Siddhartha Gautama Buddha For Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you’re a prince or a princess, living in a giant, luxurious palace. There your parents make sure that you have everything you could ever want or need: lots of toys, fine clothes, the best education. You’re surrounded by beautiful gardens and expensive things. You have servants to clean up after you, bring your food, and help with everything. When you’re not learning from private tutors, you spend your days swimming, practicing archery and swordsmanship, and riding horses. The palace is so massive, it’s your entire world and you never even need to leave. 

Now imagine you decide to give that all up. You’re not happy with that life. You wonder if life has a greater meaning. You wonder if possessions can ever make people truly happy and content. This was the life Siddhartha Gautama found himself in. You might have heard of him: now, we call him Buddha. 

The story of how Siddhartha became Buddha begins even before his birth. Siddhartha’s father was king of a small kingdom in northern India in the sixth century BCE over 2,500 years ago!  Several years before Siddhartha was born, the king was visited by sages, or wise men, who told him his son would be either a great king, or a great holy man. Of course, Siddhartha’s father wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and be a great king.  So when Siddhartha was born in 567 BCE, his father decided to shelter his son from the world, so he wouldn’t know about suffering and death. He thought that if Siddhartha never saw bad things in the world, he wouldn’t want to fix them, and so he wouldn’t want to become a holy man. 

So Siddhartha grew up surrounded by all the comforts and privileges money could buy. When he became a young man, he married a woman named Gopa. He seemed to have it all, but the plan Siddhartha’s father made for him to become a great king was about to fall apart. Instead of accepting the life of luxury that he was given, Siddhartha grew restless living in the palace. One day, he asked his father to let him go on a chariot ride to see the city around the palace. His father agreed, but told the chariot driver to stay in the richer parts of the city, close to the palace, to avoid letting Siddhartha see people who were poor or suffering. 

Siddhartha set out in the chariot with his driver. Before long, they saw an old man, slowly hobbling along the road, looking as if he might fall over at any moment. Siddhartha had never seen such an old man, and he asked his driver what was wrong with him. 

His driver replied, “He is very old. His body has grown weak with age. You too will grow old someday. All people do.”

Siddhartha was disturbed, but asked him to drive on. Later in the ride, they saw a sick man lying by the side of the road. He was groaning and looked very unhappy. Again, Siddhartha asked what was wrong with the man. 

His driver replied, “He is sick with a terrible disease. Everyone gets sick sometimes. Someday, you will get sick.”

Siddhartha felt terrible, seeing this man suffering, but they continued their ride through the city. 

On their way back to the palace, they came across a funeral procession. People were crying and moaning. For a third time, Siddhartha asked his chariot driver what was happening.

Again, his driver replied. “Someone has died, and these people are his friends and family. They are mourning for him.”  

When Siddhartha returned home, he could not stop thinking about the old man, the sick man, and the funeral. He thought about these things happening to his father and mother, to his wife, and to himself. He realized that all the treasure in the palace, all the servants waiting on him, all the beautiful things surrounding him, could not prevent him or anyone else from the sad things he sad. He realized that he wanted to find a way to help people overcome suffering. 

Once he realized these things, Siddhartha knew he could no longer live an easy life in the palace. So one day, he said goodbye to his family, and set out to find the cause of suffering. He cut his hair and lived as an ascetic – someone who chooses to live in poverty and simplicity. He studied meditation with great holy men and discussed the problem of suffering with them, but after many years of living this way, he still didn’t know why it happened, or how he could prevent it.

Finally, he decided to sit and meditate under a bodhi tree. He vowed not to leave until he had the answer to the problem of human suffering.  Siddhartha sat meditating day and night, still and calm as a statue, for six days. On the sixth day, he opened his eyes and realized he understood the nature of suffering. He became enlightened and from then on was known as Buddha, which means awakened one. 

For the rest of his life, Buddha travelled throughout India, teaching others about what he had discovered. He taught people the four noble truths he had realized about suffering. The first truth is that everyone suffers and has hard things happen to them. It’s just part of life. 

The second truth is that we suffer because we are always wanting more, and trying to hold onto what we have. This might sound surprising. Didn’t he start his quest because he saw people who were suffering because they were old, sick, and dying? Buddha thought that the real reason we suffer is not because bad things happen to us, but because we allow negative feelings and desires to take over our thinking. If we’re sick, we lie around feeling sorry for ourselves, and wishing we were well. But then when we’re healthy, we think of other things we want, but don’t have, and we still suffer. 

Think about a time when you really wanted a new toy or game. It probably felt very unfair that you didn’t have it, and then, if you did get it, you might have been happy for a short time, but then you were just back to normal and wanted something new. We become attached to things, or even ideas of things, and those things are not permanent. This keeps us spending all our time wanting things we don’t have, and worrying we’ll lose what we do have. He taught that things like toys and games and other things we might buy don’t really make us happy deep down and any happiness we do feel doesn’t last.

The third truth is that we can overcome suffering. Once we overcome suffering, Buddha thought, we could reach a state of nirvana, or perfect peace and happiness, just as he did when he meditated under the bodhi tree. 

Finally, the fourth truth tells us how to overcome suffering. The way Buddha thought we overcome suffering is by following what he called the “eightfold path.” I won’t go over all eight parts of the path, but basically, to follow the eightfold path, we must always try to improve ourselves: this means being kind and honest; try not to harm anyone or anything; and act with compassion. We must also learn to pay attention to their own thoughts. As we pay attention to our thoughts we can better understand the thoughts that make us feel sad. This helps us think in a new way. This paying attention to our thoughts is called meditation.

Buddha taught that following the eight-fold path creates good karma.  Karma is the idea that everything you do has a consequence, whether good or bad. Kind actions tend to have positive consequences, and unkind actions, negative consequences. This isn’t a consequence like a reward or a punishment – it’s just a thing that happens as a result of an action. He taught that by building up a lot of good karma, you can reach nirvana, a state of true enlightenment. 

Buddha spent the rest of his life travelling around India, teaching what he had discovered to anyone who wanted to learn. He encouraged his followers to try out the practices he taught for themselves, to see how well they worked, and to gather in communities to learn and help each other. Community was important, because Buddha knew that to be truly happy, people need to feel compassion and kindness for both themselves and others. This is called metta in Buddhism.

After its beginnings in India, Buddhism spread throughout South and East Asia, and was practiced widely in Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, China, and Japan, among others. Today, people around the world practice Buddhism in different forms. For some it’s a religion, but for others it’s simply a way of looking at life.

Like Buddha taught, you can take the time to meditate each day. Meditating is a good chance to breathe deeply and slow your thoughts. It can also help you look closely at your thoughts. Your thoughts often lead to how you’re feeling. So if you have lots of negative thoughts those may be causing negative feelings. Breathing deeply and clearing your mind can give you the positive energy you need to help yourself and help others. There are a lot of great ways to start meditating. You can find videos, podcasts and apps, that can get your started. But the simplest way is to just set a timer and try and sit and relax during that time while breathing deeply. 

Also, like Buddha taught, remember that things that we buy won’t always make us happy. Toys eventually break, or they go out of fashion, and we’ll always want something new. Think about how you might turn your attention to more important things like spending time with your family and friends, learning something new, or doing good for others. These are things that last longer and will give you greater, deeper joy.   

I hope you enjoyed this episode about Buddha. Be sure to check in next Monday for a new episode!

Sources

Fields, Rick. “Who Is the Buddha?” in: Tricycle, Spring 1997. https://tricycle.org/magazine/who-was-buddha-2/

Meyers, Rachel. Curiosity Chronicles: Snapshots of Ancient History. Little Monster Schooling, 2017.

Nagaraja, Dharmachari. Buddha at Bedtime.Watkins, 2016.

History of Mahatma Gandhi for Kids

Have you heard ever heard of a country called India? India is between China and the Middle East and much of it is surrounded by the Indian Ocean. India is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations and for many years was one of the richest countries in the world. Over one billion people live in India. It has more people than any other country in the world, second only to China. 

In the 1800s the British Empire ruled many countries of the world including America. During the American Revolution the Patriots fought off the British King and his soldiers and became their own free country. At the time of our story the British Empire was still in control of India. This is the story of how India came to be free and the man who helped make it happen.

In 1869 in the city of Porbander, India a boy named Mahandas Ghandi was born in a small home to a simple family. The Ghandis were good people. The father was a leader in the city and his mother was a very religious woman. She taught her children to pray and read scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Vegas, and some texts from the Bible and Quaran. The Ghandis were Hindu, so they didn’t drinking wine or eat meat. Ghandi’s mother also taught the family to fast — which means going without food for a certain period of time. She believed it gave them strength and self control. 

When Mahandas was little he was very playful and sometimes liked to cause trouble. Often he would chase down dogs and twist their ears. He also loved to listen to classic Indian stories, such as the stories of Shravan and Harischandra, which were epic tales about virtue and adventure. These stories taught good principles and helped Mahandas want to be a good person.

At age nine Mahandas started school and there learned math, history, language and geography. He was just an okay student and pretty shy and had trouble speaking. This made him very nervous when he had to speak in front of his class, but he did like books and learning.

At this time in India people got married very young. Mahandas was 13 when he married a girl named Kasturba. When Kasturba was 17 they had their first baby, but sadly she didn’t live very long. This same year Mahandas also lost his father, so it was a very hard time for him. But later Mahandas and Kasturba had four more children, so it made them happy to be parents.

Next Ghandi decided to travel to London, the capital of the British Empire, to go to college to become a lawyer. A lawyer is someone who helps others work with the law, the rules that keep a country in order. Ghandi’s parents were worried while he was there he wouldn’t live his religion, that he would eat meat and drink alcohol and do other things they didn’t approve of. But when he left he promised them he would stay faithful no matter what. And Ghandi did live up to his word, he stayed strong in his Hindu religion while he was away from home. This is called commitment and dedication to something you believe in.

Ghandi learned a lot about the English people while he was in London. He had always been shy and at first school was difficult, but instead of giving up he joined a group that taught him how to speak louder and more clearly and with lots of practice he became a very good speaker.

After finishing college, Ghandi got a job working for a shipping company in South Africa. At this time the British Empire also ruled South Africa. In South Africa Ghandi was treated badly by the English because he was from India. Once when he was on a train they didn’t let him sit with other people. They picked him up and threw him off the train. Ghandi was so upset by this he refused to leave the train station until they let him on the next train. This is called a protest. Finally, they let Ghandi back on the train. Many times Ghandi was treated badly because he was from India. He started to think England shouldn’t be in control of India anymore. 

When Ghandi moved back to India and he was determined to do everything he could to make India a free country. He began speaking and writing about what the India people needed to do to become free. But Ghandi was a peaceful person and didn’t believe in hurting others to become free. Instead they would peacefully protest and use civil disobedience — which means finding other ways to make your point other than violence. 

One thing England did to control India was tax the things they bought, this meant charging extra for food and clothes and keeping the money. So instead of buying clothes and salt from England, Ghandi decided to make his own clothes and salt. He learned how to make his own clothes and started wearing them. Thousands of other India people started doing the same. This made the British upset, because they were losing money. To make his own salt, Ghandi began a journey to the ocean. He walked over 200 miles to make salt in the ocean. People all over India followed him and did the same. All across the world people saw what Ghandi and the India people were doing and sympathized with them. Ghandi was put in jail many times for his actions. He would go without eating until they would set him free. What Ghandi was doing was very difficult, but he was sacrificing his owns desires for the country and people he loved.

Sometimes the Indian people wanted to use guns and weapons to fight the British leaders, but Ghandi continually taught that this was the wrong way. He used scriptures of many different religions to show that peace was a better way. When his people did start to fight Ghandi would go without eating for many days until they stopped. The people often stopped because they loved Ghandi and didn’t want him to be hungry.

Eventually, England let India become free. The amazing part of this story is that it came about without a big war and lots of people dying. This was truly a miracle and Ghandi showed the world that freedom can come about through peaceful ways. The Indian people and Ghandi celebrated. They were so happy to be in control of their own country. The time after this was very challenging as they figured out how to be on their own, but it gave them a chance to make their own choices and be a free people.

Not long after India became free Ghandi passed away, but his mission was complete and the Indian people and people all across the world will remember him as someone who loved his people and gave his life for them.

In life it’s easy to focus on yourself and what makes you happy. Its natural for us to want to take care of ourselves, which is important to some degree. But giving of ourselves to help others is also very important. It’s important to share and to think about what makes others happy. Spend some time thinking about what makes others happy and then do something about it. Next time you have a treat think about how happy it will make others to taste it, too. If you are playing with a toy, think about how your brother or sister or friend might enjoy playing with it. 

Ghandi believed in being peaceful. Next time someone wants to fight with you or argue, think about a more peaceful way you can deal with the problem. You never know, in the end someone who you think is an enemy might become a friend.

Bethany Hamilton Story for Kids

In 2005, a surfer named Bethany Hamilton won the National Scholastic Surfing Association National competition. Fifteen-year-old Bethany absolutely destroyed the competition in the Explorer Women’s final. She accepted her award at the competition dinner to 500 people standing and clapping for her. Bethany thanked God and her coach, Ben Aipa, for helping her win.  

After winning third-place in the Open Women’s surfing competition in 2003, the world knew it was only a matter of time until this special girl achieved Nationals gold. What they didn’t know was the amazing journey that Bethany would take on her way to finally winning gold.

Bethany Meilani Hamilton was born on February 8, 1990, in Hawaii. She began surfing at the age of 8 and gained her first sponsorship by age 9. Bethany was home-schooled from 6th grade through high school by her mother, who was a stay-at-home mom. Her father worked as a server at a town cafe.

In October 2003, after having placed 3rd in the Open Women’s division earlier that year, Bethany’s life changed forever. Bethany went for a morning surf with her best friend Alana, Alana’s father, and her brother. There she was attacked by a shark and lost her left arm just below the shoulder. 

Her friends helped paddle her back to shore. Then Alana’s father made a tourniquet out of a rash guard and wrapped it around the bottom of her arm. She was rushed to the hospital and a doctor living in a hotel nearby raced to the rescue. 

During later interviews, she said that she felt normal when she was bitten and felt very little pain from the bite at the moment of the attack, but felt it go numb on the way to the hospital and she ultimately lost her entire arm during the surgery that saved her life.

Despite what happened, Hamilton was determined to start surfing again. One month after the attack, she got back on her board. First, she used a custom-made board that was longer and slightly thicker than standard and had a handle for her right arm, making it easier to paddle. She learned to kick more to make up for the loss of her left arm. 

After teaching herself to surf with one arm, she returned to surfing on November 26, 2003, just 26 days after the attack. She entered her first major competition on January 10, 2004. She now uses normal short boards to compete.  

The shark-bitten surfboard that Hamilton was riding during the attack, as well as the bathing suit she was wearing at the time, are on display at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, California.

Even though she lost her arm, Bethany has had an impressive career with numerous 1st place awards. But more important than the medals is her story of overcoming such tragedy where many would have given up.

Bethany’s story has been turned into multiple books, including a few written by her. She has appeared on many tv shows, magazine articles and in 2004 was named the Best Comeback Athlete and also received the Courage Teen Choice award.  

The last two books written by Bethany were based around the theme of being unstoppable. One of her books is named “Be Unstoppable: The Art of Never Giving Up” and has inspired readers to be bold, enjoy life, and trust God each day. Bethany is very devout in her religious beliefs and is always quick to share them.

Bethany married her then-boyfriend Adam in 2013 and together they have three sons, Tobias, Wesley, and Micah. The family still lives in Hawaii where they surf and spend time together. Her kids all know about the attack in 2003 but she has used this as an important lesson for them on staying strong.

Bethany has always given her time and money to help others, including her own foundation, Friends of Bethany. Her foundation reaches out to amputees and youth, encouraging them to overcome difficulties by offering hope and encouraging them to have faith. 

Within the Friends of Bethany Foundation there are four different programs:

  1. Beautifully Flawed: retreat designed for young women ages 14–25 who have experienced traumatic limb loss.
  2. Shine Forth: Night filled with stories and inspiration to overcome, free community event to gather together and share comeback stories.
  3. Anchored in Love: Conference for girls and young women ages 12 and up, a one-day event designed to help girls and young women discover their true beauty, purpose, and worth. 
  4. The Forge: Men’s retreat where young male amputees come and focus on faith, fitness, and healthy living.

Bethany has done so many amazing things in her career as a surfer despite the adversity she had to overcome. She never stopped, she never gave up, and she never stayed scared. She knew that she had to start surfing again right away because she wasn’t going to let the shark attack take anything else away from her.

She’s used her position as a professional athlete to promote living a fit and healthy lifestyle and to inspire other young athletes and amputees that anything was possible for them in life if they just didn’t stop.

Everyone in life will face many setbacks, but it is how we react to these setbacks that define us. Do we stop moving or do we remain unstoppable? We all need to be more like Bethany, we need to be strong and we need not let fear define who we are or we can become.    

Thanks for listening to this episode about Bethany Hamilton and be sure to tune in for a new episode next Monday.

The History of Thanksgiving For Kids

Imagine yourself sitting around a large bonfire.  The year is 1621 and you have spent the last year travelling from Europe to America on a boat. The journey was very hard.  When you finally arrived in the “new world” you faced a very hard winter. You and your family lived on the boat through the winter, together with other passengers.  It was extremely cold and there was not much to eat.  But all of that has changed.  As you sit waiting, you see that people are cooking up a huge feast. You smell the cooking meat and vegetables. it makes your mouth water. The cooks include people from Europe that you were on the boat with, and Native Americans who have come to celebrate with you.  It is the first Thanksgiving celebration in America, and you are ready to eat!

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States and other countries. But how did this holiday begin?  Where did it start and why?

The story starts in 1620 when a small ship named the “Mayflower” left from England. On board were 102 passengers.  They were all people from different religions that were feeling unwelcome in Europe.  They wanted to leave to find a new home where they could practice their religion freely.  There were also people onboard who were excited about the idea of buying land, which they couldn’t afford in Europe. They hoped to find a new life and become wealthy in the New World.

The Mayflower made a long and difficult journey across the Atlantic Ocean that lasted 66 days! Eventually, they landed at Cape Cod.  This was much further north than where they were hoping to land, which was at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower travelled to Massachusetts Bay and the travellers disembarked, or arrived and came ashore.  They decided to settle, or make a home, in the area and they began building a village, which is now called Plymouth.

The people who started building the settlement were called “pilgrims”.  Pilgrim means a traveller or settler in a new land. The pilgrims in Plymouth did not have time to build houses to live in before the first winter came.  The winter was very cold and harsh, so most of the pilgrims remained on the Mayflower ship for the winter. They were hungry and cold living on the ship. Many people developed scurvy, which happens when you don’t eat enough fruits or vegetables.  Many also caught diseases that spread easily amongst the crowded living conditions. 

By the end of the winter, only half of the Mayflower’s 102 original passengers were still alive.That spring, in March 1621, the people who were still alive moved off the boat and onto shore to start building their homes. While they were settling on shore, an Abenaki Native American came and greeted them in English. Everyone was shocked to see that he was friendly and that he spoke English. 

A few days later, he returned with another Native American man named Squanto.  Years before Squanto had been kidnapped by Englishmen and brought to England.  But he later returned to America and could now speak English. Squanto became friends with the pilgrims and could see that they needed help.  The small group of 50 or so people were all weak and starving and many of them were ill.  Squanto felt bad for them so he taught the pilgrims how to grow corn, how to fish in the rivers and how to extract sap from maple trees. 

Squanto also helped the pilgrim settlers to form an alliance with a local Native tribe, the Wampanoag. An alliance is a bond or union between two groups that pledge to support each other. 

Later that year, in the fall of 1621, the pilgrims’s first corn harvest was successful.  They had an abundance of corn and were able to eat.  The Governor of the group, William Bradford, organized a feast to celebrate the harvest.  He invited all the pilgrims in the community and their Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. The feast lasted for three days.  While no one wrote down exactly what they ate, we do know that it was an amazing feast for the time, and likely included chicken, deer, corn, lobster, seal, shellfish, and possibly turkey. 

This fest is now remembered as America’s “first Thanksgiving”.  The pilgrim’s likely didn’t call it that, as they would not have known that this feast would turn into a holiday. They also played games and had fun during the three days with their guests.  They considered this celebration a way to give thanks to God and nature for the harvest and alliance with the Wampanoag people. 

The dishes that the pilgrims prepared were likely made using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. The pilgrims did not have an oven and the sugar supply on the Mayflower had run out by the fall of 1621, so the meal did not include pies, cakes or desserts. But the people were happy to have a harvest meal and party and were happy that their nutrition and health had improved compared to last year — and mostly that they were still alive. That is a lot to be thankful for!

The pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in the fall of 1623. In the two years between, there had been a long drought.  A drought is a long period of time in which it doesn’t rain so everything dries up or doesn’t grow.  Because of the drought, there had been no harvest in the fall of 1622 and people were very hungry.  In 1623, the farming had been good again and they all celebrated as they had before. The practice of fasting, or not eating for a period of time, followed by having a large thanksgiving celebration started to become common practice in other New England settlements outside of Plymouth as well. 

Later, during the American Revolution, the government designated a couple of days of thanksgiving a year.  In 1789, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation.In his speech, he asked Americans to show that they are grateful for the happy ending to the war of independence that Americans had just won and the new constitution, or written framework for the country’s rules, structure and order.  Other presidents after George Washington also designated a couple of days of thanksgiving to remember these events. 

In 1817, New York became the first state to have an official Thanksgiving holiday. After that, other states started adopting their own Thanksgiving holiday, with each one being celebrated on a different day. However, the tradition hadn’t spread to the south, and most southern states hadn’t heard of Thanksgiving holiday for a long time. 

One woman decided that she wanted to change this.  She wanted to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Her name was Sarah Josepha Hale.  She was a writer and wrote many articles and books and even wrote the song “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.   Sara started a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday and she worked on this for 36 years!  A campaign is a planned effort to make something happen or change. She published articles in newspapers and sent letters to politicians.  Eventually her efforts paid off, when Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. He scheduled it to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November. Sara was then known ever after as the “Mother of Thanksgiving.”

Thanksgiving was celebrated annually, or once a year, on this day until 1939.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in order to help stores make more money during the Great Depression. However, people didn’t like the change, and so he ultimately moved it back to the original date in 1941.

Although the original Thanksgiving celebrations were to celebrate the end of the American war of independence and the new constitution, modern American Thanksgiving is quite different.  Now the celebrations center on cooking a turkey and sharing a large meal with family and friends. 

While turkeys are the main dish at most American households for Thanksgiving, it may not have actually been on the menu for the pilgrims’ first thanksgiving feast in 1621. Today, more than 90% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving.  And there are many different ways that people prepare the bird. Most like to cook it in the oven. But some people deep-fry it or smoke it, or find a variety of other ways to make the turkey dish new and interesting.

Other traditional food that Americans eat at this holiday include stuffing or dressing, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.  These are all foods that are “in season” at that time of year.  “In season” means that the fruits and vegetables used are ready to be harvested at that time. 

Another common tradition at Thanksgiving is volunteering.  Many Americans spend Thanksgiving Day doing volunteer activities in their communities.  These activities include holding food drives to collect food for the poor or hosting free dinners for people who are struggling. 

Parades have also become an important part of the Thanksgiving holiday in cities and towns throughout the United States.  One of the largest and most famous is the Macy’s department store parade in New York City.  This parade started in 1924 and was intended to give businesses a chance to celebrate the holiday and advertise their store at the same time.  Today, many Americans tune in on TV to watch the Macy’s parade at Thanksgiving.  The parade follows a 2 ½ mile route and features marching bands, performers, floats and giant balloons.

Starting in the 1950s, the president of the United States has a transition of “pardoning” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year.  This means that those 1 or 2 birds don’t get killed to be eaten, but instead get to go back to living on a farm for the rest of their lives.

Even though Thanksgiving is a modern American tradition, there are similar annual celebrations of harvest that take place all over the world and throughout history. In ancient times, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all held large feasts to say thank you to their gods after the fall harvest.  Thanksgiving also has a lot in common with the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. And Native Americans have a long tradition of celebrating fall harvest with feasts and parties. These traditions are older than the American thanksgiving in 1621, so may have had an influence on the idea to hold a feast. 

Does your family celebrate Thanksgiving?  If so, what are some of your family’s traditions?  When you eat your holiday meal this year, think about the first American thanksgiving at Plymouth.  How do you think that would have been different?  What are some of the things that you are thankful for this year?  However you plan to celebrate, we at Bedtime History wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!  

Sitting Bull for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are in the middle of a battle in the American wilderness. All around you, American soldiers dressed in stiff blue jackets load their guns and fire at the enemy. Running at them are Native American warriors dressed in loin cloths and leather. They are yelling and charging the soldiers with weapons raised. They clash in battle and fight ferociously. Around you echo the sounds of metal clashing on metal, gunfire, and people crying out. Then as you turn around, your eye catches a peaceful sight.  There in the middle of the fight scene sits a Native man with his legs crossed.  He peacefully packs a pipe full of tobacco and lights in on fire.  He sits silently and smokes while men fight all around him.  This man is one of the famous American Indians, Sitting Bull. 

Sitting Bull was born around 1831. He was one of the Hunkpapa people, a Lakota Sioux tribe that lived in the Great Plains area in what is now known as North and South Dakota. When he was born his family called him “Jumping Badger”.  

Later, his parents changed his name.  He was quiet and deliberate and they didn’t think “Jumping Badger” fit him.  Deliberate means careful and cautious.  His parents gave him the nickname “Slow” instead and he was called this as a child. 

Slow’s father was the chief, which meant someday he would be the chief of his people. When he turned 10, “Slow” killed his first buffalo. Hunting buffalo was very dangerous, but the tribe depended on buffalo for their meat for survival. They ate their meat and used their skins for clothes and shelter. Slow’s family was proud of his first buffalo kill and celebrated to honor him. When he was 14, “Slow” and others from his tribe snuck into an enemy tribe’s village and stole food and other items. This is called a “raid” and was common for tribes in the Great Plains to fight and steal things from each other for survival. Because of “Slow’s” bravery during the raid, his father gave up his own name and gave it to his son.  From then on, “Slow” became known as Tatanka-Iyotanka, or “Sitting Bull.” 

Around this time, the government of the United States wanted settlers to move into the western states even though Sitting Bull’s people already lived there. To settle means to make a permanent home. This meant that Sioux Lakota tribes would have to leave and find a new place to live even though they had lived on these lands for man years.

But Sitting Bull and his family refused to leave and fought against the U.S. government and the people who tried to take over their land. The government sent the army to fight Sitting Bull and his people.  As a young man, Sitting Bull became famous for his fighting skills and people all over the United States heard about him and became afraid of the stories about him. 

In 1872 the Northern Pacific Railroad was trying to build a railroad across the United States. It ran through Sitting Bulls land, so he and the Sioux people were determined to block it. When they did, the U.S. Army was called in to try to remove them and the conflict quickly turned into a battle.  During the battle, Sitting Bull, who was now a middle-aged chief, walked out into the middle of the field where they were fighting and sat down in front of the U.S. soldiers. He invited several other tribesmen to join him.  Sitting Bull and his friends sat in the field and had a long, slow smoke from his tobacco pipe while watching people battling all around him. Legend says that after finishing his pipe, Sitting Bull carefully cleaned it and then walked off, without showing any fear. He was very brave!

During the 1860s, Sitting Bull continued to fight against settlers encroaching on Sioux land.  He and his tribesmen attacked white military outposts and stole livestock, or farm animals, or attacked the soldiers living there. Sitting Bull’s group of men was brave, but he knew that it wouldn’t be enough to keep back the U.S army. So he went and spoke to leaders of other tribes nearby and together, they worked as one group, the Lakota Sioux. They decided to just have one leader and in 1869, Sitting Bull became their new leader.  The group continued to grow and by the mid 1870s, the group also included warriors from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. 

Even though Sitting Bull is mostly remembered as a warrier, he was also a type of holy man.  He was believed to have the gift of prophecy, or the ability to see the future. Sitting Bull once had a vision or dream that the Sioux people were soon going to have a great victory in battle.  Shortly after that, the prophecy came true. 

In 1876, a Lieutenant Colonel by the name of George A. Custer’s and his soldiers rode out against the Sioux to battle. They were known as the Seventh Cavalry. They attacked Sitting Bull and his warriors, but they were inspired by Sitting Bull’s vision and even though they were outnumbered by Custer’s army, the Sioux people won the battle against over 200 soldiers. This became known as the Battle of Little Bighorn. 

Sitting Bull’s nephew, White Bull, and another warrior named Crazy Horse fought bravely at the Battle of Little Bighorn and became famous for their victory against Custer and the Seventh Cavalry.

But of course, the U.S. Army was not happy about losing the battle. Instead of backing down, they sent an army of twice as many soldiers to fight Sitting Bull. They wanted to push the Native (or First Nations) people off of the land and force them onto reservations. Reservations were an area of land set aside for them to live on instead of the land the settlers wanted. 

Sitting Bull refused to leave his own land and move to the reservations.  Instead, in May 1877, he led a group of his people to Canada where he spent four years hiding out.  Sadly though, the buffalo in the area disappeared. Because buffalo are what his people needed to survive they almost starved.  Sitting Bull and his people left their camp in Canada and moved back to the United States.  A few years later their camp was attacked and Sitting Bull and his followers surrendered to the U.S. army in North Dakota. 

By this time, Sitting Bull was now an older man.  He spent two years in prison and later was sent to live on a reservation at Standing Rock. He lived on that reservation for the rest of his life. 

Sitting Bull was famous when he got out of prison.  Many people heard stories about his fighting skills and admired him for his bravery.  When they met him they were willing to pay $2 just for his autograph.  He got permission to leave the reservation to go on tour as his own exhibition, or entertainment show.

When Sitting Bull was at a stopover in Minnesota, he saw a show starring Annie Oakley, the famous sharp shooter. Sitting Bull was very impressed with her gun shooting skills. He introduced himself and he and Annie Oakley became friends.  He gave her the nickname “Little Sure Shot” and called her his daughter.  Rumour has it that Sitting Bull gave Annie Oakley the pair of moccasins he had worn during the Battle of the Little Bighorn as a gift.

In June 1885, the showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody hired Sitting Bull to perform in his famous “Wild West” show. Sitting Bull was paid $50 a week to wear his full chief’s war attire and ride a horse during the show’s opening scene. Sitting Bull considered the job an easy way to earn money and help audiences learn about his people and how difficult their lives had become.  But some audience members didn’t like Sitting Bull because they knew he had killed white soldiers during battle. Sometimes, audiences cruelly boo-ed Sitting Bull and threw things at him. 

Sitting Bull soon got tired of traveling and some of the mean crowds.  And he missed his family.  So he left the tour for good after its final show in October.

Beginning in 1889, many Native American (or First Nations) people started talking about a religion called the “Ghost Dance”.  These people believed that a spirit was going to come to earth and remove white people from the area where they lived, allowing the Indians to return to their old ways. U.S. Authorities started to worry that Sitting Bull was going to use the Ghost Dance movement to lead a group of Indian people to war against the white people.  They always knew that Sitting Bull resisted, or refused to follow, white traditions.  So they believed he was likely to get involved and lead this movement against white people.  

On December 15, 1890, police were sent to arrest Sitting Bull and bring him in for questioning.  Sitting Bull, who was 59 at the time, refused to go with them.  So the policemen dragged him from his cabin.  The noise and commotion caused a large group of Sitting Bull’s followers to come to see what was going on.  One of them fired a shot at the policemen, setting off a brief gun battle. In the confusion that followed, more than a dozen people were killed including Sitting Bull.

Sitting Bull had many hard experiences in his life and there is a lot that we can learn from him.  He showed great bravery from a young age while hunting and in battle. He was also able to stay very calm under stress and pressure. Have you ever practiced trying to stay calm when you feel afraid or angry?  What works well for you?  I know it helps me to take deep breaths and try and clear my thoughts. Sometimes if I go outside or take a walk that helps, too. Reacting to stress that way is much better than yelling or calling names or other things we later regret. It’s completely normal to feel upset. I do all the time. The question is how we will deal with those feelings. Sitting Bull showed us that even in intense situations, we can be calm. 

Sitting Bull also fought for what he believed in and stayed close to his family and his tribe. Even when they were threatened and told to leave their lands, he refused. He put himself in great danger to try and save his people. Sticking up for yourself and your family is a very noble thing to do. Think of what you can do to take care of your family and the community in which you live. Like Sitting Bull, we can all be leaders in our communities and families if we stick up for what we believe and for our loved ones. 

Mother Teresa for Kids

Watch Mother Teresa accept the Noble Peace Prize

On August 26, 1910 a baby girl was born in the city of Skopje (SKOP-eeh-eh), Macedonia. Her parents named her Agnes. They were the Bojaxhiu (boy-a-GEE-you) family and they were Albanian. Agne’s father, Nikola, owned a construction company and was on the town council. Many people knew her father and he did his best to earn money for his family and make his city a better place. Drana was Agne’s mother and she loved to take care of the poor and the needy. Often when Agne’s and her siblings came to dinner, Drana had invited strangers to eat with them. Agnes later found out these people were poor, and even though her mother didn’t know them, she fed them and often let them spend the night if they didn’t needed a place to stay. During the day, Drana went out into the city to share food and water with the needy. She often took Agnes along to help.

Agnes and her family were Catholic, which is a religion that believes in and follows the teachings of Jesus. Many people in their city were Muslim or Jewish, which had different beliefs, but Drana taught her family that they should love and serve people of all races and religions. Religion was an important part of their family  tradition. Agnes sang in the choir, the prayed daily and went to church weekly. Agnes liked to read about Catholic missionaries who travelled the world. A missionary is someone who moves far away to teach others about their religion and serve them.

When Agnes was 12 years old she had a deeply spiritual experience and decided her life’s mission would be to help others. When she was 14 she started teaching Sunday School at church and joined a group called the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which met together to pray and serve the poor. By 18 she decided to become a missionary nun. In the Catholic Church a nun dedicates her life to her faith and to teaching and serving others. Agne’s mother was proud of her daughter, but knew if she became a nun she would move far away and may never see her again. But finally after much prayer, Drana gave Agnes her support. It was very hard to leave her family, but Agnes was determined and strongly believed this was her life’s mission.

So Agne packed her bags and said goodbye to her family from the train station. It was one of the hardest moments of her life, because she knew she may never see them again. First, she travelled to Ireland, where she lived with other nuns and learned English. Agnes worked hard and picked up on the new language fast. Next, she took a train to Italy and then a boat to Calculutta, India and finally to Darjeeling, India. On the way, she saw crowds of people in the street who were poor, sick, and hungry. Her heart ached and she wanted more than anything to help the suffering.

In Darjeeling, Agnes continued to learn English, and two more languages, Hindi and Begali. She also started teaching children who attended their school. She loved teaching and soon became very good at managing the school and helping the children. During this time Agnes took her vows as a nun and took on a new name, Sister Teresa, after one of her favorite saints of the same name.

Before long, Agnes, now Sister Teresa, was running most of the school and when the Mother Superior became ill, Sister Teresa took her place and from then on was known as Mother Teresa. She continued to teach and loved what she was doing, but often she’d look out the windows of the convent and see people who suffered and needed help. She believed serving them was her true calling, but sadly because she was a nun she wasn’t able to leave the school.

Mother Teresa prayed for the people, but she also believed in taking action, so she received permission to gather a group of nuns and weekly leave the school to take food and medicine to those in need. But for Mother Teresa, this wasn’t enough! She wanted to spend all of her time serving these people — but to do it she’d need permission from the Pope, who was the head of the Catholic Church. So Mother Teresa wrote a letter and continued writing and asking until she was given permission to remain a nun, but also live outside the school and help the people of Calcutta.

Imagine how nervous Mother Teresa felt when she left the safety of her school and ventured into the big city for the first time. In many ways it was a dangerous place, so it required great bravery and faith to venture out in this new, unknown world. Mother Teresa wanted to blend in with the women of India, s0 she changed her black nun’s clothes out for a white traditional robe, called a sari.

After finding a place to live and a little money, Mother Teresa walked the streets of the city looking for people she could help. She wasn’t sure what to do, so she started doing what she did best, teaching! She drew letters in the dirt and curious kids started gathering around her. Soon a huge crowd of children surrounded Mother Teresa each day, hungry to learn, and feel of her love and attention for them.

When people in the city saw what she was doing they started donating money and items to help. Her former students volunteered their time. Before long Mother Teresa started a new order called the Missionaries of Charity. Every day Mother Teresa and her nuns said prayers, ate breakfast, then went out into the slums of Calcutta to help others. A slum is a place where very poor people live. Often their homes are broken down or they sleep on the streets with very little clothes or shelter. There is usually no clean water and garbage and diseases spread easily. 

At first Mother Teresa and the other nuns would carry people to the hospital, but soon the city leaders saw the good they were doing and gave them an old building to use. The nuns cleaned it up and began caring for the sick. Mother Teresa was determined to treat all people equally, regardless of their religion, like her mother taught her. If they were Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu, she still said their prayers with them and did what they asked even though their requests were different than her Catholic faith. 

Leprosy was a disease that infected many people in India. It causes sores all over peoples’ bodies and no one wants to be around them, because they are worried the leprosy will spread. But Mother Teresa wasn’t concerned about herself, so every day she and her helpers drove a van around Calcutta and found lepers in the street. They set aside a special village for the lepers, where they could live and be taken care of.

In 1969 a journalist noticed what Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity were doing in Calcutta, and made a film about them. When people around the world saw what they were doing and what a difference they were making in India, they started donating money and other supplies to help her cause. Remember, that in order for Mother Teresa to help the sick and poor, she needed medicine and buildings and food and money. It takes many humans working together to make a difference! And every little donation helped! Soon, the Missionaries of Charity were able to help even more people and began to open new cities around the world. Next was Rome, Italy and then places like Australia, Africa and England, and later New York. 

In 1979 Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Her goal was never to be famous, she just believed she had a mission to fulfill and did what came natural to her, loving others and serving them. Her life wasn’t always easy and many times she was nervous or afraid. Helping others often takes courage. It can be easy to be too shy or nervous to help someone, but I challenge you to take the leap and do it anyway! Most of the time others are happy to receive help and to just know they are loved and someone cares about them. For example, if someone is new to your class at school or in your neighborhood you can say “hi” to them and let them join in your play. Or take them a plate of cookies. People love to be cared about and feel like they belong. 

One reason Mother Teresa’s organization was successful was because people in India and all over the world donated to help out. Find a cause that you and your family care about and consider donating. Even small amounts make a difference. Our family has donated to different charities over the years and helped pack food for the hungry. Ask your parents about local charities that do the same thing. It’s always a great experience and feels good to know what you are doing makes the world a better place!

The Maya Angelou Story for Kids

Performing “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s Inauguration:

“Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

“Harlem Hopscotch” by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis Missouri. Her full name was Margeurite, but her older brother had trouble saying her name so he started calling her “Maya” for short. Maya’s parents had trouble getting along and when she was three they divorced. Her parents thought it would be better for her grandmother raised them instead, so they sent Maya and her brother on a train to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. They called their grandma Henderson “Momma.” Most of the people in Stamps were black and it was a segregated town. “Segregated” means that everyone who was black attended a different school, ate at their own restaurants, and lived in their own neighborhood. Maya’s grandmother and her son, Uncle Willy, owned a store in Stamps, and Maya and her brother, Bailey, lived in a room in the back of the store. 

Momma loved her grandchildren and took good care of them. She also wanted them to be responsible, so she taught them good manners and made them help at the store. Often Maya’s job was to sweep the floors. Their Uncle Willy taught them to read and believed they should have an education. It was at this time that Maya fell in love with words as she read new books. One of her favorite authors was William Shakespeare. Charles Dickens was another favorite.

While living in Stamps, Maya’s brother, Bailey, was her best friend. They spent all of their time working and playing and learning together. They loved to run in the woods and had lots of freedom. Bailey always stood up for Maya when people teased her or said mean things. She loved her older brother very much. 

In 1935 Maya’s father came to Stamps to bring them back to the city where he lived, St. Louis, Missouri. They weren’t used to the city but were glad to see their mother again who also lived there. St. Louis had a big library and Maya spent her free time checking out books and reading them at the library. Before this time Maya had a safe childhood, but when she was 7 she was hurt by her mother’s boyfriend. This horrible experience caused her to stop talking. No one knew what to do. Eventually, Maya and Baily moved back to Stamps to be with her Grandmother and Uncle Willy again. For five years Maya didn’t speak. Instead, she spent most of her time reading and writing.

In 1941 Maya’s Grandmother decided they needed to move back in with their mother who now lived in San Francisco, California, because the schools were better there. She and Bailey were now 13 and 14 and enjoyed the new city with the amazing Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars. Maya liked her new school and did well there. She spent her free time writing poems and her own stories. She also started taking singing and dancing lessons. But Bailey had a harder time in San Francisco and often got into trouble and ran away from home. Maya missed Bailey and this caused her to struggle in school. She decided to take a break and look for a job. In San Francisco people used cable cars on tracks to move all around the city. Maya applied to be a cable car conductor, the person who takes people’s tickets and helps them on the cable car. She ended up becoming the first African American cable conductor! After a semester of working, she decided to back to school. She also learned that Bailey joined the Navy and they wrote letters back and forth. She was happy to hear from her brother again.

In 1945, during her last year of high school, Maya had her first baby and named him Clyde Bailey after her brother. She and the father didn’t end up getting married, so Maya was left to raise Clyde on her own. For the next several years she worked as a waitress to earn enough money to take care of Clyde. She also worked at a music store and later as a Calypso dancer at a club called The Purple Onion. There she sang and danced for the audience. Performing before an audience made Maya very nervous, but she did it anyway and found she had a talent for it and got better and better as she continued to practice and improve her skill.

Soon people all over San Francisco were waiting in lines at The Purple Onion to watch Maya perform. Her name started showing up in the newspapers and on the radio. Her next big break was joining a touring group that performed a musical called Porgy and Bess. They traveled all over Europe and Africa, visiting 22 different countries to perform. Maya loved visiting foreign countries and while traveling began to learn other languages and write about the places she visited.

When the tour was done she returned home to be with her son and continued working as a dancer. But Maya knew her real love was writing poems and stories. She had many experiences in her life she wanted to share with others. While living in Los Angeles, she met a famous author, John Oliver Killens, who read some of her stories and encouraged her to move to New York, so she could share her own stories.

In New York City Maya joined the Harlem City Writer’s Guild, where writers met to share their stories and give each other advice. In New York Maya went to listen to a speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. He spoke about how people should be treated the same, no matter the color of their skin. Maya liked Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped put on a show to raise money for him and his cause, which was called the Civil Rights Movement. They believed that all people should be equal and treated the same. They wanted to end segregation. 

Maya continued to help with the Civil Rights Movements by writing and helping earn money for the cause. She later moved to Egypt to help with Civil Rights in Africa. There she wrote for a newspaper and met other famous Civil Rights Leaders like Malcolm X. 

Maya moved back to New York to continue writing and speaking about Civil Rights. There a famous black author and friend, James Baldwin, encouraged Maya to write her life’s story. This is called an autobiography. When Maya finished her autobiography in 1969 she gave it the title “I Know Why A Caged Bird Sings.” She gave it this title because many times in her life she felt like she was living in a cage, not always free to live and act the way she wanted. To Maya, this cage was racism and abuse. But her story was also hopeful, like the bird singing, because she believed that even when someone’s life is hard and painful they can still find joy and happiness. Her book, “I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings” was a huge success and soon many knew about Maya Angelou and her incredible life story. 

Maya continued to write. She wrote a book of poems and a screenplay for a movie. She starred in a musical on Broadway and a TV miniseries called “Roots” about the history of slavery in America. She was also married to a French cartoonist and writer. Her son was married and had a child of his own, so she became a grandmother. 

Maya wrote more books of poems and traveled and spoke and told her life story to inspire others and give them hope. She read her poems for three of the Presidents and in 2010 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive. 

In 2014 Maya died peacefully in her home in North Carolina. She was 86 years old and after her passing people all around the world spoke about how much they loved her and loved the words she wrote. Her life and actions and deeds were an inspiration to so many people over the years.

Maya once wrote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

She also wrote, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Finally, “If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”

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.”

The History of Joan of Arc For Kids

Tonight our story takes place in the Medieval Times, also called the Middle Ages. This was the time of kings and castles and knights and battles over kingdoms. It was also a time where many people had very little to eat and had to work very hard. In the country of France one of these poor families had a daughter named Joan. Joan worked every day to take care of the animals on their farm and sew and do other things to help the family survive. Young Joan was also very kind and always thinking about others. When others were sick she would visit them and bring them food to help them feel better. She was unselfish. Being unselfish is when you think about others than yourself.  

At this time there was a war going on between Joan’s country of France and another country England, who controlled parts of France. From a young age Joan began to feel that she was called to help the people of France be free again. She began to tell her family and other people in her village about her strong beliefs. Soon other villages heard what Joan was saying about freedom and they believed her. She decided to go to the king of France and tell him what she believed. At first the king didn’t want to listen to her but she was persistent. Persistence is when you keep doing something even when it is hard. When the king finally listened to her message of hope, he decided to let her go to battle. They dressed her in armor and put her on an armored horse and sent her off with the other soldiers.

During the battle Joan carried a large flag. When the other soldiers saw Joan’s flag it gave them hope, because they knew it was being carried by the brave young girl who believed France could again be free. Seeing Joan and her flag made them strong and they won battles whenever Joan was there. Joan had courage. Courage is when you do something even though it may be scary or hard.

During one particularly dangerous battle, they had to ride boats past the enemy guns. The wind was weak that day so they were going very slow. The soldiers started to wonder if they would survive and began to panic. Joan stayed positive and spoke to them, encouraging them, reassuring them that it would be alright. Soon the winds picked up and they sailed past the enemy guns without getting hit.

Later during the battle the captains had attacked, but the army was not doing well. Joan heard what was happening and knew they needed her help. She jumped onto her horse and galloped to the front of the battle. There she saw many soldiers who were hurt. She had sympathy for them. Sympathy is when you feel bad for someone and want to help. Joan rode her horse into the battle and the soldiers began to cheer. They fought harder and eventually won the battle. Joan saw the enemy soldiers who had been hurt and tried to help them feel better. She didn’t like seeing people hurt on both sides, even though they were the enemy.  

Through many other battles Joan gave the soldiers hope. Eventually there was peace between France and England. Later Joan was captured and put in jail for a time, but no matter what happened to her, she stood up for her beliefs. There may be times in life that others will laugh at you or say mean things because of what you believe in, but like Joan you can ignore them and stand strong anyway. This is called having conviction.

Like Joan you can be unselfish by thinking about others instead of yourself. You can be brave and have courage when things are scary or hard.

Next time you go to the doctor or take a test, think of how Joan went into battle and did hard things even when they weren’t easy.