January 7 – Old Rock Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-rock-is-lively-cover

About the Holiday

Do you love rocks? Are your eyes captured by the colors and patterns on the stones you see while out walking? Today’s holiday celebrates these wonders of nature and encourages geologists—both professionals and amateurs—to indulge their passion and maybe even teach others about the history and formation of rocks. To celebrate, take a walk in your area or even in your own backyard, pick up a few rocks, and research a little more about them.

A Rock is Lively

Written by Dianna Hutts Aston | Illustrated by Sylvia Long

 

Open the cover of A Rock is Lively and before the text—even before the title—readers are treated to an array of fifty-one gemstones that dazzle the eyes. How enticing to learn about all of these natural works of art! “A rock is lively…” the text begins, arching over a shining piece of snowflake obsidian—an ebony-colored rock dotted with lacy blots. These lively rocks bubble “like a pot of soup deep beneath the earth’s crust…liquid…molten…boiling.” How hot does it need to be to melt a rock? Anywhere “between 1,300 and 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit (700 and 1,300 degrees Celsius).”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-rock-is-lively-lava

Image copyright Sylvia Long, 2012, text copyright Dianna Hutts Aston, 2012. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

What happens at these temperatures? Well, like your favorite cookie recipe, “a rock is mixed up. All rocks are made of a mix of ingredients called minerals.” Take the recipe for Lapis Lazuli, for instance: “Mix the mineral lazurite with a dash of sodalite and a pinch of both calcite and pyrite. Heat within the earth until a brilliant blue.”

Rocks don’t exist just here on earth. Rocks are also galactic. “Outer space is a shower of rocky fireworks” made of meteoroids, comets, and asteroids. You’ll learn the differences among them here too. You probably already know that rocks are old, but how old? Billions of years old! “The oldest rocks ever found are nearly 4.5 billion years old.” Rocks are “huge…and tiny.” They are as big as a mountain reaching for the sky and as small as the grains underneath your feet.

“A rock is helpful.” Animals use rocks in many amazing ways. Some birds swallow stones to help with digestion, and some sea creatures ingest them to help keep them balanced in the water. Other animals use rocks to crack open shellfish and nuts so they can get to the goodness inside. Some rocks look plain on the outside but hold a beautiful surprise inside. Some rocks are full of colorful rainbows, others look like a starry night sky, while still others look like a white chrysanthemum or a red-and-green watermelon.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-rock-is-lively-galactic

Image copyright Sylvia Long, 2012, text copyright Dianna Hutts Aston, 2012. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

From humans’ earliest days rocks have been chiseled into arrow heads and spear points, axe blades, and hammers. They’ve become mortars and pestles and are ground up today to “make cement and bricks, paper and pencils, glass, and toothpaste.” But rocks aren’t only useful, they’re creative too. Ancient peoples made paints from minerals and created colorful “pictographs on cave walls, rock shelters, and ledges.” Petroglyphs were made by chipping and pecking away at rock surfaces. As civilizations developed, so did their buildings and artwork made from stone. The pyramids were made from limestone, Stonehenge is formed from “sandstone, dolerite, and others,” the Taj Mahal and Michelangelo’s “David” are marble marvels, and Mt. Rushmore was carved from Granite.

“A rock is recycled.” Formed in three different ways, rocks are categorized as sedimentary, metamorphic, or igneous. “Over thousands of millions of years, [a rock] changes from one form to another. This is called the rock cycle,” and it keeps rocks very lively!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-rock-is-lively-surprising

Image copyright Sylvia Long, 2012, text copyright Dianna Hutts Aston, 2012. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Dianna Hutts Aston’s inventively and conversationally accessible discussion of the rocks that make up our earth and universe will enthrall any rock hound or entice the curious. Aston’s lead-in heads make for clear classification of and intriguing introductions to the various types of rocks, how they’re formed, what they look like, and how they’ve been used through history.  Her pages contain short, but very informative paragraphs that teach children about rocks through time and size comparisons they’ll understand, descriptions with familiar references, and evocative verbs and adjectives. Aston’s dynamic look at this subject will excite kids to learn more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-rock-is-lively-snowflake-obsidian

Image copyright Sylvia Long, 2012, text copyright Dianna Hutts Aston, 2012. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Accompanying Aston’s text are Sylvia Long’s stunning illustrations that open readers eyes to the incredible beauty of each type of rock. To begin, young readers see a cut away of the rock layers beneath earth’s crust as well as the rocks that shoot across the sky. Aston shows animals using rocks in a myriad of ways as well as the tools, art, and buildings created by humans throughout history. The showstoppers are her depictions of the interior of different types of geodes, with their electric blues, reds, purples, and oranges and figures that lend the rocks their names. The double-spread pages containing fifty-one rocks with their name that introduce and end the book are a young geologist’s dream come true and will send them scurrying to discover and collect them all.

A fantastic reference, A Rock is Lively makes a terrific addition to home and classroom libraries  or a gift (pair it with a geode or small boxed rock collection) for young nature lovers and scientists.

Ages 7 – 12

Chronicle Books, 2012 (Hardcover; 2015 Paperback) | ISBN 978-1452106458

Discover more about Dianna Hutts Aston and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sylvia Long, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Old Rock Day Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rock This Craft!

 

Smooth stones can give you a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

To make magnets

  1. Design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
  3. Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board

To make jewelry

  1. Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
  3. Wear your pin proudly

To make a paper weight

  1. Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Let dry
  3. Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-rock-is-lively-cover

You can find A Rock is Lively at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 13 – International Rock Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday recognizes the importance and beauty of the rock that forms solid ground under our feet and soars majestically to meet the sky. From earliest times, rock has been used as building material—and even the tools to build with—and has provided us with valuable gemstones that beautify our lives. Geology and archaeology are just two of the sciences that explore the wonders of stone—what it is composed of and what secrets it keeps. Today, be more mindful of the rocks around you and take a closer look at the intricate patterns that lie within them.

Rocks in His Head

Written by Carol Otis Hurst | Illustrated by James Stevenson

 

Carol Otis Hurst tells the story of her father, who—even when he was a boy—loved everything to do with rocks. He collected them and in his spare time walked “along stone walls and around old quarries, looking for rocks.” Everyone said “he had rocks in his pockets and rocks in his head,” and he had to agree. When he thought about what he wanted to do when he grew up, he imagined it would have something to do with rocks, and when he was told “‘There’s no money in rocks,’” he was okay with that. In the end, though, he opened a gas station in Springfield, Massachusetts with his father’s help. He called it the Antler Filling Station.

In the back of the filling station, Carol’s father displayed his rock and mineral collection. “He carefully labeled each rock to show what kind it was and where it had come from.” When the Model T automobile came out, more people could afford to buy a car. Carol’s father learned every inch of the Model T by taking it apart and reassembling it many times. He thought that someone who could repair the car and sell spare parts would have a good business, so he began collecting parts for the Model T—so many that “the pile of parts was bigger than the filling station.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-stone-wall

Image copyright James Stevenson, 2001, text copyright Carol Otis Hurst, 2001. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Most people in town said he “had rocks in his head” if he thought he would sell all those parts, but pretty soon drivers were flocking to the Antler Filling Station for gas and fixes to their cars. They also came inside to see the rocks, ask questions, and hear the stories of each rock and gemstone. Then the stock market crashed and people didn’t have the money for gas or to fix their cars. Things slowed down at the Antler, and when things were really slow, Carol, her father, and her friends would pile into their Model T and go searching for more rocks.

But while the collection at the filling station grew, people stopped coming because they were all out looking for jobs. Soon the Antler Filling Station closed and the family had to move to a new house. The house was falling apart, but Carol’s father began repairing it—after building shelves in the attic for his rock collection. When he wasn’t repairing the house, he was studying more about rocks. Along the way, he looked for work, taking any job he could even if they only lasted a day or two.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-antler-filling-station

Image copyright James Stevenson, 2001, text copyright Carol Otis Hurst, 2001. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

On days when he had no work, Carol’s father went to the Springfield Science Museum, where “they had a whole room full of glass cases containing many rocks. Sometimes he’d spend the whole day in that room.” One day, he met a woman who asked him what he was looking for. He answered “‘I’m looking for rocks that are better than mine.’” Out of the hundreds of rocks in that room, he told her, he’d only found ten, “‘maybe eleven,’” that were better. They smiled at each other.

Then the lady introduced herself as Grace Johnson, the director of the museum. “‘These rocks have come from all over the world,’” she told him, and he said that his had too. She wanted to see his collection, and so they drove out in her big car. Carol’s father showed her up to the attic. After looking around, she told him that while the board of directors wouldn’t allow her to hire him as a mineralogist because he lacked a college degree, she did need a night janitor. When he heard that the job sometimes included cleaning rocks, he took it.

One day, Mrs. Johnson discovered him correcting a label on one of the rocks. She smiled and told him that she had told the board of directors that she needed “‘somebody with rocks in his head and rocks in his pockets.’” Then she asked, “‘Are you it?’ Maybe I am,’” Carol’s father answered. “‘Maybe I am.’” And he was!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-antler-filling-station-shelves

Image copyright James Stevenson, 2001, text copyright Carol Otis Hurst, 2001. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Carol Otis Hurst’s lovely and affectionate memoir of her father offers young readers a snapshot of history while introducing them to a man who stayed true to himself and his life-long love of rocks despite obstacles and good-natured jibes by those around him. Hurst’s easy-going, conversational storytelling represents her father well, allowing children to get a feel for his personality and steady outlook on life. His acceptance as a mineralogist (and ultimate position as director of the Springfield Science Museum as told in the author’s bio on the jacket flap) will satisfy readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-rock-samples

James Stevenson’s familiar watercolor-and-ink illustrations are infused with charm, taking children beside an old stone wall that meanders through the woods, back to old-style filling stations and Model-T cars, and into the heart of a true collector. Images of the author’s father attentively setting up his collection in the filling station and later in the attic will resonate with any young collectors reading the book, and the full-page illustration of Grace Johnson and the author’s father talking and smiling together is happy validation that kindred spirits do cross paths in life.

For children who love collecting, history, museums, and biographies, Rocks in His Head is a delightful choice for home libraries and would make am appealing lead in to science lessons or museum field trips for elementary classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, 2001 | ISBN 978-0060294038

International Rock Day Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rock This Craft!

 

Smooth stones can give you a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

To make magnets

  1. Design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
  3. Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board

To make jewelry

  1. Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
  3. Wear your pin proudly

To make a paper weight

  1. Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Let dry
  3. Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-cover

You can find Rocks in His Head at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review