Posts Tagged ‘knights’

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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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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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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I recently wrote about Don Quixote for kids and wanted to give an update to another book we found in the library.  Margaret Hodges is a wonderful author of children’s books and most everything I’ve read by her I give high marks.  Our most recent read by her was St. Jerome and the Lion. We also own St. George and the Dragon.  She has a real gift for bringing legends and stories alive for children.  I did a search on other books by her and found that she has an adaptation of Don Quixote called Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

This version is definitely longer than the other I reviewed.  It’s 72 pages, with chapters, so would work better for an older child or as a read aloud.  I can’t comment on the literary quality yet, as I haevn’t gotten around to reading it yet.  But the illustrations are nice and I think I can actually get to the end of this version without being sick to my stomach!

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Don Quixote

Nope, you don’t have it wrong, this IS still a children’s book blog.  I found this book at the library and had to get it out for my knight and armor obsessed son.  Don Quixote and the Windmills by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher.

I recently attempted to read through the real Don Quixote by Cervantes. So I can definitively tell you that this children’s version is surely superior.

This book uses some dialogue from the original, and focuses on one particular chapter in which Don Quixote sees windmills and in his madness thinks them to be giants that he needs to attack. I love the artwork in this book, rather rough looking faces, bold earth colors, and his sidekick Sancho Panza looks exactly like I imagined him to be.

As someone who appreciates the Classical method of education, I look for books such as these.  Even if my children don’t grow up and read the real Don Quixote, they can have a reference point for who he was, and will understand references and the meaning of “quixotic,” or the phrase “tilting at windmills.”  In the grammar stage of their life it’s nice to have simplified versions of the classics so they can refer back to it as they progress in their studies.

And truth be told, if I had known about this book sooner, I just may have stuck with it instead of forging through the daunting original.

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