I wanted to take a moment to highlight a book series that my 5 year old is into every day here. I can’t tell you exactly what his reading level is, as I’ve never done any test to see. But for comparison sake, when he reads to me from the level 3 Faith and Freedom readers, he never stumbles or needs help with words (excepting a few proper names he’s never seen).

Anyway, while he’s a very strong reader, he had it in his head that he would not read anything that resembled a chapter book. With one exception, The Silver Chair from the Narnia Series, which he read cover to cover a few pages a night. I’m not sure how much he was stumbling on the words but it sure seemed that he was getting every bit of it and he persevered of his own volition for many nights before bed. But if I ever tried to get him interested in other chapter books, he had it in his mind that they were too hard and should only be reserved for his older brother. Until I finally convinced him to try one of the Magic Tree House books.

Now he’s hooked. I think he realized, that he could speed through chapter books as easily as picture books and it gave him confidence.

MTH books are simple chapter books, with siblings Jack and Annie as the main characters. Through the tree house they are able to travel through time and witness some important historical events…pirates, moon landing, mummies, knights, etc. Each book tells of a new adventure. They are heavy with dialogue and simple sentence structure. These are perfect for transitioning kids from picture books to chapter books. Also fun for supplementing any history education you are doing.

I should caution that while these are great readers they don’t qualify as stellar read aloud literature in my mind. We listened to one on audio and let’s just say it was not a big hit with any of my kids (and frankly not me either). But they love to read them on their own at this stage.

Each of the MTH books (at least the early ones) also have a corresponding “Research Guide” that gives more background info on the topic being studied.

So if you have an up and coming reader who needs a little push to head towards chapter books, be sure to check out the Magic Tree House series. I also came across the MTH website that looks like it has some fun games and activities for kids as a supplement to the books.

One of the goals I’ve had for my children this year is to increase our visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. While in theory this should be easy, when you toss a very active 2 year old into the mix, it’s a wee bit of a challenge. But I’d like my older child to be able to go for short visits, in hopes to develop that desire and love for our Lord. I’ve recently come across two books that may help us to teach him the importance of adoration and also the connection between what we see and do at Mass and what happens in our home.
The first book is one I came across at our library. It’s an older book, written in the early 50s, so the illustrations, simplicity and innocence presented certainly reflect that. But in the case of this book, it’s a good thing! If Jesus Came to My House is short story, written more in verse about a little boy who imagines what it would be like if…you guessed it…Jesus came to his house. He imagines Jesus as a little boy, like him and has ideas of how and what they would play. Then, very simply the author (Joan Gale Thomas) makes the connection between the Jesus we see in the tabernacle at church and our homes.

“I know the little Jesus
can never call on me
in the way that I’ve imagined
like coming in to tea.

But I can go to His house
and kneel and say a prayer,
and I can sing and worship Him
and talk with Him in there.

And though He may not occupy
my cozy rocking chair,
a lot of other people
would be happy sitting there.

And I can make Him welcome
as He Himself has said,
by doing all I would for Him
for other folk instead. “

Then the story goes on to give ideas that the little boy has of how he can show, in little ways, kindness to others around him. I think it’s a lovely little poem to read to ages 3-6 and have them then come up with ways they can treat people in their homes how they might like to treat Jesus. If you want ways to expand this lesson, there’s a preschool level lapbook for use in conjunction with reading this story.

The second book is a small booklet published by Pauline Books called Come to Jesus! A Kids’ Book for Eucharistic Adoration. This book is definitely for the older kids, strong independent readers. At the same time it could be used for group settings in which children would be at adoration as a group with an adult leader to read parts of it aloud. The book has 3 different sections in which children can have something to read and meditate on during their adoration time. It gives them and understanding of why we go to adoration, prayers to say quietly, and questions to think about in silence. Then there is a Gospel reading with questions and points to ponder in silence.

I hope one of these books might inspire your children!

Looking back in Time

One of my son’s favorite books to page through recently has been A Street Through Time which is a DK book written by Anne Millard and illustrated by Steve Noon. The “A ______ through time” series is an impressive collection of pages that illustrate what a place looked like at different points in history. Part of the appeal of the book for my son is the larger size, so when opened to a particular page, the street view spans both sides of the pages. This particular book starts at the Stone Age Hunters era (about 10,000BC) and goes through to present time. There are explanations of things to look for around the perimeter of the pages, and locations are labeled in the illustrations. An added bonus is that on each page there’s a hidden time traveler that you can look for (reminds me of the Where’s Waldo Books). This book has been very fun to sit and look at with my sons. There is so much detail on each page as you see the cut-away views inside houses and shops. It has sparked some interesting thoughts about what our street looked like throughout history.

Friendship with Jesus

I own several books by Amy Welborn, all prayer books geared toward women. A while back I came across her blog and have been keeping up with it ever since. But recently I was looking through my Amazon wish list and realized that I had put one of her children’s books on there and promptly forgotten about it. Unfortunately I still don’t own it but I wanted to highlight it here anyway, because it looks just so lovely and I want to spread the word! Welborn teamed up with illustrator Ann Kissane Engelhart to capture for children a conversation that Pope Benedict XVI had about the Eucharist. Friendship with Jesus records some of the questions and answers from that conversation with children who had made their first communion. I think this would make a lovely first communion gift or one given to help a child prepare for the special sacrament. Unfortunately, the book is not yet available from Amazon. But you can get it directly from the Catholic Truth Society. If you want to read more about the book you can read Amy Welborn’s blog post about it.

The Mitten

One of my favorite stories to read when I was a child was The Mitten. It’s a Ukrainian folktale and most often, the version I come across is by Jan Brett.

But the version that I’m more familiar with and if only for sentimental reasons, the one I enjoy more is by Alvin Tresselt and illustrated by Yaroslova.

The story is slightly different in each version, but the basic story line is that animals crowd into a lost mitten in the snow one by one for warmth, until the mitten can hold no more. I prefer the illustrations in the Yaroslova version because you can see the mitten expanding at the seams and eventually becoming threadbare. In Brett’s version the mitten remains very much intact, although it is quite a bit larger by the end. Also, the animals are the ones doing the talking in the Tresselt version, instead of the narrator as in Brett’s.

Whichever version you get your hands on, I’m sure your children will love it. It is most appropriate for 3-5 year olds, but my 2 yr old and 7 yr old were happy to snuggle up in front of the Christmas Tree and listen as well.

If you’re looking for ways to make a lesson out of the book, there are many online resources to supplement. Homeschool Share has a Mitten Lapbook for preschoolers and kindergartners and Jan Brett’s website has coloring pages of the animals as well as a mitten you can color and cut out.

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Nicholas. You can read all about him and find ideas of how to celebrate his feast day here, at the St. Nicholas Center. But I wanted to highlight two books that we read each year to celebrate this important saint.

The first is by Ann Tompert, simply called Saint Nicholas. I previously reviewed other books by Ann Tompert (here and here), and I consider her with as much respect as Tomie de Paola with regards to her skill in re-telling legends beautifully for children. Her Saint Nicholas book does not disappoint. She draws on the important stories passed down from Nicholas’ life, giving the gold to 3 poor women for their dowries, saving a ship from a terrible storm, among others. She ends with his incarceration during Diocletian’s Rome and his death as the Bishop of Myra.
I should caution though, that there is one part of the story you may want to skip depending on how sensitive your children are. One story goes that there was an innkeeper who had taken some school boys and held them for ransom. Nicholas was called upon to help find the boys. Here’s the part that gets gruesome

…the innkeeper admitted he had butchered the boys and put their remains into pickling barrels…

The story continues that Nicholas waved his crosier and the boys stepped out alive. But anyway, there it is, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Michael Garland is the illustrator for this book and it done in such a way to look like mosaic tiles placed together to form the images. Very stunning and unique. I’m not so sure that the kids appreciated it, or even noticed, but I think it makes for stunning scenery throughout.

The second book is not so much about Saint Nicholas, but loosely related to his feast day so we read it anyway. It is a story that recounts the origins of the phrase “a baker’s dozen.” The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale tells about a baker in colonial America who learns an important lesson in generosity while making his Nicholas cookies for the feast of St. Nicholas. It’s a fun story. You won’t learn anything about St. Nicholas, but might inspire your children in generosity!

So go practice a random act of generosity and happy feast of St. Nicholas!

Habemus Papam!

At a recent visit to a large Catholic bookstore, I found a real treasure of a book for our home library. I was thinking of giving it to one of them for Easter (our family tradition is to stuff the Easter baskets with books in addition to candy), but I’m not sure I can wait that long for them to have it, so we may just stick it on the shelf. Karen Congeni has written a beautiful, simple children’s book entitled We Have A Pope!.

I’ll give a disclaimer here that for obvious reasons, this is a very Catholic book and explanation of the papacy is faithful to the teachings of the Church. Just want to make that clear! My favorite part of the book is that each page has very bright photographs of either traditional artwork depicting biblical scenes, pictures of Popes in the past, or scenes from the Vatican that we would have seen during the most recent papal election.

So the book begins with a brief explanation of who the pope is, why Jesus made Peter the first pope and how that relates to our current pope. It then moves to explain why the popes change their names, where the pope lives and how the church chooses a pope. In the back there’s a glossary and a list of popes, from Peter to Benedict XVI.

I am so happy to have found this book, it does a great job of explaining the papacy to children and communicating the excitement that was felt in the church when Benedict XVI was chosen. I’m skeptical that you could find this book in your library, but Amazon carries it as well as many Catholic book stores.

For a while now, I’ve been meaning to do a review of these wonderful Smithsonian’s Backyard books that I stumbled across at our library. Time is limited here in chance of books homeschool but another lovely blogger has written about them here so for now I’ll leave you with a link to her review. Enjoy!

Here’s last year’s post for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe coming up on Dec. 12.

This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. In our home, that means it’s time to get out the manger scene. We put everything out, minus the baby Jesus (he’s added after Mass on Christmas Eve). At a local used book sale this year, I picked up book that I hoped would be a nice addition to our Advent and Christmas collection.

Joanna Cole has written a beautiful story explaining how St. Francis started the first creche. His was a live one and done in a time when Christmas wasn’t a big celebration as it is now.

By Christmas Eve, word had spread that something wonderful was going to happen on a wooded hill outside the town, and people came from all around. The light from their torches flickered through the trees as they climbed the hillside paths. Their excited voices echoed through the woods.
When they arrived at the spot Francis had chosen, a shout of joy went up from the crowd. Never had the poor farmers of Greccio imagined that they would look upon the holy scene they had heard about since childhood. There was the infant Jesus, lying in a manger, with Mary and Joseph watching over him, and a donkey and an ox standing near.

Michele Lemieux’s illustrations complete the story and some of the pages remind me of Celtic Illuminations. The story is definitely for ages 4 and up, as there are a couple paragraphs on each page. It would also be appropriate to read around St. Francis’ feast day in October.

%d bloggers like this: