The Thunderbird is an important symbol found in legends throughout North America. Sometimes friendly, sometimes threatening, this awe-inspiring bird was a supernatural creature that derived its name from the flapping of its powerful wings, which was said to produce thunder. Read on to find resources to teach children about this widespread Native American legend, as well as a new middle grade fiction series that celebrates mythical creatures.
The Thunderbird appears most frequently in legends of the Pacific Northwest, yet it can be found throughout North America. It appears in songs and oral histories, even in ancient stone carvings. With the flapping of their powerful wings and the lightning that would shoot out of their eyes, the Thunderbirds were said to bring rain and storms.
A Note About Sources
When learning about Native American cultures, it is extremely important to interrogate your sources. This is a highly sensitive topic among Native communities, and with good reason. For hundreds of years outsiders have appropriated and interpreted Native culture. Even when done with good intentions, this can distort the original context, so it is important to make sure that your source is reputable and respectful.
For example, when searching for resources on the Thunderbird legend, I came across many entries from “cryptozoology,” a branch of pseudoscience that attempts to prove the existence of creatures from legend. As a result, there is a lively search for the “real” Thunderbird, sometimes thought to be a surviving pterosaur and sometimes a monstrous creature related to the condor.
You also run into a lot of links about the cars and the airplanes named after the powerful Thunderbird!
As a result, I’ve collected for you reliable resources about the supernatural Thunderbird from Native American legends, so you can learn more about it with your children. Keep in mind that the Thunderbird appears in legends across North America, so you will run across some variation.
I also found a beautiful book at our local library, called Brave Wolf and the Thunderbird: Tales of the People. This traditional Absaroka (Crow) tale is here retold by Joseph Medicine Crow. It is an example of how the Thunderbird often is friendly towards humans and can help them. It is part of the Tales of the People series created with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
If you have a child that is fascinated by mythical creatures, then you don’t want to miss the wonderful new middle grade series The Unicorn Rescue Society. In the first book, The Creature of the Pines, we meet Elliot, a bookish boy starting his first day at a new school. He quickly teams up with Uchenna, his polar opposite in many ways except for how neither of them seems to be a bit of a misfit. But my favorite character is the wild-haired Professor Fauna, a mysterious teacher feared by most students. But when the children find a mysterious creature on a school field trip, they find that Professor Fauna is the only person in whom they can confide.
And thanks to him, they are introduced to the Unicorn Rescue Society – much to Elliot’s chagrin and Uchenna’s delight. Young readers will delight in their adventures with the Professor, and travel along with them to save a dragon in the just released second book in the series, The Basque Dragon. Highly imaginative book for anyone who believes (or wants to believe) that mythical creatures might still exist!
This book is part of the Basque Dragon book tour. Find out more in the links below!
One of the undeniable heroes of American history is Harriet Tubman, that daring woman who not only escaped slavery herself but went on to help more than 300 others escape to freedom as well. Black History Month is the perfect time to celebrate this remarkable heroine and inspire students with her story. I’ve gathered here some wonderful learning resources, including a new picture book that is a wonderful introduction to her story for young readers.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of I Am Harriet Tubman for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Harriet Tubman: Learning Resources for Kids
Books for Kids
Often adults hesitate about how to approach difficult topics in history with their kids. How to begin to tell them about the horrors of slavery or the harrowing journeys of those that sought to escape it? That’s why I’m happy to introduce a new picture book that does a great job of introducing children to the subject of slavery and the Underground Railroad through the story of Harriet Tubman.
I am Harriet Tubman is part of the popular children’s biography series Ordinary People Change the World. This beautiful series introduces young readers to inspiring people from the past, such as Gandhi and Rosa Parks. I love that there is always an emphasis on the people and events that inspired them to overcome difficulties in their lives.
I am Harriet Tubman doesn’t sugar coat the past, but it does present it in terms that children can understand and, through sharing one personal story, helps them imagine what it might have been like to have been a child during those times. In this way it helps kids really understand just how remarkable Tubman was and the enormity of what she achieved. As always, I love the timeline and photos included at the back of the book.
For older kids I really recommend The Underground Abductor: An Abolitionist Tale about Harriet Tubman. This is part of a series of historical graphic novels for kids that my eight year old adores. As with all the books in the series, it presents the subject with incredible historical accuracy and respect and is very engaging for even reluctant readers.
Crafts & Activities
Make this triarama from Crayola to celebrate Tubman’s legacy.
Visit the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Church Creek, Maryland, or drive along the 125+ miles of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway in a self-guided driving tour (includes 36 historical sites related to the Underground Railway). This can also be done virtually! Read one mom’s experience on taking this emotional journey with her family.
The Women in World History Activity Pack from Multicultural Kid Blogs includes a section on Tubman, with a one page reading passage and reading comprehension questions. Designed for ages 8 – 12.
During my parents’ last visit, I wanted to show them a part of Sacramento they hadn’t seen before, so we picked Sutter’s Fort, a site in the heart of Sacramento that is of major historical importance not just to the region but to the history of the American migration to the West. It is popular site for families and school field trips because it provides great hands on experiences to help investigate our state’s history. It is so convenient that it’s easy to make into one stop in a larger tour of the area, but there is so much to explore at Sutter’s Fort that we ended up spending the better part of a morning there.
Sutter’s Fort: Sacramento History for Families
History of Sutter’s Fort
If you travel in Northern California, you are bound to come across the name “Sutter.” There are the Sutter Buttes (named “Spirit Mountain” by the Maidu Indians) and Sutter County, and of course Sutter’s Mill, made famous by the discovery of gold there in 1848. All of these were named after John Sutter, a Swiss immigrant who received a land grant from the Mexican government in 1839. The settlement he established (named New Helvetia, or New Switzerland) was the first in Sacramento and the first non-native settlement in California’s Central Valley.
Soon after gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, Sutter sold his fort and left, and it was later overrun by gold seekers. In 1871, a movement began to restore the site. and the reconstructed fort was opened to the public in 1905.
We were most interested in the connection between Sutter’s Fort and the Donner Party, which my son is fascinated by. In 1846 the Donner Party set out for California, but because of a late start and a tragic miscalculation in taking an untested shortcut, they arrived at the Sierra Nevada mountains too late in the season and were trapped in a blizzard. They were forced to make camp for the winter, and many soon began to die of starvation. It was five months before all were rescued, and many resorted to cannibalism. Only 45 of the original 81 members of the Donner Party survived.
When the plight of the Donner Party first became known, John Sutter sent help, and the survivors were eventually brought to Sutter’s Fort to recuperate. Among the artifacts on display at Sutter’s Fort today are items from the Donner Party, including the doll of young Patty Reed.
Many other artifacts from early California history are also on display, some of which can be seen in this online exhibit. They showcase the Gold Rush era, early California statehood, and the Civil War.
Planning Your Visit
Sutter’s Fort is located in midtown Sacramento at 2701 L Street. Parking is available on the streets surrounding the fort, so be sure to bring quarters for the meters. There is a grassy field surrounding the fort if your little ones need to burn off a little energy afterwards.
Be aware that the site consists of a number of buildings surrounding a large open courtyard, so while most of the exhibits are inside, you will spend a lot of time walking outdoors, so you need to plan accordingly in inclement weather.
As you enter the complex, you’ll be able to visit displays in the various buildings around the fort, such as the general store or the smithy. We had a great time talking to the blacksmith, and my son even got to go in and give him a hand!
Kids really get a sense of what life was like in those days – from doing laundry and baking bread to what it would have been like to travel cross country with your family in a wagon! My kids really loved climbing up in the tower to see the cannons, which were hung from the ceiling in such a way that they could swing around to point in various directions to protect the fort from attackers.
Keep in mind that Sutter’s Fort does host demonstration days and fairs periodically, so check the calendar before you come. You can even come to the “Haunted Fort” just before Halloween! We got lucky and happened to be there on a day with a large school group, so there were even more interactive exhibits than usual.
Also, they work closely with school groups and scout troops, so be sure to contact them if you’d like to plan a visit with a group of students. One program even lets the kids stay overnight!
May 24, 2017Geography, HistoryComments Off on Terracotta Army: Learning About Ancient China
Who isn’t fascinated by the life-sized terracotta soldiers that were unearthed in China several decades ago? Thousands of these clay soldiers were discovered, each with unique facial characteristics. They were buried with China’s first emperor in his mausoleum, along with hundreds of statues of horses and chariots. It is estimated that it took more than 700,000 workers nearly 40 years to complete the figures. The terracotta army is now considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time and continues to offer clues about life in Ancient China.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Terracotta Army: Learning About Ancient China
Ming’s Adventure with the Terracotta Army is a fun book to teach children about the terracotta soldiers. When Ming visits the museum to see an exhibit on the Terracotta Army, his mother buys him a small replica of the army’s general as a souvenir. That night in his dreams, Ming meets the general, who has magically come to life! The general takes Ming flying through the air in his chariot to visit the Emperor’s mausoleum, where they play hide and seek among the soldiers before rushing home at dawn.
I love this gently told adventure, appropriate for even young children, and how it easily incorporates factual information into the story. Ming learns quite a bit about the army as he plays with the general, but there is even more detailed information included as well, separated from the main text by a distinctive font. The artwork is lovely, bringing the clay figures to life and capturing the intricate details of the soldiers’ uniforms. Really wonderful book to introduce children to this archaeological wonder and get them excited about their next trip to the museum!
Enter below for a chance to win one of our great prize packages in our annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month giveaway! The giveaway goes from May 1 to May 31, 2017, at midnight PT. If the winner falls outside the shipping area of a prize, that prize will revert to the next lower prize package. Read our full giveaway rules.
And for all of our readers, here is a special offer from our sponsor Tingomo! Use the code TENOFFTINGOMO to get 10% off any pre-order! (first kits to ship in July)
As we teach our children about strong women in history, one who stands out is Lena Horne. Her immense talent was matched only by her determination in the face of the racism of her times. I first learned about her from her appearance on The Cosby Show when I was a child and I was captivated by her graceful presence and that amazing voice. So I’m thrilled to introduce a new children’s biography about her which has already received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly. I’m honored to share below an essay by the author, Carole Boston Weatherford, in which she reflects on why she brought Ms. Horne’s story to life in her new book.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
The Legendary Lena Horne: Reflections from Carole Boston Weatherford
So it was only a matter of time before I got around to writing Ms. Horne’s biography. A collaboration with illustrator Elizabeth Zunon, The Legendary Miss Lena Horne introduces this groundbreaking entertainer and activist to a new generation.
Lena Horne lived her life in the spotlight. At age 16, she made her show business debut as a chorus girl at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club, where African Americans performed for whites-only audiences. In the 1940s. she became the first black actor with a major Hollywood studio contract.
Refusing roles as domestics, she found herself confined to musical numbers that could be easily cut for screenings at Southern theaters whose audiences might be offended by her black sensuality. She dubbed herself “a butterfly pinned to a column.” She also appeared in all-black movies such as Stormy Weather, which produced her signature song of the same name.
Offstage, Ms. Horne rebelled against racism at every turn, lashing out when someone hurled a racial epithet and dropping out of a U.S.O. tour when German prisoners of war were treated better than the black soldiers in the audience. From then on, she paid her own way to perform for black troops. During World War II, she was their favorite pinup. Ironically, during the 1950s Red Scare, Ms. Horne was blacklisted for her ties to fellow entertainer and alleged Communist Paul Robeson.
In the 1960s, she took a hiatus from show business to join the Civil Rights Movement. She marched with protestors and sang at rallies. At the 1963 March on Washington, she took her turn at the podium and uttered one word: “Freedom!”
Even in her later years, she kept recording, starred in a one-woman Broadway show, played Glenda the Good Witch in the movie The Wiz, and serenaded Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street.
I grew up watching Ms. Horne’s guest appearances on television variety shows. Back then few blacks were on the small screen and her presence was always an inspiration, always an event. I idolized her then and I still do. For me, Lena Horne will always be larger than life—a fierce and fabulous legend.
Carole Boston Weatherford is a New York Times bestselling author whose 40+ books include many award winners. She is considered one of the leading poets writing for young people today. I was also proud to discover she is a long-time resident of my home state of North Carolina, where she received her MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and where she currently is a Professor of English at Fayetteville State University. You can read more about her on her website.
I have always loved history, but I’ve learned that not everyone does! For many, history is simply a collection of boring facts that they have to memorize in order to pass a test. I’m determined that my children not have this negative experience, so I try to make history fun by doing hands on activities with them. For example, when studying early US history, you could throw a Dolley Madison party! These fun activities are a great way to bring history to life and to teach children about one of our most colorful first ladies.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of What’s the Big Deal About First Ladies?; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Don’t miss a giveaway at the bottom of this post!
Throw a Dolley Madison Party
Dolley Madison was the wife of James Madison, our 4th US president, who was in office from 1809 to 1817. Her parties were legendary, so why not throw your own party to learn more about her? Learn more about her with these fun activities.
Dolley Madison was known for her extravagant fashions, like silk turbans with ostrich feathers coming out of them. So be sure to put on your best “fancy” clothes for your party!
Dolley Madison was incredibly personable and made everyone she met feel like a close friend. No wonder her parties were so popular! In fact, they were known as “crushes” because so many people tried to squeeze inside the White House to attend!
Eat Ice Cream!
Did you know that we have Dolley Madison to thank for making ice cream such a popular dessert here? She even served the tasty treat in fancy pastry shells – maybe an old-fashioned version of our ice cream cones?? Savory flavors were also popular back then, so if you are really brave you could try Dolley Madison’s favorite: oyster ice cream!
It wasn’t all fancy dresses and parties for Dolley Madison! We can also thank her for saving important government papers and a beloved portrait of George Washington during the War of 1812. Dolley stayed at the White House even when most government workers and local residents fled. She made sure that treasures of the young nation were safe from the approaching British then fled to safety herself. Celebrate by drawing your own portrait of George Washington!
Learn more about this brave and kind first lady with these great books!
A wonderful new book of facts and trivia for kids is What’s the Big Deal About First Ladies. It is an engaging and fun book about the women who have made the White House into what it is today. It is fun to see how the role of the first lady has evolved over the years, as well as how these remarkable women have influenced the nation and the world. Some facts are funny (Carrie Harrison was afraid she’d get zapped by the light switches when they first installed electricity at the White House!) while others are inspiring (Lou Hoover was the first woman to graduate from Stanford University with a geology degree and encouraged young girls to follow their dreams). My son has really loved looking through this book, and so have I!
Dolley Madison Saves George Washington is a great book to learn more about Dolley Madison. It tells about her humble beginnings and rise to become the toast of Washington, DC. Readers also learn in detail about her bravery during the War of 1812 and her role in saving treasures from the White House, including that famous portrait of George Washington. Recommended for elementary aged children.
How do you make history fun? Do you have a favorite first lady?
Enter for a chance to win a copy of What’s the Big Deal About First Ladies!
Thank you to Kid World Citizen for compiling these Martin Luther King lessons, activities, and videos!
On Monday, many of us will have kids out of school, some of us will not have to work, and the news will be peppered with stories about good deeds and service projects. The government finally approved the federal holiday of Martin Luther King Day in the 1980’s, and in 1994 President Clinton expanded “the mission of the holiday as a day of community service, interracial cooperation and youth anti-violence initiatives.” Martin Luther King Day is more than just an extra holiday: it is a reminder of the Civil Rights Movement, of the struggles for equality, and of an incredible leader in US history. Through these Martin Luther King lessons and activities, I hope your children are inspired and encouraged to imagine what they can do to make the world a better place- and take action to work towards their goals.
This BrainPop video (as usual) is a fantastic way for kids to learn about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. I love their clear, age-appropriate explanations of nonfiction topics for kids.
Here is the actual speech by Martin Luther King for older kids to hear from the leader himself, the “I Have a Dream” speech given during the March on Washington.
Finally, Kid President does a great job explaining the impact of Marin Luther King Jr, his legacy, and how kids can change the world!
I hope that you enjoyed these resources to teach kids about the great Martin Luther King! Remind your kids that his legacy lives on through our actions, kindness, empathy and service.
About the Author
Becky of Kid World Citizen is an ESL and Spanish teacher, raising 5 bilingual and multicultural kids, sharing ideas to teach kids about world cultures and our planet through travel, food, music, celebrations, service, maps, art, and projects. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
Welcome to our third annual blog hop on Martin Luther King Day for Kids! Find great ideas for commemorating MLK Day with kids and don’t miss our series from last year and 2015! For even more, be sure to follow our Black History Pinterest board!
I try to integrate subjects whenever possible, so when the time came to study the Nazca lines of South America (after our study of the Olmecs), I saw an opportunity for a great STEM project that taught history as well!
What are the Nazca lines and why should we care? These lines, etched into the ground in the Peruvian desert between 500 BC and 500 AD, are now a World Heritage site and one of the great mysteries of history.
Barely noticeable from the ground, these geoglyphs are so large that their true value can only be appreciated from the air, which is why they did not come to public attention until airplanes started flying them in the 1930s.
By Unukorno (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Some of the straight lines are 30 miles long, while the animal and plant figures (our favorites were the hummingbird and monkey) range from 50 to 1200 feet in length (Source: National Geographic).
By Martin St-Amant (S23678) (Français : Travail personnel English: Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
So how did the ancient peoples of this region create these massive works of art? Possible alien visitors (!) notwithstanding, the most likely explanation is simply that they were great engineers, who were able to map out their designs on a grand scale and patiently bring them to life over a vast swath of land.
What would it undertake this kind of engineering project? To explore, we did this STEM activity, which requires little more than paper, pen, chalk, and a large space to draw:
Nazca Lines STEM Project
1. Choose your site. Before you start your engineering project, you need to know where you are going to be doing your final creation. Ideally, it is a large open space outdoors that is divided into several uniform blocks, such as a sidewalk. Decide how many blocks tall and wide your final design will be. We chose a sidewalk at a nearby park and decided to use three blocks of the sidewalk. (You could also use a white board or blackboard that you divide into sections, though it is nice to draw on a horizontal surface to get the full effect).
2. Create your design. Draw blocks on a sheet of paper that match those of your final site. Since we were going to be using three blocks of a sidewalk, we first drew three large blocks on our paper and my son drew his design onto these. This will help you plan how large your drawing needs to be when you transfer it to the sidewalk. You may even find it helpful to divide your paper (and the sidewalk) into smaller blocks. For younger children, try to keep the drawings fairly simple, as it is easy to underestimate how difficult it will be to scale them up in the next step. (Knowing, of course, that many children – like mine – will ignore this advice and draw something complicated, like a detailed picture of a warrior!)
In which we learn an important lesson about not sitting on our chalk drawings.
3. Make your creation. Take chalk and your paper to your final site and transfer your design. Use your sketch to help you see how big each portion has to be on the sidewalk. It will be much bigger than you think! Even with drawing in hand, this was the most challenging part, as it is quite difficult to scale up your drawing onto the pavement.
Note his creative way to make his warrior taller when he realized he hadn’t scaled up enough!
This was a fun project, and it helps build a healthy respect for those long ago engineers!
Welcome to our third annual celebration of Native American Heritage Month! All month long we’ll be sharing posts about sharing these rich cultures with kids. Find our full schedule of posts below, and don’t forget to link up your own as well! We’re also having a giveaway (see below for details and to enter!) You can find even more ideas on our Native/Indigenous Cultures Pinterest board:
Recently we looked at children’s books about the Aztec. Today we’re reaching further back into the history of Mesoamerica (that is, Central America and Mexico) to learn about what is often considered the “mother culture” of this culturally rich region: the Olmec. We learned some of the background of this ancient people and looked at the art they left behind. We focused on some of their most important carvings with a simple but fun jaguar craft that helps reinforce the history lesson but can also be used for younger children to learn about the letter “J.”
The Olmec: Mother Culture of Mesoamerica
The Olmec civilization prospered in the swampy region along the Gulf of Mexico from 1200 BC to 400 BC, more or less at the same time as ancient Greece and the New Kingdom in Egypt. Many of the elements we associate with later civilizations like the Aztec and Maya – sacred ball games, pyramids, human sacrifice, and foods like corn and chocolate – actually began with the Olmec.
Olmec Stone Head, Xalapa Museum, Source: Wikimedia
If you have heard of them at all it is probably due to the massive stone heads they constructed, most likely in memory of their rulers. (A fun craft to do with your kids would be to make their own “stone heads” with play dough!) The Olmec were also known for smaller stone carvings that seem to be related to their religion. Many of these are believed to represent deities, often associated with powerful animals like the eagle, the snake, and the jaguar.
Now, who could resist such a perfect subject to bring my boys to the crafting table? This craft works well for different ages, because my older son was really focused on capturing all of the elements of the ancient carvings. With my preschooler I focused mostly on the “J is for Jaguar” aspect and let him just have fun building with the dough.
J is for Jaguar: Olmec Jaguar Craft
This is a very simple jaguar craft, and you could make it even simpler by substituting play dough for salt dough, or even just making masks out of construction paper or craft foam. Go with what is easy! I picked salt dough because in the end it would have a similar feel to the stone masks we were copying (without having to carve any stone ourselves!) and we would have the option of making them permanent creations.
If you are making salt dough, I recommend this recipe. To color our dough green like the jade that was often used, I used all of a small tube of liquid food coloring. Some people recommend using powdered paint or gel food coloring so you aren’t adding more liquid to the recipe, but ours turned out fine. Be aware that once the creations dry overnight the color will fade somewhat, though it still is a nice shade of green.
Be sure to look at images of the were-jaguar for inspiration. For younger children, you can leave it at that, but for older children you can ask them to incorporate the major elements from the Olmec were-jaguar carvings:
a cleft head (that is, a notch cut on the top of the head)
somewhat slanted eyes
an open mouth, either with fangs or toothless
The finished were-jaguars
The Olmec carvings varied on how much they looked like a jaguar and how much like a human, so leave that to their imaginations. When they are happy with their work, set them out to dry overnight and bake, if desired.
After taking a break last year due to the arrival of Baby #3, we are back with one of my favorite series, the 31 Days of ABC! You can look forward to 31 more days of activities, crafts, books, apps, and more, all dedicated to teaching young children the alphabet.
I am so happy to be working with an amazing group of kid bloggers, who will be sharing their amazing ideas with us in the coming days. And this year for the first year we are also adding a giveaway, so be sure to scroll to the end and enter for a chance to win!
So join us as we jump, skip, hop, and read our way through the alphabet this October!
Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win this great prize package, open internationally!
3 month subscription to the Kidloland app, which includes 575+ interactive nursery rhymes, songs, stories, and educational activities to help children learn ABCs, animals, fruits, vegetables, shapes and more!
The Aztec were one of the greatest (and best known) civilizations of pre-Colombian America. They actually referred to themselves as the Mexica (pronounced “Meh-shee-kah”), which is where we get the name “Mexico” from. The term “Aztec” didn’t become popular until the 18th century, although there is evidence that the Mexica originally called themselves this because they had migrated central Mexico from a homeland they called Aztlán in what is today northern Mexico.
The Aztec are a great topic to explore especially with older kids who will be fascinated by their rituals, warriors, and (of course) human sacrifice. Here are the best books I have found for learning about the Aztec with kids.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.
Top Books for Kids about the Aztec
A great book to start with, especially for young children, is Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate. After all, who wouldn’t want to learn a legend about how humans came to have chocolate? Long ago, Sun God is the only one who has chocolate, which he keeps guarded inside the pods of the cacao plant. Wind God thinks he should share this treasure with humans, but Sun God greedily refuses. Wind God then transforms himself into a blue frog, who spies on the Sun God and helps humans discover where the chocolate is hidden. The colorful illustrations are inspired by Aztec and Mayan art. Includes a recipe for hot chocolate.
In Musicians of the Sun famed author/illustrator Gerald McDermott brings to life the legend of how the Lord of the Night brought joy to the human world through music. The Lord of the Night, seeing that his people were sad and the world a colorless place, helps Wind fly to the house of the Sun (yes, here is that mean Sun God again!), where Sun is holding captive the Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green musicians. With the Lord of the Night’s help, Wind is able to battle the great Sun God and free the musicians, who bring color and laughter to the world with their music.
I love Ballplayers and Bonesetters: One Hundred Ancient Aztec and Maya Jobs You Might Have Adored or Abhorred. It shows the real diversity of this ancient society, and what everyday life would have been like for those holding various jobs. Examples of some of the types of jobs included are state jobs, palace jobs, everyday crafts jobs, luxury crafts jobs, and military jobs. Kids will love the latrine boatmen (who basically collected and sold human waste) as well as the voladores, who would perform at festivals, swinging by their feet like birds high above the crowds. Includes a general introduction to Mesoamerica, with a timeline, fun facts, and quick overview of the language.
Hail! Aztecs is an incredibly fun book. This faux tourist guide is a hilarious, engaging look at the Aztecs, put in terms of modern day society. So for example, there is a shopping guide (all about the markets) and a careers guide. I laughed out loud at the Celebrity Big Brother, where different gods and goddesses “compete” for your vote by telling why they are the best of the bunch. You also don’t want to miss Monty’s blog, posts from Montezuma himself (who was also named Hunk of the Month) as the Spanish first arrive. This is soon interrupted and an “Under New Management” sign appears, followed by a few “blog posts” from Cortés.
I love the concept of What Did the Aztecs Do for Me?, which breaks down why kids should care about the Aztecs. (Like the fact that they invented chocolate and tortillas!) It covers worship, games, and food, with “then and now” comparisons, such as where the Day of the Dead originated and how it is celebrated today.
If you have a child who is interested in fashion or crafts, a great choice is Clothes & Crafts in Aztec Times. It goes over what crafts were done by the Aztecs (such as making pottery or building stone pyramids), as well as the different kinds of clothing and jewelry used. My favorite part is at the end, where you can learn to make some Aztec hairpieces and clothing. (Note: this DIY part is only a small section of the book).
Interestingly, when I searched for books on the Aztec, there were quite a few about Aztec warriors. I found How to Be an Aztec Warrior to be one of the best. No surprise, since it’s from National Geographic! The premise is that you are a living in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán and wish to become a great warrior. Do you have what it takes? The book goes through the various qualifications of being a warrior, from being loyal to your clan to handling the various weapons. I love the use of very engaging but realistic illustrations as well as photos of actual artifacts. If you run across How Would You Survive as an Aztec?, it is by the same author and illustrator and appears to be an early version of this book. Though it doesn’t focus just on warriors, it has almost identical information and many of the same illustrations.
I adore this series, which is a tongue in cheek look at everything from the Assyrian army to Titanic. They are totally fun to read, with silly illustrations and irreverent looks at history that will leave everyone laughing – and I guarantee they will remember the information! Keep in mind that they do make light of serious situations (like human sacrifice, in this case), but if you don’t mind that then you will love them. I do wish they would focus on something other than human sacrifice, since that’s such a sensationalist aspect of the Aztec civilization, but I also understand it because it does get kids’ attention!
Another very irreverent book is The Angry Aztecs. Before you get too upset about the title, you should know that other books in this series include The Vicious Vikings and The Rotten Romans. These are very funny books that older kids will love, using humor to convey well researched information. My son has been reading these books and laughing out loud, but at the same time he really is learning a lot from them!
One middle grade book I have not had a chance to read but that looks really good is Neil Flambé and the Aztec Abduction, part of a series of adventure books. I was worried at first that it might be an Indiana Jones style adventure that relies on popular rather than accurate information about the Aztecs, but this looks to be well researched as well as fun.
This post is also part of the series Global Learning for Kids. Each month we will feature a country and host a link party to collect posts about teaching kids about that country–crafts, books, lessons, recipes, etc. It will create a one-stop place full of information about the country.
This month we are learning all about Mexico, so visit Multicultural Kid Blogs to link up any old or new posts designed to teach kids about Mexico – crafts, books, lessons, recipes, music and more!
Don’t miss all of the great posts from previous years as well: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway!
Giveaway begins September 14 and goes through October 14, 2016.
Enter below for a chance to win one of these amazing prize packages! Some prizes have shipping restrictions. In the event that a winner lives outside the designated shipping area, that prize will then become part of the following prize package. For more information, read our full giveaway rules.