Monday, 1 December 2014

Beautiful Books Have the Ability to Evoke Treasured Memories!

As the peaceful season is enveloping us once again in a foreign country, this is what we miss at Christmas, so beautifully evoked by this lovely picture book!

"Relatives laden with babies and bundles crowd into the tiny house until it is swollen with family.
Kissing and hugging make the rounds; no one escapes. Children are measured, pictures admired, and treasured stories retold again and again. (...) From stove, icebox, and pantry comes a parade of favorite dishes. Finally, the room grows quiet. The voice of my grandmother drifts down the length of the table, giving thanks for food, and Christmas,
and family. (...) Warmed by laughter, hugs, and family, we snuggle back in bed once again... ."

                                         ~ From Coal Country Christmas, by Elizabeth Ferguson Brown

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Christmas Box Is Out!

Every year, when it is time to get out the box full of wonderful Christmas books, it is always followed by an immediate feeling of anticipation - which books have been our favourite ones over the years?

How about An Amish ChristmasChristmas with Little WomenLittle Fir TreeChristmas Is a Time of GivingChrist ChildChristmas Day in the MorningCoal Country Christmas, and Christmas in Noisy Village?

But, of course, there are others!

Christmas market in Berlin, Germany!

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Astonishing Effect of Being Raised on Good Books

Recently, an exciting discovery reinforced our belief in the best books and let us experience firsthand their effect on a child's education.
My oldest daughter is taking an English course at VLC this year, for a grade 9 credit. We find that this is quite a demanding school - lots of assignments and intensive lessons.
We've also found it very encouraging to see her rise to the occasion - she is currently an "A" student.
More remarkable, though, is probably the fact that English is not even her first language (German is) and that she's been homeschooled in Canada for the seven years we've been here. Although our "school work" is done in English, we do still speak a lot of German here at home as well.

Thus, we can only credit her success with all the great books that fill our house and which she's been enjoying throughout the years, across all subjects. She loves to read (especially books in English) and has developed a distinct taste for the better and the best of them.
Somehow she must have internalized the vocabulary, grammar, and general structure of excellent writing, somewhat effortlessly, while relishing in hundreds and hundreds of adventures and explorations.

What a powerful effect!

"Reading is at the very heart of education. The knowledge of almost every subject in school flows from reading."

                                        ~ Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Valerie Jacobsen currently has many living books for sale!

She has been collecting these kinds of books for many years and has reviewed a a lot of them as well.
She does still ship to Canada, I believe. The reason I'm posting this is that some of the excellent books she is selling are already quite rare and some are especially hard to find here. I own a great number of them already, so I thought this might be something others may be interested in.
You will have to contact her to find out about shipping costs to Canada.

Happy book hunting!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Excellent article:


"A perplexing fate awaits a reader in an elementary school. There is no place for this strange child in classroom, library or playground. Watching my daughter caught in this predicament I find myself troubled by the paradox of an institution charged with teaching children to read that seems unable to offer either welcome or nourishment to the ardent reader within its walls. ..."

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Illustrated By ... Marguerite de Angeli

Such charm! Marguerite De Angeli's (1889 - 1987) illustrated books not only intrigue with well-developed stories and plots, but are especially full of her beautiful, delicate drawings. These books epitomize days gone by when books were holding children dear and were lavishing them with their stories and sweet illustrations.
Just lovely.

~ Book of Favorite Hymns

~ Copper-Toed Boots (boy longs for some boots)

~ Door in the Wall (set in Medieval times; the copy I have is an especially treasured one, as it has an autographed inscription by the author with an authentic little ink drawing underneath it. What a find!)

~ Fiddlestrings (boy learns to play the violin)

~ Henner's Lydia (story of an Amish girl)

~ Jared's Island (story of a shipwrecked boy)

~ Just Like David (story of a travelling family)

~ Skippack School (story about a German immigrant girl settling in Pennsylvania)

~ Turkey for Christmas (a poor family has to make choices for Christmas)

~ Whistle for the Crossing (story of a boy's father running the first train between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh)

From Henner's Lydia:

From Copper-Toed Boots:

From A Turkey for Christmas:

From Skippack School:

From Just Like David:

A more complete overview of Marguerite De Angeli's books can be found on Valerie's Living Books page.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Chemistry with a Lively Twist

While the study of chemistry can be intimidating and is usually only begun in the higher grades, there is nothing more fascinating for younger kids then to discover enjoyable living chemistry books and to try their hands at some of the experiments. 
As Rebecca Rupp notes in her book The Complete Home Learning Source Book:

 "It's a shame that chemistry does not figure more prominently in elementary-level science programs, since chemistry has tremendous appeal for most kids. It's fascinating, fun, and messy; and enormous amounts of scientific information can be absorbed in the enthralling process of concocting gunks and goos, creating phenomenal fizz, or turning things surprising colors."

And so, with so many great living books out there, chemistry really can become a favourite subject!

Here's an intriguing selection for those who would like to start early (or to get older kids hooked just the same):

A great first book for the younger grades, though interesting to everyone (but not so suitable for experiments, maybe!) is Explosives, by Gail Kay Haines

"A fire needs oxygen from the air to burn. An explosive already has oxygen, inside one of its chemicals. It does not need air. And because it does not need air, an explosive can burn much faster than a fire can. As explosives burn, a chemical reaction takes place. Oxygen and other chemicals mix together and change into other things. Solid and liquid chemicals become gases. They expand: that is, they get bigger and bigger as they heat."

This book does not only describe just how an explosion happens, it also tells about the difference between high and low explosives, the problems that occurred with the use of gunpowder in the past and many more interesting things.

- Messing Around with Baking Chemistry, by Bernie Zubrowski A Children's Museum Activity Book. Great kitchen chemistry.

- Gobs of Goo, by Vicki Cobb All about the greasy, sticky, slimy stuff. And lots of neat experiments, as well.

- How to Make a Chemical Volcano and Other Mysterious Experiments, by Alan Kramer
Chock-full of ideas on how to become a chemistry detective and written by one, too. "A real-life 13-year-old student, Alan has been solving mysteries using his chemistry set since he was in the fourth grade." The experiments in this book are real engaging science, though they seem like tricks. 
Make an eerie floating eye, invisible ink or a chemical peacock (based on chromatography).

- Chemistry for Every Kid, by Janice VanCleave   Easy experiments to whet the appetite.

- Value of Learning: The Story of Marie Curie, by Ann Donegan Johnson This is one in the ValueTale series: Written for younger children, it tells the story of Marie Curie, the Polish girl, who went on to study at the Sorbonne in Paris and became one of the greatest physicists and chemists of all time, even winning the Nobel Prize twice, in both physics and chemistry.

- Story of Madame Curie, by Alice Thorne 
This fabulous biography of Marie Curie will appeal to older children, it tells her life story more deeply and brings alive the history of the times and the excitement of the new discoveries that were made. Right from the beginning, it will sweep you away to 19th century Poland:

"The classroom was very quiet. Through the big windows on one side could be seen the leafless trees of the Saxony Garden, white now with the first snowfall. But not one pair of eyes strayed from the history books which twenty-five little girls were studying so earnestly.
It was not that they feared the teacher, Mademoiselle Tupalska, though she did have a plain face and a severe manner. On the contrary, 'Tupsia', as they called her behind her back, was much admired by her pupils. For this was the year 1877, and the school was in Warsaw, Poland.
A large part of Poland had been conquered by Russia. It was forbidden to teach Polish children the history of their own country or even their own language. But Tupsia was doing just that, although the Russians had spies everywhere in Warsaw."

- True Book of Chemistry: What Things Are Made Of, by Philip Carona The first lively book on chemistry we explored. 
A good introduction.

- Mighty Atom, by John Lewellen. This is the book that turned our neighbour's daughter into a little scientist - and her dad into an avid seeker of those wonderful, out-of-print books.

- Story of the Atom, by Mae & Ira Freeman
Rarely have I seen a clearer explanation of the make up of atoms and molecules:

"You do not need to see molecules to know that they are always there. There are ways of knowing about things even if you cannot really see them. Look out of the window on a windy day. How do you know it is windy? You cannot see the air itself as it rushes by. But you can be sure the wind is blowing. You can tell there is wind because you see the trees swaying. You see clothes flapping on the line. You see leaves and pieces of paper flying past. So you can be sure that the wind is out there, pushing things around.
Scientists can tell what molecules are doing, even though they cannot see them. They know that molecules never stop moving. And they move very, very fast. If you could let a molecule race with the fastest jet plane, the molecule would win every time."

- All About the Atom, by Ira M. Freeman This one is geared more towards children in the upper elementary grades, explaining the atom and how it works vividly and sooooo well - even how alpha rays pass through the open spaces that atoms have.

- Chemically Active, by Vicki Cobb This book is actually geared more towards grade 9, but it can be tweaked. If the kids have enjoyed some of the above books, they will have absorbed a great deal of scientific principles in chemistry and this book could be used to take them even further, with your help, if they are interested. Especially since all these experiments really work!
Some nuggets from the content:
                                             ~ Extract of Soda Pop
                                             ~ Rock Candy Sugar Crystals
                                             ~ Crystals on Glass
                                             ~ Fast "Frozen" Crystals
                                             ~ Other Crystals to Grow
                                             ~ Splitting Water
                                             ~ Tests for Sugar, Starch, and Vitamin C


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Diogenes: Story of the Greek Philosopher

Sometimes even topics which seem far away in time and remote from the lives of children today suddenly become fascinating due to an especially well-written book. I really enjoy books that make history (and general knowledge) accessible in such a great way.
~ Diogenes: Story of the Greek Philosopher, told and illustrated by Aliki, belongs among such gems - a delightful picture book which is easily enjoyed by all ages and a well-crafted story right from the beginning:

"Long ago, in distant, ancient Greece, there was a man named Diogenes who dressed like a beggar and lived in the streets. Yet he became known as one of the greatest philosophers of his time. 
This is how it happened."

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Books for Young Boys (exciting stories they can read themselves)

These are two favourite series of older easy readers that many boys love and enjoy. My own son, who is just finishing the third grade,  is certainly no exception!
Exciting stories they can will want to read themselves.

The Butternut Bill books, by Edith McCall, are wonderfully engaging, funny and exciting. Even I was eager to find out what would happen next! Yet, at the same time, they are easy to read, perfect for the elementary years.
Butternut Bill is a frontier boy who lives with his grandmother, his beloved donkey Lazy Daisy, and his pet bird Jolly Joe. Together with their pioneer friends they weather a storm, meet bears in the woods, catch catfish, and witness the first train coming to their small western town.
Accompanied by lovely drawings, these stories are of so much better quality than many "early readers" today. They are a great way to ignite an early love of reading in boys - and girls alike.

Books in this series:

~ Butternut Bill
~ Butternut Bill and the Bee Tree
~ Butternut Bill and the Big Catfish
~ Butternut Bill and the Bear
~ Butternut Bill and Little River
~ Butternut Bill and the Big Pumpkin
~ Butternut Bill and His Friends
~ Butternut Bill and the Train

The illustrations are superb!

The Billy and Blaze series, by C.W. Anderson, is another great series of books for readers who are beginning to enjoy stories beyond the very early readers; the layout is pleasing and not overwhelming.
 A boy and his pony experience many exciting adventures together. Adventures that will not only thrill horse enthusiasts!
Classics with good, wholesome values.

Girls will very much enjoy these, too!

Books in this series:

~ Billy and Blaze
~ Blaze and the Gypsies
~ Blaze and the Forest Fire
~ Blaze Finds the Trail
~ Blaze and Thunderbolt
~ Blaze and the Mountain Lion
~ Blaze and the Indian Cave
~ Blaze and the Lost Quarry
~ Blaze and the Gray Spotted Pony
~ Blaze Shows the Way
~ Blaze Finds Forgotten Roads

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

From My Book of Mottoes

"That what does not get structured narratively suffers loss in memory"

                                     ~ Jerome Bruner

Friday, 30 May 2014

A Little Library's Dream, Part 2

Can One Little Library Do Anything?

By Liz Cottrill of Living Books Library, reposted here with her permission.

It is true that I have, on several occasions, written about the decline in reading in our country, even lamentably in the homeschool community, in hopes of doing my part to turn the tide. Indeed, we have this library to help turn that tide.

It is also true that I have grieved over the rapidly diminishing numbers of beautiful children's books in the libraries, in the thrift stores, and in the discard bins. Each library sale I attend yields fewer and fewer treasures.

Eight years ago this month we invited some local families to our home to encourage them to use living books in their children's education, gave demonstrations, showed them the kinds of books we collect, read to them, and basically begged them to try a different kind of library and, even more boldly, a different kind of education for their children. A few of them took us up on it and within a year we were having to put families on a waiting list to obtain membership in our private library.

Tomorrow is library day and I went into my library this morning to begin to get ready. There are stacks of books on every available surface, not enough space on the shelves to put them all away, and I know that as parents and children come and go tomorrow, they will return piles more. They will also be searching for piles more to take home with them to enjoy. Even if I get everything in order today, 24 hours from now, it will look like a book swamp again. It's like this every week.

Rather than be a discouraging or wearying burden, Emily and I actually find it thrilling. After all, doesn't this mean that there are hundreds of books not only coming and going, but actually being read? Haven't our hopes and dreams absolutely come true?

We had a mother write yesterday whose son has, after four long years of hard rowing in the reading river, finally broken into clear sailing on his own into oceans of books. She is grateful. Tomorrow we will hear eager readers retell their favorite finds of the past month. Moms are thankful to have a place where they can easily find plentiful choices of high quality books.

So, though the future of reading in general appears gloomy, I do not despair.

Last spring Emily and I and my youngest son, just a budding reader at the time, were prowling through a building packed with discarded books from a small town's efforts to rid themselves of thousands of unwanted books. I became aware of a conversation between my son and a rather cranky old man.

"Can you read?" he inquired of my son.

In honest humility, my son shyly answered, "A little, not very well yet."

"What grade are you in?" barked the man, sounding indignant.

"Third," his meek reply.

"Well, why don't you spend a little more time with books instead of all your stupid electronic games?" he retorted.

Being brought up not to argue with adults, my son didn't inform him that he's never had an electronic game, but has had a life full of endless hours of reading. I was not unsympathetic to where this man was coming from. I have certainly read the reports, seen the results close at hand, felt that frustration myself.

Just this past week, I was again at a sale, waiting in line for the doors to open, and again eaves-dropped on a conversation behind me in the line. A couple of elderly folks were cynically remarking on the tables piled high around the gymnasium in front of us and how probably no one would be coming to purchase any of them. Their general consensus was that, "People just don't read's really sad...guess books are on their way out."

I sighed inwardly in silent agreement. I sympathize with their sentiments, see that writing on the wall too. The state of reading in this country is appalling, and very alarming. I know I am not alone in my concerns.

But, in some of the books I've read, I have learned that battles, important discoveries, the course of history even, has often been altered by the smallest, seemingly inconsequential incidents, that some of the greatest heroes have been unknown and unassuming people who simply did what they knew was the right thing in the right place at the right time.

When we started this library, we didn't have knowledge enough, space enough, or money enough. We didn't have an instruction manual to guide us, or any guarantee for a sure and certain outcome. We did have the need to do something.

Eight years later, we are helping others to catch the vision and start libraries in their communities literally all over the country. Since opening ourselves, we have been instrumental in getting another started 60 miles away from ours; next fall two others in between there and here will be lending books from their homes too.

Good things usually do start with small and seemingly insignificant beginnings. Tiny seeds sown in a field transform it to fruitful abundance in just a few weeks. Ideas gleaned from books take root. Ideas shared with others - like learning through literature, building your own home libraries, and even sharing your collection with other families, also transform lives, communities, and (dare I say it?)--cultures. The future could be bleak, but it also could be beautiful.

I'm choosing to believe that the investment of time to search out superior literature and make it available, to invite others to share in these riches, and nurture them in the exploration of these books, is making a difference.

For the joy of reading,


A Little Library's Dream, Part 1

I Couldn’t Have Dreamed This Up

By Liz Cottrill of Living Books Library, reposted here with her permission.

Life takes many twists and turns and I find, every now and then, that pausing to look backward reveals an amazing journey. The parade of ordinary days, small decisions, little efforts produces, well, things one could never have dreamed up.

When a friend gave me the book For the Children's Sake nineteen years ago, I never would have guessed how much my homeschooling journey would be changed by that book. That was the first time I heard of “living books.” My children have been blessed by my realizing how much they could learn from living books.

Five years later another friend told me about a lady starting a homeschool library and my source for these wonderful old, out-of-print books became reality. My children, then between two and eighteen years old, began some real book adventures there. In the basement of her home, my soon to become dear friend, Michelle, had packed twenty thousand precious treasures for all of us to revel in. Then we had to move away.

It was a cold night when we made our first visit to our new local public library, and seemed even bleaker on the way home with a meager harvest from those shelves. We had to begin hunting for better books on our own.

After getting to know other homeschool families in our area, and wistfully recounting to them the marvels of the private homeschool library we had left behind, they sympathized with our loss. Then one day boxes of books began arriving at my doorstep. They were just the kind we had grown to depend on. Where were they from? Why was this happening? The donor remained anonymous.

My husband started building new bookcases. My house was groaning under the load of books. I began feeling like a hoarder. Friends hinted, gently urging, “Why don’t you start a library?” No way, I couldn't possibly, not in my wildest dreams.

My daughter, Emily, unapologetically book crazy, has one fault. She doesn't like to be told, “It can’t be done.” I balked for several reasons, not the least of which was that I still had three young children to homeschool. I also didn’t know the first thing about running a library. And, most shamefully of all, how could I let other people carry off my precious books to homes I had never seen?

The problem was, I saw the need. Most of the families I knew depended on curriculum in a box. I observed young mothers struggling with multiple children of different ages and learning needs. My decision to share our books finally boiled down to the old, but simple command: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So we organized and labeled the books and opened our front door.

It’s embarrassing to recall my reluctance now, now that I am the one blessed by the children who have come, read our books, and rewarded me with, by now, hundreds of delightful conversations about what they have read, and learned, and are planning to do. I could ramble for hours with the memories. “I’m here for My Friend Flicka!” from an eight-year-old girl who literally bounded through the door one afternoon. “Ms. Emily, these are the books I’d like to renew,” from a two-year-old toddling to the check-out desk with his tiny box of Beatrix Potter books. Or, the rebellious lad whose mother was at her wit’s end trying to find anything he would read, coming in a year after discovering Living Books Library to ask if I thought he
would enjoy Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.

A couple of years ago, Lisa from Yesterday's Classics challenged Emily and I to work toward a homeschool library in every county in America. We howled with laughter. How in the world would that be possible? That’s a crazy dream. But three years ago, another one opened in northeast Tennessee.

This week Emily and I will be sharing about living books, organizing your home library, and what is involved in possibly opening a lending library in a workshop at the Childlight USA Conference in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Imagine being given the privilege to share about our passion for books and the incredible potential of introducing children and parents alike all that can be discovered in the world of living ideas from living literature.

On June 28, the first ever Homeschool Librarians Conference will be taking place here in southwest Virginia. Families are coming from Washington, California, Kansas, Texas, Maryland, New Jersey to name a few. We are going to share the dream and how they can make it a reality in their hometowns. I know the chances that other libraries will spring up near them are great since we have seen that trend already.

So when I look back and reminisce, I am amazed. God knows our path when we do not. We make our little choices and He knows them, every one. Our path is not a mystery to Him. I cannot guess the plans He has for any of the lives that have crossed our path, but I know they might accomplish things they haven’t even dreamed of yet. We’re still living ours, and it’s better than we could have ever dreamed.

For the joy of reading,


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Little House .... Through the Times

Reliving pioneer times with Laura Ingalls Wilder ~ 

The Little House books have been popular with readers for many generations; they are a wonderful living account of what life was like for pioneers on the wide prairies.

Although the core of these books is still composed of the original ones written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, other series have been added and contributed to the charming atmosphere around Laura and her family.

There are, for example, the books about her daughter, Rose, written by Roger MacBride - or about her great-grandmother, Martha Morse Tucker, who was born and raised in Scotland, and about Martha's daughter, Charlotte, who would give birth to Laura's mother, Caroline. Both, the Martha and the Charlotte Years were written by Melissa Wiley:

The Caroline Years, in turn, about Laura's mother, lead up to the time when Caroline and Charles get married. These books were written by Maria Wilkes and Celia Wilkins.

These series, all about different members of the same family, are just wonderful. My oldest daughter still treasures them; they are among her very favourites.

Because they are so lovely, it is hard to understand why the publisher decided to discontinue the original series and replace them with significantly abridged editions, with "photo covers", cutting out even the beautiful illustrations by Garth Williams.
This is a fate which sadly befalls many beloved children's books!
You can read more about the Little House abridged books here:

The complete, originally unabridged editions though, including those about Martha, Charlotte, Caroline, and Rose, are all available for checkout in our library!

If you enjoy the Laura Ingalls books, Valerie from the Crafty Classroom has a great lapbook to go with the Little House in the Big Woods. It is free and unlike many workbook-style lapbooks, this one is really creative!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Little Nuggets

"What did they come to school for? To be bored by pages and pages of workbooks? To decide they hate learning? To be tested so that grownups can be satisfied making graphs about them or analyzing them on computers? Meanwhile our children perish. That greatest and most beautiful resource - the child - is lost, having been allowed to waste away with a malnourished mind. (...) You can even safely stop school for a few years and feast on good books and right living! Your children or students would experience childhood with a lot more zest and vigor. And they would not lose out, by the way."

              ~ Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in Books Children Love , by Elizabeth Wilson

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Go ahead and read widely ~

"The more our vocabulary is controlled, the less we will be able to think for ourselves. We do think in words, and the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts. As our vocabulary expands, so does our power to think."

~ Madeleine L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, on the decreasing vocabulary in today's culture.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

"The Story About Ping" Unit Tub

I've started to work on some unit tubs that go along with the wonderful, rich Five In A Row curriculum.

This idea originated with Michelle Miller's library in Traverse City, Michigan and it is a great way of exploring living books for all of your schooling.

Eventually there will be bins for all the stories in the Five In A Row program - this one is based on the Story About Ping, by Marjorie Flack.

Those of you who are familiar with this program will know that each unit is based on an exceptional picture book and usually the five major subject areas (history, geography, science, math, art) are subsequently explored.

The idea of these tubs is to complement this great program, as they contain many wonderful living books that are connected to the central book in the Five In A Row guide and to the main ideas extracted from it. All of the books fit into a handy bin and can be read over a couple of weeks. They will allow children to make connections naturally, as they do, resulting in an enjoyable and delightful learning experience.

The bins are quite flexible and can be used with preschoolers and elementary school children. My older children still enjoy many of these and I can't wait to use them again with my toddler!

Let's have a quick look at the books that can be found in the tub about Ping~

There are books about China, books about occupations, like Boats on the River, also by Marjorie Flack (beautifully illustrated), books about ducks, water safety, drawing water (Water - Through the Eyes of Artists), books on children in China (like Mei Li, by Thomas Handforth, a 1939 Caldecott Medal winner), books on Pandas; math lessons - Every Buddy Counts; books on science - floating and sinking, reflections and mirrors (like the engaging Mirror on the Wall, by Philip Carona), rivers; books on character lessons - Watch Where You Go (discernment) and of course, the poem "The Mirror", by A.A. Milne, which is mentioned in the guide, is included here.

I'm planning to work on some more tubs over the summer - the next one up is based on Lentil, by Robert McCloskey!

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Heart and Senses of Childhood

"I know well that only the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young. I know too that in later life it is just (if only just) possible now and again to recover fleetingly the intense delight, the untellable joy and happiness and fear and grief and pain of our early years, of an all but forgotten childhood. I have, in a flash, in a momentary glimpse, seen again a horse, an oak, a daisy, just as I saw them in those early years, as if with that heart, with those senses."

~ Walter de la Mare, in his introduction to Bells and Grass, his delightful collection of poems for children.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A New Beginning

Spring and Easter are just full of new and wonderful beginnings: trees are springing to life again, birds have returned, baby animals are being born... and we remember that 2,000 years ago a tomb had been found empty and the fulfillment of the promise of a new life had risen!

All About Eggs and How They Change Into Animals, by Millicent Selsam  A delightful little book.

Baby Birds and How They Grow, by Jane McCauley Gorgeous pictures show nests and baby birds!

How Chicks Are Born, by Bruce Grant Lovely, quaint illustrations tell younger kids about hens and their eggs (and their chicks growing inside them).

What's Hatching Out of That Egg? Patricia Lauber "What's hatching out of that egg? An ostrich? An alligator? Look at the photographs and read the text for clues."

Chickens Aren't the Only Ones, by Ruth Heller Colourful illustrations highlight the many creatures that lay eggs.

The Most Wonderful Egg in the World, by Helme Heine We've enjoyed the German version of this book (the original publication) for years  - chickens compete in a contest  - to lay the most unique egg for the king. Equally delightful in English.

Rechenka's Eggs, by Patricia Polacco  An elderly, Russian woman finds "miracle", when all over her lovingly crafted eggs seem lost. A story of friendship and caring.

The Egg Tree, by Katherine Milhous Kids enjoy an Easter hunt on a Pennsylvania Dutch farm. This book is sure to inspire little readers to make an egg tree of their very own. It was a special Easter tradition for me when I was growing up, and I still have some of the eggs that I painted as a little Kindergartener!

Scrambled Eggs, Super! By Dr. Seuss The search for eggs is on! Wildly funny story for kids in grades 1 - 3.

Legend of the Easter Egg, by Lori Walburg Christian-based legend of the Easter egg.

Now You Can Read Bible Stories... Wonderful Easter, by Leonard Matthews For kids in grades 1 - 3, nice, larger lettering.

The First Easter, by Rachel Billington Compelling retelling for kids in grades 2 - 6.

Tale of Three Trees, retold by Angela Elwell Hunt Classic tale of how three trees became involved in important events in the life of Jesus.

Easter, by Aileen Fisher About the history of Easter traditions, very well written, in the typical engaging style of this good author.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

On Birds and Spring!

Spring is finally arriving with great strides! Are we not all waiting for the multitude of birds to fill the outdoors with life again? 

Following are various favourites about birds and spring - and also some great activity ideas to go along with them!

Why Do Birds Sing? By Chris Arvetis Grades K - 3

Some Birds Have Funny Names, by Diana Harding Cross, illustrated by Jan Brett Why is a roadrunner called a roadrunner? Or what about the catbird, the flycatcher or the ovenbird? For grades K - 4.

Birds and their Beaks, by Olive Earle Splendid illustrations. Covers a great number of birds and all kinds of different beaks! Grades 3 - 9.

Crinkleroot's 25 Birds Every Child Should Know, by Jim Arnosky A very colourful overview, large illustrations, very fun!

Bird Talk, by Roma Gans Did you know that a woodpecker has no territory song, but marks it off by drumming with its beak? A book in the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out series.

First Look at Bird Nests, by Millicent Selsam When you come across a nest, how can you learn to tell to which bird it belongs? You need to find the clues - the material used, the shape of the nest and its location. Clear, brief and simple. Grades 1 - 4.

Birds Do the Strangest Things, by Leonora and Arthur Hornblow Delightful!

Baltimore Orioles, by Barbara Brenner A science 'I Can Read Book" for kids in grades K - 3.

But Ostriches, by Aileen Fisher. Not the kind of bird we would naturally see up here, but nonetheless intriguing ~ you might be surprised at the things presented in this wonderful distinctive book about the tallest of birds.

Redbird - Story of a Cardinal and Ruby Throat - Story of a Hummingbird, both by beloved author Robert McClung Wonderful books by a good author.

Downy Woodpecker, by Paul McCutcheon Sears How interesting to follow a woodpecker throughout the year! Grades 2 - 7.

A Nest Full of Eggs, by Priscilla Belz Jenkins A Let-s Read-And-Find-Out Science book.

Song of the Swallows, by Leo Politi "Every summer, the swallows leave San Juan Capistrano and fly far away, to a peaceful green island - but they always come back in the spring, on St. Joseph's Day. Juan loves las golondrinas, and so does his friend, Julian, the gardener at the mission.
This year, Juan plants a garden in his own yard. There's nothing he wants more than for the swallows to nest there. And on St. Joseph's Day, his dream comes true."

Tony's Birds, by Millicent Selsam About a boy who loves birdwatching, a "Science I Can Read Book'. Grades 1- 3.

The Lark Who Had No Song, by Carolyn Nystrom A little woodpecker wonders why he is so different from the others - until one day he makes a discovery... A story about self-acceptance. Grades 1 - 4.

Angelo, by David Macaulay A beautiful story of friendship between a church plasterer and an injured pigeon.

Albert, by Donna Napoli A cardinal builds a nest on a man's windowsill.... an enchanting story with just gorgeous illustrations!

Spring is Here! By Dorothy Sterling and Exploring Spring, by Sandra Markle both compliment the study of birds with lovely tales about other animals during the unfolding of this happy season, plus special science activities and games ...

... or make your own robin's nest, a great craft idea that we really enjoyed (and it turned out quite beautifully, too!):

Robin's Nest

More wonderful ideas to savour the season:
Springly Craft Ideas

Have fun!!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


A gentle thought ~

Living books are life-giving books.

"The mind feeds on ideas."

       - Charlotte Mason

This was my thought today when I began reading another wonderful book set during the turbulent years of the French Revolution ~ When a Cobbler Ruled a King, by Augusta Huiell Seaman, written in 1911. The vivid language, the exciting story are anything but dry and lifeless!

' "Hurry along, Yvonne! Why do you lag behind so!" "Oh, Jean! I am doing my best, but your legs are so long, and you take such great strides that I can scarcely keep up!" Two children, a well-grown, long-limbed boy of twelve, and a little girl of scarcely more than seven, were hurrying hand-in-hand along the Rue St. HonorĂ©, on a brilliant May morning in the year 1792. Paris on that day resembled, more than anything else, a great bee-hive whose swarming population buzzed hither and thither under the influence of angry excitement and general unrest. The two youngsters were bubbling over with the same eager restlessness that agitated their elders. They pushed their way through throngs of men in red liberty-caps, soldiers in uniforms of the National Guard, and women in tri-coloured skirts and bodices. Poor little Yvonne, panting and tired, struggled to keep up with the striding gait of her larger companion. "If you don't hurry," said Jean, "we shall not see the little 'Wolf-Cub' out for his walk, and I want a look at him!" "Is he very dreadful to look at?" queried Yvonne, innocently. "I don't know,—I've never seen him," answered Jean, "but he must be pretty ugly if he's the son of a monster,—and that's what they call our Citizen King!" They turned into a narrow lane with but few houses on either side. At one end stood the church of St. Roch, and at the other lay the park of the Tuileries, in the centre of which rose the royal palace. "This is called the Rue du Dauphin because the little monster comes through it when he goes to church," remarked Jean. "Well, I think he can't be so very dreadful if he goes to church," protested Yvonne. "Oh, he only pretends to be good to deceive us!" answered Jean, carelessly. When they reached the park, they turned and ran along the edge till they came to the side flanked by the river Seine. Here they were stopped by a low wooden fence decorated with festoons of tri-coloured ribbons and bunting. In a small plot of ground behind this fence, a little boy could be seen digging up the ground about some flower-beds. He was a really beautiful child and his age evidently did not much exceed seven years. Great blue eyes looked out of a face whose expression was one of charming attractiveness. His silky golden-brown hair fell in curls about his shoulders, and he was dressed in the uniform of a tiny National Guard, with a small jewelled sword hanging at his side. About his feet a handsome, coal-black spaniel romped, shaking his long ears that almost trailed on the ground, barking and biting at the spade in his master's hand. Jean stopped and looked over the fence. His snapping black eyes grew soft at the sight of the group within. What boyish heart does not yearn toward a dog! "That's a fine little spaniel you have there, Citizen Boy!" he remarked. "What do you call him?" The child inside the fence looked up with a pleased smile. "His name is Moufflet. Isn't he a beauty? Don't you want to pet him?" The little boy lifted the wriggling animal to the fence while Jean put out his hand and stroked the long, curly ears. "Jean! Jean! lift me up! I want to see him too!" begged Yvonne who was so short that her head barely came to the top of the fence. Jean reached down, and with his strong arms swung her to a seat on his shoulder. "Oh, you beautiful thing!" she exclaimed. "And what a pretty little boy, too! I like you, boy!" The little fellow laughed with pleasure. "And I like you also!" he declared. "Don't you want some flowers? I gathered some for my mother this morning, but I think there are enough left to make you a nice bouquet." Dropping the dog, he ran hither and thither gathering from one bush and another, till he had collected quite a large mass of blossoms. These he handed to the little girl, saying: "And won't you tell me your name?" "I am Yvonne Marie Clouet," she answered, burying her face in the fragrant bunch, "and I thank you!" Jean, however, was growing restless. This was all very pleasant, but it was not that for which he had stolen a holiday from the services of the Citizeness Clouet, risking thereby the prospect of certain punishment, and had hurried through two miles of hot streets to see. He leaned across the fence toward the boy, and spoke in a half-whisper: "I say, Citizen Boy, do you happen to know whereabouts we can get a sight of the little 'Wolf-Cub'?" The child looked startled. "I don't know what you mean!" he replied. "Why, you must know!—the son of that monster, the Citizen King!" The little fellow drew back proudly. His blue eyes grew dark with anger, and he laid his hand on the hilt of his sword. "I am the Dauphin of France! And my father the King is not a monster! He is a good man!" Jean was so astonished that he let go his hold of Yvonne, who all but toppled from her perch on his shoulder. '

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Science of Relations ~

Some time ago, when we were reading The Real Book About Benjamin Franklin, by Samuel Epstein and Beryl Williams, I realized that there are two more roads of learning we could explore - the American Revolution or the French Revolution. Although, of course, Franklin played a pivotal role in the revolution of his own country, he also met the king and queen of France while living near Paris as an ambassador of the colonies. This king and queen were no other than Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette! Ironically, the financial help that this king granted to the American colonies in their fight for independence would someday play a major part in awakening a revolution among his own people.

Although I had "covered" the French Revolution several times during my school years (I was educated in Europe), I never went past the initial flickering flame of interest. Mainly because we were just cramming facts from a textbook.
Thus, I was delighted when I found so many great books that actually made the topic come alive!
There were fascinating books on Marie Antoinette herself; a riveting book which reflected the journal entries by her young daughter (during the time of imprisonment); books on France and Austria (Marie Antoinette's native country) and even a book depicting the perspective of a Jacobin's daughter. All very well written and interesting!
Branching out in all these directions, which are yet linked to the time of the French Revolution, and making connections, is what Charlotte Mason called the science of relations. It happens effortlessly for children.

Here is a selection of the best books on the French Revolution, written just for them~ they gently engage and enlighten and in many ways provide a safer reading environment, as they do not indulge in the cruelty of those times.

~ Marie Antoinette, by Marguerite Vance, illustrated by Nedda Walker A vivid biography with charming illustrations! Grade 5+

~ Marie Antoinette, by Bernardine Kielty Another great biography that is hard to put down. Grade 4+

~ Take a Trip to Austria, Keith Lye Some text and many wonderful pictures about this beautiful country.

~ This is Paris, by M. Sasek A classic which shows many landmarks.

~ The Inside-Outside Book of Paris, by Roxie Munro Colourfully highlights the culture of Paris.

~ A Visit to France, by Kirsten Hall An easier book that takes younger readers on a sweeping tour.

~ The King's Day: Louis XIV of France, by Aliki Technically, this is not about the French Revolution, as Louis XIV, France's Sun King, lived many years before, but it is a very fun, splendid book that shows how extravagant life at Versailles was!
"Louis XIV was every inch a king. He wore the curliest wigs, the richest robes, the rarest jewels, and the fanciest shoes in all of France. What might a day in the life of such a magnificent king be like?" Grades 2 - 8.

~ Life During the French Revolution, by Gail B. Stewart A nice overview. Grade 6 and up.

~ Song in the Streets, by Cornelia Spencer "A brief history of the French Revolution". Grade 7 and up.

~ Madame Royale, by Elizabeth Powers Based on the diary of Marie Antoinette's young daughter, Marie Therese Charlotte. What riveting insights! Grade 7 and up.

~ Puzzle of the Lost Dauphin, by Gwen Kimball Whatever happened to Marie Therese's little brother?
What became of young Louis-Charles will surely forever remain a mystery. Was he able to escape? A girl tries to solve the puzzle! Grade 5+

~ Why No, Lafayette? By Jean Fritz He fought in the American Revolution and was like a son to George Washington before becoming involved in the one sweeping across his own country (where he played a decisive part on the day the Bastille was stormed). A readable biography. Grade 5+

~ Jacobin's Daughter, by Joanne Williamson A tender story against the background of radicalism that enveloped the French Revolution. For grades 5 - 12.