Did You Know? (Wright Brother’s Edition)

A Boeing 747 wingspan is longer than the first flight by the Wright Brothers?

On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brother’s first flight was 120 feet and lasted 12 seconds. Their next flight later that afternoon was 825 ft. Who Were the Wright Brothers by James Buckley Jr. tells about the brothers growing up, and their journey to become airborne.

Super Structures of the World: Boeing 747 by the Gale Group gives us all the statistics about 747s. The wingspan is 211 feet. When full of fuel the wingspan extends to 213 feet and the plane can weigh up to 875,000 pounds. Their other book Super Structures of the World: The World’s Largest Buildings shows us the inside of the Everett Washington Boeing plant where the 747s and other planes are built. You could fit all of Disneyland (and have 14 acres left over!) or 75 football fields in this massive building!

David McCullough wrote The Wright Brothers. It includes excerpts from their personal diaries and tells us how instrumental their sister Katharine was in helping them. In 1878, their father, Bishop Milton Wright brought home a toy from France invented by Alphonse Pénaud for the boys that was little more than 2 propellers on a stick with a rubber band. They called it the bat and it forever changed history; inspiring the boys to dream of flight.

In 1889 Orville opened a printing shop, and when it closed they opened a bicycle shop in 1893. Within a few years, they had moved to a larger location and put in a machine shop and started making their own bicycles. They then moved on to gliders while still running the bicycle store with their sister Katharine and working on their plans for a plane.

In 1969 US Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to land on the moon in the Apollo 11. To honor the pioneers of flight, they carried small pieces of the Wright brothers’ airplanes with them in the space capsule. The Wright Flyer, the original plane the Wright brothers flew is on display in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. As well as hundreds of the Apollo 11 artifacts.

Anyway, this should give you something to think about the next time you fly! It all started with rubber bands and propellers!

Did You Know? (Pencil Edition)

That the average lead pencil can draw a line 35 miles long?

I found this on page 22 of Random Illustrated Facts by Mike Lowery.

Stationery Fever: from Paper Clips to Pencils and Everything in Between by John Z. Komurki is a well-researched and thorough book about all of our beloved office supplies. I adored the pictures of orderly rows of glass jars of pencils. I doubt there is anyone who doesn’t have a pen or pencil type they prefer or perhaps loves their stapler as much as Milton Waddams from the movie Office Space does!

I’m not sure how far colored or charcoal pencils write, but they are used to create beautiful artwork. The Encyclopedia of Coloured Pencil Techniques by Judy Martin and 101 Textures in Graphite and Charcoal by Steven Pearce are just a few of the many art books we have here at the library.

Who knew that sharpening those pencils could be such an endeavor? How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees explains – in exact detail – what a precise undertaking this can be. From the width of the collar to the length of the point right down to the tip, personal preference determines whether you use a pocket knife, a blade cutter or a hand crank or electric model to sharpen your pencil. His book is a little tongue in cheek, but great fun to read. As the illustrations show, be sure to wear safety goggles while using special pencil sharpening techniques!

Pencils today are almost always made from graphite and clay, not lead. Graphite is a gray crystalline allotropic form of carbon which occurs as a mineral in some rocks and can be made from coke. It is used as a solid lubricant, in pencils, and as a moderator in nuclear reactors. The Elements by Tom Jackson breaks the periodic table down and tells how carbon (graphite) is an element and therefore cannot be broken down any further into simpler substances.

Pencils can be extraordinary. The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun is such an inspiring story! Adam took a 100 day trip to 50 countries. He decided to ask one child per country what they wanted more than anything in the world. In India a boy wanted a pencil. He’d never been to school and had seen other children writing with them. This began his calling and he has now helped start more than 200 schools all over the world.

So what are you waiting for? Get out your pencil and start writing or drawing. Just make sure you have it perfectly sharpened!

Did you know? (Worm Edition)

That there is a giant earthworm in Australia that grows to over 10 feet long? I found this on page 11 of the book Worms by Theresa Greenaway.

Backyard earthworms eat by dragging vegetation into the ground and processing it in their burrows. Lowdown on Earthworms by Norma Dixon shows how you can make a wormery and study the way worms move sand throughout the garden.

Have you ever been heartbroken? Imagine if you were a worm. They have five pairs of hearts to pump their blood! Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley would be at full capacity with broken-hearted worms if they got sad like humans do. You can check out Elvis singing it on CD or the Hal Leonard Elvis Presley Guitar Chord Songbook for all the lyrics and chords.

A worm that is 10 feet long could easily be mistaken for a snake. Stalking the Plumed Serpent and Other Adventures in Herpetology by D. Bruce Means describes the authors adventures all over the world studying reptiles but also the Ouachita earthworm. They are largely misunderstood and all the while are working hard to aerate the soil and put necessary nutrients back into the earth.

How would you like to cook with worms? No? Ok….. How about gummy worms? Wormy Apple Croissants and Other Halloween Recipes by Brekka Hervey Larrew features the title dish and it looks delicious!

Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot vs. The Naughty Night Crawlers from Neptune by Dav Pilkey tells how Neptune night crawlers try to invade the earth through a wormhole from under Ricky’s back yard. Learn how Ricky defeats them in this 8th Ricky Ricotta adventure.

Probably one of the most well-known ‘worm items’ is a wormhole, which has absolutely nothing to do with worms. I don’t know why they call it that, but The Physics Book by Clifford A Pickover describes how wormholes could possibly work as time machines. For more information check out the DVD Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. It may just make the whole ‘hole’ thing easier to understand!

I must admit, my favorite worm is a book-worm. I have been accused of being one since I was little, and have no regrets. I have no idea where that phrase originated, but there are plenty of us out there. Now, you go be a bookworm to and read more about worms!

Did You Know? (Jack-o-Lantern Edition)

The original jack-o-lanterns were turnips?

I found this information on page 31 in the book Death Makes a Holiday by David Skal. Skal explains how ‘Jack’ was a trickster who offended both God and the Devil and was not allowed into Heaven or Hell upon his death. The Devil grudgingly tossed him a piece of coal. Jack then put it into a carved turnip to light his nightly walk on earth awaiting judgment day, hence, he was Jack-o-the-lantern.

The children’s book The Story of Halloween by Carol Greene tells the story of Jack-o-the-lantern as well and explains how colonial Americans used pumpkins to carve instead of turnips, because they were more plentiful and easier to carve.

Halloween began as Samhain which means ‘summer’s end.’ The Celts celebrated Samhain by putting out their fires and taking embers from a huge bonfire the Druids would make, believing the new fires would protect them during the coming year.

While this is different from the way we celebrate now, our celebration traditions are steeped in history. Bobbing for apples honors Ponoma, the goddess of fruits and was a way to thank her and encourage a good crop for the coming year. Costumes were worn to hide the faces of children playing pranks and children begging for soul-cakes door to door were the beginnings of trick-or-treating.

Trick-or-treaters still go out every year looking for their share of goodies. Sweet by Claudia Davila tells about the history of candy. You will probably find that your favorite treat is older than you are!

Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Etsby Dagg tells the story of a little girl named Terpsichore whose family moved to Alaska during the great depression. She sets out to win a contest for growing the largest pumpkin. Her pumpkin turns out to weigh 293 pounds! Wouldn’t that be something to carve!

Extreme Pumpkin Carving by Vic Hood and Jack A Williams gives this endearing art form a whole new twist. Even if you don’t care for their designs, you will definitely want to try some of their techniques.

Finally, Jan Brett wrote a wonderful little story called The Turnip. Badger Girl finds a turnip that is so big no one can pull it up. All the animals in this story have their own recipes they want to make with the turnip. In the end, they all share it. If I was going to carve a turnip, this is the one I would choose!

Did you Know? (Crocodilian Edition)

That the jaws of most crocodiles and alligators can be held closed with a rubber band?

Their jaws close with tremendous force and sink into prey with tons of pressure (alligator = 2,980 psi [pounds per square inch] –Crocodile = 5,000 psi), but the muscles that open the jaws are weak. I found this information on page 14 of the book Incredible Crocodiles by Barbara Taylor. I also discovered that we mostly only have alligators in the United States, because they are the only crocodilians that can survive cooler temperatures and live outside of the tropics. But, as with everything else, there are always exceptions. The American Crocodile lives in zoos and the wild in southern Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The book Alligator and Crocodile Rescue by Trish Snyder talks about the differences between crocodilians. One of the most visible differences are their snouts: crocodiles have a pointy snout and an alligator has a rounded one. If one of them starts swimming after me, however, its snout is the least of my concerns! In this important book we find out what is being done to protect crocodilians and their habitats.

A billabong is one place you might see a crocodile. A billabong is an Australian term for an oxbow lake, an isolated pond left behind after a river changes course. Billabongs are usually formed when the path of a creek or river changes, leaving the former branch with a dead-end…. And I thought a billabong was only a brand of surfer clothes!

‘See you later alligator, (after ‘while crocodile)’ was written by Louisiana songwriter Robert Charles Guidry and first recorded by him under his professional name “Bobby Charles” in 1955. Star Rocks for Kids has a cute version to listen to, and we have the book The 1950’s that has the lyrics printed out.

The rubber band was invented on March 17, 1845 by Stephen Perry. He initially sold them to newspapers that put them on before delivery and then they really caught on. I’ll bet they never thought a rubber band could be used on a crocodile! Now, we use rubber bands all the time and never think much about them. But Lance Akiyama does. He wrote Rubber Band Engineer which has plans for a catapult, a crossbow and many other contraptions.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what kind of contraption you build, I highly recommended that you DO NOT try it on a crocodilian.

Did you Know? (Cockroach Edition)

That 300 million year old fossilized cockroaches have been found?

This means they were on earth 100 million years before the dinosaurs! I found this information in the book 501 ½ Horrible Facts.

This information is also in the book Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity by Stephen Marshall. It is hard not to admire a creature that has that kind of tenacity! Cockroaches are in the order of Blattodea.

“La Cucaracha” is a Mexican song that almost everyone knows. It is a cute song about a little cockroach that is missing a leg, but she only wants to dance. Check out World Sing-along by Putamayo Kids to listen to a fun version of it.

Night of the Living Dead is a zombie movie, but a cockroach can live for a week without its head before if finally dies of thirst. Nature’s Minibeasts: Cockroaches by Clint Twist has a whole page of cockroach facts. I think I would still rather encounter headless cockroaches than zombies!

100 million years ago was during the Cretaceous period. Asteroid Impact by Doug Henderson tells how during that period an asteroid impacted the earth and caused the dinosaurs to become extinct. It tells us that many living things were able to survive and the cockroaches, being hearty little critters, were among them.

Did You Know? (Thorn Edition)

Roses have prickles and not thorns?

A thorn is a sharp modified stem that grows out of the woody stems of many kinds of trees and shrubs such as honey locust and hawthorn with a short growth period that ends with a formation of a sharp, hardened tip. Prickles, which grow on roses, are simple outgrowths of the surface of the stem and spines are the thorn-like structures that are actually modified leaves on plants such as cactus, black locust and barberry. I found this in Volume 19, for the letter T, of the 2017 World Book Encyclopedia.

Ortho’s All about Roses will tell you about the planting, pruning, feeding and selection of the best roses for your gardening needs. It also has plenty of informative pictures of proper pruning as well as information about possible insect damage and control.

Encyclopedia of Roses by Charles & Brigid Quest-Ritson is just that, over 2000 beautiful pictures of different roses including information on hardiness zones, sizes and scents. The Rose: A True History by Jennifer Potter, a horticultural historian, gives us the history of the ‘Queen of Flowers’ from all over the world. You will know more about roses than you ever thought possible!

Whether it has prickles, thorns or spines, many plants make great decorations. Beautiful Winter by Edle Catharina Norman and Branches and Blooms by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo both have some beautiful ideas for wreaths, garlands and table decorations using all sorts of branches, flowers and natural materials.

Thorns, prickles, and spines are confusing enough, but let us add spikes to the mix! Dracaena, or spike plant, was traditionally considered a houseplant for years. However, it is finding favor in annual container gardens where the spiky upright leaves provide height and textural contrast to bushy and cascading annual flowers.

A prickle also describes an experience of a tingling sensation, especially as a result of strong emotion or to have a creeping sensation. Oh! I think just reading that gave me a prickle up my spine! Mr. Prickles: a Quill fated Love Story by Kara LaReau is a story about a porcupine with no friends because he is prickly, until he meets Miss Pointypants. There really is someone for everyone!