It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week!

Teacher Appreciation Week is celebrated during the first full week of May each year. In 2021, it’s May 3-7, with Teacher Appreciation Day falling on Tuesday May 4. As anyone who’s  tried to teach their kids during times when the schools were closed, or has observed the many hoops teachers must jump through to keep their students engaged and learning remotely will surely agreed, TEACHERS ROCK!

Educators have had to hit the ground running during the pandemic, re-inventing the way they teach on the fly, so to speak. Let your teachers know how much you appreciate all they do – here are some ideas:

  • Write an email to your child’s teacher expressing your gratitude for all they’ve done this year, especially while adapting to so many changes in the way they teach.
  • Write an email to the principal, letting them know how much you appreciate your teacher.
  • Show appreciation on Social Media, use the social media hashtag #ThankATeacher from the National PTA and share how educators have brightened your or your child’s life.
  • Donate books for your teacher’s classroom library.
  • Send your teacher a gift card for food or classroom supplies.
  • Have your child a write special letter, e-mail, recorded video message, or drawing to send to their teacher.

Teacher Appreciation Week also brings to mind some of our favorite fictional teacher like:

  1. Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus series
  2. Miss Clavel from the Madeline books
  3. Miss Nelson in Miss Nelson is Missing!
  4. Mr Falker in Thank you, Mr. Falker
  5. Mr. Browne from Wonder
  6. Miss Honey from Matilda
  7. Mr. Terupt from Because of Mr. Terupt
  8. Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter series
  9. Miss Stacy from Anne of Green Gables

Who are some of your favorite teachers from fiction? Let us know in the comments!

11 Books for Young Climate Activists

Earth Day is upon us once again, and I don’t know about you, but mine are looking different lately. Gone are the days when this millennial would spend April 22nd learning about endangered species in school. Now I spend Earth Day, and all of April, and pretty much every day of my life, really, worrying about the changing climate we’re experiencing here on our home planet. I think about greenhouse gas emissions every time I crave a bacon cheeseburger, wonder if the plastic containers from last night’s takeout are truly recyclable, and whenever I buy new clothing, I picture the dried-up Aral Sea or the mass of garbage floating in the Pacific.

It’s exhausting to think about all the ways that we contribute to climate change simply by existing. But instead of spending all our time in a near-paralytic state of worry, there are things we can do to slow down and perhaps even reverse climate change. And by “we,” I mean every one of us: guilt-addled tofu-munching Ziploc-reusing urban dwellers like myself, homeowners with roofs to solarize and garage outlets that can charge plug-in vehicles, all the way down to kids who are going to inherit this growing problem. Yep. Kids. They can absolutely fight against climate change, and the following book titles will help empower them to work for a brighter, more optimistic future.

Baby Loves Green Energy! Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this clever board book explores the science of global warming and shows how we can use green energy to help combat climate change.

The Last Straw : Kids Vs. Plastics
There’s no doubt about it: plastic is in almost everything. From our phones and computers to our toys and utensils, plastic is everywhere. But the amount of plastic we throw away is hurting the health of our planet. With this book, readers will be fascinated as they learn about the growing plastic problem and meet just a few of the young activists who are standing up and speaking out for change.

Stand Up! Speak Up! : A Story Inspired by the Climate Change Revolution
After attending a climate march, a young activist is motivated to make an effort and do her part to help the planet by organizing volunteers to work to make green changes in their community. Here is an uplifting picture book that is an important reminder that no change is too small–and no person is too young–to make a difference.

Greta Thunberg
When young Greta learned of the climate crisis, she stopped talking. She couldn’t understand why people in power were not doing anything to save our Earth. One day she started protesting outside the Swedish Parliament, creating the “School Strike for Climate.” Soon, lots more young people joined her in a global movement that shook adults and politicians alike. She had found her voice and uses it to inspire humans to action with her powerful message: “No one is too small to make a difference.”

Kids Who Are Saving the Planet
You can make a difference, no matter how old you are! These kids are helping to save honeybees, teaching people the importance of clean air and water, raising money to help endangered birds, and writing petitions to raise awareness of climate change. You should meet these kids who are saving the planet!

What a Waste

Did you know that every single plastic toothbrush ever made still exists? Or that there’s a floating mass of garbage larger than the USA drifting around the Pacific Ocean? It’s not all bad news though. As well as explaining where we’re going wrong, this book shows what we’re doing right! Discover plans already in motion to save our seas, how countries are implementing schemes that are having a positive impact, and how your waste can be turned into something useful. Every small change helps our planet!

Recycle and Remake: Creative Projects for Eco Kids

Kids are on a mission to save the Earth! This book is the hands-on, practical guide you need to get started. Each of the activities directly relates to an environmental hot topic, such as plastic pollution, food waste, or deforestation. Budding environmentalists all over the world are feeling inspired to do their bit for our unique planet.

Old Enough to Save the Planet

As people saw in the youth climate strike in September 2019, kids will not stay silent about this subject: they’re going to make a change. Meet 12 young activists from around the world who are speaking out and taking action against climate change. Learn about the work they do and the challenges they face, and discover how the future of our planet starts with each and every one of us.

Climate Action: What Happened and What We Can Do
Did you know that the past five years have been the hottest ever recorded? Or that over seven million people participated in the global Climate Strike? We’re facing a very real problem, but there’s hope. Learn how our behavior and actions have led us to this point, hear from kids around the world dealing with extreme storms, wildfires, and sea level rise, and discover what scientists, youth activists, and ordinary citizens are doing to protect their communities.

This Book Will (Help) Cool the Climate: 50 Ways to Cut Pollution and Protect Our Planet!
Our planet is heating up, and it needs your help! If you want to learn to reduce your carbon footprint and cool the Earth, here are practical tips and projects that make a difference.

This Book Is Not Garbage: 50 Ways to Ditch Plastic, Reduce Trash, and Save the World!
Do you worry about the world’s waste? The bad news is, humans throw away too much trash. But the good news is, there are lots of easy ways you can get involved and make a difference! From ditching straws and banning glitter to hosting a plastic-free birthday party, helping to save the planet is not as difficult as you think. So, take control of your future! Become an eco-warrior instead of an eco-worrier and do your part to save the world from GARBAGE!

Bonus book: if your young activist is already following Greta’s Twitter account and policing your recycling bin for contraband, they could probably use a story about how we humans have managed to fix our mistakes. I adore Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem for its uplifting true story featuring one of our iconic national parks, its inviting illustrations, and its generous serving of scientific info. Plus wolves are awesome.

Twisting Tornadoes

Our first exposure to tornadoes is often watching The Wizard of Oz as a child, though no one but Dorothy has ever reported being transported to a magical land beyond the rainbow. I was 9 when I read the Reader’s Digest account of the April 3-4, 1974 Night of 100 tornadoes, a horrific Super Outbreak of 148 confirmed tornadoes in 24 hours – more than 30 F4/F5’s – which devastated the town of Xenia, Ohio, among others. That kind of thing leaves an impression, even in a magazine.

April is in the middle of tornado “season,” which runs from March to June, when the biggest outbreaks of tornadoes are likely to occur. The United States has more tornadoes, and more violent tornadoes, than any other place in the world – killing an average of eighty people a year, despite our best efforts at early warning. Can they occur in other months? Of course they can. It all depends on the weather, and the weather, as we are aware, has been kind of wacky lately, from extreme drought in California to paralyzing snow and ice in Texas.

Why the US?  When we talk of “tornado alley,” we usually mean a massive stretch of flat land in the center of the country, from Colorado to Pennsylvania, and from Texas to the Canadian border. This is where the majority of tornadoes are born. Can they occur anywhere? Of course they can – CT has had memorable destructive tornadoes (such as the EF1 that wiped out Sleeping Giant in 2018) as well as Florida, Nevada, and Portland, Oregon. Pennsylvania holds the record for the only F-5 tornado east of the Appalachians – that’s winds of 300 mph.

Why do tornadoes form? Thunderstorms form when warm, moist air (such as from the Gulf) collides with cool dry air (such as comes down from Canada). When the two fronts meet, warm air rises up through the cold, creating storms. If the winds start to rotate in the process, a tornado is formed. Spring is when the warm air starts coming north from the Gulf of Mexico, colliding with the cold Canadian fronts, setting up a highway for storms until summer’s heat chases the cold air back north.

In modern times, with doppler radar, we know when a storm is likely to be powerful enough to cause a tornado (the Wallingford tornado of 1898 killed 34 people, but they had no warning system). If you’re faced with a severe storm, or a tornado warning, if the sky gets that sickly green, get to shelter. Go to a basement if you can, away from windows, under a staircase is a bonus. If you have no basement, go to a place away from windows – a large closet, or a bathroom – many people have survived in bathtubs. If you can, take shelter under a table or something sturdy. Cover yourself with a blanket, to avoid debris or flying glass. If you’re in a car, stop and get to shelter as fast as possible – don’t try to outrun a tornado; you can’t.  And no, hiding under a bridge isn’t safe – those 200 mph winds will blow you right out from under there. Please don’t leave your animals chained outside. They’re scared, too.

Whether you’re an armchair weather-watcher, or like reading about disasters, here’s a number of tornado-related stories and films you might enjoy – with one eye out the window (No, there has never been an actual Sharknado. Frogs and fish, but no sharks. Sorry).

Books:

Videos:

 

Indoor Sprouting

I’m no gardener. Sure, I have flowers all over my yard, I grow enough vegetables to bother canning, but I consider that a miracle of nature, not anything I do. I throw some plants in the ground, and if they’re lucky I remember to water them in the heat of summer. If they’re REALLY lucky, I may actually fertilize them. The only thing I try hard to remember to keep fertilized is my tulips, because my soil is two steps shy of toxic, and tulips like sunlight and fertilizer, and my tulips are spectacular (my soil is so bad that the only reason my flowers look good is because in our second year, we scraped away all the soil and replaced it with 5 cubic yards of new soil. Move away from the new soil, and the plants don’t do well).

But hope, like the seasons, springs eternal, and every year I start out hoping my gardens will outdo themselves (Not likely. I planted 150 croci, and 8 survived). I pour over the catalogs and dream of a yard landscaped out of a high-end advertisement, wanting to buy 50 of those beautiful flowering plants, only to sigh when the ad says they cost $30. A plant.

If you don’t want to sink huge coin into plants that, like my azaleas and pink dogwood (who else manages to kill a pink dogwood?), are likely to croak before the end of the season, there is always the elusive task of growing your own from seed.

Yeah, right.

That always works for other people, who, when the weather warms, bring out trays and trays of robust seedlings ready for transplant, when, despite the best potting soil and grow lights and care, I have spindly little fragile things in half my pots, wishing they could die and end their misery. I repeat, the beauty of my gardens is a mystery.

I prefer to purchase my seedlings from local nurseries – they have a much better shot at living – but I dutifully fill a tray or two of seeds with the kids in late winter, hoping to inspire a love of nature, and maybe a greener thumb. It doesn’t take much – a $2 packet of carrot seeds, a glass container, and you can watch roots grow as well as green leaves. Sadly, planting seeds and watching them grow doesn’t always inspire kids to eat that vegetable. Plants can be started in egg cartons, yogurt cups, red Solo cups, even eggshells – seeds, as you can tell from the cracks of pavement, aren’t fussy on where they sprout, though you may have to move them to a bigger cup if you’re using eggshells. If nothing else, it gives the kids something to do on a dreary day.

But seeds take time, and kids aren’t patient, so what are the easiest seeds to grow? The cheapskate in me says plant seeds for the most expensive plants you want to grow, but that doesn’t mean the seeds will take. I’ve planted enough catnip seeds for a jungle, and just five plants finally grew – outside, not in a pot. I could mention morning glories, but morning glories are a lifetime commitment; they can be invasive, and even if you plant them only once, you might be yanking up sprouts for the next 10 years. These are some of the best seeds to grow with kids, and some books to help you once they’re past their leafy infancy. Give it a try!

Marigold
Zinnia
Peas
Bush beans
Tomatoes
Peppers
Watermelon
Cat grass
Nasturtiums
Sunflowers
Corn (or better yet, try your own popcorn.
Even if the ears are 2″ long, it’s fun!)

Want to learn more about starting a garden? Check out the 635 section of non-fiction books in both the Adult and Children’s sections at the library:

Nitty Gritty Gardening Book

New Gardener’s Handbook

Sowing Beauty

Backyard Herb Garden

 

High-Yield Vegetable Gardening

Super Simple Kitchen Gardens

Starting and Saving Seeds

Seed Sowing and Saving

 

Epic Tomatoes

Starter Vegetable Gardens


The New Seed Starter’s Handbook

Plant Parenting

Books for Budding Chefs

I used to enjoy cooking and baking once, but life happened (as it does), and over the years it evolved from a fun hobby into a chore. I’ve bounced back from my low point of lockdown-era frozen buffalo chicken strips, but cooking is still not something that brings me joy. Even when I try new recipes. No, especially when I try new recipes. There’s too much thinking, too many variables, not enough autopilot. I groan whenever my produce subscription boxes send me yet another unidentifiable root vegetable that requires a consultation with the internet. And if a new recipe starts going sideways – I’m looking at you, butternut squash gnocchi that I made for Christmas – I tend to season the cooking process with a heaping spoonful of expletives.

Luckily, my attempts at culinary novelty usually turn out pretty good. But I still prefer to fall back on my tried-and-true recipes: the ones I could do in my sleep, without sounding like I’m performing a read-aloud from the recipe section of Bad Manners. I applaud the home cooks who enjoy tackling new kitchen adventures. And I especially applaud those who can do it with little ones running around. If you need to clear some table space for creativity, or if you’re just trying to cook off this week’s mystery veg without introducing young ears to – ahem – new vocabulary, why not keep your kids safely occupied with a book? These fun and engaging stories cover some of our favorite foods, from nachos to chocolate chip cookies. They might even inspire your kids to go beyond the role of Brownie Batter Bowl Licker and move up to Chef-in-Training… even if the position is only open on low-stress dinner nights where the only duty is arranging the frozen buffalo chicken strips (or more likely, dinosaur chicken nuggets) on a baking sheet.

Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando.   Every day, Ando Momofuku would retire to his lab–a little shed in his backyard. For years, he’d dreamed about making a new kind of ramen noodle soup that was quick, convenient, and tasty to feed the hungry people he’d seen in line for a bowl on the black market following World War II. “Peace follows from a full stomach,” he believed.  With persistence, creativity, and a little inspiration, Ando prevailed. This is the true story behind one of the world’s most popular foods.

How the Cookie Crumbled: The True (and Not-So-True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie.   Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies! But not everyone knows where they came from. Meet Ruth Wakefield, the talented chef and entrepreneur who started a restaurant, wrote a cookbook, and invented this delicious dessert. But just how did she do it, you ask? That’s where things get messy!

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix.  For Chef Roy Choi, food means love. It also means culture, not only of Korea where he was born, but the many cultures that make up the streets of Los Angeles, where he was raised. So remixing food from the streets, just like good music—and serving it up from a truck—is true to L.A. food culture. People smiled and talked as they waited in line. Won’t you join him as he makes good food smiles?

Dumpling Dreams: How Joyce Chen Brought the Dumpling from Beijing to Cambridge.
A rhyming introduction to the life and influence of famous chef Joyce Chen describes how she immigrated to America from communist China and how she helped popularize Chinese food in the northeastern United States.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut.  In 1843, 14-year old Hanson Gregory left his family home in Rockport, Maine and set sail as a cabin boy on the schooner Achorn, looking for high stakes adventure on the high seas. Little did he know that a boat load of hungry sailors, coupled with his knack for creative problem-solving, would yield one of the world’s most prized pastries.

Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat. While Julia is in the kitchen learning to master delicious French dishes, the only feast Minette is truly interested in is that of fresh mouse!

Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack.   Celebrating 80 Years of Nachos, this book introduces young readers to Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya and tells the true story of how he invented the world’s most beloved snack in a moment of culinary inspiration.

And because my editor would be very unhappy if I got this far without mentioning at least one cookbook, here’s our newest titles to help your Chef-in-Training build their skills:

The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook.   Each recipe is totally foolproof and easy to follow, with color photos and tips to help beginners get excited about cooking. The book includes recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert — all from the trusted chefs in Food Network’s test kitchen.

Kitchen Explorers! 60+ Recipes, Experiments, and Games for Young Chefs.    What makes fizzy drinks fizzy? Can you create beautiful art using salt? Or prove the power of smell with jelly beans? Kitchen Explorers brings the kitchen alive with kid-tested and kid-approved recipes, fun science experiments, hands-on activities, plus puzzles, word games, and more.

Grandma and Me in the Kitchen.   This cookbook, made just for Grandma and her little chefs, is full of foods they will both love to cook together! Along with recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts are tips for creating traditions and finding ways to celebrate the everyday wonderfulness of just being together.

 

We have tons more cookbooks in the children’s and adults sections of the library. What are you planning to cook up in 2021?