Thursday, October 29, 2009

Almost Astronauts

On this day in 1998, John Glenn became the oldest person ever to travel in space: he was 77 years old at the time.  That moment in history inspired today's review.

Stone, Tanya Lee (2009). Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream. (Gr. 5-7+).

The first seven American astronauts, dubbed the Mercury 7 in 1958, were all men.  The first woman to enter space, Sally Ride, launched on a space shuttle in 1983.  The twenty-five years in between those two dates were filled with women who tried to be astronauts but were nearly always turned down.

Thirteen women in 1960 and 1961 took a series of grueling tests--the same or harder tests that male astronauts took--to see if women would be strong enough and brave enough to fly into outer space.  Each of the thirteen women, all of whom had broken gender barriers to be pilots, passed the tests they were given with flying colors.  NASA and the United States government, however, stepped in just before the majority of the women were allowed to take the final test, and those thirteen women were permanently shut out of American space travel programs.

This book is well-written with a quick, compelling narrative that readers will tear through.  Even more importantly, it's a thorough, hard-hitting look both at what it means to be an astronaut and at women's struggles for equality and representation in the greatest adventure of modern times.

Almost Astronauts won a 2009 Boston Globe - Horn Book honor award for non-fiction.  The video below is the author's acceptance speech at that awards ceremony.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Halloween Treats

Enjoy this Halloween with yummy, homemade treats to share with your friends and family!  Here are a few book picks for crafts and recipes to get your holiday going in truly spooky style.

Maggipinto, Donata (1998). Halloween Treats.

Make your own trick-or-treat bag, design a candy cauldron, or munch on some black cat cookies.  You can enjoy crafts, treats, and more with this family-friendly Halloween recipe collection.  Parents, there are great Halloween-themed meals for adults, too!  The curried pumpkin soup and autumn salad with tangerines, avocado, and pumpkin seeds look particularly delicious, as do the baked maccaroni shells stuffed with cheddar.

Bowers, Sharon (2009). Ghoulish Goodies (Gr. 3-8)

Monster Eyeballs, Spiderweb Cookies, and Screaming Red Punch are just a few of the creepy treats included in this cookbook.  Beware: these recipes are a project for the whole family!  Unless you're a whiz-kid in the kitchen (and even if you are), you'll probably need some extra help from an adult.  Even so, who could resist a cupcake with tentacles?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Crafts for Keeps: Make your own book

You can make a book out of just about anything!  The best part of making is a book is that you get to choose what to put in it.  So make yourself a coloring book, a sketch book, or a journal--it's easier than you think, and it won't require any special tools.

The links below use materials that you can find around the house: paper, cardboard, cereal boxes, glue sticks, and maybe some ribbon or sticks.  If you want to get fancy, find some wrapping paper or a fun magazine cover to add decoration.  An adult should be involved in the whole process, especially if scissors and needles come into play!

Ages 3+
Make an alphabet book
  • There's no cover on this book, but you could create one from a manila folder.  Just punch holes into both the folder and the pages, then tie with ribbon or string.  Use markers, crayons, or pictures from magazines to decorate the cover.
  • Make different coloring books by printing out free designs online.  Crayola has lots of coloring pages!
Ages 5+
Make a book with a stick and a rubber band
  • A small stick from the yard will work well, or you can experiment with Tinkertoys, chopsticks, or anything else stick-like around the house.
  • Try a piece of ribbon or some yarn if you can't find a rubber band.
Ages 7+
Sew a small book with a needle and string
  • Have an adult help with this one!  You'll need to poke holes with a big needle and sew with a smaller needle.  (Dull needles are best for this kind of book binding.)
  • Even though this book won't have many pages, the paper will lay flat when you open it--great for writing or drawing!
Ages 9+
Make a book with a hard cover
  • This one needs a knife and sharp scissors, so let an adult handle the cutting.
  • Find some cool paper for the front and back covers.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

McKendry, Joe (2005)  Beneath the Streets of Boston. (Gr. 4-7)

With winter creeping up on the greater Boston area, it's time to start thinking about fun activities that keep you warm and dry.  Why not take a tour of the country's oldest subway system?

Joe McKendry's informative and elaborately illustrated book about the T is a fascinating history of Boston, trains, and city transportation from the late 1800's through to more recent years.  You'll learn about what makes the Red, Blue, Green, and Orange lines distinct from each other: discover the meanings behind their names and the differences in their construction methods.  You'll also see snippets of the heated controversy surrounding the very first subway plans for the city, the discovery of more than 900 unmarked graves, and clear drawings showing the structures and machines that made the trains possible.

After reading, find your CharlieCard, grab your coat, and head into the city to explore the T firsthand!  Want to know why it's called the CharlieCard?  Listen to this famous song about a man named Charlie, who took a fateful ride on our very own T

If you stop at Copley Square, you can go to the Boston Public Library and see their interactive Literacise exhibit just for kids.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Click Magazine: There's more fun online!

Click Magazine has great articles about science, investigation, and discovery for children between the ages of 3 and 6 years old.  You can find the printed issues of the magazine in the Needham Public Library's children's room, but did you know that you can also go online for stories, information, and activities from Click?

For October 2009, explore caves and learn how to make a flapping bat puppet from paper, string, and a pencil.  You can also meet Click and his friends, find books about caves, play games, and send someone a message made from magnetic letters.

You can find even more great websites by visiting the Association for Library Services to Children's online suggestion list!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Otoshi, Kathryn (2008)  One.  (PreS-K)

"Red is hot, and Blue is not."  Blue is quiet and gentle, even when taunted by a bully.  But Red's meanness leaves Blue feeling blue.  Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple try to tell Blue that blue is cool ... but no one stands up for Blue when Red is around.  Red bullies and sneers and makes the other colors feel small and unimportant.  No one wants to go against Red.  Not until One shows up.  With One's help, all the colors start to stand up for themselves and for each other--and they learn that everybody counts.

The simple shapes and lines of this book introduce both colors and numbers as characters--maybe even as friends.  The delicate watercolor textures lend themselves to close, quiet readings between a parent and child, but the simplicity and scale of the illustrations would also work well for smaller group read-alouds.