Kids Blog

Exploring Ancient China

The First Emperor

China's first emperor was named Qin Shi Huangdi. He brought together all the warring states and made them his subjects in 221 B. C. Qin is pronounced "Chin" and ever after the country was named China. He took the name Shi Huangdi which means "first emperor." Qin was an unusual man. He standardized writing, bureaucracy, scholarship, law, currency (money), and weights and measures. He built a capital and many roads. He connected the old walls along China's northern frontier to form the Great Wall, to protect his country from invaders. But he was also cruel. He killed and banished many people who disagreed with him and destroyed books from the past.

Margot Zemach

Children’s author and illustrator Margot Zemach was born into a show business family--her father was a theater director, and her mother was an actress. Growing up, she drew imaginatively costumed characters to retell her favorite fairy stories and folktales, something she continued to do as an adult that would lead her to worldwide fame.

As she wrote in her autobiography, Self-Portrait: Margot Zemach: "I can create my own theater and be in charge of everything. When there is a story I want to tell in pictures, I find my actors, build the sets, design the costumes and light the stage. . . . If I can get it all together and moving, it will come to life. The actors will work with each other, and the dancers will hear the music and dance. When the book closes, the curtain comes down."

Autumn Picture Books

Call me clichéd, but autumn is one of my favorite times of year.  On a physical level, I can pull out my cozy sweaters and boots and be consistently warm, and on a spiritual one, I can kick leaves with my husband and enjoy the breeze while walking the dogs.  Somehow picture book authors successfully capture all of the wonderful elements of this beautiful season of change.  

Ralph Masiello’s Halloween Drawing Book

Ralph Masiello’s Halloween Drawing Book

During October, I start finding drawings of jack-o-lanterns, haunted houses, bat attacks and grotesque witches all over the house, which my kids draw in anticipation of Halloween. Some of these spooky scenes are quite elaborate, and we hang them up to do double-duty as Halloween decorations. Therefore, when I saw that we had recently added the new Ralph Masiello’s Halloween Drawing Book to our collection at the library, I put it on hold right away so our family could check it out.

Wait ‘Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn

Wait ‘Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn

Looking for a spooky story to read in October? Wait ‘Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story, by Mary Downing Hahn, is a great book for brave readers ages 10 and up. It’s narrated by 12-year-old Molly, who has moved into a new house out in the country with her 10-year-old brother Michael, her mom, her new stepdad, and his 7-year-old daughter, Heather. The home just happens to be a converted church bordering extensive grounds, ruins, and even a graveyard. Sounds like the perfect setting for something sinister to happen, right?

James Marshall

“I have always thought my best stuff was in my sketchbooks.  I have hundreds and hundreds of sketchbooks.  I like to work at night, I suppose because that’s when my defenses are sort of low.  I have my most creative ideas at night.  I’m less inhibited, and I really let it rip.”

From: Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book, edited by Leonard S. Marcus. p. 96; pp. 82-106 are on James Marshall

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, James Marshall’s whimsical drawings added humor to dozens of children’s picture books.  While many were made for other writers’ works, including classics such as Mother Goose, Edward Lear, and Ogden Nash, he was also a talented writer on his own.  Indeed,  he became one of the most popular and prolific illustrators in children’s publishing.  In high school, however, he wasn’t so much about the art--though he did doodle, as he called it--as about the music which he saw as a way to get a scholarship to college far away from swampy Texas town where his family lived.

The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander

The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander

The young king Tamar was awakened in darkness by the sound of elephants in his courtyard. Their jeweled tusks and golden banners proclaimed them the property of a great maharajah. In short order, a dark figure strode into the palace and demanded an immediate audience.

Tamar sighed heavily.
As his tutor reminded him, the principles of Dharma--the code of honor, conscience, and the obligation to do what is royally virtuous, meant that he could not refuse an audience to another king, no matter the lateness of the hour. Indeed, in the long-ago world of ancient India recreated in Lloyd Alexander's The Iron Ring, a king's honor is his most important possession.

The mysterious visitor, King Jaya, ruled the distant land of Mahapura where, he grandly informed his host, all was much better than in Tamar's own kingdom of Sundari. Musicians, dancers, food, all were better in Mahapura, King Jaya purred. The only distraction he sought from Tamar was a simple game of aksha. Pure luck would determine the rolls of the dice.

In all hospitality, Tamar could not refuse, although the stakes Jaya proposed would have fed the court for a month. Die-roll after die-roll, Tamar won. Then the king of Mahapura yawned and made a final wager: "Life against life."
This time the dice seemed to jump from Tamar's fingers of their own accord.
"King of Sundari," Jaya said, "you have lost."

Scholastic 2013 Almanac for Kids

Scholastic 2013 Almanac for Kids

Did you know that dogs are the top pet owned by U.S. households (46.3 million dogs, to be exact), and that beetles have the most species identified of all insects? How about the fact that extreme weather in January 2012 broke U.S. records for cold, snow, and heat? All of these facts, along with colorful pictures, are contained in the 2013 Almanac for Kids from Scholastic. Kids ages 8 and up will love to tote around this compendium of trivia, which puts more than 300 pages of statistics, charts, tables, maps, and more at their fingertips.

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

In Grandpa Green, Lane Smith tells the story of one man's life through his passion. Topiary gardeners shape bushes and trees into fantastic sculptures of whatever they desire. We meet Grandpa Green as a gigantic bushy baby, sprinkling tears with the words, "He was born a really long time ago," beneath.

We go on to explore Grandpa's life through the garden, with different sculptures illustrating each step in his life. He grows up on a farm, escapes into the wonder of tales like The Wizard of Oz, goes to war, and starts a family. Smith combines the lush greens of the topiary scultpures with very thin black lines for tree trunks, branches, animals in the garden, and the great-grandson who narrates the story. That choice allows the sculptures to pop off the page like a vibrant special effect.

Weather Station at the England Run Branch

Area residents have a new way to learn the strength of that last wind gust or how much rain fell during a recent downpour. The Central Rappahannock Regional Library system has a weather station located at its England Run branch in Stafford County! Anyone can view current temperature and humidity on the England Run branch page or get historical weather data for the past week or months by clicking through to the wunderground.com page for our location. Information is also shared with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as part of their Citizen Weather Observer Program for use in their weather prediction models.