Inspiring Children to be the Best That They Can Be

For: Primary Educators, Parents, and Kids Inspiring Children To Love Learning And Be The Best They Can Be

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Birds of Prey, Reviews, and My Backyard

Time to Explore
Birds of Prey - Up close & personal
     We've all looked up to watch a hawk soaring high overhead or stopped the car short when vultures are picking over a dead carcass. The Birds of Prey center in Awendaw, South Carolina, takes our knowledge a step further.
     The one pictured is a red-tailed hawk. It is well trained to fly between posts and land on the trainer's leather guard. The midieval sport of falconry (as early as 2000 BC)  is practiced by some in the area, usually targeting rabbits. Hawks are now used rather than falcons. Most raptors seek rats, mice, dead carcasses and insects. 
    One of my favorites at the center was the African yellow-billed kite. It soared, hovered, and took food from the trainer in 'fast' flight - eating as it flew. (pictured on the left) Local varieties include the Mississippi and swallow-tailed kites.   
    Probably everyone's favorite nocturnal bird is the owl. His ears are along the side of his face. The one pictured is from Siberia. The center takes in about 400 injured raptors a year. A center in your area is a call away should you find one injured.

Book Reviews for Kids

Saving Kabul Corner by N. H. Sensai   (Ages 9 - 12) 
     Digging into a new culture through fiction is a painless way to discover values, traditions, and family life. Our heroine, Ariana,  lives in a Afghani California neighborhood helping often in her family's grocery store. When a cousin, Laila, arrives from Afghanistan, with perfect manners, talent, charm, and command of the Pukhtun language - and moves into her room, Ariana finds herself feeling unworthy and rebellious. 
     A new family opens a rival grocery store in the same center and trouble begins. Ariana brings together an unlikely peer group and carefully pieces the clues together when serious catastrophic events begin to happen to both grocery stores, blamed on a feud from long ago. It is a wonderful story of friendship, family  - and a 'cliff hanger' mystery.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson  (Ages 9 - 12)
    Woodson has written her childhood memoir in touching and powerful poetic prose. She tells her sensitive, factual story through the historical lens of the 60's and 70's segregation and racial tension. Her family becomes segmented, but their heritage remains strong, as they move from Ohio to Greensville, South Carolina, and finally New York City, documenting historical moments along the way. It's a beautiful story of a writer finding her voice from a child's perspective.

When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens   (Ages 9 - 12)
    The subtitle, First Daughters Just Wanna have Fun, suggests the difficulties a young teenage daughter, living in the shadow of her mother, 'Madam' President, may face under pressure of the public eye, being uprooted to a new school, and trailed everywhere by Secret Service. Audrey arranges a special 'film' showing for classmate friends, but they are turned away at the last minute because of a security breach in the White House.
     She discovers a long lost diary of Alice Roosevelt, hidden under a secretive floorboard, which becomes her creative guide. She attempts rebellious antics to express her individuality which lead to hilarious results. There is a thread of history as we view life in the 1900's through young Alice's eyes, whose motto was: "To thine own self be true." 

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Parks   (Ages 9 - 12)
     This Newbery Award winner is a delightful way to explore 12th century Korea's customs and values. It is a glimpse into an ancient society through the eyes of a memorable young orphan boy, with the unlikely name of Tree-Ear. We meet his foster father, an elderly hermit, and the angry, 'unappreciative' master potter, that  he works for. 
     It is a timeless story of a boy with a dream of one day sitting at the potter's wheel and creating a beautiful vase - and how he changes life's 'anticipated' chain of events. 

In My Backyard    (I Wish)

The African Yellow-billed Kite
                                                                 by Joan Bock

A yellow-billed Kite is a sight to behold,

Its beautiful markings, a barred brownish gold.

See it gliding and searching, far low and up high.

Its long pointed wings help it soar through the sky.

Its sissors-like tail can maneuver 360 degrees,

Looking for bug, frogs, and snakes in tall trees.

It hovers quite motionless, hanging far up in the sky,

Sharp talons grab termites it eats on the fly.

Until next time. . . . . . .

Be Creative             Inspire Others                   Enjoy Life


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Wolves, Reviews, and My Backyard by Joan Bock

Time to Explore
Saving Grey and Red Wolves

We’re all familiar with the grey wolf shown in movies – and sometimes, in the news. Did you know that it is an endangered species? After generations of killing wolves in North America, we now know that they are a vital part of our ecosystem. Our current generation has set out to ‘save the species.’ There were a few hundred left when the endangered Species Act was passed in 1973.  Now there are over 5000.

         My hubby and I just recently visited an environmental center
on the coast of South Carolina and discovered that red wolves, native to this area, are on the brink of extinction.  The Sewee center is one of several in the area that are captive breeding facilities – with the goal of setting them free in their habitat. We observed three red wolves – which resembled German Shepherds in appearance. And yes, we left our standard poodle, Jasmine, at home.
         In doing research, I did discover that coyotes, those clever
folktale tricksters, continue to be undesirable. They attack white tailed deer. It is difficult to tell the difference – quickly – between a wolf and a coyote. Maybe we should appreciate our wolf population. 

Book Reviews for Kids

The Eighth Day by Diane Salerni   Ages: 8 - 12
     This seems to be my year to be attracted to fantasies. The story begins with 13 year old, Jax, living with his 18 year old guardian. His father was killed in an automobile accident and designated Riley as guardian. On his
birthday, Jax wakes up to what he thought would be a perfectly normal day, but discovers that he is alone in his part of the world. He believes that an apocalypse has happened – until life returns to normal the following day.  
     The author carefully weaves a plot encompassing ‘Grundsday’, a magical day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday and a heroine next door who is imprisoned to life on 'Grundsday'. We learn that Jax has a magical heritage, along with a host of other characters, dating back to the days of Merlin. There is plenty of mystery, suspense, and danger entwined, involving the reader in a quest to continually look for answers, that eventually lead to saving the world as we know it.  Middle grades and above will find this a fascinating, entertaining book that is based on folklore from King Arthur’s era. 

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd     Ages 8 - 12
     Felicity loves words and puts her collection in a notebook she carries with
her. She visualizes words floating over people and things -  sometimes happy, sometimes sad. One word missing from her list is ‘home’. Her mother has a wandering heart - so Felicity and her little sister are continually moving from place to place. 
     They arrive at Mama’s hometown, Midnight Gulch, Tennessee – where  Felicity hopes there will be a new beginning – with roots. The town was once magical –before a curse drove two popular ‘strumming’ brothers apart. We learn that Felicity’s family is part of the magic – and part of the ‘curse’ on the town.  We follow Felicity, her new friend, Jonah, her Aunt Cleo, and a host of townsfolk and family, as they piece together the mystery of the curse. 
     The author’s use of words is poetic, creating unique images – sometimes with a glimpse of magic. Words become important to solving the mystery.  The story is set in a real world environment, but fantasy takes over -  finding ‘snickers’ of magic' in events, and the characters themselves, leaving us with a delightful story bordering on folklore. 

Just a Drop of Water by Kerry O'Malley Cerra            Ages 9 and up
     911 is not a vivid memory for middle grade students living today, so this book is an ideal, realistic introduction. The story is a riveting reminder of what a shock it was to our nation and how it touched individuals in so many different, personal ways.  
     Jake is best friends with a Muslim boy and we learn through his eyes just how unfair life can become. Bullying, a teammate’s father losing his life in one of the towers, his mom having memories resurface of losing her father as a Black September hostage in the middle east, are all events Jake must deal with. We are there with him as he struggles to make good decisions when his everyday world turns upside down. 

In My Backyard
   We have placed two new bird feeders in our backyard  which are appreciated by many varieties of birds - and ducks, geese, and squirrels scavenging on the ground. Now if someone could just tell us how to regrow our grass underneath, we would be golden. 

                        Keeping Birds in my Life
                                                      by Joan Bock
Whether at the big window or table,
I watch the neat birds when I’m able.   

Tiny wrens appear looking for seed
Then they flit to a bush or a tree.

I love when a woodpecker arrives
If there’s peanuts, he stays and thrives.

A cardinal comes to check things out
I know that its mate is somewhere about.

Two morning doves come and waddle up close
Waiting to see where the seeds are the most.

So many birds to put joy in my day,
I must put out seed if I want them to stay.

Until next time. . . .

       Be Creative . . . . . Inspire Others . . . . . Enjoy Life