The Problem with Chickens

by Bruce McMillan
illustrated by Gunnella

There's nothing quite like exercising chickens to draw us into a story, and that's only the beginning of the appeal of The Problem With Chickens! The fine feathered fowl in this delightful book have personality plus. When the ladies make a simple plan to get more eggs, these precocious chickens give the ladies more than they bargained for.

Not only do the illustrations induce giggles galore, but they also depict the traditional culture of the book's Icelandic setting.  Enjoy a trip to the Icelandic countryside and discover how these imaginative ladies solve The Problem With Chickens!

In this Issue

Continue reading "The Problem with Chickens" »

One Cool Friend Book Play

These activities were inspired by One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo. To learn more about the book and to see all our One Cool Friend activities, click here

Learn About Galapagos Tortises

Elliot's father had a galapagos tortoise named Captain Cook when growing up. Learn all about Captain Cook's relatives with the National Geographic Creature Feature about Galapagos tortises. It features video, photos, facts and sounds.

Where in the World are...?

Pull out an atlas or globe and help young readers find the two places featured on the last page of the book. We could be more specific, but it would ruin the surprise ending!

Moonlight: The Halloween Cat

By Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Moonlight: The Halloween Cat is a warm and cozy Halloween book that tells the story of a gentle black cat on her favorite night of the year. Smiling pumpkins, trick-or-treaters and shining stars are just a few of sights Moonlight sees as she explores the dark night before making her way inside her own front door.

Artist Melissa Sweet illustrated the book with luminous paintings that seem to glow and come to life as each page is turned. The text is eloquent and lyrical, mimicking the softly padding movements of Moonlight as she makes her way from one favorite spot to the next.

Told in a way that is gentle, yet conveying the excitement of the holiday, Moonlight The Halloween Cat is a perfect book for Halloween readers of every age.

In this Issue

  • Moonlight the Halloween Cat Pipe Cleaner Art
  • Black as Moonlight Chocolate Pudding
  • Continue reading "Moonlight: The Halloween Cat" »

    F is for Figs

    This is a part of our month-long Eating the Alphabet ProjectClick here to learn more about the book and project, and to see a list of all the recipes and activities.


    Inspired by the chewy, golden crust and figgy filling, we transformed the classic Fig Newton into Fig Bars. They have the ease of a mix-and-pour batter and the benefits of a whole wheat crust studded with chopped figs and nuts. We used walnuts, but any type of nut can be used. 

    Did You Know? Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The seeds are drupes or the real fruit. From the California Fig Board

    Fig Nut-on Bars 

    Adapted from Fig Nut Squares.


    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 cup walnuts
    • 1 1/2 cups dried figs (about 7 ounces)
    1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. 
    2. In a bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Add sugar and vanilla and whisk to combine.

      Fig Bars

    3. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to eggs and stir until just combined. 

      Fig Bars

    4. Chop nuts and figs and stir into the egg mixture.

      Fig Bars

      Fig Bars

    5. Pour batter into prepared pan, and spread evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes. 

      Fig Bars

    6. Allow to cool in pan 5-10 minutes, then remove from pan and place on cooling rack. Slice into squares and serve!

    Fig Field Trip

    We learned all about dates and now it’s time to learn about growing figs.

    At K&W Farms, located in California, they grow grapes, lemons, tangerines, tangelos and figs. You can visit their site to see pictures of how they grow figs


    Make Way for Ducklings Book Play

    Not ready to put Make Way for Ducklings back on the shelf? See our full Make Way for Ducklings post with recipe, art activity, and more!


    Book Play

    Waddle! Waddle!

    For book play this week, ask your reader to imagine that they are one of the Mallard ducklings and waddle in a straight line. Join in the fun and waddle too, maybe having your little duckling follow you just as the ducklings followed faithfully behind Mrs. Mallard. 

    Make a Duck Nest

    Mr. and Mrs. Mallard build a nest in a cozy spot on an island in the Charles River. If you are really in the spirit, gather mud, grass, leaves, small twigs and pine needles and let your reader try creating a small nest.


    Where in the World is Boston?

    Get out your globe or map of the United States and show your young reader how to find Boston, Massachusetts, where the Mallard family makes their home.  Identify where you live as well and where Boston is in relation to your home.


    Boston Public Garden

    If you are lucky enough to live in or near Boston, or will be traveling there soon, take advantage of the opportunity to see where the Mallard family lived.

    The beautiful Boston Public Gardens has many kid-friendly attractions, including the swan boats featured in the book, and a the Boston Common Frog Pond. During the Duckling Day Parade, held on Mother's Day, "children and their families will retrace the steps of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their family of eight ducklings."

    Since 1987 there has been a statue of Mrs. Mallard leading her ducklings in the Boston Public Garden, created by artist Nancy Schön,

    A similar sculpture by the same artist can be seen in Moscow. It was a gift from Mrs. Barbara Bush to Mrs. Gorbachev as a part of the START treaty. 


    Learn About Mallard Ducks

    With the trusty National Geographic Mallard Duck Creature Feature, you and your young reader can see pictures of male and female ducks and ducklings and learn fun facts about their habitat, what they eat, and more. 


    Peter Rabbit Book Play

    This recipe was inspired by Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Want to play with Peter some more? Check out our other Peter Rabbit activities here


    Act It Out

    Read the story again and invite your little one to act out Peter’s adventure:

    • Run to Mr. McGregor’s garden then squeeeeeeze under the gate. 
    • Nibble on French beans and lettuces, then rush all over the garden looking for the gate. 
    • Keep going until Peter has been put to bed. Maybe this will become a new way to get your little reader to bed at night? Enjoy!


     The Land of Beatrix Potter

    Beatrix Potter drew inspiration for her books from her home, Hill Top Farm, and the surrounding countryside in the Lake District of England.  On the World of Beatrix Potter site, you can see photos of the area where she lived, farmed, sketched and painted.

    Get out your globe or map and show your young reader how to find England, the inspiration and setting of Peter Rabit.  Identify where you live as well and where England is in relation to your home.

    2012 marked the 110th publication anniversary of the first of Potter's "little books." For online games, coloring pages and more, visit the official Peter Rabbit website!


    St. Patrick's Parade

    This activity was inspired by St. Patrick's Day in the Morning. To learn more about the book and see all our St. Patrick's Day activities, click here

    Armed with your just-made Irish tricolor flag and tube flute, have a parade in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish!

    Reinvent a scarf to become a sash for your young reader, and add an old coat and hat from the dress up stash to look even more like Jamie.

    To added even more authenticity to the procession you can play the following video of the Irish band The Cheiftans' song O'Sullivan's March. The video also features beautiful imagery of the green Isle. How much more Irish can you get? 

    Where in the World is Ireland?

    For a quick geography lesson (shh!), use a globe or world map to show your young reader how to find Ireland, the setting of St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning. Identify where you live as well and where Ireland is in relation to your home.


    A Happy St. Patrick's Day to you, from Off the Shelf! 

    Learn about Hedgehogs and Denmark

    This Where in the World Activity was inspired by Jan Brett's The Hat. To learn more about the book and see all our The Hat activities, click here


    Hedgehogs are fascinating creatures that I have to confess I really knew very little about until recently. Reading The Hat and other Jan Brett books (several feature hedgehogs, like Hedgie's Surprise ) made me very eager to know more about the little critters. If you and your reader are curious too, look no further than the National Geographic Kids website. The following link is the perfect Hedgehog Primer, featuring photos and facts, video, sound, and maps of were they live in the world. 

    National Geographic Kids' Hedgehog Creature Feature 

    National Geographic Creature Feature Hedgehogs

    Where in the World?

    The Hat takes place in Denmark. Using a globe or world map, show your young reader where Lisa, Hedgie, and all the other animals live.


    More Madeline Fun

    In addition to the following, we have many more activities for you to do after reading Madeline, like making french fries, or an old house covered with vines

    Time to Operate

    In the story, Madeline is rushed to the hospital to have her appendix taken out. Be like Dr. Cohn and and take out Cavity Sam's Butterflies in the Stomach (and Broken Heart, and Charley Horse...) by playing a game of Operation

    Travel to Madeline's Paris

    Madeline is filled with illustrations featuring the sights and monuments of Paris. Most copies feature a list of these scenes in the back of the book. Your young reader (and little world traveler!) might want to see pictures of the some of the actual monuments. Also included with each site are some fun facts and historical information. 

    If you and your young reader enjoyed Madeline and learning about Paris, you might also enjoy reading This is Paris by Miroslav Sasek!