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Read Aloud Thursday–Easter, Take Two

I was all set to leave Easter behind after last week’s Read Aloud Thursday post, but I just couldn’t end the week without sharing one more Easter book.  This one is actually one I mentioned in last year’s Easter post, but last year the girls were just a little too young for it.  This year, though, it has been perfect for us!
Benjamin’s Box:  The Story of the Resurrection Eggs has replaced our usual Bible story this week, and the girls have loved it!  Benjamin’s Box is the fictional story of a little boy named Benjamin who lived in Palestine when Jesus was on earth.  His grandfather gave him a treasure box in which to keep valuable objects, and Benjamin becomes an observer of Jesus’ Passion and a collector of artifacts that help us remember the significant events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection.  It just so happens that most of the objects Benjamin places within his box are the same as the items inside Resurrection Eggs, so it works out nicely.  🙂  The story is episodic, so it’s perfect for shorter attention spans and/or pairing each episode with an activity.  I’ve been hiding the appropriate eggs in our living room or den, reading the excerpt from Benjamin’s Box, reading the corresponding Bible passage (which is noted in the story), and then letting the girls find and open the eggs.  After the first day, I’ve also hidden the eggs we’ve already opened so that we can review the events we’ve already read about and discussed.  This has been a perfect read-aloud for us this week.  They love taking the objects out of the eggs, and they can retell accurately what happened to Jesus in the last week of His earthly life.  Of course, we’ve read a few other Easter books, as well.  This one is the best one by far, though.  I want my children to really grasp the Easter story, and I think this almost makes it as tangible as it can be for them.  Yesterday’s focus on the physical suffering of Jesus put our week’s memory verse into perspective for all of us.  We’re memorizing John 15:13 as a part of our church’s Bible quiz ministry, which Lulu will officially be a part of next year. 

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

The reality of the crown of thorns, the scourging, etc., really seemed to strike the girls (Lulu especially).  Benjamin’s Box is not graphic in terms of illustrations or words, but it leaves plenty of room for parental explanation.  Plus, the pairing the book with the eggs makes it a lot of fun!

Benjamin’s Box  and the Resurrection Eggs have been a big hit at the House of Hope this week!

Has your family been enjoying anything special for Easter this week?  Or have you discovered a new picture book that you’ve all fallen in love with?  Please share it with us by linking your blog post below, or you may simply leave a comment.

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Next week’s Read Aloud Thursday will be at my new blog address!  Please update your links!  🙂

Have a beautiful Read Aloud Thursday and a blessed Easter!

Balance Benders by The Critical Thinking Co.

PhotobucketI received a copy of the beginning volume of Balance Benders:  Logic and Algebraic Reasoning Puzzles by Robert Femiano to review for TOS HomeschoolCrew.  This book is published by The Critical Thinking Company, and it is but one of a boatload of resources produced by this compnay.  The volume of Balance Benders we used is marked for grades 2-6, so I was not very optimistic that my kindergartener would be able to complete any of the puzzles.  However, as so often happens, I was pleasantly surprised that she was able to complete the first exercise with little trouble.  In fact, she enjoyed it!  The whole concept behind this book is that of recognizing equal statements that are based on a balance or scale that contain symbol(s) that are equal .  I will be the first to admit that I’m not as knowledgeable about “logic and algebraic reasoning” as I should be will be one day, but I sincerely want this to be a part of my children’s education.  This is definitely a resource that I plan to hold onto for future use, and at $10 a volume, I would definitely consider purchasing the more advanced volumes in the future.
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For more reviews of this and other Critical Thinking Company products, check out TOS Homeschool Crew blog!

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

Read Aloud Thursday–Easter Edition

During this very busy week, we have been reading books in celebration of springtime.  I hesitate to designate this as an Easter post, really, because I prefer to focus on the real reason we celebrate this holiday.  However, we do usually do the Easter bunny thing–sort of.  The girls get Easter baskets full of goodies, we hunt eggs, etc.  I don’t think, though, that they’ve ever been confused about what Easter is really all about.  In fact, we have a whole mini-library of Easter books which focus on the real reason for the holiday, but I haven’t gotten them out yet.  Actually, most of these are probably too young for the girls now, so I might just wait to read them to baby brother.  🙂  I decided this year to focus on some springtime/Easter storybooks this week and then next week to really focus on the real Easter story.  These are some Easter storybook gems we’ve read this week. 

This first one really deserves its own Friday’s Vintage Find post, but I’m consolidating posts.  So many books, so little time!  Like The Easter Egg Artists, this is a story I remember from my own childhood.  The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is a story of an unlikely heroine:  a mother bunny who once dreamt of being one of the five real Easter Bunnies that delivers Easter eggs on Easter morning.  However, she finally realizes that this might be one dream that motherhood has disqualified her for.  When the Old Grandfather Bunny has to pick a replacement, though, it is her wisdom, kindness, swiftness, and cleverness, all of which came to her through the experience of motherhood, that actually qualify her for the job.  In the end, she proves to be not only wise, kind, swift, and clever, but also brave.  Apparently this book started out as a story that the author, DuBose Heyward, told his daughter, Jenifer.  (Her name also appears on the cover of the book!)  Marjorie Flack’s (yes, the one responsible for this and this)  illustrations are vintagey-looking, colorful, and completely charming.  I can guarantee you that if you are a mother, you will enjoy this book!  (Sometimes we do have to read things for ourselves, right?)
Miz Fannie Mae’s Fine New Easter Hat by Melinda Milich is a sweet and funny book about a poor African American family that is rich in love.  Tandy and her father set out by horse and wagon for the nearest town, Meridian City, to buy Mama an Easter hat.  This isn’t to be just any Easter hat, though–it’s to be a “fine new Easter hat.”  In addition to not overspending, Mama gives Tandy the responsibility of not letting Daddy buy “no ugly hat.”  Daddy heads straight for the best millinery shop in Meridian City, and he and Tandy settle on a splendid hat–one with flowers and fruit and even a little nest of green cradling four tiny bird eggs.  Daddy has to pull a rather funny prank to get Mama to wear such an obviously expensive hat, but it’s at the Easter service at church that the hat really begins to take on a life of its own–literally.  🙂  My girls found this book hilarious!  It’s full of the cadences and rhythms of an African American church service, which is fun for a read-aloud.  Yong Chen‘s illustrations are warm, and almost every single person in this book is smiling.  This is just an all-around happy book!
Have I mentioned before how much we like Patricia Polacco here at the House of Hope?  Yes, I think I haveRechenka’s Eggs is a must-read for this time of year!  This is the story of Babushka, who spends her year painting eggs to take to Moskva to sell before Easter.  She rescues a goose that has been apparently shot by a hunter, and to thank Babushka for nursing her back to health (and to pay her beak for breaking the eggs Babushka had made), Rechenka the goose lays a dozen truly spectacular eggs, one at a time.  These eggs are a huge hit at the market, of course, but when Babushka returns home, she finds that Rechenka has left her the best gift of all.  This is a charming story, but it’s Patricia Polacco’s inimitable illustrations that make it unforgettable.  Visit Patricia Polacco’s amazing website to view some of the artwork from this book.  I believe this book appears in a later Five in a Row volume than the one we’ve been using, so activities that accompany this book abound.  In fact, we’ve done a few.  We’ve looked at Pysanky eggs (Ukrainian Easter eggs) online, and my girls have had fun playing with my set of Matryoshka dolls. I have a soft spot in my heart for all things Russian (or Ukrainian or . . .you get the idea) since I took a year of instruction in the Russian language while in high school.  I also love twentieth century history, particularly eastern European history.  This book was a big hit with me and my girls!
Last, but certainly not least, I have to tell you about Jan Brett’s new book, The Easter Egg.  After our adventure, how could I not?  🙂  This book is truly gorgeous, with Jan Brett’s trademark sidebar illustrations, etc.  After reading her Christmas books for so long, I find this springtime book and all its nature-inspired illustrations to be especially refreshing.  The Easter Egg is the story of Hoppi, a rabbit who wants to win the Easter egg decorating contest so that he can help the Easter Rabbit hide eggs on Easter morning.  The problem is, Hoppi is uninspired.  He observes all of his friends and neighbors with their respective talents decorating eggs that reflect those talents, but he comes up empty-handed.  That is, until he rescues a robin’s egg that has fallen out of its nest.  Hoppi’s true talent, it seems, is caring.  Of course, the story isn’t as heavy-handed as I am.  Instead, Jan Brett has created a lovely, lovely springtime story and a feast for the eyes, all at the same time.  Highly Recommended!  (If you’d like to see more of the artwork for this book, be sure to visit my post about our trip to Jan Brett’s spring tour booksigning or her website.)

Well, that’s it, folks–at least for the time being.  I’m sure we’ll read a few of our old Easter titles next week, as well as enjoy a few more new ones I’ve picked up at the library.  Has your family been reading any Easter or spring-inspired books?  Please share what you’ve been reading by linking up your Read Aloud Thursday blog post, or simply by leaving a comment.

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Next week will be the last week that Read Aloud Thursday will be here at my old blog.  My new blog goes live on April 5, so the Read Aloud Thursday for April 8 will be over there.  Please update your links! 

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.

Jan Brett::The Easter Egg Tour 2010

Ask Steady Eddie, and he’ll tell you that (my) reading has taken him a lot of places he never imagined dreamed he’d go.  Like Prince Edward Island, Canada.  Or DeSmet, S.D.  Or any of the other several obscure places we’ve sought out due to my reading.  Last night, it took us to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Hastings Bookstore  for Jan Brett’s Spring Tour promoting her new book, The Easter Egg.  I first read about the tour in an issue of Family Fun magazine (which was actually promoting her handpainted egg giveaway).  When I saw on her website that she was going to be only a couple of hours from our home, I immediately begin plotting to go.  Nevermind the fact that it was on the eve of one of our busiest weekends of the enter year.  Steady Eddie, being the loving man that he is, agreed to my harebrained scheme. 

When we pulled into the parking lot, we saw the big bus.  That was exciting! 

Of course, I had to pose for a picture with it!  It is beautiful!  🙂

When we entered the store, we saw Jan Brett set up at her table.  There was a long, long line snaking away from the table toward the back of the store.  We simply found what we thought was the end of the line and got in it.  It turns out that this was only a small portion of the line, and the kind ladies at the back of this portion of the line instructed us to go get a ticket.  Ah, a ticket. 

Do you see that tiny little number in the bottom, right-hand corner?  234.  That’s right–we held ticket number 234.  🙂  After conversing with the manager, we decided it might be best to leave, get a bite for supper, and come back.  So we did.

The poor McAlister’s Deli located in the parking lot of the shopping center we were in boasted that Kids Eat FREE on Tuesday and Thursday nights!  I’ll bet they never dreamed how many kids would make their way from Hastings to their besieged restaurant last night.  😉

After enjoying our supper, we returned to Hastings at about 7:00 to resume our place in line.  Steady Eddie and I took turns taking the girls around the store to shop.  They had $5 from their nana to spend, and those bills were burning the proverbial holes in their pockets.  In some of our meanderings about the store, we ran into Hedgie!

Seven p.m. was the time the book signing was supposed to end, but we were still at the very end of a long, long line, and we had been assured that Jan Brett would stay to the very end.

She did.  A little bit before 9:00, we made it to the front of the line.  When we got almost to the table, I noticed this sweet illustration on an easel.  I learned that Jan Brett had demonstrated her drawing skills when the book signing began–at 5:00, before we arrived.  I hated that we missed it, but I was glad to snap this picture.

It turns out that those tickets were for the number of books you had for her to sign–two books per ticket.  I had already purchased The Easter Egg and On Noah’s Ark, but we also brought along our Christmas Treasury and a paperback for her to sign.  The nice folks in front of us had an extra ticket, so Steady Eddie even got in on the action!  🙂 

Jan Brett was very kind and engaging, despite the fact that we were ticket holder number 234.  She had already completed one book signing in Knoxville earlier in the day, but she and her handwriting were just as crisp and beautiful as if they had just begun!

She spent a little bit of time talking with my girls.  They showed her their coloring pages of Berlioz the Bear and some of her other characters. 

Despite the fact that we didn’t get home until midnight last night, I am very glad we went.  It was exciting to meet this real-life, extraordinarily talented, and very famous author and illustrator.  I hope my girls remember this, but if they don’t, we have the books (and the pictures)!

We still haven’t even had a chance to read either of the new books (and truthfully, I bought On Noah’s Ark in board book format for baby brother), but I’m looking forward to sharing them with the girls.

I’m glad we got to take part in Jan Brett’s 2010 Spring Tour!

After all, reading can take you places you’ve never dreamed you’ll go!  🙂

_________________________________

Please excuse this hastily written post, but I wanted to share these pictures and our little adventure before I go on semi-bloggy break for the next couple of weeks.  I’ll still be posting some TOS HomeschoolCrew reviews and Read Aloud Thursday will go on as usual, and I might have a few other pre-scheduled post.  Other than that (!!!), things should be quiet here.  My quilting post I promised earlier in the week will have to wait until after Easter.  By then, I will be posting at my new, self-hosted addressThat blog will go live April 5.

And now, I’m off to prepare for our next adventure!  🙂

Read Aloud Thursday

It seems like things have gotten a little off track here at the House of Hope in the past week.  I always strive to finish (or mostly finish) Lulu’s kindergarten lessons before lunchtime, but this week it seems that we’ve usually only started the formal stuff (phonics, math) after lunch.  I’m trying to realize that this is a season in my life–one in which I move incredibly slowly and sometimes painfully (I have back issues which have been greatly aggravated by this pregnancy).  This really puts a crimp in my plans sometimes.  Plus, I’m trying to be a more relaxed homeschooler–to realize that no, we can’t do it all in one day, and that’s okay.  Anyway, what this has meant is that we have been doing a fair amount of reading in the mornings on the couch.  While our read-alouds times in the morning usually do have some direction (i.e. either a FIAR book or go-along or something that goes with our human body study), we’ve also been doing a good amount of “free reading.”  We’ve picked up quite a few winners!

Rabbit Inn was almost returned to the library before we had a chance to read it, but I’m so glad I held it out for one more day!  Patience Brewster’s gentle little story is about a rabbit couple who are innkeepers.  When the Mrs., Pandora Lapinandro, learns that some important visitors are coming to Rabbit Inn, she begins to see her beloved home through new eyes:  it’s in disrepair!  It’s in disarray!  Quick, Bob, let’s clean this place up!  The job is too big for just the two bunnies, though, so Bob Lapinandro calls upon the residents at the inn to help them.  They willingly help, two-by-two.  By the time the visitors arrive, everything is in order, and Pandora can relax.  Three things are great about this book: first, it is (unexpectedly, I might add) perfect for the place our family is right now.  (I’ll let you figure that one out!  😉  )  Second, the words and illustrations are so very detailed.  Much of the story rhymes, and all of the animals have funny names.  Third, the fact that the animals all come in pairs made it easy to turn this book into a little mini-math review. (No, I don’t turn everything into a lesson, but some books make it easy, right?)   🙂  This book surprised me, and I’m glad we read it.  You can find out more about the author and illustrator, Patience Brewster, by visiting her website.

I’m putting in this next one not because I think anyone out there might miss Jan Brett, but because I’m still hoping to attend one of her book signings.  Although we enjoy her books at Christmas time, I don’t often check her out at other times during the year (although we did have a books for Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day that she illustrated).  Unlike these holiday books, Berlioz the Bear is illustrated in the way we’ve all come to recognize as her style:  with sidebars and “extra” illustrations to alert us, the readers, to what is going on elsewhere in the story.  The story of Berlioz is a good one, one that really engages young listeners.  Poor Berlioz is a double bass player who is trying to get to the village square for the gala ball his orchestra is scheduled to play in.  He has a problem, though:  his double bass is making a funny, buzzing noise.  Once all the other musicians arrive and they all board the bandwagon, though, his one problem quickly morphs into two problems:  a wagon wheel gets stuck in a hole soon after they begin their journey, and the mule pulling the wagon characteristically sits down in the road and refuses to budge.  Lots of well-dressed animals come to their rescue, but it’s Berlioz’s first problem that finally solves his second.  This one is fun both to read and look at!  I found this page of illustrated notes about the story that makes me like Jan Brett even more.  If you haven’t checked out her website, you really should.  It’s positively brimming over with good stuff:  coloring pages, contests, lesson plans, etc.

I have more books to share, but my girls are up from rest time.  Duty calls!  🙂

What is your family enjoying this week?  Please provide a link to a blog post or simply leave a comment.  Oh, and spread the word!  I’ve recently begun participating in What My Child Is Reading at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns (when I can remember to link up, that is, since it’s a Saturday event).  I like to get Read Aloud Thursday out there as much as possible–the more the merrier, I say!

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Have a terrific Read Aloud Thursday!

Colorful

I just wanted to post a quick follow-up to my St. Patrick’s Day post in which I declared that we would be making this cake or these cupcakes today.    I opted for the cake after I read lots of comments following the cupcake recipe with phrases like “this took a lot of time” or “time consuming,” etc.  Ours was something of an ill-fated project from the beginning:  I spilled a little bit of the batter after I added the water to the cake mix, so I guessed at how much water to put back in.  Then, I realized that we only possessed two eggs, not three, as the recipe demanded.  Last, Louise managed to drop an entire bottle (the bottle too, not just the contents) into the bowl of batter she was tinting.

All things considered, I think it turned out pretty well.  The girls agree. 

Happy Spring!