Kids Blog

Olympic Books

Over the next few weeks I expect to be sleep deprived and living in a daily news bubble.  Every bleary eyed daily interaction that follows will be worth staying up past my bedtime to cheer athletes from around the world.   My own obsession began with Nadia Comaneci and I’m convinced Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Gabrielle Douglas will excite a whole new generation of fans.  After all, the Olympics don’t come around every year and the spectacle, willpower and determination of the competitors is riveting.  

In “How to Train with a T-Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals” by Michael Phelps and Alan Abrahamson, Phelps provides insight into his success, translating the hard work it required into stunning numbers and easy to understand terms.  He trained for six whole years--a kindergartner’s entire life--swimming a total of 12,480 miles during that time.  “That’s 183,040 trips around the bases” and it’s “like swimming the full length of the Great Wall of China three times!”  His legs became so strong he could press “300 pounds 60 times”  which is the equivalent of pressing a tyrannosaurus rex and ten velociraptors.  Children will enjoy the comparisons and will have a deeper understanding of the preparation it takes to be an Olympic athlete.   An added bonus is that they will be able to follow Phelps’ pursuit of a new record for the most Olympic medals.

Sidewalk Games

Face it. Cartoons and video games are boring. You can only sit in front of the tee-vee for so long before your eyes glaze over. Between the ads for the latest plastic gizmos and excitingly-shaped wads of sugar (a piece of super sweet hard candy shaped like a pacifier? Puh-leese!), you may realize that the stuff between the ads isn't that interesting either.

I'd Really Like to Eat a Child by Sylviane Donnio and illustrated by Dorothee de Monfreid

I'd Really Like to Eat a Child by Sylviane Donnio

If only I had read I'd Really Like to Eat a Child when I was small, life would have been so much easier.

This is not because I fell victim to some carnivorous beastie that could only be satisfied with devouring yours truly--though once I was surrounded by a ferocious herd of petting-zoo goats. Rather, I might have understood the importance of eating whatever my parents told me to.

I am a former picky eater. Fruits and vegetables were not my bag, and hot dogs reigned supreme. One time I even threw a stuffed pepper out the window. Fortunately, time has passed, and I began to appreciate the foods that I once avoided. But I know how the little crocodile Achilles feels when he rejects his parents' meal of freshly-picked bananas. "Today, I'd really like to eat a child."

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex

Chloe and the Lion is not about a young girl facing off with a ferocious feline, no matter what the title says. Sure, Chloe's present, saving up her nickels and dimes to ride the merry-go-round. She does, in fact, spin around that ride so many times that she gets dizzy and lost in the nearby woods. It is at that very point that Chloe should meet a lion. Instead, a large, ferocious, winged, burgundy dragon steps out.

Writing a picture book is hard work. You must have a solid story, likable characters, and the right choice of words. What's more, this delicate balance can be completely thrown out of whack by a maverick illustrator who thinks that "a dragon would be cooler."

Books to Help With Moving

A good friend headed off to a new life last week.  I am thrilled with the happy events that led her to these new adventures, but miss her terribly.  I hadn’t expected it to be so hard considering I’m, well, let’s just say of an age when I have experienced my share of changes.  It’s renewed my sympathy for any younger person facing a move, either his own or a friend’s.  Luckily there are some wonderful children’s books that can serve as a discussion starter or maybe just as a way to validate their feelings.  I know I appreciated living vicariously through the petulance of the characters in the first two books!  

The title says it all in “Alexander, Who’s Not (Do you hear me?  I mean it!) Going to Move” by Judith Viorst.  Alexander is age appropriately melodramatic about his impending move.  According to him, he’ll never again have a best friend like Paul or a great sitter like Rachel.  The new cleaners won’t save anything they find in his pockets even if it’s gum wrappers or an old tooth.  Anything is preferable to moving, even living in the weeds next to his friend’s house and getting poison ivy.  His understanding parents reassure him that he will find boys his age and a new sitter.  His brother tells Alexander that he can sleep in his room if he gets lonesome.  Slightly persuaded, Alexander decides that although he still doesn’t like it, he’ll pack  He does have one caveat: this is the last time (Do you hear me? I mean it) he’s going to move!  

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

In Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, by Eleanor Coerr, Sadako is a sixth-grade girl who loves to run in school races and spend time with her friends and family. One day she begins to have dizzy spells, which worsen until she ends up in the hospital. She is diagnosed with leukemia, or the “atom bomb sickness.” Sadako grew up in the aftermath of the atom bomb, dropped on her hometown of Hiroshima when she was just a baby in 1945. Many people got sick in the years after the bomb from its radiation.

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Meli

Some of my fondest memories from holidays in my childhood are of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television. The magic of the parade with its wonderful balloons signaled the beginning of one of my favorite times of year. But I never gave much thought to the history of the parade and its famous balloons. When I saw the book Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, by Melissa Sweet, I couldn’t resist the chance to meet the man behind the magic.

Dying for Tie-Dye

Image courtesy of Paula Burch's All About Hand Dyeing, http://www.pburch.net/dyeing.shtml

Feel like putting a little free spirit in your summer? Get on your oldest clothes, grab some buckets and rubber gloves, and head for the backyard to create beautiful tie-dye crafts.

You can use natural or artificial dyes, depending on whether you want your design to be a real eye-popper or something subtler that bespeaks being at one with nature. You can use a tie-dye kit or collect wild things from nature for earthier tones. Heck, even unsweetened Kool-Aid can be used as a dye to produce vivid color.

A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World by DK, in association with Unicef

A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World by DK in association with U

In A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World, we are introduced to 18 children from different continents, such as Mahasin and her family, nomadic cattle herders in Sudan. Mahasin is nine years old and attends a traveling school for children. When she’s not learning lessons, she likes to weave baskets and help her mother and sisters cook their staple meal, asida, a dish of vegetables and grains mixed with spices. We also meet Isa, age 10, who lives in Sierra Leone and was taken by fighters in the country’s civil war for two years. Now he is back with his family, attending school, planting a few crops, and playing checkers with his friends. The stories and photographs of these children’s lives are fascinating and will appeal to any child who wonders how the world’s children are alike and different.

Summer Reading at the Library

Summer Reading at the Library

There’s no doubt about it, the library’s summer reading club can help your child succeed in school!  A recent study proved that children who joined public library summer reading clubs did better on fall standardized tests than their classmates who didn’t!  Our Headquarters Library and Fredericksburg’s Lafayette Upper Elementary school participated in the research sponsored by The Dominican University.  

The best news, is that joining our children’s program, Dream Big, or our teen one, Own the Night, is free and easy to do either in a branch or online at LibraryPoint.org/src.  Participants can read whatever they like or what is required by their schools.  Incentives and free programs are offered throughout making the library’s summer reading club perfect for fun.