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Noah on the Brain

I have a 2 year old.  Which means I am often called upon to read books over and over and over and over and…you get the idea.  It means that we go through waves of obsessions with books then suddenly, they will be over and we’re on to something else.  For instance, today I found myself making up a new song, to the words of Marvin K. Mooney Will you Please Go Now? And the best part was that my 2 year old was no where around, he was in fact napping.  Which proves to you that I’ve been reading that book over and over and over…

So I’m not too fond of my 2 year old’s current book obsession.  However, there’s one book that he has consistently enjoyed since about 8 months, asking for it a few times a week.  It’s a board book and I haven’t reviewed a board book in a while, so I thought it was time.

No, No Noah! is a fun board book about a monkey who is very reluctant to join Noah and the other animals on the ark.  He is worried that there won’t be trees to swing from and that he has to leave behind his home.  He finally jumps aboard and finds that life is ok, and eventually God puts an end to the flood.

The story is written as a poem, filled with rhyming words and a good flow to the phrases.  While it’s a toddler book, I found myself often being thankful for the time to sit and read this to my son as it was a good reminder to me.  Noah says,

“Monkey, you must trust the Lord.”

And the message at the end…

When your day brings something new,
Think of Noah’s floating zoo.
Pray like Monkey swinging low,
God stays with you as you go!”

Author: Dandi Daley Mackall

My kids and I have been spending a week delving into the early years of the church and how Jesus’ message spread from the disciples out into the world.  We are in between our history books, so I thought it would be a good time to take a break to really focus on the early church.  For our read aloud this week, I chose a book by Mary Fabyan Windeatt. She is the author of countless children’s book and coloring books about saints, in the series called Stories of the Saints for Young People ages 10 to 100.  For this week, we are reading St. Paul the Apostle:  The Story of the Apostle to the Gentiles. These are chapter books that are definitely for older children or for a family read aloud.  Of the chapter books I’ve read to the kids, this one is likely one of the more difficult ones.  The vocabulary and sentence structure is definitely more advanced than most of the books we’ve read with the kids.  However, we are all enjoying it very much.  We stop to talk about things along the way of course and it helps that the subject matter is somewhat familiar to them and they already knew a bit about St. Paul from previous Bible readings.  The story begins with Paul’s (rather Saul at that time) conversion story and ends with his death.

As we are reading through this, we are making a map of each missionary journey, using this book as a guide.  It’s a Reader’s Digest book and serves as a good resource for me to read as I’m reading along with the kids.  There are a lot of pictures and photographs that illustrate places that Paul stopped at along the way.

If you need a coloring page of St. Paul, you can check out Charlotte’s list, just scroll down, they are listed alphabetically.  My kids always listen much better to stories when they have something to color or draw while listening!

On to Brazil

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.

The first stop in our trip around the world, is Argentina.  We are not doing an in depth study, as my children are still young.  My goal is just to give them an idea of how people live around the world, show them pictures of places in other countries and improve their geography skills.  So I put together a book list for our reading about Argentina this week.  I’m sure there are others, but for now this is what I could glean from the library at short notice!  There are also plenty of country guides for older children doing more in depth study, but the ones I am highlighting are for younger children.

The first book, I don’t have a picture of, but it is Countries of the World: Argentina by Nicole Frank.  This one is more text-bookish, and I wouldn’t suggest reading it aloud to your children unless they are having a hard time sleeping!  But it’s a great starting place for pictures, just to page through and give kids some good images from the country.  It’s going to have a good overview of climate, geography, government, etc.

The next book, I have not yet read, but it will be on my 7 yo’s reading list.  It’s a chapter book, called Chucaro:  Wild Pony of the Pampa and is written by Francis Kalnay.  It’s also a Newbury Honor book.  The story is about a boy who is determined to own a pony from the pampa, grasslands in Argentina.

The next story, which we have read is Gauchada by C. Drew Lamm. It is about the Argentinian expression, “to make a gauchada” which means “to do something kind, something with love, without expecting anything in return.” This is a simple picture book with bold illustrations about a necklace that is carved by a cowboy, or gaucho and is given to many people along the way. The story also uses other words unique to Argentina that are sprinkled throughout the story, and if you don’t know what they mean there’s explanations at the beginning of the story.

So there are a few books to get your started with your Argentina study. If you would like to do a full study, Homeschool Creations has some lesson plans and printables to get you started.

The Joy of Loving

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, of course!  Or as most of the world knows her, Mother Teresa.  Just last week, was her birthday and she would have been 100 years old.  September 5, is her feast day, the anniversary of her death in 1997.  It’s hard to imagine that my children are living in a world without her in it, but of course now we have a saint in heaven, doing heaven’s work.

I have three books for you to check out to observe her feast day, or for any other time you want your children to learn about this remarkable woman.

First, Mother Teresa by Demi is a beautiful biography of the lovely saint.  Each page features stunning artwork about her life, serving the poor in Calcutta, and telling about the important parts of her life.  The book starts with her childhood and ends with her beatification.  In my opinion, though the real benefit to most of Demi’s books is the artwork.  Once you see one of these books, you will always recognize the style.

The second book is more story like, and is a more exciting read.  It’s in the LifeTimes series, by Stewart Ross, called The Story of Mother Teresa.  This is a more advanced reading level, probably about 3rd grade but would be fine as a read aloud.

The final book has a different focus to it, as it is not so much biographical. 

Stories Told by Mother Teresa is a compilation of stories that have important lessons of love from Mother Teresa.  What did she tell her sisters about charity, what stories did she use to illustrate her lessons?  Each 2 page spread of this book has one story, and how she truly was a “professor of love.”  It is compiled by Edward Le Joly and Jaya Chaliha.

I hope you can find your own way to celebrate the life of a great woman, and that these books will give you and your children a feel for the holiness of Mother Teresa.  Please let me know if there’s a book out there about Mother Teresa for kids that I don’t have on the list!

Update:  If you need a craft project or coloring page to go with your reading, you can find one at Paper Dali.

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.

Don’t know?   Then you need to read Scranimals. Jack Prelutsky has a fun book of poetry called Scranimals that answers such questions.  A parrot plus otter is a Parrotter, of course. From the book…

The Parrotters lie on their backs in the sea,
calling to cormorants,
yapping at auks,
they cannot stop prattling,
though most would agree
that no one pays heed
when a parrotter talks.

This is a book just for fun, and great to get the imagination going in kids. Spinach plus chicken? Spinachickens, of course!

Here comes Autumn

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.

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!

Be Who You Are

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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