Go Fly a Kite


April is National Kite Month, May 12 is Kite Day, and June 15 is Fly a Kite Day. February 8 – which seems a shivery time for it – is Kite Flying Day. In Japan, the Hamamatsu Festival, during which giant kites are flown, is held in early May. Kites, however, are fun (and educational) just about anytime. Provided you’ve got a little wind.

See below for kite stories, scientific kites, mathematical kites, easy-to-fly kites, kite poems, a kite princess, and kites at war. And more.


 images The National Kite Month website has kite history, kite plans, flying and wind info, multidisciplinary educational resources, hints for running a kite workshop, and more.
 images The Drachen Foundation has information about all things kite, including kite history, culture, and science, kite plans for kite builders, kite events, many creative kite lesson plans (categorized by grade level from K-8), and an online store which sells kite kits (for all ages), books, and supplies.
 images From David Gomberg of Gomberg Kites, Kites as an Educational Tool has kite lesson plans, kite math and science projects, a kite history overview, an illustrated article on “Five People That Flew Kites and Changed the World,” names for kite in many different languages, and a gallery of kite photos.
 images Best Breezes is a website dedicated to the history, science, and art of kites. Included are information on the science of kite flight, kite history timelines, and biographies of kite pioneers, among them William Eddy, Guglielmo Marconi, and Alexander Graham Bell. Click on Kites as Art for a terrific 20-page illustrated booklet, Art Kites, in pdf format, which covers the science, history, and art of kites. (Check out the Vietnamese peacock kite.)


 images-1 In Vera B. Williams’s Lucky Song (Greenwillow Books, 1997), Evie’s grandpa builds her a kite and off she goes for a blue-sky, kite-flying day – all of which is the subject of the lucky song that her father sings for her at the end of the book. For ages 3-5.
 images-2 In Will Hillebrand’s Kite Day (Holiday House, 2012), Bear and Mole build a kite and send it soaring into the sky, only to lose it when the string snaps in a storm. It ends up lodged in a tree, sheltering a nest of baby birds. An adorable read for ages 3-5.
 images-3 In Oliver Jeffers’s Stuck (Philomel, 2011), Floyd has a lot in common with Charlie Brown: his kite is hopelessly stuck in a tree.  He tosses up a shoe to knock it free, and the shoe sticks too – then the other shoe, and soon a host of improbable objects, including a bucket of paint, the milkman, a truck, a ladder, a whale (who happened to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time”), and, inevitably, the kitchen sink. Hilarious, for ages 3-7.  Cheering for all with stuck kites.
 images-4 In Bruce Edward Hall’s Henry and the Kite Dragon (Philomel, 2004), eight-year-old Henry lives in New York City’s Chinatown and loves flying kites with an elderly neighbor, a kitemaker. When some boys from nearby Little Italy start throwing rocks and destroying the kites, it looks like war – until Henry discovers the problem: the kites are frightening the boys’ pet pigeons. The book ends with compromise and a new friendship. For ages 4-7.
 images-5 In Margaret and H.A. Rey’s Curious George Flies a Kite (Harcourt, 1977), George’s curiosity – despite warnings from the Man in the Yellow Hat – leads him into all sorts of trouble, including being yanked up into the sky by a kite. (The Man in the Yellow Hat rescues him with a helicopter.) For ages 4-7.
 images-6 In Grace Lin’s Kite Flying (Dragonfly Books, 2004), a Chinese family – parents and two daughters – buy supplies, build a dragon kite, and head outdoors to take it for a flight. For ages 4-7.
 images-7 Among the funny and delightful stories in Arnold Lobel’s Days with Frog and Toad (HarperCollins, 1984) – starring the patient and optimistic Frog and the impatient and pessimistic Toad – is The Kite, in which the pair repeatedly fail to launch a kite. (Try shouting UP KITE UP, Frog suggests.) For ages 4-8.
 images-8 In Virginia L. Kroll’s A Carp for Kimiko (Charlesbridge Publishing, 1994), Kimiko knows that every Children’s Day in Japan, a wonderful carp kite is flown for every boy in the family – but even so, she wishes for a carp of her own. She doesn’t get a kite, but she does get a special symbolic gift. For ages 4-8.
 images-9 In Jane Yolen’s The Emperor and the Kite (Puffin, 1998), the little princess Djeow Seow is ignored by everyone and spends her time alone, playing with her kite. When her father, the king, is taken hostage by kidnappers, however, it’s the clever princess with the kite who manages to rescue him. The illustrations are wonderful Chinese-style paper-cuts by Ed Young. For ages 4-8.
 images-10 In Laura Williams’s The Best Winds (Boyds Mills Press, 2006), Jinho’s old-fashioned Korean grandfather still practices the ancient craft of kite-making, and insists on showing Jinho how to make a kite, in preparation for the coming of “the best winds.” Jinho, impatient, takes it out prematurely, wrecks it, and then – when he realizes his grandfather’s disappointment – stays up all night repairing the damage. The book ends with grandfather and grandson sharing a bond and a kite. For ages 4-8.
 images-11 In Florence Parry Heide’s Princess Hyacinth (Schwartz & Wade, 2009), Hyacinth, to the dismay of her royal parents, floats – unless firmly and miserably weighted down with diamond pebbles in her socks and an enormous crown with a chinstrap. One day Hyacinth meets a balloon man and, entranced, decides to try floating while clutching a balloon. Instead she nearly vanishes into the sky, only to be rescued by a boy with a kite – whom she’s always admired from afar. The story ends happily, with the pair the best of friends, the princess floating to her heart’s content, and popcorn in the palace garden. For ages 4-8.
 images-13 In Juliet Clare Bell’s The Kite Princess (Barefoot Books, 2012), tomboy Princess Cinnamon Stitch runs off to the woods in overalls and ends up with a scold, told sternly that princesses can only sing and sew. Undeterred, Cinnamon stitches up a glorious multicolored kite and soars singing into the sky. For ages 5-8.
 images-14 Virginia Pilegard’s The Warlord’s Kites (Pelican Publishing, 2004) is one of a series set in ancient China. starring Chuan, an artist’s apprentice with a knack for math. In this book, Chuan and friend Jing-Jing manage to frighten away an enemy army by building kites with flutes tied to their tails. For ages 5-8.
 images-15 In Ji-li Jiang’s Red Kite, Blue Kite (Hyperion Books for Children, 2013), Tai Shan and his father love to fly kites together – one red, one blue – from their city rooftop. Then the Cultural Revolution comes to China, chaos reigns, and Tai Shan goes to live with his grandmother after his father is sent away. Still, each day father and son maintain their bond by flying kites – one red, one blue – while waiting for freedom and the father’s return. For ages 5-8.
 images-16 In the second book of the Mary Poppins series, P.L. Travers’s Mary Poppins Comes Back (Harcourt, 2006), everyone’s favorite nanny returns to 17 Cherry Tree Lane by kite. For ages 7 and up.
The 1964 Walt Disney film version of Mary Poppins ends with a kite-flying expedition and the song Let’s Go Fly a Kite.
 images-17 In Linda Sue Park’s The Kite Fighters (Sandpiper, 2010), set in 15th-century Korea, two brothers – both passionate about kites – attract the attention of the king as they prepare to participate in the annual New Year’s kite-fighting competition. Traditionally, the oldest son in the family flies the competition kite, but in this case the younger is by far the better kite flier. For ages 8-12.
 images-18 Geraldine McCaughrean’s The Kite Rider (HarperTeen, 2003) is set in 13th-century China, where 12-year-old Haoyou witnesses the death of his father, engineered by the man who wants to marry Haoyou’s beautiful mother. With the help of his clever cousin Mipeng, Haoyou sets out to rescue his mother. He ends up joining the Jade Circus as a kite rider, where he soars into the sky strapped to a red-and-gold kite, and performs at the court Kublai Khan. An exciting story for ages 11 and up.
 images-19 Stephen Messer’s Windblowne (Random House, 2010) is a fantasy world with two moons, in which people live in oak trees and are passionate about the annual midsummer kite festival. Oliver, our hero, is a klutz with kites, so he goes for help to his great-uncle Gilbert, a former kite champion – only to see Gilbert disappear after an attack by ferocious kite creatures. With the help of one red kite that Gilbert has left behind, Oliver sets out on a quest through many alternate Windblownes, populated with alternate Gilberts and Olivers. Adventure with an ecological message for ages 12 and up.


 images-20 The Kitehistory.com website features a bright blue font on a sky-blue background, which is awful on the eyes; however there’s a lot of excellent historical information here, illustrated with period photographs. Various pages cover the Wright brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, Lawrence Hargrave, meteorological kites, and war kites.
 images-23 Kite History – black type on a blue-and-white cloudy sky; distracting to read too – has illustrated information on the kites of China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, India, and the West.
 images-22 This hyperlinked  Timeline of Kite History runs from the 4th century BCE (in China) to 2000.
 images-21 Chinese Kites has information on the ancient history of Chinese kites – which date back as least to the 5th century BCE. (Marco Polo brought one home with him after his famous 13th-century trip to Cathay.)
 images-24 By Judith Jango-Cohen, Ben Franklin’s Big Shock (Lerner Publishing, 2006) in the On My Own Science series is the story of Franklin’s kite experiment and the discovery that lightning is electricity, told in simple language for ages 4-7.
 images-25 Rosalyn Schanzer’s How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning (HarperCollins, 2002) covers the many aspects of Franklin’s multitalented life, but concentrates on his studies of electricity and his (dangerous) landmark kite experiment. For ages 4-8.
 images-26 In Stephen Krensky’s Ben Franklin and His First Kite (Simon Spotlight, 2002), the kite is not the kite of the famous thunderstorm experiment, but the one the boy Ben rigged to pull himself across the millpond while swimming. For ages 5-8.
 images-27 Resources to accompany the three-part PBS series Benjamin Franklin include background information, a teacher’s guide, a virtual tour of “Ben’s Town,” and instructions for making a kite. (Do not fly it in a thunderstorm.)
 images-28 From USHistory.org, Franklin and his Electric Kite is a detailed illustrated account of Franklin’s most famous experiment, including his own description of how he built his kite.
 images-29 From the Smithsonian, learn about Alexander Graham Bell’s spectacular tetrahedral kites.


 images-33 From Scientific American’s Science Buddies, Stability Science: How Tails Help a Kite Fly has instructions for building a sled kite, suggestions for experiments, explanations of results, and links to other sites to explore.
 images-31 From the Smithsonian, Kiting Up the Sky is a detailed unit on kites, variously covering how and why a kite flies, kite history, kite poems and stories (with helps for inventing your own), a kite-making project, and a note on the Smithsonian Kite Festival. For elementary- and middle-school-level kids.
From the American Kitefliers Association, Why a Kite Flies is an illustrated explanation of lift, drag, yaw, pitch, and roll.
 images-32 The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force has a series of kite-based lesson plans with instructions and associated activities. Titles include “Patang: The Indian Fighter Kite,” “Sled Kite and Trigonometry,” “Sled Kite” (for younger kids, without trigonometry), and “Tetrahedron Kite.”
 images-36 From NASA, the Beginner’s Guide to Aeronautics is a terrific online textbook for high-school-level students, preferably with a bit of physics under their belts. Included is a detailed section on kite history, science, and real-world flying.
Are GIANT KITES the answer to the problem of renewable energy? Check it out.
 images-35 In Stuart J. Murphy’s Let’s Fly a Kite (Perfection Learning, 2000), a MathStart 2 book, Bob and Hannah, on a trip to the beach, argue over everything from sharing the backseat of the car to decorating their new kite. Their mathematically savvy babysitter solves their problems using the concept of symmetry. For ages 5-8.
Kite Math is a series of six challenging problems based on events in kite history. Interesting stories paired with calculations of speed, altitude, and distance.


 images-37 Margaret Greger’s Kites for Everyone (Dover Publications, 2006) has general kite information and instructions for making 50 different kites, many of them simple, inexpensive, and easy to fly.
 images-38 By Wayne Hosking, Asian Kites (Tuttle Publishing, 2004) in the Asian Arts and Crafts for Creative Kids series features basic information on kite-making and flying along with fifteen kite-making projects, variously from China Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, and Japan, each with illustrated instructions and a materials list. For ages 9-12.
 images-39 William Gurstelle’s Backyard Ballistics (Chicago Review Press, 2012) has instructions for making 16 truly awesome ballistic devices, among them a tennis-ball mortar, a potato cannon, and a Cincinnati fire kite.
 images-40 Into the Wind is a great source for kites, kite-making supplies, kite accessories, and helpful information. There’s a special section for kids, featuring the “Frustrationless Flier” and the “Color a Sled Kite” kit (a blank white kite that comes with crayons).
Wikihow’s How to Make a Kite Out of a Plastic Bag has step-by-step photo-illustrated instructions for making a simple inexpensive kite from a plastic shopping bag.
 images-41 From the Instructables, Garbage Bag Kite has step-by-step instructions for making a classic diamond kite from two sticks and a plastic garbage bag.
The Basic Sled Kite site has clear illustrated instructions for making a simple sled kite from copier paper and wooden barbecue skewers.
 kite4 Among the activities and experiments from the Smithsonian’s Spark!Lab is a Create Your Own Indoor Kite project. Included are illustrated instructions, a brief kite history, and a resource list.
 images-42 Billy Bear’s Mini Kite has a pattern and instructions for a small kite made from tissue paper and stir sticks.
Microkites has information on the “world’s smallest kite” and instructions for building a flyable kite just one inch square.
 61ed16ZYF7L._SX385_ Actually there appear to be a number of candidates for World’s Smallest Kite. This model, from Amazon, is multicolored, sports two tails, and measures about 3 x 4 inches. About $6.


 images-47 Read and/or listen to Joyce Carol Oates’s concrete kite-shaped  Kite Poem. (Invent one of your own?)
 Kite_Acrostic_Hannah See this Kite Tail Acrostic Poem project, with examples of student work.
 images-44 From A Child’s Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Wind begins “I saw you toss the kites on high.”
 images-45 Dana Jensen’s A Meal of the Stars: Poems Up and Down (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012) is a collection of illustrated poems about things that go, variously, up and/or down, such as raindrops, balloons, Ferris wheels, and kites. For ages 4-8.
 images-46 Ruth Heller’s Kites Sail High (Puffin, 1998) is “A Book About Verbs” in the gorgeously illustrated World of Language series. The rhyming text celebrates action words: “A VERB really is the most superb/of any word you’ve ever heard…/Verb’s tell you something’s being done./Roses BLOOM/and people RUN.” For ages 5-9.
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One Comment

  1. Posted April 24, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Dear Rebecca, I found this today. I had no idea it was National Kite Month! I’m Clare (Juliet Clare Bell), the author of one of your listed books (The Kite Princess, which is also out in Korean now, too, as I discovered today!). I just wanted to add my other favourite kite book which you may not know in the US: it’s a picture book called Someone Bigger by Jonathan Emmett and Adrian Reynolds. It’s in rhyme and it’s fab. I’d recommend it to everyone. Thanks. All the best, and happy flying…

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