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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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Have a beautiful Read Aloud Thursday and a blessed Easter!

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! 

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!

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

 

It’s usually challenging for me to write a monthly Kids’ Picks post, mainly because I’m the main book picker here at the House of Hope.  Oh, my girls have plenty of opportunity to choose books for our read-alouds times or for their own perusal, but ultimately, I control what comes into the house.  I do let them pick a couple of books each time we go to the library, but I limit it to two or three each because if I didn’t, we’d end checking out the entire Arthur or Franklin collection.  😉  Please don’t revoke my Kids’ Picks button!  🙂

This month, though, I have a genuine Kids’ Pick, and one that reaches back a couple of years, at that.  Louise requested We’re Going on a Bear Hunt last week.  This is one of those books that my girls loved, loved, loved when they were younger.  However, as they’ve gotten older (after all, they’re very mature 5 and 4 year olds now! 😉 ), I regret to say that I’ve let quite a few of these classics fall by the wayside.  In fact, we have one whole long shelf of boardbooks that were once beloved favorites but that we never look at now.  We own We’re Going on a Bearhunt in paperback, and after Louise repeatedly requested that we read it, it took a little searching on our full-to-overflowing shelves, but we found it.  There are several lessons in this for me:

  • Just because my children are capable of and willing to listen to long chapter books doesn’t mean we need to abandon picture books (even “babyish” ones). 
  • Children love repetition and familiar stories, even after we are sick of them.
  • I shouldn’t get so wrapped up in my latest library finds that I neglect my own home library.  I’m very guilty of this.
  • Louise is my little songbird:  she is forever making up songs and rhymes.  I really need to indulge and encourage this, especially through the books we read. 

I actually can’t believe I haven’t included this particular story on my Best Picture Books list before now.  (I’ll attribute it to the fact that I really have neglected our home library.)  This is such a great toddler and preschool picture book–it’s very repetitive and just begs to be acted out.  It is my go-to rhyme when we keep the nursery at church and the natives begin to get restless.  Helen Oxenbury‘s illustrations are very expressive; my girls have always been concerned about the rather dejected-looking bear at the end of the story.  In short, this is one that’s too good to be missed.  You can visit the author’s website here.  I even found a video of him performing We’re Going on a Bearhunt.  Enjoy!

As if all of this is not enough, I have photographic evidence that this book is indeed a genuine Kids’ Pick here at the House of Hope.  The photographs here were snapped back about two years ago, and they are of Louise with her favorite book.  Seeing these pictures makes me almost teary-eyed, but it also gives me another reason to look forward to the new addition to our family who will be here faster than we can get ready for him!

For more Kids’ Picks, visit 5 Minutes for Books!

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?

Read Aloud Thursday–St. Patrick’s Day Edition

Let me be the first to say that St. Patrick’s Day is actually not a holiday that is usually even on my radar.  Although I am sure I must have at least a little bit of Irish blood flowing through my veins, I just consider myself plain old American.  However, I couldn’t pass by the bright green on the book display conveniently located right by the front door at one of our libraries, so we’ve been reading some fun St. Patrick’s Day books.  The girls have really enjoyed them, and so have I.  This post highlights the best of the bunch.

What caught my eye about St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning is the fact that is is illustrated by Jan BrettAs we learned for Valentine’s Day, she and author Eve Bunting are a winning combination, so I had to bring this book home(It also turns out that Eve Bunting was born in Ireland, which I only recently learned from this excellent shamrock post at Brimful Curiosities.)  St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning is the sweet story of  a little boy, Jamie Donovan, who remembers upon awakening that his village’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is that very day.  Declared too small to participate in the parade by his parents and older brothers, Jamie strikes out to prove himself by walking the entire parade route.  Everyone in his home is still asleep, so they are ignorant of his plan.  He meets and greets lots of villagers on his way up Acorn Hill.  Listeners get a taste of the lilting Irish speech pattern (if the reader can pull it off!) and life in a small Irish village.  Jamie completes his trek  makes it back home before anyone else is up.  This is a gentle story, and the illustrations are done primarily in black, white, and green.  This would be a perfect preschool introduction to St. Patrick’s Day.
The Last Snake in Ireland:  A Story about St. Patrick by Sheila MacGill-Callahan caught my eye, well, because I thought it would be nice to read a book about St. Patrick since I don’t even know much about him or the real holiday.  This book is about St. Patrick, but instead of it focusing on the real St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, it focuses on one of the many legends surrounding him:  that he drove the snakes out of Ireland.  In this story, there is one particularly recalcitrant snake, and St. Patrick must use all of his wits to outsmart him.  I actually thought the snake was a little bit creepy, but my girls liked the story (Will Hillenbrand‘s illustrations make it look particularly diabolical).  We didn’t accomplish my goal of learning something substantial about St. Patrick, but the girls were entertained.
This last story was by far our favorite.  Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk by Gerald McDermott is just a fun, fun folktale.  Poor Tim O’Toole is a downtrodden fellow who, in addition to being poor, is considered bad luck by his neighbors.  Finally, at the insistence of his wife, Tim sets out to find a job.  What he finds instead is a whole pack herd group of leprechauns.  These leprechauns give Tim a goose capable of laying golden eggs, but poor Tim loses it to a wily couple with whom he spends the night on his way home.  This same scenario plays out a few times with every gift the leprechauns give him, until finally, they come to his rescue.  My girls really got the humor in this book, and it’s a much requested title here at the House of Hope these days.  Gerald McDermott’s text is fun to read and his illustrations are perfect.  It turns out that he’s a Caldecott Medal-winning artist.  You can read more about him on his colorful website

Other than reading these books (and a few others), we don’t really have any plans for St. Patrick’s Day.  Well, actually, I hope we can make these cupcakes, which look a lot like the beautiful cake I first saw at Lifenut but still haven’t gotten around to making.  This year it is, Lord willing!

On a related note, Carrie (of Reading to Know and Reading My Library fame) highlighted some St. Patrick’s Day books over at 5 Minutes for Books a few weeks back.  Check it out!

On a somewhat unrelated note, check out Jan Brett’s website!  She has a new Easter book out, and she’s going full-steam-ahead to promote it!  Don’t miss this contest–how neat would it be to own an Easter egg painted by Jan Brett?!?!?  (And yes, I do realize that I tell you this at the risk of decreasing my chance of winning!  😉  )  One more thing:  don’t miss her tour schedule, either.  I’d love to try to make one of the Tennessee events, but I’m not sure that we can swing it with next week’s schedule.  If we do, I’ll be sure to share the details!  🙂

Okay, enough of the PSAs.  It’s time for you to share what you’ve been reading together as a family!  Either leave a blog link by clicking on the MckLinky link below, or simply share in the comments.  Don’t forget, there’s a button, too!

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Happy Read Aloud Thursday!

Friday’s Vintage Find:: The Story About Ping (and some Go-Alongs and an Art Activity, too)

The Story About Ping probably doesn’t need much of an introduction, but I wanted to share a few of the books we read and an activity we did in relation to this story.  For those who are unfamiliar with this classic tale, it’s Marjorie Flack’s story of a little duck named Ping who lives with his large family on “a boat with two wise eyes on the Yangtze River” in China.  The ducks all leave their home during the day to hunt for food, but once the sun begins to set, the Master of the boat calls them back.  It is unfortunate, though, to be the last duck to return; this duck always receives a spank on the back.  One day, Ping is running late, and rather than be the one to get the spank, he decides to not return at all that night.  What follows is a short little series of adventures which end up with Ping almost becoming a duck dinner.  He learns his lesson, though, and decides that home’s best, spank or no spank.  Marjorie Flack (who also wrote and illustrated the Angus stories) first published this book in 1933, so it’s a real classic.  Kurt Wiese‘s illustrations are colorful and depict the action in the story very convincingly for the preschool set.  (As a side note, Kurt Wiese spent some time in China and later in Australia as a prisoner of war of the Japanese.  This is where he discovered and honed his talent for illustrations.  Interesting, huh?)  The Story About Ping is really too good to miss, which is why it’s included in the first volume of Five in a Row.

We didn’t “row” this book fully, and I decided to dispense with the lapbooking this time.  As much as I want to, I just can’t always make myself love lapbooking.  It’s a love-hate relationship, I guess.  I think that if my children were older and had the motor skills necessary for lots of writing, etc., I might like it more.  I’m not crossing it off the list yet, but I think it will be something we do sometimes instead of all the time.  What we did, though, is share several other books set in China, as well as celebrate Chinese New Year with the reading of The Story About Ping
The book I liked the most that we read is Arlene Mosel’s Tikki Tikki Tembo, a book which certainly deserves its own Friday’s Vintage Find post.  Tikki Tikki Tembo is a book I remember from my own childhood–I loved it!  It takes some practice (or familiarity, at least) to read it well, but the effect is worth it.  Another more recent book we enjoyed is The Moon Lady by Amy Tan.  I was curious to read something by an author I previously knew only as an author of adult fiction, and neither I nor the girls was disappointed.  This book, as well as the books I highlighted here, were perfect to go along with the Chinese New Year festival.  We read a few more, including some nonfiction titles to provide some visual images of the Yangtze River and life in China, etc., but these two were the best picks.

In addition to doing a lot of reading, we also incorporated an art activity into our “study.”  Storybook Art by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Jean Potter is a resource I often turn to for suggestions of art activities to really focus on some of the techniques of famous children’s book illustrators.  It’s chock full of good ideas.  One hundred illustrators are highlighted in this book, so in all likelihood, if it’s a classic story, it’s included in Storybook Art.  This is where we got the idea to make a duck template and repeat the pattern.  (Please excuse the glare and the shadow of my head, etc., on the pictures.  I took these in the afternoon, and while the afternoon sun streaming through our schoolroom windows is lovely, it makes it difficult to take good pictures.)

This first picture includes the one I made.  Until baby brother arrives and is old enough to participate, I suppose Mama will always have to create art, too, to fill up our three frames!  🙂 

 

Louise once gain had her own idea about how this art activity should go.  Her boat does have “wise eyes,” though.

Lulu included not only the ducks, but also a fishing bird that appears in the story.  (I think the birds are actually cormorants.)  Do you see the “wise eyes” on her boat?

Last, no study of another country is complete without at least looking at a map!  I’ve still yet to get our map up on our school room wall, but I did pull it out so we could find China and the Yangtze River.  The girls loved this! 

I’m linking this post to this week’s stART at A Mommy’s Adventures.  This is a great meme to which bloggers link their children’s literature-related art activities.  Won’t you consider joining in?

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.

Read Aloud Thursday

 It has been a crazily busy week here at the House of Hope, with a couple of doctor appointments and a day trip for Steady Eddie and me on my birthday.  (Bless him, he worked hard to rearrange his schedule so he wouldn’t have to spend the night out of town on my big day.  It was still a work trip for him, but I got to putter around and spend an inordinate amount of time browsing in a huge bookstore, so it was a good day, at least for me.  What a guy!)  I said all that to say that although we have lots of books from the library, we’ve had a hard time getting to them this week.  I’m pulling a couple of books that we enjoyed several weeks ago, instead, and sharing them this week.  Hopefully next week I’ll have more current read-alouds to share!

Easy Work!  An Old Tale is an adaptation by Eric A. Kimmel of an American folktale, and my girls thought it was hilarious.  I’m not sure, but I think it might be because Mr. McTeague dons his wife’s dress, bonnet, and apron, as you can see here on the book’s cover.  Andrew Glass did a marvelous job of visually translating this very funny story.  The story, in a nutshell, is this:  Mr. McTeague thinks his wife, in all her housewifely duties, has it made.  She sees a golden opportunity (and he thinks he does), so they agree to trade jobs for a day.  Well, predictably, things don’t go very well for Mr. McTeague.  His homekeeping catastrophes are really funny, especially as he devises ways to make the work easier for himself.  In the end, though, he learns his lesson:  he’d rather leave the homekeeping to his wife and return to his work with the oxen in the woods.  I see from Eric A. Kimmel’s website that he is a very prolific writer, especially when it comes to folktales from around the world.  I’ll definitely keep him in mind as I plan for next year’s schooling!

The other book I’m sharing today is one that I’ve wanted to share for a long time, but I’ve been waiting for the time to give it its own post.  I’ve since decided that that’s probably never going to happen (and the library is finally going to just give me the book since I’ve had it out for so long 😉 ) and that I might as well just give it a spot on today’s Read Aloud Thursday.  The book? Harold’s ABC  by Crockett Johnson.  I’ve mentioned my love and appreciation for Harold and the Purple Crayon before , and it turns out that there’s a whole series of Harold books.  This one is obviously an ABC book; the story takes Harold through the alphabet from A to Z, with him drawing with his ever-present crayon all the way.  Harold’s ABC is every bit as clever as the first Harold book, and it even inspired me to encourage my girls in a little bit of bookmaking of their own.   I suggested to the girls that they use this book as a model; Harold’s illustrations are based on each letter of the alphabet (i.e. “C is for cake” and voila, the letter C is a layer cake with a triangular slice cut out).  I realize now that this might be too abstract a concept for a five year old and a four year old, but they had fun working on their little books.  We used the “Book on a Stick” concept for our creations.  Lulu’s book is entitled “Lulu’s World of Adventures with ABCs.”

This is her G page.  This is a gorilla, and if you look closely (and think backwards 😉 ), you’ll see that the gorilla’s claws (nails?  what do gorillas have?) are shaped like g‘s. 

One more:  this is her J page, and naturally, these are “jumping j‘s” on a trampoline. 

Of course, Louise was included in this activity, too.  I’ve already mentioned that she loves making books, but as it turns out, she prefers a more open-ended exercise.  Her first page is of a lovely green caterpillar. 🙂

Now we just need to go back and add the text to our books, and we’ll be done.  Oh, and I need to have a  manicure ASAP.  😉

Now it’s your turn!  What have you been reading with your family this week?  Leave a link below to your blog post in which you discuss your read aloud selections, or simply leave a comment.

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Have a fantastic Read Aloud Thursday!

ETA:  I am linking up this Read Aloud Thursday post to a fun meme called stART over at A Mommy’s Adventures.  This meme is for posts which combine stories and art.  Check it out!