Books We Are Using This Year
  • The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    by Jeff West,S. Wise Bauer,Jeff (ILT) West, Susan Wise Bauer
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    by Bernard J Nebel PhD
  • Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    by Steven P. Demme
  • First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    by -Author-
  • Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    by Mona Brookes
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Entries in nature books (5)


Weekly book shelf 8/13

Except that it isn't the 13th, because I'm behind again. As busy as we were over the past couple of weeks, though, we did do a lot of reading. I think my favorite thing now is when Calvin reads to me while I am driving.

Some of what Calvin read to himself this week...Bear Mouse is a new book I just picked up from our library sale room. It is exactly my kind of book—a true nature situation written as a story without personification or embellishment. The little mouse, who looks like a bear in her winter coat, must find nourishment so she can make milk for her babies, but she must avoid predators to do so. The pictures are perfect, the ending is happy, and Calvin loved the story. Berlioz the Bear is traditional Jan Brett, and although I'm not always fond of her work I do love the way she tells the extra story with the illustrations. This is about bear musicians whose wagon gets stuck in mud on their way to a party, and all the animals who try to help them.

The Hole in the Dike is a different take on the Dutch folk tale of the boy who saves the town by sticking his finger in a hole in the dike. For those who are familiar with the little hooligan hero from the traditional tale, the little boy in this story is just a happy little Dutch boy who does a good deed, and I like it oh so much better for that.

And last week he finished reading Mr. Popper's Penguins by himself. Even a month ago I would never have believed he'd be reading like this now, but he asked to try it, and after sitting with him and listening through the first chapter to make sure it went well, I left him to it. Although I believe some of the subtle humor was lost him he had no trouble reading the book and understanding it, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Now I think he's even more in love with The Boxcar Children, which he started immediately after.

What we read together this week...The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is one of the best ghost story of all time. We have read it together before out of my anthology of poetry, but I found this version at another library sale. The language of the poem is not changed at all, but it is written in a slightly larger and roomier format and is illustrated by Ed Young in charcoal sketches and watercolors that add to the tale. Calvin loved reading it by the fire pit after dark last weekend. 

And we've also started The Tale of Despereaux, which may be a bit over the top with the whole love bit, but it's also been a fun story with animal characters and pretty imagery.

And on my shelf these past two weeks...I took a break from Proust to read The Time Machine, and then the His Dark Materials trilogy. I enjoyed Pullman more than Wells, I reviewed all of the above, and now I'm back to Proust, although I also plan to start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.


Weekly book shelf, 7/16

We're on vacation this week. Yeah! Before we left we stopped by the library to fill out Calvin's weekly reading program form, but I left his own log at home and actually can't remember what the four books were that he listed from this week. So I'm winging it, and these are books I know he read this week.

What Calvin read to himself this week...the Nate the Great I don't think was a new one to him, but he gravitates to that series every once in while. Little Squirrel's Special Nest is another in the Reader's Digest Animal Adventures series. The writing in the series isn't remarkable, and the moral lessons are pretty forced, but I like that the stories are firmly planted in the natural sciences.

Earth, by Keith Brandt, is a really great (out of print) book about our physical world and the forces impacting it. It covers the makeup of the earth, the solar system, and everything between, and is both interesting and informative. And The Island of the Skog is a cute book, but not expertly written—the story development isn't smooth and the "moral of the story" is a little weak.

Some things we read out loud this week...we're still finishing up The Little House in the Big Woods, and we've read a lot of other fun books out loud this week, but I can't remember any of them right now. Maybe because I'm on vacation.

 I'm still reading Proust—I'm on my second time through Swann's Way—but I've also picked up The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma. This will be the first vacation on which I read as much as I planned to.


Weekly book shelf 6/25

It was our first week of reading for the library summer reading program, and I think that any concerns I'd had have been put to rest. I'm not sure Calvin thought even once about needing to read a certain number of books for the program. He read plenty, and on my urging added the books to his log. I can see this will be no problem.

What Calvin read to himself this week...I let him count the Twisters on Tuesday for this week's library list because he checked the book out the same day he signed up for the program, which was a little ahead, and because he read it at least one more time this past week. The topic turned out to be timely because in addition to tornadoes it touches on the prairie and the pioneers, and this was Log Cabin Weekend at our local historical park. It was amazing how much Calvin had picked up from Twisters on Tuesday when we started talking about covered wagons and going west. On a similar topic I pulled out Civil War on Sunday because Civil War historical actors were also a part of Log Cabin Weekend, and he read that as well.

I Can Read About Weather is a book I've had on our shelves for a while, and which Calvin discovered of his own accord this past week over days of threatening rain clouds, sudden downpours, and severe weather alerts in our area. I'm fond of this book (and the rest in the series as they were printed in 1975, I don't know about any new printings) because they are really cool media wise—pencil and watercolor sketches in gray tones with only one color added in—and are serious about the science while being readable for Calvin. He read this one, then proceeded to tell my mother about the different kinds of clouds, and even how to spell them, before I even knew he'd found it on the shelf. And the fourth book for his weekly reading was Spider's Lunch, which he liked for its illustration method (paper, probably emulated by computer), and I like, again, because it doesn't really shy away from the science.

Out loud we finished The Magical Monarch of Mo this week, and The Royal Book of Oz. He read some more Arabian Nights with his dad, and now I'm faced with finding our next adventure. We haven't reviewed the Royal Book yet, but I was so disillusioned by the author switch, and Calvin seemed far less interested than usual, that I think it's time to move on. I'm looking for good suggestions for sure. In the meantime we're going to pick up another Baum book, I think.

And on my shelf...I didn't finish anything grand and new this week. Instead I devoted all of my reading time to Proust and i am a handful of pages from being finished with Swann's Way. I am very much enjoying the work, which really has to be called a work because that many words cannot seriously make one book, can they? Proust is like a more practiced, more polished D. H. Lawrence, one of my favorite authors. When I get to the end of Swann's Way, though, I have a couple of other books I'm going tread before going on, beginning with The Women of Brewster Place by another of my favorite authors, Gloria Naylor.


Weekly book shelf, 5/28

A quote to share, from a letter to readers in L. Frank Baum's Magical Monarch of Mo:

"It is the nature of children to scorn realities, which crowd into their lives all too quickly with advancing years. Childhood is the time for fables, for dreams, for joy."

The last thing I believe is that children scorn realities, or that realities cannot be a part of childhood joys, but I do value worlds of magic and wild imagination as well, and what better place to find those than in a good book.

Anyhow, here's what we've been reading this week.

Here's some of what Calvin was reading by himself this week. We read The Wizard of Oz together last fall (reviewed here) and have been making our way through the series ever since. Now we're waiting for the next book to come in at the library, the first in the series as written by Ruth Plumly Thomson, and in the meantime Calvin decided to re-read the Wizard of Oz all by himself. This is by far the longest, most advanced book he's read by himself as yet, but he's having no trouble whatsoever.





Some picture books we read together. Bamboo Valley has long been favored around here. There's nothing particularly stunning about it, but it's a mixture of endearing and realistic. Like Bird, Butterfly, Eel it's the real story of this majestic animal, mostly devoid of anthropomorphism. Then I'm not a huge fan of Jan Brett, but Town Mouse Country Mouse is one that I do just fine with. Lastly, The Great Kapok Tree is a parade of beautiful rainforest animals arguing for the life of their forest. This one I love not only for its message, but also for the beautiful illustrations.


While we wait for the next Oz book to come in at our library we've been reading the short stories of The Magical Monarch of Mo, also by L. Frank Baum, written before the Oz series. I'm still in love with Baum. And Jon has been reading The Arabian Nights with Calvin, too.


On my bookshelf this week... for fiction I've started Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, in which I'm still on Swann's Way. In non-fiction I finished In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson, and am starting on Night, by Ellie Wiesel.


Groundhog at Evergreen Road, by Susan Korman (our review)

A couple of months ago I happened to spot a post on Craig's List for a nearby garage sale being held by a retiring early childhood teacher selling many of her books and other learning tools. I got there just as the sale was opening and could have spent all morning—there were boxes upon boxes of beautiful, practically new books; we came home with over 50 new books, a couple of puppets, and a small stuffed elephant, all for less than $20. Groundhog at Evergreen Road, by Susan Korman, was one of those books (you'll be seeing a lot of them in the next few months) and is a real treasure: the pictures are delightful and the story informative yet fun. We used this book Five-in-a-Row style (more on that later), so we read it at least once every day for a week focusing on a new part of the story each time: one day we read it then took a walk looking for things that made us think of the groundhog; another day we used our kitchen scale to measure out dried beans in the weight of a baby groundhog versus an adult; we colored and drew groundhogs and mapped out dens; we planned menus, we practiced new words, we talked about predators and prey. It's amazing to me the paths that one short story can set you upon.

But before I overlook it, here's Calvin's commentary on the book:

His summary of the book: "It's a book about groundhog. It's about groundhog going in his den and making a den and eating green beans. It is a pretend story but it could actually happen in real life. It is true that a hawk or a coyote would eat a groundhog like that."

He likes the book because "I like the groundhog when he scurries into his plunge hole."

He couldn't pick a favorite part because he likes the whole book and would recommend it to others "for sure."

Any final comments? "I love this book! It's my favorite book." (this week, that is).