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Tag: Children's Books (61-70 of 89)

'Potato Chip Science': Experiments for kids (and EW staffers)

Potato-Chip-Science-BookWhen Potato Chip Science arrived in the EW offices it immediately caught my attention because I thought it was food. Alas, it was not. Turns out, it’s just some really cool packaging for a science book! (The title should have tipped me off. But forgive me for wanting an afternoon snack!)

I’ve been saving the “bag of chips” on my desk waiting for a special moment to try out one of the experiments. In the process, I’ve had multiple EW staffers ask me about my weird obsession with said chips, and one editor even advised me to share! Little did they know I was hoarding a bag of science, not sustenance.

Created by Allen Kurzweil and his son, Max, Potato Chip Science uses the popular snack food (and potatoes!) to teach a wide range of sciences. Most of the experiments can be executed with items you can easily find in your home. Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to several of these things in my office cubicle. I had to make do. (I wanted to test What Do Car Batteries and Vinegar Chips Have In Common? I’m sure it will shock you to learn I do not have a blender on my desk, one of the necessary items to complete that task.) Anyway, I found something else: Creating my very own CSI (Chip Science Institute) Detective Kit.

I recruited fellow coworker Catherine Fuentes to be my partner in crime (pun intended). And with that, we present to you: Science with Catherine and Breia! (Please note that this activity uses fire, and should only be conducted under adult supervision. Catherine and I asked the fabulous Missy Schwartz to be our adult. She kindly obliged. I must say, she was definitely the right person for the job.)

MATERIALS: metal pie pan, 1 potato chip, matches, spoon, freezer bag or small jar, transparent tape, clear packing tape

MISSION: Learn about forensics by creating our fingerprints!

  1. Our first task was to burn a potato chip in the pie pan.
  2. We crushed the charred remains to make the fingerprint powder.
  3. After the remains cooled, we rubbed the powder on our fingers.
  4. We placed our fingers on clear tape, and voila! We’ve officially been fingerprinted!


Above you can see actual photos from our in-office experiment. (Sadly, our fingerprints did not photograph so well so you can’t see the end result. But trust us! It worked!) I’m not really sure that we learned anything about forensics. But we did learn how to avoid setting off the office smoke alarm, which I’m sure is a valuable lesson. And while the whole adventure was pretty silly, the one thing Catherine and I wholeheartedly agreed on is that this book is perfect for kids. (I would have gone nuts for this as a child! And who am I kidding? I’m in my twenties and I still think it’s pretty cool!) I have three young cousins who would adore these projects. I can already picture their reactions when I tell them this book has instructions on how to make a shrunken potato head.

Would you be willing to try out Potato Chip Science? And are there other office experiments that Catherine and I need to know about?

Emma Thompson to pen new Peter Rabbit story. Will she do the classic children's tale justice?

Emma-ThompsonEmma Thompson, writer and star of the new film Nanny McPhee Returns (out this Friday), is already planning her next children’s venture: penning a Peter Rabbit story. Thompson’s new tale about Peter Rabbit is expected to be released in 2012, marking the 110th anniversary of Beatrix Potter‘s original story, The Tale Of Peter Rabbit. Thompson told The Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson that the book’s publishers had asked her to do the job. “They asked me to write a new story, so I’m going to take [Peter Rabbit] to Scotland.”

In case you had no childhood, the original book has Peter Rabbit (not to be confused with Peter Cottontail, who can be found hopping down the bunny trail) ignoring his mother’s warning and sneaking into Mr. McGregor’s garden to eat vegetables. When Mr. McGregor sees him and chases him out, Peter leaves his shoes and jacket behind. Poor Peter Rabbit.

I feel quite nostalgic thinking about this new book. As a child*, I owned the most adorable velveteen rabbit named Bunny. Original, right? Anyway, Bunny went everywhere with me, and I thought all bunnies were just as cool as he was. As a result, I loved reading Peter Rabbit. I imagined that if my Bunny lived out on his own he would get into Peter Rabbit-like shenanigans. Ahem. Back to Emma Thompson. I saw the first Nanny McPhee, the screenplay for which was also written by Thompson, and it was cute enough. The kids I saw it with loved it, so that’s a plus. And she has an Oscar for her Sense and Sensibility screenplay, although I’m not sure how well Jane Austen translates to anthropomorphized rabbits. What do you think? Are you excited about Thompson’s new take on a classic? What other childhood characters should be introduced to a new generation?

*Full disclosure. I still have Bunny, and I love him even though he’s got more holes than a strainer, and he’s missing an ear.

EW exclusive: Read the first two chapters of 'Reckless'

Reckless-by-Cornelia-FunkeYesterday we showed you the trailer for Cornelia Funke’s twisted fairy tale; now, take a gander at the upcoming 10-and-up novel’s first two chapters. It looks like Funke is returning to the genre’s more ominous and sinister roots, which I like. I know as a kid, I used to love books that were darker than the average Judy Blume, like Roald Dahl’s The Witches or Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. (I still have nightmares about this childhood-scarring picture. Why, oh, why would someone put that in a children’s book?!) Click on the link below to read the beginning of Reckless and tell us what you think.

Click here to read the first two chapters of Cornelia Funke’s Reckless.

A Sarah Palin book for children: What will it be missing?

Sarah-PalinImage Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty ImagesTired of looking for a children’s book for real, patriotic Americans? Everyone knows The Giving Tree supports a welfare state, Curious George is part of the evolution agenda, and don’t even get me started on that tree-hugging Lorax. Well, now you can search no further: The Christian publisher Zondervan has announced that they will be publishing an unauthorized biography of Sarah Palin for young readers. Speaking Up will fashion the story of the former governor’s life as a source of inspiration for ages 9-12.

According to the New York Times, Bristol Palin’s unplanned pregnancy will not be covered in this kiddie version of Going Rogue. Also likely to be excluded are the vice-presidential candidate’s hunting affinities: Children who love Dr. Seuss’ Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose probably wouldn’t be interested in seeing Ms. Palin pump a high-powered bullet through that big heart of his.  And I doubt that her hand-written note gaffe will make it into the final draft, lest you end up inspiring students to use crib sheets during their oral book reports.

What do you think, Shelf-Lifers? What else do you think won’t be in the book? What will be? And who do you think will be the primary evil villain: Levi Johnston or Katie Couric?

Fifth 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' book due out Nov. 9

diary-of-wimpy-kid-book-5It’s hard out there for a wimp. But that hasn’t stopped Jeff Kinney’s illustrated series Diary of a Wimpy Kid from being a massive best-selling hit, with a successful movie adaptation under its belt and a film sequel due next year. Now, Amulet has announced the release date for the upcoming fifth book about middle-schooler Greg Heffley. The fifth book, whose title Amulet plans to release in July, will land in bookstores Nov. 9 with a purple cover to follow the previous books chromatic succession.

In the press release, Kinney says that the new entry is an important one in Greg’s personal saga. “I feel everything in the series has been leading up to the fifth book,” he says. “To me, this book is the linchpin in the series.” So, what do you think, Wimpy fans? Excited for No. 5?

Nancy Drew: She's just turned 80

Nancy-DrewI have Nancy Drew to thank for a lot of my childhood quirks. It’s because of her I grew up tapping on walls, hoping to find a hidden passageway; was convinced that all attics had secrets stored inside; and eyed any suspicious-looking character who came my way.

Oh, who am I kidding? I still do all that.

It was 80 years ago yesterday that the world was first introduced to the intrepid, titian-haired girl detective. On April 28, 1930, the first three Nancy Drew books – The Secret of the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase and The Bungalow Mystery — were released, opening up a world where girls could — and did — do anything. Nancy wasn’t relegated to the sidelines; she was the one leading the charge, usually in her cool roadster.

She wasn’t alone, though. By her side during most cases were her best chums, cousins Bess Marvin and George Fayne. She also had a caring father, lawyer Carson Drew, and doting housekeeper Hannah Gruen. Last but certainly not least was her “special friend,” the dreamy Ned Nickerson. Any man who isn’t afraid to let his girlfriend take the reins gets an A+ in my book. READ FULL STORY

Kid Lit 101: Dog spelled backwards in Lucy Cousins' 'I'm the Best'

From Othello to Ahab, great literary characters have wrestled with the classic mortal failing of hubris. Usually, it ends with a tragic downfall, but in I’m The Best, Lucy Cousins’ latest masterpiece (we’re also fans of the author’s shorter works, the tiny board books about Maisy the mouse), the plot takes a more forgiving twist.

The protagonist is a self-involved hound in checkered pants named “Dog.” He grows more arrogant with every turn of the page. “Hello, I’m Dog, and I’m the best,” he introduces himself to the reader, skipping through a meadow of water-colored flowers. “These are my friends—Ladybug, Mole, Goose, and Donkey. I love them. They’re great, but I’m the best.” For the first half of the story, Dog is brutishly solipsistic, constantly proving his supposed god-like superiority by running faster than Mole, digging holes deeper than Goose, or swimming better than Donkey. After each victory, Dog always insufferably pronounces, “I’m the best.”

But like Shakespeare’s jealous Moor and Melville’s loony fisherman, Dog gets his comeuppance. “Actually,” Mole informs him midway into the story, “I can dig holes much longer and much deeper than you, Dog. So I win. I’m the best.” Dog’s other friends turn on him, too: Goose proves that she can swim faster, and Ladybug demonstrates that she can fly higher. Dog is humiliated and reduced to tears. The world, as he knew it, has been destroyed. “I’m horrible at everything,” he cries. “I’m just a silly show-off.”

Had Shakespeare or Melville written this tale, they might have lowered the curtain here, ending with ironic pathos. But Cousins has a kinder heart. In the last few pages, Dog’s friends forgive him and they all embrace in a group hug. “Don’t worry, Dog,” they tell him. “You are the best at being our best friend. And you are the best at having beautiful fluffy ears. And we love you.” Dog is so relieved, he falls right back into character. “Oh phew!” he says. “Obviously having beautiful fluffy ears is the most important thing. So I AM the best.”

Like all great works of literature, it ends where it begins.

'Twilight,' 'ttyl,' among books deemed most 'offensive' and 'inappropriate' for kids

Stephenie-MeyerImage Credit: David StoneWhat do Harper Lee, J.D. Salinger, Alice Walker and Stephenie Meyer (pictured left) have in common?

They’re all authors of works on the ALA’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009 list, released yesterday by the American Library Association. According to the ALA, a challenge is defined as a “formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed or restricted because of content or appropriateness.”

New to the list, Meyer’s über-popular Twilight series came in at number five, due to it being “sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and [having] offensive language.”

Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which explores teenage sexuality and drug use, among other topics, is number three. Coming in at number two, it’s And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, a children’s book based on the true story of two male penguins in Central Park Zoo that became a couple and raised an egg together.

The number one challenged book for 2009? The ttyl series by Lauren Myracle, due to “nudity, sexual explicitness, offensive language and drugs.” While the thought of reading hundreds of pages in text/IM speak is rather offensive, there’s no need to keep these books off the shelves. As the fans might say, GTFO, wannabe banners.

There were several books on the list that seem to always be there, including Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird, which challengers claim incites racism. (Way to completely miss the point, guys!) After a year off the list, Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War and Walker’s The Color Purple return, due to both being “sexually explicit” and “unsuited to the age group.”

Let’s hear from you, Shelf Life readers. Are you surprised by the list? How should libraries and schools handle these challenges?

Elizabeth Berkley to write a self-esteem book for girls

Elizabeth-BerkleyImage Credit: Jordan Strauss/Getty ImagesPenguin Young Readers Group has just announced that it will publish a self-esteem book for young girls penned by actress Elizabeth Berkley. I presume that it’ll be more Saved By the Bell than Showgirls, or at least I sincerely hope that it will.

Ask Elizabeth is set hit bookstores next spring, and is based on workshops Berkley has organized over the last four years in which she discusses teen issues with groups of girls, with topics ranging from body image to dating to how not to get so addicted to caffeine pills that you freak out and start cry-singing Pointer Sisters songs. What do you think? Would you want helpful advice on how to navigate high school from Jessie Spano?

Are you celebrating Drop Everything and Read Day?

Stop whatever you’re doing, pick up a book, and join millions of others celebrating National Drop Everything and Read Day.

The goal of the event is to encourage families to make reading together a priority, and coincides with Beverly Cleary’s birthday – she’s turning 94 today! After receiving letters from readers who participated in the event, Cleary put a scene about D.E.A.R. Day in Ramona Quimby, Age 8, and has been honored with the celebration on her birthday ever since.

D.E.A.R. Day’s 2010 spokesperson is actress Joey King, who plays Ramona in this summer’s Ramona and Beezus.

“The Ramona books have a ton of history,” she told EW in a recent interview. “Lots of kids through all the grades read the Ramona books, and I think they are going to love the movie. It’s exactly like the Ramona books.”

Selena Gomez, who plays Ramona’s big sister Beezus in the movie, is also a longtime fan.

“I read the books when I was in third grade and loved them,” she told EW. “I think every kid wanted to be Ramona at one point.”

I’ve always loved the books, and can clearly remember some of my favorite scenes: when Ramona cracks what she thinks is a hard-boiled egg over her head in class; when, at the end of a long, rainy day, her hard-working parents take the kids to a rare dinner out, and a kind man pays their check; and when Ramona decides to squeeze the entire contents of a fresh toothpaste tube into the sink, just to see how it feels. It’s those simple scenes, so true to life, that stick out.

So, ShelfLifers, are you going to celebrate D.E.A.R. Day? What’s your favorite Beverly Cleary book?

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