Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Interactive Book for Big Kids

Remember those fun books you had when you were a little kid? The ones where you pulled a cord or opened a door. Well, Scooter Strays by Howard Edelstein is an interactive book for elementary school readers.

Scooter gets out and is on his own. Thirsty, Scooter finds a puddle of antifreeze. What happens next? The reader decides. The reader controls the story by making a choice and turning to the corresponding page. You can read the book many times and essentially read a different story every time.
It's fun to read. Try writing your own interactive story!

All proceeds from the sale of Scooter Strays are donated to a local humane organization. The book can also be read on the Washington Humane Society's kids' page, www.whs-kids.org.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Circus: Hardly Entertainment!

In a few weeks Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus will come to town. In addition to the circus, Ringling will begin their stay by parading animals down Pennsylvania Avenue. As in years past, people will line the parade route and gawk at the wild animals. Is that entertainment? Should we feel good about watching wild animals perform asinine stunts, that are totally unlike everything a wild animal would do in the wild?

What is the difference between watching the circus and watching a professional ball game? For starters, players want to play. They've spent their entire lives preparing to play. They love it. They eat, breathe, and sleep baseball, basketball or football. And, they get paid good money, no GREAT money, to play ball. They are entertainers. What about other entertainers -- musical groups, singers or actors? They, too, work hard to do what they want to do. They choose to entertain us. And they, too, are paid handsomely for performing for our enjoyment.

What about the circus elephant? Have you ever seen an elephant in Africa choose the life a circus performer? Would a wild animal choose to spend most of its life in a box car, traveling from one location to another? And, not traveling in first class either. Circus elephants are chained and shackled. They are forced to stand in their own waste. Extremely social animals, circus elephants are kept isolated. They are poked, prodded and beaten with bull hooks (a rod with a hook at the end) that circus personnel call "guides". Would an elephant in the wild wear jewels or clothing? Would it stand on two legs?

People make choices. Circus animals do not. If people choose NOT to buy tickets, circus owners will not make money. And, if circus owners do not make money, they will not be able to maintain their circuses. Currently, circus owners make gobs of money because people choose to buy tickets to see wild animals do "tricks". Circus owners make the money. What do circus animals get out of the circus?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Groundhog Day is NO Fun for the Groundhog

Today, newscasters throughout the U.S. will laugh and joke as they report on whether or not Punxsutaney Phil, a groundhog held in captivity in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, sees his shadow. Every year on February 2nd we go through this same ritual. Supposedly, if Phil (and other groundhogs) sees his shadow, then we will have six more weeks of winter. If the groundhogs do not see their shadows (really the groundhogs could care less whether there are shadows or not!) then spring will arrive early.

Did you know
  • The groundhog, or woodchuck, is one of 14 species of marmots.
  • These rodents gorge themselves all summer to build up reserves of fat.
  • After the first frost, they burrow underground and sleep until spring, depending on their stored body fat for nourishment.
  • While hibernating, the groundhog's heart rate slows, and its body temperature is not much warmer than the temperature inside its burrow.
  • Female groundhogs give birth to a litter of 2 to 9 babies in the spring.
  • Baby groundhogs stay with their mother for several months.
  • Groundhogs are the largest members of the squirrel family.
  • That though they are usually seen on the ground, groundhogs can climb trees and swim.
  • Groundhogs are typically found in areas where woodlands meet open spaces, like fields, roads, or streams.
  • Groundhogs eat grasses and plants as well as fruits and tree bark.
  • The average groundhog lives for only one year.
  • GROUNDHOGS CANNOT PREDICT THE WEATHER -- and according to the calendar, we have 6 more weeks of winter!