February may be the shortest month on the calendar but it’s long on holidays.
I happen to like Feb. 2, Groundhog Day, even if I do add another year on that date. The birthdays of former presidents Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and George Washington (Feb. 22) used to be separate school holidays but now are combined on the third Monday in February as President’s Day.
Kindergartners have fun celebrating the 100th day of school as they learn about numbers. And we all enjoy sending greetings to those who are special to us on St. Valentines Day (Feb.14).
Most years we have the Chinese New Year to celebrate in February (though this year it fell on Jan. 29), and every four years we get an extra day on Feb. 29 (which rolls around again in 2008). February is also Black History Month, commemorating African American history and culture. And while we’re talking about celebrations, March 2, Dr. Suess’ would-be 102nd birthday, is just around the corner.
Here are some books to help your kids get in the spirit of celebration.
HURRAY FOR TODAY! ALL ABOUT HOLIDAYS, by Bonnie Worth, illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu, Random House, $8.99; ages 4-8.
The Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two invite you to learn about different holidays throughout the year. The background information in this book will help make the traditions surrounding Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays and other holidays more meaningful and enjoyable.
GROUNDHOG GETS A SAY, as told to Pamela Curtis Swallow, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, Putnam, $15.99; ages 4-8.
In this book, Mr. Groundhog literally moves to center stage on Feb. 2. Everyone waits with anticipation for his famous weather prediction. But Mr. Groundhog isn’t happy. He complains to Squirrel, Crow and the Groundhog reporter the next day that nobody cares about him after his big day. He thinks his holiday should last longer. While this book doesn’t explain the weather phenomenon that Groundhog Day is based on, it does provide many facts about the animal. Squirrel is surprised to find out he is related to Groundhog—both are in the rodent family. Groundhog gives a good explanation of how he gets ready to hibernate for the winter and gets skinny while he sleeps. Don’t forget to check if he sees his shadow this year.
HENRY’S 100 DAYS OF KINDERGARTEN, by Nancy Carlson, Viking, $15.99; ages 4-8.
Like human children, the animals in Ms. Bradley’s kindergarten class are gathering 100 items to bring in on the 100th day of school. Most of the animals bring in paperclips, marshmallows and other things to share. But not Henry. He brings in his 100-year-old Great Grandma Millie. Along the way, the animals learn that 100—a number they once thought was huge—really isn’t so big, especially when you’re dividing 100 jelly beans among 20 classmates.
BLAST TO THE PAST No. 1: LINCOLN’S LEGACY, by Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon, illustrated by David Wenzel, Aladdin, $3.99; ages 7-10.
Every Monday morning Mr. Caruthers begins his third grade class with a "what if" question. One particular Monday he asks, "What if Abraham Lincoln quit and never issued the Emancipation Proclamation?" Before the students can respond, they must learn about the proclamation and a lively discussion follows. Mr. C asks four students to meet him after school and he shows them a computer program he developed for time travel. The students travel back to 1862 to visit President Lincoln in Washington, D.C. just before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Time travel books are very popular and can be a great way to teach children about history. The next book in the series is "Disney’s Dream." Mr. Caruthers asks, "What if Walt Disney had never made Steamboat Willie?"
DR. SEUSS POPS UP!: A CELEBRATION OF SEVEN SEUSS CLASSICS, by Dr. Seuss, Random House, $24.95; ages 4-8.
The seven classics celebrated in this book are "The Cat in the Hat," "Green Eggs and Ham," ‘Fox in Socks," "The Sneetches," "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut," "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" and "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back." Each two-page spread features pop-up images and an excerpt from one of the stories. Some pages include pull tabs—one raises the cat’s hat and reveals Little Cat A. Children can even find Mr. Gump riding a seven hump wump in fold-out pages. While most kids will be familiar with these classic stories, the pop-up book may inspire them to revisit the originals.
THE NIGHT BEFORE THE 100TH DAY OF SCHOOL, by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Mindy Pierce, Grosset & Dunlap, $3.99; ages 4-8.
’Twas the night before the 100th day of school, an important day for many elementary schools, and one little boy doesn’t know what 100 items he will bring to school for the celebration. He calls fellow classmates to find out what they are bringing. One kid says he will bring his car collection and a girl says she has a jar of jelly beans. The little boy starts checking his belongings only to find that he doesn’t have a collection of anything large enough for the special day. Then he discovers his ant farm which contains 100 ants, just perfect. Ask your children to predict what will happen when he gets to school with the ant farm.
Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.