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Elmer and the Dragon

My girls and I finished our second chapter book of the month on Monday during our post-lunch read-aloud time.  I wanted to share briefly about this book here at Hope Is the Word because this is a great chapter book for preschoolers.  Elmer and the Dragon is the sequel to My Father’s Dragon (read my review here).  Written by Ruth Stiles Gannett and illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett (a stepdaughter and -mother team), Elmer and the Dragon picks up where My Father’s Dragon leaves off.  Elmer Elevator and the baby dragon whom he rescued from Wild Island are making their way back to Elmer’s home when they are forced to detour to Feather Island.  On Feather Island, they encounter the canary who first told Elmer about the dragon and Wild Island, and while they are there they help cure the King of the Canaries (King Can XI) who is “dying of curiosity.”  This delightful book is full of gentle adventure that is perfect for preschoolers.  My girls really got into this story, and Louise even named one of her stuffed animals “Sam XI” after King Can XI.  What makes this story an especially good chapter book read-aloud is its brevity and the black-and-white illustrations.  I was excited when I found this title at a children’s toy consignment sale.  Now I just need to happen upon the third of the trilogy, The Dragons of Blueland.


Read Aloud Thursday

This week our library basket contained some interesting and very quirky books.  Among them was One Potato, Two Potato, written by Cynthia DeFelice and illustrated by Andrea U’Ren.  This is the story of Mr. and Mrs. O’Grady, who are poor both physically and materially.  The discovery of a magic pot, however, changes all of that.  The pot can multiply anything placed within it, and the O’Gradys take advantage of this with humorous results.  The illustrations in this book struck me as a little odd at first, but after I read the book the first time, I grew fond of their quirkiness.  This book ends with a delightful play on words.

Another book we enjoyed this week was The Real Story of Stone Soup, written by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Stephane Forisch.  This is, of course, a retelling of the Stone Soup legend, this time from southeast China. In this story, the Chang brothers work as fishermen for a lazy man they respectfully call Uncle.  The Chang brothers, of course, trick Uncle into doing most of the work in making the stone soup.  There are subtleties in this story (for example, Uncle’s laziness) that make it a good story for reading between the lines and interpreting illustrations.

Our favorites of the week, however, are two history books written in the form of poetry.  Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails, written by Verla Kay and illustrated by S. D. Schindler and Homespun Sarah, written by Verla Kay and illustrated by Ted Rand, are wonderful introductions to the westward movement and colonial life, respectively.  In Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails, we follow Father, Mother, and Baby John as they trek along the California Trail from Independence, Missouri, to the Sacramento Valley.  The obstacles and triumphs of the pioneers wagon train are described in rhyming couplets and in warm and expressive illustrations.  It is especially fun to “watch” as Baby John grows into a toddler on the journey.  Homespun Sarah, on the other hand, details the daily life of  a girl in colonial Pennsylvania.  Sarah does many chores including fetching water, filling the wood box with branches, tending the garden, cooking, doing laundry, making candles, gathering berries, spinning wool, and finally, making her own dress since she has outgrown the one she wore throughout the whole story.  Again, rhyming couplets and warm illustrations make this book engaging for little ones, all the while giving a good sense of life in the 1700s.  My four year old daughter requested to have this book read as a bedtime story even as I had it in a stack to review here on my blog.  Of course, my girls do have a predilection for pioneer stories, but because of its fun rhymes and interesting subject matter, I think this book would make a great read aloud for almost any audience.

What have you and yours been enjoying together as read alouds?  Leave me a comment or a link to your blog where you tell about it!

Next week’s Read Aloud Thursday will be a special A.A. Milne edition.  If you have read Milne’s Pooh stories or his poetry (or even some of his lesser-known adult books and articles), please be sure to come back next Thursday and link your blog or leave a comment!

Book Review–Clementine by Sara Pennypacker


Title:  Clementine

Author:  Sara Pennypacker

Illustrator:  Marla Frazee

Publisher:  Hyperion

Length:  136 pp.

ISBN:  0786838825

Clementine is Ramona Quimby reincarnated!  Okay, fine, maybe she’s not, but she is every bit as funny and engaging.  Here at the Hope Is the Word house, we had sworn off read-alouds for a while because mama had gotten a little too ambitious and the wee girlies had gotten tired of books that were a little over their heads or that they plain old just didn’t like.  Clementine has reignited the fire!  There were even protestations when I mentioned that we would take Clementine back to the library in a few days; “Can’t we renew it?,” Lulu questioned.  I assured her that there are more books about Clementine.  This is one I feel certain will become a regular rest time rotation in audiobook.

Book Review–My Father’s Dragon

Title:  My Father’s Dragon

Author:  Ruth Stiles Gannett

Illustrator:  Ruth Chrisman Gannett

Publisher:  Random House

Pages:  87

ISBN:  0394890485

I think this book might replace Charlotte’s Web as my favorite read-aloud to date!  Now I am in no way suggesting that this book could possibly take the place of E.B. White’s masterpiece in the canon of children’s literature; however, for my wee girlies, this 1949 Newbery Honor book is simple enough and has enough illustrations to keep them engaged.  Add to those characteristics the fact that it also has short chapters, and we definitely have a winner!  Personally, I found the book delightful.  I can’t imagine how I missed it.  Perhaps I was put off by the title; I am not a fan of fantasy.  This book, though, is really just a very imaginative animal story.  The narrator’s father, Elmer Elevator (who wouldn’t love a book with a protagonist named Elmer Elevator?!?), learns from a cat that there is a baby dragon imprisoned on Wild Island.  Appropriately enough, there are only wild animals on Wild Island, but Elmer Elevator, who longs for his own airplane but will settle for a baby dragon, is not to be deterred.  He packs just the right miscellaneous items in his knapsack that, coupled with his quick thinking and imagination, enable him to foil the animals’ attempts to capture and/or eat him.  I think he might be the first incarnation of MacGyver.  I am eager to make a trip to the library tomorrow and look for the sequels:  Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland

Book Review–Too Many Frogs!

Title:  Too Many Frogs!

Author:  Sandy Asher

Illustrator:  Keith Graves

Publisher:  Philomel

Pages:  [31]

ISBN:  0399239782

This is such a fun book for a read-aloud!  Rabbit enjoys his nice, quiet life:  he cooks his supper, cleans up his mess, and reads himself a story every night.  One night, however, his life is turned upside down by the friendly and eager Froggie who shows up at his door ready to listen to the story.  Night after night, the same thing happens, only each time the mess and disturbance to Rabbit’s formerly placid life intensifies.  Rabbit finally draws the line, only to realize (of course) that he misses Froggie’s company.  The story is repetitive enough to delight preschoolers but interesting enough to delight adults.  Or maybe I enjoyed the story so much because I identify greatly with Rabbit.  Either way, this is a fun easy book that is sure to please!

Week Four–August 25-29, 2008

Boy, is mama still adjusting to being out of the house three times a week!  This was our actual first week of our new full schedule.  We were gone on Monday morning (which stretched into Monday afternoon by the time we met daddy for lunch) and Wednesday morning (which stretched into Wednesday afternoon by the time we went to the library and the park),  and I was gone to work all day today.  What that means is that we didn’t learn anything new at learning time; instead, we focused on putting sounds together to make cvc words.  Lulu is still not quite getting it on her own just yet, but she can quickly identify the words if I sound them out for her.  Surprisingly, Louise even figures our the word first sometimes!  I suspect that when Lulu begins kindergarten next year, Louise will also be a kindergartener!

Week Three–August 18-22


Life has gotten tremendously hectic this past week, hence the late posting of our week-in-review.  In fact, we only did any formal learning time twice this week.  On Monday, we learned the /v/ sound and did our usual activities.  Then, on Tuesday, I had to work all day at a local semiannual children’s consignment sale, so the girls got to spend all day with my parents.  On Wednesday I attended a leadership training session for Community Bible Study, so it wasn’t until Thursday that we could actually pick up with our learning time again.  On Thursday we reviewed all the sounds we’ve learned thus far and even started putting some sounds together to form words.  With a good bit of help, Lulu is able to sound out a few cvc words!  That is extremely gratifying to me as her teacher and mother.  The smile on her little face is priceless!  Then, for a special treat, we read A Baby Sister for Frances and made our own secret hideaway under a quilt suspended across four kitchen chairs.  On Friday my part-time job resumed for the semester, so we once again missed learning time.  Of course, there was the usual copious amount of reading aloud all week, and even the beginning of a brand new chapter book, Mary Poppins.  I missed our learning times, though.


This week has shown me that once we reach the age of formal schooling (say, next year), that our outside commitments are going to have to be drastically curtailed.  This is somewhat difficult for me because my biggest outside commitment, CBS, is one that I feel is so very worthwhile.  I will certainly have to pray about whether or not this should remain a part of our life somehow, even after we begin school in earnest.

Week Two–August 11-15, 2008

I realize that I am going about this is somewhat of a backwards way.  I have no formal plan for the year, no year-at-a-glance, scope and sequence, or even any specific weekly plans.  This is somewhat uncharacteristic for me because I have been known to overplan my life. However, I think there are a couple of reasons for this, and I hope after reading them that this will seem excusable: 
  1. Lulu is only four, so she is not even technically old enough for school.  In my mind, this means that whare we’re doing is just extra, above-and-beyond stuff.  Who needs a plan for that, right?
  2. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of homeschooling so if I kind of sneak in the back door and do it, maybe it will become “what we do” instead of “what we’re going to do.”  Do you follow?

I guess you could say that we’re simply working on pre-reading skills.  Here are the sounds we learned this week:


Tuesday–c (hard c)



Friday–a (short a)

I know that there is some sort of phonemic notation that I’m supposed to be using (and I’ve even had a couple of linguistics courses, ‘though you’d never know it now), but I haven’t looked them up.

We followed essentially the same lesson plan that we followed last week.  I tried to make a big deal out of /a/ (is that the notation?), as per The Ready-to-Read, Read-to-Count Handbook that I’m using as my guide.  For example, instead of making a a sandpaper letter, I made it a felt letter so that it would both look and feel different.  Instead of cutting out pictures of a words from our old magazines, we made an a necklace (another suggestion from the book). 

I would consider this a fun and successful week.  We even had a few really bright spots (that might even be called the much-coveted “aha” moments) :
  • when Lulu was extremely excited about Friday’s learning time because I had really built it up to her that we would be learning something different (the short a sound)
  • when Lulu, after learning /h/, wanted to write “the cat in the hat.”  Of course, we did that.


Try as I might to get her to do something more age-appropriate, Louise insists on doing what big sister does.  Here is her whiteboard work:

A very good week indeed!

Book Review–The Seven Silly Eaters

The Seven Silly Eaters

The Seven Silly Eaters

Title:  The Seven Silly Eaters

Author:  Mary Ann Hoberman

Illustrator:  Marla Frazee

Publisher:  Browndeer Press

Pages:  [37]

ISBN:  0152000968

This is one of the best read-alouds we’ve enjoyed in a while.  Written primarily in rhyming couplets, this is the story of the Peters family and the beleagured Mrs. Peters who has seven of the silliest eaters around.  Each one of her children has only one thing he or she will eat, so poor Mrs. Peters works herself into a tizzy keeping up with their demands.  Of course, the problem is solved in the end, and I must say that it is a solution that most children would enjoy.  As the reader of this read-aloud, I enjoy the rollicking rhyme and the terrific illustrations.  I also identify on a small scale with Mrs. Peters and her never-ending work.  Maybe that’s why I like this book so much!

Book Review–Rufus and Friends: Rhyme Time

Rhyme Time

Rufus and Friends: Rhyme Time

Title:  Rufus and Friends:  Rhyme Time

Author and Illustrator:  Iza Trapani

Publisher:  Charlesbridge

Pages:  35

ISBN:  9781580892070

 Iza Trapani has written and illustrated a delightful book of nursery rhymes in Rufus and Friends: Rhyme Time.  Actually, I should be more precise and say that she, to use the terminology from the title page, has “extended” some “traditional poems” in this book.    The premise of the book is that Rufus and friends, all dogs, are performing a series of short skits in which they act out nursery rhymes.  The illustrations are complete with a play program which serves as the table of contents and a curtained stage on the first and last pages of the book.  Delightfully funny illustrations accompany such rhymes as “Hickety, Pickety,” “Doctor Foster Went to Gloucester,” and “Wee Willie WInkie.”  The author’s note at the end of the book gives insight into the author’s love of nursery rhymes.  My girls, ages four and two, have requested this book numerous times.  So has their mother!  Be forewarned:  this book contains several serious tongue twisters!