Math II

 

For resources for younger kids, see MATH I.

MATH WAR!

What to teach? How to teach? How much to teach? Does everybody need higher math?  Opposing theories and answers have led to what is now known as the “math war.”

 images Nicholson Baker’s “Wrong Answer: The Case Against Algebra II” appeared in the September 2013 issue of Harper’s Magazine. Baker argues that higher math in the form of Algebra II is a major cause of school drop-outs; and that most people, for most professions, don’t need it anyway. The article is free to subscribers at the Harper’s Magazine website or can be purchased as a single issue here from Amazon.
 images What do you think? Wrong Answer challenges students respond to Baker’s essay, defending a position about whether or not high schools and colleges should require students to study higher math. Included is a list of guide questions and suggestions.
From the New York Times, professor Andrew Hacker’s Is Algebra Necessary? argues that for many of us, it isn’t.
 imgres Paul Lockhart’s A Mathematician’s Lament (Bellevue Literary Press, 2009) is just 140 pages long but it’s a powerful critique of math education as currently practiced. Lockhart writes, “Students learn that mathematics is not something you do, but something that is done to you. Emphasis is placed on sitting still, filling out worksheets, and following directions.” Instead, math should involve exploration, imagination, and creativity. For teenagers and adults.
 images-1 Mathematically Sane is a website devoted to promoting the “rational reform of mathematics education” – a topic about which there’s a lot of controversy.  The site has news, informational articles, research reports, relevant TED talks (including Conrad Wolfram on “Teaching Kids Real Math with Computers”), and more.
 images-2 See Dan Meyer’s TED Talk, Math Class Needs a Makeover.
 imgres-1 By John Allen Paulos, Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences (Hill and Wang, 2001) is invaluable. Paulos explains, fascinatingly, just why a basic grasp of math – notably a familiarity with probability and statistics – is essential for making reasonable decisions about the world we live in. By the same author, see A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper and Once Upon a Number. For teenagers and adults.
For more by John Allen Paulos, see his website.
From the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initative, Standards for Mathematical Practice lists and explains them the recently adopted national math standards.
 images-1 The Best Evidence Encyclopedia, created by the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, rates curricula and teaching approaches in math, reading, and science for elementary, middle, and high school students. Find out what the research says works. Useful for parents and educators. (Best approach for elementary-level math: peer tutoring.)
 images-1 According to the What Works Clearinghouse (Institute of Education Sciences), here’s what works in terms of math curricula. Saxon Math is way down the list. Top of the line is SRA Real Math (McGraw-Hill).

There are hundreds – thousands – of math books, math programs, and math curricula. See below for some of the best.

NOT JUST YOUR ORDINARY BOOKS ABOUT MATH

 imgres-42 In Mitsumasa Anno’s Anno’s Magic Seeds (Puffin, 1999), Jack meets a wizard who gives him two golden seeds, telling him to plant one and eat the other (“You will not be hungry again for a whole year”).  Jack does, and the seed grows into a lovely blue-flowered plant that produces two seeds. Eventually Jack decides to eat something different for a change, and this time plants both seeds, getting two plants and a harvest of four seeds. This time he eats one and plants three – and things rapidly multiply, becoming more and more complicated. For ages 4 and up.
 images-10 By Masaichiro Anno and Mitsumasa Anno, Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar (Penguin Putnam, 1999) is a wonderful introduction to the concept of factorials through the medium of a blue-and-white Oriental jar. The jar, opened, contains an ocean in which there are two islands. Each island has two countries; each country has three mountains; on each mountain, there are four walled kingdoms; and so on. A gorgeous multiplication problem ending up with a phenomenal number of jars. For ages 4 and up.
 imgres-26 By Robert E. Wells, Can You Count to a Googol? (Albert Whitman & Company, 2000) is a counting book by tens (beginning with one banana, balanced on a nose) and moving up through 1000 (scoops of ice cream), 100,000 (marshamallows), and so on, ending with an explanation of the googol (a 1 with 100 zeroes after it) and how it was named by a nine-year-old boy. A googol, Wells points out, is much too enormous to illustrate (“If you counted every grain of sand on all the worlds’ beaches and every drop of water in all the oceans, that wouldn’t even be CLOSE…”). For ages 6-9.
 images-3 Emily Gravett’s The Rabbit Problem (Simon & Schuster, 2010) is a delightful month-by-month take on the Fibonacci series – which is named for the mathematician who first described it in the 13th century, while solving a problem about multiplying rabbits. First there’s one lonely rabbit (an invitation stuck to the page reads “Join me”); subsequent months feature baby rabbit record books, rabbit newspapers, carrot recipes, and – by November – wildly overcrowded rabbits. For ages 6-11.
  See Fibonacci’s Rabbit Problem for both mathematical rabbits and other challenges.
  See RABBITS for much more on rabbits, bunnies, and hares.
 imgres-2 Theoni Pappas is the inventor of Penrose the Mathematical Cat, featured in The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat (World Wide Publishing/Tetra, 1997) and Fractals, Googols, and Other Mathematical Tales (1993).  Each is a collection of mathematical stories in which Penrose explores pancake world, meets a fractal dragon and a Fibonacci rabbit, discovers the golden rectangle and the world of Tangrams, visits the planet Dodeka, and more. Friendly introductions to interesting math concepts for ages 7-11.
 imgres-3 Author Cindy Neuschwander introduces kids to geometry through the adventures of gallant Sir Cumference, his wife, Lady Di of Ameter, their son, Prince Radius, and a cast of supporting characters. Titles in the series include Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (Charlesbridge, 1994), Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (1999), and Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland (2001). For ages 8-12.
 imgres-4 Cynthia Zaslavsky’s Number Sense and Nonsense (Chicago Review Press, 2001) is subtitled “Building Math Creativity and Confidence Through Number Play” – which it attempts to do by encouraging kids to fool around with number games and puzzles. Chapter titles include “Odds and Evens,” “Prime and Not Prime,” “Zero – Is It Something? Is It Nothing?” “Money, Measures, and Other Matters,” “Counting: Fingers, Words, Sticks, Strings, and Symbols,” and “The Calculator and Number Sense.” Figure out how many of what arrive over the Twelve Days of Christmas, solve the problem of the King’s Chessboard, play a Liberian stone game, and much more. For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-5 Johnny Ball’s award-winning Go Figure! (Dorling Kindersley, 2005) is subtitled “a totally cool book about numbers,” and it is just that. Illustrated with great color photos, charts, and diagrams, the book covers the origins of counting, “magic numbers” (such as Fibonacci numbers, the golden ratio, pi, and Pascal’s triangle), geometry (including polyhedra, buckyballs, cones and curves, and symmetry), and “The World of Math” (including probability, chaos theory, and fractals). Challenging puzzles and questions and a great read for ages 8-12.
 imgres-6 Simon Basher’s Math: A Book You Can Count On (Kingfisher, 2010) – in classic snarky Basher fashion – personifies mathematical concepts as first-person entities, each with its own Japanese-style cartoon character. For example, here’s Subtract: “People often think I’m gloomy. Okay, I admit it, I’m the exact opposite of Add, that bubbly ball of smirking positivity.” Learn all about Zero, Line, Quadrilateral, Ratio, and X. And more. For ages 9-14.
 imgres-7 Math Trek by mathematician Ivars Peterson and Nancy Henderson (John Wiley & Sons, 1999) is a terrific interactive math book in ten short chapters, organized as an “amusement park” of mathematical concepts. Entry into the park – Chapter 1 – is through the Knot Zone; to get in, you have to figure out which of the knots that locks the gate is NOT a KNOT. Kids then experiment with knots (and non-knots) by duplicating patterns with string, find out how to make a trefoil knot (the simplest of mathematical knots) and a Jacob’s ladder knot (an impressive-looking non-knot) and learn a good deal about knot theory, its uses, and its history.  At the Crazy Roller Coaster – it’s a Mobius strip – kids make Mobius strip models, learn about topology, and see some interesting examples of topological artwork.  In other chapters, they learn about fractals and make fractal snowflakes, experiment with “weird dice,” build a chaos machine, learn to decode a binary secret message, and much more. Included are a glossary and a supplementary reading list. For ages 9 and up.
 imgres-8 Glory St. John’s How to Count Like a Martian (Random House, 1975) begins with mysterious beeps from Mars – which might just be numbers. The book then covers a range of number systems, among them those of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Mayans, Greeks, Chinese, and Hindus, plus abaci and computers.  Out of print; check your local library. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-9 Actress Danica McKellar is also a math whiz, and is now known not only for movies and TV, but for educational advocacy, especially when it comes to girls and math. Titles of her informative, friendly, and funny books include Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math (Plume, 2008), Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss (Plume, 2009), Hot X: Algebra Exposed (Plume, 2011), and Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape (Hudson Street Press, 2012). Readers learn math using friendship bracelets, shoes, shopping, pizza, and cute boys. And anyway, who can resist chapter titles like “How to Entertain Yourself While Babysitting a Devil Child” and “Creative Uses for Bubblegum”? For ages 11 and up.
 images-4 Clifford A. Pickover’s The Math Book (Sterling, 2012) is a fascinating chronological history of mathematics “From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension” in 250 double-page spreads, each illustrated with great color photographs. Actually it starts well before Pythagoras: the first entry, “Ant Odometer,” is dated 150 million BC. Other entries include Zeno’s Paradox, Archimedes’s Spiral, Franklin’s Magic Squares, Turing Machines, Rubik’s Cube, and Fractals. Something for everybody.
 imgres-10 Derrick Niederman’s Number Freak (Perigee, 2009) runs from 1 to 200, listing interesting facts and background information about each number. For example, at 23, you find out about the birthday paradox; at 46, you learn that there are 46 peaks in the Adirondack Mountains and that a “46-er” is someone who has climbed them all; and at 85, you find that there are just 85 ways in which to knot a necktie. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-11 By Alexander Humez, Zero to Lazy Eight (Touchstone, 1994) is an information-packed collection of essays, variously on zero, the numbers 1 to 13, and infinity. Readers learn about everything from numerical word origins to the mathematics of ciphers, bell-ringing, and dice games. Find out why we say “three sheets to the wind” and “dressed to the nines.” For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-12 When it comes to communicating complex concepts, analogies are often the way to go, and Joel Levy’s A Bee in a Cathedral and 99 Other Scientific Analogies  (Firefly Books, 2011) is crammed with nothing but. The book is divided into seven graphically creative sections, variously covering physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, earth science, the human body, and technology. For example, if an atom were the size of a cathedral, its nucleus would be the size of a bee. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-13 By author and mathematician Keith Devlin, Devlin’s Angle is a collection of monthly columns written for the Mathematical Association of America on math in everyday life and math education. Check them out.
 imgres-14 By autistic savant Daniel Tammet (author of Born on a Blue Day), Thinking in Numbers (Little, Brown, 2013) is a collection of 25 essays about seeing the world through numbers, with anecdotes and examples that range from haiku to chess, snowflakes, and Omar Khayyam’s calendar. Recommended for both math-loving and totally math-phobic teenagers and adults.
 imgres-15 Jennifer Ouellette’s The Calculus Diaries (Penguin Books, 2010), subtitled “How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse,” is a truly reader-friendly account of applying calculus to everyday life by a self-described math-phobic. Crammed with intriguing anecdotes and examples, from Disneyland’s spinning tea cups to speedometers, the Black Death, tulipomania, and the housing bubble. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-16 Larry Gonick’s 230+-page The Cartoon Guide to Calculus (William Morrow, 2011) covers all the basics with wonderful little cartoon illustrations and a sense of humor. Delightful, which is something I never thought I’d hear myself say about calculus. Chapter titles include “Speed, Velocity, Change,” “Meet the Functions,” “Limits,” “The Derivative,” and “Introducing Integration.” For all students of calculus.

THE LURE OF REALLY BIG NUMBERS

 imgres-23 Andrew Clements’s picture-book A Million Dots (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2006) indeed contains one million dots, along with a lot of catchy factoids to help readers visualize enormous numerical quantities. Readers learn, for example, that there are 525,600 minutes from one birthday to the next and that when the cow jumped over the moon, she soared upward 238,857 miles. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-21 In David Birch’s picture book The King’s Chessboard (Puffin, 1993), rice is used to teach simultaneous lessons in morals and the mathematics of big numbers. A proud and pushy king insists on giving his counselor, who doesn’t want it, a reward; the pestered counselor finally asks for a grain of rice, the amount to be doubled each day for as many days as there are squares (64) on the king’s chessboard. The king thinks this is a fine joke and sends one grain, then two, then four – but as the days pass and the doubling continues, soon amounting to humongous quantities of rice, he realizes that he has made a fatal mistake.
 imgres-22 In Demi’s version of the story, One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale (Scholastic, 1997), gorgeously illustrated with touches of gold, young Rani outsmarts a selfish raja and saves her hungry village with her rice-and-chessboard request. Here the rice is delivered by animals: birds, leopards, tigers, a goat pulling a cart, and – impressively, on day 30 – a fold-out page of 256 rice-toting elephants.
 imgres-17 Big Numbers by Mary and John Gribbin (Wizard Books, 2005), subtitled “A Mind-Expanding Trip to Infinity and Back,” traces the history of big numbers and shows how big numbers are used in a range of scientific disciplines, such as astronomy, biology, and geology. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-18 The Megapenny Project demonstrates big numbers with stacks of pennies, from a piddling pile of sixteen to a foot-square cube of 50,000 to a towering structure of a million.
 images-5 Powers of Ten: About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe is a film by Charles and Ray Eames in which viewers journey from the outer limits of the universe to the subatomic quark in 42 ten-fold steps. It’s a wonderful progression in color photographs, beginning with two picnickers in a park and moving outward through city, continent, planet, solar system, and galaxy; then inward through skin, cells, DNA, atoms, and subatomic particles. Fascinating for all ages.
Experiment with an interactive online version of Powers of Ten.
A Question of Scale is a clickable illustrated tour of the universe (“from quarks to quasars”) in powers of ten.
 images-6 Cosmic View, based on Kees Boeke’s classic 1957 books, travels to the ends of the universe and to the innards of the atom, beginning with a little girl with a cat on her lap. Includes detailed explanations.
 images-6 The View From the Back of the Envelope is a creative and multifaceted website on big numbers, featuring – among much else – a page displaying a million dots; a big-number Pinocchio estimation game; a guide for scaling the universe to a desktop; explanations of exponential notation; a list of “Powers of Ten” scales; and a demonstration of the scope of big numbers using grains of salt.
 images-7 The Stan’s Café Theatre Company’s installation exhibit Of All the People in All the World uses piles of rice to represent a host of human statistics. One person is represented by one grain of rice; the entire population of the world – that is, some six and a half billion grains of rice – by a 104-ton rice mountain.  Other piles of rice variously represent the population of the United States, the number of Americans who are millionaires, the number of people worldwide who play the computer game “World of Warcraft,” the number of people killed in the Holocaust, the number of people in an average year who go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. (And much more.) A fascinating exercise in statistics, a startling social commentary, and a powerful demonstration of big (and small) numbers.
 images-8 Though you can’t count to infinity, you can learn about it: Welcome to the Hotel Infinity includes a kid-friendly illustrated explanation of the infinity concept along with a clever short-story-cum-puzzle on a hotel with an infinite number of guests and rooms.
 Infinity Also see You Can’t Get There From Here , a reader-friendly explanation of the history, math, and philosophy of infinity.

HANDS-ON MATH

 images-10 From UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, Family Math, by Jean Stenmark, Virginia Thompson, and Ruth Cossey (Equals Series), promotes math as an enriching whole-family activity. This 300+-page information and activity collection promotes understanding of basic arithmetic, logical thinking, probability and statistics, geometry, measurement, and calculator math. The book also contains reproducible game boards, hundred charts, graph paper, and a fill-in-the-blank calendar. Great for a range of ages.
  Also see the sequel, Family Math II, for ages 5-12.
 imgres-19 In the same series, Family Math for Young Children (Grace Coates and Jean Stenmark; Lawrence Hall of Science, 1997) is a creative investigative approach to early math, concentrating on such skills as counting, estimating, comparing, measuring, shape recognition, directions, logic, and sorting. Sample activities include making jigsaw puzzles, making (and sorting) a stamp collection, making and playing number games, playing shadow games, measuring yourself (and family and friends) with adding machine tape, and designing a quilt patch. All instructions, game boards, matching cards, and number charts are included in the book. For each activity, there’s an explanation of the math skills involved, a materials list, and complete instructions. For ages 3-7.
  For more resources for younger kids, see MATH I.
 imgres-20 Family Math: The Middle School Years (Lawrence Hall of Science, 1998) concentrates on activities intended to inculcate algebraic thinking and number sense. Kids explore simultaneous equations with a game of Flowerpots; study area and perimeter with pentominoes and polyominoes; learn a series of clever tricks for quick mental arithmetic; study fraction/decimal equivalents with a game of Towers; tackle greatest common divisors with the Game of Euclid; and fool around with fraction calculators. Game boards and patterns are included in the text; there is also a list of additional family math resources and a description of the math concepts ordinarily covered in the middle school. For ages 10-14.
 imgres-21 By James Overholt and Laurie Kincheloe, Math Wise! (Jossey-Bass, 2010) is a collection of over 100 hands-on activities designed to promote “real math understanding.” For example, kids make toothpick storybooks and everyday things number books, experiment with paper plate fractions, and make flexagons, sugar-cube buildings, and paper airplanes. For ages 5-13.
 imgres-22 In similar format, see Judith Muschla and Gary Robert Muschla’s Hands-On Math Projects with Real-Life Applications (Jossey-Bass, 2009) for ages 7-10; and Joyce Stugis-Blalock’s Math Projects (Mark Twain Media, 2011) for ages 10 and up.
 imgres-23 Marilyn Burns’s dynamic duo, The I Hate Mathematics Book (Little, Brown, 1975) and Math for Smarty Pants (Little, Brown, 1982) are wonderful 120+-page illustrated collections of math puzzles, games, and experiments designed to show kids that math – rather than a series of rote exercises – is an inventive way of thinking. Determine how close you can get to a pigeon, take a shoelace survey, make a topological map of your house, make sidewalk chalk shapes that can be drawn without lifting the chalk from the sidewalk or retracing any line. Highly recommended for ages 8 and up.
 imgres-24 Ann McCallum’s The Secret Life of Math (Williamson Books, 2005) is an interactive history of numbers from prehistoric times to the present, illustrated with photographs of artifacts, puzzle and fact boxes, and timelines. In Part I, which describes mankind’s first forays into counting, kids make a tally stick with a chicken leg bone, learn how to count like a Zulu or a Roman, hold a native American nature count, and make an Inca quipu. In Part II, which covers the history of numerical symbols, kids make a cuneiform birthday tablet, learn to count in Egyptian hieroglyphs, and learn about zero and Fibonacci numbers. Part III leaps from counting to calculation: kids become “algorithm detectives,” tackle lattice multiplication puzzles, and make an abacus and a set of Chinese counting rods. Excellent for ages 9-12.
 imgres-25 Amazing Math by Laszlo C. Bardos (Nomad Press, 2010) in the Build It Yourself Series is arranged in four sections – Numbers & Counting; Angles, Curves, and Paths; Shapes; and Patterns – each of which features hands-on projects with instructions and templates, activities, interesting information in text and sidebars, and new word definitions in boxes.  Readers learn, for example, about Fibonacci rabbits, four-color maps, and Koch snowflakes, and discover that a potato chip is in the shape of a hyperbolic paraboloid. The projects are cool. For ages 9 and up.
 imgres-26 Claudia Zaslavsky’s Math Games and Activities from Around the World (Chicago Review Press, 1998) is a 160-page collection of multicultural math games, puzzles, and projects arranged by game category. Chapters include “Three-In-a-Row Games,” “Games of Chance,” “Puzzles with Numbers,” “Geometry All Around Us,” and “Repeating Patterns.” Kids can play 9 Men’s Morris or Mankala, experiment with hexagrams and Magic Squares, make Pennsylvania Dutch love patterns and Japanese Mon-Kiri cut-outs, and much more. Included for each game or project are background information, instructions, and “Things to Think About.” For ages 9 and up.
 imgres-27 Mark Wahl’s A Mathematical Mystery Tour (Prufrock Press, 2008) is an interactive exploration of numbers in nature and art. For example, discover Fibonacci numbers in pinecones, daisies, and pineapples; learn about spiral galaxies and Plato’s polyhedra; and study geometry while building a model of the Great Pyramid. For ages 11 and up.
 images-11 Hands-On Equations is an algebra program that uses fat red and green number cubes (representing positive and negative numbers), colored pawns (positive and negative unknowns), and a balance scale (printed and laminated) to teach kids how to set up and solve algebraic equations. Fun and clever for ages 8 and up.
 freedownload61 TOPScience sells multi-lesson modules of coordinated hands-on learning activities for grades 3-10 – and these are extraordinarily clever in that they do a lot with truly simply materials such as pennies, tape, clothespins, and paper clips. Click on “Math and Measurement” for  math-oriented units for a range of ages. Highly recommended.
 imgres-28 From UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, the GEMS (Great Explorations in Math and Science) Teachers’ Guides use integrated activities to teach science and math topics. Sample titles include Frog Math, Early Adventures in Algebra, In All Probability, Math Around the World, and Math on the Menu.
 imgres-29 Hands-On Math Activities is a collection of printable games and projects, categorized under Numbers and Operations, Geometry, Problem Solving, Data Management and Analysis, and Measurement. For example, kids make and play pentominoes, experiment with geoboard sheets, build a Lego graph, and make and compare the capacities of paper cylinders. For ages 8-12.
 images-13 Hands On Math is a helpful blog devoted to creative ideas for teaching math. Lots of interesting approaches and activities for a range of ages.
  For older students, see Hands On Math in High School.
 images-12 From the Ohio Resources for Early Childhood, For Mathematics Educators is a list of helpful projects and resources including lists of Common Core math standards for grades K-12, large collections of “inquiry-oriented” math problems for a wide range of ages, and an annotated Mathematics Bookshelf.
 MathFourMakingUpNumbers-199x199 MathFour is a website devoted to creative approaches to teaching math. For example, kids can make Fibonacci Valentines, whip up a batch of mathematical eggnog, and research invented numbers (eleventeen?).
 images-14 From Annenberg Learner, Math in Daily Life is an interesting interactive tutorial covering Playing to Win, Savings and Credit, Population Growth, Home Decorating, Cooking by Numbers, and The Universal Language. Also at the Annenberg website check out the extensive list of great math lesson plans.
 images-15 Patterns in Nature is a collection of cool interactive applets demonstrating math concepts. For example, find out how to compute pi by throwing darts at a dartboard and discover what ants in an anthill have to do with molecular motion.

 MATH TOOLS

 images-16 The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives has a huge list of creative applets for preK-12, categorized under Numbers & Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, and Data Analysis & Probability. Anything you could possibly want, from pattern blocks and geoboards to fractal generators.
Check out the Ultimate List of Printable Math Manipulatives from Jimmie’s Collage.
 images-17 Math Playground has a lot of great online math manipulatives, among them a fraction scale, function machine, pattern blocks, geometry board, and spirograph.
 images-18 From MathCats, A Math Toolbox for Every Home is a great resource, with instructions for making your own base ten blocks, Cuisenaire rods, pattern blocks, tangrams, multiplication grids, and more.
 imgres-30 Also see Handmade Manipulatives Instructions for shape cutouts, base ten and five blocks, XY blocks, fraction strips, and printable pattern blocks, geoboards, and graph paper.
 images-19 At Mathwire’s Math Manipulatives, make your own dominoes and hundred boards. Included are instructions for games, activities, and literature connections.
 imgres-31 Learning Resources: Math is a good commercial source for math tools and manipulatives, such as base-ten and pattern blocks, Cuisenaire rods, geoboards, dice and spinners, and fraction games.
 CMT_Square From the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), Core Math Tools is a downloadable collection of software tools for high-school-level students for problem-solving in the areas of Algebra and Functions, Geometry and Trigonometry, and Statistics and Probability.
 imgres-32 Math Tool Chest – in a collection of online “treasure chests” – has interactive tools for a wide range of math activities, including fill-in-the-blank tables, flipping coins, spinners, number lines, pattern blocks, place value blocks, and more.
 images-20 Johnnie’s Math Page has an extensive collection of interactive online tools, games, and manipulatives, categorized under Number, Geometry, Multiplication, Fractions, Statistics, Probability, and Measurement. There’s also a category called Fun, where visitors can play Alien Addition, tackle the Towers of Hanoi puzzle, and experiment with origami.
 imgres-33 Edutopia’s 11 Virtual Tools for the Math Classroom includes free apps for base ten blocks, rulers, clocks, graph paper, geoboards, and more.
 imgres-34 From Math is Fun, Math Tools and Calculators has many online calculators with which visitors can calculate percentages, convert units, create graphs, experiment with polyhedra, solve quadratic equations, change fractions to decimals, and more.
 imgres-34 Wolfram Alpha aims to collect all objective data and to implement every known method to “compute whatever can be computed about anything.” Want to know how much paint it would take to cover the moon? Wolfram Alpha can tell you. A spectacular math tool.

MATH LESSONS

 images-21 Miquon Math is a curriculum for grades 1-3 in six color-coded workbooks, developed in the 1960s by Lore Rasmussen of Pennsylvania’s Miquon School. These are designed to be used with Cuisenaire rods and stress investigation, problem-solving skills, and creativity rather than rote drill.
 imgres-35 By creative math educator Marilyn Burns, Writing in Math Class (Math Solutions, 1996) has many examples of how writing helps kids of all ages learn math. Many suggestions, among them keeping math journals, writing math autobiographies, and combining math with creative writing. Resources for ages 7 and up.
 images-22 JUMP Math was designed by mathematician John Mighton (who almost flunked calculus in college), author of The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child (Walker & Company, 2004). JUMP, which stands for Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies, is a comprehensive program that integrates games, puzzles, magic tricks, hands-on activities, and extensions. Check out the free samples at the website. For grades K-8.
 images-23 Singapore Math, a comprehensive curriculum for grades K-12, progresses from the concrete to the pictorial to the abstract – that is, it emphasizes translating problems into concrete and/or visual images to help younger learners understand concepts. Excellent reviews.
 images-24 Stanley Schmidt’s Life of Fred series offers a complete math curriculum from soup to nuts – or rather, from simple addition to Calculus, Statistics, and Linear Algebra. The books are set up in chapters, each telling a story about Fred, who teaches at KITTENS University. At the end of each story, kids grab a pencil and tackle a number of questions and challenges related to the story. Frequently these involve additional interesting tidbits and facts. The Fred approach is intended to be multifaceted and thought-provoking – the opposite, in other words, of the drill-and-ill approach so often found in school workbooks. Lightly disguised traditional math.
 imgres-36 By Asa Kleiman, David Washington, and Marya Washington Tyler, It’s Alive! Math That Makes You Squirm (Prufrock Press, 1996) – written by a pair of young computer geeks and a math teacher – is a hoot, crammed with zany problems based on the kinds of quirky facts and gicky trivia that kids adore. For example, readers calculate the number of earthworms in a football field, the probability of being eaten by a salt-water crocodile, the amount of liquid in a giant squid eyeball, the travel rate of eyelash mites, and the storage capacity (in megabytes) of the human brain. There’s a helpful answer key at the back of the book. For ages 9-13.
  A sequel, It’s Alive and Kicking (Prufrock Press, 1996) – subtitled “Math the Way It Ought to Be – Tough, Fun, and a Little Weird” – continues in the same vein, with problems based on sweat glands, rat litters, cow manure, and the number of rivets holding up the Eiffel Tower.
 imgres-37 By Harold R. Jacobs, Mathematics: A Human Endeavor (W.H. Freeman, 1994) is a ray of light in the grim gray field of textbooks. Math, Jacobs-style, is taught through puzzles, games, experiments, and enthralling real-life examples. Chapter 1, “Mathematical Ways of Thinking,” for example, plunges students into experiments with the behavior of billiard balls, the notorious four-color map problem, and the invention of the Soma cube puzzle. In later sections, readers learn about number sequences with the hexagrams of I Ching and Francis Bacon’s 17th-century diplomatic cipher; are introduced to coordinate graphing with the leaping speed of kangaroos; and learn about logarithms with the electromagnetic spectrum, the frets on a guitar, and the Richter scale. This is real math, and it’s great. Highly recommended for ages 13 and up.
 images-25 The Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP) is an integrated four-year program, intended to replace the traditional math sequence in which kids progress from Algebra I to Geometry, then to Algebra II/ Trigonometry and Pre-calculus. Instead the IMP series teaches algebra, geometry, trigonometry, statistics, and probability in combination, through active investigation of “open-ended situations” – that is, problems without pre-programmed simple answers. In lieu of rote exercises, kids are encouraged to experiment and explore – often with manipulatives, graphing calculators, and computers. For high-school-level students.
  A derivative of IMP called Meaningful Math follows a more traditional format and employs graphing calculators.

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The Great Courses are a wide range of classes, variously available on video, DVD, audio CD, or audiocassette, for high-school- and college-level students. Among these is The Joy of Thinking (subtitled “The Beauty and Power of Classical Mathematical Ideas”), a 24-lesson lecture series, jointly taught by professors Edward Burger of Williams College and Michael Starbird of the University of Texas at Austin, whose stated goal is to both introduce some of the truly creative and intriguing ideas behind mathematics and to show students how to develop effective thinking strategies. The result is a wide-ranging discussion of counting, geometry, and probability, using clear and easy-to-follow presentations and lots of catchy examples. There are forays, for example, into Fermat’s Last Theorem, Fibonacci numbers in pineapples, Mobius bands and Klein bottles, Turing machines and Dragon Curves, coin-flipping, coincidences, and the question of whether monkeys, randomly typing, could eventually produce Hamlet.
 imgres-39 Suggested readings for The Joy of Thinking are taken from Burger and Starbird’s The Heart of Mathematics: An Invitation to Effective Thinking (Key College Publishing, 2000), a very readable and attractively designed text reminiscent of Harold Jacobs’s Mathematics: A Human Endeavor (W.H. Freeman, 1994). (See above.)
 imgres-40 Annenberg Learner has some terrific resources for math, among them video courses (many available online for free), lesson plans, and interactives. Video courses include Against All Odds: Inside Statistics, Algebra: In Simplest Terms, and numerous workshops for educators on creative techniques for teaching math. Also at the site are extensive lists of categorized lesson plans (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, and college) and a lot of great interactives. For example, kids can experiment with a balance scale, generate graphs, build a number line, manipulate congruent shapes, explore rotational symmetry, and much more.
 imgres-34 MathBits has a wealth of resources for math students, including tutorials on Java and C++ programming, projects and worksheets for the Geometer’s Sketchpad, instructions for finding your way around a graphing calculator, downloadable graph paper (31 kinds), and many Math Caching games at a range of levels, in which kids must solve problems and submit answers in order to discover the next Internet “box.”
 images-26 Mathcats is a multifaceted site that lets visitors experiment and explore. Try to solve a logic problem involving Sailor Cat, a goat, a wolf, and a cabbage; find out how old you are in seconds; play with architecture blocks; and use the Math Cats Balance to balance everything from electrons to galaxies. There are also dozen of interactive projects (for example, generate fractal snowflakes and geometric spider webs) and math-based crafts. Aimed at open-ended inquiry learning.
 imgres-42 Doodling in Math Class is the creation of Vi Hart, mathemusician and employee of Khan Academy. These are a terrific, fun, and irreverent collection of math-and-drawing exercises on such topics as spirals, fractals, Fibonacci numbers, and Sierpinski triangles. I love these. Check them out.
 images-1 From the Math Forum, Suzanne’s Mathematics Lessons are categorized under Numbers & Operations, Algebra, Data Analysis & Probability, Measurement, and Geometry. Most involve hands-on projects and experiments; also included are lists of helpful and creative Internet resources. Primarily for grade levels 6-8.
 images-1 AAA Math is essentially a gigantic free online workbook, with practice exercises categorized alphabetically by topic from Addition, Algebra, Comparing, and Counting through Ratios, Statistics, and Subtraction.
 images-28 IXL Math has a complete list of all the (hundreds of) skills required by the public schools at each grade level, with online practice problems and printable worksheets for each.
 images-1 SOSMath is an online workbook with examples and practice problems for high school and college students, variously covering Algebra, Trigonometry, Calculus, Differential Equations, Complex Variables, and Matrix Algebra.
 images-1 Free Math – which is free – has detailed lists of all the skills required in public-school math classes, categorized by grade, with associated practice exercises.
 imgres-43 The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) website has lesson plans, activities, and resources for students from K-12. Heavy in educationese.
 imgres-44 For online math classes for grades 3 and up, see Khan Academy. Khan Academy is a non-profit educational website created by Salman Khan (graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School) with the mission of providing a free, world-class education online to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Zillions of exercises, mini-lectures, and tutorials.
 imgres-45 EdX provides free online courses from such colleges and universities as Harvard, MIT, and Stanford in a wide range of disciplines (among them, math).

 GRAPHS

 imgres-46 What do the numbers show? The Real World Data Series from the Heinemann/Raintree Library is a collection of 32-page books that use real-world data – organized in charts, tables, and graphs – to introduce kids to current world issues. Titles include Graphing Food and Nutrition (Isabel Thomas, 2008), Graphing Crime (Barbara Somervill, 2010), Graphing Natural Disasters (Barbara Somervill, 2010), Graphing Water (Sarah Medina, 2008), and Graphing Sports (Casey Rand, 2010). For the complete list, see Real World Data. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-47 Edward Tufte’s stunning The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (Graphics Press, 2001) – despite its not-very-exciting title – is a classic on the art of presenting mathematical data in graphs, charts, and tables. The book is packed with terrific historical and modern illustrations, demonstrating the best (and worst) in graphics. For teenagers and adults.
  For more on Tufte and his wonderful graphs, see The Work of Edward Tufte and Graphics Press.
  Check out 10 Best Books for Teaching Graphs. (For elementary-level kids.)
 imgres-48 At Kids’ Zone’s Create a Graph, visitors can select from five different types of graphs (line, bar, area, pie, and XY), enter data, label, preview, and print.
 imgres-48 Graphing Activities is a collection of 18 projects targeted at elementary-level kids. For example, kids determine preferred car colors by counting cars in a parking lot and graphing the results, or research the most common size of a family or the most disliked vegetable.
 imgres-48 Building Brilliant Bar Graphs has several projects in which kids collect data and make bar graphs, among them a pretzel taste test and a pet survey. Included at the site are printable worksheets. For ages 6-9.
  eNASCO is a commercial source for activity books and games involving graphing. For example, kids learn coordinate graphing by making picture graphs or geometry quilts.
  Also see Lakeshore Learning for commercial hands-on graphing materials. For example, make bar graphs with tiny colored cars.
 imgres-48 Teachnology’s Graphing Lesson Plans has a long list of activities and projects, plus printable graph paper and graphing worksheets. Sample lessons include All About Me Graphing, the Drawing Bugs Game, and Graphing Equations. For a range of ages.
 imgres-48 Carolyn’s Unit on Graphing has clear explanations of line graphs, bar graphs, scatter plots, and pie charts, with illustrations and examples.
 images-29 From the Biology Corner, Measuring Lung Capacity is a hands-on science experiment that involves data collection and graphing. (You’ll need a ruler and a round balloon.) Included at the site are worksheets, instructions, and sample data.

 PROBABILITY AND STATISTICS

 images-30 In Edward Einhorn’s A Very Improbable Story (Charlesbridge, 2008),  Ethan wakes up one morning with a talking cat on his head – who absolutely refuses to move until Ethan wins a game of probability. Ethan then struggles with challenges involving socks, coins, cereal shapes, and marbles, gradually learning how best to judge odds and predict outcomes. (The cat’s name, incidentally, is Odds.) For ages 7-10.
 imgres-49 By Sheila Dolgowich and colleagues, Chances Are (Libraries Unlimited, 1995) is a 125-page collection of hands-on activities in probability and statistics. For ages 8-13.
 imgres-50 Darrell Huff’s 144-page How to Lie With Statistics (W.W. Norton, 1993) is a funny, friendly, and informative overview of statistics and the way in which – if we’re not on the ball – they can fool us into drawing the wrong conclusions. Learn all about sampling and bias, deceptive averages, “gee-whiz” graphs, and more. Illustrated with vintage-style cartoons. For teenagers and up.
 imgres-51 Larry Gonick’s The Cartoon Guide to Statistics (HarperPerennial, 1993) covers everything from data display and analysis to distribution, confidence intervals, hypothesis testing, and experimental design through the medium of clever (and highly intelligent) cartoons. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-52 Charles Wheelan’s Naked Statistics (W.W. Norton, 2014), subtitled “Stripping the Dread from Data,” is an overview of what makes numbers meaningful, dealing – in reader-friendly fashion – with such questions as “How does Netflix know what movies you like?” “What’s a batting average?” and “How useful is a GPA?” Various chapters cover correlation, basic probability, the importance of data, the Central Limit Theorem, polling, and regression analysis. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-31 From the New Jersey Mathematics Curriculum Framework, Probability and Statistics is a detailed and useful overview of what kids should know and do at each grade level (K-12), with suggestions for activities and resources.
 imgres-31 TeacherVision’s Resources for Teachers has a selection of printables and lesson plans for probability and statistics studies. Lesson plan titles include Heads or Tails: Penny Math; Using Scatterplots; Range, Median, and Mode; Baseball Fun; and U.S. Immigration. For ages 7-12.
 imgres-31 The BBC’s Handling Data has videos, written tutorials, and quizzes on frequency diagrams, mode, median, mean, and range, and probability.
images-32 Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Study of Chance is a lesson in probability involving paper, pencil, two players, and a pair of hands.
  Try Rock, Paper, Scissors: You vs. the Computer.
  Up for a challenge? Try Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock.
 images-34 From Science Buddies, Probability and Playing Cards has several probability projects and activities aimed at family groups, variously using playing cards, M&Ms, and dice.
  Also see Scientific American’s Suited Science: What Are the Odds of Drawing That Card?
 imgres-31 From Cut the Knot, Probability Problems has a detailed tutorial with definitions, explanations, and a long list of challenging problems. For older students.
 imgres-31 From the extensive Core Knowledge website, Probability and Statistics is a multi-lesson study with recommended resources and instructions for ages 9-13. Included is a project to collect and analyze data on the “Top Movies of All Time.”
 imgres-40 From Annenberg Learner, Against All Odds: Inside Statistics, consists of 32 video modules plus coordinated guides. Available online or on DVD. For high-school-level students and up.

 SUPER-GOOD GAMES

 images-35 Set, “the family game of visual perception,” is a diabolically clever exercise in mathematical thinking. It’s a (deceptively) simple card game, consisting of 81 cards, each printed with one of three basic shapes: a diamond, a lozenge, or a fat squiggle. On each card, the shapes appear in different numbers, colors, and shadings. To play, the dealer lays out 12 cards, face up, and all players attempt to identify three cards that make a set: that is, three cards in which each feature (shape, number, color, shading) is either exactly the same or completely different. When you’ve managed to do so, you yell “Set!” and remove those three cards from the board; the dealer then adds three new cards and the set-search begins again. Everybody plays at once, which means that nobody has a chance to get bored, and the game is considerably more challenging than it first appears. It is appropriate for persons aged 5 through adult, and adults – believe me – have no advantages over younger players.
 images-31 Chess might be the ideal teaching tool. It’s all about strategy and patterns, lines and angles, spatial analyses, weighing options and making decisions.  Research shows it boosts academic achievement, but it’s also challenging and fun. Also Harry Potter played it.
 images-31 Doubtless one reason that it’s so successful is that it’s self-empowering – players figure a lot of it out on their own – and it provides a range of intellectual benefits without overtly trying to do so. Recommended age for introducing chess to kids is around 8 or 9, but there are no hard and fast rules.
 images-31 ChessKid has a tutorial on playing chess targeted at kids; young players can also sign up (safely) to play with others online.
 imgres-53 Sudoku puzzles are applied logic puzzles, played on a 9×9 grid, with nothing more than a pencil (eraser also highly recommended) and brains. The puzzle grid is subdivided into nine 3×3 blocks or regions; the trick is to enter the numbers 1 through nine (with no repetition) in each horizontal row, vertical column, and block. (“Sudoku” or “su doku” means “numbers singly” in Japanese.) In each puzzle, a few number clues are present on the grid – these cannot be changed and players must work with and around them while solving the puzzle. Sudoku puzzles range in difficulty from the easy to the fiendish; and all are excellent and mind-expanding exercises in the art of logical thinking. (This isn’t arithmetic. It’s more like chess.)
 imgres-53 There are many books of sudoku available, including some specifically for children – see, for example, Alastair Chisholm’s The Kids’ Book of Sudoku 1 (Simon & Schuster, 2005).
 imgres-53 Web Sudoku offers zillions of puzzles – variously classified as easy, medium, hard, and evil – that can be printed or played online. Also see Gamehouse Sudoku, which has online puzzles at five levels of difficulty.
 images-33 Coolmath4Kids, in eye-searing day-glo colors, has dozens of categorized math games, geometry/art projects, printable flash cards, dozens of online calculators, cool apps, and more.
 images-36 Math Playground has dozens of online math games, variously involving numbers, logic, math manipulatives, and word problems, along with interactive projects, worksheets and flashcards, and more. Click on “Common Core Math” to find grade-by-grade games and challenges aligned to the Common Core.
 images-37 PBSKids’ selection of Math Games includes dozens, among them Juggling George, Send in the Trolls, Star Swiper, Vegetable Planting, the Great Shape Race, and many more. Experiment.

MATH AND FICTION

 imgres-55 A collaboration of author Jon Scieszka and artist Lane Smith, Math Curse (Viking, 1995) is clever, funny, and thought-provoking. The curse – laid on the hapless narrator by her math teacher, Mrs. Fibonacci – causes her to think of everything (everything, from getting dressed in the morning to lunchtime pizza to birthday cupcakes) as a math problem. For ages 7 and up.
 images-38 In Pam Calvert’s The Multiplying Menace: The Revenge of Rumpelstiltskin (Charlesbridge, 2006), the crown prince Peter has turned ten and Rumpelstiltskin is back, demanding payment for all that straw he spun into gold. Furthermore, he’s armed with a multiplying stick that he uses to awful effect, making things disappear (by multiplying them by fractions) or making them awkwardly big (say, by multiplying noses by six). Luckily Peter solves the problem with a clever math trick. Also see the sequel, The Multiplying Menace Divides. For ages 7-10.
  Multiplying Menace is an activity guide to accompany the book.
 images-44 In Edward Eager’s Half Magic (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999), Jane finds a magic talisman that grants just half of every wish. She and her siblings – Mark, Katherine, and Martha – find that this makes for some complications. A great read for ages 8-12.
 imgres-56 In Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth (Bulleseye Books, 1988), Milo passes through the Phantom Tollbooth and ends up in a magical country where he sets out on a quest to find the sisters Rhyme and Reason, thus restoring peace to the warring kingdoms of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis. A wonderful cast of characters and a lot of brilliant play on words and numbers. A must-read for ages 8-12.
 imgres-57 In The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger (Metropolitan Books, 1997), Robert, twelve, loathes Mr. Bockel, his math teacher, who refuses to let him use his calculator and who afflicts him with word problems, such as: “If 2 pretzel makers can make 444 pretzels in 6 hours, how long does it take 5 pretzel makers to make 88 pretzels?” (“How dumb can you get?” said Robert.) Then one night Robert falls asleep and meets the Number Devil, a little bright red man the size of a grasshopper, dressed in knickers and carrying a silver-knobbed walking stick. The Devil, who has his own calculator (it’s slimy and green), introduces Robert – night by night – to the many fascinations of mathematics. Among these are the concept of infinity, “prima donna” numbers (those uppity primes that can only be divided by themselves and 1), repeating fractions, square roots, triangular numbers, Fibonacci numbers (and rabbits), factorials, topology, irrational numbers, and more. Humor, memory-sticking mathematical information, and a lot of terrific color illustrations for ages 10 and up.
 images-40 Twelve-year-old Willow Chance of Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting by 7s (Dial, 2013) is a scientific genius who loves gardens, books, and the number 7, but doesn’t have much luck with her peers. Then her adoptive parents are killed in a car crash and she’s left completely on her own – except for new friends Mai and Quang-ha, who live with their mother, Pattie, who has a manicure business, in a garage; her disturbed school counselor Dell Duke, and Jairo Hernandez, a Mexican taxi driver. A great story, interspersed with counting by sevens, for ages 10 and up.
 images-41 By the fictious Malba Tahan, The Man Who Counted (W.W. Norton & Company, 1993) is the Arabian-Nights-style tale of Beremiz Samir – a.k.a. the Man Who Counted – first encountered sitting on a rock by the side of the road, calling out mysterious and enormous numbers. The book, which purports to be Samir’s life story, is actually a series of puzzles: in one story, for example, Samir has to help three quarreling brothers settle their inheritance (35 camels, of which their father has left half to the oldest son, 1/3 to the middle son, and 1/9 to the youngest).  In another, he has to determine the eye color of veiled concubines (the blue-eyed ones always lie and the brown-eyed ones always tell the truth). For ages 10 and up.
  Read The Man Who Counted online here.
 imgres-58 In Wendy Lichtman’s Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra (Greenwillow Books, 2008), eighth-grader Tess sees the world in terms of math – in this case including tangles with friends, a school cheating scandal, and a mysterious death. Chapter titles are all math terms, such as “Inequalities,” “Graphs,” “Tangents,” and “The Quadratic Equation.” For ages 10-14.
 images-43 Edwin Abbot’s classic Flatland (Dover Publications, 1992), originally written in 1884, is a clever satire set in a two-dimensional world, where the women are lines and the men, polygons. The narrator, a Square, then meets a Sphere and discovers the third dimension. Not only math, but a critique of rigid Victorian society. For teenagers and adults.
  At Project Gutenberg, the complete text of Flatland is available online.
 images-42 Flatland: The Movie (2007) is an excellent 34-minute animation, voiced by Martin Sheen, Kristen Bell, and Michael York.
 imgres-59 For the bookish mathematician, Clifton Fadiman’s Fantasia Mathematica (Copernicus, 1997) is a collection of stories, poems, and excerpts all drawn from the “universe of mathematics.” Included, for example, are Robert Heinlein’s sci-fi short story “And He Built a Crooked House,” Martin Gardner’s “The Island of Five Colors,” George Gamow’s “An Infinity of Guests,” and poems by Vachel Lindsay, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Carl Sandburg. For teenagers and adults.
  Mathematical Fiction is a long (over a thousand entries) list of books and stories incorporating math and/or mathematicians.  For each title, there’s a synopsis, examples of math features, and a list of similar titles.

MATH AND ART

 imgres-60 Greg Tang’s Math-terpieces (Scholastic, 2003) combines art history and problem solving. Catchy rhymes propose mathematical puzzles based on paintings by 12 different artists, among them Degas, Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Pollock, and Warhol. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-61 Carolyn Ford Brunetto’s MathART (Teaching Resources, 1999) is a collection of art and craft projects involving math, categorized under Geometry, Numbers and Computation, Measurement, Patterns, Statistics, and Fractions. For example, kids make geometrical stained glass windows and symmetrical pop-up cards, an abacus, a measurement mobile, and a fraction flag. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-62 Zachary Brewer’s Math Art (CreateSpace, 2010) isn’t art – it’s hands-on math; but it’s a plus for those who believe in learning by doing. For example, kids make paper clocks with moveable hands, money boards, addition collages, fraction flowers, and number charts. For ages 6-9.
 images-16 Math Playground’s Pattern Blocks has online blocks in an array of geometric shapes with which kids can build patterns of all kinds.
 imgres-63 From Mathcats, at the Polygon Playground, visitors can make patterns, tessellations, symmetrical designs, and pictures with a range of colorful geometric shapes in various sizes.
 imgres-64 Math and the Art of M.C. Escher is an interactive online book on the mathematics of Escher’s work with associated student art projects. Topics covered include symmetry, frieze patterns, tessellations, polygons, fractals, and knot theory. For teenagers and up.
  The Incredible Tessellations Page has detailed information, great illustrations, and links to lessons and online tutorials.
  From Mathematics in the Middle School, Masterpieces in Mathematics is an article on using art to teach fractions, decimals, and percents.
 imgres-65 At History of Mazes and Labyrinths, learn about the history of mazes from ancient times on, design your own mazes, and solve maze puzzles.
 images-45 Tie knots! At the Knots Gallery, learn to make sixteen different kinds of knots with easy-to-follow colorful animations. (Also included: how to tie a tie.)
 imgres-66 At Snowshoes and Math, see how artist Simon Beck makes spectacular mathematical pictures in the snow.
 imgres-67 Maths2Art has instructions for an assortment of hands-on mathematical art projects variously based on circles, Islamic art, tessellations, Fibonacci numbers, right triangles, and more.
 images-46 MathArtFun sells books, puzzles, kits, and manipulatives related to math and art. A source for fractal and knot puzzles, polyhedral kits, Penrose tiles, and more.

MATH AND COOKING

 images-47 In Amy Axelrod’s Pigs in the Pantry (Aladdin, 1999), Mrs. Pig is sick in bed, so Mr. Pig and kids decide to make her a tempting pot of Firehouse Chili. Unfortunately measuring mistakes lead to disasters, including the arrival of real firefighters. Included is a recipe so you can see where Mr. Pig went so wrong. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-68 Deborah Hopkinson’s picture book Fannie in the Kitchen (Aladdin, 2004) – subtitled “The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts of How Fannie Farmer Invented Recipes with Precise Measurements” – is told from the point of view of young Marcia Shaw, who is not exactly pleased when Fannie Farmer comes to cook for her family’s Victorian household. Soon, though, she’s hooked on Fannie’s delicious meals and even has a hand in writing the famous Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-69 In Ann McCallum’s Eat Your Math Homework (Charlesbridge, 2011), kids learn math concepts while whipping up Fibonacci Snack Sticks, Fraction Chips, Tangram Cookies, Tessellation Brownies, Variable Pizza Pi, and Probability Trail Mix. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-70 Joan D’Amico and Karen Eich Drummond’s The Math Chef (John Wiley & Sons, 1997) teaches math through applesauce, waffles, homemade animal crackers, and banana muffins. The book is divided into four main parts, each devoted to a different math concept: Measuring, Arithmetic, Fractions and Percents, and Geometry. For example, kids learn how to figure out how many grams are in a pound of potatoes, how to triple a sandwich recipe, and how to calculate the area of a brownie, the diameter of a cupcake, and the circumference of a pie. For ages 9-12.
 images-48 From PBS, Math and Science Gumbo, hosted by the Kitchen Mathematician, uses food and cooking to teach math and science. Math concepts include unit pricing, fractions, estimation, units of measure, and so on. Episodes (among them “Grocery Shop,” “Bake Shop,” and “Pizza Shop”) are available online.
See COOKING for many more books, projects, and resources for curious cooks.

MATH IN THE MOVIES and on TV

 imgres-71 Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959) is a clever 27-minute animated film on math in real life – in music, in nature, in games like chess and baseball, and in architecture and art. Nominated for an Oscar.
Watch Donald in Mathmagic Land on YouTube.
 imgres-72 Simon Singh’s The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (Bloomsbury USA, 2013) shows how the popular (and hilarious) animated series “The Simpsons” is simply loaded with math. Singh uses the episodes as jumping-off points to discuss everything from calculus to baseball statistics. A fun mathematical read for teenagers and adults.
Simpson’s Math covers the math in the Simpson’s episodes, with episode-by-episode descriptions and associated problems and worksheets.
 imgres-73 The TV series, Numb3rs – which ran for six seasons, 2005-2010 – features a pair of crime-fighting brothers in Los Angeles, one an FBI agent, the other a mathematical genius. An exciting pitch for math.
 imgres-74 Keith Devlin’s The Numbers Behind NUMB3RS (Plume, 2007) discusses the real math involved in criminal investigation, covering such topics as geographic profiling, data mining, codes, and networks. A catchy reader-friendly read for teenagers and adults.
From Cornell University, Numb3rs Math Activities has background info, materials, and projects based on each episode of the series. For advanced math students.
From Wolfram Research, The Math Behind Numb3rs has episode-by-episode descriptions with links to descriptions and explanations of specific math features in each.
 imgres-75 Dimensions is a gorgeous film in nine 13-minute “chapters,” beginning with Hipparchus, stereographic projections, and maps of the world and proceeding through M.C. Escher, four-dimensional polytopes, complex numbers, “fibration,” and mathematical proofs. Free download. For teenagers and adults.
 images-49 Math in the Movies, aimed at seventh-graders, is subtitled “Motivating Students with the Silver Screen.” Included at the site are a list of movies and sample suggestions for associated math projects.
 images-49 From MathBits, Math in the Movies has a long list of movies that in some way feature math, with summaries and printable worksheets to accompany each. Categorized by grade level (for the math, not the movie). Most worksheets are targeted at middle- and high-school-level students. Among the movies: Alice in Wonderland, Contact, October Sky, and Proof.
 images-49 The Math in the Movies Page is an opinionated guide to movies (and plays) “with scenes of real mathematics,” with brief reviews and ratings both for math presentation and overall performance. A Beautiful Mind (2001), for example, starring Russell Crowe as brilliant mathematician John Nash, gets 3 stars for Math and five stars for Film; Good Will Hunting (1997), the story of a young math genius from South Boston (Matt Damon) and a helpful psychologist (Robin Williams), scores one star for Math and three for Film.
 images-49 The Mathematical Movie Database is a long (long) alphabetized list of math-containing movies. Included is a separate much shorter list of “must-see” math movies.
 images-49 Mathematics in the Movies has video clips of essential scenes from a long and interesting list of movies featuring math.

MATHEMATICAL POETRY

 imgres-76 A must-read for the mathematically frustrated, Carl Sandburg’s poem Arithmetic begins “Arithmetic is where numbers fly like pigeons in and out of your head.”
 imgres-77 Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Marvelous Math (Simon & Schuster, 2001) is an illustrated collection of poems about math by a range of poets – among them “Counting Birds” by Felice Holman, “Pythagoras” by Madeleine Comora, and “Nature Knows Its Math” by Joan Bransfield Graham. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-78 Theoni Pappas’s Math Talk (Wide World Publishing, 1993) is a collection of 25 mathematical poems for two voices, covering everything from circles, fractals, and zero to Mobius strips, tessellations, googols, and infinity. For ages 7 and up.
 imgres-79 J. Patrick Lewis’s Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2012) is a collection of math puzzles presented through parodies of classic poems by such poets as Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, A.A. Milne, Langston Hughes, and Ogden Nash. “Elephant with Hot Dog,” for example, was inspired by Edward Lear’s “There Was an Old Man with a Beard:” “When an elephant sat down to order/A half of a third of a quarter/Of an eighty-foot bun/And a frankfurter, son/Was it longer than three feet, or shorter?” For ages 7-11.
For much more math poetry (or science poetry, history poetry, and geography poetry), see POETRY II.

FAMOUS MATHEMATICIANS

 imgres-80 Deborah Heiligman’s The Boy Who Loved Math (Roaring Brook Press, 2013) is a delightful picture-book biography of Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdos who loved numbers from the time he was a toddler. (Tell him your birthday and he could tell you how many seconds you’d been alive.) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-81 Jennifer Berne’s On a Beam of Light (Chronicle Books, 2013) is a picture-book biography of Albert Einstein, charmingly illustrated in pen-and-ink and watercolor. Kids learn about Einstein’s early fascination with a compass (“Suddenly he knew there were mysteries in the world…”) and how – one day while riding his bicycle – he wondered what it would be like to ride on a beam of light. Eventually he grew up to theorize about atoms, mass, and energy, and to devise his famous Theory of Relativity. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-82 Joseph D’Agnese’s Blockhead (Henry Holt and Company, 2010) is a charmingly illustrated picture-book biography of Leonardo Fibonacci – the daydreaming medieval “blockhead” (and famous mathematician) whose astute observations of numbers in nature led to the discovery of the “Fibonacci series.” Pictures show Fibonacci happily counting pomegranate and sunflower seeds, flower petals, and seashell chambers; text includes a beautifully clear description of his signature number pattern. For ages 6-10.
 imgres-83 For more on the Fibonacci sequence for the same age group, see Sarah Campbell’s Growing Patterns (Boyds Mill Press, 2010), illustrated with gorgeous (and countable) color photographs; and Ann McCallum’s Rabbits, Rabbits Everywhere (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2007), a tale of a wizard, the Pied Piper, a lot of rabbits, and a clever little girl named Amanda. Also see Emily Gravett’s The Rabbit Problem (above). (For Fibonacci rabbit lesson plans, see http://annmccallumbooks.com/books/rabbits-rabbits-everywhere/.)
 imgres-84 Julie Glass’s  A Fly on the Ceiling (Random House, 1998) is a Step-Into-Reading book about French mathematician Rene Descartes and his discovery of the Cartesian system of coordinates. For ages 7-9.
  Play Cartesian Battleships! This site has instructions and printable grid paper (four quadrants).
 imgres-85 By Julie Ellis, What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? (Charlesbridge, 2004) is a fictionalized picture-book account of the famous Greek mathematician.  Here Pythagoras, a curious young boy, travels to Egypt with his father, learns about right triangles, and comes up with the Pythagorean theorem. For ages 7-10
  This YouTube video shows how to make a rope triangle of the sort used to solve problems in What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras?
 imgres-86 Also see the sequel, Pythagoras and the Ratios (Charlesbridge, 2010), in which Pythagoras and his cousins want to win a music contest, but their pipes and lyres sound awful. Pythagoras saves the day by elucidating the mathematical ratio that creates harmony. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-87 By Luetta Reimer and Wilbert Reimer, Mathematicians Are People Too! (Dale Seymour Publications, 1994) is a collection of short friendly biographical stories about fifteen famous mathematicians, among them Thales (“Pyramids, Olives, and Donkeys”), Archimedes (“The Man Who Concentrated Too Hard”), Blaise Pascal (“Count on Pascal”), Sophie Germain (“Mathematics at Midnight”), and Srinivasa Ramanujan (“Numbers Were His Greatest Treasure”). For ages 7-12.
 imgres-88 See Mathematicians Are People Too! Volume 2 (Dale Seymour Publications, 1995) for another fifteen mathematicians, among them Euclid, Fibonacci, Descartes, Benjamin Banneker, Ada Lovelace, and Albert Einstein.
  The Ohio Resource Center’s Mathematics Bookshelf has chapter-by-chapter suggestions and printable worksheets to accompany both volumes of Mathematicians Are People Too!

 MATH AND SPORTS

 imgres-89 Titles in Ian F. Mahaney’s Sports Math series (PowerKids Press, 2011) include The Math of Baseball, The Math of Basketball, The Math of Soccer, The Math of Football, and The Math of Hockey. Each has an overview of the featured sport, measurements of the relevant playing field or court, and information on scoring or statistics. “Figure It Out” sidebars challenge readers to solve problems. Illustrated with photos, charts, and diagrams. For ages 7-12.
 imgres-90 The Math & Movement program, developed by math educator Suzy Koontz, is tailor-made for non-sitters.  Koontz describes the program as a “kinesthetic multisensory” approach to math that involves physical exercise (jumping, hopping, bending), dance, and yoga, plus an array of “visually pleasing floor mats” to teach and reinforce basic math concepts. Kids dance, wiggle, and leap their way through counting, skip counting, addition and subtraction facts, the multiplication tables, positive and negative numbers, and more. The Math & Movement Training Manual, which describes the program in detail, is available in paperback or eBook formats; the floor mats – clearly intended for schools – are pricey, but creative families can get around that. There’s always sidewalk chalk, paint, and duct tape.

 COMPETE?

 imgres-91 Take your math out for a spin. Tackle the Math Olympiad or participate in the MathCounts competition series!

 OR WHAT ABOUT A FIELD TRIP?

 imgres-92 Check out New York City’s National Museum of Mathematics.

 

 

 

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MATH I

 

How many? How big? How far? How long? And when should kids know what? From PBS, the Child Development Tracker has descriptions of what kids generally know and do, year by year, from ages 1 to 9, in the fields of Creative Arts, Language, Literacy, Mathematics, Physical Health, Science, and Social and Emotional Growth.

There are – literally – hundreds of books aimed at introducing just-beginners to numbers; check out some good resources below.

For resources for older kids, see Math II.

 

NUMBERS AND COUNTING

 images-4 There are several picture-book versions of the loved-by-everybody song/nursery rhyme “Ten in the Bed:” “There were 10 in the bed and the little one said/”Roll over! Roll over!’/So they all rolled over and 1 fell out…” David Ellwand’s Ten in the Bed (Chronicle Books, 2001) is illustrated with enchanting photographs of ten teddy bears (including one in a striped night cap and one in wire-rimmed spectacles). For ages 1-4.
 imgres In Donald Crews’s rhyming Ten Black Dots (Greenwillow, 1994), various numbers of black dots (from 1 to 10) can be anything from a sun and a moon, to the eyes of a fox, the face of a snowman, or beads “for stringing on a lace.” Illustrated with big bright graphics for ages 1-5.
Math Literature Connections: Number Sense has activities and downloadable cards, worksheets and charts to accompany Donald Crews’s Ten Black Dots, Theo LeSieg’s Ten Apples Up on Top, and Jerrie Oughton’s How the Stars Fell Into the Sky.
 images-1 Lois Ehlert’s Fish Eyes (“A Book You Can Count On”) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1992), illustrated with gorgeous bright-colored fish, makes for a great interactive read, with many fish and fish eyes to count, plus shapes and colors to identify. For ages 2-5.
 imgres-1 By Mitsumasa Anno, Anno’s Counting Book (Crowell, 1997) is an enchanting picture book that teaches the numbers 0 to 12 as a small village grows through the months of the year. The book opens with an empty snow scene (0); by 1, we have one house, one snowy pine tree, one bridge over the river, one snowman, and one skier; by 7, there are seven buildings, seven pine trees, seven spotted cows, a clothesline hung with seven sheets and, in the sky, a seven-colored rainbow. Delightful for ages 2-6.
 imgres-2 In Rick Walton’s rhyming So Many Bunnies (HarperFestival, 2000) – an ABC and counting book – Old Mother Rabbit, who lives in a shoe, is putting her 26 alphabetical offspring to bed, counting them one by one, from (1) Abel (who sleeps on a table) to (26) Zed, who sleeps in a shed. For ages 2-6.
For related books and resources, see RABBITS and ABC: The Alphabet (and Beyond).
 imgres-3 Janet Lawler’s Ocean Counting (National Geographic, 2013), illustrated with gorgeous color photographs, includes interesting “Did You Know?” fact boxes for each numerical group of ocean animals (starting with 1 green sea turtle). For ages 2-6.
 imgres-4 By Maurice Sendak, One Was Johnny (HarperCollins, 1991) begins with Johnny, who lives alone, happily reading by himself. Then a rat leaps in, followed by a cat, a dog, a turtle, and so on until an annoyed Johnny cleverly counts backwards, getting rid of his uninvited guests and restoring peace and quiet. For ages 2-7.
 images-2 Roger Priddy’s Counting Colors (Priddy Books, 2007) groups bright photos of familiar objects by color. Each color-coded spread challenges readers to count to ten, by finding 1-10 different objects – for example, (red) 2 roses, 4 fire engines, and 9 strawberries or (yellow) 2 bananas, 6 chicks, 7 lemons, and 10 rubber ducks. For ages 2-6.
 imgres-5 In Jean Marzollo’s I Spy Numbers (Scholastic, 2012) – illustrated with colorful photo spreads of appealing little objects – challenges readers to find numbers of items via little rhyming clues. Great for trips. For ages 3-5.
 imgres-6 For dinosaur lovers, How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? by Jane Yolen and Marc Teague (Blue Sky Press, 2004) features enormous dinosaurs perched on kid-sized beds and playing with kid-sized toys. Readers count to 10 beginning with 1 tattered teddy bear. One of a series for ages 3-5.
 imgres-7 Cynthia Cotton’s At the Edge of the Woods (Henry Holt and Company, 2002) is a rhyming counting book of woodland animals, beginning with “At the edge of the woods, the grass grows tall/The daisies dance and the blackbirds call/One chipmunk lives in the old stone wall/At the edge of the deep, dark woods.” An evocative numerical read for ages 3-6.
 imgres-8 In Louise Yates’s Dog Loves Counting (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013), Dog has tried counting sheep, but still can’t get to sleep – so off he goes to find other animals to count. He begins with one baby dodo, and together the two of them set off in search of number three – a three-toed sloth, followed by a four-legged camel, a five-lined skink, and so on up to ten. At the end of the book, all ten animals end up counting stars. Other books featuring Dog include Dog Loves Books (2010) and Dog Loves Drawing (2012). For ages 3-6.
 imgres-9 Richard Scarry’s Best Counting Book Ever (Sterling, 2010) counts by ones to twenty, then by tens to one hundred – all with Scarry’s busy little pictures in which there’s a lot to study and count. For ages 3-6.
 imgres-10 Paul Giganti’s How Many Snails? (Greenwillow, 1994) is a clever counting book that introduces kids to the idea of sets and subsets.  (How many clouds? How many clouds are big and fluffy? How many clouds are big and fluffy and gray?) The School Library Journal trashed it for ambiguity (What constitutes a truck? Will kids know that fire trucks are trucks?) – but I think that’s a plus. Discuss and debate. That’s what books are for. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-11 Woody Jackson’s Counting Cows (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999) is a simple 10 to 0 countdown counting book illustrated with Jackson’s signature black-and-white Holsteins. Readers learn lots of cow synonyms. (“Eight cool cattle.” “Six haying heifers.”) For ages 3-7.
For many related resources, see MOO: All About Cows.
 imgres-12 In Stioshi Kitamura’s When Sheep Cannot Sleep (Square Fish, 1988), Woolly, a pop-eyed little sheep in blue-and-white striped pajamas, can’t get to sleep – so off he goes for a walk, counting along the way, from one butterfly to two ladybugs, three owls, and four bats, up to 20 stars. Back in bed again, he thinks about his family – 21 relatives, all sheep – and so, finally, counting sheep, he falls asleep. Great watercolor illustrations. For ages 3-7.
Want more sheep resources? See BAA: Sheep, Yarn, Mobius Strips, and DNA.
 imgres-13 We’re all primates! Anthony Browne’s One Gorilla (Candlewick, 2013) is a counting book of primates, from 1 gorilla to 2 orangutans, 3 chimpanzees, and so on, through gibbons, macaques, and mandrills to 10 ring-tailed lemurs. The book ends with 20 portraits of people (“All primates/All one family”). Illustrated with wonderful detailed paintings. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-14 Alison Jay’s 1 2 3 (Dutton Juvenile Books, 2007) is a charmer, beginning with one sleeping little girl who is carried away on the back of a (golden-egg-laying) goose to an enchanting fairy-tale world, populated with three pigs, four frog princes, seven magic beans, and so on, up to ten and back again. Each wonderful illustration is filled with numbers and references to fairy tales. (Figure out which one.) For ages 4-7.
See FAIRY TALES.
 images-3 In Philemon Sturges’s Ten Flashing Fireflies (NorthSouth, 1997), a pair of children capture – one by one – ten fireflies in a jar, and then, as the lights begin to blink out, let them go (and glow) again, counting back down from 10 to 1. The illustrations are soft summer night scenes in pastels, with luminous balls of glowing fireflies. For ages 4-8.
f2ea045586d66d9f425428f2be62f196waxpaper_firefly Firefly Activities include making a wax-paper-winged fireflies, ice-cream-spoon fireflies, and a firefly keepsake jar. (Count them!)
 imgres-15 Alice Melvin’s Counting Birds (Tate, 2010), written in rhyming couplets, counts birds (1-20) over the course of a day, beginning at dawn with one cockerel, then two love birds in a cage, then three ducks. Readers learn 21 different birds (the book ends at evening, with one nocturnal barn owl.) For ages 4-8.
See BIRDS.
 imgres-16 By April Pulley Sayre, One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab (Candlewick, 2008) is a counting book of feet, beginning with the one-footed snail – then 2 (people), 4 (dog), 6 (insect), 8 (spider), and 10 (crab). Odd numbers are represented by an even-footed animal plus one snail. The numbers 10 to 100 are then represented by various combinations of animals – 80, for example, can be eight crabs or ten spiders. Cheerful cartoon illustrations. For ages 4-8.
Check out the Parents’ Choice Six Best Counting Books.
From The Best Children’s Books, see Learning Numbers with Counting Books.

BIGGER NUMBERS

 imgres-17 Rosemary Wells’s Emily’s First 100 Days of School (Disney-Hyperion, 2005) covers the numbers 1 to 100, with Emily’s daily number journal. Crammed with creative number ideas. (Make a number journal of your own!) Great project possibilities for ages 4 and up.
 imgres-18 Lola M. Schaeffer’s Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives (Chronicle Books, 2013), is a mix of biology and math, as kids learn numbers and cool animal facts from 1 to (with skips) 1000. For example, in a single lifetime, a spider will spin one egg sac, a caribou will shed ten sets of antlers, a woodpecker will drill 30 nesting holes in trees, a rattlesnake will add 40 beads to its rattle, and a pair of seahorses will produce 1000 baby seahorses. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-19 In Loreen Leedy’s Missing Math (Two Lions, 2008), all the numbers in town have simply disappeared – leaving behind a mess: clocks and calendars don’t work, money has no value, sports competitions and elections can’t be resolved, and nobody knows how old or tall they are. The culprit is finally caught: a number thief with a powerful vacuum, trying to make a number large enough to reach infinity. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-20 Christina Dobson’s Pizza Counting (Charlesbridge, 2003) covers counting, addition, large numbers, and fractions, all through the medium of creative and yummy-looking pizzas. Pizza toppings not only demonstrate the numbers 1-20, but are combined to make pictures, such as a pizza face, a pizza cat, a pizza clock. A pizza tricked out with 100 topping pieces is duplicated 10 times (to demonstrate 1000) and then 100 times (10,000); millions and biliions are discussed in terms of numbers of pizzas necessary to circle the globe or reach to the moon. Try pairing this one with making your own numerical paper or baked-in-the-oven pizzas. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-21 In David Birch’s The King’s Chessboard (Puffin, 1993), the king insists on giving his wise counselor a reward. Finally the counselor asks for a single grain of rice, the quantity to be doubled each day for as many days as there are squares on the king’s chessboard. The king soon realizes that he has made a dreadful mathematical mistake. For ages 6-10.
 imgres-22 Demi’s One Grain of Rice (Scholastic, 1997) is a gorgeously illustrated version of the same tale, set in India; Helena Clare Pittman’s A Grain of Rice (Yearling, 1995) is a Chinese version of the story, in which a mathematically clever farmer’s son wins the hand of a princess.
 imgres-23 Andrew Clements’s picture-book A Million Dots (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2006) contains one million dots, along with a lot of catchy factoids to help readers visualize crucial numerical quantities along the way. Kids learn, for example, that there are 525,600 minutes from one birthday to the next and that when the cow jumped over the moon, she soared upward 238,857 miles. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-24 In David Schwartz’s How Much Is a Million? (HarperCollins, 2004), kids learn about millions, billions, and trillions, with the help of Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician and a lot of clever analogies. Readers discover, for example, that it would take 23 days to count to a million, that a goldfish bowl big enough for a million goldfish could hold a blue whale, and that a stack of a million kids, standing on each other’s shoulders, would reach all the way to the moon. For ages 4-8.
 images-5 In David Schwartz’s On Beyond a Million (Dragonfly Books, 2001), Professor X and Dog Y (both in sweater vests) show kids how to count exponentially (by powers of ten). The book is appealingly designed, with conversation in cartoon bubbles and a lot of fascinating “Did you know?” side bars filled with numerical facts. For example, readers learn that one colony of weaver ants contains 500,000 ants, that there are 40,000 characters in Chinese, and that Americans eat 500,000,000 pounds of popcorn each year. Readers learn about the enormous googol (a 1 with a hundred zeroes after it) and the even more enormous googolplex (a googol raised to the power of a googol). However, they find that it’s impossible to count to infinity, and the book ends with: “No matter what number you have, there is always one bigger.”For ages 5-8.
 imgres-25 Robert E. Wells’s Is A Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is? (Albert Whitman & Company, 1993), for ages 6-9, is a cleverly illustrated exercise in big numbers and relative sizes: For example, it takes about 12 minutes to count to a thousand, but a good three weeks to count to a million, and a lifetime to count to a billion; and yes, a blue whale is big, but it’s tiny in comparison to massive Mount Everest, which is tiny in comparison to planet Earth, which is dwarfed by the Sun, which is puny compared to the red supergiant Antares. For ages 6-11.
 imgres-26 By Robert E. Wells, Can You Count to a Googol? (Albert Whitman & Company, 2000) is a counting book by tens (beginning with one banana, balanced on a nose) and moving up through 1000 (scoops of ice cream), 100,000 (marshamallows), and so on, ending with an explanation of the googol (a 1 with 100 zeroes after it) and how it was named by a nine-year-old boy. A googol, Wells points out, is much too enormous to illustrate (“If you counted every grain of sand on all the worlds’ beaches and every drop of water in all the oceans, that wouldn’t even be CLOSE…”). For ages 6-9.
 imgres-27 In Kate Hosford’s Infinity and Me (Carolrhoda Books, 2012), young Uma – gazing at the star-filled night sky – grapples with the difficult-to-grasp concept of infinity. Family and friends all offer different takes on infinity, and eventually Uma comes to terms with it, realizing that her love for her grandma is “as big as infinity.” With gorgeous illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska. For ages 5-8.

 MATH SERIES BOOKS

 imgres-28 The Math Counts Series (Children’s Press) by Henry Pluckrose is a collection of 32-page books, each with a simple text and illustrated with attractive color photos, introducing a range of math topics. Titles include Numbers, Counting, Sorting, Shape, Patterns, Size, Length, Capacity, and Weight. For ages 3-6.
 images-6 Brian Cleary’s Math is Categorical series  (Lerner Publishing) includes such titles as The Action of Subtraction, The Mission of Addition, and Windows, Rings, and Grapes – a Look at Different Shapes. (See complete list at the website.) All are simple introductions to math concepts, with friendly examples, a rhyming text, and a lot of bright zany animal illustrations. For ages 4 and up.
 imgres-29 Stuart J. Murphy’s extensive MathStarts series is categorized by age group: Level 1 (ages 3 and up), Level 2 (ages 6 and up), and Level 3 (ages 7 and up). See the website for the complete list, with descriptions of math concepts covered.
 images-7 The Math Matters series (Kane Press) by various authors is a series of picture-book stories, each related to a specific math concept and variously targeted at ages 5-7 or 6-8. For example, Gail Herman’s Bad Luck Brad covers probability; Jennifer Dussling’s Fair is Fair introduces readers to bar graphs; and Linda Williams Aber’s Grandma’s Button Box is all about sorting. See the complete list of titles at the website.
 images-8 The Mouse Math series (Kane Press), variously by Eleanor May, Daphne Skinner, and Laura Driscoll, are picture-book introductions to simple math concepts for preschoolers, starring a pair of adorable mice, Albert and his big sister Wanda. Albert Is Not Scared, for example, covers direction words; Albert’s Amazing Snail emphasizes position words; and Albert the Muffin-Maker introduces ordinal numbers. See all the titles at the website.  Cute and funny.

 MATH CONCEPTS

 imgres-30 Suzanne Aker’s What Comes in 2s, 3s, and 4s (Aladdin, 1992) in a picture-book introduction to sets – starting with your own two eyes, two ears, two arms, and two legs. For ages 2-5.
 imgres-31 In Margarette S. Reid’s The Button Box (Puffin, 1995), a little boy gets out his grandmother’s enormous button box and begins to play, sorting the buttons into rows and piles – all the flower-painted china ones, all the sparkly jewel-like ones, and so on. There’s not much to it, but it would be great paired with an actual button box. (Got one?) For ages 3-6.
 imgres-32 Eve Merriam’s 12 Ways to Get to 11 (Aladdin, 1996) is a clever twist on the counting book, showing 12 different combinations of things that all add up to 11: 9 pine cones and 2 acorns, for example; or 4 flags + 5 rabbits + 1 pitcher of water + 1 bouquet of flowers, all pulled from a magician’s hat. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-33 In Kathryn Cristaldi’s Even Steven and Odd Todd (Cartwheel, 1996), Todd is definitely odd, in that he insists everything come out even, from his breakfast pancakes to the fish in his goldfish bowl. Then cousin Odd Todd arrives, who prefers his numbers odd. Eventually all works out – and the book ends with a handful of questions and simple activities on even and odd numbers. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-34 Michael Dahl’s Eggs and Legs (Nonfiction Picture Books, 2005) is a clever exercise in learning to count by twos, as a hen watches pairs of legs emerge from hatching eggs. Also see Dahl’s Lots of Ladybugs: Counting by Fives and Toasty Toes: Counting by Tens. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-35 In Lily Toy Hong’s Chinese folktale Two of Everything (Albert Whitman & Company, 1993), Mr. Haktak unearths an ancient pot in the garden that turns out, miraculously, to double anything placed inside it. He and Mrs. Haktak happily double their money (again and again), but then Mrs. Haktak herself falls into the pot. And doubles. For ages 4-8.
 images-9 In Stuart J. Murphy’s Double the Ducks (HarperCollins, 2002), a pint-sized cowboy is caring for his flock of five ducks. Then each duck brings home a friend, which means twice as much food, twice as much bedding, and twice as much work. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-36 Cynthia DeFelice’s One Potato, Two Potato (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006) is an Irish version of the doubling story, in which Mr. and Mrs. O’Grady are so ragged and poor that they have only one of everything – one potato for dinner, one blanket on their bed, one chair to sit in, and one winter coat. Until, that is, Mr. O’Grady finds a magic pot, that doubles everything put inside. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-37 In Pat Hutchins’s The Doorbell Rang (Greenwillow, 1989), Sam and Victoria have just divided one dozen of their mother’s freshly baked cookies, when the doorbell starts ringing and more and more friends arrive. With each new guest, the dozen cookies must be divided all over again. An exercise in beginning division (and sharing) for ages 4-8.
 imgres-38 Paul Giganti’s Each Orange Had Eight Slices (Greenwillow, 1999) is a simple  picture-book introduction to counting, addition and, by extension, multiplication. (“On my way to the zoo I saw 3 waddling ducks. Each duck had 4 baby ducks trailing behing, Each duck said, “QUACK, QUACK, QUACK.” So: how many ducks, how many baby ducks, how many quacks? For ages 4-8.
 imgres-39 In Elinor J. Pinczes’s One Hundred Hungry Ants (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999), a tale of division, one hundred ants are headed toward a picnic when they are halted by one mathematically minded ant, who suggests that they will get food more efficiently if they split up into ranks. Obediently the ants rearrange themselves in groups of 50, 25, 10, and so on – only to discover by the time they’ve finished that the picnickers have packed up and left.  For ages 4-8.
 imgres-40 Also by Pinczes is A Remainder of One (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002), in which the ants struggle to form even ranks to march in the big parade. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-41 Margaret Mahy’s rhyming 17 Kings and 42 Elephants (Dial, 1987) features a royal procession through the jungle in which 17 kings and 42 elephants meet a tongue-twisting array of animals. A fun romp with potential for problem-solving. (How to divide 42 elephants among 17 kings?) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-42 In Mitsumasa Anno’s Anno’s Magic Seeds (Puffin, 1999), Jack meets a wizard who gives him two golden seeds, telling him to plant one and eat the other (“You will not be hungry again for a whole year”).  Jack does, and the seed grows into a lovely blue-flowered plant that produces two seeds. Eventually Jack decides to eat something different for a change, and so plants both seeds, getting two plants and a harvest of four seeds. This time he eats one and plants three – and things rapidly multiply, becoming more and more complicated. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-43 Laura Overdeck’s Bedtime Math (Falwel & Friends, 2013) is a cute idea – if bedtime stories, why not bedtime math? Each chapter starts by with a kid-friendly topic – Lego bricks, dog-walking, cookies, sticky ketchup bottles – and then goes on to pose three math problems at increasing levels of difficulty. The reviews have been very positive. I, however, was disappointed – there’s not much in the way of math-interesting detail in the lead-ins, and the problems, though catchily worded, are workbook-type arithmetic problems. (“If you squirt 2 cups of ketchup and each cup used 14 tomatoes, how many tomatoes’ worth of ketchup did you just squirt?”) For ages 3-7.
 imgres-44 Greg Tang is a master of math riddles, and his books – written in catchy rhyme – encourage kids to identify patterns and combinations and to devise effective problem-solving strategies. Titles include The Grapes of Math (Scholastic, 2004), Math for All Seasons, and Math Potatoes. For ages 4-8.
  See Greg Tang Math for online versions of the books and many brain-boosting math games and puzzles.
 images-10 By Masaichiro Anno and Mitsumasa Anno, Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar (Penguin Putnam, 1999) is a wonderful introduction to the concept of factorials through the medium of a blue-and-white Oriental jar. The jar, opened, contains an ocean in which there are two islands. Each island has two countries; each country has three mountains; on each mountain, there are four walled kingdoms; and so on. A gorgeous multiplication problem ending up with a phenomenal number of jars. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-45 Amanda Bean, main character of Cindy Neuschwander’s Amanda Bean’s Amazing Dream (Scholastic, 1998), loves to count, but she’s not at all interested in learning her multiplication facts. Until, that is, she has a dream in which eight sheep on bicycles each buy five balls of yarn, and the resultant counting confusion reveals the usefulness of learning how to multiply. The book’s cartoon-style illustrations are crammed with things to count (and multiply), from lollipops to windowpanes to puffy bushes in the park. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-46 In Marilyn Burns’s The Greedy Triangle (Scholastic, 1998), the greedy triangle wants more than just three sides and three angles. With the help of the local shapeshifter, he acquires more and more, becoming in turn a quadrilateral, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, and octagon before finally deciding that life as a triangle was really the best of all. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-47 In Ann Tompert’s Grandfather Tang’s Story (Dragonfly, 1997), a Chinese grandfather tells his little granddaughter a story about a pair of magical shape-changing foxes, illustrating the story with geometrical tangram puzzle pieces. The book includes a reproducible tangram template for making a set of your own. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-48 From ABCYa.com. Tangrams for Kids has tangram puzzles to solve online. Click and drag to rearrange the shapes. Also see Tangram Game from PBS Kids.
  From the Museum of Play, Tangrams has both an online game and a set of colorful printable tangrams.
 imgres-49 In Duncan Birmingham’s Look Twice (Tarquin, 1993), readers use an enclosed mirror card to turn a pair of identical objects into a pair of opposites. A fun study in symmetry for ages 4-8.
 imgres-50 Also see Birmingham’s M is for Mirror (Tarquin, 1988).
 imgres-51 Bruce Goldstone’s That’s a Possibility! (Henry Holt and Company, 2013) is an introduction to probability, using an interactive question-and-answer format and bright color photographs to discuss concepts of possible, probable, improbable, and certain. For example, a teddy bear has ten shirts and ten pairs of pants, which combine to make 100 different outfits – so it’s unlikely (100 to 1) that anyone can correctly guess what outfit he’s going to wear. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-52 In Lauren Leedy’s The Great Graph Contest (Holiday House, 2006), Chester (a snail) is monitoring a contest between friends Beezy (a lizard) and Gonk (a toad) over who can make the best graph. In the process, the friend explore data collection processes and many different kinds of graphs, among them bar graphs, pie graphs, pictographs, and Venn diagrams. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-53 Ann Whitehead Nagda’s Polar Bear Math (Square Fish, 2007) is a real-life exercise in fractions based on data from two polar bear cubs born at the Denver Zoo. Each double-page spread includes a page of data – how to mix polar-bear formula, for example – while the facing page tells the story of the bears, illustrated with photographs. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-54 Also by Ann Whitehead Nagda, in Cheetah Math (Henry Holt and Company, 2007) kids learn division with real-life data from a pair of cheetah cubs; Tiger Math (Square Fish, 2002) in which kids learn to graph by tracking the growth of a tiger cub; and Chimp Math (2002), in which readers learn to keep time records.
 images-11 Check out 10 Best Books for Teaching Graphs.

HANDS-ON MATH

 imgres-55 By Yelena McManaman and Maria Droujkova, Moebius Noodles (Delta Stream Media, 2014) – subtitled “Adventurous Math for the Playground Crowd” – is a 80+-page collection of games and investigations for kids, plus helpful hints for parents hoping to provide a mind-expanding math environment. The book is divided into four sections: Symmetry, Quantity, Function, and Grid. Kids learn real math terms – say, transitive property – through play. Delightful, substantive, and sensible. For ages 1 and up.
 images-12 The Mother Goose Programs, developed by the Vermont Center for the Book, pair math- and science-related pictures book with open-ended investigative experiments and hands-on activities. Excellent for ages 3-5.
 imgres-56 Associated with the Mother Goose Programs is the What’s the BIG Idea? workbook series, a collection of six creatively interactive books designed to get kids excited about and involved in science and math. The books – crammed with hands-on activities and games – are illustrated with a mix of big bright-colored drawings and photo collage, and each comes with a companion CD featuring an appropriately themed picture book, printable activity cards and manipulatives, and a resource list. The books also include complete parent/teacher instructions, lots of extension suggestions, and an answer key. Titles are Counting (with Rick Walton’s How Many, How Many, How Many), Measuring (with Susan Hightower’s Twelve Snails to One Lizard), Shapes (with Dayle Ann Dodds’s The Shape of Things), Patterns (with Trudy Harris’s Pattern Fish), Sorting (with W. Nikola-Lisa’s Bein’ with You This Way), and Maps (with Pat Hutchins’s Rosie’s Walk).
 images-13 Family Math for Young Children (Grace Coates and Jean Stenmark; Lawrence Hall of Science, 1997) is a creative investigative approach to early math, concentrating on such skills as counting, estimating, comparing, measuring, shape recognition, directions, logic, and sorting. Sample activities include making jigsaw puzzles, making (and sorting) a stamp collection, making and playing number games, playing shadow games, measuring yourself (and family and friends) with adding machine tape, and designing a quilt patch. All instructions, game boards, matching cards, and number charts are included in the book. For each activity, there’s an explanation of the math skills involved, a materials list, and complete instructions. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-57 Margaret McNamara’s How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? (Schwartz and Wade, 2007) turns into a mathematical guessing game as the kids in Mr. Tiffin’s class try to figure out how many seeds are in large, small, and middle-sized pumpkins (A million? 500? 22?) Finally they cut the pumpkins open, scoop out the seeds, and count them, which is (1) messy and (2) the most straightforward way to find out. For ages 4-8.
For a mathematical lesson plan on pumpkins and pumpkin seeds, see Pumpkin Exploration.
There are dozens of sources for commercial math manipulatives and hands-on kits. A good starting point is Learning Resources, which sells dozens, including plastic counters, pattern blocks, tangrams, magnetic numbers, base-ten blocks, balances, and more.
Also see eNASCO or check out math manipulatives at Amazon.

MATH AROUND THE WORLD

 imgres-59 Quentin Blake’s Ten Frogs/Dix Grenouilles (Anova Books, 2008) is a French/English animal counting book, running from one crow (that is, un corbeau) to 100 wasps. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-60 In Yuyi Morales’s Mexican-themed Just a Minute (Chronicle Books, 2003), a skeleton arrives at Grandma Beetle’s door, demanding that she “come along.” Grandma, however, cleverly puts him off with a series of (countable) chores: she has one house to sweep, two pots of tea to brew, three pounds of corn to make into tortillas, and nine grandchildren to invite to her birthday party. Children plus skeleton – guest number ten – have such a wonderful time that the skeleton decides that Grandma doesn’t need to come along after all. Readers learn to count to ten in both English and Spanish. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-61 In Lezlie Evans’s Can You Count Ten Toes? (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004), readers learn to count to ten in ten different languages: Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Russian, Hindi, Hebrew, and Zulu. Included are phonetic pronunciations for each number word and a map showing where the featured languages are spoken. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-62 By Muriel Feelings, Moja Means One (Puffin, 1992) is a Swahili counting book, in which kids learn numbers 1-10 in Swahili as well as interesting facts about the land and culture of East Africa. The book begins with one impressive Mount Kilimanjaro, and continues through two kids playing a game of Mankala, three coffee trees, and so on, culminating in a group of ten children listening to a traditional storyteller. With lovely earth-toned illustrations by Tom Feelings. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-63 In Andrea Cheng’s Grandfather Counts (Lee & Low, 2003), Helen’s grandfather, newly arrived in America from China, speaks no English and Helen and her siblings speak no Chinese.  Gradually, though, as they watch passing trains together, her grandfather begins to teach Helen to count in Chinese, while she teaches him to count in English. A lovely story of an intergenerational relationship (with counting). For ages 4-8.
Learn how to count in 21 languages with this great Count the Animals app.

ROMAN NUMERALS

 imgres-64 Arthur Geisert’s Roman Numerals I to MM (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001) is a clever and witty introduction to Roman numerals with lots and lots of cavorting pigs. Delightful for ages 5-8.
 images-14 David A. Adler’s picture book Fun With Roman Numerals (Holiday House, 2010) is an attractively illustrated explanation of Roman numerals and their uses today. For ages 7-10.
From ABCYa, Roman Numerals is an online game that teaches Roman numerals (while rebuilding a collapsed Roman temple).
 images-15 Roman Numerals Games has dozens of games for learning Roman numerals, variously grouped from 1-10, 1-20, 1-100, and 1-1000+.
Try this online Roman Numeral Converter, which runs from 1 to 4999.
From Math Is Fun, Roman Numerals has an explanation of the symbols and their combinations, rules for forming numbers, how to write really big numbers (up to a million), and a couple of handy mnemonics for remembering what’s what.

MATH AND ART

 imgres-65 From the San Antonio Museum of Art, 123 Si! (Trinity University Press, 2011) is a counting book illustrated with color photos of art works from the Museum, among them Mexican puppets, Olmec clay statuettes, and Korean pen-and-ink tigers. For ages 3-6.
 imgres-66 In Lucy Mickelthwait’s I Spy Two Eyes: Numbers in Art (HarperTeen, 1993) readers search for objects in classical works of art, from 1 fly and 2 eyes to 12 squirrels, 17 birds, and 20 angels. For ages 4-7.

 MATH ANXIETY

 imgres-67 In Mark Pett’s The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes (Sourcebook Jabberwocky, 2011), nine-year-old Beatrice never ever makes a mistake (unlike little brother Carl, who eats crayons). In fact, Beatrice is absolutely perfect, until the day of the annual talent show, when she makes a colossal and very public mistake. And discovers that it’s not the end of the world. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-68 In Joan Horton’s rhyming Math Attack! (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009), a little girl – at her wit’s end when her teacher asks for the answer to seven times ten – has a math attack: numbers EXPLODE out of her head and wreak havoc all over town, disrupting everything from the prices in the supermarket to the helicopters of the National Guard. Finally she gets the answer, and all goes back to normal. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-69 In Danny Schnitzlein’s The Monster Who Did My Math (Peachtree Publishers, 2012), a math-hating kid is struggling with his impossible multiplication homework when a monster arrives and offers to take care of it for him – all he has to do is sign the contract on the dotted line. All is well until the teacher sends him to the blackboard, and he discovers the contract’s fine print (“In paragraph seven of clause ninety-three/If you don’t learn anything, do not blame me!”). And then, as in all Faustian bargains, he has to come up with the pay-off. Which involves some math. For ages 6-8.
 imgres-70 Barbara Esham’s Last to Finish (Mainstream Connections Publishing, 2008), one of the Adventures of Everyday Geniuses series, features third-grader Max who has always liked math – but falls apart when his teacher starts giving the class timed tests. Max is miserable. Eventually, however, the teacher discovers that Max has been working problems from his older brother’s algebra book (for fun), and Max ends up on the school math team. A nice reminder that different kids learn in very different ways. For ages 6-9.

 JUST FOR FUN

 imgres-71 Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Wumbers (Chronicle Books, 2012), with bright cartoonish illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld, is a picture book for the text-messaging generation. Wumbers are words spelled with sound-alike numbers, familiar to anyone who has ever texted “gr8!” For example, try these: At a tea party (attended by a teddy bear and two little girls in purple): “Would you like some honey 2 swee10 your tea?” “Yes, that would be 1derful.” At a family picnic: “We have the 2na salad and the pl8s. What have we 4gotten?” (Dismay!)“The 4ks!” Fun creative word puzzles for beginning readers ages 5-8.

 

For much more, see MATH II.

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ABC: The Alphabet (and Beyond)

 

Zapped Zs, Alphabet Cities, dozens of cool and unusual alphabets, a lot of great books and projects, and alphabet flashcards for future nerds! (And it’s not all just for little kids.)

MOSTLY FOR BEGINNERS

 imgres Artist Lisa DeJohn’s colorful Alphabet Animals Flash Cards are printed in bright colors on heavy cardboard. Each has a capital alphabet letter, an animal word in lower-case print, and a great animal illustration, from Ant, Blackbird, and Caterpillar, through Mouse, Octopus and Zebra. For ages 1-4.
 imgres-1 In Stella Blackstone’s Alligator Alphabet (Barefoot Books, 2007), kids learn upper- and lower-case letters with a bevy of adorable painted animals (purple bears, turquoise elephants) in bright attractive borders. For ages 1-4.
 images Keith Baker’s LMNO Peas (Little Simon, 2014) is filled with imaginative cartoon peas participating in dozens of alphabetical professions. See peas as acrobats, artists, and astronauts; builders, bathers, and bikers; painters, poets, and plumbers; and even – eventually – zoologists. For ages 2-6.
 imgres-2 By David A. Carter, AlphaBugs (Little Simon, 2006) is a zany collection of pop-ups, pull-tabs, and liftable flaps concealing a lot of wacky alphabetical bugs. (Bubble Bugs. Yo-Yo Bugs.) For ages 2-6.
 imgres-3 In Lisa Campbell Ernst’s The Letters Are Lost (Puffin, 1999), the letters of the alphabet – each represented as an old-fashioned alphabet block – have been scattered: A flew off in an Airplane, B tumbled into the Bath, C joined a family of Cows. By the end, they’re finally all back in order in their box again – but where will they end up next? (Invent your own lost-letter scenarios.) For ages 2-6.
 imgres-4 In The Human Alphabet (Roaring Brook Press, 2005) by John Kane and the Philobolus Dance Company, dancers in bright-colored leotards take on the shapes of the alphabet letters. For ages 2-6.
 imgres-5 Steve Martin’s The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z! (Flying Dolphin Press, 2007) begins with “Amiable Amy, Alice, and Andie/Ate all the anchovy sandwiches handy.” The illustrations, by brilliant cartoonist Roz Chast, are crammed with extra alphabetical goodies: under B, for example, readers can find everything from boomerangs, bears, and buckets to balloons, a ballerina, and a bowling ball. A great vocabulary builder for ages 2-6.
 imgres-6 Sandra Boynton’s A is for Angry: An Animal and Adjective Alphabet (Workman, 1997) runs from Angry Aardvark (deprived of ants) to Bashful Bear, Frightened Fox, and Zany Zebra (grinning, in pointy yellow party hat). Readers learn the alphabet, a host of animal names, emotion words, and the meaning of “adjective.” For ages 3-5.
 imgres-7 Mary Elting’s Q is for Duck (Houghton Mifflin, 1985) is an alphabetical guessing game of animal sounds: Q is for duck because ducks quack. (Now try B is for Dog.) For ages 3-5.
 imgres-8 In Sara Pinto’s interactive The Alphabet Room (Bloomsbury USA, 2003), A is predictably for Apple and Z for Zebra – but each letter is accompanied by a revealing lift-the-flap door, behind which increasing numbers of labeled objects are continually shuffled and rearranged. (The Cat and Dog play with the Fish; the little Lamb eats Ivy; and the Moustache pops up everywhere.) For ages 3-6.
 imgres-9 In Maira Kalman’s What Pete Ate From A to Z (Puffin, 2003) – subtitled “Where We Explore the English Alphabet (in its entirety) In Which a Certain Dog Devours a Myriad of Items Which He Should Not” – Pete chows down on an astonishing array of alphabetical stuff, beginning with Uncle Rocky’s Accordion. All with explanatory asides from his frustrated, but loving, owner. Funny and clever for ages 3-7.
 imgres-10 Dr. Seuss’s ABC (Random House, 1991) is a zany rhyming alphabet book beginning with “Aunt Annie’s alligator” and ending with “Zizzer-zazzer-zuzz.” Irresistible for ages 3-7.
 imgres-11 Who doesn’t love Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault’s catchy Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Beach Lane Books, 2009): “A told B/and B told C/I’ll meet you at the top/of the coconut tree.” (But 26 letters, it turns out, are a lot to cram into a coconut tree.) For ages 3-7.
 imgres-12 In Leslie Tryon’s Albert’s Alphabet (Aladdin, 1994), Albert – the school carpenter and a very creative duck – builds all the letters of the alphabet. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-13 In H.A. Rey’s Curious George Learns the Alphabet (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1973), everyone’s favorite little monkey learns the upper- and lower-case letters of the alphabet, with help from the Man in the Yellow Hat. The trick is picture mnemonics: upper-case A, for example, looks like an alligator’s open mouth and lower-case a like a slice of apple; H looks like a house and h like a horse. For ages 3-7.
imgres-98 By graphic artist Paul Thurlby, Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet (Templar, 2011) has big bright retro-style drawings for each letter of the alphabet. Memory-jogging illustrations include A (for Awesome), E (Embrace), F (Fierce), and R (Rabbit). Check it out at Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet.
 imgres-14 Maurice Sendak’s Alligators All Around (HarperCollins, 1991) is a delightful alphabet romp with alligators, in which a family of three variously bursts balloons, catches cold, entertains elephants, makes macaroni, and pushes people. For ages 3-7.
From ReadWriteThink, Alliteration All Around is a five-part lesson plan in which kids make their own alliterative alphabet books and write alliterative poetry. (Targeted at grades 3-5.)
 imgres-15 In Lesa Cline-Ransome’s Quilt Alphabet (Holiday House, 2002), each letter of the alphabet – framed in a quilt square – is paired with an alphabetical riddle poem and a folk-art painting.  Answer are country-cosy: APPLE, COW, KETTLE, PIE, SCARECROW. For ages 3-6.
 imgres-16 In Tana Hoban’s 26 Letters and 99 Cents (Greenwillow Books, 1995), colorful photos of plastic letters are paired with photos of objects – D with a toy dinosaur, F with a goldfish, J with a handful of jellybeans. Flip the book over and it becomes a counting book in the same format. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-17 In Alethea Kontis’s AlphaOops! (Candlewick, 2012), put-upon Z (“Zebra and I are SICK of this last-in-line stuff!”) creates havoc in the alphabet, until A manages to pull things back together. A delightful read for ages 3-8.
 imgres-19 Arnold Lobel’s On Market Street (Greenwillow Books, 2006) chronicles in alphabetical order the list of objects a small sailor-suited child buys on Market Street. The illustrations – from apples, books, and clocks to lollipops, playing cards, quilts, and wigs – are wonderful Arcimboldo-type paintings of people made entirely from their wares. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-20 Max Grover’s The Accidental Zucchini (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997) is a wholly unexpected alphabet book, populated with such oddities as apple autos, octopus overalls, and vegetable volcanos. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-21 In George Shannon’s Tomorrow’s Alphabet (Greenwillow Books, 1999) – as in Mary Elting’s Q is for Duck – letter cues require a little forward thinking. A, for example, is for seed – tomorrow’s APPLE – and D is for puppy, tomorrow’s DOG. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-22 Graeme Base’s gorgeously alliterative Animalia (Harry N. Abrams, 1993) includes such alphabetical phrases as “An Armoured Armadillo Avoiding An Angry Alligator” and “Eight Enormous Elephants Expertly Eating Easter Eggs.” For all ages.
 imgres-23 In David Pelletier’s The Graphic Alphabet (Scholastic, 1996), a Caldecott Honor book, each page is essentially a concrete poem. A, for example, is an A-shaped mountain, crumbling at the top with a tumbling avalanche. For ages 6 and up.
 imgres-24 Marion Bataille’s ABC3D (Roaring Brook Press, 2008) is a truly spectacular three-dimensional alphabet pop-up book, in elegant red, white, and black. For pop-up fans of all ages.
For free printables for making your own pop-up alphabet booklets, see Canon Creative Park.

STORIES + ALPHABETS

 imgres-25 In Leo Lionni’s The Alphabet Tree (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), each letter has a favorite leaf on the alphabet tree – until a gale-force wind swoops in and blows them all over the place. The solution is cooperation, as the letters band together to form words. For ages 3-7.
The Alphabet Tree has multidisciplinary extension activities to accompany the book, among them learning about seasons, creating story sequence cards, making a word tree poster, and studying tree growth and planting seeds.
 imgres-26 Al Pha, main character of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Al Pha’s Bet (Putnam Juvenile, 2011), lived “back when all sorts of things were being invented” – among them, the alphabet. Al takes on the challenge of putting all the letters in proper order. For ages 3-5.
 imgres-27 In Dr. Seuss’s On Beyond Zebra (Random House, 1955), inventive young Conrad Cornelius O’Donald O’Dell introduces a host of wonderful letters that come after Z. (Try YUZZ, THNAB, and FLOOB.) (Invent some of your own!) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-28 Tony DiTerlizzi’s G is for One Gzonk (Simon & Schuster, 2006) is an outrageously zany “alpha-number-bet book” in which readers learn letters and numbers through such imaginary creatures as the Angry Ack, Dinkalicious Dinky, and Ravenous Rotoid. Lots of clever vocabulary and witty asides. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-29 In Kelly Bingham’s Z is for Moose (Greenwillow Books, 2012 ), Zebra is directing the line-up of the alphabet, a task continually disrupted by the over-eager Moose, who keeps bursting onto the scene, demanding “Is it my turn now?” “NOW?” Devastatingly, when M finally comes along, the letter goes to Mouse – but Zebra saves the day at Z, when Z stands for “Zebra’s friend Moose.” A great (and funny) read for ages 4-8.
 imgres-30 In Neil Gaiman’s The Dangerous Alphabet (HarperCollins, 2010), two kids and their pet gazelle launch themselves into a spooky underground in search of treasure. The story, rife with pirates, monsters, and trolls, is told in rhyming alphabetical (slightly scrambled) couplets. With Victorian-style illustrations by Gris Grimly. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-31 In James Thurber’s The Wonderful O (Simon & Schuster, 1957), a pirate named Black in search of buried treasure takes over the island of Ooroo and proceeds to ban the letter O. As the pirates forcibly remove everything with an O in its name, the islanders, led by a poet named Andreus, vow that four O words will not be lost: hope, valor, love, and freedom. This short chapter book is appropriate for ages 8 or so and up – probably not much younger; the word play is so clever that kids need well-developed reading and vocabulary skills to fully appreciate it.
 imgres-32 Ella Minnow Pea. Say it once or twice, fast, and you’ll see what it has to do with the alphabet. Ella is the protagonist of Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (Anchor, 2002), set on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. The island is named for its founder, Nevin Nollop, inventor of the famous pangram (that is, a sentence using all 26 letters of the alphabet) “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” This pangram is set in tiles on the base of Nollop’s memorial monument and when the tiles start falling off, the Nollopian governmental committee attributes it not to failing glue but to a sign from the beyond. The Z is the first to fall, and it is promptly decreed that the letter Z be expunged from the Nollopian alphabet. This is a problem for Nollopians named Zeke or Zachary, and a disaster for the island beekeeper (the bees, which make ZZZ sounds all the time, have to be eliminated), but most people manage to get by. As more and more letters fall, however, life becomes increasingly difficult; and the island takes on aspects of a fascist state.  For teenagers and adults.
 images-1 Visit Pangrams to learn all about these slippery alphabetical sentences and have a try at inventing one of your own.
 imgres-34 In fantasy author Patricia McKillip’s Alphabet of Thorn (Ace Trade, 2005), Nepenthe, a foundling with an unusual talent for language and translation, is raised by the librarians of the Royal Library of Raine, where she leads a secluded ivory-tower existence, devoted to books. Then a student mage brings her a new book written in a strange thorn-like alphabet that only she can read – and that appears to have strange magical powers. For teenagers and adults.

ALL ABOUT THE ALPHABET

 imgres-35 James Rumford’s There’s a Monster in the Alphabet (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002) is the story of the pictorial beginnings of our modern alphabet, supposedly first brought to ancient Greece by the Phoenecian hero Cadmus. An appended chart compares English, Phoenecian, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic alphabets.
 imgres-36 Don Robb’s Ox, House, Stick: The History of Our Alphabet (Charlesbridge, 2007) is a 48-page picture-book history of the alphabet targeted at ages 8-12.
 imgres-37 Alphabet Books from Grim Morality to Pleasurable Learning is a brief history of alphabet books (with examples) from The Victorian Web.
 imgres-38 David Sacks’s Letter Perfect (Broadway Books, 2004) is the “marvelous history of our alphabet” from the Phoenecians to the present day. Included are general information, a family tree of world alphabets, many alphabetic charts, photographs of artifacts, and 26 informative chapters, each devoted to a different letter of the alphabet. Find out how letters got their shapes, why some letters have multiple sounds, and why X marks the spot. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-39 Roy Blount’s Alphabet Juice (Sarah Crichton Books, 2009), arranged A to Z alphabet-style, is an info- and anecdote-filled overview of words and letters. The enormous subtitle gives you a sense of the content: “The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory.” For teenagers and adults.

POSITIVELY WICKED ALPHABETS

 imgres-40 Chris Van Allburg’s The Z was Zapped (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1987) is a clever play in 26 acts, in which each letter – appearing in black-and-white on a curtained stage – has something (generally awful) happen to it. A, for example, is caught in an Avalanche, B is Badly Bitten, K is Kidnapped, Y is Yanked offstage with a crook. And you can see by the title what happened to Z. A creative read for ages 4 and up.
By Far the Best Alphabet Book Ever is a lesson plan in which kids create their own “alphabet riddles” based on The Z Was Zapped. Included is a printable page of a curtained stage.
Also see The Z Was Zapped Alliteration Project (targeted at grade 3).
 imgres-41 By Shel Silverstein, Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book (Touchstone, 1985) is a wickedly funny alphabet book supposedly for adults only. (“Meet Ernie, the giant who lives in the ceiling. Ernie likes eggs. Catch, Ernie, catch!”) My kids found it hilarious. For all ages, depending on sense of humor.
 imgres-42 In Edward Gorey’s rhyming The Gashlycrumb Tinies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997), a succession of Victorian children come to sad, bad ends, from Amy (who fell down the stairs) and Basil (assaulted by bears) to Zilla (who drank too much gin). My macabre children adored and memorized it. For a wide range of appropriately twisted ages. In our house, it was found hysterical by age 7.
 imgres-43 Also see Gorey’s Thoughtful Alphabets (Pomegranate, 2012), a pair of grimly hilarious 26-phrase stories (“The Just Dessert” and “The Deadly Blotter”), both running from A to Z. (“Apologize. Bewail complications.”)
 imgres-44 By Jory John and Avery Monsen, K is for Knifeball (Chronicle Books, 2012) is a rhyming A to Z collection of truly terrible advice, supposedly directed at (but not really for) kids. B is for Blender. F is for Fire. You can see where this is going.
 imgres-45 In Roz Chast’s What I Hate From A to Z (Bloomsbury USA, 2011), a cartoon compendium of miseries, B is for Balloon (“imminent explosion”), C is for Carnival, G for General Anaesthesia, and S for Spontaneous Human Combustion. For teenagers and adults. Make one of your own. Think therapy.

ALPHABETS IN THE REAL WORLD

 images-3 By architectural photographer Elliott Kaufman, Alphabet Everywhere (Abbeville Kids, 2012) shows how the letters of the alphabet appear in all sorts of unexpected ways in the world around us, from bridge supports to sidewalk shadows to branches, leaves, and ocean waves. (Would make a great family project.) For ages 3 and up.
 imgres-47 Stephen Johnson’s Alphabet City (Puffin, 1999), a Caldecott Honor book, is a wordless tour of the alphabet, finding letters A to Z in construction sites, fire escapes, traffic lights, lamp posts, and church windows. For ages 3 and up.
 imgres-48 By Krystina Castella and Brian Boyd, Discovering Nature’s Alphabet (Heyday, 2006) is a fascinating collecting of color photographs of alphabet images from nature, found in everything from branches, vines, and rocks to seaweed on the beach. (Try taking an alphabet nature walk.) For ages 5 and up.
 imgres-49 Karl Blossfeldt’s The Alphabet of Plants (Schimmer/Mosel, 2007) is not an alphabet, but rather a collection of stunning black-and-white photographs of plant patterns in nature. All ages.

HISTORY, ALPHABET-STYLE

 imgres-50 Martin Jarrie’s ABC USA (Sterling, 2005) is an alphabetical overview of American history and culture (B is for Baseball, F is for Flag, I is for Immigrant), with charming folk-art-style illustrations. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-51 Lynne Cheney’s America: A Patriotic Primer (Simon & Schuster, 2002) is an alphabet book of American history and culture, with multifaceted cartoon-style illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser. Lots to look at and discuss. For ages 5-10.
 imgres-52 Lynne Cheney’s A is for Abigail (Simon & Schuster, 2003) is an alphabet of famous American women, beginning with the indomitable Abigail Adams. Clever cartoon-style illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser are crammed with extra information. Many pages are composites, such as E (for Educators) and W (for Writers). For ages 5-10.
 imgres-53 James Rumford’s Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004) is a picture-book biography of the inventor of the Cherokee syllabary. The text appears in both English and Cherokee; included is a Cherokee alphabet chart. For ages 5-8.
The Cherokee Alphabet and How to Use It is a tutorial on writing in Cherokee.
 imgres-54 By artist/historian Eric Sloane, the ABC Book of Early Americana (Dover Publications, 2012) is a beautifully illustrated compendium of American inventions and antiquities, from Axe, Almanack, Bathtub, and Conestoga wagon to Zig-zag fence. Included is a section on “The Alphabet in Early America.” For all ages.

AROUND THE WORLD WITH ALPHABETS

 imgres-55 From Sleeping Bear Press, the Discover the World series consists of alphabet books on various countries of the world, among them America, England, Italy, China, and India. See the link for a complete list, plus accompanying recipes, games, and maps. For ages 6-8.
 imgres-56 Margaret Musgrove’s Ashanti to Zulu (Puffin, 1992) is an alphabet of African tribes and traditions, with an appended map showing where each of the featured tribes lives. The gorgeous illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon won this book a Caldecott Medal. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-57 By Maya Ajmera and Anna Rhesa Versola, Children from Australia to Zimbabwe (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2001) is an alphabetical and photographic journey around the world. For each country are included a colorful map, helpful background information, the word “hello” in the dominant language, and a lot of terrific photos. For ages 7-12.
 imgres-58 Rather than a phonetic alphabet, some languages – like Chinese – are written with pictographic characters. Peggy Goldman’s Hu is a Tiger (Scholastic, 1996) is a simple introduction to Chinese characters for kids.
 imgres-59 A survey of multicultural and alternative alphabets can be a fascinating project for all ages. See Omniglot for background information on the history of writing and an immense and fascinating list of writing systems. Visitors can view the Cyrillic, Etruscan, Runic, and Greek alphabets, and many many more. The site also includes a list of “alternative alphabets,” including Braille, Morse code, and the Shavian alphabet – inspired by George Bernard Shaw, who touted a phonetic alphabet designed to simplify English spelling.

 SCIENCE, MATH, AND ALPHABETS

 images-4 Nerdy Baby ABC Flashcards are not your ordinary A-is-for-Apple flashcards. In these 26 laminated, illustrated cards, aimed at future geeks and scientists, A is for Atom, C for Cell membrane, M for Mandelbrot set, and N for Neuron.
 imgres-61 Lois Ehlert’s Eating the Alphabet runs the gamut from Apricot, Apple Avocado, and Asparagus to Zucchini. A brightly illustrated compendium of multicultural fruits and veggies, including such not-so-common selections as Jicama, Kiwi, Yam, and Xigua. For ages 2-5.
 imgres-62 Anita Lobel’s Alison’s Zinnia (Greenwillow, 1996) is a lovely interlinking alphabet of girls’ names, flower names, and verbs, from “Alison acquired an Amaryllis for Beryl” to the neatly tied up “Zena zeroed in on a Zinnia for Alison.” Illustrated with beautiful and botanically accurate flower paintings. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-63 Mary Azarian’s A Gardener’s Alphabet (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005), illustrated with colored woodcuts, is a collection of 26 alphabetical garden words, beginning with ARBOR, BULBS, and COMPOST. For ages 4-8.
 images-5 In the same format, see Azarian’s A Farmer’s Alphabet (David R. Godine, 2009). (APPLE, LAMB, PUMPKIN, ZINNIA.) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-64 By David McLimans, Gone Wild (Walker Children’s Books, 2006) – a Caldecott Honor book – is an alphabet of endangered animals from Chinese Alligator to Grevy’s Zebra. Black-and-white letters are cleverly transmogrified into animals, complete with horns, eyes, tongues, and wings. For ages 4-6.
  imgres-65 Name a topic and Jerry Pallotta has almost certainly written an alphabet book about it. For a complete list – everything from Airplanes, Beetles, and Birds to Vegetables and Yucky Reptiles – see here.
 imgres-66 Particularly fascinating for young scientists is Jerry Pallotta’s The Skull Alphabet Book (Charlesbridge, 2002) which pictures the skulls of 26 different animals (anteater to zebra). The skulls aren’t labeled; readers have to figure out the source for themselves from clues in the text. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-67 In Kjell Sandved’s The Butterfly Alphabet (Scholastic, 1999), readers find the letters of the alphabet in the patterns on butterfly wings – that is, real butterfly wings. The author, a nature photographer, decided to create the book when he found a perfect letter F on the wing of a tropical moth that he was studying under the microscope. Double-page spreads show the whole butterfly or moth with its scientific name, paired with a close-up of the wing showing an alphabet letter pattern. For all ages.
Available from Butterfly Alphabet, Inc., is a Butterfly Alphabet poster. (There’s also an option to write your name in butterfly wings.)
 imgres-68 By David M. Schwartz, G is for Google (Tricycle Press, 1998) is a math alphabet book, running from A is for Abacus to Z is for Zillion. (In between, Binary, Exponent, Fibonacci,  and X-axis.) Each entry is accompanied by catchy cartoon-style illustrations and two to three pages of reader-friendly explanation. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-69 In David M. Schwartz’s multidisciplinary Q is for Quark (Tricycle Press, 2009) – a science alphabet book – A is for Atom, B for Black Hole, C for Clone, and X for Xylem. Each entry comes with appealing cartoon illustrations and two to three pages of background information and explanation. For ages 9-12.
my-first-physics-alphabet-poster My First Physics Poster is a great A to Z infographic poster in which a is for acceleration, c for speed of light in a vacuum, f for frequency, and h for Planck’s constant.

ALPHABETICAL ART

 imgres-70 In Denise Fleming’s Alphabet Under Construction (Square Fish, 2006), artistic Mouse is busily creating an alphabet, using a different creative technique from each letter – for example, Air-brushing the A, Buttoning the B, Carving the C, and Dyeing the D. For ages 3-6.
 abcdefg See Alphabet Under Construction Activities for printable bookmarks  and instructions for making a mouse hat and constructing your own wonderful-looking Mouse-style alphabet.
 DSCN3822 From Growing Kinders, Alphabet Under Construction has instructions for making great collage-style alphabet letters.
 imgres-71 From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum ABC (Little, Brown Books, 2002) is a tour of the alphabet through dozens of works of art from the Museum’s collection. A beautiful book for ages 3 and up.
 imgres-72 By Cynthia Weill, ABeCeDarios (Cinco Puntos, 2007) is an alphabet book of Mexican folk art animals, in which animal names are listed in both English and Spanish. The animals are carved and brightly painted sculptures. Grab some modeling clay and make some of your own. For ages 2-4.
 imgres-73 Lucy Mickelthwait’s I Spy: An Alphabet in Art (Greenwillow, 1998) is a collection of 26 famous paintings, among them works by Rousseau, Goya, Chagall, Picasso, Renoir, and Matisse. Each is chosen to illustrate a letter of the alphabet, which often involves a bit of a hunt. The book begins with Rene Magritte’s Son of Man, with its prominent green Apple. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-74 Nathanael Iwata’s Steampunk Alphabet (Cameron + Company, 2013) takes ordinary alphabet-book fare – Apple, Balloon, Candle – and re-images them steampunk-style, in wood and brass, with dials, levers, cogs, and gears.  Included are explanations of the objects’ uses in an imagined steampunk universe. For ages 4 and up.
 images-6 In Stephen Johnson’s A is for Art (Simon & Schuster, 2008), there’s more than initially meets the eye. The book consists of 26 original works of abstract art, each containing concealed alphabet letters. For ages 6 and up.
 imgres-75 Some of the most gorgeous alphabets ever are surely the illuminated letters of medieval manuscripts.  Kids can learn about the process of 15th-century book-making in Bruce Robertson’s Marguerite Makes a Book (J. Paul Getty Museum Publications, 1999) in which young Marguerite, when her artist father is injured, takes over and finishes his beautiful hand-written and painted book. Fold-out pages explain the technicalities of the process, including how paints were mixed and gold leaf applied. For ages 7-12.
 images-7 This Illuminated Letter project has background information, color photos of examples, and instructions.
 imgres-76 Theodore Menten’s The Illuminated Alphabet (Dover Publications, 1971) is an inexpensive coloring book with 50 detailed black-line medieval letters to color. For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-77 Tony Seddon’s Draw Your Own Alphabets (Princeton Architectural Press, 2013) is a workbook with which users learn to draw thirty different creative fonts (and invent some of your own). For ages 10 and up.
From Wikihow, see How to Create a Font.
YourFonts.com is an online font generator that allows you to turn your handwriting into a font.
 Type-Alphabet9 Check out these 30 Amazing Alphabet Recreations – alphabets in everything from architecture to skylights, neon, books, and cucumbers.

ABCs with EXTRAS

 imgres-78 Jane Bayer’s A, My Name is Alice (Puffin, 1992) is an alphabetical picture-book version of the traditional jump rope rhyme, with illustrations by Steven Kellogg. (Add a jump rope and give it a try.) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-80 By Ann Whitford Paul, Eight Hands Round (HarperCollins, 1996) is a charmingly illustrated history of 26 alphabetical quilt patterns. For ages 4-9.
 imgres-81 Laura Rankin’s The Handmade Alphabet (Puffin, 1996) teaches American Sign Language with clever letter-related visual cues. For each letter, a hand demonstrates the finger positions of the ASL alphabet, along with an alphabetical extra: the G hand, for example, wears a glove; I points to an Icicle; the T hand sports three thimbles; the V holds a paper valentine. For ages 6 and up.
 imgres-82 Chris L. Demarest’s Alpha Bravo Charlie (Margaret K. McElderry, 2005) is a picture-book introduction to the military or International Communications Alphabet (ICA), along with a chart of the U.S. Navy’s alphabetical signal flags. For ages 6-9.
See Phonetic Alphabet Tables for more phonetic alphabets, along with a tool for inventing some of your own.
 imgres-83 Learn more about the U.S. Navy’s Phonetic Alphabet and Signal Flags.
 imgres-84 Tobi Tobias’s A World of Words (Lothrop Lee & Shepard, 1998) is a beautiful illustrated alphabet of quotations by such authors as Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Lewis Carroll. (Interested older kids might enjoy making alphabetic quotation books of their own.) For all ages.

ALPHABETICAL POETRY

 imgres-85 Katrina Vandenberg’s The Alphabet Not Unlike the World (Milkweed Editions, 2012) is a collection of poems named for the Phoenician letters of the alphabet. A compelling collection for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-86 Edward Lear’s Alphabet Poem runs from “A tumbled down and hurt his arm” to “Z said, ‘Here is a box of Zinc!’”
 imgres-87 Gennady Spirin’s A, Apple Pie (Philomel, 2005) is an enchantingly illustrated picture-book version of the traditional alphabet rhyme beginning “A was an Apple Pie/B bit it/C cut it…” For all ages.
 imgres-88 By Lee Bennett Hopkins, Alphathoughts (Wordsong, 2003) is an illusrated collection of 26 poems, each representing a letter of the alphabet. B is for Books, J for Jelly, L for Library, P for Pencil. For ages 6-8.
 imgres-89 Richard Wilbur’s picture book The Disappearing Alphabet (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001) demonstrates in clever rhymes what would happen if each letter of the alphabet should vanish: “What if the letter S were missing?/Cobras would have no way of hissing/And all their kin would have to take/The name of ERPENT or of NAKE.” Terrific for all ages.
 imgres-90 April Bubbles Chocolate: An ABC of Poetry, compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Simon & Schuster, 1994), is a collection of 26 short alphabetical poems ranging from Eve Merriam’s “April” to Carl Sandburg’s “Bubbles,” Karla Kushkin’s “Moon,” and Richard Brautigan’s “Xerox Candy Bar.” For ages 3-8.
 imgres-91 Jeanne Steig’s Alpha Beta Chowder (HarperTrophy, 1994) is a collection of hysterical alliterative alphabet rhymes. (T, for example, features Tactless Toby who teases Tina with tadpoles in her tapioca.) For ages 7 and up.
 imgres-92 Paul Janeczko’s Poetry from A to Z (Simon & Schuster, 1994) is a marvelous guide for young poets with projects, examples, and helpful hints for poetic genres listed alphabetically. Try, for example, Acrostics, Clerihews, How-to Poems and Haikus, Memory Poems, and Shape Poems. Highly recommended for ages 9-12.
For many more poetry books and resources, see Poetry I and Poetry II.

PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES

 imgres-93 Sara Midda’s How to Build an A (Artisan, 2008) is a simple alphabet book (A for Apple, B for Boy) that comes with eleven plastic puzzle pieces with which kids can build all the upper- and lower-case letters of the alphabet. For ages 2-5.
 imgres-94 Judy Press’s Alphabet Art (Williamson Publishing, 1997) is a collection of poems, songs, projects, games, and fingerplays for teaching the letters of the alphabet. For example, kids make upper- and lower-case Bs from bubblewrap (templates can be traced from the book), assemble a paper Butterfly, and read Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (which sounds like a C book, but there’s a gorgeous and enormous butterfly on the last page).For ages 2-6.
 imgres-95 From Enchanted Learning, Alphabet Book has instructions for putting together a simple version of an alphabet book for early learners. You’ll need construction paper and a lot of old magazines.
 imgres-95 Also see Design and Create an Alphabet Journal.
For older students, ABC Books Aren’t for Babies! has creative alphabet book activities for grades K-12. Included is an A to Z list of suggestions: students can make, for example, an Ancient Civilizations Alphabet Book, a Biology Alphabet Book, a Mathematics Alphabet Book, or a Technology Alphabet Book.
 920 Decorate with the alphabet! At Alphabet Around the Room, find instructions for making a cool wrap-around alphabet and word display.
 Alphabet-For-Starters-Alphabet-Peg-Dolls-300x215 From No Time for Flash Cards, 25 Alphabet Activities for Kids include making a magnetic alphabet garden, a letter pizza, a recycled alphabet, and a set of alphabet peg dolls.
 better-letters-craft-photo-420x420-FF0811CREATE_A16 Projects at Spoonful’s 26 Alphabet Crafts include growing the letters of your name (with wheat berry seeds), baking oatmeal ABC cookies, making letter gems, and assembling a photo alphabet book.
 imgres-96 At ABCYa, play Alphabet Bingo online. Learn upper- and lower-case letters.
Build Your Own Bingo has printable bingo boards and instructions for making your own alphabet bingo game.
 imgres-97 Check out this great Lego Spaceship Alphabet. (Build one of your own?)
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Snakes

The snake is almost always the bad guy. Voldemort’s Nagini in the Harry Potter series, Asmodeus Poisonteeth in Redwall, Cleopatra’s asp, and Satan in Milton’s “Paradise Lost” are all – well, pretty much evil. Kaa, the ancient python in Kipling’s Jungle Book, helps rescue Mowgli (the “man-cub”) from a band of hostile monkeys – but he also tries (several times) to eat him.

Still, to be fair, snakes can be adorable and cool. And they’re always interesting.

SNAKE STORIES

 imgres Colors! With a snake! In Alexander Wilensky’s The Splendid Spotted Snake (Workman Publishing, 2011), the cheerful snake – which, in the book, is made from a sturdy ribbon – is born with red spots, but as he grows, he gains more and more spots in sequentially different colors. For ages 2-5.
 imgres-1 Keith Baker’s Hide and Snake (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1995) is a gorgeously illustrated interactive picture book, in which readers try to find a colorfully patterned snake as it slithers from page to page, entangling itself in yarn, hats, baskets, cats, and shoelaces. For ages 2-6.
 imgres-2 In Ellen Stoll Walsh’s Mouse Count (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1995), a hungry snake decides to fill a jar with ten (charming) mice to take home for dinner. He counts them as he adds them, one by one, to the jar – but the mice cleverly manage to un-count themselves again and escape. An exercise in counting forward and backward for ages 2-6.
Creating a Mouse inspired by Mouse Count by Ellen Stohl Walsh Mouse Count Activities has games, activities, and printables to accompany the book. (Make adorable sewn-paper mice.)
 imgres-3 Salina Yoon’s Opposnakes (Little Simon, 2009) is an appealing lift-the-flap book about opposites, with snakes – which are variously clean and dirty, quiet and loud, hot and cold, straight and tangled, and more. For ages 3-6.
 imgres-4 Joan Heilbroner’s A Pet Named Sneaker (Random House, 2013) is a delightful Beginner Book starring Sneaker, a pet-store snake who wants only to be adopted. Finally a little boy named Pete takes him home, and Sneaker proves to be a wonderful pet (and even a hero). For ages 4-7.
 imgres-5 In Patricia Reilly Giff’s Watch Out! Man-Eating Snake! (Yearling, 1988) – one of the New Kids of Polk Street School series – it’s Stacy’s first day in kindergarten and she tries to make friends, but instead ends up terrifying everybody with her stories about her man-eating snake. (It’s really stuffed.) Luckily big sister Emily has some helpful advice about friendship. For ages 4-7.
 images Tomi Ungerer’s Crictor (HarperCollins, 1983) is the story of a perfectly delightful boa constrictor sent as a birthday present to Madame Bodot by her son who studies reptiles in Africa. Soon Crictor charms the entire village. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-6 Trinka Hakes Noble’s The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash (Puffin, 1992) is the riotous story of the disaster-laden day when Jimmy brings his pet boa constrictor on a class trip. With illustrations by Steven Kellogg. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-7 In Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo (Puffin, 2006), clever Mouse manages to scare off a hungry fox, owl, and snake by inventing a fearsome gruffalo (with terrible claws, terrible tusks, and terrible jaws). Mouse isn’t worried, because there’s no such thing as a gruffalo – until, to his horror, he actually encounters one. But it turns out that inventive Mouse has a story ready. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-8 In Janell Cannon’s Verdi (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997), Verdi is a bright-yellow little python who is determined never to grow up to be “lazy, boring, or green!” When, to his horror, he discovers that he’s developing a green stripe, he does his very best to get rid of it, which nearly leads to disaster. Eventually Verdi comes to terms with adulthood, discovering that – even though he’s green – “I’m still me!” For ages 4-8.
 images-1 In Randy Siegel’s My Snake Blake (Roaring Brook Press, 2012), the protagonist gets a super-long, bright green snake for his birthday as a present from his dad. (“I think your father is nuts,” said my mom, as she walked in, frowning. “And proud of it,” answered dad. “Now let the snake out.”) Luckily Blake is a very talented snake, capable of spelling words with his coils. Like “RELAX.” Funny and terrific for ages 4 and on up.
 imgres-10 “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” which first appeared in Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 classic The Jungle Book, is the story of a brave little mongoose who saves a British family in India from Nag and Nagaina, a pair of deadly cobras. For a picture-book version of the tale, see Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (Morrow Junior Books, 1997), with illustrations by Jerry Pinkney. For ages 5 and up.
 imgres-11 David Adler’s Cam Jansen: The Scary Snake Mystery (Puffin, 2005) stars young detective Cam Jansen, whose nickname (Cam is short for “Camera”) refers to her photographic memory. This one involves a loose snake and a stolen video camera. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-12 In Alexander McCall Smith’s Akimbo and the Snakes (Bloomsbury, 2006) – one of a series – ten-year-old Akimbo’s father is head ranger on a game preserve in Africa. In this book, Akimbo goes to visit his uncle’s snake farm, where he becomes involved in a hunt for a rare (and dangerous) green mamba. For ages 7-9.
 imgres-13 David Almond’s Mouse Bird Snake Wolf (Candlewick, 2013) is an original creation tale in which the gods – now back in the clouds, having naps and tea – have left gaps in the world. These are filled in by three imaginative children who conjure up a mouse, bird, snake, and finally a wolf. With the wolf, things get dangerous. A thought-provoking read for ages 7-10.
 imgres-14 Joy Cowley’s  Snake and Lizard (Kane/Miller Books, 2008) covers – in many short chapters – the adventures of two unlikely friends, laid-back Snake and excitable Lizard. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-15 The narrator of Patrick Jenning’s We Can’t All Be Rattlesnakes (HarperCollins, 2011) is Crusher, a gopher snake, captured by “an oily, filthy, fleshy human child” named Gunnar. (“Gunnar thinks I’ll be his adoring pet. He’s wrong.”) Snarky Crusher decides to pretend to be tame while plotting to escape, but soon finds herself feeling sorry for clueless Gunnar. Clever, funny, and a great animal voice. For ages 8-12.
 images-2 In The Reptile Room (HarperCollins, 2007) – Book 2 of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events series – the luckless Baudelaire orphans are living with their herpetologist Uncle Monty, owner of the Incredibly Deadly Viper. Hilariously miserable for ages 8-12.
 imgres-16 In Kurtis Scaletta’s Mamba Point (Yearling, 2011), 12-year-old Linus moves to Liberia where his father has a job at the American embassy.  Linus is terrified of deadly black mambas – but somehow mambas seem to be drawn to Linus. It turns out that Linus is a kaseng – a person with a mysterious connection to certain animals, in his case, mambas. Soon he has adopted a mamba as a pet – and with the help of the snake, he eventually becomes what he wants to be: “a whole new Linus.” For ages 8-12.
 imgres-17 Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), originally published in 1943, is the poetic and philosophical tale of an aviator who, as a child, drew a picture of an elephant that had been swallowed by a boa constrictor – but which all the adults around him said was a hat. Now an adult, the aviator is stranded in the desert, attempting to repair his plane, when he meets the mysterious little prince – here from his tiny distant home planet. For starts, the little prince knows the picture is of an elephant inside a snake. A wonderful story. Readers will find a lot to talk about. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-18 The 1974 film version of The Little Prince, in which Bob Fosse plays a superb Snake, is rated G.
 images-6 In Pat O’Shea’s The Hounds of the Morrigan (HarperTeen, 1999), ten-year-old Pidge and his little sister Brigit find a book in a second-hand bookshop that turns out to be an ancient prison for the powerful and evil serpent Olc-Glas. The Morrigan – goddess of death and destruction – wants to use the serpent’s power to take over the world, and the children soon find that they’re involved in a great battle between the forces of good and evil. This is a wonderful fantasy, filled with characters and images from Celtic mythology. It’s available through libraries and from used-book dealers. For fans of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, this one is well worth tracking down. Highly recommended for ages 11 and up.
 imgres-20 Rumer Godden’s The River (Trans-Atlantic Books, 2004) is the story of Harriet, who lives with her British family in India. There Harriet, a would-be poet, struggles with change and relationships – with her older sister, Bea; the wounded soldier, Captain John; and her little brother, who is fascinated with the cobra in the garden. A thoughtful and beautiful exploration of life and death, love, loss, and growing up. For ages 12 and up.
 images-3 Collected by Willee Lewis, Snake: An Anthology of Serpent Tales (M. Evans & Company, 2003) is a compendium of stories, poems, and first-person encounters with snakes, with contributions from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Emily Dickinson, Rudyard Kipling, Roald Dahl, Zora Neale Hurston, and Mark Twain. For ages 13 and up.
 imgres-21 From Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, “The Speckled Band” (spoiler!) involves a snake. Read it online here.
 images-4 From the Brothers Grimm, “The White Snake” centers around a magical (and apparently cooked) white snake that gives people the power to understand the language of animals. Read it online here.
 images-5 From The Guardian, check out this list of the Ten Best Snakes in Literature.
 imgres-22 In the Disney version of Robin Hood (1973), all the characters are animated – including Sir Hiss, wicked Prince John’s wicked snake sidekick. (Robin and Maid Marian are foxes.) Rated G.

 SNAKE MYTHS AND LEGENDS

 imgres-23 By Sheila MacGill-Callahan, The Last Snake in Ireland (Holiday House, 1999) is the story of (not-yet-saint) Patrick ousting the snakes from Ireland with a magic bell – all but one particularly ornery snake who persistently dogs Patrick’s heels until he finally manages to banish it to the depths of Scotland’s Loch Ness. When he returns, years later, to check on it, it’s still there. And much bigger. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-24 Sean Taylor’s The Great Snake: Stories from the Amazon (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2008) is a collection of nine pourquoi-style folktales collected in the course of a boat trip along the Amazon, among them “The Great Snake.” Illustrations are colored woodcuts. For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-25 Aaron Shepard’s lavishly illustrated Lady White Snake (Pan Asian Publications, 2001) is a tale from Chinese opera in which the beautiful Lady White – a snake in human form – falls in love with a young man and marries. A monk, who discovers Lady White’s true nature, finally succeeds – after a battle – in driving the lovers apart and imprisoning Lady White under a pagoda. (Though Lady White still has warrior friends who come to her aid.) Readers can also learn a handful of Chinese characters, including the one for “snake.” For ages 8-12.
 imgres-26 Geraldine McCaughrean’s Perseus (Cricket Books, 2005) is a 160-page retelling of the Greek myth of Perseus, who slays the snake-headed gorgon Medusa and rescues the beautiful princess Andromeda. For ages 10 and up.
 images-5 Edited by Gregory McNamee, The Serpent’s Tale (University of Georgia Press, 2000) is a collection of snakes stories and tales from around the world, including folktales from Germany, the American Southwest, China, Yugoslavia, Iceland, and India. For ages 13 and up.

SNAKE SCIENCE

 imgres-28 Patricia Lauber’s Snakes Are Hunters (HarperCollins, 2002) – one of the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series – is a nicely presented picture-book overview of the natural history of snakes, variously covering anatomy, senses, predators, food, and egg-laying. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-29 By Janet Halfman, Garter Snake at Willow Creek Lane (First Edition, 2011) – one of the Smithsonian’s Backyard series – is the story of a young garter snake, on her own since she was a two-day-old snakeling, learning how to survive and, as winter approaches, searching for a safe place to spend the coming cold months. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-30 Sarah L. Thomson’s Amazing Snakes (HarperCollins, 2006) – one of the I Can Read series – is a nicely done introduction to snakes for beginning readers. (“There are more than 2000 different kinds of snakes. Some are shorter than a pencil. Some are almost as long as a school bus.”) For nonfiction lovers ages 5-7.
 imgres-31 Amanda O’Neill’s I Wonder Why Snakes Shed Their Skin (Kingfisher, 2011) is an engaging overview of reptiles, organized in question-and-answer format for a great interactive read. Which is the biggest reptile? Which is the biggest snake? Why do snakes stare? Illustrated with color photos and cartoons. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-32 By Diane Burns, Snakes, Salamanders, and Lizards (Cooper Square Publishing, 1995) is one of the Take Along Guides, with background information, identification helps, note pages, and three simple craft projects (make a dried-bean picture of a snake, for example). For ages 6-9.
 imgres-33 In Kate Jackson’s Katie of the Sonoran Desert (Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum Press, 2009), Katie is a diamondback rattlesnake. Told from the point of view of Katie as she hunts for food, fights predators, and protects her young, this is a good introduction to snake science for ages 7 and up. In both English and Spanish.
 imgres-34 Seymour Simon’s 32-page Snakes (HarperCollins, 2007), illustrated with terrific color photographs, is an excellent introduction to snake anatomy, behavior, and taxonomy for ages  8-12.
 imgres-36 Cindy Blobaum’s Awesome Snake Science (Chicago Review Press, 2012) is packed with information, photos, diagrams, and “40 Activities for Learning About Snakes.” Subsections include Snake Study, Body Basics, Awesome Adaptations, Super Senses, On the Offense (make virtual viper venom), and Definitely Defense (make a color-changing snake). A great resource for ages 9-12.
 imgres-37 By Marianne Taylor, What If Humans Were Like Animals? (Readers Digest, 2013), in icky science mode, details “The Amazing and Disgusting Life You’d Lead as a Snake, Bird, Fish or Worm.” For ages 9-12.
imgres-38 By Sy Montgomery with photographer Nic Bishop, The Snake Scientist (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001) – one of the Scientists in the Field series – follows the research of herpetologist Robert Mason on the red-sided garter snake. Find out what snake scientists do. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-39 David Badger’s 144-page Snakes (Crestline Books, 2011) has information on the history of humans and snakes, nonfiction accounts of various aspects of snake biology, and over 100 spectacular color photographs of snakes. For snake-lovers of all ages.
 imgres-40 Also see the similarly authoritative Snakes (Firefly Books, 2012) by David Gower, Katherine Garrett, and Peter Stafford.
 imgres-41 From the California Academy of Science, Snakes and Lizards: Length and Movement is a hands-on activity in which kids measure and research a range of snakes and lizards. Find out what a squamate is. For ages 5-11.
 imgres-42 From the Smithsonian, read about the 40-foot-long Titanboa, the largest snake ever.
 imgres-43 Read all about the biggest living snake, the Giant Anaconda.
 imgres-44 How Snakes Work covers snake anatomy and senses, growth, movement, digestion, and sex. Plus a note on flying snakes.
 images-9 Scientists believe that snakes probably evolved from a lizard. Find out about it at How Snakes Lost Their Legs.
  imgres-46 Take a Virtual Tour of the Reptile Discovery Center at the National Zoo.
 images-7 The Snake Conservation Center hosts an annual citizen science project called the Fall Snake Count. Help map and track snake distributions across North America.

SNAKE POEMS

 imgres-47 Douglas Florian’s lizards, frogs, and polliwogs (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005) is a collection of 21 illustrated poems about reptiles and amphibians. Featured: the diamondback rattlesnake, cobra, and python. For ages 5-10.
 imgres-48 Practically everybody loves Shel’s Silverstein’s I’m Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor. (Oh, gee/It’s up to my knee.)
 imgres-49 Put to music, it’s on Peter, Paul, and Mary’s 1990 CD Peter, Paul and Mommy.
 images-8 By the irrepressible Ogden Nash, The Python begins “The python has, and I fib no fibs/318 pairs of ribs…”
 imgres-50 Emily Dickinson’s poem Snake about “a narrow fellow in the grass” ends “But never met this fellow/Attended or alone/Without a tighter breathing,/And zero at the bone.”
 images-5 Read Hunting Snake by Judith Wright.
 imgres-51 Read D.H. Lawrence’s poem “Snake” here.

PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES

 chocsnake KidZone’s Snake Activities has printable snake books and worksheets, a snake life cycle sheet, snake puzzles and coloring pages, and a recipe for chocolate snakes.
 IMG_2487-409x6141 Make Rainbow Bubble Snakes. You’ll need plastic water bottles, old socks, duct tape, dish soap, and food coloring.
 kids-craft-sock-snakes What to do with those hopeless single socks? Make Sock Snakes.
 Snake O'Cups 2 Make a Cup Snake.
 eggcartonsnake Or an Egg Carton Snake Puppet.
 563 Slithering Snake is an activity in which kids research snakes, model snakes from clay, paint them in realistic (or not realistic) colors, and build snake habitats.
 015 Make a Shape Snake with colored felt, ribbon, and buttons.
 snake-art-lesson From Deep Space Sparkle, check out this wonderful project for making glittery Snakes in the Grass.
 spapersnake From DLTK’s Crafts for Kids, Snake Activities has a list of cool snake crafts, including shape snakes, egg-carton snakes, fingerprint snakes, paper-chain snakes, and a boingy spiral snake.
 images-10 From Art Projects for Kids, Snake Template is a printable pattern for a spiral snake project.
 images-10 This You Tube video shows how to make a great Springy Snake from a paper plate.
 tie-snake-done-img_0662 From Artists Helping Children, Snake Crafts for Kids include alphabet snakes, a snake tie (yes, tie; think Father’s Day), a crocheted snake, an origami snake, and even a pumpkin snake.
 SONY DSC Got bubble wrap? Make this terrific Bubble Wrap Snake.
 draft_lens18700368module154204570photo_1318625374snake_crafts_for_kids Make a Snake Bookmark with craft foam.
 IMG_4229edit From eighteen25, particularly adorable painted TP Roll Snakes.
 snake-basket From Dick Blick, see instructions for making a polymer clay Snake Basket.
 51r9Wq+u92L This Wooden Snakes Craft Kit has 12 ready-to-paint wiggly wooden snakes. All supplies included. $16.99.
 imgres-52 Snakes and Ladders (or Chutes and Ladders) is a classic board game that originated in ancient India. Play a round online here. (The aim: maneuver your game piece across the board, while being helped by ladders and hindered by snakes.) Snakes and Ladders games, including the classic board game, a pirate-themed version, a snakeless Chutes and Ladders version, and an Android app are available from Amazon.com.
 imgres-53 Jan Sovak’s Snakes of the World Coloring Book (Dover Publications, 1995) has brief information and black-line, ready-to-color portraits of some 40 different snakes, among them the anaconda, king cobra, cottonmouth, puff adder, and garter snake.

AND DON’T LEAVE OUT…

 220px-Serpiente_alquimica Ouroboros, the ancient symbol of a snake swallowing its own tail, represents the cycle of life.
Snakes in Ancient Art Hiss-tory is a brief illustrated overview. Ideas for research projects for older kids?
 a0001559 Check out M.C. Escher’s woodcut Snakes. (Count the snakes?)
 250px-Gadsden_flag.svg The famous Gadsden flag – named for its designer Christopher Gadsden – was created during the American Revolution and pictures a coiled rattlesnake with the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.” This article has interesting information on historical snake flags and snake symbolism.

 

 

 

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Clouds and Rain

 

If into each life some rain must fall, we might as well have some fun with it. Try making a cloud in a bottle or baking a thunder cake. See below for fiction and nonfiction books, poems, projects, experiments, recipes, and arts and crafts, all having to do with clouds and rain.

CLOUD AND RAIN STORIES

 imgres Robert Kalan’s Rain (Greenwillow Books, 1991) is as much about colors as rain, beginning with “Blue sky,” “Yellow sun,” and “White clouds.” Then the sky turns gray and rain falls – and finally there’s a wonderful multicolored rainbow. For ages 2-5.
 imgres-1 In Eric Carle’s Little Cloud (Philomel, 1996), Little Cloud changes itself into a handful of different shapes – a sheep, a tree, a bunny, an airplane – before joining in with the other clouds to make a rainstorm. For ages 2-6.
 imgres-2 In Manya Stojic’s Rain (Dragonfly Books, 2009), rain finally comes to the hot dry African savanna. The porcupine smells it first, and runs to tell the zebras, who see distant lightning. They rush to tell the baboons, who hear thunder; then the rhinoceros feels the first falling drops. Both a rain story and an exploration of the five senses for ages 3-7.
 imgres-3 In Charlotte Zolotow’s The Storm Book (HarperCollins, 1989) – a Caldecott Honor book – it’s a hot summer day in the country when a storm sweeps in, and then retreats, leaving behind a beautiful rainbow. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-4 Charles Shaw’s It Looked Like Spilt Milk (HarperCollins, 1988) is a collection of splotchy white shapes on a dark blue background, with an attention-grabbing refrain: “Sometimes it looked like a Rabbit. But it wasn’t a Rabbit./Sometimes it looked like a Bird. But it wasn’t a Bird.”) On the last page, readers find out just was it is: a floating white cloud. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-5 In David Shannon’s The Rain Came Down (Blue Sky Press), the rain makes everybody cross. The chickens squawk, the cat yowls, the dog barks, people yell, and in no time the entire neighborhood is squabbling – all to the refrain of “the rain came down.” Then (!) the rain stops, the sun comes out, and soon all problems are magically resolved. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-6 Linda Ashman’s picture book Rain (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) combines two very different takes on the weather – that of a disgruntled old man (“Nasty galoshes!” “Dang puddles!”) and that of an exuberant little kid pretending to be a frog. A charmer for ages 4-7.
imgres-95 In David Wiesner’s Sector 7 (Clarion Books, 1999) – a Caldecott Honor Book – a little boy on a visit to the Empire State Building befriends a cloud and is carried off to the Cloud Dispatch Center in the sky, responsible for Sector 7 which encompasses New York City. There he discovers that the clouds are unhappy with their strictly regulated shapes and sizes, and so sets out to remedy the matter, turning them into a marvelous variety of fantastic shapes. For ages 4-8.
 images In “Clouds” – one of the short clever stories in Arnold Lobel’s Mouse Tales (HarperCollins, 1978) – a little mouse enjoys watching the changing shapes of clouds until, to his horror, a cloud takes the shape of an enormous cat. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-7 Uri Shulevitch’s Rain Rain Rivers (Square Fish, 2006) is a lyrical celebration of rain, beginning with a little girl sitting in her attic bedroom listening to rain on the roof. For ages 4-8.
 images-1 In Rob Scotton’s The Rain is a Pain (HarperCollins, 2012), Splat the Cat is happily trying out his new purple rollerskates when a determined and annoying cloud moves in. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-8 In Tom Lichtenheld’s Cloudette (Henry Holt and Company, 2011), the title character is a very small and adorable cloud. Being small has many advantages, but Cloudette sees how bigger clouds behave, watering crops and filling waterfalls and rivers, and she wants to make a difference too. And finally she does, for one small unhappy frog. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-9 In James Stevenson’s We Hate Rain! (Greenwillow Books, 1988), Louie and Mary Ann are fretting because it has rained for two days straight, so Grandpa tells a tale from his youth when he, his brother Wainey, and family were deluged in a truly spectacular rain that filled their Victorian house to the roof. Like all Stevenson books, it’s clever and hilarious. It’s also infuriatingly out of print; check your local library. It’s also available from used-book suppliers. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-10 In Judi Barrett’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Atheneum, 1978), the village of Chewandswallow gets its food three times a day from the weather – it rains, snows, and blows orange juice, mashed potatoes, and hamburgers. Then, suddenly, the food-bearing weather turns vicious. For ages 4-8.
  From Library Lessons, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a multidisciplinary lesson plan for grades 2-5. (Among the projects: create a Chewandswallow newspaper reporting on the weather disaster.)
 imgres-30 The film version of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is 90 minutes long and rated PG.
 imgres-11 In Dr. Seuss’s Bartholomew and the Oobleck (Random House, 1949), King Derwin is bored with rain, snow, and fog, and so demands that the royal magicians (“mystic men who eat boiled owls”) create something new and different to fall from the sky. They produce a disastrous storm of gooey green oobleck, and it’s up to the king’s commonsensical page boy, Bartholomew, to solve the problem. For ages 4-9.
 images-2 From Scientific American, It’s a Solid…It’s a Liquid…It’s Oobleck! has a recipe for making your own oobleck and an explanation of why it behaves the way it does.
 imgres-12 In Michael Catchpool’s The Cloud Spinner (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012), a young boy can weave beautiful cloth from clouds: “gold in the morning with the rising sun, white in the afternoon, and crimson in the evening” and “soft as a mouse’s touch and warm as roasted chestnuts,” He’s always careful, though, never to weave too much, having been taught by his mother that “enough is enough, and not one stitch more.” Then the king discovers the wonderful cloth and demands more and more of it – until the kingdom is at risk of losing its clouds, with awful consequences for all. Luckily the wise young princess intervenes. A lovely ecological tale for ages 5-8.
 imgres-13 In David Wisniewski’s Rain Player (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1995), the land is threatened with a drought, so Pik, a young Mayan boy, challenges Chac, the rain god, to a game of ball. With wonderful Mayan-style cut-paper illustrations. For ages 5-9.

THE SCIENCE AND HISTORY OF CLOUDS AND RAIN

 imgres-14 Franklyn M. Branley’s Down Comes the Rain (HarperCollins, 1997), one of the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, is an appealing picture-book overview of the water cycle. Readers learn all about evaporation, condensation, cloud formation, and precipitation. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-15 Anne Rockwell’s Clouds (HarperCollins, 2008), one of the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, is a simple introduction to the different kinds of clouds and how they help us predict the weather. Included are instructions for making a cloud in a jar. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-16 Tomie dePaola’s The Cloud Book (Holiday House, 1984) covers ten different kinds of clouds (“Cumulus clouds are puffy and look like cauliflowers”), cloud mythology and traditional sayings, and ends with a short and silly cloud story. The illustrations are delightful. For ages 4-7.
Scholastic’s The Cloud Book Teaching Plan has several science activities to accompany de Paola’s The Cloud Book, among them making a cloud in a jar and a model water cycle, collecting and graphing rainfall data, and measuring the size of raindrops.
 imgres-17 Lawrence Lowery’s Cloud, Rain, Clouds Again (NSTA Press, 2013), one of the I Wonder Why series, is a picture-book introduction to the water cycle with an included activity handbook. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-18 Melvin Berger and Gilda Berger’s Can It Rain Cats and Dogs? (Scholastic, 1999), written in interactive question-and-answer format, is an overview of weather divided into three main sections: Sun, Air, and Wind; Rain, Snow, and Hail; and Wild Weather. An interesting interactive read for ages 5-9.
 imgres-19 Seymour Simon’s Weather (HarperCollins, 2006), illustrated with gorgeous full-page color photographs, is an overview of the causes and effects of the world’s weather for ages 6-12.
 imgres-20 Seymour Simon has several other excellent weather-related books in the same format, among them Storms, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and Lightning.
 imgres-21 Laura Lee’s Blame It on the Rain: How the Weather Has Changed History (William Morrow, 2006) is a fascinating and reader-friendly overview of the historical impact of weather, with such chapters as “Greenland’s Vikings,” “Gee, It’s Cold in Russia,” “Washington and Weather,” and “Rain Ruins Robespierre.” For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-22 Richard Hamblyn’s The Invention of Clouds (Picador, 2002) is the story of Luke Howard, the early-19th-century amateur meteorologist who came up with the cloud classification and naming system that we still use today. For teenagers and adults.

APPRECIATING CLOUDS/CLASSIFYING CLOUDS

 imgres-23 By John A. Day and Vincent J. Schaefer, the 128-page Peterson First Guide to Clouds and Weather (Houghton Mifflin, 1991) includes basic weather info and 116 helpful color photos for cloud spotters. For ages 6 and up.
 imgres-24 Other field guides for weather watchers include David Ludlum’s National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Weather (Knopf, 1991).
 imgres-25 Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s The Cloudspotter’s Guide (Perigee, 2007) is a 330+-page account of the science, history and culture of clouds, filled with fascinating facts and helpful illustrated cloud-spotting charts.  Also by Pretor-Pinney, see The Cloud Collector’s Handbook (Chronicle Books, 2011) which is part cloud identification manual, part journal for recording your cloud sightings. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-26 By Louis D. Rubin and Jim Duncan, The Weather Wizard’s Cloud Book (Algonquin Books, 1989) describes a “unique way to predict the weather” by reading the clouds. An appendix explains how to set up a home weather station. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-27 Richard Hamblyn’s 144-page Extraordinary Clouds (David & Charles, 2009) is a collection of gorgeous color photographs of truly extraordinary clouds, each with accompanying explanation. Arranged in five sections: Clouds from the Air, Strange Shapes, Optical Effects, Theatrical Skies, and Man-made Clouds. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-28 Are you a cloud lover? Join the Cloud Appreciation Society and fight blue-sky thinking!
 imgres-29 Listen to Cloud Appreciation Society founder Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s TED talk on clouds.
 imgres-31 Nephelococcygia is the practice of cloud-watching. This cloud-watching lesson plan has art, writing, and math activities for early-elementary students.
 imgres-33 From Plymouth State University, Cloud Boutique is a photo-illustrated overview of cloud classification.
 bunny Cool Clouds is a great collection of photos of clouds that (more or less) look like things. Included is a gallery of clouds for viewers to make their own guesses as to what they look like.
 imgres-32 From SCOOL, Cloud Types is a straightforward video tutorial with helpful diagrams and photos.
 images-4 The Clouds 365 Project aims to take a cloud photo every day of the year. (Try it on your own!)

PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES

 imgres-34 Weather Dance Lesson Plan from Arizona State University is a creative (and active) collection of activities in which elementary-level kids learn about clouds and cloud formation and invent representative weather-related dances. Included are resource lists, music recommendations, and teaching suggestions.
 imgres-35 From Wonderopolis, find out How Much Rain Can a Cloud Hold? – and watch a cool (and funny) short video.
 imgres-36 Meteorologist Dan Satterfield’s Wild Wild Weather page has weather puzzles and quizzes, an informative Wild Weather Journal, illustrated info on a long list of weather topics (such as Clouds, Precipitation, Satellites, Humidity, Forecasting, and Climate), and more.
 imgres-37 From Science@home, Keeping a Weather Diary has suggestions and downloadable fill-in-the-data Easy and Advanced Diaries.
 images-5 From NeoK12, Water Cycle has online quizzes and puzzles and a series of short educational videos. (One of these shows how to make your own water cycle in a box.)
 images-6 See The Big Freeze for Make Your Own Cloud, a multi-part lesson plan in which kids learn about clouds and the water cycle and make a cloud in a jar; and Build Your Own Weather Station, in which kids learn about weather instruments and build a barometer, rain gauge, wind vane, and anemometer.
 imgres-38 From Steve Spangler Science, the Cloud in a Bottle Experiment has detailed photo-illustrated instructions and an explanation of the results.
 imgres-39 From HoodaMath, Cloud Wars is a strategy game, playable on several different levels, in which players attempt to capture clouds and take over the sky.
 imgres-40 Studying acid rain? Find out how to make some here, along with suggestions for science projects. Are Plants Affected by Acid Rain? also has detailed instructions for an acid-rain experiment.
 imgres-41 Let’s Make It Rain is a You Tube video of a simple rain-making experiment.
 DIY-rain-gauge-165x250 DIY Rain Gauge has instructions for building one, using a two-liter plastic bottle.
 WaterCycleYSE Weather Science Projects has background information and instructions for making a model water cycle and a cloud in a jar.
 imgres-42 The Weather WizKids site has kid-friendly info on weather features (among them Clouds, Rain & Floods, Wind, Temperature, Lightning, Hurricanes, and more), weather experiments, weather games, a list of weather instruments, and a photo gallery.
 imgres-43 Scholastic’s WeatherWatch has a collection of great interactive projects and activities. Kids can identify and track clouds, gather data using weather instruments, become “Weather Detectives” and research causes of weather, take a try at forecasting the weather, research extreme weather, and check out “Nature in the News.”
 images-7 From the Franklin Institute, Franklin’s Forecast has information (and an experiment) on El Niño, instructions for building your own weather station, a tutorial on radar, weather satellite history, and a fun list of weather activities, including a hyperlinked list of Musical Meteorology.
 imgres-44 From NASA, ClimateKids has an animated list of the “Big Questions” about Weather and Climate, Air, Ocean, Water, Carbon, Energy, Plants & Animals, and Technology. Also included are a Climate Time Machine, instructions for hands-on projects (“Make Stuff”), and great resources for teachers.
 imgres-45 Web Weather for Kids has interactive overviews of Clouds, Hurricanes, Blizzards, and Thunderstorms/Tornadoes, along with hands-on projects, a Cloud Matching game, and step-by-step instructions for reading weather maps and forecasting the weather. Projects include making fog in a jar, modeling convection currents, a tornado, and rain, and making a hot-air balloon.
 imgres-46 The Weather Dude has basic info on weather topics, statistics on world weather, daily weather stories, weather maps, and a lot of weather songs (available on CD or as downloads).
 images-9 My NASA Data Lesson Plans are grade-categorized lessons using NASA-generated atmospheric and earth science data. Sample lesson titles are “Cold, Clouds, and Snowflakes,” “Atmospheric Pressure vs. Elevation,”and “Hurricanes as Heat Engines.”
 imgres-33 From Nature, Climate Forecasting is an excellent article for older readers on clouds, climate modeling, and air pollution.
 imgres-47 Cosmic rays and clouds? The Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets (CLOUD) experiment is studying the possible link between galactic cosmic rays and cloud formation. Read about it here.
 imgres-48 From NOVALabs, Cloud Lab Guide has a great collection of educational science videos and links to weather-related NOVA programs (among them “Earth from Space” and “Inside a Megastorm”).
 imgres-49 By Craig F. Bohren, Clouds in a Glass of Beer (Dover Publications, 1987) is a collection of “simple experiments in atmospheric physics,” among them not only “Clouds in a Glass of Beer,” but “Mixing Clouds,” “Black Clouds,” “Indoor Rainbows,” and more. Very thorough explanations for teenagers and adults.

STORM STORIES

 imgres-50 Nancy Tafuri’s The Big Storm (Simon & Schuster, 2009) is a “Very Soggy Counting Book” from 1 to 10 as more and more animals take shelter from the storm in a cave. For ages 2-5.
 imgres-51 In Jamie Swenson’s rhyming Boom! Boom! Boom! (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013), an imperturbable little boy is peacefully reading in bed with his teddy bear (Fred) when – FLASH! CRASH! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! – a thunderstorm cuts loose. Soon any number of friends, beginning with a nervous puppy, are crawling into bed with him. For ages 2-6.
 imgres-52 In Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Walter Was Worried (Square Fish, 2006), the sky turns dark and a storm rolls in, with arouses a whole range of emotions: Walter was worried; Priscilla was puzzled; Shirley, shocked; and Frederick, frightened. Their feelings are literally spelled out in letters on their face, which makes for a fun interactive read. (Walter’s eyebrows, for example, are the r’s in “worried.”) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-53 In Patricia Polacco’s Thunder Cake (Puffin, 1997), a little girl is frightened by an approaching thunderstorm, and her grandmother reassures her (“This is Thunder Cake baking weather, all right.”), by baking a very special cake. For ages 4-8.
  From Patricia Polacco’s website, Thunder Cake has printables, discussion questions, and activities to accompany the book.
  From Food.com, see this yummy recipe for Patricia Polacco’s Thunder Cake.
 imgres-54 Arthur Geisert’s brilliantly illustrated Thunderstorm (Enchanted Lion Books, 2013) is a timeline – the text just a list of sequential times of day – of a thunderstorm, escalating to a tornado, moving in on a small Midwestern farm. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-55 The heroine of Jerdine Nolan’s tall tale Thunder Rose (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007) was born on a stormy night and grew up to be a most unusual girl, capable of lifting a cow over her head, trouncing rustlers, squeezing rain out of clouds, and facing down tornados. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-56 In Mary Stolz’s Storm in the Night (HarperCollins, 1990), a frightening storm has knocked out the power, so a grandfather tells his young grandson a story from when he was a boy in a storm as they sit together in the dark. Wonderful storm imagery and themes of intergenerational connection and overcoming fear. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-57 In Peter and Connie Roop’s Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie (Carolrhoda Books, 1987), set in 1856 in Maine, young Abbie is left in charge of the lighthouse, her sick mother, and three younger sisters when her father, the lighthouse keeper, goes to the mainland for medicine. When a fierce storm blows up, Abbie is on her own for weeks, keeping the lights burning and caring for her family. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-58 For another version of Abbie’s story, see Marcia Vaughn’s Abbie Against the Storm (Aladdin, 1999).
 imgres-59 Bruce Hiscock’s The Big Storm (Boyds Mills Press, 2008) is the picture-book story of a landmark storm that swept across the United States in 1982, creating avalanches, tornadoes, and blizzards as it went. Readers learn about warm and cold fronts and air pressure. Illustrated with paintings and diagrams. For ages 6-10.
 imgres-60 In Mary Pope Osborne’s Twister on Tuesday (Random House, 2001) – one of the popular Magic Tree House series – Jack and Annie are sent to a one-room schoolhouse on the Kansas prairie in the 1870s, and must save their classmates when a tornado moves in. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-61 In Jennifer Smith’s The Storm Makers (Little, Brown, 2013) twins Ruby and Simon are having a strange summer, bedeviled with weird weather – which, it turns out, is all Simon’s fault. Simon is a Storm Maker, one of a group of powerful people capable of controlling the world’s weather. Soon opposing forces in the Makers of Storm Society, good and bad, are competing to control him, since Simon may be the most powerful Storm Maker of all time. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-62 In Roland Smith’s Storm Runners (Scholastic, 2012), Chase Masters and his father John spend their time traveling the country in pursuit of violent storms. In this, the first of a storm-filled adventure series, they encounter horrific Hurricane Emily. For ages 8-12.
Visit Roland Smith’s homepage to play the Storm Runners Game.
 imgres-63 In Ivy Ruckman’s Night of the Twisters (HarperCollins, 2003), twelve-year-old Dan, his best friend Arthur, and baby brother Ryan are on their own when a fearsome tornado rips through their Nebraska town. Fictionalized, but based on a real event. For ages 8-12.

 STORM SCIENCE

 imgres-64 In the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, Franklyn M. Branley’s Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll (HarperCollins, 1999) is a delightfully illustrated introduction to thunderstorms – with great diagrams – for ages 4-8.
 imgres-65 Other weather books in this series include Anne Rockwell’s Clouds, Lynda DeWitt’s What Will the Weather Be?, Arthur Dorros’s Feel the Wind, and – both by Franklyn M. Branley – Down Comes the Rain and Tornado Alert! An entire weather library for ages 4-8.
 imgres-66 Myron Uhlberg’s A Storm Called Katrina (Peachtree Publishers, 2011) is the harrowing story of the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, seen through the eyes of ten-year-old Louis Daniel – who wants to be a horn player like Louis Armstrong and manages to save only his brass cornet from the wreckage of his family’s home. For ages 4-9.
 imgres-67 By Simon Basher and Dan Green, Weather (Kingfisher Books, 2012) is terrific, with funny and informative first-person characterizations of important weather features – among them the Sun, the Atmosphere, Hail, Sleet, Hurricane, and El Nino. (Monsoon – a huge water drop – announces “Boy, am I a big crybaby! Every year I change from bright and sunny to sullen and sulky. I turn on the tears, instantly bringing cloudbursts of my favorite play pal, Rain.”) For ages 8-13.
 imgres-68 Lee Sandlin’s Storm Kings (Pantheon, 2013) is a fascinating history of tornados and tornado chasers, beginning with the “Electricians” – stage magicians who performed tricks with static electricity – who inspired Benjamin Franklin to embark on his famous key-and-kite experiment with lightning. An absorbing and exciting read for teenagers and adults.
 images-10 From Steve Spangler Science, use the Tornado Tube and a couple of one-liter plastic soda bottles to create your own tornado. Tornado in a Bottle has instructions for tornado-tube experiments and an explanation of how the tube works.
 imgres-20 Rosalyn Schanzer’s How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning (HarperCollins, 2002) is an upbeat picture-book account of Ben Franklin’s inventions and innovations, with emphasis on his interest in electricity and his investigations into the nature of lightning. For ages 6-10.
For more resources, see BEN FRANKLIN.

POETRY

 imgres-69 Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem Rain appears in A Child’s Garden of Verses, originally published in 1913. “The rain is raining all around/It falls on field and tree…”)
 imgres-71 Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem The Cloud begins “I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers.”
 imgres-72 Christini Rossetti’s Clouds begins “White sheep, white sheep/On a blue hill…”
 images-11 See William Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.
 imgres-73 Carl Sandburg’s Fog comes on little cat feet.
 imgres-74 By poet Elena Roo, The Rain Train (Candlewick, 2011) is an onomatopoetic journey by train in the rain. For ages 3-6.
 imgres-75 By Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault, Listen to the Rain (Henry Holt and Company, 1988) is an irresistible poem that echoes the sound of rain: “Listen to the rain/the whisper of the rain/the slow soft sprinkle/the drip-drop tinkle/the first wet whisper of the rain.” For ages 3-7.
 imgres-76 A lover of rain is called a pluvophile. If you are one, visit Rainy Mood to listen to the rain anytime.
 imgres-77 Julian Scheer’s marvelously illustrated Rain Makes Applesauce (Holiday House, 1964) is a wonderful magical read. (“The stars are made of lemon juice/and rain makes applesauce./(Oh, you’re just talking silly talk.)”) Read the entire poem here. For ages 4 and up.
 imgres-78 By Joan Bransfield Graham, Splish Splash (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001) is a great collection of concrete poems about all things water, including one titled “Clouds.” (Kids will want to invent some of their own.) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-79 In Verna Aardema’s rhyming Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain (Puffin, 1992), there’s a drought in Kenya (“These are the cows, all hungry and dry/Who mooed for the rain to fall from the sky”) – which Ki-pat the herdsman ends when he fires an arrow far into the air. Wonderful illustrations of African animals. For ages 4-8.
From Reading Rainbow, listen to James Earl Jones read the book here.
 imgres-80 Karen Hesse’s Come on, Rain (Scholastic, 1999) is a poetic picture-book celebration of rain cooling a big-city summer heat wave, with great illustrations by Jon Muth. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-81 Thomas Locker’s Cloud Dance (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003) is a poetic survey of clouds, illustrated with glorious paintings. (“Nighttime clouds/with silver edges/shimmer in the moonlight.”) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-82 Selected by X.J. Kennedy and Dorothy M. Kennedy, Talking Like the Rain (Little, Brown, 1992) is an illustrated collection of poems for children. The “Wind and Weather” section includes poems by Christina Rossetti, Nikki Giovanni, Eve Merriam, Gwendolyn Brooks, and more. For ages 4-9.
 images-12 From the Weather Channel, check out 15 Songs Inspired by Weather, among them “Here Comes the Sun” and “Over the Rainbow.”
 imgres-83 The title poem of Jack Prelutsky’s poetry collection It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles (Greenwillow Books, 2005) is a celebration of silly and wonderful rains. (“It’s raining pigs and noodles/it’s pouring frogs and hats/chrysanthemums and poodles/bananas, brooms, and cats.”) For ages 5-10.
 imgres-88 In Nancy Willard’s wonderful and evocative poetry collection A Visit to William Blake’s Inn (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1982), with illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen, see “The Wise Cow Enjoys a Cloud.” Highly recommended for all ages.
 imgres-84 What if rain dripped in your head and flowed into your brain? Read Shel Silverstein’s Rain.
 imgres-76 From Mother Goose Caboose, Rain Poems is a great list, including selections from Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Langston Hughes, and Elizabeth Coatsworth.
 imgres-85 Read Rain by Don Paterson, from the poetry collection of the same title.
 imgres-86 By Langston Hughes, see In Time of Silver Rain.
 imgres-87 “Into each life some rain must fall.” So says Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in The Rainy Day.

RAIN? OR REIGN?

 imgres-89 Fred Gwynne’s The King Who Rained (Aladdin, 1998) is a picture book of homophones and idioms, as a puzzled little girl misinterprets forks in the road, fairy tails, boars to dinner, foot prince in the snow, and the king who rained for forty years. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-90 By Will Moses, Raining Cats and Dogs (Philomel, 2008) is a collection of “irresistible idioms and illustrations to tickle the funny bones of young people,” illustrated with Moses’s signature folk art. Lots of fun wordplay for ages 6-11.

CLOUDS, RAIN, AND ART

 imgres-91 Wordle is a cool toy for generating “word clouds” from text. See samples here and create word clouds of your own.
 Shutter_Stock-CottonwoolCloud Make a cloud collage. You’ll need several different kinds of blue paper and some fluffy cotton.
 scloudwpuppet From DLTK’s Crafts, Weather Activities is a collection of projects for preschoolers and elementary-level kids. For example, kids make a cloud wind puppet, paper-cut and salt-crystal snowflakes, a handprint sun, a windsock, and a pinwheel.
 imgres-1 Little Cloud is an art lesson plan from Kinderart in which kids make stuffed clouds and raindrop pictures.
 rainbow-jelly-150x150 From Red Ted Art, Weather Get Crafty is a selection of particularly gorgeous weather-based crafts, among them suncatchers, sundials, windspinners, wind chimes, and rain mobiles. There’s even a recipe for yummy rainbow jelly (topped with a cloud).
 IMG_0602_wm From Holly’s Arts and Crafts Corner, the Cloud Jars look like great fun: you’ll need jars of water, shaving cream, and food coloring.
 rain-cloud-craft From AllKids Network, the Raining Cloud Craft is a great mobile with translucent tissue paper raindrops.
 ht_berndnaut_smilde_cloud_installation_1_ss_thg_120312_ssh Dutch artist Berndnaut Smlide makes dramatic indoor clouds.
 imgres-92 Cummulus is a mathematically accurate sculpture of crocheted clouds. An incredible art project.
 imgres-93 Clouds in Art pairs paintings by well-known artists with a Cloud Finder of cloud photographs.
 slide-1-638 The Art of Clouds is a slide-show exercise in which viewers are challenged to identify the kinds of clouds pictured in paintings.
 imgres-94 From the Art Institute of Chicago, view Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting Sky Above Clouds.

Other weather-related posts include WHAT HAPPENS WHEN: STUDYING THE SEASONS and LET IT SNOW!

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Birds

 

Who doesn’t love the birds? And think about all the great birds in literature: Stuart Little’s Margalo, Harry Potter’s Hedwig, Mo Willems’s Pigeon. Edgar Allan Poe’s Raven. The doleful Dodo in Alice in Wonderland. And all those piratical parrots.

See below for bird stories, bird science, birds in art, bird food recipes, mathematical birds, famous birds, and the best birds in movies.

BIRD STORIES

 imgres Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon (Philomel, 1987) is a magical picture-book story about a walk through the winter woods at night to go owling.  For ages 3-8.
 imgres-17 In Jennifer Sattler’s Sylvie (Random House, 2009), Sylvie – a little flamingo – asks her mother why flamingos are pink and discovers that it’s because of the pink shrimp that they eat. Sylvie promptly sets out to experiment, snacking on grapes (which turn her purple), chocolate (brown), a red kite (scarlet), and even a paisley bathing suit (paisley-patterned). Finally, however, she discovers that she’d prefer to be her own pink self. For ages 3-7. (Pair this one with Leo Lionni’s A Color of His Own (Dragonfly, 1997).)
 imgres-2 In I.C. Springman’s More! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), an acquisitive magpie learns about the perils of too much stuff with the help of some friendly mice. When the book begins, the magpie has nothing, until a mouse offers him a marble – but soon, obsessively collecting, he passes from “plenty” to “much too much.” A nicely done lesson on materialism (with a bird). For ages 4-8.
 imgres-3 In Germano Zullo’s charming Little Bird, a bright red truck stops by a cliff and the driver – an egg-shaped man in overalls – gets out, opens the back door, and releases a flock of birds. Just one little blackbird is left behind, and the man does his best to encourage him to go with the flock, by flapping his arms to imitate flying. Finally (after sharing a sandwich) the bird leaves – only to return with the entire flock to carry the man up into the sky. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-4 Adam Rubin’s hilarious and delightful Those Darn Squirrels! (Sandpiper, 2011) features the unspeakably grumpy Old Man Fookwire, who hates pies and puppies – but loves birds. He paints bird portraits and fills his yard with beautiful bird feeders, in hopes of persuading his beloved birds stay with him through the winter. The feeders promptly attract a gang of particularly persistent and innovative (they’re good with pulleys and catapults) squirrels. When the birds do fly south, leaving Old Man Fookwire alone in his house mournfully eating cottage cheese, the squirrels decide to do him a good turn in payment for all the goodies they’ve nabbed. For ages 4-8.
 Kinder Birds 07 002 Inspired by Old Man Fookwire? From Deep Space Sparkle Art Lessons for Kids, see How to Draw a Bird for a great bird drawing, painting, and decorating project. Make beautiful bird portraits of your own.
  For more on squirrels, including famous squirrels, a purple squirrels, and a robotic squirrel, see SQUIRRELS.
 imgres-5 In Jennifer Yerkes’s A Funny Little Bird (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2013), the little bird is essentially invisible – so he sets about decorating himself with flowers, leaves, and discarded feathers. The new plumage backfires, however, when it catches the attention of predators, and the little bird decides that it’s far better to stay as he is and use his camouflage talents to help his friends. For ages 4-6.
 imgres-6 In Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hatches the Egg (Random House, 2004), Horton, the kind and patient elephant, determinedly cares for the egg left behind by lazy bird Maysie, who has taken off for Palm Springs. (“I said what I meant and I meant what I said/An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!”) And at last, when the egg hatches, Horton gets a wonderful reward. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-7 Janell Cannon’s Stellaluna (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993) is the story of a little fruit bat who, attacked by an owl, falls and lands in a nest of birds. Her new siblings teach her about life as a bird – and she, in turn, shows them what life is like for bats. It’s a lovely story about friendship, despite differences. (Stellaluna, at the end, is reunited with her mother and discovers that she’s supposed to eat mangoes, not bugs.) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-8 In Don Freeman’s Will’s Quill, or How a Goose Saved Shakespeare (Viking Juvenile Books, 2004), Willoughby, a country goose, heads for London to see the sights. There he has a hard time until befriended by playwright Will Shakespeare – and ultimately, by providing feathers for quill pens, he does Will a great service in return. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-9 In Cybele Young’s Ten Birds (Kids Can Press, 2011), ten birds – with such names as Brilliant, Extraordinary, and Shows Great Promise – are trying to figure out how to cross a river. Each comes up with an imaginative solution – stilts, a water bicycle, a parachute, a kite – until it’s the turn of the tenth bird, known as Needs Improvement. Who comes up with the simplest and cleverest solution of all. For ages 5-10.
 imgres-10 In Dick King-Smith’s chapter book Harry’s Mad (Yearling, 1997), Mad is a bird – a highly intelligent and creative talking parrot named Madison, left to Harry by his eccentric uncle. Trouble strikes when Mad is parrot-napped. For ages 6-10.
 imgres-11 In Joan Aiken’s Arabel’s Raven (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007) – with illustrations by the incomparable Quentin Blake – Arabel’s father, a taxi driver, brings home an injured bird. Subsequently named Mortimer, the raven – who insists on answering the telephone by squawking “Nevermore!” – wreaks havoc. He’s a sort of avian Paddington Bear. Arabel loves him and so do I. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-12 In E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan (HarperCollins, 2001), originally published in 1970, eleven-year-old Sam discovers a family of trumpeter swans while on a camping trip – the youngest of whom, a cygnet named Louis, is mute. Louis’s father steals a brass trumpet from a music store to give his son a voice. A wonderful book for ages 8-12.
 imgres-13 In Kathleen O’Dell’s The Aviary (Yearling, 2012), eleven-year-old Clara and her mother live in a crumbling mansion with old Mrs. Glendoveer. Clara, said to have a weak heart, is forbidden to run, play, or go to school – but nonetheless  manages to make a friend and to solve the mystery of the Glendoveers’ past. It’s a spooky and addictive story that involves vanished children and the birds caged in the great aviary behind the house. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-14 In Farley Mowat’s Owls in the Family, Billy – growing up on the plains of Canada – adopts two personality-laden pet owls, Wol and Weeps, who promptly turn the family and the neighborhood upside-down. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-15 The main character in Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain (Puffin Books, 2004) is 12-year-old Sam Gribley who runs away from home to live on his own in a hollow tree in the Catskills. There he learns to survive, and adopts and tames a peregrine falcon chick, which he names Frightful. A wonderful read for any kid who has ever dreamed of life in the woods – and luckily there are several sequels. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-16 Holling C. Holling’s Seabird (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1978) is the story of a carved ivory seagull who travels across oceans and through time with four generations of seafarers, from a Nantucket whaling ship to a clipper, a steamship, and an airplane. The carving is made by young Ezra Brown, based on the seagull he saw in a snowstorm from the crow’s-nest of the whaling ship. It’s a wonderful book, illustrated both with colorful paintings and detailed marginal drawings, diagrams, and maps. For ages 9-12.

FOLK TALES, FAIRY TALES, AND FANTASY

 imgres-18 Gerald McDermott’s Raven (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001) is a trickster tale from the Pacific Northwest in which clever Raven feels sorry for the people living in the cold and dark, and so sets out to steal light and warmth from the Sky Chief. Illustrated with colorful native-American-style drawings. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-19 In James Mayhew’s Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake (Barron’s Educational Series, 2011), Ella’s ballet class is preparing to dance Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake – and Ella, as she listens to the music, is magically transported into the world of Swan Lake, where she meets Odette, the swan princess, and the evil sorcerer who turned her into a bird. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-20 There are now many versions and editions of Hans Christian Andersen’s story of “The Ugly Duckling,” the homely and heckled little duck who grew up to be a beautiful swan. See Jerry Pinkney’s Caldecott Honor book The Ugly Duckling (HarperCollins, 1999).
See a video version of The Ugly Duckling.
 imgres-21 Jane Ray’s The Emperor’s Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales (Boxer Books, 2013) is a collection of 12 stories and poems from around the world, all featuring birds. Included, along with Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s Nightingale,” are Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince,” “Jorinda and Joringel” from the Brothers Grimm, and Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat.” For ages 5 and up.
 imgres-22 In Katherine Paterson’s The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks (Puffin, 1995), set in medieval Japan, a greedy lord captures and cages a beautiful mandarin duck, who pines miserably for freedom and his mate. Yasuko, the little kitchen maid, releases the bird, and she and her friend, the one-eyed ex-warrior Shozo, are sentenced to death by their angry master – only to be saved by a pair of mysterious messengers. For ages 5 and up.
See a video version of The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks.
 imgres-23 By Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, The Terrible Troll-bird (New York Review Children’s Collection, 2007), based on Norwegian folklore, is the story of a giant rooster and some even more threatening trolls, all soundly defeated by four brave children, Ola and his sisters Lina, Sina, and Trina. Wonderful folk-art-style illustrations. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-24 By Gennady Spirin, The Tale of the Firebird (Philomel, 2002) is a gorgeously illustrated picture-book version of the Russian folktale about the Tsar’s youngest son and his quest for the Firebird. Danger, adventures, a helpful wolf, the frightening Baba Yaga who lives in a cottage with chicken feet, a beautiful princess, and a wonderful bird. For ages 6-10.
 imgres-25 By R. L. LeFevers, Flight of the Phoenix (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) stars ten-year-old Nathaniel Fludd, sent to live with his aunt after his parents are declared lost at sea – where he sets out to learn the family business of beastology. In this, the first of an extensive series (all crammed with mythological creatures), Nate and Aunt Phil travel to Arabia to witness the hatching of a phoenix egg. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-26 In Edward Ormondroyd’s David and the Phoenix (Purple House Press, 2001) – originally published in the 1950s – David explores the mountains behind his new North Carolina home and there discovers the Phoenix. The Phoenix is being pursued by a Scientist and had been studying Spanish, in preparation for fleeing to South America – but he decides to stay put for a while, and to take David’s education in hand. There follows a series of hilarious and often near-disastrous adventures, involving fauns, leprechauns, witches, griffins, and a Sea Monster – and ultimately a painful, but hopeful ending. I’ve loved this book for years, as it waffles in and out of print. At the moment, it’s in. It’s also available in used editions and inexpensively (even for free) on Kindle. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-27 Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’hoole series is a gripping battle between good and evil, with owls. In Book 1 of the series, The Capture (Scholastic, 2003), a young owl named Soren has been living happily with his family, raised on tales of the Guardians of Ga’hoole, legendary owls famed for their noble deeds. Then he is knocked out of the nest and captured by evil owls from the Academy of St. Aegolius. There Soren and his new friend Gylfie struggle to survive, resist their captors, and secretly learn to fly. Many exciting sequels. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-28 By James Riordan, The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2008) – from the classic A Thousand and One Arabian Nights – is a 64-page illustrated account of astounding adventures with (among others) an island that turns out to be a whale, a sea monster, ogres, and a gigantic bird called a rookh.  For ages 9-12.
 imgres-29 Clem Martini’s The Mob (Kids Can Press, 2005) is the story of the Kinaars, a crow clan, now come together for their annual meeting at the Gathering Tree. Kyp, a headstrong young crow, is ostracized from the Flock for calling down a mob on an encroaching cat; when a blizzard hits, however, Kyp and friends – though they’ve flouted crow tradition – save the day. It’s a great story, and many of the behaviors of the crow clan are based upon those of real crows in the wild. Reminiscent of Watership Down. There are two sequels. For ages 10 and up.

BIRD POEMS

 imgres-30 Susan Stockdale’s Bring on the Birds (Peachtree Publishers, 2011) is a gorgeously illustrated rhyming account of the many different kinds of birds (“Swooping birds/Whooping birds/Birds with puffy chests/Dancing birds/Diving birds/Birds with fluffy crests”). An illustrated appendix explains just what each bird is. For ages 4-8.
 images Jane Yolen’s Fine Feathered Friends (Boyds Mills Press, 2004) is a collection of fourteen poems about birds, each illustrated with a full-page color photograph. For ages 5-12.
 imgres-31 Deborah Ruddell’s Today at the Bluebird Café (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007) is a terrific picture-book collection of 22 bird poems. (From “The Loon’s Laugh:” “A wail. A chuckle. A shriek at the moon./You pull up your covers. You hope it’s a loon.”) For ages 4-10.
 imgres-32 Douglas Florian’s on the wing (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000) is a beautifully illustrated collection of 21 bird poems, each dedicated to a different bird – among them “The Egret,” “Magnificent Frigate Birds,” “The Quetzal,” “The Emperor Penguins,” and “The Common Crow.” For ages 5-10.
 imgres-33 Paul Fleischman’s I Am Phoenix (HarperCollins, 1989) is a wonderful collection of “Poems for Two Voices,” all about birds. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-34 Edited by Billy Collins and illustrated by nature artist David Allen Sibley, Bright Wings (Columbia University Press, 2012) is a wide-ranging anthology of poems about birds, beginning with Stephen Vincent Benet’s “John James Audubon.” Also included are poems by Seamus Heaney, Marianne Moore, Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, Delmore Schwartz, Henry David Thoreau, Robert Browning, and many more. For teenagers and adults.

ALL ABOUT BIRDS

 imgres-35 Cathryn Sill’s About Birds: A Guide for Children (Peachtree Publishers, 2013) pairs a simple straightforward text (“Birds have feathers”) (“Birds flock together”) with detailed watercolor paintings. For ages 3-6.
 imgres-36 Kevin Henkes’s Birds (Greenwillow Books, 2009) is a delightful introduction to birds that conveys the magic of bird-watching through stylized acrylic paintings and an appealing text in the voice of a child narrator. (“Once I saw seven birds on a telephone wire. They didn’t move and they didn’t move and they didn’t move. I looked away for just a second…and then they were gone.”) A charmer for ages 3-7.
 imgres-37 In Priscilla Belz Jenkins’s A Nest Full of Eggs (HarperCollins, 1995) – one of the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series – a pair of children watch as robins build a nest, lay a clutch of eggs, and raise chicks. Finally, the babies grown, the robins leave in the fall to fly south – though the kids look forward to them returning again the next spring. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-38 May Garelick’s What Makes a Bird a Bird? (Mondo Publishing, 1995) in a thought-provoking exploration of just that. Is it a bird because it flies? But bees, butterflies, bats, and flying fish all fly – and some birds, like ostriches and penguins, can’t. The book proceeds in this fashion, question by question, until readers finally discover the defining characteristic of birds: feathers. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-39 By Roma Gans, How Do Birds Find their Way? (HarperCollins, 1996) in the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series is an explanation of the hows and whys of bird migration. (Arctic terns travel from northern Maine to the South Pole. Why don’t they get lost?) For ages 4-9.
 imgres-40 By Bernadette Gervais and Francesco Pittau, Birds of a Feather (Chronicle Books, 2012) is crammed with creative graphics, interactive features – including flaps, pop-ups, and puzzles, and a lot of fascinating facts about birds. (Did you know that flamingos are gray when they’re first hatched?) For ages 4-9.
 imgres-41 By Sneed B. Collard III, Beaks! (Charlesbridge, 2002) is an exploration of the many kinds and uses of bird beaks, illustrated with impressive 3-D cut-paper sculptures by Robin Brickman.  In the same format, see Collard’s Wings! (2008). For ages 4-9.
 imgres-42 Irene Kelly’s Even an Ostrich Needs a Nest (Holiday House, 2009) discusses how different species of birds from all over the world build their nests (plus four species who don’t build nests at all). Costa’s Hummingbird, for example, builds a nest the size of half a ping-pong ball, while the Bald Eagle constructs a two-ton nest the size of a car. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-43 In Melissa Stewart’s lovely scrapbook-style picture book Feathers: Not Just for Flying (Charlesbridge, 2014), readers are introduced to sixteen different birds and the many surprising uses of feathers. (For example, they can “warm like a blanket” or “shade out sun like an umbrella;” and the feathers on the willow ptarmigan’s feet act like snowshoes.) For ages 5-9.
Visit Melissa Stewart’s Science Clubhouse for a Curriculum Guide to accompany the book.
 imgres-44 By Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, How to Clean a Hippopotamus (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) is a picture book about unusual animal partnerships, several involving birds. Find out why ravens and wolves, plovers and crocodiles, and egrets and antelopes stick together. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-45 Birds live everywhere. Barbara Bash’s Urban Roosts (Little, Brown, 1992) shows how 13 different species of birds – from pigeons to peregrine falcons – have adapted to life in the city. For ages 7-11.
 imgres-46 In David Burnie’s Bird (Dorling Kindersley, 2008) in the Eyewitness Series, each double-page spread covers a different aspect of bird anatomy, physiology, or behavior. (Topics include Feathers, Courtship, Beaks, Making a Nest, Extraordinary Eggs, and more.) Illustrated with wonderful photographs and diagrams. For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-47 Where did birds come from anyway? Are they really…dinosaurs? Check out Christopher Sloan’s How Dinosaurs Took Flight (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2005) for ages 10 and up.
Find out more! See DINOSAURS.
 imgres-48 Colin Tudge’s The Bird: A Natural History of Who Birds Are, Where They Came From, and How They Live (Broadway Books, 2010) is an excellent overview of all things bird for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-49 By Jennifer Price, Flight Maps (Basic Books, 2000) – subtitled “Adventures with Nature in America” – includes terrific essays on the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the trends for birds on women’s hats that led to the founding of the Audubon Society, and the history of the pink flamingo lawn ornament. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-50 From PBS, David Attenborough’s Life of Birds is a fascinating and beautifully done documentary, variously covering bird brains, evolution, champions, parenthood, bird song, and more.
Attenborough’s Life of Birds, the complete ten-part series, is available from Amazon.com as an Instant Video.
 imgres-51 The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is an excellent source for all forms of bird information. Included on the website are bird citizen science projects (participate in Project Feeder Watch or join in the Great Backyard Bird Count), online courses (among these a superb home study course in Bird Biology), bird identification guides, bird cams, and much more.
 imgres-52 Audubon.org has information on citizen science and bird conservation projects, bird FAQs, an online bird ID guide, and reports on birds in the news.
 images-1 At National Geographic: Birds, learn all about birds, visit bird photo galleries, and take a backyard bird quiz.
 imgres-53 From UC Berkeley, Introduction to the Aves has detailed information on bird fossils, life history and ecology, systematics, and morphology.

WHICH BIRD?

 imgres-54 In Lois Ehlert’s rhyming Feathers for Lunch (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1996), a black cat – safely equipped with collar and jingling bell – escapes from the house and encounters twelve common backyard birds, among them a cardinal, blue jay, goldfinch, robin, and hummingbird. Kids learn beginning bird identification and the cat ends up with nothing but feathers for lunch. The painted paper illustrations are wonderful. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-55 By Mel Boring, Birds, Nests, and Eggs (Cooper Square Publishing, 2008) is a helpful “Take Along Guide” to help kids identify fifteen different birds, along with a handful of activities (make a bird bath, a blind for bird watching, and a suet feeder) and scrapbook pages for sketches and notes. For ages 5-10.
 imgres-56 Chris Earley’s Birds A to Z (Firefly Books, 2009) covers 26 birds from Anhinga to Zone-tailed Hawk, each with color photographs, reader-friendly background information, and a fact box of vital statistics. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-57 By Annette LeBlanc Cate, Look Up! Bird-watching in Your Own Backyard (Candlewick, 2013) is a quirky, humorous, and delightful introduction to bird-watching, with clever cartoon-style illustrations. Kids will love this. Highly recommended. For ages 7-11.
 imgres-58 Peggy Thomas’s For the Birds (Calkins Creek, 2011) is a picture-book biography of master birder Roger Tory Peterson, illustrated with detailed and realistic paintings by Laura Jacques. For ages 7 and up.
 imgres-59 See Peterson Field Guides for birder Roger Tory Peterson’s famed bird guide series – now also available as apps for iPad, iPhone, or iPod.
 images-2 What Bird has detailed bird identification guides (search by state or province, body shape, body size, or color) and a cool video-based Avian Sleuth bird identification game. (Practice your skills.)
 imgres-60 Bird Bingo is an illustrated bingo game featuring 64 different species of birds from around the world, from the emu and kookaburra to the puffin, robin, and mandarin duck. Play and learn your birds! For ages 6 and up.

BIRD SONG

 imgres-61 Maurice Pledger’s Sounds of the Wild: Birds (Silver Dolphin Books, 2010) pairs brilliant 3-D pop-up scenes with the sounds of real birds. Recommended for ages 5 and up; fragile, so use caution with toddlers.
 imgres-62 “Chirp, warble, quack, coo, rattle, screech!” Lita Judge’s Bird Talk (Flash Point, 2012) is a colorful picture-book account of what birds are saying and why. (Finding mates? Defending territory? Keeping an eye on their young?) For ages 5-9.
Listen to the birds (lots of them, categorized by biological order) at North American Bird Sounds.
 images-3 Ana Gerhard’s picture book Listen to the Birds: An Introduction to Classical Music (Secret Mountain, 2013) explains how many classical composers have been inspired by bird song, among them Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, and Vivaldi. The book includes short biographies of each composer and information the featured birds. An accompanying CD has excerpts of 20 different bird-based musical compositions, among them The Goldfinch, Hens and Roosters, The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, and Dance of the Firebird. For ages 7 and up.

FEEDING THE BIRDS

 images-4 By the Editors of Birds & Blooms, For the Birds (Readers Digest, 2010) is a collection of 50 easy-to-make recipes for bird food. For all ages.
 images-5 From CanTeach, A Variety of Bird Feeders has instructions for making five simple feeders, variously using plastic bottles, milk cartons, pine cones, plastic lids (plus a doughnut), and potato chip cans.
 imgres-64 From Artists Helping Children, Easy Birdfeeders, House, and Perches has instructions and patterns for several different kinds of bird feeders and bird snacks, among them pinecone, soda bottle, and milk carton feeders. Also included: a recipe for bird biscuits. Squirrels, of course, like these too.
 imgres-65 On YouTube, listen to Julie Andrews sing Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins.

SAVING THE BIRDS

 imgres-66 By Olivia Bouler, Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf (Sterling, 2011) is the story of an 11-year-old girl’s campaign to save the Gulf Coast birds after the devastating oil spill of 2010. For ages 3-9.
 imgres-67 Kathryn Lasky’s She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head! (Disney-Hyperion, 1997) is the picture-book story of Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall, who founded the Massachusetts Audubon Society. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-69 In Meindert DeJong’s 1955 Newbery winner, The Wheel on the School (HarperCollins, 1972), young Lina wonders why there are no more storks – birds that are said to bring good luck – in her village. Soon she has co-opted the entire community into luring the storks back home by proving rooftop wheels where they can build their nests. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-70 In Gill Lewis’s Wild Wings (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012), Iona and Callum in Scotland (an unlikely pair) join forces to protect an endangered osprey – a story that eventually links to people around the world. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-71 In Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot (Yearling, 2005), Roy Eberhardt, recently moved from Montana to Florida, joins forces with the intimidating Beatrice and her brother Mullet Fingers to save a colony of tiny burrowing owls from Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House. Funny, brave, and wonderful. For ages 10 and up.
 images-6 Stephen Kress’s Project Puffin (Tilbury House Publishers, 2003) is the story of how Kress and his team of “Puffineers” restored the puffin population of Egg Rock, an island off the coast of Maine. For ages 10 and up.
For more information, see Project Puffin.
 imgres-72 By Pete Salmansohn and Stephen W. Kress, Saving Birds: Heroes Around the World (Tilbury House Press, 2005) has six dramatic stories of people around the world fighting to save wild birds. For ages 10 and up.

STATE BIRDS

 imgres-73 Hudson Talbot’s United Tweets of America (Putnam Juvenile Books, 2008) is the humorously illustrated story of all 50 state birds, in alphabetical order by state. For each is included information about the bird, a map of the state, and basic state information, including other state symbols, the state capital, famous people, and more. For ages 7-10.
 images-7 Official U.S. State Birds has them all, listed by state or bird name. Click on an entry for illustrations and information.
 images-8 Annika Bernhard’s State Birds and Flowers Coloring Book (Dover Publications,1990) has black-line versions of them all, ready for crayons or colored pencils.

MATHEMATICAL BIRDS

 imgres-75 In Frank Mazzola’s Counting Is for the Birds (Charlesbridge, 1997), birds, two by two, gather at a backyard feeder, until they’re scattered by a squirrel. Kids count to 20 and back again, and learn a bit about birds from thumbnail sketches. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-76 Alice Melvin’s Counting Birds (Tate, 2010) is a lovely counting book with a rhyming text. Kids count to twenty, beginning with one cockerel, two lovebirds, and three flying ducks. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-77 Stuart J. Murphy’s Double the Ducks (HarperCollins, 2002) – a MathStart book – introduces kids to concepts of addition and multiplication when five little ducks each bring home a friend. For ages 4-8.
Discover Birds! Changing Populations and Bird Champions are a pair of math projects using real-world data. Targeted at grades 4-6.
 imgres-78 How Smart Is This Bird? Find out how good pigeons are at math.

FAMOUS BIRDS

 imgres-79 Shirley Raye Redmond’s Pigeon Hero (Simon Spotlight, 2003) in the Ready to Read series is the true story of G.I. Joe, a World War II homing pigeon, who saved an Italian town by carrying crucial messages through enemy lines. (He was awarded a medal for bravery.) For ages 5-7.
 imgres-80 Leo Politi’s Song of the Swallows (J. Paul Getty Museum, 2009) is a picture-book story of the famous annual return of the swallows to the Mission San Juan Capistrano in California. For ages 5-9.
  For more information and activity suggestions, see Swallows on a Mission. Included at the site are resources, maps, a swallow-sighting report form, and an in-depth lesson on “How Birds Fly.”
 imgres-81 By Stephanie Spinner, Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012) is the true story of scientist Irene Pepperberg and the amazingly intelligent Alex, an African gray parrot, who could count, name colors, and had a vocabulary of hundreds of words. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-82 Philip Hoose’s award-winning Moonbird (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012) is the true story of the phenomenal travels of a little shorebird known to scientists as B95 – in his lifetime, a distance of over 325,000 miles, enough to have taken him to the moon and halfway back. Illustrated with photographs and maps. For ages 10 and up.
  Read more about Moonbird and check out a migration map at B95: The Toughest Four Ounces of Life.

 BIRDS AND ART

 images-9 By artist Charley Harper, the Charley Harper Coloring Book of Birds (Ammo Books, 2010) is an attractive collection of 32 stylized black-line drawings for ages 4 and up. (Check out Harper’s art at the Charley Harper Gallery.)
 imgres-83 Jacqueline Davies’s The Boy Who Drew Birds (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004) – with wonderful illustrations by Melissa Sweet – is the picture-book story of John James Audubon, perhaps the world’s best-known painter of birds. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-84 Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book (Dover Publications, 1974) has black-line versions of 44 of Audubon’s famous bird paintings.
 imgres-85 Inspired by a painting by Peter Breugel, Stepanie Girel’s A Bird in Winter (Prestel Publishing, 2011) is the story of Mayken, an eight-year-old peasant girl, who – while ice-skating with friends – finds an injured bird and nurses it back to health. (Included is a beautiful reproduction of Breugel’s “The Hunters in the Snow.”) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-86 Geraldine Elschner’s The Cat and the Bird (Prestel Publishing, 2012) – inspired by and illustrated in the style of artist Paul Klee – is the tale of a little cat who, despite a lovely home filled with toys, envies the freedom of the bird. Then one day the bird manages to set the cat free, and at the end the cat is dancing joyfully on the roof in the moonlight. For ages 5-8.
 Klee-castles-art-project Deep Space Sparkle Art Lessons for Kids has a wonderful Paul Klee art lesson featuring The Cat and the Bird. Kids make gorgeous multicolored castles.
For cat books, cat projects, famous cats, and more, see Millions of Cats, Billions of Cats.
 imgres-87 Bijou le Tord’s A Bird or Two (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1999) is the picture-book story of Henri Matisse, told through a brief poetic text. For ages 6-10.

BIRD PROJECTS

 speacock From DLTK’s Crafts for Kids, Bird Activities for Children has a long list categorized by bird, from Bald Eagle and Chicken to Phoenix and Turkey. Lots of creative paper projects.
 action-shadow-puppet-parrot-crafts-photo-420-FF0206COZYA03 Spoonful’s Top Ten Bird Crafts include a great wing-flapping mechanical bird and a gorgeous feathered paper parrot.
 imgres-88 10 Bird Crafts for Kids include paper-plate birds’ nests, bird puppets, and a homemade bird bath.
 ml1203_hol08_woodsyht8_l Make and decorate Cinnamon Bird Ornaments.
 imgres-89 By Johan Scherft, Beautiful Paper Birds (Sterling Innovation, 2013) is a kit with which kids can make 16 folded-paper cardinals, bluebirds, goldfinches, and nuthatches using realistic pre-printed project sheets.
 bird_in_cage281x187 For the San Francisco Exploratorium, Bird in the Cage is a cool experiment on color and perception.

BIRDS ON SCREEN

 imgres-90 The ten best birds in movies. At least in one person’s opinion.

For even more birds, check out CHICKENS, CHICKS, AND LITTLE RED HENS.

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