Behind the Headlines
Explore our world, one headline at a time.
World Book Editors break down the news in our Behind the Headlines feature allowing for a deeper understanding of the complex events that shape our world today. Behind the Headlines articles are carefully crafted presenting the latest national and world news, science discoveries, current events and other top stories and are simplified for young readers.


U.S. Enters World War I: 100 Years

On April 6, 1917—100 years ago today—the United States House of Representatives approved a resolution declaring war on Germany, entering the United States into World War I (1914-1918). Four days earlier, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had asked Congress for a declaration of war, warning “the world must be made safe for democracy.” The Senate approved the resolution by a vote of 82-6 on April 4.

New Puppet Toads–of the Dead

Scientists, never satisfied with the current number of known frogs in the world, have added two new species of toads to the ever-growing list. These new toads, native to Indonesia, have DNA so different from other toads that scientists went a step further and gave them their own genus, Sigalegalephrynus. When classifying living things, a genus (a group of related animals or plants) ranks below a family or subfamily and above a species.

Carolina’s Basketball Champs

​Carolina (North & South) college basketball reached its apex over the past couple nights as the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I Basketball Tournaments came to a close. On the women’s side Sunday night, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks downed the Mississippi State University Bulldogs 67-55 to win their first NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) championship. Last night, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels men claimed their sixth national title with a 71-65 win over the Gonzaga University Bulldogs (of Spokane, Washington).

Mythic Monday: Crafty Daedalus

​Daedalus, a skilled artisan of ancient Athens, was a colorful figure of Greek mythology. If Daedalus were a modern-day comic book superhero, his origin story might include a mad scientist piecing together the inquiring mind of Thomas Edison, the vision of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the versatile genius of Leonardo da Vinci, and the rugged physicality of a rugby star.

Women’s History Month: Jeannette Rankin

World Book continues its celebration of Women’s History Month with a look at Jeannette Rankin, who in 1916—almost four years before women had the right to vote nationally in the United States—became the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

Albert Pinkham Ryder: 100 Years

Today, March 28, marks 100 years since the death of American artist Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917). Ryder is considered one of the most original of American painters. He is best known for his brooding night scenes of the sea and dreamlike landscapes.

England Wins Six Nations Rugby Title

On Saturday, March 18, the Irish men’s national Rugby Union team defeated the English team 13-9 at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. The win was satisfying for Ireland and the majority of the 51,700 fans in attendance, but it was England that still came out on top, winning its second-straight Six Nations Championship title.

Mythic Monday: Irish Warrior Cuchulainn

Last Friday, March 17, was St. Patrick’s Day. And while each year on that day many people wear shamrocks in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, Hibernophiles (fans of Irish culture) might also want to honor the great mythological defender of all Ireland: Cuchulainn (koo KUHL ihn).

Birthday Candles for Navigator Matthew Flinders

March 16 marks the birthday of British navigator Matthew Flinders, who explored and charted much of Australia’s coast in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Flinders was born in England on March 16, 1774. In 1794, he sailed to the British colony of New South Wales, Australia.

Las Fallas: Valencia’s Fire Festival

This week, the Spanish city of Valencia hosts one the world’s more unique holiday celebrations: las Fallas (or les Falles). In Valencia, a falla is a type of torch, and for the festival, artistic monuments (also called fallas) are built and ceremoniously burned in the streets. The fire festival of las Fallas celebrates the coming of spring, lasting several days before culminating on the feast day of San José (Saint Joseph), March 19.

Women’s History Month: Australian Vida Goldstein

World Book continues its celebration of Women’s History Month with a look at Australian feminist (promoter of women’s rights) and campaigner for woman suffrage (voting rights) Vida Goldstein (VY duh GOHLD styn). Goldstein was instrumental in helping to win the right to vote for Australian women in 1902—the second country to grant women full voting rights after New Zealand (1893).

Mythic Monday: Epic Gilgamesh

This week’s mythological figure is the hero of the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest epic poems in world literature. It tells the adventures of the Sumerian king Gilgamesh. Sumer was an ancient region in southern Mesopotamia (now southeastern Iraq). Historians believe Gilgamesh probably existed, so like King Arthur, he is not technically an entirely mythic figure.

Revealing the Neandertal Diet

Hard gunk stuck in the teeth of fossil Neandertal jaws shows that the prehistoric human beings had a widely varied diet and a sophisticated knowledge of medicinal plants.

India’s New Night Frogs

After five years of exploration and study in the mountainous Western Ghats region of India, scientists have announced the discovery of seven new species (kinds) of frogs. Four of these new species are among the tiniest known frogs in the world, small enough to gather more than one on a 5-rupee coin (the rupee is the chief monetary unit of India).

Women’s History Month: International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), and in honor of Women’s History Month, we look at this global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. In recent years, the day has also become a call to action for accelerating gender parity. IWD is celebrated around the world with arts performances, conferences, marches, rallies, talks, and networking events.

Exploring the Amazon Reef

Off the coast of Brazil, where the Amazon River spills into the Atlantic Ocean, scientists are taking the first up-close and personal look at the recently discovered Amazon Reef. Existence of the large coral reef was not confirmed until an oceanographic survey of the area in 2012. The survey’s findings were published in 2016, and in late January 2017, scientists began exploring the reef two-by-two in a small submarine, the exploration craft of the Greenpeace ship Esperanza.In the late 1950’s, a ship collected sponges—animals that often inhabit coral reefs—from the floor of the Amazon Delta.

Mythic Monday: Brunhild the Valkyrie

Brunhild, the beautiful, proud, and headstrong heroine of Teutonic mythology, had a complicated romantic life to say the least. Teutonic mythology, also called Norse mythology, consists of the myths and legends of Germany and Scandinavia that date from about the A.D. 400’s.

Supernova Spotting

In October 2013, an international team of scientists lead by Ofer Yaron, an astrophysicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, detected and studied a supernova that occurred in a distant galaxy within three hours of the explosion’s light first reaching Earth. Thanks to the timely observations, the team was able to learn a lot about the star and the explosion that consumed it. The team published its findings in February 2017 in the journal Nature Physics.

Mythic Monday: Big Bad Beowulf

Beowulf is one of the great mythic heroes of medieval literature. His legend is described in the Anglo Saxon epic poem Beowulf. The poem describes the adventures of a mighty warrior who has the qualities the ancient Anglo-Saxons most admired—strength, courage, generosity, loyalty to chief and tribe, and vengeance toward enemies.

African American History: Montford Point Marines

In honor of Black History Month, today we look at the Montford Point Marines of World War II (1939-1945). “Montford Point Marines” was the nickname given to the first African American units to serve in the United States Marine Corps.

Mythic Monday: Noble King Arthur

Whatever the historical truth, it is Arthur’s legend that has captivated people’s imaginations for centuries. The exploits of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are among the most famous of Western literature, and—real or not—Arthur is one of the most admired heroes in the history of British culture.

How Many Moonlets to a Moon?

One of the greatest questions in the formation of the solar system is in our own planetary back yard: how was the moon made? A new hypothesis was published last month in Nature Geoscience.

The Star Wars Gibbon

Move over, Luke, there’s a new Skywalker in town! A new species (kind) of gibbon, the Skywalker hoolock gibbon, has been found living in the tropical rain forests of southwestern China and northeastern Myanmar.

Rare Ruby Seadragon

Australia’s rare ruby seadragon has recently been seen alive for the first time. Because of rough sea conditions, a team of researchers had just one day to find the elusive “monster” off the coast of southern Australia. The ruby seadragon lives in waters too deep for human divers, so the team used a remote-controlled submersible (undersea vessel) to scour the murky sea bottom.

Mythic Monday: Musical Orpheus

Orpheus was one of the greatest of all musicians in the mythology of ancient Greece. With his voice and lyre, Orpheus was said to be able to enchant animals and plants, and rivers stopped flowing in order to listen to him.

Australia Day 2017

Today, January 26, Australia celebrates Australia Day, an annual national holiday honoring the country’s past, present, and future. The date commemorates the day in 1788 that Arthur Phillip raised a British flag at Sydney Cove.

Mythic Monday: Apollo of All Trades

A beautiful and versatile star of Greek mythology, Apollo was known as the god of light, the god of shepherds, the god of music, and the god of divination. He was also often thought of as the god of the sun. Considered the ideal of male beauty, Apollo was also associated with archery, healing, poetry, prophecy, purification, and seafaring.

The Fall of Rusty Patched Bumble Bees

For the first time in the continental United States, a wild bee has been designated as an endangered species In the past 20 years, the insect’s population has dropped 87 percent because of habitat loss, disease, pesticides, and climate change.

Dakar Rally 2017

On Saturday, January 14, weary and filthy racers from all over the world pulled their off-road vehicles onto the streets of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, completing the final stage of the Dakar Rally. The racers entered the city and crossed the finish line after 12 grueling days of gritty cross-country racing, covering 5,457 miles (8,782 kilometers) of dirt, rock, and sand. The race began in Asunción, Paraguay, on January 2, running north into Bolivia before winding back south to Argentina.

Mythic Monday: Amorous Aphrodite

When it comes to matters of the heart, Aphrodite reigns supreme in Greek mythology. Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and beauty. The Romans, who named their gods and goddesses after planets and stars, called her Venus. Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus, the king of the gods, and the goddess Dione.

Frida Kahlo at The Dalí

In December 2016, an exhibition of the work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo opened at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. The museum, home to a broad collection of the works of Spanish artist Salvador Dalí, is showing more than 60 of Kahlo’s works through the middle of April 2017. “Frida Kahlo at the Dalí” includes 15 paintings, 7 drawings, and numerous photographs.

Monster Monday: the Giant Isopod

This week’s Monday monster may look oddly familiar. Perhaps you’ve seen a much smaller version of this buglike creature in your backyard on a rotting tree stump or under a rock. Those little critters are commonly called pill bugs, roly polies, sow bugs, or wood lice. But today, meet the giant isopod (Bathynomus giganteus)—this roly poly can grow as big as a small dog!

Monster Monday: the Asian Giant Hornet

The Asian giant hornet is so large, it is sometimes mistaken for a small bird in flight. This big predator is equipped with piercing jaws, a quarter-inch-long (half-centimeter-long) stinger loaded with deadly venom(poison), and an aggressive disposition. It keeps beekeepers up at night and is responsible for the deaths of dozens of people each year.

Sequoia, the Presidential Yacht

You have probably heard of Air Force One, the aircraft that carries thepresident of the United States. You have also probably seen the presidential state car, an armored limousine called Cadillac One, or “the Beast.” But did you know that there was once a presidential yacht? That’s right, the president was once furnished with a luxury boat—Sequoia—for personal and official use.

South Australia’s Ancient Warratyi

A brief call of nature recently led an Aboriginal man to discover a site preserving some of the oldest known evidence of human settlement in Australia. Clifford Coulthard, an Adnyamathanha elder, stumbled across a rock shelter during a brief bathroom break while surveying in the northern Flinders Range with archaeologist Giles Hamm of La Trobe University in Melbourne.

An Infant King Turns 700

Today, November 15, is the 700th anniversary of the birth of King John I of France in 1316. Never heard of him? Well, a few things make John I a unique (but also rather obscure) figure in French history. First, he was the last in direct father-son succession of the Capetian dynasty, a line of kings that ruled France from 987 to 1328.

Monster Monday: the Blobfish

When asked which creature is the floppiest, ugliest, and “blobbiest glob” in the animal kingdom, many people might answer, “the blobfish.” With its beady black eyes, bulbous nose, and dumpy frown, the face of the blobfish is unnervingly similar to that of a gloomy human. Loose, scale-free skin covers its plump, squishy body, which grows to about 1 foot (30 centimeters) in length. It has soft bones and deflates into a saggy wad of pink jelly when removed from the water

Highway Travel-by-Number

Ninety years ago today, on Nov. 11, 1926, the government of the United States did motorists across the nation a great favor by introducing a national system of numbered highways. Before people started navigating through smartphones with GPS, people actually read maps and road signs to find their way around.

Australia’s New Flasher Frog

Flash! Flash! Flash! No, it’s not photographers following around Hollywood stars. It’s a new species of frog that flashes in a different kind of way, with a showy display to ward off attackers.

America Goes Trump

In a shocking result, voters in the United States elected Republican businessman Donald Trump to be the nation’s next president. Trump upended Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had been widely expected to win the election.

Paris Climate Agreement

Yesterday, November 7, officials from around the world gathered in Marrakech, Morocco, for the 2016 United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, or COP22. COP22 is an acronym for the 22nd annual session of the Conference of the Parties. The meetings come on the heels of the Friday, November 4, entry into force of COP21’s Paris Climate Agreement. One hundred countries—including the two considered to be the greatest polluters, China and the United States—have ratified the agreement for nations to report their greenhouse gas emissions.

Monster Monday: the Box Jellyfish

Under water, the box jellyfish is practically invisible. It is one of the most venomous animals on Earth. It kills more people each year than sharks do. At most, however, it weighs only about 4½ pounds (2 kilograms). This Monster Monday critter packs a lot of pain into a small package.

ExoMars Good and Bad

Last month, on October 19, Mars claimed another victim. A landing module named Schiaparelli, designed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, accidentally smashed into the Martian surface at more than 180 miles (300 kilometers) per hour. Schiaparelli (named for the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, who studied Mars in the late 1800′s) was destroyed, but the mission was not a total failure. The Mars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), launched with Schiaparelli, successfully entered into orbit around the Red Planet.

Saving New Zealand’s Kiwi

How do you eliminate pests or an invasive species (introduced species that spreads quickly and harms native wildlife)? These kinds of organisms can wreak havoc on native ecosystems—so much so, that they can cause native species to become endangered or even extinct in their own homeland. This is exactly what’s happening in New Zealand.

Mount Rushmore Turns 75

Yesterday, October 31, was the 75th anniversary of the completion of theMount Rushmore National Memorial. Carved into on a granite cliff in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the giant-sized presidential faces on Mount Rushmore have symbolized American creativity and history, as well as the nation’s variety of natural beauty, since the memorial opened in 1941.

Halloween Monday: the Jersey Devil

Halloween trick-or-treaters in the forested Pine Barrens region of New Jersey should be watchful tonight. A beast known as the Jersey Devil is said to roam the area. This monster is commonly described as a creature somewhat resembling a small horse or goat with clawed hooves, batlike wings, fangs, red glowing eyes, and a forked tail.

The Wonderful World Series

Tonight, October 25, the Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series begins in Cleveland, Ohio. The World Series determines the MLB champion each autumn, but the teams involved in this year’s series make it a little extra special.

Monster Monday: the Ghastly Ghost Bat

It haunts caves, crevices, and tunnels by day, emerging only at night to look for victims. You probably would not hear it flying above your head, but you might catch a glimpse of its whitish fur flashing in the moonlight… It is the ghastly ghost bat of Australia.

A Boomerang Killed Kaakutja

Australian forensic science experts recently helped solve a centuries-old murder mystery when they determined that wounds on a prehistoric skeleton were inflicted by a boomerang.

Colombia’s Liquid Rainbow

In the Serranía de la Macarena mountain range of south-centralColombia, a river sparkles and dazzles with such vivid colors that it is known alternatively as the “River of Five Colors” or the “Liquid Rainbow”—even “the river that ran away from paradise.”

The Wrath of Hurricane Matthew

This past weekend, Hurricane Matthew ravaged the southeast Atlantic coast of the United States, causing flooding and accidents that killed at least 33 people in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Monster Monday: the Lurid Lamprey

The lamprey is an animal of contradictions. It looks like a leech, but it’s actually a fish. Some adult lampreys suck blood, but others don’t eat at all. Some kinds are invasive, but others are threatened. What is abundantly clear, however, is that the lamprey has a face only a mother could love.

The “Other” Nobel Prizes

The Ig Nobels, a parody of the “other” Nobels, celebrate the more humorous, witty, and sometimes trivial side of science. Many of the projects honored at the Ig Nobels are done purely for fun, but the projects (and their creators) are not without merit or the possibility of importance.

Monster Monday: Zorilla’s Big Stink

Sure, the zorilla (or striped polecat) is cute, but petting is not advised. Aside from its stinky spray, the zorilla’s sharp teeth and strong jaws can deliver a tenacious and painful bite.

A Dinosaur in Its Own Image

When you see models or illustrations of dinosaurs, have you ever wondered how accurate they are? Bones, skin impressions, and tracks can tell scientists and artists a great deal about the shape, size, and movements of these animals, but how do people know what color patterns the beasts adopted?

National Museum of African American History and Culture

On Saturday, September 24, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opened to the public in Washington, D.C. Located on the National Mall, the museum details the history of slavery, the period of Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, segregation, and civil rights.

Monster Monday: Anaconda

Small and slithery and creepy snakes can make people jump, but what about the monstrous anaconda, a snake so large it can swallow a small cow?

Mapping the Milky Way

The Milky Way Galaxy is our home, but we know surprisingly little about it. Last week, on September 14, the European Space Agency (ESA) released a wealth of data gathered by the space probe Gaia (named after the ancient Greek goddess Gaia).

A Giraffe by Any Other Name

Extensive sampling of giraffe populations from previously recognized giraffe subspecies, under the one and only giraffe species (Giraffa camelopardalis), has turned up a great surprise: instead of just one species of giraffe, there may be four!

Monster Monday: Sea Spiders

A sea spider is a terrifying beast. It has frighteningly long legs connected to a tiny body. It possesses no teeth or gaping jaws. Instead, it has a long tube called a proboscis, which it uses to suck the fluids out of its prey.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden

On Wednesday, September 14, Carla D. Hayden was sworn in as the new Librarian of Congress. Hayden is the first woman, the first African American, and only the third professional librarian to lead the Library of Congress, one of the world’s largest libraries.

Monster Monday: Gigantopithecus

Standing at a whopping 10 feet (3 meters) tall and weighing more than 900 pounds (400 kilograms), Gigantopithecus was about twice the size of a large male gorilla, making it the largest ape that ever lived.Gigantopithecus walked on its hands and fists, like today’s great apes, and roamed the tropical forests of what are now southern China, northern Vietnam, and northern India.

Saving California’s Island Fox

Once teetering on the brink of extinction, the rare island fox of California’s Channel Islands has made the quickest recovery yet for a North American mammal in the history of the Endangered Species Act.

Star Trek Turns 50

Fifty years ago today, on Sept. 8, 1966, the science-fiction televisionprogram “Star Trek” first aired on NBC in the United States and CTV in Canada.

The Pale Red Dot: Proxima b

On August 24, scientists from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced that they had discovered an extrasolar (beyond our solar system) planet, or exoplanet, that may harbor conditions favorable to life.

National Park Service Centennial

Today, August 25, is the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS is a bureau of the United States Department of the Interior. It manages the approximately 400 areas of the National Park System.

Monkey Stone Age

​Monkeys in the Amazon rain forest likely entered their own Stone Agemore than 700 years ago, according to scientists investigating a fascinating site at Serra da Capivara National Park in northeastern Brazil.

The Air Force’s New Lightning

​On August 2, the United States Air Force declared its new F-35 Lightning II fighter planes ready for combat. The F-35 (F is the Air Force designation for a fighter plane) is a “fifth generation” fighter, combining advanced stealth technology with heavy firepower, long range, high speed, and remarkable agility.

The Battle of Long Tan: 50 Years After

August 18, 2016, marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, Australia’s first major conflict in the Vietnam War. In that battle, a small group of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand defeated a much larger enemy force.

A Frankenstein Galaxy of Spare Parts

​In a sleepy section of the visible universe there lurks a huge galaxy with a bizarre patchwork of features. The galaxy was known to astronomers, but its large size and strange attributes went unnoticed for decades.

Olympic August: Christ the Redeemer

Tonight, the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games will take place in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Millions of people around the world will tune in to watch the pomp and circumstance of the parade of the national teams as they enter Rio’s famous Maracanã Stadium.

Australia’s Pink Lakes

Along the south coast of Western Australia two naturally pink lakes challenge that color representation. The pink lakes lie on the rugged coast near Esperance and on nearby Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago.

Olympic August: Jesse Owens

On Aug. 3, 1936—80 years ago today—African American track and field star Jesse Owens won the gold medal in the men’s 100-meter dash at the Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.

Sunny Solar Impulse 2 August 2, 2016

​Last week, on July 26, the solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, completing the first-ever zero-fuel flight around Earth. Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard flew the final leg from Cairo, Egypt, to Abu Dhabi’s Al-Bateen Executive Airport, a grueling 48½-hour journey buffeted by hot desert air-driven turbulence.

Monster Monday: Megamouth Shark

The aptly named megamouth shark looks every bit the monstrous man-eater. This enigmatic shark typically grows over 20 feet (4 meters) long and has 50 rows of teeth lining massive, all-swallowing jaws.

Pokémon Goes!

Pokémon Go leads a player on the game path in Tarragona, Spain, on July 18, 2016.Credit: © Nito, Shutterstock Millions of players are taking to the streets to play Pokémon Go, a mobile gaming...

Ancient Wings in Amber

​Late last month, paleontologists (scientists who study fossils) announced an amazing discovery. Researchers led by Lida Xing at the ChinaUniversity of Geosciences in Beijing had discovered two bird wings preserved in amber. They published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

AL All-Stars Top NL

Tuesday night, July 12, the powerful All-Star bats of the American League (AL) triumphed over the National League (NL) 4-2 at the Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game at PETCO Park in San Diego, California.

Monster Monday: Armadillos of Unusual Size

Learn about the humble armadillo's prehistoric cousin—the glyptodont. While modern armadillos range in length from about 6 inches to 5 feet (15 centimeters to 1.5 meters), some species of glyptodont grew to over 10 feet (3 meters) long, the size of a small car.

Africa's Deep Helium Pool

Photo Credit: © AP Photo: Helium lifts weather balloons high into the atmosphere to record and transmit local weather information. Raise a toast—and a helium-filled balloon—to researchers from Durham...

The Battle of the Somme: 100 Years

Photo information: British troops go “over the top” during the 1916 Battle of the Somme in northern France. Credit: © Paul Popper, Popperfoto/Getty Images Today, July 1, is the 100th anniversary of...

Climate Change Victim One

About the photo: The Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola)—seen here in 2002—has vanished from the Earth. Scientists believe the small rodent is the first mammal victim of climate change. Credit:...

June Solstice

About the photo: When the North Pole has its greatest slant toward the sun, left, summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere and winter begins in the Southern Hemisphere. Credit: WORLD BOOK map Have...

Monster Monday: Vampire Squid

Vampire Squid. Photo Credit: © Steve Downer, ardea.com/Pantheon According to legend, vampires have the ability to transform into bats. Could it be that some of them actually turn into spooky, glowing...