March 25 – Earth Hour Day

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About the Holiday

Earth Hour was organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature as a way to engage people in the discussion on climate change. First enacted in Australia in 2007, the observance has grown to include cities, businesses, corporations, and individuals world wide. For one hour – from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time – participants will turn off all unnecessary lights in a show of solidarity and commitment to protecting our earth. Among the places going dark this year are the Empire State Building, the Space Needle, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Colosseum in Rome, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Sydney Opera House, and the Eiffel Tower.

Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future

By Allan Drummond

 

On May 4, 2007 a devastating tornado hit Greensburg, Kansas, destroying the town in 9 minutes. When the residents of the town climbed from their shelters, they emerged into a world completely changed. There were no more homes, no school, no hospital, no grocery store or other shops. No banks, theater, churches, or water tower. Even the trees had been shredded. Only three buildings remained.

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Image and text copyright Allan Drummond, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The citizens were urged to move away. Rebuilding would be impossible, some said, and what was the point anyway when the wind could destroy it all again? But others saw opportunity to construct a different kind of town. With the help of volunteers and donations from around the world, Greensburg began the Herculean task of designing and building a new town.

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Image and text copyright Allan Drummond, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

After clearing away 388,000 tons of debris and moving into a community of trailer homes, the people began to envision a unique, green town. Individuals designed sustainable houses of different shapes and materials that would work with the environment. Businesses, too, incorporated sustainability into their offices, retail centers, and hotels as did the hospital and the water tower. A wind farm large enough to provide energy for the entire town was built on the edge of this innovative city.

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Image and text copyright Allan Drummond, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A new school was central to the town’s survival, and for three years the teachers held class in small trailers. Along with their regular studies, the kids became experts in environmental science. After several years Greenburg became a thriving city—a testament to conservation and sustainability that remains an example for global communities now and in the future.

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Image and text copyright Allan Drummond, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Allan Drummond tells this fascinating story of a community that would not give up in an honest and sensitive way that highlights the courage and pride of a town amid devastating loss. Told from a child’s point of view, the story has extra impact for readers who are growing up amid an era of environmental awareness and activism. The sustainable construction of homes and other buildings is effectively explained and clearly depicted in Drummond’s colorful illustrations.

The images also demonstrate the process of negotiation and cooperation among townspeople that went into designing and building a new Greensburg. The final two-page spread of the town’s layout will interest kids as well as adults who have followed this story in the news.

Ages 5 – 9

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016 | ISBN 978-0374379995

Discover more about Allan Drummond, his illustration work and his books on his website!

Earth Hour Activity

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Flashlight On, Flashlight Off Game

 

It’s fun to play games in the dark! During Earth Hour flip off your lamps and overhead lights and play this game that challenges your memory while you think about our planet! This game can be played with two or more players.

Supplies

  • Flashlight 
  • 6 – 12 small objects (the number of objects can be adjusted depending on the ages of the players)
  • A table or floor area large enough to lay out the objects

Directions

With the Flashlight On:

  1. Lay out the objects on a table or on the floor
  2. Give all the players time to look at the objects and try to memorize them
  3. Choose one player to remove one of the objects

With the Flashlight Off

  1. Turn off the flashlight
  2. While the room is dark, the designated player removes one object from the rest
  3. Turn the flashlight back on

With the Flashlight Back On

  1. The other players try to figure out which object is missing

Variations

  • In addition to removing one object, the other objects can be moved around to different positions
  • Remove more than one object at a time
  • Add an object instead of removing one

Picture Book Review

 

November 16 – It’s Global Entrepreneurship Week

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires picture book review

About the Holiday

Do you have a great idea to make the world a better place, a job easier, or life just a little more fun? Then this week is for you! All over the world inventors, thinkers, mentors, universities, and investors collaborate at events, conferences, and competitions to discover new products, creative ideas, and alternate ways of doing things. World leaders from 160 countries and more than 150,000 global organizations work together during this week to improve the lives of all.

The Most Magnificent Thing

By Ashley Spires

 

A little pony-tailed girl and her puppy do everything together. They race, eat, explore, and relax. When she makes things, her best friend unmakes them. One day the girl has a brilliant idea—she is going to make “the most MAGNIFICENT thing!” In her mind it’s going to be “easy-peasy.” She knows exactly how it will look and how it will work. With her faithful assistant following at her heels, the girl gathers materials and goes to work on the sidewalk outside her home.

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Image and text copyright Ashley Spires, courtesy of Kids Can Press

The girl “tinkers and hammers and measures” while her assistant “pounces and growls and chews.” When the little invention is finished, they stand back to examine it. Hmmm…it doesn’t look quite right. It doesn’t feel quite right either. In fact it is all wrong! The girl tries again. She “smooths and wrenches and fiddles” while her assistant “circles and tugs and wags.” It still turns out wrong. Determined to make her vision reality, she gives it another go…and another…and another. She makes her invention different shapes, gives it various textures, measures out assorted sizes. One attempt even smells like stinky cheese! But none of these creations are MAGNIFICENT.

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Image and text copyright Ashley Spires, courtesy of Kids Can Press

People stop by and offer encouraging—even admiring—remarks, but the little girl just gets mad. Can’t they see how wrong her invention is? In her anger the little girl works at a fevered pitch, shoving parts together, her brain fogged by “all the not-right things.” In her haste she hurts her finger. This is the last straw. She explodes and declares that she QUITS!

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Image and text copyright Ashley Spires, courtesy of Kids Can Press

The ever-watchful assistant suggests a bit of fresh air. The girl takes her puppy for a walk and at first her feelings of defeat stay with her. Little by little, though, she pays attention to the world around her and her mind clears. Coming home, she encounters all the wrong things she has made lined up on the sidewalk. Her disappointment threatens to return, but then she notices something surprising—there are parts of each iteration that she likes!

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Image and text copyright Ashley Spires, courtesy of Kids Can Press

After studying each earlier attempt, she knows just what to do! Slowly and carefully she once more begins to tinker. At the end of the day she and her assistant stand back to look. The machine may lean a bit, and be a little heavy, and it may need a coat of paint…but as the girl and her puppy climb aboard, they both agree that “it really is THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING!”

You are never too young or too old for Ashley Spires’ inspiring and inspired story. The journey from idea to realization—so often fraught with disaster (or apparent disaster)—is depicted here honestly and with humor as the on-going process it is. Step-by-step the little girl thinks, gathers materials, tinkers, discovers, tinkers some more, and triumphs. It is this last step that is so “magnificently” presented—it’s only by not giving up that success can be achieved.

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Image and text copyright Ashley Spires, courtesy of Kids Can Press

Spires’ tale is a delight of language—the girl “smooths, wrenches, fiddles, twists, tweaks, and fastens, pummels, jams, and smashes.” Likewise, her illustrations wonderfully depict the changing emotions of this thoughtful, steely-eyed, shocked, and ultimately thrilled young inventor. Her faithful puppy is a charming companion and foil, and kids will love examining the early inventions that lead up to the final product.

The Most Magnificent Thing is a fabulous book to keep on any child’s or adult’s bookshelf for those times when inspiration hits but achievement seems elusive.

Ages 3 – 7 and up 

Kids Can Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-155453704

Discover more books by Ashley Spires on her website!

Global Entrepreneurship Week Activity

CPB - Inventor's Tool Kit II (2)

Entrepreneur’s Tool Kit

 

Every idea begins as a jumble of seemingly unrelated parts. Gathering whatever types of material inspires you and keeping it in a box ready to go when inspiration hits is a great way to support innovation and spark experimentation.

Supplies

  • Small parts organizer with drawers or compartments, available at hardware stores and craft stores
  • A variety of parts or craft materials that can be combined, built with, or built on
  • Some hardware ideas—pulleys, wheels, small to medium pieces of wood, wire, nuts, bolts, screws, hooks, knobs, hinges, recyclable materials
  • Some craft ideas—clay, beads, wooden pieces, sticks, paints, pipe cleaners, string, spools, buttons, glitter, scraps of material, recyclable materials

Directions

  1. Fill the organizer with the materials of your choice
  2. Let your imagination go to work! Build something cool, crazy, silly, useful—Amazing!

Picture Book Review

November 10 – World Science Day for Peace and Development

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About the Holiday

This annual, internationally observed day highlights the importance of science in and for society and is sponsored by the United Nations. Its aim is to promote education and awareness of scientific issues that affect the world and its sustainability as well as to underscore the role that scientists play in improving our lives and developing solutions for the future. This year the theme is “Celebrating Science Centers and Science Museums.” To celebrate, grab the kids (or go alone!) and head out to your local science center!

How the Meteorite Got to the Museum

By Jessie Hartland

 

A science teacher leading her students through a science museum stops at the display for the Peekskill Meteorite that fell to Earth in New York state on October 9, 1992. As she explains a bit about meteorites, one student raises his hand and asks, “But how did the meteorite get here—to the museum?” With that question the students—as well as readers—are off and running on an adventure of astro-nomical proportions as the teacher begins: “Hundreds of mllions of miles from Earth, in deep, dark, cold outer space, there are vast fields of space debris flying around.” The smaller rocks are called meteors, and a meteor that falls to Earth is called a meteorite.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

The teacher sets the scene: “Here in outer space is a meteor…flying around and around and around”—for over four billion years! Then for some unknown reason the meteor changed direction and entered “Earth’s atmosphere over the state of Kentucky.” With a Hissssss and a Crack! the zipping meteor alerts a sleeping dog, who begins to bark at it. The space rock, trailing a fiery tail, zooms over a burger stand in Virginia, attracting the attention of some late-night snackers.

In Pennsylvania, a few seconds later, a high school football game suddenly turns historic as the meteorite, hissing and crackling through the sky attracts the attention of video cameras throughout the stands. Yes, this is the same celestial body “which was spotted by the Virginians, and yelped at by the dog as it zipped toward the Earth.”

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

With a Crash, Bang, Boom, the rock hurtles downward. “Here is the teenager, who had been watching late-night TV at her house in Peekskill, NY, when she heard a tremendous CRASSHHH! She has rushed outside and discovered a huge dent in the trunk of her car and a smoking ‘rock’ nearby.” Wanting to discover the culprit of this vandalism, the teenager calls the police who summon firefighters to cool down the “rock.”

After hosing down the ‘rock’ the firefighters “start to suspect that the rock may really be a meteorite.” A geologist is called from Columbia University to examine the rock. “He confirms that what smashed the car is, indeed, a meteorite, which was cooled by Firefighters, investigated by Police, found by the Teenager, gawked at by Sports fans, buzzed about by Virginians, and arfed at by a dog as it raced toward the Earth.”

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

Next, the Curator of Meteorites from the Museum of Natural History in New York City visits the geologist, hoping to obtain this special specimen for the museum. Soon, a Cosmologist develops a program about the meteorite that she presents at a museum symposium, explaining how this 26-pound meteorite crossed over 400-500 miles in just 40 seconds and collided with a car—a-one-in-a-billion chance. The Museum of Natural History secures the meteorite for its collection, and the Exhibits Team designs the “lighting, signage, and diorama for their newest acquisition.”

Which brings us back to the Ross Hall of Meteorites at the museum and the complete story of “the Peekskill Meteorite, which was…barked at tby the Dog, witnessed by Virginians, filmed by Sports Fans, found by a Teenager, poked at by Police, sprayed with water by Firefighters, validated by the Geologist, obtained by the Curator of Meteorites, summed up by the Cosmologist, presented by the Exhibits Team, and explained by the Science Teacher who says: ‘…and that’s how the meteorite got to the museum.’”

An Author’s Note following the text explains more about meteors and introduces Dr. Mark Anders, the Geologist mentioned in the book. A photograph of the car hit by the meteorite offers fascinating viewing.

In her entertaining and informative telescoping text, Jessie Hartland reveals in easy-to-understand steps the people and actions involved in bringing together a museum exhibit for a meteorite. The repetition of the important characters in this true, history-making drama combined with Hartland’s deft command of a vast array of synonyms makes reading each page a joy. Suspense grows as each stage of the meteorite’s trajectory from space rock to “star” exhibit builds on the previous one, exciting kids not only for the tale of the meteorite, but also for the displays they see when visiting a museum.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

Hartland’s folksy two-page spreads are a perfect match for the rhythmic text—both humorous and educational in their details. The meteor—zipping through the dark blue night sky dotted with stars, over a small town, above an out-of-the-way burger joint, and through the cheering sounds of a football game—leads readers on a page-turning chase until it crash lands on the bumper of the teenager’s car. Here, as the police write up their investigation on the left-hand page, the firetruck can be seen hurrying to the scene, siren blaring, on the right, even as raccoons and a cat take the opportunity of the distraction to make mischief.

Hartland’s depictions of the geologist’s office as well as the American Natural History Museum give readers a peek behind the scenes at the tools and displays used by scientists and museum workers. For kids who love museums, science, and fun wordplay, How the Meteor Got to the Museum is an absorbing addition to home bookshelves as well as school, classroom, and other libraries. Jessie Hartland’s other titles in this series—How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum and How the Sphynx Got to the Museum—are also highly recommended.

Ages 4 – 9

Blue Apple Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1609052522

Discover many more books by Jessie Hartland as well as other artwork on her website!

World Science Day for Peace and Development Activity

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Astronomy Buffs Find the Differences Puzzle

 

These kids are looking for stars and planets, but can you find the 15 differences between the two pictures in this printable Astronomy Buffs Puzzle?

Picture Book Review

September 3 – International Vulture Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

With their bald pink heads and dusty brown feathers vultures and turkey vultures may not be the peacocks of the bird kingdom, but they play a crucial role in the environmental cycle. These scavengers live on carrion, clearing away and “recycling” the carcasses of dead animals. Because of the vulture’s appearance and stereotypical depictions, their plight as an endangered species goes largely unnoticed. Environmental groups in South Africa and England established today’s holiday (also known as International Turkey Vulture Day) to promote awareness f the declining number of vultures, a cause that has been picked up by zoos and other conservation groups around the world.

Vulture View

Written by April Pulley Sayre | Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

 

In the clear blue morning sky the vultures soar. “Wings stretch wide / to catch a ride / on warming air / Going where?” One turkey vulture scans the ground, dipping and tilting as it searches for its breakfast. A snake rattles and hisses in the rocks. The vulture passes it by. A golden fox gazes silently into the distance, but the vulture flies away. A bear half-way up a tree would be easy prey, but the vulture lets him continue his climb.

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Image copyright Steve Jenkins, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

The turkey vultures are searching for a particular meal. They “smell the air. / They sniff, search, seek / for foods that… / REEK! The aromas of the landscape rise to the vultures. Are they attracted by the “fragrant flowers? / No, no.” “That spicy smoke? No, no.” Maybe “that stinky dead deer? Yes, yes!”

The vultures descend to dine on their “rotten” meal. Afterward they clean themselves in the nearby water and preen their feathers. Still hungry, “they hop, flap, soar / to look for more.” As the sun sets the vultures’ “wings glide, wings ride / through cooling air.” They come from all over to vulture trees—beautiful, bare silhouettes on the sky—to “settle and sleep, like families.”

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Image copyright Steve Jenkins, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

With the rising sun and the warmer air, the vultures take to the sky again in search of their singular meal.

Intriguing facts about how vultures fly, the seven species of vultures, why and how vultures feed on carrion, nesting behaviors, and vulture festivals around the United States follow the text.

In this Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book, April Pulley Sayre brings a poet’s sensibility to the misunderstood vulture. In her lyrical lines the sights and smells of the vulture’s terrain and the vulture’s flight patterns are elevated to educate young readers of the actual beauty of this distinctive species. The benefits vultures provide to the environment as well as their familial attachments make these birds some of the most fascinating animals in the wild kingdom. Who among us doesn’t look up at the circling majesty of birds of prey? Sayre’s text gives readers the bird’s eye Vulture View.

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Image copyright Steve Jenkins, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

With his signature cut-paper collage illustrations, Steve Jenkins gives shape to the vulture’s world. The mottled dark body and the wings and tail fringed with white meet layers of pink that form the vulture’s wrinkled head. The rattlesnake is a smooth combination of greens and browns while the fox is brilliantly orange and soft. Hills and mountains jut from the bottom of pages, and a bony carcass lays amid tall grass, decaying and attracting a vulture. As the birds streak through wispy fiber clouds to descend upon the vulture tree in the shadowy evening, readers will come to appreciate the life and role of the vulture.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Company, 2007 | ISBN 978-0805075571

Wow! You will find a wealth of information on April Pulley Sayre‘s website which includes her many books, educators’ resources, and much more information on natural history topics.

Even just hovering over the icon links on Steve Jenkins‘ website is fun—and there’s so much more to discover once you click on them!

International Vulture Awareness Day Activity

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Valuable Vultures Coloring Page

 

Vultures are a valuable part of our ecosystem. Here’s a printable Valuable Vultures Coloring Page for you to enjoy. Why not try your hand at using cut or torn paper like Steve Jenkins does in Vulture View to fill in the design?

Picture Book Review

August 22 – National Tooth Fairy Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the mythical (shhhh!) fun of the Tooth Fairy. When a child loses a tooth, they put it under their pillow and that night the Tooth Fairy comes, takes the tooth, and leaves money. What the sprite does with the teeth is a mystery and many theories abound. The mystery of how the whole thing got started is explained here! I had never heard this story, so was excited to find it in my research!

In 1927 Esther Watkins Arnold wrote an eight-page play called The Tooth Fairy. In the same year none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle claimed that fairies and gnomes were real and by proof published pictures of two girls surrounded by “verified” fairies. In 1928 schools began performing Esther Arnold’s play, and kids took it to heart, leaving their teeth under their pillows. The rest of the story is, as Sherlock Holmes would say, “Elementary!”

Tooth By Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers

Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by T. S. Spookytooth

 

“Open wide!” a little girl with a good set of teeth herself encourages on the first page of this fun nonfiction book. “Look at all the chompers in there.” Mirror in hand she proceeds to reveal that human teeth are unusual because we are mammals, and mammal teeth come in different shapes and sizes. In fact there are three distinct types. A little boy takes over to describe them. Incisors are the four flat teeth in a person’s mouth—two on the top and two on the bottom right in front.

The four pointy teeth next to the incisors are canines, and the rest of the teeth are molars. Other mammals also have these teeth, and you can tell what an animal eats by which type is largest. For example, say your incisors were bigger than all your other teeth and they were so big they stuck out of your mouth even when it was closed, then you would be a beaver…or a squirrel…or a rabbit. These animals are herbivores and their oversized incisors help them break into nuts and scrape bark from trees.

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Image copyright T. S. Spookytooth, courtesy of Lerner Books

From here on Tooth by Tooth offers up amusing illustrations and “what kind of animal would you be if…” questions to spark kids’ powers of recognition. How about if your canines were so long they poked out of your mouth? Well, then you could be a “seal or a cat or a dog or a bear!” All these animals eat meat and need the sharp teeth to do it.

What if you had really tall molars? Then you’d be a “horse or a cow or a giraffe!” These guys use their molars to grind up grass. And if all your teeth were the same height? Come on…you know! You’d be you! Because humans eat plants and meat, we “need teeth that do many different jobs.”

But there are a lot more wacky teeth out there waiting for us to brush up on. So let’s get started. What if “two of your top incisors were so long that they grew out of your mouth and pointed to the sky? What if they were so long you could use them to carry your school bag?” You’ve probably guessed this one—you’d be an elephant. While an elephant’s tusks aren’t used for eating, they are used to procure the bark, roots, and other plant material that make up the elephant’s diet.

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Image copyright T. S. Spookytooth, courtesy of Lerner Books

What if you could almost trip over your canine teeth? Yep, you’d be a walrus, and you would use those sharp bad boys to poke holes in the ice to grab your favorite oysters and clams. But after eating they’re not done using their teeth. “After diving down for a meal, walruses can use their tusks to pull themselves back up onto the ice for a nap. Imagine if “your top and bottom canine teeth curled up out of your mouth so you had two pairs of tusks?” Or if your one upper canine grew through your upper lip and kept on growing?  Or if you had no teeth at all? Yikes! The remarkable answers are just a read away!

Fish, amphibians, and reptiles also have teeth of a sort, but because they are all the same shape and size, they don’t get special names—that doesn’t mean you can ignore them, though, because sharks are among this group, and you know what they can do!

More information about mammals, mammal teeth, a glossary, and a list of online and print references follow the text.

There’s nothing like the Wow! factor to capture kids’ attention, and Sara Levine uses it to humorous and fascinating effect in Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers. After giving a solid description of each kind of tooth and what it is used for in language that kids use and will relate to, Levine begins her guessing game that leads to even more discovery. We’ve all seen elephants and walruses with their mighty tusks, but how many know what they are really used for? And what about warthogs and narwhals? It’s all here in this creative nonfiction title.

T. S. Spookytooth took a big bite out of the “how to make kids laugh” manual in illustrating each question and type of tooth. Pictures of girls and boys with enormous teeth jutting this way and that will make readers glad to be human. And while the animals that belong to each molar, incisor, or canine sport the scarf, bow, or head band of its human counterpart, they are clearly and scientifically drawn to provide full understanding. Animal skulls also demonstrate the placement of teeth. The cover, with its close enough to eat you view of a very scary mouth is a show stopper and will attract kids as soon as they see it.

Ages 5 – 9

Millbrook Press, Lerner Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1467752152

Check out Sara Levine’s website for more books, stuff for kids, teachers’ resources, and more!

View a gallery of T. S. Spookytooth’s art and read his biography (?!) on his website!

National Tooth Fairy Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kid-shaped-maze

Smile! Kids are A-maze-ing! Maze

 

Smile with those pearly whites as you find your way through this printable Kids are A-maze-ing maze! Here’s the Solution!

August 20 -World Honey Bee Day

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About the Holiday

In 2009 beekeepers in the United States petitioned the United States Department of Agriculture to establish an official day to commemorate honey bees and beekeeping. Since then the holiday has expanded world wide, and the plight of the bee population has become a global concern. Bees are a crucial component in sustainable farming, and even home gardeners know their harvest will be successful when they see bees hovering nearby. Bee enthusiasts commemorate the day by planting flowers that will attract these tiny dynamos, such as lavender, marjoram, and borage. To celebrate, why not try some local honey—you might fall in love with the taste, like Fred in today’s book!

The Honeybee Man

Written by Lela Nargi | Illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker

 

At dawn on a July morning, Fred awakes to begin his day with his “enormous” family. His morning routine consists of a cup of tea and a climb back upstairs and through a hatch in the ceiling that takes him to the roof. “All around is quiet Brooklyn city—brownstones and linden trees, a tall clock tower, and bridges in the distance.” But nearby is another, tiny city. It consists of only three houses, but inside are “thousands of tiny rooms made of wax.”

The summer morning smells of “maple leave and gasoline and the river and dust. He turns to the tiny city and inhales its smaller, sweeter smell—a little like caramel, a little like ripe peaches.” He bends down to the three houses to wake their residents. “‘Good morning, Queen Mab. Good morning, Queen Nefertiti. Good morning, Queen Boadicea,’” he calls before greeting the rest of his family: “‘Good morning, my bees, my darlings!’”

Inside the houses the bees are busy. The queens are laying eggs while the workers build wax rooms, nurse bees feed the babies, and others are getting ready to find fields of flowers for nectar. Fred dreams of the marvelous flowers the bees may find to flavor their honey. He imagines the bees flying low over the flowers moving among them and wishes he could soar with them too.

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Image copyright Kyrsten Brooker, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Fred watches the young bees uncertainly leave the hive and swirl off into the air. The older bees “zip out of the hives and throw themselves at the air, embracing it with their wings.” When a few land on Fred’s arm, he gently flicks them on their way. He spies on them from his rooftop as they disperse into his backyard garden, other neighborhood gardens, and perhaps, if Fred is lucky, to “blueberry bushes somewhere across town.” He sees the bees “dive into sweet pea and squash flowers. If he were closer, he could see them using their tubelike tongues to drink in flower nectar, which they store in honey sacs inside their bellies.”

The bees fly slowly home weighted down with their treasure. Fred knows that inside the hive the bees will go to work, some will do the waggle dance that tells other bees where the flowers are, some will take the nectar and store it in the wax rooms, and others will fan “their wings to evaporate the water from the nectar so it will turn to honey.”

At the end of August Fred knows it’s time to collect the honey. He carefully enters the tiny houses, removing the honeycomb from the top. In his own home he cuts the wax caps of the comb and the honey begins to flow. A special spinning machine squeezes every drop from the honeycomb. He pours the honey into jars and labels them “Fred’s Brooklyn Honey, Made by Tireless Brooklyn Bees.” In the evening Fred sits on his stoop chatting with the neighbors. He gives each a jar of golden honey.

As night falls Fred opens a jar of honey as the bees huddle “back in their own city, waiting for the rays of tomorrow’s sun to call them up and away over Brooklyn.” Fred dips a finger into the honey and tastes. “It is sweet, like linden flowers. It is sharp, like rosemary. It is ever-so-slightly sour. “‘Ah,’ says Fred, absorbing these happy flavors. ‘Blueberries!’”

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Image copyright Kyrsten Brooker, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Lela Nargi’s lovely city-based nature book brilliantly likens the tightly packed, exhilarating environs of Brooklyn to the stirring realm of the beehive. Through Fred’s love of his bee family, Nargi lyrically and with marvelous metaphors and verbs reveals the fascinating world of bees as well as the rich and satisfying life of one particular beekeeper. Readers organically learn fascinating facts about the ways bees collect nectar and transform it into delicious honey as well as why honey can have so many flavors.

In her gorgeous illustrations, Kyrsten Brooker uses the golden hues of honey to paint not only the beehive but Brooklyn as well, giving the two “cities” a sense of cohesiveness and equality. Fred, older, with his cup of tea and blue slippers is shown gently and lovingly taking care of his bees, even as he still has their spirit of adventure. Brooker’s combination of oils and collage fuse the dreamy quality of the text with the concreteness of its facts to create a unique book that would be perfect for quiet story times, rainy afternoons, or bedtime.

If there is such a thing as a child’s nature cozy, The Honeybee Man is it, and it would make a wonderful gift and a delightful addition to anyone’s library.

The endpapers provide detailed diagrams of the various types of bees, beehives, flowers, the waggle dance, and even a bee’s stinger. Nature lovers will relish the two pages of “amazing facts about honey, honeybees, and beekeepers” that follow the story.

Ages 5 – 10

Schwartz & Wade, Penguin Random House | ISBN 978-0375849800

You can find books for children, articles for adults, and so much more on Lela Nargi’s website!

World Honey Bee Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bees-and-hive-coloring-page

Bees and Hive Coloring Page

 

The world of the honeybee is mysterious and marvelous! Here’s a printable Bees and Hive Coloring Page for you to enjoy!

Picture Book Review

August 15 – National Relaxation Day

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About the Holiday

Relaxation Day was founded in 1985 by then fourth-grader Sean Moeller, who already knew a thing or two about balance in life when he suggested that “cleaning and real work are not part of relaxation.” Today’s holiday gives you permission to kick back and enjoy yourself. The subject of today’s book invented a great way to take advantage of a day off—and also demonstrates that sometimes work and relaxation go hand-in-hand!

WHOOSH! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Written by Chris Barton | Illustrated by Don Tate

 

Lonnie Johnson had a way with stuff. In his hands bolts and screws, gears and springs, spools, clothespins, “spare parts his dad let him bring in from the shed, and various other things he’d hauled back from the junkyard” fueled Lonnie’s ideas for inventions and rocket ships. The kids at school loved to watch him launch the rockets he’d devised on the playground. Lonnie wanted to have a career as an engineer. Getting there took a lot of determination and courage. Once, the results of a standardized test said that he would not make a good engineer. Lonnie felt discouraged, but he knew that the person who had graded his test didn’t know him—or Linex.

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Image copyright Don Tate, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Linex was the robot Lonnie had built from scrap metal. “Compressed –air cylinders and valves allowed Linex’s body to turn and its arms to move. The switches came from an old, broken jukebox. Lonnie used a tape recorder to program Linex, and as a bonus the reels looked like eyes.” Lonnie’s goal was to enter Linex in a science fair, but first he wanted to be able to program it. It took several years before he discovered how. Using his little sister’s walkie-talkie, Lonnie took Linex to the “1968 science fair at the University of Alabama—where only five years earlier, African American students hadn’t even been allowed.” Lonnie’s team won first place.

Lonnie went to college at Tuskegee Institute, where he realized his dream of becoming an engineer. His career “took him beyond Alabama—way beyond.”  He went to work for NASA. Before the orbiter Galileo could be sent to Jupiter, Lonnie developed a system that would ensure the craft would have a constant supply of power for its computer memory in case the main power was lost. Some fellow scientists doubted his idea would work, but it did. “As it photographed Jupiter and its moons, Galileo was supported by the power package that Lonnie designed.”

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Image copyright Don Tate, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Even though Lonnie worked for NASA, he continued tinkering with his own ideas—in his own workshop. One problem he was trying to solve involved the need for the world’s refrigerators and air conditioners to have a cooling system that didn’t use the damaging chemical R-12. “He had an idea for using water and air pressure instead.” He built a prototype and experimented with it in his bathroom sink. When he turned his pump and nozzle on, a stream of water blasted across the room.

Suddenly, Lonnie saw another use for his invention—as a water gun. He created a design small enough for children’s hands, and tested it at a picnic, where it was a hit. Lonnie took his idea to a toy company…and another…and another. Finally one company agreed to make his water gun. Spurred on by this success, Lonnie found investors to help him build other original inventions: “a water-propelled toy airplane, two kinds of engines, and his cooling system” that had led to the water gun. He even quit his day job to devote his time to inventing.

But things don’t always work out. Each project fell through—even the water gun. It was a scary time as he and his family had to move out of their house and into an apartment. But Lonnie believed in himself. He took his water gun to another toy company. In 1989 he found a toy company willing to take a look. Lonnie made the trip to Philadelphia and wowed the executives with his invention.

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Image copyright Don Tate, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Now kids everywhere enjoy the fun of the Super Soaker. Today, Lonnie can be found in his workshop doing what he loves: “facing challenges, solving problems and building things” because “his ideas just keep on flowing.”

Chris Barton’s biography of Lonnie Johnson is a fascinating look at a man who succeeds in turning “No” into “Yes” by the power of his intelligence, ideas, and determination. Kids will love hearing about how one of their favorite toys came to be and will be inspired to chase their own dreams despite challenges and setbacks. Barton’s detailed narration provides a full picture of Lonnie Johnson and his times, specifics that attract and inform like-minded kids. Including the results of Lonnie’s exam should encourage kids who think differently. The story is enhanced by the conversational tone that makes it accessible to kids of all ages.

Don Tate illuminates Lonnie Johnson’s life story with his bold, full-bleed paintings that follow Lonnie from his being a child with big ideas to becoming a man who has seen these ideas through to success. With an eyebrow raised in concentration, young Lonnie demonstrates confidence and skill as he works on an invention, and kids will love seeing the tools of his trade laid out on the kitchen table. With his eyes narrowed in frustration and disappointment, Lonnie reads the results of his childhood exam. As Lonnie grows older and designs systems for NASA, the illustrations depict the schematics of the Galileo power package and Lonnie’s surprise at the strength of the water stream in his prototype cooling design. As all kids know, the spurt of a Super Soaker is awesome, and this fact is demonstrated in a “Wowing” fold-out page.

WHOOSH! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions is a welcome biography of the man who designs systems for the greater world but has never lost his youthful enthusiasm to invent.

Ages 5 – 10

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580892971

Check out more fiction and nonfiction books by Chris Barton on his website!

Discover more books written and illustrated by Don Tate as well as a portfolio of his work and book-related activity guides on his website!

National Relaxation Day Activity

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Dive In! Coloring Page

 

The Super Soaker is a great way to cool off! Another relaxing water activity is swimming in a pool! So dive in to this printable cool pool Dive In! Coloring Page!