You knew this was coming: The Obligatory Apple Post.

Those of you who disdain everything about traditional education should probably stop reading now. 😉 Those of you who have PTSD from thirty years of teaching Kindergarten might want to quit, too.

Girls and apples

But for everyone else, it’s apple time! When I taught second grade, I loved apple week. We did it, and we did it big: books, crafts, apple sauce in the Crock-Pot. It felt like 1978 or something. I’ve written about a couple of my favorite apple books before, but there is one more I’d like to highlight. Also, this gives me an excuse to post pictures of the girls from our apple picking excursion last month.

Apple Picking 2014

I think they’re pretty adorable, personally. (Side note: our apples were not as good this year. I assume this summer’s heat to be the culprit.)

apple book, children's apple book, book for fall, children's books for fall

I went on a little library quest for apple books, and almost came up empty. However, Ann Turner and Sandi Wickersham Resnick’s Apple Valley Year (IndieBound/Amazon) turned out to be a new favorite at our house. Written to reflect the growing cycle of an apple orchard, Apple Valley Year reminded me of Donald Hall and Barbara Cooney’s masterpiece Ox-Cart Man. Not only does the text reflect a simpler, agrarian past, the style of the illustrations is also folksy and detailed, much like Cooney’s.

farming books, books about apple farming, apple orchard

For those of us who are enjoying the resurgence of traditional skills, there’s a lot of eye candy in this book. Check out that quilt! There’s also a prominently featured wood stove and an embroidery sampler. One of my favorite things about this book is that it shows the way that various farm chores support the orchard in different ways. The family does more than work with the trees – they also move beehives to encourage pollination and encourage the fox family that preys on mice, whose gnawing threatens the trees’ health.

plant life cycle book, farm life cycles, agrarian america

There’s even a little bit of economics here. The book’s youngest characters talk about how they won’t have new shoes until after the apple harvest is sold, and the parents discuss the dependence of the family upon a high price for apples each year. Obviously, the book portrays a successful year in the life of the farm, but conversations between the characters help readers see that one reason for this success is the hard work of the entire family.

This is an excellent choice not only for that beloved apple unit, but also for reading comprehension skills like identifying cause and effect relationships and synthesizing. Readers could use knowledge gained about apple farming from this book to make predictions about modern apple farming, especially as it exists on a smaller scale. Equally, this is a great book to curl up with on the couch, while the applesauce cooks in the Crock-Pot. We’ll be doing that this week.

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

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.

halloween books for kids, children's halloween books

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.

halloween books for kids, children's halloween books

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!

halloween books for kids, preschool halloween book, easy halloween books, halloween books that aren't scary

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.

halloween books for kids, preschool halloween book, easy halloween books, halloween books that aren't scary

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!}

 

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)

fall books, preschool fall book, elementary fall book

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.

best books for fall, books for anxious kids

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.

children's books for fall, vegetable book

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!}

 

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.

best books for fall, toddler fall book, preschool fall book, nonfiction fall book

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!}