Sea otters need a little love now and again, and the staff at the Shedd Aquarium wanted to make sure they had a special Valentine's Day. The marine mammal trainers handed out blocks of V-Day colored, shaped ice with clam "frosting." I'm sure Ben & Jerry's is reading with interest.
Happy Valentine's Day to all of our readers.
George Washington is sort of the gift that keeps on giving. Though he was born 281 years ago, we all still get the day off around his birthday. With schools closed (and hopefully you're office, as well), you suddenly have a bonus day to do fun stuff with the kids. Here's a rundown of what's happening on Monday, and of course, there's so much more in our extensive events listings.
- The Chicago History Museum goes all out for Presidents Day (as you'd expect), with a ton of fun activities. Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln will be there to meet guests throughout the day, there will be a presidental portrait craft activity for kids, storytelling from 10:30–11am, trivia and more. Visit the museum's site for a full list of activities.
- All of the Chicago Museums are open on Monday, and it is also one of the Shedd Aquarium’s Illinois Resident Discount days (i.e. general admission is free), so there's even more reason to stop in.
- Lincoln Park Zoo is hosting its Monkeys, Apes and Me workshop, where kids can learn about primates, and what separates sapiens from sapiens.
- Kids Clay Room is offering a Presidents Day Camp. Students will make and glaze clay projects, and learn about tools and techniques used to create a ceramic piece. And while the kids are busy with camps and classes, adults can enjoy the Oscar-nominated movie Lincoln at a participating AMC Theatre for only $5 with this coupon.
- Pump It Up playroom is hosting a President's Day play day. For $10, your kids can play until they crash.
- Up for a road trip? It may be worth the long car ride to experience this interactive adventure for kids at Conner Prairie in Fishers, Indiana. It's a chance to celebrate President Washington’s birthday, meet historical figures, and sing patriotic songs with Lady Liberty. Rumor has it there will also be a boxing match between Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt. Not a joke.
- Prospect Heights Park District is holding a kiddie carnival at the Gary Morava Recreation Center. Only $5 for residents, $7 for non-residents.
Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to gush over anything adorable—so here are two baby Sichuan takins from the Lincoln Park Zoo looking for names. The yet-unnamed half-brothers were born nine days apart earlier this winter to father Quan Li and different mothers (we hope that doesn’t make things awkward around the Antelope & Zebra Area). The Zoo is asking fans of the Chinese goat antelopes to choose what to name them.
“A pair of healthy takin baby boys is way better than candy and roses,” as general curator Dave Bernier said in a zoo statement. A full list to vote on can be found here—but just so you know, we’re pulling for “superior handsomeness.” Click quickly; voting ends Wednesday, February 20.
Go visit these sweeties in the next few weeks before they start to look like furry manatees with horns and hooves. The herd’s on exhibit from 10am–2pm. You can also get involved with bringing up baby by “ADOPT”-ing a takin or providing them with care.
It's Valentine's Day, so we thought we'd take a break from our regularly scheduled magazine to check in on our "Hot Dads/Cute Kids," contest. We've had a good number of entries featuring some cute families, as you can see in the slideshow above. However, there is still plenty of time to submit photos, and enter to win a prize package worth up to $400. What better way to celebrate the old man than to brag about him on Valentine's Day?
Note: If you submitted and don't see your photo up there, it's probably because the image you sent was either too small or cropped in a way that made it difficult to fit in a slideshow. One of you sent us a photo of your husband and the kids…with the husband's head cropped out. We'll be in touch to get a better image. Thanks!
Music and method will bring 18 young Chicago strings players to the international stage March 27 for the 16th annual Suzuki Method world convention in Matsumoto, Japan. With no language in common, the students will share music. Each learned how to play their instrument the same way: via the Suzuki Method, which emphasizes learning to play by ear. “Essentially, the pedagogy mirrors the developmental process of a child learning a language,” says Herine Coetzee Koschak, co-director of the Merit School of Music’s Suzuki-Alegre program.
The Chicago violinists, violists and cellists headed for Japan all study at the Merit School of Music’s Suzuki-Alegre strings program. The 10–18-year-olds have spent years at Merit, performing music specially selected to improve their technique and infuse the learning process with cultural significance. With the Suzuki-Alegre program traditionally serving many students of Latino origins, the course’s original creator decided to spice up the customary classical repertoire with Latin folk songs. “[She] started this program in Pilsen and found immediately that she could respond to the incredibly rich Latin culture,” Koschak says. “She asked the families, ‘What are your folk songs?’ ”
Because the Suzuki Method believes recognition and repetition are crucial to learning music, it encourages children to practice songs they’re familiar with, and that have been in their ears for years. At Merit, students don’t just begin with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” but also learn Spanish songs like “Cielito Lindo,” or “Los Elefantes.” Over two thirds of the pieces the program now performs are Latino-infused.
The global touch to Merit’s teaching method fits perfectly with this year’s convention theme: “The World will be One, Joined Together by Children Making Music.” The Suzuki Method, like math, creates a universal language, which students can use to relate to each other. And though some teachers in the classes throughout the five-day convention may not speak English, co-director Monica Lugo’s sure her Chicago students will get the gist.
“When we think about music, they have [all] learned exactly the same thing exactly the same way,” she says. “As soon as they recognize the name [of the piece], or as soon as the piano starts playing, they will immediately be able to play the same way.”
See the Suzuki-Alegre students play their convention set at a "bon voyage" concert March 16. Student Mercy Garriga, asked to address the crowd in Matsumoto, will practice her speech there. 38 S Peoria St (312-786-9428, meritmusic.org). March 16. Noon–1pm. Free.
Merit School of Music is $15,000 shy of its $128,000 fundraising goal. Call Rita McLennon at Merit (312-267-4461) or click here to donate (on the site, make sure to select "Suzuki-Alegre Strings Japan Trip" in the "Please direct my donation to:" area). All donations made before March 15th (or up to $10,000) will be matched by an individual donor.
While the Harry Potter series may have ended, J.K. Rowling and Scholastic have an idea to keep kids hooked on the books: newly designed cover art for U.S. trade paperbacks, coming September 2013. With this marketing move announced today, Scholastic hopes to catch the eyes of kids (and 22-year-olds like me) still waiting on Hogwarts letters, and to remind millennials who’ve grown up with HP movies that the magic started with books. To see a larger version, click here.
As it’s been 15 years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone first landed (much like Harry at the Dursley’s) on U.S. doorsteps, readers won’t begrudge the book jacket a facelift—especially when it’s carried off by capable hands. Scholastic selected Kazu Kibuishi to re-imagine Mary GrandPré’s artwork and celebrate the book’s American anniversary. The author/illustrator of his own young adult graphic novel series, Amulet, Kibuishi brings a new aesthetic to Stone’s appearance.
GrandPré diehards will find no reason to despair at the covers, which follow in her warm and whimsical footsteps, yet feel more modern, rounded and serene. Kibuishi will put a scene from each novel on the seven covers, and the image he’s chosen for Stone reads less like a snapshot of the whole story and more like a vignette.
Potterheads loudly protesting any change will be reassured to know GrandPré’s work will still appear on American hardcovers and digital paperbacks. However, I predict minimal grousing from fans as these covers work well as tributes to the originals—with a light twist. “As an author myself, I tried to answer the question, 'If I were the author of the books - and they were like my own children - how would I want them to be seen years from now?'” Kibuishi says in a statement from Scholastic. “In a way, the project became a tribute to both Harry Potter and the literary classics.”
Already a legend, the best-selling series extends its longevity by gaining a new audience of readers ready to enter the wizarding world. Look for the Kibuishi-designed covers in September; all seven paperbacks will also be sold together in a boxed set then.
It's hard to think of an easier and quicker good deed you could do today then to send a valentine to a patient at Lurie Children's Hospital. The process is incredibly simple: Just go to the site, enter your info and select the valentine you would like to send. The hospital's goal is to collect 8,000 valentines by tomorrow so they'll have enough for each patient, and to paper the walls of the hospital's Family Life Center. You can choose from three valentines, and write a personalized message. I just sent the whale one, and it took me all of 84 seconds. Do it already!
As the largest automobile exhibition in the nation, the Chicago Auto Show has hundreds of cars to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at. There’s big cars, small cars, tall cars, shiny cars, police cars, and so on. There’s even a giant tractor. The auto show isn’t solely about browsing and admiring cars, though. There’s plenty of other activities to keep you and the family entertained. For a closer look at what the Chicago Auto show has to offer, check out the video I produced this past weekend for a class at Loyola Chicago. The video highlights cars and activities and features a delightful young host by the name of Cate Locke, a 10-year-old from Western Springs, Illinois.
Take a test drive
Of the three indoor test tracks at this year’s Chicago Auto Show, Jeep offers the most thrilling experience. A professional driver takes you on a journey through an obstacle course filled with a rugged landscape, giant rocks and one incredibly steep hill. (Little ones can also take a cruise on the mini-Jeep course.) For more stable test rides, Chrysler and Toyota have got you covered.
Climb the rock wall
Boredom does not exist on the Jeep floor. Strap on a harness and climb up to reach the bell at the top of the wall. Just don’t look down.
If Johnny Weir, a Broadway show, and the High School Musical had a baby, Disney on Ice’s Rockin’ Ever After at the United Center would be the result. It’s schmaltzy, colorful, eclectic and fun—the perfect mix for kids just learning the characters’ names and parents mouthing lyrics to music.
Mickey and Minnie open the show in silver lamé outfits and holding sparkly mics. Hosting (with help from Goofy and Donald) the peppy variety spectacular à la "America’s Got Talent," Minnie and Mickey lead the audience through four adapted Disney tales from Brave, Tangled, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. The talent-search premise is shaky, but it doesn’t matter—once you’ve seen the characters perform, you won’t care about a greater story arc. Each segment has its own gorgeous (and sometimes crazy glittery) aesthetic. In Ariel’s world, neon costumes glow in dim lighting, while Brave’s Merida glides among plaid-wearers dancing jigs on skates. Group numbers stun with intricate and zippy choreography, but I gasped loudest at partner acts, when princesses’ beaus-to-be lifted them high, seeming to defy physics.
Quick changes between beautiful costumes, special effects and almost-perfectly performed theatrical skating create a magical atmosphere. Purists will complain they’ve modified songs and stories, as each tale skimps on tension to resolve conflicts quickly, but parents will value the economic use of time. Mom, Dad and older sibs will appreciate Easter eggs like soundtrack samplings from Madonna, the Dropkick Murphys and the Go-go’s.
Nostalgic as always, I loved "Under the Sea" and "Be Our Guest" best. I’m not knocking numbers based off newer movies, though; I laughed hardest during Tangled’s set, especially at the delightfully grumpy horse manned flawlessly by two skaters.
Perhaps the most surprising part of the day: how easily activity flowed. Free parking at United was a dream, and the show’s timely start and end meant we were out of the lot 15 minutes after the finale. Be warned—souvenirs on the way in and out pull like magnets. Nix annoying $20-$24 light toys and instead go for snack/souvenir combos you can buy in your seat, like popcorn and cotton candy. The fluffy stuff was $12 and came with choice of crown or Flounder hat. Needless to say, I left the arena looking like a princess.
Sunday was the second-annual 90-second Newbery Film Festival at the Harold Washington Library Center, which means that for a second year in a row, kids have made abridged film versions of kid-lit classics, and got to see them projected on the big screen. The brainchild of young-adult author James Kennedy, the fest is bar-none the most creative attempt to not just get kids excited about books, but to actively engage their enthusiasm. Kennedy co-hosted with fellow Chicago author Blue Balliett, and the two supposedly sang a duet, though there is suspiciously scant evidence. If you weren't able to make it, check out some of the year's top selections made by Chicago kids. The one above was made by the students at Burley Elementary in Chicago.