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The Human Body Resources

Self-portraits, with body systems illustrated

 My girls and I embarked upon a study of the human body several weeks (months?) ago now, and it has by far been their favorite thing we’ve done this year.  I was feeling a little guilty about not having done a whole lot of science with them this year (and their daddy a science teacher, no less!  😉  ), so one day I did a little searching over at The Well Trained Mind forums, and I hit upon the idea of a human body study.  Some of these books were recommended there; others of them were serendipitous library finds.  In addition to using these general books, we also read nonfiction series titles from the different libraries in our area.  These, however, are definitely the winners.  

This Janice VanCleave book has sold me on her approach and her various series of books!  Janice VanCleave’s Play and Find Out about the Human Body:  Easy Experiments for Young Children has been my guidebook throughout this unit.  So far we have done several of the experiments contained in the book, and we’ve managed to have a fairly thorough discussion of skin, the heart, and the skeletal system.  The experiments require fairly basic equipment, and they’re not very complicated to put together.  After all, they are for preschoolers!  🙂  I purchased this one used through Amazon, so I’m not sure if it’s still in print.  If you ever see a copy, snatch it up!  I give it a Highly Recommended! (The pictures below are all of our experiments based on this book.  Steady Eddie even got in on the action!) 


 First Human Body Encyclopedia from the DK First Reference Series is our “spine”; that is, it is the book we use for all of our basic information.  To be honest, before I used this book with my girls, I never understood what was so great about the DK books.  The huge pictures and the blurbs of information always seemed so disjointed to me.  Now, though, I see the value of a book written in this format.  The little snippets of information and the large, excellent photographs (and some drawings) are perfect for young children.  I would not hesitate to purchase any of the DK First Reference titles, and I would consider any of them money well spent.  I can see my girls using this book for many years.  


Me and My Amazing Body by Joan Sweeney is another book that I consider indispensible as an introduction to the human body.  This nonfiction book is written more as a story, so it draws the little ones in very quickly.  It covers the major body systems, and while it provides very few details, it provides the information in a very preschooler-friendly way.  I am guessing that any of Joan Sweeney’s “Me” books would be a winner, and I’ll definitely be using them for our future studies! 

It's a chicken leg bone! 🙂

Inside Your Outside!:  All About the Human Body by Tish Rabe bears mentioning mainly because it’s written all in rhyme.  It’s from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library.  I find these books a little hard to follow (and so I assume that my children probably don’t comprehend them totally, either 😉 ), but the rhymes are fun and so are the illustrations.  It provides a good little educational diversion.  🙂
This last book is one I just spied on the shelf at the library.  It’s entitled Body:  An Interactive and Three-Dimensional Exploration, and that pretty much sums it up.  It’s really more of an upper-elementary or high school book, but I thought my girls would love the pop-ups it contains.  I was right!  These pop-ups are amazing–they’re all truly three-dimensional with moving parts and fold-outs, etc.  On the last page there’s a human body that opens up in layers.  Susan Ring is the author of Body, and Michele Graham did the amazing illustrations.  

Mainly what we’ve done with this unit is a whole lot of reading and looking and a little bit of playing.  I think this is just right for kindergarten.  

I do have to share one funny, though.   I had this exchange with Louise, who takes everything in just as intensely as Lulu: 

Louise:  Is Daddy taller than himself? 

Me:  No, he can’t be taller than himself.  He can be taller than someone else, but not himself. 

Louise:  What about when his root gets squished down? 

It finally dawned on me that she was talking about his spinal column (“root”) and how it compresses during the day.  One of the experiments we started but never finished due to the plague that hit our house was one in which I measured the girls first thing in the morning and then again that night.  Since the night-time measurement never happened, I simply explained to them that the discs between the vertebrae in our backs are compressed (“squished down”) as we stand and walk throughout the day, so we’re shorter at night than in the morning. 

We still have a couple more body systems to go, and I find that I enjoy it more if we take a little break with some FIAR titles, etc., between body systems.  However, the girls are quick to request the human body books and science experiments again, so I’m not off the hook for long.

ETA:  Oh, I forgot to mention one more thing we did during our (ongoing) human body study.  We’re always working on scripture memorization.  We primarily do this during our morning “couch time”.  For this particular study, we worked on memorizing Psalm 139: 13-18.

13 For you created my inmost being;
       you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
       your works are wonderful,
       I know that full well.

 15 My frame was not hidden from you
       when I was made in the secret place.
       When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

 16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
       All the days ordained for me
       were written in your book
       before one of them came to be.

 17 How precious to [b] me are your thoughts, O God!
       How vast is the sum of them!

 18 Were I to count them,
       they would outnumber the grains of sand.
       When I awake,
       I am still with you.

The girls did very well with this, and it was particularly appropriate since I’m currently a living example of the “secret place” where babies grow and develop.  😉  We’ve memorized several longer passages of scripture, but my problem is systematically reviewing them.  I have had a pretty family Bible memory notebook in the works for months now, but I never make the time to finish it.  Does your family have a particular method for keeping memory passages fresh in your minds?


Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Back a few months ago, a publicist with Lerner Publishing Group (Carolrhoda Books) contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing a couple of books written by African American authors for Black History month.  I was intrigued by the titles, so I agreed.  Well, here it is almost the end of February, and I’m just now getting around to it.  Let me tell you, though, that this particular book is worth the wait.  In fact, Bad News for Outlaws:  The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson won the Coretta Scott King Author Award this year.  If I had just been a little quicker, I could’ve been one of those who said “I read it first!”  🙂

This episodic biographical picture book details the life of one Bass Reeves, a legendary lawman who, by the time the Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma, had arrested some 3,000 lawbreakers, in the process taking the lives of only fourteen people.  In the wild and lawless West, this was remarkable.  The picture of Bass Reeves that Nelson paints with her words is one of a genuinely good man, a hero even, who did his job with honor and integrity.  He even worked toward rehabilitating the outlaws he apprehended by talking to them about the Bible and about doing right.  He would also stop at nothing to “get his man,” even assuming different personas to catch the ne’er-do-wells. 

This book is chock full of historical detail, and it contains all sorts of additional information in the back:  a glossary of Western terms, a timeline, bibliographies and website lists for futher reading, short sketches about some of hte historical figures and regions mentioned in the book, and even an interesting note from the author about how she came to know about this little known African American hero.  I like what she said at the close of her note:  “Bass’s story is so incredible it comes close to sounding like a tall tale.  But it isn’t.  It’s true.  And I’ve done my best to tell it true.”  I like that–I thought some of the story read like a tall tale, and it’s amazing to learn that Bass Reeves’ exploits did in fact happen.

R. Gregory Christie, three time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award,  is the illustrator whose work fleshes out the story for us.  The illustrations really evoke the feeling of the Old West.  You can see an example illustration from Bad News for Outlaws here, or visit R. Gregory Christie’s website to gain an even broader appreciation of his artwork. 

Although I have not shared this book with my children yet, I am excited to add this one to our collection.  As regular Hope Is the Word readers know, my girls are interested in “pioneery” things (to borrow the terminology of my old boss, the librarian at the public library where I worked while in undergraduate school), so I think this one will be a winner with them when they’re old enough to understand some of the lawlessness and the violence that marked the Old West.   I think this book would be appropriate from grades four through high school.  (I’m an adult, and I really liked it.  It made me want to know more about Bass Reeves!)  What’s more, Carolrhoda Books has created several different resources for use with this book that would really help to broaden the study into something meaty. 

I give this one a Highly Recommended! 

I received no compensation, other than a free copy of the book, for writing this review.

Chinese New Year

When I read about the Chinese New Year contest that Jimmie‘s hosting, I thought this week would be the perfect time to take a break from the human body study we’ve been working on for the past three or four weeks (and which I hope to post about in the near future) and add another Five in a Row title to our list:  The Story About Ping.  The obvious connection here is the setting, since Ping is set in China.  However, I’ll save my thoughts and our activities pertaining to the prodigal duck for another post.  This post is about how we “celebrated” the Chinese New Year on Monday here at the House of Hope.  I thought a day spent in celebration would be a good way to introduce Ping, and, well, I can’t pass up a contest.  😉

For us, of course, it is all about the books.  I have very little knowledge about China and its customs myself, so I hied me to the library and brought home all the resources I could find.  I checked out the requisite nonfiction series titles about China, none of which are stand-outs.  However, I find that such books provide as much background information as we need (I pick and choose what to read), and they also often provide excellent pictures to provide a landscape for what we learn.

Two books, though, really did the job of “showing” us what a Chinese New Year celebration might look like.  The first one is an oldie–Moy Moy by Leo Politi, first published fifty years ago, in 1960.  Granted, this is a story set not in China, but in Chinatown, Los Angeles.  It’s the story of a little girl named Lily (called Moy Moy, or “Little Sister,” by everyone in her neighborhood) and her four brothers and the preparations and time period leading up to Chinese Near Year.  This story does a great job of putting a face on the celebration–namely, Moy Moy’s face.  This is perfect, since my own little girls are close in age to her.  We learned about many Chinese New Year traditions, but the ones that made the biggest impression on my girls are the lion and dragon parades.  This story is very engagingly told, and the illustrations are colorful (in that 1950’s way 😉 ) and interesting.  This is one that I think my girls would listen to over and over again. 

The other book is one I just used as a resource, but I wanted to mention it because it’s a good one.  Moonbeams, Dumplings, and Dragon Boats:  A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities, and Recipes is a book written by Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz with the help of The Children’s Museum of Boston.  It is just what it says it is:  a book which contains all kinds of fun things to read, do, and eat that center around Chinese festivals and holidays.  The only thing I actually used out of this book this week is the instructions on how to make a paper lantern, but if a study of China is something you plan for your children, I think this would be an almost indispensible aide.  The craft activities and recipes are interspersed among folktales, etc., so it’s a book that could be useful in many ways.

Okay, so what did we do, besides read?  🙂

First, we made paper lanterns.

After this, the girls were inspired to create their own illustrations based on the Chinese calendar.  I mistakenly told them that this new year is the Year of the Dragon (sorry, Jimmie!), hence Lulu’s dragon:

Louise’s started out to be a dragon, but she changed it mid-drawing into an octopus (“with ears”):

We spent a few moments looking at Jimmie’s own Happy New Year post.  Best of all, we had lunch from our favorite Chinese restaurant, thanks to Steady Eddie and yet another snow day that kept him home from work.  🙂

Thanks, Jimmie, for the inspiration to do this!  It was a lot of fun!

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.

Read Aloud Thursday

I am super excited about this week’s Read Aloud Thursday!  After several weeks of being unable to spend much time in the library, we’re finally back in the game!  In fact, we currently have books from two libraries, and we are really enjoying the discovery of some new treasures.  Let’s get started!
A Cold Snap!: Frost Poems by Audrey B. Baird is the first poetry collection I’ve shared in a while, but I couldn’t resist this one.  I’ll admit up front that I usually enjoy poetry far more than my girls do, but I keep reading it to them in the hopes (conviction?) that they, too, will love it one day.  It might be that this one is just a wee bit over their heads, with its figurative language and puns, but exposure never hurt anyone, right?  A Cold Snap! is chock full of poems about cold weather, and it’s just a delight.  I don’t want to share any of the poems in their entirety here, but here’s a little teaser, from a poem entitled “Trees and Me”: 

Trees undress

in November,


their clothes

where they stand.

The ending of this short little poem is quite clever and witty, and I think it would really tickle the funny bone of children not too much older than mine.  Patrick O’Brien‘s illustrations match the tone of each poem, which I think is most important in a poetry book for children.   Highly Recommended, especially if you’re studying (or enjoying or enduring) winter weather

Now this one did tickle their funny bones, and mine, too. 
Good Times on Grandfather Mountain by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is a folktale, of sorts, about an old man named Old Washburn who just won’t be beaten by anything.  Old Washburn’s talents are whittling and looking on the bright side, and he can do both with the best of them.  When his cow, Blanche Wisconsin, runs away, he confesses that her milk never did make good cheese, anyway.  When a storm blows down his house, he admits that he’s just at home under the stars as under a roof.  In addition to his optimistic declarations, he literally turns his losses into something to add beauty to the world:  he whittles himself a whole array of mountain musical instruments.  I won’t give away the ending to the story, but it’s very satisfying.  Susan Gaber‘s watercolor illustrations are colorful and folksy; they remind me a little bit of Patricia Polacco‘s.  (This is a huge compliment from me!)  Some of the illustrations are close-ups that take up a whole page, and I really like that.  This one’s good–Louise requested that I read it again immediately after the first go-through.  (Hmm–I just realized that Jacqueline Briggs Martin is the author of Snowflake Bentley!  No wonder we like Good Times on Grandfather Mountain so much!  You can visit Ms. Martin’s website here  for a list of her other titles.)

This last one is pure silliness and fun.  Coriander the Contrary Hen–the title just about says it all, especially if any of the little chicks (or hens or roosters!) at your house have a tendency towards contrariness.  😉  Coriander the hen decides that she will no longer roost in the chicken coop with the other cooperative hens.  Oh, no–she decides to make her nest in the middle of the road.  What ensues is a country traffic jam of gigantic proportions.  Of course, Coriander behaves in the end, but her contrariness spunkiness is evident clear to the last page.  Dori Chaconas incorporates lots of onomatopoeia and rhyme into this story, which is perfect for my blossoming reader.  Marsha Gray Carrington‘s cartoonish illustrations even include some of the text (namely, the onomatopoeic or rhyming words), and this made it even easier for my girl to follow along.  We all got a kick out of this one!

I’m feeling abundantly blessed right now–it’s amazing to me that I can simply visit my local library and come home with this much literary wealth!  🙂

What is your family feasting on this week?  Please share your family read-alouds with us by linking up your blog post on the MckLinky below, or simply by leaving a comment!  Please feel free to use the Read Aloud Thursday button, too!

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Read Aloud Thursday

For this week’s Read Aloud Thursday, I’m pulling some favorites off of our own shelves.  Since late last fall, I’ve had a hard time working out a consistent time to go to the library.  I had big plans to go at the end of last week, but then I got sick.  Steady Eddie volunteered to take back our stack, and he let the girls pick out a handful of books.  Their choices?  Lots of Berenstain Bears and some Christmas books.  🙂  While I have nothing against the Bears (in moderation, of course!) and you know that I love Christmas books, I just didn’t think either of those were exactly what I wanted to share on this third Read Aloud Thursday of January 2010.  However, this does give me the perfect opportunity to mention a few titles that I’ve wanted to highlight for a while.
I picked up Q Is for Duck:  An Alphabet Guessing Game by Mary Elting and Michael Folsom at some homeschooling conference last year, but it was only this week that I pulled it out to read in earnest to the girls.  It’s a fairly sophisticated concept, really, and I didn’t think they’d get it last year.  The concept behind the book is that it’s a series of twenty-six riddles, one for each letter of the alphabet.  The catch is that they’re quite . . . unexpected.  I’ll let you figure that out from the title.  Lulu, in particular, seemed to grasp the concept this time around, and it was a hit.  Jack Kent‘s illustrations are bright and graphic–almost Dr. Seuss-ish (without the weird looking animals).  This is a fun read-aloud with a different twist, for sure.  There’s probably some kind of lesson that could be pulled from it, too, but Read Aloud Thursday is all about enjoyment.  🙂

I’m really riding Janet‘s coattails with this next one.  Back in June, Janet featured A Fly Went By by Mike McClintock in a Read Aloud Thursday post, and I immediately filed that title away on my mental “keep an eye out for this title” list.  A few months later at a huge local children consignment sale, I hit the jackpot.  A Fly Went By was grouped with some other I Can Read It All By Myself Beginner Books (you know, the ones with the Cat in the Hat up in the corner), and when I saw it I’m pretty sure I probably gasped.   (I always wonder when I purchase a group of say, five books for one dollar if the seller has any idea just how valuable the treasure is that she’s getting rid of.  I doubt it.)  This book is pure delight, in that “House That Jack Built” kind of way. Fritz Siebel‘s illustrations are retro-looking (the book was first published in 1958, which I suppose qualifies it to be a Vintage Find) and they show lots of movement, which is perfect for this breathtaking tale.  Read Janet’s wonderful summary and explication to get a feeling for the book , and then keep your eyes open–you never know when you might hit the jackpot!  🙂

Well, folks, that’s it for today.  Never fear–we have a brimming book basket once again, along with a directive from our children’s librarian to read at least fifty titles to build our penguin for this year’s winter reading program (we built a snowman last year), so I’ll have plenty more to share next week. 

What’s in your library basket this week, or what favorites have you pulled off the shelf?  Do share!

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Read Aloud Thursday::Katy and the Big Snow Go-Alongs

I generally prefer for my Read Aloud Thursday posts to be all nice and random, but life, with all its requisite nightly activities, has begun in earnest at the House of Hope this week.  The girls have resumed their music classes, and I, alas, must hie me to the local community college twice weekly for instructing students in reading skills.  (Appropriate, huh?)  I wanted to make the books we’ve enjoyed as a part of our Five in a Row unit on Katy and the Big Snow all its own post, but I’m killing two birds with one stone here for sake of time.

I’ve highlighted Ezra Jack Keats before here at Hope Is the Word, but I only mentioned The Snowy Day briefly in that post.  However, no sharing of books about snow would be complete without this Caldecott Award-winning book!  The Snowy Day is about Keats’ most famous (only?) character, Peter, and the fun he has out-of-doors on an unexpected snowy day.  With simple, colorful illustrations and a story line that capitalizes on the fun even a city boy can have when his world turns white with snow, this is a perfect example of how good a simple picture book can be.  Highly, highly recommended, and I’m adding it to my Best Picture Books list to prove it!  🙂

This next one is pure silliness, but I like it.  There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow! by Lucille Colandro is my favorite of the ones of read of her “Old Lady Who” series, and I’ll admit that it took a second reading for me to even get that in this book she isn’t the “old” lady, but the “cold” lady.  Cute, huh?  More perceptive readers than I will probably recognize what it is, exactly, that’s percolating in that cavernous stomach of hers (based on what she swallows), but I thought it was very clever.  My girls like this one a lot, too, and the illustrations by Jared Lee are just as appropriately colorful and silly.

I don’t usually like wordless picture books, but I do like Emily Arnold McCully’s illustrations (and her writing, too, for that matter), and this one works for us.   (Ironically enough, we inadvertently ended up with two McCully books from one library run, and they’ve both made Read Aloud Thursday!)  I’m beginning to suspect it’s because Louise is much more willing to narrate the story for us, and now that she’s old enough, Lulu’s predilections don’t have as much sway over what we read, etc.  Anyway, First Snow is a sweet, sweet picture book about a family of mice who take a day to go sledding, and one little girl mouse overcomes her fright of going down the big hill to have the best time of all.  One good thing about wordless picture books is that they force you to really stop and inspect each page.  I have such respect and admiration for children’s book illustrators that this is always a good thing for me.

This last book really deserves a post all its own, but as you know, I’m trying to kill the proverbial two (or three or four) birds with one stone here. 
I’ve been on a quest to purchase all of Robert Sabuda’s pop-up books ever since the fateful day I ran across his Narnia book at my local Tuesday Morning.  Since then we’ve added Peter Pan: A Classic Collectible Pop-Up, and just before Christmas I ran across a banged up copy of Winter’s Tale at T.J. Maxx.  I paid more than I should’ve for it, given its condition (some of the pop-ups are a little crumpled; some feature, I suspect musical, at the end of the book just doesn’t work), but I couldn’t resist.  I’d already given the book a place of honor on our shelf, next to our other pop-up titles, when I happened to remember it.  I’m so glad I did!  The girls really enjoyed this 3-D version of a world covered in snow, and we all marvelled at Sabuda’s ability to create such intricate likenesses of snow-bound creatures like an owl, a family of deer, and a moose.  This would make a great companion to any book that focuses on snow and its effects on the animal world.  One bonus for me was that since the book is already less-than-perfect, it was easier for me to give in and let the girls really look at it.  If you’re unfamiliar with Robert Sabuda, be sure to visit his website for a taste of what this amazing paper engineer has to offer.  You’ll be hooked, too!   🙂

One last title that I want to share in detail here is another Caldecott Award winner.  Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian actually appears in a later volume of Five in a Row (we’re currently in volume one), but I couldn’t resist sharing it with my girls this time through.  It is the true story of Wilson Bentley, a Vermont farmer whose passion in life was collecting and photographing snowflakes.  The story is all about his determination to follow his dream, despite the hard work and sacrifice.  My girls enjoyed this book tremendously, and while I didn’t read every detail about his life to them (there is more information in the “sidebars” of the story), they liked it enough to request it twice in a row.  The illustrations truly are worthy of their Caldecott distinction–woodcuts with watercolors–beautiful!  I’m pretty sure there’s no shortage of resources out there for this book, but I did want to link the Original Wilson Bentley images website for those of you who are unfamiliar with this remarkable story. 

We did read a few more titles, of course, which I’ll  list here:

Some other titles which we’ve read before would’ve made a great addition to this unit, if only I’d had the foresight to borrow them again from the library:

I had planned to read The Long Winter for our next chapter book selection (Louise having declared that she’s afraid of the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which was my other choice), but it turns out that I no longer own this book, or at least I can’t find it.  I settled on Farmer Boy instead; since it is set in New York, I figured that much of the book has to take place in a winter time decidedly more winter-ish than ours. 

I was inspired by Candace’s Winter Nature Study post at His Mercy Is New, also. 

Whew!  That’s an unusually long Read Aloud Thursday post, and if you’re still with me, thank you!  🙂  I actually have at least one more book to share, but it will wait for Friday since it’s actually a Vintage Find.  😉  I also hope to share some pictures of our lapbooks, but since we haven’t put them together, that will also have to wait for a future post.  Stay tuned!

What about your family?  Is it cold enough where you live for everyone to hunker down by the fireplace for some good, old-fashioned entertainment in the form of shared stories?  Please tell us about it by either leaving a comment or linking up you blog post below! 

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Have a terrific Read Aloud Thursday!

Comment Challenge 2010

Mother Reader is helping to host Comment Challenge 2010 again this year for the Kidlitosphere.  If you blog about or enjoy reading about children’s and young adult literature, you might want to join in.  Read more about it here.

Read Aloud Thursday

As much as I love Christmas, I am glad to shelve all the Christmas titles for another year and get back to glorious randomness.  🙂 

Although we do not live in a large city, we are blessed to have several libraries within a five mile radius of each other, and I am always pleasantly surprised when we deviate from our normal routine and visit one of the ones we don’t frequent as often.  We did that at the end of last week, and I was so happy to learn that not only does one of our local libraries own the entire Road to Avonlea series (which doesn’t relate to Read Aloud Thursday, but I thought I’d mention it in honor of the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge😉  ), it also has a wonderful and varied assortment of children’s audiobooks.  The girls have already enjoyed listening to Heidi (unabridged!), as well as a few more that I might get around to posting about some day. 

Of course, the point of this post is not to sing the praises of the library, but to mention a few picture books we’ve enjoyed together.  I’m coming to that.  🙂

When I saw Mountain Dance and Cloud Dance on the shelf, I knew we had to have them.  We’re no stranger to Thomas Locker’s beautiful artwork; we have read a companion title, Water Dance, before, as well as the beautiful book Sky Tree.  Would that I had known about Cloud Dance earlier this year when we studied clouds!  (You can read about that adventure here and here.)  Cloud Dance does a beautiful job of gently pointing out the different types of clouds in a very inobtrusive way.  This is not a science text book–as in all of Locker’s books, the illustrations take center stage and do most of the “talking.”  However, there is a two-page spread at the back of the book which provides plenty of technical information.  Mainly, though, I just love looking at the pictures.  Similarly, Mountain Dance relies on gorgeous illustrations to discuss what I consider a very dry topic:  the formation of mountains.  This one’s actually a little over my girls’ heads (and maybe even over mine–earth science was never my best subject!), but the illustrations alone make it a worthwhile book to share.  This one also contains four pages of explanatory material, so either of these books (or any of Locker’s, for that matter) would be entirely appropriate even up to high school, in my opinion.

The other book I have to share today is one of those fun-with-a-subtle-message books, but being the moralist that I am, I love those.  😉  I have unfortunately been unable to find a picture of the cover of The Amazing Felix by Emily Arnold McCully, but if you’re familiar with her Caldecott Award-winning Mirette on the High Wire, its illustrations will seem very familiar.  The Amazing Felix is the story of a little boy named Felix who is traveling on board an early nineteenth century ship with his mother and sister to meet his father, a famous concert pianist.  He and his sister have been commissioned by their father to practice their piano faithfully so that when they meet up again, he will be proud of their progress.  Felix, however, doesn’t love the piano, so he does not practice faithfully.  On board the ship, though, a magician catches his eye, and in the sleight of hand tricks that this fellow teaches him, Felix finds something he is willing to practice.  The story ends well with Felix getting his sister out of a scrape through his level-headedness and then entertaining an audience not with this piano skills, but with his magic skills.  His father is, of course, proud of his accomplishments and even admits that magic tricks are something he wishes he could perform.  Lesson learned:  find something you are passionate about and do it.  A good lesson, right?

We’ve been busy this week reading about snow, too, since we’re supposed to have some early Thursday morning and where we live in the Deep South this is a rare occurrence indeed.   Watch for a post later this afternoon if we do happen to hit the jackpot.  Either way, look for a few posts about some snow-related books in the near future!

I’m really excited about what 2010 holds for Read Aloud Thursday .  I’m looking forward to meeting new participants and getting to know returning participants even better, so let’s get the ball rolling with the first link-up!  Click below to link your blog post, or simply leave a comment.

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Have a fantastic Read Aloud Thursday!

Maestro Classics

M.C. Tortoise and Hare

I am delighted to share a wonderful series I have been introduced to through my tenure on TOS HomeschoolCrew.  I was sent for review The Tortoise and the Hare, a production of the fable set to music, by Maestro Classics.   The music is, of course, not just any music, but beautiful symphonic arrangements played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  Do any of you remember the old Merrie Melodies cartoons? (I’m assuming that most of you, if you’re even anywhere close to my age or older, will remember these.  They are classics!)  Listening to the Maestro Classics version of Tortoise and the Hare reminds me a lot of Merrie Melodies, and I consider this quite a compliment. Please, do click on the Maestro Classics link to hear for yourself just how lovely this is.    
Maestro Classics
The Tortoise and the Hare  is a part of Maestro Classics’ Stories in Music series.The Stories in Music series is so much more than just a collection of audiobooks.  The Tortoise and the Hare  CD is a few minutes short of an hour and includes the following:

  • a twenty minute telling of the story, complete with lots of symphonic accompaniment
  • a three minute explication of the historical background of the fable
  • a two minute replay of a song from the story 
  • a five minute explication of the music involved in the story
  • another telling of the story–“Now That You Know a Little More”
  • a two minute sing-along replay of the song

I imagine this CD would make a great addition to either units on orchestra music or fables–the content about both is rich.  Beyond that, it is just plain fun.  I would love to add the rest of the series to our collection.

Regular readers here at Hope Is the Word know that audiobooks are a staple in our household, so I was eager to share this with my girls.  They are accustomed to listening to full-length audiobooks in one hour segments, although they would often listen longer if I would permit it.  The difference in the Maestro Classics CDs and regular audiobooks is obviously the music, and I’m not sure my girls, at ages five and four,  are ready to listen that discriminatingly.  That is not to say that the story itself was too complex–just that my girls are accustomed to a very linear telling of a story, with very few frills and extra sound effects.  However, despite the lukewarm reception, I am not willing to give up on this resource so easily.  I plan to hang onto it and hopefully even add to our collection.  I will reintroduce it again later, after the girls have had a chance to mature a little in their listening skills.

Currently there are seven titles in the Stories in Music series.  They are available for purchase for $16.98 each or three for $45.00.  Considering the potential that each of these individual titles would have for successive sessions of listening enjoyment, I would definitely consider this money well spent.  Please be sure to visit TOS HomeschoolCrew blog for more reviews of this fantastic product!

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