May 31, 2011

Giveaway on Simple As That

Hi Everyone!

I wanted to give you a heads up that there is a giveaway for Frolic and Farce on Rebecca Cooper's blog: Simple As That.

Click over and enter!!!

May 23, 2011

Good Books for the 7-10 year old Crowd

Several months ago, I started thinking about how important it is for children to learn how to discuss what they read. I learned how to "book talk" around the dinner table. My parents are both avid readers and my Dad would periodically hand us a book that he thought was particularly excellent (like Mrs. Mike), we would all read it, and then we'd discuss it around the table. (Mrs. Mike is particularly excellent.)

Miriam is the oldest, so she is reading a lot of books that the other children aren't. She doesn't like to discuss books with me. These discussions go like this:

Me: "How did you like _______ ?"

Miriam: "I loved it!"

Me: "What did you love about it?"

Miriam: "Well, I liked that . . . [realization dawns that explaining takes awhile] . . . just read it yourself."

To better facilitate "book talk," I created a book club for girls age 7-10 and invited Miriam to join. So far we've met three times. Today was the first time I hosted and was able to listen to the actual book discussion. It was wonderful! The girls had so many funny things to say! I couldn't believe how much Miriam contributed. Yeah!

I think all the books picked for our monthly meetings are excellent (yes, I picked them) so I thought I would share them with you. Any of them would make great summer reading. These books, although geared toward the younger crowd, are good enough to be read by readers of all ages.

I'm not writing a synopsis of the books so I linked the titles to amazon so you can easily find out more if a book interests you. No, I do not get a kick-back from amazon.

The Wish-Giver by Bill Brittain is a classic tale of wish-making gone awry.

Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmesh. This book has a series of short entries about different inventions created by women. Awesome.

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. Vivacious redhead--what's not to love? :)
Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille by Russell Freedman. Freedman is the man when it comes to nonfiction for this age group. Loved this book.
The Horse-Tamer by Walter Farley. If the author sounds familiar it is because he wrote all the Black Stallion books. I like those, but this is my favorite Farley.
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli. This is a great medieval historical fiction about the plague. No head-banging monks. Sorry.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. This is the book the kids read for this month and listening to them talk about it was hilarious. They loved the idea of running away, bathing in a fountain, and sleeping in dusty beds. For our activity we carved Ivory soap with butter knives. Michelangelo we aren't, but we had fun.
The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. This is the first book of the Prydain Chronicles, which include The Black Cauldron--which all of you know because you read my blog. This is, of course, my favorite writer for middle readers. Alexander is the king of fantasy for youngsters. Love, love, love this book and this series.

Gentle Ben by Walt Morey. One of my favorite animal books--right up there with Popper's Penguins (although My Friend Flicka is still the best animal book ever. Ever. Read it, you'll see what I mean.) Apparently there are two books called Gentle Ben about a boy and a bear (I just learned this searching for a cover image). I haven't read the other one. When you search at your library, check the author.

And that is it. I realize I've posted a lot of book recommendations lately, but hey--everyone needs a good book to read!

PS A little heads up--there is going to be a giveaway for my units on another blog. I'll announce it here on the day of. Stay tuned!

May 16, 2011

Two More Good Books to Read

I always find myself admitting to terrible personal deficiencies on this blog. I'm going to do it again, right now. I haven't read all of Jane Austen's novels. Don't start throwing things at me! I love Austen. I fell in love with Austen the summer after grade 6 when my father handed me a copy of Pride and Prejudice and said, "You'll like this." My desire to please my father was such that I read it immediately. And loved it. Mr. Darcy was one of my first character crushes (then I met Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights soon after and fell in looovvveee).

Later, in grade 10, I read Sense and Sensibility. Loved it, although not quite as much as Pride and Prejudice.

When I was an undergrad, I read Persuasion. It hovers just under P&P in transcendence.

Until last week, I just never got around to reading the other three. Like I have a tendency to do, whenever I had a spare minute and felt like an Austen I pulled out my tried and true favorites--either P&P or Persuasion. I don't read as much as I'd like to anymore so when I can sit down and read, I almost never read something new. Sad, I realize. I just don't want to waste time on an inferior book.

But last week I read Northanger Abbey and I loved it. Not as good as my two favorites, but excellent, nonetheless. What I liked is that you could tell it was a young, inexperienced Austen writing. She was more obvious in her put-downs and she "told" instead of "showed" some of the time. However, it was still worlds better than ordinary authors and helped you appreciate the growth Austen experienced as a writer. The main character was charming, the love interest wry and witty, the General perfectly believable in his tiresome arrogance. Ah, it is always good to read Austen--she helps you appreciate people and all their little quirks and foolishness.

If you haven't read an Austen lately, do so. They are good for you.

And if you have a daughter about 11 years old on up (depending on reading level), hand her an Austen. She'll thank you.

PS Are there any good movie versions of Northanger Abbey?

Smith by Leon Garfield is one of those library finds that make you wonder why you haven't heard of a book before because it is so amazingly awesome. Now, my sister just told me that I killed The Penderwicks for her by overstating its goodness, leaving her feeling let-down upon its completion.

There is no way that can happen with this book no matter how I rave about it. The plot centers on a murder of a British gentleman farmer. A murder witnessed by a 12 year old pickpocket called Smith, who happened to steal minutes before what the murderers killed to get--a letter. The rest of the book is high adventure as Smith tries to avoid getting killed (someone saw him pick the pocket) while trying to learn how to read (so he can understand the letter's importance).

If you have a boy or girl age 8 on up (depending on reading level--it is aimed for the 12 on up crowd but could easily be read by someone younger) who likes adventure stories, this one is superb.

Happy reading!

May 10, 2011

A Great Library Find: Audio Book

I have to admit something a little embarrassing: I didn't know the Disney movies about mice rescuing people were based on books. When I was at the library scanning for a new audio book, I saw The Rescuers by Margery Sharp. Completely surprised that such a book existed, I had to check it out and listen.

We loved it. Loved it.

It was written in the 50s and some people on amazon said they didn't like it because Miss Bianca is too--sheltered or feminine or dainty--or something ridiculous like that. She is hilarious in her, "How do poor people manage?" cluelessness. I was charmed.

The book would be a great read, but if you can manage it, I would listen to it. I know, I know, I've been saying that a lot lately. The reader, a Davina Porter, was magnificent. She had perfect timing so none of the jokes were lost.

Plus, I was checking on amazon and this sweet book was out of print!!! but is coming back in print in a few months. You can preorder the lovely hardcover pictured above for $10. I'm sorely tempted. I really enjoyed the book. So did my three oldest children.

Some Days He's Smart . . .

and some days he's not.

Have you ever noticed this phenomenon with your children?

I'm talking about how your child knows something one day and the next day acts like he's never heard of the concept before.

An example. My son is obsessed with the Ranger's Apprentice series even though he can't read them yet. I've told him about the books and he loves the covers, so often I find him studying the covers very carefully. The other day Cowen came to me and said, "Mom, do we have all the Ranger Apprentice books?"

Me: "No, there are 8 in the series."

Cowen--without the slightest hesitation: "We have five. That means we need three more. But if we buy one, we'll only need two more. And if we buy one more after that we'll only need one more. And if we buy one more after that, we'll have them all."

Me: "Great job figuring that out, buddy."

The next day. Me: "Cowen, what is eight subtract five?"

Cowen: "I don't know."

Me: "Okay, what is five plus three?"

Cowen--long pause while he counts on his fingers: "Eight."


Another example.

Cowen has gotten tired of reading practice. He is tired of his reading books. He is tired of me asking him how to spell things. With a burst of inspiration, for reading time today I handed him the computer. He was flabbergasted. I never hand him the computer.

After Miriam outgrew it, I forgot all about it. Until today.

I let Cowen play around on it for a good 30 minutes then I joined him on the couch and had him read Zac the Rat to me. It is the first book under the "Learn to Read" section. He read it perfectly, except "the", the first time through, including words he'd never seen before. Not hard words, but new words.

And yet, he tells me that reading is too hard and he can't do it.

So how much can he read? I HAVE NO IDEA.

Like I said, some days he's smart, and other days, not so much.

May 2, 2011

why i love homeschooling, reason #2,469...

Three Great Library Finds

Hank Aaron: Brave in Every Way by Peter Golenbock is a great book--especially if you have a sports loving boy. I thought the author did a great job of highlighting the difficulties Aaron had in getting into the majors because of his race as well as his deep ties to his family without getting bogged down in other, messier, issues that are best saved for an older audience. The book was inspiring (I cried--but then, I am post partum) and I loved it.
Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story by Janet Halfmann is wonderful. I didn't like the illustrations but the story is fantastic and written in such a way to keep even my youngsters interested. (We checked out the Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. version of the Robert Smalls story at the same time and it didn't have the same kind of kid appeal.) I couldn't believe I hadn't heard of Robert Smalls before! History written well for the young crowd. Bravo.
Anansi Goes Fishing by Eric A. Kimmel is hilarious. It tells the story of how spiders learned how to spin webs. My children made me read it to them several times a day and when I finally started refusing they ganged up on Daddy. I'm sure most of you have heard of Anansi stories, but if you haven't--try this one!