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Samantha Balaban

All Polly wants to do is help wash the car and build a drawbridge for a science project. But the men and boys in her life keep telling her "that's not what girls do!"

Polly is getting tired of hearing that.

One day, her mother takes her to a rally where they meet a woman who is running for President.

Gary Paulsen, whose books taught generations of kids how to survive in the woods with only a hatchet, died Wednesday at the age of 82; his publisher said it was "sudden" but did not give a cause.

Paulsen was best known for those wilderness survival stories, though he wrote more than 200 books during his lifetime, and three of his novels, Hatchet, Dogsong and The Winter Room, were Newbery Honor books.

TORKHAM, Pakistan — Although the Kabul airport has opened again to international flights, many Afghans are still trying to flee overland, through major border crossings like the one in Torkham, Pakistan.

For Prince Harry's first Father's Day, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, got him a bench.

"As most of us do, you go, what am I going to get them as a gift? And I thought I just wanted something sentimental and a place for him to have as a bit of a home base with our son," Meghan says.

And on a little plaque on the back of the bench, she wrote a poem, about the moments she hoped they would share on that bench.

A little boy and his Moshom — his grandfather — are traveling north. They're going to the grandfather's community, and his trapline — a place where Indigenous people live off the land, hunting, fishing, and trapping.

On The Trapline is written by David A. Robertson, who is a member of Norway House Cree Nation, and inspired by a trip the author took with his late father.

A young girl is driving in Ohio with her parents when they spot watercress growing by the side of the road. The mom shouts "Look!" and they stop the car.

"They haul us out of the back seat. We are told to untie our sneakers, peel off our socks, and roll up our jeans. We have to help them gather it."

Watercress is written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin. And it's based on the author's childhood.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


At its heart, Hunter Biden's new memoir, Beautiful Things, is a story of addiction.

Biden, the 51-year-old son of the president, writes that he first bought crack cocaine at age 18. He first fell in love with alcohol in high school and started drinking heavily after work in his 20s. "I always could drink five times more than anyone else," he writes.

He has been in and out of rehab numerous times over the last two decades and has had long periods of sobriety between relapses.

Sitting on the subway beside his big sister, young Milo is "a shook-up soda." He feels "excitement stacked on top of worry on top of confusion on top of love." The kids are on their way to visit their mother, who is incarcerated.

It's a regular, old, chain link fence circling a parking lot in a residential community in Maryland.

Except that attached to the fence are seven wooden boxes. They look like elaborate dioramas.

It's all part of an art exhibit called Community Lost and Found — and it asks residents to consider the question: What have you lost, and what have you found in 2020?

One box is decorated with a bird's nest and a pacifier suspended in a translucent globe — representing the baby girl that Megan Abbot and Gary Hall had in May.

Food banks have seen demand climb dramatically this year. Eric Cooper of the San Antonio Food Bank talks about how additional federal dollars could make a difference to his clients.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


In Misty Copeland's new book Bunheads, a young girl named Misty discovers her love of dance with her friends. The dancers in this studio "come from all different walks of life," Copeland says. "They have different backgrounds, different body types, different skin color, different hair color, different ethnicities."

The kids in I Am Every Good Thing are compared to the best things: moonbeams on brand new snow, the center of a cinnamon roll, a perfect paper airplane that glides for blocks.

When Derrick Barnes first started writing children's books 15 years ago, he didn't see Black kids — and Black boys in particular — being depicted in this way.

"Whenever you saw a black male character in children's books, he was either playing basketball, he was a runaway slave, or just visually looking very docile or assimilating," Barnes says.

Ashima Shiraishi, 19, is one of the most talented rock climbers in the world. And she'd like to let you in on a rather unglamorous secret: "Most of climbing, it's you just falling," she says. "Every time you go back at it, you improve slightly."

Shiraishi is the author of a new book called How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion — she says it's about how she approaches all kinds of obstacles.

Imagining your place in the universe can make you feel pretty small and insignificant, and in the midst of a global pandemic? Well, even more so.

"I think this moment that we are living through reminds us how fragile our species is, living on this small rock in the vastness of the cosmos," says astrophysicist Ray Jayawardhana. But he doesn't think that the universe should necessarily make you feel alone. It's inspiring, he says, to remember the "intimate and enduring connections that we have with the rest of the cosmos."


Animal shelters around the country say that they're seeing more interest than usual during the pandemic. Are you perhaps thinking of adopting a dog? Or B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music? NPR's Samantha Balaban worked with our Life Kit podcast to assemble advice on where to start and how to prepare.

JILLIAN MOLINA: If possible, I'd love to just see your yard to make sure it's, like, dog proof.

When Nancy Redd's daughter was three years old, she started wearing a bonnet to bed. It's a "ubiquitous black experience that I grew up with, my mom grew up with, all my friends grew up with," Redd says — and yet it's one that she felt ashamed of as a kid.

"If the doorbell rang, I would immediately take it off — I didn't want anybody to know it existed," she recalls. "I didn't want my daughter growing up with that same shame."

But Redd couldn't find a book that celebrated black nighttime hair routines, so she wrote it herself.

Lois Lowry has written more than 40 books and won the Newbery Medal twice — for The Giver and Number the Stars — but she's never written a story in verse until now.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


When Daniel tags along with his parents to work — they are janitors in a big office building — he's surprised to find a fantasy world full of kings, queens, a throne room and dragons.

Author Helena Ku Rhee drew on her own childhood as she wrote The Paper Kingdom. Her parents were night janitors for a law office in Los Angeles. They couldn't afford a babysitter, so they brought her along.

When illustrator Rashin Kheiriyeh first read the manuscript of Story Boat, she recognized the children in it immediately. Kheiriyeh's family fled Iran after war broke out in 1980 — she remembers what it was like to leave everything behind, to escape to a safer place. So Kyo Maclear's story, about a little girl and her family who are forced to leave home, felt very familiar.

Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey have been "making stuff" together since they were kids. They grew up in a family of four brothers, and from a young age, Jarrett says, he and Jerome "just clicked."

When Ellison Nguyen was 4 years old he got the chance to meet Thi Bui, the illustrator of one of his favorite books. He was so inspired by her work that he promptly wrote and drew his own picture book — "It came to me," Ellison, now 6, explains simply.

Author Susan Cooper knows what it is to be scared of the dark. As a child growing up in England during World War II, she remembers long, dark nights, with Nazi bombers flying overhead.

"We would be sitting in a raid shelter underneath the back lawn with Mum reading books to us by the light of a candle," she recalls. "When the bombs came closer, the candle would shake."

Children love to pronounce the name of Olive Senior's new book: Boonoonoonous Hair. ("You break it down into boo noo noo nous, and then you say it fast," she advises.)

It's a word that comes from Jamaica where Senior was born. She says this evocative term has fallen out of fashion, but she's working to bring it back.

"It's just a word that suggests something lovely, something beautiful, something warm, something wonderful," she says. "So if you're told you're boonoonoonous that's a great compliment."