May 13 – National Train Day

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About the Holiday

It’s hard not to love the train. With its storied past and iconic whistle, train travel is imprinted in our minds as a fun, efficient way to get from here to there and back again. Today’s holiday was established to commemorate the May, 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad, a feat that united America as nothing else had done. Suddenly, distances didn’t seem as far, and those seeking a new life out West or wanting to visit family back East had a safe, quick way of spanning the miles.

Traveling By Train: a Want to Know the World Book

Written by Pierre Winters | Illustrated by Tineke Meirink

 

Sam loves playing with his train set and is excited to be going on a real train ride. At the station, he loves all the hustle and bustle of people getting off and on trains. When his train pulls up, he “quickly gets in and looks for a place to sit. The train is about to depart! Are you coming too?” Train lovers will definitely want to get “aaall aboard” this tour of all things railroad related.

The first stop is a quick look at trains old and new. Kids learn about steam trains and how they worked by burning coal. Next up readers discover diesel trains before moving on to today’s electric and high-speed trains, which are “really fast. They sometimes drive nearly two hundred miles per hour. That’s three times faster than a car on the highway.” Where are these trains? Everywhere! Trains provide transportation all over the world and come in all shapes and sizes. There are trains that carry people, freight trains that “transport goods,” subway trains that move people from place to place in big cities, and even trains that travel through an underwater tunnel between England and France.

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Image copyright Tineke Meirink, text copyright Pierre Winters. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing

All of these trains require an engineer to drive them; a signaller, who “sets the switches and makes all the traffic lights turn green or red; a conductor who helps passengers get on and off and checks their tickets; and maintenance workers who “make sure the trains and tracks are in good shape.”

But what about the trains themselves? Readers can go inside a carriage where they see the seats, the luggage rack, the doors between cars, the bathroom, and even the roof and undercarriage. Want to ride? Kids learn all about buying a ticket and how important it is to get to the station on time so they don’t miss the train.

Of course, there are many kinds of trains, depending on where they go and what they are used for. Passenger trains that travel long distances requiring a multi-day trip have “bedrooms, restaurants, and little shops. They are like hotels on wheels!” In some countries the trains can get so crowded that people hang off the sides or ride on the roof. In Japan some very modern trains don’t have a driver. “A computer knows exactly when everyone has gotten on and where the station is. Other trains don’t even use wheels anymore. Thanks to very powerful magnets, they float just above the ground!”

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Image copyright Tineke Meirink, text copyright Pierre Winters. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing

Train stations are growing more and more modern. Some are made entirely of glass, and buying tickets and checking on arrivals and departures are all computerized. The biggest trains station in the world is in America, in New York City. It has forty-four platforms and sixty-seven tracks.

Readers will love the double fold-out spread in the center of the book that takes them into the midst of a busy station where trains wait on the tracks, ready to carry passengers on new and thrilling journeys. Following the text, train-related activities continue the fun. They include a poem, step-by-step instructions for drawing a train, directions for making a conductor’s whistle, matching games, and a mini-quiz.

Pierre Winters’ easy-to-understand, yet engaging text invites kids to explore one of the world’s most-used and best-loved methods of travel. Interesting facts presented in a conversational style will entice children to keep chugging through this well-conceived book and will pique their interest in traveling by train themselves.

Tineke Meirink’s bright, colorful illustrations offer readers close-up views of trains, inside and out, as well as the station control center and lively stations full of passengers and those waiting to meet them. Children will want to linger over the double-page spread to catch all the action and details.

For children who love trains or those taking their first trip, Traveling by Train is a wonderful introduction for young adventurers.

Ages 4 and up

Clavis Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373409

National Train Day Activity

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All Aboard! Word Search Puzzle

 

Traveling by train is such fun! Get on board this printable All Aboard! Word Search Puzzle and find the 21 train-related words! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

May 12 – National Odometer Day

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About the Holiday

In 1847 William Clayton invented a little add-on to the automobile that provides perspective, history, and interesting information on our beloved cars—the odometer! Whether you like to keep track of how many miles you travel on a trip, how economical your gas mileage is, when your next tune-up is due, or just marvel at how long your car has lasted, the numbers on the odometer tell the story. Today, take your car out for a spin—perhaps to the car wash or out to the open road!

Are We There Yet?

By Dan Santat

 

When you’re invited to a very special birthday party and it’s far away, what do you do? Pack up the car, of course, and head out on an adventure! Going to Grandma’s house is always exciting—at least for the first hour, but after that each minute seems to take for- ev-er. You might even think “Are we there yet?” or “This is taking forever.” Wait! Did you say that out loud? The look on your parents’ faces tell you you did!

You can only stare out the window at the landscape for so long. “But what happens when your brain becomes too bored? That’s when your whole world can turn upside down. Minutes feel like hours. Hours turn to days. Days seem like months and then years. Pretty soon that “quick trip” feels like a million years.

As you ride in the car, tucked in the back seat, feeling a little sick, needing to use the bathroom, your butt growing numb—and bored, bored, bored—could time actually be going backward? While you’re zipping down the highway suddenly a steam train is chugging past, trying to outrun a team of bandits. Now pirates have captured your car and sent it down the plank toward the briny deep! I hope you’re good with a lance because somehow your family’s the main attraction at the royal jousting tournament. And there’s no stopping for the bathroom in Ancient Egypt, or you’ll be put to work building a pyramid.

You think you’ve reached the end of your patience? You’ve actually reached the beginning of time. You may love dinosaurs, but you don’t belong in the Cretaceous Period. So play fetch with T-Rex one time and then climb aboard his back for a wild ride back.

But as quickly as you turned back time you can find yourself in the future—a future you don’t even recognize, where everything you love is gone. So take time now—yes, while you’re bored, bored, bored—to really look around you and see what’s going on. After all, you don’t want to miss this party—it’s the one you’ve been invited to.

Dan Santat’s Are We There Yet? is a rambunctious reminder to enjoy the moment you’re in, because Time is a wily beast that creeps up on you when you’re not paying attention. The art in this book is the star, with its full, two-page vibrant spreads and topsy-turvy format. An old steam train is chased by bandits in the western heat. A rag-tag crew of scallywag pirates menace the family at sword point. Crowds roar at a medieval jousting tournament. Ancient Egyptians toil in the golden sun overshadowed by the Sphynx and pyramids. And it’s love at first sight when the boy comes eye to eye with T-rex in the lush jungles of early Earth.

The scenes of the future, complete with flying cars, neon colors, and helpful robots make clever use of QR codes, and kids will relate to the funny twist ending.

Ages 4 – 8

Little Brown and Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0316199995

Gardening for Wildlife Activity

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Who’s in the Garden Dot-to-Dots

 

Completing a dot-to-dot puzzle can be a little like taking a trip—you go from stop to stop, not knowing exactly what you’ll find at the end. In these dot-to-dots, you’ll discover who’s hiding in the garden.

Printable dot-to-dot, page 1

Printable  dot-to-dot, page 2

March 31 – Eiffel Tower Day

A Walk in Paris by Salvatore Rubbino Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognized monuments in the world. Its iconic shape was designed by Gustav Eiffel, for whom the tower is named. It was built for the International Exhibition of Paris and opened on March 31, 1889 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.

The Eiffel Tower stands 984 feet high and was at the time of its opening the world’s tallest building, an honor it held until the Chrysler Building was erected in New York in 1930. When the International Exhibition’s 20-year lease on the land expired, the Eiffel Tower was almost taken down, until people realized it could be used as a radio antennae.

Of course, all these facts don’t convey the magic of the tower itself. To celebrate this auspicious date, visit the Eiffel tower if you live close or take a vicarious walk in the fabled city of Paris with today’s book. You can also make and enjoy the French Butter cookie recipe found below.

A Walk in Paris

By Salvatore Rubbino

 

A girl and her grandpa visiting the city of Paris emerge from the metro at Place Maubert just in time to join the throng of shoppers perusing the colorful food stalls on Market Day and to buy some famous French cheese. They continue on their tour through old streets and new boulevards, avoiding the gushing water for the street cleaners, until they reach the fountain at Place Saint-Michel. Their meanderings take them to the River Seine and Notre-Dame. After a long wait in line, they climb to the Chimera Gallery, 151 feet above the ground. From there they look out on the city, all the way to the Eiffel Tower.

On the ground once more they pass salons and boutiques and settle into a cozy bistro for lunch. They visit the Marais, a fashionable area of shops and cafes built on what was once marshland. Up next is a structure that seems to have been built inside-out since all its pipes and escalators are on the outside! This is Pompidou Center, a famous gallery of modern art. The little girl proclaims it formidable!, which means “wonderful!”

Time for a snack! The grandpa-granddaughter duo find themselves in front of a pâtisserie window full of delectable cakes. It’s so hard to choose! Back on the boulevard, they make their way to the majestic building and glass pyramids of the Louvre Art Museum, where perhaps the world’s most famous painting—the Mona Lisa—hangs. A well-deserved rest comes in Tuileries Gardens, where the grandfather enjoys his favorite view and the girl makes a friend by the fountain pool.

It’s getting late and time to leave, but there is one more site to see. As the sun goes down and the night sky darkens, the grandfather treats his granddaughter to a magnificent event – the bright, twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower!

Through A Walk in Paris Salvatore Rubbino has created a beautiful armchair tour of one of the world’s great cities. The large format of this picture book allows for broad views of the landmarks and vistas, giving children a good idea of the vastness of the city. Each page is dotted with trivia and factual information, printed in small type that does not disturb the flow of the illustrations.

The illustrations in muted yet rich tones and with fine details aptly capture the culture and grandeur of the City of Lights. A fold-out page of the luminescent Eiffel Tower is sure to elicit some oohs and ahhs from children.

Ages 4 – 9 (the embedded facts and illustrations make this a good book for older children and research projects also)

Candlewick Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0763669843

Eiffel Tower Day Activity

CPB - Eiffel Tower Cookies

French Butter Cookies – Lemon and Chocolate

 

Whip up a batch of these delicious cookies to eat while enjoying A Walk in Paris. There’s no better way to spend a day than to take a trip for a new place—even if you do it in the coziness of your own room!

Ingredients for Lemon Cookies

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (or to taste)

For Egg Wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

For Chocolate Cookies

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

  1. In a bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until blended
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat just until incorporated. Do not over mix the dough. **For Chocolate Cookies use 1 ½ cups flour and add cocoa powder, cinnamon, and ground ginger before mixing**
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough a few times to bring it together, and then divide the dough in half.
  5. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven.
  7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  8. Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick.
  9. Using a lightly floured 2 inch (5 cm) round, fluted cookie cutter (or other cookie cutter of your choice), cut out the cookies and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
  10. Put the baking sheet of cut out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 -20 minutes to chill the dough.
  11. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg with the water for the egg wash. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and brush the tops with the egg wash.
  12. Then, with the tines of a fork or a toothpick, make a crisscross pattern on the top of each cookie.
  13. Bake cookies for about 12-14 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.
  14. Cool cookies on wire rack.