Posts Tagged ‘birds’

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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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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There aren’t many books about St. Joseph to read in honor of his feast day today (March 19).  But from the Catholic Mosaic booklist, I found one that seems appropriate for the day.  It isn’t specifically about St. Joseph, but is a good read nonetheless.

Author Leo Politi earned a Caldecott Medal for his book entitled Song of the Swallows. 

The story tells of Juan, a young boy who lives near the mission church in Capistrano, founded by Junipero Serra (a Franciscan brother) in California.  Juan and his friend Julian, a gardener at the Mission, fall in love with the swallows that come back to the Mission every year on the feast of St. Joseph.  Every fall the swallows leave for warmer weather and come back in the spring, on St. Joseph’s day.  Juan loves the swallows and treats them as friends.  After they leave, Juan works very hard to create a garden space for them at his home.  The next spring when the swallows return, again on St. Joseph’s day, sure enough they find a new home in his garden.

This story is definitely lovely, the illustrations simple and yet vibrant.  I love that every so often there is a page without any text, just allowing the readers to sit and gaze upon the sprawling Mission, as if it was a bird’s eye view.  The plot is not exciting or hang on the edge of your seat kind of story.  There isn’t a big struggle that gets resolved.  But there is something endearing about it, perhaps it’s the simple, relaxed flow of the story.  I definitely hope to make this a permanent fixture in our home library.

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We are just 2 weeks from Thanksgiving.  I’ll be posting some more book suggestions for this holiday in the coming days.  I’ll start with one of my favorites, Eve Bunting’s A Turkey for Thanksgiving.

I can’t recall any Eve Bunting story that I didn’t enjoy.  She has many great ones that I hope to review now and then.

A Turkey for Thanksgiving is one of those books, though, that may have to be explained to the kids.  I’m fairly certain the humor and the irony is lost on younger children. But it’s a short, fun read.

In this story, Mr. and Mrs. Moose are planning Thanksgiving dinner for their other animal friends.  Mrs. Moose says she wished they could have a turkey for Thanksgiving.  Mr. Moose sets out to find turkey, and gathers his friends to help him.  Turkey (who is looking more fat than normal to his friends)  is hiding and thinks his fate is sealed.  Mr. Moose is so happy to march turkey back home and fulfill his wife’s wish.  She shows turkey to his spot of honor at the table…a chair… and tells him she hopes he finds the food to his liking.  All the animals are happy to have a turkey for Thanksgiving!

You can certainly find this book in your library, although it may be hard to get it out this time of year.  But you can find very cheap copies on Amazon as well.

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In our homeschool we are in the midst of a unit on Mozart.  We have found some great picture books, read alouds, and easy reader books to use for this study.  I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight just one.  In the previous composer study I highlighted a book about Haydn that was based on a true story from his life.  In this case, Mozart finds a Melody by Stephen Costanza is rather fantastical but fun to imagine nonetheless. 


In this story, Mozart is on a time crunch to come up with a new symphony and is drawing a blank.  He gets some help from his pet bird who escapes the cage and flies throughout the city.  Then the sounds of the city become further inspiration for his symphony.  Opening night comes, and he finds great success with his new piano concerto.


There are great children’s books to introduce kids to Mozart and his music, and likely you can find them in your library.  For a more complete list, check out “Mozart” in My Google Library.

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Mr. Popper’s Penguin’s was one of those books I had heard the title of many times in my life but somehow escaped actually reading it.  Richard and Florence Atwater are the author’s of this week’s Monday Read Aloud focus. 


I finally read this book to my 4 and 6 year old boys over the course of about a week.  It is a quick read, with chapters lasting only a few pages.  The antics of the penguin’s (one named Captain Cook being a main character) kept my boys interested page after page.  There are also simple line drawings that add interest for a younger listener.

What we liked about this one was the humor, imagining what it would be like to live with a penguin in the house, and all the adjustments that the family willingly made to accomodate having the creatures around.  We learned a little about penguin behavior and enjoyed the dedication and patience of Mr. Popper.  My son’s also identified with Mr. Popper’s dreams of adventure and travel.

This would be a perfect winter time read aloud.  I could also be used as fun kick-off to a study about penguins or the letter “P” for younger children.  They will get plenty of practice just repeating the title.  If you have read this one to your kids (or yourself)  leave me a comment and let us know what they thought of it.

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