Liam is a curious young boy who lives in crowded city with no gardens, which makes it quite boring and unappealing. One day while exploring his city, Liam stumbles upon old train tracks that actually have a few dying plants. Liam decides that these plants need a gardener, so he begins his task to care for the plants and watches them grow and flourish. The garden itself is curious and grows across the tracks and soon throughout the city. With time there are more gardeners and the gardens grow upon buildings and many small spaces throughout the city. It no longer is a boring and gray city.
I really enjoyed The Curious Garden. Many individuals live in industrial environments and assume that they can have no gardens and landscapes. However, gardens truly can grow upon building rooftops and nooks if we let the plants grow. There is an author’s note and he states that he was curious what would happen if an entire city decided to cooperate with nature and how would the city change. I especially like The Curious Garden, because there are a few full color pages with no words to really ‘experience’ how the city has changed from all city life to small gardens throughout. This book could be used in the classroom during a discussion about the environment, gardening, preservation, and how plants can grow within cities. I suggest this book for older ages, because there are more words on each page and to discuss the overall topic. Although, all ages can enjoy this colorful garden book.
While searching through photos I stumbled upon a potential garden similar to The Curious Garden in my own city of Tacoma, Washington. You can just barely see the train tracks running through the grass and wild flowers. I’m not sure how long this train track hasn’t been in use. It’s amazing what nature truly can do when we leave it alone.
Ages 6 -9, 48 pages
This is the inspiring true story of the John J. Harvey-a retired New York City fireboat reinstated on September 11, 2001. Originally launched in 1931, the Harvey was the most powerful fireboat of her time. After the September 11 attacks, with fire hydrants at Ground Zero inoperable and the Hudson River’s water supply critical to fighting the blaze, the fire department called on the Harvey for help.
The book provides brief history of events during Harvey’s prime in the 1930s. The pictures are beautiful and provide a unique story during a tragic event. It briefly explains what occurred without going into too much detail. The focus is upon the community’s involvement that creates a discussion about everyone’s role and the importance of coming together.
Yoon has moved to the United States from Korea and now must adjust to her new life. Her father tells her that now she must learn how to write her name in English. However, Yoon doesn’t want to write her name in English and feels her name looks happy in Korean. It means Shining Wisdom, but her father reminds her that even when written in English her name still means Shining Wisdom. When she attends school she learns about cat and must write her name on the paper, but she doesn’t want to write Yoon. Instead, she wrote cat on each line. Yoon doesn’t fit in and has no friends. She wants to go back to Korea where she is happy and the teacher likes her. A girl at recess gives Yoon a cupcake and Yoon decides that her schoolmates will like her if she is a cupcake. Finally, she writes her name as Yoon. She writes her name in English and it means Shining Wisdom.
I enjoyed this cultural book about fitting into a new place. Yoon wanted to still be in Korea and didn’t want to fit in at first. Slowly, she learned that different is good and she can still be herself too.
This is a cute story told from the perspective of a young girl named Jenny who is the only person not happy that her favorite uncle is getting married. Normally, she loves weddings but she is her Uncle Peter’s special girl and feels that he is leaving her. As Jenny puts it ‘I am the jelly on his toast, and the leaves in his tea’. Everyone else is joyous and celebrating, but Jenny is sad. The book describes the Chinese wedding process and what the day would be like hundreds of years ago. Uncle Peter drives his car to pick up the bride, but is told that he can’t see her yet and must pay up. So the groom bargains and finally pays two hundred dollars until the bride appears wearing a red dress. It’s time for the tea ceremony where the bride is officially part of the family and she serves tea. Jenny has a sneaky idea and empties the tea-pot and puts just water to get the bride in trouble. Jenny’s mother talks with her and finally Jenny understands to be happy for uncle. The wedding fun continues with exchanging red money packets, speeches, outfit changes, and dancing. The bride gives Jenny a special box filled with butterflies and tells her thanks for sharing your amazing uncle.
Today, my sister is getting married so hopefully everything is amazing. I’m even a bridesmaid, so I should have lovely photos to share.
Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum is the interesting story about how Dubble Bubble chewing gum was invented. It was made in small candy factory in Philadelphia in the 1920s by a man named Walter Diemer. Walter was an accountant, but became curious about a laboratory next to his office. The company was trying to make a new kind of chewing gum. Walter experimented with different mixtures until finally bubbles formed. He added some flavor and began to chew it. Walter blew large bubbles from the mixture. However, the next day the mixture was as hard as a rock and wouldn’t blow a bubble. So, Walter continued to find the correct ingredients and finally had what he wanted. He added pink coloring, since that was the only color available. Batches were sent to local stores and Walter Diemer gave gum blowing lessons. He never got rich from his invention, but he didn’t care because he enjoyed making people happy as they blew bubble gum. The book provides additional information about Walter Diemer, gum facts, and the history of gum.
Fun Gum Facts:
- If you swallow your gum, it won’t stay in your stomach for seven years.
- Dubble Bubble was included in ration kits for American soldiers serving in World War II.
- The largest bubble recorded is set by Susan Montgomery Williams for twenty-three inches in diameter.
- During World War II, some kids kept their Dubble Bubble “alive” in glasses of water at night. Some even managed to continue chewing one piece for as long as a month!
- Chewing sugarless gum can prevent tooth decay.
- Chewing gum on an airplane will prevent your ears from popping.
Polar: The Titanic Bear is a fascinating true story told from the bear’s perspective. The story was written by the boy’s mother, Daisy Corning Stone Spedden. The story along with family photographs was discovered in the attic by Leighton H. Coleman III who is a distant cousin to Daisy. She presented the story to her son, Douglas or “Master” as he’s called in the story, on Christmas in 1913. The bear was manufactured in Germany and shipped to F.A.O. Schwartz in New York City. The boy quickly fell in love with the bear and named him “Polar”. The Spedden family was very wealthy and traveled around the world. Master took Polar everywhere with him. A few places they traveled to were Paris, Panama, Bermuda, and Northern Africa. Master kept Polar near when he was sick with the measles. He even included Polar during tea parties with friends. Finally, they were going to return to America on the Titanic. Master held Polar close in the lifeboat. As everyone was being rescued out of small lifeboats and onto the Carpathia, Polar was almost forgotten until sailors noticed the bear. The entire family safely made it across the Atlantic Ocean.
I enjoyed Polar: The Titanic Bear as it provided a snapshot into the privileged Edwardian-American society. The book is a little long for a read aloud, but it includes many family photographs, postcards, and other mementoes. I think adults will also enjoy this unique book. Sadly, Douglas died only three years after surviving the Titanic disaster. He was only nine years old in one of the first recorded car accidents in the state of Maine. Nobody is certain what happened to Polar the bear. The Speddens continued to travel, but had no more children. The Titanic adventure doesn’t begin until about the middle of the book.
Alia Muhammad Baker is the librarian of Basra, a city in Iraq. Her library is a meeting place to discuss books, but also to discuss war. Alia worries that fire from the war will destroy the books, which are very precious to her. She asks the governor for permission to move the books to a safe place, but he refuses. Alia decides to protect the books herself and secretly brings books home every night. Finally, war reaches Basra. Alia asks her friend, Alia Muhammad, who owns a restaurant next to the library to help save the books. They quickly remove the books from the library and hide them in the restaurant. Only nine days later, a fire burns the library to the ground. They move the thousands of books to her house and friends’ houses to protect the books from harm.
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq is a true story about a brave women in Iraq. War is a sensitive issue and I thought this book demonstrated that a community can work together to save precious books. The text is straightforward and doesn’t become too graphic when discussing war. It’s a good book to start a discussion about war with children. The pictures are vibrant and beautiful.
Celebrate National Library Week!
April 8-14, 2012
- The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq (childrensbooksheal.com)
Margriet Ruurs wondered how books were brought to children around the world, so she researched different mobile libraries throughout the world. She contacted librarians who shared their information, stories, and pictures about various mobile libraries. Ruurs explores how books reach readers in Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, England, Finland, Indonesia, Kenya, Mongolia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Thailand, and Zimbabwe. The methods varied greatly from a bookmobile in Australia to a wheelbarrow at the beach in England to book boat in Finland to a library camel in Kenya to even an elephant library in Thailand! My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World presents each country in alphabetical order on two pages. Each country includes detailed information about the book program, photographs, map, and the country’s flag.
Celebrate National Library Week!
April 8-14, 2012
The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss chronicles his first twenty-two years that shaped him into a unique author. Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Growing up, Ted loved reading, animals, drawing, and fun neighborhood activities. He even had first hand experience in a zoo, since his father became superintendent of parks. Ted also faced challenges. He was sometimes teased at school for having a German heritage. He often doodled in class and skipped classes in high school to watch movies. Ted attended Dartmouth College and was often known for being silly and nobody thought he could make a career from doodles. He wrote for a college magazine, but he was forced to resign. However, he still wrote for the magazine under the name Seuss, which was his mother’s maiden name and his middle name. After college, he traveled to England where he should have been studying literature at Oxford, instead he met his future wife who admired his drawings. He returned home to Fairfield Street and sent his cartoons and illustrations to New York magazines. Finally, he received an acceptance letter from The Saturday Evening Post. Soon more magazines desired Ted’s cartoons. He signed his work Dr. Theophrastus Seuss or Dr. Seuss, because he liked the sound of doctor and he wanted to save “Ted Geisel” for when he wrote his great success in the future. The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss provides additional information about Geisel’s life after he left Fairfield Street with background about his books.
Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!
- Celebrate Dr. Seuss & Read Across America Day! (passion2read.wordpress.com)
Scaredy Squirrel’s birthday is approaching and he decides to throw himself a party. The guest list is very small – just himself. There are many surprises that Scaredy Squirrel thinks will destroy a party which includes clownfish, ants, ponies, porcupines, Bigfoot, and confetti. He keeps a list of exactly what needs to be done so everything runs smoothly at the party and there are no unwelcome surprises. Scaredy Squirrel picks a safe location, practices breathing to blow balloons, and mails an invitation to himself. He then decides to invite one guest, so the party plans are revised so no bad surprises happen. Scaredy Squirrel even practices conversations, reviews activities that should be done at a party, and plans the party schedule. He’s most comfortable sitting quietly. However, Scaredy Squirrel is surprised when party animals arrive at his party. After he panics, screams, and finally passes out for a few hours Scaredy Squirrel notices that all the animals are ready for him to blow out the candles. He’s so touched that he decides to plan and invite guests for next year.
Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party is the fifth book in a series. Oh, I wish I discovered Scaredy Squirrel sooner because I often feel the same way at parties. Perhaps not as nervous as Scaredy Squirrel, but I’m not a fan of people singing Happy Birthday to me and nobody would ever surprise me with a party. The illustrations are very humorous as the reader sees his party plans.
Day 6 Birthday Book Celebration!
Dr. Seuss Published August 12, 1959 by New York: Random House Ages: 6+ 64 pages
This delightful Dr. Seuss book takes place in the town of Katroo where they sure know how to celebrate each birthday. Katroo is the only place with the Great Birthday Bird who awakes the birthday person and takes on a journey to enjoy their special day. Along the journey, they enjoy hot dogs rolled on a spool, pick the fanciest pet, greeted by Drummers and Strummers at the Birthday Pal-alace, and eat the only birthday cake made of guaranteed certified strictly Grade-A peppermint cucumber sausage-paste butter! (I’m not sure I’d like to taste that cake.) Happy Birthday to You! is slow at times, but it’s a fun book that’s sure to make you smile.
Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! Shout loud, “I am lucky to be what I am! Thank goodness I’m not just a clam or a ham Or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam! I am what I am! That’s a great thing to be! If I say so myself, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!
– Dr. Seuss (Happy Birthday to You!)
Day 1 Birthday Book Celebration!
If you haven’t already heard about this unlikely friendship then this will surely make you smile, even though there’s a sad mention in this post. Tarra performed in the circus as the only roller skating elephant. In 1995, Tarra came to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Unlike a zoo where animals remain in cages, the elephants in the wildlife sanctuary roam freely throughout 2,700 acres. All the elephants except for Tarra found an elephant companion. However, that changed when Tarra awoke to find a stray dog next to her. Soon Tarra and Bella went everywhere together. One day, a caregiver found Bella injured in the grass and was taken to the vet. It was unsure whether Bella would be able to walk again, since she had a spinal cord injury. Every day Tarra remained in the same spot waiting for her friend and finally searched to find Bella. Tarra waited outside for her friend while Bella rested. When Bella discovered that Tarra was outside, she attempted to run to the window. Finally, the caretakers realized that the two desperately wanted to see each other so they carried Bella to reunite with Tarra. Tarra welcomed Bella with gentle elephant trunk pets. Tara returned each day until Bella was well enough to roam. Sadly, Bella died in October 2011. The friendship between an elephant and dog prove that we can look beyond any differences and understand each other. The back of the book provides information about the Elephant Sanctuary.
by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson
Ages 8 & up, 36 pages
This is a wonderful book for all ages to understand in clear language about how exactly snow forms. It’s a process that occurs at a miniature scale, so our eyes don’t witness the wonder. The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder provides snow crystal photographs, diagrams about the steps to become a snow crystal, and how to catch your own snowflakes in the correct conditions. The book clearly explains the snow formation process without being too confusing. After learning about the science of snow, I wished that it was cold and snowy to catch snowflakes. Sadly, I had no snow. This book is a great addition to an earlier book review about Wilson Bentley who learned how to photograph snow in the 1880s in the book Snowflake Bentley. The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder was recognized by the National Science Teacher’s Association in 2010.
Would you like to catch your own snow crystals? Here are some steps to help you see beautiful snow crystals. I haven’t personally tried this, but let me know if your results are successful.Supplies: – Dark & stiff cardboard or foam – Magnifying glass Directions: 1. Put the cardboard of foam outside for at least 10 minutes before trying to catch snow. The board must stay cold and dry. 2. Hold the board by one edge so that it is flat. Position yourself so that only a few snowflakes fall on the board. 3. Examine smaller bits of snow to see individual snow crystals. Use the magnifying glass. 4. Keep trying and make sure the board remains cold.
by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian
Ages 8 & up, 32 pages
Snowflake Bentley tells the true story of Wilson Bentley who was a boy fascinated with snow. Wilson Bentley was born in 1865, in Vermont, where snow is as common as dirt. His happiest days were snow days. He could give his mother flowers and hold butterflies in his hand, but he couldn’t share snowflakes. When other children played in the snow, Wilson studied moisture and snow crystals. He discovered that the snow crystals had six branches and were masterpieces of design since no flake was ever the same. He wanted to share snowflakes’ beauty with others and drew pictures, but they often melted before he could finish the drawing. Wilson drew a hundred snow crystals for three winters until he learned about a camera with a microscope. His parents believed it was somewhat foolish to desire taking photos of snowflakes, but they eventually bought the expensive camera that took imagines on glass negatives and magnified 3,600 times its actual size. At first, there were many failures and Wilson wasn’t able to take a successful snowflake photo. However, he experimented with the light and finally produced a snowflake photo. Wilson could now share snow’s wonder with his snowflake photos. Colleges bought his photographs and artists used the photos for inspiration. Wilson Bentley was an expert at snow and was known as the Snowflake Man. When he was sixty-six years old, his photographs were published in a book. Sadly, he died less than a month after the book was published. A monument now stands in Wilson Bentley’s home town: Jericho, Vermont.
Of all the forms of water, the tiny six-pointed crystals of ice called snow, that form in such quantities within the clouds during storms are incomparable the most beautiful and varied.
Snowflake Bentley won the Caldecott Medal in 1999. I really enjoyed this book, because it was written somewhat in two sections. There was a general story line of Wilson Bentley’s life growing up and his love for snowflakes, but there was also detailed information on the side with dates, education background, and the snowflake photography process. This book is a wonderful introduction to the science of snowflakes.
by W.A. Bentley and W.J. Humphreys
All Ages, 226 pages
Snow Crystals contains over 2,000 snowflake photographs that Wilson Bentley took. In 1931, the American Meteorologist Society gathered Bentley’s snowflake photographs and produced this book. The brief introduction describes scientific information about snow formation and the different shapes. The photographs are presented against a black background, so they really stand out. I showed this book to students and they were amazed, which I’m sure is exactly how you’ll feel after looking at these photographs.