Aesop’s Fables

Remember the Tortoise and the Hare, or the Lion and the Mouse? They are characters from Aesop’s fables, originally created by the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop. Usually they are short stories with animal characters that encounter a problem that illustrates a moral lesson. But they are fun lessons for family discussion or writing prompts, and still relevant about behavior centuries later. Try a few out with the kids and see what they think.

Aesop’s Fables Audio Kid’s Theater Production

Listen to the fables performed with music by a cast of kids.

Aesop’s Fables retold by Gwen Petreman and Chris Stone

Each fable is retold at three different reading levels for different ages. There are classroom questions added, as this version is written with classroom and home teachers in mind.

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse by Aesop retold in the Let’s Learn Aesop’s Fables series

It might seem sometimes that someone else has it all much easier than you, but delve deeper, and perhaps not! Simple retelling for young children.

The Lion and the Mouse by Aesop retold in Let’s Learn Aesop’s Fables series

Even the very smallest individual can be of service. Always moving tale of gratitude and rescue. 

A Day at the Beach

Whether or not you take the kids to the beach, it is fun to start thinking about it and reading about it. Here are four picture books from the silly to the serious about the beach and the wonderful things to find and do there.

The Seashore Book written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Wendall Minor, a picture book for ages 4-8

A gorgeously illustrated story about the sensory experience of a day at the beach, from hunting shells to watching waves. In this classic favorite, a mother describes what it would be like to spend a day at the shore to her son who has yet to see it.

Bats at the Beach, written and illustrated by Brian Lies, a picture book for ages 4-8

Instead of fun in the sun, what if bats went to the beach? Would it be fun in the gloom? In this book, the answer is yes! The bats in this goofy picture book do all the favorite family beach activities during the night hours. Lots of silly details in the illustrations make this a fun choice for kids to compare what they do with the imaginary bat families.

Summer at the Seashore by Sue Tarsky and Claire London, from the Taking a Walk series, a picture book for ages 2-6

Walk along the shore and what do you see? A fun counting book for colors, shapes, and numbers. Each page names the different items to search for and count, whether umbrellas or dogs.

Water Sings Blue: Water Poems written by Kate Coombs and illustrated by Meilo So, a poetry picture book for ages 5-9 

This book features soft watercolor illustrations and short poems about all kinds of wonders to be discovered in the ocean and on the beach. Suitable for reading and discussing aloud.

Shoot for the Stars: Resources for Stargazing and Learning About Outer Space

A Boston Globe article from May 6 highlighted a family-friendly quarantine activity that is out of this world: stargazing! The current lockdown has led to a reduction in light and air pollution, resulting in better conditions for observing the night sky. Caity Sullivan, education associate at the Charles Hayden Planetarium of the Museum of Science, outlines some tips and tricks in the article for at-home stargazing with your family, including free star-viewing apps and what to look for in the night sky.

Though you can’t visit the Hayden Planetarium in person, Sullivan and the folks at the Museum of Science have made it possible for the Planetarium to come to you! Check out their Facebook page for Virtual Planetarium events — you can view past presentations and stay informed about upcoming events, including livestreams of what to view in the night sky. If you miss the presentations, take a look at the Museum’s handy May Sky Chart & Viewing Guide — May is a great month to start backyard stargazing as there will be a rare Mercury sighting the week of May 19th!

For even more space-related fun, listen to Pulsar: A Podcast from the Museum of Science. Their episode on Living in Space, featuring Sullivan, is a must listen, as well as their namesake inaugural episode, All About Pulsars. And for young astronomers, learn about our universe through hands-on activities, such as the Museum’s Our Place in Space family STEM activity and Boston Children’s Museum’s treasure trove of Beyond the Chalkboard NASA-inspired activities, including inventing your own constellations, building paper rockets, and keeping a sky observation journal.

Want more galactic goodness? Check out these fiction and nonfiction titles for all ages — some of many available on Overdrive/Libby with your library card number — to keep your whole family shooting for the stars:

8 Little Planets by Chris Ferrie
Moon! Earth’s Best Friend by Stacy McAnulty (audio) 
Stars! Stars! Stars! by Bob Barner
Fly Guy Presents: Space by Tedd Arnold
Ada Twist’s Big Project Book for Stellar Scientists by Andrea Beaty
Midnight on the Moon (Magic Tree House #8) and its companion Magic Tree House Fact Tracker: Space by Mary Pope Osborne

Junior Genius Guides: Outer Space by Ken Jennings
How to Be A Space Explorer by Lonely Planet Kids
Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Hidden Figures (Young Readers’ Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly (audio)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown

And for some further space exploration, check out encyclopedic text about the solar system in Salem Press, or take a peek at our selection of Great Courses videos about astronomy and the mysteries of the universe:

Our Night Sky
Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe
The Search for Exoplanets: What Astronomers Know
The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries
The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy

Happy stargazing!

Bedtime Stories for “Adulting” Fatigue

In times like these, “adulting” is more a necessity than an option. And if you’re feeling somewhat world-weary in consequence, you might take inspiration from one of Boston’s WCRB Classical Radio presenters, who has begun the charming Aurora Bedtime Story Project on Facebook Live and YouTube. Night after quarantined night, you can tune in at 9:30 pm (EST, Sundays-Fridays) to listen yourself into a not-so-grown-up state of wonder and relaxation. On the storytime menu? Alice in Wonderland, Winnie-the-Pooh, The Cricket in Times Square, several Beatrix Potter gems, some Grimm fairy tales, and The Wind in the Willows.

So, in the midst of  this very “adult” crisis, there is still that one, great childhood pleasure available to us: the inestimable comfort of being read to. If you don’t have the freedom in your schedule to tune into live performances, APL’s digital library is here for you 24/7! Our newly-curated hoopla audiobook collection–2020 APL Bedtime Stories for “Adulting” Fatigue–showcases some of the titles mentioned above, along with a number of other classic favorites.

So, if you’ve been meaning to read The Chronicles of Narnia–or at least The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–since your fifth-grade classmate raved about it decades ago, now is your chance! Or escape into the wondrous world created by C. S. Lewis’s good friend J. R. R. Tolkien in The Hobbit. Or perhaps step into an enchanted Yorkshire realm as you unlock the gate to The Secret Garden. Even if you have read these or the other suggested titles before, it may well be therapeutic to tune in to a tucked-in, ready-for-a-bedtime-story feeling. Happy listening, and sweet dreams!