollo 9 hook up with another ship in space, and Apollo 10 come “within nine miles of the moon’s surface.” When NASA was ready to land people on the moon, Margaret wrote the code. She thought of every problem that could arise and included a solution. The printout of her code stood taller than she was.

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

On the day of Apollo 11’s launch, Margaret was in the control room while the world watched on television. It took four days for the spacecraft to reach the moon. Finally, the lunar module, Eagle, separated and was ready to make the landing. But just as it was about to descend, an astronaut flipped a switch that sent the Eagle’s computer into overload.

Had Margaret “prepared for this problem? Of course! Margaret’s code made the computer ignore the extra tasks and focus on the landing.” Slowly the Eagle approached the surface of the moon and touched down. “The Eagle has landed!” Neil Armstrong announced to an amazed audience. In NASA’s control room, everyone cheered. “Margaret was a hero!”

An Author’s Note with more information about and photographs of Margaret Hamilton follow the text.

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

With excellent examples from Margaret Hamilton’s childhood and adult life, Dean Robbins presents an accessible and compelling biography that reveals, from the beginning, Margaret’s curiosity, confidence, and convictions. Robbin’s focus on Margaret’s hard work, her excitement at discovering computers, and her leadership at NASA creates a narrative that is inspirational for all children. His emphasis on positive, affirming events in Margaret’s life is welcome, allowing girls and boys to realize that through dedication and self-assurance, they can achieve their goals just as Margaret—a superb role model—did.

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Lucy Knisley’s bright, supportive illustrations, full of thought bubbles of Margaret’s ideas and wonderings, give readers the kinds of details that will spark their imaginations and help them understand and appreciate Margaret Hamilton’s many gifts and expertise. Images of mathematical problems give way to lines of code, helping children see the connection between what they’re learning at school and future careers. Kids interested in space exploration will be enthralled with the illustrations of the NASA control room and lunar launches.

For kids interested in computer science and other sciences, biographies, and history, Margaret and the Moon is an excellent addition to home as well as classroom and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399551857

Discover more about Dean Robbins and his books on his website.

To learn more about Lucy Knisley, her artwork, books, and comic, visit her website.

You can launch your own Tic-Tac-Toe Game with this set you make yourself! With just a couple of egg cartons, some crayons, and a printable game board, you’ll be off to the moon for some fun! Opposing players can be designated by rockets and capsules. Each player will need 5 playing pieces. 

National Moon Day Activity

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Out-of-this-World Tic-Tac-Toe Game

SUPPLIES

  • Printable Moon Tic-Tac-Toe Game Board
  • 2 cardboard egg cartons
  • Heavy stock paper or regular printer paper
  • Crayons
  • Black or gray fine-tip marker

DIRECTIONS

To Make the Rockets

  1. Cut the tall center cones from the egg carton
  2. Trim the bottoms of each form so they stand steadily, leaving the arched corners intact
  3. Pencil in a circular window on one side near the top of the cone
  4. Color the rocket body any colors you like, going around the window and stopping where the arched corners begin
  5. With the marker color the arched corners of the form to make legs
  6. On the cardboard between the legs, color flames for blast off

To Make the Capsule

  1. Cut the egg cups from an egg carton
  2. Color the sides silver, leaving the curved section uncolored. (If your egg cup has no pre-pressed curve on the sides of the cup, draw one on each side.)
  3. Color the curved section yellow to make windows
  4. With the marker, dot “rivets” across the capsule

Print the Moon Game Board and play!

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You can find Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review