Two New-to-Us Halloween Books

Halloween always seems to slip up on me, book-wise, and I end up reading all of our favorites in marathon fashion on October 30th and 31st. This year, I’m making a real effort to work these in a little bit sooner, so we can stretch out the fun over a few weeks. I’ve shared several of our family’s classic Halloween selections before, so today I wanted to share two new choices.

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This brand-new book reminds me, illustration-wise, of Ghosts in the House (IndieBound/Amazon), which I reviewed last year. It’s Only a Witch Can Fly (IndieBound/Amazon), by Alison McGhee with spellbinding illustrations by Taeeun Yoo. The book’s plot is fairly basic: a little girl sees a bright moon shining in the sky, and longs to be a witch so that she can fly to see it. Her early attempts result in failure, but eventually she manages to “be” a witch and fly to the moon.

When I first read this story to the girls, the rhyme scheme had me stumped. It was irregular, and I couldn’t figure out why some words rhymed and others just repeated. Then, I read the dedication page and learned that the text was written in the form of a sestina, a style of poetry that has its roots in the music of French troubadours. Obviously, this is highly unusual in a children’s book, but it definitely works for this story, because it evokes something ancient that helps the reader understand the little girl’s very basic and primal desire to fly.

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Another aspect of this book that I particularly enjoyed was the involvement of the little girl’s family. When the little girl’s attempt to fly results in her being flung from her broom, it is her younger brother that picks up the broom and encourages her to try again. After she soars across the moon in the night, her entire family runs to greet her and celebrate what she has done. While obviously not the sort of thing that happens in daily life, the love and support shown to the girl is downright heartwarming – not at all what you’d expect to see in a book where the main character wants to be a witch!

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Some of you are shocked to see this here, because you know I’m not normally a fan of books that turn into interminable series, and Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin’s Click, Clack, Moo! (IndieBound/Amazon) seems to have done just that. However, the latest entry into the saga of a farmyard full of recalcitrant animals (and one pesky duck) is actually pretty fun reading. Click, Clack, Boo! (IndieBound/Amazon) takes us back to the farm on Halloween night, where we learn that Farmer Brown is not a fan of the holiday. In fact, he hides under his covers, hoping to skip the entire thing.

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Not surprisingly, the animals in the barn plan a huge party to celebrate, and their costumes are hysterical, which is to be expected. Also as to be expected, Farmer Brown finds a note from Duck, who is dressed as a vampire. Unexpectedly, though, the note actually invites Farmer Brown to join the animals in the barn, where he receives a surprise that is not at all spooky.

For those of you who have kiddos who get scared easily, this is a good book to read to discuss how things that seems spooky often aren’t frightening at all. Even though Duck’s behavior initially frightens Farmer Brown, we, as readers, know that it is just Duck, who is much more silly than scary. Bethany, who is afraid of anything in costume, found it reassuring to know that the animals in costumes were the characters she was used to seeing in Click, Clack, Moo.

Have you added any great new Halloween books to your libraries? We’re also looking for suggestions, so feel free to share if you have.

{The book links in this post are affiliate links. If you make any purchases using them, Read It, Make It! earns a small commission. Thank you!}

 

Hildegard von Bingen: Two Children’s Books

As we slowly ease ourselves into a Charlotte Mason-inspired education, I’ve been making a real effort to incorporate weekly composer and artist study into our homeschool time. For the sake of sanity, I decided we would begin by following the Ambleside Online artist and composer rotations, and then deviate from that plan as needed. Thus, our first composer this year has been Hildegard von Bingen, a cloistered nun from medieval Germany.

If you’re not familiar with her work – and I certainly wasn’t prior to this year – go ahead and click on the video below to listen while you read.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRrjFUGeNCE

Otherworldly, right? Hildegard had religious visions from a young age, and eventually was inspired to record these visions and write music that shared the spirit of God with others. While remaining within the musical forms of her time, Hildegard also created a distinctive style. Listen to her compositions alongside other plainsong and medieval chants, and you’ll notice that you can identify her work fairly easily.

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While Charlotte Mason emphasized the music over the minutiae of its composer’s life, I became so fascinated with Hildegard that I did want to share a bit of her story with the girls. I found an excellent copy of Jonah & Jeanette Winter’s The Secret World of Hildegard (IndieBound/Amazon), and it does a magnificent job of explaining her life, the world in which she lived, and the reasons for her work.

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The illustrations are done in a manner reminiscent of illuminations, and the more mystic and spiritual aspects of her life and work are explained in ways that young children can begin to grasp. Here is just one example, of the Holy Spirit descending upon Hildegard as she dictates to her scribes. The book beautifully describes her achievements, placing them in the context of a time when women were not expected to read, write, or assert much authority. For a fascinating in-depth study of her life and work, visit this website, which is clearly a labor of love.

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Megan Hoyt and David Hill have also written and illustrated a newer book about Hildegard’s life. Hildegard’s Gift (IndieBound/Amazon) places its main focus on her musical accomplishments, and the role of her faith in making that work possible. The illustrations are in a more modern style, and this book might be preferable to some families. Also, it includes several quotes from Hildegard’s body of work in a way that allows them to strengthen the telling of the story.

My almost-three year old has been particularly taken with Hildegard, and asks to read the book frequently. We’ve also started a Hildegard Pandora channel, which makes for good background music throughout our day. I’m thrilled to have discovered this composer, and we are beginning to feel like she is an old friend.

Books for Little Dancers

My family has had a bit of a “Sunrise, Sunset” moment here lately, because Bethany and I are taking dance lessons from the same teacher this year. It’s actually Bethany’s second year in the program, and she’s loved it. When the school announced an adult class was forming, I convinced a dear friend to join me, and we jumped in.

I hadn’t danced since college, so the learning curve is pretty steep, but it’s also exactly what I needed. The class is only an hour, once a week, but it’s a chance to reconnect with something that was a huge part of my life for a long time. I’m a lot older and a little wiser, though, so I no longer care about whether or not I look silly or whether or not I’ll be ready for a recital. Heck, it’s an awful lot of work just to remember a combination.

Nonetheless, it’s an amazing space for me each week, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Bethany is jealous that she doesn’t get to join me, and I am relieved that I am still working slightly beyond her in terms of technique. šŸ˜‰ To celebrate our family’s little bit of dance togetherness, I thought I’d share two dance books that I love.

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Last spring, I was looking for a book about an American cultural icon, and my dancing friend suggested I look for something about Martha Graham. I discovered Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, and bought it on a whim. (IndieBound/Amazon) It turned out even better than I could have anticipated, because it focuses on the three people who came together to create Appalachian Spring: Martha Graham (choreographer); Aaron Copland (composer); and Isamu Noguchi (designer).

The book details a tiny bit of each person’s biography, and then weaves their stories together within the context of the story of the ballet – not just its plot, but the nuances of its creation. Even if you’re not a dance fiend, you can still find some inspiration in this story of camaraderie and artistry.Ā  Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan’s text deftly explains the plot of this piece, and also helps the reader understand the way that dance choreography changes in interpretation over time.

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While I wouldn’t necessarily expect a young reader to grasp that concept initially, the book’s overall flow makes it an interesting read for even the youngest dance lover. There is a bit of additional historical information in the final pages that provides a glimpse into each artist’s life and larger work. For my fellow history lovers, there are even extensive footnotes providing additional sources for further reading. (That’s right – footnotes in a picture book. Delicious.)

For me, Brian Floca’s illustrations do capture the spirit of the piece, and include plenty of white space in a minimalist style very reminiscent of Noguchi’s designs for the ballet’s set. To channel Levar Burton, though, don’t take my word for it. Let your little reader watch at least a portion of the ballet itself. An early film of the ballet is readily available on YouTube, with Graham herself dancing the lead. Watch the first part below:

dance books for kids

When I saw To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel (IndieBound/Amazon) at the library, I grabbed it, because I thought it might be a graphic novel I could like. (Sorry to the aficionados out there, but I just can’t get into the genre.) Fortunately, my instincts were correct and it was actually a graphic novel I could enjoy. It’s an autobiographical story, with illustrations by the author’s husband, so you definitely feel the pull of dance in the narrator’s life.

What struck me initially was that the book that inspired author Siena Cherson Siegel to dance and keep dancing was also a book I poured over as a child. That book – A Very Young Dancer, by Jill Krementz (IndieBound/Amazon) – might seem outdated now, but I have no doubt that it encouraged an entire generation of twinkle toes. Siegel’s evident joy in movement is also something I remember, though my talent and aspirations climbed nowhere near the heights that hers did.

Siegel doesn’t beat around the bush. She leaves her family behind in Puerto Rico to move to the U.S. and advance her dance education. As she does, you read about the exhaustion, the stress, and eventually the injuries that led her to leave dance as a profession. She returns, however, knowing that she needs that source of expression in her life. I particularly appreciated the honesty that runs throughout the novel: Siegel’s life isn’t perfect, and her story as a dancer doesn’t culminate in a breathtaking career as a prima ballerina.

Rather, she works through her childhood ambition, reaches some audacious goals, and then makes a wise, though heartbreaking, decision. For this reason, I think that this is the sort of book that would resonate with many kids, even those whose “thing” isn’t dance. The illustrations, by Mark Siegel, are more varied than those found in many graphic novels, and they accompany the text without overwhelming it.

Please note that due to some difficult situations described in this book, I would not consider it appropriate for the youngest readers. There is nothing that would prevent me giving it to a mature fourth or fifth grader, but you will want to pre-read it to develop your own opinion.

{The book links in this post are affiliate links, and Read It, Make It! earns a small commission on any purchases made using them. Thank you!}

Sophie’s Squash: I’m not the only fan of the butternut.

Last week, I told you about my little error in the book storage arena. As a result, we’ve been discovering some excellent new fall books, because we’ve had to actually pay attention to those at the library. Up today: Sophie’s Squash, by Pat Zietlow Miller, with illustrations by Anne Wilsdorf. (IndieBound/Amazon)

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This one is only tangentially related to fall, but I snatched it up because I’d just bought my first butternut squash of the year from our friendly farmer, Mr. Chad. In the story, Sophie also selects a butternut squash from her local farmer’s market. Unlike me, though, Sophie considers the squash a friend, rather than an ingredient.

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As the story progresses, Sophie becomes increasingly attached to Bernice the Squash, while Bernice begins to deteriorate. Eventually, Sophie’s parents convince her to visit the farmer again, who tells her what squash need to thrive: “fresh air, good clean dirt, and a little love.” Sophie knows she has all of those things, so she buries Bernice in a little dirt bed in her yard.

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Winter arrives immediately thereafter, and Sophie frets about what will become of her beloved friend. It turns out that there is no need to fear, because Spring comes with a surprise better than she could have ever anticipated. The picture above gives you a little clue about that, but I’m not going to give away the entire ending.

My older daughter is a bit anxious by nature, and this was a good book for us to read and use to discuss ways that things that seem initially difficult can have surprisingly great endings. It’s also a book worth considering if you have a child or student who needs to give up a treasured object for one reason or another. Sophie’s caring nature is definitely one to emulate, and I think the overall message is one that would be useful for most children.

Butternut Squash

I feel like I should tell you that we did not create a doll out of our squash, since I have definite plans to eat it in the near future. Maybe I’ll figure out how to make one out of felt? There’s a chance I get that done before Sophie’s next book is published…

{The book link in this post is an affiliate link, and if you make a purchase after using it, Read It, Make It! will earn a small commission. Thank you!}

 

Three Great Novels for Making Connections

I’ve been on a fiction kick lately. I bought several Very Grown Up historical monographs at the most recent library book sale, and then realized that I might have been temporarily insane, because I am just not in a phase of life where that type of reading is even remotely attractive.

So, I settled in with a little collection of books written for middle schoolers, which is a more accurate reflection of my current state of mind. You should know that these just ended up on the shelf next to each other, and that I had no intention of putting them together in a little grouping until I started reading the third one and realized how beautifully they could work together.

All three of these are books set in time periods following the Civil War, but each deals with the ramifications of enslavement in some way. They are each also coming-of-age stories, with family relationships central to the plot. Back in the olden days, we used to put together text sets, and this would really make a great one if you’re still doing that sort of thing. Bare minimum, you could just ask your child to read all three and then sit down and discuss them together. There’s a lot to discuss!

books for science minded girls

I read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate first. (IndieBound/Amazon) Written by Jacqueline Kelly, this tells the story of Callie, only girl living amongst a sea of brothers on a Texas cotton plantation at the turn of the 20th century. Constantly told what she should be doing because of her gender, she finds comfort and security by following in the footsteps of her naturalist grandfather. The time span of the story is only a few months, but in that time we read about enormous growth and changes in Callie’s outlook on the world at large and on the society in which she finds herself.

Readers will identify with Callie’s struggle to please her parents, learn the skills required of her, and still assert her own ideas about what is interesting and worth her time. Callie finds an unlikely ally in her grandfather, but also cherishes relationships with school friends and siblings. While everything is not neatly tied up in a bow at the end of the book, I enjoyed the positivity of many of the family’s interactions, even when it was obvious that Callie and her parents were basically planets in separate orbits.

Overall, I think that the emphasis on natural history would be fascinating for many kids today whose idea of science is a textbook or a YouTube video, and could quite possibly be inspiring. This book, some field guides, and a blank notebook would make a great gift for an upper elementary school student.

My one complaint with this book was that it tended a bit much toward a sense of longing for the Good Old Days before the Civil War. I’m not sure if a 4th-6th grader would pick up on that or not, but the other two books in this post would certainly overcome that emotion in a hurry.

books about community

Since things had gone so well with Miss Callie, I decided to just grab the next book on the shelf. The Sittin’ Up (IndieBound/Amazon) was recommended to my husband at Little Shop of Stories, but, sadly, I had let it languish all summer.

Sheila Moses, whose work I had not read previously, writes with a really beautiful depth of language. This story is told in dialect, which might be off-putting to young readers, but the carefully developed story and characters would overcome that for most, I think. The Sittin’ Up begins with the death of Mr. Bro. Wiley, a formerly-enslaved man who had lived to be 100 years old. Set in 1940, it takes place over the week following the death, and culminates in Mr. Bro. Wiley’s “sittin’ up” the night before he’s scheduled to be buried.

The characters are many and varied, and both the African-American and White residents of the area are portrayed multi-dimensionally. The relationships between the country-dwelling and city-dwelling people are also shown to be multifaceted. From the outset of the book, a huge storm is predicted, and by the time it arrives, the reader is deeply invested in the characters’ and community’s response. Even the most stereotypical of the characters’ relationships are cast in a different light as the community works together to recover in the days following the disaster.

Sprinkled throughout the book are the narrator’s – Bean’s – memories of Mr. Bro. Wiley, and the bits of wisdom that he shared with seemingly everyone with whom he ever spoke. This common wisdom serves to be a great source of strength for the Low Meadows community, and it comforts them in their time of trial.

There’s enough action in this story to make it appealing to reluctant readers, and that action also makes for a great classroom read-aloud. With a little pre-reading, you could figure out exactly where to stop each day so that your students would be clamoring for more. While the setting and plot are entirely rural and agricultural, I think the overall story is timeless and would resonate with most kids in the upper-elementary and middle grades.

If you live somewhere that has been affected by flooding, you would want to be very cautious to share this, though, because the height of the flood is described in great detail, and I could easily see it being upsetting to a student who had lived through such a disaster.

middle grades book review

The Freedom Maze (IndieBound/Amazon) almost ended up being something I didn’t read. The basic plot of the story involves time travel, in manner similar to that in Jane Yolen’s classic The Devil’s Arithmetic (IndieBound/Amazon). Sophie, forced to spend the summer of 1960 on her grandmother’s mouldering Louisiana sugar plantation, inadvertently travels back a century to find that her own ancestors think she is enslaved by them.

Like The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, there is a bit of Old South mystique to the initial pages of the novel. This fades quickly, as Sophie realizes that the ‘good treatment’ so vaunted by her family in their personal history of enslavement is untrue and ignorant of the real immorality of the institution.

Sophie spends what seems to be months in the slave quarters, and develops relationships with her ancestors (the plantation owners) and the people they enslaved. She witnesses up-close the difficulties of plantation agriculture, and the ever-present dangers of life in the 1860s. She also learns her own power to effect change, in a startling and audacious denouement.

Sophie’s return to her own time, concurrent with a surprise visit from her mother, results in a new awareness of not only the truth of her family’s history, but also a desire to assert herself in her relationship with her mother and the changing world around her. Sophie’s aunt realizes that ‘something’ has happened to her in the family’s overgrown garden maze, and seems to recognize that her niece is quite different than she had been hours earlier.

Aside from the obvious supernatural element of time travel, there are also some spirits in the story that speak to Sophie from their own world. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Sophie’s trip back in time has been allowed so that Sophie can achieve the spirits’ desired goal. For this reason, the book might not be ideal for all classes and families. However, as someone who decidedly dislikes science fiction and fantasy 99% of the time, I can attest that The Freedom Maze deserves a try even from those who dislike those genres.

Give one (or all!) of these a try, and tell me what you think. While they’re great for the intended age group, I think they are also a worthwhile escape for grown-ups, too.

{The book links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase using them, Read It, Make It! earns a small commission. Thank you!}

Hello there, Fall.

We made a terrible decision this summer. We are doing the miserable work of getting our house ready to sell, and in a fit of decisiveness, I put all of our holiday and seasonal books in storage. I don’t know why I did it, but I do know I regret it, because now those books are at the very back and very bottom of a storage unit, and it’s fall.

I WANT MY FALL BOOKS BACK!

But, since we have to live with the consequences of our actions, I trotted the girls down to our local library to see if they had anything new and exciting that would make me less sad. There were not terribly many choices, so we might have to try another branch.

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However, one book they did have was pretty amazing, and I’m thrilled to have found it. It’s called Awesome Autumn, but don’t let the title fool you – it’s not cheesy or ridiculous. (IndieBound/Amazon) It’s actually a neat little compendium of non-fiction spreads about topics ranging from why leaves change color to different textures found on traditional fall objects. There’s a little history of Thanksgiving that is about as non-offensive as you can get in three paragraphs, and also a detailed guide of sorts to leaves and nuts from various trees.

My girls (almost three and almost five) love it. It’s varied enough that they can read the whole thing in one sitting, and it’s surprisingly multi-level. While Bethany is beyond the “find the round things” page, Clara loves it, and they both have enjoyed the photographs of things that they actually see in their everyday lives.

fall books for nature studyTrue story: We were at the park earlier this week, and Clara picked up a nut and told me that she had seen it in the “Autumn Book,” as she calls it. We brought it home, opened up the book, and sure enough, it was a sycamore nut (labeled as a plane tree nut, actually)! Then, we were able to go back to the park and find the sycamore tree that produced the nut.

Our found sycamore nut and the page that helped us identify it.

Our sycamore nut and the page that helped us identify it.

I am definitely moving this book to the top of my ‘best books for fall’ list, especially since it’s great for home or classroom. It has special appeal for non-fiction readers, and it’s so relate-able that you could use it as a springboard for nature study for almost any preschool or elementary age child, class, or group. This is the book that your child or student will carry to you over and over to read, and you won’t mind. It’s that good!

{The book link in this post is an affiliate link, and Read It, Make It! earns a tiny commission from any purchases you make through it. Thanks!}

My Secret Weapon: Ivy Kids Kits Review

Last month, I read a review of Ivy Kids kits at The Mom Creative. Ordinarily, I haven’t been a fan of the subscription box craft kits for kids. It’s nothing personal: sometimes I think they look too simple, sometimes I think that my girls wouldn’t enjoy them, and sometimes the materials just don’t look like they’re worth the money.

ivy kids kits

Ivy Kids was different, though, because each kit is built around an included book, and the activities included go way beyond sticking pieces of foam to each other to make a pre-determined design. There was a discount code, so I decided to give it a whirl.

activities for Mouse Paint

The August kit was centered around the book Mouse Paint, which I love. I also saw that the previous kit was based on Jump, Frog, Jump!, which I had forgotten, but was one of my brother’s favorite childhood books. Now, it is entirely possible that the rest of the kits they make will be about terrible books that I will despise, but I was willing to take the chance. (The discount code didn’t hurt, either.)

The kit arrived, and we have LOVED it. There is an option to add extra materials for additional children, so I did that, and Clara has been able to participate equally with Bethany in all the activities. The teachers/moms who designed the materials made them deliberately multi-level, so even the little board games are accessible to toddlers.

Ivy Kids Kits

Everything is prepared and ready to go in its own bag. The activity that needs glue has its own little glue sticks in the bag, which is a blessing in this house, since those things seem to grow legs and disappear. Also, the paper used is sturdy, and the art materials are reasonably high-quality.

While most of the activities are things I could have *thought* of on my own, many of them are the sorts of things that I dread having to design and actually print, cut, and laminate. I’m not a graphic artist by any means, so the thought of making coordinating mice, for example, for a story retelling activity is not at all pleasant. Opening a bag and using pre-made pieces to do a retelling activity with the girls, on the other hand, is very pleasant.

mouse paint activities

For our family, this kit has been a great afternoon activity. The games, in particular, are attractive enough to the girls that they want to play them over and over again. This month’s kit had a set of color paddles in it, and I think we pulled those out every single day last week. This is why it’s my secret weapon – I can pull it out when I don’t know quite while else to do.

One potential downside I can see is that the materials are probably not durable enough to be left for children to have entirely on their own at all times, unless you have very conscientious and careful kids. Also, the kits say they are appropriate for children through age eight, but I’m not sure I could see a typically-developing child that old really engaged with them by herself. (However, I have also not yet had my own eight-year-old, so I could be wrong.)

We are scheduled to receive our next kit later this month, and I will be sure to update after we receive it. :)

NOTE: The nice people at Ivy Kids have no idea I exist, and I get nothing from doing this review. I genuinely loved the kit, and think it’s a resource worth sharing. The book links are affiliate links, and Read It, Make It! earns a tiny commission from any purchases you might make using them.

Books about the American Revolution.

books about the american revolution

In my last post, I told you a sad tale of woe. I won’t repeat it – it’s just too depressing.

Instead, I’d prefer to help solve the problem. The American Revolution is the sort of time period where there’s something for everyone: intrigue, battles, fancy outfits, fascinating letters, outrageous characters, ordinary people whose lives became extraordinary in an instant, and stirring rhetoric. While I will grudgingly admit that not everyone on the planet is going to love studying history, there’s really no reason why this time period should ever be labeled as “boring.”

{Now – you want to discuss the politics behind American monetary policy in the 1880s? I’ll grant you, that does get boring.}

In no particular order, I present some books I really love about the time period. Some are old chestnuts, and require some editing or conversation to reflect a more modern and thoughtful point of view. I’ll indicate that clearly, so that you’ll know what you’ll find inside.

revolutionary war books

This is a book that I think belongs in every classroom and home library if you’re going to discuss the American Revolution. Everybody’s Revolution (IndieBound/Amazon) combines the perspectives of many different groups of people to tell a narrative version of the war, its causes, and its impacts. While I’m a big fan of many of the Dead White Men commonly listed as Revolutionary-era heroes, I do think it’s important for kids to know that there were other people involved. Equally, in a classroom setting, I think it’s great for kids to see people who look like them portrayed in an important and heroic way.

This is a great book to use if you haveĀ  kiddo who prefers to read in short snippets. You can pick a section or two and work through them together, then put this down and return to it later. You can also use it for some very basic research, because it turns out that there are research sources beyond Wikipedia. Who knew?

books for kids about revolutionary war

This was not a book I expected to like. However, the person who recommended it to me knew what she was saying, and now I think it’s great. George vs. George (IndieBound/Amazon) gives a two-sided view of the events of the Revolution. It humanizes King George III, and leaves the reader to decide whether or not the American colonists were entirely ‘right.’ For the record, I actually believe in old-school revolutionary mythology, but I think it’s always a good idea to share what the ‘other side’ was thinking.

This book is excellent for helping students learn to defend their position on an issue, and it also provides an opportunity for spirited debate, if you can find a person to take the Loyalist side, of course. For many years we taught students that every single person living in the American colonies sided with those who wanted to separate, and that just isn’t true. There were legitimate reasons why some people wanted to stay allied with, if not directly subject to, the British Crown, and it is worth explaining to kiddos that those reasons existed. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them! (<— a very important thing, in our modern era, ahem)

books for revolutionary war unit

Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George?, by the inimitable Jean Fritz (IndieBound/Amazon), uses a touch of humor to discuss the Revolutionary Situation. Fritz’s style is unique, and the engaging narrative makes students wake up and pay attention. It also, like George vs. George, helps humanize King George III, while managing to paint him as misguided and confused when it comes to the colonists’ grievances. As you might guess, this aligns quite nicely with my personal perspective.

This is a quick read for a fluently-reading fourth or fifth grader, so it’s an easy book to hand a child who has expressed an interest in delving more deeply into the Revolutionary War. It doesn’t get bogged down in details of statesmanship (or lack thereof), nor is it a military history. Young readers don’t get bogged down in historical details for which they have no prior knowledge, but it does expect students to have some prior exposure to the events of the time.

Note that because this is an older book, there may be situations or language that you have to explain a bit more than usual, but on the whole, I think it’s still home and classroom appropriate. Jean FritzĀ wrote extensively about this time period, and any of her books would provide a curious upper elementary student with good reading material.

colonial america books

Leonard Everett Fisher’s Colonial American Craftsmen series is worth finding if you have a child who’s more interested in people than events. The image above is fromĀ Tanners (IndieBound/Amazon), but there are books on professions that run the gamut from Limner to Homemaker. While sadly out of print, these are very easy to find used, and even just one or two of the selections would be a great case study for ‘ordinary life’ during Revolutionary times. We tend to forget that many of these jobs had to continue, regardless of what was happening militarily.

And finally, for those who will have nothing but the most authentic sources, the Library of Congress has curated a set of links to their holdings related to events and people of the Revolutionary period. You can find that here: http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/themes/colonial-america/collections.html. The Smithsonian has has a few sets of source-linked lesson plans, complete with images of artifacts: http://www.smithsoniansource.org/display/topic/viewdetailshis.aspx?TopicId=1004.

If you find something that works particularly well for you and the little readers in your life, please let me know! As you know, I adore finding a new book. Happy reading!

 

 

 

Oh, dear. (Subtitle: History is not boring.)

Tonight, on Facebook, a friend posted that her daughter had made a terrible assertion over dinner. When asked about school, the daughter responded with, “history’s boring.”

Naturally, I had a small stroke.

After removing myself from the floor, I continued reading what she had written. It turns out that not just any history was boring – the beginning of the American Revolution was boring.

What? What? WHAT???

I immediately sent this video, just to stave off any more rash comments for the evening, and then promised a book list ASAP.

What this means for you is that you’re not getting a real blog post tonight, because I’m going to be busy compiling a great book list for a fourth grader, instead. It’s all about the kids, y’all. Seriously, we’ve got to do better.

 

For when you just don’t know what to make.

Yesterday, I posted this article from Crafting Connections on Read It, Make It!’s Facebook page. (Go ahead and click ‘like’ while you’re there. You know you want to.) It’s a review of a book about eliminating creative blocks, and they share a simple activity to do when you feel like being creative but have no idea how to start.

Here’s the pitiful part, for me: I am very well acquainted with the “creative block.” Writers’ block and I are close personal friends. A movie about my life would include such memorable scenes as me, staring at my bookshelves, utterly unable to commit to one particular book. There would be a heart-rending moment in a fabric store, where I’d stand, weeping, with The Smiths playing in the background, while I struggled to figure out exactly which sort of cotton quilting weight novelty print to buy.

Unblocking exercise

So, while I know well the feeling of a block, I am woefully unable to overcome this sort of thing. It’s the Internet age, right? Surely, I should be able to Google a solution to this problem – but I can’t.

Thus, I was completely relieved to find out that A) I’m not alone, and B) there are people who actually sit around and think about these things, and therefore are able to help other people deal with them. {For the record, I am well aware that this probably tops the list of First World Problems, so I’m trying to keep some perspective here.}

I set out today to do the activity mentioned in the blog post: drawing circles. I’m completely unskilled at drawing, but I doodle like no one’s business, so this felt like something I could manage.

I found some paper, straight out of the printer, and colored pencils. This is not fancy stuff, y’all. The pencils are clearly labeled CRAYOLA.

Unblocking exercise

Verdict: THIS STUFF WORKS. Wow. I sat down with the girls this morning, and just started making dots. (Mine were ovals instead of circles, just so you know.) It was weirdly calming, and it also intrigued Bethany in particular. She started giving me ideas of what the ovals might be: raindrops (it’s raining); polka dots on a dress; eggs in the grass. Then, she had me draw some ovals on the paper she was using to draw a garden.

And, I kid you not, while I was doing this, about five ideas of things I’d like to make sprang into my mind. I didn’t even cover the whole page, and I already feel better.

Unblocking exercise

My free advice for this rainy Friday? Draw some dots with your kids. Something good is bound to happen.