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Good Stuff for Special Days by Becky Rupp

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Good Stuff for Special Days by Becky Rupp

Coming up this month on April 14th: a brand new moon!

CrescentMoon

For thousands of years, various cultures have used the first sighting of the new crescent moon as the basis for their calendars. Moslems today, for example, depend on the naked-eye sighting of the first waxing crescent moon as the starting point of the Islamic lunar month.

Astronomers and skywatchers compete to spot the youngest possible crescent moon. The record is held by Mohsen Mirsaeed of Tehran, who in September 2002 – with the help of binoculars and perfect viewing conditions – managed to spot a sliver-like crescent moon just 11 hours and 40 minutes old.

Usually the new crescent is tough to see until it’s at least 20 hours old. Hopeful crescent-spotters should go out after dusk on the evenings of April 14-16 and check out the western horizon, close to where the sun just set.

For more information – and a place to share your observations – check out Moon Watch.

More moon resources:

Faith McNulty’s If You Decide to Go to the Moon (Scholastic, 2005) is a mock travel manual for young astronauts, describing what to take on your journey to the moon (peanut butter), how long it will take to get there, what you can expect to find on the lunar surface, and how to get back home again. The book ends with a brilliantly colorful fold-out depicting all the “special blessings” of Earth, which look all the brighter compared to the previous black-and-gray moonscapes. For ages 4-9.

Franklyn M. Branley’s What the Moon Is Like (HarperCollins, 2000) in the popular “Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out” science series is a simple picture-book introduction for ages 4-8, with instructions for making your own lunar craters with flour, cocoa powder, and a marble.

In the same series, also see Branley’s The Moon Seems to Change (HarperCollins, 1987), a nicely presented explanation of moon phases, with instructions for a hands-on demonstration using an orange and a flashlight.

Gail Gibbons’s The Moon Book (Holiday House, 1998), illustrated with bright paintings, covers all the basics for ages 5-9, including theories of moon origin, phases, eclipses, the tides, lunar exploration, and moon legends.

Seymour Simon’s The Moon (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2003) is a fact-packed overview for ages 7-11, gorgeously illustrated with NASA photographs.

For ages 9-12, Stuart Ross’s Moon: Science, History, and Mystery (Scholastic, 2009) is a 128-page photo-crammed survey of a wide range of moon topics, from early Islamic astronomy to the Apollo missions.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Moon (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006) is the picture-book version of the classic poem from A Child’s Garden of Verses. Accompanying moonlit pictures show a little boy and his father taking a night-time boat trip. For ages 3-6.

Joseph Bruchac’s Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back (Putnam Juvenile, 1997) is a collection of poems about the thirteen moons of the Native American year, each of which has its own distinctive (and wonderful) name, among them the “Moon of Popping Trees” and the “Seventh Moon When the Acorns Appear.” For ages 5-11.

For ages 3-7, Cynthia Rylant’s Long Night Moon (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2004) has the same theme: each double-page spread describes a Native American moon, with a simple brief poetic text.

In Jimmy Liao’s beautifully illustrated When the Moon Forgot (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009), the moon falls out of the sky and into a pond, where it is rescued by a lonely little boy who takes it home and befriends it. For ages 5-10.

James Thurber’s Many Moons (Sandpiper, 1998) is the clever and enchanting tale of the little princess Lenore, who falls ill from a surfeit of raspberry tarts and won’t get well again unless she has the moon. Everyone in the palace has a different idea of what the moon is and how to get it, though ultimately the problem is solved by the wise Court Jester, with a little help from the princess herself. Officially for ages 5-9, but will be loved by all.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Eyes on the Sky, Feet on the Ground is a terrific collection of inquiry-based hands-on astronomy activities for children ages 7-12. See chapter 6, “The Earth’s Moon,” for a range of activities on moon observation, moon phases, and tides.

From the Wichita, KS, Lake Afton Public Observatory, Observing Moon Phases is an activity suitable for a wide range of ages with downloadable worksheets and calendar pages for recording observations.

From the Tucson Observatory, Observing the Moon includes detailed instructions and explanations for moon watchers and a checklist of lunar features. (Try to find them all.)

From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Observing the Moon has a downloadable moon map, and a range of excellent activities on such topics as moon phases, eclipses, and lunar craters.

Skywatcher’s Guide to the Moon has a printable moon map, a moon phase calendar, and a wealth of interesting moon information.

Visit for a month-by-month moon phase calendar.

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