Posts Tagged holiday

Inexpensive Bookish Holiday Gifts Middle-Graders Can Make

I have vivid memories of making things at my grandmother’s big dining room table, especially around the holidays. Usually under the urging of my Aunt Connie, we paper mached, decoupaged (there’s a word I haven’t used in thirty years) and macramed (make that two words).  I remember a year we made large paper globes out of old Christmas cards.  My grandmother, my Aunt Connie, and that old dining room table are gone now, but the desire to make something remains, and I appreciate having adults in my life who encouraged creativity.

I’ve selected (and even tried) some holiday crafts that are easy enough for nine-year-old hands and yield  a lasting treasure worthy of gifting.

Super Cute and East Button Bookmarks – A little hot glue and Grandma’s box of old buttons and this one is as good as done.  Click here for the details, or not. If you’re like me, you’re already thinking “How hard can it be?”

Book ornaments – This one is probably my favorite holiday gift craft ever.  I made these a couple of years ago and they were a hit. Talk about easy and no mess! Start with empty glass ornament balls, which are easy to find most anywhere. For younger crafters, plastic ones are available, but for middle-grade hands, glass is fine and classier and the clarity makes a difference when reading tiny words.  I had many old paperbacks that were either well worn or duplicates, and I chose books that fit recipients – The Hobbit for the Tolkien fan, Little Women for my favorite Jo March friend, etc. I cut narrow strips of text and rolled each strip around a pencil. It’s surprising how well the paper curls. I found that if I left it around the pencil, and then inserted the pencil into the opening of the ornament, then let it fall off, it was easier than taking the strip off the pencil before trying to insert it. I chose lines with proper nouns – character names, places – in order to make the book easily identifiable. Play around with length of strip and how many to use. You’ll know what looks good. And the book lover in your life with adore you!

Scrabble Coasters – Okay, guys. I made these for my critique partners this year, and if I can do it, so can you. Our holiday gathering is the same day this post goes live, so I’m hoping they don’t read it before they open their gifts.  I ordered 500 letter tiles and found them to be fairly consistent in size. There were a few oddballs, but aren’t there always?  And I used these adhesive cork squares, which were a bit too large and had to be cut on one side. That made me nervous because I can’t cut in a straight line to save my life, but I used a paper cutter with grid lines and, surprisingly, I did all right!  I had planned not to trust the adhesive and bought wood glue, but discovered that the adhesive side of the cork was VERY sticky, so I ended up not using the glue. Hooray! The last step was to coat the finished coasters with an acrylic spray. After all, they are meant to hold sweaty glasses or hot cups. Voila! I have to thank my daughter Maggie who, upon hearing me lament “I don’t know. It sounds complicated,” said “Mom, just do it.”

                   

Ribbon Bookmarks – This one is, admittedly, a bit more complicated and took some planning and tools I didn’t previously own. But, wow, what a response I got when I gifted these to my book friends a couple years ago! The good news is that in one trip to a large craft store, I got the ribbon, the metal ends, the little O rings, and a nice set of jewelry-making tools that I’ve used over and over again since. The most challenging part for some might be collecting the little items to attach. You can buy small charms, I’m sure, but I’m a repurposer and collector of tiny things, so I had a drawer of old watch faces, luggage locks and keys, broken earrings, tiny charms, and baubles and bangles of all sorts. I mean, doesn’t everyone? (Don’t answer that.)  If nothing else, you can start collecting for next year!


Book Trees – These are so cute and not hard to do at all. I found this great video that demonstrates just how simple they are to make. You can leave them “au natural” or bling them out with paint, glitter, and glam.

 

There’s still time, and none of these are too messy or difficult. You’ll make more than a gift. You’ll make a memory or two, I’m sure.

 

A Salute to Veterans!

Happy Veterans Day!!  To all those individuals who serve or have served our country proudly as members of the U.S. armed forces, and the families who sacrifice a lot to support their service, we thank you!

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Did you know that Veterans Day was created to celebrate the end of World War I?

While WWI wasn’t officially over until the Peace Treaty was signed in Versailles on June 28, 1919, fighting ceased on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, or November 11, 1918. In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11th to be Armistice Day.  In 1936 Congress declared November 11th an official national holiday. At the time it was meant to honor the veterans of WWI.

Unfortunately, as we all know, another  world war was yet to come.  But thankfully, WWII ended on VJ day, August 14, 1945.  People across the United States celebrated the newfound peace.

 

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And in 1954, President Eisenhower officially declared November 11th to be a national holiday recognizing the veterans of all wars, as well as those currently serving in the U. S. Armed forces.  Being a veteran, I find this day special and am proud to have served as an officer in the U.S. Navy.

So why the history lesson?  I think it’s important to remember the significance of this day and it’s not just because everyone gets time off work or school.  As a way to  celebrate a veteran, why not check out some of these great books that celebrate those who serve our country faithfully:

 

 

  Veterans Day by Elaine Landau

This nonfiction title explains why and how Americans celebrate Veterans Day. Part of the “Celebrating Holidays” series, the book traces the history of Veterans Day back to the conception of Armistice Day. It explains how and why the holiday expanded from a time to honor World War I vets to a day to honor all American veterans. The book includes information about the symbols associated with the holiday, including flags, poppies, and monuments. It shows how Americans celebrate the day on a national, local, and individual level. The book is divided into five short chapters, which can be read independently of each other. Sidebars, photographs, and captions provide additional information.

 

 

 

 

 

America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven

The White Table is set in many mess halls as a symbol for and remembrance to service members fallen, missing, or held captive in the line of duty. Solitary and solemn, it is the table where no one will ever sit.

As a special gift to her Uncle John, Katie and her sisters are asked to help set the white table for dinner. As their mother explains the significance of each item placed on the table Katie comes to understand and appreciate the depth of sacrifice that her uncle, and each member of the Armed Forces and their families, may be called to give

 

 

Cherry Ames, Veteran Nurse by Helen Wells

With a heart of pure gold and a true yearning to make a difference in the world, eighteen-year-old Cherry Ames leaves her hometown and enters nursing school, embarking on a lifetime of adventures. Follow Cherry through the entire 20-volume series as she grows from a student nurse to a fully qualified RN, all the while making friends, pushing the limits of authority, leading her nursing colleagues, and sleuthing and solving mysteries. Smart, courageous, mischievous, quick-witted, and above all, devoted to nursing, Cherry Ames meets adventure head-on wherever she goes.

 

 

 

D-Day Day by Day by Anthony Hall

The hardcover reference titles in the Day by Day series examine the evolution of conflicts and wars in a chronological timeline, from the first skirmish to the last battle—and everything in between. These books are a historical companion to each major war in the nineteenth and twentieth century. The fate of soldiers, battalions, armies, can change in the blink of an eye—with this comprehensive book readers can follow the conflicting sides in their strategy, weaponry, and policies.

 

Don’t Know Much About American History by Kenneth C. Davis

As best-selling author Kenneth C. Davis knows, history can be fun, fascinating, and memorable. When his don’t know much about® history was published in 1990, it was a sensation. The book delivered a fresh take on history with its wit and unusual detail. Davis now does for young people what his earlier book did for adults. In his trademark question-and-answer style — peppered with surprising facts, historic reproductions, and Matt Faulkner’s lively illustrations — Davis introduces our ancestors who settled the East and expanded the West, as well as those who had been living here all along. His sure touch brings the drama and excitement of the American story vividly to life.

 

 

 


Arlington: The Story of Our Nation’s Cemetery by Chris Demarest

AMERICA’S RESTING PLACE. The story of the national cemetery–from the Revolutionary War to the present. Arlington recounts the complicated history of one of the nation’s most famous and most-visited national monuments and its fascinating daily life. Carefully researched and documented, Chris Demarest’s watercolor paintings capture the spirit and pathos of the last resting place of more than 300,000 Americans who have served their country.

 

 

Courage Has No Color  by Tanya Lee Stone

World War II is raging, and thousands of American soldiers are fighting overseas against the injustices brought on by Hitler. Back on the home front, discrimination against African Americans plays out as much on Main Street as in the military. Tanya Lee Stone examines the little-known history of the Triple Nickles, America’s first black paratroopers, who fought in an attack on the American West by the Japanese. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, in the words of First Sergeant Walter Morris, “proved that the color of a man had nothing to do with his ability.”


 

Enjoy your day off and if you happen to see a veteran, give them a handshake, a hearty “thank you” or even a hug for their service.

 

 

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Jennifer Swanson is a middle school science instructor and an author of over 14 nonfiction books for kids. She is a  graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and is proud to have served her country for over nine years.

 

Happy Flag Day! Let’s celebrate with an interview with award-winning author Kate Messner and a giveaway!

 

Happy Flag Day!

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What better way to celebrate than to talk to award-wining author Kate Messner        

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about her middle-grade mystery book, Capture the Flag!

 

Kate’s newest middle-grade novel series has it all – excitement, intrigue, high-stakes action, and best of all it centers on the stolen American flag! What a great idea and a fun topic for our Flag Day post!

 

 

A stolen flag, a secret society, and three complete strangers . . .
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Anna, José, and Henry have never met, but they have more in common than they realize. Snowed in together at a chaotic Washington, DC, airport, they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle named for an ancient king. Even stranger, news stations everywhere have just announced that the famous flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been stolen! Anna, certain that the culprits must be snowed in, too, recruits Henry and José to help find the thieves and bring them to justice.
But when accusations start flying, they soon realize there’s even more than a national treasure at stake. With unexpected enemies lurking around every corner, will the trio solve the heist before the flag is lost forever?

 

 Praise for CAPTURE THE FLAG
A Junior Library Guild Selection
“A fast-paced mystery . . . a sparkling start for a promising new series.” –KIRKUS REVIEWS
“A novel as cinematic in execution as it is patriotic in theme.” –PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

 

I just finished reading your delightful book, Capture the Flag, I was wondering – where did you get the inspiration for this story? Did you visit the actual flag in the Smithsonian?

I did visit that flag – but not until I already knew I was going to let it be stolen in this book!  The inspiration for CAPTURE THE FLAG was actually the setting — I love airports and thought it would be great fun to set a mystery in one during a snowstorm. I love the super-charged atmosphere…everyone coming or going someplace. In airports, everyone has a story.  And I loved the idea of the snowstorm keeping everyone stuck there for a short period of time so my kids could investigate the crime, knowing that if they didn’t solve it, all the evidence and suspects would fly away as soon as the storm let up.

 

Much of the book takes place in an airport and the baggage area underneath. Were you able to go behind the scenes of the baggage handling area to do research for this book?

That’s the one thing I wasn’t able to explore firsthand in my research. Not surprisingly, airport security in a post-9/11 world doesn’t make exception for children’s authors.  However, I was able explore those under-the-airport worlds virtually, since most companies that build baggage handling systems have videos online showing how they work.

 

How much research, if any, do you do for your fiction books? Do you think this is  important?

I do extensive research for my books, especially when it comes to making sure I have the setting just right.  For CAPTURE THE FLAG, that meant spending a day at the Smithsonian, exploring behind the scenes with the curator of the flag exhibit and talking through just how those fictional bad guys might get out of the museum with the flag.

 

This book is your first mystery. Did you have fun writing it?

Great fun – but it was a great challenge, too, and taught me to plan in much more detail than I’d been accustomed to with my previous books.

 

Any tips aspiring authors should be aware of when writing mysteries for middle grade readers?

When I teach mystery writing workshops, I focus a lot on planning – the idea that suspects aren’t the only ones who need motives; investigators do, too.  It takes a lot of playing around with ideas to make sure all the details end up fitting together just right. And I think setting is huge in mysteries, too. The place can be a huge part of the story, and I encourage writers to think of it as the playground for their characters. What adventures can happen in a museum? In an airport, or a rainforest, or at the World Series?

 

Do you tend to stick with one writing level at a time or go back and forth depending on what inspires you?

I write across genres — middle grade, chapter books, and picture books – both fiction and nonfiction – and I love them all, so I couldn’t choose just one as a favorite. Most often, it’s my deadlines the determine what any given writing day looks like. The book that’s due first gets first priority, and when I’m not on deadline, I tend to play a lot, working on whatever seems to be calling me that day.

 

Your characters are ethnically diverse. How important do you think it is to have ethnically diverse characters in middle grade  books?

Very much so – and I’ve actually been quite involved in providing input for the covers for this mystery series. Scholastic has been amazing about asking for feedback, and we’ve talked about just this topic – the importance of not only including kids from different backgrounds on the covers but also showing their faces.  When I was teaching 7th grade, it was important to me that all of my students could find books with faces on the cover that looked like theirs. It was frustrating to me when most of the books I could find with brown faces on the covers were historical or issue books, where the story was about the character’s race.  In real life, it’s not like that — kids of all different backgrounds go to school and play lots of different sports and solve mysteries and have adventures, and I feel like we need to be mindful of that when we write and market books, too. I’ve been thrilled with the covers for the books in this series!  (And I can’t share the cover for book 3, MANHUNT, quite yet, but I can tell you that I think it might be the best of all!)

Many thanks!  ~Kate

 

And many thanks to you, Kate, for giving us a peek into your writing process. Mysteries are my favorite and I really loved this book! Can’t wait to read the new one in the series.

To learn more about Kate’s many amazing books, see her website http://www.katemessner.com/

Now, for what you’ve all been waiting for,  Kate has generously offered to donate an autographed copy of Capture the Flag to one lucky reader!  Simply leave a comment below and you will be entered in the giveaway.

 

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Jennifer Swanson is a life-long mystery lover. Some say she was born with a magnifying glass in one hand a Nancy Drew book in the other.