Books full of things to do on fall weekends

CELEBRATE THE USA: HANDS-ON HISTORY ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS, by Lynn Kuntz, illustrated by Mark Hicks, Gibbs Smith, $7.95; ages 9 and up.

Labor Day unofficially ushers out summer. This is one of the holidays we celebrate that contributes to our history knowledge. Read about how the American flag was created and then bake a cake decorated in red, white and blue. What famous American’s face appears on our money? These are just two of the suggested activities to help children understand about our American heritage through its songs, symbols and holidays.

ABC IN CHICAGO, by Robin Segal, Murray Hill Books, $12.95; ages 3-6.

When you think of Chicago, what pictures come into your mind? For starters, how about the clock outside Fields (now Macy’s) on State Street, Navy Pier, Sears Tower, Lake Michigan and Wrigley Field. After looking through this book, I think it would be fun for you to start your own ABC book with pictures of visits to any of the many interesting sites around Chicago or even throughout the state of Illinois.

101 THINGS YOU GOTTA DO BEFORE YOU’RE 12!, by Joanne O’Sullivan, Lark Books, $12.95; ages 6 and up.

101 is a lot of anything to do. It could take a few years to complete. As you go through this book you get ideas for vacation plans for next year. There are stickers in the back for you to mark the pages by the importance you place on the activities. I picked out a few that will be fun to do on fall weekends.

#11 Walk a swinging bridge. Did you know there is a swinging bridge in Riverside over the Des Plaines River just east of the library? Stop there on your way to or from Brookfield Zoo.

#14 Catch a train. Why not take a train ride downtown or visit one of the nearby train museums in either South Elgin or Union.

#26 Go on a ghost tour. Several are available in Chicago, especially in the cemeteries. Visit

#30 PYO (Pick Your Own). Fall is a good time for apple picking.

#31 See the view from the top. Have you been to the top of the Sears Tower?

#76 Interview an elder. Take time to ask grandparents what it was like when they were your age. You probably won’t believe how they could get along without computers or video games.

#86 Make your own. Ask an adult to teach you how to knit or crochet so you can make a scarf for the coming cold months.

If this doesn’t keep you busy enough, check out the other book 101 Places you Gotta See Before You’re 12.

CHICAGO HISTORY FOR KIDS: TRIUMPHS AND TRAGEDIES OF THE WINDY CITY, by Owen Hurd, Chicago Review Press, $14.95; ages 9 and up.

Parents will enjoy the information in this book right along with their children. A time line runs throughout. One of the biggest challenges for Chicago was how to rebuild after the great fire of 1871. It did create an opportunity to start over and build modern structures out of materials other than wood. Just 22 years after the fire in 1893, Chicago hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition. Quite an accomplishment in that amount of time. In 1900, a young Chicago newspaper reporter, L. Frank Baum, had his book published, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. If you are a sports fan, you will enjoy the history of Chicago teams. In the late 1800s the White Stockings were a very accomplished baseball team. In 1900 Charles Comiskey brought his minor league team from Minnesota and used the name of White Stockings but shortened to White Sox in 1901. In 1902, under new leadership, the National League team became known at the Cubs. The book includes ideas for walking trips and places to visit in Chicago. One thing those of us who live here take for granted is the Chicago hot dog. In case you don’t know how to make this creation exactly right, the instructions are included, and remember, for a Chicago-style hot dog, hold the ketchup.

Judy Belanger is Chicago Parent’s children’s book reviewer and a retired elementary learning resource center teacher with four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6.

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