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Children’s Bible Hour::Seasons of Faith

As a member of TOS HomeschoolCrew, I have been blessed with the opportunity to review a great resource from Children’s Bible Hour Ministries.  The Seasons of Faith illustrated book series is a series of books based on Children’s Bible Hour radio scripts.  According to the CBH website, “[T]hese stories teach core truths of the Bible so that kids can easily apply them to their lives. Each book focuses on a season of faith-developing topics.”  The books are paperback and include a “read along CD” narrated by “Uncle” Charlie.  (Regular readers here know how much we love audiobooks here at the House of Hope, so these were very welcome!)  The stories illustrate Biblical principles and are kid-friendly.  So far, my girls and I have listened to Braving the Storm, which is the story of a young boy whose family has been dealt a series of difficult blows.  His grandfather helps him come to understand how such difficult times are the times to grow down deep roots in Christ.  I have also listened to Seventy Times Seven, which is the story of a boy who learns what it means to forgive as Christ has forgiven us.  Both stories are very practical and realistic in that they are about events that could really happen (and often do) in the lives of children.  Each story ends with the plan of salvation that is presented similarly to the way it is presented on the website.  These stories are very evangelistic or discipleship-oriented.  While I would not categorize these as fine literature, they do remind me of something I would’ve watched or listened to as a child in children’s church or youth camp.  I am more than happy to add them to our audiobook collection.  At $10 per title, these book-and-CD sets are comparable in price to any other that you would purchase. 

Be sure to visit the CBH website for a host of resources, including a video of the making of the Seasons of Faith series!

Visit the TOS Homeswchool Crew blog to read more reviews of this product.

This product was sent to me free of charge for review purposes.

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Read Aloud Thursday–Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

I can’t let this Read Aloud Thursday pass by without commemorating the completion of our first chapter book read aloud for 2010.  We began reading Farmer Boy some time right after Christmas, and we finally finished it last week.  As a child, I always loved Farmer Boy best out of all the Little House books, so I was eager to re-read this one with my girls.  I feel like we got kind of mired down in it somewhere in the middle, mainly because we ended up being out of the house sometimes during our usual chapter-book reading time, which is right after lunch.  I also feel like sometimes the girls really didn’t pay attention since they know it so well.  They have listened to the audiobook of this particular story so many times, they corrected me when I mis-read something.  (Believe it or not, they’re currently listening to it again during rest time!)  It is a great story, though, and it’s a good one to read aloud.  Two things I can say about Almanzo Wilder:  that boy loved to eat, and that boy was born a farmer.  Seriously, don’t read this book if you’re hungry!  One of the biggest memories I have of Farmer Boy from my own childhood is the huge quantities and varieties of food they had at their meals.  I love those descriptions.  My girls especially like it when Almanzo does something mischievous or has some sort of mishap.  We enjoyed this book, but I am glad to be through it and on to our next read-aloud, one that is unfamiliar to all of us:  The Boxcar Children.

As a side note, I am working to update my 2010 booklists.  I’ve done a terrible job of keeping up with them, and here it is already March!  One thing I wanted to do this year is (try to!) keep up with the audiobooks that the girls listen to, also, for future reference.  Look for all of that information in the sidebar some day in the near future!  🙂

What has your family enjoyed together this week?  Please leave a link to your blog, or if you don’t blog, simply leave a comment.

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Have a terrific Read Aloud Thursday!

Kids’ Picks:: All Things American Girl

I have a confession to make.  As soon as the American Girl catalog enters our house (and I peek at it first 😉 –How did they get our address?), I toss it into the trash.  Our girls have way too much stuff.  Way too much.  (In our defense, most of the stuff we don’t buy.  We don’t have to. Other people do it for us.)  I’ve tried to keep this particular overpriced obsession out of the realm of possibilities for our girls.  They did receive little miniature Rebeccas and accompanying Rebecca story collections for Christmas this past year, but other than that and a few kids’ meal “freebies” (yes, I know we’re paying for them), I’ve been successful at keeping our home American Girl-free.

Until now.


It all started with the Josefina story collection in audiobook.  They listened to it (and loved it) several months ago, and then I was able to capture their attention with other audiobook choices for quite a while.  Then Louise spied the Molly story collection  on the audiobook shelves at the library, so we brought it home and the girls listened to the whole collection several times.   Both of these audiobooks went with us on our recent trip, and Steady Eddie and I were ready to listen to anything but Josefina before the trip was over.  😉 Our last trip to the library yielded both Rebecca  and Kit  in audio. 

Honestly, I don’t enjoy listening to the stories.  I find neither the writing nor the narration of the audibooks terribly engaging (patronizing would be a better description, actually), but the girls love them.  They actually wake up in the morning and immediately turn on the CD player, sometimes picking up where they left off the night before (if they went to sleep before the story finished).  At rest time, they listen to another one; they take turns choosing whose story they will listen to this time.   Most nights, it’s another girl and another story.  While I would really prefer their obsession to run in a more literary direction, I remember one of my own many childhood and young adult obsessions, and I don’t think it ruined me as a reader.  The tide will turn, and it will be back to Little House or Charlotte’s Web or even Little Women, which Lulu listened to about a third of before I thought–What will she (and I!?!?) do when Beth dies?–and managed to take it back to the library unfinished.  Until then, they’re learning about the immigrant experience, life in New Mexico in the early 1800s, World War II, the Great Depression, as well as making lots of side jaunts into popular culture.  I think I can live with that.   

(The girls just got up from rest time as I am finishing this post, and now they are under the art table in the school room because “we’re having a blackout.”  The girl of choice for today’s rest time was Molly, whose childhood is permeated by World War II.)

For more Kids’ Picks, check out 5 Minutes for Books!

Akimbo and the Elephants by Alexander McCall Smith

When I saw Akimbo and the Elephants among the audiobook selections at one of our libraries last week, I snatched it right up.  Before I read my first of Alexander McCall Smith’s books, I probably would’ve passed this one over.  By all appearances, it isn’t something that would likely appeal to my girls.  However, I wanted to listen to it, so I checked it out.  I now know how adept McCall Smith is at painting word pictures of life on the African plain, so I wanted to experience his treatment of it for a younger audience.  I believe the reccommended age indicated on the back of the audiobook we listened to is eight and above, and there were a few times when I thought it was getting a little too intense for my girls, but we persevered.  After leaving the library, we had several errands to run, so this one hour long story was almost perfect for our time in the van.  We were all so engrossed in the story that when we got home, we finished the last chapter gathered around our kitchen CD player before we did anything else.  My girls typically begin shedding things (shoes, socks, clothes, etc.) the moment they walk in the door and get on with their plans, so it’s quite a testimony to the appeal of this story that they sat down at the kitchen table to listen at this juncture. 

Akimbo and the Elephants is the simple story of a little boy, Akimbo, who lives on a wild game preserve with his parents.  His father is an odd job man for the game wardens, and he and Akimbo are often invited to go along on various trips across the preserve.  Of all the animals he has seen, Akimbo most loves the elephants.  Once, on a trip with the game wardens to look for evidence of poachers, they stumble upon more evidence than they want:  a dead mother elephant with her newborn calf, left alone to fend for himself.  This picture makes a huge impression on Akimbo.  In fact, it is a turning point in the story and his life.  He determines to find the poachers and hatches quite a plot to do so.  I won’t reveal the details, of course, but it involves deceiving his parents and getting involved with a local man of questionable character.  It all comes out right in the end, of course, and Akimbo learns to call upon his own reserves of courage when he thinks he has none.

McCall Smith’s descriptions of Africa are beautiful, and it is a real plus that he is the narrator of the particular audiobook we had.  I always think it’s interesting to listen for the little nuances that the authors give a story if I am fortunate enough to listen to a story narrated by the author.  Alexander McCall Smith has quite a list of children’s books to his credit, and I would be very happy to share these with my children, especially as they get a little older.  I would think that these particular stories would really appeal to boys, and they are fine writing, to boot.  Highly Recommended.

The Wren’s Nest::The Joel Chandler Harris Home

This past weekend, we got away to Atlanta for a little mini-vacation.  Our main objective in going there was to visit the Georgia Aquarium for the first time, which we did.  However, in looking for other things to do (on the cheap, at that), Steady Eddie stumbled upon the Wren’s Nest, the home of Joel Chandler Harris, online.  (Bless him, after ten years of marriage, he really speaks my love language!  😉 )  Another one of our objectives in going to Atlanta was to visit that mecca of all things cheap and organizational or decorative, IKEA, which we also did.  However, in order to take advantage of 1:00 storytelling session at the Wren’s Nest on Saturday afternoon, we had to go to IKEA, look around, and make plans for what we would purchase later that afternoon after we returned there after our trip to the Wren’s Nest.  That’s two trips to IKEA in one day, folks, and made by a pregnant lady, her longsuffering husband, and two children under the age of six, at that.  (If you’ve even been there, you know that there is no such thing as a quick, easy trip.)  Now that it’s over, I can say in all honesty that the Wren’s Nest was worth every ache and pain in my legs and back after re-tracing our steps across the very hard concrete IKEA floor to find some things to put the finishing (maybe!  finally!) touches on our school room

When Steady Eddie first brought the possibility of visiting the Joel Chandler Harris home to my attention, all I had was a vague memory/assumption that Joel Chandler Harris is actually a little politically incorrect.  Uncle Remus, Black dialect, a white author writing stories told by slaves–you know.  My only recollection of an Uncle Remus tale is of having a book-and-record set of “Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby” when I was a child.  I found an audiobook of More Tales of Uncle Remus at the library, so I naturally added it to our book basket for the trip.  We made it through one of the stories before Louise fell asleep, and I insisted that we listen to four of them before I gave in and let Lulu go back to Josefina.  Even Julius Lester’s superb narration couldn’t capture her attention, most likely because of the heavy dialect.  Steady Eddie and I, though, found it quite entertaining.  (I mainly persevered in our listening because children who have read five of the Uncle Remus tales earn a free t-shirt, so I thought we might as well get in on the act.  Obviously, though, we’ll need to save this little treat  for our next visit.)

First, the storytelling.  It was superb.  We were a little late, but the docent let us into the storytelling room and we joined some half dozen other guests and sat under the spell of Curtis Richardson.  Mr. Richardson was funny and animated and worked hard to get the audience (especially the younger members) involved in the stories.  He emphasized the fact that each storyteller makes the Uncle Remus tales his or her own, so even though we might hear others of the storytellers tell the same story, it wouldn’t really be the same story.  That’s good storytelling.  My favorite was his prequel to “The Three Little Pigs.”  Oh, that and watching Lulu’s face while she watched him. 

Our tour began with some background information on Joel Chandler Harris, presented by our docent, Nannie Thompson.  I’ve been to a lot of museums and enjoyed a lot of historical presentations, but Ms. Thompson everything a docent should be:  knowledgeable, friendly, and obviously passionate about her subject. She painted a very different picture of Joel Chandler Harris:  that of a poor white boy, raised by a single mother, who spent much of his time playing with the children of slaves in their homes on the plantation.  Even after he moved to Atlanta and made it big as the editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, he was still a very retiring man whom famous figures sought out, but who himself never wanted to be in the spotlight. 

The house itself was amazing, especially considering the fact that Joel Chandler Harris remodeled it from a single-story dwelling to the Victorian showplace you see above while his wife and children were gone north to visit her family.  She came home to an entirely different home.  Wow!  Many of the original furnishings are still in the home, including the rocking chair Harris sat in to do his writing.  (Imagine that!) Ms. Thompson gave such a excellent, detailed tour that I felt like I knew the man and his family when I left.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  As is true in many museums, photography was forbidden in most of the rooms, so I have few pictures to share.  (My dear husband took the ones I do have, even braving a VERY cold day to stand out front of the house and get the shot you see above.)  The best part, though, was hands down the great tour we received.  I could’ve listened to Ms. Thompson all day.  Knowing the controversy which surrounds the author, I was especially interested to hear Ms. Thompson’s tale of how she came to work there.  I won’t share it here, but be sure to ask her about it if you ever visit the Wren’s Nest.


Of course, I couldn’t come away from this place without purchasing something, and what is more appropriate than a book to add to our collection?  I chose a picture book entitled The Classic Tales of Brer Rabbit: From the Collected Stories of Joel Chandler Harris, adapted by David Borgenicht.  I’ll let you know what we think after read it.  🙂  It turns out that the executive director of the Wren’s Nest is none other than Joel Chandler Harris’ great-great-great grandson, so when Ms. Thompson suggested that I have him autograph our book, I jumped at the chance.  I’m not sure how much of our visit, beyond the storytelling, that our girls will actually remember, but I think I’ll always remember it.  If you’re in Atlanta on a Saturday and have some free time, check it out!  The staff of the Wren’s Nest also maintains an active and entertaining (and I’m sure, at times, controversial) blog, if you’re interested.

Kids’ Picks–Audiobooks Galore!

It has been a long time since I’ve had enough foresight to participate in Kids’ Picks over at 5 Minutes for Books, but I’ve had this post percolating in my brain for a long time.  I’m glad to finally have the motivation to get it written and posted!

As I’ve said more times than I can count, audiobooks are a staple here at the House of Hope.  I honestly believe that Lulu, especially, would spend half of her day everyday listening to something (and it would be something related to Little House, usually).  I would estimate that the girls average 1 1/2 to 2 hours of listening time on most days:  one hour at rest time and the remainder at bedtime or other snatches of time during the day when they need occupying.  In fact, I hear Little Town on the Prairie even as I’m writing this. 

I often feel disconnected from what they’re listening to since I’m usually using that time to do other things, so I don’t always write about it here at Hope Is the Word.  However, there have been a few stories they’ve listened to over the past six months or so that I really want to record here, and due to various circumstances, I feel like I have at least a little bit to say about them, so here goes:
I’m not sure how I missed Eleanor Estes’ Newbery Medal-winning Ginger Pye as a child, but I’m really glad my girls have had the pleasure of enjoying this fun and suspenseful story (over and over and over again 😉 ).  They’ve listened to it enough times that I know the whole story, more or less, and I have been amused by the things they’ve picked up and used in their imaginative play as a result.  Louise, especially, has an affinity for names, and more than one of her imaginary playmates or dolls has been named Addie Eagan (spelling? Remember, when I haven’t read it, I’m not responsible  for spelling it correctly!).  Ginger Pye is a heartwarming dog story with some quirky characters, and it’s a mystery, to boot.  I think it would make a great choice for the Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge.  I think I might just read it aloud to my girls for the challenge!  (I really am always curious after I listen to some work to see just how all of those names, etc., are spelled.)  My girls like this one so much, they’ll be thrilled!

This next book is one I picked out for them at the library for purely sentimental reasons:  I loved it myself as a child.  Since my girls love pioneer stories, I figured they’d enjoy this one, too.   They listened to it several times, and we listened to part of the story on at least one short trip.  Carol Ryrie Brink’s Caddie Woodlawn is another Newbery Medal winner.  I’m sure that most people are familiar with the story, but I wanted to share it here because my girls did love it and I have my own particular memory of it:  I have never, ever forgotten the fact that one of the brothers (Warren, I think) messed up his recitation for school.  He was supposed to say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  Instead, he said, “If at first you don’t fricassee, fry, fry a hen.”  I’ll leave it to you, dear readers, to determine why this has remained lodged in my brain.  😉


The next couple of audiobooks are ones I’m not as familiar with, but they definitely qualify as kids’ picks.  I picked up a couple of the Mercy Watson stories simply on name recognition:  I’ve read enough of Kate DiCamillo to know that she’s good.  My girls found the endearing stories about this beloved pet pig to be laugh-out-loud funny, and I’ll admit that I did, too. We listened to a couple of the stories over and over again when we went on vacation last fall, and we all got in on the fun.  Since then, we’ve checked out another one of the collections (there are two stories per each collection, I believe), and it was met with just as much enthusiasm and laughter all around.  Since I’ve never seen an actual copy of one of these books, I can’t say for sure, but Ms. DiCamillo’s website has them categorized as “Early Chapter Books,” so I’m thinking these might be a good series to keep in mind for my blossoming reader.

Speaking of a blossoming reader (nice segway, huh?), I just have to share this last book, not just because it’s fun and my girls really liked it in audio, but also because I think it might mark a turning point in Lulu’s journey toward independent reading.  We ran errands on Saturday and went on a little roadtrip to a neighboring town for shopping, etc.–mainly just to get out of the house after a week of sickness and being mostly cooped up.  We usually do bring along a longer audiobook for any trip of an hour or more, but I failed to get one and put it in the van.  Louise had chosen How I Became a Pirate as her bring-along entertainment for the trip, and it just so happens that this particular book is one that came with a CD of the story.  Guess what we listened to five or six times before we even made it out of town?  You guessed it.  It is a fun story, and I think my girls were perplexed about the whole pirate thing (we haven’t read anything with pirates in it to my recollection up until now)–Green teeth?  “Aaargh?”  Sea chanteys?   “Shiver me timbers”?  I don’t think they looked at the pictures much in the van; they just enjoyed listening.  When we got home, Lulu brought me the book and proudly read to me from a page in the middle of the story.  Granted, she had listened to it multiple times that day, but she was obviously working hard to sound out the words.  Bingo!  While she is making great progress in her reading, she is a little bit reluctant to apply it outside of “school time.”  This has changed somewhat over the past few weeks, but I was thrilled when she voluntarily brought me this picture book and shared with me what she could do.  I definitely consider that a Kid’s Pick!

Reading aloud to my children is truly one of the highlights of my day, but I am so thankful to have access to so many great audiobooks to supplement what I do with them.  Right now for my girls a day without an audiobook is almost unthinkable.  While I suspect this will probably change as they both become independent readers, I’m glad that they have been able to meet so many wonderful characters through the stories they’ve heard in this way.

Would you like to see what others bloggers’ kids are picking these days?  Click over to Kids’ Picks at 5 Minutes for Books!

The Light Princess by George MacDonald

I’m really not sure why I’m even reviewing or responding to this story.  I think it is because I’ve wanted to read something by George MacDonald for so long, and now that I’ve finally gotten around to it, I think it bears memorializing.  It’s certainly not because the story doesn’t merit comment; rather, it’s because I’m sure the story merits much in the way of thoughtful comment (as I’m sure all of his works do), but I’m not sure I’m up to it. 

In brief, this is the story:  a king and queen want for nothing, except a child.  They finally have their long-desired child, a girl, but at her Christening, the king’s evil sister, who happens to be a witch, puts a curse on the child.  The curse is that gravity will have no hold on the child.  The story progresses through all sorts of confusion, near-misses, and despair (on the part of the king and queen, at least) until the princess is of marriageable age and a prince comes on the scene who is able to remedy the situation through an act of great personal sacrifice. (For a more thorough and thoughtful discussion of the story, may I recommend Janet’s?)

One of the problems, you see, is that I listened to The Light Princess in audio.  I put the CD  in my kitchen under-the-counter CD player on Thursday last and happily went about my business of making mock chicken-and-dumplings.  (My dear mother-in-law makes the best chicken-and-dumplings around, and she learned from my dear grandmother-in-law.  I’ve never dared try make them from scratch, as they do.  This recipe produces a nice dish, but it’s nothing like the real thing.)  I was immediately taken in by the story, and not just the story’s plot, but by the genius word play that was such a part of MacDonald‘s craft.  The problem is that I don’t catch near as much when I listen as when I read for myself.  Sometimes, my mind even wanders.  This story was engaging enough (and brief enough, if the truth is told) to keep me from spacing out, but I find myself wondering, for one tiny example, how the characters’ names are spelled.  (Does anyone else do this?  Please tell me I’m not the only one.)  As I sat down to work on this reflection, I found that the entire story is available free online.  This allowed me to solve a few mysteries:  the king’s evil sister is named Princess Makemnoit, which is just what it sounds like if you’re listening to the story and not reading it.  The Chinese philosophers that the king and queen consult to help their daughters are named, appropriately, Hum-Drum and Kopy-Keck. 

The best part of the story, though, is the constant play on the word gravity.  I’m sure that there is much more to this fairy tale than meets the eye (or ear), but I caught onto a little of MacDonald’s genius merely by paying attention to this one word.  This element of his writing reminds me a little bit of Shakespeare and his constant use of word play.  


I listened to this audio version of the story by Full Cast Audio.  It was very well done, with some original music interspersed throughout the story.  It is a dramatized version, but I did not find it to be over-done.  (I’m sort of picky about this; sometimes it’s too easy to lose the story in all the sound effects, etc., so I usually just prefer straight narration.)  Now, though, my interest in George MacDonald really is piqued.  I think I need to add The George McDonald Treasury to my collection.  My girls listened briefly to the story while I worked in the kitchen, and while I hadn’t intended for them to listen to it because I thought it might be too scary for them (after listening to it in its entirety, I still think this), they were definitely interested in the story.  In fact, they have requested it.  I am eager to share MacDonald‘s stories with my girls (especially since I know that others have done it successfully), but Louise is still a little frightened by the White Witch of Narnia.  I think it best to put MacDonald off for a while, or at least preview him first.  I’m sure, though, that I will be reading more of him.