November 1, 2018


Activity: Try Your Hand At This Ancient Skill

by Brandon Marie Miller

Humans have tracked and hunted animals for thousands of years. Prehistoric cave paintings show hunters at work finding food for their families. Most of us no longer hunt for our food. But if you want to discover the birds and animals in your own neighborhood-- get outside, open your eyes, and start tracking. You might be surprised at what you find!

A Prehistoric cave painting of hunters using bows and arrows

You are looking for "spoor." This means any tracks, signs, marks, or disturbances left by a passing animal. A track is an outline or imprint left in dirt, mud, or sand. This can be a footprint, or maybe the print of a tail dragging in the mud. Every animal has a different footprint.

A underside of a racoon foot

Look closely. Are there nibbled plants? Broken bits of nut shell? An animal has eaten a meal! Are there feathers on the ground? A piece of fur stuck of a twig? Has a tree trunk been marked by a deer rubbing its antlers or maybe there are claw marks in the wood? An animal has passed this way.

If you are in a park check for worn down paths that might be an animal trail. Are there nests, burrows and tunnels into the ground, are there dens or caves? These are animal homes.

You might even see "scat" or animal poop. Watch where you step! Did you know different animals have poop of various shapes and sizes, from little rabbit pellets to large flat patties?

You can find books at your local library and charts online that show different animal tracks. But you can get started with the activity below. Happy tracking!

September 30, 2018

Astronaut or Aquanaut—Which would you be?

by guest-blogger Jennifer Swanson

It’s so much fun to imagine what our future careers will be one day. You might find yourself wishing to blast off into space OR to dive deep under the ocean. But would you like either of these careers? Are they hard to do? What kind of training is needed? And WHAT does the suit you have to wear look and feel like?
   These are all amazing questions. A lot of them are answered in my book, Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact. But because this is a science/STEM/STEAM book we have some fun activities for you to do right in your own home to see which one of these careers you might choose.

Astronaut Training:
Do you have what it takes to dock at the Space Station? Grab a tennis ball, a big plastic cup, some rope or strong string and give it a try. It’s not as easy as you think!

Aquanaut Training:
Underwater is all about how things float. If you were going to dive deep under water, how do you make sure that you stay down there? And how do you make sure that you come back up? That force is called Buoyancy. It’s a force that pushes up on us as gravity pushes down. Try this experiment to see how things float… or sink

Did you succeed? Did both of your experiments work? Which one did you like more?
Challenge: If you’re looking for more ways to decide, I challenge you to design your own space suit OR underwater suit. What would it look like? What tools would it have? Draw it and compare with your friend.

So what did you decide? Will you be an Astronaut OR Aquanaut?

My choice? Aquanaut. All the way. I’d rather see this out my window: 

Than this:

Although to be quite honest, they are both amazing views! Thanks so much for joining me on the Hands-On Books!  Jennifer Swanson,

August 31, 2018

Cook Chinese Dumplings by (Chinese) Lantern Light!

We welcome author Sherry Ellis this month!

I’m happy to announce the release of my newest book, Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China. It's fiction based on my research about China. 

When Bubba and Squirt accidentally arrive in China, they discover they are in a pit with the Terracotta Warriors. These statues were first discovered in 1974 by local farmers digging for a well. The warriors were buried with the first Emperor of China, Ch’in Shi Huang-ti. Their purpose was to help him rule another empire in the afterlife. It is believed that there are more than 8,000 soldiers. No two are the same.

Ch’in Shi Huang-ti was a ruthless emperor, but he was an important figure in Chinese history. Some of his accomplishments included . . .
    . beginning construction of the Great Wall of China
    . standardizing Chinese units of measurements and currency
     . unifying Chinese script

Throughout my story, Bubba and Squirt experience Chinese culture. They enjoy eating Chinese dumplings, or jiaozi. You can buy them in Chinese restaurants or from grocery stores. Here’s the recipe if you would like to try making them at home.  

 Another cool thing you can do is make Chinese paper lanterns. Here’s how:


Colored construction paper
Pencil and eraser
Small battery operated candle

What to do:
1.     Cut a strip of paper ½ inch wide from the short end.
2.     Fold the remaining paper in half lengthwise.
3.     With your pencil, mark a line ½ inch from the open edge.
4.     Mark ½ inch marks along this line.
5.     Cut the lines from the folded edge through both layers.
6.     Open paper and roll to form a cylinder.
7.     Tape or staple the edges at the top, middle, and bottom
8.     Add the handle. And the candle!

Steps in Pictures:

Step 2

Steps 3 and 4

Step 5
Step 6

Steps 7 and  9
Light your candle and enjoy those dumplings!

Sherry Ellis is an award-winning author and professional musician who plays and teaches the violin, viola, and piano. When she is not writing or engaged in musical activities, she can be found doing household chores, hiking, or exploring the world. Ellis, her husband,and their two children live in Atlanta, Georgia.

August 6, 2018

Cut A Silhouette, An Old-fashioned Art Form

by Brandon Marie Miller

The art of creating a silhouette has been around a long time, but was most popular in the 1700s and early 1800s. A silhouette, cut from dark paper, shows a person as a solid shape, one color, usually in profile.

Sitting for an artist who brushed oil paint onto canvas took time and was an extravagance most people could not afford. A silhouette, however, also called a "shade," "profile," or "shadow portrait," took only minutes to create and was cheap enough for the masses to buy. The name "silhouette" comes from the French finance minister, Etienne de Silhouette, who relaxed cutting images out of paper. He also liked things done cheaply. His name soon stuck to this inexpensive form of portraiture. 

Expert silhouette artists could eye a person's profile and snip away at the black paper until the image remained. Other artists used a light and a screen to cast a shadow of the subject. They traced the outline and cut it out.

Silhouettes remained a popular means of creating portraits until photography began taking over in the 1840s. This activity comes from my book, George Washington for Kids, His Life and Times.
Silhouette of George Washington

July 4, 2018

Embrace Your Inner Inventor

by Mary Kay Carson

Buy from Books 'N' More and get a discount!
I'm proud to announce the release of my newest book, Alexander Graham Bell for Kids: His Life and Inventions with 21 Activities.

Alexander Graham Bell was a man of many interests and talents. While famous for inventing the telephone, Bell also...

  • invented an improved phonograph that Thomas Edison had to buy the patent for in order to build a usable product.
  • worked with early airplane inventors Glenn Curtiss and Samuel Langley and competed with the Wright Brothers.
  • attempted to save President Garfield from his fatal gunshot wound with a bullet-finding invention similar to a metal detector.
  • was a pioneering speech teacher to the deaf and a life-long friend and mentor of Helen Keller.
  • emigrated from Scotland with his parents after both his brothers died from tuberculosis.
Bell invented and experimented his entire life. A favorite Bell quote is: "The inventor is a man who looks around upon the world and is not contented with things as they are. He wants to improve whatever he sees, he wants to benefit the world."

You and your students can put their own problem solving skills to work. Everyone craves improvement and likes getting problems solved. We all seek better ways of doing things and love new gadgets! What would you invent?