Celebrating Carrots

 

April 4th is International Carrot Day. February 3rd is National Carrot Cake Day. January is National Carrot Month. Summer is when carrots actually grow in the garden. And you can eat them, of course, all year round. In other words, almost every day is Carrot Day.

 

 imgres Listen to the National Carrot Day Anthem. Sung by carrots.
 imgres-1 Carrot stamps! Zazzle sells customized first-class postage stamps, just for National Carrot Month.
 imgres-2 All things carrot! The World Carrot Museum is surely the most comprehensive carrot site on the Web, featuring everything from carrot history and carrot recipes to carrot musical instruments, carrot toys, and carrots in the fine arts.
 imgres-3 My non-fiction book, How Carrots Won the Trojan War (Storey Publishing, 2011) is an award-winning science and history of garden vegetables. It’s an adult book, but is packed with stories and information adaptable for a wide range of educational and just plain interesting purposes. Find out, for example, about the Burmese Cucumber King, the pirate who discovered bell peppers, and what corn has to do with vampires. For carrot-lovers, learn about Peter Rabbit’s diet, Henry Ford’s carrot obsession, and how carrots helped win not only the Trojan War but World War II.

Carrot Books

 imgres-4 By Jol Temple and Kate Temple, Parrot Carrot (Allen & Unwin, 2012) is a quirky picture-book mash-up of pairs of rhyming objects – such as a parrot carrot, moose goose, and snake rake.  For ages 3-5.
 imgres-5 In Ruth Krauss’s classic The Carrot Seed (HarperCollins, 2004), a little boy (in beanie and overalls) plants a carrot seed and tends it devotedly, even though everybody around him insists that “it won’t come up.” He’s rewarded for his faith and patience with a perfectly enormous carrot. For ages 3-6.
 imgres-6 Scholastic’s Carrot Seed Lesson Plan suggests that kids make a “seed museum,” pairing samples of real seeds and drawings of the plants they will become with audio recordings telling about each type of seed.
 imgres-7 Jan Peck’s The Giant Carrot (Dial, 1998) is a version of the Russian folktale “The Turnip.” Here it’s set on a tumbledown farm in the U.S. (there’s a cabin, complete with derelict car on cinderblocks) where Little Isabelle’s singing and dancing miraculously produce a humongous carrot. Included are recipes for carrot pudding and carrot stew. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-8 In John Segal’s Carrot Soup (Margaret K. McElderry, 2006), Rabbit loves to garden – but after a summer of tending his carrot crop, he finds to his dismay that all the carrots have disappeared. His animal friends deny any knowledge of missing carrots – though it’s clear from the background illustrations that they’re all busily harvesting them and hauling them away. All ends happily, however, with a surprise party for Rabbit and a meal of his favorite carrot soup. Included is a carrot soup recipe. For ages 3-8.
 imgres-9 In Aaron Reynolds’s Creepy Carrots (Simon & Schuster, 2012), with great black-and-orange illustrations by Peter Brown, Jasper Rabbit has been greedily gobbling carrots, and now the carrots have caught up with him. Soon he’s seeing ominous carrots everywhere and hearing the “soft…sinister…tunktunktunk of carrots creeping.” For ages 4-8.
 imgres-10 In H.A. Rey’s Curious George: The Perfect Carrot (Harcourt, 2010), George – with the help of the Man in the Yellow Hat – plants a garden of carrots, but then decides that his prize carrot is too perfect for anyone to eat. Until, that is, his friend Bill’s pet bunnies show up, lost and hungry. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-11 In Lauren Child’s I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato (Candlewick, 2003), Lola, a determinedly fussy eater, not only rejects tomatoes, but almost everything else as well, including potatoes, peas, fish sticks, and carrots. Imaginative big brother Charlie changes her mind by giving food a whole new spin: potatoes are cloud fluff from Mount Fuji; fish sticks are mermaid food; tomatoes are moonsquirters. And carrots? They’re orange twiglets from Jupiter. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-12 By Susan M. Freese and Jan Westberg, Carrots to Cupcakes (Super Sandcastle, 2008) is a cartoon-illustrated activity book on reading, writing, and reciting poetry through poems about food. Included are twelve food poems by such kid-friendly poets as Jack Prelutsky and Kenn Nesbit, examples of student work, and explanations of basic poetry concepts. For ages 6-9.
  Also see GARDENING, EAT YOUR VEGGIES, and RABBITS!

 Carrots and Science

 imgres-13 TLC’s Nature Garden Activities for Kids has instructions for making your own root-view box from a half-gallon milk carton. Perfect for carrots.
 imgres-14 Soda Bottle Carrots has instructions for growing  carrots in 3-liter soda bottles. (Very small kitchen gardens.)
 imgres-15 Pair the above with Mari Schuh’s Carrots Grow Underground (Capstone Press, 2011), a simple account of how carrots grow, illustrated with bright color photographs.
 imgres-16 From the World Carrot Museum, Kids Experiments With Carrots has instructions for several carrot-based science projects, among them sprouting carrot tops, making a hanging carrot garden, building a carrot battery, and studying osmosis with carrots.
Honey, I Shrunk the Carrots is a more detailed study of osmosis in carrots for middle-school students, Included are instructions and lists of questions to investigate.
 imgres-17 What do carrots have to do with the Dead Sea? Float Me If You Can is an investigation of floating and sinking using various kinds of liquids and solutions. And carrots.
How much water is in a carrot? Squeezing Water From a Carrot has an experimental procedure for figuring this out, along with a short list of research questions for early-elementary students.

Carrots and Math

 imgres-18 Stuart J. Murphy’s Just Enough Carrots (HarperCollins, 1997), a MathStart 1 book, introduces concepts of more, fewer, and the same as a small rabbit, accompanying his mother to the grocery store, compares numbers of items in their shopping cart to those of other shoppers. (He’d like fewer peanuts and more carrots.) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-19 Carrot Crunch is a free downloadable addition game for early-elementary students played with dice and printable carrot number lines.
 imgres-20 Landing in the Carrot Patch is a math challenge for middle-school-level kids. Brad the Bunny, bent on nabbing carrots, is parachuting into Farmer McGee’s garden. Given the (printable) map of the garden, what are his chances of landing in the carrot patch?
 imgres-21 Using these printable Play Dough Math Mats, preschoolers use play dough to “plant” the correct number of carrots for each rabbit to eat.
 imgres-22 At Buying Carrots, two people have carrots for sale and shoppers need to determine which is the better deal. The trick: you’re calculating carrots in pounds and ounces and cost in old-fashioned British pounds, shillings, and pence.

Arts, Crafts, and Carrots

 imgres-23 This You Tube video from Simple Kids Crafts shows how to make Paper Carrot Sweets. You’ll need orange paper, green crepe paper, and glue. (Candy optional.)
 imgres-24 Creating a Carrot for Preschool Art has instructions for making both carrot prints (which involves real carrots and mixing paint to make the color orange) and a stuffed paper carrot, for which you’ll need brown paper bags, orange paint, and green curling ribbon.
 imgres-25 Make Papier-Mache Carrot Pencils! (Draw carrots with them.)
 imgres-26 Origami Carrot has step-by-step video instructions for making a folded origami carrot.
 Carrot Cupcakes - Fun Food - Living Locurto Make particularly adorable Carrot Cupcakes in miniature flowerpots. The “dirt” is chocolate cake; the carrots are made of candy and mint leaves.
 P1320316 This great homemade paper-pocket Carrot Garden Alphabet Game could easily be converted into an all-about-carrots quiz.
 imgres-27 Vegetable Instruments has instructions for making several, including a carrot ocarina and a multi-carrot pan flute.
  From PBS Kids, Edible Instruments has illustrated instructions for making a carrot strummer (and an eggplant clapper).

Quest for the Magic Carrot

 imgres-28 Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot (Playroom Entertainment) is a fast-paced card game in which players compete to eliminate each other’s bunnies and capture the prized Magic Carrot.  Bunnies can be done in with anything from a Magic Spatula to a Flame Thrower, or you can starve enemy Bunnies by withholding Cabbages. There are multiple expansion sets, which provide additional features and more bunnies. For 2-8 players ages 8 and up. About $22 from Amazon.
 imgres-29 Magic Carrot is a clever interactive online game in which a little rabbit must solve successive Rube-Goldberg-ish puzzles in order to find the Magic Carrot and save his sick friend.

 

 

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Perfect Pigs

 

PIGS! There’s Pooh’s best friend Piglet, in A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh; Sesame Street’s glamorous Miss Piggy (of the lavender gloves); Warner Brothers’ stuttering Porky; and the spooky episode in Homer’s Odyssey, when the sorceress Circe turns Odysseus’s men into pigs. Taran, hero of Lloyd Alexander’s  Chronicles of Prydain series, is an assistant pig-keeper, in charge of the visionary pig Hen Wen. Stalinist pigs Squealer, Napoleon, and Snowball take over George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

More pigs? Famous Pigs has detailed information on many famous pigs, both imaginary and real, with illustrations.

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Women’s History (Not Just For Girls)

 

Women’s history! The number of books and resources is…well, overwhelming. And they’re not just for girls.

See below for some great picks in Herstory, Suffragists: Fighting for Rights, Trailblazing and Triumphs, and Stories (and Poems) about Brave Women and Strong Girls.

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Chocolate: It’s Not Just for Valentine’s Day

 

February 14th is Valentine’s Day; the entire month of February is Chocolate Lover’s Month – which means that February is a particularly nice time to indulge in chocolate.

Though of course, as all of us know, anytime is a particularly nice time to indulge in chocolate.

See below for Chocolate Stories; Chocolate History and Science; A Chocolate Pilot and a Chocolate Entrepreneur; Chocolate Lesson Plans; Sundaes, Fudge, and Play Dough; Chocolate Poems; and What to Do With a Chocolate Box.

CHOCOLATE STORIES

  Linda Lowery’s The Chocolate Tree (Millbrook Press, 2009) is a picture-book version of a Mayan folktale for ages 6-10. The Mayan god-king Kukulkan (Quetzalcoatl to the Aztecs) brings his people a gift of chocolate trees, only to discover that his brother, the powerful Night Jaguar, believes that only the gods should be allowed to eat chocolate.
  Fred Gwynne’s A Chocolate Moose for Dinner (Aladdin, 1988) is a picture book of giggle-provoking homonyms: “Mommy says she had a chocolate moose for dinner last night. And after dinner she toasted Daddy.” (Accompanying illustrations: a giant chocolate moose with a napkin under his chin and a hapless father sitting in an enormous toaster.) Admittedly there’s not much chocolate in it, but it’s a great excuse for whipping up a family batch of chocolate mousse.
  Try this mousse from Marin Mama Cooks - it’s a very simple recipe intended for kids (with a little bit of help).
  Gertrude Chandler Warner’s The Chocolate Sundae Mystery (Albert Whitman & Company, 1995) is one of the Boxcar Children series – which began with the four orphaned Alden children living in a boxcar, though by the end of book one, the four are living with their wealthy grandfather and the boxcar is in the backyard of his mansion. In this volume, the kids take a job working at the town ice cream parlor – where suddenly, mysteriously, ice cream and dishes begin to disappear. The owner, discouraged, thinks of closing the store, until the Aldens manage to solve his problem. For ages 7-10.
  Patrick Skene Catling’s The Chocolate Touch (HarperCollins, 2006) is a twist on the King Midas tale for ages 7-11. Young John Midas, a selfish pig when it comes to candy, tastes a delicious chocolate from a mysterious candy shop, after which everything he touches turns to chocolate: his breakfast bacon and eggs, his shiny new trumpet, and even, eventually, his mother. It’s funny, but – without being preachy – it also teaches a useful lesson about the perils of greed and the benefits of healthy eating.
See EAT YOUR VEGGIES and Other Healthy Stuff.
  Henry Green, the hero of Robert Kimmel Smith’s Chocolate Fever (Puffin, 2006), eats nothing but chocolate – until suddenly he breaks out in chocolate-colored spots. His teacher sends him to the suspicious Dr. Fargo, who diagnoses the problem as chocolate fever.  What follows: an exciting chase, an encounter with a kindly truck driver, a hijacking – and ultimately a lesson learned and a chocolate-fever cure. For ages 7-11.
For discussion questions and a printable student handout to accompany the book, see Scholastic’s Literature Circle Guide to Chocolate Fever.
  In Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Puffin, 2011), poverty-stricken Charlie Bucket finds a golden ticket that entitles him to a trip to Willy Wonka’s fabulous candy factory. (Nobody does candy better than Roald Dahl.) The book is zany, imaginative, and satisfyingly moral – wicked children come to awful ends – but it’s all in good fun. For ages 8 and up. (Also available in French and Spanish.)
  For movie-lovers, there’s Tim Burton’s version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) with Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka (rated PG) and Mel Stuart’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), with Gene Wilder as Willy (rated G).
  In Charlotte Herman’s My Chocolate Year (Simon & Schuster, 2008), set in Chicago just at the end of World War II, Dorrie’s fifth-grade is about to embark on the annual “Sweet Semester,” in which the students compete to bake the best dessert (and write the best essay about it) – but Dorrie has no talent for cooking. At the same time, Dorrie’s Jewish-American family is fearfully awaiting news of the fate of relatives in Europe. Many have not survived the war, but sixteen-year-old cousin Victor is finally located in a displaced-persons camp. Victor, whose family had a bakery, is able to help Dorrie with her cooking problems (he provides a recipe for Peppermint Chocolate Sticks) – but Dorrie’s winning essay is about Victor’s experiences under the Nazis and the value of family. It’s a charming evocation of 1940s home life, and the dark historical background is gently presented for readers aged 8-11. Included are twelve recipes for chocolate desserts.
  Pseudonymous Bosch’s This Book Is Not Good for You (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009) – third of the hilarious Secret Series – centers around a trance-inducing recipe for chocolate and an evil chef and chocolatier. (“Do not read this book standing up. You may fall down from shock.”) For ages 8-12.
  Jane Austen and…magic? By Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2003) is written as an exchange of letters between two cousins, Kate and Cecelia, living in an alternative magical England in the early 19th century. Along with London seasons, tea parties, horse-drawn carriages, Lord Byron, and the Elgin marbles, Kate and Cecy also have to deal with the Royal College of Wizards, magic spells, and an extremely important ensorcelled chocolate pot. For ages 12 and up.
  Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War (Ember, 2004) is a challenging and discussion-heavy read for ages 12 and up. The protagonist, Jerry Renault, refuses to sell chocolates for the high-school fundraiser – which decision pits him against the school administration and the Vigils, the school gang, headed by the unscrupulous Archie Costello. Issues include peer intimidation, violence, individualism vs. groupthink, and the real dangers inherent in bucking the system.
Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? is a multifaceted lesson plan to accompany The Chocolate War, targeted at grades 9-12. Included are discussion questions, writing and webquest projects, and suggestions for supplementary materials.
  For mature teenagers (there’s sex in it) and adults, Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate (Anchor Books, 1995) – subtitled “A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies” – is set in turn-of-the-century Mexico. Part fairy-tale, part soap opera, the story centers around Tita who – forbidden to marry the man she loves – pours her emotions into cooking.
  Joanne Harris’s Chocolat (Penguin, 2000) is set in a tiny town in France, where Vianne Rocher and her young daughter Anouk (who has an imaginary pet kangaroo, Pantoufle) open a marvelous chocolate shop, infuriating the parish priest, but bringing hope to a wide range of unhappy outcasts. For older teenagers and adults.

CHOCOLATE HISTORY AND SCIENCE

  Inez Synder’s Beans to Chocolate (Children’s Press, 2003) traces the making of chocolate from cacao bean to candy kiss in 24 photo-illustrated pages with a simple large-print text, for ages 3-5.  (The book is one of the “How Things Are Made” series; other titles include Wax to CrayonsMilk to Ice Cream, and Trees to Paper.)
  C.J. Polin’s 48-page The Story of Chocolate (DK Publishing, 2005) is divided into six sections: “Chocolate trees,” “An ancient treat,” “To Europe and beyond,” “Chocolate factories,” “Making chocolate today,” and “All kinds of chocolate.” The book is illustrated with lush color photographs. For ages 5-10 (recommended as a read-alone book for grades 2-4).
  Sandra Markle’s Smart About Chocolate: A Sweet History (Grosset & Dunlap, 2004) is a cleverly designed overview of chocolate written in the style of a creative kid’s school report and illustrated with photos and catchy bright-colored kid-labeled maps and drawings. In 32 pages, it manages to cover everything from the Mayas to Milton Hershey, plus a bit of chocolate science, chocolate recipes, and a reference list. For ages 5-10.
  Visit the San Francisco Exploratorium’s Sweet Science of Chocolate for an excellent interactive chocolate experience, including video clips of an Amazon cacao plantation and an American chocolate factory, interviews with scientists, and a hands-on chocolate experiment.
  Chocolate contains about 380 different chemicals. Learn all about it at Neuroscience for Kids: Discovering the Sweet Mysteries of Chocolate.
  The dark side of chocolate: find out why not to feed it to the dog at The Curious (Toxic) Chemistry of Chocolate.
  From Chicago’s Field Museum, visit All About Chocolate for chocolate word puzzles, a Fun-Facts-based illustrated history of chocolate, an online activity in which kids can make a chocolate bar from scratch, and an assortment of kid-friendly chocolate recipes, including Mexican hot chocolate and chocolate modeling clay.
Also from the Field Museum, see the Educators’ Resources page for a terrific downloadable resource kit, Cocoa Connections: From Beans to Bars, with multiple lessons grouped under “Chocolate and the Environment” and “Chocolate and Culture.”
  From California’s KQED Quest science series, The Sweet Science of Chocolate is a video on chocolate science targeted at middle-school-level kids with an accompanying downloadable teacher’s guide.
  From NBC Learn, Chemistry of Chocolate is a collection of short informational videos with printable transcripts, targeted at middle- and high-school-level students. Titles include “Eat Chocolate, Weigh Less?,” “The Chemistry of Chocolate,” “The History of Chocolate.”

A CHOCOLATE PILOT AND A CHOCOLATE ENTREPRENEUR

  In the Childhood of Famous Americans series, Milton Hershey: Young Chocolatier by M.M. Eboch (Aladdin, 2008) is the rags-to-riches story of the famous Pennsylvania chocolate entrepreneur for ages 7-11.
  For older teenagers and adults, see Michael D’Antonio’s Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams (Simon & Schuster, 2007), a comprehensive reader-friendly biography with cover photo of a gigantic Hershey’s chocolate bar.
  Margot Theis Raven’s Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot (Sleeping Bear Press, 2011) is based on the true story of a young German girl during the days of the Berlin Airlift, when American cargo pilot Gail Halvorsen began dropping chocolate bars (attached to little parachutes) to the blockaded children of West Berlin. Mercedes writes a letter to Halvorsen, asking him to look for her house, which has white chickens in the yard. An epilogue describes how the two met when Halvorsen visited Germany in 1972. For ages 6-10.
  Michael O. Tunnell’s Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s Chocolate Pilot (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2010) is a more detailed account of the Airlift and Gail Halvorsen, the “candy bomber.” Illustrated with black-and-white photos, for ages 9-14.

CHOCOLATE LESSON PLANS

  Where does chocolate come from? Learn all about Cacao Tree Geography while coloring and labeling a map.
For free printable maps, see WorldAtlas.
  Chocolates by the Box is a nicely designed pre-algebra lesson plan in which kids determine the numbers of light and dark chocolates that will fit in boxes of various shapes and sizes.
  From Global Exchange, Fair Trade in the Classroom has a two-part downloadable chocolate curriculum, consisting of a Fair Trade Chocolate Book and a multi-part lesson unit, Setting a Higher Bar: Fair Trade Cocoa Unit for Kids, packed with information, activities, and discussion questions. For grades 2-6.
  Classroom resources from the Fair Trade Association include Cocoa, a packet of teacher notes, student resources, and worksheets on the global economics of chocolate. Well-designed, with color graphics. For middle- and high-school-level students.
From the GuardianThe Dark Side of Chocolate is a multidisciplinary hyperlinked lesson plan in which kids view a video about chocolate making, identify chocolate-growing regions on a map, listen to some prize-winning chocolate rap, and invent a fair-trade chocolate bar.
  From the Southern Illinois Professional Development Center, Chocolate Chip Cookie Mining is a hands-on exercise on environmental destruction as kids “mine” chocolate chips from cookies using toothpicks as mining tools. The lesson plan includes background info on coal mining and suggestions for extension activities.
See Chocolate Recipes for Kids for a quick-and-easy chocolate chip cookie recipe.
  From the American Chemical Society’s ChemMatters magazine, Chocolate: The New Health Food – Or Is It? is a terrific illustrated article on the science of chocolate for middle- and high-school-level students, illustrated with photos and great color diagrams. There’s also an accompanying lesson plan.
  Guilt-Free Chocolate is a hands-on science activity in which kids melt chocolate, use it to coat cookies, and perform a series of measurements and calculations relative to food processing and labeling. Included at the site is a fifteen-minute video on the history and science of chocolate from Aztec times to the present. For high-school-level students.
  From Young Minds Inspired, The Story of Chocolate is a downloadable color-illustrated lesson unit on the history, cultivation, and consumption of chocolate. Included is a chef’s guide to the different types of chocolate and a recipe challenge. For high-school-level students.

SUNDAES, FUDGE, AND PLAY DOUGH

  Mix up a batch of your own chocolate at home with the Make Your Own Chocolate Kit (Verve, Inc.). The kit includes everything you need for whipping up eight ounces of yummy dark chocolate: organic cocoa butter, cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, candy liners,  and a temperature indicator – plus instructions, a short history of chocolate, and a few genuine cacao beans. About $10 from http://www.amazon.com.
  See these instructions for making Fudge in a Ziploc Bag – just combine ingredients, seal bag, and squish.
  Make that chocolate sundae! is a lesson plan for early-elementary-level kids in which participants write instructions for making a chocolate sundae, then trade recipes with a partner, and make a sundae based on the instructions in the partner’s recipe. Then, of course, they eat it.
From Child Fun, Chocolate Arts and Crafts has a recipe for chocolate-scented play dough.

CHOCOLATE POEMS

  Read Rita Dove’s poem Chocolate (or watch and listen to a video clip of a recitation by the author).
  Arnold Adoff’s Chocolate Dreams (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1989) is an illustrated collection of all-chocolate poems for ages 7-11. It’s out of print, but available from used-book suppliers and public libraries. Here’s one selection from the book: Let the Biter Beware.
  Tim Daley’s 24-page I Love Chocolate (CreateSpace, 2011) – illustrated with yummy color photographs – is a mouth-watering poem in celebration of chocolate.
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Writing: Facts, Fiction, Fantasy, and Beyond

 

See below for How-tos, Helps, (and Advice from a Mouse); Ideas and Story Starters; Inspiring Imagination; Discovering Your Voice; Point of View; Going Graphic; Books With Characters Who Write; How Books Are Made; Pop-Ups, Accordions, and Story Books: Create a Book of Your Own; Getting Published; and Poems About Writing.

 

HOW-TOS, HELPS, (AND ADVICE FROM A MOUSE)

  In Kate Duke’s Aunt Isabel Tells a Good One (Puffin, 1994), Penelope – an enchanting little mouse – demands a story from her Aunt Isabel after supper. A good story, however, Aunt Isabel explains, needs just the right ingredients – beginning with “a When and a Where.” With a lot of imaginative input from Penelope, Aunt Isabel helps her weave a perfect plot, complete with setting, characters (valiant Lady Nell, a captive prince, a villainous Odious Mole), conflict, suspense, and a satisfying ending. For ages 4-8.
  More resources on mice? See NICE MICE AND AWESOME RATS.
  Peggy Kaye’s Games for Writing: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Write (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995) is a mother lode of creative projects and activities for young writers. Kids, for example, make story maps and pretzel letters, invent acrostic poems, make shape books and family journals, create comics, write a play, or try their hands at producing the longest story ever written. For ages 5-8.
  In Joan Lowery Nixon’s If You Were a Writer (Aladdin, 1995), Melia’s mother – a writer, shown at a typewriter surrounded by sheets of scribbled-upon yellow paper – explains the writing process. “If you were a writer you wouldn’t tell about what happened in a story. You’d think of words that show what is happening.” The conversation is somewhat stilted – Melia’s mother doesn’t have a lot of pizzazz – but she does explain the essentials of the writer’s craft. For ages 6-8.
  Loreen Leedy’s Look at My Book (Holiday House, 2005) is a 32-page picture-book account of how to write and illustrate your own book, from choosing genre, characters, and setting, to making a rough draft, revising and refining, preparing a layout, and combining finished pages in a bound book. For ages 6-9.
The accompanying Look At My Book website has a downloadable cartoon-illustrated poster of the writing process from IDEAS and BRAINSTORMING to LETTERING, BINDING, and FINISHED BOOK.
  In Roni Schotter’s Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street (Scholastic, 1999), Eva is stumped by her homework assignment, in which she’s been asked to “write what you know.” Passing neighbors give helpful writerly advice – be observant (“The whole world’s a stage,” says Mr. Sims, the out-of-work actor), use detail and imaginative language, exaggerate, add action – and finally Eva, by feeding her leftover Danish to the pigeons, sets off a chain of events that leads to a couple falling in love, the invention of a marvelous mousse, the opening of a new restaurant, and a great story. For ages 6-10.
  Nancy Loewen’s Just the Facts (Picture Window Books, 2009), one of the Writer’s Toolbox series, is a nicely organized 32-page picture-book explanation of how to write a research report. (“First you’ll need to pick a topic. You’ll learn what experts have to say about your topic. You’ll take notes. You’ll organize facts. And when you’re done with those steps? THEN you’ll write.”) Each step of the process is clearly explained, using an example of a little girl writing a report about the duck-billed platypus. For ages 7-9.
  Other books in the Writer’s Toolbox series (Picture Window Books, 2009) cover different genres of writing in the same fashion, including playwriting, journaling, letter-writing, poetry, humor, horror stories, picture books, and fairy tales. Titles are Action! Writing Your Own Play, It’s All About You: Writing Your Own Journal, Make Me Giggle: Writing Your Own Silly Story, Once Upon a Time: Writing Your Own Fairy Tale, Share a Scare: Writing Your Own Scary Story, Show Me a Story: Writing Your Own Picture Book, Sincerely Yours: Writing Your Own Letter, and Words, Wit, and Wonder: Writing Your Own Poem.
  Linda Polon’s Write a Story (Good Year Books, 1998) is a 100-page workbook of (very short) story-writing exercises combined with grammar instruction.Covered are types of sentences, parts of speech, synonyms and antonyms, contractions, homophones and homographs, compound words, double negatives, prefixes, and suffixes, punctuation, similes and metaphors, and writing genres. For ages 8-11.
  Esther Hershenhorn’s S is for Story: A Writer’s Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Press, 2009) is a picture-book A-to-Z account of writers’ tools and techniques. Each page has short rhyme about the featured topic, a detailed explanatory paragraph or two, and a quote from a well-known children’s author, such as Andrew Clements, Katherine Paterson, Beverly Cleary, or J.K. Rowling. B, for example, is for Book, C for Character, N for Notebook, W for Word Choice. For ages 8-12.
From Sleeping Bear Press, the S is for Story Teacher’s Guide has activities and student worksheets to accompany the book.
  Gail Carson Levine’s Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly (2006) is a conversational and delightful guide for young writers, filled with stories about Levine’s own experience of writing, helpful information about the writing process, and writing exercises. In fact, it starts off – on the first page of chapter one – with a list of proposed first sentences that will have any young writer itching to grab a keyboard, pencil, or pen. For ages 9 and up.
For the same age group, also see Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer’s Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook (Square Fish, 2010).
  Ralph Fletcher’s A Writer’s Notebook (HarperCollins, 1996) explains how to take notes to serve as seeds for stories, poems, and other writing projects. “A writer’s notebook gives you a place to live like a writer…wherever you are, at any time of day.” Included are samples of notebooks by both published writers and young beginners. For ages 9-12.
  Brigid Lowry’s Juicy Writing (Allen & Unwin, 2009) is a mix of inspiration and technical advice for young writers, with exercises that include such challenges as inventing a new religion, writing about a day in the life of a shoe, or re-casting your life as a fairy tale. A final chapter includes a resource list of websites and writer’s organizations. For ages 12 and up.
  By Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz, Models for Writers (Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2012) is a collection of short essays, each accompanied by discussion questions, a vocabulary list, and related writing suggestions. The essays are used to illustrate technical aspects of the writing process – such as organization, beginnings and endings, transition, tone, figurative language -  or as examples of various essay types (narration, process analysis, comparison and contrast, cause and effect). An excellent and challenging resource for high-school-level students and up.
John Gardner’s The Art of Writing Fiction: Notes on the Craft for Young Writers (Vintage, 1991) is a classic of its kind, filled with astute observations on what to think about when writing fiction, what to watch out for, and what to remember – namely that “there are no rules for real fiction.” For older teenagers and up.
  Monica Wood’s The Pocket Muse (Writer’s Digest Books, 2004) – subtitled “ideas & inspiration for writing” – is a cleverly designed compilation of helpful hints, writing prompts, and creative thinking exercises, packed with quotations, photographs, and examples. Also see The Pocket Muse 2 (2009). For teenagers and adults.
  By Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers (William Morrow, 1991) is filled with excellent exercises on all aspects of writing: story beginnings, journaling and memory, characterization, point of view, dialogue, plot, story elements, resolutions, mechanics, writing games, and “Learning from the Greats.” For older teenagers and adults.
  Marianne Saccardi’s 178-page Books That Teach Kids to Write (Libraries Unlimited, 2011) is a treasure trove of suggestions, activities, and information on writing for kids in grades K-12 – all illustrated with excellent examples from literature, and accompanied by lengthy annotated book and reference lists. Various book sections deal with instilling a love for language, ideas for sparking reluctant writers, ways of creating a unique writer’s voice, approaches to inventing believable and memorable characters, modes of non-fiction writing, and suggestions for enhancing writing through drama. Appendices include reproducible activity sheets and a bibliography of books featuring characters who write.
  By Patrick Sebranek, Dave Kemper, and Verne Meyer, Writers INC. (Write Source, 2006) is a fat (600+ pages), nicely designed and organized tome on the writing process intended for high-school-level students. The book covers the writing process, forms of writing (personal, subject, creative, persuasive, academic, literary, research, workplace), writing tools, and proofreading. A useful reference.
See Write Source for more information on student writing handbooks, a list of writing topics categorized by grade level (1-12), student writing models, research links, and style criteria.
  The National Writing Project (NWP) is a national network promoting writing for students of all ages, from preschool to college. The website lists resources on all aspects of writing, including activities and projects for young writers, informational articles and essays, and research publications. There’s also an online bookstore devoted to writing education.
  ReadWriteThink has a long and excellent list of lesson plans for writers, categorized by grade level. Enter “Creative Writing” in the search box, for example, for projects in which kids devise stories to accompany wordless picture books using an online interactive story map; invent alternative endings for familiar books; investigate magic realism; write fanfiction; and much more. For a range of ages.
  What makes a good short story? The Annenburg Foundation’s Literature online unit analyzes short story writing, using as an example Susan Glaspell’s “A Jury of Her Peers.” Kids read the story (online at the site) and then explore plot construction, point of view, character development, setting, and theme. For ages 13 and up.
  Want to write a cookbook? Dianne Jacob’s Will Write for Food (DaCapo Lifelong Books, 2010) is a complete guide to food-writing, with writing exercises, examples, background information, suggestions for getting published, and a resource list. The book is aimed at adults, but could be the source of a great parent/child project.

IDEAS AND STORY STARTERS

  Enchanted Learning’s Writing Activities has printable writing prompt worksheets, draw-and-write pages, brainstorming worksheets, make-your-own writing prompt pages, thought bubble and speech balloon pages, and a long list of essay projects for elementary-level students. Only site members can actually print the pages. (A single-family membership costs $20/year.)
  At Scholastic’s StoryStarters, visitors choose a genre (Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-fi, Scrambler), a grade level (K-1, 2, 3, 4-6), a format (notebook, letter, newspaper, postcard), generate a story scenario, and then create an online story (with an option for illustrations). Examples: “Write about a thrilling experience for a graceful reindeer who accidentally sets the science fair on fire.” “Describe a celebration for a tricky pirate who rides a wild boar.”
  Bryan Cohen’s 1000 Creative Writing Prompts (CreateSpace, 2011) is a 132-page collection of story starters, grouped under such categories as “Holidays,” “Seasons,” “For the Kids,” “Art,” “Sports, “The Outdoors,” and “The Weird.” Adaptable for all ages. Also see Cohen’s 1000 Character Writing Prompts (CreateSpace, 2012), jumpstarts for inventing a wide range of characters, from superheroes and sidekicks to zombies, monsters, wicked stepmothers, and lawyers.
  By A.S. Newman and P.C. Trauth, 365 Things to Write About! (TNA Publishing, 2011) consists of 365 lined pages with a short writing prompt printed at the top of each. Examples include an airplane, Alaska, aliens, the color red, a galaxy, a potion, quicksand, the Taj Mahal, a trap door. Adaptable for all ages.
  From Capstone Press, the Fact Finders series is a collection of 32-page books “Using Photos to Inspire Writing.” Titles are Picture Yourself Writing Fiction (Sheila Griffin Llanas, 2011), Picture Yourself Writing Nonfiction (Jennifer Fandel, 2011), Picture Yourself Writing Poetry (Laura Purdie Salas, 2011), and Picture Yourself Writing Drama (Barbara A. Tyler, 2011). Each has helpful instructions for writers, a reading list, and a collection of terrific color photographs to serve as inspirational story starters. For ages 8-12.
  Hank Kellner’s Write What You See (Prufrock Press, 2009) contains 99 great black-and-white photographs to be used as writing prompts, each with a quotation, a short list of questions to consider, and suggestions for approaches or possible opening lines. For ages 12 and up.
  At Creative Writing Prompts, point your cursor at a number (1-346) for a writing exercise or story prompt. Examples: “Why would a speaker be afraid of cats?” “Use all these words in a poem: crash, crumpled paper, straw, gravel, ochre.” “Write a story about greed with a CEO as the main character and a chess board as a key object.” For ages 12 and up.
  From The Teacher’s Corner, Daily Writing Prompts has a writing suggestion for every day of the year, based on holidays, anniversaries, historical events, and the birthdays of famous people. Adaptable for a range of ages.
  The Daily Writing Prompt is a terrific source of prompts and story starters, variously categorized by genre or topic, or based on the calendar. Included are pages of writing prompts based on picture books, writing prompts paired with video clips,  journaling suggestions, and student portfolio samples. There’s also an option to publish your work online.
  At the online Idea Game for Kids, participants press a MAGIC BUTTON to get story ideas. “Please write a story about…a trip you once took, a book you like, autumn, your favorite toy, a place that was really cold.”
Story Writing Game for Kids is  a Mad-Libs-style writing exercise is which kids choose words to generate a ghost, romance, or spy story.
Language Is a Virus has a long list of creative writing games and aids, among them a Character Name Generator and a Writing Prompts feature.
  The New York Times Learning Network is a great source of innovative lesson plans, categorized by academic discipline. See, for example, Toy Stories, a creative writing project in which kids explore the cultural significance of popular toys, invent a game to share their knowledge, and write letters to their favorite toys, or The Plot Thickens? in which kids update familiar works of literature to reflect how plots and characters would have differed in the age of technology. What if Cinderella had had a cell phone?

INSPIRING IMAGINATION

Of course, almost any book is an inspiration for the imagination…

  In Leo Lionni’s Frederick (Dragonfly Books, 1973), while all the other field mice scurry about collecting food for the winter, Frederick – a talented and imaginative little mouse – dreamily sits, watches, and thinks, explaining that he is gathering color, warmth, and words for the cold days ahead. Finally winter comes, and as food stores run low and spirits droop, Frederick revives them all with his wonderful poems and stories filled with colorful images of the spring and summer. For ages 3 and up.
  In John Burningham’s It’s a Secret (Candlewick, 2009), Marie-Elaine wonders where her cat, Malcolm, spends the night – and discovers, on a magical journey, that Malcolm, wearing a hat with a plume, celebrates at midnight parties with the Queen of the Cats. (Where do you think cats go at night? Invent your own story.) For ages 3 and up.
  Dr. Seuss’s rollicking And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1989) is a tale of imagination run amok: Marco hasn’t seen anything on the way home from school but a horse and a wagon (“That can’t be my story. That’s only a start.”) – so he proceeds to add imaginative embellishments, each more fabulous than the last. Marco is a born writer. For ages 3-8.
Learn more about And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street at NPR’s How Dr. Seuss Got His Start.
  In Mark Teague’s rhyming picture-book How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Dragonfly Books, 1997), young Wallace Bleff – giving a class report on a blah, but classic, back-to-school writing topic – explains that he was sent out west for the summer to recover from a too-wild imagination. His story then spirals into an improbable (but cool) account of a kidnapping by cowboys and a barbecue threatened by a cattle stampede, in which “Kid Bleff” heroically saves the day. For ages 4-8.
  In Nancy Carlson’s Henry’s Amazing Imagination (Puffin, 2010), Henry – an extremely imaginative mouse – regales his class at show-and-tell with fabulous stories of pet dinosaurs, giant snowmen, and visiting aliens. Accused of lying, Henry is crushed, until he discovers how to channel his amazing imagination into writing stories. For ages 4-8.
Writing is often a matter of creating imaginative new worlds. A wonderful example of this is found in Paul Fleischman’s Weslandia (Candlewick, 2002), in which young Wesley – an ususual boy who dislikes pizza and refuses to shave half his head like all the other boys – spends his summer vacation creating a whole new civilization. (Try it.) A wonderful read for ages 4 and up.
  Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (Houghton Mifflin, 1984) is a marvelous picture book: eerie, evocative, inspiring, and utterly fascinating.  It consists of fourteen enchanting black-and-white pictures, each with a mysterious title and line or two of text. “Mr. Linden’s Library,” for example, shows a girl asleep with an open book, from which a leafy vine is now sprouting.  “He had warned her about the book,” the text reads. “Now it was too late.”  “Uninvited Guests” pictures a cellar: at the bottom of the stairs, light from a window falls on a tiny wooden door. (“His heart was pounding. He was sure he had seen the doorknob turn.”) For ages 4 and up.
  From ReadWriteThink, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a lesson plan in which kids write mystery stories based on the pictures in the book.
  Sarah Perry’s If… (J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995) pairs a simple text with fascinating surrealistic paintings: If zebras had stars and stripes…If mice were hair…If spiders could read Braille…If cats could fly…If the moon were square…Irresistible. For ages 4 and up.
  Sarah L. Thomson’s magical Imagine books – Imagine a Night (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003), Imagine a Day (2005), and Imagine a Place (2008) – illustrated with evocative and surreal paintings by Ron Gonsalves, are wonderful inspirations for stories, as moonlit reflections of pine trees turn into ghostly girls with lanterns; a toy train becomes life-sized; and sunflowers have human faces.  For ages 9 and up.
  The Storymatic – “six trillion stories in one little box” – is touted as a writing prompt, a teaching tool, a parlor game, and a toy.  It consists of a box of 540 cards in two colors. Players draw two gold cards to create a main character – say, “royalty,” “gravedigger ,” “caretaker of an elephant,” or “pig” – and two copper-colored cards as story starters, such as “invitation from a stranger,” “burning house,” “handcuffs,” “pet is behaving strangely,” or “talking doll.” The challenge: to write, tell, or co-invent a story based on your cards. Thought-provoking and addictive for ages 12 and up. Also see The Storymatic Kids! for ages 5 and up, and – for historians – The Storymatic Colonial Williamsburg.
  Think-ets – the “Tiny Trinket Imagination Game” – consists of a pouch or box of assorted (and entrancing) teeny objects: a miniature compass, a bottle, a gold ring, a shell, a polar bear, an airplane, a bird’s egg, a thimble. Combinations of the objects serve as story starters.
  From Gamewright, Rory’s Story Cubes consists of nine dice, each with imagination-sparking images on each face – for example, a key, a magic wand, a mask, an apple, a shooting star. Roll them for story-generating combinations. About $15.

DISCOVERING VOICE

In writing, voice is more than the thing you use to talk, sing, and yell – it’s a unique expression of personality, the creative quirk that gives color and pizzazz to language.

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large mater – ‘tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning. (Mark Twain)

  Josephine Nobisso’s Show; Don’t Tell! (Gingerbread House, 2004), illustrated with wonderful blocky folk-art-ish animals by Eva Montanari, features a writing lion who demonstrates how to choose just the right nouns and adjectives to best communicate a story. For ages 8-11.
  Nancy Dean’s Discovering Voice (Maupin House, 2006) a collection of creative writing lessons aimed at analyzing and developing a writer’s voice, using as examples excerpts from the works of published authors, paired with discussion questions, activities, and writing projects. Topics covered include diction, detail, figurative language, imagery, syntax, and tone. An exercise on diction, for example, begins with a quote from Virginia Hamilton’s M.C. Higgins the Great: “M.C. heard him scramble and strain his way up the slope of Sarah’s mountain.” Visualize it, Dean says. “How would it change your mental picture if Hamilton had written: ‘M.C. heard him walk up the slope of Sarah’s mountain’?” An excellent and thought-provoking resource for ages 12 and up.
  Also by Nancy Dean, see Voice Lessons: Classroom Activities to Teach Diction, Detail, Imagery, Syntax, and Tone (Maupin House, 2000), using examples from a wide range of well-known writers, among them Barbara Kingsolver, E.B. White, Annie Proulx, Seamus Heaney, John Steinbeck, William F. Buckley, Elie Wiesel, and Langston Hughes. For high-school-level students.
  By Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall, Finding Your Writer’s Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1996) explains that voice is what differentiates one writer from all the others in the world. The book discusses “raw” voice, narrative voice, and varying characters’ voices, with writing exercises and many examples from published authors. For older teenagers and adults.
  Characters need distinctive voices too. From Wordplay, How to Create Distinctive Character Voices has a handful of exercises for experimenting with character voice. (What would J.K. Rowling’s Professor Snape say about his first glimpse of Disneyland?)
  Need a good example of character voice? One of my favorites is that of the Big Friendly Giant of Roald Dahl’s The BFG (Puffin, 2007), who – once heard – can never possibly be mistaken for anyone else: “By ringo, your head must be so full of frogsquinkers and buzzwangles, I is frittered if I know how you can think at all!” (Now there’s a voice.) For ages 7 and up.

POINT OF VIEW

There are books told from the points of view of dolls, toy soldiers, and stuffed rabbits; of horses, dogs, cats, birds, and mice; and, of course, of all possible kinds of people.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird)

  Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (Puffin, 1996) is the familiar classic told from the point of view of the villain. The Wolf – Alexander T. Wolf, that is – insists he’s been wronged: he only wanted to borrow a cup of sugar from the pigs to make his grandmother a birthday cake. And all the huffing and puffing? He had a cold. For ages 4 and up.
More resources? See FAIRY TALES.
  In Anthony Browne’s Voices in the Park (Dorling Kindersley, 2001), a snobbish society mother, her buttoned-up son, Charles, and their pedigreed Labrador retriever visit the park at the same time as an unemployed father, his daughter, Smudge, and their rambunctious mongrel. The story is told in four different voices, from four very different points of view. All the characters are anthropomorphic apes. For ages 7-11.
  Rob Buyea’s Because of Mr. Terupt (Yearling, 2011) is the story of a life-changing teacher and a disastrous accident, told from the varying points of view of seven very different fifth-grade students. For ages 9-12.
  Paul Fleishman’s Bull Run (HarperCollins, 1995) is the story of the Civil War, told from the points of view of sixteen different people, with sixteen widely different attitudes and backgrounds. For ages 10 and up.
  Paul Fleischman’s Seedfolks (HarperTrophy, 2004) is told in thirteen different voices, beginning with nine-year-old Kim, daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, who plants some bean seeds in a vacant lot. Thus begins a community garden, with its growing cast of multicultural narrators, each with a different array of goals, problems, and perspectives. For ages 10 and up.
  Anna Sewall’s classic Black Beauty, available in many editions, was originally published in 1877. The story of Black Beauty’s life, from pampered carriage horse to abused cab horse to peaceful retirement, is narrated in the first person from the point of view of the horse himself. For ages 12 and up.
See HORSES.
  Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad (Canongate, 2006) is a new view of the Odyssey, told from the perspective of long-suffering Penelope and her twelve maids, the latter all hanged by Odysseus when he returned home. (“I knew he was tricky and a liar, I just didn’t think he would play his tricks and try out his lies on me,” Penelope says.) For older teenagers and adults.

GOING GRAPHIC!

  The main character of Jules Feiffer’s The Man in the Ceiling (HarperCollins, 1995) is young Jimmy Jibbets, who loves making comic books and wants to be a cartoonist someday – despite a total lack of support from his family. A witty take on art and the human condition for ages 8-12.
  Art Roche’s Art for Kids: Comic Strips (Sterling, 2011) has complete instructions for creating 3-panel comic strips, variously covering story line, characters, layout and design, and the tricky business of making an effective joke. For ages 9-13.
  Barbara Slate’s 200-page You Can Do a Graphic Novel (Alpha Books, 2010) is a guide to graphic novels in the form of a graphic novel. It covers all the basics, including drawing, creating characters, plots, and layouts. One chapter is devoted to samples of student work. For ages 11 and up.
The You Can Do a Graphic Novel Teacher’s Guide is a detailed guide to accompany the book, with instructions, suggestions, and printable worksheets and templates.
  In Matt Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story (Chamberlain Brothers, 2005), Madden tells the same story in 99 single-page comics, each time in a different way. The story isn’t much – a man goes to the refrigerator and then forgets what he’s looking for – but the possibilities are fascinating, as Madden adds characters and points of view, and experiments with flashbacks, free verse, color effects, art styles, page design, close-ups and long-shots. A great potential project for ages 14 and up.
  By Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures (First Second, 2008) is a 15-lesson all-in-one-book course on making comics, manga, and graphic novels. For teenagers and adults.
  Scott McCloud’s Making Comics (William Morrow, 2006) is a comic-book-style explanation of how drawings can be used to tell a story, covering everything from the “reader’s camera” to facial expressions, figure drawing, word balloons, background, tools and techniques, and publishing markets. For older teenagers and adults.
  From ReadWriteThink, Comic Creator is an online tool with which kids and teens can design their own comic strips.
  From the New York Times Learning Network, That’s the Story of My Life is a lesson in which kids create storyboards for a graphic novel about their lives.
From Donna Young, at Comic Strip Printables, visitors can choose among many different cartoon panel templates. Print your own comic-strip and graphic-novel paper.

BOOKS WITH CHARACTERS WHO WRITE

  In David Ezra Stein’s Interrupting Chicken (Candlewick, 2010), a patient father rooster (in spectacles and carpet slippers) tucks his offspring, a little red chicken, into bed and attempts to read a bedtime story – only to be continually interrupted by his daughter, who can’t bear the suspense. “Out jumped a little red chicken,” she cries, as her father reaches a crucial point in Hansel and Gretel, “and she said ‘DON’T GO IN! SHE’S A WITCH!’ So Hansel and Gretel didn’t. THE END!” Finally the little red chicken decides to write a story of her own, only to be interrupted by her tired father’s snores. For ages 3-7.
  Henrietta, of Mary Ann Auch and Herm Auch’s The Plot Chickens (Holiday House, 2010), is a very bookish chicken who decides, since she so loves reading, that it would be fun to write a book. Unfortunately it’s rejected for publication – and when Henrietta self-publishes, it gets a terrible review. Henrietta is thoroughly discouraged – until she discovers that the children at the library have voted her book one of the best of the year. There’s a lot of wordplay based on the word “egg.” For ages 4-8.
Also see CHICKENS, CHICKS, and LITTLE RED HENS.
  In Tad Hills’s Rocket Writes a Story (Schwartz & Wade, 2012), Rocket – with the help of the little yellow bird, his teacher in How Rocket Learned to Read (2010) – creates a wonderful word tree, hung with all his favorite words (feather, tree, snail, rock, bug, book, bird, dog). Then he decides to write a story using his word collection and – though he hits some bumps on the way (there’s crossing out and growling) – he eventually, adorably, succeeds. For ages 4-8.
  In Kate Banks’s Max’s Words (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006), Max’s brother Benjamin collects stamps and brother Karl collects coins – so Max, who wants a collection too, decides to collect words. (“Very funny, Max,” said Karl.) Max begins with small words cut from magazines and newspapers, then proceeds to bigger and better words, and finally begins to arrange them to make stories. The word illustrations are wonderful, in a range of sizes and fonts. Some are miniature concrete poems: “hungry” has a bite taken out of it; “park” is surrounded by trees; “baseball” is shaped like a baseball bat. For ages 4-8.
Max’s Words is a lesson plan to accompany the book: kids make their own word collections and use them to create stories; write “pass it on” stories based on the final sentence in the book (“Once there was a big brown dog…”); and illustrate selected “Wow” (particularly cool or image-promoting) words.
  Ralph, the mouse of Daniel Kirk’s Library Mouse (Harry N. Abrams, 2007), lives behind the reference book section in the library and spends all his time reading. He enjoys books so much that he eventually decides to write one about himself – Squeak! A Mouse’s Life – using a little mirror to draw his self-portrait. He follows it up with a mystery story (The Lonely Cheese and the Mystery of Mouse Mansion) and soon is so popular that the librarian invites him to “Meet the Author” day. When the children arrive, however, they find – instead of the author – a series of blank books and mirrors to help them write books of their own. For ages 4-8.
The World of Library Mouse is a teaching guide with activities to accompany Daniel Kirk’s Library Mouse books.
Also see LOVE THE LIBRARY.
  In Frank W. Dormer’s The Obstinate Pen (Henry Holt and Company, 2012), Uncle Flood’s new pen has a mind of its own. When he tries to write “The following story is all true,” the pen – who doesn’t believe him – instead inscribes “You have a BIG nose.” Uncle Flood, frustrated, finally chucks the pen out the window, where it ends up passing through the hands of several grown-ups, forcing each of them to write something far more honest (and ruder) than they had planned. Finally it reaches the hands of Flood’s story-writing little nephew Horace, who knows how to make it cooperate. For ages 4-8.
  In Sarah Sullivan’s Once Upon a Baby Brother (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010), Lizzie’s story-telling talent is admired by all – until her baby brother Marvin comes along. Lizzie, feeling neglected, begins writing stories about a beautiful princess and a villain – Marvin as ugly prince, fearsome Marvinosaurus, dangerous Marvinfish. Challenged to write a comic book by her teacher, however, Lizzie suffers from writer’s block – until Marvin returns from a visit to Grandma. Once she realizes that she loves her little brother after all, inspiration strikes, and she creates “The Amazing Adventures of Marvin (with Big George the Wonder Dog).” For ages 4-9.
See Sarah Sullivan: Activities for a teacher’s guide to accompany Once Upon a Baby Brother and a downloadable bookmark featuring Lizzie, Marvin, and Lizzie’s Princess Merriweather pencil. Among the activities: use Lizzie’s many story snippets as story-starters. (“The brave young girl rescued her teacher from an alligator pit.”)
  “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph’s teacher insists – but Ralph, of Abbie Hanlon’s Ralph Tells a Story (Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2012) has a massive case of writer’s block. Finally Ralph remembers finding an inchworm in the park, which – with the help of questions from classmates – turns into a lively story. By the end of the book, Ralph’s endless stack dismal papers with nothing on them but his name has turned into an entire library of books, with titles like “When Milk Came Out of My Nose” and “The Scariest Hamster.” For ages 6-8.
  The narrator of Eileen Spinelli’s The Best Story (Dial, 2008) wants to win the library’s story-writing contest: the prize is a roller coaster ride with her favorite author. Her brother Tim thinks the best stories are packed with action – but adding a pirate, a tornado, and a great white shark doesn’t seem to do the trick. Her father claims the best stories are funny; her Aunt Jane wants a tearjerker; her cousin Anika wants romance. Finally her mother suggests that she write from her heart – and finally she comes up with a “best story” all her own. For ages 6-9.
  Harriet, of Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy (Yearling, 2001) plans to be a famous author someday – and as practice she keeps a notebook  in which she writes down observations and opinions derived from spying on neighbors and classmates. When Harriet’s classmates get their hands on the notebook and read Harriet’s comments, they’re furious, and form a Spy Catcher Club devoted to making Harriet’s life miserable.  Harriet eventually works it with out, with advice from her nanny, Ole Golly, and her performance as editor of the school newspaper. For ages 8 and up. (For grown-ups who miss Harriet, see Miss Buncle’s Book below.)
Harriet the Spy, the 1996 film version of the book, is available on DVD. Rated PG.
Learn more about the book at NPR’s Unapologetically Harriet, the Misfit Spy.
In Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy (Yearling, 2007), Rosalind, Skye, Jane, Batty (age four, who wears butterfly wings) and their Latin-quoting botanist father vacation at a cottage next to a massive estate, where they meet two rabbits, the dreadful Mrs. Tifton, her even more dreadful boyfriend (Dexter Dupree), and Mrs. Tifton’s very nice son, Jeffrey, whom they save from military boarding school. In honor of which, ten-year-old Jane, an indefatigable writer and author of the exciting Sabrina Starr novels, writes her latest in which Sabrina Rescues a Boy. For ages 8 and up.
  Avi’s A Beginning, A Muddle, and an End: The Right Way to Write Writing (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2008) – charmingly illustrated by Tricia Tusa – features Avon, a very well-read snail, and his friend Edward the ant, characters who first appeared in The End of the Beginning (2004). Now Avon is determined to write a book – which he proceeds to muddle through, with a list of writer’s rules, a lot of clever word play, and some not-always-helpful help from Edward. For ages 8-12.
  Andrew Clements’s The Landry News (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000) is the story of a young writer making a difference. New girl Cara Landry, upset that her fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Larson, “does not teach,” begins publishing a newspaper, The Landry News, and criticizes his behavior in her first editorial. Soon the entire class is involved with the newspaper; Mr. Larson, fired up, is teaching again; and the school principal and the town are involved in a struggle involving the First Amendment. For ages 8-12.
  The title character of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, originally published in 1908, is bookish, dramatic, and trouble-prone orphan Anne Shirley, who writes overblown romances but ultimately realizes where her heart lies – and writes a successful book about the life she loves in Avonlea. Seven sequels. For ages 9 and up.
Of the many film versions, Kevin Sullivan’s award-winning Anne of Green Gables, with Megan Follows, Richard Farnsworth, and Colleen Dewhurst, is generally thought to be the most true to the books.
  Following on Nory Ryan’s Song and Maggie’s Door, Patricia Reilly Giff’s Water Street (Yearling, 2008) continues the tale of Irish immigrants in 19th-century America. The year is 1875; the Brooklyn Bridge is going up; and main characters 13-year-old Bird Mallon and Thomas Neary live in the same Brooklyn tenement building. Bird wants to be a midwife and healer, like her mother; Thomas wants to be a writer.  (“Thomas had made himself a notebook with cardboard covers and sewed the pages, but if the book wasn’t handy, he used anything, paper bags from the market, or even the edges of the newspaper. He wrote stories about anything he saw, and he saw a lot.”) For ages 9-13.
  In Rebecca Rupp’s After Eli (Candlewick, 2012), 14-year-old Danny struggles to come to terms with the death of his older brother by writing in his Book of the Dead, in which he chronicles how people die, and why. Starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly; winner of a Parent’s Choice Gold Award. For ages 9 and up.
  In Guus Kuijer’s award-winning The Book of Everything (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2006), Thomas – a very unusual nine-year-old, who sees things no one else does, loves one-legged Eliza, and has heart-to-heart talks with Jesus – comes to terms with life with his abusive father by recording all his thoughts in his Book of Everything. For ages 12 and up.
  Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women, originally published in 1868, is available in many editions. Everyone’s favorite character is creative tomboy Jo, who writes family plays, short stories, and a newspaper, and eventually – after a couple of false starts, and with the advice of German professor Friedrich Bhaer (with whom she falls in love) – becomes a published author. For ages 10 and up.
The 1994 film version of Little Women stars Winona Ryder as Jo and Gabriel Byrne as Professor Bhaer, which casting helps a lot of readers get over the fact that Jo didn’t marry Laurie. Rated PG.
  In D.E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2012), originally published in 1934, dowdy Barbara Buncle has written a book about life in the little English village of Copperfield – which exactly replicates the people and events of her own village, Silverstream. Readers, seeing themselves, either become outraged or have sudden revelations or both. It’s delightful and ends with Miss Buncle marrying her publisher. For older teenagers and adults who miss Harriet the Spy.

HOW BOOKS ARE MADE

  Aliki’s 32-page picture book How a Book Is Made (HarperCollins, 1988) describes the many people who participate in the process of making a book – the author, who thinks of a story, then the editor, publisher, designer, proofreader, and more – until finally the finished book lands in the hands of a child. All the characters are very well-dressed cats. For ages 6-10.
  In Eileen Christelow’s What Do Authors Do? (Clarion Books, 1995), neighboring authors are simultaneously inspired to write books about their two pets – Rufus, a shaggy dog, and Max, a black-and-white cat. Through a combination of short text and fun cartoon-bubble illustrations, readers learn all about the process of creating a book, including revisions, research, illustrations, writer’s block, and interactions with editors, designers, and printers. For ages 5-8.
  In Janet Stevens’s From Pictures to Words (Holiday House, 1996), an author/illustrator, with the help of three chatty animals (Cat, Koala Bear, and Rhino), shows how a picture book is made, covering characters, plot, and setting, sketches and storyboards, making a book dummy, and creating the final art. For ages 6-9.
  By the author of Tacky the Penguin, Helen Lester’s Author: A True Story (Sandpiper, 2002) is the funny and delightful picture-book story of how she became an author, beginning at age three when she wrote “useful lists” for her mother (they read the same right-side-up or upside-down), and in elementary school, when her handwriting was the prettiest in the class – but it was also “perfectly backward.” A tale of the perseverance it takes to become a published author. For ages 5-8.
  In W. Nikola-Lisa’s  Magic in the Margins (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2007), set in the Middle Ages, Simon, a young orphan, has been taken in by the local monastery and is being educated in book-making by Brother William, master scribe in the monastery’s scriptorium.  His first assignment: to “capture” the monastery’s mice. Simon does, with pen and ink. For ages 7-9.
  In Bruce Robertson’s Marguerite Makes a Book (J. Paul Getty Museum, 1999), set in 15th-century Paris, young Marguerite, the daughter of a book illustrator, must complete her father’s work on an illuminated prayer book after her father breaks his glasses. A lovely look at the process of early book-making, with illustrations by Kathryn Hewitt. For ages 8-12.

POP-UPS, ACCORDIONS, AND STORYBOOKS: CREATE A BOOK OF YOUR OWN

  Kits from Creativity for Kids include “Create Your Own Books,” “Create Your Own Enchanted Storybook.” “Create Your Own Popup Books,” and more. “Create Your Own Books,” for example, includes two hardcover blank books, with blank squares for illustrations and lines for text, a list of story-starter ideas, colored pencils, and decorative stickers. Kit prices range from about $15-$22.
  Gwen Diehn’s photo-illustrated Making Books That Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist & Turn (Lark Books, 2006) has step-by-step instructions for an array of truly beautiful and creative books, among them an accordion-fold book with pockets, a ring-bound journal, and a tetraflexagon book. Cool projects for ages 9 and up.
  Want to make a pop-up book? A good introduction is Joan Irvine’s Easy-to-Make Pop-Ups (Dover Publications, 2005) which has clear illustrated instructions for many pop-up projects for beginners. Make a talking-mouth, a trapeze, a rocket, a fire-breathing dragon, a turning circle, and an entire zoo. A final section discusses using your new skills to make a pop-up book. Also by Irvine, see Super Pop-Ups (Dover Publications, 2008). For ages 9 and up.
  Pam Scheunemann’s photo-illustrated Cool Stuff for Reading and Writing (Checkerboard Library, 2011) is a collection of snazzy crafts for writers and booklovers, among them a Fancy-Nancy-style flower pen, felt book covers, a creative writer’s notebook, bookmarks, and bookends. For ages 9-12.
  Kathleen McCafferty’s Making Mini Books (Lark Crafts, 2012) is an enchanting collection of small and very small books – among them a rainbow book that unfolds into the shape of a rainbow, matchbook books, and a book tiny enough to be worn as a necklace. For ages 10 and up.
  Esther K. Smith’s How to Make Books (Potter Craft, 2007) – subtitled “”Fold, Cut & Stitch Your Way to a One-of-a-Kind Book” – has instructions for making basic “instant” books, accordion books, envelope books, pamphlets, journals, and sketchbooks, all with beautiful drawings and photographs of finished products.
From Education.com, Make Peek-a-Boo Books has illustrated instructions for making simple word-and-picture books. (See the word, lift the flap, and see the picture.) A nice project for preschoolers and early-elementary-level kids.
  Artist Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord’s Makingbooks.com has instructions for making eight simple book projects – among them a wish scroll, a stick-and-elastic book, an accordion book, and a step book, as well as an extensive resource list and helpful teaching tips.
  Vicki Blackwell’s Let’s Make Books has instructions for many types of books and booklets, among them circle books, folding house books, fan books, accordion books, and flip flap books.
  From Favecrafts, Handmade Books has book-binding tutorials and instructions for making a variety of books, among them a keyhole book, a cupcake recipe book, a journal, a memory book, and a soft book (great for toddlers).
  The Instructables Envelope Book has illustrated step-by-step instructions for a book made from 12 vintage envelopes. Assemble and fill with cool stuff.
From Bird and Little Bird, Bookmaking with Children: Accordion Books has step-by-step photo-illustrated instructions for making a particularly attractive and colorful accordion book.
  From Artists Helping Children, Book Making Crafts for Kids has instructions for beginner book-binding  projects, scrapbooks, journals, and themed books, among them a heart-shaped book and an alphabet book.

GETTING PUBLISHED!

  By Jessica Dunn and Danielle Dunn, A Teen’s Guide to Getting Published (Prufrock Press, 2006) covers the writing craft, freelance publishing (including how to prepare submissions and what you should know about rights and copyright), feedback, and market venues. Appendices list writing camps and workshops, and book publishing opportunities.
  The Writer’s Slate publishes original poetry and prose by writers in grades K-12. Three issues are published each year.
Stone Soup publishes stories, poems, and art by kids ages 8-13. Six issues are published each year; an annual subscription costs $37.
  New Moon Girls – “by girls, for girls” – is written largely by girls ages 8 and up. Available either on paper or as an e-magazine; subscription rates vary.
  Merlyn’s Pen is a magazine of short stories, essays, and poems by teens. Check the website for writing samples, submission requirements, and an archive, searchable by genre, topic, or author grade level.
  For the young non-fiction writer, The Concord Review, a quarterly history journal, is a highly respected publisher of academic essays by secondary students. Visit the website for instructions, sample essays, and the table of contents of the current issue. An annual subscription costs $40.
  Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month, a literary marathon event during which all participating writers share the goal of completing an entire 50,000-word novel in the month of November. A subset of the program – the Nanowrimo Young Writers Program – is designed for K-12 groups or for writers ages 12 and under writing solo; in this case, total word count is left to teachers, parents, the group, or the individual kid. The benefits of Nanowrimo are said to be legion: among these are increased verbal fluency, self-confidence, and creativity, and an enhanced understanding of time management, since churning out a novel in a mere thirty days necessarily requires focus, scheduling, and dedication.
  November is not just for fiction writers. WNFIN – Write Nonfiction in November – is an annual NaNoWriMo-type challenge to write a nonfiction book in 30 days.
  The Machine of Death (MOD) is a recent writing contest that so far has produced two books of collected short stories. The premise: a machine has been invented that can tell you, by taking a sample of your blood, just how you’re going to die. The machine gives you no specifics – simply generates a card printed with a single word or phrase (DROWNED, CHOKED ON A TACO, BURIED ALIVE). Now…write a story.
  If you need help with your MOD story, decks of Death Prediction Cards are available for purchase. Each deck contains 50 death cards (ELEVATOR SHAFT, SPIDER BITE, ABSOLUTE ZERO) and costs $18. Or, of course, you can invent dozens of your own.
  In the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, participants compete to write the first sentence of the world’s most dreadful novel. The contest is an annual event, with thousands of applicants, enthusiastic media coverage, and numerous subcategories, among them Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Children’s Literature, and Purple Prose. The rules for entry are described as “childishly simple:” applicants simply submit their awful sentence in an e-mail or via snail mail on an index card. Or your multiple entries: there are no limitations; contestants can submit as many awful sentences as they want. The annual deadline is April 15, but entries are accepted year-round. The BLFC website is targeted at teenagers and adults but the contest itself is potentially fun for a wide range of ages.
  Also see the BLFC website for the truly dreadful sentence by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton that inspired the whole thing. It’s from the long-forgotten novel Paul Clifford, which begins “It was a dark and stormy night…”
Scriblitt provides online tools with which kids can create and print their own illustrated story booklets, comics, and stationery.
Storyjumper is an online site at which kids can create and edit books, using a variety of provided props and settings. Finished books can be shared online or printed.
Electronic Storybooks is a self-guided tutorial to alternative book projects, among them various types of e-books, live books, and talking books.

POEMS ABOUT WRITING

  Compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Wonderful Words (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004) is an illustrated collection of 15 poems about the joy of language in reading, writing, speaking, and listening by such poets as Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg, David McCord, Eve Merriam, and Karla Kuskin.
  Charles Bukowski’s So You Want to Be a Writer explains when not to write: “If it doesn’t come bursting out of you/in spite of everything/don’t do it.”
  Richard Wilbur’s poem The Writer begins with his young daughter writing a story.
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Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution

 

“Evolution” is a word that engenders considerable controversy – if not outright purple-faced fights – in this country; and its place in the public-school science curriculum has never been secure.

It’s time we did better.

 

See below for Evolution in the Classroom, All About Evolution, Evolution for Older Readers, Hands-On Evolution, Discovering Darwin, Human Evolution, The Monkey Trial, Evolution in Fiction, and Evolution in Poems.

 

EVOLUTION IN THE CLASSROOM, or How’s Your State Doing?

  From NPR, Teaching Evolution: A State-by-State Debate describes how various states are dealing with the evolution controversy. Most of them, poorly.
  Evolution in the Classroom has a chilling infographic showing the rankings (A to F) of all fifty states and the District of Columbia in terms of teaching evolution, as determined by the National Center for Science Education. Only one state (California) got an A.
  From the National Academy of Sciences, the 150-page Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science (National Academies Press, 1998) is crammed with illustrations, explanations, teaching suggestions, and resources for kids in grades 5-12. Of particular interest are the sections on “Why Teach Evolution,” which lists many convincing reasons; “Evolution and the Nature of Science,” which clearly explains the crucial theory and demonstrates its relevance to a wide range of scientific disciplines; and “Frequently Asked Questions About Evolution and the Nature of Science” (with answers).

ALL ABOUT EVOLUTION

  Christopher Wormell’s One Smart Fish (Red Fox Picture Books, 2011) is the story of a highly intelligent little fish – he sings, dances, and plays chess (with himself) – who is curious about life on land. Cleverly, he invents a set of feet and clambers out of the water. He finds the land barren and lonely, so he returns to the sea – but then, a few million years later, other fish follow in his footsteps. Eventually from those first slithering fish, lizards evolve – and from them a marvelous host of land animals. A rare introduction to evolution for ages 3-6.
  Char Matejovsky’s picture-book Stones & Bones (Polebridge Press, 2007) covers evolution in seventeen rhyming verses. (“About sixty million years ago/No, make that sixty five/With the Cenozoic Age/The age of mammals would arrive.”) Detailed illustrations provide fun Where’s-Waldo-like details – a row of books in the crowded library lists geologic eras and periods in order; fossils hang on the walls; Darwin’s tortoise crawls across the floor. Included with the book is a CD on which the verses are set to music. For ages 4-9.
  Ellen Jackson’s The Tree of Life (Prometheus Books, 2004) traces the history of life from its beginnings as single cells in the oceans to multicellular organisms, fish, amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, insects, birds, mammals, and the first humans. A simple overview of evolution for ages 4-9.
  Karen Patkau’s Creatures Yesterday and Today (Tundra Books, 2012) pairs prehistoric animals with their (related, but startlingly different) modern descendants, each of which – in the first person – tells a bit about themselves. Included is a comprehensive array of animals – reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish, insects, arachnids, mollusks, mammals, crustaceans, sea jellies. The first pair, for example, is the Jurassic Diplodocus (“I was a giant plant-eating dinosaur…”) and its distant descendant, the skylark (“Like a therapod of long ago, I have a wishbone, scaly feet, and hard-shelled eggs.”). For ages 4-8.
  By Jennifer Morgan, Mammals Who Morph (Dawn Publications, 2006) is the third of a trilogy in which the Universe itself narrates its story, beginning with Born With a Bang (2002) and From Lava to Life (2003). Subtitled “The Universe Tells Our Evolution Story,” the book traces the evolution of the tiny mammals who survived the extinction of the dinosaurs into their many and varied descendants. For ages 5-8.
  In Karen Fox’s Older Than the Stars (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2011), a mix of splashy illustrations, catchy rhymes, and straightforward prose show readers that every part of human beings was created billions of years ago in the Big Bang. The iron in our blood may have come from an ancient volcano; the oxygen in our lungs may have been breathed by dinosaurs. A compelling overview of Big Bang cosmology, planetary formation, and evolution for ages 5-9.
  Joanna Cole’s Evolution (HarperTrophy, 1989) is a simple picture-book explanation of evolutionary theory from both a biological and a geological perspective, with charming drawings and diagrams by Aliki. It’s very well done – and it’s out of print, for reasons that escape me. Luckily, however, it’s available from libraries and, inexpensively, from used-book suppliers. For ages 5-9.
  Virginia Lee Burton’s Life Story (Sandpiper, 2009) is a delightful picture-book history of life on earth, presented as a play in five acts – namely the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic Eras, Recent Life, and Most Recent Life. The book begins with an introductory “Cast of Characters,” listing “Leading Animals” and “Leading Plants” in order of appearance; the curtain rises on the beginnings of the Milky Way Galaxy. For ages 7-10.
  By Lisa Westberg Peters, Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2003) is a poetic picture-book account of evolution, from the beginning of life on earth nearly four billion years ago to the emergence of human beings from primate ancestors. (“All of us,” Peters begins, “are part of an old, old family.”) Included are helpful notes and an illustrated timeline. For ages 7-10.
  Linda Gamlin’s Evolution in the Eyewitness Series (Dorling Kindersley, 2009) contains 64 pages of visually appealing double-page spreads, each – through color photographs, drawings, and explanatory picture captions – detailing a different evolutionary topic. Examples include “Fossil evidence,” “The age of the Earth,” and “How new species are formed.” For ages 7-12.
  Laurence Pringle’s Billions of Years, Amazing Changes (Boyds Mills Press, 2011) is a 112-page survey of evolution, illustrated with wonderful color photographs and drawings. Pringle discusses the evidence for evolution, beginning with geology and the fossil record, then moving on to Darwin’s discoveries, natural selection, genetics, and biogeography. For ages 8 and up.
  Michael Rubino’s 64-page Bang! How We Came to Be (Prometheus Books, 2011) is a beautifully illustrated progression through time in a series of double-page spreads, from the Big Bang to the formation of the planets to the evolution of life on Earth. For ages 8 and up.
  Daniel Loxton’s award-winning 56-page Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be (Kids Can Press, 2010) – initially, disgracefully, shunned by US publishers as “too controversial” – covers the basics of natural selection and evolutionary theory, evolution as relevant to our daily lives (for example, why do we need a new flu vaccine each year?), and the various objections commonly posed by opponents of evolution, using a combination of interesting, accessible text and catchy Q&A boxes. Sample questions include “What is a species?” “Can we ever see evolution happening?” and “How could evolution produce something as complicated as my eyes?” For ages 8-13.
  James Lu Dunbar’s It’s Alive (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2011), the second of a three-book series, is a terrific 42-page graphic overview of the formation of the planets and the origin of life on Earth, with witty illustrations and a clever rhyming text.  Other titles are Bang!, a graphic rendition of the creation of the universe, and the upcoming Great Apes! Available as a free ebook from Dunbar’s website, The Universe Verse or in paperback format from http://www.amazon.com/. For ages 9 and up.
  Kristan Lawson’s Darwin and Evolution for Kids (Chicago Review Press, 2003), pairs the history and science of the theory of evolution with Charles Darwin’s life story. The book covers Darwin’s beetle-collecting school years; his voyage as a naturalist on board the Beagle; the development of his famous theory; and the publication of Origin of Species. A further chapter explains the theory in more detail, and includes a short but useful question-and-answer section. The book is illustrated with period prints, photographs, diagrams, and maps, and includes assorted interesting fact boxes (an account of the Galapagos Islands, a brief biography of Alfred Russel Wallace, the story of the peppered moth, a timeline of evolutionary thinkers). It also includes 21 hands-on activities – for example, kids can bake a batch of Shrewsbury cakes (the food of the Darwinian era); learn to tie a bowline knot (think sailors on the Beagle); build a model of geological strata; make plaster-of-Paris fossils; and play a life-simulation game designed to demonstrate the effects of natural selection on an imaginary population of Dum-Dum birds. For ages 9-13.
  By anthropologist Ian Tattersall and molecular biologist Rob De Salle, the 40-page Bones, Brains, and DNA: The Human Genome and Human Evolution (Bunker Hill Publishing, 2007) – based on the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Human Origins exhibits – explores the cutting-edge science used to explore the history of human evolution, with the help of a pair of chatty museum mice, Wallace and Darwin. Illustrated with photos, diagrams, charts, and cartoon mice. For ages 7-10.
  Visit the AMNH Hall of Human Origins online. At the website are highlights of the exhibits, printable resources for educators, book lists for both children and adults, informational articles, interactive puzzles, and instructions for many hands-on activities. For example, kids make a DNA model and a chimp genome bracelet, and make and excavate “fossils” using chicken bones and plaster of Paris.
For more projects, see HANDS-ON EVOLUTION below.
  By Niles, Gregory, and Douglas Eldredge, the 112-page The Fossil Factory (Roberts Rinehart, 2002) is an activity-packed  “Kid’s Guide to Digging Up Dinosaurs, Exploring Evolution, and Finding Fossils.” The book covers fossil formation, excavation, and analysis, and the evolution of life on Earth. Among the topics covered are plate tectonics, carbon dating, rock layers and the fossil record, trilobites, the oldest trees, the extinction of the dinosaurs, Lucy and early hominids, and “the first Americans.” For ages 7-12.
  By John Pojeta and Dale A. Springer, Evolution and the Fossil Record is a color-illustrated, 35-page downloadable booklet from the American Geological Institute and the Paleontological Society. Included are timelines, diagrams, great photographs of fossils, and nicely presented information for ages 12 and up.
  Reading Evolution is a reader-friendly overview of evolution from Syracuse University’s Department of Anthropology.  Included are clear illustrated explanations of evolutionary theory, natural selection (there’s a nice demonstration using blue M&Ms), the evidence for evolution, alternative theories and their drawbacks, and an extensive reading list.
  From the science journal Nature, 15 Evolutionary Gems is a collection of short essays on key concepts in evolutionary thinking, categorized under the Fossil Record, Habitats, and Molecular Processes. Sample titles include “Land-living ancestors of whales,” “The origin of feathers,” “The evolutionary history of teeth,” “Natural selection in lizards,” and “Darwin’s Galapagos finches.”
  Evolution is the website designed to accompany the excellent 7-part PBS series of the same name. Included are background information and activities related to each of the episodes: “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,” “Great Transformations,” “Extinction!,” “The Evolutionary Arms Race,” “Why Sex?,” “The Mind’s Big Bang,” and “What About God?” Also at the site is an Evolution Library of resources for teachers and students, including online lessons and video presentations.
The Evolution Library’s Evolving Ideas series is a collection of seven short student-targeted videos, among them “Isn’t Evolution Just a Theory?,” “Who Was Charles Darwin?,” “How Do We Know Evolution Happens?,” and “Why Does Evolution Matter Now?” For accompanying lesson plans with activities, see Online Lessons: Learning Evolution.
NOVA Evolution has a wealth of information articles, videos, and interactive exercises on many evolutionary topics. Learn about the evolving flu virus, Neanderthal DNA, how head lice figure in human evolution, and the answers to some questions that Darwin never knew.
  From Khan Academy, Evolution and Natural Selection is a series of free lectures – delivered with the help of blackboard drawings – that clearly explains the crucial concepts for middle-school-level students and up. Titles are “Introduction to Evolution and Natural Selection” “Intelligent Design and Evolution,” “Evolution Clarification,” “Natural Selection and the Owl Butterfly,” “DNA,” and “Variation in a Species.”
  The TalkOrigins Archive is a collection of articles, essays, and discussions about biological and physical origins. Click on “Evolution,” for example, for the full text of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and essays on such topics as genetic drift, punctuated equilibria, fossil hominids, Piltdown man, and the evolution of color vision.
From the University of California Museum of Paleontology, Understanding Evolution includes Evolution 101, a free online course on the theory and mechanisms of evolution, as well as  resources for teachers (K-college), an excellent and enormous online resource library, and accounts of evolution in the news.
  Through MIT Open Courseware, course materials from MIT classes are made available online for the general public. A subset of the website, Highlights for High School, lists materials most useful for high-school-level students. See, for example, Introduction to Biology, which includes video lectures on evolutionary theory.

EVOLUTION FOR OLDER READERS

There are dozens of excellent books on various aspects of evolutionary theory, many targeted at a popular audience. Check out some of the following:

  Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene (Oxford University Press, 2006), originally published in 1976, is a compelling take on natural selection – in a nutshell, we are survival machines for genes. Dawkins has written several other excellent books on evolution, among them The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (Free Press, 2010).
  Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee (HarperPerennial, 2006) is a thoroughly interesting account of human evolution. Chapter titles include “The Great Leap Forward,” “Bridges to Human Language,” “Animal Origins of Art,” and “Agriculture’s Mixed Blessings.”
  Richard Fortrey’s Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth (Vintage Books, 1999) is an engaging and reader-friendly account of evolution from the beginnings of life to the emergence of human beings, based on the fossil record (and scattered with stories about Fortrey’s own experiences in the field).
  Evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould is known for developing the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which argues that long periods of evolutionary stability – during which nothing much happens – are followed by relatively rapid periods of change. Gould is also famous for his many wonderful collections of popular science essays. Good starting points for students of evolution: Ever Since Darwin and The Panda’s Thumb (both W.W. Norton & Company, 1992).
  Carl Sagan’s The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (Ballantine Books, 1986) is a fascinating evolutionary history of the brain (beginning with the Big Bang).
  Jonathan Weiner’s Pulitzer-winning The Beak of the Finch (Vintage Books, 1995) is a fascinating story of evolution in action, as the author follows the research of biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant, studying the Galapagos finches that Darwin used to prove his point in On the Origin of Species.
From My Science Box, Bird Beak Buffet is a lesson plan based on Darwin’s Galapagos finches.
  Carl Zimmer’s 300+-page Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea (HarperCollins, 2001) – written as a companion volume to the PBS series of the same name (see above) – combines well-presented science with a captivating, reader-friendly text, crammed with interesting examples and supplemented with color photographs, drawings, and helpful diagrams. In other words, what good textbooks should be, but usually aren’t.

HANDS-ON EVOLUTION: Projects, Games, and Activities

  Inexpensive coloring books with evolution themes from Dover Publications include John Green’s Charles Darwin (2009), Jan Sovak’s Galapagos Islands (2006), and Patricia Wynne’s The Evolution of the Horse (2008). The books consist of blackline ready-to-color drawings accompanied by a brief explanatory text. $3.99 each.
For instructions for making a large-scale timeline of the History of the Science of Evolution, see Discovery Education’s Evolution. Students research scientists prominent in evolution studies and record their accomplishments on a timeline. (Recommended length: 30 feet.) For ages 13 and up.
  From the Biology Corner, Evolution & Taxonomy has a list of interesting and challenging lesson plans, among them a peppered moth simulation, an interactive exercise on natural selection (with bunnies and wolves), a “paper fossils” project in which kids create and analyze a fossil record, and instructions for making an evolutionary clock and calendar.
  Daily Lesson Plan: Evolution is a list of lesson plans from the New York Times Learning Network. In “Outbreak!,” for example, students research drug-resistant bacteria and antibiotics and devise a board game based on their interactions; in “The Art of Adaptation,” they research the adaptive process, create diagrams, and invent a short story about adaptation in animals; and in “The Origins of Man,” they study how new technologies contribute to what we know about human evolution and migration and compare and contrast old and new theories.
  In Monster Evolution, players design a monster, release it into the wild, and see how well it survives. If you choose traits poorly, your ill-equipped monster explodes and a helpful note explains where you went wrong.
  At Evolution in Action players can change the environment (background color) and observe how an array of little creatures – they look like Lego blocks with legs – survive, based on random color mutations.
The Evolution Game is an interactive exercise in natural selection. Players (as birds) attempt to capture Biston betularia butterflies (a.k.a. peppered moths).
In the Charles Darwin Game, a game of natural selection, the challenge is to select and perpetuate traits that will allow your population of little creatures to survive for a million years.
  Among the projects at Evolution Activities: kids play a dice game to Build a Beast, and then determine what sort of environment their Beast is best adapted to; and use newspaper and construction paper to investigate evolution and camouflage.
  From HHMI, the Virtual Stickleback Laboratory is an online research project in which advanced students analyze living and fossil stickleback fish populations, and explore the connection between anatomical change and genetics.
  The Charlie of Charlie’s Playhouse is the formidable Charles Darwin himself, and the Playhouse website is a treasure trove of hands-on resources for budding evolutionary scientists. One of my favorites: the Giant Evolution Timeline Playmat ($29) – 600 million years of evolution on a colorfully illustrated 18-foot mat. Kids can hop, skip, and jump through 12 geologic periods and six mass extinctions, while learning about key events, ancient animals and plants, and scientific names and pronunciations, and picking up insightful facts from a bearded cartoon Darwin in a catchy red shirt. Furthermore, unlike most playmats, this one neatly folds up accordion-style and can, in less active moments, be read like a book. The website also includes a terrific illustrated bibliography of books on evolution for kids of all ages and evolution-related links for both kids and adults.

DISCOVERING DARWIN

  In the New York Hall of Science ‘s Charlie and Kiwi An Evolutionary Adventure (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011), illustrated by Peter Reynolds, Charlie – with the help of his several-times-great-grandfather Charles Darwin and a Tardis-like time machine – travels back in time to learn about the evolution of the mysteriously flightless kiwi. The conclusion: “Little changes in each generation add up to BIG changes.” For ages 4-9.
Charlie and Kiwi’s Evolutionary Adventure, a website based on the exhibit behind the book, has a detailed overview of the exhibit, an explanation of evolution and its misconceptions, and an interactive game.
  Deborah Hopkinson’s Who Was Charles Darwin? (Grosset & Dunlap, 2005), one of the Who Was…? children’s biography series, is a reader-friendly chapter book covering Darwin’s life from childhood through his voyage on the Beagle (he was seasick) and his revolutionary theory of evolution. For ages 7 and up.
  Deborah Hopkinson’s The Humblebee Hunter (Hyperion Books, 2010)  is told from the point of view of Charles Darwin’s daughter, Etty – who, along with the rest of the Darwin children, often joined their father in his experiments with the natural world. Here Etty is unhappily trapped in the kitchen, when her father proposes “The Great Bee Experiment” – how many flowers does a humblebee visit in a minute? For ages 4-8.
  Sandra Markle’s Animals Charles Darwin Saw (Chronicle Books, 2009) features the creatures that influenced Darwin’s thought: beetles, flamingos, tortoises, finches. For ages 7-10.
  Kendall Haven’s Stepping Stones to Science (Libraries Unlimited, 1997) pairs action-packed stories about famous scientists – among them Robert Goddard, the Wright brothers, Galileo, Benjamin Franklin, Maria Mitchell, and Charles Darwin – with curriculum links, discussion questions, and activities. For ages 7-11.
  Alice McGinty’s picture-book biography Darwin (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009), illustrated with terrific tinted woodcuts by Mary Azarian,  intersperses a reader-friendly text with hand-written excerpts from Darwin’s diaries and letters. For ages 7-11.
  Peter Sis’s spectacularly illustrated The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003) is a fascinating overview of Darwin’s life and work, creatively illustrated with journal pages, picture cards, charts, maps, portraits, sketches, and diagrams. For ages 8 and up.
  By Alan Gibbons, Lifelines: Charles Darwin (Kingfisher, 2011) is the story of Darwin’s five-year voyage on the Beagle, as told through the diary of ten-year-old ship’s boy James Kincaid. Later chapters provide general information about the science of Darwin’s time. For ages 8-12.
  Kathryn Lasky’s One Beetle Too Many (Candlewick, 2012) – with humorous and delightful illustrations by Matthew Trueman – is a wonderful portrait of a man of endless curiosity, from his beetle-collecting childhood to his trip around the world on the Beagle (collecting all the way). Ultimately his fascination with biology and geology led to the theory of evolution. The book is sprinkled with quotes from Darwin’s own writings. For ages 8-12.
  Incredible beetles! Steve Jenkins’s irresistible The Beetle Book (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012) shows just why Darwin was so hooked. Learn about jewel beetles, tortoise beetles, giraffe beetles, forest fire beetles, and beetles that stink, glow, squeak, and walk on water. One out of every four living things on earth is…a beetle. For ages 7 and up.
  Rosalyn Schanzer’s What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World (National Georgraphic Children’s Books, 2009) is a graphic-style account of the landmark voyage of the Beagle, with colorful and information-packed panels and conversation bubbles incorporating many of Darwin’s own words from his journals. Bright cartoons combined with sound science for ages 8-12.
  By Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom, What Mr. Darwin Saw (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2009) – told in the first person – is the picture-book story of Darwin’s life from childhood through the publication of On the Origin of Species. Conversational cartoon bubbles provide humorous asides; and illustrations light on some of the history-is-gross aspects of Darwin’s career: Darwin, sick (“Blugh”), dashes from the room at the side of a blood-spewing amputation; Darwin with a mouthful of huge beetles; Darwin seasick on the Beagle. While memorable, this may not be every kid’s cup of tea. For ages 8-12.
  Jay Hosler’s 150-page The Sandwalk Adventures: An Adventure in Evolution Told in Five Chapters (Active Synapse, 2003) is a graphic-novel explanation of evolution with a quirky back story: Mara and Willy, a pair of mites living in Darwin’s eyebrow, are convinced that Darwin himself (“Flycatcher”) is a god and the creator of all mites. Darwin, attempting to convince them that this is not true, describes his discoveries and explains the theory of evolution. The mites’ creation myth provides a means for contrasting religion and science. For ages 9 and up.
  Peter Ward’s short chapter book The Adventures of Charles Darwin (Cambridge University Press, 1986) is the story of Darwin’s work from the slightly astonished but impressed perspective of George Carter, the young cabin boy on the Beagle. For ages 9-12.
  In the DK Biography Series, David C. King’s 128-page Charles Darwin (Dorling Kindersley, 2006) is a well-done chapter biography, filled with interesting details and illustrated with color photographs and period reproductions. For ages 10 and up.
  In the Giants of Science Series, Kathleen Krull’s Charles Darwin (Viking Juvenile Books, 2010) is a gem. This 144-page chapter book covers Darwin’s life and work – but with pizzazz, scientific acumen, and a wealth of human interest. A delightful and informational read for ages 10 and up.
For more on Kathleen Krull’s Giants of Science Series, which includes terrific biographies of Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Marie Curie (and more), see Kathleen Krull: Giants of Science.
  Jonathan Miller and Borin Van Loon’s Darwin for Beginners (Pantheon Books, 2003) is a graphic-style history of evolutionary theory, illustrated with clever pen-and-ink cartoons. The book covers Darwin’s personal history, the studies that led up to his famous theory of evolution, his supporters and opponents, and subsequent research that expanded upon and clarified Darwin’s work. For ages 13 and up.
  Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) – one of the most important scientific works of all time – is not an easy read. (College biology majors, compelled to slog through it, often whine.) Michael Keller’s Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation (Rodale Books, 2009), illustrated by Nicolle Rager Fuller, is, on the other hand, not only far more accessible, but visually stunning. Framed in the context of Darwin’s life, the book includes biographical information, scientific explanations of the research leading to his evolutionary theory, and an “Afterward,” in which Darwin’s work is linked to later discoveries, such as the principles of Mendelian inheritance, the elucidation of the structure of DNA, and the mapping of the human genome. For ages 14 and up.
  Deborah Heligman’s Charles and Emma (Square Fish, 2011) is the story of Darwin’s marriage to his cousin, Emma Wedgewood, covering both Charles and Emma’s life together and the way in which they coped with their differing philosophies. Emma was devoutly religious; Charles, a scientist, put his faith in reason. Illustrated with period photographs. For ages 14 and up.
  By A.J. Wood and Clint Twist, Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure (Templar, 2009) is a marvelously designed scrapbook-style account of Darwin’s landmark voyage, filled with maps, fold-outs, booklets, letters in envelopes, faux photographs, drawings, diagams, and handwritten excerpts from Darwin’s journals. For all ages.
  At Neatorama’s 10 Fun Facts About Darwin, readers discover, for example, that Darwin once ate an owl.
  Charles Darwin & Evolution has detailed accounts of Darwin’s life and work, a history of evolutionary ideas, advances in evolutionary thought since Darwin, accounts of famous evolutionary case studies, and applications of evolution today (for example, as it pertains to drug design, invasive species, and climate change).  A page specifically for kids provides shorter and simpler information for younger readers.
  From the December 2005 issue of Smithsonian magazine, Frank Sulloway’s The Evolution of Charles Darwin discusses Darwin’s discoveries on the Galapagos Islands and traces the changes in his thinking, from creationist to evolutionary biologist.
  The AboutDarwin.com website is dedicated to the life and times of Charles Darwin. Included are a Darwin timeline, a “This Day in Darwin History” feature, a clickable map of the Beagle voyage, photographs of Darwin-associated sites, a “typical” Darwin day, a family tree, resource lists, news articles about Darwin, and more.
From the Victorian Web, Charles Darwin has information and resources related to Darwin’s place in Victorian social, political cultural, religious, and scientific history.
  The Home of Charles Darwin website has views of Down House, where Darwin lived, worked, and wrote On the Origin of Species, and a selection of Darwin’s notebooks online (click to turn the pages and see where he crossed things out).

HUMAN EVOLUTION

  By Lee Berger and Marc Aronson, The Skull in the Rock (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2012) is the story of how nine-year-old Matthew Berger – on a fossil-hunting expedition with his paleoanthropologist father in South Africa – found a pair of two-million-year-old fossil skulls belonging to a new species of human being.  The book, illustrated with color photographs, meshes evolutionary history with a real-life adventure story. For ages 10-14.
  By Adrienne Zihlman and Carla Simmons, The Human Evolution Coloring Book (HarperCollins, 2001) is a very detailed and sophisticated teach-yourself tour of human evolution (while doing a lot of complex coloring), beginning with a geologic timeline, then proceeding through evolutionary genetics, primate diversification and evolution, and a chronology of hominid and early human fossils. For ages 13 and up.
  Becoming Human is an interactive documentary that covers four million years of human evolution with guide Donald Johanson, discoverer of Lucy. Included are an interactive timeline, an online exercise on bipedalism (what bone changes helped us walk upright?), and a chromosome comparison “adventure” in which participants compare banding patterns on the chromosomes of humans and apes.
NeoK12’s Human Evolution is a collection of short videos, among them the 13-part “Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey” and the 5-part “Neanderthal.”
From the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Introduction to Human Evolution has background information, a detailed downloadable Educator’s Guide for grades 5-12, a “How do we know…?” list of questions, lesson plans, and fun facts.

THE MONKEY TRIAL

  From Interact, The Trial of John Scopes is an historical simulation, in which kids take on the roles of judge, jury members, attorneys (William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow), witnesses, and, of course, the accused, Scopes himself. Included are detailed instructions and background readings. $19.95.
Also from Interact, see American Letters 1914-1929, in which kids relive American history through letterwriting. Pairs of correspondents take on character roles and exchange informational letters about 15 crucial historical events, among them World War I, the Russian Revolution, the 19th Amendment, the stock market crash of 1929, and the Scopes trial. Included are instructions, character descriptions, background information, research resources, and letterwriting suggestions. $49.95.
  By Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, Inherit the Wind (Ballantine Books, 2007) is a superb play based on the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, in which Tennessee teacher John Scopes was threatened with jail for teaching evolution in the public school. For ages 12 and up.
  A terrific (though admittedly dramatized) view of the trial is presented in the 1960 film Inherit the Wind, based on the Lawrence and Lee play, and starring Spencer Tracy (for the defense) and Frederic March (for the prosecution). For more information, see the Internet Movie Database. The movie is available on DVD and as an Amazon instant download.
  In Ronald Kidd’s Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial (Simon Pulse, 2011), 15-year-old Frances Robinson has a crush on handsome teacher Johnny Scopes – just as her father cooks up a scheme to bring publicity to the town of Dayton, Tennessee, by prosecuting Scopes for teaching evolution in the public school. The trial, which quickly gets out of hand, unfolds as seen through Frances’s eyes. For ages 11 and up.

EVOLUTION IN FICTION

  In Blue Balliett’s The Danger Box (Scholastic, 2012), 12-year-old Zoomy – so near-sighted that he’s legally blind – has been raised by his grandparents. When his alcoholic father unexpectedly shows up and leaves Zoomy a stolen box that contains an old notebook, Zoomy is determined to learn more. The identity of the author of the mysterious notebook is the major mystery of the book – hints are provided through Zoomy’s personal newspaper, the Gas Gazette – though Zoomy and his friend Lorrol must also solve plenty of puzzles and cope with a criminal who wants the box and notebook back. The secret scientist (Spoiler!) is Charles Darwin. For ages 9-13.
  In Jacqueline Kelly’s The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Square Fish, 2011), 11-year-old Calpurnia – known to her family as Callie Vee – lives with her parents and six brothers on a cotton plantation in Texas in 1899. (Her favorite brother is Harry, the oldest, but I have a soft spot for ten-year-old Travis, who names his kittens after gunslingers.) As the book progresses, bright and curious Callie Vee becomes fascinated with science and disenchanted with the ladylike future her mother has planned for her. Luckily she finds a kindred spirit in her curmudgeonly grandfather. After Callie Vee is forbidden to check Darwin’s Origin of Species out of the library, her Granddaddy not only lends her his copy, but starts taking her with him on his specimen-collecting expeditions. A wonderful story of a science-minded girl coming into her own. I’d say Caddie Woodlawn with a science twist – but Callie Vee is wholly unique. For ages 10 and up.
  In Robin Brande’s Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature (Ember, 2009), 14-year-old Mena is having a tough time in school – she’s been tossed out of her evangelical church for blowing the whistle on some nasty anti-gay behavior – and now the conflict ratchets up when her science teacher, Ms. Shepherd, begins a study unit on evolution. Ms. Shepherd inevitably ends up in conflict with the influential fundamentalist pastor of Mena’s ex-church, and Mena herself – who blogs as “Bible Grrrl” – must come to terms with what she believes. For ages 12 and up.
  Similarly, in Rebecca Rupp’s Octavia Boone’s Big Questions About Life, the Universe, and Everything (Candlewick, 2010), seventh-grader Octavia’s parents have separated after her mother becomes committed to a fundamentalist group called the Redeemers. Octavia disagrees with the Redeemers’ take on gender roles, holidays, cosmology, and evolution – though she finds an unexpected friend in the Redeemers’ understanding Pastor Bruno – and eventually, too, comes to terms with differences in belief. Ultimately, she finds that she agrees with Henry David Thoreau: “The universe is wider than our views of it.” For ages 10 and up.
  Stephen Baxter’s Evolution (Del Rey, 2004) is a 600+-page novelization of some 600 million years of evolution, beginning with a primitive pre-primate (named Purga) skittering around the feet of the dinosaurs. The frame story – set in 2030 – centers around paleontologist Joan Useb and a group of fellow scientists trying to save the biosphere and stave off human extinction. (They don’t.) The story then continues on into a far-distant future. An interesting, though depressing, read for older teenagers and adults.
The future evolution of mankind is a popular theme in science fiction novels, featured in everything from H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine to the X-Men. Margaret Atwood’s outstanding Oryx and Crake (Anchor Books, 2004) is the story of Jimmy (the “Snowman”), possibly the last human on Earth, and his best friend, Crake, whose bioengineering experiments brought about the extinction of humans and the rise of the Crakers, a genetically altered new race of his own devising. Lots of discussion potential for older teenagers and adults.

EVOLUTION IN POEMS

  Selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston, The Tree That Time Built (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009) is a 200+-page science-and-nature-themed poetry collection by a wide range of poets, among them X.J. Kennedy, Theodore Roethke, Emily Dickinson, Douglas Florian, Maxine Kumin, and T.S. Eliot. Several deal with the topic of evolution. See, for example, Bobbi Katz’s “Journal Jottings of Charles Darwin.” Included with the book is an audio CD. For ages 7 and up.
  Langdon’s Smith’s bouncy poem Evolution – which begins “When you were a tadpole and I was a fish/In the Paleozoic time” – doesn’t quite have the science down, but gets the general idea. Hear it read by Jean Shepherd on YouTube.
Also see Lorine Niedecker’s Darwin and C.S. Lewis’s Evolutionary Hymn.
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