Space

Two Siberts!

FYI:  The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal – awarded annually to the most distinguished INFORMATIONAL book for children.  (Really, these are books for everybody.)  Sibert award winners in our library:
– 2018  Honor Award  Grand Canyon, Jason Chin
– 2015  Medal Winner The Right Word, Roget and His Thesaurus, Jen Bryant
– 2015  Honor Award  The Mad Potter – George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius, Greenberg/Jordan
– 2014  Honor Award  Locomotive, Brian Floca
– 2010  Honor Award  Moonshot, Brian Floca

Two more Sibert winners in the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER this past week:

2017 Honor Award:  Giant Squid, by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann.  I was looking for information on giant squid (because, why not?) and getting irritated because the books I found included only illustrations NOT photographs.  Well, here is why:  giant squid are tricky to locate.  The first time scientists actually saw a live giant squid was in 2006!  In 2012 (for the very first time), a giant squid was captured on film swimming at a depth of more than 2,000 feet under sea level.  After reading through the book, we confirmed that restaurants do not use giant squid for their calimari menu entrees.  Squid used in restaurants are around a foot in length.  Giant squid are about the size of a bus (and have the largest eyeballs of any living creature on earth) (not that this has anything to do with the dining experience).  We also talked about black squid ink.  Thinking about any sort of squid makes my back shiver.

 2007 Medal Winner:  Team Moon, by Catherine Thimmesh.  Perfect timing!  We were reading this the very week that marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.  “Team Moon” focuses upon critical challenges, last minute glitches, and the team of 400,000 focused professionals who supported the project that landed the first men on the moon.  We read about:

  • unexpected alarms (hearts in our throats)
  • potential fuel deficiency in the lunar module (hearts in our throats)
  • the space suits and shoes (requirements, construction, testing, testing, testing) (hearts in our throats when we read about Armstrong and Aldrin jumping up and down on the moon – disastrous if any seams had ripped)
  • the cameras (OK, this we could deal with, put us on the camera committee)
  • the potential for deadly bacteria/virus returning from outer space (hearts in our throats)
  • the parachute landing (hearts in our throats)
  • high winds in Australia that nearly prevented TV transmission (again, we could deal with this)

We learned that every aspect of Apollo 11 had a “backup program for the backup program for the backup program”, while acknowledging that any surprise from outer space could disable the mission at every single stage.  

We loved finding out why Armstrong and Aldrin shed their oxygen backpacks at the end of their moon walk and left them on the moon:  they needed the room in the lunar module for the moon rocks they were bringing back to earth!  (This book is so A+.) 

BTW,  here is something else we learned (via Wikipedia):  the moon is 240,000 miles away from planet Earth and the International Space Station is a mere 250 miles away.  We learned about the concept of “Low Earth Orbit”  (anything that orbits between 99 and 1,200 miles from the surface of the earth).  So, questions:  is the ISS in low earth orbit?  is the moon in low earth orbit?

Speaking of distances – A Farmer Brown story problem – Farmer Brown’s truck manages 22 miles on one gallon of gas.  Today, the truck has 2 gallons of gas left in the tank and Farmer Brown’s grandmother needs a ride into town to the beauty salon.  The beauty salon is 6 miles away, but on the way to the salon, Granny would like to stop at her friend Beulah’s house to return a cookie tray she borrowed for a tea party.  Beulah’s house is 10 miles beyond the beauty salon.  But before she can return the tray, Granny needs to go to the florist to buy Beulah a bouquet to thank her for lending the tray.  The florist is 3 miles in the opposite direction from the beauty salon.  Does Farmer Brown have enough gas in his truck to drive Granny to the florist, to Beulah’s, to the beauty salon, and then back to the ranch?  (answer at bottom of post)

Music to capture the triumph of the Apollo 11 mission –  we were looking for orchestral music that celebrated the can-do spirit of America, applauded the historical achievement, and conveyed JOB WELL DONE:

– Hoe-Down from Aaron Copland’s ballet (1942), “Rodeo” – EXCELLENT SELECTION:  a joyful, rambunctious dance of exhilaration.  A splendid performance by the National Youth Orchestra of the USA (2018):

– Theme from “Bonanza” TV show – EXCELLENT SELECTION:  composed by Livingston, Evans, and Rose for the Bonanza TV show (1959 to 1973).  A short, robust piece brimming with that American confidence:

– And then, HOO BOY:  my son and I took a listen to the #1 pop song of 1969:  “Sugar, Sugar”, by The Archies.  Let’s get this straight – the very same people who could collectively appreciate the magnitude of the moon landing listened to this song enough times to send it shooting up to the top of the “Billboard Hot 100” list.  Maybe we just needed something ridiculously uncomplicated.  “Sugar, Sugar” to the rescue! 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  yes, barely.  Granny’s zigzag route to the beauty salon is 38 miles in length)

For the record…

science women

We love this book – We continue to be so impressed with the 50 brilliant, determined women showcased in Rachel Ignotofsky’s “Women in Science”.  My son and I were happy to read an entry on Lillian Gilbreth – a women we were already acquainted with – psychologist,  industrial engineer, mom of 12 (!) AND matriarch of the “Cheaper by the Dozen” clan (a book we have read 4 times).  But maybe our very favorite scientist is Marjory Stoneman Douglas – writer, conservationist, AND civil rights advocate, AND suffragist – whose work led JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME to the creation of the Everglades National Park in Florida.  A quote from Ms. Douglas has stayed with us: “I’d like to hear less talk about men and women and more talk about citizens. 

marjory 3

And we love this book – “Front Desk” by Kelly Yang.  Because of its underlying theme of SELF RELIANCE, this is the type of fiction I am always excited to share with my son.  Every chapter has our protagonist, Mia, dealing with the latest disaster at the motel her family is managing.  Every chapter bursts with sidebar discussion topics – we’ve considered the bravery needed to move from one country to another (Mia’s family is new to the USA from China), loan sharks, Monopoly, how to make a key, employment contracts, nice neighbors and crooked landlords.

front desk

To complement “Front Desk”, we are reading through Lonely Planet’s “China – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know”.  We are just barely into this book, but so far we have read about dragons, the gargantuan Chinese population, board games, dynasties, tea and paper (HEY!  We did not know that the Chinese invented TOILET PAPER). 

smoke detector

The Farmer Brown SAFETY FIRST story problem – Farmer Brown will be installing new smoke detectors throughout his barns.  Twenty devices (vocab) need to be ordered.  

He can either purchase 10-year lithium battery detectors for $13 each or he can purchase detectors for $12 each, that use a 9-volt battery (at $1 each), and replace batteries annually.  

Over the course of 10 years what would be the difference in cost between lithium battery detectors and 9-volt battery detectors?

A.  $20     B.  $26     C.  $150     D.  $180  (answer at bottom of post)

golden record

From the HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL department:  MUSIC IN SPACE –  with a degree of astonishment and skepticism, my son and I have been reading about the golden records that were placed aboard NASA’s 1977 Voyager I and Voyager II space missions.  FYI, at present, both spacecraft are waaaaaaaay far away, with Voyager I scheduled to pass near the star Gliese in 40,000 years.  40,000 YEARS.  (We discussed.)

The 31 music tracks – to be played by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization that has record players (WHOA.  We discussed.  Is it just us or do others see this endeavor as curiously preposterous?) – were selected by a committee headed by eminent American astronomer, Carl Sagan, of Cornell University.  Of the selections, seven are classical pieces – two from Beethoven and three from Bach (if they had only known!) (we discussed).  Last night we sampled the wide variety of the music chosen: 

  • Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 2”, movement 1, composed in 1721 (showcasing one of the most difficult-to-play trumpet parts in the classical music repertoire):

  • “Melancholy Blues” by Louis Armstrong, written in 1927.  This is the sole jazz selection on the golden record:

  • “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry, written in 1958, said to be one of the most recognizable songs in the history of popular music:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  D.  $180)

…and in conclusion

– Farewell 2018 – 

Books that made the biggest impact with my son this past year –

books best 18

  • “The Erie Canal” by Martha E. Kendall  (surprisingly interesting)
  • “The Violin Maker” by John Marchese  (surprisingly interesting)
  • “The Cities Book”, a Lonely Planet book  (the lengthiest book we’ve ever tackled, but worthy of our perseverance)
  • “The War that Saved by Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley  (we learned so much about the daily struggles of British civilians during WWII)
  • “The Right Word (Roget and his Thesaurus)” by Jennifer Bryant and Melissa Sweet  (the most beautifully illustrated book we read this past year)

What we are reading now – 

space book

“Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guide to Dinosaurs” – well researched, cleverly organized, hilarious.  And now we know:

  • the complexity of dealing with dinosaur fossils (which we learned have been found on EVERY continent)
  • the main types of dinosaur skeletal structure (lizard hipped and bird hipped)
  • dinosaur IQ (really, really low.  really low)
  • how dinosaurs became extinct (FREAKY HEARTBREAKER)
  • to mull on:  dinosaurs lived on the earth for 150 MILLION YEARS (becoming extinct 65 million years ago), yet the first dinosaur bone was not officially recognized and identified until 1824.  So, it is interesting to consider that (for example) our USA founding fathers had no idea that their world was once anything other than as they experienced it.

“Professor Astro Cat’s SPACE ROCKETS” by Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman.  My son and I like to keep abreast of current outer space exploration – astronauts, telescopes, space probes – but we have never considered how astronauts, telescopes, space probes actually get into outer space.  This book has the answers  (and who can’t be fascinated by the engineering genius of space rockets?  And we keep laughing about the very first earthly inhabitants to journey by rocket to outer space (FRUIT FLIES) (we actually want more info about the fruit flies – how many did they send?  did they reproduce?  how many came back alive?).  The book’s content is really pared down, but the information comes across clearly (and we haven’t gotten this information anywhere else), so KUDOS Walliman and Newman ONCE AGAIN).  

BTW – the books of Ken Jennings and Walliman/Newman always make a big impact with my son.

dog santa hat

Story Problem – Early in December, Le Fictitious Local Diner cordoned off their parking lot and hosted a Holiday Pet Parade, complete with diner-made treats baked for all participants and a photographer to commemorate the event.  50 families each brought a pet dressed in holiday finery.

  • If 80% brought a dog wearing a Santa hat, how many dogs in Santa hats were in the parade?
  • If one family brought a turtle wearing teeny reindeer antlers, the turtle was what percentage of the parade?  
  • If 8 families brought cats wearing doll sweaters, what percentage of the parade was causing a snarling uproar? 
  • If there were exactly 50 pets in the parade, and the pets were either dogs, cats, turtles or birds, how many parakeets in cages with twinkly lights were in the festive procession? (answers at bottom of post)

Sweet Endings (actually, SUITE endings) – last night’s classical music listening:

My son and I always enjoy a piece of classical music that takes us by surprise with a non-traditional ending –  such as Elgar’s “The Wild Bears”, Smetana’s “The Moldau”, and John Williams’ “The Imperial March”.  To bring 2018 to a sweet ending we chose compositions with quirky conclusions from three different suites:

  • The Dove, from Ottorino Respighi’s orchestral suite, “The Birds” (1828).  A somber, reflective piece with a most delicious, elegant swirl of an ending:

  • Mercury, from Gustav Holst’s suite, “The Planets” (1916).  Mercury, the Messenger God, zooms erratically all over the universe and at the end of the short piece, quietly fades away with an utter lack of fanfare:

  • On the Trail, from Ferde Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite” (1931).  We found an excellent recording from the NY Philharmonic that accompanies an engaging video featuring the Grand Canyon MULES.  But back to the music –  the abrupt ending is perfection:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
Story problem answers:  40 dogs, 2%, 16%, 1 parakeet

Heavenly

     vatican     swiss guard and pope

The Vatican – our new unit!  We are Catholic, so the Vatican seemed a logical subject of inquiry.  We’re reading from the August 2015 issue of National Geographic and “The Incredible Book of Vatican Facts and Papal Curiosities” by Nino Lo Bello.  Here is what has IMMEDIATELY captured our attention: THE SWISS GUARDS.  Wow.  BEST UNIFORMS EVER.  Here is what we have learned about the Swiss Guards – there are around 100 guards at any one time, with sole responsibility for guarding Vatican City and the Pope. The basic requirements for becoming a guard:  single male Catholic between the ages of 19 – 30, with Swiss citizenship and Swiss military training.  Very, very cool.  And, again, those GREAT uniforms (we learned that it takes about 32 hours to sew up one of these splendid striped ensembles)!

big bang books
Stephen Hawking said it – so far, Stephen Hawking and his daughter, Lucy, have written 3 remarkable novels for youthful minds about (what else) outer space.  We are on book three, “George and the Big Bang”.  Every so often, there is a break in the story for a few pages of facts and theories.  As far as we are concerned, if Stephen Hawking said it, we are getting the most up-to-date information, un-doctored up and un-watered down.  These books are important.  We are augmenting the Hawking novel with “The Moon” by Seymour Simon.  Lovely book, thought provoking photographs.

persdeids meteor shower

Farmer Brown looks to the heavens and thinks about buying a telescope!  From one of our story problems of last week – Farmer Brown was so fascinated viewing the Perseid meteor shower last week that he realized his farm hands might enjoy having a telescope to view the night sky.  He has found a beginner type telescope for $300.  State sales tax is 8.25% and shipping will run $21.00.  How much will Farmer Brown spend if he wishes to purchase 2 telescopes?  If Farmer Brown wants speedier delivery he will pay an additional $15 per item.  What will this bring the total to?

 church singing

Music time – Negro Spirituals.  What sobering and inspiring listening.  But what great songs!  Written by slaves pre-civil war, we learned that spirituals were prayers about the rewards awaiting in heaven and coded encouragement for escaping the chains of forced servitude.  My son and I had a serious talk about the inexcusable wrongness of slavery.

  • “Down by the Riverside” – this timeless spiritual became a signature song for Vietnam War protesters of the 1970’s.  This video clip features Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  What a treasure.

  • “Wade in the Water” – we love this arrangement sung by Oakwood University students.  Refreshing, energetic, outstanding.

  • “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” – I don’t see how anybody could watch this video and not weep (well, my son didn’t weep, but he was captivated) (I wept).  It showcases operatic lyric soprano Kathleen Battle and the Boys Choir of Harlem.  It is just so beautiful.  Also noted: “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is the anthem of the national rugby union team of England.  That’s weird.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Two Different Worlds

germany globe rasputin einstein russia globe

Two Different Worlds – we are reading about the extraordinarily weird Grigory Rasputin and the extraordinarily brilliant Albert Einstein.  The two were born only 10 years apart (Rasputin 1869, Einstein 1879), but WHOA, what different worlds they lived in.  After each night’s reading, my son and I have much to discuss – first the family background, the education, and the character of each man (we haven’t gotten to their contributions yet) and then the comparison between cultures.  Grossest tidbit from last night’s reading – Rasputin’s teeth were brown. Yeecks. BTW, both sources of information are well researched, well written, and captivating.

Thinking about Letters – last night I brought out the old family dictionary, so my son could see that there is a non-electronic means of finding the definition of a word.  Then, I asked my son to guess which letter of the alphabet is at the beginning of the greatest number of words (he guessed “E”), and which letter is the beginning of the fewest number of words (he guessed “Z”). Thus begins a 13 day miniature side-study. We are counting the number of pages for each letter; two letters per evening. So, in 13 days we will know!

pluto new

Focus on Pluto – we are keeping abreast of the New Horizons spacecraft that was launched nine and a half years ago with the task of flying by Pluto, sending back images and information.  So exciting!  After traveling some three BILLION miles, the FASTEST spacecraft ever is due to pass Pluto NEXT WEEK.  It is already sending images.  We marvel once again at the brainpower that can successfully manage these far-reaching projects with such precision.

rice treats

Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is gearing up to make some big bucks at  the county fair – their plan is to sell 3,000 Rice Krispies Treats at their booth during the weekend-long fair. The diner chefs are working from the recipe on the back of the Rice Krispies box, which uses 6 cups of the rice cereal to make 12 large square cookies.  How many cups will the diner use to produce their goal of 3,000?   If a regular sized box of Rice Krispies can make two batches of the treats, how many regular sized boxes will be needed?  Delving into the arena of common sense:  is it likely that any grocery store would have this many boxes of Rice Krispies?

black wreath

Our music theme a few nights ago – “The Sad Song Scale”.  We listened to, and ranked these tear-jerker compositions on a sadness scale of one (“bummer”) to ten (“unrecoverable heart-crushing despair”):

  • “Symphony No. 3 in F major” (third movement), composed by Brahms in 1883.  We ranked this a most worthy 10 on our sadness scale.  SO much desolation.  This piece has been well positioned in several movies.

  • “What’ll I Do”, by Irving Berlin, composed in 1923.  Earns an impressive 6 on our scale.  Sad AND clever. That is sort of hard to pull off.  Kudos Mr. Berlin!

  • “Serenade”, by Franz Schubert.  A solid 9 on the scale.  Written in 1828, during the final year of his life, despondent because he knew he was dying of Syphilis. Blog followers know that my son and I are enthusiastic Itzhak Perlman admirers and this performance is another reason why.  Perfection.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

A Fanfare for the Water Bear

water bear

Water Bears? Last night we finished “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space” but not before this wonderful book tantalized us with a few facts about water bears. Do you know about water bears?  Water bears look like cousins of those icky dust mites that mattress companies use to scare you into purchasing a new bed. I have included a link (about water bears, not mattress critters) so you can see for yourselves. Interesting and borderline gross.  Two thumbs up from my son.

Here is why astro-scientists want to know about water bears: they are the hardiest organisms on earth. They can live in extreme temps (-300 degrees F to +300 degrees F), they are unfazed by high pressure, low pressure, or radiation, they can be completely dehydrated and then years later resuscitated, and they can exist in outer space without protective covering.  All hail the indestructible water bear!

Tick Tock: time for a new unit – we are starting to study the concepts of time and clocks. This looks like a cool topic, but we loved “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space” so much, I am afraid that any unit tackled after that book would pale in comparison. Bummer for the clocks.

We Read:  we are more than half way through “Under the Egg” by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. This is the perfect type of book for my son, with intrigue and friendship woven into the complex plot-line, AND we have learned so much – about the paintings of Renaissance painter Raphael, about the Monuments Men of WWII, and last night, about the people-locating resources of various holocaust museums. It is hard to put this book away at the end of each chapter.

Our Le Fictitious Local Diner Story Problem: The local diner sells lots of pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies in November (but not mince, because the chef thinks mince pies are just awful). If the diner sells 80 pies the week before Thanksgiving, and 60% are apple, how many apple pies are we talking about?  If the diner is planning to bake 150 pies for Thanksgiving week, using the same percentage, how many apple pies should be prepared?

Our music theme for last night was “Fanfare for the Water Bear”.  Why not?  This invincible organism surely needs a glam theme song. One of these might be perfect:

  • “Water Music, Alla Hornpipe” from Handel’s “Water Music in D Major”– is this the perfect fanfare for the little super bug?  It was perfect for King George I as he cruised up and down the Thames.
  • “The Aquarium” from Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals” – for the water bear looking for dreamy relaxation music with a bit of star power (this music was used at the beginning of the “Beauty and the Beast” movie).
  • “The Wild Bears” from Sir Edward Elgar’s suite, “The Wand of Youth” – we LOVE the high voltage energy this piece. It scampers all over the place. Maybe this is the theme music for the bad boy water bear?

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Starry Eyed

hubble

From “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontier’s of Space” – Last night was all about the Hubble Space Telescope.  This fine piece of machinery measures in at 43 feet by 8 feet.  Making it personal – we learned that the idea of sending a telescope into outer space was first discussed in 1923 (the birth year of both of my son’s grandmothers) and we learned that the Hubble Space Telescope (HST to those in the know) was launched in 1990 (the birth year of my son).  We thought about this:  the HST has been repaired 5 times. That means astronauts had to sync up with it (how can this be easy?) and perform delicate technical procedures.  Hmmm.  Would we want to be (1) floating around in space and (2) fiddling with a 2.5 billion dollar telescope?

Our Main Science Unit – We are about half way through the “Usborne Book of Scientists”.  We have covered astronomers, physicians, physicists, and chemists.  Right now, we are reading about botanists. I think our take-away from this book is three-fold:  (1) there are brilliant thinkers and observers EVERYWHERE, (2) brilliant thinkers stand on the shoulders of brilliant thinkers that have gone before and (3) brilliant thinkers have always had to battle (often uninformed, therefore seriously irritating) defenders of the status quo. Good book. Really good book.

The Le Fictitious Local Diner Story Problem of the day – The diner has 5 large windows that need constant cleaning (pollution on the outside, grimy fingerprints on the inside).  The “Squeaky Clean Window Washing Service” cleans the exterior windows once a month, and the interior windows once a week. If the SCWWS charges $5 per single side of a window, how much does the diner need to budget per month for window cleaning?

Last night’s music theme was “Dealer’s Choice”– About once a week, I provide my son with a list of 10 compositions. He selects 3, by writing “yes” or “no” next to the title.  I love the programs he puts together.

dealers choice

  • Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” – what’s not to like? We enjoy a recorded version with Arthur Fielder conducting.
  • Respighi’s “The Cuckoo”, from his suite, “The Birds”– a sparkling collage of the two-note cuckoo motive.
  • Leonard Bernstein’s “Mambo”, from “West Side Story” – a steamy-hot composition in the hands of TODAY’S HOTTEST CONDUCTOR, Gustavo Dudamel.  In this video he conducts the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra (Venezuela). Who wouldn’t want to be part of this energy?

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH