Short stuff: news for kids

A look at what's making news in April – from a Harry Potter secret to a seven-foot canine.

Harry who?

It's been 10 years since readers met the boy wizard Harry Potter in J.K. Rowling's first book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." The Potter series, which includes six books to date, has sold more than 300 million copies worldwide.

On Saturday, July 21, the series will come to an end with the release of a seventh adventure, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

While the plot has been closely guarded, the author has revealed one secret on a British TV show: "Two [characters] die that I didn't intend to die."

Who do you think they will be?

Kids strike it rich

It pays to be a kid – well, at least when it comes to allowance money. Some kids get more than $40 a week! But before you ask Mom or Dad for a pay raise, consider this: Most teens get less than $20 weekly allowance, according to a Junior Achievement Worldwide survey.

The percentage of teens who say they receive the following weekly allowance:

$10 or less: 33

$11 to $20: 31

$21 to $30: 16

$31 to $40: 6

$40 and up: 14

New heights

It's not easy making Eagle, the highest honor in Boy Scouts. You need to earn at least 21 merit badges. Only 2 percent of Scouts get that far. A remarkable achievement. So what adjective should be used for James Calderwood, who has attained 122?

James, a teen in Chevy Chase, Md., has every badge available – from business to woodwork. He even has one they don't give out anymore – atomic energy.

In fact, James has so many badges, he couldn't wear them the normal way. "I actually had to make my own sash, where I took three sashes and sewed them together," he says.

The Boy Scouts of America doesn't keep records of Scouts who have earned every badge. But not many have done it, says Deborah Dean of the Scouts' National Capital Area Council. Ms. Dean confirmed James's achievement, calling it "extremely rare." That's because Scouts stop earning badges when they're18 years old.

What was the most difficult one to obtain? "Bugling," says James. "I've never been very musically gifted."

Makes you go 'woof'

Get your thinking cap on: Do you know which mammal has the greatest size range? It's the domestic dog, or Canis familaris. Did you guess correctly?

Descended from wolves about 15,000 years ago, some dogs – such as the tiny Chihuahua – can sleep in a shoebox. Other dogs, such as Great Danes or Newfoundlands, may be better suited for a king-size bed. That's because Great Danes can be as tall as 7 feet and Newfoundlands can weigh more than 150 pounds.

Researchers say it is only in the past hundreds of years that most breeds have developed, encouraged by humans through selection. What's the biggest dog you've ever seen?

A reason to celebrate

Most kids in the US have school on May 1. But if you went to school in Germany, you'd probably have the day off. That's because it's May Day, and many schools and businesses close to celebrate.

While May Day isn't as popular in the US as other holidays such as the Fourth of July, many Europeans have been celebrating it since the 16th century. In villages, people gather around a tree trunk, called a maypole, that's erected in the center of the village. The selection of the tree is important: It has to be at least 100 feet tall, and the pole must be bolted upright in place.

Many maypoles are decorated with symbols or shields, which depict different workers' guilds (occupations) in a particular community.

The maypole is set up during a big feast for the whole community that includes dancing, singing, and getting together with friends.

Happy May Day!

Compiled from websites and wire reports by Steven Ellis.

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