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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Ben Franklin

 

January 17 is Ben Franklin’s birthday!

ALL ABOUT BEN

 imgres Gene Barretta’s Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin (Square Fish, 2008) is a picture-book account of the many Franklin inventions and innovations that are still with us today, a surprising collection that includes everything from bifocals to odometers and political cartoons. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-1 By the irresistible Lane Smith, John, Paul, George, and Ben (Disney-Hyperion, 2006) is the tongue-in-cheek picture-book story of four lads: John (Hancock), Paul (Revere), George (Washington), and Ben (Franklin). Just to keep the story straight, there’s a helpful True/False section at the back of the book. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-15 Alan Schroeder’s Ben Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A to Z (Holiday House, 2011) is an unusual alphabet book of Franklin’s life and accomplishments. A, for example, is for Almanac, Abiah (Franklin’s mother), Apprentice, and Armonica (a Franklin-invented musical instrument); N is for Newspaper, Navigation, and Nude (Franklin liked to take “air baths”). Absorbing for ages 7-9.
 images Visit the Franklin Institute website to play a virtual armonica.
 imgres-2 Jean Fritz’s What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? (Scott Foresman, 1996) is a delightfully written and well-researched biography, packed with unusual details and human interest. For example: “In 1706 Boston was so new that its streets were still being named. For 5 years the town officials had been thinking up names and they hadn’t finished yet. So far they had Cow Lane, Flownder Lane, Turn Again Alley, Half-Square Court, Pond Street, Sliding Alley, Milk Street, and many others. Luckily Milk Street had been named early, because that’s where Benjamin Franklin was born. So right away he had an address.” For ages 7-10.
 imgres-3 There are several more equally excellent American history books by Fritz in this same format, among them And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?, Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George?, and Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?
 imgres-4 Robert Byrd’s cleverly designed Electric Ben (Dial, 2012) – filled with quote boxes, captions, and colorful, detailed illustrations -  is a comprehensive 40-page biography for ages 7-10.
 imgres-5 By Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, Benjamin Franklin (Beautiful Feet Books, 1998) is a gorgeously illustrated picture-book biography for ages 7-10.
 imgres-6 Robert Lawson’s Ben and Me (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1988), subtitled “An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos,” is a clever and hilarious biography of Ben through the eyes of his pet mouse – who, as it turns out, was the brains behind many of Franklin’s landmark inventions. If you like this one, also see Lawson’s Mr. Revere and I (“Being an Account of certain Episodes in the Career of Paul Revere, Esq., as Revealed by his Horse”). For ages 7-12.
 imgres-7 Dennis Brindell Fradin’s Who Was Ben Franklin? (Grosset & Dunlap, 2002) is a atraightforward 112-page chapter biography of Franklin, illustrated with black-and-white drawings and diagrams. (Among these, for example: a Leyden jar, with the parts labeled, and an illustrated account of the candle-making process.) For ages 8-11.
 imgres-8 The Landmark Books series is an extensive collection of excellent histories, written in the 1950s and 60s by award-winning authors. Among these is Margaret Cousins’s Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia (Random House, 2004). A good pick for ages 9 and up.
 imgres-9 Augusta Stevenson’s Benjamin Franklin: Young Printer (Aladdin, 1986) in the (large) Childhood of Famous Americans series is a chapter biography covering Franklin’s early years. (“A long time ago, away up in New England in the little city of Boston there was a certain blue ball. It was about the size of a cocoanut, and it hung above the front door of a certain little house. On this blue ball was a name – Josiah Franklin.”) For ages 8-11.
 imgres-10 James Cross Giblin’s The Amazing Life of Benjamin Franklin (Scholastic, 2006) is an appealing 48-page biography of Franklin illustrated with wonderful realistic paintings by Michael Dooling. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-11 Candace Fleming’s creative Ben Franklin’s Almanac (Atheneum Books, 2003) is a catchy compendium of Frankliniana beginning with “A Year-by-Year Look at Ben’s Life.” Subsequent chapters – filled with anecdotes, quotations, capsule biographies, background information, and period illustrations – include “Boyhood Memories,” “The Writer’s Journal,” “The Scientist’s Scrapbook,” and “Revolutionary Memorabilia.” For ages 10 and up.
Ben Franklin’s Almanac is a detailed Classroom Guide to accompany the book.
 imgres-12 Brandon Marie Miller’s Benjamin Franklin, American Genius (Chicago Review Press, 2009) is a chronological account of Franklin’s life, creatively illustrated with period prints and interesting fact boxes. Included are 21 hands-on activities, among them dipping candles, making rock-crystal candy and hasty pudding, making a leather apron and a pair of shoe buckles, making a barometer and a walking stick, and designing a turkey seal for the United States. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-13 By Newbery-winning author Russell Freedman, Becoming Benjamin Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty (Holiday House, 2013) is a chronological biography illustrated with paintings, period prints, and documents. For ages 11 and up.
  images-1 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, written by Franklin in four parts between 1771 and 1790, was originally intended for his son William. Now considered the greatest autobiography produced in colonial America, it is available in many editions, including (for free) from Kindle and online at Project Gutenberg.

POOR RICHARD’S ALMANAC

 imgres-16 Wit and Wisdom from Poor Richard’s Almanack (Dover Publications, 1999) is a collection of aphorisms from Ben Franklin’s famous Almanac, categorized by topic from “Aging and Youth” and “Anger, Revenge, and Forgiveness” to “Happiness,” “Money and Frugality,” and “Social Relations.”
 imgres-17 At the Internet Archive, see the full text of Poor Richard’s Almanack online.

SCIENTIFIC BEN

 imgres-18 In Stephen Krensky’s Ben Franklin and His First Kite (Simon Spotlight, 2002), ten-year-old Ben uses a kite to propel himself across a pond. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-19 See PBS’s Benjamin Franklin: Make a Kite for illustrated instructions for making a Ben-Franklin-style diamond kite.
 images-2 Want more on kites? See Go Fly a Kite for kite stories, poems, projects, how-tos, and much more.
 imgres-20 Rosalyn Schanzer’s How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning (HarperCollins, 2002) is a charming picture-book account of Franklin’s many inventions and accomplishments, concentrating on his discovery of the electrical nature of lightning and his invention of the lightning rod to prevent fires. (“It’s true! The great Benjamin Franklin really did steal lightning right out of the sky! And then he set out to tame the beast.”) For ages 5-9.
For much more on electricity, including books, projects, and a lot of cool experiments, see ZAP! Electricity!
 imgres-21 From the Franklin Institute, The Ben Franklin Book of Easy and Incredible Experiments (Wiley, 1995) is a great collection of hands-on projects and activities, variously categorized under “Using Your Head,” “Exploring the Weather,” “Exciting Electricity,” “Making Music,” “Paper and Printing,” and “Exploring Light and Sight.” For each project, there are instructions, explanations, and historical background from the life of Franklin. For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-22 Carmella Van Vleet’s Amazing Ben Franklin Inventions You Can Build Yourself (Nomad Press, 2007) combines background information on the life and times of Ben Franklin with 30 Franklin-related hands-on projects. Among these: kids can make a hornbook, a paper mold, invisible ink, a kite, a personal mailbox, a quill pen, and a fur hat. For ages 8-12.

MATHEMATICAL BEN

 imgres-23 Frank Murphy’s Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares (Random House, 2001) is a Step Into Reading book about Franklin and his inventions, among them the mathematical “Magic Square” – a box of nine numbers arranged such that each row, column, and diagonal adds up to the same total. For ages 7-9.
 imgres-24 From the Math Forum, Suzanne Alejandre’s Ben Franklin Classroom Activity is a lesson plan on magic squares, with discussion questions, exercises, and printable handouts.
 imgres-24 From K-5 Math Teaching Resources, Magic Squares has printable puzzles and activities involving magic squares.

LESSON PLANS AND RESOURCES

 images-1 From PBS, Benjamin Franklin: An Extraordinary Life, An Electric Mind includes biographical and historical information, a tour of “Ben’s Town,” a Virtue Quiz, “Ben A to Z,” a timeline, and an eight-lesson Teacher’s Guide.
 images-1 From the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin has a wealth of hyperlinked information and interactive activities. For example, visitors can play a virtual armonica, read Franklin’s epitaph and try writing one, and learn all about lightning rods.
 imgres-25 At Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government, a cartoon Ben Franklin tells kids all about himself and introduces visitors to the workings of government. Included are games, activities, and puzzles. Categorized by grade level.
 imgres-26 Our national symbol: eagle or turkey? Visit Great Seal to find out what Ben Franklin thought and why.
 images-1 Ben Franklin Timeline from Discovery Education is a lesson plan targeted at grades K-5 in which kids research Franklin’s life and work and make an illustrated collage-style timeline.
 imgres-27 From Edsidement, Benjamin Franklin’s Many Hats is a multifaceted lesson plan in which – among other possibilities – kids make paper hats representing Franklin’s many interests.
 images-1 Ben Across the Curriculum is a collection of themed lesson plans, variously appropriate for grades K-5, 6-8, or 9-12.  Lessons are categorized under Character Matters, Franklin, Printer, Civic Visions, Useful Knowledge, and World Stage.  Also included at the website are a Franklin timeline, a list of Franklin trivia, Franklin-related essays and articles, and a bibliography.
 images-3 Celebrate Benjamin Franklin’s Birthday by setting up a homestyle or classroom postal service. Sounds fun.
 images-4 From the History Project, The Inventions of Ben Franklin is a lesson plan in which kids investigate and rank Franklin inventions and create an interactive timeline. Included are links to images of the inventions and printable worksheets.
 images-1 The Electric Ben Franklin is a wide-ranging site including the multi-episode “Temple’s Diary” (the story of the Revolution through the eyes of Franklin’s teenage grandson), images and descriptions of Franklin’s inventions, an account of the famous kite experiment, issues of the New-England Courant (including letters from Franklin’s alter-ego, Silence Dogood), experiments (make a thermometer, for example), and games. (Play checkers with Benjamin Franklin.) An excellent resource.
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Tea for Two (or Many More)

 

“Come along inside…We’ll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place.”

Kenneth Grahame; The Wind in the Willows

The tea party is a staple of children’s literature. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy, on her first visit to Narnia, sits down to tea with the faun, Mr. Tumnus; in The House on Pooh Corner, Pooh and Piglet share a Very Nearly Tea (which is one you forget about afterwards) with Christopher Robin; and in Alice in Wonderland, Alice stumbles upon a peculiar and philosophically challenging tea party hosted by the maddening Mad Hatter.

January, it turns out, is National Hot Tea Month, which makes perfect sense: it’s cold outside and we’re all thinking longingly of curling up in woolly slippers with a cup of something warm. Best of all, there are many mind-broadening resources – literary, geographical, historical, philosophical, and scientific – to make the experience even better.

TEA STORIES

imgres-4 In Rosemary Wells’s Ruby’s Tea for Two (Viking Juvenile Books, 2003) – featuring Max and Ruby, possibly the world’s most adorable bunny siblings – Ruby and a friend are having a tea party for two and insist that Max be the waiter.  (“Three!” protests Max.) For ages 1-4.
 imgres-1 In Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea (Candlewick, 2009), just as Sophie and her Mummy are sitting down to tea, a hungry and rambunctious tiger arrives who eats and drinks everything in the house, including all the biscuits and Daddy’s beer. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-2 David Kirk’s Miss Spider’s Tea Party (Scholastic, 2007) is the tale of an almost-failed tea party: none of the insects want to attend since they all know what spiders eat. Eventually, however, one wet and stranded moth breaks the ice and the book ends with a crowd of insectile guests happily sharing tea and cupcakes. For ages 4-8.
 halloween cupcakes See Spider Tea Cakes for a recipe to accompany the book – you’ll need frosted cupcakes, gumdrops, and shoestring licorice (legs).
 imgres-3 Allen Say’s Tea with Milk (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009) is the story of young Masako – known as May – raised in San Francisco and then moved as a teenager to Japan. There Masako struggles to find her place between her two cultures, each represented throughout the book by tea – either American-style, with milk and sugar, or plain, green, and Japanese. Eventually the independent-minded May meets a young Japanese man who likes milk in his tea too; and at the very end of the book, readers discover that these are the author’s parents. For ages 5-10.
 images Should you drink your tea with milk? Maybe not, according to the New York Times. Check out Adding Milk to Tea Destroys its Antioxidants.
 imgres-5 Lindsey Tate’s Teatime with Emma Buttersnap (Henry Holt, 1998) is a delightful and wide-ranging account of tea with the help of Emma’s well-informed English Aunt Pru, a tea aficionado. (Aunt Pru’s cats, Lapsang Souchang and Jasmine, are named after her favorite teas.) The book includes a brief history of tea, instructions for brewing tea, recipes, and an account of the Boston Tea Party. For ages 7-9.

TEA POEMS

 imgres-6 Eileen Spinelli’s Tea Party Today (Boyds Mills Press, 1999) is a collection of short clever illustrated poems about teatime, including “Please” – an account of tea-party manners – which features a mischievous little boy who (horrors!) sticks his finger in his teacup. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-7 Joyce Carol Thomas’s Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea (HarperCollins, 1995), for ages 4-9, is a lovely collection of poems celebrating African-American heritage, among them the title poem, “Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea.” (“Broomwheat tea: good for what ails you, especially when poured by loving hands…”). For ages 4-8.

TEA PARTIES

There are many books on the how-tos of tea parties for kids, many with thematic or literary twists. Have tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter, for example, or try to amuse Queen Victoria.

 imgres-8 Emilie Barnes’s Let’s Have a Tea Party (Harvest House, 1997) covers everything from invitations to after-tea activities, with instructions for a number of themed teas (among them a “Little Women” tea party and a Pony Club tea). It’s subtitled “Special Celebrations for Little Girls.” For ages 6 and up.
 imgres-9 Stephanie Dunnewind’s Come to Tea (Sterling Publishing, 2003) includes recipes, crafts, games, hints on manners (no fingers in the cups), and descriptions of everything from a Mad Hatter Party to a Teddybear Picnic. For ages 6-10.
imgres-23 Shozo Sato’s Tea Ceremony (Tuttle Publishing, 2004) in the Asian Arts and Crafts for Creative Kids series explains the history and practice of the Japanese tea ceremony and provides step-by-step instructions for performing one of your own. For ages 9 and up.
 images-1 Kim Wilson’s Tea with Jane Austen (Jones Books, 2004) intersperses tea-related Austen quotes with historical information about early 19th-century tea drinking and recipes – a perfect accompaniment to a reading of Pride and Prejudice and a study of all things Jane. For ages 13 and up.
 imgres-10 Dawn Hylton Gottlieb’s Taking Tea with Alice: Looking-Glass Tea Parties and Fanciful Victorian Teas (Benjamin Press, 2008), illustrated with color photographs, provides menus and activity suggestions for Mad-Hatter-style get-togethers. (Find out how to play “Off With Their Heads” Musical Chairs.)
 imgres-11 By Martin Gardener and Lewis Carroll, The Annotated Alice (W.W. Norton, 1999) is marvelous resource for Alice readers, with extensive and fascinating annotations on the historical, cultural, philosophical, and literary aspects of the text. Many deal with the Mad Hatter and his tea party.
 images-2 Print it out and play! Murder Mystery Tea Party at Buckshaw is based on the clever tongue-in-cheek Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley, featuring precocious eleven-year-old chemist Flavia who lives with her two older sisters and eccentric stamp-collecting father in the crumbling mansion of Buckshaw. (Delightful.)  Here, players take on the role of various characters and compete to identify the Murderer.
 imgres-12 In Time-Warp Victorian Tea, kids take on the roles of famous British writers and meet Queen Victoria at a royal tea, complete with scones and cucumber sandwiches. (Guests must be prepared to tell a bit about themselves and their accomplishments and to discuss current events with Her Majesty.) For ages 13 and up.

THE BOSTON TEA PARTY

The quintessential political tea party, of course, took place in Boston on December 16, 1773, and involved a lot of angry colonists and three shiploads of tea. There are many books on this landmark event.

 imgres-13 Pamela Duncan Edwards’s Boston Tea Party (Putnam Juvenile, 2001), a simple description of the crucial events, written in the cumulative style of “This is the House That Jack Built,” and featuring a lot of politically savvy mice. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-14 Russell Freedman’s The Boston Tea Party (Holiday House, 2013) is a compelling 39-page account of the fatal tea-dumping, filled with human interest, quotations, and excitement. (Discover the story of Peter Slater, a 14-year-old apprentice, who sneaked out of his bedroom window to join the action.) For ages 7-10.
 imgres-15 Peter Cook’s You Wouldn’t Want to Be at the Boston Tea Party! (Franklin Watts, 2013) is one of the catchy You Wouldn’t Want to… series which presents real history with a kid-appealing humorous twist. Here, you’re poor shoemaker, one of nine children, orphaned at the age of 14. You were rejected when you tried to join the British army because you are too short; now you resent the redcoats and hate the British taxes. A great read for ages 7-12.
 imgres-16 Kathleen Krull’s What Was the Boston Tea Party? (Grosset & Dunlap, 2013) is a terrific account of what Krull calls “one of the most powerful protests ever.”  “What a strange tea party,” the book begins. “It took place in near darkness and in almost total silence. It lasted for about three hours. There were no women there, just men, many in their teens.” For ages 8-12.
 imgres-17 The We Were There series is a collection of 36 historical novels, each featuring a pair of children – usually, fairly, a boy and a girl – as the main characters, involved in a key historical event. The books were originally published in the 1950s and 60s, but some have now been reissued by Dover Publications. In Robert N. Webb’s We Were There at the Boston Tea Party (Dover Publications, 2013), young Jeremy and Deliverance Winthrop become involved in a conspiracy leading up to the Boston Tea Party. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-18 Boston wasn’t the only colonial town to host a Revolutionary tea party. Brenda Seabrooke’s The Chester Town Tea Party (Tidewater Publishers, 1991) is a picture-book account of a similar occurrence in Maryland. The story centers around nine-year-old Amanda Wetherby who decides to dress as a boy and go along.  For ages 4-8.
 images-3 From Discovery Education, The American Revolution: Causes  lesson plan has activity suggestions, discussion questions, and a reading list on the Boston Tea Party and related events, all centered around the 18th-century protest song “Revolutionary Tea.” The text of the song appears on the site; it can also be found in Amy Cohn’s From Sea to Shining Sea (Scholastic, 1993).
 images-4 Anywhere near Boston? Visit the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum to see reconstructions of the famous tea ships. (Visitors can join the protest and pitch their own tea chest overboard.) See the website for information on Boston Tea Party history.
The Boston Tea Party, 1773 includes an eyewitness account of the event by a participant.

SCIENCE WITH TEA

 Tea can be a handy tool for kitchen-table chemistry: strong tea, for example, can be used in a chemical assay for iron in fruit juices. Add about four tablespoons of the juice to be tested to a small glass about half full of strong tea. If a dark precipitate forms, the juice contains iron. (Iron combines with the tannins in tea to form insoluble iron tannate.)

 imgres-19 From Fizzics Education, see instructions at Use Tea to Detect Iron in Food. Better yet, see Vicki Cobb’s Chemically Active! (J.B. Lippincott, 1987), which has a clear explanation of the experiment and several extension activities. This excellent hands-on chemistry book is (WHY?) out of print, but is available from libraries and in inexpensive used editions.
 imgres-19 From NASA, Mystery in a Cup of Tea investigates the principles of fluid mixing with honey and a cup of tea – learn all about it, try an experiment of your own, and see how the astronauts drink tea in space.
 imgres-19 From Easy Fun School, Tea Dye has instructions for making dye with just five tea bags and a pot of hot water. Kids can dye fabric and produce antique-style paper, suitable for making terrific treasure maps. (Crumple the paper up and then smooth it out again before dunking in the tea.)
 imgres-20 Grow your own tea! For starter suggestions, see How to Make Herbal Teas which has instructions for tea-brewing and a plant list.

THE HISTORY OF TEA

 imgres-19 From the United Kingdom Tea Council, The History of Tea has an amazing amount of information, covering – among much else – the origin of tea, tea smuggling, the Boston Tea Party, the tea clippers, and the invention of the tea bag.
 imgres-21 Sarah Rose’s For All the Tea in China (Penguin Books, 2011) – subtitled “How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History” – is a daring tale of espionage in which master plant collector Robert Fortune disguised himself as a mandarin and set out to steal tea seedlings for the East India Company. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-22 Tom Standage’s A History of the World in 6 Glasses (Walker Publishing Company, 2006) is a history of humankind from the Stone Age to the present, told through the medium of six essential beverages – beer, wine, spirits, coffee, cola, and tea. For teenagers and adults.
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Letters and Letter Writing

 

See below for books about letters and letter writers, a great Graceful Envelope Contest, the Month of Letters Challenge, a (mailable!) plastic pigeon, typing cows, postcard-posting pigs, Emily Dickinson’s envelope poems, and much more.

LETTERS TO SANTA CLAUS

 images From the Deseret News, Dear Santa is a wonderful collection of letters to Santa written by kids in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
 imgres Valentine Davies’s Miracle on 34th Street (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010), originally written in 1947, features disillusioned Doris Walker; her six-year-old daughter, Susan; Fred, the handsome young attorney who lives next door; a feud between Macy’s and Gimbel’s; and a wonderful old man, who just might be Santa Claus. Proof of the power of letters to Santa Claus and a lovely read for ages 8 and up.
My pick of the Miracle on 34th Street movies is the 1947 original, with Maureen O’Hara, Edward Gwenn, and a very young Natalie Wood. Rated G. (Forget the 1994 remake. It skips the Santa Claus letters.)

LETTERS IN LITERATURE: ELEMENTARY

 imgres-1 In Doreen Cronin’s wonderful Click, Clack, Moo (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000), Farmer Brown’s cows have acquired a typewriter and promptly begin to make their problems known via letter: “Dear Farmer Brown, The barn is very cold at night. We’d like some electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows.” Farmer Brown refuses and the cows go on a milk strike. All is finally resolved with the helpful intervention of Duck, who ends up with the typewriter – and promptly fires off a note announcing that the duck pond is boring and the ducks would like a diving board. Hilarious for ages 3 and up. There are several sequels featuring the Click, Clack, Moo characters.
  Click, Clack, Moo is a teaching unit to accompany the book, with six versions of the story, online games, and printable student resources, including activity books, story pages, and worksheets.
  Looking for cow books and resources? For lots more, see MOO: ALL ABOUT COWS.
 images-1 In Simon Puttock and Russell Ayto’s The Love Bugs (HarperCollins, 2010), Red – a ladybird – receives a letter from a secret admirer who signs himself Blue. Who is he? Blue Dragonfly? After a flurry of mistaken love letters, all eventually resolves in a perfect happy ending. A charming Valentine tale for ages 3-6.
 images-3 Holly Hobbie’s enchanting Toot and Puddle (Little, Brown, 2010) is a tale of two very different pigs: Puddle stays happily at home in Woodcock Pocket while Toot tours the world, sending home accounts of his adventures on postcards. Double-page spreads compare Puddle and Toot’s very different activities, with illustrated postcards from Toot. Many sequels. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-2 In Karen Kaufman Orloff’s I Wanna Iguana (Putnam Juvenile Books, 2004), Alex’s mother doesn’t want him to have an iguana – so Alex embarks on a persuasive letter campaign. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-3 In Ezra Jack Keats’s A Letter to Amy (Puffin, 1998), Peter is mailing his friend Amy a special invitation to his birthday party – but as he dashes through a storm to mail it, the wind whips the letter out of his hand. Chasing it, he barrels into Amy herself,  knocks her down, and is convinced that now he’s ruined everything. (But he hasn’t.) For ages 3-8.
 imgres-4 For discussion questions and multidisciplinary activities to accompany the book, see A Letter to Amy Teaching Plan from Scholastic.
 imgres-5 In Simon James’s Dear Mr. Blueberry (Aladdin, 1996), Emily, on vacation, writes to her teacher, Mr. Blueberry, for help – she’s worried about the whale living in the pond in her yard. Mr. Blueberry replies that there cannot be a whale in Emily’s pond, since whales live in salt water. Emily adds salt to the pond, names the whale Arthur, and feeds it cornflakes – all the while corresponding with Mr. Blueberry, who continues to insist that there is no whale.  Delightful for ages 4-7.
 imgres-6 Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books are charmers. Toad is mopey and disaster-prone: his kite won’t fly; his garden won’t grow; he loses lists and buttons; and he looks silly in his striped swimsuit. Frog is cheerful, upbeat, and supportive. They’re a perfect pair – funny, touching, and delightful – and their adventures deal neatly with many of the trials and tribulations of childhood. In Frog and Toad Are Friends (HarperCollins, 2003), one such tribulation centers around the mailbox. Toad is miserable because he never gets mail; the kindhearted Frog promptly writes him a letter – but then entrusts its delivery to a very slow snail. All eventually ends happily, but young readers will sympathize with Toad’s disappointment with his empty mailbox and the awful frustrations of waiting. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-8 In Jeff Brown’s Flat Stanley (HarperCollins, 2013), Stanley is a perfectly ordinary 3-D boy until a bulletin board falls on him and squashes him flat. The half-inch-thick Stanley can now slide under doors, fly like a kite, or mail himself across the country by folding himself into an envelope. For ages 4-8.
  See the Flat Stanley website for games, quizzes, activities, and instructions for sending a Flat Stanley of your own on a mail adventure.
  The Flat Stanley Project encourages kids to create Flat Stanleys of their own and share them with other project participants via mail or digitally, using the Flat Stanley app. Included are downloadable templates for Flat Stanleys and friends.
 imgres-9 In Judith Caseley’s Dear Annie (Greenwillow, 1994), Annie’s grandfather has been writing her letters ever since the day she was born. When Annie becomes old enough to write letters herself, the two become devoted penpals. A lovely story of a close multigenerational (letter-filled) relationship for ages 4-8.
 imgres-10 In Help Me, Mr. Mutt: Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008) by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel, Mr. Mutt, a dog who works as a dog counselor, answers desperate letters from unhappy dogs (Famished in Florida, Underplayed in Utah) while struggling with his own problems with a supercilious cat known as the Queen. Funny and clever for ages 4-8.
 imgres-11 In Duncan Tonatiuh’s Dear Primo (Harry N. Abrams, 2010), two cousins – Charlie, who lives in America, and Carlitos, who lives in Mexico – exchange letters about their very different daily lives. Included are two dozen vocabulary words in Spanish (easy to understand in context). Attractive illustrations are reminiscent of traditional Mexican art. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-12 In Alan Durant’s Dear Tooth Fairy (Candlewick, 2004), Holly has lost a tooth, but isn’t sure she wants to leave it for the Tooth Fairy – and so begins an exchange of letters. (“Why do you want my tooth?” Holly demands.) The Tooth Fairy’s replies come in entrancing tiny envelopes attached to pages of the book. For ages 4-8.
 images-4 In Emily Gravett’s Meerkat Mail (Simon & Schuster, 2007), Sunny Meerkat lives in the Kalahari Desert with his large family. The desert is VERY hot and Sunny’s family can be – well, TOO close. So off Sunny goes on a trip, sending picture postcards home every step of the way. (The postcards are right there in the book.) The illustrations are witty and wonderful – I love Emily Gravett! For ages 4-8.
 images-5 Stringbean’s Trip to the Shining Sea by Vera B. Williams and Jennifer Williams (Greenwillow, 1999) is the story of Stringbean’s trip with his older brother Fred from Kansas to the Pacific Ocean, told through descriptive illustrated postcards, complete with handwritten messages, snapshots, and cancelled stamps. For ages 4-9.
 imgres-13 Mark Teague’s Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School (Scholastic, 2003) is a collection of letters from Ike, a dog, sent to the Igor Brotweiler Canine Academy  for such bad behaviors as cat-chasing and stealing chicken pot pie. Illustrations in color (the real Academy, a sunny camp) and in black-and-white (Ike’s take, a grim and awful prison) add to the humor. There are several sequels, all featuring the letters of the irrepressible Ike LaRue. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-14 Alma Flor Ada’s Dear Peter Rabbit (Atheneum, 1997), is a collection of letters written by, to, and among Peter Rabbit, Baby Bear, Goldilocks (whose surname turns out to be McGregor), the Three Pigs, and a couple of Big Bad Wolves. Sequels in the same format include Yours Truly, Goldilocks (2001) and With Love, Little Red Hen (2004). For ages 5-9.
 imgres-18 In Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s The Jolly Postman (Little, Brown, 2001), the postman, on his red bicycle, delivers mail to a host of storybook characters. The letters are all tucked in little pockets right there in the book: for example, Baby Bear gets a note of apology from Goldilocks; the Wicked Witch gets an hilarious illustrated advertising circular; the Giant gets a postcard from Jack. For ages 5-10.
 imgres-16 In Suzy Kline’s Horrible Harry and the Dead Letters (Puffin, 2009) – one of a long series of chapter books starring third-grade detective Harry and pals – Harry’s class is studying color poems, when the post office donates a real mailbox to their room. The kids all take on the role of postal workers – and Harry discovers that a thief is using the mailbox, stealing other students’ special rainbow-colored poetry bookmarks. For ages 7-9.
 imgres-17 The protagonist of Peggy Gifford’s Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-You Notes (Yearling, 2009) is heading out to California with her twin brother to visit their father – but she has to finish her Christmas thank-you notes first. Procrastination leads to a desperate act with gold spray paint and a copy machine. Funny and clever for ages 7-10.

 LETTERS IN LITERATURE: MIDDLE GRADES

 imgres-19 In Kate Klise’s Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks (HarperCollins, 1999), the water fountain at Dry Creek Middle School has irrevocably bitten the dust. To design its replacement, the school principal hires the flamboyant and outrageous Florence Waters (who agrees with the Dry Creek fifth-graders: a real fountain should have a root-beer dispenser, goldfish, lots of spraying spouts and spiggots, and a place to toss pennies). The story is told through letters, postcards, memos, faxes, newspaper clippings, and bulletin board notices, which make it all even funnier. There are several other Klise titles in the same format for ages 8-12.
 imgres-20 In Elvira Woodruff’s Dear Napoleon, I Know You’re Dead, But… (Yearling Books, 1994), ten-year-old Martin gets mysterious letters – via a “secret time-travel courier” – from people in the past, among them Napoleon, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, and Vincent Van Gogh. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-21 In Elvira Woodruff’s Dear Levi: Letters from the Overland Trail (Yearling, 1998), 12-year-old Austin, traveling to the Oregon Territory by wagon train, writes letters home to his younger brother Levi in Pennsylvania. Also see Dear Austin: Letters from the Underground Railroad (Yearling, 2000), in which Levi, 11, writes older brother Austin about a harrowing trip south to rescue a black friend’s sister from the slave catchers. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-22 In Courtney Scheinmel’s Sincerely (Simon & Schuster, 2011), 11-year-old Sophie lives in Manhattan and her school-assigned penpal Katie, lives in California. Sophie’s parents are divorcing and she’s unhappy at the all-girls private school where she’s just been rejected by her erstwhile best friend; Katie is having a hard time because her best friend, Jake, is showing interest in another girl. Sophie and Katie both find help and comfort through the penpal letters that lead to a growing long-distance friendship. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-24 By Ann Martin and Paula Danziger, P.S. Longer Letter Later (Scholastic, 1999) is written in the form of alternating letters between seventh-grade best friends Tara and Elizabeth. Tara’s CHARENTS (CHildlike pARENTS) have moved her to another town, and the girls maintain their friendship and solve their problems and deal with the changing circumstances of their families through the mail. The two are totally different – Elizabeth is quiet and conservative; Tara likes glitter, nose rings, and fluorescent shoelaces – but both voices are genuine, funny, emotional, and compelling. There’s a sequel, Snail Mail No More, in which Tara and Elizabeth move on to email. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-25 In Beverly Cleary’s Dear Mr. Henshaw (Avon, 2000), sixth-grader Leigh Botts confides his troubles – his parents’ divorce, the pain of being the new kid in town, the creep at school who steals from his lunch bag – in letters to his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw. Who writes back, asking Leigh ten questions about himself. It’s the start of a beautiful friendship. For ages 9-13.
 imgres-26 In Karen Hesse’s Letters from Rifka (Square Fish, 2009), set in 1919, 12-year-old Rifka and her family flee Jewish persecution in Russia and come to America. Rifka records her experiences, trials, and tribulations in letters to her cousin Tovah – letters she will not be able to send – written in a book of Alexander Pushkin’s poems. An emotional and courageous account of the immigrant experience for ages 10 and up.
 images-6 Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs (Puffin, 2011) – originally written in 1912 – is the story of Jerusha Abbott, raised in a foundling asylum, and sent to college by an anonymous trustee with the stipulation that she write him a letter once a month about her studies. Jerusha (nicknamed Judy), a talented writer with a sense of humor, tells the story of her life through a wonderful one-sided correspondence with the mysterious patron that she calls “Daddy-Long-Legs.” And there’s a romance. For ages 9 and up.

LETTERS IN LITERATURE: OLDER READERS

 imgres-28 Bram Stoker’s Dracula – originally written in 1897; now available in many editions – is the tale of the world’s most famous vampire, told through journal entries and letters. For ages 12 and up.
The entire text of Dracula is online at Project Gutenberg.
 images-7 Letters feature prominently in Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, originally written in 1818 and now available in many editions. Often found on high-school recommended reading lists, it’s a good pick for book clubs, since is a great read and a terrific discussion-promoter.
The complete text of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus is online at Project Gutenberg.
There are dozens of films based on the book, beginning with Frankenstein (1931) with Boris Karloff as the Monster. The latest, scheduled to hit theaters in 2015, stars James McAvoy as Victor Frankenstein and Daniel Radcliffe – yes, Harry Potter! – as Igor.
 imgres-29 In Fay Weldon’s Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen (Basic Books, 1999), Alice – who is 18 and dyes her hair green – is being forced to read Jane Austen, whom she loathes. Aunt Fay puts Jane in another light, in a series of witty and well-informed letters about life and literature, then and now. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-30 Steve Kluger’s The Last Days of Summer (Perennial, 2002) – written in letters, journal entries, memos, report cards, and newspaper clippings – is set in Brooklyn in the 1940s. The main character is precocious young baseball fan Joey Margolis who has a lot on his plate: his parents are divorced (and father thoroughly absent); he’s Jewish, living in an Italian anti-Semitic neighborhood; and his best friend, Craig Nakamura, is sent with his family to a Japanese internment camp. In the course of all this, Joey forges an unlikely friendship with Charlie Banks, down-to-earth Midwestern player for the New York Giants. It’s funny, poignant, heartbreaking, and joyful. Highly recommended for ages 12 and up.
 imgres-31 By Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004) might be just the thing for those who have outgrown (or exhausted) Harry Potter, but miss him. The book is written as a series of letters between cousins Kate and Cecelia, and is set in an alternative Jane-Austen-era England, this one populated with wizards and magic. So far: two sequels. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-32 The star of Mark Dunn’s Ella Minnow Pea (Anchor Books, 2002) lives on the island of Nollop, named for the inventor of the famous pangram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” (A pangram is a sentence that uses every letter of the alphabet.) (Challenge! Invent some of your own.) When the letters of the pangram begin dropping off the memorial statue of Nollop, the island Council bans the lost letters from the alphabet. As more and more letters are lost and language becomes increasingly restricted, the islanders – among them 18-year-old Ella – begin to rebel. The story is told in letters, which become both inventive and difficult to write as increasing numbers of letters are banned. (Ella Minnow Pea = LMNOP.) A great read for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-33 By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Dial Press, 2009), begins in January 1946 when writer Juliet Ashton receives a grateful letter from Guernsey pig farmer Dawsey Adams, who has acquired a copy of Charles Lamb’s essays that once belonged to her. This is the beginning of a wonderful correspondence between Juliet and the inhabitants of Guernsey, who formed their literary society during the dark times of the Nazi occupation. A wonderful story, rich with history, distinctive characters, everyday and not-so-everyday heroes, humor, sadness, and joy. For ages 13 and up.
 imgres-34 In Jane Austen’s Lady Susan (Dover Publications, 2005), the beautiful and recently widowed Lady Susan Vernon plots to find herself a new husband and to secure an advantageous marriage for her daughter. The story is told entirely through letters. For ages 13 and up.
 imgres-35 Lauren Myracle’s ttyl (Amulet Books, 2005) is the story of three 16-year-old girls and their fraught high-school experiences, recounted through instant messages. If you like this one, there are several other books by Myracle in the same format. For ages 13 and up.
 imgres-36 The wallflower of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is odd, awkward, and bright high-school freshman Charlie, friendless since his best friend’s suicide. Charlie is adopted in the course of the book by Patrick and Samantha (Sam), step-siblings, and their circle of friends, and the book deals with the many problems and perils of modern growing up, among them drugs, alcohol, sex, and – in Charlie’s case, childhood sexual abuse and depression. The book is written in the form of letters by Charlie to an anonymous friend. Painful, funny, and ultimately hopeful. A good pick for kids who loved Catcher in the Rye. For ages 15 and up.
The film version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) is rated PG-13.
 imgres-37 C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters (HarperCollins, 2009), originally published in 1942, is a series of fascinating, philosophical, funny, and gripping letters written from Screwtape, a very senior demon, to his muddling nephew Wormwood, sent to earth to tempt a wavering young man away from “the Enemy” (God) and into the depths of sin. Thought- and discussion-provoking for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-38 In Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth (Empire Books, 2013) – originally written in 1910, but not published until long after Twain’s death – the writer of the letters is Lucifer, reporting back to angels Michael and Gabriel on the state of the human race. The letters, and accompanying essays, are Twain’s irreverent, funny, and bitter reflections on life, religion, and the human condition. (Twain on the Bible: “It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”) For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-39 Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road (Penguin, 1990) is a delightful exchange of letters between Hanff, a NYC-based writer with a love for classical literature, and a little British used-book store, beginning shortly after World War II. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-40 Alice Walker’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Color Purple (Mariner Books, 2003)– set in rural Georgia in the 1930s and written in the form of letters – is a painful and powerful story of black women, primarily the 20-year saga of Celie, raped and beaten at the age of 14 by Alphonso, whom she believes to be her father. The book repeatedly appears on the American Library Association’s Most Frequently Challenged list for sexual content and violence. What it is, however, is an extraordinary story of survival in the face of awful odds. For teenagers and adults.
The film version of The Color Purple (1985), directed by Steven Spielberg, stars Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, and Oprah Winfrey. Rated PG-13.

HOW TO WRITE LETTERS

 imgres-41 A useful introduction to the technicalities of letterwriting for early-elementary-aged correspondents is Loreen Leedy’s Messages in the Mailbox (Holiday House, 1994) in which the green and toothy Mrs. Gator teaches her class how to write a creative range of letters, among them friendly letters, thank-you notes, letters of apology, fan letters, complaint letters, and letters to the editor. It’s (rrr) out of print, but is available at public libraries and from used-book suppliers. For ages 4-9.
 imgres-42 Nancy Loewen’s 32-page Sincerely Yours: Writing Your Own Letter (Picture Window Books, 2009) in the Writer’s Toolbox series is an illustrated introduction to letter writing, covering the parts of a letter and different types of letters, with a handful of kid-friendly sample letters. For ages 7-9.
 imgres-43 Almost all style manuals (of which there are many) cover proper letter formats – see, for example, The Bantam Book of Correct Letter Writing (Lillian E. Watson; Bantam Books, 1993), which covers everything from the rules of grammar to the proper forms of address for archbishops, admirals, and the Queen of England. (Included are dozens of useful sample letters, none with much personality, but all written in admirably correct form.) For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-44 I’m addicted to vintage letter-writing books, which are always packed with irresistible samples – “A Father’s Letter to an Erring Son,” “A Brother’s Warning to His Sister,” “A Jolly Letter from a Young Man to His Chum,” “A Condolence on the Loss of a Fortune.” (“Pshaw, what is money?”) From Brainpickings, check some out at How to Write Letters: A Vintage Guide to the Lost Art of Epistolary Etiquette, 1876. (Remember: blots are not allowable, and you must never send a buff envelope to a lady.)
 imgres-45 From Education World, Better Letters has resources and letter-writing lesson plans and projects. For example, kids write story character letters to Dear Abby, letters to Sarah (from Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall), and participate in an anti-smoking letter campaign.
 imgres-45 The Lost Art of Letter Writing from the Truman Library is a lesson plan for high-school-level students in which kids read and analyze some of the letters of Harry S. Truman and compose five letters of their own to a range of different people.
 imgres-45 The Letter Writing and Sample Letters website has basic information and samples for a wide range of letter types, from complains, apologies, and resignations, to thank you notes, condolence letters, invitations, and love letters.
 imgres-45 From ReadWriteThink, the Letter Generator is an interactive guide to writing a friendly or a business letter. Type in your name and begin.
 imgres-45 From PBS Kids, Arthur’s Letter Writer Helper covers letters, emails, greeting cards, and postcards.
 imgres-45 ABCYA’s Friendly Letter Creator, recommended for ages 7-10, teaches kids the parts of a letter, after which they can create their own letters online.
 imgres-45 Learn How to Write a Letter is an interactive activity for kids. Write a letter of complaint to the Radio-controlled Racing Car Factory by choosing the right parts of the letter and putting them in the right place on the page.
 imgres-45 From Reading Rockets, An Introduction to Letter Writing covers all the basics, with discussion questions, typical formats, and activities – among them write an inquiry letter from an alien to Earth asking about liquids and gases and a complaint letter from Papa Bear to Goldilocks’s parents.

SEND A LETTER!

 LetterMo2014square Take the Month of Letters Challenge! In the spirit of Nanowrimo, participants write a letter or postcard a day throughout the month of February.
 t-PigeonPost The Letter Writers Alliance is an organization dedicated to keeping the art of letter-writing alive and well. Membership, which costs $5, includes such perks as free downloadable stationery and a pen pal swap. Check out the website for letter-writing supplies including plastic pneumatic tubes for mailing letters and – !! – a life-sized plastic pigeon that can be stamped and mailed.
 imgres-48 The Letter Exchange is dedicated to connecting would-be letter writers – snail mail letter writers, that is. A subscription to their magazine – crammed with potential penpal listings and articles about letters and letter writing – costs $23/year.
 imgres-48 Friendship by Mail finds snail mail or email penpals for persons of all ages. There’s a special page for kids ages 5-17, which requires a form, parental permission, and a $7.50 fee. In return, you get ten possible penpals.
 imgres-47 Got concerns? Go right to the top. Corresponding with the White House has an online feature and information on how to write a letter to the president.
 images-8 How to Write Letters to Congress has helpful suggestions, letter formats, and links to snail mail and email addresses for all United States senators, representatives, and Supreme Court justices.
 images-9 From Scholastic, the Kids’ Environmental Report Card site has step by step instructions for researching an environmental issue that concerns you and writing a letter about it to a public figure, organization, or newspaper.
 images-10 A “kindness idea” from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation: Write a Letter to Someone Who Made a Difference in Your Life.
 images-8 From the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Writing to Congress: How to Make a Difference has statistics and information on congressional mail. (Collectively, Congresspeople get 200 million messages a year.) Find out why your letter counts and how to make it more effective.
 images-11 From 30 Days, the Printable Summer Letter is an attractive template for kids spending some time away from home, with blocks for writing about (or illustrating) “What I’ve Been Up To” and “What I Love Best About Summer.” Appropriate for a range of ages.
 imgres-50 Sponsored by the Red Cross, Holiday Mail for Heroes is an annual program that collects holiday cards and letters for men and women in the military and in veteran’s hospitals. See the website for instructions and the address.

ARTISTIC LETTERS

 imgres-51 From the Editors at Klutz, Lettering In Crazy Cool Quirky Style (Klutz, 2006) comes with colored pencils, felt-tipped pens, and stencils, plus instructions for designing gorgeous and creative words and letters. (Use them to write the best letters ever!) For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-52 Joan Irvine’s Easy-to-Make Pop-Ups (Dover Publications, 2005) is a fun collection of pop-up cards and more, including not only pop-ups but springs, tabs, and revolving wheels. Over 30 cool projects for ages 7 and up.
 imgres-53 Also by Joan Irvine, see How to Make Super Pop-Ups (Dover Publications, 2008) with another 30 projects, among them a castle, dragon, flying bird, Victorian turning circle, and noise-making robot. For ages 7 and up.
 images-12 The Graceful Envelope Contest, sponsored annually by the Washington Calligraphers Guild and the National Association of Letter Carriers, is open to persons of all ages. The challenge: to design a creative envelope in the spirit of each year’s theme. (Theme for 2014 is “The Superlative Letter S.”) See the website for contest rules and an exhibit of past winning envelopes.
 images-13 Graffiti Diplomacy has a collection of free graffiti-style art lessons. Learn to make bubble letters, bending letters, outline letters, 3-D letters and more.
 images-14 From Design and Nonsense, Pretty Handmade Envelopes has step-by-step instructions for making wonderful envelopes of your own. (The site uses wallpaper samples, but any paper will do.)
 imgres-54 From the Chocolate Muffin Tree, find out how to make great Envelope Puppets. (You could even mail some to a friend. With a letter.)
 imgres-55 Craft Projects Using Envelopes has instructions for several, including a set of surprise envelopes, a postcard display wall hanging, and a Hogwarts acceptance letter.
 imgres-56 Envelope Crafts for Kids has instructions for many projects and activities for making creative envelopes. Make origami envelopes, Christmas and Easter Bunny envelopes, heart-shaped envelopes, recycled envelopes, and more.

HISTORY OF LETTER WRITING

 imgres-57 Simon Garfield’s To the Letter (Gotham, 2013) – subtitled “A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing” – is a fascinating account of the history, literature, and etiquette of the rapidly declining practice of snail mail. Chapter titles include “From Vindolanda, Greetings” (find out what the Romans wrote home from Hadrian’s Wall),  “How to Write the Perfect Letter” (find out how to address the pope), and “Why Jane Austen’s Letters Are so Dull” (letters in fiction). A great read for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-58 One-third of today’s 16-year-olds have never in their lives written a letter. Not one. Liz Williams’s Kind Regards (Michael O’Mara, 2012) does its best to buck the trend, covering the history and literature of letter writing, love letters and wartime letters, the invention of the fountain pen, and the life and times of the post office. For teenagers and adults.

ALL ABOUT MAIL

 imgres-59 Margaret Wise Brown’s Seven Little Postmen (Golden Books, 2002) is the cheerful rhyming story of how seven postmen collaborate to deliver a little boy’s letter after he seals it with red wax and drops it in the mailbox. Originally written in the 1940s, the book has great vintage illustrations. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-60 By Gail Gibbons, The Post Office Book: Mail and How It Moves (HarperCollins, 1986) is a straightforward picture-book account of what happens to a letter after you drop it in the mailbox. For ages 4-8.
 images-15 The National Postal Museum has information and online exhibits on the history of postal operations, stamps, and stamp collecting. Click on the Educators page for a collection of lesson plans, activities, and resources for kids.
 imgres-61 In Sandra Horning’s The Giant Hug (Dragonfly Books, 2008), Owen – a lovable little piglet in overalls – decides to send his granny a hug through the mail. So he goes to the post office with his granny’s address, gives the postal clerk a GIANT hug, and asks him to pass it on. And so the hug goes from person to person across the country until it reaches granny herself  – who sends back a kiss. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-62 In Michael O. Tunnel’s Mailing May (Greenwillow Books, 2000), it’s 1914 and May wants to visit her Grandma Mary who lives “a million miles away through the rough old Idaho mountains,” but her Ma and Pa can’t afford a train ticket. The solution: to send her via U.S. mail (with 53 cents in stamps pasted to the back of her coat). Based on a true story.  For ages 4-8.
 imgres-63 Mona Kerby’s Owney, the Mail Pouch Pooch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008) is the true story of a little dog who wandered into the Albany, NY, post office one cold rainy night in 1888 and made himself at home. Named Owney, the dog became famous as the mascot of the post office and later as a guard on trains transporting the mail. (There’s a period photo of Owney on board a train at the end of the book.) For ages 5-8.
 imgres-64 From the National Postal Museum, see Owney, the Railway Mail Service Mascot for an e-book about Owney, a downloadable Owney song, photos, lesson plans, and more. Owney even has his own Facebook page.
 imgres-65 Ellen Levine’s Henry’s Freedom Box (Scholastic, 2007) is the true story of Henry Brown, born a slave, who manages to mail himself north to freedom. For ages 5-10.
From Scholastic, the Henry’s Freedom Box Teaching Guide has a vocabulary list, discussion questions, cross-curricular connections (research the North Star, play an interactive role-playing game about the Underground Railroad), and extension activities, among them write and put on a play based on the book.
 imgres-66 Cheryl Harness’s They’re Off! The Story of the Pony Express  (Simon & Schuster, 2002) is the attractively designed story of an exciting period in the delivery of the U.S. mail – that of the phenomenal Pony Express. Included are wonderful maps and diagrams, creative illustrations, and an appended list of all the Pony Express Riders. For ages 7-10.

POETIC LETTERS

 images-16 Emily Dickinson’s poem Bee! I’m Expecting You is written in the form of a letter from Bee’s friend, Fly.
 images-17 By Emily Dickinson, The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems (New Directions/Christine Burgin, 2013) is a gorgeous facsimile collection of the 52 poems that Dickinson wrote on scraps of envelopes.

PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES

 imgres-67 Playing Post Office from A Place of Our Own has instructions for making your own mailbox from a corrugated cardboard box and letter writing suggestions.
 imgres-69 From Everything Preschool, Post Office Arts and Crafts has instructions for making your own stamp, picture postcard, and mail bag.
 main_lettercenter_closeup From Makezine, see these instructions for making a great Family Connection Letter Writing Center. It hangs on the wall and is filled with pockets for all the essentials: paper, envelopes, stamps, writing and drawing utensils, decorations, and even a pack of clever little cards with letter-writing ideas.
 letter_kit_main From Simple Kids, also see Create a Letter-Writing Kit for Kids.
 imgres-68 Author Kurt Vonnegut, while teaching at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, wrote his class assignments in the form of letters, as a means of communicating personally with each of his students. Read a sample at Kurt Vonnegut’s Rules for Writing Fiction. (Tackle the assignment!)
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