by Vicki Palmquist
By this point in the summer when I was young, the charm of being out of school had worn off, I’d played every game on my grandma’s shelves, and I’d had a few fights with my friends in the neighborhood, so I’d retreated to reading as many books as I could, consuming stories like Ms. Pacman swallowing energy pellets.
When your kids claim that there’s nothing to do, here are a few suggestions for books that inspire doing things, thinking about things, and investigating more.
As I was growing up, I believed that I didn’t like science or math. Turns out it was textbooks and worksheets and tests I didn’t much care for. Give me a paragraph like these two:
“One very big number was named by nine-year-old Milton Sirotta in 1938.
“Milton’s mathematician uncle, Edward Kasner, asked his nephew what he would call the number one followed by a hundred zeroes. Milton decided it was a googol.”
And the number naming doesn’t stop there. This tidbit is part of a chapter called “What is the last number in the universe”” found in How Come? Every Kid’s Science Questions Explained (Workman, 2014), written by Kathy Wollard and illustrated by Debra Solomon with wonderfully comic and lively depictions of the concepts in the text.
Other chapters address must-know topics such as “How does a finger on a straw keep liquid in?” and “Are ants really stronger than humans?” and “Why do the leaves change color in the fall?”
I probably don’t need to point out that kids aren’t the only ones who will find this book fascinating. Read a few chapters to yourself at night and you’ll be able to answer those endlessly curious children who pull on your sleeve.
For the visually curious, and I believe that means Every Child, you’ll be inspired by Photoplay! Doodle. Design. Draw. by M.J. Bronstein (Chronicle, 2014).
Ms. Bronstein provides examples and workspace for kids to draw on existing photos (printed in the book), telling a story with those drawings or even writing a story. The book can be used in quite a few different ways … and then you can take your own photos and print them out for kids to continue having fun and using their imaginations.
A book that takes some investigation and one that looks like a book for very young children is actually a sophisticated guessing game. The humans and critters line up on Olivier Tallec’s game pages in Who Done It? (Chronicle, forthcoming in 2015).
A simple question such as “Who played with that mean cat?” requires looking into. Can you spot the most likely suspect?
For kids who are learning about facial expressions, body language, and taking one’s time to reason through a puzzle, this is an ideal book that will engender good discussions or occupy a few of those “there’s nothing to doooooo” hours of summer.