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Behind the Lines




Behind the Headlines is a news and current events section designed especially for children ages 8-16.

These articles are from the editors of the World Book Encyclopedia and cover a huge variety of topics, such as Arts and Entertainment, Animals, History, Business, Civil Rights, Science, and more.

All of these articles are child safe and your child will be able to browse categories or search by keyword. Your child will easily be able to find a great article on their topic of interest.

Get the inside scoop!

Castle of Magical Dreams Opens in Hong Kong

The new Castle of Magical Dreams at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.

Credit: © Hong Kong Disneyland Resort

What if you could combine all your favorite characters and cultures featured in Disney films into one amazing attraction? Hong Kong Disneyland has done just that.

This year, the new-and-improved Castle of Magical Dreams was revealed at Hong Kong Disneyland. Built atop the park’s existing Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Castle of Magical Dreams incorporates a variety of female characters and their storylines into one diversity-celebrating architectural feat.

The Castle of Magical Dreams has more than a dozen towers, each representing a female character from a Disney film. Each character has her own tower, complete with elements from her story. Tiana from The Princess and the Frog (2009), for example, is represented by a tower with a water-lily motif. The tower representing Mulan (1998) features a cherry blossom pattern. At the top of each tower also sits a finial (ornament) chosen to represent each character. For example, Belle’s tower, from Beauty and the Beast (1991), is adorned with an enchanted rose. Together, the unique towers celebrate the diversity of Disney’s female characters.

The designers did not forget about the characters’ beloved sidekicks. Inside the castle, visitors will find 13 columns topped with such friends as Pua and HeiHei, from Moana (2016), and Merida’s triplet brothers from Brave (2012).

Many of the female characters in Disney films must overcome obstacles. Disneyland’s engineers had to tackle obstacles of their own. The Castle of Magical Dreams is made up of 15 massive parts. Each portion was built and painted off-site. The parts were then shipped to Hong Kong Disneyland and put together using a crane.

Because of the ongoing pandemic (global outbreak) of the coronavirus disease COVID-19, many people cannot travel. So, while you wait to visit Hong Kong Disneyland’s Castle of Magical Dreams, try drawing a castle of your own! You can take your favorite parts from movies—Disney or otherwise—to create a unique structure. Who knows, one day you may design a creation for a Disney park.

Tags: castle of magical dreams, disneyland, hong kong, walt disney

Spotlight on Australia: The Thorny Devil

Credit: © Uwe Bergwitz, Shutterstock

Australia is famous for its unique culture, metropolitan cities, and unusual wildlife, among other things. Each week, this seasonal feature will spotlight one of Australia’s many wonders.

If you could eat 1,000 somethings in one day, what would you choose? Slices of pizza? Chunks of chocolate? Florets of broccoli?

The small Australian lizard called the thorny devil would choose 1,000 somethings that are a little… different.

The thorny devil, also called the thorny dragon or mountain devil, eats 1,000 ants in a day. And, it does this day after day, because the thorny devil feeds exclusively on ants.

Thorny devils live in dry, sandy areas, including deserts and sandy grasslands and scrublands. They are found from Australia’s interior to the coast of Western Australia.

Thorny devils reach up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length. They are covered in spines of keratin, a tough material also found in human hair and nails. Their skin has a banded appearance. The skin color changes with temperature. Thorny devils may appear olive to brown in the cool of the desert morning and evening. They may appear pale yellow and red in the midday heat.

Thorny devils are solitary animals. The thorny devil is active in the daytime. It feeds by positioning itself near an ant trail, using its sticky tongue to slurp up ants. The devil’s teeth are specialized for shearing tough ant exoskeletons (outer coverings).

The thorny devil has a unique way of getting water in dry environments. Its spines are surrounded by a network of microscopic grooves. The grooves draw in dew and other moisture from the lizard’s surroundings through an effect called capillary action. The grooves channel this water to the lizard’s mouth.

Thorny devils are preyed upon by larger lizards and birds. The devil’s spines may help to discourage predators. The animal can also puff itself up with air when threatened. The thorny devil walks with a slow, jerky movement that is thought to confuse predators. A large knob on the lizard’s neck may also confuse predators, appearing as a false head.

Thorny devils are active in the spring and fall. They take refuge in underground burrows during the hottest months of summer and the coldest months of winter. Thorny devils mate in the late winter and early spring. The female lays 3 to 10 eggs in a burrow 12 inches (30 centimeters) deep. The eggs hatch in three to four months. Thorny devils can live to about 20 years in the wild.

Tags: australia, lizard, thorny devil

100 Years Ago: Tulsa Race Riot

A thriving Black neighborhood known as “Black Wall Street” lies in ruin following the Tulsa race riot of 1921.

Credit: Library of Congress

May 31, 2021, marked 100 years since the start of the Tulsa race riot of 1921. It was one of the deadliest acts of racial violence in United States history.

From May 31 to June 1, 1921, groups of armed white men attacked Black residents in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The riot began after white vigilantes gathered to lynch (put to death without a lawful trial) a Black man who had been accused of attacking a white woman. The riot probably caused about 300 deaths and destroyed Tulsa’s Black business district.

On May 30, 1921, Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old Black shoe shiner, entered an elevator in the Drexel Building in downtown Tulsa. He encountered Sarah Page, a 17-year-old white elevator operator. What occurred next is unclear. Many historians believe that Rowland may have either stepped on Page’s foot or tripped and grabbed Page’s arm to steady himself. Page screamed. A clerk from a nearby store, assuming that the girl had been the victim of an assault, called police. Rowland fled the scene and was arrested the next day.

Newspaper accounts and rumors about the incident led to widespread talk of lynching. On the evening of May 31, hundreds of white people, including many armed men, gathered near the courthouse where Rowland was held. Groups of armed Black men—many of them veterans of World War I—then arrived at the scene. They offered their services to the sheriff to help protect Rowland, but their offers were refused.

At around 10 p.m., shots were fired during a commotion near the courthouse. The Blacks who had gathered there were outnumbered, and they retreated. They went to Greenwood Avenue—the heart of the Black business district known as “Black Wall Street.” A white mob followed.

Scattered shootings then occurred near Greenwood Avenue in the early hours of June 1. Groups of armed Blacks assembled to hold off the white mob. Many Black residents fought to protect their businesses or families, while others fled to the countryside. Law enforcement officials deputized (appointed as agents of the law) hundreds of members of the mob. Members of the Oklahoma National Guard—all of whom were white—gathered near boundaries of Black and white neighborhoods. Among some whites, rumors attributed the violence to a “Negro uprising.” The mob grew to more than 5,000 white men.

Around 5 a.m., a whistle sounded, and thousands of armed white men marched into the Black business district. They burned and looted homes and businesses. National Guardsmen led thousands of Blacks at gunpoint to makeshift detention centers. Many who resisted were shot. Police did little to stop the arson and violence, and they spent most of their resources protecting white neighborhoods. In many instances, local members of the state National Guard joined in the attacks. Black eyewitnesses recalled white pilots firing on Black neighborhoods from airplanes above.

Thousands of armed white men burned and looted Black homes and businesses during the riot.

Credit: Library of Congress

Around 9 a.m., members of a National Guard regiment from Oklahoma City arrived in Tulsa. Locals called them the “state troops.” Order was restored around 11:30 a.m., when Governor James B. A. Robertson declared martial law (emergency military rule) in Tulsa County. By the time the riot ended, more than 1,200 structures—nearly the entire “Negro Quarter”—had been destroyed by fires.

There is documented evidence of at least 40 deaths in the Tulsa riot. Of this number, about two-thirds were Black. However, many historians estimate that around 300 people were killed. Some unidentified Black victims may have been interred in mass graves.

Authorities never brought criminal charges against Rowland. Authorities also brought no charges against white rioters. Neither the City of Tulsa nor insurance companies compensated Black property owners for losses. The Greenwood business district was eventually rebuilt, but many of its residents remained homeless for months.

Rebuilding begins in the Black neighborhood destroyed by the riot.

Credit: Library of Congress

Newspapers reported on the riot in the days and weeks after the event. Over time, however, the incident received little coverage. The riot was omitted from most Oklahoma history books and classroom lessons.

Blacks displaced by the neighborhood’s destruction line up outside a refugee camp at the Tulsa fairgrounds.

Credit: Library of Congress

In 1997, state officials formed the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. The commission released an extensive report about the event in 2001. Tulsa’s John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park commemorates the victims of the riot. The park, named for a leading Black scholar whose own father survived the riot, officially opened in 2010.

Tags: african americans, oklahoma, racism, tulsa, tulsa race riot of 1921

Ha’ahoni on aaz (Perseverance on Mars)

This rock, called “Máaz” (the Navajo word for “Mars”), is the first feature of scientific interest to be studied by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

When you’re exploring a planet, you have to name things. It’s a great way to memorialize your discoveries, but it also prevents confusion: are you going to study This Rock, That Rock, or The Other Rock?

The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) mission Mars 2020 is hard at work exploring Mars. The mission’s rover, Perseverance, landed on Feb. 18, 2021, in Jezero Crater. The mission planners have been naming important surface features in the Navajo language. This decision wasn’t planned before the rover landed, but came about by happy circumstance.

Landing on another solar system body is tough. Mission planners can guide a lander to a general destination, but they cannot pinpoint an exact landing site. Mars 2020 mission planners could guide Perseverance to Jezero Crater, but they could not know where in the 28-mile (45-kilometer) wide crater the rover was going to land. Therefore, mission planners studied the entire crater to prepare for landing. They divided the crater into several sections, naming each after a place on Earth—including U.S. national monuments—that the section resembled in some way.

Perseverance landed within the section that planners had named after Canyon de Chelly National Monument. This national monument, known for its huge, colorful, steep-walled canyons, lies entirely within the Navajo reservation. The Navajo are one of the largest Native American groups in the United States. The Navajo reservation, which covers 16 million acres (6.5 million hectares), is the nation’s biggest reservation. It includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument (“Tséyi’” in Navajo) in Arizona is located on Navajo Nation land. Members of NASA’s Perseverance rover team, in collaboration with the Navajo Nation, has been naming features of scientific interest with words in the Navajo language.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Mars mission scientists informally name important features to make them easier to identify. Mars 2020 mission scientists were inspired by the name of their landing site to nickname features in the Navajo language. They teamed up with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientist Aaron Yazzie, who is Navajo, to seek permission from the Navajo Nation. The nation’s government approved the idea and developed a list of potential names. The first name to be used was Máaz, the Navajo word for Mars, for a rock near the landing site. Navajo officials also included the translation for Perseverance: Ha’ahóni.

Perseverance has to be “taught” the language, since the computer languages the rover uses cannot process the special characters and diacritical marks used in the written Navajo language. Mars 2020 team members are working to develop better transliterations using the English alphabet.

This is not the first time the Navajo language has played an outsized role in United States history. During the United States’ involvement in World War II (1939-1945), Navajo radio operators sent secret messages using a code based on the Navajo language. At the time, Navajo was an unwritten language known to few people outside of the Navajo Nation. Its complex structure, difficult pronunciation, and singsong qualities made it nearly impossible to decipher. Although Imperial Japanese forces could overhear the messages, they never managed to decode them. The Navajo radio operators, called code talkers, have been honored for their service in the war.

Mars 2020 has shed its proverbial training wheels and is breaking new ground in the exploration of the Red Planet. The helicopter Ingenuity, another part of the mission, conducted its first flight on April 19. Engineers are now pushing Ingenuity further, conducting longer, more challenging flights. The craft’s performance will gather valuable information for future Mars flyers. Perseverance’s robotic arm began conducting science on May 11. As the mission continues to explore, planners will continue to nickname features in the Navajo language—a tribute to the Navajo people, their culture, and the land they call home.

Tags: canyon de chelly, code talkers, mars, mars 2020, navajo, navajo language, navajo nation, perseverance rover

Asian and Pacific Heritage Month: Tammy Duckworth

United States Senator Tammy Duckworth

Credit: U.S. Congress

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. All month long, Behind the Headlines will feature AAPI pioneers in a variety of areas.

Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois, was elected to the United States Senate in 2016. As a senator, she has been a champion for civil rights, environmental justice, and veterans’ affairs.

Ladda Tammy Duckworth was born in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 12, 1968, to a Thai mother and an American father. Her father had been serving in Southeast Asia in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War (1957-1975). When Tammy Duckworth was a child, the family moved around the region while her father worked with the United Nations and private corporations. She became fluent in Thai, Indonesian, and English. The family later moved to Hawaii, where Duckworth finished high school. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Hawaii (also spelled University of Hawai‘i) in 1989.

Duckworth joined the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in 1990 while working on a master’s degree in international affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She completed her degree in 1992. That year, she also got her commission as a reserve officer and trained as an army helicopter pilot. In 1996, while studying for a doctorate in political science at Northern Illinois University, she transferred to the Illinois National Guard. She later completed a doctorate in human services at Capella University, an online-based school.

In 2004, while Duckworth was still a student at Northern Illinois, her National Guard regiment was sent to Iraq. On November 12, her helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade. She lost both legs and some of the use of her right arm. In December, she was awarded a Purple Heart for her injuries. The Purple Heart is a medal given to soldiers of the U.S. armed forces who are wounded or killed in combat. Following a lengthy recovery, Duckworth began working for better medical care for veterans. In 2006, she ran unsuccessfully for an Illinois seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich then named her director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed her assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs.

In 2012, Duckworth was elected to the U.S. House, representing a district in the Chicago suburbs. She was reelected in 2014. Also in 2014, she retired from the Army Reserves, having achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 2016, Duckworth defeated incumbent Republican Senator Mark Kirk to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Duckworth married Bryan Bowlsbey, an officer in the Army National Guard, in 1993. In 2018, she became the first sitting U.S. senator to give birth when she delivered a daughter, Maile Pearl. The couple’s first child, Abigail, was born in 2014, while Duckworth was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Duckworth’s memoir, Every Day is a Gift, was published in 2021.

United States Senator Tammy Duckworth

Credit: U.S. Congress

Tags: asian american and pacific islander heritage month, democratic party, tammy duckworth, united states senate, veterans affairs

Mummies on the Move

A procession of 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies (18 kings and 4 queens) leave the Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square and are driven to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation, in Cairo, Egypt, on April 3, 2021.

Credit: © Abaca Press/Alamy Images

Last month, Egyptian royals paraded through downtown Cairo. Called the Pharaoh’s Golden Parade, the procession included 18 kings and 4 queens. The royals traveled from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. As they made the 3-mile (5-kilometer) journey, they were met with cheers from adoring fans. Although the fans were lively, the royals were quite reserved. In fact, the royals had been dead for hundreds of years.

The Pharaoh’s Golden Parade marked the relocation of 22 ancient Egyptian mummies. Mummy is a body that has been preserved through natural or artificial means.

The royal mummies were very fragile. Vehicles designed for the event cradled the mummies on their trip. The roads were even repaved to ensure that the kings and queens had a smooth ride. For protection, the bodies were placed in nitrogen-filled boxes. (Pure nitrogen gas is used as a “blanket” to keep away oxygen, which can further degrade the already-ancient corpses.)

Egyptians mummified their dead because they believed the body had to be preserved for use in the afterlife. The earliest Egyptian mummies were naturally preserved by being buried in the hot and dry desert sand. By about 3500 B.C., the Egyptians had developed an elaborate process of preparing mummies. Ancient texts indicate that the process took 70 days to complete. In this process, the stomach, liver, lungs, and intestines were removed from the body through an incision on the left side of the abdomen. The heart, which the Egyptians considered the center of reasoning, was usually left in place. In some cases, embalmers removed the brain with a hook through a hole pierced through the nose.

After the body was dried, it was treated with perfumes and resins that helped seal out moisture. The body could be stuffed with straw, linen, moss, or other material to give it a more lifelike appearance. The body was then wrapped in a great number of linen bandages. Mummies were usually placed in a coffin or a series of coffins, one inside the other.

Wealthy people could afford more elaborately prepared mummies than could the poor. The ancient Egyptians also mummified animals, including baboons, cats, jackals, and rams, which were associated with various Egyptian gods and cults. Pet cats and dogs were sometimes mummified as well. The ancient Egyptians practiced mummification until about A.D. 300, when it was replaced by simple burials following the introduction of Christianity.

Mummies were also made in other parts of the world. In China, some bodies were preserved using mercury salts. Among the Inca of South America, mummies were preserved through the use of smoke and resins. The dry climate of the Andes Mountains aided the preservation of the bodies. The people of the Aleutian Islands and the Ancestral Pueblo people (once called the Anasazi) of the American Southwest also mummified their dead. Mummification is still practiced today in the form of embalming. Among the most famous modern mummies are those of the Communist leaders V. I. Lenin of Russia and Mao Zedong of China.

Tags: ancient egypt, egypt, mummy, museum, pharoah

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