Posts Tagged ‘great illustrations’

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.

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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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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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As promised, here’s my first math book review!

How do you combine teaching math concepts, corny puns, and knightly adventure?  Author Cindy Neushwander (don’t worry, her book is much easier to read than her last name!) has done so quite successfully.  Sir Cumference and the First Round Table:  A Math Adventure is a knightly tale that introduces children to the parts of the circle.  The cast of characters includes Lady Di of Ameter, Sir Cumference, King Arthur, and a carpenter Geo of Metry.

King Arthur is having some problems with his neighbors, the Circumscribers.  So he calls upon his trusted knights.  The problem is King Arthur’s table.  The rectangular table is too long.  Lady Di helps him come up with a square table, and we see the drawings.  But that table has it’s own set of problems.  Lady Di comes up with several solutions, making cuts and changes to the shape of the table, but each shape has it’s own set of problems for the knights.  Finally Lady Di, Sir Cumference and their son, Radius, set out for a ride and spot a tree fallen on its side.  Radius suggests it could be the new table for King Arthur.  Lady Di measures it with her body, from head to toe.  The table works out just perfectly, and they eventually find out that the Circumscribers aren’t planning an attack, they only wanted to measure the area of the kingdom!

What a clever book!  I love how the author used details about each characteristic of the circle and made them traits of the characters.  The illustrations clearly show how the cuts are made to change each shape to the next.  At the end, each character explains his role in the adventure, relating to his name.

It turns out that this publisher(Charlesbridge) has many other Math Adventure stories.  If you need a children’s story about the Pythagorean theoremFibonacci sequence, pi, probability, or measuring angles, Charlesbridge has a book for that and more.  I can’t speak to any of the others in the series, but if they are as creative and fun as this one, I highly recommend them.

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March 17th, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Patrick, patron of Ireland.  As of last year, I only knew of one children’s book to celebrate this saint and the feast day.  This year, we’ve found three more at our library.

The first, and by far my favorite is Tomie dePaola’s Patrick:  Patron Saint of Ireland. I will always fall in love with dePaola’s storytelling abilities and the way his artwork can capture adults and children.

This story starts with Patrick as a young boy being sold into slavery, then tells about the highlights in his life.  It ends with his death and his lasting influence on the country of Ireland, then briefly tells some of the traditional legends told about Saint Patrick.

I like this book because it focuses on the spiritual aspects of Patrick’s work and his travels.  The author doesn’t shy away from telling us that Patrick’s mission was to bring God to every person he encountered.  His mission was to baptize, teach and bring the good news.

He must return to Ireland and take the people the good news of God.

It’s my opinion that you can never go wrong with a saint book by Tomie dePaola!

The second Patrick book is by Ann Tompert, who I only recently discovered and have been impressed by her books.  You can find my review about her other book here.

Saint Patrick is a beautiful, captivating book.  I read this to my 7 and 4 year old boys over snack time, and most of the time I noticed that they weren’t actually eating, because they were so engaged in the story.  Ann Tompert explains in the author’s note that she used Patrick’s own writings in his letter “Confessions” for the basis and inspiration for the story.  She doesn’t include some of the popularly told legends about Patrick, such as the banishing of the snakes or the teaching moment of the shamrock.  But she tells about his life, giving more details about his childhood and life as a slave.  Throughout the story she insert’s quotes from Patrick.

He often went hungry, eating only roots and berries.  Although he suffered many hardships, Patrick never lost hope.  “God kept directing my path,” he said.  “I feared nothing.”

Michael Garland’s illustrations are bold and very crisp and colorful.  Very detailed and beautiful.  This is another well done saint book by Tompert.

The next book we read, is one by Margaret Hodges. You can click on the tag of this post to find other books by her that I’ve have reviewed.   She has a great gift for storytelling and legends.  Saint Patrick and the Peddler is no exception.  However, I caution that by the author’s own admission, she was not so much after getting to the truth of the legend.  Rather, she blended several legends in different areas of Ireland and came up with this story.  Nonetheless, if you’re not after the cold hard facts, which likely wouldn’t be your purpose in reading a St. Patrick book to your kids anyway, this makes for a great story.

Hodges tells of a poor but generous peddler who lived around the time of the potato famine.  He is visited by St. Patrick through his dreams who tells him to go all the way to a bridge in Dublin for some good news.  When he gets there, it’s still not clear to him why he’s there, but he finds out when he returns home.  It’s a lovely story to illustrate how God’s directions sometimes don’t make sense to us but become perfectly clear and utterly perfect if we allow ourselves to follow them.  Hodges has some great lines in here that just make you feel like someone is sitting with you telling the story.

On and on he went, mile after mile, farther than he had ever gone in his life, and then farther.  Don not ask me how he did it, but at long last he came to Dublin and saw the River Liffey, its dark shining water flowing over golden sand.

The other gem of this book is the illustrations, which are paintings by Paul Brett Johnson.  There are two page spreads that are captivating.  From the river scene with the stone bridge, to the town scene with the cobblestone road and carriages, he’s very talented.

This one will definitely be on our list of books to buy for our own home library.

The last book we read is definitely my least favorite, but an ok story overall.  Sheila MacGill-Callahan has written a Patrick book which is based on the legend of Patrick banishing all the snakes from Ireland.  The Last Snake in Ireland:  A Story about St. Patrick is a lighthearted story, obviously not meant to be an inspiring story.

It portrays Patrick as more of a revengeful, prideful bafoon than a spiritual bishop who just wanted to spread God’s love.

The Patrick in this story is irritated by the one last snake that refuses to leave, so he comes up with an idea that is sure to trick the snake.  But the idea backfires many times over.  Finally Patrick thinks he has been successful, he waits many years and checks to see how the snake is getting along in the Loch Ness.  He finds that the snake has grown to an enormous size and is now called the Loch Ness Monster.  It’s an interesting melding of legends but not a particularly effective way to learn more about or be inspired by the faith of a saint.

I hope from these books, you can find something to read to observe St. Patrick’s day this week.  If you have a favorite Patrick book not mentioned here, I’d love to hear about it!

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Over the past few years we’ve given this book as a gift to several of our friends children for baptisms, birthdays, etc.  I’ve always had it on our list of ones to buy for our own home library but never have, until our own children were lucky enough to receive it for Christmas from a family member!

Diana M. Amadeo has compiled a lovely book about saints and blesseds of the Americas.  There are some wonderful stories of missionary saints in the Americas that often get overlooked in saint compilations.  Holy Friends:  Thirty Saints and Blesseds of the Americas is well written, and a joy to page through.  There are some well known saints in there, such as Katherine Drexel and John Neumann, but there are also lesser known ones (well, to me they are lesser known), such as Saint Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga.  The saints are arranged by country, alphabetically.  Each one has a full page color drawing of them doing their work.  The drawings are very realistic, detailed and captivating.

The details that I appreciate about this book are the flags that show each country that the saint did his or her work.  At the end of each write up about the person, the date of their feast day is given, and there is a short prayer at the end of each one as well.

This book would be a great addition to any history study, especially if using a secular text.  These early missionaries had a huge influence on the beginnings of the Americas and are often overlooked in history texts.  This book also gives the opportunity for geography study along with the saint study.

My only complaint about the book (and it’s a very small one) is that there is no separate listing of the feast days.  In our family, we try to read about the saint on his or her feast day.  It would be helpful to have a list in the back of the book that arranged them by month, rather than having to look at the last page of each write up to find the date.

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I previously reviewed a book about the legend of the candy cane. The gist of it is that book had a good idea but the storytelling was lacking.  Well, I found a better option for those wanting to learn about the legend of the candy cane.  This one is creative, weaves a story around one candymaker who developed the candy as a way to teach his granddaughter and other children about the true meaning of Christmas.

David and Helen Haidle have a beautiful story called The Candymaker’s Gift. 

The book tells about the candymaker’s desire to teach the children in his life about Jesus, the real reason for celebrating Christmas.  He creates a new candy, and each step of the process reminds him of some characteristic of Jesus.  Then his granddaughter, Katie, has the idea to add the red stripes to make it pretty, but the candymaker says it reminds him of Jesus’ suffering.

In my opinion, the book goes on too long, with the two characters talking about how they helped each other, something about the flow of the story was off.  But overall, it was a great story and lovely illustrations.

The book also includes ideas of how to incorporate the candy cane theme into Christmas celebrations and a summary of the meaning of the candy cane with relevant scriptures to read.

My kids enjoyed listening to this one with a cup of hot chocolate and candy canes!

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We watched the season’s obligatory It’s a Wonderful Life on tv the other night.  At the friends’ every mention of “hee-haw” I was reminded that I had gotten a Christmas book out of the library and hadn’t yet read it to the kids.  We remedied that yesterday and even made a school lesson out of it.

St. Francis and the Christmas Donkey is by Robert Byrd. The story tells of St. Francis walking in the woods when he started a conversation with a very grumpy donkey who was tired of being pushed around by the other animals.  St. Francis then tells donkey the story of how he became a beast of burden and ultimately how that prepared him for his most special job of carrying Mary and her unborn baby Jesus.

Overall we all enjoyed this story.  It reads wonderfully, smoothly and tells the story simply yet dramatically.  It reminds me a little bit of a gentler, better version of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, because it talks about how the donkey got his long floppy ears and scraggly tail.  It’s a longer story, better for 4 and up, most likely.  The illustrations are lovely and vibrant.

The story talks about the story of Creation, but takes great liberty in recounting the events, so that may be a concern to some people.  But it is in typical legend form and reads as such, not meant to be taken as a literal account of the creation of the world.

We used this book as our daily advent reading, then transitioned to a science lesson about donkeys and their characteristics, and how they have been used in different cultures.  This could also be a great book to read for St. Francis’ feast day.

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Last night we read another of Margaret Hodges great legend books.  Silent Night:  The Song and its Story is about how the much-loved Christmas carol was written and how its popularity spread.

We read about a little church in Austria whose organ bellows breaks just before Christmas Eve Mass.  The priest sets about writing a homily and instead comes up with the words to the carol.  The church musician sets them to music and before the Mass starts they sing it together with a simple guitar accompaniment.

The story goes on to tell how the song was popularized by a family of singers later on, but no one knew the source, until a connection with the musician was later discovered and the mystery solved.  The song was eventually taken to America and translated into English.

Then Hodges goes on to give a few examples of how the song was used amidst war time to give snippets of peace to soldiers.

I have no proof for the authenticity of this story or the events Hodges tells about in war time.  But this isn’t the only source I’ve heard some of those stories, so there is probably some basis of truth in them.  The Classical Kids Christmas cd also recalls similar events.

Silent Night is not a short story as far as children’s books go.  It’s fairly long and some pages are only text.  It is definitely a good read aloud for older children.  My 6 yo was interested in it but it was a bit drawn out for the 4 yo.

Overall it’s another top notch book done by Hodges.

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