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Welcome to Summer BOOK-TIVITIES #2. Education World and share with you fun activities for kids and families -- activities connected to some of the best recent children's books around Check out Summer BOOK-TIVITIES! for summer projects that will entertain and educate.

Don't miss the other Summer BOOK-TIVITIES:

  • BOOK-TIVITY #1: Photo fun, cooking, sharks, baseball, moving
  • BOOK-TIVITY #2: Family trees, hide-and-seek, museums, information exploration
  • BOOK-TIVITY #3: Lightning, teeth, masks, Mount Rushmore
  • BOOK-TIVITY #4: Crocodiles, "look what came from ...," imagination, do's and don'ts
  • BOOK-TIVITY #5: U.S. states, fossils, snakes, animal carnival
  • BOOK-TIVITY #6: Mount Everest, Mother Goose, the ocean, math

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The day I was seven, my grandfather gave me an olive tree.
"Happy birthday, Sophia," he said.
"Where's the tree?" my brother Georgios asked.
"It is in Greece. On the island," Grandfather said.

I Have An Olive Tree Sophia is a bit puzzled by the odd gift she receives from her grandfather on her seventh birthday. She wanted a skateboard. A year later, Grandfather dies. Sophia and her mother travel from their California home to the little Greek island where Grandfather had lived for many years and Sophia's mother was born.

When Sophia finds her olive tree, she finds a gift far greater than she had imagined.

I Have an Olive Tree (Joanna Cotler Books/Harper Collins) is the latest book from acclaimed author Eve Bunting. A testimony to the wondrous ties of family and heritage, I Have an Olive Tree is an ideal lead-in to talking about family history with your children. Accompanying Bunting's heartfelt prose are the bold brush strokes of Karen Barbour's paintings, which bring life to the Greek culture that is foreign, yet familiar, to Sophia's eyes.

Booktivity Header GraphicBOOK-TIVITY! A Family of Silhouettes
Before video cameras and cameras, silhouette portraits were all the rage! Although silhouette portraiture was a difficult skill to master, you and your children can create family silhouettes with some simple tools found in the home.

  1. Tape a sheet of white drawing paper to a wall.
  2. Seat one family member, facing sideways, on a chair in front of the sheet of paper.
  3. Shine a lamp on the seated person. The lamplight will cast a shadow in the shape of the person's profile on the drawing paper.
  4. While the seated person sits very still, use a pencil to trace the outline of his or her silhouette.
  5. Color or paint the silhouette. If you prefer, you could place a sheet of colored paper under the white drawing paper and use scissors to cut along the outline.
  6. Display a family silhouette collection.

Make this a yearly activity so children will have a collection of silhouettes that record their growth.

More Family Tree Resources from

If you decide to "grow" your own family tree after reading I Have an Olive Tree, you might want to check out two other new books. One is perfect for primary-age children; the other is a nice resource for students in the upper elementary grades and above.


Me and My Family Tree
Me and My Family Tree
(Crown Publishers)
Through The Eyes Of Your Ancestors
Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors:
A Step-by-Step Guide to Uncovering Your Family's History

(Houghton Mifflin)



Nature's Paintbrush Why do flower petals often grow in a circle? Why are toucans' beaks so brilliantly colored? With simple text and bright, jewel-like illustrations, Susan Stockdale explores the myriad ways in which patterns and colors are helpful to living things in Nature's Paintbrush: The Patterns and Colors Around You (Simon & Schuster). Those patterns and color provide camouflage, of course, but that's only the beginning

A pinwheel of flower petals draws bees to a flower's center where they can collect sweet nectar and drop off pollen. A toucan waves its colorful beak like a flag to attract a mate.

Why are cacti covered with sharp spines? Why is the poison dart frog so colorful? Why does the arctic fox's fur change color with the seasons? From the desert to the rainforest, from the icy tundra to your backyard, Nature's Paintbrush encourages youngsters to examine, think about, and enjoy the colorful world around them.

Booktivity Header GraphicBOOK-TIVITY! Hide-and-Seek Art
In Nature's Paintbrush, author and illustrator Susan Stockdale shares with young readers how the colors of creatures such as the arctic fox, katydid, rattlesnake, and tiger blend in with their surroundings to help protect the animals. After they read the book, challenge children to create a scene showing how one of nature's creatures uses camouflage for protection. Ask children to

  1. find in a magazine a photograph or drawing of an animal.
  2. cut around the outline of that animal.
  3. paste the animal to a sheet of colored paper. (Remind children to choose a color that closely mimics the colors of the animal and its natural habitat.)
  4. draw the details of a nature scene that will further hide, or camouflage, the animal from predators.
  5. blend colors and surroundings with the colors of the animal.


Katie Meets the Impressionists It is Grandma's birthday, and for a special treat, she decides to take Katie to the art museum. Katie looks at the dabs of color on the first painting, but she sees only spots. With Grandma's encouragement, Katie steps back and sees that those dabs of paint make a picture.

Next, Katie steps back to admire The Luncheon, the colorful masterpiece by Claude Monet. She closes her eyes and sniffs. She is sure she can smell the flowers. When she opens her eyes, she is inside the painting, among the daisies, hollyhocks, roses, and sunflowers!

As Katie climbs back through the frame into the museum, she realizes she's been gone so long that the flowers she picked for Grandma are now wilting. Not to worry! The next painting on her museum tour is Girl with a Watering Can, by Renoir. Before her adventure is over, Katie will pop in and out of several more paintings. So it is that Katie Meets the Impressionists (Orchard Books).

Author James Mayhew has created a wonderful introduction to the beauty of Impressionist masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, and Degas. This delightful little adventure is sure to make an "impression" on readers young and old!

Booktivity Header GraphicBOOK-TIVITY! Museum Treasure Hunt
Why not take a group of kids on a summertime tour of a nearby museum? (An art museum would be great, but any kind of museum would be fine.) Before you start your museum tour, make a quick stop in the museum store to purchase a selection of postcards that show items from the museum's collection. Then divide the postcards among the children and challenge them to find all the exhibits (paintings, fossils, items from history) they hold in their hands. This little treasure hunt might help keep kids focused, even those with short attention spans, and it's sure to make your museum adventure interesting and fun!



No home should be without an up-to-date almanac. Make that two almanacs -- one for adults and one for children!

Information Please If you're searching for an almanac written expressly for youngsters, one of the best out there is the Information Please Kids' Almanac (Houghton Mifflin). Infinite bits of information are catalogued under high-interest headlines such as Animals, The Body and Food, Mythical Creatures, The Environment and Natural Disasters, Sports, Stars and Planets, and World News. Find the answers to all those questions kids pose and learn fun facts that you'll never find in an encyclopedia. Do you know How many muscles it takes to smile? When the first video was game invented? How much rain falls in a rain forest? and How far the sun is from Earth? The answers to those and thousands of other questions are packed into this almanac's 350 pages.

Booktivity Header GraphicBOOK-TIVITY! Scavenger Hunt for Facts
Looking for some follow-up fun using the Information Please Kids' Almanac? Why not send kids off on a fun- and fact-filled scavenger hunt? An indoor scavenger hunt for facts is a great rainy day -- or any day -- activity. You'll keep the kids out of your hair while you keep their study skills (using an index, skimming for information, and more) from getting rusty! Create a simple ten-question quiz that builds on your children's interests, or try the questions we've written for you below.

  • How fast can a giraffe run? (A giraffe can run 30 miles per hour.)
  • How many bones does a baby have at birth? How many bones does an adult have? (At birth, a baby has 300 bones. An adult has 206 bones because some bones fuse together as humans grow.)
  • Encyclopedia Brown is a favorite book character of many children. What is Encyclopedia's real first name? (Leroy.)
  • Where in the world did the most destructive hailstorm happen? (An 1888 hailstorm in Moradabad, India, killed 246 people.)
  • How do you say "Thank you" in Japanese? (arigato, pronounced ah-ree-GAH-toh)
  • The Bill of Rights sets forth in writing the rights of people in the United States. What right did the 19th Amendment to the Bill of Rights grant? (In 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.)
  • On the Chinese calendar, 1999 is known as the Year of the Cat. What was the year 2000? (The Year of the Dragon)
  • Whose face is on the U.S. $100 bill? (Benjamin Franklin's)
  • In karate, which person is more skilled -- a person wearing a green belt or a person wearing a purple belt? (the person wearing a purple belt)
  • On Earth, a day lasts 24 hours. How long is a day on the planet Mars? (24 hours, 37 minutes)

Return to Education World's Summer Reading Ideas page.


Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor in Chief
Copyright © 1999, 2002 Education World


Last updated 06/23/2017