Cooking

 

It turns out that everything – well, almost everything – can be learned through cooking. Science, history, math, geography, art, and literature are all connected to cooking – to say nothing of the benefits of cooking itself, which involves making something yummy and nutritious to eat.

See  below for cross-curricular connections, projects and experiments, storybooks and poems, and many not-just-your-ordinary  recipes.

Cooking and Literature

 images Eat the alphabet! Many distributors offer letter and number cookie-cutter sets – such as this one, a fifty-piece collection of colorful plastic cutters including all the letters of the alphabet (upper-case) and numbers 0-9. $8.99 from Amazon.
 images-3 Cheryl Apgar’s Book Cooks (Creative Teaching Press, 2002) has a book-related recipe for each letter of the alphabet from A (Apple Smiles) to Z (Zebra Pudding), plus poems, songs, and extension activities. Featured books include The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Tiny Seed, Green Eggs and Ham, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Stone Soup. (No heat source required for any of the recipes, which makes things easy for groups of little kids.) For ages 3-7.
 imgres-1 By Georgeanne Brennan, the Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook (Random House, 2006) is a terrific collection of Dr. Seussian recipes, paired with catchy passages from the books. Readers learn to make Roast Beast, Cat in the Hat Pudding, and Pink Yink Ink Drink. (See below for more on Green Eggs and Ham.) For ages 7-10.
 imgres-2 Brian Jacques’s The Redwall Cookbook (Philomel, 2005) is a charmingly illustrated collection of recipes from the Redwall series, categorized by season of the year. Learn to make the Abbot’s Special Abbey Trifle, Great Hall Gooseberry Fool, Mole’s Favourite Deeper’n Ever Turnip ‘n’ Tater ‘n’ Beetroot Pie – and, of course, October Ale. For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-3 Jane Yolen’s Fairy Tale Feasts (Interlink Books, 2009) is an illustrated collection of 20 fairy tales with accompanying recipes. “Cinderella,” for example, is paired with a recipe for pumpkin tarts, “Little Red Riding Hood” features recipes for picnic food (pack a basket), and “Snow White” comes with instructions for baked apples. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-4 In P.L. Travers’s, Mary Poppins in the Kitchen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), the Banks family cook, Mrs. Brill, has been called away – leaving Mary Poppins and the children in charge of the cooking. The frame story features many favorite Poppins characters such as Admiral Boom and the Bird Woman; recipes include Gingerbread Stars, Queen of Puddings, Jam Tarts, and Shepherd’s Pie. For ages 9 and up.
 imgres-6 Dinah Bucholz’s The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2012) – a midnight-blue book with gold corners – is a collection of recipes and menus based on C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books. Make plum cake, ginger beer, and Turkish delight. For ages 9 and up.
 imgres-7 Dinah Bucholz’s Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook (Adams Media, 2010) – purple with gold corners – is a collection of 150 recipes based on the Potter books, among them Hagrid’s Rock Cakes, Petunia’s Pudding, Treacle Tart, and Molly’s Meat Pies. Included with each recipe is a snippet of British food history. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-5 By Roald Dahl and Felicity Dahl, with wonderful illustrations by the incomparable Quentin Blake, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes (Puffin, 1997) is a collection of (actually yummy) recipes from Dahl’s books, among them Snozzcumbers,  Frobscottle, Hot Frogs, Lickable Wallpaper, Eatable Marshmallow Pillows, Candy-Coated Pencils for Sucking in Class, and Stickjaw for Talkative Parents. A hoot for all ages.
 images-1 By Emily Ansara Baines, The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook (Adams Media, 2011) is a collection of 150 recipes based on Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy – books which, frankly, I would not have expected to generate much in the way of recipes. Among those that it did: Mrs. Everdeen’s Breakfast of Mush, Katniss’s Lamb Stew with Dried Plums, Apple-Smoked Groosling, and Annie and Finnick’s Wedding Cake. For ages 13 and up.
 images-2 In Anna Shapiro’s A Feast of Words: For Lovers of Food and Fiction (W.W. Norton; 1996), classic works of literature are paired with creative recipes. Featured books include Anna Karenina, Moby Dick, Jane Eyre, Ethan Frome, Emma, and David Copperfield. Literary discussion and kitchen projects for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-8 By Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Jensen, The Book Lover’s Cookbook (Ballantine Books, 2005) is a collection of 170 recipes for foods featured in classic books (both for children and adults), paired with literary quotations. If your kids have clamored to try the White Witch’s Turkish Delight or wondered about the Cratchit family’s carrot pudding, this is the book for you. For all ages.
 imgres-9 By Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sarian Lehrer, A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook (Bantam, 2012) provides photo-illustrated recipes (categorized by region), plus basic information on stocking a medieval-style kitchen. Included is a list of modern substitutes for things you can’t possibly get, such as auroch. For older teenagers and adults.

Cooking and History

 imgres-10 Cooking, castle-style. In Aliki’s marvelously illustrated picture book A Medieval Feast (HarperCollins, 1986), the king is coming to visit Camdenton Manor and everyone is busy preparing for a magnificent (and expensive) feast. Text and pictures, crammed with detail, describe hunting and fishing, baking and brewing, and all the contributions to the feast from vineyards, herb gardens, kitchen gardens, barns, and beehives. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-11 Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners by Lucille Recht Penner (Aladdin, 1997) is an absorbing history of Pilgrim foods, cooking, and table manners, with ten simple recipes for a complete Pilgrim meal. For ages 7-12.
 imgres-12 Mark Kurlansky’s The Story of Salt (Putnam Juvenile Books, 2006) is a delightfully illustrated history covering all aspects of salt. Trust me; it’s fascinating. For ages 8-12. (For teenagers and adults, see Kurlansky’s Salt: A World History (Penguin Books, 2003).)
 imgres-13 Barbara Walker’s The Little House Cookbook (HarperCollins, 1989) is a collection of “Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories.” The book contains historical information about the life and food of the pioneers, quotes from the Little House books, and recipes for such Ingalls family favorites as hasty pudding, pancake men, sourdough bread, pumpkin pie, crab-apple jelly, and cucumber pickles. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-14 Cooking Up U.S. History: Recipes and Research to Share With Children by Suzanne I. Barchers and Patricia C. Marden (Libraries Unlimited, 1999) includes recipes for such traditional American foods as porridge, Indian pudding, and sourdough bread, and for such homemade necessities as candles, soap, and ink. Recipes are categorized by historical period, from pre-Columbian days to the Civil War. Each recipe is accompanied by background information, discussion questions, suggested research projects, and supplementary reading lists. For ages 6-12.
 imgres-15 Cooking Up World History by Suzanne I. Barchers and Patricia C. Marden (Libraries Unlimited, 1994) is a collection of multicultural recipes from 22 different countries or regions, with accompanying research questions and annotated book lists. Readers make African banana fritters, British Yorkshire pudding, French mousse au chocolat, Indian chapattis, and Scottish scones. For ages 6-12.
 imgres-16 By Jean Fritz, George Washington’s Breakfast (Puffin, 1998) features young George Washington Allen, who knows a great deal about George Washington – including the names of his horses and dogs, and his shoe size – but doesn’t know what the great man ate for breakfast. After a lot of persistence and research he finds out – and convinces his grandma to cook it. For ages 7-10.
 images-4 Have Breakfast with George Washington includes a quote about Washington’s breakfast from his step-granddaughter, Nelly Custis Lewis, and a recipe for Washington’s favorite hoecakes.
 imgres-17 James Solheim’s It’s Disgusting – and We Ate It! (Aladdin, 1998), subtitled “True Food Facts from Around the World and Throughout History,” is an account of unusual dishes and surprising foods that people worldwide eat or have eaten in the past – among them fried grasshoppers, robins, earthworm soup, and camel hump stew. Included are zany illustrations, fascinating facts, and clever poems. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-18 By Joan D’Amico and Karen Eich Drummond, The U.S. History Cookbook (John Wiley & Sons, 2003) is a collection of “Delicious Recipes and Exciting Events from the Past” arranged in chronological order from “The First Thanksgiving” through “Colonial Fare,” “A Pioneer Breakfast,” “Plantation Life,” “A Victorian Tea,” “Making Do During the Great Depression,” “World War II Rations,” and “Fabulous Fifties Foods” (and more). Make your own cornmeal mush, beef jerky, depression cake, and TV dinners. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-19 Published by Reaktion Books, the Edible Series is a collection of catchy short (128-page) global histories of a wide (wide) range of foods. Titles include Pizza (Carol Helstosky), Cheese (Andrew Dalby), Ice Cream (Laura B. Weiss), Cake (Nicola Humble), Bread (William Rubel), Soup (Janet Clarkson), Hot Dog (Bruce Kraig), Pancake (Ken Albala), Sandwich (Bee Wilson), and many more. For the complete list, see The Edible Series website. Fun for foodies ages 13 and up.
 imgres-20 William Sitwell’s illustrated A History of Food in 100 Recipes (Little, Brown and Company, 2013) is a witty chronological history of food, beginning with a bread recipe gleaned from an ancient Egyptian tomb – and then on to roast goat, salted ham, pasta, party planning (circa 1420), hippocras jelly, “peas soope,” the invention of the sandwich, Rice Krispies treats, and the rise of food TV. A great read for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-21 Cooking, argues anthropologist Richard Wrangham, made human beings what they are today. In Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Basic Books, 2010), Wrangham argues that once our ancestors learned to control fire some 1.8 million years ago, they also learned to cook – an inspired leap that both provided us with more and better food and eventually led to smaller jaws, bigger brains, complex social structures, and civilization. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-22 Bee Wilson’s Consider the Fork (“A History of How We Cook and Eat”) (Basic Books, 2012) is an addictive history of cooking and eating, packed with fascinating – and surprising – information. Various chapters cover pots and pans, the history of knives, cooking with fire (always risky), eating utensils (fingers, tongs, chopsticks, and spoons, as well as the title fork), and more. For teenagers and adults.
 imgres-23 The Food Timeline is an annotated timeline of food and cooking from prehistory (17,000 BCE) to the present, packed with quotes from historians, excerpts from period cookbooks, general information, historical recipes, and more. A terrific and wide-ranging resource.

Cooking and Geography

 imgres-24 In Marjorie Priceman’s How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World (Dragonfly Books, 1996), a little girl takes an imaginary trip around the world to find out where all the ingredients for an apple pie come from: wheat from Italy, eggs from France, cinnamon from Sri Lanka, sugar from Jamaica, and apples from Vermont. The book includes a recipe for your very own international apple pie. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-25 Also by Priceman in the same format is How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008).
 imgres-26 In Norah Dooley’s picture book Everybody Cooks Rice (Carolrhoda Books, 1992), a little girl tours her neighborhood at dinnertime, discovering all the many ways in which persons of different ethnic backgrounds cook rice – among them Haitians, Indians, Puerto Ricans, and Chinese. For ages 6-8.
 imgres-27 Also see Dooley’s Everybody Bakes Bread (1995), Everybody Serves Soup (2004), and Everybody Brings Noodles (2005).
 imgres-28 Pamela Marx’s Travel-The-World Cookbook (Good Year Books, 1996) has sixty simple recipes from countries and regions around the globe, along with food facts, cultural information, and suggestions for related research projects and craft activities. (Try peanut soup, stuffed grape leaves, tostadas, and toad-in-a-hole.) Also included are lists of international harvest festival traditions and folk tales. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-29 Arlette N. Braman’s illustrated Kids Around the World Cook (Jossey-Bass, 2000) is a collection of recipes for drinks, breads, soups and starters, main dishes, and desserts from a wide range of different countries. For example, kids can make Indian sweet lassi, Israeli challah, Polish strawberry soup, Chinese stir-fried rice, and Norwegian nutmeg cookies. Included are historical and cultural information, notes on multicultural word origins, and a lot of catchy facts. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-30 The Kids’ Multicultural Cookbook by Deanna F. Cook (Williamson books, 2008) includes 50 different recipes grouped by world region (Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas, and the South Pacific). Included along with the recipes are catchy cultural facts, games, activities, suggestions for themed parties, and cute little illustrations. Young cooks whip up such delectables as peanut butter soup (Ghana), ox-eye eggs (Indonesia), apple pancakes (Germany), and couscous (Tunisia). For ages 5 and up.
 imgres-31 By Joan D’Amico and Karen Eich Drummond, The United States Cookbook (John Wiley & Sons, 2000) is a 128-page compendium of “Fabulous Foods and Fascinating Facts from All 50 States.” States are grouped by region: for each, there’s a map, basic background information, a short summary of state foods, and a traditional recipe. (From Massachusetts, Boston Baked Beans; from New York, Waldorf Salad; from Pennsylvania, Soft Pretzels.) Boxes of “Fun Food Facts” provide a lot of unusual information, among them the distance record for spitting watermelon seeds. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-32 By Joan D’Amico and Karen Eich Drummond, The Coming to America Cookbook (John Wiley & Sons, 2005) is a collection of kid-friendly recipes from multicultural immigrants. The book covers eighteen different countries – among them Mexico, China, Morocco, and Nigeria – with information about the country and its customs and representative recipes. For ages 11 and up.
 imgres-33 Matthew Locricchio’s International Cookbook for Kids (Two Lions, 2012), illustrated with mouthwatering color photographs, is a collection of recipes from Italy, France, China, and Mexico (including an entire menu for a taco party). Recipes are clearly presented, with attractive step-by-step instructions. Intended for serious young cooks who can cope with multiple ingredients and techniques. For ages 11 and up.

Cooking and Science

 imgres-34 By Liz Plaster and Rick Krustchinsky, Incredible Edible Science (Redleaf Press, 2010) is a collection of 160 food-based science activities for preschoolers and early elementary students, categorized under observation (via the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound), classification, communication, measurement, inference, prediction, and language and literacy. (Under this last, for example, kids make alphabet pretzels and Three Bears’ Porridge, and grow Jack’s beanstalk.)
 imgres-35 Vicki Cobb’s Science Experiments You Can Eat (HarperCollins, 1984) pairs interesting recipes with equally interesting scientific discussions: for example, kids make rock candy, grape jelly, and popcorn while learning about crystallization, polymerization, and steam pressure. Cobb is brilliant at making science accessible for a wide range of ages. (Get all her books!) Highly recommended.
 imgres-36 Loralee Leavitt’s colorfully illustrated Candy Experiments (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2013) has a wealth of tempting and creative things to do with candy other than eat it. Discover candy’s secret ingredients, investigate candy color, experiment with density (find out how to sink a marshmallow), and try squashing it, stretching it, melting it, or blowing it up, all in the name of science. Included are complete instructions and explanations. For ages 7-12.
 imgres-37 The Science Chef by Joan D’Amico and Karen Eich Drummond (Jossey-Bass, 1994) is a collection of “100 Fun Food Experiments and Recipes for Kids,” among them recipes and brief scientific information on salad dressing, pasta sauce, cheese, butter, and pudding. Readers learn why toasted bread turns brown and discover the chemistry of baking powder. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-38 The Science Chef Travels Around the World by Joan D’Amico and Karen Eich Drummond (John Wiley & Sons, 1996) covers fourteen different countries, among them Brazil, Israel, China, India, Morocco, Canada, and Ghana. For each is listed an interesting science experiment based on a representative ethnic food – for example, kids learn about viscosity with honey (Egypt) and osmosis with pickled cucumbers (France) – along with recipes and menus. For ages 9-13.
 imgres-39 Simon Quellen Field’s Culinary Reactions (Chicago Review Press, 2011) is neither a chemistry book nor a cookbook, but rather a friendly and clearly written melding of the two, explaining just what goes on – chemically – in the process of making whipped cream, bread, meringue, hollandaise sauce, cheese, roast turkey, lemonade, and ice cream. (There’s also a nice account of how to extract DNA from your Halloween pumpkin.) Various chapters cover foams, emulsions, colloids and gels, oils and fats, solutions, crystallization, protein chemistry, acids and bases, oxidation and reduction, and more. For ages 14 and up – best for those with a little basic chemistry under their belts.
 images-5 From the acclaimed author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan’s Cooked (Penguin Press, 2013) covers Pollan’s own experiences in learning how to cook, and explores the science of cooking – categorized by classical element : fire, water, air, and earth. Under “Fire,” Pollan learns to barbecue; in “Water,” he tackles soups and stews; “Air” is a study of bread; and “Earth” is all about fermentation and pickling. (Beer, cheese, and vinegar.) An interesting and informative read for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-40 Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (Scribner, 2004) is a terrific resource. The book, all 600+ pages of it, is jam-packed with historical and scientific information: for example, readers discover the history of graham crackers and chewing gum; learn about the biochemistry of meringue, mayonnaise, blue cheese, and ripening bananas; and find out how Brazil nuts are harvested and how bees make honey. Scientifically detailed and thorough, but comfortably readable. For teenagers and adults.
For more interesting information on food science, see McGee’s excellent Curious Cook website.
 imgres-41 EdX’s Science & Cooking is a challenging and creative online course collaboratively taught by famous chefs and Harvard research scientists, complete with video lectures and virtual labs. The class can be audited or taken to obtain a Certificate of Mastery, which involves homework and exams. Either way it’s absolutely free.
 imgres-42 From the San Francisco Exploratorium, Science of Cooking has cool information, creative projects and activities, virtual labs, webcasts, and book lists on many aspects of cooking. Featured sections cover eggs, pickles, candy, bread, seasoning, and meat. A great resource.
 FoodSci_img001 Cooking & Food Science Fair Project Ideas has many suggestions for science-minded cooks, categorized by difficulty level (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced). For example, kids analyze the starch content of potatoes and the gluten content of wheat, determine the caloric content of foods, and explore the chemistry of ice-cream-making.
 images-6 From Penn State, Food Science has experiments, activities, lesson plans, and informative resources for kid in grades K-12. (Find out how to determine the speed of light with marshmallows.)
 imgres-43 From the American Chemical Society, Science for Kids: Food has a list of interesting projects and experiments involving fats, proteins, starch, pH indicators, and more.

Cooking and Math

 imgres-44 In Stuart J. Murphy’s A Fair Bear Share (HarperCollins, 1997), four little bear cubs gather, count, and sort blueberries, nuts, and seeds (in sets of ten) for their mother’s special Blue Ribbon Blueberry Pie. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-45 Check out this recipe for Blueberry Pie So Easy Your Kids Can Make It Themselves.
 imgres-46 In Spaghetti and Meatballs for All (Scholastic, 1997) by Marilyn Burns, the Comforts have invited many guests for dinner – which turns into a clever mathematical exercise in rearranging tables and chairs and apportioning food. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-47 From the BBC’s Good Food, Cooking with Kids: Spaghetti & Meatballs has a shared parent-and-kids recipe, with helpful instructions for each.
 imgres-48 In Amy Axelrod’s Pigs in the Pantry (Aladdin, 1999) – subtitled “Fun with Math and Cooking” – Mrs. Pig has a cold so her husband and children decide to make her a batch of spicy Firehouse Chili (recipe included). Measuring errors lead to disaster. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-49 Ann McCallum’s Eat Your Math Homework (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2011) pairs food and math concepts (with a couple of wacky bunnies). Kids learn about probability with trail mix and pi with pizza, bake batches of tessellating two-color brownies and tangram cookies, and make Fibonacci snack sticks. Informative and fun for ages 7-12.
 imgres-50 The Math Chef: Over 60 Math Activities and Recipes for Kids by Joan D’Amico and Karen Eich Drummond (John Wiley & Sons, 1997) is divided into four main sections: “Measuring,” “Arithmetic,” “Fractions and Percents,” and “Geometry.” Kids combine mathematical exercises with cooking, calculating the number of grams in a pound of potatoes, figuring out how to triple a sandwich recipe, and determining the area of a brownie and the circumference of an apple pie. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-51 In the Math in the Real World series, Sheri Arroyo’s 32-page How Chefs Use Math (Chelsea Clubhouse, 2009) is an illustrated introduction to the mathematics of running a restaurant. How much food to buy? What to charge? How many customers? For ages 8-12.

Cooking and Poetry

 imgres-52 Susan M. Freese’s Carrots to Cupcakes (Super Sandcastle, 2008) introduces kids to basic poetry concepts through funny cartoon-illustrated poems about cooking and food. For ages 5-8.
 imgres-53 Larry Fagin, in The List Poem (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2000), a book of poetry exercises and projects for aspiring writers, suggests that students try writing “recipe poems” based on recipe-style lists of ingredients. Samples (by students) include “Recipe for Martin Luther King, Jr.” (“7 gallons of love/10 cups of courage/10 cups of caring…”) and a recipe for “King Midas Touch” (“1 pound egg shells/2 pounds of mosquitoes (bones removed)/1 purple duck with polka dots…”). For all ages.
 imgres-54 Kevin Young’s The Hungry Ear (Bloomsbury USA, 2012) is a collection of poems on food by many different poets, among them Mary Oliver, Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, Langston Hughes, Billy Collins, W.B. Yeats, Pablo Neruda, and Sylvia Plath. For teenagers and adults.
 images-7 Peter Washington’s Eat, Drink, and Be Merry (Everyman’s Library, 2003) is an anthology of poems on food and drink, among them “Breakfast” by William Carlos Williams, “Blueberries” by Robert Frost, “Recipe for a Salad” by Sydney Smith, and “Gooseberry Fool” by Amy Clampitt. For teenagers and adults.

Cooking and Art

 imgres-55 By Maryann F. Kohl and Jean Potter, Cooking Art: Easy Edible Art for Young Children (Gryphon House, 1997) is a fat collection of artistic cooking projects for kids aged 4-10. Projects are grouped under such subheadings as “Shapes and Forms,” “Colors and Design,” “Flowers and Trees,” and “Animals and Creatures.” There’s also a month-by-month list of special seasonal projects for around the year. Sample projects: kids make potato ghosts, number pretzels, cucumber airplanes, a flowerpot salad, and “Mush and Jelly Paint” for making pictures on bowls of breakfast oatmeal.  For ages 3 and up.
 imgres-56 From Family Corner, 10 Edible Play Dough Crafts has recipes for ten wholly edible play doughs, variously made from Kool-Aid, Jell-O, oatmeal, peanut butter, and chocolate.
 h2_1982.60.39 From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Food and Feasting is a large collection of paintings and artifacts related to food and cooking.
 images-8 15 Fascinating Food Artists and Sculptors is a gallery of works made from food: mosaics made from cookies and noodles, carved eggs, sculptures made from butter or vegetables, and some truly phenomenal cakes.
 images-9 Hong Yi Plays With Her Food is a collection of landscapes, animals, pictures, and portraits made with food on a background of white plates by a Malaysian artist.

Even More Recipes

 imgres-57 Marjorie Winslow’s Mud Pies and Other Recipes (New York Review Children’s Collection, 2010) is a charming collection of (wholly inedible) recipes for make-believe, among them Pine Needle Upside-Down Cake, Boiled Buttons, and Rainspout Tea. For all ages.
 imgres-58 Cordon Bleu chef (and mom) Annabel Karmel’s Mom and Me Cookbook (Dorling Kindersley, 2008), illustrated with great color photographs, is a collection of beautifully presented recipes for cooks ages 4-7. Try your hands at potato mice, avocado frog dip, animal cookies, and many more.
 imgres-59 Also by Karmel, see The Toddler Cookbook (Dorling Kindersley, 2008) for ages 2-5, which features such dishes as lettuce boats, little pita pizzas, and peanut butter bears.
 imgres-60 Mollie Katzen’s Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes (Tricycle Press, 1994) is a wonderful illustrated vegetarian cookbook for preschoolers, in which each recipe appears twice – once in words and once in step-by-step pictures. Cooks ages 3-6 can – with a little help – make green spaghetti, blueberry pancakes, zucchini moons, and hide and seek muffins. And, of course, pretend soup.
 imgres-61 Also see the sequel, Salad People and More Real Recipes (2005) and, for older cooks ages 8-12, Honest Pretzels and 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Kids Who Like to Cook (2009).
For sample recipes, see Children’s Cookbooks at Mollie Katzen’s website.
 imgres-62 Linda White’s Cooking on a Stick (Gibbs Smith, 2000) is a collection of campfire recipes for kids, variously to be cooked on sticks, in pouches, or on grills or grates. Included are safety tips and instructions for building a campfire. Try Moose Kebobs, S’mores, Hop Toad Popcorn, and Squirrel Nibbles. For ages 6-11.
 imgres-63 Kate White’s Cooking in a Can (Gibbs Smith, 2006) has instructions and recipes not only for cooking in a can, but on a (homemade) tin-can grill, wrapped in leaves, with hot rocks, in a pit, in a (homemade) solar oven, and more. Fun for campers and backyard cooks ages 6 and up.
 imgres-64 Melissa Barlow’s Noodlemania (Quirk Books, 2013) is a collection of 50 wacky pasta recipes – categorized by shape (“Totally Tubular,” “Twisty & Twirly”) – plus assorted catchy facts. Make Robot Bites, Super Stuffed Slugs, and Green Stink Bugs. Fun for ages 6 and up.
 6a00e55246b63f8834017742e0950f970d-800wi The Artful Parent’s Cooking with Kids has many wonderful cooking projects, illustrated with photographs. Make teddy-bear bread, candy-cane lollipops, rainbow cupcakes, and more.
 imgres-65 Write your own cookbook? Peter Stillman’s Families Writing (Heinemann, 1998) is an inspirational source of ideas for cooperative family writing projects, among them creating a personal recipe book filled with traditional family favorites. A great project for all ages.
 imgres-66 The Let’s Cook! Class Curriculum is a detailed multi-lesson cooking unit at two levels (Beginner and Advanced). Each session covers basic cooking techniques and features a different food with recipe – for example, apples, bell peppers, dried beans, potatoes, and tomatoes. Generally aimed at ages 9-13.

Books About Cooks (and a Movie)

 imgres-67 In Maurice Sendak’s classic In the Night Kitchen (HarperCollins, 1996), Mickey falls into the surreal world of the night kitchen where three Alice-in-Wonderland-ish bakers are mixing the batter for the morning cake. They need milk – so Mickey makes an airplane out of bread dough and flies off to fetch some from a gigantic milk bottle. In the process of falling into the night kitchen, Mickey also falls out of his clothes, which has caused endless fuss among people who have never ever seen a child bare. For ages 2-7.
 imgres-68 In Carolyn Parkhurst’s picture book Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly (Feiwel & Friends, 2010), big brother Henry is hosting a pretend TV show (“Pirate Cooking”), in which the dish of the day is “raspberry-marshmallow-peanut butter waffles with barbecued banana bacon” – though he’s having a struggle dealing with input from red-headed two-year-old sister Ellie. For ages 3-7.
 imgres-69 In William Steig’s Pete’s a Pizza (HarperCollins, 1998), Pete is miserable – it’s raining and he can’t play ball – so his father decides to cheer him up by turning him into a pizza. Pete is kneaded and tossed, smeared with oil (water), decorated with toppings (checkers and paper scraps), and baked on the couch. When the time comes for the pizza to be sliced, Pete runs away, pursued by his father (“Pizzas are not supposed to laugh!”). Possibly the funniest pizza recipe ever. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-70 Bruce Eric Kaplan’s Monsters Eat Whiny Children (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010) is hilarious. Henry and Eve, going through a “TERRIBLE phase,” do nothing but whine, and have been warned by their father that monsters eat whiny children. The kids continue to whine and – lo and behold – a monster pops them in a sack and takes them off to his lair on the bad side of town. There problems arise, as the monsters bicker over just how to cook and serve whiny children – in salad? Burgers? Cake? Vindaloo? By the time the monsters finally agree on cucumber sandwiches (on fluffy white bread), the whiny kids – hopefully with a lesson learned – have escaped. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-71 Rosemary Mastnak’s Cooking with Grandma (Hardie Grant Egmont, 2012) is a mix of cooking, fun, and make-believe. When Anya visits her grandparents, she and grandma cook a new dish every day, and then serve it up with a dose of pretend play (“room service at the hotel!”). Chances are readers will be clamoring to make toast soldiers and scones. (Mastnak is Australian – readers glimpse kangaroos through Grandma’s kitchen window.) For ages 4-8.
 imgres-72 In Dr. Seuss’s Scrambled Eggs Super (Random House, 1953, Peter T. Hooper produces the most spectacular dish of scrambled eggs ever, with dozens of zany eggs, 99 pans, 55 cans of beans, a pound of horseradish, and nine prunes. And more. For ages 4-8.
 images-10 Also see Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham (Random House, 1960) in which the relentless Sam-I-Am pulls out all stops to convince the stubborn narrator to try a scrumptious dish of green eggs and ham.
From Scholastic, Scrambled Eggs Super is a lesson plan to accompany Seuss’s book in which kids decorate plastic eggs and play a rhyming word game.
From Martha Stewart, Green Eggs and Ham is a particularly yummy-sounding version of Seuss’s recipe. (The green is pesto.)
At Seussville.com, Green Eggs and Ham lists three different recipes for Sam-I-Am’s famous dish.
 imgres-73 In Lynne Barasch’s picture-book biography Hiromi’s Hands (Lee & Low Books, 2007), young Hiromi, whose father is a sushi chef, wants to become one too – and she grows up to become one of the first female sushi chefs in America. (But it wasn’t easy.) For ages 5-8.
 imgres-74 Make Vegetable Maki Sushi with Kids! has step-by-step photo-illustrated instructions for making homestyle sushi.
 imgres-75 Deborah Hopkinson’s picture book Fannie in the Kitchen (Aladdin, 2004) – subtitled “The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts of How Fannie Farmer Invented Recipes with Precise Measurements” – is told from the point of view of young Marcia Shaw, who is not exactly pleased when Fannie Farmer comes to cook for her family’s Victorian household. Soon, though, she’s hooked on Fannie’s delicious meals and even has a hand in writing the famous Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. For ages 5-9.
 imgres-76 By Susanna Reich, Minette’s Feast (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012) is the story of Julia Child told through the eyes of her cat, Minette (“perhaps the luckiest cat in all Paris”). For ages 4-8.
 imgres-77 Jessie Hartland’s Bon Appetit! (Schwartz & Wade, 2012) is a delightful and hilariously illustrated biography of Julia Child, filled with anecdotes, food, and recipes (and a smattering of French). For ages 7-12.
 images-11 By Alice Waters, Fanny at Chez Panisse (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1997) is the charmingly illustrated story of Waters’s famous California restaurant, Chez Panisse, as told by her seven-year-old daughter, Fanny. The first chunk of the book introduces the restaurant and the people who work there; the rest is a collection of 46 scrumptious recipes, ostensibly Fanny’s. For ages 8 and up.
 imgres-78 In Kathryn Littlewood’s Bliss (Katherine Tegen Books, 2013), the Bliss family, owners of a magical bakery in the town of Calamity Falls, have in their possession an ancient Cookery Booke, filled with arcane recipes for Singing Gingersnaps, Love Muffins, and Cookies of Truth. When the Bliss parents are called out of town, it’s up to 12-year-old Rose and her siblings to keep the book safe – particularly from the suspicious Lily, who arrives at their door claiming to be a distant cousin. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-79 In Rufus Kingfisher’s Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles, Madame Pamplemousse’s edibles are indeed incredible: among them are Minotaur Salami, Pterodactyl Bacon, Crocodile Kidneys in Blueberry Wine, and Giant Squid Tentacle in Jasmine-Scented Jelly. Young Madeleine – forced to work for her awful Uncle Lard at his restaurant, The Squealing Pig – discovers Madame Pamplemousse when the Squealing Pig runs out of pate, at which point evil Uncle Lard decides to steal Madame Pamplemousse’s secrets. A wonderful magical read for ages 9 and up. (And there are sequels.)
 imgres-80 In Sarah Weeks’s Pie (Scholastic, 2013), set in the 1950s, Alice’s Aunt Polly – the Pie Queen of Ipswitch – has died, leaving the recipe for her famous pie crust to her cat, and her cat (Lardo) to Alice. Great characters, a mystery, a story of friendship and family relationships, and fourteen recipes for pie. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-81 In Adam Glendon Sidwell’s Evertaster (Future House Publishing, 2012), eleven-year-old Guster Johnsonville, a mega-picky eater, is taken by his frustrated mother to New Orleans to find something he’ll consent to eat. There they meet a dying pastry cook who gives them an old metal eggbeater and the secret ancient recipe for the most delicious taste in the world. Soon Guster and family are on the run, pursued by a cult of murderous chefs. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-82 The parents of Primrose Squarp, the star of Polly Horvath’s Everything on a Waffle (Square Fish, 2008), have been lost at sea, and Primrose has been sent to live with her Uncle Jack (who at least is better than her former babysitter, Miss Perfidy, who smells of mothballs and dislikes children). Primrose spends her time on the docks, waiting for her parents to return, and hanging out with Miss Bowzer, proprietor of the restaurant The Girl on the Red Swing, where everything – absolutely everything – is served on a waffle. Miss Bowzer teaches her to cook – the book is filled with recipes for everything from caramel apples to pear soup and cherry pork chops – and Primrose’s observations on the people and life in her small Canadian town are priceless. Also there’s a happy (though somewhat unbelievable) ending. For ages 9 and up.
 imgres-83 Twelve-year-old Foster McFee, main character of Joan Bauer’s Close to Famous (Puffin, 2012), has learning disabilities (she can’t read), a talent for baking (marvelous cupcakes), and a dream of hosting her own television cooking show.  When she and her mother settle in Culpepper, West Virginia – after fleeing her mother’s abusive boyfriend – both find new friends and new hope. A satisfying read for ages 10 and up.
 imgres-84 Lucy Knisley’s Relish: My Life in the Kitchen (First Second, 2013) is a cheerful autobiographical graphic novel of a child “raised by foodies,” with lots of great illustrated recipes. For food-loving teenagers and adults.
 images-12 In Pixar’s 2007 animated film Ratatouille, Remy, a young rat, dreams of becoming a great French chef. The major drawback: he’s a rat. Rated G.

For more resources for budding foodies see HAPPY CARROT DAY, CHOCOLATE, BEAUTIFUL SOUP, APPLES, FAMOUS POTATOES, and EAT YOUR VEGGIES (AND OTHER HEALTHY STUFF).

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Terrific Trains

 

Who doesn’t love a train? There are fans of Thomas the (talking) Tank Engine, admirers of the Hogwarts Express, model train lovers, and creative students of American history, who want to know what happened to the Golden Spike that completed the Transcontinental Railroad. (If you’ve got rosy visions of driving to Promontory Point and extracting it, forget it: it’s in the Smithsonian.)

See below for books and resources for all ages, including a great train robbery, adventurous orphans, a really cool model steam engine, and a railroad version of Moby Dick (with giant moles).

TRAINS FOR BEGINNERS

images-18 Steve Light’s Trains Go (Chronicle Books, 2012) is a masterpiece of onomatopoeia for toddlers, with great illustrations and lots of ZOOSHs, WHOOSHs, CLANGs, and TOOTs. For ages 2-5.
 images-1 Donald Crews’s Freight Train (Greenwillow, 2004) is a gorgeous and colorful introduction to the parts of a train: black steam engine, purple box car, green cattle car, orange tank car, red caboose. For ages 2-6.
 images-2 Dinosaurs! And trains! In John Steven Gurney’s Dinosaur Train (HarperCollins, 2002), a little boy whose favorite things are dinosaurs and trains draws a dinosaur-and-train picture before going to bed and heads off on an imaginative train adventure, packed with colorful dinosaurs, among them a T. rex engineer in overalls. For ages 3-5.
 images-3 In Tony Mitton’s adorable Terrific Trains (Kingfisher, 2000), pop-eyed animal characters head off on a rhyming train journey (“Starting from the station with a whistle and a hiss/steam trains huffing and puffing like this”).  For ages 3-6.
 images-4 In Philemon Sturges’s I Love Trains (HarperCollins, 2003), a little boy in a stripey engineer’s cap and overalls watches a train go by, while telling – in rhyme – all about it, from engine, hopper, boxcar, and flatcar to caboose. For ages 3-6.
 images-5 Thomas the Tank Engine (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2005) was first featured in the Railway Series books by Wilbert Awdry in the 1940s – and, like Winnie the Pooh, Thomas was based on a child’s (real) toy.  Now Thomas is the star of countless books, games, apps, and a TV series. For ages 3-7.
 images-6 Patricia Hubbell’s Trains (Two Lions, 2009) – subtitled “Steaming! Pulling! Huffing!” – is a rhyming introduction to all things train, with clever collage-style illustrations and a lot of creative typefaces. For ages 3-7.
 images-7 Watty Piper’s classic The Little Engine That Could (Platt & Munk, 1930) is now available in any number of editions, but all star the determined little pale-blue train who finally (“I think I can; I think I can…”) makes it over the mountain with a load of toys. It’s supposed to instill the virtues of courage and persistence in the very small; parents can quote bits of it comfortingly to frustrated five-year-olds, who have thrown a failed project on the floor and are stamping upon it.
 images-8 In Lois Lenski’s The Little Train (Random House, 2000), Engineer Small drives his train from Tinytown to Union Station in the big city, with lots of explanations for young train fans along the way. For ages 4-7.
 images-19 By Gail Gibbons, Trains (Holiday House, 1988) is a simple non-fiction introduction to trains with appealing bright-colored illustrations, variously covering all things train, including steam, diesel, and electric engines, boxcars, tank cars, passenger cars, refrigerator cars, and the ever-popular caboose. For ages 4-7.
 images-9 In Margaret and H.A. Rey’s Curious George Takes a Train (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), everybody’s favorite little monkey heads for the busy train station along with the Man in the Yellow Hat – and inevitably gets in a lot of trouble. For ages 4-8.
At Curious George’s website, George’s Busy Day:Train Station is an interactive train-based math game for early-elementary students.
 images-20 Diane Siebert’s Train Song (HarperCollins, 1993), illustrated with gorgeous glowing paintings by Michael  , is a rhythmic poem that captures the clickety-clack essence of train travel: “locomotives/cars in tow/going places/Buffalo/New York City/Boston, Mass./slowing ‘neath the underpass.” For ages 4-8.
 images-11 Virginia Lee Burton’s Choo Choo (Sandpiper, 1988), illustrated in dramatic black, white, and red, is the story of a rebellious little engine who runs away, having decided that she can go much faster without any troublesome passengers. She gets into all kinds of trouble before learning a useful lesson. For ages 4-8.
On YouTube, Choo Choo is a reading of the story by Peter Bradley, with illustrations from the book.
 images-12 John Burningham’s award-winning Hey! Get Off Our Train (Dragonfly Books, 1994) is an unlikely mix of train trip and endangered animals – but it works.  A little boy and his stuffed dog embark on a magical nighttime train trip, collecting animals along the way. Each is initially greeted with cries of “Hey! Get off our train!” until the animal explains its plight: someone is trying to cut off the elephant’s tusks; the polar bear is being hunted for fur; the tiger’s forest is being cut down. For ages 4-9.
 images-13 In Tony Crunk’s Railroad John and the Red Rock Run (Peachtree Publishing, 2006), Railroad John – who hasn’t been late in 40 years – is racing the Sagebrush Flyer to Red Rock for Lonesome Bob’s wedding to Wildcat Annie (who waits for no one). Inevitably, the train is held up by outlaws, a flood, and a cyclone, but still manages to make it on time. (Wildcat Annie, on the other hand, is late.) For ages 5-8.
 images-14 Photographer Walter Wick’s Can You See What I See? Toyland Express (Cartwheel Books, 2011) is a fascinating picture-puzzle book that begins in a toymaker’s workshop, where a wooden train is being assembled and painted; then moves to a toy shop window, where the finished train is displayed along with dozens of other toys; and next to a birthday party. In each wonderful image-crammed spread there is a list of 20 things for readers to find: “Can you see what I see? 2 bells, a birdhouse/a pencil, a pail/a ball of string/a long cat tail…” Fun for ages 5 and up.
 images-15 Chris Van Allsburg’s Christmas-themed The Polar Express (Houghton Mifflin, 2009), in which a wonderful train transports the narrator to the North Pole, is now a classic – with a final theme of unshakeable belief. For all ages.
The computer-animated movie version of The Polar Express (Warner Brothers, 2004), directed by Robert Zemeckis, is rated PG. The book is better.
 images-16 Folk musician Gordon M. Titcomb’s The Last Train (Roaring Brooks Press, 2010), with stunning illustrations by Wendell Minor, is an evocative celebration of the great age of the railroads, as a boy recalls the experiences of his father and grandfather, both railroad men. (“My Granddad was a railroad man, he drove the trains around/My Daddy, he sold tickets till they closed the station down/Now the tracks that shone like silver have turned to rusty brown/Thirty years ago the last train rolled through town.”) Wonderful for all ages.

TRAINS FOR OLDER READERS

 images-21 Gertrude Chandler Warner’s The Boxcar Children (Albert Whitman & Company, 1989), originally published in 1924, features four orphan siblings who – terrified of being separated – set up house on their own in an abandoned boxcar. As of the end of the book, they’ve been adopted by a wealthy grandfather who preserves the boxcar. Many many sequels. For ages 7-10.
 images-22 E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children (Random House, 2012), originally published in 1906, is still a great read. The main characters – three children, with their mother – move to a house near the railroad when their father mysteriously disappears. Through their interest in the trains, the kids are eventually able to find and vindicate their father, who has been unfairly accused of spying. For ages 9-12.
From Project Gutenberg, see the text of The Railway Children online.
 images-23 Daniel Pinkwater’s The Neddiad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization (Sandpiper, 2009) is hysterically funny – and it involves train travel, as Neddie’s father on a whim relocates the entire family from Chicago to LA, so that they can eat cheeseburgers at the Brown Derby, a restaurant shaped like a hat. The plot involves a shaman named Melvin, a mysterious turtle token, a phantom bellboy, and several of Neddie’s friends, among them Yggdrasil (Iggy), a very competent girl named after the mythological World Tree. For ages 10-13.
 images-24 Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (Harper, 2011) features debonair detective Hercule Poirot (he of the little gray cells and the enormous moustache), a famous train, and a wealth of suspects. For ages 13 and up.
 images-25 The 1974 movie version of Murder on the Orient Express stars Albert Finney as Poirot and an impressive cast of potential murderers, among them Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, and Vanessa Redgrave. Rated PG.
 images-26 China Mieville’s Railsea is set in a universe of continents and islands connected by train tracks (the railsea) and populated by moldywarpes, giant tunneling mole rates, tundra worms, and blood rabbits. Our hero, Sham ap Soorap, is part of the crew of the moletrain Medes, where he serves as apprentice to the train’s doctor, while the Captain obsessively pursues a vicious ivory-colored mole that took her arm off years ago. (Sound like Moby Dick? It’s supposed to.) There’s also a treasure map and pirates. For ages 14 and up.
 images-27 Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery (Harper, 2008) is riveting story and a fascinating look at the Victorian era, with adventure, romance, and trains. For teenagers and adults.
The 1978 movie version of The Great Train Robbery stars Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, and Lesley-Anne Down. Rated PG.

ORPHAN TRAINS

From the mid-19th century to the 1920s, New York City’s Children’s Aid Society shipped abandoned or orphaned children by train to adoptive families in the west. These trains came to be known as the Orphan Trains.

 images-28 In Eve Bunting’s picture book Train to Somewhere (Sandpiper, 2000), shy, plain Marianne has been sent west on an orphan train, at each stop along the way looking vainly for her real mother. Finally, in Somewhere, Iowa, the train’s last stop, she finds a loving home with a couple who had thought they wanted a boy. For ages 5-8.
 images-29 Joan Lowery Nixon’s Orphan Train Adventures series follows the adventures of the six Kelly children (Frances Mary, Mike, Megan, Danny, Peg, and Petey), sent west on the orphan train to find new homes when their widowed mother is no longer able to support them. There are seven books in the series, beginning with A Family Apart (Laurel Leaf, 1995). Suspense, adventure, and mystery for ages 10 and up.
 images-30 Andrea Warren’s Orphan Train Rider (Sandpiper, 1998) alternates a history of the orphan train movement with the real-life story of Lee Nailling, sent to Nebraska via orphan train in 1926. A fascinating account, illustrated with period black-and-white photos, for ages 10 and up.
 images-31 Also by Andrea Warren, We Rode the Orphan Trains (Sandpiper, 2004) is a collection of personal histories of eight different orphan train riders. For ages 10 and up.
 images-32 In PBS’s American Experience series, the 60-minute film The Orphan Trains (2006) is fascinating history of the movement, with first-person accounts and period photos. Included at the website are background information, an extensive resource list, and a teacher’s guide.

WRECKS AND DISASTERS

 images-33 Paul Goble’s distinctively illustrated picture-book The Death of the Iron Horse (Bradbury, 1987) is the true story of a band of young Cheyenne warriors who, on August 7, 1867, derailed a Union Pacific freight train – the fearsome Iron Horse, that breathed smoke and had a voice like thunder. For ages 5-9.
 images-39 Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express (Margaret K. Wetterer; Carolrhoda, 1991) is the brave and true tale of young Kate Shelley who saves the Midnight Express from disaster when, during the Mississippi Flood of July, 1881, the railroad bridge over Honey Creek breaks. An exciting bit of history for ages 6-10.
 images-35 In Angela Johnson’s award-winning I Dream of Trains (Simon & Schuster, 2003), a young black boy, working in the cotton fields near the railroad track, dreams of trains and of his hero, the legendary engineer Casey Jones. When Jones is killed in a train collision, he worries that his dreams are over – until his father wisely explains that “there’ll be other trains,” reassuring him that someday he’ll be able to leave and find his place in the world. For ages 5-9.
 images-36 Stephen Krensky’s Casey Jones (First Avenue Editions, 2007) in the On My Own Folklore series is the story of the train engineer who became a folk hero when he managed to save all his passengers when the Cannonball collided with another train. For ages 7-10.
 casey History reports that the train wreck may have been all Casey’s fault. See the Water Valley Casey Jones Railroad Museum for an alternate account of the story, a photograph of Casey, and the lyrics to “The Ballad of Casey Jones.”
 images-37 Check out the world’s 8 Most Amazing Train Wrecks.  (Casey’s Cannonball isn’t one of them.)
 images-38 George Bibel’s Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail Disasters (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012) is an analysis of crashes for the seriously interested. Chapter titles include “How Trains Crash, Then and Now” and “Gravity: It’s the Law.” For teenagers and adults.

HISTORICAL TRAINS  

 images-40 Patrick O’Brien’s Steam, Smoke, and Steel: Back in Time with Trains (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000) is a lovely picture-book story of trains, as a boy traces his family history on the railroad from his several-times-great-grandfather on.
 images-41 Seymour Simon’s Book of Trains (HarperCollins, 2004) pairs full-page color photos of trains with an informative text. For ages 6-10.
 images-42 In John Colley’s Train (Dorling Kindersley, 2009), one of the volumes in the Eyewitness series, each double-page spread covers an aspect of trains in chronological order, from the first railroads through the trains of the future, all illustrated with wonderful prints and photographs. Learn about steam trains, electric trains, royal trains, and locomotive record breakers. For ages 7-11.
 images-43 Illustrated with gorgeous paintings and diagrams, Lynn Curlee’s Trains (Atheneum, 2009) is a 48-page history for ages 8-12.
 images-44 John Perritano’s The Transcontinental Railroad (Children’s Press, 2010) is a nicely designed short chapter book – illustrated with photos, drawings, maps, and prints – about the building of the famous cross-country railroad, a project that enlisted 20,000 workers and took from 1863 to 1869. Included are resource lists, a page of “True Statistics,” and a glossary. For ages 7-11.
 images-45 Mary Ann Fraser’s Ten Mile Day (Square Fish, 1996) – illustrated with paintings and peppered with informative sidebars – is a history of the transcontinental railroad centering around the record-making day when 10 miles of track were laid (the result of a $10,000 bet). For ages 8-11.
 Through The Woods 1906-275 From Legends of America, The Railroad in the American West is a collection of railroad lore, historical accounts, quotations, and vintage photographs.
 images-46 In the PBS American Experience series, Transcontinental Railroad is the story of one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century. Included at the website are background information, interviews, a timeline, and a teacher’s guide.
 images-47 From PBS’s American Experience series, Riding the Rails is an account of the Great Depression, when hundreds of thousands of teenagers became hobos, crossing the country by illegally hopping on freight trains. See the website for background info, maps, a timeline, and a teacher’s guide.
 images-48 Christian Wolmar’s The Great Railroad Revolution is a history of American railroads beginning in the 1830s when the our very first railroad line, the Baltimore & Ohio, opened. For teenagers and adults.

SCIENTIFIC TRAINS  

 train-1 How Trains Work has great illustrated (and reader-friendly) information on the history and science of trains, with a helpful resource list.
 5878-1 Are hydrogen-fueled trains the wave of the future? From NPR, Towards Hydrogen Trains is an interesting discussion of the possible future of the railroads.
 RTEmagicC_TrainWheels-problem.png Train Tracks is a hands-on experiment that demonstrates how trains go around corners. It’s harder than you might think.
 images-49 Build a Levitating Train using magnets, similar in concept to the phenomenal Maglev trains now being used in Europe and Japan.

  RAILROAD SONGS AND POEMS  

 images-50 From Smithsonian Folkways, Classic Railroad Songs (2006) is a collection of 29 traditional songs by various musicians, among them “Jay Gould’s Daughter,” “Rock Island Line,” “John Henry,” “Casey Jones,” and “Wabash Cannonball.” Available for purchase either as a CD or download.
  Train Songs is a long long list of titles, with artists. (No music, but it’s a start.)
 images-51 One of the best known of all American railroad songs is I’ve Been Working on the Railroad. This site has the lyrics, a video, and background info on the song.
 images-52 Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem From a Railway Carriage has a wonderful beat like a speeding train: “Faster than fairies, faster than witches,/Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;/And charging along like troops in a battle/All through the meadows the horses and cattle…”
 images-53 In W.H. Auden’s Night Mail, a train carries the mail: “This is the night mail crossing the Border/Bringing the cheque and the postal order/Letters for the rich, letters for the poor/The shop at the corner, the girl next door…”
 images-54 From T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2009), Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat is the cat without whom the Night Mail just can’t go.
  For more books and resources (many) on cats, see MILLIONS OF CATS, BILLIONS OF CATS.
 images-55 Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Travel evokes all the romance of train travel: “My heart is warm with friends I make/And better friends I’ll not be knowing;/Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take/No matter where it’s going.”
 images-57 Edited by Peter Ashley, Railway Rhymes (Everyman’s Library, 2007) is a priceless collection of poems celebrating trains and train travel. For teenagers and adults.

ARTS, CRAFTS, AND ACTIVITIES

 handtrain Chugga-chugga Choo choo! Train Craft has instructions for making a great paper train from a tracing of your handprint (the locomotive) and arm (cars).
From Preschool Express, Trains is a collection of simple train-based art projects and games for little kids.
 T4K2cover Trains4Kids has train photos, coloring pages, stories, videos, and assorted games and activities, among them instructions for making a conductor’s hat and a train whistle.
 0707a_steamtrain From Spoonful, Build Your Own Train has a printable steam engine template (complete with engineer). Cut out and assemble.
 trn-140 Printable Train Craft has nice templates for engine, cars, and caboose, to color and assemble.
Train Craft has printable patterns for engine, cars, and caboose. Trace onto colored paper, cut shapes for wheels and windows, and use in any number of ways – for example, hang it on a wall and add a new car for various milestones.
 circustrain-step12 From First Palatte, Circus Train is a great papercraft project in which kids assemble a terrific circus train, complete with animals. Included are printable templates, but kids may have more fun making their own.
 images-59 From Artists Helping Children, Train Crafts for Kids has a long list of projects, among them cardboard box trains, an egg-carton train, a recycled train (save tin cans), a crocheted train, and more.
 images-60 From Melissa & Doug, the Decorate Your Own Train kit includes a chunky unpainted wooden locomotive with instructions, paints, and decals.
 images-61 Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains (Little, Brown, 2005) is a step-by-step instruction book in which simple shapes are combined to turn out a series of fantastic trains and trucks. For artists ages 7-10.
 images-62 In this clever interactive train game with PBS’s Caillou, kids have to match missing pieces of the track (turns, switches, bridges) to allow the train to pass through.
 images-63 From Days of Wonder, Ticket to Ride is a cool train card game, in which players collect illustrated train cards and use them to complete routes between cities (while avoiding train robbers).  The game includes 96 train cards, 46 destination cards, and a rules booklet. For 2-4 players ages 8 and up.

MODEL TRAINS

 images-64 From Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, the Great Train Story is an account of the museum’s famous model railroad exhibit (20 trains, 1400 feet of track). Check out the video.
 images-65 Lionel, still the primo name in model trains, sells dozens of train sets and accouterments for beginners on up.
Visit Hobbylinc for dozens of train sets, including wooden train sets and tracks for younger train fans.
 images-66 The Jensen Dry Fuel Steam Engine is a terrific little working replica of an 18th-century steam engine, of the sort used to propel early locomotives. The engine comes in pieces, which must be assembled using a few basic tools (hammer, screwdriver, and pliers); once completed, it’s about eight inches tall, equipped with nickel-plated boiler, throttle valve, ear-piercing whistle, water gauge, and safety valve. The engine runs on dry fuel pellets, which are safe and simple to use. This is one marvelous little machine. Unfortunately it’s also expensive – prices range around $100 – but a worthwhile investment for a truly enthusiastic family of budding engineers.
The National Toy Train Museum has information on getting started with model railroads (for younger kids and teens), sources for model railroad supplies, activities, and reading lists.
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The Buzz on Bees

 

Bees are incredible. They can count to three, tell a Picasso from a Monet, solve the Traveling Salesman Problem in the blink of an eye, and make honey – and they pollinate everything from apples, beets, and Brazil nuts to pumpkins, tangerines, and watermelons. And they just might be disappearing, which is something we should all worry about.

See below for ways to help the bees – along with bee stories, bee poems, bees under the microscope, dancing bees, zombie bees, and robotic bees. And, of course, Winnie-the-Pooh.

BEE TALES

 images A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, originally published in 1926, with wonderful illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard, features a pudgy honey-loving bear who has an unfortunate adventure with bees.  Also see the equally delightful sequel, The House at Pooh Corner, and the Latin version, translated by Alexander Lenard – Winnie Ille Pu (Penguin, 1991) – in which Pu loves mel. For all ages, always.
 images-1 Craig Frazier’s charming Bee & Bird (Roaring Brook Press, 2011), with its bright stylized illustrations, is both a journey (from tree to truck to boat to beehive) and a study in perspective, as more and more of the surroundings are revealed. The book moves, for example, from a highly magnified bee to a view of a bee balanced on a seemingly immense bird’s head to bee and bird, perched in a towering tree, and so on. For ages 2-6.
 images-2 Steve Smallman’s The Very Greedy Bee (Tiger Tales, 2010) is a lesson in sharing. The greedy bee refuses to do his share of chores around the hive and spends all his time guzzling pollen and nectar – to the point where, stuffed full, he thumps to the ground, unable to fly. He’s helped home by some kindly fireflies and ants, and all ends happily with a party (featuring honey), some new friendships, and a lesson learned. For ages 3-7.
 images-3 Munro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand (Viking Juvenile, 2011) recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. This is the now-classic story of the peaceful bull who loves to sit under the cork trees and smell the flowers – until a badly timed bee sting convinces visiting recruiters for the bullfight that Ferdinand would be a perfect candidate for the bullring in Madrid. For ages 3-8.
 images-4 Melita Morales’s Jam and Honey (Tricycle Press, 2011) is the story of a little girl gathering berries for jam, and a young bee, looking for nectar to make honey. Initially scared silly of each other, they soon learn to comfortably share the berry patch. For ages 4-8.
 images-5 In Cece Bell’s Bee-Wigged (Candlewick, 2008), people simply did not like Jerry Bee – who was a perfectly enormous (though friendly) bee. In an attempt to make friends at school, Jerry acquires a wig that hides his antennae and makes him look (well, sort of) like a boy. He’s loved by all, until a wind snatches off the wig, revealing his true bee nature. Luckily the wig – actually a talkative guinea pig named Wiglet – averts panic by reminding people that the real Jerry is a sweetheart. For ages 4-8.
 images-6 The panic-stricken protagonist of Melanie Watts’s Scaredy Squirrel (Kids Can Press, 2008) is terrified of everything – including bees – and so refuses to leave his tree. Anything could be out there in the fearsome unknown – Martians, sharks, tarantulas, germs – though he’s well-prepared for threats with an emergency kit containing everything from antibacterial soap to a parachute. Then one day, terrified by passing (killer?) bees, he leaps from his tree – and discovers, to his amazement, that he’s not just a squirrel: he’s a flying squirrel. There are many sequels, in which Scaredy Squirrel variously fears rabbits, piranhas, jellyfish, falling coconuts, dragons, ghosts, bats, confetti, ponies, and Bigfoot. For ages 4-8.
 images-7 In Andrea Cheng’s When the Bees Fly Home (Tilbury House, 2002), Jonathan’s father prefers Jonathan’s athletic younger brother, who is better equipped to help with the family beekeeping business. When a drought hits and the family finances are threatened, artistic Jonathan saves the day with his creative beeswax candles. A story of differently talented kids, packed with a lot of bee facts. For ages 5-10.
 images-8 Frank R. Stockton’s The Bee-Man of Orn (Candlewick, 2004) is a reprint of the 1964 original. The elderly Bee-Man lives contentedly with his bees until a visiting Junior Sorcerer informs him that he’s been “transformed from something else” and encourages him to go on a quest to discover his original form. He does, with enlightening and surprising results. A classic for ages 6-11.
  The text of The Bee-Man of Orn is online at Project Gutenberg.
  The Teaching Children Philosophy website has background information and discussion questions for The Bee-Man of Orn. The main theme: the importance of self-exploration and examination.
 images-9 Doris Buchanan Smith’s A Taste of Blackberries (HarperCollins, 2004), originally published in 1973, deals sensitively with tragedy, when the narrator’s best friend, Jamie, dies of an allergic reaction to a bee sting. Poignant, thought-provoking, and ultimately healing for ages 7-10.
 images-10 In Thomas Keneally’s Ned Kelly and the City of Bees (David R. Godine, 1995), young Ned – in the hospital recovering from appendicitis – is visited by a bee, Apis, who gives him a drop of golden liquid that shrinks him to a size where he can ride on her back. Off he goes with Nancy Clancy – who speaks in rhymes and has lived with the bees for over a century – for a summer of adventure, during which he learns the ways of the hive, meets the bee queen and an activist drone named Basil, and helps fight off an attack by wasps. Genuine bee science delivered through fantasy/sci fi. For ages 9-12.
 images-11 In Kathe Koja’s Kissing the Bee (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007), it’s senior year in high school, and Dana – a hopeful science writer and bee researcher – is dealing with her changing relationship with her best friend Avra (the “queen bee” in her social circle) and with Avra’s boyfriend, Emil, with whom Dana is in love. A teen romance and coming-into-your-own story with bees.  For ages 13 and up.
 images-12 From the Brothers Grimm, The Queen Bee is the tale of three brothers, the youngest of whom triumphs because of his kindness to ants, ducks, and bees.

COUNTRY BEES, CITY BEES

 images-13 In Laurie Krebs’s catchy rhyming picture book The Beeman (Barefoot Books, 2008), a little boy describes the work of his grandfather, the town beekeeper. (“Here is the queen bee/Who does her job well/and lays tiny eggs/in a six-sided cell.”) For ages 4-7.
 images-14 Patricia Polacco’s The Bee Tree (Puffin, 1998) is a clever cumulative tale in which Mary Ellen and her Grampa search through the Michigan woods for a bee tree filled with honey. (There’s also a nice lesson at the end about the benefits of reading.) For ages 4-8.
 images-15 Lela Nargi’s The Honeybee Man (Schwartz & Wade, 2011) is the picture-book story of Fred, who keeps beehives on the rooftop of his apartment building in Brooklyn. Readers learn about the busy life inside the hive, the process of foraging for nectar, honey-making and honey harvest, and end with a neighborhood honey feast. For ages 4-8.
 images-16 The theme of Maggie de Vries’s Big City Bees (Greystone Books, 2013) is pollination. Sophie and Matthew have planted pumpkins in their city garden – but there’s no chance of pumpkins if the blossoms aren’t pollinated by bees. Are there bees in the city? And will the bees find their pumpkin patch in time? For ages 5-8.
 images-17 Brian McCallum and Alison Benjamin, Bees in the City (Guardian Books, 2011) is an urban beekeeper’s handbook, with accounts of beekeeping projects by schools, businesses, and communities, and how-tos for city environments.

 MYSTERIES WITH BEES

 images-18 In Gertrude Chandler Warner’s The Honeybee Mystery (Albert Whitman & Company, 2000) – one of the Boxcar Children series – the four Alden children and their grandfather head to the Sherman farm for honey – only to find that there’s no honey to be had. Something is wrong with the bees. Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny learn about bees and beekeeping, while solving the mystery (and saving the farm). For ages 7-10.
 images-19 The heroine of Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (Picador, 2007), set in 1915, is orphaned teenage heiress Mary Russell, bright, gawky, and unhappily living with her guardian, a nasty aunt. Then, out for a walk, she meets the elderly Sherlock Holmes, now retired and devoting himself to the study of bees. Impressed by Mary’s sharp wits, he decides to tutor her in investigative techniques. In this, the first of a series, Mary and Holmes tackle a mystery that involves a kidnapping, a master criminal, and a threat to both their lives. For teenagers and adults.
For many more mysteries and related resources, see SHERLOCK AND COMPANY: A MULTITUDE OF MYSTERIES.

BEE MOVIE

 images-20 In the animated Bee Movie (Dreamworks, 2007), bee Barry B. Benson (voiced by Jerry Seinfeld)  – recently graduated from college – is discouraged by his sole job option: making honey. Off he goes to New York, where he becomes friends with a florist named Vanessa – and discovers that humans eat honey. Outraged, he decides to sue the human race.  Rated PG.
A beekeeper points out the problems with Bee Movie – try his True/False quiz – in Seinfeld’s World of Drones.

NON-FICTION BEES  

 images-21 In Alison Formento’s These Bees Count! (Albert Whitman & Company, 2012), Mr. Tate’s class visits a farm and learns all about bees – counting-book-style, starting with one swarm, two dandelions, three strawberries. The paper-collage illustrations are terrific. For ages 4-7.
 images-22 Lori Mortensen’s In the Trees, Honey Bees (Dawn Publications, 2009) is a rhyming introduction to honeybees with realistic illustrations and occasional prose paragraphs of scientific information. For ages 4-8.
 images-23 April Pulley Sayre’s picture book The Bumblebee Queen (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2006) is a gentle poetic description of the life cycle of a bumblebee (“The bumblebee queen/begins the spring/below ground/and all alone”), punctuated with “fact circles” that provide additional information about bumblebees. For ages 4-8.
 images-24 Judy Allen’s Are You a Bee? (Kingfisher, 2004) in the Backyard Books series addresses the reader directly, describing your life if you were a bee: “When you hatch, you are not a pretty sight. You are a larva.” For ages 4-8.
 images-25 Anne Rockwell’s Honey in a Hive (HarperCollins, 2005) in the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, covers the life cycle and behavior of bees and the process of making honey through a reader-friendly text illustrated with detailed paintings. For ages 5-8.
 images-26 Gail Gibbons’s The Honey Makers (HarperCollins, 2000) covers life in the hive, the functions of queen, drones, and worker bees, and the process of bee-keeping and honey-harvesting, these last through sample pages from a bee keeper’s diary. For ages 6-9.
 images-27 Joanna Cole’s The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive (Scholastic, 1998) covers the same ground as Gibbons’s book (above) with a zany sense of humor: in this volume of the popular series, eccentric teacher Ms. Frizzle tricks her students out in bee costumes, sprays them with pheromones, and transports them (via magic bus) into a beehive. Information is delivered through after-action student-written reports. For ages 6-9.
From Scholastic, The Magic School Bus in a Beehive lesson plan includes a bee-dance exercise, in which kids not only dance, but estimate and measure distances. (Recommended accompanying snack: honey on crackers.)
 images-28 By Kate Riggs, Grow With Me: Bee (Creative Paperbacks, 2013) is a well-designed look at the behavior, anatomy, and life cycle of the bee, illustrated with color photographs. For ages 7 and up.
 images-29 Charles Micucci’s The Life and Times of the Honeybee (Sandpiper, 1997) is a creatively designed overview of bee/honey history and science. Double-page spreads cover such topics as “From Egg to Bee,” “How Honeybees Make Honey,” “A Honey Flower Menu,” “Buzzing Around the World,” and “Flying Through History.” For ages 7-11.
 images-30 By Stephen Buchmann, beekeeper and entomology professor, Honey Bees: Letter from the Hive (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2010) is a history of bees and honey from prehistoric times to the present for ages 11 and up.
 images-31 Stephen Buchmann’s Letters from the Hive (Bantam, 2006) is a more detailed history of bees, honey, and humans for teenagers and adults. Various chapters cover a typical beekeeper’s year; bees and honey in myth, legend, and ancient warfare; a history of cooking with honey; mead (“the honey that goes to your head”); and medicinal honey.
 images-32 Hilda M. Ransome’s The Sacred Bee (Dover Publications, 2004) is a history of bee mythology, folklore, and superstitions from around the world, with many illustrations and photographs of artifacts – among these bees on ancient Greek coins, in Egyptian wall paintings and Mayan hieroglyphics, African bee carvings, and more. For teenagers and adults.
 images-36 Andrew Gough’s Arcadia is an excellent online three-part history of bees from prehistory on, illustrated with terrific color photographs of artifacts.
 images-34 The American Beekeeping Federation has information on beekeeping and bee research, and a list of useful links for kids.
 images-35 Tales From the Hive, the companion website to the NOVA program of the same title, has information about the anatomy of a hive, fascinating facts about bees, an interactive bee dance feature, and a resource list.
 images-35 The Buzz About Bees website is crammed with information about types of bees, bee behavior and life cycles, beekeeping, bee gardening, and more – along with bee pictures, bee poems, bee video clips, puzzles and activities for kids, and an extensive book list.

ACTIVITIES AND LESSON PLANS

 snas_dancesbees_lg.jpg__155x1000_q85 Dances with Bees is an elementary-level science activity in which kids discuss animal communication, learn about bee dances, and participate in their own waggle dance.
 images-37 From Scholastic, Get the Buzz on Honey Bees is an elementary-level four-part lesson plan (aligned to National Standards in Science and Geography) with colorful reproducibles and illustrated student activity sheets. Kids learn about nectar, honey, and pollen; the anatomy of bees; life in a beehive; and bees and the environment.
 BeeMemory Bee Memory Experiment has instructions for making a simple homemade bee feeder and using it to test bee memory. For ages 4 and up.
 images-37 Honey Bees: Science Activities for Kids has bee lesson plans and suggestions for planting a bee garden and building a bee house.
 ahbhome From the University of Arizona, this excellent series of Africanized Honey Bee lesson plans (for grades K-3, 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12) does cover Africanized bees, but actually concentrates on honey bees in general. Included are activities and projects, printable information sheets and worksheets, and a bibliography to accompany each lesson.
 images-38 From Discovery Education, Bees is a lesson plan for grades 6-8 in which kids design experiments to study the process of pollination, using young patio tomato plants. Included is a list of discussion questions.
Bees Louise has a list of bee-based lesson plans for a range of ages. For example, kids learn bee anatomy by creating their own bee costumes; make a “Colorful Bees” mobile; make a Nectar Navigator and learn how bees find food; dissect a flower while learning about pollination; and dissect an adult bee.

DISAPPEARING BEES

 images-39 Suzanne Slade’s What If There Were No Bees? (Picture Window Books, 2010) emphasizes the importance of bees to ecosystems and food chains. Other titles in the series include What If There Were No Gray Wolves? and What If There Were No Sea Otters? Thought-provoking picture books for ages 5-8.
 images-40 Odo Hirsch’s Darius Bell and the Crystal Bees (Allen & Unwin, 2012) does not, as I expected, feature magical crystal bees. Instead, the real bees are dying; the Bell estate – which raises fruits and vegetables – is threatened; and Darius sets out to solve the problem, despite opposition from a villainous mayor and difficult school principal. For ages 8-12.
 images-41 The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010) tracks four scientists as they try to solve the current mystery of disappearing honeybees, a deadly phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder” or CCD. Illustrated with color photographs; included is an excellent supplementary resource list.  For ages 11 and up.
 images-43 From the New Yorker, Stung by Elizabeth Kolbert is an excellent article on bees and colony collapse disorder (CCD).
Birds as well as bees? From Wired magazine, this article discusses concerns that the neonicotinoid pesticides implicated in colony collapse disorder may also be killing birds.
From Forbes, Colony Collapse Disorder – The Real Story Behind Neonics and Mass Bee Death argues that there may be more to CCD than a pesticide problem.
 images-44 Queen of the Sun (2010) is a documentary on the global bee crisis, with appearances by beekeepers, entomologists, and historians, among them Michael Pollan and May Berenbaum.
 images-45 The Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees sponsors an annual bee-based essay contest for students. The 2013 topic is “Reducing the Use of Bee-Killing Pesticides in My Community.”
Bee Detective is a creative lesson plan for grades 6-8 in which participants follow clues while attempting to determine the cause of colony collapse disorder.
 images-46 The Great Sunflower Project is an annual citizen-science project in which participants plant “bee-magnet” plants – such as sunflowers – and count the visiting bees. All ages welcome.
 images-47 Bee Hunt, funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Science Foundation, is a citizen science project studying pollinators – including the all-important bee. Find out how to participate at the website.
For more bee-related citizen science projects, see PollinatorLive. The site includes links and brief descriptions of citizen science projects surveying bees, butterflies, birds, and more. (Volunteer!)

SCIENCE AND BEES

 images-48 Joel Levy’s A Bee in a Cathedral and 99 Other Scientific Analogies (Firefly Books, 2011) presents basic scientific concepts in memory-jogging fashion, using creative analogies and infographics. Readers discover, for example, that a chunk of a neutron star the size of a sugar cube weighs more than the entire human race; that a single thunderstorm contains enough energy to power the U.S. for four days; and that every cell in the human body (except red blood cells) contains about two yards of DNA. The bee in the cathedral is a famous analogy comparing the size of the atomic nucleus (the bee) to the size of the atom (the cathedral). For ages 12 and up.
 images-49 Rose-Lynn Fisher’s Bee (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012) is a spectacular collection of photomicrographs of bees – magnified hundreds to hundreds of thousands of times (using a scanning electron microscope).  Fascinating for all ages.
 images-50 To get a good look at bees, close up, try a Microslide Viewer (American Educational Products). This is a wonderful tool designed for the viewing of microslides – that is, collections of photomicrographs taken at various magnifications. Users get the effect of a high-powered microscope, but – unlike a microscope – the microslide viewer is inexpensive (about $10), essentially unbreakable, easily washable, and can be used by the very young.
 images-50 Microslide sets each include a strip of 8 related photomicrograph images and an explanatory booklet. The Honeybee Microslide set, for example, includes photomicrographs of bee mouth parts, antenna, compound eye, wing hooks, pollen basket, honeycomb cells, and sting and poison sac. For more information on Microslide Viewers, worksheets and lesson plans, and an (enormous) list of available Microslide sets, see American Educational Products.
 images-51 Flight of the Bumblebee explains how bumblebees fly. (Not very efficiently, it turns out.)
 images-52 A jolt of java for the bees? From the NY Times, this article discusses research showing that plants lure in pollinating bees with caffeine-laced nectar.
 images-53 From the Smithsonian magazine, The Secret Life of Bees by Carl Zimmer explores the complex behaviors of bee swarms.
Do bees communicate using electricity? Read about it here.
 images-54 Zombies! Zombie bees – who really do act like zombies – have been parasitized by a lethal zombie fly. A citizen science initiative, ZomBee Watch, collects data tracking infected bees. Learn how with their online tutorial and join in.
How Bees Work – illustrated with photos, labeled diagrams, and video clips – covers bee anatomy, types of bees, bee venom, pollination, the bee life cycle, navigation, honey production, colony collapse disorder, and more.
 images-55 What does a honeybee see? Find out at B-Eye.
 images-56 Tiny flying bee robots! Learn all about Robobees.
 images-57 Numbering Bees is an interesting illustrated account of how Karl von Frisch first discovered the honeybee dance language.

MATHEMATICAL BEES

 images-62 Bees do math.  In fact, this article describes how they’re better than computers at solving the famous “traveling salesman” problem – that is, how to visit as many places as possible while expending the least amount of energy.
 images-63 The Traveling Salesman Problem website has background information, a history of the problem, solution strategies, and games.
 images-64 Bees has printable design-your-own addition and subtraction worksheets, featuring bees and beehives.
 images-65 Bumble Numbers in a math arcade game of arithmetic equations played with an animated bee. Players grab numbers out of the air with their bee and drop them into the flower with the corresponding equation.
 images-66 Bear vs. Bee is an online logic game in which players help Bear (dangling from a balloon) to collect honey, while dodging angry bees.
Getting a Bee in Mathematics Class (by Brian Sharp from Teaching Mathematics in the Middle School) is a challenging series of math explorations based on bees for grades 6-8, with explanations and printable student worksheets.

HONEY

 images-58 The National Honey Board has general information about the history and uses of honey, and dozens of categorized honey recipes.
 images-59 Holley Bishop’s Robbing the Bees (Atria Books, 2006) is a “biography of honey,” variously covering the science of bees and beekeeping, and the history of humans’ interactions with bees and honey. Included are honey recipes (“Old and New”). For teenagers and adults.
 images-60 Jay Ingram’s The Velocity of Honey and More Science of Everyday Life (Basic Books, 2006) is a collection of reader-friendly essays in which the title honey essay explains just why honey doesn’t ooze every which way when poured on toast. It’s an adult book, but an interesting read for ages 13 and up.
 IMG_0008 Viscosity is a measure of the “thickness” of liquids: honey and molasses (thick) are notably viscous; water and apple juice (thin) aren’t. Viscosity Races is a great experiment investigating viscosity for ages 5 and up. You’ll need a homemade ramp, an assortment of liquids, and a tape measure or stopwatch. (And, I would guess, lots of paper towels.)
For kitchen chemists, these printable activity sheets on Viscosity are part of a larger unit on the Science of Cake Baking. For either ages 5-7 or 8-11.
 images-67 Viscosity Explorer is a cool online tool for studying the properties of liquids.
 images-68 From Steve Spangler, Seven Layer Density Column has instructions for making a spectacular multicolored seven-layer column of liquids of various densities, starting with very heavy honey. A very cool experiment.

BEE POEMS

 images-69 Betsy Franco’s Bees, Snails, and Peacock Tails (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008), with wonderful colorful illustrations by Steve Jenkins, is a celebration of pattern in nature through poetry, with subjects that include the puffer fish, diamond-backed rattlesnake, snail, peacock, spider, and bee. (“Study a beehive/and you will see/the mathematical genius of the bee.” ) Delightful for ages 3-8.
 images-70 Carol Gerber’s picture book Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems for Two Voices (Henry Holt and Company, 2013) is a collection of 18 poems to be read in alternating voices, variously celebrating seed distribution, germination, plant growth, and pollinators – among them bees. For ages 4-8.
 images-71 “Honeybees,” in Paul Fleischman’s prize-winning collection Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices (HarperCollins, 2004), is a clever dialogue between a worker bee and a queen. (Worker: “Being a bee…is a pain.”)
  A selection of the poems from Joyful Noise  – including “Honeybees” – is online here.
 images-72 Douglas Florian’s UnBEElievables (Beech Lane Books, 2012) is a collection of honeybee poems and illustrations (using creative mixed media on paper bags). Sample titles: “Bee Anatomy,” “Drone,” and “Where Are the Bees?” For ages 5-10.
 images-73 Emily Dickinson wrote several wonderful poems about bees – among them “Bee! I’m expecting you!” written as a springtime letter to a Bee from an impatient Fly.
 images-74 Rudyard Kipling’s “The Bee-Boy’s Song” describes the traditional belief that all family news must be told to be bees.
 images-75 Bee-Hexagon is an historical survey of honey and bees in poetry, from ancient Egypt to Pablo Neruda.
 images-76 Sylvia Plath’s five bee poems –  “The Bee Meeting,” “Sting,” “The Swarm,” “The Wintering,” and “On the Arrival of the Bee Box” – are found in her collection Ariel (Harper Perennial, 2005). For teenagers and adults.
 images-77 British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s The Bees (Faber & Faber, 2013) is a powerful poetry collection with an on-going theme of bees. For teenagers and adults.

BEE ARTS AND CRAFTS

  bee_thumb First School’s Bee Craft page has a list of bee-themed activities for preschoolers, including online coloring pages, an introduction to the letter B, and a make-your-own-flying-bee pattern.
 images-78 DLTK’s Bumblebee Craft Projects has instructions for several bee projects, among them a bee bookmark, fingerprint bees, and paper-plate bees.
 bee-c-5 Bee Craft has (sparse, but illustrated) instructions for making queen, drone, and worker bees from paper cones.
Make a Bumblebee Mobile with fuzzy chenille stems and Styrofoam balls.
 Recently Updated51 BZZZ Says the Bumble Bee has instructions for making particularly cute bees from toilet-paper rolls.

MUSIC OF AND BY BEES

  images-79 From NPR, The Bee’s Knees: Music With a Definite Buzz is an assortment of bee-ish music, including three versions of “The Flight of the Bumblebee” (one on the tuba); Franz Schubert’s “The Bee,” and Emily Dickinson’s “Bee, I’m Expecting You” set to music.
 images-80 This online rendition of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Croatian pianist Maksim Mrvica will knock your socks off.
 images-79 From Tonehammer, listen to Music Made With Bees. Just bees.
 images-81 Diego Stocco’s Music from Nature, made to commemorate Earth Day 2012, incorporates bees, tree branches, rice, and coconuts.
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Go Fly a Kite

 

April is National Kite Month! Not that kites aren’t fun (and educational) anytime. Provided you’ve got a little wind.

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

JUST FOR STARTS…

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

KITE TALES

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

HISTORY OF KITES

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

 SCIENCE, MATH, AND KITES

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

HOW-TOS

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

POEMS AND KITES 

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

 

Reading poetry, writing poetry, poems across the curriculum, and poems in the movies…yes, movies…

Also see POETRY I.

WRITING AND READING POETRY: FICTION

 images In Leo Lionni’s Frederick (Dragonfly Books, 1972), the title character – an enchanting little field mouse – doesn’t help the other mice lay in food for the winter; instead dreamy Frederick collects colors and words “because winter is gray.” In the bleak dead of winter, Frederick comes into his own, warming and cheering the other mice with his poetic descriptions of spring and summer. For ages 4-8.
 images-1 Byrd Baylor’s The Other Way to Listen (Aladdin, 1997) is a poem about learning how to listen to the natural world. “Teach me,” a little girl says to a wise old man, and gently he explains that it’s a matter of taking time, being quiet, and asking yourself hard questions. A good beginning for all poets. For ages 5-9.
 images-2 In Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy: Poet Extraordinaire (HarperCollins, 2010), Nancy’s class is studying poetry and Nancy – complete with toga costume and poetry-palace clubhouse – prepares to become a prize poet. It’s a great book for poetry project ideas, among them conducting a poetry survey (Nancy’s little sister likes “Diddle, Diddle, Dumpling;” her father likes “Blowin’ in the Wind;” her mother’s pick is “Annabel Lee”), making a paper “poet-tree,” and creating a personal poetry anthology. For ages 6-9.
 images-4 Randall Jarrell’s The Bat-Poet (HarperCollins, 1994) is the story of a little brown bat (“the color of coffee with cream in it”) who loves the world of daytime and invents poems about all he sees and learns there – though ultimately, as winter comes, and he and his admiring friend, the chipmunk, prepare to hibernate, his final poem celebrates his familiar world of bats. A wonderful book about the true nature of poetry for ages 8 and up.
 images-5 In Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog (Perfection Learning, 2003), Jack – a student of the incomparable Ms. Stretchberry in Room 105 – is, in spite of himself, learning to love poetry.  The book – entirely written in free verse – begins with Jack’s objections to all things poetic (“I don’t want to/because boys/don’t write poetry./Girls do.”), continues through his strictures on famous poets (“I think Mr. Robert Frost/has a little/too/much/time/on his/hands”), to his discovery of a poem by Walter Dean Myers (“Love That Boy”) that strikes a chord – and helps him deal with the heartbreaking loss of his yellow dog, Sky. For ages 8 and up.
 images-6 In the sequel, Hate That Cat (HarperCollins, 2010), poetry helps Jack come to terms with his deaf mother and a particularly awful neighborhood cat. In both books, the poems used in Ms. Stretchberry’s class appear in an appendix at the back.
 images-7 In Edward Eager’s Seven-Day Magic (Harcourt, 1999), John, Susan, Barnaby, Abbie, and Frederika check a mysterious red book out of the library, which plunges them into seven days of (often nearly disastrous) magical adventures. One of these nearly costs their father his job, though he’s saved by Abbie, a poet (though she never shows her poems to anybody), with the help of a famous poet she encounters in the park. For ages 8-12.
 images-8 In Sally Murphy’s Pearl Verses the World (Candlewick, 2011) – written in Pearl’s voice in free verse – Pearl doesn’t fit in at school: she is a group of one. Her teacher, Mrs. Bruff, wants the class to write poems that rhyme, but Pearl’s don’t (“Rhyme is okay sometimes/but my poems don’t rhyme/and neither do I”). At home, her beloved grandmother sometimes doesn’t remember who Pearl and her mother are. When her grandmother dies, Pearl comes to terms with her death through a poem (“…She wasn’t here/For long enough/But I am glad/That she/Was here/At all”) – and comes to learn that she can maintain her individuality while also becoming part of a group. And Mrs. Bruff admits that poems don’t have to rhyme. A gentle book about difficult issues for ages 8-12.
 images-9 In Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer (Amistad, 2011), set in the summer of 1968, eleven-year-old Delphine and her younger sisters Vonetta and Fern have been shipped to California to spend time with Cecile, the mother who abandoned them shortly after Fern’s birth. Cecile is a poet who wants nothing to do with motherhood; in fact, she turns the girls out of the house for most of the day, sending them to a community camp run by the Black Panthers. It’s a wonderful story about political activism, racial tension, family and freedom, understanding, and growing up – all culminating when the three girls recite one of Cecile’s poems at a Black Panther rally in the park. A great read for ages 9-13.
 images-10 Poet Paul Chowder, the protagonist of Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist (Simon & Schuster, 2010) is struggling to write an introduction to an anthology of rhyming poems in the teeth of a string of troubles, among them the loss of his girlfriend. The book is stuffed with observations on the nature of poetry and stories about famous poets (and accounts of Chowder’s fruitless attempts to clean his office and deal with the mouse who lives behind his stove). For teenagers and adults.

 WRITING AND READING POETRY: HOW-TOS

 images-11 In Judy Young’s R is for Rhyme: A Poetry Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Press, 2010), each letter of the alphabet stands for a different poetic form or feature, with an example and explanation. A, ACROSTIC, for example, features an acrostic poem (“Drawing”), and explains how the title determines the first letters of each line of the poem. For ages 7-11.
A Teacher’s Guide to R is for Rhyme has many illustrated student projects with printable worksheets. For example, kids can invent a free-verse poem, creative alliterative sentences, play a game of Word Ladders, write limericks and narrative poems, and experiment with concrete (“picture”) poems.
 images-12 Norton Juster’s A Surfeit of Similes (William Morrow, 1989) is a delightful rhyming celebration of (many) similes: “As pure as an angel/As clever as zippers/As awkward as crutches/As friendly as slippers.” Readers will never forget what a simile is. For all ages.
 images-13 Kenneth Koch’s Wishes, Lies, and Dreams (HarperPerennial, 1999) – subtitled “Teaching Children to Write Poetry” – is a wonderful and inspirational collection based on Koch’s experiences with elementary-level students, crammed with teaching suggestions and examples of kids’ work. Kids write poems based on wishes, dreams, and colors; write poems while listening to music; create poems on the themes of “I used to/But now…” and “I seem to be/But I really am…” And much more. For ages 6-12.
 images-14 Kenneth Koch’s Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? (Vintage Books, 1990) – subtitled “Teaching Great Poetry to Children” – is one of my all-time favorites. The premise: kids read poems by famous poets and write related poems of their own. There are ten featured poem projects, for each of which is included a famous poem -  among them William Blake’s “The Tyger” and Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” – with background information, teaching suggestions, and examples of student work. The second half of the book consists of a large anthology of additional poems, with accompanying writing suggestions. Very highly recommended. For ages 7 and up.
 images-15 Larry Fagin’s The List Poem (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2000) is a wonderful guide to writing list or catalog poems, with many examples by both well-known poets and kids. Try a recipe poem or a how-to poem; invent a list poem of the beautiful, the happy, the sad, the magical, the infuriating. Adaptable for all ages.
 images-16 Edited by Georgia Heard, Falling Down the Page (Roaring Brook Press, 2009) is a collection of list poems, among them Jane Yolen’s “In My Desk,” Elaine Magliaro’s “Things to Do If You Are a Pencil,” Bobbi Katz’s “Things to Do If Your Are the Sun,” and Patricia Hubbell’s “Winter’s Presents.” Try versions of your own. For ages 8 and up.
 images-17 Jack Prelutsky’s engaging Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write a Poem (Greenwillow Books, 2008) shows how he himself uses personal experiences to write poems, with examples from his own work. Included are suggestions for aspiring poets and a list of “poemstarts” to get things moving. For ages 8-12.
 images-18 By Laura Purdie Salas, Picture Yourself Writing Poetry (Capstone Press, 2011) is a 32-page collection of photographs to be used as poem-starters, paired with helpful hints for beginning poetry writers. For ages 8 and up.
 images-19 Paul Janeczko’s A Kick in the Head (Candlewick, 2009), subtitled “An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms,” tackles the question: Do poems have rules? Yes, they sometimes do – which, Janeczko argues, makes writing a poem both challenging and fun. The book introduces 29 poetic forms, from the couplet and haiku to the aubade, elegy, villanelle, and pantoum. Clever illustrations accompany each example. For ages 8 and up.
 images-20 Janeczko’s Poetry from A to Z (Simon & Schuster, 2012) is an alphabetized guide to poetry forms and concepts, with illustrative examples by well-known poets and “Try this” projects for kids. For example, C stands for clerihews and curse poems; H for how-to poems and haiku; L for letter and list poems; and S for shape poems. For ages 9-12.
 images-21 Also by Janeczko, Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades (Heinemann, 2011) is a collection of 20 poems, each with associated teaching suggestions, including pre- and post-reading activities, discussion topics, writing projects and templates, and a list of related poems. Among the poems are “Abandoned Farmhouse” by Ted Kooser, “A Poison Tree” by William Blake, “Summertime Sharing” by Nikki Grimes, “Ode to Family Photographs” by Gary Soto, and “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost.
 images-22 By X.J. Kennedy and Dorothy M. Kennedy, Knock at a Star (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1999) is a wonderful anthology that encourages readers to consider what poems do and how they do it. Section one, “What Do Poems Do?,” groups poems by purpose: they variously Make You Smile, Tell Stories, Send Messages, Share Feelings, Help You Understand People, and Start You Wondering. Section two, “What’s Inside a Poem?,” groups selections by Images, Word Music, Beats That Repeat, Likenesses, and Word Play. “Special Kinds of Poetry” includes Limericks, Takeoffs, Songs, Show-and-Spell Poems, Finders-Keepers Poems, and Haiku; and a final section has helps for writing your own poems. Terrific. For ages 8 and up.
 images-23 Poetry Inside Out (Two Lines Press, 2012) is a poetry-and-translation-based curriculum in which kids study poems by twelve famous poets (Basho, Dante, Federico Garcia Lorca, and more) in their native languages, then translate them into English and use their translations as inspiration for poems of their own. Fascinating. For ages 9 and up.
 images-24 Compiled by Janeczko, Seeing the Blue Between (Candlewick, 2006) is a collection of 32 “letters of advice” to young poets from such established writers as Lee Bennett Hopkins, Jane Yolen, Lillian Morrison, and Jack Prelutsky. For ages 12 and up.
 images-25 By Kenneth Koch and Kate Farrell, Sleeping on the Wing (Vintage, 1982) is a collection of poems with associated essays on reading poetry and suggestions for writing poems of your own. Featured poets include Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Allan Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, Leroi Jones, and more. For ages 12 and up.
 images-26 Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook (Mariner Books, 1994) is a concise introduction to the art of poetry writing, with examples from the works of Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, and others. Some things, Oliver explains, can’t be taught, but “can only be given;” other things, on the other hand, can. Topics covered include meter and rhyme, line and form, imagery, and free verse, with some final notes on revision (Oliver herself does many) and writing groups. For teenagers and adults.
 lessons Kenn Nesbit’s Poetry4Kids website features a long list of poetry projects and exercises, including experiments with a range of poetic forms (acrostic poems, concrete poems, found poems, haikus, limericks) and styles (apology, epitaph, and list poems, fractured nursery rhymes, riddle rhymes), and helpful hints on reciting poetry. Included is an extensive online poetry dictionary.
 images-27 In this free 10-week online Poetry for Kids course, various weeks cover cliché-busting, poetry in song lyrics, poetic forms, the sounds of poetry (rhyme, rhythm, repetition), poetry crafts and games, meaning in poems, 24 poets every child should know, and publishing. Cool.
 images-28 Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books Project began in 1993 and is still (all over the place) ongoing. The premise: choose a collection of particular book titles and group or stack the books such that the titles can be read in sequence from top to bottom. What a great way to write a poem.
 images-29 In Austin Kleon’s Newspaper Blackout (HarperPerennial, 2010), Kleon creates poems using newspaper articles and a black Sharpie, blacking out all the words he doesn’t want. What’s left is a poem. See some examples at the accompanying Newspaper Blackout website.
 scr_poetry_idea_engine From Scholastic, Writing with Writers: Poetry has helpful tips from poets Jack Prelutsky, Karla Kuskin, and Jean Marzollo, activities, and an interactive Poetry Idea Engine.
 images-30 Experiment with Random Word Poems. You’ll need paste and a lot of creative word cards.
 images-32 From the Academy of American Poets, the Curriculum & Lesson Plans page includes projects in which kids investigate poems in films and create their own screenplay scene in which poetry is central; write letters to historical and contemporary poets; study poems about poetry; investigate images of light and dark in poetry; learn about poems that exemplify different points in the American historical experience; and more.

POEMS ACROSS THE CURRICULUM

 images-33 Sylvia M. Vardell’s 300+-page The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists (CreateSpace, 2012) is a terrific resource, crammed with annotated lists of prize-winning poetry books, Common-Core-related poetry books, thematic poetry books (about everything from animals, baseball, and birds to war, weather, and world history), poetry for holidays, and approaches to teaching poetry.
 images-34 Barbara Chatton’s Using Poetry Across the Curriculum (Libraries Unlimited, 2010) covers writing poetry, learning about poets, creating poetry anthologies, reading and retelling classic poems, poetic forms and conventions, and poetry across the curriculum in science, math, history, geography, fine arts, and physical education. Many book and resource lists. For elementary- and middle-school-level kids.
 images-35 By J. Patrick Lewis and Laura Robb, Poems for Teaching in the Content Areas (Scholastic, 2007) is a collection of 75 poems plus teaching ideas to mesh with history, geography, science, and math lessons. For ages 9 and up.
 images-32 From PBS, Thematic Teaching: Poetry is a great collection of poems and activities for incorporating poetry across the curriculum, variously targeted at grades 3-7 or 8-12. For example, in conjunction with “The Eagle” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, kids study the eagle and other symbols of America, investigate the biology and natural history of the American bald eagle, and design a bald eagle postcard. Other lessons cover health/nutrition and poetry; symmetry/math and poetry; and the history and science of flight and poetry.

POETRY AND LITERATURE

 images-36 Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Good Books, Good Times (HarperCollins, 2000) is a delightful illustrated collection of poems about books and reading by such poets as Myra Cohn Livingston, Jack Prelutsky, and X.J. Kennedy. For ages 4-8.
 images-37 By Laura Purdie Salas, BookSpeak! Poems about Books (Clarion Books, 2011) is a collection of creatively illustrated poems about reading and books, among them “If a Tree Falls” (“If a book remains unopened…”), “A Character Pleads for His Life,” and “On the Shelf and Under the Bed.” For ages 4-9.
 images-38 Poetry Through the Ages is a terrific exploration of the history of poetry from ancient times to the present. Also included are definitions and examples of many poetic forms (with helpful instructions for writing poems of your own) and an overview on reading and speaking poetry. Click on “About” for a detailed teacher’s guide to accompany the site, with a challenging list of lesson plans and projects. For middle-school-level students and up.
 images-38 From the Academy of American Poets, Ars Poetica: Poems about Poetry has a long list of just that, among them Archibald MacLeish’s famous “Ars Poetica” (“A poem should not mean, but be”). Also see Poems on Poems.
 images-38 12 Beautiful Poems for Booklovers is an excellent selection, each poem illustrated with a picture of the author. #1: Emily Dickinson’s “There Is No Frigate Like a Book.”

POETRY AND HISTORY

 images-39 By Langston Hughes, I, Too, Am America (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012) is a picture-book version of the poem “I, Too:” “I am the darker brother/They send me to eat in the kitchen/When company comes/But I laugh/And eat well/And grow strong.” For ages 4-9.
  Read Langston Hughes’s I, Too online at the Poetry Foundation website.
 images-40 Susan Katz’s The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub (Clarion Books, 2012) has a poem for every president from George Washington (“Where Didn’t George Washington Sleep?”) to Barack Obama (“Yo Mama”), each with an appealing cartoon-style illustration. The poems are crammed with the sort of human interest that sticks in readers’ memories: John Quincy Adams was fond of skinny-dipping; 350-pound William Howard Taft got stuck in the bathtub; Rutherford B. Hayes had the first White House telephone; Jimmy Carter was attacked by a rabbit. For ages 6-10.
 images-41 Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Hand in Hand: An American History Through Poetry (Simon & Schuster, 1994) is an impressive 144-page illustrated collection, covering American history from the arrival of the first settlers through modern times. The poems, grouped into eight different historical categories, are by such poets as Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, and Walt Whitman. A great resource for ages 7 and up.
 images-42 Lives: Poems About Famous Americans (HarperCollins, 1999), selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, is a collection of poems about sixteen famous persons – among them Paul Revere, Sagacawea, Harriet Tubman, Thomas Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Rosa Parks, and Neil Armstrong – by many different poets. Each poem is paired with full-page folk-art-style portrait by Leslie Straub. For ages 8-13.
 images-43 J. Patrick Lewis’s Heroes and She-roes (Dial, 2005) is a collection of illustrated poems celebrating “everyday” heroes, among them Helen Keller, an elementary schoolteacher, firefighters, Rosa Parks, Rosie the Riveter, Gandhi, and Cesar Chavez. For ages 8-13.
 images-44 Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, America at War (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008) is an illustrated collection of 50 poems, variously categorized under American Revolution, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, and Iraq War. A prologue, “Wish for Peace” by Joan Bransfield Graham, begins “Would/that war/could only/rage upon the/battlefield of page.” For ages 9 and up.
images-53 All right – how could Rosemary and Stephen Benet’s A Book of Americans go out of print? Luckily it’s still available, inexpensively, from used-book suppliers, and it’s more than worth the minimal price. Poems, each featuring a prominent American, cover American history from Christopher Columbus to Woodrow Wilson. (In between: Virginia Dare, Pocahontas, Peter Stuyvesant, Captain Kidd, George Washington, Abigail Adams…) And, unlike most writers in the 1930s, the Benets appreciated the plight of the native Americans (“But just remember this about/Our ancestors so dear/They didn’t find an empty land/The Indians were here.”). For ages 9 and up.
 images-46 Stephen Vincent Benet’s John Brown’s Body (Ivan R. Dee, 1990) is an epic, wonderful, poetic, and heartbreaking history. The best book ever about the truth of the Civil War. Read it, guys. For ages 13 and up.
 images-47 From the New Yorker, Poetry for Presidents is a history of inaugural poems.
 images-50 Historical Poems is a list of poems by Rudyard Kipling that trace the course of English history from prehistory to the early 20th century. Each poem (click on the red arrow) is accompanied by a page of interesting historical background information.
 images-49 From Learn Peace, 20th Century Poetry and War is a wide-ranging collection, grouped into eight categories: First World War, 1930s, Second World War, Crimes Against Humanity, Nuclear Age, Other Wars, Responsibility, and Women’s Voices. Each includes a selection of poems with explanations, historical background information, and discussion topics.
 images-51 From the Library of Congress, Finding the Heart in History: Making Connections Through Poetry is introduced with a quote from Plato: “Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” The site describes a project to make an American-history-based “found poetry” chapter book using primary source documents and images. Documents and images are available at the site from the Library of Congress collection, categorized by historical period. Adaptable for a range of ages.

POETRY AND GEOGRAPHY

 images-54 J. Patrick Lewis’s A World of Wonders (Dial, 2002) is a catchy and informative collection of poems about geography, illustrated with colorful crackle-patterned pictures reminiscent of old maps. Included are poems about explorers Columbus and Magellan, “Is the Yellow Sea Yellow?” (yes), “How Will a Cave Behave?” (includes a useful mnemonic about stalactites and stalagmites), and “One Square Foot Per Person, Please,” an unforgettable take on the world’s population. For ages 5 and up.
 images-55 Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States (Simon & Schuster, 2000) is a collection of 50 poems by 40 different poets, grouped by geographical region. Included with each geographical section is a colorful map and a page of state facts. For ages 7 and up.
 images-56 Also selected by Hopkins, Got Geography (Greenwillow Books, 2006) is an illustrated collection of 16 poems pertaining to world geography. Titles include “Mapping the World,” “If I Were the Equator,” “Awesome Forces,” “Early Explorers,” and “Compass.” For ages 7-12.
 images-57 Explore poetry across the United States with the National Poetry Map. Click on a state for a list of state poets, a selection of poems about the state, and information about state writing programs and organizations.
  At the PoemHunter website, see The Map, a poem by Elizabeth Bishop.
 images-58 The Poetry Atlas is in the process of “Mapping the World in Poetry.” Click on a site on the world map for a poem about that place.

 POETRY AND SCIENCE

 images-59 Nicola Davies’s Outside Your Window (Candlewick, 2012), illustrated with gorgeous paper collages by Mark Hearld, is a collection of 50 poems about nature, categorized by season, for ages 3-10.
 images-60 George Ella Lyon’s All the Water in the World (Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 2011) is a poetic introduction to the water cycle with collage-style illustrations by Katherine Tillotson. For ages 4-7.
 images-61 Joyce Sidman’s Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) is a collection of riddling poems about the denizens of fields and meadows, illustrated with beautiful colored scratchboard scenes. Facing pages give the answer to each poetic riddle and provide scientific background information. For ages 5-10.
 images-62 Also see Sidman’s other poetry collections celebrating ecosystems, among them Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems (Houghton Mifflin, 2005) and Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night (Houghton Mifflin, 2010).
 images-63 Douglas Florian’s thematic collections of poems include many on science topics, among them In the Swim (Sandpiper, 2001), Insectopedia (Sandpiper, 2002), On the Wing (Sandpiper, 2000), Mammalabilia (Sandpiper, 2004), Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs (Sandpiper, 2005), Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2007), and Poetrees (Beach Lane Books, 2010).  Illustrated with terrific paintings. For ages 5-10.
 images-64 In Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s Science Verse (Viking Juvenile, 2004), the protagonist is zapped with the curse of SCIENCE VERSE when his science teacher offhandedly announces “You know, if you listen closely enough, you can hear the poetry of science in everything.” Now all science concepts appear in the form of hysterical parodies on classic poems – twisted scientific takes on Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees,” Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” “Jabberwocky,” “Casey at the Bat” (here, it’s about the scientific method, not baseball), and – well, guess this one: “Astronaut Stopping By a Planet on a Snowy Evening.” For ages 7-10.
  From the Poetry Foundation, Ten Poems to Get You Through Science Class has selections by William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, Richard Brautigan, Christina Rossetti, and more, all with discussion questions.
images-65 Read Maxine Kumin’s (funny) poem The Microscope online.

POETRY AND MATH

 images-66 Every frustrated math student’s favorite poem is Carl Sandburg’s Arithmetic, which begins “Arithmetic is where numbers fly like pigeons in and our of your head.”
 images-67 Rhonda Gowler Greene’s picture book When a Line Bends…A Shape Begins (Sandpiper, 2001) is an upbeat rhyming introduction to shapes – circle, square, triangle, diamond, rectangle, octagon, oval, star, heart, and crescent – for ages 3-7.
 images-68 Betsy Franco’s Mathematickles (Margaret K. McElderry, 2006) follows a little girl and her cat through the seasons, demonstrating how words and math equations combine to make poetic puzzles. Summer, for example, features “feet – shoes + grass = barefoot” and “rock x waves = sand.” (I love these.) For ages 5 and up.
 images-69 By J. Patrick Lewis, Arithme-Tickle (Sandpiper, 2007) is a collection of fun rhyming-riddle mathematical puzzles with titles like “How to Weigh Your Poodle” and “Sailing a Bathtub.” “A Regular Riddle,” for example, begins: “What’s the number of points on a regular star/Less the number of wheels on a regular car/Plus the number of teeth in a regular mouth/Less the number of states that begin with South…” For ages 6-9.
 images-70 Greg Tang’s catchy The Grapes of Math (Scholastic, 2004) is an illustrated collection of rhyming math riddles that encourage kids to use pattern-recognition and grouping skills to solve problems. (There are faster ways of counting the number of grapes on a vine than one by one.) For ages 7-10.
 images-71 There are several more by Tang in the same (rhyming) format, among them Math for all Seasons (Scholastic, 2005), Math Potatoes (Scholastic, 2005), Math Fables (Scholastic, 2004), Math Appeal (Scholastic, 2003), and Math-terpieces (Scholastic, 2003).
 images-72 Compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Marvelous Math (Simon & Schuster, 2001) is a collection of math-promoting poems by a variety of poets. Mary O’Neill’s “Take a Number,” for example, points out that “Wouldn’t it be awful” to live in a world without mathematics; Lillian Fisher’s “To Build a House” asks if “Without numbers and measure/Would our house ever rise/Against the hill/Beneath blue skies?” Poems with an agenda for ages 7-11.
 images-73 J. Patrick Lewis’s Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2012) is a collection of math puzzles presented through parodies of classic poems by such poets as Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, A.A. Milne, Langston Hughes, and Ogden Nash. “Elephant with Hot Dog,” for example, was inspired by Edward Lear’s “There Was an Old Man with a Beard:” “When an elephant sat down to order/A half of a third of a quarter/Of an eighty-foot bun/And a frankfurter, son/Was it longer than three feet, or shorter?” For ages 7-11.
 images-74 Betsy Franco’s Math Poetry (Good Year Books, 2006) is a clever instruction manual on writing many different kinds of math poetry with kids, variously covering number sense, estimation, measurement, basic arithmetic operations, geometry, algebra, and graphing. Each chapter includes sample student poems, poetry templates, and teaching suggestions. The entire second half of the book is devoted to the teaching of “mathematickles” – an innovative and irresistible mix of word play and mathematical equation that functions like a poem crossed with a parlor game. An interesting resource for ages 7-11.
 images-75 Theoni Pappas’s Math Talk (World Wide Publishing/Tetra, 1993) is a collection of math-themed poems for two voices on such topics as circles, fractals, Fibonacci numbers, Mobius strips, triangles, prime numbers, tessellations, and infinity. It’s a nice mix of mathematical food for thought and expanded possibilities for poetry. For ages 8 and up.

GAMES, PROJECTS, AND POETRY AT THE MOVIES

 images-76 Magnetic Poetry sells themed poetry kits, each consisting of a collection of words to be assembled into poems and stuck onto the nearest refrigerator, filing cabinet, locker door, or any other convenient metal surface.  There are many different themed kits including kids’ kits for beginners; collections for book lovers, bike lovers, music lovers, and cowboys; foreign-language collections; Math, Pirate, and Shakespeare kits; and much more. Also available: poetry collections in the form of self-adhesive chipboard words or travel stickers.
Create your own online poems with virtual Magnetic Poetry Kits or Magnetic Poetry Kits for Kids.
The Instructables has illustrated instructions for making your own magnetic poetry tiles.
 images-77 My Years in Tree Rings is a wonderful concrete poem project using oil pastels and watercolor paints.
 spoonpoetryclose Spoon Poetry Tutorial has video instructions for writing tiny poems on colorful spoons.
 images-78 Make Poetry Pebbles. You’ll need a lot of pebbles, paint, and magic markers.
 images-79 Wizards and Pigs is an interactive online game of rhyme, rhythm, and alliteration, featuring not only cartoon wizards and pigs, but elves, goblins, and dragons.
Poetry Pirates is an online multiple-choice poetry quiz. With a pirate ship.
images-81 From the Academy of American Poets, Watch a Poetry Movie has annotated lists of films about poets and/or films featuring poetry. Also see Movies for Poetry Month.
 images-81 From the Internet Movie Database, an annotated list of the Seven Most Compelling Movies About Poets and Poetry includes Shakespeare in Love and The History Boys.

For many more books and resources, see POETRY I AND POETRY III.

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Poetry I

 

Poetry makes you smarter. Brain imaging studies show that people reading Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and T.S. Eliot display much more cerebral activity than those reading prose; and all kinds of research indicates that rhyme, rhythm, and imagery boost memory formation and recall.

Not that anyone needs an excuse to read poetry. But it’s nice to know that it’s also good for us.

See below for poetry celebrations, poetry collections, not-just-ordinary poetry, and poems to learn by heart.

Also see POETRY II.

POEM OF THE WEEK/POEM OF THE DAY

 images Sylvia Vardell’s The Poetry Friday Anthology (Pomelo Books, 2012), subtitled “Poems for the School Year with Connections to the Common Core,” lists 36 poems each for grades K-5 – a poem for each week of the school year – with teaching strategies and curriculum connections for each selection. For older kids, see The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (Pomelo Books, 2013), which lists weekly poems for grades 6-8.
 images-1 Thank Goodness It’s (Poetry) Friday is an essay by Susan Thomsen about the origin and practice of the Poetry Friday tradition, a “literary happy hour” in which children’s book lovers and bloggers get together (online) every Friday for a celebration of poetry. Included is a list of regular participants.
 images-8 Kidlitosphere – the Society of Bloggers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature – has a list of upcoming hosts for Poetry Friday Round-ups and an archive of past events, with poems, resources, and discussions. Wonderful stuff.
 images-4 Write a poem a day? Instructions for everything from headline poems to alphabet poems, color poems, and sonnets are at 30 Poems You Can Write for National Poetry Month.
April is NaPoWriMo – that is, National Poetry Writing Month. Write 30 poems in 30 days (with help from a daily writing prompt).
Poetry Minute has a children’s poem a day for every day of the school year.
From the Library of Congress, Poetry 180 has a poem for each day of the school year for high-school-level students. A terrific collection; highly recommended.
 images-6 Poetry Daily is an online anthology of contemporary poetry, featuring a new poem and poet each day.
 images-5 Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems (Penguin Books, 2003) is an anthology of the daily poems from NPR’s popular Writer’s Almanac.
 images-7 The Favorite Poem Project, founded by Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky in 1997, collected favorite poems from Americans of all ages from all across the United States. See the website for anthologies, a video library of participants reading their chosen poems, suggestions for hosting your own community Favorite Poem reading event, and more.
The Poetry Archive is an enormous collection of digital recordings of English-language poets reading their own work. Also see the Children’s Archive, which includes poems selected for kids, a list of alternative poetry websites, and lesson plans and activities for teachers and students.

A POEM IN YOUR POCKET

In 2013, Poem in Your Pocket Day falls on April 18.

 images-9 Poem in Your Pocket has a history of Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day and suggestions for celebrating.
 images-9 From the Academy of American Poets, Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day has a collection of printable pocket poems. (Click on your chosen pocket.)
 images-10 Bobbi Katz’s Pocket Poems (Puffin, 2013) is a charmingly illustrated collection of 50 short appealing poems by a wide range of authors, just right for tucking in a pocket. For ages 4-7.
 images-12 From the Academy of American Poets, Poem in Your Pocket (Abrams Image, 2009) is a collection of 200 poems just for pockets: choose a favorite and tear it out of the book. (You’re supposed to – the pages are perforated – though for some of us, it’s still a wrench.)
 images-11 In the same format, see Poem in Your Pocket for Young Poets (Amulet Books, 2011) for ages 10 (or so) and up.

POETRY COLLECTIONS

 images-13 Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1986) is a collection of 200 catchy poems chosen by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Marc Brown. Poets include Ogden Nash, Myra Cohn Livingston, Robert Louis Stevenson, A.A. Milne, and many more. For ages 3-7.
 images-14 By Maud and Miska Petersham, The Rooster Crows: A Book of American Rhymes and Jingles (Aladdin, 1987) is an illustrated collection of classical playtime rhymes, among them “Baby Bunting,” “The Bear Went Over the Mountain,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,”  and the immortal “I asked my mother for fifty cents/To see the elephant jump the fence.” For ages 3-7.
 images-15 Compiled by J. Patrick Lewis, National Geographic’s award-winning Book of Animal Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2012) is a collection of 200 animal poems on everything from elephants to centipedes, paired with spectacular color photographs. For ages 4 and up.
 images-60 John Ciardi’s You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You (HarperCollins, 1987), with irresistible illustrations by Edward Gorey, is a collection of 35 poems, some to be read by adults to kids, and some to be read by kids to adults. My favorite: “Mummy Slept Late and Daddy Fixed Breakfast.” (“Daddy fixed the breakfast/He made us each a waffle./It looked like gravel pudding./It tasted something awful.”) For ages 4-8.
 images-17 Compiled by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (Random House, 1983) was worn to rags in our house, which explains why we have two copies. The 572 poems are grouped into categories, among them Four Seasons; City, Oh, City!; Children, Children, Everywhere; Nonsense, Nonsense; and Alphabet Stew. For ages 4-11.
 images-18 Edited by Elise Paschen and Dominique Raccah, Poetry Speaks to Children (Sourcebooks Mediafusion, 2005) is a 112-page illustrated poetry collection with an accompanying CD of poets reading their work. It’s a wonderful and wide-ranging assortment, featuring such poets as Rita Dove, Maxine Kumin, Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, Nikki Giovanni, Alfred Noyes – with “Daddy Fell Into the Pond” – and many more. For ages 7 and up.
 images-19 Look up Lee Bennett Hopkins and you’ll find a wide and wonderful range of themed poetry compilations on everything from science and math to weather, words, inventions, and holidays. Among the many titles are Weather: Poems for All Seasons (HarperCollins, 1995), My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States (Simon & Schuster, 2000), Wonderful Words: Poems About Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening (Simon & Schuster, 2004), Incredible Inventions (Greenwillow Books, 2009), and Nasty Bugs (Dial, 2012).
 images-20 From Sterling Publishing, the Poetry for Young People series consists of 48-page illustrated collections of the works (generally 25-30 poems) of well-known poets, plus biographical information.  Among the featured poets are Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg, Maya Angelou, Rudyard Kipling, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. For ages 8 and up.
 images-21 Compiled by Michael Harrison and Christopher Stuart-Clark, One Hundred Years of Poetry for Children (Oxford University Press, 2007) is an outstanding collection of works by over 100 different poets, categorized under Mystery, Animals, Childhood, People, Scenes, War, and Love. For ages 10 and up.
 images-22 Compiled by Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders, and Hugh Smith, Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle (HarperTeen, 1967) is a superb, wide-ranging, and unusual collection of 300 modern poems illustrated with dramatic black-and-white photographs. One of our favorites. For ages 10 and up.
 images-23 Edited by Donald Hall, The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems (Oxford University Press, 1999) is a gorgeous volume of illustrated poems arranged in chronological order. The book begins with American Indian chants and lullabies, the early 18th-century “Alphabet” from the New England Primer (“In Adam’s fall/We sinned all”), and Clement Clarke Moore’s 19th-century “Visit from St. Nicholas” and continues with works by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Gelett Burgess, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and many more. A delight for all ages.
 images-24 By John Lithgow, The Poets’ Corner (Grand Central Publishing, 2007) – subtitled “The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family” – is a delight and I’m ashamed to say I almost didn’t pick it up. Lithgow begins the book with an essay on his own experiences with poetry; then embarks on the poems, in alphabetical order by poet, from Matthew Arnold to William Butler Yeats. For each, there’s background information on the life and times of the poet, a list of his/her best-known poems, and the featured poem with follow-up commentary.  It’s superb. For all ages.

NOT JUST YOUR ORDINARY POEMS

 images-25 A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young (Dutton Juvenile, 2009), originally published in 1924, includes such favorites as “Disobedience,” the story of James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree and his sadly straying mother, and “The King’s Breakfast,” in which the king simply wants a little butter for his bread. Follow this one up with Now We Are Six (Dutton Juvenile, 2008). For ages 3 and up.
 images-26 Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses (available in many editions), first published in 1885, includes such time-honored favorites as “Bed in Summer,” “Windy Nights,” “The Land of Counterpane,” and “The Unseen Playmate.” Particularly beautiful versions are those illustrated by Brian Wildsmith (Star Bright, 2008) and Barbara McClintock (HarperCollins, 2011). For ages 4-8.
  The text of A Child’s Garden of Verses is online at the Poetry Lovers page.
  From Dover Publications, A Child’s Garden of Verses Coloring Book has a selection of Stevenson’s poems with accompanying blackline ready-to-color illustrations by Nancy Haase Tafuri.
 images-27 By Anna Grossnickle Hines, Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts (Greenwillow Books, 2003) is a collection of seasonal poems illustrated with quilt blocks. For ages 4 and up.
 images-28 Nancy Willard’s Newbery-winner, A Visit to William Blake’s Inn (Sandpiper, 1982), with beautiful illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen, is a creative collection of poems based on Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Titles include “A Rabbit Reveals My Room,” “The Sun and Moon Circus Soothes the Wakeful Guests,” “The Man in the Marmalade Hat Arrives,” and “The Tiger Asks Blake for a Bedtime Story.” Not to be missed. For all ages.
 images-29 Ogden Nash’s The Tale of Custard the Dragon (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1998) is a picture-book version of the rollicking rhyming tale of Belinda and Custard, her “realio, trulio little pet dragon” – and a total coward until the fatal day when Belinda is attacked by a pirate. For ages 4-8.
  Read The Tale of Custard the Dragon online.
  For many more books and resources, see DRAGONS.
  The Best of Ogden Nash (Ivan R. Dee, 2007) is the definitive Nash anthology, 548 poems by America’s “poet laureate of light verse.” For all ages.
  At the Poemhunter website, a selection of the Poems of Ogden Nash includes such favorites as “The Adventures of Isabel” (“Isabel met an enormous bear/Isabel, Isabel didn’t care”).
 images-30 Compiled by Paul Janeczko, Dirty Laundry Pile (HarperCollins, 2001) is an imagination-expanding collection of “poems in different voices,” with lovely watercolor illustrations by Melissa Sweet. Among the voices are those of a shell, a scarecrow, a snowflake, a turtle, and even – yes – a pile of dirty laundry. For ages 4 and up.
 images-31 Mary O’Neill’s Hailstones and Halibut Bones (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 1990), originally published in 1961, is an illustrated collection of twelve poems about colors, each introduced with “What Is…?” “What Is Black?,” for example, begins “Black is the night/When there isn’t a star…” Not only a lovely read, but a great start for writing color poems of your own. For ages 4-9.
 images-32 Shel Silverstein’s cleverly subversive collections of verse include A Giraffe and a Half (HarperCollins, 1964), Where the Sidewalk Ends (HarperCollins, 1974), A Light in the Attic (HarperCollins, 1981), and Falling Up (HarperCollins, 1996). For ages 5 and up.
  The Shel Silverstein: Official Site for Kids has information on Silverstein’s children’s books, an author biography, games and activities for kids, and teacher’s guides and lesson plans to accompany the books.
 images-33 J. Patrick Lewis’s World Rat Day (Candlewick, 2013) is a poetic celebration of such real-but-neglected holidays as Dragon Appreciation Day, World Turtle Day, and International Cephalopod Awareness Day. For ages 5-8.
 images-34 Marilyn Singer’s Mirror Mirror (Dutton Juvenile, 2010) and sequel Follow Follow (Dial, 2013) are fascinating collections of palindromic poems – “reversos” – that put a whole new spin on familiar fairy tales. The poems are paired side by side on a page – first read forward, then backward – and there lies all the difference: the story of Hansel and Gretel, for example, read forward, is narrated by the witch, urging Hansel to fatten up; read backwards, it’s a caution to do just the opposite. Included are instructions for writing reversos of your own. A cool project for ages 7 and up.
 images-35 By Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Grumbles from the Forest (Wordsong, 2013) is an illustrated collection of fifteen classic fairy tales told with a twist, through paired poems. Beauty daydreams before her marriage (“I can’t get past/ his fangs, his roar”) and then writes nostalgically on a distant anniversary (“Beast and I/putter in the garden…I have no regrets/None.”). Cinderella complains about the glass slipper (“I could have put on/moccasins”) and the stepsisters complain of her move to the palace; the Princess and the Pea both present their points of view. Kids will want to invent their own fairy-tale character poems. For ages 7 and up.
 images-36 Neil Gaiman’s Instructions (HarperCollins, 2010), the picture-book version of a poem that first appeared in A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales (Aladdin, 2001), are magical step-by-step directions for navigating a fairy-tale landscape. (“Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where you are going.”) All ages.
  For many more books and resources, see FAIRY TALES.
 images-37 Valerie Worth’s All the Small Poems and Fourteen More (Square Fish, 1996) is a collection of over 100 “small poems” celebrating the wonders of the everyday. The table of contents alone might serve as poem starters for potential poetry writers: Worth’s (lower-case) titles include “cow,” “duck,” “door,” “daisies,” “crickets,” “acorn,” “flamingo,” “haunted house,” “soap bubble,” and “lions.” All ages.
images-61 David Pelham’s Trail (Little Simon, 2007) is an (almost) all-white paper pop-up book of poetry, in which a series of simple rhyming couplets follow a snail along a silver trail through the day, ending the journey at a forest pond at sunset. For ages 7-12.
 images-38 T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (Harcourt Children’s Books), originally published in 1939, is a collection of the wonderful poems that inspired Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats. Poems include such favorites as “The Naming of Cats,” “Mr. Mistoffelees,” and “Macavity: The Mystery Cat.” For all ages.
  Read Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats online or download the text.
  For many more books and resources, see CATS.
 images-39 Paul Fleischman’s Newbery winner Joyful Noise (HarperCollins, 2004) is a collection of fourteen  terrific poems about insects – everything from the firefly to the cricket, book louse, mayfly, and honeybee – all designed to be read in two alternating voices. For ages 8 and up.
  Also by Fleischman, see I Am the Phoenix (HarperCollins, 1989), fifteen poems for two voices, all about birds.
 images-40 More voices! Paul Fleischman’s Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices (Candlewick, 2008) is a collaborative poetry experience in which each reader chooses a color (green, yellow, orange, or purple) and then reads the appropriate color-coded lines of the poem. For ages 9-13.
 images-41 In Don Marquis’s archy and mehitabel (Anchor, 1987), originally published in 1927, archy is a highly literate cockroach who types by leaping on the typewriter keys (he can’t use the Shift key; hence no capital letters) and his friend mehitabel, an alley cat, who claims in a past life to have been Cleopatra. archy’s reflections on life, all in free verse, are now an American classic. For ages 13 and up.
 images-42 David Morice’s Poetry Comics (Teachers & Writers Books, 2002) is an irreverent and hilarious collection of classic poems, unconventionally illustrated. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”), for example, is recited by monsters; both Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe’s Raven are depicted as superheroes; and “I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree” – when spoken by a tree – becomes a tree-style pick-up ploy. Included are instructions for making your own poetry comics. For teenagers and adults.
  COOL CONCRETE POEMS
 images-43 Joan Bransfield Graham’s brightly illustrated Flicker Flash (Sandpiper, 2003) is a collection of 23 concrete poems about many aspects of light, from birthday candles to fireflies, moonlight, light bulbs, and lightning. For ages 4-9.
 images-44 Also by Graham, Splish Splash (Sandpiper, 2001) is a collection of concrete poems about water, from rain, hail, and dew to waterfalls, popsicles, steam, and crocodile tears. For ages 4-9.
 images-45 J. Patrick Lewis’s Doodle Dandies (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002) is a delightful collection of concrete poems, using a creative mix of word shapes and photographs. Subjects include skyscrapers, giraffes, dachshunds, and baseball. For ages 5-10.
 images-46 By John Grandits, Technically It’s Not My Fault (Sandpiper, 2004) is a terrific collection of concrete poems, supposedly written by a snarky eleven-year-old named Robert. Titles include “Skateboard,” “My Sister Is Crazy,” “Bloodcurdling Screams,” and “It’s Not Fair,” which last involves forbidden fireworks.
 images-47 Also by Grandits, Blue Lipstick (Sandpiper, 2007) is a collection of concrete poems supposedly written by a fifteen-year-old girl, Jessie. Titles include “Bad Hair Day.” “Talking to My Stupid Younger Brother Is Like Swimming Upstream in a River to Nowhere,” “Zombie Jocks,” and “Pocket Poem.”
 images-48 Paul B. Janeczko’s A Poke in the I (Candlewick, 2005) is a wonderful collection of 30 concrete poems – that is, poems that have two-dimensional shapes, or in which the arrangement of words and letters contributes to the meaning of the poem – by some extraordinary visual poets, among them John Hollander and Douglas Florian. For all ages.
  WICKED POEMS
 images-49 Maurice Sendak’s Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue (HarperCollins, 1991) is the rhyming tale of the obnoxious Pierre, who simply doesn’t care – until he’s gobbled up (not permanently) by a hungry lion and learns a useful lesson. For ages 4-8.
 images-50 Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes (Puffin, 2009) are wickedly clever and hilariously funny poetic spins on traditional fairy tales, with  – the perfect accompaniment – illustrations by Quentin Blake. Dahl’s “Cinderella,” for example, begins: “I guess you think you know this story./You don’t. The real one’s much more gory./The phony one, the one you know/Was cooked up years and years ago/And made to sound all soft and sappy/Just to keep the children happy.” Mayhem, murder, and mockery for ages 6-9. Also by Dahl, see Dirty Beasts (Puffin, 2002).
 images-51 Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002) – this edition with illustrations by Edward Gorey – are tongue-in-cheek rhymes about children who misbehave and come to disproportionately dreadful ends, such as “Jim, Who ran away from his Nurse and was eaten by a Lion” and “Rebecca, Who slammed Doors for fun and Perished Miserably.” A sure bet for fans of Roald Dahl. For all ages.
 images-52 Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997) is a rhyming alphabet book from the dark side, documenting the demise of a raft of Victorian children, beginning with Amy (who fell down the stairs) and Basil (assaulted by bears.)
  See the complete illustrated Gashlycrumb Tinies online.

POETRY BY HEART

Jean Kerr’s Penny Candy (Fawcett Crest Books, 1971) – an hilarious memoir of family life with five sons – is now out of print, but well worth tracking down, if for nothing other than Kerr’s essay “The Poet and the Peasants.” This is an account of Kerr family “Culture Hour,” in which the boys were first made to memorize and recite – and then came to love – poetry.

 images-53 The poetry slam, which first became popular in the 1990s, is a performance event in which poets read or (memorize and) recite their works. (Try it?)
 images-54 Sara Holbrook’s Wham! It’s a Poetry Jam (Boyds Mills Press, 2002) is a nicely designed guide to performance poetry, with lots of exercises, suggestions, and 30 practice poems. Fun for ages 7-12.
 images-55 At Poetry Out Loud, website of the National Recitation Contest, kids can find poems, watch examples of great recitations, and get helpful performance hints. Also at the site is a large assortment of lesson plans on aspects of poem memorization and recitation. Targeted at high-school-level students.
 images-56 Mary Ann Hoberman’s Forget Me Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012) is a collection of over 120 poems particularly suited to learning by heart – by 57 different poets, among them Robert Louis Stevenson, Carl Sandburg, Edward Lear, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, and Christina Rossetti. For ages 7-10.
 images-57 Performance poems? Paul Janeczko’s 64-page A Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout (Candlewick, 2009) is an illustrated collection of great read-aloud poems, including poems for two, three, and many voices, list poems, bilingual poems, and tongue-twisters. Among these are Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” the witches’ chant from Macbeth, and Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.” For ages 8 and up.
Compiled by Patrice Vecchione, Whisper and Shout (Cricket Books/Marcato, 2002) is a collection of over 50 poems for kids to memorize, among them Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” Lewis Carroll’s “Beautiful Soup,” Gelett Burgess’s “The Purple Cow,” and Carl Sandburg’s “Fog.” For ages 9 and up.
 images-59 Edited by John Hollander, Committed to Memory (Turtle Point Press, 2000) is an elegant collection of the “100 Best Poems to Memorize.” It’s a challenging collection, divided among “Sonnets,” “Songs,” “Counsels,” “Tales,” and “Meditations.” Among the to-be-memorized are Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” and Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat,” which takes up three full pages. For teenagers and adults.

For many more books and resources, see POETRY II and POETRY III.

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