Beauty and the Beak

There are few people who would disagree when I say that a bald eagle is truly a breathtaking sight. Sadly, there are just that very few who don’t see their majesty and instead see a target. Today’s book is Beauty and the Beak: how science, technology and a 3-D printed beak rescued a bald eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp.

The story starts at the beginning of the eagle’s life, with her hatching as a fuzzy grey chick, to her first flight and then reaching maturity. One day when she was about four years old though, someone shot the eagle, destroying the top of her beak and damaging her eye. For some eagles, this would have led to death, but Beauty, as she became known, was found by a police officer who took her to a wildlife center.

While the wildlife center was able to bandage her wounds and give her antibiotics to prevent infection, they were ultimately unable to keep Beauty in their care. Beauty’s beak had not regrow so she couldn’t return to the wild. Janie Veltkamp took Beauty to her raptor center in Idaho and began telling people about Beauty’s story. An engineer heard one of Janie’s talks and had an idea of how to help Beauty.

Thanks to technology, Janie and the engineer were able to create a prosthetic beak for Beauty. It was carefully fitted and adjusted to fit Beauty in a 3 hour procedure.

Beauty was able to once again preen her feathers, and she could eat and drink almost normally (her meat had to be precut into strips).

Beauty’s beak has begun to regrow. It is made of keratin like human fingernails. Her prosthetic beak no longer fits and so she remains in the raptor center. No one knows if her beak will fully regenerate, so she relies on her human caretakers for now. Janie is keeping close measurements and records of the beak’s regeneration to provide scientific data that we just haven’t had before.

I was very excited to get this book! It is written in a simple and straightforward way. I think that when it gets an Accelerated Reader level, it will be in the third grade range. I plan to read it to third grade later this year when they are focusing on animals.

I learned a lot from the additional back matter the book includes. I didn’t know that young bald eagles are mostly brown and don’t grow their white feathers on their heads and black feathers on their bodies until they are mature. The back matter covers the adaptations that help the eagles like their feet, feathers, wings and bone structure. It also talks about the near extinction eagles faced in the 1960s and 1970s. Kids today probably have never heard of DDT and it’s effects on eagle eggs.

I hope that reading books like this with children will help prevent more tragic injuries to these majestic birds.


A Rather Blustery Day

At the risk of dating myself, when I was a little girl we used to listen to vinyl records. My dad had a big collection of country and my sisters had the songs they loved in the mid to late 80s. My brother and I had a few storybook recordings on record and I’m in the mood for one today.

The leaves are starting to fall and today, as I walked by a door I saw them blowing around. That made me think of Winnie the Pooh and The Blustery Day record we had as kids. (The link takes you to a YouTube video of the original recording and the book. Listen to it, it’s fabulous!)

I know the story is about the time a very strong wind blew a tree into Owl’s house, and a flood sweeps away Pooh and Piglet in an umbrella, but the part I remember is at night when Pooh hears a sound that his isn’t familiar with. It’s a bouncy growl, and Pooh does something very brave: he invites the new sound inside. That new sound is Tigger! (I really love Tigger!!)

🎶The wonderful thing about Tiggers, is Tiggers are wonderful things!

Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs!

They’re bouncy-trouncy, bouncy-pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!

But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is I’m the only one!

Oh, I’m the only one!🎶

This recording is based on an Oscar winning movie by Disney and features the voice of Sterling Holloway. I never had a book to go with my record, but it was published as a book.

I particularly like the way Tigger is drawn, it’s not what we are used to with Disney, his look evolved, but Pooh, Owl, Piglet and Christopher Robin look pretty much as we are used to.

Of course, it’s a far cry from the Shepard Tigger from the original A. A. Milne books:

And here is what I think of, when I think of Tigger:

His style may have changed, but he’s still the same Tigger who burst in on Pooh on a blustery night all those years ago.

The Boy Who Loved Words

Today while shelving books, I found a book that intrigued me.

Ron Schotter’s book The Boy Who Loved Words is about a boy who, quite simply, loves words. Selig collects words that appeal to his eyes, ears and his heart.

One day some of the other children tell him that he is an oddball and that word makes him feel lonely. He doesn’t want to be an oddball, but he doesn’t want to give up word collection either. During a dream, a Djin or genie tells him that he must find a purpose for his words, but not how to go about it.

He sets off but by the end of the day he is so weary, and his pockets so full of words, that he must stop to rest. He decides to put his collected words in the branches of the tree where he plans to sleep that night. During the night, a poet who is struggling for words stands beneath the tree and like magic, the right words fall down out of the tree to him.

Selig has become Wordsworth, spreading and sprinkling his words to help others. He has found his purpose! But Selig still feels lonely, at least until he meets Melody, who has a gift for music.

The story tells us that if you are ever struggling for the perfect word, and it suddenly appears, then Wordsworth is nearby. And if you just suddenly burst into a song, then Melody is with him.

This story is a great story, but long. I don’t know that I’d read it to a six year old, but a middle grade student who loves picture books would surely enjoy it. It will enrich their vocabulary (I even learned a few new ones!)

The Ransom of Red Chief

I hope you are familiar with the famous short story, The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry.  It is one of the funniest short stories of all time.


The story follows two petty thieves who decide to ransom the son of a wealthy banker to fund an illegal land deal in another state.  What the hapless kidnappers fail to realize is that they have chosen one boisterous little boy.  A little boy who doesn’t like school and says home is boring, so he has no reason to want to go home.  He plays rough, and who else is there to play with but the kidnappers.  In short order, Red Chief, as the boy calls himself, he has battered and bruised the kidnappers.  They originally want $2,000, but decide to ask for $1,500…just in case the father is reluctant to get the boy back.

The return message is not what they expect though:

I received your letter about the ransom you ask for the return of my son. I think you are a little high in your demands. I hereby make you a counter-proposal, which I believe you will accept.  You bring Johnny home and pay me two hundred and fifty dollars, and I agree to take him off your hands. You had better come at night because the neighbors believe he is lost. And, I could not be responsible for what they would do to anybody they saw bringing him back.

I really love this story.  It’s not what you expect at all and I think the kids would get a kick out of it.  But, I printed off the original version of the story, available here as a pdf, and the language was too old-fashioned to use.  I got lucky and found an adapted radio version designed for audiences who speak English as a second language.  Much simpler!

I can’t wait to share this fabulous story with the kids.  I hope they enjoy it as much as I do.


My favorite monsters

Last night my husband and I watched a movie that got me thinking about my favorite monsters.

While I am not a huge Tom Cruise fan, I did really enjoy this movie. I’m sure I’ve mentioned my love for classic movie monsters before. And the best part of those monsters is that they are often inspired by classic novels. I did some digging online and Universal Studios is going to be creating a multi-movie dark universe featuring some of these stories; The Mummy is just the first of more to come.

The big surprise in The Mummy was Russell Crowe playing a doctor. Dr. Jekyll to be more specific.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde isn’t long, but it’s horrifying. Crowe did a great job in the role, I can’t wait to see the movie about Dr. Jekyll.

One of my all time favorite actors is going to be playing the Invisible Man–Johnny Depp.

I liked The Invisible Man book by H.G. Wells. It isn’t as ominous as some monster stories but its implications are intriguing.

My all-time favorite novel is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The monster will be portrayed by Javier Bardem.

I’m giving Universal bonus points for using the title Frankenstein’s Monster. It helps with a common misconception about who is the monster in the story (which is a topic of debate for another post.) The article said that there would also be a Bride of Frankenstein but there are no named stars. I hope they follow in the footsteps of the original and cast a redhead like Elsa Lanchester–the actress who created our iconic image of the bride.

I really wanted to have a book for every one of these movies, but I’m struggling with The Mummy. I could have sworn that I once read a short story by either Jules Verne or Robert Louis Stevenson that was about a mummy. I can tell you for sure that Bran Stoker wrote The Jewel of Seven Stars and it’s about a mummy. My favorite mummy novel is actually The Mummy or Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice.

Now I’d like to suggest that if these movies do well, that Universal add some great stories like Dracula

Or if Universal wants to surprise audiences, they could go with a female vampire like Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu.

And maybe a wolf-man, though some people will know that Stephen King himself said The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is nothing if not a werewolf story. I’d also consider The Portrait of Dorian Grey and The Island of Dr. Moreau great additions. Could something by Edgar Allan Poe be adapted?!? Give me time, I could think of plenty!

Which books would you like to see adapted to this dark universe?? I’m dying to hear from other classic monster fans.

All the cats agree…

Yesterday, while looking for the artwork from the Tiger books, I found something pretty cool on my Google search:

I am the person who created this. It was an idea for a bulletin board. I’ve never made this particular design, but it would require the overhead projector, crayons and lots of patience. I posted it on a blog I started 5 years ago when I started at the school library, I didn’t do very well keeping up with that one. I tried to create a who’s who of picture book cats with this. Can you name them all?

Back of couch: My Cat, the Silliest Cat In the World (Gilles Bachelet) Huckle Cat from (Richard Scarry)

On the couches: Tiger and his boy (S.J. Fore), Yoko (Rosemary Wells)

On the floor: the Cat In the Hat (Dr. Seuss), Library Lion(Michelle Knudsen), Bad Kitty (Nick Bruel), Pete the Cat (Eric Litwin), Splat the Cat (Rob Scotton), the Cheshire Cat (Lewis Carol).

There are other great cats in books, like Chester (Melanie Watts), the color kittens (Margaret Wise Brown), Mr. Tiger (Peter Brown), Mr. Pusskins (Sam Lloyd)…really, the list goes on and on. Maybe I need to put together a second collage.

Tiger can’t sleep!

Chances are, if you have a child under the age of 5, you get monthly books shipped to you by the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. (If your child isn’t receiving these great books, please go to your local library and ask how to get them signed up.) One of the best books my girls received from the Imagination Library was Tiger Can’t Sleep by S. J. Gore.

The little boy telling the story is trying to go to sleep but he can’t because there is a tiger in his closet making noise.

Tiger bounces a ball, plays music, tap dances, and even flicks the light of and on until the little boy has had enough. But yelling at Tiger makes him cry. And we find out he is scared to be alone. The little boy invited him into bed and finally, Tiger falls asleep. But the little boy can’t sleep because now there is a tiger in his bed snoring!

I love to read this — I have a special Tiger voice and he doesn’t say his R’s correctly. The kids at school always love it too, even if they have already heard it at home.

I was excited a few years ago when the little boy and Tiger got a second book, Read To Tiger.

I don’t like this one quite as much as the first but I do read it to my classes. Tiger just can’t be quiet while the boy reads, but he can sit and listen while the boy reads aloud. This is true for a lot of kids.

So, if you aren’t familiar with Tiger, go find him and you’ll see what I mean.

When God Made the Dakotas

It’s easy to see the Midwestern states as flat and boring, but there is an amazing beauty here for people willing to look.  Today’s book is about all of the wonderful things that went in to make our home so beautiful:

In the story, the Great Spirit comes to create the land of the Dakota people last.  The medicine man from the Dakota asks first for tall mountains capped with snow, but The Great Spirit does not have any left.  So the medicine man then asks for great tall forests like the ones to the north, but again, The Great Spirit has none left to give.  After some thought, the medicine man asks for many lakes and a great inland sea teeming with fish to feed his people. Sadly, The Great Spirit has only a few wandering streams left.  Lastly, the medicine man asks for a beautiful desert land like the one to the south, but all that remain are a few colorful rocks. The medicine man is disappointed but tells The Great Spirit that the Dakota people will be happy with whatever they are given.

The Great Spirit then creates one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  He crushes the colorful rocks and blows them into the western sky, so that the sunset will have the colors of the desert and The Great Spirit’s smile.  He spreads grasses across the land that he has taught to wave like the waves on a great sea, and in that sea of grass, he creates the buffalo.  The Dakota people will find the buffalo herds to be larger than the largest schools of fish, and they will provide everything for the people.  The Great Spirit takes the few rolling hills he has left and spreads them across the land so that as the land moves from east to west, it gradually rises and rolls like a great sea.  The Great Spirit carefully places the cottonwood trees and streams he has left across the land.  To shade the Dakotas, he smokes the sacred pipe and creates beautiful white clouds that will shade the land and bring rains to feed the grasses who feed the buffalo who feed the people.  Since he has no mountains to give the Dakotas, The Great Spirit uses two feathers from his headdress and creates Maga (geese). Maga will herald the seasons and sing the song the Great Spirit taught them,

God loves the Dakotas, God loves the Dakotas

Lastly, The Great Spirit promises that the land of the Dakotas will never become so full with people that we will be unable to hear his voice.

Seems like a pretty amazing place, if you ask me.

Dragon Was Terrible

Today I’m sharing a Kelly Dipucchio book that I hadn’t read yet:

Dragon Was Terrible is a hilarious story about a naughty dragon. I mean really naughty. He scribbled in books, chases fluffy ducklings, makes rude graffiti and he burps loudly in church!

He does all kinds of terrible things and finally the king decides it’s enough. He asks the knights to try to tame Dragon but they all fail miserably, and Dragon’s behavior gets worse!

The townspeople try to tame him next but with no better luck. Finally a boy decides to tame him with a story. Dragon pretends to ignore the boy reading his exciting story, but in the end, the story tames him.

Dragon makes new friends and all because of a story. I like that ending!

4 short tales

I’m still working my way through the fairytale book. Today I read four stories that are just one or two pages long, so I’ll stuff them all in one entry.

The Hedgehog and the Hare is about a humble hedgehog and a hare who haughtily insults him. The hedgehog bets the hare that he can win a foot race but needs half an hour to prepare. He goes home and has his wife come back with him. They then go to opposite ends of the field and cheat, pretending to best the hare 75 times. Finally he concedes and the hedgehog feels his honor is restored.

  • I’m not sure cheating is a great message to send, but neither is insulting people.

The Fox and the Geese has a group of geese who have been told by a fox that he’s going to eat them. They ask for an hour’s reprieve to pray. Then they pray so loudly that the farmer comes and scares the fox away.

  • Is there a moral here? Don’t do favors for your dinner??

I don’t have a picture for The Hatchet and the Flail, sorry. It was a weird story. I’ll just give you the whole thing: there once was a farmer who took his ox out to work in the field. The ox’s horns began to grow and by the end of the day, they were so long that the ox couldn’t fit back into the barn. Luckily, a butcher happened by and butchered the ox, with the agreement that the farmer would bring him a quart of rape seeds. The butcher was to pay 1 dollar for every seed in the jar. The farmer carried the seeds to the butcher but dropped one. On his way home he saw that a great tree had grown and he climbed it. The tree was tall enough to reach the heavens and the farmer saw angels harvesting wheat. When he left, he grabbed a hatchet and a flail that the angels had left on the heavenly ground. It’s a good thing he did, for as he climbed down the tree he fell into a hole so deep that he had to use the hatchet to cut stairs out of the hole. He then carried the hatchet and flail with him so that no one could doubt his story.

  • Wow. Someone ate something spicy, had a crazy dream and wrote it down maybe?

The last short story I read was The Shower of Gold. In this story a very poor young woman has only her clothing and a crust of bread that someone has given her. She meets a starving man and gives him her bread. Then she meets a shivering child and gives him her cap. She eventually gives away everything she has, and intending to sleep naked in the forest with only leaves to cover her, she is surprised by a shower of gold that is real money. It also covers her with fine warm clothing.

  • There! That is how fairytales are supposed to be. This story is not long but clearly teaches us to give to others if they have a need, and we will be rewarded. There is another story with this name that has to do with a girl performing tasks and being rewarded, but my guess is that the message is the same.