(almost) Wordless Wednesday: Canelo picks his favorite book

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

When my daughter’s babysitter cleaned out her bookshelf, she very kindly offered The Nine-Year-Old the pick of her collection — including an astounding number of Warriors books by Erin Hunter. (Best babysitter ever!)

Faced with such riches, The Nine-Year-Old is having trouble deciding which book to read first. Canelo, on the other hand, knows exactly where The Nine-Year-Old should start. He’s had his paw, chin, tail, or ears casually resting on Secrets of the Clan all day.

Yes, Canelo, I did notice that that cat looks exactly like you.

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What’s The Nine-Year-Old reading this week?

If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island by Ellen Levine

ellisislandWhat the book’s about:   Ellen Levine’s book talks about what it was like for people who immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1914. Although the title implies that the book talks mostly about what happened to immigrants who had their names changed at the border (whether by choice or by imposition), Levine actually covers much more than that. Levine breaks down the process of immigration through Ellis Island into one or two page chunks that cover issues like medical exams, literacy tests, what happened if/when people were detained, and the situations in which families were allowed to stay together or broken up.  

Why The Nine-Year-Old thinks you’ll like it: “The one-sentence stories about people who had their names changed and why are really interesting. One guy changed his name from SomethingSomethingNelson* to just Nelson because he was afraid the longer version would be too hard for Americans to say and so they wouldn’t let him into America at all.” (*I would like to note for the record that in telling me this story The Nine-Year-Old said the man’s real name, not SomethingSomethingNelson, but I didn’t write the name down at the time and now I can’t remember what that original name was.)

The Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl by Daniel Pinkwater

catwhiskeredgirlWhat the book’s about: Big Audrey has cat whiskers and cat eyes (sort of). She’s heard a rumor that there’s another cat-whiskered cat-eyed girl somewhere, so she says goodbye to her friends in Los Angeles and sets off on a road trip with a bongo-playing Marlon Brando to track down her cat-whiskered doppelgänger. Will Big Audrey find the answers she seeks in that international city of mystery, Poughkeepsie, New York?

Why The Nine-Year-Old thinks you should pick it up: “Daniel Pinkwater is a really funny writer. This book is amazing. I’d rate it six stars if I could.”

Come find us on Goodreads:

The Caterpickles Goodreads page is coming along swimmingly. I haven’t shelved quite as many books this week as I had hoped, but there are still some 130 or so up there to browse through.

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Throwback Thursday: “Are caterpillars ticklish?” Part Two: The Tickling

Every once in a while when I tell people the name of my blog, they want to know why I picked it. Believe it or not, there is actually a reason. Back in the days when my daughter’s question-to-declarative sentence ratio was a hefty 15:1, she asked me a question about caterpillars that launched an impromptu science experiment that was so much fun, I decided to document it (and a few of my daughter’s other questions) for posterity.

Her question, “Are caterpillars ticklish?”,  became the first post on this blog. Back in those days, The (then) Four-Year-Old called caterpillars caterpickles, so the name seemed only natural.

Finding out whether or not caterpillars are ticklish turned out to be a multi-post adventure, with the setup for the experiment happening in the first post. The bulk of the experiment happened in Part Two, however, so that’s the post I’ve chosen to reproduce here. This only vaguely science-y experiment was first published on May 31, 2011, when The Nine-Year-Old was a mere four-year-old. 

Our Test Subject (shown next to a ruler because measuring stuff makes it seem more science-y)

If you are just joining us, yesterday my daughter asked me if caterpillars are ticklish. Today is the day we find out.

What Happened:
Parking the car under a tree worked beautifully. When we walked out this morning, we found plenty of candidates.

Tickle Attempt 1: The Leaf

Tickling a caterpillar with a leaf was hard. Once you put the leaf near the caterpillar’s belly (where the nervous system is), the caterpillar simply squidged onto it.

Get me out of here!

Preliminary Verdict #1:
Leaves do not appear to be very ticklish for caterpillars.

Tickle Attempt #2: The Feather
The first tickle with the feather was highly satisfying, as the caterpillar promptly curled up on its side just like my daughter does when I tickle her. It looked very ticklish. But the results of the second and third attempts with the feather were not as compelling (the caterpillar simply ignored it).

Preliminary Verdict #2:
Feathers seem more startling than ticklish.

tickle, tickle, tickle

Tickle Attempt #3: The Flower
The flower gets more points, as my daughter says, because every time we tried to tickle the caterpillar with the flower, it appeared to work.

Our Conclusion:
Caterpillars are ticklish with the right equipment.

What The Four-Year-Old Thought:
“Very good.”

mmm caterpillar snacks

In Case You Were Wondering:
No caterpillars were harmed in this experiment, although one of them was thoroughly annoyed. My daughter placated him with a plate of tasty snacks.

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(almost) Wordless Wednesday: Grandpa’s giant box

Remember that time Grandpa gave Grandma a mysterious something in a box that was almost as large as The (then) Six-Year-Old?

Well, this past Christmas Grandma upped the ante by giving Grandpa a mysterious something in a box that was almost as large as The (now) Nine-Year-Old.

(Photo: Shala Howell)

(Photo: Shala Howell)

Your move, Grandpa.

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“Is a mink a weasel?”

An American mink with porcupine quills stuck in its face. As you can see, minks are aggressive hunters who will attack animals larger than themselves. (Photo: Gouldingken via Wikipedia)

An American mink with porcupine quills stuck in its face. As you can see, minks are aggressive hunters who will attack animals larger and more prickly than themselves. (Photo: Gouldingken via Wikipedia)

You may remember that before Mommyo got distracted by the weird lyrics in Christmas carols, Daddyo’s mind had a question: “How can you tell the difference between a white weasel and an ermine?

After I had explained to him about the differences in their size (ermines are bigger), belly fur (ermine belly fur is more yellowish than the white fur on a weasel belly), and tails (ermine tails are tipped with black), he was silent for a moment. But only for a moment: “So, is a mink a weasel?”

I promised him I’d look it up just as soon as I’d figured out how you troll an ancient Yuletide carol. The Nine-Year-Old comes by her boundless curiosity honestly.

As long-time Caterpickles readers can tell you, “just as soon as” in Caterpickles speak can mean anything from two days to five years later. In this case, “just as soon as” turns out to have meant “I’ll look it up in one month and four days, Daddyo.”

So, is a mink a weasel?

No. Minks and weasels are completely different animals. However, they are related. Both are members of the mustelid animal family.

In the interest of staving off future questions along this vein from Daddyo, I’ll just note for the record now that the mustelid family tree also includes martens, fishers, ferrets, polecats, stoats/ermines, wolverines, and badgers.

How can you tell the difference between a mink and a weasel?

Size matters here. The feet will give you a hint as well, as will the type of land around you when you spot one of these guys in the wild. Let’s break it down.

Minks are larger than weasels.

Least weasel. (Photo via Nature Conservancy)

Least weasel. (Photo via Nature Conservancy)

Ah, the poor weasel. It truly does seem to be the least of the Mustelidae. As we learned a few weeks ago, ermines are bigger than the American least weasel. Today we’re going to learn that minks are too. By quite a lot.

Male minks can weigh up to 3.5 pounds. The heaviest male weasels weigh in at just 16 ounces, but male weasels can weigh as little as 3 ounces. (The females of both species are smaller than their male counterparts. Female minks weigh just shy of 2 pounds, while female weasels edge the needle on the scale a mere 1-9 ounces.)

As you might expect from their greater weight, minks end up being about twice as long as weasels. Fully grown male minks are 20 to 3o inches long (tails included), while fully grown male weasels typically range from 10 to 16 inches long.

All that said, I still don’t have the skills to look at something in the wild and figure out by sight how long that skinny bundle of brown fur is, much less how much it weighs. I need a better reference point.

Fortunately one exists. It’s tempting to say here that you can tell them apart by the color of their fur. After all, minks are often solid brown, while weasels have a white belly. Minks also stay brown all year, while weasels in northern climates will turn white in the winter. Still, that may not be the best feature to rely on, as some minks do have white patches on their belly, and southern weasels don’t always turn white in winter.

We need something else, so let’s look at the feet.

Minks have partially webbed feet.  Weasels don’t.

I know what you’re thinking. “What if I can’t see its feet?”

Just look around you. What sort of habitat are you standing in?

Minks hunt in and around water. Weasels hunt on dry land.

An American mink emerges from a pond near Portland, Oregon. (Photo: Chuck Holmer via Wikipedia)

An American mink emerges from Capisic Pond in Portland, Maine. (Photo: Chuck Holmer via Wikipedia)

If you’re standing near a river, lake, stream, pond, or marsh, that skinny bundle of brown fur you just spotted is probably a mink. If that brown skinny furbody just slipped into the water to go swimming, it was almost definitely a mink chasing after its favorite food, the muskrat.

Weasels, on the other hand, hunt on dry land. Although they do need water to drink, weasels typically stick to woody or brushy areas and open fields. There they chase prey such as rabbits, moles, voles, and mice down the little tunnels that serve as the prey animals’ homes.

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What’s The Nine-Year-Old reading this week?

First Light by Rebecca Stead

first-lightWhat the book’s about:   Rebecca Stead’s young adult novel follows 12-year-old Peter on a trip to Greenland. His father, a glaciologist, and his mother, a genetic scientist are headed to Greenland to study the effects of global warming, and they are taking the family along.

Fourteen-year-old Thea is a member of a secret society that lives under the ice in Greenland. Thea longs for the world under the sun, and after finding a map leading to the surface, dares to go above ground.

There, Thea meets Peter. The two children find their lives unexpectedly intertwined. 

Why The Nine-Year-Old likes it: “This is a story that probably wouldn’t happen, but it’s got cool science in it, and I enjoy reading about that.”

Abrakapow by Isaiah Campbell

abrakapowWhat the book’s about: Middle-schooler and budding magician Maxine Larousse (aka “The Amazing Max”) moved from New York City to Texas when her father, Major Larousse was put in charge of a Nazi POW camp in Abilene. She wiles away her time in her desolate new town by practicing her illusions and putting on magic shows for her ferret, Houdini.

When Maxine puts on a magic show for the Nazi prisoners, the performance is a hit — until 12 prisoners escape during the final act. Can Maxine track them down?

This entertaining mystery is based on a true World War II story. How-to diagrams sprinkled throughout let curious readers try out some of Maxine’s tricks at home.

What The Nine-Year-Old likes about it: “I really like the way the tension is building. The Nazis have just escaped! I have to get back to reading now so I can see if Maxine finds them again.”

Come find us on Goodreads:

The Caterpickles Goodreads page is coming along swimmingly. I’ve got 125 books shelved so far for your browsing pleasure, with more to come.

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The Six-Year-Old Watches Cartoons – “Superman Episode 3: The Arctic Giant” (1942) #ThrowbackThursday

I had such a good time in December trolling through the archives for Throwback Thursday posts, that I’ve decided to keep it up for a while. This one was originally published on May 13, 2013, when The Nine-Year-Old was only six.

Superman from the title sequence of the 1942 cartoon, "The Arctic Giant." (Public Domain)

Superman from the title sequence of the 1942 cartoon, “Superman: The Arctic Giant.” (Public Domain)

Every Sunday afternoon (at least, every Sunday that we can manage it), our family clusters on the couch with a bowl of fresh-popped popcorn and proceeds to haggle over our Sunday Afternoon Movie.

Sometimes we pick a classic movie, like Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, or Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp. Sometimes we pick more contemporary fare like Kung Fu Panda or Hop.
Often we don’t watch a movie at all, and settle in for a new-to-us documentary (The Six-Year-Old is particularly fond of Kara Cooney’s Out of Egypt series), or an episode of Jeremy Wade’s River Monsters (thanks for the tip, Grandpa).

A few weeks ago, though, we were in the mood for old-timey cartoons, so Daddyo put together a marathon of the original Superman cartoons from the 1940s. Watching old Superman cartoons is inherently fun, not only because of the way Superman’s skills have evolved over the years (Superman doesn’t fly in these old cartoons — he sproings to where he’s going like some sort of caped flea), but also because The Six-Year-Old comments freely on what she’s seeing.

Episode Three: The Arctic Giant was particularly entertaining. In it, a group of scientists have discovered a frozen T. Rex somewhere in Siberia. Naturally, they haul it back to the United States and exhibit it to the public.

Frozen T. Rex on exhibit. (Public Domain)

Frozen T. Rex on exhibit. (Public Domain)

The delightfully steam-punk refrigeration machine keeping the T. Rex in a deep freeze breaks during the exhibition and the T. Rex melts in a matter of minutes.

The melting T. Rex from 1942's Arctic Giant. (Public Domain)

The melting T. Rex from 1942’s “Superman: The Arctic Giant.” (Public Domain)

The Six-Year-Old: “Note to self. This isn’t good.”

The T. Rex slams its spiny tail into a building. Chaos erupts on the streets. A man shouts, “It’s alive!” Cars crash, a woman screams.  Music swells dramatically.

The T. Rex demolishes a building in 1942's Arctic Giant. (Public Domain)

The T. Rex demolishes a building in 1942’s “Superman: The Arctic Giant.” (Public Domain)

The Six-Year-Old, disgustedly: “T. Rex didn’t have spines. Sheesh.”

The T. Rex flares his claws and snarls threateningly as he’s barraged by a stream of useless bullets.

Too many fingers. (Public Domain)

The T. Rex from 1942’s “Superman: The Arctic Giant.” (Public Domain)

The Six-Year-Old, distractedly: “Huh? He didn’t have four fingers.”

The T. Rex wades into a river, destroying a dam, overturning a boat full of passengers, and tearing apart a bridge like a toddler smashing through a building block village. Superman scrambles to keep up.

T. Rex wades to the dam in Arctic Giant (Public Domain)

T. Rex wades to the dam in “Superman: The Arctic Giant” (Public Domain)

The Six-Year-Old: “Hey! That’s the old-timey way to have him stand.”

Mommyo, soothingly: “Well, at least they got the three toes right.”

The Six-Year-Old, disgustedly: “The tongue’s all wrong though.”

The T. Rex tries to eat Lois. I confess, I'm kind of sorry it didn't work. Lois is a bit of a twit in the original series. (Public Domain)

The T. Rex tries to eat Lois. I confess, I’m kind of sorry it didn’t work. Lois is a bit of a twit in the original series. (Public Domain)

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Wordless Wednesday: Happy New Year!

Photo: Michael Howell

Photo: Michael Howell

As you can see, The Nine-Year-Old is making quick work of her New Year’s Resolutions. “Take Darth Vader and Yoda to see Rogue One” is already complete.

Related Links:

  • More Wordless Wednesdays on Caterpickles
  • Star Wars Crochet pattern book, because I know you want a wee Vader, Ewok, Chewie, or Yoda of your own, and I’m all done making them
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The Nine-Year-Old’s year in books

The Year in Books Report for the brand-spanking new Caterpickles Goodreads account.

The Year in Books Report for the brand-spanking new Caterpickles Goodreads account.

I’ve been using Goodreads on a personal basis for years now. All those years, I’ve been tracking the books we review on Caterpickles on my children’s books shelf. But with 300 books and counting there, it occurred to me that perhaps my children’s books shelf was not turning out to be the useful resource for Caterpickles readers that I had intended.

Which is why I’m in the process of creating a Goodreads account dedicated to the books reviewed here on Caterpickles. Eventually, all of the book reviews here will also be over there. More importantly, those books will be shelved according to the age my daughter was when she first read them.

So the next time you’re in the market for a book to share with a child, you’ll be able to pop over to the Caterpickles Goodreads account and see what my daughter was reading at that age and what she thought about it.

It’s still a work in progress, but I’ve got all of her nine-year-old books up there, some of her eight-year-old ones, and hope to finish posting the rest from ages 4-7 by the end of next week.

Check it out, and if you’re on Goodreads, befriend us.

A sample of some of the books we read this year, from the Caterpickles 2016 Year in Books Report on Goodreads.

A sampling of some of the books we read this year, from the Caterpickles 2016 Year in Books Report on Goodreads.

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Classic Caterpickles: “Does Santa spend the rest of the year sleeping?”

Mommyo, admiring her then four-year-old daughter’s new pink and brown Dawson Crocs: “Boy, The Four-Year-Old, Santa did a great job with those shoes. They sure are cute. I wish they came in my size.”

The (then) Four-Year-Old: “Ask Santa!”

Mommyo: “I can’t. He’s done for the year. You know he worked really hard on Christmas Eve. I’ll just have to wait.”

Slight pause, then…

The (then) Four-Year-Old: “Does Santa spend the rest of the year sleeping?”

Posted in Funny Stuff My Daughter Says, Throwback Thursdays | Tagged , | Leave a comment