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 non-fiction (5)


Who was Charles Darwin? (review by Calvin)

This book is one in a series about historical figures. Calvin read it to me so I can throw in a bit of review along with his. The book is written with youth in mind—it's a bit lengthier and more complex than the Magic Tree House books, but not by much. I found the sentences varied enough to be enjoyable while still being readable for the younger set, and the pencil sketch illustrations were a nice touch without being distracting. We had a great time with the book and used it to map the voyage of the Beagle on our wall map.


Weekly book shelf, 8/20

We spent a lot of our time in Antarctica this week, or at least in learning about it. After finishing Mr. Popper's Penguins Calvin was keen on learning more penguins and their home. He picked out a lot of library books on the subject, we went to the zoo, and our home has been filled with (imaginary) members of that species all week long, each with an exotic name, such as Penguinogio, Penguinogiotonio, and Gambul. It's been a lot of fun.

What Calvin read to himself this week...a lot of non-fiction because of the south pole exploration.

I am in love with the Getting to Know Nature's Children book series from Grolier (Scholastic) because they have beautiful full page photographs that face pages of well written text in a font that is easy to read but is not meant to be "eye-catching", and they are completely devoid of the extra graphics, icons, gimmicks and the like (which are so prevalent in children's non-fiction today, and which I think add confusion and over stimulate the senses). Unfortunately the series is out of print, and the cover image I have here is from a later printing (in which it is inexplicably linked with elephants), so I don't know if it's the same inside, but our library has most of the originals and they are on our favorites list there.

The True Book series from Scholastic is not on my top list. There are at least two fonts on every page, and two to four font colors, font sizes, font types or variations, plus graphics that are meant to draw the eye (away from the important text) towards quick fact tidbits (for those who don't want to read the book maybe?) and away from the photos. There are good facts here, I just wish they'd let the photos and facts stand for themselves. Calvin did fine with the book, and I know he read it, but I feel like it was more of a jumble for him than when he read the Nature's Children book straight through (and got a lot out of it).

And he finished The Boxcar Children #1 this week, and started in on Eve of the Emperor Penguin, and its non-fiction counter part, Penguins and Antarctica, right away.



What we read to Calvin this week...we're still working our way through Despereaux, which is pretty enjoyable, but I'm finding the slang dialect annoying...almost as annoying as the intrusive narrator (since I'm reading it out loud I've actually started skipping over the words "dear reader" and the like). I'm also not sure about some of the subject matter. There is violence (like the girl getting beat over the head until she is near deaf, and the mouse getting his tail cut off), plus the queen dies and the rat desires nothing but revenge because people don't like him. these things haven't upset Calvin at all, but maybe I should have read it myself first.

And on my shelf this week...I am back at Proust, I'm plugging through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I'm in the middle of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, by Naomi Aldort.


Weekly book shelf, 7/3

Thanks to a somewhat impromptu weekend trip I'm behind on pretty much everything, especially the laundry. But vacation means travelling, and that means lots of reading in the car (though not for me, that's something I've never been able to do with out getting vertigo), on top of other reading times. Calvin is definitely all set for his weekly library reading, and he got lots of extra read aloud time with his Oma on this trip, who was sitting next to him in the car.

What Calvin read to himself this week...still on his Magic Tree House kick, he explored Indpendence Day and some others that focused on the history of the United States. Actually, he spent a lot of the trip rereading these to anyone who would listen. He really enjoys these books, and I have yet to find anything in them about which to complain.


As mentioned, we had plenty of read out loud time this week. Calvin's Oma, Jon's mom, brought with her for the car ride, on our way to a family reunion with a bunch of other Dutch folk, three books about Dutch artists Van Gogh and Rembrandt. All three of these books were wonderful. They are based on historical facts and bring the artists to life, engaging the reader in their stories, and the illustrations are very enjoyable. I was especially pleased with the two Laurence Anholt books and I see that he has a whole series of books on master artists.

Having finished the Royal Book of Oz, we started a new bedtime read aloud this week: The Little House on the Prairie. I have actually never read this series, so I am looking forward to discovering it along with my son.

And on my shelf this week...I am half way through The Women of Brewster Place, by Gloria Naylor, and I finished reading Swann's Way, the first volume in Proust. I am really enjoying Proust, and because I think I'll get more out of it a second time through, I've actually gone back to reread the first volume. Also, I'm in the process of starting a separate blog just for taking notes on the work as a whole.


Weekly book shelf, 6/18

I missed a week! But not because we haven't been reading, I've just been to busy to blog everything, and we read so many books in a week that sometimes I'm not sure what to pick to talk about. Today, though, Calvin signed himself for the summer reading program at our library, which I wrote about in the journal, and that will give me a little more structure beginning next week, I think.

What Calvin is reading to himself...this past week his big fascination has been with volcanoes, an interest that may have stemmed from re-reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the fact that it is tornado season. He actually found the book by Seymour Simon all by himself after reading the title on the back of his book about trains by the same author. It's a good fact book with images from real weather situations, and the level and amount of information has really met Calvin's needs and abilities. My only gripe is that it is over ten years old so some of the facts are dates, especially after this year's active season, but hey, that's what the internet is for. The Magic Tree House book was a logical next step for us, of course, and I like those as well as ever.

Out loud we're still reading some of the stories from The Magical Monarch of Mo, and we're almost finished now with The Royal Book of Oz, which I'll review fully when we're done, but on a quick note, I'm very disappointed. I was hoping that the author switch (from L. Frank Baum to Ruth Plumly Thompson) wouldn't make too much of a difference, but actually I find it distracting and disheartening. Bummer.

On my own shelf, over the past two weeks I finished Day, by Elie Wiesel, and The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, by Alexander McCall Smith. I'm also making serious headway on Proust's In Search of Lost Time (or Remembrance of Things Past) and I find that I am really enjoying it, which is good because when I finally finish it I will likely have lost lots of my own time. Ha haaa.


Weekly book shelf, 5/6

Like many families we have a read-before-bed tradition. Usually that's when Calvin and I read another chapter, or two or three, in our most recent read aloud, these days that's usually an Oz. But we have a morning book tradition in our family, too. Since Calvin usually gets up in the mornings before Jon and I are (fully) awake, he selects a handful of picture books and brings them into our room to sit either in the sunshine on the floor or on top of us in bed and read to himself while we slowly blink the day into focus. The books then remain in our bed or on our floor until that night when I set them on the dresser. I have a stack of at least fifteen books still on my dresser from this week because I've been too busy to put them back, but also because sometimes he'll revisit one of them on a morning, and because I like to see the stack grow over the course of the week.

That's just a little reading anecdote, and whatever books he read in the mornings this week are still upstairs on my dresser, so here are the books I know he read downstairs this week. Earl the earthworm is a cute little story with lots of information about worms and their ecosystem. We both continue to be a fan of the Magic Tree House series, he's started on a Rome kick, and he also continued to devour Nate the Great in such quantities as our library had.

He read these two out loud to me this week while I worked in the garden. The first, Jip and Janneke, was a gift sent to him by my cousin who lives in the Netherlands. I wish this book was available here so that I could recommend it to everyone. It's adorable, and he's had a great time with it since it arrived on Tuesday. And he read two chapters to me from that perennial favorite, the original Winnie the Pooh, sans Disney influence.

We've used these for our exploration of Ancient Rome, and yes, I realize I've mixed my Greek and Roman myths here with the appearance of Theseus, but since we started with the Aeneid he at least understands how they intersect, and some of our other research books even explain the lineup of Greek and Roman gods.

We are almost done with Glinda of Oz, but not quite.

And on my bookshelf this week... in fiction I finished A Man Without A Country, by Kurt Vonnegut, and Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, and am now reading Delta of venus. In non-fiction I'm almost finished with The Monk in the Garden, by Robin Marantz Henig, but it's a tad tedious so I'm still plugging away at it.