Book 6: Catch of the Day

Ages 10-adult; Read to/with younger children

An end-of-summer weekend at a friend’s “swimming hole” in the middle of farmland doesn’t sound particularly exciting. Except for a mysterious splashing in the night, that is. Swimming doesn’t bring to mind exciting lessons in physics, either. Except when you factor into the equation a water trampoline and a dog.

Even the Maloney car’s GPS has trouble finding the well-hidden property in central Illinois. As soon as their Dad shuts off the engine, seven-year-old Melody and her twin brother, Mallory, spring out of the car to look for the “Loch Ness monster” rumored to live in the 10-acre pond. Fields of soybeans inspire quick lessons in uses of soy beyond food, and a hand water pump brings back memories of several trips earlier the family took earlier in the year.

A self-inflating water trampoline brings another quick lesson on how some inflatable products work. Once it’s in the water, the floating device offers an unexpected combination of fun and physics. It’s hard to forget the laws of actions and reactions (not to mention gravity) when you find yourself suddenly flying through the air above the pond and then getting dunked in one not-so-graceful “fluid” movement.

No one complains about an early bedtime, but splashes during the night awaken Mallory, his Dad, Grandpa Mike and Rufus. They walk down to the pond to investigate; Rufus isn’t interested in the shadowy outline and decides with a “woof” that it’s time to go back to sleep.

The next afternoon a catfish appears near a fishnet lying in the water next to a small wooden pier. It doesn’t skitter away, but rather looks everyone in the eye when the rest of the family comes to investigate and finally swims away after some coaxing.

Later, Mallory finds the same catfish lingering in the shallow water. It slowly moves, as though wanting Mallory to follow it. Mallory takes the hint and wades carefully through the water as he follows the catfish. Then the catfish stops. Mallory looks around. What does the catfish want him to see… or to find? A colorful object catches Mallory’s eye. He gives it to his Dad.

The catfish then swims to the front of the boat, as though to suggest that father and son follow it in the boat, which they do. When the water gets too deep to see the catfish at the bottom of the pond, it jumps out and splashes the surface of the water. Everyone knows that catfish aren’t acrobats, but this one is. Then it keeps splashing in the same place, as if to say “What are you waiting for? Get out your fishing poles!” Mallory and his Dad take the hint and put their poles in the water.

A REALLY BIG fish tugs at Mallory’s pole; his Dad helps by scooping up the fish in the fishnet. How much does it weigh? No scale? No problem. A teeter-totter, a yardstick, an unopened 10 lb. bag of hickory chips and an unopened 15 lb. bag of grass seed works almost as well as a regular scale. More physics. Just be careful that the teeter-totter doesn’t act as a catapult!

The twins learn about largemouth and small mouth bass from the property’s caretaker, who stops by to make sure the family has everything they need. The caretaker finds an old platform scale and shows how to calculate net weight if you use a container to weigh something and to convert ounces to pounds. Grandpa takes the opportunity to show the twins how to do long division. They also learn how dragonflies can migrate up to four thousand miles and how tennis, badminton and baseball demonstrate how the laws of motion work.

What secret does the eleven-pound largemouth bass reveal as it’s cleaned for grilling? For that matter, what fun surprises await in the family garden when they return home?

This book has 68 pages and about 18,500 words. $18.

The table below shows some of the important topics and subtopics in Catch of the Day, by chapter, plus some links to several additional information resources on the Web. Links that are especially for children are shown in orange.


Resource Links

Helpful Hints

Math: why learn when apps are everywhere?

Chapter 1
Door County Memories

Health: eyesight; cataracts

Chapter 2
Exploring “Loch Land”

Earth, Space Science: Spring-fed ponds; harvest timing; uses for soy crop; using non-disposable utensils; Life Skills: best time to fish; Engineering: hand water pumps; Physics: self-inflating devices Loch Ness legend

Chapter 3
A Water Trampoline = Newton’s Laws of Motion?

Physics: Newton’s Laws of Motion; Life Skills: imagery to overcome fear; Language: play on words Newton’s Laws of Motion
Newton’s Laws of Motion (advanced)

Chapter 4
A Fish Story

Physics: moonlight reflected on water; Biology: catfish; animal behavior; Life Skills: fishing

Chapter 5
A Fishier Story

Arts: Dr. Doolittle; drawing; Biology: animal behavior

Chapter 6
A Fun Way to Weigh

Physics: estimating weight by balance; Newton’s Laws; insects riding wind currents; force, distance and weight; Biology: dragonflies; Language: play on words Insect migration

Chapter 7
An Old-Fashioned Way to Weigh

Biology: large and small mouth bass fish; tomatoes; Engineering: platform scale; Life Skills: weights and measures; tare weight; Math: counting; multiplying; division; converting measures; Human, Family Values: gratitude; politeness; respect; Language: play on words Large and small mouth bass

Chapter 8
A Fishy Surprise

Physics: getting true weight; Life Skills: eating bony fish safely

Chapter 9
How Gardens Do Grow

Life Skills: gardening; soil preparation; observation; Biology: plant seeds; pollination; plant leaves; plant life cycle; bean sheath; Human, Family Values: playing tricks on family members

Chapter 10
Some Answers; Next Adventure

Biology: animal behavior; edible flowers; Human, Family Values: respect; Health: nutrition; Life Skills: money value; willingness to try something new; Chemistry: plant substances with health value; Language: word meanings; Arts: writing poetry; Physics: Newton’s Laws