Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

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.

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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!

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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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Do you have a knight in your house?

Sometimes I think I do.

Many the day when my 7 year old son walks around with cardboard creations all over him as chain mail.  He bought a GI Joe helmet at a yard sale with his own money so he could wear it backwards and pretend it’s a knight’s helmet.  He uses plastic storage bins as shields and calls his brothers “Sir Gallonhead.”

So one book that my son regularly checks out of the library (and by regularly I mean it’s quite possible that no one else in the county has ever checked it out) is a very colorful and fun tale of Sir James.  Patrick O’Brien has written a wonderful book about knighthood from a child’s perspective called The Making of a Knight.

The story tells of James who is 7 and sent to a castle to become a page.  This was the first step in eventually becoming a knight.  Through James’ experiences in the castle, the reader learns all about the years of training the knights receive.  We learn about the weapons and armor used, how he learns to hunt, and the steps he goes through to prove himself worthy of knighthood.

O’Brien is the illustrator as well, and the pictures are done in oil on canvas.  He does a great job of capturing the earthy castle scenes as well as the bright colors of the tournaments.

Summer could be a great time for a boy to do fun reading about knights and castles.  I hope to post some other ideas soon for books in that category.

Also, if you are looking for a more in depth project, check out homeschool share’s knight lapbook (and the books to supplement).

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My almost 7 year old son has been living on his own on the side of a mountain for the past couple weeks.  At least he does every afternoon during his free reading time when he cracks open Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain. This work of fiction, a chapter book, and Newberry Honor Book is rather a stereotypical innocent boy book.

Sam Gribley is a young boy who decides to run away and live on his own, on the property he had heard about from his father.  He lives in NY city and heads upstate with a penknife, a ball of cord, an ax, $40, some flint and steel.  The novel tells of all his adventures, living in a tree on the side of a mountain.  Teaching himself how to survive with his own intelligence, bravery and sheer determination, even through the coldest winter and blizzards.  I haven’t read the book, myself, but have listened to about half of it on audio.  It reads a bit like journal entries from Sam, sometimes detailing his thought process about trying to find a solution to a particular problem, sometimes his emotions about living on his own, away from his family. I found myself quite taken in by Sam’s story and very curious to find how he could survive on so little.  As the author says in the preface, in most of us there’s a desire to run away at some point and see if we can make it on our own.  In this story, Sam does just that.  For the rest of us, it’s fun just to run away in a book for a while.

I would say the typical age range for reading the book is 9 to 12.  My 7 year old is an advanced reader and loves the idea of surviving in the wilderness, so he’s loving it.  But even my 4 year old enjoyed the audio version in the car.

My son is looking forward to the other 2 books in the series.  In addition, there’s a movie of the same title, although with the way movies made from books go, I’m not sure if we’ll bother with that.  The book has been too much fun.

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Don’t worry I’m not getting too sophisticated yet…I’m just referring to our current read-aloud, Robert McCloskey’s Homer Price. I loved McCloskey’s One Morning in Maine and Blueberries for Sal when I was younger, so I was happy to learn as an adult that he had written longer chapter books.

Part of the charm of Homer Price is the fact that it is written in a time and about a time so far removed from my children.  The book was first published in 1943.  There are certainly cars in the book, but at the same time, being set in a small town, there are still times when the characters use horse and wagon to get around.  Homer is a typical young boy in small town America during that time.  He’s free to roam around town getting into all sorts of adventures.  He puts together radios in his bedroom and is fascinated by comic book heroes and gadgets.

My 6 year old is thoroughly enjoying this book.  Homer is certainly a fun adventurous character who always has interesting experiences going on.  What I like about the book is that it isn’t necessarily one that you have to read cover to cover.  Each chapter is a new adventure and not really connected to the other.  There are also the typical McClosky pencil illustrations throughout which truly capture the nostalgic feel of the book.

While we are reading this aloud, my 6yo is also reading it independently.  I have also seen it in audio format which I’m sure would be fun to listen to in the car.

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Ruth Stiles Gannett wrote a trilogy called Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon.  They feature a 9 year old boy, named Elmer Elevator who’s adventure begins with a rescue mission to find a baby dragon held captive by wild animals on a faraway island.  

This is a great read-aloud for many ages.  My 6 and 4 yo sons are enjoying Elmer’s adventures.  In the first book, My Father’s dragon, Elmer uses his smarts and and his knapsack full of supplies to keep each set of wild animals that he meets from devouring him.  He figures out their need and appeases them to escape unharmed.  I love the adventure aspect to this story, and the parts that are a little bit scary.  But the book clearly shows how one can escape danger by being calm and quick witted.  There are black and white drawings every other page or so, which can keep the littler ones interested in the story. The chapters are only about 4-5 pages long and it’s a short series overall.  If you have little ones that get bored with the same story, this is a great option.

Our family is now well into the 2nd book, Elmer and the Dragon, we’ve been listening to it on tape in the car.  So far, in this book, we are enjoying the tales of Elmer and his dragon meeting up with the canaries of a random island who are dying of curiosity.  Then the remaining canaries are getting sick with curiosity over what the others were curious about!

Most likely you can find this series in your library, either in book or audio format.  Either way, I’m sure your family will enjoy Elmer.

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