Time to Explore
West Virginia: Beyond the Freeway
My daughter's family took my husband and I on a WV adventure, beginning with 'highway' trails and ending with a multitude of cascading water falls.
One of my favorite stops was 'Beartown' - literally, a town of rocks. Boardwalks take you through 'sunken streets' where you find layers of delightful rock types, such as quartz, sandwiched within mammoth boulders. The area was once under sea, with geysers of water spouting up, creating large 'window holes.'
Droop Mountain State Park, complete with a lookout tower used during the civil war, is worthy of a side trip.
Then, onto the Monongahela National Forest to find cranberry glades, with a number of cranberry bogs, accessed by a boardwalk to bring you up close to cranberry plants, birds, insect eating plants, and more.
Further along the national forest highway trail, is the 'Falls of Hills' Creek with three water falls. Following paths, stairways, and boardwalks, hikers are rewarded with a 63 foot falls.
On our return trip along HWY 60, our stops included: Hawk's Nest State Park with an overlook on the Gauley River - and bridge, Kanawha Falls, and finally, Cathedral Falls, a family favorite. It was great fun watching our granddaughters stepping along rocks in the river, climbing over boulders, and reaching that lovely falls before our return to Charleston, WV.
Book Reviews for Kids
Flora & Ulysses, Ages: 8 - 10
The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
I'm not fond of squirrels (at least in my backyard), and I am not normally a lover of fantasy stories, BUT this book was great fun to read in spite of my qualifiers. First, picture a giant vacuum cleaner on the lawn - that scoops up a squirrel. Then, enters Flora, whose cynical world is ruled by comic books, such as, Terrible Things can Happen to You. She rescues the squirrel, even using resuscitation.
Clever cartoon strips are interspersed throughout featuring this super-cute squirrel as well as sophisticated words seldom seen by this audience. 'Ulysses' becomes a super hero who can fly, communicate, understand, and even type 'squirrel' poetry.
It is a 'laugh aloud' read with a host of memorable characters that we meet as the 'criminal elements' are unfolded. It is truly worthy of the 2014 Newbery Medal award.
Boy at the End of the World by Van Eekhout Ages: 10 & Up
Fisher awakens (from a pod in a laboratory) into the world (as we know it) collapsing all around him. Science fiction is brought to a new level (at least for me), as the robot, Click, installs intelligence, knowledge, and other desirable traits into Fisher. Click tries to keep him on track as he learns and uses his knowledge with the sole purpose of keeping him (and therefore, the human race) alive.
Van Eekkhout expertly blends new concepts; serious 'earth' messages, humor (dry with a touch of sarcasm), and adventure into a very readable tale of survival. Unlikely characters, such as the ancient mammoth, become Fisher's friends, and unlikely machines, birds, and insects, become his enemies.
It is no wonder that this book has received such rave reviews from pre-adolescent boys (but certainly not limited this audience).
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant's Tale
by Duncan Tonatiuh Ages: 8 & Up
This folktale, in picture book format, wallops a punch with a direct message on the woes of immigration. Papa rabbit journeys north to rich carrot and lettuce fields in the hopes of bringing money home to his family.
Papa is due back for a celebration and doesn't return timely. His son, Pancho, decides to go find him. Enter the clever coyote who offers to show him a shortcut. As the story evolves, Pancho's food is devoured by the coyote in payment for each leg of the journey - and eventually, Pancho's life is threatened. Papa comes to the rescue to provide a happy ending.
There is a lengthy author's note on the book's relevance on today's life-threatening journeys by young families crossing over our borders. I picture this book as a straight forward springboard for timely conversation either in the classroom or home on this national dilemma.
In My Backyard
There he was on the door of the gazebo - just a little speck. It was a treefrog, green with iridescent stripes along its body. Treefrogs are native to SC and like to be near ponds and trees. They are attracted to light and are nocturnal. I was surprised it was so tiny.
I will close with a short poem.
Little Green Treefrog
Little treefrog, hidden in the trees,
Brilliant green like springtime leaves.
Sticky toe pads and eyes shiny bright,
Watching for bugs that pass in the night.
Treefrog's sticky tongue shoots out,
Finding mean bugs that are flying about.
By Joan Bock