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 youth fiction (39)


Weekly book shelf 9/7/12

I'm not sure how I'll run the resources section this year. There are plenty of resources we'll go through in a single week in science and history, and I plan to list those not only for my own edification in years to come, but also in case they can help someone else who goes or is going down the same road. In addition to those books, however, there is plenty of other reading going on in our house and I might try to list those books separately, because I know how much I love reading about books on other people's blogs. That's just the way I am.

So for the week of 9/1-9/7:

Monsters: The Grim Reeper (Rachel Lynette, 2010) and Monsters: Frankenstein (Adam Woog, 2006). Calvin is somewhat obsessed with monsters right now. It was dragons, and then goblins and ogres, and now (since we're reading Lord of the Rings) it's the Ring Wraiths. He picked these books up at the library and devoured them at home over last weekend. Whatever floats his boat, I guess.

Calvin is reading Through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll). He read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland last week, and found both books hilarious. I love the play on words in both books. I had not ever read them myself, but now having listened to Calvin read them, I think I can see where Norton Juster (Phantom Tollbooth) may have found some of his inspiration. Calvin read our 1960s boxed set of the two books with original illustrations.

He also read Dragon Country, written by Kevin Dangoor, a father in our homeschooling group. The book is not available to the public yet, but Calvin read the first book from the series, Chasing the Gnome, several weeks ago and loved it so much that the author brought him his proof copy from the publisher to read over the weekend. Calvin devoured it in one afternoon. These are light and enjoyable fantasy books for young readers who are reading chapter books on their own. They have a great story line, with two good friends going on a quest in magical lands, meeting challenges and magical beings. The books are full of richly imagined lands, but not with the pop-culture drivel or social apathy that usually mark books for this age group.

As a family we are reading Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring aloud right now. We read The Hobbit over the summer, and Calvin loved it so much he begged and begged to read The Lord of the Rings immediately after. It is kind of slow as a read aloud, but so far he's had absolutely no problem with understanding or attention span on this one, like I thought might be a problem.


The Yellow House Mystery (Calvin's review)


The Secret Zoo, By Brian Chick (our reviews)

Late one night Megan notices something strange about the animals in the next door zoo. Shortly after that she disappears. Her brother, Noah, is convinced that the zoo had something to do with her disappearance, and when he starts receiving strange visitations and communications from the animals there, he enlists the help of close friends Ella and Richie in getting her back. The kids are used to having adventures together, but they aren't at all prepared for the bizarre experience that awaits them at the zoo in their quest to rescue Megan. Told with humor and warmth, The Secret Zoo is a unique story of friendship and conservation, and in this capacity it was enjoyable read. But being a mystery, the element of suspense is strong, and a war at the end of the book brings fighting and death into the conversation, so this may not be the best read aloud for young children. Additionally I found the sarcastic tone of humor to be off-putting, especially in an example of young friendships.

Interview with Calvin:

What is the story about?
Noah is looking for his sister Megan. She's been missing for two months. He goes to the zoo two times because he receives notes from two animals that are pieces from Megan's journal. At school he finds two of the scouts and they go to the zoo together. At the zoo they meet some animals. Noah goes to Arctic Town and meets a penguin. The penguin takes him to the Secret Zoo. Ella and Richie go to the prairie dog exhibit and they prairie dogs take them to the Secret Zoo. Then they find Noah and they find all their animal friends and some scientists.  Then Mr. Darby tells them the story of the Secret Zoo. Then the go to the Dark Lands and find Megan and bring her home with help from Mr. Darby and all the animals.

What did you like or not like about the book?
I liked the characters and the animals and how they work together to find Megan.


Surprise Island, Boxcar Children Book #2 (review by Calvin)


Weekly book shelf, 9/10

There is no real theme to this week's book list. We are still finishing up our exploration of Antarctica, but have already started into prehistory by watching BBC's Walking With Monsters. So this week I'm just reviewing some of our old favorites—go-to books for Calvin that I saw him pick up at least once over the week.

What Calvin read to himself....

I wouldn't call The Little Train a story so much as a cute and simple explanation of train travel. We travel with Engineer Small as he pilots his train from the small town to the big city, carrying people, mail, and more. We see countryside, we deliver mail, we wait for larger trains to go by, which allows the reader to enjoy the use of the railroad signal system. There is no conflict, and while the story and illustrations are cute, they are neither specifically down-talk, nor are they childish in nature. Lois Lenski is a master of that art, one of the reasons why I really enjoy her work, even if it's a little dated.

Duck is sad that he can't lay an egg like all the other birds in the book (shown sitting on theirs) so he is very excited one day to find an egg which he takes on as his own. The other birds laugh at him—his egg is ugly!—and when their babies hatch they laugh some more because Duck's is still incubating. Then Duck's baby crocodile (because that's what the egg turns out to be) finally hatches and snaps at them all, forcing them to beat a hasty retreat. The illustrations in the book are darling, and it has some short cut pages to show the hatching of the chicks that a youngster will enjoy. The birds are a variety of species and their babies are well drawn to match. The Odd Egg is definitely cute, but because I am overly picky about seemingly moral tales in books I'm not fond of the "make fun of others and you'll get your head snapped off by a crocodile" ending to the story.

Franklin and his friends excitedly plan their costumes for the upcoming Halloween party. When the big day comes they are almost tricked into believing there is a real ghost in the haunted house! And Bear has to stay home sick with a cold, but all of his friends share their candy with him after the party. Franklin's Halloween is an enjoyable story without serious conflict, a good example of how a book can teach strong character traits (making his own costume, working together to figure out the ghost, sharing candy with Bear) without first showing the wrong way to do things. This isn't true about all of the Franklin books, but seems to describe all the early ones in the series. My guess is that popluarity is what changed things.

Calvin is just one chapter away from finishing The Secret Island and I am still pleased with The Boxcar Children as a series for him to read alone. The vocabulary and sentence structure is simple enough for him to read comfortably, but also pushes him to ask for explanations from time to time. Plus the story is simple, but it's also well written and contains a light mystery that is solved in the end. Some parents might be displeased with the class situation since the grandfather is wealthy, has personal staff, and some emphasis is put on his willingness to buy anything for the children that they need or want. But the children also rarely ask for anything and are giving and considerate with each other and with others. I think Calvin enjoys the books because the characters are well written and easy to enjoy.

What we read out loud...

We are two chapters from the end of The Secret Zoo.



And on my bookshelf...I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves. I'm still plugging away at Proust, and I'm waiting for an advanced copy novel that I'm supposed to read and review by next Thursday, but it failed to arrive as yet. Good luck with that.