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Check It Out

Courier Article by Carol Banks
Sunday, June 5, 2005

Intriguing Topics Help Kids Warm Up to Summer Reading

Ahhh ... summer in Evansville. Backyard cookouts, family vacations. Life is good. There's even plenty of quality time to read while sunning by the pool. If you need some good books to share with your kids, here are several new titles available at your public library. All of them have summer fun-time and read-time possibilities.

Popping Up Around Walt Disney World: A Magical Pop-Up Book by Jody Revenson (2004).

Want to relive all the fun places you visited at Walt Disney World? Take a peek inside this pop-up book engineered for kids of all ages, and you'll find double-page spreads showcasing each of the "kingdoms" at the quintessential family vacation destination.

Follow the fine print around each pop-up to learn fun facts about each showcase. For example, do you know how many towers are part of Cinderella's Castle? (18) How many species of trees grow within The Animal Kingdom? (850) Trivia buffs will definitely devour this exceptional book designed by Tanya Roitman.

Speaking of devouring -- do you know how many different food items are available at WDW? (more than 6,000) Decisions, decisions ...

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (2004).

If you can't manage a long trip this summer, just head for Audubon State Park in Henderson, Ky. If the kids haven't a clue how the park received its name, check out this book ahead of the visit and surprise brood and spouse alike with your amazing knowledge of "America's greatest painter of birds."

Sent to America by his French father to avoid the Napo-leonic Wars in Europe, young Audu-bon lived on a Pennsylvania farm where he constantly observed and painted birds. A pair of pewee flycatchers (now known as eastern phoebes) especially captured his attention. Speculating what happened to them each fall and determined to know whether they returned to the same nest area each spring, Audubon "pioneered" a technique of bird banding, a system still in use today.

Adding another nice local touch, the illustrator visited Audubon State Park to help with her research of this book.

Little Hands Celebrate America! Learning About the U.S.A. Through Crafts & Activities by Jill Frankel Hauser ( 2004).

Don't you love it when the kids learn something and have fun while they're doing it? Look no further than Hauser's activity-filled book about U.S. holidays, symbols and monuments. Most of the craft ideas use readily available items, the games have easily understood directions and the scientific experiments are heavy on fun. What could be better?

If you're planning a July Fourth celebration at your house, Hauser's book will help you plan an extra-special day for your littlest patriots. If you really like this book, check out the back page for other titles in the "Little Hands" series.

The Kids Book of the Night Sky by Ann Love and Jane Drake, illustrated by Heather Collins (2004).

Remember when you were a kid lying on your back, trying to count all the stars in the sky? If you still find the nighttime sky an awesome experience, share Love and Drake's book with your kids or grandkids. Turn to the "Seasonal Attractions: Summer Sky" section. The easy-to-understand text will make you an astronomy guru to your kids. You'll even find star-related folk tales and jokes to tell while all of you are mesmerized by Mother Nature's nighttime spectacle.

Animal Tales: A Little Golden Book Collection (2004).

When the summer day is done and it's time to tuck the kids in bed, reach for this gold-edged nostalgic collection of stories published in the late 1940s to the early '60s. Fans of Margaret Wise Brown, Jane Werner Watson, Garth Williams, Kathryn Jackson, Tibor Gergely and Gustaf Tenggren will find this a trip down memory lane. If, like me, you grew up hearing "The Saggy Baggy Elephant" and "The Tawny Scrawny Lion," you definitely will want to share these gentle stories with your kids and grandkids.

Included in the collection is Brown's "The Golden Egg Book," charmingly illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Leonard Weisgard. It's a lovely story introducing the true meaning of friendship.

Eleven mid-20th-century stories originally published as inexpensive, buy-them-at-the five-and-dime "Little Golden Books" constitute the bulk of this collection. Two new adaptations of Rudyard Kipling's "Just So" stories are also included.

If you're looking for things to do with the kids, don't forget that all the public library agencies have planned an abundance of fun and educational activities this summer. There's still time to sign up for the Summer Reading Program -- "Blast Off With Books @ Your Library," too. See you there!

Carol Banks is supervisor of the READ Center, Central Library's children's Department. Contact her at (812) 428-8222. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of the library.