The Story of Grace Hopper for Kids

Has your curiosity ever gotten you in trouble? Maybe you took something apart or made a mess while you were trying to find out how it worked, or maybe you’ve asked a grown-up a question they didn’t know how to answer. If so, don’t feel bad about yourself! You have something in common with some of the smartest and most innovative people in history, including the subject of today’s episode, Grace Murray Hopper. 

Grace was born and raised in New York City, and she was a very curious child. Her family had a large summer home, which they shared with her many cousins. Each of the seven bedrooms in the house had an alarm clock, and every evening, Grace’s mother would set each alarm clock. This was the early twentieth century, so these weren’t the kind of alarm your parents might have on their phone, or even a digital alarm clock. These were old-fashioned clocks with gears in them and two bells on top. When the alarm rang, a small hammer would go back and forth, quickly hitting the bells and making a loud, high-pitched ring. This kind of ringing was impossible to sleep through! If you imagine what an old-fashioned fire alarm might sound like, it would be similar to that. 

Grace was fascinated by the alarm clocks, and wanted to know how they worked. So she took one apart! But looking at the pile of gears, springs, and hands, in front of her, she still wasn’t sure. 

So she took apart another. 

Then another. 

Eventually, Grace took apart all seven alarm clocks, trying to figure out how all the tiny, complicated pieces worked together. Her mother wasn’t exactly happy about all the alarm clocks in the house being broken, but she was understanding, and she let Grace keep one clock to study.

Grace’s father also supported Grace’s curiosity. He encouraged her and her sister to get as much education as they could so they could support themselves. This was not common for girls in the early 1900s. Grace especially loved math and geometry. She used geometry to draw pictures. This is a fun way to use math – try to see what you can draw some time just using the basic shapes like circles, squares, and triangles. If you look around, you’ll notice these shapes, along with angles, lines, curves, and other things that can be described with numbers, in many things you see every day.

Grace worked hard in school, and was almost able to start college when she was sixteen! Why almost? Her test scores in math were very high, but her scores in Latin were too low. But, just as she had done with the alarm clocks, Grace didn’t quit trying after one failure. She tried again, and was able to start college the next year at seventeen. She graduated with degrees in math and physics in 1928. She went on to get a PhD in math at Yale in 1934. Eventually, she became a math professor at Vassar College.

When World War II started, Grace tried to join the Navy, which had just started accepting women. Her grandfather had been in the Navy, and she wanted to follow in his footsteps. But the Navy wouldn’t take Grace! Their reasons for rejecting her were not what you might think: they said she was valuable to the war effort as a math professor; she was too thin for her height; and she was too old at 34. This shows us another important lesson: people often don’t say no to you because they don’t like you. They might say no because of rules they have to follow, or because you’re too important! Not a bad reason to be rejected, right?

But knowing Grace, you can probably guess that this rejection didn’t hold her back. She tried again. Grace took a leave of absence from her job as a professor and volunteered for the Naval Reserves. She had to get special permission due to her weight being too low, but she got to serve in the Navy and support the war effort, just like she wanted. Not only that, she was at the top of her class in the training program! The Navy sent her to Harvard University to work on the first computer made in the United States, the Mark I.

Grace worked on programming the Mark I to help the navy solve problems on their ships. Programming a computer means giving it instructions so it will do what you want it to do. You might be wondering why Grace was given a job programming computers. But, have you ever thought about why a computer is called a computer? Well, it’s because their original purpose was to compute things, to do complex math that humans can’t do quickly. The navy used the Mark I to help them track the location of enemy ships and submarines. It could perform math quickly, and never made mistakes like human mathematicians sometimes do. But, the Mark I did need humans to tell it exactly what math to do, and that was Grace’s job. 

Early computers were programmed using numbers and symbols. You had to understand a lot of mathematics to program a computer, which is why many early programmers like Grace, had degrees in math. Programming was complicated and it was easy to make mistakes, even for an expert. So Grace would save pieces of programs that did specific things so she could use them again in new programs. She also developed a system that allowed the computer to find these pieces of code without her having to input all of it again.

After the war, in 1949, Grace went to work at Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. Here, she worked on Univac, the first computer in the United States to be sold to businesses for general purposes. This got her thinking about what people were trying to do with computers, and she realized not everyone could get their job done using only the language of math, numbers and symbols. Grace thought there should be computer programming languages that were based on the English language. This would make it easier for more people to learn to program and use computers to help them do their jobs. But, in order to create this kind of programming language, she also needed to invent the technology to translate English-based commands into the mathematical language that computers understood.

And that’s exactly what Grace did! She called her translator a compiler. If you want to imagine what a compiler does, think of all the word problems you’ve seen in your math books. You might have a problem like:

“Dan has seven apples. He gives three of them to Isaac. How many apples does Dan have left?”

The English words in this sentence give us clues about what kind of math problem we need to do. We know that the special words seven and three are numbers. We know if someone gives something away, they will have fewer of that thing. This gives us a clue that we need to subtract to find the answer. Once we think it through a bit, we can figure out that we need to write a math problem, “seven minus three equals” and then compute the answer. A compiler does something similar: it has a set of rules it uses to take the commands and translate them into numbers. The rules are more complicated than the subtraction word problem we just talked about, but the idea is similar.   

At first, the men Grace worked with thought this idea was crazy. But she kept working on her ideas for years, and eventually, others who worked with computers accepted them. Grace also reached her goal of inventing the first programming language based on English words, rather than numbers and symbols. This new language became known as COBOL. It was used for decades, and is even still used today. More importantly, COBOL inspired many other computer scientists to invent new programming languages based on human language to solve different types of problems. Today there are dozens of languages, and millions of people who learn and use them everyday. 

Later Grace returned to working for the Navy. After a long career, she reached the rank of rear admiral. At the time, she was one of the highest ranking women in the Navy. She retired in 1986 at the age of 80, but even after retiring, she continued to work. She was always eager to help young people learn about computers and programming, and aside from inventing the compiler, she said this was one of her greatest accomplishments.

Grace used to have a clock on her office wall. It was the kind of clock with hands that tick off the hours, seconds and minutes, just like the alarm clocks she took apart as a child. But this clock was unique: its hands went around in the opposite direction from other clocks. Instead of going clockwise, her clock went counter-clockwise! Even though the clock went backwards, it still ticked off the hours and minutes reliably, and gave the right time. 

Grace said this clock was a reminder that you don’t have to do things the same way everyone else is doing them. If you think you have a different or better way to do something, you should try it, even if others don’t understand at first. And as she showed so many times in her life, don’t just try once. Try over and over again until you get it! If you have a good idea and work hard to make it a reality, other people will eventually notice. 

Grace never gave up when she had a goal or a  great idea, even when others around her didn’t support her. She kept working on her ideas, and showing her work to others, until they had to listen, and, often, had to admit she’d been right all along! She knew that good ideas didn’t always fit the way people had done things in the past. They might even seem a little crazy at first. But without crazy new ideas we wouldn’t make any progress.

Sources

https://stories.vassar.edu/2017/assets/images/170706-legacy-of-grace-hopper-hopperpdf.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper

The History of Walt Disney for Kids

So as a family one of our favorite activities is watching movies together. Often because they are so many of us we skip the theater and just pop popcorn and cuddle up together on the couch and watch our favorite movies from home. Movies are sort of like going on a little journey together. We laugh together; they are happy parts and sad parts, scary parts and fun parts, we feel many of the same emotions as the characters in the movie. I have great memories watching my favorite movies growing up like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Sometimes I imagined going on adventures like my movie heroes. I liked to make up scripts for my own movies and cast my little brothers and sisters as parts and sometimes we even filmed them. 

Some of my other favorites movies growing up were Disney movies. Have you heard of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty or Pinnochio? What about Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and Lion King? Have you heard of Walt Disney before? If not you’ve surely heard of Disney movies or Disneyland. Did you know they all started with the imagination of a man named Walt Disney? 

Many years ago Walt Disney was a child just like you. Walt was born on December 5, 1901, a little over one hundred years ago in Chicago. His parents names were Elias and Flora Disney. They were very different in many ways. His father, Elias was a hard worker, a perfectionist and could be very stern at times. But their mother Flora was known to laugh a lot and be very warm and kind. 

A few years after Walt was born his family moved to a farm in Marceline, Missouri. Walt loved living in the countryside. There were woods and lots of animals and many of Walt’s best memories were growing up in Marceline. There was a downtown in Marceline and Walt loved watching the trains chugging into town to stop to drop off and pick up passengers. Much of his inspiration for Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland came from his fond memories of Marceline. 

Around this time Walt started drawing. He often practiced by copying the comics in the newspaper and once the local doctor even paid him to draw a picture of his horse. 

In 1911 the Disney family moved to Kansas City, Missouri where his father owned a newspaper route. A newspaper route meant that every morning Walt and his brothers woke up very early every morning to take newspapers to everyone in town. It was very hard work and often Walt didn’t want to do it, but he helped the best he could to take care of the family. Many days he fell asleep in class because he was so tired from the morning newspaper route. 

For fun little Walt liked to act and makeup plays with his friends and family members. He even tried out for a play at school and played Peter Pan. He and his brother even made a contraption using a wire so it would look like he was flying! But when they tried to use it the wire broke and he flew into the crowd!  

Walt continued to practice drawing and told his father he wanted to be an artist for a living. In high school he drew cartoons for the school newspaper and at night he took classes from the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He knew to be a great artist he’d need lots and lots of practice! 

During this time Europe was at war in what is known as World War I. Walt wanted to join the army but was too young at the time. He heard many young people were joining the Red Cross. The Red Cross helps take of soldiers who were injured during the war and others in need. But Walt was also too young to be in the Red Cross. So when he went to turn in his papers to join, he changed his birthdate so they would think he was older! 

By the time Walt made it to Europe the war was over, but he helped drive an ambulance and used his drawing skills to paint cartoons on the side of his ambulance and others. He also had some of his drawings published in the Stars and Stripes army magazine. 

After returning home to the United States, Walt got a job drawing advertisements for a magazine. An advertisement is used to try and sell something. At this job he met another young artist named Ub Iwerks. Before long, Walt and Ub were out of a job and started their own company doing advertisements. Walt also became very interested in animation. Animation is pictures that move. Most of the cartoons that you see are animation — basically many pictures switching quickly to make it look like they are moving. Walt bought a camera and started tinkering with animation at home. He spent many hours drawing and taking pictures, trying to figure out how to make good looking animations.

Before long, Walt and Ub’s animations were good enough to be sold as short movies. They called them Laugh-o-Grams and many of their animations were shown before real movies at the theater. Eventually they moved to Hollywood which was where all of the newest movies were being made. In Hollywood he and his brother Roy started Disney Brothers Studios. There Walt also met his wife, Lillian. For a few years Walt continued to make his animated movies but had trouble staying in business. There are many times when he could have given up, but he loved animation and kept on trying even when they failed. At one time someone stole his favorite character, a cartoon rabbit, which he had named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. 

After Walt found out he could no longer use his Oswald the Lucky Rabbit for his movies, he was on a long train ride with his wife from New York back to his home in Hollywood. He decided his newest cartoon character would be a mouse and he would name him … Mortimer Mouse. His wife, Lillian, thought that wasn’t a very good name and he should name him Mickey Mouse instead. And this was the beginning of the world famous cartoon character, Mickey Mouse!

Back in Hollywood, and together with Ubb Iwerks, they began animated their new cartoon, Mickey Mouse. And for their first movies, Walt even did the voice for Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse’s first big movie was called Steamboat Willie. Be sure to look it up on the Internet when you get a chance. It’s black and white, but it’s Mickey Mouse riding a steamboat and whistling a fun tune. Steamboat Willie showed before real moves in the theater, but was a hit. Disney Brothers Studio did other animated movies like The Skeleton Dance and eventually Flowers and Trees, which was one of the first animated movies to use Technicolor — which means it was in color, no longer black and white. 

For many years Walt and Lillian wanted to be parents, but had trouble having children. Finally in 1933, Lillian gave birth to a daughter who they named Diane. Walt was so excited to be a dad and spent a lot of time having fun with his daughter. Often she would spend time at the animation studio watching as her father and others created their cartoons.

With the success of all of their animated movies, Disney Brothers Studio began to grow and grow and soon hundreds of animators worked for Walt Disney. Because there was so much to do Walt no longer drew the pictures, he worked on the stories and music — and his brother Roy helped with the business, taking care of the money and paying all of the animators who worked for them. 

But Walt was always wanting to do something new and exciting. He was also driven to create the biggest and best animations, so his next big project would be a full animated movie. Before this time all of the cartoons were just short movies, but Walt wanted to do a longer one. At the time no one thought anyone would want to watch a full cartoon movie, but Walt didn’t agree. His brother, Roy, wasn’t sure if they could pay for it, and many others thought for sure this would be the end of Disney Brother’s Studios. But Walt didn’t care, he believed in what they were doing and moved forward anyway.

One of Walt’s favorite fairy tales growing up was Snow White, which told the story of a young girl named Snow White, who was being hunted by a wicked witch. During her adventures she meets a band of dwarves who help save her from the witch. Walt had decided this would be his first animated movie and held a meeting with all of his animators. There he told them the story of Snow White and acted out all of the parts — then they got to work! Drawing all of the animations for Snow White took many hundred animators, 4 years of hard work and $1.5 million dollars to create. It took a lot longer and cost a lot more than they had planned, but when it was finally released all of the popular actors and actresses in Hollywood all showed up to the Carthay Theater to watch Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. To Walt’s delight, the movie was a huge hit! People all over the world loved the movie and they ended up earning all their money back within a few months. Audiences were amazed by what they saw. The animation and color were beautiful. The sound and music was well done. Walt Disney had proved them wrong! 

Walt Disney and his animators continued to make animated movies — next Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi during a time period which came to be known as the Golden Age of Animation. Other classics included Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. Disney Animation Studios also made live action movies, which means movies with real people and sets. Such movies included Treasure Island, The Ballad of Davy Crockett, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and Mary Poppins. 

By this time, Walt Disney and his studio had become very profitable, which means they had a lot of extra money to try new things. For many years, Walt had been toying with the idea of doing something, very big and very different! 

In our next episode we’re excited to tell you the story of Walt Disney’s next big dream, the making of a theme park that parents and kids could enjoy alike — the one and only Disneyland! 

Thanks for listening! We appreciate all of your great reviews and kind words. Your support keeps us going. Also, if you love our stories and would like to read them to your kids — we have a book on Amazon. Just search for Bedtime History. Talk to you next time!

History of Dr. Seuss for Kids

“I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam-I-Am.”  Have you heard this rhyme before?  It is one of the most famous rhymes in the whole world.  It was written by a man named Dr. Seuss.  But he didn’t write it because he was inspired.  He wrote it on a dare from his boss that he could not write a book using only 50 words.  Dr. Seuss took on that challenge and wrote what became one of his most famous books, Green Eggs and Ham.  Dr. Seuss was a dreamer and a poet and he got his start as a young child in Massachusetts where his parents inspired him with a love of being creative and making silly rhymes.

Dr. Seuss’s real name was Theodor Seuss Geisl and he was born on March 2, 1904.  His dad was a successful brewmaster, making drinks that he sold in around the state.  His mom stayed home and took care of little Theodor.  She liked to make up funny rhymes and would entertain him by making funny poems about pie flavours.

After the brewery closed, Dr. Seuss’s father began running the local zoo in his hometown. Dr. Seuss liked to visit his dad at work and when he got home he would try to draw the animals he saw on his walls.  Dr. Seuss took his first art class in high school and like to draw cartoons.

Another funny thing about his childhood, was that his dad liked to dream up complicated inventions in his spare time.  One of them he called a “Silk-Stocking-Back-Seam-Wrong-Detecting Mirror.”  It was this kind of funny writing, inventing and drawing that would later help make Dr. Seuss’s books so popular.

At age 18, Dr. Seuss left home to attend Dartmouth College, where he became the editor of its comedy magazine, Jack-O-Lantern.  An editor is someone who is in charge of what pictures and stories go into a newspaper or magazine. However, Dr. Seuss got in trouble in college for breaking one of the rules. His punishment was that he wasn’t allowed to work for the magazine.  That was when he decided to start using a fake name in his writing.  He started to send in comics and publish them under the pseudonym “Seuss.”  A pseudonym is a fake name that authors use to hide their identity.  Dr. Seuss added the word doctor to the front of his pseudonym because his father always wanted him to become a doctor at college.

After he finished his degree, Dr. Suess moved to England to train to become a professor.  A professor is someone who teaches and does research at a university or college.  However, after taking this program for a while, Dr. Seuss decided this was not the right career for him.  He met his future wife, Helen Palmer, when they were both at college.  She was studying English.  They decided to get married and they  moved back to the United States that same year in 1927.

Back in the United States, Dr. Seuss and Helen moved into an apartment in New York City, and Dr. Seuss started working as a cartoonist.  A cartoonist is someone who draws pictures for comics and movies or commercials.  He had his articles and pictures published in many magazines, including LIFE and Vanity Fair, which are very famous magazines.

People liked Dr. Seuss’s comics so much that he was hired to a full-time position making his comics and pictures for a newspaper.  Dr. Seuss next worked for an advertising company, where he worked for the next 15 years making cartoons for ads. One of his ads became famous across the whole country.  It was an ad for bug spray involved a catchphrase that said “Quick, Henry, the Flit!”  People thought the punchline was so funny, that the same ad characters were the company’s ad for 17 years.   Even though he was very busy with these projects, Dr. Seuss also worked from home drawing pictures for other people’s children’s books.

Dr. Seuss began creating children’s books of his own because it was one of the few creative projects that his job in advertising allowed him to do.  He also wrote for children because he loved kids and he wanted to help them learn to read. 

Although he loved kids, Dr. Seuss and his wife were not able to have children. This made Dr. Seuss sad and some of his books are dedicated to fake children that he wished were his own.

Dr. Seuss published his first children’s book, in 1937.  Published means when someone makes a book so it can be sold to others.  His first book was called, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.  It was rejected 27 times before it was finally published.

At the start of World War II, Dr. Seuss  began making weekly political cartoons and submitting them to magazines. In 1942, when many American men joined the army and went to fight in the war, Dr. Seuss was too old to fight, so instead he worked making cartoon training movies and drawing pictures for army advertisements.  At this time, he moved to California, and that was where the training movies he worked on were made.  Dr. Seuss lived in California for the rest of his life.

After the war was over, Dr. Seuss and Helen bought an old observation tower in La Jolla, California, and turned it into a home. An observation tower is a tall building used to view events and views from a long distance.  It is usually at least 20 feet tall and is made of brick or stone.  In his tall home, Dr. Seuss created a writing space and he would write for at least eight hours a day, taking breaks to take care of his garden.  Dr. Seuss wrote and threw out between 500-1,000 pages during the first draft of a picture book. 

Dr. Seuss’s phone number was one digit off from the local fish store at the time.  To be funny, when someone called his house accidentally, looking for the fish store, Dr. Seuss would sometimes send the caller a drawing of the fish they ordered, instead of telling them to hang up and call the right number of the fish store.

Over the next fifty years, Dr. Seuss wrote many books in his home.  His funny style, using simple words and funny rhyming became very popular with his readers.  He wrote a lot of very famous books including The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. His rhymes and characters were loved by many people.  And many children learned to read better by reading his books.

Dr. Seuss wrote over 60 books and some of them were even turned into movies, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat and  The Lorax.  After Dr. Seuss published How the Grinch Stole Christmas, he got himself a licence plate for his car that said “GRINCH”.  Have you read this book or seen this movie?  It is about the Whos who live down in Who-ville and like Christmas a lot . . . but the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville, did NOT! This story from 1957 is about how the Whos teach the Grinch to love the spirit of Christmas and teaches us all about the importance of doing good deeds. It was made into a tv movie in 1966 and is still one of the most popular Christmas shows.

Some of Dr. Seuss’s other books that you may have read include, ‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’, ‘Horton Hears a Who!’, and ‘Fox in Socks’.

Dr. Seuss’s wife ran the business side of his book publishing during their life together.  Unfortunately she died in 1967.

Dr. Seuss got married again, this time to a woman named Audrey, who was a film producer.  A film producer is someone who makes movies and Audrey later helped make some of Dr. Seuss’s books into movies, including The Lorax and Horton Hears a Who!

Dr. Seuss won many awards for his books, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and an Academy Award.  The Pulitzer Prize was given to him for “his special contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America’s children and their parents.”  He was the first person to win the Pulitzer Prize for writing children’s books.

Throughout his career, cartoonist and writer Dr. Seuss published over 60 books.  One of the most famous quote from his books says, ‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  It is important to always read as much as you can.  Dr. Seuss learned to be a good writer and to make funny stories and pictures from his love of reading and drawing when he was a child.  He wanted children around the world to be inspired to love reading the way that he did, so he made books that he thought they would find funny and would be easy for them to read.

In 1991, when Dr. Seuss was 87 years old, he died in La Jolla, California. Today, his books are still extremely popular and his drawings and artwork hangs in galleries around the world next to some of the most famous painters of all time.

Dr. Seuss had great success in his life because he was very dedicated to his writing and drawing.  Dedicated means to be focused on something important to you and to work very hard at it.  Dr. Seuss also showed a lot of resilience.  Even though his first book was rejected 27 times, he continued to try and try again to get his book published until eventually it was successful.  Dr. Seuss was also not afraid to be himself.  His writing was funny and different than what other people were writing at that time.  But he continued to be himself and let his personality shine.  And that led to his great success in storytelling.  One of his books has a great quote to remember about being yourself, “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” 

Think about the things that make you special and that you enjoy.  Do you like writing or drawing?  Do you like making funny stories, comics, telling jokes or making rhymes?  There are many ways to be creative and all of them can be equally fun.  The important thing is to find creative hobbies that you enjoy and if there is something you would like to be good at, to practice as much as you can.  By practicing, you get better and better at what you do and it is how all great art is made.  You can be and do whatever creative thing you like if you just put your mind to it and keep practicing!

History of Thomas Edison for Kids

Take a moment to cover your ears so you can’t hear anything.

How does it feel to not be able to hear anything? It would be difficult to know what was going on and to be able to communicate with others, right?

Tonight, we are going to talk about a very successful businessman and an inventor who on his twelfth birthday developed hearing problems and became completely deaf in one ear. Thomas Edison. 

Thomas Alva Edison was born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio. But, in 1854, his family decided to move to Port Huron, Michigan where he was raised.

Thomas was the seventh child and the youngest in his family. Edison was home-schooled by his mother. He attended public school but only for a short period. 

For whatever reason, Thomas struggled in school, so his teachers thought he wasn’t smart enough, so his mother decided to teach him herself. She taught how to read and write. 

Sometimes people who struggle in school don’t have problems, they just don’t do well in a normal school setting. This was the case with Edison and the genius Albert Einstein ran into the same problem.  

After a while, Thomas developed a love for books. He read a lot of books and taught himself on his own. As a child, he was amazed at technology and new inventions and started spending long hours working on experiments at home. 

He loved to tinker and try new things. He would try different ways to solve a problem until he figured it out. This is called “tinkering” and one way that inventors solve problems. 

When Thomas was 12 he became  completely deaf in one ear and developed a hearing problem in the second “ear” too.  

But what was at first a handicap, ended up being helpful to Thomas. His  hearing problem allowed him to concentrate on his work. 

Because he is not able to hear things properly, outside noise is not able to distract him from his work, and as a result, he went on to become one of the greatest inventors in history with 1,093 inventions!

When Thomas was young  he decided to sell candy, newspapers and vegetables on the trains running between Port Huron and Detroit.  

One day a young boy was on the train tracks. Thomas spotted him and pulled him off the tracks, saving the boy’s life. The train officials took notice and offered Thomas the job of a telegraph operator. 

The telegraph is a device that was used to send messages at distance using a wire before the telephone was invented.

Thomas was earning good money by the time he was 13, but most of the money went to buying equipment for his electric and chemical experiments. He had always been  very hardworking. 

He had also been  selling newspapers on the street and at 19, decided to work for the newspaper Newswire. He asked to work at night  so he could spend the day time hours on his  experiments and reading.   

Thomas was so into his work he even  did his experiments while working on the job. In one accident caused by sulphuric acid, he lost his job. Edison started his own company in October 1869. 

Next, let’s talk about some of his world-changing inventions..  

At the age of 22, Thomas invented an electric vote recorder, he also developed a multiplex telegraphic system, which could send two telegraph messages at the same time.  

Thomas’s most famous invention came in the year 1879 when he built his first light bulb. It took a very long time to figure out how to build the lightbulb and he had many technicians working on the project.

They tried hundreds of different materials until they found the best one for the lightbulb. This invention made him a very famous inventor across the world and even today many people know Edison for this invention alone. 

Edison was granted a right (known as a patent) for the motion picture camera known as “Kinetograph”. This was one of the first devices for watching movies. With this motion camera, Edison also had a  film studio made around 1,200 films.  

Some of the film’s names were:  Fred Ott’s Sneeze (1894), The Kiss (1896), The Great Train Robbery (1903), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1910), and the first Frankenstein film in 1910. 

Edison won several medals like Matteucci Medal (1887)-It’s an Italian medal given to a person who is an expert in the field of physics and the Edward Longstreth Medal in 1899 for the encouragement of invention. 

In 1890, he was chosen as a member of the famous Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

In the United States, there are buildings and bridges named after Edison, particularly, the town of Edison and Thomas Edison State University, both in New Jersey. 

There is a bridge in the state of New Jersey, Florida and Ohio named after Edison, all three are known as “the Edison Bridge”. 

Thomas Edison invented many things, but his work was not easy. On December 10, 1914, in the evening, a massive fire broke out in his laboratory at West Orange, New Jersey. Edison was called and  quickly rushed to his lab. 

The fire was so fierce that it burned more than half of the laboratory. It was very hard to put out.

Edison stood and watched his years of research work burn to ashes. Everyone was worried that Edison would not be able to recover from this shock. 

But instead Edison  peacefully walked over to his son and told him, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.”  

His son couldn’t believe it. Edison went on to say, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish”

“Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.”  

True to his word, the very next day Thomas Edison got to work rebuilding the lab.

To do incredible things, we need to be resilient enough to bear disaster and setbacks. Resilience means to get back up when we’ve had setbacks. We’ve got to love what we do in life. 

We have to find happiness in every single thing that occurs. Because of  Edison’s positive thinking, he was able to start working again even with setbacks and create so many useful inventions. 

Edison’s life teaches us that everyone has challenges, but if we don’t lose hope and remain confident enough, we can move mountains. 

Remember Thomas Edison next time you have something difficult happen to you and you wonder if you can keep going.

The J.K. Rowling Story for Kids

Do you remember the last time you were playing and you got so lost in your imagination that it felt like real life? That is always an amazing experience and often kids experience it a lot more than adults. I think adults could learn a few things from kids about what real imagination and play is like, don’t you? 

Inside your brain are very small things called neurons which help create your thoughts and memories and imagination. Did you know there are more neurons in your brain than stars in the galaxy? That is one of the many things that makes you an amazing being. Just think of the incredible things you can dream up and imagine and do with that awesome power alone.

One such child like you was a girl named Joanne Rowling, but her friends and family called her “Jo.” Jo lived in England with her mom and dad and younger sister named Dianne. Like you, Jo had a big imagination and loved playing in the woods and dreaming up magical stories. She wrote her first book at age six and called it “Rabbit.” After she wrote these stories she would read them to her little sister. Jo was also very close to her mother who often read to her at night.

When Jo was in primary school she was pretty normal at most subjects, but was especially good at English and writing. Around this time, her mother became sick with a disease called multiple sclerosis. This made it hard for her to do things like walk and move her body. This wasn’t easy for Jo, because she loved her mom and was very close to her. Her mother had always encouraged her to keep writing and doing what she loved most.

After primary school Jo wanted to go to one of the best colleges in England called Oxford. She was sad when she found out they wouldn’t let her in, so she went to a different college called Exeter where she studied French and the Classics. She did well enough in college, but her favorite past time was to read books by great authors such as Charles Dickens and JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Jo wanted to write her own book someday, but was still waiting for her big idea to come.

After college, Jo got a job and one day she was on a very long train ride from Manchester to London. During the ride she suddenly imagined a little boy on the train going far away to a school for wizards. A picture of this boy began to form in her mind — he had brown hair, glasses and a scar on his forehead. After the train ride she hurried home as fast as he could and began writing her story. She named the boy Harry Potter and began to dream up his adventures at the school for wizards. Finally, Jo’s big idea had come and more than anything she wanted to share her big idea with others! She planned to write seven different books about Harry Potter and his magical world.

Around this time Jo’s mother passed away from multiple sclerosis. It was a very hard time for Jo and she took all of her sad feelings and used many of them in her story about Harry Potter, who also lost his parents and spent much time wanting to be with them again. Sometimes when people are sad, they write to help them work through their feelings.

While Jo was writing, she saw an ad in the newspaper for a job in Portugal teaching English. She thought it sounded interesting to go somewhere new, so she packed up her things and took a plane to this new country. While in Portugal she would work on her story during the day and teach English at night. She met a journalist while living there and they got married and had a baby who she named Jessica after one of her favorite authors. In Portugal Jo and her husband struggled with their marriage and eventually it got so bad that she moved to Scotland with her baby. In Scotland she didn’t have a job, because she spent all of her time taking care of her baby Jessica. 

During the day Jo would take Jessica on walks around the city until she fell asleep. Once Jessica was asleep, Jo would go to cafes and sit and write her story. Because real life was so hard for Jo, she found that writing about the magical life of Harry Potter made her happy for a time.

Eventually Jo’s first book was finished and she called it Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In the book after Harry leaves his horrible relatives, the Dursley’s, and takes a train to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he becomes friends with two other students, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Together they learn about the mysteries of the school, deal with bullies, play a magical game called Quidditch, and come face to face with Lord Voldemort, the world’s most evil wizard who wants nothing more than to stop Harry and his friends.

Next Jo started looking for an agent, someone who would help her publish the book. A publisher is a company who prints and makes copies of the books and sends them to stores to be sold. No one knew who Jo was, so it was a while before anyone would even read her book. At least 12 publishers sent letters saying they weren’t interested in Harry Potter. Jo was frustrated but kept trying. 

Finally, the head of one publisher took Jo’s first chapter home and instead of reading it himself gave it to his 8 year old daughter, Alice. Alice read the first chapter and loved it. She said it was better than anything else she had read. She wanted the second chapter immediately! Her father and the publishing company Bloomsbury decided to publish Harry Potter and Jo would use the pen name JK Rowling! Jo was so excited! 

Before long, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone became very popular in England. It began to win awards and eventually won book of the year there. Jo’s dreams were coming true. She began to work on the next book and soon an American publisher, Scholastic, bought the rights to her book for $100,000. This was the most that had ever been offered for a children’s book. Harry Potter was a major hit!

Parents and teachers across the world were excited to see young children reading such large books at a time when many were worried that kids were watching too much TV instead. 

Soon the Harry Potter books became movies and Jo wrote more books. At times it was hard for her to keep writing and coming up with new ideas and creating stories that worked. Sometimes she would take breaks to get her creativity back. Creativity and imagination can’t always be forced. But finally Joe finished the seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the series was finished!

From all of the books and movies and other Harry Potter merchandise sold, Joanne Rowling became the richest woman in England — and a billionaire. But Jo remembered how hard it was when she was poor and a single mom trying to take care of her baby. She remembered how hard it was for her mom when she suffered from multiple sclerosis. So Jo spent much of her time thinking about how she could give back to others less fortunate than herself. She began giving much of her money away to charities, many of which helped single moms and children and those who had multiple sclerosis.

Because Joanne gave so much away she isn’t a billionaire anymore — but she doesn’t care. She knows that using her money to help others makes her more happy than having a lot of money. She knows you don’t need to be rich to be happy. True happiness comes from giving to others and seeing the smile on the face of someone who has enjoyed her books about Harry Potter.

Take some time to think about what you enjoy doing, the things that make you the happiest and cause you to use your imagination and get lost in what you are doing. Think of what you might do to get a little better at those skills. Maybe it means drawing or writing or practicing a sport or learning how to solve a math problem better. It might be playing the piano or another instrument. Remember, you have a mind as wide and as beautiful as the galaxy and can do incredible things when you put your heart and mind and time to it. 

Sir Ernest Shackleton For Kids

Have you ever wondered what is at the top of the highest peaks and at the bottom of the deepest oceans? What is on the other side of the world or at the north and soul poles? Well, that is what young Ernest Shackleton used to dream about as he sat in his classroom and thought about all the adventures he could be going on, instead of sitting at a desk and studying his books. Instead, he wanted to be off visiting these places and experiencing them for himself! Earnest was born on February 15, 1874, in Ireland. Ernest Shackleton had always been very curious and an adventurer at heart. But instead of learning from other people’s experiences in books, he wanted to find about the things that made him curious, all by himself.

And that is why at 16 he left school and boarded a  sailing ship, Hogton Tower. He spent four years travelling on the ship and learned about three things that would help him during his future travels; trading, making friends and living under the same roof with all kinds of people.

As time passed Ernest grew smarter.He boarded different ships and learned something new each time. Then in 1901, he boarded the ship Discovery  to go on an expedition under the leadership of  Capt. Robert Falcon Scott, 1. An expedition is a trip to discover a  new place or do research. Earnest joined as a third lieutenant and took part in the sledge journey over the Ross Ice Shelf. A sledge journey also known as manhauling is pulling a small vehicle over the ice with the help of humans, machines or animals. Did you know that the Ross Ice shelf is the latest ice-shelf of Antarctica which is hundreds of meters thick? . However, he became sick  and had to be sent home in 1903.

When Ernest returned home, he was very sad and let down that he had to leave the expedition early  But, back home people heard about his name and he became famous as an explorer . But his fame couldn’t pay his bills and it was time to look for a permanent job. He applied for a job in the Royal Navy. Even though he had the support and sponsorship of Markham and William Huggins, the president of the Royal Society, he failed to get the job.

Shakleton was sad and found a few different jobs, but couldn’t focus and wanted more than anything to be on an adventure . It was during that time that he was met a man named Beardmore who enjoyed the company of explorers and adventurers. This wealthy man was amused by Ernest’s heartfelt wish to head back to Antarctica. So, Beardmore decided to pay for Shackleton’s second voyage. The goal of this expedition was to reach  both the geographical South Pole and the South Magnetic Pole. South Pole is one of the two points of the earth where the Earth’s two axis meet. It is opposite to the North Pole.

On the first of January 1908, the sailing ship Nimrod set off from Lyttelton Harbour, New Zealand. But, before he left, Robert Scott made Shackleton promise that he wouldn’t make his discoveries in the McMurdo area as it was his own point of research and exploration. Since, he had made a promise to an old friend and a companion, Shackleton directed his ship towards the eastern sector of the Great Ice Barrier. They finally arrived on their destination on January 21st 1908. 

When Shackleton arrived, he discovered that the Barrier Inlet had extended and had turned into a large bay, where hundreds of whales swam peacefully in the open waters. Ernest Shackleton was so inspired that he came up with the idea of calling the area the  “Bay of Whales”. 

During this time, the weather conditions were harsh and the ice was unstable, which means it might crack and that would be very dangerous. And a safe camp had to be made there. But things began to worsen and the only option was to break the promise he had made with his friend and head for the McMurdo Sound. He made this decision to save the lives of all of his companions. 

But even when the weather was harsh and the ship threatened to topple over, the spirits of the men remained high. It was mostly due to Shackleton’s gift to communicate with each and every crew member, keeping them happy and focused on their ambitions. This made him a very good leader. He gave them hope when the journey was dangerous and frightening.

On October 29, 1908, the “Great Southern Journey”, under the leadership of Ernest Shackleton and three of his companions  a man named Wild, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams began. Three months later they reached the farthest south point that was 112 miles away from the pole. On their way, they passed by a glacier which was the biggest one that they had ever seen!. A glacier is a huge piece of ice floating in the water. Remembering the help  Beardmore gave  him, Shackleton name it the “Beardmore Glacier”, after his friend. With this, Shackleton and three of his friends became the first ones to see and travel to the south polar plateau.

Another accomplishment of their journey was the first to ever climb Mount Erebus and the location of the South Magnetic Pole. This amazing feat was done by Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson, and Alistair Mackay, three of the crew members of the ship Nimrod.

Soon afterwards, the they all returned home due to the lack of food and to avoid  starvation and death. When Shackleton returned home from his voyage to the South Pole f, he was received by everyone in  England as a hero. King Edward VII, was so proud of him  that he made him a knight, granting him the title of “Sir”. 

Ernest spent his time at home, busy writing about his time on the seas as he travelled to the edge of the world. He published his book Heart of the Antarctic soon after that. He was happy with his travels but was also sad because he still didn’t  reach his goal. 

The third time Sir Ernest Shackleton left England for Antarctica was in the year 1914 on the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Being the leader of his crew, he instructed his crewmates to cross Antarctica from a base on the Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound, via the South Pole. But things didn’t turn out so great for him even from the start. His ship Endurance, got trapped in ice and floated aimlessly for 10 months before getting into an accident with more ice.

The crew barely survived the crash and had to take shelter on ice floes for five more months before reaching the Elephant Island. Since, there were no animals in sight, all they had to eat was seal meat, penguins and sadly their dogs. 

Next Shackleton and five of his friends got on a whale boat and made a 16 day long journey across the harsh waters, finally reaching  southern Georgia. They crossed the islands and looked for  help. Shackleton made four attempts spanning over 4 months and finally was able to rescue his crewmates. It was a miracle that all of Shackleton’s crew mates survived !.

Even though he was sick, Shackleton’s love for adventure and exploration didn’t end. He made his fourth attempt for the sea voyage under the name of Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition, on the a ship called  Quest in 1921. But he became sick again and  and died during the journey. 

Earnest Shackleton’s will to keep going even when he was sick was amazing! He kept trying and trying even when his path was very difficult. He worked very hard to keep his crewmates happy and did everything he could to save them and keep them safe. His hunger for adventure and desire to explore the world have become legendary! His life inspires so many people around the world to set out on such adventures and discover something new every day. Next time you are curious about something, remember Earnest Shackleton and then do something about it! 

History of Albert Einstein for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine a short man with gray and white hair that sticks up off his head and grows in all directions. He has a big mustache and wears a coat that is rumpled, pants that are short, and socks that don’t match. But he has a kind smile on his face and deep, thoughtful eyes. This is what Albert Einstein looked like. And it might be easy to judge him by his funny appearance, but Einstein is one of the most famous scientists of all time. And many of his big ideas changed the world! But where did Albert Einstein come from? What was his childhood like? What was his life like? Listen closely, because it all starts in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1879 when Albert was born.

Albert was quiet and very shy as a child. It took him longer to say his first words than most kids. His parents thought this meant there was something wrong with him. They took him to the doctor, but the doctor said everything was just fine. As a child, Albert liked to play by himself. He played with blocks and built towers of cards. He was very curious and often sat and just day-dreamed. His parents thought this meant he had some kind of problem, but really he just liked to sit and think and dream and make things on his own. 

Albert also liked the play the violin. Often he and his mother played together. Albert’s mind was always imagining and wondering about the world around him. He went to school, but wasn’t learning the things that interested him, so he started searching for answers on his own. He read and found many of his answers in books and by asking others. His parents began to see how curious and bright he was and appreciate his talents, even though he was quiet and shy. 

In high school, Albert struggled in school. Kids had to sit perfectly still, wear uniforms, and march in line. If they asked questions they were punished. His teachers told his parents he’d never do anything useful in life because he was so disobedient by asking questions and speaking out of turn. These years were very frustrating for Albert, because he was curious and wanted to learn. Math was one of his favorite subjects. His parents found a book about geometry, the study of shapes, and he taught it to himself. 

Eventually, Albert was told to leave his school, because he refused to stop asking questions and wouldn’t blindly obey his teachers. He moved with his family to Italy and there spent his time hiking in the mountains and learning on his own. He read about great scientists and astronomers like Copernicus and Galileo who had great ideas. But because their ideas were different than what was believed, they were treated poorly. Albert understood these scientists because he felt he was being treated the same way. In Italy, he wrote his first scientific paper, but it received very little attention because he was young and no one thought someone his age would have great ideas. In Italy, he decided to move to Zurich Switzerland to study physics.

There he loved the Swiss people and his new college. He was able to ask tough questions and talk about them with his classmates. There he met a woman named Mileva who was also a big thinker. They enjoyed their time together and were later married. 

In Switzerland, Albert started working at the patent office. When someone comes up with an idea for a new invention, they draw up the plans and get a patent — which means no one else can take their idea. Albert’s job was to read about all of the new inventions and approve them. He enjoyed this job and was able to work so fast that he could take off early and spend time hiking and thinking. These were some of Albert’s happiest years of his life. So many marvelous ideas came to him at this time. He started writing scientific papers about his ideas and published five of them. These included big ideas about space travel and electricity. Albert was known for wearing the same wrinkled clothes every day and didn’t comb his hair, so it stuck up all over the place. He liked to spend time deep in thought rather than taking care of himself. People began to know him for his big ideas and recognized him for his funny appearance.

As Albert became more popular, he finally got his dream job — teaching physics for the university. Now he was able to spend all of his time thinking and teaching his students. The students loved their quirky professor. He was able to take difficult ideas and explain them in a simple way.

One of his big ideas was called The Theory of Relativity. This idea was that all things move at different speeds except for light. Think about how as a car passes it’s moving at a different speed as it drives by. But if you’re inside the car it doesn’t appear to be moving at all. So speed is “relative” to where you are. Another example is that the Earth is flying around the sun and spinning at incredible speeds, but because you’re standing on the Earth it doesn’t appear to be moving at all.

 Another of Einstein’s big idea was that not only are the planets moving around the Sun, but the Sun is moving through the galaxy as well, it just doesn’t appear to move because our planet is moving around it.

Some funny things about Albert is that even though he was a scientific genius he was often absent-minded, which means he forgot simple things. For example, often when he went out he forgot his keys, lost his bags, and forgot to eat. He was so focused on what went on in his wonderful brain that he often didn’t consider what was going on around him. He found simpler ways to live his life, so he could focus all his energy on thinking. For example, he wore the same clothes every day and only buttoned his top button because it took less time and energy. He often wore socks that didn’t match, his clothes were rumpled and his hair stuck all over the place. But his fans loved it and people all over the world talked about this brilliant, quirky genius.

Albert’s next job took him back to Germany, but over the years he and his wife were growing apart. He was so busy being a professor and speaking around the world that he didn’t give Mileva and his children the time they needed. Mileva decided not to move him and they divorced. Albert admitted he was not always a good father and chose writing his papers and teaching over his family responsibilities. 

While Albert was living in Germany, World War I started. He was sad to see soldiers marching down the street because he knew what war did to people. He refused to support the war and the leaders of Germany were upset at him. He could have gone to jail, but he stood up for his beliefs anyway. When World War I ended Albert was very happy.

In Germany, Albert met a woman named Elsa. They grew close and she spent her time taking care of him, making sure he ate and shaved and didn’t lose his keys. They were married. Albert loved Elsa and she loved him. 

By this time, Albert was so popular it made his life difficult. You might think being popular is a great thing, but for people who are very famous, you can’t walk anywhere without people talking to you or wanting a picture or asking for your autograph. Albert loved being alone, so this was very hard for him. He was offered a lot of money to speak and do other things, but he refused. For him, his research and his ideas were more important than money or fame.

Sadly, new problems began in Germany. Albert Einstein was Jewish, which is a race and religion. Many Jews who lived in Germany wrote to Albert and asked him to defend them because they were being treated badly. Their shops were taken from them and they were often beaten up by non-Jews. The Nazis, who had taken control of Germany, falsely blamed all their problems on the Jewish people. They burned their books and many Jews started leaving Germany. Albert spoke out against the Nazis and refused to leave even though his life was at risk. Hitler, the powerful leader of the Nazis, said Albert was a spy and eventually Albert realized it was too dangerous for him to stay. He and Elsa moved to the United States and became a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey. 

Albert’s years at Princeton were hard. He was sad to see what was happening to Jews in Germany. Then sadly Elsa died. Albert often kept to himself and played his violin. He also didn’t have as many big ideas as when he was younger.

One of Albert’s most famous ideas was an equation, E = MC2. It basically said that all things are energy. Even the hard walls around you, your body, mass are energy, too, but just in a different form. He also had the idea that if an atom could be broken it would cause a HUGE explosion, called a nuclear explosion. He worried that the Nazis might create a nuclear bomb and use it against the United States and her Allies. Even though he hated the idea that such a weapon would ever be used, he wrote President Roosevelt and told him that the United States must create the bomb first. Eventually, the United States did create an atomic bomb and used it against its enemy Japan. For the rest of his life, Albert wondered whether he should have ever shared his ideas about a nuclear bomb. But he also thought the consequence of the Nazis making it first would be even worse. 

After World War II ended, Einstein spent many years speaking out against atomic bombs. The United States and Russia had made thousands of them and it made the world a very dangerous place. Fortunately, after World War II nuclear bombs were never used. 

Albert Einstein spent the last years of his life growing old while living in Princeton, New Jersey. His hair was now white and grew widely in all directions. He was still a quirky and funny sight to see with his rumpled, mismatched clothes. He continued to play his violin and go on walks around his home. He often stopped to help people in need or invite them into his home. He was a very gentle, kind person who had changed the world with his ideas but didn’t care about money or being famous. He just wanted the world to be a peaceful place. On April 17, 1955 Einstein passed away while thinking through a problem and writing equations on a piece of paper. To his last day, he was a thinker! 

Spend a moment thinking about what it was like to be Albert. When he was young he loved to go on walks and observe the world around him. He saw everything through the eyes of wonder and curiosity. The world to him was an exciting, mysterious place. He loved to understand how it worked and dream about how the parts he didn’t understand might work. His imagination led to some of his amazing ideas. You can wonder, too. Remember in the times when you might be bored, it’s ok to be bored. Say it out loud “it’s ok to bored!” When you’re bored, you can take a deep breath and look closely at the world around you. It’s the perfect chance to see things with new eyes. 

Even though Einstein became very famous, he didn’t care about having lots of money and expensive things. He wanted the world to be fair and peaceful. He also wasn’t perfect. No one really is. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Einstein wasn’t a very good father, but he ended up helping the world in many other ways. 

If you want to learn more about Albert Einstein we shared our favorite videos and books on our website, BedtimeHistoryStories.com. Be sure to check it out.

History of Hayao Miyazaki & Studio Ghibli for Kids

Do you like animated movies? Have you ever seen Ponyo or My Neighbor Totoro? These are beautiful, hand-drawn, animated films made by Studio Ghibli and it’s brilliant artist and director Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki has become one of the most celebrated film animators and directors of our day, but his beginnings were small and simple and as you’ll learn sometimes fraught with danger during the years of World War 2.

Hayao Miyazaki was born in Tokyo Japan on January 5, 1941. Japan is an island across the Pacific Ocean from the United States and located in East Asia. The same year Hayao was born, Japan and the United States went to war. Hayao’s worked in a factory that built airplane parts for Japan’s air force, specifically for the fast and agile Zero fighter planes. For the rest of his life Hayao was fascinated by airplanes and the wonder of flight.

Over time Japan began to lose the war against the United States and her Allies. Soon American bombers were flying over Japan and dropping bombs on its people to try and end the war. Hayao remembered seeing the bombers and hearing bombs drop nearby. His family left the city for safety until the war ended. He would forever remember the horrible days of World War 2 and what it did to his own country. 

Young Hayao loved to draw. He wanted to become a manga artist. In Japan cartoons and comics are called manga. Hayao spent his free time practicing, but he always struggled to draw people. So instead he practiced drawing his favorite subjects like planes, tanks and battleships. He also liked to copy the drawings of his favorite manga artists. While in Junior High he saw an animated movie called Panda and the Magic Serpent. He loved the art and animation and it made him want to animate his own movies.

In college he studied politics and economics, but in his free time joined an art club and spent time drawing and getting to know other artists. 

In 1963 Hayao got his first animation job at Toei Animation and helped as an artist. His first film was called Doggie March and he also worked on a television series called Wolf Boy Ken. He continued to learn and grow as an animator, and was mentored by many other great animators. A mentor is someone who is a master at a craft and teaches someone who is an apprentice and still learning. Hayao and his mentor Yasuo Ōtsuka worked on a film called “The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun” that won them many awards. 

At Toei Animation Hayao worked alongside a woman named Ōta Akemi. They shared many of the same interests and a year after meeting, they got married. Ota would continue to work with Hayao in animation and his future businesses. 

Hayao Miyazaki continued to work on many animated films and many of his own comics, continually improving his craft. Often when you see amazing works of art or animation you may think “Wow, that artist must be really good because she was just born to be a very good artist.” But this is not the case. Great artists are not born they are made. They are passionate about a subject and continually practice and practice, usually every day, until they are much better. Like Hayao, they often find a mentor and find projects, and improve little by little until they are very good at what they do. This is the path Hayao took.

In 1979 Miyazaki moved to Telecom Animation Film, where he directed his first film. A director may work on the art, but often their job is to help bring all the different workers together to make the film happen. Also, a director may write the story themselves, or find someone to help them. They often have the idea first and recruit artists to help draw all of the animations. If you’ve ever seen an orchestra, they are like the orchestra director who isn’t playing the music, but brings everyone together to make the magic happen! This is what Hayao Miyazaki did for the film The Castle of Cagliostro, which became a hit in Japan and in the United States. John Lassetter, who later became a director at Pixar, has said that The Castle of Cagliostro was one of the first films that influenced him.

Hayao’s next big idea was to create an animated film about a princess named Naussica and her battle to save her homeland. But because movies usually weren’t made until the comic was successful, Hayao began to work on the manga about Naussica first. It ended up becoming a seven-volume manga totaling over 1000 pages and was called “Naussica and the Valley of the Wind.” Next, Hayao started work on the animated film. Audiences loved the film! In it Naussica has a fox-squirrel pet named Teto and uses her small glider to fly about. Her world is polluted and poisoned, but with the help of her friends fights to restore it to its natural beauty. Like many of Hayao’s later films, this one featured a strong heroine and themes about the dangers of pollution and war, both very important to Hayao. You’ll also notice it includes flying, which fascinated Hayao from a young age.

In 1985, Hayao with his friends Takahata, Tokuma and Suzuki founded Studio Ghibli (Jib-lee) and the next year created their first film “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” about a orphan girl named Sheeta and a boy named Pazu from a mining town. Together they go on an adventure that involves a gigantic city in the sky called Laputa. “Castle in the Sky” became the highest-grossing Japanese film that year. Studio Ghibli’s next films were “My Neighbor Totoro,” which is one my kids’ all time favorites, and Grave of the Fireflies. Later came Kiki’s Delivery Service about a friendly witch, a few others in between, and then Princess Mononoke, which became another high-grossing Japanese film year. In 2001 came Spirited Away, which won awards in Japan and the U.S. Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Even though all of Studio Ghibli’s films were originally in Japanese, most of them were translated into other languages like English so others could enjoy them as well. 

A few other popular films by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and The Wind Rises. The Wind Rises tells the story of the engineer who built the Zero, a Japanese fighter plane, the same one his father helped build when Hayao was a child in Japan. The Wind Rises, like many of Hayao’s other films, is a warning about the devastating effects of war, especially on the innocents, like he and his family during World War 2. 

In September 2013 Hayao announced he would be retiring and instead focus his time on creating artwork for a Studio Ghibli museum. But everyone knew Hayao knew he wouldn’t rest for long. He began to learn how to use computers to animate and even at his age, when most people think they can no longer learn new skills, Hayao struggled through the process and created his first computer animation called Boro the Caterpillar. Instead of retiring, he has continued working on a new film called How Do You Live? 

My children and I have watched most of the Studio Ghibli films and love them for many reasons. First of all, we love the adventure stories and the wild, exotic places they take us. We also appreciate the hand-drawn animation. Because most films use computer graphics now, it’s impressive to see animations that are sketched and colored by hand. We also love the music, which is often played by classical instruments and is relaxing. While some of the movies have violence, they are often less noisy and over-stimulating than most computer-animated movies. If you’re looking for Studio Ghibli movies that are appropriate for younger kids, our family recommends My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns and Ponyo.

Something else I love about his films is that they remind us that people are imperfect. His characters don’t always make the right decisions and make mistakes. Also, his villains aren’t always completely bad. Often they are someone who is misunderstood and once the main characters come to know the villain, they end up becoming friends. 

Watching the colorful portrayed in his films also reminds us that we live in a beautiful world and need to do everything we can to keep it that way. Life is precious and problems such as pollution and war only harm it. 

Hayao once said, “I get inspiration from my everyday life.”

He also said: “You may not like what’s happening, but just accept it, and let’s try to live together. Even if you feel angry, let’s be patient and endure, let’s try to live together. I’ve realized that this is the only way forward.”

And “Always believe in yourself. Do this and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear.”

History of Nellie Blye for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine leaving your home and traveling all the way around the world. You would cross oceans, meet new people, try new foods, see new places. It would be an exciting journey, even dangerous at times, but it would change the way you see everything… Today we are going to learn about a woman who did just that … and finished the journey faster than anyone else in the world. This is a story of daring and adventure. This is the story of the fearless Nellie Blye.

When Nellie Blye was little she lived in a time when kids didn’t go to school most of the day. Instead they worked long days. Nellie had a big family with fifteen brothers and sisters who all worked in their father’s mill. A mill is a place where wheat is ground in flour to make bread. Here she learned to work hard and have determination. Determination is trying and trying and trying, and not giving up until you finish something.

Nellie loved to wear the color pink. [kids laughing and playing] One day her friend said: “You wear pink so much, we’re going to call you ‘pinky’!” From then on she had the nickname “pinky.”

Nellie also loved to write. She practiced writing so often she became very good at it. When she got a little older, she became a journalist. [newspaper press] A journalist is someone who writes for the newspaper. Nellie was also very curious and loved learning about new things … and she wrote the new things she learned in the newspaper. Her stories soon made her very famous.

One day Nellie was reading a book called “Around the World in 80 Days” about a man who travelled around the world. Even though the book wasn’t a true story, Nellie wanted to do it herself … and believed she could. Other people told her it would be too dangerous, or that because she was a girl she couldn’t do it. They told her she needed someone strong to protect her. But Nellie was independent and brave and believed she could do it on her own.

Nellie packed her clothes and other things into a bag [luggage sound] and [ship sounds] went to the dock where the ship was waiting. Everyone cheered and waved good bye as the ship set sail.

At sea Nellie became sea sick. Sea sick is when someone not used to the ocean gets very sick from the boat rocking in the water. But even though it was hard she was sick she kept going, she was determined to finish the journey.

Next the ship landed in England, from here she went to [train sound] France and finally to Asia. Sometimes she travelled by boat, someones by train. She tasted new foods, [jungle sounds, monkey] went alligator hunting, bought a monkey, and rode ponies across Hong Kong. Newspapers all over the world were keeping track of Nellie Blye. All of the world was watching to see how fast she would finish her trip.

When she returned to America, while traveling across the country people [crowds, cheering] waved to her along the way, gave her flowers and fruit, and shook her hand. Girls and boys saw what Nellie was doing and realized they could do difficult things too.

By the time she got home, she had travelled 25,000 miles in 72 days. It was a very long trip and she was tired and glad to be home. Because Nellie was brave and believed in herself, other women saw that they could do adventurous things too. She was an inspiration to all.

Like Nellie, you can learn to work and be determined — to keep trying and trying and not give up even when something is hard. You can be curious. You can imagine new things and do them even when others doubt in you or no one else has done them before. It may take learning new things and lots of practice and courage but you can do it if you keep trying.