Learning after the school bell rings

With school out for the summer, you might want a few activities to keep your little ones learning while having fun over the vacation break.

SCAREDY SQUIRREL AT THE BEACH, by Mélanie Watt, Kids Can Press, $15.95; ages 4-8.

Before you read this book, Scaredy Squirrel wants you to put on No. 65 sunscreen so you are ready for the beach. If you have read previous Scaredy Squirrel books you know he’d rather stay at home. Since he doesn’t like crowds, he decides to build his own beach, but it doesn’t sound like a real one. A trip to a real beach to get a seashell must be the solution. Even if it is crowded he realizes that a day at the beach can be fun.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK! THE BIG APPLE FROM A TO Z, by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Frane Lessac, HarperCollins Publishers, $16.99; ages 6-11.

For each letter of the alphabet there is a place to visit in and around the city of New York. All the usual landmarks are included, such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and several museums. Included on each page are the vital statistics—the Statue of Liberty is 151-feet, 1-inch tall and her nose is 4-feet, 6-inches long from top to tip. Even if you aren’t planning a visit to New York soon, it is fun to read all the information about the city. As an extra attraction, how about putting your own book together on the city of Chicago? Could you gather information about 26 different locations from A to Z?

GARDENING WITH KIDS, by Catherine Woram& Martyn Cox, photography by Polly Wreford, Ryland Peters& Small, $19.95; ages 10 and under.

All kids love to play in the mud, and with a little guidance it can be fun as well as productive. You can garden in whatever space you have available, from just a few sprouts grown in egg shells to a large vegetable garden. The book is devoted to planning, equipping and caring for your garden There are suggestions for fast-growing plants, plants for pots, nature gardens and scratch and sniff. Many craft ideas are included not only for what has been grown but also what can be found on a walk in the woods.

NIFTY PLATES FROM THE FIFTY STATES, by Paul Beatrice, Applesauce Press, $12.95; ages 8 and up.

Its always a good idea to have something to take along in the car for the kids to do when traveling. Did you know that the first license plate was issued in 1893 but it wasn’t until 1903 that both Massachusetts and West Virginia required all motor vehicles to display them? Kids can learn that and more by reading the information in this neat kit. Miniature (6¾ by 4½) license plates of each of the 50 states are included with information about the state on the back. A tablet of pages listing all the states and pencils are included for riders to mark them off as each state plate is spotted. How many different license plates will you find before the end of summer?

LAUGH-A-LONG READERS, by Diane Namm, illustrated by Wayne Becker, Sterling, $3.95 (paperback); ages 4-8.

What’s a bunny’s favorite music? Hip-Hop! This series of six books will keep children guessing answers for quite a few miles while traveling in the car. Individual titles include Gags and Giggles, Laugh Out Loud, Jumpin’ Jungle, Funny Bunny, Slithery Squirmy and School Time. Each book contains 30 illustrated riddles. Everyone in the car can take part in guessing the answers, which might just keep the kids from asking,"Are we there yet?”

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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