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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

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.

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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!

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I hope to do more blog entries that are not about our country study, but for now it seems to be when I have the time we are in the midst of geography study and it’s fresh on my mind.  You can read my previous geography entries here for Argentina and here for the spine we are using.

So if you’re looking to get a little introduction to Brazil, here are some books you might want to check out.  Very likely that you’re library has them, so be sure to check there first.  I always have to put a plug for our great libraries.  They get so little funding but provide so much to the community!

One thing about Brazil is that it provides a good jumping off point if you want to learn about rain forests.  We kept it mostly focused on the country for now but I’m sure we’ll make our way back to a rain forest study sometime.

Keeping in mind that there are plenty of educational guides simply about Brazil aimed at older children, I was searching for books that would be for 3rd grade and under, as read-alouds.

Count Your Way Through Brazil written by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson is a fun book that gives an introduction to 10 significant characteristics of Brazil.  On each page, it introduces the Portuguese number and explains the topic.  Some of the explanations are rather lengthy, so for a few of them I just picked out the main points to highlight with my kids.  They had fun trying to pronounce the numbers in Portuguese (there’s a pronunciation guide for each one).  The book covers the beginnings of Brazil, products that come from Brazil, foods, national pastimes, music, animals, ethnic groups, and more.

The next one is a kind of an alphabet book, and reminded me of Jerry Pallotta’s alphabet booksB is for Brazil by Maria de Fatima Campos.  This book is similar to the one above, but instead of using numbers it uses letters to teach us 26 things about Brazil.  For instance, R is for rubber which is made from the liquid in the rubber tree and is an export of Brazil.  C is for Carnival, the huge celebration before the start of Lent.  The pictures throughout are actual photographs, which I appreciate for a book about a specific country.

Yet another alphabet type book, A to Z Brazil by Justine and Ron Fontes uses the alphabet to give us 26 categories of information.  F is for food, then the page has the description of a popular Brazilian food.  N is for Nation which includes a full page map showing where Brazil is located in South America, and a large picture of the Brazilian flag.  This book is a good intermediate country book when children are too young to glean much from a long country guide.  Again, the pictures are actual photographs, so it’s nice just to page through it with your child, even if you don’t read every page.

The next three books are literature suggestions that go with Brazil.  Not specifically giving facts about the country but good stories nonetheless.

First is a trickster tale from Brazil called The Dancing Turtle, by Pleasant DeSpain.  A turtle is captured by a native Brazilian family and the father puts him in a cage to be cooked in soup the next day.  His children are asked to watch over him.  Turtle tricks the kids into setting him free.  My 5 year old especially enjoyed this story and loved to imagine this turtle dancing his way out of danger.

The Sea Serpent’s Daughter tells a Brazilian legend about how day and night came to be created.  In this creation story the sea serpents daughter arrives on land, to a village and realizes that so much day-light is too much for her.  So the villagers head out to collect some darkness from the depths of the sea, and so it continues until there is finally a balance of daylight and darkness.

The last literature selection is more specficially about the Amazon Rain Forest.  The Great Kapok Tree tells about a man who begins to cut down a tree in the rainforest.  He ends up falling asleep at the base of the Kapok tree and begins to dream.  In his dream, animals and people of the rain forest visit him and tell him the importance of this tree to their lives.  When he awakes, will he continue to cut down the tree or will he be changed?  I’ll let you and your kids find out!

Finally, if you’re looking for a saint to study with Brazil, check out a previous post of mine, in the Holy Friends book you can find the story of St. Pauline of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus, Brazil’s first saint.

So there it is, Brazil by books!  Please leave a comment if you have other literature suggestions for Brazil.

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I wish I could remember how I came across this book. It must have been on some world geography book list I found recently while making my lesson plans for our homeschool. At any rate, I’m glad I found it!

The Giraffe That Walked to Paris is a children’s book based on true events from early 19th century France.  It’s written by Nancy Milton and illustrated by Roger Roth.  The story goes that the pasha of Egypt wanted to give a present to King Charles X of France, to improve relations between the two countries after disagreements about a spat between Turkey and Greece.  It was suggested to the pasha to give the king a giraffe.

So the giraffe made the journey across the Mediterranean Sea to the coast of France and landed in Marseilles.  Since they wanted to keep the giraffe in a warmer climate for the winter, she stayed there until spring.  The only way they could figure to have the giraffe make the journey north to Paris to be presented to the king was to have her walk with an entourage of cows, and caretakers.

She finally made it to Paris and in an elaborate ceremony was presented to the king.  Then she lived out her days at the Paris zoo.

This book is a fun story, if not a good way to be introduced to the historical facts the story is based upon.  It was interesting for my kids to imagine seeing a giraffe the first time, if never even been introduced to a picture of one, for that is what it was like for the people of France to see the giraffe walk from town to town.

The Giraffe That Walked to Paris is appropriate for Kindergarten and up.  It’s a longer picture book, with several paragraphs on each page, so it would also be appropriate for independent reading for older children.

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With autumn right around the corner, I thought I’d post a book to help you and your children prepare and know what to look for.  Count Down to Fall is a lovely book about all the changes we start to see when autumn comes.  Written by Fran Hawk and illustrated by Sherry Neidigh.  Each 2 page spread has a short 4 line countdown from 10 to 1 about another change to observe in nature when fall comes.  The illustrations are the real beauty in this book, each page is framed with colorful leaves, tree bark, rocks, and branches.  The illustrator captures the detail of fallen bright leaves, pine cones and acorns.

This book would be good for a wide range of ages.  Preschoolers will enjoy counting the items on each page, finding hidden animals, butterflies.  Older children can challenge themselves with identifying the types of trees, by the bark or leaves.

The writing is very poetic, simple 4 lines to each page,

“Four craggy oak leaves,

yellow, gold, and brown,

tumble with the acorns

that wear rough, shaggy crowns.”

Check out Count Down to Fall to start preparing for your autumn nature studies.

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Jim Arnosky is a well loved author in our house.  Sadly we don’t own any books by him, but I’m always on the look-out at book sales for his books.  He is author and illustrator of more than 100 children’s books with a focus on nature and wildlife.  They are great books for summer time.  Arnosky’s illustrations are always quite different, sometimes just pencil drawings and sometimes more elaborate.  There’s an “All About….” series, by Scholastic that Arnosky writes to focus on one particular species.  “All About Lizards” is pictured below so you can get an idea.  There are many others, owls, turtles, turkeys.

There are a few for the younger kids, I See Animals Hiding which is a smaller size and simpler text simply to encourage looking in nature to find animals.

Then there’s the Crinkleroot series which is older but also very good.  One we enjoy for summer is Crinkleroot’s 25 Birds Every Child Should Know.  Each page has a detailed and accurate drawing of a common bird, with just the name in big bold letters.  Not exactly a story, but great for just teaching basic recognition to younger children.  So it just says “DUCK” and “CARDINAL” nothing more specific.  But it’s a great introduction.  

There are so many Arnosky books that we haven’t read yet.  This week we checked out Crocodile Safari from the library, and I was surprised that it comes with a DVD.  The book is filled with stunning illustrations and great facts about crocodiles told as if we are on a safari with the author.

I hope you can find an Arnosky book soon, and if you do, pop back to let me know how you liked it!

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My just-turned-5-year-old read a book to me today.  He’s been reading on his own for a while, but mostly easy reader type books.  Today he read a book to me that no one has read to him in a long time, I was shocked at how much he has improved!  At the same time I was reminded how much I enjoy the book, Edward the Emu.  This is a short picture book for ages 3-6 by Sheena Knowles and illustrated by Rod Clement.  Edward the Emu is about, yep, you guessed it, Edward the emu.  Edward lives at the zoo and decides one day that he doesn’t like being an emu.  He thought it was boring.  So one night he slips out of his cage and tries to pass himself off as a seal.  This works well until a zoo-goer comments how the seals are not his favorite animal to see.  Then Edward is off each night, slipping out of his cage trying out life as a different animal.  Each day  he hears that such and such animal is better.  So the next day he tries something new.   At the end it turns out that being an emu is likely the best and it turns out that’s where he belongs.

I know this story line is not a new concept, there are many books for children in which a character decides he doesn’t like him/herself and decides to change himself in a silly way.  In the end, the character realizes that it’s ok to just be who he is and enjoy his life. So the story line has been done before, and likely it will be done again .

But it’s a story that kids don’t get tired of hearing.  It’s good for them to know that sometimes we all wish we could have the characteristics of someone else.  But at the end of the day, we are unique and loved and we need to be happy with who we are.

Knowles does a great job of simply telling the story in a fun way.  Each page has about four lines and the story is written more like a poem.  There are many rhyming words, but it doesn’t feel too sing-song.

Rod Clement’s illustrations are great.  They are pencil drawings and as you can see from the cover, they only show the animals.  There is very little setting or background in the pictures.  Just a white page with the animals on them.  It’s a neat style because it helps the kids to focus on the subtle changes that Edward is making to try to fit in with the animal he’s bunking with at the time.

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For my own fun reading, I recently finished Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures. I won’t go into details about the book here since it is not a children’s book.  It’s a novel, however, many of the characters were real people and it tells about many real things they contributed to society.

While searching for more information on the setting of that novel, I came across a children’s book in our library based on one of the main characters in Remarkable Creatures…Mary Anning.  Mary Anning did in fact hunt for fossils on the shores of Lyme Regis, England.  Her family sold them in a shop for tourists.  Mary Anning was a young girl who, through her daily hunts on the beach ended up finding some remarkable fossils.  It was highly unusual for women to be interested in this pastime but Mary spent her life finding fossils.  She found the first plesiosaur in England.

Jeannine Atkins has written a beautiful story about young Mary Anning, called Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon. It’s an inspiring story of Mary and her dedication to finding fossils despite the townspeople’s objections.  With the encouragement of her mother and her own desire to carry on something her deceased father had started, she keeps looking and finally finds an enormous ichthyosaur.

Michael Dooling is the illustrator and his paintings are truly incredible in this book.  I love the pages of gray water and sand mixing, giving us a taste for the cold rainy winters that Mary had to endure to keep up her task of fossil hunting.

As it turns out there are several other children’s stories based on Mary Anning.  I hope to get some from our library to review them.  Atkins, though, has done a wonderful job capturing who Ms. Anning must have been and paying tribute to her work for all time.

This would be a great story to read especially if you have a child who is into fossils.  It would also be a nice supplement to various history or science units on fossils or learning about how people dealt with the discovery of extinct animals and reconciled that with their faith.

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There are so many great books on dragons and knights and I wish I had the time to post them here.  My son goes through these books faster than I can get to reading them myself.  But I know it will be an ongoing theme for me to review here.  We usually manage to have at least one of this kind of book in our library basket.

The most recent one that we’ve read is an abriged version of a story by Kenneth Grahame.  He is the author of The Wind in the Willows which was our family read-aloud at the beginning of the summer.  Inga Moore abridged and illustrated The Reluctant Dragon and as a result we are left with a great picture book.  This is a longer story, each page has several longer paragraphs, so it would be probably for kindergarten ages or up as a read-aloud. 

The story is about a little boy who befriends a kindhearted, poetry loving dragon and helps to keep peace in his village.  The villagers find out there is a dragon about and decide that he must be a vicious creature.  They create all kinds of tales about the dragon’s horrible deeds and employ the help of St. George to deliver them from this wicked creature.  The shepherd boy meanwhile loves spending time with the dragon, discussing poetry and stories and is frightened for the dragon’s life.  He goes to St. George to help him understand the mix-up with the villagers.  Together, with the dragon they hatch a plan to give the villagers their battle between knight and dragon, at the same time allowing the dragon to live in peace.

I won’t spoil it for you, though.  You’ll have to read it to your kids to find out the rest!

The illustrations are colorful drawings, sometimes two page spreads and while I’ve never been to the Downs where it takes place, the drawings make me want to visit!  The dragon’s face shows his kindhearted personality and yet, gives you a sense that he could look fierce if he needed to.

My only minor quip about this book is that St. George is called “St. George” in the story.  Rather odd, and maybe it’s part of the humor to be addressing someone as “Saint” before they’re dead.

Although this isn’t directly about St. George it would be a fun read in April for that feast day as well.

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July 20th marks the anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon.  We found a wonderful book to read to commemorate the day and show our little ones a bit about the momentous day.  Robert Burleigh has written many children’s books, although I hadn’t heard of him before.  It seems most of his books are educational in nature, about historical events or figures. 

One Giant Leap is a picture book for early elementary aged children.  Paintings are by Mike Wimmer and offer a stunning view into what little kids dream about being able to see.  The paintings are very detailed.  I love how many images show the earth off in the distance the way the astronauts would have seen it.  The story is simple but gives the reader a taste for how the men were feeling at the time, and knew what they were doing was big, momentous and had far reaching implications.

My boys loved this book.  The 7 year old was able to read it on his own, and the almost 5 yr old loved listening and finding the earth on each page.  We have also visited the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. and have seen what the astronauts rode in, so they could connect the pictures to something they had seen in real life.

I highly recommend One Giant Leap for your dreaming astronauts, or for learning about a momentous occasion.

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