Did You Know? (Moon Edition)

In 1609 the Italian astronomer Galileo first pointed a telescope at the moon and noted that the orb had terrain including mountains, flat plains and craters? Therefore the moon was solid and it’s surface might be walked upon.

Galileo’s discovery is talked about on page 10 in the book Space Stations: the Art, Science and Reality of Working in Space by Gary Kitmacher, Ron Miller and Robert Pearlman.

Galileo is known as the father of modern physics – indeed, of modern science altogether. His discoveries were based on careful observations and ingenious experiments that contradicted conventional wisdom and the views of the church at the time. The new book Galileo and the Science Deniers by Mario Livio looks at Galileo’s theories and accomplishments, and how he arrived at them – as well as why they are relevant now. This is a must read if you love science!

Astronauts by Thomas K Adamson is a book for children that shows how astronauts work in space on a space station and walk on the moon. I used to imagine what it would be like to walk in space and now you can see exactly how it would be.

Imagine winning a chance to go to space! 172 hours on the Moon is a novel by Johan Harsted. Mia, Antoine, and Midori are selected by lottery to join experienced astronauts on a NASA mission to the once top-secret moon base, while an old astronaut in a nursing home tries to warn them of the danger there. Perhaps it will be a trip in a lifetime, literally.

There is a little treat we had while I was growing up nicknamed Moon Pies, but they were actually Whoopy Pies. Whoopie Pies by Viola Goren is full of recipes for a variety of flavors of these delicious snacks. They look like little planets on a platter!

We have all heard that the moon is made of cheese, but it is unknown where this saying started. There is a really cute song on the children’s CD Inside I Shine by Danny Weinkauf called “The Moon is Made of cheese.”

Moon is also a company that publishes travel guides. While you may not be able to take a vacation right now, you can plan a trip or watch a travel show and take a virtual trip… of course, you probably won’t need a guide if you are sitting in your living room. 

Finally, how can you talk about the moon without mentioning stars? Paper Stars by Karen-Marie Fabricius gives directions for origami, quilled and folded stars. You can make these and turn your house into the great outdoors on a starry night. The directions are well laid out and easy to follow. Enjoy!

Did You Know? (Newt Edition)

That all newts are salamanders but not all salamanders are newts?

I found this information on the Facts About Newts page from the Live Science website.

Tree Frogs, Mud Puppies and other Amphibians by Daniel Gilpin is a good book for beginners interested in amphibians. It has a lot of very detailed pictures and fun ‘gross’ information.

The California newt and the rough-skinned newt excrete a toxin from their skin that can be deadly to humans or other animals. The toxin excreted by the California newt (Taricha torosa) is known as tetrodotoxin (TTX), the same neurotoxin found in pufferfish.

Pufferfish, also called blowfish, live in tropical waters. They are prepared as a delicacy called fugu in Japan. You need to have a special permit and training to prepare this potentially deadly dish. It is also illegal to serve to the Emperor of Japan, as one fish has enough poison to kill 30 adults. The Puffer Fish by Alicia Z. Klepeis tells us there are about 120 different kinds of pufferfish.

There are many other animals that can be toxic: spiders, snakes, jellyfish, bees, wasps, scorpions and even the platypus!  They can use their teeth, fangs, stingers, spines or spurs to introduce their venom into you. The book Venom by Marilyn Singer tells all about them.

Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder’s Fork and Lizard’s Leg by Marty Crump gives the lore and mythology of amphibians and reptiles. One well known example is the snake in the garden of Eden. Other examples would be the rod of Asclepius (the snake on a rod) used to represent the Western medical profession and the Caduceus (2 snakes entwined on a staff with wings) for commerce and negotiation and also used by the U.S. Army and some other medical organizations. For the play Macbeth Shakespeare wrote of three witches around a cauldron using animal parts as ingredients (see the title of this book) which spurred the world’s imagination.

If eye of newt and toe of frog are basic ingredients for witch’s brew, it makes me wonder where they get their ingredients? And what do they do with the rest of the newt? We have spell books at the library, to help you find out: Spells for Peace of Mind: How to Conjure Calm and Overcome Stress, Worry, and Anxiety by Cerridwen Greenleafor and The Big Book of Practical Spells: Everyday Magic that Works by Judika Illes use ingredients such as salt, candles, crystals, and a whole list of herbs.

Of course, stories about witches and wizards make for popular fiction reading as well. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is a prime example of that!  Another fun series is Bella Broomstick by Lou Kuenzler.

Newts make me think of Newton. Isaac Newton discovered the first law of motion: an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids by Kerry Logan Hollihan tells about Isaac Newtons’ life and discoveries with twenty-one science experiments kids can recreate. We have many other books about him such as Isaac Newton: The Asshole who Reinvented the Universe by Florian Freistetter who tells us that Newton wasn’t always a nice guy.

And while we are talking about Newton, THAT reminds me of Fig Newtons! They are a favorite “healthy” cookie. I mean, they have fruit, right? How bad can they be for you? A Fistful of Fig Newtons by Jean Shepherd – best known for his story/movie A Christmas Story where Ralphie Parker wants a BB gun – is a collection of short stories based on his life…. Like the cookies, just one won’t be enough. You’ll want to read the whole book!

Did You Know? (Brick Edition)

That the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway is nicknamed the Brickyard?

The Speedway was originally paved with more than 3 million bricks in 1909. I found this in the DK Smithsonian book Drive on page 63. It says on the cover “the definitive history of driving,” and that pretty much says it all. There are pictures of every car imaginable, the making and racing of automobiles, early advertisements and even renditions of possible future cars. We even learn that the first speed limit was 4 mph, and some of the first vehicles had a whopping 12hp engine!

Assuming the bricks were 6-inch in length, 3,000,000 million bricks laid end to end would reach 284.09 miles or the equivalent of the distance from Newark, NJ to Buffalo, NY. With the Indianapolis speedway being 2.5 miles long, this would be about 113 ½ laps altogether.

Nowadays, when you say ‘bricks’ the first thing people think of is Lego bricks. The eBook A Million Little Bricks by Sarah Herman talks about the Lego company’s history and the phenomenon of this amazing and popular toy. She reminisces about old Lego sets and talks about the new sets available. Beautiful Lego by Mike Doyle has some of the most amazing Lego figures, buildings and characters I have ever seen! This is definitely art, and worth checking out just to see the creativity.

The Taj Mahal is a building complex that is truly artistic. Construction started in 1632 and was completed over an 11-year period. They used white and black marble (bricks and blocks) with inlays of precious stones and intricately carved marble flowers. The book The Taj Mahal by Lesley Dutemple is part of the series Great Building Feats that shows a variety of different structures and the building techniques used to make them.

The feature film The Last Brickmaker in America shows what the art of brickmaking used to be. In this heartwarming movie, starring Sidney Poitier, he teaches a young troubled boy his craft, and the pride of making something worthwhile. You don’t have to make your own bricks, but you can do your own building with bricks with the assistance of the book Masonry Homeowner Survival Guide. It shows how to prep an area, measure what supplies you need, and shows the techniques that will make you look like a master.

Lastly, one thing I always think of when thinking ‘bricks’ is the Pink Floyd song “Brick in the wall”. We have this on CD so “brick on!” OK, that doesn’t have the same ring to it as “rock on”, but you get the idea.

Did You Know? (Doll Edition)

Raggedy Ann and Andy were first made in 1915, and their creator then went on to write 25 books about them starting in 1918?

I found this information in the Warman’s Companion Collectible Dolls by Dawn Herlocher. Johnny Gruelle was the original creator and his family made the dolls. They eventually sold the rights, and the dolls have been made by many other companies since then, but they are still around.

We have quite a few of the Raggedy Ann and Andy books by Johnny Gruelle. Hooray for Reading, Old Friends, New Friends and School Day Adventure are just a few of them.  My Raggedy Ann doll and I enjoyed these books when I was little.

Raggedy Ann and Andy are great dolls for younger children, with their soft bodies and candy hearts. You can make your own soft dolls using the patterns in Topsy-Turvy Knitted Dolls by Sarah Keen. They have a doll on one end, flip the dress up and there is a different doll on the other. One of them is Red Riding Hood/Big Bad Wolf. They are so cute!

I think after these, young children progress to Barbie dolls. The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: a Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us by Tanya Lee Stone tells how Ruth Handler and her husband Elliot started the company Mattel. They first made jewelry and furniture, then made doll house furniture with scraps before moving on to making Barbie Dolls and marketing other toys.

Older children enjoy doll houses and miniature furniture. Making Dolls’ House Furniture by Patricia King is full of hundreds of small miniatures and complete directions for making the pieces using things that are upcycled and probably just laying around your house. Making Doll’s House Miniatures with Polymer Clay shows how to shape clay into many pieces that would be great furnishings. Both of these would work for dioramas as well.

Another very popular ‘rag doll’ is the breed of ragdoll cat. The Encyclopedia of Cat Breeds by J. Anne Helgren tells an interesting story of how the breed was created and genetically altered in a secret government experiment. If you are looking for a pet cat, this would be a great reference book as it tells about each cat breeds’ activity levels, docility, health, compatibility and other pertinent information.

My mother used to dress her cat up in baby clothes and push it up and down the street in her little doll stroller! Whether you are playing with a doll or your cat, you can rest assured there have been generations of children, and some adults, doing this for centuries. The oldest doll discovered is from 4500 years ago. This rare discovery of pre-historic toys was made at the Itkol II burial ground in the Republic of Khakassia, southern Siberia.

Did You Know? Roller Skate Edition

Roller skates were invented in 1760 by John Joseph Merlin (a young Belgian) who put wheels on his shoes to impress people at a masquerade party? Ice skates had already been around for quite a while, so watching people glide along on the ice probably gave Melin the idea.

I found this information in the Worldbook Encyclopedia 2020 edition entry on roller skates. It also tells us that there are three kinds of roller skates: quad skates with 4 wheels, in-line skates with the 4 wheels in a line, and clamp-on skates which were the original type. Competitive roller skating is common in the areas of artistic skating, speed skating and roller hockey.

One type of speed skating is roller derby, which definitely has its own artistic flair! Rollergirls: the Story of Flat Track Derby by Felicia Graham, Melissa Joulwan and Dennis Darling is all about the making of a new roller derby league: The Texas Rollergirls. The story is told mostly in photographs, but it is plain to see their passion and determination.

Adding edges to ice skates was invented by the Dutch in the 13th or 14th century. Ice skates then cut into the ice instead of gliding on top of it. These ice skates were made of steel, with sharpened edges on the bottom to aid movement. The earliest ice skating happened in southern Finland more than 4,000 years ago. This was done to save time and energy during winter journeys.

The fundamental construction of modern ice skates has stayed largely the same since then, although differing greatly in the details: particularly in the method of binding and the shape and construction of the steel blades. In the Netherlands, ice skating was considered proper for all classes of people, as shown in many paintings from the time.

The book Ice Skating School by Naia Bray-Moffatt gives excellent directions and photographs of many of the basic skating techniques. A lot of the directions could be used for roller skating as well, especially if using rollerblades.

BUT – there is a fourth kind of skate! You can see these at an aquarium. They are members of the Chondrichthyan family which include more than 70 species of stingrays. The Stingray by Miriam J Gross has detailed information about these mysterious creatures.

Now, back to that masquerade party – – Imagine the surprise on people’s faces as our John Joseph Merlin rolled in and the spectacle that his outfit must have made! I imagine that was exactly what he wanted to happen.

Someone else that always set out to make a statement was Wladziu Valentino Liberace. The book Liberace Extravaganza by Connie Solomon and Jan Jewell shows you full color photographs of a lot of the costumes he wore, with close-up photos of the beaded work on them. Some of these suits were worth $24,000 or more.

We have a wide selection of books that will make it easy for you to plan your next costume for a masquerade ball or other fancy dress occasion. Start planning now and you can make a grand entrance as well!

Did You Know? (Owl and Snake Edition)

Eastern Screech Owls will keep blind snakes in their nests to ‘babysit’ while parents are away gathering food?

The owls in these nests with snakes seem to be healthier than owls from non-snake nests; it is believed this is because the snakes eat insects in the nest that may harm the babies. I found this information on page 88 of North American Owls by Paul A. Johnsgard. What a highly detailed book! It tells about the many different kinds of owls, their sizes, territories, nesting habits, where to find them and on and on.

There are two families of blind snakes: the Leptotyphlops with about 80 species that have teeth only on the lower jaw and have un-toothed maxillary bones fused solidly to their head, and the Typhlopidae with maxillary bones that are toothed and not fused to the skull with about 160 species. I doubt the owls care which of the families of snakes they have. Guide and Reference to the Snakes of Western North America by R. D. Bartlett and Patricia P. Bartlett has pictures of many of these blind snakes. They spend most of their time underground and look remarkably like worms.

This type of mutually beneficial interaction is called a symbiotic relationship. There are many types of these relationships. Mycorrhizal Planet by Michael Phillips tells how plants have photosynthate sugars to offer mycorrhizal fungi, which can’t access carbon. The fungi in turn assists the plant by facilitating the uptake of mineral nutrients and water.

Weird Friends: Unlikely Allies in the Animal Kingdom by Jose Aruego and Arianne Dewey is an excellent book for children explaining symbiosis and has many examples of different animals helping each other. Natural Attraction: a Field Guide to Friends, Frenemies, and Other Symbiotic Animal Relationships by Iris Gottlieb goes one step further and shows not only symbiosis, but parasitism and commensalism as well. This book has nice pictures of animal pairs along with explanations of who is gaining what in each relationship.

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear is not about a symbiotic relationship, but true love! They sail away together and get married on a tropical beach. It was originally published in 1871. It is truly an example of how love stories never go out of style. We have many other book series with pairs of animals. A few of them are The Elephant and Piggy books, Hondo and Fabian and Frog and Toad series. While symbiosis is a mutual benefit, friendship is probably the best benefit anyone can ever have!

Did You Know? (Cats Edition)

That cats cannot taste sweets?

This fact is on page 40 of Why Pandas Do Handstands and other Curious Truths about Animals by August Brown. Kids will love this book with so many fun animal facts. I guarantee that adults will also find out things they never knew.

While cats can’t taste sweets… they can taste catnip! Besides being used for cat toys, catnip was used by humans as a tea before tea from China became popular. It is also used to soothe headaches and calm upset stomachs, reduce fevers and scalp irritations. Smithsonian Handbooks: Herbs by Lesley Bremness tells about other uses for it as well.

A lot of people think that cats love a ‘saucer-full of milk’ when in fact, while they may like it, most cats are lactose intolerant and it causes diarrhea. Animal Planet: Senior Cats by Sheila Webster Bonham, Ph.D. advises that if your cat likes dairy, and it’s o.k. with your veterinarian, a small saucer of cream is a better infrequent treat since cream doesn’t contain as much lactose as milk. Dr. Bonham also talks about how cat teeth are designed to grasp prey and shear off chunks of meat. Also their digestive track processes meat efficiently and has trouble processing raw vegetables.

The Ultimate Pet Health Guide by Gary Richter, M.S., and D.V.M. is an excellent guide to the benefits and drawbacks of putting your cat or dog on a raw diet. It also has a whole chapter about glandular therapy, along with chapters about holistic and herbal medicines which humans have been using for centuries.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So, enjoy your sweets, but don’t share them with your pets – no matter how bad they think they want it. But do go ahead and wad that wrapper up and toss it for your kitty to attack!

Did You Know? (Cashew Edition)

That cashews grow on the bottom of a cashew apple, and are related to poison ivy?

Cashew nuts are actually the seeds of the ‘cashew apple’ – a Brazilian evergreen tree with bright orange fruit. I found this on page 405 of 1900 Ingredients by Christine Ingram. Cashews are never sold in the shell because they have to undergo extensive heating to remove them from their shells.

Wikipedia tells us that “the seed (drupe) is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the better-known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy.”

Fancy Nancy: Poison Ivy Expert by Jane O’Connor is a darling story about poor Nancy getting into poison ivy while picking flowers. Nancy’s neighbor gives her a cream made from jewelweed to help soothe her itch. Jewelweed has long been used for this as a natural cure.

The Quick Guide to Wild Edible Plants by Lytton John Musselman and Harold J. Wiggins has a chapter about identifying poison oak, ivy and sumac along with pictures so you DON’T end up eating or touching them! It also tells us that mangoes and pistachios are related to cashews.

Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins is a fun tale told to a man in the park (eating a peanut butter sandwich: chunky peanut butter, by the way) by a very old squirrel that can speak! He tells the stories of squirrels travelling on the buzz paths, and having great adventures. He states that ‘nuts to you’ is a classic squirrel greeting, meaning all manner of things, but mostly good luck.

As vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise, cooking with cashews and other nuts is getting more and more popular. VBQ the Ultimate Vegan Barbecue by Nadine Horn and Jorg Mayer has recipes using cashews for a pesto, sour cream and an aioli spread. This Cheese is Nuts by Julie Piatt has lots of cashew cheese choices. So, go nuts with these recipes, and “nuts to you!”

Did You Know? (Patchouli Edition)

In using essential oils, you should never diffuse patchouli oils (and some others) because they are too strong and can irritate your skin and/or mucous membranes?

I found this fact in Essential Oils Every Day by Hope Gillerman on page 85. There are also many essential oils that shouldn’t be used with or near children under 5 for the same reason. This is a very interesting book that gives good directions for the use of dozens of essential oils.

The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy lists 66 ways that patchouli can be used. Some people think it was only used by hippies in the past, but it has also been used as a pest repellent and for the conditions of paralysis, constipation, hepatitis and spina bifida. If I could only have one book about oils, this is the one I would pick. It includes step by step directions for distilling and preparing your own oils as well information about their many different uses.

Perfume by Lizzie Ostrom has information about almost every perfume ever made. Just looking at the names of the perfumes in this book brought to mind the people I’ve known who have worn them, as well as the ads that were in magazines and on television at the time. Avon was one of the first to market to young girls with their ‘pretty peach perfume’ in a bottle with a squeezy peach lid. Ms. Ostrom also tells us that patchouli leaves are exported to the West packed in with fine cashmere shawls to deter moths and also give Indian shawls their characteristic fragrance.

There can sometimes be many chemicals added to products with essential oils in the process of making perfumes, creams, and lotions. Also, when an item is labelled ‘fragrance free’ that usually means they haven’t added fragrance . . . BUT ‘fragrance free’ and ‘scent free’ are two entirely different things! Many people are very sensitive to the fragrances and scents of these items and care should be taken in using them.

Slow Death by Rubber Duck and Toxin Toxout both by Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith talk about all the chemicals in different products, whether added or naturally occurring. For example, on page 42 of Slow Death by Rubber Duck we are told that because of nonexistent labelling requirements in North America (except for some chemicals in California), phthalates are almost never listed as an ingredient in products that contain them. ‘Fragrance’ and ‘parfum are often code words indicating some phthalate content. Toxin Toxout gives tips and advice for getting rid of the toxins already acquired by the body.

The way things smell can be very different from person to person but imagine if your olfactory senses were as sensitive as a dog. Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior and Happiness by Gary Weitzman DVM, MPH, and CAWA tells us that dogs ‘see’ the world with scents. This is especially evident during tracking events for dogs. During a trial, dogs are on a leash as they follow a pre-laid scent trail across a field in different environments. Dogs’ sensitive sniffers are also used to smell diseases and illnesses such as cancers, as well as bombs, drugs, mealy bugs and toxic products to name just a few. Read Being a Dog: Following the Dog into a World of Smell by Alexandra Horowitz to find out more about all the amazing things their noses can do!

Did You Know? (Wagon Edition)

The ‘little red wagon’ was invented in 1917?

I found this information in the book Radio Flyer by Robert Pasin. New to America in 1914, Anthony Pasin studied English and worked many jobs. His struggle reminded me of this quote:

Before I came to America, I thought the streets were paved with gold. When I came here, I learned three things: The streets were not paved in gold, the streets weren’t paved at all, and I was expected to pave them.

attributed to an anonymous emigrant, Immigration Museum at Ellis Island

Anthony worked hard and in 1917 made his first wagon from wood to haul his tools to his job. Soon, he had orders from neighbors and friends. Inevitably he was not able to keep up with the demand. Soon he began pressing them out of steel, and eventually was making scooters, tricycles and wheelbarrows as well. There were more little red wagons built than station wagons!

Yesterday’s station wagons were like the minivans of today. Everyone had one. They were just the ticket for a family road trip vacation. You load up the car, kids and a cooler full of sandwiches and Viola! Perfect family vacation!

But there are always exceptions as Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Long Haul by Jeff Kinney shows us.

Catalog summary: Their journey starts off full of promise, then quickly takes several wrong turns. Gas station bathrooms, crazed seagulls, a fender bender, and a runaway pig—not exactly Greg Heffley’s idea of a good time. But even the worst road trip can turn into an adventure—and this is one the Heffleys won’t soon forget.

Another good story about a road trip is American Road Trip by Patrick Flores-Scott.

Catalog summary: With a strong family, the best friend a guy could ask for, and a budding romance with the girl of his dreams, life shows promise for Teodoro “T” Avila. But he takes some hard hits the summer before senior year when his nearly perfect brother, Manny, returns from a tour in Iraq with a devastating case of PTSD. In a desperate effort to save Manny from himself and pull their family back together, T’s fiery sister, Xochitl, hoodwinks her brothers into a cathartic road trip. Told through T’s honest voice, this is a candid exploration of mental illness, socioeconomic pressures, and the many inescapable highs and lows that come with growing up—including falling in love.

The inspiration behind Anthony’s small wagons created to pull tools were the wagons that crossed the prairies. Wagon trains began making their way west in the 1820’s. Obviously the wagons were much bigger than the little red ones, but this was where his vision began.

Woman on the American Frontier by William Worthington Fowler talks about the early days of pioneers and wagon trains. It was certainly an exciting time in history. You could also read Custer’s Trials: a Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles. This book gives us an inside look at the time period and the things that happened in the new ‘wild west.’

No matter what you read, I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I hope it brought back memories of your own escapades with your, or the neighbor kid’s, little red wagon, as well as your own family vacation road trip horror stories.