Friday, April 30, 2010

May Day: share a basket with a friend!

Tomorrow is May 1st, which is often celebrated as May Day.  One tradition is to make a small basket, fill it with flowers or candy, and then leave it at the door for a friend.  Ring the doorbell or give a loud knock, then run and hide.  If your friend catches you, you have to get a kiss!  Make this basket tonight so that it's ready for the morning.

Making a May basket is very easy to do.  What you'll need:
construction paper
scissors (optional)
stickers, stamps, or other decoration (optional)
flowers or candy

1. Draw a big triangle onto a piece of construction paper, then cut out along the lines.  (Optional: instead of cutting out a triangle, just roll the piece of paper so it looks like a big waffle cone!)

2. Tape the edges of the triangle or cone together.

3. Using a long, thin piece of construction paper, tape it to the open end of the cone, making a handle for your basket.

4. Decorate!  Stickers, stamps, crayons, and glitter all make great decorations.

5. Fill the basket with flowers from the yard or with candy.

6. Pick a friend, a brother or sister, a grandparent or anyone else whom you like.  Very quietly leave the basket on the doorknob or in front of the door.  Then, ring the doorbell or knock loudly.  Run away!  If you get caught, your friend gets to kiss you!

When you're all finished, go enjoy the sunshine and warm weather tomorrow.  Happy May Day!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Printing: A Very Fun Craft

Once upon a time, no one had computers or printers.  If you wanted to put words or pictures onto a piece of paper, you had to make it by hand.  You can still print by hand today!  In fact, your hands are some of the best tools for printing. 

Just think about it.  What is it called when you put ink on your finger and then press that finger onto a piece of paper?  A fingerprint.  Or what about when you step into wet cement?  That's a footprint.  When you put your dirty hands on your clean shirt?  Yep, that's a handprint.  Printing is as easy as that!

First things first.  This will be messy.  Wear old clothes that are meant for getty dirty.  Then, spread out some newspapers or a plastic sheet.  Make sure your mess stays in that area!

Hand printing and finger painting requires no tools--just paint and hands.  Pour a little paint onto a paper plate to cover the palm of your hand, or dip your fingertips into a small bowl.  On a piece of blank paper, press the paint from your hand to the paper.  Try patting, squishing, dragging, or swirling for a different look.

If you're comfortable with finger painting, try making a stamp out of a potato!  Scrub a raw potato clean, cut it in half, then draw a shape or a letter onto the cut side.  If you're old enough, use a knife to cut away the potato from the outside of the lines to the edge, leaving a raised surface in the middle.  An adult should always help when knives are involved.  You could use a cookie cutter, too--just stick it in the potato and cut around the edges!  When you like the shape, dip it in a little bit of paint, and stamp all over a blank piece of paper.  You can make pictures, cards, or even wrapping paper this way.

If you really really like printing, then you should learn about a man named Johann Gutenberg, who can claim most of the credit for inventing the tools to print books quickly and inexpensively.  You know what's amazing?  He invented those tools almost 600 years ago, and people still use them today!

Koscielniak, Bruce (2003).  Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press (Gr. 2-5)

This is a history of books and history of printing, all in one.  From the earliest days when making a book meant writing each word by hand--all the way to the first book ever printed from moveable type.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth Day Actions

Every year, people around the world celebrate Earth Day on April 22.  Even though it was yesterday, Earth Day is all about making choices all year long that are good for the world we live on, like recyling, using less water, or cleaning up our neighborhoods. 

In some ways, Earth Day is kind of like New Year's Day: it's a day to make a new resolution.  Maybe you'll take shorter showers this year, maybe you'll start a compost pile instead of throwing away old vegetable scraps, or maybe you'll carry library books home in a cloth bag that can be used again and again.  Even small choices can be important ones!

Sirett, Dawn (2009).  Love Your World: How To Take Care of the Plants, the Animals, and the Planet. (Gr. PreK-2)

Toddlers and young children can make a difference, too!  This fun introduction to going green includes ideas like recycling, reusing old household items, turning off lights, and planting flowers that butterflies will like.  Even the book is green: the paper was made from a sustainable forest, the cover was made from recyled paper, the ink is vegetable-based, and the printing shop generates 100% of its own electricity.  That's earth-friendly!

Herzog, Brad (2009). S Is for Save the Planet: A How-to-Be Green Alphabet. (Gr. 3-6)

There's a lot more information in here about fossil fuels, endangered animals, energy-efficient tools, and organizations that provide more facts and ideas for kids.  From National Parks to compact fluorescent light bulbs, this book will give older kids some inspiration for ways to protect the planet.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Better Late than Never ...

The 2010 Newbery Award medal was announced way back in January, so it's high time for the winning book to receive some attention on this blog.  If only there were a way to go back in time ...

Stead, Rebecca (2009). When You Reach Me. (Gr. 5-8)

In 1979, 12-year-old Miranda lives in Manhattan with her mother.  They have a run-down apartment in a run-down building, and she reads and re-reads a tattered copy of A Wrinkle in Time.  The homeless man on the corner and the gang of boys at the garage make Miranda nervous, but she has street smarts to keep her safe.  Everything starts to go wrong when Miranda's best friend, Sal, is punched while they're walking home from school.  Sal stops talking to her, and Miranda has no one to turn to when someone breaks into her apartment and leaves a strange note: "I'm coming to save your friend's life, and my own."  More mysterious notes accurately predict the future--and, as if that isn't enough to worry about, she has to make new friends.  Miranda has a lot of questions to answer.  Will her mom ever be able to leave the job that she hates?  Is time-travel possible?  Will Sal be her friend again?  Who keeps sending the notes?

There's a little bit of science fiction, here, but everything about the characters and the setting is realistic.  Clues are slyly dropped along the way, and everything fits together perfectly.  If you like science fiction, you'll probably like this book.  If you like realistic fiction, you'll probably like it, too.  If you like mysteries ... yep, you'll like this book.  (If you like all three genres: this is exactly the book you need to get on your next visit to the library.)  It's the kind of story that keeps turning over and over in your mind for days as you digest it all.

Especially recommended for Wrinkle in Time fans.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Calling All Girls, Ages 13 and Up

Have you heard about the Amanda Project?  It's a fictional story about Amanda Valentino, who arrived at Endeavor High School last Halloween and disappeared on the Ides of March.  Now, her three friends are trying to find out what happened, who she really is, and where she's gone. 

The best part about this project is that it involves you.  All girls over the age of 13 are welcome to register on the website and start writing their own stories about Amanda.  Maybe you want to have a character that's just like you, or maybe you want to write about someone who is nothing like you.  Maybe your character goes to that high school or works in town.  It doesn't really matter who you are or who your character is: just write more of Amanda's story and add it to the growing collection online.

To get started, read the first book in what will eventually be a series of eight books.  Then, start writing.  The Project will publish zines with girls' stories, and some stories might even make it into the next books in the series.

Kantor, Melissa (2009). Invisible I (Gr. 7+)

15-year-old Amanda has disappeared, leaving Callie, Hal, and Nia in trouble.  As the three teenages piece together clues, they're left with more questions than answers.  Who is Amanda?  Why has she told three people three different stories about herself?  Where did she go?  Cliques, high school politics, and family secrets round out this mystery, making it much more involved than your average whodunnit.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Audio Books, streaming through your computer

There's something exciting about listening to a story.  Even a favorite book that you've read and re-read a hundred times can seem brand new when you listen to someone else read it out loud.  The library has lots of books on tape, CD, and PlayAway (it's a little mp3 player), but did you know that you can also find some audio books online?

Storyline Online is a great place to look for read-aloud picture books.  All of the books are read by actors who are part of the Screen Actor's Guild--a group for movie and television actors--and you can watch the whole story on your computer screen.  There are illustrations, some animations, and a video of the actor as he or she reads the words.

Kiddie Records also has recordings of picture books from the 1940's and 1950's.  One of my favorites is a recording of Ruth Krauss's book, The Carrot Seed

Krauss, Ruth (1945). The Carrot Seed (PreS-Gr. 2)

(The link will open a streaming audio file on your computer.  Read by Norman Rose. Recorded by the Children's Record Guild.)  A little boy finds a carrot seed and decides to plant it, even though his parents and his brother all say that it isn't going to grow.  He waters it and pulls out weeds every day, waiting to see what will grow.  The recording adds many lines to the story, but the music and sound effects are a lot of fun.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Lawrence, Iain (2009). The Giant-Slayer. (Gr. 3-6)

Despite the title, this book is not really about magic or giant-slayers.  It's about Laurie Valentine, whose best friend gets polio in 1955.  Knowing that her father and nanny are scared of polio, Laurie sneaks away from the house as often as she can to visit her friend, Dickie, in the hospital.  Sometimes, it's uncomfortable to visit Dickie.  He's in an iron lung because his lungs are paralyzed, and only his head sticks out of the huge metal cylinder.  There are two other children in iron lungs, too: a boy who doesn't talk much about himself, and a girl whose family hasn't visited her in eight years.  Laurie doesn't know what to say to Dickie, anymore, so she makes up a story about a tiny boy who decides to slay a cruel giant.  Laurie's story gives them courage and hope as they battle their own giants. 

The Giant-Slayer is about hardship and friendship and the magic of imagination.  If you don't know much about polio, don't worry: all the information you need is in the book.  Your grandparents might remember the polio epidemics of the 1940s and 1950s, too.  As always, you can come into the library with any questions.

"A Good, Good Pig Story"

Mansfield, Howard (2008). Hogwood Steps Out.(PreS-Gr. 2)

Christopher Hogwood is a pig who knows what he likes.  He likes nibbling in the neighbor's garden, digging up the lawn with his snout, running away from the policeman, and admiring the fine work of a backhoe.  He likes mud and apples and the fresh smells of spring on the breeze.  He also likes reminding people that he weighs 600 pounds and could run them over if he wanted to.  (Fortunately for everyone, he doesn't want to.)  If only everyone could enjoy the small pleasures of life as much as he does!  The gardener, the lawn's owner, and the policeman are less pleased with the way Hogwood tears up the ground and scares everyone away, but Hogwood doesn't mind: he has them all very well trained.

This is a laugh-out-loud story about a very smart pig and the very patient people he encounters.  There's a surprising amount of piggy information in this book, but you'll be laughing while you learn.  Share it with someone you love!