31 Days: We made it!

If you’re keeping track, I managed to post something almost every day this month. That’s nothing short of remarkable, considering my previous track record.

Since I know y’all are out having fun tonight, and not sitting inside reading Ye Olde Blogge, I thought I’d share one quick book.

Scarecrow

As we move away from Halloween and toward Thanksgiving, Cynthia Rylant and Lauren Stringer’s Scarecrow is worth checking out. The story here is very poetic, with Rylant’s beloved language making you feel like you really understand the scarecrow’s point of view. His observations on life and nature will probably resonate more with adults than children, but it’s still a sweet read to share together. The slightly-fantastical illustrations probably won’t mimic any scarecrow you’ve ever seen, but the character is sympathetic enough to keep you engaged in the reading. This is a present my girls will open tonight, so that there’s something new in the book basket as we pack away the Halloween books for another year. (Sob.)

If you’ve missed any of our posts this month, click on the image below to find more amazing kids’ books. Thanks for hanging out as we’ve been reading!

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31 Days: Non-fiction for Fall

For me, there’s nothing like a cozy fall story. The season begs for snuggles on the couch under a comfy blanket, ideally with a sweet snack to munch while you read. Most of the time, this means we are reading fiction. But, wait! There’s a great deal of non-fiction out there that makes for splendid fall reading. Teachers – listen up! Those antsy boys that don’t want to read your sweet stories of leaf raking and pumpkin carving? They might just dig in to stories about spiders and science, instead. Here are a few favorites to get you started.

Spiders

Gail Gibbons was writing and illustrating non-fiction before non-fiction was cool. Before state legislators ever started worrying about how much ‘expository text’ students were consuming, Gail Gibbons was digging deep to make the stories behind holidays, seasons, animals, and the environment come alive. Spiders is a personal favorite, because I am a one-woman crusade when it comes to keeping spiders around. Why would I kill a friendly arachnid that will EAT the insects I despise? This was always a very early science lesson in my classroom.

Gibbons’ books use realistic drawings to break down complex scientific concepts. Her language is technically accurate, while remaining accessible to early-elementary students. I have read these books to my girls, occasionally modifying things to fit their needs, or skipping portions that threatened to fly over their heads. Other great Gail Gibbons choices for fall include BatsOwls, and The Pumpkin Book.

Why Do Leaves Change ColorFor first grade-ish and up, I always enjoy reading Why Do Leaves Change Color?, by Betsy Maestro. Again, this is the sort of book that can be used with younger students if you’re willing to modify some text while you read. The style is narrative enough for students to follow, but it uses accurate vocabulary and process description. Loretta Krupinski’s illustrations are engaging without being distracting. For students with any schema at all for leaves changing color (sorry to the Floridians), this book will explain why that happens, and the benefits that fallen leaves give to their ecosystem.

From Seed to PumpkinIf you’re not tired of pumpkins yet, younger children might prefer the simple text and pictures found in Wendy Pfeffer and James Graham Hale’s From Seed to Pumpkin. This book explains the life cycle of a pumpkin, with detail appropriate to its preschool-Kindergarten audience. This is a great book for building schema about plants and life cycles, and it also provides many opportunities for making connections. Little ones can share similarities to plants they’ve observed on nature walks, grown in their gardens (or in baggies on the classroom window), or life cycle stories they have read elsewhere.

Earlier this month, I also reviewed Pumpkin Circle, an excellent choice for an introduction to non-fiction text.

{Read It, Make It! receives a small commission for purchases made through the books linked above through an affiliate program. Thanks for keeping us reading!}

We are nearing the end of 31 Days of Amazing Kids Books – click on the image below to see what else we have highlighted this month!

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31 Days: Pumpkin Moonshine

I feel like it’s necessary at this point to state emphatically that I am not suggesting you brew any sort of liquor out of pumpkins. Instead, I think you should read this classic Tasha Tudor book, which has an unusual name.

Pumpkin Moonshine

Like all of Tasha Tudor’s books, Pumpkin Moonshine is set in a vaguely 19th century New England world, though it was originally published well into the 20th century. In this story, a little girl named Sylvie finds the perfect pumpkin. In order to get it home, she employs inventive methods to travel across the fields. In so doing, she disrupts many a contented farm animal, and causes a small amount of chaos. Finally, she finds her grandfather, and he solves the problem of the runaway pumpkin by carving it into a ‘pumpkin moonshine,’ which you and I would probably call a jack o’lantern.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that Sylvie wants her pumpkin moonshine to be ‘fierce and horrid,’ with the goal of scaring people on Halloween night. That language aside, the face is not frightening, and the story is so charming that I don’t think it would be scary to most children.

This is a great book for a short conversation about regional and dialectical differences in language, and a sweet addition to any discussion about farm life. I was delighted to find it still in print and available, because so many of Tudor’s books are inaccessibly priced for non-collectors. For more information about Tasha Tudor’s life and work, visit this site, run by her descendents, who are working hard to preserve her legacy.

{Affiliate links are used above.}

For more great children’s book ideas, click on the picture below.

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31 Days: Halloween Science

As promised, here is a recap of some of the scientific fun we enjoyed this afternoon. Each of these little experiments could be completed in about ten minutes or so, including digging out the supplies from the dark recesses of your kitchen cabinets. As I mentioned last week, all the ideas are inspired by Horrible Harry at Halloween. (<–affiliate link)

Halloween Science Experiments

Let me be clear: not one of these is groundbreaking science. Each experiment conveys a simple scientific idea, and is also pretty fun. I did these with zero drama from, or safety threat to, my two year old and three and a half year old. Equally, I’ve done them with a classroom full of second graders. They capture some interest, start some good discussions, and let kids see scientific ideas at work. Classroom teachers, you might want to warn parents what you have done, because some of these tend to get replicated at home.

First up: oil and water don’t mix. (I know you’re shocked, but it’s true.)

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For this, you need oil, water, food coloring, and a container in which to mix. I used an empty water bottle because I knew that I could cap it securely and let the girls have fun shaking and mixing.

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Add some food coloring to the water. We added yellow first, then red, to make orange like Harry’s teacher did. I let the girls shake after each drop, but you could make this move as quickly or as slowly as you needed.

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Once shaken, you want to add the oil. I find that you need enough oil for the little people to really see what’s going on. This is not the time to use your imported cold-press extra virgin olive oil that costs $25 an ounce. Stick to the cheap stuff, people.

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I let the girls each add a small bit, and then I poured in enough to make it obvious. More shaking ensued at that point. Then, a bit of waiting (maybe 30 seconds) is key, so the kids can see the oil separate from the water and rise to the top. Here is where you explain (if needed) that the oil did not mix with the water, and that no matter how hard you shake the container, the oil will separate. It “floats” on the water because it is less dense.

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For a more thorough scientific explanation for older students, keep reading.

Next up: floating and sinking. You need a big container, water, and some things that will float and sink.

For this one, I did have to spend some time explaining to 3.5 year old Bethany that being in the water is not the same thing as floating… I used a sponge to show how something floats on top of the water. A sheet of paper would also work for this.

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Basically, you put things in the water, and see what happens. There might be some surprises, as Harry shows so well in the book. Equally, there are some things that are not surprising at all. If you do this with preschoolers, be prepared that it will devolve into water play. If that’s not going to work for you, then stay vigilant, and empty the tub as soon as you’re done sinking and floating.

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This was a fun one. The little pot will float, despite its size, since it’s empty. Bethany had fun adding other objects to the pot to see how much it could hold before it started to sink. Here, it’s important to avoid over-explaining. Just letting her explore was my goal. This was not an AP Physics lesson.

Last, but certainly not least, the grand finale.

For this, you need a plastic pumpkin, water, and a space big enough to swing your arm.

Fill the pumpkin with water.

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Straighten your arm, and swing it all the way over your head in a circle. AS LONG AS YOU KEEP IT MOVING, the water will stay inside the pumpkin. The straight arm is key. Don’t be afraid, but equally don’t try this if you’re afraid that the area around you will be ruined if it gets wet. (Take a lesson from what happens when Song Lee gives it a try in our story…)

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Here I am mid-swing. You can see by Clara’s reaction, and Bethany’s excellent photography, that we were all having some fun. Depending on your students’ age, you might want to explain that centripetal force is at work. {For more than you ever thought you wanted to know about centripetal force, try this.}

This is really a crowd pleaser, especially in a classroom full of students who are not used to seeing their teachers do crazy things. It’s fun, too, to see your mother swinging a pumpkin around like a nut in the front yard.

If you try these, I’d love to hear the reactions of the little ones in your life!

For more great book suggestions, just click on the picture below.

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31 Days: Hush, Little Baby, again!

Quite a while ago, I wrote about my love of Marla Frazee’s illustrations for the classic lullaby Hush, Little Baby. While that version is definitely still a favorite at this house, I’ve discovered another version to love.

Brian Pinkney's Hush Little Baby

Brian Pinkney‘s illustrations draw from a different time period, and alter the storyline just a bit. In his note at the end of the text, Pinkney notes that he’s selected a setting in the early 20th century. Here, instead of a mother or family trying to get a baby to sleep, the song imagines a father and older siblings trying to help their baby go to sleep while mama is away. Pinkney has made a few changes to the lyrics (a fire truck is involved), which serves to advance his retelling in a humorous way.

The illustrations are almost musical themselves. With swirling lines and figures that flow from one page to the next, Pinkney has captured the spirit of the song. Additionally, the family in the book is African-American, providing an excellent counterpoint to the more traditional adaptations of the lullaby. We found this on the shelf at our library, and I’d like to think it would be easy to find at yours, too.  While the song is typically used with smaller children, I think that older ones would enjoy the humor found in trying to help the baby by whatever method necessary.

To be honest, I’m beginning to want a collection of illustrated versions of this song. I’d love to hear about your favorites!

If you’re looking for more great books, click on the image below.

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{Please note that the book links in this post are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!}

31 Days: Horrible Harry & Halloween

Today’s post is a little bit of a tease for Monday’s. On Monday, this family will be having some Halloween-styled fun inspired by the antics of Horrible Harry.

Horrible Harry at Halloween

If you hang out with seven- and eight-year-olds, whether you’re a teacher or a parent, you are probably already familiar with Harry’s shenanigans. While this series can hardly be called high literature, it is the sort of everyday storyline that kids can relate to. I particularly like the Halloween volume because there are several replicable science experiments. These are suitable for either home or classroom use, and they have the “whizz bang” sort of factor that engages kids instantly. Equally, they have some real scientific value, unlike the much-adored but fairly useless baking soda/vinegar volcano.

So, without further ado, here’s a short list of items you’ll need to try these experiments at home. Come back on Monday, and become scientists along with Bethany and Clara!

*oil, vinegar, water, food coloring, and something in which to mix them (baby food jar, test tube, small jelly jar, small glass)

*an aquarium or bin with clear-ish sides, and varying objects that might sink or float, and water (Horrible Harry uses a grape, a lemon, a potato, and a pumpkin.)

*plastic jack o’lantern, and more water (you also might need duct tape to secure your jack o’lantern’s handle)

In the meantime, go ahead and read Horrible Harry at Halloween, and find out what Harry’s up to this time. (<–affiliate link, of course) While this book will resonate most with kids who have some sort of classroom experience, it’s also fun just to see how the students in the class interact with each other.

For more great book ideas, just click on the picture below.

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31 Days: Another one for chilly nights

We had to turn on the heat last night. Go ahead, laugh away. Keep laughing, it’s fine. It may only be the end of October, and it may be Atlanta, but we try to keep the house above 62 degrees. (If my girls decide to go to college in Alaska, they will just learn to acclimate.)

In light of this turn of events, I thought I’d share another great book for chilly fall evenings. I bought this book while I was in college, long before I had children, and before I even knew I wanted to be a teacher. Something about it just screamed, “BUY ME!” Ordinarily, I don’t listen to inanimate objects, but I’m awfully glad I listened to this one.

The Pumpkin Blanket

The Pumpkin Blanket, written and painted by Deborah Turney Zagwyn, conveys the spirit and feeling of fall through both its text and paintings. Clee (pictured up there on the cover) has a blanket that she treasures. Her family calls it the pumpkin blanket, and its origins are a little magical and mysterious. The blanket is an important part of her days and nights. When time grows close for Clee to start Kindergarten, the family worries that Clee will not be able to take the blanket with her. At the same time, her father finds that the pumpkins in the family’s garden also need some extra warmth. Generously, Clee shares squares of her pumpkin blanket, one by one, until all the pumpkins are covered.

The story’s magical ending matches its beginning. When only one square is left, the wind whips it out of Clee’s grasp, and simultaneously lifts all the other squares from their assigned pumpkins. Then, the blanket stitches itself back together and flies into the night sky. Perfect for any child who wonders what might happen to a beloved toy or blanket, The Pumpkin Blanket gently explains how things come and go over the course of our lives.

This is the sort of book that you might want to have put aside for the moment when you need it. If you have a little one who is particularly attached to a comfort object, odds are there will be some sort of moment when you find that s/he will need to transition away from that object. For some, this could be a gentle introduction to the idea. For others, this could be a heartwarming confirmation that although some things are no longer parts of our lives, they can still inspire wonderful memories. Let’s face it – even as adults, we struggle to part with ‘things’ that we no longer need. I like to encourage people to give their children plenty of grace when it’s time to let go of or diminish the role of specific objects in their lives.

For more book suggestions, including a lot of fall and Halloween favorites, just click on the picture below.

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{Please note that the links above are affiliate links, and this site earns a tiny commission if you purchase through those links.}

31 Days: A little soup for a chilly evening

Pumpkin Soup

Fall arrived with a vengeance today in Atlanta, so I thought I’d share a book to warm you up a little bit. Pumpkin Soup, by Helen Cooper, is more a story about friendship than soup. (Nonetheless, the soup plays an important role. If you’re like me, you really like pumpkin soup, so that alone is enough to get you to read the story.)

In this tale, each of the three animal characters (Cat, Duck, and Squirrel) has a job to do to prepare the meals. One day, the duck decides to disrupt the accepted order of things, and a ruckus ensues. Very angry, the duck leaves, and says he’ll never return. At first, the cat and squirrel don’t believe him, but when he doesn’t return by nightfall, they begin to worry. They leave to search for him, but find nothing. When they get back to their house, Duck is there, and they promise to show more appreciation for him in the future. Of course, they also make a celebratory pot of pumpkin soup, with Duck being allowed a more involved role than in the past.

I highly recommend using this book in a classroom situation if some students are starting to feel left out of a given activity or the classroom at large. It’s a good conversation starter for both sides, as the “left out” child can recognize his/her real contributions, and the people doing the “leaving out” can understand how to appreciate the gifts everyone brings to the group. At home, it’s helpful when one little girl likes to keep her sister from doing the “fun” jobs. (Ahem.)

Helen Cooper has two additional books written in a similar vein. I have not had as much experience with them, but if you have used either A Pipkin of Pepper or Delicious!, I would love to hear your thoughts.

{Those book links? Yes, they are affiliate links.}

For more great book ideas, just click on the picture below.

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31 Days: Halloween Fun from Megan Lloyd

I realized this morning, while rereading both of these books with the girls, that neither of them made it into my two Halloween posts earlier this month. Travesty! Let me remedy this situation immediately by suggesting that if you don’t know the illustrations of Megan Lloyd, check out one of these two titles and prepare to fall in love.

First, the older of the two books: The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, written by Linda D. Williams.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

This is probably the only book I’ve recommended thus far that I’d label as slightly scary. The little old lady in question goes to the woods to look for herbs, and starts to see some mysterious things. Animated clothing – clomping pairs of shoes, a shaking shirt, and a boo-ing pumpkin head – starts to follow her. She thinks she’s escaped once she’s home, but then something knocks at the door. Fortunately, because she is not afraid of anything, the little old lady comes up with a satisfactory way to handle these noisy visitors. When I read this with Bethany, we talk extensively about how the story is imaginary, and she waits excitedly for the final pages where we see these spooky clothing items come together as a scarecrow.

While the story is just the right combination of exciting and slightly-spooky, the illustrations really make the book. There’s a charming, almost Old World feeling to them, but they’re still believably authentic. There is no gore, or other unnecessarily frightening details. The little old lady’s cabin is comforting and cozy, so the reader completely understands why she knows she is safe once she returns home.

I would recommend this story for all but the most sensitive of children. If you’re worried, try prereading it and see what you think!

Too Many Pumpkins

Using a similar setting and a similar main character,Too Many Pumpkins, by Linda White, is equally charming while not at all scary. The sweet older lady in this story, Rebecca Estelle, absolutely detests pumpkins as a result of being forced to eat them for an entire month as a child. When a pumpkin truck accidentally spills a pumpkin into her yard, Rebecca Estelle attempts to destroy the resulting sprouts, only to end up with a yard full of pumpkins in the fall. Unable to waste these vegetables she hates, Rebecca Estelle decides to share them with her neighbors. The pumpkin party that follows brings everyone together, and changes her mind about pumpkins.

Again, Lloyd’s illustrations really shine here. Frankly, I wish I could move into Rebecca Estelle’s old farmhouse. There is one spread of dozens of carved jack o’lanterns that really looks as though you’re looking at a field of candlelit pumpkins. The people and places are fairly timeless, but some details (a modern stove and refrigerator) anchor the story firmly in the present.

The underlying themes of generosity and stewardship are ideal for this time of year, and discussion about those things follows naturally with children who read the story.

{The links to the books discussed are affiliate links, and the commission received from those sales supports this site.}

For more book ideas we’ve shared in October, click on the picture below. Thanks for reading!

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31 Days: It’s a party

The Jolly Barnyard

Yesterday, we celebrated Clara’s second birthday. While we certainly can’t believe she’s been hanging out around here for two years, we were blessed to celebrate with lots of family and friends. We think she had a good time. When I manage to get the photos off the camera, I’ll share some here.

Today, I thought I’d pick a book that both Bethany and Clara have loved. They love it so much, in fact, that they always want to buy it when we need to give someone a birthday gift. I’m fairly sure I should start buying it in bulk, just to make certain we have a copy on hand when we need one.

The book in question is The Jolly Barnyard, a Little Golden Book written by Annie North Bedford and illustrated by Tibor Gergely. (He’s my favorite, by the way. He’s getting his own post very soon.) The rhyming text tells the story of Farmer Brown’s birthday. Because he takes such good care of the animals on his farm, they decide to honor him on his birthday by doing nice things for him. The pictures are sweet and decently realistic, and the whole thing is just so wholesome and sweet that you feel like you’ve eaten a slice of birthday cake when you finish the book.

I’m not one to blindly endorse all classic Little Golden Books, as there are certainly aspects to some of them that don’t need to survive into the 21st century. This one, however simplistic, does stand the test of time, and is a worthwhile read for anyone’s birthday. It also works well to talk about ways to give gifts of our time and abilities, not just ‘stuff’ that no one really needs. The three year old in this house is definitely working on learning that lesson at the moment.

{The link above is a compensated affiliate link. Thank you for supporting Read It, Make It!}

For more great books, click on the image below.

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