Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the eight-day “Festival of Lights” that commemorates the success of the Maccabees when they fought the Seleucids 2100 years ago. When the Maccabees knew they were victorious, they realized they had enough oil to light the menorah for only one night. However, the oil lasted for eight nights. Jews eat latkes, play games with dreidels, and light candles on the menorah every night. Tonight the shamash (the middle candle) and one more candle will be lit. Hanukkah will end the night of December 30. Children could read Alexandra’s Scroll: The Story of the First Hanukkah, written by Miriam Chaikin. Children could also visit a great website, loaded with activities, at: http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/hanukkah_for_kids.htm.
Christmas is three days away! Children enjoy being crafty and being outside. Let’s combine those two interests. Children could make simple centerpieces from bits of pine branches, holly, and holly berries. They can add pinecones, twigs, ribbon, tissue paper flowers, and other goodies. Children could find some great holiday puzzles at: http://www.puzzles.ca/wordsearch.html. Finally, a great book they could read is Christmas Is… by Gail Gibbons.
Lincoln Tunnel opened in 1937. It connects New Jersey with Manhattan and goes under the Hudson River. The tunnel is 1.5 miles long, and over 100,000 cars use it every day. Its original name was the Midtown Vehicular Tunnel, but officials named it after Abraham Lincoln.
Coelacanth, a species of fish scientists thought had been extinct for 65 million years, was found off the shores of Africa in 1938. Children could learn more by reading Fossil Fish Found Alive: Discovering the Coelacanth by Sally M. Walker. They could also learn more at: Coelacanth.
Colo was the first gorilla born in captivity in 1956 at the Columbus, Ohio, Zoo. At birth she weighed a little more than three pounds. She had three children, sixteen grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. She was the oldest gorilla in captivity until she died on January 17, 2017. Children could read Colo’s Story: the Life of One Grand Gorilla, by Nancy Roe Pimm. Children can view a terrific video about her at: Colo.
William Ellery (born Newport, Rhode Island, 1727; died Newport, Rhode Island, February 15, 1820) signed the Declaration of Independence, representing Rhode Island. He wanted to be a lawyer, but he had 16 children to support. Therefore, for many years he was a merchant. Finally he became wealthy enough to study law and then become a lawyer. During the Revolutionary War, the British destroyed Ellery’s home and most of Newport. After the war, he served in Congress and tried to abolish slavery.
Claudia Alta Taylor (Lady Bird) Johnson (born Karnack, Texas, 1912; died Austin, Texas, July 11, 2007) was the wife of Lyndon Baines Johnson, thirty-sixth president of the United States. She helped establish the Head Start program for preschool children, and she advocated for the environment. Children can visit a website at: Lady Bird Johnson. Mrs. Johnson wanted to eliminate many of the billboards along the highways. She felt the billboards detracted from nature’s beauty. Children could decide whether the billboards are unsightly or whether they help consumers make decisions.
James Edward Oglethorpe (born London, England, 1696; died Cranham Hall, Essex, England, June 30, 1785) was one of the leading organizers of the Georgia colony. In England at that time debtors were imprisoned. His goal was to bring the debtors to Georgia and give them a fresh start. Colonists were able to obtain farms of 50 acres. He encouraged the farmers to seek indentured servants from England, thus giving more poor people a chance of a decent life. Because Georgia was situated between British South Carolina and Spanish Florida, the colony became quite important.
Jerry Pinkney (born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1939) has written and/or illustrated at least 200 books for children. He has won an amazing amount of awards, including five Caldecott Honor Awards, five Coretta Scott King Awards, a Sydney Taylor Honor Award, and hosts of other medals and distinctions. He received the Caldecott Medal in 2010 for The Lion and the Mouse. Children could visit his website at: Jerry Pinkney and then have a Jerry Pinkney morning to read several of his works.
Giacomo Puccini (born Lucca, Italy, 1858; died Brussels, Belgium, November 29, 1924) was an opera composer. Two of his most famous operas are Tosca, written in 1900, and Madame Butterfly, completed in 1904.
William O. Steele (born Franklin, Tennessee, 1917; died 1979) wrote 39 children’s books. His The Perilous Road received both the Jane Addams Award and a Newbery Honor Award in 1959.