Posted in DIY, Education, fun, Library, teaching, Uncategorized

A Polar Bear named Chuck

I haven’t done a lesson/educational post in a while but a week ago I had the privilege of teaching a small class of about twelve elementary aged students a STEM class. My daughter attends a co-op one day a week and the deal is parents have to chip in, which I think is fantastic.

However, STEM is not my strong suit. I’m a words person, not a numbers person so at first, I was a little panicked. Then I started to realize, why can’t I do both?

*This post contains affiliate links because I like to eat

So I started thinking of science-related issues that I cared about, since that would obviously be easier to write about and decided to do something on global warming. Thus, Chuck was born. Here is the lesson plan and what you need to recreate for a class or in your own home.

The story-

(We made the story into a game to keep the student’s interest. If you are doing this with just one child you may want to tweak that part. The game was that each group of students received a folder with a habitat picture inside. They had to give clues as to what their habitat was to the other students to guess. When the correct answer was guessed, the picture was taped to the front of the class.)

 

A Home for Chuck

One polar bear’s escape from the melting ice

Page one: Have picture up of Arctic landscape

(Does anyone know, or want to take a guess, about how many cubs a polar bear usually has? Answer: two)

When Chuck was a wee lad he lived on the ice of the Arctic with his mom and his sister Chucklette. He was born in a small den, in December and came out to see his Arctic home in March.

Everyone repeat after me- Polar bears live in the Arctic. Not the Antarctic. The Arctic.

Repeat- Penguins and Polar Bears do not live together!

Chuck was a little bit bigger than his sister but they would play and wrestle in the snow.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbILj_CYqno

****Change pictures- picture of Arctic melting

At the ripe age of 30 months old, or close to three years old, Chuck went out on his own to be a man. He would catch seals and fish. He did this by waiting near a melting ice patch in the land. This would be the best place to find seals because the freezing, then melting of the patch gave seals a place to pop up and breathe.

Chuck, like most polar bears, was a great swimmer. But because swimming takes up so much energy, he would need to get back to the ice to rest. So he would wander around on a large home of snow and ice.

Only, his home wasn’t so large anymore. Chuck started to notice that the older he got, the smaller his arctic home became. He liked the water for hunting but he couldn’t live on it. His home was getting thinner, smaller, and more wet.

“Well,” said Chuck one day, “I have had enough!

I’m a big ole Polar Bear, I need land, lots of land to roam. I think I should set out to find myself a new home.”

As luck would have it, there was an abandoned researcher’s site nearby and it had a tarp, some rope, and a large tub.

So Chuck fashioned himself a parachute and decided to see the world!

(Now, everyone is going to get a super secret folder that has a picture of a habitat inside, along with a number on the outside. You will work in pairs or threes, just for a minute. When I call your number you will look at your habitat, then you and partner will have to describe it to the rest of the class to see if we can guess which habitat it is. For example, if I opened my folder and it was a picture of a living room I would say something like: Well, Chuck couldn’t live here because he would bang his head on the ceiling. Notice I didn’t say anything about it being a room or a living room. So we will NOT say what our habitat is, we will give clues. Repeat after me “I will NOT say what my habitat is”. Can someone define habitat for us? Answer: Natural home or environment for animal, plants, or any organism. *Handout folders)

When habitat is guessed, student tape the picture to the board.

First Group: Parachutes to Mountains

After a long day of floating through the sky, Chuck sees something below him and starts his descent.

Group one, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is. *student tapes their habitat on the board.

*Class discussion *Clap- one two three

So Chuck saw the snow and thought, “hmm this might be a good place to land.” And land he did, with a thud. The mountain was quite uneven, as most mountains are. Whoa, whoa. But Chuck got steady.

“Wow, it’s hard to walk on these rocky mountains.” Chuck weighed as much as 10 men, and trying to climb any higher on the mountain was a very hard and scary task. “Maybe I should just climb down instead.” Slowly he made his way to the bottom of the mountain. Once he was on safe flat land he realized how hungry he was. He looked around and didn’t see any animals he could eat. Just some scattered green things. He looked back up and saw some birds flying overhead. “Well, how am I supposed to catch those for dinner?”

“I don’t think the mountains are for me.” Chuck got in the tub and threw up his parachute to catch the wind. He drifted and sailed through the sky until he saw another place to land.

Group Two: Parachute to the Ocean

 

Down he went. Group two, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

Now polar bears, are actually the only bear that is considered a marine mammal. Polar bears can swim for hours and hours to get from one piece of ice to the other. But this water wasn’t as cold as he was used to. It was warm and salty. Saltier then he had back in the Arctic.

“Well at least there’s some fish,” Chuck thought. He dove down and got a fish to eat. Then looked around. He was getting tired. But there was nowhere to get out of the water!

“I can’t live in the ocean ALL the time,” Chuck said. “This place can’t be my new home. He swam back to where his tub and parachute were floating and waited for a strong wind to blow. “Let’s try again,” he said and off he floated into the sky.

 

Group Three: The desert

Group three, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

Now Chuck was used to not doing much when it was hot outside. During summer in the Arctic, polar bears have “walking hibernation” where they do less activity. But this heat was TOO much. Chuck’s thick fur and skin made him so hot.

“There’s got to water around here somewhere.” He thought. He walked and walked. He passed a strange looking animal that had two humps on his back. (What animal is that?)

“Excuse me,” Chuck asked the camel. “Is there any water around here? Or a place to cool down?”

“Cool down?” the camel laughed. “Certainly not. There is some water about two days walk that way.” He nodded behind him.

“Two days!” said Chuck. He couldn’t walk for two days without water. “How are you able to go so long without water?”

“Oh I have these humps and I’ve lived in the desert all my life. I’ve adapted.”

Chuck shook his head. He couldn’t adapt to all this heat and the dryness. He went back to his parachute and waited for the wind to blow.


Group Four: The Rainforest

Group four, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

When Chuck landed this time he was surrounded by green! He had never seen so much green in his life.

“Well, it’s still really hot here. But at least it seems like there may be water around.”

He was getting tired from all this traveling and decided to take a nap.  As he laid his head down he heard sounds of all kinds: birds chirping, monkeys howling, bugs and frogs clicking.

“This is much louder than the Arctic,” Chuck said. (Why do you think it’s louder in the rainforest than in the Arctic?) He thought maybe he should try to hunt for another snack before deciding if he could live here.

He sat and waited. There were so many animals nearby that he could hear but nothing was coming near him. At home, in the Arctic, Chuck could just sit still and blend in with the snow so his prey didn’t see him, but now! (Why would that not work now?)

“I can’t live here,” Chuck said sadly. He went to his parachute to try again.

 

Group Five: The Northern Forests or Woodlands

Group five, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

As he looked around at first he thought he was in the same place as he just left but the air was much cooler and the trees were all different.

“At least it’s getting colder,” Chuck said. He was finally able to take a short nap before deciding to try again for a snack.

“It sounds like everything is up in the trees, maybe I have to climb up to get some food.”

So Chuck went to the nearest tree and put his paws on the trunk. HEAVE, he tried to lift himself but could barely get his bottom off the ground. HEAVE he tried again. 

By and by he saw another animal walking towards him. Not as big as he was, but was still pretty big and furry. (What do you think he saw?)

“Oh Mr. Bear.”

“Ahem, I am lady Mr. White Bear. What are you?” she answered.

“Oh sorry, I’m a polar bear.”

“A polar bear? What are you doing here? You can’t live here.”

“Well, why not if you do? You’re a bear too.”

“Yes but I can climb quickly and hide. You can’t sir.”

No he couldn’t. He couldn’t hide here just as he couldn’t hide in the rainforest.

“I guess you’re right,” he told the lady bear.

So Chuck got his parachute and decided to go home…

 

Group Six: Antarctic

Group six, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

So, this is a hard one, the hardest one. Why couldn’t Polar Bears live in the Antarctic? It’s cold, it’s ice, it looks so much like the Arctic!

But it’s not.

Chuck walked around, seemingly confused. “It looks kind of like home but not completely.” He shivered, it actually felt colder here than back in the Arctic.

For miles and miles, all Chuck could see was more snow and ice. The ground was so hard and frozen solid, Chuck didn’t think he’d be able to build a den here. He also didn’t see any other polar bears or any animal for that matter.

Up ahead he saw water and started to get excited. Maybe there’s some seals nearby, although he couldn’t smell any even with his great sense of smell. But he smelled something else. Was that chicken? Definitely a bird. (What bird lives in the Antarctic?)

They were so funny looking like they were wearing suits. Chuck didn’t think he would like penguins very much and not having anyone else to talk to he decided to really go home this time. It was too cold, maybe even for him.

Chuck went back to the Arctic and decided to make do with his shrinking home.

“I hope everyone tries to help us save our Arctic home,” he thought to himself. As he looked around he saw another bear’s den and felt happy to be back.

 

Now, Chuck’s home is shrinking. Do we all know what that is?

Map of global warming.

*From here we talked about ways to stop global warming, lower pollution, and recycle. Then we made DIY parachutes out of used plastic grocery bags, twine, tape, and small polar bears I ordered off of Oriental Trading.


Lastly, I had built a wind tunnel that we used to launch our Chucks across the room. This was obviously the most fun part of the lesson but if building a wind tunnel isn’t possible for you the parachutes work just from being thrown as well.

Image may contain: drink and indoor

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, Opinion, parenting, pop culture, reading, Uncategorized

6 Children’s books that are just wrong

This post contains affiliated links

I love seeing spoofs of children’s literature, even the obscene ones. However, as I was reading to my daughter the other night I started to notice there’s enough creepy nonsense in a lot of these stories to begin with. Spoofs may not even be necessary.

So now I will ruin some childhood classics-

Corduroy

Corduroy is one of my favorites. I loved it as a kid and I love reading it still. However, this is the first book that I really was like, “huh, I can’t believe I didn’t notice that before.” In most of the pages all the other toys are staring straight ahead, with that deadpan flopped head look they are supposed to have.

When Lisa comes back to buy Corduroy however, things turn dark. All the toys glare at poor Corduroy and the bunny next to him stares hard with bright red eyes. RED EYES?

Image result for corduroy pages

cord

Goodnight Moon

You may already know my stance on Goodnight Moon. It’s not great. It’s so easy to find flaws in this comically nonsensical children’s book. One can argue that Brown was a revolutionary, writing children’s books that represented life at the time of publishing (1947). Before that most children’s story were telling tales of far away places, fairy tales, and other things that were not super relatable to children.

I would still have to say…I just can’t stand it.

Why is that fireplace so big? Where are the parents stopping the children from toppling in and cooking themselves into a nice rabbit stew? Who is the decorator, because they need to be fired.

Green walls, red carpet, yellow and blue curtains, we want this child’s room to be avante garde…nailed it. Oh, but throw in a tiger skin rug, that will really pull everything together.

The color scheme we're going for is

Love You Forever

I know some of you are going to be like “noooo, leave Love You Forever alone!” but come on.

Books blog

Why is she crawling? Why is she crawling into her teenage son’s room? I have a son, I will not be doing that.

Then continue on to see her spooning her adult son like he’s still an infant. Shoulder to cry on? Sure. Rocking to sleep at 25? Probably not.

In a Dark Dark Room

At least this book is supposed to be creepy, but I had to add it. I saw in another post someone mentioned the green ribbon story. I second that fear. That story has stuck with me my whole life. When I started teaching I saw this book in our collection and was like “oh man, that freaking girl with the ribbon is in there, nope”.

And Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? The stories aren’t even scary but those drawings are terrifying.

Image result for scary stories to tell in the dark

Arthur

There really isn’t anything wrong with the Arthur books, I actually really like Arthur. Arthur the Aardvark, the story goes that Marc Brown’s son wanted a story about a weird animal and the first one that popped into Brown’s head was an aardvark. The first illustration is from the original Arthur books published in the 70’s. The middle is Arthur’s transformation in the 80’s. Then the last is him now. I can’t even tell what the last Arthur is anymore! Is he a dog? A giant hamster type thing? Maybe a bear?

Richard Scarry Butcher Shop

Image result for richard scarry butcher shop

Image result for richard scarry butcher shop

So the butcher character is in multiple Richard Scarry books but there’s a common theme for the character…it’s a pig. A pig, slicing up ham and sausage and pork chops and bacon and…yeah it’s a little gross.

Curious George Takes a Job

Image result for curious george ether book

Curious George is a favorite at my house. I did not realize this one particular book actually has quite the following. Curious George Takes a Job is like all classic Curious George tales of mishap and mayhem…except this time George tries ether.

Related image

So…yeah kids try drugs and feel like you’re flying and rings and stars will dance around your heads then you’ll pass out with a giant smile on your face while your family looks down at you in shock. I guess it’s accurate at least.

What are some more classics that maybe need to be reread with adult eyes?

Posted in Education, Family, history, Library, literature, Opinion, reading, Uncategorized

Why read nonfiction at every age

You either love it or you hate it. There’s not many people who are in between (I’m sure you exist just bare with me). I’ve heard the argument many times “I don’t read nonfiction because it’s boring”, “It’s too hard to read”, “I just like stories that are made up”. All are valid points for certain titles and authors. However, there’s a whole world of nonfiction that is far from boring, hard, and read so much like fiction you’ll be amazed that it’s not made up.

Reading nonfiction is beneficial to you as an adult, and even more so to children. Since common core was initiated, nonfiction became a higher percentage of what children had to read per grade which is a good thing and a bad thing. I hate the idea of children and teens growing a resentment or dislike for nonfiction because they are forced to read it (much like what happens with the classics) but I do like that they are at least being more exposed to it.

Why Read Nonfiction?

0-5

Early literacy education focuses mostly on just inspiring the idea of reading

and the want to read. However, most of the books that children get exposed to in these younger years are fiction. There’s nothing wrong with that, the cartoons and illustrations are one of the main things that draw young children into books in the first place. There are nonfiction books though that are great for this age range. The series of books called the “tabbed board books” that feature real photos of different topics are wonderful for young readers. They see things they can relate to, things they see everyday, and start to learn names for all of these things. Plus they are bright and colorful so they keep their attention.



6-12

I read an article awhile back (I believe the stats were from 2013 or 2012) that said students only spend 5% of their free time reading nonfiction. While it’s not that hard to believe it’s still such a small percentage that I get worried. Obviously, there is a huge correlation between student’s who read on their free time receiving good grades, versus students who do not read on their free time receiving bad grades (not everyone, just the stats).

Nonfiction is great for hesitant readers in this age group. The nonfiction titles may not be as “age defined” as some of their fiction cousins. For example, there are some nonfiction books about the Titanic that a six year old could enjoy or a twelve year old could enjoy. Nonfiction is also great for boys. Yes, I’m being sexist here but again statistics show that after the third grade boys are much more likely to stop reading on their free time than girls are. I still don’t know why that it is I wish I did so I could fix it. However, some of my reluctant boy readers took really well to nonfiction. Sports, war, history, science, things like that are interesting when they are written about the right way. Do some exploring with your student until you find something they like to read about.

                   

12-18

Teens should read nonfiction for the same reason that middle school and elementary school students should: it will help their grades. Period. They will be smarter. You can’t read a nonfiction book (a well written one anyway) and not be a little bit smarter afterwards (unless it’s a political book but we won’t go there).

I feel like when I was in high school there wasn’t a lot of “YA Nonfiction”. Young Adult wasn’t even really a “genre” the way it is now. There was a handful of titles considered “teen” but it wasn’t the powerhouse it is now. YA Nonfiction has come light-years and is sometimes more entertaining than adult nonfiction. Again, it’s just finding what your student is interested and will take to the most.

                                     

18+

You’re not a student (well you may be a college student I don’t know, for argument’s sake we’re going to say you’re not). You’re not a student, you have no papers to write, no reports to be had. Why in the world would you waste your precious free time reading nonfiction? Reading is supposed to be fun, relaxing, enjoyable. Nonfiction is all of those things if you find the right authors. There’s more to nonfiction than studies and statistics being spit at you in the text of page after page of information.

If you are hesitant, or you have tried several nonfiction books but just cannot seem to get into them, try memoirs or true crime. Sometimes true crime can get a little sciencey, but a lot of true crime I’ve read reads more like a soap opera. I adore memoirs if they are well written.

                         

My favorite is history, usually American history but some eras in European history are also pretty fascinating. Some people just skipped this whole section as soon as they saw history. I get it, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. However, there are some amazing authors in this category to try.

Health and wellness is a new topic I’ve been reading. It’s one of the most popular topics at my library but I’ve never really been interested enough to read a whole book on a wellness topic. Now, I can say I have read a few that I didn’t get through because I thought it was boring, and I’ve read a few within a night or two because they were very interesting. Just have to find your niche.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science and medical nonfictional can definitely fall into one of those harder to read categories. Certain authors make it more “story like”. Mary Roach is a really good one, and Bill Bryson.

                              

Folklore and fairy tales are categorized as nonfiction. Oddly enough this is one of the most frequent questions I get asked by students and adults; “why?”
Well technically, classic literature and poetry should be in nonfiction as well. All of these forms of writing give a scholar, or whoever is reading the work, a glimpse of the culture that the work came from. So for example, by reading Native American folklore, historians can learn what different values tribes held that may not be documented anywhere else.

 

Feel free to post any other suggestions!

 


Posted in Education, Library, literature, Opinion, Poetry, reading, teaching, Uncategorized

Thunderstorm poetry, the best of

I’ve said it before, I’m not a huge poetry fan, but there are some that really stick to me and I just keep rereading over and over. I did a post about “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowing Evening” awhile back and I think nature poems can just move you in a way that a story can’t. I saw this post and wanted to share it.

 

The best poems about storms Weather is a perennial theme of poetry, and not just nice weather: more violent and extreme weather, such as storms, thunder, and lightning, has produced some classic poems, as this list of the best storm poems aims to highlight. Sir Thomas Wyatt, ‘Innocentia Veritas Viat Fides Circumdederunt me inimici mei’. […]

via 10 of the Best Poems about Thunderstorms — Interesting Literature

Posted in Library, literature, Mental Health, Poetry, Uncategorized

Miles to go before I sleep…

The days are shorter, the nights are longer, and the cold seems to bring out the worst in some people. Use this time to reflect on yourself and your family to see how everyone is really feeling. In the midst of January, and “January Blues” season, I wanted to share some insight on one of my favorite poems.
Image result for january blues
As you may have seen with the circulating Facebook post about people having “a warm bed and tea ready”, this is the time of year when those who are really suffering from depression tend to have the most struggles.
Why is the winter so hard?
There are a lot of reasons it’s believed that “January Blues” seems to happen. It’s not just January mind you, it’s winter in general. There’s a mix of cold weather, staying indoors more, less sun, calmness from the holiday commotion that some people do not do well with, and of course the need to cleanse yourself from the plethora of calories from the holidays.
I always think of a famous poem by Robert Frost this time of year.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
Whose woods these are I think I know.Image result for snowy woods
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Some critique the poem as a suicide note. The claim is that the narrator is trying to persuade himself to keep on living even though it would much easier to stay in the depressed state that he is in. Others look at it as more uplifting. Even though the narrator is contemplating the darkness of the woods he is choosing to continue on. I prefer that latter.
Still others would say it’s a completely over-analyzed poem and it’s just about a guy riding his horse and enjoying nature. I could get on board with that too, I suppose.
Robert Frost wrote this poem prior to winning four Pulitzer Prizes. The man obviously knew what he was doing with words. The sounds and rhythm of his poetry are top notch, even if you aren’t a fan of the possible messages and imagery.
Why is this important right now? Why should I care about a poem written almost 100 years ago?
Well, I think all literature is important and I think it can be used as a great bonding and teaching resource. If you have an older teen or tween who you may suspect is suffering from depression, have them read this poem. Talk about it. I’m sure they are going to be forced to read it sometime in school, but have them do it on their own time. Tell them how you feel about it.
If nothing else maybe this poem could inspire you and your family to log off for awhile. It’s so easy, especially with the cold winds blowing, to stay inside, plugged in, and tuned out. The woods can be a great place for reflection and discovering what you are really feeling. Not to get all spiritual about it or anything, but the woods are one of the best places to just…be.
Image result for snowy woods
Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, parenting, reading, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

13 Picture Books to Read before 2016 Ends

As much as I love the classics- Where the Wild Things Are, Dr. Seuss, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, etc etc; I feel that there are some great new children’s easy readers (picture books), which have come out in the past few years that get overlooked when parents ask for reading recommendations. Everyone who follows this blog knows how I feel about Early Literacy Education, so even if you are newly pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or just had a baby; bookmark this list to review.

I’m going to already assume you have the essentials and give you some updated book recs for babies, toddlers, and preschool aged children.

This book made my daughter actually lol. That’s hard to do with a book. I love Oliver Jeffers style (The Day the Crayons Quit) and I think kids do too. It’s a colorful, relatable, style that is still detailed enough to really paint vivid images. In this book, a little boy loses his kite in a tree. So logically, the only thing to do to get it down is to throw his shoe at it. Then his shoe gets stuck. So he throws the other shoe. The whole thing just spirals as he throws whatever he can find at the tree.

 

 

Great bedtime story. The transitions from the daytime to the nighttime are really cool. I enjoyed the illustrations of this book more than I did the actual story.

 

 

 

 

I’m a sucker for rhyming. I like to read rhyming books out loud. This is a very cute little story about a mouse, who obviously wants to sit in his chair, but there’s a bear in it. Pretty simple premise but definitely a fun read. Also good for kids who may be having a little trouble with sharing.

 

 

I honestly did not know how my daughter was going to feel about this book. In the same vein as Journey, The Only Child has no words; just pages of pencil drawn images to tell the story. Being they are all black and white I thought maybe she would get bored of it. I was wrong. She loved this book and I enjoyed it too. It was a great way for us to talk about what we thought was happening. Since there are a lot of fantasy elements to the plot we ended up going on some pretty long winded tangents.

 

Like every kid, my daughter has a small fear of the dark. Nothing major but when I saw this book I thought maybe it would help her out. At first she was a little apprehensive of the book. Then after we read it two or three times she started to realize “the dark” was nice. It hasn’t cured her fear but she did ask for this book more than some of the others I had brought home.

 

 

 

This book I actually bought, purely for myself. I don’t cry at movies, but books will get to me. This one definitely did. If you are a new mom I highly recommend this book. And some Kleenex.

 

 

 

This book promotes reading so I liked it (shocker). More than that though, it was a very funny story that I actually enjoyed. The illustrations are simple, cartoon style, but they work well with the story.

 

 

 

 

If you don’t have the Press Here book, get it now. My daughter goes crazy for that book. This one is the same idea. It’s almost magical I think for little kids when they read these kinds of books. “Did they really just make all the dots fall to one side?” Definitely gets kids using their imaginations.

 

 

 

I loved this book. My daughter got a little bored at parts because it is long winded. Basically a little girl goes home from school with a book her teacher gave her but as she walks, words from the book start to fall out. A fox behind her catches them and she creates the stories. Very clever and unique children’s book.

 

 

 

 

If toddlers and preschoolers had to take sociology I would make them all read this book. It’s a cute book that shows you all the different houses people can live in. The art is interesting so I think that kept my daughter’s attention more than anything.

 

 

 

 

This was not at all what I was expecting when I first opened it. Bruce is an old curmudgeon and doesn’t like to be bothered. So of course, due to a series of events, he ends up with baby geese to take care of. The writing is actually really funny and the illustrations are great too.

 

 

I added Finding Winnie onto this list because I enjoyed the book. With that being said, my daughter did not. I tried to get her to let me read it again and she was not having it. It does have a lot of wordage and war history so I think she just lost interest. However, being an huge Winnie the Pooh fan as a child I enjoyed the back story.

 

 

This is my top pick by far. Everyone should have this book in their collection. It’s art and story are amazing. Every picture in the book is made up of words from classic tales like Peter and Wendy and Treasure Island. My daughter liked it because it’s fantasy and she enjoyed the illustrations but I don’t know if she got all the messages in it.

Posted in Education, history, Library, pop culture, Uncategorized

Black Cats & the Black Death

Another interesting historical tidbit that will hopefully inspire the desire to learn more. I received a lot of positive feedback about the Mad Hatter post so I thought I would hurry up and do another one.

cats

I am an animal person. Being a librarian, I kind of have to be a cat person. It’s a prerequisite to get into a Library Science program. So, from my research and gatherings of cat history over the years I have learned that cats became domesticated sometime around 7000 B.C. in the Middle East. Wild cats are found all over the world except in polar regions. They aren’t natives to Australia but were introduced by Europeans and are now considered a huge pest. The Australian war on cats is a whole separate post topic to be honest.

Cats were worshiped in many cultures, and even mummified in ancient Egypt. In Africa, Asia, and even in most Germanic tribes, cats were kept as pets to help ward off vermin and for companionship.

They weren’t completely without contempt however; the saber tooth tiger, and other largecats2 cats, created a fear of “man eating cats”. Which, back then, may not have been false. The Celts had legends of shape-shifting cats. Cat Sidhe or Cait Sidhe, could transform into a witch. They could also steal the souls of the dead before they could reach salvation. So, not a pretty picture of them there.

After Pope Gregory IX came to power in 1227, he was considered well liked for the most part, at least in the beginning. He was fierce in his beliefs and started to do some questionable things to cats3defend them. In the 1230s he called Vox in Rama, which expressed that black cats were part of satanic cults and represented Satan. Yes, thee Satan.

At the time, many “witches” and even a few “wizards” had been burnt at the stake for suspicion of witchcraft. Decades of cat killing began.

The Middle Ages, which is about 470-1450 A.D., was rampant with witchcraft accusations and the murder of hundreds of men, women, and children. Women were the most susceptible to the crime and along with them were their cats. More precisely, black cats.

So became of this decree? In 1346 trade ships anchored in Sicily. The ships had just returned from a voyage to Kaffa, which is present day Ethiopia, and were filled with items from Asia. Sailors aboard started to have these large, black, boils erupt on their skin. They were painful and covered their bodies, along with high fevers and (unbeknownst to them) internal bleeding. The pain only lasted a few days however, since most of them died quickly. These were the first European victims of the bubonic plague, or the Black Death.

The plague was spread from a bacteria that lived in the bloodstream of rats. Fleas would bite the rats then spread it to humans. Or, if a rat just bite a human they could bypass the flea altogether. Without as many cats roaming the streets and killing off wild vermin (rats for instance), the rodent population skyrocketed. It took about five days for an infected person to show any signs. Most infected people did not know they were sick. That means they were walking around, talking others, and infecting others unknowingly.

Illustration of Victims of Bubonic Plague from the Toggenberg Bible
Painting shows a scene of people suffering from the bubonic plague in the 15th century from the Toggenberg Bible. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

The bubonic plague was one of the worst epidemics this planet has ever had. It killed thirty percent of Europe’s population with its peak years being 1347-1351. This is estimated to be twenty-five to thirty-five million people. The crowded cities of Europe were great breeding grounds for the plague to spread. With no cats around, and no way for people to know at the time that’s how the disease spread, it seemed unstoppable.

The only logical explanation that could be thought of at the time was that the plague was punishment from God for all of mankind’s wrongdoings. First the Jews were persecuted for bringing the plague to kill off the Christians. Because it only makes sense that they would start a disease that also killed millions of Jews. They were expelled from parts of Europe and even killed from this accusation. Pope Clement VI thankfully used common sense and put an end to that. So the next logical explanation were the Gypsies, the Turks, and of course; witches.

cats5With the fear of new outbreaks of the plague, witch hunts ensued for decades after. The most murderous years took place during 1500’s to the 1650’s. The plague did have several small outbreaks arise, which only furthered the ideals of paranoia among the general public and the substantial need to continue these witch hunts.

 

 

Finding a total number of people killed for suspicion of witchcraft in Europe is almost impossible. Many of the court records are long gone, many of the convictions were not documented anywhere at all. The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe by Brian P. Levack estimates the total is under 90,000. Depending on where in Europe someone was accused may have meant the difference of life and death. In some areas only 10-15% of the accused were put to death, while in others, like Switzerland, 90% of the accused were put to death.

So how were witches spotted? Basically if you were a single woman over the average marrying age you were probably a witch. If your neighbor didn’t like you, you were probably a witch. If you were succeeding at life, you were probably a witch. If you owned a cat, petted a cat, fed a cat, or just looked too long at a cat; witch. People would claim that black cats would sneak into their homes at night and turned into a witch (someone in their community) to harm them. Many people did confess to this but most were under some sort of physical torture or knew it was coming.

 

 

 

Today, there is still a depleted population of black cats throughout Europe. More visible though, is our association with black cats and witches. Around Halloween you can see dozens of decorations of black cats in witches hats and witches petting a black cat.